While having an ability to build things is definitely a blessing, sometimes, however, it can prove to be a curse as well. I realized it when I was building KnowyKnowy.
Before I jump into the meat of the story, a quick history of me would be a helpful context. I’ve been programming computers since I was eleven. How I got into programming is a mere coincidence. I am an introvert and I found my solace sitting in a corner of a room in front of a computer. Coming from an engineering family, we had a subscription to a few monthly magazines. One of those magazines, every month contained a BASIC or C++ (programming languages) program to build cool stuff.
Without understanding the code, I started typing the code as it is on my computer. It would take me about a week to finish copying the given code (of about 2000 lines) character by character. I had absolutely zero ideas about what any of the code meant, but that didn’t matter. All I wanted to do was to run it and see something cool on my screen.
With my fingers crossed, after a week of frustrating typing, I would run the program and nada! It would never run at the first go. And the debugging tools back then were nowhere as capable as today’s tools. So, I’d go through my program all over again - line by line - to find the typos.
After fixing a few typos, I’d cross my fingers again and hit Run. And this time… was the same as before. Nothing would happen. All I’d get was a list of errors in my code. And that’s when the real debugging would begin.
Using limited online search available back then, and with the help of some programming books at my home, I’d spend weeks understanding each line of code and debugging it. It’d almost take me another month to get rid of all the errors in the code.
And when, at last, the program would run, I’d sometimes see a beautiful clock, or a musical piano, or a snake game on the screen. The month-long exercise would yield fruit. But then, a new issue of the magazine would lie in front of me - with another program, a buggy one. So, I’d get back to work right away!
That’s how I learned to program - the hard way but I didn’t consider it hard back then. To me, it was a game. I had to find the correct pieces of the puzzle to reach to the treasure.
Some times, I’d reach the treasure. Some times, I’d fail miserably. It was fun growing up with my computer.
But now, the only way I see to get something done is to build it from scratch, and that’s the curse.
“If your only tool is a hammer,” goes an old adage, “then every problem looks like a nail.”
When in December 2019, I decided to build KnowyKnowy and put membership on it, I started building it from scratch.
Like all the times before, I was so busy thinking whether I could that I didn’t stop to think whether I should. I played my work playlist, kept a mug of hot coffee by my side, and started coding. After weeks of coding, when hanging out on Twitter, I stumbled upon a thread that talked about a lot of no-code tools.
I was so engrossed in my way of building that I didn’t realize the world has gone far ahead with newer tools. It was very clear that I need to build KnowyKnowy with a minimal feature set. I want absolutely zero bells and whistles. Through KnowyKnowy, my air was only to impart knowledge about technology to a million non-techie people, not to prove how good of a builder I am. Whatever tool would help me get off the ground, I’d gladly use that.
After hanging out with the newer generation of makers and builders, I learned that Ghost CRM has come a long way from when I first used it in 2015. Ghost was the only platform that was built with the same mindset that I had, which is to focus solely on publishing without any bells and whistles.
I played with it for a day to see if it has everything that I needed. It did. The next day, I dumped all of the code I had written before for KnowyKnowy and simply set up a Ghost Blog on my server. It took me less than half a day to get up and running.
I was on the way to spend at least a month to build my own minimal CRM with memberships, but Ghost served the same to me on a golden platter. It was the first time I felt like a dum-dum as a maker.
True, that having the ability to build things from zero is an extraordinary ability, but it’s also important to evaluate all the tools that are available at our disposal. Building with code is just one tool in the entire toolbox.
Real makers keep a bunch of tools in their toolboxes. It’s also refreshing to realize how accessible it is to build stuff from scratch.