Dustin Curtis

Villain.

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Voice interfaces

Current voice interfaces are horrible. They try to imitate intelligence and fail so badly that they make computers even more frustrating to use. Most people have no idea how to use things like Siri. They ask it perfectly reasonable questions like, “Who invented the lightbulb?” and it responds with junk from Google. The answer to that particular question is not straightforward–at least three people, independently, invented different types of light bulbs–and computers are really bad at deciphering and communicating absolute answers from complex information like that. Because they are still so frustratingly limited, Siri and Google Now are simply not yet ready to exist. They are not artificially intelligent by any stretch of the imagination.

That being said, current voice recognition technology is incredibly good at certain things. It’s great at detecting...

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Just move fast

In an interview today with Wired that briefly discussed Facebook’s increasing focus on platform stability, Mark Zuckerberg announced a dramatic change to Facebook’s internal motto:

We’ve changed our internal motto from “Move fast and break things” to “Move fast with stable infrastructure.”

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Replacing the PC

When I first saw the iPad, I knew it was going to replace the personal computer for the vast majority of people. I was wrong. Yes, the iPad is easier, faster, and cheaper at doing pretty much everything a normal person wants to do on a computer. Yes, PCs are definitely going to die. And yes, by looking at most sales numbers, it appears that the transition has already started. But if you pick apart the data, a very different picture begins to emerge: The iPad is a false start; it’s a temporary sidestep on the way to a future in which everyone’s computer is simply their mobile phone.

The first piece of statistical evidence that caught my attention was this weird fact from a Pew Research study of tablet user demographics: the people who use tablets tend to be older.

16% 1 Very young people with tablets (15-20)
18% 1 Young people with tablets (20-29)
25% 2 Older people with...

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The things we admire

It has always seemed strange to me that the things we admire in men, kindness and generosity, openness, honestly, understanding, and feeling are the concomitants of failure in our system. And those traits we detest, sharpness, greed, acquisitiveness, meanness, egotism, and self-interest are the traits of success. And while men admire the quality of the first they love the produce of the second.

JOHN STEINBECK
Cannery Row

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Whatever goes up, that’s what we do

A year ago, Facebook announced a new News Feed that was completely redesigned to focus on content–it had large photos, big user icons, better integration with Facebook messenger, and it brought Facebook’s website into closer alignment with its mobile apps. It was beautiful. During the few months I was able to use the new design, my Facebook experience was significantly better. Here’s what it looked like:

new_news_feed.jpg

But there was a serious problem: the numbers. According to several people I’ve spoken to, Facebook found during testing that users who were switched to the new News Feed tended to spend less time on the site. Specifically, they spent less time browsing areas outside of the News Feed, like their friends' profiles and event pages, which are currently some of the most visited parts of Facebook.

After an investigation into the problem by Facebook’s data...

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Startup advice and the clarity of experience

Recently, I watched a few experienced people get up in front of an audience and talk about lessons they’ve learned building companies, investing in companies, buying companies, selling companies, and making products. About five years ago, I watched a similar group of people give the same kinds of talks, on a similar looking stage, with a similar audience. The difference is that, years later, my interpretation of the content has completely changed.

The first few times I went to startup conferences, I thought everything seemed so obvious. Listen to your users, they said. Never settle on hiring, they said. Focus on unrelenting growth, they said. Startup advice seemed so vague. But those things I remember were the wrong things to focus on. The bit of experience I now have has given me the ability to see between the lines of stereotypical advice, and to better interpret lessons that...

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I want

The best way to predict the future is to think about desire. The problem with desire is that it tends to be bounded by what’s actually possible; as we grow older, our imaginations seem to develop artificial caps that limit our ideas to things that are reasonably achievable in the short term. But who cares about what is reasonable? Here’s what I want.


I want a system that continuously scans my body and tells me if I have actionable disease, like cancer or a contagious flu. I want this device to tell me if I have a higher than normal risk of a heart attack, and, if so, which steps I should take to prevent one.

I want to take a pill every morning that restricts my body’s ability to process more calories than it needs during the day. I want this pill to enable my body to dispose of any junk chemicals or excess calories that exceed the ideal, healthy amount.

I want to...

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What I would have written

I’ve been thinking about this damn essay for about a year, but I haven’t written it because Twitter is so much easier than writing, and I have been enormously tempted to just tweet it, so instead of not writing anything, I’m just going to write about what I would have written if Twitter didn’t destroy my desire to write by making things so easy to share. I’ll give you a minute to let that sentence soak in. Also, I’m not going to re-read any of this, or copyedit it. It’s raw.

Twitter takes complex ideas and destroys them by forcing my brain to compact them into little 140-character aphorisms, truisms, or jokes. For every great tweet, there could have been four insightful paragraphs, but there aren’t, and never will be, because Twitter removes my desire to write by killing my ideas. Once I tweet something, I stop thinking about it;...

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5s

The iPhone 5s is a minor update to the iPhone, but it feels surprisingly significant after just a couple of days of use. The speed increase of the A7 is far more important than I had expected; the camera, interface effects, and overall experience are dramatically improved because of the increased speed.

Below are some of my initial thoughts and observations about minor details of the 5s update that I haven’t seen explicitly mentioned elsewhere. Some of the points below relate only to the Space Gray iPhone 5s, and all of my experience is in comparison to a black iPhone 5.

For the first two points to make sense, you should know that the new home button has two parts: the inner area, which is where the touch ID sensor is, and then an outer area which is a small chamfered metal border that connects the inner area of the button with the external case. You can see the structure here....

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“Work like hell”

If other people are putting in 40-hour workweeks, and you’re putting in 100-hour workweeks, then, even if you’re doing the same thing, you will achieve in four months what it takes them a year to achieve.

– ELON MUSK

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