Damon Cortesi's blog

Musings of an entrepreneur.

For Sale: TweetStats.com

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Four years and one month ago on January 27, 2008, I released a cool little weekend project into the wild known as TweetStats.com. Born out of a simple perl script that helped me visualize how I had started to use Twitter, I found that there were a lot of people out there that also wanted to see how they used Twitter and who they were talking to. The site took off and I found myself spending all waking and non-working hours tweaking it and thinking about other cool things I could do better.

The site was my first shot at learning Ruby on Rails and helped me realize how easy it was to conceive, plan, and build an idea and then deploy it to the world at large. It was the first of many Twitter-related apps that I created and led directly to the company that I started two years later. It also cemented my addiction to Twitter and introduced me to a lot of other fantastic Twitter app developers and Twitter employees.

Sadly, while there is still a ton of opportunity for cool things with TweetStats, I no longer have the time or resources to keep maintaining it and I need to pass it on to somebody. I’m hoping to find somebody that will put as much love and care as I have into the site and continue to please users with awesome stats on their Twitter account, and maybe even other social media accounts!

With a bit of a heavy heart, I’ve put the site up for sale on Flippa.

Between 800,000 users graphed, somewhere in the neighborhood of 1.5 billion tweets stored, and minute-by-minute worldwide Twitter Trends for the past three years, it’s been quite a ride building this in my spare time. :)

I can be reached at dacort@tweetstats.com with any questions.

Reclaiming My Twitter SMS Notifications

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Over the past four years of being on Twitter, I’ve slowly turned on SMS notifications for people that I wanted to keep up-to-date on. This worked great when I had a few people that occasionally tweeted - I could see what they were up to in a passive manner and reply if I wanted to.

Unfortunately, as this list grew, so did the uselessness of text notifications on my phone. At one point in the past year, I turned off vibrate notifications for SMS messages Unfortunately, this meant that while my phone wasn’t vibrating every other minute from Twitter notifications, it also meant that my phone wasn’t vibrating when friends would try to reach me via SMS.

This left me missing messages all the time and I became frustrated with myself that I was difficult to reach. So today, I disabled notifications for all 96 people I had them turned on for and added those people to a (private) list. I’ll turn them on slowly one-by-one as I miss my friends, but now when somebody tries to get ahold of me, I won’t be as likely to miss it. And I can still keep up with those people using Twitter’s list functionality.

Below is the quick snippet of code I used (by way of Hayes Davis’ great Grackle Twitter library.

Mongo Seattle Real-Time Analytics Slides

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I had the pleasure of speaking at Mongo Seattle a few weeks back on how I use MongoDB for real-time data collection and analytics. The presentation ended up being a comparison of how I previously built TweetStats on top of MySQL and the terrible SQL queries that still power it to this day to how I would build it if I were using MongoDB. I also gave a couple use cases of how I’ve used MongoDB to power a game-based link shortener as well as my current primary focus, RowFeeder. I’ve you’d like a walk-through of MongoDB’s atomic incrementors and some map-reduce goodness, check out the slides below.

Life Running a Startup - 1 Million Miles Per Hour

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Live life.

seattle coffee

If there’s one motto I can hope to live by, it’s those simple two words. Just under 2 years ago, I quit my comfy security consulting job to “do my own thing.” Since then, I’ve started two companies and even though every day brings a new challenge, I couldn’t be happier.

Running a startup (or any company) is no easy task. You are, more so than ever before, married to your work. If you fail, your company fails. And you can’t sprint fast enough to keep up with all the demands. And your personal life will suffer. Relationships will be strained, nights out with friends will be missed. If you’re not working on your startup, you’re thinking about your startup.

It. Is. You.

For me, I love that. I love the freedom that comes with running your own company. And while that freedom isn’t jet-setting across the country (yet ;)) on a whim like I used to do when I had that cushy job, it’s the freedom to embrace life as I see fit. It’s the freedom of knowing that every day, I choose what to work on and where I want my life to go. Not everybody has that flexibility and I cherish that.

It’s currently 8am on Tuesday morning and I’m basking in the sun at a local Seattle coffee job jamming out to tunes and cranking on some code. Last night I stayed up until 2am working. Today will be more of the same. This week, pretty similar, but hopefully interspersed by good times with friends (first USA world cup game is Friday morning :)) and enjoying the Seattle sun as summer is ushered in.

This is my life.

Live it.

I Love You, Mom.

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Dear Mom,

I can’t even remember the first time you were there for me. But I know you were, before anybody else. I got an email tonight that brought tears to my eyes. It was the simplest, but best email ever. It said (paraphrased): “Dear Damon, I love you. Thank you for sharing your life online so I can follow along.”

But really? How much does that suck? Should my mother really have to follow along in my life based on the status updates I post to my social network? Shouldn’t she know everything already?! I feel bad, because I only call once every few weeks. Because you, my mother, have to live my life online, only through the details I provide. This is not fair.

But you know more about me, faster than anybody else in my life. And while I slowly plod along on what I think is the best path…you are there to support me. With infinite love and support.

And I thank you for that. And, someday, I hope to be able to own up on that promise for a mercedes station wagon. Someday, Mom. I hope to get there, but thank you for supporting me along the way even IF I’ve been absolutely terrible about being a halfway decent communicative son.

Life is busy. It always will be.

But it will never. Ever. Be too busy to tell my Mother that I love her.

I love you, Mom. And I’m trying to make you proud.

I Think I Found My Passion

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Life. It’s an interesting journey. And as my friend @JoeCascio mentioned today, ”life is what happens while you’re making plans.” I’ve rarely been one to make plans. I prefer to live in the moment and enjoy life as it happens. Yes, I do make some plans but I try to remain open and accepting of the curve balls we receive on a daily basis.

I feel the best we can do is enjoy life and react to the different hands we get dealt. My father instilled this belief in me and I’ve talked about his approach to attitude before. I really cannot thank my father enough for embedding within me the right attitude necessary to tackle life.

I also believe that passion is essential to a happy life. If you are not passionate about what you are doing, then what does it matter and why do you care? Ever since high school, I’ve pledged to myself that I will always strive to work on what I’m passionate about.

Most recently, that passion is startups. That passion is the process of creation. That passion is the process of investigation and research and finding the best tool for the job. That passion is addressing a new challenge as often as I can. That passion is the simple reason that we, as humans, strive to live every single day.

In the past three years, startups have lit that passion inside me. I worked as a security consultant for ten years. I worked for other people and I was more than happy to do so. But at some point, I realized I couldn’t be happy if I wasn’t chasing the ten different dreams that were boiling to the front of my brain. I couldn’t be happy simply working my a$$ off for somebody’s else’s dream. I wanted to work that hard for myself and try to build something.

I’ve often wondered why I decided to strike out on my own. And I think the reason is that I strive to create. I strive to be unique. I strive to change the world, even if it’s a tiny little sliver. And I ultimately felt that I couldn’t do that if I were working for somebody else. I felt that I could only change the world if I could make the decision for myself what I was working on on any given day.

And can I chase that continuously? Certainly not. Part of being successful requires the ability to focus. Maybe someday…someday I’ll be able to work on each of my 10 different ideas every day of the week. But if I ever want to get to that point, I need to focus now. I need to build a business now that is so successful that I can chase every whim of passion I want to later in my life.

And I’m lucky that I can chase one specific passion right now and be supremely happy with that. Because I found that in startups, there is excitement. There’s excitement, and daily challenge, and potential reward, and certainly potential failure. But I get to make the decision of what I chase. And if that changes, or needs to change, I alone can make that decision.

It’s been a long road reaching this point. I’ve talked to a lot of people. I’ve failed a lot of people, primarily because I’m so distracted. But I needed to find my path to this point. And I truly apologize to those of you I may have … indicated interest to and never followed through. But the challenge is that I want to change so much, but there’s so little time and so few perfect storms to make that change happen. And I think I’ve finally found the perfect storm to really kick some ass in this life.

I could be wrong. But it sure as hell is going to be a good ride.

This Is Why I Love Twitter.

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This is a picture of me, from 12 years ago, explaining to my Independent Studies Program advisor how my friend (Jasper Speicher) and I were going to build a robot that could automatically navigate it’s environment using infrared sensors. And if we were lucky, even climb stairs. The brains of this device were going to be a programmable microcontroller called the BASIC Stamp.

Me, describing a robot I had yet to build

Fast-forward 12 years. I’m working on my new social media startup, Untitled Startup and we want to integrate a billing solution. We hash out a number of recurring billing solutions, including one by the name of Chargify.

Imagine my surprise when one of the co-founders of Chargify reaches out to me via Twitter and points me in the direction of his useful post, 9 startup steps, learned over 22 years. I’m still new to this whole startup biz, so this is a pretty helpful post. If you’re in a similar place, you should read it.

But I started reading his bio on the site. And then it hit me. This guy co-founded Parallax. The company that made the BASIC Stamp. The same microcontroller that really captured my love of automation 12 years ago. The same microcontroller that, had I not fried it, might just have pushed my entire life in a different direction (robotics). And here we were chatting on Twitter.

I could probably write a post a month on similar situations, but this one really hit home tonight given the time-span and common characters. It’s been an honor and a pleasure to be able to interact with the people that make what I do possible on a regular basis. And I really want to thank Lance for not only building products that I’ve been using for more than the past decade, but also for reaching out and saying hi to some random guy on Twitter.

The Seattle Startup Scene

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This is a continuation of a tweet.

Even in the past 3 days, my reading habits have changed. Still sucking up massive amounts of information, just different types.

There’s an interesting transition I’m going through. I moved to Seattle over three years ago. One of the reasons I moved was the awesome security community, like toorcon and the great security shops here in town. But I’m staying because of the awesome startup community.

I quit my job in 2007 and started a security startup. I took three or four months at that point to explore the Seattle startup world, one I had never lived in, and I got hooked. There were lots of people along the way who offered help, but I still didn’t quite feel like I was part of the community. That’s definitely changed over the course of the past year, especially with events like Seattle Startup Weekend.

There’s one event that’s really changed that, though. And that’s the simple fact that I’m now a founder of a Seattle-based startup. I’ve joined the club, essentially. And in the past few days, I feel a need for a new type of information I previously haven’t - information from my peers in the community that have started their own companies here and have already been through the process. And very many of them are extremely open and willing to help. Whether it’s commenting on the Seattle Tech Startups email list, or grabbing a quick lunch, there’s a strong sense of community in the Seattle startup scene and I feel like I have many shoulders to lean on as I slog the process of taking a startup from nothing to what will hopefully be an awesome company.

I’m really looking forward to the next year.

Announcing a New Seattle Startup … Untitled Startup!

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I’ve been working on this for a while, but figured I should announce it here.

I’m starting a new company to continue my hobby of building Twitter tools. It’s going to be a social media startup and we’ll be building tools for social media professionals. We’ve already built one in a weekend project that we’re calling RowFeeder - a tool to stream real-time tweets into a Google spreadsheet. It’s something we needed and it’s been surprisingly helpful.

I’ll likely be blogging on Untitled Startup more often than here, so feel free to follow along and see what we’re up to. We’re being pretty open and even posting daily videos as we go through the process of starting a company.

I’m also psyched to have finally accepted the fact that my “hobby” was distracting me for the past two years and I can finally work on what I love full-time. It’s not that I didn’t love security, but I hit a point where I wasn’t able to determine what I was going to do next. Perhaps more on that later as that’s always been pretty important to me - work on what you love, because otherwise you’ll just end up hating life. And that’s no fun at all.

TweetStats Two Years Ago

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Well, I’m about 45 minutes late on this, but I did want to mention that two years ago on December 27, 2007, I released the first version of my Twitter Stats script.

It was a hack. It scraped the twitter.com website. It was in perl. It exported into your clipboard. And the data had to be pasted into a Numbers template. But it worked. And it was the beginning of a long journey that is culminating in something I’m going to announce tomorrow/today.

On this anniversary, I also just made an update to TweetStats that allows you to click on any month in your tweet timeline and zoom in to see your stats on that month. As an example, here are my Twitter stats for December 2007. Ah, memories. And speaking of memories, a little-known feature of the TweetCloud is that you can click on any term and it will search your tweets for that term.