The perfect echo chamber

I used to criticize Facebook for creating an echo chamber. My argument was – as almost every one else – that Facebook should show users what is right, not what they agree with.

I overestimated the level of transparency the internet brings. When the political events were happening in Egypt and the local media was hiding the truth, I thought as soon as every one joins Facebook/twitter the truth will be revealed. I was wrong. It happened to some extent, but the echo chambers were much stronger.

One of the main drivers of hostility on the internet is people seeing their core beliefs being attacked. Regardless of the side, seeing something we disagree with triggers our survival response and hence we become hostile to the adversary.

I am recently giving this a lot of thought. I started to think Facebook shouldn’t try to avoid echo chambers, it should strive to create the perfect one.

If you have the perfect echo chamber and only see the things you agree with, you won’t feel the internet is unsafe as it is now. It sounds counterintuitive, I know, but this behavior is why people are moving more towards private conversations.

That being said, it makes me question why we don’t have this until now, this is what I could think of

  • Nobody thought of it. I highly doubt.
  • It is not technically feasible. I also doubt to some extent.
  • It drives engagement down. If we only see things we agree with, we are less likely to engage with the content. Less engagement means less time spent on site, less ads to be served, and less money to be made.

That’s my theory.

Writing

Many of my friends want to start blogging. They ask me where to start. I tell everyone I have a few simple rules I keep in mind when writing.

“Real Artists Ship” – Steve Jobs

The key to commit to writing is to hit the publish button. Most people don’t write out of the fear their posts won’t be liked. Here is a surprise: nobody is reading what you write, and nobody will share what you write saying they don’t like it.

There is a second reason to shipping, the only way to get better at anything is to actually do it. The more you do it, the more mistakes you make, which leads to becoming better.

“Anything you say may be used against you” – The Miranda warning

This is one of the traps I fell into multiple times. Opinions are not safe on the internet. I think before publishing any post, if my position has changed, can this post harm me in any way? If the answer is yes, I don’t publish.

“The two most powerful warriors are patience and time” – Leo Tolstoy

Things take time. Don’t expect to an audience from day one. I used to focus on how many people are reading what I write. I slowly adapted the mentality of doing it for myself, and for helping others. Not having Facebook also helped.

One of the most joyful moments is when someone messages me because they benefited from something I wrote. It doesn’t happen often, but when it does, it is great.

Hit publish.

Shoe Dog

I recently finished the memoir of Nike’s founder Phil Knight. I didn’t know it is pronounced “Nikee” and not “Nike like Bike”.

It is a clear story of passion and persistence. The book reminds me of “The hard thing about hard things” by Ben Horowitz. It has the same pattern of a series of ups and downs with extremes on both ends. The main difference I felt was Phil’s story was more personal. He talked more about how he felt and what was he thinking when things were happening. It kinda makes you feel in his shoe.

It is a story of mastery. Starting the company with his three decades older coach is a great example of the evolution from apprenticeship to mastery. They both had passion for shoes and running. Phil had the energy, while Bowerman had the experience that made him innovate on shoe designs. I feel envious he was this lucky to find such a mentor.

The book is well written and worth the time. There are countless quotes to share but those two are the ones I liked the most.

  • “We’re also finishing construction on a new athletic facility, which we plan to dedicate to our mothers, Dot and Lota. On a plaque next to the entrance will go an inscription: Because mothers are our first coaches.”
  • “When goods don’t pass international borders, soldiers will. Though I’ve been known to call business war without bullets, it’s actually a wonderful bulwark against war. Trade is the path of coexistence, cooperation. Peace feeds on prosperity.”

NPS

Every time someone says we should use Net Promoter Score I get a feeling of irritation. It is neither a metric that tells you something you can act on, nor a KPI that indicates the health of your product.

It is biased. Those who buy will be promoters, and those who don’t will be detractors.

It is lagging. In the online world you instantly see the drop in sales, engagement, or whatever core metric you are optimizing, before sending out a survey to customers asking them about the likelihood of recommending the product.

It is non-actionable. The NPS score is a result of multiple core metrics coming together. Successful companies monitor core metrics closely. If some of these metrics get better while others get messed up, it is hard to justify the change in the NPS without looking at each of the core metrics separately.

NPS – most of the time – just creates distraction. Focus on the core metrics is more actionable, and leads to better results.

If you are looking for alternatives to NPS, I think the closest metrics are retention, and virality coefficient. Those two reflect actual product usage, they are actionable, and don’t have the vanity of asking someone “Would you do this?”.