Healthcare for homes

I recently discovered Super, which is basically healthcare for homes so that if the dishwasher breaks they'll pay for the repair or replacement. Interesting that they even use the same vocabulary, like "Co-pay", "Pre-existing conditions", and "Coverage Limits". 

The really interesting move here is selling this directly to real estate agents so that they can offer it as a package on top of the home. Their yearly plans are less than $1000, and if the house is going for $500,000, that's a pretty cheap "one more thing" to include with the home.

And Super could be more than just repairs. Home Gallery Project could be a great addon, as could other services like tenant sourcing and management. 

Principal contradiction applied to product management

China adopts the Marxist idea of a principal contradiction that needs to be resolved for society to move forward, or else it will lead to chaos and revolution. Through the years this contradiction has evolved from "the people versus imperialism" to "unbalanced and inadequate development versus the people's ever-growing needs for a better life". 

This principal contradiction can also be used to evaluate product development goals that are at odds with each other. Building one product feature actively hurts another feature. 

For Google, the principal contradiction is finding another cash cow versus protecting the one they already have. A decade ago it used to be monetizing search versus hurting usage, but that seems resolved now.

For Apple, it's creating something that attracts fanatics versus serving a billion users, not all of whom can be a fanatic. For Twitter, it's saving what's good versus making something better.

Resolving this contradiction is critical to allow the company to move on. 

Toolkit for startups

I've found many amazing tools over the past 9 months that any new project should consider using.

  • Firebase - Great for prototyping because it's so easy to change data on the fly and has a simple json structure. Plus, functions let you write bits of server code without needing a server.
  • Fullstory - Shows you screen recordings of each user visiting your site. I've found and fixed so many bugs this way. 
  • Github - The private repositories are cheap these days.
  • Sendgrid - Great for sending emails
  • Twilio - Great for sending sms
  • Trello - Great for organization
  • React - Finally, building reusable components for the web works like I expect
  • Material Design - Use this to be good enough at design

If you know of others, please let me know!

Space continues to boggle my mind

To get people to notice, you're often looking for that one thing that boggles the mind. And sometimes, nature does that for you on a cosmic scale. Matt Strassler has one such example:

Visualize that if you can: objects a few dozen miles (kilometers) across, a few miles (kilometers) apart, each with the mass of the Sun or greater, orbiting each other 100 times each second.

All I can say is, wow.

Long drives and longer conversations

I love taking an hour or more drive with someone. It's a wonderful opportunity to catch up or get to know somebody from scratch. It's free from distractions, with just enough happening out the window to be interesting. It's a form of intentionally taking time for a discussion.

What's even better is when this type of casual discussion is ritualized. A phone call on the way to work, walking the dog together in the morning, and making dinner together are a few good ways. Rather than dulling the relationship, these rituals make the connection stronger. 

In a way, this is the point of recurring meetings at work. It seems to work pretty well for one-on-ones, not quite as well for larger groups.


Investing in a known space

I recently finished reading The Millionaire Next Door. Super interesting overall and still relevant 20 years later. One topic, in particular, stands out. The authors found that wealth builders tended to invest in stocks related to their job. For example, doctors investing in drug companies.

This is a nice way of reusing specialized knowledge. However, because technology companies move so quickly, publicly traded firms tend to be in the mature stage. It's possible that the equivalent strategy in the tech industry might be angel investing. 

Getting a standing desk, getting older

I spent Friday alternatively putting together a Jarvis standing desk and cursing myself for not buying one earlier.

After moving into the wework my back started hurting. This must be a sign of getting older, because when I previously used a sitting desk my back didn't hurt. At Google, I used a standing desk and loved it. At home, I converted a set of dressers into a makeshift standing desk. And now my back is happy again at the wework.

A commitment to learning

School is a generally accepted thing to do for the first 18 years of life. But then what? After leaving high school, or college, or grad school there is no longer an expectation of learning and a structure to encourage it. 

How much of a 30 year old's week should be spent learning? How about a 50 year old? Zero feels like the wrong answer, but I suspect for many people that's exactly how much time they spent actively learning like they did growing up.

Running wasn't really a thing 50 years ago. From Vox:

The men profiled — the piece only featured men — said they ran in the morning because police became suspicious if they ran at night. The biggest theme was self-consciousness: The Tribune cited neighbors who "only see folly in the sight of a grown man running."

And yet now there are as many Americans running as there are kids in America. 

We lack the structure for this to happen to education overnight, but it's starting. Moocs like Coursera are one piece of the process, but they mostly ignore the social pressure that makes a college student drag herself to class even after a long night spent partying. A curriculum can also be hard to find. There is an abundance of online ways to improve your Mandarin, but which is the right thing to do right now?

I'd like to see most people spend four 3-hour dedicated learning blocks every week. Two can be during the workday learning how to better do the job, and the other two can be after work on any topic. This is more than most people's exercise commitment, but I argue that it's far more important.

A few radicals go a long way towards recognizing characters

Learning to read Chinese characters is a good example of an extremely steep initial learning curve that gets easier over time. When faced with this kind of learning curve, I try to find a way to see the progress I'm making, because otherwise it's easy to get demotivated.

In this case, learning some of the components (radicals) that make up characters is a good way to start, because then even if I don't know a character I can at least point out the radicals inside the character that I do know. It also helps with looking the character up in a dictionary, or describing it to a friend.

Wildfires in Napa, effects felt in SF

The past few days have been very smoky here as wildfires destroy homes and kill people 50 miles away. Even though 50 miles feels far, I've also seen the impact of the fires as friends and friends of friends are evacuated. It's a good reminder of how the city is an integrated part of the surrounding area rather than simply an island. The health of the entire region matters.