The People

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I just came back from EuroPython filled with great memories and feelings that make me warm inside :)

Most of all, I am pretty sure that we started something much much more bigger than we are and that we empowered a lot of people by doing really small things. This is something I am really proud of and most importantly, thankful to everyone for their generosity.

I travelled to a lot of conferences before, but this year one thing particulary hit me: I’m really going to miss all of these wonderful people so much! I left with tears in my eyes and I am not even a person who cries easily. This year I finally had time to have all this long conversations, play stupid games, really get to know someone and make some good friendships. The whole week really allowed us to make meaningful connections.

I only saw two talks and it was easily the best conference I’ve been too. 

But I think there is one particular group that I have to be thankful for that: Django Girls. Amazing energy, motivation, hard work and sense of adventure that we went on together made us feel really close. I didn’t do much during the workshop: just made sure that everyone has internet, power and food to go through the day. But it still gave me so much! I learned a lot from every wonderful woman who came for our first workshop. The energy and excitement coming from both attendees and coaches was like nothing I ever seen before. 

The whole thing made me realize how many awesome people there are in our community. It made me feel like I am a part of the family. 

You know, it’s all about the people again. 

Epiphany

I don’t have to be the kind of person other people think I should or supposed to be. We’re all in the process and I am not a final version of myself yet. I forget about it far too often.

There is a difference between having to be THE best and simply giving your best.

Let yourself fail

This post was first published on Medium, but I’m reposting it here because it’s nice to have everything in one place, right?


Admitting to fail was the hardest thing I ever had to do. At the same time, it was the most valuable and learning experience in my entire life.

I’ve always considered myself a very lucky person. I started my first company kind of by accident at the age of 15. Now I run three companies, all of them co-founded with the best friends. I enjoy the journey very much, I’m healthy and young, I have great family and friends.

Not that long ago, I wasn’t used to failure.

At the age of 18, I thought: let’s make something even bigger. Let’s create a global product, get investors onboard and make it huge. I read on TechCrunch that this is what cool kids are doing these days. MyGuidie started at 1st Warsaw Startup Weekend. Amazing team, great idea, big vision… We built a product, we got some traction, we won international startup competitions. I was already a well-known polish entrepreneur at the time, so we got a pretty big coverage and we gained some investors attention. We even sold 1% of shares on the auction and that got us a lot of hype and coverage in press or national tv. We were on the top of the world for a while but at the same time we didn’t stop working hard on getting more traction.

And we still failed. From the very top all the way down.

I closed this startup more than one and a half year ago and it was single, most learning experience I had in my life. I’m sure everyone who failed can say exactly the same.

We’ve tried everything, we poured our hearts into this idea, we talked to customers, investors, friends, we’ve done everything by the book, we’ve tried some totally crazy ideas, we pivoted a couple of times, we’ve got so much press that people are still reminding me of headlines (guys, it was 2 years ago!).

And then I’ve grown enough to admit the failure.

We closed the website, we thanked people who supported us, we’ve talked to investors, we thanked our customers and we even explained our reasoning to the press. It was all very public and hard. I was so afraid and sad about every single step of this process. I felt like I disappointed A LOT of people. But at the bottom of my heart I knew, that I just need to show my integrity and that was a right thing to do. People who supported us on the way DESERVE to know why.

You can’t imagine how afraid I was that people won’t trust me anymore, but to my surprise, it turned out to be something exactly opposite. Just two weeks later during Jerry Colonna’s talk in Warsaw, he said to me:

“Girl, you’re the person I’d invest the most because you know the feeling of failure, the feeling of losing someone’s else money and moving forward.”

The reason failure is so valuable is it gives you COURAGE. It’s much more terrifying if you haven’t done it before. People who have been fired once aren’t so afraid to be fired again and that gives you freedom to make strong decisions, to move fast and break things.

Failing shows you that in reality… it doesn’t hurt so bad. Yeah, some people will be angry or disappointed. You’ll have to explain to your grandma why it suddenly stopped working. You will get a couple of sleepless nights. But once you move forward, it will go away and you will LEARN a ton.

It also teaches you to take a lot of RISKS. Once you know it isn’t so bad, you’re starting to make bold decisions and it usually pays off.
If you know that the worst that can happen is actually learning something, you’re not a slave of a failure anymore.

But probably the most important thing: Failure gives you a lot of time to THINK. When something is just working, you don’t have time to think why, you have to go do the next thing because there is no finish line in your todo list. Failure makes you really think about reasons why it isn’t working and what could you do better. Only by failing you can actually learn something about yourself. Once you know your boundaries, you start taking on bigger challenges, and this knowledge last a lifetime.

Ultimately, failing makes you a better person. So fail a lot and fail hard.

Hey there, what’s up?

I have so so so so so so much stuff do get done, but I’m back on the top of my life roller coaster, so it’s all good. I’m learning to let go of some things, stop try to be so perfect and just, generally, be more chill, enjoy sun, berries and summer, because it’s going to be winter soon and we will have to do this all over again. 

I can also play the verse part of You and I on ukulele, which is super awesome! And I sing a lot and very loud while driving alone. People are probably giving me weird looks, but it’s not like I even care. 

XOXO!

How come you’re so totally cool

Spent the most beautiful weekend in the woods with awesome, awesome, awesome and amazing people. Filled with laughs (a lot!), talks, smiles, rain, water, sun, fire and card games. Couldn’t possibly think about a better way to recharge.

You go, girl! Why I love Django community

Yesterday was a little bit overwhelming and I can’t remember the last time I was so so so excited. Me & amazing Ola Sendecka have launched Django Girls, an initiative to teach women build the internet with Python and Django. 

We knew Python and Django community is awesome. I was still incredibly surprised with the warm welcome, amazing help and support we got the very first day. We are very grateful for that, it’s incredible to be among people who empower you.

Django changed my life. I programmed in PHP before but after 3 years, I wanted to try something new. I started to learn coding in Django (not even Python first! ;)) This is how I met people who are my closest friends. By giving me tools and rules Django made me a much better programmer. Django introduced me to the world of open source and community conferences. Django showed me that I can be confident enough to show other people my code and they won’t judge me if it’s bad. Django gave me a chance to go on a craziest adventure and feel that I empowered someone else for the first time ever. I came for the auto generated admin, but I stayed for the community.

Empowering is something very important for me. As we were reading through applications that came to Django Girls yesterday, I said to Ola: hey, look how sometimes you need to do so little to empower these awesome women. So many wrote to us that they want to bring Django Girls to their city, too! She told me one thing that I hardly ever think about: people often feel that they need a permission to do something. 

I have never felt like I need someone to authorize me to make the internet. I was born in 1992, so by the time I was old enough to know how to read, internet and computer was already in my house, even though my parents are not tech people. I was never intimidated by the internet or computer. I grew up with them: I knew how to use it, I knew how it works. It was easy to google how to program and spend a lot of time on the trial-and-error process of learning to code. I was 13, I didn’t knew that tech industry exists and that it is mostly occupied by men. This ignorance gave me power and authority to just start doing this and not think twice. 

This changed with my first meetup or when I learned about open source, when this guy didn’t believe me that I can actually code. These tens of guys I met after him couldn’t believe it neither. I didn’t feel like I belong and I was afraid that I made a mistake. 

This has changed 3 years ago when I organized first hackathon with Kuba. And again when I attended my first Python meetup in Warsaw. And again when I volunteered at Front-Trends. And again when Jannis encouraged us to organize DjangoCon. Up until a year or so I wasn’t confident enough to show someone else my code. Now when someone treats me like I am just a girlfriend of a programmer on a technical meetup, I just feel sorry for them.

So I know the both sides of being a women who code: the side when you’re intimidated and you need to prove yourself, and the side when your skills make you feel empowered and awesome. Not everyone finds out about programming at the age of 13, so I understand how women who are grown up enough to understand tech industry may feel intimidated to start. 

That’s why we’re doing Django Girlsto empower women to start their journey with code. We won’t teach them programming in one day, that’s impossible. But we can show them how awesome this feels, how they can teach themselves. We will make them fell in love with these side of tech scene that me & Ola love — with men and women who are awesome, helpful and friendly. 

We want to show these women that they can do this, in a friendly, fun, positive environment. We’ve got a couple of emails that “girls” is insulting to women, but we love the “girls” part of the name. It’s playful, it’s calling to the inner girl in every woman with the “you go, girl!” and show the joy and fun in programming. Girls are curious and trusting. Coding isn’t as serious as you think! I was a girl when I started programming and I think I only did this because of the fact that I was a girl and I was doing this for fun. Girls are not afraid.

You go, girl.

Work & play

In the beginning:
    Work, work, work, work, work, work, work, work, work, play.

Upon discovering how to spiritually do more, be more, and have more:
    Work, play, work, work, play, work, play, work, work, play. 

Upon discovering you don’t have to do more, be more, and have more:
    Play, play, nap, play, play, play, play, nap, play, play, play. 

I think I’m on this second step right now. 

Experiment results: Book in a “Pay as you want” model

Almost 30 days ago we published a tutorial book that was created for Makerland conference: Makerland Tutorials - Your First Steps with the Internet of Things. The whole thing was a big experiment for us — we didn’t publish any book before and we didn’t sell anything in a “Pay as you want” model before. We didn’t have money to promote it and our goal was to make it reach as many people as possible via Makerland channels (mailing list, twitter followers, facebook fanpage).

I love experiments and this one looked particularly interesting for me, because I literally expected nothing. I usually have my bets and I try to guess what can be the outcome, but this time I just couldn’t bring myself to imagine anything. 

At Makerland team, we love transparency. So we thought that first results of this experiment can be interesting also for you. We have no reason to hide them, because Makerland Tutorials is a real community book: created by community, open sourced, licensed under Creative Commons. All proceeds from the book are going into making next Makerland and Make Things more awesome. 

So, ready? Let’s crunch some numbers!

Makerland Tutorials was released on 7th May 2014. To promote it during the launch, we did the following:

We didn’t do a lot. We could to much much more, but you know, life & day job happens. I hope to focus on promotion more in June. 

Anyway, let’s move on into the results: 

PDF “Pay as you want” version

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Above you can see a graph of downloads and sales during the last 20-something days. Of course, big spike in the beginning followed by a flat line at the end :) Book was downloaded 490 times which converted into 424.49 USD. On average, we sold a book for $0.87.

More interesting stuff happens once you download the transactions, import into excel and have some fun with raw numbers. I managed to get this data:

  • average book was worth $0.87
  • 89 out of 490 people paid anything (18%)
  • if we extract only people who paid anything, then we have average of $5 per book. median is also $5.
  • the highest payment was $20, 4x paid average and 23x average. the lowest one was $0.99.
  • we’ve got 4 mailinator emails (of course, they also didn’t pay)

I think this results make me happy. I know they might be better if we invest more time into promotion, but I like this two numbers: 18% of people who paid anything and almost 500 people who downloaded the book.

Printed version on Amazon

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Book was also published on Amazon.com and Amazon.co.uk via Createspace (Amazon’s service for self publishers). We priced it as $9, Amazon sold it with 10% discount, but our royalty from each book was ~$2.71 (discount didn’t affect it). 

In total, we sold 32 paper copies for a total of $73.74. This brings us to a total of $498.23 for the first month. These results are quite disappointing - we put a lot of effort and work into making digital PDF work in print and I don’t think it was worth it. 

This year we first prepared book (formatting, images, etc) for a local printer where we printed books for conference. Then digital PDF for an e-book. Then again different printed PDF for Amazon print (it has different guildelines). It’s a lot of work and pain. Next year we will prepare for Createspace first, order book from Amazon (we can do this for just $2.59 a copy as authors!) for a conference and save time on doing this only 2 times, not 3 :) 

Bitcoins

Later on we’ve added a bitcoin donate button. We received one donation for 0.0001 BTC (~0.06 USD). Yeah, that paid off.

How about the traffic?

Our goal wasn’t financial, we just wanted to share the work that costs us and authors a lot of time and we love love love experiments. Let’s see how much traffic / Makerland awareness we got by publishing this book.

  • Hard to tell how many tweets / twitter mentions it generated, but I guess it maybe around 100-150. A lot of this because of Gumroad feature that encourage people to tweet / share after their downloaded book for free.
  • Gumroad page was visited 843 times, 93.23% of this traffic came from book.makerland.org.
  • book.makerland.org was visited 3,174 times and the user acquisition is more distributed as seen on the screenshot below. Note that Hacker News traffic is included in “(direct) / (none)”, they hide it somehow. 

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  • 35 new stars on Github repo :), 3 forks, 1 issue (saying that books could be prettier), 0 contributions :(

I guess that most of the interesting stuff, I really hope it’ll help you publish your own book. If I missed something that you’re curious about, do let me know! 

In June we’re planning to work on increasing “steady downloads”, not “peak downloads”. Basically the plan is to find places where this book could appear that will be drive more more static and long-term traffic than Reddit/HN. I’ll also work on bringing us more Amazon reviews (we have none!), I think that might work somehow to increase sales of paperback version. 

You can discuss this post on Hacker News.