Josh Pitzalis

Understanding Retention

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People Don’t Like Being Sold To

Given the amount of advertising we are exposed to on a daily basis, most people instinctively resist anything that feels like marketing.

When you have to sell something you can write copy in a way that addresses a specific sequence of concerns that people have when being sold to.

I’ve put together a list of questions I run through when I’m putting words together to sell stuff.

First Draft - Coherence

  • Do they know what the thing does and what it’s obvious benefit is?

An easy way to get your pen to paper is to call up a friend, or catch up over coffee, and tell them about the thing. No sales pitch, just tell them what it is and why you think it is interesting. By the end of it, they should know what the thing does and what it’s obvious benefit is.

Second Draft - Persuasion

  • Always start with a problem.

Our brains are fine-tuned to pick up on problems. If you want someone’s...

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Sell Your Thing

The Brain Audit is a fantastic little book that breaks a sale down into a specific sequence of concerns that need to address in any sale.

The Problem

You always start with a problem.

Our brains are fine-tuned to detect problems. A giant piece of cake the sidewalk might get you attention but a tiger would stop you dead in your tracks.

Everybody has problems. The person you are speaking to is likely juggling several problems all at once. If you are going to get them to pay attention to your problem then you are going to have to put a spotlight on it.

The only way to highlight your problem is to contextualise it. If you don’t contextualise a problem for someone then they can’t relate to it.

People are busy. Busy with their many problems. Unless your problem speaks to someone’s immediate context, they are not going to give a shit about it.

Let’s say your thing is allergy medication...

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Spin Selling

Neil Rackman and his colleagues spent 10 years analyzing sales transactions. They studied 116 factors that might play some part in sales performance and they researched how people sell effectively in 27 different countries. Their study, which cost over a million dollars in systematic research, constituted the largest ever investigation into sales.

They discovered that there is a major difference in selling lower and higher value items. The reason is that larger sales generally occur over a longer timeframe which means an on-going relationship between the salesperson and the client develops in a way that it wouldn’t necessarily develop in a smaller Sale. There is also often more than one person involved in a high-value purchasing decision and the amount of money involved means that the risk, both financial and social, is higher. All of these factors combined to change the way people...

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Building 21st Night

This post outlines my experience building a web-based tool that makes learning complicated information quick and effective. You add information to the system in the form of cards, and the app works out which cards you need to review on what days.

The Problem

Trevor Klee is a private tutor who specialises in helping students prepare for standardised tests, like the GMAT and MCAT. He sometimes uses a Google spreadsheet to compile links of relevant topics for his students. They use the spreadsheet to review the information and then assess their understanding after each link. Depending on their performance, they mark the link for review the next day, in 3 days or a week later. Here is what a spreadsheet looked like in practice.


The process is tedious, and Trevor wanted a simple application that took care of all the details.

There are existing apps for this, Anki being the most popular...

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3592 hours

Today I worked on the page that lets you edit individual flashcards in the spaced repetition memory app I am working on.

This is where I started.

The main thing to fix was the tag component in the top right corner. I turned it into a dropdown and populated it with all the existing tags in the category. That way people can see what tags have already been created and they don’t end up creating a bunch of similar tags that should probably all be the same thing.

Screenshot 2019-05-30 at 2.01.18 PM.png

On the answer tab, I started with this…

Screenshot 2019-05-30 at 5.22.01 PM.png

I needed to add tags to each of the inputs and rearrange the layout a bit.

Screenshot 2019-05-30 at 5.20.51 PM.png

Broke a bunch of tests in the process, so there was a lot of time spent fixing tests and regretting writing them. I suppose that’s much better than regretting not writing tests in the first place.

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Active in the status column means the projects are still active.
Updated projects are active but they have been updated beyond recognition.
Stalled projects never launched, for one reason or another.
R.I.P. are projects that launched, lived their natural life and then got shut down.

Completed Project Description For Status Jul 2019 Meetbox Meeting agenda creator Personal Active Jun 2019 21st Night Spaced repetition learning app
Case Study Trevor Klee Active Dec 2018 Cryptominer World Ethereum Collectables Game Sophophilia Studios Active Sep 2018 Vaayu Vision Website for an adventure centre Vaayu Active Jun 2018 PeerPlus Online polling app
Proposal Aditya Sethia Stalled June 2018 Kautilya Books Online bookstore
Proposal Raju Arora Active May 2018 Smartspin App to help homeschool children Saar Shai Active Nov 2017 Realsies Social commitment tracking ...

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Design Problems in the Blockchain Space

One of the reasons blockchain applications have been notoriously difficult to use is because the industry has been led by engineers whose primary focus has been security.

If the technology is to be more widely adopted then we’re going to have to find a balance between the blockchain’s machine requirements and it’s human needs.

Some things we could do to make blockchain applications more intuitive are to stay away from using jargon, providing guidance while people are using applications, ensuring constant feedback during use, and calling attention to one-way doors.

Staying Away From Jargon

Let’s make sure people don’t have to know the lingo to be able to use our apps. The focus should always be on what something lets you do and not how it works.

The danger here is an oversimplification. When we must communicate something specific and complicated, let’s rely on analogies or concepts...

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An Ode To Hill Charts

Basecamp came out with a new kind of to-do list called a hill chart. This is what they look like.


Things on the left are being figured out, anything on the right means it’s being done. Stuff on the far left is vague and need a lot of figuring out while stuff on far right is almost finished.

Every time you do some work, you manually move the task a little further along the line. There no science to it, it’s not automatic, you just ballpark it and move it to where it feels right.

That’s it.

What I love most about the hill chart is that it has turned my workload into a menu. Some days I wake up and feel like figuring things out, other days I just want to get stuff done. Depending on how I feel I can pick a task with just the right consistency for the day.

Sometimes I need a boost so I’ll pick a task on the far right. Finishing stuff that is almost finished makes it feel like I’m...

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I Recommend…


  • Workflowy for organising your head.
  • Basecamp for organising stuff in teams.
  • Beeminder for sticking to commitments.
  • Best calculator for OSX Numi.


  • The Creative Class for how to freelance like a pro.
  • Bonsai for invoicing and payments.


  • Monochrome palette builder.
  • Contrast accessibility colour picker for OSX.
  • TinyJPG for image compression.
  • Typeface pairing inspiration:Typewolf.


  • Learn State Machines: Learn how to use finite state machines in javascript applications.
  • Javscript Testing: Learn how to test javascript applications.


  • Clickminded is just the best SEO course.


  • Ryan Holiday’s Newsletter for fantastic book recommendations each month.

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Hire Me

“We hired Josh together with a small group of freelancers to build a prototype app for us in a week. They did it! And, we are delighted with the results. Josh was a delight to work with; always cooperative, creative, responsive and technically excellent at his job - went above and beyond. I wouldn’t hesitate to recommend him to anyone.”

Bec Evans & Chris Smith, founders of Prolifiko.

Working with Josh was a great experience. His sense of design, aesthetics and flow of information was amazing. I am very pleased with his work and recommend him very highly.

Raju Arora, Founder of Kautilya Publishing.

Joshua was extremely detail oriented and thorough in this project. I would highly recommend him to anyone wanting a quality developer.”

Eric Schuster, Founder of Fresh Look Web Design.

If you are looking for someone that will listen to your idea, understand what needs to be done, and...

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