Do it yourself

Author: Dave Cassel  |  Category: Entrepreneurism

I have a little story to tell that I hope will inspire someone to pursue an entrepreneurial goal.

I came across a notebook recently. I don’t remember exactly when I used this one, but it was somewhere around ’97 or ’98. Back then, I was playing chess on a web site called I loved the concept. You make a move, and your opponent gets an email saying, “It’s your turn. Click this link to go to your game.” The length of the clock varied, but you could set up casual games where you had 30 days to make a move. Tournaments were 28 or 48 hours. It was the first time I saw a web-based approach to correspondence chess, and I was hooked. That was a pace I could keep up with.

So the concept was great, I was getting to play lots of chess, and I was even playing in tournaments. Great! But the site lacked some features I wanted. I wanted to be able to move the pieces around to explore what I might do. I wanted to send conditional moves. The details don’t matter, the point is, the site was 80% of what I wanted, but the other 20% annoyed me.

Back to the notebook. I started jotting notes about building a web site to compete with ItsYourTurn. Among other things, I figured out how much it would cost me to get my competing site off the ground. Not so much in developer time, but out-of-pocket costs to register a domain name and get the site hosted. My notebook says that the cheap monthly hosting I was looking at was about $30 a month. These days, you can get started for less than $5 per month, at least in your prototype stage.

I ended up deciding not to build the competing site. Why not? The calculus was pretty simple: 1) the financial and time costs felt pretty big (at the time), and more importantly, 2) they were doing 80% of what I wanted — surely by the time I could offer the basics, they’d get the other 20% done and I would have wasted my time.

Fast forward to 2009. 10+ years later, they still didn’t have the features I wanted. Not that they had been idle: they’d added lots of other games and variants of those games. They worked hard to expand in a direction that I didn’t care about. (Obviously others did.) I ended up finding another site that did provide what I wanted, and that’s where I play now.

The moral of the story is this: if you’re unhappy with a site you’re using, and there isn’t somebody else doing it the right way, don’t assume they’re going to fix it. Your view of what’s better might be different from theirs. But if you want it, you’re probably not the only one. You’re a developer (or you probably wouldn’t be reading this blog) — don’t wait for something better to magically appear. Odds are somebody’s going to do it, and they’ll make some money in the process. Why not step up and make that somebody you?


2 Responses to “Do it yourself”

  1. Boots Cassel Says:

    So, when you say “notebook,” you mean paper? My first instinct was that you came across an old computer and I was expecting a story about something that does not run anymore or some such tale. This is a nice lesson, BTW.

  2. Dave Cassel Says:

    Yes, in this case I mean an actual paper notebook. Remember, this was long ago. :)

Leave a Reply