Sunday, October 23, 2011

Jawaya Update

I've been up and down about Jawaya over the past 6 months. Google comes out with Google  +, and it kind of sucks the wind out of your sails because you know at some point they'll incorporate search as one of the signals, and it's likely they'll surface people you know alongside searches they've done that are similar to yours.

That's in our original spec and first release, though that's not quite enough. But it's enough to render you impotent for a bit. 

Since I started this over a year ago, I've said that it feels like there's this giant, perfect wave forming just offshore and we're still standing on the beach waxing our boards. Later I changed that; that the wave is about to crash right where we're standing on the beach, still waxing our boards. 

Execution is everything. I built the functional prototype in a few weeks on old familiar technology--ASP--but knew it couldn't scale. So we decided to switch over to Rails, which i didn't know, but would commit to learning. My helpers were only part time and occasional, leaving me with the client-side stuff to work on in between. 

But there are bugs, and then there are bugs. You hit a showstopper that you can't fix, and you have to move to something else because working around it isn't really possible. 



After digging into Rails tutorials for a bit, I really didn't like it. I mean I really, really didn't like it. The shorthand maybe turned me off; maybe it was all of the exceptions to the MVC rules, maybe it was the changes in routing, maybe it was just that I'm an old fart at 44. I can read it, but I'm not very interested in mastering it, and I know that road isn't a short one for me. 

So over the summer I got interested in Node.js. It had one great advantage: it's a Javascript web server, built in C so it's super fast, and I know JS up and down. There's even a modified jQuery if that style suits. 

I love the idea of using a single language up and down the stack--Node, MongoDB, Mongoose (ORM for Express), Express (MVC), Jade (HAML-like templating; it's the one really new thing I had to learn and it's got enough electric cattle prods to keep you on track), Pusher for super simple real-time, jQuery/JS in the browser/mobile, HTML5.

Rails developers are a scarce resource, driving up their costs and reducing their availability for dreamers like me. 

Express was easy to learn--it's my entry point into the apps. 

So why is this important? 

Well, it frees me from the dependency on other developers. I should have chosen it from the beginning. Every developer knows Javascript. So the availability of resources changes dramatically: me, full time, and any developer when they can jump in, until we have revenues and/or investment. 

So things move daily. But not for Jawaya. 

The side project is a companion to it. I've gotten deeply interested in 'signals' and intent on the web: search is expressed intent, sharing a link is an endorsement of that link or your point about it, commenting at a blog is an expression of interest around the post, replying to a comment is expressed reaction. 

As humans we appreciate validation of our ideas, and we seek others who agree with those interests and ideas. It's one of the things that binds us, now that food is largely plentiful and shelter relatively cheap and comfortable (outside of Manhattan). 

So as Jawaya has crept along, I've been studying these signals and playing with them. A few weeks ago, I started pulling some of it together in Node/Express/Mongo etc, and am turning it into a coherent set of mobile and web applications and widgets that will server those human impulses with this goal: to increase the number and quality of connections between people in communities. 

So Jawaya Beta 3 is on its way. It's still a Rails app, and that's fine; it's maturing and stabilizing. Hopefully the first-time experience is rich and functional for people. Privacy on is the default setting, so you'll share only what you explicitly choose to. 

Until you do, it's largely a repository for saving the links you value,  whether you found those through browsing, searching, or checking out a social network. The context of how you found it is saved as well, which really helps when you're searching Jawaya for it later. 

I'm predicting 3 days to release, which means a week from now :) Some things never change.

The side project will continue to be a closed project (not stealth, just not public) until it's mature. There's no rush, and it might not become anything at all, but what I'm learning in the process is fascinating, and I'm really enjoying the JS stack. 

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