So while those of us in the west were fast asleep, what the heck happened to Bitcoin? In all likelihood, this story did and the news shook some people up a bit. I love when graphs can tell a story, don’t you?
In my own opinion, I don’t think this news is especially bullish or bearish. It seems rather neutral to me. The stance that the Chinese government has taken is basically as follows:
- Bitcoin is a virtual currency and commodity, and should be recognized as one. It is not, however, a real currency in the sense that the Yuan is a real currency. It will not be recognized as a nationally accepted currency.
- Right now financial institutions are not to provide Bitcoin related services to their customers. They are to stick to traditional, regulated commodities.
- If a private business were to offer Bitcoin services, such as an exchange, they are to operate with the necessary licenses and under any applicable regulations.
- People should be allowed to buy and sell it as they please, as long as they are informed and risk-aware.
That’s really all we can derive from this news. I think this is a very realistic way to look at Bitcoin for the Chinese government. Perhaps people are simply disappointed that the Chinese view on Bitcoin is very similar to that of the United States. Some were rooting for a Bitcoin safe haven.
What did Charles Darwin, middling schoolboy and underachieving second son, do to become one of the earliest and greatest naturalists the world has known? What were the similar choices made by Mozart and by Caesar Rodriguez, the U.S. Air Force’s last ace fighter pilot? In Mastery, Robert Greene’s fifth book, he mines the biographies of great historical figures for clues about gaining control over our own lives and destinies. Picking up whereThe 48 Laws of Power left off, Greene culls years of research and original interviews to blend historical anecdote and psychological insight, distilling the universal ingredients of the world’s masters.
Temple Grandin, Martha Graham, Henry Ford, Buckminster Fuller—all have lessons to offer about how the love for doing one thing exceptionally well can lead to mastery. Yet the secret, Greene maintains, is already in our heads. Debunking long-held cultural myths, he demonstrates just how we, as humans, are hardwired for achievement and supremacy. Fans of Greene’s earlier work and Malcolm Gladwell’s Outliers will eagerly devour this canny and erudite explanation of just what it takes to be great.
I’ve only just started this book, but so far it has been a surprisingly insightful read. The style and content is intriguing enough to make me want to keep turning the page.
What are you currently reading, dear reader?
In a Time of Luxury
Average reading time: ~2.5 minutes
When I was a little kid, I had a friend whose family was quite wealthy. They lived in one of the most expensive apartment buildings in one of the most expensive cities in the world (New York City), and their apartment unit took up half of the floor of this extravagant building. They owned the unit as well as another smaller unit in the same building. The second unit was exclusively used as a living and working space for their maid.
Once our families went on vacation together. It turned out neither of his parents drove, and instead employed a full time driver to take them wherever they needed to go. He was a tall Russian man that enjoyed telling us jokes and making us laugh.
I couldn’t imagine ever having access to any of the luxuries his family had access to when I got older. It occurred to me that you didn’t only need to be well off to afford them, but extremely well off. Having your own servant and driver (and later chef, too) available whenever you pleased often meant you had to pay them around the clock to make sure someone was around, and definitely wasn’t cheap.
Such is not the case today. Today we live in a time of luxury, more so than many of us even realize. Modern technology has enabled a whole new luxury-on-demand industry to pop up, allowing consumers to effectively outsource employment that was previously not possible for them. New technology has enabled companies to provide this outsourced workforce in a way they never dreamed of either.
No longer do we need an extra apartment unit to make sure we have access to a maid. We don’t need a full time driver for the times we don’t want to or can’t drive somewhere. And we needn’t hire a full time chef to enjoy professionally cooked meals every once in a while. More money means more access to these things, but now even the middle class can enjoy a casual access to them.
In the last few years I’ve seen a number of these startups spring up, and I know for a fact that there are many more coming soon.
There’s Uber, which gives you access to a personal driver who will pick you up and take you wherever you want in a nice SUV (sometimes with a built-in TV and a candy dish waiting for you).
There’s Get Maid, which allows you to schedule a maid to come clean your entire apartment in up to two hours in advance. There’s AirBNB, which allows you to have access to a stay at a luxury vacation home without breaking the bank.
There are literally dozens of others that make our lives easier in ways only the wealthy used to have access to. We are now in an age where the difference between the wealthy and not-so-wealthy is not who access to what, but how much access they can afford to have. We live in a time of luxury.
A Hollywood director attacks feminists in front of some feminists and gets applause from feminists.
I know this isn’t my usual tech entrepreneurship-y musing stuff, but wow did I enjoy this. Spoiler: He doesn’t attack feminists. Rather, he takes apart the word “feminist” and explores it in only a way a talented writer could do. And compassionate human being. And maybe comedian— he’s pretty funny!
Earlier this spring, when Bitcoin was in the middle of its last price spike, I “raised my Bitcoin target” to $400.
This was an inside joke — I don’t have a Bitcoin target. But I was getting at a more profound point. $400 is a perfectly reasonable target for Bitcoin. As is $1,000. As is $10,000 or $100,000 or $1 million.
And as is $0.01.
This is because Bitcoin has no inherent value. Its adherents refer to it as a “store of value,” but Bitcoin is only a “store of value” because, right now, its price keeps going up. Unlike gold or dollars or other things that have widely accepted utility, Bitcoin’s price is determined entirely by what someone else is willing to pay for it. Right now, because Bitcoin’s price is going up, and Bitcoin is in relatively short supply, people are willing to pay $340 for it. And the ever-increasing demand for Bitcoin will keep driving the price up until people don’t want to buy or hold it anymore.
Average reading time: ~1.5 minutes
Yes, yes, and a thousand times yes to this.
I’ve been following Bitcoin for a while now. I’ve seen an overwhelming amount of support for it based on two groups:
- One group is made up of innovators who point out that Bitcoin utility is made up of how many merchants are accepting it and how it can do things a fiat currency cannot natively do such as contracts, pseudo-anonymity,etc. They argue that this is what we need to focus on and they may very well be right. This thinking advances the Bitcoin protocol and client technology.
- Another group is made up of investors who come in a spectrum of different profiles. Some are professionals who feel that they understand human behavior well enough to see signals in the market and make educated bets on them. You have ammeters (I would personally fall into this category) who trade in their spare time because it’s fun and can make them a small profit if they’re lucky and patient enough.
Neither group is addressing an important issue here though. Just like this article points out, Bitcoin really does have very little utility compared to traditional fiat currencies. It is not widely accepted (yet) and is still extremely new. This leaves its value reliant on very little more than what someone is willing to buy and sell it at. We don’t have a history of trading to look at and we can’t readily compare the strength of, say, the USD to the strength of Bitcoin. So it really is up to buyers and sellers to decide what its value is today. And again tomorrow. And so on and so forth. This type of free roaming currency makes it hard to trust a network of trading peers (the market) because it’s very unpredictable.
Let’s play a mating game. Put 100 men and 100 women in a sealed room. On each person’s forehead, write a random number from 1 to 10, and call that their ‘attractiveness’.
Average reading time: ~2.5 minutes
As some of my friends and readers might know, social behavior is a big interest of mine. I’m really into the online dating and social networking industry, and it’s what I spend my time working in. So when I saw this article posted on Quora (which is linked above in the title), I was naturally inclined to read it.
Both social and cognitive psychology teach us a lot about how we assign value to things and desire the things we do. Much of it is reflected in this “dating game” that Oliver Berton guides us through in his article.
Even though I kept nodding my head in agreement as I read it, the whole idea of a 1-10 “attractiveness” scale didn’t sit as well with me. I can understand what the authors says about how neediness plays out, sure. The “push” and “pull” of neediness described makes a lot of sense. We see these dynamics play out every day at cafes and parks and nightclubs. So I firmly believe that the dynamics described here are real, especially in superficial interactions like “pick ups”. However, I don’t think the source of neediness can adequately be described as a 1-10 scale of how we rate one another, consciously or even subconsciously. The author even admits that this is an over-simplified version of how interactions play out in real life, but that just made me think “Then what’s the point?”
There are so many little nuances when it comes to what we think makes a good partner or spouse, what excites us, what turns us on sexually. Every time I hear a man call a woman a “nine”, I don’t roll my eyes or laugh at him. I believe that’s what he thinks and perhaps even where that woman falls on his current ladder of attraction so to speak. I may even agree with him. She might be drop dead gorgeous and visually, oh yeah, she’s a nine. It’s just that problems seem to arise when we treat the ladder of attraction as a universal phenomenon, something that every man or every woman and everybody in between experiences the exact same way. The more we explore things like online dating and the more statistics we can derive from human behavior and interaction, the more vast this attraction space seems to become.
And I think that’s a good thing. What makes up the score he describes in the article anyhow? Since it’s a linear scale, there must be characteristics or signals that each hold an individual weight and score themselves. Science has taught us that things like body language, voice tonality, and how symmetrical our faces are all play a role in how physically attractive we are, but is this all there is to it? Clearly not. Clearly there are details that are individual to us all, because we all have different preferences and needs and desires, and to make matters more complicated these things tend to fluctuate depending on where we are in our lives. And then there’s orientation, personal beliefs and values, kinks, prejudices etc. The list goes on.
There’s also the question of how neediness affects each of us individually. Do we really prefer those who are completely self-reliant at all times? Or is a little neediness a good thing?
So the next time you think about neediness, ponder for a few minutes how you’re approaching attraction in the first place. How are you coming up with your “score” for someone, and do you even really have one in the first place? And how does someone’s neediness influence your score, if at all?
Let Your Users Cheat Sometimes
Average reading time: ~1 minute
Tinder, the mobile dating app that’s been aflame in popularity lately, is interesting. It’s interesting not because it offers anything ground breakingly new, but because it presents the traditional “hot or not” style dating experience in a very pleasant way. Instead of critiquing a list of design choices the creators made though, I would like to focus on one particular less obvious choice.
It turns out that people that who “like” you get added to the front of your queue. This means that when you open the app, the first few pictures of users you see are the most likely to reciprocate your liking (read: think you’re attractive in some way).
My girlfriend actually pointed this out. We’ve both been openly using the app as part of an experiment we’re conducting. Anyway, when she told me what she had figured out I was in disbelief. I thought that there was no way Tinder would let you do that! You could totally cheat the system!
I tried it out and sure enough, more times than not the users in the very front of my queue were matches.
After thinking about this for a few minutes, a thought struck me: Why does this have to be a bad thing? Tinder wants their users to get matches. That keeps them having fun and ultimately enjoying the app. If users that liked you were dispersed throughout your queue randomly, it would take more time to get to them. More time to get to the reward the app offers.
Sometimes letting your users “cheat” to get what they’re ultimately looking for out of the app isn’t such a bad thing. In fact, it can be a coy “feature” that the user thinks they’re exploiting but was intentional all along. I would think that in the case of Tinder it was. How are users “cheating” your product or service, and do you see a net benefit from it?
Most people I meet for the first time usually have the same response, “I hear that interclick is doing great, what’s going on over there?” It’s true. We have been quite successful, from growing to over $100 million in revenue to achieving great profitability in four years despite starting with…
These are, indeed, powerful beliefs to cultivate about business operations and development. Just like belief #9 says, however, execution triumphs ideas. Adopting new beliefs are only as good as your integrity and execution are.
How I Work
Average reading time: ~6.5 minutes
I think good organization and productivity are two cornerstones of success, and having a system that is pragmatic for you is key. LifeHacker recently started a new series on their blog entitled How I work. It interviews a variety of successful professionals, from software engineers to writers, and asks them what tools and techniques they use to help them organize their thoughts and work life.
This inspired me to write about the productivity tools and techniques that work well for me. Maybe some of them will work well for you too.
I’ve gone almost completely digital with my productivity tools. I present to you my favorite productivity software:
The first thing I do after I’ve brewed a cup of coffee is I open up my Google calendar. I use my digital calendar in a common way (ie; tracking appointments and events I’m going to), with a couple of nice additions. One of them is that I use my calendar to keep track of my finances. I take note of days in which I have an auto-payment coming up, from my Spotify subscription to my ConEd bill, and when bills that I have to manually pay are due. I always include how much I’ll be spending if possible. This eliminates any surprises and moments of wondering “where exactly did my money go again?”
After I’ve reviewed my calendar, I open up Things and review today’s actionable items. I use Things in a couple of different ways, and I think of all the todo list software and systems I’ve used it works the best for me. I use it to schedule regularly occurring actions that I want to eventually turn into habits, such as seated meditation and logging my food and exercise in MyFitnessPal. These all appear in my Today list.
I also use it to keep track of deadlines by configuring tasks to appear in Today when I want to start working on them. So the Today list has become a list of things I either need to complete or work on today, making it nearly impossible to forget actionable items.
Finally, I use the Next list to keep track of things that may not have a particular due date or aren’t due any time soon, but still require my attention. This includes things like fixing things around my apartment and my shopping list.
I don’t make use of the “Someday” list in Things. I’ve found that I usually forget about them and the items are never important enough to do.
A new habit I’ve been working on lately is setting aside half an hour in the morning for personal time. This means not diving into work right away, but spending time doing things like meditation or reflective writing. My personal self is just as important as my professional self, and I use this time to realize that.
My Work Day
At work we all use a fantastic application called Asana. In some ways it is a bit like Things, but is presented as a web app. When you create, update, or delete an item, another person looking at that same project sees your changes almost immediately. You can also add descriptions, due dates, and sub-tasks to items. I find it to be a pleasure to work with and it makes keeping track of and collaborating on what needs to get done at work a snap.
I’ll typically review the day’s work tasks and reorder them by priority. It is common for me to have one big task composed of several smaller tasks and several stand-alone small tasks. This roughly translates to the 1-3-5 rule, and I find that it usually yields the most manageable and realistic amount of work I actually get done in one day.
I keep what I used to call a work log in Evernote. I now call it a tech log, because I found that not everything I was logging related solely to work but to my own development as a professional software engineer. Basically anything I work on for work or a personal project gets briefly logged here. This is a sort of technical diary and I find it allows me to reflect on what I’ve been doing. This has a positive impact on how I feel I’m growing as a software engineer, because I can qualify and even sometimes quantify how I’m actually growing. I can’t tell myself I’m not getting anywhere, because evidence says otherwise. Plus, it can be fun to go back and read what I was done a year ago.
Similar logs are kept well, or as I like to now call them “mini journals” These can be for things like major stresses you have during your day (to figure out what triggers you) or quotes or ideas you’ve been pondering over. I’ve heard famous authors say that their diaries and journals are some of their most important tools. The possibilities here are endless.
Lastly, Spectacle is a neat utility for OSX that allows you to fling your windows into specific positions like the left or right of your screen. I often work in full screen mode when I’m writing code or hacking away in a terminal, but when I have to deal with windows this is a big time saver. No more manually resizing windows. I can quickly bring my focus back to what it is I’m working on. I don’t have much else to say about this other than I’m usually a big fan of things that replace mouse clicks with hotkeys, so yep, I love it.
I’ve included this because it is relevant. We now know that taking breaks and keeping healthy boosts your productivity. Lately I haven’t been doing a great job of remembering to take breaks from work. I often get so engrossed on what I’m working on that hours will go by before I realize my eyes are starting to get tired and hurt. Luckily there’s a nifty OSX app called Healthier, which forces you to take breaks by dimming the screen at specific intervals and reminds you to take a break. The app also gives you little health tips and exercises during these breaks. It’s a great app.
I’ll often find myself having new items to add to Things or my calendar during the day, and for that I use an iOS application called Launch Center Pro. Basically it’s a second iOS home screen on steroids. Not only can you launch apps, but you can script apps to do specific things on launch. I have a button that opens Things and allows me to easily add a new todo item. I have one for my calendar and MyFitnessPal too.
I also have icons that automate work tasks for me, such as restarting a server process when it goes down. Definitely a huge plus.
Anything that makes it easier for you to be more productive is invaluable. The easier it is, the more likely we are to stick with the tools and habits we’re using.
This has been a somewhat in-depth exploration of how I keep myself organized and to some degree my sanity during the day. In our information age there’s so much to pay attention to that we often need tools to help us out. These can be invaluable.
Finally, I leave you with a picture of office dog. He’s figured out what productivity tools and tricks work best for him. Model yourselves after office dog.