A Year and a Day

Why will it fail?

This is going to be a very self indulgent post, and I make no apologies for that. When you have a job like this (Hi, I’m John, founder and technical lead of BristlrM14) it’s very easy to sail past milestones without flinching, continuing to run as fast as you can away from trouble.

I’m sat in bed, on a rainy Manchester day, about to carry a hastily decorated store-brand cake through the damp to a small gathering of friends to celebrate a year-and-a-day since Bristlr launched. And I’m taking the opportunity to reflect on the accomplishments of the last 12 months through the power of statistics. This is a blend of vanity and therapy.

Year 1, by the numbers

  • Members: 115,000
  • Matches: 500,000
  • Beard ratings: 1,300,000
  • Messages : 1,000,000
  • Pageviews: 39,500,000
  • Unique visitors: 500,000
  • Countries: 187
  • Top 5 countries: USA (32%), UK (22%), Brazil (13%), Netherlands (10%), Canada (6%)
  • Top 5 cities: London, Sao Paulo, New York, Amsterdam, Chicago
  • Desktop users: 22%
  • iPhone users: 37%
  • Largest traffic spike: December 26th, 3am GMT
  • Funds raised (excluding director’s loans): £28,000
  • Verticals: 1 (and a half?)
  • Full-time staff: 1
  • Freelance staff: 9
  • Git repositories: 16
  • Git commits: 2,600
  • Individual services (Heroku apps): 25
  • Database nodes: 2
  • Primary database file size: 8GB
  • User-facing errors generated: 7,400
  • Cumulative downtime: 1 hour, 57 minutes (99.98% uptime)
  • Cups of coffee drunk: 900
  • Miles driven: 10,000
  • Car parts replaced: Tire, spare tire & hub, clutch, coolant header tank, exhaust shield, windscreen wipers x 4
Our birthday cake
Our birthday cake

These numbers are good at showing where we’ve been and how much we’ve achieved. But they’re basically useless for predicting our future. We’ve been busier than people realise, and we have big plans and expectations for the next 12 months. My goal is to improve on all of these metrics at least ten fold.

The past year has been littered with happenstance, luck, chance encounters, and supportive friends and family. Whilst I can’t thank everyone individually, I do want to say thank you to everyone who has helped put us where we are today, and everyone who’s taken a chance on us.

Happy birthday.

Bristlr gets push notifications

Push notifications are here

Push Notifications have eluded us for too long. And they elude us no more! With the release of Bristlr 1.4.0 on Android and 1.4.2 on iOS, Bristlr brings notifications right to you.

You’ll now get notifications when you get new messages, new matches, and when your daily matches are ready. We’ll still also send you emails from time to time (and if you’re not using the updated apps).

The new updates also fix a few bugs and make chatting even faster, which is nice.

We’ve timed the daily matches notification so it’ll hopefully not wake you up. You can turn all these notifications on or off in your settings.

Bristlr’s going speed dating in London this Movember

Eclipse_London_3226

We’re off speed dating! We’re teaming up with SpeedDater for a special evening of speed dating, with all money going to charity.

If you can make it to London on NMovember 27th, get yourself a ticket! 100% of the ticket price is going to the Movember Foundation.

The event will see you paired with various potential partners, all with a love of the beard. On arrival you’ll be greeted by a SpeedDater and/or Bristlr host and given a badge that’ll match you with your table. Every time the bells rings those with beards will rotate around, and you’ll have a card to mark on who takes your fancy. After the event you simply log on to SpeedDater’s website and you’ll be able to see all your matches from the evening. Fun, right!?

All we ask is that you make sure to get permission before commencing any beard fondling.

Tickets are £10 each and available here. Get them quick as there’s only a limited number of places available.

If you’re not familiar with them, SpeedDater launched in London in September 2002 and has grown into Europe’s largest organiser of singles nights, specifically speed dating events. They hold regular events in over 40 UK cities.

See you in London!

Searching via #hashtags is now a thing

hashtags

Hot on the heels of Operation #Rainbow comes a less fun, but probably more practical, new feature: hashtags act as search links.

Any hashtags you use in your profile or messages will become links to a search of the phrase. So you can now find everyone who loves #pizza, #cats, and #coffee. And #rainbows, of course.

This is the first update in what we’re thinking of as the more social side of Bristlr. We want to make it easier for people to find and connect with others. We want online dating to be fun, effective, and have a social element.

If you’re wondering, the image in this post is the word cloud you get if you take all the text in everyone’s bios. Cool, right?

Operation #Rainbow

A rainbow profile

Finally, at long last, we’re pleased to announce our killer feature. A feature unique to Bristlr, and so Earth-shatteringly spectacular that it will leave all other dating apps essentially ruined.

You can make the text in your bio and messages rainbow coloured.

I know, I know, we didn’t think it was possible to achieve such technological superiority either, but we have. Just put #Rainbow in any text on Bristlr and marvel at the wonder that is, rainbow text.

And yes, my username on Bristlr is “Sausage”, what of it?

A Bristlr Success Story – Ben and Lydia

Ben and Lydia

Ben and LydiaWe got an email this week, and it’s the kind of email we love to get. It’s an email from Ben, who used Bristlr, and has had a lovely time.

He found Bristlr late last year after reading an article about us. “Being a bearded man myself I thought ‘why not?'”

Why not indeed Ben!

With his (and Lydia’s) permission I’ve shared his story below.

I had been single for a little while (if you don’t count my beard as a partner) and was on the look out for someone special. I’m a chef so the long and unsociable work hours make it difficult to meet people. I’d thought about other online dating websites but the specific nature of your website appealed to me (and, hopefully, I’d appeal to others).”

Little did I know that when I created my profile that my life was soon about to change forever, very much for the better.

It wasn’t long until I saw a face which really caught my attention. I remember seeing the picture of this girl and genuinely thinking ‘wow, she’s beautiful. I’ll click on that little heart and see what happens’. I genuinely thought that heart symbol would not turn red. I genuinely thought, just going by looks and her lovely sounding profile, that this girl was out of my league. Also, with me being in Stoke and the fact that she was in Leeds – surely nothing would ever come of this?

This is a little while ago so I may not remember details correctly but I don’t think it was long before that heart symbol was a lovely, passionate shade of red. She liked me back. Then not much longer after that I received a message. It was a simple, succinct message that I’ll never be able to forget – ‘Why are you so far away?’.

It was the kind of opening line that you want to receive on a website such as this. I took that message as her way of saying that she liked what she saw but would the distance between us be a hindrance? So I replied – ‘Ha! Why are YOU so far away?’.

It was the only response I could think of and, looking back on it, could’ve gone either way I suppose! It could have been seen a a bit combative maybe? What did happen was that it started a conversation which I simply loved being a part of. As we spoke more and more, it was clear there was a fantastic connection between the two of us and eventually we exchanged numbers and took the conversation over the phone.

It was in the New Year that we met up in person. This was after texting until stupid o’clock in the morning, calling each other and a Skype session in the month previous. There was always the danger that it wouldn’t work in person. I was really nervous and so was she but it was the best first (and last) date I ever had.

I say last date because I am absolutely sure that I have found ‘the one’. We are now living together in Bradford and because of the move that I made I also now have a dream job as well as the dream girl. It may have only been a brief eight months that we’ve been together but we are both certain that this is it for us.

The reason I’ve decided to get in contact with you is simply to let you know that what you have done, through your website, is brought two people together who otherwise would never have met. We often say that the likelihood of us meeting was so incredibly slim, maybe even impossible. So we believe that you have brought together two soulmates. You can call it fate or destiny (or the power of a great beard) or whatever you like but that is what’s happened.

Everyone at Bristlr wishes you nothing but happiness together!

My Beard Smells Like Jelly Beans

beardoil

This isn’t a sponsored post. Though it should be for all the praise I’ll be writing.

I should mention that Beard Lab (the makers of the beard oil I’m talking about in this post) do advertise on Bristlr. That’s actually how I first heard of their products. One of my jobs here at BristlrHQ is to manually approve each and every ad which runs on the desktop version of Bristlr. Whilst doing this a few weeks ago I found myself with the biggest smile in the world whilst approving an advert titled “Jelly Bean beard oil!”.

Oh yes.

I ordered a bottle out of pure instinct. You can too, here, if you’re feeling the urge. And I am happy to report it’s every bit as good as you’re dreaming it is.

I use beard oil right after a nice hot shower and a towel dry. Three or four drops is plenty.

This oil smells so good.

There’s an initial strong and sweet smell of fruity sugar, which makes way to more of a fresh floral scent. It’s an interesting transition, and it works really well preventing the sweetness from being too overwhelming. The scent settles into a very sweet and light citrusy flavour which lasts at least all day.

I’ve found with a lot of the more floral oils, there’s a tendency for them to smell stale as the day wears on on. None of that here. Or if there is, the sweet notes cover them well.

If you’re like me and a fan of the very-sweet, I’d highly recommend the lime and pomegranate “Hades” from Bath Sabbath, and the divine Chocolate Orange oil from Beards in Arms.

I should also mention, sadly, that the Honey Bourbon Beard Balm from TreeBeard does not make your bead smell like you just poured honey bourbon in it. Much to my disappointment. It’s a really great balm…. but still. It’s way more cedarwood than bourbon.

If you have any oil recommendations, please do share them in the comments!

And if you make stuff you think Bristlr users would be interested in, you can try our ad platform for free at admanager.bristlr.com. We’ll happily give you some free impressions to trial the service, just send me an email (john@bristlr.com). And don’t suck. We don’t accept paid reviews, and whilst you’re welcome to send us samples (we do like free stuff), it won’t make any difference to how much we love you.

Want to Build Bristlr? We’re (Always) Hiring!

Bristlr (39 of 54)

If you’d like to work at Bristlr, you’ve just passed the first and most important step; wanting to work at Bristlr.

We’re not a normal company. We’re an early stage startup, and we’re a beard-focussed dating service with mighty ambitions and big plans.

People joining us are expected to be awesome. We’re looking for people who are excited by weird challenges and who can think on their feet. Everyone in a tiny company has a speciality, but we should all be able to at least understand (and sympathise with) what everyone else does. Transparency, honesty, and knowledge sharing is our goal.

The role

So you want to work at Bristlr? Awesome. Hi five! Next, we need to find you a job.

What are you good at, and what are we weak at? We don’t require any previous experience, as long as you’re a good learner. Here’s some notes to help you:

Technical

  • At our heart we’re a technology company.
  • Our stack is all JavaScript, all the way down (PhoneGap, jQuery, NodeJS). If you love JavaScript, we’ll love you. But no, we won’t use the new shiny framework everyone is raving on about. We all know it’ll be replaced in a year.
  • We sit atop Heroku and AWS, and love microservices.
  • “Brutally pragmatic agile” best describes our working practise. Generally we follow the sensible parts of agile-stuff (kanbans, standups, post-it notes, no backlogs, smugness etc.) but run away screaming from over-prescription.
  • TDD and pair programming is wonderful.
  • Done is better than perfect.

User experience

  • Our UI and our UX is core to the experience of using Bristlr. If you know how to build beautiful stuff, come and make us pretty.
  • Currently we use HTML5 for our apps, not native.

Growth

  • If you’re a beast at customer acquisition you’ll have fun here.
  • We prefer experimenting with new channels and methods, rather than relying on the tried & tested (and saturated) old channels.
  • We focus on tangible numbers and impact. For context; if we’re talking signups, then we’re measuring change in the thousands.

The hours

We care a lot more about the impact you have on the company, community, and product, than how many hours you work. We’ve also learned that the more flexible the hours you have, generally the better you are at getting stuff done. You choose your hours. Want a 40 hour week? Sorted. Want to only work on Wednesdays? That’s cool too. Choose what’s going to make you happiest, and feel free to experiment.

There will always be some contact hours (we’re based in Manchester and it’d be great if you were too, but it’s not essential) because we like working in pairs, sharing knowledge, and bouncing ideas around. Also, it’s totally your turn to make the brews.

We’re not going to expect you to clock in, sit down, do some set job, then clock out. We expect you to be making a difference.

The payment

Be realistic and be honest, and keep the number of hours/days you want to work in mind. How much money do you need to do this job and be happy? Don’t undercut yourself, it’s a dick move, and won’t work out in the long term. If you’re not sure, we’re happy to talk openly about this sort of stuff.

Application

Email john@bristlr.com with your CV and a job description for the job you want. And/or, if you’re in Manchester, find John, go for coffee (he’ll buy) and pitch your job, then yourself.

You’re also always welcome to pick our brains on any of this stuff, even if you have no intention of working for us. Knowledge sharing is a good thing.

If you think our methods are too unconventional, please write a job description for an HR manager and send it in, along with your CV.

So You Can’t Advertise to Bisexual or Polyamorous People on Facebook

The bisexual pride flag - Wikipedia

A few days ago our advertising account with Facebook was “flagged for policy violations.” Meaning  “any adverts that [Bristlr are] running have been turned off.” Fair enough, these things happen and it’s not a big deal.

It was probably because in one ad we quote CNBC calling us the “Tinder for Beards”. Or perhaps it was because Facebook require prior permission before running dating ads, but as they don’t provide any way to contact them, we didn’t seek it. Either way I expect it to be sorted out shortly, and that’s not the point of this blog post.

The point of this blog post is to highlight the policies themselves, and some weirdness I found in them after having a closer read.

They have a section in their policies specifically for dating. And it’s all reasonable stuff; no nudity, don’t con people, don’t advertise to kids, no selling of mail-order brides etc.

But, they also have these policy points when it comes to who your ads can target:

  • The “Sex” targeting parameter must be set to either “Men” or “Women”.
  • The “Interested In” targeting parameter must be set to “Men”, “Women” or “Unspecified”. Combinations of “Men” and “Unspecified” and “Women” and “Unspecified” are also acceptable.

And these points are weird.

Your adverts have to be aimed at a specific sex (even though Facebook don’t actually track sex, and are mixing up the term “sex” with “gender” which… I don’t have time for that, read this). And those pigeon-holed people can’t be interested in dating both men and women; they have to be either straight, gay, or unspecified.

If you’re running, for example, a genderless dating site for people into beards, to use Facebook you have to break your demographic down into their “sex”, and then again into whether they’re straight or gay, or other.

As a better example which isn’t about us; if you’re running a dating site for bisexual, queer or just undecided people, you have to duplicate your ads to reach to two groups of arbitrarily grouped people.

Then we find this lovely line of the policy:

  • The “Relationship” targeting parameter must be set to “Single” or “Unspecified”.

As if open relationships and polyamory don’t exist, even though Facebook themselves provide an option to say you’re in “an open relationship”?

In taking broad strokes to prevent nefarious companies using the Facebook advertising platform, they’ve made it difficult for those not in the mainstream to reach people, and that sucks.

No, it’s not the biggest deal in the whole world, and Facebook are hardly alone in their actions, but it shows we still have a way to go.

To any developers out there remember: code is political.

There’s a global beard shortage. No, actually.

Emma and Danny

I ran the numbers; there are a lot more people who want to date someone with a beard, than there are people with beards. And this is a global problem.

For every person with a good beard, here’s the ratio of people wanting to stroke them:

Amsterdam 3.64
London 2.36
Manchester 2.24
New York 2.08
Los Angeles 2.04
Sao Paulo 2.02
Paris 1.98
Austin 1.66

Meaning, for every 10 people with beards in Amsterdam, there are 36 wanting a bearded partner.

If ever there was a time to start going a beard, I would say it’s now.

The only place we found there isn’t a shortage is in South Asia.

One of the fun parts to my job at Bristlr is that I get to learn things that are impossible for anyone else to learn. Most of that is also totally useless, but sometimes I find something that’s just super interesting.

When it comes to dating sites, you normally assume it’s going to be filled with a significant majority of guys. In Tinder’s case, for example, it’s basically a two to one ratio of men to women. But an interesting thing happens on Bristlr; because we reduce the number of guys able to use our service, we see an almost 50/50 split of those with beards and those who want to stroke beards (we don’t track gender), with a slight majority wanting a beard.

If you limit the beard-havers to only those with a “good” beard (rated 2/5 or above by the community, i.e. an actual beard), the number of available beards for stroking halves. This is the case in pretty much every major territory and city where Bristlr exists.

I don’t doubt the “peak beard” study from last year which told us that in 2014 beards were seen as the most appealing they’ve been for generations. But if anyone suggests this means we’re going to see a decline in beard popularity any time soon, I have the data to tell them they’re wrong.

If you’d like to see the stats on a city or region I’ve not mentioned above, just leave a comment or drop Bristlr a tweet.