From 0 to 10,000 Pageviews In Two Weeks

I took a break from writing for a while. Well, about 5 months to be exact. And my blog readers sputtered to a halt.

But my experience interviewing with a company got me so angry, I had to start writing again. So I put up a new blog post.

Two weeks later, I’ve now been on the frontpage of reddit’s r/programming section, on the frontpage of r/python, featured in Pycoder’s Weekly (subscribe!), and asked expand a blog post into a book by a major publisher.

Blogging is really building a brand around yourself. It has huge benefits, the biggest of which is people approach you, aware of your name, and not the other way around. This puts you in a position of bargaining advantage when it comes to negotiations, and also attracts higher quality people.

So how do you write so people will read?

80/20 The Headline

A strong headline is the difference between a success and a failure.

If you can pick a catchy title, 99% of your work is done. So sometimes I’ll actually spend more time rewriting the title than I spend actually writing the article.

Understand, the majority of people on the internet will make a snap judgement based upon your title, and not bother to read anything else. So unfortunately, your ability to land eyeballs depends more on your title than your actual content.

When I decide to write about a topic, I first ask myself if I can come up with a decent title for it. If it’s not something I can explain in a catchy title, it probably won’t get written about. (Except when I want to teach something.)

Make it Visual

Wait a second, weren’t we talking about writing?

The more visually absorbant you can make your writing, the better. If I can skim through your article, and call out the major points you make in bold, I’m one step closer.

Even better if you’ve got pictures for me to skim too. People are busy, and you need to convey the benefits you’ve got for them as quickly and clearly as possible.

Images and bold points let people decide for themselves whether or not it’s worth drilling down and reading everything else you’ve written.


What’s in it for me?

Make sure you’re writing to benefit the person reading. Take the extra time to make graphics, find the real data, and generally make the reader’s life better for having read what you’ve written.

This means focusing in on the benefits you can provide your reader. Look into and find as much new data as possible. Link to other sites that can help them out.

Pretend the reader is a close, intelligent friend, and try to help them out as much as possible in every post.

Make It Emotional

We humans like to pretend we’re rational creatures, but the data shows we’re overwhelmingly run by our emotions. And emotions push stories to people.

But this isn’t all sensationalist bullshit. A strong emotional experience when learning encodes a stronger memory. So writing from an emotionally charged place actually helps people remember what you’ve written.

Make It Simple

Don’t use big words where a tiny one would do. I try to limit my writing vocabulary to 3 syllable words, maximum. A lot of people try to use big words to push an image of intelligence, but that doesn’t work. The easier something is to comprehend, the quicker we can absorb it.

And anyone can use big words to hide not completely understanding their topic. Get over it. Always ask yourself, do I need this paragraph? Can I remove this sentence?

The biggest part of being a writer is being able to throw things out. Throw out all the stuff which does not move your point forward.

Rewrite Everything

When I read my personal bible on writing (Stephen King’s On Writing, I’ve gifted copies to all my writer friends), I saw how Stephen King stressed rewriting as a part of the process. In the book, he actually walks through rewriting and cutting down a story, so you can see how he does it.

Wherever I go, I take my Moleskine journal and my fountain pen with me. I’ll write up complete articles in this, staring off into space, being outdoors, with a cup of coffee, and really enjoying the process of writing. Something about the process of having a high quality fountain pen write on nice paper is really a pleasure for me.

But when it’s time to write for the computer, things really take a turn for the worse. I usually end up throwing out all the stuff I wrote in the journal, and start out all over again as I write in WordPress.

In this way, I guarantee I’m rewriting every post at least twice. Usually, everything I post has been rewritten 3 times.

Show the Data

Don’t say something without being able to back it up with data. When you first write your article, you may have to bullshit some facts to get the thing written. But after you finish writing your draft, go back and fill in all of the holes of what you’ve written.

Search out and find the data on all the things you’ve said. Link to them. Show me a photo, show me and info graphic. This has become a part of being a decent blogger. Searching out and finding the facts most people pass by, then distilling them into a neat set.

Tell People About What You’ve Written

This is the most difficult part of all. You’ve got to push what you’ve written out there. If you’ve written anything emotionally charged, or with a strong opinion, there will be people who will try to make you feel horrible about it.

Ignore them. Keep writing.

The crowd can be a brutal audience, so stay focused and talk directly to a persona you have in mind. I recommend starting out with niche marketplaces, and submitting your posts to them first. Almost every news venue is starved for things to talk about. Target them first.

Big Hacks In Little Paradise – The Story of the First Naples Startup Battle

It’s 12:30 AM on a Sunday, and instead of being out with friends, I’ve locked myself indoors, busy building the most boring piece of software I’ve ever heard of. Of the team of four people I just met, I’m the only one left. But all the other teams seem to be going strong, staying together.

The only thing I’m thinking is: Don’t look like an idiot tomorrow.

48 Hours to Pitch and Build a Business

Hackathons are sprouting up all over the world, as people try their hand at pitching and building ideas in heroic little sprints. It’s an opportunity to network, and measure your talents against your peers. Think you’re hot stuff? See how you do in a crowd of your peers, everyone trying to outsmart one another.

Everybody meets on Friday, and introductions are made. We all get a feel for one another, and then pitch our personal idea. Votes are cast by the participants, and the top five ideas are chosen. The winners then sell their idea and build a team to the other participants.

From Friday until Sunday at 4:30PM, they’re figuring out their customer, building mockups, coding demos, drawing a financial plan, calling potential suppliers, getting quotes, and trying to figure out a profitable business model. They’re also building a slide deck to pitch to potential investors on Sunday.

It’s an MBA and a half in a weekend.

Competing With A Room Full of Intelligence

At 4:30PM on Sunday, all bets are off, as the pitches all get heard. Investors walk in, and the place gets a bit quieter, more tense. And the pitches begin.

And while you’ve been justifying why your product is better than everyone else in your head, and why their idea would never work, you finally hear the details. Everyone is so damn talented! And yes, they’ve addressed the exact problems you saw walking by their desks.

A panic sets in as you start thinking about getting up there, and having to defend your idea. Do we have any big blind spots?

It’s your time, and you try to focus on breathing slow, but everything seems to blur. You’ve spoken, and had your say, but you could not remember a single thing you actually said, if asked to.

The Teams

This is the part that really blew me away. Only two people had actually worked together before. But other than that, every team had just met over the weekend. They instantly fleshed out a hierarchy and got to work building a product demonstration. No egos bruised, everyone working and being honest.

Team Chime

The Tech: Arduino, Cloud Services, Windows Mobile App, .NET
The Pitch: Mobile Enabled Intelligent Doorbell
The Demo: Here

These guys were incredible. The idea was a smartphone enabled, intelligent doorbell.

The team was nothing but talent, and every single person delivered on their promises. It really was a pleasure to watch these guys build a cloud enabled physical hardware project with a working mobile app by the end of two days.

They not only designed and built the electronics, and a promotional website, and a strong financial plan, but also got a working app on Windows Phone. Just insane work, and they’re launching on Kickstarter shortly. Look for huge things from this team.

And oh yeah, they won the Startup Battle. Congrats guys!

You can view their demo website here.

Team Accessory Addict Society

The Tech: PHP, eCommerce, Subscription Commerce, Social, Machine Learning
The Pitch: Accessories as a Service for Women
The Demo: Here
These guys were our biggest worry while developing.

They really had a kickass idea, a great team, and an especially talented leader. Great design, great social media, and great programming. Really incredible to watch them build an eCommerce store, get 50 Likes on Facebook, and build a great brand targeting women.

Their idea was a subscription based accessories service for women. They built everything, including social media, and an algorithm for predicting which sorts of accessories would work best for you within two days. Incredible work.

View their page here.

Team Pronecter

The Tech: PHP, LinkedIn, Geolocation, Tagging
The Pitch: Networking Improved. Know who you should be meeting.
The Demo: Here
Now this was a strong team of technologists.

These guys built a mobile site, with geolocation, LinkedIn API calls, interests tagging, all in a functional prototype in under 48 hours. The leader of the group also managed to squeeze in building the pitch deck and presenting on demo day.

Their idea was discovering people to connect with at conferences by searching for attendees with keywords you’re looking for. You also set your own keywords, so people can find you. A really powerful concept for conferences.

Their product is viewable here.

Team Rectangle

The Tech: Android, NFC
The Pitch: Business cards that sync data with your phone.

Incredible presenting skills from the leader of this group, Marc Rosa. Of all the pitches, his seemed the most relaxed and confident. Also, the coder from the project, Tyler Thomas, was still in school, a double major (Computer Science and Mathematics!), still learning Java, and managed to build an Android app in two days with zero prior Android experience.

Look for huge things in the future from Tyler.

Their idea was for NFC enabled business cards which automatically synced with Android phones. A very fun presentation.

Team BAUSS Management

The Tech: Twitter Bootstrap
The Pitch: Eliminate Homeowner’s Association drama with a single place for communications.
The Demo: Here (Click demo up top to see backend demo.)

Finally, we have my team. Our idea was SAAS for homeowner’s associations. We built a single portal for all communication to flow through for Board Members, Vendors, and Home Owners. We hoped to reduce headaches, and have a single place for all communication, so a paper trail could be established, and accountability increased.

I was blown away by the business development talent of my team, as we’d already talked to 10 potential customers by 3:00 PM on Saturday. Kevin Brachle really took the lead, and got on top of the leads, speaking with both Property Managers and Lawyers currently working with Homeowners Associations. Also, Parker took control of business development, calling 4 property managers to make sure our product would work with what procedures they had already established.

We build a live web prototype you can visit, at, and you can even click Demo in the top corner to view what the backend would look like for the board members. It was designed for use on the iPad.

The Takeaway

The hackathon (or Startup Battle) is a very fun idea, like a version of the Olympics for intelligent business people, coders and designers.

It’s an incredible opportunity to meet and figure out who’s talented and who’s a bullshitter very quickly. You have to be at a very high level of talent to push a product in two days.

And that’s the real power of the Startup Battle, building a sense of camaraderie with people you only just met. I now know my team members bring an incredible amount of talent to the table, and wouldn’t hesitate to work with them on any project in the future.

Thanks to Venture X

None of this would have been possible without the incredible service to the community of Venture X and Brett Diamond. He’s traveled all over the US looking at co-working spaces, and really built a world class place for us in Naples, FL. I was skeptical at first, but having world class people around you is worth paying for.

I’m buying my membership today.