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JScott’s Monthly Missives

A short monthly summary of my latest discoveries, resources, life hacks, and life lessons. Check out the archives below and signup using this form (Or just send me a note at jscottchristianson@mac.com and I will add you) . Note: When you sign up using the form below, mail chimp will ask you to verify your email. If you don’t get it, check your spam folder!





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JScott Monthly Missive: November Edition

Discoveries

  • The Moral Machine recommended by Dave O. If you were the programmer for a self-driving car, how would you program it to deal with the life and death decisions the program will face when an unavoidable accident is about to occur? Try it and find out how you’d weigh decisions involving the lifes of passengers, pedestrians, dogs, and other drivers. This is no longer an academic exercise in ethics classes, several trials of self driving cars are already on the road. One footnote: According to current research people might say that they want cars to be programed to preserve the most lives possible, but they would only buy cars that would protect the driver at all costs (see this TED Talk for more information).
  • I received a set of these magnifying “Visors” as a gift from my parents and they work great. I have been having a hard time doing any soldering work with my bi-focals and this provides the magnification that I need.

Reading

  • The Four by Scott Galloway.
    • I have fallen in love with Professor’ Galloway’s lectures and “Winners and Losers” videos on youtube. His lectures have caused me to change my outlook on brands and retail competition in the era of Amazon. His new book is a brilliant and insightful look at how Apple, Google, Amazon, and Facebook have appealed to our most basic needs and desires: Sex (Apple), God (Google), Consumption (Amazon), and Love (Facebook).  It also made me change my mindset and stop thinking of Apple as a technology company. Apple is a luxury brand with margins on par with Ferrari. Some other quotes and observations from the book:
      • Galloway lays out why higher education is ripe for disruption and how a company like Apple could put their wealth toward such an effort with great impact, but probably won’t.
      • Both Facebook and Google stated, earlier in the decade, that they would not share information across silos (Facebook to Instagram, Google to Gmail to YouTube to Double-Click). However, both lied and have quietly changed their privacy policies, requiring a specific request to opt out if a user doesn’t want to have their movements and activity cross referenced with other platforms and searches. “There is no evidence of any intent beyond the data being used for better targeting. Creepy and relevance are strongly correlated in the world of digital marketing. To date, consumers and advertisers have voted with their actions and have expressed the creepy is a price worth paying for the relevance.”
      • “Uber has recognize that if an industry is broken enough, consumers will conspire to violate the law in favor of a far preferable service. And, in the long run, do you really think Congress is going to fight both Wall Street and millions of consumers?”
      • Amazon Link:  The Four: The Hidden DNA of Amazon, Apple, Facebook, and Google

Must Watch

  • We’re building a dystopia just to make people click on ads. This talk by Zeynep Tufekci is brilliant and disturbing. In a very short and concise talk, she shows how AI is being used to shape public opinion and sway elections. I used to think that money was the biggest threat to our democracy, AI is bigger. 
  • Shenzhen: The Silicon Valley of Hardware. This is part of a series on “Future Cities” from WIRED magazine. One of the big take aways is how inventors and companies in China view Intellectual Property (IP). It is not that they have no respect for IP, but they have more respect for the invention/idea and focus efforts on putting an invention to good use or improving it, than mucking around with protecting IP via legal means. Andrew “Bunnie” Huang is interviewed several times in the film. He recently wrote a book titled The Hardware Hacker which I read over the summer and highly recommend. His book dives into more details on open source hardware, intellectual property, and the right to modify and repair hardware with lots of great stories along the way.
  • Getting Things Scrummed (~7min). For project management types, this is a great little video from a friend. David and his team have put together an interesting mix of the Agile SCRUM framework and the GTD principles from David Allen. Not useful in all situations, but for small groups and companies it might be a good approach, especially if all team members are remote. He shows how they use Trello (Trello.com) to “get things scrummed”.

Re-Watching

  • The Triumph of the Nerds, by Robert Cringley on Youtube. The best, and most concise, documentary about the personal computer revolution. Fascinating tale that is well told, with a lot of lessons that are relevant for people and companies today.

Writing

  • Let’s Do Video Blog: Welcome to the Meeting, Alexa. Can voice assistants and artificial intelligence (AI) help us at work? I sure think so. AI technologies should be able to handle all the mundane scheduling and coordination tasks that suck up our time and energy at work and keep us from doing deeper thinking.

Updates

  • Storj.io Last month, I reported on my experience with Storj.io which allows one to rent out spare hard disk space. Storj.io is a distributed internet storage service that runs on PCs throughout the world, and competes with services from Amazon and Microsoft. I recently got my first payment, and it looks like after 10-15 years, I might break even. Kidding aside, Storj’s model is an interesting idea (and is being backed by some mainstream VCs).  In the past week, I have observed the amount of my storage that is being rented out has gone up dramatically (now about 1TB is used out of 4TB I offered to the network). Reading the Reddit forums, it looks like some major enterprise users have been testing the waters and maybe about to move in-mass to the platform.

What I’m looking forward to

  • Getting responses to this month’s missive from you all, hearing about the cool stuff you are doing and the resources/lifehacks you are using!! (just hit the reply button and fill me in!).
  • Reading “The Gift of Adversity” by Marcus Aurelius Andersen.This book should be out in the next month or so.  Marcus gave a great talk at TEDxCOMO last year (organized by Keith P.). Marcus and I had a videoconference last week to catch up. Marcus has turned his unique situation into a gift that he uses to help others. Hopefully we can all be so lucky (but without the getting blown up part!).
  • Presentation by my friend Andrew S. to the Crosby MBA students on Dec 5th, titled “Productivity Crash Course: How to Setup Your Day for Maximum Output.” I first met Andrew when my company was a vendor for Veterans United, selling and installing their first videoconferencing systems. That was about 6 years ago. he was just getting started at VU and in his role as a project manager in a rapidly growing organization. He has grown into the role and is an awesome project manager/leader at VU, well beyond my capabilities. It should be a great talk, email me of you are not part of the MBA program and want to attend.

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JScott Monthly Missive: October Edition

Discoveries

  • L2inc Youtube Channel.  This features L2 Founder Scott Galloway with new episodes each Thursday. Galloway is the only person I know who predicted that Amazon would purchase Whole Foods. His videos are short and packed with insight and humor. I first discovered Dr Galloway on the Recode/Decode podcast. But if you don’t have the time for podcasts, I think that you’ll find these short videos will give you lots to ponder.
  • Mushroom Coffee from Four Sigmatic. While I have heard mushroom coffee advertised on numerous podcasts, I didn’t try it until John H gave me a packet to test. Seems to work well. It has 40% less caffeine it helps me wake up in the afternoon and the mushrooms seem to help me concentrate better. It could just be a placebo effect, but as long as it works then it doesn’t matter if it is a placebo or not. I have one of these in the late afternoon when I need a little boost and it doesn’t disturb my sleep at night.

Reading

  • Originals by Adam Grant. Started this book over the summer and recently finished it. Great content, don’t really care for his writing style (doesn’t get to the point fast enough for me, but several other friends like it). Several interesting things about the creative process, including:
    • It is a myth that originality requires extreme risk taking. This parallels a myth about successful founders and business owners–they are actually great at minimizing risk.
    • Creative geniuses aren’t necessarily better in their fields than their peers. “They simple produced a greater volume of work, which gave them more variation and a higher chance of originality.” In other words, the more work you get out the door, the higher likelihood that you’ll produce something great.
    • There is value in procrastination, especially when you are synthesizing new ideas in a creative way.
    • Probably the biggest take away for me: “Conceptual innovators formulate a big idea and set out to execute it. Experimental innovators solve problems through trial and error, learning and evolving as they go along….conceptual innovators are sprinters, and experimental innovators are marathoners…while experimental innovation can require years or decades to accumulate the requisite knowledge and skill, it becomes a more sustainable source or originality.” Hoping I am an experimental innovator and not just slow 😉
    • FYI: Grant gave a good Ted Talk last year.
    • Amazon Link
  • Disrupted by Dan Lyons. A hilarious tale of a 52 year-old laid-off Newsweek writer who goes to work at Hubspot, where he is supervised by someone half his age and clashes harshly with the culture. Great comic relief (I laughed out loud several times), but provided some good insight into how younger folks can get sold into thinking that working at a place with free beer and nerf gun fights (but no PTO or good benefits) is a good idea. Lyons writes for the show Silicon Valley as well. Amazon Link

Must Watch

  • Making Life Multiplanetary, a talk by Elon Musk. Even if you are not into following space “stuff,” you should watch just to see the simplicity and elegance of what he is proposing. This kind of thinking can only really come from being on the other side of complexity. Extra benefit, when you see how bad of a presenter Musk is, it will make you feel better about your presentation skills.
  • A number of talks and interviews with Ray Dalio about Radical Transparency and how this is implemented in his business (Bridgewater). For organizations that are really committed to honest feedback and eliminating biases in decision making, this is a great concept. Unfortunately, a number of organizations just give lip service to transparency and would find this method way too upsetting. I am actually hoping to implement a similar system in an upcoming class, to get feedback from the students about my performance. I don’t think it would work well to have students do peer evals this way, as there is not enough time to build a culture of accepting and giving this type of feedback. I’ll let you know how it works out, in the meantime check out these videos:

Writing

  • Deciding to purchase a service contract on the consumer products we buy is generally a no brainer. Just Say NO! However, for mission critical equipment, it can be a bit a less clear cut decision. In Hardware Service Contracts: Should You Buy or Should You Go? I write about that decision making process. (If you are into videoconferencing you can view these other articles I have been writing for Let’s Do Video )

Experiments

  • I have been experimenting with my body a lot lately, trying different diets (ketogenic), tracking data, getting my DNA sequenced, etc. I’ll type up a full report to share when I get more data. One thing I am seeing is that one’s body can have a large fluctuation due to inflammation from various foods, drinks and injury. Didn’t realize that such swings–four to five pounds over several days–could happen.
  • The world of cryptocurrencies and initial coin offerings, or ICOs, is still in the “wild west” stage. Thanks to a former student, Evan B, I have been experimenting with more with this westward expansion of the currency world. I recently installed the Storj.io platform on an old PC that lets me sell access to spare hard drive space and get paid in Ether, a popular cryptocurrency. Not the easiest to setup, but not the worst either. I am currently sharing out 4 TB of space, of which ~250 Gb is being used by the platform. In theory, I should make just a little profit on this project, but with the volatile nature of ICOs and cryptocurrencies I am doubting this will really pay off monetarily, but I’m certainly learning more about ICOs, and possibilities of a distributed internet.

What I’m looking forward to

  • Getting responses to this month’s missive from you all, hearing about the cool stuff you are doing and the resources/lifehacks you are using!! (just hit the reply button and fill me in!)
  • The First Startup Beer Crawl in Columbia being put together by the Missouri Business Alert.
  • Seeing the results of the Hacking for Social Good and Start-up Weekend taking place in Columbia. Collin B is back at REDI and kicking ass with helping the local startup community get energized.
  • Reading Chaos Monkeys. Recommended by my friend Kris K. Should be a good follow up to Disrupted.
  • Giving a presentation with my friend Chris S at the Medical School about “Copy and Paste Hardware: How the Maker movement is accelerating innovation.” This is tentatively scheduled for mid-November.

 

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