Facebook’s problem

The problem with Facebook these days is you don’t know what to expect anymore when you open your newsfeed.

Silly memes, serious essays about life events, cute photos of your friends kids, links to random articles, etc.

Then people don’t know what to post anymore, so they post less often. That is, people who think twice before posting. Not everyone is like that, unfortunately. Yet it’s precisely these unfortunate posts that, then, make up an increasing portion of what you see on Facebook.

But you have to keep checking Facebook all day, because it is very likely to be the only way you learn about your old roommate’s cancer diagnosis, or your church closing on Sunday morning due to a power outage, or the time of your kid’s next soccer game, or your great aunt’s untimely death (posted right there under that meme of nude Kim Kardashian).

It’s become one big trash forum.

But it’s precisely by lumping everything together like this that Facebook finds ways to get more content in front of us. If we get one very serious, informative post every few days (like the news of your great aunt’s untimely death), we’ll put up with the trash. We may even click on the trash every so often, which helps fund the effort to find better ways of keeping us hooked.

Now, whether it’s bad to be “hooked” on Facebook is a very personal determination. But based on what I see from people who post and scroll the most often, I’d literally bet it’s bad for most people most of the time. And really bad for some people pretty much all of the time.

Think about whether that’s you — whether you’re hooked on Facebook, or social media generally, and how that’s affected you. Whether you know, somewhere inside you, that you should probably, definitely, be doing something else right now.

(More of my thoughts on Facebook here.)

My new course: How to Run a Market Research Survey

You have a product idea, but will it sell? Is it something people want? How much would they pay?

Rather than trust your gut, get hard answers to these questions (and others) from real people in your target market.

My new course at Highbrow will teach you exactly how to run an online market research survey for any product or service idea—a survey that empowers you with data-driven insights about how to turn your idea into a real business concept that consumers (and investors) will love.

I had fun putting this together, and I like Highbrow’s model. It’s free for first-time Highbrow users, so give it a try!

This is designed for anyone with a startup or product/service idea they’d like to bring to market. But in particular, it’s going to be especially valuable for startups trying to woo investors. Because like it or not, investors are going to want to see figures—your target market’s demand, willingness to pay, use of substitute products, etc.

More thoughts on fractional reserve banking

I haven’t written about this, or economics generally, in a while. Left my graduate program 18 months ago, and have been too busy with a new house, new kids, and my business to do much reading on economics.

But a post in this Facebook group got me going. So here’s a string of thoughts I’ve had on fractional reserve banking over the past year.

The only difference between a deposits box, or a “full-reserve” account, and a bank account in a FRB is in degree of risk they assume.

If I give my cash to a fractional reserve bank, they assume some risk by guaranteeing me withdrawal-on-demand because, of course, they are lending out my cash to others and don’t actually have everyone’s cash on hand at all times.

If I give my cash to a full reserve bank, they assume some risks by guaranteeing withdrawal-on-demand because, of course, they can’t actually guarantee that — they have no idea what the future holds.

(Neither, of course, does the fractional reserve bank know what the future holds.)

Fractional reserve banks are just businesses, managing risk. Depositors are customers who take a gamble with the banks’ guarantee. Of course, a fractional reserve bank may (though not necessarily) be more likely to “default” on withdrawal demands, but a full-reserve bank can’t 100% guarantee full redemption, either.

What if, for example, they are robbed? Were they wrong to ever guarantee full redemption, knowing theft was a possibility? What if they even made decisions that increased the known likelihood of their vault’s being robbed, even if only slightly? Does this make their guarantee fraudulent (or more fraudulent)?

Critics call fractional reserve banking fraudulent because it’s “a claim by multiple parties to each use a present resource differently.” That description of fractional reserve banking is accurate, but there’s no fraud. For how is that different than any health insurance plan, whereby members claim the benefits of their plan and solicit/secure services on account of the plan’s guarantee to pay a provider after services rendered, while members (and providers) know full-well that the insurer cannot technically cover everyone’s possible claims at any possible time?

Another perspective (of the same argument): How is the risk assumed by a fractional reserve bank different, except only in degree, than that assumed by a full-reserve bank who moves their vault to a less-secure location (to, say, cut down on costs)? Or than that assumed by a full-reserve bank who moves their vault to a known fault line, where an earthquake is far more likely to cause damage to physical deposits (cash, buillon)?

Neither form of bank can absolutely guarantee withdrawal-on-demand any more than any business can guarantee that, if you pay, they’ll send your product.

It’s just a matter of degrees of risk. That’s how I think about full vs. fractional banking after many years of considering the issue. Please correct me if any of my analogies are not appropriate.

I grant that in a full-reserve system does not entail, like in a fractional reserve system, “a claim by multiple parties to each use a present resource differently.” But a full-reserve system is, in the context of making payments against full-reserve deposit accounts, no more a “guarantee” than drawing on funds at a bank that willingly and knowingly does not have sufficient funds on hand to honor every withdrawal request. Vendors are still taking the risk that your bank, against which your checking card is pulling, will actually transfer funds. And you are still assuming, when writing a check and expecting that to be sufficient enough for a vendor to let you walk out the door with product, that a full-reserve bank will honor their guarantees. There’s still a third-party involved here, such that the “claims” being laid are not on the funds (critics’ “present resource”) whatsoever, but against the guarantees made by a given bank (of any type).

A personal anecdote that also helps illustrate my point: One of my clients has more open POs (in terms of dollar amount) than my company could possibly honor, should they demand all their services be rendered at the same time (this is very unlikely, knowing their model and their history with us). Yet we’ve guaranteed, technically, that we will honor any requests for services at any time. They, in turn, guarantee their vendors certain timelines, and accept payment from those vendors in advance of us actually performing the contracted service. This has a similar “inflationary” effect on the economy as that inherent in a fractional reserve system.

Should I not be making this guarantee to my client? Is it fraudulent for me to do so? I think not. And I think fractional reserve banks are making the exact same “guarantee.”

Monday update (two days late)

  1. I read Brave New World last week, making three books read in three weeks (I’m aiming for one book per week). Wrote some quick thoughts here.
  2. I’m reading The Name of the Rose over the next two weeks. Yes, I said one book per week. But this one is long and rather daunting—not realistic for one week.
  3. I was reminded this week of 1,000 True Fans by Kevin Kelly. It’s as much as business classic as any great business book. Lots of value here for entrepreneurs. What is success? To what extent is it tied to raw numbers of lives touched? Of customers served? Context matters, of course, but success is less connected to customer volume than I often let myself believe. I’m reminded of this when meeting with small, boutique consultancies—like this award-winning one (in my city)—that somehow pay the bills with absolutely no brand equity even in their own industries. They just have a small number of very committed, high-quality clients who deeply recognize the value of services these consultancies provide. Unfortunately, I think fewer and fewer businesses are willing to invest the time required to let such relationships evolve. But it’s worth your (and my) while to find relationships like this—both as clients and vendors.

Some Thoughts on Brave New World (1931)

The “brave new world” is strikingly similar to our own.

Where its rules and designs are stark and defined—ours are subtler, but hardly different.

An engineered society. Rules imposed to protect social stability, foremost. Then to repel all insecurities from our fragile minds. Embryos engineered for particular tasks. Persons conditioned to love those tasks, to envy nothing, to find no fulfillment (and have no desires) beyond sensual pleasures.

What stands between sensual impulses and their immediate fulfillment is only and always bad. Kill all stigmas.

Tranquility and ease—these are the brave new world’s gods.

Are these our gods?

Of course not. Our lives are richer, right? We deal with weightier things, right? We love and laugh and hate and cry, right? Our days are diverse, right?

But how many of us deal with such things only out of necessity? Do we love because we choose to love, or does it just happen to us? Do we laugh because we know true joy, or is it most often some impulsive reaction? Do we hate thoughtfully and intentionally, or are we simply repulsed by something or other?

Do we cry because we are deeply sad, or because we just don’t understand what’s going on and why we feel this way and why any of this has to happen?

And what of passion? Intended, cultivated passion. Is that around?

Something to think about.

(Oh, and here’s a piece on how we do engineer embryos. Or, at least, we could.)

Other thoughts:

  • There is no killing stigmas without introducing others. Stigmas against stigmas.
  • Fulfillment is relative. The Savage finds no fulfillment in easily acquiring sensual pleasures, as do his peers. Nor must you, or I, necessarily find fulfillment in any particular thing—certainly not in any material or sensual object, no matter how pervasive are the expectations that we ought.
  • The Savage’s only escape was suicide. Is more frequent suicides a side-effect of the piling on of expansive social norms (rules that some find oppressive)? And does the piling on of social norms go hand in hand with a growing and increasingly intertwined population, where the return on stability is enhanced? Where the effects of smaller disruptions are amplified because of our inter-connectedness?

Our new video

I had a new video made for PeopleFish.

Our new PeopleFish video.

I wrote the script. A quick explainer. No wasted time.

Strategy here was to be short enough that there’s less reason to “skip” the ad, should we start pushing it before related videos on YouTube. It moves fast, and it’s only 22 seconds long. Works across platforms (Instagram included).

Thoughts? What are some of the best explainer videos you’ve seen?

Thanks to Aditya Golechha for quality work and a quick turnaround.

Five people I follow online

Every day, I’m inspired by people.

Most of these people, I’ve never actually met. I know them by the content they publish online. I appreciate every last word of it.

Sometimes while chatting with friends, I’m struck at just how much online “curating” I’ve done over the years—following (and unfollowing) people who inspire me to be better—and just how much value I get from these influencers. Most people haven’t had time to sift out true value from the millions of voices screaming online for attention.

To that end, here’s a list of five online influencers whose content I find inspiring. These are people whose blogs and tweets I read, whose videos I watch, and whose podcasts I listen to on a regular basis.

  1. Ed Latimore. I follow him on Twitter. A fresh perspective on work and taking responsibility for yourself.
  2. Naval Ravikant. I follow him on Twitter. The more I think about this particular thread, the more it changing my perspective on my work.
  3. Gary Vaynerchuk. Soak up his stuff. It’s deep and profound, if you listen closely. Especially when he talks about patience. I love this clip.
  4. Jordan B. Peterson. His book 12 Rules for Life is one of the best I’ve ever read.
  5. Scott Adams. His politics aside, Scott’s thinking about systems vs. goals changed the way I think about how to make progress in my life and career.

Bonus #6: My friends Gret, Dave and Spencer. These guys inspire me more than than everyone else on this list, combined. It’s because we stay in contact with each other religiously. Extreme accountability on all things social, spiritual, entrepreneurial, and financial.

Monday update (7/16)

  1. I read Rob Bell’s What Is the Bible? last week. Wrote a 200-word review of it last night. I’m going to write a 200-word review for every book I read the rest of this year—my way of keeping myself accountable to actually read a book every week.
  2. That said, Rob Bell is interesting to me. I like him. I like his perspective. I once wrote about him in college when everyone around me, at my conservative Christian college, was pretty opposed to his ideals. Here’s a fair and critical review of the book I just read.
  3. This week I’m reading Brave New World by Aldous Huxley. I was supposed to have read this in the 12th grade (I even wrote a report on it), but only skimmed it. Sorry Mr. Beavers.
  4. I have a course coming out soon at Highbrow. Topic: How to run a market research survey. It’s based on a piece I wrote for Startup Grind last October. It’s aimed at aspiring and early-stage entrepreneurs.
  5. I’ve been thinking about this piece ever since I read it. An enlightening and convincing piece on how technology and information overload has yet-unknown, and likely very bad, consequences for our minds. Though the author’s proposed solutions are a bit hackneyed, they’re true nonetheless—especially as regards the wellness vs. medicine dichotomy.

200-word Book Review: What Is the Bible? (Rob Bell, 2017)

Rob Bell wants you to read the Bible better.

He wants you to ask, when reading:

Why did people write this down in the first place?

When you do this, the Scriptures turn from stale to sacred—inspired not just by definition, but truly and deeply inspirational.

Bell inspires this perspective with examples. From Moses’ organ to Ehud’s knife to the three apocalypses, the Bible is full of stories that mean so much more than we’ve settled for. So much more than Bible-tract bullet points—platitudes that make the whole thing seem so unrelatably dull.

The book is as useful for well-read Christians as for skeptics. Bell adeptly addresses both audiences with the same language (that this is possible is perhaps the most alarming, but pertinent, lesson of this book). His goal is to help us read the Bible better—prior convictions notwithstanding or particularly relevant.

This is what makes the book powerful.

Bell’s perspective is refreshing. No labels, no jargon. The Scriptures, he argues, defend their own inspiration. No need for artfully-defined, highfalutin ideals (inerrancy, infallibility) to see that this ancient library is worth reading over and over.

If we’d only read deeply, like Bell does, we’d get it.

A Monday update

  1. I’m going to try and read one book per week for the rest of the year. Last week was The Exorcist. This week, What is the Bible? (Rob Bell, 2017). I’m saying this here in order to keep myself accountable.
  2. I’m shifting my work from Haven Insights to PeopleFish. This is a sort-of rebrand. It’s been a long-time coming. Bottom-line is my team and I are focusing less on long-term, traditional quantitative market research projects in favor of our unique, turnkey, startup-focused survey offer. It’s more in line with my personal goals, and I consider it a more scale-able model.
  3. I had a piece on startup market research published by Startup Grind last Friday. Would appreciate your “applause.”
  4. I’m increasingly convinced that my smartphone use is killing my brain—more specifically, my ability to focus, de-stress, and think deeply without getting distracted. And call me crazy, but I consistently feel tired when I’m not browsing on my phone. It’s like my body depends on social feed-driven dopamine rushes to keep my mind from trancing out. So I’m not using it anymore before 8 am or after 8pm. Again, saying this here only to keep myself accountable.