Andre Siregar

Here's a funny video of Bill Gates, 27 years ago, struggling to explain the internet's potentials to Dave Letterman. Dave played it wittily for the audience, but his skepticism towards the internet, as a layman, is fully justified.

NFT and web3 have certainly created a lot of debates and discussions among the digerati. I haven't found a good explanation on why NFT is better than the solutions we have today. But I think it's because my 2022 brains cannot perceive what technology we will have in 27 years.

Hey, even a genius like Bill Gates could only see the internet as online magazines and chat rooms in 1995.

#technology

Whether it's online articles or books, I read a lot. One of my favorite apps supporting this hobby is Pocket, a read-it-later app that I've been using for more than ten years. It's an essential tool in my information-consumption workflow, and it is one of the first apps I install when I set up a new phone or browser.

Earlier this month, I discovered another app in the read-it-later category called Matter. Although Matter is less than two years old, it already has features I did not know I wanted from Pocket. I also found its user interface to be very thoughtful and well designed. After a couple of hours of using Matter, I was convinced. I replaced Pocket with Matter on all my devices.

My experience above illustrates that there is rarely a winner-takes-all in today's business world. In a platform economy (such as ride-sharing and food delivery), while the incumbents may have years of market leadership, a new competitor can launch quickly at a low cost. There is rarely price competition because most apps have a free tier. As a user, I can always switch to a different app quite easily.

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Note: I originally posted this article on LinkedIn.

I went to the University of Michigan in 1994 and became a fan of their football team since then. Since I came back to Indonesia in 1997, it has not been easy being an American football fan in this part of the world. Besides the non-existent fan community, the time zone difference makes it hard to watch games.

As a Michigan Wolverines fan, my best day this year was the 28th of November (the 27th in the US). It was the day when we beat our heated rival Ohio State Buckeyes for the first time since 2011 (and only the second time since 2003). I woke up at 2 AM that day to watch the game. Although the season had been going quite well up to that point, most Wolverines fans, including me, suffered from PTSD after years of beating and had little expectations for the game. The Buckeyes were also having an excellent season and came into the game ranked number 2 in the country. Well, this year turned out to be different. By the time the game ended around 4:30 AM, I was so happy I might have cried a little.

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Brilliant article from the folks at HBR:

In this era of chronic skills shortages, rapid automation, and digital transformation, companies are confronting a growing talent problem, one that has the potential to become a strategic bottleneck. How can they find people with the right skills to do the right work at just the right time? The half-life of skills is shrinking fast, and many jobs now come and go in a matter of years. Not only that, but major demographic changes are under way: Boomers are aging out of the workforce, and Millennials and Gen Z are taking over, bringing with them very different priorities about who should do what work—and where, when, and how it should get done.

To help companies address these challenges, a new generation of talent platforms—such as Catalant, InnoCentive, Kaggle, Toptal, and Upwork—has emerged. In contrast to Uber, Amazon Mechanical Turk, and TaskRabbit, these platforms offer on-demand access to highly skilled workers, and our research shows that their number has risen substantially since 2009, from roughly 80 to more than 330. Much of that growth took place during the past five years alone. Today almost all Fortune 500 companies use one or more of them.

I've been watching the developments of the on-demand workforce lately and I fully believe it is going to be the next big thing in business. I read the Gig Mindset earlier this year and the book was weak in explaining how companies can take advantage of gig workers. This HBR article fills a lot of the gaps in the book.

Today we have departments inside companies dabbling and experimenting with on-demand workforce. I think, soon, on-demand workforce will be a key component in the enterprise strategy. We already have the drivers in place:

  • Greater need to innovate while facing difficulty in finding talents to do it
  • Fluctuations in headcount needs because the nature of innovation projects are “experiment and fail-fast”
  • Increased comfort level of working with remote workers due to Covid-19

And finally, on-demand workforce is how startups and small businesses can compete against big companies. Without a large HR department and a budget to lure talents with high salaries, startups and small businesses will use gig platforms like Toptal, Clarity, and Catalant.

The Mind Illuminated: A Complete Meditation Guide Integrating Buddhist Wisdom and Brain Science by Culadasa (John Yates)
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

When I found this book, I had been meditating for four years, mostly by using (subscribing to) the Headspace app. Like other meditation apps, Headspace guides you aurally as you meditate. It also offers many “types” of meditation, such as stress relief meditation and getting to sleep.

I always had a nagging question on how to get better at meditating. I think meditation is a skill that you learn and practice to get better. While I liked Headspace when I began meditating, it didn't help me get better.

The Mind Illuminated is an amazing book if you're serious about meditating. It is a tome of more than 500 pages — I didn't know there was that much to talk about meditation! Usually, when you ask someone about how to meditate, they will tell you to just sit down, stay still, and breathe.

Well, it turns out there are many layers to peel in meditation. While the book is thick, it is full of substance and easy to read. It breaks down how the mind works so that we know what to “control” when meditating. The book is fully accurate in describing what's going on in my head as I meditate. I feel that the authors have deep expertise in meditation and neuroscience.

The book offers ten levels of meditation, and for each level, there are different areas to focus on. I find these levels extremely helpful for me to track my progress as I build up my skills. For once in my meditation journey, I know where I stand, and I know what to do to get better.

Headspace, Calm, and other meditation apps are fine for beginners. They are subscription-based and therefore focused on generating new content to keep subscribers paying. They also want their content to be generic and appeal to the masses. If your goal is to get better at meditating and leave the generic masses, you can't do it by subscribing to meditation apps. Also, apps subscriptions are expensive in the long term. This book, on the other hand, is a one-time purchase that keeps on giving. It is a comprehensive reference that you can go back to again and again.

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Note: I originally posted this article on LinkedIn

Humans are living longer and longer. The majority of children born in developed countries today can expect to live to more than 100 years. Many of us reading this article will work until our 70s and 80s. At the same time, the world is changing quickly, so we must always adapt, grow, and learn new things.

However, even if you have decided to block some time for continuous learning, you have another problem. There is an abundance of learning resources out there. What should you learn? What learning resources should you pick? You have limited spare time and you can't possibly learn everything.

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Note: I originally posted this article on LinkedIn

Back in the '90s, before the internet and the search engine, I used to have to go to my university's library to find information. Today, we have the world's information on our fingertips, and we can find data about almost anything from wherever we are. Our challenge today is not about getting information, but about filtering the signal from the noise and turning that filtered data into knowledge.

The following is how I tackle this challenge.

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Note: I originally posted this article on LinkedIn

I recently watched the excellent documentary The Social Dilemma on Netflix which talks about the rise of social media and how it influences our behavior and damages our society.

Social media today is a triple-whammy of forces. First, like any other business, the platform itself is trying to grow. This means getting more users and monetize them through advertising. Second, to get more and more users, the platform has to make users interact with each other and spend more time on the platform. They achieve this by incentivizing users to seek attention. You get attention not just when your online behavior is positive (e.g. funny and catchy) but also when it's negative (e.g. controversial and shocking). Third, social media platforms want to make advertisers happy because advertisers give them money. Advertisers want to change your behavior, which can range anywhere from the mundane (e.g. buying product) to nefarious (e.g. changing your vote — as entertainingly explained by another Netflix documentary, The Great Hack).

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Gig Mindset: Reclaim Your Time, Reinvent Your Career, and Ride the Next Wave of Disruption by Paul Estes
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Gig Mindset is a good book to introduce you to the gig economy. When I picked up the book, I had already heard about virtual assistants and websites like Fiverr and TaskRabbit, but I had never used them. This book gave me the motivation to try gig workers and it provides easy guidance on how to start. Beyond the “how-to,” I also like how the book emphasizes a mindset change.

The book introduces the T.I.D.E framework for engaging with gig workers. T.I.D.E. stands for Taskify, Identify, Delegate, and Evolve. Coming from an IT project management background, the framework is very familiar to me. For most readers, however, I imagine the framework will be useful for breaking down your tasks and clarifying explicitly what you want to get done.

The simplicity of the T.I.D.E. framework is also its weakness. The book tries to bite more than it can chew. It gives sufficient guidance if you want to engage gig workers for your personal tasks and maybe for your own tasks at the office. When giving guidance for businesses, however, the book fails miserably.

In the business world, a company may engage different types of external help. They are not just crowdsourced help and gig workers (which the book talks about), but also consultants and vendors. Hiring expert consultants is nothing new. Companies have also been hiring vendors by issuing RFP (Request For Proposal) that is open for any interested suppliers. The book ignores these “old school” types of engagements and only touts gig workers and crowdsourcing as the best way forward.

Engaging freelance workers for your company's tasks (i.e. outsourcing) probably requires a few chapters. There are so many layers to peel, for example, how do you assess the risk of outsourcing to freelancers? How do you vet them? How do you ensure they can deliver the same quality as you promise to your customers?

Besides the big gap in the world of business, I also wish that the book talks more about Virtual Assistants. I imagine getting a VA is low-hanging fruit for most people and deserves a special chapter.

Also, while the book gives a few examples of websites to find gig workers, it would be useful to list them in an appendix with reviews and explanations. There are so many options today and it can be overwhelming to find the right one for your particular task.

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Ben Smith at The New York Times wrote about Zeynep Tufekci, a Turkish-born writer, programmer-turned-sociologist, and associate professor at University of North Carolina (emphasis added):

These are, by her lights, the ingredients in seeing clearly: – An international point of view she picked up while bouncing as a child between Turkey and Belgium and then working in the United States. – Knowledge that spans subject areas and academic disciplines, which she happened onto as a computer programmer who got into sociology. – A habit of complex, systems-based thinking, which led her to a tough critique in The Atlantic of America’s news media in the run-up to the pandemic.

She obviously has a great track record to attract the attention of The New York Times. She has proven to be able to connect the dots from her diverse background, combine them with new findings, and form a fresh view about what's happening in the world. While the article is not about systems thinking, I would love to dive into her psyche and understand how she thinks.

#systemsthinking