A few years ago I had to give a speech about Inkling, the company I co-founded, and what prediction markets were all about. I've given talks on stage before, and I practiced this one at home at least two dozen times.
There were other speakers and after our talks we were supposed to stand at these tables, off to the side at this networking event, and answer any follow-up questions people had.
I gave my speech to a hundred or so people and thought it went fine. Then, I went and stood at my table.
No one ever came over.
That sucked. It's not a pleasant feeling, pouring yourself into something you care very much about, and no one shares any interest.
It didn't seem like it was because I was generally poor at public speaking. In high-school I was in a public speaking club and even won awards at it. I'm a trained actor too. I've gotten some nice compliments from strangers coming up to me after a performance.
Why weren't people interested in this? Why didn't anyone come up after this talk to chat?
And there have been other talks and articles I've written that went very similar to this. I'll spend a huge chunk of time writing about something I care about, and it's crickets in my web traffic logs.
So how can I make what I'm writing or talking about more interesting?
As I examined this question, it's become clear that the most interesting people tell better stories.
The most interesting entrepreneurs are good storytellers. The most interesting teachers are good storytellers. Have you seen Richard Feynman teach or speak? It's story after story. Even people I've interviewed or hired had better stories in their cover letters or interviews.
So one thing I've been working on over the last 18 months is simply becoming a better storyteller. I've read a ton of books about storytelling. I've even been to a short class taught by Lea Thau, who was the Executive & Creative Director of the storytelling organization The Moth, and followed up with Lea to get even more book recommendations.
There's one common thread that comes up over and over again, and I think Kurt Vonnegut teaches it best:
I guarantee you that no modern story scheme, even plotlessness, will give a reader genuine satisfaction, unless one of those old-fashioned plots is smuggled in somewhere. I don't praise plots as accurate representations of life, but as ways to keep readers reading. When I used to teach creative writing, I would tell the students to make their characters want something right away—even if it's only a glass of water. Characters paralyzed by the meaninglessness of modern life still have to drink water from time to time. One of my students wrote a story about a nun who got a piece of dental floss stuck between her lower left molars, and who couldn't get it out all day long. I thought that was wonderful. The story dealt with issues a lot more important than dental floss, but what kept readers going was anxiety about when the dental floss would finally be removed. Nobody could read that story without fishing around in his mouth with a finger.
Start with a plot. Start with a conflict. Share something troubling or challenging or painful and tell a story about how you are trying to get or have already gotten through it. People stick around to see how stories turn out.
I've practiced becoming a better storyteller, especially here on this blog. And it seems I'm improving.
Of course, telling a better story is still about experimentation. Even Kurt Vonnegut wrote boring stuff sometimes. Not everything is going to be incredibly interesting. There's still crickets. But I'm seeing more consistency in traffic and tweets and emails about what I'm writing.
A couple weeks ago, I shared a story of someone who emailed me about a job they were applying for and the advice I gave them on their cover letter. Put simply, it was to flesh out the unique story that they were already trying to tell.
I just got an email that they landed the interview.
And on Tuesday May 14, 2013, I published some writing about teaching. I opened with a story in which I was stuck in a gas station trying to get gas but without a method to pay. I was broke. A conflict I didn't resolve until the very end of the post.
13,665 people showed up to read and share that blog post of mine.
That's quite a different feeling than the one I had standing at that lonely table.
Draft has some neat and useful improvements to announce:
Audio/video transcription tools
Comments shown alongside changes
More social analytics reports
Set the font color (helpful for dark themes)
Publish to MailChimp and LinkedIn
A shortcut using the Draft browser extension
Audio/video transcription tools
I can't believe how much of a pain it is to transcribe even a short amount of audio. In order to write better, I've wanted to start including more transcriptions of podcasts, video presentations, and interviews in my writing, but the tools are in bad shape. I found myself using iTunes for the keyboard shortcuts, but I'd have to flip back and forth to edit the text I was transcribing.
There had to be a better way.
Now Draft can assist you with your transcription. The “New Document” button has a dropdown arrow next to it to start a “New Transcription”.
You can transcribe Youtube and Vimeo videos. Or file types like .mp4/.flv or .mp3/.m4a/.aac. You can have it hosted somewhere else and use a URL, or upload it to Draft.
Your Draft edit mode will then look like this:
The green buttons allow you to skip back and forward. The loop fields allow you to create repeating loops in your audio/video media (for example, 0:00 To 0:05). Once you get that loop transcribed, the skip buttons will increment the entire loop.
Everything is tied to keyboard shortcuts, so you can quickly write, move the loop, write, move the loop. Click the ? in the media window for more help.
It's been insanely handy. I used it to quickly transcribe a Vimeo video for a blog post. And people have been using it to transcribe interviews for their books and articles.
Comments shown alongside changes
This is really cool:
When you view changes a collborator made, you can now view some of their comments on that page. If you're a collaborator and you are editing someone's Draft document, just make sure to quote some of the text in the document to explain why you made the change.
The comment icon on the edit screen will also glow red, if you have new comments from a collaborator that you haven't seen yet:
More social analytics reports
There's a lot more behind that “Reports” button.
You can now parse the social performance of any RSS/Atom feed. Want to find out the most popular time you post to your blog? Or what's the most popular day on which someone like Seth Godin blogs? Just add any feed you want Draft to analyze. I also added 3 new reports here: post time, title length, and profanity.
Set the font color
I've gotten a lot of requests for this in order to support a dark background color. Just go to Settings to change the text color to your liking.
Publish to MailChimp and LinkedIn
I've got a small mailing list that likes updates when I post a new blog post. I use MailChimp. MailChimp is a great product I've been using for years.
The problem though is: I just want to send out a super simple newsletter with a link to the post in it. But there are so many steps to get that newsletter created, the friction caused me to ignore sending out the newsletter entirely.
So I've made it easy to publish from Draft to MailChimp.
Go to Settings -> Places to Publish to add MailChimp, click the Publish menu next to one of your documents, and choose your MailChimp account.
Choose the subject of the newsletter email and the list you're sending it to. You'll then get redirected to MailChimp when you click “Publish”, in order to confirm and check on everything one last time. Draft will convert your Markdown to an HTML newsletter, and also include the plain-text alternative.
I've also added LinkedIn as a publisher. Publish your status there just like you do with Draft + Twitter. This has been super useful to publish news to ALL my social networks from one place.
A shortcut using the Draft browser extension
People love using the Chrome/Firefox extensions that let them turn any textarea into something they can write to with Draft. This shortcut makes it another step easier.
ALT+CMD+V on a Mac. Or ALT+CTRL+V on Windows/Linux.
Will automatically switch back to the original textarea and paste your Markdown/text into the box. If you forget, just look for the “Paste Back” item in the action menu when you're using the Chrome/Firefox extensions.
I can't thank you enough for all the support on my project. I've received so many great ideas and notes of motivation. Thank you!
To stay up to date on Draft, my Twitter account is a good place:
I was broke in college. I remember giving a friend a ride once to Chicago because we both had internship interviews there, and I had a car. It's a 2.5 hour trip, and I was on empty, so we stopped to get gas. When I went to pay, I found my credit card maxed out. The ATM was useless. I had $3 in my checking account.
So you'll understand, when I applied to be a Chemistry teaching assistant (TA) my Senior year, it wasn't for the love of teaching. It wasn't for the love of Chemistry. I just wanted the free tuition and stipend it paid.
And I thought, “It won't be too hard. I have to teach once a week, and hold a couple office hours, where usually no one shows up and I can get some work done? Nice.”
I got picked for an experimental program to teach Chemistry 101 at the University of Illinois. Typically, students attend a professor's lecture with 300 other kids 2 or 3 times a week, and meet with a TA once a week to take a quiz or go over a few problems. But I was chosen to help kids receive a more intimate educational setting like they may have had in highschool. I'd teach 30 Freshmen. 4 days a week + office hours. They never met with a professor. I was all they had. Class was at 9 a.m.
F me. :)
Those office hours where no one would come? Not mine. I had a few kids having some real trouble. They needed them. They needed me.
In the end, the student reviews told me I didn't turn out too bad as a teacher. I helped some kids that really needed it, and that felt good.
But the crazy thing I noticed was how awesome I got at Chemistry 101.
Three years prior to this, I took a similar class. Same book. I remember struggling with some of the same problems these Freshmen faced.
So I would re-read the entire chapter they were on, knowing I was going to have to talk about it tomorrow. And then I'd try to stump myself with the hardest problems I could find. I couldn't get them wrong. I took the Freshmen's quizzes and their tests. I got 100% of the problems correct.
Somehow, this act of teaching made me understand core principles of Chemistry like I've never understood before. Maybe I had never tried to. But now, here, I have to turn around and explain those same principles to someone else, especially to kids failing at the basics. You're forced to get clear.
And that's a reason why I like to teach so much about what I do as an entrepreneur, as a developer, as a writer. It feels good to help. But it helps me an incredible amount too. It helps me clarify thoughts and ideas I have about myself and about my work.
Even if you feel new at something. Maybe a job. Or a new startup. Or it's your first book you want to write.
Teach. Setup a lunch and learn. Try to answer questions you hear people have on places like Stack Exchange. Start a blog! Share open examples of something you've learned: code, spreadsheets, emails, anything. It might take awhile to build an audience, but you'll quickly reap rewards from the clarity teaching brings you.
I learned a lot in that Chemistry class. I learned just how much those who teach, do better.
That was an agonizing walk back to the car to ask my passenger for a loan. Lucky for me, she had bills already out, and was planning on paying for gas the whole time anyways.
College and life have had plenty of obstacles like that empty gas tank. They didn't feel good to go through, but they didn't last forever, and often provided plenty of things to learn.
Someone wrote to tell me they really wanted to pay for Draft (I recently turned on paid subscriptions), but they were underemployed and short on cash. However, they were using Draft this very second to write a cover letter for a job application.
I wrote back to thank them for the nice things they had to say, and offered to look over their writing, if they wanted.
It was ok. It was like a lot of other cover letters. It probably looked identical to one I wrote 12-15 years ago. But I've learned a lot since then about writing, and finding jobs, and hiring people, and getting people's attention. Here's some advice I gave.
The first thing I noticed in this cover letter was how much language was boilerplate. I'm a team player. I work very hard. I know these software packages: X, Y, Z.
Great copy doesn’t remind people what they already know and expect about your product, it tells them why they should care.
I'm amused by this bit of copywriting on their box:
Made with 11g of whole grains & real eggs
It's a sausage, egg and cheese breakfast sandwich.
You'd never say this sandwich was made with fake eggs. Why waste the space telling me how real the eggs are, when you could spend time telling me something interesting?
This applies to anything you write, trying to grab someone's attention. Like a cover letter.
Would you ever expect someone to say: “I am not a hard worker”, “I am not a team player”, “I am applying for an office job where I'd expect you use Microsoft Office, but I have never used Microsoft Office before.”
Use the space in your cover letter to write about what no one else is writing about. You.
As I was finishing their cover letter, something caught my attention at the bottom. They started to talk about how they've already been doing the job they were applying for in a very informal way. They already were in a position where they help a lot of people with this skill they have. But they don't do it for a job.
Now that's interesting.
I know the people I want to hire are already doing this job for fun. I want people that have a passion for what they do. So much so that they don't need to be paid just to do this type of work. I'd still pay competitive rates for employees, but the greatest employees show an independence that they don't need my money to enjoy doing their work.
That's why open source projects are so useful for job applicants in the software industry. That's the first place I look. “You like writing software, but you don't have any projects online that you've written without someone telling you that you had to?”
I advised bringing this story up to the very top of the page. Flesh it out a little more. Spend a couple sentences on a detailed version. Who did you help? What were the circumstances?
There's a reason why candidates for President on the campaign trail don't just share the specifics of a tax or health care plan. They share stories of people they meet. “I met Joe, unemployed coal miner, and he can't afford health care. Here's how my plan will help him.” We remember stories.
Don't waste this precious space telling me you're just like everyone else. Tell a story with your cover letter of how you are already awesome at this job.
And the last bit of advice: put a testimonial or two in your cover letter. Not just the “references provided on request” boilerplate. But an actual quote. Someone, somewhere, is saying something nice about you. A former boss, a teacher, even a friend or fellow student. Keep a file of those so you can grab a couple and sprinkle them in places like your cover letter.
Having a testimonial makes a significant impact on getting people's attention. Companies do this to get more people to click the Buy button. Presidential campaigns do this to get more donations. My wife did this and got a ton more interviews.
A friend of mine had an idea for an iPad app to help kids with autism. It seemed like a pretty good idea, but he was in a place many others find themselves in.
He didn't have any money. He didn't have any resources. And he sure as hell didn't know how to make an iPad app. Or software of any kind.
He's just a guy with an idea and no way to see it through.
Seven years ago, Kyle MacDonald, took a single red paperclip and bartered that paperclip into a house.
It didn't happen overnight. It took 14 transactions over a year. But he plodded along, trying his hardest to trade up, and eventually he got his house.
That's how a paperclip turned into a pen. That pen turned into a doorknob. That doorknob turned into a camping stove. And on and on. Eventually it turned into a KISS snow globe, which was valuable to one of the largest snow globe collectors in the world, Corbin Bernsen, the Hollywood actor.
Corbin traded a role in a movie for that snow globe. And that was traded for a house.
I know a lot of people who are stuck in limbo with their idea.
The idea sounds awesome to them and maybe some friends, but they find themselves without the time, money or resources to even get started. The idea just sits there. A vauge hope of making a dent in the universe. And that's how it remains. A vague hope.
Christopher Flint wanted to make an iPad app to help kids with autism and their caregivers: parents and teachers. But Christopher doesn't know anything about software development.
He could use the help and resources that a startup accelerator might offer so he applied to Imagine K12, the Y Combinator-like startup program to help get ideas like his off the ground.
He was rejected.
Most people stop there. That's enough of a blow to your ego. But Chris reminds me of the guy with the red paperclip.
Over the years, he's become awesome at what he can do. He can teach kids with autism. He can help teachers and parents learn how to help their autistic kids.
So he traded that skill into relationships with parents, teachers, and principals. Then he traded those relationships into commitments that people would use his iPad app if it existed. He didn't have a prototype. All he had was slides.
And he kept trading.
Here's what Chris had to say about getting rejected from Imagine K12:
the application process forced me to further think and write about the company. Even though we were not accepted in the incubator program, I ended up with something tangible to share with the people that ultimately led to the formation and funding of Infiniteach.
Chris figured out how to trade that rejected Imagine K12 application and those commitments from teachers into significant funding and resources to build what he set out to do. He isn't stuck anymore. I don't think he ever was.
We have big ideas. We have enormous ambitions. We want to build impressive things. But sometimes we have to start with what we have and make a little trade to take the next step.
What if you wanted to start a business with too much competition? What if the competition was as popular as Starbucks?
There's a countless number of eyeglass shops in Chicago. It reminds me of The Simpsons episode where Homer is walking through the mall and passes by Starbucks after Starbucks after Starbucks.
On my block alone there are two eyeglass shops. There was a third a couple years ago. Unsurprisingly, it shutdown.
It was interesting to spot the story of LabRabbit Optics, named “Best Eyewear Shop in Chicago” by the Chicago Reader, a popular independent newspaper here.
The first iteration of my business was run out of my apartment. And it started out with me cutting lenses in my bedroom. I started carrying some frames. That took up a small portion of my living room. I got more frames. That took up the entire living room. Eventually it spilled over into my dining room as well. The next thing you know, I've got somewhat of an optical speakeasy operating in my apartment. A lot of people don't feel comfortable buying eyeglasses in some dude's apartment. So I felt it was time to open a small retail space.
When most people want to start a business they dream up the biggest thing they can. It's got an office, at least 50 employees, and things running around the clock. It looks like a mountain.
They never start.
I imagine most people who want to run an eyeglass shop do this. Of course you'll need the equipment. And a lease for a store in Chicago? Sheesh. Not to mention, you'll need a receptionist at the front door. Probably a couple other people.
Not Coyote. The guy starts his business in his bedroom. And just keeps pushing those constraints until he can't push any further into his apartment. He doesn't try to climb a mountain in one attempt. He takes on a little challenge. Can I sell some glasses from my bedroom? Awesome, I did that, can I do a little more?
He's also extremely resourceful.
The lense cutting machine I use, her name is Ripley after the lead character in the Alien series of films. She was acquired in an alley in the suburbs of Milwaukee.
I love all the things he's not. Most people when starting a business plan a list of things they need because everyone else has them. You need to at least reach feature parity with the competition, right?
Here's Coyote's take on his online shop.
If you’ve tried to view items in the Online Shop recently, you may have noticed that nothing appears… this is intentional… Long story short, we simply have too many frames in stock to list online; we’d rather devote more time to delivering the excellent face-to-face customer service that Labrabbit has become known for.
His FAQ is similar. “Do you offer eye exams?” No. “Do you repair damaged eyewear?” No. “Do you carry Ray-Ban frames?” No. “Do you accept vision insurance?” No.
He focuses on what makes his business special compared to all the competition: unique frames you can't find anywhere else, and you get to deal with him directly.
I remember getting my last pair of eyeglasses, which wasn't at LabRabbit. I dealt with 5 different people. Not to mention, the glasses had to go back to “the lab”. Twice. Wherever that was. My favorite part was when I was told by one person they were open on Sunday. Only to show up on Sunday and no one was there.
A long time follower told me the other day, “You're a good writer, but you shouldn't use profanity. You don't need that. It ruins your writing.”
I want to show you something.
This is a chart from Draft's social analytics, showing traffic to this blog going back to its beginning: April 5, 2012. As you'd expect, as I started ninjasandrobots.com traffic was low. But soon, I started getting spikes from my posts every 2-3 weeks. Then there is a long lull from the beginning of July until November 15, 2012. What happened?
The Obama re-election campaign.
No one told me that I had to stop blogging. No one told me what I could write about.
So when I joined the campaign in May, I didn't stop. I kept writing. At least once a week. You even see the spike in a post I wrote on June 6, 2012 that made it into Lifehacker.
Some people in the campaign office saw that June 6 post and congratulated me on it. That just made me worry.
It made me so much more aware that I don't write in a vacuum. My words are starting to travel. Here I am working with all these people who represent the President of the United States of America.
I represent the President of the United States of America.
I don't want to be an idiot you read about on FOX News. I don't want to be the guy who says, “I hate peas.” And now President Obama has lost the pea farmers' vote, because it becomes a long news cycle about Obama and his staffers hating pea farmers. I believe this was a West Wing episode.
So I censored myself. I was still very proud of what I was writing, and worked equally hard on it. But I made sure I only wrote really positive non-controversial articles. I made sure not to use profanity. Even more so, I worried about and second guessed everything I put on this page.
On November 15, 2012, I no longer gave a shit. :) The election was over. I published my first post-election article.
It's my second highest visited post.
It's not just a few spikes. It's a constant increase in traffic to my blog after the campaign.
Here's another chart from Draft's social analytics:
That's the average number of Tweets posts of mine get when they contain profanity and when they don't. Calculated over many blog posts, there's a significant improvement of traffic when my posts contain profanity.
Correlation doesn't mean causation. I doubt I can easily create a more widely read blog by sprinkling in some shits and fucks.
What I believe is happening is that when you catch me using profane language, you're probably catching me when I'm most honest. When I'm most passionate about what I'm writing.
I know we all have things we worry about when we put ourselves out there. Will I look silly posting this? Am I embarrassing myself with this idea? Will I offend someone?
I used to sweat this a great deal when I spent my time writing on my “corporate blog”. What are clients going to think of this?
However, a year and a half ago I found myself without a corporation to run anymore. So I started investing in a personal blog. All of a sudden, a lot more people were reading my work.
But as you saw, when I started worrying again about what people were going to think, something got lost.
Don't worry, I'm not going to turn into Tucker Max. But I am who I am. I talk like I talk. And I want to write with that same voice. My voice. I want you to know who I am. I teach better that way. I enjoy life better that way.
You lost part of me for 5 months. That was an extreme circumstance. It won't happen again.
Are you censoring your work?
What day of the week does Seth Godin have the most success blogging?
If you're interested in doing a similar analysis on blogging content, check out Draft's social analytics. Just hit the “Reports” button.
I analyze my own blog of course. But I also keep tabs on how Dustin Curtis blogs. And 37signals. And Seth Godin. Just add multiple RSS/Atom feeds you'd like to explore.
You can see how a blog's popularity changes based on:
Day of the week you publish
Time of day you publish
Content and title lengths
And my favorite: profanity :)
See which attributes have the greatest influence on traffic to your blog, or where you could experiment.
Without great solitude no serious work is possible.
This essay is part of a collaborative blogging project to answer the question: 'How do you invest in yourself?'
I invest in myself in all the usual ways. I try to work out a lot and eat right. You can read more about that effort in: Fragile. And I read a ton.
But I want to share a couple anecdotes about one way I invest in myself that's underappreciated.
I spend a lot of time trying to be alone.
Regardless of your politics, a presidential campaign is both crazy and incredibly enlightening. I was asked to help the tech team of the Obama re-election campaign last May. I was in the middle of figuring out life after my third company failed. So I thought it would be a good change.
It was impossible to be alone.
What happens if you stick someone, who's worked at home by themselves for the last 6 years, in a giant warehouse-like room, full of hundreds of other employees, working on something really stressful?
There wasn't a lot of money for amenities. The office was terrible. The air conditioning turned off constantly in the middle of a Chicago summer. The bathroom didn't get enough maintenance and barely functioned sometimes as a bathroom. Actual photos of the men's room:
But it was awesome to have all these people around. I was thrilled to have new friends and chances to even get lunch with others.
Still, working all day arms length from people was hard. I'd put Bose noise cancelling head phones on, but those barely cut it. And that's just one of five senses. A friend of mine enjoyed eating sardines and rice every single day at his desk. He sat 3 feet in front of my face. Sardines. Every f'ing day.
Then there's the nerf darts. My fellow staffers enjoyed shooting nerf dart guns in the office. I'd be getting super focused into work, and then get a nerf dart in the neck. I hated it :) And everyone knew I hated those nerf darts. So people tried to avoid hitting me.
But after work was over one day, 2 weeks before the election, we're about to have a drink of whiskey at someone's desk.
Right after I get my glass, I haven't even had a sip yet, one of the newer guys on the campaign takes a nerf dart gun and shoots me with it. Point blank.
Now, I just wanted to scare him. Just a little. Somehow. Hopefully he'd never hit me with a nerf dart again. So I go up to him, grab his glass of whiskey, and start to take it away.
But he lets go of this glass so fast. It just whips from his hand. And now whiskey is shooting out of it across to his neighbor sitting a couple feet away. All over the Macbook Pro laptop he uses for work.
The computer starts SCREAMING. The screen gets all pixelated and angry. The screaming won't stop. The whole office, hundreds of people, are now looking at us and wondering what that terrible noise is.
Life is in slow motion.
Someone quickly got to the laptop and is holding it up to drain it. But how much whiskey was in that glass!? It's just pouring out of the computer. We turned the laptop off and tried to turn it on again.
It wouldn't start.
As I mentioned before, there's little money for staff on this campaign. We did a lot with a little. There are no extra Macbook Pros, and getting a new one this late in the game would probably involve me buying it personally. :( An unpleasant financial predicament for me.
But what's really terrible is that the person whose laptop I ruined is an awesome asset to the campaign, Aaron Salmon. He's one of just a couple guys who's great at user interface design AND knows how to use the software framework we used for a lot of things. If he doesn't have a laptop, we're in trouble.
So we scramble to find anything to dry his computer off.
Remember that sardine guy? Well he also had this 30 pound bag of rice by his desk. We used that and a giant fan (remember the crappy air conditioning) to help dry it. And we called it a night.
I couldn't sleep. I felt terrible about the situation.
I knew I could give the guy my Macbook Pro, but he'd still be behind in trying to get it setup to do what he needed. Not to mention, now I'd be in awful shape using a spare junker laptop we had. We had so much work to still do in the final two weeks.
We get back to the office… And the laptop starts again :) I thanked everything in the universe I could thank. I was insanely relieved.
I absolutely loved working with the campaign team. I learned an incredible amount. For example, if it weren't for meeting Jesse Kriss and Chris Gansen, I probably wouldn't have made this rails plugin used by hundreds and hundreds of people today. Or if I didn't get to work for Harper Reed, I wouldn't have gotten his incredibly useful input on what I'm doing now after the campaign. And on and on. The value of working with this team was enormous.
But the whole ordeal reminded me how much I need time alone to get my work done. Or how nuts it could make me.
In 2002, I was responsible for coming up with an innovative collaboration tool Accenture could prototype. Some very smart people had already been spending time thinking about this, and yet we had zero ideas.
After a dozen meetings with people, we still had nothing. I was stressed. This was one of my first tasks in Accenture's Research and Development group, and I was coming up short. I was failing at this.
I needed space.
But I couldn't go outside. It's downtown Chicago, swarming with people. I just needed to find some place to be alone with my thoughts. There were offices with walls, but they were for managers, and I wasn't a manager. All the phone closets were in use. So I went to the bathroom, and sat in a stall for an hour.
Just sat there. Thinking.
Eventually, in this tiny secluded box, I had what I thought could be a pretty novel idea. We ended up building a prototype and was awarded a patent for the work. Don't get me started on the BS of patents. But still, I was very proud of the innovation in this work.
What struck me so much that day was how we weren't getting anywhere with meeting after meeting trying to generate new ideas. It was only when I finally found a place to be alone, I was able to find creativity.
Often our best ideas come to us alone: in the shower, in the car driving home from work, or on a walk by ourselves. So why don't we spend more time in similar situations? Why don't companies who want more productive and creative employees encourage us to be more alone?
Over and over again I realize how important solitude is to creativity.
So I make it a priority to be alone.
The mind is sharper and keener in seclusion and uninterrupted solitude. No big laboratory is needed in which to think. Originality thrives in seclusion free of outside influences beating upon us to cripple the creative mind. Be alone, that is the secret of invention; be alone, that is when ideas are born.
Since Draft launched, you could export to or import from the cloud (Dropbox, Evernote, Box, Drive, etc.) and any changes you made in Draft would automatically sync back to their cloud location.
Now, Draft will also sync changes the other way. So if your document hasn't been updated in Draft for three minutes or longer, when you open up the document to edit or view, Draft will fetch the latest version from the cloud.
You can now go to Settings -> Places to Publish and add your Google account so you can publish to Blogger.
I've added a print stylesheet so you can print your Draft documents from both Edit and View modes.
CTRL+R/CMD+R will toggle you back and forth between Edit and View modes to preview what your completed document looks like.
Now, your position will be saved as you toggle back and forth. It's really handy. Watch as you switch back to edit mode and your cursor position is saved.
Improved merging algorithm
Before this week, if you added text after a collaborator had started editing your document, when you merged in your collaborator's changes, it would look like your collaborator was recommending you delete the text you just added.
I've made the merging algorithm smarter. Now, the only changes you're shown to merge are the ones your collaborator actually made with the text they were viewing.
This should clean up the merging you're doing, especially when working with a team of collaborators.
Thank you very much for the continued support on Draft. I love all the conversations I've been having with folks over email and Twitter. I hope I can continue to make Draft awesome for a very, very long time.
The photo above is an exercise from her class where students came up with ideas for a new loyalty program. Loyalty programs are drowning in competition. What company doesn't have one? I have hundreds of plastic cards collecting from everywhere. And I don't think a single one has made me more loyal to anything.
What you'll notice in the image is a constant theme of the book. Companies that escape the herd often do the opposite of whatever everyone else expects.
By definition, for most of us, a loyalty program makes it harder for a customer to quit. But what happens if you throw away the basic premise of a loyalty card and try the opposite. Make it easier for customers to walk away.
Isn't Zappos a great example of this? Call them up. Tell them the shoes you want on their site are out of stock. They'll help you find them with a competitor. Sure, Zappos might lose a sale today, but they've won my loyalty by prioritizing my happiness above another sale.
My wife sent me another awesome example of this. Patagonia is now encouraging its customers to: Reduce, Repair, Reuse, Recycle, before they consider buying new Patagonia products.
Patagonia doesn’t just give good advice; they provide resources for how to carry out their plan. For “repair” there is an in-house repair service where you can send your torn clothes to, for “reuse” there is a link to the Patagonia eBay store and for “recycle” they provide an address to send your old Patagonia clothes so the materials can be used for new garments.
Everywhere I turn, someone is trying to sell me more of something: “how can we get them to add more higher margin items to their basket, how can we get them to make more frequent return visits, how can we encourage them to buy more impulsively at the checkout counter”. It's refreshing to see someone with different priorities. You might just win me over as a customer for life.
I have oodles and oodles of competition with Draft, the tool I made to help people write better.
How can I make it different than what people expect? Not just for the sake of being different, but maybe, just maybe, in that difference people will ultimately find a lot of utility.
I thought about Youngme's loyalty program a lot when I was making Draft. How can I make it easier for people to escape my product? I use way too many tools where the data seems like it's held hostage. Sure you might even provide some kind of data dump if I quit your service, but what am I going to do with this proprietary dump of data. Does it work with any other program? No.
So I made it a priority to figure out how to export Draft documents into something really useable in other programs (Dropbox, Evernote, Drive, etc.) before I launched.
I'm glad I did. I turned on premium accounts last week in Draft, and here's a note I got from one of my customers:
Draft is mother-fucking awesome.
Collaboration is what got me interested. Dropbox sync is the feature that made me pull out my credit card.