Author Archives: Zewen Liang

About Zewen Liang

Blame game

Reminds me of Malcolm Gladwell’s episode Blame Game – the 2009 Toyota sudden accelerate scandal was overwhelmingly a matter of human error. In fact, a human factor expert said everything about sudden acceleration looks like a problem with the driver, not the car. We just couldn’t admit it.

Qualities for co-founders and leaders

Paul Graham suggested to look for co-founders that are “animal” – “someone who does what they do so well that they pass right through professional and cross over into obsessive.” Basically “a salesperson who just won’t take no for an answer; a hacker who will stay up till 4:00 AM rather than go to bed leaving code with a bug in it; a PR person who will cold-call New York Times reporters on their cell phones; a graphic designer who feels physical pain when something is two millimeters out of place.”

If he/she is a coder, 1) was the person genuinely smart? If so, 2) could they actually get things done? And finally 3) do they have unbearable personalities that we stand to?

Regarding to spotting the managerial talents. Ben Horowitz thought there are two skills that don’t normally go together. It’s a rare thing.

First, system thinking. Most people are not system thinkers – meaning they cannot think about: ok if I change this here it’s gonna affect things over there.

Second, can you actually see the people in your organization – do you know who they are, as opposed to talking to them like they are you. Do you understand their motivation; what they would think about something if they weren’t in the room, and you are making a decision; can you interpret them well enough so that as though they were there, there. Can you understand the implications through the eyes of people who work for you. You might not be able to articulate something, but they can articulate it for you the way you would have done it better.

Crypto based business

1. Business model innovation is probably more disruptive than technical innovation.

2. There were more innovations from the wave of desktop computing -> web than the one of web app -> mobile apps. The previous brought a lot more of business model innovations while the later mainly strengthened the big players.

3. Similar to the transition from desktop>web, Crypto based business will unleash a huge amount of business model innovations.

4. Specially, a lot of business model innovations can happen in user generated content applications, by awarding creators/users token incentives.

5. It hasn’t happened yet because there wasn’t a mainstream wallet to store the crypto-assets.

6. Libra will change this.

(Notes after reading a Fred Wilson blogpost)

Tech cycles: 5 years, and 25 years

Marc Andreessen在与Stewart Butterfield的谈话中说到的两个科技周期: 5年,和25年。


而5年是个startup的证明周期。因为25年太长,几乎没有人会有这个时间验证某个idea成不成。但5年的startup runway会有两个问题。一是士气问题,5年后如果startup还不温不火,大伙总会丧失士气,不免分心想追逐其他机会。二是架构问题,你的产品几年前开始的时候可能就搭建在一个前代的技术栈上。试想想在2013年时即使你赌对了移动,并一直熬到了2017年的iPhone诞生,但整个系统从开始就用的Java。

而且如果founders在第一个5年并没成功,还可能会有心理后果 —— 他们会变得bitter或是犬儒。以至于后来的第二代或是第三代的enterpreneurs再尝试这样的idea,他们便可能会冷嘲热讽:这东西我早尝试过了,做不成的,是这样这样的理由。


Specialization is for Insects

I’ve found so many designers being caught up in the definition of their job description – they are only supposed to craft stuff, graphical stuff. Sometimes they are trapped by people’s stereotypes, and sometimes they trap themselves.

I classify myself as a rebellious designer – I am a designer, and I am not either. I love to deal with some parts of the world that I don’t necessarily need to deal with. And I find pure intellectual enjoyment out of it.

We are not bees.

Anthony Bourdain wasn’t just a great chef – he infused the cuisine into thoughts of human condition and cultures of the “Parts Unknown”. Allen Iverson’s college football coach said he could have been much more stellar if he chose football over basketball. Bruce Lee is a striking philosopher and martial artist. Leonardo da Vinci was a phenomenal painter, scientist, musician and much more.

I am not talking about the T-shape. I am talking about “T-T-T-T”-shape. No one can be good at everything, but can definitely be relatively good at various things. One gets to find out what these various things are and things they are not that good at. We are capable in multiple areas, and the most capable ones can think laterally to make connections.

Higher education only takes 4 years or less to train someone ready for a professional. But we don’t just have 40 years, and it means we can pursue 10 more professionals in our life span.

(P.S. Thoughts after listening to Joe Rogan’s interview with Naval Ravikant)

“Blue Apron菜谱都给了,为什么不做熟再送过来?”

有人问Blue Apron的存在价值是什么:不就是生鲜delivery吗?菜谱都给了为什么不炒好再送来?还有人回答类似“做好的菜送到了不就凉了”。我实在忍不住回复:




I don’t want to live in a world where the product is only built by these people.

Serendipity and Exotic by AI

You might object that the AI would thereby kill serendipity and lock us inside a narrow musical cocoon, woven by our previous likes and dislikes. What about exploring new musical tastes and styles? No problem. You could easily adjust the algorithm to make 5 percent of its choices completely at random, unexpectedly throwing at you a recording of an Indonesian gamelan ensemble, a Rossini opera, or the latest K-POP hit. Over time, by monitoring your reactions, the AI could even determine the ideal level of randomness that will optimize exploration while avoiding annoyance, perhaps lowering its serendipity level to 3 percent or raising it to 8 percent.

21 Lessons for the 21st Century, by Yuval Noah Harari

Yuval在21 Lessons for the 21st Century书中所描述的Serendipity另我沮丧 – 本以为人类应当引以为豪的serendipity,可能也只是被上帝操纵。想跳出算法给你制造的filter bubble并非难事,通过调整randomness比即可,甚至存在最优比率:serendipity比率太低,人类的confirmation bias就越积越深不再探索;serendipity比率太高,人们便失去乐趣以至丢弃。

这让我想起California Roll加州卷的来源:上世纪70年代美国人因为吃不惯纯正的日本刺身寿司而创造出的”混合物”:米饭里包着紫菜、蟹肉、牛油果、mayo的、带有脂肪般口感的加州卷。给老美带来类似chicken nuggets感受的拓展食物。

人们大致不会喜欢完全exotic的东西,除非它的”exotic的程度“被控制在一定的范围。而人们”喜欢“一定程度的exotic,或许只是feel good about themselves.