Craft, stated vs. revealed preferences, and Octavia Butler's notes
plus, a call for curators 🐇🕳️
Welcome to the startupy newsletter, a laid back column about very serious ideas.
Cool things curated in our universe
FREDDIE DEBOER ON THE BITTER END OF CONTENT
A fantastic meditation on what ad-based business models have done to our attention.
The utopian assumption that views and clicks would accrue to the highest-quality content failed to understand a basic lurking reality—that the monetization of attention leads inevitably to the weaponization of attention.
Unfortunately, advertising has been ingrained into the internet as the basic model for so long and to such an extent that it’s hard to envision online life without the systematic manipulation of attention and all its evils. So we’re bound to wind up here, at the bitter end of “content.” Which is a good excuse to withdraw deeper into books, movies, albums, and art, stuff that was created for a deeper purpose than mining fleeting bits of attention for fractions of a penny.
Curated in attention economy
ON MAINTAINING HIGH STANDARDS, ELEVATING QUALITY, AND THE ART OF THE CRAFT
My two favorite things I read this week are on why building quality is so hard and the hidden cost of metric driven development, by former Twitter designer Paul Stamatiou and former Instagram designer George Kedenburg (formerly designer at Instagram). Both of these are packed with insights on the dysfunction of today’s largest tech companies.
Takeaways from Craft, by Paul:
Quality is about signing your name to your work and being proud of what you ship. It never feels great when what you ship feels more like excuses—a reflection of tight timelines, cut scope and endless constraints.
Falling into a cycle of "Ship, then iterate" is a trap. It ends up being more shiterate. Things happen and that "fast-follow" V1.1 release or V2.0 you had imagined probably won't. There's always a new shiny initiative, re-org or new leadership hire that throws a wrench into things and changes all plans. Don't rely on a future release to clean up today's mess.
Don’t use terms like “MVP” or “it’s just an experiment” as an excuse to ship something subpar. Ditch the term MVP and use SLC (Simple, Lovable, Complete) instead.
Most commercial projects are driven by commercial values, where the goal is to maximize profits by outperforming your competition.
In contrast, the Macintosh was driven more by artistic values, oblivious to competition, where the goal was to be transcendently brilliant and insanely great.”
Takeaways from The Cost of Craft, by George:
It’s really hard to keep things simple, especially if you have a product that people really like. When you do things well, people will always ask you to do more. Your features will multiply and expand as you try to make them happy. Soon, new competitors will emerge that will tempt you to stretch your product in new directions. The more you say yes, the bigger and more complicated your product will become.
Instead of focusing on what is good for the product, people start focusing more on easy ways to move the numbers. If big, expensive innovation projects don’t produce "angle-changing" impact on their metric fast enough, compete projects start to look like an attractive shortcut to success. (this might explain why TikTok, Instagram, YouTube, and Facebook all look the same now, with vertical looping videos)
George recommends a) getting the team together and writing down / agreeing to the principles that drive your product decision making. It’s easier to push back on bad ideas when you can point to something in writing. b) dedicating a block of time every year where you don’t ship a single new feature and just focus on improving what you already have. Establish foundation teams and ensure they grow at the same rate as the rest of your company.
STATED VS. REVEALED PREFERENCES
Revisiting this old tweet by the founder of Shopify, and thinking about the difference between stated and revealed preferences. We say we don’t like being tracked, but we prefer personalized ads to ads that aren’t personalized. We say we don’t want an algorithm determining our media diet, but we prefer a For You vs. a Following feed. We say we want to buy sustainable products, but we often buy the cheaper, less sustainable options.
WOW. THESE CHARTS. BELIEVE IN SOMETHING. ANYTHING.
Curated in meaning crisis, religion and spirituality, belonging, and loneliness
SEEING THINGS DIFFERENTLY
Some people will use AI to generate average work so they can spend more time being entertained. Other people will use it to accelerate their learning and creativity so that they can generate exceptional work.
Curated in shifting perspectives.
OCTAVIA BUTLER ON WHY SHE WRITES
An excerpt from Octavia Butler’s notes, which also perfectly articulates why I curate in public:
I am not a people-person in the usual sense. Much of the time I’m a hermit. Yet I have a human need to reach out to my fellow beings, and feel that I’ve touched some of them.
✨ A call for curators
We’re creating a publication about the future of the internet. Our launch issue will be focused on information: how we went from too little to too much information and the cultural practices we develop to organize, curate, make sense of it, and share it. Our goal is to collaborate with exceptional people in our community to produce work we're proud of and generate more alignment between technology, values, and culture.
We’re looking for a small group of curators interested in going deep down this rabbit hole with us and help with research, editing, and writing. This is a 4 week process where we collaborate through weekly meetings to build the main chapters of the publication. All contributors will be compensated through a payment split.
If you’re interested, apply here. Deadline is Monday, April 3rd.
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These somehow get better and better. Craft's SLC framework is right on the money. Many builders lose sight of quality in an ordinary MVP, but that's not the intent. SLC could save hundreds of products from never getting off the ground. Thanks for sharing!
„...getting the team together and writing down / agreeing to the principles that drive your product decision making.“ This is widely applicable to life itself, love it.