The Journey Thus Far

February 21, 2024

I had some replies to last week’s DragonRuby Dispatch, where I shared that the Dispatch is in danger of being discontinued. To answer some of the questions raised, I thought today that I’d share the journey of the WNDX School thus far, and how we reached this point.

I spent many years as a freelance/contract developer. After a while, I started to get more mentoring work, helping teams learn better and faster. Turns out I really liked teaching.

So I created a couple of workshops, The first was RoR4Real or “Ruby on Rails for Real Developers”, aimed at experienced developers who wanted to get up to speed with Ruby and Rails quickly. Those ran locally, and were reasonably well attended. But I found it interesting that about 50% of the attendees were mobile developers, who wanted to use Rails as a back end for their apps. Thus Rails4iOS was created, a variant of RoR4Real where we removed all the front end stuff, added some admin and API lessons. This was even more popular, and it ran locally, as well as at RubyConf AU and NSScotland.

Now, I was looking to do more teaching, but really not loving the “stand up and talk all day” thing with the live workshops. So I started thinking about recording a version of my workshops. At that time, I was also working on my own mobile application with RubyMotion. Turns out the creator of the “Motion in Motion” podcast series on RubyMotion wanted to sell out, so I bought it up, and opened up the WNDX School with MiM as a start, and devoted myself full time to the school. Over time, I updated and added more and more RubyMotion content to the school. It started paying for itself, barely.

I became painfully aware of the fact that I didn’t know anything about running an online school, marketing, or sales. I started the newsletter, RubyMotion Weekly (which quickly devolved to biweekly), so I could interest people in the courses of the school.

When Amir approached me about DragonRuby Game Toolkit, I rebranded the newsletter, and produced the first (and eventually my student intern created the second) DragonRuby Game Toolkit Tutorial. It swiftly became the most popular course in the school. Of course, it was free. I am not a game developer, and not comfortable attempting to create content for game developers. Despite repeated calls in the newsletter, I have not had much luck attracting real game developers to create additional courses for DRGTK in the school.

Realizing something had to change, I entered a business coaching program, where I started working on a new course less focused on a particular technology, that I was calling the “business of apps”. My coach, Todd Herman, in about 5 seconds, came up with the name “6 Pack Apps”, and that’s what it has been ever since.

6 Pack Apps has yet to reach the potential that all my coaches and business associates keep telling me it has. Admittedly, I’ve faced a number of challenges over the past five years, while attempting to market and sell 6 Pack Apps for Entrepreneurs. The death of my brother from cancer. COVID. 3 eye surgeries. My dad’s fall, rehabilitation, and death. Stepping into the role of caregiver for my 89 year old mom.

At least I’ve learned a lot more about business and marketing along the way. Most of those things cost money.

  • Maintaining a mailing list of over 1000 people costs money.
  • Maintaining an online school with over 1600 students on a SAAS course platform costs money.
  • Sending out a regular newsletter (30+ issues a year) costs money. If I wrote the newsletter myself, I wouldn’t get anything else done, as I discovered in its very early days. After the first year, I stepped back to simply curate the newsletter content, and write the OPED, and hired our intrepid editor, Terry, to edit the newsletter. Which costs even more money. (BTW, Terry also runs the React Status Newsletter for CooperPress, but we had him first!)
  • Hiring a VA to really step up the social media marketing costs money.

The real crunch, though, is that the entrepreneur funding and grant programs through which I have been teaching the live workshop edition of 6 Pack Apps for Entrepreneurs have largely dried up, while sales of the “do at your own pace” recorded version of 6PA4E are… despite my best efforts at stepping up the marketing game… anemic at best. The DragonRuby Tutorial is free. And with the utter lack of news on the RubyMotion front (last news post is over 4 years old), it’s pretty much impossible to sell the RM content to new people. I mean, it’s nice that it still works. But in the last 4 years DRGTK has been constantly updated and improved, while RubyMotion has stagnated, with the bare minimum of updates simply to keep it running.

I’m left with a business that is now costing me a lot more money to run than it brings in, and I am enjoying the work of that business less and less.

So what does all that mean for the future of the DragonRuby Dispatch and the WNDX School? I’m not really sure yet, except that it absolutely HAS to start with cutting expenses drastically.

I’ve already found alternatives for the course platform. You’ll be informed when any courses you’ve enrolled in have moved.

I don’t want to let the community that has supported me for so long down, so I am pursuing alternative means of supporting the costs of continuing the DragonRuby Dispatch. We hope we can keep it going. I’ll keep you posted.

Meanwhile, I will still continue to run “Tales from the Dragon”, which is the other half of my newsletter, that I produce all on my own. Sign up for it here.