Hypothesis continues to teach me

I’ve learned a lot technically in my work so far on Hypothesis. It’s both taught me interesting computer science things and also has I think caused me to level up a lot as a developer. It’s been a great, if occasionally frustrating, experience and I expect it will continue to be one for some time yet.

But that’s not what I’m learning about right now. As you’ve probably noticed, and I mentioned previously, I’ve not been doing a huge amount of development recently. There have been a couple patch releases for bug fixes and example quality but nothing very serious. I have some interesting work going on behind the scenes on finding multiple bugs with one test, but it’s probably a while off yet.

Because right now what I’m learning about because of Hypothesis is

  • Public speaking
  • Marketing
  • Pricing and sales

You know, “fluffy stuff”.

I’m also learning how to basically suck it up and admit I want things. A combination of geek and English social failings makes it very hard for me to do that. So when I put out a new project or write a blog post there’s always this weird dance of “yeah I totally just did this for me. I guess you can retweet it if you like, maybe star it on github, but whatever I don’t really care” followed by staring obsessively at every notification about it.

With Hypothesis it’s different, because there’s no pretence. I want Hypothesis to be popular. It will make the world a better place, and potentially it will make me some money (or at least help me recoup the money I effectively burned by taking a sabbatical to make it).

And this is weird to me, because it’s basically forcing me out of my shell and making me develop the skills I’ve always shunned. Public Speaking is something I assumed I would never be good at (turns out that I’m actually pretty OK at it. Maybe with some practice I’ll even be good). Sales and marketing have always been things where… I knew abstractly that they weren’t intrinsically evil, but they always felt dirty and I didn’t really want to have anything to do with them. This wasn’t my reasoned and held position so much as my subconscious biases at work, but those are if anything harder to go against.

With Hypothesis, I need to figure out how to promote it if I want people to use it, and I do want people to use it, so I’m forced into a sales and marketing position. Moreover, talking about it to new groups is one of the best things I can do to promote it, so this in turn forces me into public speaking.

Moreover, it’s fairly unambiguously a good thing for me to ask for money for it. I know I’ve done great work in Hypothesis, and I want to continue doing great work in Hypothesis, but in order to do that I also need to eat, have a place to live, etc.

Moreover it’s clearly a bad thing for me to undercharge! As well as value of labour, etc. etc. it’s a bad thing simply because I’m mostly not charging for the open source development part, so if I’m undercharging that means I have to do more work that isn’t that in order to make decent money, which will in turn mean that less work that benefits everybody gets done.

Not undercharging turns out to be hard. I’ve had multiple conversations with friends to the tune of “I was thinking of charging £X?” “Um. No. It would be cheap at £2X.” “I guess I could charge £Y?” “MORE MONEY” “OK OK how about £Z?” “Yeah I guess you could start there and raise your prices later”.  I understand where these numbers come from, and my friends are right and I am wrong, but that’s sure not how it feels.

Ultimately this is proving to be an… interesting experience. It’s super uncomfortable, as I’m having to go against all my social instincts and unlearn a lot of bad habits, but I think it will be a good thing for me, and hopefully it will be a good thing for Hypothesis too.

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