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P.S. You Should Know... | Issue #193

December 6 · Issue #193 · View online
P.S. You Should Know...
👋 Welcome back to P.S. You Should Know… probably the best newsletter published on Sundays between 6-7am CST, and definitely the best one published by me. Now in its fourth year!

my story 🚀
I spent the back half of this week attending a virtual conference—Web Summit. I hadn’t planned to attend any virtual conferences this year, but they managed to target me with a well-timed ad. The impressive speaker list of entrepreneurs and investors sold me and I rolled the dice.
Though virtual this year, the conference is typically held in Lisbon, Portugal. Day 1—I learned the programming was scheduled around Lisbon time, 6 hours ahead of me. As a lifelong non-morning-person, I had to skip the early content. Luckily late morning onwards held plenty of value.
One of my favorite sessions was a Q&A with Des Traynor, the founder of Intercom (that chat bubble in the corner of so many websites). Two of his lessons that I’d like to pass along:
1) Organizational principles should be non-universal. While “we build good software” is something every software company can accept, “we sacrifice quality for speed” is differentiated and helps people on the team make decisions.
2) Autonomy, authority, and accountability come as a set. You must accept all three or none. Interestingly, Intercom vests this set into “triads” at the top of each team that consist of a product manager, an engineering manager and a design manager.
someone else's words 💬
fun facts 🙌
The first cyborg. “[Neil Harbisson] is best known for being the first person in the world with an antenna implanted in his skull and for being legally recognized as a cyborg by a government. His antenna sends audible vibrations through his skull to report information to him.” | learn more
Practice typing by retyping classic novels. Move over, Mavis Beacon! I tried this for a little while and it was great. “Improve your typing while reading great books like Alice in Wonderland, 1984, The Art of War, The Call of Cthulhu, Pride and Prejudice, Dracula, and more!” | learn more
A dose of Gen-Z. This newsletter called High Tea, written for and by members of Gen-Z, is a wonderful window into world of today’s newest adults. They seem to love emojis, TikTok and abbreviations of both words and phrases. I would’ve never figured out what “Bible, hardly ever” meant without context. “You are cordially invited to this week’s brew of High Tea, your dispatch of 🔥internet culture served piping hot.” | learn more
tech, startups, internet ⚡
What makes entrepreneurs entrepreneurial? A research paper by Saras D. Sarasvathy highlights his learnings from a deep survey of 30 founders in the late 1990s. He concludes that entrepreneurs use “effectual” rather than causal reasoning. “[I]t begins with a given set of means and allows goals to emerge contingently over time from the varied imagination and diverse aspirations of the founders and the people they interact with.” | learn more
AlphaFold solves a 50-year-old grand challenge in biology. There’s a great explainer video of the protein-folding problem included in this write-up. “In a major scientific advance, the latest version of our AI system AlphaFold has been recognised as a solution to the protein folding problem by the organisers of the biennial Critical Assessment of protein Structure Prediction (CASP).” | learn more
The best writing against, for, and on Substack. This newsletter is not powered by Substack, though I did consider switching in early 2018. “Many good points have been made on both sides, I’m compiling this writing here.” | learn more
better doing 🎯
Eigenquestions: the art of framing problems. “For a simplistic definition, the eigenquestion is the question where, if answered, it likely answers the subsequent questions as well. Great framing starts by searching for the most discriminating question of a set — the eigenquestion.” | learn more
to your health ⚕
Fitbit wearable is now FDA-approved to detect heart rhythm issues. News of consumer tech devices blurring the lines between health and wellness has been trickling for years. My bet is that this trickle turns into a stream in the next couple years. I envision more preventative and diagnostic use cases packed into fewer and cheaper devices. My hope is that this serves as a wedge to make the healthcare system more productive with less expense instead of a land-grab for more insurance-reimbursed spend. | learn more
retail therapy 💸
The aspiration of health. I’m not sure if or how this diffuses outside of NYC. It’s definitely an off-the-beaten-path idea, so it’s worth sharing. “Across the wealthiest neighborhoods in New York City, new retailers are opening the doors to those who can afford it. Well-appointed and with an aura of exclusivity, these storefronts are not designed for the democratization of goods but rather something to the opposite effect.” | learn more
State of play: retail in the pandemic. “Protocol spoke with leaders across retail to learn about the technology they’re using to see out the pandemic, and what may change forever as a result. They outlined three major areas to watch: 1. The supply chain 2. The shopping experience 3. The new customer relationship” | learn more
under the microscope 🔬
You don’t need young blood to get the benefits of young blood. In 2005 a Berkeley team discovered old mice reverse aging with the help of young mouse blood. “But a new study by the same team shows that similar age-reversing effects can be achieved by simply diluting the blood plasma of old mice — no young blood needed.” | learn more
Tree microbes could help crops draw phosphorous from fertilized soil. “Fertilizers typically contain phosphorous, as it’s essential to growing plants. Unfortunately, though, it can become "locked” in the soil, and thus not available to crops. That said, it turns out that the addition of a microbe could unlock it.“ | learn more
thoughts of food 🍔
Yelp: new restaurant openings return to pre-pandemic levels. “In both August and September, 6,600 new restaurants and food businesses opened, which is closer to 2019 and 2018 volumes, according to the Yelp Economic Average report released Thursday.” | learn more
big ideas 📚
How stories last. If we want information to last longer than 3 generations, stories are the only way to go. “Stories are alive. The ones that last, Gaiman said, outcompete other stories by changing over time. They make it from medium to medium—from oral to written to film and beyond. They lose uninteresting elements but hold on to the most compelling bits or even add some. The most popular version of the Cinderella story (which may have originated long ago in China) has kept the gloriously unlikely glass slipper introduced by a careless French telling.” | learn more
calls to action 👇
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