November 2, 2017

Albert Watson’s story behind the famous image of Steve Jobs


Love hearing the context for famous photos like this one.

October 31, 2017

(Not) Difficult

Being privileged makes it easy to think that taking a risk is difficult. It’s scary because the inertia of the status quo makes too many scenarios look suboptimal. Life could continue to be as it is, and you’d be ok — but any less than this, would be bad.

This is as stupid as complaining that you have to eat at the Cheesecake Factory. What may sound as an uncool plan would literally be considered heaven for most people that lived in the last thousand years — and sadly, even most still alive today.

So we’re taking a risk. For most people — and hopefully us in hindsight — it will look childish to worry about. But it felt difficult and counterintuitive, and at the same time like the right thing. Will report from the other side.

October 12, 2017

The sunshine after the storm

A month ago we welcomed the newest member of our family. Bettina Maria was born at 11:35AM on Sept 12th in Miami.

That was roughly:

  • 4 hours after the hospital reopened.
  • 18 hours after we got electricity (and water) back.
  • 26 hours after her mom had to climb 27 floors up to the apartment.
  • 48 hours after Hurricane Irma made landfall in Florida
  • 80 hours after her mom and grandma arrived at another hospital shelter for the storm.
  • About 99 times after someone jokingly called her Irma Bettina — to her mom’s gritted teeth.

In contrast to Robie’s minutely planned arrival and its choreographed fanfare, Bettina’s arrival was an excellent (and at times literal) example of Bruce Lee’s:

Be like water making its way through cracks.

Ana was brave, practical and unapologetically sentimental. My wife is the most amazing mom, and her only worry was being separated from Robie and myself — since children weren’t allowed in the hospital shelter.

Being a grownup sometimes sucks, and we had to agree that she would take care of herself and Bettina with her mom in the hospital, in case the baby decided to arrive early.

Meanwhile, Robie, my parents and myself stayed at home to ride out the storm. Luckily we have great neighbors, which meant that Robie basically thought we went indoor camping with them. He also loved going up and down the stairs — again… 27 floors.

But being a grownup sometimes rocks, and a month ago I got to pickup this plump and healthy half mini-me. Holding her, I felt objectivity evaporate as I’m now convinced she’s the most beautiful and intelligent newborn since Robie. It’s an amazing feeling — which gets even more surreal with forthcoming lack of sleep.

So the new adventure begins. My best analogy for parenthood the first year with Robie was that it reminded me of platformer games: as soon as we had mastered something (sleep time, eating, etc) and felt comfortable, Robie would bring up a challenging new level.

My working analogy with Bettina (and she’s going to hate this), is that it’s like rewatching a horror film. You know what’s coming, so overall you are more relaxed — but it still can be scary at times.

Regardless of horror movie or Nintendo game, we couldn’t be more grateful to be healthy and together. In this crazy thing some call the human experience, all other things are accessories.

September 25, 2017

Filmmaker Ken Burns interview:

The finished film, what’s shown is the thing. For me, it’s the process of making it. If I can sort of convince myself when I put my head on my pillow that I’ve made that film better that day, I feel a little bit better, and I go to sleep a little bit faster.

Really enjoyed this quote. It’s a really good interview regarding his new Vietnam War documentary. Recommended.

August 29, 2017

Maxims and Affirmations

I put together 5 of my favorite quotes and highlights from my notes. Original plan was to write them down everyday as I woke up, but Robie ended up always taking my notebook — and either way I memorized them after a couple of days.

This is the price I am willing to pay for retaining my composure.
~ Epictetus

Difficulties vanish when faced boldly.
~ Isaac Asimov

I criticize by creation, not by finding fault.
~ Cicero

Knowledge and productivity are like compound interest.
~ Richard Hamming

Trade expectations for appreciation.
~ Tony Robbins

I’ve found some interesting calming effects in taking a pause throughout the day and repeating these. Not being religious, it seems to scratch a similar itch in resetting my mind.

August 18, 2017

How a recording-studio mishap shaped 80s music

Over the past few years a general nostalgia for the 1980s has infiltrated music, film, and television.

Great video. But the playlist is a soundtrack worth saving.

August 15, 2017

Jason Fried: Your Company Should be Your Best Product

Enjoyed this video from Basecamp’s Jason Fried. Lots of interesting concepts that are useful regardless of what tool you use.

If you want answers from people, you have to ask questions and if a system asks a question, it’s a process. If a persons does, it’s nagging.

This comment left me thinking.

collaboration Snippets
August 14, 2017

Updated Colophon

Missed two Apps that I use every day on the Mac:

Pastebot clipboard manager:

Much more powerful than the LaunchBar clipboard tool. Still not crazy about its implementation of combining clipboards — but the other features outweigh this.

Better ad/tracker blocker:

Works great on iOS also. I’ve had very few issues with sites loading incorrectly, and I trust their blocking rules.

August 9, 2017

On men and memos

The Google memo bothers me. It’s a smart-sounding piece of contrarian opinion that cherry picks facts to drive a point. It misappropriates real problems and assigns convenient explanations.

I don’t think it’s worth debunking, because it’s not even posing a question. The writer clearly assumes that he knows better than us. He’s mansplaining in the most ironic way: to other men and incorrectly.

First, my beliefs: women are equal to men in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics. You can generalize on the differences between men and women — it’s not fair, but it’s efficient. You shouldn’t be reductionist based on these generalizations — that’s unfair, and inefficient.

Second, my opinion: working on tech for women is not easy. The same situation where a male PM can get kudos from his team will result in shaken heads with a female PM — bossy vs. leader, bitchy vs. detailed, flirty vs friendly. Add the current vicious cycle of mostly male teams and it’s not easy to imagine what an unfriendly environment it can be.

I’ve worked with great female developers. I’ve worked with mediocre male developers. Anecdote is not evidence, so I shouldn’t say all female devs are great — but saying the opposite is just as incorrect.

August 9, 2017

Gruber: I Don’t Think There’s Going to Be an iPhone 7S

iPhone, iPhone Plus, iPhone Pro

This sounds right to me.

August 3, 2017

Logistics at my scale

Shopify beats estimates as revenue jumps 75%

In fact, its 56 per cent growth in North America in the quarter was far surpassed by its pace of expansion in Asia, South America and Africa.

This is interesting. While Amazon continues to become a 500 pound Gorilla in the US, its international expansion has been slower — and mostly limited to developed countries.

I believe that Amazon’s superpower is overcoming complexities of logistics at scale. However, when you move from large markets into smaller ones, you face restrictions that don’t scale at all.

Say you figure out logistics in Mexico, whatever expertise you acquired will do very little in figuring out Guatemala. You can repeat the example throughout South America — and I’m willing to bet in Asia and Africa too.

Shopping has morphed since the beginning of the web. Although most players are currently experimenting with mixed models, a simplified look at their strengths could look something like:

Experience Platform Sellers Logistics Example
Centralized Centralized Centralized Centralized Walmart
Centralized Centralized Distributed Distributed
Centralized Centralized Mixed Centralized
Distributed Centralized Distributed Distributed
Distributed Distributed Distributed Centralized

I’m very curious about the edge cases where Shopify and Postmates exists. While scale is more difficult to achieve, there’s a lot of flexibility that allows for more niche segments to crop up. Still, within large markets, the advantage doesn’t last long. As soon as product X had enough demand, the centralized infrastructure takes over with its lower costs.

But when the large market is actually a combination of smaller markets, there should be a lot more space for middle of the road logistics scale. Especially when there’s variations of tastes that don’t benefit exactly the same products in each of the markets.

Still need to work through this, but I believe (and hope) will not be the only online store in the future.

Ideas Work
July 26, 2017

Deplete Inventories 2

When shaving with a safety razor and brush, you usually fall down a rabbit hole of shaving creams and soaps. Last December I started to anxiously calculate when I should replace my favorite shaving cream — or maybe trying a new one? That’s when my frugal resolution for 2017 started.

Almost 8 months later, I still haven’t bought a new shaving cream or soap. Half-used and completely new ones keep appearing.

I miss having a new shaving thingy, but it feels great to finish up existing ones.

July 25, 2017

Read the chart out loud

When dealing with large datasets1 remember to tell yourself the story of the resulting chart.

Most of us usually create charts with some sort of agenda. We kinda know what we want to show, and therefore aren’t surprised with the chart if it fits our expectations.

The problem is that good data organized incorrectly can still look right. The most painless way I’ve found to try to catch these issues is taking a step back and telling a story of what the data is showing without thinking about your slide title. Just really read the data calmly, and you will likely catch a surprise or two.

Thankfully I’ve avoided a few charts with volume numbers until December 2017 (US vs world date formate), 1000x sales numbers (coma vs period thousand’s separator), and my favorite: 70 weeks per year (careful when how you use the DATE() formula).

  1. Anything that requires you to scroll down I’ll consider large. If all the data is viewable, it’s easier to keep a mental model of it.

July 24, 2017

Ride it out

There’s a moment at the end of a swim lap that you have to decide between stretching out and riding out your inertia — or doing one last stroke to reach the wall.

Of course there are different personalities: some prefer to hit the wall at full force, others do a final all out push just before the wall to glide into the finish.

A similar dynamic can also happen on projects. Some push their teams until a few hours (minutes?) before the deadline. I usually end up with a hard week and working weekend on the final stretch, but on the final days I let the team inertia set the pace.

Productivity Development
July 20, 2017

Productivity Apps and Subscription Pricing

Michael Tsai:

Instead, we’ve seen subscriptions combined with price increases, customers balking, and insinuations that people just don’t want to pay for anything anymore. With more than one variable changing at once, I don’t think we can conclude that people hate subscriptions.

This ring true. It’s not as simple as saying I don’t like subscriptions.