Full Time Indie Hacking: Month 5 Update

Photo by Sergey Shmidt

At the beginning of the year I quit consulting to focus full time on Preceden, my SaaS timeline maker tool. I also started working on a new side project, Emergent Mind, an AI-powered AI news site. My last update on how things were going was after 3 months which provides more background for anyone interested.

Emergent Mind

When I last shared an update in early April, here’s what Emergent Mind looked like:

And here it is today:

Same general idea as before, but with a number of significant changes:

  • Did away with the whole “Explain it Like I’m 5”, “Explain it as a Poem” and other gimmicky explanation styles and replaced it with translated versions of the site. Visitors can now read Emergent Mind in 12 languages.
  • Simplified the UI a ton: did away with upvoting and post details (score, age, poster, etc). Also nixed individual post pages and just moved the main content (summaries) to the homepage.
  • Also added those post thumbnails to add some graphics to the site.
  • Launched its newsletter, which is a recap of yesterdays or last week’s top posts, depending on whether the person subscribed daily or weekly.
  • Wired up the Emergent Mind Twitter account to automatically share news articles (in the gimmicky explanation styles that I nixed on the actual website).
  • Set up a new LLC to separate Emergent Mind from the LLC I use for Preceden

Overall, the site is coming along, but IMO still lacking in a lot of areas. Doesn’t feel like it has product market fit yet. Notably, while the summaries are good, it lacks insights that all of its human-powered AI news competitors provide. I do think it’s possible to have Emergent Mind generate insightful reporting that’s as good or better than humans, but it’s going to take some work to get there.

I’ve had a number of people suggest to me to expand into other topics besides AI. Imagine there being sections on politics, tech, etc etc etc, and you could choose which ones you want surfaced to you on the homepage and in the newsletter. I’ve also had people suggest I say focused on AI because it’s a plenty big niche. For now, I’m staying focused on AI, but I could see it changing in the future, especially if I can get it to generate insightful analyses and not just summaries.

I spent most of April on Emergent Mind, but for the last few weeks have been focused almost entirely on Preceden. Thankfully, Emergent Mind is 99% automated at this point including the news on the site, the newsletter, and the Twitter account, so I can step away and it mostly runs on its own.

Preceden aka Timeline Maker AI

About two weeks ago I quietly launched a major update to Preceden: the ability to generate complete timelines on any topic using AI, directly from the homepage, no account required:

I had been working on this for months in a PR, and finally said screw it, I need to get this live, even if it is buggy around the edges. And buggy it was (and still is to some degree). I’ve spent the last 2 weeks fixing issues, improving the UI, and trying to get the quality of the generated timelines as good as possible before promoting it more widely.

Consider that Preceden is a general purpose timeline maker tool which means that people are using it to generate timelines ranging from World War II to personal injury claims to startup marketing plans and everything in between. And it has to ideally work in every language and support every possible date format. And support various guidance people give it around what time period to use, or durations for their projects, and on and on and on. And not hallucinate historical events that didn’t actually happen 🤣.

Here are the example topics to give you an idea of what people are using Preceden for, and what this tool has to handle:

I’m basically spending my days monitoring what people are searching for, inspecting the timelines Preceden generates for them, and then figuring out ways to improve those timelines so that Preceden generates higher quality timelines for future users.

Needless to say, it’s complicated to do this well. But, it’s coming along, and it’s already getting a ton of usage and driving a meaningful amount of revenue.

This tool is, IMHO, the best timeline maker tool ever built and I’m very optimistic about its future.

Balancing work and life

This will come to no surprise to anyone who knows me well, but I’m a bit of a workaholic.

I love building these products, and will happily push through when I’m sick or feeling burnt out or should be taking it slower. I also don’t allow enough time for other things in my life.

Learn to cook some new meals? Nah, too busy.

Spend a few hours exploring new LLMs? Maybe another day.

Pick up a new hobby? Nah, need to jump into the support queue.

Play video games? Gotta fix that edge case bug first.

Contribute to the Microconf Slack? Need to watch a few session replays first.

Take the day off to sit by the pool? Maybe after I ship that next feature.

Take a week off to rest? lol.

You get the idea.

The thing is, I have the freedom to do these things but tend not to prioritize them. Like I mentioned in my last post, I run the real risk of burning out if I don’t build better habits that are sustainable long term. I’m trying to get more comfortable moving at a more relaxed pace, but for better or worse, it doesn’t come easily to me. I’m working on it.

That’s about it for now. Hope you’re all doing well and thanks for following along 👋.

One thought on “Full Time Indie Hacking: Month 5 Update

  1. > Take the day off to sit by the pool

    Or the sauna! ;-)

    > I run the real risk of burning out if I don’t build better habits that are sustainable long term.

    Glad you’re at least aware of it!

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