Archive for August, 2013

The Lure of a book — Fiction Chick Deviantart

Ode to knowledge and the lost art of learning

This is not a post with 5 tips. Just in-case you were curious.

When was the last time you actually read a book? From cover to cover?

I realized that my ritual of reading a book before heading off to Never Never land for the night had morphed into reading some blogs in the bed. Not only does the glare cause me to see spots when I turn off the lights but blogs by purpose are not a source of knowledge in some areas. Or maybe most.Our lifestyle has evolved over the last couple of years from a slow and steady one to that one hyper connected, fast paced one fueled on technology steroids. From encouraging startups to craft their 60 second pitch “because that’s all the time you get” to expressing oneself in an endless stream of 140 characters or less (I have nothing personal against Twitter — it made a good fruit to make the point) we have the ‘ain’t nobody got time for that’ people.

Time for what?

We encourage some of the brightest speakers in the world to convey their life’s work in 20 min. We read blogs and Quora for knowledge because books are too long and tedious. But what do we really do with all that time we save?

I really don’t know. Not even for myself.

When I started noticing this alarming trend in myself, I made it a point. To read more books.

Books are amazing. Books are the legacy that people leave behind. Books have been the medium of transferring knowledge and ideas for centuries. Humans as far as I know are the only species on earth that’s capable of transferring knowledge to others of their species and onward.

When I jumped onto the bandwagon of doing startups, I really didn’t know anything about startups or marketing. Being a geek I am, I thought a cool technology shouldn’t need anyone to ‘sell it’. Selling ha! How distasteful and boorish! And then came the series of failures.

So I did what any sane person would do — Google it.

I Came across a few blogs, read them. Came across TechCrunch, Mashable, XYZ — read that and got into a deep depression and self loathing cycle; 20 somethings raising a million dollars while I still have a product out there. More then a couple of blogs later, I discovered a that almost everyone out there who talks about marketing/social media/startups/how to make your first million dollars essentially talks about the same thing. Especially all the folks who talk about Content/Social marketing talk about the same ideas such as ‘Share original content’, ‘Let your voice come through’, ‘Use Facebook and Twitter’, “Share interesting content” — what that ‘interesting content means’ is subjective to audience and yourself. Care to mention that? In engineering/mathematics/science there is no way past practice, research and learning. So why does it seem that a person who reads a couple of blog posts on “10 tips on Mobile App Marketing” or “Social Media Marketing” suddenly thinks he/she knows how to actually execute an entire marketing strategy?

(G+ and Quora is still generally ignored but I think they’re amazing resources for ‘social media marketing’ — Re: Quora, be genuine and don’t plug your product in all posts. I have seen that happening too many times and its killing the community. Write thoughtful answers and seek to help. If it is related to your product, add a disclosure that you are working on a similar/same product nothing wrong with that. Be honest)

And I start to wonder:

  1. Why does everyone talk about the same stuff?
  2. Would reading a blog post actually make you an expert in those things?
  3. What worked for you may or may not work for me.
  4. If you (the reader) genuinely wants to learn a new art/craft/skill then pick a book and read up about it and practice it. Build something. Do a project. You wont learn it in the time it takes to finish a blog
  5. If the said skill/art/craft is worth your time, then why don’t you take the time and genuinely learn about it from the person who had enough knowledge and compassion to share his ideas with the world.
  6. Acquiring a skill takes practice and knowledge. You don’t get either from reading a blog post.

We’ve come to expect short cuts to knowledge. Neatly packages Byte Sized Information Packages for us to consume. Perhaps it works in somethings; a short cut to start practicing a new skill. But is there a short cut to knowledge and expertise? No.

So the next time you read a blog post on 5 quick tips on starting a business. Take a minute and ask yourself how deeply do you want to understand it. Truly grasp the subject. Read Steve Blank or Eric Ries (even though the merits of lean startup can be arguable) Then read Crossing the Chasm and Good to Great. Maybe even pick up ‘Made to Stick. A blog with 5 tips might whet your appetite to read more but it is not an ends on itself.

In an attempt to teach myself Design (because I have lost the patience to re-learn coding and abstract mathematics) I started with “Design of Every Day Things” and I am still making my way through it.

Side Note: I just finished On Intelligence by Jeff Hawkins. A absolutely brilliant read but so full of ideas that I will end up reading it again and making notes just to make sure I grasp the depth of the ideas discussed there. Knowledge and learning take commitment.

Written with the help of Herve Humbert, Patrick Hannigan, Emma Gat, and Stef Lewandowski.


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Medium I love you

Bottom of https://medium.com/editors-picks/55bf2166faf


I love Medium. I love everything from the minimal design to the editor, notes, the header images and the absolute pleasure of reading some genuine, thought provoking articles here. I love how can tweet bits I like, recommend it and I can jump from one piece to another. With Medium, I am in flow while reading.

But something ruined by reading utopia. The “recommend” button at the bottom now has a counter *gasp* and a list of avatars *Gasp GASP*.

No Medium. Don’t ruin my flow.

We all have a vanity of metrics. We like spikes in our Twitter following, Facebook likes and website traffic. But Medium. Oh Medium you are one place where I come to go away from all that. I come to you to look for my reading zen. Don’t put counters at the bottom and encourage vanity metrics. The number of views, reads and recommend was something between you and the writer. We the readers were blissfully oblivious to it except for those featured in Top 50/100(?) or Editors Picks. We never questioned you for it. Medium you focused on writing and reading. You get discovered. Even if you don’t make it on the Editors Pick, I have discovered some great pieces of writing on Medium. The counters will encourage the need for social proof and now I find myself looking at the numbers on the counters instead of the next recommended reading. Don’t take away my reading flow. Give me back my Zen.

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