Godot

In a recent New Yorker article “Have Aliens found us?”, there is a reference to cargo cults. The magazine doesn’t go into detail, but cargo cults are super interesting in their own right, so here’s a little post about them.

When military bases popped up in the Pacific, they met islanders who were isolated from technology until then. And from the locals’ perspective, they got introduced to a lot of new stuff all the sudden. They’ve also seen the stationed military personnel engage in weird rituals on the island.

Islanders observed as Westerners went on to turn on some lights, then climbed a tower to make funny moves. In a short while an aircraft flew over to drop crates of weapons, food and other interesting stuff.

Islanders didn’t know what a factory or an aircraft was, what a radio is for. But the need to find out how things work is only human. So they quickly drew the wrong conclusion that it was God sending cargo to whoever asked for it, and Western people know a way to talk to God.

Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic — the third law of Arthur C. Clarke.

Anybody who has to work hard to get stuff, but learns how to get even better stuff with magic, would do what they did next.

When the military eventually left the island after World War II, islanders started duplicating the observed behaviors. They’ve built fake wooden airplanes, created a “radio” with headphones made of coconut halves, recreated military uniforms and flags. They climbed the tower, made the hand signals and waited.

Waiting ever since.

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Books I’ve read in 2019

Readers of this blog know that my first post in January is usually the list of books I’ve read last year. So without much ado: my favorite three books with notes, and the rest as a list in no particular order.

Brief Answers to the Big Questions by Stephen Hawking

(1) Is there a God? No. (2) How did it all begin? By accident. (3) Is there other intelligent life in the universe? Maybe. (4) Can we predict the future? No. (5) What is inside a black hole? Particles. (6) Is time travel possible? Maybe later. (7) Will we survive on Earth? Yes. (8) Should we colonize space? Yes. (9) Will AI outsmart us? Yes. (10) How do we shape the future? With education.

Catching the Big Fish by David Lynch

“Ideas are like fish. If you want to catch little fish, you can stay in the shallow water. But if you want to catch the big fish, you’ve got to go deeper.”

About listening to critics: if you thought about how [your movie] going to hit people, or if it’s going to hurt someone, or if it’s going to do this or do that, then you would have to stop making films. You just do these things that you fall in love with, and you never know what’s going to happen. […] A painter paints a painting. No one comes in and says, “You’ve got to change that blue.” It’s a joke to think that a film is going to mean anything if somebody else fiddles with it.

The ONE Thing by Gary Keller

Do your most important work (your ONE Thing) before your willpower is drawn down. Work on what matters most. Instead of a to-do list, you need a success list – a list that is purposefully created around extraordinary results. If you know what your ONE thing is, it’s easier to say no: say no to everything that doesn’t help your ONE thing.

About thinking big: success is built sequentially, one thing at a time. Think big and bold: don’t let small thinking cut your life down to size. Once the ONE thing is set, it’s easier to make it to be a habit, and it’s easier to find the lead domino that starts the chain of ever-bigger dominoes.

About relationships: imagine life is a game in which you are juggling five balls, but work’s ball is made of rubber. If you drop it, it will bounce back. The other four balls–family, health, friends, integrity–are made of glass. If you drop one of these, it will be irrevocably scuffed, nicked, perhaps even shattered.

…and the rest of the list:

  • The Autobiography of Benjamin Franklin
  • Also sprach Zarathustra by Friedrich Nietzsche
  • Waking Up by Sam Harris
  • Deep Work by Cal Newport
  • Reframing by Richard Bandler & John Grinder
  • The Storytellers Secret by Sejal Badan
  • The Power of Now by Eckhart Tolle
  • Thinking, Fast and Slow by Daniel Kahneman
  • Bold by Peter Diamandis
  • Deep Thinking by Garry Kasparov
  • Delivering Happiness by Tony Hsieh
  • Hocus Pocus by Kurt Vonnegut
  • Seriously… I’m Kidding by Ellen DeGeneres
  • The Innovators Dilemma by Clayton Christensen
  • The Inevitable by Kevin Kelly
  • Factfulness by Hans Rosling
  • Slapstick by Kurt Vonnegut
  • Essentialism by Greg McKeown
  • Buffett, The Making of an American Capitalist by Roger Lowenstein
  • The Wisdom of Psychopaths by Kevin Dutton
  • The Richest Man in Babylon by George Samuel Clason
  • Herr Lehmann by Sven Regener
  • Behind the Cloud by Marc Benioff
  • Think Small by Owain Service
  • Building a StoryBrand by Donald Miller
  • Principles by Ray Dalio
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Santa wipes

Let me show you the toilet paper that my wife got us for Christmas.

Two biggies.

  1. There are places where you don’t want to see red. One of those places is anywhere near stool. Santa has a lot of red. I have a lot of missed heartbeats.
  2. After use, Santa doesn’t look any prettier. Rudolph’s nose gets a little — muddy.

Happy festivities!

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UNPOP — great songs on Spotify with under 1000 listens

I hold the unpopular opinion that Radiohead is a pop band. Because, I say, you can’t realistically be called alternative when half the world knows and loves every song you’ve ever published.

Nothing against Radiohead of course. But, let me show you a bunch of songs that I dug up throughout the years. Chances are you haven’t heard them yet.

These songs each have <1000 listens on Spotify. And under 10 views on Youtube, hey ho!

And if you’re reading this blog as a teenager, with an ambition to be really alternative, this is gold. You get the point. Because if all your friends are “different” in the exact same way, then none of them really is. You will be. You’re the person who discovered the goods.

Without further ado, my three favorites from the list:

  • Otik: Blasphemy
  • Foundhim / Ponette: I’m Alone (Youtube link — with the exclusive opportunity to be one of their 21 monthly listeners!)
  • Yuuki Sakai: Pol Gaso (Youtube link)

Go ahead and support the artists with your attention!

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React Bootstrap Webpack Starter

There are many tutorials for simple React scaffolds. But, in real life and in a real project you need a few extra bits and bogs. Building those bits and bogs for the browser is a lot of pain that the simple tutorials don’t prepare people for.

Presenting here a strong React starter project that’s used in our latest real life frontend projects. It adds pretty Bootstrap templates and modals, works with the backend API, and is deployed to Netlify with zero effort.

In the box:

  • React and Webpack
  • A Swagger-generated API library, to consume backend services. You can of course generate your own API’s frontend library on editor.swagger.io (or using swagger-codegen).
  • Bootstrap including jQuery and support for custom templates
  • Build command that can be used to deploy the project on Netlify (or Amazon S3), for simple CI/CD
  • Development server with hot reload
  • ESLint with ES6 settings and built-in support for VSCode

To get started, head on over to the Github project and grab the code for free.

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Good/Great

“The willingness to keep trying new things — different methods, uncomfortable tasks — when you are already an expert at something is what separates good from great. Focusing on your strengths is required for peak performance, but improving your weaknesses has the potential for the greatest gains. This is true for athletes, executives, and entire companies.

— Garry Kasparov in Deep Thinking

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Making good tech decisions without understanding technology

Non-technical founders ask this question on almost all our TechEye events. How can they hire developers to build a product, if they don’t know what to put in the job specs in the first place?

The answer is that you don’t choose tech. You choose the developer who chooses tech.

If there was a single tech that’s better than all the others in every possible way, surely everyone used that one.

This is not the case: developers have heated discussions about their tech. Go to Hacker News and observe debates. They get as heated as debates on god, vegetarianism or guessing which superhero would win in a fight.

Choosing tech is therefore a two step process.

  1. Find developers who can build the product, who you trust and can work together with. That determines 90% of the technology choices, because no developer is really good at multiple frameworks.
  2. Try to find another developer for that same thing, and make sure that your main dev is happy working together with them. If you find it easy to assemble a good team, only then should you proceed.

The best option for you is to avoid originality in any form. If you choose Django/Python/Rails or anything that a lot of people use, then you’ll always have options. Having options matters life or death in situations where a dev team leaves you stranded.

Other than having options and being able to build a product, don’t worry about tech at all.

Whichever tech you end up using, if you can build a team and a product with it, that’s the right tech for you. An average startup rewrites their entire code base every 1-2 years while scaling up. You’ll do well if you can build a business in the meanwhile.

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Work on an idea, no matter what, if…

There are two good reasons to work on an idea almost no matter what:

  • If you can learn something that you can use for the rest of your life. Be careful with this definition. A fancy new programming framework doesn’t qualify. Learning to write code does. Trying sales for the first time does.
  • If you can work with people you admire. Even if the idea goes to zero, you can take good relationships into the next project. And the one after, until kingdom come.

When in doubt, build something beautiful.

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Teslapunk 1819

Last time we were in New York, we had cocktails in a speakeasy that turned out to be Nikola Tesla’s old basement.

It’s both a coffee place and a speakeasy actually, somewhere between Chelsea and Koreatown. The cafe works as expected, serving proper hipster coffee, and then has a secret moving wall in the back. Enter the wall and queue the cocktails, but the best feature in there is the menu. With Nikola Tesla’s drawings, patents and works, it looks awesome. Long story short, yours truly got inspired, and a few weeks later:

Teslapunk 1819 on Behance

I’ve also finally set up Behance and Dribbble accounts to share all my new shit there. Let’s connect there, folks!

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