Part II: And so it begins
I am very excited to announce the launch of a new programming magazine called Human Readable Magazine. It’s been a dream of mine for many years, and thanks to our successful newsletter Morning Cup of Coding, it is now one step closer to becoming a reality.
The magazine, which follows the spirit of the newsletter, is a collection of high quality programming deep dives from all fields of programming written by very talented industry veterans like Jonathan Boccara, Michael Caini, and Laura Summers.
But for us to make this happen we need your help. We recently launched a Kickstarter campaign to help us fund the first three issues of the magazine.
Check the project out, and if you like what you see, and I’m pretty confident you will, consider supporting us and/or spreading the word.
Either way, thank you for stopping by.
This is the second part of a two-part series on how this all began.
And so it begins
It’s January 2016 and it’s snowing outside. At 2AM on a Sunday I am at my local deli grabbing my third coffee. It’s going to be another sleepless night chasing a deadline; such is the nature of video game development.
Back at my apartment I’m staring at my computer monitor waiting for the latest version of our game to build. The PC is firing all 4 cores and provides enough heat to warm my feet while I browse the internet looking for something interesting to read.
SEVERE WEATHER REPORT: DUE TO INCOMING SNOW STORM ALL MANHATTAN BOUND TRAINS ARE DISABLED UNTIL FURTHER NOTICE
It’s Sunday, it’s the yellow line, it’s MTA; any one of those is reason enough for the trains to not be running. A severe weather storm in New York only means that the city works from home. Nothing stops but schools.
Let’s see. I’ve already went through Reddit this morning, my RSS feed is empty since this evening, and Twitter is still mostly noise. What’s my next option?
Hacker News? Too lazy to filter. Dev.to? Too lazy to filter. Lobste.rs? Too lazy to filter. DZone? They have editors. Too lazy to filter.
The build is done. It isn’t snowing anymore. The temperature went from cold to mildly cold. Let’s do a quick test of the build. One tap here, another tap there; the bug seems to be fixed. Commit, create pull request, assign teammates, and off it goes to be reviewed by another sleepless developer.
Checkout, pull, branch, and on to the next one.
May 2016. It’s sunny, but not sunny enough to be warm. That’s not for another three months in New York. Or the next day. Nobody can tell.
I’m sitting at my local coffee shop with our new CTO. The new new CTO. Or is it COO at this point? The company has shrunk so much, everybody is doing everything. I’d rather do everything from home. At least this way I don’t have to deal with the weather, or the day/night cycle for that matter.
“I need you at the office Pek”
I know. But I can’t handle the stress. Not anymore.
“Would I need to stay past 8PM?”
I knew the answer.
I didn’t even go to pick up my stuff. Those expensive Game AI books which I had to carry one day when there was a fire in the building are now theirs. I’m not gonna need them anymore. Time to give my resume a makeover.
Oh look, it’s raining now.
July 2016. It’s sunny, enough to be warm. But I don’t get to enjoy it because I’ve been in my lawyer’s office since this morning and I haven’t had my coffee yet.
“So you are leaving software development to open up a restaurant?”
“In New York?”
“Are you aware of how risky this is?”
“In my professional opinion this isn’t a good deal. I would advise you to either wait for a better opportunity, or go back to software development.”
Signed here, signed there, copy for me, copy for them, thank you for the keys, goodbye.
February 2017. It’s 5PM and it’s pouring outside. I’m alone at my cafe. Haven’t had a single customer since 2PM. It was a bad deal.
My RSS feed, even with 800 sources, is empty.
“Oh to hell with it. I’ll start my own magazine.”
“What is this, the 3rd time I’m attempting it?”
It was the 5th.
“ At least with my own magazine I can guarantee I will like everything I read.”
It stopped raining. There’s a customer at the door.
“How may I serve you tonight? Cappuccino? You sure you don’t want a simple coffee?”
June 2017. Still raining for some reason. No, there is a reason, but I don’t have time to worry about that now. I need authors.
“I want to start a magazine. I’ve been reading your blog for ages and I really want you.”
I need to work on my communication skills.
“Net 10 or Net 30?”
What does that even mean?
“Where do you think I should start then?”
I hear thunderstorms. This is just a hick up. This is not the end. This is just a hick up.
Those thunderstorms never came close to my area, but I could still hear them lurking just around the corner.
What’s a newsletter?
May 2018. Friday. Luckily for us, it’s sunny outside. I am at the cafe and all three of my staff are serving customers. All three family members, who sacrificed everything to make this cafe work, are tired and exhilarated at the same time. Such is the nature of the restaurant business.
I have to go though. Today’s the 10th issue of my newsletter and it’s time to give it some exposure. There are enough issues for people to get the gist of it and subscribe if they like it. I still can’t believe I already have 40 readers. Where did they come from? Are my emails stuck in their SPAM folder? I have no idea. TinyLetter isn’t really helpful. But it’s free, so I can’t complain.
It’s almost 12AM. Is it too late? Too early? When do people check Hacker News? Whatever, let’s just do it.
URL looks fine. Title, not bad. OK, URL definitely is fine. Maybe this is a better title? OK, URL is still pointing at the right address.
Fuck it. I’m posting.
12:05 AM. Nothing yet. Maybe it’s time for bed.
12:07 AM. Still nothing. I mean, what did I expect?
12:12 AM. Not even a single up vote?
12:12:30 AM. A single up vote. And a new subscriber. Finally some movement!
12:15 AM. Nothing. That’s it. I should be happy I got any.
12:30 AM. Nothing. But I’m not happy.
01:00 AM. 30 up votes. 60 new subscribers. Google Analytics is trending upwards. Oh, so you thought you would be sleeping tonight? Silly brain.
02:00 AM. 90 up votes. 600 new subscribers. I need coffee.
04:00 AM. 120 up votes. 1,800 new subscribers. Google Analytics says I have 10,000% increase in traffic. You don’t have to be smug about it.
05:49 AM. The sun is rising. It’s the best weather in years. At least that’s what my brain is telling me. But my brain isn’t working right now. 140 up votes. 3,000 new subscribers. Front page on Hacker News. I need another coffee. But my legs aren’t working either.
March 2019. We are finally out of the winter slumber. This is the first year I hadn’t had to let go any of my staff to make it through. The weather? No time for that. I need to ready the cafe for next morning, close the register, pay everybody, and get back home in time before I send out the latest issue of my newsletter.
Oh god. I didn’t have time to go through my feeds yet. I have one hour. I can do this. It’s only 800 articles.
No, no, no, no, maybe. No, no, no, no, maybe. No, no, no, no, maybe? No, no, there’s one! No, no, no, no, no.
Open OneNote, copy URL, copy title, write a short summary, re-write the summary, create a new campaign, copy to MailChimp, re-write the summary, format it, aaaand it’s off. 3 hours late.
This isn’t working. I need a tool to help me. Let’s see. What language should I learn this time? Is Ruby still alive?
April 2019. It just stopped raining. The sun came out hastily as if it didn’t want us to notice it wasn’t there. I just finished training our new staff member. Well, OK, my sister did. I’m too busy going through my now 1,200 article queue. But my tinder-like tool makes going through them as fast as I’m rejected in the actual Tinder app.
Swipe, swipe, swipe. Create, edit, send. Boom. Issue’s schedule for tomorrow.
Did I mention that I have a Patreon now? People are amazing on the internet. In some parts of it anyway.
We also did a few collaborations with some of the authors I feature in my newsletter. And companies even sponsored a few issues. Does this mean… Can I… Is it possible to make money off of this?
But I’m bad at marketing. I can’t grow my audience to save my life. I plateaued at 3,000 subscribers ever since the Hacker News incident. Unless… I wonder what would happen if I tried that again.
May 2019. We are now at 6,000 subscribers. Front page of Hacker News for the second time. This is a sign. I better move to the side before I hit my head and get an epiphany.
I just realized that this year we barely felt the winter. And this was the third day in a row with no clouds in sight.
My phone is ringing. It’s an old friend from Greece. Haven’t spoke to him since last year. I wonder what he’s been up to.
Oh, right. The magazine.
I look up at the sign I almost hit. “Hazard ahead. Round About.”
June 2019. It’s almost summer. It’s gonna stay almost summer for most of the summer.
So here’s the plan: I’m gonna ask some authors to write for me… again. I have the audience. I have… some money. This time it’s gonna work.
“That’s for 500 words only?”
So here’s the plan: I’m gonna start a Kickstarter campaign. We’ll show the newsletter and hope people see our vision. We’ll get funding and then I’ll talk to authors…again…again.
“Kickstarter needs a working demo?”
So here’s the plan: I’m gonna go back to the authors and ask them to write for me. This time I’m gonna beg. Harder than before. Maybe I sob a little. Then, I’m gonna create the first issue. And then I’m gonna start a Kickstarter campaign. We’ll get funding and off we go.
“It’s August already?”
Panic Mode: Activated. Wallets: Laughing at me. Weather: Surprisingly calm.
“We’re gonna need more time.”
But. But. I don’t have time. Even if the campaign is a success, I need to build the back end to support payments, users, content. Then I need authors, illustrators, copywriters. Then I need a layout designer, a printer, logistics. Did I mention that it’s August already?
“We’re gonna need more time”
So here’s the plan:
Thank you for taking the time to read this all the way through.
It’s been an incredible 3 years full of new experiences. I had the pleasure of working with some amazingly talented people.
If you are a software developer, I am confident that you will like what we made. We poured our heart and souls into this project and it shows.
If you want to see this story, our story, continue, please consider supporting us on Kickstarter. We have some amazing rewards, including a Kickstarter Exclusive Issue, that we think you’ll love.
If Kickstarter isn’t an option for you, and there are good reasons for that, then consider spreading the word. You can share our announcements on Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, hell, even on Instagram.
I’ll see you in a month.