What I’m doing now
This is a “now” page. Learn more here. You should make one, too! Scroll down on this page to learn more about any of these things.
- Credit Card Insider — A website and YouTube channel to help people learn how they can use credit to their advantage.
- Snag Free Samples — An email newsletter and website that help people find the best freebies and free samples that show up around the Internet every day.
- Pee & See — An iOS and Apple Watch app that helps people remember to drink water using reminders based on when they last peed.
- Podcasts — I do a journal podcast, where I just talk about my day and random topics. It’s sort of like an audio blog. I also do a music mix podcast, where I DJ and mix songs together on my iPad or with Traktor.
- Cooking — Teaching myself how to cook more things so I have a healthier diet and life.
- Creating Space — I try to find ways I can create free space during the day to allow for creativity. This is usually a ~1 hour walk or hike in the afternoon, or just sitting down with a coffee, blank notepad, and good pen.
- Dating — I don’t have a girlfriend right now, but I’d like to get married and have a family some time in the next decade or so, so I always like meeting new people.
Things I did in the past, and may come back to
- Shower Reviews — I made some videos reviewing showers on YouTube, because I appreciate a good shower.
- ArmoryCam.com — A webcam that broadcasts live from my apartment in Syracuse, NY.
- Photo Find — An iOS app I made that shows you exactly where a photo was taken based on GPS data embedded in the photo so you can walk back on foot. It was initially created for foraging wild foods in the woods.
- Timelapse App Concept — An iOS app I built during Hack Upstate Spring 2016 to perceive motion of things that move to slowly to see with the naked eye. I haven’t released it in the App Store, but may at some point.
More about this page
This page is my own take on the “now” page idea. Scroll down to learn more about the projects I’m working on now, things I worked on in the past and may come back to again, and other things I did in the past.
It also includes an overview of all kinds of projects I’ve done over the years. Some of them were on my own, and some of them were in collaboration with other people. Some were businesses, and others weren’t. Everything on this page played a big part in my education and had an impact on everything that came after it.
This page was last updated on June 6, 2016. I plan to add more old projects to it and evolve it over time.
To get exclusive updates about these projects, my life, and more, join my personal email list.
Timeline of Current and Previous Projects
Here’s more about most of the projects listed above. They’re roughly in reverse chronological order based on when they were started, regardless of if I’m still working on them now.
Timelapse App Concept (2016)
I made this at Spring 2016 Hack Upstate hackathon with Joe Arcuri. The concept is that there is motion happing all around us that’s too slow to perceive with the naked eye , but timelapses require recording a long video then playing it back at a faster speed.
Originally, I had this idea while building a fire in a wood burning stove and watching the temperature gauge. I knew it was moving slowly, but wanted to figure out a way I could perceive it’s motion. I wanted to test the concept of seeing a timelapse in as close to “real time” as possible. Here’s a quick demo of what we build during the 24 hours:
I really appreciate a good shower, so I started making reviews of showers I use.
A simple webcam website. There’s a webcam pointing out the window of the apartment where I live in the Armory Square neighborhood of Syracuse, NY so people can check the weather and parking. Read more about it here »
While hiking, I wanted to be able to navigate back to cool spots I found and to wild foods that were not big enough to harvest yet. I had been taking pictures of them, and I knew every picture had GPS coordinates saved with it, but I couldn’t find a good interface for navigating back to those coordinates in the woods.
This concept went through several iterations before finally becoming my first app in the Apple App Store.
The screenshot here was taken during the prototype process. iOS is still very new to me, so I could only do a little at a time. The version pictured would show the phone’s current location and compass heading, and would allow the user to pick a photo, which would just be displayed on the screen.
The first version of the app launched on November 15, 2014. There have been several updates since then. In the latest version, released in December 2015, you can tap the distance remaining to the destination to see where the photo was taken on a map. Download the iOS app here »
This last picture is just an awesome picture from a hike in late September 2014 with Casey and Brendan. If you click the image then save the full size version, you will be able to navigate to it with Photo Find! This was actually the first day the Pee & See prototype device was discussed.
A simple app I made for myself to track how often I urinate so I can make sure I’m staying hydrated. I’ve been using my 30 minutes of daily iOS development time to work on an iPhone app version of this.
- Pee & See in the App Store
- Why Pee & See is better on the Apple Watch than iPhone (Medium post)
- Post about the original Pee & See concept
- Post about using retention and growth features to grow the app
The idea is you create and maintain an inventory of all the electronics you own. For anything you’d be willing to sell, you click the “For Sale” checkbox and it becomes a public listing.
For example, I have a bunch of extra HDMI cables around. I want to keep track of them for my own sanity, so I know what I have at any time, but I also want to make those extra cables available to people locally so they don’t have to go buy a new one at retail price from Best Buy, or wait for shipping from Amazon.
The idea is to price each item based on your willingness to part with it. For example, I might have a projector worth $400 in my inventory, but the work for me to replace it would not be trivial, so I may include it in my inventory for $500.
Truthfully, this is based on a concept I’ve been thinking about since around 2007 and never user-tested. DeviceKnit came close, but we never built the marketplace features.
More about this project soon… For now, you can browse the prototype here. If you live in the Syracuse, NY area and want to try it out sign up then email me and I’ll approve your account.
For a while I was just calling this an “inventory system,” but that didn’t describe it very well, so recently I bought the domain name HaveButNotUsing.com and started using that for it.
Credit Card Insider is a place for people to learn about how to use credit cards responsibly and to their advantage. Check out the YouTube channel.
A directory of high quality free sample and freebie offers. See Snag Freebies below for more history on this.
Wakeboarding Behind the Jeep (2011)
This one is pretty self explanatory. Ryan Cummiskey, Mike Pontecorvo, and I found this road next to a reservoir.
GE OMD Incubator (2011)
In the summer of 2011 I participated in the GE OMD Incubator program at OMD at their main office in New York City. I met some great people there, both who worked in OMD’s Ignition Factory running the program, and other participants in the program. I’ll add more about this time and what I learned in the future. If you were in this incubator with me get in touch and I’ll share what you’re working on now! Some people and memories about the GE OMD Incubator:
- Will Dennis — I remember Will bit the bullet and started learning Rails to build the prototype of Spinlister himself instead of outsourcing the development, which is an approach I really liked.
- Peter Pelberg — Peter actually started working in the OMD Ignition Factory after the incubator program, where he helped organize the OMD | Spotify Hackathon. He’s currently working on Jot in San Francisco, CA. Check out this TEDx Talk he gave about Yog, a running app that he started during the OMD Incubator.
- Alan Cohen, Trevor Guthrie, Jon Haber, Marc Simons — These guys opened my eyes to a world of media and advertising that I never knew before. They were very successful launching the Ignition Factory at OMD and in 2013 started their own agency, Giant Spoon. In 2014, they won MediaPost’s Creative Agency of the Year award.
- Dave Altarescu — I remember Dave interviewing me for the incubator. He would have been like our camp counselor if all the incubator participants were summer campers. Dave was a huge part of the Ignition Factory at OMD, and was our main liaison to the world of media that was so new to all of us in the incubator. He’s since gone on to be the Director of New Market Development at Spotify.
The concept was to create something like an “etsy for electronics” (like Grand St., which came several years later). I had always been a huge fan of open hardware and sites like etsy, so I wanted to get involved. Most of my work here was PHP with the CakePHP framework (I inherited codebase from some overseas developers… which was a terrible idea for that project). I left after I lost confidence in the team’s competence.
Snag Freebies (2011)
My friend Eric Adamowsky had some freebie sites, and got me into the space when he gave me the domain SnagFreebies.com. Building up this site was a huge learning experience. I ended up starting SnagFreeSamples.com later under a different company, which still exists today. I still want to do something with the Snag Freebies brand so this may coming back as an iOS app at some point.
While living in Pittsburgh in 2010, I got a job valet parking cars to make some extra loot on the side, and because I like cars and always wanted to be a valet for a while.
The first day on the job, Jordan Weichel, the other valet, told me he had an idea for a website. I told him I could build websites, and since there was wifi and lots of downtime where we valeted, we wireframed it my first night there. Rails 3 was pretty new at the time, and I wanted an excuse to brush up on my Rails skills, so I got going on that and by my third night on the job we had a working prototype.
Since Jordan went to Pitt, it gained a lot of momentum there quickly and started to spread around the country. In the Fall of 2010, Four Loko was at its peak, right before there was major legislation that mandated removal the energy ingredients from pre-packaged alcoholic drinks. This tweet from Fast Company was a major accelerator of the growth:
Great debate in the comments of our Four Loko story: http://bit.ly/cb6odq Nothing nearly as entertaining as this: http://bit.ly/9khCQ6
— Fast Company (@FastCompany) November 3, 2010
I was able to customize the sharing of stories enough, too, so whenever someone Liked a story on Facebook an excerpt of the story with an optimized title and image would show up. Based on referral traffic, Facebook sharing and liking was a huge source of growth. I think the peak of this project was when it got mentioned on CNN: It never made much money or anything, but this was a fun project that’s still up today.
I was always fascinated by music production, and especially the technology around early hip-hop that helped shape different sounds. After the Daily Beat Podcast, I wanted to try making an mixtape of remixes with beats I made. Most of these beats were made around the same time with this specific project in mind. It was originally designed to be a gapless album, and I burned it on a few CDs that way. If you want me to send it to you, email me. It got taken down from SoundCloud.
DeviceKnit was like a cookbook for gadgets. This was a huge learning experience and lots of fun. The original concept came out of the Resource Management System concept I thought about a lot from 2006-2008. More about DeviceKnit is coming soon. For now, check out this article from 2010. Also, I still have a bunch of DeviceKnit shirts left over. If anyone wants a piece of history email me let me know!
Craigstweets, Feedeeter (2009)
Jordan Messina and I started this project back in 2009 to deliver basic alerts for new items on Craigslist via Twitter, and it was called Craigstweets. Later, it was made more versatile to provide Twitter, SMS, or emails alerts for any RSS feed and renamed Feedeeter.
The DailyBeat Podcast (2008)
When I was first diving more into music production, I created the DailyBeat Podcast. The concept was that I would spend a few hours each morning creating a basic song in Logic, then I would upload the MP3 and Logic Pro files, so anyone could take it from there and use it how he or she wished (open source beats). There was a companion Rails app (pictured below) that allowed visitors to play each beat, vote beats up or down, download the source Logic Pro file for the beat from Amazon S3, and upload his or her own revision to it, which could then also be voted up or down. I did it for the full month of May 2008, but since I never promoted it before, during, or after, the site didn’t really get any traction.
Resource Management System Concept (2007)
Where do I start? I don’t know whether it was fueled by coffee, or downtime at Smith Barney with a pen and blank paper in front of me, but this soon consumed a ton of my brain cycles. I’ll add more about this whole concept later. Some of this later turned into DeviceKnit. Some of the other concepts I was first thinking about then are now being brought to life by Plethora, my friend Nick Pinkston’s company, so I’m excited to watch that and see how they do.
Citi Smith Barney (2007)
It’s not a project, but I thought I’d put it in here anyway… Someone I used to detail cars for is a Financial Advisor in Syracuse, NY, where I grew up. I worked as an intern in a cubicle with a tie and uncomfortable shoes from 8am to 5pm. This was a big learning experience, and one of the biggest things it showed me is that I never wanted to live the corporate lifestyle. Another lesson I learned is that many big corporations are incredibly inefficient. Seeing everything from people not knowing basic computer skills like keyboard shortcuts (which compounds into hours of wasted time) to maintaining paper records was eye-opening, as I took many of these efficiencies for granted before my time here.
Multimedia Management System (2006)
Pretty bad name. There was never a version released, just several different components that were built. The general concept was this: two centralized queues, one for video and one for audio. These queues would be accessible from a number of devices, would remember your current file and its playback position, and changes in queue order would also be reflected across devices. You would be able to easily add items to your queue from anywhere on the web with a bookmarklet or a badge a publisher could put on the site (an Add to Queue button). Upload was also available, to upload media files directly or a torrent file. You could also subscribe to RSS feeds of content or RSS feeds of torrents (like the ones The Pirate Bay provided at the time) to be added to your queue as new items became available. Once a media file was in the system, a modified version of BitTorrent (along with some seeds on Amazon EC2, when needed) would ensure that it would be streamed efficiently among users of the app. This would reduce bandwidth and, as I naively thought at the time, allow copyrighted content to stay in the system and immune to DMCA takedown requests by using Distributed Hash Tables, since I would have no way to remove it once it was in there. At the time, the closest competitor was Odeo, which actually ended up leading to something called Twitter. The closest thing I can find to this now is Popcorn Time. I use Instacast for podcasts at the time of writing, but I still feel that is lacking, mainly because their queue does not persist across devices.
$5 Beach Piano (2006)
After buying the Hammond Organ on eBay for $12.50, I was inspired to check eBay for more large keyboard instruments. In May 2006, I found this cabinet grand piano with a starting bid of $5. I placed a bid, and was the only bidder at the end of the auction. Once again, Ryan and I borrowed his dad’s truck to head West on the thruway. We showed up at the sellers house and discovered the piano weighed about 600lbs. This was about twice as much as the organ. With the help of the guy selling it, Ryan’s father, and simple machines, we were able to load it into the truck. The plan with this piano was to take to to Ryan’s family’s camp on Lake Ontario and put it on the beach. We headed right there after picking it up, and unloaded the piano as the sun set. The pictures from the Sony Ericsson phone I had at the time did not turn out very well in low light, so I left them out. We had to build a little foundation and support for the piano so it would be stable on the sand, but luckily Ryan and his dad Joe are a great engineering and construction team. We didn’t really have a plan for what would happen with this piano, especially at the end of the summer. It had some issues, like a cracked sound board, and it was out of tune, but it was still a lot of fun. We would play it at bonfires, sometimes with a guitar, too. One of my greatest memories of this piano was a time Ryan and I were out on a boat on Lake Ontario and one of his neighbors stopped at the piano during a walk down the beach to play some Lynyrd Skynyrd songs. The out-of-tune piano echoed eerily far out onto the water, and sounded amazing. The piano was built in 1904 by a Rochester, NY company called Armstrong. Given the year, we assume the many tiny moving parts were assembled by hand, and that the flowers painted inside were done by hand, as well. At first, Ryan and I thought it made sense to try to at least preserve the piano a little until we decided what was next for it. When not in use, we’d secure a tarp to the piano with a “KEEP OUT” sign. Eventually, though, we realized this wasn’t doing much to battle the elements and that it should just be accessible for anyone to use. By the end of the summer of 2006, the piano was becoming quite warped and less playable. We doused the piano is gasoline and lit it on fire:
The worst name, and I can’t remember how we came up with it. This was the first site I built with Jordan Messina. It was in 2006 right as we were getting into “Web 2.0” and feature-rich web “apps” rather than just web “sites” and “pages.” We had a lot of trouble deciding what should count as a web “app” and what was just a web “site.” Limnap was built in straight PHP with no framework, so that was definitely a learning experience, even though it was barely maintainable. The design was AMAZING, as you can see above in one of the screenshots Jordan sent me with some feedback. Oh yeah, and we had no way to get traction… If I had to pick something similar to this now it would probably be ProductHunt. I actually just found the source code for Limnap, so if I can find a database backup I’ll probably throw it on a server somewhere so people can check it out.
Hammond M-102 (2005)
In 2005 I bought a Hammond M-102 tonewheel organ on eBay for $12.50. It was made in 1966. This was a great project for me to learn about music and engineering from previous decades. I made a blog with Apple iWeb when I first got the organ detailing the work I did on it. I still have this organ and recently (nine years after I bought it) moved it from my parents’ house to my apartment in downtown Syracuse, NY.
New home for the #hammond #organ A photo posted by John Ganotis (@gohnjanotis) on
For more about this organ, check out the old blog I made on Apple iWeb about here.
Car Detailing (2004)
I worked at Delta Sonic for a few months in high school. I didn’t like it because most of my income relied on tips, and since I was doing interiors I could only do about 4 or 5 cars per hour. Often, my managers would tell me I needed to work faster, but I hated that tradeoff because it often meant I would not be able to clean the interiors to my standards.
I decided that if I found some clients myself, I’d be able to make a lot more money, set my own hours, and, most importantly, take my time to be proud of the service I deliver. Check out this screenshot from an early website I had for it:
At one point I even dabbled in having someone else work for me for the first time, and it was one of my first explorations into developing a written process to set standards and deliver consistency to a customer.
The Ben and John Show (1999)
For 4 years, I had a public access show with my friend Ben Johns. I’ll add more about this soon.