Muhammad Usman

Crazy tech lover, endless learner

Dear Moaners!

MKBHD, aka Marques Brownlee, does a video series prefixed with “Dear”. Dear Apple…, Dear Twitter…, Dear Samsung…". He moans or points out problems with those companies’ products or even at the company itself.

I am sure you, as a developer, are as frustrated. You spot tons of problems. One of the advantages we developers have is finding problems; we sometimes encounter issues in our software and mostly fix these. We see problems in other people’s code, our code, and products everywhere, but we also try to find solutions for them. We are full of negativity in a positive way.

Now, some people moan or complain, some people fix. Which side do you want to be on? Do you want to be a moaner or a fixer? You can be both as well. Look at those complaints; hear the frustrations mostly related to software or the frustrations you can fix with code. Take that opportunity and turn it towards you; turn it in your favour.

The Tale of a Chrome Extension for Twitter

I was frustrated with Twitter as I often stalked people’s profiles. I habitually stalked many Twitter profiles and used to see what they were up to. I know, silly me. But don’t raise your eyebrows like you didn’t do it before. And one of the things that frustrated me (and if you are old enough, I am sure you know), Twitter profiles were full of replies from other users. They are called the @replies.

Back then, Twitter did not have anything to hide these @replies. Fortunately, they now added this feature. But during those times, I was so frustrated about it, and I could not fix Twitter because I do not control Twitter.

What I could do is I could fix it on my end. So I created a simple JavaScript code (jQuery to be specific) that will remove those @replies DOM entirely. I used this code as a browser extension.

These @replies went away from the browser on my end. I utilised the advantage of being a developer. After a few days, I thought other people might be struggling like me, so I published it on the Chrome Web Store. The results? It got pretty popular; many people were just as frustrated as me, and many used it. My website link was there in the extension, and I got massive traffic. I am not sure if Twitter got the idea from me, but they certainly added this feature.

Copycats in Our World

Some blokes thought we could browse or command a computer in a better way. For that reason, they created the Alfred app for Mac. Apple, as usual, copied it. Apple baked this into their system and called it Spotlight. Alfred users didn’t give a shit. People still use Alfred because it is much more than Spotlight. Many people I know, including me, still pay for Alfred. It just started by solving a problem.

In addition, some people thought that if you could “find” your iPhone, why can’t you locate anything else? Thus, they created Tile(I hope it rings a bell). Again, Apple copied it by making AirTag.

Password managers, one password, last pass; you name it. Browsers thought, “Oh, that is pretty cool. We will bake this into our browsers.”

The “creators”, the pioneers, still obtained much value from what they fixed, even though big boys copied them. While Alfred is still booming, my Chrome extension for Twitter does not exist, but it paid off. It did not make me millions, but it still got me a lot of eyes and popularity. In the end, I got what I needed.

Your Take as a Developer

Some governments give public transportation for free. Some don’t give a shit, so the residents took this opportunity and responsibility to create Uber. See, moaning is easy; building is hard - now you know why people do not build.

You are a developer, and you can make things. You can build; you can fix. You have the superpower. You are a creator, so take that little action, and it will breed more ideas. You already know the struggle, and you know that people are frustrated about it; they need your solution.

Think of this: your 60-year old grandpa thinks you ended a world problem after you taught him how to adjust the screen brightness on his iPhone 6. That’s how people need your solution!

Can you build a tool, a piece of code, a plugin, or a package that solves people’s problems, perhaps just a tiny one?

Can you watch the MKBHD series and offer solutions to the problems presented?

Can you read Reddit for complaints with the most upvotes and solve those issues?

Quick Wins

  • Can you trigger the Apple shortcut without the user confirming it?

  • Your favourite framework - Ruby on Rails, Laravel, whatever it is, does not have this feature. Can you build a package for that?

  • Can you make a package instead of repeatedly using a bit of code in your project?

  • WordPress does not have that; no plugin does that, so you write it yourself every time? Why not publish it?

  • Can you build a tool to paste or attach your last taken screenshot? Maybe an Alfred workflow with Universal Action? I tried before, but I gave up in 30 minutes (see, I’m not perfect either, your solution doesn’t have to be).

  • Can you add a tweet edit button? Okay, maybe it’s too much.

The Bottom Line

Now you know how to build something so simple yet effective. It may generate money directly; it may do indirectly; it may get copied or baked in. But one thing is for sure; it will undoubtedly pay off; this is my promise.

Go, grab that opportunity. Now is your time to shine.

This post was originally published on Business for Developers, which is another blog of mine.