Win Friends Online While You Sleep

A “Friendcatcher” is something you offer for free, that helps you catch friends in your sleep.

Because it is passive, it is an asset. Just like a Dreamcatcher can be hung over your bed once and catches bad dreams for you through the night, a “Friendcatcher” (one word, not hyphenated) catches friends for you for the rest of your career.

The concept comes from Patrick McKenzie, who in turn says it came from his mom. As loud and well known as he is, this concept doesn’t seem widely known, and that is a pity. I first heard of it at Microconf, and it’s unintentionally informed my most successful online projects so far.

Friendcatching for Dummies

In the words of Patrick’s mom:

Patrick, you should learn to cook. Don’t learn to cook because you want to eat food - learn to cook because if you learn to cook you will have an excuse for the rest of your life to bring people over to your house.

No one who knows how to cook will ever lack for friends.

Patrick’s mom wasn’t talking about content strategy, or customer research, but she might as well have been.

In my notes from his talk:

Platform Before Product.

Build the things that will allow you to engage an audience and improve it over time. Included in this: Friendcatchers. Friendcatchers are small, contained lists, essays or apps that solve resonant (emotional, relevant), tractable, underserved problems.

The ideal Friendcatcher is (thanks to Christian Genco and the Microconf video):

  • Tractable: Solvable within the blogpost, guide, cheatsheet, or mini-app form factor you have picked.
  • Resonant: People say “F*** yeah this is what I need!” when they see your thing. Pay attention to pain.
  • Underserved: 101 guides are overdone. Do the 201 guide. Cover intersections of technologies.

Basically: “Fill holes in the Internet”.

What a Friendcatcher does for you

(This is swyx talking) A Friendcatcher performs these functions:

  • Solves someone’s problem. Some indications:
    • Reader’s Google journey stops at you.
    • Reader repeatedly returns to refer to your thing.
    • Reader tells you.
  • Establishes your expertise and association with the problem
  • Makes the reader look smart/funny/informed when they share your thing
    • It is “Retweetable” - doesn’t contain miscellaneous/unrelated junk, is timeless
  • Gives the reader a benefit, which you can cash in on in future
  • Does its job without your involvement after creation

“Learn in Public” Friendcatchers

A “Learn in Public” Friendcatcher also invites readers to ask about things you don’t answer, and to correct things you got wrong. This is open source, collaborative knowledge.

In terms of Learning Gears, Friendcatchers are produced by Connectors, not Explorers. You know something others don’t, and build the resources that Explorers will find that serve as landmarks and maps for their journey.

Creating a good Friendcatcher is great, because it is something you can pour resources into continually refining and making better, and continues working even if you step away. This makes a lot more mileage out of your daily efforts than other forms of content, for example things that are news related or a less ambitious talk.

Examples of Friendcatchers

Includes some of mine. Note I wasn’t consciously going for “friendcatchers”


Tagged in: #advice #principles

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