Hi, I’m Justin Jackson. This is my story.
My family got our first computer: a Commodore Vic-20. I was fascinated by it. I spent hours trying to figure out BASIC, and made a few little programs.
I was 13. I looked like this. I loved computers, and had begged my parents to buy me a 2400 BAUD modem. I immediately started calling local BBS numbers. I lived on an acreage in Alberta (just outside of Edmonton) and found a BBS called Absolute Future. The owner of the BBS made me Co-SysOp, which I remember being a huge deal.
I was homeschooled that year (this haircut is a testament to that). That gave me a lot of freedom to explore things online. My parents’ friend gave me access to the internet through the local university. I could use Telnet and Gopher to explore different servers. I also got access to UseNet groups (my faves were alt.hackers, alt.2600, and alt.binaries).
This was also the year I was introduced to Mosaic, the first GUI web browser. I was instantly intrigued by the web, and started fooling around with HTML.
I turned 18, moved out of my parent’s home, and started going to college in Edmonton. I got a job as a bellboy at a hotel, but really wanted to start my own company. The next summer I quit my job and created Mediahead Productions. I got a small BDC loan and bought a Pentium PC, and a Sony TRV-900 video camera. I paid the loan back by the end of the summer.
One of my business ideas was to make videos at summer camps. I’d go and take video of camp activities, and at the end of the week I’d sell VHS tapes to campers for $20 each.
At one of these camps, I met a beautiful camp councillor who changed my life forever. We started dating at the end of that summer.
Two big decisions were made.
First: I got married to my amazing wife (were were 21!).
Second: I left my small tech business, and become a Christian youth minister. I think about this decision a lot. At the time I was doing a lot of website design and multimedia production. My original plan was to grow my company into a full studio. But instead I decided to pursue ministry. I worked with teenagers for 7 years.
A friend and I decided to start a skateboard and snowboard shop called The Real Deal. My friend managed the shop. I was still working full-time, and would help out whenever I could. In 2006 we decided to close it. That year I almost had a breakdown. I wrote about the experience here. At this point, my wife and decided we wouldn’t do anything else major on the side until our kids were in school.
A pivotal year. I decided to look for a new job. I wanted to get back into technology work. I’d been away from the web for 7 years, and I was scared. I had a family to support, and my web skills were rusty. I was 28, and compared to the rest of the tech industry, already felt old.
Getting Real is the original manifesto written by Jason Fried and David Heinemeier Hansson, and describes the philosophy they used to build Basecamp. Before this book, I had built a few “things” but had focused mostly on offering services. Now, I had a vision for building products.
I went for a beer with a brilliant designer / developer named Kyle Fox. I’d just moved to Vernon, BC, and was back in Edmonton for business. When I flew back home, Kyle messaged me and said: “We should start a podcast about products.”
On October 2015, we recorded our first episode of Product People.
I published the most popular thing I’ve ever written. It was also the year I released my first solo project in years: a little guide called Amplification. Soon after, I started a private community called JFDI. You can read my year in review here.
Another pivotal year. I left Mailout, and created my own company, Nerd North Inc with my wife. I started doing product marketing consulting full-time. All of our kids were in school. This meant more freedom for side-projects. You can read about all the details here.
I created a new podcast called Build & Launch. The premise of the show was that I would create a new product every week. The show did very well. I created a bunch of things. This was also the year that I finally finished Marketing for Developers.
This new podcast is interesting, because it’s pushed me to go beyond the safe “digital” world into the real world. The first episodes 3-5 focused on creating a menu item, working in the kitchen all day, and then launching it as a Friday lunch special at Station BBQ in Vernon, BC. The whole experience was humbling and gave me a lot of perspective: the restaurant / service industry is hard.
You may be interested in some things I’ve written. Here are some notable excerpts:
- “This is a webpage” – my essay on the importance of words. By far the most popular thing I’ve written, it garnered over 200,000 pageviews in the span of two weeks, and was translated by readers into 16 different languages. Featured by Net Magazine, Smashing Magazine, A List Apart, The UX Podcast, Rands, and T3N Magazine.
- Things I’ve quit doing at my desk – this post was later published on Lifehacker and in the Hacker Monthly magazine.
- How remote work changed my life – here I talk about my experience with remote work. Later re-published on The Next Web.
- We are not normal people – who should we make things for?
- Twenty dollars in an envelope – an interview with my friend Jason Fried, on how he got his start in the software business.
- Heads Down – one of my pieces on @Medium. Was later featured on Adobe’s 99u, and in Fast Company.
Video & Audio:
- I host two podcasts: Build & Launch and Product People
- My interview with David Heinemeier Hansson (DHH of 37signals and Basecamp)
- Self-publishing hangout: Four eBook Authors Share Their Self-Publishing Tips & Strategies Live
- Why you should build your own digital products (Okanagan Developers Group)
Things I’ve Made
- Tiny Marketing Wins
- Marketing for Developers
- Product People Club
- Network Effects (collab with Marty Dill)
- Amplification + The Hacker News Handbook
- The Product Hunt Handbook
- Follow me on Twitter: @mijustin
- Add me on LinkedIn
- I have an email newsletter where I write about building software and digital products. Subscribe now
- You can email me at words [at] bizbox.ca
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