Day 32: Tech to the Rescue

What I’m Thinking About: Tracking Through Tech

I’m really interested in the privacy implications and the technology behind how we track people who have recovered and keep track of those are infected as we will need to do to get back to our lives. Without doing this, this shelter-in-place will just continue until a vaccine arrives – which is just too damn long.

Google/Apple have formed an alliance that will help track people that are infected. The way it works is:

An app on your phone will pass a random and anonymous code to all other phones within a few yards of you, wherever you are (and vice versa). If you test positive, you tell the app, and every other phone in the region checks the codes they’ve seen in the last 14 days, and if there’s a match they can say ‘you’ve been exposed’. This is anonymous and automatic.

This is very cool, but am skeptical that it’ll ever happen because it really only works if governments mandate it and I just don’t see that happening.

On a related note, there’s a new San Francisco company called Onfido that is working with European governments to develop phone-based “immunity passports” for those who have already recovered from COVID-19. This is happening in Europe and is similar to what’s in China. Oh, and just yesterday they raised an additional $100 million.

At My House

We’re digging into the remote learning more deeply this week as our school is starting to get more involved and attentive to what’s happening at home.

That only takes half the day. The other part is spent enjoying the great weather we’ve been sent

Fitness

One of my friends sent me this today. I’ll be joining him:

I do one plank a day during the pandemic, holding it for as long as I can. Have made it to three minutes the last three days. Join me.

… and then I make myself a cocktail almost immediately afterward.

Other Stuff

Now this is a great use of modern technology. Here we have a Twitter account that is judging people’s video call background. Just what the world needed (thx Lizzie)

Thanks Jackie!

Check these out. Might as well keep safe in style:

Cases

New York added two thousands deaths to their list who were people they hadn’t tested:

(spreadsheet)

Only 64 more days to go

 

Business Week Zoom

Day 27: Zooming All Over

Zoom is the accidental social network of the coronavirus pandemic

What I’m Thinking About: Zoom

This has been an incredible rise and a little bit of a fall for Zoom.

In the past month, they went from 10 million daily users to 200 million. Wowza. In the past week 90,000 schools across 20 countries have used it to conduct remote classes. Ninety thousand schools.

They also revealed that while they’ve been focused on keeping up with growth, they’ve done some not great things. Specifically, they were sending info to Facebook even if you didn’t log in or ever use Facebook. Second, the videos/calls aren’t really encrypted, which means others can see and hear what went on. Oh, and third, many of the videos and encryption keys were routed through China so they were available for the Chinese state to hear and view. Hmm. 🤔

Personally, I don’t care if my personal or work calls are viewed in China but I suspect a lot of more important people and companies do. This could be real bad for them and for Zoom. I’m curious to see what the fallout is.

I’m also curious to see how Zoom integrates itself more into my life. I’ve been doing double-dates with friends, group family chats, happy hours, school lessons and more. It’s a daily app now.

Finally, I usually really dislike recorded Zoom calls, but here’s one I couldn’t stop watching. It’s ESPN reporters inviting famous people to join them.

 

What Else: The Flattening?

Nationally, the number of coronavirus deaths in the U.S. is projected to hit its peak within the next few days. Personally, I’ve been hoping that this is the worst as we had a few days of no growth, but yesterday we had peaks in new cases and deaths in the US and many others charts are saying that we still have some more time to go. 😞

 

Other Stuff

Great ad:

 

Cases

From my spreadsheet:

Have a great Saturday everyone:

Only 64 more days to go

 

Being Remote and Notion

At Onward, we are building a fully remote company.  We now have 5 employees that are scattered throughout the country and we’ll be fully remote forever.

Why Remote?

There are lots of benefits to working remote. You can read all about it all over the web and on the Twitter-verse.  I’ve now been doing this over a year and the reasons that resonate with me the most are:

  1. No commute. Knocking out the time it takes to drive to/from an office puts hours back in my day.  I never got stressed by the driving. In fact, I always enjoyed the time for podcasts and catching up with people on the phone. However, that lost time was a drag. Now my day is that much more efficient.
  2. Autonomy. While I like being in an office and catching up with co-workers, it also has a downside of co-workers constantly interrupting me and my thoughts. It was hard to control my own schedule. Being at home gives me much more control over my calendar and my day.
  3. Broader employee pool.  When we’re hiring and looking for a potential colleague, we can now look across the entire planet rather than those who live close by. This has already paid dividends as it’s allowed me to work with my good friend Nader and our awesome early employees who are in Pittsburgh, Texas, and Chicago.

The Challenges

It’s not all fun and roses though.  It took me 4-6 months to get used to working out of my house. It takes discipline to focus on the tasks and not be distracted by an empty messy house. Also, there’s a solitude that took some getting used to. Now that i’m in the groove, I do think it’s a better way to work.

Asynchronous is Key

One of the keys to successfully working with my remote colleagues is to be able to work without communicating in real-time. Because my colleague isn’t right next to me, I have no idea if they are working right now or planning on coming online later. This has lead us to use some new tools that are pretty cool.

Notion

The first, and by far my favorite. This is a combination of Google Docs, Asana and a wiki. Before we had Notion, we had a problem where we didn’t know where to post a home page of operations for our company or a division, or where to post decisions and goals for everyone to see and access easily. We tried Google Docs and also tied making an intranet on Google Sites. Both sucked.  This is exactly what Notion solves.

We now have home pages for the company which has a general company handbook, lists all the tools we use, policies and other generic info. We also have a home page for each group which houses the processes, goals, OKR’s, meeting notes, and more. There’s a good overview of how another business is using Notion here which will give you the idea.

Notion Home Screen

Notion in generally is pretty sweet. As a product, it’s incredibly slick. There is so much complexity that’s displayed so elegantly and simply – it’s really beautiful.  It’s clearly seems to be working. In fact, talk about a fundraise that showcases your awesomeness. They raised $10 million on an $800 million valuation. That’s 1% dilution.  A good interview with the founder is here too.

Uber Eats is Crushing

From those I know who work at GrubHub and other delivery companies, they all claim that UberEats is doing incredibly well. As Uber eyes the IPO next year, I can imagine this being a secret weapon that pushes their valuation higher than most would expect.

There was a good article in this week’s Business Week about how Uber is helping create “virtual restaurants” that have no in-person customers but exist only to deliver on Uber Eats. Uber brings some unique insight into the demand for existing restaurants.

Google Duplex

If you haven’t seen this demo from last week’s Google I/O

Sundar says,

Our vision for our assistant is to help you get things done….A common theme across all this is we are working hard to give users back time. We’ve always been obsessed about that at Google. Search is obsessed about getting users to answers quickly and giving them what they want.

Google really wants to start doing things for you and Duplex was super impressive. It is, literally, a computer talking on the phone for you.

Check it out.

Elon Musk Email

In an email to employees last week, Tesla CEO Elon Musk explained that the reason for the Model 3 production shutdown in Fremont and Gigafactory 1 is to prepare to increase production. Substantially

 
Musk explained that Tesla is now shooting to more than double production of 6,000 units per week across all production processes and suppliers in order to achieve 5,000 units per week in June.

The move seems to be in response to the recent miss in Model 3 production targets and is very bold in a Musk sort of way.

It’s a great email and I love how he evens gets low-level enough to tell people to walk out of meetings or phone calls if they aren’t well structured.  So good.

Continue reading “Elon Musk Email”

Epic Tweet Storm about Apple’s Development Process

This is an epic tweet storm about Apple’s development process by Steven Sinofsky. If you don’t know him, he ran the Microsoft Office business unit for over a decade. This rant touches on how to balance quality, launch dates and features, IBM, iPhone dominance and more…

Continue reading “Epic Tweet Storm about Apple’s Development Process”

Favorite Tech Purchases of 2017

I made a few fun purchases in 2017. Here’s two that captured my attention…
AirPods
They look ridiculous but man are they useful.  I love them over all my other headphones because they
  1. They connect to my phone every time, immediately and magically.
  2. The charging mechanism is genius. Having the storage compartment be the charger is so smart.
  3. Siri is nice on it. Every day, as i’m walking out of work, i pop them in my ear, hear a little noise that notifies me that they are on and connected. I then just double-tap the side of the earphone and say “Call Diane” and, having no idea where my phone is, a call is placed to Diane. It’s a big of magic.

Apparently, i’m not alone. The customer satisfaction surveys around these are off the charts – 98% from all customers with NPS of 75 and many people believing that this is the best Apple invention since the original iPhone.

 

Apple Watch
I usually get a new iPhone every year so i can experience the latest and greatest. I spend hours a day on my phone and i justify the cost by this time and usage. However, this year’s lineup of iPhone X and 8 didn’t seem to be the latest and greatest. Sure there’s FaceID but having a new way to unlock my phone isn’t a reason to buy. There’s the big screen of the X, but i already have a 7 Plus which has a big screen.  So, i wasn’t buying.
I WAS impressed with the new Apple Watch. It seemed that they had put the phone into the watch. This seemed like the new phone to experiment with. I also could imagine a future as: Apple Watch + AirPods + AR glasses = iPhone is just a battery pack that I never take out of my pocket. So, if that’s the case, I wanted to see what this future looked like.
I do enjoy it. Some observations
  • I have the LTE option so I don’t need my phone ever to get calls or texts or updates.  While that’s cool and I do leave my phone at my desk at work all of the time now, I am rarely that far away from my phone. So, i never get the chance to really test this feature.
  • The battery life is great. I can go almost 3 days without a charge.
  • I do wish the watch was smaller. It’s too fat. I want a version that’s slimmer and has half the battery life. I’d be okay with that
  • The exercise app is the killer app for me. It keeps me putting it on every day as i want to see my steps, stands, and calories and how it measures up against other days. I’ve always been a sucker for gamification and motivates me.
PS: Shout out to my parents and wife for getting me both of these as birthday presents. You guys rock.