The lean method

I knew there was something wrong with the management and how we do things at Yabroad, but it was difficult for me to convince other people what we were doing and how we do things are not the best way to run a startup business. When I talk about pragmatism, people talk about visions and having a long-term goal; when I talk about experiments, people talk about previous experience; when I talk about planning and specific goals, people talk about execution. After reading “The lean startup” and “Running lean”, I’m more convinced about how a business should really operate.

The lean method is really about how to get things done efficiently, be it running a small project, or managing a international corporation. It’s about down-to-earth planning and taking advantage of resources efficiently. It’s a call for doing things that really matters. When proposing a new project, ask not if we think it’s cool, ask how we’re going to satisfy the end users. And the first step to go is really getting to know the actual users, what are the problems they find painful and how other products are approaching the problems, and why our proposal is better than the existing solutions.

We made a mistake at Yabroad that we think people are willing to come to China if we don’t charge them much. While our competitors are charging thousands of euros per application, we charge only a few hundred. But we didn’t see an exponential growth, the increase of applications was only negligible. We talked too much about disruptive innovation and thought lowering the price will piss out all our competitors and help us gain a portion of the market share rapidly. We were wrong.

The decision was made without much evidence to prove our assumption. Price is indeed an important factor when people want to visit a different country, but it’s not the deciding factor. Given the opportunity to visit North Korea or Iran, does it still matter if you want to pay thousands of euros or hundreds of euros? Our customers want security and reliability, lowering the price simply does not help, and let’s hope it doesn’t jeopardize customers’ trust in us.

We were not utilizing validated learning. In fact few of our decisions were made based on solid facts and validated results. Arrogant people often think they are the best in this world and they usually piss of everyone else and complain about “why everyone is against me?” Arrogant companies don’t get customers. What they do is not to satisfy customers, they just want to prove themselves correct.

The build-measure-learn loop should be continuous and iterate in fast pace. Build a minimum viable product and measure how successful it is and learn where it could be improved and improve the MVP and enter the next build-measure-learn loop. Validate minimal concepts at a time. Get the whole project running and receiving income before burning out what you have.

It’s true that starting up is really management — if you know where to put resources and man power, and keep track of the direction the business is running towards, you won’t be too wrong.

The power of thinking without thinking

Blink: the power of thinking without thinking is another book by Malcolm Gladwell, the author of Outliers: the story of success I just read a few days ago. He is a good writer: he knows how to explains theories with examples and stories that creates resonance to audience. And he knows how to write bestsellers: books should be easy to follow and not too lengthy. This book Blink is a fine example: it’s a less-than-300-page small book.

Compared with Subliminal, this book does not contain too much diving into how human brains work. Instead, it’s all about plain but intriguing stories. It starts by talking about spotting a bogus statue at first sight; then it discusses about how to predict divorces by analyzing how couples talk to each other; then it comes to why we fall for people’s appearances, how newbie police fails to read people’s minds, etc.

This book brings up a theory called “thin-slicing”: getting the big picture without actually going through the whole picture, but through taking a small part of descriptive samples and inferring the correct result using these samples. Thin-slicing is an ability that only through years of practice can it be possessed. It is a state that spontaneous and correct judgement occurs to you even though your consciousness has yet participated in the process. This ability becomes an integrated part of yourself, just like the instinct to avoid coming cars. It doesn’t necessarily deal with reasoning: your success of getting the correct answer does not guarantee that you know exactly why. If you are forced to give reasons, you may not come up with correct ones and they may hazard your first-sight judgement. To reason means to use your conscious mind; but thin-slicing is from deeper than the consciousness — it comes from the unconsciousness of your brain.

However, thin-slicing may not always give us correct results. We usually trust those who are good looking, while this sometimes leads to unpleasant endings, such as choosing the handsome Warren Harding as the president of the US and who make the worst president in US history; Most white people and including some black people, think under their consciousness that the white is a superior; Many treat women as inferior. These are the unconsciousness that we need to prevent, otherwise we are not able to focus on the aspects that really matters.

In summary, use the unconsciousness, but use it properly. Train the mind, so that the pattern recognition engine in our brains gets recognizing what is important and what is not, so that in a blink of time, we can make the best decision without thinking (using our conscious mind).

What sets outliers apart

There is a famous quote from Einstein that goes “genius is 1% talent and 99% hard work”, and the book Outliers: the story of success proves it correct. As many knows that Einstein has an IQ of around 150, however, IQ is not the definite factor towards success, but rather, IQ is not important at all once it reaches a threshold — as long as you have an adequate intelligence, it’s other aspects that really matters. Those aspects include hard work, social savvy, upbringing and the culture one comes from.

This book tells a story of a man named Chris Langan with an IQ of 195, but he ended as as a bouncer at a bar for the most of his life. He is smart, so smart that he understands Principia Mathematica at the age of 16. But he never knows how to deal with people. He lost his scholarship because his mother forgot to fill a form for him and after he confronted his dean he concluded that the professors do not care about the students. And so he quitted. By contrast, the father of atomic bombs, Oppenheimer is not as smart, but he processes a great practical knowledge. He knows how to get away with punishment after trying to poison his tutor at  Cambridge. He also persuaded General Groves to let him participate in the Manhattan Project, despite his poisoning record and affiliations with Communists. It’s obvious that both Langan and Oppenheimer are smart, but in a way they could not be more different in aspects other than intelligence.

The author also elaborates how important diligence is. It’s known that for one to become good at something, he/she has to spend at least 10,000 hours on it. Bill Gates had more than 10,000 hours of experience with computers before he dropped out; the Beatles had more than 10,000 hours of practice before they made a real hit; the same with Steve Jobs, Bill Joy (cofounder of Sun Microsystems), Eric Schemidt, etc. As the book puts it, “no one who can rise before dawn 360 days a year fails to make his family rich”.

However, as important as diligence is, it’s equivalently important to have the ability of seizing opportunities. The computer gurus are typically born in mid 1950s (Bill Gates 1955, Paul Allen 1953, Steve Ballmer 1956, Steve Jobs 1955, Eric Schemidt 1955, Bill Joy 1954);If you look at Chinese Internet gurus, same intersting facts: year in which the founder is born: Baidu 1968, Alibaba 1964, Tecent 1971, Netease 1971, Sina 1969, Sohu 1964, why? Because they all had their 10,000 hours of practice when the personal computer revolution began in 1975 (or internet starts to become popular in China in mid 1990s). It did not happen only in computer industry, but also in other industries such as law, manufacturing, and so on.

The culture you are from and the upbringing shape your thinking and behaviours and in the end how successful you are. It takes three generations for Jews to transform from tailors and garment industry workers to doctors and lawyers. Success is not magic; it’s the hard work passed along generations to generations. Asians are better at mathematics because our ancestors have to calculate carefully when growing rice; and asians are more diligent because our ancestors have to put the hours in hard work so as to survive.

Next time when someone asks how could Chinese economy grow so fast, show him how Chinese work.

The unconsciousness rules our lives

When my girlfriend asks me if I had vegetables for dinner, my usual answer would be “no, but I had fruits”, upon hearing this she always teases me that I cannot differentiate fruits from vegetables. Well, yes and no – of course I can distinguish them in my conscious mind; but in my unconscious mind, I can’t.  That is, although I know that they are different, deep under my consciousness my animal instinct always categorize food as either meat or nonmeat – thus tricking me into treating fruits and vegetables as interchangeable.

Phenomena like this seem trivial but they happen again and again in our daily life, often without being noticed. Psychologists think our brain is a two-tier system that works like two entire railway systems. These two generally operates independently of each other but they are also connected at various points. The more fundamental tier is our unconscious mind, which deals with our basic animal functions like sensing and safely responding to the external world; on top of the unconscious lies the consciousness, which deals with our rational thoughts and set us apart from other animals. In our daily life it is actually the unconscious that processes more information. Scientists estimate that the human sensory system sends to the brain about eleven million bits of information per second, while we can only handle somewhere between 16 and 50 bits per second. The rest go unnoticed and are processed by the unconscious to produce a much simpler abstraction of information so that our conscious mind is not overwhelmed.

As a result of this two-tier brain system, when something happens, the reality we perceive is not really what we have sensed, but rather what the sensory system detects plus what we think happened. Here’s the catch. Our unconscious mind may trick our conscious mind into thinking about what may have never happened. For example, when listeners in one study hears “it was found that the *eel was on the axle”, where the asterisk stands for a cough/noise covering the sound, listeners thinks they hear “wheel”. If “axle” is changed into “table” they hear “meal”; and with “orange” as the last word listeners hear “peal”. So in a way our brain “invents” reality rather than “senses” it.

This also happens to our memory system. Even though sometimes we think we remember things, the memories may not be accurate. There has been an example of a victim remembering the wrong person as the rapist, even though she saw the rapist’s face under good light condition. She committed the mistake the first time when the police asked her to identify the rapist from several potential criminals and she chose the one that best matched the rapist from her memory. And after that she kept reinforcing the idea that the one she had identified was really the criminal. The problem is that the real criminal never appeared in the lineups, thus resulting her to remember what she wants to believe in – the decision she made when forced (by herself) to identify someone as the criminal.

However, our unconsciousness is not all that bad. It helps us to tell if a person is happy or angry without thinking about it. It also helps us to be social. When we communicate, we always give away nonverbal cues, and we are quite good at deciphering these hints. For example, even if we mute the sound and cover the subtitles when watching a movie, we will still be able to get a relatively accurate clue about what is really going on. Moreover, animals are even better at reading our nonverbal cues. That is probably why sometimes we think our pets actually understand our words – in reality they don’t, but they are good (in particular dogs are better than us) at understand our social signals like emotions.

The unconscious also helps us categorizing things, keeps us in faith of groups we belong to and share the group’s compassion in the face of enemies. Furthermore, it keeps us confident about ourselves. In fact we are often overly confident and overestimate ourselves. Our desire of feeling good about ourselves leads us to have unconsciously biased behaviors. For example, researchers found that in the US people with the same surname are more likely to get married. That is, Browns are more likely to marry Browns; and Smiths are more likely to marry Smiths. The researchers explained that even something as seemingly meaningless as our names could make us feel good and form an opinion in favor of ourselves. This may also explain why in Apple many senior managers have Steve as their first names; and in Amazon many Jeffs hold senior positions.

Another study show that 94% of college professors think their work is above average. Obviously at least 44, or almost half of them overestimate themselves. This human character is a blessing rather than a flaw, since evolution designed the human brain not to accurately understand itself but to help us survive. Feeling good helps our ancestors to endure hunger, coldness and diseases. Even today, this still works. Take the placebo effect for example, patients that are given sugar pills but are told the pills are effective to treat their diseases feel significantly better – sugar pills with a different label actually cures or alleviate pains. They do not in any way alleviate pains in the physical level, but rather, it is our unconsciousness that tricks and treats us.

As we evolve along the long history, our animal instincts have been kept or even further developed while our rational thinking progresses. The conscious part is what tells us apart from animals. However, animals can survive with little or without much consciousness; while no animals can survive without unconsciousness, neither can humans. Understanding the unconsciousness means more than just survival, but also means better coordination with the conscious, better understanding of ourselves as humans, and really following our hearts.

The book Subliminal: how your unconscious mind rules your behavior is quite fascinating. It provides an extensive range of psychological experiments to support the idea, and explains theories in a great sense of humor. Below are some excerpts and notes from the book.

When the author tries to prove to his mother that a tortoise is primitive by waving his hands to it and it ignores him, his mother argues: “Your kids ignore you, and you don’t call them primitive creatures.”

Smiths are more likely to marry Smiths: people have a basic desire to feel good about themselves, and therefore we have a tendency to be unconsciously biased in favor of traits similar to our own, even such seemingly meaningless traits as our names.

The Pepsi paradox: Pepsi tastes better than Coke in blind tests; while people still prefer Coke when they have a choice. Wine tastes better with higher price labels. Stockings with a particular scent sells better. Detergent with yellow and blue box is more effective. Many of our basic assumptions about ourselves and the society are false.

The human sensory system sends the brain about eleven million bits of information per second, while we can only handle between sixteen and fifty bits per second.

The human mental system is a two-tier system comprised of an unconscious tier and a conscious tier. The unconscious tier is more fundamental. It developed early our evolution, to deal with basic necessities of function and survival, sensing and responding to the external world. Most nonhuman species can survive with little or no conscious thought, but no animal can exist without unconsciousness. Scientists estimate that we are conscious of only about 5% of our cognitive function, the other 95% goes beyond our awareness.

If a animation is shown in front of one eye and a static picture is shown in front of the other, you will only be aware of the animation, even if the static picture is pornographic (but you will probably make a correct guess if you’re forced to). PS. in academia they sometimes take “highly arousing erotic images” from the International Affective Picture System, which contains a range of pictures from sexually explicit material to mutilated bodies to pleasant images of children and wildlife.

Henry Kissinger On China

The uniqueness of China lies in the long history and profound culture and traditions developed within the long period. Thanks to this uniqueness, we are born with a innate proudness. We think we are the best and in fact we are, at least for most of the time. We have been invaded but never been conquered. The strategy has always been sample as this: we are never afraid of the rest of the world because we are the best; if you want to fight us, welcome; we will fight you and beat you; if we fail we will assimilate you until you become you as one of us, sooner or later. This strategy makes me believe that even if aliens invade China and assume we are beaten, we will not stop trying feed aliens with our values and culture. We will even try to make new species with aliens and make the offsprings behave in Chinese manners. Anyway, we didn’t invite them. They asked for it!

This strategy comes with side effects. One of the most serious is the willingness to sacrifice people in order to save the nation, the history and the pride. Chinese are OK with loosing a few battles but will surely stand up against the trying of eliminate the culture. If you understand this, you will hopefully understand why Mao claims “[T]he death of ten to twenty million people is nothing to be afraid of” when talking about nuclear wars, because nuclear weapons cannot eliminate Chinese (since we have many) and Chinese will eventually win the war by making more offsprings and continue its fight.

Another fact is that Chinese have always been interested in maters under our own dome and have cared only about ourselves. We do everything for our own good and do not force others to think or act like us. In a way Chinese are quite tolerant with ideas and lifestyles — as long as you don’t force us to share your beliefs. China has a long history of been united and independent; and that’s why Chinese do not want to be preached about what we should do to keep it up running. Chinese want to focus on our own matters — for example, poverty — but if you ask us for help, we are willing to do that — in a way to show off our superiority.

So that’s Chinese: we are the best and do not try to teach us anything; instead if you want we can teach you something; otherwise just leave us alone and mind your own business.

乌合之众

所谓经典,经久不衰之宝典也。这本来自1895年的法国的书,在100多年之后读起来仍然让人觉得津津有味。作者对社会的剖析入木三分,深刻揭示了社会群体的特性。

群体顾名思义,由一群个体组成。而这群个体走到一起形成一个群体之后,其中的每个个体的特性便不再重要,作为群体中的一员,这个个体可能会完全迷失在群体中间。群体抹去每个个体心智的的差距,使他们的行为趋向一致;每个个体不断相互影响和暗示,相互传染极端思想,使这个群体做出任何单个个体都不会做出的出格事情。书中有个很形象的故事:在一个马戏团里,一匹马将粪便拉在了一位坐着观看表演的女士的腿上。而周围的一群绅士却丝毫没有绅士的表现,一齐大笑起来。试想,如果只有一个绅士在场,会发生这样的情况吗?

群体是不使用理性,不用逻辑思考问题的。在群体之中一个个体的智力会泯灭,群体只能接受感性的,形象的思维。作者认为群体中个人智力的泯灭存在着四个阶段:自我意识模糊,独立思考能力下降,判断力和逻辑在暗示与传染的作用下趋同一致,最后残存的智力被测底反噬。历史上很多不可思议的事件中都能找到这种情形:不管平时多么聪明,在群体中却完全迷失了自我。比如高级知识分子失去独立思考的能力,去做一些违背原则的事情(想想我国几十年前发生的事情)。群体只接受简单的概念和形象,不接受正常逻辑。群体迷恋偶像,创造偶像,并沉浸其中不可自拔。

一个群体需要有领袖,这个领袖往往是这个群体里最极端的个体。只有极端的人才能成为领袖,因为极端的个体可以更好的感染群体,而群体的奴性成就一个领袖,个体成为领袖之后又使得群体和领袖变得更为极端。为了释放这些极端的情绪,这个群体便以残暴可怖的手段去处理异见持有者。

文末作者以悲观的情绪分析了人类历史发展的规律:个体走到一起,团结起来抵御外部入侵;摆脱野蛮,发展个体,形成文明;文明强盛,逐渐复杂,止步不前;走向衰落;群体分崩离析;回归原始。“人们在追求理想的过程中,从野蛮状态发展到文明状态,然后,当这个理想失去优点时,便走向衰落和死亡,这就是一个民族的生命循环过程。”

洗脑术

我同意书中的很多说法,比如“别人的成功是不可以复制的”,事实上没有任何现实是可以复制的。相同的可以是某一方面的经验或者事实背后的逻辑与模式,但是“人不能两次踏过同一条河流”,这个世界上并没有一条放之四海而皆准的成功学定理。联想到最近看到的微博,“凡出口不离乔布斯、巴菲特、比尔盖茨的,大抵过的不如卖煎饼的。”成功的人各有各的个性、能力、方法、机遇和运气,而他们的传记,专访只说出了他们愿意分享出来的一部分信息,这部分信息的真实性也值得商榷。用作者的话说,赢家通过制造理念,用这些他们再熟悉不过的理念对别人进行洗脑,把这些人限制在他们给出的特定框架中,让这些人同意他们的说法,让这些人成为自己想法的布道者和执行者,从而成为大众心中的偶像和赢家。如果这是一场比赛的话,那么这些赢家就是游戏规则的制定者,裁判以及参赛选手。所以赢家之所以赢,也就那么理所当然了。

而这个世界上并不是所有人都有能力去制定游戏规则的,有人明智(教父和洗脑者),有人冷静而善于观察(牧师和布道者),有人热情少思(信徒)。然而每个人都有去争取得到属于自己东西的权利,要想最大化所得,需要自己利用技巧。比如,积极思考,保持自信,做一个优秀且看起来正常的人;与人交往时挖掘出对方的深层次需求,可以威逼,亦可利诱,奖惩结合才会事半功倍;懂得如何转移话题和注意力,说谎与失信并不一定是坏事,不要一味直白,要善于包装坦诚;多听少说,保持神秘,不要过分暴露自己;做一件事情前看看有没有其他人想做,如果没有就要放弃,因为人都是趋利避害的,而你不比别人高明多少;要偏执,要固执,要坚持自己的想法,前提是自己真正相信自己的想法。

全世界人民都知道

读了这本书,发现李承鹏的杂文水平确实不怎么样,杂文能记成流水账也算是一种境界。文字无端卖弄,莫名其妙的拼凑同音词显得无比做作。在我的印象中杂文应该针砭时弊,把人骂的狗血淋头,把事说得无比通透,把政府批得体无完肤才是。可这本书给人的感觉是完全没有高潮,读罢全文像是听隔壁村大婶絮叨了半天一般,那种想听人骂街而不得的挫败感让人生闷气。

读到书末几篇散文倒是有点感觉,不过大哥,下次能不能一件事情说完就行了,别絮絮叨叨的说上个三五遍好不好?

The well known secret

The Secret should be a great book haven’t I read many books about self control, positive thinking and success, etc. Honestly I didn’t find much new in the book. The overall theme is quite clear: embrace your positive thoughts and get rid of negative ones. And I think this Ted talk explains the concept better and is more persuasive. The book is tedious if not boring, like many other books on “success”. I guess the author believes in “repetition is the key of persuasiveness.”

After reading this book, I don’t even bother reading another book of hers: The Power. After skimming through its table of contents, it’s basically the same thing after all. I need examples, logic and insights, instead of pure propagandas!

Notes on Big Data

《大数据时代》这本书强调了这个时代数据的重要性,所谓大数据,即全体数据而非抽样数据,大数据强调混杂性而不追求准确性,注重相关关系而非因果关系。在商业中,不仅需要得到大数据,而且需要知道如何利用大数据。例如,如何筛选自己需要的信息,了解自己真正需要什么。在这个过程中重视产生的结果,却不要过分纠结于产生这个结果的原因。本书作者似乎是业界翘楚,书中旁征博引,很有说服力。可以看出来作者Viktor Mayer-Schonberger是Taylorism的坚定信徒,他相信任何事情都是可以用数据测量和表述的。这一点跟《The Shallows》的作者Nicholas Carr的观点不一样,Carr认为并不是所有的东西都是可以测量的。当然Schonberger在书最后也提到了这一点,他也认为我们处理的信息不过是世界的某个投影,大数据也只是一个工具,我们在使用大数据的时候不要自负,要“铭记人性之本”。

《删除》是《大数据时代》作者Schonberger的另一本书,作者这次从用户的角度出发,讲诉在大数据时代中应该做出对自己有利的事情。计算机和存储介质的发明,就意味着数据会被永久存储;特别是近年来各种软件和在线服务的出现,使得人们越来越没有能力控制自己信息的散布,流动,以及存在的时限。很多信息一旦公开(甚至是对少许几人公开),你就没有在将它控制住的能力了,颇有“覆水难收”的味道。书中举了一个在MySpace上贴出自己饮酒照片被上司发现而最终被取消教师资格的女孩的故事;而我前几天发现我的网站被另一个网站做了历史镜像的经历也同样让我不安。一旦信息公布,就不能再收回了。作者在书中给了很多建议,如节制数字化信息的使用,知道自己应该公开那些信息,重视公开信息的后果;重视隐私法律的建立以及提供相应的技术支持;调整大众对数字隐私的认知;等等。同时作者最后还抛出了一个给所有信息都加上一个存储期限的想法,这个不管从技术上还是用户体验上都难以在近期时限。但是,最近确实有类似的在线服务出现,如阅后即焚的聊天服务snapchat,在线文本存储与共享工具pastebin等,同时Google等巨头也一再缩短存储用户信息的时间。随着大众对隐私的觉醒,相信在不久会有更多的服务在信息存储期限上下功夫。下一个会不会是email呢?毕竟我们需要的只是一小部分对我们有用的东西,如果我们都根本不记得邮件里有哪些内容,就让它们被慢慢的遗忘吧。

《爆发》从行为预测的角度讲诉了大数据的用途。这本书看到一半时我觉得这是我看过的最好的业界趋势读物,因为作者巴拉巴西的写作手法很奇特:全书每一章都分为两个部分,前半部分讲技术,后一部分讲历史故事。每看完一章我都想迫不及待的看下一章,颇有章回体小说的味道。但是等我把全书看完之后却还是云里雾里,完全不理解作者的观点是什么,到底人的行为是否可以被准确预测。不过确定的有一点,如书名所诉,我们的行为充满爆发性(Bursts)。我们可以很长时间不写邮件,但是同时也有可能在短时间里写很多邮件;我写博客也是,可能好几个月都不写一篇,有时候又连续几天都写;我好几个月都不看书,一看就连续看好几本;甚至花钱也是,好几天一分钱都不花,也有可能一天花好多……作者认为我们之所以会有这些行为,从根本来讲是因为我们的生物特性中即有爆发性,细胞生成的过程即是由一个又一个的爆发组成的。从行为学上讲,我们会给自己要做的事情安排一个优先级,只有优先级高的事情才会被完成。由此生成的优先级队列就隐含了爆发性,导致我们实际完成事情的时候也是一组一组爆发式的完成的。因为我们的行为不是一个随机过程,所以我们不遵循泊松分布。书中的历史故事也很精彩,讲诉了16世纪发生在匈牙利的一个农民起义的故事。起义领袖赛克勒从发起起义到被捕都发生在很短的时间内,按作者的说法他的起义过程实际上是一个快速燃烧完的爆发点。赛克勒并没有经历太多就变成了起义领袖,由此就注定必败的命运。一切来的太突然了,不是每个人都能把握好自己。所以“天将降大任于斯人也,必先苦其心志,劳其胫骨,乏其体肤”也是不无道理的。一个人需要蛰伏很久,才能从容的面对破茧而出的那一刻。

Notes on The Shallows

This book was recommended by several colleagues at Ericsson. After reading it I find it quite worth reading. It is objective, profound in examples and analysis, persuasive, and smooth to read.

The author argues that our brains are plastic; and they are shaped gradually by new mediums, such as printing, radio, computers and the Internet,  throughout the history. When we take advantage of certain technologies, we tend to consider the technology as a part of ourselves. And by heavily relying on those technologies, we gradually loose the ability to do what’s been done by them. When we starts to use clocks, we loose the sense of timing; when we use GPS to guide ourselves, we loose the sense of orientation; after using typewriters/computers, we can no longer writing by hand. Our brains physically change during the course of using tools or memorizing things. Tools shape the way we think and act.

Computers and the Internet make information broadly accessible, however this does not increase our knowledge or problem solving skills. What we have done is just adapting ourselves to the tools. The contents are superflous while we only concentrate on the superficial. We get interrupted.

We mistakenly think ourselves as simulations of computers. However, computers are designed and built to simulate human behaviours but not otherwise. We may take advantage of them, but we should realise there are borders between us and the tools. We should not let them dominate our lives.

In the middle of writing the first two paragraphs of this post: I closed several previously opened browser tabs and took a glimpse over them; checked opened Linkedin to see if there are any interesting news; after two seconds I tried to open facebook and then realised I haven’t open up SSH tunnel yet, so I closed the facebook tab; then I changed the default text editor application for my system; tried to uninstall one of the text editors but aborted the task; navigated to the ebooks I have on my computer and tried to find something I have now already forgotten about; skimmed some books on Python, Ruby, Joomla, LaTex, and finally read one chapter on using regular expressions in Vim; after that I’m back in the browser to record this in my post. This happened probably within 10 minutes and now I have no idea why I interrupted writing this post in the first place. Oh, just now I Googled the word ‘interrupt’ since I couldn’t decide whether to use ‘interrupt’ or ‘pause’.

Indeed computers and the Internet are nice tools, for certain purposes. But they are merely tools. Don’t let them get in your way of doing what you really want and building what you want to become.

基因决定公司前途定律

看完《浪潮之巅》,收获不小。这本书讲述了美国各大科技公司的沉浮历史,从科技和商业两方面讨论了它们成功的秘密和失败的根源,提出了不少我很认同的观念。

首先是基因决定定律,一个公司的创始人和早期员工决定了公司的基因,这个基因会在公司成长的过程中不断影响公司做出的决定,从一定意义上来说决定了公司能否成功和公司对员工及社会的影响。苹果是一个设计公司,所以它推出的手机在设计上没有出彩的地方的时候消费者就不会买账;Google是一个做工程的公司,所以它的Android系统做了七年也做不出好的用户体验;爱立信是一个设备提供商,所以它不可能跟最终消费者走的太近,它会更多的考虑运营商而不是最终消费者的利益;微软是卖软件的,所以它在免费在线服务上竞争不过Google跟Yahoo,因为后者提供的服务是免费的……

其次是摩尔定律,反摩尔定律和安迪比尔定律。摩尔定律大家都知道,即每18个月计算机硬件性能提升一倍或者价格下降至原先的一半;反摩尔定律说的是如果一个IT公司18个月之后的卖出产品的数量与现在一样,那么它一年半之后的营业额就会减半;安迪比尔定律说的是英特尔的硬件带来的提升会被微软软件消耗的资源抵消,软硬件产业的发展是相辅相成的。

还有一些管理公司的诀窍。如思科为了留住早期员工让他们进行内部创业,然后再将他们创立的公司收购,从而不断获得新的技术和留住最好的人才;Google初创时期为了让员工充满动力,每周都会公布一周里签下的大合同和公司的运营额以及现金数量等“商业机密”,让每个员工知道公司运营状况;Google用人采取“杀鸡用牛刀”的方式保证产品质量和工作效率;一个公司在IPO之后往往创始人的股权都小于10%;伯克希尔-哈撒韦采用双层股权,A股面值是B股的30倍,投票权是B股的200倍,A股能转为B股而B股不可能转为A股,这样来保证创始人公司的控制;Google也采用双层股权的方式,A股每股一个投票权而B股每股10个投票权,B股掌握在创始人和高管手中而不能流通。

虽然这本书的作者吴军对技术细节可能不太重视(比如他写到IPv6中地址是6个字节48位,实际为16字节128位),但他在Google的工作经验和对公司商业上的看法十分深刻,推荐此书。

《活着》的信念

之前看过电影,但对电影情节一点印象都没有了,所以现在再来看书的时候就像是新拿到一本小说一样,一口气看完之后才慢慢回忆起之前电影里面的一些场景。一个人活着,信念是最重要的,对福贵也好,对少年Pi也一样,这个信念的产生并不需要有前提诱因,也不需要有情操来支持它,它是每个人与生俱来的。活着的信念本身是卑微的,关键时刻产生的继续生存下去的动力却是其它信念无法比拟的。

Eat that frog

According to this book, the key to success is: clarify your goals and objectives; divide them into smaller tasks; prioritize the tasks; conquer them in an efficient way; take into account your talents and constraints while targeting the tasks; motivate yourself; do not multitask; set deadlines; carry the plan through.

The author is surely correct, however the book does not guarantee success. This book, like other books discussing about success, is pointless, since anyone knows what it takes to succeed — practice — while reading a book is quite a different experience from that.

有我无我

读《人间词话》看到王国维对于意境的论述才恍然大悟,自己活得是否失败不取决于别人如何评论,也不取决于自己如何看待自己。如果过于注意他人的评价和自己的是非对错,则容易陷入究竟该如何认识自己的沼泽,而且一旦陷入迷茫中就不能自拔。

很庆幸今天看到了这本书,突然有一种醍醐灌顶的感觉。人不能太自大自负,不能过于以自己为中心生活,否则你看到的只是自己,而不知道自己身边发生着那些精彩的故事,以及错过身旁让人目不暇接的美景。跳出自己的小圈子,放眼了望远方,就能将自己舒展开来,舒舒坦坦的呼吸从远方白云下吹来的新鲜空气,感受树上叶子间活泼跳动阳光带来的生机。放下心头肩上的负担,闭上眼睛好好享受这惬意的一切。

记得五年前高考作文题目便取自于《人间词话》,要求对“诗人对宇宙人生,须入乎其内,又须出乎其外”来发表自己的观点。只是当时年少无知,对其中的奥妙只是懵懵懂懂。虽然现在与当年相比并未成熟多少,但至少自己现在可以赞许的去实践。入乎其内,才能将所思所想付诸实践;出乎其外,才能将所见所闻作为参考。

心情愉悦不少。