One of my New Year's resolution this year is to close all abandoned projects.
Postalcard.mobi is shutting down. Actually it never was up and running for real. I mean, it was running, but not fully as a I imagined it will.
In assumptions the project consists of
- iOS app.
- backend service. Up and running.
- printing and delivery worldwide service (missing part)
I didn't work on the project extensively lately. Service is just there and application is available in AppStore. Also I have no plans to improve the stuff.
This is clearly dead project to me.
experience I gained, is priceless
I started in 2011 from an idea for service which send real postcards right from the iPhone. You make a picture, fill the address then I print it and deliver to the address. Great for the holidays, grandparents, family. Message with emmotional value.
I wasn’t the first, but I had some fresh ideas. First of all I assumed that message should be personalized so I added hand drawings. Also the overall design looked decent. I've checked all other services, believe me. It was really something at 2011.
So I started the project together with a great designer, Konrad.
I've build prototype with backend service and mobile application for iOS. I had prototype of real world service as well, it was printing house, material spec, delivery. After a few months we got invited to StartUp Fest by Agora (Startup festival organized by AGORA, one of the biggest Polish media holdings, owners of Gazeta.pl portal and "Gazeta Wyborcza", largest Polish daily newspaper). Haven’t won the price, but being finalist is good enough.
After that I have finished the product with the digital service only - sending e-postalcards. Launched privately. People start using it. I use it by myself actually, so few of you could receive a card from me.
Anyway... it never went further to the full service. Many reasons. Now it's time to archive it and shut down.
what I learned
is that real service is far more complex than the internet one. Especially when it comes to printing. My observation is that printing houses not yet feel the wind of change. They print a lot of advertisements and not really looking for anything new. As a result, prices are horrendous, service is moderate. At least in Europe. Handling international shipping is not a piece of cake.
I failed on execution this time. This is kind of service that certainly need a scale. It is competitive market, national post services launched services like this on they own. Actually I worked on the offer for one of them, but this is really not the world I like to deal with. Companies like this have all resources to do it - they already have scale (on day one), distribution is already handled, price doesn't matter.
Technically. Ruby is moderate tool to build services. At that time I had to fork gem to get decent support for S3 storage. Handling transfer of significant amount of data over the crappy mobile internet is not as easy as "upload file" due to timeouts, breakdowns etc. Hosting like Heroku is not enough if I need something more (I stuck with timeouts, to many connection limits etc), so I had to go to Amazon EC (AWS). Good I have Linux background so I'm able to build complete stack - but this is not something I love any more.
Do I regret? not a single sleepless night. Will I do this again? yes. soon something should pop up. This time I'll do it much better.