Balancing features on between power users and general masses

Observations for the day: After studying the behavior of more than 3000 users over the past four months, I conclude the level of abstract thinking required to understand how this one single button works is too complicated for 99% of users to grasp.


Only nerds/power users who are already familiar with the notion of the schematic web would get excited when they see this button.


Building a UX that caters for the general masses as well as the few power users is challenging. Too much stuff for the power users and the general masses will feel overwhelmed thus shy away from the tool. Too little stuff for the power users and they will feel frustrated for not being able to realize their vision of what they intend their tool for.


At this point I am opting to hold off implementing some of the functionalities that I (the ultimate power user) personally need from this tool. Or if I did, more as an Easter Egg like feature that you would only find if you go hunting for it within the tool. This is to avoid forcing the general masses to think too much. People do not like being forced to think.

When the tool is too “powered up”, you see lowered percentage of newly registered users making it to the magic moment. To know this, you will need to maintain historical records of your activation rates.

When the tool is too “weak”, your power users all complain about the same missing stuff.

An evening of insights with the Hutters

The optimized route for a startup is to first deploy a small skeleton crew to focus on mining for the insights on human behavior with cheap experiments that will support a viable business model before raising money and scaling up the operations.

Big organizations tend to forget the insights that lead to the founding of the company. That is how large companies get disrupted by new entrants who “rediscover” them.

If there is a company out there that is solving a problem you are trying to find a solution for but you cannot think of it off the top of your head, they might as well have been dead.

What you think might work will usually not. It is only when you land up in a promising domain and start mining for insights in that domain do you start finding ones that are useful for building a company with.

Screenwriting is probably the only occupation where you can envision how all the moving pieces fits together while you are lying in bed. Writing a business plan is a very useless undertaking because unless you have tested your business model to get actual market response, you will not know if it would work or not work. This is much of other inductive processes where much of the building blocks required to work are out there in the environment yet know and to be discovered.

Do not be fixated on what should but be instead embrace on what is and work for there when it comes to human nature.

Humans are motivated beyond pain and pleasure.

No one has considered hyperlinks themselves as important data elements.

It is usually the simplest actions backed by the most fundamental insights that drives the largest consumer adoption.

People feel that sense of accomplishment when they gather stuff thanks to our hunter gathering roots. They might not even need it at the end of the day.

Social book marking just died when most of their operators pivoted away from the central idea in 2005

  • Stumble upon
  • Digg
  • Reddit
  • Pintrest
  • Trello

The mass adoption of Slack and Quip might be a great channel for growing such an idea again but for the enterprise space.

The success of YouTube can be speculated to be due to:

  • In baked flash media code into browsers
  • Increase in bandwidth
  • Delaying the payment of royalty fees and taking down of copyrighted contents
  • They got sold for 1.2billion but paid of 750million in terms of royalties

Mark Cuban is a fake billionaire for selling Real networks to AOL which eventually got shut down after six months. Reason for Real Network being empty is because while it looking really impressive on the outside, it did not capture any of the user behaviors.

People only build shared reality with others they consider part of their own tribe. They might interact with others who are not considered part of their own tribe but will not go about building a shared reality with them. This is how echo chambers happen.

Related readings

  • Tory Higgins, “Beyond Pleasure and Pain: How Motivation Works”
  • Tory Higgins, “Shared Reality”

Paid acquisition strategy review

The way MasterClass, Apple and SquareSpace execute their paid acquisition strategy is just a cut above the rest. The advertisement are inherent viral.

SquareSpace – John Malkovich Super Bowl 2016
https://youtu.be/LgQB9cIa0DE
SquareSpace – Jeff Bridges super bowl 2015

Apple: Think different 2013
https://youtu.be/5sMBhDv4sik

Apple: 1984 big brother
https://youtu.be/VtvjbmoDx-I

MasterClass – Hans Zimmer
https://youtu.be/yCX1Ze3OcKo

Thoughts on the nature of framing

Optical illusion of the old lady and young lady

The basis we use for interpreting what is happening our world is through the understanding of our history. History heavily relies on narrative constructs.

The critical flaw with using narration as a tool to understand, encode and communicate what has transpired is it can only support data in a chronological order while reality is inherently chaotic, multi-linear, on occasions non-linear and confounds understanding thus narration. To tell a coherent tale of what has transpired, authors are forced to decide what to include and leave out of the narrative they weave. This phenomena is commonly labelled as the narrative fallacy.

Compound narrative fallacy with a collection of common human cognitive bias such as the framing bias, survivor bias, confirmation bias and consistency bias and you get a recipe for a fragmented society. This is especially more so when you have multiple equally plausible narratives that are diametrically opposed but draw evidences from the same chaotic sample space to reinforce their positions.

The task of deciphering what has transpired becomes even more daunting to the everyday individual with the reintermediation of social platforms as our primary news source. In the days prior, individuals need only rely on one official news source on how to understanding what is happening, usually from their government. Now, individuals are bombard on a daily basis with news sources sponsored by multiple parties with varying interest and agendas. In this day and age, it has become crucial for individuals to exercise critical thinking.

Some final food for thoughts:

  • Iran is portrayed as an evil country in American media
  • America is portrayed as the devils incarnate in Iranian media
  • China is portrayed as an evil country in American media
  • America is portrayed as an evil country in Chinese media
  • Why is it that the winners are always as good and righteous in any battle?
  • “If God’s on our side, who the hell could be on theirs?” Private Reiben in Saving Private Ryan.

Thought provoking artifacts

Conflicting frames about Bills Gates

Bill Gates the evil person

Bill and Melinda Gates the philanthropists

Conflicting frames about the 2020 CoronaVirus

Conflicting frames about global warming

Related references:

Continue reading “Thoughts on the nature of framing”

Predator’s Ball by Connie Bruck

  • no matter how much research you done regarding a stock you don’t have a contract what the future price should be
  • with high yield bond there is a contract for a certain price in a future, if you are correct about the calculation, you will be correct about your yield
  • bargain price: liquidation price 75cents on the dollar buy at 20 cents
  • when you are not a big established investment firm like Lehmen brothers, you have no franchise to protect. You are free to go the unconventional route for potential outsized returns
  • great ideas are born bad. Its easy to make your way to a great idea from crazy outrageous ones than cautious and sensible ones. Investment bankers by default filter out the crazy outrageous ones.
  • Contrarian thinkers need to train themselves to see things via unconventional routes
  • ways to structure a bond
    • give money back sooner
    • give higher interest rates
    • give more stock
    • give stocks cheap
  • It is easier for corporation to pay interest which is tax deductible than dividends which are not
  • Bonds offer process
    • first tier  high rollers offer liquidity get to buy at cheaper price and exit earlier
    • second tier payers, with franchise to protect, who want to avoid stigma of being junk bond buyers will come in later at more expensive price and exit later.
  • Successful leverage buyout scenario: after buy out use cashflow from business to pay off the junk bonds thus deleverage the business
  • Mutual fund arbitrage: compare value of underlying portfolio and stock price
  • If you are right about a company being undervalued and it is willing to put itself up for sale, there will be buyers
  • Poison pill: defense mechanism against corporate take overs. When would be acquirers crosses threshold of ownership, existing shareholders are given extravagant rights rights making it less desirable as take over target
  • Michael Milken:
    • perception versus reality, see what the world could not.
    • Vision is Strength.
    • capital is abundant, vision is scarce.
    • excess capital is not strength but opportunity for weakness
    • capital put in the hands of someone with vision will result in drastically different results.
    • return of the owner manager as opposed to the corporate manager
    • by-pass the China wall principle where companies try to isolate the deal making and arbitrage departments
    • knows many industry in depth

Related references

King Icahn, biography of a renegade capitalist by Mark Stevens

  • way of thinking
    • There is a strategy behind everything. Everything fits. Thinking this way taught me to compete in many things, not only take over but chess and arbitrage
    • Empiricism says knowledge is based on observation and experience, not feelings
    • Studying 20th century philosophy trains your mind for takeovers
    • Chain thinking: just like chess, in any transaction, think of every single possible move and counter move
    • always consider what might be the worst case scenario and then protect your downside while increasing your control
    • a civilization starts to decline when a large part of its population stops working
  • Icahn/Kingsley theory: focus the market’s attention on the disparity in values and someone will buy you out
    • Take over strategy potential outcome after indicating it as a take over target
      • acquisition of shares by original suitor
      • hostile challenger
      • white knight  who will come and free up the locked up value
    • Prefer stocks with limited downside exposure, gravitate towards out of favor stocks that had already been discounted by the market
    • When analyzing a company, earnings does not always present a clear picture. Depreciation is paper losses. Cashflow presents a better picture. Key components to analyze
      • asset
      • return on equity
      • cashflow
      • capitalization
    • committed the mistake of just focusing on financial engineering to reduce cost, think about how to grow the business
    • Did not realize after fully taking over a company that the revenue side of the business is usually circumscribed to external factors not under direct management control
  • On negotiations
    • everything has to be negotiated
    • threaten, continuously threaten by painting a very dire picture. This helps frame the alternative which you demand as something very very reasonable
    • wear down your opponent
    • answer a question with a question
    • always push the deal as far as it can without blowing up
    • wait until a company is so stretched in need of a deal before buying on the most favorable terms
  • On goal setting
    • have no fixed goals
    • see all the possibilities
  • Princeton liberal arts eduction:
    • exposure to eclectic mix of human knowledge teaching a student how to think, explore and question rather than prepare them for a specific career
    • the best thinkers will rise to the top of their chosen careers precisely because they have not limited themselves to narrow courses of study

Related references

Liar’s poker by Micheal Lewis

  • Michael Milken:
    • between perception and reality there is a gap
    • herd instincts: investors are constrained by appearance. A manager of a respectable financial institution will shun “fallen angels” so as to avoid appearing imprudent to his colleagues
    • forces wishing to keep a large company afloat are far greater than those that wish to see it perish
    • credit rating systems are flawed. It focuses on the past instead of the future. Ignore large fortune 500 companies in favor of ones with no credit standings to find a good deal.
    • The market which may be quick to digest earnings data was grossly inefficient in valuing everything.
  • Lessons from Solomon brother traders
    • I don’t pat myself in the back, because the next sensation is a sharp kick lower down
    • those who say don’t know, those who know don’t say
    • Despite the valuable lessons history can offer us, its shown that man does not learn any of these valuable lessons.
  • Benjamin Graham: The more elaborate the mathematics, the more uncertain and speculative the outcome. Avoid substituting experience with theory.
  • Key historic events:
    • 1933 Glass Steagall act: separation of investment banking and retail banking
    • July 1944 Bretton wood systems: World currencies agree to a fix exchange rate against the USD, USD agree to fix exchange rate with Gold.
    • 1971 Collapse of the Bretton Wood systems: US, faced with increasing pressure to maintain the USD gold exchange rates as its foreign reserves were depleted by a extended Vietnam war, went off the gold standard to prevent a run.
    • 6th October 1979 The Volcker Act : money supply will be fixed, interest rates would float
    •  12th Nov 1999: repeal of the Glass Steagall act: banks can now take use consumer deposits for investment purposes.

Related references

The AI economy, Roger Bootle

Paradoxes

  • Polanyi Paradox
  • Moravec’s paradox

Key skill sets for the AI era

  • complex communication
  • Creativity
  • Strategic thinking / critical thinking
  • Empathy / humanity

Key themes

  • AI as labor cost versus AI as capital expenditure
  • Taxes on AI development versus edge in global competition
  • Labor versus leisure
  • Global positioning
  • Population size as advantage for big data

Thoughts on the Corona Virus stock market crash

Key takeaways on White house press releases

  • White house has taken very decision steps since the start of the spread in China to limit the import of viruses within the US
  • It has followed through with further travel bans of air travel from Europe
  • The next step is the 15 day shelter at home notices as of 15th March 2020
  • Its a trade off between financial markets turmoil and health system turmoil
  • To reduce maximum potential casualties, White house has opted to drag out the time it takes for the virus to spread throughout the community through social distancing measures.
  • The process can be modified to have each state go through its own bell curve of peaking
  • When health facilities are not overload, healthcare workers can afford to provide the necessary level of care to patients so as to limit the number of fatalities
  • In times of crisis, democratic systems after much bickering will align and perform execution with tremendous velocity. Private sectors will get mobilized to deal with the crisis as well.
  • Crisis are opportunities to remove red tapes and refresh platforms that are otherwise outdated. This makes the system more robust and able to handle future scenarios
  • Media do not always accurately report what is the official communication from the White House. When possible always seek out the original communication.
  • Targeting to reopen the country by 12th April 2020, Easter

Stock market price actions

 

  • In prior two pandemics (2003 SARS, 2009 H1N1), the height of the shock was experienced during the month of March before a subsequent rebound was observed
  • Federal reserve announcements of interest rate cuts ironically caused markets to dip
  • During period of turbulence, euphoria and subsequent price spikes due to government promise of bail out will not be long lasting
  • Oil is a leading indicator
  • Percentage coverage of media on pandemic is also a leading indicator of drops in markets
  • SPY might go through periods of denial before acknowledging pandemic is cause for concern
  • Gold which is considered a safe haven during time of crisis will dip when traders experiencing margin calls on their equity positions start unloading their gold to fulfill margin calls
  • US Treasury yield curve will start steepening when Federal reserve starts lowering interest rates and performing quantitative easing
  • Gold and bond prices decline will quickly follow the steepening of the yield curve.
  • Global markets will experience sharp retreat as funds exit from global markets for US treasury when steepening compared to negative interest rates worldwide
  • US dollar exchange rates will start surging as liquidity exit from emerging markets
  • Execution of fiscal policies will usually lag monetary policies
  • Share prices levels of directly impact companies can be seen trading at
    • ratios on 19th March 2020
      • PE ratio: 1.5 – 2.5X
      • PB ratio: 0.25-0.30
      • Discount from peak: 80-90%
        • 2020 Corona Pandemic: NHCL, RCL, CUK, CAR, MGM
        • 2019 California forest: PCG
    • affected industries: cruises, hotels, airlines

Related references