Friday, January 13, 2017

Weblog 2017-01-13

New York Times interview with Peter Thiel

Thiel alternates between boasting of his own rationality and displaying the most blatant epistemic bias. Some of his responses are downright Trumpian, consisting of a series of insinuating questions capped with a coy "I don't know" — the only thing missing is "many people are saying...". Referring to Merrick Garland by his first name strikes an odd note too. Overall the interview is frustratingly superficial, with a whole series of provocative statements by Thiel left unexamined. Lack of corruption is "boring"? I guess that's one problem we won't have to worry about under the new administration.

Tiago Forte on "Bending the Curves of Productivity"

"But we lack a framework for how individual employees can use small batch sizes to their advantage. [...] We need to change our conception of what we are producing, from final deliverables to what I will call 'intermediate packets.'"

The idea reveals another angle on this "weblogging" experiment — if I write these entries with the intention of creating "intermediate packets", perhaps my web browsing can become part of a productive routine rather than mostly a waste of time and vehicle of procrastination. After all, the point of my online reading was always supposed to be to acquire useful knowledge and not just diversion.

A mini-project I've been working on this week is to distill a Global Market Analysis document I did for a prospect a while back into a template I can use to quickly generate similar documents for other potential clients. But the process has been tortuous, with tangents into studying the documentation on software that's only peripherally related — OmniOutliner, to be specific. The market analysis document is built in Apple's Pages, incorporating a few charts made in Excel, and I could probably reach the objective of creating the template without using OmniOutliner at all, or only using its most basic capabilities. But I also have a background objective of learning to use my key software tools more effectively, so I'm taking the time to dive into the manual even if it delays completion of the template project. Does the "importance" of learning OmniOutliner in-depth really outweigh the "urgency" of completing the market analysis template? (And since the main document is in Pages, should I be learning to do the charts in Numbers instead of Excel?) For that matter, it's quite possible that I'm putting way too much time into building sales tools like the Global Market Analyses I'll be building from the template instead of just getting out there and meeting with prospects. I'm not sure — but in Forte's conceptual framework I can think of "proficiency in OmniOutliner" as an "intermediate packet" with future application beyond the template project.

Forte writes:
So what is required to make this new approach a reality? It requires us to get much, much better at packaging our work mid-stream. Here’s what makes it difficult: we can’t afford to do this packaging during the project, because every spare moment is needed to race toward the deadline. And we can’t do it after the project ends, because by then we’re already off to the next one. No, this packaging has to be embedded into the actual way we work moment to moment, so that it doesn’t take any extra time whatsoever.
And he concludes with some thoughts on note-taking apps as "the next frontier of productivity" that relate nicely to the Zettelkasten approach that I hope to return to in future blog posts.

Umair Haque briefly notes why cutting health care is not just inhumane, but also precisely the wrong policy prescription for America today.

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