What I Worked On

I learned some useful things at Interleaf, though they were mostly about what not to do. I learned that it’s better for technology companies to be run by product people than sales people (though sales is a real skill and people who are good at it are really good at it), that it leads to bugs when code is edited by too many people, that cheap office space is no bargain if it’s depressing, that planned meetings are inferior to corridor conversations, that big, bureaucratic customers are a dangerous source of money, and that there’s not much overlap between conventional office hours and the optimal time for hacking, or conventional offices and the optimal place for it.

Source: What I Worked On

What is Amazon? | Zack’s notes

An underrated part of strategy is just reducing the business model and its key drivers down to something really simple. And then aggressively aligning activities toward maximising the execution of this over time.

And, for the first four decades or so, Walmart became the best in the world at doing exactly that: using the square footage it had in each store as effectively as possible, stocking it with good quality merchandise at the lowest possible prices, and maintaining sufficient inventory to satisfy the resulting customer demand. All of the complexity and innovation that happened in the background was in service of each store’s merchandising efforts. The satellite communication system helped headquarters make sure that inventory was always in stock, helped one store learn from another store’s experimentation with product assortment and pricing. The trucking fleet delivered the inventory quickly and efficiently in order to make sure that stores had the inventory they needed for their customers, and cost-effectively so they could maintain the lowest possible prices. Computerized POS systems let customers check out quickly, or, in the event that they had to bring something back, return items as painlessly as possible.

Source: What is Amazon? | Zack’s notes

The Price of Perfection – Member Feature Stories – Medium

When form trumps function.

Cupertino, California, 2007. Steve Jobs had been carrying a prototype of the first iPhone in his pocket and found his keys were scratching the plastic. “I won’t sell a product that gets scratched,” he insisted.

So, instead, Apple built one that shattered.

Ten years later, the iPhone X launched as a device so fragile it’s at the edge of usability. Tech review site Squaretrade called it the “most breakable phone ever.” Almost half of all iPhone owners have broken their screens, not just once but an average of two times each. The cost of repair is astronomical: Out of warranty, a new iPhone X screen will set you back $279. Repairing the glass back of the phone costs an extraordinary $549.

Source: The Price of Perfection – Member Feature Stories – Medium

Ricky Jay’s Magical Secrets

A great article on what it is like to care about a craft.

This sentiment is also true of consultants and designers. The number of ‘strategy’ consultants who know close to nothing about the history and craft of strategy – and more to the point, don’t seem to think this is a problem – is consistently mind-blowing.

One of the things that I love about Ricky is his continued amazement at how little magicians seem to care about the art. Intellectually, Ricky seems to understand this, but emotionally he can’t accept it. He gets as upset about this problem today as he did twenty years ago.”

Source: Ricky Jay’s Magical Secrets

The Experience Economy – Stratechery by Ben Thompson

Such a fundamental point that goes unacknowledged by so many incumbents. The implications are enormous.

At the same time, competition is dramatically higher as well; customer choices used to be constrained by geography and limited channels for advertising: you could choose one mass-market product from conglomerate X, or a strikingly similar product from conglomerate Y. Today, though, you can find multiple products from any number of vendors, some large and many more small, the latter of which are particularly adept at using channels like Facebook to reach specific niches that were never well-served by large enterprises designed to serve everyone.

Source: The Experience Economy – Stratechery by Ben Thompson

The Risky Business of Hiring Stars

Because it’s the connections, not the nodes.

When a company hires a star, the star’s performance plunges, there is a sharp decline in the functioning of the group or team the person works with, and the company’s market value falls. Moreover, stars don’t stay with organizations for long, despite the astronomical salaries firms pay to lure them away from rivals. For all those reasons, companies cannot gain a competitive advantage by hiring stars from outside the business. Instead, they should focus on growing talent within the organization and do everything possible to retain the stars they create. As we shall show in the following pages, companies shouldn’t fight the star wars, because winning could be the worst thing that happens to them.

Source: The Risky Business of Hiring Stars

The Existential Void of the Pop-Up ‘Experience’ – The New York Times

The central disappointment of these spaces is not that they are so narcissistic, but rather that they seem to have such a low view of the people who visit them. Observing a work of art or climbing a mountain actually invites us to create meaning in our lives. But in these spaces, the idea of “interacting” with the world is made so slickly transactional that our role is hugely diminished. Stalking through the colorful hallways of New York’s “experiences,” I felt like a shell of a person. It was as if I was witnessing the total erosion of meaning itself. And when I posted a selfie from the Rosé Mansion saying as much, all of my friends liked it.

Marc Andreessen and Jim Barksdale on How to Make Money

I’ve been thinking about this a lot lately. Distribution is so often not considered when thinking about product design, when often it’s the primary advantage of an organisation. But the idea that the dominant distribution model also sets the product design is also essential to understanding disruption.

So the newspaper bundle– of the idea of this kind of slug of news, and sports scores, and classifieds, and stock quotes that arrive once a day– was a consequence of the printing plant, of the distribution network for newspapers, using trucks, and newsstands, and newspaper vending machines, and so forth. But that newpsaper bundle was based on the distribution technology of a time and place.

And when the distribution technology changed, with the internet, there was going to be kind of the great unwind. And then the great, you know, re-bundle– in the form of Google, and Facebook, and Twitter, and all these new bundles.

I think your music example is a great example of that. Which is, it made sense in the LP and CD era, to put 8, or 10, or 12, or 15 songs on a disc, and press the disc, and ship it out, and have it sit in stores until somebody came along and bought it. It didn’t really make sense to unbundle, given that technology. But when you have the ability, online, to download or stream individual tracks, then all of a sudden, that bundle just doesn’t make sense. And so it makes sense that it collapsed apart into individual mp3s.

Source: Marc Andreessen and Jim Barksdale on How to Make Money