You’ve likely seen something like this at the New York Times, Wall Street Jornal, HBR or one of countless other online news and content sites.

I’ve only got 9 article remaining – better make them count!

Making readers subscribe to online content is broken

This isn’t about trying to avoid paying for content, but rather a simple exercise in scale.

When newspapers were the norm you had a handful to pick from in town so there wasn’t an issue choosing the one you liked the most and subscribing to it. You might have even been an overachiever and had a weekend subscription to the WSJ or USA Today too!

The model of the internet, however, gives us the wonderful benefit of the long tail. We no longer only have two or three papers to choose from, but rather thousands and thousands of papers, blogs and more. And that’s an incredibly good thing! The problem now is that there’s too much choice, presenting a separate problem of finding the content you want.

Enter newsletter aggregators. I see a new one pop up every week. Possibly my favorite, Hacker Newsletter, perfectly exemplifies why online article subscription doesn’t work. This past week’s newsletter contained links to articles from 43 unique sites.

Three Cases Against Online Content Subscriptions

1. It’s simply not financially reasonable nor logistically a pleasant experience to manage subscriptions to even a fraction of those 43 sites.

2. Perhaps more importantly, especially as we’ve learned in the US with our last Presidential election, when you get your content from a single source you get trapped in a Filter Bubble. We should make it easier for people to expand their perspectives, not the opposite.

3. Again looking at our last election’s issue with Fake News, I have a suspicion that when you pay for content you subconsciously become more likely to believe it without critique or skepticism.

To be sure these are businesses that need to bring returns to their shareholders, but a content subscription model in an online world is the wrong way.

Guess I’m guilty of not “dogfooding” enough and I should spend more time actually reading articles on the site here.

I was shocked when I saw this load time for www.jeffsteinke.com tonight:

not the best screenshot but we were seeing 30-60+ second page load times. gross.

So I got to work and did a bit of tuning. I’m not an expert though so wanted to share what I did, what I learned, and leave room for additional ideas.

  1. First, I learned what TTFB is (hint: time to first byte).
  2. Looks like I can improve TTFB by using a WordPress caching plugin. Here are some options.
  3. Ended up choosing WP Super Cache…because turns out I already had the plugin installed, but deactivated. Who knows why?!?
  4. Decided to look up my hosting details on DreamHost and compare to other options like WPEngine and Kinsta.
  5. In the process noticed that I didn’t have SSL on. Whoops! Should be fixed shortly.
  6. Deactivated and deleted plugins I wasn’t using.
  7. Turned off the Jetpack Admin Bar, which was throwing a nasty, page-load-time wasting error of its own

The result?

3-4 seconds…much better. Sure there’s plenty of room for improvement still but this is still just a lowly old blog.

The wp-admin portal is still slow (this is where you can write posts, etc) but I can at least put up with that for the time being as it only impacts me.

If you’re still seeing anything slow on your end let me know. Always open to other ideas and recommendations…

There are a few things this post is not.

…it’s not a debate about a universal basic income.

…it’s not a philosophical discussion about the self-worth that comes with your job.

…and it’s not an argument about whether current technology/automation advancements will be different than previous technological revolutions like farming or factories, where those movements produced as many new jobs as they wiped out.

Let’s simply ask ourselves:

If you were a graduating high-school senior this spring, what career paths should you pursue to avoid “getting automated”?

To answer let’s think about where robots might struggle.

1. Jobs Where You’ll Make Rules

Robots are fantastic decision makers. They’re faster than us, completely unbiased, and don’t suffer from decision fatigue. But they don’t specialize in the creation of new rules (which the robots will ultimately be able to apply better than us).

Career ideas: Politicians & policy makers, CEOs & strategy makers

2. Jobs Where You’ll Make People Laugh/Cry/Cheer

The less we’ll work the more time we’ll have on our hands to be entertained. Or so it goes in WALL-E, which might not be far off. To clarify, this is live entertainment.

Career ideas: Athletes, Musicians, Actors, Comedians

3. Jobs Where You’ll Make New Stuff

Robots are excellent factory line workers but we still need someone to come up with new products, designs, and services to fill our factories with.

Career ideas: Entrepreneurs, Inventors, Creatives/Designers

Create, Don’t Do

The theme is obvious at this point. Take a look at your job today and ask, are you creating, or simply just doing?

There are many layers to make continual learning an integral part of your life. First, decide whether there’s value in doing so!

Somewhere down the line though it becomes a logistical question. You’re busy and have a million other priorities, so how do you infuse learning into your everyday? I’ve found two things you can do.

1. Find Your Sources

At a simpler level, here are some specific things you can do today:

  • Listen to Podcasts in your downtime. Driving, running, cooking, cleaning…even in the shower.
  • Watch less TV.
  • Read, including fiction, which can boost your mind’s creative capacity. Regular newsletters and blogs count too. Hacker Newsletter, AVC and Bloomberg’s Daily are some of my go-tos.

2. Change Your Perspective

At a deeper level, you’ll need to leave your immediate circle and build new habits. Unsurprisingly you’ll also see these changes can have the biggest affect:

  • Travel. As Trevor Noah comedically states in his latest stand up, Afraid of the Dark, “See another place. Discover a different point of view. Traveling is the antidote to ignorance.” I couldn’t agree more.
  • Spend time outside of your bubble. Try to get as many perspectives as possible by expanding the variety of sources of your news and learning. Diversity wins in the end.
  • Ask questions to your friends and colleagues to see their perspective. What do they know more about than you do, which they can teach you? What do they know less about than you do, which you can teach them (by the way, teaching is a great way to improve your own learning by forcing you to simplify & clearly articulate an idea – that’s one of the reasons I blog).
  • Become more humble, which in turn increases your self awareness and openness to new ideas.

It’s worked for me, although following my own advice I’d love to learn what’s worked for you!

A friend sent me this email today from Google fiber:

His first response to me says it all:

Didn’t know there was an issue but thanks Google!

Meanwhile I had similar issues this past week with Comcast.

Did they get ahead of the issue and reach out to me before I was aware of the issue? No.

Did they offer me a credit as “paying for something while it doesn’t work, just doesn’t work”? No.

Did they even apologize for the outage? No.

No product or service is perfect. Issues will happen and I’m ok with that. The difference is all in how your company handles them.

You can tell your customers that you care until you’re blue in the face, but I’d recommend building companies that spend their time showing their customers that they care by their actions. In the meantime, since I don’t have another high speed internet alternative, I hope you’re listening @ComcastCares.

At the time (back in the 70s) was IBM the best option? Ehh, there were probably some upstarts that could have potentially been much better.

But did that matter to the guy who was putting his reputation or even his career on the line? Nope, not a bit! Fear, uncertainty and doubt led rational people to continually opt for the safe and conservative option.

Today we have a new president.

In the liberal tech world Hillary Clinton was IBM. Would she be the best President? Ehh, probably not. She was the safe & conservative option; with her at the helm the chances of the US self-destructing would have been slim. Instead, America interestingly said that it’s ok with a little fear, uncertainty and doubt, in the form of Donald Trump.

So what will Trump be? Will Trump be the garage upstart that disrupts the entrenched political machine and gets us out of our democratic rut? Or is he just a conman selling us vaporware, that hopefully won’t take the rest of the country down with him?

Let’s all hope it’s the former…

Absolutely! Electric cars will reduce our oil dependency and autonomous cars will reduce road deaths.

But what makes these advancements so intriguing is the second-order effects. Benedict Evans nails it:

And that’s not all. What about

  • The millions of truck, bus and Uber drivers who have jobs at stake
  • International relations in a world where the US isn’t as dependent on Middle Eastern oil
  • The consumption effects of wanting to replace a car as often as you upgrade your phone

These are two amazing slides. Thanks Benedict.

 

It’s the 8th of January so by now you’ve seen plenty of posts about setting new goals for the new year.

However, if you’re going to go through the effort of setting goals (which is a good first step), remember these tips for setting the right kind of goals so that the effects last throughout the year and you’re not off the wagon before the end of the month.

1. Create S.M.A.R.T. Goals

S.pecific, M.easurable, A.ssignable, R.ealistic and T.ime-related (or some variation of that acronym).

2. Use the Aspire-Achieve-Do Method

Setup a goal framework that links your long term ambitions to daily and weekly habits.

3. Measure Your Results

How’d you do last year? I recommend aiming for a range of 60%-80% goal achievement. Any less and you probably didn’t have a good year or were unrealistic with yourself. Any more and you’re not stretching yourself enough. In any case, after you set your goals this year set regular reminders to check in on your progress.

You spend enough time with successful people and you start to notice something. They’re not batting 100%. They’re far from perfect and not too different from the rest of us.

So what’s different? Why do they come across like everything they touch turns to gold?

I’ve noticed a few common traits:

  • They don’t dwell on mistakes other than to learn; they fail fast and move on quickly
  • They promote their wins well leveraging the concept that success begets more successes
  • They appear to be lucky but are more often just taking more at bats than most

 

a16z partner Benedict Evans had an astute observation last week.

As voice-based interfaces improve what they can do (e.g. by adding more “skills”), how do you inform, train and perhaps most importantly remind end users of what they can do, without a GUI to do so?

Well, here are three ideas:

  1. Leverage recommendation engines (think Google Now, Netflix, etc) to proactively talk to users. For example, what if Alexa had motion sensing on it and when it saw me walk by the first time each day it told me what the weather was going to be
  2. Developers must design and build for a wider array of edge cases. For example, when listening to Pandora the phrases, “Thumbs up,” “I like this song,” and “Yes! More of this!” should all be able to rate the song higher.
  3. And probably easiest is to remember you do still have a GUI. For example, Alexa’s companion mobile app could use notifications and suggestions to help users maximize their Echoes. Yet in its current form the app feels like an afterthought.