Blockchain & Privacy: What I Like Right Now – April 2021

Two things I love: privacy and crypto.

So, if I can up my security and privacy and earn crypto as a result… that’s a WIN in my book.

Here are a few tactics I have recently adopted:

Brave. Secure, Fast & Private Web Browser.

I’ve switched to the Brave web browser. Brave focuses on security, privacy, and performance. All of which we are in desperate need. Brave is a web browser, so pair it with an appropriate search engine (aka avoid Google). I suggest DuckDuckGo as option one, or if you are into crypto see my suggestion for Presearch below.

Also, for the lovers of crypto, Brave created a new paradigm for the advertising industry with the Basic Attention Token (BAT).

Note: I do still use other browsers for my day-to-day tasks—work, personal, email, and social media. But I reserve Brave usage as a sandbox outside of social media, Gmail, etc.

Presearch. A Decentralized Search Engine

Presearch is a privacy first search engine backed by blockchain. Best part, you are reward PRE token for every search performed.

I’m loving it. Not expecting to get rich from the PRE token, but I love optimizing my crypto generating schemes.

Use this referral link to get 50 PRE tokens:

Proton Mail. Secure, Encrypted Email

Get secure with your email. You use Gmail or Hotmail or AOL? That’s fine, I do too. But get a fully secure account with Proton Mail as an alternative.

Efani. America’s Most Secure Cellphone Service

I really like what Efani is doing as a mobile provider. Efani was founded on the principle of security, guaranteed. SIM Swapping is a huge security issue as mobile device users. SIM Swap hacks are surprisingly cheap and easy to perform, and with control over your mobile device hackers can really mess stuff up.

I’m not using Efani yet, but I’m super interested and strongly considering the switch.


I’m pumped about what the future of crypto and blockchain will deliver. There are hundreds of incredible interesting projects in the work using blockchain and crypto to increase our everyday security, privacy, and autonomy.

Stay tuned to see how blockchain will be the backbone of tech infrastructure to come.

The Subtly Significant Difference of CSS Pseudo Selector

Did you know there is a slight difference in CSS pseudo selector syntax?

I didn’t. And I’ve been writing CSS for the better part of 10 years. Turns out, I’ve been mis-using pseudo selectors for years. Does that matter? Well, let’s find out.

Pseudo Class vs Pseudo Element

Recently, while inspecting stylesheets for various third party code sources I noticed sometimes a single colon : would be used for pseudo selectors and sometimes double colons ::. I thought (mistakenly) the double colon syntax was an outdated way to write styles. So, finally I scratched my head and searched for a reference.

Turns out I was wrong. The double colon syntax is the new syntax starting with CSS3. But, only for Pseudo Elements.

So, what’s the difference between a Pseudo Class and Pseudo Element?

CSS Pseudo Classes

Pseudo classes represent the state of an element.

Just like normal classes, pseudo classes can be stringed together. So you could string together many like button:last-child:hover:disabled. There’s no limit to how many pseudo classes can be applied to an element except your imagination!

Common Pseudo Classes

:active :hover :focus :not() :nth-child() :checked :disabled

CSS Pseudo Elements

Pseudo elements represent a specific part of an element and are represented using a double colon.

Common Pseudo Elements

::after ::before ::selection ::first-letter ::first-line ::placeholder

Wrap Up

The reason it took so long for me to figure out the difference is because the single colon syntax for Pseudo Elements is still valid today (except for pseudo elements added in CSS3 and beyond). And since technically the syntax was valid my web tools and compilers never threw an error.

But now I know, and you do too!


  • Pseudo classes only use one colon. Ex: :hover, :focus, :active
  • Pseudo elements are written with two colons. Ex: ::before, ::after

📘 Reference

Outside CEO Reduce Business Innovation

A recent study shows companies that hire an outside CEO rather than promoting from within can drastically harm the business if R&D is a cornerstone of company growth and innovation.

Investigation of R&D investment suggest funding and focus have decreased up to 65% over the past 40 years.

Outside CEOs often reduce R&D spending because they see the cost as an expense, and see the short term financial savings. Versus CEOs promoted from within consider R&D an investment.

The Real Reasons Companies Are So Focused on the Short Term

Validate a Product Idea with Breadbox

If there’s one thing entrepreneurs are good at it’s pouring time and money into a product idea only to launch and find that a paying audience does not exist! Sometimes that is because we are overeager to get started doing what we love–designing and developing–and sometimes it’s because we don’t want to believe that our great idea doesn’t have a market.

Starting right

Validating a product idea isn’t easy. Even if you can validate the direction enough to start building a product, constant testing and refinement will always be needed. The idea and direction you start with will need to change and mutate as new insights are discovered by building a product and talking to customers.

Never think that you can plan enough at the beginning to grow on auto-pilot with zero strategy change. One of my favorite quotes comes from Eric Ries in The Lean Startup:

“Unfortunately, too many startup business plans look more like they are planning to launch a rocket ship than drive a car.”
-Eric Ries in ‘The Lean Startup’

What he is referencing is how too many entrepreneurs start a venture with excessive planning instead of building a product and validated learning. In The Art of the Start by Guy Kawasaki, one of the first snippets of advice he offers is don’t write a business plan! Instead, get started with the product idea and, if successful, write a business plan later. A business plan and excessive planning will be pointless if it turns out your product idea turns out to be bust.

So how should you start?

How to validate a product idea

Well, I like to start with an idea and validate that idea with as little work as possible. Validating can take several forms, including talking to your friends and peers, understanding a market from personal experience, and testing the online community.

  1. Talking with people you know personally is always a good idea as doing so will help frame your thoughts and present the concept in a solid manner. Friends can be forgiving if you don’t know how to clearly communicate, and willing to help refine your vision.
  2. Having a strong understanding of a problem and product solution personally is the best way to validate a product idea, at least as a direction. If you don’t understand a subject, like money management, and all the ins-and-outs and complexities then maybe you shouldn’t try to build a web app for money managers. Instead, focus on something you are not only personally interested in but a semi-expert.
  3. Validating online is essential as doing so will reach a broader audience and you will receive a wider range of input (good and bad, you may find that friends don’t want to hurt your feelings and won’t say no to your ideas).

Enter Breadbox

The easiest way to validate an idea is to see how many people are interested. Doing so is not a sure-fire success story, but the fastest way to test the feasibility of a product idea. This involves two steps:

  1. Building a marketing page. Create a simple marketing page explaining the product, what pain it solves and benefits expected, and possibly showing fake product shots.
  2. Drive traffic. Drive traffic to the marketing page with one conversion goal in mind, typically to get visitors to sign up for an email list. Though, I have seen people actually accept payments in advance of building a product. Whatever your direction, stay simple and go for one conversion goal.

After testing several product ideas myself, I decided to convert the code I kept using into a conversion page boilerplate called Breadbox. Breadbox is an open source project that makes spinning up a simple product page super simple. It’s not fancy at all, and that’s okay.

The default package offers a simple logo placement, tagline, and email field sign up field. That’s it! The Breadbox Github repo has more information and suggestions on how to personalize a fork of Breadbox, but to start and validate an idea the less work you put into it the better.

Examples of Breadbox in action

Here is an example of using the Breadbox splashpage. Initially for my HelixPowered product I threw up a simple splash page, added a catchy tagline and posted to a relevant community (Designer News in this case). In less than 24 hours, the site had just over 600 visitors and 197 email signups (so about a 30% conversion). While I know many people dislike product pages asking for emails with limited (or no) explanation or information, the thing is, it does work. And it’s a good way to test and validate an idea before investing too much time and money on a product that may not have a solid market.

Haters gonna hate, so it’s up to you whether you choose to use this method. What I did was use the initial splashpage, receive some email sign ups, send out an email, get some feedback, then when I had input on the product (and validation) I built out an extended version of the landing/marketing page for HelixPowered. IMHO, this is a great early path to starting a new product.

Helix Powered buildt with Breadbox

Another example of Breadbox in action, the splashpage for CourseMakers (which now has a full marketing page), an online teaching platform for designers and developers to build and sell digital classes.

CourseMakers built with Breadbox

Go forth and validate

I hope this helps in some way, and if you have ideas to validate maybe Breadbox will help you come to a conclusion sooner than later. I’d love to hear how you decide which projects to work on, and if anyone does use Breadbox to validate an idea post a comment to share it with everyone!

Start Small

Making a life change is tough. Living everyday life can be difficult enough, but changing old habits or starting new ones really goes against the nature of most humans (be comfortable and don’t rock the boat).

Stay small

By nature, I am terrible at exercising. I know exercising is good for my body and would improve my life expectancy, health, and day-to-day mood but committing to consistent exercise has never been possible for me. I’ve tried running on-and-off, going to a gym with friends, even yoga! Each is helpful for a time but never sticks.

Side story, growing up I never knew people worked out or prepared for physical feats (lay people that is, I knew professional athletes and Olympians practiced, but still not to the extent they actually do). Maybe because exercise wasn’t something practiced in my family beyond everyday play or bike riding. I learned a lesson the hard way when I joined the wrestling team my first year of highschool. At the first day of practice, I had to run five miles and it almost killed me. I was unaccustomed to running distances and never drank water. By the end of the run, I was hurting, and not knowing how to take care of myself during strenuous periods I guzzled a Powerade, with disastrous results. That was the first and last day of my wrestling team experience (embarrassing to say, but true).

Recently, I’ve decided to change tactics. When I start anything new I typically go big, jump in the deep end and expect to succeed without practice and when I fail it hurts. Like saying I’m going to run a mile every day, or design something new every day, or build a cool online product. Accomplishing a feat on a large scale for an extended period of time is very difficult, not just completing the task but the mental battery of completing or failing.

So, I’m starting small. Exercise is not my forte, but what I can commit to is five pushups a day. I’m using the Daily Goals iOS app to help me get started. Daily Goals is a habit tracking app that follows the Don’t Break the Chain productivity technique of marking off calendar days when you complete a task and tracking the number of sequential days you have completed that task. The larger that number the greater the pull to continue and not skip a day. I’m running with several simple habits at the moment but my five pushups a day habit is tallied at an eleven-day streak at the moment, and that feels good!

The other reason I chose a simple daily task like five pushups is to start my day off with a productive moment. I know that five pushups will only take about ten seconds to complete so there is no reason not to drop to the ground and complete when my reminder pops up at 8:45am. Five pushups sounds ridiculously silly, but I know it’s something I can accomplish and is still useful.

Start smart

My five pushup goal correlates closely with my dreams. I have a lot of ideas that I try to accomplish, but most seem to fizzle out because of the large and difficult scale and because I’m not prepared. My five push-up goal is a daily reminder to start small, start smart and scale as I go. Maybe soon I will add a five sit-up goal!

Just as I can’t expect a rigorous daily exercise regime to stick, I can’t expect my huge dreams to succeed without starting small and working daily.

How to Start a Startup with Y Combinator

Back in September I stumbled upon the How to Start a Startup course at Stanford. Every year Y Combinator teaches a class at Stanford for Computer Science majors, assisting and teaching hard skills on how to create and grow a new business. The fall 2014 class was the first time the class was made publicly accessible and available to anyone online.

I’ve never studied business or entrepreneurial endeavors, honestly I thought that was something you just do and don’t need to read about or study. But what I learned from the How to Start a Startup course was infinitely valuable, at least to expand my understanding of how many of the products and services I personally use work.

I suggest the class to anyone interested in a business endeavor, even if it is not a startup per se. You will still learn great lessons and new ways to approach problems.

What is Y Combinator?

Y Combinator is a startup accelerator, a place for entrepreneurs to find funding, advice, and connections over several months. Hopeful entrepreneurs apply to Y Combinator twice a year for the chance to be selected for the next batch of businesses to go through the Y Combinator program. Notable companies that went through the Y Combinator program include Scribd, Reddit, Airbnb, Dropbox, Disqus, and Stripe.

In exchange for a small percentage of equity, Y Combinator assists in building startups through advice, coaching, office hours, and more.

The Course

The class consisted of lectures every Tuesday and Thursday by some of the most successful entrepreneurs in the industry – from Peter Thiel, Ben Silbermann, Marc Andreessen, Ron Conway, and many more – and was facilitated by Y Combinator president Sam Altman. Altman was a part of the first batch of Y Combinator entrepreneurs back in 2005.

In addition to video lectures a list of Recommended Reading for each week included articles focusing on that weeks topic. Articles linked to the writings of many of the lecturers and Y Combinator staff members. Reading assignments were extensive and daunting, but extremely helpful and informative.

Basically for the months I followed along with the class I dropped all books I was reading because I had to focus on the reading assignments. I do think the reading is a necessity if you really want to learn from the class. It reinforces and expands on the ideas mentioned in the lectures.

Several social communities also existed for students following along with the class. A Facebook group exists with over 40K participants, and a Reddit group exists where students share project ideas and offer thoughts.

Start Learning

If you are interested in going through the full How to Start a Startup course or want to cherry pick a few lectures there are several ways to find the class content.

The home base for the course is on Sam Altman’s site: How to Start a Startup. You can find the videos on Youtube, and if you like that be sure to check out all videos by Y Combinator.

Check out Lecture 1 for a sample of the class:

Lecture 1 – How to Start a Startup
feat. Sam Altman & Dustin Moskovitz

It’s Time to Graduate, Part II

Welcome to the second installment of the It’s Time to Graduate word of advice column from a dude who, not so long ago, was in your place. In It’s Time to Graduate, Part I we covered the basics of what graduating designers and developers need to consider when leaving school and preparing for their first professional job. This time around I’m not going to focus on points to help designers and developers but talk about things I’ve learned and thought about in my years since entering the ‘real world’ that should help everyone.

Continue reading It’s Time to Graduate, Part II