Welcome to the Back of my Head's 12th issue.
First of all, I missed sending BomH for the first time last week. Sorry for that. And thanks, if you care.
Today, we're starting with a short note on how most people take the wrong approach when making digital products. From my experience.
* * *
January 2021. After 2 years of freelancing (for fun), I had just landed my biggest client. A guy with the username nilsvb from Chile was paying me $100 to set up his WordPress blog and write a bunch of articles promoting a tool he had made.
But the weird thing was this: the tool did just one thing. It added a border around images and texts of all shapes. And so it was named Borderize. How do you write blog posts about such a tool?
Coming up with the first two post ideas was easy. One on "how to add a border around an image" and another on "how to add a border around a text." The third blog post idea was hard to find.
So here's how I thought: Who'd want to find a border add-er tool? What problems can you solve with such a tool? That led me to find the blog post ideas I needed like "How to create a WhatsApp/Telegram sticker". Because those stickers usually contain weirdly shaped images with borders.
Anyways, the point is what that guy did was that he made a tool because he knew how to make it not because it solved a problem. And that's probably the worst way to build things.
I know because a lot of the "failed" projects I worked on had this problem: Some of them didn't solve any problem. Some solved a problem that actually wasn't a problem. But I'm still glad I made them.
About 6 months before that freelance gig, I had set out to build NewsletterDb, which I described as, "IMDb for Newsletters." It was a tool that listed out newsletters the way Play Store lists out apps. You could see what the newsletter was about, how many subscribers it had, top issues etc. It wasn't solving a problem. And so it quickly died.
Before that, I had started a tech newsletter with two great friends (Aarzoo & Mudit), we called it Wire Weekly and later, PointBrief. It summarised all the tech news we could find, in a single email. (If you're curious, here are the first 9 issues, later issues weren't archived.)
The problem with this was the same. We weren't solving a problem. We just thought we could make something cool like Morning Brew for tech geeks. Without realising that Morning Brew is not only cool and fun to read, it also solves a problem: that a lot of people need to read business news because their career demands it but it's just too boring.
As I’m working on Tastey (more about it on the last issue of BomH), I realise I actually am solving a problem. That running a curation newsletter is unnecessarily technical and difficult right now. It can be made a whole lot easier and simpler without losing any of its current value. If you run a curation newsletter, Tastey can potentially save you equivalent to a whole day’s work (~10hrs) every month.