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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What should I name my company?

If you’ve been around any old school SEO advice it included naming your company something with the letter A. That’s because just like the “Yellow Pages”, lists of things on the internet were always alphabetical.

Obviously things have gotten better. You don’t have to just pick A-names for your company because the internet is so much more sophisticated now. We have all these algorithms and all this AI research. Right?

No. Not just one, but two papers from independent research teams have just found that stock trading is heavily biased by a company’s name. Since stocks are generally listed alphabetically, folks pick stocks earlier in the list rather than giving equal opportunity to discovery.

We find that early alphabet stocks are traded more frequently than later alphabet stocks and that alphabeticity also affects firm value.

Even more striking is that this effect has gotten worse...

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How do we get better at making things people want?

We strive to better discern the needs of our customers, so we reach for a number of tools. Surveys. User testing. ‘Jobs to be done’ interviews (an interview process I highly recommend). But in our effort to understand our customers, we often miss sight of something much more basic and integral to those things working well.

The University of Edinburgh Medical School, one of the best medical schools in the United Kingdom, was created in 1726, also making it one of the oldest medical schools in the English speaking world. Given its age, it has quite an interesting group of alumni. Like Joseph Bell.

He was a graduate and professor at the school in the 1800s. Bell had an uncanny ability to determine things about his patients from what seemed to be unrelated and insignificant details. For example, without even talking to the man, Bell...

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I’m not good enough - Discouraged

Uranium hexafluoride — I used to make this stuff

I’m currently trying to teach myself coding and feeling a bit discouraged at the moment. Trying to hear of other’s success stories to see if it’s worth it to see it through to the end.

zeexik asks on Reddit.

Who hasn’t felt like this about something. We’re out of school, but there’s things we want to still learn to get where we want to go. But it’s daunting. Are we too old?

17 years ago I spent my summer in Paducah, KY. It was friggin hot. It was even worse because on a lot of days I was wearing an acid proof suit - those things are made of an unbreathable plastic something that doesn’t react with acid; see Breaking Bad and why you don’t use acid in your bathtub :)

Why was I in this suit? Because I was doing experiments at a Uranium processing plant where we used a lot of Hydrofluoric acid. If that sounds dangerous, it was. We’d...

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Monsters and Thieves

Good artists copy; great artists steal.


A famous quote about creativity often attributed to Picasso. But what can we actually learn about creativity from studying thieves? Did Picasso even say it?

(And what is the true origin of Frankenstein!)

Read more…

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A new high

Most people who’ve read this blog know something of my origin story. It even sounds like the beginning of a Spiderman movie.

I used to be a Chemical Engineer in school, but couldn’t stand working at a uranium processing plant during a summer internship. It wasn’t a radioactive spider that bit me, but a broken ankle tied me to a desk and computer for the rest of the summer because management didn’t want my cast to get contaminated. There goes my superhero career.

So I sat there and programmed. And I fell in love with it.

I worked as hard as I could remaking myself into a software developer, and I dreamed of running my own software company. I remember taking a plane in college and someone spotted me with my Entrepreneur magazine. He asked if I had my own company. “Not yet,” I said. “One day, I hope.”

After college, I took a job as a consultant with Accenture and later a job at a...

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Why are some people so much luckier than others?

James Scott Bumgarner, more famous as James Garner, film and TV star, passed away recently at the age of 86. Many people have been writing about how great a guy he was and stories about his life.

A few things caught my attention. Not the least of which was how lucky he seemed. How does a guy without any acting experience and who hates talking in front of people land a well connected Hollywood agent to jump start his career? Luck?

In 1935, Hollywood created their talent scout system. Just like athletic scouts, folks would monitor Broadway plays and radio for talent. But occasionally they’d “discover” someone in public who didn’t have any acting experience - they just looked like a movie star.

Lana Turner, one of the most glamorous and popular female stars of Hollywood during the 40s and 50s (pictured here at the right with James at the 1966 Academy Awards), is a great example.



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Now That I’ve Created Something, How Do I Spread It?

A long time ago, a guy flew a kite in a storm. When lightning struck it, the current traveled down the string of the kite to a key, giving the victim a jolt of electricity. Who was that famous scientist?

Jacques de Romas.

Wait, that’s not right. Wasn’t it Benjamin Franklin?

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What are you drawing, Lily?

I have more than a few friends who keep talking about the businesses they want to start. But every week there’s a new excuse.

They can’t make up their minds about the best credit card processing company, or the best blogging platform, website CMS, or shopping cart, or the best book that will guide them to success.

Of course, most people invent all these obstacles so they never actually have to start and risk failing. Their ideas can remain flawless dreams.

But others see the Ubers, Dropboxes, and Airbnbs, or whatever else is worth a billion dollars this week, and they think they need to create something as big, and as perfect.

Airbnb recently raised $450 million at a valuation of $10 billion. That’s an awfully big company to look up to.

But Airbnb was a mess when they started.

Paul Graham told them their idea was crazy.

And he was right. Airbnb’s idea wasn’t just crazy, it...

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Draft Announcements: a Chrome App, inline calculator, and more…

Hello. Here are a few new handy things in Draft today:

  • Draft Chrome App
  • Inline calculator
  • New document shortcut
  • Comment emails

Draft Chrome App

I really enjoy using web applications, but there are a few things I miss when a web application can’t be launched from your native operating system.

For example, I thought it would be great if I could use Mac OSX’s Spotlight to quickly launch Draft. Turns out you can have the best of both worlds with Chrome Apps.

Screen Shot 2014-07-02 at 11.19.55 AM.png

Now, if you have the Chrome App Launcher and you install the Draft App:

You’ll be able to launch Draft from places like your desktop, Apps folder, even Spotlight.

Inline Calculator

I constantly need quick ways to do things with numbers. For example, I’ll be typing an email and need to sum up some expenses or hours, but I...

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The Art of the Ask: How to Get on the PGA Tour or a Phone Call with Tim Ferriss

A story on getting what you want.

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