Stacking the Bricks Podcast EP4 - Shipping is a skill
10 min

In this episode…

Are you a procrastinator?

Don't feel bad about it - DO something about it.

On this show, you’re going to be hearing a short story from my business partner and co-host Amy Hoy admit something....there was a time when she wasn’t so great at shipping. That's right, the author of Just Fucking Ship used to be a serial procrastinator.

As she describes, "I could ship work and projects for other people - bosses, clients - but when it came to shipping my own things I was the worst." Amy goes on to describe the sequence of events that snapped her out of her nasty habit and started her down the path of shipping, including the story behind one of her most famous projects and how it helped her career.

This episode is just a tiny excerpt from a longer interview hosted by one of our friends and alumni, Sean Fioritto, who has been writing a series called “Github Ghost-towns” where he’s been talking about all of those side projects that we spin up…and then leave to rot.

You know what I’m talking about. ;)

The FULL LENGTH interview with Sean is action-packed with stories and advice from Amy and I, including a bunch of tips that we use every day to make sure we keep shipping the products and ebombs that you all seem to love so much.

Get your own copy of Just Fucking Ship

There are 21 principles that we used to Just Fucking Ship the book Just Fucking Ship. You can learn what they are here and pick up a copy for yourself:

Coming later this month JUST for Stacking Bricks subscribers...

Over the next month, podcast subscribers are going to start getting an exclusive listen to behind-the-scenes conversations between Amy and I as we build the next version of our bootstrapping course, 30x500.

These will be real conversations between us as business partners - not staged for effect - as we make crucial decisions about the launch of our next product and a glimpse at the very process we teach in action.

We've never done anything quite like this before so we're excited to invite you a bit further into our world. Subscribe now so you don't miss it, and we'll see you next time!


Alex Hillman Alex Hillman: What is up, everybody! Welcome back, I’m Alex Hillman, your host of Stacking the Bricks.

If this is your first time listening, this is a podcast that is your antidote to this startup fantasy land. No more bullshit; these are just stories from real people, just like you and me. People who have escaped from the client pitches and hourly consulting or quit their full time jobs working on someone else’s dreams.

These are the people who make their money doing launches, building products and all without a single penny of seed or venture capital. This is 100% bootstrapping all the way through.

On today’s show, which is going to be a short show, you’re going to be hearing from my business partner – and of course co-host of this show, Amy Hoy. She’s going to be talking about a time when she wasn’t so great at shipping. That’s right, the author of Just Fucking Ship used to be terrible at shipping, a self-proclaimed grade A procrastinator and she’s going to talk about what snapped her out of it.

Now, this episode is just a tiny excerpt of a longer interview that Amy and I did with one of our friends and alumni, Sean Fioritto, who’s been writing a series called GitHub Ghost Towns on his blog.

He’s been talking about all of the side projects that we spin up and then, you know, leave to rot. You know what I’m talking about!

Sean’s series has been really, really great and you should definitely go read all three parts at and the last part – part number three, you can listen to the entire interview with myself and Amy, because inside we share a bunch of tips that we use every day – and we teach our students every day – to make sure that we keep shipping products and ebombs and all the things that we get out of there in the world, that all of you seem to love so much – including this podcast!

So, with that, I’ll let Amy tell her story of her first taste of shipping and the massively popular project that it led to. Enjoy!

Amy Hoy Amy Hoy: I was a grade A procrastinator. I really was. I never finished anything where there wasn’t somebody that I had to finish it for it. So clients, for example, I used to say that I really thrived with pressure. That’s when I did my best work. That’s how you know you’re lying to yourself, by the way.

Alex Hillman Alex Hillman: I’ve heard that before. Yeah.

Amy Hoy Amy Hoy:. Yeah. It’s because it’s a really convenient way to lie to yourself! It’s like, “Look, I get things done only when I’m going to die if I don’t get them done…get fired, it’s okay!”

The only things I ever shipped before 2006, were blog posts and the occasional cheat sheet – and that was only really in that last year. And then I worked on Color Wars with Ze Frank, and I just provided some designs and they were like, “That’s good enough. Let’s go with it.” And then I helped. And it was just out there. It went from a complete random idea in his crazy idea-laden head to have Twitter capture the flag games to existing about a week later.

Alex Hillman Alex Hillman: Amy, was that the first project you and I were actually working on together? I had completely forgotten about that!

Amy Hoy Amy Hoy: So no offense, but I’d forgotten that you were involved in that!

Alex Hillman Alex Hillman: None taken!

Amy Hoy Amy Hoy: I have a really hard time remembering who was where and when! Yeah, that quite likely was you and me and Eric. Eric Tassner. So that was a real turning point for me, but I still didn’t do much of anything until I had come up with an idea for visualizing Twitter emotions, not unlike We Feel Fine, which was based on LiveJournal, but more Twitter-native. Twitter is so short. It’s not got these long-processed posts. It was in the moment, I thought this is really interesting and I wanted to create it and I actually had the chance to pitch it at Twitter headquarters back when they were like 20 people. They seemed to really like it, but then they said they couldn’t get it together to hire us to do it, me and Thomas. So I was like, “Well, okay. It didn’t go anywhere”. And I had all these sketches and these designs in my head for all the really cool stuff we could do with their data.

Then one day I was in the shower and I was like imagining really serious cool artsy features doing it and feeling kind of bitter, and I realized, “I’m a developer, I’m married to a developer. We work together. Why don’t we just do it? What a hypocrite I am. I am a hypocrite. I could just make this.” And so, I got out of the shower and then I hassled my husband some questions about the JSON interface to the Twitter search back at the time when it was not Twitter search, what was it? It used to be…

Alex Hillman Alex Hillman: Summize.

Amy Hoy Amy Hoy: That’s the one! That’s a long time ago.

Alex Hillman Alex Hillman: I don’t even remember that. The olden days of Twitter.

Amy Hoy Amy Hoy: That was 2007, the olden days. And so we built it and by built it, I mean, we made the one feature out of about the 30 that I had planned. We didn’t do any of the fancy visualizations. It was literally just a stream of Helvetica-colored tweets and categories. And that blew up. We got Doug, it was in a bunch of industry design journals. We got a lot of requests to do marketing sites for brands. It went everywhere and it was the tiniest, iddiest, bittiest little sliver of what I had in my mind and that’s my became a real shipping addict because I was like, “This is making me famous and it’s not even a hundredth of what I had imagined it should be and they don’t know the difference.

Alex Hillman Alex Hillman: I think that’s the key though, is that all the things that are in your head, that picture that you have, you’re the only one. And it’s really easy to forget that the way you imagined the end product, until you’ve shared that – and even once you shared that, you’re the only person who expects that.

Amy Hoy Amy Hoy: Yes. No one else can read your mind and most importantly, no one else is going to devote the same level of time to thinking about it as you are. It’s really an informational asymmetry thing and you can really use it to your advantage.

Alex Hillman Alex Hillman: So I love this as an example of a side project, because this was just for you; this was just a thing you did that actually then got you – this is a perfect example of building a reputation. So you got a lot of work out of this, a lot of new clients.

Amy Hoy Amy Hoy: It’s been in art exhibits; a band has used it behind them to play during a concert.

It’s been everywhere.

Alex Hillman Alex Hillman: So what’s challenging for me about this is, there’s no way you could have known that it would do this much for you, right?

Amy Hoy Amy Hoy: No, not exactly. But side projects are almost always useful because they’re a part of your portfolio. They always do something for you, I think as long as you promote them. But if you think about what at heart do people need and want, what are they interested in? They’re interested in themselves. They’re interested in other people. Voyeurism is basically a human instinct. So to see this unending stream of human emotion on Twitter, and I made it anonymous very much on purpose. It’s like looking into other people’s lives, but they’re like you, or they’re different, but because you have no idea who they are, what they look like, you can’t separate it. So, I really strongly suspected people would get a real kick out of it. And also the similar things before that had been on other social media platforms, like We Feel Fine had been very popular, so I suspected that it would be, but I couldn’t know for sure.

Alex Hillman Alex Hillman: And that little app that Amy was talking about, that stream of emotions. Well, it’s called Twistori, you can go check it out at

That was just the beginning. Amy kept shipping, eventually building Freckle Time Tracking with her husband Thomas, along with several very popular info products for Javascript developers. And of course, Amy and I teamed up to build 30x500 and our little product empire as well.

Now in the rest of the episode with Sean, which I’ll link to in the show notes again, just in case you missed that last time, Sean asked Amy and I to dive deep into a few of his favorite techniques for shipping from our book, Just Fucking Ship. Some of those techniques like choose your difficulty setting and in factor feelings and some others that we use again every day. So check out the full thing and again, I’ve added the link to the show notes.

Before you go, though, I have a suggestion for you. Subscribe to this podcast. Now I know that sounds more like a command than a suggestion, but hear me out, whatever your favorite podcast app is, you can go search for Stacking the Bricks, almost anywhere – including Google, I suppose, iTunes. I like to use Overcast for listening to podcasts, whatever.

Once you’ve got our podcast, Stacking the Bricks open, click the little subscribe button. Why? Well, because over the next month, podcast subscribers are going to start getting an exclusive, listen to some behind the scenes conversations between Amy and I, as we’re building the next version of our bootstrapping course, 30x500.

Now these are going to be very real conversations between us as business partners, not staged for effect in any way, trust me. And you’re going to get a glimpse into the very process that we teach in action, but you’ve got to subscribe to get it.

So, go ahead and do that. I’ll let the music play for a little bit longer while you go ahead and finish that up.

Got it? You subscribed yet?

Okay. Sweet!

Thanks much listening and we’ll see you guys again next time!

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