Thoughts on ‘You Didn’t Build That’

What ‘You Didn’t Build That’ Really Means—and Why Romney Can’t Explain It – Andrew Cline – The Atlantic

When I, as a liberal, talk about “our” obligations to the elderly orwhat “we” have to do to make sure that our environment is taken care of,I am referring to society, to communities, to families. Government ismerely the instrument by which it happens”

A good point that should be extended further. Society is broader than government. One error liberals fall into is the false conceit that ONLY government is the way to have collective action.

In fact, free markets are a superior form of collective action for many things, certainly most economic products and value-creation. Nobody in a steel mill or at Microsoft does the whole job alone, but together they create valuable products and services. You could walk up to any manager or mill worker and say “you didnt do this on your own” but it would be absurd to conclude they have to bow on the altar of collectivist government as Obama implies due to that fact. Nor does such a statement take away the value of individualism, individual effort, or in particular the value creation of individual entrepreneurs, who play the special role of creating business entities that create new economic value.when we work together in a free market, we create value more efficiently because it is 100% voluntary with minimal coercion. No producer or consumer is forced to paymore for less value or forced to create more for less value. This drives everyone to the personal best-value-creation and best-value-consumption that they desire.

Obama’s leftist ideology guides him to believe that “government is not a tool for the people’s use, but the very foundation upon which all of American prosperity is built. ” Obama’s ideology buys into the myth that capitalism is all about competition and individuals in a darwinian struggle agonst one another. On the contrary –  Collaboration and voluntary exchange are the basis of capitalism.

So saying ‘you didnt do it on your own’ … OF COURSE NOT! But what does Goverment have to do with that? Government, like the corporation or the church or the Union, is just oneof several organizational forms open to us to collaborate. And if you want an exemplar of that from the free market ideology point of view – watch Milton Freidman’s “I Pencil” that goes into marvelous detail on the enormous amount of cooperative value creation from multifarious sources, just to create a simple, cheap, #2 pencil – rubber, graphite, wood, paint, machining, and selling, etc.

It’s insulting to business owners to say ‘you didnt build that’ when in fact, a lot of blood sweat and tears goes into building a business and the ‘reward’ for that is to pay TAXES on any of the earning surplus, so in effect its not the Government building anything, but the business owners, worker and managers paying the taxes that make it all all happen. In short, the retort to the ‘you didnt build that” was and is “Oh yes I did, I paid for it with my tax money, so where’s your thanks for that?”. When will Obama thank all those Republican taxpayers for all the good stuff Government does on their dime? After all, Mr President, “You didn’t build that (all those big Government programs).”


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Colllege vs Not College is the wrong question

An epiphany hit me when reading National Review Online “Credibility WIthout a Degree”, which is that the “too many people go to College” debate is the wrong one. In that debate linked, Charles Murray and Peter Theil makes accurate criticisms of the College system and the false credential value that is  the BA degree …. but the other side was equally convincing in noting how individuals and society both benefit from more education. The epiphany led to this comment:

There is another approach to this dilemma, which is to drastically lower the cost of higher education by combining online education based learning with 3rd party credentialing. Motivated students will be able to learn from various sources and get the certifications they need for employment. We will move in this direction as students and employers start to realize that more precise credentialing than “BA” is not only less expensive, but also gives a better accounting for what the employee really brings. It’s not that students shouldn’t go to College, it’s that students in the 21st century shouldnt go to 20th century-and-before based higher education. There’s a new model, that’s better, cheaper, and more attuned to 21st job market.

There you have it. It’s not that ‘too many kids are getting educated’ On the contrary, I wish more were while they are in school!  It’s that too many students are trapped in an educational model that costs too much and does too little, and students need an educational model and system that costs less, facilitates more effective learning, and is more attuned to the real 21st century needs.

I am working on a startup called VeritasU that aims to provide the learning platform for students in credit-by-exam situations. We are starting with AP and CLEP, because over a million students a year are able to use AP and CLEP to earn College credit and or college prerequisite standing. As we move forward, we will build out our efficient and scalable collaborative online learning platform with shared and open educational content; this provides a cost-efficient yet highly effective learning system that will make for a better educational model.

It’s where (higher) education needs to go if we want to liberate students from an overpriced out-of-date and inflexible education model.

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Peter Thiel on Startups and the Future

Thanks to class notes by Stanford Law student Blake Masters on Peter Thiel’s CS183 Startup class at Stanford, Spring 2012, one can pick Peter Theil’s brain on envisioning the future, startups, VC funding, AI, and a lot more.

Some key points among many: One is he speaks of “last mover advantage”, that is the winner is the last one in the space to fill the space.

Last movers build non-commoditized businesses. They are relationship-driven. They create value. They last. And they make money.

In a startup, you want something of a monopoly position,  go from 0 to 1 is vastly different from the 1 to n economic activity of scale and growth. How to be innovative and stand out? Be unique, so being contrarian is useful – do what others are NOT doing:

What valuable company are other people not building?

All this is wrapped with a simple proposition about the startup:

Thiel’s law: A startup messed up at its foundation cannot be fixed.

This is the just the startup-advice tip of an iceberg of forward thinking, with notes that include guest speakers from companies discussing their takes on the future.

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The Extra Mile

9 Keys to Business & Career Success has as one of its points:

The extra mile is a vast, unpopulated wasteland.

This past week, I went through a High Adventure scouting trek with my son and scouts and adults from troop 162, in Bisset, Manitoba, Canada. During this week-long canoe trip in the wilderness, we canoed through 50 miles of lakes, streams, traversed up beaver dams. It included portages you have to carry canoes and heav gear packs over land to the next lake or stream. After a terOn Sunday, our crew had it’s final and biggest portage challenge, aptly called “heartbreak”.

Heartbreak is a mile long, of mud, muck, and swamp. It started like other partages, carrying the 70lb pack on a narrow but dry trail, but after a 1/4 mile, the trail became swamp. It looked easy enough to put the packs in the canoe, then walk into the swamp water to pull the canoe. So long as you don’t mind the leeches that is. But then swamp water turned to thick mud. In parts, you are up to your hip in mud as thick as molasses as you attempt to drag the canoe along the trail. Dragging a heavily laden canoe becomes Herculean, so after several hundred yards of that, we pulled packs out again, put them on our backs and headed forward, using side paths to avoid the main sinkhole swamp that was the main ‘trail’. I got to a point where downed trees were blocking the whole path, decided to go off trail into the off-trail drier forest. Eventually, not sure where I was but knowing I had to head back around to the trail, I ended up walking through a swampy thicket of bushes, fighting each step and trying no to fall into deep water … and made it to the trailhead. Then four or so trips back to get more things and help others get to the end. A crewmate took the canoe off-trail to the edge of the lake around the bend from the trailhead, so they took another canoe on the lake to retreive it.

After over two hours of effort, we did it. Heartbreak was our extra mile.

Lessons from the extra-mile: You will find it hard slog; it won’t be easy; you will lose your way; you will fall and have use every ounce of energy to get back up; you will make mistakes that make it harder; you will need your wits and your strength when both are fraying; you will want it to be over before it is. And then it will be, and you will be glad for what you did and that it’s done.

I am glad we did heartbreak, if only to remind me when I face a difficult challenge that daunting tasks are often the ones most worth doing. As the saying goes:

The difficult we can do immediately. The impossible may take a little time.

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On Programming

“If you give someone a program, you will frustrate them for a day; if you teach them how to program, you will frustrate them for a lifetime.”

via  Nerds on Wall Street

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‘Tis a Gift to be Simple

Simple is better than complex.
Cheap is better than expensive.
Explicit is better than opaque.
Purpose is more important than process.
Insight is more important than precision.
Understanding is more important than technique.
Think more, work less.

– From Data Analysis with Open Source Tools.

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WebApps will disrupt Apple’s App dominance

I have a bone to pick with Apple’s App store. Why do all the app developers need to pay a 30% fee to the device and OS developer? PC software makers never had to send 30% of their price to Microsoft or Dell? How did Apple get that kind of walled garden? As an outgrowth of the iTunes model, they’ve become the ditributor … but there is another lower-cost distributor out there: It’s called the internet.

Windows 8: The Wounded Bear From Redmond Awakens makes the case for Windows8 embracing the webapp model:

Windows 8 also allows browser-based apps to set up icons (tiles in Windows 8 parlance) on the Metro interface. Consider these tiles a shortcut to your favorite app/Web destination, displayed inside a fully-functional browser. The other model for Web apps consist of single-function apps that reside solely on the Metro interface. When opened, they display like a desktop app, without any browser infrastructure.

There is one thing webapps do. They turn downloaded software into a service. The WebApp SaaS model disintermediates ALL distributors, whether it be BestBuy, Amazon … or Apple. Moreover, WebApps make the OS once again largely irrelevent – users wont care between iOS, windows8 or Android, so long as they can run their tools.

What does this mean? WebApps will disrupt Apple’s App dominance. We will have a rich set of choices as consumers in a RichWebApp world.

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Cloud is getting cheap and boring

Cloud is getting cheap and boring: It’s about time says Nodeable blog, citing new Windows Azure price points:  “Windows Azure Extra Small Compute has been reduced by 50% ($.04 to .$02)” This compares with Amazon small ECU spot price of 2.7 cents.

… but we are not there yet.

Greg Arnette review AWS price history and finds:

Per-unit hourly rates for each ECU type have gone down over the previous 5 years (by 15% per unit cost). But in addition to this, there are two other significant factors that have lowered costs even more than the 15% unit cost reduction. These are SPOT pricing and Reserved Instances. For cloud orientated architectures that can take advantage of SPOT and Reserved, costs can be decreased by more than 60%.

This is a smaller reduction than might be expected, given Moore’s Law. And here’s a further problem – Is EC2 spot instance a real spot market?. Maybe not (see also “Debunking Real-Time Pricing in Cloud Computing”. Large instances So, the cloud is getting cheaper, but it really needs to get on a faster Moore’s law price descent to become the ‘boring’ utility that fulfils the promise of cloud computing.

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Careers, Startups and the Future of Work

I haven’t yet read Reid Hoffman’s The Start-Up of You, but I already agree with his premise. He sees similarities between careers and startups in terms of what it takes to succeed, and advises: Treat yourself as a ‘permanent beta’; invest in yourself and always improve; grow your economic capability and create value from your assets; take intelligent risks; leverage your network, etc.

The acceleration of the internet and our information age means that mind-work is shifting at an ever-faster pace, requiring ever more nimble workers who must adapt or suffer the consequences of obsolescence. Thinking like a stratup appears to be good advice to deal with this “Career Future Shock”.

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StartupStats – Moneyball for startups

The “moneyball” meme is getting a lot of mileage, as well it should in the age of Big Data. StartupStats is Using AngelList Data and Twitter Noise To See Which Startups Are Worth Talking About, using detailed data. What used to be “experience” and “instinct” is starting to get replaced by “lots and lots of detailed data”.

Another example of Moneyball-type big-data analytics for sports – Bike Racing. This blog is from a company that is using big data to improve B2B sales performance.

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