“Refactoring” in computer science means to reorganize the code without changing what it does. Programmers could spend many months refactoring their code, and at the end of their hard work, the users would not notice any difference. Why do they do such a thing? There are many reasons, but the main ones are: to create more room for growth and to adapt to changes in the environment that they did not account for. Read »

I sat in the back of the yellow school bus with a bunch of fifth graders in front of me, including my daughter. We were headed to the skating rink uptown. My daughter told me that if I didn't go, she would be the only kid without a parent. As it turned out, I was one of the few parents who were suckered into coming. Read »

Why do we procrastinate? I believe understanding this can help us make the coming year a bit more productive. Here is my theory. Read »

Now that I’m 48, Roosevelt’s famous phrase, "the only thing we have to fear is fear itself,” takes on a personal meaning. In some aspects of our lives, we are "over the hill" at this point, and are making a gradual descent. Having reached the top, we can see the other side of the hill for the first time. The fear of death becomes real. When we are still climbing the hill, it can feel as though there is no end because we are continually staring at the sky. Read »

Our current culture praises charities, social services, donations, and philanthropies, but let’s not forget that they are the symptoms of our societal dysfunctions and maladies, not the solutions. It’s like Red Cross in the times of war; they can’t stop the war. And, in many ways, they perpetuate the dysfunctions because the biggest contributors to these temporary fixes are also the greatest oppressors of our societies who create the dysfunctions. Let me explain what I mean by that. Read »

The way people think about aesthetics in business have fundamentally and irreversibly shifted in the last decade or so. The shift started with the advent of online advertising. For the first time in history, advertisers can quantify the return on their investment, and get detailed data back to examine what worked and what didn't. It was a paradigm shift in the so-called "creative" business. Read »

Every new generation is accused of being spoiled, but according to this article on Psychology Today, it is now a statistical fact that our current college students have no resilience, and it is becoming a serious problem. Read »

The trailer for this short film sets up an expectation that we will see a lot of drama in the typical style of reality TV, but what we actually get is an NPR-style story. It has both flaws and substance; the flaws are in the execution, and the substance is in the content. It feels like a beginning of something that can become great. Read »

I have this theory that fine arts is a culture that you cannot learn after a certain age. Once you are over twenty, I think you’ve missed your chance. It’s like trying to learn English after a certain age (say, 12); some do succeed in being able to speak flawlessly, but they still wouldn’t get the culture. There is no way to objectively prove if someone “gets it” or not, but you can sense it in the same way gay people can sense other gay people with their “gaydar”. When you are young, especially when you are in college away from your parents for the first time, you suck everything in your environment like a sponge just by being exposed to it. Trying to learn a culture after you are twenty is sort of like trying to marinate your vegetables after you have already marinated them in something else; you are not going to absorb much. Read »

Touring a middle school for my daughter inspired me to think about how I would design a school. Given that I'm an introvert, and was thoroughly bored all the way to high school, I would design one specifically for introverted students. Before describing my vision, let me explain the motivation behind my design. Read »

Some people go through their lives not realizing the fact that there is something unusual about how their brains work. They simply assume that everyone else has the same ease or difficulty in processing certain types of information. Only in their adult lives, they begin to suspect that something is amiss. This has been happening to me too. Read »

Body weight is a topic filled with land mines. I've been observing how my 10-year old daughter navigate this topic for herself and others. It's a tough one. Most adults have a hard time. We are bombarded with mixed messages, trapped in a double-bind; damned if we do, damned if we don't. We hear about the grave consequences of the obesity epidemic, but at the same time we are told to love our own bodies no matter what shape and size. As a parent, I want my daughter to live an active, healthy life, but at the same time, I would not want to cause her to have neurotic body image issues either. So, what's the right thing to do as a parent? Read »

When I worked on Wall Street (for an investment bank), the working hours were normal because I was in the front office. The traders went home shortly after the market closed. However, the back office people were expected to work long hours. The "80-Hour Week" culture is common for jobs where their managers lack the ability to evaluate performance based on merits. The traders I worked with on Wall Street had clear metrics of performance. As long as the metrics looked good, they didn't need to prove anything else. Read »

When people talk about "digital divide", they are usually referring to the lack of access to technology, especially to the Internet, for the underprivileged. Although this problem still exists in the US, it is continually improving, and has become a lesser concern. The new digital divide in the US has to do with how we use information technologies. Even between two people who have access to the same technologies, a significant difference can be found in what they are able to do with them. To bridge this gap, we need to figure out what creates this gap. Read »

Many startups have this strategy: “Let’s get as many users as possible, and worry about monetizing later.” And, some startups have the opposite problem where their monetization strategy is sound but cannot build enough user traction. I use an analogy of building a campfire to describe these problems. Square, for instance, was able to build user traction very quickly because their card reader was revolutionary. They struck the fire-starter rod once, and the tinder (shaved pieces of wood or pieces of paper) caught on fire immediately. It started spreading quickly to the kindling (small pieces of wood, twigs, or branches), but they had no fuel wood (large blocks of wood). It looks like they didn’t even think about where to get the fuel wood from when they launched the company. Other financial firms like Chase and Citibank have introduced their own mobile card readers. They have plenty of fuel wood as traditional banks. Now Square’s kindling is burning out, and their flames are getting smaller. If they don’t find the fuel wood soon, their campfire will go out completely. Read »

In the old days, if you tried to sell baskets that you weaved, the main criteria by which your potential customers made their purchasing decisions was how useful they were and how nice they looked. Today, the main criteria is how cheaply they can buy the same thing elsewhere. I would call this “arbitrage economy” because it’s about gaining from market discrepancies/inaccuracies. Read »

When I came to New York from Japan to attend art school in the late 80s, my English was quite poor. Now that I’m fluent, I can understand how awkward and cumbersome it must have been to talk to me then. These days, when I talk for a long time to someone whose English is poor, talking to someone who is fluent afterwards makes me feel relieved. So, it’s understandable that most people did not want to talk to me in college. After all, why volunteer to be an unpaid English teacher? But I had several friends in college who went out of their way to get to know me. I’m not sure what motivated them but I suspect they were generally curious of foreign and unusual things. I didn’t approach them; they approached me. I’m forever grateful of them. They not only taught me English but the culture and the various subcultures of this country too. Read »

At work, we were just talking about how it may not be worth our while to put our time and money into Facebook. Their recent change ruined the whole idea of Facebook Page. It basically turned Facebook Page into an advertising delivery mechanism. If you don’t “promote” your posts by paying, you can’t reach anyone, which means every “post” is nothing more than an ad. If so, why would anyone “Like” any Page? By Liking any Facebook Page, you would essentially be asking for ads to be inserted into your News Feed. It’s silly. People will now stop Liking Pages. Read »

Someone should start a prenuptial camp where couples who are considering getting married would be stress-tested. This camp should be completely neutral in their opinion of whether the couples should get married or not. That is, they shouldn't try to design the camp to strengthen the bond, or offer any kind of advice, coaching, or counseling. All they should do is to create a situation that puts a significant amount of stress in their relationships. Read »

In an episode of “This American Life”, I came across a discussion on how to talk to people with dementia or alzheimer’s. The conclusion was that things go pretty smoothly if you would just go along with their reality. So, if someone starts talking about flying monkeys outside the window, you would just say it’s still early in the season for flying monkeys. Read »

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