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Colin Devroe

Reverse Engineer. Blogger.

Presenting at the August 2017 Lehigh Valley Tech Meetup

The Lehigh Valley Tech Meetup is an excellent community in the Lehigh Valley that meets monthly at the Ben Franklin Technology Partners incubator within the Lehigh University Mountaintop campus. The community around the meetup is excellent and the building is amazing*.

While the tail-end of my presentation walked through my experience building my first iOS app Summit, the majority of my presentation was focused on helping early stage companies think about their go to market strategies.

I’m currently advising several companies, a few of which are businesses built around mobile apps, and have heard about 11 other start-up pitches this year so far. And during that time I’ve noticed a trend. Entrepreneurs that are attempting to build a business around an app sometimes underestimate the amount of thought that should go into the marketing and sales strategy for the app. It is as if some feel that apps are less thought and work than products that you can touch. So during my presentation at LVTech I hoped to convey that the same “boring” (yet, tried and true) business practices that apply to products also apply to software.

A few questions I urged those thinking about building a business around an app were:

  • Does your idea service a large enough segment of the market? We hear the “scratch your own itch” mantra a lot. However, it won’t always lead to finding hundreds, thousands, or tens of thousands of customers.
  • How will you reach those customers?
  • Are there ways to expand your idea into other products or services that can be sold to the same segment?
  • How will you sell or package your idea?
  • What will the price be? (free, one-time payment, subscription, service contracts)
  • What channels can you leverage to sell your idea? (App Store, retail, online, conferences, distributorships, via a sales force)

By considering these, and may other questions, you can determine if your idea has enough layers to support an entire business or if you just have an app idea**.

I also briefly discussed three misconceptions I’ve been seeing over the last year dealing with very early stage start-ups. These misconceptions were:

  • Press-based launch strategies: some thing that by being covered by press will be enough to get them to profitability. They have no other strategy. On the contrary, getting press coverage early on will give you very muddy analytics which will make decision marking very difficult. Very seldom are the tech audience your real customers.
  • How long until profitablilty: More and more entrepreneurs begin with the plan of losing money for 3 or more years. I believe this stems from press coverage of other companies getting large rounds of funding. Most businesses should strive for profitability within the first quarter or year of business.
  • ”I’m not technical, I need a technical co-founder”: Don’t be this person. Anyone can learn to code. Geeks are not smarter than you. They’re just interested and relentless. Be the same.

We then did about 10 minutes or so of questions and answers. The questions I got were really great and I appreciate all those in attendance helping me with the answers to the questions I didn’t have much experience in.

Thanks to Tim Lytle for the invitation to speak and to Ben Franklin Technology Partners for the continued support.

* I worked in this same building for years while at Viddler. But when I worked there the back half of the building didn’t exist. In fact, Viddler started in Jordan Hall – the building just beside the new building. And now, they are extending it even further. The building is an amazing place to work and have a meetup of this kind. I’m jealous that our incubator in Scranton feels so dated when compared to this building. Especially comparing the meeting spaces.

** It it totally fine to “just have an app idea”. I do. And I’m loving working on it. But it is also good to have the proper perspective about your app idea.

Summit – The Adventurous Step Counter

This evening, at a presentation at the Lehigh Valley Tech Meetup, I’m opening up public beta access to my new iOS app, Summit – The Adventurous Step Counter.

I’ve stitched together a temporary web site for the app as well as a mailing list that will allow you to get access to the final few beta builds prior to public release. If you have an iPhone please consider signing up and giving it a spin. I’d be very grateful for your feedback.

Thanks to the 13 private beta testers who have already tested the app and provided feedback. You can expect a brand-new build of the app coming in September.

What is Summit?

Summit is a free, iOS-only app that uses your step count to virtually hike up tall peaks like Mount Everest in Nepal, learn about amazing landmarks like Diamond Head in Oahu, and even take a leisurely stroll down famous streets like Lombard Street in San Francisco. As you make progress on your journey you’re provided new information at each goal.

At the time of public release there will be 5 summits and new summits will be added each month thereafter.

Here are some screenshots of the app as it is currently:

When I started on Summit I did not know how to develop an iOS app. It has been really fun to learn Swift, Xcode, iTunes Connect and Test Flight, and the myriad other things I was able to learn in order to get this app as far as I have.

I still have a bit of work to do, but I’d love your feedback along the way as I finish the app up for release.

Presenting at the July NEPA.js Meetup

Earlier this week my Condron Media cohort Tucker Hottes and I presented at the July NEPA.js Meetup. Our presentation was about automation and all of the things we can automate in our lives personally and professionally. And also how we employ automation in our workflows for creating applications and web sites using our own task management suite.

Here are just a few examples of reproducible tasks that you can automate that perhaps you haven’t thought about:

  • Your home’s temperature
  • Applying filters to multiple photos at once
  • Social media posts
  • Combining many files together into one
  • Deleting unused files
  • Calendar events

There are countless others. Perhaps you’re doing some of these things now. You might set a reminder for yourself to clean the bathroom every Tuesday. Or, your using a Nest to control your home’s temperature based on your preferences.

But there may be others that you’re not doing. Posting regularly to social media can seem daunting to some. But automating those posts can make it much easier to set aside time to schedule the posts and then go about your day. Or editing photos or video may never happen because you don’t have time to go through them all and edit each one individually. But these are tasks that can be automated.

We showed a quick demonstration of automating the combining of multiple text files using Grunt. There are a lot of ways something like this can be useful. Combining multiple comma-separated value (CSV) files that are reports from many retail locations, web development, and others.

Then Tucker provided a list of all the tasks we do when we get a new client at Condron Media. The full list can take a person up to 1.5 hours to “start” working on that customer’s project. So we’ve begun working whittling away at that list of tasks by using another task manager called Gulp. We call this suite of automation tasks Bebop – after one of the thugs from Teenaged Mutant Ninja Turtles.

Bebop is separated into the smallest tasks possible so that we can combine those tasks into procedures. Creating new folders, adding Slack channels, sending Slack messages, spinning up an instance of WordPress, adding virtual hosts to local development environments, etc. etc. Bebop can then combine these tasks in any order and do them much quicker than a human can clicking with a mouse. We estimate it will take 1 minute to do what took 1.5 hours once Bebop is complete.

Another benefit of automating these types of tasks is that you can nearly eliminate human error. What if someone types in the wrong client name or forgets a step in the process? Bebop doesn’t get things wrong. Which saves us a lot of headaches.

Here is the example Gulp task that we created to demo Bebop to the NEPA.js group.

We then asked the group to take 5 minutes and write down what they would like to automate in their lives. The answers ranged from making dog food to laundry to simple development and environmental tasks. Every one in attendance shared at least one thing they’d like to automate.

Tucker and I had a blast presenting but we enjoyed this final session the most. Similar to my event suggestions to Karla Porter earlier this year, I find that the more a group interacts with one another the more I personally get out of a meetup or conference. Presentations can be eye opening but personal connections and calm discussions yield much fruit for thought.

Thanks to everyone that showed up. I think we had 14 or 15 people. The NEPA.js community is active, engaged, and I’m very happy that it is happening in Scranton.

Attending the Wilkes-Barre Programming meetup

Osterhout Free Public Library

On Saturday I braved the frigid temperatures and attended a Wilkes-Barre Programming meetup at the Osterhout Free Library in downtown Wilkes-Barre.

I arrived a few minutes late – it was Saturday so of course I had to make myself some breakfast, enjoy my coffee, watch a little YouTube prior to getting out in the elements – and then I couldn’t find the room the meetup was in at the library. Once I found the group there was already 6 attendees and they were over an hour into their programming.

One of the attendees proposed a problem to be solved; convert a number into a Roman numeral using Python. I have little-to-no Python experience, and unfortunately not much was discussed at this meetup regarding the language (since it wasn’t for beginners) but I decided to try my hand at solving this problem in JavaScript. Here is my attempt (though incomplete). It can do the thousands and hundreds. I’d need a little more time to do the tens and singles but I ran out of time at the group.

I was happy to see this small group meeting in Wilkes-Barre. Some of the attendees mentioned they’d be visiting the #nepaJS meetup happening on Tuesday, which would be great. We need a lot more of these smaller groups and we need them all to be connected to the larger NEPA Tech group. In larger metropolitan areas these smaller groups would be hundreds strong and so consolidation wouldn’t be needed. We don’t have that here. So we need as much effort to be consolidated as possible. These small groups are where skills are honed, where partnerships and companies can be formed, where careers are forged. If you are someone that works in technology please consider joining one of these smaller groups. Even if you aren’t into programming. As they grow I’m sure they will end up fragmenting into more specific groups for the areas you’re interested in. The more support the better.

Attending the NEPA.js meetup

NEPA.js

On Tuesday I attended the first monthly NEPA.js meetup at the Scranton Enterprise Center. Mark Keith, a JavaScript developer who somewhat recently moved into the area, was the organizer and TecBridge – who organizes the NEPA Tech meetup group – helped to coordinate, host, organize and provide pizza for this brand-new group.

The common refrain in our area is that those of us who build software products, enjoy a good bit of nerdery, or want to reach out and socialize with people who know what a npm package is… are somehow alone. That simply isn’t true and the first NEPA.js meetup proved that. Twenty-five or so people made it out to this first meetup even with the snow. There were young and not-so-young, men, women, and even those that didn’t know what JavaScript was but knew it was important for them to understand it.

After some introductions Mark did a great job of giving an overview of what JavaScript the language was and how it can be used. He kept it high-level and, though I’m sure some didn’t understand everything he said, surely they left knowing more about what JavaScript is then when they walked in. We also had those in the room that have been developing with JavaScript for years and years – and even one Mozilla team member.

The group meets again next month and will continue to do so the second Tuesday of each month. The group also has a Slack channel so if it you want in just ping me on Twitter.

Attending the Philly Burbs WordPress meetup

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Do you know the visible signs of a strong community? If you’ve ever attended a Philly Burbs WordPress meetup then you definitely do.

Last night my new coworker Tucker Hottes and I drove the 2.5 hours to Pheonixville, PA for this month’s WordPress meetup in the Philly Burbs meetup group. What we saw during the evening was the clear, visible signs of a healthy, vibrant, and active community.

Those signs were:

  • Conversation – People were talking to one another from the jump. They greeted one another when a new person arrived. And even if they had already found their own seat, they got up and moved to have a conversation with someone else.
  • Inclusivity – No one. No one feels like an outsider at one of these meetups. Race, gender, or distance from the area (like us) doesn’t matter. Everyone feels very welcome.
  • Questions – Lots of questions and answers. And people really trying to help one another.
  • Lingering – After the event was over people stuck around, got more food, chatted more. In fact, if it wasn’t for the long ride home I would have stayed longer.

I’ve attended this meetup before as a presenter in West Chester. And I felt welcome then too and I could feel the strength of the community then as well. This is a well run group and I highly recommend attending one of their meetups if you can.

Oh, if you’re wondering why I’m willing to drive 2.5 hours just for a WordPress meetup. Read this.

Philadelphia Weblogger Meetup – March 17th

Mike Stickel, Colin Devroe, Matt Regula, Chris Fehnel, Timmy Dunn in Philadelphia

Mike Stickel, Chris Fehnel, Matt Regula, Timmy Dunn and I on South Street after the last Meetup.

This Saturday (March 17th from 2:00pm till about 5pm) I’ll be attending the Philadelphia Webloggers Meetup at Ten Stone Bar & Restaurant. Will you be there?

It looks like Tony Green and I will be having a conversation so please be sure to join in as we discuss Microformats (which I’ve used to markup this post by the way).

I was finally able to pull Alex Hillman out of his shell. He was recently interviewed by Philadelphia Weekly about his efforts in CoWorking. You may want to pick his brain about this…

I just hope this snow doesn’t affect our plans. Though I think we’re pretty determined.

Note: You can add this event to your calendar program of choice since this post is marked up using hCalendar. Enjoy.

Philadelphia Weblogger Meetup – February 17th

Though this event is split into two parts, the Philadelphia WordPress Meetup and the Philadelphia Webloggers Meetup to me it is all just about blogging and so I sign up for both.

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Chris at Ten Stone Bar – April 15, 2006

This Saturday (February 17th from 2:30pm till about 4pm) I’ll be attending the Philadelphia Webloggers Meetup at Ten Stone Bar & Restaurant. Will you be there?

 

So far Eliza, Mike, and Chris are coming with me. It looks like Rob, Tom, and Marisa are definitely going. Andrea and Jason might be going. And sadly Tony G. can’t make it. Update: Happily Tony G. is able to make it!

And, it appears we’re going to have a fairly full house.

If you are in the Philadelphia area (heck I’m 2 1/2 hours away and I’m still going) and you’d like to meetup with some great people to discuss WordPress, blogging, Viddler, or just sit back and enjoy a beer – sign up to the meetup and we’ll see you there.

Note: You can add this event to your calendar program of choice since this post is marked up using hCalendar. Enjoy.

Note addendum: It appears that the above link won’t work for Outlook users? Not sure why – probably because Outlook sucks? 😉

Meeting up in Philly

The Philadelphia WordPress and Weblogger meetups are over, for April. Eliza, Chris, and I drove down to Philadelphia (it takes us about two and half hours), and enjoyed the company of many bloggers in the Philly area.

First, we met up with Andrea and Tom. This happened to be Tom’s first Meetup also. It would seem that Meetups are an old hat to Andrea, since she is involved not only with the WordPress and Weblogger Meetups, but because she also frequents the Philly Webstandards Meetups as well.

Mike, a freelance developer and Nintendo DS player, was the next to arrive. Mike’s hill-top view, like Andrea’s, into “the standards movement” was refreshing. Hopefully they, and their entire team, will keep up the good work they are doing on that front. Mike is a Ruby on Rails convert, so he is also involved with that group in the Philly area.

Ellen, who brought Pineapple stuffing (which I found delicious) and lover of cats, showed up next. Ellen’s perspective into the attidude, demeanor, and personality of cats really made me think twice about our cats. Ellen described her blogging purposes as “fooling around”, which is why I think many bloggers do their writing. In some ways, it is definitely the purpose for most of my posts here on my site. I find my personal blog a very personal outlet for ideas and thoughts that wouldn’t, and perhaps shouldn’t, otherwise have any public view.

Scott McNulty, system administrator and fellow Macintosh enthusiast came with his smile on. He did not hold me accountable for my Drew Carrey comment, to which I will forever be in his debt. By far, the funniest guy in the group, Scott even made Ellen’s Pineapple Stuffing recipe hilarious.

Ben, fitting name for a bloke in Philly, came in fresh from the Philly Pillow Fight (his photos from the fight). Ben has a firm hold on what he likes musically, so he and Chris had a nice discussion regarding that. Here are some photos that Ben took while at the Meetup.

Amardeep, also known as Deep (the best name on the planet bar none), wandered in from the nearly 75 degree Philadelphia air. All of us wished that we had more time to talk to Deep, though the amount of people and the amount of time that we had together didn’t add up. Deep teaches Literature, and so his site is driven towards his thoughts on that specific topic.

Marisa of Apartment 2024, showed up beaming. I doubt she’ll ever live down the fact that her site comes up first for “Does Papaya make you poop?” on most search engines. We all have our vices Marisa. She also writes for the Philly Metro blog, which has the purpose of advocating local blogging. It will be decades until we see a Clifford Metro blog, this much I can assure you.

Tony, whose specific job title eludes me right now, works for TV Guide in Phildelphia. I didn’t realize they were based there, but you learn something new everyday. Again, another gentlemen that I wish I had more time to talk to, he writes his personal blog for the very same reason we all do, as a place to jot down thoughts. Recently Tony wrote an article called Bon mot du jour, in which he states that he isn’t always as eloquent as he’d like to be. I can fully attest to that, being that I’m often caught saying something that sounds like someone ten years my junior.

Stephanie, of Patrick Murphy 06, walked in next. I didn’t get any time to speak with her, but she’s on the front lines of blogging about politics in the Philadelphia area. Seems like their doing a fairly good job too.

Leah (spelling, sorry) and Duran came in last. Slackers. 🙂 After talking to Duran for a little while I learned about his hatred for Active Directory, or those that manage it improperly to be sure. I’m with ya Duran. Leah, another person I only literally got to say “Hi” to, was very excited to get some help with her backyard. Go help her out if you can.

Final thoughts

All in all the trip was definitely worth getting to my first Meetup. I had fully expected to see Owen, who ended up having a medical situation, and I hope he recovers quickly from that. Jason Santa Maria, Rob Weychert, and Joshua Lane of Pixelworthy were supposed to show up too. I hope their teeth are ok.

It was enjoyable, if only for a few hours, to spend some time with people that hold the same importance on this thing called blogging that I personally do. I look forward to doing it again one day, and I’m even considering starting up a Meetup closer to home.

Philadelphia Meetups

Also known as: Colin’s first try at this meetup thing.

This Saturday, at around 2pm EST, Eliza, Chris and I are heading down to Philadelphia for the April Philadelphia WordPress Meetup, organized by Owen Winkler.

Shortly thereafter, since it would appear that the WordPress meetup will only last about an hour, we’ll attend the April Philadelphia Webloggers meetup.

Having never been to a meetup, I can’t say as I have any expectations as to what will happen. I’m simply going as a trial to see what all the hoopla is about.

If you will be in the Philadelphia area, and can attend either meetup (which happen to be at the exact same venue), then please stop in and say hello.