As some of you know for the last few months I’ve been working on a new side project: Zesta Punta.  Some folks have asked me why, so I wanted to use this post to explain my motivations.

If you’re unfamiliar with Zesta Punta I invite you to sign up an take it for a spin, but I do so with a full warning that it is very rough. It is an experiment for reasons you’ll read below. The service as is should be considered version 0.1. Nevertheless it works, as several hundred users can attest, and most importantly I’ve managed to achieve many of the goals I’ve set for the project.

The basic idea is that we all have a bunch of useful but un- or underutilized stuff sitting around that we would gladly share with our friends, but the transaction costs of doing so are too high. This is a problem technology should be able to address, and that is the distant end goal of Zesta Punta as a consumer service. Nevertheless, change of any kind is hard, especially so when it’s driven via a side project with very limited resources, and we still have a long way to go before ZP approaches even the first phases of the vision we have for it.

But as a project Zesta Punta has many goals as well, many for me personally. Zesta Punta is in many ways the exact opposite of Nestoria, the service I’ve spend the last seven years (!) working on (and, just to remove any doubt, continue to actively work on). Nestoria is all about getting information to users as fast as possible. There is intentionally no registration, no social aspect. It is a very lean service aiming to do exactly one thing very well. For my own curiosity I wanted a chance to experiment on a service that was much more social, to play with concepts like gamification, to learn the details of deeply integrating with Facebook, to spend time swimming in the muddy waters of user generated content, and to relearn working on a “complex” service. I also wanted to really get my hands dirty with some new technologies and services like bootstrap, nginx, Mojolicious, mailgun, filepicker, and responsive design.

While I could easily build toy projects to learn new technologies, you can’t fake the social piece, and I also knew from past experiences that I learn best from projects that are “real”.  Hackday style side projects can be good for brainstorming but are too easy to neglect or abandon once the going gets hard. But that is the exact point when most learning occurs.

In this regard ZP has been a great success. I have been mentally refreshed and have learned an immense amount, sometimes through excruciatingly painful lessons. I can recommend it, it has basically been a product bootcamp.

Finally I should say that I’m not the only one working on Zesta Punta, and while you can feel free to send me any bug reports you have, if you like it all credit should be shared out to everyone involved in the project. Big thanks to all involved.

If this post has whetted your appetite, please join Zesta Punta and let me know if you want any of my stuff.