Since writing a short post on what will be missed when I eventually leave the day job, I've been thinking about what I perceive as the underlying question that Rachel Kroll was asking: What do you find valuable?1 The question is exceedingly important for people who are working towards a series of goals, be it personally or professionally. When I think about what I find valuable at the day job, the immediate response would be the people, which then prompts the follow-up question of "Why?" Again, the answer is immediate: I learn new things from people and, in turn, they challenge me to do something with that new information.

Can the question translate just as easily when examining hobbies and personal projects, though? What do I find valuable about the 10Centuries platform? This is something that I've worked on as a publishing platform since August of 2012. While there have been droughts of effort on occasion over the last couple of years, the ultimate goal remains the same2. What do I find valuable about the effort?

The Community

This goes without saying. There are not nearly as many people using the service as in the past, but the people who do find value in the 10C platform are incredibly valuable to me. They provide the incentive to continually build and improve the platform while keeping it accessible and simple. Everybody is quite unique, too, making the eclectic group my favourite community by far.

The Challenges

How can performance be maximised when running a web server on consumer-grade equipment? What sort of SQL query can be crafted to reduce the number of database calls from many down to one without any performance degradation? What tactics can be implemented to reduce the amount of spam that is received by the contact forms on the various sites? What is an effective way to handle content-scraping bots that choose to ignore the standard robots.txt rules?

All of these questions — and may more — are tackled on a regular basis as no solution is a panacea. The challenge of pushing the platform in multiple directions and leveraging the tools that have been refined for years across numerous projects is part of what keeps it interesting for me. This interest is incredibly valuable as it often requires learning about a problem, seeing the solutions that others have tried, and then building on their efforts to devise an answer that best suits the platform without unnecessary resource expenditures. Every function that is created must follow the Unix philosophy: do one thing, and do it well.

The Rewards

In 2015, 10Centuries came the closest it's ever come to breaking even, with about 85% of the annual operations cost being earned through subscriptions. Over the last five years people have left the platform and income has diminished to cover about 30% of annual costs. Despite this, the non-tangible rewards for the service far outstrip any financial gain that might exist. There is an incredible amount of pride for what's been accomplished over the years. Sure, I've made a number of mistakes that have resulted in people losing interest and leaving the community, and every loss resulted in learning something new. Ideally these lessons have meant that subsequent updates have actually improved the system and, looking at the last six months, I can honestly say that Version 5 today is far better than it's ever been before. Is there more work to do? Absolutely. This seemingly endless To Do list is just one of the rewards, as it's diverse and long enough that I'll not get bored for years to come.

The Education

The running theme across this article involves education; my education. There's a lot that I didn't know when 10C started out as a simple Evernote-connected blogging platform and there's a lot that I still don't know today. That said, there have been a million little lessons learned throughout the development of the platform. 10C is currently running on the 5th major version of the core framework that powers so many of the systems I create meaning that the first four attempts to have a universal API and web presentation tool have not been sufficient enough to solve all the problems. v5 comes closest, though, thanks to the feedback received and patterns observed. The knowledge gained here is distributed to the other projects just as the lessons learned elsewhere are incorporated here. If I ever stop learning, then that will be the end of the project, as it means the effort has become boring.

Ultimately these four things are what I find valuable about 10Centuries and are why I continue to invest countless hours into making the platform a viable option for anyone who might find it of value themselves.

  1. For the sake of this blog post, the question will remain five words in length, allowing it to be vague enough to think through the variables.

  2. Yes. I still endeavour to have the publicly-available content accessible to people for at least 1,000 years. As the web continues to evolve, this becomes less unrealistic.