I often scribble half-baked ideas, reactions to things I’ve read, or something useful I’ve heard. Sometimes they turn into longer blog posts or projects, but most of them sit in my notes app, unused.
I’ve decided to start publishing some of these as a faster way to get ideas out there. They’re updated monthly below. Topics loosely cover governance, how people organize, research culture, ethics, online interactions, and all other sorts of randomness.
When quoting a private conversation, I’ve defaulted to anonymity for obvious reasons, but if you see something you said that you’d like attributed to you, just let me know and I’ll add your name.
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(Please note: you are crawling my brain. These are rough notes, which means ideas are experimental and conviction level is highly variable!)
Are raffle drums / tumblers actually an effective way to randomize votes (like do the physics work out) or do they just look pretty
These days it seems more effective to “shame” someone by just not giving them your attention (ignoring them) instead of calling them out publicly. The former actually gets the job done (if we all cooperate..!), the latter feels more like self-serving / reputation boost
Realizing that a big component of work satisfaction for me is an element of risk: feeling like I’m taking chances and making decisions where the outcome is uncertain. The times when I’m feeling excited about work is when I’m not entirely sure how things will pan out
Everyone says friendships are becoming more superficial and transitory now, which I think is true for most social interactions, but I also think it’s become easier to stay in touch long-term with old friends bc of group chats. Gives ppl an online space to “hang out” even if you don’t see each other as often
(from convo with a friend) Hard to imagine a new sport like basketball being created today, but esports kinda reflect a modern interpretation: we can’t reach consensus around following one specific game for decades anymore, but we can invent an umbrella category of “esports”, and then iterate more rapidly on specific games that are played within that
(from convo with a friend) Vine as Pompeii: a ruined city, but preserved for all time
(from convo with friends) Security vs. accountability as systems of protection. Do you put hard prevention mechanisms in place bc you assume strangers are malicious, or do you build up social norms that discourage ppl from doing things in the first place
Initially I was thinking this is trustlessness (security / on-chain) vs. trust (accountability / off-chain). But I’m also often in favor of trustlessness, while generally anti-security / on-chain approaches…trying to think how I reconcile the two. Hmmm.
I guess it depends on the total population size you’re dealing with? In open source it feels necessary to design for trustlessness, given the number of strangers you’re casually dealing with. But then, among a smaller, trusted group of maintainers, it feels like you want to switch to accountability/trusted mechanisms. How do you know when you need to switch? Is there a “moment” or does it happen gradually? Is it possible to practice “accountability” for bigger populations, other than federated models which seem to kinda break down / get crappy eventually? Is tribalism the only answer? Why is bureaucracy so hard?
(from convo with friends) Is divination just a form of technocracy? If technocracy = Western medicine, you can initially imagine divination as a version of Eastern medicine, but the idea of being able to predict the future still splits into two camps: running “brute force” simulations to find the right combination (algorithmic) vs. relying on intuition and illegible methodologies (shamanism/”methodological anarchism” – love this term). I’m def more interested in the latter
(from convo with friends) Crying becomes a sign of power, rather than weakness when you’re on top, e.g. Steve Jobs
This kinda reminds me of the idea that beautiful ppl love wearing really ugly things as high fashion. Or maybe also powerful ppl who make really ridiculous petty requests (blue M&M trope)
Kinda fun to think through the psychology of this - like, I think the power comes from inadvertently forcing everyone else to normalize something that is otherwise abnormal, and only a powerful person could override prevailing social norms in that way (and/or, forcing others to do that is what makes you powerful?)
Thinking about what a Freudian interpretation of left-right politics would look like, i.e. “rebelling against public space as parental authority”
Like in both cases I think it’s a reaction to failed promises/disappointments of the role public space is “supposed” to play, much like children who, as adults, grapple with, and externalize, their disappointments of the role that parents were “supposed” to play
Bc the right’s complaint that public space is anti-free speech/censoring us (“cthulu swims to left”) AND the left’s complaint that public space is too homogenizing (i.e. “too white”, with no space for our differences) are both really just complaints about authority, I think? They’re both about an individual desire to express oneself / one’s differences, coming up against the collective need to wipe those differences away
And so given that interpretation, I think it’s worth asking: what if that’s just the function of public space, the same way the function of a parent is to give children something to rail against, to make meaning of their life story? We need antagonists so we can envision ourselves as heroes.
In some ways, I think it’s a feature, not a bug, that some views are best expressed in private. Private spaces are an incubator for bringing views into a public space. They’re a place to be experimental and weird. If you had to do that in public, you’d be miserable
Part of what I like about semi-public / filtered spaces, where you’re visible, but maybe less obvious / harder to find. Helpful to think of public-private more as a gradient than a binary
Paywalls are valuable not bc you’re paying for the content itself, but as a way of drawing boundaries around your readership and making that audience more meaningful. Which is why paying for one-off content misses the point: paywalls are for monetizing your following, not your content
Behind every online content curator is a small group of their trusted curators, who give them really good content that they then share with a broader audience
Kinda like deal flow: an investor might get the credit/visibility for deals, but most of those ppl have a small group of really good, trusted sources who feed them the best deals, but don’t do it as a FT job - hence the interest in scout models that cut out middlemen
Scout models for curators…one day, eventually? Though I don’t know what the benefit would be (unlike scout models for investing)
Security bounties are a way of attaching status to open source work. Hackerone, etc made this an entire “marketplace”. But I think it works less well for bounties for other types of tasks bc there isn’t as much glory in, say, doing triage work, whereas security is an entire subculture of its own. Not necessarily a problem, just speaks to the limitations of bounties
I want to read a piece about independent ppl who make money as Amazon sellers…feels like there are some really weird/fascinating stories there
Activities where you’re actively seeking connection with others (raves, parties, festivals, etc), vs. those where you’re seeking a deeper connection with yourself (silent meditation retreats, solo camping, etc)
I guess a lot of activities have aspects of both (ex. hiking with friends) but those are like the two functions you’re playing with, maybe
Faraday hotel: cozy solitary confinement rooms (no phones, internet) to go on vacation from the world
Wish I had the option to annotate photos that I take, even if just a short character count to add names, handles, etc…like writing on the back of a physical photograph
Ditto being able to add footnotes to photos attached to tweets (instead of having to put links in the body of the tweet)
Do LA ppl constantly predict the imminent demise of Hollywood as entertainment capital of the world as often as ppl do SF and tech?
Seeing the state of someone’s desktop is kinda like seeing the inside of someone’s home, with all the value judgments that come with it
I have no idea how these things actually work, but wondering: if record labels weren’t a thing (centralizing ownership), how would Spotify have gone about licensing the rights to all that music?
It kinda gives me a thrill to donate books with annotations in them, bc I get brutally honest in the margins. I like knowing that some stranger is going to read my unfiltered thoughts and be like “wtf”: sort of like having an alt or sending someone an anonymous letter, it’s a form of exhibitionism
I also like thinking about how my deepest darkest thoughts are scattered and distributed across the margins of all the books I read, so that no one will ever find them and put them all together, unless they were able to track down every book I’ve annotated. Like writing a letter, tearing it into a hundred pieces, and scattering them off a rooftop. Hidden in plain sight
I think one of the unique strengths of digitally native (“internet-first”) politics is precisely that they are divorced from legal or geographic constituencies. It’s harder to explore “real world” politics from a purely philosophical lens bc it is sort of necessarily tied to geographic politics. Whereas being free of those constraints on a digital frontier gives our minds freedom to roam and wander, and really think about strange things, before we have to condense it back down to reality
And I think this goes back to the idea of “pure” ideologies, too. Like some might critique these philosophies as not being “applied” enough, but I feel like we do need a space where we can open up the costume box and try on different hats and get weird with one another, before we put our plainclothes back on and return to our daily lives, perhaps privately changed or touched by the experience. Doing that in a half-assed way - philosophy that must ALWAYS be informed by real world implications - seems to sort of defeat the purpose of exploration, I think
(It is also true that real-life experiences are necessary to drive changes in our worldview, but I guess I just think of that more like the proving ground, but we still need a laboratory to complement it)
Thinking about how whether nature or nurture, it’s still implicitly your parents’ fault
I don’t know why but I find this funny
Wonder if the near future is gonna go super poly or super trad
I wish we would stop clinging to the idea of journalism as neutral or unbiased, I think it’s actively holding back the conversation. I don’t want an institution that falsely claims to be an “unbiased” truth machine, who can hide behind that label when it’s convenient to them. I’d so much rather have obviously biased opinions out in the open, agendas laid bare before their readers, so I can filter and decide what I believe according to my own values and interests. Not sure why this is so controversial
I think creative writing for me is like making a tiny, intricate diorama: I can only do it in shortform. When writing something longer, I need to switch to a bigger brush, painting in wide, broad strokes to cover a larger surface area.
The latter is less enjoyable to me (like painting a house vs. painting a figurine), but I guess sometimes you need to switch to the right tools for the job (couldn’t paint a house with a mini brush)
Maybe crypto-flavored governance porn is less interesting to me bc I’m more interested in an underlying q: how do we design constituencies in such a way that we don’t need to overengineer governance (meaning complex, “democratic” processes) at all? Feels like they’re more focused on band-aids instead of prevention
I kinda want to read a piece about the hidden social function of cemeteries as a place where ppl come to reflect on their mortality, history of their community, etc. How do ppl design a cemetery to evoke a certain feel, which gravestones are chosen to be put where, etc
Commitment as a form of beautiful suffering - we all have some extent to which we think suffering is worth it, ex. working out even though it’s painful and it sucks. White picket fence life is like performing ballet: making it look easy/effortless to outsiders requires a lot of hard work behind the scenes. When done well, both should LOOK simple from the outside
Also, I think this analogy helps address the question of what’s “in our nature” to do re: relationships. Re: ballet, your body isn’t supposed to look like that, to bend like that, to work like that. And yet we do it because it’s beautiful. Maybe commitment is unnatural too, but it doesn’t really matter, bc it’s also beautiful in its own way. Commitment as performance art
(from convo with friends) Postrats as ideologically “pure” bc they don’t have an agenda (which makes them infuriating to some, and maybe is also their weakness, but to me also feels like the only place where ppl are intellectually honest bc they have no other agenda). The lack of politics is both frustrating and liberating
I wonder if gossip flies around a lot more quickly now, given how much easier it is to screenshot and send stuff to ppl. Lower friction. Like normally the opportunity to gossip would only come up when you see someone in person next time, and if you think to talk about it, but now it’s crazy easy to just text ppl immediately
Facebook as a decaying city: its reputation now among my peer group is “the place you go to watch train wrecks”, whereas you go to IG or Twitter to see attractive or successful ppl. Actually ghettoizing social interactions, although the crazy part is there’s nothing actually stopping anyone from switching to diff platforms? Are there crossover policy implications there for physical cities? But mobility is much harder in physical cities. Also, it kinda reminds me of how Jane Jacobs found these neighborhoods that ppl considered to be “ghettos” but were actually functioning quite well, they were just made up of diff ppl. Like the concept of a ghetto is in itself classist: neighborhoods can “fail” regardless of socioeconomic strata (ex. an overly planned town that never catches on, like an overdesigned social app that no one uses). Which takes us back to this q: is FB actually a decaying city (as in, a “failing neighborhood”), or does it just now attract the riffraff that nobody else likes to mingle with (as in, the classist interpretation of a “ghetto”)?
I wonder if what some ppl call burnout is actually just you evolving into another life stage, like in Pokemon. You might not like that next form that you take, and it feels foreign to you, but it’s actually just the next evolved version of you, rather than a lesser form. Loss of innocence, perhaps
Sexuality as a Kadinsky painting
Star Wars as “Big Sequel”, i.e. embodiment of the movie sequel industrial complex
(from convo with friends) Fractal tourism scheme: everywhere you go they advertise something another half distance away, into infinity. This would actually be fun to do as an Easter egg
(from convo with a friend) Isolationism as a philosophy: ppl who advocate that too much connection with others is bad for innovation (I guess this is just waldenponding?)
(from convos with others) Better to accelerate research by creating a problem to rally around (e.g. Mars, or whatever) vs. distributing $$. Both solve for resource constraints, but if ppl feel a sense of urgency, they also have a motive to create. Need both resources AND motivation (maybe this is another way of saying you need both freedom and constraints?)
I think the main takeaway of weightlifting is not necessarily about getting stronger (this linear direction going “up” towards something), but helping you learn that your body is malleable. Sort of detaching your sense of self/ego from your physical shell. The empowering aspect doesn’t come from gaining strength, but from realizing that you can make your body look however you want. Like reskinning your character in a game! I think that’s why I find steroids, plastic surgery, self tanning, etc to be just as cool as running, biking, or powerlifting. They’re just all diff ways to change your outward appearance, but you can make yourself look however you want: super tiny and lean, or disproportionately enormous, etc
The point of it, to me, is that you can always change yourself if you put in the hard work, rather than that you can go from being “this thing” to “that thing”. Getting too attached to the strength aspect feels like it just feeds into a fear of vulnerability. I do like getting strong bc it feels like putting on armor (like that Iliza Shlesinger bit about how makeup = war paint), but I don’t necessarily want to encourage seeing myself / the rest of the world that way
Experiencing/accessing old childhood memories via textures/tactile experiences, rather than visuals/stories etc
Kinda weird to think that we expect ppl to learn for a defined period in school and then never study again. Feels like a “waterfall” approach to education. Given how much is happening, and how quickly the world changes, and also how our own interests change! - it feels like we ought to promote continuous learning, which goes hand-in-hand with practical experience
Third wave coffee culture is the new Starbucks - not re: cultural zeitgeist, but re: ability to make me feel at home whichever city I go to (if they have third wave coffee shops)
Would be cool to do a deep dive of technologies that get hijacked for social purposes: airdrop, gdoc comments, wifi names, etc
Externalized brains as input data for magic/forecasting: combine and recombine between ppl until you find resonance
Are newsletters a growing trend outside of tech? Or is it mostly a tech crowd sort of thing atm? (doesn’t mean it won’t get mainstream eventually, just wondering what the state of it is right now, bc it feels trendy but maybe I just live in a bubble). (e.g. by contrast, podcasts are definitely more mainstream now)
Writing a blog post feels like writing a spell! Crafting it just right to produce the effect you want
Also bc you’re collecting all these components/”ingredients” from other blog posts, scraps of ideas, etc together and brewing and calibating them to produce the right effect
Might flesh this out further
Stages of basic:
Being basic as a form of gray manning?
(from a convo with a friend) “There’s something strange / perverse about the mining of knowledge without the intent to actually use it”
I think there is something to this, although I’m not exactly sure where to draw the line…purposeless exploration seems useful for certain phases of life, but not indefinitely. But how do you know if you’re in one vs. the other
We should treat relationships/networks no differently from material wealth/money: fine if they accumulate and have positive benefits, but we should retain a sense of detachment about their value in order to not get too caught up in it
Intellectual labor is the new working class (“mining of ideas”), the new luxury is gonna be to not engage in anything that drains the mind at all. “Basic as high-end” -> non-intellectual / non-status signaling as high status. Kinda relates to vgr’s stuff on mediocrity. But I think it goes one step further: mediocre implies self-awareness and choice, basic says you never even had to try
The god of mediocre is sloth; the goddess of basic is an ingénue
I wish you could have a way to mark product ads online as “I already bought this”
“Is human progress really a thing” – the elegant part is being able to make this case without being nihilistic, existential, or cynical about it. It’s not that the world is going to shit, nor is it that progress is inevitable, perhaps? What if we’re just…trying stuff out?
The thing is I don’t even know if I believe that progress isn’t real, bc I do intuitively feel that the world is getting better over time, but I think what I mean by better is just “not stagnant” which doesn’t always necessarily mean learning?
Maybe the best argument to make is that we can’t even define progress in a nonsubjective way, bc progress is always a function of the present, and the present is always changing, so the q is moot. Like you kinda have to go one level deeper to get to an answer here
Shorter feedback loops as a means of grasping towards the future we so desperately crave, but actually longer feedback loops might be better to make actual progress, bc shorter leads to incrementalism?
i.e. is accelerationism just a form of incrementalism? Is it the equivalent of our sugar craving for the future, masked in the form of progress? Ditto productivity porn? And so we tell ourselves working faster, even if it’s consciously about destruction (in the case of accelerationism), is going to get us to our answers faster, but actually the only way to move faster is to slow down? Like smacking the surface of water, vs. slipping your hand beneath the surface
Seeing BART ads for a dev school that promises an “Ivy League salary” rather than “Ivy League education” - v telling on what people actually value, and how they’ll find ways to circumvent in order get to same results faster
My fav conspiracy theory group: people who leave Amazon reviews that their product is fake or tampered with bc they don’t trust buying from Amazon, even when the vendor is the actual company that makes it
Related favorite group: beauty product reviewer conspiracy theorists who claim that a product’s “formula has changed”
Highlighting things in a book = “liking” things on social
The shift from WoW/Second Life to Twitch feels a lot like the shift from Linux/Apache type projects to GitHub (i.e. from communities to broadcasting). And similarly, most research seems to focus on the former era vs. the latter
Thinking through what would be “the pro-govt argument for anti-regulation” in tech…
When ppl say “there is no platform X without their Y users” (ex there is no GitHub without developers, or FB without its users) I think they mean it in the sense of rent-seeking, like, “your users generated all this value for you and they aren’t seeing any of it”. But another lens for that is “there is no government without its constituents”
I.e. Platforms could be seen as farms with sharecroppers, OR they could be seen as governments with citizens. In the latter form, the platform exists purely as a function of its users; if they didn’t appear, a different platform would’ve. I think that makes it different from the sharecropper analogy. It’s not just that “platforms need users to generate their value”. Users need platforms to generate THEIR value, too! The same way you pay taxes, services and infrastructure that you never even think about bc the govt is taking care of it for you, similarly, platforms provide users with so much value that we take for granted.
Like I guess the subtle distinction for me is that platforms didn’t originate as a separate entity and then recruit users to cheaply create value for them. Platforms appeared as a means of organizing a certain group of people (i.e. their constituency)
And so if platforms are gov’t, and a gov’t is defined as the institution that serves its constituency, then also this feels like a strong anti-regulation argument, bc the platform IS the government. Why would you want some other government weighing in on its decisions? Asking the American govt to intervene on FB is like asking Australia to intervene on the French govt
Also, for me, resolves the q of why users should be considered independent contractors and not employees of certain platforms, bc the latter assumes the relationship is somehow extractive. You don’t “work for the govt” just bc you benefit from its services, and it’s probably better that you don’t, either
The counterargument is “but these ‘govts’ are still being regulated like companies” which is fair, but we at least need to at least start from the assumption that these are not really companies anymore from a normative standpoint, then adjust laws accordingly, instead of trying to fit current forms to past models
Roleplaying, but for political philosophies/ideologies
(from a convo with a friend) Online convos are harder to remember than in-person ones, even if they were meaningful/enjoyable. For some reason I feel this way about Twitter, email, FB messenger, and maybe whatsapp, but not iMessage. Not sure why! Maybe bc it’s often with someone I know and it feels more intimate/memorable
Makes me think of someone else (I forget who’s) observation that it’s harder to remember things you read on Kindle vs. physical books bc the format is so standardized that your memory has nothing to hook into
It’s interesting to think about in which cases you want homogeneity (for speed) and when you want heterogeneity (for memory anchoring, calm, etc). Like how we don’t want cities to have uniform buildings bc it just depresses us. When is uniformity a design principle vs. anti-pattern?
Maybe we assume the world is making progress bc we make local progress in our own brains (I learn all these things as a human progressing from age 0 to age 90 or whatever) and extrapolate up to global scale
Trapped in our own brain ecosystems, where we get really into our own mental worlds and assume that one small world is as significant as the rest of the world
(from a convo with a friend) Describing a friend of theirs as someone who “wilts when you take him out of his home city”
I love the term “wilting” to describe how people change from environment to environment. Around certain people and groups and social settings you brighten up like a flower in sunlight, and around others you wilt, but you’re still the same flower (i.e. person) no matter where you go
(from convo with a friend) thinking about how maybe progress isn’t actually linear, but cyclical: diff ideas that take turns becoming more/less prominent at diff times. To me, this is not at odds with an optimistic view of the world, in the same way that understanding bull vs. bear markets is neither nihilistic nor cynical, but observational
Also what I don’t understand is if progress IS always “going up”, is it asymptotic? Is it possible to ever be “done” or is progress always expanding, like the universe? I think it’s weirdly maybe EASIER for me to think of it as cyclical, then, rather than linearly upwards
Taking your partner’s last name is like getting a tattoo. You can attach all this meaning to it, or maybe you just do it bc you feel like it. You’re in the mood for something new and semi-permanent, like etching a story on your skin
How to design games (video games but even in-person board, card games) that are designed to be just as enjoyable while spectating? Like some games are fun to watch other ppl play, while others are boring. When is one true vs. the other? I think ease of entry matters: if you don’t know the rules, it’s hard to follow along. Etc, what other principles are like that. What would a spectator-first game look like? (And I mean this for casual spectators, not e.g. esports where people watching are already familiar w/ the rules) Also, how do/don’t those principles cross over to physical sports? E.g. soccer or basketball tend to be more fun for a casual spectator to watch than baseball or football
(from a convo with a friend) We use the word “company” to refer to lots of different kinds of companies, nobody thinks the same business model should apply to all of them. Same for open source, need to get past the idea that there will be a one-size-fits-all solution, but instead learn when diff models work better / encourage ppl to experiment with diff things
(Also makes me think of gamers - the term “gamer” is often associated with first person shooters, but there are so many subcultures to gaming. Indie gamers are v different from CS:GO players, or whatever, we don’t assume one must imply the other. And similarly, open source projects are each so different that experiencing one doesn’t necessarily transfer to another)
Interesting to see how Playdate launched - they could’ve done it as a Kickstarter, but didn’t, and didn’t really need to, either. Will everyone need KS less when they have their own followings? Having a waitlist of 70,000 ppl is basically as good as taking preorders via KS
Kinda makes me think of other framings of platforms’ limited usefulness (ex. Medium, Twitter): build your following on a platform initially, bc you benefit from their distribution, but eventually you can just take your following elsewhere
A kind of horrifying thing about writing books is that as they start to take shape, you realize all the ideas that you expected you’d finally get a chance to expess, that AREN’T going to be included after all, bc they just don’t fit into the narrative anywhere
Social platforms are evolving to look like two-sided marketplaces, with “creator” and I guess generic “user” accounts? The same way, e.g. Etsy has sellers and buyers, IG has creators and users, YouTube has partners and viewers, etc. Creators/”sellers” ideally have diff account settings, permissions, etc. Like the vast majority of ppl don’t deal with harassment on Twitter, but it’s more likely that an influencer deals with it on a regular basis, and that’s a fundamentally different kind of content moderation problem vs. an individual who doesn’t have an audience
Some platforms (e.g. Twitter, GitHub) don’t yet have these differentiated account types in a way that’s either meaningful or persistent throughout the site, but they probably should
Have thought about how streamers and OSS developers are both creators, but also, open source itself is actually a sort of “high-latency streaming”. And so viewed through that lens, what new opportunities open themselves up to OSS developers
I like the distinction that there’s one kind of celebrity who becomes famous as a byproduct of something they did (songs, movies, etc), vs. another kind where your “product” is externalizing your internal thought processes. The latter gets called “microcelebrity” but I feel like that downplays how big they can get
Though I guess you could make the argument that playing a game well = the former type of celebrity, but the performative aspect of streaming feels more like that latter to me
Anyways I don’t think the right distinction is “micro” vs. “regular” celebrity, but I do think differentiating between them somehow is useful wrt implications re: what success looks like, how they live their lives, how they adapt to celebrity life
Given a number of content curators with their own dedicated followings, but who all fall into the same general set of issues - will those curators eventually converge into one curator, or will they always have separate audiences? At what point do their audiences overlap enough that the curators themselves become substitutable? Probably not at 10 or 15% overlap, but 50% overlap? 80% overlap?
In other words: it seems that curation is becoming increasingly valuable, but is there a ceiling to the value of that skill? Will we find equilibrium at a world of 10,000 curator tribes, or consolidate into a couple of big ones?
(And what factors in any given curation market would contribute to this in one way or another? Ex. limitations of platforms / distribution)
Generalists are good at identifying and synthesizing and exposing problems, but they don’t usually have enough skin in the game to solve them. I think this is also why interdisciplinary fields have useful but limited application
Do books represent the beginning or the end of understanding an idea, for the author? Like for the audience, it’s the beginning: they’re exposed to a new idea, the author goes around on a book tour, etc. But writing and publishing a book is also like the end of an idea/period of exploration for an author, bc it represents the capstone of your research. Weird conflict between what reader wants vs. what author wants
I find it confusing that there are true morning ppl and true night owls but then also supposedly these overarching biological rules about human sleep cycles? How are both true?
Starting to think of these book drafts as Cylon models (“Six”, “Seven”, etc), each with their own personalities, aspirations, and defects that ultimately led me to abandon it in favor of another attempt, hoping always that this next one will be the perfect embodiment of what I’m trying to achieve and express
Thinking of group chats not as chats, but as chatrooms: physical spaces where you can drop in and see who’s around. Messaging apps are ostensibly asynchronous, but actually also synchronous?
I kinda like that one positive outcome of “you can’t say stuff in public online anymore” is the rapid development of private online spaces (bc now we have a reason to want them). It’s like we bought the land, made some laws, and now we’re building the real estate. Or like breaking up a giant land mass into smaller islands, which drives biodiversity and speciation
If open source licenses only refers to the consumption side of things, how do you disguish models on production side - e.g. distributed vs. centralized production?
Ex. you can have an open source license but centralized production (one company/person is BDFL), and proprietary licenses but distributed production (ex. remote corporate teams using GitHub to build software…? Does “distributed” refer to geographic location or employee/non-employee relationships or what?) Open source licenses with distributed production = open source community projects. Proprietary licenses with centralized production = your typical software company
Helps to encourage ppl to not just “if you do X, LMK how it goes”, but to create artifacts from it (blog posts, videos, etc), e.g. “you should write about X”. The former offers validation, but impact doesn’t really extend beyond the person suggesting it. The latter increases positive outcomes by increasing the number of other ppl who might learn from it, and increasing potential for reputational rewards to the person (plus you still get to enjoy it too)
Service dog status is the medical marijuana license of urban pet owners
(from a convo with a friend) “How would you know if you failed” as a clearer way to frame what’s important in work, even moreso than “what does success look like”
Kinda reminds me of “what’s your idea of the good life” as a moral q - I could come up with lots of things that look like success, but knowing what would make you feel like you’ve failed does a better job of highlighting what matters
Also points to idea that people WANT to feel like they could fail, bc it adds urgency and meaning to their work. Not being able to know whether you’re failing is hard (e.g. research, VC, which have longer feedback loops)
Would be cool to be able to have multiple devices tied to one phone number, e.g. I could switch between my iPhone and a dumb phone, the same way I can seamlessly switch between my laptop/iPhone/iPad, with persistent identity across devices
I love the idea of having a cheap throwaway phone without all my apps etc installed for when I just want the basics (call/text), but I don’t want to get two phone numbers to do it
Cities, like software, never die. Or, they do occasionally die, but it’s hard and often tragic. Thinking about Vine in relation to this - sort of like the artificial razing of a city before its time, whose death is still being mourned
A word to describe the conundrum when you want to text someone but you haven’t spoken in years and don’t want to draw attention to your last conversation in the thread
(from a convo with a friend) Rituals for yourself, vs. rituals you have that involve other ppl. I definitely seek out the former, but tend to avoid the latter, bc I think spontaneity/being naturally top of mind is a more meaningful sign of commitment to me (similar to faith/feeling spirituality vs. meaningless rituals in religion). But interesting to realize that others might feel differently!
Kinda wish all my friends had public Amazon wishlists, just to see what they’d put on there (like browsing other social feeds to get a sense of their interests)
Death-oriented vs life-oriented people: difference in personalities where you’re either barreling your way fearlessly towards death vs. trying to avoid death by squeezing every last hour of useful output from your life. (Maybe another way of saying it is high vs. low discount rate ppl)
Would like to see someone quantify the negative economic impact to Beyonce of Lemonade being locked up on Tidal for 3 years, hugely impactful album that missed out on its reach for the first 3 years of its release (Also, kinda semi-ironic that she made that sacrifice with Lemonade specifically to support Jay-Z’s platform. Subtle performance art?)
Cool thing about prompt Twitter (where you ask an open q to your followers, ex. “tell me about a time when…”) is you create a mini, hyper-ephemeral community. All these strangers gather around your q and interact with each other, and you can see some of them are playing certain characters/roles (responding to other ppl, liking everything, etc). The life of this “community” is short: like setting paper on fire, which produces a big flame but then dies out quickly. Maybe similar to the dynamics of a house party or a festival
The other thing I like about it are the non-zero sum rewards. Someone who provides a good response might get lots of likes (local currency/validation, valuable within the context of the prompt “ecosystem” itself) or also new followers (global currency/validation, valuable beyond the life of the prompt). But because anyone can read the prompt thread, it’s virtually boundless how many additional likes and follows your original prompt might “mint” for the entire network. And the rewards don’t just go to the original prompt creator, but potentially to anyone who jumps in
Would be cool to look at more of these ephemeral communities on a micro (e.g. house party) and nano (e.g. Twitter prompt) scale…
Is there a term for thirst traps, but for performatively stoking sympathy from strangers (ex. talking about something bad, but ultimately kinda trivial, that happened to you)? Crocodile traps?
If we separate out artifacts from organisms, it makes sense why ex. a popular YouTube video or random viral post or GitHub repo or whatever might not actually require additional money/support. If the artifact is “done”/stands alone, and the creator isn’t making more stuff like it (ex. viral tweet from someone who doesn’t have tons of followers) and there’s no additional temporal costs involved, then no further action is required, really
But it makes things confusing bc we can look at two popular GitHub repos and value them very differently. Need to measure value by looking at who’s behind this stuff (and their reputation/status/expected future behavior) instead of the actual content. Ex. having one random popular YouTube video, vs. being someone who makes popular YouTube videos. The videos could be the same but the people behind them are very different
This is also why I think information and infrastructure behave so similarly, even if calling popular YouTube videos “infrastructure” is a bit of a stretch. But, e.g. a road is valuable not based on its physical attributes (valued it as an artifact), but how it’s used (valued as an organism)
Restraint instead of excess as a symbol of wealth (ex intermittent fasting, dressing down, meditation, routines) - wonder if it’s just self-discipline to retain your sanity and/or find meaning in abundance. Either that, or it’s a means of establishing control when you’re under a lot of stress / sensory input (which I think is how these things are usually interpreted)
(from a convo with a friend)
Working “with” a company…
…choice of prepositions makes a difference / says something either about your relationship with your employer, or how you see yourself
Semi-joking q asked at dinner tonight that I actually think is a fun silly “if a tree falls in a forest” type icebreaker q: “Is Hogwarts real?”
Basically gets to: Hogwarts exists as an idea in our heads, so are ideas more real than reality? If it has impact on our real lies and we all buy into the idea, and we have “memories” of it, does that make it more real than if it were a physical place we’ve visited?
Still really on this pro-constraints kick. Am fascinated by the idea that creative work requires a certain degree of freedom to execute well, BUT creative work also requires constraints (time/capital) to produce anything interesting. And constraints can, in themselves, become inspiration for creative work, like a grain of sand in an oyster. I don’t think I’ve yet developed an intuition for how much to calibrate in either direction, but it’s delightfully torturous
Thinking about how “developer” is both an actual role in an OSS project, and also a personal identity. Not everyone’s role in an OSS project is that of a developer (as in, they might not write code for the project). But pretty much everyone in an OSS project probably personally identifies as a developer (otherwise, why would you get involved in a software project?)
You might primarily identify as, e.g. an evangelist, or a designer, or community manager, but everyone still probably shares SOME identity overlap with the “developer” label
New term I just discovered and like: “Wanderjahre” (the years spent exploring yourself) / journeyman years
A metric for tracking how your ideas are being received by the outside world: seeing how your inbound changes over time (in terms of the types of cold emails you get - functions like an ink dye trail, tracking where your ideas are spreading)
Knowledge as object-oriented programming for information
Is there a term like freemium, but pay-what-you-want? You’re not paying for a different product, but some ppl are more willing to front the costs for ppl who don’t care enough (eg. “patrons” vs. casual consumers), so that the content is freely available for everyone
Earn.com, but for dating inbound
Funny how the primal desire to feel “close to nature” manifests in good and bad ways…like, the desire to own houseplants stems from the same desire for physical violence (maybe?), both are oddly relaxing bc they’re an outlet for releasing our animal selves
Thinking about how blogs, podcasts, and other more permanent artifacts are better forms of “passive social capital building” than Twitter or IG, bc people will continue to discover them for longer (via search, links, etc). Whereas the trajectory for a viral social post is explosive, then dies off - it’s harder to stumble upon old tweets/posts. I wonder if one is actually better, though, or are they just different approaches? The latter just feels so frenetic to me, you have to constantly keep creating more short-lived content, instead of fewer, longer-living artifacts.
Also, regardless of which is better, it’d be cool to see social platforms help surface old-but-relevant content. Like if you search on the web for a topic, you find all these great old posts from years ago. You can always search on (some) social platforms, but given the volume, it’d be even better if they could, e.g. proactively surface old content from ppl you follow
Everyone seems to be trying to predict or build the next SF….what if the right move isn’t moving to a new city at all, but doubling down on divorcing physical from online reality? i.e. Move to a small town wherever, with your primary social/work interactions happening online. Remote workforces are a thing, so why not remote cities?
Like when I think about the biggest sources of serendipity for me today, they originated from online, not in-person relationships (ex. meeting someone at a party). Then again, maybe I’m underestimating the value of meeting in person, even if you first discovered each other online. The spark to connect might happen online, but the real bond is formed when you meet in person
More thoughts on “mobs as a force for good”: group level signaling as an advocate for individual achievements. Instead of mobs working against individuals, what are the ways in which they pave the path for individuals? (Ex. hero worship of prominent figures can get annoying, but also creates demand for individuals to do interesting things, i.e. you too can be the next Bezos or Jobs) - prompted by Samo’s post on “how Elon is making engineers cool again”
Do we read/enjoy/get less out of fiction as we grow older, possibly bc our mental models of the world are more fully formed?
Twitter is kind of like a virtualized library/librarian: ask for recommended reading on a topic, get a whole stack of interesting stuff back
(from a convo with a friend) “All the work we deeply pursue is basically therapy”
Board games: the ultimate zero latency gaming experience
Kinda amusing how the classic nerd stereotype is dudes who aren’t having sex bc they’re at home on computers all the time, and now apparently that’s what’s happening to the entire young male generation. Like in the end the “revenge of the nerds” narrative that I grew up with kinda slyly won out by turning the entire world into nerds. Meme-viruses infecting the world
The problem with A/B testing is a lot like the problem with voting: might help resolve the question when you’ve hit a stalemate re: what to do, but should be treated as a tiebreaker/last resort
Platforms as a hybrid of monopoly vs. decentralized production - “Anybody can become a creator…on Instagram”. Platform and creator co-share the costs of production
Kinda like the “libertarianism only exists in the bubble of democracy” thing (ok, slightly overreaching here, but still) - you can have this fantasy of decentralized production, that even has merit and brings joy, but it all necessarily happens within the bubble of a monopolistic platform (bc costs are too great for individuals to bear otherwise - need economies of scale)
Interesting to consider whether there are any stress points or fractures in the system that we can observe to predict future behavior. Ex. email still exists independently of these platforms. And maybe that’s the model we’re moving towards? Everyone uses platforms for initial discovery and building an audience, bc it’s like the “public sphere” of our digital lives. Like a common path is to start blogging on Medium, then switch to newsletter once you’re big enough. Or tweeting -> newsletter or whatever. But you couldn’t START with a newsletter, bc how would anyone ever find you?
So maybe platforms will become where reputations begin, where new talent is discovered, where brands are built, but longer-term, you build a more independent “stack”? Like what would that stack even look like? Does it live and die by email? What are other midding components (does portable identity matter)? Also, would that independent stack ever actually take over platforms, or only exist in mature stages of accrued social capital?
Mailing lists as a decent old school example of “one-way mirror” interactions (you can make them public, but read-only, and you have to be a member to post to it)
Hoping someone will poke holes in this, but I find something sort of elegant about the fact that Uber is inherently more resistant to bad actors bc of the nature of the transaction. Each person in the driver-rider transaction holds a “key” (name, destination, license plate) that allows them to verify the other’s identity. Also a solid example of how decentralization is a really fuzzy concept (identity verification is arbitrated by the Uber app, but still has decentralized elements)
Life is about figuring out which echo chambers you can actually stand to be in for awhile and making yourself a little home
Mario Kart as modern application of Aristotle’s peripatetic doctrine
IG/Twitter/FB/etc as externalized brains: “here’s everything you need to know about me”, so you don’t have to do as much of the upfront tedious small-talk work of getting to know someone new, and instead focus on more meaningful exchanges
If cafes are becoming the “public squares” of cities, if we were to redesign a city from scratch today, would we have fewer actual public squares?
Theory: nostalgia is a biological encouragement mechanism for having children. You feel nostalgic for the past, so you have children, bc it’s the closest you can get to reliving your childhood
(from a convo with a friend) “social public” vs. “social private” as a way of distinguishing between e.g. FB/IG/etc vs. e.g. Messenger/WhatsApp/etc. I dunno if this is well-known terminology that I had just never heard of, but I like it
There’s something that bothers me about the critique that parents secretly paying off admissions officers means the system itself is corrupt (i.e. ppl saying that this is the beginning of the end for university degrees). Cheating at a game doesn’t make the game itself rigged, it just means you should remove the cheaters
I think something that sits weirdly with me is that bartering for favors is an expected part of any social system like unversities (or getting into YC, or raising investor $$, or getting a job, or whatever). Ex. asking for warm intros is a form of bartering for favors. Is the problem specifically that money is involved? Whereas reputation / networks need to be earned (I can ask for that warm intro, but I can’t transfer that value to you), if anyone can literally “buy” their way into a social system, it means the system is no longer special?
Bribery can certainly imply that a system itself is corrupt, ex. paying off police officers, but I think there’s something different being implied. Police officers, judges, etc are part of the justice system, which we explicitly want to be objective, whereas admissions officers / gatekeepers are expected to look at social signals. (And not just name-brand social signals, but even ex. if you see a candidate who’s on the robotics team, you associate that with a bunch of other aptitude/personality traits)
Obviously against the bribery, but trying to figure out where that line is crossed and why, given that we all seem tacitly fine with “soft bribes”. Also wondering: viewed through that lens, is meritocracy actually an obfuscated form of elitism? “Merit” = social signals that are only visible to the in-group, once they become too legible to the general population, the system becomes gameable, so we revise the rules to make them harder / less comprehensible again. Not saying this is even wrong (“meritocracy is the worst form of gov’t, except all other forms”), just trying to figure out whether meritocracy reconciles with democratic values, or whether it even should
Thinking about how pop music about love, happiness, etc is written and performed by people who probably have super dysfunctional relationships / aren’t that happy (not a judgment! but guessing based on the very fact of their success) and how that subtly shapes the rest of us.
So like…where does their inspiration come from for this stuff? At worst it’s totally fake, at best it’s aspirational/idealized but likely not something they’ve actually experienced. Which is weird bc we think of music as being creative output, but what if it doesn’t actually reflect anything inside their heads? Their music inspires us to want to love, but if they personally have no idea what love means, are they just empty carriers, spreading social norms like a virus? Are we all getting mimetic fantasy propaganda pumped into our brains?
I wonder if it’d be possible for the biggest newspaper brands (ex. NYT, WSJ) to pivot their business so they’re making money from something that’s not journalism entirely. The same way universities don’t make most of their money off of tuition, ex. Harvard, MIT, etc license their brand everywhere. (Maybe this is already what newspapers do, I don’t know)
Was thinking about this wrt NYT releasing software: like, could the biggest newspaper brands become an entirely different kind of business that becomes sustainable enough to fund their journalism at a loss, the same way Harvard is doing all this other stuff to ultimately fund their research at a loss? In both cases, their brand still depends upon the quality of the stuff they put out (i.e. they’re selling their brand, so they are incentivized to not do things that erode its value), so I don’t think it’d necessarily be a conflict
Kinda into the idea of “invisible” innovations that completely shifted the opportunity window for certain groups: ex. birth control for women, PrEP for gay men, tractor / mechanical farm equipment for rural communities
I’m not exactly sure how to phrase what I find interesting here…but just like, I don’t THINK day-to-day about how birth control changed my life trajectory, it’s one of those things you sorta take for granted now, but it did
If I broaden it far enough though, there’s probably too many examples to count…ex. clean drinking water, sewage systems, etc etc. Maybe this category is so generalizable that it’s meaningless, but I feel like there’s a class of interesting stories somewhere that could be all bundled together. (is this just technological determinism?)
Ok you know how we eradicate rats or pigeons by slowly introducing sterilization into the wild or whatever? I wonder if catcalling will slowly be eradicated by AirPods. They make it less satisfying to catcall (bc the person can’t hear you), and you also can’t always tell if someone’s wearing them, so ppl will do it less over time until it’s just not a thing anymore
Our brains are moving faster than our bodies, throwing our expected life-stage trajectories out of order. Ex. retiring before you’ve ever been in a relationship, etc, it makes all the standard life advice totally irrelevant
(from a convo with a friend) “Take a platform you love. Would you rather lose access to all the past content your connections have posted, or lose the connections themselves?”
Thinking about how social media can be viewed as “content over time” rather than just “content”. The strongest value being exchanged in social media is not the content itself (commodities), but the value of “person who curates content over time” (reputation). It’s not the likes you get on a tweet that ultimately matter (ex. someone’s one tweet can go massively viral, but they still don’t have many followers). It’s the follows that matter, because over time, those translate into leverage/audience for future posts
This also makes the reward structure of social media look fundamentally different than decentralized forums or many-to-many interactions. On forums, your reputation is only really visible / meaningful to other “regulars”, but on social media, it’s immediately visible / meaningful to everyone (i.e. follow counts)
It’s funny you can have this relationship with your work or your ideas that is very similar to romantic relationships, friendships, etc. It gets tiring, you question whether it still brings you passion, you explore other ideas, etc etc…some people break up with their ideas, while others come back with their faith renewed. Also, perhaps in the same way you shouldn’t mistake an affair for something serious, maybe don’t mistake your side passions/interests for your main thing (I know this is counter to common wisdom but I really think it can go either way)
I wonder if all subcultures can be defined as variance in response to trauma (diff coping mechanisms, responses to rejection, ways of seeking validation, etc)
(from our podcast interview with Timothy) Organized complexity as “the beauty-first approach to science”
Information is like water or perhaps sediment at the bottom, knowledge is the oil floating on top
(from a convo with a friend) “Serendipity engineering” as the process of combinining and recombining raw information inputs to synthesize and discover new knowledge
Knowledge as consensus protocol: society’s “active working knowledge” at any given point in time = our shared consensus as to which bits of information are most true/relevant (battled out daily in conversation)
(from a convo with a friend) “Even if you can’t put everything you’re thinking about into one piece right now, those are bits of raw material that will inevitably crop up again in future writing”
Trying to think about research less as “experiment -> result -> publish”, and more about tapping into ore deposits. I feel like I’ve unearthed plenty of interesting nuggets in the past 9-ish months, but I don’t have to refine them all at once. Instead of feeling sad that I can’t get everything out in one piece, better to think of it as great that I dug up all this raw material that I can work with for a long time
(from a convo with a friend) “Frustrating (for me at least) to realize that we only have finite ‘writing bandwidth’, and if I write for a living, welp, there it goes”
I think 2019 is more about finding meaning through constraints instead of freedom, which is basically the opposite of how I used to feel until v recently. I used to think freedom was simply a matter of removing all material barriers. It’s been hard to accept that my capacity for investing in meaningful friendships, relationships, producing good work, etc is actually finite, no matter how much you maximize your freedom
Hedonism is bounded asymptotically. Money, flexible hours, etc helps, but in the end it’s kinda up to you figure out what/who matters most and allocate your attention accordingly
Did horror movies ever go through the whole moral panic thing in the way that violent music and video games did?
Maybe it’s not that regulators don’t have a clue about tech specifically, but that regulators really don’t have a clue about any industry they’re charged with regulating
Songs are such little miracles to me. I really cannot imagine thinking on the wavelength that’s required to make music, and make beautiful music at that
(from convo with a friend) When you are explicitly trying to hire weird ppl, you will get some bad ones too. “Weirdness leads to more polarizing extremes in either direction”
“Small group effect” (the idea that interesting, generative people all hang out in the same group and support each others’ work) is really just another way of saying “teaching good taste”
In other words, I think the implication is often that “smart people tend to congregate with one another”, but I think it’s more like “getting exposed to the right people improves your taste” and thus increases your perceived talent. And there are tons of super interesting, smart, talented ppl who just haven’t yet been exposed to good taste
Twitter culture as another example of SSC’s “universal culture” theory. When I say I met someone through Twitter, I don’t always literally mean we interacted/got to know each other on the platform itself, but more that I have a certain social circle of Twitter-esque people that I’ve gotten to know. Similarly (to SSC’s original conception of universal culture), you don’t have to literally be from the United States to participate in the American ethos
To extend the metaphor even further: for both Twitter and the US, there are also users/citizens who are are active on the platform/live in the country, but don’t fit the idealized ethos we’re talking about when we say “Twitter/American culture”
Horseshoe theory for traditionalists
Jane Jacobs, but for elevator dynamics (optimizing how people use/manage/adapt our environment within buildings, not just between buildings, i.e. cities)
There should totally be a Brand-Jacobs mashup of this. “The city inside the city: death and life of how great American buildings learn”
Slight amendment to my “no bounties” stance: paying for one-off contributions can be useful when they are tasks that nobody (including the maintainers) want to do, but that the maintainers acknowledge are important/necessary
Sociology is basically mythology in terms of its purpose to society. Many ideas like tragedy of commons continue to persist, despite being repeatedly discredited. They last not bc they are true, but bc they reflect who we perhaps want to be / how we see each other
When the users of an open source project get upset about license terms changing, it suggests that maybe monetizing through licenses isn’t a great tactic; says nothing about whether community is upset about maintainers getting paid. Increasingly feel like “paying maintainers will piss off the community” is a misdirection. Maybe we’re just asking the wrong people to foot the bill
Creative careers (research, entertainment/media, writing, etc) are basically nomadic / gig-based. Very different from the linear career path. You still build reputation that you can take with you wherever you go, but you’re sort of more like a wandering gypsy or a renegade cowboy: finding a temporary place to rest your head, but always keeping one eye open and a shotgun on your lap, vaguely aware that you’ll need to pack up on a moment’s notice and find a new place to set up camp
It’s a weird feeling, bc even though one gig builds upon another, it can also cause this sensation of feeling like you’re not really moving “upwards” so much as laterally. Like structurally speaking, I actually don’t think my career path / job stability is much different from an artist whose work is gig-based
Weird to feel like I’m rooting for Netflix wrt beating out “old guard” Hollywood studios, but also afraid of it wrt monopolies. Ditto Spotify. Doesn’t stop me from rooting for them now, though…maybe that cycle is just inevitable
Games are a great way to appreciate the potential impact of different human-computer interfaces. I experience the same game totally differently when it’s on console vs. PC vs. Switch vs. VR headset, etc
I wish some crazy patron would fund an indie game on the scale of Skyrim/GTA/WoW/RDR/etc. Like, “indie games” always have a certain look/style to them in large part bc of resource constraints, but imagine if someone was like “fuck it” and funded an army of like 1,000 people to create an amazing open world RPG. It would kinda be like the modern equivalent of building cathedrals/temples/monuments/etc as legacy. Build an entire fantasy WORLD as your legacy
Maybe “dead” information goods are information, and “live” information goods should be rebranded as knowledge. Knowledge = information that’s active/”in production”
The monoculture of celebrity, i.e. WhatsApp/Instagram/Msgr are part of the same FB conglomerate, the same way Kylie/Kim/Kanye/etc are part of the same conglomerate
The love language of giving and receiving links to “an article you might like”
(3/21: alternatively, link sharing as “violence”)
We’re subconsciously moving towards tapbacks, emoji, reactions, etc as an adaptative strategy to reduce the cost of microinteractions at today’s scale. We could take the time to respond with proper words and lengthy messages, back when we interacted with a smaller group of people at lower frequency. For high-frequency interactions, we need a simpler, slimmer way of communicating to reduce mental overhead. (Maybe an obvious point? But I like this as an explicit starting point for product design)
(from convo with a friend) “Social media as the gold standard”: nobody really believes in it, but enough ppl are bought into it that we all participate and make it ‘real’
The phantom urge for completion that lingers between Ctrl-C and Ctrl-V
Free access to content as a positive externality of “privately funded” (aka CPRs, patronage, etc) content creators
Aka they’re able to give away their content for free bc they’re making money elsewhere, from members. This can be true for journalism as well! Instead of charging everyone who lands on the article for access. Reminds me of the Practical Typography author, who only shows the “request to donate” popup to ppl from certain companies
Not so different from ex. Google (Google docs, gmail as a positive externality of their ad business). Also like conceptually how you might think of casual contributors, or casual attendees of a church congregation. We don’t expect much from them, bc they’re not part of the hardcore member community, but they’re welcome to enjoy/benefit from the members’ work, as long as they don’t impose significant additional cost
Another way of describing it: when it comes to content production, maybe the “free rider problem” is a misdirection - it’s not that they’re free riding, it’s that they are a non-relevant audience, who distract us from seeing the actual business model. Manage them in a way that they don’t impose additional cost of consumption, then focus on the people who do matter and are willing to pay
Editors are to writers as code review is to developers. I rarely show drafts of my writing to anyone bc I’m very particular about style, and I like the idea of writing in a “pure” space. But as my ideas have become more unwieldy (for whatever reason), I’m seeing the value of having someone review your work and make it better. Similarly, there’s some code that developers are happy to write all on their own, but in other cases they derive a lot of value from code review - I get it now!
Finding that it really helps when you stop trying to come up with reasons why you keep behaving in an undesirable way, and instead start from the position of accepting responsibility. Shifts focus from excuses to action / remediation
(from convo with a friend) Paintings as “containers of meaning that survive centuries…but sometimes meanings change”
“Make something people want” seems very clearly at odds with doing things ahead of the curve. And yes, I understand there’s an underlying assumption that your goal is to make something that addresses a desire that ppl even they didn’t know they had. But I still don’t think that holds - or rather, if it does hold, it generalizes the original statement so much as to be meaningless (When is it clear that people “wanted it”? At launch? After a month? A year? 10 years? Did you cause that to happen, or did you finally just hit good timing?)
I find it sort of more delightful to think of ourselves as vessels for ideas that float about, riding us around like chariots, until they find the right timing/audience. But whether people “want” your idea or not, you can’t help but be the vessel for that thing. Some people are doomed to be bonded to an idea that nobody likes, but they can’t help but evangelize it. Others are lucky to find themselves attached to an idea that takes off immediately. But you’re not really guiding the ideas, they’re guiding you, and your job is to listen and serve as an intermediary between idea <> rest of the world
Nobody minds Google as an overlord as long as they don’t fuck with our day-to-day. Medium is messing with their UI so much that it’s turning authors off. But Medium has to do this to survive. Google can only afford to do so bc they don’t need to make money off certain products in the same way.
Which maybe implies that having just a few, monopolistic tech platforms, and fewer “startups” etc, might actually be a perfectly fine, even optimal system, as long as they don’t provoke “political dissent”. Just like how monarchy/aristocracy could be theoretically work, as long as none of their subjects felt that the king interfered with their day-to-day. It was when kings started collecting taxes from peasants living in remote territories who’d never even heard of the king that conflicts started to arise. But if that “tax” can be collected passively, will anyone ever notice/care?
Replication research, but for books. We take the core arguments from certain books as canon, and they inform our cultural norms, but if someone redid the research behind it today, we might have come up with entirely different conclusions. Which isn’t to say that the original analysis was WRONG, but perhaps inextricably linked to the times in which it was written. (Ex. how much of The Power Broker was influenced by researching and writing in the 1970s?)
Also possible that this validation process already happens naturally - ideas have no intrinsic value, we discover/gravitate towards different ones depending on our current tastes, so maybe it doesn’t really matter?
Would love to see more awesome lists (as in, sindresorhus/awesome), but as curriculum for getting quickly up to speed on different research fields / areas of expertise in a self-guided way
If user data (i.e. populating the database) is what makes the narrative of each web app different from each other, despite similar underlying code (ex. Instagram and Twitter are arguably not very different types of products, but actual usage makes them completely different experiences), I think the equivalent would be lived experience for humans, which make each of our narratives very different, despite similar underlying genetic “code”
I wonder if one of the reasons creators (ignore consumer demand for a second) are trending toward podcasts/newsletters is because of the lack of intense feedback loop. Yes, you can see number of listens/opens/subscribes, but both forms of media do a better job of embodying this idea of the one-way mirror. Longform, deeper dive, you can say what you want in a less reactive, ‘like’-free environment
We’re so eager to escape mediocrity that we can’t see how absolutely mired we are in it. If you’re stubborn and try to muscle your way out of it, it’s like quicksand, it’ll suck you down even more firmly. Better to kinda bob around in the sea of mediocrity and quietly observe it, so you really understand what you’re dealing with, then figure out how to slide through it
Instead of asking how some ppl manage to make money at casinos, try to understand why so many ppl are happy to lose money. Understand the baseline instead of focusing on outliers, bc baseline contains patterns, whereas outliers are often unpredictable / random, despite us wanting to find patterns among them
Ex. Studying why most venture funds fail to beat the market seems more interesting to me than studying why Sequoia etc have done so well. Easier to beat a game if you really understand how most people are playing, instead of trying to crib “the greats”
(from convo with a friend) People who get energy from observing others / being immersed in interesting experiences, but don’t necessarily want to super actively engage with them
I like this angle of “I want to be around people, but in a passive sense”, also the idea that doing so actively recharges one’s “creative energy” by providing inspiration
Am I crazy, or are there fewer bands in popular music these days? Like it seems like most popular artists I can think of now are single artists, not groups
(from convo with a friend) If gold is a “battery” for money (i.e. a way to store it), reputation is a battery for social currency
There is a distinct version of nihilism that is uniquely feminine
Theory: monetizing creative content will work best on vertical-specific platforms, e.g. Spotify, GitHub, YouTube, Apple Store (do those last two count?), etc. Or perhaps: the underlying theme is these platforms can operate at a loss, but having the monetization layer helps lock creators and their audience onto their platform, which is the actual benefit of having it. Whereas Patreon can’t sustain the business model as a dedicated funding platform that’s decoupled from distribution
One that I’m not sure about however is Substack, which seems promising despite being more of a “boil the ocean” play like Patreon. Maybe bc there isn’t really another obvious discovery/distribution platform for email newsletters, the way there is for music, code, podcasts, etc? Also, just too early to tell
Diversity exposes you to new ideas, but homogeneity helps you execute. You want serendipity at the edges, but your core “tribe” needs to be fairly stable to maintain sanity, get anything done, and have a coherent worldview. The edges keep things fresh, but they need to sort of “trickle” into the center in a filtered way (like groundwater filtering through soil back into the aquifers)
Platforms as robo-advisors for creators: much like wealth moved from active to passive management for most ppl, we no longer need “active management” via agencies etc for content distribution
Asking open source projects to take on “interns” is like asking artists to donate work to charity auctions
Feels like research is particularly suited to not having primary collaborators remain within your org, bc inspiration can strike from anywhere. For most other types of roles, they HAVE to collaborate with their colleagues bc they have the most context for your work. Engineering can be a slight anomaly with open source, but I feel like it’s really extreme with research, bc you just want to work with / take inspiration from whomever has the best ideas, and sometimes you don’t know who that’ll come from, like it could literally be a random conversation with a stranger at a cafe
Ideas use humans as “steeds” / pawns to fight their battles. Every conversation you have is a small skirmish in the neverending war of language (and ideas more generally!). Whichever idea prevails in that conversation goes on, tournament style, to fight another battle in another conversation with someone else
Encryption doesn’t favor the defender, it just favors whomever is holding the keys, which is borderline tautological, bc the same is true for basically all programming (ex. consider any root/sudo/admin permissions, when placed in the wrong hands they become a weapon). If anything, I think this underscores the painfully inherent “dumbness” of technology, bc that statement can ONLY be interesting if you read it through an ideological lens (assume “the defender” is worth defending). What happens when an undesirable actor gains control of the keys? Is the defender still worth defending? Police use dead people’s fingerprints to unlock iPhones. If defender(D) is a variable that can stand for anything, who cares?
Implicit in the original statement is a belief that it is possible to ensure freedom / maintain control through better technology, which I think is a dangerous line of thinking
Permabear as null hypothesis
They’re not all quite facing the stage, though. If you look closely at an audience, there are always observable patterns and norms, smaller clusters of groups, etc. There is still localized context, little villages and neighborhoods, even among an audience that is then ostensibly oriented towards something “bigger” than all of them
Maybe another way of saying: even superfans have their own subcultures. You have one identity that’s tied to the “stage” and another that’s tied to a smaller group of people (who all share that same “national” identity with you)
(from Death and Life of Great American Cities) Coordinating WITHIN each level of hierarchy is actually the hard part. We tend to focus on coordinating between levels (i.e. vertical coordination), but that’s comparatively much easier than within
The customer is not the creator, it’s the patrons (maybe!) And/or, treat as a two-sided market?
Underrated: celebrity endorsements now happen by advertisers paying to reach the celebrity’s audience, instead paying celebrities to appear in front of the advertiser’s chosen audience (ex. appearing in a TV ad). Even if ideally these are demographically similar, celebrity has more control over one vs. the other
Zuck is Chipotle and Jack is Taco Bell
Crypto projects have many contributors right now bc it’s a hot new space, which leads to a lot of assumptions about how we think it works, but they should also observe mature OSS projects to see how that’ll play out over time. (Or, who knows. Maybe the economics are/will be so fundamentally different that it will follow an entirely different trajectory)
Moving from collaboration -> coordination in OSS
Maybe part of the reason why ppl get so riled up about “who can participate” in OSS is bc it’s a utility. OSS infrastructure is not a hobby, maybe it’s code you NEED or rely on, so if you can’t participate, or you feel ostracized, that has a much bigger impact than not being able to join another type of community. On the other hand, it’s no different from a company providing you with a product (for free!) that you may not get a say in. Especially bc you can fork, and bc developer tools are such high substitute/elastic goods
Three types of maintainer roles: creators, coordinators, and curators
Knowledge loop is in the cloud, that’s humanity’s shared progress. But personal wisdom is only stored locally, which means you can’t share it with others, it will die with you. You can upload it to somewhere visible, but if someone clones it to their brain, they need to set up their environment in order to run it. And it’s setting it up on their local machine that’s actually the hard part, which we’re each doomed to keep repeating. Others can make their “code” visible to you, but they can’t run it for you.
I keep coming back to this idea…wonder how to better articulate the difference between these two types of knowledge (and why is it that humanity’s “knowledge loop” doesn’t have the same problem? Why is some knowledge more universally executable than others?)
Why are there like no mergers in tech? Was there a point that became the “death of the merger”, or were tech companies never destined to have mergers in the first place? Are mergers a uniquely non-tech corporate thing? Should tech M&A just be A? Would love to find something on this topic
Diffing the behavioral patterns of small, localized communities vs. large-scale societies
Seems that journalism is optimizing for objectivity over relevance, maybe they should focus on the latter instead, as a way of adapting to modern consumer tastes (meaning: I care less about “objectivity” in the news, would actually prefer to follow a high-quality curated POV / “expert”). Maybe the idea of being objective/trustworthy to a national audience just doesn’t make sense anymore
The social power dance of getting others to use your preferred messaging platform
What would a narrative for “mobs as force for good” look like? They feel overwhelming in the moment, but maybe it’s just how we realistically induce change over time. As an explicit alternative to gov’t / legislative process, seems like it is actually more appropriate in certain situations.
Libertarians seem to hate “mob mentality”, but maybe mobs are the purest form of libertarian government?
There’s a big difference between “getting paid” and “capturing value”. Maintainers could get paid a basic subsistence income, but that doesn’t resolve the q of “how do they capture the actual value of their work”
Who would a horse girl vote for
Tension around idea of a rating system for OSS libraries is bc maintainers don’t want to be asked to do more work bc there’s no reward in doing so, at a greater cost to the public (developers who need it, and by extension, consumers - i.e. all of us - who use their software). Both are acting rationally in the absence of better rewards. Good example of how a subpar incentive-reward system is constraining innovation
Curious why we aren’t reframing the decline of journalism as the rise of content creators? Still messy, to be sure, but there’s a great “unbundling” narrative of people being free to research, write, and report on interesting stories independently of an institution. Similarly to music artists breaking free of agencies and record labels. We haven’t yet figured out all the mechanics (i.e. $$, platform), but it still feels like the right direction to move towards
Henri Cartier-Bresson’s “decisive moment”, frozen and expanded into 300 years. Can we fit our entire lives inside in the moment when a glass vase shatters into a thousand pieces? (Perhaps this is a form of the hauntological?)
(from a convo with a friend) Hierarchies of cults as waterfalls. You’re “blessed” by someone else with a bigger following than you, and then you start to form your own cult as a result, many of whom are followers of that original cult leader. Their followers gravitate towards you. But each of you are managing your own little cults at different “tiers” of a bigger system, with “water” (followers) flowing throughout
Labels and other metadata help you compress jumbled ideas/information (i.e. categorize memories), but not necessarily expand them again (i.e. retrieve memories)
Tropical islands are the supermodels of the global economy. Their destinies have been sort of pre-decided for them based on their appearance (i.e. tropical islands become tourist economies). (Not saying this is good in either case, just observing!)
Cults of personality are like the church sermon (audience gathers to listen to one person, even though they have shared identity/values, given that they all showed up to the same event)
“Online communities” are like the church group after (ppl come together more loosely, mill around with cookies and lemonade, nobody’s in charge)
As our online social systems continue to move towards the former, need to update our mental models of what a community is
The creator-curator dynamic = Jesus and his apostles
Amazing how receiving emails as a digest gives me license to skim in a way that I didn’t feel comfortable before (when they come in one-by-one), even if the content is the same in both cases. Wonder where else that mechanic applies / where it’s underutilized
Twitter as an unofficial, opt-in reality show - you agree to live your life in front of a public audience in exchange for some “compensation” (reputation). Hanging out in person is like hanging out off-camera
(from a convo with a friend) Reddit is more of a “forum” than “social media”…what’s the difference? I think a forum is where people gather to discuss a common interest, whereas social media is more of one-to-many broadcasting?
A forum is all these people congregating onto one spot in sort of a decentralized fashion, whereas social media is the muezzin’s call to prayer, drawing everyone to the mosque
All power can be boiled down to information asymmetry (confidence low on this one, need to think about it more, but I think that’s a thing). Or perhaps: asymmetry of access to that information?
Do women report having massive life/philosophy shifts on hallucinogens as often as men do? I have zero data for this besides anecdotal, but although I know a roughly equal number of men/women who’ve tried hallucinogens, I can’t think of any women I know who’ve said it completely changed their reality and showed them “The Truth”, even if they enjoyed the experience. Wonder if it has anything to do with men not generally being given space (slash not being inclined to, however you think about it) for emotional vulnerability/introspection
Reality distorts at both ends of the socioeconomic spectrum
Dubstep as Tibetan singing bowl -> “mental cleansing” activities
If you’re stranded in a desert, and your only source of input is a tin can, your life becomes about that tin can. If you’re stuck on an island, and all you have is a volleyball, that volleyball becomes your best friend. This is why the story of the Little Prince and the flower is so illustrative. And why maybe, in the end, it doesn’t really matter who you partner with, bc whomever you thrust into that position will become your world. You will find meaning in them, whomever they are
(And yet, some partners seem obviously better than others…why? Something to do with how they influence your experience of your environment, I think…we’re still all playing the game of life, even if the game has no inherent value, so you’d want a partner that helps enhance the experience, or at least doesn’t impede you?)
Writing-as-masochism: I think I weirdly enjoy baking layers into my writing, then feeling the pain when people miss the hidden meanings. Logically speaking, it’d make more sense to express the idea more blatantly, but it’s more fun to find just the right edge of nuance, fine-tuning as closely as you can without spilling the beans.
In other words: writing is usually seen as the process of finding clarity, but if you look at it from the other direction, what if the joy comes from the process of obfuscation?
What if the biggest existential threat is that ideas become more important than people. Tyrannical rule of ideas (i.e. memes-as-viruses) over their human hosts?
Feels like we focus on AI bc it’s more “humanlike” (not to mention something we seem to have more control over), but the runaway power of ideas seems much more dangerous!
Seems strange that co-parenting is bundled up with dating, when it could just as easily be separated out and reframed as an economic partnership. I guess dating is the biological collateral you put down on that contract?
Keeping a changelog of your identity: if journaling contains the raw data, would love to summarize and track the actual changes made, i.e. versioning my identities
Private thoughts are like raw steak, putting it out there is like ground meat. Once you start cutting into raw steak, you’ve exposed it to the air and pathogens around it, which starts to change its composition
Not always bad if/when you’re ready to expose private thought to others, but it is different from keeping it in a “sterile” state
Slightly separate angle: I think some kinds of thoughts (like self-reflection and personal philosophy) get corrupted when exposed to air, bc they are so easily exploitable, despite not really being teachable
Goes back to hypothesis that only some ideas (i.e. anything added to public knowledge loop) can propagate over generations, personal wisdom is always localized: can only be learned by you, and will die with you
Maybe instead of producers vs. consumers, should frame as cities (producers) producing content (goods) as an externality
Instead of thinking, “My old ideas were amazing, now I have to figure out how to do that again”, it weirdly helps to think “My old ideas weren’t that great anyways, you have nothing to lose”. Devalue the past to fear the future less
Decided I am pro-23andme bc I realized in most cases, the risk of not knowing what’s in my body is probably worse than the risk of my personal data falling into the wrong hands
Privacy fears go both ways: maybe with ads and social data we were too lax, but being too strict with your privacy can be just as bad. I’d rather be able to make informed decisions about my health. Think data privacy will be resolved in time on a macro level, but not by any singlehanded stance taken against it. You don’t want to literally die on this hill over an ideological position
“Big in Japan” phenomenon is growing: celebrities with sizeable tribes of devoted fans, but who aren’t known outside of their audience. Whereas previously I think it was more based on geography, or generational. Now it’s just that there are enough potential audiences to build your own sizeable fiefdom without being known outside of that. Memes/celebrity are no longer universally known, but relegated to internet “kingdoms”
The very rich and very poor can be quite similar in their political views, given that both feel dissatisfaction over the social norms being imposed on them. They want to be able to do things differently; they feel misunderstood by, and a general distaste for, the general population and “the way things are done”
How to think about a modern justice system that gradually escalates, instead of one mode (“leak all information to the public”)? Should start as a “local” matter for the people involved and that person’s immediate community. Escalating to public can be useful if and only if local routes have been exhausted without resolution. It’s like taking something to the Supreme Court when local courts fail. It’s an escalation tactic, but it’s not the first resort.
Limited attention for the number of books you read in a lifetime -> ditto for the people you spend time with. Much like choosing the best books to read, why spend time with people who are anything less than bespoke in your view (whatever that means to you)
If time/exclusivity/experience are the new luxury goods, then it seems attention allocation (more than $$!) is the most important socioeconomic dividing line worth examining today
Therapists are the boy in Omelas (we dump our emotions onto them so we can have happy healthy productive relationships elsewhere)