Other mailbags can be found here. Keep in mind a lot of this is email conversations, comment replies, or some random interesting things I’ve found. By their nature they are not as thorough or complete as a post on one topic.
Here’s what’s covered in this installment:
There are more homeless people in San Francisco than Bangkok
“Greater Bangkok, a sprawling metropolis with more than 10 million people, has 1,300 homeless people, a survey this year found.
San Francisco has less than one-tenth Bangkok’s population but six times as many homeless people.”
Reminded me of this,
“if you visit San Francisco, this is something you’re likely to find unsettling. You’ll see people living in the streets, many of them mentally ill, yelling and cursing at imaginary foes. You’ll find every public space designed to make it difficult and uncomfortable to sit down or sleep, and that people sit down and sleep anyway. You’ll see human excrement on the sidewalks, and a homeless encampment across from the city hall. You’ll find you can walk for miles and not come across a public toilet or water fountain.
If you stay in the city for any length of time, you’ll start to notice other things. Lines outside every food pantry and employment office. Racially segregated neighborhoods where poverty gets hidden away, even in the richest parts of Silicon Valley. A city bureaucracy where everything is still done on paper, slowly. A stream of constant petty crime by the destitute. Public schools that no one sends their kids to if they can find an alternative. Fundraisers for notionally public services.
You can’t even get a decent Internet connection in San Francisco.
The tech industry is not responsible for any of these problems. But it’s revealing that through forty years of unimaginable growth, and eleven years of the greatest boom times we’ve ever seen, we’ve done nothing to fix them. I say without exaggeration that the Loma Prieta earthquake in 1989 did more for San Francisco than Google, Facebook, Twitter, and all the rest of the tech companies that have put down roots in the city since.
Despite being at the center of the technology revolution, the Bay Area has somehow failed to capture its benefits.”
As someone who has been to San Francisco a bit 1) what you see is very disturbing 2) in areas with way less tech companies you do see significantly less issues like the above. The discrepancy between the mantra of “we’re changing the world” vs “our own city has people laying / screaming / pissing / shitting / masturbating all over” is striking.
Interesting take on restaurants
For every 100 dollars,
“just under three dollars (two dollars and eighty cents, to be exact) was left over for operating income.”
“That is, New York City, with all its pastrami-and-pizza-hungry tourists and residents fleeing their pocket-size kitchens and young people too busy taking phone pictures of one another to cook, generates enormous demand for restaurants. There are twenty-four thousand of them in the five boroughs.”
“Yet I’ve come to conclude that the restaurants New York needs are doomed, financially, to fail. That’s because amateur capital backed by magical thinking and a desire for fun distorts the economics for everyone. New restaurants, with too-easy access to financing from people like me, invest too much in design, tableware, food, and service, driving up every customer’s expectations of every restaurant in a cyclone of unprofitability. Landlords, with enough dreamers to fill their spaces, can command nightmare rents. If restaurants had to be good business ideas, and attract sophisticated investors who mercilessly demanded a profit, there would be fewer restaurants. They would be less cool. The food would be less good.”
Another thing I took from this was I live in an area of San Diego notorious for its restaurants. There are tons of them. The competition is insane. Every week one closes and one opens. (They all seem to open with way too much invested in aesthetics, similar to the quote above.)
Tons of competition in this area, as well as Manhattan, yet nothing is cheap. “Competition = lower prices,” not sure it’s always that simple.
Thinking about my area some more, there are some extremely simple, small, damn near hole in the wall places…who’ve been around years. Same thing in Manhattan. You don’t need all the fanciness discussed in the article, though it’s an interesting thought as to why it’s so prevalent.
Poor reading experiences on mobile
Unfortunately it’s become increasingly common a page on mobile is barely readable. I screen shot these from time to time. NFL.com:
The ad is bigger than the text!
I don’t want to pick on the following too much because I think the site has some solid info, but the example stood out too much to not use. Here is how the page looked when starting the article:
Between the newletter sign-up on top and social media icons on bottom, you can’t even read the title of the article. Then I scroll down and within 30 seconds half the page is consumed:
My rule for reading is as much as possible arrange your site in the manner you want to read something. We get it, making money online is hard, but nobody wants to feel like throwing their phone through a wall when scrolling your site.
Speaking of advertising…
“Several weeks ago, Facebook disclosed in a post on its “Advertiser Help Center” that its metric for the average time users spent watching videos was artificially inflated because it was only factoring in video views of more than three seconds. The company said it was introducing a new metric to fix the problem.”
In other words, “We ignored counting the people who ignored the ad.” Who says accounting is a boring job??
Elderly health isn’t THAT different
Came across this quote:
“It’s not just anecdotal. Drawing on Rock Health reports, one investor cited recent data: Of the last 92 funding deals in digital health, just four were for companies specifically focused on senior care. In contrast, seven deals went to companies targeting fitness or nutrition — important issues, but less pressing problems for the nation’s health system than improving senior care.”
From: Silicon Valley is blowing its chance to ride the silver tsunami
Somehow fitness / nutrition is separate from senior care??? It seems silly to many in the fitness world, but to everybody else the connection between things like working out and eating a certain way are still too often only associated with aesthetics / bodybuilding / athletes. We have work to do when it comes to making the leap to general health, even more so geriatrics.
You get what you train, starting young
Maternal death on the rise due to obesity and diabetes
A cause for innovation stalling?
This is from a discussion about SpaceX, a newer space company, compared to the older ones. One way I’ve heard Jason Fried and David Heinemeier Hansson talk about failure is as you get bigger, you naturally incur a decrease in risk tolerance, because if you fail it’s much more noteworthy than it used to be. It’s easier to fail when nobody knows who you are.
The above is different. Your company / product gets legs, you naturally then want it to be reliable as hell, but that process can end up antithetical to innovation. “The Innovator’s Dilemma” is you get focused on current needs at the expense of potential new ones. This is tangential. What makes you good for the current market can make you lesser for the future?
Something new will have bugs. If your perspective is perfect or bust, can you ever put something new out? You have to temporarily accept issues in order to take another step. You can’t fully test something until shipping it. Hence, big, ingrained companies instead buy up the small ones who take those risks instead? The big tech companies do seem to buy new companies at a high rate.
Where perhaps you need to accept a certain degree of failure in order to be able to try new things at a regular rate. Often it’s sold you have to accept failure because you’re pushing the envelope, “you have to be willing to be misunderstood,” etc., but this is different. It’s you’re allowing / expecting / want? mistakes to happen in the first place, regularly, by not placing too many barriers to getting something new out.
In some ways it seems like a tough balance to strike, particularly if we’re talking something life threatening. How innovative do you want your surgeon to be? In other ways it can be easy. I recently started sending clients their programs in a different manner. All I did was add a sentence saying “I’m trying a new way of sending things and still experiencing some kinks. Please let me know if something doesn’t work or looks off.” Has gone smoothly.
Another example is I started out making my products PDFs. Formatting, modifying, making a PDF, uploading to a server to be downloaded from, is a gigantic pain in the ass compared to using a webpage. Therefore, at some point I started making my products password accessed pages. Way easier to update if needed, and therefore easier to ship.