From Memes to Classic American Literature
Interesting Ideas for This Month
There’s been a little voice in my head nagging me for a few months to make some changes to this newsletter. Mainly moving it back to a weekly format so it is both more frequent and more valuable. I think I’ve found some good ways to do that without burning myself out and while keeping the content rotating week to week. We’ll try it and experiment a bit. What is product if not experimentation?
Ideas to Read About
The Internet Encyclopedia of Memes: An Interview with Don Caldwell, the Editor-in-Chief of Know Your Meme
Memes are basically the language of the interwebs. Which is why this longread is so fascinating. Diving deep into the site that documents our memes is great for the historical context as well as the process and what comes next.
If you’re seeing a meme again and again, populating your Twitter feed or recurring on your TikTok For You page, more likely than not, it’s been meticulously documented on Know Your Meme, an online encyclopedia cataloging internet memes.
“Meme evolution and the evolution of technology has gone hand in hand.”
Speaking of the evolving meme landscape, including TikTok:
Our users even hated it at first. But we’re documenting internet culture. So it was ‘sorry, you're not into it. We don't just cover the memes you’re into.’ But I even feel like the hatred of TikTok has started to decline. Because people just had to give into it.
I found this incredibly interesting, especially considering conversation I had recently for my podcast (hopefully that episode will be out soon). But as we address one set of problems, it either surfaces or creates other problems. So it is interesting to me how we can either plan for that or get in front of these types of issues. And ultimately create a world less centered on driving completely.
“Tyres are rapidly eclipsing the tailpipe as a major source of emissions from vehicles,” said Nick Molden, at Emissions Analytics, the leading independent emissions testing company that did the research. “Tailpipes are now so clean for pollutants that, if you were starting out afresh, you wouldn’t even bother regulating them.”
It has always been difficult to make heads or tails of Google’s chat/messaging/video call strategy. They’ve long had competing apps, overlapping functionality, and no clear direction linking everything. Sometimes I feel like I can give them the benefit of the doubt—try lots of things, give teams flexibility, etc. But most of the time it just feels like no one knows what they’re doing and the inmates are running the asylum. So maybe this will bring some cohesion to the products? I don’t know.
THE LONG-RUMORED GOOGLE Duo and Google Meet merger is actually happening. Google officially confirmed the move on June 1, explaining in a blog post that the goal is to create a "single video communications service" and that the Duo brand will go away in favor of Google Meet.
Leaders don’t make excuses or pass the buck. They own the problem, even if they didn’t create it. Even if a leader just stepped into a role, like I did in my product team that I talked about in this post, they accept responsibility for the good and the bad, whether or not that is fair. So don’t look for an excuse. It is your problem now. You own it.
Ideas to Listen To
In this episode, I'm joined by Dr. Kenya Oduor, a human-centered researcher, strategist, and solution designer. We discuss moving from being a practitioner to a leader, working across all the disciplines in a business, democratizing design, and when it makes sense to add more UX researchers and designers to your team. We also discuss avoiding bias in research and recruiting for our product discovery work, and how to ensure we’re building inclusively. Listen in for incredible insight and a great conversation.
Product-led growth is a hot topic at the moment. In this episode, Uday Chakravarthi, VP of Product at Atlassian, talks about how his team used this strategy to grow and create value. He compares PLG to other types of growth, and gives the elements of product-led growth. Worth a listen, even if you’re not a fan of Jira (none of us are).
This is a great episode and primer on all things crypto. Whether you like, hate, or are indifferent to crypto or a16z, don’t let that stop you from listening.
"In this special “innovation overview” episode from April 2021, the a16z crypto team and other experts take you from the ground up of crypto and web3 — from the basics, to more recent developments, and beyond – through the lens of an oral essay with brief segments on what crypto is, how it really works, and where it’s going.”
Books to Read
I finished reading East of Eden by John Steinbeck a few weeks ago and really enjoyed it. It had me thinking a lot about life back at the turn of the century, when my grandparents and great grandparents would have lived, and what their lives were like. I wish I knew more about the day to day. But that’s a bit aside. Pulling from the description about this book:
Set in the rich farmland of California's Salinas Valley, this sprawling and often brutal novel follows the intertwined destinies of two families—the Trasks and the Hamiltons—whose generations helplessly reenact the fall of Adam and Eve and the poisonous rivalry of Cain and Abel.
I also finished this book a few weeks ago. Given our current world events, it seemed like a fitting topic to explore. If you haven’t read about Ukraine’s history, I’d highly recommend it. I did not fully appreciate how central Ukraine was and is to so much of European history. But it puts the current conflict in a much more understandable light.
Ukraine is currently embroiled in a tense battle with Russia to preserve its economic and political independence. But today's conflict is only the latest in a long history of battles over Ukraine's existence as a sovereign nation. As award-winning historian Serhii Plokhy argues in The Gates of Europe, we must examine Ukraine's past in order to understand its fraught present and likely future. Situated between Europe, Russia, and the Asian East, Ukraine was shaped by the empires that have used it as a strategic gateway between East and West - from the Romans and Ottomans to the Third Reich and the Soviet Union, all have engaged in global fights for supremacy on Ukrainian soil.
I took a trip out to San Francisco recently and finished reading this book on the flight back. It is a dystopian novel, and a fascinating look at what society could turn into when it all falls apart. I won’t say more so I don’t spoil it, but definitely worth checking out if you haven’t. I haven’t read other books by Margaret Atwood yet, so I can’t compare them, but I understand this one holds up nicely (possibly highly underrated).