The team, and your users, will thank you.

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Photo by Farrel Nobel

If you’re building something to solve a problem, chances are someone is also out there trying to solve it too. Most startups don’t have the luxury of being original, and those that do will find they’re not original for long.

In any market with several competing products, the winner is rarely decided because of any single “killer” feature. Instead, it often comes down to the small details. Small details are often decided in the moment by a single engineer, and will slip into users’ hands without anyone giving it a second thought.

The difference between a product that gets the…


Find your real early adopters and solve their problems instead.

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Photo by Caleb Woods

I really hate it when a startup goes with “friends and family” releases rather than finding real customers. So here’s some canned responses to reasons I’ve been told why we should go and speak to friends rather than to our early adopters.

But it’s not ready for the public yet

Unless it’s completely useless, you don’t know whether it’s ready yet. The sooner you get out and speak to your customers, the sooner you learn about what works and what doesn’t. It’s better to start this journey now with a handful of early adopters than launch in six months with all your imagined features.

But we’re in stealth

Stealth doesn’t mean isolating…


A few years ago, my friend, Richard, introduced me to the Joel Test. Written in 2000, the Joel Test measures the “quality” of a development team in twelve questions. Richard described it as a list of questions to ask a team during the interview process. A team doesn’t need to nail the test, but it definitely helps you decide whether the team is one you want to join.

Recently, I found myself re-reading the Joel Test, and it didn’t feel right anymore. While the original points are still as relevant as ever, I don’t think they cover a lot of…


It was a Monday afternoon, and our team retrospective. Every two weeks we’d sit down and discuss what happened since the previous one, but this time it was different. This time we were focused entirely on one epic. For this epic we’d decided to experiment in splitting the work differently, and we wanted to know how people thought it went. The typical deluge of post-its went up on the wall, we voted on the most interesting, and we got down to discussing them. The conversation that followed wasn’t any sort of critical analysis, but rather an argument about ideals, and…


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In June 2013, over fifty-thousand classified documents pertaining to a collection of secret programmes of mass surveillance formulated in the wake of 9–11 by the NSA and GCHQ were leaked to The Guardian. The source of these leaks was NSA intelligence analyst Edward Snowden, whose codename when he first made contact is the namesake of the documentary we saw on Wednesday evening.

Citizenfour provides a unique and intimate insight on Snowden in the immediate run-up to, and aftermath of, the first publication of his revelations in The Guardian. The documentary is set in a hotel room in Hong Kong over…


Hooking together Amazon Web Services (AWS) Lambda functions and Simple Notification Service (SNS) topics is relatively trivial when working within the same account. However, when dealing with multiple accounts, you encounter a mire of access controls which need to be gently configured in order for things to run smoothly. Unfortunately, the AWS console isn’t as helpful doing this kind of thing as it is when subscribing from an SQS queue.

In order to hook together your Lambda function and your SNS topic, you need to do the following:

  1. allow the Lambda function to subscribe to the topic,
  2. allow the topic…

Jimmy Thompson

Engineer @freetrade. Trying to build products people want, sometimes succeeding.

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