The Heroku Stack

By crispinheneise / On / In Engineering Daybook

I stumbled on this tweet this morning (please excuse the language)…

We get asked all the time what tech stack we use, and I always find my self justifying Heroku. For many people, Heroku doesn’t feel like a “serious” hosting provider.

But the fact is that Heroku is the safest and least risky tech stack for startups.

When startups bleed money, they usually do it in two ways:

  1. Overspending on technology.
  2. Overbuilding the product.

I’ll talk about overbuilding the product another time – that’s a huge issue.

Overspending on technology is tempting because, well let’s face it, entrepreneurs are notorious optimists. You wouldn’t be doing this if you didn’t expect customers to bang down your door for access to your product. The temptation is to overbuild in anticipation of this overwhelming traffic.

The trouble comes from overspending on technology before you’ve achieved.

Server resources are expensive, but Human Resources are even more so. Provisioning AWS servers, Docker clusters, and Kubernetes instances can easily become a full-time job for more than one person.

It is true that once you do achieve product-market fit and the floodgates do open, Heroku may become unsustainably expensive. In the meantime, Heroku allows you to scale your server usage up and down based on demand. But most importantly, it allows you to launch and grow a fully-fledged and professional web product without devoting expensive engineering resources to managing the details of your tech stack.

~ Ryan

P.S. Do you have questions about your app’s tech stack? Book a time on my calendar for a free strategy session:, and we can talk through your questions and product strategy.

Escape from the Tyranny of the Urgent

By crispinheneise / On / In Engineering Daybook

For me, a major source of professional anxiety comes from two places: unfinished tasks simmering in the back of my mind, and urgent tasks that present themselves through client meetings, phone calls, calendar appointments, and notifications that are always popping up in the background.

Right now, as I type this at this very moment, I can see my email client peeking out from behind this writing window. There’s nothing actively flashing at me, but in the periphery I can see a litany of important people that need something from me.

Ironically, the most important things tend to get pushed aside by the urgent things. Building relationships, developing content, doing sales outreach, reading educational material—all tasks that are important in the long term but don’t feel urgent—are easy to neglect when notifications are bouncing all over the place.

Tim Ferriss had a talk a while ago about Caging the Monkey Mind, and I never forgot that idea. I definitely identify with the idea of the mind as a monkey, jumping from idea to idea without ever completing a task.

My theory is that we succumb to the tyranny of the urgent because it’s our default setting. We get a little dopamine rush by being needed. Something needs to be done urgently, and I’m the one to do it. That gives a little twinge of satisfaction, but it also builds up anxiety because every time we jump from one thing to another we leave something else simmering in the back of our minds. Those simmering items eventually build up and cause anxiety.

Some of the things that help me to work with focused intensity and escape the tyranny of the urgent:

  • Pomodoro Timer: I use a little timer to set limits for a certain activity. It helps me to feel confident that I can devote the next 20 minutes to the current activity without fear that the world will end in my absence.
  • Journaling: Even though I keep a running to-do list, I find that writing down my tasks at the beginning of the day helps me to think through the most important things that are at the top of my mind.
  • Turning off notifications: Whenever I need to block out time for focused work, I like to turn on “do not disturb” mode on my iMac and my phone. I’ll check in with email when I’m finished, but for now, my time is my own.

These are some tricks that have helped me to focus on what’s most important each day. What about you?


By crispinheneise / On / In Engineering Daybook

Beginnings are exciting.

Moving to a new town, starting a new job, the first day of preschool, moving into the college dorm, the budding of a new relationship—all beginnings, all full of energy and expectation.

The beginning is a controlled pitch forward, embracing the unknown. Embracing risk. Maybe even chaos.

If you’re a “responsible” adult, you try to eliminate risk from your life. Risk is dangerous. It brings uncertainty. It could lead to disaster.

Beginnings are dangerous because they introduce chaos and uncertainty. Maybe it won’t go well, maybe something bad will happen.

Beginnings are how memories are made. The true danger is not that something bad might happen to us, but that we might get to the end and wonder where it all went.

Our minds use big changes as signposts. We find our ways through our own past by navigating through the map of memories created by changes. When one day is the same as the last, they blend together in a sort of memory soup without much to define one day from the next. And before you know it, a decade has passed, and you wonder where the time went.


One life is enough for me.

By crispinheneise / On / In Engineering Daybook

When asked if he believed in immortality, Albert Einstein once said “no, and one life is enough for me”.

Life can be hard. Tiresome even. But I don’t think I’ve ever found myself echoing Einstein’s sentiment here. In fact quite the opposite: I’ve often lamented that there’s only one life to live.

Life’s limitations force us to make hard choices. We can’t do everything; we can’t be every version of ourselves. I’d love to be a doctor, a police officer, a farmer, a carpenter.

Our greatest power is that of choice. If we are privileged enough to live in a free and prosperous society, we can choose to be and do just about anything. I’ve chosen to be a father and an entrepreneur.

Those choices also come with limitations. The only way to fully choose to do one thing is to willingly say “no” to another. In that way our limitations may shape who we are as much (or maybe more so) than our capabilities.

Oh, we can still dabble at things that interest us. My choice to be an entrepreneur has meant that I choose not to be a farmer. But I can still dabble at farming on our little family homestead. Do I still wish I could have a chance to live those other lives? You bet I do. The world is full of so much interest and wonder that I think you could live a thousand lives and still find glory in new life.


By crispinheneise / On / In Engineering Daybook

Isn’t it amazing that the giant nuclear inferno that powers our solar system is just the right distance away from us that a beam of its radiation can be sentimentally referred to as “a drop of golden sun”.

Babies and bathwater

By crispinheneise / On / In Engineering Daybook

An echo chamber is a room where your own sounds come bouncing back to you. Like a cave, where your footsteps reverberate into the depths and even the sound of your own breath is returned to your ears from a thousand different directions. Being in such a place for very long can drive a person mad.

And yet it has never been easier to build your own echo chamber online.

Metaphorically, an echo chamber is a safe space that we can build by isolating ourselves from ideas that we don’t like. Or by associating only with ideas that we do like. We can block words that we don’t like on Twitter, unfriend people who offend us on Facebook, attack people’s posting history on reddit, and only tune into certain news channels.

It’s all very natural to do. We don’t want to be confronted with ideas that make us uncomfortable.

I think we should, though.

If all we hear are voices that sounds just like ours, what does that really do inside our own heads? If we only listen to ideas that don’t rub us the wrong way, how are we growing? If we surround ourselves with people who think the way we do, are we really thinking at all?

How many times have you heard “oh, that person believes X, so I’m not going to engage with them”, or something to that effect?

Is it possible that you could disagree with someone on one topic and still believe that they might have something to contribute on another?

What if we could disagree with one another in a civil manner, without resorting to name-calling or attacking one another’s character?

Or is it really necessary to throw the baby out with the bathwater?


By crispinheneise / On / In Engineering Daybook

Prediction: the only thing GDPR will do is make it harder for legitimate businesses (especially small businesses) to do business with you.

It will have little or no effect on actual spam and junk mail.

Permission marketing is a good thing. But regulation always favors larger businesses and incumbent companies. GDPR, like all regulation, will end up squelching innovation and entrepreneurship in a region that already lags in that area. And thanks to Europe’s regulatory overreach, the effect will spill over onto the rest of the world.

The most precious thing in the world is also the cheapest

By crispinheneise / On / In Engineering Daybook


By all measures of value it’s the most precious thing we have. It’s scarce. It’s non-renewable. You can spend it. And people will pay you for it.

So why we treat time like it’s cheap?

Time is easy to waste. A few minutes here or there adds up. There’s no way to in-waste time.

People can buy your time. Is it for sale? For most people it is. We need money to buy food and to have a decent place for our families to live. Sometimes we absolutely have to trade our time, which can never be renewed, for money to pay for the necessities of life.

There’s some point though, when the value of the time we’re selling exceeds the value that we get for it in return. But we keep doing it. Why do we do that?

Is it because it’s comfortable? Because it’s easier than the alternative?

Or is it because we’re afraid of what it might mean if we really valued our time for what it truly is?

That looks easy

By crispinheneise / On / In Engineering Daybook

Some things that look easy look that way because the person doing them has been practicing for years.

My eight year old follows me around continuously asking “that looks easy- can I do that?” Only to find out that it’s not as easy as I made it look.

As adults we are a little better at recognizing the easy-bias, but there are still moments when we might find ourselves thinking “what’s so hard about that?”

Sales is helping

By crispinheneise / On / In Engineering Daybook

I’m a pretty mellow guy. Sales doesn’t exactly come naturally to me. Trying to convince somebody of something is just not part of my personality profile, let alone convincing someone to buy something that they don’t want.

But that’s not what good salespeople do, is it?

You’ve heard of the mythical salesman who could sell ice to eskimos. I know several people like that. They are incredibly persuasive.

Good salespeople—I mean the best salespeople—don’t just try to sell you what they’re selling. Their aim is to help you solve a problem.

When I realized this it changed the way I saw my own role as a business owner. Of course I have to do sales. But I don’t have to persuade anyone—at least I don’t have to persuade someone who doesn’t need what I’m offering.

There are people out there who really do need what I have to offer. Those people I can help.