This is why a hundred other sites are trying to be Daring Fireball, why everybody’s starting a podcast, and why nobody’s buying your app in the App Store.
The democratization of media production and distribution over the last few decades has worked incredibly well. Overall, it’s a net win for society. But the downside is that everything’s now extremely crowded.
There’s a lot of money and attention out there to go around, but there’s also a lot more competition for everything.
Here’s the thing – building yet another calendar/photo/messaging app is a great way to get ignored. You’re just putting a less than unique spin on a problem that’s probably already been solved. Heck, Marco himself is guilty of it by building yet another podcast app.
If you want someone to buy the thing you build, it’s important to step away from code and observe people. See what pains people have in their lives that don’t have solutions today. There are underserved niches everywhere that can lead to profitable businesses.
But building yet another X app is the best way to not be noticed.
Cry me a river, you might say. But what happened on Wall Street is just an extreme version of what’s happened to so-called knowledge workers in general. Thirty years ago, the best-paid workers in the U.S. were much less likely to work long days than low-paid workers were. By 2006, the best paid were twice as likely to work long hours as the poorly paid, and the trend seems to be accelerating. A 2008 Harvard Business School survey of a thousand professionals found that ninety-four per cent worked fifty hours or more a week, and almost half worked in excess of sixty-five hours a week. Overwork has become a credential of prosperity.
The perplexing thing about the cult of overwork is that, as we’ve known for a while, long hours diminish both productivity and quality.
I always struggled to understand the drive to overwork. It destroys relationships and families, and doesn’t provide any added benefit – it can actually make you less productive.
Clay Christensen has a great explanation though: the fact that work provides instant validation and gratification. I get a sale, ship a product, or a promotion, and feel validated, while something like building a relationship with your children and spouse can take decades or your entire life to be validated (if it even is).
January 21, 2014
Brennan Dunn on how he went from an idea to paying customers in 3 days and validated his idea without writing a line of code:
So I was losing money by having a “dumb” website. My idea was: “What if my website was smarter than this?” At this point, I didn’t care about how my website could be smarter, I just wanted to know what would happen to my business with this problem stripped away. What could tomorrow look like for me? (Again, straight out of 30×500.)
A lot of people might start with the problem and immediately start thinking about what needs to be created to solve it. And as creatives, this is no surprise. After all, we build stuff for a living. But if you’re hoping to lower the risk of failure, stepping away from the code (or the words, or the design, or whatever) is a smart move.
January 20, 2014
One of the stated values at IronPort was “work/life balance,” but I clearly wasn’t living it. I was rarely home. And when I was home, well, let’s just say I wasn’t particularly helpful or cheery. My perspective at the time was: I’m killing myself at work, so when I get home, I just want to kick back with a cocktail and watch some TV. All I do is talk to people all day long and so at home, I’d really prefer not to talk much, just relax.
The most important relationships in your life are those at home – your spouse, children, and other family. Your work will bring you temporary pleasure and recognition, but in the long run, you have to remember that if you died tomorrow you’d be replaced and the world would keep moving.
Don’t neglect your family. Scott teaches us that lesson.
Really nice workflow and deliverables for wireframes from Matt D. Smith. Even if you’re not an Illustrator and InDesign user, there’s something to be learned here.
January 14, 2014
Nathan Barry just launched the beta of his new course (only available for the next day) on how to use Photoshop to design interfaces. This is a course that doesn’t start with how to remove red eye or retouch photos, but instead, focuses on the tools you need to design software.
Knowing Nathan’s past content, this will be a great course!
Amy Hoy has been running a fantastic 7 part guide to bootstrapping in 2014. Today’s email focused on how to write an effective pitch, hopefully before you even have a product.
Writing an effective pitch comes with requiring a deep understanding of your target market and really being able to identify their pain points. Without this, you may just be building a “great idea” and not something that people would actually pay for.
January 13, 2014
Everpix did a final post mortem and uploaded a wealth of data about the company to their Github account. I can’t help but think that this would have made a really great bootstrapped business, and that possibly with some pricing tweaks (possibly limit the free plan?) and not using S3, which is known for absurdly high storage price, that this could have been a very sustainable business.
Too many companies think that VC is the only option, or maybe the “safer” bet since you’ve got cash in the bank. But the constraints of bootstrapping you company force you to make tough decisions that must lead to profitability – not just growth hacking so the VCs can get their money back.
For VCs, anything short of a Facebook or Instagram is a failure. So if your tech business isn’t the next Facebook or Instagram, it may not be well suited for VC.
January 9, 2014
Google Hangouts is fantastic: really the only good feature of Google+, and a favorite of many people who work with remote teams. Recently I found myself having to schedule several meetings over Hangouts, and I didn’t want to deal with inviting people when it was time for the meeting to start.
Well, Google offers a very undocumented solution to this problem: you can set up a mostly permanent Hangout to use for quick collaboration.
To set one up, visit Google+ Events and click Create Event. Under Event Options » Advanced, check off “Hangouts” to make it an online event only:
Then, set your event date to some day far in the future. Your Hangout link will expire on this day, so be sure to set yourself a reminder to redo this.
Once it’s created, you should see it in your upcoming events:
Click the Hangouts link to open your empty hangout. The URL in this window is your permanent link you can now quickly share to people to set up a quick conference call with screen sharing and such.
Bonus tip: You can use Smile Software’s fantastic TextExpander to set up a snippet to drop the link easily. I personally use