tldr; When faced with pivoting or killing a project, take a good look at all possible by-products. Don’t miss the hidden gem in a project’s slag!
Last year I built yoursitemakesmebarf.com, a novelty web application which allowed anonymous link submission. The software would automatically take screenshots of submitted links and curate a blog. I enjoyed building the site and the project served as my first Pyramid application.
The project’s original intent was to jokingly poke fun at ugly design. The idea never caught on. Instead the application angered website owners and attracted undesirable people. Eventually, I decided to take it down and come up with less combative idea.
After witnessing the Goog release of “instant previews”, I knew there was a market for a fast and reliable web screen shot service.
So I decided to bring instant previews to anyone who needed them. I wanted to build a fast, flexible, and easy to use screenshot API. After a few months I had a working prototype. I named the product LinkPeek because it described what the service was, and the domain was available.
Next I built a website thumbnail generator to show off the software. The generator application helped reinforce the simplicity of the underlying LinkPeek API. It didn’t require any downloading, installation, or waiting.
About a week later on a whim I posted the generator to hacker news.
I gave an honest title: Convert Any Webpage to an Image and within about about 30 minutes LinkPeek.com was placed on the front page in the number 1 spot.