Mo Bitar

@mo

Notes to self. Working on Standard Notes, a simple and private notes app.

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Things I'm exploring

I’m in a weird state where all my thoughts are unapologetically raw. By raw I mean unassembled. I have a hundred different variables floating around in my head, and the cruel job bestowed upon me is to figure out how to arrange, combine, and breed them to achieve some sort of increase in progress. It is an absolutely maddening process.

The ideal solution would be to iterate over the possibilities like a computer, quickly and thoroughly. But in our world, each of the floating variables requires prohibitive amounts of energy. So the game is made crueler by the fact that your resources always underwhelm.

Here are some of the particular problems floating around in my head, that if you have suggestions to, would benefit me greatly as a catalyst.

I’m trying to figure out how to get more people interested in subscribing to the Extended package of Standard Notes, which helps sustain the project. But, I don’t know where to begin. I’m super averse to developing new features and functionality in the hopes of attracting more users (as is traditionally done). So I forbid myself from recklessly adding features that would add weight and bloat to the application, and threaten its survival. On the other hand, another threat to survival is not sustaining a steady amount of interest. So, if I can’t build new features to attract users, how else do I consistently keep the public apprised of Standard Notes? One option is to write about relevant topics on a blog, but, I’ve sort of outgrown the usefulness of this method. The benefits have been very, very slim, even for articles that had a wide reach. The other option is reaching out to the press and pitching some sort of story, but I’m not particularly great at pitching and developing long-term “people” strategies. I’m not very good when it comes to strategizing business interactions, so I’ll just say what feels right at the time. Usually, however, this format tends not to follow the “standard” pitch format, whatever that seems to be. All that to say, I hope to optimize more for building something slowly and getting attention slowly, rather than rely on my impressive pitching and sales skills to grow. However, these two are constantly at odds with each other.

One thing I’ve recently thought through that seems to be a really neat solution to this problem: I sort of hate marketing, but I love building and coding. What if I build code that markets? Essentially, embedded marketing. Marketing so that I never ever have to think about marketing, and instead be laser-focused on product and sustainability. Certainly intriguing. For me, this could be something like a collaborative editor in Standard Notes. Collaboration is a great way for existing users to get other people involved, and, if they’re as savvy as the original user, then exactly the type of person that we hope find our product. A referral system would also be a great way for existing users to get free lengths of service, while inviting a friend to receive the same benefit. I suddenly don’t feel bad about coding something like this. It helps make the entire project ecosystem more circular, and less reliant on the capriciousness of this human being.

Another thing that’s constantly on my mind is expanding the component system of Standard Notes. Right now, components allow for cool things like Markdown editing, HTML editing, code editing, autocomplete tags, GitHub push, folders, and more. What if this were to be expanded to add, for example, spreadsheets, kanban boards, slides, calendar, and so on. Essentially, Standard Notes becomes a powerful operating system to host useful applications who use the working note in Standard Notes as a secure datastore. It’s a wildly fascinating idea, and one I would love to pursue were it not for the constant pound of marketing and related business responsibilities at my door. This has created a gripping deadlock of: Don’t code, market instead, don’t know how to market, fatal_crash. I’ve made some progress as noted above, but still very much in its incipience.

This has all been so intensive on my processing unit that I’ve had several spontaneous mental exceptions in the last week. I mean literally, a stack overflow. I would have one positive thought, trace it all the way down only to descend into madness and quickly crawl back out. I reach to wipe my forehead but retreat in fear of simmering my hand. Too many variables, too little resources; my poor machine emits a blinking red light. But that light is a signal, and my hopes are it reaches something that reflects back kaleidoscopically.


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