Narthur's Startups

Recently I used Mine to send deletion requests to many services I used in the past and no longer need. It’s been quite interesting seeing how much variation there is in how companies handle these requests. I can now say with some confidence that Beeminder handles these requests far better than probably 90% of organizations.

The worst has been that two companies so far (REI and the New York Times) responded to my request and basically said “We’re not going to delete your data because the laws where you live don’t compel us to.” Receiving these responses had me pretty frustrated and angry. Are we really going to only respect users’ privacy requests if the law forces us to?

This has got me thinking about how I handle data with TaskRatchet. After going through this stuff from a user’s perspective, I want to make sure I set up TaskRatchet to handle this kind of thing in a way that respects users’ privacy needs.

Currently I’m using three different analytics solutions–Google Analytics, Amplitude, and Highlight. In addition, I’ve been building out public metrics here:

Beeminder: tskrtcht

I think what I’d like to do is move away from using third-party analytics solutions, and instead put more weight on the anonymized public metrics stored in Beeminder plus any metrics I decide to bake out in Firebase.

I do realize that privacy is a sliding scale, and that there will always be people who think I haven’t gone far enough in that direction. For example, I’m sure there are users who would prefer that we used end-to-end encryption such that we would have zero access to the details of their commitments beyond due date and stakes. I don’t intend to go that far any time soon.

I think what I want to do is start thinking more in terms of tradeoffs. That is, any time I modify TaskRatchet in a way that results in collecting more user data and/or distributing that data to more third parties, I need to view that as a cost and make sure that the value provided to the user is enough to reasonably justify that cost.

The first step toward that is to look at the ways I’m already using user data and look for ways that I’m collecting data without a clear end-user benefit. When there are clear benefits, I should look for ways that I can reduce the amount of data and number of third parties who receive that data while still retaining most of the resulting benefit.

Aside: It would be cool to quantify this cost in terms of a budget, similar to how some projects have a performance budget they use to make sure they aren’t building a slow product. I’m not sure what that would look like, or how it would be tracked.


Today is my deadline for determining the success of the spin database.

My criteria for success were:

  • I’ve completed at least 2 spins per week on average.
  • The average word count of the last 25% of spins is at least 80% of the average word count of the first 25% of spins.
  • I’ve exceeded 400 new tasks in a week at least twice in the three-month period.

According to the last criterion, I did indeed succeed, as TaskRatchet users regularly created more than 200 tasks per week during the last three months of the previous year.

However, this had basically nothing to do with the spin database, since I very quickly abandoned it after creating it. The process created too much friction for me to stick with it.

In the future I’m hoping to work out a more iterative approach to this kind of thing that won’t create as much friction as the spin database did.


I just realized I misread my own criteria, and it appears that TaskRatchet never reached 400 new tasks in a week, so this was not a success by that criteria, either.

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I have Trello import working locally for FocusQueue. I’m hoping to get that deployed soon. I’m currently procrastinating on making a Beeminder goal for FocusQueue UVIs.

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Not a lot to say in this update. I’ve been working on restructuring things to diversify my income sources in the short term to try to ensure that I can keep working on my startups going forward. But those changes are around my personal finances and contracting processes, rather than the startups themselves.

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I managed to stop procrastinating on creating a UVI goal for FocusQueue:

I’ve been continuing to adapt my processes toward working on contracts with multiple clients. The contracting is for the purpose of paying my bills while allowing me to continue working on my own businesses, so I really don’t want to get too invested in the contracting processes since it’s purely an end to a means.

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Still have most of my focus on contracting. Fingers crossed I’ll be able to shift more of my focus back to my own projects next month.

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Been spending some time today working on improving the narthur/taskratchet-functions repo. In the future this repo may take on more of the work currently handled by the API.

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Here’s a summary of the Beeminder goals I’m currently using to support my work on the startups:

Goal Tracks
startup-journal posts to this thread
shipit all my commits to GitHub
fm Focusmate sessions
tr-cards updates to my TaskRatchet backlog in Notion
baas texting Boss as a Service
workaholic not working too much in any given day
slu business intelligence updates
fq-uvi User-visible improvements to Focusqueue
uvi User-visible improvements to TaskRatchet

Lately I’ve been procrastinating on creating a new goal for clearing my TaskRatchet email. Thankfully now that @shanaqui is taking care of support, this isn’t such a big issue, but it would still be better if I was staying on top of the non-support email inbox. I already do this with my personal email, and it works very well.

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