Ninjas and Robots

Figuring out what’s next. CTO/CMO of Rockstar Coders. Makes the awesome writing software Draft. Previous: CEO of Highrise. Also founder of two YC companies. Engineer for President Obama’s re-election campaign.

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Another Hallway

This last summer was my daughter Addison’s first dance recital.

That’s a big deal for a 5 year old and her parents! Tons of practice, both sets of grandparents coming, and one giant crowd of people to perform in front of.

The performance was awesome. But afterwards, I had the responsibility of picking her up from the “green room”.

The green room was just a small gym located near the entrance of where the recital took place. Everyone would drop their kid off, then proceed to walk down a long hallway to enter the auditorium and find their seat. After the performance, the parents were asked to send just one parent to go back down that long hallway from which we came, to pick up our kid.

Now, I don’t know if it was most of us not paying attention to the “single parent” rule, or everyone just having way too much fun chatting in the hallway, but getting back to the green room to pick...

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A/B Testing YouTube Videos

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It’s been over a year in the making, but today my family would like to announce our latest adventure: FilmHope.

Are you the type of person who doesn’t measure anything? Do you buy your clothes without sizing them up? If someone asks says something costs $5, do you just give them whatever wad of cash you have? Do you show up to everything whenever you darn-well-feel-like-it?

Of course not. So why do so few people measure and optimize the performance of their YouTube videos? Because it’s been so difficult.

Until today.

Toady, my family is announcing the launch of FilmHope. FilmHope is the super easy way to test different titles and thumbnails for the YouTube videos you upload. Just upload like you normally do, go on over to FilmHope.com, pick your recent video, and choose a new thumbnail and/or title.

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Within 24 hours, we’ll email you with a statistically significant result of...

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My New Startup: Locomotion

Hey. I know I’ve been radio silent here for awhile. I’m sorry about that. But I’ve needed the focus to get a new product built. If you’re interested, let me quickly tell you about it.

Do you do any stop motion movie making? If you don’t, it’s probably because it’s so darn difficult.

Stop motion is beautiful, but it’s insanely tedious. Move something. Take a picture. Repeat. Over and over and over, until your fingers bleed or you give up.

So… what if I told you, you could remove the whole taking a picture part? Instead, what if you could just record a video of you moving the characters and objects in your scene and a computer did the rest? Is that something you might be interested in? :)

If you could eliminate all the picture taking, you could do this so much faster. You could use cameras that don’t have fancy stop motion software. You could actually make stop motion movies more...

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Wabi-sabi

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Almost two decades ago, a young filmmaker landed on the Hollywood scene with a movie that became a big deal, winning awards, and making princely sums of money at the box office. But after that debut, as many critics and fans would argue, every movie he made was worse than the one before it. It got to the point, no one would make a movie with him anymore. His career was over.

So where does this creative genius go from here?


There’s a “YouTuber” I watch closely.

He builds props from random scraps of wood he’s been hoarding. His movie titles are made of inelegant blasts of spray paint. Instead of using the animation capabilities of his editing software, he uses a vacuum to animate paper cutouts to move across a table he built from previously mentioned scraps of wood covered in old previously mentioned wayward flecks of spray paint.

Sure, at the beginning of his career, he was...

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The Mere-Exposure Effect: How Casey Neistat Makes Pop-Songs

Photo by nrkbeta

After watching a Casey Neistat vlog, something peculiar often happens. All day long I’ll find myself humming parts of the music from an episode. He’s created an earworm.

A catchy song or tune that runs continually through a person’s mind.
Earworm

Earworms aren’t peculiar though. They happen all the time. Just listen to a top 10 list on your way to work. You’ll be humming something too probably. What makes this peculiar is that the same song itself from the musicians SoundCloud page isn’t all that earwormy to me.

I mean no offense to the wonderful musicians often found in Casey’s work like Andrew Applepie, Jeff Kaale, and Maxzwell, but there’s something going on when these songs are mixed into Casey’s vlog.

What secret magic is Casey adding to these tunes?


David Huron is a professor in two different departments at Ohio State University. The School of Music...

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Somersault - A vlogging camera for your phone.

I wanted to show off a preview of what I’ve been working on. It’s a better Camera App for vloggers. I call it Somersault.

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I started a vlog about 2.5 years ago, and I’ve thoroughly enjoyed the process of sharing stories and lessons. But it’s hard. It’s tough to craft stories on top of making great looking video. Adding music. Keeping the pacing from becoming boring. Avoiding the look of Blair Witch Project outtakes.

Through all that work I’ve learned a ton about making better videos. Lessons about keeping shots short, establishing where you are, talking to the camera vs watching yourself, editing in camera vs the extra work in Post.

And now, I can offer some of those lessons through a Camera App itself. So regardless of if you need Somersault, here are a few of the lessons I’ve learned along the way, and what I hope Somersault can help guide people to do better.

Keep your shots

...

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I don’t have enough

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It’s been a rough week. We’ve been migrating our file storage for Highrise and you can imagine how difficult that is for a product running since 2007 with millions of users.

And it hadn’t gone that well.

Fortunately, we had enough backup procedures in place to handle most problems. But still, on Thursday morning at 3AM I was nervously watching the error queue for more fires.

How’d I get here?

I don’t mean that in a negative sense. This barely raised my blood pressure. I’ve been in this same situation many times before. I and our CTO, Michael Dwan, cooly fixed our problems in the middle of the night.

But, I mean, how on earth did I get to this point where I’m helping successfully troubleshoot this crazy large system of technology and code when…

All I was trained to do was Chemistry?

I remember the panic I had nearing the end of college. I had just spent 4 years and tons of...

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Breakthrough

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A decade or so ago, a young musician couldn’t get anyone to play his music. He had some raw talent, and just recorded his first album, but all the gatekeepers thought he just sounded too young. Without Disney or Nickelodeon marketing his stuff, he was a dud.

What does he do?


I bet you know the names of a few famous impressionist painters. Monet. Manet. Degas. What makes them famous though? Are they really the best? Do you know a bad impressionist painter?

What about Gustave Caillebotte?

Caillebotte was an interesting impressionist. I don’t think anyone would say he’s bad, but he sure isn’t as popular as Monet.

Caillebotte also has a quirky story. Upon his death he requested his art collection be hung in the Musée du Luxembourg in Paris. His art collection was about 70 paintings he had collected from his friends, also impressionists.

They weren’t popular. They were actually...

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Lazy creative

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James Vanderbeek stars in an episode of Room 104 on HBO. The series is in the middle of its first season, but it’s already done so well that HBO’s renewed it for a second season.

It’s a curious show, as it takes place in a single hotel room every episode. The same hotel room over and over and over again. The room itself is also extremely uninteresting. When the design team went to Mark Duplass, the creator of the show, with tons of ideas on what the room should look like, Mark shot them all down.

“No, I want the room to be as bland as possible.”

So how did Mark Duplass create such an interesting and succesful show with this limited pallette?


Our brains are lazy. Well, that’s not exactly fair. Our brains are great at conserving energy.

They’ve evolved to reserve the juice necessary to deal with things in our environment that are novel and potentially life altering. Hence why...

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How to be interesting

A couple months ago a video made its viral way around the internet as some videos do. It was a mashup of the Sesame Street movie Follow that Bird and the Beastie Boys’ song Sabotage.

Mashups aren’t uncommon. Afterall, that’s a huge lesson most of us already know about creativity. Great ideas are often the collision of a couple different disciplines, technologies, inventions, etc.

But is that all there is to it? Or is there something a bit deeper about that video and why it became so viral.

Why was it so interesting?


Murray Davis was a professor of sociology at Northern Illinois University. In 1971, he published an interesting paper. Literally. It’s called “That’s Interesting!”

Davis investigated why some researchers and their theories get people’s attention and others don’t.

He found that ideas don’t become interesting because they are simply true. “All of the interesting...

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