AI tools are exploding in popularity as every company launches its version of the massive neural network. Are the days of complaining we can't center a
div finally over because we can have AI do it for us?
The Best Bits
A Cambrian Explosion of AI
AI is having its big bang moment. In the past weeks, OpenAI released GPT-4; Mozilla launched Mozilla.ai; Bing integrated with Dalle-2 with Bing Images; Adobe released Firefly; GitHub launched Copilot X; Google released Bard; and Facebook launched LLAMA.
I probably missed some because I closed my eyes for 13 seconds.
The hype is real, but the benefits are also real. While AI has been a buzzword thrown around for years, we're finally hitting an inflection point where it actually is useful.
This round of artificial intelligence is powered by large language models, that is, neural networks with billions of weights and inputs. These models are huge and take massive amounts of data to train. The end result is perfectly average; a neural network that has consumed so much information can output average responses over a wide range of topics.
Of course, average is better than 50%, and that typically makes it pretty good.
Remember, AI doesn't solve a problem itself. It's an aid. It makes previously complicated tasks easier. Coding will become easier, designing will become easier, and building products will become easier.
AI doesn't magically eliminate problems. The power needs to be integrated into existing flows to unlock the potential. Which means now is a great time to be solving those problems.
Learn to Build SaaS
This week I finished picking off the low-hanging fruit of "build a basic SaaS app from scratch," building the custom register and login page.
Execute this beautiful 1-liner in your browser console, and it will pause execution right before the page changes. Incredibly helpful when debugging network requests with a redirect, and the browser unloads the previous page requests so you can’t see what the response was.
Software is a Tool
John Carmack (creator of Doom, Quake, and lots of other great achievements) made a great point on Twitter when asked what he thought about AI obsoleting coding jobs in the future.
Software is just a tool to help accomplish something for people
Personally, while I enjoy coding, I enjoy helping people more. And AI, no-code tools, or other future tools are not going to miraculously solve all the problems people have.
Technology improvements allow engineers to build more complex things faster. This is true in every industry, from robotics to software. The products we can build now were impossible 20 years ago. And what we'll be able to make 20 years from now will be even more impressive.
But as the tooling gets better, so do user expectations. A SaaS MVP today needs to be about 10 times better than one a decade ago.
Who wins? Users do.
The low-hanging fruit of MVPs and products get eaten up by this technological advancement. You can't build a SaaS that calls your phone to remind you of appointments as your entry point to a new market. Why? Because... my phone has a free reminder app that does that. And a calendar.
But with better tools, we can now make MVPs that solve harder problems faster.
The tools unlock new possibilities.
That's why you're here. That's why I am. To take advantage of better tooling to help people solve interesting problems. Ignore the hype and focus on the practical.
Problems, in general, are never going away. So let's take advantage of the best tools we have to solve them.
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I've been updating my branding and value over the past week to better align with what I'm doing. Rather than focus on the fact that I quit corporate America to freelance (wooo!), I am focusing on the value you are getting by subscribing. Being a "solo engineer" is an implementation detail.
This is my first issue of the revamped newsletter "a Bit of SaaS!" I end up reading and thinking about this stuff all the time, so why not share it? I'll be working on the balance of news, teaching, and building.