reading list

Highlights from my Reading List – Week 21


  1. Video Games and the (Male) Meaning of Life – Quilette
    Interesting article on how video games are compensating for lack of meaning in daily life for a large number of men. 

  2. The secret laws of success and status – Nature
    How it works in general, Barabási suggests, is now becoming clear owing to the emergence from research of a number of simple “laws of success”.

    – The first is that “performance drives success, but when performance can’t be measured, networks drive success”.
    – That phenomenon is the subject of the second law: “Performance is bounded, but success is unbounded.”
    – The third law that Barabási describes is: “Previous success × fitness = future success.”
    – And then there’s the fourth law: “While team success requires diversity and balance, a single individual will receive credit for the group’s achievements.”

  3. What should you do with your life? – Andrew Ruiz
    This is quite the article. An excerpt: 

    Has anyone ever successfully answered the question of what we should do with our lives?

    I feel like ever since the Industrial Revolution, mankind has struggled to construct a meaning by which they can satiate their souls.

    What I mean by that: In our ingenuity, we’ve stripped life of some challenges that had previously given us meaning. Our biological systems have not evolved quickly enough to give us the same sense of momentum that our ancestors had when cultivating a garden or constructing a shelter.

  4. The Dynamics of Network Effects – a16z
    The most successful companies and products of the internet era have all been predicated on the concept of network effects, where the network becomes more valuable to users as more people use it. 

    While we know that not all network effects are created equal, they don’t evolve equally either. Every product has different types of network effects that mature and develop differently over time. If anything, most network effects businesses are changing faster than ever before.

    So how can entrepreneurs and founders navigate this era of seemingly diminishing network effects? The trick is to know what your network effects look like today, but also project how they’ll evolve over time. To that end, you’ll need to understand three aspects of your company and how they could change going forward: 
    1) your value proposition, 2) your users/inventory, and 3) your competitive ecosystem. Otherwise you could get caught flat-footed, claiming that network effects are dead.

  5. The Chinese Lesson: Online learning has no inherent churn problem – Matrix Partners
    Chinese education technology companies have proven they can solve the #1 problem in online learning. Most people, however, draw the wrong conclusion from these successes.
    Online learning programs in China post remarkable student retention rates. These results don’t stem entirely from a unique cultural phenomenon that we cannot replicate. Instead, homegrown innovation in product and business model have driven stickiness in this category. We can and should learn from China’s success in online learning.

  6. Inside the Pricey War to Influence to Your Instagram Feed – Wired
    The perverse incentives that govern influencer marketing are bad for both consumers and businesses. 

  7. Headspace vs. Calm: The Meditation Battle That’s Anything but Zen – WSJ
    A pair of apps preach relaxation to millions of customers—but still badly want to beat each other.
  8. Thomas Sowell Returns – Reason
    One of America’s top social scientists on what has changed since he sat down with Reason 38 years ago.
  9. How Netflix’s Customer Obsession Created a Customer Obsession – Nir Eyal
    In 2005, as I joined Netflix as VP of Product, I asked Reed Hastings, the CEO, what he hoped his legacy would be. His answer: “Consumer science.” He explained, “Leaders like Steve Jobs have a sense of style and what customers seek, but I don’t. We need consumer science to get there.”
    Reed’s aspiration was that the Netflix team would discover what delights customers through the scientific process — forming hypotheses through existing data, qualitative, and surveys, and then A/B testing these ideas to see what works. His vision was that product leaders at Netflix would develop remarkable consumer insight, fueled by results and learning from thousands of experiments.
  10. A Life of One’s Own: A Penetrating 1930s Field Guide to Self-Possession, Mindful Perception, and the Art of Knowing What You Really Want – Brain Pickings
    A long read on some of the more important questions I’m thinking about these days. 

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