Discover more from Stay Curious
📚 MAYA products, Filters for problem solving, How to build fast, Rules of good science, Beauty of chalk
+ Best of Durga Pandals from Kolkata, Tiny paper homes & Long term art projects
Hi, this is post #130.
For the readers from India, there is a new movie in your nearest theaters - 12th Fail. It is based on the life of IPS officer Manoj Sharma & IRS Officer Shraddha Joshi. Manoj’s struggles to clear one of the most difficult entrance exams (UPSC) is the central theme. TVF’s Aspirants & later Sandeep Bhaiya have covered the same theme, but this movie connected much deeper. There are a lot of emotional moments that make the movie highly touching. I highly recommend this one.
For the readers outside of India, what exam comes to your mind when you talk of "the toughest exam to crack” and why? I’ve seen a lot of movies around the journeys of professional athletes. Anything from the academic or professional front?
There’s a lot of goodness in today’s post, even by the standards of “Stay Curious”.
Let’s take a quick look at the list & get to the ideas right away:
🗒️ Sequoia’s YouTube Investment Memo
⌚ MAYA products
💱 Secular or sacred values
👓 Filters for problem solving
🏗️ How to build fast
🧪 Rules of good science
💡 Mind the gaps
✍️ Beauty of chalk
🧱 Long term art projects
And much more
1. Sequoia’s YouTube Investment Memo
This is one of the first ‘expert’ commentary on a fledgling business that went on to change the way video content is created & distributed.
Sequoia’s YouTube investment memo is a simple read, and that’s the beauty of it. It has got less jargon per paragraph than most work project pitch documents I’ve read (or made).
Don’t look at this one as a template or anything. It’s just a good example of ‘simple’ business writing. I aspire to build the clarity to be able to write ‘simple’ and still describe an idea whose time is yet to come.
Two Ideas for Building Successful Products
The most advanced yet acceptable products win. Patrick Morgan proposes a level of design that balances novelty & familiarity and is often the reason some products are successful. He uses examples of iPhone, ChatGPT etc to make his point.
MAYA dictates that the ideal design sits between solutions that are completely novel and entirely familiar. Be too novel and customers will tune you out. Be too familiar and customers will look right past you. Or, in Loewy’s words, “The adult public’s taste is not necessarily ready to accept the logical solutions to their requirements if the solution implies too vast a departure from what they have been conditioned into accepting as the norm.”
Are you selling the secular or sacred? Chris Paik on why ideas like “marketplaces for monogamous demand—wherein you want the same provider each time, as with nannies and cleaning services—discovery apps, etc.or a stock market for people” don’t work. He defines two types of value that a user ascribes to a product or service.
Secular - measurable, quantifiable value
Sacred - value or utility where every person has their own highly varied ascribed value and there is no market clearing price.
Any business operates as an atomic value swap, and the nature of swap defines the cause for its success or failure. These are three popular value swaps that successful businesses have built.
A stock market for people / talent does not fit this and thus becomes a difficult to crack proposition. If you are keen to understand how, read the post for Morgan’s take.
Three Filters to Think Through Problems
FS Blog picks up some useful advice from Garrett Hardin‘s “Filters Against Folly”. These are Hardin‘s three filters that help interpret reality. Or as Shane Parrish puts it, these are three filters needed to think through problems.
Here’re the filters and one liner explanation about them.
1. The Literate Filter: Try to understand what is really being said. What do the words and the labels actually mean?
2. The Numerate Filter: The ability to count, weigh, and compare values in a general or specific way is essential to understanding the claims of experts or assessing any problem rationally.
3. The Ecolacy Filter: Even if we understand what is truly being said and have quantified the effects of a proposed policy or solution, it is imperative that we consider the second layer of effects or beyond.
*Fair warning: This one is not for snacking, park it for when you’ve some time to chew it well.
4. How to build fast
Jacob Lagerros’s “A golden age of building” talks of a time when ambitious projects were done in unimaginable speed. He captures lessons from Empire State, Pentagon, Skunk Works and SpaceX and tries to figure out how it was possible then.
How do you build the world's tallest building in only a year? The world's largest building in the same amount of time? Or America's first fighter jet in just 6 months?
This idea incidentally has intrigued Patrick Collison as well. He maintains a list titled fast where he puts together examples of people quickly accomplishing ambitious things together. One quick look at that list and you will know why this topic creates so much curiosity.
This post is filled with stories & details that outline how it was possible. How speed could be made a goal without compromising on quality. These goals are like wishful thinking now, as we’ve changed the way teams work & decisions are done. Even the startups in today’s world suffer from some of these ailments. If you have similar feelings, then give this one a read. You will know what’s ailing your teams.
Five Rules for Good Science
Spencer Greenberg says “I have a few rules that I aim to use when I run studies. By considering what it looks like when these rules are inverted, they also may help guide you in thinking about which studies are not reliable.”
And here are his five rules for good science (and how they can help you spot bad science) :
(1) Don’t use a net with big holes to catch a small fish
(2) Don’t use calculus to help you assemble IKEA furniture
(3) Don’t claim you saw a bear if all that happened is you heard a growl in the distance
(4) Finding out you’ve backed the wrong horse is better than being a horse’s ass
(5) When you win at poker, remember that you’re in a casino
They mean what they read. Still if you want to know more, the post is super short and does a fairly good job in making his point.
6. Light reads & videos
Some interesting blogs & videos from not so usual topics of interest.
Mind the Gaps. Dinesh Raju on good advice.
Words are lossy approximations though. The bandwidth of language is lower than the bandwidth of perception. Sampling with words is like taking a photo with an old camera that can see only a small number of colors.
In Defense of the Rat by J. B. MacKinnon
Rats are better known, of course, as our immediate neighbors in cities, in towns, and on farms. Science defines the rat’s relationship to humans as commensal: an association between two species in which one benefits and the other is neither helped nor harmed. The label is awkward, however, since many people feel harmed by the mere existence of rats. When they shuffle and scratch in our walls at night, rats assail our mental health. Some feel physical disgust at the mere sight of rats’ ball-bearing eyes and maggot-colored tails. As one rat researcher recently put it in an interview with the New York Times, we tend to place rats in a “special category of things we don’t want to exist.”
The Road Through Britain: Roger W. Smith. A passionate watchmaker, fulfilling his passion in a remote workshop away from everything (via Jason Fried)
The Beauty of Chalk by Roy Peachey
Chalkboards are easier on the eye than whiteboards, and while writing with chalk is slower than with a “smelly pen,” in this case slower may be better because it allows the reader time to process.
7. Everything else
Some random goodness from the internet:
Charles Young creates beautiful tiny homes using paper. It’s impossible to tell if they are actually real or just pure animation.
Until 3183 A.D., the ‘Time Pyramid’ is a work in progress. A German town invests in a Long Term Art Project. Some things are beyond the daily hustle of life.
That's all for this week, folks!
I hope I've earned the privilege of your time.
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