Invisible Walls

New York City is a terribly divided place, where the income gap between rich people and poor people seems to be increasing by the day; you can live your whole life here and never befriend anyone on the opposite end of the financial spectrum.…. in New York, wealthy neighborhoods are separated by distinct geographical boundaries, and the richest New Yorkers send their children to fancy private schools, where they never have to interact with those in lower class strata (barring, say, their nannies and housekeepers). — Julianne, Rookie Magazine

I suppose one can say the same about a lot of big metros and large cities and soon we can add San Francisco to that list as well. 

What I am reading today

Relaxed Focus

“The great players have great mental focus, but they are not uptight. They are cued into every moment like a laser beam, but their breathing is natural. Because they believe in themselves, trust their abilities, and know that you can cope with the demands of the situations as they arise they can play the game with a certain calm. This calm is what allows them to make terrific split-second decisions as they happen on the field. Sometimes you have to get out of the way mentally and let muscle memory take over.”

(Bob Tewksbury, director of player development for the Major League Baseball Players Association & retired major league pitcher via Big Think)

Quick thoughts about The Upshot

The New York Times today launched a new website called The Upshot. It is their version of a website that explores explanatory journalism and delves into data-driven journalism. In other words, it is their hybrid competitor to Ezra Klein’s Vox and Nate Silver’s FiveThirtyEight.

First let’s talk about the two new entrants. Vox’s quality pendulum swings way too much for my tastes, but I like the design (not the yellow color) and the highly effective use of “cards” as blog posts that are part of a bigger narrative. The FiveThreeEight is actually well architected but suffers from poor editing and there are issues with analysis that make it difficult daily read. I stick to Silver’s piece by subscribing to his RSS feed. Rest of the site, I ignore.

Now for The Upshot — the reason I really care about this site is because they hired my former editor Damon Darlin, who probably is one of the best technology editors in the world not editing a technology section. The site itself is very well designed — sparse, well laid out, and quite delightful to read on the iPad, my preferred device for consumption of media. Of course, it is limited by the fact that it has to fit the New York Times website design parameters.

Still, what matters is the content. I spent about an hour or so perusing the site, reading through every story they published. The good news — there wasn’t anything outrageous that stood out. The bad news – there wasn’t anything outrageous that stood out. I wouldn’t call it boring — it is not — but it isn’t grabbing and holding my attention. Yes, there are some cute animations and one can dig through some details.

Reading through it felt like homework. My problem is that the site’s opening day content is a little bland — sort of like bran muffin. For example, this particular story about the US middle class. Now if you spike that muffin with some carrots, apricots or berries, things get interesting. There is too much politics and economics to be honest, and I would have appreciated a more variety of content. Tara Parker-Pope’s The Lure of Forbidden Fruit is a good example of a smart and useful story that marries data with good writing and a little sense of fun.

The UpShot’s editor David Leonhardt outlines in his welcome note that they will be direct, plain-spoken and will use voice that one uses when writing an email and will be “conversational without being dumbed down.” Not sure the site has hit the target — but then it is day one. I will keep reading for a few weeks, only to see if it really is worth it.

Update: April 24, 2014: Three days later, I see a lot more variety in topics and a lot of great stuff that is definitely readable. I still find the writing a little bland and needs an effort. But they have done some interesting data experiments.

On Twitter Usage

According to comScore, Twitter reached 91.5 mn* monthly unique visitors in March, up +216% yoy, which implies 1Q average monthly uniques of 59.2 mn (+95% yoy vs. 4Q growth of +31%). For reference, in February comScore reported 43.2mn monthly mobile uniques (+38% yoy) versus 86.8mn uniques (+177% yoy) under the new methodology which now includes secure connections. On Twitter mobile app traffic alone, uniques reached 34.4mn in March, up +49% yoy, which implies 1Q average mobile app uniques of 33.9mn (+50% yoy vs. 4Q growth of +42%). For reference, the 4Q comScore monthly mobile uniques was 38.3 mn, which compares to Twitter’s disclosed 54.0 mn monthly active users in the US in 4Q, of which 76% or 41.0 mn users accessed from a mobile device. (From Goldman Sachs research report.)

Earlier this morning I tweeted that “according to @comScore, @Twitter had 91.5 million monthly active users in Mar’14 up +216% yoy vs Feb 2014 43.2mn MAUs.” Actually that was not correct. It was 91.5 million monthly unique visitors and I mixed things up. Apologies for sending that erroneous tweet.

Twittermonthlyactives

* mn = Million

[Video] The Age of Experience

A few weeks ago, when clearing out my Pocket read/watch list, I ended up coming across Aral Balkan’s wonderful talk, Superheroes & Villains in Design. He was speaking at UK’s Thinking Digital Conference. His talk was focused on the concept of experience design, something that is very near and dear to my heart. We even made it the main focus of our Roadmap conference in 2013 (and this year we are going to take the next step — stay tuned for details.)

Aral is currently working on IndiePhone, an entity that is building an operating system (indie OS), a cloud (indie Cloud) and an indie Phone. He plans to get this out into the market by 2016. (Check out his Free is a Lie talk as well.) If you are too impatient to sit through the entire video, below the fold you are going to find seven slides (from the talk) that sum-up essentially Aral’s sentiments. I tell you, you are going to miss out on a good one if you try and be hasty.

Read the rest of this entry »

Running a business is very simple

“Companies don’t die because their business model is flawed. No, they die when they stop wanting to improve, or stop being aware of the needs of their customers. Running a business is actually very simple.”

Brunello Cucinelli, the king of cashmere on his company, business ethics and what makes it all tick. This is from an old interview (2003) and no web link to the original source.

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