FAQ: “How do I get better at writing?”
Me: Write a million words.
Follow up: “Hah but seriously.”
Me: Start with 20,000 words. Everyone gets to that 50 times in their first million.
Follow up: “No seriously.”
Me: Nobody expects 10 Quick Tips To Play Violin At Carnegie Hall.
The Internet is so much better at teaching writing than the traditional educational system principally because it removes an artificial and limiting constraint on output imposed by ability of gatekeepers’ limited time to evaluate output.
(Interestingly in fields where we actually care about performance we’re good at encouraging students to practice when no one is watching but for writing we basically assume all the value is created by the teacher-minute of attention. Teacher-minutes are scarce and rationed.)
If you ever want to be deeply, deeply disillusioned about the state of the world, compare what we do where we care about output quality and what we do where we don’t, and which domains sort into which column by revealed preference.

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More from @patio11

20 Oct
A story about teddy bears:

A long time ago, in a place far far away, I worked in a call center as a CS operator and order taker. Working in a call center tends to be stressful, and the public is often abusive of the people who work there.

A 10+ year veteran told me her secret.
Call centers have flowcharts and processes for when you are allowed or required to hand off the call. She advocated for one unauthorized handoff: to a teddy bear, which she had long ago purchased and stationed in her cubicle.
"The teddy bear has no ego. The teddy bear has no memory. The teddy bear has no feelings. The teddy bear can always, always say exactly what it needs to to the customer, and then it goes back on the desk, and sleeps here overnight.

Buy a teddy bear."
Read 7 tweets
20 Oct
You would not believe how many documents, investment pitches, etc etc are improved by looking at the artifact with the author, asking "Before we get into the line-by-line, what is this trying to say?", listening attentively, and saying "OK, now go back and write that."
I think one reason for this is that the ritual of writing, particularly writing within an organization, often becomes sharply disconnected from the purpose of communication, and so regrounding it and restarting tends to improve things.
A bonus point: for the cost of a teddy bear or less, you too can improve your writing by having someone always willing to ask you "What is this trying to say?"
Read 4 tweets
19 Oct
I feel professionally irked every time I get a payment request which requires me to do something borderline absurd to optimize for the person who will have to check, by hand, that all X00 recipients have paid.
This should be a computer program! We can do it! We have the technology!
In Japan the typical way this is handled is overloading one of the three fields of customer-specifiable information on a domestic bank transfer request with content to optimize for the lookup speed of the person doing reconciliation. Often they're syntactic clusterflops to do so.
Read 5 tweets
19 Oct
People generally overestimate how many folks worldwide are working on X specifically, for basically any usefully scoped X.
It’s often on the order of hundreds to single digit thousands directly on the problem, with an order of magnitude more for each ring you go out.
This suggests many opportunities. You are able to reach a surprisingly large chunks of audiences that matter. Your individual contribution matters more than you would naively expect, particularly if you leverage it well. You will see same people over and over again in career.
Read 5 tweets
19 Oct
A lot of founders choose markets based on the availability heuristic, which tends to overconcentrate brainsweat in predictable places. Some of them make for poor businesses specifically because they're interesting to young people without money.
There are plenty of hard problems with massive implications for society which are almost buried in money, and you will broadly be rewarded more for working on them than you will for doing incremental improvements on economically marginal entertainment activities or similar.
Wasn't even planning on subtweeting myself here but managed to anyhow, so, FYI, voice of experience.
Read 5 tweets
18 Oct
Some people might not know Magic Wormhole exists. It's a great way to transfer files or text (passwords, API keys, etc) synchronously and securely between two computers without leaving a copy on any sort of online system.

Used it for a lot of secrets when booting up new machine.
The UX is:

$ wormhole send <filename>
# You get a magic human pronounceable passphrase here


$ wormhole receive
# You are prompted for that passphrase; no addressing, VPN, etc necessary.
Available via homebrew (magic-wormhole), your package manager of choice, or source here:

Read 8 tweets

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