Zero-to-One

The Best and Worst Parts of Peter Thiel’s New Book: Zero to One

In spring of 2012, Peter Thiel, cofounder of Paypal and Palantir and early investor in Facebook, taught a course at Stanford in the Computer Science department called CS183: Startup. One of the students in the class, a law student named Blake Masters, took meticulous notes that were widely shared across the web (1M+ pg views).

The ideas were intriguing, and ran counter to much of the standard startup wisdom. I had read some of the notes when they came out but they’re pretty lengthy and I didn’t get through them all.

Luckily for all of us,  the two have collaborated to write a book based on the class called Zero to One, which comes out September 18th.

Having snagged an advance reader’s copy, the book has definitely cut the word length down while retaining the ideas and most of the nuance. Instead of summarizing the book, I thought I’d share my favorite and least favorite idea. Continue reading…

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24 Ideas From Scott Berkun About Tech, Leadership, and the Future of Work

One of the few people who can match Paul Graham as writer is Scott Berkun. They have both succeeded as technologists, Graham in Viaweb + YC, and Berkun in Microsoft and Automattic. They both write thoughtful essays on a wide range of topics, like the Cities and Ambition or Street Smarts vs Book Smarts. If anything, Berkun is a bit more personable and relatable as a writer, he’ll refer to himself a bit more than Graham and use more culturally relevant examples.

I recently finished Berkun’s book, A Year Without Pants, about his experience as something like a product manager for Team Social at Automattic, the parent company of WordPress.com. The title of the book refers to the fact that the company is fully distributed and so you don’t have to wear pants to work if you don’t want to. I’ve written previously about 37 Signal’s book Remote, but this book is different because it doesn’t focus so intensely on the “remote” part. In fact, large swaths of the book are about times where Team Social were working together at an in person gathering.

Berkun primarily uses his experience at Automattic as a platform to offer a variety of other interesting and unconventional ideas about work. Here are 24 of my favorite quotes from the book (which you should read) and my comments. Continue reading…

No Silver Bullets: Etsy’s Randy Hunt on Product Design

product-design-for-the-web-randy-hunt

While on my Peru Trip earlier this year, I read a great book  called Product Design for the Web: Principles of Designing and Releasing Products for the Web.

As one of two interaction designers who joined Etsy in 2010, Randy Hunt, now creative director, has written the book on best practices of product development for successful modern-day Internet companies. I highly recommend it.

I sat down with Randy recently to learn more about his perspective on product design. But before I jump into that conversation, here’s a brief look at some of the big ideas from the book:

Takeaways From Product Design for The Web By Randy Hunt

Note: these are not direct quotes but pretty close paraphrases

  • Great products are understandable (set expectations and live up to them) and meaningful (help people solve problems or accomplish goals) and, hopefully, delightful
  • It can be helpful to reimagine your product spec as a press release defining what the update is, who it is for and why it matters Continue reading…

How You Write 190k Words in 6 Months (While Pregnant!)

A couple years ago, I participated in National Novel Writing Month and wrote down a little over 50k words in the month of November that sort of resembled a fantasy novel. I’ve always enjoyed reading fantasy novels as a kid and it was fun (but very challenging) to write one, especially in just one month. It took a lot of discipline to find the time and energy to consistently get in the words.

So when I heard that my friend Julia Dickinson had finished a 190,000 word manuscript of her epic fantasy novel, the Evenarian, I had to talk to her about it.

The Evenarian

The book focuses on a young mage named Turo who learns of a powerful figure named the Evenarian who has been fortold in prophecy to bring the downfall of magic and bring ruin to the world. Turo joins up with a mysterious wanderer named Josh and a band of unlikely heroes to find and defeat the Evenarian. More on the story on their Kickstarter page. Continue reading…

My Biggest Takeaway on 37Signals’s New Book on Remote Work (Hint: It’s Not Technology)

REMOTE: The new book from 37signals 2013-11-08 07-41-46I just finished reading Remote: Office Not Required, by Jason Fried and David Heinemeier Hansson, partners at 37Signals.

It’s a great read and here’s the  basic premise:

  • In today’s economy, the quest for talent is so great that organizations can no longer afford to merely look at individuals co-located in their physical presence (their metro area)
  • It is easier than ever to coordinate the work of individuals from around the world with just a good internet connection and a few pieces of web-based software (including 37Signal’s own products)
  • There are many drawbacks to forcing people to work in an office and many perks to allowing them to work (even a few days a week) at home / at a cafe or coworking space that benefit both the remote worker and the organizations that employ them
  • There are simple ways to address many of the concerns people have with remote working (review the work, not time in seat; put relevant information where it can be seen by all, overlap working hours, etc)
  • There is a tipping point coming with remote work. Many organizations large and small, from across many industries, are using remote workers and it’s time you (the reader) became an early adopter.

They actually went out and interviewed a bunch of companies that do remote work as well so REMOTE is not just “the edgy opinions of Fried and DHH”. The book has useful tips for making the case for remote work to your boss (or to your team, if you are the boss). There’s a lot of value in learning how to structure a good remote work environment.

But personally, I got a bigger shift in perspective from something else.

My biggest takeaway from REMOTE:

Continue reading…