Blank Karnaugh Map – How One Search Keyword Changed my Way of Thinking

3 Years ago, I wrote a blog post titled “I Heart Karnaugh Maps.” In it, I described a technique that can be used to reduce the complexity of Boolean expressions. I provided sample diagrams as I worked through the technique step by step. In one of them, I added an alt tag of “Blank Karnaugh Map” to describe the starting point of the whole process. Little did I know that defining such a targeted search keyword would alter my perspective about Internet search traffic.

Blank Karnaugh Maps

That blog post has always ranked in the top 20% of all my posts in terms of page views, largely due to the one keyword.

Among my blog’s highest ranking keywords are:

4th “Blank Karnaugh Map”

9th “Karnaugh Map”

12th “Blank Karnaugh Maps”

I first learned about Karnaugh Maps as a programming tool in my undergraduate studies at The Ohio State University. In Math 366: “Discrete Mathematics with Applications” I learned:

  • Mathematical formalization and reasoning, logic, and Boolean algebra
  • Sets, functions, relations, recursive definitions, and mathematical induction
  • Elementary counting principles

In order to refresh my knowledge before my blog post, I read an Electronics book. In neither the book nor the course do I remember a specific need for blank karnaugh maps or images of blank karnaugh maps. Therefore, as time passed, I was lead to wonder, why do so many people need blank karnaugh maps?

Has an Opportunity Presented Itself?

I had a few conversations with fellow software developers who were intrigued by my Karnaugh Map post. Apparently, Karnaugh Maps were drawing more interest than I expected and my site was getting found by people looking to know more about them. I decided to brainstorm ways I could leverage this interest into a software product I could sell. I figured people were already coming to my blog to find information about Karnaugh Maps and software development tips. Wouldn’t a product that uses this technology to improve code be useful to my readers? I decided to call it Logic Reducer.

The Market

By no means am I a good Internet marketer. However, I had recently signed up for the Micropreneur Academy and was learning the value of performing market research before beginning product development. I wanted to make sure that I could plausibly make a profit based on the number of potential users and competition. I used three high-level approaches in my research.

Quantity of Internet Searches

There are various methods to research how many people are looking for a particular topic online. I used Micro Niche Finder to determine that “Karnaugh Maps” was being searched about 1,600 times per month. While this is not a lot, I was encouraged by the quantity of searches of some of the longer-tail keywords and the relative ease with which my website could potentially rank for them.

Occupational Statistics

In order to gauge the number of potential users for my product, I researched U.S. employment data. I estimated there were about 800,000 computer engineers and 200,000 hardware engineers in the United States. These numbers were very encouraging.

Competition

Using Google, I found several applications on the Web that had the features I wanted to build. Many of them were free. However, in reading related forums, it seemed like they often failed because they froze up or had a very limited feature set. Additionally, I did not find any on the Internet that were newer than 2006. Most of the applications were downloadable, thick clients. They were lacking the advantages of being Web products.

Karnaugh Map Minimizer on SourceForce gets .5K hits/day

Logic Minimizer 1.2.1

Karnaugh Map – minimalization software

In 2010, smart phone app stores appeared to still be growing rapidly. I was leaning toward making an iPhone app that could be used as a companion to someone writing software on a personal computer. I found a few apps that already existed:

KarnCalc $.99

Karnaugh Map Optimizer $.99

Logic Shrinker –Free-

While a few cheap apps already existed, I liked that there were not yet any iPad apps. Also, one review of an app stated that if Boolean Simplification (a feature I planned to develop) were included, he would pay 7 or 8 dollars for the app. My findings did not deter me from moving forward to the next step.

How far Did I Go?

I liked that there were potentially many users of my idea. However, there were already very affordable ways to accomplish what I was considering my main value proposal. Therefore, I moved forward cautiously. I was optimistic, so I secured the domain name LogicReducer.com. However, I was concerned that there wasn’t enough market interest so I looked for validation of my idea.

I wanted to have a designer mockup my ideas so I could more clearly describe them. I got a quote from an offshore design agency for 4 screen mockups and 1 logo. It was going to cost $500.

I asked more people about what they thought regarding my idea. The general response was that people were intrigued by the product being a Boolean logic reducer. However, I also posted to the forums in the Micropreneur Academy and multiple people voiced some warnings. They felt it catered to too small of a niche, that I would not be able to gain enough revenue to make the project worthwhile.

I decided to stop working toward building Logic Reducer at that point. I was scared by the surprisingly high $500 investment for mockups and the concerns about the niche.

What Will I Do Next Time?

All in all, I did not spend very much time or money determining if Logic Reducer would be a good product to build, especially when compared to the time it would have taken to complete it and watch it fail. My blog content had exposed a tiny sliver of opportunity on the Internet. I researched that sliver and determined that I couldn’t make enough money from it for it to be worth my time.

However, I still think this is a good strategy for finding business ideas. Bloggers and content producers who have the ability to use analytics to see what topics are of interest to readers can use that knowledge to find problems in the world. Were I to find another surprisingly popular search keyword, I would research related business opportunities similar to how I did it before.

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Top 5 Cities to Earn as an IT Employee

Having lived in the Midwest my entire life, the idea of moving to a big city, with its increased cost of living, was overwhelming. Nonetheless, over the past several years I’ve fantasized about living and working in different US cities. There are many good reasons to move across the country (away from family): Moving To New Cities

  • Startup Hubs (e.g. Silicon Valley)
  • Top Notch Universities (e.g. The Research Triangle)
  • Better Weather (e.g. Southern California)
  • Better Geography (e.g. near the Ocean or Mountains)
  • Access to Specific Industries (e.g. Fashion in New York)

However, the cost of living difference between cities (and the decreasing value of my salary) have always been at the forefront of my thoughts.

One way I tried to overcome my hesitation to move was with research. Using Salary.com, I calculated the increase in cost of living compared to my current city. This helped me to analyze just how much more it would cost to live somewhere else. The ratios were drastic, yet I knew I had to be missing something.

As a software developer, I’ve been using Robert Half Technology’s Salary Guides throughout my professional career as a way to compare my own salary against the average developer in my hometown. They’re a great resource. After all, they’ve been creating the guides since 1950.

I soon realized that the cost of living changes are not created equal for all careers. Likewise, a developer that moves to a technology hub will get paid more in that location. The more important ratio to analyze is very simple: %Salary Difference – %Cost of Living Difference. A more positive number is therefore better.

Results

I compared 105 cities that had ratings in the 2 guides above. Using Cincinnati, OH (my current location) as the comparison, I came up with several big cities that actually have a positive impact on salary value.

Best value cities for someone in IT

 

Locale

Salary Vs Cincinnati %

Cost of Living %

Difference

Houston, TX

106.7

95.4

11.3

Salt Lake City, UT

102.6

92.7

9.9

Memphis, TN

97.4

93.3

4.1

Raleigh, NC

106.7

104.2

2.5

Austin, TX

106.2

104.3

1.9

 

The worst values were also highly interesting

 

Locale

Salary Vs Cincinnati %

Cost of Living %

Difference

Honolulu, HI

94.4

189.7

-95.3

New York, NY

144.6

203.7

-59.1

Washington, DC

133.3

176.7

-43.4

San Francisco, CA

139.0

180.3

-41.3

San Diego, CA

117.9

156

-38.1

 

Conclusion

I must admit I am rather surprised by this list in which I also discovered that Cincinnati ranks #9 out of the 105 cities. Perhaps the reason my instinct is to stay put is because I’ve been pretty spoiled.

Don’t Be Lured by the Fringe Benefits

It seems common for software developers to question their career direction after several years of experience. I have gathered through my own feelings and conversations with others that there is a point in one’s career, usually after about 4 years, at which one wonders how long he or she can continue to build business application after business application. What once was challenging and exciting has become repetitive and mundane because the pace of learning has greatly decreased. The motivation to create yet another CRUD application (one that is categorized because it only involves the most typical business functions: Create, Read, Update, Delete) has been lost, resulting in many introspective hours staring out the window thinking about greener pastures.

What can be done to renew the sense of excitement and urgency that comes from developing something new? Myself, I thought that working in a “cool” industry that I was already interested in would solve the issue. I figured I already loved sports and casinos. If I got a development job in those industries it would make the dull tasks less dull. I would be able to tell myself, “Well, I hate clicking through smoke tests again but at least everything is sports-related!”

Roulette CasinoBaseball StatueFashion Industry

Posted by Heather Clemons
Posted by wallyg

Having worked at an Information Technology (IT) department for a professional baseball team before, I figured I would be able to leverage my experience and professional network to get an interesting new job. Granted, my work there was more of an internship than anything, but a role in such high demand serves as a recognizable selection process and it has been a great conversation topic during job interviews. It was a wonderful overall experience and I appreciated the opportunity. Therefore, I focused on new jobs with professional sports teams, video game development companies, and casinos.

Casino – For someone going to school in the middle of Ohio, I spent a lot of weekend time in college at casinos. I enjoyed Black Jack and was constantly searching for the perfect system to make money. I even wanted to be a professional poker player for a little while. I also toyed with the idea of taking a winter off to learn to be a Black Jack dealer. There is something about fiddling with those heavy clay chips that is both riveting and relaxing at the same time.

Sabermetrics – Growing up I was obsessed with baseball and individual player statistics. I played on a baseball team and played board games like Strat-o-matic. I made my own scoring sheets and even used to make my own player cards to represent my friends in the board game. During my job search, I joined SABR, the Society for American Baseball Research, and immersed myself into baseball statistics again thinking I could become a full-time statistician or statistical application developer.

At this particular time in my life, I knew I was moving out of state, so I figured it was a perfect time to make an industry change. However, at the time I was not comfortable with the prospect of not getting paid so I took one of the first jobs that was offered to me until something else presented itself. A funny thing happened at that company. As it was a small software product company, I learned that the environment there was close to what I had wanted all along. It was an old company by software standards, but it still had a “startup feel.” I learned what I wanted and what would keep me motivated:

  • The transparency of a small company makes it easier to absorb new knowledge about other business functions (e.g. Marketing or Recruiting)
  • There is a shorter feedback loop from working at a small company. This creates more accountability and helps employees to learn what is working faster
  • Being a software developer at a software company is a critical role and treated as such

Although the company had its share of problems, it showed me what I was looking for in a long term position. I wanted the growth potential and commitment to progressive technology that comes from a software product startup.

While working in a “cool industry” does come with perks, fringe benefits, interesting subject matter, and it may turn out to be generally awesome for some, I caution software developers to think about some of the hidden drawbacks to these types of positions.

Positions are in High Demand

Positions in interesting industries are both scarce and in high demand. If you are interested in a professional sport, does the city you live in even have a team at the highest level? If not, that’s scarcity. If you are lucky enough to see a job opening you are interested in, you must realize that there will be hundreds, if not thousands, of other applications. That’s demand.

As a result, salaries tend to be lower and expectations of working hours are much longer, especially during busy seasons or big events. Additionally, people hired into these jobs stay around for a long time. Because of the low turnover, it can be difficult to gain more responsibility by moving into someone’s role that has just left, limiting opportunities for promotion.

Technology comes at a Cost

By definition, the interesting industries mentioned do not focus on technology. They are generating revenue through entertainment. Therefore, it may make the job more entertaining but it changes the perspective of technology throughout the organization. Employees outside of the IT department view technology as cumbersome, productivity-restricting, and expensive. Any time there is a trivial bug in internal software, it will be treated as an urgent support request. Did I mention developers will be doing technical support?

To summarize, the key problem here is that the organization does not exist for the sake of progressing in technology. The IT department is a cost center. Any mistakes that cost money for the company were not budgeted for and get escalated quickly, making for a stressful environment for technologists.

Think it over

There are smaller drawbacks to consider too. Working somewhere that garners the awe of family and friends comes with requests to trade favors (e.g. introductions or getting event tickets). Additionally, sports teams and casinos are highly competitive with one another, so they are protective of advantageous processes and knowledge. I prefer to be able to learn from peers both inside and outside of my company as opposed to being a slave to competitive information silos.

In reviewing the pros and cons of working for a professional sports team for this post, I have almost talked myself back into trying to work for one. The fringe benefits are great (e.g. free game tickets and meeting athletes), it helps build a resume, and colleagues are all intelligent and ambitious. However, it is my intention to bring up these drawbacks to shed light on the entire package that comes with the job and to remind myself that I really want to work for a software company. To marry the two concepts would be the “Genius of the and.” By working for or creating a web retailer like Zappos, who needs technology to thrive, one can work in an interesting industry, like fashion, AND be a crucial cog in building revenue for the company.