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Beginning now, Sett is going into maintenance mode. Todd won't be working on it anymore, except to help me fix the occasional bug on parts he built, and I will work on it as a side project, mostly fixing bugs.
Before I talk about some of the upsides of this decision, I want to acknowledge unequivocally that we have failed. More specifically, I think that our failures were those of strategy, particularly early on, and I take responsibility for those personally.
We had hoped that Sett would become a major blogging platform and would have either made enough money to sustain itself, or that it would be purchased by a larger company and that we could work with their resources to make it even better. We also hoped that we'd be successful in converting many big bloggers to it. In the end we failed at all of those things.
We knew that we could build a better blogging platform, at least for many bloggers, but we completely underestimated what it takes to get people to switch. For most bloggers to switch, it has to be exponentially better, because the hassle, or perceived hassle, of switching is huge. For most people we aren't exponentially better, and even for those we are, we have failed to communicate that effectively.
At the same time, I'm very proud of the product we built. When making the decision between maintaining Sett and transitioning people off, I thought of what I'd want as a blogger. For my needs, Sett is leagues better than the next blogging platform, so I'm unwilling to switch. The fact that two guys can build a blogging platform that can reasonably be compared with dominant players like Wordpress, Medium, and Tumblr is something I take a lot of pride in.
And I'm proud that we took a big shot. We tackled a huge market and did some really innovative stuff in it. It's a lot scarier to do that than it is to make a gimmicky me-too app.
I'm also proud of myself for working so hard on it. I haven't been perfect by any measure, but my level of output and dedication towards Sett was an order of magnitude better than I've ever done before.
It's cliche, but I've learned an extraordinary amount from this experience. The breadth of my technical knowledge is now pretty substantial. There's no way to get that knowledge other than hands-on experience.
I've also learned a lot about myself, and will approach my next startup completely differently. I have a lot to write about this, so I'll share this in a separate post later.
And the timing is quite good. I'm ready for a change, and I'm planning on getting back into dating for WifeQuest 9000, which begins in just a couple weeks. I have ideas for two more books which I'd like to write. I now have time to get CruiseSheet to the next level. The Vegas condo will require some time, as will the island.
I'm planning on taking six months off to work on those things and think a lot about what I want to do next. I have a few ideas, and I have a lot of ideas on how it should be different than what I have been doing.
I want to thank everyone for being a part of Sett. First, Todd, for putting in a tremendous amount of great work, and for sticking with it for so long. Besides being an amazing friend, he's a great person to work with.
Next, DROdio and Sebastian Marshall. They were the two who really took a big risk with us, and dealt with Sett when it was most buggy. They both contributed enormous amounts of feedback and help for which I'm extraordinarily grateful.
I'd also like to thank my family and friends for supporting us and, in several cases, offering to invest money. I'm now glad we didn't take that money, but the offers meant a lot to us. And last, I want to thank you, my readers. You also put up with Sett when it was really buggy, and you were the first to sign up for accounts and put it through its paces.
I'm looking forward to continuing to blog on Sett, to move on to new projects, and to share them with you. Again, thanks for all of your support with Sett, and I'm sorry to those whom this decision will disappoint.
Photo is a section of Prague from above.
If you want a free Sett account, sign up soon. One of the first changes I'm going to make is to make the lowest account cost something so that I don't have to deal with spammers anymore.
I lost a couple items on my packing list, so there's going to be a little delay while I replace them. I promise the gear list will be done by Christmas.
Glasses clinked and spoons rattled against porcelain as we sat in a backstreet cafe in Tokyo. Our table was three chairs one one side and a low couch on the other.
Across from me was Jimmy. We met a couple years ago because a mutual friend moved to Jimmy's town in New Zealand. He introduced us over email and we became fast friends. Right of him was John, who I met a few days ago through Jimmy and had already bonded with over standup sushi and plans to buy a cruise ship. To my right were Adrienne, a 21 year old who keeps a fascinating journal of plans. We met briefly at Karaoke six months ago, and then got to know each other on the cruise. And at the end of the table were Chris and his girlfriend Kaori. I met Chris by random chance, having shared an apartment with a mutual friend seven years ago. It just so happens he's also friends with Jimmy.
That's about half of my social circle in Japan, at least right now. Only Chris and Kaori actually live here.
It's strange, having this ephemeral group of friends. Most will be my friends forever probably, but maybe that's the only time we'll convene in that particular group. It's not like Friends on TV where it's the same gang every episode.
Most of us, especially people like you who have come to read this blog, value freedom. And not the corndog and bald eagle variety, but the ability to make a wide range of decisions that affect the outcome of one's life.
Freedom may not be everything; the single billionaire can do almost anything he likes, but can still be unhappy. It is something, though, and it's a big part of a good life.
Debt is the opposite of freedom. It binds, controls, and looms. It's the monster standing between you and freedom, growing slightly bigger every day thanks to the wonders of compounding interest. It's easy to think of debt as "just money", but I've seen how it affects people. Its reach extends beyond the ledger.
There are two types of debt that are often worth taking on. One is operational debt. You have an opportunity that's going to make you $1000, but you need $500 more to make it happen. So you borrow the money, make your profit, and pay it back. That's a simple and unlikely example, but more complicated versions of this are common in business.
I'm a natural maximizer. Whenever I do something, my natural inclination is to go all the way. For example, I travel comfortably and productively with just one bag that weighs less than ten pounds. My RV has become almost comical, with marble and wood floors, gold leaf, and advanced security and automation systems.
The pitfall of being a maximizer, though, is that you're unlikely to have the time or resources to maximize everything.
I'm in the process of buying a condo in Vegas right now. I could tell you exactly what I'm looking for, because I found it. There was a perfect condo that had the exact type of layout I wanted, was the right size, and had the right parking. I rushed to get an agent and told him I wanted to make a full price offer during our first conversation.
Since I was in Vienna at the time, he visited the property for me and told me the bad news. There was a ton of water damage and an accepted offer came in an hour or two prior anyway.
Sometimes I would be in my own little world. I remember, as a kid, helping my dad with projects, and he would say that I was oblivious to what was going on around me. He'd be waiting for me to hand him a hammer, but I'd be staring off at something else. And then, around that same time, I took scuba diving lessons. My instructor cautioned me that I was so unaware of my surroundings that I might get into a dangerous situation.
That's when I became aware that I was oblivious. All that I perceived wasn't necessarily all that there was. I became more introspective and determined to be more aware of what was going around me. Eventually that pursuit of awareness extended to myself. That was the hard part. It's easy to make a habit of looking around to see what others are doing and intuit what they need, but it's a lot harder to become self-aware. The shadow of our egos can hide a lot.
It's hard to know how you're perceived, because a true mirror doesn't exist in others. Their feedback comes warped like a circus mirror, hiding some deficiencies and strengths, while highlighting others. Not being aware of strengths is a handicap, but not being aware of faults is critically dangerous. I've seen plenty of people who have no good friends, and it's all because of how they act. Not integral parts of who they are, but unconscious mannerisms and habits that drive others away.
I once read somewhere that we criticize in others those deficiencies which we share. If I think someone's annoying and hogs the spotlight, maybe it's because they're diverting that spotlight from me. If I don't like how someone is sarcastic, maybe it's my own sarcasm that they're reflecting back.
A while back I watched some of the debate between Bill Nye and Ken Ham, a firmly entrenched creationist. The debate was mostly hilarious and mind-boggling, but one question really stood out to me. Someone asked each of them, what, if anything, could change their mind. Bill Nye said anything-- any shred of evidence that "divine" creation may have occurred. Ken said nothing. He admitted that there was no possible way he would ever change his mind.
Whether you believe the insanity of creation or not, it should alarm you that he had a belief he was not willing to change under any circumstances. It's one thing to have a lot of confidence and admit that the bar of proof would have to be very high, but it's another to openly admit that you would choose to ignore reason.
That made me think a lot about how we approach life outside religion. There are some things that we are very willing to change our minds on, some that we'd be reluctant to, and in some cases, some that we would almost never change our minds on.
For example, I think that Chipotle makes a great burrito bowl. I'm crazy about Chipotle. But if you told me that the place next door is even better, I'd be totally open to trying it and quite possibly conceding that it's better.
I think that gratitude is an essential part of a good life. If you don't appreciate the people, places, and things that make up your life, you don't have much motivation do anything. I feel the weight of gratitude every day. Many times a day I think of how fortunate I am to be where I am, and how so much of that is due to other people. I can't write that post every day, but I think I can get away with it on Thanksgiving.
I'm most thankful for my family and friends. The two categories of people are intertwined because I feel like I'm best friends with many of my family members, and that many of my friends are so close they may as well be family. Genetics make clear lines, but in real life they're one big group of people I love.
I traveled with a lot of friends this year, and I'm particularly grateful for that. Sharing my favorite places around the world and discovering new ones with friends are among my favorite things in the world. I'm very fortunate to be able to do a lot of that.
I made only a few new friends this year, but I feel like I became closer with a lot of friends, often as a result of traveling together.
My stepfather was talking today about a friend of his who is a competitive arm-wrestler. That reminded me of something I'd tell people, back in high school: that I'd only won two arm-wrestling matches in my life, and both were against girls. The implication was that I was very weak.
I took a weird sense of pride in saying that, and I can't really imagine why. Maybe it was a sour-grapes variety of defense mechanism.
I've noticed that I still do this today with my sense of direction. The truth is that I don't have a very good sense of direction, but I find that I bring it up at times where it's not necessary. Why? I don't really know. It's like self-deprecating humor that isn't that funny.
Making these sorts of comments implies that it's cool to be bad at things. Kids in school pretend to be bad at math, because they think that's cool. I don't think it's cool to be bad at anything. It's okay to be bad at things, but it's perverse to take a sense of pride in that.
My friend Leo suggested once that I write a post about how I make decisions. Since then I've been waiting for the right moment, one where I made a large decision in a very short amount of time. That happened today, when I decided to move to Las Vegas.
From time to time I check real estate prices in Detroit or Las Vegas. They're the two major US cities I'm aware of that were disproportionately crippled by the housing crash. Detroit more so, but it's cold up there and I've never been, so buying a house there isn't just fantasy.
On the other hand, I go to Vegas all the time, so I'm familiar with it. I like to play poker there, I have a handful of friends there, and I've been frequently enough that I have a bunch of favorite haunts. The Ethiopian restaurants are amazing.
Last night, after work, I spent half an hour looking at condos and townhouses for sale. In case you don't have this particular hobby, there are lots of condos in Las Vegas that are under $75k. The mortgage on one of these things would be less than $300.
There's a concept called Radical Honesty that was made popular by a book with the same name. The idea was that you were to be not only completely honest, but also completely forthcoming. If you met someone and they reminded you of Jabba the Hut, you'd be obliged to tell them so immediately.
It may not surprise you that this hasn't caught on. Besides being unpleasant for just about everyone, it's incredibly scary and difficult to do. I considered trying it, but balked. That's not to say that everything is bad about it, though. Telling the truth is the right thing to do in nearly every case, and there's something to be said for being forthcoming.
And there's something universally appealing about that sort of social freedom, even if not taken to its unpleasant extreme. How many among us haven't had to suppress the urge to tell someone just how heads-over-heels we are way before that's an appropriate thing to say?
A friend and I were talking about this recently. She told me a story about a guy she was involved with. She would text him a dozen times in a row and receive only a short response in return. They would make plans, and he would break them. I thought that I was going to have to deliver the whole, "he's just not that into you" speech, when she hit me with a surprise. When they finally did meet up, she told me, he was going on and on about how much he liked her and how glad he was that she was part of his life.