An interview with Sacha Greif

By Ed Vinicombe on Feb 12th, 2015

What values do you look for in a business partner when choosing to collaborate on a new project?

I think the single most important thing to watch out for when picking someone to work with is making sure your objectives and motivations are aligned. For example, you and your partner might both be passionate about, say, selling WordPress themes. But if one of you wants to do it as a side project while the other hopes it becomes a full-fledged company, that's going to spell trouble down the road. In other words, it's not just about what you want to do, but also why you want to do it.

Sidebar.io is a handy tool. It’s simple as hell too! Why do you feel this project has been so fruitful and appealed to so many people considering the simplistic nature?

Sacha's side project sidebar.io


Actually, my original idea for the project was something much closer to what Designer News is, with voting, comments, and open registration. I launched the site in its current minimalistic state as a proof of concept, and a way to generate an audience while waiting for the “real” launch. But it turned out that people really responded to the "5 links a day" format, and I also realized a big part of the site's value was the manual curation that went into it. I make sure every link featured is relevant, hasn't been posted before, and is fairly recent (from the last month or so). This means that unlike with other link aggregating tools, you'll never get reposts or list articles on Sidebar no matter how viral they get. After I saw the success of this model, I decided to scrap my plans for a larger community, and keep the scale down. Designer News also launched around the same time, filling the "Hacker News for design" niche quite nicely. So I figured there was no need to compete with them head on!

Success is often measured with how many people care about you personally and your product too. How did you go about building an audience for Meteor?

My co-author Tom Coleman and I were lucky enough that there weren't many other people writing about Meteor when we started doing it ourselves. So we were able to build up a following by blogging, as well as being very involved in the Meteor community itself (for example, Tom was the main maintainer of Meteor's dedicated package management tool for over a year).

But at the end of the day, it's just about putting in the time to learn valuable skills yourself, and then finding a way to redistribute that through a blog, screencasts, or any other mean. Between researching, writing, and editing, a single blog post for Discover Meteor can easily take me up to a week. So there's definitely no easy shortcuts.

You mentioned on your blog that a good idea for a side project should take no longer than 10 hours to build. Do you still stick by this philosophy? Why (in your opinion) does a good idea deserve such little time to initially develop?

I think the biggest reason side projects fail is not that they're not good enough, but that they never get finished. The 10-hour rule is an easy way to limit scope creep and force yourself to ship something, whether it's good or not! Of course, if you have a specific goal and you know it'll require more than 10 hours, then by all means feel free to go over the limit. But unless we're talking about one of these “I'll draw a picture of a penguin every day for a year”-type projects, I find that 10 hours can actually go a long way!

What do you hope to achieve in 2015 with the Meteor framework?

I'm really looking forward to where the Meteor team takes the framework this year. For example, Windows support is coming soon, which will dramatically boost the size of the community. It will also be interesting to see how new patterns start emerging, now that the community has had time to experiment with a stable version of the framework for a year or so. Altogether 2015 looks like it's going to be a pretty exciting year for Meteor!

You have a great group of people contributing to your project, Telescope. What motivation do you share with your team to build this product?

Telescope makes it easy to launch communities. Build and customize your very own Hacker News, Reddit, or Product Hunt!


I'm actually not sure what pushes people to contribute, but I'm definitely thankful for it! Hopefully, people see the project's potential. I think WordPress has proven that the open-source model works, and I'm hoping with enough time Telescope can follow in its footsteps! The main problem with open-source projects is probably more organization than motivation. For new contributors, it can be really hard to know where to start and what they should work on. I'm hoping to think up some new solutions to this soon.

Do you have any new products up your sleeve ready for release this year you may be able to tell us about?

As much as I'd love to work on new products, I think I need to focus on the ones I already have if I want them to reach their true potential. Grinding it out on a single project year after year definitely doesn't feel as good as accumulating quick wins by launching something new every couple months, but I think it's the only way to achieve something truly meaningful.

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