It's rare a week goes by when we're not asked what tool to we use for this, or what service for that. We have a relatively simple and lean business set up, yet the list of tools and services is long.
We thought it would be valuable to share our current stack of tools and services for reference.
Even for us, this is a valuable exercise to externalize what we use, and potentially uncover tools or services that are redundant. Subscriptions add up, so it's always fun and welcome exercise to optimize (replace or delete) subs.
To this end — a story André will share later — we optimized our “design” stack quite considerably, and in the process, moved the stack from local app to a browser/cloud alternative, which is faster and more lightweight.
Below is our current stack we use to run TLB, along with commentary. We'll keep that page updated.
We've put the tools and services into broad categories.
Email Service Provider
Why?: We've used many ESPs over the past two decades, from basic to ridiculously sophisticated. For our needs, ConvertKit is the perfect balance of useful features and ease of use. It's fast and lightweight and does everything we need from a modern email service built for creators.
Customer Support (Helpdesk)
Why?: We don't have much to say about Help Scout other than it does what it says on the tin. We've never used Drift or Intercom, so we can't compare to those. From the recipients' point of view, Help Scout doesn't feel, look, or quack like a help desk service (like Zendesk does).
- Team: Slack & Google Workspace
- Zoom: internal (team) and customer-facing (webinars)
- André/Shawn: WhatsApp & Basecamp
Note: It may seem weird that we use different password managers. Both services allow for password sharing and guest accounts, so it's not a big deal.
André: I've been using 1PW since 2006. Anita and I share a Family account, which allows us to share logins with our moms and siblings when needed.
Why Google Analytics?: Google Analytics is great for general use, quantitative and qualitative performance tracking. GA gives us a high-level view of how our audience interacts with our content, and insights we use to optimize user experience.
Why Wicked Reports?: Our business model requires sophisticated tracking to understand the economic performance of our world building strategy in the short, medium, and long terms. We're optimizing for the long term — and Wicked Reports shows us exactly what's working and what isn't in ways that make sense for the way we've chosen to show up in the world.
Note: We don't recommend ClickBank for most businesses like ours. We use it for reasons unique to our situation and needs (André in Gibraltar, Shawn US-based, each of us with separate corporations).
Instead, consider a full-service like Paddle. Or Stripe, when paired with a robust cart that supports global tax and compliance, so you can do business legally worldwide — which can be all to easily overlooked when using Stripe.
Website, Hosting, and Membership
- Platform: WordPress (self-hosted)
- Theme: Thesis + Focus is what we use here. (If you're on a budget, GeneratePress & GenerateBlocks (Premium License) is a worthy alternative.)
- Membership: MemberMouse
- Hosting: Kinsta (blazing-fast managed WordPress hosting on Google Cloud Platform)
Why WP + MM?: A principle we care about is to have 100% control over our own platform (as much as possible), as opposed to “doing business” on someone else's platform. We have nothing against ClickFunnels, Kartra, Kajabi, Podia, Teachable, etc. But we prefer to “own the racecourse,” as our friend, James Schramko likes to say.
We've used many (many!) membership plug-ins for WP over two decades, and MemberMouse is by far the best and most robust. MM does what we need without missing a beat.
Why Kinsta?: If we've used many membership tools, we've used even more hosting providers. When it comes to hosting, you get what you pay for. We've been on Kinsta since 2018, and it's by far the best hosting provider we've used. TLB runs on the same server platform as Google.
Nick, who works with us, said this about Kinsta:
“So impressed with Kinsta. Yesterday I created a staging environment, upgraded to latest thesis + PHP8. Tested and pushed live. 10 mins total. Great recommendation!”
Tools for Networked Thought (PKM)
Note: Roam is paid. We're both “Believers” (five-year paid account). We like Roam, but we don't love Roam. Obsidian and Logseq and both free, and we love them.
André: I've been using Logseq for the best part of a year. It's the tool I have open all day to capture ideas, organize them, and form better thinking. In many ways, Logseq is like a local-first Roam, but it's more than that. It's hard to explain, but I love interacting with it.
Shawn: I've used Evernote for more than a decade and still find it to be the best all around note taking app. Instapaper article highlights and Kindle book highlights are synced automatically to Evernote using Readwise. Evernote is where I capture ideas and information. (I interact with, and expand upon those ideas in Obsidian.)
Video Hosting, Audio, and Transcription
Design, Image Editing, & Hosting
- Notability (iOS) using iPad + Apple Pencil
- Photopea (Online Photo Editor)
- Publitio (best way to deliver online media)
André: I use Notability to (hand) draw all our images, minus text. Then, I import the image into Sketch, add text captions, then export it as a high-res PNG.
… at this point, I use Photopea (free) to flatten the image, then TinyPNG (free) to size-optimize the lossless PNG for fast wed loading.
Finally, I upload the image to Publitio, a paid service to host and deliver all our images, audio, and some video over its global CDN infrastructure.
We've been using Publitio since it launched a few years ago and love the service. It beats uploading media via SFTP.
Funny story: For years (years!), I paid for a full Adobe Creative Cloud subscription, even though I only used 0.1% of one tool (Photoshop).
At some point, I realized how dumb that was, so I purchased a single Adobe Elements license. However, I found myself “upgrading” each year to the new shiny version, even though I used a single feature that did not require me to upgrade.
I blame this compulsion to upgrade software on faulty DNA or a character flaw. Then I discovered Photopea and TinyPNG, both free online tools accessible from a browser bookmark.
Shawn is less dumb than me.
(Shawn's note: I'm a different kind of dumb.)
These are the current batch of tools and services we use to run TLB.
If there are any services you would like us to “zoom in” on, let us know. We know we have a lot of interest in the topic of personal knowledge management (PKM), so that's already on the Short List.