Laravel + MongoDB (via mlab.com) locally

I’m working on a new side project called Howdy (I’ll be sharing more about this project in the coming months).

A couple of the technical requirements that I set for this project were to learn some new technologies along the way.

I’d never built anything with Laravel prior to this project. I had never used Vue.js, or MongoDB either. I wanted to utilize all three of them for this project.

Two weekends ago I set out to get MongoDB working with Laravel locally. I decided to use mLab to host my MongoDB database remotely. I figured it would be pretty straight forward.

Boy was I wrong! 😛

It took me a solid 6 hours to get everything working. As a result, I figured I’d save my future self the trouble of having to ever go through that pain again, and I decided to jot down some notes:

Step 1) Set up Laravel, and your mLab account

I’m not going to walk through either of these – they’re pretty self explanatory.

Step 2) SSH into your local server

I use Homestead with vagrant up & vagrant ssh instead of homestead up & homestead ssh. I feel like there is a difference, but I may be wrong.

Set up your MongoDB Driver

The next few instructions come directly from this article, but I’m just going to repeat them here. You’ll run each of these in your SSH shell:

Step 3) Import the public key used by the package management system

sudo apt-key adv --keyserver hkp://keyserver.ubuntu.com:80 --recv 2930ADAE8CAF5059EE73BB4B58712A2291FA4AD5

Step 4) Create a list file for MongoDB on Ubuntu 16.04

echo "deb [ arch=amd64,arm64 ] https://repo.mongodb.org/apt/ubuntu xenial/mongodb-org/3.6 multiverse" | sudo tee /etc/apt/sources.list.d/mongodb-org-3.6.list

Step 5) Reload local package database

sudo apt-get update

Step 6) Install the latest stable version of MongoDB

sudo apt-get install -y mongodb-org

Step 7) Pin a specific version of MongoDB

Run each of these in your command line:

echo "mongodb-org hold" | sudo dpkg --set-selections
echo "mongodb-org-server hold" | sudo dpkg --set-selections
echo "mongodb-org-shell hold" | sudo dpkg --set-selections
echo "mongodb-org-mongos hold" | sudo dpkg --set-selections
echo "mongodb-org-tools hold" | sudo dpkg --set-selections

Step 8) Start MongoDB

sudo service mongod start

Technically you could just use the mLab Data API to connect, but the native MongoDB driver which you just set up will be much more performant & secure.

Set up Moloquent

Step 9) Import Moloquent

Moloquent is a MongoDB based Eloquent model and Query builder for Laravel. You can import it with composer:

composer require jenssegers/mongodb

You’ll also need to add the following service provider to config/app.php within Laravel:

Jenssegers\Mongodb\MongodbServiceProvider::class,

Update PHP internals

The following code is borrowed from this shell script, but updated for PHP 7.2:

Step 10) Fix pecl errors list

sudo sed -i -e 's/-C -n -q/-C -q/g' `which pecl`;

Step 11) Install OpenSSl Libraries

sudo apt-get install -y autoconf g++ make openssl libssl-dev libcurl4-openssl-dev;
sudo apt-get install -y libcurl4-openssl-dev pkg-config;
sudo apt-get install -y libsasl2-dev;

Step 12) Install PHP7 mongoDb extension

sudo pecl install mongodb;

Step 13) Add extension to your php.ini file

sudo touch /etc/php/7.2/mods-available/mongodb.ini
sudo echo "; configuration for php mongo module\n; priority=30\nextension=mongodb.so" >> /etc/php/7.2/mods-available/mongodb.ini
sudo ln -s /etc/php/7.2/mods-available/mongodb.ini 30-mongodb.ini

Step 14) Add mongodb.service file

cat >/etc/systemd/system/mongodb.service <

Step 15) Enable Mongo

sudo systemctl start mongodb
sudo systemctl status mongodb
sudo systemctl enable mongodb

Step 16) Restart Nginx & PHP fpm

sudo service nginx restart && sudo service php7.2-fpm restart

Update your Laravel files

Step 17) Add a new database config connection

'mongodb' => array(
            'driver'   => 'mongodb',
            'host'     => env('MONGODB_HOST'),
            'port'     => env('MONGODB_PORT'),
            'username' => env('MONGODB_USERNAME'),
            'password' => env('MONGODB_PASSWORD'),
            'database' => env('MONGODB_DATABASE'),
            'options' => [
                'database' =>  env('MONGODB_DATABASE') // sets the authentication database required by mongo 3
            ]
        ),

Be sure to also update your .env file:

MONGODB_HOST=ds12345.mlab.com
MONGODB_PORT=12345
MONGODB_USERNAME=YOUR-mLAB-USERNAME
MONGODB_PASSWORD=YOUR-mLAB-PASSWORD
MONGODB_DATABASE=YOUR_mLAB-DB

Step 18) Add a new route to web.php

Route::get('/mongo/', 'MongoController@index');

Step 19) Add your controller

Step 20) Add your Mongo model

name = 'Dave';
	    $user->save();
	}
}

And that should do it!

Hope that ends up being helpful to someone else who is in the same boat! 😘

Comments

I don’t do comments on this site, but if you have thoughts, I’d love to hear them. You can email me at designpro@gmail.com.

The Startup Playbook – Book Notes

thestartupplaybook

The Startup Playbook, is a book that I really enjoyed. Here’s a list of the quotes that I found most interesting:

  1. Intro – Building a startup will be the homeownership of the next century.
  2. Intro – Ruthlessly focus on your biggest ideas. While you might think keeping your options open creates added opportunity and paths to fortune, it actually does the reverse.
  3. Intro – Ultimately, you are trying to unlock your product-to-market fit equation as quickly as your talent and capitalization will allow. It is critical to select your problem well, focus intensely, and crack the code.
  4. Intro – Be 10 times better than your competitors. You cannot Be incrementally better. Incrementalism kills companies. Radically differentiate your company by being 10 times better than anyone else in the world.
  5. Intro – Be a monopolist. Few entrepreneurs think as boldly as they need to from the very beginning. Yet, this type of thinking needs to be woven into the fabric of the company’s psyche from day one. We are only limited by the scope of our vision.
  6. Intro – The entire company and its ultimate outcome are a reflection of your ability to set the foundational purpose, beliefs, and focus to contribute to a lasting organization that effectively solves a major market problem.
  7. Intro – We have a responsibility to take great risks because in truth, we have few true risks at all. I believe a life fully lived should be lived boldly, loaded with chances to push yourself to the greatest extremes of your abilities.
  8. Intro – Don’t suffer from the sin of comparison. Follow your own path. Trust your gut, focus on the voice of your customers, and move forward on a committed, decisive path.
  9. Intro – I feel one of my most important jobs and my companies is to give my teams the ability to take Great risks without fear of failure or peer contempt. Don’t hide failure. Admit it, address it, learn from it, and then forgive it and move forward.
  10. Intro – Start ups are stupidly hard. The decision to pursue them is irrational.
  11. Chris Anderson – If you can’t define your brand in 3 to 8 words, you’re doomed.
  12. Chris Anderson – Build your reputation through transparency.
  13. Charles Best – Users will reward you for being transparent and giving them choices.
  14. Charles Best – Learn to utilize crowd sourcing on both the front end and the backend of your business.
  15. Sara Blakely – Money is a magnifying glass. It makes you more of who you already are.
  16. Steve Blank – Populate your board with dinosaurs.
  17. Steve Blank – Make “good enough” daily decisions. If someone comes into your office with the question, they should leave with an answer.
  18. Steve Blank – When you run the startup, you’re breaking every rule, shattering every piece of glass, punching through walls, and leaving rubble along the way. It’s like being a platoon commander.
  19. Matt Blumberg – You have to be the most optimistic person in the company and the most pessimistic person company at the same time.
  20. Rodney Brooks – Fire people when they lose faith in your ideas.
  21. Jeff Bussgang – A fatal mistake that some people make is either to ignore data or actually deny what the facts are presenting. It’s easy to fall into that trap at a startup because you’re constantly getting barraged with imperfect information. You shouldn’t let that paralyze you.
  22. Jeff Bussgang – Build a love driven culture.
  23. Jeff Bussgang – Be a mentor. If your not mentoring someone, you’re missing out on something special.
  24. Jeff Bussgang – Don’t neglect the contract with your family. Your strongest as professional and as a person when you have a strong family foundation to rest on.
  25. Steve Case – Change the world. The key driver for me is finding businesses that change the world. These are businesses that empower consumers in new ways, giving them more choice, giving them more control, giving them more convenience in important aspects of their lives.
  26. Steve Case – Focus on people, perseverance, and passion.
  27. Steve Case – We have a great need for people focused on the bigger ideas. Entrepreneurs are the change agents that need to take the lead in building iconic, lasting companies that will improve peoples lives.
  28. Steve Case – Be an attacker, not a defender. What people underestimate is how risky it is to operate in a stable business as a defender rather than an attacker.
  29. Steve Case – Be loyal to your team, but make changes as you scale.
  30. Steve Case – Once you have found the revolutionary idea that you are ready to start a company in pursuit of, you need to be sure you survive to see it through. Occasionally there is an overnight success, but more often it is a marathon, not a sprint.
  31. Steve Case – Set direction and step aside. If you are a really great CEO, you should wake up in the morning and have nothing to do.
  32. Steve Case – Don’t build companies. Build industries. One way to identify entrepreneurs or companies that will change the world is by finding startups that are trying to create an entire industry rather than just build a company. That ambition is the foundation of lasting, iconic, platform companies.
  33. Marc Cenedella – Use passion as your filter. Realistically, there won’t be 100 things or 1000 things that you could execute on as an entrepreneur. At some point, you have to pick one and go, and it has to be something you have a passion for.
  34. Marc Cenedella – Show up and don’t quit. The once you say, “You know what, I didn’t quit”, there’s really deep wisdom in that.
  35. Marc Cenedella – Over-communicate in a crisis.
  36. Marc Cenedella – When you have 50 to 60 hands working on your business, you need to step back from tactical issues and focus on strategic life or death decisions.
  37. Robin Chase – Be frugal, personally and professionally.
  38. Chip Conley – The most neglecting fact in business is that we’re all human.
  39. Chip Conley – When you start, you have no idea what you don’t know. If you keep your business small in the beginning, your initial mistakes are going to be small and you can use them to create a better product.
  40. Jeff Dachis – Build backward from a future state. The issues I tackle are often wildly complex and years into the future.
  41. Jeff Dachis – When you first enter a marketplace, you’ll get laughed at and ridicules and have tomato thrown at you. It’s difficult, but it’s the only way to see if your arguments stand up.
  42. Jeff Dachis – Only take risks when you can affect the outcome. Focus on eliminating risks.
  43. Jeff Dachis – Don’t get lost in lists.
  44. Jeff Dachis – Build solutions, not features.
  45. Kevin Efrusy – Don’t clutter your time. You make your best decisions, when your time isn’t cluttered with a bunch of random stuff.
  46. Caterina Fake – Make something people want to use every day.
  47. Caterina Fake – Working on the right problem is more important than working hard.
  48. Caterina Fake – As a leader of a team or company, you will always have to deal with anxiety. You cannot let those anxieties spread out past you.
  49. Mitch Free – Bootstrap your business for as long as you can. If you can prove that customers are willing to pay money for your offer before you raise money, you’ll get a much higher valuation.
  50. Mitch Free – A great salary on day one often means significantly less upside later on down the road.
  51. Mitch Free – Recognize the life cycles in your team. Not everyone will transition as your business scales.
  52. Mitch Free – The bigger an organization gets the more important it is for you to explicitly communicate with your team.
  53. Mitch Free – share the blame when letting people go. It’s never, “screw you you didn’t work out”, but, “I’m sorry that we didn’t assess the fit properly”.
  54. Tom Gardner – Defined the perfect outcome. You have to nail down what outcome you are seeking.
  55. Tom Gardner – Recognize your actual revenue streams and diversify them.
  56. Tom Gardner – Create an environment that people wouldn’t make sacrifices to join.
  57. Tom Gardner – Deploy a capital like an investor.
  58. Tom Gardner – There is almost always a better option than taking on another full-time employee. The keyword is almost.
  59. Eileen Gittins – It’s through telling stories – about the business, the founding, the customers – that people take on the spirit of the company.
  60. Eileen Gittins – Leadership is, in part, the art of storytelling.
  61. Eileen Gittins – Ineffective team members cause more harm than terminations.
  62. Eileen Gittins – Grant here employees autonomy, mastery, and purpose.
  63. Seth Goldman – The challenge, as I see it, is not, “How do you sell products?” Its, “How do you communicate your beliefs to people and make them into believers?”
  64. Seth Goldman – You want employees to care about the long-term performance of the company, so you should give them as much control over their part in the business as you can.
  65. Scott Harrison – Everything that you do must express your passions and your purpose.
  66. Reid Hoffman – Execute on your biggest idea. Building up a small idea is as much work as building up a big one in the first phases, so you absolutely want to execute on the biggest possible idea that you can.
  67. Reid Hoffman – The only competitive differentiations that matter are ten-times-greater differentiations.
  68. Jeffrey Hollender – Radical transparency and authenticity should dominate your brand and culture.
  69. Ben Horowitz – People are fundamentally lazy, and they’re not going to adopt something unless it’s at least 10 times better than what they are ready have.
  70. Ben Horowitz – You always want to build monopoly because that’s where you’ll get outsize returns.
  71. Tony Hsieh – Be humble. The people in overly proud companies start believing their own press releases and feeling like they can do no wrong.
  72. Tony Hsieh – Giving early managers and executives top-heavy titles inhibits growth.
  73. Cyrus Massoumi – Most startups do A/B testing. But we A/B test everything.
  74. Cyrus Massoumi – Keep your entire company aligned to the core mission. Our goals aren’t centered around money or valuations.
  75. Jim McCann – Managing in underfunded startup is terribly exhausting.
  76. Jim McCann – Cultivate an alumni. If someone leaves on good terms, give proper notice, and treats everyone with professionalism and integrity, we want them to be one of our alumni.
  77. Elon Musk – Impact the future of humanity. I’ve always tried to be involved in things that will impact the future of humanity and have a good impact on the world.
  78. Elon Musk – The most important thing an entrepreneur can do is focus on making a great product or service. Stay very close to the product and be hell-bent on making it as good as it can be.
  79. Elon Musk – Make sure people know exactly why somebody was fired.
  80. Elon Musk – Run your company for as long as you reasonably can. You should only consider passing over the reins to somebody as good or better than you are at creating great products.
  81. Adeo Ressi – Start with multiple ideas and kill them off. It’s much easier to kill an idea when it’s not yet a business.
  82. Adeo Ressi – Conserve dollars in every way you can.
  83. Kevin Ryan – Get to market. In the beginning, you have no way of knowing if you have the right design, or if it’s going to work. There are a lot of things you don’t know. You just have to get out the door and find out.
  84. Jeff Stewart – A business isn’t one big invention. It’s hundreds of small inventions.

Comments

I don’t do comments on this site, but if you have thoughts, I’d love to hear them. You can email me at designpro@gmail.com.

Test Your Designs

Every public facing design you push live – which has the potential to affect core metrics – should be A/B tested. Period.

But, why?

A couple of reasons:

  • Data helps you make informed decisions.
  • You test to learn. You’ll find out what works, and what doesn’t. You can then share what you’ve learned with others, and apply what you’ve learned to future hypotheses.
  • As much as you’d like to think that you can predict success, humans are terrible at it. There are no exceptions to this statement. That’s not to say that you don’t have a wealth of knowledge and experience that you can leverage. You’re always going to be fairly confident that each test you run will lead to an increase in your core metrics (else why would you run the test in the first place). But just understand up front that half of the designs you release are going to be a bust. That’s just the nature of the game, and if you’re not testing, you won’t know which half.
  • If you launch 6 new features in a month, and as a result, a month later you start to see a slump in your core metrics, which of the 6 features do you attribute the slump to? Or is it something else completely? If you don’t test everything, you’ll be in the dark.

While testing may seem burdensome (and perhaps pointless), I promise that as you start doing it, it will get easier. Eventually, you’ll be able to launch tests in a matter of minutes, and you’ll begin to see with absolute certainty what is working, and what isn’t. It actually becomes very addicting, and can be very fun.

Again, by all means, please leverage your instinct and your experience as a designer to come up with the best design possible. But then please test each design, as a safety mechanism to make sure your assumptions were correct.

If the test succeeds, celebrate! Great job.

If the test fails, celebrate! You just learned something new about what doesn’t work, and you avoided launching it to your users! Now share what you learned and use your new found knowledge to keep iterating.

The important bits

Eliminate ego – In order for any of this to work, you’ve got to drop your ego. You’re going to instinctively want to mask every test you run as winning in some way. Don’t do it. Just know that 50% of your designs are going to be flops, and less than 5% of your designs are going to be major improvements.

Get in the habit of testing everything – When you launch designs without measuring them, you learn very little about which designs work and which don’t. That’s a shame, and a waste of your time/resources.

Focus on learning – Whether a test is a success or a failure is unimportant. The important part is that you learn something new with every design you ship, and that you keep on iterating.

Comments

I don’t do comments on this site, but if you have thoughts, I’d love to hear them. You can email me at designpro@gmail.com.

Embrace Process, Avoid Ego

This chart shows the level of “process” a typical designer will incorporate into their designs over time.

As a designer, you’ll start off with very little process. (beginning of the wavy line)

Over time, you’ll pick up some process here and there, mostly out of necessity (that’s that first hump).

Then, after you’ve got some experience under your belt, you’ll almost certainly start abandoning process (what I call “the slump”).

This pattern happens like clockwork. The actual timeline may differ from designer to designer, but I see the same pattern all the time.

So… what exactly is “the slump”, what causes it, and what can you do to avoid it?

The Slump

The slump is a naturally occurring phenomenon that I see in most, if not all designers. It almost always creeps in soon after you start getting comfortable with your craft. It’s a subtle thing. Probably something you won’t have even recognized in yourself until someone calls you out on it.

It’s a deterioration of design process.

  • It’s an “Ive been doing this a while now, I’m a good designer, I know what the user needs” false narrative.
  • It’s starting a new design project and going with the first idea that comes to you, instead of first spending time to sketch out a bunch of ideas.
  • It’s jumping straight to pixel perfect mockups, or straight to code without putting much thought into who the design is for, and what they’re trying to accomplish.

It’s laziness, and it’s driven by ego.

As your design skills increase, your ego will inflate along with it. If you produce good work, your ego will constantly be stroked. Likes on Dribbble, positive comments at work, from friends, or from clients all add to the problem.

An inflated ego leads you to believe that you can do no wrong. That you instinctively know what is best for your users. That you can skip all of that boring process, and jump straight to later stages of the design process.

But unfortunately your ego is wrong.

How to avoid The Slump

Great designers eventually recognize the power of process in their designs, and pull out of it.

It’s not easy. It means that you’ve got to admit that you don’t have all of the answers. You’ve got to admit that you don’t know what is best for your users. You’ve got to deflate your ego.

“But process just stifles creativity” you might say

Quite the opposite actually. Process frees you. It allows you to consistently create great designs.

In an interview, Steve Jobs once said:

Making insanely great products has a lot to do with THE PROCESS of making that product.

I wholeheartedly agree.

If you’re new to design, why not just bypass The Slump altogether. You can do this by learning to embracing process early on, and by not allowing your ego to get in the way.

If you’re an old-timer, and you find yourself in the slump, no worries. Now is the time to change. Decide today that you’ll no longer be held back by your ego.

Now is the time to drop your ego. Do this, and you’ll be well on your way to great designs.

Comments

I don’t do comments on this site, but if you have thoughts, I’d love to hear them. You can email me at designpro@gmail.com.

“Creativity Inc.” notes

“Creativity Inc” is a book that I absolutely adore. It’s written by Ed Catmull, president of Pixar and Disney animation. I highly recommend grabbing a copy. Here are a few of my favorite highlights:

Culture

  • What makes Pixar special is that we acknowledge we will always have problems, many of them hidden from our view; that we work hard to uncover these problems, even if doing so means making ourselves uncomfortable; and that, when we come across a problem, we marshal all our energies to solve it.

Creativity

  • Ultimately what we are after is authenticity.
  • Originality is fragile. And, in its first moments, it’s often far from pretty. I call early mockups of our films “ugly babies”. Our job is to protect our babies from being judged too quickly. Our job is to protect the new.
  • The chaotic nature of the creative process needs to be chaotic. If we put too much structure on it, we will kill it.
  • In order for a period of greatness to emerge, there must be phases of not-so-greatness.
  • Ideas come from people. Therefore, people are more important than ideas. Find, develop, and support good people, and they in turn will find, develop, and own good ideas.
  • Since everyone at Pixar shows incomplete work, and everyone is free to make suggestions the embarrassment goes away. Once the embarrassment goes away, people become more creative.

Candid feedback

  • The key is to look at the viewpoints being offered, in any successful feedback group, as additive, not competitive. A competitive approach measures other ideas against your own, turning the discussion into a debate to be won or lost. An additive approach, on the other hand, starts with the understanding that each participant contributes something.
  • Candor could not be more crucial to our creative process. Why? Because early on, all of our movies suck. That’s a blunt assessment, I know, but I make a point of repeating it often.
  • We are true believers in the power of bracing candid feedback and the iterative process — reworking, reworking, and reworking again, until a flawed story finds it’s throughline or hollow character finds its soul.
  • Candor must override hierarchy for a any creative company to succeed in the long-term.
  • Candor isn’t cruel. It does not destroy. On the contrary, any successful feedback system is built on empathy, on the idea that we are all in this together.
  • Seek out people who are willing to level with you, and when you find them, hold them close.

Company Structure

  • When it comes to creative inspiration, job titles and hierarchy are meaningless… Unhindered communication is key.
  • The responsibility for finding and fixing problems should be assigned to every employee. You don’t have to ask permission to take responsibility.
  • If the crew is confused, then the leaders are too.
  • If we allow more people to solve problems without permission, and if we tolerate and don’t vilify their mistakes, then we enable a much larger set of problems to be addressed.

Fear and Failure

  • Mistakes aren’t a necessary evil. They aren’t evil at all. They are an inevitable consequence of doing something new.
  • The antidote for fear is trust.
  • Experiments are fact-finding missions that, over time, inch scientist towards greater understanding. That means any outcome is a good outcome, because it yields new information.
  • While experimentation is scary to many, I would argue that we should be far more terrified of the opposite approach. Being too risk-averse causes many companies to stop innovating and to reject new ideas, which is the first step on the path to irrelevance.
  • Fear of change, innate, stubborn, and resistant to reason, is a powerful force. In many ways, it reminds me of musical chairs: we cling as long as possible to the perceived “safe place” that we are ready know, refusing to loosen our grip until we feel sure another safe place awaits.
  • Deep down, even though we might wish it weren’t true: change is going to happen, whether we like it or not.

Leadership

  • My job as a manager is to create a fertile environment, keep it healthy, and watch for the things that undermined it.
  • I believe that managers must loosen the controls, not tighten them. They must accept risk; they must trust the people they work with and strive to clear the path for them; and always, they must pay attention to and engage with anything that creates fear.
  • In many organizations, managers tend to err on the side of secrecy, keeping things hidden from employees. I believe this is the wrong instinct.
  • Good leaders don’t dictate from on high. They reach out, they listen, they wrangle, coax, and cajole.

Braintrust

At Pixar they’ll frequently bring a director (and his or her in progress film) in with a group of other experienced storytellers. They call this a braintrust. The purpose of the braintrust is not to tell the director what to do, but to highlight areas that may be weak, and to spark ideas for moving forward.

  • To understand what the braintrust does and why it is so crucial to Pixar, you have to start with the basic truth: people who take on complicated creative projects become lost at some point in the process.
  • The braintrust has no authority. This is crucial. The director does not have to follow any of the specific suggestions given. Braintrust meetings are not top-down, do-this-or-else affairs.
  • The braintrust sets the tone for everything we do.
  • The process of coming to clarity takes patience and candor.
  • Notably, participants do not prescribe how to fix the problems they diagnose. They test weak points, they make suggestions, but it is up to the director to settle on a path forward.
  • Moreover, we don’t want the braintrust to solve the directors problem because we believe that, in all likelihood, our solution won’t be as good as the one the director and his or her creative team comes up with.
  • Each of the braintrust participants focus on the film at hand and not on some hidden personal agenda. They are not motivated by the kinds of things — getting credit for an idea, pleasing their supervisors, winning a point just to say you did — that too often lurk beneath the surface of work related interactions. The film itself, not the filmmaker, is under the microscope.
  • The most important characteristic was an ability to analyze the emotional beats of the movie without any of its members themselves getting emotional or defensive.
  • To make a great film, it’s makers must pivot, at some point, from creating the story for themselves to creating it for others. The braintrust provides that pivot and it is necessarily painful.
  • Even the most experienced braintrust can’t help people who don’t understand it’s philosophies, who refuse to hear criticism without getting defensive, or who don’t have the talent to digest feedback, reset, and start again.

Loved, loved, loved this book. I cannot recommend it highly enough.

Comments

I don’t do comments on this site, but if you have thoughts, I’d love to hear them. You can email me at designpro@gmail.com.

Avoid Bandwagon Wisdom

Bandwagon Wisdom
Strongly held, one-sided opinions on complex issues, often openly communicated with very little reason, personal research, experimentation or data to back them up.

Reason
The power of the mind to think, understand, and form judgments by a process of logic.

The problem

Bandwagon wisdom is a plague in our society. It’s unhealthy, and it appears to be growing in popularity.

I see it in subjects related to parenthood, in preconceived ideas at work, and obviously in controversial topics like politics, and religion. It’s everywhere.

I admittedly catch myself doing it occasionally.

I honestly think we do it most times without even thinking. It’s so easy to “jump on the bandwagon” and share that great one-liner quip, without really comprehending anything about the subject. We do it in person, via blogs, FaceBook, Twitter, and through a myriad of other channels.

Why is this a problem?

Bandwagon wisdom is a tool of manipulation. Topics are carefully crafted to be spread without much thought, but in doing so, we only perpetuate the problem. By “jumping on the bandwagon” we essentially fall prey to these manipulative campaigns, and unfortunately show our ignorance in the process.

The solution

The next time you think about retweeting that highly opinionated, controversial, one-sided statement, perhaps stop and take a moment to consider how much you really comprehend about this topic. Have you spent ANY time trying to understand both side of the issue? If someone called you out on your retweet, would you even know the least bit about the issue at all? Until your answer to both of these questions is, “yes”, why not just hold off on taking a firm public stand?

If you’re going to take an opinionated stance on complex issue, that’s great. I actually applaud informed opinions being shared on complex issues. But if you’re going to take a stand publicly, please start by doing a bit of research first.

The vast majority of times you retweet something, no one will even know whether you’ve invested any time researching the issue beforehand. But you’ll know, and to me, that personal integrity is what matters most. Let’s stop falling prey to the manipulation. Let’s please stop with all of the bandwagon wisdom.

Comments

I don’t do comments on this site, but if you have thoughts, I’d love to hear them. You can email me at designpro@gmail.com.

I’m a Mormon

First, a few disclaimers:

1. If this topic is of no interest to you, don’t read it.

This is my personal blog, The vast majority of posts that I write will tend to be about design and startups. Occasionally I’ll deviate to cover a topic that is as important, if not much more deeply important to me personally.

2. This post is meant to be 100% informational. My hope is:

A) That by the end of this post, Mormonism will seem like slightly less of a cultish mystery to you, and

B) That at a bare minimum, you’ll be able to at least say to yourself, “I honestly don’t believe anything that dude believes, but I now at least think I understand why Dave Martin is a Mormon”.

3. I posted a link to this article on FaceBook, as that is where all of my closest friends and family are. I didn’t tweet this post out. I didn’t push it to LinkedIn. I’m not preachy by nature. Not in person, not on this blog, not on FaceBook. For the most part, just know that unless you ask, I’m probably not going to bring up religion with you, ever.

4. I’m in no way perfect. Not even close. I fail, and make mistakes all the time. I don’t write any of the following to set myself up on a pedestal in any way.

5. My intention in writing this is not to persuade. I’m not trying to turn you into a Mormon by reading it. Whatever your beliefs or religious affiliations may or may not be, however you choose to live your life, whatever things you value, I love you as you are. For those of you who know me closely, I hope that this sentiment comes through as genuine.

There’s a lot to cover. I’ll do my best to keep everything as concise as possible.

Here are the reasons why I’m a Mormon, ranked in order of importance (to me):

1. CHRIST

Our official church name is The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. That’s a mouthful, so most people just call us LDS (Latter Day Saints), or Mormon for short.

Our religion is 100% centered around Jesus Christ, his ministry on earth, his atonement and resurrection, and his ministry in these latter days.

Christ stands at the center of our religion. Without him, I believe that quite literally I’d be lost.

2. PEACE

Life on earth can be lonely. It can be scary. It can be tough. Christ’s love helps me feel at peace, in both the good times, as well as the bad.

I pray for this peace daily, and find refuge regularly in the comfort it brings.

3. STRENGTH

Some trials in life feel too great for me to bear alone. In Christ I am strengthened. He helps shoulder my burdens. He’ll also help me turn my weaknesses into strengths.

I’ve witnessed this strengthening effect in my life numerous times.

4. PROTECTION

The world can be a dark place. I’m mortal. I make mistakes. No matter how good of a person I am, while on this earth, I’m not immune to temptation, which leads to sin, which leads to unhappiness.

After I was baptized, I received the Gift of the Holy Ghost, which serves as a constant protection to me, as long as I’m worthy of it.

I receive additional protection (from temptation) by doing things that bring additional light into my life. Things like: fasting monthly, praying daily, reading scriptures daily, going to church weekly, and through regular temple service.

5. ETERNAL FAMILIES

I was married to my wonderful wife in the Palmyra NY Temple. We were sealed for time and all eternity. Not just till death do us part. Our children are also sealed to us for eternity.

I take great comfort knowing that I can be with my amazing wife, and wonderful children forever.

6. PERSONAL REVELATION

Christ said, “Ask, and it shall be given you”. I take this quite literally. Whenever I am unsure about something, I:

A) think about the question myself

B) come to a decision on my own

C) seek conformation from God that my decision is according to his will

Sometimes it is. Sometimes it isn’t.

I do this with bigger issues (should we move to a new house), as well as with smaller issues (how can I best solve this tiny problem). It’s like having a magic 8 ball that actually works. It’s pretty amazing.

7. MODERN REVELATION

The LDS Church is established the same way Christ’s church was established when he was on earth. We have a modern day Prophet. We have twelve Apostles.

Twice a year we have “General Conference”, giving us a chance to hear from our Prophet, Apostles, and other church leaders.

I consider this a great, and fairly unique blessing.

8. SERVICE & SACRIFICE

The LDS church is a lay-ministry. This means that no local or regional leaders are paid or compensated for their service. Additionally, no one vies for office. No one is voted in to a church calling. Service callings are always extended through inspiration.

My wife serves in the primary presidency in our local ward (“ward” is the term we use for our local congregation). She helps lead the youth. I serve as the Elders Quorum President of our ward. I minister to the middle aged brethren in our congregation.

On top of everything else in our busy lives, it can be hard at times. But it’s service, as such, it can be very, very rewarding.

9. PRIESTHOOD BLESSINGS

With the restoration of the church in the 1830’s, came a restoration of the Aaronic, and Melchizedek Priesthoods. The same Priesthood that the Apostles of old used to bless the people of their time.

I’ve personally seen the priesthood work miracles in my life a number of times.

10. COMMUNITY

About seven years ago when my wife and I moved to The Sutherland Shire (just south of Sydney Australia) for work, all it took was a single visit to the local LDS branch, and we were accepted into the congregation immediately, like we were family.

This happens anywhere you move. The exact same thing happened when we then moved to North Carolina two years later.

The church is global, but it’s like one big family.

11. A SOLID FOUNDATION FOR MY KIDS

Having grown up in the church, I saw first-hand how much it shaped who I am today. The doctrine of the Mormon church is strict. I wasn’t always fond of that, but today (especially now that I have kids of my own) I absolutely see that as a good thing. It served as a spiritual anchor for me growing up, and I hope that it can provide the same solid foundation for my kids.

12. ANSWERS TO LIFES QUESTIONS

The Mormon church offers answers to many of lifes greatest questions. Questions like:

– Who am I?
– Where did I come from?
– What’s the secret to real happiness?
– Why do bad things happen to good people?
– What happens when I die?

13. ORDER

I thrive when my life is in order – when things are organized. I can’t really think of any other organization (public, private, government, you name it) that is more organized than the Mormon church. That’s pretty cool if you ask me.

14. WELFARE & HUMANITARIAN AID

The church operates it’s own welfare system, both internally for members, and externally as humanitarian aid. My family was blessed multiple times by the church welfare system while I was growing up, as such it’s also been something that has meant a lot to me personally.

WRAPPING THINGS UP

I’m Dave Martin.

I’m a husband

I’m a Father.

I’m a designer at Help Scout.

And I’m also a Mormon.

These are my personal beliefs.

Mormonism is tightly woven into who I am. It’s helped me become the person I am today, and it pushes me to always want to be better.

Comments

I don’t do comments on this site, but if you have thoughts, I’d love to hear them. You can email me at designpro@gmail.com.

Gym of the future – Startup idea

I’d love to see someone get creative and disrupt the gym industry. It currently feels so stale. There doesn’t seem to be any creativity or innovation at all.

The Market

With a quick Google search I saw varied reports of the gym market being a $21.8 billion market, all the way up to it being a $78.2 billion market. In any case it’s sizable. There’s value to be delivered there, and ultimately money to be made.

How might someone disrupt this stagnant industry? Here’s my take:

Get creative with facilities

Instead of going with boring old rows of treadmills, and rows of elliptical machines, and small pocket of free weights route, why not mix it up?

I’d look around for some old abandoned supermarket/strip mall real estate. The inside of an old supermarket gives you quite a bit of room to play with.

I’d fill the space with an assortment of different sections. Of course there’d be an aerobic section, and a free weights section, but there would also be a small section for crossfit, and a small section for parkour, there would be a small bouldering/rock climbing section, in addition to multiple smaller yoga/pilate/dance rooms.

The idea here: attract a larger cross-section of customers than your typical gym.

I’d also figure out a way to keep the place open 24 hours a day (not novel these days, but important enough to mention).

Get creative with pricing

Every gym I’ve ever looked at has the exact same strategy when it comes to pricing. This is a huge opportunity for someone to come along and quickly differentiate themselves. Gyms know that for the vast majority of their customers, joining a gym is an idealistic impulse buy. They bank on it, and they price their services accordingly. Generally this involves yearly contracts, with penalties for breaking them early.

Here’s what I’d charge:

$5/visit, for the first 5 visits, then free for the rest of the month.

A couple of thoughts:

  • Immediately your gym caters to a long tail of users who would otherwise never step foot in a gym. This long tail of customers knows that they’d never benefit enough from a monthly membership subscription to make it pay off, so they never go to a gym. But with pay as you go pricing that all changes. They could come once a month, and pay just $5.
  • The $25/mo ceiling sets people at ease. Every trip they make to the gym after the first 5 visits makes them feel like they are cheating the system somehow. Like they’re sticking it to the gym owner.
  • Occasionally I’d enjoy working out with friends. This almost never works in practice though as it requires two people to be members in the same gym. With pay as you go pricing, working out with a friend becomes something you can do without much thought at all. All you have to do is arrange a time.

Get creative with onboarding

I’d rather get a root canal on multiple teeth than be forced to deal with having to sign up for most gym memberships. The experience is down right awful!

Not a lot would have to be done to make it even slightly better, but what if we shot for the moon? Here’s my thinking:

What if the entire process was self service, and what if signing up took less than a minute?

You walk in the door and immediately see a number of self serve stations. You step up to one. Pricing is clearly visible. A screen asks you to swipe your credit card. You do so. If this is your first visit, it asks for your email address (and that’s it). You’re done. You see a big welcome screen that says “enjoy your workout”.

At this point, your mind is kinda blown. This is remarkable enough of an experience that you feel like telling everyone you know.

What about fraud, you say?

What if someone comes in with another persons credit card who has already paid for 5 visits this month? That’s where a little technology under the hood comes in handy.

Every self serve station has mat, that while you’re swiping your card weighs you. A photo is also snapped every time you swipe your credit card. If someone comes in, swipes a credit card to trigger a free visit, and the weight is inconsistent with a range of weights for the card holders most recent visits, then an alert is sent to the iPhone of the attendant on hand showing the weight discrepancy, and headshot photos of the card holders last visit, along with this visit. The attendant can then “help” the customer set up a new profile for that credit card.

Get creative with retention

There’s loads you could do to introduce “runkeeper” like mechanics into a physical gym environment. You might also experiment with offering some sort of fitbit like tracking device for customers to use freely, helping them track activity within your gym. All of which you could make easy for people to share with their friends and family, and all of which you could use to generate triggers to help bring customers back regularly.

There’s the idea

Now someone go build it so I can give you my money.

Comments

I don’t do comments on this site, but if you have thoughts, I’d love to hear them. You can email me at designpro@gmail.com.

Don’t Growth Hack

Can we lay this term to rest? It just feels… tainted.

To be clear, growth in and of itself isn’t a bad thing. But somehow “growth hacking” has earned itself a bad reputation. Why is that?

To figure this out, let’s journey back to the very beginning.

Doomed by definition

When Sean Ellis coined the term growth hacker in 2010, he stated that:

A growth hacker is a person whose true north is growth.

And therein lies the problem…

Growth for the sake of growth has never been a good LONG-TERM business strategy. Growth for the sake of growth may appear to work wonders in the short-term, but long-term it’s a wolf in sheep’s clothing. Long-term, growth should be centered around people not numbers or percentages.

The simple truth:

Everything that a “growth hacker” fights tooth and nail to optimize can be improved across the board by focusing on one thing:

Just focus on making your users lives better

Instead of having your north star be growth, what if instead you focused on the success of your users as your primary objective? Once your primary focus shifts to making your users lives better, everything else that you used to wrestle with as a “growth hacker” will begin to fall into place:

  • Activation – By focusing on your users, and their needs, you’ll have less friction in your new user flow, so more people will stick around.
  • Revenue – With more people sticking around, chances are you’ll make more money.
  • Retention – By definition, if more people stick around, your churn decreases.
  • Referrals – If people find your app remarkable, they’ll spread the word.
  • Acquisition – As people tell others, you’ll acquire more users.

By focusing 100% on users you likely won’t see as many short-term benefits as you would if you continued growth hacking. Unfortunately, one side effect of aggressively optimized short-term growth is that it often comes at the expense of long-term losses. Only, you won’t see the long-term effects for years to come, and by then it’s often too late to do anything about it.

Comments

I don’t do comments on this site, but if you have thoughts, I’d love to hear them. You can email me at designpro@gmail.com.

Tenacity

I loved What separates Peter Pans from the pros by @jkglei

Here’s an excerpt:

When the going gets rough in any creative or entrepreneurial project, what we require isn’t reason or rationality, it’s sheer tenacity—commitment to our abilities, commitment to our process, commitment to finishing even in the face of the inevitable setbacks. This is what separates children from the adults, and the Peter Pans from the Pros.

If being grown up means being committed—to a business, a project, a person—then it’s impossible to peak. And the deeper the commitment, the deeper the meaning that can emerge.

It reminds me of the classic War of Art, and Turning Pro (both HIGHLY recommended) by Steven Pressfield.

Comments

I don’t do comments on this site, but if you have thoughts, I’d love to hear them. You can email me at designpro@gmail.com.