Posts about 'Web'

How does one jump from v1 of a product to v4?

Monday, April 10th, 2017

By following a very weird road.

I wrote the first version of Serendeputy (my news engine and personal white whale) in 2008 after I left — launching the beta version in the middle of 2009. I kept improving it, but noticed soon that selling into media companies during the Great Recession did not have an especially-high close rate.

So, I joined up with Susan Hunt Stevens and co-founded Practically Green, now Wespire. I lived the startup life for a couple of years until family obligations drove me to bow out gracefully.

So I got back to product-strategy consulting and working on Serendeputy, building out what I was calling v2, a clean rebuild that was going to adjust to how the world was working in 2011.

Then, one of my consulting clients brought me on full-time and I put it aside.

A while later, our private-equity overlords shut us down.

So, I got back to product-strategy consulting and working on Serendeputy, building out what I was calling v3, a clean rebuild that was going to adjust to how the world was working in 2014.

Then, one of my consulting clients brought me on full-time and I put it aside.

A while later, my division got restructured, and my position was eliminated.

So, I got back to product-strategy consulting and working on Serendeputy, building out what I am calling v4, a clean rebuild that is adjusting to how the world works in 2017.

And, that’s where I am right now. It’s a good place to be, and I’m happy with the progress I’m making. Barring unforeseen circumstances, I should be able to have this version of the application out in the world by September.

I’ve been making good progress, but I was still a little haunted by v1. Out in the wild. Showing its age. Built before responsive design was a thing. Built before Twitter was a thing. Dated. Like gold-lamé dated.

Running Rails 2.3.2.

A tiny bit embarrassing, if I have to be totally honest.

So, after one more weekend spent debugging weird errors, I decided to mothball v1 and put up a coming-soon page for v4. That’s what’s up live at Serendeputy right now.

I would have loved to do a graceful transition from one version to the next, but the world was not leaning that way.

So, Onward!

Stay tuned. If you’re already one of the users of Serendeputy v1, I’ll send you note when the new version is ready to play with. For everyone else: if you’re interested in finding out when the new version goes live, drop me a note — jason at serendeputy — and I’ll make sure to let you know.

Now, back into work.

My favorite Christmas album

Friday, December 2nd, 2016

On the day after Thanksgiving, the Butler household goes all Christmas music, all the time.

The all-time best Christmas record in our collection is A Christmas Gift For You From Phil Spector. It’s a great collection from the early sixties, full of joyful singing and crystal-clear production.

Here it in on Spotify.

You should give it a try. It’ll make the next hour very festive.

NYT election coverage over the years

Tuesday, November 8th, 2016

This is fun. Here are all the New York Times election-result Page Ones since 1852.

Hooray for newspapers

Tuesday, November 8th, 2016

A quick note of appreciation on this Election Day. This year, I have paid for digital subscriptions to The New York Times and The Washington Post.

I may not always agree with their politics, but we need this type of journalism to exist. That takes money. Please consider subscribing.

Heinlein, Starship Troopers and pragmatism

Saturday, November 5th, 2016

Jim Wright is a retired US Navy Chief Warrant Officer who writes a personal site over at Stonekettle Station. You should go cruise through his back catalog, but today’s post is really interesting: discussing political pragmatism through the lens of Robert Heinlein’s Starship Troopers.

S. — my soon-to-be–11-year-old — is getting to the point where she’s reading more science fiction. She loved The Martian and is about to start on Rendezvous with Rama (thanks, Russ!). She read Ender’s Game and really enjoyed it. I’m going to re-read my Heinlein and see if she’s ready for it.

I just published my first story on Medium

Saturday, November 5th, 2016

I’ve been writing here since 2001. I just published for the first time on Medium, sending over the Retail/Amazon piece.

I’m interested to see how much further my words travel through Medium vs. through my own channels.

I’m really enjoying the Lefsetz Letter

Friday, November 4th, 2016

I subscribed to the Lefsetz Letter a couple of months ago, and I’m really enjoying reading it each day.

Bob Lefsetz talks about the record industry (and the media industry more broadly) in ways that make me think deeply about my own work.

Plus, he’s pointing me towards new (to me) music. In the last week, I’ve discovered Gunpowder & Lead by Miranda Lambert and Before She Does by Eric Church. I don’t listen to a lot of modern country (I’m mostly Johnny Cash and Willie Nelson), but I love expanding my base.

Best of all, he pointed me to this fun, impromptu cover of You Shook Me All Night Long.

Awkward 1:1s

Friday, November 4th, 2016

Whenever I’ve had a team, I’ve made sure I schedule at least bi-weekly (preferably weekly) 1:1s with each person I manage.

These would always follow the same general agenda:

  • Current Project status. This would be a basic top-level green/yellow/red style update. Most of the time I know this already, but it’s good to triple-check things.

  • Things I need to communicate. These are all the things I’ve learned that affect them. Most of the time I’ll cover these items in the weekly team meeting, but I’d try to reinforce them here.

  • What’s on their mind. Open time for them to bring up big issues on their mind.

  • Big working topic for the session. I liked to have at least one thing we could talk about in-depth, usually around the whiteboard. This usually ended up displacing at least one other meeting that week.

  • Rumors and Gossip. Rumors and gossip time is critical. It’s important to have a dedicated time to talk about everything that’s going on: what they’re hearing and what they’re thinking. It’s less critical at a startup, much more critical at a place like NPR, a distributed, complicated and highly-social organization.

I worry that I wasn’t making the 1:1s awkward enough, though. Mark Rabkin, an Engineering and Product VP at Facebook explains:

Don’t talk about any topic that you could discuss in the open, among your team desks or in the cafe. If it’s safe enough to be overheard — it’s not the right content for a 1:1. Email it, send it in Slack, discuss among the desks, say it at a meeting, anything but a 1:1.

Commit to saying one rather awkward thing every 1:1, and get the other person to commit too. Agreeing in advance and getting permission makes it feel way more safe. Committing creates peer pressure to be real. It works.

You should read that whole article. Lots of good ideas.

Jason’s Great Podcast Roundup: 2016 edition

Saturday, January 2nd, 2016

I’ve been listening to podcasts since the middle of the last decade, before iTunes. I love them, and I’m glad that they’re in the middle of a boom period.

I’m also in the car for 2.5 hours a day, so I need a lot of them to keep me company.

Here’s what I’m spending most of my listening time on right now.

Disclaimer: I work for NPR, so I have a professional interest in how people listen to audio, and podcasts specifically. That said, this is my personal playlist — I’m sure the folks in the newsroom would like to add a couple of others on to it…

My Tech World

The Pub podcast, from Current is about as niche as personal radio can get. It’s all about the business and art of public radio and public media. Almost everything Adam Ragusea talks about is directly relevant to my day job. (And, I know a decent number of the guests.)

On the Media is the very-well-named podcast covering all manner of issues surrounding the media today.

The next group of podcasts are all around the tech and startup industry.

This Week in Tech with Leo Laporte and a roundtable of guests is one of the very old-school ones. TWiT accompanies my Monday morning drive each week.

Exponent with Ben Thompson and James Allworth is a deeper, more strategy-focused take on the week’s news. Thompson is the writer of Stratechery, one of the news sources on the web that I actually pay for.

PandoLIVE is a weekly show with Sarah Lacy and Paul Carr. Pando is another site I subscribe to.

On a side note, both Stratechery and Pando are doing interesting experiments around enabling subscriber sharing of paywalled content.

Security Now is another old-school podcast. Steve Gibson gets incredibly technical and detailed. This is usually my Wednesday morning commuting podcast. I also threaten to put this on when the children are misbehaving in the back seat.

The Codebreaker podcast is a new one from our friends at Marketplace. It is a series asking the simple question of "Is it evil?" They’ve gone after email, data tracking, going viral and more.

The A16Z Podcast is from Andreessen Horowitz, one of the top venture capital firms in the country. They will usually focus on the business dynamics and structures of the tech startup world.


I also try to keep up with politics, as best I can. Because of my role at NPR, I’m not allowed to advocate in any political way, but I can share what I listen to.

The Slate Political Gabfest is another first-generation podcast that I’ve been rolling with for a long time.

Common Sense with Dan Carlin brings a different Gen-X take on politics.

From the public media world, I listen each week to the NPR Politics podcast, to The Ticket from KUT in Austin, and to Left, Right and Center from KCRW in Los Angeles. All are welcome alternatives to the shoutiness of the commercial world.


I don’t listen to too much straight news in podcasts, but I do catch up on The Economist Editor’s Picks each week. It’s the top 3-5 stories from that week’s edition.

I listen to the NPR One app in the shower each morning and it gets me caught up immediately. It starts with NPR National Newscast, then follows it up with the local Newscast (from WBUR, in my case — the app will pick up your local station automatically). Then, it will go into stories that it’s learned I’ll be interested in.

Boston News and Politics

The Boston Public Radio podcast sends out the highlights of Jim Braude and Margery Eagan’s daily show on WGBH.

The Scrum from WGBH does a great job covering Boston and Massachusetts statewide politics.


This is the last weekend of the regular season — through the Patriots will keep rolling for a while. These are the podcasts that keep me company.

The Ross Tucker Football Podcast is my favorite of the daily football podcasts. I’ve been listening since he was on ESPN’s Football Today podcast, and he’s only gotten better since he’s gone independent.

The Around the NFL podcast comes from, the media arm of the NFL. They have a good vibe, even when they are making fun of Gregg Rosenthal (the lone Patriots fan) sitting on his throne of ease.

ESPN’s Football Today podcast was the first football podcast that I started listening to, almost ten years ago. It’s still good, but it’s gone downhill since Ross Tucker left. Now, Matt Williamson is leaving as well, so this one may end up getting dropped next year.

ESPN’s First Draft podcast features Mel Kiper and Todd McShay doing their draft thing. It keeps me going through the long dark season leading up to the draft.


Pop Culture Happy Hour is NPR’s weekly pop culture show (and is my wife’s favorite — she’s the proud owner of a set of PCHH drinking glasses). Always welcome on a Friday.

Movie Date from our friends at The Takeaway is a weekly movie-review podcast. We’ve found their sensibilities mirror ours pretty well.

Cheap Heat is the podcast to meet all your Pro Wrestling needs. It was originally from the dearly-departed Grantland.

It’s all Connected covers Agents of Shield each week, along with all the goings-on in the greater Marvel Cinematic Universe.

General Interest

Hardcore History may be my favorite podcast of all. Once in a great while, Dan Carlin will drop hours of storytelling on you. We got through all of World War One earlier this year, and I’m currently re-listening to Wrath of the Khans.

Planet Money from NPR covers the world of the global economy with great storytelling.

The Broad Experience covers the world of women in the workplace.

The Longest Shortest Time, formerly of WNYC, now of Earwolf, I think, is a smart parenting podcast. I hope it does well in its new home.

Brains On is a great science podcast for kids.

Then, in the general category of "podcasts that engage your mind," I enjoy Hidden Brain, Invisibilia, Intelligence Squared, Note to Self, and Only Human.

Ok, that’s what I’m listening to now. What else should I be listening to? Please add a comment below, or drop me a line on Twitter.

Podcast recommendation for kids: Brains On!

Saturday, January 2nd, 2016

I’ve been looking for podcasts for kids for a while, and I think I have a new favorite.

Brains On! comes from our friends at Minnesota Public Radio. It’s a science program aimed at elementary and middle school kids, complete with smart discussions and fun mystery sounds. Most of the segments are 20 minutes or so, so just perfect for a quick car ride.

And, my daughters love it, to the point they nag me to put it on whenever we get in the car.

You should check it out. Here’s the podcast link, or you can subscribe via iTunes.

Happy New Year!

Friday, January 1st, 2016

Happy New Year, everyone!

I apologize for the lack of updates since, oh, the summer. Work has been a little insane, and I’m just starting to dig out.

This little site turns 15 in a couple of months. I’m trying to think of neat ways to celebrate…

The ongoing saga of ‘A Gronking to Remember’

Sunday, May 3rd, 2015

It’s not often my worlds intersect in this way. Here’s the NPR story covering the controversy around A Gronking to Remember:

Media sites I subscribe to (and pay for)

Wednesday, December 31st, 2014

In the late nineties, I subscribed to several weekly and monthly magazines. Business Week. Entertainment Weekly. The Economist. Red Herring. Upside. Harvard Business Review. And so on.

Fifteen years later, I subscribed to none.

That’s the way of the world, I suppose, and part of the ugly reality I lived through in the newspaper business.

This year, I decided to change it up, and see if I could atone for the web’s original sin. I took a look around and decided to see what was worth reading, what contributed more to my life than the Dunkin’ Big One or three I’d be sacrificing.

Here’s where I’m currently spending my cold, hard cash.

Public Media

Disclaimer: I have a large vested interest in the long-term success of public media. That said, I want my local stations to stay viable, which is why I donate to WBUR and WGBH. I also added WXPN (in Philadelphia) to the list this year because Robert Drake’s Day Before Christmas brought my family a lot of joy on Christmas eve.

Plus, if you don’t contribute, Elmo knows where you live.

Mainstream Media

The New York Times still has an insanely confusing matrix of options; I have the basic online subscription. Lots of people in my Twitter feed link to the Times, so it’s useful to be able to click on those links without having to remember to clear cookies, etc.

The Economist has grown-up stories and reasonable subscription plans. The feature that pushed me over the top is the audio edition. I can listen to all the articles in the magazine (er, newspaper) through a podcast. This usually gets me through a couple of commutes and a walk.

I quickly scan The Wall Street Journal each morning. I think about canceling every month, but I usually find at least one or two articles that make it worth keeping.

Technology and “media” media

The Information is a relatively new tech-industry site. I’ve found their reporting to be worthwhile.

Stratechery by Ben Thompson has high-value takes on the technology and media worlds. His deep dives on the system dynamics of my world always get me thinking.

Baekdal Plus by Thomas Baekdal goes very deep into the business of media. If you’re in the media business, you should subscribe.

That’s where I am right now. What else should I be checking out? I’m especially interested in Stratechery and Baekdal-style sites, featuring the voice of one person.

I’m selling some domains

Friday, November 28th, 2014

I think my land-speed record is 37 seconds.

It took 37 seconds from thinking “Hey, would be a pretty cool domain for tools around helping people more quickly design and navigate OODA loops” to going to Dreamhost to seeing if the domain was available to buying the domain.

37 seconds.

It’s a sickness.

Not a huge sickness, as these things go, though. It’s $10/year for a domain, and I own maybe 40 or so of them across all my interests. I can justify that as career development. Plus, it’s a business expense.

But now, I’m cleaning out my closet, and am looking to sell many of these domains. Here’s what I have up for grabs.

These are all domains you could build a brand around. is great for any type of knowledge management. I had this as the placeholder domain for the next generation of Serendeputy. was originally a rough acronym for “Green as we go”. is a play on OODA loops. and are complements for an idea I was exploring around forkable nuggets of knowledge. had no specific idea beyond “New + Butler”. is an idea I had around exploring the combinations of human (Man) and computer (algo) intelligence. and were both domains that I planned to use as sites supporting my consulting business. It turns out they weren’t necessary, but they could be useful to a consultant, publisher or thought leader in Boston. and were both working off a (now-abandoned) idea around improving my personal habits. is a simple idea around compiling and organizing all the Amazon links coming through my Twitter feed. I have a rough version of this idea up on TweetDeputy. was for a parenting site called “In my infinite free time.” was for a content site that talked about tools that are “useful, friendly and wicked smart.”

If you’re interested in doing something useful with any of these domains, please drop me a line at [email protected] this domain. Otherwise, I’m going to put them up on Sedo in January to see if they will sell at auction.

Patriots and NFL websites and podcasts

Thursday, September 4th, 2014

It's one of the happiest times of the year: NFL kickoff weekend. The Red Sox are having a tough year, and the Patriots are coming around at just the right time.

I’m a news geek (and a bit of an information junkie — of course, I eat my own dog food, so I’m a heavy user of Serendeputy’s New England Patriots page…)).

Beyond that, here’s how I’m keeping track of the Pats and the league this year. Have fun, and Go Pats!


Christopher Price leads WEEI’s coverage. On the radio, I love the Sunday morning show with Dale Arnold and his brethren. It’s the best companion when raking the leaves.

Mike Reiss of ESPN Boston is always on top of things. Patriots pulls together the coverage. The Globe is paywalled.

The Patriots subreddit has a reasonably clueful set of commenters.

Pro Football Talk aggregates news from around the league. The commenters leave something to be desired. Here is the direct link to the Patriots stories.

The MMQB has excellent league-wide coverage. As does Grantland. Deadspin is often entertaining. They even let us know why the Patriots suck.


I listen to 2-3 hours of podcasts a day — in the car, on the trail or puttering around the house. These are my football favorites.

Ross Tucker Football Podcast. Ross Tucker (a former offensive lineman for the Patriots, among other teams) has an outstanding daily show during the season.

ESPN Football Today is ESPN’s daily football podcast, with Robert Flores and Matt Williamson.

Grantland NFL Podcast is Grantland’s football podcast, with Robert Mays and Bill Barnwell.

PFW in Progress is the podcast from Patriots Football Weekly, which is affiliated with the Patriots themselves. This is the closest of any of these podcasts to having the “hanging out with your (occasionally idiot) buddies at the bar.” feel.

Am I missing anything? Please leave a comment or tweet me @jpbutler with more suggestions.

Serendeputy 2 update for March

Tuesday, March 11th, 2014

I’m making good progress on this (increasingly) large project.

The production environment is sketched and spiked, using Amazon Web Services. I think I’ve solved the SSL issues with a combination of CloudFlare and elastic load balancer.

The crawler is up and running — I’d even say reasonably solid. It’s well-behaved, working with robots.txt files and following all the crawler best practices. Once it’s running on the AWS servers, I’ll get a better idea for how many sites just block traffic from the Amazon IPs on general principles. I have a feeling that I’ll be paying for other people’s sins.

The personalization math is done and the code is prototyped. As I’m using it, I’m tweaking the coefficients for the gestures to balance how much they can influence the profiles.

The front end is not egregiously ugly! No one would ever claim that I’m a designer, but I’m going to have that alpha in front of people to get feedback, and then bring in a real design person/team/agency for the beta version.

March is going to be an insane month in pretty much every corner of my life, but I’m still hoping to have an alpha version that I (and maybe you!) can use in the beginning of April.

Serendeputy 2 update for February

Saturday, February 1st, 2014

I’m still working diligently towards my rock-solid deadline of “Launch this thing at some point in the indeterminate future.”

I finished the gesture engine this week. Now that that’s solid, I’m spending most of my time over the next month working on the profile balancer and its complement, the homepage builder.

I’m looking at these like a chef composing a recipe: how can I balance the flavors just right? I’m working to strike the balance among recency, relevance (how it maps to your interest profile), and reputation (how important the page is on the worldwide Internet).

My AWS infrastructure is set up, and I’m running parts of the application on it right now. Making progress.

I should be able to get into alpha Real. Soon. Now. (I’m shooting for by Opening Day, but we’ll see…)

Thanks for staying tuned.

Still Alive

Monday, January 13th, 2014

Hi everyone!

I am, in fact, still alive — not that you'd know it from my writing here. I've been heads-down on the next version of my news engine, which is scheduled to launch at some point Real. Soon. Now.

My "linky goodness" posts that used to live here are now mostly going through my account on Twitter. You can follow them (in nicely consolidated form) here on TweetDeputy. It's a quick way to keep up with what I'm finding interesting on the web.

More soon…

Serendeputy 2 notes

Thursday, September 5th, 2013

The children go back to school tomorrow, and the transition from Dad-mode to launch-mode begins.

After I took a week or two off to adjust to an abrupt transition, this has been an insanely productive summer. (Obviously not the “writing the blog” front, though.) I’m in the middle of rewriting Serendeputy, my personal news application, from the ground up, and I’m pretty excited by the direction it’s taken. A lot has changed since I wrote the first version in 2008-2009, and it’s been so much fun to be able to update it to match the world we’re in now.

It’s currently in private “pre-alpha” i.e., running on my laptop. I should have a thrill-seeker version available for early testing by the end of September. If you’re interested in playing with it, please drop me a line.

Tech notes for those who are interested in that sort of stuff:

  • It’s still a Rails (4.0) front end, but that’s almost entirely a thin wrapper over a series of services.
  • I’m playing with Clojure for the personalization engine. I’ve written the original logic in Ruby to make sure it works; I’m going to see if I can port it over to Clojure to get a performance and memory boost.
  • I’m pretty much all in on AWS. Serendeputy currently runs on a few Rackspace (formerly Slicehost) servers; the new version is entirely AWS-based.
  • I’m about to fire up RubyMotion to write the iOS client. I’d really rather have a native client, and I’m hoping that my using a Ruby-based environment can make that happen. If it works, then I should be able to contract out an Android version. If not, then I’ll fall back to the mobile-optimized site through the browser.

We’ve launched

Monday, December 31st, 2012

Happy new year!

I started a few weeks ago as the VP of Product and Technology at a startup called Compass Aging. And today, we just pushed live the first public beta of the product!

We’re building a tool that will help adult children of aging parents take control of all the challenges and opportunities that come along with that stage of life. The vision is big, and this first public beta represents about 20% of the functionality. (So, yes, things are likely to be pretty dark in these parts over the next few months…)

What’s most interesting in this first version:

The Care Plan tool. What we’ve done here is to build out the first version of a tool that takes the concerns you have for your loved one and builds a plan customized to those concerns, with additional information and suggestions on how to take control.

The Care Safe. This might be my favorite piece. We’ve built out the first version of a centralized place where you (and your siblings and other concerned folks) can keep track of everything that’s happening with your parents, including to-dos, notes, important documents, etc. Just keeping everyone on the same page and bought in to the plan is going to be a major win for folks.

Housing Search. Choosing a senior-living option is one of the most important (and expensive) decisions you’re going to have to make. We want to be best in the world at helping you make that decision.

We’ve started in Newton, Needham and Wellesley. As we figure out what information is most useful for the consumers, we’re going to build this out nationwide. The IA geek in me is very excited about this project.

Check it out and let me know what you think!

p.s., Big visions require great teams. I’m hiring for about a dozen positions right now. Check them out here: Jobs at Compass Aging.