Goblin: 🐌s, absurd coding, The Labyrinth

Goblin: 🐌s, absurd coding, The Labyrinth
"that way goes straight to the castle!" -William the Worm from The Labyrinth

Hi Goblins 👋,

Hope you're having a good week and not doing too much running-around-frantically-preparing-for-holidays.

I've been having so much fun coding new features for the Goblin App. I have gone through periods where I forgot that I love coding because there were other things going on at jobs that clouded it, but I have been feeling the excitement and passion again lately. ❤️‍🔥

I've also been getting more involved in the Elixir/Phoenix programming community (shout out to Elixir Forum--like StackOverflow but so much friendlier) and the local Portland ME tech scene. I highly recommend joining communities (either online or in person) and engaging with others. When you're going through a hard time, it's fantastic to have built in support systems filled with people who know what you're going through.


🧐 The absurdity of coding

This is my most frequently used GIF. It's Charlie from the show It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia (full video here lol).

It perfectly shows how programming feels sometimes: like you're descending into madness

You go down a few rabbit holes looking for a solution to a problem. Sometimes you get super deep in a rabbit hole and have been coding for a couple hours and then you realize you need to go back to the last stopping point and start over... then it happens a few more times until the whole workday has passed.

When you first start programming, this feels like a failure. You think "oh I've only got 10 lines of code to show for the last 8 hours" and wonder if you're really worthy of being called a programmer at all (hello, impostor syndrome, my old friend).

As you get more experienced at programming, you start to realize that "getting things done" doesn't directly correlate to how many lines of code is written.

You realize that those times you thought you wasted 8 hours, you really accomplished a ton:

  • Identified user stories that weren't accounted for on the card from the product team
  • Figured out what existing solutions don't work and why
  • Became more familiar with that part of the codebase
  • Formed some initial thoughts on how the code was intended to work initially and why
  • Found gaps in test coverage or errors in tests
  • Started a mental outline of what needs to be done

Part of being a programmer is being okay with the hazy, gray, in between. You can't always implement things exactly how people want on a strict timeline. At times, it feels extremely difficult and you have to literally sit in a dark room talking to a yellow rubber duck and if that fails, you may have to leave for the night without resolving the thing you're trying to fix. Sometimes the job is trying to get two different business people on the same page or figure out which stakeholder can actually make a decision. You'll have days where you go to standup and you have to say "still trying to figure out X" and feel like you should have more progress to share.

If you can embrace the difficult, non-linear progress, it's often fun and rewarding. You savor the times that you "did the thing" and you curse the bug from 12 years ago that you never did end up figuring out.

There's always something new to learn.

🎰 New Feature: Daily Mini Games

Before I explain this feature, I must first reference this hilarious scene from the Labyrinth

Each day, you'll be prompted by your Hype Goblin to do the daily mini game. There are 3 doors and you choose one by clicking on it. Behind each door, there is 1 of 3 things:

  • A custom mad-libs-esque story about you on a heros journey
  • Between 1-10 snails for your rucksack. What are snails? I don't know yet. I'm thinking you can use them to do things like change your Hype Goblin to a different character or choose a Goblin for your own avatar. I'm looking forward to hear what the beta testers want to do with their snails. For now, you're just hoarding them. (FYI people are kinda going bonkers for the snails which brings me great joy)
  • A whimsical GIF

Note that it's not always the same type of prize behind each door (e.g. if you choose Door 1 and get snails, you might choose door 1 tomorrow and get something else, or it might be more snails).

preview of the new Daily Mini Game page

💻 Build in Public Updates


  • 3 monthly paid subscribers ($15 MRR). This might sound small, but as a programmer who is terrified of sales this is a huge achievement for me and I'm completely thrilled.
  • On track to release public beta in early 2023.

Where we learned from customers

  • Being whimsical and fun is valuable
  • People need different things at different times (e.g. if you're going through a period of writers block, you might want timers/time blocking to hold you accountable, but once you're out of your writers block you may not want that feature anymore), which can correlate to whether they become daily active users or not
  • People want to feel like they're making progress towards their larger goals in life

What we shipped

Here's what we've done in a little over a week:

  • the above-mentioned snail-laden Daily Mini Game
  • completed re-coded the onboarding process
  • added a "Plan Your Day" feature that lets you quickly select your tasks for today and hide the rest for later
  • added a "Today" filter that shows: 1) tasks you selected for today in the Plan Your Day page and 2) tasks you completed today
  • re-styled the Sidequests (tasks) section to be less confusing and nicer to look at
  • added copy re: what Goblin is to the marketing site goblinapp.com
a wild mantis appears in the app


We are starting to let people in off the waitlist, but we are trying to monitor how the changes in the onboarding flow are affecting users so it's going to be staggered. It's going to be soon though! Note that for private beta users, a subscription is not being enforced yet, but if you want to start a $5/month subscription now to support Goblin's development you can do that here.

THANK YOU! Yes, you. I appreciate you so much for reading my newsletter.


(P.S. extra special thank yous to Milly from Generalist.world, Paul from SparknUp, Brian from TaskOS, and Anna from Kradl for their support over the last week)

Joke for those following the Twitter drama