Cover photo for Philip I. Thomas

Philip I. Thomas

Hey, I'm Philip 👋🏻 I own The Contraption Company, where I craft tools that help people work online. I'm living in Chicago until June 2022, when I'll move back to New York City.

I grew up in Ohio and studied at Washington University in St. Louis. There, I spent my time exploring the intersection of business, math, and computers. I majored in physics and systems engineering, focusing on operations research. I then moved to San Francisco to work as a software engineer at OpenDNS. After Cisco bought OpenDNS, I started a startup, Staffjoy, to help early gig economy companies leverage applied math to manage growing contractor workforces. Though it didn't work out, the code is now free on Github, where it's one of the most popular open-source workforce management tools.

After Staffjoy, I became fascinated by remote work. I sold all my things and left in 2017 to travel full-time for a couple of years. I spent most of my time in Mexico City, Buenos Aires, Los Angeles, Barcelona, New York, and London. Along the way, I co-founded Moonlight to help software engineers get remote work at Bay Area tech companies. Initially, we focused on contractors (because those were the only "remote" workers most companies would hire), but over time we helped companies make the intimidating switch to remote employees. As we grew, we bootstrapped to profitability. I ended up stopping my travels to live in Brooklyn in 2019. PullRequest bought Moonlight in February 2020, just a few weeks before the pandemic, and the site continues to operate today.

After Moonlight, I worked at some other startups. I helped a reality TV star build community software which Discord bought. Then I helped hospitals hire and schedule travel nurses during the pandemic and worked on marketplaces at Webflow. Along the way, I moved to Chicago while my significant other started graduate school.

In 2021, I started The Contraption Company as a solo product studio to develop dependable software that helps people work online. So many of our cultural norms about work - like the 40-hour work week - were created in just the last 100 years. I believe we are at the beginning of reimagining work for the Information Age.

I focus most of my time building two products - Postcard and Booklet. Postcard helps people make personal websites as a way to stay in touch without social media platforms.  Booklet is a platform for professional communities to keep in touch without frenetic real-time chat. I'm an advisor for Dawn Health. I also do some limited consulting - I've helped develop new workforce management, AI, telemedicine, and Web3 products.

You can often find me seeking out a good cafe or restaurant. I still travel often - primarily to cities, because I'm fascinated by urbanism, government, and culture in a digital-first world. My favorite tools include the Aeropress, fountain pens, automatic watches, Ruby on Rails, Tailwind, and Obsidian. My dog is Queso.

Contact me at

What I'm up to - January 2023

✨ Highlights of last month • Traveled to Hilton Head, Savannah, and Denver for the holidays • Had a couple of flights canceled by Southwest • Published "Why I built Postcard: A calmer alternative to social networks" and "How to replace social media with a personal newsletter", which were popular online  🤔 Things and thoughts to share • Articles I've been reading: ‘Luddite’ Teens Don’t Want Your Likes, How I got my attention back, Overton window (Wikipedia) • Been reading Novelist as a Vocation by Haruki Murakami. Lots of great insights - including how he avoids writer's block.  • Been drinking the Prolog Jorge Vasquez Geisha, which is one of the better coffees I've had. Also, I've been enjoying a Kenyan coffee from Kahiwa Coffee Roasters in Finland. Kahiwa caught my attention because it's co-owned by F1 driver Valtteri Bottas.   • PromptHunt aggregates the prompts that people are using with AI. "Prompt developer" is an emerging job.   • Apple's new end-to-end iCloud encryption is a win for consumer privacy - I'm in the process of switching from Google Photos to iCloud because of this. • Why are we rating everything? A former #1 restaurant in the world only has 4.6 stars on Google. Is that really useful? 📫 What I'm up to this month • Adding lots of refinements to Postcard, and helping people switch over from Twitters's Revue product • Working on some interesting projects with crypto and AI  📍 Where I'll be (Let me know if we overlap!) • Jan 28 - Feb 4: 🇲🇽 Cozumel • Feb 18-24: 🏙️ NYC
Read more →