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Stephen Zhang

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We are stubborn on vision. We are flexible on details…. We don’t give up on things easily.... And, very importantly, we are willing to be misunderstood for long periods of time
Jeff Bezos On Innovation: Stubborn On Vision; Flexible On Details


For years, I've been fascinated by Jeff Bezos' ability to make big risky decisions for Amazon and stand up to intense investor pressure to go in a different direction. While everything may seem rosy at Amazon these days, for years, it was amazing to see just how much investor animosity there was towards some of Bezos' moves. For years -- quite by design -- the company focused on growth and expansion over profitability, earning complaints from investors. Then Amazon focused on expanding its free shipping program, which drew the ire of investors who thought it was costing the company too much. But Amazon stuck with these efforts and became the dominant player in the field. More recently, it's done things that left some investors scratching their heads, such as the whole Amazon Web Services effort, and even the early Kindle effort -- and yet both have proven to be quite successful.
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Innovation has been around forever. It has been an integral part of coping with change and turning change to one’s advantage. Think of the viking long ship’s shallow draft that permitted beach landings, Shaka Zulu’s short spear, the Earl of Sandwich’s meat tucked between two pieces of bread, Mitsubishi’s electric rice cooker. Innovation happens in all historic periods and in all cultures.

Innovation is — and will remain — relevant. Today, however, it has become abstract and institutionalized....Whereas innovation has historically been tied to entrepreneurs, it is now being tied to salaried employees who tend to be more risk-averse.
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Are You Willing to Cannabilize Your Own Revenues to Innovate?

This is a classic question for big companies, and usually the answer is no!

Look at the graph in the attached link carefully and you can see how the introduction of the iPhone hurt the iPod, but look at what a MONSTER business it grew for them. This is a classic GREAT move that most big companies have trouble making.
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'One can think of technological innovation--probably not all, but at least a significant portion--as an attempt to "optimize" the organism-environment fit, through the synthetic option (iii) above. Thus, one can understand the history of technology, at least to some extent, as the co-evolution of organism and environment through the medium of technology. That is to say, through an iterative process we technologize the organism to adaptively "fit" the environment, and then technologize the environment to adaptively "fit" the organism. The result is a population of cyborgs in a thoroughly human-built (or human-modified) environment.'
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Are tech bubbles necessarily bad – no.
A bubble is simply the redistribution of wealth from Marks to the Smart Money and Promoters. I hypothesize that unlike bubbles in other sectors – tulips, Florida land prices, housing, financial – tech bubbles create lasting value. They finance companies that invest in new technologies, new ideas and new products. And it appears that at least in Silicon Valley, a larger percentage of money made in the last tech bubble is recirculated back into investments into the next generation of tech startups.

While most of the social networks, cloud computing, web and mobile app companies we see today will fail, a few will literally remake our lives. -Steve
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Don’t say I didn’t warn you.

Want a Job? Submit your DNA

The University of Akron is requiring that new employees must undergo a criminal background check and possibly a DNA sample.

Applicants will be asked to submit fingerprints and at the discretion of The University of Akron may be asked to submit a DNA sample for the purpose of a federal criminal background check.

~University of Akron Criminal Background Checks for Potential University Employees, effective August 12, 2009

Would you submit your DNA to get a job?
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Winston Churchill: “Success is the ability to go from one failure to another with no loss of enthusiasm”
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SUMMARY: Google+ Circle management is harder than it looks because of a complex tradeoff involving (1) signal/noise, (2) 'presentation of self', (3) curation for later retrieval (response to a thoughtful posting by +Christoper Allen []).

I'm one of the very early adopters-then-quitters of Facebook (I quit years ago precisely because the privacy issues spooked me), so have been encouraged to tiptoe back into the social stream via Google+. It seems to me that there are three main dimensions implicit in what you [+Christopher Allen ] are (rightly) attempting to tackle, and maybe making them explicit will be useful:

1. signal/noise (crucial for sanity preservation and being able to handle the stream)
2. 'presentation of self' i.e. which mask am I wearing today (classic Goffman, and non-trivial)
3. structure for later retrieval (librarianship/curation)

Re [1], I wrote in a posting on the Get Real blog of +Stowe Boyd [] in 2005 that when a given social medium got too noisy, technology-thought-leaders tend to migrate to a new one (e.g. RSS when it first appeared), until the masses flood in and noise levels rise, so a new medium or tool takes it place, and is inherently less noisy - but only for a while, and the cycle repeats itself. The gist went like this: "My conjecture is that tools like this ... give users, especially early adopters of new technologies, a two-orders-of-magnitude (i.e. 100x) 'power boost' in dealing with the 'knowledge flow' ... whipping around us. ... But whenever there's a three, four, five, or six orders-of-magnitude (i.e. 1000x, 10,000x, 100,000x, or 1,000,000x) increase in 'adopters of new technologies', not only are such technologies not new any more, but a two-orders-of-magnitude 'power boost' is insufficient, so we turn to new technology to improve the signal-to-noise ratio." The original posting is at

Google+ could be a plausible stab at the next signal/noise power boost, but only for a while.

Re [3]: fine-grained circles, categories and structure are great, just as they are in one's own desktop or email folders, but (as some of your other commenters have implied or stated) these are rendered obsolete by great and super-fast search tools. On the other hand, they are comforting to have, at least until the structure itself becomes overwhelming.

Re [2]: this is really hard. Who am I when writing this? Who's going to read it? Who is entitled to read it? What are they entitled to do with it?

These are all good issues, and I think that to the extent people find Circles cumbersome, it's because there is no clean solution that deals with issues [1], [2], and [3] simultaneously!
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More geekiness from Google Inc!

On 2nd July, when the bidding for Nortel patents was going on, this is what Google bid:

One of the first bids was $1,902,160,540
A while later, their bid was $2,614,972,128
When the bidding got to $3 billion, they bid—guess what— $3.14159 billion

The first number 1.902160540 is Brun's constant—The limiting value of the sum of the ratios of twin primes. (1/3 + 1/5) + (1/11 + 1/13) + ...

The second 0.2614972128 is the Meissel–Mertens constant. The difference between the sum of the reciprocal of the primes up to n and ln(ln(n)).

Google also bid the distance between the earth and the sun and a few other values!
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