Road Trip 2011

There is just something about driving a car alone for hours that I LOVE. Ever since my first solo cross country trip out to Vegas, I have been making a lot of time for road trips. I pack the car with hours of music and audio books to read and just go. It really clears my head and get’s me thinking about the important stuff. It forces me to get the hell away from a computer for a while and really think about the next few months and what I want to accomplish. Any excuse I have for a road tip, I take.

I have been going out west on a ski trip this time of year ever since I graduated from college (for the last 6 years or so). Since I work from home now, I decided to start making it a road trip, driving to different parts of the mountains to visit friends and hit the slopes. Tomorrow will be the start of my second annual trip out west and I hope to keep up the tradition.

Of course this isn’t a three week vacation Per se. “Real” vacations went out the door as soon as I decided to leave my full time job and start working for myself. Working for myself means I’ll still be making time to write blog posts, answer Emails, do tutorials, put out new iPhone apps, do live shows, comment on the facebook page and do everything to made this business run. There is nobody else to do it for me. But of course, that’s ok. I LIKE doing that stuff. I’ll just have to do it in between ski days and driving days.

This Year’s Route

A: Chicago, IL
B: Big Sky, MT
C: Jackson Hole WY
D: Salt Lake City, UT
E: Denver, CO
F: Chicago, IL

Books and Podcasts I will be reading and re-reading this trip

Linchpin by Seth Godin
Catching up on This Week In Startups
Philosophers notes Volume 2
Re-listening to “Back To Work” – My favorite new podcast.
The Wayne Dyer Audio Collection

Oh yeah, I will be posting photos and stuff throughout the trip. You can follow me on Posterous or Flickr if you want to see where I am and what I am doing on the trip. Also, I may have time to schedule a meet-up in SLC and Denver. So if you are in the area, make sure to watch facebook or twitter for more info. Hope to see you there!

Dealing With Negative Feedback. A Story Of ShakeItPhoto 1.3

When products or software change, many people get upset. They want it back “the old way”. Most of the time, they get over it. After a week, you get used to the changes and the world moves forward with a better product and happy customers that realize that the change is for the best.

This was NOT the case with a recent update for my iPhone app ShakeItPhoto.

The Big Update

Version 1.3 was a big, much needed update for ShakeItPhoto. The graphics had to be redone for the Retina Display, we added the ability to process larger photos due the the iPhone 4’s five megapixel camera, and we added sharing features so you can send your photos directly to facebook and email though the app. In the excitement, I decided to also update the look a bit to make it look more like a real instant photo. I’ve always liked the look of ShakeItPhoto, but I felt it was time to update it a bit. It was a subtle change, but one I was excited about.

Well, when version 1.3 finally came out, the customers let us know very quickly that they did not like the new look. At first I thought this may be a good time to relax and give people a week to get used to the new look. I was wrong. After a lot of feedback and questions, I realized that our customers were actually saying that the new look isn’t bad, it’s just not the ShakeItPhoto they know and love. Sure, some people loved the new look. New customers had never seen the “Old Look” and were happy with it. But the overwhelming majority were not happy and they let us know though e-mails, reviews and one star App Store ratings. Our best customers had books, daily photo sites and huge projects all being made with ShakeItPhoto. We changed the core functionality of their favorite app and they were not happy.

Completely Changed the processing style that made ShakeItPhoto a great app without warning in the update notes. Photos now look washed out and low contrast with no option for original processing. Huge Letdown. – ScotScott

Lesson learned – Don’t change the formula of something that people love. We had a “New Coke” moment, and it needed to be changed back.

But this is My app, Not Yours

Here is the hardest part. I build apps that I love to use and want to use. I really enjoyed the new updated look and assumed everyone else would too. This was MY app, MY vision! I’m not gonna let a couple of loud complainers change my app, right? Besides, people can find any excuse to complain about a any new update. Making a decision like this was tough for me. Was the customer really right this time? Thinking though it all, I decided they were. I made a selfish decision that effected most of our most loyal customers and it needed to be changed.

The Aftermath

I quickly decided to go ahead and change it back to what we now refer to as “ShakeItPhoto Classic” in version 1.4. I responded with a video over the weekend to let everyone know our decision and to explain our thoughts about why we did what we did. Video is a great way to show people that it’s just me in a room trying to make the best decisions I can to make great applications. Sometimes for customers, it’s easy to think that a company is a soulless corporation just out to make a buck. By talking candidly on video, without a script, I can really talk directly to your customers in a really cool way that isn’t possible though text.

A Passionate Community

The most valuable part of this entire process was the feedback we got from our community. We listened to the problem, quickly made a decision. and It worked. Did we make everyone happy? Definitely not. But we showed that we are listening and the community responded with great feedback, reviews, articles and tons of praise on how we handled the situation even if they did like the new look.

Having customers act this passionately about our products, even with negative feedback, is the most valuable thing we have as a company. Apps live off of word of mouth. The worst thing that could have happened would be if nobody said a thing.

Your Twenty Four Hours

Everyone has the same amount of hours in their day. I promise. People insist that I have a secret formula or some sort of flux capacitor, space time continuum secret that allows me more time to get so much accomplished. Getting what you want done is simple really. Decide what is important and make time to do it.

I don’t watch movies, watch TV, or play fake plastic guitar video games (try pinball instead). I don’t keep up with 100 blogs or read the entire newspaper every day. Those things just aren’t that important to me. Instead, I think about what I want to get accomplished in my life, set deadlines to do it and be sure to hit them no matter what.

Try this. Set a timer to go off once every hour. When that timer beeps, ask yourself “Is what I am doing right now important?” If it is, continue. If not, stop what you were doing and put your twenty four hours into something that matters.

Campbell & Monson and The Art Of “Deadline Projects”

My buddy Benny and I wanted to play and write more music this year together. So, in true Nick style, another project was born based on simple short goals and the practice of announced deadlines. I seem to thrive on these lately.

These are the rules. Write, practice, perform, and record one song per month for the entire year of 2011. One continuous take, shot on video. The song is posted on a site at the end of every month.

So far it worked. January 31st is here and we posted the first song on a site made for the project called Campbell & Monson.

Why Do These Projects Work So Well?

These simple yet strict deadline based projects always work for me. I posted a photo per day for 3 years straight based on this type of project. I think that it’s the strict rules and removal of unnecessarily complications and annoyances that keep my mind focused on what really matters. Here are some examples from this latest project.

1. There is no recording studio or software where I can get lost in a sea of unlimited overdubs, presets and reverb types. Just one continuous take performed live on camera.

2. There are only two of us. No need to worry about writing a bunch of different parts. Besides, if the song isn’t any good on a couple of instruments, then the song just isn’t that good to begin with.

3. No pressure to be great or write the next hit. Just write and perform the best song we can every month and move on.

4. Time is limited. The song has to be ready to perform in 30 days. We don’t have time for little arguments, details, and flourishes. There is only time for what is most important, the song.

Fun and Iteration

Making it exciting and iterating quickly are the real secrets to these types of projects. Set short strict deadlines, remove anything that gives you anxiety to get started, and add elements to make it more fun. The only hard part left to do is post over and over again. Anyone can write one blog post, take one photo, or create one drawing. The hard part is doing it once a week for four years, and that is exactly how you get better at what you are doing. Trust me, it will get easier. Once it is part of a habit, your natural state will be posting on time, not stalling and procrastinating.