Dustin Curtis

Villain. Founder of Svbtle.

Page 9

The compounding returns of intelligence

Garry Tan brings this gem from Stephen Cohen, co-founder of Palantir, in a conversation with Peter Thiel and Max Levchin:

We tend to massively underestimate the compounding returns of intelligence. As humans, we need to solve big problems. If you graduate Stanford at 22 and Google recruits you, you’ll work a 9-to-5. It’s probably more like an 11-to-3 in terms of hard work. They’ll pay well. It’s relaxing. But what they are actually doing is paying you to accept a much lower intellectual growth rate. When you recognize that intelligence is compounding, the cost of that missing long-term compounding is enormous. They’re not giving you the best opportunity of your life. Then a scary thing can happen: You might realize one day that you’ve lost your competitive edge. You won’t be the best anymore. You won’t be able to fall in love with new stuff. Things are cushy where you are. You get

Continue reading →

Adobe & HTML

Adobe is doing all sorts of awesome stuff for the web. I wrote this as a comment on the Hacker News thread:

If you’re not a designer, it might be hard to see, but the importance of this work is impossible to overstate. In 10 years, we’ll look back on today and think about how barbaric and stupid it was that we didn’t have re-flowable text in multi-box CSS layouts or absolute control of typefaces on the web.

I have come upon the edge of what CSS is capable of multiple times, especially when building http://dustincurtis.com, and what happened surprised me: after a while, I noticed that I had started to subconsciously alter my designs to fit within the limitations of the display technology. As I realized that the only sane way to build the layouts was to absolutely/manually position every paragraph, I slowly stopped writing and designing the articles. It was just too much work because

Continue reading →

Justin Kan: The Power of Vocabulary

Justin Kan:

When designing a new program, you are forced to come up with names for everything on the backend. Those names then tend to bleed into to common usage among the team, even though there might not be any particular reason to be consistent. For example, at Justin.tv, since we designed the system around streams of live video, we ended up with Users and Channels. When we started saving video for playback later, we naturally called these videos Archives. Now, when we talk about video, we talk about archived vs live, all because of the names we picked to describe objects in the database six years ago. […]

I think having a unique vocabulary has a positive effect towards group cohesiveness.

I’ve noticed this same effect, and that it ends up being a good thing for culture, at every company I have worked with. It’s similar to having a series of inside jokes. At best, the custom

Continue reading →

Nest Labs responds to Honeywell’s thermostat lawsuit

Nest Labs, in an amazing defense against the lawsuit by Honeywell, filed as a civil action in the US District Court of Minnesota,

This lawsuit is a bald effort by Honeywell to inhibit competition from a promising new company and product in a field that Honeywell has dominated for decades.

The “blah-looking controller” on the market today is very often from Honeywell, which has long dominated the thermostat market, but has yet to generate a device that offers ordinary consumers as much as the Nest Learning Thermostat. Instead of countering product innovation with its own new products, Honeywell has a track record of responding to innovation with lawsuits and overextended claims of intellectual property violations. Indeed, in a prior intellectual property case Honeywell brought, the court noted that, “whenever Honeywell learned that a competitor was selling or planned to sell a round

Continue reading →

Mark Pincus on failure

Pincus in Bloomberg Businessweek:

I think failing is the best way to keep you grounded, curious, and humble. Success is dangerous because often you don’t understand why you succeeded. You almost always know why you’ve failed. You have a lot of time to think about it.

Continue reading →

Captain’s ‘incompetence’ led to the sinking of the Costa Concordia cruise ship

From the May issue of Vanity Fair:

American captain and nautical analyst John Konrad tells Vanity Fair special correspondent Bryan Burrough that the ship had already been listing starboard, toward the peninsula. When Schettino dropped the ship’s anchors in an attempt to prevent it from falling farther, he instead created the opposite effect. “You can see they let out too much chain,” Konrad says. “I don’t know the precise depths, but if it was 90 meters, they let out 120 meters of chain. So the anchors never caught. The ship then went in sideways, almost tripping over itself, which is why it listed. If he had dropped the anchors properly, the ship wouldn’t have listed so badly.”

How to explain so fundamental a blunder? Video of the chaos on the bridge that night gives insight into the captain’s state of mind. “You can tell he was stunned,” says Konrad. “The captain really froze. It

Continue reading →

Disney’s Crisis Letter

Twenty years ago, in January of 1991, a very critical 28-page internal memo — written by the then-head of Disney’s film studios, Jeffrey Katzenberg, and distributed to his fellow executives in an effort to refocus their approach — was leaked to the press, and instantly became talk of the industry.

The recent release of the big-budget Dick Tracy movie had been a disappointment and, as a result, Katzenberg was desperate to recapture the magic of old and rid his studio of their extremely costly “blockbuster mentality.” This fascinating, highly quotable memo was his mission statement. Its subsequent circulation in Hollywood caused a huge stir.

Continue reading →

James Cameron meets Neil deGrasse Tyson

Titanic is about to be re-released in theaters, at 4K resolution and in stereoscopic 3D. The entire film has been “remastered,” but only a single scene was changed. James Cameron, speaking to Culture:

Neil deGrasse Tyson sent me quite a snarky email saying that, at that time of year, at that position in the Atlantic, in 1912, when Rose is lying on the piece of driftwood and staring up at the stars, that is not the star field she would have seen. And with my reputation as a perfectionist, I should have known that and I should have put the right star field in.

So I said, ‘All right, you son of a bitch, send me the right stars for the exact time, 4:20 a.m. on April 15th, 1912, and I’ll put it in the movie.’ So that’s the one shot that has been changed.”

I wonder how much work it took to make that change.

Continue reading →

The Post-Post-PC World

Nick Bilton, on Google’s “secret” Glass project, at the NYT Bits Blog:

On Wednesday, Google gave people a clearer picture of its secret initiative called Project Glass. The glasses are the company’s first venture into wearable computing. […]

One person who had used the glasses said: “They let technology get out of your way. If I want to take a picture I don’t have to reach into my pocket and take out my phone; I just press a button at the top of the glasses and that’s it.”

The current Glass prototypes look kind of ridiculous, but the vision for this market is massive. Wearable/embedded computing is, obviously, the post-post-PC world. It’s just going to take a very long time to get there. Watch this incredible video Google released today; it’s certainly enticing:

But what’s the point of creating a “secret” laboratory, where “where engineers and scientists are working on robots and

Continue reading →

StockTouch, my favorite iOS app

Last night, after I posted a screenshot of Groupon’s stock price from my iPad, some people asked me which app I was using. It’s actually my favorite iOS app, StockTouch.

After I wake up every morning, I grab my iPad and open StockTouch. The first screen I see is an overview of the top 900 US stocks by market cap, split by sector:

StockTouch Overview

This is an incredibly powerful data visualization; it gives an at-a-glance view of the entire market’s health. It also facilitates quick exploration. Touching a sector zooms in to just those companies:

StockTouch Sector

And touching a stock zooms in to the company overview:

StockTouch Company

The UI is gesture-based, so it’s easy to quickly pan around and get a feel for what is going on with the market at any given interval. You can also change the ordering of the companies in each sector box (I sort by market cap, but you can also sort by percentage change or by comparison against the

Continue reading →