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Monday, July 28, 2014

Originality

Michael Lewis (in Liar's Poker):
God gave you eyes, plagiarize.
Plagiarism has a negative connotation to it. It is not ethical, one might argue, to plagiarize someone else's work. But it happens day after day.

If a product does well in the market, a dozen others that are similar to it crop up. If a movie or a book does well, several others are made or written that follow a similar plot.

Plagiarism is easy. It is simple reverse-engineering. You know that something has succeeded, and you figure out how to do the same thing and you do it. Of course, patents prevent this from happening to a certain extent, but there is so much that is outside the ambit of patents (and rightly so).

Shipping an original idea is hard. It is risky. There is no way of telling if it will succeed or fall on its face. That is why people only resort to it when the market is saturated with several plagiarized versions of an original idea. There is no need for the hard work until then. There is no need for the additional risk attached to it.

So open your eyes, look around, and plagiarize. Save your real effort for the value that you bring to the table, for your original idea.

After all, there is little point in re-inventing the wheel.
 

Saturday, July 26, 2014

Facebook revenues grow 61%

USA Today:
Facebook grew revenue 61% and more than doubled second-quarter profit while making even more money from ads targeted at users on mobile devices, sending shares to record highs.
Even without the talk of users moving away from Facebook to the new and cool things, be it WhatsApp or SnapChat or something else, these revenue numbers are staggering.

This shows that despite the growth of other apps, Facebook still serves its purpose for the users. It might not be the most popular destination for messaging, but then again, I would expect it to be unlikely that any advertisement would draw people away from the conversation they are having.

Just like advertising on StumbleUpon still serves its purpose by generating/increasing traffic to your site, Facebook seems to be doing so as well, better than many other social apps.

I would put them both in a similar category. Be it StumbleUpon or Facebook, the user is casually browsing through the items in the feed, not really deeply engaged, not engrossed in the content. A user is far more likely to click on an advertisement when she is not really looking for anything specific.

With the number of Facebook users growing, it is increasing the connections which will allow it to bring the user back to the site for those ten to fifteen minutes of browsing through the news feed. Which means, it is not unreasonable to expect Facebook to keep up this growth.

Saturday, July 12, 2014

Without The Rope

From The Dark Knight Rises:

Prisoner: You do not fear death. You think this makes you strong. It makes you weak.
Bruce Wayne: Why?
Prisoner: How can you move faster than possible, fight longer than possible without the most powerful impulse of the spirit: the fear of death.
Bruce Wayne: I do fear death. I fear dying in here, while my city burns, and there's no one there to save it.
Prisoner: Then make the climb.
Bruce Wayne: How?
Prisoner: As the child did. Without the rope. Then fear will find you again.

It is not the same. Climbing out of a well, a pit, with a rope tied to you to ensure you don't hit the ground if you fall, and without a rope attached. It is not the same.

It is not the same. Building a product and shipping it when you know you are not accountable for bringing in the revenues to show a return on the investment made in building the product, and building a product when you know very well that it is your responsibility to earn back what you spend. In one case, there is a rope and in the other, there isn't.

If you want to ship your product, your art, you need to shed the rope. Only then will you successfully make the climb.

Sunday, July 6, 2014

Lost in the data

I returned, and saw under the Sun, that the race is not to the swift, nor the battle to the strong, neither yet bread to the wise, nor yet riches to men of understanding, nor yet favour to men of skill; but time and chance happeneth to them all.
Ecclesiastes 9:11 

The math of evaluating costs against benefits doesn't always give us the right answer. If it did, the race would always be won by the swift, the battle would always be won by the strong, the wise would always find bread to eat, men with skill and understanding would always end up in wealth and favourable conditions. 

Base your decisions on data, surely. But don't base them solely on data. Data only talks about what has happened in the past. Your decisions will affect the future. The future where time and chance have a significant part to play.

Thursday, July 3, 2014

Following in the Footsteps

Jeffrey Gedmin, President & CEO of the Legatum Institute in London, writing about Joseph J Ellis's Revolutionary Summer: The Birth of American Independence, picks out leadership lessons from the book, and says:
We don't read history because it repeats itself. We study history because it reveals and inspires.
I never liked History much in school because the emphasis on remembering events and dates and places and a bunch of other nonsense. It was always like a memory test.

But I do love stories. Be it mythology, history, fiction, real-life accounts, anything. I especially love the ones that provide a way into the head of the protagonist.

As Jeffrey Gedmin puts it, it reveals and inspires.

The most important job of schools, universities, parents, teachers is to help build a sense of perspective among kids, students. Unfortunately, there is very little emphasis on this. Why, many of the people whose job it is to do so, do not themselves have a good sense of perspective on the way things ought to be done.

We shouldn't be trying to follow in the literal footsteps because we live in a fast changing world where nothing really repeats itself.

We ought to follow in the footsteps (in spirit) because it reveals and it inspires.