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A noob-hacker just starting up

Vysakh SreenivasanVysakh Sreenivasan, Web app consultant
Read hacker as “An enthusiastic and skillful computer programmer ” not cracker.

One year back
I was a person who saw entrepreneurs(students) as total showoffs wanting to have a CEO title in Facebook profile. I used computers for just watching movies though i was a Computer grad. Reason: IT boom in India has created lot of misconceptions, myths related to the field and I fell for one such myth that there will be health issues for Computer professionals. I cant say what kind of issues ;), there are too many. So, I chose to prepare for Indian Civil Exams, read newspapers, news channels, politics, history even bought some books for preparing for it.

The period between this and the epiphany of starting up:
I am not getting into how i started and why i started the site, the reasons would be cinematic, I myself wonder how stupid life can make , change, break one.

Epiphany:
Things changed dramatically, I stopped reading newspapers, worse the person who delivers newspaper stopped due to some reasons and we could not get the coupon back. Now i started to read techmeme, techcrunch, verge, blindly took whatever Robert Scoble said, used Google+, Twitter posting every hour or sometimes minutes. And signed up for every possible new app, got invite some how through someway be it when pinterest was invite only, when Socl was launched I asked for the invite from the head of the project in twitter, got invite for joindiaspora in Google+ , got invite from the MySpace CTO who is now with Google for his startup anybeat, and much more.. I even got a professor for a lecture from America for my college(India) technical festival based on a suggestion from someone in Twitter and reached out to the professor in Google+.

The changes were unbelievable! Then the moment of epiphany and choose to startup.

I wanted to have a co-founder, I reached out to my friends who were also Computer grads and told my idea. Some would be just nodding their head thinking i was bluffing and some said they were busy preparing for job interviews and competitive exams.

But one friend said he would help, he would listen to me whenever i said how it is different from thousand other similar apps. I would call him often on features to add, features to remove, and a framework for starting development. But that over enthusiasm freaked him out :), he said,” I am not sure if i could help you all the time, I will definitely help you when you need” . I was totally lost! had no other option but to do it all by myself and i was a total noob in web development.

I started to work on my idea and decided not to sit for placements when my friends were getting job offers in Google, Amazon Microsoft, PayPal, SAP labs etc. I did not attend a single test as i feared that might be a deterrent for being an entrepreneur because I am a guy who would change my mind quickly and would brainwash myself with my mind voice. Now, my friends who thought that i was bluffing realized i was serious about doing this. Convincing parents was a big task and explaining to juniors was even more daunting. They would ask me “You got placed in which company?” what should i tell them? I would be thinking for an answer and they would immediately reply back “Oh!, sorry sorry hope you would get a good job, bye” as if i have failed all interview tests that happened in College(School). :-/

Deployment:
It took some time for me to realize that my debit card had no functionality to do online transactions and made a fresh account in another bank who I thought would deliver the card faster than others. Actually they do, but i was an exception, it took almost 20 days only for the card to reach though everything related to the card reached in 4 days :/

THE FIRST TWO DAYS:
Then i deployed successfully and started to invite my friends. I messaged some 40 people in facebook, surprisingly half did not reply though i could see “seen at ” message. May be they thought the link was a spam from some app :) I was depressed when people did not reply though facebook told they saw, so i stopped inviting people.
The next day, one of my friend asked his friend (who is a hacker person who writes tech blogs) to give his comments about the website. This was his email
 
Saw it, too amateurish, closed it. I’m just being brutally honest.
This guy wants to try something, but he has to work much harder and read lots more. In a year from now, he might be pro and/or get better.
My two cents.

I was already worried why my “friends” never cared to reply in facebook, then this message added to the pain. Yes, i am amateur but this guy asked me to work harder and read more without even going to the next page or next feature. I thought he was a hacker but his response sounded amateurish, it was like looking at the Google page and dismissing it as a website with just a text box.

I concentrated on getting more suggestions from my friends, people who would care to find some time to find some faults. I made many changes based on their suggestions, i have to thank them all and even a guy, Lee Bruner i met in Google+ was so helpful in suggesting things and sometimes promoting but not the people in my facebook friend list. But i am shameless, today i started to message people again, again till they respond :D

Hey, in fact i used Facebook’s graph search with search terms like “My friends who like reddit” “My friends who joined in XYZ technical” group, so that it is easy for me to invite the people who can give some
thoughts :)

I AM A HACKER:
That guy(who gave 2 cents) asked me to work/read more! But i did put my hard work , i did read hell lot of articles, blogs. I did not seek a single help from a single person to develop this. I thought i was a hacker but fellow hackers say i am not?. Okay, i will give a small gist on just the tools i used for the application
 
  • Framework: Ruby on Rails 3.2.11, and other conventional stuff to make html page like css, html, ajax, javascript, jquery.
  • Deployed server: 3 Amazon ec2 instances. I did not want to use Heroku, i wanted to have my server for my self but i always tested my app in heroku during development which helped me fix production related issues that i used background jobs, things like that. I did not chose Linode though it was comparatively cheaper than ec2 as i want to go with “pay as you go” model of ec2 than paying upfront for a month in Linode.
  • Server1: Web Server- Nginx, Application server: Unicorn
  • Server2: Database-  Postgresql
  • Server3: Memcached for caching, Redis for autocomplete, session storage and background jobs.
  • Search Engine: Elasticsearch which is built on top of Apace Lucene.
  • Images Storage: Amazon s3
  • And hell lot of other techniques like fragment caching, cache digests, things to run background jobs, facebook open graph etc in Rails which i will talk in another blog post.
  • Server Configuration:Chef solo using librarian and knife solo. And i did read lot of articles for using this. Though software can be installed after ssh into the server, this way was an ideal way for making server configuration a cake walk and  I worked out my ass to figure it out.
  • Application Deployment: Capistrano , though apps can be deployed manually, this is a better way and i did spend some time and effort to learn and work this!
  • I can’t remember other things now, will edit as and when possible

So, am i a noob or a hacker? Fellow hackers decide it, call me amateurish, noob but don’t tell me that i have not worked hard or read less. I did everything by Googling, it was indeed a pain to develop and learn all these 30-40 days in the time reaching home after 4-6hrs travel (to and from) College(School) with tests, assignments and other commitments.

Comments with misconceptions:
And after some days i got this mail from another person who was a friend of my friend, who asked me to checkout Prismatic, Kippt websites like those and create features like that. Do they think i have not seen those and i blindly developed this? Its cool to be compared with sites like getprismatic which is founded by stanford guys with heavy VC funding, not sure if it is $1million, while my site cost has not even passed $10 :D Cool :)

The | Submify does not serve you content based on your interest like getprismatic, you seek and get content. hopflow.com might sound similar to my site with topics and links posted but there is a big  difference, the topics are not under one person and each link is unique that it will get submitted only once in a topic and the link can be submitted in different topics by going to the page(by clicking comments) just like quora. yeah, i shamelessly copied the concept where question can be added under topics by anyone into my website as link which can be shared under any topic and link remains unique.

And if you are reading this, do checkout | Submify by noob-hacker, make sure you sign up and give me your thoughts, comments after looking at all my works without dismissing it as some clone of reddit or hopflow or kippt. :)  If you ask me what is that i am trying to do, i would say i am creating an index of web with the help of people to rival Google and make Google work even harder :) Sounds stupid, right? No!, I am not saying i am going  to come up with some hybrid of Google graph and Facebook graph search :P I am fully aware how awesome Google is and that its rival with double the work force finds it difficult to give it a competition. I am just saying I would want to reduce the number of times one visits Google, meaning content should reach him before one wants.

Example: I will take Robert Scoble as an example(I just like this guy :)), his primary activity is finding and talking about startups, so he follows some 30000 people in twitter, 5000+ people in Google+ and Facebook to see what is there relevant to startup. But is he getting only posts or tweets related to startups? he will just get every personal, political thoughts unnecessary from entrepreneurs. So, how to solve? just by following the topic “startups” he would get blogs, articles or even ShowHN like links in submify, no more cat photos by entrepreneur :D What is there in submify which other link sharing website topic does not? Hmm, the links are unique, which makes it like a web directory, you can see which topic tag for the link got more votes and when a link is shared the discussion remains intact. I may be ambitious, but  let me just tell you, if there are 20 people following topic A and 20 people following topic B and link gets tagged with topic A,topic B then it would reach both the topic followers resulting in discussion greater than the actual parent link.

 I might be ambitious and i am a guy who is not part of silicon valley, and not even closer to place where Paul Graham or Dave McClure lives or roams in or even has the least possibility of getting Techcrunched :) But life is just unbelievable, i was not a guy what i was last year and Submify may not be the same “amateurish” product next year :) Will you help me in making Google a next Alta vista ;) ? :)
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Vysakh Sreenivasan
Vysakh Sreenivasan
Web app consultant