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Discarding Websites - An Effort to Focus on Fewer Things

September 2014

Ideas? Ideas are easy. Coming up with hundreds a year is no problem. Most dissipate, but the raw tonnage usually generates a few worth pursuing.

When thrashing out an idea, I look for good website names to accompany it. This is where things get a little out of hand. It's too easy to spot a good one and buy it for fear that cyber-squatters 1 are close behind. It doesn't take long before I've stocked a stable full of unused websites 2. My current count: 46.

If I never have another new idea, I wouldn't be able to tackle half my current list. This never used to bother me. I get a rush out of the thought experiments that go along with new ideas, but I've come to appreciate that they have a insidious opportunity cost. If I don't make an explicit decision to *not* pursue an idea, part of my brain keeps chewing on it. Getting Things Done 3 describes this as an "open loop". Each one consumes a little mental energy. Individually no big deal, but combining several really saps the energy available to focus on anything else.

So, I'm releasing sites back into the wild to jettison some mental baggage. Here's a partial list of those that are either going or are gone:

- `AmbientForge.com` - Ambient Forge was a potential name for a software company. - `AmbientFoundry.com` - As was Ambient Foundry. - `AmbientWares.com` - And Ambient Wares. (In case you haven't noticed, I really dig the word "ambient".) - `AnotherLittle.com` - The site you're reading (alanwsmith.com) started life with that name. I grew paranoid having my name so closely associated with my web presence and decided to move it. AnotherLittle.com was the first of those moves. - `awsr.me` - My personal link shortener (like bit.ly) for use on Twitter. I wanted control of my links. Partly so I could make sure they wouldn't disappear if the third-party service went away. Ironic, right? - `HoundstoothGirls.com` - This site was going to be a photo site with models donning various pieces of houndstooth clothing. Prints, calendars and other image products would also be sold to Bama fans. (For those unfamiliar with Alabama football, houndstooth is effectively the official team pattern.) - `LessBadNews.com` - I've tapered off from being an avid news consumer to actively avoiding it. It's too depressing. LessBadNews.com was going to focus on positive stories. The original idea was to grab public news feeds and remove anything that mentioned war, death, politics or celebrity bullshit. - `MockupDepot.com` - The idea was to set up a service that makes it easier for designers to deliver, and get feedback on, mock-ups. - `Mp3Recommender.com` - Think Spotify/Pandora type recommendations. MP3Recommender.com would have pointed to songs you might like and earned me a few pennies for every sale. - `PhotoHostReview.com` - A comparison engine for photographers looking for web hosting options. - `PortfolioPresenter.com` - I considered building an iPhone/iPad portfolio application. This would have been its marketing site. - `RovingPortraitProject.com` - The original name for my Million Portrait Project. Not a bad name, but The Million Portrait Project is better. - `SomeRandomPhotos.com` - Where I used to post my photos when my name paranoia was at its peak (see anotherlittle.com above). - `StimulatingPixels.com` - When I wanted something with a little more personality than anotherlittle.com for my site. (Yes, the site went alanwsmith.com -> anotherlittle.com -> stimulatingpixels.com -> alanwsmith.com). - `TackSharpTech.com`, `TackSharpTechnologies.com` and `TackSharpTechnology.com` - All possible business domains for selling software and web services to photographers.

I'd enjoy doing any of those projects. After realizing how much keeping them around without working on them was making me less productive, the decision to let them go became easier. The hard part will be keeping myself from buying more to replace them.


1. Cyber-squatters are people who buy cool website names but instead of building something they just try to re-sell them for a profit. 2. Some websites I'm hanging on to are for friends and family. They are better described as hibernating. Even taking those out, the total I own teeters on the ridiculous. 3. Of the hundreds of books I've read, Getting Things Done by David Allen is in the top five list of ones that improved my life. Its guidelines for getting all the thoughts, ideas, todos out of your head and into a trusted system are worth their weight in gold. Doing so lets me focus on actually doing things instead of just trying to keep up with all the things I need to do. It took a few false starts and can still be a struggle, but it is by far the best way I've found to deal with information overload.

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