reading list

Highlights from my Reading List – Week 18


  1. TikTok: One person’s cringe is another one’s cool – Hardik Rajgor
    There is a tendency to dismiss the content as bordering on the extremes of cringe: Easy for us Netflix-watching, organic-cafe-frequenting, nihilist types who couldn’t see earnestness if it hit them between the eyes.

    Sure, the videos on TikTok don’t match up to the quality of content we’re used to consuming. But what it has, is the spirit of rebellion against a generation defined by snark, the self-proclaimed gatekeepers of what is “cool” and what is “cringe” on the Interwebz.

  2. The Perfect Spouse Is the Best Life Hack No One Told You About – Ryan Holiday
    For all the productivity and success advice I’ve read, shaped and marketed for dozens of authors in the last decade, I’ve never really seen someone come out and say: Find yourself a spouse who complements and supports you and makes you better.

    Instead, we’re supposed to believe that relationships tie people down, that they are the death knell for creativity and ambition. When Cyril Connolly said that there was “no more somber enemy of good art than the pram in the hall,” he was voicing, in appalling clarity, the selfishness and self-absorption that draws many people away from love and happiness.

  3. Looking For Syllabus 2.0 – USV
    There seems to be a big opportunity to reinvent the syllabus and create best of class learning guides crowdsourced from the already existing open materials on the web.

    How would a syllabus project turn a profit? One possibility is that the syllabi are the free content at the top of the funnel and as people are more and more serious about learning a topic, they can pay to join an online class, fly out to take a week-long certificate-granting seminar or get matched with a learning coach.

    People should be able to learn for the sake of learning for free, and if their goal is to learn in order to change their career or level up professionally, they could have the option to pay to expedite and certify their learning.

  4. Miniso Far. Mumuso good: How China’s cultural copycats took over the world
    Asia’s discount retailers are aping Japanese or Korean culture, but it turns out most of their products – and their operations – are from China.

    Is this necessarily a bad thing, when customers can’t get enough?

  5. Interview: Krishnan Subbaraman (ICE 2008) on a career in the Development sector
    There are multiple choices you need to make to find an ideal role for yourself in the development sector.
    (i) The first of course, is of the specific sub-sector or problem that you’re trying to solve (health, education etc.). I feel this needs to be based on a combination of head (i.e. what is the highest need sector, what is being done already etc.) and heart (what issue are you most passionate about, what can you relate to).
    (ii) The second choice is about balancing scale and attributability of impact, which often trade-off against each other. For instance, if you’re directly teaching a bunch of 30 kids in a remote tribal area in Chhattisgarh, you would presumably have a fairly deep impact on their lives personally, but you’re only working with a small number of kids. On the other hand, if you’re working for a funder that has financed many programmes and supports them to grow, you’re impacting more people, but more indirectly. There is no ‘right answer’ as to which is better, but it’s critical to figure out for yourself what you value more.
    (iii) The third choice is about functionality and identifying specifically what sort of role you would thrive in – these range from field work, project management, data and research, program design and management, consulting, fundraising, finance, government advocacy etc., to name just a few. A lot of these require specific skill-sets, of course, and need to be built.

  6. Move Slow and Make Things: Airtable’s Howie Liu Built A $1B Software Giant Emphasizing Substance Over Speed – Forbes
    In the frenetic world of tech, where the ruling ethos is to move fast and break things, Howie Liu moves at a glacial pace. With Andrew Ofstad and Emmett Nicholas, he launched Airtable in 2013. They wanted to create a spreadsheet with the power of a database. Then they spent three years building a prototype.

    The trio pored over academic papers on collaborative software theory, agonized about the Node.js architecture and obsessed over the speed at which windows popped open. After reading Kenya Hara’s design book White, Liu spent months focusing on the interplay of color and empty space.

    Liu, 30, is sitting in his San Francisco headquarters dressed in a black leather jacket and` black shirt, slacks and shoes. It’s a minimalist uniform à la Steve Jobs, the guy who would fuss forever over the shade of white of an iPod: “Instead of trying to rush a new product out the door, we introduce a period of forced delay, so people have a chance to sleep on an idea,” he says. “It’s a concept we call the simmer.”

  7. The Story Behind How Pocket Hit 20M Users with 20 People – First Round
    The story of Pocket, one of my favorite products of all time. 
  8. A Dozen Attributes of a Scalable Business – Tren Griffin
    Given the diversity of views about the definition of scalability, perhaps it is best thought of as a phenomena where “you know it when you see it.” If that is true, what would an optimally scalable business look like? Or instead, what qualities increase the scalability of a business?

    The remainder of this blog post is a discussion of a dozen attributes which can potentially make a business more scalable. As you read this blog post you may conclude, like I have, that these attributes of scalability are in many cases essentially our old friends from the unit economics equation (CAC, ARPU, Churn, Gross Margin and cost of money) plus free cash flow and some outside frictional forces like government regulation and the laws of physics.

    You may also conclude, as I have, that no two businesses are exactly alike when it comes to scalability. Each of the attributes of scalability are always in flux, with changes in any one attribute potentially impacting the others. There is no precise formula or recipe that will enable a business to scale, but there are best practices. Every business faces different scaling challenges and opportunities.

  9. How A Mysterious Tech Billionaire Created Two Fortunes—And A Global Software Sweatshop – Forbes
    From an office suite on the 26th floor of the iconic Frost Bank Tower in Austin, Texas, a little-known recruiting firm called Crossover is searching the globe for software engineers. Crossover is looking for anyone who can commit to a 40- or 50-hour workweek, but it has no interest in full-time employees. It wants contract workers who are willing to toil from their homes or even in local cafes.
    “The best people in the world aren’t in your Zip code,” says Andy Tryba, chief executive of Crossover, in a promotional YouTube video. Which, Tryba emphasizes, also means you don’t have to pay them like they are your neighbors. “The world is going to a cloud wage.”
  10. Figuring Shit Out With Anna Gát – Sar Haribhakti
    What does learning on the internet mean to you?
    I know “democratising knowledge” is a cliché, but let me use it this way: for me the internet levels passive learning and learning-as-dialogue as near-equal. I can both read a finished text by a dead author, or just listen to other people’s conversations, go read what they’re discussing, and then come back and join the debate. This has expanded my knowledge in truly weird directions, and I often feel positively fluid between countries, political sides, generations and disciplines. Very refreshing.
    A few years ago I started reading only first-source texts — where available — and only then someone else’s analysis or iteration. This gave me a lot of confidence in my own judgement and a healthy amount of skepticism in that of others. OK, maybe this is not healthy, we’ll see!

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