Roam Notes on “Working in Public” by Nadia Eghbal

  • Title:: Working in Public: The Making and Maintenance of Open Source Software
  • Author:: [[Nadia Eghbal]]
  • Recommended By:: [[Patrick Collison]]
  • Reading Status:: #complete
  • Review Status:: #[[first pass]]
  • URL:: link
  • Tags:: #books #[[Open Source]] #[[Open Collaboration]] #[[platforms]] #[[history of software]] #[[history of open source]] #[[online creators]] #[[online content creation]]
  • Source:: #kindle
  • Roam Notes URL:: link
  • Anki Tag:: working_in_public_eghbal
  • Anki Deck Link:: Get Anki Deck
  • Summary
    • [[Nadia Eghbal]] examines how [[Open Source] works today, how it has evolved to this state over time, and where it may be headed. Although the book is specifically about open source on the surface, much of it applies to all [[online content creation]] and [[online creators]]. Some of the main themes of the book include:
      • Creator attention is a [[common pool resource]] that must be protected through [[curation]] and filtering, rather than blindly encouraging more open participation.
      • Key [[open source contributions]] coming from a small number of very important creators / maintainers, rather than a large community.
      • Trends toward [[modularity]] of code and other online content.
      • Increased importance of [[curation]] for creators as the key problem to solve as they grow.
      • The extractive nature of many activities masked as "contributions", such as low-quality comments, questions, [[feature requests]], or [[pull requests]] that consume the limited [[attention]] of creators. #[[extractive contributions]] #[[casual contributors]]
        • ""Casual contributors are like tourists visiting New York City for a weekend. Just as we wouldn’t expect, or even want, tourists to participate in local governance decisions, we shouldn’t assume that casual contributors are part of a project’s contributor community simply because they are physically present." (Location 1569)"
        • ""The problem with the Christmas lights isn’t that anyone can drive by and view them. A problem only surfaces if we think our neighbor owes us anything; if we cross the invisible boundary and knock on his door, making demands and requesting changes." (Location 2535)"
      • Trends toward following creators themselves rather than particular artifacts (e.g. code repositories) produced by creators.
    • Nadia also expounds a valuable nomenclature for talking about open source and online content. I particularly liked her categorization of open-source projects based on the ratio of contributors to users:
      • "4 main influencers that determine the ratio of a project’s users to contributors: (Location 809) #[[growing open source projects]]"
    • The book is filled with lots of interesting stories and quotes from open-source developers.
  • Introduction
    • People typically think [[open source software]] is built by large communities where many pitch in. In reality, they are typically developed by a small number of important [[maintainers]], who often are overwhelmed and stressed by having to deal with a large number of low-quality contributions. (Location 70) (Location 74) #Ankified
    • "One study found that, in a sample of 275 popular [[GitHub]] projects across various programming languages, nearly half of all contributors only contributed once. These [[contributors]] accounted for less than 2% of total commits, or overall contributions." (Location 85) #Ankified
    • This isn’t necessarily a problem, but many see it as an issue, as there is even a term called [[bus factor]] to measure project health: the number of developers that would need to get hit by a bus before the project is in trouble. (Location 106) #Ankified
    • "Code, like any other type of content available online today, is trending toward [[modularity]]: a mille-feuille layer cake of little libraries instead of one big, jiggling Jell-O mold." (e.g. [[npm]]). This contributes to the small number of maintainers per project. (Location 114)
    • "The role of a [[maintainer]] is evolving. Rather than coordinating with a group of [[developers]], these maintainers are defined by the need for [[curation]]: sifting through the noise of interactions, such as user questions, [[bug reports]], and [[feature requests]], which compete for their [[attention]]." (Location 129)
    • "The problem facing [[maintainers]] today is not how to get more [[contributors]] but how to manage a high volume of frequent, low-touch interactions. These developers aren’t building communities; they’re directing air traffic." The role of [[maintainer]] is evolving to [[curation]], sifting through many things that compete for their [[attention]], like [[bug reports]] or [[feature requests]] (Location 134) #Ankified
    • "In the late 1990s, open source was the poster child for a hopeful vision of widespread public collaboration, then dubbed “[[peer production]]."" (Location 180) #Ankified
  • Part 1: How People Make
    • 01. [[GitHub]] as a Platform
      • THE LIBERATION OF CODE
        • Before code hosting platforms, developers passed around code as a [[tarball]] (.tar file). Most open source code was published this way on a self-hosted website, and developers used [[mailing lists]] to collaborate. (Location 222) #Ankified
        • [[distributed version control]] (e.g. [[Git]]) was an important innovation for open source, since it make it technically possible for developers to work independently from one another, working on their own copy. [[centralized version control]] required developers to commit code back to the same server (Location 231) #Ankified
        • "[[Richard Stallman]] (also known as RMS) was the hacker who kicked off the [[free software movement]] at [[MIT]] in the [[1980s]]. [[Eric S. Raymond]] (also known as ESR), the programmer who helped rebrand [[free software]] to “[[Open Source]]” in the [[1990s]], is widely viewed as early open source’s unofficial anthropologist. And [[Linus Torvalds]] is the programmer who created both [[Linux]], the open source kernel that powers many of today’s operating systems, in 1991, and [[Git]], in 2005." (Location 260)
      • THE TRIUMPH OF CONVENIENCE (Location 325)
        • Another big innovation popularizing open source was code hosting, particularly [[GitHub]]. "[[GitHub]] wasn’t the first [[code-hosting platform]]. It was preceded by [[SourceForge]], founded in 1999. If GitHub is like Facebook, SourceForge was the MySpace of code-hosting platforms: the first significant product of its kind, and, though still alive today, mostly remembered as a blueprint." (Location 328) #Ankified
        • [[GitHub]] popularized [[permissive licensing]], increasing reach and distribution of open source code, whereas [[free software movement]] emphasized [[copyleft licensing]] (e.g. [[GNU General Public License (GPL)]]). The problem with copyleft licenses is they require any other code used with the GPL code to be GPL licensed as well (not commercial friendly): a private company would have to make all their code licensed under GPL if they used GPL licensed code. [[permissive licensing]] allows developers to do pretty much anything they want with the code (e.g. [[Berkeley Software Distribution (BSD)]], [[Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) license]]) without changing the terms of their own projects. (Location 349) #Ankified
        • [[Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) license]] is by the most popular license used by [[GitHub]] projects. "A 2015 company blog post claimed that 45% of open source projects use it." (Location 356) #Ankified
        • [[platforms]] like [[GitHub]] add value to [[creators]] by providing [[distribution]] (i.e. an audience). This is like a talent agency, except creators can take their audience elsewhere once they get it. So, platforms build convenient features for creators that encourage them to stay (Location 392) (Location 397) action=open&asin=B08BDGXVK9&location=404)) #Ankified
      • FROM HACKERS TO HUSKIES (Location 447)
        • Developers are increasingly known not for a specific project they work on (e.g. [[Linus Torvalds]] and [[Linux]]), but for who they are (Location 478).
        • This is particularly true in the [[JavaScript]] community.
      • THE GITHUB GENERATION (Location 548)
    • 02. The Structure of an Open Source Project
      • HOW CONTRIBUTIONS ARE MADE (Location 631) #[[contributing to open source]]
        • Changes to [[Open Source]] are not completely open to anyone. Developers submit a [patch] (aka [[pull request]] in [[GitHub]]) and these are reviewed and approved by prior trusted contributors. (Location 634)
        • "Some developers have permission to merge changes into the trunk (or master), which is the baseline version of the project. Having these permissions is often referred to as [[commit access]], which is like being able to edit a shared document." (Location 637) #Ankified
          • "The process by which a developer gains [[commit access]] varies widely between projects and is subject to preexisting social norms." (Location 656)
        • "Bigger projects often use a formal “request for comments” ([[RFC]]) process to allow communities to discuss these changes before they are merged." (Location 641)
        • Developer reputation as well as complexity of the change are some of the biggest factors determining whether a [[pull request]] is merged. (Location 673) (Location 680)
      • WHERE INTERACTIONS TAKE PLACE (Location 711) #[[open source work]]
        • An open source project isn’t just code. Typically [[repository]] refers to the code, while [[project]] refers to the broader tools and communication channels surrounding the code. (Location 714)
        • [[GitHub]] [[issues]] and [[pull request]] help it maintain a competitive advantage, since it’s not easy to migrate these between platforms. (Location 733)
      • HOW PROJECTS CHANGE OVER TIME (Location 754) #[[open source project evolution]]
        • Stages of open source project evolution (Location 757): #Ankified
          • Creation: Early stage, with few developers and closed development.
          • Evangelism: Project release, promotion, and distribution, transitioning to more open development.
          • Growth: Project more widely used, maintainers start doing more non-code than code work (e.g. triaging issues, reviewing pull requests).
            • Maintainers typically follow one of two paths here: i) If there’s few contributors they’ll start pull back to closed, focused development. ii) If the contributors are growing rapidly, they may follow a distributed model that passes off work more widely.
      • CLASSIFYING PROJECT TYPES (Location 804)
        • 4 main influencers that determine the ratio of a project’s users to contributors: (Location 809) #[[growing open source projects]]
          • Technical scope: Projects with more to do attract more contributors.
          • Support required: Including writing code (the stuff considered fun work by developers) and other supporting tasks like reviewing pull requests.
          • Ease of participation: The ease of contributing to the project.
          • User adoption: More users usually means more contributors.
        • The ratio of contributors to users lets us classify open source projects into four main categories (Location 862): #Ankified
          • [[federations (open source)]]: Many contributors, many users (e.g. [[Rust]], [[Node.js]], [[Linux]])
          • [[clubs (open source)]]: Many contributors, few users (many users are contributors).
          • [[toys (open source)]]: Few contributors, few users (side project / weekend project).
          • [[stadiums (open source)]]: Few contributors, many users (e.g. [[webpack]], [[Babel]]).
    • 03. Roles, Incentives, and Relationships
      • Open source projects are often best described as a [[commons]]: a resource that is owned, used, and managed by a community. (Location 1041)#Ankified
      • A THEORY OF THE COMMONS (Location 1044) #commons
        • Economist [[Elinor Ostrom]] studied conditions leading to well-managed commons that avoid the [[tragedy of the commons]]. [[Ostrom commons design principles]]:
          • Membership boundaries are clearly defined.
          • The rules that govern the commons should match the actual conditions.
          • Those who are affected by these rules can participate in modifying them.
          • Those who monitor the rules are either community members or are accountable to the community, rather than outsiders.
          • Those who violate the rules are subject to graduated sanctions, which vary depending on the seriousness and context of the offense. #punishment
          • Conflicts should be resolved within the community, using low-cost methods. #[[conflict resolution]]
          • External authorities recognize the right of community members to devise their own [[institutions]].
          • If the commons is part of a larger system, its governing rules are organized into multiple “nested” layers of [[authority]]. (Location 1044)
      • WHY WE PARTICIPATE IN THE COMMONS (Location 1074) #commons
        • [[Yochai Benkler]] expanded upon [[Elinor Ostrom]]’s model by applying her findings to the online world. He terms this [[communal structure commons-based peer production]] (CBPP) in a 2002 essay called “Coase’s Penguin, Or, Linux and ‘The Nature of the Firm.’” (Location 1075) #[[To Read]]
        • His work focuses on why people participate in [[commons]]. Conditions for it to work include: [[intrinsic motivation]], modular and granular tasks, and low [[coordination]] costs. (Location 1082) (Location 1103). In open source, the main coordination costs are [[reviewing code]] and merging [[pull requests]] (Location 1122). #modularity
        • Projects that involve a [[commons]] ([[federations (open source)]] and [[clubs (open source)]]) are focused on resolving coordination issues, while projects without a commons ([[stadiums (open source)]]), focus on curation due to the scarcity of attention of the creator. (Location 1142)
      • HOW PLATFORMS BROKE APART THE COMMONS (Location 1156) #commons
        • Communities need to protect themselves from potentially damaging actions of newcomers, who can destabilize the community’s pre-existing [[social norms]]. (Location 1220)
        • It’s difficult for maintainers to defer decisions to the community, given the lack of clear membership boundaries. "Countries have citizenships and constituencies, but open source projects are open to anyone." (Location 1235) #[[Ostrom commons design principles]]
      • THE ROLE OF A MAINTAINER (Location 1346) #maintainers
        • "although maintainers are few in number, their impact on an open source project is far-reaching, because they’re the bottleneck to everyone else’s contributions." (Location 1366)
        • Ideally, a project will attract [[creators]] and [[curators]] to serve as co-maintainers (developers tend to be more excited about creating, so curators are particularly valuable) (Location 1421)
        • Long-term maintenance does not typically sharpen your developer skills. After a while, maintainers typically take one of the following paths:
          • They might enjoy cultivating non-development skills like [[project management]] or [[leadership]].
          • They figure out how to distribute the work to contributors and users or other methods to reduce the overall time they spend on undesirable tasks.
          • They step down, find a replacement, or disappear. (Location 1445)
        • Like a CEO, maintainers tend to be locked into the project – leaving would have serious consequences for the health of the project. (Location 1462)
        • Another interesting property of project maintainers is that publication of the project is not the end of the work, in contrast to publishing books. Once published, maintainers are expected to maintain as long as people use it. (Location 1487)
      • ACTIVE AND CASUAL CONTRIBUTORS (Location 1495) #contributors
        • Typical active contributor motivations are [[community]], [[reputation]], and [[learning]]. (Location 1537)
        • [[casual contributors]] (aka “drive-by contributors”) have a transactional relationship with the project. They mainly just want to see their contributions merged. "self oriented rather than community oriented" (Location 1547) (Location 1566)
        • "Casual contributors are like tourists visiting New York City for a weekend. Just as we wouldn’t expect, or even want, tourists to participate in local governance decisions, we shouldn’t assume that casual contributors are part of a project’s contributor community simply because they are physically present." (Location 1569)
        • [[GitHub]] has encouraged growth of casual contributors by lowering the friction to contribute and increasing the number of users of open source projects (Location 1597)
      • ACTIVE AND PASSIVE USERS (Location 1616) #users
        • Active users are like active contributors, but they tend to operate independently from the project’s contributors, and possibly haven’t interacted with the project’s repository at all. (Location 1656)
      • ASSESSING THE HEALTH OF A PROJECT (Location 1673) #[[open source project health]]
        • 3 success metrics: (Location 1677)
          • POPULAR: # people using the project. (Location 1678)
          • DEPENDED UPON: how much other software actively uses the project (Location 1679)
          • ACTIVE: the project is actively developed (Location 1681)
            • Commits, issues, pull requests (# open issues and pull requests, average time to first response, average time to close an issue or pull request)
            • Some projects don’t require much maintenance. In these cases, look at activity off [[GitHub]] (e.g. Stack Overflow) (Location 1740)
        • [[bus factor]]: is the number of contributors that would need to get hit by a bus before the project is compromised. (Location 1697)
        • Contributor count can be misleading, especially for [[stadiums (open source)]], since this metric assumes contributors are fungible (i.e. interchangeable). (Location 1709)
  • Part 2: How People Maintain
    • 04: The Work Required by Software
      • CODE AS ARTIFACT, CODE AS ORGANISM (Location 1801)
        • Software evolves over time and requires continuous maintenance. [[greenfield projects]], where developers get to write code from scratch, are actually rare (and coveted) – developers spend more time tending to code others wrote. (Location 1808)
        • "[[Fergus Henderson]], a software engineer at [[Google]], states that “most software at Google gets rewritten every few years.” Software changes over time as its environment—the other technology around it—changes. Henderson also points out that regularly rewriting software is inherently beneficial. It helps cut away unnecessary complexity that has accumulated over time, as well as transfer knowledge and a sense of ownership to newer team members." (Location 1816) #[[rewriting software]]
        • "The cost of maintenance, coupled with a lack of intrinsic motivation to maintain, is why large open source projects tend to become modular as they grow." (Location 1820) #modularity
        • [[forking]] is an option to exit a project, but you have to consider dependencies and upkeep required. Most projects in reality are unforkable due to these other factors. The project is more than just the code. (Location 1913)
      • THE HIDDEN COSTS OF SOFTWARE (Location 1926) #[[software costs]]
        • Three major types of software costs: [[creation]], [[distribution]], and [[maintenance]]. (Location 1927)
          • Creation is intrinsically motivated, distribution powered by platforms such as [[GitHub]] and cheap. Maintenance is a bit of a mystery, and it’s a big cost: "A 2018 Stripe study of software developers suggested that developers spend 42% of their time maintaining code." (Location 2074)
        • Two main kinds of maintenance costs: [[marginal maintenance costs]] and [[temporal maintenance costs]]. Software incurs ongoing maintenance costs, both marginal (costs that are a function of its users) and temporal (entropy, or costs associated with decay over time). (Location 1931)
          • [[marginal maintenance costs]]
            • Software has low [[marginal costs]] but, contrary to popular belief, they are not 0. If you think of code as static, then yes it’s 0 marginal cost, but when maintenance is involved marginal costs add up. Software is not quite completely [[non-rivalrous]] – if 10 people use software compared to 10,000 the developers will feel the difference. (Location 1941)
            • Some of the costs that increase with users include physical inrastructure (Location 1977), developer tools (Location 2009), user support (Location 2011), and community moderation (Location 2050).
          • [[temporal maintenance costs]] (Location 2069)
            • These costs are a function of [[entropy]]: the inevitable decay of systems over time.
            • [[technical debt]] (Location 2079): Choosing easier, faster options today that cost time and money to address later on.
            • [[test infrastructure]] (Location 2092): Tests are added over time as the project expands, with increased opportunity for slow or flaky tests. "One maintainer of a large open source project told me that running his CI service took an hour and a half per pull request, yet he was expected to review and merge forty to fifty pull requests per day."
            • [[dependency management]] (Location 2110)
            • Adapting to user needs (Location 2168)
      • MEASURING THE VALUE OF CODE (Location 2219)
        • DEPENDENCIES (Location 2323) #[[dependencies]]
          • Dependencies are an indicator of the value of software, because it means others are using it.
          • That being said, dependency doesn’t tell the whole story of value, since it might still be really easy to replace (i.e. high [[substitutability]]).
          • Open source code tends to be highly [[elastic]] (i.e. consumers sensitive to price changes, willing to switch to competitors).
        • REPUTATION (Location 2380)
    • 05: Managing the Costs of Production
      • If open source software is a [[public good]], should it be provided by the government? (Location 2475). Government is ill-suited to do this given that open source code is transnational (governments are beholden to national interests). Also, software moves too fast – the law can’t keep up.
      • A good example of government failure in this area is open source [[cryptography]]. In the [[1970s]] and [[1980s]], developers used [[Data Encryption Standard (DES)]], but the [[National Security Agency (NSA)]] changed it to make it weaker so they could break it. Open source developers eventually created [[Pretty Good Privacy (PGP)]], but this cryptography was considered a form of munitions in the United States because it overlapped with national security – developers working on open source cryptography had to become licensed arms dealers if they wanted to "[[export]]" (i.e. distribute) their code! Eventually, the US dropped these export controls. (Location 2484)
        • Hilarious workaround: the US State Department ruled code on a floppy disk couldn’t be exported, but books containing code was allowed (protected under [[freedom of speech]]). So the PGP developers published a book called PGP Source Code and Internals.
      • This is a big reason why [[Elinor Ostrom]]’s work is gaining popularity – she provides a framework for understanding how people can self-manage [[non-excludable]] resources without resorting to government. (Location 2503)
      • "The problem with the Christmas lights isn’t that anyone can drive by and view them. A problem only surfaces if we think our neighbor owes us anything; if we cross the invisible boundary and knock on his door, making demands and requesting changes." (Location 2535)
      • PRODUCTION AS A ONE-WAY MIRROR (Location 2548)
        • Managing open source code requires separating its [[production]] from [[consumption]]. (Location 2551)
        • From a consumption perspective, static open source code is a [[public good]]. Its value can be measured by its number of [[dependencies]] and [[substitutability]].
        • From a production perspective, open-source code is more like a [[commons]] (i.e. [[non-excludable]] and [[rivalrous]]), where maintainer [[attention]] is the rivalrous resource. (Location 2572) "When developers make contributions, they appropriate this attention from the commons." (Location 2584)
        • "To reduce the over-appropriation of attention in open source software, we can think of its production as a one-way mirror, where we design for the parasocial, or one-sided, relationships that are endemic to [[stadiums (open source)]], rather than for the interpersonal relationships that are associated with [[clubs (open source)]]." (Location 2589)
        • In this model, users can consume the code, but would have limited access to things that consume maintainer time, like pull requests or mail lists. Maintainers should avoid [[extractive contributions]], i.e. contributions where the marginal cost of reviewing and merging outweighs the marginal benefit to the project’s producers (e.g. comments, questions, feature requests). (Location 2632) Fear of appearing unsympathetic or unwelcoming often keeps maintainers reviewing extractive contributions. (Location 2681) #Ankified
        • Non-extractive casual contributions are often modular, granular, and require little input from maintainers. (Location 2666)
      • MANAGING PRODUCER ATTENTION (Location 2700) #maintainers #attention
        • Typical patterns maintainers use to manage their [[attention]]: (Location 2700)
          • Reduce up-front costs
          • Make themselves less available
          • Distribute costs onto users
          • Increase total attention available
        • REDUCING UP-FRONT COSTS (Location 2726)
          • [[continuous integration]] and [[automated tests]] are valuable for open source, as it makes maintainers more confident in merging code from people they don’t know (Location 2774) (Location 2781)
          • [[bots]] (Location 2786)
          • [[Code style guides]] and [[linters]] (Location 2799)
          • Templates and [[checklists]] for [[issues]] and [[pull requests]]. "Among the top hundred projects on GitHub by issue volume in 2018, 93% of projects used issue templates." (Location 2806)
        • LIMITING AVAILABLE ATTENTION: THE N=1 APPROACH (Location 2824)
          • Some developers make themselves less available. One technique coined by [[Philip Guo]] is the "n=1 approach", where you only have 1 developer, since going from 1 to 2 developers is the biggest jump. Don’t accept pull requests, although they may look at them for ideas – they serve more as comments or suggestions. This may inspire the developer, without imposing the technical and social costs of merging others’ code. (Location 2845) #Ankified
          • Some use a tiered approach, devoting more personal attention as a person makes more contributions (e.g. [[Mike McQuaid]] – Homebrew’s lead maintainer). (Location 2846)
        • DISTRIBUTING COSTS: USER-TO-USER SYSTEMS (Location 2860)
        • MEETING DEMAND: INCREASE AVAILABLE ATTENTION (Location 2911)
          • Bring on more active contributors or find ways they can personally spend more attention on the project (Location 2921)
      • THE ROLE OF MONEY IN OPEN SOURCE (Location 2961)
        • Maintainers can make their attention [[excludable]] by charging for access (e.g. paid support, [[patronage]], [[bounties]]) (meaning, paid rewards for certain tasks or contributions) (Location 2991)
        • WHO FUNDS OPEN SOURCE DEVELOPERS, AND WHY (Location 2995)
          • Two types of funders of open source: institutions (usually companies) and individuals (usually developers who are users). (Location 2996)
          • Companies tend to fund due to their desire for [code quality] – they pay for support or [[service level agreements (SLAs)]]. Essentially, they pay for a direct line to a project’s maintainers (Location 3012). Some maintainers host office hours for high-paying supporters, while others may work on retainer to provide corporate support. This can sometimes lead to a full-time hire. These kind of arrangements aren’t usually publicized (Location 3030)
          • Companies may pay for brand association (Location 3044).
          • People often use the words "should" or "ought" when talking about individuals funding open source. This book focuses on why an individual might be happy to drop cash on a project (Location 3112).
          • Individual developers are less likely to pay for open source code and instead sponsor people behind the code, based on reputation (Location 3113). As content creators, the typical reward is reputation gains, which they can convert into [[attention]] (i.e. an audience), which they can then convert into [[money]] (Location 3115).
          • [[patronage]] is increasingly popular, and not to be confused with donations. It’s more of a subscription – people pay to be closely connected with the creator’s work (Location 3118). We should think of open source developers as content creators, and content creators can make money in ways other than being hired be someone: "Can we imagine telling Tfue, who rose to fame by livestreaming himself playing Fortnite Battle Royale on Twitch, that the most he could hope for was to get hired by ESPN" (Location 3146)
        • WHERE THE MONEY GOES (Location 3214)
          • Compensating casual contributors makes no sense, because it’s like paying people to leave comments on a creator’s work, there’s no shortage of casual contributions, and casual contributors are already motivated to participate. (Location 3259) "If anything, it’s casual contributors who should be paying for access to maintainers, not the other way around" (Location 3266)
          • [[bounties]] work well for well-scoped, finite tasks that are specialized or difficult to attract talent for (e.g. design work, database migrations, security bugs) (Location 3279)
          • Funding individuals is an option which avoids centralized governance issues that come from funding projects. To fund projects, the developers need a legal entity to accept the funds, and define governance processes to manage who gets paid and how much. As projects get smaller and smaller, funding people becomes even more attractive (Location 3309)
          • Funding individuals is more difficult for organizations – they prefer funding projects for the benefits of code security and stability, influence, attracting talent to hire. Funding individuals is more like hiring to them – hard to pull off in terms of execution and making the case internally (Location 3349).
  • CONCLUSION
    • The value of [[platforms]] comes mostly in the [[social graph]] you build on it, not the content itself. "Our relationship to content matters less than our relationships to the people who make it. As a result, we’re starting to treat content not as a private economic good but as the externalization of our social infrastructure." (Location 3402)
    • "I’ll spend the final pages zooming out in order to explore how what we’ve learned can be applied not just to open source developers but other [[online creators]]. I’ll focus on two areas in particular: the problem of [[managing over-participation]] and the problem of [[making money]]." (Location 3441)
    • MANAGING OVER-PARTICIPATION (Location 3445)
      • Similarly to what was described with open source maintainers, growing audience engagement extracts attention from the creators. It’s essential to find a way to manage this demand, especially when it is extractive (e.g. comments, direct messages). (Location 3447)
      • Options for creators at these later stages include: hiding / muting interactions (Location 3517) and encouraging the role of curator (Location 3524).
    • MAKING MONEY (Location 3557) #[[making money]]
      • [[paywalls]] are not to monetize content. They monetize community by allowing the audience to get closer to the creator, meet like-minded people, or get away from extractive contributors. (Location 3571) "A paywall is more like the ticket kiosk at a theme park than a price tag on a car." (Location 3573) See "Something Awful" – a forum popular in the 2000s that anyone could read but only users paying an "activation fee" could comment. (Location 3575) This had the nice side-effect of keeping out idiots.
      • Putting all content behind [[paywalls]] is unlikely to work well, and neither are [[micropayments]] to unlock individual articles or other content. "Micropayments make the transaction about content, rather than about creators, but because there is so much freely available, highly substitutable content they create decision fatigue for consumers" (Location 3582).

Roam Notes on “Why Now? A Quest in Metaphysics” by Jaan Tallinn

  • {{[youtube]: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=29AgSo6KOtI}}
  • "Author::" [[Jaan Tallinn]]
  • "Source::" YouTube
  • "Recommended By::" [[Conor White-Sullivan]] (see this Twitter thread)
  • "Tags::" #singularity #metaphysics
  • "Anki Tag::"
  • "Anki Deck Link::"
  • Overview

  • [[Jaan Tallinn]] lays out an argument for why being at the cusp of a [[singularity]] might not be that unusual.
  • Summary Notes

  • Basic idea behind [[singularity]]: resources will be increasingly devoted to computation, morphing from economic to astronomic phenomenon. The entire universe will turn into [[computronium]]: matter arranged in the most efficient form for computations. Once computers can design other computers, the process explodes ("our last invention"), eventually leading to a new equilibrium when each quark is put to work for computation. If this is true, we’re at the most important point in the universe since the big bang: the moment where computronium goes from 0% to 100%.
  • It seems improbable that we would happen to find ourselves at the cusp of the [[singularity]], since it’s such a pivotal and unusual moment in the history of the universe. #[[Anthropic Principle]]
  • We seem to live in a world that is, at least in principle, completely computable. #[[algorithms]] #[[computation]]
  • Our world seems finely tuned to support the existence of stars, cells, and life. So either the parameters were finely tuned to support that, or the universe is sufficiently large to contain all configurations ([[multiverse]]).
  • If you accept the [[multiverse]] theory and the [[singularity]] argument, there are post-human universes out there with supercomputers running universe simulations, that increases the number of singularity simulations, and we should be less surprised we may be experiencing the edge of the singularity. #[[simulation]]
    • Consider a world where the [[singularity]] has run its course. This should be a common situation: post-singularity periods would be at least a trillion trillion times longer than the pre-singularity period. There would be one or more [[superintelligence]] in this place, and they are likely interested in talking to other superintelligences. A practical way for them to do this would be [[simulation]], since all superintelligences are just the computational result of atoms bouncing off one another. They would also want to do many simulations of possible scenarios to pick the most interesting superintelligences, doing something like a [[tree search algorithm]] which would produce many simulations as you approach the [[singularity]]. This would mean that it is actually not unusual for a simulated world to be approaching the singularity as we possibly are now.

Roam Notes on Balaji Srinivasan’s “Applications: Today & 2025”

  • {{[youtube]: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3jPYk7ucrjo}}
  • "Author::" [[Balaji Srinivasan]]
  • "Source::" https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3jPYk7ucrjo
  • "Tags::" #Entrepreneurship #startups #Technology #crypto #decentralization
  • "Anki Tag::" srinivasan_apps_today_2025
  • "Anki Deck Link::" link
  • Overview: [[Balaji Srinivasan]] discusses about crypto applications in 2020 and also beyond that point to 2025. Also includes a history of how we got to the present moment, and some underpinning concepts of all [[crypto]] projects.
  • 1:45 Talk begins
  • 2:20 Why [[Bitcoin]] was invented in the first place. It represents the latest step in a progression of digital cash: #money #payments #Ankified
    1. Physical cash: A hands B cash and B no longer has it.
    2. Naive digital cash solution: A sends B serial number via email, but A still has a copy, so this doesn’t work
    3. Centralized digital cash: A bank C acts as trusted intermediary – debits A and credits B.
    4. Decentralized digital cash: Centralized bank C is replaced by decentralized networks of competing miners updating a [[blockchain]].
  • 5:25 [[blockchain]] is the fundamental innovation behind [[Bitcoin]]. There are many blockchains; for example [[Ethereum]], which is more programmable than bitcoin and allows for [[smart contracts]]. Allows for more complex transactions than simple "debit A and credit B".
  • 8:06 Technological concepts underlying [[blockchain]] projects
    • [[blockchain]] is a database for storing things of value. Although slower than centralized databases, they provide tamper-resistant shared state in an adversarial environment.
    • 9:15 [[Bitcoin]] is a [[protocol]] – you can open [[Wireshark]] and see raw packets updating the underlying [[blockchain]]. Entirely packet-driven without reference to a bank. So, machines can now hold and send money.
    • 13:30 [[blockchain]] means having a greater choice over who to [[trust]]. Previously you had to store money at one of a few banks; now you can store at a bank, exchange, or any computer.
    • 13:54 [[blockchain]] enables internet-scale [[cap tables]]. Cap tables are tables examining who owns what percentage of a company. #Ankified
    • 16:10 [[blockchain]] breaks [[network effects]] because token upside is inversely proportional to network effects. For example, competitor to Facebook could issue tokens to new users, giving value to early users that decline in value as the network size increases. Turns customers into investor-like entities. #Ankified
    • 17:30 [[blockchain]] will transform [[Social Networks]], moving from liking and poking and messaging to real value being create (paid DMs, surveys, task)
    • 18:00 [[blockchain]] is a partial move from [[the cloud]] toward more privacy. Users increasingly keep private keys local and private, and this will be an anchor leading other data being encrypted and moved locally. The bulk of data will still be remote, but it will only be decrypted when you download it locally.
  • 19:15 The [[blockchain]] community
    • A blockchain community is economically aligned. "If they’re holders, none of them can win unless they all win". #incentives #[[crypto cliff]]
      • For example, with [[DNS]] if someone seizes a lol.cat domain, you keep your .com domain so you don’t really care. In contrast, seizing a person’s .ens domain means interfering with the [[Ethereum]] blockchain. "You now have a monetary incentive to defend another’s rights". He calls this the [[crypto cliff]]. #Ankified
    • 21:30 This allows for experiments in [[self-governance]]. Suddenly, [[macroeconomics]] becomes an experimental science. "If [[federalism]] meant the laboratory of the states, [[decentralization]] is creating the laboratory of the networks.
  • 23:08 Applications: 2020, i.e. what are the successful things currently built with [[crypto]]?
    • These are things already built at scale at 2020: [[exchanges]], [[hardware wallets]], [[miners]], [[issuance]], [[stablecoins]], [[defi]]
  • 25:30 Applications: 2025, i.e. the stuff that’s up-and-coming and might be big in 2025 in [[crypto]]? #[[startup ideas]]
    • [[privacy coins]] (e.g. [[Dash]], [[Monero]], [[ZCash]]).
    • [[Lending]] and [[Interest]] (e.g. [[Compound]], [[Maker]])
    • [[Scaling]] (e.g. [[Starkware]] and many others)
    • [[Decentralized Cold Storage]] (e.g. [[Casa]]) helping people store at home that don’t technically know how to do that, so this provides services that allow you to do that.
    • [[SaaS-for-gas]] (e.g. [[Starkware]] and others). Smart contracts that are on-chain and charge for each API call. Right now you have to do a Stripe billing layer, but maybe put in a code snippet and you have a function that executes and makes you money.
    • [[Insurance]]
    • [[Multiwallets]] which add more functionality than send/receive, adding new verbs like buy, sell, sign, vote, stake, register, etc.
    • [[Security]]
    • Novel [[financial instruments]]
    • Blockchain games
    • Crypto [[Social Networks]]
    • Decentralized [[DNS]]
    • Automated Market Making
    • Decentralized [[Identity]]
    • [[Personal Tokenization]]: issuing an equity-like token for your time or some function of your time.
    • [[Mutuals]] and [[Guilds]]: Attempt to incentivize collective action (e.g. [[Moloch]], [[Gitcoin]])
    • [[Founder’s Rewards]]: New business model for funding developers from rewards (e.g. [[Zcash]], [[BCH]]).
    • On-Chain Developer Bounties (e.g. [[Tezos]])
    • Clients for [[dApps]] to make it easy to interface with these applications (e.g. [[InstaDApp]])
    • [[Developer Tools]]
    • Oracles and [[Prediction Markets]]
    • [[Decentralized Autonomous Organizations]] – semi-autonomous programs, many of which make you money.
    • [[Community-Owned Organizations]]
  • 36:33 Q&A
    • Internet companies have captured a lot of value from [[data monopolies]] or [[attention]]? Where do you think the value capture will come from for the [[crypto]] applications in the next 10-15 years?
      • Balaji is bullish on [[tasking]]. "It’s the better-than-free economy. Rather than trying to hack your [[attention]], they are paying you for it".
        • [[crypto]] uniquely enables this for a lot of reasons, but one big reason in ease of [[pay-outs]]. [[pay-ins]] are hard, and [[Stripe]] has succeeded by making them easier, but pay-outs are even harder. As an example, think about how many sites where you’ve entered in a credit card to pay for something (pay-in). Probably 50-100 sites. Now, think about how many sites you’ve entered in your bank account information to get paid yourself for a service? Probably no more than 5, possibly none, because a website with your bank account information could potentially debit as well as credit. #[[pay-outs vs pay-ins]]

Roam Notes: Elon Musk Interview from Air Warfare Symposium 2020

  • "Author::" [[Elon Musk]] [[General John F. Thompson]]
  • "Source::" https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sp8smJFaKYE
  • "Tags::" #Business #Management #Leadership #Innovation #SpaceX #Tesla #Government
  • "Anki Tag::" musk_2020_air_warfare_symposium
  • "Anki Deck Link::" link
  • {{[youtube]: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sp8smJFaKYE}}
  • Overview

  • [[General John F. Thompson]] interviews [[Elon Musk]] with a focus on [[innovation]], and how organizations such as the [[US Air Force]] can become more innovative. The interview contains practical information for senior management in large organizations that want to improve innovation.
  • Notes

  • 6:15 Interview Begins. How do you ensure products don’t remain static and incrementally improve over time? #[[radical innovation]]
    • It’s important to push for radical [[breakthroughs]]. If you don’t push for these, you won’t get radical outcomes. To get a big [[reward]], you must have a big [[risk]]. The [[US]] will fall behind in [[innovation]] if it doesn’t continue to do this. It’s a risk today and wasn’t in the past.
  • 13:00 Is this need driven by competition with other countries? Or is this regardless of competition? #competition
    • Without a doubt, if the [[US]] doesn’t make big moves in [[space]], it will be second place in space. [[Innovation]] is the key attribute of the US and it needs to use it.
  • 14:00 What does the US need to do to maintain that innovative competitive edge? #Ankified
    • [[Outcome-Based Procurement]] is very important. You say "this is the outcome sought" and whoever can achieve this outcome to a greater degree the [[government]] will do business with. #Procurement
  • 17:45 The workforce is a key component in radical innovation. What do you do to motivate a workforce to help them become more radically innovative? #Hiring #incentives #[[encouraging innovation in an organization]] #Ankified
    • The most important thing to do is to make sure that you have an incentive structure where innovation is rewarded and lack of innovation is punished. Carrot and stick. People that are innovating should be promoted sooner, and if someone’s in a role where innovation should be happening and it’s not, then they should not be promoted or exited. "Then let me tell you, you’ll get [[innovation]] real fast. How much do you want?"
  • 19:40 Wouldn’t that make people too risk averse?
    • You have to have some acceptance of failure – failure has to be an option. If you don’t allow trying and failing you might get something worse than lack of innovation – things may go backwards. "You want reward and punishment to be proportionate to the actions you seek." Reward for trying and succeeding, minor consequences for trying and failing, and major negative consequences for not trying. "With that incentive structure you’ll get innovation like you won’t believe."
  • 21:20 What about processes – are there processes you recommend to bring about radical change?
    • Designing a production system of a new product is at least 1-2 orders of magnitude harder than designing the initial prototype.
    • Designing a rocket easy. Making one of it is hard. The making of a production line that builds and launches many is extremely hard.
  • 26:00 [[Starlink]] – as you scale to build more and more satellites and launch them, what are challenges you’ve had to overcome? #Ankified
    • It’s important to have a tight feedback loop between the [[design]] of the object and the [[manufacturing]] system. When you design, you don’t realize the parts that are difficult to manufacture, so bring manufacturing and design up together. Counterintuitively, it can be the right thing to do to manufacture the wrong thing, i.e. build it before design is done, because you discover what’s hard to manufacture.
  • 29:15 To figure out what to build, you could query customers ("customer pull", e.g. improving a [[Tesla]] based on customer feedback), or innovate and push something into the customer base ("company push", e.g. iPad). How do you think about that balance? #Ankified
    • [[Henry Ford]] once said that if you ask the public what they want, they would have said "a faster horse". When it’s a radically new product, people don’t know they want it because it’s not in their scope. Customer feedback once they have the fundamental product is a good thing, though. #[[market research]] #[[customer research]]
  • 34:00 In the next 5 years, what technology do you think will see the most advancement?
    • [[AI]] will be the most fundamentally transformative. Computer science and physics is what you would want to study to prepare for this future. If you want to understand the nature of the universe, these two fields have great predictive power.
  • 35:23 What should the Air Force be investing more in for innovation, other than reusable rockets?
    • Once you have dramatically reduced cost access to space, many things are enabled. Analogy: the [[Union Pacific Railroad]] made travel across the country much faster and less dangerous.
  • 41:30 The failures you’ve had to endure would drive many nuts. What’s the mindset to get through that?
    • You want the net useful output to be maximized. In baseball, it’s three strikes and you’re out. What you mostly care about is not any individual at-bat but the overall batting average. [[Failure]] is irrelevant unless it’s catastrophic.
  • 44:00 Intellectual property – how do you protect it in a world where information is constantly under attack? #[[intellectual property]]
    • [[Tesla]] open sourced their [[patents]] a few years ago. The goal of Tesla is to encourage the use of sustainable energy, so they want to help others that want to make an electric car.
    • The real way you achieve protection is by innovating fast enough. If innovation is high, you won’t need to worry about [[intellectual property]] because competitors will be copying something you did years ago. Innovation per unit of time is what matters. What is your rate of innovation, and is that accelerating or decelerating? [[Big Business]] tends to get less innovative per employee and also sometimes in absolute terms, and it’s likely because of incentives. Incentives must be aligned with innovation. #Ankified
  • 47:30 What are your thoughts on the competition between the [[US]] and [[China]].
    • [[China]] economy is going to be 2-3 time the size of the [[US]] economy, due to their huge population advantage. So, innovation has to close this massive gap in economic output. Economics are the foundation of war.
  • 50:40 How do you create a culture of enthusiasm at [[Tesla]] and [[SpaceX]]?
    • There is a pretty big selection effect, because especially in important engineering roles, they look for people that have demonstrated innovation. As mentioned earlier, the incentives in the company help – they reward innovation and punish lack of innovation.

Roam Notes on “Selfish Reasons to Have More Kids” by Bryan Caplan

  • "Title::" Selfish Reasons to Have More Kids: Why Being a Great Parent is Less Work and More Fun Than you Think
  • "Author::" [[Bryan Caplan]]
  • "Reading Status::" #Complete
  • "Recommended By::" [[Tyler Cowen]]
  • "Tags::" #Book #Parenting #genetics #[[nature vs nurture]] #[[reasons to have kids]] #[[impact of parenting]]
  • "Roam Notes URL::" link
  • "Anki Tag::" caplan_selfish_reasons
  • "Anki Deck Link::" link
  • Overview

    • [[Bryan Caplan]] takes a dive into the research on parenting impact, and finds answers that fly in the face of the current Western parenting assumptions and cultural norms. Caplan convincingly argues that many of our common attitudes about our impact on our kids are an illusion and not supported by the best academic research (i.e. Twin Studies that effectively distinguish nature vs nurture). In light of this lack of impact, parents are placing unnecessarily large burdens on themselves.
    • The book is the antithesis to Tiger Mom. It raises a firm, but polite equivalent of the middle finger to spartan, obsessive, anxiety-ridden, stress-inducing style of helicopter parenting that is surprisingly common today. It also rails against a common assumption that parenting must always be hard, and its hardness is an indication that you’re doing a better job.
    • Given that modern parenting is unnecessarily hard, and you can do less work in many areas without sacrificing your child’s development, Caplan concludes that, at the margin, you should consider having more kids, and there are indeed selfish reasons to do so.
  • Summary Notes

    • Four Big Selfish Reasons to Have More Kids (pg. 2) #[[reasons to have kids]]
      • There are many selfish reasons to have more [[kids]], but there are four big reasons we can put on the table right away: #Ankified
        • Parents can sharply improve their lives without hurting their kids. Nature, not nurture, explains most family resemblance, so parents can safely cut themselves a lot of additional slack. #[[nature vs nurture]]
        • Parents are much more worried than they ought to be. Despite the horror stories in the media, kids are much safer today than they were in the “Idyllic Fifties”. #worry #safety
        • Many of the benefits of children come later in life. Kids have high start-up costs, but wise parents weight their initial [[sleep]] deprivation against a lifetime of rewards – including future [[grandchildren]].
        • Self-interest and altruism point in the same direction. Parents who have another child make the world a better place, so you can walk the path of enlightened selfishness with a clear conscience. #[[self-interest]] #altruism
    • Four First Places to Look to Adjust Parenting to be Less Work and More Fun (pp. 22-30) #[[easier parenting]]
      • Before you do something for your child, good to ask yourself three questions: do I enjoy it, does my child enjoy doing it, and are there any long-run benefits. #Ankified
      • There are many potential adjustments to make your life easier, but here are four first places to look:
        • Sleep: Getting your kid to sleep is crucial for livable parenting. The [[Ferber method]] is great for this. Also, mandate regular naps until kids old enough to quietly entertain themselves for an hour. The author kept their kids on nap schedule until they were almost 6 (1-2 years more than needed). Then, switch from nap time to quiet time.
        • Activities: These are often not a break for a parent. Let kids drop any activities enjoyed by neither parent or child. Also, no need to be so negative about “electronic babysitters” (television, video games, computers). If you give mature adults free time, they’ll often relax in front of a TV or computer – what’s so bad about that?
        • Discipline: Remember [[discipline]] is for the child’s welfare, but also to prevent the child from abusing you and the people around them. Discipline should have 3 characteristics: Clarity, Consistency, Consequences. #Ankified
        • Supervision: If your kids want to stretch their wings, you don’t feel like supervising them, and everyone is safe, go for it! #[[supervision]]
    • On Paying Your Kids for Work (pg. 31) #allowance #[[paying your kids]]
      • Caplan recommends paying kids for actual work, and don’t be so stingy about compensation. Don’t pay them for every little thing, but when you want to give kids a major project or recurring chore, make it worth their while.
      • If generous terms fall on deaf ears, you’re probably giving them too much for free. Handing out goodies “just because” is fun, but don’t expect a child with a $40 a week allowance to be hungry for work. #[[To Ankify]]
    • Parent Wish List for Kid Outcomes and their Actual Influence (pp. 46-71) #[[impact of parenting]]
      • [[Health]]: Parents have little / no effect on life expectancy and overall health, maybe a small effect on smoking, drinking, and drug problems.
      • [[Intelligence]]: Parents have little to no long run effect on their children’s intelligence.
      • [[Happiness]]: Parents have little to no long run effect on happiness, self-esteem, unhappiness.
      • [[Success]]: Parents typically want high-[[income]] and fancy degrees for their [[kids]]. Turns out parents have little effect on how much school their kids get, they have little or no effect on how much [[money]] their kids make when they grow up, and no effect on [[grades]].
      • [[Character]]: Parents have little to no effect on conscientiousness or agreeableness (i.e. hardworking, diligent, honest, polite, cooperative, kind, etc), little or no effect on criminal behaviour.
      • [[Values]]: Parents have big effect on religious / political labels, but little on religious / political attitudes and behaviour, moderate influence over when daughters start having sex, little / no effect on teen pregnancy, adult sexual behaviour, marriage, marital satisfaction, divorce, or childbearing.
      • [[Appreciation]]: Parents have a large effect on child’s long-run feeling about their parents and views about their [[childhood]].
    • Are children like clay? (pg. 80) #[[nature vs nurture]]
      • “We often compare children to clay. When they’re soft, you can mold them into any shape you like; after they harden, they stay the way you made them. What common sense and science tell us, however; is that children are more like flexible plastic. Both respond to pressure. Yet when you remove the pressure, both tend to return to their original shape.” #Ankified
    • What the Science of Nature and Nurture Means for Parents (pp. 86-90)
      • Lighten up – If parental investments don’t typically pay off, relaxed parenting is a free lunch – better for parents, no worse for kids.
      • Choose a spouse who resembles the kids you want to have
      • If you want to drastically improve a child’s life, adopt from the third world #adoption
      • Raise your children with kindness and respect
      • Share your creed, but don’t expect miracles
      • Don’t write off your teens (parents affect juvenile antisocial behaviour and sexual behaviour for girls, also good to discourage smoking / drinking / drug use) #Ankified
      • Have more kids
    • Why More People in the World is not a Source of Poverty (pg. 127) #[[zero-sum thinking]] #population #poverty
      • Those who see more people as a source of [[poverty]] are missing half the story: Over the course of their lives, human beings do not just consume, they also produce. Kids eventually grow up and pull their own weight. The world economy is not like a party where everyone splits a birthday cake; it is more like a potluck where everyone brings a dish. #Ankified
    • The Best Way to Understand a Position (pg. 163) #thinking #reasoning #debate #criticism #Ankified
      • The best way to understand a position is to argue on its behalf. You learn as you speak. Sometimes you find that objections are stronger than you realized; other times you discover that they’re weaker than they looked. You may end up abandoning the position – or improving it and returning to the fray. Critics don’t just keep you honest; they show you the light.

Roam Notes on “Taking on the Challenge” Lecture by Jeff Bezos

Overview

  • [[Jeff Bezos]] talks about the [[Amazon]] approach to [[innovation]].

Excerpts

  • 0:45 [[Betty Graham]] invented white-out because she was annoyed by the inability to erase on a typewriter. She sold it to [[Gillette]] for $45M, and it was just white paint!
  • 2:07 Two approaches to solving problems with innovation: #[[To Ankify]]
    • Encounter a problem, and find a solution for it.
    • Work backwards by taking a new technology or understanding and finding important problems to solve with it. This is common in technology. E.g. [[carbon dating]].
  • 2:45 Persistence is a key attribute of innovators. E.g. WD-40 stands for "Water Displacement, 40th attempt". They originally made the product to keep water off [[Atlas 5]] rocket on US government contract. #[[persistence]] #[[characteristics of innovators]]
  • 4:30 One of the most pernicious obstacles to innovation: [[learned helplessness]]. Ordinary things bother innovators, while non-innovators become complacent and accept things as they are. E.g. windshield wipers – people used to stop every mile and use a rag. The inventor had to push through criticism that the wipers would be distracting, but in 10 years they were standard. Once people tried it they saw the value.
  • 10:00 A big impediment to innovation is [[either/or thinking]]. [[Amazon]] is always trying to reduce the number of [[customer contacts]]. This is a win-win for [[Amazon]] and its [[customers]]. It saves money for Amazon, and customers enjoy not having to deal with support. Eliminating defects saves money because you don’t have to handle customer contact and you improve the customer experience. There’s no [[trade-off]]. #[[barriers to innovation]]
  • 13:34 To innovate, you need to maximize the rate of [[experimentation]]. To do that, the cost experimentation has to be low. [[Amazon]] has built infrastructure to make experimentation easy, in a self-service way, without huge coordination or approval. #[[To Ankify]]
  • 18:00 [[Amazon]] is [[customer]] focused rather than [[competitor]] focused. Competitor strategy changes all the time, but the core things that customers want do not change: selection, low prices, and convenience. In 10 years, that’s going to stay the same. #[[customer vs competitor focus]]
  • 22:00 You need to have small, separate, empowered teams that aren’t subject to [[dependencies]] across the organization. They need to know whether they’re getting better or not. It’s easy to do that in a broad way (e.g. company profits) but difficult for individual teams – that’s the key. #KPIs
  • 29:00 The [[internet]] makes the customer experience a [[fixed cost]] rather than [[variable cost]]. "Buy With 1 Click" costs [[Amazon]] the same amount to develop whether they had 1000 customers or 1,000,000 customers. For retail stores, it’s not the same – with more customers, an improved experience costs more. #[[To Ankify]]
  • 35:00 Invention will always lead you down paths that people think are weird. #invention #innovation
  • 45:00 Hire builders. To have an innovative company, the single most important thing (more important than reducing the cost of experimentation) is to make sure you’re hiring the correct people in your organization. Hire people that like to build, like to invent. Get people that do this at all levels of granularity: some people are only interested in inventing at the grandest whiteboard level, but they can’t make progress in the real world, because they’re unwilling to figure out how to mount the camera on top of the truck. It turns out, that’s incredibly important. #Hiring #innovation

Roam Notes on “I Could Do That in a Weekend! by Dan Luu

  • "Author::" [[Dan Luu]]
  • "Source::" https://danluu.com/sounds-easy/
  • "Tags:: " #software #programming #[[Dunning-Kruger Effect]] #[[Big Business]]
  • Summary

    • Outside developers often look at a large software company and think "that’s easy, I could build that in a weekend". This article describes why that’s misguided.
    • Reasons why are divided into two categories: technical and organizational. #[[To Ankify]]
      • Technical: Large businesses find it profitable to do lots of optimization and build new features that are often more complex than outsiders realize. This requires hiring engineers. You want to keep hiring engineers until the marginal benefit of hiring 1 more engineer = marginal cost of hiring 1 more engineer. Companies that are smart do this math and often find they should hire many, many engineers.
      • Organizational: Large organizations have complex communication barriers that outsiders underestimate.
  • Excerpts

    • I can’t think of a single large software company that doesn’t regularly draw internet comments of the form “What do all the employees do? I could build their product myself.”
    • Businesses that actually care about turning a profit will spend a lot of time (hence, a lot of engineers) working on optimizing systems, even if an MVP for the system could have been built in a weekend. There’s also a wide body of research that’s found that decreasing [[latency]] has a roughly linear effect on revenue over a pretty wide range of latencies for some businesses. Increasing performance also has the benefit of reducing costs. Businesses should keep adding engineers to work on [[optimization]] until the cost of adding an engineer equals the revenue gain plus the cost savings at the margin. This is often many more engineers than people realize. #[[To Ankify]] #Hiring
    • And that’s just performance. Features also matter: when I talk to engineers working on basically any product at any company, they’ll often find that there are seemingly trivial individual features that can add integer percentage points to revenue. Just as with performance, people underestimate how many engineers you can add to a product before engineers stop paying for themselves. #features
    • Additionally, features are often much more complex than outsiders realize. If we look at search, how do we make sure that different forms of dates and phone numbers give the same results? How about [[internationalization]]? Each language has unique quirks that have to be accounted for.
    • It’s fine to ignore this stuff for a weekend-project [[MVP]], but ignoring it in a real business means ignoring the majority of the market! Some of these are handled ok by open source projects, but many of the problems involve open research problems.
    • Everything we’ve looked at so far is a technical problem. Compared to [[organizational problems]], [[technical problems]] are straightforward.
    • Distributed systems are considered hard because real systems might drop something like 0.1% of messages, corrupt an even smaller percentage of messages, and see latencies in the microsecond to millisecond range. When I talk to higher-ups and compare what they think they’re saying to what my coworkers think they’re saying, I find that the rate of lost messages is well over 50%, every message gets corrupted, and latency can be months or years. #communication #[[communication issues]]
    • It’s entirely plausible that someone will have an innovation as great as PageRank, and that a small team could turn that into a viable company. But once that company is past the VC-funded hyper growth phase and wants to maximize its profits, it will end up with a multi-thousand person platforms org, just like Google’s, unless the company wants to leave hundreds of millions or billions of dollars a year on the table due to hardware and software inefficiency.
    • It’s not that all of those things are necessary to run a service at all; it’s that almost every large service is leaving money on the table if they don’t seriously address those things. #[[To Ankify]]
    • This reminds me of a common fallacy we see in unreliable systems, where people build the happy path with the idea that the happy path is the “real” work, and that [[error handling]] can be tacked on later. For [[reliable systems]], error handling is more work than the happy path. The same thing is true for large services — all of this stuff that people don’t think of as “real” work is more work than the core service

Roam Notes on “The Checklist Manifesto” by Atul Gawande

  • "Title::" The Checklist Manifesto: How to get Things Right
  • "Author::" [[Atul Gawande]]
  • "Reading Status::" #Complete
  • "Tags::" #Productivity #organization #process #Management #coordination #checklists #planning
  • Overview

    • [[Atul Gawande]] is a famous surgeon, writer, and public health researcher. This book is an ode to simple checklists as an extremely powerful tool to aid process and quality improvement, especially in situations where there is a lot of [[complexity]] and [[coordination]] required. The author became interested in checklists as a tool in his surgical practice, and the book points to many examples of how checklists improve [[efficiency]] and [[safety]] in a variety of situations.
    • A common theme in the book is the fallibility of human beings and the importance of acknowledging these shortcomings. The author points to examples where excellent surgeons and other professionals have made serious and "obvious" errors. It’s easy to dismiss these errors by blaming the person committing them as incompetent or lazy, but the fact is, without proper systems, these mistakes will happen regardless of how well trained or skilled a person is. Properly designed checklists can provide a crucial safeguard.
  • Excerpts

    • Three Different Levels of Complexity for Problems in the World (pg. 49) #complexity #[[problem solving]] #[[To Ankify]]
      • Simple: there is a recipe. Sometimes there are a few basic techniques to learn. But once mastered, following the recipe bring a high likelihood of success. #[[simple problems]]
      • Complicated: Can sometimes be broken down into a series of simple problems, but there is no straightforward recipe. Success often requires multiple people, multiple teams, and specialized expertise. Unanticipated difficulties are frequent. Timing and coordination are serious concerns. E.g. sending man to the moon. #[[complicated problems]]
      • Complex: Problems where the solution is not repeatable, and outcomes remain highly uncertain. Expertise is valuable but not sufficient. E.g. raising a child. [[complex problems]]
      • This distinction was developed by [[Brenda Zimmerman]] of [[York University]] and [[Sholom Glouberman]] of [[University of Toronto]] in their study of the science of complexity.
      • Note that many problems in engineering and operating a business are simple or complicated, and thus can be aided by [[checklists]].
    • How Skyscraper Engineers Build Checklists (pp. 62, 70) #engineering #coordination
      • Since every building is a new creature with its own particularities, every building checklist is new, too. It is drawn up by a group of people representing each of the sixteen trades… Then the whole checklist is sent to the subcontractors and other independent experts so they can double-check that everything is correct, that nothing has been missed.
      • They rely on one set of checklists to make sure the simple steps are not missed or skipped and in another set to make sure that everyone talks through and resolves all the hard and unexpected problems.
      • The biggest cause of serious error in this business is a failure of [[communication]]
      • [[Mark’s Notes]]: This almost magical process ensures that the knowledge of hundreds or thousands is used in the right place at the right time in the right way.
    • Why Dictating from the Top Fails in Complex Situations (pg. 79) #micromanaging #decentralization #centralization #complexity #Management
      • under conditions of true complexity – where the knowledge required exceeds that of any individual and unpredictability reigns – efforts to dictate every step from the center will fail. People need room to act and adapt. Yet they cannot succeed as isolated individuals, either – that is anarchy. Instead, they require a seemingly contradictory mix of [[freedom]] and [[expectation]] – expectation to coordinate, for example, and also to measure progress toward common goals. #leadership
      • [[Mark’s Notes]]: The example in the book is the [[Katrina disaster]]. [[FEMA]] tried to centrally control everything. In contrast, [[Walmart]] helped the community very effectively – its leadership sent a clear message to do what’s right, and do what you can to help these people in trouble.
        • Also, the skyscraper builders understand this, and learned to codify this type of [[decentralization]] in [[checklists]]. They have checklists for simple tasks, combined with checklists to make sure everyone is coordinating and communicating with each other. There must be judgement, but judgement must be aided / enhanced by procedure.
    • Good Checklists Versus Bad Checklists (pg. 120) #checklists #[[how to make checklists]]
      • Bad [[checklists]] are vague and imprecise. They are too long; they are hard to use; they are impractical. They are made by desk jockeys with no awareness of the situations in which they are to be deployed. They treat the people using the tools as dumb and try to spell out every single step. They turn people’s brains off rather than turn them on.
      • Good checklists, on the other hand, are precise. They are efficient, to the point, and easy to use even in the most difficult situations. They do not try to spell out everything – a checklist cannot fly a plane. Instead, they provide reminders of only the most critical and important steps – the ones that even the highly skilled professionals using them could miss. Good checklists are, above all, practical.
    • The Most Common Obstacle to Effective Teams (pg. 163) #coordination #teamwork #communication #[[To Ankify]]
      • The most common obstacle to effective teams, it turns out, is not the occasional fire-breathing, scalpel-flinging, terror-inducing surgeon, though some do exist … No, the more familiar and widely dangerous issue is a kind of silent disengagement, the consequence of specialized technicians sticking narrowly to their domains. ‘That’s not my problem’ is possibly the worst thing people can think, whether they are starting an operation, taxiing an airplane full of passengers down a runway, or building a thousand-foot-tall skyscraper.
    • Key Decisions to Make when Building Checklists (pp. 123-124) #[[To Ankify]] #checklists #[[how to make checklists]]
      • Define a clear pause point (point at which the checklist is supposed to be used)
      • Decide on whether you want a DO-CONFIRM checklist or READ-DO checklist.
        • DO-CONFIRM – team members perform a job from memory and experience, often separately. But then they stop. They pause to run the check-list and confirm that everything that was supposed to be done was done.
        • READ-DO – people carry out the tasks as they check them off – more like a recipe
      • Test it: “no matter how careful we might be, no matter how much thought we might put in, the checklist has to be tested in the real world, which is inevitably more complicated than expected” #testing
        • [[Mark’s Notes]]: Sometimes, testing is not easy to do. That’s why they have simulations in aviation and the author tried a similar test for surgery with his surgical team and a dummy.
    • How Not to Respond to Failure (pp. 185-186) #failure #Systems #fallibility
      • We are all plagued by failures – by missed subtleties, overlooked knowledge, and outright errors. For the most part, we have imagined that little can be done beyond working harder and harder to catch the problems and clean up after them. We are not in the habit of thinking the way army pilots did as they looked upon their shiny new Model 299 bomber – a machine so complex no one was sure human beings could fly it. They too could have decided just to ‘try harder’ or to dismiss a crash as the failings of a ‘weak’ pilot. Instead they chose to accept their fallibilities. They recognized the simplicity and power of using a checklist.
        • [[Mark’s Notes]]: It is such a common sentiment to blame failure on people’s abilities or motivations.

Roam Notes on “Red Tape: Its Origins, Uses, and Abuses” by Herbert Kaufman

  • "Title::" Red Tape: Its Origins, Uses, and Abuses
  • "Author::" [[Herbert Kaufman]]
  • "Reading Status::" #Complete
  • "Recommended By::" [[Devon Zuegel]]
  • "Tags::" #Book #Bureaucracy #Government #[[role of government]] #[[Government excess]] #[[Big Government]]
  • Overview

    • The author provides an in-depth analysis of red tape. It’s a great read for anyone that wants to get a better understanding of bureaucracy and how it works.
    • The book starts out with an overview of the main reasons why red tape is subject to such loathing. The big culprits include duplicative requirements, contradictory requirements, inertia (requirements remaining in force long after conditions that spawned them have disappeared), and failing programs that don’t do what they were intended to do.
    • He then goes on to discuss the main causes of red tape. Government employees are the usual scapegoat for red tape, but he argues that this is misguided and the demand for red tape comes from us "Every restraint and requirement originates in somebody’s demand for it." He also argues it often plays an important role to alleviate distress, forestall systemic disruptions, and promote representative democracy.
    • Finally, he discusses how to improve red tape. He argues the usual sweeping solutions of Shrinking the Government, devolving federal power, concentrating authority, and manipulating pecuniary incentives are ineffective. There is no panacea. Instead, targeted interventions are better than grand visions.
  • Foreward by [[Philip K. Howard]]

    • [[Mark’s Notes]]: This is an interesting forward – a solid and fair critique rather than a fawning review. Refreshing!
    • [[Herbert Kaufman]] was one of the twentieth century’s keenest observers of the inner workings of [[government]].
    • Red Tape, published in 1977, observes a very different [[government culture]], one that had been transformed by the [[1960s]] rights revolution. Instead of giving officials a measure of autonomy to meet public goals, under the new model [[autonomy]] was to be purged.
    • this new model of [[government]], dedicated to purging official [[discretion]], unleashed a tidal wave of [[red tape]].
    • It is preferable to spend $20 to avoid $1 of theft. And so he concludes that “red tape turns out to be at the core of our institutions rather than an excrescence on them.”
    • To Kaufman, bureaucracy was the necessary antidote to having venal, biased officials who try to impose their way. Today, [[bureaucracy]] is the default value for officials who don’t seem motivated to impose anything, including decisions made for the [[public good]]. Instead of asking “How do I get the job done?,” officials are trained to ask “What do the rules require?” #rules
    • The book also presents, albeit in undertones, an argument for bureaucratic superiority. Yes, it’s too bad that [[red tape]] is a pain, but that’s the only way to achieve a minimal standard of [[consistency]], [[virtue]], and [[fairness]] in [[government]].
    • Kaufman rightly points out that [[public employees]] are the [[scapegoats]]. He sees them blamed, inconsistently, as either “clever, self-serving” manipulators of power or “dull [and] slothful” drudges when the truth, he concludes, is that they are the worst victims of [[bureaucracy]].
    • The common denominator is that [[bureaucracy]] ends up foiling anyone who is trying to do what’s right—whether through the manipulative official using bureaucracy to gain power, the slothful civil servant using bureaucracy to avoid responsibility, or the ubiquitous powerlessness of people (including well-meaning officials) trapped in [[red tape]].
    • Kaufman notes that the real source of [[red tape]] is us. A major incentive for red tape, Kaufman observes, is mistrust: “Had we more trust in one another and in our public officers and employees, we would not feel impelled to limit [[discretion]] by means of lengthy, detailed directives.” #[[trust]]
    • Personal [[responsibility]] with [[transparency]], not [[red tape]], is the best way to keep someone from abusing his or her position.
    • human responsibility model—like the “guided discretion” model of The Forest Ranger—officials are judged not by their mindless compliance or other objective [[metrics]] but by a broader view of their [[effectiveness]].
      • [[Mark’s Notes]]: This is the philosophy of [[Linton Sellen]], who taught an excellent leadership course you attended.
    • Law need not be a bureaucratic jungle if people can be held accountable all the way up the chain of authority. #accountability
    • The paralysis of modern government is the inevitable product of a governing philosophy dedicated to avoiding human [[responsibility]].
    • In order to reimagine how the U.S. government can meet its many responsibilities in the modern world, any striver for good government must come to grips with Kaufman’s defense of the current operating system.
  • Chapter 1: Object of Loathing #[[reasons to hate red tape]]

    • One person’s “[[red tape]]” may be another’s treasured safeguard. (pg. 1)
    • When people rail against red tape, they mean that they are subjected to too many constraints, that many of the constraints seem pointless, and that agencies seem to take forever to act.
    • Duplicative and Contradictory Requirements #[[duplicative requirements]] #[[contradictory requirements]]
      • Even when they acknowledge the usefulness and relevance of specific requirements and prohibitions, people are incensed at having to do the same thing many times for different agencies when it appears to them that once would be enough if the government were more efficient. (pg. 8) #[[duplicative requirements]]
      • Still more irritating from the point of view of the conscientiously law-abiding person, in government as well as in private life, are government requirements drawn in such a way that to obey one seems to lead to violations of the other. #[[contradictory requirements]]
        • For example, legislation protecting the right to privacy may conflict with the spirit, if not the letter, of the Freedom of Information Act.
        • These conflicting guidelines shift the difficulties of reconciliation from the promulgators of official policy to the individual private citizen or public employee without much guidance and with the possibility of punishment no matter what course is chosen. #[[To Ankify]]
    • Inertia. Once requirements and practices are instituted, they tend to remain in force long after the conditions that spawned them have disappeared. (pg. 10) #inertia #[[To Ankify]]
      • a single embarrassing incident may inspire practices that go on and on at great cost and minimal benefit. As a former director of the Bureau of the Budget put it, The public servant soon learns that successes rarely rate a headline, but governmental blunders are front page news. This recognition encourages the development of procedures designed less to achieve successes than to avoid blunders. Let it be discovered that the Army is buying widgets from private suppliers while the Navy is disposing of excess widgets at a lower price; the reporter will win a Pulitzer prize and the Army and Navy will establish procedures for liaison, review, and clearance which will prevent a recurrence and which will also introduce new delays and higher costs into the process of buying or selling anything. It may cost a hundred times more to prevent the occurrence of occasional widget episodes, but no one will complain. #media #[[risk aversion]] #government #incentives #inefficiency
      • The search for outmoded practices takes government time and money, yet old, unchanging procedures, once learned, are easily followed, and utterly obsolete ones are usually ignored by everyone. So the burden of correcting them may be greater than that of letting them linger.
    • Programs that fail. Nothing, however, is as likely to render requirements pointless, in the opinion of some of those who must comply with them and of neutral observers, as constraints that obviously do not produce the results proclaimed as justifications for them. Restrictions and burdens imposed for announced ends that are never attained are probably the hardest to bear. (pg. 11)
      • regulated interests often benefited more from [[regulation]] than [[consumers]] did. The interests were relieved of [[competition]], yet the controls on them allegedly did not shore up quality or hold down prices in return for this security. #[[special interests]]
      • regulatory officials acquire the same perspectives and values as the interests they regulate. #[[special interests]]
      • in the contest to exert influence on the regulators, [[consumers]] are ordinarily outclassed by the well-organized, well-heeled, well-informed, well-connected, continuously functioning, experienced producers. #[[special interests]]
      • Furthermore, the incentive structure motivates the powerful more effectively than the weak; a regulatory decision meaning millions to a firm often costs individual consumers less than the cost of protesting it, so it would be irrational for individual consumers to fight even though the loss hurts them deeply. Adding to dissatisfaction is the ability of regulated interests to pass along to consumers their costs of exerting pressure and of fighting consumer suits. Under these conditions, ask the critics, how effective can regulation be? #[[special interests]] #incentives
      • Indeed, regulatory bodies have even been called agents of the regulated rather than their masters. That is why regulated interests, once the bitterest foes of regulation, are now among the most ardent defenders of their regulatory agencies, and why some industries have actively sought to be placed under regulation. #[[special interests]] #incentives #[[unintended consequences]]
      • When violators are able to penetrate the defenses yet honest people who would never think of defrauding the government or abusing their authority must go through all the rigamarole set up to thwart scoundrels, it is understandable that the honest people grow resentful. #[[honesty]] #[[resentment]]
      • To people with this outlook, catching the handful of crooks does not prove that all the troublesome constraints designed to avert dishonesty justify all the machinery; rather, it proves that the machinery is not worth the hardships it inflicts on the innocent.
    • The Scapegoats (pg. 19) #[[government employees]] #scapegoats
      • Two contradictory, negative portrayals of government employees: #[[To Ankify]]
        • It is conceivable that officials intent on aggrandizing their own power and protecting their own jobs would, unconsciously if not deliberately, contrive a blizzard of incomprehensible paper, a procedural maze, and a mass of technicalities that only someone completely familiar with these provisions could hope to find his way through. Then, insiders could not be easily replaced, even after changes in political leadership. Their decisions could be challenged by outsiders only with difficulty, for full-time specialists are not easily defeated by victims or insurgents who make their living at other pursuits and cannot devote themselves exclusively to operating the system.
        • Conversely, it is equally plausible that official stupidity and laziness might be responsible for the crazy quilt of provisions and procedures in government. Dull, slothful public servants would have to be furnished with specific, minutely detailed rules for every conceivable situation because, lacking intelligence or initiative, they could not be trusted to devise sensible responses on their own.
        • Obviously, the two portrayals of officialdom are mutually contradictory. Nobody can be both diabolically clever and dull-witted at the same time, nor can those who invent and execute complicated strategies also be too indolent to put themselves out on any account.
        • it is as hard to swallow the notion that knaves and fools are the dominant elements among thousands of government officers and employees
        • the level of their mental gifts and their characters is by no means below that of the general populace. Neither the conspiracy theory nor the incompetence theory seems to me a persuasive explanation for the abundance of government requirements and prohibitions or for the unhappy and unwanted effects of these constraints.
        • [[Mark’s Notes]]: It’s true that a single individual cannot simultaneously have these two characteristics. But his argument here doesn’t fully address these stereotypical criticisms of government employees. His argument doesn’t address the idea that government is still ruled by knaves or fools. In other words, there could still be a prevalence of these two separate types of people.
      • On the negative impact of [[red tape]] on [[government employees]]:
        • Indeed, government personnel are greatly disserved by [[red tape]]. They would like to get on with their missions as they see them, to pursue their program goals energetically, efficiently, speedily. They chafe at the obstacles placed in their way, the restraints imposed on them, the boundaries they must observe, the procedures they must follow. Nobody is more critical of red tape than they. To them, it is ironic that they should be blamed for it. Unquestionably, they are tightly constrained. Their discretion is legally limited by statutes, regulations of sister agencies, judicial decisions, executive orders, and departmental directives. It is also politically limited by the need to accommodate powerful political figures and influential interest groups, by the practical independence of nominal subordinates, by the demands of clienteles, and by the risks of adverse publicity in the communications media. So they are often prevented from moving forcefully and promptly when they would like to and compelled to yield to pressures when they would prefer to stand firm, even though this may mean an injustice is done or suffering is not relieved. They are also forced to allocate precious time and money to the endless demands for reports and information
        • In short, the costs, inconveniences, and burdens of government constraints oppress government workers as much as anybody. In fact, perhaps more. Understandably, they see themselves as experts in their fields, yet many of the constraints on them are the work of people they regard as uninformed amateurs. Career diplomats who must answer to legislators with no experience in foreign affairs, urban specialists who must defer to interests from back-country farm regions, and professional military officers challenged at every turn by civilians with slight knowledge of military strategy and tactics, for example, grind their teeth in frustration. #[[To Ankify]]
        • If people outside government think they are victims of irrelevant obligations and prohibitions, they should see what those inside have to put up with—at all levels, too.
        • Leaders are equally frustrated. Political superiors find administrative agencies less responsive to them than they would like because the agencies are bound by generations of accumulated obligations and restraints. #politicians
        • Public officers and employees get the blame for red tape (pg. 22)
        • It would not surprise me, however, if they are merely [[scapegoats]] in a literal sense—bearers of the blame for others. We may accuse them because, intuitively, we want to divert the guilt from the real cause: ourselves. #[[To Ankify]]
  • Chapter 2: Of Our Own Making #[[reasons for red tape]]

    • Every restraint and requirement originates in somebody’s demand for it. (pg. 25) #[[To Ankify]]
    • there are so many of us, and such a diversity of interests among us, that modest individual demands result in great stacks of official paper and bewildering procedural mazes.
    • Alleviating distress (pg. 29)
      • much of the great volume of governmental requirements and prohibitions that we encounter on all sides owes its existence to the government’s endeavors to keep some people from being hurt by other people.
      • The government has also responded to pleas for assistance from people buffeted not so much by their fellows as by forces over which they have no control.
      • The moment a government program for a specified group gets started, legislation and administrative directives and court battles proliferate. It is essential to define who is in the group and who is not. The amounts of benefits and the criteria for determining who in the group is eligible for which amount must be established.
    • Forestalling Systemic Disruptions (pg. 32) #[[systemic failure]]
      • Another way in which the federal government strives to prevent pain and hardship from afflicting people is by heading off systemic breakdowns.
      • the suffering from systemic breakdowns evidently is so much less acceptable than the controls and procedures set up to prevent them that we prefer the certain constraints and annoyances to the possibility of even temporary disruption.
    • Representativeness and its Consequences (pg. 34) #[[representativeness]]
      • Americans assert a need to be protected from the government as well as by it, and they recognize a need to protect it from those who would despoil it.
      • Unfortunately, like so many other unexceptionable objectives, this one too brings procedural complications, substantive constraints, paperwork, and additional agencies in its wake.
      • Preservation of [[due process]], for instance, obliges officials to give people affected by governmental actions a fair chance to get their views on official decisions registered so that their interests are not overlooked or arbitrarily overridden by those in power.
      • At least some of the slowness, awkwardness, and intricacy of federal administration can be traced to the protection of the rights of people who work for the government. A society less concerned about the rights of individuals in government and out might well be governed with a much smaller volume of paper and much simpler and faster administrative procedures than are typical of governance in this country. Americans have adopted a different mix.
      • Government procedures were therefore designed to avert these doleful possibilities by facilitating [[interest group]] participation in official decisions to a greater extent than would be dictated by concern for [[fairness]] alone. This makes it harder to reach policy decisions. But giving every interested party a voice in official decisions increases the likelihood that no feasible option will be overlooked, that no important consequence of any feasible option will be forgotten or unperceived, that conflicts and contradictions will be brought to light and resolved, and that the policies ultimately emerging from such broadly reviewed deliberations will enjoy a higher degree of voluntary compliance on the part of the public than policies fashioned in ignorance of public attitudes and expectations.
      • Old or new, the methods of interest-group representation generate more directives and controls, more steps in the forging of governmental policies, more bargaining before decisions are reached, and more postdecision litigation than would otherwise develop. Fairness, comprehensiveness, and community acceptance of policy decisions obviously rate higher than administrative simplicity and speed.
        • [[Mark’s Notes]]: the word "obviously" seems incorrect here. Is it really true that in no circumstances we would prefer simplicity and speed?
      • One method is compulsory clearance of pending decisions with every relevant organizational unit whose jurisdiction touches on the matters under consideration;
      • Another method is to require studies and written reports on various “impacts” of proposed policies; [[environmental impact]] statements are now mandatory prerequisites for official action affecting the environment, inflation impact statements must accompany draft legislation, rules, and regulations proposed by executive branch agencies, and similar statements about the consequences of pending measures for the public’s paperwork burdens, for the costs of doing business, and for family life have been proposed.60 Still another method is to place separate organizations under a common command with authority to compel coordination.61 All these devices are internal counterparts of external-group representation and are defended with the same arguments: fewer vital considerations are neglected, less opposition and evasion are engendered.
      • Similarly, we try to do whatever is necessary to keep the government from turning into an instrumentality of private profit for those in its employ or those with private fortunes at their disposal. (pg. 41)
        • The temptations facing the government work force are varied and enormous.
        • Public officers and employees are also tempted by opportunities to sell their official discretion and information.
        • They have also been tempted by the opportunities to extort payments.
        • [[Mark’s Notes]]: These arguments seem to point in favour of less government not more
        • But our attitude toward public property is typified by the comments of a famous economist ordinarily inclined to reject costs that exceed benefits in dollar terms: “The Office of Management and Budget should spend $20 to prevent the theft of $1 of public funds.” Not only are public property and public discretion held to have a special moral status; they occupy a special political position because abusing them eats away at the foundations of representative government. So we are willing to put up with a lot to safeguard their integrity. Is the ratio really that high though (spend $20 to save $1) – that seems so irrational. At the margin, should it be more or less?
        • [[Mark’s Notes]]: This is an interesting and somewhat convincing argument. It seems deeply irrational to spend $20 to save $1, but perhaps it is worthwhile considering what corruption can do to the overall legitimacy and trust in the system. [[corruption]] imposes a huge [[externality]] in terms of credibility of government. But why is this more-so the case than private companies? I think the difference is, government is a [[monopoly]]. Customers cannot leave and government cannot go out of business for bad behaviour. So, we use legal safeguards that create [[red tape]].
        • Much of the often-satirized clumsiness, slowness, and complexity of government procedures is merely the consequence of all these precautions. Things would be simpler and faster if we were not resolved to block abuses that turn public goods to private profit.
      • Were we a less differentiated society, the blizzard of official paper might be less severe and the labyrinths of official processes less tortuous. Had we more [[trust]] in one another and in our public officers and employees, we would not feel impelled to limit discretion by means of lengthy, minutely detailed directives and prescriptions or to subject public and private actions to check after check. If our polity were less democratic, imperfect though our democracy may be, the government would not respond as readily to the innumerable claims on it for protection and assistance. Diversity, [[distrust]], and [[democracy]] thus cause the profusion of constraints and the unwieldiness of the procedures that afflict us. It is in this sense that we bring it on ourselves. #diversity
        • [[Mark’s Notes]]: The arguments about trust remind me of the points made in the forward by [[Philip K. Howard]]. Instead of loading up [[red tape]], why not increase [[authority]] and [[trust]] all along the hierarchy, providing more power so [[government employees]] can exercise greater discretion and apply their expertise. At the same time, this increased [[responsibility]] could be accompanied by increased [[accountability]] through things like greater ownership of outcomes, and greater ease of hiring and firing for bad performance (like the [[private sector]]). #[[Personal Ideas]]
  • Chapter 3: Rewinding the Spools #[[dealing with red tape]]

    • On the surface, [[red tape]] resembles other noxious by-products we generate in the course of making things and rendering services we are eager to have. More of what we want means more of what we don’t want as well. More automobiles mean more pollutants in the air. More electric power means either more air pollution or more radioactive wastes to dispose of, perhaps both. More food means more runoff of fertilizer into our water. More metals and minerals mean more slag heaps. Increased convenience in packaging means more solid refuse. Similarly, it appears, the more values the government tries to advance, the more red tape it inevitably generates.
    • In the case of government requirements and restraints, both substantive and procedural, people disagree about what is valued output and what is dismal by-product.
    • Intractable problems often engender proposals for sweeping solutions. In the case of red tape, the sweeping proposals are of four kinds. #[[To Ankify]]
    • Shrinking the Government (pg. 51) #[[shrinking government]]
      • Powerful contrary factors militate against comprehensive governmental shrinkage.
      • Chief among these is the danger that many of the evils and follies, both intentional and unwitting, against which the constraints scored as [[red tape]] are directed, might resurge if the measures taken to suppress them were lifted.
      • Another factor counteracting the case for shrinking the government is the substantial [[sunk cost]] in ongoing federal programs and services. When a program or service is instituted, people adjust to it, and their calculations include its operations in their assumptions and reasoning.
        • [[Mark’s Notes]]: This seems like incorrect usage of the term [[sunk cost]]. I’m not sure if there’s a specific word for this, but he’s basically saying it’s costly to change when a variety of [[special interests]] are invested in a particular arrangement.
      • Debarred but aspiring entrants into previously regulated fields would also applaud the removal of entry barriers by deregulation. But many established firms, having acted in good faith according to standards prescribed by government, would be hard hit and would naturally feel they had been misled. And many neutral observers would have to agree with them.
        • [[Mark’s Notes]]: Again, this is an argument for avoiding regulations in the first place. Another factor working against the debarred but aspiring entrants is the fact that they tend to not be organized in an identifiable [[special interests]] group, and as a result they are much less coordinated to advocate for themselves effectively.
      • Remote activities are expendable; those that hit close to home are indispensable. In these circumstances, the inevitable outcome is [[logrolling]]. Groups join in the defense of things to which they are indifferent in order to win allies for the things they are really concerned about. In the end, practically nothing will disappear. The sweeping rollback will break up on the endless variety in the system. #[[To Ankify]]
      • In these circumstances, only carefully selected, egregious, generally acknowledged failures among governmental activities stand a chance of elimination. Such modest measures would not significantly reduce the body of federal red tape. But they would doubtless accomplish more than attempts at an all-encompassing contraction of government on all fronts simultaneously.
    • Devolving Federal Power (pg. 59) #devolution
      • according to this school of thought, devolution is desirable not only for the major reason that it constitutes a bulwark against tyranny, but also because it incidentally reduces the conditions referred to as red tape. First, by bringing government decision centers closer to the people supposed to obey government decisions, devolution would increase the probability of local needs and conditions being recognized and taken into account. It would also afford local interests better opportunities to take part in the formation of policies directly affecting them.
      • Second, things would move faster if few matters had to be referred to the center before they could be resolved. The proverbial timidity of the bureaucrat and the collective evasiveness of bureaucracies would decline because the buck could be less easily passed to distant superiors. Communications channels would not be jammed with inquiries and requests flowing upward and commands and elaborations flowing down.
      • general concern for uniform application of policy also militates against wholesale devolution. #consistency
      • Moreover, some policies are unlikely to be effective unless they are managed on a national basis; energy conservation, pollution control, transportation development, and economic planning, for instance, can hardly be effective if they are not broadly conceived and executed.
      • In any event, people whose demands on government are not met at the state and local levels or at lower levels of the federal hierarchy will not hesitate to try their luck in Washington.
    • Concentrating Authority (pg. 64) #authority
      • The greater the dispersal of functions and the diffusion of authority in the governmental process, the stronger are the centripetal tendencies. Fragmentation itself breeds the very things decried as red tape.
      • Numerous small units mean many boundaries, and every move across jurisdictional lines can mean new procedures to master, new permissions to obtain, new applications to file, new requirements and prohibitions to learn.
      • Many critics of red tape therefore recommend concentrating power.
      • The strategy seems to work to some extent, for a time. Seldom for very long, however. Whatever its merits on other grounds, its effect on red tape is slight. The unpleasant symptoms gradually reappear. The misgivings of the government minimalists and the decentralists about the consequences of congestion at the center are apparently not without foundation.
      • the czars and expediters often add to the overall congestion in the system even if their initial effect is to break specific bottlenecks.
      • concentrating authority does not banish red tape any more than devolving power does. Sometimes it even adds to the problem.
    • Manipulating Pecuniary Incentives (pg. 67)
      • The new approach is to reach for the best of both [[the market]] and the governmental mechanisms, taking advantage of the powerful motivations of the former and the public-interest orientation of the latter.
      • The alleged beauty of this approach is that it skirts the shoals of red tape and inefficiency that government regulation and operation cannot avoid while attaining the social ends these policies are supposed to accomplish.
      • It is quite possible that the beneficial effects would be pronounced. There is certainly great promise in employing tax burdens and advantages and the granting or withholding of subsidies to influence behavior because these measures allow each individual and organization to invent compliant responses instead of being locked into prescribed ways of doing things. The spur of [[competition]] and the rewards of [[innovation]] are thus retained.
      • But it is far from obvious that this method would necessarily reduce red tape. The contention is persuasive only if one assumes that the collection and distribution of money by the government entail less red tape than does regulation or direct government operation and that government financial powers are easier to administer, less burdensome, and more acceptable to the public than regulatory powers or public services. The assumptions are not self-evidently valid.
        • Taxation has become the chief source of complaints about government-imposed paperwork. #taxes
        • Similarly, the distribution of subsidies and other forms of assistance is not a smooth-flowing, unanimously lauded, virtually automatic process. #subsidies
        • There is no reason to expect a smaller output of [[government directives]] from [[tax]] and [[subsidy]] programs than from regulatory or service programs. It is no simple matter to define what is taxable and what is not, what qualifies for aid and what does not, and what the extent of liability or eligibility should be.
        • It may have other justifications, but rolling back red tape is not likely to be one of its accomplishments.
    • No Panacea (pg. 70)
      • What, then, is to be done? The surest way to get rid of the [[red tape]] associated with the federal government is to shrink the federal government itself, but the prospects of shrinking it to even its size in the early twentieth century are not bright #[[shrinking government]]; the disadvantages would be too great for too many people. [[devolution]] likewise is not free of costs balancing many of its gains, and some of the frustrations of decentralization can match those caused by federal red tape. Concentration of [[authority]], on the other hand, undeniably is often responsible for congestion at the center, layering of administrative levels, and long lines of communication; its disadvantages, too, are discouraging. And even the ingenious proposal for taking advantage of private incentives through [[taxes]] and [[subsidies]] would apparently result in just as much government paper and procedural complexity as the currently prevailing techniques of government intervention in social and economic relations.
      • Curiously, as constraints on discretion both outside and inside the government accumulate, they sometimes reach a point where their effect is to broaden the very discretion they were supposed to contain. When there are multitudinous categories and definitions, shrewd operators can find somewhere in the stack justification for almost anything they want to do. #[[manipulating regulation]]
      • But there are ways of keeping red tape under control and endurable. They are not spectacular or glamorous. They work no miracles. Nevertheless, they can provide relief.
    • TREATING SYMPTOMS (pg. 72) #[[improving government]]
      • Specific, targeted interventions are better than grand visions: Those ways are the normal methods of [[politics]]. The political system responds to pointed demands for specific actions, not to grand visions or all-embracing lamentations. Grand visions and ill-defined complaints, of course, often determine the particulars of demands. But until and unless they are translated into concrete measures that officials can act on, they seldom evoke any governmental response. They may win offers of sympathy, expressions of shared outrage, and even symbolic gestures of solidarity and support. But not tangible benefits. #[[grand vision]] #[[To Ankify]]
        • railing against all red tape or advancing some panacea that will purportedly dispose of it once and for all avails nothing; an attack on a particular procedure in a particular agency or on a designated tax or application form or on a specified requirement long since out of date is much more likely to get results.
        • They had specified targets. Their fire was focused. Moreover, they made their views known through professional, articulate, politically sophisticated spokesmen.
      • Where / who to target your proposals for improvement: Nor is a top-level [[commission]] necessary to correct every instance of [[red tape]]. A change in specifications here, a relaxation of restrictions there, a restraining influence on an over-zealous agency, a prod for a sluggish one, an improvement in a single procedure, or a simplification of a single form may alleviate a great deal of pain for a great many people. An individual legislator or a member of his staff, the members or the staff of legislative or appropriations or budget committees or subcommittees, a journalist eager for a good story, a court, congenial bureaucrats, and competing agencies are among the points at which pressure can be quietly but effectively applied to induce a change. It is done all the time. A good many victories over red tape are won in this fashion.
      • On the value of the [[ombudsman]]: Yet some students of government have concluded that even these organizations, in all their variety, are inadequate to relieve every person with a grievance against official action or inaction. (pg. 78)
        • Hence the interest in the [[ombudsman]], the [[Swedish]] institution for pressing citizen complaints against government. #[[To Ankify]]
          • The [[ombudsman]] is, in essence, the head of a complaint bureau clothed with official power to receive and investigate complaints against administrative action anywhere in the administrative machinery of government. If the ombudsman finds merit in a complaint, the expectation is that the accused agency will normally accede to his finding and redress the grievance as he recommends. If the agency does not, the ombudsman may appeal to higher administrative authority, to the courts, or even to the legislature for corrective action.
      • Institutional reforms are not immune to the viruses that infect large organizations generally. We may therefore anticipate that the procedures set up to ease the pains of red tape by assisting individuals trapped in the coils will themselves be denounced one day.
    • Death, Taxes, and Red Tape (pg. 81)
      • Chipping away at a problem calls for more [[perseverance]] and [[stamina]] than blasting away at it.
      • From all indications, our descendants will be chipping away at it just as we are. For them, however, the character of the problem may be different. [[automation]], for instance, will contribute to change. Already, information from cash registers can be linked to accounting and inventory-control computers, reducing the flow of paper significantly. #[[government IT]]
      • Even a fully wired and automated society would not be rid of [[red tape]], though. Safeguards against abuses would be extensive. Methods of appeal from errors or abuses would have to be developed. Most of all, the machines themselves would impose an unyielding set of obligations and prohibitions on their users. #automation #[[government IT]]

Roam Notes on “The Effective Executive” by Peter Drucker

  • "Title::" The Effective Executive: The Definitive Guide to Getting the Right Things Done
  • "Author::" [[Peter Drucker]]
  • "Reading Status::" #Complete
  • "Recommended By::" [[Tim Ferriss]]
  • "Tags::" #[[Business]] #[[Productivity]] #[[Management]] #[[Time Management]] #[[Effective Executives]] #Book
  • What is Expected of Executives? (pp. 1, 2, 7) #[[Effectiveness]] #execution
    • To be effective is the job of the executive. “To effect” and “to execute” are, after all, near-synonyms. Whether he works in a business or in a hospital, in a government agency or in a labor union, in a university or in the army, the executive is, first of all, expected to get the right things done. And this is simply that he is expected to be effective…
    • [[Intelligence]], [[imagination]], and [[knowledge]] are essential [[resources]], but only [[effectiveness]] converts them into [[results]]. By themselves, they only set limits to what can be attained.
    • Knowledge work is not defined by quantity. Neither is [[knowledge work]] defined by its costs. Knowledge work is defined by its [[results]].
  • Four Major Realities Over Which the Executive has Essentially no [[control]] (pp. 10-17)
    • Every one of them is built into the organization and into the executive’s day and work. He has no choice but to “cooperate with the inevitable.” But every one of these realities exerts pressure toward [[nonresults]] and [[nonperformance]].
      1. Executive’s [[time]] tends to belong to everybody else. Everybody can move in on his time, and everybody does (e.g. bosses, customers, city administration official).
      2. Executives are forced to keep on “[[operating]]” unless they take positive [[action]] to change the reality in which they live and work.
      3. He is within an organization. This means that he is effective only if and when other people make use of what he contributes. #[[Working with Teams]] #[[knowledge translation]]
      4. The executive is within an organization. He sees the inside—the organization—as close and immediate reality. He sees the outside only through thick and distorting lenses, if at all. #environment #bias
    • Mark’s notes:
      • 3 – [[knowledge translation]] is everywhere. Everyone specializes and there is this constant issue of communicating information to other groups that aren’t specialists. Without doing this effectively, the specialization is useless. “Each has to be able to use what the other produces.” #[[communication]] #[[Specialization]]
      • 4 – “The problem is rather that the important and relevant outside events are often [[qualitative]] and not capable of [[quantification]]. They are not yet “[[facts]].”” There might be an insight here about quantitative being systematically overrated. If it’s quantifiable, its being collected, which means systems are in place to collect it, which means people tend to understand its value and it’s more likely to be overrated. It follows that for unique [[insight]] or [[competitive advantage]], you need to use qualitative or use quantitative data in a way no one is currently using it. #[[Personal Ideas]]
  • The Five Practices of [[Effective Executives]] (pp 23-25)
    • They know where their [[time]] goes. They work systematically at managing the little of their time that can be brought under their control. #[[Time Management]]
    • They focus on outward [[contribution]]. They gear efforts to [[results]] rather than to [[work]]. They start out with the question, “What results are expected of me?” rather than with the work to be done, let alone with its techniques and tools. #[[outcomes]]
    • They build on strengths – their own [[strengths]], the strengths of their superiors, colleagues, subordinates, and on the strengths of in the situation i.e.. What they can do. They do not build on [[weakness]]. They do not start out with things they cannot do. #[[comparative advantage]]
    • They concentrate on the few major areas where superior [[performance]] will produce outstanding [[results]]. They force themselves to set priorities and stay with their priority decisions. #[[focus]]
    • **They make effective decisions. **They know that this is, above all, a matter of [[system]] – of the right steps in the right sequence. Making many [[decisions]] fast means to make the wrong decisions. What is needed are few, but fundamental [[decisions]]. #[[decision making]]
    • Mark’s Notes:
      • These practices form the basis of the book. Note that there is no “effective [[personality]]”. [[Peter Drucker]] has come across people of all [[personality types]] who are extremely effective.
      • Note that point 5 is in disagreement with advice I’ve heard from [[Patrick Collison]] and others in Silicon Valley where the [[speed]] and [[frequency]] of [[decision making]] is actually very important. However, they do add the caveat that [[decisions]] that are 1) higher [[impact]] and 2) tougher to reverse should be given more thought.
  • On the Scarcity Properties of Time (pg. 25-26) #[[time]] #[[Time Management]] #scarcity
    • Effective executives know that [[time]] is the limiting factor. The [[output]] limits of any [[process]] are set by the scarcest resource. In the process we call “accomplishment,” this is time.
    • Time is also a unique resource. Of the other major resources, [[money]] is actually quite plentiful. We long ago should have learned that it is the [[demand]] for [[capital]], rather than the [[supply]] thereof, which sets the limit to [[economic growth]] and activity. People—the third limiting resource—one can hire, though one can rarely hire enough good people. But one cannot rent, hire, buy, or otherwise obtain more time. #[[To Ankify]]
    • The [[supply]] of [[time]] is totally [[inelastic]]. No matter how high the [[demand]], the supply will not go up. There is no price for it and no [[marginal utility]] curve for it. Moreover, time is totally perishable and cannot be stored. Yesterday’s time is gone forever and will never come back. Time is, therefore, always in exceedingly short supply.
    • Time is totally irreplaceable. Within limits we can substitute one resource for another, copper for aluminum, for instance. We can substitute capital for human labor. We can use more knowledge or more brawn. But there is no substitute for [[time]]. Everything requires time. It is the one truly universal condition. All work takes place in time and uses up time. Yet most people take for granted this unique, irreplaceable, and necessary resource. Nothing else, perhaps, distinguishes effective executives as much as their tender loving care of time.”
    • Mark’s Notes: He goes on to note that people are terrible at estimating how much time has elapsed. It is therefore essential to track how much time you spend on things, and not just rely on memory. Make sure the record is made in “real” time, rather than later on from memory. Run a log on yourself for 3-4 weeks at a stretch twice a year (minimum), then rethink and rework the schedule. #[[time tracking]]
  • Instead of Starting with their Tasks, Effective Executives Start with This (3 Step Process) (pg. 25) #[[Time Management]] #[[time tracking]]
    • Effective executives, in my observation, do not start with their [[tasks]]. They start with their [[time]]. And they do not start out with [[planning]]. They start by finding out where their time actually goes. Then they attempt to manage their time and to cut back unproductive demands on their time. Finally they consolidate their “discretionary” time into the largest possible continuing units. This three-step process:
      • recording time,
      • managing time, and
      • consolidating time
    • is the foundation of executive effectiveness.
  • Things to Ask Employees in a Knowledge Work Firm on a Regular Basis (pp. 30-31) #Hiring #Management #[[performance reviews]]
    • Wherever [[knowledge workers]] perform well in large organizations, senior executives take time out, on a regular schedule, to sit down with them, sometimes all the way down to green juniors, and ask: “What should we at the head of this organization know about your work? What do you want to tell me regarding this organization? Where do you see opportunities we do not exploit? Where do you see dangers to which we are still blind? And, all together, what do you want to know from me about the organization?"
    • Mark’s Notes: An excellent [[leadership]] course I took with [[Linton Sellen]] offers advice that differs somewhat – Linton said the appropriate way to do this is for C mangers to query their B subordinates, and then C’s should tell B’s to do the same with their subordinate A’s and report back, and so on. C going directly to A undermines B’s [[authority]]. I’m believe Linton’s advice is better.
  • Why People Decisions are Time Consuming (pp. 33-34) #[[labour]] #[[Hiring]] #Management #[[people decisions]]
    • People-decisions are time-consuming, for the simple reason that the Lord did not create people as “resources” for the organization. They do not come in the proper size and shape for the tasks that have to be done in organization — and they cannot be machined down or recast for these tasks . People are always “almost fits” at best. To get the work done with people (and no other resource is available) therefore requires lots of [[time]], [[thought]], and [[judgment]]. #[[To Ankify]]
  • Script to Send Potential Meeting Participants from Attending Meeting if it is a Waste of their Time (pg. 39) #[[email scripts]] #meetings #attendance
    • “I have asked [Messrs Smith, Jones, and Robinson] to meet with me [Wednesday at 3] in [the fourth floor conference room] to discuss budget. Please come if you think that you need the information or want to take part in the discussion. But you will in any event receive right away a full summary of the discussion and of any decisions reached, together with a request for your comments.”
    • Mark’s Notes: This was a script used by a manager to make sure no-one felt left out and had the opportunity to attend. The manager invited all of these people to the meetings because of the culture in the company of being “in the know”. This message prevents people from wasting their time, while still making sure no one feels left out.
  • On the Risk of Cutting Back Tasks (pg. 40) #Delegation
    • There is not much risk that an executive will cut back too much. We usually tend to overrate rather than underrate our importance and to conclude that far too many things can only be done by ourselves. Even very effective executives still do a great many unnecessary, unproductive things.
  • Three big benefits of focusing on [[contribution]] (rather than [[effort]]) (pg. 70)
    • The focus on contribution counteracts one of the basic problems of the executive: the confusion and chaos of events and their failure to indicate by themselves which is meaningful and which is merely “noise.” The [[focus]] on [[contribution]] imposes an organizing principle. It imposes relevance on events.
    • Focusing on [[contribution]] turns one of the inherent weaknesses of the executive’s situation—his dependence on other people, his being within the organization—into a source of strength. It creates a team. #[[Team Building]]
    • Finally, focusing on [[contribution]] fights the temptation to stay within the organization. It leads the executive—especially the top-level man—to lift his eyes from the inside of efforts, work, and relationships, to the outside; that is, to the [[results]] of the organization. It makes him try hard to have direct contact with the outside—whether [[markets]] and [[customers]], patients in a community, or the various “publics” which are the outside of a government agency.” #[[outcomes]]
  • How to tell if a job is impossible, undoable man-killer (pg. 79) #Hiring #nonperformance #[[Evaluating People]]
    • The rule is simple: Any job that has defeated two or three men in succession, even though each had performed well in his previous assignments, must be assumed unfit for human beings. It must be redesigned.
    • Mark’s Notes: Interesting to keep in mind that jobs like this exist. Jobs are not created by an all-knowing God. Rather, they are created by fallible human beings. It’s an important insight that job may be poorly designed / impossible.
  • Why effective executives try to be themselves (pg. 97) #authenticity #[[comparative advantage]]
    • All in all, the effective executive tries to be himself; he does not pretend to be someone else. He looks at his own performance and at his own results and tries to discern a pattern. “What are the things,” he asks, “that I seem to be able to do with relative ease, while they come rather hard to other people?
    • Mark’s Notes: It would be useful to ask yourself this question on a weekly basis by adding this to your [[Weekly Planning]]. Have a document about what you do with ease that is hard for other people, and review it regularly.
  • The “Secret” of those people who “do so many things” (pp. 100, 103) #focus #concentration #Prioritizing #Productivity
    • If there is any one “secret” of effectiveness, it is concentration. Effective executives do first things first and they do one thing at a time. #[[To Ankify]]
    • This is the “secret” of those people who “do so many things” and apparently so many difficult things. They do only one at a time. As a result, they need much less [[time]] in the end than the rest of us.
    • The people who get nothing done often work a great deal harder. In the first place, they underestimate the time for any one task. They always expect that everything will go right. Yet, as every executive knows, nothing ever goes right.
  • On the Danger of Succumbing to Pressure for Decision-Making (pg. 109) #pressure #[[decision making]] #focus #priorities
    • If the pressures rather than the executive are allowed to make the decision, the important tasks will predictably be sacrificed. Typically, there will then be no time for the most time-consuming part of any task, the conversion of decision into action
    • Another predictable result of leaving control of priorities to the pressures is that the work of top management does not get done at all. That is always postponable work, for it does not try to solve yesterday’s crises but to make a different tomorrow. And the pressures always favor yesterday.
  • Setting priorities is easy…this on the other hand…. (pp. 109-110) #[[Prioritizing]] #focus
    • The job is, however, not to set [[priorities]]. That is easy. Everybody can do it. The reason why so few executives concentrate is the difficulty of setting “[[posteriorities]]”—that is, deciding what tasks not to tackle—and of sticking to the decision. #[[To Ankify]]
    • Most executives have learned that what one postpones, one actually abandons. A good many of them suspect that there is nothing less desirable than to take up later a project one has postponed when it first came up. #procrastination
  • Truly Important Rules for Identifying Priorities (4) (pg. 111) #[[priorities]] #Prioritizing
    • [[Courage]] rather than [[analysis]] dictates the truly important rules for identifying priorities:
      • Pick the future as against the past;
      • **Focus on **[[opportunity]] rather than on problem;
      • Choose your own direction—rather than climb on the bandwagon; and
      • Aim high, aim for something that will make a difference, rather than for something that is “safe” and easy to do.
  • The Elements of the Effective Decision Process (pp. 122-123) #[[decision making]] #Process #[[To Ankify]]
    • They are:
      1. The clear realization that the problem was [[generic]] and could only be solved through a decision which established a [[rule]], a [[principle]];
        1. Ask “Is this generic situation or is an exception?” “Is this something that underlies a great many occurrences?” Four types of occurrences: truly generic (individual occurrence is only a symptom), unique for the individual institution but actually generic (e.g. mergers, happen all the time, but only once for an individual company), truly unique event (rare), early manifestation of a new generic problem. Effective decision-makers always assume initially the problem is generic, and they are not content with treating the symptom alone. #[[5 whys]] #[[diagnosing problems]]
      2. The definition of the [[specifications]] which the answer to the problem had to satisfy, that is, of the “[[boundary conditions]]”;
        1. [[boundary conditions]] usually determined by asking “What is the minimum needed to resolve this problem?” (most difficult step, apparently)
      3. The thinking through what is “right,” that is, the solution which will fully satisfy the [[specifications]] before attention is given to the compromises, adaptations, and concessions needed to make the decision acceptable; #optics #politics
        1. “It is fruitless and a waste of time to worry about what is acceptable and what one had better not say so as not to evoke resistance. The things one worries about never happen. And objections and difficulties no one thought about suddenly turn out to be almost insurmountable obstacles. One gains nothing in other words by starting out with the question: “What is acceptable?”
      4. The building into the decision of the action to carry it out; #action #Delegation #execution #Responsibility
        1. “no decision has been made unless carrying it out in specific steps has become someone’s work assignment and responsibility.”
      5. The “[[feedback]]” which tests the validity and effectiveness of the decision against the actual course of events.
        1. “[[military organizations]] learned long ago that futility is the lot of most [[orders]] and organized the [[feedback]] to check on the [[execution]] of the order. They learned long ago that to go oneself and look is the only reliable feedback.” “Unless [the decision maker] accepts, as a matter of course, that he had better go out and look at the scene of action, he will be increasingly divorced from [[reality]].”
  • Most books on decision-making tell the reader: “First find the facts”. Instead, do this. (pg. 143) #[[decision making]] #[[scientific method]] #[[To Ankify]]
    • Most books on decision-making tell the reader: “First find the facts.” But executives who make effective decisions know that one does not start with [[facts]]. One starts with [[opinions]]. These are, of course, nothing but untested [[hypotheses]] and, as such, worthless unless tested against reality. To determine what is a fact requires first a decision on the criteria of relevance, especially on the appropriate [[measurement]]. This is the hinge of the effective decision, and usually its most controversial aspect.
    • Finally, the effective decision does not, as so many texts on decision-making proclaim, flow from a consensus on the [[facts]]. The understanding that underlies the right decision grows out of the clash and conflict of divergent opinions and out of the serious consideration of competing alternatives.
    • To get the [[facts]] first is impossible. There are no facts unless one has a criterion of [[relevance]]. [[Events]] by themselves are not facts.
    • Mark’s Notes: This is similar to the [[scientific method]] – you always start out with untested [[hypotheses]] (opinions) as the only starting point. But, can’t isolated facts be hypothesis generating? Yes, but you still ultimately start with a hypothesis. Drucker goes on to point out that, as in the scientific method, effective executives encourage opinions, but also insist on having people think through what is the corresponding “[[experiment]]” i.e. how do you test the opinion against reality and what would the [[facts]] have to be to support the [[opinion]]. [[Disagreement]] and [[conflict]] are important, because it helps ensure that you don’t just make a hypothesis and then only look for facts that support it, disregarding everything else.
  • Three main reasons for insisting on disagreement in the decision-making process. (pp. 149-152) #disagreement #decisions #reason #argument #debate
    • It is, first, the only safeguard against the decision-maker’s becoming the prisoner of the organization. Everybody always wants something from the decision-maker…The only way to break out of the prison of special pleading and preconceived notions is to make sure of argued, documented, thought-through disagreements.
    • Second, [[disagreement]] alone can provide alternatives to a decision. And a decision without an alternative is a desperate gambler’s throw, no matter how carefully thought through it might be.
    • **Above all, **[[disagreement]] is needed to stimulate the [[imagination]]…Imagination of the first order is, I admit, not in abundant supply. But neither is it as scarce as is commonly believed. Imagination needs to be challenged and stimulated, however, or else it remains latent and unused. Disagreement, especially if forced to be reasoned, thought through, documented, is the most effective stimulus we know.
    • Mark’s Notes: This is probably why people like [[Tyler Cowen]] emphasize how valuable it is do articulate and argue opinions you disagree with. It’s an extremely valuable [[mental exercise]]. #[[articulating positions you disagree with]]
  • Before you think about who is right and who is wrong, do this. (pg. 154) #[[listening]] #judgment
    • The effective executive is concerned first with [[understanding]]. Only then does he even think about who is right and who is wrong.
      • Mark’s Notes: This is similar to the advice from [[Stephen Covey]] – seek first to understand, then to be understood.
  • Why effective decision-makers don’t hedge bets (pp 157-158) #[[hedging]] #[[risk]] #[[decisions]]
    • The surgeon who only takes out half the tonsils or half the appendix risks as much infection or shock as if he did the whole job. And he has not cured the condition, has indeed made it worse. He either operates or he doesn’t. Similarly, the effective decision-maker either acts or he doesn’t act. He does not take half-action. This is the one thing that is always wrong, and the one sure way not to satisfy the minimum [[specifications]], the [[minimum boundary conditions]].
    • The decision is now ready to be made. The [[specifications]] have been thought through, the [[alternatives]] explored, the [[risks]] and gains weighed. Everything is known. Indeed, it is always reasonably clear by now what course of action must be taken. At this point the decision does indeed almost “make itself.”
    • And it is at this point that most decisions are lost. It becomes suddenly quite obvious that the decision is not going to be pleasant, is not going to be [[popular]], is not going to be easy. It becomes clear that a decision requires [[courage]] as much as it requires [[judgment]]. There is no inherent reason why medicines should taste horrible—but effective ones usually do. Similarly, there is no inherent reason why decisions should be distasteful—but most effective ones are.
    • One thing the effective executive will not do at this point. He will not give in to the cry, “Let’s make another study.” This is the coward’s way—and all the coward achieves is to die a thousand deaths where the brave man dies but one. #research #procrastination #timidity #courage
  • The one area in which [[weakness]] in itself is of importance and relevance (pp 166) #[[To Ankify]]
    • The last question (ii) is the only one which is not primarily concerned with strengths. [[Subordinates]], especially bright, young, and ambitious ones, tend to mold themselves after a forceful boss. There is, therefore, nothing more corrupting and more destructive in an organization than a forceful but basically corrupt executive. Such a man might well operate effectively on his own; even within an organization, he might be tolerable if denied all power over others. But in a position of power within an organization, he destroys. Here, therefore, is the one area in which weakness in itself is of importance and relevance. #integrity #corruption #Hiring #character
    • By themselves, [[character]] and [[integrity]] do not accomplish anything. But their absence faults everything else. Here, therefore, is the one area where weakness is a disqualification by itself rather than a limitation on [[performance]] capacity and strength.
  • Why being an effective executive is good for you (for reasons unrelated to compensation / promotion (pg. 166)
    • The knowledge worker demands economic rewards too. Their absence is a deterrent. But their presence is not enough. He needs [[opportunity]], he needs [[achievement]], he needs [[fulfillment]], he needs [[values]]. Only by making himself an effective executive can the knowledge-worker obtain these satisfactions.