Boosting Remote Team Morale During The Coronavirus Pandemic

At the best of times, running a remote team is hard. At the moment the world is battling the COVID-19 Coronavirus pandemic, more and more workers are working from home instead of going to an office. People are in quarantine, unable to go outside and socialise. A lot of what was working before now isn’t, and people are having to change.

I live by myself and work with a remote team of 40 people throughout Europe and Asia, with time zones from the UK to Japan. I have not spoken to anyone in person or been outside, for 2 weeks other than to put the rubbish out.

This is what we did today to boost our team morale during this period of quarantine.

Playing Games Over Screenshare

We’ve had regular weekly meetings using Google Hangouts for the past 2 years. During this pandemic I’ve seen communities come together and use alternatives such as Zoom for the same purpose, to connect remote people together, there are many options

Today at work we played a game, using Google Hangouts that was screen shared from my desktop. The team used their mobile phones as controllers.

That game was JackBox Party Pack 3, is available on Steam for £18.99 and is cross-platform, Windows, Mac and Linux.

As of writing, there are 7 JackBox Party Pack games available on Steam. Each game comes with 5-6 mini-games where you can make guesses, answer questions, draw pictures and come up with funny one-liners! They are all good fun but my favourite game for a professional remote team is Guesspionage from JackBox TV 3 because it will not put the team in an uncomfortable position!

When you start a game on the computer it will generate a unique room code for you. You then visit on your mobile phone and fill in your name and the room code, bringing you into the game.

We also played with my friends, which is what gave me the idea to bring fun to the office!

Rave Reviews

As you can see from the above screenshot, the team loved it and want to play again! We will probably do this every Friday from now on, even when the quarantine is over!

Steps To Play JackBox Party Pack With Your Remote Team

  1. Buy and install JackBox Party Pack (3) from Steam
  2. Start JackBox Party Pack (3) on your computer
  3. Click “Start” in JackBox Party Pack (3)
  4. Go to “Settings” and turn “Full-Screen Mode” to “Off”. Jack Box Party Pack (3) will now run in a window.
  5. Create a conference or meeting using your tool of choice, Zoom, Google Hangouts, whatever!
  6. Invite all your team, friends or family to the conference/meeting. Jack Box Party Pack can support up to 8 players at the same time!
  7. Turn your speakers up so your computer microphone can pick up the sound of the game, this is one time when you do not want to be using headphones for audio!
  8. Present or Share the JackBox Party Pack screen to your conference!
  9. Start a game!
  10. Get everyone to visit on their mobile phones and enter their name and room code!
  11. Play and have fun!

My Amazon Seller Stack: 23 Tools of the Trade

Software and services to power your Amazon business.

I’ve been selling on Amazon since 2014 and over the years the strategies, services and tools I used have evolved just as much as the Amazon landscape has evolved.

There are now suites of tools dedicated to solving specific problems faced by Amazon sellers but as my business has expanded, becoming more of a business than simply a form of search engine manipulation, my needs have grown

My operational infrastructure and team has scaled to meet the demands of selling across 7 different Amazon marketplaces, allowing me to free up time to train for a Spartan Race and to expand our product range again, whilst also hitting record days in what is traditionally a slow quarter for E-commerce.

Whilst I firmly believe the core of our success is our philosophy of only launching products that genuinely help people and trying to be the best out there, our ability to scale across so many marketplaces and SKUs is undeniably down to the software infrastructure, services and team that the entire business operates on.

So I wanted to share the tools and services we use to say thank you to them for helping us so much.

I didn’t start out using all these products and services, new and smaller Amazon sellers might not need half of them, and whether they are the best is often subjective, but they are all what we are using right now to operate our business.


The day to day operations require tools that work, all the time, every time and our decisions reflect that

Google G Suite – Productivity & Collaboration

I want to think about my business, not whether our emails are getting through. We use Google’s G Suite for email, documentation, calendar and hangouts. It just works and is ubiquitous. Very little on-boarding needs to be done with new hires and it’s easy to secure and configure. Amongst other documents, all our translations are stored as Google Sheets allowing for effortless collaboration.

Upwork – Hiring

We have a core team of full time staff members, some core contractors who work for us on an ad-hoc basis, e.g. translators, and then there are the specialists we hire just to solve a single problem. We’ve been using Upwork since it was called ODesk and whilst it has had problems it’s also proven invaluable in finding good talent fast, as long as you know how to create good job descriptions and find the talent yourself. I’ve never hired someone who’s applied to a job post, I’ve always headhunted talent looking for a position.

Asana – Project Management

All our project management is done in Asana, helping us stay focused on what the important tasks are and who is responsible for them. With a distributed team communication is key and being able to assign tasks, track responsibilities and work in progress whilst receiving real time notifications throughout a task lifecycle helps all of us keep each other on track.

Dropbox – Distributed File Store

Whilst we store Google Documents in Google Drive, we use Dropbox for all our business and project assets, e.g. labels, brand assets and purchase orders records. Google Docs are great to collaborate on in a web browser, but Google Drive doesn’t let you sync a business and personal account locally, Dropbox does, and setting all our staff up with their own company Dropbox accounts is really easy, as is sharing files.

Grasshopper – Global Phone Numbers

We use Grasshopper for our customer service numbers, allowing us to give customers in the US a toll free number to dial! It provides a useful desktop application for taking calls from a laptop and will send voicemails as emails for out of hours calls.

Help Scout – Email Help Desk

We’ve integrated Help Scout in to both Amazon and our WooCommerce platforms, allowing us to handle help desk customer service as a team. Having a decentralised customer service team, working together across timezones, is probably the biggest thing that’s let us scale as a business. No more missed support tickets, just happy customers.

Slack – Real Time Collaboration

All of our team uses Slack for real time collaboration (posh for chat) allowing us to communicate, share resources, discuss work and get things done. It’s responsive, easy to create secure channels, the design team don’t need to be involved in inventory discussions, and a searchable chat and asset history has proven itself time and time again.

Standuply – Scrum Manager

We’ve integrated Standuply with Slack for Scrum management. This is as much for the good of the team as it is for me to keep track of what I’m doing. Standuply is triggered to ask each of us 3 simple questions each morning as we start work:

  1. What did you do yesterday?
  2. What are you doing today?
  3. Are there any obstacles?

This makes it easy for all of us to keep track of what we’re doing and what everyone else is doing.

WorldFirst – International Banking

We buy and sell products and services all over the world in 4 different currencies. Working with WorldFirst gives us much more competitive ForEx rates and much lower fees for currency conversions and international wire transfers, this has substantially improved our profit margin compared to our normal business banking solution.

Amazon & Logistics

DHL – International Shipping

We ship, a lot, globally. You’ve probably heard of DHL, they are the one with out the arrow in their name 😉 Samples from China, signed letters to our bank, inventory from factories to warehouse, we do a lot of it with DHL.

SentryKit – Amazon Listings Health Check

With so many products across so many marketplaces, keeping track of their health means checking the Amazon listings daily, the perfect task for a SaaS! SentryKit scans all our listings across all marketplaces and produces a daily report of any issues that need to be tackled. Experienced sellers will know that even if you do everything right the Amazon systems aren’t perfect and SentryKit gives us the piece of mind that we’ll know when an incident does happen to one of our listings!

Deliver Plus – International Delivery

We use Deliver Plus to get better rates for international shipments to the UK. They have large accounts with DHL and UPS which gets them bigger savings than are available to us by ourselves.

Feedback Genius

Seller Labs’ Feedback Genius is an enterprise level auto-responder allowing us to reach out to our Amazon customers to provide automated, after sales care. This after sales support helps our customers love our products and our brand just a little bit more and if our customers are happy, I’m happy!



We do a lot of content marketing, blog posts, banners, adverts, etc. and need to find licensable, quality images that are fit for purpose. Shutterstock has a MASSIVE online database of licensable images so we simply have a subscription with them that covers our needs

WP Engine

We used to run our e-commerce and marketing platform on Shopify, but after spiralling development costs and no SEO footprint we switched to WordPress and WooCommerce and quadrupled our traffic and sales overnight. Whilst I love hosting infrastructure I wanted to work more ON the business rather than IN the business so moved our platform to WP Engine. Due to the way I architected the platform we have a contracted WordPress administrator who does about 2-3 hours of work a month across 7 different sites. It’s a really elegant solution for building any sales and marketing platform.

Mailchimp – Email Marketing

Mailchimp is my favourite email marketing platform. As we have so many products selling in so many different countries and languages it’s important to have a simple solution that lets us collect email addresses across all our platforms, tag them appropriately and let us automate mail outs to our different customer segments. Mailchimp does it perfectly and with a really beautiful user interface that keeps things simple (stupid)!


Xero – Online Accounting Software

We used to use an accountant that had their own bespoke online accountancy platform but switched to a different accountant as our bank accounts and number of currencies we handled increased to a point their system couldn’t handle. Now we use Xero I can’t recommend it enough. Our first accountant’s bespoke platform seemed an easy option to start with but we suffered from vendor lock-in and high priced, specialist, book-keepers. Xero is familiar to all good accountants and book-keepers so you can change service providers with out changing accountancy software.

A2X – Amazon Marketplace Accounting

A2X exports all our Amazon transactions in to Xero, simplifying the work our book-keeper needs to do and helping make sure that everything is accounted for. It saves a lot of time and money and is extremely reliable.

Avask – European VAT

Because we sell so much in so many European countries, we need to be VAT registered due to EU law. Avask Accounting & Business Consultants have helped us get VAT registered across the EU as well as handle all our accounting and help us to make the VAT payments.


Ashbury Labeling – Product And Labelling Regulations

One of my brands is a vitamin supplement brand which is heavily regulated in the EU. Working with Ashbury gives us peace of mind, knowing that all our product ingredients and formula are legally approved for sale in the EU and that our labelling and marketing practices are also compliant with no misleading health claims. In the USA we sell Probiotics, in Europe it’s Live Cultures!

Di Renzo – Italian Regulatory Affairs

All supplements warehoused and sold in Italy need registration with the Italian Ministry of Health and we’ve been working with Di Renzo to communicate with the Italian government and get all our products approved as Italy is one of our largest markets. The business has grown from an Amazon business to one of legalise and compliance!

Natural Products Consulting Corp – Canadian Regulatory Affairs

Canada also require all supplements to be registered with the Canada Health organisation and assigned a Natural Product Number (NPN). NPC Corp handled all the hard work for us, helping us register our products and sell them in Canada.


The Amazing Seller

I’ve been listening to Scott Voelker’s The Amazing Seller podcast from the start, when it was just Scott and his dog! He helps keep me in the loop with what’s going on in the Amazon ecosystem and is another tool in my toolbox to help me keep current and on top of things.

I was inspired to create this post after paying my corporation tax and going over the accounts of the last 12 months and seeing all the services we’ve leveraged to build the business and get to where we are today.

We’ve dabbled with lots of tools not mentioned over the years which have fallen by the wayside but this is a pretty concise list of all the products and services we are using at the moment as the platform for our business.

I’m curious to hear from others.

What’s in your Amazon seller stack?

Over the course of the last 12 months, what has been your most consistent present problem?

Where Do You Get Your Information From?

Whilst working along side CEO and designer Jon Myers a common conversation thread that would emerge was “Where do you get your information from?”.

Motivational speaker Jim Rohn famously said that we are “The average of the five people we spend the most time with”. A similar philosophy can be applied to the information we absorb.

Limiting the scope of information we gather will in turn limit our horizons. If we live in a bubble we will isolate ourselves from incite and experiences of people outside that bubble.

Taking on board information from incongruent sources can also be dangerous. Always take a good look at people offering advice. If they are living the life they talk only then should you listen.

Here are some of the blogs I read to get genuine information which has been helping me grow my career over the years.


Slashdot is why I got in to Bitcoin in 2010. It is a tech news aggregator aimed at nerds and is often the first news site to report on tech news sourced directly from specialist mailing lists and newsgroups.

Joel On Software

Joel Spolsky is the founder of Fog Creek Software and co-founded Stack Overflow and Trello. Joel has been blogging about his approach to software and business on Joel On Software since 2000.

Dharmesh Shah is co-founder and CTO of HubSpot. Dharmesh loves what he does and has shipped “about ten” commercial products across different startups. Whilst Dharmesh has slowed down blogging on he can be found on Medium.

Signal v. Noise

Signal v. Noise is written by David Heinemeier Hansson and the team at Basecamp. David created Ruby on Rails and founded Basecamp in 1999. Basecamp are now a company of 50 people working remotely across 32 different cities.

High Scalability

Todd Hoff has been blogging about High Scalability issues since 2004. Todd worked at Yahoo from 2005 and helped them scale to serve hundreds of millions of users. He’s also built HA platforms with five 9s of availability. 


Andreessen Horowitz is a venture capital firm in Silicon Valley with a focus on technology. Their founders and team regularly write for their blog covering all aspects of the industry.

Philosophy Of Logging

Application logs are one of the most useful diagnostic aids in platform support and it pains me that many developers often ignore such a critical aspect of their system.

When To Not Log

There is only one reason for an application to not generate any logs, and that is for performance reasons, e.g. constrained telecoms or web servers running at maximum IO capacity where even writing to disk will have an impact on application performance.

And even then, you can bet those applications catch and log exceptions at an ‘error’ level for diagnostic purposes.

Really, there are no reasons for an application to not generate any logs ever, which is something I see all too frequently.

Logs Are Important

The developer might know what the application is doing already, they wrote it, but logging also tells other people what the application is doing. The QA team, the systems team responsible for deployment, the on-call sys admin who is responding to alerts generated by a failing system, running the code, at 2am. All these people need to understand what the code is doing, the developer is part of a team and the code is part of a system. Everyone and everything has to work together for the solution to function.

It’s Hard To Log Too Much

Most languages have third party libraries to help with logging, e.g. log4j, WinstonJS, etc.

These libraries let you configure a log level, e.g. debug, info, warn, error, none, depending on the severity of what you are logging, so you can filter what the application actually spits out.

e.g. if you consider the following code

logger.debug('User not authenticated', email);
logger.error('Exception', err.message);

an application configured to log at debug level would log both lines, but an application configured for just error logging will only log the on error line. This way you can run the application at a log level suitable for your needs.'/signin', async (req, res, next) => {
  logger.debug(' /signin');
  try {

It’s even reasonable to add logging at the top of each function call, so you can trace through the application as it runs confirming the correct parts get called. In the worst case it’s comfort noise, in the best case it will help someone solve a bug as they step through the logs later.

Catch And Log Your Exceptions

When your application generates an exception that means it’s doing something you didn’t predict. Probably triggered by an error.

It takes reading documentation to know what libraries and functions will and will not throw exceptions. A good rule of thumb is if the libraries’ example code catches exceptions, production code should also catch those same exceptions.

A responsible developer will catch and log these errors every time and these errors should be logged at the appropriate error level.

Log To Console/Disk

Depending on your application and it’s environment it is not enough to just return an error as the result of a request, e.g. in the case of a web server.

Creating a web service that returns an HTTP 500 status code and some JSON containing the error to the client seems a reasonable way of handling errors but it offers no paper trail. If your application can’t log people in because a disk is full, with out proper logging how are you going to know when the incident started? How are you even going to know it’s because the disk is full if you aren’t catching, throwing and logging exceptions around that code? How is the systems administrator supposed to diagnose that issue at 2am when text messages get them out of bed?

Logging to disk gives you the benefit of 20/20 hindsight. With correct use of timestamps you can see when issues occurred and from that come up with holistic solutions to stop them from happening again.

Logging to console gives you something to look at if the disk fills up.

Use A Log Aggregator

Logging isn’t just for developers and systems administrators, it also a useful information source for first tier customer support when the logs are pumped in to an aggregator.

With Importist we are using Sentry, it has an open source solution if you want to host your own or a hosted option with a usable free tier, other options include Splunk or Kibana.

To a certain extent, anyone that can read should be able to understand some error messages. e.g. Cannot connect to database. Allowing first tier support read access to a good log aggregator will reduce the cost and time to fix of incidents by helping them diagnose customer service issues themselves and improve the quality of bug reporting, removing any guess work from second tier support and beyong allowing them to get to the heart of the issue quicker.

A good log aggregator will also integrate with Slack and email for reporting and notification, possibly alerting you to issues before your customers even realise there’s a problem if configured correctly.

You Can Graph Logs

Logs can be used to create graphs. Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) and statistics can be monitored by analysing logs with a tool like Munin. A great example is the Apache web server. Apache will log every HTTP request to an access file with a timestamp. Analytics tools like Munin can then scan that log file to calculate statistics like accesses per second.

I’m currently investigating for visualising our system logs. makes logging cool again as you can run pattern matching against the log output of every component in your system, the application servers, the databases, the web servers, email servers, everything. Properly configured tools like or ELK will even generate access maps if the user’s IP is available.

The Dangers Of Courses

I’ve seen a lot of people wanting to get started in software development take courses or bootcamps thinking that is enough and then they will know it all.

I’m a big fan of self education and am slowly going through a series of courses on Udemy for fun. I also love what the freeCodeCamp guys are doing. But all these courses seem to have one thing in common so far.

None of them discuss logging.

Well, that’s not entirely fair, freeCodeCamp uses logging as an example of writing Express middleware. But so far that’s it and that’s really not good enough.

Not All Of This Is Gospel

How and the amount you log obviously depends on what you are doing and who you are working with.

If you’re writing a quick script to parse a CSV you will require a different level of logging than if you’re dealing with a distributed application spanning many processes and servers.

If you’re part of a company then you will need to log appropriately for the rest of the company to function.


Depending on your point of view logging

  • makes the terminal messy
  • helps diagnose system and performance failures
  • can be used to monitor system performance
  • can be used to create system KPIs