One of the quirks of being an engineer who is still quite creative is that there’s always a natural tension when it comes to tidiness. For example, my desk is usually a chaotic collection of notes, sketches, and various new items that build up over time. But there eventually comes a day when I reach my breaking point and my left brain kicks in to remind me that it’s time for a cleanup to get organized and make space for new ideas.
At Portfolio Charts, that day is today.
The main thing that instigated the changes was the need to improve the organization to make everything easier to find. There were charts in the portfolio section, supplies in the charts section, and a lot of the documentation for how things work was buried deep enough that people had trouble finding it. It all made sense at the time, but just like my desk it eventually grew into a hot mess.
To fix all of that, I’ve been working behind the scenes recently on a bit of a reorganization. Here are a few updates to be aware of.
I’ve always been the type of person who can usually make do in any situation. But whenever you go on a long hike, it doesn’t take long to appreciate the value of the right gear. A nice pair of shoes or a good hat with proper protection from the sun can make all the difference in the world between a fun adventure and a painful slog. The little things really do help.
So in the spirit of supplying the right items for our individual financial journeys, I’ve just launched a new section of the site — Supplies. It’s not totally new, of course, as it’s really more of a re-launch of an old section that has been through a few iterations since I first rolled out the idea. But after a lot of work trying different things and refining the experience, I think it’s finally on the right track.
The best way to understand it is just to jump right in and explore. But here are a few high points to look for.
One of the most rewarding things about working on Portfolio Charts over the years is how it has kept me on my creative toes. While building a few spreadsheets to answer my own financial questions is certainly a great motivator, designing them in such a way that anyone around the world can also put them to productive use is quite the challenge. That process of picturing your own ideas through outside eyes is educational in its own way and often exposes opportunities for improvement. So designing for both yourself and for others is a mutually beneficial exercise that’s hard to beat for progressive innovation.
I’ve been tinkering within that cycle a lot lately. It started with a simple cleanup of my own data collection that I use to power the site, which was admittedly rather complicated with several different spreadsheets that I used to pull everything together. After creating a brand new system from scratch, I was so happy with the results that I realized others might find it similarly useful.
Fast forward several months and more revisions than I care to count, and I’m excited to announce a very cool new product offering — the Portfolio Charts Toolkit.
Portfolio Charts is coming up on its 8-year anniversary in a few months, which is pretty incredible when I think about it. The effort has involved dozens of scratch-built tools, hundreds of posts, and thousands of hours of work. And from the emails I receive I can tell that it is all worth it. I started it all to share a few charts to help people see investing in a new way, and the reward of hearing from people who have been genuinely helped by all the hard work never wears off.
One of the first unexpected things I learned a while back is that y’all are a generous crowd looking to help and give back. To meet that request, I added the option for donations and eventually a few products as well. Well, today I’m happy to announce that there’s a third way to directly support the site.
If you want to be a part of keeping the charts running, you can now sign up to become an official patron of good data. You heard that right — Portfolio Charts now has memberships!
I’ve long been a fan of internet message boards and have drawn a huge amount of inspiration from the many different financial perspectives that they’ve exposed me to over the years. In fact, Portfolio Charts probably wouldn’t even exist if not for some of those investing discussions. But finding the right group is hard.
With the volatile financial markets of 2022 mercifully in the history books, I think we’re all looking forward to a fresh start. To truly appreciate the way forward, however, sometimes it helps to fully understand the past. That’s why January is always a fun month here at Portfolio Charts — it’s time for new returns numbers! For investors like me who want to know not just the best times or even the average times but the truly painful times to invest in a given portfolio, this new data drop should be particularly educational.
Updating the underlying data always takes a bit of effort, so I bundled in a few more overall improvements in the process. Here are all the changes you’ll see around the site.
Blogging is hard sometimes. Not every topic necessarily deserves a long writeup, but they still often carry plenty of lasting interest and require just enough nuance to not be suitable for social media. So I’m going to try something a little different.
Have you ever started a relatively small task only to have it quickly spiral out of control?
A few weeks ago I decided that I’d really like to add a Portfolio Charts hat to the product lineup, mostly because I just wanted one for myself. I quickly found that the logo didn’t really lend itself to that type of application.
“No problem! I’ll just make a new logo.”
Well, as Boromir might say, one does not simply make a new logo.
Over the past few weeks I was hit with a double whammy of bad news. First, the company that manages my online store stopped paying all creators for an extended period of time. Then on the morning I expected to see my most recent long-overdue payment, I instead learned that the same company also paused all digital download sales without warning. So pretty much overnight, the Portfolio Charts store that I’ve spent years thinking about and months getting up and running went up in smoke.
How has your week been? Because mine has been something else.
One of the important lessons I learned early on as a young engineer is that it’s important to pay attention to the small things. Your assembly design may indeed be truly impressive, but if the seams between parts don’t properly align it will give the impression of poor craftsmanship. Is it sculpted perfectly for the hands? Nice! But if it’s made with flimsy materials it will still feel cheap. Details matter.
That trained fixation on the small things can also have its downsides. For example, where I spend hours experimenting with just the right layout for a spreadsheet, I also understand that when something complicated is done really well the end result can sometimes be so transparent that it occasionally goes unnoticed. From the well-executed finish of a part to the dew drops on a dandelion, just because something is beautiful doesn’t mean it’s obvious to everyone.
So after spending quite a bit of time working on several relatively small site features, I thought it might be helpful to bring them to everyone’s attention. They may be minor but they’re still useful!