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Justin Duke

Founder/CEO (Buttondown)

in developer, mac

Who are you, and what do you do?

I’m founder and CEO of Buttondown, the easiest way for you to start and grow a newsletter. My friends and I also purchase small software companies over at Third South Capital.

In my free time, I spend a lot of time with my corgi, watch basketball (go Heat!), and read.

What hardware do you use?

I’ve been working from home off and on for around five years now, and have had more than enough time to optimize the space.

Starting with the basics: my wife and I split an office and we deploy what we affectionately call “the double desk”, which is two IKEA kitchen countertops atop three IKEA dressers. It sounds odd — because it is! — but looks nice and affords us a huge amount of space. We both sit on IKEA JÄRVFJÄLLET chairs, which are not Aeron-level luxury but very comfortable for the price.

In terms of technology: my daily driver is an M3 MacBook Pro that stays in clamshell mode, powered by a wall-mounted Dell UltraSharp U3415W 34-inch curved monitor. (The M3 was not quite worth the money in terms of upgrading over the M1, but it’s still the greatest laptop I’ve ever owned.) All of my accessories are boring: Magic Mouse, Magic Keyboard, AirPods Max (which stand nicely on a mount from Walnut Apple.)

Other random stuff that you’ll find on my desk over the course of a given work week:

  • Blue Yeti mic for recording tutorials and podcast interviews
  • A Steam Deck docked on the official dock (current obsession: Tiny Rogues)
  • A frame with two sticky notes (one from my wife after our first date, one reminding me that every second counts)
  • An Anker Foldable for charging whichever various device I forgot to charge last night
  • A humble Amazon Basics notepad and Muji 0.38mm where I jot down notes and to-dos throughout the day.

And what software?

In a given day, I’m wearing around seventeen or eighteen different hats, which means lots of context switching — and one of the things I’ve found particularly useful in terms of preserving my sanity is cutting down to fewer, more flexible tools that require less adaptation. The most notable ones are:

  • HelpScout, a very good helpdesk/CRM tool that lets comms live outside my inbox without being imposed
  • Things, a perfect suite of GTD/todo-tracking software for iOS and MacOS
  • Mimestream, for the stuff that does have to live in my inbox
  • VS Code (heavily customized), the only IDE that has let me jump between front-end and back-end and infra without having to re-orient myself
  • Obsidian (even more heavily customized), for longer-term notes and more scattered thinking
  • Texts, so I can maintain some semblance of inbox zero
  • iA Writer, for drafting emails, essays, and proposals

What would be your dream setup?

I feel like the glib, aspirational answer would be “exactly what I already have!”, which is more or less true — after years of tinkering and swapping and optimizing, I’m pretty pleased with the mise en place of my day-to-day work.

The two things I wish I could wave a magic wand and change, though:

  1. I really love the idea of a sit/stand desk (especially for the days where I’m mostly in meetings or in a consumptive mode), but it’s hard to square it with a wall-mounted monitor. I think in our next office I might switch to a sit/stand, though, especially as the amount of time I spend “in flow” decreases as I get older.
  2. I find myself very envious of folks who have incredible webcam setups, with the crisp SLR and tasteful ring light and all of that. I don’t spend a lot of time on Zoom et al, but I find myself distracted by how meh my set-up is compared to my more aesthetically-enhanced peers.