FriendMosaic Blog


We're Out of Beta

This afternoon, we took the Beta tag off of FriendMosaic. And, tonight we handed out FriendMosaic shirts at the Startup Weekend meetup, courtesy of Microsoft BizSpark. It was great catching up with all the other folks who participated in the weekend and hearing what everybody was up to.

We're pretty pleased with how things went during the public Beta, but fixing all our bugs was only the second best thing that happened in the last few weeks. The best thing was that people who visited the site didn't wait for us to come out of Beta to start ordering products!


Launch Day

Murphy's law says ... well, you know what it says. We're taking advantage of Moore's law to generate mosaics, so that means we have to live with Murphy's law too. Today, Amazon Web Services had outages in EC2 and SQS, two of the backend services that we require, Zazzle's API, which we use to create our products, was non-functional most of the day, and Google App Engine, which is running our front-end server, had an unplanned outage as well. Can anything else possibly go wrong?!

So, we opened up the site to the public a bit later than planned, but it's live for the world now and we're pretty proud of it. We've labeled it a public "Beta" because we're still having some problems with AWS and sometimes it looks like it stops in the middle of creating a mosaic. If it does that, try again in a few minutes and usually it's fine. Once your mosaic is created, the rest of the process to getting cool products made with your mosaic is working great.

We hope you like your mosaic as much as we do. Tell all your friends!


The First Shirt

The first shirt is real. Check it out:


Lots of Work

There's a saying that whatever time a developer tells you a project is going to take, you should multiple that number by pi to come up with the real time; I'm really starting to believe that. So when we started out two weeks ago, I figured that we had a good week's worth of work to do to build everything. And here we are two weeks into the process and we easily have another week's worth of work to do in order to launch the site. But the good news is that the mosaics are looking awesome!

We have a hard deadline of September 21st, as the upcoming Twitter Conference in Los Angeles starts the 22nd. Here's to caffeine to get you through those late nights.


Making it Real

Craig Huizenga and I met this morning and decided to build a real version of FriendMosaic. We're basically going to drop everything else and devote full time to this, to try to catch any momentum we might have coming out of Startup Weekend and use it to build a company.

We walked out of Startup Weekend with a lot of confidence, but it's still a huge challenge. We're looking at a complete rewrite. But, really, that's great -- we can do a lot better job now that we have time and we learned a ton during the weekend, about both the viability of the idea and how to make it real (and what not to do).


The Demo Rocked!

Every Startup Weekend ends with the moment of truth -- demo hour.

We barely pulled it out, but we put together a pretty awesome demo of what FriendMosaic could be and we overcame a lot of obstacles to get there. First, we had problems with Microsoft Azure and security issues with Microsoft Silverlight, so we ended up switching to an ASP.NET server. Next, we ran into the Twitter API limit, which places severe restrictions on certain API calls. And we didn't have a hosting provider to deploy to, so we ended up demoing on a laptop.

Then we had lots of little problems not worth mentioning, including the fact that the mosaic generation was really slow. We ended up pre-generating the mosaics for everyone on the team while we were waiting for our turn (once a mosaic is generated, it just shows it rather than generating it again).

Here's a preview of what the mosaics look like:

But the best thing of all is that we actually sold product. Roy auctioned off the first shirt for $200! And then the folks from Microsoft BizSpark said they wanted to buy a shirt for everybody in the room, which is about a $3,000 sale.


FriendMosaic is Starting

Last night, I presented the idea for FriendMosaic -- making photo mosaics of Twitter profile pictures out of a user's friends and followers' profile pictures, then turning them into products like t-shirts and mugs.

There were 46 ideas presented and everyone got to vote for up to three that they were interested in working on. Unlike the previous Startup Weekend, they stressed that you should vote on things that you actually wanted to work on. After everyone voted, FriendMosaic was solidly in the top 10 and the organizers picked the top 15 as viable.

That meant that I could form a team. I found two people who I knew from the startup community but with whom I had never worked, plus four people that I didn't know. Some teams were planning to go to local restaurants and start working immediately, but we decided to just meet up in the morning instead.

On my drive home (which was only two miles), I came up with the name, which, fortunately, was available. Amazing when that happens on the first try!