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Step into my office. How to overcome entrepreneur loneliness

Curse this modern work-lifestyle. At first it seems too good to be true, the freedom to work wherever you want, the autonomy to dictate your own hours, the liberty to create the work environment most likely to see you flourish as a professional. And yet, despite having this expanse of work place luxuries, you feel a cold, dark emptiness which gnaws at your subconscious. You’ve made the leap into the new workforce, the empowered remote professional, the cafe-dwelling urban nomad, but something just doesn’t quite feel right.

Don’t worry, you’re not alone.

This is actually a big part of the problem, though you won’t understand it until you’ve taken the plunge and gone solo. The work life of a freelance professional (consultant, photographer, designer, developer – you name it) can be remarkably isolated. Beware, the grass is always greener, especially when you’re stuck in corporate-land and dreaming of a life outside of the 60 hour commute-toil-commute nightmare. Solo work can seem like the solution you’ve always longed for, but never found. The elusive silver bullet.

That’s what makes the reality of solo work so much more of a shock once you do take the plunge.

The truth of it is that solo work – startups, freelancing, passion projects – can be a lonely endeavour. There’s a reason why two-founder startups are more likely to succeed compared to solo-founder projects. It can be remarkably isolating to leave the corporate team and go it alone. Gone are the basic infrastructural luxuries of an office, the camaraderie of the team, the water-cooler politics, the pleasures of explaining why you’d do things differently if you had the power. Life as a solopreneur (yes, it’s an awkward term, I’ll admit) can unlock a whole range of beneficial life habits, opportunities and experiences – but it does come at a cost. The solo life is, in a word, lonely.

There are other pressures you’ll face, but let’s focus on this one issue for now – isolation. It’s the single biggest emotional challenge I’ve faced, working on my own. Being so disconnected from people on a daily basis can become a burden. Instead of spending 40+ hours a week with a team of peers, you’re suddenly your own best and worst company. You may find yourself second guessing thoughts and ideas. You may find yourself obsessing over unimportant details. You may even find yourself procrastinating on small jobs or chores that you don’t want to do. The solo life isn’t always laptops on beaches, it can get ugly.

It doesn’t have to be. Here are my top 3 tips for avoiding solopreneur cabin fever:

  1. Find a co-working space. Most cities in Australia have co-working spaces that are located near public transport hubs, come well furnished and are very affordable. This is the most efficient and effective way to avoid loneliness, as it brings you into contact with other people like you, helps you to find your solopreneur soul mates, gives you access to a support network & may even provide you the missing link in your entrepreneurial journey (be that users, co-founders, money, inspiration or – simply put – good advice). Being part of a community goes a very long way to maintaining your sanity. You don’t even need to become a full time member of co-working communities (especially useful if you live far away or can’t bear commuting anymore) you can join them and enjoy the benefits of these communities online. You’ll be invited to meetups, to events, receive resources and more. It’s such an investment, I could even stop here and my job would be nearly done.
  2. Join an interest group. Meetup groups are increasingly common, cover a wide array of interest areas and often don’t come at any cost to join. You could join an interest group for personal reasons, getting connected to a wider community of people who share similar goals. Alternatively you can join an interest group for professional reasons, finding new client or networking opportunities. I’ve also found interest groups are an excellent way to find incredibly talented people, all of whom I’d love to work with.
  3. Which brings us to our third tip: find people to collaborate. Common goals and passions can unearth collaboration opportunities & these are very valuable for undoing the harm of isolation. A common goal is very effective at bringing people of different backgrounds together & the future network benefits of great collaborative projects are endless. Surround yourself with smart people, find worthwhile projects to work on & you’ll soon realise you’ve kicked that isolation to the curb.
  4. One more tip for good measure: there are literally hundreds of resources for entrepreneur lifestyle success. Podcasts, blog posts, books and more. Don’t stop at this blog post, dig deeper. Find the voices you aspire to emulate, the people who’ve tackled the same challenges you face, or simply find someone whose message resonates with you – and hit subscribe. It’ll make a big difference.

Loneliness was the last thing I anticipated, when I went solo nearly two years ago. It hit hard. It took me a while to understand what I was going through & to find the right balance for myself. I found a co-working space (hat-tip to Fishburners in Sydney), joined a community of entrepreneurs, met some incredibly talented people & found projects to collaborate on. You will build momentum, so the sooner you take the first step, the better.

Just remember – you’re not alone. We’re right here with you.

Using design to influence behaviour

Wouldn’t it be nice if we could influence the behaviour of those around us, for the better? What if we could inspire people to take better care of our environment, to develop healthier living habits for themselves, to create healthier, stronger communities? What if we could play an active role in that, as designers? Stanford researcher BJ Fogg says that we can.

This is the core idea at the heart of a pragmatic & actionable psychological framework called the Fogg Behaviour Model, created by Stanford researcher Dr BJ Fogg. He posits that behaviours are not only easy to interpret using his model (breaking actions down along simplified axes like motivation and capability), they are also easy to influence with design. The Fogg Behaviour Model sets out to help us create the change in others, we’d like to see.

Now, this might sound quite manipulative and underhanded at first. I’d understand that, in fact I had that response when I first met BJ. That is until I understood that many of our behaviours, healthy or otherwise, are very heavily directed by outside influences. I’ll give you an example: how often have you found yourself clicking around on a site like Facebook, with no memory of how or why you started? BJ’s Behaviour Model explains how.

It all comes down to three key components:

      – the motivation of a person to perform the desired behaviour,

 

      – the ability of a person to perform the behaviour, and

 

    – a trigger to prompt the behaviour

fogg behaviour model

According to BJ, almost all behaviours can be explained by the alignment of these components, an equation known as B=MAT. Behaviour will only occur when Motivation, Ability and Triggers align. These factors will fluctuate throughout time and follow natural patterns (e.g. energy levels play a strong role in shaping motivation to do, or not do, certain behaviours). As designers, our primary goal is to place the right trigger in front of the right person at the right time. BJ calls this placing hot triggers in front of motivated people and uses his dog as an example. BJs’ dog likes to place her ball right in front of BJ’s feet, which often results in the desired behaviour – BJ kicks the ball without even having to think about it.

Behaviour design is a fledgeling hybrid psychology-and-design research area, that has huge potential to unlock good and bad behavioural outcomes. I like to think of it as a highly practical tool, like a lens, that I can use to help understand the problems I face in design. Problems like: how to encourage people to use a certain function, how to encourage them to leave feedback, how to increase conversions on a landing page. Behaviour design doesn’t offer all the answers, but it does offer a highly useful framework that helps us see behaviour in a new light – as something that can be analysed and influenced by design.

Thrown for a loop

Volume 1, Issue 23

Thrown for a loop

This week I’m a little bit thrown, to be honest.

This week I enjoyed a long and wide ranging conversation with a good friend of mine, Carl. We were talking about the challenges of working from home, which I’ve written about many times before and probably will do again many times more, and at one point the conversation shifted towards the dangers of multi-focussing. Carl said to me, Jason all of these projects you’re doing sound great, but I worry that you’re in danger of losing focus on what you’re really trying to achieve. When you put all your time into different projects, you lose the opportunity to do any one of them really well.

Well! That’s a pretty clear eyed assessment of the last 2 years of my professional life, right there. Ouch!

I wouldn’t go so far as to say that I haven’t done any one project really well – on the contrary, I feel like I’m firing on all cylinders at the moment – but the real question is: at what cost?

See, I give myself the time and space to achieve more with my day, by allowing the definition of ‘day’ to be a little bit loose. Last night I pushed a new version of my app out to beta testers at 01:40am. Further, that’s actually not unusual for me, working late into the night has been a part of my working life since my days at Uni. Excluding some time spent in the corporate environment, much of my work has involved being bloody minded and dedicated to the cause & expecting results.

Some might call me an optimist. Some might call me a workaholic. Some might just call me Jase.

Work. Life. Balance. I know I haven’t found it. But thanks for keeping me honest, Carl.

Now, where will the internet take us this week?

Tips

Here’s Wistia’s guide to getting the background music volume perfect for your video.

Samsung is a key World Cup sponsor, but the players just want to use their Beats music headphones. Here’s one way you can use constraints to your advantage.

Why haven’t I considered iOS language translation strings before? Thank you NSHipster!

Have you considered using Medium as a marketing platform?

Copyblogger share how demonstrating authority can actually be a disaster.

More gold from Kissmetrics: 19 AB tests you should run on your website.

Tools

I recently discovered Blix, which is like Google Analytics for shopfronts. I’m going to give it a go in the coming weeks, will keep you posted.

I really want to buy one of these pencils. The Walnut one looks particularly tasty.

Also by 53, Paper. One of the most gorgeous drawing apps on the iPad.

I’ve mentioned Parse before in the Tools section, but I really have to mention them again. I’ve been using Parse as the app backend for BrightHearts and I’m loving it. Parse is simple, very easy to use (the easiest asynchronous data storage I’ve ever used) and it’s affordable. Hat tip to Dain for telling me about Parse (some 6 months before I realised how silly I was to ignore sage advice.)

Resources

Here is a goldmine of iOS resources for developers. Mind blown.

I love a good, minimal icon set, don’t you? Here are a bunch you can use, for free.

Commentary

Lots of hot air about Apple’s threat to Fitbit & Jawbone. Apple is changing the healthcare market and the rising tide will lift all.

Daring Fireball totally nails why Only Apple can do what Apple do.

Have an awesome weekend!

Building a solid reputation

Volume 1, Issue 22

Adrian, I owe you one

No wait, I owe you a whole bunch!
Last week I found myself in a meeting with the C-level executives in a government department, pitching some high level concepts for the future of one of Sydney’s harbour-side precincts. To my right was the CEO. To my left were the concepts. The result? Three from three. We’re putting together a plan for the next steps, the best way to bring concept to reality. It’s all a bit overwhelming, actually.
I had no idea this was coming. Two weeks ago I received a call, explaining that I had been very highly recommended, that I was being asked for — me specifically. This was quite the spin, as you can imagine. How often (as a consultant) do you strategise, plan, scheme about ways to get in front of the people who matter, to put your ideas forward, to demonstrate your abilities, to win that big contract?
Always!
And yet, despite stepping slowly-but-surely into the shoes of a full time entrepreneur, it was me on the end of this phone call. “Excuse me, would you like to have an incredible opportunity? Oh, you would? Great!”
How did this happen? I have precisely one person to thank for this: Adrian.
Adrian and I don’t go that far back, but we have a lot in common. We’re both obsessed with design, we’re both tech geeks, we both love to tell a yarn. In fact, we’ve only met a few times, but I’ve been arriving in his inbox for a little while now (and I keep wondering when he’s going to reboot his awesome Friday email newsletter). I’d even wager that we’ve swapped more text characters over the internet than minutes in the same room together. It’s a funny world sometimes.
Somewhere along the line recently, Adrian gave me the thumbs up (perhaps even two thumbs up) to someone who mattered. That simple act – the passing on of rep, the sharing of kudos, the subtle nod – has just subbed me into a game I wasn’t even really ready to play. I didn’t even have my laces laced.
So this makes me wonder, what can we learn from this experience. Acts of generosity, of good timing, of luck, we can’t count on them. But what can we count on, or at least keep with us, to be somewhat prepared?
There are three take aways that come to mind:
1. There’s no better way to build a solid reputation for doing good work, than by simply doing good work. No, I don’t mean that I’m an amazing so-and-so and you need to emulate my ‘success’. What I mean is that people can tell the difference between a lump of coal and a well cut diamond. What’s ‘good enough’ will always differ subjectively, but I think deep down we all know when we’re just putting in the minimal amount of work & craft to scrape by. Here’s why this is important: if you’re not inspired by the work you’re doing, chances are you’re not even close to inspiring others. Pick your battles, aim for awesome and don’t get hamstrung by how much time it takes to feel the reward. Without getting too new-agey on you, when you consider the work as it’s own reward, amazing things can happen.
2. There’s no better way to build trust and good will with your colleagues than by giving generously, seeking to understand and to help. Wherever you can. I’m no master at this, believe me, but I have recognised that good things happen when you genuinely seek to help people connect the dots. You have to do this unconditionally, don’t forget. You’ll unravel all that trust and good will if people think you’re just doing it for your own future benefit. You’ll never know when your efforts will go unnoticed, or if they’ll ever hit home. You’ll never know where the next big amazing something is going to come from. It’s hard to hold to this, but you need to be prepared to give both unconditionally and genuinely.
3. You need to always be prepared to act on the opportunities that come your way. You won’t know where or how the next big thing is going to come your way. To put this into context: this time last year I wasn’t sure if I should still call myself an ‘architect’. Now I look back and laugh at the ridiculous series of circumstances that have led me to where I am now. If I was hung up on title or ‘core competency’ labels, I would have been closed off to new opportunities and wouldn’t have met such inspiring people. Adapt or die!
So Adrian, you’ve unlocked some pretty serious doors for me this past fortnight. For that I say: Thank you.
Now, where will the internet take us today?

Tips

I was looking for some great launch videos recently and found this list. Lots of great ones in there but Dollar Shave Club is my favourite (but that’s probably because I’m a Wes Anderson fan). Actually, Lonely Sandwich is probably the Wes Anderson of launch videos.

I’m loving the Kissmetrics blog lately. Here’s an example of why: the seven commandments of internal linking that will improve content marketing SEO.

Copyblogger help you turn traffic into money with a landing page

Jason Pelker shares why he decided to get serious about web security.

Problogger get real on publishing blog content without SEO. Ouch, that flatline of nope looks familiar.

Another few from Kissmetrics: how to increase customer revenue whilst decreasing churn and the biggest barriers to a stellar social media presence. I know, just stop it already.

Should you appeal to brand advocates who don’t buy?

Tools

Phil Morle recently caught my eye with the Pollenizer lean canvas spreadsheet tool. Thank you Phil! Whilst I’m on the topic: Phil’s weekly email newsletter is short, sharp and full of startup goodness. Subscribe now, you won’t regret it. Oh, also the Pollenizer lean startup tools page is a goldmine.

Stream is a wordpress plugin that helps you monitor user activity on your wordpress install (like post edits & plugin installs). It even works with wordpress Multisite. Pretty neat.

I love Omnifocus 2 for the iPhone. It’s the best task management app, hands down. The Mac app recently saw an upgrade that’s almost as good, but this is the real deal.

You can’t list startup tools this week without mentioning the goodies Apple unveiled at WWDC 2014. The new Yosemite OS, the new Swift programming language, iOS / OSX continuity, the new Xcode 6 (playgrounds! testflight! storyboards for OS X!), healthKit, the list goes on. It’s all a bit overwhelming, to be honest.

This week I discovered the brilliance of Trello, using it to take instantly organised collaborative notes in a meeting.

Commentary

This year’s WWDC was pretty stellar for Developers, but the press seemed pretty unimpressed (pun not intended). Horace Dediu explains why.

An australian startup and Apple are in a row over the name of Apple’s new framework: Healthkit. It sucks to have your name steamrolled by a mega corporate like Apple, but let’s also not forget that there’s a major difference between a brand / business name and an API/Framework.

I really enjoyed this article (on Medium) on the nature of interfaces in Sci-Fi and the modern mobile/web. How can we make better use of subtle cues (animation, colour, size) to convey information?

Please tell me you won’t spend 45 days to plan and compose a 120-character tweet.

Have an awesome weekend!

Staring at the wave

Volume 1, Issue 21

The wave rolls on

Just a quick note for you today, this week the wave of projects has rolled right over me. I love being an entrepreneur! Where will the internet take us today?

Tips

Basecamp remind us that it’s ok to not use tools.

Brent Simmons doesn’t code at night anymore. Do you work late into the night? It might be increasing short term productivity, but seriously hurting your long term effectiveness.

Ian Laurie recently shared his tips for making awesome presentations.

Similarly, Mack Web have a few thoughts on how to craft an effective presentation.

Kissmetrics share how user personas can improve conversion rate optimisation.
Are you considering remote work as a part of your business strategy? Here are four considerations worth, well, considering.

Buffer have a slide deck that’s entirely about their company culture. How clearly have you defined your company’s cultural aspirations?

This week I discovered Google’s Webmaster tools and how to use them. Super useful!

Oddities

Starbucks will never conquer Australia, at least, not if I have anything to say about it..

Did you know 50 Cent is a bona-fide life coach?

Nice & concise, don’t you think? See you next week!

Look, listen & learn from your audience

Volume 1, Issue 20

What can you learn from your audience?

Before becoming an ‘entrepreneur’ I spent 4 out of 5 years building little interactive artworks for the juggernaut we now know and love, called Vivid. Vivid has been an almost yearly ritual for myself and my collaborators – each year from March to May we would disappear into our workshops, cranking hours of expertise, labour and care into our projects, resurfacing at times to share our creation with a small but growing audience.

We had lots of failures, lot of hurdles along the way – but by far the best part was watching people interacting with our work. We held early private launch parties and watched, from the safety of our garage alleys, how people responded to our design choices. We saw how different lighting conditions affected the result, we fretted over ‘half baked’ elements, we looked for the ‘aha’ moments, or things we weren’t expecting.

People bring so much to your project, that you couldn’t possibly imagine from day one. Some things that seem important, don’t matter. Still, having people road test your ideas quickly reveals what needs the most work. I can say, without a doubt, that real feedback from the ‘market’ helped us to finish what we started & to nail down the things that were broken. I can say that it’s quite hard to ‘user test’ an artwork, even though artworks have different goals to products, but that it’s completely worth the effort.

Can you imagine the feeling we got when we overheard people talking about “that amazing artwork”, or when we watched people interacting with our projects at launch?
Last year alone we counted nearly 40k unique ‘users’ of our artwork, Morphic Mirror, not even counting the audience members who were marvelling at the show.

Now that I look back on it, it was a lot like working on a startup but without any of the insights, frameworks, guidance and knowledge that the startup community is now gaining and sharing so freely.

This week the SMH published an article on how Vivid has grown from humble beginnings, looking back on the awkward teenager that was Smart Light Sydney.

Halfway through the article, the arts editor specifically calls out one of the artworks I helped to create, Screaming Rapture.

“Even Vivid’s biggest drawcard, Vivid LIGHT, focuses on interaction – throngs of Sydneysiders spent their lungs shrieking at voice-activated installation Screaming Rapture in 2012.”

It’s nice to be supported, when you’re in the trenches. It’s nice to be noticed, in amongst all the buzz & lights. It’s nice to be rewarded for the hard work you’ve done.

It’s nicer still to be remembered, when the crowds have melted away.

I’m not in Vivid this year – now I’m chasing bigger demons – but I look back on my time at Vivid as being something akin to startup training. The lessons were to look, to listen and to learn from the people who interact with your work. There’s so much to gain by doing so. There’s so much to lose by pursuing perfection, by being afraid of rejection, or by not recognising things that are nothing more than assertion. There’s so much to learn by putting your work, warts and all, in front of strangers (people can really surprise you, believe me).

Look, listen & learn. You won’t regret it.

Now, where will the internet take us today?

Tips

Do you know how to do AB Testing in Google Analytics?

Intercom tell us why the Back button is no. 1 enemy. (p.s. Have you used intercom? I’d love to hear if it helped or hindered)

Tom Tunguz shows how you can use forecast & followup to make revenue predictions more reliable.

I’m a big fan of staging sites, because breaking things on a live site is so very painful. WPBeginner show us how to set up a staging site for wordpress.

Raven Tools show us 5 ways we can segment social media audiences without advertising.

Have you ever thought about using WordPress as an application platform? Pretty weird, I know, but it could really help you get that idea off the ground, fast.

Tools

This FastCo article caught my eye recently: the benefits of video game music for workday productivity.

Wildwon share a pretty sweet selection of venues for creative events.

This week several trusted colleagues recommended Unbounce for setting up quick, simple landing pages to test ideas. Worth a look

Resources

Vero’s free email marketing guide is chock full of really useful insights & info for budding email marketers. It’s a 7 part series, I’ve bookmarked each and every one of them.

Our good friends at Mack Web have a monthly blog post called Nuggets of Knowledge. This month’s NoK post is a good one.

The KissMetrics blog is such a good resource, it’s quite hard to pick one example to share – but I’m going to anyway. My pick: 6 things I wish someone had told me before I built a Marketing department.

A colleague of mine recently took a swipe at Quora in a Facebook group, which caught me by surprise. His issue? Dodgy SEO tactics to get you on the site. My take? I never end up on Quora via google, I usually click one of the links in their weekly email newsletter. It’s scary effective at pulling me into the site, and once there, I’m hooked. Quora’s my favourite non-canonical information source, hands down. Here are two good examples: How can I get the best return from just $35? and What is the best study method?

Wrapping Up

Each week I use Evernote to collect links, using the browser bookmarklet, dropping them into a dedicated notebook for the Dispatch. I’ve mentioned before how useful the habit has been, if I see something that’s relevant or useful, I drop it in there. I’ve even started tagging the items, to help speed up the link list process.

This week I looked at the notebook with new eyes: I realised that it’s quickly become a pretty solid collection of links to highly useful articles and sites around the web, and that it’d be really cool to share this with you, beyond the pages of this newsletter. That way you can dig into the items you’re most interested in (tips? tools? resources?), looking back into the history of the archive whilst also staying abreast of new items as they’re added.

I think there’s an easy way to do this, so let’s give it a try. I’ve created a public link for the Dispatch notebook, which I think you can ‘subscribe’ to in Evernote. That way you’ll be ahead of the pack, you’ll be able to search the notebook easily, as well as having quick access to the whole stack. It seems win-win to me…

Let me know if it works – or if it sucks! The Dispatch is all about giving you what you need, when you need it – so if this helps, I’d love to hear. Maybe Evernote isn’t the right answer, maybe a weekly summary of interesting links is more your flavour (I could split it out into two weekly emails, one a linked list, the other containing my thoughts), but it’s hard to know without asking.

What do you think? Drop me a line to let me know!

The consultancy trap

Volume 1, Issue 19

Time to get outta dodge

This week I didn’t bother showing up at work.

I didn’t set up an out-of-office email responder, I didn’t notify colleagues, nor did I leave any post-it notes on my keyboard. I simply packed my bags and left.

Three years ago, this move would have been sheer madness. We can’t have everybody simply leaving whenever they want to. How could we stay on target? How could we all know that progress is being made? What about being on the same page?

Well, all of that’s in the past. I now run a virtual business (several, actually), where location independence is a reality. I can ‘get on the same page’ with the best of them, all without needing to physically bump elbows. It’s liberating, I can tell you that.

And yet, this freedom comes with more than its fair share of challenges. When you run your own show, you’re responsible for the whole damn thing. Lights don’t work? Internet down? Customers unhappy? Better pull up your sleeves, pal. Worse, when things get tough, it’s all too easy to put that fall-back plan into action. You think: “don’t worry, I can always do some consulting, on the side, to keep things afloat”.

Beware, this is a trap.

‘On the side’ consulting is a trap, no doubt about it. If you’re going to be a consultant, fine. But if you’re building a customer facing business, creating and selling products for people, consulting is a one way street. Here’s why;

1. Consulting takes you out of your business and into someone else’s. Every hour you spend thinking, brainstorming, solving & communicating about someone else’s business is an hour you aren’t doing that for your own.

2. The project ownership shift adds unnecessary drag. It takes time and focus to shift gears between ‘founder’ and ‘consultant’ modes, slowing you down and introducing additional layers of complexity (and perhaps even chinese wall situations).

3. Consulting makes you lazy. Even the most impressive startups have to sign up paying customers & often software/digital products are well underpriced. If one hour of consultancy is equivalent to a week of sales, you can easily be lured by the immediacy of that ‘whale’ client, pulling your energy and focus away from your business.

4. Finally, the opportunity cost of finding, negotiating, doing and endlessly chasing payment for the work adds up to a far greater amount than the fees you eventually claim. Even though it looks like good money for good work, the cost of managing this process (for most) is greater than the reward.

So unless –

a. you can negotiate up front payment,
b. you can charge a good multiple of all your cost overheads (not just the time to do the work),
c. the work is directly benefitting your business (in a real and measurable way), or
d. you really like the work & team dynamic

stop chasing consultancy gigs. It just doesn’t add up.

Also, take the time to get out of the country. Go see the world, there’s a lot out there that you’ve never even seen or heard of before. It’s pretty mind-blowing, actually.

Now, where will the internet take us today?

Tips

Jason Fried walks us through his process for reviewing design work

Stefanos Karakasis pens an open Letter to a product person.

Here are 7 tips for high converting emails

How to spot lackluster support in your business.

Here’s why the ‘twitter follower count’ metric is bullsh*t, from the Mack Web team.

Tools

Did you know you can write code using Xcode on an iPad? The future is now!

Here’s a pretty solid list of Google Analytics dashboards you can use, right away (single click install).

The Buffer blog has compiled a big list of social media tools for small businesses.

Resources

This week I breezed through Remote: Office Not Required by Jason Fried and David Heinemeier Hansson, their ode to a post-office organisation. It’s quite quick and easy to digest & there are more than a few pearls of wisdom between the covers.

Alex Wain recently shared a list of 50 awesome small business blog RSS feeds. It’s a real content overload, but so very, very good.

The Kissmetrics blog was on Alex’s list of RSS feeds and it’s so good, it deserves another mention.

Did you know that The Dispatch is now 19 issues old? That makes it the longest single streak piece of TKLR, including both the Creative Agency and Divergent Minds podcasts. A few issues back I wrote about the benefits of routine & discipline and how much I enjoy putting this newsletter together. Each week it feels more like second nature and useful link hunting has become quite a well formed habit.

If you’ve been thinking about blogging, journalling or (heck) even tweeting more often, I would recommend considering a niche mailing list. The process of writing a newsletter does help put structure to vague thoughts, it helps bring you closer to the people on your list (I’ll be your first subscriber, promise) and it’s great writing practice. Mailchimp makes it so easy, all you need to do is put pen to paper.

I’ll leave you with that thought.

A two way street is the best kind of street

Volume 1, Issue 18

Tell me I’m not crazy

Hi there,

I’m going to mix it up a bit this week. Instead of hopping up on my story/soap box, I thought I might pull on your coat tail for a bit. I’m

I’ve come across a few new and novel situations this week that have left me wondering: has anyone faced these situations before? The answer, of course, is yes. The key challenge then becomes: how can I learn from you, now?

Question no. 1: Last month I launched an app into the app store. It’s called BrightHearts and it’s a breathing biofeedback app that helps you manage stress. Recently I was contacted by a government body interested in using the app with their employees. Given that the app is relatively inexpensive, they’re going to buy it and start using it with a small alpha group. My question is this: is it worth attempting to produce an enterprise version of the app and offer a site-license for use, or should I stick with the App Store status quo?

Question no. 2: I’ve launched an app, it’s going well, sales are ticking along nicely and I can see a roadmap of app features. I can now really appreciate the role of marketing, CRM software, sales and other ‘buzz building’ strategies – before you even come close to having a product ready for launch. My question is this: how can I learn to be more comfortable selling and promoting ‘early alpha’ software, without feeling that ‘it’s all broken’ feeling or damaging the high quality bar I’ve set for my brand?

Question no. 3: I have lots of other ideas for new products and new product categories. There are many ideas competing for attention and ‘developer juice’, which can be very difficult to curtail. My question is this: how can I know when an idea is worthy of that time and attention, without some initial time and attention investment up front?

Just when you thought you had done all your work for the week!

Am I thinking upside down on these issues? I’d love to hear what you think..

Another tweak this week, I’ve decided to go super lean on links. I think it’s all a bit overwhelming, a big list of links in your inbox. So I’m going to do the diligent thing and trim the list down to one or two must-read links, and see how that sticks.

Ready? Ready.

Tips

Matt Gemmell has the best article on working from home that I’ve ever read. If you’re currently (or considering) working from home, read this.

Basecamp break down their native / HTML app development strategy. If you’ve been confused by the thought of having webView magic in your apps, this might help break the spell.

Tools

The Kano computer kit is like lego for computers. If you’ve ever wanted to introduce computing to young-uns, or even if you’ve been interested to learn yourself – the Kano kit is perfect for you.

Resources

This week Udemy had a 3 day sale for courses on the site, which was a pretty decent clean sweep. I’m not sure how often they happen, but it was a very good deal (I nabbed a few iOS courses and one on Ruby for $35 each), definitely one to keep your eye out for.

Pattern Tap is a UI pattern library (in some ways similar to dribbble) collecting the craft of the web: great design & interaction work.

Oddities

Back in the 1920’s, animators at Disney put together a list of 12 basic principles of animation to help introduce character and personality through movement. Jason Kottke recently shared a video visualising these principles & they’re really very effective. Now I’m imagining how I could use animation to add some digital personality to my app..

Until next time, stay creative!

Finding clarity

Volume 1, Issue 17

The forecast is clear

This week I have two stories to share with you, one funny and the other a real kick in the pants.

The first story is about my relationship with my parents. They’re not technology people, they’re slowly coming around to the touch screen age and they’ve long avoided the internet (Facebook especially). Further still, they’ve struggled to understand my profession for as long as I’ve had it – with two Architecture degrees under my belt, they often ask me if I still work with ‘buildings’, or if I’ll go back to being an architect.

The concept of a multi-faced career is a bit too vague for their liking.

Last weekend I caught up with the family for birthday dinners & lunches. With the recent launch and success of my app on the app store, I finally felt I could sum up the efforts of my work in a small glowing box of tangibility. I described how the app worked, that it’s a stress management tool designed for kids, and that it’s now for sale online. So far so good.

In the very next breath, my mum starts telling me about an app she’d seen on Channel 7 News, one which helps kids calm down in hospitals when they’re getting needles (things like botox injections for kids with Cerebral Palsy). An artwork that helps you manage stress.

In short – my mum was telling me about my app! You could have blown me down with a feather.

I reflected on this experience recently with the Fishburners mailing list, and the insight I gained is worth sharing: if you have people in your life who struggle to understand what you do, simply arrange for a major TV network to cover your project on their prime time news slot. Problem solved!

The second story is about Seb. Seb was a code camper at the last camp, coming to camp in week 1. He’s only 10 but he’s a keen bean and quickly I saw that he didn’t need the same hand-holding that the other kids did. He picked up the lessons quickly, even being able to help the kids around him get up to speed.

I was impressed with how quickly he learnt, so much so that I gave him the ‘code champ’ award at the end of the week.

But Seb had been hiding something from me. During class, as I wandered around helping mop up errors and helping the campers make cool things, Zac had been building a new game, from scratch. As I talked about the mechanics of game points and how you can use data to log & track progress, Seb had been implementing his own game logic and scoreboard. He’d been putting into practice these very abstract ideas.

This week Seb put that app into the App store. Something many pro level coders have never done. A 10 year old dude put an app into the app store. It’s called Old Football, it’s quite hard to beat and it can be downloaded for free from your phone.

Talk about a kick in the pants! If you’re thinking about that great app idea, but worried that you don’t know how to build it, I can only say this: If a 10 year old kid can learn how to make an app, there’s nothing stopping you. Take an iTunes course, do some online tutorials, heck, sit in on the next Code Camp! The information is there, the only thing stopping you from getting involved, is you.

Let’s get to it, shall we?

Tips

Design has won a seat at the table. Is it now about to lose it?

Matt Gemmell is a programmer-turned-writer. Here are his tips for maximising small screen productivity.

I struggle with this every day: Selling the vision, not the reality.

Have you ever performed a Diving Save?

Here’s the ultimate 10-slide deck structure for any business.

Why are startup biz dev deals so unlikely to happen? Jason Cohen (founder of wpengine) tells us why and what to do about it.

Tools

Brett Terpstra shares his favourite xcode plugins. Lots of nerdy goodness.

Facebook App Links recently lauched, allowing deep linking to specific pages of an app, be that iOS or android. Looks very promising.

This week I discovered that you can merge notes in Evernote. Boom, productivity gain!

Resources
Basecamp are launching a new online magazine called The Distance, about hard-working, long lasting businesses and the people behind them. Got your attention?

Patrick Rhone has some choice words to share about James Altucher’s latest book, ‘Choose Yourself’. In short, go buy it.

Oddities

This clip of 3 Japanese olympian fencing pros facing off against 50 opponents shouldn’t be so fascinating and relevant to business – and yet it still is. Watching how people in a crowd work against each other reveals a lot about how we think about collaborating and strategy

That’s all for this week. I’ll be waiting to hear all about the apps you make and release by the next time we speak..

The last day of camp

Volume 1, Issue 16

Summer of Code

You could say that I’m a happy camper.

The last fortnight has been a blast! I spent 7 full days working with the dudes at Code Camp, teaching kids how to make apps. The kids ranged in age from 8-14, came from a bunch of different schools and all wanted to learn how to make apps.

I got involved when Ben, a cofounder, posted on Facebook about the camp and asked for iOS developers who could teach. I reached out and said I’d be interested, having only recently learnt how to make apps myself. I’ve been hacking in Xcode for years now, but only this year I decided to dig in and learn properly. I figured: if I could teach myself using nothing other than videos, then anyone could learn.

So was I right? You bet!

We structured the weeks so that the kids could both learn the basics of app making, and have the freedom to make the apps they wanted to. Most of the apps were pretty simple, but you wouldn’t believe the excitement in the room when simple apps load and work. Putting them on the kids devices was a whole other level of awesome.

I’ve been thinking about the camp and wondering what lesson I could learn from it, myself. The biggest lesson that I learnt from the camp is this: some of your most basic assumptions will be utterly wrong. As an adult learning to code, some of the hardest parts were trying to wrap my head around how and why things were connected – how could they be broken, how could they be fixed. I assumed that my experience would be in some way similar to that of the kids.

Lots of confusion and even a little soul searching.

The kids took to the tools like ducks take to water. There were obvious difficulties with the code itself, spelling errors and small bugs, but the kids took all those on the chin and dove right in. It was impressive to say the least.

It makes me feel very optimistic about the future for these kids. In a world where technical literacy is increasingly a factor in success online and off, it makes me proud to help these kids get ahead of the curve.

Let’s get some fuel in the tank for the long weekend!

Tips

WPBeginner tell us why we should begin building our email list today.

Mark Suster asks a pointy question: do you suffer from an urgency addiction?

Tomasz Tungunz shares a nifty formula for testing SaaS product pricing.

Pete Kazanjy says that the best hires are often right under your nose.

How do you scale a startup business without f*cking up the culture? Airbnb cofounder Brian Chesky shares his experience.

Did you know you can use HTML and JS in an iOS app, even without a network connection? Maybe that seems obvious to you, but it blew me away!

Tools

This week I used the Hockey enterprise distribution plan for the first time and I absolutely love it. It’s pricey, sure, but the alternative is so painful it’s worth the cost.

For some reason I’ve avoided using Git with Xcode. Turns out, it’s quite easy to set up and use. Here’s a tutorial from RayWenderlich.com

I signed up for two online learning schools this week, Udemy and Treehouse. Treehouse looks particularly good, especially with the breadth of courses available. I’m keen to try the Ruby on Rails and Android courses..

Resources

I found Chris Ducker in a Mixergy podcast, he’s the VirtualCEO guy. Totally worth checking out his blog. I shared Chris with Dispatchee Bret, who later told me he spent over an hour reading his blog. Lots of good stuff in there.

Speaking of Mixergy, Andrew just clocked in his 1000th interview on Mixergy. His interview catalogue reads like the who’s who of entrepreneurship. At $25/month, it’s a steal.

Articles

This isn’t a tip, tool or resource: so I’m giving it a new category: Articles
Zach Weiner shares his experience teaching 4th graders how to make iOS apps.

Catch you next week!

The irony!

Volume 1, Issue 15

Let’s talk about discipline

This week I had a killer email topic that I wanted to share with you: the joy of discipline.

I was going to write about how functionally useful it is to have something consistent, some goal, some anchor in your life to keep you on track. I was going to share how rewarding it is to have a weekly deadline for this newsletter, how great it is to have and to meet expectation – and further, how much more I enjoy those expectations than I was anticipating.

Then Friday came, and I completely missed the deadline. Oh, the irony.

Difficulties come from all sides, often unexpectedly. Sometimes we can be our own worst enemy. The true test, though, is how you deal with adversity, even when it’s of your own creation. When I paused to reflect on what happened this week and how I could learn from it, I realised that there’s something deeper, something more interesting to talk about than simply enjoying the results of discipline.

And that, dear reader, is grit.

What happens when we’re facing difficulty delivering, or when the demo isn’t working at the worst possible time, or when we’re struggling to convey a complex value proposition in simple terms? How we react under these pressures, says a lot about our ability to cope with difficulty, to integrate new and troubling information and to use this new energy, rather than fighting it. To fight this new external pressure is to live in denial of reality and to miss an opportunity to learn & grow – and I don’t mean this in a vague hand-wavey manner, I mean you miss an opportunity to grow in real terms. Are your customers trying to tell you something that you just don’t want to hear? Are you struggling to convert, but can’t figure out how to change people’s habits? How can you make failing productive, not simply painful?

This week I found myself unable to write this newsletter, to collect my thoughts and to hit send. Next week I’ll fail at something different. The week after, I’ll fail again (don’t worry, you’ll hear all about it). Rather than looking at these moments as identity crises or throwing in the towel, I’m going to take this as an opportunity to learn & change.

What can I learn from failing?

Let’s get stuck in;

Tips

Brent Simmons has a few wise words for writing marketing copy for your app.

A List Apart has a great overview on designing for the The Z-Axis.

The Clarity Blog recently featured this great hackers guide to getting press. Lots of useful bits in there

I’ve been hooked by Rob Fitz’s writing at The Startup Toolkit. Here are a few to get you started: B2C Business models, Stress and daily writing and Should you risk 3 years of your life on a startup?.

Likewise, Ben Thompson is kicking goals over at Stratechery. He’s recently launched a membership based newsletter, which if it’s as good as his long-form writing, will be well worth the $10/month entry price. Here are a few to get you started: Does Jeff Bezos read Asymco?, The heart of Dropbox and why targeting increases the value of ads.

Horace is on fire over at Asymco, here’s his take on misunderstanding innovation.

Did you know that the UIDatePicker is poorly optimised in iOS 7? I’m using one in an app and was surprised to see how big an impact it had on UIView load time. Itty Bitty Apps tell us why. Also, the Itty Bitty Apps homepage is simply gorgeous and nicely executed. Kudos to some Aussies for showing us how to do it right!

Matt Mullenweg is the poster child for remote working and how it can help you build a world-class business. Here’s his take on hiring by audition

The sweet setup guys have put together a very comprehensive guide to backing up your mac. Now you don’t have any excuse for not backing up!

Tools

Brent’s wise words (see above) helped guide the copy for Settle App, which helps you settle expenses between friends quickly and easily. Looks handy.

I haven’t yet tried this myself, but it looks very exciting. Injection lets you inject changes to live apps, whilst they’re running, making debugging & design much more fluid and ‘real-time’. Very exciting.

I bought Reflector for use in the classroom this week – it’s the best way to share your iOS screen with your mac over a wi-fi network.

That’s all we have time for this week. Make the most of the Easter break & I’ll see you next week!

Making an impact

Volume 1, Issue 10

Changing the Channel

If you’re anything like me, you’ve been hooked on the smattering of amazing TV shows coming out of the US. True Detective, Game of Thrones and House of Cards are just the tip of the iceberg. There’s so much high quality TV being made, it’s almost like we’re seeing the rejuvenation of a much maligned format. Movie quality programs that span 8, 10, sometimes even 15 hours worth of content. How can this be possible?

It seems like an impossible challenge – to create quality shows for mainstream audiences that don’t end up designed by committee. Yet Nic Pizzolatto and Kevin Spacey have made it work, and we’re all better off for it. The Netflix model, in particular, is highly interesting to observe from the outside. For all of us who love to create compelling & memorable content, the game just got a whole lot more interesting. Combining online and on-demand, the future of the medium is looking brighter than ever.

What are you pouring your passion into this week?

*** Tips

Craig Morantz (aka the go to market guy) has a hunch that most companies ignore this highly important go to market strategy.

James Altucher lays out a good way to deal with haters. Are you in the public eye? Are you reachable by the masses, via social media? Chances are you’ll encounter some hate. Here’s how to deal with it.

If you like my resume, give me a call doesn’t cut it anymore – it’s not useful for prospective employees or hirers. Here’s an old classic from DHH (of 37Signals and Ruby on Rails repute).

Dan Counsell thinks in-app reviews are broken. Here’s his take on when to ask for a review – and when not to.

Justin Williams recently bought Glassboard and has been dealing with a lot of manual customer support for freemium customers. This can be quite a tricky situation, especially given the misaligned incentives of both parties. Justin outlines how he’s approached the challenge.

*** Tools

This email newsletter was written in Chrome using Markdown and Draft, then delivered by Mailchimp. As Christensen would put it, when the competitive circumstances are ‘good enough’, a modular approach works best. I’m loving my modular web tools, they make it so much easier to get your job done quickly and painlessly.

The Rain? app for iOS has saved my bacon on a few separate occasions recently. Highly recommended for a quick birds-eye view on local weather patterns.

Are you looking to connect with new leads, but don’t know where to find them? Tacticscloud lets you create lists of twitter users that match specific criteria (e.g. “doctors” in Sydney who follow @webMD), helping shortcut some of the lead discovery phase.

*** Resources

Have you heard of Brett Terpstra? He’s an uber geek, the kind we all love to love. His site is a goldmine of Markdown, Terminal and clever app goodness. Here’s an example: a textexpander snippet for inserting dynamic dates in text. This sort of thing will save you seconds, sure, but they certainly do add up.

Murray Hurps is creating the mother of all startup resources for Australian businesses. Startup Muster is a survey of the startup ecosystem here in Aus, designed to gather more robust data on the challenges facing new businesses. The survey takes around 10 minutes to complete, after which Murray will be publishing anonymised data and a report. Take the survey here.

The Disruption Issue

Volume 1, Issue 9

Who’s Disrupting Whom?

And so it goes..

This week I’ve immersed myself in literature about the theory of disruptive innovation. It’s a fascinating topic, one which could never truly be covered properly by a weekly email newsletter, but still I do have a few take away points to share with you. The first is that disruptive innovation is a powerful mechanism for change, if understood and applied rigorously. The second is that this often fails to occur, due to the asymmetric motivators inherent in the innovator’s dilemma. The third and final take away is that the concept of disruption is not very well understood, despite its popularity, resulting in the sad cliche of disruption seeming to appear everywhere you look.

Not everything is disruptive. Not all innovation is disruptive. Not all innovation needs to be disruptive. Yet we’re surrounded by founders claiming disruptive tech, approaches, teams, businesses. It’s comical, really. I think we can lift our game. Here’s my small contribution.

*** Resources

To understand disruption: go straight to the source. Let’s use a shared language when talking about the phenomenon: learn the definition of sustaining, low-end, new market and disruption. Clayton Christensen’s The Innovator’s Solution is the best starting place for this. Yes, I’ve mentioned this before – it really is the best place to start.

Next you’ll want a process for finding disruptive ideas and testing their validity. Scott Anthony’s Little Black Book of Innovation is a playbook for creating innovation. It builds on the last chapters of Christensen’s book and expands them to define a four week program for innovating. You’ll want to take notes as you go. Worth noting, Anthony works with Christensen at Innosight, the innovation consulting firm Christensen started in 2000.

During this process you’ll want to get out of your building, get away from your assumptions on what customers want, and to do so effectively so you can use this learning in your creation. Steve Blank’s books The Four Steps to the Epiphany and The Startup Owners Manual are the best place to learn the process of customer development.

Whilst you’re going through these, you might also want to look at Business Model Generation by Alex Osterwalder, for a highly digestible overviewof how to create new business models.

You might notice that I didn’t include The Lean Startup by Eric Ries in this list. I honestly don’t think it’s the best place to get started, either with good theory or practical advice. You can do better with the five books noted above.

What you’re looking to gain with these books is a solid understanding of the theory behind disruption. I realise that sounds abstract and not very useful for ‘on the ground’ action, but bear with me when I say that good theory helps direct action immeasurably. The better you understand the core concepts of disruption, the better you can outpace the competition and start operating on a new competitive basis.

Which brings us to:

*** Tools

So now you’re fully loaded with the concepts of disruptive innovation, you’re going to want to put them to good use. So what do we need to move from idea to reality?

The Business Model Canvas is the best tool to quickly capture business ideas, so you can put the high quality thinking into the business idea, not the structure of the idea itself. Grab the PDF, print it out, get your post-it notes ready

In addition to that, you’ll want to grab a copy of the Value Proposition Canvas, an add-on to the business model canvas. This one focusses on just two sections of the BMC, the customer segment and the value proposition. Simply put, you want to understand your customer segments in great detail, then ideate products to serve their needs. The VPC can help you get there faster.

Here’s an unusual tool tip from Anthony’s book: “don’t just do something, stand there!”. Get out of the building and observe what people do in different circumstances. Look for the jobs they’re trying to do, look for where and why they struggle to get these done and look for the hacks they employ to make life easier. Eyes, ears and an attentive mindset are the best tools you’ll find. And most importantly, I don’t believe you can outsource this part of the innovation process.

Many of the resources above are time consuming, lengthy processes or require your commitment. That’s the way it should be, in my view. Innovation doesn’t, as it might appear, happen overnight. It takes time, effort, patience and grit.

*** News

Jean MacDonald, founder of App Camp 4 Girls has announced she’s leaving Smile Software (where she’s been a partner for several years) to run AC4G full time. I hope to have Jean on the Creative Agency podcast shortly to hear all about her exciting plans, but in the meantime you should check out their site to learn more about the camp. Let’s get AC4G up and running here in Aus!

I’d like to thank Dispatch reader Adrian for giving me much appreciated advice this week;“experiment with what goes in.”

I like putting The Dispatch together for you and I’m going to continue iterating and experimenting to see what works. Yet it’s not for me, it’s for you. If there’s something in here that you think sucks, that should be better, or is missing entirely – you can make that change happen. Just hit reply and let me have it. I’d love to know what you think and it’ll help make a better product. So, let me know!

Well, that’s it for us this week. I hope you’re all kicking the goals you need to, aiming higher with each milestone and loving the entrepreneurial life. Onward and upward!

TGIF?

I can vividly remember the Friday joy I would often feel at a previous job, the one where weekend time was a precious resource and the daily grind was something to endure. Yet since taking the plunge into the freelance and entrepreneurial world, I can’t remember the last time I yearned for the week to be over.

If anything, the weekend is a great time to tackle things missed during the week or an even better time to reset and dream about the next big thing.

In short, the process of dreaming up products, of finding great guests to have on the show, the search for new business models – they’ve been literally transformative to my life. Which is one way of saying ‘Friday-schmiday’ and that entrepreneurship can be way more rewarding than you expect.

Starting today, I’m changing the Dispatch schedule, to bring you the best tools, tips and resources each Friday afternoon. It’s my way of sending you into the weekend fully loaded with the best reading material, podcasts, websites, tools and tech available. As my friend Michelle would say, I’m so excited about how excited we’re going to be.

First up I have to say thanks to two Dispatch readers for giving me some much appreciated advice; Bret, for pushing me to hit send each and every time (thanks Bret), and Kathryn for giving me two new killer questions for each Creative Agency guest: “what’s the next big thing for you” and “who did you look to for mentorship” 

I love this level of feedback, so keep it coming! I always want to make sure that the my questions are interesting, insightful and relevant to the challenges you’re facing. When you have the chance to speak to people like Phil MorlePete Cooper or Raf Manji, I want to make sure I’m digging into the issues you care about. Now, on with the show:

News

Along with the new time-slot, this week I’m debuting a new section: relevant news!

The SydStart lineup has been announced and early bird tickets have just gone on sale. Check out SydStart.com to see the lineup and book your tickets.

Cold emailing can be just as hard as cold calling – and yield equally poor results. Here’s a guide on how to do it better.

If you’re thinking about self-publishing (and let’s be honest, who isnt’?), Aaron Mahnke has a list of great self-publishing guidebooks.

What if life were a game? Oliver Emberton answers just that question.

AB testing is critical to figuring out if your messaging is working or not. Here’s a short and sweet guide to doing it right.

Tools

Ever wanted to see if someone had opened your email, but you don’t want to use Outlook? You now can, using Streak. It also has a whole ream of CRM-based tools to beef up your inbox, as well as the ability to track email ‘opens’. 

On the email CRM side of things, Collabspot is a way of integrating Highrise with your gmail inbox. I’m not certain how well it plays with Streak, but if you’re a highrise user, it’s a great way to bring the two closer together.

Highrise itself is also great – although the company that makes it (37Signals) are shifting away from highrise, to focus on their main game – Basecamp.

Since we’re on a 37Signals love-in, here’s 5 common work-arounds for basecamp users

I found oneTab recently, it’s a chrome extension for people who find themselves with too many chrome tabs and a hung pc. It will create one tab with a html list of all open tabs, freeing up your memory and helping review the list in one nicely formatted page. You can also publish these lists and share them with others.

Resources

Mack Web Solutions recently published The Monumental Guide to Building Online Communities. There’s a lot of common sense advice in here, so don’t bother with it if you’re only interested in hype. If you’re interested in cultivating genuine communities in your niche, building a tribe of fans and improving your business, this one’s a must-read.

The Innovator’s Dilemma is a seminal classic which has informed startup strategy for nearly two decades. Clayton Christensen is the poster boy for innovation and has also written a number of follow up books to expand on his theories, one of which I’m loving in audiobook format (The Innovators Solution). 

I recently discovered Stratechery, Ben Thompson’s blog on tech strategy (and pronunciation). Ben’s my new go-to guy for level headed insight on the business model innovation occurring globally in the tech space, his site is well worth a read.

Horace Dedieu is my long-term go-to guy for level headed insight into the technology business space. If you’ve never encountered Horace before, he’s the host of the Critical Path on 5by5 as well as the Asymcar podcast. He’s also a big proponent of Clayton Christensen’s theory of disruptive innovation and of the ‘jobs to be done‘ theory. Both of which are far more practical than they might seem at face value.

Steven Sinofsky is the author of ‘Learning By Shipping’, an awesome zepelin’s eye view of the tech industry. Here’s his take on disruptive innovation and sustaining innovation through the incumbent reaction.

***

This week has been a real barnstormer for me, which leaves me riding a success high well into the weekend. I hope you’re all tackling milestones and smashing your goals – for all your hard work, you deserve it!

 

Get out of your head!

Volume 1, Issue 6

And into my car..

Gotta love a good hobby.
Whilst we all know it’s important to understand the distinction between running a business and enjoying an expensive hobby (in many cases that’s the first ‘business’ decision we make), it does also help to find and enjoy hobbies that take us away from the daily grind of being in business. Hobbies bring with them new skills, insight and the chance to learn something new. They also bring us into contact with people outside our normal social circles, people who can see the world from a different point of view. Best of all, they help you get out of your head, if only even for a brief moment each day.

In the past 6 months, I’ve found myself a new hobby – I’ve grown myself a green thumb. I’m about as surprised as you are, I’m sure. I’ve never really held much ability to cultivate things before (I even killed a cactus, once), but this time I’m enjoying the process of planning, watering, staking and eating the fruits of my work. It’s highly rewarding to have all the herbs you want, at your disposal. And yet, it’s not simply the veggies that have been so rewarding, it’s the process of stepping away from the urgent, the stressful, the relentless calls for more attention, now. Popping out into the garden gives me a chance to step outside the mindset of ‘urgent work’, re-align myself to what’s actually important and think things through.

It’s also a gentle reminder that small consistent effort can slowly get you closer to your goals. The garden is a fertile place – and not only for the tomatoes.

What hobbies do you love to do? What helps you to get out of your head? 

Tips

  • This week’s sad news is that type legends Jonathan Hoefler and Tobias Frere-Jones are going their separate ways. Tobias claims that Hoefler conned him out of 50% of the business, and regardless of the court action outcome, it’s a sad end to a typography juggernaut. Yet, this does stand as a strong reminder to sort out your shareholder agreements, now! Don’t wait, you’ll only regret it.
  • Here’s a pretty stellar CEO productivity hack thread on Quora
  • Ever wondered how to run an evening event? Lanyrd show us how it’s done.
  • Whilst we’re embracing hobbies, let’s also embrace the hobbies that take us all the way to geekdom.
  • Also related: turning passions into businesses. Walk that narrow line!

Tools

  • Recently I’ve resumed relying heavily on textexpander on Mac OS X. It’s a real time-saver, replacing long fiddly text with simple and easy to remember key commands. If you’re tying similar things often, you shouldn’t be!
  • Tinyletter is a neat new newsletter-maker tool that helps you craft and send email newsletters. I like using mailchimp for the Dispatch, but I like the look of TinyLetter.
  • I love dropbox. Get it, use it, abuse it. It’s digital glue.

Resources

  • Last time I mentioned that I was starting the Stanford University iTunes course on iOS development. Two weeks later, I’m now an official iOS danger to myself! The iOS course was such a great starting point, up to date and very detailed explanations of various (otherwise confusing) aspects of iOS app making. Very highly recommended.
  • I’m surprised that today’s Dispatch is the first time I’ve mentioned flying solo, one of my go-to sites for small business perspectives.
  • Darren Herbold has a pretty stellar list of productivity tools. It’s a list of tools, yes, but I’m putting it in resources. Risque!

2014 feels like it’s going to be a good year. Here at TKLR, we’re about to launch a new creative thinkers podcast, as well as a new series of articles on startups that I think will tickle your fancy. What have you got in store? I’d love to know what you’ll be trying to solve, trying to create and dying to take on. Drop me a line and let me know! You never know, you could be gracing the digital pages of this humble newsletter!

Until next time, stay creative..

The Future

Volume 1, Issue 6

Resolutely moving into the future

Welcome all to a brand new year, to the sweet and alluring scent of opportunity.

In light of the festivities and blessed holiday absenteeism, I’ll keep this one short. No doubt you’ll be far too busy paving your way into the future or lamenting those dropped resolutions (it’s only the 5th, the year is young!). I like to make the most of these slow moments to reflect on the year that was and to quietly make plans for the year that might be. Know thyself, as the Greek sages might have said, is a very good starting point.

I often find myself making the greatest leaps of insight when I’m away from the drawing board. Be it washing dishes, taking a shower or watering the garden, I find that simple (water based, for some reason) activities help me step back and recoup my energy and drive. The same goes for the new year period. Every day, it seems, I’m hit with another idea for a new project that would be nothing short of insanely great. Some of these ideas, to be sure, go nowhere. But it’s so nice to have the time to dream, the time to reflect and the time to imagine. 

I said I’d keep this one brief, so I’d better make good on that promise. Let’s go make our way into the future, shall we?

Tips
Tools
  • Keeping a customer contact point calendar is easy with highrise from 37signals
  • I recently became the proud owner of a ‘worm cafe‘ worm farm. It’s a productive little box that converts kitchen scraps to high yield fertiliser for your plants. If you’re thinking of trying to cut down on your environmental compostable waste footprint, it’s a winner.
  • Long time collaborator Frank Maguire recently gave me a new Griffin Twenty amp, which is the airplay go-between for my iphone-to-speaker needs. It’s the easiest piece of kit I’ve ever had to assemble, and now I can surround myself with air-y musical goodness. It’s literally the future, in your pocket today. 
  • Buddypress is a wordpress social network plugin, making it easier than ever to start your own self-hosted company blog/groupsite/facebook clone than ever before. I’ve been tinkering with it lately, creating my own basecamp tool using wordpress, buddypress and a domain. All working smoothly, so far!
  • I’m loving my Zoom H4N field audio recorder. It’s the audio device I use to record the Creative Agency podcast and I love it. It can record up to four separate mic tracks simultaneously, it takes all manner of audio input and can act as an audio interface for your mac. Perfect.
  • My new Aeropress is the most convenient, easiest and fastest way to convert delicious coffee from concept to reality. 

Resources

  • I linked to Jason Calacanis’s blog above, I’ve previously linked to his podcast (twist). Calacanis.com is a recent discovery of mine and I think it’s great. Jason’s highly candid and insightful re the tech industry, well worth a look.
  • Startupsmart most certainly lives up to the name
  • Stanford University recently updated their free iTunes U course on iOS development. The first 18 lectures (with slides) are available for free on iTunes, which is altogether pretty phenomenal.
And just like that, we’re off and running. Here’s to an amazing new year, full of promise and potential. I hope you all make the most sensible new years resolutions (and stick to them), but more importantly I hope you all manage to make your mark on the world in the months to come. If you think you can, you can.

Phil Morle on creating the conditions of success.

Two years ago Phil Morle would have told you that investing in startups is like moneyball, a numbers game. That you need to overcome a high rate of failure by taking more rolls of the dice. That failure is something to be endured, a natural part of the startup world.
But that’s not what he’d tell you today. Phil’s thinking around what makes an enterprise work has evolved and he’s in it to win. For him, that now means taking on fewer business ideas, doggedly pursuing that elusive ‘unfair advantage’ over competitors and doing everything he can to set up the right environment for success.

You could say that it’s working.

In this episode, you’ll learn:
– why ventures in large corporations typically fail
– how to use focus to your advantage, and
– why failing isn’t the end of the story for startups

Phil’s known as the leading practitioner of lean principles here in Australia. Six years ago he began building Pollenizer with Mick Liubinskas, a business that builds businesses, and hasn’t looked back since. Pollenizer isn’t your typical incubator, taking a share of your business whilst helping you get off the ground. Pollenizer creates businesses, from the initial idea and finding the right team (including founders), to taking on investment and taking money off the table. From start to finish, Pollenizer is a co-founder, through thick and thin. It should be no surprise then, that Phil’s seen both the good and the bad side of entrepreneurship and began to look for a better way.

Entrepreneurship is a tough game, swathed in uncertainty and almost always under-resourced. Yet these are qualities critical to success, says Phil. When you forget that entrepreneurship is all about pursuit of opportunity, beyond resources controlled, you fail. And don’t, for a second, think that this applies only to bootstrapped startups – forgetting the startup mantra can be disastrous to large organisatinos also. When over-resourced teams lose their vision, they also lose the hunger for opportunity. Cumbersome, ungainly, slow moving teams that struggle to make decisions are almost guaranteed to fail.

But there is a better way. Click play to learn how Phil approaches new opportunities, how he’s building the next wave of entrepreneurship and how he’s connecting the dots between corporate problems and startup solutions.

You can find Phil on twitter. He also writes prolifically on the Pollenizer blog, where he’s contributed many thoughtful, well considered articles on startups and entrepreneurship.

squarespace-logo-horizontal-white

This episode was brought to you by Squarespace, the all in one platform that makes it fast and easy to create your own professional website or online portfolio. If you’re interested in getting set up on the web, squarespace is the best place to start.

If you go to www.squarespace.com, you’ll find beautiful templates you can use get your site up and running in just a few clicks. their templates are designed to work on all devices, desktop and mobile, which is important since more and more people will be coming to your site via mobile devices. Once you’ve picked your template, it’s also super easy to use, you can drag and drop your content around on your site to your hearts content. If you’re looking to set up an online store, squarespace has you covered, as e-commerce is literally built into the platform. It couldn’t be easier to get a slick, professional looking site up and running.

At just $8 per month, you can get a beautiful mobile ready website up and running including your own domain and hosting. You can start a free trial, with no credit card required, simply by going to www.squarespace.com You can save an extra 10% by using the offer code “Creative10”.

Steve Lennon talks business: Do big change, fast

Steve Lennon will tell you he’s had more starts than Phar Lap. A self-described learning junkie, Steve’s called himself a banker, a general manager, a founder and a management consultant. He’s the kind of guy who isn’t interested in a neat, obvious predetermined journey – instead he’s going to carve his own path and enjoy his own success, warts and all. I met Steve several years ago and had the chance to work closely with him on a new startup project in a large organisation. It was Steve who first gave me a copy of Business Model Generation, who introduced me to the concept of business design. In many ways, you could say that Steve is part of the story that led me to create TKLR, so to invite Steve on Creative Agency is a real buzz.

In this interview, you’ll learn;

    How being committed and detached are equally necessary in business
    How important it is to look at your business objectively
    How losers and winners can switch sides, so quickly, and
    That you should never forget your options

Steve’s not just an old friend, or an interesting storyteller – he’s someone who knows what it’s like to survive the schizophrenic world of entrepreneurship. He’s seen the business world go through booms, crashes and recessions, and he’s only too happy to share how and why he’s been able to survive these events, unscathed.

It was a real pleasure having Steve on the show. You can find Steve’s blog here, or connect with him on Twitter.

squarespace-logo-horizontal-white

This episode was brought to you by Squarespace, the all in one platform that makes it fast and easy to create your own professional website or online portfolio. If you’re interested in getting set up on the web, squarespace is the best place to start.

If you go to www.squarespace.com, you’ll find beautiful templates you can use get your site up and running in just a few clicks. their templates are designed to work on all devices, desktop and mobile, which is important since more and more people will be coming to your site via mobile devices. Once you’ve picked your template, it’s also super easy to use, you can drag and drop your content around on your site to your hearts content. If you’re looking to set up an online store, squarespace has you covered, as e-commerce is literally built into the platform. It couldn’t be easier to get a slick, professional looking site up and running.

At just $8 per month, you can get a beautiful mobile ready website up and running including your own domain and hosting. You can start a free trial, with no credit card required, simply by going to www.squarespace.com You can save an extra 10% by using the offer code “Creative10”.

Ho, ho, ho!

Volume 1, Issue 5

‘Tis the season to be…

So it seems that the festive season has hit us once again. I do hope you’ve all done your dash and can safely avoid the zombie horde of last-minute Christmas shoppers. I myself have taken a hybrid physical-digital approach to shopping this year and have managed to avoid the throngs and traffic, for which I am deeply thankful. I’d be sad to go fully digital though, as there’s quite a lot to relish when giving and receiving actual physical gifts. Something tangible that may indeed change in our lifetimes, but for now it’s still very satisfying to rip away the paper on a shapely, weighty item. Akin to cartoon bombs in boxes, the physical gift gives us cues to what’s contained inside.Yet on the other hand, part of the digital giving this year will be a vicarious donation made on behalf of loved ones. More of a shared giving than a frenzied selfish ritual, one that gives an emotion to both parties and something of actual useful to someone we’ll never meet. A goat, a well or a teacher, that sort of thing. Something that helps us connect across geographic, economic and cultural boundaries, extending a hand from those who have, to those who haven’t. And in amongst the miasma of festive cultural readings, it helps connect us as people, beyond wealth or creed.

And on that note of giving, understanding and empathy, I present my end of year gift to you. The final Dispatch for 2013.

Tips
Tools
  • Have you ever needed to find a new word to describe a product or business? Or have you ever tried to register a domain name and found that they’re all taken? You need wordoid, the word creation algorithm that creates words that are like real words, but not quite right. They’re close enough though, and will give you endless hours of bad-startup-name fun.
  • Loom is the photostream killer we’ve all been waiting for. It’s cloud storage for your photos (and now videos also), with multi-device storage done properly.
  • Flickr recently updated their plans to offer users 1TB of photo storage, at the ultra low price of $0 pa. That’s a lot of space for not much money!
  • Are you still using RSS feeds to follow websites? How mid-naughties! If you are, you might like to give feedly a try. I’ve also played with Digg Reader (another good option), but I always find myself coming back to Feedly.
  • Each week I use Evernote to save notes on the web for this newsletter. The free account comes with a suite of mac & iOS clipping tools that make it simple to save notes wherever you are. It’s the hidden glue that makes this newsletter sing.
  • I’ve also made the switch to using 1Password instead of the same terrible password (jasonRox1234, we must now part ways). I love it, the chrome extension makes signing into secure sites quick and easy. The best part – if you use dropbox to sync your passwords, you’ll never have to remember your super secure passwords ever again.

Resources

  • Steven Sinofsky (of Windows, Internet Explorer and Outlook.com repute) now writes a blog called Learning by Shipping, which I recommend you all read. His recent 2014 prediction post is a good place to start.
  • General Assembly help people make career defining changes, through education. Recently I spotted a flowchart on how to hire a developer, which has some pretty good advice that’d work for any kind of hire (replace developer with engineer, fashion designer, teacher, etc).
  • I absolutely love this ‘design primer for non-designers‘ site, created by Wells Riley.
  • App Camp 4 Girls sounds absolutely awesome. Let’s take this idea and help girls forge the future in manner of male dominated industries!
  • Recently I listened to Jean MacDonald, founder of App Camp 4 Girls on Glenn glenn Fleishman’s podcast, The New Disruptors. It’s an excellent podcast, with fascinating makers, my pick to get you started would be the episode with Yancy Strickler, one of the co-founders of kickstarter.

Well, I suppose that just about wraps up the year, so far. I hope you all have a wonderful festive season, no matter how you choose to enjoy it, and I’ll see you all fairly and squarely in 2014.

Make sure you also swing by tklr.net to connect with more of the smartest minds in startups.

Until next time, stay creative.

Jason McDermott
Founder, TKLR.
p.s. Last week I asked

“Wouldn’t it be sad if you could actually read all the books ever written by man, in one lifetime?”

By sheer coincidence, this week XKCD/What if? featured this very question (well, a variation on it), outlining the speed at which you’d have to read, in order to keep up with the pace of your contemporary authors. So now you know!

Hola!

Volume 1, Issue 4

¡Buenas Noches!

Good evening!
Last year I spent nearly 6 months travelling through Latin America, winding my way through the Andes and learning the local Spanish flavour each time I crossed a border. Each new place had a different way to express thoughts and feelings and I loved making the effort to ask the important questions every time (how do you say “cool” here? If you think about it, ‘cool’ is a pretty hard concept to convey across language barriers. Hand gestures can only take you so far..).  Recently I became friends with two Italian ladies who had also been in Mexico and were excited to find a new student with some aptitude. Thus, my new Italian language lessons have begun.

I mention this because I think that learning a new language is a great example of a life philosophy that I’ve been tinkering with – which is the notion that I’ll never stop discovering new things worth learning.  It’s a simple philosophy, but powerful in practice. It tells me that I’ll never be ‘finished’, no matter how many goals I reach or how fat my wallet is. It tells me that even when I think I’m at the top, I shouldn’t be complacent and rest on my laurels. Better still, it reminds me that I’ll never run out of wonderful new discoveries in life and that new discoveries are (literally) on the tip of my tongue. 

Wouldn’t it be sad if you could actually read all the books ever written by man, in one lifetime?  Instead, we’re now living in a time when we can reach through the ages and read the thoughts of ancient politicians, middle age theologians, renaissance playwrites and modern day crackpots. What a world we live in.

But – I digress – I’m not only here to sell you on the big picture stuff, I’m also interested in the details..

 

Tips
  • I’ll start with some hard nosed advice. Don’t start a company. This post over on BigNerdRanch hits the nail right on the head – if you think it’s all about skill, ideas or that killer app, you’re wrong. It’s all those things and more. Make sure you know what you’re getting into before you do!
  • This quicksprout post came to me via the Fishburners google group. It’s a month long series of exercises and activities designed to revive your site traffic with white hat tactics (e.g. ‘Set a writing calendar’). Give it a try, I bet you won’t regret it.
  • In the last two years I’ve noticed a strong trend towards highly opinionated, independent gear review sites.  New trustworthy gear review sites are popping up almost monthly – and they tend to be really good. Given that it’s the festive season, you might want to take a look at a few of them for gift ideas or suggestions. Sites worth reading: Toys and toolsThe Wirecutter and Sweet Home are all good places to start.
  • Did you know that you can back your mac up to a remote drive mounted on another computer on your network? If that sounds like gobbledygook to you, ask an internet friend. If you’re still interested, it means that you can back up your precious data wirelessly, without having to be connected! It’s easy to set up and when it works, it’s beautiful. Rest easy, you’ve got time machine on your side.  
Tools
  • If you’ve ever wanted to learn a new language, you’ll know that it can be hard to stick at it and to learn the real-world way to combine words into sentences. Heck, it can even be hard combining letters into words, let alone speaking them out loud! My go-to app for learning languages is Duolingo. It’s the best, it’s free and most importantly it’s fun.  
  • I’m a big fan of the GoGet car share service, which lets you use a car for short bursts without the hassle of insurance, maintenance and petrol.  It’s the perfect alternative to the money-sink of car ownership, and makes dense urban living easier to manage. You can even gift it to a friend or family member (I’m planning on doing that, this christmas), helping others save on car costs whilst still managing to go get the groceries (see what I did there?).
  • If you’ve ever wanted to create a simple mockup of a digital concept – for iOS, for android or for the web – Keynotopia is perfect for you. It’s a suite of keynote template files, styled to mimic platform UI aesthetics, that you can use to quickly whip up a proof of concept app design.  If you get real fancy, you can also use keynote’s animation tools to create in-app navigation or animation mock-ups. It’s the best way to take your app ideas from words to images, without wasting time reinventing the wheel. Worth every dollar.
  • It’s no secret that I’m a podcast fan. My podcast app of choice is Downcast. It costs $3, an absolute bargain for what you get, which is a rock solid podcasting app.
  • The new version of WordPress has just been released. It’s so fresh, I haven’t even updated the TKLR site to enjoy the new features. It looks fantastic and makes wordpress just that much better. I love seeing tools for expression mature so quickly, if you’re umming and ahhing over a new site framework, WordPress just made that decision a lot easier.

Resources

  • TKLR friends Adrian Wiggins and Siobhan Toohill have recently launched a new podcast/site called Out the Front. You should check it out, it’s top notch. Their first guest on the show was Bruce Jeffreys, part of the Creative Agencypantheon and the co-founder of GoGet (see Tools). It’s very well presented and Siobhan’s a natural radio talent.  
  • I’m also a big fan of audiobooks and have been devouring some great ‘reads’ recently (Ender’s GameAmerican Gods) from Audible. If you’re new to Audible you’ll get a free audiobook when you sign up – which makes a great deal even better. Also, here’s a pro tip for you: if you try to cancel your account within the first 3 months, they’ll halve the monthly subscription price to keep you around. Word to the wise! 
  • I’ve mentioned Twist before here on the Dispatch, but it doesn’t hurt to keep it front of mind. I would highly recommend you listen to Jason’s interview with Matt Mullenweg, creator of WordPress (again, see Tools). It’s a huge, sprawling interview with one of the smartest minds in journalism, written expression and technology (not a Venn diagram you often see). Why don’t you go download Downcast, subscribe to TWiST and listen to Matt Mullenweg. 
¡Pues! ¿Que mas? I highly recommend learning a new language, it stretches your grey matter in wonderful ways and helps you better understand how other people think – a highly effective exercise in empathy. Even better, you can compare the idiosyncracies of different languages and laugh at how silly words can sometimes be. 
Make sure you also swing by tklr.net to connect with more of the smartest minds in startups.  

Until next time, stay creative.

Jason McDermott
Founder, TKLR.

p.s. Did you know that in 2012 Will Ferrell made a comedy movie entirely in spanish? Talk about not resting on one’s laurels!