12/16 Domain Pigeon Updates

Domain Pigeon is probably around 90% ready to go.

There are a few finishing touches I need to make before the first iteration is launched sometime in early January. The plan is to have a few friends test it, then ask the Philly.rb folks for feedback, then maybe HackerNews, depending on how things go.

One thing lesson learned from ALL IN Expert is that you can’t wait for a perfect product in order to launch. A better approach is to get something decent, launch, get feedback, then iterate over and over until you have a great product. If I had done that sooner with ALL IN Expert, I’d have saved myself several weeks of work because I would have realized that there wasn’t a strong market for the product I was building. Therefore, with Domain Pigeon, I’m drawing a line and not adding any new features until I get feedback on the ones I have.

There was a thread recently on HackerNews about this. Brian Lash sums it up pretty well:

Throw the launch mindset to the wind.

I think our preoccupation with a huge launch owes more to its sexiness than to its practical importance for a startup. You may catch lightning in a bottle with a launch that’s met with a ton of fanfare. But you can also build an enduring success by focusing your time and energy on sale #1, then #2, and so on.

Your odds are long one way or the next (and granted things change when you need to observe network effects to succeed) but it seems it’s almost always the better shot to build fast, iterate faster, and lean into whatever success you find along the way.

If anyone is interested in helping test out the initial version in about three weeks, please shoot me an email and we’ll go from there.

Happy holidays —

That Graham Guy on Credentials

I make it a point not to quote Paul Graham too often, simply because there’s a lot of good quotes and it seems a bit artificial when done too often. That being said, I found today’s article on credentials to be particularly insightful:

Large organizations can’t [accurately measure performance]. But a bunch of small organizations in a market can come close. A market takes every organization and keeps just the good ones. As organizations get smaller, this approaches taking every person and keeping just the good ones. So all other things being equal, a society consisting of more, smaller organizations will care less about credentials.

In a world of small companies, performance is all anyone cares about. People hiring for a startup don’t care whether you’ve even graduated from college, let alone which one. All they care about is what you can do.

For those unfamiliar with his work, check out his online essays, which are extremely good. Or, if you prefer book format, try Hackers & Painters.

For many reasons I hope that my career path (for lack of a better word) leads me to a startup one day.

Time will tell.

December Pub Night

Tonight was my second Philly on Rails (or Philly.rb) Pub Night. There were noticeably less people than last time, but it was better as a result. It was like going from a class of thirty in high school to a class of ten or fifteen in college. You get more time to interact and to talk and to share ideas so you wind up getting a lot more out of it.

The topics of conversation were diverse and interesting, as usual. John, an animation programmer and Ruby enthusiast, explained about this place in Philly where developers can go work in an office-like environment on free lance projects. To go work there you have to pay a small fee and in exchange, you get a quiet place to work on your projects and you’ve got lots of smart people there to ask questions to if you need it. It’s mainly people who work for themselves, but who do not want to work in isolation. Cool cool cool. If possible, I’m going to take a day off work and join them for a day.

What hasn’t ceased to amaze me is the level of diversity among the attendees. There is a wide range of backgrounds and experience among the folks who join Philly.rb each month. The ages range from 18-50 with the majority around 25. Some are married with kids, others are single and thrilled about it. Some program for a living, others do it part time. Some are startup types, others like the big-company security. You wouldn’t be able to tell that most are developers. What we do share, other than being almost entirely male, is a desire for a community of like-minded developers to socialize with.

Alan, a really smart and down to earth guy, said that he also attends the New York Ruby meetings from time to time as well. They are also twice a month and rotate locations in Manhattan. They’ll probably be some long nights, but I’m going to try to make it to a few of them too. I think he said there were hack nights, where people basically get together to write code, and instructional nights, similar to what Philly.rb did last week. Those meetings are apparently on a much larger scale though, with 30-50 people attending on average, many of whom are well known in the Ruby and Rails communities.

Should be a good time.

Exploits Online, AOL-Files.com’s Precursor

Exploits Online was created on February 5, 2000 and put on the web on April 20, 2000, in hopes of providing AOL members with the information they never knew they wanted to know. Exploits will bring you up to date information on AOL exploits and information about the ensuing America Online version 6.0. With so many people on AOL, new exploits are being discovered daily. The goal of Exploits Online is not to harm AOL in any way; just to make it more interesting to its members.

Over the next few months I’m going to work on documenting some of my programming projects. The work, which ranges from about 1998 to the present, will be a portfolio of sorts. It’s not all glamorous and and not all great, but it’s led me to where I am today and for that I’m thankful.

My first website, Exploits Online, was dedicated to hacking America Online. I began it in early 2000 and it eventually evolved into what became AOL-Files. The site was located at ieetfools.com/tau and I’ve uploaded what I have of it here:

Exploits Online Archive

At the time, I was 14, which is both frightening and amazing to me now.  It’s terrifying because that work danced on legal and ethical line. One of the main objectives of our work was to acquire, often by deception, quality screen names. Also, if you check under the Collections link, you’ll see a screenshot titled “Invalid credit card number by Fila”. The screenshot shows Fila, who I don’t remember now, getting an account rejected because the stolen credit card he used had been terminated. A common practice, though one I never participated in, was to steal credit card numbers using phishing techniques and use them to create AOL accounts. The prospect of stealing a credit card number or using a stolen number, thankfully, mortified me.

There’s lot of interesting lines from this site, which I recall now with nostalgia:

This Friday, June 2nd, I will be leave for my dad’s place up in Conneticut and I will be staying there for five weeks.

While at my dad’s place I’m going buy some books on Java, CGI, and the ilk and will learn from them. So, when I have a domain the interface will include menus and some more advanced features than I currently know.

I wish you all the best over the summer and my advice to you is to get out and live your life. I doubt anything will change much while I’m gone. A recent study found out that 34% of teens are on the computer five or more hours a day. Thats scary. All of you into AOL exploits: what is your goal? At first I got into this because I wanted a two character screen name or an indent. But then I thought about it and who cares? It’s a nice thing to brag about but if you think about it, its not that great. I’m cutting back on online time. I started running too. I run one and a half miles a day now. It feels great. So, all of you need to get out; have fun.

That post implies that living life is something entirely distinct from the work we were doing. I realize now that this is not the case. Despite the words, I never really “got out” in the way I meant it there. I vividly recall being at my father’s apartment that summer and writing in a notebook the words for the About section for what would later become AOL-Files.

In fact, on every vacation I’ve been on since then I can remember brainstorming in a notebook about whatever project I was working on at the time. For example, after I graduated in 2007 I went to Europe with some friends… I brought along a book on Two Person Game Theory and probability for a poker bot I was working on. On my honeymoon earlier this year I brought Simply Javascript and Founders at Work. In a week when I go home for Christmas I’m bringing Agile Web Development with Rails, Here Comes Everybody, and Quick LLC. Creation, I have found, is what drives me, but that’s a story for another post.

Looking back at the exploits I wrote about, they range from really, really stupid (see How to Instantly Close AOL) to pretty good (see Screen Name Cloning Tutorial and AOL Class Names Tutorial). And the Thoughts section is a misnomer, since everything there is basically a poorly worded rant.

BMB first contacted me after he saw Exploits Online being advertised in a chat one day. We had common interests and eventually decided to make AOL-Files. Ultimately, that partnership proved to be the most important result that came out of this site.

O0O, a really sharp guy I met through AOL-Files, made a comment in a May 2007 post on Wired regarding a guy I knew well named cam0, who never really grew out of the childish hacking phase (this is the same cam0 that hacked Paris Hilton’s cell phone and LexusNexus). This portion of the post is great, not only because O0O gives BMB and me a head nod six years later (brag), but because it’s the same thing I feel when I hear about people still trying to hack AOL:

Ri, Smokey and whoever else still in the scene that is reading this. This crap aint worth it. At the end of the day you may look back at these days as alot of fun, but that’s only until you get caught or you realize that you wasted time that could have been spent chasing women or drinking beer with buddies.

I left the scene in 2002, I was 20 years old, and I haven’t looked back since then.

Its fun to think about the “good ole” days, but in my time we weren’t fighting over screen names. It was about exploring, information sharing and discovering something no one else knew. You guys sit around all night suspending each other, cracking “3r33t” sns and arguing over who is leeter.

I will tell you right now authoritatively that if your name isn’t one of the people I mentioned in my last post, you are nothing. You won’t be remembered by anyone unless you get arrested. No one cares about AOL or what you can or can not do. You aren’t finding anything new with the service that wasn’t already figured out ten years ago. You’re wasting your time and your effort. If you’re somehow getting a high off having a cat and mouse game with opssec, then God Bless you buddy for having absolutely no life.

Smokey for the record is not out hax0ring the world with BMB/Tau, etc. Ri, I don’t know who you are, based on some of your bad facts you can’t be too old in the scene, but I would hope you dont make AOL your full time hobby. To every other 15 year old reading this, telling a girl you own a 3chr aint going to get you laid.

Hacking the world… gotta love it.