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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10 Things I Learned from Paul Graham at Y Combinator

Given that I’ve known Paul now for over 9 years and been through YC twice, there’s a lot I’ve learned from the guy. Here are just a few of them…

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We all have something to say and someone’s attention we want. But our resumes and cover letters, or the websites we create to sell our products, most of it sounds the same as everyone else. No one notices, as we look like out of context dots in a children’s puzzle.

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A relative of mine was in town and I was brainstorming things he might find entertaining in Chicago. I mentioned the Art Institute, a beautiful museum with a famous art collection.

But my relative said, “We went to an art museum some years back, so it’s not something I have to do anytime again soon.”

By “years back”, he actually meant over a decade ago. And in other words: he’s seen one art museum, he’s seen them all. If you’re an art lover, you’re sad, but more than a few people reading this feel the exact same way as my relative.

And many share this point of view about something - some type of event or place that...

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How can I find someone to help me?

I’ve been running my own businesses for over 9 years. I helped start Inkling at the end of 2005 with Y Combinator.

One of my biggest frustrations was simply how little the company spread through blogs and news sites. I echoed the wants of every other entrepreneur. How can I get more press? How can I meet more bloggers who want to write about us? Do I need to hire a PR person?

We had a blips of press when we first started. But for 9 years in business, it’s a minuscule list.

Inkling has been able to stand despite the difficulty spreading the word the way I wanted, but I hated that feeling of being beholden to other people to spread what I was working on.

As I found myself dreaming of what I’d work on next, I was haunted with the struggle of finding people to spread my work.

In the late 80s there was a teenage actor who was doing well finding movie roles. But as quick as his...

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Draft Announcements: Better sorting, duplicate documents, and more…

Hi there. I wanted to let you know of a few new useful things in Draft:

  • Better sorting inside folders
  • Better sorting of folders
  • Duplicate documents
  • Image names
  • Search in more places
  • Import multiple documents - fixed

Better sorting inside folders

I had tried to make sorting inside a folder a little too clever. Originally, Draft would list documents inside a folder in reverse chronological order (by their updated time), but if you wanted more control, you could click a document in a folder and drag it to whatever order you wanted, then, the “manual sort” would automatically kick in.

But that was confusing, and didn’t work well enough.

So now, you can sort your documents in a folder three different ways that you can control explicitly:


The default sort is by time - the most recently updated documents are at the top.

The next sort - the up and down arrows - is your...

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How to get business ideas - remove steps

I see so many aspiring entrepreneurs stressed out hoping to find some spark of a business idea, but the common complaint is:

Everything good has already been done.

I used to feel like that too, but it doesn’t have to be hard. It can be as simple as:

  1. Find a job people have.
  2. List out every step people take to complete that job.
  3. Remove as many steps as you can.

Look at measuring cups.

People have been using cups to measure things for thousands of years. And standardized measuring cups have been around since Fannie Farmer invented them in 1896.

You can’t possibly come up with a new idea for a measuring cup. Right?

But then someone does. A guy named Steve Hoeting was trying to come up with a new recipe for brownies, and realized he spent too many steps in the process reading the level of stuff on the side of his measuring cup. Could he shave steps from that process, by putting...

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A 40 billion dollar t-shirt

There’s a great lesson in storytelling from a talk Seth Godin made in 2013 at a conference named Inbound.

As he opens the talk:

We are right at the cusp of something huge.

I need to start by making an announcement, which is… Professional wrestling is fake.

Wait, what are we on the cusp of? But he goes into a thread about professional wrestling.

Then he does it again.

Inside this box is a t-shirt that at one point was worth 40 billion dollars. And I keep it there as a reminder to myself about what happens when you don’t see.

In 1991, I had access to the internet. I was using to work on cover stories…

Hold on. How was it worth 40 billion dollars!?

Then he does it again.

I was asked to bring: What’s your number one marketing shortcut?

But before I tell you that…

Seth is a wonderful writer and orator. You can learn a lot from watching him and this entire talk. But...

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How to get free, pre-released copies of your favorite authors’ new books

Ever find a brand new book on Amazon, just released today, and wonder how it already has all those reviews? Or glance at a book cover, and think, “this was printed before the book was released to the public, but it’s covered in testimonials from famous entrepreneurs, celebrities, and other writers.”

How do those reviewers get the book so early? How do I get in on this?

Here’s how I do it.

When we see a lot of other people looking at something, we become interested. It’s how our psychology works. So authors want their books surrounded with testimonials.

Publishing companies and their public relations (PR) staff do work to get those reviews. They’ll spread early editions of the book to other authors under that same publishing company, or mail it out to influential people in their rolodex.

But, I’m not a published author of a book, and I’m not famous, so I don’t have any PR person...

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Draft Announcements: Comment switching, sortable to-do lists, and more…

Hello. I have a few updates to share about Draft:

  • Comment Switching
  • Sortable To-dos
  • Auto-complete Invites
  • Show/Edit Page Designs
  • No more Nagging of Collaborators

Comment Switching

Some of my documents have comments from multiple people and it can be tough to track who’s saying what. This is especially true with the introduction of the Simplify button, which can generate quite a few comments of feedback.

So now, you can filter comments in Edit mode by the user who left the comment. Just turn on comments like you normally would by clicking the comment bubble at the bottom right corner of editing your document.

When the comments view is activated, there is now a link that appears at the bottom right of the screen that you can click to change whose comments you’re viewing. The default is “Everyone”.

Sortable To-dos

I love using Markdown for to-do lists - an...

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Many reading this are starting (or in the middle of) our own businesses, and we need people to notice and spread our work to their friends. But most of us feel the sting of being passed over and ignored.

So how do we get more people to care?

One day in grade school, I was over at a friend’s house playing video games in his basement. I happened upon a can of shaving cream.

Like most 5th graders, I enjoyed self-propelled shooting of all kinds - squirt guns, silly string, dart guns - and now I’ve got a can of shaving cream to play with.

Down in this basement, there was a dark, unlit room I couldn’t even see into. It reminded me of the dark rooms in my parent’s basement, which were unfinished, concrete floored, storing a bunch of junk, and rarely visited.

So, every so often while we played video games that day, I’d walk over to this dark room and shoot some shaving cream into it - I...

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I’ve always considered myself poor at design or anything requiring aesthetic talent.

As a kid, I remember a particularly hard homework assignment in grade school. It was 2am and I came to a problem where my teacher wanted us to draw: a baby in a womb. I decided I didn’t have the talent to do it myself. So I gave up and called in (woke up) the best help in the world. Mom.

The feeling continued into adulthood. When I started my first professional job after school, someone told me about Flash. This looks cool. So I built my first website using Flash. I showed it to some folks. They laughed because I didn’t know any better to use much smaller sized images. My website took forever to load. When it finally did load, they laughed some more, “That’s it?”

They weren’t intending to discourage me, but clearly from this exercise - I suck at design.

The Amazon Fire TV Is Kind Of A Mess


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