Colin Devroe on a kayak

Everything Colin

A collection of the things that I write, share, make and dream.


Don’t be a startup expert

Great nugget from Paul Graham’s latest piece “Before the Startup”:

The way to succeed in a startup is not to be an expert on startups, but to be an expert on your users and the problem you‘re solving for them.

I see so many “entrepreneurs” that are caught up in the startup culture. That are more concerned with having a startup than with solving a problem. I know I’ve fallen into this trap a few times.

Street View in the future

Google Street View is pretty amazing. Here is the corner of Adams and Spruce in Scranton — the same corner Coalwork is on today and from where I’m writing this post.

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On daily blogging

Lockhard Steele (how does someone have a name that awesome?), on daily blogging:

Harder than it looks. Fell off the wagon hard last week in the depths of Eater bug-crushing. Still trying to find a rhythm to this practice. Typing this while on a conference call (suboptimal).

Agreed. I’ve been super, super busy at work and with our space. Which is excellent. But, it has stopped me from truly being able to publish every single work day (though, I’m close if you count things like Plain Text).

Tom Hickey

Tom Hickey, of Cork Ireland, on his personal blog in a post titled Stop feeling sorry and start living:

I write a blog that’s mainly about my life coming to terms with facial disfigurement. I wanted to share my pain, hopes and dreams, and show you that despite so many setbacks I managed to come out the other side. I’m not perfect, not even close, but I love my life now. Before I met my wife Trish I wouldn’t have said that.
I have been humbled by the reaction to my blog posts. I never realised so many people would get so much from my writing and my experiences, so I’m truly delighted you care to read my posts and respond. It gives me the encouragement I need to keep writing, and to be more open and honest about my experiences. In some small way I hope it helps others.

Tom’s blog is inspirational to all of us and his lessons apply to far more than only those with facial disfigurement. Good on ya Tom.

Shanghai By Mobile

Brandon Page on Storehouse:

This last trip, I put my pro camera down, and ran around the city with my iPhone. This is the first time I have shown this collection outside of Instagram.

Content exclusive to Instagram. I know a few photographers raised their eyebrows at this… however, it appears that the vast majority of Instagram users are doing exactly that; posting stuff only to Instagram.

The number of photos that are uploaded to Instagram and will be walled up there for good is amazing.

Ello deleted

I went from bullish to puzzled, back to bullish, and now downright miffed by the messaging roller coaster that Ello is on.

I think we all want to see someone, anyone, make great things. You know my stance on these things. I say, applaud people that make things. Making things is hard and people won’t get it right much of the time. But I’m so happy that people try.

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Being in the paper

Over the years I’ve been in the paper a few times for various reasons. Mostly good. However, something that I’ve learned is that you never really know how you’re going to be portrayed, what information you provide the writer will use or not use, or how the article will come across to the general public.

So, my advice is this. A newspaper is not your mouth-piece. You need to be actively communicating and refining your message on your own terms. How you do that — a blog, newsletter, Twitter, podcast — is up to you. But do not allow the media, who will slightly bend or twist any story to find an angle that makes it more interesting, to do that messaging for you.

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Clay Shirky on multi-tasking

As if I needed more fodder to convince myself as to why I shut off all notifications on my phone, tablet, and computer. Clay Shirky wrote an excellent piece on Medium about why he has changed his mind and now asks his students to close their laptops and put away their phones.

Here is a bit about multi-tasking:

On top of this, multi-tasking doesn’t even exercise task-switching as a skill. A study from Stanford reports that heavy multi-taskers are worse at choosing which task to focus on. (“They are suckers for irrelevancy”, as Cliff Nass, one of the researchers put it.) Multi-taskers often think they are like gym rats, bulking up their ability to juggle tasks, when in fact they are like alcoholics, degrading their abilities through over-consumption.

I think I’m going to double-down on “distraction free” by attempting to only keep the applications I’m using open and closing all others.

/via Michael Lopp.

Same thing, different day

I agree so hard on this. Brent Simmons:

I took two weeks off of all social networking a few months ago. It was glorious.

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Not an iPad nano

Jason Snell, on his still smells-like-a-new-car blog Six Colors regarding whether or not the iPhone 6 Plus is like a small iPad:

When Apple announced the iPhone 6 Plus on Sept. 9, I entertained the idea that it might be a replacement for my iPad mini. At last, the promise of a single device small enough to fit in my pocket, but big enough to satisfy my productivity needs.
Then I used the iPhone 6 Plus. And while it will have its fans—in fact, I’ll wager that the iPhone 6 Plus will have rabid fans—it’s just not for me, because I wasn’t seeking a bigger iPhone. I was seeking an iPad nano, and that’s not something the iPhone 6 Plus is willing to be.

Since upgrading my iPad 2 (which I love and use daily) to iOS 8 it is a dog. In fact, I’m thinking of downgrading it to iOS 7. Supposedly Apple will be releasing new iPads in October. I’m going to wait until then to make my final decision — but, like Snell, I was hoping the iPhone 6 Plus would give me exactly what he described; one device to fit them all.

But perhaps the iPhone 6 Plus isn’t the device to do it.

Founders Grid Productivity Hacks

It was nice to be included in Founders Grid’s list of productivity hacks. When they asked me what productivity hacks I had for other founders this is what I wrote:

Productivity hacks are a myth. Not that none of the proposed productivity hacks we see every day do not work, just that any of them will work if you simply put them into practice. For example, John Zeratsky, Partner at Google Ventures, recently shared a Post-It hack that helps him get a few things done each day. Essentially it is a to-do list on a piece of paper. It works if you do it. GTD applications, productivity apps, to-do lists, notebooks, mobile applications, synced Reminders via iCloud – all of these work if you simply do them. My advice? Pick anything and do it and you’ll get more done.

Some other great tips are on their site.

The death rattle of old Twitter

Can you hear it? I can.

Read this, as reported on the very great GigaOm:

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Jess Brown takes the challenge

Jess Brown on taking the challenge to write on his blog:

Hopefully my writing will bring an audience and an audience will bring opportunities.

It does and will Jess.

It feels good when people say nice things about your hard work

When people are willing to talk or write about your product it is a good thing. It doesn’t matter if what they write is positive or negative — if they write negatively you can fix the issues they mention and if they write positively you can sit back and smile.

This morning I walked into work and read this post from Pete Ashton about our Barley for WordPress plugin:

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Hashtag ShareRSS

Marco Arment’s comment on his blog a few days ago got me thinking… we should be doing a better job to promote RSS. So here is one way to try doing it.

My RSS feed is

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The longblog

There is so much awesome going on in the resurgence of personal blogging. I can’t stop reading and linking and smiling.

Brent Simmons:

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Writing mostly badly but more often

Elizabeth Spiers, one of the founders of Gawker, on her newly revitalized personal blog:

So in the interest of rejecting later and discriminating less severely, here is my contract with you, the reader: I will write mostly badly and more often. Not so much that either of us want to slit our wrists, but more than I’m doing now. 

Me too.

What blogs were like before it became “professional”

Adam Kuban, who was behind the original New York pizza blog Slice, in an interview by Ben Leventhal:

I miss the early days when you could just get up a post about whatever and just kind of express yourself without really thinking about page views, thinking about SEO, thinking about how it will play on Twitter, if it’s shareable on Facebook … I do miss the sense that you were making it up as you went along.

That is why my challenge to a few people was about “personal” blogging. Not just writing or blogging in general. But about keeping it personal. Quick, only-slightly-edited thoughts published daily.

/via Lockhart Steele.

Listen closely and you’ll learn something

Never take for granted the fact that everyone you meet can teach you something. Here are just a few recent examples of things that I’ve learned in the last few days:

  • Last night, while visiting an older friend (I believe she is 88), I had what was easily the best rice pudding I’ve ever had in my life. To cut down on the need for sugar she added just a few raisons. I’d love to sit with her and watch her make it and write down each step so that this recipe is never lost.
  • Craig Mod, on Twitter, recently linked to this New York Times post about email strategies over the holiday weekend. I thought this tip was insanely powerful: “Anyone who emails them gets an auto-reply saying the employee isn’t in, and offering contact details for an alternate, on-call staff person. Then poof, the incoming email is deleted — so that employees don’t have to return to inboxes engorged with digital missives in their absence.” I’d like to set something up like this so that, when I return from a vacation, I have a relatively empty inbox.
  • Our new Coalwork neighbors have taught me a lot in just the first few days. One thing is that it is OK to rely on your neighbors. Sharing resources, leaving keys and backup plans with each other, and learning who provides the best services such as window cleaning, waste removal, etc. We all work together here. It has been a very welcoming experience.
  • While visiting a friend who lives, works, and part owns Keen Lake Campground I learned how much the environment, laws and regulations of the state, and the passage of time affect their business. This year these factors will likely cost them more than an entire year in revenue to keep their campground open and safe.

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What I did this weekend

Kyle and I spent the weekend setting up the first coworking space in Scranton, PA — Coalwork. We’ve been working on this for over a year. Not just us two but other members of the coworking community such as Nick Semon, Bruno Galvao, Michael O’Boyle, and Joe Casabona. I’m very glad to finally be seeing all of our hard work pay off. We spent the weekend painting, moving in our stuff, and getting ready for this week.

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15 Year Anniversary

Today is my 15th Anniversary. My wife Eliza and I have known each other our entire lives — in fact, her mother was pregnant with her when she visited my mother in the hospital after giving birth to me. So, really, this is like our 33rd or 34th anniversary.

For the first time in many years Eliza has no idea what she is getting as a gift. I’m terrible at giving gifts and even worse at keeping a gifts a secret from her. Usually she knows what she is getting weeks in advance. But not this year.

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Blogging every weekday for 30 days

Who’s in for the challenge? I’ll give it a shot.

Fred Wilson pointed to Lockhart Steele and Elizabeth Spiers. Spiers mentioned trying it for 30 days so I thought that was a good idea.

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My favorite kayaking podcast at is coming back on September 1st. Host Simon Willis:

We have recorded quite a few fascinating chats and the first will be an absolute cracker. The new podcasts start on Monday 1st September. We‘ll hear from Scott Donaldson who spent almost three months in a kayak, paddling 1300 miles across the Tasmanian Sea from Australia to New Zealand - almost.

Looks like a great way to break the hiatus.

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