How A Great Domain Name Changed Gina Trapani’s Life
Back in the early 2000s, Gina Trapani worked as a coder for Kinja, a blog reader that would later become the commenting system for all of the Gawker Media websites. The small team of 3 that she was a part of included Nick Denton, Gawker Media’s founder.
One day, Gina and Nick went out for lunch and had a conversation that would change Gina’s life forever.
Discovering a Great Domain Name
At the time, the idea of life hacks was becoming popular and was just at the brink of going mainstream. Inspired by all of this, Nick did some searching and discovered that the domain name lifehacker.com was available. Gina couldn’t believe his luck and immediately saw the potential that the domain name had.
“When I heard that he got that domain name my brain exploded,” Gina recalls. “I was like ‘that was available and you got it? You’re going to launch a site, right?!”
Though Gina was excited about the domain name and the opportunity it presented, Nick did not have any immediate plans to get to work on it. When he saw Gina’s enthusiasm, it didn’t take long for him to decide to make her founding editor of the site and develop it based on her vision.
[Tweet “”I knew just from the domain name that this was going to be a great site.””]
With the support of Gawker Media and a sponsorship from Sony, Lifehacker had a very successful launch at the beginning of 2005 that got the site a lot of attention right away. This included Advertising Age and the New York Times writing articles about the site in its first week.
“I think the meme and the idea behind the site just struck a chord,” Gina explains.
The goal of Lifehacker was (and is) to help people live a more productive life. This can include anything from keyboard shortcuts that make Gmail easier to using a cheese grater to evenly distribute butter on toast. It’s not that we’re doing things wrong; it’s just that there’s usually an easier or unique way to approach a daily activity that we never thought of.
At first Gina was the sole contributor to the site, relentlessly pumping out a dozen posts per day. As time went on and the site got more and more popular, Gina began to build out a team of other bloggers, editors, community moderators and interns to help make the site even better.
Over the next several years, Gina helped the site build momentum and become one of the most popular sites on the Internet. She saw the monthly pageviews climb from 0 to 33 million. She wrote thousands of posts, several books, and even made TV appearances as well.
Despite the massive success of Lifehacker, however, after 4 years Gina was beginning to feel a bit restless and like she was ready to move on.
“There was absolutely no logical reason for me to leave except that I just felt ready to do something else,” she explains.
Before she was a blogger, Gina was a coder that enjoyed working on projects and making great things. As Lifehacker became more and more popular, she found herself moving further and further away from making, which was beginning to take its toll.
[Tweet “”It was difficult to only write about stuff that other people made instead of making my own stuff.””]
Though it was a very scary decision to make, Gina decided that the time was right for her to take the leap and start working on her next big idea.
“I had so many ideas tugging at me that I felt like it was time for me to go work on those other things,” Gina recalls.
Todo.txt is a minimalist to-do list app that aims to make writing and managing a list of reminders as simple as possible. The idea is based on a simple todo.txt file that many of us keep on our computers already to keep track of stuff we don’t want to forget.
What the Todo.txt app does is take this file and use Dropbox to sync it with your smartphone or tablet. You can then use your other devices to add, modify or delete notes, which will then be updated in your computer’s plain .txt file as well.
Though Gina had been working on Todo.txt while at Lifehacker, leaving Lifehacker meant that she now had more time to work on it and make it even better. She continues to work on the app as one of her many projects.
ThinkUp, which takes up most of Gina’s time these days, is an attempt to make social media more meaningful. It can be all too easy to treat Twitter and Facebook as broadcasting tools and forget their ability to foster meaningful relationships with other people. Gina and the rest of the ThinkUp team believe that the solution lies in the data.
ThinkUp provides unique insight into your behaviour like how often you talk about yourself, how many exclamation points you use, and whether you forgot to say thank you to someone. It also tells you things about your friends that you might have missed such as who liked your updates the most, who laughed at what you posted, and how your friends have updated their profiles.
Gina’s latest project is Makerbase, a user-editable directory of people who make great things. Unlike LinkedIn which focuses on titles and employers, Makerbase is more like the IMDB for makers. Similar to movies, apps are often short-term projects that people work on and then move on to something else.
“I think that a lot of stuff — especially in tech — comes from people brainstorming and collaborating in undefined roles,” Gina believes. “I was interested to see how that works and particularly how people travel from project to project together.”
Makerbase’s ultimate goal is for users to be able to look up any project and see who worked on it and what they contributed. When you find someone whose work you admire, you can then connect with them to talk about their work or even collaborate on future projects.
One early challenge that Makerbase faced was that the .COM domain name was already taken, an all-too-common problem that is often faced when searching for a domain name. Rather than change their name or tack on extra words to the domain, Gina and her co-founder Anli Dash had another idea.
“We went through every single possible alternate because truthfully I did want the COM,” Gina explains. “Then we saw that the .SE was available through Hover and thought that it works and it’s actually kind of cool when you see it in the address bar, so we went with it.”
By using a domain hack to form makerba.se, Gina was able to get the product’s full name in the domain name in a way that speaks very well to the technical nature of the site. Though domain names like this are by no means the norm, Gina isn’t too worried about it.
“Alternate top-level domains are becoming more and more mainstream and my concern about not having the .COM is going to be less of an issue moving forward,” Gina explains.
Gina believes that the best thing you can do in order to get started on an idea is simply to just start.
“I think people get really hung up on well I don’t know how to code and let me go take this 6 month coding course or I don’t know how to design or if I can’t get it perfect then it’s not going to be good enough,” she explains. “I think that that often keeps really great ideas from getting out to the world.”
Rather than waiting for your project to be a masterpiece, you should start putting whatever you have out there as soon as possible. You can then start to get feedback in order to make your project better, or even see if it’s worth pursuing at all. It’s very easy to forget that this, in fact, is a very common approach for how projects get released.
[Tweet “”I don’t think anyone ever makes something perfect and then releases it to the world.””]
For Gina, the moment of getting started on an idea begins with the domain name. Though she has registered many names for ideas that she has ultimately not acted on, for her it is a great launching point to ignite her creativity.
[Tweet “”Registering a domain name is this moment where you’re like ‘now I have a place to put a thing!'””]
We’re thrilled to be her domain name provider of choice and play a small role in her many great ideas, and we can’t wait to see what she comes up with next!
Ready to get started on your next big idea? Get it a great domain name from Hover:
*Photo courtesy of XOXO