OK, I know I mentioned a few days ago that I was putting some finishing touches on another web service, and was thinking about releasing it in the next couple weeks. Well, in the principle of releasing early and often, I’m making Ponyfish public today.

Ponyfish comes from an idea that I’d been tossing around in my head for a while. I use RSS to keep up with new articles on almost all the sites I frequent on a regular basis, and find it to be a much more efficient way to use the web. I would get frustrated when I came across an interesting site that didn’t provide an RSS feed, or provided one but didn’t quite contain the content I was interested in. (By the way, if you’re not familiar with RSS, or don’t know why you should be using it, scroll down to the bottom of the Ponyfish FAQ for an explanation.)

Over the course of a few months I had written a handful of scripts to scrape web pages and create RSS feeds that I stored locally. They were all fairly hacked together, and definitely didn’t have the user interface that Ponyfish does. I kept coming across new sites I wanted to create a feed for, but was getting tired of writing yet another script to accomplish the job. So, as all lifelong programmers do periodically, I tried to save myself some time by developing some software, and of course ended up spending probably 10x as much time developing Ponyfish than I would have had I stuck to what I was doing before.

I was also spurred by the fact that I had a hard time finding a solution out there that did what Ponyfish does, much less a decent one. The only similar service I found seemed pretty confusing to use, and it didn’t work at all for the handful of sites I’d created custom feeds for. I was pretty surprised by this, as even though RSS is a very niche thing right now, it’s growing quickly in popularity. I would have been overjoyed to find a good solution before setting out to develop Ponyfish, and a couple people that I pinged about it a while ago seemed to feel the same way.

In all, I really enjoyed this project. First of all, it’s dog food that I love eating, and secondly, the development process was fun and challenging. There were some key areas of functionality behind the scenes that I struggled with originally, to the point where several times I nearly gave up and wrote the project off as impossible. I also spent a lot of time with the user interface, and it was fun to indulge in more Ajax and JavaScript effects than I had in previous projects.

However, from a business standpoint I’m not sure that there’s as much revenue potential with this project as with Formstack. I could see there being more users, but there’s less of an incentive for them to upgrade to a paid plan. But I have a few ideas up my sleeve, so let’s just say that my business model is a work in progress right now.

I expect I’ll write more later about the launch. In the meantime, let me know what you think, especially if you have some ideas for improvements.

[Updated references to Formstack to prevent confusion about the name change]

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