Today is a great day and I am very happy.
A few thoughts on Hammer
Back in 2012, Hammer was born with a flurry of excitement. Back from the initial commit by Elliott to the Hammer server-side repo on June 10 2012, up to the announcement pretty much bang on 6 months later that the app was flying
People loved Hammer. It was a breath of fresh air for Mac-touting front end dev's everywhere.
I know this sentiment very well. I wasn't the first user of Hammer - in fact after signing up for the initial BETA, I didn't quite understand what it was for until I really got stuck into the first release.
It was a REVELATION to me
I wrote this guide to Hammer back in September 2013.
Since then, I haven't done anything static that didn't involve Hammer.
- I prototyped new UI concepts for Currys / PC World
- I used it to build Brand Swatches and Style Guides for Breast Cancer Campaign
- I prototyped early static screens and clickable prototypes for Nourish Care
- I built and ran value proposition experiments and lead generation for Ferticentro
- I built product websites for Nuwe, HealthHackers, Nutribu, Beach, Double Digital
- I used it during Hackathons
- I converted many themeforest themes into Hammer templates just so I could use them without drowning in long HTML files...
- I converted the Startup Framework into Hammer templates
In this time, we've seen other tools with similar promise to Hammer rise in popularity as the products have continued to adapt as the development technologies we use have evolved. Codekit, LiveReload, PreProc, Cactus, Crunch and Koala to name a few. [Editor: See additional notes at the bottom of the article]
I've tried them all in this time, but there's something about Hammer that keeps me coming back.
But, it seemed something was not right with Hammer, the updates stopped coming. New releases were not made. All was quiet. Meanwhile...
A few thoughts on Forge
Having been a Hammer user since early 2013, when I found out about the new service from Riot, called Forge, I was keen to dive in. In October 2013, when Forge opened its doors, I was right there to give it a try.
I had been having a torrid time with basic hosting, using Fasthosts VPS. It had caused me no end of bother, considering I didn't really want to be doing hosting in the first place, but when you're running client projects, it's something you end up just doing to avoid the inevitable hand holding of a client-managed hosting setup.
So, as soon as Forge came out, I moved a number of my simpler static sites straight over. That wasn't before I'd also wrestled with Amazon S3 for static site hosting, and found updating S3 buckets, configuring permissions and Route53 settings to be a pig of a job for something that should be so straightforward.
That's exactly what Forge was. Dead, dead simple. Drag, drop and forget.
I remember getting so pee'd off with the whole thing, I even ran a couple of demo sites straight out of a public Dropbox folder, I mean, jeez - so when Forge released Dropbox (and Github) integration, I was like "...are these guys reading my freakin' mind?"
Forge is like a bit of a secret weapon for me. In a way, I never really wanted to tell people about it, like they would discover my kryptonite or something. I've hosted everything from coming soon pages, to single page web sites all the way up to a rather nice React app with Parse.com integration on Forge. It's not as "static" as you might think.
I always thought to myself, I'd love to have some products like these, Forge and Hammer are just awesome - amazingly well executed, beautifully designed, simple propositions which really do have an impact on the way developers work.
Since Forge was released, we've seen a number of other static site hosting services, none more significant than Github's own pages service. Then there's Divshot, BitBalloon, Roots, Netlify, Site44, Paperplane and Brace (acquired by Squarespace)
Once again, as I could tell that Forge was not progressing at the velocity that I had hoped, I tried all of these services, but somehow, kept finding my way back to Forge.
A few thoughts on Nuwe and Me
I am CTO and co-founder of a startup, named Nuwe, which we founded in 2014. I have a small tech company, a bit like Riot, called Beach and we specialise in web and mobile app development, mainly focussed on products.
At Nuwe, we are building a developer platform which provides a Platform as a Service for people making new mHealth apps and services. I love ideas with real Social Capital.
We were recently accelerated by Startup Bootcamp, as part of the Barcelona IoT and Data Cohort of 2015.
I come from a rich background of experience in running large and small projects, from PHP-based web apps, e-commerce and CMS builds to more recently, the last few years focussing mainly on Ruby (rails), Node.js and native iOS projects. I'm a developer, product manager, team leader, entrepreneur.
I have 2 small boys, 2 basset hounds and a very understanding wife.
With Nuwe, we've been helping 20 or so companies to build their mHealth apps with significant cost and time savings, during our closed BETA phase. What I've seen in this process up close, is that although the technologies we use to build products vary massively (a huge challenge for us being truly platform agnostic), that the real problem and barrier to growth comes with the understanding and application of the skills required to build and iterate on new ideas from the ground up. Those aren't technical challenges. They are a mindset barrier.
I've seen, first hand, the tendency to assume too much, to believe our own instincts and write feature requirement after feature requirement - often forgetting the real people who you want to buy the product and drowning behind the desk in the belief that what we're building is the right thing, the thing that people want. I've seen it with startups, indie developers and with large multinational corporates.
A big challenge for the creators of new Health services, apps and services in general for that matter, is in obtaining and practising better product development processes and that starts even before we even lay down one line of code on our product.
One of the best parts of the accelerator process for us, was to disconnect from the need to build software and reconnect with our audience. We designed, tested and iterated our value proposition over and again until we found something that resonated - in language, tone, style and structure.
Doing that somehow free'd us to build later, faster and in a more targeted way. All we needed was a website, a view of the problem and way to communicate the solutions we had in mind.
Through all this, I knew we needed to help educate our customers to maximise the use of our platform and that we'd need to invest in the content and the tools to provide this.
The Convergence of Pathways
It was a chance conversation between myself and Elliott over twitter, since I knew of his move a while back to Dropbox, to ask him what his plans were for Forge, in particular, when we started talking about the future of these products.
Within a few hours we were talking about a deal that would see me take over the on going management of Forge.
And within a couple of weeks, we'd struck a deal for me to take over the ownership of Forge, Hammer and Anvil.
You see, Elliott and I have similar visions for the products they originally created. Elliott still has unfinished business for sure and so I was delighted when both he and Hector agreed to stay close to the products as key advisors and to share in any future success as the original creators.
There's a number of things that need to be addressed quickly, in my mind as a customer of the products and I'm sure you'll agree with those.
There's many routes that these products could take, and I'm sure we'll become more divided on those ideas as we progress, since the landscape is evolving all the time.
One things is for certain, these products don't deserve to end up on the crap pile. They're too damn good, too damn valuable and have too much bloody potential as yet unfulfilled.
My Simple Manifesto
I think that it would be rather premature to tell you what I plan to do, so it might make more sense to outline what I believe in.
Customer Service is Top Priority
One of the things I want Forge to be known for is Amazing Customer Service. It's going to be hard, we're a very small team to start with, but I see the potential for this product and I will do everything I can to make sure the service you receive kicks the cr*p out of the larger, less personal and more sales-driven companies. The service will be personal and the best way to reach us is via the new Intercom tool in your Forge admin area. Look out for this...
Openness, Transparency and Collaboration
I'm going to bring openness and transparency to the roadmap, I want all of our Customers to have a say in the way that Forge takes shape.
Build and Enable Great Products
I believe in Products. And whilst Forge itself is a product, the customers using Forge are also building and promoting their own products. So I think Forge is a tool for creating better products and better businesses and this will guide what we do with Forge.
Simplicity Is Beautiful
I love simplicity. And that's why I love Forge and Hammer, it really was the easiest way to host and build my websites. Even so, some things are still not as simple as they could be and there's lots of things I'd like to add. Remembering this value will be crucial.
Social Capital is Really Important
I like working on things that provide an amount of Social Capital. If you're in Education or you're building products for Health, then I'd especially love to hear from you to see how we can help you further.
It seems it could have been read that I was suggesting Hammer was the first tool of its kind in the market - that wasn't the intention. I was merely trying to make the point that since Hammer was released, other apps have continued to evolve and establish a place in the market and Hammer has not evolved at the same pace over recent months.
To clarify, and as both had pointed out, Codekit (thanks to Bryan's exhaustive and often entertaining public release notes) actually went live into Public Beta in November 2011 and according to the project's repo, Hammer's first commit wasn't until summer 2012.