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#50 Sometimes the biggest milestone is deciding to create one
Movable future, thinkers of three kinds, CoComelon, Coinbase & more
Kevin Kelly believes one of the reasons it is hard to predict what the future looks like is because much of the future is movable. The thing we are trying to forecast is changed by our attempts to make it real.
He shares a bunch of reasons to explain his claim (highlights are mine).
Part of this gap between what we expect and what we get is due to our lack of imagination. The future is extremely difficult to picture beforehand because technologies are mainly governed by technical constraints we are unaware of initially. And technologies are also shaped by social forces we are forever guessing wrong about. The truth is we don’t know how humans really behave, and the interaction of new tech and old humans continues to surprise us. We tend to use new things in new ways we did not expect. So when we extrapolate to imagine what, say, genetic cloning will be like, we rely on past behaviors, and will often be blinded by old patterns.
But another reason why there is a gap between what we expect and what we get is that we actually change what we want along the way.
Think about it! You may not see the complete picture. Or picture you see today may not be the one you will finally have by the time you finish your work. It's normal. At least with our current capability as human race.
I've some really interesting pieces for you today. Let’s get to them right away.
Alan Jacobs’s claims in his short essay that useful thinkers come in three varieties. Below is an excerpt from his post (some formatting are mine to increase readability):
1. The Explainer knows stuff I don’t know and can present it clearly and vividly. This does not require great creativity or originality, though Explainers of the highest order will possess those traits too.
2. The Illuminator is definitionally original: someone who shines a clear strong light on some element of history or human experience that I never knew existed. (Though sometimes after reading something by an Illuminator I will think, Why didn’t I realize that before?)
3. The Provoker is original perhaps to a fault: Ambitious, wide-ranging, risk-taking, Provokers claim to know a lot more than they actually do but can be exceptionally useful in forcing readers to think about new things or think in new ways.
Be aware of what role the person in front of you playing! That's the trick in extracting the best from any conversation or advice.
Mario Gabriele’s “The Generalist” has done some amazing deep dives on a variety of businesses. This post summarises 10 lessons from great businesses curated from those 50 odd posts.
I love Mario's writing. He covers the depth, and narrates in a style that is simple yet entertaining. This screenshot from the post gives away all the dough in case you're in hurry.
Read his post (much shorter than his usual long form deep dives) to get a little more in his trademark style.
On most days, I would have put this article in the ‘random goodness section’ of this newsletter. But this short interview has too many nuggets worth noting.
Olaf Carlson-Wee was Coinbase’s first employee. This interview with him covers interesting & diverse topics. His journey at Coinbase sound like those from the startup folklores. Here’s some crazy bits from the post.
How did he get the job? I was Coinbase’s 30th user … I literally cold emailed jobs@coinbase and said, “I love bitcoin. Here’s my thesis. I’ll do any job.”
What happened next? Fred [Ehrsam] replied in five minutes and said, “Hey, can you hop on Skype?” That’s when I started learning how things work in Silicon Valley. The pace of things.
We got on Skype and talked for 20 minutes. Then I got an email from him that said, “Okay, we wanna do an in-person interview. You’re going to come to the office tomorrow. I want you to have two finished presentations, 15 minutes each. The first should explain something complicated you know very well. The second should outline your vision for Coinbase.”
His interview with Brian? Brian’s questions were really intense. “What do you wanna do with your life?” “What drives you as a person?” “What’s a belief you have that is extremely unpopular?” He wanted to really know me.
And then the final offer? They said, “You should come in for work trial.” And that was a two week paid trial. I worked really hard because I knew this was the final test. At the end of those two weeks they said, “Okay. You have a formal job offer.”
Craig : What was the actual job?
Olaf : Customer support. Like I said, I came in and was willing to do anything. I did customer support by myself until we had 250,000 users.
His clarity of thought & way of explaining things is remarkable. No wonder he was the 1st employee at Coinbase.
CoComelon's targets core demo is kids between age of 1y to 3y. If you've any kids that age around you, there are very high chances you already know about them. For others, here's a bunch of stats about their business:
1. Their show was watched for 33 billion minutes last year, more than the Netflix hits Squid Game and Bridgerton combined.
2. They had 3.6 billion views on YouTube in Jan'22
3. CoComelon was a Top 10 show on Netflix for more than 100 straight days in 2021
4. Its music is streamed 1.3 million times a day on Spotify.
5. Its parent company Moonbug was acquired for $3 billions by Blackstone in Nov'21.
How do they do it? Well, they are a content, analytics and a marketing juggernaut at work. Sample this:
But there are little touches, experts say, that make the show appealing to younger kids in particular. The world depicted on CoComelon has bright colors and no sharp edges or corners. It is shot from a low perspective, so the viewer sees the world from a toddler’s level. The characters are unfailingly kind to one another; there is no conflict on CoComelon. And the topics are universal: viewers see JJ perform familiar tasks, like potty training and putting on shoes, and struggle with familiar challenges, like learning to share and getting sick. The show takes “every meaningful moment” in a toddler’s life and makes a song around it, says Patrick Reese, general manager of Moonbug.
While you're at it, you might want to check out this story about our homegrown ChuChu TV as well.
If you are active on twitter or LinkedIn in last couple of weeks, you would have seen this already.
Source: @codevisuals on Twitter
This flowchart for how Slack decides whether to send a notification or not teaches a lesson on customer centric design in just one flowchart. The attention to detail and focus on user preference is wroth copying.
Here’s a related post from slack documentation site. Worth a quick read, the example help explain the whole approach even better.
How do you teach “communication problems” in a fun way?
Try using this video from Aaron Alon - “What idioms from other countries sound like in American English”.
Even if you’re not in a teaching mode, this one is worth a watch. The creator has used the guise of a couples therapy session to showcase how communication breakdown happens. It covers 70 idioms from 28 foreign languages in just 5 and half minutes to convey the message beautifully.
Sample this: "You're one to talk!" becomes the Japanese "A dog with feces scolds a dog with husks of grain!" The husband is angry that his wife goes to bed with the hens and gets up with the cocks, but in her defence, she just wants to stay up late and have a fat morning
Some random goodness from the internet:
Youtube: If you love Succession, here’s a bit of story by its composer on how he created its masterpiece of a title track. If you’ve not watched it yet, check out here. And by the way, this track is kind of universal, it fits very well on many more TV shows (h/t @TrungTPhan)
Instagram: Lisa Llyod (@lisa_lloydpaper) takes inspiration from nature and uses paper to create stunning sculptures. What a riot of colours! Check out her website to know more.
Instagram: Niki Colemont (@nikicolemont) is the squirrelman or the squirrel photographer. You know what to expect next!
Short reads: Success & failure at Pebble (an honest account of journey of a much loved product. Great & highly loved product does not always mean great business, alas), Origin of skip intro in Netflix (a feature that is used ~136 million times a day)
Website: For the Hobbit & LOTR fans, here’s a collection of maps that Tolkien drew as he created his new world. And while you’re there, don’t forget to checkout his illustrations and calligraphy work too.
Before we sign off, here’s to all of you who have made it this journey a lot of fun!
I looked back at the older post, and I realised there is so much I want to go back to and re-read. The archives are all updated, so I won’t do repost or anything here. Just as a summary of journey, here’re my top 10 post titles from the last one year of this newsletter.
Never underestimate the importance of having fun
You are not going to get very far in life based on what you already know
Don’t trust the map, trust the compass!
Your passion is waiting for your courage to catch up
Getting started changes everything
Experience is what you get when you don't get what you want.
If you’re brave enough to say goodbye, life will reward you with a new hello
When you don’t know what you believe, everything becomes an argument.
Knowing when to ignore your experience is a true sign of experience
Most events in life can be categorised in one of two ways: a good time, or a good story.
That's all for this week, folks!
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