What I learnt this week – 28th week 2020

This week has been rather hectic. I haven’t read as much as I normally would like to, though I am still working my way through Competition Demystified and The Copywriter’s Handbook. You can read about why I’ve been so busy this week here (and see what’s come out of it here). If you have any suggestions for what to read, send me an email to contact@callumacdonald.com and I’ll be happy to give it a look.

 Walter J. Hall. (1866-1947) – “The Building of the Ship, Rye”

What I read

This week one topic that’s been on my mind is side projects. In a rather amusing article called The saddest “Just Ship It” story ever, Kitze discusses the pains that come with not “shipping”, or not releasing the project that you are working with, and then finding that someone else shipped, and has released exactly what you were working on. But not all side projects need to get released, as Hugo Zapata discusses in How to finish your side project. Hugo’s key takeaways are twofold. Firstly, sometimes the aim of a side project is not to finish it, but to learn about using a particular tool. Secondly, there is a heap of practical advice for working on a side project, like using a different user on your computer, having a separate email address for the project, and even working in a different space from normal.

A more successful story about a small project is Must ride mule (to & from) work location, which is a neat story about developing a website that solves a problem, and not worrying about scaling and becoming big. With all the publicity that tech giants receive, it is easy to forget that success in a project has other faces, and can look very different to how it does in Silicon Valley.

A topic that appears to be eternally on my mind is social media. Because I feel like I talk about social media every week, I’ll be brief. The first interesting article explores a mechanism for deescalating conflict and arguments on social media. The second explains the idea of context collapse and content collapse. Context collapse is an older idea, introduced by the anthropologist Michael Wesch in 2008. Content collapse is a more recent idea, and one that I think is much better explained in the article.

What I watched

This week I watched a valuable set of videos on Skillshare called Minimum Viable Product. The goal of the videos is to explain how to validate a startup idea for less than $1k. This is an idea that I’ve come in contact with before while working at Cargill developing prototypes, but I haven’t come across the idea of specific tests that validate the idea, and then scaling those tests. For example, if your idea is to automate people’s taxes for them based of their bank statements, you could start by trying to provide the service for 5 friends. Then scale so that you can try to convince 50 people to use the software. Then try and get 500 people to sign up and use the software. One note of value that I got from this course, is that it is acceptable to do things that cannot scale while you are building the business. That is, you can do things manually while testing demand for the product, and automate it when you know it is worth automating.

You can get two free months of Skillshare if you sign up here. Full disclaimer, when you do, I also get a free month, but I’m not earning any money off this.

What I listened to

This week I’ve been walking the dog in the mornings, and this has given me a chance to listen to more podcasts. One podcast I’ve been enjoying is the Financial Times Money Show. The episode that I gained the most from was The ‘silver squeeze’ on retirement hopes, which talked about how people retiring today might not have as many years of retirement as they once hoped.

I hope you enjoy the content I’ve shared this week. You can send recommendations to contact@callumacdonald.com, and I’ll be happy to give them a look and discuss them with you.

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