There's endless potential for lifestyle businesses in the hobby world. There are people out there doing 6 figures selling artisanal mechanical keyboard keycaps.
We're a bit spoiled in the software world. Startup cost is just non-existent. Most other businesses in history have at least a little bit of associated input capital. But if it's something you want anyway, it's worth a big of dough!
You should consider selling it on the Mac App Store in addition to it being open source. I think you’d be pleasantly surprised.
I think the second would be more useful and interesting. More people likely to look at it if a good discussion ensues, so you still get exposure, and useful advice from people here.
But, I didn't (and wouldn't) pay for it as a product. I did donate a coffee or two a while back, but I think in general window managers will always be a hard sell since all it takes is another bored programmer to open source a clone and you're kinda sunk. On top of that window managers have always been a free/FOSS thing, and changing that would probably require offering a feature that is so compelling people will overlook using closed source software/payware. Last, customization/scripting is a hard requirement for most window manager users, and without the source the vast majority of people will refuse to even invest the time to switch.
While I personally hate the trend, the only way to monetize would probably offer some sort of cloud based feature that requires a subscription. I think if you did it honestly, offered real value, and provided a self-hosted option for sticks in the mud (that won't give you money, but will evangelize for you if you keep things libre) you could probably carve out a decent living. Either that or offering support to enterprises who want to use your tool, but that comes with its own devils.
Anywho, just my two cents. Thanks again for all your hard work, I know it didn't pay off how you wanted financially but the tools you created have huge userbases that use your code every day hundreds of times a day. At the very least I'd hope having that on your resume has helped you find a good gig somewhere, and if not I'd suggest posting on here in a hiring thread or finding a good head hunter who can translate that experience into a well paying gig.
The other thing to think about if you make this a paid app is the price point and utility. The one thing I dislike about a lot of Mac Apps like this, which provide some simple functionality, end up discontinuing development if there isn't much revenue or if the developer gets busy. So when the OS updates or something breaks or it doesn't work with a new model/hardware changes (Ex: Touchbar), there's no support or updates. (This is something that I factor in, looking at what other things the developer has done or supported in the past, based on the price point for the app ($1 vs $10 etc)
But for people in the hobby of making small apps and tools (like myself) then making something I want, then selling it for $0.99, then having 1 million people buying it is already a lot of dough. Not to mention 1 million people worldwide is a drop in the bucket.
I think you are right that there are exceptions to the rule, but those seem to follow the rule to some degree.
EDIT: I'm not sure where the "printing" part of this story comes into play but it looks like his tablets do indeed have multiple bills per sheet in addition to being laminated at the top. (https://hackaday.com/2012/08/03/woz-prints-and-spend-his-own...)
See here: https://www.moneyfactorystore.gov/1currencysheets.aspx
Even if they meet the required standards I thought only the government was allowed to print bills.
Does anyone have any links or references to what Woz is saying?
Of course, when you're interviewing a prankster about pranks, you've got to expect that sort of thing :)
That makes perfect sense. And of course I fell for it...
There aren't any near where I live, but I've seen them a lot
I thought it was an accronym.
He got sheets of 4 perforated and then bound with a gum binding (like a pad of paper). He then whips out the book and pulls a $2 off of the perforation.
He'll carry larger sheets folded up and then cut a bill out with scissors in front of the person he is paying it to. Apparently he got the secret service called on him once.
If you want to buy uncut bills you can yourself, but there's about a 50% markup on even the largest sheets:
They would buy monsterboxes of coins of various monies on credit cards and turn them back into the bank and pay the bill for perks.
They eventually changed the Merchant category codes to cash advance, and then raised the prices. :-(
Is the government allowed to make money (more than its value) by selling money?
This is useful.
I've never paid a penny extra for the rolls, and my bank does the coin-counting for free as well.
I have never in my life heard of paying extra for rolled coins. In fact, there's a whole subreddit devoted to people who buy rolls of coins and then hunt through them looking for old (silver) coins. They turn the coins back in later, at a different bank/location. This would likely not be a viable hobby if there was any upcharge.
It is meant as an introduction to other occurrences in peoples lives, where they invest something that they will lose if they abandon the activity. Being on hold is one such example, where you lose the time you've invested in being on hold, if you give up and hang up the call before it's connected. Thus you end up in a situation where you are somewhat trapped.
It'd be a poor fit for miniature train towns, the scale is too large for them. The largest is G which is 1:22.5 (approx 8 inches high) and the most popular is HO (1:87.1). HO runs on a 16.5mm track so the blocks are about as wide as a train track on their shortest dimensions.
Overall it's kind of an awkward scale for any hobby miniatures.
1:12 is a common action figure size though. Maybe it'd make interesting materials for that.
RPG miniatures are typically 1/64 (25mm) to 1/58 (28mm); these items are 1/12 scale. There are display miniatures around that scale, but they are way too big for RPG or wargame minis.
He did the same thing. Found a niche industry which needed this service and he was doing well all by himself with nearly zero overhead.
It really made me start looking at very small niches for opportunities since there's already a ton of people trying to disrupt large entrenched technologies.
At one point in that era, I ranked top two in Australia for "make money" with one page about AdSense on an otherwise unrelated site. I had another site that took half a day to build, and involved no upkeep, making similar money to Patrick's BCC. I stupidly let it (and other sites) languish and it was slowly overtaken by competitors and SEO changes.
I always thought the people who use "lifestyle business" as a pejorative were missing out.
Here's a drop that is currently at 88k revenue for massdrop:
638 purchases @ 139.99/set
Somebody has dropped 1k on a single custom made key on the secondary market. https://www.reddit.com/r/MechanicalKeyboards/wiki/keyboard_t...
The gaming market has produced all sorts of hobbyist businesses, and that's a market actually big enough to see a few potentially billion dollar businesses. I'm not entirely sure whether something like DXRacer would fall into line of a hobbyist/enthusiast business but it feels like it should to me (and I'm mentioning it because it feels like a larger sort of hobbyist business). It's definitely in that realm in terms of having a pretty specific target market and a relatively higher price point.
There are also people in the DIY mechanical keyboard market selling circuit boards, plates, cases, etc... Again, it's a really niche market, but people are willing to spend a lot more money at a hobbyist/enthusiast level.
I now have a button that can launch a terminal window, a button that launches HN, one that does a git pull on all my current projects, etc...
Like you said, it's a niche market, but it's one where most people are happy to pay the higher prices for something more tailored to their needs, and it's a rare "physical" area where a guy in his garage can compete with big companies.
I just recently got a new 3d printer, and I think after I get it more tuned I will be able to print fairly good quality keycaps. If they are good enough, I might try selling custom made-to-order keycaps if there is any interest.
You can go to  to get just text on a keycap with a fairly easy web-ui to describe the text, position, and size you want it.
Or you can take it entirely into your own hands and go to  to give them a vector file that they will custom print on to the keys.
They also offer that service in a "full keyboard set" option , so you don't need to do a ton of keys individually if you want to do the whole keyboard (although the full sets most likely won't fit your profile, but they do fit a good number of more standard keyboard layouts)
Again, they aren't the best quality, but they do a good job, and they take care of their customers. Plus the amount of customization you can do is pretty fucking insane.  is always my go-to example for just how customizable they are. Not only full color printing, but also individual key plastic color selection.
That or just dump the ergodox when you realize that it's just a pale sad imitation of a kinesis advantage.
The one you mentioned doesn’t even look pretty. ErgoDox EZ Shine is wonderful both in use and in how it looks!
Artisanal. Artesian means related to a special type of water wells :-)
The firmware was basically usb-hid to behave like either joystick or keyboard. It also had some fancy de-bouncing code for the buttons.
But I, too, am very curious to hear the answer.
Several other members of the mechanical keyboard community (especially in the artisan keycap subsection of the community) have managed to turn their keyboard hobby into a full-time job and make a pretty decent living out of it.
The companies that make keycaps have molds for the profiles they make. GMK has the original Cherry molds (medium height caps with cylindrical indentions, Signature Plastics has a few profiles including Retro looking SA (Tall caps with spherical indentations, each row a different sculpt that gives it a gentle dish when looked at from the side), DSA (flat profile, each row the same with a spherical indentation), DSS (A medium profile generally dished with spherical indentation, DCS (a medium profile with cylindrical indentation), and G20 (a flat profile with no indentation).
So generally when you put together a custom keycap set, you pick a profile, if you want double shot legends there might be some extra molds to make, but those are pretty pricy (I think I heard about 6k a pop). If you go with dyesub you have a lot of legend freedom, but you are limited to dark legends on lighter caps.
Yes. HP calculators had that.
There's another way for small volume. Laser engrave the legend with a CNC laser cutter. Then brush on laser marking powder, which is very similar to printer toner. Rerun the engraving pass at very low power, hitting the same spots just engraved. Power has to be low, just enough to melt and seal the toner, not vaporize it. Then brush off any remaining powder. This is good for cover plates with legends, signs, and such. The letters are slightly below surface level, so they tend not to wear off too fast.
In contrast, the group buys in the enthusiast community are works of love, with multiple rounds of checks and adjustments to get it right. Sometimes facilitators like Massdrop force projects out the door because of cost even though the creator of the design wants to do more rounds of tweaking are necessary, and it shows. (Example: the recent /dev/tty keycap set.)
Seems to be quality issues with every XDA run so far though. Keyboard fanatics drop a good amount of money on these sets so quality is extremely important in such a small and passionate market.
That's how you do it, folks.
Awesome tips and sound business logic in the interview, that made my day already :-)
2. When something does go sideways: own up to it, make it right with customers, and learn how to fix your mistake for the future
Seems like a lot of founders get one of these right, but not both. Either they’re comfortable charging ahead into the unknown, but struggle to be reliable—or they get caught up on small details and launch far too late.
That depends entirely on your market and how big/serious your screw up is/can be.
There are many, many, many, many companies that take an enormous reputation hit or die completely, because their initial product offering was shit.
If you can't afford to have a bad product at launch, then don't let your launch be the first time your customers try your product, you know?
If you think like a customer, then the launch and the first-time-customers-use-the-product are the same thing. But if you’ve got your PM hat on, the launch is the END of a long process of learning, building, shipping, validating with a smaller group that’s representative of the wider market.
AFAICT it tends to be the opposite for software as long as you can ship an MVP really early: there's no need to chase bugs and run tech support if you're writing code that only 10 people will depend on. It's a big time sink, but these kinds of things tend to be labors of love in the first place.
Previous_gen_users << current_gen_users
Ergo, take a one-time charge to upgrade your previous gen users to current, with the revenue from your current gen growth.
Key points here are probably: (1) that it's unexpected & doesn't create an expectation (unsustainable), & (2) that it's unannounced & properly timed (manage the Osborne effect & avoid screwing customers who choose to pay to upgrade themselves ASAP)
It won't fit all business models / products but seems practical in most cases.
Some products are a great fit for releasing something quick and fixing it later, like a free website. Other products, especially physical goods (car parts, medical equipment, etc) this is obviously a terrible strategy.
Failure modes are complicated. It's not as simple as "Ah, this thing will obviously fall apart in a few months."
We live by the AppleCare and die by the AppleCare.
Note that it is the seller, not the manufacturer, on the hook for this.
I don't know a good english summary, but here you can at least find the full text of the directive: http://www.kapitalmarktrecht-im-internet.eu/en/Areas%20of%20...
The weird thing about this is that I now suddenly want a miniature palette of miniature cinder blocks, but have no idea why. I'm almost afraid to watch the videos that were referenced in the article.
It isn't a huge surprise that engineers enjoy building things.
Was that popular in the US as well?
The experience _can_ be ok, if it's easy enough to dismiss. The pattern that drives me a little nuts is the "intent to close tab" event trigger. I just wanted to switch tabs, calm down, I'm not leaving your site.
I am constantly finding products that interest me, and have no hesitation of putting my unaliased gmail address into random product sites.
You may be surprised to learn that my inbox is not a cesspool, there is nothing in there which I didn't ask for.
I believe the aversion to spreading email addresses online is actually a holdover emotion from a time when spam was an unaddressed real problem and where obfuscation was possible.
Today, your and my email address are already in hundreds of purchasable lists... and the battle is fought by gmail instead of by me.
Agreed, spam prevention has come a long way on both the client-side (gmail) and regulations (CAN-SPAM), forcing clear unsubscribe paths. Yes, the damage of past behaviour is hard to reverse.
Next generation of users don't allot much attention to email, so liking/following is the way to "subscribe to product info". Otherwise, those exclusively email-based popovers are just a nuisance to that audience; good ones include other channels.
My guess is that they see it as "oh I like this a lot, I'll sign up for more so I don't have to remember to come back and check this site."
ctrl+tab actually feels a bit awkward on my MBP and only shows 5 tabs on FF Nightly; seems to be sourced from the most recently used ¯\_(ツ)_/¯
Email converts well because the people on the email list have already shown active interest in whatever you're doing. It's a high quality base to market to.
I get emails from board game web shops all the time informing me of their sales. If I see something I'm interested in the email I'll click through and possibly purchase something. I just did it with Funagain Games a few days ago, when they announced a 'Lonely Hearts' sale, of games that play well solo. They had some good deals on there, so I grabbed bought a game at 25% of the price I've seen it at elsewhere.
If it's for a product you're really interested in, I think email marketing works.
But on the other hand, my bras cost $60-$120. Each. I wear a specialty size. In the US, no physical store near me sold it. Victoria's secret didn't have it. Its the only time I wish I was still overweight.
The store that sells my bras here emails me when they are on sale. At those prices, I usually buy not long after the email. The email marketing that works for me are similar things. Simple advertisement, though, gets blocked.
"Click this link to read more about cinder blocks"
"Enter your email here to read more about cinder blocks"
In both cases, there is the promise of more information. Presumably, you would agree that the information in the link might persuade you to buy from the site, assuming you're interested in cinder blocks.
What then would be your reason for being unswayed by similar information in email form?
I'm guessing you just have an opposition in principle to marketing via email, but not an opposition in principle to marketing on a webpage.
The reason email works, by the way, is that you get the user's attention. The first time someone hits your site, they may have 2000" tabs open, they may get a notification on their phone, etc. Email lets you confirm their interest and reach them later. It solves the distraction issue.
Call me cynic, but I don't think the majority of people have my best interests in mind when they send me advertising emails.
Note the plural in "emails". If you're not interested in what they offer you can't just choose to ignore them, that will only result in more emails.
The email is an option for those who choose to use it.
Going off your last sentence, you're assuming everyone who sends email is a spammer. Indeed, given your habits, if you have received emails from companies, you've probably mostly received spam.
For instance, you sign to an account or buy something --> company proceeds to send dozens of emails, unsolicited, and ignores the unsubscribe.
This is terrible, but it's not what happens when you enter your email on a non-spammy site. There, they usually send reasonable emails with a working unsubscribe link. Conversions in this case depend upon not annoying the prospect.
If you never enter your email in popup boxes you likely only receive the spammiest of email marketing.
Edit: oops, I thought you were OP, and so assumed you never enter your email. If you do enter your email and get spam - well, I guess we have different experiences. My spam almost exclusively comes from product orders, not from info boxes I chose.
Edit: I first wrote throwaway address, but that's not what I mean because it implies that you never check it. I skim through the subject lines of my junk subscriptions address occasionally. If there's something that sounds interesting enough I'll read it and maybe buy something.
My google-fu isn't working well today otherwise I could find a reference to this toy (I can't recall what it was called).
Well love stones acquire an awesome, soft, rounded off shape.
When looking at all products, dumpsty  sticks out not only because of its price but also because it looks much more involved than the other stuff. How are you making that, and how come you added it?
Have you thought about adding things like concrete slabs for flooring, glass bricks, steel beams, maybe something looking like asphalt?
Did you ever have any problems delivering on time during peak season?
I imagine this results in significant subsequent unsubscribes and getting reported as spam.
Basically once upon a time "luxury" buttons were either of precious materials (like solid, real gold) or sporting a precious stone or an enameled surface/design and those owning dresses with these buttons could afford to have them removed (and later re-sawn) when washing the dress was needed, as there was the possibility that they became damaged.
Using more common metals (like brass or similar) poses another possible risks during washing, the fabric could result stained by some reaction of the soap/chemicals involved with the metal.
Metal button covers are thin covers that you can put over a normal (usually plastic) button to give them a particular "look", and they can simply be removed when washing is needed.
Yes, they debated updating the website but their core clientele have been using it effectively for the past 10 years so they didn't want to change it.
Add in the fact that hobby purchases are very discretionary and a lot of people are willing to pay a little more for quality/genuine articles and this business is probably safer from simple undercutting than one would initially think.
For a recent example, see the fidget spinner / cube situation, so many copies from so many manufacturers, it was unreal.
No way. The combination of materials and small size are too novel.
Toy manufacturers have the equipment and experience to make small items out of plastic. Cinder block and brick manufacturers have the equipment and experience to make large blocks out of concrete.
No one has the machinery necessary to make tiny concrete blocks like this at scale within a month.
Even if a company took the time to build the setup required to make this product at scale, these things are much denser then the average toy and shipping costs from a cheap overseas factory will eat into the already thin margins.
I go back to the main site and what do I see further down on the page as I scroll down? “LIKE TO FINGERBOARD? Our real concrete jersey barriers are heavy duty and the perfect obstacle for fingerboarding! Combine with some cinder blocks to create cool ramps and ledges!”
These people have got it figured out! No wonder they are doing well :)
Also I'm afraid that now this success story is out, copycats will pop up left and right.
I really wanted this mini-quadro style kit when I was a kid, more than the larger actual climbing frames they sold.
I'm now making a mental note to re-assess Knnex or whatever it's called. I have thought of getting a big lego kit for us to build together, like one of the Technics cranes.
Anyone who has built a business that has achieved a modicum of success could write a book about all of the challenges they faced, how they addressed them, and how they would have addressed them if only they had the benefit of better experience in the beginning.
There's no secret to success. The key is understanding what success actually means to you, and working smarter or harder (or both) than the next guy to achieve it.
Selling 800+ pallettes of cinderblocks to a niche market once is an achievement. Selling that many every month? That takes knowing more than just how to make them.
It's a good small business that covers its manufacturing, labor, etc. costs with likely a bit of profit beyond that, and it could grow a bit (as it has with bricks and other materials), but it's still the kind of thing with a relatively small total world market. There may be additional markets he could spread into particularly by going international, but that's still a limited set of potential customers.
Since you seem to know about this, perhaps you can suggest where to learn about building and utilizing email lists to build niche businesses. TIA.
(patwalls is Pat Walls, the founder of StarterStory.com)
> Curious, how're you finding founders to interview?
Pretty much just scouring the internet and emailing people cold. Reddit has been a great source of finding interviews (it's how I found this one).
> Anything you've learned building out StarterStory.com that you didn't expect, and if so, what did you learn?
Man, it's really hard to drive traffic to websites these days. Facebook organic reach is pretty much dead. SEO is really hard to build up, especially if you have a site based around interviews. I've had some luck with posting on Reddit. This HN post is definitely my first big break! Super excited to hit the front page.
I've also been doing monthly blog posts about my progress so far if you want to check it out - https://www.starterstory.com/blog
For the lazy
If you want to browse with Netscape Navigator 1.0, go for it. But stop feigning surprise that random things don’t work.
I know it's kind of silly but how we present something can dramatically change the response. But in fairness sometimes a direct and plain explanation for why something is bullshit is the only way to get things noticed or done too.
And the reason why I have JS turned off by default is not some kind of misplaced nostalgia. It is to prevent random shit running in my browser.
Asking for script permission to display text is as bad as asking for microphone permission for an app that does not use audio. Presentation of text has always been possible in HTML without the use of script. You don't need script permission. Don't ask for it. Don't require it.
Just because a lot of people do it doesn't mean we should ever stop complaining about it (bandwagon fallacy). It is wrong. The people who do it are doing it wrong. They may not be aware of it, so someone needs to mention it. Every time.
Remote transmission of alphabet characters has been a part of human networking since 1793. If I ask a question using an optical semaphore tower, I don't want your response to be sending a minstrel to me in person, with a bunch of hand puppets and marionettes to act out the answer.
You're welcome to want text on a website but the website creator is welcome to do as they please. I'd point back to my origin example: a vegetarian is fine excluding beef from their diet but no one should have to listen to them blather about it.
The website creator is welcome to do as they please, but there is such as a thing as abusing one's audience.
Your analogy is not apt. The vegetarian is being served beef even though they ordered a vegetarian entree from the waiter. They get the beef whether they want it or not. They can't get the kitchen to give them the meal they want without also giving them beef. The cooks are being intentionally provocative to their vegetarian guests. They are certainly able to do so in their own restaurant, but it is a dick move, and nobody should tolerate it, whether they are vegetarian or not.
No - you accessed the website with a personal expectation that the author adhered to your standards. The web is free, developers and designers can do what they want. If it's not what you want then go somewhere else.
Similarly, the vegetarian ordered "the special" and was befuddled when they received a dish with meat. There was no expectation of a vegetarian dish except by the vegetarian.
V: Can I get a hamburger, but without the beef patty?
V: What? Why not?
C: My artistic vision demands that the meat be present.
V: (irritated) Fine. I'll have the hamburger.
C: Here you go.
V: <throws meat patty into the trash>
C: That's not allowed! Wharrgarbl!
In the context of this specific website, the cook is grinding the meat up with the vegetables, in such a way that it is needlessly difficult to throw away the meat. It may not be intentionally hostile to vegetarians, but it does show a careless disregard to anyone that doesn't like their sandwich the only way the cook makes it.
That's what you're doing.
Edit: "It may not be intentionally hostile to vegetarians, but it does show a careless disregard to anyone that doesn't like their sandwich the only way the cook makes it."
They are lazy jerks that are breaking the Internet.
And, in case you haven't noticed, I did go somewhere else. Here. This is somewhere else. A site that provides a forum for commentary on articles from other sites that appeal to one's intellectual curiosity. And here, on this site, I am joining my voice with those that routinely complain when a site uses script to display text, and does not display text if the script does not run.
We have building codes for physical structures that mandate certain minimum requirements for creating buildings fit for human occupation. They ensure that people don't cut corners and hurt people through negligence. They ensure that carelessness in building does not result in arbitrarily denying someone in a wheelchair access to areas that would otherwise be usable. The vast majority of people do not need to know how to build a stairway according to code, but they can all benefit from properly-built stairways.
In the same way, in lieu of actual enforceable codes, the majority of Internet consumers can still benefit from some knowledgeable people that scream their heads off every time someone is caught cutting corners. Malicious scripts exist, and the only safe way to access the web is by allowing scripts only from trustworthy, pre-approved sites. The ignorant majority is gradually coming around to block-by-default, after too many times being burned by trusting site-operators, or their ad networks.
If it annoys you that people complain, you are free to use the built-in "downvote" function of this site, the built-in "hide" function, or to write your own client-side script that removes posts containing objectionable keywords. You are not required to engage with the people who annoy you by complaining about badly-built sites in the same manner that vocal vegetarians annoy me.
Nope, you don't. But don't pass it off as different from vegetarians vocally espousing and touting their vegetarianism. It's the same thing. Which, coincidentally, was the point of my OP.
Thus, you have not convinced me that they are the same. I have only admitted that you think they are the same. That's an easy admission, since that's what you've been saying all along.
If your site displays nothing without JS, I have to be desperate to see your content to, well, turn on JS to see your content. You as a site owner are asking a whole lot more from me by allowing just anyone on the net to run code on my computer than I am of you.
I don't think I'm a kook, but anytime I have to go into uMatrix more than twice I reconsider reading the article at all. That doesn't apply to this particular article, but it happens more often than I am comfortable with.
Spectre and Meltdown have shown that there is no such thing as a true sandbox. You're always safer not running a sandbox as this way you're safe from the next sandbox breaking vulnerability that already exists but has yet to be discovered.
On the Intel platform, perhaps. But that's only because of performance optimizations, so that statement is not universally true.
This is not true, as Meltdown and Spectre have recently taught us.
A site which can degrade gracefully in the absence of js features is a higher bar than a static, js free site. At the end of the day, disabling js entirely is a custom privilege level of zero.