All Posts in barkles

May 4, 2012 - No Comments!

Why We’re Closing Barkles

Today I sent out one of the hardest emails I've ever had to write. In short, Barkles is closing down on June 1st. Here is the email in full:



Today we bring you some unfortunate news and our last email.

We have decided to close down Barkles on the 1st of June.

To some, this may come as a shock, and for that we apologise.

For over 6 months Jay and I (Diesel) have been working behind the scenes on Barkles to build it to where it is. We have gone through many ups and downs and have learnt a huge amount about the way startups operate. In all honesty, there are a few main reasons that we would like to share with you as to why we are shutting up shop. Hopefully, others can learn from our mistakes.

1. What's The Problem?

One of the main rules about starting a new startup is locking down the problem you are solving. Without a strong problem, you will have less people needing/wanting your product which will result in low traction/return rate. In many cases, Barkles was a cool solution looking for a problem - a reason for people to use it if you will. Had we of nailed down our problem before building the solution we probably wouldn't have built Barkles in the first place.

2. Passion

Jay is very passionate about development. I am very passionate about design. Over time however we lost our joint passion for continually building Barkles when we started realising we had built a solution looking for a problem. We still enjoyed watching the debates come in and people using it on occasion - however for us to move forward and get that passion back it would require a big overhaul to the product, with the likely chance we would be pivoting far away from the product it is today. This pivot would have taken us 3-6 months to fully realise and even then we would not be any closer to working on a problem that people want solved.

3. Financially Viable

Building a freemium product is hard to do if you have low traction and have lost passion in the product itself. Often what results is the founders redirect focus onto paying work (hey, we've all got to live!) which pushes the freemium product into the background of their minds. For others in this situation we recommend financially securing a 'runway' (a bunch of cash you live off for a set amount of months) to give yourself that focus and dedication that is needed when building a long term freemium product.

It's Not All Doom And Gloom

This process of creating a startup, getting members on board and iterating the product has been the most incredible experience. Jay and I look at the closing of Barkles as a "succesful failure", a journey we have learnt a lot from. We have enjoyed over 1400 debates, met countless people who inspired us and now know what it's like to run a startup.  We would like to thank our advisors, mentors and other entrepreneurs who have helped up learn and grow througout this journey.

What's Next? will be closed on the 1st of June.
Jay and I will continue freelancing in the areas of development and design and see where the road takes us. We will still both be actively involved in the Melbourne/Perth startup scene.If you would like to contact Jay (I can attest to his great development skills) you can get in touch: Jay's email and you can contact me via my email.

Thank you for your involvement with Barkles,


Jay Whiting & Diesel Laws

March 21, 2012 - No Comments!

The Roller Coaster Threshold

So right now, if you're wondering what to do next - take action. Work out your options quickly, choose the one that feels right (physically and mentally) and just get on with it. Even if you should fail you have one less piece of confusion in your life and a win on the board for starting something.

This post was inspired by my Facebook update (thanks Will for the extra nudge).

Every day I get to read about, talk to and watch entrepreneurs go through the motions of building their various startups. Over the couple of years I have been working in this field I have been able to learn just as much about success as failure. In most parts, failing is an extremely important result in our daily activities but is often avoided like the plague, so much so that people stop taking action towards certain tasks. The problem this creates is a never-ending loop of self-sacrifice, low results and lack of excitement.

Failure Is Very Important

With what I have witnessed, I believe that failure has been a very important outcome of the various startups I've seen operating. This is as simple as failing to deliver on time, failing to communicate, failing to focus on the MVP (Minimum Viable Product) or even failing to actually build something of value to users. Everyone seems to handle these various failures in different ways but they all end up in the same place by learning from what went wrong.

The Roller Coaster Threshold

What's a harder lesson than failure? The roller coaster ride from failure to success, back to failure and so on. The constant up and downs of working on a startup are extremely challenging and can happen just as fast as the actual ride. In many cases, the fear of the 'Roller Coaster Threshold' is actually more debilitating than failure.

When I first started Barkles, it was built on top of WordPress. At the time, Rhys and I were running the show (I was designing the front end interface and he was working on the back-end development) and we had just heard about our acceptance into the Angel Cube shortlist (more details here), basically proving that the initial concept and networking we had done was paying off.

That moment of extreme excitement was shattered when Rhys made a decision to leave the company on that day after hearing the news. While I respected his decision and we parted amicably, it still hit me like a truck. I had gone from extreme excitement to complete freak out in a matter of minutes. However, I knew that this was a great thing. Barkles had succeeded (validation, albeit early stages) and failed (The only developer quits) in such a rapid time-frame right before the pitch.

Later that day I called Jay (who was only a contracted developer at the time) and told him the news. I openly asked if he wanted to keep going with Barkles and he quickly jumped at the chance to be further involved. Jay stepped forward and said that he would be able to take our demo app and turn it into a Rails app. This took me from a low point of failure back up to a level ground knowing that we could still move forward as initially planned.

That extreme roller coaster happened in the space of a few hours. Entrepreneurs will experience this at least once in a day in some form and more often than not, the success will match the failures.

This leads me back to the original message that started this post: Take action. Don't avoid making a decision because you fear an outcome. If you have a variety of options in front of you, take the risk and actually choose one path. Make the call from your gut and be prepared for high points of success and low points of failure.

Take action by following me on Twitter.


November 13, 2011 - No Comments!

Why Startup Weekend Is Almost Essential – #swmelb

Last Friday, the 4th of November I attended Startup Weekend Melbourne (Hosted at York Butter Factory). The day before we had just pushed Barkles live to the public. Now why would any entrepreneur go to an intensive 54 hour weekend event the day after launching his own startup? Well, since you asked:

  • Passion
  • Commitment
  • Trust
  • Experience
  • Networking


I have a passion with the entrepreneurial world. Anyone who can create something from a random idea, get others involved and inspire them to build a business is nothing short of amazing. It is that passion that inspires my mind to keep creating and building everyday. If I have the chance to be around 100+ people doing the exact same thing, I'm going to jump all over it. Startup Weekend brings out the best in entrepreneurs. It forces them to look at their strengths, challenge their weaknesses and work as part of a team. When stress, anxiety, deadlines and pitching plagues the mind, it demands a certain level of focus, something that many of the entrepreneurs were facing for the first time.

To be around other experienced entrepreneurs in that time of need is essential. On the other side they need to be able to see that there is a force of people who want to change things for the better. Who want to challenge the status-quo. Who continually ask why and why not.


A month before Startup Weekend I made a commitment to Tyson Lundbech (a good friend and one of the organisers) that I would be attending. I had no idea Barkles would be launched the day before (or that it would be even be ready by then!). When the time came, we launched Barkles - then it hit me. That whole weekend I would be out of action for most of the day and night. Even so, I wanted to stick to my commitment because I truly believed in the experience that Startup Weekend would bring.


I also knew I could trust Jay Whiting (Barkles Co-Founder and Developer) to hold the fort while I was away. It was a big responsibility, and in hindsight was a brilliant decision. We had very few issues over that weekend, yet we had a lot of activity and an overall great response to the lanch.


The Melbourne Entrepreneur scene is literally growing before my eyes. There are hubs popping up all around, multiple incubators being launched and many more startups are being built every day. Startup Weekend brings all of those together - A hub of activity over the weekend, 100+ entrepreneurs working together in smaller teams, $5000 winning pitch prize and an opportunity to travel to the JFDI–Innov8 2012 Bootcamp in Singapore including $15,000 SGD in seed funding. Startup Weekend truly is an incredible experience that you should do at least once if you are passionate about entrepreneurship.


In addition, the mentors, organisers, judges and other workers in the space bring a great level of experience to the table. If I were to give one piece of advice to any entrepreneur it would be "Be seen and heard, constantly". This doesn't mean you should bug everyone you can while they are eating lunch - it's more about paying attention to the advice they choose to share. Ask all the questions you need answered and get to know them. If you meet some amazing people at these events, get their details and arrange a time (yes, on the spot) to catch up in the future for a casual chat. It's these moments when you are in the same environment that will be the easiest to connect, just by pure proximity and similar interests.

The next time Startup Weekend rolls around I strongly recommend you get on the list. It will be an experience like no other, where you will understand a lot about yourself in a quick timeframe. You will meet many other inspiring people, and the lessons you learn will last a lifetime.

Like Startups? You should follow me on Twitter.

November 11, 2011 - No Comments!

The UX Behind Barkles UI

Note: This post has been kept up for historic reasons as Barkles is no more.

For as long as I can remember I have questioned why things have been done a certain way and what other approach they could take. In its simplest form UX is just that - questioning why things are done a certain way and making them more fluid for the user.

What Is UX?

User experience as it stands is not just a great UI (User interface) or functionality. It's about the experience for the user as they click-through, try on, purchase, run between and more (Wikipedia - User experience (UX) is about how a person feels about using a product, system or service). It's how they connect. Unfortunately, it's very easy to ignore or overlook a great UX due to:

  • Designer/Developer is too close to the product and can't see it from a new users point of view
  • UX is hard to do correctly based on the many viewpoints
  • There is no manual - it's often just what you feel by using the product
  • User feedback is ignored
  • The developers, designers and general team aren't using their own product

By taking into account the importance of a great UX early on, you can start baking core principles into your design, functionality and concepts. This will help build the foundation of your platform just in the same way Apple represents brilliant design simplicity. At the start of development the UX will be directed to how you feel using your own product.

A Live Example

I always find it important to give a working example to provide clarity to the visual readers. So I will dive into my recently launched startup Barkles and point out a few things I did early on that fed into functionality, marketing and the end result.

Barkles is a side by side platform for debates. The premise is simple - show side by side debating with commenting sections. Based on the simplicity, I wanted the design and functionality to stand out - to be harder to instantly replicate. In that, we also had to build the functionality to the same professional level.

A Barkles Dogfight

As you can see above, the Barkles Dogfight interface is simple. Yet, there is enough functionality to get involved and share your opinion, view Dogtags (profiles) & throw Bones. The design gets out-of-the-way of the user and allows them to get involved in the discussion.

Scrolling Context

The experience with functionality replicates this. The Dogfight Starter that stretches the full width of the centered area follows the discussion. When you scroll down the page it comes with you - constantly keeping the debate in context. This in itself is a powerful UX addition as it keeps the user focused on the point of the debate further they go down the page.

The Dogfight Starter fixes to the top of the browser window

The Quick Scan

The page width also helps out in creating a simpler and more enjoyable UX. We could have easily let the width spread the full side of the page so the responses had more room, but this would have required much more involved left-right scanning of the debates themselves. By keeping it center aligned and focusing on a smaller width it allows the user to follow the debate easily by scanning each side with minimal eye movement. Below is a wider mockup which is uncomfortable to read in comparison (click to view the larger image).

A quick mockup of a larger width area Dogfight

Simplicity With Colour

Other elements that enhance the user experience are the simple coloured lines next to the avatars. These lines reinforce the different sides of the debate. This simple, yet effective addition is noticeable when taken out:

Different coloured lines taken away from each side

As you can see, even with the Agree and Disagree buttons labeling each side the lack of coloured lines blurs the lines between the sides. It's only a subtle difference, but enough to 'feel' confusing or messy as the user scrolls down the page. The colours also break up the grey/blue themed page and add some character.

Try The Functionality

Now, while this article focuses mainly on design aspects, it's important to note the underlying functionality that supports the UI/UX. The quick loading and simple interface functions well, and great care has been taken to enhance the experience of adding an opinion. From text-shadow, input box drop down to hover box-shadow, everything has been put in place for a stronger (and easier) experience for the user.

While I could talk about the functionality for a while, it's better for you to get a hands on feel of how it works. View this Dogfight and get a feel for the experience we have crafted -

I hope that these insights have given you a few ideas or at least an in-depth look at a Barkles Dogfight and the UX behind it. In future articles I will go into more detail about other pages of the Barkles platform.

If you have any questions just give me a shout me on Twitter.

August 10, 2011 - No Comments!

10 Critical Steps To Naming Your App

So you've just come up with the greatest app idea and now you need a name. Do you take the old pen and paper route or do you look for what's available in the digital world? Let's walk-through the 10 critical steps to naming your app.

The Simple Idea:
Side by side discussion platform.

1. Know The Idea Inside Out

Take the time to get to know the idea in detail. Bounce off the people in your team, the path the business is travelling on and who you are planning on marketing to. This will help you formulate the brand in a much better light for the target audience.

The Detailed Idea:
A side by side discussion and debating platform similar to a commenting system. Marketing will be directed to corporate and general users. The team will be focusing on early iteration, organic growth and rapid feedback development.

2. Keywords Are King

Once you know the business idea inside and out formulate a list of keywords that simply describe the app. For this I use the notes on my iPhone, but it really could be any piece of software that allows typing. You could use a pen and paper, but it's not that easy to copy and paste from a physical notepad.

Discussion, Debate, Conversation, Agree, Disagree, Like & Dislike.

3. The Digital Brainstorm

Now that we have our descriptive keywords, work with them one by one in a tool like and browse the Thesaurus. I used nxdom to string together keywords with random beginnings or endings and often find something I like. While this tool is supposed to find available domains occasionally a claimed one surfaces - just make sure you check for available names with a domain service like Hostmonster.

During Brainstorm:
"Dogfight" was found during research (similar to debate). This lead me down the path to a dog themed name.

4. Add On The Non-Descriptive

Having no luck with the descriptive keywords or wanting something non-descriptive? Add in some random words (or even just some letters) to get some interesting results. Try with ending letters such as 'ly', 'es', 'ing', 'on' and 'le'.

5. Check The Social

Once you've found an available domain name celebrate a little, then quickly move on to checking the social platforms to see how available it is. As long as you have the domain name, it won't matter too much if you slightly change it up for your social networks. Use a service like to see which services have your name available.

Twitter: @barklesapp
(All other social services have been aligned with barklesapp)

6. Does It Fit?

Now just before you get too fixated on the app name, take a step back and work out if it's right for your idea. Pay attention to the readability, the memorability and also how easy it is to spell/say.

Back To The Detailed Idea:
A side by side discussion and debating platform = 9/10.
Readability and Memorability = 9/10.
Spelling & Saying = 8/10[pronounced: Bark-ools]

7. Talk To Your Team

Take a moment to share the proposed name to the team. They will often give you unexpected feedback that can help your decision going forward (i.e. Companies that already have a similar name, words that rhyme and connotations that you weren't aware of).

8. Secure It

Secure the domain and all the social services you need in one swoop.

9. The Logo

While many may point out that a logo isn't part of naming your app, I beg to differ. 9 times out of 10 your clients will see your app name in logo form before anything else. If your logo is hard to read or confusing your well-chosen name will be lost.

10. Putting It All Together

These 10 steps are usually completed within a couple of hours to a few days depending on your team. Take the time to get a great name, domain and logo so your app has a stronger chance at surviving amongst the million and one other companies (even with just a coming soon page).

How Did You Name Your App?

Share your feedback in the comments below.