Inspired by Chris Yeh’s storytelling post here. Here’s how I would tell our story, as it relates to raising funds.
Once upon a time…. the people waited on hold.
And every day…. they cursed their fate and gnashed their teeth, waiting a release from this needless burden.
Until one day…. a company was born. A shining star relegating needless hassles to the trash heap of history. And lo! Their technology was Goode.
And because of that…. whenever the peoples needed help, they simply clicketh. And it happeneth.
Until Finally…. The evil that is Holde was no more upon the land.
Ever since that day…. the people raised FastCustomer upon their shoulders and carried it all about the land, for they feared not the Holde. They praised the early investors for their courage and vision, and sang songs about them into the evenings.
And the moral is…. funding the dreamers who wield technology to remove burdens from the world is a most worthy endeavor.
How would you write up your story?
We’re moving from Washington DC to Flagstaff AZ, and needed to rent a place while we figured out what we might buy.
The rentals tend to be aimed at students, but the huge student population (1/3 of the town’s people are students) pushes prices up and quality down. There’s nothing we’d like to rent.
We had an idea, and it worked, so I’m writing it up here in case it’s useful to someone.
We looked at houses that were for SALE, wrote them nice letters in the mail (11 letters sent, only to houses we liked) and asked them if they’d rent to us.
4 letters bounced
7 got read
So now we’re in a great house, at a reasonable price. A few advantages to this approach:
* no competition from other renters
* not dealing with professional rental agencies
* opens up a totally new market for places to rent
* houses for sale are usually in good shape
* houses for sale have extensive pictures, unlike rentals
One tip: This works best with houses that are for sale where the house is empty. Otherwise, you’re dealing with a very unpredictable timeline – they can’t move out until they find a new house.
Evgenya was observing in Chile for a couple weeks, and I had the kids.
One night Reuben woke up crying. I tried the usual stuff and nothing worked; he was alternating between crying and screaming (we later realized he was having night terrors), and after a couple hours I lost it and yelled at him. In the morning he woke up early, and I was so tired and frustrated I punched a door frame.
I didn’t particularly like myself at that moment. This wasn’t the father I wanted to be and I decided to become a more patient person.
A few months later I ran across a technique that many people had used successfully to stop complaining. Presumably, the less you complain and the more you focus on the things going right in your life, the happier you are.
Ok, I’ll buy that.
I wondered if the idea would work for patience. It seemed like it would work for anything you wanted to stop doing.
The concept was simple; you wear a wristband and switch it to the other wrist when you slip up. That’s it. No beating yourself up, no drama. It’s not a punishment, it’s an attention mechanism — you’re making yourself AWARE of your behavior, and surprise surprise, your brain can take it from there.
I still had a bunch of rubber wristbands I had made for a conference, so getting started was easy enough.
At first I found myself switching wrists a lot, sometimes multiple times in one day. Slowly it stretched out for longer periods of time and after 5 months I hit my goal; 21 days straight. (In theory that’s when you’ve got your new behavior reasonably locked-in.)
I hoped to get better at not losing my cool (which happened) but what I didn’t expect was that I’d simply become a more patient person. My nature changed. I’m calmer inside. Same external stimulus, different internal reaction.
I’m thinking about what I want to do next with the wristband. I like the idea of going through life, slowly mastering various aspects of my personality. There’s no shortage of “opportunity” either. I would love to someone who never judges others, never complains, never doubts himself, doesn’t make unwarranted assumptions, and isn’t afraid.
We went camping a few weeks ago, and realized the kids could play on the deck of the cabin if we had a child’s gate. We needed one for our deck at home as well, so why not buy it now?
There was a Walmart nearby, so I headed there with a friend and we started comparing gates. I chose a nice wooden gate and put it in the cart, but later changed my mind and swapped it out for a plastic one, since it would be living outside.
As we were checking out, I noticed a plastic bag of screws. It must have fallen out of the wooden gate when it was in the cart. I could have run back and put it back in the gate, but I didn’t. I told the clerk what had happened, and asked if she could make sure it got back there. I even told her “it’s important, it would suck if someone bought the gate and took it home without the screws.”
I said those words.
Two days later, I returned the plastic gate (not wide enough) and got a nice wide wooden model instead.
Have you ever been hard at work, noticed that someone sent you a message on Facebook and headed over to check it out? If you’re like me, you might reply, surf around a bit and next thing you know it’s lunchtime. And there’s a little voice in your head saying, “crap. I just wasted an hour!”.
With your phone, it’s easier to turn off your ringer than hear phone calls, see who they’re from and ignore them. Good email filters are like turning off your phone. They can be strong for you when you would be weak. Email filters are bodyguards for your attention.
Important, urgent or actionable email should land in your inbox. For everything else there are just 2 possibilities:
Put ’em somewhere else (archive, put it in folders, whatever works for you.)
Other tips & tricks:
Any favorite email tips or tricks to add?
First post in a long time. Feels good.
Every once in awhile I hear about someone switching to a standing desk. I was curious and did a little research. Most people rave about the experience, mentioning more energy, creativity and less lower-back pain because our bodies aren’t designed to sit for 8 hours in one place. Humans are built to move.
I’m always up for a work-environment experiment so I decided to give it a whirl. I’m typing this standing up right now, and so far it’s great. I’m moving more, stretching more, and … well I’m dancing more too. Who said work has to be boring right?
If you want to give it a shot there are many options depending on your space constraints and your budget.
2x Stanley FatMax Telescopic Sawhorse $35 each (make sure you buy TWO, they’re not sold in pairs)
1x solid, flat, unfinished heavy 32″ door from Home Depot. $55
He’ll be keeping the community updated as we roll out new features, getting feedback on what people want to see next and wearing the product evangelist hat as well.
About Ryan: Ryan grew up in Hawaii where he picked up a B.A. in journalism before jumping into the local tech scene. Along with experiments in lifecasting he produces and co-hosts the hugely successful LOST podcast “The Transmission” with his lovely wife Jen, with whom he has also produced (and continues to co-host) three wonderful children.
We’ve been without a web counter for a few days, (showing how many people are arriving at our site and where they’re coming from) and I figure my productivity has gone up by 10% or more.
It’s not that I was spending 10% of my day gazing at it, but checking it was the starting point for a change in direction. I would visit sites that linked to us, perhaps leave a comment or email them, and end up spending 1/2 hour before getting back to “work”. One could say that’s a part of work these days, and while that’s true to a degree, my time could be better spent elsewhere.
My day is already full of internal and external interruptions. They’re par for the course and I don’t resent them, but they do make it hard to get into thinking work (writing, long-term planning, etc) which are important but fragile tasks. They’re hard to get into and easy to fall out of when someone taps you on the shoulder. (Programming is also in this category which is why it’s important for companies to protect programmers from needless interruptions.)
Without a counter I’m trading off easy-and-fun work for hard-but-important work. The kid in me wants that damn counter back, but the adult in me is pleased with how much more I’m getting done. It is important to have a counter so you’re not flying blind, but I’m wondering if someone else should watch it, and ping me when something truly urgent/important/interesting happens.
Anyone with similar experiences? Ideas?
Today was stressful.
The number of people online at Ask500 climbed from around 60 up to 130, the highest we’ve had so far. Registrations were speeding up and then we found that some of the new users were posting nasty questions and comments.
Evidently there are groups of people out there who get together, target a site, register en masse and stomp all over it. We caught it pretty quickly and spent the next few hours cleaning it up. We closed registration, created ways to find and deal with abusers, opened registration back up and got in touch with people who’d had problems signing up.
I guess fighting abuse is just one of those things everyone has to handle. As traffic scales up it becomes more common. I had hoped we’d get more time to happily implement new features before having to deal with it.
In any case, we have a few more tools now to deal with the next wave, whenever that arrives.
After months of work we are finally off and running and boy does it feel good. The site is Ask500People.com – a tool for tapping into public opinion in real-time.
I hope you like it.
It’s 3:23AM by my laptop clock as I start writing this. I can’t sleep.
The East Coast is just coming online, and in a few hours we’ll have a much better idea if Ask500People is going to grow by word of mouth, and if so how fast.
Instead of an initial marketing blitz we’re doing a soft launch, telling a few friends about the site and hoping that word spreads. If it does take off, we’ll be happy we started off slowly because we’ll have more time to handle growth issues. There are technical challenges that we’ll encounter only once we start growing, and it’s easier to handle them when things are still moving slowly.
We told friends about the site to get things started, and initially we recognized everyone who came by to check it out. Ah there’s Jeremy. Oh, and Kim. Hey Kim.
After awhile we noticed a few people we didn’t recognize, which meant word was spreading a bit. “Hey, anyone know username X? No? Coooool.” On Tuesday we added a simple web counter so we could easily watch traffic and referrers:
Here’s visitors by hour. You can see where the counter was added to the page between 6-7PM PST yesterday.
Ok, I’m off to try to sleep again. (Yeah, right!)
It’s been pretty neat to watch Reuben learning to walk. For the last couple months he’s wandered around the world holding onto people’s hands.
If you were to let go of his hand, he would immediately pursue the safest course of action and sit down. Instincts at work. Over a two day period he decided walking around on his own wouldn’t be so bad and off he went. This video is from day two of hands-free walking.
We are so screwed.