Ninjas and Robots

by Nathan Kontny

CEO of Highrise. Also founder of two YC companies. Engineer for President Obama’s re-election campaign. Makes the awesome writing software Draft.

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Grow your Twitter audience with Nombre

Remember that a man’s name is to him the sweetest and most important sound in the English language.

Dale Carnegie (How to Win Friends and Influence People)

nombre is a Chrome extension that creates a new menu item in Twitter to “Reply with name”.

Which automatically adds the first name of the person you are replying to on Twitter to the Tweet.

Click here to install the nombre Chrome extension.


For years I struggled building an audience. But I’m very blessed today to have things clicking with my writing and my project Draft to help people write better. One helpful technique I figured out to grow my Twitter audience is simply getting better at interacting with people on Twitter.

I like using people’s first names in communication. People are blind to their Twitter handles. Who is “@natekontny”? I prefer Nate or Nathan. I think most people prefer their own

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Draft Announcements: Presentations; publishing to Basecamp, Svbtle and Ghost; and Minor revisions

Happy New Year! Here are a few new things in Draft I think you’ll find handy:

  • Presentations
  • Publish to Basecamp, Svbtle, and Ghost
  • Minor revisions

 Draft Presentations

I needed to create a presentation the other day, but found it was strange I was reaching for heavy feature-laden apps like Keynote or Powerpoint to simply display some big text on the screen. Why do I have to click so much to create new slides, when really I just have 12 bullet points I’d like to outline and be done with the presentation? Not to mention - it’s extremely difficult to version control and collaborate on a presentation.

So I added a way in Draft to create a super simple presentation.

Separate each slide in your Draft document with at least three hyphens (or asterisks).

When you view your document, it’s now a presentation. Use CMD or CTRL (on Windows) + R to toggle back and forth from edit to

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Many of us want to start our own businesses. Some are good cooks and want our own restaurants. Some are good bakers and want our own bakeries. Big dreams, but many of us never actually get anywhere.

A couple years ago, I met a chef named Abe at a dinner party he was hosting.

He’d been classically trained at the Culinary Institute of America and been cooking professionally for many years. If anyone might start their own restaurant, it would be Abe.

But he said he wasn’t ready. Instead, he started a company that created pop-up dinners and private parties.

Instead of worrying about all the details of opening an entire restaurant: financing, buying real-estate, industrial-sized appliances, inventory, point of sale/reservation systems; he used the tiny kitchens in friends’ homes and Paypal to collect money for tickets.

Instead, he worried about making awesome food.

My wife and

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Teach yourself out of business

Customer loyalty is hard.

I spent thousands of dollars on advertising to draw people to my previous business of online games - Cityposh. I’m also well versed in all the techniques and game mechanics to keep people coming back.

But no one who discovered Cityposh through those ads and game mechanics uses Draft today.

My home started falling apart last week.

First it was a broken furnace during Chicago’s record cold from the polar vortex.

I woke up and it was 65 in the apartment when it should have been 72. The furnace wasn’t blowing hot air.

I’m not incredibly handy, so I went online to learn what I could do on my own. I rebooted the furnace a couple times. The air filter was clean. But the furnace and its fan just wouldn’t stay on. Scared the inside temperature would plunge, I called a heating and air company to get help.

While waiting for a technician to come over, I took

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Not Wanted

Make something people want.

Paul Graham

I’ve made a lot of stuff no one wanted.

Trying to grow my first business, Inkling, I did what good Lean Startup followers would do. I turned some of our technology into a small “project management software” prototype and used Quora and LinkedIn to set up meetings with project managers.

One thing became clear fast. These project managers weren’t impressed. I was often told the prototype would need to do at least everything their current tools and processes already did, before they’d consider using it with their team. They were reluctant to switch.

There’s a great story in Esquire Magazine this month about the history of Irish whiskey. 130 years ago there were almost 30 Irish whiskey distilleries. Fast forward 100 years and there was just one: Irish Distillers Ltd (IDL). IDL was a hodgepodge of brands including Jameson and Tullamore Dew

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Write Better Live Webcast: Learn from a Pro

On January 21, 2014 at 12:00pm Central, Draft is hosting another Write Better webcast.

This time the teacher is Jay Dixit, a professional writer and teacher with work in The New York Times, The Washington Post, Rolling Stone, Slate, Wired, and Psychology Today.

Jay is awesome. He has a ton of experience and his students love him.

The event will be 1 hour. During the first 30 minutes, Jay will share some general writing advice. For the final 30 minutes, he will review a few writing samples - if you use this form to submit your work.

The Webcast is free, and all Draft paying members are invited. You’ll be emailed a link to attend closer to the event.

If you’d like your writing reviewed, please use this form to submit Draft share links to your work.

If you are a paying Draft member and can’t attend the event live, don’t worry, it will be recorded, and you’ll get a link to watch

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Draft Announcements: Better comments, collaborator reminders, and tables

Happy Holidays! Just a few neat things in Draft before the end of the year:

  • Comments!
  • Collaborator reminders
  • Tables
  • Email digests
  • Members Lounge invites

Gift Idea :)

If you’re still looking for a quick gift idea for anyone, don’t forget Draft Gifts. It’s a great way to support a writer in your life, as well as the future of the product.


Comments have gotten a big upgrade.

You can now attach comments to specific lines and text in your document. Hovering over comments shows you the text the comment is about.

In comment mode, to create new comments, select some text, or place your cursor where your comment should be, and use the action menu to start a new comment.

Or the shortcut CMD+/ on a Mac or CTRL+/ on Windows.

A new comment box will open up in the right margin next to the context of your comment.

To enter comment mode and see all your comments, it’s just as

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Draft Announcements: Gifts, Member Lounge, More Analytics and a Sneak Preview…

Hello. Here’s a Draft announcement handy for the holidays:

  • Gifts
  • Draft Member Lounge
  • Sneak Preview
  • Date & Time of Publishing Correlation Report
  • Folder Stats
  • Document Timestamps


Now you can give a subscription to Draft as a gift to your family and friends. It’s really easy.

Here’s a link.

Or find the Gifts link on the Draft homepage:

Or the Gift icon in the left sidebar of your main document list:

You can send as big of a gift as you want, and you aren’t committed to any recurring payments.

Have Draft email the gift on the day you had in mind, or send it to yourself to email or print.

This is a fun gift for friends and family members who want to write more and write better, and helps support Draft’s future at the same time.

Member Lounge

I’m adding an additional benefit to becoming a Draft supporter. If you are a subscriber to Draft, watch your email soon for an invite

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Marketable for Devise

If this person turns out to be our best customer, we want to know where they came from.

Mike McDerment, CEO of FreshBooks

Marketable lets Devise users easily store where your user came from and where they were going in your Rails app.


Mike McDerment is part of that small handful of entrepreneurs who have tremendously inspired my work. He started a web app, and even past 30 years old, was cranking away at in his parents’ basement for 3 years. Plenty of smart people told him what he was working on was stupid and would fail. And, yet, he continued. Today, FreshBooks is a very successful company.

Mike is a huge proponent of tracking where your customers came from and where they were going. With this data, you can figure out what kind of marketing is working and what’s not.

By “marketing”, I’m referring to everything related to getting customers, not just spending money

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Skip Class

Someone asked me the other day if he should get a job to help acquire the skills needed to run his own business or just jump in and start.

I’ve written before about getting crappy jobs to help learn more about specific industries and problems people have. For example, if you want to create a photography website - some kind of Flickr competitor - it would behoove you to work as an assistant to a wedding photographer even if it didn’t pay well. Learn how he or she does their job. How they take good photographs. How they deal with emergencies when a camera doesn’t work. How they make a couple happy on such an important day. Those are examples full of potential insight to build a business for photographers.

But many of us think we need corporate jobs to learn how to scale servers, charge customers, or make things look “professional” before we can start our own business.

That’s not how

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