What We’re Reading

Progress curves:

A technology often produces its best results just when it’s ready to be replaced - it’s the best it’s ever been, but it’s also the best it could ever be. There’s no room for more optimisation - the technology has run its course and it’s time for something new, and any further attempts at optimisation produce something that doesn’t make much sense.


The biomedical library PubMed lists more than 74,000 COVID-related scientific papers—more than twice as many as there are about polio, measles, cholera, dengue, or other diseases that have plagued humanity for centuries. Only 9,700 Ebola-related papers have been published since its discovery in 1976; last year, at least one journal received more COVID‑19 papers than that for consideration. By September, the prestigiousNew England Journal of Medicine *had received 30,000 submissions—16,000 more than in all of 2019. “All that difference is COVID‑19,” Eric Rubin, *NEJM’s editor in chief, says. Francis Collins, the director of the National Institutes of Health, told me, “The way this has resulted in a shift in scientific priorities has been unprecedented.”


In Los Angeles, a new order prohibits two friends from going on a socially distanced walk at the beach. At one point in early December, the city’s playgrounds were closed while its malls were open. In Philadelphia, an ordinance makes it illegal for neighbors to sip beer outside, yet indoor drinking and dining at bars and restaurants is permitted by state law. In New York, bars, restaurants, and gyms have been ordered to close, but not until10 p.m.—as if the virus keeps to a hard vampiric sleeping schedule. In the ninth month of the coronavirus pandemic, America’s public-health response makes as little sense as ever.


At one point, I started complaining about blue weeks where every single time slot was taken [on my calendar]. And someone said, “Well, if you don’t like blue, I can make any color.” And I replied, “Well, how about we color based on leverage?” And that’s just what we did.

We ended up labeling my product-related things red, investor/Board of Director-related things some kind of teal color, et cetera. And the thing I’m looking for is a balanced week; a week where, ideally, I manage to devote about 30% of the time—at least—to the product and then as much as possible to things like recruiting, bigger picture projects, and one-on-ones.


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Have a good weekend.