What I made on a Sunday afternoon: Spreed, a speed reading Chrome extension

 

I was annoyed at something: I liked using the speed reading app at http://www.spreeder.com/ to blaze through online content, but I hated all the clicks and copy-pasting needed to do it. When I’m annoyed at something, I see if I can solve it. So I decided to develop a simple speed reading Chrome extension. I had never developed a Chrome extension before (though it’s just javascript + html + css anyways), so this was also a great chance for me to try something new.

7 hours later, I submitted my extension to the Chrome web store. As I receive feedback over the next few weeks and refine my minimum viable product, I’ll post more lessons on what I’ve learned in the process.

Lessons from a “failed” web app: predictd.com

predictd_ss

Above is the graph of the number of visits per day to predictd.com, a timelapse stock trading simulator I developed about a year and a half ago. The two big spikes in traffic were when I posted predictd to reddit: once to the main site, once to r/investing, the investing subreddit. Traffic died down after each spike. The seemingly consistent visits during July was when I introduced predictd to the other interns at the hedge fund I worked at this summer: we would have competitions between each other to see who could make the most money.

predictd was not sticky. At least to the average internet user. People didn’t come back to the site weeks, months after they had discovered it. Perhaps it was fundamentally “anti-sticky”, due to the main feature which I had simple-mindedly thought a year and a half ago would make predictd sticky: the leaderboard. My original thought was that competition would bring people back to the site. But I noticed that people who did well got on the leaderboard and didn’t trade after that, preserving their leadership. People who didn’t do well stopped trading out of frustration. So no matter what, people didn’t come back to the site.

I realize now that, aside from predictd’s “anti-stickiness”, my target may have been wrong too. Over the summer I introduced predictd to the other interns I was working with. We were at a hedge fund, all working right next to each other, and so having mini trading competitions on predictd provided fun, relevant breaks. Perhaps implementing such a “tournament-style” or “contained” method of competition would’ve helped predictd’s traffic. Targeting finance professionals, or at least people interested in finance/investing/stock trading, seemed to be a good idea too: the only consistent traffic came from my hedge fund colleagues, and the second spike in traffic (when site was submitted to the r/investing subreddit) surprisingly reached about the same magnitude of visits/day as the first spike (submitted to general reddit).

predictd.com still seems revivable. I’ll have to put it on the backburner though because I have other projects on my plate that I am pursuing in my journey to become a better and smarter web developer. It may have been a “failure” in terms of growth, but I definitely learned some important lessons. There are no failures, only learning experiences.