"I don't like people." - me

Conversations wear me out. I can do it, I'm not socially awkward but I'll never seek it out. The one trick I've learned after years of nonsensical drivel and small talk is to ask questions, lots of questions.

Everybody has something interesting to talk about, it's just a matter of finding the thing. Most people don't even know what that thing is, poking and prodding about past history, current interests, jobs, etc... will eventually bring it out. I'm not even attempting to find a topic interesting to me. As a geek I can find value in most topics as long as the person has intelligent, meaningful, well thought out opinions or anecdotes about the subject.

Fine, great, that's a cute trick for parties and such but how do I avoid people in day to day life... well it's almost impossible unless you have enough money to pay people to do all your social interactions. For the vast majority of us this isn't practical so we cope.

Avoiding eye contact, giving short answers so it doesn't lead to longer conversations, acting ambivalent, all ways of "dealing" when out and about in the world. So you come off as a rude, unconfident asshole - oh well, at least they won't try to talk to me.

Small talk is supposed to be a polite, socially accepted way of greeting people. I hate it, whoever decided this is 100% an extrovert and would go nuts without interaction for 5 minutes. Seriously, the weather, who cares. The price of petrol, blah blah blah - just say hi and go on about your day if you can't stand being quiet. But, because you can't shut up doesn't mean it's acceptable to force me into conversation. I counter making small talk with an introvert is just as rude as not answering the 1 millionth "How was your day?".

Introverts, like me, are worn out by any sort of social interaction. Even if we enjoy it, it's still draining. Poker night with the boys, great, but draining. I'll need a day or two of chilling to recharge. It's not that I don't like you, it's just me. This includes family time as well - as much as I love seeing family it's the talking I can't deal with.

Meetings, oh glorious meetings, crafted by people who like to hear themselves talk. The bane of the introverts existence in a workplace setting. I'll agree that 3% of all meetings are needed, the other 97% are so the extroverts don't get bored.

Anyway, extroverts are great, just carry-on talking to each other and leave me out of it.

AuthorRichard Hochstetler

David, Signal vs Noise:

Sharing the context shares ownership. Now we’re all working on solving the problem the best way we can. Not just laying the bricks in the order the big man tells us to.

Yes, yes, yes. And if your boss or employer won't tell you why - quit.

AuthorRichard Hochstetler

Merlin Mann on Episode 96 of Back to Work[1] says:

“Step Zero - build a bug tracker.”

Merlin is talking about software engineers propensity to build things. It’s a bit of a throw away comment but definitely strikes a nerve with me, in a I’ve been there and done that sorta way.

Engineers Build Things

I’ve been building software for 15 years and I have built a couple bug trackers. Was it ever a good idea? Well, no. The only good reason to build your own bug tracker is if that bug tracker is your product.

Why then, if we all know this, is the statement so true? Well, engineers build things. If, as a software engineer, you look at a piece of software and think you can’t do it better, you either aren’t a very good engineer or that is a hell of a good software product.

Where it Matters

Imagine McDonalds admitting Burger King has a better cheeseburger.[2] Of course that’s not going to happen. The cheeseburger is at the core of their business. And that is the key decision point on deciding when to create from scratch.[3] Anything that is your product should be built or understood unequivocally by the engineering team.[4]

The highest quality products I’ve worked on were built with this philosophy. That’s not to say these were the most successful products in terms of revenue but they were the most enjoyable to work on. I also learned the most being part of teams working in this manner.

How Jottpad Fits In

After taking a look at many of the existing options in the App Store I decided to build my own based on the following.

  1. Easily share a list with my wife.
  2. Syncs with a website of some sort so I can access from anywhere.
  3. Simple enough my wife won’t be put off by too many bells and whistles.
  4. Not free, I’m not into people doing spammy stuff with my data.

There are a bunch of apps which meet some of these criteria but nothing was just right.[5] I didn’t take this decision lightly and the 6 months of night and evening hours put into the initial release were a bit of a strain at times.[6] My free time over that period was non-existent and I was a bit of a shell during dinner conversations and what not. But, it was all worth it and now I’ve been given the opportunity to focus 100 percent of my time on making Jottpad the best it can be.

Step Zero Mentality

Without the step zero mentality nothing would be re-invented or improved upon. With the step zero mentality we have a plethora of shit in the App Store. Please by all means, build things, it’s what we as engineers do but be conscious of reinventing the wheel just because we can, it’s usually not worthwhile.

  1. Great podcast, you should be listening.  ↩

  2. I’m a cheeseburger guy. Feel free to insert hamburger or french fries instead.  ↩

  3. Blah  ↩

  4. Recreating a web framework or database is typically not necessary but understanding the chosen tools is just as important as the the code built from scratch.  ↩

  5. This is also why there are so many list apps in the App Store. Everybody wants what they want. No more, no less.  ↩

  6. I was working a full time job at the time. I estimate about 500 hours for that initial release.  ↩

AuthorRichard Hochstetler

Snuck in a quick update before the holidays.

Jottpad 2.0.1 was approved late yesterday and is available in the App Store now.

This is mainly a cosmetic update. I’m still tweaking the interface to keep it as minimal as possible to let your items and lists be the focus. The biggest change can be seen on the items view.

Items New Items Old

The detail views have also been simplified with a plain grey background.

Items New Items Old


AuthorRichard Hochstetler

The last 30 days has been the my most productive of the past year. It’s easy to get discouraged building a product in a silo, in a foreign country, without a lot of interaction with your peers, and it’s not a big seller. Motivation materializes in a nice note from a user or a quick blog post that validates your product is solving a real problem.

Evan Williams[1] wrote:

I believe in checklists. I do. Really. And I would use them all the time…if I only had a great tool.

This was a huge kick in the ass, a well known entreprenuer, in touch with what people need is asking for a product that is inline with goals I’ve always had for Jottpad.

Building Jottpad I try to stay true to three key ideas:

  1. Quickly and easily save thoughts.
  2. Make available everywhere and to anyone (sync and share).
  3. Reusable, this has always been a bit vague.

Jottpad 2.0 rounded out 1 and 2, and started to tackle number 3 in a concrete manner.

Number 3 was not part of the original plan, but in 2011 when my wife and I were making a big move we had this moving “checklist” that was essentially a bunch of emails, if pooled together, formed all the steps needed to pack our house. It was hard to manage and without the help of a very involved consultant would have been a disaster.

About a month before, May of 2011, Jottpad 1.0 had just been released. I made a note at the time to investigate building a product for reusable checklists even though Jottpad is, at the core, checklists. I wanted to keep Jottpad super simple and the idea of adding templates or projects didn’t jive. This reusable checklist idea seemed like a seperate product directed at “enterprisey” applications.

Over the past year, in my own personal life, I’ve wanted reusable checklists many times. Packing for a marathon, a picnic on the beach, or a weekend camping trip. I created these lists in Jottpad and it worked but only because I shoehorned it in. With version 2.0 the reusable aspect is finally taking shape. Is it the exact product outlined by Evan? No, but it is becoming a viable solution for people looking for simple reusable checklists.

Thank you @ev for the kick in the ass, validation and a productive last 30 days.

AuthorRichard Hochstetler