Mondy

07/07/17

In 2013 when I was 20 I took a CS class at Brown where we learned Racket and OCaml. At the same time I was reading Learn You A Haskell For Great Good (by reco from my dad). I have strong memories of trying to wrap my mind for the first time around concepts like recursion and functional programming. It was a great time of my life. I owe a lot to that class.

While I was taking that class I was also working on a project that had been in my head since the previous summer, which I spent interning at CloudMine. I had been working with vector graphics on their home page and got really interested in SVG and how difficult it was to compose good vector graphics for the web.

So I figured it would be fun to implement an SVG editor. This ended up lining up really well with the functional programming class at Brown and they both informed each other.

After working on it for a year in my spare time I got exhausted and open sourced it. Now, in retrospect, the code sucks. But back then it was the best code I had ever written. And the people looking didn't spend the time it would take to figure out that it sucks. So it got a lot of attention.

As it turns out the tool is not very useful - it's buggy and has extremely limited functionality. It also falls short when it comes to correctness, which is important for something like an SVG program. The novelty of it was enough to get a lot of articles around the net for a week or two, but traffic slowly died down to about 100 pageviews per day (which has been consistent for the last 3 years). As far as the internet is concerned, mondrian.io is a dead end domain.

I learned a lot from building it though. And the same month I open sourced I moved right on to the next thing, which turned out to be Cryptowatch.

After 2 years I sold that to Kraken and now I work for them, which is great. I love my job and I'm proud to see my creation ascend to a higher status than the last one. Many people use Cryptowatch every day and I get emails from them all the time telling me how much they like it. It's a good feeling.

I learned a lot from building that, too. And now I can't help but go back and look at Mondrian again, and when I do I notice that 3 years later I still don't see anything like what I was trying to build. For anyone wishing to compose vector graphics there's only a few options:

  1. Pay to use Illustrator
  2. Use Inkscape for free, which is cluttered and difficult to learn
  3. Use svg-edit or some other shit, which is even worse than Inkscape

Even with Illustrator I have a lot of issues with UX-wise. It's a very good piece of software all things considered but it's overkill for most use cases and it suffers from years of feature creep.

Basically, Illustrator is the Microsoft Word of vector graphics but nobody has built the Google Docs version. A simpler, web-based, free-to-use editor that fulfills the 20% of needs that matter 80% of the time. Add on some backend functionality and charge for that and you've got a lifestyle business (and possibly a very valuable piece of software).

I'm honestly surprised Google hasn't built it, and now I hope they still aren't because I am. I'm shifting my spare-time focus back to Mondrian. I've started an overhaul of the interface engine and corrected a lot of the "hard parts" college me skipped over the first time because they weren't fun to work on. I plan to deploy the new version sometime before the end of this summer, and pursue that as a software business farther out in the future. The new version will be closed source.

With each project I've had personal growth goals. With Mondrian #1, it was learning how to structure and deploy a serious web project. With Cryptowatch, it was learning how to build a proper backend with high reliablity and strong security. There was also the entire challenge of building a monthly subscription software business. Now with Mondrian #2 and all of that under my belt, my growth focus is software correctness and a more complex level of algorithmic programming. I bought some books and I'm determined to keep challenging myself.

When I dropped out of RISD and started a career in software to feed my newborn kid I had a feeling like I was giving up on being an artist. But now I think that was wrong. I have treated my projects as works of art and slaved over them as such. I feel like an artist after all.

AMZN loss

06/27/17

I just closed out of a shitty position on AMZN and want to reflect on it so I don't repeat the mistake. Overall I lost about $20k, or 8% of my account (just like during the election)

Mistake #1: terrible entry point. I bought in at $996, which at the time was AMZN's peak. I think at its highest it has only reached $1015 since. In order for my position to work, AMZN would have had to keep hitting new highs for a month or two.

Mistake #2: way too much exposure. I basically went all-in on AMZN. Not methodical at all. As an added bonus, soon after I opened the position Goldman took a huge shit on the tech sector. The guy who sold me my calls must have been celebrating.

Mistake #3: greed. This is related to #2. I completely ignored/forgot about my personal goal of 3% gain per month, which I have been making consistently since I set the goal after my last big loss during election season. Aiming for a modest return works; greed doesn't.

As a footnote on #1 and #2, after the tech sink I was writing on reddit that I was really tempted to buy more when it was down at ~$950, because it was "on sale". This would have been a good entry point. I didn't do it because I was aware of how risky it would have been to expose myself to it even more, but this is the kind of entry point I need to look for. Having my account mostly in cash makes me anxious because of FOMO, but it's a total fallacy. My account loses money much slower when it's in cash than when I open a half-assed position.

XIV: Side note, I don't fucking understand XIV. It's like helium. I'm going to stick to trading that since that was working well and was not exposed to bad news cratering it the way AMZN got rammed by Goldman this month. VIX is way too low to buy right now I think, going to wait for another dip...

Hedging Against Watergate

05/17/17

Trump really is as dumb as they warned us. Last week when he fired Comey I thought to myself, "this won't end well" and after the market kept stable for a day or two I bought 5 SPX May 26 2380 puts (SPXW 170524 P 2380). Cost basis is $6,358.42.

It wasn't particularly calculated - I just had roughly that much cash sitting idle so I moved it into a puts position that had a couple weeks to breathe. Just bought the fuckers with a market order.

For the next several days the market edged up and my puts deteriorated, to the point where I was down about 75%. Yesterday I thought about selling them and cutting my losses but decided to stick to my guns and let the position run its course. Well, today I was vindicated in doing so as the market fell over 1.5%.

Part of the reason I'm writing this post is to highlight how effective options can be for hedging. My portfolio is very simple right now:

Ticker              Qty       Cost basis
AMZN                100       $93,799.45
FB                  600       $89,866.95
GOOG                100       $92,605.98
SPXW 170524 P 2380  5         $6,358.42
Today, with the bloodbath from the Comey memo, the end-of-day change was:
Ticker             Abs           Percent
AMZN               -$2,131.00    -2.21%
FB                 -$2,958.00    -3.29%
GOOG               -$2,338.00    -2.48%
SPXW170524P2380    +$11,450.00   +618.92%
                   +$4,023.00    +1.42%
So a $6000 position protected my entire portfolio from a 2.5% drop - I actually made 1.4%. Of course the puts trade was purely based on gut instinct that the market has been on thin ice and I just as easily could have been wrong, but I feel good about the fact that I stuck with my original trade plan and it's working out how I expected. You can't control whether you're right but you can control how consistent you are. And no I haven't sold yet.

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