I want to start with an apology and a huge thank you to all of our customers who have stuck with us. The last year has been truly underwhelming in terms of improving Sifter. We’ve failed to add what we consider very necessary and foundational features, and we’ve also failed to significantly improve existing features. Also, while we’ve been very forthcoming when people asked, we’ve failed to continue to proactively share insights into our design process and the future of Sifter.
None of that is in line with the company that we originally set out to build. Fortunately, these failures haven’t been due to a shortage of desire or commitment, but rather one of time. Until now, Sifter has never been a full-time endeavor. We always wanted it to be, but it simply couldn’t support someone full-time. That has finally changed.
In the interest of openness, I wanted to take a moment to share a little about the last year to catch everyone up. Even if you remove Sifter from the picture, the last two and a half years have been the most significant and exciting years of my life. I’ve moved a couple of times, got engaged and married, went on a honeymoon, bought a house, and added a dog to our little family.
After all of that, the desire for a steady income and health insurance for my wife and I meant that full-time employment was the best decision. Staying true to a promise that I made myself to not let my professional life dramatically hurt my personal life meant that working a full-time job severely limited the amount of time left for Sifter.
While it was the most personally fulfilling period of my life, It was the most professionally frustrating time of my life. During that time, I wanted nothing more than to be able to devote 100% of my work time to Sifter and finally be able to bring it up to the level of the vision that I had for it. However, I couldn’t allow myself to put my personal life on hold to do it.
What time we did have for Sifter was spent on the absolutely necessary aspects of running the business. Support. Bug fixes. Infrastructure. Finances. Basically, our time was consumed by the day-to-day tasks necessary to keep a business running rather than the tasks that keep a business exciting.
Balancing Stability & Passion
While I couldn’t be happier with all of the awesome personal things going on in my life, there was a constant struggle between stability and passion. Naturally, the steady paycheck and health insurance provided a certain level of security that is very difficult to let go of. However, my passion was always with Sifter. As a result, I was constantly torn between security and following my heart. Of course, our customers never let us forget what was important to them as well. So, for the last year, I was juggling a commitment to family and friends as well as one to our customers and my passions. As passionate as I am about Sifter, that was a very difficult struggle.
There were times were I had my doubts that I was still the best person for Sifter, but taking care of it was always at the front of my mind. In fact, it was probably on my mind too much. Between support requests, server alerts, and a bevy of other tasks, I never let myself get too far from an internet connection, and my iPhone interrupted countless dinners and events. Despite the personal toll it was taking, I held out hope that we’d come through the other side stronger for it.
As you can probably guess, with a full-time job, there were very few “convenient” times for anything to go wrong. So, the last year redefined my definition of stress and exponentially increased my capacity to worry and try to predict and prevent potential problems. The good news is that since going full-time, everything finally feels like it’s aligned in the same direction, and we finally have the time and resources to make good on our promises. Also, for the first time ever, I’m able to get ahead of Sifter and handle things proactively instead of reactively. That means more time for customer-facing improvements.
I shared the news of going full-time on my personal site, and I had been hoping to hold off sharing it here until we were able to get our new site up. However, with everything going on, re-launching this site has been lower on our list of priorities. Those priorities are what I want to talk about next. While I don’t want to get into too many details or make any specific assurances of feature releases, I do want to share what we’re actively working on.
I’m guessing that most everyone is in interested in a product roadmap. The truth is we really only think about one or two features into the future. Right now, those two features are email integration and the API. In both cases, we’ve scaled back our ambitions so that we can get something out the door and improve on it rather than hit a home run on the first try.
Email integration is coming very soon. It’s been working successfully in staging, but we’re going to test it for a little while in production before putting it in everyone’s hands. We’ve kept it simple, you’ll be able to reply to notifications and have those replies show up in the comment stream. You won’t be able to update issues attributes like status or assignee or create issues via email because that’s a difficult thing to do in a user-friendly and secure way. We’re actively looking into both, but not making any promises yet.
The other big feature is the API. This is going to be a little further out because we want to really put it through the ringer and test it. We’ve started out with read-only access, and we’ll be reaching out to a handful of people who really want to start using this and let them in on the beta testing. So, chances are that if you’ve emailed us about the API, you’ll be hearing from us in the coming weeks.
Finally, Sifter 2.0 has been an ongoing process for me as I work through and address the information and interaction design shortcomings of the current version of Sifter. Sifter has evolved significantly, and our vision has evolved as well. As a result, we’ve been actively exploring some new ideas. If you’re interested, you can get a sampling of that exploration on Dribbble. Bringing this to life will take some time, but we’re confident it’s worth the wait.
The last year has been difficult, and we’ve let some people down during that time. We’ve finally made it through the dip, and we’re profitable enough for me to work full-time towards making Sifter even better. I apologize for the delay. Good things are coming.