Verbally Flimzy

Ramblings, Observations and Misconceptions

My new project:

Posted on October 14, 2016

I’m working on a new mini-project.

It’s in large part inspired by… well, many things.


The most immediate inspiration comes from Patrick McKenzie’s blog, which I just finished reading in its entirety earlier this week while I was in Paris (well, I skipped a few posts that didn’t matter to me). His blog basically tells the story of how he started a successful software business in 7 days with a budget of $60, back in 2006. Now, ten years later, he’s sold his first product to other people, and is successfully supporting his family on a new product. If you’re into small business success stories, told in a play-by-play fashion, you’ll no doubt enjoy his blog, too. Start here.

As some close friends know, I’ve also been spending a significant amount of my spare time over the last 18 months or so, working on a language learning app which I currently call Flashback (sort of a poor man’s pun on flashcards. I’ll almost certainly change the name before launch). It’s nearing a certain high-level of completion. Just a couple weeks ago I threw together the rough draft of an informational page on the idea. You can see it here (feedback welcome!).

About the same time I began designing Flashback in my head, I decided to start a blog on a relevant subject, to begin building an audience. The Glossophile (and with the help of my wife, Carolina, the Spanish translation El Glósofilo) is the result.

I had a lot of time on my hands back then, so I wrote a number of blog posts. Then I started working, and had less and less time, and less and less motivation.

Now I’m between jobs again (more on that another day), so I have free time again for a while.

And rather than continuing to trudge along on coding Flashback, I decided to take on a project that I likely wouldn’t do at all without a chunk of days to work on it. The first fruit of this effort was the Flashback demo page I linked to above.

The Project

The second is:

The goal of is to become the de facto Minimal Pairs resource for language learners, regardless of one’s target language.

This idea came from the second-most-popular post on this blog. From Google Analytics, I can see that my blog barely gets any visits at all (less than 1,000 per month), but nearly 1/3 of those visits come from one blog post on minimal pairs in French:

[List of French Minimal Pairs]( is my second most-read blog post.

List of French Minimal Pairs is my second most-read blog post.

I hold the top spot on Google for 'French minimal pairs'

I hold the top spot on Google for ‘French minimal pairs’

I also hold the top spot on Google for the search terms “French minimal pairs”, without even trying. And I know from my participation on numerous language-related discussion groups, that people are constantly looking for lists of minimal pairs in practically every language.

Now, without a doubt, there are some really good lists of minimal pairs for some languages out there. But not for every language. And finding the lists that do exist can often be difficult. (Even my list of French minimal pairs is terribly difficult to use! Just look at it!)

Short-term Goals

The first version of The first version of

My first goal with, was simply to get something up on the page, that talks about minimal pairs, so that search engines will start to notice that it exists. I accomplished that yesterday (and while I was sleeping Yahoo’s crawler visited me! Woot!).

Let’s call that the “pre-launch”.

My real short-term goals, to be completed before I start my new job on Oct 24, include:

  1. Put up a real list of French Minimal Pairs, based on my ugly list, but readable by normal humans.
  2. Include a feedback mechanism. I have a few ideas here. At minimum, I want to encourage people to request additional languages–this will help me prioritize my long-term goals (see below). In the long-term, there’s a lot of ways I could implement feedback mechanisms.
  3. Add minimal styling. I’ll probably grab a free CSS theme from Open Source Web Design.
  4. Include a Spanish translation of the interface. This would mean Spanish speakers learning French could easily navigate the page.
  5. Include language-specific links to my blogs, The Glossophile and El Glosófilo, to drive a little traffic.
  6. Add English minimal pairs. Although I think there are already some excellent resources for English minimal pairs out there, if I hope this page to be anything like a go-to source for minimal pairs, I had better include the most common second language in the world!

These are in order of priority, so if I don’t quite finish #6 or even #4 before I start the new job, I won’t be terribly concerned.

Long-term Goals

I’m not ranking these by priority, as I expect the priority will be heavily influenced by the feedback I get for the steps above. But in general, these are the things I hope to add to over time:

  • Add pairs for additional languages, using feedback (see #2 above) for prioritization.
  • Translate the UI to other languages. The UI itself will be quite simple, so adding translations will be a simple thing.
  • Add links to third-party web sites. I envision adding links to Forvo for pronunciation, Wiktionary for definitions, etc. This will probably be pretty simple, so might happen earlier than later.
  • Decide whether to attempt to directly monetize This could happen many ways. The simplest would probably be just to display Google ads. I have to decide if I want to do this.
  • Add useful content. In addition to the lists of words, I’d like to have a few pages about how to use minimal pairs. I might write this myself, or I might see if some other language bloggers would be interested in writing it, in exchange for links to their respective blogs/sites.
  • Get a logo. This may or may not ever happen.

Longer-Term Goals

I’d love to include a # of hits per day I hope to achieve with But I honestly have no idea what’s reasonable to expect.

I know I get 250 per month (or ~8 per day) on my blog post. Extrapolating a bit from the rest of my Google Analytics data, roughly 60% of that traffic comes from Google. If the first position gets 33% of traffic on Google, that would mean that google gets roughly 15 searches per day for “French minimal pairs”.

So, I guess 100 hits per/day is a bit of an aggressive goal at this stage. So lets say when I hit 100 hits per day, I’ll celebrate.

Nobody’s going to get rich off of 15 (or even 100) hits per day. So it’s no surprise nobody else has ever attempted a “go-to site for minimal pairs.” On the other hand, the traffic I get will be highly qualified, meaning there should be a good chance to monetize somehow. I’ll have to think about this further. (I expect the best value might be in soliciting subscribers to my blog.. and eventually Flashback).

Filed under: business language learning Languages Programming