by Cesare Rocchi

Dismantling an App Idea

by Cesare Rocchi

How do you analyze your app ideas? Here’s how I do it. First a little preamble.

I am publishing this blog on S3. I use Octopress to generate it. I write my posts in markdown. Once I am done writing/editing I (re)generate the blog and upload the results to S3. That’s it. Most of this process involves scripts that I run in the Terminal and I am totally fine with it. First red flag: lack of evident pain.

I was just wondering: what if I had an app to streamline this process? I am sure it’s not an original idea, I probably heard it more than once during the last year. The app would essentially include:

  • a markdown editor
  • a local server to preview posts in the browser
  • a way to generate html files from markdown files
  • a way to upload html files to S3 (or push them to GitHub for GitHub Pages)

If this app exists, stop now and let me know on Twitter. If not read on.

There are lots of markdown editors around. Here are some posts listing a bunch of them:

As far as I know they are all editors. None of them includes upload capabilities. On the other hand there are tools like Cactus, which generates and helps previewing blog posts, but doesn’t include a markdown editor. It also has some problem on El Capitan.

Every time I analyze this situation I think that we are so close. It’d be just a matter of including a markdown editor in Cactus, or Cactus functionalities in a markdown editor. The younger me would have started implementing such an app already :) The current me asks: “who is this for and why?”.

First it is to scratch my own itch. Although I feel home when it comes to type commands in a terminal, I feel it would be nice to have a UI with buttons and a cool progress bar for the upload. Second red flag: it’s a nice-to-have thing.

Second … I don’t know. I am pretty sure non tech-savvy people would go for simpler and more popular solutions like Wordpress, Squarespace, Tumblr or the rising Medium. I am also pretty sure they don’t care about the difference between a database-backed blog and a statically generated one. They just want to write content and publish it easily. If I were in their shoes I’d do the same.

So my audience would probably be geeks, interested in minimal publishing platforms. The audience would be larger if I offered hosting services, but that would entail a whole new class of expenses and issues that I’d like to avoid. Third red flag: the need to add features to provide evident value.

I am not dismissing the idea. I am just thinking that, as I outlined it, it doesn’t provide a lot of value. This is pretty common if your starting point is the technology and not the needs of users. I can’t deny it’d be a pretty cool open source project though. So at the moment I am listing it under “things to play with in my spare time”.