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On Technology Writing

December 12, 2017

As you may have noticed, I haven’t been doing much technology writing lately.

I’m a startup employee, and startup employees wear many hats. My most familiar hat was “lead technologist”, and I handled the creation of a team and a product. However, A few weeks ago, we finished what we were working on (for the time being), and my role has shifted. Instead of technology work, I now mostly write well-being content for educators and parents.

I can feel the tech skill decay already – I was writing some CSS and have already forgotten my tricks!¬†So, what good is it for me to write about technology, a field I no longer keep up with? Contributing to an already overstuffed sea of blog posts isn’t doing anyone any good. I hope instead to turn this blog into a testing ground for my written content – maybe something like Seth Godin’s blog. He frequently makes short posts about self-development and positivity, which I think I can do.

So, that’s it – no more technology writing, lots of educational writing. I hope that if you know any parents or educators, you’ll send them my way! Our company a lot of good primary research on youth, so we’ll be able to produce valuable content.

One final note – I’ll also be dropping my series on building a startup without doing any work. The product has taken a little bit of a different shape than I thought, and I’d rather not spoil the details at this point. ūüėČ

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Cancelled Orders and other Youth Problems

October 17, 2017

This post is part of a series on building a business with no effort. Check out part one here

The question “What problems do people aged 18-25 face” is apparently a problem itself.

I contacted a freelancer on Fiverr who said she’d be able to look into my research assignment, which is the next piece of my business puzzle. We know that middle-class 18-25 year olds will be a good target demographic because of their phone habits. I would have thought that figuring out their problems would be easy; hell, I could riff a few off the top of my head. People face problems with loneliness, finances, and their relationships, and everything seems more important when you’re young. There’s a sense of immediacy.

Apparently, though, making good on research on the topic is a bit trickier than I thought. Out of 3 elancers I tried to connect with, all 3 cancelled the gig, saying they couldn’t complete it. Huh.

Always look for ways to improve your communication

Maybe the problem is what I wrote to start the gig:

I am creating a business for young people (age 18-25) in mostly middle-class wealth brackets. I would like some market research – what pains or troubles do they experience in their day-to-day lives? For instance, do they frequently find themselves lost? Do they have trouble waking up in the morning? Do they want to look at their smartphones for pictures of dogs to avoid bring bored? Anything goes!

To be honest, I think that what I wrote is clear enough. I think I’ll try one more seller before rewording – after all, fourth time’s the charm.

I’m¬†going to avoid naming and shaming sellers who didn’t deliver. In this case, all 3 were quick and respectful. We’ll see about freelancers we talk to in the future… but until then, let’s refocus on our goal.

We’re going to make a business. And we’re going to do it without doing any work. So let’s put this out of our brains for now and focus on more important things.


Thanks for reading. I’d love to hear what you think, give me a shout in the comments or on¬†twitter!

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1 Simple Step to Get Involved in the Tech Sector

May 9, 2017

An old friend of mine called the other day because he wants to break into the tech sector. His stagnant work in the health care industry frustrates him, and he wants to flex his entrepreneurial muscles. He was asking for advice because his lack of formal computer science education was concerning to him.

During my time in the tech sector, I’ve often¬†heard this hesitation from intelligent¬†people like my friend. What many don’t realize is that the barrier of entry for learning to code is really low. The problem is that the barrier of entry to the tech sector seems high!

This high barrier of entry to the tech sector is artificially.

Watching¬†Hollywood “nerds” hammering away at keyboards makes learning to build programs seems abstract and involved. But in reality, executing on an idea is something that anyone can do, given time. The field is more accessible than ever!

But here’s the secret; you¬†don’t have to wait for anyone or anything.¬†No one needs to give you the go-ahead, you already have it.

My friend wants to do medical work. It’s a field with tons of potential users – patients, nurses, doctors, you name it. It’s a huge customer segment, as most people will go through the healthcare system at some point! All he has to do is think of an idea and build it.

That’s it.

Building something and showing it to people is all you need to do to become involved in the tech sector.

It will¬†be tough to build something novel, but the rewards of building a big tech company are obvious. Social impact, huge monetary gains, you name it. It’s there for the taking. All you need to do to get involved with the tech sector is build your product and get it into people’s hands.

The time is now!


Thanks for reading, feel free to share this post if you liked it or give me a shout on twitter!

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Why Don’t People Use Strong Passwords?

January 12, 2017

Chances are that you use lots of online services, each one asking¬†you to create new passwords. If you’re like most people, you’re only going to have 1 or 2 that you remember. After all, there are a lot of different sites to log into! Why bother making a new one every time?

Unfortunately, it’s time for a bit of a reality check – passwords¬†are the¬†bottom line of security. No matter how secure a service is, an attacker can easily access your account if you use a bad password. This is critical to note¬†for a number of reasons – for instance,¬†an attacker with access to your email account¬†can reset the¬†passwords on services you use, locking you out.¬†As a result, you could find yourself without access to your online banking, professional email and more.

In this post I’ll explain a common way accounts are hacked, what weak passwords look like, and what you can do.

Why this is Important

Simple software used to hack into people’s personal accounts, like their Facebook account, will launch brute-force attacks. A brute-force attack, in this context, is when an attacker systematically guesses your password until they get the right one. Many pieces of software exist to automatically check every possible¬†combinations of letters, numbers and words until it figures your information out. The reason why¬†so many services lock you out if you incorrectly enter your password a number of times is to prevent this type of attack! To emphasize the point, a¬†lack of lock-out protection is how hackers were able to¬†steal photos in the 2014 iCloud celebrity photo leaks. They scraped interviews with celebrities for key words and phrases like pet’s names and familiar streets, then used programs to guess their passwords.

Common Weak Passwords

Before guessing random combinations, good software will guess from a list of people’s most¬†commonly-used passwords. Companies like SplashData¬†determine that list by scraping information¬†from some of the biggest data leaks, like the Ashley Madison Hack. Using this information, we can determine the most common passwords that people used, listed here:

  1. password
  2. 123456
  3. 12345678
  4. 1234
  5. qwerty (if you’re curious about this one, look at the first 6 keys on your keyboard)
  6. 12345
  7. dragon
  8. p*ssy (let’s assume this one is about cats…)
  9. baseball
  10. football

A full list can be seen here. If your password is on this list, please try to come up with a better one! If anyone wants to gain access to your accounts, it will likely be trivial for them. Similarly, see below for a list of the most common 4-digit PINs (for iPhones, etcetera).

Most Common Passwords

Source in image: Nick Berry of Data Genetics

Most modern phones only give you 10 guesses before starting to lock you out, but that’s enough to get into almost 25% of phones.


Keeping yourself secure is actually a relatively simple process. First of all, see how secure your average password is with an online tool, like Then, consider implementing some of the following pieces of advice:

  • Don’t re-use passwords. One¬†great password is useless if someone knows it!
  • Consider activating two-factor authentication (2FA) wherever possible. 2FA will occasionally use an emailed code or text message to confirm you are who you say you are.
  • Try a password manager like 1Password. Password managers¬†allow you to make complex passwords on the websites you use, while only having to remember one simple password yourself.
  • Don’t needlessly share your password!

Well, that primer was a little longer than I was expecting to write. I hope you found it a useful starting point for protecting yourself!

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Writing Good Technical Documentation

January 7, 2017

The time arrived to write technical documentation for our product, X Life. Our goal was to achieve the¬†thoroughness of a wiki and the fun of Valve’s¬†Handbook for New Employees.

We used Google docs so we could work together at the same time, which proved to be a fun exercise!

Building Good Documentation

Most of what worked in our documentation came from discussing it beforehand. The developers split up and brainstormed what they would want to see if they were reading new the technical specs. When we came together to share our lists, we were able to organize a rough framework very easily. We start a few notes for new developers, then an overview of the tech stack and details about the repository. Next is an in-depth look at some code, and finally, an FAQ section. This structure created a nice document that flows naturally.

A trick that helped readability was gradually adding code examples instead of overwhelming with them at the beginning.

Making it Readable

Our audience is mostly people familiar with the site who want a place for quick reference. With that in mind, we were able to cut out dry verbiage and keep helpful tips for new team members. Interestingly, following writing guidelines that help optimize blog posts for search engines helped keep to keep our writing sharp.

One of the most helpful tricks was to say exactly 1 or 2 things about each topic. This ensured that everything was explained, but brevity was enforced!

The End Result

What started as 5 pages of topics quickly became 25 pages of background and dependancy information, but we weren’t done. After 2 days of writing technical documentation, we ended up at 40 pages! Luckily, every section is brief and easy to reference, making the document quite readable. Many sites suggest using software to generate documentation. That might work for logging the usage of individual functions inside the code, which would be great for large companies. However, we’ve been recording function¬†usage since the beginning, and decided that auto-documentation software wasn’t worth the money.

I hope that you find our experience writing documentation useful for yourself. Let us know in the comments if you have any of your own tips or tricks!

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