Author Archives: Zewen Liang

About Zewen Liang

http://www.LiangBrian.com

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 software coming 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 hesitant 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 a “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.

Pinterest与动物本能(写在Pinterest IPO)

在描述人们用Pinterest的动机的时候,印象深刻的是Evan Sharp(Pinterest的设计创始人)会把这归咎到一种数百万年来就存在的动物本能:野生动物在森林猎食或是找果子时,会搜寻各类树叶的痕迹,并进行好坏叶子的挑选。Pinterest是这种非常基因性的行为的表现形式。

“A lot of the beauty of Pinterest isn’t the way it looks. It looks fine, but it’s really the impact it has, the way it gives people a sense of clarity about what their dreams might look like. It gives them a sense of control over what their future could be.”

Pinterest给人的是一个“筑梦”工具。你在pin照片的时候,无论是为了家里装修,还是婚礼策划,你其实在不断堆积你的梦的可能性,然后一步步实现这个梦。

Jonathan Ive提名了Evan为去年Wired的年度人物之一 – “He understands that complex problems can be simplified and often resolved visually”。

类似用视觉来“解决问题”的工具,还有Instagram。

只有脚步声的podcast

偶然听到 the WALKING podcast by Jon Mooallem。听了一个下午。每集40分钟至1小时,都几乎只有步行的声音。具体便是鞋底和湿润泥土间的粘合分离声,鞋底对草叶的碾压声,鞋底踏上油柏路的摩擦声。还有便是出门时的锁门声,金属钥匙在仓促脚步下的摇晃声。偶尔有鸟叫,偶尔有车辆穿行的声音。

神奇的是,每二十分钟Jon还会读一下广告。

我平时爱听Exponent,里面的观点还算艰涩之余,Ben Thompson的语速还奇快,并且爱好不断句。这时常让我想起@BoredElonMusk提过的一个半开玩笑的idea – “Podcast app that scans your brain waves and pauses audio when it knows you’re deep in thought and ignoring dialogue.” 听Ben Thompson说话,经常一走神就错过了,所以常按“倒退15秒”。听这类podcast,压力是会有的,即使是和intellectual上的快感并存。

而这个纯脚步声的podcast刚好相反 – 你不会担心错过什么,因为不需要追赶什么。但我不确定我还会不会继续听下去。看看评价全是满分,还有这类留言:

感谢你这么慷慨带我走你走的路,我感到没那么孤独了”

“Jon你是很好的同伴”

“我在冬天的巴士里听,让我感到仿佛置身车外在做运动”

“Jon的脚步声很促,像是我的朋友要加快脚步追上我”

“上班听的会提高工作效率”

“这是个珍宝,请边走边听,别跑步听”

类似的是不鸟万如一的无次元。但那又是另一个方向:一种更有目的性的、批判意味的、强烈冲击感的、民间市井的声音艺术。

现在是不是podcast的“黑白电视”时代?Podcast的“杜比影院”时代又将会是怎样?