State of the Labs

SingularLabs has been struggling lately. Other projects and commitments have consumed most of my productive time over the last two years, and SingularLabs has languished as a result. In June we had our lowest ever monthly traffic at 68,000 pageviews. To put that in perspective, in June of 2014 we did 68,000 pageviews in the month’s first three days.

There’s three immediately identifiable reasons for this decline:

1. As mentioned previously, there’s been a significant reduction in the number of hours of development effort spent on SingularLabs products in any given week.

2: One of SingularLabs’ most popular products, JavaRa, has been rendered obsolete by improvements Oracle have made in the distribution and updating mechanisms of the Java Runtime Environment.

3: Usage of desktop computers, and particularly desktop computers running Windows and therefore able to use our products, is continuing to decline.

The keen observer may have noticed a sharp increase in activity at SingularLabs in the past month as significant “course correction” efforts have been made.

We shipped a new product that’s been in development for a while—the charming and useful Bzzt! Image Editor, a bulk image resize/rotate/compress/convert app that’s loosely based on the now-deceased Teeny Tokyo by John Saddington. Two betas and a stable version have been released, with an update and some exclusive features for our Pro Club members coming in the next few months. So far, it’s got just under 1,000 users and has been translated into three (I think?) languages.

A number of our other software titles have also been updated in the past few weeks. Windows 10 compatibility—both functionally and in terms of design—have been major factors necessitating these releases. Shipping new or updated localizations and cross-porting improvements to our underlying localization-handling architecture have also been a focus in July and August.

Finally, we’ve been making some design improvements to our website to help improve our marketing efforts. We’ve added a more traditional blog which we hope to use to increase the amount of content we’re sharing and (hopefully) in turn increase our engagement on social media. Similarly, we’ve made our email subscription signup form much more prominent and have increased our email marketing efforts.

I’m hopeful that this renewed focus and energy, ultimately culminating in better products for our users, will help SingularLabs to recover and eventually grow stronger than ever before.

The state of the Labs is strong. Well, strong-ish.

Hello again.

When I shut this blog down in 2015, there weren’t many people still reading. A few years prior there were tens of thousands of people reading each month; but gradually I ran out of things to say and they lost interest.

This time I don’t give a shit about building an audience or sticking to my niche. There’s no more grandiose design, no pompous about page or thousand-strong post archive detailing my every accomplishment — just a blank slate.

I might write every day. I might write every month. There’s also a non-zero chance that I’ll never write again. That’s all this is going to be: a nice place for me to write whatever I feel like, whenever I feel like it.

Display advertising is no longer a valid monetization strategy

Producing great content and putting a few AdSense units into the sidebar was once a decent monetization strategy. Up until very recently, one could make a pretty decent amount of money with display advertising.

Although the traffic on my blogs has grown in the last couple of years, the amount of revenue generated by AdSense has slowly declined. The is indicative of a wider industry trend, at least partially triggered by a massive increase in usage of adblocking tools such as AdBlock+.

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A recent report by PageFair claims that use of ad blockers has increased by 41% in the last year, with a total userbase exceeding 200,000,000 users and costing publishers an estimated 22 billion dollars of annual revenue.

This isn’t another plea for people to disable their adblockers en masse so that we publishers like me can continue to rake in cash. The business model is obsolete, I get it. Years of creepy tracking, bandwidth intensive, intrusive and ugly ads has rightly pissed off a lot consumers and this is the expected outcome. Users don’t need to change their behaviour or inconvenience themselves to support the websites they love; the websites they love need to come up with better ways of making money.

Though it’s incumbent upon publishers to change adapt their monetization strategies, users will inevitably need to accept that somebody must pay for the content they consume. Subscriptions, native advertising and pay-per-view microtransactions are going to grow prolifically as display advertising continued to decline. At least until someone comes up with a better solution.

Talkspace; A Startup Fighting Mental Illness

It’s common for startups to claim their idea will make the world a better place, but very few live up to the mantra. Founders seem so enamored by messaging apps, mobile games and social networks; that ideas capable of positively impacting people’s lives are often ignored.

Talkspace is one of those rare startups that has built a sustainable business solely on the idea of helping people. The idea is beautifully simple: Talkspace lets you securely and confidentially message a licensed therapist for $25 a week.


Mental health issues are especially prevalent among young people, who may be hesitant to confide in teachers, parents or school counselors. Professional counselors can cost hundreds of dollars per session, which many cannot afford. Talkspace’s approach makes seeking help less intimidating and more accessible. There’s no face-to-face interaction required and the app’s security features makes it challenging for others to eavesdrop.

An article on The Next Web discusses the benefits of text-based therapy:

Talkspace co-founder Oren Frank said in an interview that dozens of studies have shown text-based therapy to be at least as, if not more, helpful as traditional methods. He also noted that using chat creates a journaling effect by allowing patients to scroll back and reread conversations. Therapists can also refresh their memory about your case before responding.

The Talkspace mobile app is currently only available on iOS. With 2.5 million dollars of seed funding, I’m somewhat confident that apps for other platforms will be appearing soon.

“Internet Fame”

John Saddington; one of my favorite bloggers and creators-of-cool-shit, earlier wrote a fantastic piece on the topic of internet fame titled I Got Boring. While it would be egregious of me to compare my brief moments of popularity with Saddington’s long list of accomplishments, many of his observations resonated strongly with me.

When I was in high school, I wrote a couple of apps that became popular. My name and projects would appear frequently in technology publications. There were newspaper columnists heralding me as a boy-genius, there was fanmail, radio show invitations, strangers sending me wads of cash; MajorGeeks even sent me a stack of t-shirts just for letting them host my damn .exe file. For a seventeen year old kid, this attention was overwhelming.

Unlike Saddington, I immensely enjoyed all the attention. Not in the “I’m a fame whore” sense, but rather; in the sense that I work harder when I have something to prove. I felt like the internet was waiting with bated breath to see what my next ingenious creation would be. I’ve worked tirelessly over the last five years to recreate that “I matter” feeling, but despite my best efforts I can’t shake the “I’m a failure” feeling. Intellectually I know that isn’t true. I’ve built a business that can almost support me financially. The attention of total strangers really isn’t important.

As Saddington writes; the biggest loss as popularity wanes is the social circle that accompanies it:

The calls have stopped, the emails have ceased, the invitations to events no longer find their way into my hands… What is disappointing, though, is that I had unrightly and ignorantly believed that some of those people were my friends, that they were people that cared about me and not just what I could bring to the table…

I miss the mentors, the encouragers, the small army of people practically begging to beta test every little thing I was working on. Now when I show off a cool new app or website, it’s met with cold silence. It’s hard to stay motivated when it feels like nobody gives a shit what you’re up to.

(For the record; I don’t think you got boring, John. Desk looks amazing and I can’t wait to try it)