Should Do This

August 9th, 2007

We’ve been at work for a while now on a new project called Should Do This. Today we’re welcoming some of the people who have volunteered to help test out the new site.

Should Do This is a site all about suggestions. It is a way to go public with your good idea and see if you can get some support from the rest of the internet. Anyone can create a suggestion box on Should Do This for any company, product, government agency, non-profit, sports team, neighborhood association … pretty much anything or anyone.

The idea for Should Do This grew out of a site we used to run called “”. The Ideas site was for giving feedback about 43 Things and worked great for a while, but we also learned it was confusing to a lot of people. Many people just got on and listed their goals like they were on 43 Things. Can’t really blame them as it looked the same (silly robots!).

Enter Should Do This. What we discovered from the Ideas site was that creating an easy-to-use suggestion box that was visible to the whole community of users allowed people to rally around and support a good idea. So we’ll be bringing back “” but it will link to our suggestion box on Should Do This. The same is true for the other sites we run.

But that’s not all. We thought if a suggestion box is good for 43 Things, it would probably work well for other people’s websites too. So we’ve made it easy for a company or individual to set up and manage their own suggestion box. You can even map it to your domain and customize the appearance to make it part of your site.

Please give us your feedback via Should Do This (enter the wonderfully named suggestion statement: Should Do This should do …). We’ll invite around 100 people today and continue to let others in as we get things more better. If you haven’t already done so, sign up for the beta and we’ll get you on in there soon!

Busy week

June 27th, 2007

We’ve been busy this week with our new blog at as well as doubling down on making 43 Things a community focused on personal improvement (rather than self harm). But we are also up to our elbows in our newest project: Should do this.

We quietly gave some folks a very early preview of the site for a few weeks but we’ve since pulled it back while we turn our Alpha product into a Beta.

What is Should do this? Put simply, it is an internet based suggestion box, and we think it works great for any person, product, company or non-profit that wants to be in closer touch with what your customers think. It’s also a fun, community filled site in the style of 43 Things. We’ll be using it ourselves to replace our old “ideas” sites.

You can head over now to and sign up to get early access to help us test out the new site. And if you run a business, website, school or nonprofit and think you might want to test out managing a suggestion box of your own, drop us a note at shoulddothis

Sensitive Goals

June 25th, 2007

Since we launched 43 Things we have seen some content on the site that we would have never anticipated. We meant for the site to be about people’s goals and a group of users found ways to put it to uses we do not support. Over the years, we’ve tried to cohabitate with some of this content, seeing the benefit in the community that grew around them.

However, in recent months there’s been a lot of activity on 43 Things around self-harm goals. Most of the action has been around eating disorders, suicide, and other self harm topics. We began by adding warning boxes at the top with resource material for people struggling with these issues. Unfortunately the problem grew.

Today we rolled out new pages for many of these goals that simply leave the warnings and take away the entries and ability to interact with the goal. We still stand by our community guidelines when it comes to allowing a varied range of content on the site. However, the self-harm goals were a misuse of 43 Things.

If you see truly sensitive goals please let us know. Please note that we reserve the sensitive goal feature for only the most egregious goals (typically self-harm related). Thanks.

The Petri Project

June 21st, 2007

We’ve talked for a while about creating a companion blog to 43 Things. This here Robot blog is good for site outage updates, feature announcements and broadcasting our lunch discussions but we wanted a clean slate for this experiment. Enter The Petri Project and Brangien. Brangien is a friend and freelance writer who has taken on the task of dissecting, learning about and propelling along this thing we call 43 Things. You should try out her first assignment: write a note to my younger self about something I know now that I didn’t know then.

Brangien says it best …

As a companion site to 43 Things, The Petri Project aims to discuss (observe, chart) what it looks and feels like to be an individual trying to make a change.

43 Things goes Platinum!

April 27th, 2007


Today we cross the 1,000,000 registered users mark. In album sales that’s a platinum record, an apt analogy as we often talk about Motown, Subpop and being in a band in relation to what we do here at the Co-op. 43 Things began as an experiment between friends with less than 10 registered users before the design polish (thank you 37 Signals) was in place. We simultaneously built the site while wrestling with the ever unfolding riddle “What Do You Want To Do With Your Life?”. I feel my life is richer for simply having entertained the question and look forward to finding another 1,000,000 users that have a similar desire to find their way through the art of self-directed self-improvement amongst friends. Cheers!

Fighting Spam With Neighborhood Watch

April 18th, 2007

I thought I’d update folks on the progress of Neighborhood Watch and the state of spam on 43 Things. A little history is likely in order.

Neighborhood Watch was born when we realized that the vibrant internet community of 43 Things users working on goals and communing with one another in a non-commerical, non-spammy way was in jeopardy. Todd and I were spending our weekends closing hundreds of spam and commercial accounts. It started as a few per day and ended up being over a hundred a day and was on an ever increasing growth pattern. This became an unmanageable task and threatened to erode the spirit and community of the site. We even found a search engine optimization company (aimed at gaming internet search results) selling reports on how to spam 43 Things. This clearly had to stop.

In attacking a problem of this scale, we knew we’d have to turn to our community of users and a few automated tools. Enter Neighborhood Watch and automated spam-catching scripts such as Robotcop and Robotscout. Since Neighborhood Watch debuted, we’ve defeated more than 3,000 spam accounts set up to prey on 43 Things. We’ve also nuked a few dozen creeps and miscreants. Along the way, we’ve had just 2 errors – which happened to the same account. This problem was a result of another user misusing the tools, not a problem with the system itself. Since then, we’ve added additional controls to avoid user abuse of the tool.

Yesterday we ran into another error in the Robotcop and Robotscout spam-catching scripts. This error mistakenly flagged lots of good, long standing users. We fixed the bug this morning (although we do expect false positives to continue). But that error seems to have raised a number of questions, so here are some more details about Neighborhood Watch:

  • When a user is flagged in Neighborhood Watch, it is not a guilty sentence. Instead, Neighborhood Watch is designed to let the community vote on these things. So while upsetting that this bug flagged good users, the system worked in that not a single good account was suspended. Go team!
  • The system is not a simple thumbs up or down vote. It uses a voting algorithm coupled with voter reputation to determine whether or not to suspend accounts. Again, we’ve now suspended over 3,000 accounts with a very low error rate (1 account, wrongly suspended by another user).
  • The Neighborhood Watch tool allows a mistakenly suspended account to be quickly revived.

Hopefully this background frames how we arrived here and the overall benefit of Neighborhood Watch. Rolling out any new feature has some bumps and in this case we realize that these bumps were felt by many established users of the site. Sorry about that folks! I’d also like to thank everyone for helping make 43 Things a great place to improve your life and thanks for keeping the spam and creeps away from the site. We appreciate all your feedback.

Welcome to City Hall

March 26th, 2007

city hall

Today we launch City Hall, the newest enhancement to the 43 Things community. 43 Things is very much a community of the people, by the people, for the people and in that spirit City Hall is the place where the community gives back and keeps the spirit of the site in balance. We’ve tried to take some common features on community sites and make them more participatory. Here’s what City Hall has to offer:

How To Use 43 Things: where users can ask questions about the site and other users can help with their questions.

Community Guidelines: we wanted to clarify the rules of the road on 43 Things. Let us know if you have other suggestions for this area of the site.

Contact Us: a new form for contacting the Robots.

Neighborhood Watch: for users who have been around a while, a tool for voting on suspect accounts that have been reported as naughty by other users.

We are hoping that this is just a start to make it more obvious what drives 43 Things—it is you. The community here shares goals, writes entries, and cheers each other on, but now they can also report abuse, answer user’s questions, and vote on suspect accounts.

If you have other ideas for City Hall, let us know about them.

Laurel & Howdy

March 8th, 2007

We’ve been five Robots for a while and it’s been a nice change of pace. But when we recently talked with Laurel about working at the Co-op it was immediately clear it was a match made in Robot heaven. A power user of the sites, an honest to goodness SDE with an Electrical and Computing Engineering degree (the rest of us are liberal arts majors … or simply street smart) and a believer in possibilities . What’s not to love? Howdy Laurel!

Laurel will be taking the title of “shortest walk to work” from me. I’m nine blocks and I believe she’s five. Go ahead and say ‘howdy’ to Laurel. Subscribe to her while you’re at it. Oh – this is a good time to mention that Laurel sits on a ball instead of a chair. Crazy jazz!

Lose weight and search

January 16th, 2007

I got the flu on Thursday and when I weighed myself I was down 5 lbs. Not bad! Though I don’t think I’m ready to adopt influenza as a lifestyle.

What, pray tell, could any of this have to do with search on 43 Things? Well for a long time, if you searched for “lose weight” on our site, you wouldn’t find the very popular goal until the second or third page of results. Thanks to something called ferret, Ivan was able to roll out a whole new search engine to 43 Things with very little effort. Now when you search for lose weight on 43 Things, guess what you get?

Hopefully you can meet your goal without succumbing to the flu virus. And thanks to the good folks behind ferret!

43T-shirts: the hidden store revealed!

January 10th, 2007

A couple years ago I printed up some 43 Things t-shirts on a lark (figuratively speaking). It’s pretty much been a hidden store this whole time. However last week I ordered a good number of shirts (I believe I have 50+ in stock now). If you’re interested in getting a custom hand-screenprinted 43 Things t-shirt then head on over to the once hidden store and order a shirt for $12. Shipping is included and we accept Paypal. The shirts come in black or pink (oh the variety!). I’ve roughly calculated sizes, so measure thrice and order once.

I should warn you that although the shirts are honest and cool, there is no football field-size warehouse with supply chain management being fed by a ravenous group of merchandisers. The shirts are on the shelf in our server room. I package and ship them in the morning before the other Robots arrive. When we’re running low I walk down the street and order a couple dozen shirts from Brian at Torpedo. And there is no 43T logo on the shirt … just the simple individualist statement, “I am doing 43 Things.” (and you’d have it no other way!).

P.S. if you complete this goal be sure to check it off your list