Don’t Start on The Computer

Hey folks –

It’s been a while. I’ve got lots to write, and you’ll see that in the coming weeks, but for now, I wanted to share something I realized.

When building something, it’s tempting to get right to the work. To sit down, and start doing whatever the thing is. And although it seems this should work, oftentimes your hours into the work and you realize you really haven’t accomplished anything at all. Why? Technology is littered with distractions, and even if you are spending 100% of that time on the task at hand, you probably aren’t thinking as critically as you would if you turned the screen off for a moment.

Before I start a new task, I sit in front of a whiteboard, or my ReMarkable tablet for a few minutes and map out the problem and a few possible solutions. Then, I keep that in front of me while I’m working through the problem. And since obstacles come up, and it’s easy to lose perspective of things, I’ll oftentimes take a break a few hours in, and sit in front of my whiteboard and map the problem out, yet again.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not perfect at this. When I have a great idea, or I’m in a state of momentum, it’s easy to want to jump right into the project, but I’ve found that when I spend just 5 or 10 minutes workshopping the problem out, without a screen, it seems to get done faster and in a more meaningful way.

Hello, WordPress

Until a few days ago, I wrote on Hey World for those who don’t know. Recently, in light of all that’s happened with Basecamp, we decided that we will be moving away from the product. Now a self-hosted WordPress site is my new home for my thoughts.

I thought that since I just got this setup, I might as well throw out how this site is built if anyone wants to make something similar. First, it all starts with a self-hosted WordPress solution. This site is not built on WordPress.com – you have limited control that way. I threw this site on a server on Siteground I use for small projects, and our company uses for (some) testing; that’s about $30/m for shared hosting. You could, of course, find something cheaper or even free, but I already had this available. I’d recommend Flywheel or Siteground for anything WordPress-related.

In terms of the actual stack this site is built on; it uses the Rain by Flutterum theme. It’s a very minimalistic theme, and for the most part I like it, however the lack of customizability and the way some plugins play with it bothers me. We had to edit the code just to change some colors in primary locations. Perhaps over the course of the next few weeks we’ll explore other options for themes. There’s a ton of great free and paid themes out there. For other WordPress projects normally we’ll use Astra or Divi, but we wanted to keep this lightweight.

In terms of plugins, there’s only three. First, Email posts to subscribers which sends these posts out to subscribers of the blog as soon as they are posted. Overall, I like it, however, the optin form on the page is not very customizable and we ran into one issue with email formatting. It’s been getting the job done, though.

Our second plugin is just SiteGround Optimizer which keeps things running smoothly and quickly and easily allows me to flush the cache. And lastly, we have Yoast SEO — SEO really isn’t a huge worry to me with this blog, but there’s no harm in installing it. I’m just running the free version right now, but maybe we’ll eventually purchase a paid license. Either way, it’s much better than our SEO performance on Hey World, which wasn’t even indexed.

Obviously, this site is the bare minimum of what’s possible, and it was thrown together in less than an hour by myself (I like doing little projects like this from time to time to keep myself fresh). I’m sure we’ll make improvements over the coming weeks/months, but it’s exactly what it needs to be and nothing more.

It’s crazy, because I’ve used WordPress for about everything but a blog. We’ve built courses, communities, request platforms, payment platforms, e-commerce shops, funnels, static sites and more. But the core product is really a blogging platform. And I never realized how good it was until now. The core product actually runs pretty fast when you’re just using it to blog, and it has all the features you need while keeping a clean UI. I’m excited to see what comes out of this new blog.

Basecamp 4 Feature Request: One on One Check-ins

Update as of 4/30 – I will no longer be using Basecamp, but will be leaving this post up.

I’ve been following a variety of Hey World blogs, and one that I’ve thoroughly enjoyed is Nathan Sykes’s. A week or so ago, he put out a post with a feature request for Basecamp 4, and I was inspired to write something of my own.
Like hundreds of thousands of folks around the globe, I enjoy the software Basecamp puts out. I’m sure you know, but the tool you’re reading this on, Hey World, was built by them. They plan on launching Basecamp 4 at some point in 2022, and it’s hard to think what more they could add; it’s already such a good product. There is one feature I think would be beneficial to a variety of users—individual check-ins.

Right now, Basecamp has an excellent check-in feature that allows you to set up automated questions within Teams or Projects. For example, you could ask if anyone has tips for their teammates, what they’ve been reading, etc. There are a few issues with this. The first and more minor is that sometimes there’s no central pattern among those you collect answers from. Maybe you are getting responses from your directors of Marketing, Customer Success, and Finance, and the only project/team they are all in is your HQ. This isn’t a big deal because there’s an easy solution around this — create a team called something like “Noah’s Direct Reports” and get rid of all of the tools but Automatic check-ins (and maybe a calendar). It may be a bit bare, but it’ll get the job done.

The second issue is a bit more serious — some questions are just more personal. Perhaps it’s an HR question, or maybe you have a team member working on a confidential project you don’t yet want others in the org. exposed to, but you need a weekly progress report as not all progress is logged in Basecamp. Currently, you’d need to reach out proactively or have them sent you a weekly report via email or Campfire. A simple feature could help streamline that. 

Ultimately there may not be significant demand for a feature like this one, but I thought I’d throw it out there. No matter what Basecamp 4 holds, I’m excited to experience the changes!

Bitclout

Over the past few days, I’ve seen some buzz about Bitclout. Earlier today, I sat down to learn more about it, and I have to say, the model intrigues me. 

I’d encourage you to take a look at the whitepaper, but if you don’t have the time, here’s the key takeaways;

  • Every person on the platform has a coin. The price increases as people buy the coin, and decreases as people sell the coin.
  • The platform also includes a social network similar to Twitter.
  • The idea behind the network is you can essentially bet on people. Be it Elon Musk (who’s coins currently valued at $83,000 ~ or me who’s coins currently valued at $25);
    If people understand this, then the value of someone’s coin should be correlated to that person’s standing in society. For example, if Elon Musk succeeds in landing the first person on Mars, his coin price should theoretically go up. And if, in contrast, he makes a racial slur during a press conference, his coin price should theoretically go down. Thus, people who believe in someone’s potential can buy their coin and succeed with them financially when that person realizes their potential. And traders can make money buying and selling the ups and downs.
  • The network has it’s own cryptocurrency backing it – the only way to buy that currency is with Bitcoin. So really, two factors affected the price of a coin; the volume of it being bought/sold in addition to the network’s crypto itself.
  • Everything’s decentralized.

The whitepaper details possible features that will be built out down the road, all of which look exciting. In case your curious, my “investment” strategy looks like this;

  • 57%~ in my coin, friends/connections, people I believe in
  • 37%~ in public figures (GaryVee, Tulsi Gabbard, Elon Musk, Mark Cuban, Joe Rogan, Russell Brunson, Chamath, Patrick Collison, Craig Clemens, Kara Swisher, Adam Grant, Andrew Yang, Casey Neistat, Edward Snowden, Dean Graziosi)
  • 4%~ in companies I believe in/think will go up in value (Notion, Disney, Wendys, Vox, Harrys)
  • I’ve heard that it’s good to hold some of your money in the crypto itself and not in any specific coin as it goes up in value as more people buy-in. I’m not doing much of this right now but plan to in the near future.

What’s important with things like this is you don’t invest any more than you are comfortable losing. Right now, you can’t even pull your money off-platform (I’m sure that will change in the future). For all we know, there’s a chance this is a giant Ponzi scheme. I just put in about $150, although, over the next few days/weeks, I’m sure I’ll slowly invest more. I want to dip my feet in the water, though, and see what all the buzz was about. In some coins, I only have a couple of bucks invested. 

This is definitely an exciting platform, and I am excited to play around with it more. If you want to take a look at it, I’d encourage you to, but remember the risks involved. Here’s what I’d do if I were you;

  1. Signup for an account and verify your phone number – you’ll receive about $10~ in coin for doing this alone. When you signup be sure to write down/store your private key – this is the equivalent of a password. It’s the only way to get back into your account.
  2. If you want, add in additional Bitcoin. If you don’t already have it, the easiest way to buy it is probably Cash App. Coinbase and Robinhood are options as well.
  3. Setup a profile. 
  4. BUY YOUR OWN COIN. I didn’t do this right away, and that was a mistake — if you don’t buy your own coin before anyone else does, the price will be much higher, even if other folks only buy a small amount. 
  5. Invest in other coins — in case you want to grab a few cents of my coin, here’s a link

That’s about it! I’m by no means an expert, but I just thought I’d share this. There’s always the first mover’s advantage with platforms like this, but I can’t stress how important it is to be careful—looking forward to seeing what comes out of this.

Update as of 4/12/21 – I’m now about 80% sure Bitclout is at the very least overhyped and possibly a big elaborate scheme. I’ve stopped investing new money into it and am keeping an eye on it. With that said, I haven’t pulled any money out (via selling to a third party) and don’t have any immediate plans to do so. If you do explore Bitclout, enter with caution.

My all time favorite books

There’s few things I enjoy more than reading. Over the years, I’ve read a variety of great books and am often asked which were the most impactful. It was about time I got them down on paper, so here they are;

1) The Ride of A Lifetime by Bob Iger
Bob Iger took over Disney over 15 years ago during a difficult time in the companies history, and transformed it into the conglomerate it is today. Inside this book, he shares his experiences working his way up through the company & his time as CEO. He walks through some of the biggest acquisitions in the history of the company, the opening of new theme parks, and shifting the entire business model. The book is packed with nuggets and is hard to put down.

Order on Bookshop.org | Order on Amazon.com

2) It Doesn’t Have to Be Crazy at Work by Jason Fried & DHH
Jason Fried & DHH (founders of Basecamp, a product of which I’m using to write this right now) share their experiences of building a remote-first company, which put their employees first. They share productivity tips and how to turn your company into a calm one. It’s a fast read and is essential for anyone who leads a team or just want’s to make better use of their time.

Order on Bookshop.org | Order on Amazon.com

3) That Will Never Work by Marc Randolph
Marc Randolph, co-founder & original CEO of Netflix shares his experience building the company. It’s an entertaining & captivating read with lots of takeaways, especially for startup founders.

Order on Bookshop.org | Order on Amazon.com

4) Dotcom Secrets by Russell Brunson
This is the book that started it all – of all the books on this list, it’s defiantly the most practical, giving you immediate advice you can act on. Russell showcases his top-performing funnels and gives you the strategies to succeed with direct response advertising.

Order on Bookshop.org | Order on Amazon.com

5) Built to Sell by John Warrillow
As cliche as it sounds, Built to Sell walks you through how to work on your business, rather than in it. The focus is on building your company to sell, but even if you don’t want to be acquired, this is still a great guide – the core principles are building out systems for repetitive tasks and client fulfillment, building a rockstar team, and most importantly getting clear on what you are offering and turning your service into a product. It’s written from a unique perspective, wherein it’s actually a fictional story (similar to The Goal) with practical advice worked in.

Order on Bookshop.org | Order on Amazon.com

I hope at least one of these books stand out to you and sparks your interest. I’ve read so many good books that this list could probably have 25-50 favorites, but these are great books that I think the majority of people can benefit from. If you do pickup a few of these books, shoot me an email with your key takeaways!

Heads up – the links featured are affiliate links. This doesn’t cost you anything additional. If possible, I’d encourage you to give bookshop.org a try – it helps support local bookshops.

Hey there! 📌

My name is Noah, and, among other things, I founded & help run a company called Z Mark. I created this blog as a way of sharing my thoughts with the world. Feel free to get in touch via email or Linkedin.

I know this blog isn’t pretty. It wasn’t intended to be, at least not out the gate. Maybe it’ll evolve into that, but right now, I just wanted an easy way to share what was on my mind. This is what I created to do just that in an hour or so.

Heads up — this blog used to be hosted on Hey World, but no longer is for a variety of reasons. If you see any references to Hey World, that is why. All posts have been moved over to the current blog, built on WordPress.