The rebirth of AskMeEvery

AskMeEveryAskMeEvery is simple tool to help bring you daily accountability for whatever task you need. You simply setup a question, and it emails you that question every day. It’s as simple as replying to an email. All of your replies are stored and graphed to show your progress.

I’ve been using it for nearly a year, and it’s been incredibly helpful for me to stay focused during Loose Leaf development. Every evening I ask myself two questions: “What did you accomplish today?” and “What do you want to accomplish tomorrow?” Two narrow questions focused on getting things done and moving forward. It’s helped me immensely to focus on small completable tasks that move me toward my goal of launching Loose Leaf.

Indie dev can be a lonely road, and it’s encouraging to look back through the month and read my responses for what I was able to accomplish. It’s admittedly not always what I’d planned to accomplish, but I do see how I moved through the surprise obstacles and stayed focused, which is rewarding and encouraging.

The Transition

Quite a few weeks ago, the current owners of AskMeEvery posted that they’d need to shut down the service – it was simply draining more money than it pulled in and couldn’t survive any longer. I immediately started talking to them to try and find a way to keep the service running. In the end, we all decided that I should take over the service and keep moving it forward. I just got all of the server keys and passwords last week, and am starting to move through the code and plan out next steps.

User registration is back open, all of the services are reviewed and up and running, and I’m working out a long term plan to keep AskMeEvery open for the foreseeable future.

Goals

Right now, the service is spending quite a bit more than it’s taking in through the paid SMS upgrade, and priority one will be to find ways to both cut costs and increase revenue. More than anything I want this to be a site that can survive on its own weight.

I also will be talking with other current users to find out how they use AskMeEvery and how its helped them form new habits and break bad ones. One thing that I appreciated immediately about AskMeEvery is broad appeal. The fuzziness affording with simple text replies to questions lets it solve ‘self-tracking’ in an approachable way. I want to double down on making it easy for anyone to track and stay accountable to their own goals, without needing to spreadsheet 4 different trackers’ data.

Thanks

I want to send a huge thanks to Mark and Eugene who have run the site for the past few years, and a thanks to all of the people who’ve helped them as well. It’s a fantastic service that has helped me and I know has helped many others accomplish their goals and stay focused. And a huge thanks to the AskMeEvery community who’s stayed on board with the service through the transition – I’m excited about where Mark and Eugene have brought us, and where we can take AskMeEvery in the coming months and years!

A “shortcut” for multiplying any two numbers

I ran into something interesting when working last night that wasn’t immediately obvious to me at first. It’s an alternate way to calculate the product of any two numbers.

I first noticed something was going on when I squared a number and then compared it to the product of numbers on either side of the original number:

5 * 5 = 25
6 * 4 = 24 (1 from 25)
7 * 3 = 21 (3 from 24)
8 * 2 = 16 (5 from 21)
9 * 1 = 9  (7 from 16)

If you subtract each result from the one before it, you see the series: 1, 3, 5, 7. “That’s interesting, I’m increasing the distance between the two numbers, and the result keeps changing by 2 also, I wonder if there’s something to that. Maybe I just got lucky, and this is something odd about 5*5 in particular. So I tried the same process, but started with 6*6, or 8*8 and got the same result.

Next, instead of looking at the difference in values from the product before it, I decided to check what the value would be compared to the original square of their average.

5 * 5 = 25 (the average, base case)
6 * 4 = 24 (1 from average)
7 * 3 = 21 (4 from average)
8 * 2 = 16 (9 from average)
9 * 1 = 9 (16 from average)

Now that’s interesting! The result of two seemingly unrelated numbers, 7 and 3 for instance, is a perfect square away from the square of the two numbers’ average.

So at this point, I have the theory that:

x * y = average(x,y)^2 - someOtherSquareRelatedTo(x,y)

Looking at the 8*2 example, i notice that they’re 9 away from 25, or 32. The average of 8 and 2 is 5, so both 8 and 2 are a distance of 3 away from 5. So that’d give the formula:

x * y = average(x,y)^2 - (average(x,y) - min(x,y))^2

If I expanded that out, then that’d result in:

x * y = average(x,y)^2 - 
       (average(x,y)^2 - 2*average(x,y)*min(x,y) + min(x,y)^2)

which simplifies to:

x * y = 2*average(x,y)*min(x,y) - min(x,y)^2

That looks just crazy to me. Maybe I’m missing something, but that’s just not obvious to me at all when I think about arbitrary x and y. I set up a script here just to double check and run the numbers, and sure enough it works out. Even for fractions and negative x and/or y.

Did I miss this lesson in school? I feel proud that I’ve figured this out, and usually when I feel like this it means I’ve missed something super obvious :D.

Great talks and coffee at AltConf

eaf1ca963806147642c96f7463349f83Lots of really great stuff at AltConf this year. I wasn’t lucky enough to get a raffled badge for WWDC, but I’m very glad I was still able to come and hang out at AltConf and meet some new people. Already, this week has been a huge inspiration to get Loose Leaf done and shipped. Being surrounded by folks who are churning on really cool projects rubs off on you. This year, AltConf is hosting its lab sessions at its 2nd location, and it’s been great to spend some time each afternoon coding hard and combing through all the Apple announcements in a crowded room of other folks doing the same thing: like we’re all racing to know all the things.

Besides coding and the labs, I’ve really enjoyed the talks. Two in particular I’ll link to here, but all of the ones I’ve been to have been awesome. Sofia Dvoynos gave a great talk about marketing apps. All the usual suspects were mentioned: planning, email campaigns, keywords, etc, but what set this apart and really helped me out was the concrete examples and references to help get all that done. Everyone knows competitive analysis is important, but she was good enough to link to the xls she uses to research and compare – awesome stuff. Watch her talk below:

Sofia Dvoynos: From Zero to Marketing in 7 days

Also great was Carla White’s inspirational talk. She gave a refreshing talk about how to truly make your app better, and that’s to make sure to take time for the things that matter: being purposefully and specifically grateful of others and giving back however you can. It’s more than I’ll summarize in a small paragraph, please do take the ~30m and watch it.

Outside the conference, I’ve also made some good headway on a personal goal: drink as much good coffee as I can! So far I’ve visited Chrome, Blue Bottle, and Workshop Cafe, and I expect to visit many more shops throughout the week. All in all a fun week! I highly recommend watching the AltConf speakers presentations here: http://www.altconf.com/speakers/ – lots of good stuff going on.

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