Archive for the ‘Work Life’ Category

January saw a 10% rise in audience size and a 13% drop in revenue. All total I earned $508.95, which is not to shabby given the shopping season has ended and ad clicks are typically worth less. Time Until continues to be the most popular app, and has a higher growth rate than the miscarriage apps which continues to surprise me. Overall growth was pretty uniform across all apps. The only top visited app that had a measurable (1.8%) decrease in users was the Passive Voice Detector.

There isn’t much progress to report. I had decided to stay the decision on maternity leave until Dana was born so I would have a better idea what expectations are reasonable. Now that she’s here it’s clear I need to be on a reduced work schedule while I heal. For now my work load is primarily responding to emails (January was a surprisingly busy month in that regard), fixing minor bugs, and possibly addressing critical issues if they rise to the level of interfering with revenue.

Something I need to give some thought to is how best to silo my sites. I recently was contacted by someone with a serious offer to acquire Datayze. I declined (I doubt I’d ever be interested in selling Datayze.) I do want to branch out into multiple sites and it may be worth selling off some off those other properties in the future. For that to be feasible, I need to give serious consideration to how I operate.

Currently I reuse code across my personal and professional sites. Why reinvent the wheel? The purchase agreement would need to address ownership of shared code to avoid ambiguity. A cleaner approach would be to create each site as an independent silo, with it’s own version of a wheel. I’ve already been considering moving Datayze to its own VM/instance so I don’t risk its uptime when working on my other sites. I think I may make it a policy of each website being completely self contained and running separately once they get big enough.

Last month followed the predictable pattern laid out from the previous December: strong first half of the month, abysmal second half. The majority of my December income, $588.04, was earned in the first three weeks, then everything slowed to a crawl through the holiday. Users were up 13.5%, again due to a strong first half of the month performance. This time I knew what to expect, and didn’t let my dropping numbers discourage me too much.

Overall this puts my total income for 2017 at $3,456.27. Not where it needs to be, but not to shabby, especially compared to last year. That’s about a 7x year-over-year growth. Another 7x growth would put me at ~$24,000 for the year, equivalent to minimum wage in California.

One of the neat things was watching my stats around midnight new years eve. I just happened to have my analytics page open around 9 PM PST (midnight for East Coasters) and I watched the the hits to my Time Until app climb sharply until they reached 4X normal traffic volume. I had initially designed my app to be more of a long range count down over multiple days, so I was surprised by the interest, but I’ll gladly take it! I couldn’t resist staying up to see how my apps did as midnight approached Central time, Mountain Time and Pacific time. I was sure the west coast numbers would be equally strong, but to my surprise I had far more users in the Central Time Zone.

Time Until is one of the apps that’s going to get a serious redesign in the new year. I hope my audience likes it!

Moving forward, January was the month I intended to start pushing updates again, however I’m running into challenges with my webhost. They recently made changes to their text editing tool, and now I can’t save files. I have a walk around, but I want them to fix their issue first since their editing tool has become a part of my standard work flow. There are also two other pending potential issues with the host that could throw a hiccup into any update I push, and with the pending arrival I’m wearing of doing anything that might leave the site in a bad state while I’m out of commission for a few days. We’ll see what January brings, but as of now I’m expecting minimal updates to trickle out.

November was another strong growth month, but income still fell short of projections. Datayze saw a user growth of 19.2% and earned $569.45.

I won’t meet the $1000/month target by the end of the year, but I can’t be dissappointed with the growth I’ve seen this year. Average monthly revenue has increased by a factor of 4 and will likely continue to increase. I’ve hit all the targets I set for myself just under two years ago.

Next goals include:
– $1000/month (I consider this the point of viability)
– Covering the kids’ daycare/afterschool costs
– Replacing my previous full time salary

One of the differences I noticed right away between this year and last was in the impact of Thanksgiving on audience size. Last year Thanksgiving didn’t seem to have much of an effect on audience size. There was a markable dip on the day off, and a small dip the day before, but audience size recovered quickly over the weekend. This year my user stats started to drop on the Tuesday before Thanksgiving and remained slightly lower than expected the following week. It’s further evidence that my demographics may have shifted with the change in relative App popularity.

One of the nice things about increased traffic is I’m starting to see a non trivial number of Amazon affiliate links. Over a year ago I implemented a backup ad system that served Amazon affiliate links for users who use ad blockers. (It’s against my terms of service to use an ad blocker on my site, but I realize some corporate networks don’t give users a choice.) Clicks is the first step to conversions, which is the next step before creating a steady revenue stream. I spent a lot of time designing the system to be unintrusive, fast and light weight, but not a lot of time selecting products so there’s at least that potential avenue for improvement.

I’m setting my expectations low for December. Last year my audience size decreased in the middle of the month and it took about a month to recover. I noticed a similar winter dip the year before. The January lull will give me a chance to launch a whole bunch of new content and site improvements I’ve been holding off from (assuming a little miss doesn’t make an early appearance.)

November 19, 2017

Small World

You know what’s really cool? When your worlds collide in a way that reinforces you’re impacting the world.

I got some good news about, and couldn’t resist sharing on facebook. A friend I hadn’t chatted with in years sent me a private message. She had been relying datayze for months and hadn’t realize it was my site. (Not surprising, my name is only on the about page. I try to keep it more professional and less personal.) Small world.

This is actually the second time my social world has collided with my solo business adventure. A few years back, before datayze’s launch, when I was still hosting the tools on my resume website, another friend was googling labor statistics and found my Labor Probability Calculator. Of course she instantly recognized my site since it was personally branded.

One of the things I loved most about working for Google or Microsoft was that my work literally impacted millions of people. The drawback, though, I never got to hear from the users directly. The level of impact was always measured through experiments. With datayze I impact fewer people, but the impact is greater and I get to hear from those who use my tools directly.

I have always been a feedback junky. I save (and respond to) each an every email I get from my users. I follow my back links and smile with the glowing reviews (and make adjustments based off of the criticisms.) I monitor my stats closely, so I know how the tools are growing in popularity, but it’s always cool to learn they’re helping another person I know personally.

I love having that kind of impact I have now, and having yet another face to associate that with just reinforces that this was the right path for me.

October was an exhilarating month. Each week saw substantial growth over the past. First 5%, then 8%, then 10%. Overall October had a 50% increase in users compared to September! That’s the second biggest growth month I’ve encountered since starting my business! With an amazing month my projection model now shows Datayze reaching $1000/month by December! Holy smokes.

So where do I stand now? In October I made $512.07.

My time series prediction takes into consideration the past several months, so it’s estimating a reasonable 30% growth in November and December. The revenue component may be a little less reliable. It’s also a time series, with a seasonal component, but it’s assuming a similar demographic. This year is proving to be a little less profitable on a per user basis than last year, possibly because my demographics have been changing with the increased popularity of non maternity apps. Advertising rates may also be different. I noticed in the summer per user profits appeared to be lower. At any rate, I think my estimation may prove to be a little optimistic, but it’s nice to be back on track in theory. A more realistic expectation may be hitting $1000/month in January or February.

The switch in hosting was indeed seamless and not too costly. For the last couple of years I’ve been worried that my hosting costs will raise at the same rate as revenue, leaving Datayze (and, by extension, me) basically unprofitable. Now I can definitively say that is not the case which is a nice weight off my shoulders. I have quite a bit of room to grow on my current hosting plan before needing to step up once again, and the costs are well below earnings.

I’m still on managed hosting, but no longer shared hosting. This may help isolate me from future DDoS attacks. If nothing else, in theory I may be a priority since I pay more per month. That’s my hope at any rate. For now I’m not going to worry too much about it since they haven’t been a common problem so far.

In September I had a 25% growth in users, and nearly doubled income to $391.21. While all the apps appear to be doing well in general, Time Until saw a 108% increase in users, which is fueling the overall growth. I’m really surprised by that apps growth, as there’s a lot of competition for countdown timers. I plan to do some investigating to see why my countdown timer may be outperforming others. Perhaps it’s just a collateral benefit of Datayze doing well in general?

Now that I’m growing substantially again, I think I’m going to adopt a more mature-company stance on updates in the fourth quarter. The October-December time frame is my most profitable, thanks, of course, to the shopping season. Last year, nearly half my income came from those three months online. That makes changes during this time risky from a financial stand point. Although rare, even minor changes can sometimes have unintended consequences. Now is not a good time to risk a stupid bug that breaks my website for even a fraction of my user base.

From now until the new year I plan to keep my website fixed. If something critical comes up, I will of course address it. This doesn’t mean I won’t be working on datayze. I have two apps in progress right now (the same too I’ve been working on for a while). My plan is to push their proposed launch date back until January at the earliest.

One critical issue I need to address in the next few days: I’ve running into the limits of my shared hosting. During high activity peaks my hosting company will sometimes run our of resources, and kill some of my processes. From a user standpoint it’s an occasional 503 error. That’s clearly not ideal so I’ll be moving from a shared host to a dedicated server. I’ve been assured by the hosting company that this will be a seamless transitions, but I’m going to do it as quickly as reasonably possible so the change is in place before the holiday season really kicks off.

The good news is the past couple of months of growth have improved my projections somewhat. I’m now projecting to reach $1000/month in early 2018. Possibly February, but more likely March. Here’s hoping.

Despite another increase in user growth, income continues to be on the decline. I made $211.64 in August compared to July’s $220.73. It’s a small difference, but an annoying difference given the trend.

Other than diversifying, revenue is something beyond my control. It’s yet another reason why I prefer to focus on user growth rather than income. I can’t control the advertising rates, or how interested users are in the ads (how shoppy, clicky they are), but I can continue to work on a really cool site that attracts lots of daily users. Once I have a built in audience, it’ll be easier to attract ad dollars by diversifying.

Overall I had a 7.5% growth in users. Even with Anonymous’ DDoS attack on my hosting company, in which I was collateral damage, I did have a stronger second half of the month. Most of the month was stagnant user growth, but it started to pick up in the last two weeks so I’m hopeful for a strong September showing. The Miscarriage reasurer audience nearly doubled this month, and the Miscarriage Chart audience increased by nearly 40%. The writing tools are down a bit, I’ll have to look into that.

The DDoS attack has me considering my exposure to future issues in my current setup. Once upon a time switching webhosts in my case required little more than copying a folder from one destination to another. Back then it wasn’t uncommon for a webhost’s uptime to start to fluctuate, or drop dramatically. Being nimble was a necessity. I designed my sites knowing I might switch hosts every year or two. I’ve been on Dreamhost just over a decade now and grown accustomed to letting them managing all my domain and subdomain configurations, as well as database set ups and all the rests. There are undoubtedly other issues I haven’t even thought of. Switching hosts, should the need arise, would likely not be seamless.

While I don’t expect DDoS of this scale to occur with any regularity, I am growing and that could mean outgrowing my current host setup. I need to figure out what it would take to move, even if it’s just from shared hosting to dedicated hosting and not from company to company.

July was a more encouraging month, at least in terms of user growth. In July I had a 19.3% growth in users over June, however I made $3 less! Oh well, I keep saying I care more about user growth than income growth. Users tends to be more stable, which means I expect income to catch up at some point.

In terms of progress I made a major change under the hood. I had previously been using a two stage deployment. I had two different work environments, a development environment were I could work on changes and a production environment that hosted the live website. To reduce user bandwidth, I’d compress files while moving them from development to production. This worked fine up until now as I could always fine a time of low to no user activity.
As long as I followed my own invariants, the compression worked seamlessly. When I broke them, I could quickly undo the compression before anyone noticed and avoid much disruption. Downtime was no more than minutes at most, and there were always some minutes a day (usually in the middle of the night) where it could be risked.

Datayze has grown to the point where that is no longer the case. Some apps don’t really have down time anymore. Less trafficked times of the day are no longer no traffic times. In some cases I’d wait days before having an opportunity to push a change. It’s good news for datayze, but means I need to split up and test the compress step independently of the push to production.

Now I have three independent silos, one for development, one to test the compression, and one for deployment. Technically I have a fourth “sandbox” silo for crazy, half formed ideas, but there’s no automatic method for pushing from there to development. I keep the sandbox completely separate from development so I don’t accidentally deploy something very not ready for prime time. I don’t want to get a reputation for broken code and wonky, misbehaving apps!

The change should help increase productivity. Now I have much more flexibility when I deploy.

July 20, 2017

Not Code Words

A realization hit me recently: the majority of my contacts view me as a stay at home mom. Fellow daycare moms have made that assumption when organizing play dates, as well as former colleagues. Even at my dental checkup the dentist even said to me “well, at least you’re not working so you don’t have to worry about maternity leave” when I told him about my pregnancy. If someone knows me as a mom, chances are they think I’m a stay-at-home-mom.

I’ve never been much of a self promoter. I read that it’s important to trumpet your own horn when you’re a self employed (who else is going to?) so I have made an effort to talk about major milestones I hit on social media. After all, it was my hope that if my business failed, it would at least look good on my resume. It seemed odd to think how common this misunderstanding of what I do was, but to be honest I have never really thought about why I might be giving this impression until I came across the story of another mom-turned-entrapuener.

This other entrapuener had worked on her side business for three years before leaving corporate world to turn her side business into her main business, all when her kids were very young. Despite the success she was having, many friends and family assumed she her primary interest was to be a stay-at-home-mom (SAHM) and the business was just a cover. In their eyes it was a vanity project, resume fodder to hide the fact she wasn’t working. Others in the comment section reported the same experience. Suddenly all those past interactions I had been having made sense.

To be honest I was more than a little annoyed. When one assumes I’m not working they’re assigning zero value to anything I produce. If Datayze is a vanity project, then by definition it only serves my vanity. All those hard long nights, all that effort, all worthless.

I realize this is partially a monster of my own making. I have been very open about my desire for better work/life balancing being one of the reasons I left my previous job. The flexibility to divide my time between my business and my family the way I want to has been one of the perks I enjoy about my current setup. If you’re inclined to believe “running my own business” is code for “not working”, I can see how I might appear to fit this mold.

So now I’m left with the question of how do I combat this perception. Do I brag more about the successes? Humblebrag about how busy I am? I don’t think I’m comfortable with any more self-promotion than I already do, and I hate to perpetuate the cult of busy. Or do I point out the inherent stereotyping behind of this kind of assumption? Difficult to do without coming across as antagonistic. Probably not worth my time.

I guess undeniable success is the only way to go.

One year ago I rebranded and moved all my apps from to Since then, growth has exploded. I remember when I used to be excited to have 600 visitors on a week day. A year ago I was happy to get 300 visitors a day. Now it’s a common occurrence to have had close to 1,000 unique visitors by the time I wake up in the morning and start my day. Page visits are up across all apps, and user satisfaction seems to be near an all time high.

After months of hard work I’ve finally struck the right balance between technical enough for the Math enthusiasts to trust my apps, and approachable enough to not scare away the general audience. The rebranding likely helped in this regard too. I regularly get emails assuming datayze is run by a team, and not an individual. I’ve put a tremendous amount of effort into making datayze a smooth, sleek website and it seems to be paying off. I’m much more optimistic about the future of my small business this year, than I was at the same time last year.

I still have a lot of work ahead of me if I’m going to grow to where I need to be. I need to get users up. I still think I need a minimum 10,000 users a day to be viable and while growth will likely continue slowly without additional input from me, I’d like to get there as quickly as possible.

The best strategy, I think, is to continue to build new apps, particularly apps that build off of the existing ones which can appeal to the audience I already have.

A side goal I have is to improve my Alexa rank. I’d love to hit the magical “100,000” club, the point at which Alexa considers the differences in ranks to be statistically meaningful. My Alexa rank does appear to be correlated with the amount of traffic I get, but some of it’s other reported statistics of datayze, such as bounce rate and top queries, is way off.

The Alexa rank is purely an ego metric for me, since I rely on google Adsense and don’t solicit advertisers. Still, it was quite rewarding crossing the 1,000,000 threshold this past January. Once you cross the 1,000,000 threshold your rank is graphed and I love seeing my progress rather than an “insufficient data” message. I am, after all, a data person.

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