Dig Another Hole in the Side Project Graveyard

Mark Halonen
Jan 31, 2019 · 3 min read

The idea of Airquill is simple: trade stories with your friends. It’s like writing letters or stories to each other, with the catch being that you must both submit before anything can be viewed.

The webapp is fully functional: airquill.com

I viewed the project as a social experiment. The technical side is simple, your standard CRUD app. But how people respond to a new social dynamic can only be empirically tested, speculation is fine but doesn’t really answer the question.

My goal from the start was to test it in the wild ASAP. Looking back at the git log, the time from the first commit to the first interaction with a user was a little over a month.

Thus far, I think every usage of the app has been a direct result of me harassing my friends into using it. There have definitely been some good results, one story was so funny it forced me to get up out of my chair at work and take a walk down the hall.

Real Usage of Airquill

That was my first attempt at pushing for its usage. I wrote up some stories and sent the Airquill links to anyone who might respond. I hoped that users would then turn and use it with other friends, and usage would expand organically. People responded at a decent rate, maybe 50%, but there was no extended usage without my involvement.

My second marketing attempt was to hire freelancers on Upwork to use it. I paid a couple users to use the app. One of them was an avid writer that already shared poetry with her friends on Facebook, she was a promising user of Airquill. But alas, no extended usage from Upworkers.

Lastly, I tried a small Facebook ad campaign. I kinda knew this was a stretch, it would require a person to invest significant time into an app and an idea they’d never heard of. No dice here either.

So at this point, I’m starting to dig the hole and push Airquill into its grave. I’ll leave it running because it costs almost nothing.

I’ve been here before:

  • QuickStrain: In summer of 2015, I worked on a tool for measuring strain with an iPhone
  • FitLapse: In Spring of 2016, I worked on a fitness transformation tool
  • Pose: In summer of 2016, I worked on a social photo booth app

I’ve put in over 100 focused engineering hours on each of these projects. I’ve put the least amount of time into Airquill, and it had a way better shot than these listed above. So I’m getting more efficient about choosing and executing projects.

Successes like Vora come with these kinds of failures. That’s just the nature of the game.

One of the biggest things I’ve learned is to blog about my projects, so I have something to show for the project long after it’s been in the grave.

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