Category Archives: Quote

As the traveller who has once been from home is wiser than he who has never left his own doorstep, so a knowledge of one other culture should sharpen our ability to scrutinize more steadily, to appreciate more lovingly, our own.

Margaret Mead

Zuckerberg on Social

One thing that I think is really important — that I think is context for this, is that I generally think that most other companies now are undervaluing how important social integration is. So even the companies that are starting to come around to thinking, ‘oh maybe we should do some social stuff’, I still think a lot of them are only thinking about it on a surface layer, where it’s like “OK, I have my product, maybe I’ll add two or three social features and we’ll check that box”. That’s not what social is.

Social – you have to design it in from the ground up. These experiences, like what Zynga is doing or what a company like Quora is doing, I think that they have just a really good social integration. They’ve designed their whole product around the idea that your friends will be here with you. Everyone has a real identity for themselves. And those are fundamental building blocks.

From TechCrunch’s Interview With Mark Zuckerberg On The “Facebook Phone”.

Sync Privacy

Sync took a different tack, and started off with “what if we didn’t want the data? What if even having that data was a failure state?” That led us to cryptography. Sync uses strong crypto to encode your data before it is uploaded. The secret phrase is the key to this encryption, and we never send that anywhere to keep your data secure. This really means that Mozilla can’t see your data, giving you full control. (Which is great, because we really don’t want it!)

via Mike Connor » Sync in Firefox 4 Beta.

Grand Unified Theory

If nature has made any one thing less susceptible than all others of exclusive property, it is the action of the thinking power called an idea, which an individual may exclusively possess as long as he keeps it to himself; but the moment it is divulged, it forces itself into the possession of every one, and the receiver cannot dispossess himself of it. Its peculiar character, too, is that no one possesses the less, because every other possesses the whole of it. He who receives an idea from me, receives instruction himself without lessening mine; as he who lights his taper at mine, receives light without darkening me.

A quote from Thomas Jefferson in an oldie but a goodie essay, especially relevant given all the talk about GPL-based business models the past few days: The Grand Unified Theory On The Economics Of Free by Mike Masnick. (Before anyone says it: the GPL doesn’t say you have to give away anything for no-cost. However as a businessman myself, I think it’s an excellent approach sometimes regardless of license.)

Web Designer Magazine Interview

Q. If you had a crystal ball would you have given more thought to the commercial aspects that WordPress has to offer?

A few months ago I did an interview with Web Designer magazine they just published on the web asThe Wizard of WordPress, An interview with Matt Mullenweg. It includes the answer to the above question. They published it with a funky Warhol-esque cover, but I can’t find an image of that online. (Issue 167 isn’t listed on their site.)

Facts Backfire

“In reality, we often base our opinions on our beliefs, which can have an uneasy relationship with facts. And rather than facts driving beliefs, our beliefs can dictate the facts we chose to accept. They can cause us to twist facts so they fit better with our preconceived notions. Worst of all, they can lead us to uncritically accept bad information just because it reinforces our beliefs. This reinforcement makes us more confident we’re right, and even less likely to listen to any new information.”

— Joe Keohane in How facts backfire. Hat tip: Ramit Sethi’s psychology bookmarks.

Job / Career / Calling

Jonathan Haidt in The Happiness Hypothesis:

Most people approach their work in one of three ways: as a job, a career, or a calling.

  • If you see your work as a job, you do it only for the money, you look at the clock frequently while dreaming about the weekend ahead, and you probably pursue hobbies, which satisfy your effectance needs more thoroughly than does your work.
  • If you see your work as a career, you have larger goals of advancement, promotion, and prestige.
  • If you see your work as a calling, however, you find your work intrinsically fulfilling you are not doing it to achieve something else. You see your work as contributing to the greater good or as playing a role in some larger enterprise the worth of which seems obvious to you. You have frequent experiences of flow during the work day, and you neither look forward to “quitting time” nor feel the desire to shout, “Thank God it’s Friday!” You would continue to work, perhaps even without pay, if you suddenly became very wealthy.

Hat tip: Derek Sivers books page.

Proustian Telephone

From Alain de Botton’s book How Proust Can Change Your Life, highly recommended:

Take the unemotive example of the telephone. Bell invented it in 1876. By 1900, there were thirty thousand phones in France. Proust rapidly acquired one (tel. 29205) and particularly liked a service called the “theater-phone,” which allowed him to listen to live opera and theater in Paris venues.

He might have appreciated his phone, but he noted how quickly everyone else began taking theirs for granted. As early as 1907, he wrote that the machine was

a supernatural instrument before whose miracle we used to stand amazed, and which we now employ without giving it a thought, to summon our tailor or to order an ice cream.

Moreover, if the confiserie had a busy line or the connection to the tailor a hum, instead of admiring the technological advances that had frustrated our sophisticated desires, we tended to react with childish ingratitude.

Since we are children who play with divine forces without shuddering before their mystery, we only find the telephone “convenient,” or rather, as we are Continue reading Proustian Telephone

Beyond Consumer Culture

[P]sychological evidence suggests that is is close relationships, a meaningful life, economic security, and health that contribute most to well-being. While there are marked improvements in happiness when people at low levels of income earn more (as their economic security improves and their range of opportunities grows), as incomes increase this extra earning power converts less effectively into increased happiness. In part, this may stem from people’s tendency to habituate to the consumption level they are exposed to. Goods that were once perceived as luxuries can over time be seen as entitlements or event necessities.

By the 1960s, for instance, the Japanese already viewed a fan, a washingmachine, and electric rice cookers as essential goods for a satisfactory living standard. In due course, a car, an air conditioner, and a color television were added to the list of “essentials.” And in the United States, 83 percent of people saw clothes dryers as a necessity in 2006. Even products around only a short time quickly become viewed as necessities. Half of Americans now think they must have a mobile phone, and one third of them see a high-speed Internet connection as essential.

Emphasis mine. From the State of the World 2010: Transforming Cultures. They also have a nice, WordPress-powered blog. (A necessity.) You can see the context of the quote in Google Books.

Irrational Finance

Two excerpts from Rational Irrationality: The real reason that capitalism is so crash-prone.

What boosts a firm’s stock price, and the boss’s standing, is a rapid expansion in revenues and market share. Privately, he may harbor reservations about a particular business line, such as subprime securitization. But, once his peers have entered the field, and are making money, his firm has little choice except to join them. C.E.O.s certainly don’t have much personal incentive to exercise caution. Most of them receive compensation packages loaded with stock options, which reward them for delivering extraordinary growth rather than maintaining product quality and protecting their firm’s reputation.

Here is another on financial innovation, which made me think of my bank post:

Limiting the development of those securities would stifle innovation, the financial industry contends. But that’s precisely the point. “The goal is not to have the most advanced financial system, but a financial system that is reasonably advanced but robust,” Viral V. Acharya and Matthew Richardson, two economists at N.Y.U.’s Stern School of Business, wrote in a recent paper. “That’s no different from what we seek in other areas of human activity. We don’t use the most advanced aircraft to move millions of people around the world. We use reasonably advanced aircrafts whose designs have proved to be reliable.”

Original Indiana Jones

For the first time in his life Rahn met someone even more obsessed with finding the Grail than he was. Indeed, so confident was Himmler of finding the Grail that he’d already prepared a castle – Wewelsburg in Westphalia – for its arrival. In the basement, surrounded by busts of prominent Nazis, was an empty plinth where the Grail would go.

The original Indiana Jones: Otto Rahn and the temple of doom. Truth is stranger than fiction.

Optimism Tax

Around 1:00 am on Halloween, I hailed a cab with a friend. “Drive around to the front of this building. Can ya leave the meter running while I go inside to tell our friends that we’ve left? Thanks, man… I appreciate it.”

A few minutes later, the cabbie told my friend to run inside and get me because he was in a hurry and had someone waiting.

John “Halcyon” Styn beginning a story on the Optimism Tax, which I paid today in the form of a GPS, some sunglasses, and an original PalmPilot. “[A] small price to pay to be able to continue trusting people.”