Category Archives: transcripts

Ev Williams – XOXO

A journey on the information superhighway – evan williams

Hello friends. I want to talk to you today about the Internet, just generally. Because I think I figured it out. I have some theories. I’m also gonna need the clicker.

To tell about my theory -> how I got the theories -> a lot of my life.

Starts in a small place in the middle of the country. Big place, lots of land, not a lot of people in that place. My school was less than 60 people in a high school, they were all white, all the boys played football except for me. That and in many other ways I felt very different growing up. I yearned for the world outside. I didn’t feel like I belonged there, I yearned for different perspectives and ideas and people. I didn’t see the ocean in person until I was 20, didn’t leave the US until 29.

One way I discovered growing up in the middle of cornfield- discovered a technology that could take me out of there. Time travel and mind reading that allowed me to tap into the minds of people who were much wiser than people around me. Books.

I wasn’t that into the books assigned in school– mostly made up stories that I didn’t see the point of, or facts that weren’t particularly useful. Library had cool books that would teach me how to do things like juggling. Not very good, but it impressed my friends and I learned it from book- aha, this is power.

Benjamin Franklin’s autobiography.

First business book- 15 or 16- bought a book about how to make money in real estate. Seemed like reasonable thing for a 16 year old growing up in Nebraska with no money. But while reading the book- epiphany- years of experience and knowledge had gone into that little device in my hands and I could read that in a few hours and gain the benefits of that experience- and I thought that’s incredibly powerful, why aren’t people reading books all the time? What else might they learn?

I enjoyed all kinds of media that would give me a glimpse of the outside world. Only 3 channels on TV. Magazines were cool- real time information about things happening in other parts of the country where there were cool people. The coolest people to me were people with BMX bikes and skateboards. Those guys who did tricks, and I obsessed over that stuff and tried to emulate it back on the farm- couldn’t afford the bikes, tried to make it on my own, harder to learn than juggling by reading about it.

Later always kept this love of magazines and books. Walked into the mall- new magazine, different from the others- people on the cover- Wired magazine. Second ever issue of Wired magazine in 1993. I was 20 years old. Gave me a glimpse of a whole ‘other world. I had dabbled in computers, but this was something different- as a sophomore in highschool- took basic programming, was great at it, was way better than everybody else, went above and beyond.

Thought I’d be a programmer, but. Didn’t get into it- Lack of discipline or friends who were into it, or a computer

Wasn’t just about computer, it was about a world that you could get to, that was full of knowledge and ideas and people.

My life’s mission is to hook up the 5.5 billion brains on this planet- dave hughes, 1993. This was the kind of stuff wired magazine talked about.

Paul sacho- text is the hot new medium? Wired may have influenced me more than I realise. Words have been decoupled from paper. Our electronic novelties are transforming the world as profoundly as the printing press did half a millennium ago.

This was the future and I needed to be a part about it. My real estate ventures hadn’t worked out but I was an entrepreneur- dropped out of college, had no money, no intention of getting a job. I gotta be in the internet. What’s my role here, Internet? What can I sell, what can I create? Lacking those computer skills, I decided what’s better than the product of knowledge? Get other people to get on the internet.

Instead of using the old fashioned technology- books, and there were a couple of books about how to get on the internet (in 1993, not a trivial feat in nebraska in 1993). Got some buddies together- journalism school in uni of nebraska- made a video, borrowed a camera, went down in my basement, recorded a video.


This launched me into being an internet entrepreneur which I’ve been ever since- don’t think I used that word at the time, or anybody, at least in Nebraska.

California was the place I oughta be, so I made it out… started blogger a couple of years later. We were working on something else, much more complicated management thing, but we all had blogs, and I had written a script so I could just type in a box and a new thing. Dave Weiner…

Worked on blogger for about 6 years, before Google, then sold it to Google…

Why did it work? At the time, described it as- not about blogger or blogging, but about this realisation of the great promise of the internet. The democratization of knowledge, ideas, influence. Anybody could share their thoughts with everybody. The idea was there at the beginning of the internet, and blogs made it more real and more possible.

That was they way I described that and was happy about that. The internet was awesome and it worked.

But I think I missed something actually, back then. Because I didn’t really know what the internet was. I thought I did- back in my video, I described it as a puzzle comprised of computers, information and people. I guess all those things are involved, but we probably wouldn’t describe it that way today.

So what IS the internet? I decided that the internet wasn’t really computers- the computers are there, and more than ever, but we never see them anymore- even those of us who work on the internet. We don’t even see the wires- those are there too, but the internet is literally in the air. The information- not such a quaint and static word. Even people on the internet is much different than when we talk about people on the internet back then- there used to be people on the internet and there were people who weren’t.

Now it’s just this thing that we all use- these connections. There’s the hardware connections, data and software. If you look at any big internet thing, it’s basically a big pile of connection. Even a link- the humble href- is a little connection. A follow is a connection. A like is a connection.

The internet is connection everyone and everything and every event and every thought in multiple ways, layer upon layer of connections. Increasingly everything that happens and everything you do, every place you go, check-in, every thought you have, share, every person who liked that thought, share, fav’d, every song you play, it’s all connected. Mapped. Database. All multiplying relentless.

So that’s what I think the internet is, but why? Why are these connections growing like they are? Is there something more than- is there some sort of organising force or principle that’s driving all of this? I don’t mean some sort of cosmic principle, just something that explains what happens on the internet and might predict what comes next?

The internet is simply a giant machine designed to give people what they want. That’s what these connections do. The internet makes human desires more easily attainable. It offers convenience. The latin root of the word convenience is assembling and agreeing. They assemble us all, convene us all, offer us convieniences for whatever we want.

Human desires doesn’t changed that much, over years and generations or millennia depending on how much you abstract. People want the things they’ve always wanted Love and money and status and a sense of belonging, they want to influence and get answers and create. They want solutions to their problems, and they want stuff. Convenience on the internet is achieved by offering two things- speed and cognitive ease. I don’t want wait and I don’t wanna think. If you study what the really big things on the internet are, you realise they’re the masters at making things fast, and not making people think. They also take out steps. That’s another way of defining convenience. Things that used to take several steps now takes a few steps.

Blogger didn’t enable anyone to do anything new that they couldn’t do as long as the web existed anyway, it just made it more convenient. And when you drop the barrier, that causes people to do more stuff- incentives/effort.

Twitter came along and obliterated a lot of blogging because it fulfilled the same desires more conveniently. Reduced cognitive strain, eliminated tonnes of choices.

Look at the really big companies and services and you see the same pattern- Google are really good at speed, cover a wide range of human desires– answers, solution, information. So easy- there’s one box, you don’t even have to come close to spelling anything correctly. Fast, reliable, always have the answer, you don’t have to think about it.

Facebook- covers a huge part of our human desires involving connecting with other people. Sense of belonging, influence, recognition, validation. And they do that more conveniently than anybody else because they connected all the people in the world who are online.

Amazon- masters at speed and convenience. One-click. Huge selection, low prices, amazon prime, free shipping. All about making things faster and more convenient.

Apple- lauded for their great design, they make a lot of pretty things, but they also take out a lot of steps. They don’t make you think and they make it fast. They realise the importance of convenience so much they licensed the one-click from amazon so they could put it iTunes. Ruthlessly negotiated with the record companies so that every song will be 99 songs so you don’t need to think. Purchasing music more convenient, a lot of people started purchasing music who’d previously considered it free, because it was too much of a pain.

Here’s the formula if you want to build a billion dollar internet company. Identify a human desire- preferably something that’s been around a really long time. We often think the Internet enables people to do new things, but people just want to do the same things they’ve always done. You identify that desire than you use modern technology to take out steps. And make them not have to think. Example Uber- how old is the desire to get from here to there? How hard was it really to do? They took out some steps from that process, and they’re worth 3.5 billion dollars. They formed a connection between you and the driver.

Shortly after I moved to california, my older sister came to visit and we were at the Mariott down town in SF. And if you’ve ever been there you know it has these vast panoramic views of the city- and this is where I still lived in <> a sleepy town in the north of SF. And we were looking out over the city and I was dreaming and hoping and wondering- I moved to SF, how amazing would that be? My sister, who was paying for her drinks on her schoolteacher salary- I was broke- it was a scary thought for a farm boy to move to the big city, but also an exciting one. SF seemed so full of possibilities, kind of how the internet seemed back then. I made it to SF- something happens when you moved to place that you only dreamed of. Human nature that the exciting becomes routine- you fail to notice the amazing thing and you still notice the annoying thing. The routine becomes mundane. It’s harder when you’re at XOXO, but in your daily life it may seem that way- especially if you accept my premise that it just makes things easier.

The Information Superhighway just led to a convenience store, seems kinda mundane, even depressing. So I thought about it- is that true, if so, how should we feel about this? I decided to a certain extent the internet is not what I thought it was 20 years ago when I started working on it. Might not be what you thought it was.

It’s not a utopian world, it’s simply like a lot of other technologies, other major tech revolutions- agriculture. Agriculture was obviously a tremendous invention. Made life better. Got people fed and freed them up to do many more things- create art, invent things, conquer other lands. That was tremendously valuable, helped us move forward, evolve. Taken to an extreme, we have industrialized farms with little regard for the environment or animals or nourishment- purely in pursuit of profit, or you look at a country full of people that have had that such convenient access to calories that they’re addicted and obese and sick. And maybe convenience can be taken too far. Lots of examples with agriculture, industrial revolution. The inconvenient consequences of convenience.

What might that mean for the internet? I don’t think it means that convenience is bad. I love Uber, Google, Amazon- I love that they free me up to do more stuff. The convenience is only bad if we miss the point- which is if we forget about nourishment and freeing people up and doing better and better things. If we only focus about the clicks and the connections and RTs and likes for the sake about those things.

Easy to do when you came from a time where it seemed like anything that would be successful on the Internet would be a good thing because the internet had a bias for good

Just as there are lots of great artisanal healthy food choices, there is the potential and reality of amazing, positive good things coming from the internet, even though it’s driving force is convenience, because humans don’t only have mundane desires, they have amazing desires to make art and music and funny card games, and to help people and do science. The internet makes all these things more possible too. Kickstarter,, Etsy make it possible for people to use the internet to do things against the convenience of mass manufacturing.

If we don’t lose the point, that’s a very good thing. The internet is still awesome. After 20 years in cyberspace, I think it’s mundane because it’s ubiquitous, but it’s also powerful and real, unlike back then. So let’s go make it worthwhile.

Faces on Cars, by negative_commentary [reddit]

[–]negative_commentary 109 points

All cars have faces on the front and back.

People make emotional decisions about buying cars. They buy cars whose fascias represent their own disposition.

Angry people buy cars with angry faces (Lexus, Maserati, BMW).

The reason most luxury cars tend to have angry or snooty faces is because market research has established that angry and snooty people tend to be more financially successful.

Mean people are more focussed on personal success while nice people take the needs of others into account more often and are less likely to be promoted to management.

Passive people buy cars with neutral faces (Toyta, Ford, Chrysler).

In the past passive people bought cars that had very few options but these days the incoming millennials market has an expectation from riding in their parents’ cars of luxury options, so cheaper cars are starting to come out with more features, because if your car is cheap but doesn’t have more options millennials will go to a competitor whose car has one more feature than yours.

Happy people buy smiling cars (Fiat, Miata, Nissan and the Honda Fit, for example).

Sports cars usually have aggressive, angry faces because people associate that sort of expression with rapid motion.

Wealthy people buy daily driver cars whose fascias have facial features that they associate with a particular social class.

Recent Lexus and Mercedes cars, for example, have a pinched cheek look that gives the appearance of high cheek bones, a trait that media influences people to believe is associated with good breeding.

They buy these cars because they want to associate with people who are like them. Their desire to be with people like them influences them to buy cars whose faces look like the people they associate with success and wealth.

Economy cars are often designed to look slow, cheap and to have resigned facial expressions because people who buy those cars tend to be slow, cheap and resigned.

People who do not respond to car faces buy cars their parents thought were cool, or owned when they were kids.

That’s why when you have a generation gap you see a lot of throwback cars like the new Dodge Challenger, Mustang, SRT Hellcat, Mini and Fiat 500 (I bought a Fiat 500 Abarth because my parents had a Fiat when I was a kid and because my dad was always fond of muscle cars).

Dr. Krishn A. Goyal with A. Sadasivam wrote an interesting paper about emotional vs. rational car buying that you can read here[1] . Warning: PDF

[–]negative_commentary 11 points

I already covered muscle cars, but I’ll elaborate a little.

Today all cars are muscle cars, even the cheap little Nissan Versa (which is an outstanding car for its price and even outdoes cars that cost a lot more in terms of utility and fun).

Today, every car you buy has fuel injection and a high compression ratio because the materials and processes we have created for internal combustion engines has improved discernibly since the Vietnam war.

You see, after the war, America was hungry to move on, and to fuel that drive to grow and thrive car companies had to begin offering cars that were not just big (the main value people had looked for in cars before) they also had to be fuel efficient because of fuel shortages, they had to be safe because the Boomers were, of course, making lots of babies and they had to be reliable, because people were carpooling and taking public transportation more than ever and if a car broke down people were more likely to catch a ride with someone or take public transportation than to buy a new car, because cars were very expensive. So for the first time Americans started demanding that the car they bought would prove to be reliable and the car companies were willing to meet that need because it was beneficial to both Americans and the car companies themselves.

Unfortunately for American car companies, all through the war companies from Japan like Nissan, Honda and Datsun had been developing cheap, inefficient cars already and were just waiting for Americans to end their occupation in Vietnam and move on so they could bring those cars to the US. There’s a fascinating documentary about how Japanese cars came to America and how the Japanese car companies defeated the stigma of Japanese cars that you can watch here:

American car companies knew this so they launched a back-handed marketing campaign to fool Americans into believing that inexpensive Japanese cars were unsafe and unreliable.

That’s why in the 80s and even into the early 90s you’d hear people talking about how Japanese cars were crap even though they offered the best safety and fuel economy with unbeatable reliability that could only be bested by Volkswagen and Volvo.

Volkswagen has always had a hard time with American buyers though because they have difficulty with balancing functionality with style. To Germans, style and functionality often go hand in hand, but for Americans, symbolism and body shape are incredibly important when making a major purchase. The boxy shape of most of VW’s cars in the 80s and 90s gave Honda and other Japanese manufacturers with their smooth, flowing lines a distinct advantage with American buyers once there were plenty of Japanese cars on the road for a few years to prove that the cars were safe, economical and reliable despite Big Steel’s naysaying.

Now that you know a brief history of how cheap cars came to the US, it’s important to know that the demand for a better engine comes hand in hand with the demand for a better car. We’re always demanding a little more horsepower for a little less money (cost of the car and fuel both withstanding). That’s why even the most basic economy cars often come with engines that top out over 90 horsepower. Even the little Nissan Versa we discussed earlier has 109 horsepower.

So what makes a muscle car a muscle car?

Believe it or not, it’s not horsepower. In fact, in terms of performance, horsepower matters very little. The idea of a muscle car is a little skewed because it defines a specific type of car that does not necessarily perform better than other cars. The cars that really perform are called “performance cars.”

Lets make a small comparison:

The 2015 Boss 302 Mustang is a muscle car. It has three purposes in life:

  1. Smoke tires.
  2. Make a bunch of manly noise.
  3. Look aggressive and hateful so no one will think you’re queer, because if you want to wear your wife’s camisole just to try it on and see if it fits that’s not gay it’s called being curious.

The Boss 302 is a muscle car, not a performance car, even though Ford calls it a performance car because all of the money goes into those three things. It is a set of testicles on wheels. But if you get it up to 90 and throw it into a turn it’s going to keep going straight and so are you. That’s called understeer and it happens because all of the money went into smoking tires and not looking queer. There’s no money left for suspension and even if there were lowered cars are for queers. So you have to keep that ride height high. banjo riff

The 2015 Lancer Evolution is a performance car. It makes noise but it doesn’t sound like it’s gargling badgers. Its lines are aggressive but it doesn’t look like it’s trying to compensate for a bunch of Chris Brown CD’s stashed under the visor. It doesn’t smoke tires, it puts that power to the ground. It handles like a dream. It goes around corners like it’s bent at a 90 degree angle. You can get it up to 90 miles an hour and go “ah fuck it I just decided I want to turn right” and then do that, and the car will sort everything out and make sure you get home to kiss your wife when it’s all over. Many call the Evo a heartless, emotionless, computer controlled monster because like a hound dog it will do what you want it to without making you look bad over, and over, and over, all day long, and feel great about it.

Now, take out your Nissan Versa and take it for a spin, but drive it like a sports car. It will body roll nauseatingly into corners but the tires will break free just at the right time to save your ass. If you know what you’re doing and you drive a Nissan Versa fast you’ll have a lot of fun because driving a slow car fast is just as fun as driving a fast car fast and in some cases it’s even more fun. Sure, it doesn’t make a bunch of snarling noise, it doesn’t rotate the tires in conflict with the pavement but it doesn’t care that you only used your gym membership once to find out that you don’t actually know how to lift, broh. And I’ll tell you the big secret about economy cars. This is why economy cars today feel peppy and lively. It’s because all of the acceleration comes in the first 20% of the accelerator tip-in. What this means to you and me is that when the accelerator is pressed 1/5 of the way to the floor, you’ve technically got it floored. Pushing the pedal down further does nothing until you hit that little bump at the bottom that kicks you down a gear.

Speaking of which, using that little bump is not a bad thing. Anytime you want a little extra oomph, smirk to yourself (the smirking is important) and go ahead and push the accelerator down until it clicks. It’s called a kickdown and it’s not an accident, it’s there for you to use anytime you want. You can punch that kickdown and rev the shit out of an economy car and you’ll find you get onto the freeway with more confidence and make left turns with more confidence than ever before. Just let out of it before you get more than 1000RPM into the redline and don’t keep it there for longer than a few seconds. Think of the kickdown as your superman button. You wouldn’t expect Superman to make your coffee for you.

Muscle cars don’t have that kind of tip in. You push a little, you get a little. You push a lot, you get a lot. They’re designed to emulate the way carborated engines worked where you manually operated a set of butterflies and pumps that controlled the fuel/air mix directly. But like every other car on the market today, muscle cars are also operated entirely electronically. When you push the gas pedal, whether it’s an economy car or a Lancer Evolution, you’re just adjusting a volume knob that tells the car’s computer (the ECU) how fast you want to go.

Every car, even muscle cars, are designed so the car goes how fast you want it and goes the direction you point the steering wheel. The car actually compensates and points itself in the direction you want to go based on how you point the wheel and not based on the actual position of the wheel. It does this by varying the amount of effort required to turn the steering wheel, thus very subtly convincing you to turn the wheel a little more or a little less, kind of like your dad holding the wheel and keeping you on the road when you were learning to drive.

So to sum things up, what really separates muscle cars from other cars is how they look, sound and deliver power. I don’t want to say that muscle cars are designed for insecure people, but muscle cars are designed for insecure people, and if you drive on and you’re insecure that’s fine because everybody buys cars for emotional reasons and they’re all bad reasons.

[–]negative_commentary 10 points

The reason pedophiles drive inconspicuous vehicles is because they start by fantasizing privately, usually about a specific individual. Then they move on to photographing and observing children in public places. Over time they get a little closer to the children and they begin to rationalize their potential actions in their heads. They drive inconspicuous cars so that people won’t remember seeing them at those locations and become suspicious. Eventually their fantasy escalates to the point that simply watching children isn’t arousing anymore, and they rationalize that kidnapping one child will prevent them from molesting others, and they perform a kidnapping.

If you are interested in how the whole mental process works there’s a book called “A Stolen Life” by a woman who was abducted as a child and had the thought process explained to her several times during her captivity.

She explains very well what goes down and why pedophiles all prettymuch exhibit the same behavioral patterns and escalation.

[–]negative_commentary 8 points

Buying a car is a large decision and if a car is too different from what you’re familiar with you’ll buy a car that has a more familiar design even if its value proposition is far worse.

There’s nothing more that computer modeling or engineering can do to make consumer vehicles more aerodynamic and still retain the shape that consumers expect a car to have.

Car body designs are pre-modeled at least ten years in advance. One of the ways car companies adapt consumers to future car designs is by releasing them as toys. If you look back at Hot Wheels designs from the 90s the “futuristic” models look a lot like the cars consumers buy today.

You also have to consider functionality and and safety standards.

You can’t have body panels that have extreme angles because the angles create points of weakness. You also can’t have panels that have overhangs or underhangs because they don’t provide adequate crumple zones in crashes.

The exception is exotic cars. They have different, specialized safety mechanisms that are both very expensive and very advanced, and the panels often use exotic materials that are also very expensive and very advanced.

Case in point: Consumer cars have big, chunky bumpers made out of plastic because underneath the plastic is a layer of styrofoam that is required to be a certain thickness, because styrofoam is incredible at absorbing impact from pedestrians. We actually design cars so that when we hit people they’ll be less likely to take on a critical injury.

The impact to the car is channelled through the body panels into the frame of the car. The front of the frame is designed to crumple in and push the engine beneath the passenger compartment on rails so it will slide beneath the occupants rather than ending up in their lap. Because of this the body panels have to have sufficient surface area to distribute and channel the impact into the frame.

The frame, in turn, channels the energy into the A pillars. Those are the two pillars at the left and right of the windshield. That is why those pillars are so thick and block your view when you turn. It was decided it was better to partially block your view for the safety gain of channeling energy toward the back of the car and away from your face. This stops the steering wheel and dash from smashing into your face and allows the airbag to function.

People who complain abut the lack of a telescopic steering wheel will realize based on this that the reason you can’t adjust the length of the steering column to better suit your comfort is that the steering wheel has to be a minimum distance from your body to prevent the airbag from crushing your face into the back of your skull. Airbags deploy with a force of several hundred PSI and faster than the speed of sound.

That might have been a little long winded, but all of those things are integrated into why aerodynamics interplays with structure in cars.


[–]negative_commentary 7 points

dont see why Nike has to charge $100+ for a shirt that cost $10 to make.

Yes, the base materials cost $10.

But you also have to figure in the following, all of which cost money:

  • Research and development
  • Advertising
  • Donations to charities
  • Product support salaries
  • Management salaries
  • Health care and other benefits for employees
  • Quality testing

Counterfeit companies get away with this by overworking and underemploying while providing no benefits.

They also often steal the materials and machinery they need to produce their products from legitimate factories.

[–]negative_commentary 5 points

No there are very few people who do my job because it requires an ability to communicate with a complete objectivity.

Most people are heavily influenced by culture, mass media marketing, religion or past negative experiences.

My job is a job for psychopaths (literally people with neural psychopathy, not scary-movie psychopaths).

Some examples of other neuro psychopathics you may know of include Elon Musk, CEO of SpaceX and Tesla; Jeff Bezos, CEO of Amazon and the former Steve Jobs of Apple.

These are individuals who can perform their job with a complete lack of emotional influence and that is why they are successful at their jobs.

The reason I am so successful at my job is because of my total objectivity and my choice to not be a CEO, investor or hedge fund manager.

People of my type who do not choose one of those jobs are very rare because for someone without emotional influence those jobs are the fastest way to power and money, and those are the two things neuro psychopaths work for, because nothing else makes sense for them to pursue.

They pursue those objectives because the ultimate ingress to safety is the control and influence of those who control access to resources, and indirectly through the control of those who control money because money can be used to control people who have access to resources.