The White House Gives Up on Making Coders Dress Like Adults

This is an encouraging step in the right direction. It’s difficult to attract and retain the best and brightest with a stodgy work environment.

It’s Just Software

When I set out to build software on my own, one of my biggest goals was to have more fun creating that software. I wanted to create a tool that others could enjoy, but, more than that, I wanted to have fun while I did it.

It has been fun. But somewhere along the way, the fun faded just enough. Then it turned into responsibility. The urgent overtook the important. I started playing it safe. This didn’t happen all at once, of course. It never does. It was an almost imperceptible advance.

Personal responsibility increased. Buying a house. Getting married. Having kids. All the things that make you think more about financial planning and security.

More people were using Sifter. That meant more people affected by our decisions. (And more people affected by any downtime to boot.) Even the smallest changes could hurt their productivity. I second-guessed too many ideas because of these fears.

Then there was things like scaling, security, upgrades, and operations to chip away at the fun too.

In hindsight, it’s obvious. I let the fear take over. I’m working on a course correction, but that’s not important right now.

What matters to me right now is that you don’t make that same mistake when you’re knocked around by the day-to-day challenges of creating software.

If you dream of creating better software for people and having fun doing it, then do it. Know that it’s going to be hard work. Know that you might have to do some things that are less than fun. Just make a point to never stop trying to have fun with it. Invest in processes and tools that make you have fun with it.

Don’t let that fear chip away at the fun. Unhappy people create unhappy products. The world has enough of those already.

The cliché thing, the least exciting way to look at what I’m doing again, is that I’m a jaded entrepreneur. You know, sold my company, didn’t like the large corporation, and I’m just doing it again.
This Internet Millionaire Has a New Deal For You – Matt Rutledge, the founder of Woot, talks about being acquired by and then leaving Amazon because he couldn’t take it anymore.

One Year

The world needs more good news. So here’s my contribution. A year ago today, I had a surgery. The surgery went well. Recovery didn’t. In the time since, I’ve had 7 more surgeries, spent about 6 months in bed most of the day, 3.5 weeks in the hospital, and done about 40-50 physical therapy sessions. I’ll probably have another 50-100 before I plateau. My doctors are all impressed by what I’m capable of doing, and one even candidly said that I’m already way past the best that she had thought I’d ever be able to achieve without surgery.

Until recently, I’ve only shown people pictures if they explicitly asked, because, well, there was a huge hole in the top of my foot, and not everyone is good with that kind of thing. A year feels like a good time for a checkpoint. The large piece of tissue on my left foot is a free flap from my thigh. It’s covering up what used to be a hole in my foot where you could see tendons. And bone. It’s significantly better these days.

(The photo’s really not bad, but I didn’t want to force folks to look at a picture of my feet, so if you’re curious here’s what my foot currently looks like.)

Along with my foot healing, good things are happening. We’re able to go out and eat. We’ve gone to the zoo. (I had to rent a motorized scooter, but still.) We get to go to the park again regularly. I can even go swimming now and am strong enough to toss Bella in the air. We can “dance” around the living room. And, of course, we’re expecting Bella’s little sister in October. Things are returning to normal, and, in some ways, even better than normal.

Swimming with Bella

A year in, and word on the street is that it will be this time next year before I’m as good as I’m going to get. Physical therapy has worked wonders, and I can walk. But I’m not out of the woods yet. The latest prognosis is that I might get by without any more significant surgeries. But I’ve still lost two tendons, and the doctors aren’t very encouraging about my chances of playing basketball again. Snowboarding is still a good possibility, though. Maybe as soon as this season. (And despite the lack of encouragement, I’m not giving up on basketball just yet either.)

For the most part, I’m thankful, but I’m not going to lie and say that it’s always easy. Every day I encounter something that I want to do but physically can’t. These days, though, those things are fewer. I’m healing, and progress is good. Things have changed. It’s tough, but these days, progress is outweighing setbacks. I suppose that’s what really matters.

Software Quality Academy

We relaunched the Sifter marketing site with a focus on education, and the biggest component of that is the Software Quality Academy which provides a basic guide to getting started with quality assurance.

It’s not just about bug and issue tracking, either. While that’s certainly a component, it goes into much more depth about the variety of tools available to improve the quality of your software and how they all fit together in the big picture.

If you have a product that needs more of your time due to an increasing customer base, but it isn’t making enough money to be given that time then you need to take a long hard look at your business model.

“Oh, it’s raining. Guess I’m not gonna feed my cats today.” Ludicrous, right? Well, it’s no different than “I don’t feel motivated. Guess I’m not going to feed my business today.”

If you love your cats, or your business, you’ll do what you have to do to ensure their survival, regardless of how you feel in the moment.

Waiting for “motivation” to move your butt is just a clever way to avoid taking responsibility. Full stop.

Imagine going to see the lions on display in the zoo. Now imagine seeing the same species of lion in the wild on an African safari. Technically, you’re looking at the same animal both times. But they behave differently in the wild than they do in captivity.

You wouldn’t make a judgement call about what MOST lions do based on a lion in a zoo, because MOST lions aren’t in zoos.

Starting and Sustaining: Buy just the book for $29

When I launched Starting and Sustaining, I felt that the book, spreadsheet, and task list were a package deal. One without the others wouldn’t be telling the full story. So I decided to offer them together as a package.

Talking to folks over the last year, I’ve realized that I was wrong. The book by itself can still provide incredible value to someone just getting started. So as of today, you can now buy the book by itself for $29. In addition to that, I’ve also decided to lower the price of the package to $79 permanently.

And finally, I’m now providing the payment processing chapter as the sample chapter. So you can download the chapter about one of the most complex and mystifying topics of running your own web application for free.

Modesty and hubris

It’s useful to learn as much as possible from others who have launched businesses before you, but it’s just as important to remember that it’s never the full story. So many things happen behind the scenes that contribute to success or failure. So anytime you read about someone’s story, mine included, remember that it’s just one small piece of a much larger picture.

The Road to SaaS Revenue is Painfully Slow. Are You Prepared for It?

Of course ‘painfully’ is subjective, but the point is that almost all bootstrapped startups take longer to rampup than you’d like as a founder. That means a year or three of living in two worlds and juggling bill paying work with growing that side project.

The absolute best way to grow a side project into something big enough to sustain you is to have realistic expectations. A big dramatic switch from a 9-to-5 to a side project almost never happens overnight.

On a related note, it’s useful to remember that having something grow too fast means you’re going to be spending a lot of time playing catchup. So slow and steady isn’t always a bad thing as long as you’re ready for it.

Reducing Customer Churn Within Account Deletion

A great set of ideas not for getting in the way of a customer when they want to cancel but for doing your best to help them at a moment where they might genuinely want some help.

We don’t think about individual competitors, we think about problems that people have and jobs they need done. That’s what we’re competing against — people who don’t have things to do those jobs. If you spend time obsessing over individual tools, everyone starts trending towards the same outcome and winds up in the same place. You lose the things that made your product unique.
Love this quote by Jason Fried on The Industry. I’ve always felt this but could never put it into words. Anytime a company is fixated on competitors, it sends up red flags. Like they’re focusing on the wrong things.

I realize it’s awkward, discussing these adult matters with your father, but have your buddies asked you to join a start-up? Be honest—Dad knows the HTML.

Wildbit is Hiring a Senior UI/UX Designer

If you’re a designer that wants to work on great products with a great team, @wildbit is hiring. If not for Sifter, working with them would be my first choice without a doubt.