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[flagged] We Created a Planning Diary Making $160K in 6 Months (starterstory.com)
163 points by patwalls 55 days ago | hide | past | web | favorite | 59 comments

This exactly the kind of Bot problem which another HN post was talking about, the user patwalls recently boasted on reddit/twitter about automating reddit submissions & gaining a boatload of views & is doing the same to HN with clickbait metric laden titles of obscure stuff.

Thanks. Enough grounds for flagging this submission.

Why? Looks like he runs a relevant site about startups.

I don't really get the problem with him automating the submission, in fact, isn't that the hacker instinct the site is named after?

I don't appreciate the "throw until it sticks" hustle attitude. YMMV.

I created an automated reminder in my email to share the best stories from my blog to Hacker News, this is not some elaborate bot system.

I'm just one dude running a solo business and need to build automation things like that so I don't forget to post on Hacker News.

I never manipulated votes or anything like that.

> So all you have to do is click that link, and it will prepopulate the Hacker News submit page with everything

> My outsourcing team, in combination with @trypigeon is trained to click that link whenever they see that email.

> And that's how I hit the front page without knowing!


And you bragged about being called out in another tweet, which doesn't feel very repentant.

Regardless, this discussion thread is guaranteed to be linked to in all of your future HN submissions that hit the front page and consequently flagged to death, so I hope it was worth it.

If you remember the title of the post, do you mind sharing it?

If it gets upped by the community (presumably because it's interesting) what do the intentions matter?

If you follow the link that amrrs published [1], the OP has a team that auto-upvotes all of his submissions. This is explicitly against the HN guidelines.

My interpretation was that his team are pressing the 'submit' button, not anything else.

Submitting a HN link with a URL that was posted recently will give it an upvote.

Per the domain submission history (https://news.ycombinator.com/from?site=starterstory.com), he does not employ this strategy for all submissions, likely only ones with traction to obfuscate things.

Is it possible to manipulate the upps?

> In our first year, we didn’t want to use unnecessary plastic, so we didn’t bother investing in individual opp/poly bags UNTIL we learned that a few of our diaries arrived with water damage.

I found this line interesting — many people don’t realize that companies themselves don’t like using unnecessary packaging — most packaging decisions are made for very good reasons. The despised clamshell happened because of shoplifters and on-shelf marketing tests. “Unnecessary plastic” happens because manufacturers know about water damage. Individually wrapped parts happen because of shipping damage or lost parts. What consumers see as “unnecessary” comes as a result of very good reasons and likely thousands of customer complaints when their stuff arrives damaged or with parts missing.

Perhaps there might be a better systemic way of avoiding e.g. water damage without resorting to single-use plastics. Maybe reusable water-proof shipping containers, or requiring postal workers to remove their tear ducts.

A lot of packaging materials are reusable, especially something as generic as a plastic bag, cardbox, or bubble wrap; why more people don't --- even when they have to themselves ship something --- is the problem. I have a stash of such material that I've accumulated and use to ship things to others, and I give them to friends who mention/ask.

Some of the newer envelopes are designed to be at least reused a single time, with a clean perforation to open it, and a second glue strip ready to be peeled. These are designed for shipping back returns, not really for general reuse.

It would be so nice if they could take it a step further and design the envelopes for true multiple re-use.

For example, the white waterproof slightly padded envelopes from Amazon tear open cleanly (most of the time) but aren't extremely reusable because you have to fold over the open end on itself to tape it shut, which looks terrible, and seems flimsy, so I don't save them that often.

I think the biggest challenge is that the closer you get to full re-use, the closer you also get to making it trivial for someone to pop open the envelope, steal what's inside, and reseal it like they were never there.

I also found it interesting, and depressing. Of course this is off topic, but it goes without saying that plastic is convenient compared to the alternatives. "We made $160k!" but "a few diaries" show up with water damage and their plastic-free plan goes right out the window.

Hey symmitchry, I'm Tom, the Co Founder of Saint Belford.

Thanks for your comment.

Receiving a wet diary in the mail is a terrible customer experience so from a business stand point, we want to rectify these types of issues as quickly as possible.

Thankfully, the plastic we use is recyclable at the correct locations, and we're educating our customers around using these options while continuing to look for viable alternatives :)

We $160k profit, they could have used wax paper wrappings instead, which are biodegradable if you use the right type.

Hey briandear, I'm Tom, the Co Founder of Saint Belford.

You hit the nail on the head with this one.

It's frustrating we still have to use a small amount of soft plastic, but we're doing as much as we can to educate our customers about how to recycle it properly.

This is super interesting! I started selling my own notebook (not a diary) for musicians in February this year, and went through many of the same steps of trying to find a physical print shop without knowing anything about paper. I learned a lot!

What I haven't been able to reproduce is the rapid success! Sometimes I will get upvotes on, say, reddit, and sell $300 worth of books in a week. For the most part, social media influences have been a bust - promising to leave a review in exchange for a free book, but never doing so. I haven't spent tons of money on SEO, content, or advertising, so perhaps I should do that. Just hard to know what the ROI would be.

After reading this post, I might look at putting more money into some of these efforts (Instagram ads, google ads, creating content for my website for SEO purposes). Just hard to know where to begin!

(If you are curious, the product is themusiciansnotebook.com :)

Your notebook looks functional and useful, but pretty simple, based on the pictures on your website. There's nothing wrong with that (and if I composed music, I would probably order a copy), but it doesn't necessarily attract the eye.

You might want to consider an edition that has little things a musician might find interesting or useful included in it. That seems to be how these planner people attract people, is a lot of little things that people probably don't really need but enjoy filling out anyway (the link says they compiled all sorts of stuff into their planner, and for anecdata my fiancee is a huge planner nut and loves checking out planners with all sorts of different approaches to layouts and fields and organization and whatnot).

For example (and I don't recommend going this far necessarily, but it might inspire you), a board game designer decided to design a playtesting journal for other board game designers, and threw all sorts of little things in there, like a built in scoreboard, a die number on the page so it could be opened to a random page to simulate a die roll, added achievements with a sticker page, lots of fields to remind the designer to ask certain questions at the end of the playtest, a game contract checklist, a page with guidelines of sizes for various components for getting the game printed by a manufacturer, etc. He did a Kickstarter for it and raised $30k for it (not as much as the article, but still not bad). I backed it and got a few for myself, even though I've kind of settled on my own method for playtesting games, I'll give his a try.

Anyway, his journal serves a specific niche like yours does, so maybe something in there will inspire you to find ways to make your notebook stand out and attract more people to purchase it.


Sounds to me like you want it to be a different product than it is.

I would recommend memset to look at Field Notes[1] for inspiration. They do an amazing job of turning simple ruled notebooks into something desirable.

Some suggestions:

- Make the cover look nicer and more inspiring (like Field Notes), not just plain white paper.

- Find someone who is good at drawing sheet music by hand, to show some really beautiful examples of the product in use for your shop. Again, inspiration.

- The site says you “pored over every detail”. I think you can tell that story better (again, think Field Notes).

1: https://fieldnotesbrand.com/

That's a good idea too. Field Notes do attract the eye.

No, I don't mean that they should change the product necessarily. I think there's value in what they currently have, and said that if I composed music myself, I would probably buy a couple.

But there's nothing wrong with seeing what other people have done and being inspired by them. I am constantly taking in ideas from all over and pairing them against all of my different game designs and story ideas and wondering if those ideas could be used in some way. Maybe seeing that link sparked a "Oh, maybe I could put in a... whatever... scale reference, or common key signatures list, or a box for a version number of the song, or whatever" and adds one extra page to the journal, and advertises it, and sees a 10% increase in sales or something.

I don't really have any desires one way or another in what the product should be. I'm just aware of that other journal, and thought maybe they might find it interesting, and probably aren't aware of it since it's for a different niche field.

You've come this far and IMO may as well throw a bit of money at it to do it justice. Better to know you gave it a better shot than wonder what might have been. I once bought a domain and mocked up wine tasting notepads to see if there was a market for it, then I barely showed anyone and it predictably went nowhere.

I'd get some professional photos done with a couple of musicians as models. Upgrade the site. Set the cheapest pricepoint as $30ish for a three-pack (and maybe a bulk option for schools/teachers?). Then try some Instagram/Facebook advertising either as a one off, or with a $50/wk budget.

Then, after a few weeks, if it's had no traction, make a decision to proceed or bail. But at least you will have given it a bit more effort.

I checked it out, have you considered doing something similar to a diary? To keep aspiring musicians on track with practice, theory, performing etc. I play guitar and find it difficult to commit time to practice and improve. Would love a planner/diary that could help me do that.

I want to second that (also a guitarist with almost zero time on hands). There are so many books, and now apps that help practice, but I don’t know any tools that have helped me keep on track.

Hey memset I'm Tom the Co Founder of Saint Belford. Thanks for your kind words. Your notebook looks great. Certainly worth running some ads at musicians, just target people like yourself if you're the end user of the product. This is all we do for ads at Saint Belford. Best of luck!

I enjoyed reading about how they got started. I loved the fact they were supporting two mental health organizations with donations. Since friend loves this kind of diary-keeping, after I was done reading, I checked out their website with the intention to buy.

Prominently on the home page is an article about using crystals for healing. Ugh.

I don't know if this is intentional, but it really turns me off their brand, and I'm not interested in buying one anymore.

Unfortunately I suspect the majority of the population is far less rational than the average HN user, which is why quack health (or rather, "wellness" these days, likely because their peddlers are trying to avoid legal issues around implications of being medical) bullshit has always been a relatively profitable if not ethical industry. The sad thing is, the average visitor to the site would probably think nothing of it or even believe, whereas you and me both reacted with "Ugh."

> I suspect the majority of the population is far less rational than the average HN user,

You are giving far far far too much credit. Read any mental health, nutrition, or exercise thread on here and you’ll find more woo-woo nonsense than in any healing crystal.

Given "it's good that they're donating to mental health organisations" and "healing crystals are bullshit but profitable", it seems plausible to me that it's net-good to sell healing crystals if it leads to more money donated to mental health organisations.

So you take into account the positive effects of mental health donations but not the negative effects of the promotion of healing crystals. No shit you'll come out ahead.

Promoting bullshit has real costs associated with it. Those bullshit crystals cost people money and don't do anything. People get dumber being convinced to buy them, and will use that dumbness in other parts of life. Promoting a market for delusion and false hope is the last thing anyone needs.

It might be hard to put a precise dollar value on second order effects like these, let alone on things like moral integrity, but that doesn't mean this value isn't there.

There is no shortage of people who will do whatever bullshitting it takes to earn more money, and that's not something to be celebrated regardless of whether it comes with mental health donations or another trendy atonement mechanism.

"So you take into account the positive effects of mental health donations but not the negative effects of the promotion of healing crystals. No shit you'll come out ahead."

Ah, I see how my comment can be read like that.

I don't mean to say "only consider the positives of one and not the negatives of the other". And "the existence of negatives means the thing is negative" would also be a bad way of thinking about it.

The approach ought to be "The benefits should be weighed against the costs".

Yes well everyone has a different idea of what to include in the costs, that's all fluffy and can be twisted to suit whatever result one wants.

Which is why some people choose moral principles that are more rigid. And well scamming people into buying useless rocks is on the wrong side of mine, no matter what moral kickback it's artificially bundled with.

Let's just hope that nobody is forgoing real science-based treatment for these healing crystals, otherwise, we're back to it being a net-negative.

What if it’s mental health organizations that treat mental issues with crystals?

Then the premise of "it's good that they donate to mental health organisations" presumably wouldn't hold.

"That the website does one shady thing makes me suspect other things they're doing are shady" makes sense to me, though.

I would not say it is net-good. Spreading misinformation, pseudoscience is really, really harmful for the society (global warming is being questioned on the base of various "healing crystals"-like arguments, similarly nuclear energy was (and still is) fought using unscientific arguments leading to the unfortunate situation we have now).

Hi rgoulter, I'm Tom, the Co Founder of Saint Belford. We don't actually sell the crystals, this is merely a guest blog post from a local business who do.

sorry, but no mercy for this kind of pseudoscience nonsense.

This take feels like an incarnation of the broken window fallacy to me.

"Broken Window Fallacy" is something like "Breaking Windows is actually good for the economy, because money is spent on repairing windows when it otherwise wouldn't be". (The 'fallacy' is not considering the wider negative impacts).

Sure. "if the negative impact of selling healing crystals outweighs the positive impact of donating to mental health organisations, then it's bad" makes sense to me.

No, the fallacy is that money being spent is good for the economy by itself. It's a neutral action.

Creation of value is good, and breaking a window just to replace it doesn't.

GDP counts money being spent, of course.

Hey shaggyfrog (dope username btw), I'm Tom, the Co Founder of Saint Belford.

Thanks for your kind words about our story and brand, it really means a lot.

Can totally understand the distaste for crystals. We don't actually sell them, this is just a guest blog post from a local brand who do.

Appreciate your feedback.

The crystal article is a guest post by another brand. They don't ever claim that crystals will heal you of any disease. Their brand's purpose is: "the ultimate goal is for you to find your inner voice."

I think for some people, crystals are a frame through which to explore their own intuition and emotional world. Not necessarily a literal concept.

"Diary" in Australian English means "daily planner" or "date book" in U.S. English.

yes, "date book" growth market

Self care is super important. So if this really helps people then more power to them. Though I can't help shake the feeling this is a sell-shovels-to-the-miners kind of market.

Most of California’s gold rush prospectors went home empty-handed. Those who sold the shovels did not.

Samuel Brannan, the shovel guy, died poor and in relative obscurity.

Due to divorce, not unprofitable shovels.

L. Strauss and W. Fargo did okay and they were in the same category.

The wikipedia article says he was a millionaire.

You just reminded me of the Chicken Soup for the Soul series from the 90s that came in the form of self help books and structured diaries. They sold tons. Not sure if the franchise is still around.

Not sure if this is deliberate, but the title misses the How at the beginning compared to the title when you click the link.

Certainly it caught way more attention on my end than it should have. It has to do with the recent news and posts about We Company. I read a lot of them. Somehow my brain got conditioned to look out for We :)

Does anyone else feel it's disengenuous to list the revenue per month for a company less than two years old? It seems like they could saturate a market and then assume that people will keep buying new planners. But how many planners are one time purchases? I think it's presumptuous to think they could maintain the revenue stream without more data.

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