📚 Financial confidence playbook, Network scam, Storytelling & magic, Understanding cities, housing & remote work
Warhol owns Pop, Horilal Pan Wala & a lot of fun finds from across the net
Hi & welcome to the post #136.
Two youngsters power part of today’s post - Dwarkesh & Rahul Mathur. I am super impressed & inspired by their efforts. You go through their feed and just cannot guess how young the person behind these conversions is. They are super curious and are doing a lot to satiate it. Their output is highly engaging and helpful in learning new things. Give them a follow!
Here’s what we are covering:
💵 Financial Confidence Playbook
🪙 Understanding network scam
🪄 Storytelling & magic
🏙️ Understanding cities, housing & remote work
🍲 Horilal Pan Wala, Sita Ram Diwan Chand & other business stories
🛰️ How space debris threatens modern life
🤣 Your 2023 WebMD wrapped
And much more
Let’s get to it right away.
1. Financial Confidence Playbook
Financial Confidence Playbook is a great repository for inspiration & supporting inputs for builders focusing on low-income, underbanked, and underserved communities worldwide. They define these users as last mile users.
IDEO and Last Mile Money have done a good job detailing out the specific challenges faced by these users and how intuitive and inclusive solutions can help us serve these better.
I checked the flows around onboarding, KYC, conversational & text interface. Their inputs are spot on. As part of our effort in the gaming space, we serve a lot of the last mile users and have struggled on these fronts. I can see some of our learning available in the recommendations of this project.
Folks who are in direct financial services can surely use these as a good reference point.
2. Understanding Network Scam
Lana Swartz’s take on the 2017 blockchain ICO bubble is an interesting one. In her 2022 paper titled “Theorizing the 2017 blockchain ICO bubble as a network scam” she does a good job simplifying some of the underlying challenges & modus operandi of this scam. If you’ve been following the crypto space, you may have read a lot about this phase already. Still, you can give this short paper a read if you want to add some academic perspective to your understanding.
Scams are usually camouflaged as part of regular commerce, made up of “deviant decisions and illegal operations blend[ed] imperceptibly into legitimate ones” (Shover et al., 2004: 73). While they are likely to be pitched as vanishingly rare and exceptionally clever opportunities, they are nonetheless still sold as exploitations of the rules, not violations of them. If anything, a scam’s shadiness is disguised as a revelation about how, indeed, shady the world of business is.
3. Storytelling & Magic
Great storytelling and a successful magic trick has a lot in common - that’s the premise of this post. It summarizes a talk Chris Jones gave in “Power of Storytelling” conference, in Bucharest. Here’re the 7 key ingredients that he covers.
One: Palm - “To hold an object in an apparently empty hand”
Two: Ditch - “To secretly dispose of an unneeded object”
Three: Steal - “To secretly obtain a needed object”
Four: Load - “To secretly move a needed object to where it is hidden”
Five: Simulation - “To give the impression that something that hasn’t happened has happened”
Six: Misdirection - “To lead attention away from a secret move”
Seven: Switch - “To secretly exchange one object for another”
You can see why he is connecting the two. The post is a great example of magical storytelling in itself. Read it and experience it fully.
4. Understanding cities, housing & remote work
Dwarkesh’s podcast episode with Edward Glaeser covers a wide range of topics such as cities, terrorism, housing, & remote work. I loved the variety of things that are covered in such a short period. So many new ideas in one place!
Sample some of the questions that Dwarkesh asked here:
What advice would you give to Elon Musk about building the first cities on Mars?
If you look throughout ancient world history, there are so many examples of empires that are basically synonymous with their capital cities (ex. Rome or Athens, or Sparta). But today, you would never think of America as the ‘Washingtonian Empire.’ What is the explanation for why the capital city has become much less salient in terms of the overall nation?
I’m curious why it’s the case that American cities have some of the best colleges in the world, but for some reason, their K-to-12 is significantly worse, or it can be worse than the K-to-12 in other parts of the country. Why is it that the colleges are much better in cities, but K to 12 is worse?
Why do even the best software engineers in India or in Europe make so much less when they’re working remotely from those locations than remote engineers working in America make? I mean, why don’t employers just pay them more until the price discrepancy goes away?
What does the evidence show about public libraries? Do they matter?
Why do European cities seem so much more similar to what they look like decades or even centuries ago than American cities, even American cities that are old, obviously not as old as European cities, but they seem to change much more over time.
I was in Mumbai earlier this year, and I visited Dharavi, which is the biggest slum in Asia. And it’s a pretty safe place for a slum. Why are slums in different countries? Why do they often have different levels of how safe they are? What is the reason?
I’ve heard some other episodes from Dwarkesh’s podcast and can vouch that the quality of topics & questions remains high.
Thankyou Sajith Pai for recommending this one in his newsletter.
5. Business stories
Master’s Union’s youtube channel has a bunch of videos from their Off-Campus program. Their students visit famous local (and not so local) businesses. They talk to the founder & team and collect the lessons gathered by these entrepreneurs.
Programs like these are quite fun and challenging. In my college days, we did a similar project on Havmor ice-cream. I had enjoyed the product till this time, but after the project we had a new found respect behind the folks & business of Havmor. Their product launch strategy was interesting & became a core point of our project presentation.
Do you remember any such project you did and what did you learn there?
I discovered these from the Twitter feed of Rahul Mathur (@Rahul_J_Mathur) on X) . If you’re on there, follow him for a lot of interesting discoveries on books, podcasts & lessons from his entrepreneurial & startup journey.
6. Light reads & videos
Warhol owns Pop and other brand truths. What brands can learn about distinctiveness from the art world?
Successful artists have figured out what many brands still struggle with, namely being incredibly single-minded in what you’re known for. They recognize that once you stake a claim to a medium, message, or idea, it’s hard for others to play in that space without being considered derivative—one of the most debilitating judgments of any artist.
Inside Foxconn’s India iPhone factory expansion. The attitude towards work and work ethics are starkly different in the two geographies. There are clear impacts of these on productivity, quality & labor morale.
Li said Chinese engineers sometimes talked about how they were working to make their own jobs obsolete: One day, Indians might get so good at making iPhones that Apple and other global brands could do without Chinese workers. Three managers said some Chinese employees aren’t willing teachers because they see their Indian colleagues as competition. But Li said that progress was inevitable. “If we didn’t come here, someone else would,” he said. “This is the tide of history. No one will be able to stop it.”
How space debris threatens modern life. An interactive photo essay from FT folks.
The scourge of space junk threatens that future. In 1978, Nasa astrophysicist Donald J Kessler outlined a theory of what would happen if space traffic continues to grow and collisions occur. The debris created by those collisions would skitter off into the paths of other satellites, creating yet more debris.
Over time, Kessler argued, a chain reaction of cascading collisions could one day make low Earth orbit hard to access and even prevent manned spaceflight from leaving Earth: a phenomenon since labelled the “Kessler syndrome”.
7. Everything else
Some random goodness from the internet:
This could be a repeat from an earlier post, but it is worth repeating. Follow India Wants To Know (@IWTKQuiz) on Twitter/X for amazing trivia & quiz challenges. Their substack curates a few of these on a given topic every week. It always surprises me and brings a smile to my face.
52 things I learned in 2023 by Tom Whitwell. Some interesting ones…
The US Defence Department earns $100m/year operating slot machines used by soldiers on their bases.
Only 28 books sold more than 500,000 copies in the US in 2022. Eight of them were by romance novelist Colleen Hoover.
Two street food stalls, in Bangkok and Singapore, have Michelin stars. The third, a Singaporean noodle stall, lost its star in 2021 after expanding into a chain.
Your 2023 WebMD Wrapped at McSweeney’s Internet Tendency.
That's all for this week, folks!
I hope I've earned the privilege of your time.
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