Sunday, February 25, 2024

How We Achieved 85% Productivity with Unlimited PTO: A Remote Team's Success

Our Journey to Joy: Achieving 85% Productivity with Unlimited PTO in a Remote Workforce

Make no mistake: The World of Card Games wouldn't be the success it is today without my excellent team of remote workers.

Still, despite its numerous advantages, we’re not immune to the pitfalls and challenges of virtual collaboration.

The more video calls I'd host, the more tired, disengaged faces I saw looking back at me. The vibrant collaboration and creative spark that once ignited our discussions began to wane, replaced by a sense of dwindling interest, fatigue, and, worst of all — burnout.

This wasn't just our story.

Across the digital realm, I heard similar tales of remote teams struggling to maintain their passion and momentum.

I could certainly relate to those tales of increasingly blurred lines between work and life, the unwelcome feeling of isolation and a sense that working together towards a common goal was becoming a chore.

If the World of Card Games was ever going to continue to flourish, I had to solve this problem, and I had to solve it fast.

And that, dear readers, is how the story of our new unlimited paid time off policy begins.

The Pre-PTO Scenario: Measuring Our Struggles

It’s a story that begins on a glum note. 

Our fantastic remote team, once a blaze of creative energy, was simmering at an all-time low. 

Productivity was down to 65%

Employee satisfaction sank to 5.8 out of 10.

Most concerning, our burnout rate was up to 40% and only ticking upwards. 

These weren't mere statistics. They were troubling reflections of the toll remote work was taking.

Collaboration began to feel like a chore, the spontaneous bursts of excitement that used to fill our virtual rooms were replaced by emails and messages as we started to feel more and more isolated. 

Remember that hilarious in-joke that used to erupt in every brainstorming session? It faded into a distant memory, replaced by the silence of individual screens.

That bothered me more than any numbers could. 

It was time to stop measuring our decline and start charting a course towards a better, brighter future.

How we'd get there wasn't immediately clear. 

I toyed with mandatory team retreats, and virtual coffee breaks, hoping to reignite team spirit. 

I even explored compressed workweeks and longer weekends, but all these ideas felt like a temporary bandage slapped over a much deeper problem. 

Then, one idea landed on the table like a wildcard, its upside as thrilling as its downside was terrifying:

Embracing Unlimited PTO: A Bold Decision

At first, the idea of giving our team unlimited time off was met with a deafening silence laden with uncertainty and cautious hope.

Hours were spent crunching numbers, analyzing unlimited PTO case studies, and dissecting potential pitfalls.

We reviewed questions of abuse, accountability, and the very definition of "work" in a remote world.

In the end, it wasn't just statistics that swayed us.

It was the tired faces staring back at us from our screens, the passion for World of Card Games dimmed by the relentless grind.

After all, how could we ever truly engage our audience in their passion for card games like Hearts and Spades if our own passion was dwindling faster than a rookie's luck in a high-stakes poker tournament?

We needed something with the potential to be a game changer, and nothing quite fit the bill like unlimited PTO.

And so, with a mixture of trepidation and a shared leap of faith, we embraced the unknown and launched our new unlimited paid time off policy. 

We weren't naive. 

We knew this wasn't a magic spell or a free pass to do nothing. Setting realistic expectations became our priority.

We emphasized balance, not binges. We championed responsibility, not recklessness.

This wasn't an open invitation to abandon ship, but a chance to redefine our relationship with work.

Unlimited PTO wasn't an excuse for never-ending vacations. It was a trust-based system, empowering individuals to manage their time and prioritize their well-being while delivering results. 

We reminded everyone that freedom comes with accountability and that open communication would be the foundation of our work together. 

The Immediate Impact of Unlimited PTO

There were, of course, a few stumbling blocks to overcome at the beginning. 

Some struggled with self-discipline while others grappled with the guilt of taking too much time off, a fear undoubtedly developed over years of measuring their worth by hours worked. 

Still, despite those early teething problems, our new unlimited Paid Time Off policy began to pay dividends. 

Morale climbed to a solid 7.5/10

Productivity leapt to 75% in a surprisingly short amount of time.

Deadlines weren't missed. They were blitzed with the focus of a seasoned card counter. The pressure valve had been released, unleashing a new energy within the team.

Still, as we've said all along, this wasn't just about the numbers. 

It was about our people, and that's where we saw the biggest and most welcome change. 

Instead of tired, worn-down faces staring back at us, our virtual meetings saw us greeted by an enthusiastic team who began to throw out amazing ideas with that old, familiar gusto we feared may have been lost forever.

Assessing the Long-Term Effects

We knew the initial excitement would eventually wear off as unlimited PTO became the norm. 

So, we monitored ourselves, carefully tracking not just immediate wins, but long-term growth.

Productivity stabilized at a solid 85%. 

Employee retention surged to a remarkable 90%. 

Job satisfaction blossomed into a radiant 8.5/10

We were winning consistently, proving that trust and autonomy weren't just feel-good buzzwords, but strategies for long-term success.

Unlimited PTO wasn't just a policy. It was a revolutionary shift manifested in a collaborative spirit that flourished, fueled by mutual respect and shared trust.

Unlimited PTO wasn't just about taking time off, either. It was about taking control.

It was about learning to prioritize well-being and work to our full potential. It was about proving that trust and freedom are the winning cards in the high-stakes game of remote work.

Additional Measurable Outcomes

The benefits weren't limited to our internal operations.

Client satisfaction rates soared by 27%, while positive sentiment in client feedback jumped by 18%. 

If anything, this showed me that the shift in our team's spirit from weary frustration to boundless enthusiasm positively impacted the work we were doing resonating with our clients.

Lessons and Insights for Future Endeavors

Our experiment proved that investing in trust pays off in spades. 

Empowering individuals with freedom and responsibility fostered accountability, creativity, and a newfound joy in work. 

Moreover, while the measurable results were certainly positive, metrics rarely tell the whole story. 

The subtle shift in team dynamics, enthusiasm and re-energized creativity was our biggest success. 

Not that we achieved this success effortlessly.

Switching to an unlimited PTO policy taught us valuable lessons about the importance of open communication, setting boundaries and managing expectations. 

Thinking of following our path? These are the three most important tips we could leave you with:

  • Examine your company culture, values, and communication styles. Ensure everyone is on board, not just in theory, but in spirit.

  • Communicate clearly, openly, and frequently. Set expectations, celebrate successes, and address challenges head-on.

  • Don't expect a seamless transition. Be prepared to navigate unexpected bumps, tweak policies as needed, and learn from experience.

Embracing Change for a Brighter Future

Adopting an Unlimited PTO policy may have paid off for us so far, but it's far from the end of our journey.

Rather, it's the first step on a longer path toward a truly engaged and thriving workforce. 

I'll share more insights from this journey with you as it progresses. In the meantime, I offer this final piece of advice for those still on the fence about lifting PTO restrictions. 

Unlimited PTO isn't a one-size-fits-all solution. It needs to be carefully considered and tailored to your business's unique culture and goals. However, once deployed, it can truly prove to be a game-changer.

Sunday, December 31, 2023

A fresh new look: The exciting redesign of World of Card Games

I'm thrilled to announce the release of the new design for World of Card Games. I've been working feverishly for the last 6 months on the new design for the website, which should drastically improve the user experience for people, enable people to play the games on their iPhones and Androids, and generally make the playing experience more fun.

Below, you'll see a comparison of the old and new design when playing a game of Hearts:

All the elements and buttons are still there, though they might have been moved around a bit, so playing the games in the new design shouldn't pose too big a challenge.

The cards and avatars have been redesigned for a simpler and more cheerful look, and a few new avatars have even been added, which you can find under Settings, where you'll also be able to change the deck of cards you're playing with and pick your favorite wallpaper.

All of the games have gotten a facelift. Below, you'll see how Gin Rummy used to look and how it looks now:

The redesign has also greatly improved the mobile experience. World of Card Games wasn't working particularly well on mobile, but the new design has greatly improved on that:

I hope you like this new design, though I'm sure it'll take a bit of getting used to for some people. If you find a bug or have any feedback, please reach out to me at and let me know what's on your mind.

Happy gaming,

Monday, September 25, 2023

How Switching to Email Support Skyrocketed Our Customer Retention By 37%

Customer support remains the cornerstone of any successful business. 

When running a solo venture, there’s one person to do it all and with limited resources. There is also the pressure of decision-making, proper work-life balance, and constant upskilling to stay abreast of trends.

But things changed a lot in the last six months. 

I started using email to assist my customers. More people stuck around — well, 37% more. This was a significant moment for World of Card Games since it showed me that using email for support resulted in customer satisfaction, community connection, and retention.

So, today, I’m sharing how this strategic approach brought about a dynamic shift in my business.

The Crucial Connection Between Customer Support and Revenue

The way you treat your customers has a direct link to your earnings. But why? You’re basically planting the seeds of loyalty. If your customers feel heard and valued, they will stay longer. 

Also, with loyal customers comes a higher lifetime value. Since they are not one-off buyers, they boost the value of your business and keep bringing in a steady stream of revenue.

So, to compound the value of these transactions, you must repeatedly provide stellar customer support.

The Struggles of Wearing Multiple Hats

As a solopreneur, I’m a team of one. 

Apart from designing and developing, I also had to work on marketing, managing finances, and tackling customer queries. It gets a tad overwhelming since I’m stretching myself so thin. Sometimes, I’ve even dropped the ball and had to act fast to ensure I don’t lose the customer.

While I could pick up “tips and tricks” for marketing and finances, customer support pushed me to my limits. I believe it’s mostly because, with other areas, I was working solo. But, with customer support, you must dive deep into the problems. In this stage, you need to ask yourself the right questions —

  • Was it a one-off issue?

  • Is there a larger underlying problem I need to tackle?

  • Have I satisfactorily addressed the customer’s concern?

  • What can I do to ensure a consistently superior experience?

Still, I wouldn’t trade this experience for anything since it helped me grow faster and truly understand what my user expects from me.

The Old Ways: Why Live Chat Wasn’t Cutting It

Adding the Live Chat feature felt like the perfect ally for real-time customer support earlier. However, with time, I ran into a few problems with it. Out of those, these challenges were of the utmost significance- 

  1. Limited Engagement Depth

In 2022, while my users were doubling rapidly, the retention rates remained stagnant at roughly 41%

Why weren’t more users sticking around? I pinned it down to the shallow interactions on Live Chat. While it provided super quick assistance, it lacked depth. Customers look for more substantial engagements and resolutions that go above the superficial.

  1. The Chaos of Multitasking

Multitasking can be quite exhilarating. You’re managing multiple responsibilities like programming, game updates, server maintenance, live chat, and marketing. Sadly, it brings with it an unintended consequence: a spike in customer support-related errors. In my case, a significant 31%.

Tackling Live Chat optimally while managing other duties felt like juggling on a tightrope. I wasn’t always fully present, leading to less than satisfactory customer conversations.

  1. Time-Suck and Burnout

Consider the hours dedicated to Live Chat support. Late nights and extensive screen time became the norm. Plus, wearing multiple hats meant I was bound to drop the ball at some point. 

This led to fatigue that bordered on professional burnout. It not only affected my well-being but also had a ripple effect on other crucial aspects of my business, like bringing new games, user experience, decreased ROI and a decline in customer retention rates.

The Email Epiphany: A Strategic Pivot

One day, it hit me — email could be a better way to help our customers.

Efficiency and Depth

With email, I could be more thoughtful while helping customers. 

Instead of a quick chat, I could take my time to really understand and fix underlying problems. Emails didn't rush me; they let me dig deep. Plus, it made my customers feel heard and happy. And because email is not like a live chat, I could think and craft better solutions.

Streamlining Support: The Organizational Perks of Email

But it wasn't just about my customers. Email made my work easier, too. 

I could sort, tag, and schedule emails to stay organized. That meant I could deal with important stuff first. No more multitasking chaos. I had a system, and it worked. 

I now use email to solve problems and help the customers better. And you know what? It works like a charm. The customers are happier, and they stick around longer. 

And that’s why I call it the “Email epiphany.

The Six-Month Experiment: A Review

Email support was a pivotal shift. Here’s what happened after 6 months of implementing it:

A Remarkable Spike in Customer Retention

The numbers don’t lie. Customer satisfaction rates took a huge leap — from 41% to a whopping 56% during these six months. 

People were happier with the assistance, and that’s a big deal. But it’s not just about numbers; it’s about people’s voices. I got loads of messages from the users telling me how much they liked the change.

Sam, a long-time user, shared, “Ever since World of Card Games switched to email support, my issues are resolved so much faster. Plus, they actually read my concerns and gave detailed solutions. It feels personalized, making all the difference.” 

While the initial focus was to increase the numbers, I became more focused on hearing my customers and letting them know I value their opinions. This approach started paying off big time.

The Revenue Revolution

My revenue saw an extraordinary shift of 23% in 2023 since my customers were now happy with the product and service. 

With this newfound revenue, I decided not to slow down. Instead, I decided to reinvest it for further business growth. Here’s what I did:

  • Worked on enhancing my games

  • Improve customer support

  • Expand my reach via organic marketing 

  • Upskill

Lessons Learned and Advice for Fellow Entrepreneurs

During this transformative stage for the business, I learned a few key lessons. Here they are:

  • Being customer-centric matters: Always prioritize your customer’s experience. Listen, adapt, and engage. They are the key to your success.

  • Efficiency is key: Streamline your processes. Efficiency not only saves time but also boosts customer satisfaction.

  • Embrace change: Don’t fear change; embrace it. Sometimes, the most unexpected shifts bring the best results.

  • Data is gold: Analyze data rigorously. It acts as your compass while navigating new territories.

  • Invest wisely: When revenue grows, reinvest thoughtfully. It is the basis for continuous growth.

In entrepreneurship, adaptability is the bottom line. So, to navigate the journey with finesse, you must be ready to adapt and pivot.


The switch to email support was nothing short of life-changing. 

My customer retention rates rose from 41% to 56%, and revenue surged by 23% in 2023

But it wasn’t just about the numbers. It was about the profound impact on the users. The real triumph was making them feel heard, valued, and satisfied. 

It taught me that being customer-centric lays the foundation for success. As I move forward, I’ll embrace change, invest wisely, and uphold my commitment to delivering exceptional experiences. 

Ultimately, it’s not just about revenue and retention; it’s about the community I’m trying to build and the exciting future.

Friday, May 5, 2023

Dimensioning a capstan gear for a Peg Solitaire-playing delta-robot

This is a somewhat different blog post from what you usually see on World of Card Games. It's part of a hobby project I've been working on for a while. I'm very interested in card games and programming, which is why I created the solitaire site Online Solitaire and now run World of Card Games. Besides programming and card games, I'm very interested in robotics, so I thought, why not try to create a robot and get it to play Peg Solitaire? 

It proved to be somewhat of a challenge for a novice like me, but in the end, I managed to design, create, and program a delta-robot from scratch. So without further ado, let me introduce Peggy, the Peg-solitaire playing delta-robot: 

A lot of creativity, calculations, dimensioning, prototyping and programming has gone into creating this robot. This blog post is part of a series of blog posts where we'll dive into different aspects of the robot. I've previously gone through how to do the kinematic calculations for a delta-robot, and in this post, we'll go through how to do the dimensioning, along with the calculations, for the capstan gear that is used in the robot.

When to use a capstan gear

There are many different types of gears, each with their own advantages and disadvantages. A well-known gear within the world of robotics is the pulley and belt system. This type of system works very well and is used in many different types of robotic design. The drawback of this type of system is that it usually has a certain amount of backlash. In a delta robot, where speed and precision are important factors, it is important that there is as little backlash as possible. That's why I decided to use a capstan gear. This type of gear is currently not very popular in the world of robotics but is finding its way into various projects like this robot dog.

As seen in image 1 below, the capstan gear works by having a motor move the capstan, which in turn moves the wheel it's connected to via a wire. The ratio between the capstan and the wheel determines the gear ratio.

Figure 1: An example of a capstan gearing

Dimensioning the capstan gear

In image 2 below, an illustration of a capstan gear with its associated dimensions is shown. The upper part is the capstan, in which the input shaft is mounted, the lower part is called the wheel, in which the output shaft is mounted, and both are connected by a wire that transfers the rotational forces from one wheel to the other. 

To make the gear work correctly, the capstan and the wheel have to be dimensioned correctly. The calculations for the capstan gear used in this project have been deduced from a lecture from Stanford University and a graduation project from DTU (Technological University of Denmark). Below we'll go through these calculations to give you an idea of what's required if you want to create a capstan gear for your own project.

Figure 2: Illustration of the capstan gearing seen from the front and the side.

We have the following definitions:

  • \(\lambda =\) Angle of the wire. Also called the helix angle.
  • \(S =\) Pitch of the wire.
  • \(D_{C} =\) Diameter of the capstan.
  • \(D_{O} =\) Diameter of the wheel.
  • \(L_{G} =\) Distance between capstan and wheel.
  • \(S_{O} =\) Pitch of the steel wire on the output shaft.
  • \(D_{W} =\) Diameter of the wire.

Doing these calculations, we're really looking to deduce three main numbers: how thick the wire should be to withstand the motor's torque, how many times it should be wound around the capstan so that there is enough friction to prevent slippage, and how large the pitch of the wire should be to prevent too much pressure on the capstan or wheel when the wire travels. Based on these numbers, the minimum width of the capstan and wheel is found.

An important factor in these calculations is the helix angle, \(\lambda\), as it must be kept constant across the capstan and wheel to prevent stresses in the gear. Thus, the following relationship is given:

\begin{align}\dfrac{S_{O}}{S} &= \dfrac{D_{O} + D_{W}}{D_{C} + D_{W}}\end{align}

Distance between capstan and wheel

The distance \(L_{G}\) should be as small as possible to avoid unnecessary tensile forces on the capstan and wheel. In an ideal world, the distance would be no greater than the wire diameter, i.e., \(L_{G}=D_{W}\), but to ensure that the wire doesn't get squeezed between the capstan and the wheel, the distance is set to \(L_{G}=1.5 \cdot D_{W}\). This would result in very few tensile forces in the vertical plane on the capstan and wheel.

Diameter of the wire, the capstan, and the wheel

The wire's main job is to transfer the torque from the capstan to the wheel. This is done exclusively using a tensile force. The torque can be found using the definition for torque:
\begin{align}torque &= force \cdot arm \\M &= F_{W} \cdot \left(\dfrac {D_{C}}{2} + \dfrac {D_{W}}{2}\right)\end{align}

Where \(M\) is the torque from the motor and \(F_{W}\) is the tensile force. By re-structuring the definitions, the tensile force can be determined as:
\begin{align}F_{W} &= \dfrac {M}{\dfrac {D_{C}}{2} + \dfrac {D_{W}}{2}}\end{align}

Now that the tensile force is known, a safety factor can be found by dividing the force by the breaking force of the selected wire:
\begin{align}SF &= \dfrac {F_{break}}{F_{W}}\end{align}

Before the tensile force can be found, the diameter of the capstan and wheel must first be determined. There are some practical considerations to take into account when dimensioning the gear. A capstan gear physically takes up a relatively large amount of space. The larger the gearing, the larger the robot will have to be. I've decided to have a gear ratio of 1:8, as this seems large enough to achieve the desired precision while the robot can maintain the desired speed.

The second thing you should consider is that the capstan's diameter contributes to how much tension is in the steel wire. For a standard 7x7 wire, it is recommended that the capstan's diameter should be at least 16 times larger than the diameter of the wire. With a gearing of 1:8, the wheel should be 8 times larger than the capstan.

We'll try with a 1mm wire to see what safety factor we'll get:
\begin{align}D_{W} &= 1mm \\D_{C} &= 20mm \\D_{O} &= 160mm \\M &= 1.5Nm \\F_{W} &= \dfrac {M}{\dfrac {D_{C}}{2} + \dfrac {D_{W}}{2}} = 143N \\F_{break} &= 57 \cdot 9.81N = 560N \\SF &= \dfrac {F_{break}}{F_{W}} = 3.9\end{align}

Using the above dimensions, the wire will have a safety factor of almost 4, which is fully acceptable for a robot like this.

Number of wraps around the capstan

For the torque to be transferred from the capstan to the wheel, the wire should be wrapped around the capstan enough times so that it does not slip. The number of times needed is found using the capstan formula which is:
\begin{align}F_{W} &= F_{hold} \cdot e^{\mu_{static} \cdot \phi}\end{align}

Where we have the following definitions:
  • \(F_{hold} =\) The force in Newton required for the wire to be tight enough not to slip.
  • \(\mu_{static} =\) The static friction coefficient between the wire and the capstan.
  • \(\phi =\) Number of wraps around the capstan in radians.

Since the holding force is the interesting variable here, we're going to isolate it:
\begin{align}F_{hold} &= \dfrac {F_{W}}{e^{\mu_{static} \cdot \phi}} \end{align}

The wire force is found to be \(F_{W} = 143N\), and the static friction coefficient is estimated to be \(\mu_{static} = 0.2\)\cite{frictionCoefficient}. The holding force is now found for different number of wraps:
\begin{align}F_{hold} &= \dfrac {F_{W}}{e^{\mu_{static} \cdot 4\pi rad}} = 11.8N \\F_{hold} &= \dfrac {F_{W}}{e^{\mu_{static} \cdot 6\pi rad}} = 3.3N \\F_{hold} &= \dfrac {F_{W}}{e^{\mu_{static} \cdot 8\pi rad}} = 0.9N\end{align}

It's clear that there is a significant difference in how big the holding force should be in relation to the number of wraps around the capstan. To have as large a safety factor as possible regarding whether the wire slips, the last calculation is chosen, i.e., the wire is wrapped around the capstan four times.

The width of the capstan and the wheel

The only thing left to determine is the capstan and wheel width. The previous calculations form the basis for this width. As shown in image 3 below, we're looking to find \(B_{min}\), which is the minimum width for the wheel. It should be noted that, in practice, a little extra width should be added.
Figure 3: Width of the capstan gearing.

The minimum width is a function of the minimum distance for the wire on the capstan, \(B_{C}\), and the width of the wire that wraps around the wheel, \(B_{O}\). The minimum width for the capstan can thus be found by:
\begin{align}B_{C} &= N \cdot S\end{align}

The width \(B_{O}\) depends on the anchor point placement on the wheel (the x's in image 3), \(\beta\), which depends on the desired rotation of the wire on the wheel, \(\alpha\):
\begin{align}B_{O} &= \dfrac{S_{O}}{2\pi} \cdot \left(\dfrac{\alpha}{2} + \beta\right)\end{align}

The distance \(L_{G}\), i.e., the distance between the capstan and the wheel, has been determined to be so small that it can be ignored in this calculation. The minimum width for the gearing can thus be found to be
\begin{align}B_{min} &= B_{C} + 2 \cdot B_{O}\end{align}

If we set the distance between the wires to be \(S = 2mm\), and the number of wraps to be \(N = 4\), \(\alpha = 1.2\pi\), and \(\beta = 0.1\pi\), we get:
\begin{align}B_{C} &= N \cdot S = 8mm \\S_{O} &= \dfrac{D_{O} + D_{W}}{D_{C} + D_{W}} \cdot S = 15.3mm \\B_{O} &= \dfrac{S_{O}}{2\pi} \cdot \left(\dfrac{\alpha}{2} + \beta\right) = 5.4mm \\B_{min} &= B_{C} + 2 \cdot B_{O} = 18.8mm\end{align}

The minimum distance for the wheel can therefore be determined to be 18.8mm. In practice, it will be wider, but now we know that this is the minimum distance.

The prototype

Dimensioning something is not much fun if you don't get to create a prototype of it, which is exactly what I've done! 🙂

There are many different ways to design a capstan gear and even more production techniques one can use to create it. I've chosen 3D-printing and laser-cutting as my production techniques. In image 4 below, the prototype of the capstan gear is shown. It has been produced in clear plastic so that all details can be seen. The upper arm is held in place by a shaft that is connected to 2 608RS ball bearings, ensuring as little friction as possible. A spacer has been placed in the middle of where the upper arm sits. This has created more stability between the suspension and the upper arm.
Figure 4: The prototype of the capstan gear.

In image 5, the capstan gear and upper arm are shown. This shaft is clamped to the motor through a flexible coupling. This couple has been chosen because we cannot guarantee that the shaft and motor shaft are perfectly aligned. In addition, the shaft extends through to the encoder on the left, which it, in turn, is connected to.
Image 5: Capstan and wheel.

That's all for now. I expect to write up a few more posts in the future with some of the interesting aspects of the robot. Let me know in the comments if you have any questions.