Monday, February 4

✔️ How I learned JavaScript by studying source code of Basecamp... and how I keep learning programming by studying code written by others...

Recently DHH of Basecamp wrote on their blog about the importance of being able to view the source code and learn from it. I totally agree with that... and in the spirit of 12 years of Nozbe and the last episode of The Podcast I’d like to share here a story how I actually learned JavaScript by studying their source code years ago. Here goes:

How I learned JavaScript by studying source code of Basecamp... and how I keep learning programming by studying code written by others...

I built the first version of Nozbe in 2005... with no JavaScript

I built Nozbe because I needed to get organized. So after reading Getting Things Done by David Allen (Amazon|Audible) I built a quick tool to get organized over a weekend. It was a very simple web application, but the problem was, when I marked a task as done, I’d have to “save” the page and reload it. Yes, that’s how basic it was... but luckily I was the only user...

Enter Backpack, a tool by 37signals (now Basecamp)

A few months later I came across Backpack, a tool that the crew behind Basecamp built. I signed up for it and I fell in love with its simplicity and most of all, I was amazed that the pages there didn’t reload. I marked a task as “done” and it instantly became “done”. I loved it. They were using this new technology which in 2005 was called “AJAX”.

While I loved the Backpack I still preferred my own tool because it was structured a little differently and more focused on “getting things done”... so I started viewing the source code of Backpack and learning from it. This is how I learned the basics of AJAX, JavaScript (with Prototype.js) and much more.

Monday, January 21

😎 Nobody’s perfect from the beginning

As mentioned on our last episode of The Podcast, recently in Nozbe team we introduced “salary formula” - a way to calculate salaries for all of our team members. In one of the future episodes we’ll discuss the formula in more depth, but today I want to focus on one aspect of it - level of growth - and why this ingredient of the salary is supposed to stimulate our team members to keep growing and developing themselves - just like the BMW 5 series... and unlike Lada:

Nobody’s perfect from the beginning

Nobody is perfect from the beginning - we all need to keep growing

When you’re leading a team of people, it’s important to let everyone know that you don’t want “Ladas” on your team - meaning people who think are perfect and they don’t need to grow.

The above meme is really cool as you can see how BMW 5 series kept evolving over the years, kept iterating, kept improving... while still remaining a mid-size sedan that it’s always been.

Now, how this translates to personal growth? Glad you asked:

Wednesday, January 9

✔️ 2018 review - an ongoing personal and business development

Now that 2018 is over and 2019 is upon us... and I’m already 2/3 in doing my annual review, it’s time for a post summarizing the last year for me. I’ve done similar posts about 2017, 2016, 2015, 2014 and 2013... and they mostly serve me as a reminder how things went, but I hope that they also bring value to you - so here goes:

2018 review - an ongoing personal and business development

Overall it’s been a great year with lots of new things happening

This year was very interesting. Lots of travels. Lots of new feelings running my company and quite a few public appearances. And lots of fun in the process. Here’s the complete list of learnings from 2018:

Friday, January 4

🎉 Having Nozbe featured as “App of the day” on the Apple App Store is great!

I’ve been running Nozbe for almost 12 years now and we’ve had our app on both the iOS and the Mac App Stores for many years as well. We’ve been doing everything we could to create the best app we could for our users... and to get more of them, we were hoping to also get noticed by Apple editors and get featured. Today was a very significant step - Nozbe became the “App of the Day” on many local App Stores:

Having Nozbe featured as “App of the day” on the Apple App Store is great!

On Friday, January 4 Nozbe was “App of the Day” in 127 countries, including:

  • Russia 🇷🇺
  • Germany 🇩🇪
  • Canada 🇨🇦
  • France 🇫🇷
  • India 🇮🇳
  • Italy 🇮🇹
  • Turkey 🇹🇷
  • Spain
  • Poland 🇵🇱
  • Norway 🇳🇴
  • Netherlands 🇳🇱
  • Denmark 🇩🇰
  • Romania 🇷🇴
  • ...and in a total of 127 countries all over the world!

Why is this a big deal?

Well, being the “app of the day” is being singled out as the one-and-only app for today. You basically open the App Store app on the iPhone or iPad, and there it is - the game of the day and the app of the day.

It’s a dream come true for any app developer. Not to be only appreciated by the users (more than 0.5M at Nozbe and counting!) and customers, but to also be noticed by Apple.

Having Nozbe featured as “App of the day” on the Apple App Store is great!

One in a Million? Better: One in 2 Million!

Seriously, being singled out as the app for this one day out of the entire App Store catalog of more than 2 Million apps is really a big deal!

So what I’ve learned from all this?

Well, that patience really pays off. We’ve been featured in many markets and hopefully we’ll be featured even more - and that we should just keep doing what we’re doing and we will eventually get noticed.

Also, it’s perfect timing, because it’s January and you should not only do your annual review, but also think about everything you want to get done this year.

Forget New Year’s Resolutions - just get Nozbe (as Apple suggests) and create a project for each “resolution” and add tasks that will help you achieve it... and track it all weekly. That’s all there’s to it.

It’s not rocket science. I know you can do this! Happy New Year!

(And I’m now taking a moment to celebrate this small victory... and sending big kudos to my entire Nozbe team - thanks for the privilege of working with you every single day!)

P.S. Post written on January 4, but updated on January 14 to reflect that we were featured not in just a few countries, but in 127 of them... here are the most popular ones:

Having Nozbe featured as “App of the day” on the Apple App Store is great!

Tuesday, December 11, 2018

🏭 Stock market doesn’t make any sense to me as Microsoft is more valuable than Apple...

This has been an interesting year. Apple was the first company to break the 1 trillion dollar valuation at one point... but now as they’ve plateaued with iPhone unit sales and announced that they will no longer be publishing the quantity of headsets sold... their stock literally plummeted from above $220 to $169 today and the best part is that now Microsoft is worth more than Apple. Why? Well... I honestly don’t get it...

Stock market doesn’t make any sense to me as Microsoft is more valuable than Apple...

I’ll never understand the stock market...

Let’s start with a disclaimer: I own quite a few units of Apple stock and I use Apple devices daily, so I’m obviously emotionally involved here.

Here’t the proof: I just bought the new iPhone XS, the new iPad Pro 11” and the new Apple Watch series 4... so their products obviously don’t suck...

Yet there’s a question of growth... Apple, apparently is doomed as they’re not going to sell as many iPhones as they should be, right?

Microsoft more valuable than Apple? Are you kidding me?

When I heard about it (and this situation stands today as you can see from the screenshot above), I tweeted this:

… and with that we’ve decided to drop all iOS and Mac related projects at @Nozbe and focus entirely on the world’s dominant mobile platform: Windows Phone! …. oh wait… 🤔

Exactly! Microsoft is losing on so many fronts - it lost the mobile war (there is no Windows Phone anymore), they’re struggling with tablets (with Surface products) and they’re dependent on Intel - who’s struggling making processors these days. They’re just milking the cow thanks to Microsoft Office 365 platform... which I honestly don’t use anymore...

Whereas Apple’s iPhone is one of the two dominant mobile platforms, they’re kicking Intel’s ass with ARM-based A-series chips and soon they’ll be releasing Macs with these processors, they’ve got the dominant tablet with the iPad and the dominant fitness tracker with the Apple Watch... and their recurring services revenue is soaring.

Where’s the logic here? What gives?

Luckily Nozbe is not on a stock exchange and won’t be!

I really don’t get the stock market. I won’t be buying any more stock, I’ll just keep the Apple Stock I have and that’s it.

I don’t think I’d ever want to run a public company.

Even if Nozbe is 100 times more successful than now I’ll keep Nozbe private because answering to the investors who apparently are driven by some strange kind of sentiment doesn’t sound like lots of fun. And doesn’t bring value to the actual users!

Anyway. There’s no conclusion here. I’m just really confused about all this.

“You have to understand, that the financial markets are driven by sentiment”...

It’s like in this sketch about the financial crisis - which still holds up pretty well:

Thursday, November 29, 2018

🏭 Why I find joy in programming even though I don’t get to code much these days

With the passing years in business (and it’s been almost 12 years since I started Nozbe!) I realize that one of the keys to a long term success is to keep finding these small moments of joy in your work... and recently I found it back in programming... back in tinkering with code... here’s why:

Why I find joy in programming even though I don’t get to code much these days

I miss coding... just like I miss building lego blocks...

I’m a self-taught programmer. I’m a geek. I managed to learn programming enough to be able to code the very first version of Nozbe which launched back in 2007.

Now I don’t code anymore, I hired programmers who are much better than me... so they won’t let me contribute to Nozbe code base... which makes sense - as the CEO of Nozbe I should be focused on leading the team, and not writing code.

But I still like coding... and I miss coding from time to time. To me, coding is like playing with Lego blocks - you put a few things together and suddenly they become a new thing. A new invention.

Just like I built a dice web app on my iPhone few years back

Recently I got to code again!

Yes, over the last few weeks for some internal purposes I had a chance of putting my skills into building some small HTML sites as well as JS and PHP scripts. It was so much fun! I got to play with all the technologies I used to be so familiar with.

And the best part, I got to do it all on both the iPhone and the new iPad Pro:

  • using Textastic to code - this app is amazing!
  • using Working Copy to push stuff to GitHub
  • using Stack Overflow to find answers for questions - this is an amazing resource - I don’t know how I managed to build Nozbe back in the day without it... now life is so much easier.
  • using Siri Shortcuts to build some additional scripts that help me get stuff done faster

What I really liked about these challenges is that they helped me think both as the CEO (thinking of processes we need to put into place) and as the programmer who’s tinkering with code... and when I didn’t know something, I could always ask my talented team for help.

Now I’m trying to teach my daughter to code :-)

On the weekends I spend coding in Swift Playgrounds with my 9-year old daughter. She loves the challenges and I love passing on to her my passion for building stuff using code.

Tuesday, November 27, 2018

✔️ Would you pay 20 cents per day for increased productivity?

Today I had a fascinating conversation with one of our Nozbe business customers about pricing and how before buying Nozbe they analyzed the price/value ratio of it:

Would you pay 20 cents per day for increased productivity?

Pricing for business users vs consumers - how we developed our pricing model...

In the past few years we’ve been gradually pivoting Nozbe from a consumer-focused GTD app to a productivity tool for teams and businesses.

Pricing a product like Nozbe is tricky. Actually pricing anything is tricky.

When Nozbe launched back in 2007, there was just a price for one user with several tiers based on how many projects one can have active. Later we’d give unlimited projects and create tiers based on how many users our customers could add.

When we launched Nozbe 3 we went down to two tiers - Pro and Business with different cost of additional users per account. It was a little messy.

A year ago we introduced our current pricing where we have tiers back, based on how many users people have on their team: 1, 2, 4, 6, 8, 10, 15, 20, 30, 50, 100 or unlimited...

Pricing based on value or features? How much is your productivity worth?

Now the question is:

if you’re running a team of say, 19 people and you want your team to get more organized, effective and productive - how much are you willing to spend on that?

This is exactly what I talked about with one of my customers earlier today. They are an IT company and they bought Nozbe business plan for up to 20 people for a full year and they explained to me how they finally came to that decision. It was fascinating and eye-opening.

They said they tried out Nozbe for a few weeks, decided they loved the interface, loved how it helped them get organized and wanted to get all in. Then they looked at the price tag:

  • Nozbe Business for up to 20 people: $1536 US dollars for a year

Holy smokes! One and a half grand for an app?! Isn’t that too much?... But then they checked:

  • It comes down to only $128 per month

OK, not that bad... A little over hundred bucks per month... but they kept going:

  • When you divide it, it’s less than $7 per employee per month

That’s right, it’s like 2 cups of coffee... and usually people don’t drink this in a month, they drink this in a day... so it’s actually pretty reasonable... so speaking of days:

  • Daily, it’s actually a little over 20 cents per employee per day

Now they stopped:

Seriously? Are we even debating this? We know this software works for our people so their productivity gains and thus the overall increased efficiency of our team is worth much more than 20 cents per day, right? I mean 20 cents is virtually nothing. It doesn’t compare to anything our employees spend daily on coffee or office supplies... It’s a no-brainer.

And they took the plunge, bought the Nozbe plan for a full year and today over a short video call basically told me how happy they were about their decision. Such conversations are why I love my job.

That’s right, only 20 cents per day.

And how much is your productivity worth to you? And your team members’ productivity? Let me know :-)

Monday, November 19, 2018

✔️ Why we need deadlines

“I love deadlines. I like the whooshing sound they make as they fly by.” - Douglas Adams

The problem with running a software company which creates a product for many users, like more than half a million at the moment... is that we don’t have any fixed deadlines set by people who use Nozbe.

We need to create deadlines ourselves. Self-imposed deadlines.

And the problem with such deadlines is the fact that they seem fake. Artificial. Made up. Unnecessary.

Right? Wrong!

Why just not work without deadlines?

Because we're humans.

When there's no deadline we get lazy. We get perfectionist. We take all the time in the world to making our creation perfect. Or even better than perfect. We even might try to explore all of the alternatives before we decide on something.

When there are no deadlines we cannot hold each other accountable. Not to anyone, not even to ourselves.

When there are no deadlines we’re less likely to ship what we've created. And when we don't ship what we've created we're more likely to get demotivated...

We, the humans, need deadlines

Deadlines motivate us to get something out. To finally show it to the world. To get the feedback. The good, the bad and the ugly. And to iterate and ship again!

Just like Seth Godin asked:

“How do you make sure you ship on time and on budget? Well, when you run out of time, you ship. When you run out of budget, you ship.”

To be able to run out of time we need a deadline.

So we set one.

I'll share it with you soon. Meanwhile I'll let the deadline sink in. I'll let myself and my team digest it. And get excited. Because with this deadline we're committing ourselves to shipping something great for you.

And I really can't wait to share it with you... and to do that we have to now really meet this deadline!

Let's do this.

P.S. Special thanks to Michael Hyatt for his last episode about deadlines, which reminded me how important deadlines are to what we do.

Friday, July 27, 2018

✔️ Fake exhaust pipes in cars... or how brands undermine their stories...

I love cars. I’ve been driving many cars in my life and I’m always interested in everything new there’s about them... but some news and trends are very short-sighted and sad. One of them is the design trend to “draw” fake exhaust pipes... and this lesson relates to any business, so here’s why I find it so bad:

Fake exhaust pipes in cars... like Audi or how brands undermine their stories...

Why "draw" fake exhaust pipes on cars?

It’s hard to say who started the trend, but I believe the idea was to make people feel like they have a sports car without paying for one. So the designers started drawing fake exhaust pipes on the back of the cars so that people could feel better about their cars and themselves.

A trend like this is actually pretty funny but it becomes a problem when it goes upscale to the high end cars. Let me explain why this small "detail" is a big deal:

Friday, February 2, 2018

✔️ 2017 review: a learning curve!

We’re already 1 month in 2018 but I haven’t still posted my yearly review... and yesterday we were celebrating 11 years of Nozbe so I decided to finally post my yearly review - again, I’m writing this more for myself as a way reflect on last year and to be able to get back to it, but if it serves you as an inspiration, be my guest! Here goes:

2017 review: a learning curve!

Before I start, here are my past yearly reviews: 2016, 2015, 2014 and 2013.

2017 wasn’t as good as I hoped... in some ways...

It was a tough year. On one hand business-wise it was a learning curve for me and the revenue growth wasn’t as I expected... but on the other hand I learned a lot and I’m putting these learnings to work this year. Privately it was a very good year. Here are some highlights:

Monday, May 22, 2017

💡 38 years young - the possibilities are infinite!

This past weekend I turned 38 (Saturday, May 20). Another year. Another number. Creeping up on forty, but still not there yet. In this short post I want to let you know why the number 38 is so important to me and why I'm excited about what's ahead of me.

38 years young - the possibilities are infinite!

38 means a lot to me... leading to infinity!

For some reason the number 38 has always meant "a lot" to me. Maybe because of the shape of this number - as you can see from my drawing above, it has a lot to do with infinity symbol. This means I'm already plenty old - but on the other there's still a lot of years ahead of me and I'm really excited about the infinite possibilities of the future!

Family-wise, the serious stuff is coming!

I have three daughters, the oldest is 8, the middle is almost 5 and the youngest is 10 months... so the good stuff is still ahead of me - when they start growing up, becoming teenagers, beoming amazing women... becoming a better version of me. Can't wait to witness this and be a part of their life. This will be exciting and heart-breaking...

Business-wise, I'm just getting started!

Nozbe turned 10 this year, so I've been around the block for a while, but now that I think about it, I've been developing it pretty slowly and cautiously over the last years... and it's time to accelerate this. Too many people are still not well organized... Too many companies and teams are still using email to collaborate... Too many old habits die too hard... so I want to speed things up and double down on Nozbe development and Nozbe marketing. We've got great things up our sleeve and I can't wait to share them with you. The future years of Nozbe will get really exciting!

38 is just a number!

I feel very young, I'm probably in the best shape of my life (and a next triathlon race next weekend!) and I've got really exciting stuff to work on. I'm so grateful and thankful to everyone who crossed my path so far and can't wait to keep changing the world with you all.

P.S. Having birthday in this day and age is also fun because you get wishes from all over the world on Facebook and other social media channels. Thank you all from the bottom of my heart!

Question: What are your thoughts when your birthday hits?

Sent from my iPhone 7 Plus Jet Black

Monday, February 13, 2017

✔️ Ten years feels like one day – Nozbe’s 10th birthday

This month we’re celebrating Nozbe’s 10th birthday!. It’s the perfect time for a short summary of the past decade – in the context of business and technology developments. It's really interesting to see how Nozbe started as a Web2.0 product and later embraced the smartphone, desktop and the watch...

10 years of Nozbe

Note: The following article appeared first in the February '17 issue of iMagazine - the leading lifestyle magazine for Apple enthusiasts in Poland. I'm a regular contributor and write my monthly productivity column there.

2005 - why a Nozbe web app?

I read David Allen’s book “Getting Things Done” (Amazon|Audible) and realized I needed to get organized. As a freelancer involved in internet marketing I was taking on more and more clients and I wasn’t able to manage all of my obligations. I searched for various tools to implement the GTD methodology in my life but I couldn’t find anything that I liked.

Thanks to PHP and MySQL magic I wrote a prototype of Nozbe in a single weekend!

I decided to use web technologies because I wanted to have access to the app from anywhere on Earth. Over the next few months I improved the project, rewrote it about twice, and finally in 2006 I decided to start getting ready to show it to the world. If I enjoyed using it, maybe others would like it to. Here's how it went down:

Monday, January 30, 2017

✔ 2016 review: not bad at all!

It's almost the end of January so I'm pretty late with my 2016 review but... I really needed to write it all down if not for you, then at least for myself. I'be done reviews of 2015, 2014 and 2013 and these served me well so now it's time to take a look at last year, the 2016, here goes:

2016 of Michael Sliwinski

2016 in a nutshell

Overall 2016 wasn't that bad for me. It's been actually pretty good. Personally my third daughter was born and she's been amazing, I'm still a fit amateur triathlete and business wise we've had some growth and significant product developments. I can't complain.

On the other hand, geo-politically it wasn't that good, the government in my home country is destroying the stable democracy we used to have, UK wants to do a Brexit and the USA decided to choose a self-indulgent liar as a president. Some people call 2016 the "Windows Vista" of all years. It wasn't that bad for me so if you're curious to know more, read on - hope this inspires you:

Thursday, December 1, 2016

✔ How to communicate effectively with a team using the latest apps

As you know, at Nozbe we don’t have a central office. We all work from our homes. When I talk about it, people look at me with disbelief and doubt. Especially when I tell them that our core team consists of more than 20 people and we also regularly work with several other companies. We do everything remotely and over the Internet. And with the use of the latest apps. Today, on December 1, 2016, I'm releasing a new book that talks all about it: "No Office Apps":


The fact that we work entirely remotely may seem like an obstacle but it has made us think about effective forms of communication. We can’t simply walk up to a colleague’s desk so we had to learn to communicate in different ways. Working in a remote team made us realize that effective work in a distributed group requires communication on many layers and that using modern apps can help us achieve our objectives more easily.

In this article I’m going to describe the apps that we use and briefly discuss how we use them.

If you want a longer version of this article and a deeper dive into this subject, please get my latest book here: "No Office Apps How the Nozbe team uses modern technologies to communicate better and get more done." - it's completely free! :-)

Monday, August 1, 2016

✔ No Office, Productivity and Running a successful online business - where I was invited to talk about these things?

As Nozbe and this blog became more popular, I got invited to many events, speaking engagements and podcast interviews. Some in English, some in my mother tongue (Polish). Here are a few I'm really proud of and where hopefully you can get value from by listening to me talking about No Office, productivity, iPad Only and business:

Michael Speaking

(Photo credit: Wojtek Frasz - me in front of a 2000 people audience on Element Talks conference in 2016)

Here's the list. I've started with the most recent appearances (updated 20 December 2018):