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RobinHood Stock Market Journey Week #1

I am starting a new section of my where I talk about my adventures investing in RobinHood. I am going to be totally transparent and keep track of my running total of money in RobinHood as well as the investments and sales i’m making.

What is RobinHood: 

RobinHood is an App that makes buying and selling stocks super easy, without the fees you’d normally incur. If you want to download and install the app you can use my referral link below (I don’t think I get anything if you join this way).

Download RobinHood

RobinHood Gold:

RobinHood Gold allows you to have access to your funds as soon as you make a deposit or transfer up to some amount. I think mine is around $1500 as i’m only on the lowest tier. I currently pay $6 a month, and I also get access to an additional $1000 in buying power which I typically use, but not all the time.

How much money:

I currently have around $4,000 in RobinHood, and my goal is to invest $1000 a month for the next 12 months, while posting weekly updates on how i’m doing. I may have months where I can put more or less into the stock market, barring nothing drastic happening. I also have investments in another app called Stash which I consider more long term.

Generally the additional $1000 will invested at the beginning of every month, so next week I will discuss how I distributed my next deposit.

My Investing philosophy:

  1. Don’t invest more than 20% into a single stock
  2. Put a small percentage less than 20% in volatile stocks that have a potential for big gains
  3. Don’t sell short unless I feel its as good as its going to get
  4. Don’t buy and sell based on earning calls
  5. Make sure I somewhat understand the company I am investing in
  6. Make sure the company is not in risk of bankrupcy

Now that that stuff is out of the way I want to kick off the template for my weekly post which is going to look like this.

Date: 03/30/2017

  • Total: $4,059.22
  • Week: (+1.73%)
  • All Time: (+0.10%)
  • Profit/Loss: ($4.22)

Purchases:

  • $UNXL: (21 shares), I feel like this stock could double, risky buy, but i’m not putting too much into this

Sales:

  • $TWTR: (10 shares) I sold my remaining shares of Twitter at a small loss, I don’t see this stock doing to much without something big.

Current Investments:

  • $AMD: (70 shares) 19.47% of portfolio with a value of $984.20
  • $SQ: (51 shares) 17.47% of portfolio with a value of $883.32
  • $GPRO: (105 shares) 17.99% of portfolio with a value of $909.30
  • $JNUG: (75 shares) 9.29% of portfolio with a value of $469.50
  • $ETRM: (30 shares) 3.36% of portfolio with a value of $169.80
  • $SIRI: (16 shares) 1.64% of portfolio with a value of $83.04
  • $UNXL: (21 shares) 0.31% of portfolio with a value of $15.44
  • $AUY: (19 shares) 1.05% of portfolio with a value of $53.01
  • $GRPN: (5 shares) 0.4% of portfolio with a value of $20.05
  • $PRKR: (20 shares) 0.79% of portfolio with a value of $39.80
  • $TRXC: (18 shares) 0.42% of portfolio with a value of $21.24
  • $ONVO: (27 shares) 1.64% of portfolio with a value of $83.16
  • $GPL: (25 shares) 0.81% of portfolio with a value of $40.75
  • $PXLW: (15 shares) 1.40% of portfolio with a value of $70.95
  • $CJJD: (15 shares) 0.53% of portfolio with a value of $27.00
  • $SRAX: (50 shares) 2.45% of portfolio with a value of $124.00
  • $BX: (3 shares) 1.77% of portfolio with a value of $89.31
  • $KTOS: (2 shares) 0.31% of portfolio with a value of $15.80
  • $CDNA: (20 shares) 0.61% of portfolio with a value of $31.00
  • $VRML: (20 shares) 0.83% of portfolio with a value of $42.20
  • $ULBI: (5 shares) 0.54% of portfolio with a value of $27.25
  • $SBGL: (6 shares) 1.04% of portfolio with a value of $52.74
  • $EGAN: (4 shares) 0.11% of portfolio with a value of $5.80
  • $XRX: (10 shares) 1.46% of portfolio with a value of $73.80
  • $RAD: (10 shares) 0.88% of portfolio with a value of $44.60
  • $MAT: (1 share) 0.50% of portfolio with a value of $25.40
  • $INTC: (10 shares) 7.07% of portfolio with a value of $357.50
  • $FIT: (10 shares) 1.16% of portfolio with a value of $58.50
  • $VYM: (3 shares) 4.62% of portfolio with a value of $233.64

Wow I have shares in a lot more companies than I realized, after going through this process I am going to talk about companies I’m most likely looking to sell in the following weeks. Especially at seeing how many of these companies are on the bubble for the guidelines i’m setting for myself.

On the bubble to sell:

  • $JNUG – i’m not comfortable with mining right now it seems to be on the downward trend for the forseeable future.
  • $ETRM – In 1 year this stock has lost $62, I thought I bought in at its low point, but it has continually lost money, this is one that i’m hoping for big news at some point, otherwise this could continue down to $3 – $4 range.
  • $AUY – Metals/Gold don’t seem to be that promising right now
  • $TRXC – this stock just seems to not move at all even with cool announcements
  • $CJJD – I don’t know anything about this stock, it goes against my rules i’m setting out for myself
  • $RAD – Retail is a sinking industry, I think i’ve made as much as possible on this stock

 

My big 3 are $GPRO, $SQ, and $AMD and I still stand by those 3 investments. Most of my losses have been covered by $SQ as I bought in at one point when the stock was around $9 and sold out at $16, then I bought in again at around $16.50 as I gained more and more faith in the future of this company.

That’s it for this weeks update, thanks for reading, and I look forward to next week!

Focus on what is important

When building software, it is very easy to get lost in things that don’t matter. I spend a lot of time working with clients on projects of all sizes, and I’ve picked up some things that I think could be helpful to consider when prioritizing features.

I look at two ratings overall:

  • How many users does this effect?
  • What impact will this have on those users?

Very simple right! It could be but lets use a very simple problem, someone has forgot their password on your website, and they need a way to recover it.

The number of users this effects is small, most likely a small percentage a small percent of the time. The impact of making this feature super polished is very minor, a person may enjoy the nice flow for having a password reset, but it really doesn’t matter beyond the few seconds of interacting with it.

I am always sad when building a very complicated huge software system for time to be spent building out an elaborate password reset feature. The impact and user’s effected are minor in comparison to say the landing page a user sees when logging in. Heck we have the best password reset flow in the industry, but our landing page is mediocre because we wasted time on something that really doesn’t matter.

When building software, or managing a team focus on things that actually matter. You may find you have features that have a large impact on a small number of users, that still needs to be prioritized because the small number of users make up the majority of your revenue. The model is different for each software application I’ve worked on.

I’m going to close with a list of things that I feel in most cases are low priority/low impact features that need to be functional, but doesn’t need to be overthought.

  • Password Reset (as mentioned above)
  • Settings Screen (generally in mobile applications)
  • FAQ screens (these need to be there, but don’t spend time making them more than what they need to be)
  • Image uploaders, don’t overthink image uploaders at first especially if the images aren’t used for anything more than a logo. Tell the user to upload an image the size it needs to be for example 256 x 256. Don’t spend time on a cropper for a single profile image
  • Administrative Tools, tools that are only used by super users, these impact a small subset of users (generally only the owners of the software)

Hopefully this helps make your projects more of a success in the future, just remember that a lot of little things with low impact can add up to a lot of time that could of been used on things that matter more.

Career Retrospective 2016

I woke up this morning and started thinking about everything I’ve done in my life up to this point. I am 33 years old now, and I still feel like I have a lot more to accomplish, but I felt it necessary to talk about the challenges I’ve had and how I’ve overcome them to get to where I am. I grew up very poor, I know a lot of people say this, but I remember washing my clothes in the creek outside my house as a 4 year old. There was no way I was going to let my family, my kids struggle the same way we did.

The story really starts sometime in 1995 when I was offered a job by a family friend to help out at a local cabinet shop. I’m a very young kid that was starving for knowledge, and I wanted to make some cash as well so I accepted immediately. Within a few years I was doing every part of cabinet construction including, design, cutting, assembly, finish, and installation. I loved it, but was soon offered the opportunity to build houses during the summer of my 9th grade year. Immediately it was new and challenging, and I fell in love with the process of taking a house and building it from the ground up. I was primarily part of the framing and finishing crew, so over that summer I was part of building about 12 houses. When the summer was over I had made some serious money for a 9th grader, and went back to cabinet shop for after school and weekend hours. I also want to note that by the end of the summer I started realizing that although on a bigger scale, framing and finishing houses wasn’t challenging enough for me.

School was another topic altogether, I was never fully challenged in school, and actually found myself very bored most of the time. I learned a lot about myself in retrospect, I have to be challenged constantly to really be happy. One awesome thing about school is that it introduced me to the internet and computers in 9th grade. I immediately was drawn to the potential of technology. I remember building my own computer out of scrap parts I picked up at Goodwill in 10th grade. I soon discovered programming, and spent most of my more boring classes teaching myself to program on my TI-83 and TI-89 calculators. I soon became know as the calculator guy, and was being asked by people I didn’t even know for games I had created to be downloaded on their calculators. I remember doing most of my programming in my AP Chemistry class which I found incredibly boring. If there is one regret it is that I did not fulfill my potential in school. I feel I could of easily finished 1st or 2nd in my class, instead with very little effort I placed 7th in my graduation class.

While I spent my days at school, and free time programming in BASIC on a small calculator screen, I continued working my way up in the cabinet shop. Its hard for me to explain, but there is something magical about walking out of a completed kitchen or bathroom, and seeing the happiness on the owners face. I eventually found a way to program on the calculators using a keyboard and computer, and soon became a very active member of ticalc.org where I shared and downloaded applications with everyone like me. I was a weird nerd, on one hand I could operate heavy equipment and create amazing handcrafted furniture, and on the other I geeked out about technology, and learning how to create moving pixels on a screen. I ended up scoring fairly highly on the SAT which got me a full ride scholarship to a private college Spartanburg Methodist College. I spent one year, and also found myself while fascinated very bored with the challenges presented to me. I remember starting my first C++ class with more than 20 students, and by the end there was only 4 of us left. I was awarded Computer Science student of the year in 2002. I soon found myself in love with a young girl from Wisconsin, someone that I really felt connected to. So I set out on a new challenge when I moved a little north of Green Bay to a small town in Wisconsin. I gave up the rest of my paid for college scholarship for a new life adventure.

I won’t get into to many details but yes my wife Autum and I are still together 14 years later, and it was the best decision of my life. From a career perspective I went back to working in construction when I got to Wisconsin. I soon found myself the Shop Foreman at the age of 22 in charge of 25+ people in a cabinet shop. I had continued my education online, and continued creating games, and software for fun and for school. It had been eating on me for a while, but I knew that I would never be happy staying where I was. I decided to quit construction altogether and find whatever I could in technology/programming. I ended up making some good connections and got brought on as employee number 7 or 8 at a new startup Game company called Frozen Codebase as an intern programmer. I took a huge pay cut, but I knew I could prove myself if given the opportunity. Within a few years I was a lead programmer for the company on salary, training and helping the newer programmers. I ended up working at Frozen Codebase for about 7 years before it was acquired by ZyQuest in DePere WI. I knew the acquisition was in the works, and had found another position working for Oshkosh Trucking as an embedded software engineer. I had also applied at other position some I were offered some I wasn’t. Epic Games, Firaxis, TimeGate, the list goes on, I may make another post about the challenges of interviewing for game companies.

The CEO at the time talked me into staying on with the acquisition by ZyQuest to start a new gaming division. I was brought on as the CTO of the new division and soon one of 3 managers in the whole organization. It soon became clear that we were not going to make a profitable gaming division as the industry had just changed to much with the addition of mobile. The traditional model we had been use to wasn’t possible anymore, and our attempts at creating fair free-to-play games while widely popular just didn’t make the money we needed. I was put in charge at this time and had a critical decision to make about the future of the company. First we split off into a brand new organization called Zymo Entertainment in 2013, and I made the decision to cease our free-to-play development and focus on becoming an agency. We would focus on taking our gaming/design perspective to enterprise businesses. This was the beginning of a battle that I have been fighting for years now. I grew the company in my first year to almost break even, we still operated at a slight loss, but substantially better than the year before. The connections I made to large businesses helped secure our future, and show the potential of what we were doing.

In 2015 I re-branded to Zymo Interactive and started focusing very heavily on mobile as well as the packaging space. I learned a lot about business, company culture, and I still have a lot to learn. I was lucky enough to have one of our clients invest into our company and the owners become personal mentors to me. I feel very blessed with where I am today, but the challenge is not over. I want to grow us to a $5 million, $10 million and beyond company. I have put a lot of blood sweat and tears into getting to where I am today, and I feel it is only the beginning. The one thing I do know though is as long as I am challenged I am happy, the second things get predictable or boring, it is time to reach for new challenges.

That brings me to today, I am sitting in our new office in downtown Green Bay, and I look around at where we are today, and I can’t help but smile. I have a great team, great office, and an amazing team of mentors around me. I have the best wife in the world, and a wonderful family. I don’t feel successful yet despite all of that, I want to create things that people care about, that people use every day. I want to build a business that everyone is proud of. I don’t exactly know where I see success, but I know I’m not finished yet. Along the way I’ve been dealt some crippling blows, and had to work some insane hours, but it was all worth it to be where I am today.

.NET vs NodeJS based which should you choose?

Over the last 10 years I have had the opportunity to work with all kinds of web frameworks, and sometimes it is very hard to choose which one to build on. I’m going to give you very bluntly my opinion of both as it stands today, but the bottom line is it really depends on what you are after.

Starting with NodeJS frameworks is sometimes overwhelming for those new to the Node world. There a ton of web frameworks, each with their own set pros and cons. In particular most of my recent development has been done with SailsJS which is a MVC framework built on top of NodeJS. It claims to be similar to frameworks such as Ruby on Rails. SailsJS was really refreshing to start developing in, and most of the challenges I had in this world were around 3rd party dependencies. I’m going to jump into what I think are the primary Pros/Cons of working with a NodeJS framework.

NodeJS pros:

  • Inexpensive hardware needed to run servers
  • Lots of opensource projects and examples
  • Constantly improving performance with an active community
  • JavaScript based, which allows a common language for frontend and backend development (for web anyway)
  • Very easy to launch an HTTP server
  • Lots of frameworks that make development so much easier (SailsJS being my favorite)
  • No compilation of code, increases developers speed to test new features

NodeJS cons:

  • Require a framework and other 3rd party modules to be fully capable
  • Version dependencies between packages can become problematic
  • Windows support has always felt like a second rate citizen
  • Support for 3rd party modules can be abysmal

My experience with .NET is one of love/hate. At times I feel it works like magic, and everything comes together as a perfect combination of flexibility and capabilities. Other times though I feel like I’m fighting with a framework that was built to slow down development. In my experiences I’ve grown to love C# as a language, and really do appreciate compiler checks. So I’m gonna jump into my Pros/Cons of .NET as a backend.

.NET pros:

  • Has been around a while, and is supported at a lot of major companies
  • Support for C# and other languages that all compile down to libraries that can be used.
  • Awesome WebAPI framework that makes converting JSON to objects super easy
  • Visual Studio (in my opinion) is the best code editor
  • LINQ introduced in .NET 3.5 makes it easier to query data in databases

.NET cons:

  • Server costs are more expensive due to Microsoft Licensing fees
  • Library dependencies can make you lose hair
  • Deployment takes a lot longer, although Visual Studio does try to make it easier
  • Slower development cycle as a whole

I know that a lot of these points are debatable, and I’d love to hear about your own thoughts. For my own projects I tend to go towards SailsJS for the sake of speed, but I have found larger clients definitely prefer .NET primarily because their entire IT most likely runs on a Microsoft stack.

My final verdict is: It depends, there are so many factors to making this decision that need to be looked at, especially the type of project, scale, lifetime, and so on that should be considered. I’m always open to sharing my thoughts just message me on Twitter @adamwlarson or reach out to me through my company Zymo Interactive (www.zymoent.com)

Angular Material

Not so long ago Google put out Material Design which is what I call a design guide for the internet. I see over the next few years more and more apps adding in Google Material Design elements, to be honest you can already see it in Facebook, and other big social media apps and websites. Angular Material is Google Material Design built on AngularJS which is a very powerful utility for editing the DOM without actually touching the HTML (Angular handles it for you). Angular Material while still very early in development is fantastic, if you haven’t checked out their demos please do so right now by clicking here.  I started building ArenaClash using Angular Material and was super excited at all the out of the box features, but I found it just isn’t quite ready for prime time yet, so I’ve moved off of it for the short term (back to using Bootstrap 3 themes). Angular Material comes with a suite of powerful css effects, with my favorites being the input boxes and button clicks.

Most of the functionality is done through Directives, but Angular Material does provide a few services for things like dialog, side navigation, and toasts for example. I just want to bring attention to this as well as the Polymer Project which are looking to build frameworks that make Google’s Material Design easy for small teams to incorporate. I’m excited, but I also don’t want to see the entire internet looking exactly the same, but we are a long way from that happening currently.

I’ll use this next moment to say if you haven’t signed up for ArenaClash, please take a moment and do that now at www.arenaclash.com as I’m going to be sharing a lot about the development progress as we move forward.

Talent in the midwest

Time and time again I hear that the midwest (Wisconsin, Minnesota, Illinois etc) lacks talent.  As a person that now resides in the midwest I’d like to argue this is not the case.  I’ve worked with some of the most talented people in the world over the last few years.  Just look at the number of Fortune 500 companies in the midwest, and look at the number of very talented design and development houses that build amazing software.  We wouldn’t have either of these if we lacked talent.  I want everyone to know that we are here in the midwest, and we can run toe to toe with everyone in the country.  When someone tells me that we are in fly over country, all it does is drive me to prove them wrong.  Companies like Zymo Entertainment (my company) don’t get to work for Fortune 500 companies, and major brands on accident, we are as talented as any studio in the country.  It is up to us in the midwest to change that perception, and the time for that change is now!

What makes a good game – Resident Evil 4 Case Study

Resident Evil 4 is one of the games I think of when thinking about my favorite games.  It really provided a refreshing experience at the time, compared to previous Resident Evil Games, by adding a much more action based 3rd person gameplay and much more believable AI.  The overall goals of this game are simply stay alive and manage your resources, while providing a very polished and cinematic gameplay experience throughout.  The reason this game is fun is due to a couple of key elements that are executed nearly perfectly for the game; atmosphere, surprise, tension, and re-playability.

The atmosphere in Resident Evil 4 is the first thing that caught my attention.  The very detailed  buildings and environments, and the bigger environments compared to previous Resident Evil games, sets the stage for a very intense experience.  Its hard to talk about believability when referring to a game that has the player killing zombies, but in Resident Evil 4 the game portrays a world that seems alive.  As the player moves forward through the game sounds add to the life of the world, from the background music that sets the overall mood to the sound of an enemy scurrying nearby.  Another simple addition that adds to the environment is the mysterious stranger that sells the player supplies and weapons.  This stranger shows up at fixed intervals in the game, and if I remember right the game even allows you kill him which makes him a very believable addition to the game world.  As unbelievable as Resident Evil 4 is, after a few minutes of playing, the world the game creates feels like it could be real.

Surprise is an element that Resident Evil games have been using since the first game.  Resident Evil 4 is no different, there are moments in the game that actually made me jump, most notably the first encounter with the chainsaw wielding zombie.  Even the cinematics would occasionally implore quick time events to make sure the player kept his controller tightly gripped the entire time.  Surprise is a big part of keeping this game fresh for the player, there’s rarely a dull moment, and when there is, its usually just preparing you for a bigger surprise around the next corner.

Resident Evil 4 does an arguably perfect job at maintaining the tension level in the game.  I believe there are a couple major changes from previous version of Resident Evil games, and survival horror games in general that help maintain the tension level.  The first is the AI, in previous games I never really felt the zombies were alive or believable.  I will never forget the first zombie that ran at me with a crazed looked on his face.  Simple changes such as having the zombies run at the player, or jump down from a rooftop adds immensely to the tension.  Without the new 3rd person camera I would not have had the same reaction, so I think the camera change also adds more design space for pushing tension and surprise.  Even the facial animations on the enemies adds to tension of the game and believability of the enemies your facing.  The controls may feel awkward at first to anyone that’s played a 3rd person shooter, but I think the controls fit really well with the design of the game, the player can’t run and gun his way through the level, instead he has to find a safe place to fight, with the hope that nothing will attack from behind.

The game also puts effort into re-playability.  I really appreciated being able to play through the game multiple times while keeping all my previous weapons and ammo I acquired.  It may seem like a small thing to include, but I think the game really rewards the player for playing through more than once.  This was a time before Xbox Live and online games were really huge, so having this kind of reward for a single player game on the GameCube really added to my love of the game.

In the end it took a complete experience with solid gameplay, design, and presentation to make Resident Evil 4 a fun experience.  The game world felt alive, and the game did a good job of holding my attention throughout the entire game.  The complete experience and non stop “holy crap” moments kept me coming back for more.

 

Originally written in September of 2009 by Adam Larson

No App should be boring

I’ve come from years of game development into the mobile world somewhere around 3 years ago.  In that time i’ve noticed that a lot of developers still build apps like websites, heck some even use webviews to display their html pages as an app.  I understand cost, and budgets more than anyone else, but one thing I truly believe is that the days of apps being boring and successful are long gone.  This doesn’t mean you need to reinvent every app that you create, but it does mean you need to analyze apps that are successful, and those that aren’t successful.  As developers we need to realize that users become accustomed to the apps they use everyday.  Pinterest is the one I think of immediately, the world was overtaken by the Pinterest app, where now you have millions of people use to navigating their app.  This should tell us as designers and developers to pay attention to the functionality in that app because we know people understand how to use it.  Lets learn from successes and keep making minor changes, lets not revert back to making apps that function like websites.

With the power of mobile phones, apps need to be exciting, fun, and engaging, no more boring apps!

New Portfolio

You may have been following me on allgamedevelopment.com, and if so thank you for checking out my new site.  I decided to make a more focused portfolio about my experiences, and i’ll leave allgamedevelopment as it is, with its focus on problems and how I solved them.  I may post certain content on both sites, but most likely I want.  Either way welcome to my site, and feel free to contact me via email or linkedin, I love connecting with other developers.