December 26, 2013

Why Rejection is Awesome


Lessons learned
  • Rejection Therapy: 
  • Jia Jiang's website with 100 days of rejection:
  • President Barack Obama got rejected by 61 million people (who didn't vote for him)
  • The author of The Chronicles of Narnia, CS Lewis, got rejected 800 times before someone believed in his first manusript
  • Rejection is nothing but a number and can be useful despite that rejection can also be constant and painful

December 19, 2013

Closing paragraph of the top selling books

Wikipedia has a page where you can see a list of the best-selling books ever. The list is not 100 percent accurate because it's difficult to determine exactly how many copies an older book has sold. I thought it would be interesting to see how these authors wrote the last paragraph in each book. We have already talked about the opening paragraph of the top selling books.

1. A Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens
"It is a far, far better thing that I do, than I have ever done; it is a far, far better rest that I go to than I have ever known."

2. The Lord of the Rings by JRR Tolkien
He drew a deep breath. 'Well, I'm back,' he said.

3. The Little Prince by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry
Look at it carefully so that you will be sure to recognise it in case you travel some day to the African desert. And, if you should come upon this spot, please do not hurry on. Wait for a time, exactly under the star. Then, if a little man appears who laughs, who has golden hair and who refuses to answer questions, you will know who he is. If this should happen, please comfort me. Send me word that he has come back.

4. And Then There Were None by Agatha Christie
When the sea goes down, there will come from the mainland boats and men. And they will find ten dead bodies and an unsolved problem on Indian Island.

5. Dream of the Red Chamber by Cao Xueqin
"Come over," Chia Yün smiled, "and I'll tell you!" And as he uttered these words, he came up and drew her to him; but Hsiao Hung twisted herself round and ran away; but was however tripped over by the step of the door.

6. The Hobbit by JRR Tolkien
"Thank goodness!" said Bilbo laughing, and handed him the tobacco-jar.

More articles in the same series: Best technical and creative writing resources

December 18, 2013

Opening paragraph of the top selling books

Wikipedia has a page where you can see a list of the best-selling books ever. The list is not 100 percent accurate because it's difficult to determine exactly how many copies an older book has sold. I thought it would be interesting to see how these authors wrote the first paragraph in each book. 

1. A Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens
It was the best of times,
it was the worst of times,
it was the age of wisdom,
it was the age of foolishness,
it was the epoch of belief,
it was the epoch of incredulity,
it was the season of Light,
it was the season of Darkness,
it was the spring of hope,
it was the winter of despair,
we had everything before us, we had nothing before us, we were all going direct to Heaven, we were all going direct the other way - in short, the period was so far like the present period, that some of its noisiest authorities insisted on its being received, for good or for evil, in the superlative degree of comparison only.

2. The Lord of the Rings by JRR Tolkien
This book is largely concerned with Hobbits, and from its pages a reader may discover much of their character and a little of their history. Further information will also be found in the selection from the Red Book of Westmarch that has already been published, under the title of The Hobbit. That story was derived from the earlier chapters of the Red Book, composed by Bilbo himself, the first Hobbit to become famous in the world at large, and called by him There and Back Again, since they told of his journey into the East and his return: an adventure which later involved all the Hobbits in the great events of that Age that are here related.

3. The Little Prince by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry
Once when I was six years old I saw a magnificent picture in a book, called True Stories from Nature, about the primeval forest. It was a picture of a boa constrictor in the act of swallowing an animal.

4. And Then There Were None by Agatha Christie
In the corner of a first-class smoking carriage, Mr. Justice Wargrave, lately retired from the bench, puffed at a cigar and ran an interested eye through the political news in the Times.

5. Dream of the Red Chamber by Cao Xueqin
Chen Shih-yin, in a vision, apprehends perception and spirituality.
Chia Yü-ts'un, in the (windy and dusty) world, cherishes fond thoughts of a beautiful maiden.

6. The Hobbit by JRR Tolkien
In a hole in the ground there lived a hobbit. Not a nasty, dirty, wet hole, filled with the ends of worms and an oozy smell, nor yet a dry, bare, sandy hole with nothing in it to sit down on or to eat: it was a hobbit-hole, and that means comfort.

More articles in the same series: Best technical and creative writing resources

November 19, 2013

If I had a time machine

If I had a time machine and the only thing I could bring with me back in time is a piece of paper - no knowledge - this is what I would have written on the paper. The problem with writing these types of lists is: "The problem with the idea of 'learning from one's mistakes' is that most of what people call mistakes aren't mistakes" (Source). For example, I added a feature in the form of a trading simulator and then I removed it because it didn't fit the core idea. But was it a mistake to add it? It's difficult to say because I learned JavaScript when I developed it and wrote two articles about the problems I had while developing it. These two articles are now among the most popular articles on this blog with thousands of views.
  • Use Twitter to talk to everyone you can find - but don't follow spammers. You have to interact with your feed and if you follow spammers, the tweets from the real people will disappear. It may seem like you are "popular" if you follow spammers and they follow you back - but it's a waste of time. 
  • Focus on the basic idea and stop adding features - on the other hand, you may learn a lot by adding those features.
  • Test more ideas and write less code. It's not cheating to use a framework such as Bootstrap. If you develop a game - use someone else's engine. If you are successful, then you can develop your own framework/engine, but in the beginning it's better to focus on testing your idea as fast as possible.  
  • Blog more - and write articles you can learn something from and doesn't exist anywhere else. Try to share your knowledge.
  • Avoid ideas with the chicken and the egg problem.
  • Avoid ideas where your users can spam you.
  • Read fewer books. This is another difficult topic - is it a waste of time to read books?
  • Brainstorming and other creative methods are not helping you to come up with new ideas.
  • Avoid ads as a revenue model.   

November 18, 2013

The #blog100 challenge

The #blog100 challenge was initiated by the Swedish blogger Fredrik Wass. The challenge consists of writing 100 articles on your blog and you have to write at least one article each day. You can follow the hashtag #blog100 on Twitter to find like-minded bloggers who have also accepted the challenge.

But why do you have to blog so much - isn't blogging what we used to do several years ago before we used Twitter? But that's also part of the problem - we have begun to focus on shorter updates and forgotten about the articles we may actually learn something from. People are still using Google to find solutions to their problems - they are not searching for the solutions on Twitter. As we saw in an earlier article, How to market your company by sharing your knowledge, we learned that one way to market your company is to share your knowledge with your current and future customers. We should out-teach our competitors - not out-spend them. I believe it's much harder to teach on Twitter or Facebook compared with wring an article on your blog.

But coming up with good articles to write about is difficult. The solution to that problem is #blog100 because the theory is that you will come up with more ideas for articles if you force yourself to blog more. It will be difficult in the beginning, but much easier in the end. 

These are the original rules:
  • Write at least one article each day
  • The articles can be short and consist of only an embedded video from YouTube. But you should add some text to the video so your users can find the article through Google 

I believe you can also include major updates of old blog articles in the 100 articles. If you go through your blog, you may realize your language has improved or you have just embedded a video from YouTube without any text. Modify these articles to make them better. You should also take a piece of paper and mark 100 squares so you can easier track your progress - it will also make you more motivated since you really want to fill in those empty squares. 

I began this challenge in October and have now written 100 articles if you include this article. I don't know if it's important to blog during 100 days or write 100 articles? Anyway, here's what I've learned:
  • It's true that it was difficult in the beginning, but after about 50 articles, I realized it became easier and easier to find new ideas. You have to "transform" your mind to always hunt for new ideas to write articles about. After writing 100 articles, I still have a long list of ideas to articles I would like to write in the future. 
  • I realized my English language has improved since I wrote some old articles, so I've included major rewrites of old articles in my #blog100.
  • I've also seen that the number of retweets and favorite markings on Twitter has increased. After I wrote each article, I tweeted about it.
  • It takes some time before Google includes all articles in their search engine so I will update this article in a few weeks to see the final results. What can be seen today can be measured through Google Webmasters where you can measure how many people saw your blog in Google an how many clicked on it. The number of impressions per day has increased with 145 percent and the number of clicks per day has increased with 90 percent.

Update! Google has now indexed all pages, so now can we measure the final results by taking the average of the latest week and the average of the week before #blog100 began:
  • The number of clicks have increased by 123 percent
  • The number of impressions have increased by 107 percent

November 15, 2013

Improve your posture

As both a biker and a computer user, I believe this exercise might be useful. Find a wall and do it two times each day!
  • Flap like a bird
  • Touch your ears
  • Climb a rope
(Save this post or video as a bookmark so you can remember it while slouching in front of the computer)

November 11, 2013

Best Marketing and Selling Articles, Talks, Books, and Media

This is a roundup of the best marketing and selling articles, talks, books, and media. The resources are both internal and external - and it will be updated as I find more resources. 5 percent of a company is the idea, 15 percent is the product/service, and 80 percent is the selling and marketing. The number one reason companies fail is because they do not know how to sell and market. So this is really important.



All episodes of the Random Show with Kevin Rose and Tim Ferriss

Kevin Rose is the creator of and Tim Ferris is the author of the book series the 4-Hour x, where x is Workweek, Body, or Chef. They are friends and they meet randomly to film episodes of the Random Show, where they drink large amounts of beer and wine and they talk about things they've invested in, books they've read, and much more.

The Random Show appears on the Internet randomly, the length of each episode is random, and so is the numbering. To make it less random, I though it would be a good idea to collect them in one place. I've earlier collected them on this blog and summarized a few of them, so this articles should be considered as a front-page to the Random Show. You can actually find (almost?) all episodes on iTunes, but they are not summarized. 

If you like Kevin Rose, you should watch his other project called Foundation where he interviews entrepreneurs related to the technology industry, but you can also find a few other types of entrepreneurs.  

November 9, 2013

Give your users feedback

When you ask your users to perform a task you should make it as easy as possible for them to do so by giving them real-time feedback. For example, users can submit links to Trejdify through a form that looks like this:

This is what the user sees when the user hasn't signed in. The user gets feedback in the form of the red sign that says the user has to sign in and the form is also "closed" so the user can't write anything or click the button by accident. If the user has signed in, the form looks like this:

The important part here is the preview link at the bottom that updates automatically as the user types in the name of the link and the url of the link. I added it after I realized that users submitted link with strange characters that turned into signs like �. To minimize the damage even more, I added to the Guidelines section that if "strange characters" appears, the user has to change them. Did it work? No it didn't. Users are still submitting links that include these strange characters! But I've hopefully minimized the damage. The other important part of the form is the upper-right corner that looks like this:

The maximum numbers of characters in the title is 150, so I added this feedback so the user knows exactly how many characters he/she can write. This is a problem I've had over at Hacker News, which is a site similar to Trejdify. I've often written a great title, submitted it, and got the feedback from Hacker News that the title was too long. The problem now is that I don't know how many characters I have without having to counting them one by one. So this little gray square with a number in it and a few lines of JavaScript really simplifies the process. This is an image of Hacker News's submit page without any feedback:


November 6, 2013

Learn how to sell and market your company with the help of Kevin Rose

Kevin Rose (@kevinrose - 1.4 million followers) is currently working as an investor at Google Ventures, but he's probably most famous for being the founder of the social news website Digg, or for throwing away a raccoon that had attacked his dog Toaster (video). Since he left Digg, the site has declined as describe in our earlier article called The rise and fall of Digg, and what we can learn from it. In this old talk, he explains how he Digg got 1 million users.

Lessons learned:
  1. Ego. You should ask yourself if you have a feature that increases the users self-worth or stokes their ego? Will the user get a reward if the user is contributing to the system? For example, Twitter has "number of followers" and Hacker News has the karma reward system that gives a user more advantages. Your users want to win this artificial competition - they want more followers. You can also use a leaderboard - you can find out who has most followers on Twitter.
  2. Simplicity. Stop adding more and more features. 2-3 is enough! Always ask yourself if you can simplify.
  3. Build & Release. Analyze what your users are doing - not what you think they are doing. Build more and talk less. Build - release - itereate - build - release - ...    
  4. Hack the press. In the beginning, invite only a limited number of blogger to your website. Your users have to sign in to watch all the different parts of your website. Talk to small bloggers - not the top bloggers since they will ignore you.
  5. Connect with your community. Digg started a popular online tv show called Diggnation where they each week covered the best content from Digg. Also talk with people on sites like Twitter.
  6. Advisors. Learn from the best.  
  7. Leverage your userbase to spread the word. Find out how you can sit in a bar while your users sell and market your website. Dropbox give you more space if you spread the word about Dropbox to your friends. 
  8. Does your product provide value for 3rd party sites? Facebook has the like button and Twitter has the tweet button. 3rd party sites want you to click on those buttons.
  9. Analyze your traffic. Use Google Analytics.
  10. The entire picture. Find the growth-loop: Users -> Quality -> Traffic -> Buttons -> Users -> ...  
  • He recommended the book Crush It by Gary Vaynerchuk. 

Why you have to use online backup

I came up with the idea for this article while writing How to market your company by sharing your knowledge. The essence of that article was that you should share your knowledge, but the problem is that it's really difficult to find out what you know that someone else doesn't know. One thing I know is that it's really important to backup your computers information online. When I wrote a biography on Elon Musk, I saved it to four different locations:
  • The computer
  • Google Drive
  • Dropbox
  • Gmail

This is knowledge I can share because everyone is obviously not aware of the importance of backup. A few years ago, someone here in Sweden got a bag stolen and lost a really important essay. Did the person backup the essay? Yes she did - the problem was that she stored the backup in the same bag that was stolen. Another more recent example is, I believe it was an architect, who got 4 years of work stolen after someone stole his laptop from his car. He didn't use any backup and will now spend 1 year to redo everything that's lost.

Even if the knowledge is obvious to you - everyone else may not be aware of it. So if you are not using an online backup, please begin to use it. The most common alternatives today are:
  • Dropbox - 2 GB free, but you can get more free space if you share their service
  • Google drive - 15 GB free
Of these two, I believe Dropbox is the best alternative, but since they are free, you can install both on your computer. It's really simple, just install, drag the files you want to store online to the specific folder, and the files will automatically be copied to an online account. 

How to market your company by sharing your knowledge

Jason Fried (@jasonfried) co-founded 37signals in 1999. The company is really famous within the tech world and they are behind the programming language Ruby on Rails and the popular blog Signal vs Noise.

Lessons learned:
  • If you purchase a new product, try to learn why you bought exactly that product
  • We tend to buy products from someone who taught us something - not just from big companies
  • Out-teach your competitors - not out-spend them
  • We tend to not give away our knowledge because we are afraid that someone will steal it and use it against us
  • Don't worry about your competitors - but be aware of them
  • PR firms are a waste of money and advertising is expensive and can be difficult depending on the company you have
  • If you teach, you will get an audience that will come back to you and spread the word about you to their friends
  • One article by Jason Fried too 15 minutes to write, but more than 800,000 people has read it. How expensive would it be to drag in 800,000 people with ads?

I watched this video a few years ago and I've tried to teach my knowledge through this blog. One thing I discovered is that it's actually quite difficult to know what your knowledge is. For example, why is the color on the top of this page gray and not red - can the answer become a article? According to the right side of this page, the most popular articles on this blog include 3 articles where I taught something no-one else has taught on the Internet (that's why they are popular): 
So that's almost 17,000 views I didn't pay one cent to get!

The psychological reason to why this is working is explained in the book Influence. The influence of authority says that we are trained from birth that obedience to proper authority is right and disobedience is wrong. Information from a recognized authority can provide us a valuable shortcut for deciding how to act in a situation, but it can also be dangerous.
  • A nurse may listen to a doctor even though the nurse know the doctor i wrong – what would make sense is irrelevant
  • You can hire an actor to play the role of a doctor speaking on behalf of the product. Or an actor who used to play a doctor in a TV-series
So if you share your knowledge, you will become an authority on the subject, and people will begin to follow you because we are trained to follow authorities

November 5, 2013

Why you should avoid or use infinite scrolling

If you have used Twitter, then you know what infinite scrolling is. When you look through your stream of tweets, new tweets will load automatically as you scroll down on your screen. More and more websites have begun to use infinite scrolling, the questions is if that's really a good thing? Large websites like Reddit, Amazon, and Google are not using infinite scrolling because infinite scrolling has several drawbacks.

You should use infinite scrolling!
  • It's faster and smoother, especially if you are using an iPad or smartphone. If you have pagination, you have to search for the "page 2" button, aim at it with you fat finger, and then look at the top of the page again as you scroll down to page 2's main content.
  • Old content seems more important. Research has shown that few users click on the "page 2" button because that content seems less relevant. For example, 94 percent are satisfied with the first 10 results at Google. If you have infinite scrolling, you will "fool" your users to look at more pages.

No, avoid infinite scrolling!
  • Probably one of the reasons to why Reddit and Google have avoided infinite scrolling is because they have ads on the top of their pages. These ads will be seen more often if the user has to click on the "page 2" button. But if you have ads in the stream, like Twitter have, the ads will be seen as often if you have infinite scrolling.
  • The problem with infinite scrolling is that it's impossible to reload the page if something happens. When I've searched through tweets, Twitter's database if often slow and I've often encountered an error message saying Twitter can't load more tweets. To load more tweets, I've to reload the page and begin scrolling from the top again.
  • You don't know how much content is available (this might be fixed if you add somewhere how much content is available).
  • Users see fewer items in the search results. In an experiment, users who used infinite scrolling saw 40 items, while users who didn't use infinite scrolling saw 80 items. In the same experiment, users who used infinite scrolling also clicked on fewer results and they also "liked" fewer items. In an e-store, the users who used infinite scrolling bought fewer items from the search results.   

Update! Here's a great example of how Google made a combination of infinite scrolling and pagination:

November 3, 2013

Trejdify design update

Trejdify has always been responsive (the content looks good on the phone, the tablet, and the traditional computer). But as the number of devices grow, it's difficult to know if it really looks good on all devices. If you have the resources, you can buy/borrow each new device and install all different browsers on each device. Your office will then look like this:

Source: Paul Olyslager

The alternative is to outsource the code that makes the website responsive to someone with resources. I've decided to use Bootstrap to make sure Trejdify looks good on all devices. I've earlier considered using someone else's code as "cheating," but have now changed my mind since Bootstrap is used by organizations like NASA. According to Wikipedia, Bootstrap was developed at Twitter as a framework to encourage consistency across internal tools. Before Bootstrap, various libraries were used for interface development, which led to inconsistencies and a high maintenance burden. In August 2011 Twitter released Bootstrap as open source, and can be downloaded here: Bootstrap. Make sure to download version 3. This is the result:




October 28, 2013

All Social News Websites

This is a collection of all available social news websites. According to Wikipedia, social news can be defined as:
A website that features user-posted stories that are ranked based on popularity. Users can comment on these posts, and these comments may also be ranked. Since their emergence with the birth of web 2.0, these sites are used to link many types of information including news, humor, support, and discussion. Social news relies on crowd sourcing to shape focus in a bottom-up fashion, forming a type of collective intelligence. Social news sites facilitate democratic participation on the web.

General news:
Digg - Used to be the largest social news website, but has declined as described in The rise and fall of Digg, and what we can learn from it

Reddit - Is currently the largest social news website (and one of the world's largest websites). Has several subsections like corgi, TeslaMotors, etc

Specialized news:
GrowthHackers - Growth hacking only

Hacker News - Startups, programming, technology, etc

Inbound - Inbound marketing, such as SEO, social media, content marketing, conversion rate optimization, etc

Trejdify - Business news only, such as stocks, dividends, trading strategies, management strategies, etc

StreetEYE - Finds the most shared financial headlines from around the Internet in real-time, and brings them all together on one page

Financier News - News related to finance

Data Tau - Data Science only

If you miss a website, leave a comment or send an email!

October 22, 2013

How to add stock charts to your website or blog

This is a tutorial on how you can add stock charts to your blog.

Method 1.
Visit Google Finance or Yahoo Finance, navigate to your favorite stock, press the print screen button, paste it in your preferred image editor, edit the image, and upload the image to your website. The main drawback with this method is that if you want an updated chart, you have to make another print screen and redo the entire process.

Method 2.
Embed a chart from Google Finance by using this code snippet:

<img src="" />

  • AMZN is the ticker symbol. Amazon in this case
  • 20Y is the time - as in 20 years. If the stock hasn't existed for 20 years, the chart will automatically begin on the first day of trading. You can change this to 20d for 20 days, and 20M for 20 months
  • i is currently unknown and I will update as soon as I find out

This is the result:

Method 3.
Visit wikinvest and use their Embed Stock Chart service. This is the result:

The drawback with this method is that you have to use flash, so the chart will not be shown on your iPad.

Method 4.
Embed a chart from YCharts. This is the result:

AMZN Chart
AMZN data by YCharts

This last method seems to be the best alternative. The chart will be displayed on your iPad and you can modify the chart in multiple ways when you create it.

Method 5.
If you need a chart that display the price of a commodity, such as sugar, you should embed a chart from Index Mundi.

Sugar - Monthly Price - Commodity Prices - Price Charts, Data, and News - IndexMundi
Method 6.
Embed a chart from Quandl, which is a site that have collected data from across the globe.

Graph of ICE Sugar No. 11 Futures, Continuous Contract #1 (SB1) (Front Month)

October 18, 2013

Anecdotes from The Engineer


I've already given away some information from the book by answering questions at Quora:

I've also written a few articles related to Elon Musk:

In the future, I might tell you why Elon Musk named one of his dogs Hamlet (and it wasn't because Hamlet had a foot fetish) or how Elon Musk was two days away from dying of Malaria. If you can't wait, you should skip a few beers to afford the book (or combine both) and read about it in the book.

How to build online communities


The Truly Monumental Guide to Building Online Communities is a free book (pdf with 147 pages), you can pick it up online here: Mack Web Solutions. It promises to help companies who want to build an engaged audience around their brand. If you have no audience at all, it will help you to build a community of lifelong customers, but the book is also for companies who would like to improve their existing communities. These communities consists of your current and potential customers, your peers, the leaders/innovators in your industry, and the visionaries from any field that inspire you. The book targets mostly Internet-based companies, but I'm sure someone who hasn't an Internet-based company can find some valuable insights from it.

To build an online community, you have to identify, reach out to, and enter into relationship with the online community of the diverse pieces that compose the sphere of your business. This relationship can't, like any healthy relationship, be bought. To form this relation ship, you have to:
  • Listen and respond to your community
  • Understand your community
  • Provide valuable advice or insight to your community. This is the most important advice - you can't build a sustainable online community without a great product with valuable content. For example, this book review will hopefully be valuable content to my community.   

Here are some key-points from the book:
  • You don't have to be on every social media platform known to man. And never automate social media. You need to be aware of what's happening and engage as a human with humans. Or as the book concluded, "The absolute best way to build community is to remember that you are a person among people." This is similar as the thoughts by Gary Vaynerchuk and his book "The thank you economy." He built a wine store by interacting with people on Twitter for seven hours a day.  
  • Building a community is not a process with an end - no matter how large it becomes. It's rather common that large companies tend to forget about their respective community as they grow.     

October 14, 2013

Lessons learned from Paul Willard's talk on Growth Hacking

A few weeks ago, the free book, The Definitive Guide to Growth Hacking, traveled around Internet like a scalded troll (Swedish expression for viral). At the end of the book, the author of the book, Neil Patel, argued that the company Atlassian is a role model on how to grow a company. The book said:
Atlassian is one of the fastest growing software companies in the world and they also have one of the most sophisticated growth hacking teams that I've ever seen. They approach their experiments with the rigor of a scientist, and they use machine learning models to refine their process over time. They have one group focused specifically on new customer acquisitions, and another group focused exclusively on the funnel once they are inside the product. It's a well oiled machine. 
But here's the rub; they are an enterprise B2B software company, selling products that the general public has never heard of. They have boring products that enable communication and collaboration within software environments. They are not spreading because they are sexy. They're growth hacking their way to the top. If you ignore Atlassian, and the companies that are following their lead, then good luck competing in the future.
So I thought it was a wise idea to research exactly what Atlassian are doing to be such a role model. It turned out that the Chief Marketing Officer at Atlassian is Paul Willard (Twitter, LinkedIn, Blog) and he has given a lecture on the subject.

Lessons learned
  • He learned the basics of growth hacking from NextCard in the late 1990's
  • He holds an M.Sc in Manufacturing Systems Engineering from Stanford, where he learned Japanese manufacturing concepts (Lean), and he can use those concepts when growth hacking
  • The saying "If you build the best product, you will win" is not true - the product will not travel around the Internet like a scalded troll. You also have to learn how to fail fast (2 month per A/B test is too slow)
  • Temporarily change what you want to test front-end since it's easier. If it's working, you can change the back-end code
  • For each person in the group working with growth, try 2 new ways each week to bring in new customers, while at the same time you continue with the old ways of bringing in new customers
  • A couple of tests each week per person is enough
  • Business changes, so what didn't work a year ago might work today
  • Read everything on behavioral design by Robert Cialdini, Dan Ariely, and Nir Eyal (Blog)
  • Speed of the website, call to action buttons, and grouping/contrast of the website are important
  • Don't A/B test your core repeat usage product (the customer will become annoyed) - it's better to use beta in that case. Only A/B test newsletters, tutorials, first-time user signup, etc
  • Keep things simple
  • An A/B test can also teach you about your market/segment

October 9, 2013

Chef Marcus Samuelsson interviewed by Google

Google has two underrated YouTube Channels. The first one is Google Tech Talks where you can watch recorded lectures from Google that are dealing with technical subjects. The second channel is At Google Talks which is similar to the first channel but the lectures are less technical. Among other occupations, you can see interviews with politicians, authors, and chefs. One of the chefs interviewed is Marcus Samuelsson.

Marcus Samuelsson was born in Ethiopia. When his mother died from an illness, and his father didn't know the siblings had survived the same illness because he was in another village, everyone thought Marcus Samuelsson and his sister were orphans, so they were adopted by Swedish parents. When he grew up in Sweden, Marcus Samuelsson wanted to become a soccer player, but his coach thought he was too weak compared with the rest of the team, so the team kicked him out. The interesting part here is the then unknown fact that Marcus Samuelsson was one year younger compared with his team. No-one knew how old he was when he was adopted, so the immigration department had to guess. This might have been the reason to why he was not as athletic as the rest of the team.

Soccer was Marcus Samuelsson's life, and when he was forced to leave his beloved soccer team, he was really angry, but calmed down and decided to become the best chef in the world. To become the best, he realized he had to practice with the best. The best chefs didn't live in Sweden, so Marcus Samuelsson traveled around the world to work at the best restaurants. Before he settled in New York, he worked in Austria, Switzerland, France, and on a cruise ship.

In his biography, Yes, Chef, he explained how he had to give up everything to be able to become the best. He didn't have time to meet his then girlfriend and daughter, and because he was so exhausted from the pressure to perform, he had to learn how to sneak away from the kitchen unnoticed so he could throw up in the bathroom. But the long hours gave a result and he became a chef at the restaurant Aquavit (the name originates from a Scandinavian liquor) in New York. To find new dishes to serve, he traveled around New York on roller skates. He tested everything he could find, and to afford the most expensive dishes, he had to eat the dishes without any wine.

At the end of the book, he talked about how he had been responsible for the first state dinner of the Barack Obama presidency. After the dinner, the President visited the kitchen. One team was so exhausted that he said "Yes, Chef" when the President had asked him a question. When Marcus Samuelsson came back to New York, he served the same food as he had served the President to the neighboring kids. He though they might become as inspired as Marcus Samuelsson had when he worked in the kitchen with his grandmother.

October 2, 2013

Tim Ferriss On How To Growth Hack A Book

Tim Ferriss. Source: Forbes

Tim Ferriss became famous (and wealthy) after publishing the book The 4-Hour Workweek. The book became a bestseller despite the fact that over 25 publishers had rejected it. He has since then published two more books with the same theme: The 4-Hour Body and The 4-Hour Chef. These later books were as successful as The 4-Hour Workweek, so I thought it was a good idea to investigate what Tim Ferris marketing tactics were. While the typical US nonfiction book sells fewer than 250 copies per year, and under 3000 copies in its lifetime, Tim Ferris sells a considerable amount of more copies. I've published my own book called The Engineer which is a biography on the entrepreneur Elon Musk, so I can hopefully use some of the same marketing hacks.

When Tim Ferriss wanted to publish The 4-Hour Chef, he realized that 700 bookstore boycotted his book because he published it through Amazon. This was not a good start. So what he did was to begin marketing the book as an online startup. Most other authors spend two year of their lives writing a book and then they release it and sell their 250 copies of it each year - and that wasn't good enough to Tim Ferriss.

  • To help him, he contacted Ryan Holiday who is considered to be a marketing wizard  
  • The 4-Hour Chef consisted of several different topics so he could market each topic to a specific audience interested in that specific topic. You can see the insane long list here: (The 4-Hour Chef Launch - Marketing/PR Summary of Week One)
  • He released the first chapter of the book together with (at least) 680 mb of behind-the-scenes content on the torrent site BitTorrent. The same torrent network is famous for helping people downloading (pirating) illegal copies of books
  • He created a series of campaigns: Booksellers got the opportunity to travel with him. Fans who created their own trailers for the book got the chance to win a $2500 reward and a hour long conversation with Tim Ferriss himself. Those who bought his two earlier books got the opportunity to get the new book for free
  • When he released his first book, and to find out which title/cover to use, he printed different covers and attached them to books by other authors. He then traveled to airports where he put a fake book on a table, and from distance he could now see people's reactions when they picked up the book. He could now find the most popular title and cover
  • He conducted as many fast low-cost experiments as he could, and then he tried to scale the successful experiments. An eight second book trailer was one of the successful experiments
  • When he began to write the book, he asked his blog readers what they thought the weaknesses were of the current books with similar topics. He argued how he got more information from his blog readers than what he gave them with his three books
  • If you have 1000 hard-core fans, you will never have a marketing problem. Don't ask yourself "How do I sell as many copies of the book as possible" - ask yourself "How can I create content that appeal these 1000 fans." This is the article he got this idea from: 1000 True Fans
  • Your book should fit into a new category that doesn't exist. For example, the 4-Hour Chef is a cookbook for people who are not reading cookbooks, and that category didn't exist before
  • If you want to become a better marketer, you should read: Benjamin Franklin by Walter Isaacson who also wrote the Steve Jobs biography
  • Hire a good editor
  • He gave away 1000 copies of a book before the release to friends, companies, contributors
  • Carpet-bomb the Internet with information of the book for a short time - don't bomb the Internet for seven months

More articles in the same series: Best technical and creative writing resources

September 30, 2013

On the importance of negative feedback


Face the facts: it's never fun to get negative feedback. But what you need to understand is that negative feedback is often the best feedback. Negative feedback will tell you what you are doing wrong and what you can improve to get more customers who hopefully are more positive. What's even worse than negative feedback is no feedback because negative feedback means that someone cares about your product. 

About a month ago, I released my first book called The Engineer - Follow Elon Musk on a journey from South Africa to Mars, which is an biography on the entrepreneur Elon Musk who has founded companies like PayPal, Tesla Motors, SpaceX, and SolarCity. After I released it, I got negative feedback which was good since I could improve the book before more people bought it. For example, the number one criticism was that I had compared Elon Musk with Christopher Columbus. I've always thought that Christopher Columbus was a good guy and that it was compliment to compare the two. But what my readers complained about was how they thought that Christopher Columbus was a bad guy and they compared him with someone like Hitler or Stalin. So I quickly removed the comparison. 

You also have to remember that you are not the only one who get criticized. When Apple showed iOS 7 for the first time, people complained about how ugly it was. Here are a few more examples:
  • "This telephone has too many shortcomings to be seriously considered as a means of communication," a Western Union internal memo said in 1876.
  • "The wireless music box [radio] has no imaginable commercial value. Who would pay for a message sent to nobody in particular?" an investor said in 1920.
  • "While theoretically and technically television may be feasible – commercially and financially it is an impossibility," a radio pioneer said in 1926.
  • "If I had a nickel for every time an investor told me this wouldn't work," the founder of Amazon, Jeff Bezos, said.
  • "Sorry Steve [Jobs], here's why Apple Stores won't work," a newspaper wrote. 

When Elon Musk released the Hyperloop idea, people criticized him - and he's one of the wealthiest citizens of United States. But also Elon Musk believes that criticism is something good. When a friend uses one of his products, he always asks:
"Don't tell me what you like, tell me what you don't like." 
But he added that you should always weigh it up – negative feedback isn't always correct feedback. What you shouldn't accept is critics who are liars - not just negative:
"There have been hundreds of negative articles, and yet I've only spoken out a few times," Elon Musk said. "I don't have a problem with critical reviews, I have a problem with false reviews."

September 28, 2013

Startup Metrics For Pirates lecture by Dave McClure

This is a lecture by Dave McClure (@davemcclure). The video is a little shaky in the beginning but will improve after a few minutes. I had never heard of him before I saw this lecture, and according to his Wikipedia page, he's "an entrepreneur and prominent angel investor based in the San Francisco Bay Area, who founded and runs the business incubator 500 Startups. He is often described as one of the super angel investors." If you want to read his (old) blog, it's called Master of 500 Hats.

Lessons learned
  • You are an entrepreneur if you can solve a customer's problem, get them to pay you for it, and make more money than it cost you to build the product and get your customers.
  • Most new ideas fail, but the cost of testing new ideas and find new customers has decreased.
  • Most entrepreneurs know how to build a company from a technology point of view, but they don't know how to find new customers.
  • "Don't learn how to play basketball by watching Michael Jordan" = Don't believe you can increase the value of your company by imitating companies like Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter. They might have a high valuation without any profits but Dave McClure prefers companies that sells something or companies knowing how to make money from the customers they have today.
  • When Dave McClure worked as a programmer he thought that marketers were a waste of time and didn't contribute to the company since they only sold his products - then he realized that he needed them.
  • Recommended the books: The Mating Mind, Spent, Influence, Understanding Comics.
  • When you know what you customers want (your product is interesting enough to your users so they are profitable), stop adding more features and begin to focus on marketing and growth.
  • You have to fail multiple times, but you also need to gather data from you failure so you can learn why you failed. Don't worry about your future customers knowing about how you have failed - they will not know it or they will forget it when they notice you have a great product. 

August 13, 2013

Random Show Episode 22

A new episode of the Random Show with Kevin Rose (founder of Digg) and Tim Ferriss (author of The 4-Hour Workweek) is out! This is episode 22.

Lessons learned:
  • "Always have three ways to do something." Magicians tend to have backup plans if someone reveals the secrets behind a trick. KR told a story when someone revealed the secrets behind a trick performed by the magician David Copperfield, but Copperfield knew how to perform that trick in multiple ways, so on stage he could show that his secrets hadn't really been revealed.
  • KR has interviewed several entrepreneurs (see them all at Foundation), including Elon Musk (Tesla Motors, SpaceX, PayPal), Jack Dorsey (Twitter), and Evan Williams (Blogger). One of the conclusions from the interviews is that these successful entrepreneurs have surrounded themselves with people that are smarter and more talented than they are. If the people around you are are not contributing you have to find out why, and if they don't begin to contribute they have to find another job.
  • "If you are buying a stock you should forget about it for five years." KR seems to be a fan of Warren Buffett and KR is trying to apply the philosophies by Buffett when he's investing in stocks. One of the stocks KR owns today is Tesla Motors. He argued that the car company could become an energy company if Tesla Motors begin to rent their charging infrastructure to other car companies.
  • "Invest in laziness." KR has also invested in Amazon and argued that people become more and more comfortable, thus they prefer to buy stuff on the Internet.


If you want to watch the rest of the episodes, you can find them here:
The Random Show with Kevin Rose and Tim Ferriss

June 25, 2013

The author Winston Churchill

I have amused myself by writing a biography book on the entrepreneur Elon Musk - who has founded or co-founded companies like PayPal, Tesla Motors, SpaceX, and SolarCity - called The Engineer - Follow Elon Musk on a journey from South Africa to Mars. One of Elon Musk's role models is the former British Prime Minister Sir Winston Churchill. As research for the book I wrote, I decided to learn more about Churchill's life and if I could draw some parallels to Elon Musk. 
    What I discovered was that the young Churchill had traveled around in what would become South Africa before he became the British Prime Minister. Elon Musk wasn't born at the time but his ancestor lived in the area. What Churchill did in the region was working as a reporter for a British newspaper and his main job was to cover a war that had broken out called the Second Boer War. I also learned that Churchill was in fact an author and has written several non-fictional books and one work of fiction called Savrola. The books he wrote while covering the Second Boer War were London to Ladysmith via Pretoria and Ian Hamilton's March. These books, and a few other books by Churchill, are now available for free via Project Gutenberg. The author Churchill was awarded with the 1953 Nobel Prize in literature with the motivation: 
"for his mastery of historical and biographical description as well as for brilliant oratory in defending exalted human values." 
Churchill was in fact a very productive author and didn't spare any details when describing his and others endeavors. But it turned out that also someone like Churchill became tired of writing a book when the end neared, as clearly shown by this quote:
"Writing a book is an adventure. To begin with it is a toy and an amusement. Then it becomes a mistress, then it becomes a master, then it becomes a tyrant. The last phase is that just as you are about to be reconciled to your servitude, you kill the monster and fling him to the public."
Churchill might be remembered as the leader who inspired Britain with powerful speeches during the darkest days of the Second World War:
"You ask, what is our aim? I can answer in one word: victory. Victory at all costs. Victory in spite of all terror. Victory, however long and hard the road may be, for without victory there is no survival."
He wrote every word of his famous speeches and claimed how he spent an hour working on every minute of a speech. But the fact is that politics was his secondary job - except during the war. He actually tried to write during the war but it turned out that the result was an "unformed, unfinished, unpublishable work by any standards." Churchill's passion was writing and it was his primary income source until his death. It has been estimated that he wrote eight to ten million words in more than 40 books, thousands of newspaper and magazine articles, and at least two film scripts. But he also needed the money - during these days in Britain, politicians were not well paid so they needed an outside income. Churchill, who had an expensive lifestyle, spent more money on wine than what he earned from his salary as a politician. 
    The question is how Churchill could be so productive before the days of the computer. It certainly helped that writing was his passion, but he also used a team of assistants, researchers, secretaries and proof-readers to write some of his books. He also dictated his books aloud to secretaries, which might be the reason to why each book has so many pages - he didn't have time to make his books shorter.

Source: Wikipedia, AbeBooks, Winston Churchill. Del 1, 1874-1939 (only available in Swedish), npr

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June 7, 2013

The Random Show Episode 21

A new episode of the Random Show with Kevin Rose (founder of Digg) and Tim Ferriss (author of The 4-Hour Workweek) is out! This is episode 21. Notice that this is the only episode with poor quality, so don't measure the quality of the entire series if you have only watched this episode.


If you want to watch the rest of the episodes, you can find them here:
The Random Show with Kevin Rose and Tim Ferriss

April 17, 2013

3 books you should read to become a better writer

I'm currently writing a book on the entrepreneur Elon Musk, so I thought that it would be a good idea to improve my writing skills by reading some books on the subject.

The first book I read was On Writing Well by William Zinsser. It's considered to be a classic on the subject, and will tell you how to write fact - not fiction. The book begins with general thoughts to encourage you on your writing endeavors, continues with writing rules, and ends with how to write about certain topics like Science, Business, or Sports.
Key findings from the book is that you should replace the word one with you (one is a boring guy), and you should not overstate the facts. Don't write that someone shuts a door with the sound of an atomic bomb.    

The next book I read was On Writing by Stephen King. This is not only a book about how to write fiction, it's also a shorter biography on Stephen King, ranging from when he grew up, and ending with events how writing helped him to recover from a traffic accident. 
One of the key findings from the book is that you should avoid large amounts of alcohol and drugs. Alcohol is allowed, you don't need to be sober, but you don't need to be drunk when you write. Stephen King has experience from writing books when drunk and doing drugs, and he concluded that, 
"Substance-abusing writers are just substance abusers. Any claims that the drugs and alcohol are necessary to dull a finer sensibility are just the usual self-serving bullshit."

The last book I read was The Elements of Style by William Strunk and E.B White. It was recommended by Stephen King in the book On Writing, and The Elements of Style covers the rules you should you when writing.

To sum it up, here are some key findings from two or three of the books:
  • Less is more. The general rule is that you should embrace simplicity. The secret of good writing is to strip every sentence to its cleanest components, and remove every word that serves no function, every word that could be a short word, every adverb that carries the same meaning that's already in the verb. Stephen King's rule is that the second draft of his book should be ten percent shorter compared with the first draft.
  • You don't have to follow the rules. The basic rule is that you should write what you think is good writing in an environment you like to work in. Some people write by day, others by night. Some people need silence, others turn on the radio. Stephen King listened to Metallica while writing alone in his home. Don't try to please everyone, someone will always complain, or as Stephen King said, "You can't please all of the readers all of the time, but you really ought to try to please at least some of the readers some of the time."
  • Practice. Good writers know that very few sentences come out right the first time, or even the third or the fifth time. Good writing doesn't come naturally, though most people seem to think it does. Stephen King thought that if you want to be a writer, you must do two things above all others: read a lot and write a lot, and he read about 70-80 books a year, including audio-books.

My biography book on Elon Musk is now finished and you can find the final result, The Engineer - Follow Elon Musk on a journey from South Africa to Mars, at the link below. It got good reviews so these books probably helped a bit.

More articles in the same series: Best technical and creative writing resources