An Interview with Garrett Dimon →
Recently did an interview with Des Traynor from Intercom about building and growing Sifter, features, and business in general.
Payment Processing from Starting + Sustaining
When I started writing Starting + Sustaining, payment processing was the most daunting topic. I felt that I had a cursory understanding of it all, but that turned out to be wrong. It is without a doubt the chapter that required the most effort to both research and write. As the longest and most involved chapter, it could be helpful to countless folks looking to launch their app. As such, I’m...
If you’re building a company as a solo founder, you have a long lonely road ahead of you. The sooner you start putting together a team, the better off you’ll be in every possible way. I originally made the mistake of believing that it didn’t make sense to pull in contractors on a regular basis because of the amount of time it would take for them to ramp up on Sifter. Instead, I...
Starting and Sustaining is Available for Purchase →
After months of writing, editing, and reviewing, Starting and Sustaining is finally available for purchase. If you have dreams of launching a hosted web application, this very well might be the perfect book (and spreadsheet) for you.
Three months after deciding to write a book about building, launching, and maintaining a web application, the progress is good. I’d like to be further along, but took a break from writing to spend some time on Sifter. So where are things at and what have I learned about self-publishing an eBook? First and foremost, the logistics took a lot of time. Planning the content, understanding the...
Take Your Time Quitting
It seems like many stories about quitting a job are dramatic and quick. i.e. “I had finally had enough and just quit.” It doesn’t need to be that way, and it’s probably easier if it’s not. Instead of thinking about giving your employer two weeks notice, think of it as giving yourself two years notice. When I left my job to start Sifter, I had been preparing for it...
Rebuilding vs. Refactoring
At some point, we’ve all faced it. Do we rebuild from scratch or simply refactor? With personal sites, it seems the rebuild is the default option. We see an archaic mess of code and a design that’s atrocious. So we rebuild. With a web application, that’s not always a good idea. This is a decision where it’s incredibly important not to let emotion get the best of you. If...
Prior to Sifter, I was a specialist. I needed to keep up with two or three high-level topics in order to stay current and not be left behind. I had a few RSS subscriptions and kept up with a few topics on Twitter. It wasn’t easy, but wasn’t impossible either. Life was simpler then. Since starting Sifter, I’ve tried to stay current on every piece of our business from the...
Can you afford a pay cut?
In order to fully commit your attention to building something that isn’t yet making money, you can either work more hours, or get by on less income. The former isn’t healthy or sustainable, and the latter isn’t easy. When you have the golden handcuffs of a large regular paycheck accompanied by health insurance and other benefits, it’s hard to imagine living on less...
Quality vs. Shipping
One of the most frustrating tradeoffs during these years that I’ve been working on Sifter has been the degree to which I’ve cut some corners with user experience. It wasn’t a decision that I took lightly, but it was a very deliberate decision. Now that I feel like we’re finally beginning to move towards the level of quality that I would like, I’m comfortable sharing...
Being a Solo Founder of a 24x7 Hosted Web...
There was a probably an easier way. Fortunately, it feels like we’re over the hump. Regardless, being a solo founder probably isn’t for everyone. I imagine it’s something like being a single parent. It’s not impossible, but it’s no cake walk. There’s really no such thing as “days off”. Some days are thrilling, and others are gut-wrenching. In the...
Custom Paper Rail Frames →
This is one of the things I’ve made recently for the office. I certainly didn’t make every piece by hand, but having never done anything like this before, it was rather rewarding.
Physical vs. Digital
Lately I’ve been spending a lot of time in our garage making things by hand for my office. Admittedly, much of the stuff is purchased, and all I’m really doing is a little sawing, sanding, painting, finishing, and nailing. Assuming it’s not just the fumes talking, I’ve really enjoyed it. It’s also been a nice break from creating digital things. Getting your hands...
Working with Your Hands
I’m in love with this article about meetups to repair broken goods. Working on Sifter and pouring myself into it has bred a fascination with tools, manual labor, and vintage goods. Things used to be built for longevity. Design was simpler and more timeless. It was practical. It was possible to repair things. These days, with more advanced technology and circuitry and the speed with which...
We’re rolling out a new identity for Sifter, and while I couldn’t be happier with it, part of me worries about how superficial it may seem from the outside. Reading countless corporate-speak press releases over the years about new logos “synergizing and representing the cohesive nature of the profitable vision for the future” has made me jaded to such seemingly contrived...
I’m self-employed. One might think that means that I’m my own boss, but it doesn’t really work like that. I don’t have a boss. I have dozens; only I call them customers. Now, these great folks aren’t technically my boss, but they influence our priorities and my schedule more than anyone else. In general it’s not bad, but the catch is that they all have...
Since day one, I’ve always felt like I was behind. I was moving too slow. I could never catch up. Our customers wanted, even needed, improvements. I rushed and hurried and worried. I bounced around from this enhancement to that. I got away from exploring ideas and just built the first solution that came to mind. It got the job done, but deep down, I was usually disappointed with the...
Matt Haughey: Lessons from a 40 year old →
Lot’s of personal and work-related wisdom contained here. Really just a great talk if you’re even remotely interested in what life is like bootstrapping a business.
Take me back to my prison! →
A friend said this reminded him of me. I’m not quite sure how to interpret that.
Last night around 2:30, I woke up to the piercing sound of house alarm going off. I sprinted to Lauren and Bella, who were sleeping in the other room in an attempt to help Bella sleep better. Once I was sure they were alright and hadn’t triggered the alarm, we flipped on the lights and started to collect ourselves. We made sure nobody was actually in the house, and then went to determine...
Citizenship in a Republic →
A great reminder. Thanks, Des, for the reminder and for putting this online in a handy way.
Finishing Strong vs. Shipping
In basketball, and probably many other sports, you always want to finish strong. That is, you don’t want to waste all of your energy getting to the hoop and then not make your layup. Often, it’s so easy to caught up in the first part, it’s easy to lose focus or let up in that last second when it really matters. I’ve found that same problem when trying to ship software....
Given some preparation and calibration, you can bake the same cake from the same...– On Business Madness (via therealadam)
What does it take?
The full stack for a web application can be rather overwhelming, but it’s not quite as bad as you might think. If you look at this list knowing only a small portion of the items, it can be incredibly intimidating. Really, though, it’s an incremental learning process. You learn a little something new every day, and before you know it, you’re having fascinating conversations with...
Improving Code Quality →
Adam provides a peek behind the curtain at one of the changes we’ve made to our process to improve the overall quality of Sifter underneath the hood. The more we quantify quality, the easier it is to constantly work to improve it.
Why we shut down Newsberry →
Whenever a business shuts down, it seems there are many that are quick to ask, “Why not sell it or open source it?” It’s never that easy, and this explanation from Wildbit does a great job explaining why selling is easier said than done as well as why open sourcing it isn’t always practical.
All I Ever Wanted
It used to be a job, a responsibility, and a livelihood. The moment we launched, shit got serious. I stopped dreaming and started responding. To customer feedback. Feature requests. Complaints. Cancellations. It stopped being a dream come true and started just being a job. Granted, it was still the most emotional connection that I had ever felt with a job, but it wasn’t what I envisioned. ...
Exhausted and Anxious
A few weeks ago, we released a significant update to Sifter. (Rails 3, Ruby 1.9, and a bevy of associated gems and other components in case you’re curious about such things.) Since then, there have only been a few fleeting moments of peace and quiet. My Pavlovian response to the email alerts has gotten a bit out of hand. The first couple of weeks after the release I felt physically ill due...
We spent the last 6 months doing hard work that isn’t fun or directly visible to customers. It just had to be done. It sucked. Building this foundation has been the hardest, most involved work with which I’ve ever been involved, and nothing has ever pushed me so far outside of my comfort zone. Conveniently enough, my daughter is 6 months old as well. Put the two together, and well, you...
Automation, Self-service, and Administration
Just a random thought. As a solo founder, my time is our scarcest commodity. Making sure that I have free time and minimal interruptions has become one of my highest priorities, and it’s paying off. Some of the best investments I’ve made in Sifter are the things that keep me free to focus on the product. It seems obvious to me now, but the following guidelines have all evolved...
Lately, I’ve been reading biographies and stories by athletes, business people, and politicians. The one attribute common to all of them is tenacity on a level that most of us can’t even imagine. The problem is that on the surface, we only see the success. We don’t see the work that went into achieving the success. We see the culmination rather than the 10 or even 20 years that...
A great example of how perceived “improvements” aren’t always that. Larger screens for mobile devices certainly have their benefits, but as with anything, there are tradeoffs.
Great design helps because it makes life a little less complex. When you are...– Drawar
Speaker Deck is Live →
Speaker Deck is brand new clutter-free way to share your slides from presentations. I suggest that you use it.
Thoughts on Business Models
After the recent presentation, I was surprised how many questions I heard about our choice of business model or application. There also seems to be no shortage of people debating between native mobile and web applications. For me, there are a variety of reasons that I chose a hosted web application and why I’d make the same choice today. Why hosted and subscription-based? Income...
Bootstrapping a Software Product →
The slides from a presentation that I gave at Refresh Dallas last night. It goes over the lessons learned through both the good and bad decisions that we feel we’ve made while bootstrapping Sifter.
Make Things →
So, to hell with all that noise. It’s just a big mass of envy, chatter and FOMO. Let’s get excited and make things. Yes. Let’s.
The Incessant Reality Check
My biggest frustration with our little boot-strapped startup is that the bootstrapping part causes us to always grounded in reality. We’re incredibly careful to remain profitable as we grow the business. That’s a good thing for the long-term, but it can be incredibly frustrating when the gap between your vision and execution is huge. There’s the Sifter that I see in my head and...
Prioritizing Features →
A great post about prioritizing features by focusing on both how many people use a given feature and how often they use it.
The Early Days of Founding Sifter
Keith Jacobs and I had known each other and worked together fairly closely for about 5 years when he wrote a check for $16,000 so I could quit my job and start Sifter. What’s more interesting is that after writing the check, he didn’t look at the results of his investment until Sifter launched. Imagine writing a check for $16,000 and not looking at the results for 11 months. That kind...
2.3% That’s the percentage of time that people interact with Sifter via Beanstalk or email integration. Certainly there are dozens of factors at play here, but I can guarantee you that number is completely disproportionate to the amount of time and effort hat we’ve invested in those features. I do believe that they are important features that will definitely play a key role in our...
Will it last?
With the proliferation of subscription-based hosted businesses, my first thought with each new one is to wonder if they’ll be around in a year. Are they funded? Are they profitable? How long have they been around? When trusting a company with your data or any important piece of your business, I would think that this would be more important to people. Apparently it’s not. Let’s...
Mind Your MeTweets →
To each their own. Some will disagree, but I can’t agree enough with Mike on this one. Glad to see someone address it.
Sifter Marketing Site Reloaded →
I finally managed to finish updating the Sifter marketing site. An overhaul for the API documentation, a new blog and changelog (both powered by Harmony), and a handful of other updates to bring the site up to date with the application. Of course, it’s responsive as well if you’re into that sort of thing.
Driven off the Road by M.B.A.s →
A solid article about the effect of companies being run by M.B.A.s vs. engineers or product people. It’s interesting to note that the one area of the U.S. economy that’s adding jobs and increasing productivity and wealth is also the one that is the most relentlessly product- and consumer-focused: Silicon Valley. The company off Highway 101 that best illustrates this point is, of...
Better to have no tagline at all than to use one of these worn out and meaningless phrases. ________________ done right. ________________ the way it should be. ________________ evolved. ________________ for the rest of us. ________________. Simplified. Better ________________. The easiest way to ________________. The better way to ________________.
My Biggest Mistake
When I set out to build Sifter, I had a singular vision. Make a bug and issue tracker that non-technical team members would actively use. However, once it was out in the wild, things weren’t so clear. I failed to stay focused. I let myself get distracted by finances, logistics, uptime and support. I got bogged down watching our bottom-line even though we’ve always been comfortably...
Who is Acorn for? →
This is all too familiar of a story.