Elezea Newsletter — Issue 20
A weekly newsletter with links and resources to help you create better products, work better together, and understand the broader impact of technology on our work and our lives.
A quick intro note to say hi and welcome the new subscribers who came in over the last couple of days thanks to a shout-out in Vicki’s newsletter. I link to it later on again with some thoughts, but I wanted to make sure everyone checks it out. If you like my newsletter, you will love hers.
Resources to create better products
A good reminder that even though “data-driven” product decisions can be important, we shouldn’t be afraid to trust ourselves and our own intuition as well. “Put another way, intuition is a hint that helps us navigate problems based on experience; it’s a compass needle wiggling towards the north pole.” (Matthew Ström, Personal blog)
This is a good, practical overview of different modes of collaboration for product teams. “Developing knowledge and empathy for the work of other teams helps to become more precise and forward thinking in your interaction with them. When you work in collaboration mode you are not just thinking for one but two or three teams and what is going on in their world.” (Sebastian Lindemann, Medium — not paywalled)
I really like the planning cycle framework proposed here. “Context: Leadership shares a high-level strategy with Teams. Plans: Teams respond with proposed plans. Integration: Leadership integrates into a single plan, and shares with Teams. Buy-in: Teams make final tweaks, confirm buy-in, and get rolling.” There’s a lot more detail in the article — definitely recommended. (Lenny Rachitsky, First Round Review)
Resources to work better together
My favorite essay of the week is this reflection by an elite athlete on how she finds time to train. I’m adding it to the “work better” section because there’s a lot of advice to apply to all areas of our lives. “You don’t necessarily have to train long for this, just smart. This is true for nearly any endurance event, whether it’s a 5K or 100 miles or everyday life. You have to be creative. You have to steal time from the edges of your day, teach yourself to eat on the fly, learn to function on suboptimal sleep, and keep going even when you want to lie down and cry. In other words, just like parenthood.” (Katie Arnold, New York Times)
An excellent guide from Know Your Team. One to bookmark, for sure.
I’m a big fan of affinity diagrams to help make sense of gobs of qualitative data. This article is a good overview of the process. (Anna Savina, Miro Blog)
When leaders routinely default to an attitude of mistrust, they create a negative loop that undermines relationships and hinders change. (Elizabeth Doty, Strategy + Change)
I’m a long-time fan of Frank Chimero’s writing. His recent essay about how the ease of clicking “like” essentially makes it a meaningless gesture — compared to the effort (and resulting big impact) of a negative/mean comment — is another excellent one. “The features of software with massive reach always have unintended consequences. For instance, social media, by making positivity easy and quantifiable, has ensured that negativity looms large. It’s become a place where we count the good things and experience the bad things.” (Frank Chimero, personal blog)
I was skeptical too, but some of these “anti-anxiety” apps are built on solid cognitive behavioral theory principles. I love this particular origin story. “Being a Buffy the Vampire Slayer fan, she created a mental game for herself called ‘Jane the Concussion Slayer.’ The object was to recover faster by avoiding ‘bad guys’ that triggered her symptoms (like bright lights) and engaging in ‘power-ups’ that made her feel good (like a walk around the block).” (Sigal Samuel, Vox)
As I mentioned in the intro, this is another great newsletter issue from Vicki. I requested a post on reddit a while ago, because I have found the vinyl and jazz subreddits I subscribe to as one of the last truly wonderfully pure spaces on the internet. Vicki shares some of that enthusiasm. “My new go-to communities are now the beyondthebump and parenting subreddits, which are full of people who are just as sleepless and miserable as I am. And the most important thing is that they are all kind, semi-anonymous, and leave long, detailed notes about what they’ve done, what works for them, and what doesn’t. It’s the best to be able to commiserate with them, learn from them, and to not be constantly beset by advertising.” But she goes further to discuss the demise of the platform. (Vicki Boykis, Normcore Tech)
Here’s a really interesting look at how China uses — and abuses — the data it collects about its citizens. “As China moves to adopt social credit scoring and invests ever more into ‘big data’ and ‘AI solutions,’ it may be a good time to take a look at the risks — not just with algorithms, but with the very nature of using (and misusing) metrics for governing people.” (M.E. Strickland, SupChina)
Random things I like
🧮 This is art. A photo survey of the blackboards of mathematicians.
🌍 This is a question I’ve wondered about too. The World Acted for the Ozone Layer. Why Not Climate Change?
🐈 Despite fewer studies, research suggests we may be underestimating cats’ socio-cognitive abilities.
✈️ What’s the fastest way to board an airplane? (YouTube)
🏋️♀️ CBD-infused athleisure wear, anyone?
📖 Rejoice with me friends, for after exactly 60 days, I have finished Dune! I really enjoyed the story and am glad I read it, but I’m not going to move on to the other books. I feel good about where this one ended, and don’t want to get sucked into Yet Another Never-Ending Series. I started A Gentleman in Moscow instead.
🎵 This week Pata Pata by Miriam Makeba was one of Bandcamp’s albums of the day. I haven’t heard this in a long time, and it’s so good. She is basically South Africa’s Nina Simone.
🎺 I added the sweaty sounds of John Coltrane’s Bahia to my collection last week. Not for the feint of heart.
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