Soft Launch of Dead Man’s Snitch

Update 8/1/2013: Dead Man's Snitch has been sold to Collective Idea. Hurrah!

TL;DR I’m soft-launching a service called Dead Man’s Snitch that will notify you if your periodic tasks (backups, notifications, calculations, etc) don’t check in with the service. You can sign up for free but if you upgrade before the real launch, you’ll save $10/month for life. 

Around a month ago one of my clients had a little scare when one of their db instances (one of many) started acting up. They quickly went to check on the backups and noticed that they had stopped running about a week before. Luckily, we didn’t need to restore from a backup, but it was a little scary. Having to restore from a backup sucks, having to restore from an OLD backup really sucks. 

I decided it was time to fix this problem in the simplest way possible. Today I am soft-launching Dead Man’s Snitch. Using the example above, you just tweak your periodic task a little bit to check in with Dead Man’s Snitchwhenever it finishes running by hitting a special URL we give you. If your process fails to check in during your chosen interval (hour, day, week or month), we’ll send you an email. That’s it. I like to think of it as a way to make your periodic jobs PROVE they are running. 

The design isn’t done and all the features I want it to have aren’t there yet, but I feel like it has 90% of the value it will ever have and is useful as-is. Also, things like this kind of need to simmer for a bit to make sure they behave as expected. I’ve had several people using it for the last month and I have ironed out many of the kinks, but I’m sure there are others. 

You can sign up and use one switch for free. If you want more than one switch you’ll have to upgrade to Pro which gets you unlimited switches. If you upgrade to Pro before the official launch, you’ll lock in a price of $19/month for life. When I relaunch in September with the new design, Pro will go up to $29/month.

So, if you are a web developer or a sysadmin, git it a try? Check out the FAQfor some answers to common questions and follow @DeadMansSnitch for updates.


Americans Are Bad at Math, Fair Share Explained

Update: FWIW, I don’t care at all which direction things go. I’m not rich but I’m not poor. I pay about $35k/year in taxes and would love to pay $13.3k, but that will never happen. I just can’t stand the weird math people do. 

First of all, I pretty much couldn’t care less about this issue but I think people don’t understand the math, so I feel obligated to explain. The only reason I’m talking about this at all is because Adam Carolla talks about this quite a bit on his podcast and the bad math was frustrating me. All these numbers are made up and extreme on purpose in order to illustrate the point. 

Let me explain the current situation. You often hear that the rich are not paying their fair share of taxes. What they are referring to is someone making $1 million/year may have an effective tax rate of 12% (pay $120k/year in taxes) while someone who makes $30k year may have an effective tax rate of 34% (pay $10.2k/year in taxes). They say that the person making $1 million/year needs to have an effective tax rate of 34% (pay $340k/year in taxes) in order to pay their “fair share".

OK, now, let us agree on a different but related situation. Say five people of varying income levels go out to lunch and all order the exact same thing. The bill for all five comes out to $55. I think everybody can agree that in order for each person to pay their fair share, each person would have to pay $55 / 5 = $11. Everybody with me?

Let us expand this example to the US. The bill to run the US (roads, fire and police departments, jails, etc) may be $2 trillion/year. There are roughly 300 million people in the US, however, only some of them (exclude children, the elderly, disabled, etc) are in the position to pay the bill, let’s call it 150 million people. So if everybody is to pay their fair share, they would have to pay $2 trillion / 150 million, or $13.3k/year in taxes. Still with me?

If everybody’s fair share was $13.3k/year, that would result in an effective tax rate of 44% for the person making $30k/year and an effective tax rate of 0.0013% for the person making $1 million/year. Using these assumptions, the person making $1 million/year and paying $120k/year in taxes is paying WAY more than their fair share of $13.3k. Have I lost anyone? 

I think it is pretty clear that the person making $30k/year can’t afford to pay $13.3k/year in taxes and the person making $1 million/year can afford to pay way more. 

They should say it how it is, they want the rich to pay more than their fair share so most people can pay less than their fair share. Own up to it. Saying the rich aren’t paying their fair share is good at riling people up but isn’t accurate. 

OK, now I can go back to not giving a shit about this particular topic. Cheers.

Update/aside: Let’s apply the % of income fair share model to paying for lunch. Some would pay $20 while others paid $6, all because their incomes are different. That is kind of bizarre. 

Update: Some would say that the rich and the non-rich use different amounts of the government. I would assume the rich use less, but let’s assume they use more. Do they use 10x more? 


Paying for Podcasts; A Proposal

I am a dedicated listener of two podcasting networks: 5by5* and Ace Broadcasting**. Over the last week two hosts on 5by5, John Siracusa of Hypercritical and Marco Arment of Build and Analyze, have talked about various ways people are making money on their content. One was Penny Arcade using Kickstarter to raise money so they can remove advertisements from their site for one year. Another one that caught my attention was The Brooks Review which is switching to a "You pay me. I write" model instead of advertisers. In general I am HUGE fan of paying money and receiving something in return.

The conversation lead to podcasting and charging on a per-podcast basis and whether or not that would be feasible. Both of these networks have a dedicated audience who would love to help make them more awesome in exchange for a few perks. So yes, I think it would be feasible. 

Current Business Model

Both of these networks make their money from sponsors who receive several live reads during the shows as well as listener donations. I really don’t mind the live reads as they are often targeted at the audience and can be helpful. I’ve thought about donating to these networks but I can never bring myself to give them a chunk of money without receiving something (directly) in return. However, I would be into paying for every episode of my favorite shows as they are published. Let me explain.

How it Could Work

Interested listeners would visit the membership site and sign up. Once they sign up, they can subscribe to any of the podcasts they want. As podcasts are published, a line item (for however much the per-episode cost is, maybe $1) is added to an invoice for members subscribed to the podcast. When the first of the month comes, the member’s credit card is charged for all of the podcasts published while they were subscribed. 

Let me use me and 5by5 as an example. I listen to four podcasts on their network and all of them come out once a week. This would come out to me paying 5by5 $208/year ($4/week * 52 weeks). I’m not sure how many listeners they have but this could lead to a fairly large chunk of money. 

One question that may come up is whether or not the shows should still contain live reads. I think they should. Members and non-members get the same show and members receive perks elsewhere. In general I having a “remove advertisements by becoming a member" feature is bad for business because it is admitting that getting rid of advertisements is a goal.

Perks for Members

Members would receive a customized feed of the shows they are subscribed to and possibly free, inexpensive, or exclusive SWAG (did I mention we make swag ;). Randy has paid for 150 episodes? Send him a free t-shirt!

5by5 has some other properties including a chatroom where listeners can talk to each other during the show as well as the “showbot" where listeners can submit and vote on show titles. Maybe members in these systems have some indicator that they are a member or maybe are able to do certain things non-members can’t do, like vote on titles or maybe their votes count more ;)

The Money Shot (Josh?)

I believe so much in this model that I am willing to work on building membership systems with 5by5 or Ace Broadcasting on a revenue-share model. I’ll build it for “free" in exchange for a certain percentage of all revenue. I’m a experienced web developer*** who has launched a project or two (Lose It or Lose It). I’m capable and willing. 

Interested? Email or give me a call at 267-334-6833.

* 5by5 shows I listen to: Build and AnalyzeHypercriticalThe Ihnatko Almanac and Back to Work (all once a week)

** Ace Broadcasting shows I listen to: The Adam Carolla ShowAce on the HouseCarCast, and Alison Rosen is Your New Best Friend (The Adam Carolla Show is five times a week, the rest are once a week)

*** More specifically, I use a technology called Ruby on Rails. I know 5by5 is all about Rails, so it could be a great fit!


Dossi on the iPad

Here is Dossí on the iPad… it’s AWEsome. Eventually I’m going to need a real designer :).


Thank You Darice for Fixing My Shoulder

TL;DR Darice has really really helped my shoulder when others could not. I highly recommend her if you are having chronic pain issues. She goes exceedingly well with CrossFit :)

Last May or June I started to have A LOT of trouble with my left shoulder to the point where I had trouble lifting my arm over my shoulder. I went to my primary care doctor and he gave me a shot of cortisone… which did nothing. Next I tried going to a local orthopedic who ordered an MRI and when the results came back, he didn’t have much to say. He sent me to physical therapy, but they just kind of looked at me and didn’t know how to help me even though I was really in a lot of pain. 

In August 2011 I started doing CrossFit in spite of my shoulder really bothering me. I was tired of waiting and not getting any answers so I pushed through it. The gym I go to, CrossFit KOP, has a relationship with an Active Release Therapist so I decided to go there for a while. I went 2-3 times a week for 3-4 weeks but it wasn’t getting any better. At this point my shoulder problem was getting a bit expensive since the AR therapist didn’t accept my insurance. I decided to stop going.

All through this Darice was commenting on Facebook that she thought she could help me but I was hesitant because I thought “If the doctors can’t help, how can she?" and I had already spent a lot of money on my shoulder already. 

Well, eventually I went and after one time my shoulder felt about 45% better and after two more visits was about 90% better. We’ve somewhat determined that my shoulder issues are related to my previously broken (and still bent out of shape) collarbone and may never be 100%, but it is way better!

I am SUPER thankful for what Darice has done. My CrossFit experience became way more enjoyable and I continue to go to her every two weeks to help keep my body working well even though it really doesn’t want to. 

I am so confident in her abilities that if you are unsure whether you should go, I am willing to pay for your first visit and you pay me back only if you think it was worth it. I bet I’ll get my money back :)

You can get more information on her Facebook page, emailing her at, or calling her at 215-858-6959. 


In Which I Hurt My Knee at Crossfit

Last week I missed a max box jump attempt (how high can you jump) and landed funny on my leg that is attached to the knee that has issues. I got an MRI today and decided to crack open the cd they gave me and this is what I found. 

At one point I had a video of my knee, not sure what happened to it. 


Three Months In

At the end of last year I wrote about how I was going to reduce my 2012 client work by one day per week per quarter. This was an attempt to get myself to finally make the switch from client work to product creation.

I’m supposed to drop to three days of client work a week today, so I thought I would fill you in on how the past three months have gone. Not everything has been according to plan.

First, we launched Lose It or Lose It “Feats”, which is another way to browse all the weigh-ins on the site. I wanted a new way to look at all the data on the site, and this addition does it swimmingly. The only downside is that we need to find a way to link to it from the main site.

Second, we finally launched the “Keep It Off” part of Lose It or Lose It. This has been around unofficially for quite a while but it was never before visible to the public. Now it is.

Third, I’ve worked on yet another project that I think can have both personal and wide-ranging appeal. It’s called Dossí (as in dossier, formerly called memoi). Dossí is a personal relationship manager. It acts like a customer relationship manager, but it focuses on personal – not business – relationships. I have a desktop browser version that I am using on a daily basis. This version only needs a few more features before I can start work on the mobile version.

I completed all of this because I took one day a week to work exclusively on my own products. I would say that most things have gone pretty well, but I’m still concerned about this whole plan. There are a couple of elements that made things a little more stressful than I thought they were going to be. For example, I saw the “company savings” plateau, then start to drop, and that’s the first time I watched that happen. It made me nervous, which makes me realize that I am more risk-averse than I had thought. Also, the first quarter happened to be tax season, and I faced a steep tax bill. This has totally scared me back into client work and I haven’t taken one day off the past few weeks.

This backtracking saddens me, but I think I am going to abandon the schedule I laid out at the end of last year. I just think it is too stressful to tackle alone. The better way (for me) would be to take 3–4 weeks off at a time to work on my products, so that I have a better sense about fixed costs. This approach worked really well when I launched Lose It or Lose It in late 2009. I had the site designed, and, when it was finished, I took three consecutive weeks off from client work, banged out the first version, and launched it.

Another option could be to sell Lose It or Lose It and use the money to pay myself as I work on Dossí. This is somewhat enticing because I’ve used Lose It or Lose It to lose a lot of weight and craft a healthier lifestyle, but I am almost ready to move on.

All in all, it has been a good experience. I got a lot done and it pushed me past being comfortable. Now I just have to try taking a month off and see how that goes.


Girl Scout Cookies + Barcamp Philly

Last year I bought three cases of Girl Scout Cookies to see if I could store them and then sell them for more money later, when they were no longer available. Turns out, I like talking about ideas like this more than I like executing them, so the cases just sat under my desk for months. I eventually donated them all to Barcamp Philly (in Lose It or Lose It’s name) this past October.

However, this setback doesn’t stop me from wanting to think about how someone could make more money off of Girl Scout Cookies. These cookies are often highly in demand (many people even think of them as CRACK), and they are sold by adorable little girls. It’s a pretty impressive system that is already lucrative, but think there are ways to make it earn even more money.

One pricing model I’ve been thinking about is a subscription plan. As it stands now, Girl Scout Cookies cost $3.50/box. That’s already pretty expensive, but those kids are natural salespeople and the cookies are freaking delicious, so families are more than happy to pay up. So, what if some industrious Girl Scout said that she would deliver cookies every month, year-round, for $5 per box, per month? That Girl Scout would make an additional $1.50/box, which is more than 40% more than she would normally make, and it’s all profit. If she set up auto-billing, that little scout will be rolling in the delicious delicious dough.

The downside to the subscription plan are having to store the cookies under lock and key to keep the parents from going on a Thin Mint Binge™.


Puppet or Person?

Twitter has users that either represent people (for example, @r38y) and users that represent something other than real people (for example,@LoseItorLoseIt). For a project I’m working on, I need to know whether a Twitter account is a person or something other than a person. 

I’m thinking about creating a little app and API where people can link their Twitter account and help decide if someone they follow is a person or a puppet. If you query the API with a Twitter user id we’ll return their person score based on what people have decided. What do you think?

I will stab you if you register (domain) names associated with this ;).