The Next Tech Revolution

When the internet was popularised, the world started asking questions about topics like freedom of access to information, the nature of "digital goods" / "digital ownership", and globalisation.

Now that we're on the cusp of the next technology revolution, I'm excited about more compelling questions entering the zeitgeist.

Virtual Reality is currently being pushed forward by a gaming market (like computing once was). But it won't be long (2019, 2020) before consumer VR starts making its way into every home. All we need is:

  • Standalone headsets (no computer required, coming 2018—2019)
  • Faster wireless communication (5G, coming 2020—2021)
  • Cloud rendering (2018—2019)

Once VR has become popularised, the global conversation will shift to focus on some very interesting questions. What is the nature of reality? Do quantum mechanics prove that we're already living in a simulation? Is consciousness emergent from biology, or something deeper? Does "self" even exist?

At the same time, I hope we see this technology creating new social dynamics, forming new partnerships and friendships, in ways that flat screen communication has never been capable of. 

I don't think we'll recognise the world 5 years from now.


Postscript: One of my earliest VR experiences was sitting in AltSpace and meeting a Rabbi. We discussed the future Halakha (Jewish law) of VR for hours. Is flying around Google Earth considering "travelling" on the Sabbath? Should my avatar wear a kippah? Is my avatar Jewish? Is it permitted to eat virtual pork? These are questions that will have real authoritative answers in the near future.

Back to Bookmarks

Here's a productivity tip I've rediscovered, straight from 2003: Browser Bookmarks.

Since I left social media, I found it hard to keep track of four things:

  1. News (from sources I care about)
  2. Blogs (written thoughtfully and regularly)
  3. Photos (from family and friends)
  4. Videos (information and entertainment from sources I trust)

My first inclination was to turn to RSS – the ancient XML format that kept everyone up to date in the 2000s. But RSS is dying, and I believe blogs should be read in the context of their site (design).

Instead, I started using the browser feature that's been since Netscape: ⭐️ Bookmarks! I created a folder for each of those four categories, and whenever the mood strikes me, I just right click and choose "Open in New Tabs".

News and Blogs are self explanatory, but it bears stating that you can still follow Instagrammers and YouTube channels without an account on their service.

You can view any public instagram account online by visiting https://instagram.com/[username]

For YouTube, I like to visit the channel page, then click on the Videos tab, and bookmark that. This way I'm always seeing a list of the latest videos from that channel. I also use 1Blocker to block cookies from Youtube (so that the videos I watch don't result in "Recommendations").

I hope you'll consider hitting Command+D (or Ctrl+D), and visiting this blog again soon.

Something Daily

Inspired by Seth Godin, I recently attempted a daily writing project. I committed to write one blog post every day, indefinitely.

Here are my reflections.

Writing takes time. Not the actual typing – that part is easy. But finding inspiration everyday is a serious commitment. It can take hours, and it can't be forced.

Sometimes opening yourself up to inspiration means sitting in a café reading a magazine, or going for a stroll through the park, or reading a book. Let's be real: I have a family and a job, I don't have time to wistfully wait in the bath for my eureka! moment every single day.

After a few months, I gave up. And when I gave up… I really gave up. I didn't write again until… well, now.

I've realised that, at least for me (and maybe for you, too?), trying to force a daily routine isn't the best way of falling in love with a habit or practice. I advocate for a different approach. Let's call it…

No Pressure Weekday Habits

I'll illustrate this habit-building technique with an example: Meditation. I love meditation, but I haven't always. At first, I only loved the idea of meditation, the practice took some getting used to.

All the books I read told me that it was vital that I meditate every single day for the first 3 months (a common trope among daily habit pushers). Other books told me to start with just 5 minutes a day (or write only 1–2 sentences, or run for only 1km).

That wasn't working. So instead, I decided to commit to the following:

Meditate for at least 30 minutes, but only on weekdays, and only if I feel like it.

In the end, I found that my intuition here worked wonderfully. It was the pressure of not missing a day which caused me to give up. It was the triviality of "small habits", that caused me to give it away. Now, I often happily meditate for 20—30 minutes, and I do so most days.

So, back to writing.

After a few days of writing every day, I started feeling stressed, worried, and overworked. Worse – the short posts were often uninspired or forced. That's not the sort of writer I want to be.

Instead, I'll be the writer who taps out a decent chunk of valuable content every single day.

But only on weekdays, and only if I feel like it.

Pixel Art

It’s very important to me to be a creator, not just a consumer.

It’s very easy for me to consume, and consume, and never stop. It’s hard to let the inspiring inspire.

Recently I came across a Kickstarter project for an 80’s arcade themed game 198X. This time, I couldn’t help but be inspired by the retro art style. So, I decided to give it a go for myself.

My kids, pixel art style. @10x

After a half-day of art history study, tutorials, and practice, this is the result. I’m really happy with it, and I’ve resolved to keep practicing. Maybe animate those little limbs and create a side-scroller?

Reflections

Reflective Thinking is, essentially, Critical Thinking.

When it comes to productivity hacks and workflow tools, I like to keep it simple. Different strokes for different folks. Here’s one I find to be universally useful: Reflection.

My wife loves to keep a diary, where she reflects both visually and in writing nearly everyday. My mind tend to focus more on the future, so reflective thinking doesn’t come naturally to me. After putting in place habits to create a reflective practice, I’ve found the benefits to be incredibly helpful.

There are many benefits of reflection, but I’d just like to tell you about the one I’ve found most useful:

Reflective Thinking is, essentially, Critical Thinking.

Without a reflective practice, I never pause to assess how I’ve performed, or what changes I can make to improve. By adding a simple weekly exercise, I drastically improve my long term performance, and refocus my energy into the right places.

For me, since reflection thinking doesn’t happen very naturally, I have set myself a very achievable goal: Reflect, in writing, one per week, at least one sentence.

I often end up writing out a page or two, but there’s no pressure.

How do you set aside time for reflection? What habits have you created to help you find time for critical thinking?

Audience + Attention + Value

Use this formula to evaluate a product concept. Use it to cull your ideas list.

I can’t stand formulaic approaches to otherwise intuitive and creative endeavours. When it comes to building a product, a step-by-step guide is nearly always a waste of time.

That said, there’s always something new to learn from every guide. I love the simplicity of this approach. I use it to evaluate a product concept, often using it as a tool to cull my ideas list:

Audience + Attention + Value = A Good Product

Audience: Is there an existing audience? Is the customer segment easily defined, and found all in the one place?

Attention: Do you already have the audience’s attention? Perhaps through previous products, community reputation, or media?

Value: Are you bringing a strong value proposition to your audience? Do you have the right balance between benefit and cost?

The Entrepreneurs Secret

It’s a good idea to make plans in advance.

One of the most well guarded secrets of entrepreneurs is: Depression.

A startup malaise is all too common. There are ridiculous amounts of stress and work involved with starting a new business, and “leaving a dent in the universe” (a common Silicon Valley mantra). Cases of panic, anxiety, and burnout are frequent and often go undiagnosed.

If you’re struggling with depression now, please seek help.

If you’re feeling on top of things, and you’re an entrepreneur, it’s a good idea to make plans in advance to help you recognise burnout.

What habits can you put into place to help reduce your anxiety? How will you recognise burnout if it shows up?

Marketing with Humility

Being humble means being honest about ourselves, not promoting the aspects we think others will like best.

Not every business is, or should be, humble. Lots of brands are about power and attention, and that’s okay. But if you have a brand which values humility, marketing can be a real challenge.

It’s natural to want to highlight your strengths, or at least, highlight what you think your customers might perceive as strengths. I’ve found that this approach often feels unauthentic, pitchy, and too “keyword” verbose.

Instead, be honest. Write as though you were talking to a very close friend, whom you want to recruit. Show them your best aspects, but keep it real.

How else can you talk about yourself, without talking about yourself?

Finding Your Swoosh

An entrepreneur could never design a logo as effective as Starbucks.

I’ve always said that a logo can make or break a business.

More specifically: finding a visual identity which deeply resonates with your audience can help your product immensely. By contrast, if your visual identity is jarring to your audience, it can seriously set you back.

A piece of advice given by Seth Godin is that logos are “just a placeholder, a label waiting to earn some meaning”. He stresses that your brand is what matters – and he’s right. However, where he and I disagree is on how much influence the visual representation of your brand has.

There’s a reason that companies like Apple and Nike spent tens of thousands of dollars on their logo. To the lay person, a swoosh or a half-eaten apple may seem simple, but a lot of research and iteration goes into fine-tuning their reverberative quality.

The work of Frank Lloyd Wright and Max Braun may seem simple, but it takes a lot of talent and experience to boil something down to its barest essential. As Clare Boothe Luce is famous for saying, Simplicity is the ultimate sophistication.

A layperson could never architect a building as simple as Farnsworth House. A bootstrapping entrepreneur could never design a logo as effective as Starbucks.

What is your area of expertise? If you were to outsource your visual identity, where could your talent and experience be focused?

Quantum Leap

Small changes to our product can lead to large changes in user behaviour.

The colloquial phrase Quantum Leap or Quantum Shift means to make a very large improvement or change. Ironically, this is the exact opposite of  Quantum’s scientific definition, which refers specifically to the smallest possible change.

When operating at scale, we find that small changes to our product can create large changes to user behaviour. A good question to ask ourselves is: What’s the smallest possible change I can make to my product which will result in the largest possible returns?

The answer will give us a hypothesis: I believe that moving the advertisement into the sidebar will increase my email subscription rate by 10%.

Now, test, measure, and iterate. Aim to achieve a huge quantum leap by implementing a tiny quantum change.