👋, I'm Ben, a hacker, entrepreneur, and endurance athlete in SF. These days I'm building the customer infrastructure of the future with Unboxed.

Previously, I co-founded dailymile, where we built what the New York Times called "a site where runners can broadcast their miles across the Web to anyone willing to listen."

I'm passionate about giving a hand up to athletes, and helping startups with product and their Web APIs. The best way to get in touch is @bweiner

cheerleading is captivating the nation

People are feeling unexpectedly drawn to the new cheerleading documentary on Netflix. Here’s why I was pulled in:

  1. Kids are impossible not to root for; kids with gut-wrenching life stories doubly so.

  2. Cheerleading is way more dangerous than I'd ever imagined. I'd now rather my kid play hockey than cheer. That keeps you on the edge of your seat.

  3. You're learning about something totally new. Cheerleaders — as the show admits — are pretty isolated. Most people don't understand what's involved. People living in the same small town as the best cheerleading team in the country didn't even know they existed.

  4. That said, there's still a North Star — the familiar plotline shared by any team working towards a common goal. They lead early on with the big national competition that everyone's focused on. Will they be able to pull off another win?

I’m only a couple episodes in at this point, but if my experience is similar to others who have seen it, I’ll be wrapping the series up very soon.

jan 2020

are you building a cathedral?

There’s an allegory you may have heard that does a beautiful job of illustrating the power of framing. Here it is as told by Sage Cohen:

In one of my favorite allegories, a traveler in medieval times comes upon a stonemason at work. He asks, “What are you doing?” The man looks weary and unhappy. He responds, “Can’t you see I am cutting and laying down stone? My back is killing me, and I can’t wait to stop.”

The traveler continues on his way and comes upon a second stonemason. “What are you doing?” he asks. “I’m building a wall,” says the stonemason. “I’m grateful to have this work so I can support my family.”

As the traveler walks on, he encounters a third stonemason who seems to be doing exactly the same work as the previous two. He asks the man, “What are you doing?” The man stands up straight. His face is radiant. He looks up at the sky and spreads his arms wide. “I am building a cathedral,” he answers.

This allegory makes plain the reason I love building my own products so much. The day-to-day tasks I’m completing — writing code, accounting — may not differ much from what I might be doing if I were consulting, but the meaning behind those tasks makes all the difference for me.

A great CEO can make you feel the same way. The most important and underrated job of the CEO is to remind everyone in the company that they’re building a cathedral. It’s not an easy task, but communicating the vision and repeating it day in and day out is indispensable.

Next time you’re feeling frustrated, remind yourself that you’re building a cathedral.

jan 2020

the one simple trick that will save you a week's worth of work

New product ideas are exciting. Maybe you’ve hit on some way to accomplish a common task in half the time. Maybe you’ve figured out a way to enable some new behavior. Or perhaps it’s just a simple arbitrage opportunity that’s going to earn you a ton of money. For creators, nothing can beat this thrill of creation. It’s what drives us.

You start bouncing your new idea off of others as a way to tease out the things that you missed. You try to sell your friends and colleagues on the idea, knowing that your idea may not have legs if you‘re unable to do so. You look for that validation that you need to invest more time and dive into your new project.

In this moment when you’re intoxicated with your new idea, the hardest thing to do is to put on the brakes. But it might be the most important thing you can do.

Recently I sat down with a couple of colleagues to plot out a new hack project. We began our brainstorm, each of us throwing out ideas until we had one that resonated with each of us. We had an idea in thirty minutes. Ten minutes later, we were spec’ing out the API we would need and then selecting the right technology. All that was left for world domination would be divvying up the tasks.

I can’t count how many times I or people I know have jumped headfirst into a new idea thinking it would take a day or a weekend at most. Instead, I’m emerging two weeks later with a prototype barely resembling the original spark that has yet to gather any feedback. Riding the wave of excitement that springs from a new idea is exhilarating. It can also take you straight into the rocks.

Here’s a simple idea that’s worked for me: start with a use case. One simple use case. That’s it. Perfect it from the user’s point of view and then go gather some customer feedback. Starting small and iterating might not generate a wave big enough to get your adrenaline going, but it’ll build a wave of momentum nonetheless, and most importantly, have you headed in the right direction.

dec 2016

it will all be better tomorrow

Every once in a while I’ll wake up and decide it’s time to clean. Wash my desk. Clean the computer screen. Do laundry. Organize my papers. It’s a mad rush of exertion and by the time it’s over I’m often sweating. But it’s done and I can sit down at my nice clean desk and finally start to think about getting some work done. Boy was that worth it.

Work is like this too. For an engineer who’s obsessed with product, operations tasks are the worst. It’s like cleaning your apartment, except you’re moving stuff around on the servers instead. This is necessary of course, so you do it like you take a day off to pay taxes and to settle accounting. It sucks, but you slog through it because that’s the only thing to do. Once you’re done you can finally sit down at your desk and think about all those fun and challenging projects you’ve been brainstorming all the while.

No matter how satisfying and complete you feel after finishing these tasks, you’re never really done. It may be tomorrow or it may be next week, but you’ll eventually have to do them again. That’s life, lots of repetitive tasks. If you’re always waiting for the next thing, you’re missing the only thing that matters. And like these tasks, that piece of advice needs repeating from time to time as well.

feb 2012