Nerd Corner #40

Blue Oceans, OCR, and more! 😷

Hi All!

First some news!

I just switched to use Substack to send you these emails. The tool I was using up to now was built for marketing campaigns and its features distracted me from getting the posts out of the door. Hopefully, you’ll like the new look!

Yesterday I published a small summary of “How to be a friend: An Ancient Guide to True Friendship”. As an experiment, I drew inspiration from Maria Popova’s Brainpickings and tried to write in a style similar to hers.

I’d love your feedback and comments! You just reply to this email or comment on the Substack thread!


What I am reading 📚

Over the last few weeks I’ve been devouring books in a way I didn’t expect. At the beginning of the COVID-19 lockdown I thought that I would have much more time to read and that I would end up creating a solid reading routine (say, a couple of hours every day, morning, or evening). But since the days are all the same, I’ve ended up in a sort of sprint cycle: there are days in which I have a lot of work and do no reading and others in which I almost do no work and read a lot (4+ hours). 

Turns out this is a pretty good dynamic. It allows me to rest and absorb the information I consume in a much better way. I’ll see if this habit continues when things go back to normal.

— 

During one of my recent “reading sprints” I finished reading “Blue Ocean Strategy” by Kim and Mauborgne. As I mentioned in last week’s email, the book is a bit dry. It ended up having some great tools and frameworks to think about product strategy and has a strong focus on “value innovation” but a lot of what is distilled seems to be only clear in hindsight. This is, once a company becomes successful we can explain its success by looking back through the lens of the blue ocean strategy. I wonder though if there are companies that started out applying the principles laid out in the book and became successful. 

I’ll be doing research to see what I find and report back.

My favorite quote of the book was:

Unless the technology makes buyers’ lives dramatically simpler, more convenient, more productive, less risky, or more fun and fashionable, it will not attract the masses not matter how many awards it wins.

As a technologist and early adopter of everything new and techie (i.e. a nerd) this is a sobering and important point. Some tech companies get caught up in a race to create technology innovations, but unless your product offering fundamentally depends on new technologies (think of the iPhone, Tesla) you should focus on providing value to your customers with whatever means already exist and are known to work.

I am now reading “Seeking Wisdom: From Darwin to Munger” by Peter Bevelin. I’ve been wanting to read this book for a long time but for reasons that I can’t remember I always put off reading it. I regret it deeply. I’ve only read the appendices and the conclusion (yes, I always start reading from the end), and I’m already blown away. It surprised me to find in it one of the best introductions to probabilities I’ve read. 

More to come.


Nerd Corner 🤓

Last week I mentioned macOS’s integrated Spotlight, essentially a search bar for everything on your computer. While it is one of my favorite Mac features, it can’t search for images and screenshots, at least out of the box.

Luckily, the Internet had a solution to this problem: a script that runs OCR through your screenshots and attaches metadata to them. After you run the script, the screenshots become searchable through SpotLight, almost like magic!


Cool Finds 🤯

  • Bill Gates’ latest post is worth reading.

    Melinda and I grew up learning that World War II was the defining moment of our parents’ generation. In a similar way, the COVID-19 pandemic—the first modern pandemic—will define this era. No one who lives through Pandemic I will ever forget it. And it is impossible to overstate the pain that people are feeling now and will continue to feel for years to come.

  • Soviet Russia had an 11-year period of no weekends and holidays. The policy was meant to increase production and avoid having idle machines in factories. Whether you live for the weekend or not, part of enjoying life is to have idle time with your loved ones. I still can’t digest the stupidity of communist systems. 

  • In 2017 a British journalist managed to get a fake restaurant listed as the #1 restaurant in London on TripAdvisor. The Internet, my friends, is full of terrors and wonders.  


Before you go 😎


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Until next week, 

Alberto