Monthly Archives: May 2019

One way to think about hardware

It continues to be true that “software is eating the world”. And most of time, the existence of hardware is to preserve the power of software.

Fitbit is the minimum amount of hardware needed in order to bridge the physical world into the software’s. You might be paying a hundred bucks for the Fitbit wristband from the merchants, and the dashboard software come with it seems free. But think about it – would you pay $100 for wristband without a dashboard, or would you rather pay $100 for a dashboard (with all the same fitness data of your own) without wearing a wristband? You may be hesitate to pay a mobile App that costs that much – consumers today are indulgent in the world of free softwares. But a wristband without a dashboard is useless for sure.

So one strategy is to make hardwares as minimal and invisible as possible, in order to preserve the power of software.

Well there’s one exception – hardwares as status signifiers. These will be all luxuries like shoes, bags, and jewelries, as well as gadgets that signifies status or styles – iPhone, Beats Headsets, and more.

P.S. I wrote this to mourn two of my favorite hardware companies: Anki and Jibo, which created unprecedented innovations yet failed.

San Francisco bay is a diverse monoculture

Tyler Cowen once said in an interview that San Francisco / Silicon Valley is “diverse monoculture”. It’s the “diverse” part that gives its creativity, and the “mono-culture” part that gives it efficiency. That’s the benefit of being diverse monoculture. And that’s what makes Bay Area, Bay Area.

This also infers a good chance that next century will be less innovative than this.

Pic: Patrick Collison and Tyler Cowen

Because a lot of innovations and ideas come from intense cultural interchange and connectivity. But in the continual open system, eventually the stronger culture will absorb the weaker, or both cultures become a well-mixed one, until it can’t. Whatever the most creative clusters, like the one in San Francisco Bay Area, are in the process of “cashing in” the creativities which benefits from the open system, until it can’t.

In order to have a sustainable “creativity” to cash in, some sort of insulation matters. Insulation allows a culture to grow and realize its own unique form without distractions from the other frameworks.

That’s why Madagascar has its unusual types of wildlife because the island is so isolated from the rest of the world that it can evolve its eco-system. That’s why we should have the annual fishing band period to preserve organisms so they have time to grow before fully exploited.

“I think you’re a uniquely brilliant, twisted, inward-looking, diverse monoculture, and I’m very glad you are. 😜 ” – Tyler Cowen

产品设计中的“本我”与“超我”

今天下午和Tianyu讨论到抖音的前身Musical.ly(抖音的“首屏即为播放视频”的范式是来自Musical.ly)。其中最为intriguing的是当他说到Musical.ly的负责人Alex Zhu在一场分享里提到的“本我”与“超我”。

很多内容类应用在一开始onboard用户是这样的:让用户去pick一些用户自己认为感兴趣的品类,譬如说化妆、时政、烹饪等等,目的是为了以后的“个性化”推荐。类似的应用例子有太多,譬如是Flipboard, Google +, Facebook Paper, Feedly, etc. 但Alex Zhu说这根本不work,因为这是“超我”在作祟,而“本我”在压抑,即使无人在场。

Flipboard在onboard用户时的“Personalization”设置

你以为你喜欢的并不是你真正喜欢的。算法比你更懂你。

这故事让我想起张小龙为什么抗拒在微信的启动画面植入广告,即使十有八九的应用的启动画面都被广告占领,即使这样本可以对微信增加丰厚的收入。

张说,想象一下你见到家人朋友同事,每次能聊天之前,他们的脸上总贴了一纸广告。

The fastest way to communicate

Last week on Facebook’s F8 Keynote it was said that “Over the next year, we plan make messenger the fastest private communication app on the entire planet”.

Why being fast?

Memo leaked that Evan Spiegel wrote about to make Snaptchat the fastest way to communicate. Evan pointed out the much older version Snapchat ran on iPhone4 is way faster than the latest on iPhone X as more features are introduced along the way. This also explains why when you open Snapchat you go directly to the camera as the first screen. Maybe more importantly, “faster” means talking with images is faster than communicating or documenting in texts.

In the heat of competing being the fastest in communication, Mark even wanted to invent some wearable with “brain-computer interface” that can get the information from your brain out into the world, which undoubtedly is the most fastest way to communicate – “We’re working on a system that will let you type straight from your brain about 5x faster than you can type on your phone today.”

Products without spirit, culture, and enlightenment

After almost 25 years from Steve’s interview, it is still true in many ways for many things:

“The only problem with Microsoft is they just have no taste. They have absolutely no taste. And I don’t mean that in a small way, I mean that in a big way, in the sense that they don’t think of original ideas, and they don’t bring much culture into their products.”

“I am saddened… by the fact that they just make really third-rate products. Their products have no spirit to them. Their products have no sort of spirit of enlightenment about them. They are very pedestrian.”

“And the sad part is that most customers don’t have a lot of that spirit either. But the way we’re gonna ratchet up our species is to take the best and to spread it to around everybody, so that everybody grows up with better things and starts to understand the subtlety of these better things. And Microsoft’s just McDonald’s. So that’s what saddens me. Not that Microsoft has won, but that Microsoft’s products don’t display more insight and more creativity.

Note that I am not specifically talking about Microsoft; ironically I think MS has done a much better job in recent years by infusing their products with design and insights.

Thanks Steve by taking the best and spreading it around our species. The world wouldn’t have been a better place without you.