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There was a spike in new people subscribing to the Weekly Thing. Welcome aboard! I hope you dig it and get value from what I share here. To everyone else, thank you for being here too! You are awesome. 💛
There are a good number of interesting links that I have to share with you this week, so let’s get on with them… ⤵️
Godin hits on a topic that I’ve been wondering about — why do people put so much trust, often unearned, in some forms of technology? OpenAI and ChatGPT are phenomenal, but it is brand new tech and it gets a lot wrong. On the extreme, there are people that die every year because they let their Tesla do the driving. I drive a Tesla, and I can tell you I wouldn’t trust it to do anything beyond the most basic highway driving.
I believe that it is something about the medium. We are used to computers operating with perfect accuracy. No computer gets a math problem wrong. So when the math gets really probabilistic, and a guess is made, it is in the same space that we are used to getting uncompromisingly correct results.
So we trust it.
Even when we shouldn’t.
We have a rule in our family:
If there are wheels under your feet, there is a helmet on your head.
I’m a strong advocate of bike helmets. I’ve personally avoided serious injury on multiple occasions because I was wearing a bike helmet. I’ve had solo spills on my bike, I’ve rubbed tires with other cyclists, I’ve had absent minded drivers push me off the road, and I’ve even had aggressive drivers intentionally cut me off or even hit their brakes as hard as possible causing me to crash into the back of the car and go over my handlebars. I’ve been lucky to avoid any serious injuries, but I’ve paid my respects to a handful of helmets for doing their job to protect my head.
With that context, this article seemed to suggest that helmet wearing wasn’t really useful so I needed to dig in. There are only three meaningful items in here:
The rest of this article is just highlighting that there are risks to being on a bicycle in traffic, and a helmet doesn’t solve all of them. Which should be news to absolutely nobody.
At one point the article highlights that other countries that do not have helmet laws have fewer accidents, and specifically goes to the Netherlands example.
From a zoomed-out perspective, helmets are simply not the road-safety panacea we want them to be. Several analyses suggest that U.S. riders are more likely to wear helmets compared with cyclists in other countries—all while suffering the highest fatality rate per distance traveled. Research shows that among a 14-country cohort, the Netherlands enjoyed the lowest bicyclist fatality rate per mile traveled. The Dutch also largely eschew the helmet: 73 percent of adults and 84 percent of children in the Netherlands report they never wear a helmet while bicycling. There’s a simple reason for that. Surveys show that Dutch residents feel safe biking, and attribute that sense of security to the country’s long-standing cycling culture and network of dedicated cycling lanes.
This again has nothing to do with helmets. What the Netherlands tells us is the thing you can do to change driver behavior in a way that makes it safer for cyclists is to have so many cyclists on the road that you can’t ignore them.
So, I stand by…
If there are wheels under your feet, there is a helmet on your head.
I read this list and the background on each item and kept wondering if I would get to something that I disagreed with. I never did. I would agree with every single one of these twenty observations. I usually tried to excerpt or emphasize something in articles, but this one I’m just going to leave for you to read the original in its entirety.
Listening: Peter Attia had Bill Perkins to discuss Optimizing Life for Maximum Fulfillment. The discussion was around Perkins’ book Die With Zero, which I ordered multiple copies of for myself and to share after listening to the episode. I found Perkins’ approach around health, wealth, and time as well as the “seasons” of your life useful and want to explore it more.
Charlie Brown Tree reminding us of summer as we are blanketed with snow.
Jan 21, 2023 at 1:35 PM
Magic Pines, Minnesota
I spend a lot of time considering the algorithms that filter content that I see, and what the goal of those algorithms are. I don’t think a lot about the optimizations that have been made to engineered food and what those goals are.
Food manufacturers understand this, and as such when they design foods to hook in customers, they are clever about it. They keep in mind a factor known as “the bliss point,” which refers to the exact combinations of saltiness, sweetness and other tastes that any given food item needs to be (a) delicious and (b) not quite delicious enough that you will feel satisfied after a small serving.
Perhaps it is helpful to consider the intent of the design and marketing process around junk food, and determine if we want to be part of that game.
What Norman describes is very true, and I don’t think discussed very often.
This is the beginning of leadership influence — to remain a non-anxious presence. Said another way, it’s to be non-reactive. A non-anxious, non-reactive person does not adjust their values, preferences or approach as a way of powering up, shutting down or avoiding responsibility.
This is one of the reasons that I think meditation is so important for leaders.
Disclosure: I’m a limited partner in a Pantera fund.
Pantera’s annual outlook for the year ahead is a good read. I read Joey Krug‘s update with the most detail.
I like his callout of what has worked in 2022. For all that has been written about FTX and various bankruptcies, which is completely valid, not much has been said about the basic, boring DeFi protocols on crypto that didn’t seek crazy leverage and operated incredibly well through an extremely volatile period.
The second level of why DeFi protocols worked well in 2022 is the more critical, higher-level reason. Decentralized protocols can’t just say, “trust me, I went to MIT and want to donate everything to charity”. DeFi protocols are more of a “you don’t have to trust us” nature or, as Google put it so well before they dropped it: DeFi protocols “can’t be evil.” The only option at the protocol layer is to build something that works, something from first principles, in the open, against a pseudonymous playing field of rational economic actors, where your code is public, and anyone can scrutinize and read it.
Nick Szabo put it best: “trusted third-parties are security holes.” 2022 crypto in a nutshell.
Trusted third-parties are a bit antithetical to crypto to begin with.
Krug’s look forward hits on two big problems to solve, and I would put his second as the first and the most important.
The second set of issues — the usability issues of DeFi — is just as crucial as the liquidity part. While usability has improved a lot over the years, a common retort is, “the web was super hard to use in the early days, usability shouldn’t be a barrier”. Since the early of days of the web however, user expectations for usability have risen orders of magnitude. People expect things to be easy to use.
I have onboarded over a hundred people to crypto using POAPs for various events. It is getting easier, but it is still ridiculously complicated for even your average person to do this. Unfortunately this usability is a problem that we need serious companies to work on, and those serious companies decide to avoid the space when you have massive fraud like FTX.
Overall I continue to see so much opportunity in the crypto stack because of the potential to increase efficiency and create entirely new classes of solutions.
In the entire history of computing, we have never seen a way to drive significant efficiency improvement and decided to just pass on it, and keep doing things the hard and expensive way. I don’t think we are going to start now.
Microsoft has been invested in OpenAI for multiple years already, but this further partnership has the potential to be a huge deal for both companies. In a very short period of time, Google looks like they are lagging and not innovating fast enough.
Another blogging platform that I would recommend for a semi-technical user that would like something very simple and fast. I’m using the Bear theme on Micro.blog because I love the simplicity and it is incredibly fast. Basically Bear is a fairly thin UI layered on top of Hugo.
I get asked with some regularity from people that want to write more online. Usually this isn’t about creating a business, but just as a hobby.
But the key lesson, the thing I would impart to any aspiring bloggers, content creators, or newsletter proprietors, is that the cornerstone of internet success is not intelligence or novelty or outrageousness or even speed, but regularity. There are all kinds of things you can do to develop and retain an audience – break news, loudly talk about your own independence, make your Twitter avatar a photo of a cute girl – but the single most important thing you can do is post regularly and never stop.
Regularity is the key. I might add to ignore analytics too. Force yourself to find the reward for writing and sharing intrinsically in yourself, and not from others. Like all things, external validation will only get you so far.
Write for one person. It is fine if that one person is you.
I’ve used Amazon Smile from time-to-time over the years.
To date, Amazon Smile has sent charities more than $500,000,000. That’s not a ‘donation’ of course, it’s simply an allocation of marketing spend. And yet, half a billion dollars makes them a very significant donor in aggregate, one of the biggest corporate donors in the world.
I had no idea that it raised $500M for charities. I’m also surprised that Amazon decided to discontinue the program. They cited low usage. Why not solve that problem instead of just shutting it off? I would have loved for Amazon Smile to be backed into the normal Amazon experience. Certainly that would have driven engagement and resulted in a positive message instead.
This model for determining board composition makes a lot of sense to me. Some of these roles are pretty common in boards that I have interacted with.
We have consistently found that the best founders and startups build their boards forward from product-market fit—instead of backward from IPO—and approach it like building a presidential cabinet. The composition of a board will evolve alongside a company, and there is no one-size-fits-all approach to building a board. There isn’t a set number of board seats or a particular balance of personas that solves every business problem. That said, we have found these questions work well as jumping-off points for building a strategic board: what are the major business challenges facing my company, and do I have the right people on my management team to help me tackle those challenges? If not, which independent directors can I bring on to augment that team?
The role that I see lacking the most is the Functional Expert. There are not a lot of CTOs on boards, and as nearly all companies become technology companies that lack of presence at the board level results in a disconnect between the vision and direction of the business and those responsible to oversee it.
I think you could go broader and assert that another category should be considered. There is a consideration for a “Public Readiness Expert” in this framework, which clearly suggests this is pre-IPO, but would easily pivot to an Audit role after the fact. Technology could be considered very similar to that, as opposed to a pure Functional area.
We watched the final episode of The Middle tonight and everyone thought it was a delightful wrap up of the story and gave the characters a wonderful send off.
Giving the Bear Blog Theme a try. I like the simplicity and speed.
Social media is a mess.
I’ve lost track of what is social about it. It is a Skinner Box of addiction. The reductionism of a timeline is tiresome. The dopamine inducing likes are there to create some saccharin view of engagement.
I recently noticed that I was falling back into behavior I had broken out of years ago. I was again finding myself checking the Twitter timeline to see what is happening. Then I would feel bad about introducing into my brain all this random crap. The coach part of me knows this isn’t what I should be doing. But the monkey brain loves to see new things, chase them down, and play with the ideas in my head.
The problem is me Twitter, not you. Actually that is wrong. The problem is both of us. The problem is actually the entire social media model. It is an apparatus of addiction built around nothing. There is no there to find. There is no end to reach.
So I unfollowed every account. If you notice I unfollowed you on Twitter, don’t take it personally. It’s me, not you.
Tyler is learning to play chess. ♟️
I have never seen a CAPTCHA on an unsubscribe form! That is a new level of obnoxious. 😤
Great example of using Kubernetes to manage a huge fleet of remote infrastructure. → How The Home Depot uses a managed service for Prometheus | Google Cloud Blog
Incredible diversity of companies in this space. → Mapping the Generative AI landscape | Antler
I’ve wondered this many times with blogs. It seems odd that when you go to my blog you are very influenced by whatever the last 10 posts that I wrote were. We need to innovate with different models. → Is “stream” as a design paradigm over? – On my Om
Continued investment in crypto despite “crypto winter” and overall headwinds in tech. → QuickNode raises $60M at $800M valuation to become the ‘AWS or Azure of blockchain’ | TechCrunch
Great recap of all the fun stuff around POAPs in 2022. 🎉 → A Letter to the POAP Community
Cool demo that shows how a much more powerful backend can change the voice assistant experience. → ChatGPT in an iOS Shortcut — Worlds Smartest HomeKit Voice Assistant | Mate Marschalko
Great approach to communication for leaders. → Internal comms for executives. | Irrational Exuberance
Implementing rate-limiting and quotas on APIs is a harder problem than it may seem. → Fairness in multi-tenant systems
Sometimes very small things can cause cascading failure in complex systems. The whole point of this article is that the small thing that started it is only the beginning, and not the real explanation. → A small mistake does not a complex systems failure make – Surfing Complexity
I think Python is one of the very best languages for people to learn coding in, and this is a cool Development Environment specifically designed for beginners. Cool! 🪄 → Thonny, Python IDE for beginners
I’ve had a couple of M1 MacBooks that I have never successfully been able to get Apple Pay to turn on and have been completely stumped. It turns out there are some pretty low level things that can disable Apple Pay. → Apple Pay not working on a Touch ID Mac? Here are the security settings to check | Macworld
Here is your fortune…
Beware of Bigfoot! 🦶
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