"Shipping a 1.0 product isn’t going to kill you, but it will try."
It's pushing 1am. I haven't been this tired in a long time, and I'm not even the one doing the hard work. Patience is wearing thin on all fronts; it's hard work to remain positive in the face of impending doom. If I have to record another 30 second test video on my iPhone again...
I get back from a trip to New Zealand on January 11th and try to hit the ground running. The week between Christmas and New Year is officially Justin.tv holiday, and a few people took some time off before or after. So, when I return to the office, it is the first time we had the entire Socialcam team completely assembled. We want to launch in time for SXSW, exactly two months away. Surely that is enough time for our team to get out an Android app, an iPhone app and a simple website.
Eric and Guillaume take time to design various API's the right way. Rob iterates the design, and iterates again. We build infrastructure. One month goes by. We review where we are at. I start to worry.
One month to go. Factoring App Store approval process, even at its most lenient, we have to submit in three weeks. We also want to get a beta out to users and prove our Minimum Viable Product is actually viable. I sit down with the iPhone team, Zach and Ammon, and we have a come-to-Jesus conversation on how we can possibly get this done. The team commits to working as hard as it takes, and they do indeed. 12 hour days, six or seven days a week. Sometimes far beyond the point where it is still productive.
I'm not even programming; all I'm doing is trying to make sure that everyone on the team experiences no roadblocks and figure out how we can possibly move faster. It still takes time, though, and I'm spending 90% of my waking hours and 100% of my mental energy at the office. In the most cliche startup moment of all, my girlfriend leaves me the day after Valentine's Day; I guess I saw that coming for a few weeks.
The first build we ship internally is a week late, and crashes every ten seconds. Interface elements jump around randomly, taunting us. A week and a half to go.
Rhys (the entirety of the Android team) is ahead on implementing the design, but then we dive into video playback. Oh, the default playback mechanisms on Android won't give us the smooth experience we want. Rewrite. Despair. Wait. It works. Rhys looks like he's going to die from exhaustion.
Things start looking good in the app the few days before we have to submit it for approval. We've sent out a beta, gotten feedback and found bugs, iterated. It's coming together; we even get through our wish list of features that we were deathly afraid we'd have to cut. It's the night before submission and we've gathered a bunch of testers who are banging away at the app. Dozens of issues get discovered and patched in real time with the team sitting in a circle; tester, developer, tester, developer.
Our plan is to submit at 1pm on Friday. We go home around 12:30am Friday morning (or was it 1:30am?) with only six outstanding issues to go, four of them with known solutions. The next day 1:00 comes and goes, vanishing into the distant past as the number of issues balloons to fill all available space. 2, 3, 4, 5, and it is finally 6 o'clock and we are ready to submit a build.
We submit the binary and email out to our expanded beta list. 30 minutes and half a bottle of Johnny Walker Blue later we check our emails and realize that we broke signing up for new users in the latest build. Fixed, resubmitted, emailed all beta users, back to drinking. 15 hours later we realized that we broke discarding videos. Fixed, resubmitted, emailed all beta users, back to drinking.
Android still has a week to go -- no approval process on the Android Marketplace. This week we cut our list down of what we want to accomplish to almost entirely core video improvements. We blow through them.
Socialcam launched Monday. It's been almost four years since we did a 1.0 product sprint, and it relieves me to realize I still have the drive to do it. We burned the candle at both ends for two months to get you the app; it was constructed by a team that is passionate about unlocking your videos from your phone. I hope you all like it.