Random Thoughts

I am exhausted these days. Part of it is the weather, part of it the days are getting short, and part is because I didn’t spend a single day at home in long time. I am an extrovert so this normally isn’t a problem, but this has now been the case for few months. I need a break.

One good thing I learned recently about good writing is to not use exaggeration words like “too” or “very”. The first sentence in this post was originally “I am too tired these days”, but instead I replaced “too tired” with “exhausted”. I have been doing this for some time and it makes the sentences sound better. One great short read about improving your writing is Scott Adam’s “The Day You Became A Better Writer“. I read it every few months.

I started taking Vitamin D. I didn’t know I have severe deficiency until I did a blood test. I didn’t have the symptoms people are talking about like being tired. I do have lack of focus, but I am blaming this on my smartphone addiction and not Vitamin D. Let’s see if this would have any effects on focus.

I am currently juggling between four books. Venture Deals, The Manager’s Path, The Black Swan, and The book of Why.

Venture Deals is good but heavy. Not the type of book you read/listen to in bed. If you want to benefit from it you have to read it slowly and take notes with the most important parts you want to summarize. It is also one of these books that will have beneficial parts at each stage of building a company. Not all of it is relevant at the beginning but some parts are more important at some stages than others.

The Manager’s Path has been recommended at work by multiple people. My manager even made it a must read for the leads in our department. I took a copy from one of the leads and currently trying to read it. It is becoming more important as I have a new product colleague joining and I will be responsible for bringing her up to speed.

I already talked earlier about The Black Swan and The Book of Why. They both are opposite of each other. The Black Swan claims you can’t understand causality and life is more random than we think it is. The Book of Why claims the opposite, that there is now a language for understanding causality. I am half way through the former, and just started with the latter.

Tomorrow is another Product Monday post. It will be a short one. I have few long form drafts but I won’t be able to finish any of them until tomorrow.

Random Thoughts

I recently want to write about many things. Some ideas are controversial and will lead to tension with some people. But I recently made the decision to do less self censorship. As Nassim Talib puts it:

“There is No muscles without strength, friendship without trust, opinion without consequence, change without aesthetics, age without values, life without effort, water without thirst, food without nourishment, love without sacrifice, power without fairness, facts without rigor, statistics without logic, mathematics without proof, teaching without experience, politeness without warmth, values without embodiment, degrees without erudition, militarism without fortitude, progress without civilization, friendship without investment, virtue without risk, probability without ergodicity, wealth without exposure, complication without depth, fluency without content, decision without asymmetry, science without skepticism, religion without tolerance, and, most of all: nothing without skin in the game.”

Opinion without consequence. 

Speaking of Nassim, I felt a vacuum after finishing “Skin in the game”. I finally decided what I am reading next. In the middle I bought three books “Thank you for joking Mr. Feynman”, “Girl, wash your hair”, and “Win Bigly”.

Win Bigly was Scott Adams story of how he predicted Trump’s winning and why he supported him. He considers Trump a “master persuader” which there aren’t many like him on the planet. I tried reading the book but it was so boring for me because it was explaining lots of psychological concepts that I already know and many of the examples were from the days of Trump campaign which I wasn’t following.

Girl, wash your hair was on the most read list of Amazon. I picked it up because I am interested in what feminists talk about. I don’t know if I can be classified as a feminist because the word lost its meaning (same with racist). I tried reading it but it turned to be Jordan Peterson for females. Probably that’s why it has so much appeal. Sorry, self help isn’t my genre.

And last but not least, Thank you for joking Mr. Feynman. It is the biography of Feynman. It was boring for me because I don’t feel any connection to him. I am not that interested in Physics either. I bought Einstein’s biography but never listened to it. So I couldn’t continue that one.

On the weekend I watched this Marty Cagan talk “Ordinary people, extraordinary results“. I felt pressure to watch it because everyone at work was talking about it. I watched it and was so disappointed (and I don’t use “so” lightly). It sounded to me that he was stating the obvious and I still fail to see the reason people are impressed. Maybe it is because the European audience is not exposed to the valley culture much. Maybe because I have been thinking recently about the same topic and wrote about it two days before the talk. I don’t know.

I still have three long form posts to write. One about stakeholder management, one about my experience writing and sending the developer newsletter inside the company, and one about how much product managers should intervene in the team’s work (that one was based on a discussion I had with a coworker).

BTW, I forgot to tell you which book I settled on. Because this post is random thoughts I decided to not edit and add a paragraph in the middle. So we will continue the conversation here.

I ended up picking another Nassim book “The Black Swan”. I also ordered “The book of why” which I think is arguing on the opposite side. Nassim argues you can’t rationalize to find causality. The 2nd book argues you can. I will hopefully read both and have my own thoughts on what makes sense when. Will see.

One final thought is that those random thoughts posts sometimes scare me. I feel I emptied everything I have on mind and won’t have something to talk about tomorrow. I am sure this is not true. I think, I exist, I write. As long as I am thinking, I will have something to write about.

Short random thoughts

I am unable to think about topics to write about. It is not writer block but rather a result of sleep debt from last week. I can’t wait for the weekend to sleep well.

I am recently debating universal basic income with friends. I am a believer it doesn’t make sense and will just lead to higher inflation. My friends believe it works and if there are the right mechanisms, there should be competition between businesses to attract customers money, leading to cheaper prices. I was also surprised it was going to happen in the US in the 70s but they didn’t proceed with the idea. Happy to discuss any thoughts you have.

I am still on twitter and LinkedIn break. I won’t open any of them till the end of the month. I am having withdrawal effects, but I am holding tight.

I want to make my writing habit consistent in timing. I want to start my day writing something. The problem is being a night owl makes me always wake up late for work. And I can’t force myself to wake up earlier for the sake of writing.

I am currently spreading my vocal advocacy for night owls and how the modern work schedule doesn’t fit them. I discovered many people don’t know it is mainly genetic, and they can’t do much about it. It now makes other owls feel less guilty about themselves when I tell them about the genetic fact. I am feeling like Rick when he said “I am a pickle”. I keep telling people “I am an owl“. #teamOwls

I am also thinking about detachment. I noticed I am becoming defensive in some meetings recently. This stems from being with the same team for almost a year, and taking pride in the work we do. There is a fine line between defending the work being done and thinking of what needs to be improved. The problem is after a while we become part of the system. We let the waves move us in their direction. We should keep an open mind, and instead of going with the flow or resisting, we should surf to rise high above those challenges and arrive safely to our goals.

I have two long form posts that I never finished. One is about stakeholder management. I recently wrote a paper on how we manage stakeholders in our department that went viral inside the company. It is too specific that makes it useless to be published publicly as is. I have a draft for the public one, but it needs half a day to finish. The second post is about writing the developers newsletter inside the company. I took this task from a colleague that went on parental leave, and I didn’t imagine I would enjoy it that much (it is ironic the extrovert, talkative, vocal guy didn’t think he would enjoy writing a monthly newsletter to 200+ teams). I experimented some ideas, and wanted to share this experience. I hope I will get to publishing both of them.

Short random thoughts

I don’t have time to write much but I want to keep up with the habit. So here is a short random thoughts post.

These days I am thinking about London and comparing it a lot to Berlin. It is really good to be in a place that speaks English but the public transit system sucks in terms of wheelchair accessibility.

I am thinking about self censorship. I delete many thoughts after writing them. I don’t know how much self censorship is good or bad but I think I am doing more censorship than necessary.

I am reflecting on my decision to delete Facebook in 2015. Before Trump became a president, and before GDPR. It is one of the best decisions I made but I didn’t think enough of its impact. This needs another post.

I might elaborate more on those points later. I might not. But right now, those are my random thoughts.

Random Thoughts

It has been a while since I wrote something. This is normally a good trigger for a random thoughts post.

As much as I like writing, and really love what Fred Wilson has been doing blogging daily for the past 10 years, I am recently questioning my ability to follow the same path. It is a hard to build habit. It has enormous benefits that I talked about earlier, but I don’t have the persistence to keep doing it daily. I also observed that there is a negative correlation between the number of posts I published, and how much is going on in life. I write more when I am at a sweet spot of interesting conversations, and free time. Which I am currently not at.

There is also the same negative correlation between how much I write and how much Arabic content I am exposed to. I recently unmuted everyone I muted on twitter, which included all my friends and one of my sisters (I muted anyone posting content I don’t like and would keep me in touch with what’s happening in Egypt). This made me exposed to a lot of Arabic content, which resulted in whenever I want to write, I expressed my thoughts as an Arabic tweetstorm.

I am always torn between writing in Arabic or English. In Arabic I know I can reach bigger audience, because not many people write on the same topics I do, and I think I have the ability to write what’s to the point. However, English has better long term benefits like improving my English, and career opportunities by people approaching me because they read something I wrote.

Work is so interesting these days. I never thought developer tooling can get this interesting. We launched new features on our platforms that allow our developers to operate at scale (I hope I have the time to publish some of this on the Zalando blog). We also screwed up a couple of times especially with changing stuff without communicating before. I discovered that some features you need to announce before releasing because it leads to confusion even if it provides better experience. And now it is getting more interesting as we are analyzing the tech stacks and thinking how easy it would be for a team to move to the Kubernetes infrastructure provided by my team. When you have a lot of data you can do lots of interesting stuff. Unfortunately this part of the post is a bit vague because I am afraid to break confidentiality, but the takeaway is it is getting more interesting for me. And BTW, I am hiring a product manager to join my team, come join me or refer someone you know.

I started learning German. After 20 months in Germany I finally signed up for my first German class. It is level A1.1 and I am a bit bored. I already know most of what’s being taught. A second problem I have in general with all language learning techniques I tried so far (Audio courses, Duelingo, Babbel, Rosetta stone, and classes) is the lack of gratification that would motivate me to continue learning the language. You have to invest a lot upfront before you are able to hold a meaningful conversation with someone, which leads to losing motivation in the middle and making language learning  tedious. I am saying this and I am the extroverted butterfly who talks to every random person on the street. I can imagine it is far worse for people dealing with social anxiety. I don’t know the solution, but I think my next step will be a private tutor.

A random thoughts post can’t be without talking about books. I finished “The Subtle Art of Not Giving a Fuck”. I liked it. It was an easy read, and follows a stoic approach to life, which is quite similar to my and my father’s approach to life. It got boring a bit in the middle, and the author tried being deep at the end, but it didn’t have the desired impact on me. I couldn’t relate to death the way from the way he wrote about it. Overall it is a good light read.

I am currently switching between “The upside of stress” and “Skin in the Game”.

The upside of stress is by the same author of “The willpower instinct”. The book is about an interesting point of view towards stress. A more positive one. However, it can be summarized in 50 pages instead of the 200+. The book is full of personal anecdotes, and studies that seem far from having the argued impact. With psychology having a reproducability crisis, I wonder how much of it stays true over time.

Skin in the game is the second book I read by Nassim Talib after Antifragile. Nassim has this interesting way of stating the obvious in a convoluted way that makes it sounds too deep. I like reading him because he is a contrarian and normally has different ways to explain the same thing (Fat Tony, Greek mythology, history, modern day events…etc).

I am swamped these days between work, German, and my sister who is visiting me in Berlin.  I like it.

Random Thoughts

Starting this year my writing frequency went significantly down. Last year I wrote 70 posts. This year we are in April and this is my 9th post. Assuming uniformed distribution of posts and no growth in the number of posts, this should be my 18th post.

The main reason of this is I moved to a new apartment. I had no desk for three months and this cut my habit of writing. This even impacted my ability to write on mobile although almost 30-50% of my writing happens on mobile.

I don’t have a rhythm or schedule for writing. I write whenever I feel comfortable. I also don’t care about quantity vs quality. I am just trying to build a habit of writing because it has multiple benefits.

It is a form of therapy especially for an extroverted person such as myself. It improves my communication skills, since the more I write, the more mistakes I commit, and the better I get at it. It helps me meet new people, I sometimes get contacted by people because they read something I wrote. And it has some career benefits even though the blog is not 100% about my professional life.

I recently wrote about loneliness and its impact on productivity specially for newly migrated workers. I am working in an international environment and I can see it among almost everyone. I don’t know why no one is talking about it enough. I didn’t finish my thoughts and ended up not publishing the post. The tl;dr version is that if I have a company with internationals, I will make sure to track their loneliness, I argue this is one of the biggest factors of low performance/high attrition for newcomers from abroad. I hope to see some studies about it or someone talking openly about it.

I recently finished two books “Sapiens”, and “Ready Player One”.

I liked Sapiens a lot. It was shocking in some areas. I liked how Harari mixed fundamental theories of how history progressed with well known stories and modern day examples. This made the book easy to read, however it made it time bound. The book will be obsolete in 10-20 years. Another problem with the book is he mocks almost every religion in a relatively disrespectful way. My Muslim friends said he is biased against Muslims, when I read it carefully, I found he is biased against everyone. However, he never mentions the Jews or the Jewish religion sarcastically as he did with the rest. My hypothesis is he had to be politically correct since he is Isareli and the book is originally written in Hebrew, otherwise my friends are right and he is biased against certain religions.

Ready player one is the first English fiction book I read. I tried with other fiction books but got bored quickly. It was easier to finish this because it was about a dystopian technological world, which is highly relevant to my interests in technology. If you have fiction book recommendations, shoot them along my way.

As you saw in the title, this post is about random thoughts. I wrote to it to try to get back to my writing habit without thinking too much of a post’s content. Now you have reached the end. Until next post.