Goodbye to a beloved failed side project, or, Stabbing a zombie in the head, and what I learned

It started with an imminent domain renewal for tung.fm — it’s an expensive domain renewal at $99/year. I thought, I’ll move everything over to a subfolder of my main site and let the domain expire. That was easy enough. the cp command moved thousands of files which represented years of work in a fraction of a second.

Then I had to update the api url in the Tung iOS app. That’s a one-liner. But it’s amazing how much things change after not having touched the code in a year. Provisioning profiles expire, iOS api’s get deprecated, social login api’s are end of life, and a myriad of other things you don’t need me to get into.

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Let me backup a bit. Tung was a social podcast player launched in July of 2016 that let you discover podcasts by seeing what your friends, and everyone else recommended. You could share a clip, and tweet out a link to it or share it to Facebook. You could do the same with a comment — or you could just recommend it. Tung aggregated the most recommended podcasts in the main feed. New podcasts were surfaced in this way.

Unfortunately it’s not worth my time to fix it, for my handful of active users. So without incurring additional costs and spending more time to keep it alive, you have to shut it down. Projects like this don’t die on their own though. It’s a lot like stabbing a zombie in the head. The project is kind of alive, but you have to kill it or it will continue to drain your resources — blood, sweat and tears.

And it doesn’t matter that I used Tung to make the first tweeted podcast clip.

Or that I hand-rolled an entire REST api around a social podcasting service. For profiles, clips, recommendations, comments, subscriptions, following people, notifications, most recommended podcasts… it goes on.

All that time in Xcode spent getting the audio streaming just right over weeks of using the app and fixing the code, and doing that over and over again.

The hand-crafted, completely custom UI done in Illustrator and PaintCode, complete with original icons.

Or that I wrote my own logging class, just for squashing bugs in this project, or that I recreated almost the entire experience of the iOS app for web in AngularJS.

There’s more, but I’ll spare you. It doesn’t matter when it gets shut down, because it’s ones and zeros that simply cease to exist on enough people’s phones and browsers.

I learned a lot too though. I learned that sometimes, people don’t really want something even when they say they do.

I learned that people just aren’t that interested in sharing podcast clips or comments. Tung afforded people this ability, and it was rarely used. Given the opportunity, it wasn’t often that people even recommended a podcast on Tung.

I learned that despite launching a full year ahead of Breaker, I didn’t succeed because it turns out networks are needed for networks to succeed.

I learned that consuming podcasts is a 1 way communication, and people seem to actually prefer it that way.

I learned that we need to stop trying to “push podcasting into 20XX”. It’s audio, we like it like that way and we need to stop trying to spiff it up with bells and whistles.

The good news is that closing one door opens another. You must stop devoting your time to one thing in order to really do the next. It’s an exercise of clearing away the cruft. So here’s to what’s next. 🍻

Written by

Dreamer and schemer, designer turned developer. Lover of music and fine ales.

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