If I’m not great, I’m good

Frank Sinatra speaking about a lesson he got from Benny Goodman:

“He was away off in the corner, everybody was kind of sitting around, having a snip of booze or something like that; and I walked over to him and he was just kind of quietly noodling, and I said… every time I see you Benny you are practicing… why do you do that so often? He said purely because.. Frank (he said) so that if I’m not great, I’m good, and I never forgot it… because it’s true. If you work hard at it all the time and you have a slow period… whether it’s your own emotional problem at the moment or you are lazy, something happens one day and you say… well I don’t feel like working as hard as the last night… you work, and it’s still good. It’s better than the other guy in other words. It’s never below the standard; and I try to live up to that.. when he told me that I thought… what a marvelous way to put it.”

Frank Sinatra
https://www.instagram.com/p/CA6O4IznzP1/

Who we really are

The world isn’t split into good people and Death Eaters. We’ve all got both light and dark inside us. What matters is the part we choose to act on. That’s who we really are.

Sirius Black

J. K. Rowling – Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix

Building is how we reboot the American dream

In fact, I think building is how we reboot the American dream. The things we build in huge quantities, like computers and TVs, drop rapidly in price. The things we don’t, like housing, schools, and hospitals, skyrocket in price. What’s the American dream? The opportunity to have a home of your own, and a family you can provide for. We need to break the rapidly escalating price curves for housing, education, and healthcare, to make sure that every American can realize the dream, and the only way to do that is to build.

Marc Andreessen

It’s Time to Build

The mind boggles

I love discovering new words and learning about the definitions and meanings behind it. The word “boggle” is quite fascinating.

According to the Merriam-Webster’s definition:

intransitive verb

  1. to start with fright or amazementbe overwhelmed
    // the mind boggles at the research needed
  2. to hesitate because of doubt, fear, or scruples

transitive verb

  1. to overwhelm with wonder or bewilderment
    // boggle the mind

(Overwhelming is another one of my favorites)

The word boggle basically is telling us that wonderment and fear are connected. That to marvel and to doubt are related feelings of the same nature. That to be amazed can be frighting. To be astonished can cause you to hesitate.

When I was a kid, one of my favorite games was called “Parole”. In Portuguese that means “palavra”, or in English “word”. It was a very simple game. Take a few plastic cubes that have printed letters. Shake these cubes in a container, and organize them in a plastic plate. Now turn an hourglass for one minute and write as many words as you can with those random letters.

After moving to the US, I was delighted to learn that this game actually existed here too (long before it went to Brazil actually). And of course you probably know the name of “Parole” in the US: Boggle.

The Website Obesity Crisis

It has been almost five years since this presentation by Maciej Cegłowski. Since that time, the real topic seems to be forgotten.

We talk about website optimization and static sites, but we continue to forget about his main issue. Simple informational and text-based websites that are still loading 1.5-5MB (just to display news or articles).

It seems to me that with the mobile revolution (both in devices and in network speeds), the ideas outlined in that presentation have completely faded into obsolesce. Yet, the web could be much faster if we just had better tools and best practices to address the problems.

Perhaps adding that Google Maps embed to your restaurant site is not needed if the user can just get a link to it. Maybe we could find better tracking tools that don’t need to load twenty different JS scripts in the background.

Over the past few years, the results of these technical choices are clear. People decided to search for tools to remove these bloated sources. Ad Blockers continue to rise, pop-ups to deactivate ad-blockers are needed for editorial industries to economically survive.

Simply trying to discover who’s tracking us, and what data is being sent to advertising networks has become an impossible task. New initiatives, such as the Brave Browser, appeared to try to solve some of these issues. But the massive results we expect are still not there.

As 5G networks start to be rolled out world-wide (slowly), we have another great opportunity to address some of these lingering issues. The real question is… Are we going to take this chance? And when?

The man in the arena

“It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.”

Theodore Roosevelt

An optimistic view of the web

Eric Bailey wrote a great article over at CSS Tricks outlining some of the key factors that make the web such a strong platform.

I thought it would be a good exercise to take stock of the state of the web and count our blessings.

Eric Bailey

The “state of the web” is an ever-changing topic that interests me a lot, and it is refreshing to see an optimistic point of view focused on the strengths of the web, rather than the issues surrounding it.

Link to the article below:

2020 books

One of the goals I set for myself this year was to read more books than watching news. I decided to share the list here so I can better track it later. I’m planning on at least one book a month:

  1. The Ride of a Lifetime – Robert Iger [done]
  2. The Little Book That Beats the Market – Joel Greenblatt
  3. The Intelligent Investor Benjamin Graham
  4. The Better Angels of Our Nature: Why Violence Has Declined – Steven Pinker
  5. Man’s Search for Meaning – Viktor E. Frankl
  6. The Big Nine – How the Tech Titans and Their Thinking Machines Could Warp Humanity – Amy Webb
  7. Sapiens A Brief History of Humankind – Yuval Noah Harari
  8. The Power of Habit Why We Do What We Do in Life and Business – Charles Duhigg
  9. The Future of Capitalism: Facing the New Anxieties – Paul Collier
  10. Rising Strong – Brené Brown
  11. Reclaiming Conversation – Sherry Turkle
  12. These Truths: A History of the United States – Jill Lepore

Bonus, if possible:

How the Internet will (one day) transform government

I keep several playlists on my YouTube account. My favorite one is called just “gems”. In it I keep a few videos that I often look back, because they had such an impact on me when I first watched it.

Clay Shirky’s TED Talk from 2012 (below) is one of them. He is thinking about the power that systems such as git could have in governments. But the part that really struck me the most was when he went all the way back in time to show this concept, using the Philosophical Transactions, from the Royal Society to explain the idea.

I’ve worked in the past digitizing archives from the Royal Society, and to hear him making those connections all the way to modern version control systems was just fascinating to me.

Watch it below:

The video and transcripts can also be found here

500 Days of Summer

A few years ago I watched 500 Days of Summer for the first time, and it was so powerful to me at that moment, that I had to watch it again, just a few days after.

In 2019 the movie completed 10 years since it was released, and I feel I should watch it over and over again.

I’ve seen a couple of videos on YouTube celebrating and remembering the movie. The two videos below are with the main actors in the movie — Zooey Deschanel and Joseph Gordon-Levitt.

These videos are worth watching because they explain the real perspective from the film, which is primarily (almost solely) focused on Joseph’s character Tom.

“Hear what she says. She is very honest.”, Zooey Deschanel, talking about Summer, her character in the movie. That is the key to this movie, and what made it so powerful to me at the time. Tom was not really listening during this relationship, and that caused a series of effects that ultimately lead to the beginning and end of the movie.

Just watch it, it will make more sense after. I should do the same, and then watch it again every time I come back to this post for a reminder.

A great insight to start the New Year

Think about that for a minute, because it’s really important. Somewhere along the way, we’ve all bought into the idea – without consciously realizing it – that to be motivated and effective we need to feel like we want to take action. We need to be eager to do so. I really don’t know why we believe this, because it is 100% nonsense.

Yes, on some level you need to be committed to what you are doing – you need to want to see the project finished, or get healthier, or get an earlier start to your day.  But you don’t need to feel like doing it.

Heidi Grant

I believe this is such a simple concept, that sometimes it feels too easy to think about, and we want to look for a better idea, hack things and find a more complex explanation.

The fact is that the “act of doing” things consistently, regardless of inspiration or motivation more often than not leads to better results. Maybe not better, but definitely to results. I think the “better” part comes from perfecting the act by repetition or iteration.

In 2020, I want to experiment the idea of producing more and more, and see if the aggregate will lead over time to something greater.

2019

It’s been two years since I wrote a post about resolutions and the new coming year. At that time I was concentrated on seven things I wanted to accomplish or improve.

I got some things done, and some didn’t even get a chance. These days I feel resolutions alone are not enough. Even if you are committed in starting something new, that’s not enough. The real challenge is sticking with it, because results will not materialize for a while.

In 2019 I learned that consistency is the most powerful thing we can do to achieve something in our lives. Regularity, steadiness, iteration, continuous improvement are the keywords that define successful results.

In the 2007 documentary “The Pixar Story“, Steve Jobs appears to talk about those early years of Pixar. He said:

If you really look closely, most overnight successes took a long time.

Steve Jobs

I think this is the key lesson I want to take with me for this last year, and for life, to be honest. Achieving something meaningful will always requires hard work and it has to be done consistently. Some will say this is obvious, but I think there’s not a lot of people that actually do it.

So before thinking about what I want to do in 2020, let’s talk about what I’ve done in 2019:

  • Work: I worked for 10 different projects at my current job, and 8 other projects in my spare time. I like the number 18. It means life in Hebrew. I’ve always felt my work and my life were combined. I’m grateful that I still find joy in the work that I do, and still can’t see myself doing anything other than working with web design and web development.
  • Travel: I traveled twice this year. I went to Brazil, where I got to participate and celebrate the wedding of one of my oldest and dearest friends. I also got a chance (just the next day) to celebrate my birthday with my entire family and friends. Then, a short month after that I had the opportunity to travel to San Francisco and visit the Facebook campus! I was invited by another dear friend and we spent an entire week there. I visited other companies in the Valley and had a magical time. I should probably write a post about that experience later (note to self here!).
  • Finance: I learned a lot about the stock market this year (way more than I expected), and started investments that hopefully will pay off in the long run. Investing and finance are topics that require continuous learning and commitment. Thankfully, I think I got exposed to the best person I could in this matter: Warren Buffett. I learned about his life, his investment teachings, his influences, his views of the world, and more importantly, about value investing. I feel that his wisdom will definitely stay with me for a very long time.
  • Health and Wellness: This was the first year in my life that I committed to exercise on a weekly basis, with the help of a professional (another dear friend). I kept going and I started to see the results, until I stopped a few months later. It was probably the worst decision I made this year. But I intend to get back at it and put more effort. I’m already feeling the pain of not sticking to that routine. The body keeps scores and it always wins.
  • Life: In 2017 one of my personal resolutions was to build meaningful relationships. The next year I met my girlfriend and we’ve been together ever since. It has been a real building process, in the best sense. Step-by-step we’ve been discovering each other, and we’ve been developing a deeper connection. I’m learning a lot, making mistakes and doing things right at the same time. Love is not a straight line for me like it seems to be for some people. It never has been that way for me, and I don’t think it will ever be. But I believe in building, and it’s much easier if it’s with someone you love.
  • Learning: Outside of investing, I learned a lot of other things in my field of expertise, and in multiple other topics. There are too many items to put in one list, but that would includes a range of subjects: from WordPress with WooCommerce and subscriptions methods, to relationship mechanisms with Esther Perel and Brené Brown. I read two wonderful books (back to back) on these topics, and countless articles and notes online.
  • Entertainment: I watched 16 new movies (that I actually kept track). 5 of those were documentaries. I also fully watched 5 different new shows (mostly on Netflix), and at least 3 new specials (comedy and life related).

When I think of it, this all seems a lot to me. To some it will mean very little. But this is a self-reflection post, so who cares?

Now for 2020, here’s what I’m thinking…

Honestly, I just want to improve and have more consistency in all these areas. But I’ll try to be more specific and add some color to things along the way (no particular order here):

  • I want to start a new project. My goal is to start a website to talk about the Open Web. I believe it is a topic that I can write with some experience. I think we need a plethora of voices and opinions in this subject. I don’t know if my voice will have any impact or make any difference, but I believe it’s something I can contribute. I already have a name and domain. I just need to kick things off.
  • I want to reduce my “side hustle” projects (in web development) to focus on new things. This has always been a difficult one for me, but every year I feel this is something I need to strive more and more.
  • I will move to a different place in a month. With luck, that move will bring about some needed change in some areas of life. It will also force me to think more consciously about minimalism and getting rid of things (something I started to focus back in 2017).
  • Read more books than news. This one can be difficult with all the distractions and attention grabbers, but I intend to put real effort there. Plus, with a heavy political scenario and things happening in the US (and a crazy election year), I feel the news will be more toxic than anything. I think shifting my attention will not only be healthier, but almost necessary to focus.
  • Spending time with the people that mean the most. Finding balance between the time spent with my girlfriend, friends and family has been a massive challenge for me in the past two years. I believe discovering the right balance here will be essential for my own sanity moving forward.
  • Focus more on optimism than pessimism. “There is no positive in being negative”. I heard this one in the beginning of the year and it stuck with me. Not easy, but again, essential.

An entire decade is over, but I have a sense that this next one will have a lot in store. What I have to do is to keep swimming.

Democracies, Digital Dictatorships, and Corporate Autocracies

Yuval Harari’s has an incredible insight during his talk at the World Economic Forum – His vision is that in the future, with the increase development of AI, our societies might be at risk for the rise of digital dictatorships.

He talks about the intrinsic difference between democracies and dictatorships, from the perspective of making decisions, and processing information – making a direct connection with the way that digital systems are designed.

In that sense, he compares distributed systems with centralized systems, a concept that is used all the time within computing and Internet-related systems.

This kind of perspective and insight reminded me of another interesting video by Hank Green (Vlog Brothers), in which he talks about the idea of corporate autocracies dominating digital spaces and communities.

Another thinker that has been considering this massive shift in our societies is Amy Webb. Her book, “The Big Nine: How the Tech Titans and Their Thinking Machines Could Warp Humanity” (https://www.publicaffairsbooks.com/titles/amy-webb/the-big-nine/9781541773752/) brings a great deal of knowledge and observations for us to digest on some of these ideas moving forward. Webb’s research in this book is primarily focused on the immense role and influence that big tech companies already have in our present, and will continue to have in our future.

She was interviewed recently by Leo Laporte (TWiT) on the show Triangulation. The full interview can be watched below.

These early perspectives into the impact of AI in our societies are quite fascinating and will continue to shape the public discourse for many years. It seems imperative to continue these conversations in the future.

Better Angels

We are not enemies, but friends. We must not be enemies. Though passion may have strained it must not break our bonds of affection. The mystic chords of memory, stretching from every battlefield and patriot grave to every living heart and hearthstone all over this broad land, will yet swell the chorus of the Union, when again touched, as surely they will be, by the better angels of our nature.

Abraham Lincoln

You Do What You Are


Alex Cross: You do what you are Jezzie.

Jezzie Flannigan: You mean you are what you do.

Alex Cross: No, I mean, you do what you are. You’re born with a gift. If not that, then you get good at something along the way. And what you’re good at, you don’t take for granted. You don’t betray it.

Jezzie Flannigan: What if you do, betray your gift?

Alex Cross: Then you betray yourself. That’s a sad thing.

Along Came a Spider (2001)