Category Archives: Uncategorized

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?

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.

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.

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)