Author Archives: Zewen Liang

About Zewen Liang

http://www.LiangBrian.com

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?

Some frameworks for making decisions

Some concepts from my recent readings collide together when it comes to the framework of how to make a decision, identify a good idea, or make a good investment. They are somehow similar but congruent. I think it’s a good idea to list here.

1. Sam Altman suggests to “look for small bets you can make where you lose 1x if you’re wrong but make 100x if it works. Then make a bigger bet in that direction. One common example is people can get too comfortable to leave behind their jobs at Google or Facebook, instead of bootstrapping a business even they have some good ideas. The truth is that if the business fails, it’s not difficult to be back to the corporate life; but letting go of a potentially great idea that could grow exponentially would be regrettable. The ethos is more of, instead of asking “Does it work?”, ask “If it works, how big it can be?”

2. Chamath Palihapitiya shed light on how he comes up with ideas by always asking two questions “Is it relatively non-courageous to start but will it get deeply courageous to keep going? And, if it were to happen, is this an unbelievably hard thing that would just shock people?” He raised an example of Airbnb – it’s super easy to scrape a bunch of listings on Craigslist and I stuck them on my website, but it gets incrementally harder and the courage has to go way up to make every room in every building that’s not a hotel bookable and behavable like a hotel.

3. Ray Dalio in his famous Principles: Life and Work puts that you should find the most believable (or the smartest) people possible who disagree with you and try to understand their reasonings led to the conclusion but not the conclusion itself. It’s a great way of staying out of your confirmation bias bubble. You’d consider not doing it if the reasonings resonate; if you still insist, then go for it.

4. Try many options at the very beginning when cost is still low to avoid path dependent. Like the nature of Greedy Algorithm, people tend to look for the optimal choice at each step (when breadth isn’t wide enough) as they attempt to find the optimal overall solutions. It’s a short term game versus long term’s. As mentioned here, the solution is to introduce Simulated Annealing where in general one should explore more opportunities early on and can explore less as one proceeds for efficiency.

5. Not to make a decision because of fear or ego. Fear and ego are two ends of spectrum. We might have made a decision because we are too afraid of being disliked not because of it’s the right decision. And we might have said something with too much pride not because it’s the right thing to say. The best decision is made when one can overcome their fear and detach their egos.

6. Two types of decisions: one-way doors (irreversible and highly consequential), and two-way doors (you can back up if it’s wrong). Make fewer but better type 1 decisions carefully when you are at your best, and make type 2 decisions quickly by delegating or outsourcing or consulting individuals with high judgments.

The beauty of different systems coming together

说一说最近我看到的Google Maps AR里所发生的美妙化学作用。这种不同的系统(产品技术、设计哲学、以及商业战略)都完美结合的例子并不常见。

Google Maps AR的视频:

应用层面是AR增强现实,稍用了点机器学习来识别建筑物,同时谷歌街景有世界各地城市的建筑物图像。虽然这三者(AR + ML + Street View)的配合缺一不可,但私以为其中最savvy之处在于街景,因为这并不容易被其他公司复制:过去数年数个街景汽车在地球各地所采集到的数据。以往的努力完全pave the way for今天的应用。

这种有默契的配合,让我想到我之前的一篇博客Cutting a hole to make a handle里面提到的”不重造轮子“之美。利用已有资源来建造商业moat优于重新去添加或开发yet to happen的“轮子”。这种天衣无缝的感觉,就像Facebook主产品(带有Social Graph的Feeds)和其商业模式(based on Social Graph的highly targeted的广告)那样的一拍即合。对于这个,Benedict Evans或许形容得更加形象:“sharing和feed browsing是revenue-generating behaviors。”

Search for China

Interesting comments on Baidu’s downturn in China: https://www.zhihu.com/question/311212158

While most discussions about Project Dragonfly (Google Search for China) focus on ethics or privacy, this perspective seems to be missing – Search as product might no longer be relevant to China users. No?

74% of Chinese online payment is on mobile vs 15% in the U.S. (source)
98% of Internet Users in China are mobile users (source)

From the user behaviors standpoint, unlike US, it’s a totally different climate when the dominant of population are mobile-only users who have never used PC (or web). Search by nature arguably isn’t a strong vehicle in mobile; Apps are. On mobile, people don’t like searching stuff to get jobs done, but instead would browse feeds to consume whatever algorithm throw to them.

From the data aggregation standpoint, Search was born in the era of World Wide Web, and is largely beneficial from the open web. But in the mobile world, each App is an isolated island, and it became difficult for Google to harvest data (I doubt if PWA / Instant Apps only work best with Google’s own ecosystem like Android and Play but struggle to work with iOS Apps).

That said, even Search might not be the best product-market fit for China users, Assistant might have a chance to get it through. Because Assistant is a native form to mobile (or all kinds of devices). I have a hard time to imagine what a success will be looking like for Assistant though. If Assistant can succeed, I think it’s a better product than Search for China’s population.

(Disclaimer – views in the article are my own and have nothing to do with my company.)

如果做这么一个插件 – Headline Blocker

午饭和组里人讨论出一个项目idea:Headline Blocker。

就是做这么一个插件,把所有文章的标题屏蔽掉(就像Ad Blocker屏蔽掉广告一样),这样大家不会因为“标题党“而点进去一些 “You won’t believe…“ 或 “7 things you should…” 这样clickbait的文章。技术上并不难。

如果觉得缺点是人们需花更多时间去识别一篇文章的好坏的话,可以加这么一个feature:通过文章内容自动生成一个中立的文章标题。这样每篇文章从标题角度来说起码是同一起跑线。

虽然这插件初看是没有盈利的希望,而且是一种“反惰性“(而不是利用人的惰性)的自讨苦吃的方式。但是从humanity*的角度来说,或许是一种挽救?

(*假新闻传播得更快更广,利用人类贪嗔痴弱点的文章更受欢迎)

Apple’s vulnerability in China

In the most recent Stratechery podcast Episode 158 – A Significant Shift, Ben Thompson made a good yet subtle point about Apple’s recent revenue warning followed by its biggest stock-price drop. To paraphrase – because of Apple’s shallow software moat in China, it’s particularly vulnerable in China when there’s an economic recession.

To break the analysis down in my own words –

1) WeChat (and similar services in China) and Android undermine iPhone’s software experience.

  • WeChat provides much better experience than iMessages because its holistic integration of rich services and so on. Unlike the iMessage’s popularity in the US, it is just lukewarm in China.
  • Android’s open source strategy allows the local manufactures like Huawei and Xiaomi to customize their own OS, which weaken the necessity of the holistic iPhone experience (hardware + software). iPhone users in China are not affected by the ecosystem “lock-in”. So switching is easy.

2) Because of 1, people in China cut across iPhone’s underlying OS and buy iPhone more of as a commodity – just like buying a Chanel bag or a Rolex. Apple is a luxury brand for status symbol.

  • (But also thanks to this, most U.S. internet giants (e.g. Google, FB) failed to break into the Chinese market but not for Apple – Apple was able to enter China and succeeded in the market)

3) Because 2, while it’s always the case, when economic recession comes, iPhone sales is more vulnerable in China compared to western countries. People avoid buying luxuries during economic downturn (roughly started from last quarter).

4) Apple’s less vulnerable in other countries because Apple has deeper software and services moat. Westerns buy because they are “locked in” in Apple’s ecosystem.

如何戴上有色眼镜看中国的tech

我当然对China Tech感兴趣,但对通过不同lenses所产生的对China Tech的看法尤为感兴趣。你总不能只沉浸在那些布满“融资/独角兽/AI/区块链”等词汇的微信公众号里。试着戴上不同的“有色眼镜”再去看中国科技圈,便会觉得奇妙无穷。譬如说,对于同一件科技事件,视角一可能会说中国科技日益强大已超越美国,视角二会说中国用户缺乏用户私隐的常识导致这公司有扩张可能性。

我发现有这些有趣的视角来看代中国的科技圈:

  • 没有亚洲背景的左派白人视角。代表:Decode/Recode的Kara Swisher
  • 有亚洲背景的白人视角。代表:Stratechery的Ben Thompson
  • 土生土长的混在白人堆里的ABC的视角。代表:YC的Justin Kan
  • 在美国求学但后来在中国发展的大佬的视角。代表:李开复/陆琪
  • 在中国长大然后在美国求学或工作的中国人的视角。代表:硅谷中国程序员/中国留学生
  • 在中国求学和工作的互联网圈从业员的视角(先锋型)。代表:汪滔
  • 在中国求学和工作的互联网圈从业员的视角(土鳖型)。代表:雷军
  • 在中国求学和工作的非互联网圈的视角。代表:我们爸妈

 

有时间再展开这些视角带来有哪些不同观点和偏好。

Engineered like a computer, but works like a pencil

这次iPad Pro的最重要的创新应该是性能,其次的才是(依重要性排):USB-C插口、pencil地位的增强、全面屏和外观结构、FaceID、其它。

像苹果说的,iPad Pro用的是“比市面上92%的笔记本电脑还要高性能”的A12 Biontic chip,视觉计算比专门打游戏的Xbox One还好。

这是苹果第一次seriously把iPad看作为取代现在笔记本电脑的下一代computing platform的开端。像Luke说的”Engineered like a computer, but works like a pencil”(顶端的计算能力,以人为本的设计)应该就是他们对下一代计算平台的远景。

明天就去剁手😛

2B53F1AC-7557-43BB-B6DF-2709B3BDA8E4

Rams documentary screening

482D7C80-6414-4852-8568-10F8EF01AE0E2A7FD1CC-D5EE-46BD-8A25-268A302975BBDieter Rams纪录片的三藩市试映。电影票数个月前就售罄。

这86岁的德国老头住在一个50年前装修好的家里,被他50年前设计的物件包围着。而这些物件和他本人50年来的性格一模一样:长存、真诚、低调、又顽固。

或许他不知道他的物件和思想启发过多少个追梦少年,从50年前直到现在。

It is an end of an era。