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24 Ideas From Scott Berkun About Tech, Leadership, and the Future of Work

One of the few people who can match Paul Graham as writer is Scott Berkun. They have both succeeded as technologists, Graham in Viaweb + YC, and Berkun in Microsoft and Automattic. They both write thoughtful essays on a wide range of topics, like the Cities and Ambition or Street Smarts vs Book Smarts. If anything, Berkun is a bit more personable and relatable as a writer, he’ll refer to himself a bit more than Graham and use more culturally relevant examples.

I recently finished Berkun’s book, A Year Without Pants, about his experience as something like a product manager for Team Social at Automattic, the parent company of WordPress.com. The title of the book refers to the fact that the company is fully distributed and so you don’t have to wear pants to work if you don’t want to. I’ve written previously about 37 Signal’s book Remote, but this book is different because it doesn’t focus so intensely on the “remote” part. In fact, large swaths of the book are about times where Team Social were working together at an in person gathering.

Berkun primarily uses his experience at Automattic as a platform to offer a variety of other interesting and unconventional ideas about work. Here are 24 of my favorite quotes from the book (which you should read) and my comments. Continue reading…

No Silver Bullets: Etsy’s Randy Hunt on Product Design

product-design-for-the-web-randy-hunt

While on my Peru Trip earlier this year, I read a great book  called Product Design for the Web: Principles of Designing and Releasing Products for the Web.

As one of two interaction designers who joined Etsy in 2010, Randy Hunt, now creative director, has written the book on best practices of product development for successful modern-day Internet companies. I highly recommend it.

I sat down with Randy recently to learn more about his perspective on product design. But before I jump into that conversation, here’s a brief look at some of the big ideas from the book:

Takeaways From Product Design for The Web By Randy Hunt

Note: these are not direct quotes but pretty close paraphrases

  • Great products are understandable (set expectations and live up to them) and meaningful (help people solve problems or accomplish goals) and, hopefully, delightful
  • It can be helpful to reimagine your product spec as a press release defining what the update is, who it is for and why it matters Continue reading…

How You Write 190k Words in 6 Months (While Pregnant!)

A couple years ago, I participated in National Novel Writing Month and wrote down a little over 50k words in the month of November that sort of resembled a fantasy novel. I’ve always enjoyed reading fantasy novels as a kid and it was fun (but very challenging) to write one, especially in just one month. It took a lot of discipline to find the time and energy to consistently get in the words.

So when I heard that my friend Julia Dickinson had finished a 190,000 word manuscript of her epic fantasy novel, the Evenarian, I had to talk to her about it.

The Evenarian

The book focuses on a young mage named Turo who learns of a powerful figure named the Evenarian who has been fortold in prophecy to bring the downfall of magic and bring ruin to the world. Turo joins up with a mysterious wanderer named Josh and a band of unlikely heroes to find and defeat the Evenarian. More on the story on their Kickstarter page. Continue reading…

My Biggest Takeaway on 37Signals’s New Book on Remote Work (Hint: It’s Not Technology)

REMOTE: The new book from 37signals 2013-11-08 07-41-46I just finished reading Remote: Office Not Required, by Jason Fried and David Heinemeier Hansson, partners at 37Signals.

It’s a great read and here’s the  basic premise:

  • In today’s economy, the quest for talent is so great that organizations can no longer afford to merely look at individuals co-located in their physical presence (their metro area)
  • It is easier than ever to coordinate the work of individuals from around the world with just a good internet connection and a few pieces of web-based software (including 37Signal’s own products)
  • There are many drawbacks to forcing people to work in an office and many perks to allowing them to work (even a few days a week) at home / at a cafe or coworking space that benefit both the remote worker and the organizations that employ them
  • There are simple ways to address many of the concerns people have with remote working (review the work, not time in seat; put relevant information where it can be seen by all, overlap working hours, etc)
  • There is a tipping point coming with remote work. Many organizations large and small, from across many industries, are using remote workers and it’s time you (the reader) became an early adopter.

They actually went out and interviewed a bunch of companies that do remote work as well so REMOTE is not just “the edgy opinions of Fried and DHH”. The book has useful tips for making the case for remote work to your boss (or to your team, if you are the boss). There’s a lot of value in learning how to structure a good remote work environment.

But personally, I got a bigger shift in perspective from something else.

My biggest takeaway from REMOTE:

Continue reading…

How I Published an Amazon Bestseller By Picking the Right Category

Winning Isn’t Normal has been out for a little over a week. And guess what?

It’s already become an Amazon bestseller.

If you’ve purchased the book, thank you so much for your support. If you haven’t yet, what are you waiting for? =)

Pics or it didn’t happen right? Here’s the screen shot:

Amazon Gymnastics Bestseller Book View

But here’s the thing. It’s a lot less impressive than it sounds.

When you publish a book via Kindle Direct Publishing (the way I did) you have to pick two categories for your book to fall under. Because my book is about so many things, I had trouble picking which categories.

Because many people consider The Art of Ass-Kicking a “startup blog” and because at least six of my essays in the book are directly about gymnastics or lessons that stem immediately from the sport, I ultimately settled on:

  • Sports and Outdoors -> Individual Sports -> Gymnastics
  • Business & Investing -> Small Business & Entrepreneurship -> Entrepreneurship

One category is obviously more competitive than another. Can you guess which?

A big fish in a small pond

Most of the time, I’d argue it is better to be a small fish in a big pond. Because when you are competing against the best, you learn more, you get tougher and you are forced to keep improving and never rest on your laurels.

But sometimes it is worth pursuing an area that’s more open, with fewer folks clamoring on it, so you can stand out. In this case, having this book reach number one in Gymnastics is worth the trade off of being in a more competitive category. Consider whether there are any activities in life where if you chose a less crowded approach, you could dominate the field. Might be worth trying that out.

Win Awesome Stuff from Me!

If you’ve already bough the book, consider entering my Book Review Giveaway. You could win three amazing books by Seth Godin, the Heath Brothers and Tim Ferriss, beautiful quote typography posters AND a one-on-one Skype session with me. Right now you have a really good shot of winning, so I’d get on it if I were you.

Just write a review for the book on Amazon and forward it + your receipt to winningisntnormal@gmail.com and you’re entered to win. I’m giving away TWO whole sets of prizes so don’t miss out.