Audacious Goals

April 17, 2018

I’m a boostrapper by nature. I typically look for low magnitude outcomes with a high probability of success that I can tackle with a small team. Today’s software world is full of these, ripe for the picking.

Lately, however, I’ve been thinking about the other end of the spectrum.

Audacious goals are low probability but, at their grandest, have the potential to effect high-magnitude systemic change in the world. They’re also notoriously slippery beasts; it’s hard to see their shape at the outset.

To grapple with the biggest challenges, I find myself asking two simple questions:

  1. Assuming success, what should be quantifiably true of the world tomorrow that is not true of it today? (A single razor-sharp test is ideal but can be hard to find; a small set of slightly duller tests, some high percentage of which ultimately prove true, might suffice.)

  2. What separable pieces can be built today that will likely be accretive toward the final goal?

By taking small concrete steps while holding the desired quantifiable outcomes as our North Star, perhaps it’s possible to slowly illuminate the shape of the beast. Then, one day, when it’s least expected, we can grab it by the tail.

April 6, 2018 @ 12PM

Outrider is a new foundation that “believes in the power of an educated, engaged public” to “solve the world’s greatest challenges”.

They’ve just published a treasure trove of content covering the history, geopolitics, and technology behind nuclear weapons. The interactive bomb blast map is terrifying.

I only hope their hypothesis is right.


December 2, 2017

Andrew Louis is building a modern Memex. He’s also writing wonderful short-form essays about the history, technology, and politics of personal data.

In the past, when I’ve written about indie web projects, I’ve tried to make the point that they won’t succeed unless they offer fundamentally new and compelling features. Louis makes this same point with much more eloquence:

“Controlling your personal data is an ideology, not a feature.”

As I build my Memex and work on launching it as an app for others, I have to remind myself that products need to solve problems — simply fulfilling an aesthetic about data ownership isn’t enough.

With this in mind, I think Memexes are fertile terrain well worth exploring. Back in the late 90s the web flirted with Memex-y ideas in the form of (goofily named) Blikis, but they never took off. At the time, I found the tools hard to use and poorly integrated with the wider world. Yet, the few hard-core adopters who stuck with their Blikis have built some of the weirdest, most contextually rich personal content I’ve ever run across on the web. The value of Blikis to dedicated authors, at least, seems undeniable.

So let a thousand Memexes, Blikis, Memkis, and Blogexes bloom. I’ll be watching with interest as Louis attempts to craft both a compelling product and a razor sharp value proposition for Chronobase.