Remote vs. Local. Funded vs. Bootstrapped. Let's Fight.

Remote teams vs local. Funded vs bootstrapped. Monoliths vs. microservices. These are just a few of the many strong debates we have in the tech business world.

And we're thinking about them all wrong.




First, a quick math lesson. (Actually more of a vocab lesson.)

Monotonic. In math, this means a function that either always increases or always decreases. My age is monotonic. Try as hard as I can I'm always getting older, never younger.

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Or when we think about things we want in life: money, company growth, space, time to do what we want. Those things appear to be monotonic for most of us. We want more of them. Always.

Let's not forget about happiness. Who doesn't want to wake up even happier tomorrow. Happiness is monotonic.

Except...

Barry Schwartz and Adam Grant, two incredibly well credentialed psychologists (you've likely seen their Ted talks or books on display everywhere), published an interesting paper in 2011.

"Practice makes perfect" is something any kid has heard from their parent or coach. And as Schwartz and Grant reveal, that's what researchers who studied NBA teams found. Teams who practice more together, win more.

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But only to a point. After 4 years of persistent practice, the effect dissipates and now over-practice means: "overconfidence, complacency, and routine rigidity."

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Practice is actually nonmonotonic. Practice becomes too much of a good thing. It doesn't just keep making things better. It looks more like an Inverted U.

Schwartz and Grant reviewed hundreds of papers in dozens of different categories of life in which most of us assume things behave monotonically. Courage, positive psychology, volunteer work, gratitude, etc. Over and over again they found Inverted U's.

This was the basis of good chunk of Malcolm Gladwell's book David and Goliath. Who doesn't want to be stronger and bigger? Well, Goliath for one. Gladwell also looked at schools. Who doesn't want their kid in the best schools with the highest teacher to student ratios? The more teachers to kids - the better.

That's not true either. At some point having too few kids makes it even harder for a teacher to teach effectively. The optimal class size is somewhere in the middle of too few and too many.

Even happiness can be too much of good thing, as Schwarz and Grant explain that life expectancy gets worse at extreme levels of happiness.

Over and over again Schwartz, Grant, Gladwell, researcher after researcher, we find most things in life aren't the monotonic things we think they are. We can really have too much of a "good thing." As Schwartz and Grant point out:

There is no such thing as an unmitigated good. All positive traits, states, and experiences have costs that at high levels may begin to outweigh their benefits.




Unfortunately though, we often lead our lives like everything is monotonic. We single mindedly seek the extremes of a single variable. More = better.

Let's go back to remote vs local teams. Depending on your "politics" you might argue "remote, remote, remote". Or you're thinking, "dummy, it's local, local, local".

For me, I love remote work. I've been running remote teams since I could run my own company in 2006. I can avoid the commute. Control the noise around me. Get more done.

At Highrise, we had employees all over the US and Canada. You know what my favorite moments were? When everyone was together in the same exact location hanging out. And we had 3 employees near Chicago who could meet together in person on occasion. That was awesome and incredibly effective at decision making and team work.

Being "more" remote isn't just more and more optimal. There's a sweet spot in the middle.

Same goes for all these other debates we keep having. Monoliths vs. microservices? Or funding vs bootstrapping? Bootstrapping only leads to small lifestyle companies. Microservices are better for scalability. Bootstrapping leads to happier decisions because you have all the control.

Of course, the extremes play nice in the news and social media rants. But you're all a little wrong. There's an optimal place in the middle. There's too many services and too monolithic and too self-funded and too externally capitalized. You can raise money without giving up complete control over your business. You can create services without making a mess of complexity of your application. You can hire remote workers but enjoy the all the bandwidth of local conversations.

Now, it isn't easy. Optimizing things never is. But I think more of us would be a little bit happier (or should I say closer to our optimized point of happiness) if we realize things aren't so binary or monotonic out there.

There's a sweet spot to most of our decisions and it's not at the extremes.

P.S. Free marketing design review?

I've been optimizing web designs for over a decade. A couple recent examples, improving the Highrise conversion rate 35% and the conversion rate of Rockstar 500%. Here's a great example of the review I've done for others: Markd.

Happy to look over your site for free. Please reach out. (As long as slots are open. My free website review queue can get oversubscribed.)




Nathan Kontny is the CTO of GoodFolk. Previously: CEO of Highrise, 2 time Y Combinator alum, created Draft. You should follow him on YouTube: here.

What's holding you back? Not being as interesting as Casey Neistat.

I talk with a lot of new writers and creators, and one of the most common complaints about not being able to get any traction for their writing, vlogging or other creations is simply because their lives are so ordinary.

We look at the Casey Neistats of the world and we realize why he's so famous. His life is incredibly interesting. He constantly travels the world. He has supermodel friends. He risks his life dangling from helicopters or skateboarding through New York.

Our lives are mundane. And that makes it impossible to get the attention we need for our projects.




In 2011, Annette Ontell passed away. She was 93.

Annette's name probably doesn't ring any bells. She wasn't a famous movie star or Nobel Prize winner. She didn't command any attention around her political platform or ground breaking ideas. She didn't have a lot of money.

Her life was, as most people suspect, mundane. She lived in New Jersey, in the same small house all of her adult life.

And maybe oddly to you, this year, Annette's two grandkids, Elan and Jonathan Bogarín, bothered to release a documentary about their grandmother. They showcase all the possessions Annette accumulated over her 93 years. They share home video interviews they've been filming of Annette before she died. They show that boring, small house.

But here's what you might surprising. That movie, titled 306 Hollywood (the address Annette lived in for 67 years) has now gone on to screen at 40+ film festivals. It's already won 4 awards. It's nominated for at least a few more with award names like "Most Innovative" and "Unforgettable". Critics say the same thing. Monica Castillo at RogerEbert.com says: "In the world of documentaries, it is bold, if not a landmark."

A landmark!? Wow. So why is 306 Hollywood doing so well?




I remember an early blog post of mine from over a decade ago that finally got some attention for me around the web. That post told the story of how I got some free extra toppings on a sub sandwich during a lunch break from work. Can you get any more mundane than your regular, daily, lunch break from work?

But I've been so incredibly interested in how businesses market themselves for so long, I dove into this mundane task and why I didn't usually get the toppings I wanted on my sandwich. I explained how I finally experimented with some sales psychology from a book I read to get what I wanted at the sub shop. The post took off with people in marketing who found the story useful to understand a little bit more about psychology. It was my interests, not my interesting life, that started getting me the traction I needed.




To be interesting, be interested.
-Dale Carnegie

Some of the things that stand out even from the trailer of 306 Hollywood is how Annette's grandkids ask her deep questions about whether she missed sex or was afraid to die. They spent meticulous time arranging her clutter into Wes Anderson-like displays. The home video interviews with her? They spent 10 years recording those while she was alive.

These are efforts that come not from Annette being what we'd normally associate as interesting, but because her grandkids were so deeply interested in her.

You don't need to be jumping out of planes or risking your life to craft an interesting story. You simply need to place your lens of deep interest onto your subject.

Going back to Casey Neistat, I don't think his "interesting life" is at all why he's had so much success. I think what keeps us so glued to him is the remarkable interest he has in his subject matter and in filmmaking. Have you seen him spend time using arts and crafts to explain his sleep schedule? That's not "interesting", that's him being interested.

Like Casey, if you provide folks with what your authentically interested in, your enthusiasm will shine. Don't get me wrong though. This is still hard work. 306 Hollywood took years to make and a ton of inventiveness to get right. But Annette's grandkids had the passion of their interests to see them through those challenges we all have in the creative process.

306 Hollywood is an inspiring example I hope for all the folks out there struggling with their mundane lives. Your life is incredibly interesting, as long as you're interested in it.

P.S. Free marketing design review?

I've been optimizing web designs for over a decade. A couple recent examples, improving the Highrise conversion rate 35% and the conversion rate of Rockstar 500%. Here's a great example of the review I've done for others: Markd.

Happy to look over your site for free. Please reach out. (As long as slots are open. My free website review queue can get oversubscribed.)




Nathan Kontny is the CTO of GoodFolk. Previously: CEO of Highrise, 2 time Y Combinator alum, created Draft. You should follow him on YouTube: here.

Should We Use Ruby On Rails In 2019?

 

I’ve been using Rails since 2005. It was still version 0.12 when I picked it up to create my first startup with Y Combinator. Ruby on Rails is old. Oy, I'M old.

So it begs to be asked, is Ruby on Rails still relevant? Should new students to software development bother learning it? Should we be starting new projects with it? Here’s something to keep in mind.

 

Ruby On Rails Security

 

We talk to a lot of folks about Rails, from VCs looking to staff their next company to new coding bootcamp grads. And one thing we see from newcomers and veterans alike is a lack of knowledge of web application and Rails security concerns. Here are a few of the big problems.