A couple readings and listenings this week
Anil Dash’s Reflections of 9/11
TED Radio Hour The Power of Design
If a Silicon Valley executive does something, it is “hacking.” Doing your laundry? That’s a life hack. Eating lunch? A biohack. Not eating lunch? Sure, yes, also a biohack.
And Multicultural USA: The 200+ year experiment
Dan Rather on The Ezra Klein Show
I’m on the plane to LA. We are about to land. I read the September issue of Nat Geo on the flight, and I have a lot on my mind. The main article was about the brain and addiction. Technology creates new stimuli not before considered, and there is ongoing research into how the internet affects our brain. Plus there’s an article about how agriculture in the Netherlands yields more food per square mile than any other country.
I also listened to podcasts on the way to the airport. The Ezra Klein show with Dan Rather had a relaxed, calming pace (I didn’t realize Rather had an issue at CBS for bad sources). Then I started the 99PI podcast on algorithms. Not too far into yet, but kicking someone off a United flight was an unexpected example of algorithms in the real world. It makes me consider my status on airlines as an infrequent flyer. (The flight attendant just asked me to put my seat back up, but I never reclined. Ahem Ryan Holiday).
The article most on my mind is from Ezra Klein on the Google memo. What struck me as different about Klein’s perspective is how he critiques the lack of refinement and supporting arguments for the claims presented. It left me thinking a similar thought to Zinsser’s on Writing Well about editing. I could see Klein thinking about what he wrote while planning and reviewing his own writing. It’s a meta, writing about writing, that makes me think about how I can be more expressive as a writer.
I am thinking a lot about how people can clearly articulate their ideas, and tell stories about their experiences. John Urshel impressed me in his interview on Freakonomics. He told a compelling tale about his life as a full time PhD student and full time NFL lineman for the Ravens. The podcast focused on risk vs uncertainty, which was interesting in itself, but his background added intrigue.
This happens far too often
Vertical companies like Apple achieve profits by selling differentiated goods at high margins. Horizontal companies like Google, on the other hand, achieve profits through scale, which by extension means being free (or as low cost as possible) is more important than being the “best”; the brilliance of Google’s model, of course, is that having more users, and thus more data, means it is the best as well.
This story is over 4000 years old but was only discovered in 1853. Time deteriorated the tablets and filtered the text to what we have today. The story is about King Gilgamesh of Uruk and his quest to beat death, but what amazed me was the insight it gave to the scale of humanity at the time the story was written (my thoughts were influenced from just reading Sapiens). If all stories were kept on multiple tablets of similar size, where are all the others? What happened in the 4000 years that we never decided to make another copy? Today, it seems the internet will preserve all we create for the foreseeable future, so Gilgamesh will live on.
CinemaSins is great for screening movies of questionable quality without investing the entire 2 hours on a rotten tomato (but the Kong director doesn’t think so). For example, Power Rangers. Now I know I only need to watch the end to see Megazord. Granted this is not a replacement for watching the movie, just a way to rearrange your list of what to watch next. Still, such nostalgia.
Showing up and doing it again and again until you’re good at it, and until it’s part of who you are and what you do.
A preview of what’s to come…
Here’s a test. I decided not to renew nautilus for $29 a year. I already have another 1 year on my subscription, and while I currently would like to have the magazine for another year I am balancing a few things to decide if in one year I want it for another year. In reality, the $29 for a year is really, $29 for two more years since I already acclimated to the original cost. So now, I am taking the option of not wanting the magazine in a year at the cost of an increase over $29. My current rate is $35 a year, so my value on the option is $6.
when he gets into a cab, he now leaves his phone in his pocket and simply sits there and thinks; when he gets home, instead of “looking at websites for an hour and half, checking to see if there’s a new thing,” he reads a book.
I removed it from the App Store. It had a good run, but it was time for other things.
I like the option I have with this iPad to either read, or write in the mornings. I swing back and forth between the two activities (right now trying to finish Sapiens), but I thought a lot last night about how I was going to write a book. That fell flat in July and August. Replaced with video editing, coding, and having fun with friends. All in moderation is my way of doing things.
Some of the articles and podcasts that came through my feeds recently had similar themes. It got me thinking about a few things.
COX: Human brains are very good at learning things and not so good at unlearning things.
SPIEGEL: Because of the way that our minds work, it is just much easier for a stereotype to perpetuate itself than to be overturned because to change a concept you need to get extremely consistent feedback that the concept is incorrect. But most of the time we get no feedback at all.
COX: You know, imagine you’re walking around downtown and you see a guy in a pink shirt who’s maybe listening to Britney Spears, maybe talks with a lisp. And often people will see that and what’ll pop to mind is the idea that he’s gay. They’ll make an assumption. Oh, look at that gay guy. But they’re not going to run up to him and ask him, oh, are you gay? I had the thought that you were gay, but I just want to, you know, confirm or disconfirm it.
SPIEGEL: If you instantly found out that the man wasn’t gay, that stereotype wouldn’t gain power. But you don’t, so just the assumption strengthens the stereotype.
COX: The way it gets stored in their memory is that that was a gay guy, that having a pink shirt means he’s gay because that’s how our learning happens. It happens by the activation of these associations.
SPIEGEL: In other words, the deck is kind of stacked in favor of whatever stereotype is already in there.
From an early episode of Better Call Saul (I can’t find the episode, but here’s a montage and reddit post), I posited that in today’s world it is impossible hustle people and too easy to call BS (baloney sandwich). They can simply look up the answer on the internet and believe it as true. But what happens when we run into truthiness and the things we take as fact are not quite so?
This part of the TED Radio Hour Truth and Lies episode about credibility of what we see online makes novel connections between the real world and the web. How to hack your mind, reality, truth, and lies via misinformation on the internet.
The dependence that we have for not just our news but really for how we’re thinking about our collective experience as people and as a country and as a world is just so intensely derived from the Internet right now. Your smartphone is more your reality than walking down the street. So it’s now time to figure out what seems fake, what seems real, why that’s the case. And you don’t yet have the same Spidey feeling or, you know, goosebumps on the back of your neck that you get when you’re walking down the street and there’s a shady character walking down and, you know, you’re not going to trust something that they say or take it at face value. You don’t have that feeling yet on the Internet.
As our realities are increasingly based on the information that we’re consuming at the palm of our hand and from the news feeds that we’re scanning and the hashtags and stories that we see trending, the Russian government was the first to recognize how this evolution had turned your mind into the most exploitable device on the planet. And your mind is particularly exploitable if you’re accustomed to an unfettered flow of information now increasingly curated to your own tastes. This panorama of information that’s so interesting to you gives a state – or anyone, for that matter – a perfect back door into your mind.
It’s this new brand of state-sponsored information operations that can be that much more successful, more insidious and harder for the target audience – that includes the media – to decipher and characterize. If you can get a hashtag trending on Twitter or chum the waters with fake news directed to audiences primed to receive it – all tactics used in Russian operations – then you’ve got a shot at effectively camouflaging your operations in the mind of your target. This is what Russia’s long called reflexive control. It’s the ability to use information on someone else so that they make a decision on their own accord that’s favorable to you.
Ben Thompson discusses truth vs beliefs in his post Not Ok Google:
Deciding how to respond to fake news is a trade-off; in the case of Facebook, the fact that fake news is largely surfaced to readers already inclined to believe it means I see the harm as being less than Facebook actively taking an editorial position on news stores.
Google, on the other hand, is less in the business of driving engagement via articles you agree with, than it is in being a primary source of truth. The reason to do a Google search is that you want to know the answer to a question, and for that reason I have long been more concerned about fake news in search results, particularly “featured snippets”
Facebook may be pushing you news, fake, slanted, or whatever bias there may be, but at least it is not stamping said news with its imprimatur or backing it with its reputation (indeed, many critics wish that that is exactly what Facebook would do), and said news is arriving on a rather serendipitous basis. Google, on the other hand, is not only serving up these snippets as if they are the truth, but serving them up as a direct response to someone explicitly searching for answers. In other words, not only is Google effectively putting its reputation behind these snippets, it is serving said snippets to users in a state where they are primed to believe they are true.
And finally, in The Stories We Tell Ourselves, Todd May discusses the complicated lives we all lead:
Why might this matter? Here is one reason. The presidential election has displayed in stark terms a phenomenon that many have commented on in recent years. With the proliferation of various cable news channels, the internet, niche marketing, clustering in communities of like-minded people, most of us live in echo chambers that reflect the righteousness of our lives back to us. We are reinforced to think of ourselves as embodying the right values, as living in ways that are at least justified, if not superior. Reflecting on the stories we tell about ourselves might reveal to us other aspects of who we are and what we value, aspects that would complicate the simple picture provided by our echo chamber.
And that complication, in turn, could lead us to another revelation: that those who live outside our echo chamber might also be more complicated than we have imagined. While the values we take them to be expressing might be mistaken — or even abhorrent — to us, there are perhaps other aspects to their lives as well, other values those lives express, values that would become manifest to us if we listened to some of the stories they tell about themselves. If we are more complicated than we like to think, perhaps others are also more complicated than we would like to think. (And also more complicated than they would like to think.)
I took time this morning to meditate. I noticed I was going to rush to make it to the bus, and decided to wait and take the one leaving 30 minutes later. It was a simple decision that has big impact for the day. I leave in a calmer state and am able to get more done in the morning (at a relaxed pace). If only I would wake up earlier to take advantage of the time with my scheduled routine. My alarm goes off just after 7am and the next 20-25 minutes are spent snoozing and scrolling on my phone. I should re-read my routine post.
Anil Dash is not a fan of open offices for programmers. Programmers need to get into a state of flow to focus on the work in front of them and go deep. This is difficult with constant visual and auditory distraction.
At home it is quiet and there is little going on. Because of this I am able to stay focused and get work done. Deep work can come at with a loss to collaboration, but Cal Newport details how deep collaboration can be done.
More on open space at Fog Creek.
I read this before,
“A creator, such as an artist, musician, photographer, craftsperson, performer, animator, designer, videomaker, or author—in other words, anyone producing works of art—needs to acquire only 1,000 True Fans to make a living.”
but it came up again (via Ryan Holiday)
“So don’t wait. Build your platform now. Build it before your first project, before your first great perennial seller comes out, so that you have a better chance of actually turning it into one. Build it now so that you might create multiple works like that. Build it so you can have a career—so you can be more than just a guy or gal with a book or movie or app. Because you’re more than that. You’re an entrepreneur, an author, a filmmaker, a journalist. You’re a mogul.”
BCH spun off from BTC on Tuesday afternoon, and briefly traded over $700 on Wednesday (though it later fell significantly). But BTC hasn’t really lost any value since the spinoff, still trading at about $2,700. So just before the spinoff, if you had a bitcoin, you had a bitcoin worth about $2,700. Now, you have a BTC worth about $2,700, and also a BCH worth as much as $700. It’s weird free money, if you owned bitcoins yesterday.
The iPods Shuffle and Nano, the last two iTunes-dependent (i.e. non-iOS) MP3 players Apple sold, were quietly discontinued last Tuesday. The revelation two days later that Apple was, at the behest of the Chinese government, removing VPN apps from the App Store in China, drew considerably more interest
Wow. The two part episode lacks closure, but is a captivating detective story that spans the globe.
“Even the most fleeting acquaintance with the history of information and communication technologies indicates that moral panics are episodic and should be taken with a grain of salt.”
“Give me more kale”
These interviews are so similar, it’s almost as if they are with the same person. Still, each interviewer provides their own color. Tippett takes a more human approach while Klein focuses on the news, but both are searching for truth
“We are punished by our sins, not for them.”
~ Elbert Hubbard
Almost as cool as the game. The history of making it: https://github.com/ncase/trust/commits/gh-pages
You may be the average of the five people you spend the most time with , but more so, today, you are the product of who you were yesterday and the day before . “The difference between who you are now and who you were five years ago is largely due to how you’ve spent your time along the way.” 
So, who are you seeking to become?
If you like who you are today, keep doing what you are doing. But if you want to change, work to retool the habits which defined you up until this point. You don’t have to appease social norms of being the same person you were yesterday. Buck the tread and become who you want to be. (Do you believe people can change? ) Fight club and Tyler Durden show that resetting can be the impetus for your new, desired self to take hold. You don’t have to set fire to all your possessions, but find what brings joy to your life  . Don’t let your possessions own you . “If you can’t afford to lose it, you can’t afford it to buy it yet” . So as spring rolls around here in the US, what cleaning will you be find? How will you shed your skin to let your new self shine?
Just connecting some things I came across recently. Here’s a non-chronological list:
 “You’re the average of the five people you spend most of your time with.” – Jim Rohn
 Change Making Problem – Wikipedia
 Who are we seeking to Become – Seth Godin
 The Personality Myth – Invisibilia
 Life Changing Magic of Tidying up – Marie Kondo
 “The things you used to own, now they own you” – Fight Club
 Mr. Money Mustache – The New Yorker
Here’s a story from a TED talk on perspective:
A man walks into a bank in Watsonville, California. And he says, “Give me $2,000, or I’m blowing the whole bank up with a bomb.”
Now, the bank manager didn’t give him the money. She took a step back. She took his perspective, and she noticed something really important. He asked for a specific amount of money.
So she said, “Why did you ask for $2,000?”
And he said, “My friend is going to be evicted unless I get him $2,000 immediately.”
And she said, “Oh! You don’t want to rob the bank — you want to take out a loan.”
“Why don’t you come back to my office, and we can have you fill out the paperwork.”
Challenge your perspective and don’t make assumptions.
Quoted from Adam Galinsky: How to speak up for yourself
I came across two articles the other day which made me stop and think after noticing a connection.
The North Face and Patagonia began offering professional outdoor gear to enthusiasts. As their brands gained recognition, they used this fame to stamp their logo on “high-end hobbyist” gear with the reputation of a hardcore mountaineer company. They moved from niche to mainstream.
Nike, the most mainstream sporting equipment company, is creating a market of sub 2-hour marathon shoes and pitching them to the Rupps and Kiprotiches of the world. But in reality, Nike wants to sell shoes, and vast majority of those sales will come from people who are not going to hit a sub 2 hour marathon. Although they might read a “native ad” in the New York Times to learn about sneakers.
The hobbyist market moves quantity and both pieces are free marketing aimed squarely at the target audience.
We often miss connections amongst the throngs media we consume on the daily. Slow down for a moment and make sense of what you are truly seeing.