What I Have Been Reading (Summer 2016)

I read a lot. And despite my best intentions to try to read less this year, I have continued my article and book bingeing habits. This past summer has been no exception. Here are some recommendations.

The Articles

I have read a couple of great articles this summer that I think are worth spending time with:

  1. “A Honeypot For Assholes”: Inside Twitter’s 10-Year Failure To Stop Harassment. Trolling on Twitter and other social networks continues to endanger these communities. Why? Charlie Warzel does a great job of peeling back the challenges facing Twitter as it tries to tame its unruly users. The challenge ultimately is where to draw the line between free speech and censorship. Clearly, we have a long way to go.
  2. Intellectuals
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The Desperate Waves of Venture Capital

VCs are widely perceived to be groupthink aficionados. (What do we invest in? Whatever they are investing in next door!) There is some truth to this notion — clearly, many investments are thesis driven, and intelligent investors are going to recognize the same trends in the marketplace and reach similar conclusions.

One aspect of that groupthink that is lesser noticed is the groupthink among founders. Hundreds of startups don't just materialize out of thin air — founders have to conceive and build their products. They see the same trends in the marketplace as investors, so as an ecosystem, everyone ends up on the same wavelength pretty quickly.

Nowhere is this more obvious than in the the Great Bots Startup Explosion of the past twelve months. There doesn't

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A Plan For New York

As I mentioned in my blog post yesterday about Boston, I just moved to New York City to launch (or perhaps more accurately, relaunch) CRV's presence in the city.

New York City has been written about extensively by investors who have lived here for decades. I just got here — so unlike my piece on Boston — I hardly have the depth of understanding of the local startup scene to write any meaningful analysis.

Instead, I want to talk a little about what I hope to contribute to this growing ecosystem, as well as the reasons why CRV is making a foray into the city (besides access to jianbing).

Head of the Charles

First, I want to talk very briefly about CRV, which acronymized our name officially

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Some Final Thoughts On Boston

For those of you who don't follow me on Facebook, or have somehow managed to convince the LinkedIn gods (i.e. Satya Nadella) to not send you update emails, I have moved to New York City.

I'm super pumped about the move, but as always when I move to new cities, there is a feeling of wistfulness of the places I have been, and the places I might still be. It's also a moment to consider all of the changes that have happened with startups, technology, politics, and society these past few years. While these decisions are individual, the wider strains of society's trends always seem to mark their influence.

In short, it is time to take account of these personal experiences. I have lived

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Graph Associations for Language Learning

I have had quite a few reactions to my post yesterday describing my experience studying Korean using Anki flash cards. The public ones can be read on the Korean subreddit, where the handful of comments tend to be quite critical. Some of that criticism is valid: I probably should use more images in my cards to reduce the need to translate from English, among other suggestions.

Perhaps the largest criticism was that my approach to Anki failed to fully use associations to make it easier for my brain to retain words. Word associations help our memories place words in different contexts, building up a "web" of our vocabulary. Connecting our words with sights, scenes, and sounds allows us to more natively recall vocabulary than simple

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I Quit: 2+ Years of Anki and the (Near) Impossibility of Learning Languages

Language learning sucks. It sort of sucks for kids, but it certainly sucks for adults. This is my journey trying to learn Korean, and slowly coming to the realization that our current learning tools are simply not adequate for the job.

I don't have answers, although I certainly have ideas.

Background

For the past five years or so, I have been studying the Korean language. I began in 2010 as I was preparing to be a Fulbright Researcher in South Korea. (technically, I started studying months before hearing back from the U.S. government that I was actually going — call it youthful confidence).

Since then, I have spent hundreds of hours studying Anki flash cards, reading books and articles, taking classes, getting tutored, watching movies,

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Is San Francisco Too Expensive For Startups?

There is a growing international understanding that cities have become too expensive for the people who live and work in them. It is an affliction across the United States, but also around the world as well. Just take some recent coverage of the issue:

  • Vancouver has been one target lately, with home prices rising to an average of C$1.3 million. Unsurprisingly, many workers are leaving, decamping for other nearby cities in a bid to try to lower their housing bills.
  • London has experienced an almost apocalyptic increase in housing prices, driven by Russian and other oligarchs moving huge dollars into the city’s real estate market. Rowan Moore shows in his book Slow Burn City just what the cost of that situation has
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Political Disintegration and Realignment

Well, I guess it's news now: the New York Times is calling it for the end of the Republican party (and not on the editorial pages!). Party leaders are increasingly worried that the Republican party will split into two factions, a nativist/religious side and a free-trade/pro-government branch (as if it hadn't already been split for two decades).

They are probably right to some degree. It seems that the alliance formed between cultural conservatives and working-class white voters along with business elites in the mid-to-late 20th century is simply no longer viable. There are just too many points of disagreement to come to a consensus of exactly what the party platform should really include.

While the NYT took a narrow view of the problem,

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Reading Less, But Better

This is perhaps the obvious follow up to my article this weekend about my favorite long-form essays and books that I read last year. I read a lot last year, several thousand articles and two dozen books in total. And yet, for all of that information, how much insight did I really find?

Critics of the internet often talk about the issue of distraction. There is always another article that we can read or another video to be watched, and that constant bombardment kills our ability to focus deeply on the issues that matter to us. That's sort of the crux of Nicholas Carr's book The Shallows, as well as several other writers.

Distraction might be a useful framework for thinking about this, but I

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What I Read Last Year (2016 Edition)

As always, I read a lot last year. Pocket seems to indicate that the number of articles I saved for later reading was around 1,400, or roughly 3.83 articles per day. Add in additional newspaper consumption plus books, and it was another year in which my information diet goals were completely ignored.

It's hard to sort of explain all of that consumption – or to remember it. Reading is one of those depressing activities that sparks the imagination while we are doing it, but is so fleeting that just moments later we often forget exactly what we just saw.

That said, there were some excellent books and articles that I think stood out from the rest. I want to highlight them and encourage you

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The Housing Paradox

Yes, I am on a bit of a housing rant these days, what with rents increasing rapidly.

But as a venture investor, it pains me to see the prices of housing in relation to nearly every single good and service we offer in the economy. Nearly everything today is faster, better, and cheaper than before. Computers that once took up entire rooms to calculate a differential are now sitting in our pockets, and cost less than $1,000 to boot. Content has gotten to the point where the marginal cost is vanishing toward zero. Even taxis are getting better and cheaper!

Then you look at housing, and suddenly all of this progress -- all of our dreams of the future -- seem to have stopped.

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The Radical Idea of $1000/mo Rent

The Wall Street Journal had an article today talking about the plight of people with six-figures unable to rent in cities like New York, San Francisco, and Cambridge, Massachusetts. Simply put, rents have increased far faster than incomes (in many cases, by more than 2:1), and that means that access to these cities is increasingly limited to an extremely small fraction of the population.

We have heard about lowering the rents, and programs like the one featured in the WSJ article that involve middle-class lottery allocations of rent-stabilized apartments.

Yet, we never really hear about the need for a much more radical approach: to simply do whatever it takes to drive costs of housing down to $1,000 for a one bedroom in rent,

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