The home of a curious mind.


Getting the flesh off an idea

2013 03 19 Halfway through developing the ASLAPP MVP, I started wondering how I even got to the point of thinking of why I’m even solving for peoples ever continuing ASL asking on sites such as Omegle. It was kind of a weird journey here, when I think about it:

It started out with discovering a random sub-Reddit on chess variants, and getting super excited because I had been interested in chess variations for a while. I noticed that there weren’t really a lot of contacts exchanged for playing chess variants on the sub-Reddit, so I figured that there was an underlying problem of not being able to play these chess variants because there is no sites online that lets you play them – they were all focused on normal Chess or a few variants. So I set out to develop a solution for this problem: A framework for playing chess variants online.

Except I did it all horribly wrong. First I developed the underlying abstraction that any chess game should share, then I implemented the rules of Chess on top of the abstraction, and only then I developed the real MVP: A chessboard which could be resized and where pieces could be freely move and created without any computer enforced rules. This would have been the correct way if I had known that these were the things that people want, but I didn’t know that for sure. I just figured that it probably that was the problem. I was solving a problem only very few people cared about, and I didn’t even care to test my assumptions before I developed all the abstractions.

The lesson was only learned when I posted about my work in progress and got barely any feedback. There’s no doubt that there’s still a niche in chess variations waiting to be tackled, but I am not ready to pursue it at the time being.

While I was developing the Chess variants framework, I was thinking about how the problem I was solving was kind of related to a bigger issue: With the introductions of computers and internet we have become used to systems where the rules are enforced for us: A kind of thinking that I believe causes us to lose our (that word: diversent thinking) – our curiosity to think of things that are not strictly “correct”.

One of the other places I saw this issue was in online “roleplaying” games. There seems to be two rough segments here: “real” roleplay taking place over forums or chats, and then RPG games, which are more “go there; get that item; achieve victory”, hardly roleplaying.

The first obstacle I noticed is that forums suck for roleplaying (other than sucking in general), but they are accessible – where chats aren’t accessible from the outside, but are more optimal. However, I got distracted with how much I dislike forums: Playing a Roleplay on a forum seems so counter intuitive because first off everyone can read it and that would bother me, secondly because forums encourage that you write blocks of text, and my assumption is that most people can’t write more than a few sentences without getting lightheaded. I have highlighted the mistakes again, however this time I cut right to the bone on the MVP: I developed, I saw, I decided that there’s a potential market, but they didn’t quite want what I’d made. Well, they did, but developing it to a stage where it would be useful is out of my reach as a sole developer and I still feel too inexperienced to start hiring people without knowing what I actually want. Well, 2 steps ahead and one step back: There’s a fundamental issue which I had made twice now, and when I come to think of it, been been doing since I started programming: I fall in love with my own ideas and just develop on a hipshot, rather than think the idea through on in my head and on paper.

So I went back to the root problem that I was trying to solve for: chats are inaccessible from the outside and forums suck. Well, why not rip off our dear friends at omegle, but make it orientated towards roleplaying? I thought it over and realized that there was a move general problem: The constant ASL question, and that’s where I am now.

I like to believe that this time my MVP is as barebone as I could possibly make it while still using the right tools for the job, which involved a good bit of painful learning. However while I developed them I also thought that my previous 2 MVPs were as barebone as they could be, and I now see how they weren’t in any way minimum, so the question still stands if what I have now is the minimal effort, and much more important, if it even -unlike the previous solutions- is a viable product?

If nothing else, it has been a fun learning experience.