#80: Huy Tran

“I write a tech blog and work on open-source projects just because I love the Vietnamese language.”

Huy Tran - Senior Software Engineer at Navan US; blogger at The Notorious Snacky

In 2015, when I first arrived in the US and was living alone while my wife and son were still in Vietnam, I felt quite lonely. Since I had some free time, I decided to start my own tech blog called “The Notorious Snacky”. It was partly to help myself solidify my knowledge and partly to share additional knowledge with other developers who might not be familiar with it.

I was always afraid of making mistakes, so every time I wrote an article, I had to do a lot of research on the topic. Sometimes, in order to write an insightful analysis on a technical concept, I had to read 4 or 5 articles or dig through multiple books. When sharing my knowledge, I had two goals in mind. First, I hoped that if someone read my blog and found it helpful, they would have the opportunity to learn something new from it. That made me happy. Second, if someone found that I made a mistake or had a better way of doing things, they could provide feedback or comments so that I could improve and gain more experience. Gradually, my blog started to gain more recognition from fellow tech enthusiasts, which was also a source of joy for me. Until now, writing my blog has become an important connection in my life, even though I don’t write regularly haha.

Now when I had my children by my side, I had to share my time more. Writing a blog post required a lot of preparation because each article needed to be intellectually invested. I couldn’t focus on writing as much as before and took a break for a while to work on other projects. Since I started learning programming, I had a dream: one day I would write my own special software. At that time, I had so many things I wanted to try, from writing emulators to operating systems, and even creating a Vietnamese typing tool. After working on various projects for a long time and experiencing failures, making products that no one used, I felt discouraged and bored. But then, an idea sparked in my mind: “I once wanted to create a Vietnamese typing tool, why not give it another try?”

In early 2023, after having the idea to develop a typing tool, the first thing I did was to read the source code of some existing tools, mainly ibus-bogo and OpenKey. I started rebuilding the typing tool with the help of my friend, Nguyen Viet Hung, who had also built a Vietnamese processing engine. Like any project, mine had its fair share of bugs. Throughout this process, Hung was enthusiastic and diligent in fixing bugs, constantly updating new versions. Every update meant a change in the user interface, and I had to keep up with it, which was tiring haha. Finally, the project was renamed from “bogo-rs” to “GõKey” after the last name change.

Currently, GõKey is no longer just a personal passion of mine. With an increasing number of users, I am committed to developing and nurturing this project for the long term. My team and I are continuously working on adding new features to reach a larger user base. You can access the initial release of GõKey at this link: https://github.com/huytd/goxkey/releases/tag/v0.1.2.

I also want to share that I have been using GõKey to type the content of my blog series. If you are interested in the development process, you can check it out on my blog. Many of audiences have cloned the project, compiled it, and provided bug reports. Although dealing with bugs can be challenging, I am happy to see that at least there are users who are using the product. I feel fortunate to have the support and contributions from the community, which have helped me improve the project more quickly.

After spending about 7 weeks to ensure the stability of GõKey since February 2023, I took a break to focus on another product called ChatUML, an AI-powered diagram drawing tool. After 2 months of development, my team decided to launch ChatUML on Product Hunt, and it quickly reached the #13 position on the leaderboard. While working on ChatUML.com, I had the opportunity to receive investment offers to build a separate company. However, I was not ready for that change. I didn’t want my product to become a bigger responsibility or job. I have a family and children, and I didn’t want to compromise that. Normally, I spend an additional 2 hours each evening working on personal projects that I enjoy, and then I spend time with my family, play with my kids before putting them to bed.

For me, hobbies like writing a blog and working on side projects may not bring in a lot of money and require time and effort, but I truly enjoy them. At least, through these activities, I feel proud to contribute to the community and connect with fellow developers. I am also proud to be one of the early core members of the WeBuild community (formerly known as Ruby Vietnam). I have been actively and enthusiastically involved, so it’s understandable if you mistakenly think I am a co-founder of the community haha.

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