Gabriel Garcia Marquez, R.I.P.

The only regret I will have in dying is if it is not for love.

Nobel Prize-winning Colombian novelist Gabriel Garcia Marquez passed away at the age of 87. A wonderful writer, who influenced many of us in other parts of the world before there was the Internet, Marquez was a true internationalist before that phrase actually had a meaning. More importantly, he was a man who clearly knew that words are work, and work is words. He might be dead, but he lives with his words. His one quote is something I often think about: “No, not rich. I am a poor man with money, which is not the same thing.”

Marquez was a great journalist and let’s pay homage to him by reading this wonderful interview with him in The Paris Review. There is more from The Paris Review, that is worth reading, but start with the interview.

Photo is an artwork by WorkbyKnight via Deviant Art. It perhaps is the best depiction of Mr. Marquez and words.

Single Author Blogs

“You see all these sites coming out that are basically just recreating the old newspaper or magazine model. It used to be when I saw a 538 link I would click on every time, because I knew what to expect — but that’s been diluted now. There’s something really powerful about single-author sites that you don’t get anywhere else.” — Ben Thompson

Amen!

The Great Facebook Unbundling

“I think on mobile, people want different things. Ease of access is so important. So is having the ability to control which things you get notifications for. And the real estate is so small. In mobile there’s a big premium on creating single-purpose first-class experiences.” Mark Zuckerberg, Facebook CEO & co-founder in conversation with The New York Times.

The great unbundling has finally arrived on the Facebook shores. Full marks to Mark for being willing to self-unbundle versus letting others do it for them. I wrote about this in my Fast Company column, The Facebook Backlash.

The retail industry as a whole vacillates between complex and simple, evolving from the single-product peddler to the general store, from the opulence of the department store to the curated experience of a specialty boutique. The Internet and its social services, like shopping, are supposed to be about more than just a transaction; they are about fun and emotional gratification. If Facebook is Bloomingdale’s, then Snapchat and Instagram are the new boutiques. Expect this trend to continue for a few years—because that’s what we want from the Internet. For now! (From Fast Company)

So far, despite their gargantuan size and massive audience, Facebook had to resort to buying Instagram and WhatsApp in order to prevent them from stealing attention (minutes) away from Facebook.

Paper and Home were new introductions and have flopped. Graph Search is something I have never even considered using — forgotten. Messenger is an app based on existing behavior that they are forcing people to shift to a separate app — not such a bad thing. In other words, Facebook has failed to invent any new behaviors or even innovate on the behaviors that were commonplace on the service. For instance, Poke is a grand-pappy of Snapchat.

The big challenge for Facebook like all big companies — and yes it is a really big company now — is that it has many conflicting demands and as such it doesn’t have the luxury of a singular focus like a startup has.

The new Facebook Creative Labs — a euphemism for let’s throw everything at the wall and see what might stick so we can keep our design/creative/product teams happy — is not such a bad way for the company to try new things, but can they continue to keep people in a world where an app like Secret can go from zero to raising almost $9 million in a few months. If it works, the payoff is pretty huge for the app starters. If they fail — acquhire is a nice safety net.

Here is what Mathew Ingram has to say about the unbundling: “Facebook is one of the few large companies that seems to have taken Steve Jobs’ approach to heart: namely, the need to disrupt yourself before others do so (as Apple did with the iPhone and iPad). It’s true that most of Facebook’s experiments have failed to set the world on fire, but that doesn’t make them not innovative. Innovation also means trying and failing.”

What I am reading today

A Must Listen Podcast: Tom Ford in conversation

I am a big fan of fashion designer/entrepreneur Tom Ford and how he has gone about building his brand and his company. Ford’s brand story is the story of a creative person knowing his true self and what he stands for. I found this fantastic podcast of a conversation between him and Kinvara Balfour hosted by Apple in its Apple Store, Regent Street, London. It should be on your must listen today list. (Link)

In Good Company

One of the greatest rewards in life is to observe and learn from others. I have been blessed by the fact that my choice of professions — both past and present – have allowed me an entry into the super nova of brilliant people. I have learned about optics, routing, chip design, security, web and mobility from some of the smartest people in the world. But the lessons that changed me often came from people who were not just brilliant, smart or famous, but from people who understood the human condition.

They were willing to listen and had an empathy gene. Empathy can’t be taught and isn’t part of a business manual. And I believe just as technical aptitude and appreciation for product are crucial leadership qualities, so is empathy. Empathy is becoming more important in our world — especially in the business world — as technology starts to upend old orders and impact the core of our society.

SatyaNadella

Perhaps that is why I find that Satya Nadella is the right person to lead Microsoft through these transitionary times. Sundar Pichai, too has that empathy gene which is what makes him the right steward of Google’s cloud-centric computing— Android and Chrome — efforts. It is not a surprise, then, that these two individuals (along with other amazing people like Cisco Chief Technology Officer Padmasree Warrior) are included on The Guardian’s list of The most powerful Indian-technologists in Silicon Valley.

I have gotten to know many on the list, but I hold Vinod Khosla in special regard. When researching a cover story for Red Herring at the height of optical networking, I learned a lot about the man who was one of the founders of Sun Microsystems and had invested in networking giants such as Juniper Networks. What I learned from him that it is okay to dare to be different. 

As I embark on this new chapter of my life, I often think back to Vinod talking about taking chances on things that others have not. I suppose as immigrants we all do that — make a leap of faith into the unknown. The act of leaving your past behind, reinventing yourself for a new life with little more than blind faith in yourself is arguably what it takes to be both an immigrant and also an entrepreneur.

I am surprised to be included on lists such as the one published by The Guardian, because until recently I have always seen myself as nothing more than a story teller, a chronicler of other people’s dreams, who was there to tell the story at the right time. I am neither a technologist, nor an engineer. I am just a little Indian boy who got seriously lucky and found this crazy place called America, where anybody can be somebody. The rest of the folks on this list deserve to be there — I am still earning my stripes, still trying to evolve, and find my place in the world. 

In praise of handwritten notes

Elizabeth Weil, one of Twitter’s early employees told me about her passion for letterpress and the fading art of printing. Over the years we talked often about our love for paper and pens and ink. And then a couple of years ago, I ordered some stationery from her tiny letterpress print studio, PaperWheel Press.  It isn’t anything fancy — simple cards and plain envelopes — just to write simple, short notes to people who have contributed meaningfully to my life. 

The more I use Email, iMessage, Twitter, Facebook, MessageMe, or whatever new tool of communication — the more I feel disconnected from the actual act of writing. I appreciate the sentiments and the communication itself, but I don’t feel that vital tug of the heart. That was, perhaps behind my love for writing notes. (And that also I get to use my big and heavy Montblanc 149 fountain pen — an added bonus.) 

Another friend, Perry Nelson, who knows how much I love writing notes shared an article from The New York Times, about the quiet revival of the found art of thank you notes. Perry, incidentally, runs Nicely Noted, a small little stationery operation in Austin, Texas and is a pretty awesome person. The Times article points out that Jimmy Fallon writes thank you notes (and that alone makes him cool in my books) but so do increasing number of young people. Or maybe Jimmy is influencing them. 

I for one like the idea of sending and receiving a small note — it is a little surprise in the mailbox filled with communications that want something from you — junk mail, charity contributions, bills and catalogues. 

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