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Below is the visual library for all the books I have summarized
To access the searchable library, click here

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51N7s0z8kXL._SY344_BO1,204,203,200_ 174713 Washington_A_Life_book_cover Power vs Force Softcover 510aKu0sPTL 41-eYMXLKqL._SX326_BO1,204,203,200_  41ZDNyKoHlL._SY344_BO1,204,203,200_ 9780805052534 16130 517oIyvrNDL 13533740 41rJVsU7tJL._SX331_BO1,204,203,200_ download md184556324162688773851a9rND+uPL._SY344_BO1,204,203,200_ 513dRdOldWL._SX329_BO1204203200_ 5143bEJRfqL._SX322_BO1,204,203,200_ 9780300216974 heroes-of-history-9780743235945_hr{488DB970-C6F6-4E88-AE18-11A93B255D66}Img400 41cmM6UedGL._SX331_BO1,204,203,200_ 41ElRO9ypBL._SX319_BO1,204,203,200_ 41jeohotvgL._SX258_BO1,204,203,200_ 41qKdrO4wnL._SY344_BO1,204,203,200_ 51zp+qPAe-L._SX258_BO1,204,203,200_ 511yBt6KhlL._SX351_BO1,204,203,200_ 812rexUR0rL The_Power_Broker_book_cover 41jFVZL72YL._SX336_BO1,204,203,200_ 41JvQj9sJAL._SX304_BO1,204,203,200_ 41VatwrWCeL._SX325_BO1,204,203,200_ 51dLDq5mkcL._SX320_BO1,204,203,200_ 51gN-yGw5oL._SY344_BO1,204,203,200_ 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Prince remains-of-the-day   Stroke of Insight   This is WaterBirmingham Jail  Lolita   Letters from a Self Made Merchant Peter the Great  Antifragile  Think and Grow Rich 48 Laws of Power What the Most Successful To Kill a Mockingbird I and Thou Influence  Manuscripts found in Accra  Ben Franklin Measure Your Life  How to Read a Book   The Small Cap Advantage My Own Life  Buddha Standard Time Decoded Checklist Manifesto The Outsiders Seeking Wisdom Bold Buddha Brain 10 Happier Cyrus the Great Hedonistic Imperative The Winner's Game Diary of Soren Adultery  Where are the customers yachts Education of a Coach Zen in the Art of Archery Moral Sayings of Publius Art of Stillness 51lPZw1WaOL._SY344_BO1,204,203,200_ 51r0fm0Y82L._SY344_BO1,204,203,200_ Killing Kennedy 5 Rules Brave New World Common Sense Investing The Little Book That Builds Wealth Never Eat Alone  Warrior Within  Poor Charlie's Almanack Killing Lincoln Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy A New Earth Tao Teh Ching Hurricane Startup of You Essentialism innoutAmerican Gods Do the Work Future of the Mind How to Love The Luck Factor Radical Acceptance   Nudge Eleven Rings The Hard Thing About Hard Things 33 strategies delivering happiness good to great monk and philosopher on china one click power of full story of philosophy thinking big way we're working zen and art 41z+F+i4C2L._SY344_BO1,204,203,200_ 51cvElYU7WL._SX311_BO1,204,203,200_ 51fN0mD37nL._SY344_BO1,204,203,200_ 51nPvo5Su3L._SX314_BO1,204,203,200_ 51OVTLXoJ+L._SY344_BO1,204,203,200_ 61zkSQ8mjbL 81fncUPB6cL 518PbRACTQL 17859574 a curious mind Brain-That-Changes-Itself George-True-North-Authentic  power thebrainswayofhealingCapture 41ckYWIZtNL._SY344_BO1,204,203,200_ 41HVo-Vf+zL._SY344_BO1,204,203,200_ 41xs4vbcTPL._SX327_BO1,204,203,200_ 51BWHwWGCoL 51jCcKixK1L 51NcUB2HTxL._SY344_BO1,204,203,200_ 51NL4ze5EkL._SX332_BO1,204,203,200_ 51o2zBoDItL._SY344_BO1,204,203,200_ 71tHnQXwJtL 514Y9hUYhRL._SY344_BO1,204,203,200_ 519MS8HD0CL._SY344_BO1,204,203,200_  1152-2 0399139435 41SNnGFamQL._SY344_BO1,204,203,200_   51EOw3BYhrL._SY344_BO1,204,203,200_ 51fIjlYbsVL._SX331_BO1,204,203,200_ 51g8CrvBr8L._SX384_BO1,204,203,200_ 51pmlYf63+L._SX324_BO1,204,203,200_ 51T7HIMnjvL._SY344_BO1,204,203,200_ 51y+hZEulnL._SY344_BO1,204,203,200_ Fooled_by_Randomness_Paperback  Steve_Jobs_by_Walter_Isaacson the-fountainhead  tumblr_mzf8b0ZtUv1tq3nx5o1_1280  WceGgDUNlCA8RPHOz66AbHHs4RI12Vqg+OoBRGBrKx2plCphEkAr3aizNSRpuGHkIoDZcS4gLRs3LNNbucM2tzHjr1b6gOv!JK2gG4iMspVQ5iDKyCBWtzAWMsmQ+7PK41cpg1ESArL._SY344_BO1,204,203,200_ 41OLNqCiM0L._SY344_BO1,204,203,200_ 41ujSlRdt3L._SY344_BO1,204,203,200_ 51dOQ2ytN-L._SX374_BO1,204,203,200_  51mF+0T9o5L._SY344_BO1,204,203,200_  51oHuRxOgIL._SX327_BO1,204,203,200_ 51q71sE7c5L._SX329_BO1,204,203,200_ 51xwPegEzlL._SX333_BO1,204,203,200_ 51Z6PrTDb4L._SX331_BO1,204,203,200_ 413fr2eoPPL._SY344_BO1,204,203,200_ 416qS30-lQL._SX355_BO1,204,203,200_ 830 23289992 Organized-Mind 9900241KHCQnx1EL._SX331_BO1,204,203,200_ 51aUygppA+L._SX331_BO1,204,203,200_ 51cx5AfHpZL._SX337_BO1,204,203,200_ 51ETE8NqvcL._SX330_BO1,204,203,200_ 51kbKLCazgL._SX327_BO1,204,203,200_ 51XkLHJz++L._SY344_BO1,204,203,200_ 71ahJkud8uL 71X3Y9yRtlL 81wBzBcSclL 857333 littlebets  prophet-cover_1_op_397x548 Screen-Shot-2015-09-14-at-2.22.25-PMreagan-151fc0+DDh9L._SY344_BO1,204,203,200_ 51iuMfmHHHL._SY344_BO1,204,203,200_ 51tkKRzS5YL._SX329_BO1,204,203,200_ 51xrAg9mceL._SX331_BO1,204,203,200_ FINDING-ULTRA-COVER-FINAL1  TheBoysintheBoat9780812993257 How_We_Decide_cover  OmnivoresDilemma_full  brothers k Happiness-Hypothesis unbroken-crjpg-ce0987f837463333  mans_search_for_meaning  simplicity  9781571745712 81B9+kACYLL BotanyofDesire_full 300x300 cn_image.size.swerve-book rise of superman  year-without-pants-752x1128  getting to yes 51V38NLW5zL._SY344_BO1,204,203,200_ TheIntelligentInvestor 51XcaFJirNL._SY344_BO1,204,203,200_ Jesus  BP Diet  Zorba_book Flowers for Algernon  1776 Auto of Black Hawk Genghis Khan Making Onward God Delusion Moonwalking_with_einstein Stroke of Insight Einstein Isaacson Siddhartha Titan fooling super brain Lila Meditations Fahrenheit 451  On the Road   Cooked On the Shortness of Life What every body is saying Aleph Animal Farm Sports Gene Love WinsBorn to Run  Emotional Intelligence Cool Tools Sun also rises Inutition Pumps  Moby Dick  Free to Choose  Power of Positive Thinking Experiments with Truth Vagabonding Slaughterhouse Five Aristotle in Outline the social animal_3.indd Cat's Cradle Thinking Fast and Slow  The Alchemist  Walden  Art of War  The Charisma Myth  Flatland  Mr. Feynman Money master the game 51qwpkjNP7L._SY344_BO1,204,203,200_  7126 41ry6MoUc3L._SX331_BO1,204,203,200_ 51JNMx5G3iL._SY344_BO1,204,203,200_Berkshire 51K28NKVF3L._SY344_BO1,204,203,200_ 1984-by-opallynn-d4lnuoh 6596 17184 cover2 cvr9781451695182_9781451695182_hr Mastery_Cover movieposter PicofDorianGray-728143 Rye_catcher subliminal_seduction  TheJungleSinclair  The-Richest-Man-In-Babylon-George-Clason

Learning How to Learn

Learning How to Learn – Coursera put together a great course on the different techniques to become a better learner, covering topics such as memory, chunking, how to avoid procrastinating, how to study, productivity, test taking skills, etc.

Born Standing Up: A Comic’s Life by Steve Martin

  1. A fun and honest recounting of the highs and lows of Steve Martin’s early life and comedic career
Key Takeaways
  1. Spent 18 years in stand up comedy – 10 years learning, 4 years refining and 4 in wild success
  2. Gained the ability to have his mouth in the present and his mind on the future, observing the audience and the past and understanding where to go and when. Enjoyment during performing was rare but after the show had long hours of elation or misery
  3. Was seeking comic originality and fame came as a byproduct
  4. Feels like this is more like a biography than an autobiography as often it feels like these events happened to someone else or that I was in a dream
  5. Jokes are always funniest when played on oneself
  6. His father was physically abusive to Steve and verbally to the rest of the family. His father was tougher on anybody else because he was jealous of Steve as Steve was doing what he had always wanted to do
  7. Steve’s first job was selling guides at Disneyland and this gave him a tremendous sense of independence and confidence. He later became a rope trick performer by studying every nuance of the current main act and mouthing along the lines and imagining that the audience’s laughter was really for him
  8. Realizing that suffering will happen a lot and that it is part of life seems to make it more bearable
  9. Dariel Fitzkee’s Showmanship for Magicians had a tremendous impact on Steve Martin and how he thought about comedy and showmanship
  10. Would record the crowd’s reaction to all his gags and then write down ideas for how to improve every one of them
  11. Credits his naiveté when young to even consider going into comedy without what he says are any talents whatsoever
  12. Early on, at The Birdcage, Steve was able to practice 4-5x per day 6 days per week. He learned timing, poise and how to deal with failure
  13. Over the years, I have learned that there is no harm in charging oneself up with delusions in between periods of valid inspiration
  14. Every new philosophy is good for creativity
  15. Comedy is a distortion of what is happening
  16. Had panic attacks over a 20 year span
  17. Began the phrase “well, excuse me”
  18. The more physically uncomfortable the audience, the bigger the laughs
  19. A valuable tip he got from a great showman was “always look better than the crowd does”
  20. It is possible to will confidence
  21. Steve was a bit of an eccentric, rambler, out-there type comedian who won people over by being different, true and having a unique point of view on things
  22. Much of Steve’s success was due to hard work but luck also played a large role – what he wore, his timing, the environment around him, the culture, his use of visuals, how he sold his albums, etc. weren’t totally thought through all the time but made people curious and pulled them to his shows
  23. He learned never to alienate the audience
  24. Was shocked and elated that he had become the cultural focus. He had come from nothing, from a simple magic act into the country’s most popular comedian. His joy of performing diminished though as it turned from experimentation to a feeling of responsibility to entertain people. Stress and bad reviews got to him and he realized how ephemeral comedy was. Normal conversations were impossible and social rules did not apply to celebrities like him, his privacy was no more
  25. Moved to starring in movies as comedy was really ephemeral and the travel was killing him
  26. His father was never impressed with his accomplishments or success and his mother was mostly concerned about fame, fortune and luxury
  27. Steve noticed in the early 1980s that he wasn’t selling out shows anymore, he had lost touch with why he got into show business in the first place and that night was his last night of stand up
  28. He was able to reconcile the relationship with his parents and his father became less judgmental and more positive on Steve and his career. His father said he was sorry and jealous because Steve did everything he had wanted to do. He was sorry for receiving all the love he had and not being able to return it. Steve responded by saying “I did it for you” rather than the more complicated “I did it because of you”
  29. Moving on and not looking back at all on his stand up career until writing this book was his way of tricking himself that he hadn’t achieved anything and spurred his creativity
What I got out of it
  1. It took Steve Martin a decade or more of pain and struggle he Steve gained confidence and comedic acclaim. He was willing to put himself out there night after and slowly but surely learned how to become a great showman and what kind of comedian he wanted to become

Zero to One: Notes on Startups or How to Build the Future by Peter Thiel and Blake Masters

  1. If you’re purely copying someone, you haven’t truly learned from them. Of course, it’s easier to copy a model than to make something new. Doing what we already know how to do takes the world from 1 to n, adding more of something familiar. But every time we create something new, we go from 0 to 1. The act of creation is singular, as is the moment of creation, and the result is something fresh and strange.
Key Takeaways
  1. Today’s “best practices” lead to dead ends; the best paths are new and untried
  2. The paradox of teaching entrepreneurship is that such a formula necessarily cannot exist; because every innovation is new and unique, no authority can prescribe in concrete terms how to be innovative. Indeed, the single most powerful pattern I have noticed is that successful people find value in unexpected places, and they do this by thinking about business from first principles instead of formulas
  3. Peter Thiel made the following question famous: What important truth do few people agree with you on?
    1. A good answer takes the following form: “Most people believe in x, but the truth is the opposite of x”
    2. Most answers to the contrarian question are different ways of seeing the present; good answers are as close as we can come to looking into the future
    3. His own answer to the contrarian question is that most people think the future of the world will be defined by globalization (horizontal), but the truth is that technology matters more
    4. If you can identify a delusional popular belief, you can find what lies hidden behind it: the contrarian truth
    5. Conventional beliefs only ever come to appear arbitrary and wrong in retrospect; whenever one collapses, we call the old belief a bubble. The first step to thinking clearly is to question what we think we know about the past
  4. When we think about the future, we hope for a future of progress. That progress can take one of two forms. Horizontal or extensive progress means copying things that work – going from 1 to n. Horizontal progress is easy to imagine because we already know what it looks like. Vertical or intensive progress means doing new things – going from 0 to 1. Vertical progress is harder to imagine because it requires doing something nobody else has ever done. The single word for vertical, 0 to 1 progress is technology
  5. Brilliant thinking is rare, but courage is in even shorter supply than genius
    1. All virtue stems from courage
  6. Startups understand you need to work with others to achieve great things but also need to stay small enough so that you actually can. A startup is the largest group of people you can convince of a plan to build a different future. A new company’s most important strength is new thinking: even more important than nimbleness, small size affords space to think. This is essential as this is what startups have to do, question received ideas and rethink businesses from scratch
  7. 4 lessons learned from the dot-com crash which still guide business thinking today
    1. Make incremental advances – grand visions inflated the bubble, so they should not be indulged. Anyone who claims to be able to do something great is suspect, and anyone who wants to change the world should be more humble. Small, incremental steps are the only safe path forward
    2. Stay lean and flexible – all companies must be “lean,” which is code for “unplanned.” You should not know what your business will do; planning is arrogant and inflexible. Instead you should try things out, “iterate,” and treat entrepreneurship as agnostic experimentation
    3. Improve on the competition – don’t try to create a new market prematurely. The only way to know you have a real business is to start with an already existing customer, so you should build your company by improving on recognizable products already offered by successful competitors
    4. Focus on product, not sales – if your product requires advertising or salespeople to sell it, it’s not good enough: technology is primarily about product development, not distribution. Bubble-era advertising was obviously wasteful, so the only sustainable growth is viral growth
    5. These lessons have become dogma in the startup world and yet the opposite principles are probably more correct: it is better to risk boldness than triviality, a bad plan is better than no plan, competitive markets destroy profits, sales matters just as much as product. The most contrarian thing of all is not to oppose the crowd but to think for yourself
  8. What valuable company is nobody building? Must create and capture value
  9. Capitalism and competition are in fact opposites. Capitalism is premised on the accumulation of capital, but under perfect competition all profits get competed away. The lesson for entrepreneurs is clear: if you want to create and capture lasting value, don’t build an undifferentiated commodity business
  10. Monopolists and perfect competitors both incented to lie – monopolists exaggerate the power of their competitors or reframe the situation to appear less powerful and perfect competitors under-exaggerate competition
  11. Only monopolies can transcend the brutal daily struggle for survival and put their focus where it really matters, pleasing the customer
  12. If you lose sight of the competitive reality and focus on trivial differentiating factors, you are unlikely to survive
  13. Monopolies are only bad in a static world but we have a dynamic one where companies are always innovating, competing and disrupting
  14. Competition is not healthy but it is the ideology that pervades society and distorts thinking
    1. Marx and Shakespeare provide two models for understanding almost every kind of conflict. People fight because they are different vs. fight but everyone is more or less alike. People lose sight of what really matters and become obsessed with their rivals. Rivalry causes us to overemphasize old opportunities and slavishly copy what worked in the past
  15. If you can’t beat a rival, it may be better to merge. When you have to fight though, don’t hold anything back
  16. For a company to be valuable it must grow and endure, but entrepreneurs tend to only focus on short-term growth. If you focus on the near-term above all else, you miss the most important question you should be asking: will this business still be around a decade from now? Numbers alone won’t tell you the answer; instead you must think critically about the qualitative characteristics of your business.
  17. Monopolistic characteristics – proprietary technology (must be at least 10x better than its closest substitute), network effects (standalone value from the very beginning), economies of scale, branding
  18. Building a monopoly – start small and monopolize (small group of particular people concentrated together and served by few or no competitors), scaling up (once you create and dominate a niche market, then you should gradually expand into related and slightly broader markets; sequencing markets correctly is underrated and it takes discipline to gradually expand), don’t disrupt (avoid competition as much as possible), the last will be first (moving first is a tactic, not a goal; aim to be the last mover)
  19. Indefinite/Definite and Optimism/Pessimism Quadrant
    1. Indefinite pessimists look out onto a bleak future, but he has no idea what to do about it
    2. A definite pessimist believes the future can be known, but since it will be bleak, he must prepare for it
    3. To a definite optimist, the future will be better than the present if he has plans and works to make it better
      1. Pretty much every successful person falls into this camp
    4. To an indefinite optimist, the future will be better but he doesn’t know how exactly, so he won’t make any specific plans
      1. This seems inherently unsustainable: how can the future get better if no one plans for it?
  20. Most people struggle to understand that we don’t live in a normal world, we live under a power law
    1. The biggest secret in venture capital is that the best investment in a successful fund equals or outperforms the entire rest of the fund combined. This implies two very strange rules for VCs. First, only invest in companies that have the potential to return the value of the entire fund. This is a scary rule, because it eliminates the vast majority of possible investments. Even quite successful companies usually succeed on a more humble scale. This leads to rule number two: because rule number one is so restrictive, there can’t be any other rules
    2. The power law means that differences between companies will dwarf differences in roles inside companies.
  21. It matters what you do and you should focus relentlessly on something you’re good at doing, but before that you must think hard about whether it will be valuable in the future
  22. Every correct answer is necessarily a secret: something important and unknown, something hard to do but doable. There are two kinds of secrets: secrets about nature and secrets about people. Natural secrets exist all around us; to find them, one must study some undiscovered aspect of the physical world. Secrets about people are different: they are things that people don’t know about themselves or things they hide because they don’t want others to know. So when thinking about what kind of company to build, there are two distinct questions to ask: what secrets is nature not telling you? What secrets are people not telling you
  23. The more people believe in efficiency, the bigger the bubbles get
  24. A founder’s first job is to get the foundation right. You can’t build a great company on a flawed foundation
    1. Find the right co-founders and early hires, figure out ownership, possession, control, have a small board, right salary structure and bonuses, all people full-time rather than part time
    2. Success of startups correlates with lower CEO pay – build value for the long-term rather than relying on paycheck
  25. Must want to spend time with the people you work with outside the office or else the culture in this type of environment will deteriorate
  26. Recruit by selling the mission and team (not prestige, equity stake, etc.)
  27. Everyone on the team should be different in the same way
  28. Just One Thing – on the inside, every individual should be sharply distinguished by her work. Make every person in the company responsible for doing just one thing. Every employee’s one thing was unique, and everyone knew I [Thiel] would evaluate him only on that one thing. I had started doing this just to simplify the task of managing people. But then I noticed a deeper result: defining roles reduced conflicts. Most fights inside a company happen when colleagues compete for the same responsibilities. Startups face an especially high risk of this since job roles are fluid at the early stages. Eliminating competition makes it easier for everyone to build the kinds of long-term relationships that transcend mere professionalism. More than that, internal peace is what enables startups to survive at all. When a startup fails, we often imagine it succumbing to predatory rivals in a competitive ecosystem. But every company is also its own ecosystem, and factional strife makes it vulnerable to outside threats. Internal conflict is like an autoimmune disease: the technical cause of death may be pneumonia, but the real cause remains hidden from plain view.
  29. Sales and distribution tend to be undervalued by entrepreneurs who believe good product sells itself. It is best when one’s sales skill or the persuasion to buy is hidden as nobody likes being reminded they are being sold
    1. Two metrics set the limits for effective distribution. The total net profit that you earn on average over the course of your relationship with a customer (Customer Lifetime Value) must exceed the amount you spend on average to acquire a new customer (Customer Acquisition Cost). In general, the higher the price of your product, the more you have to spend to make a sale – and the more it makes sense to spend it
    2. Poor sales rather than bad product is the most common cause of failure
  30. Most valuable businesses of the future will be those which empower people rather than those trying to replace them
  31. Thiel believes that the worries about technology today are overblown. Computers are tools, not rivals and working with them will allow people to do things never before possible
  32. 7 Questions every business must answer
    1. The Engineering Question – Can you create breakthrough technology instead of incremental improvements?
    2. The Timing Question – is now the right time to start your particular business?
    3. The Monopoly Question – are you starting with a big share of a small market?
    4. The People Question – do you have the right team?
    5. The Distribution Question – do you have a way to not just create but deliver your product?
    6. The Durability Question – will your market position be defensible 10 and 20 years into the future?
    7. The Secret Question – have you identified a unique opportunity that others don’t see?
  33. Great companies have secrets – reasons for success that other people don’t see
  34. Doing something different is what’s truly good for society – and it’s also what allows a business to profit by monopolizing a new market. The best projects are likely to be overlooked, not trumpeted by a crowd; the best problems to work on are often the ones nobody else even tries to solve
  35. An entrepreneur can’t benefit from macro-scale insights unless his own plans begin at the micro-scale
  36. The world needs founders to push the boundaries and the trade-off is that those who tend to push the boundaries are eccentric, unusual and extreme in their views and/or behaviors
What I got out of it
  1.  Really good in-depth view on what it takes to build startups and why they’re important to the world

The Snow Leopard by Peter Matthiessen

  1. Peter Matthiessen recounts his travels to India, Nepal and the Himalayas and his spiritual and transformative journey along the way
Key Takeaways
  1. In India, human misery seems so pervasive that one can manage to only take in stray details
  2. Shakyamuni, The Buddha, never involved himself in efforts for social change for he believed the greatest contribution one could make to mankind was self-revelation
  3. The Buddhists he encountered all had the wonderful trait of doing their work for its own sake, to do it in the most beautiful way and to their best capacity, rather than for pay or the sake of the employer
  4. Ecstasy is identity with all existence
  5. To become one with whatever one does is true realization of the way
  6. One must go oneself to know the truth – others can’t travel or do any type of work for you in one’s spiritual quest for enlightenment
  7. Through meditation, he was able to transcend his ego and intuit truth immediately.
  8. Being calm regardless of circumstances is not fatalism but a deep trust in the universe in that things will work out
  9. It is better to be true than strong
  10. The point of meditation is to train the ability of letting go and to be wholly present in the eternal now
  11. It is meaningless to try to capture and hold onto experiences and things as one can never truly express reality
What I got out of it
  1. Vivid storytelling but honestly was a bit disappointed after having heard so much about it. However, looking back there are some gems and clear insight on meditation and enlightenment

Hackers & Painters: Big Ideas from the Comptuer Age by Paul Graham

  1. Paul Graham, founder of Viaweb and Y-Combinator, gives an inside view on the computer world and the motivations behind the people in it. Discussing how we think, how we work, how we develop technology and how we live
Key Takeaways

Why Nerds are Unpopular – Their minds are not on the game

  1. So, if intelligence itself is not a factor in popularity, why are smart kids so consistently unpopular? The answer, I think, is that they don’t really want to be popular. Not enough, anyway. There was something else they wanted more: to be smart, to make great things. The main reasons nerds are unpopular is that they have other things to think about.
  2. Another reason kids persecute nerds is to make themselves feel better. When you tread water, you lift yourself up by pushing water down. Likewise, in any social hierarchy, people unsure of their own position will try to emphasize it by maltreating those they think rank below. I’ve read that is why poor whites in the United States are the group most hostile to blacks
  3. I think the important thing about the real world is not that it’s populated by adults, but that it’s very large, and the things you do have real effects. That’s what school, prison, and ladies-who-lunch all lack. The inhabitants of all those worlds are trapped in little bubbles where nothing they do can have more than a local effect. Naturally these societies degenerate into savagery. They have no function for their form to follow. When the things you do have real effects, it’s no longer enough just to be pleasing. It starts to be important to have the right answers, and that’s where nerds show to advantage. The other thing that’s different about the real world is that it’s much larger. In a large enough pool, even the smallest minorities can achieve a critical mass if they clump together
  4. What bothers me is not that the kids are kept in “prisons” but that (a) they aren’t told about it, and (b) the prisons are mostly run by the inmates. Life in this twisted world is stressful for the kids. And not just for the nerds. Like any way, it’s damaging even to the winners.
  5. As far as I can tell, the concept of the hormone-crazed teenager is coeval with suburbia. I don’t think this is a coincidence. I think teenagers are driven crazy by the life they’re made to lead. Teenage apprentices in the Renaissance were working dogs. Teenagers now are neurotic lapdogs. Their craziness is the craziness of the idle everywhere.
  6. Teenagers seem to have respected adults more in the past because the adults were the visible experts in the skills they were apprenticing in. Now most kids have little idea what their parents do in their distant offices, and see no connection (indeed, there is precious little) between schoolwork and the work they’ll do as adults. What happened? We’re up against a hard one here. The cause of this problem is the same as the cause of so many present ills: specialization. As jobs become more specialized, we have to train longer for them and teenagers are now useless, except as cheap labor in industries like fast food, which evolved explicitly to exploit this fact
  7. Misrule breeds rebellion; this is not a new idea. And yet the authorities still for the most part act as if drugs were themselves the cause of the problem
  8. It’s important for nerds to realize, too, that school is not life. School is a strange, artificial thing, half sterile and half feral. It’s all-encompassing, like life, but it isn’t the real thing. It’s only temporary, and if you look, you can see beyond it even while you’re still in it


Hackers and Painters – Hackers are makers, like painters or architects or writers

  1. Hacking and painting have a lot in common. In fact, of all the different types of people I’ve known, hackers and painters are among the most alike. What hackers and painters have in common is that they’re both makers. Along with composers, architects, and writers, what hackers and painters are trying to do is make good things. They’re not doing research per se  though if in the course of trying to make good things they discover some new technique, so much the better.
  2. For hackers, computers are just a medium of expression, as concrete is for architects or paint for painters.
  3. There is a small but real chasm between architects and engineers: architects decide what to do, and engineers figure out how to do it. What and how should not be kept too separate. You’re asking for trouble if you try to decide what to do without understanding how to do it.
  4. The way to create something beautiful is often to make subtle tweaks to something that already exists, or to combine existing ideas in a slightly new way. This kind of work is hard to convey in a research paper
  5. There is nothing so tempting as an easy test that kind of works
  6. The only external test is time. Over time, beautiful things tend to thrive, and ugly things tend to get discarded. Unfortunately, the amounts of time involved can be longer than human lifetimes
  7. I’ve found that the best sources of ideas are not the other fields that have the word “computer” in their names, but the other fields inhabited by makers. Painting has been a much richer source of ideas than the theory of computation
  8. Programs should be malleable, allowing you to sketch roughly at first and debug over time
  9. If you want to make money at some point, remember this, because this is one of the reasons startups win. Big companies want to decrease the standard deviation of design outcomes because they want to avoid disasters. But when you damp oscillations, you lose the high points as well as the low. This is not a problem for big companies, because they don’t win by making great products. Big companies win by sucking less than other big companies. So if you can figure out a way to get in a design war with a company big enough that its software is designed by product managers, they’ll never be able to keep up with you. These opportunities are not easy to find, though. It’s hard to engage a big company in a design war, just as it’s hard to engage an opponent inside a castle in hand to hand combat. It would be pretty easy to write a better word processor than Microsoft Word, for example, but Microsoft, within the castle of their operating system monopoly, probably wouldn’t even notice if you did. The place to fight design wars is in new markets, where no one has yet managed to establish any fortifications. That’s where you can win big by taking the bold approach to design, and having the same people both design and implement the product. Microsoft themselves did this at the start. So did Apple. And Hewlett-Packard. I suspect almost every successful startup has.
  10. One thing we can learn, or at least confirm, from the example of painting is how to learn to hack. You learn to paint mostly by doing it. Ditto for hacking. Most hackers don’t learn to hack by taking college courses in programming. They learn to hack by writing programs of their own at age thirteen. Even in college classes, you learn to hack mostly by hacking. The other way to learn is from examples. For a painter, copying forces you to look closely at the way a painting is made. Writers do this too. Hackers, likewise, can learn to program by looking at good programs – not just at what they do, but the source code too. Another example we can take from painting is the way that paintings are created by gradual refinement. Paintings usually begin with a sketch. Gradually the details get filled in. But it is not merely a process of filling in. Sometimes the original plans turn out to be mistaken. Everyone by now presumably knows about the danger of premature optimization. I think we should be just as worried about premature design – deciding too early what a program should do. Hacking can also learn from painting not only how to manage our own work but how to work together. Painting has always utilized a master/apprentice model and worked on different parts of the painting. The right way to collaborate, I think, is to divide projects into sharply defined modules, each with a definite owner, and with interfaces between them that are as carefully designed and, if possible, as articulated as programming languages.
  11. Hackers start with original work and get good whereas scientists start good and get original
  12. This sounds like a paradox, but a great painting has to be better than it has to be. How hard one works on a painting doesn’t depend at all on how closely one expects anyone to look at it. Be relentless. Relentlessness wins because, in the aggregate, unseen details become visible. All these unseen details combine to produce something that’s just stunning, like a thousand barely audible voices all singing in tune
  13. In hacking, like painting, work comes in cycles. Sometimes you get excited about some new project and you want to work sixteen hours a day on it. Other times nothing seems interesting. To do good work, you have to take these cycles into account, because they’re affected by how you react to them. Sometimes, backing off can prevent ambition from stalling. It’s a good idea to save some easy tasks for moments when you would otherwise stall
  14. Like painting, most software is intended for human audience. And so hackers, like painters, must have empathy to do really great work. You have to be able to see things from the user’s point of view. It turns out that looking at things from other people’s point of view is practically the secret of success. It doesn’t necessarily mean being self-sacrificing. Far from it. Understanding how someone else sees things doesn’t imply that you’ll act in his interest; in some situations – in war, for example – you want to do exactly the opposite. Most makers make things for a human audience. And to engage an audience you have to understand what they need. Empathy is probably the single most important difference between a good hacker and a great one. One way to tell how good people are at empathy is to watch them explain a technical question to someone without a technical background
  15. In most fields the great work is done early on. Over and over we see the same pattern. A new medium appears, and people are so excited about it that they explore most of its possibilities in the first couple generations
  16. An example of applied empathy. At Viaweb  if we couldn’t decide between two alternatives, we’d ask, what would our competitors hate most? At one point a competitor added a feature to their software that was basically useless, but since it was one of the few they had that we didn’t, they made much of it in the trade press. We could have tried to explain that the feature was useless, but we decided it would annoy our competitor more if we just implemented it ourselves, so we hacked together our own version that afternoon


What You Can’t Say – How to think heretical thoughts and what to do with them

  1. It’s the nature of fashion to be invisible, in the same way that the movement of the earth is invisible to all of us riding on it. What scares me is that there are moral fashions too.
    1. The conformist test – do you have any opinions that you would be reluctant to express in front of a group of your peers? Almost certainly, there is something wrong with you if you don’t think things you don’t dare say out loud
  2. What can’t we say? One way to find these ideas is simply to look at things people do say and get in trouble for. We are of course looking for things we can’t say which are true, or at least have enough chance of being true that the question should remain open…I suspect the statements that make people maddest are those they worry might be true
  3. Another test is to see what is “heresy” or at least today’s equivalent such as “divisive” or “racially insensitive.” Can also see what today’s labels are, such as “sexist”
  4. Can also look to the past to see what used to be acceptable and is now unthinkable. Might not even have to look to the past but merely to different cultures to see what they think is acceptable that you don’t. My hypothesis is that the side that’s shocked is most likely to be the mistaken one
  5. There are certain taboos which are universal, such as murder, but any idea that’s considered harmless in a significant percentage of times and places, and yet taboo in ours, is a good candidate for something we’re mistaken about
  6. To launch a taboo, a group has to be poised halfway between weakness and power and be nervous. A confident group doesn’t need taboos to protect it. It’s not considered improper to make disparaging remarks about Americans, or the English. And yet a group has to be powerful enough to enforce a taboo.
  7. There is nothing so wrong as the principles of the most recently defeated opponent
  8. Great work tends to grow out of ideas that other shave overlooked, and no idea is so overlooked as one that’s unthinkable. Training yourself to think unthinkable thoughts has advantages beyond the thoughts themselves. It’s like stretching. When you stretch before running, you put your body into positions much more extreme than any it will assume during the run. If you think things so outside the box that they’d make people’s hair stand on end, you’ll have no trouble with the small trips outside the box that people call innovative.
  9. Argue with idiots, and you become an idiot
  10. When you find what you can’t say, don’t say it. Draw a sharp line between your thoughts and your speech. Inside your head, anything is allowed but keep it to yourself. The problem with keeping your thoughts secret, though, is that you lose the advantages of discussion. Talking about an idea leads to more ideas. So the optimal plan, if you can manage it, is to have a few trusted friends you can speak openly to. This is not just a way to develop ideas; it’s also a good rule of thumb for choosing friends. The people you can say heretical things to without getting jumped on are also the most interesting to know.
  11. To see fashion in your own time requires a conscious effort. Without time to give you distance, you have to create distance yourself. Instead of being part of the mob, stand as far away from it as you can and watch what it’s doing. And pay especially close attention whenever an idea is being suppressed. And, it’s not just the mob you need to learn to watch from a distance. You need to be able to watch your own thoughts from a distance. How can you see the wave, when you’re the water? Always be questioning


Good Bad Attitude – Like Americans, hackers win by breaking rules

  1. Those in authority tend to be annoyed by hackers’ general attitude of disobedience. But that disobedience is a byproduct of the qualities that make them good programmers. They may laugh at the CEO when he talks in generic corporate newspeech  but they also laugh at someone who tells them a certain problem can’t be solved. Suppress one, and you suppress the others
  2. The next generation of computer technology has often – perhaps more often than not – been developed by outsiders
  3. Hackers are unruly. That is the essence of hacking. And it is also the essence of American-ness. It is no accident that Silicon Valley is in America, and not France, or Germany, or England, or Japan. In those countries, people color inside the lines…It is greatly to America’s advantage that it is a congenial atmosphere for the right sort of unruliness – that it is a home not just for the smart, but for smart-alecks. And hackers are invariably smart-alecks. If we had a national holiday, it would be April 1st.
  4. Civil liberties make countries rich. If you made a graph of GNP per capita vs. civil liberties, you’d notice a definite trend. Could civil liberties really be a cause, rather than just an effect? I think so. I think a society in which people can do and say what they want will also tend to be one in which the most efficient solutions win, rather than those sponsored by the most influential people. Authoritarian countries become corrupt; corrupt countries become poor; and poor countries are weak.


The Other Road Ahead – Web-based software offers the biggest opportunity since the arrival of the microcomputer

  1. Most people, most of the time, will take whatever choice requires least work – death before inconvenience
  2. When you have competitors, “you can” means “you must” because if you don’t take advantage of this possibility, your competitors will
  3. Turned negatives into positives and win/wins – ability to release fixes continuously lead to developers being genuinely interested in customer support because they would often learn about bugs and customers would feel important and even triumphant in finding these bugs
  4. Focusing on “bottom half of the roster” – made customer support and developer relationships win/win as customer support’s honor was on the line when bringing in new bugs and they always knew which users features wanted more. This kind of relationship rather than a contentious, hierarchical one
  5. Working to implement one idea gives you more ideas. Shelving ideas probably even inhibits new ideas. At Viaweb, often didn’t have future plans because plans are just another word for ideas on the shelf which they didn’t allow to happen. When they thought of good ideas, they implemented them
  6. Paying attention is more important to reliability than moving slowly. Because he pays close attention, a Navy pilot can land a 40,000 lb. aircraft at 140 miles per hour on a pitching carrier deck, at night, more safely than the average teenager can cut a bagel
  7. Complexity and bureaucracy scales exponentially with the size of the group. “We never had more to say at any one time [with 13 programmers] than we could say as we were walking to lunch.”
  8. Software should do what users think it will. But you can’t have any idea what users will be thinking, believe me, until you watch them. By watching users, you can often tell when they’re in trouble and since the customer is always right, that’s a sign of something you need to fix.
  9. Software is ideally suited for price discrimination as the marginal cost is close to zero
  10. You’ll sell more of something when it’s easy to buy. Make it difficult to buy and give people a chance to second guess themselves and they will buy much less
  11. There is always a tendency for rich customers to buy expensive solutions, even when cheap solutions are better, because the people offering expensive solutions can spend more to sell them. There is nothing you can do about this conundrum, so the best plan is to go for the smaller customers first. The rest will come in time
  12. If a company wants to make a platform that startups will build on, they have to make it something that hackers themselves will want to use. That means it has to be inexpensive and well-designed
  13. If not willing to disrupt or cannibalize yourself – “A cash cow can be a damned heavy monkey on your back”
  14. “Just good enough” is often a powerful stepping stone to outweigh any cons or awkwardness in usage
  15. Most hackers don’t start their startup because they think they don’t know anything about business and are afraid of competition. Neither of these fences have any “current” in them. There are only two things you have to know about business: build something users love and make more than you spend. If you can get these two right, you’ll be ahead of most startups. You can figure out the rest as you go…Start by making something clean and simple that you would want to use yourself. The customer is always right but about different things; the least sophisticated users show you what you need to clarify and simplify and the most sophisticated tell you what features you need to add.
  16. The standard to compare your software to is what it could be, not what your current competitors happen to have
  17. Companies often wonder what to outsource and what not to. One possible answer: outsource any job that’s not directly exposed to competitive pressure, because outsourcing it will thereby expose it to competitive pressure
  18. There is always room for something new if the current options such enough. Make sure it works on all the free OSes first – new things start with their users


How to Make Wealth – The best way to get rich is to create wealth. And startups are the best way to do that

  1. If you wanted to get rich, how would you do it? I think your best bet would be to start or join a startup. Economically, you can think of a startup as a way to compress your whole working life into a few years. The advantage of creating wealth, rather than getting rich, is not just that it’s more legitimate but that it’s more straightforward. You just have to do something people want
  2. If you want to create wealth, it will help to understand what it is. Wealth is not the same thing as money. Wealth is as old as human history. Far older, in fact; ants have wealth. Money is a comparatively recent invention. Wealth is the fundamental thing. Wealth is stuff we want: food, clothes, houses, cars, gadgets, travel to interesting places, and so on. You can have wealth without money. Wealth is what you want, not money. Money is simply a side effect of specialization. In a specialized society, most of the things you need, you can’t make yourself and you need money to pay others to make it for you.
  3. Pie Fallacy – there is not a fixed amount of wealth in this worlds. Again, money is not wealth which may be fixed in a given period of time
  4. The top 5% of programmers probably write 99% of the good software
  5. A company that could pay all its so straightforwardly would be enormously successful. Many employees would work harder if they could get paid for it. More importantly, such a company would attract people who wanted to work especially hard. It would crush its competitors
  6. To get rich you need to get yourself in a situation with two things, measurement and leverage. You need to be in a position where your performance can be measured, or there is no way to get paid more by doing more. And you have to have leverage, in the sense that the decisions you make have a big effect. A good hint to the presence of leverage is the possibility of failure. However, you don’t need to be a CEO or an athlete to have measurement and leverage. All you need to do is be part of a small group working on a hard problem.
  7. A startup is not merely ten people, but ten people like you. Steve Jobs once said that the success or failure of a startup depends on the first ten employees. I agree. Being small is not, in itself what makes startups kick butt, but rather that small groups can be select. Startups have leverage because they make money by inventing new technology. What is technology? It’s technique. It’s the way we all do things. And when you discover a new way to do things, its value is multiplied by all the people who use it. Even giant corporations like McDonald’s or Wal Mart can be said to create technology. A McDonald’s franchise is controlled by rules so precise that it is practically a piece of software. Write once, run everywhere. Ditto for Wal-Mart. Sam Walton got rich not by being a retailer, but by designing a new kind of store
  8. Use difficulty as a guide not just in selecting the overall aim of your company, but also at decision points along the way. At Viaweb, one of our rules of thumb was “run upstairs.” Suppose you are a little, nimble guy being chased by a big, fat, bully. You open a door and find yourself a staircase. Do you go up or down? I say up. The bully can probably run downstairs as fast as you can. Going upstairs his bulk will be more of a disadvantage. Running upstairs is hard for you but even harder for him. What this meant in practice was that we deliberately sought hard problems, barriers to entry. Start by picking hard problems and then at every decision point, take the harder choice
  9. I think this is a good plan for life in general. If you have two choices, choose the harder. If you’re trying to decide whether to go out running or sit home and watch TV, go running. Probably the reason this trick works so well is that when you have two choices and one is harder, the only reason you’re even considering the other is laziness. You know in the back of your mind what’s the right thing to do, and this trick merely forces you to acknowledge it.
  10. I think it’s a good idea to get bought, if you can. Running a business is different from growing one. It is just as well to let a big company take over once you reach cruising altitude. It’s also financially wiser, because selling allows you to diversify. What would you think of a financial advisor who put all his client’s assets into one volatile stock? Getting bought is an art. For potential acquires  the most powerful motivator is the prospect that one of their competitors will buy you. This, as we found, causes CEOs to take red-eyes. The second biggest worry is that, if they don’t buy you now, you’ll continue to grow rapidly and will cost more to acquire later, or even become a competitor. In both cases, what it all comes down to is the number of users you have
  11. One of the prime catalysts for industrialization was the spread of the rule of law. A necessary, if not sufficient, condition was that people who made fortunes be able to enjoy them in peace
  12. Don’t let a ruling class of warriors and politicians squash the entrepreneurs. The same recipe that makes individuals rich makes countries powerful. Let the nerds keep their lunch money and you rule the world


Mind the Gap – Could “unequal income distribution” be less of a problem than we think?

  1. When people care enough about something to do it well, those who do it best tend to be far better than everyone else. There’s a huge gap between Leonardo and second-rate contemporaries like Borgognone  Like chess or painting or writing novels, making money is a very specialized skill. But for some reason we treat this skill differently. No one complains when a few people surpass all the rest at playing chess or writing novels, but when a few people make more money than the rest, we get editorials saying this is wrong
  2. I think there are three reasons we treat making money as different: the misleading model of wealth we learn as children (confuse it with money, think there is a fixed amount, something that is distributed by authorities or parents and should be distributed equally, rather than something that has to be created and perhaps unequally); the disreputable way in which, till recently, most fortunes were accumulated (stolen); and the worry that great variations in income are somehow bad for society (may increase gap in income but decrease other gaps between rich and poor such as quality goods, quality of life but not brand). As far as I can tell, the first is mistaken, the second is outdated, and the third empirically false. Could it be that, in a modern democracy, variation in income is actually a sign of health? If technology doesn’t bring about greater inequality it could be for three reasons: technical innovation has stopped, that the people who would create the most wealth aren’t doing it or that they aren’t getting paid for it
  3. To say a certain kind of work is underpaid is identical with saying that people want the wrong things
  4. You need rich people in your society not so much because in spending their money they create jobs, but because of what they have to do to get rich. I’m not talking about the trickle-down effect here. I’m not saying that if you let Henry Ford get rich, he’ll hire you as a waiter at his next party. I’m saying that he’ll make you a tractor to replace your horse
  5. Part of the reason this subject is so contentious is that some of the most vocal on the subject of wealth – university students, heirs, professors, politicians and journalists – have the least experience creating it
  6. One of the biggest differences between the Daddy Model and reality is that in reality effort does not necessarily correlate with how much wealth it brings. Painting a house with a toothbrush should not bring you more money just because it is harder


A Plan for Spam – Till recently most experts thought spam filtering wouldn’t work. This proposal changed their minds

  1. Began using probability filtering so that emails which entailed words associated with spam mail could get flagged and their frequency lowered over time


Taste for Makers – How do you make great things?

  1. For those of us who design things, these are not just theoretical questions, if there is such a thing as beauty, we need to be able to recognize it. We need good taste to make good things
  2. Once you start to examine the question, it’s surprising how much different fields’ ideas of beauty have in common. The same principles of good design crop up again and again. Good design is simple. Everything above simplicity is evasion. When you can’t deliver ornament, you have to deliver substance. Good design is timeless. Good design solves the right problem. Good design is suggestive. Good design is often slightly funny. I think it is because humor is related to strength. To have a sense of humor is to be strong: to keep one’s sense of humor is to shrug off misfortunes, and to lose one’s sense of humor is to be wounded by them. Good design is hard. If function is hard enough, form is forced to follow it, because there is no effort to spare for error. Wild animals are beautiful because they have hard lives. Good design looks easy. Like great athletes, great designers make it look easy. Mostly this is an illusion. In science and engineering, some of the greatest discoveries seem so simple that you say to yourself, I could have thought of that! In most fields the appearance of ease seems to come with practice. Perhaps what practice does is train your unconscious mind to handle tasks that used to require conscious thought. In some cases you literally train your body. An expert pianist can play notes faster than the brain can send signals to his hand. Likewise, an artist, after a while, can make visual perception flow in through his eye and out through his hand as automatically as someone tapping his foot to a beat. When people talk about being in “the zone,” I think what they mean is that the spinal cord has the situation under control. Your spinal cord is less hesitant, and it frees conscious thought for the hard problems. Good design uses symmetry (repetition and recursion). Nature uses them a lot, which is a good sign. The danger of symmetry, and repetition especially, is that it can be used as a substitute for thought. Good design resembles nature. It’s not so much that resembling nature is intrinsically good as that nature has had a long time to work on the problem. It’s not cheating to copy. Good design is redesign. It’s rare to get things right the first time. Experts expect to throw away some early work. Mistakes are natural. Instead of treating them as disasters, make them easy to acknowledge and easy to fix. Good design can copy. It is more important to be right than original. Unknowing imitation is almost a recipe for bad design. The ambitious are not content to imitate. The second phase in the growth of taste is a conscious attempt at originality but are selfless and confident enough to take from anyone without feeling that their own vision will be lost in the process. Good design is often strange. The only style worth having is the one you can’t help. And this is especially true for strangeness. Good design happens in chunks. Nothing is more powerful than a community of talented people working on related problems. Genes count for little by comparison: being a genetic Leonardo was not enough to compensate for having been born near Milan instead of Florence. Good design is often daring, teetering on the border of ostracism. This problem afflicts not just every era, but in some degree every field. Today’s experimental error is tomorrow’s new theory. If you want to discover great new things, then instead of turning a blind eye to the places where conventional wisdom and truth don’t quite meet, you should pay particular attention to them. 
  3. Problems can be improved as well as solutions. In software, an intractable problem can usually be replaced by an equivalent one that’s easy to solve. Physics progressed faster as the problem became predicting observable behavior, instead of reconciling it with scripture
  4. As a practical matter, I think it’s easier to see ugliness than to imagine beauty. Most of the people who’ve made beautiful things seem to have done it by fixing something that they thought ugly. Intolerance for ugliness is not in itself enough. You have to understand a field well before you develop a good nose for what needs fixing. You have to do your homework. But as you become an expert in a field, you’ll start to hear little voices saying, What a hack! There must be a better way. Don’t ignore those voices. Cultivate them. The recipe for great work is: very exacting taste, plus the ability to gratify it.


The Programming Languages Explained – What a programming language is and why they are a hot topic now

  1. The complete list of things a computer can do is machine language
  2. The more you have to say to get something done, the harder it will be to see bugs
  3. Open source software gives you the source code and the ability to modify it
  4. The biggest debate in language design is probably the one between those who think a language should prevent programmers from doing stupid things, and those who think programmers should be allowed to do whatever they want


The Hundred-Year Language – How will we program in a hundred years? Why not start now?

  1. Staying close to the main evolutionary tree branches which will carry on is a useful heuristic for finding languages that will be good to program in now and to make better decisions about language design
  2. There’s good waste, and bad waste. I’m interested in good waste – the kind where, by spending more, we can get simpler designs. How will we take advantage of the opportunities to waste cycles that we’ll get from new, faster hardware? The desire for speed is so deeply ingrained in us, with our puny computers, that it will take conscious effort to overcome it. In language design, we should be consciously seeking out situations where we can trade efficiency for even the smallest increase in convenience…Inefficient software isn’t gross. What’s gross is a language that makes programmers do needless work. Wasting programmer time is the true inefficiency, not wasting machine time. This will become ever more clear as computers get faster.
  3. When you’re working on language design, I think it is good to have such a target and to keep it consciously in mind. When you learn to drive, one of the principles they teach you is to align the car not by lining up the hood with the stripes painted on the road, but by aiming at some point in the distance. Even if all you care about is what happens in the next ten feet, this is the right answer. I think we can and should do the same with programming languages.


Beating the Averages – For web-based applications you can use whatever language you want. So can your competitors

  1. Graham chose to use Lisp in startup Viaweb because he thought that with Lisp he could get features done faster than competitors, could do things in their software that the competitors couldn’t do, it would cost less so they could provide a better product for less money and still make a profit
  2. In business, there is nothing more valuable than a technical advantage your competitors don’t understand. In business, as in war, surprise is worth as much as force.
  3. A startup should give its competitors as little information as possible. If they didn’t know what language our software was written in, or didn’t care, I wanted to keep it that way.
  4. Programming languages are not merely technologies, but habits of mind as well, and nothing changes slower. The only programmers in a position to see all the differences in power between the various languages are those who understand the most powerful one. You can’t trust the opinions of others, because of the “ Blub paradox” – they’re satisfied with whatever language they happen to use, because it dictates the way they think about programs. Can use technology that competitors don’t understand like aikido – using their unwillingness to change and adapt against them
  5. A suspicious programmer might begin to wonder if there was some correlation here. A big chunk of our code was doing things that are very hard to do in other languages besides Lisp. The resulting software did things our competitors’ software couldn’t do. Maybe there was some kind of connection. I encourage you to follow that thread. There may be more to that old man hobbling along on his crutches than meets the eye. Lisp’s power is multiplied by the fact that your competitors don’t get it
  6. A good tool to evaluate what competitors are doing is to view their job listings. The rest can be made pretty but they have to be real and authentic about their job listings or else they’ll get the wrong candidates.
  7. The old adage, “you can’t tell a book by its cover,” originated in the times when books were sold in plain cardboard covers, to be bound by each purchaser according to his taste. In those days, you couldn’t tell a book by its cover. But publishing has advanced since then – present day publishers work hard to make the cover something you can tell a book by. Graham has spent enough time around technology that he can look at the “cover” of technology and know which to avoid
  8. Reasons to dislike Java – really good products don’t need to be promoted or over hyped; languages designed for other people to use have been bad and the good languages have been those that were designed for their own creators; ulterior motives are bad; no one loves it; people are forced to use it; it has too many cooks; it’s bureaucratic; it’s pseudo-hip; it’s designed for large organizations; the wrong people like it; Sun’s business model is being undermined; the DoD likes it
  9. Revenge of the Nerds – In technology, “industry best practice” is a recipe for losing
  10. The pointy-haired boss miraculously combines two qualities that are common by themselves, but rarely seen together: (a) he knows nothing whatsoever about technology, and (b) he has very strong opinions about it. He sticks to “industry best practice” to avoid responsibility and blame in case the company loses. However, it never gets you the best, merely the average
  11. The main reason many ideas and practices are widespread is because they are comfortable
  12. Lisp allows one to express the language in its own data structures which turns out to be a very powerful feature
  13. One tends to magnify risks one doesn’t truly understand
  14. Often, what differentiates you or your company and gives you a competitive advantage seems like an anomaly to outsiders but is in fact the cause and effect of your moat


The Dream Language – A good programming language is one that lets hackers have their way with it

  1. Designing a good programming language can be found by looking at hackers and learning what they want. Programming languages are for hackers, and a programming language is good as a programming language (rather than, say, an exercise in denotational semantics or compiler design) if and only if hackers like it
  2. Good programming languages have to feature very powerful abstractions
  3. Programming languages become popular if hackers use them because this tiny minority designs all the good software and their influence is such that the rest of the programmers will tend to use whatever language they use
  4. Thinks that languages have to be popular to be good and that getting the first twenty users may be harder than going from twenty to a thousand. Best way to convince new users is through a Trojan horse – give people an application they want which happens to be written in a new language
  5. A new language must have free implementation, a book, something to hack, must be brief, must be able to do what they want (can never guess all the ways a language will be used), dirty and clean – cleanly designed but let’s hackers have their way with it, ability to write quick/throwaway programs but these tend to stick around and be the foundation for great programs (big things tend to be too scary to start but starting small and quick is easy and benefits from evolution), interactive, available, start up quickly, large libraries for manipulating strings, hackers will wait until they’re more sure that the language will be around for some time and simple repetition often solves the problem (it’s not when people notice you’re there that they pay attention; it’s when they notice you’re still there), early adopters are demanding and help flush out problems quickly, the most important design is ability to redesign, no language designed by committee as they yield bad design and interfere with redesign
  6. A friend of mine rarely does anything the first time someone asks him. He knows that people sometimes ask for things that they turn out not to want. To avoid wasting his time, he waits till the third or fourth time he’s asked to do something; by then, whoever’s asking him may be fairly annoyed, but at least they probably really do want whatever they’re asking for.
  7. There are typically two ways new technology gets introduced – the organic growth method (two guys in a garage) and the big-bang (VC-backed). Most of the garage boys are envious of the big-bang buys but more often than not it is the organic growth technology which yields better technology and richer founders
  8. To write good software you must simultaneously keep two opposing ideas in your head. You need the young hacker’s naïve faith in his abilities, and at the same time the veteran’s skepticism. You have to be able to think how hard can it be? With one half of your brain while thinking it will never work with the other. The trick is to realize there’s no real contradiction here. You want to be optimistic and skeptical about two different things. You have to be optimistic about the possibility of solving the problem, but skeptical about the value of whatever solution you have so far. People who do good work often think that whatever they’re working on is no good. Others see what they’ve done and are full of wonder, but the creator is full of worry. This pattern is no coincidence: it is the worry that made the work good. If you can keep hope and worry balanced, they will drive a project forward the same way your two legs drive a bicycle forward
  9. Users are a double-edged sword. They can help you improve your language, but they can also deter you from improving it. So choose your users carefully, and be slow to grow their number. Having users is like optimization: the wise course is to delay it. Also, as a general rule, you can at any given time get away with changing more than you think. Introducing a change is like pulling off a bandage: the pain is a memory almost as soon as you feel it.


Design and Research – Research has to be original. Design has to be good

  1. The difference between design and research seems to be a question of new versus good. Design doesn’t have to be new, but it has to be good. Research doesn’t have to be good, but it has to be new
  2. You have to design for the user, but you have to design what the user needs, not simply what he says he wants
  3. Must choose your group of users and almost always this group must include the designer himself
  4. There are two broad strategies: Worse is Better and the Hail Mary strategy. The Worse is Better gets a prototype in front of users as quickly as possible and slowly refines along the way.  A prototype doesn’t have to be just a mode; you can refine it into the finished product. I think you should always do this when you can. It lets you take advantage of new insights you have along the way. But perhaps even more important, it’s good for morale and morale is key in design because it keeps you engaged. The Hail Mary tries to create the complete, finished, product in one long touchdown pass. As far as I know, this is a recipe for disaster
  5. Notice all this time I’ve been talking about “the designer.” Design usually has to be under the control of a single person to be any good. And yet it seems to be possible for several people to collaborate on a research project. This seems to me one of the most interesting differences between research and design. Design by committee is a synonym for bad design. Good design requires a dictator. One reason is that good design has to be all of a piece. Design is not just for humans, but for individual humans. If a design represents an idea that fits in one person’s head, then the idea will fit in the user’s head too.
  6. There’s nothing more valuable than the advice of someone whose judgment you trust
What I got out of it
  1. So much to be gotten out of these essays even if you have no interest in either hacking or painting. A multi-disciplinary thinker who takes a different and interesting take on a variety of topics

Fallen Leaves: Last Words on Life, Love, War and God by Will Durant

  1. The personal, distilled wisdom and beliefs of Will Durant on life’s important topics. Answered clearly, simply and imperfectly
Key Takeaways
  1. Man is always steeped in the ways and views of his youth and is almost constantly constitutionally incapable of understanding the changing world that assails him
  2. We love children because they are extensions of ourselves and because they embody unlimited potential. They are what we cannot be – uninhibited, transparently selfish, un hypocritical, spontaneous. Children and fools speak the truth and somehow find happiness in their sincerity. They learn by imitation and teach us what we really are by how they behave
  3. Childhood could be called the age of play and therefore some children are never young and some adults never old. Never give up play as this will speed up aging and lower quality of life.
  4. Every philosopher should also be an athlete. If he is not, let us examine the philosophy
  5. Health lies in action and to be busy is the secret of grace and half the secret of content. Let us ask God not for possessions but for things to do for happiness lies in making things rather than consuming them
  6. The tragedy of life is that it only gives us wisdom once it has stolen youth. If the young but knew how and the old but could
  7. Nothing learned in a book is of any use until it is used and verified in life. It is life which educates
  8. At the same time as children transition to youth and begin examining themselves, they also begin examining the world. They become afraid at learning their species’ true nature – cooperation within the family but competition with society
  9. If youth were wise they would put love above all else and not fall into the trap that so many do of trading it for money, fame or other external recognition. Making all else subordinate to it until the end. How can it matter what price we pay for love
  10. Life seems brutal because we think we are individuals when in fact we are temporary organs of the species. The individual fails but life succeeds
  11. Logic is an invention of man and may be ignored by the universe
  12. Only one thing is certain in history, decade. Only one thing is certain in life, death
  13. Death, like style, is the removal of the superfluous
  14. One recounting of history may be recounted by the avatars of God. The replacing of one deity for another by an overtaking tribe is seen time and again and a list of the changing gods would make quite a directory for the changing of the guard
  15. Heaven and hell are not located in another world, they are simply states of mind
  16. Religions are not made by the intellect or else they would never touch the soul, reach the masses or have any longevity. The imagination must be moved and inspire courage, compassion and moral development
  17. It can be argued that morality and civilization are one. Durant defines morality as the consistency of private conduct with public interest as understood by the group
  18. Moral self-restraint is one of the surest guarantees to advancement and self-fulfillment
  19. We must respect differing opinions. Intolerance is the door to violence, brutality and dictatorship and the realization of human interdependence and solidarity is the best protection of civilization.
  20. Women generally acquire by instinct all that men acquire by intellect
  21. “I admire the architecture of woman…Her movement is poetry become flesh.”
  22. The art which has most obviously and visibly made progress over the last thousand years is the art of war
  23. The state is the soul of man enlarged under the microscope of history
  24. Greed and wealth originally arose as a hedge against starvation but later became vices as abundance and social norms no longer made them necessary for survival
  25. Prejudice is deadly to religion but vital to civilization
  26. The first law of government is self preservation, the second is self extension
  27. Peace is war by other means
  28. Humankind has waited for centuries for a cease to war through a raising of consciousness but there is no broad, humankind consciousness
  29. Character – a rational harmony and hierarchy of desires in coordination with capacity
  30. Wisdom – an application of experience to present problems
  31. Education is the perfection of life and there should be 3 tenets on which to base education and its goals:
    1. The control of life through health, character, intelligence and technology
    2. The enjoyment of life through friendship, literature, nature and art
    3. The understanding of life through history, science, religion and philosophy
  32. There is nothing Epicurean about desiring a healthy and strong body as this allows us the possibility for a happy and long life and to pursue our goals. He would have dietitians teach students an hour per day on the basics and benefits of a healthy diet and exercise
  33. The point of education is not to create scholars but to form people
  34. There is a big difference between intellect and intelligence. Intellect is the capacity for acquiring and using ideas. Intelligence is the ability to use experience, even the experience of other’s, for the clarification and attainment of one’s ends. Intelligence is garnered from experience, action, reading
  35. An intimate knowledge and experience with nature and sports should not be undervalued
  36. Learning language and culture is most natural and easiest when living and immersing yourself in it
  37. Psychology is a theory of human behavior. Philosophy is too often an ideal of human behavior. History is occasionally a record of human behavior
  38. No man is fit to lead if he cannot see his time in perspective of history
  39. Travel, if too varied and hurried, makes the mind superficial and can confirm stereotypes
  40. Much of history is bunk. However, there is an alternate view to history. History is man’s rise from savagery to civilization. History is the record of the lasting contributions made to man’s knowledge, wisdom, arts, morals, manners, skills. History is a laboratory rich in a hundred thousand experiments in economics, religion, literature, science and government. History is our roots and our illumination as the road by which we came and the only light that can clarify our present and future. This history is not bunk and can even be considered the only true philosophy and the only true psychology
  41. The present is merely the past rolled up and concentrated into this moment of time
  42. We are choked with news and starved of history
  43. History is philosophy teaching by example
  44. A constant lesson from history is that revolutionists soon come to act like the men they overthrew
  45. You cannot make men equal simply by passing laws
What I got out of it
  1. At times a bit outdated, patronizing and patriarchal but chock full of wisdom and worth reading and re-reading

March 2017

The Rabbit Hole by Blas Moros 
Jump In. 

My monthly newsletter covers the books I have read over the course of the month, the challenges I undertook as well as some other interesting articles, blog posts, interviews, tools, hacks, etc. 



Full list of books read in 20172016, 2015, 2014

All great books should be immediately re-read

Teacher’s Reference Guides

  • Diving into platform businesses has been exciting and I’ve learned a ton. The fact that platforms increase in efficiency and power as they scale, that they expand markets by bringing on new demand and supply and that they take advantage of network effects are some of the more fascinating aspects that I came across. 

Monthly Challenges

  • Learning some basic dance moves – painful but making progress
  • Lunch time meditation – didn’t get to occasionally but even 10 minutes makes a world of difference


Amor Fati


“One day, in retrospect, the years of struggle will strike you as the most beautiful.” – Sigmund Freud

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February 2017

The Rabbit Hole by Blas Moros 
Jump In. 

My monthly newsletter covers the books I have read over the course of the month, the challenges I undertook as well as some other interesting articles, blog posts, interviews, tools, hacks, etc. 



Full list of books read in 20172016, 2015, 2014

All great books should be immediately re-read

Teacher’s Reference Guides

  • Current rabbit hole is platform companies and network effects. Platform Revolution has been my favorite so far

Monthly Challenges

  • Quarterly 3 day fast – boring but getting surprisingly easy the more I do it
  • Psyllium Husk – 1 tablespoon with water after dinner. Didn’t notice much
  • Don’t eat within 2 hours of bed – failed some of the time but felt lighter the mornings when I did follow through
  • Kip up – failed miserably. No place to practice consitently and didn’t seek help from a teacher


Amor Fati


“For the simplicity on this side of complexity I would not give you a fig. But for the simplicity on the other side of complexity, for that I would give you anything I have.” – Oliver Wendell Holmes

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Platform Scale by Sangeet Paul Choudary

  1. Choudary explains how technology, democratization of connectivity and rise of data-driven decision making systems are enabling a new type of business model – platforms. Platforms are so powerful because they enable efficient interactions, create excess value and are able to scale rapidly
Key Takeaways
  1. The Platform Manifesto
    1. The ecosystem is the new warehouse
    2. The ecosystem is also the new supply chain
    3. The network effect is the new driver for scale
      1. Platform scale is achieved by maximizing the repeatability and efficiency of the platform’s core interaction. Interactions must be executed smoothly and in a manner which kick-starts the next interaction organically
      2. Achieving platform scale requires the ability to scale value creation to scale value exchange – the ability to scale production and consumption simultaneously – and to repeat the two so that each reinforces the other
      3. 5 drivers of platform scale – minimal marginal costs of production and distribution, network effects powered by positive feedback, behavior design and community culture, learning filters, virality
    4. Data is the new dollar
    5. Community management is the new human resources management
    6. Liquidity management is the new inventory control
    7. Curation and reputation are the new quality control
      1. One of the platform’s main focus is limiting poor behavior and interaction risks
      2. Quality control (screening, curation) is vital. Can be done through an in-house editor, through algorithms or through social signals (rating, voting)
      3. 3 factors governing platform adoption – network effects (most important), curation of content, curation of participants (through ratings, reputation, incentives – indicating quality and reliability)
    8. User journeys are the new sales funnels
    9. Distribution is the new destination
      1. New focus on how to distribute its experience into multiple user contexts
    10. Behavior design is the new loyalty program
      1. 3 core principles to platform design
        1. Start with defining the value that is created or consumed, the core value unit
        2. The core interaction – the set of actions that enable the creation and consumption of that value – should be laid out around the core value unit
        3. The design of the platform’s features, functionalities and management should stem from the design of the core interaction
    11. Data science is the new business process optimization
    12. Social feedback is the new sales commission
      1. Platforms often create new behaviors and reward/reinforce the most beneficial
    13. Algorithms are the new decision makers
    14. Real-time customization is the new market research
    15. Plug-and-play is the new business development
      1. Platform as an enabler of interactions – plug-and-play business design, balancing value creation for both producers and consumers, strategic choice of what is “free”, pull/facilitate/match, layering on new interactions, enabling end-to-end interactions, creation of persistent value beyond the interaction
      2. At their core, platforms enable a plug-and-play business model. Other businesses can easily connect their business with the platform, build products and services on top of it, and co-create value. Platforms primarily benefit not from internal production but from a wider source of open co-creation and open market interactions. This ability to drive interactions through a plug-and-play infrastructure is a defining characteristic of platform scale
    16. The invisible hand is the new iron fist
  2. Business model transition from pipes to platforms
    1. Choudary calls traditional companies like manufacturing, “pipes.” Pipes build products or craft services, push them out, and sell them to customers. Value is produced upstream and consumed downstream, creating a linear flow of value, much like water flowing through a pipe. In effect, pipes were designed to enable the flow of value in a straight line
    2. Three forces today are driving a whole new design for business, platforms – increasing connectedness, decentralized production and the rise of AI. These businesses create a plug-and-play infrastructure that enables producers and consumers of value to connect and interact with each other in a manner that wasn’t possible in the past
    3. In this new design of business where the firm is no longer the producer of value, platforms perform two specific roles
      1. They provide an open, participative, plug-and-play infrastructure for producers and consumers to plug and interact with each other
      2. They curate participants on the platforms and govern the social and economic interactions that ensue
    4. Shift in markets from consumers to producers (both can and do add value on platforms whereas only one side typically did in the past)
    5. Shift in competitive advantage from resources to ecosystems
    6. Shift in value creation from processes to interactions
  3. The Broad Goal of Platforms
    1. Goal of platforms is to enable interactions between producers and consumers repeatedly and efficiently
      1. Build platforms with an interaction-first, not a technology-first mindset! Technology should be built only after understanding the interaction that needs to be enabled. Without this in mind, one often ends up with a platform that nobody wants to use.
    2. The movement from pipe-based, user-first view to the platform-based, interaction-first view is best captured through the following shift: We are not in the business of building software. We are not in the business of selling products and services. We are in the business of mediating and enabling interactions
      1. The importance of an interaction-first approach to building platforms cannot be emphasized enough. Focusing on the actions involved in an interactions helps us design the tools and services as well as the rules required to facilitate the interaction. Understanding the players participating in the interaction and their motivations helps us design the actions and rewards that create pull on the platform. Finally, only by focusing on the core interaction can a platform know what data it needs to capture
  4. The Core Value Unit
    1. The core value unit is the minimum stand alone unit of value that is created on top of the platform. It represents supply or inventory created on top of the platform and without this, the platform has very little value in and of itself
      1. For network/marketplace/community-dominated – goods, standardized services, non-standardized services
      2. Infrastructure dominated – apps
      3. Data dominated – data helps the platform become more efficient overtime, data itself is the source of value
      4. To increase platform scale, focus on increasing the quality and quantity of core value units on the platform. However, platforms are unique in that they don’t control this inventory as this is produced outside the platform
      5. All actions in the core interaction fall into one of the following buckets – creation, curation, customization, consumption. The keys to platform scale lie in simplifying each constituent action in the core interaction
      6. Information exchange has 3 components – The producer creates a core value unit, the consumer sets up a filter of some combination of overlap and data, the value unit that best passes through the filter is served to the consumer (based on good data and filters). Filter can be point in time (search) or cumulative (taking account of past history or behavior) or some combination
  5. 6 elements of execution
    1. Choice of the overall interaction space – connection, content, clout, coordination, competition, culture and code
    2. Production incentives – tools/access/both, simplify production process, great curation, clear, democratic and equal access path to the top, great conversion rates, good feedback mechanisms, removal of skill, time/effort/investment, resource, access barriers (removal of frictions)
      1. Frictions can sometimes be useful when trying to discourage the repeatability of undesirable interactions and can indicate quality, superior signaling or a barrier of some sort
    3. Building long-term cumulative value – reputation, influence, collections, learning filters
    4. Strong curation mechanisms and trust
      1. 7 Cs of Trust – confirmed identity, centralized moderation, community feedback, codified behavior, culture, completeness, cover
    5. Strong filters and relevance
    6. Ownable interactions – more difficult for platforms offering nonstandardized services (TaskRabbit) but in order to own the interaction, all platforms must create more value than they capture
  6. The Chicken and the Egg Problem
    1. All platforms must overcome the chicken and egg problem until they reach critical mass, the minimum network size at which there are enough producers and consumers of value on the platform to ensure that interactions spark off reliably
    2. Solutions to the chicken and egg problems have a few defining characteristics:
      1. Breaking the vicious cycle – platform should have standalone value, users to derive value even without other users
        1. The standalone mode, for producers, should encourage the creation of value units on the platform, which can then be used to pull in the consumption side
        2. Faking initial supply may often help kick start network effects (YouTube had pirated content early on) – seeding and weeding, seeding demand, seeding supply
        3. Identifying a group of power producers and providing them with tools and incentives to better “harvest” their following can solve the chicken and egg problem very effectively
        4. Get more difficult side on board through curation and incentives
        5. Often, the solution to finding adoption lies in providing backward compatibility with existing solutions
        6. Focus on value-creating interactions and then scaling those interactions instead of focusing entirely on scaling the user base. Small user bases with thriving interactions trump large user bases with low activity
          1. Solve a pain point for a niche segment, target a micro-market where small is good, leverage existing interactions in the micro-market, find a micro-market that encourages spread, find a micro-market that is representative of the final market, a micro-market may be a thin-sliced use case, make a two-sided market one-sided
          2. A platform can scale well only if it encourages interactions within a small user base before attracting a large number of users
      2. Positive feedback
      3. Maximizing overlap between consumers and producers
      4. Getting the harder side in first (through incentives)
      5. On-boarding of two distinct markets
    3. Five design principles for solving chicken and egg problems
      1. Finding a compelling bait to start the loop
      2. Ensuring there is no friction in the feedback loop
      3. Minimizing the time it takes for the startup to reach critical mass
      4. Incentivizing the role that is more difficult to attract
      5. Staging the creation of two-sided markets
  7. Scaling & Virality
    1. Scaling strategies
      1. Bump – non-sustainable exposure such as PR, advertising and events; important for initial traction
      2. Engines – an internal engine of growth and designed to grow as a consequence of usage
      3. Also needs to create the hooks and motivations that will enable and incentive users to expose the offering to others, every time they use it
    2. Misconceptions about virality
      1. Virality and word of mouth are two names for the same phenomenon – virality a consequence of users using the platform, not loving the offering. Virality does not need fans, it merely needs users who are encouraged to bring in other users
      2. Virality and network effects are the same and lead to rapid growth – open platforms like email do not benefit form network effects whereas closed ones do (but both can have virality)
      3. Virality is all one needs for a growth strategy – should be complemented with other user-acquisition models
      4. Virality involves manipulating users to send out invites to other potential users
    3. Networks spread like diseases do
      1. The sender – a user on the platform sends out a message about the platform
        1. Sender incentives – why will the sender send units out of the platform?
      2. The core unit – message is typically the core value unit
        1. Spreadable unit – what is the minimum transferable unit on the platform that one can move on an external network?
      3. The external network – units spread on an external network, connecting people
        1. External network – Where will the unit from the platform meet current non-users
      4. The recipient – recipient on the external network interact with the unit and is brought back to the original platform
        1. Recipient incentives – why will a non-user on an external network convert to a user on the platform?
        2. The recipient, if interested, then joins and becomes a sender and starts the process over
    4. Virality is a design problem, not an optimization problem. Take into account:
      1. Sender incentives, low friction in creating core value units, high percentage of producers, spreadable core value units (triggers an interaction on an external network), plays on the producer-as-sender dynamic, the spread of the unit helps to complete an incomplete interaction)
      2. External network – choice of network which takes into account relevant interactions, relevant connections, relevant look and feel, add value to users on this external network, create an unfair advantage and make integration as easy as possible
      3. Recipient incentives – unit should serve as a compelling pitch to the platform and a call to action embedded within the unit
      4. 4 key optimization priorities for achieving sustainable viral growth
        1. Send: maximize outflow of units from the platform
        2. Spread: ensure that units spread on the external network
        3. Click: maximize clicks on an external network
        4. Convert: minimize cycle time
    5. Producers never spread the word about the platform, they merely spread the word about their creations
    6. Platforms that succeed with viral growth reward users with accelerating social feedback
    7. Network effects can work against platforms if higher adoption gets in the way of interaction efficiency and repeatability, reducing interaction quality. To achieve sustainable scale, a platform needs to scale both the quantity and the quality of interactions that it enables
      1. A scaling strategy for platforms should involve scaling of production, scaling of consumption, strengthening of filters through ongoing data acquisition, scaling social curation, scaling community culture, minimizing interaction risk
      2. Lack of curation scaling is very common when platforms fail. Platforms need to ensure that access and creative control, as well as curation and customization, scale well as the platform scales
      3. Platforms must encourage cross-cluster interactions as well as cross-cluster incentives
  8. Other
    1. Platforms aren’t truly software but they are eating the world – efficient social and business interactions, mediated by software
    2. Value creation still dependent on aggregation, but not of labor or resources. Rather, the ecosystem is the new warehouse, supply chain and scale through network effects. Shift from culture of absorption to data absorption. Manage community incentives and governance
    3. Must ensure there is never unfilled demand
    4. While platforms can be incredibly different, the following three distinct layers tend to emerge repeatedly: data, infrastructure, network-marketplace community. These 3 can play varyingly large or small roles depending on what the platform wants to achieve, how to differentiate itself and what the key drivers of value are
    5. The single most important decision in testing is the choice of the hypothesis to be tested. Without clarity on this, one can waste a lot of time testing irrelevant hypotheses and optimizing poor design. Laying out the overall architecture of the platform helps us understand the key points of failure for the ensuing platform business and shows us what needs to be tested. All design decisions should ensure the repeatability and sustainability of the core interaction that the platform enables
    6. The platform canvas is a framework for makers to build interaction-first platform businesses and includes the value-creating interaction, the platform that enables the interaction, a mechanism for value capture, enablement of a plug-and-play business model  through channels (websites and apps) and access control for producers and filter creation for consumers. The platform must provide tools and services of creation, curation, customization and consumption.
      1. Value is derived from charging one side to access the other, charging a third party for advertising, charging producers and consumers for premium tools and services, charging consumers for access to high quality, curated producers and charging producers for an ability to signal high quality
    7. The TRIE Framework – tools and rules, interaction, experience
      1. Platforms allow the users to shape their own experience and not just accept the maker’s ideas
      2. Platforms must allow for emergent behavior to arise, some of which may redefine the architecture and lead the platform in entirely new directions
    8. Everything old is new again! The answers lie in using the old to interpret the new
    9. Platform strategy involves 3 primary priorities, aligned with the three layers of the platform stack – pull, facilitate, match
    10. Two critical factors will determine the success of a company in the on-demand economy: multihoming costs (ease of switching between platforms) and interaction failures
    11. Best way to launch a platform business at a conference is to ensure that the core interaction on the platform is organically embedded into the conference experience and that it fits in with the activity at the event
What I got out of it
  1. A dense and extremely insightful book on how to design, think about, build and spread successful platform companies. At the core of it, platforms must make sure they enable their core value unit to foster interactions which are as frictionless as possible in a repeatable, efficient and effective manner

Chapters in My Life by Frederick Taylor Gates

  1. Frederick Taylor Gates, the senior business and philanthropic advisor to John D. Rockefeller, recounts his life story and interaction with JDR
Key Takeaways
  1. Gates grew up in a relatively poor household but his parents were hard working and were never for want. Gates became a Baptist minister after graduating from Rochester and practiced for about a decade. He came into contact with JDR during his fundraising process for a Baptist university in Chicago. JDR was impressed enough with his acumen and common sense that he brought him on board, eventually to become senior business advisor for JDR’s business and philanthropic decisions
    1. While preaching in Minnesota, Mr. Pillsbury approached Gates on how to handle his will and was taken in by the suggestion that he required Gates to take a year off from being a pastor to spread the message of the importance of Baptist advancement in the state
    2. Joined the Executive Board of the American Baptist Education Society and was central in communicating with Rockefeller on the importance of establishing a great Baptist university in central Chicago, what would later become the University of Chicago. Gates was named by Rockefeller to be one of the Trustees for the University of Chicago which he helped fund-raise for and then help lead.
    3. Dr. Harper was the University of Chicago’s first president and had ambitious plans for the University. His expansion and spending put him at odds occasionally with Mr. Rockefeller but his vision helped make UChicago the incredible institution it is today
    4. Gates soon after moved to New York to help with Rockefeller’s other benevolences and it was at this point that he turned away from the ministry. Gates helped to direct Rockefeller’s fund and then lead and manage these companies, trusts or philanthropic organizations. Gates steered Rockefeller’s donations towards the principles of scientific giving and eventually laying aside retail giving to individuals and local charities and fully entering wholesale philanthropy to approved public agencies. Gates had little business experience but Rockefeller trusted that he would learn and put him in that position because Gates had a “great store of common sense.” Gates responds by saying that, “his excuse is valid in its implication that common sense diligently applied is usually the best possible solvent of difficult business problems. Gates helped Rockefeller sell out of many poor investments which a “syndicate” of old friends and acquaintances had looped Rockefeller into but ended up being reckless
      1. In his study of one of Rockefeller’s mining investments in Colorado – “My self-distrust proved my salvation. I would not rely at all on any examination of mine. If these consolidated gold properties were what they were represented to be, they would be well known. They ought to be well known throughout Colorado. There must be men in Denver itself who knew of them. I could and would find out what experienced and reliable men in Colorado knew of these mines.” He would come to find that Rockefeller’s investment was in a complete fraud with no gold by conversing with these fluent miners and engineers
      2. This was too much for Rockefeller and it was then JDR invited Gates to be the independent agent in charge of both his philanthropic and personal investing decisions
  2. On Children & Parenting
    1. Never underestimate the impression something can have on a young child – the years of early childhood usually fix the character and destiny of the man
    2. It is a mistake to think children need to be harshly rebuked. To raise gentlemen and women, one must treat them in childhood with courtesy
    3. The parent can force an apparent but wholly deceptive victory by fear, for no victory is complete that does not carry the child’s reason, and conscience, the victory of intelligent voluntary repentance
    4. Children should be taught to pray for what they crave and always in their own words or else the prayer rings hollow. Spent his entire adult life trying to erase his early religious training as he found it painful and stamped out his natural desire to do good. It is ideals lovingly cherished, not terrors, that educate the conscience and create character
    5. My parents talked over all their troubles with entire freedom in the presence of their children. I know no better way than free discussion in the presence of the children of the daily problems of the family, including its relations with others, if children are to be trained in such worldly wisdom as their parents have, and in the practical conduct of life
    6. I find that praise and encouragement work wonders and it gets students much more interested and self motivated
    7. My mother told me to do everything I was told to do, be it high or low; shrink from no duty however difficult or distasteful, and do it, said she, just as well as you can. Do it better than others. Though you may not have as much talent as some, your labor in this way will always be in demand
    8. Beyond mere physical protection of the very little children, we sought to train our children to govern themselves. We tried to make love only the atmosphere of our home. in this spirit it was not necessary to treat them as underlings , but as friends. We advised, persuaded, encouraged, commended, rewarded them, but we sought never to command or forbid. The last word of all counsel was: such is our advice and our wish, but make your own decision; do as you think best. More often than not they begged us to make the decision for them, for they found it easier to be governed than to govern themselves. But self-control can be attained only by the habitual practice of it
    9. We did not spare expense at any point, because we thought that the taste for good music would be worth more – far more – to our children in later life than the inheritance of the money it cost
    10. The mind of the child grows not by absorbing the contents of books, but by intense, spontaneous, self-directed, mental action, just as the body of the child grows by intense, spontaneous, self-directed physical action in his plays. The mind and body are inseparable. They share a common life. We supplemented the schools with twice as much self-directed work and play outside the school hours. We made it a rule to provide at home all the tools, and all the chemical, physical and electrical equipment, apparatus, and material that our children wanted…We had given a minor place only to the study of books but had kept our children busy sixteen hours per day in self-chosen, spontaneous activity, as intense as possible and furnished with all needed facilities and tools
  3. On Business & Philanthropy
    1. Every step a man takes in capacity to work, and to do better work will bring him into a higher plane – a plane in which there will be fewer competitors, greater demand and higher rewards
    2. I knew of course that no man becomes fitted for a new position of importance and responsibility, except by months or years. Of experience in the position itself and that in the process of becoming fitted there must be errors, embarrassments and chagrins
    3. Worked for a Mr. Smith who was Scrooge-like but Gates stood up for what he believed was right and earned this man’s trust. He learned the basics of banking and bookkeeping which would serve him well later in life
    4. You need to be educated enough so that you can bring your ideas down to the point that common people can understand them
    5. No man ever made such advancement in culture who did not early in life learn to save the minutes. Benjamin Franklin said “Time is Money.” To you time is more than money. It is mental culture; it is reputation. It is power over men; it is success.
    6. Doing much in a little time, the impression is apt to wear away. Don’t hurry, take time
    7. On fund raising – never tried to increase the subscription or even to get the last cent possible. We aimed to leave friends behind us, not enemies. It was up to them how much to donate and our job was to be grateful whether the donation was large or small
    8. Medicine had become full of charlatans and had fallen behind many other sciences because it was not endowed at colleges and universities and the research had been left to itself and dependent on individual innovation. It became clear to Gates that medicine could not become a true science until medicine was endowed and qualified men were able to give themselves uninterrupted to the study and investigation of medical research. This was where Gates had an immense influence on Rockefeller. “This idea took possession of me. The more I thought of it, the more interested I became. I knew nothing of the cost of research; I did not realize its enormous difficulty; the only thing I saw was the overwhelming need and infinite promise, world-wide, universal, eternal.
    9. On the Rockefeller Institute – The work of the Institute is as universal in its scope as the love of God. Other philanthropies are limited in their scope to individuals, to communities, to classes, to religions, to states, to countries, to nations. This philanthropy alone is as wide as the race. It knows no boundaries at all. Disease is universal and this is a healing ministration, to prevent or destroy disease…It goes to the fountains of life itself. It deals with what is innermost in every man. For what is health? Health is happiness; mere health itself is happiness…And while we think of the universality of its scope and its elemental character, let us remember its permanency. The work is not for today alone, but forever; not for this generation, but for every generation of humanity that shall come after us. Thus every success is multiplied by infinity
      1. The Institute soon became a “benevolent black hole” for world philanthropies and received appeals daily from every sort of agency of human progress and well-being the world over
    10. Gates was also responsible for pushing Rockefeller to give outside his Baptist denomination and outside his own country, to all worth religions and humanitarian agencies everywhere
    11. Gates became worried about the ever increasing fortune of the Rockefeller’s and the potential social demoralization it could bring to descendants. So, he spoke to JDR and JDR Jr. about setting up great corporate philanthropies for forwarding civilization in all its elements in this land and all lands, limitless in time and amount, broad in scope and self-perpetuating. “I knew very well that Mr. Rockefeller’s mind would not work on mere abstract theories. He required concrete practical suggestions, and I set about framing them.” Suggested endowments to focus on higher education, medical research, fine arts, scientific agriculture, promotion of Christian ethics, promotion of intelligent citizenship and civic virtue and more
    12. Rockefeller divorced himself from the philanthropic decisions in order to eliminate his biases and hopefully put the money to the best uses possible. “His satisfaction springs from deeper and more durable sources than human gratitude…His joy is the joy of achievement. He is after the end. He cannot sacrifice the end to the instrument, even when the instrument is himself.”
    13. Gates thought that some of the best and most important work of the whole foundation was through the Sanitary Commission which initially was set up to help eradicate hookworms from the South and eventually the rest of the temperate regions of the world
    14. It was not Mr. Rockefeller’s way to give words of praise to any of his subordinates. To others he sometimes spoke approvingly of me and of my work, and his words would reach me by round about channels. But to my face he never commended me…But just as I never consciously worked for salary, wealth, or position, so I worked not to secure but to deserve Mr. Rockefeller’s approval.
    15. JDR was never a “bull” or a “bear.” He always followed the market, and never directed it. In every one of our great panics he did everything possible to sustain prices and was always a heavy loser in them. His optimism was incurable, and when panics were on and the credit of banks and individuals exhausted, he unlocked his vaults and loaned his securities without limit to banks and stressed debtors
    16. Gates “combines business skill and philanthropic aptitude to a higher degree than any other man I have ever known.”
    17. Gates was the right man for the job because he believed deeply and irrevocably in the perfectibility of man and especially in the advancement of knowledge as the best means for reaching perfection
    18. Both Rockefeller and Gates agreed on the importance of finding the best men available and leaving them free to do the job in their own way
    19. As stated become more and more preoccupied with equality and uniformity, pluralism and excellence may increasingly become the responsibility of the private sector
  4. Other
    1. Never enjoyed or profited from school but he did come to find his love for natural wood and music in school. The art of teaching consists in following nature’s ways by study of the child
    2. One cannot afford to read a book that is not with buying. Read with pen or pencil in hand and read only useful books
    3. A man’s temptations lie mainly in the realm of his powers
    4. Genius is tempted to be original at the expense of truth
    5. Avoid friction. There is such a thing as moral and intellectual friction. Fretting, worry, envy, jealousy, disputes, quarrels – these are all in the nature of friction. Avoid them as so much waste. Make all your power tell, and waste as little as possible
    6. Avoid the habit of omniscience. Take suggestions. Take criticism. The man who is always right is either omniscient or a fool.
    7. The fact is I know less about the Bible today than I did 30 years ago. I thought I knew something about it then but I have learned that I knew very little about it
    8. The idolatry of general concepts – people bow down and worship general concepts such as church, nation, state, democracy. Pick these words apart, gentlemen, and find out what is in them
    9. I believe that the love and good-will exemplified in the Spirit of Jesus are the secret of human well-being and that in this Spirit lies the hope of the race
    10. None of the precious things in life can be bought with money and money, past a certain point, was more a burden than a gain
    11. Mr. Rockefeller’s habitual policy had been total silence under accusation
    12. Humanity, as I said, must always live with Nature, with her forces and their reactions on mankind. For what is human progress? Ultimately it is this, just this, and nothing else – an ever closer approach to the facts, the laws, the forces of Nature, considered of course in its largest meaning. Nothing else is progress and nothing else will prove to be permanent among men
What I got out of it
  1. Amazing wisdom – not only about business and philanthropic savvy, but on how to raise children, deal with people and lead a happy, fulfilling and successful life