2021 in review

December 31, 2021

My grandparents have been asking me the same question for years: "What are you planning to do next? What are your goals?". Every time I give them the same answer: "I want to work for myself eventually". Then I continue doing what I'm doing and not make a single step towards where I want to be.

I got tired of making up the same excuse and a little more than a year ago, I made that first step. I took a solo trip to the mountains for 4 days to create anything, really. I would be lying if I said "it changed everything", but I believe it did make a difference.

During that trip I started working on Lotus and while I didn't ship it before I left, as originally intended, I did spend half a year working on it and shipped it on April 1st.

Fast forward to today, I've launched 5 projects this year and there are even more to come. So here's what happened.

Lotus

Lotus is a Mac app for managing your GitHub notifications.

It's an attempt to give developers productivity tools to take care of their notifications and try to not be stressed out while doing it.

When I started working on Lotus, I was struggling with discipline, so I decided to post daily or weekly updates about how it's going to let internet keep my accountable. In other words, I wanted to build it in public. I created a newsletter and more than a hundred people signed up!

In retrospect, that was certainly a right decision for someone as lazy as me. Yes, I did miss a few newsletters every now and then, but it was mostly a consistent streak of updates for 6 months that led to a successful launch.

Not successful in terms of revenue, but the fact that I launched a working product with almost all the features I wanted was a success already to me!

So far 20 people bought Lotus, which generated $457 in revenue. Since I created a website, 7.6k unique visitors have seen it with a total of 30.6k pageviews. Most of them came from Twitter, where I tweeted regularly about my progress. Interestingly, the second largest source of traffic is my "Making Electron apps feel native on Mac" post that consistently brings me new visitors. Perhaps I should write part 2?

Lotus is certainly an interesting project, but I underestimated its complexity. Because I'm trying to solve productivity issues, there's no one right answer, so I have to continuously iterate on it and there's no finish line in sight. This, combined with troubles of working with GitHub API, contributes to me losing motivation to work on it, but I'm not giving up yet.

Lotus 2.0 is nearly ready after all! It's faster, prettier and simpler. It's currently in the polishing stages, so stay tuned.

Daft Punk Cafe

Oh my, Daft Punk Cafe totally didn't match my expectations, but in a good way!

Daft Punk announced that they were breaking up and news like that dropped hard on me. Inspired by lofi.cafe, I set out to create a 24/7 radio station of Daft Punk music only.

I imagined a UI like in those MS-DOS times, but my pixel art skills are non-existent. Fortunately, I found a local Ukrainian artist, Nataliia, who drew some fantastic pixel art for my little Daft Punk website.

Then I started thinking how to make the thing even more fun and... I couldn't come up with anything. So I called my friend Kate and she did come up with some amazing ideas (thank you, Kate).

First, when you're listening to the radio, you can press on the heart button, which does nothing but show a colorful heart symbol flying from the bottom right of the screen. It doesn't say that anywhere in the UI, but those hearts are synced across all current visitors on the website. So if you create a heart, everyone else sees it too and vice versa. I saw some folks got really into it and I kid you not, they pressed that button for 15 minutes straight!

Then I added "guess the song" game and tetris to the website. Yep, I made a tetris game and it was really damn hard, much harder than centering a div. These games are, of course, Daft Punk themed. It's better if you try them out rather than me telling you, so go ahead, I'll wait!

What happened next was wild. Daft Punk Cafe went viral on Twitter, Alex Maccaw posted it on Product Hunt, Reddit showed it on the front page of /r/daftpunk and 8.8k people visited it so far!

I love Daft Punk Cafe, because it's a pure passion project and I'm proud of it so so much.

Dense Discovery Index

This one also blew my mind completely.

I'm a huge fan of Offscreen magazine and Dense Discovery newsletter. I've bought all issues of Offscreen starting from the very first one (they're not being sold anymore) from various people and places, because I had to read all of them and have the full collection at home. Some folks collect Pokemons, well I collect Offscreen magazines. I also read Dense Discovery first thing in the morning of every Tuesday.

Imagine what I felt when I got to collaborate with Kai Brach (the person who created these) on the official catalog of content from the entire Dense Discovery archive.

When I was holding the first issue of Offscreen magazine on the beach in San Francisco several years ago, I couldn't believe that one day I'll get to work with a creator of that artwork.

The whole story is amazing, but it's too long to fit in here and frankly it deserves its own blog post. If you're curious how it happened, I wrote the whole story on Twitter.

Rosefinch

Rosefinch is a Mac app for querying SQLite, PostgreSQL and MySQL databases. Think of it as Insomnia or Postman, but for SQL instead of HTTP.

The idea for a simple app, that would just have collections of SQL queries was in my to-do list for a long time. So one weekend, after I sent out links to beta builds of Lotus 2.0, I thought, why not take a break from it and build something else?

I picked Rosefinch idea and tweeted that I'm going to see if it's possible to finish it in a weekend. Of course, it wasn't, but I did finish it in a week while tweeting every single day about my progress.

I'm very happy how Rosefinch turned out, it's a small app that does one thing and I think it does it well. So far 13 people have bought Rosefinch, which equals to $240. Rosefinch also got trending on Hacker News and even got to the front page! About 6.8k people visited it and generated 10.5k pageviews.

Not bad for a side project, first version of which took only a week!

Rosefinch started with support for SQLite only, but I later added PostgreSQL and MySQL too. I'm going to add Planetscale to the mix and stop new development at that point, because I really need start doing something to market this and my other apps instead.

I do like that Rosefinch, compared to Lotus, has a clearly defined problem and just as clear solution. This motivates me to lead it to a hypothetical completion, where it brings a certain steady number of dollars per month and I have to do little to no maintenance to support it. Is this actually possible? I don't know, but I want to find out.

Pulse

Pulse is a menubar app for Mac, which shows latest metrics from Plausible Analytics.

This was my attempt to learn Swift and SwiftUI, while building something useful. I often open Plausible dashboard to see how many people visited my websites, so that idea to put these stats in a menubar kind of presented itself.

I like that Pulse just sits there in the menubar, does its job and there's zero maintenance required for it. I wish all projects were like that 😄

Pulse made $85 in sales so far, which is nice too! I started with $5.99 for a price tag, but per Sindre's suggestion, I lowered it to $1.99. By the way, I was able to launch Pulse mostly thanks to him and his help with Swift. Thank you, Sindre!


I think it was a great year. Could I do more and work harder? Yes. Could I do absolutely nothing and work 9-to-5 only? Also yes. Knowing myself and how easily I get distracted, I'm proud of what I've achieved.

With that said, I'm not going to write a single word about my plans for the future, because I've done this before by promising to launch something and ended up not delivering. Hell, I literally promised to launch Lotus 2.0 in December and it's less than 2 days before 2021 is over. This feeling sucks, so I'm not going to repeat the same mistake!

Thanks for following my work this year and I can't wait to share some awesome stuff I've got in the works with you very soon. Lotus 2.0 is probably going to be the first one of them and hopefully I can launch it in January.

Oh damn, I did it again.

Happy New Year!