Conan's Newsletter No. 20

What the Internet Is Doing to Our Brains; How to Stop Endless Discussions; On creating Engineering Strategy; The Complete Guide to Effective Reading; Why It Took So Long to Invent the Wheel;

Hi friends,

I hope you've had a great week! Here are some of my recommendations for this coming week:


  1. The Shallows is an excellent book by Nicholas Carr that discusses the impact of the Internet on our minds. Although the "Internet" is a boon for searching and accessing information, the media's interruptable nature deprives us of the ability of deep thinking, empathy, and compassion. This book also discusses the evolution of our intelligence. It is a good read for us to be more conscious in this digital world.

Productivity & Organization

  1. How to Stop Endless Discussions (8 min). The article describes a process called Request For Comments (RFC). The basic idea is that there should be an owner to write a detailed document for proposal, request comments from others, and make judgment calls for every decision. The process accelerates decision-making and also brings accountability to a team environment. 

  2. Write five, then synthesize: good engineering strategy is boring (15 min). It is an interesting article about creating an engineering strategy. The author mentions that durably useful engineering strategy and vision are the output of iterative, bottoms-up organizational learning. To create a good strategy, you need to follow three steps. 1) Write five design documents, 2) Synthesize those five design docs into a strategy. 3) Extrapolate five strategies into a vision.

  3. The Complete Guide to Effective Reading (45 min). This is a great tutorial about active reading. It is a very great framework if you would like to improve your return on investment on your reading hours. Besides, I intentionally did not use such frameworks for some leisure readings (as fun is more important in those contexts).


  1. The Mike Speiser Incubation Playbook (40 min). This is another good essay from Kevin Kwok on startup repeatability (see his other easy in No. 19). Mike Speiser has shown the repeatable ability to creating successful companies from scratch. He is the person who makes snowflake possible. His approach is very different from other VCs. Instead of investing in existing companies, Speiser stays solely focused on one thing: starting and building companies. The core of his model is to find 2-3 co-founders and be the founding investor. Often he takes on the interim CEO role himself for the first year or two. In this model, he could attract excellent technical co-founders who are generally not good at the business part. He could also offer a better package to bring new people as CEO after he steps down as interim CEO.

Interesting Facts

  1. Why It Took So Long to Invent the Wheel? (9 min). Wheels feel like a primitive technology but only appeared pretty late in the human history of intention. This article gives some interesting opinions on why that's the case.

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