Stories from the East is an ongoing series where I interview makers from the East, whether Eastern Europe, the Middle East, or Asia. In this edition, I chatted with Kevin Nguyen, the maker of Gekri, a privacy-first journaling app based on Blockstack. Kevin started web development back in 2010, and spends most of his time learning more and doing his best to ship high-quality software. His focus is on experience, which comes from good software performance and privacy and good user interface.

From idea to product

“In 2013, I had the idea of developing a very simple online diary to write one sentence by entry. I hadn’t any idea of journaling concepts so things were pretty simple in my mind. Unfortunately, I never took this opportunity. Then time flies until last year, July 2018. I started to journal daily. The reason why I was doing this was that I was burned out. I kept forgetting things and I felt so frustrated about this. The only way to remember was to record my day, so that was what I did. I believe that doing so helped me a lot to recover from the burn-out.”

“I used to journal in Notion. But every time I was writing, I thought about my privacy–what if someone read my writings?. This bridled what I wrote which sometimes deferred from my thoughts and this is a real issue. Then, I remembered that I read something about BlockStack in 2017. I recently decided to dive in. Blockstack allows me to provide user privacy with data encryption, ownership and decentralization.”

“Gekri is a privacy-focused online journal enhanced by many features with the intent of improving the user’s life. For example, one of the first features is the mood tracker, allowing you to record your feelings in real-time and get analytics. Then, there will be an activity tracker. In the end, you will be able to know what activity puts you in a good mood, or what happens when you are in a bad mood. With this data in mind, you can take action to improve your overall wellness.”

“I believe in web technologies which are, in my opinion, very solid. I also wanted the application to be cross-platform so I can write on the laptop before to get to work or on the mobile before to get to sleep. Hence, rather than developing an Android mobile application, then an iOS application, I decided to go with a Progressive Web Application (PWA). I use Vue/Nuxt as the main framework, TailwindCSS to build the design system, and of course, Blockstack to handle user authentication and user data. Recently on Twitter, someone has joked about Serverless with this term: Serverlessless. Currently, the Gekri application is Serverlessless.”

The benefits of journaling

“I encourage anyone to get started journaling, even if it’s to record one line per day. There are so many ways to journal, and I am studying them to implement one way or another within the application to increase your productivity. I bet that the benefits of daily journaling, in the long run, will surprise you as it surprised me. I didn’t take that long to recover from my burn-out so I may have no reason to continue journaling.”

“There are many ways to write, I can quote a few:

  • Gratitude journaling to express your gratitude
  • Freewriting to write down your thoughts
  • Get into the state of mindfulness while writing
  • Achieving your goals when you journal about your dreams and ambitions
  • Improve your communication skills

I am merely a beginner. Lately, a friend shared with me this article from Benjamin Hardy in which I discovered many things about journaling I’d have never thought about. My suggestion is to give it a try, starting with one sentence that summarizes your day, every day.”

The hard journey to growth

“I have no problem regarding the development, but I have to admit: I have zero knowledge about marketing in which I feel very uncomfortable with. I grope my way by using advice from makers with more experiences. Fajar Siddiq helped a lot with the basics:

Sam Barton gave me his vision of what he wants for Gekri. He also wrote some actual copy for the landing page. I keep sharing everything on Twitter, Gekri Telegram community, Trello roadmap to make the development more open. This way, I keep gathering feedback which gives me insights on what to do next.”

During the first two months of Gekri’s life, I had a monthly recurring cost of zero. The only cost I had was the domain name Gekri.com which just cost a few dollars using Porkbun. As I use Plausible.io for privacy-focused web analytics, I decided to upgrade for the premium subscription. It’s also my way to support awesome indie products. Gekri is part of the app mining program powered by Blockstack, which is also a sponsor of Maker Mag. The revenue varies, depending on the app ranking. The first month, Gekri ranked #33 which is equivalent to more or less $15.”

“My main goal is to craft a very good product, I am certain that the revenues will follow. There are so many things to be done for Gekri. I can see great potential for this product and hope to execute everything the right way.”

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