Personal Privacy Tools

Over the past year or two I have become increasingly uncomfortable with using services that use my personal data to drive ad revenue.

I am equally uncomfortable with the use of analytics such as keyword scanning, physical location tracking, speech-to-text analysis, and context creation/event correlation other tools that invade your privacy under the guise of convenience.

Please note many of these services are paid. “Free” services have to pay for their existence somehow and they mainly do it through ad revenue. An ad revenue driven online service is one that views its’ user as the product. Therefore subscription fee based services are intrinsically less interested in abusing (or even storing) your data.

Below is a living list of tools I use (or plan to use) to protect my privacy wherever possible.
The best products in these categories aim to have feature parity against the most widely used counterparts.

  • Web Browsers: FireFox, Brave
  • Per-device VPN: PrivateInternetAccess
  • Search Engine: Qwant, DuckDuckGo
  • Email: ProtonMail, HushMail
  • IM Client: Signal…but be warned it kind of sucks…
  • Desktop OS: Ubuntu
  • Mobile OS:
  • Faraday Cage: Stainless Steel Martini Shaker

To be continued…

The wonders of Copyleft and GNU GPL.

Learning about the Copyleft movement and understanding its’ reasons for existence was a transformative event for me.

Understanding the legal limitations of public domain works, and how the GNU GPL license fills that void is one of the most powerful things you can do for your career as a technologist.

Here’s a TL/DR bullet point summary version.

  1. A public domain license has a serious shortcoming – it allows derivative works to be copyrighted.
  2. This has serious implications for legal abuse.  Someone could take a public domain work, like a children’s fairy tale, create a movie or a play out of it, and sue everybody else who comes up with another work that’s based on that fairytale for copyright infringement.
  3. Copyleft and GPL is on the other end of that legal licensing spectrum.
    A derivative work covered by a GNU GPL license cannot become proprietary intellectual property.
  4. Under the terms of the GNU GPL license, all derivative work continue to carry the freedoms of being modifiable and redistributable by everyone else.

Read the full article here:


Konnakkol – the simple language of very complex rhythms

Recently I learned an incredible thing.

Everything that I like about aggressive heavy metal music is Indian.

Why do I say that?  The answer is one word – Konnakkol.

Konnakkol is an Indian rhythm representation shorthand allowing incredibly eloquent, simple and concise representation of super complicated rhythmic patterns.

It allows you to simply express a very complicated rhythmic pattern using very simple sound.

Standard time signature counts are replaced with sounds that are easy to combine and repeat at the highest speeds.
1 – ta
2 – taka
3 – takite
4 – takatimi 
or when repeated in a sequence takatimi-takachuna
5 – tatikenatum

If we wanted to express a longer rhythmic figure it we simply combine the elements.

6 -takatimitaka or expressed as two triples – takite takite
7 – takatimi takite

and so on….

It’s amazing what you can do when you challenge the notion of what constitutes a base element.

A more in depth explanation is below.

Immortal – Wicked Art By Turkey Merck.

It’s no secret that I like scary stuff, especially if it got skulls on it.  Wise to my tricks my girlfriend gave me this awesome gift.

This custom handmade in the USA coffee mug is a collaboration between Turkey Merck and a Hollywood studio called Immortal Masks that produces incredible special effects and monster designs for horror films.

This mask has been lovingly made by hand and baked in a kiln at 2200 F.

It is pure dark art whose wickedness can only be diminished by storing some yellow Highlighters in it.

Breaking Through Plateaus.

There comes a time in any project when progress just seems to stall.  You find yourself putting in the same amount of effort as before, but it just feels like you’re spinning your wheels.  Sounds familiar?  I bet it does – you hit a plateau.

The worst thing about this situation is the internal feelings of frustration we experience.  There is a slight euphoria we get from accomplishing things.  It comes along with a sense of forward momentum we get when our progress is on track.  We come to expect and crave those things, and when we stall the spigot of good feelings gets shut off.

Fortunately, there’s a way out of this mess.  Let me share with you three strategies you and your team can start using today to get back on track.

Let me start with the first one.

Don’t expect linear progress
Growth happens in spurts

Our minds expect and crave steady, predictable and linear progress.  It’s one of the most addictive feelings there is.  Unfortunately, in the real world progress is rarely steady, or predictable.

It tends to go like this.

You put in the work, nothing happens for a long time.  You keep plodding ahead even when you’re really frustrated and nothing still happens. Then when you least expected you get the outcome that you were hoping for.

It sucks, but that’s how things happen.  So set your expectations are that parts of your project will feel slower than molasses.  You will be better equipped to deal with it, and can plan around it as well.

Learn to enjoy the process
Extreme result focus causes frustration

Successful people often attach their self esteem to how much progress they can make in a given day.  While in general that’s a great attitude to have, it does have a downside.

It sets the expectations unrealistically high which leads to a drop in motivation once you hit a wall.  Your activity level drops, which certainly doesn’t help things.

Try to think of it in a slightly different light.  If you love the outcome the easiest way to it is to start loving the actions you must take to get you there.

This adjustment will take you away from having good days and bad days.  It will take you to a place where every day is enjoyable because you will discover you actually enjoy what you do.

This brings us to the last tip.

Do fewer things
Clear your plate to avoid thrashing

Plateaus put us in a state of self-inflected stress.  A response that often seems natural is to amp up the efforts and to try do more.  However, you have to be careful there.

There’s a big difference between being your most effective self, and doing what I call ‘thrashing’.

Thrashing is when you are doing a ton of things, but really are going nowhere fast.  Like that old Tasmanian Devil cartoon character – your feet are moving so fast you can’t even see them, but your position doesn’t change.

Stop it.

What will help you is doing away with task overload.  Identify the proven activities that you know should bring you the result you’re after and focus on them.  Focusing on the highest value work is always the answer.

It may seem a bit obvious but sometimes it takes an outsider to point it out to you.  It’s often  difficult to read the label when you’re inside the bottle.  Doing fewer things and focusing on the highest value work is always the answer.


I wish I could tell you getting out of a rut and hitting the next level is easy.  Truth is it’s not.  There are golden nuggets here, but you need to know what to look for.

For one, hitting the next level is difficult for everyone.  So take some comfort in knowing that you’re not alone in your struggle.

The other thing to keep in mind is this.  Barriers are generally only bad when they are in your way.  When they are in the way of your competition, they quickly stop being a bad thing.

So do yourself a favor.  Take one of these tips and give it a try today.
Which one seems easiest to implement right now?

I would suggest starting with the first one.  Begin to observe how you expected steady progress in the past, only to see that it happened on its’ own schedule.  Since you are now aware of this pattern you will notice it everywhere.

All you have to do is think back on some previous experiences that you had, and you’ll that it’s true.

When you absorbed the first strategy, go in and put the others to use it a similar fashion.

It will make your uphill climb much easier, I promise.

While these strategies are extremely simple and may appear obvious, they are also super easy to miss.  Which one do you think would be most helpful to the people you know?


Plateaus shake our confidence and make it hard to stay the course even though we realize it's what we must do. When it comes to the brass tacks, destroying plateaus is really about tapping into your unused inner strength.

Following the action steps will make it that much easier for you to persist long enough to see your breakthrough moment.

Do You Recognize These 7 Early Warning Signs Of A Doomed Business Idea?

Typing away on my MacBook late into the night on September 2017 I knew I was in over my head.  Overworked and overwhelmed, I bravely kept pushing through sometimes operating on hunger and perseverance.

Win or lose, I was going to work on my first official business idea even if it meant adding countless hours on top of my already demanding corporate job.  Damn it, I was going to do this, and there was nothing that could have stood in my way.

I thought to myself “This is the way of The Entrepreneur, and I must go through with this.”  The words of Gary V. about the next six years of your life sucking were echoing in my brain as I was coding my app.

Little did I know that I was committing every single mistake in the real world business playbook.  Allow me to share the lessons that I learned from my bitter experience with you, as well as what you can do to stop yourself from making the same big mistakes.

Onward to The Mistakes.

You Are Not Where Your Customers Are

In my first business I spent the bulk of my time typing away on the keyboard in my living room.  Big mistake.  Doing this caused me to miss out on discovering opportunities, and prevented customers from revealing their deep rooted problems to me.  A business without problems to solve is a time consuming hobby.

How much of your time are spending with your customers?  I am talking about getting up close and personal.  Meeting your customers for a cup of coffee, buying them lunch, going to the same events that they are going to.

If you are serious about the success of your project you need to be in the same physical space as your prospects.

Warning Sign Number 6:
You Spend Too Much Time Working On Your Product

As a solo-entrepreneur your time is the asset you need to protect with everything you have.  Further cutting into your time is the fact that you probably work full time to pay the bills.  Because of that, it’s doubly important to use your time on the absolutely essential thing.

And shocking as it may be, dedicating significant portions of your time to your product development is not the right thing to do.  You might want to consider is changing the strategic priority of your business from Building to Selling.

The optimal course of action to take is one that allows you to take the temperature of the marketplace.  How hungry are the people for what you are selling?  Moving into a Selling mindset will allow you to find just the right pivot to make your product more desirable, or abandon it before taking a significant hit.

Warning Sign Number 5:
You Organize Too Early

Because time is the asset that you are shortest on, you might want to consider the idea of learning to work sloppy.  I realize that this goes against every good management practice, but with building a new business events have to happen in sequence.  The only the vitally important things must be done, the rest should be postponed or deferred.

Get comfortable with being sloppy and get in the habit of taking action now.  It’s better to forget some things that you were going to say to clients and to make more contacts than it is to have a neatly organized CRM.

Neat record keeping comes at a cost of eating your valuable Selling and Building time.  There is a time and place for it, but it should generally be deferred until you have traction and are starting to scale.

Warning Sign Number 4:
Nobody Knows About You

An aspiring young politician decided to run for local office.  He partnered up with a seasoned campaign manager.  The campaign manager sat him down and explained the rules of the game for him.

“Listen” he said.  “Our plan for the next 90 days will be to go out there and plaster the picture of your grinning face and your name everywhere that voters are.  We will place yard signs, put up billboards, give out flyers, and go out there shake hands and kiss babies. ”

He paused for a second, looked at the young man sternly and said “They won’t vote for you if they don’t know you.”

Promoting a product or a service in many ways is no different from politics.  You need a large group of people who can be subjected to your message.

If you’ve been putting off getting the word out about who you are and what you do, you may find yourself in a situation where you have a completed product and no one to tell about it.

Go out there and put in the work creating your tribe.

Warning Sign Number 3:
Your Product is What you Wanted To Make, Not What The Market Wanted To Buy

I happen to think that entrepreneurs are often headstrong and ego-driven people.  It’s what gives us the juice to strike out on our own, go off the beaten track into the unexplored territory and to separate ourselves from the relative safety of a “job”.

We want to do something special, and we want the recognition from our friends, family (and sometimes) the adoring public.  There is a flip-side to this coin, a weakness, a vulnerability that is wise to acknowledge and contain.  That weakness is our desire to do our own thing, and sometimes to discount the wants of others.

The desire to forge ahead rather must be balanced with acute listening skills and being able to dig below surface level response to arrive at the true wants of our audience.  I saw a very clever marketer post respond to a Facebook post.

I am paraphrasing but it went something like this “When are we going to realize that we have to give people the content that they want in the format that they want it??”

And I thought to myself “Man, this is profound.  This guy just encapsulated the entire theory of good product design in one sentence.”

The message here is this.  Figure out what people want and give it to them.
Do not be tempted to force upon people a product that they have no interest in.

Warning Sign Number 2:
Your Product Idea Was Created In A Vacuum

One day on my way home from a very frustrating day at work I decided that I had enough.  I was going to come up with an idea for a business that was so innovative and fresh that in several months I could just retire and milk the cash out of my money-making Internet machine.

I sat in my living room, typing away on my computer, scheming, making calculations and revenue projections.  Soon I started meeting other people who were doing something similar.  So we schemed to rule the world together.  And nothing happened.

No early retirement, no Internet cash machine.  So what was the problem?

You see, like many other Internet entrepreneurs I built my business around a faulty key premise.  I wanted to shortcut the process via bypassing all the “annoying” customer interactions.  Good business ideas are not born in your head.

They are forged by bouncing the ideas that you have against the marketplace, asking for some kind of action, receiving live feedback and adjusting to it.  Ideas must be tested and refined against the marketplace.  Building a business in a vacuum is a guarantees failure.

Warning Sign Number 1:
You Think You Need To Finish Building Before You Can Start Selling

We have finally made it to The Big One.  Entire books have been written about this.
Why do we think that we have to have our product 100% completed before we can commit ourselves to selling it?

Allow me to be a little bit harsh.  Because making products is fun, and getting sales is hard work.  No one has ever gotten rejected creating a product.  No one has ever had a door slammed in their face, or been outright dismissed when creating a product.

I am very tempted to say that creating a product is almost an excuse to not sell.  I mean how else would you be able to say “Hey, I can’t go sell and promote my product right now, it’s not ready.  Gotta work on it some more!”

So I think it’s part excuse and part ignorance.  We haven’t discussed the ignorance part, and we’ll get to that now.

The ignorance part is about not being exposed to the right ideas and concepts.  For example, you may not know about creating Kickstarter campaigns or collecting Advance Sale money.  In that case, the previously considered unbreakable sequence of natural events (Create followed by Sell) may appear unbreakable to you.  So in this case education really helps.

Build Product Names You Can Be Proud Of.

Allow me to start with a question.

What is the first thing that prospective customers, contributors or investors of your product will encounter, and what is that one thing that they will keep using to identify your product?

That thing is invariably the product name, and it is one of the easiest and inexpensive ways to control the perception of your product.

Because the product name serves as the first touch point, as well as a the mental pointer to the product, deciding on a great product name is one of best investments of your time.

Try to count the number of times throughout the day that you speak or think about Excel spreadsheets, or GitHub repos, or RedHat instances.  My guess is that you gave up on this exercise after just a few seconds, but I think you get the point.  We use product names ALL THE TIME.

A name connects the idea of The  product to its’ physical form.

I don’t know how attached you are to the current name of the product.  If you are very attached, or have some concrete reasons for sticking with the current name, please ignore everything I have to say here.

However, if you are not 100% certain if the current name is the right name to go forward with, you might want to consider the following bits of information.

An incorrectly chosen product name can be a long-term (self created) obstacle preventing you from hitting the growth curve that you had in mind.  This doesn’t just apply to startups and new products.

YouTube Red has recently changed its’ name to YouTube Premium.  This meant walking away from an investment of millions of advertising and brand building dollars.

According to AdWeek they just couldn’t overcome the negative associations of the name.  YouTube Red simply sounded too much like a porn site.

YouTube Red simply sounded too much like a porn site.

So what is a better way forward?  How can we create a template for producing clear, convincing, and memorable product names?

Direct marketing expert Eben Pagan has created and sold tens of millions worth of information product in mid 2000’s.  He has coined the following formula for creating strong product names.

Eben suggests that product names should:
1. Be Hard To Forget
2. Use Repetitive Sounds
3. Use Rhythm

Let’s see how this formula applies to some current examples, and examine the use of repeating sounds, and rhythm structures.

“Mon Goh Dee Bee
One -Two-Three-Four

Eks El”

Twi Ter”

“Mur sey deez benz
One Two Three Four

Now you may be saying to yourself “But what about the other mainstay products and brand names such as iPhone, Oracle, BMW, Beats by Dr.Dre, as well as countless others that don’t fit that formula?”

And you would be 100% correct.  Those names do not fit our template.  However, armed with this template you now have a repeatable process for coming up with brand names that at the very least will not be a roadblock to your marketing efforts.

Give this formula a try, and let me know about how you like the results.   Chances are it will improve how you think about product (or even project) naming at a fundamental level.

All The Best,