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Friday, September 13, 2019

Purists, Makers and Managers


this article is inspired by the book Hackers and Painters by Paul Graham

Purists

Whenever I hear the word Purists, I imagine John Nash working hard on his dorm room window sill or Ramanujan relentlessly scribbling on his notepad outside his scabby hut in Erode. I study in a pure science branch and the majority of interested folks tend to have a huge admiration towards the intellectual capital. Often academia and pure science seem to be filled with folks who enjoy making interrogative intonation in declarative sentences. (Usually more associated with pride rather than brutish objectivity.)

These self-acclaimed purists are often called upon by the world to solve the most difficult problems of humanity, mostly of the order of magnitude of "Cure Cancer" or "Solve the Energy Crisis" which is extremely hard to accomplish. Even to measure a significant increment of any sort of metric that has been implemented to measure growth, it takes weeks.

This is why all the programs that have been created to cater to purists are in the magnitude of >=4 years or forever. The ambiguity in the career charts is often high and most likely everyone who is purist is pursuing one or other derivative of in-depth problem-solving. The skewed timeline and sheer ambiguity are because of the fact that struggles are internal and thus the conflict is that person's own obtuseness rather than external.

Makers/Hackers

This is the group of people I feel I natively belong to. They are scrappy folks who are able to mess around enough to put things together. And build beautiful things. These people mostly learn by examples (natively known as demos). I have learned how to code from online youtube videos, and from other people's open-source code (this is nothing exclusive, <90% hackers learn like this). A maker/hacker schedule often is measured in days instead of weeks.

They have to be relentlessly resourceful in order to accomplish the tasks that they intend to. A majority of hackers I know want to fit into the narrative of purists, and this is often reflected in how they describe their work. Often at hackathons, I have heard people say that they are working on “AI text to the speech-based neurological transmitter for blind people using haptic interventions” when what they mean is “Navigation Guidance Assistant for the Blind”. It seems there is an outcry to talk about their problem in a much more complex form, (I call this problem project work insecurity). They want to prove that what they are doing is really complex and a difficult task to accomplish when most of the time it is not. Also, any maker/hacker project would make for a really bad research paper/dissertation. There is zero correlation between a good research paper and a useful product (or at least should be so). A much better environment of makers/hackers is startup co-working spaces and hacker houses.

Managers

We are all managers in some aspects of our lives. We are managers for the worker that comes to clean our room, the mess worker that serves us food, laundry person that washes our clothes or just anyone that we directly/indirectly hire to do our jobs for us. A purists/hacker hates communication but a manager loves it. Most of the work of a Manager can be divided into hour slots (work gets completed in minutes) and growth trajectory is much more gamified as compared to that of the other two. Managers are basically the power of command. For someone who is purists/maker, to shift to being a manager would often mean that they have ruined their slot of work. This is the reason why some of the best scientists and innovators are absent-minded about many of the regular things that go around them. They do not want to be managers. Any purists or makers trying to manage things often break the continuity streak that is much needed for growth in above and in a world that is filled up with huge amounts of distraction it is very easy to kill off morale. In order to be a better manager, you simply need to manage less and less and do more of any of the above.

Friday, April 19, 2019

Sequoia reveals first cohort list. Analysis.

You can find the startups list over here:-
https://techcrunch.com/2019/04/19/sequoia-surge-inaugural-cohort-india-southeast-asia/

Azani Sports: Based out of Bangalore, it is sports apparel platform that has pretty amazing fabric/shoe soul technology. They have partnered with multiple sports celebs that help promote their apparel as a marketing strategy. Also, the products are affordable for the middle class section of society. They do seem like a cool startup as innovations in sports apparel are something that has been missing for a long time. Also, they are very smart in their marketing strategies. I am not a consumer of the product yet so cannot say if the claim of an innovative product is present or not.
https://www.azanisport.com

Industry: Sports Apparel, E-commerce, Athlete Branding.
Note: One of the two founders is Harvard ex-sportsperson himself and other an MBA.
My Rating: 3/5

BoboBox: BoboBox is capsule sized sleeping rooms for people. At first glance, it does not look like you can stand up in these rooms. Also, all the spaces are very compact and there is not much room to move around, not to mention shared bathrooms and toilets. This has been done to save space and thus reduce the rent of the rooms. Why would anyone even think of funding something like this? It seems completely outrageous in the hotel industry space. But I think it makes a lot of sense. All the times I have booked an Airbnb/hotel at some other city it has been for some sort of activity, so I rarely use the hotel room at all. Also, startups that enable social bonding in an offline space are getting big (example meetup.com ). Seems like a pretty good bet, it can help replace a lot of government/private industrial lodging facilities as it is the cheap and well thought out solution.   I hope they use the OYO model instead of trying to get into the real-estate business which is highly volatile.

Industry: Hotel Space
My Rating: 4.5/5



Tuesday, April 16, 2019

Doing it Right : Building on Organic Ideas

I enjoy interacting with people and try and understand what they think. It is often that I find that some of the smartest of people I know of tend to work in areas that are frighteningly overcrowded (overhyped). There is nothing wrong in "hype", on the contrary hype helps promote a certain field even when it has few results in its' kitty, thus driving innovation faster and faster. Hype becomes a major issue only when people tend to solve problems that don't need to be solved. Or problems that have been solved already. Once you start peeping over your peers and start doing things based on what they are doing, that's when it becomes a problem. Usually, people tend to believe that's the only metric that they have to measure themselves. If someone tends to attain success by doing X, we think that doing X would give us the same success, thus fostering a herd mentality around X. Nothing is graver than this. This may sound something extremely rudimentary but 9 out of 10 times this is the case.

When an apple fell on Newton's head, nobody was working on gravity. Very few people were working on BASIC ALTAIR when Microsoft was set up (the ones that did were called "hobbyists" as no one took electronics seriously in the late 70s). Same goes for so many great ideas and inventions. Are these achievements completely random? If so then how come it is the same people who tend to repeat genius time and again, let it be Galileo Galilei, Newton or Elon Musk. 

So how does one decide which problems to work on? How can we come up with organic ideas to build on? How to think of what are the right questions to ask?


A good way to think of this is as think of your field N years in future and wonder wouldn't it be cool "if this existed". Go ahead and build it. When you think of building things from the future, your inclination and determination to do it increase multiple folds. Usually, great things look extremely fundamental in retrospect and hence living in the future works well enough. Take gravity for an example.


This is a summary of the article by Paul Graham (http://paulgraham.com/startupideas.html)

Thursday, March 21, 2019

My thoughts on Dystopian Culture and Book Review of The Handmaid's Tale

It is true that today's generation has been crushed under small issues that have been viewed unnecessarily by a microscope, it dreads of political, financial and social instability bundled with mass media addiction. We have the 24*7 access to information which can make us numb any emotion we want while still struggle to remain happy is a constant one. There are so many outlets for the outcry of emotional help yet very few of them can be trusted enough to process it all through.

This book is largely based on a dystopian culture that treats women as baby-producing machines called the handmaids. The repetitive theme in the book is about the life we live today by making all the choices that we do is much more miserable than what it would be if the choices are given to us by society. The book makes a very strong case for why a dystopian culture should exist by reflecting on the failures of people in achieving their desired life goals having a tremendous negative impact on them.

It has been beautifully written and emotions of the lead character are immaculately detailed. If you have not read the book I would definitely recommend it.

We are a generation of information outrage and that is just going to increase in coming years but making that case for a controlled society is a dumb one. I am much more hopeful while making a case for the "millennial generation". It is definitely hard work to improve on self and easy to complain about the "other" but that is what the choice that we as a society have to make.

## Over.