Discover more from Stay Curious
📚 Thinking about money, Proof of X, Thoughts on manual, Landscape Theory, Airbnb’s party-pooping
Ideas from Rout, Julian, Seth Godin, Charlie Munger and more
Hi, this is post #126.
A lot of new folks have joined this newsletter since we last met. Welcome you all.
Folks from WIMWI and RV, it is so glad to meet again and have you here.
Others, you’re awesome for giving me this permission to write to you every week.
It’s been a hectic week & the weekend. However, I assure you that this post bears no brunt of any of that. You’re all set for a treat of something interesting and worth knowing.
Here is today’s lineup for you.
💸 Ways to think about money
🤳 Proof of X
📑 Thoughts on the manual
🌆 The landscape theory
⛰️ Metaphorical tool for life
🥛 Lessons from Charlie Munger
🎉 Ethical museum, Party pooping and much more
Let’s get started.
1. Funny Ways We Think About Money
Lessons in behavioral economics are a fun read when you can relate to examples. You get multiple ‘aha’ moments when you realize why things happen the way they do. I love it when I find essays that do that.
Satyajit Rout’s “the funny ways we think about money” is one such read for me. He has combined lessons from Richard Thaler with his little anecdotes from personal experiences to explain our interactions with money.
Acquisition utility and transaction utility, deal hunting, how discounting works, free money and finally feel vs value - the range of ideas is brilliant for a short essay. It’s a good read for a 101 level introduction to a thing that shapes our choices and sense of satisfaction.
Here’s a quote from the post that is going to make you think more…
“When you buy something cheap and bad, the best you’re going to feel about it is when you buy it. When you buy something expensive and good, the worst you’re going to feel about it is when you buy it.” - Sasha Aickin’s grandmother.
2. Proof of X
This week, I feasted on Julian Lehr’s writing. He has written a bunch of essays around Signaling and Social networks. Together these form a good playing ground to think about how our social interactions are shaped. If you’ve interested in the topic, I highly recommend going over his work.
Here’re a couple of snippets from his post “Proof of X”
The creative proof-of-work is just pretext and helps to boost your post. What’s more important are the additional proof mechanisms that social networks provide. In the case of Instagram those are photos and location tags.
Instagram is essentially “pics or it didn’t happen”-as-a-service.
When new social networks emerge they have to introduce new proof mechanisms to differentiate themselves from existing incumbents. These can either be novel proof-of-creative-work hurdles or completely new proof-of-x mechanisms.
The discussion around Strava for X is a novel one and is worth munching on.
3. Thoughts on the manual
We have more ways to offer instructions than ever before, but it’s not obvious that we’re getting better at it. Not just the operator’s manual, but every way we have to teach and offer instructions.
If you agree with the above, Seth Godin has a bunch of thoughtful suggestions for you in his “thoughts on the manual”.
Below are a couple of my favorites.
Assume that some people will not read the manual, no matter how clear it is or what format it takes. If reading the manual is essential for safety or success, consider redesigning the product so that’s not the case.
Every time someone looks to the manual for instructions, they’re acknowledging that you know something they don’t know. The worst instructions fail to have empathy for that gap.
If you’re not changing the instruction manual in response to user feedback, then your user manual is obsolete.
4. The Landscape Theory
Dejan Blagic’s “why do users prefer certain design?” starts with the following premise:
Humans have evolved to instinctively prefer environments that allow them to assess and gather knowledge from their surroundings easily. Seeking and “eating” information is so important to our survival that these characteristics have led us to prefer one environment over others.
Why is this relevant for us? Blagic suggests that humans form these preferences using two cognitive functions - understanding and exploration. Below is a snippet expanding on these two.
By adding time & inference as a dimension, he defines a preferences matrix and his landscape preference theory. Here’s a snapshot of the 2x2 matrix:
If you look at this matrix closely, you will see the core framework of user interface design. That’s the magic. Blagic does a fairly simple yet effective expansion of these in the essay and makes it quite an interesting read and a good food for thought for thinking design.
5. Five Metaphorical Tools
Five metaphorical tools to help you climb your personal mountains are walking stick, telescope, notepad, jump rope and whistle. Here’s the gist of the post:
The walking stick, which is what you use to move forward along the path you’ve chosen.
The telescope, which allows you to peer at the shape of the mountain, collecting data and facts about the world that you can use to select your path.
The notepad, which you use to formulate your theories about how the world works, as well as to devise plans.
The jump rope, which you use to practice and improve your skills.
The whistle, which is how you get the help you need from others.
This one has a philosophical undercurrent unlike most ideas you read here. I liked it for the simple narrative. If you had to make this list (for the mountain climb or your personal goals) , which one of these tools might not have found a place in your list.
My answer would be “the whistle”. Even though I know the benefits of it, I do not use it as much as I should.
6. Light reads & videos
Some interesting blogs & videos from not so usual topics of interest.
There’s no such thing as an Ethical Museum - I love visiting beautifully curated museums, so I choose to ignore all the claims. Yet, this one makes a lot of good points about how history is told & preserved.
What is a museum if not a rich person’s living room someone deigned to open to the public? And what, exactly, is the point of putting all of this stuff in one place?
At its core, an art museum is essentially a narrative of empire. If, as Napoleon quipped, history is a set of lies agreed upon, a museum is their physical manifestation.
If you like this one, then do listen: Stuff the British stole - 99% Invisible
Airbnb's official party pooper - Trust & Safety teams at consumer product companies face unique challenges. And unique problems require novel solutions. Who would have imagined that there will be a person responsible as party pooper.
Chesky’s only feedback, Banerjee recalled, was to change the existing message — “Your reservation cannot be completed at this point in time because we detect a party risk” — to be more customer-friendly, potentially offering an option to appeal or book a different weekend.
Turning $2 Million into $2 Trillion - Practical thought about practical thought. Charlie Munger’s wisdom topped with an unbelievable story telling experience. You’ve to read it to experience this one.
It is remarkable how much long-term advantage people like us have gotten by trying to be consistently not stupid, instead of trying to be very intelligent.
7. Everything else
Some random goodness from the internet:
How a book is made. A photo essay following the journey of Marlon James’s “Moon Witch, Spider King” through the printing process.
Have you checked Google Arts & Culture page? If not, bookmark it for your free time. So many fun things to explore. My kids and I loved Viola the Bird and Blob Beats. Give them a try to explore your fun side.
What it means to be a car is the story of an AI car that is caught between its ruthless employer and the people she hurt.
Jesse Stone’s stonecollages are a riot of colors and a visual treat. Some retro feel there!
That's all for this week, folks!
I hope I've earned the privilege of your time.
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