photo of door with letter opening and number 5 in article 5-Links on How Things Work by John Sumser published July 1, 2014In this edition of Five Links, we’re looking at the mechanics of advertising, VC Backed Startups, Disruption, Tech Culture and Silicon Valley hiring. Each of the pieces illuminates the underbelly of a popular misconception.

  • Grow Fast or Die Slow
    From McKinsey. This report paints a picture of how and why venture financing works. All organic growth is a mathematical function of the original investment. It’s virtually impossible to grow a huge company (like Google, Facebook, Yahoo or the other usual suspects) without a huge initial investment.
  • Sensors and Citizens: Finding Balance in the New Urban Reality
    We are well into the surveillance era. This is a plea for keeping the design human.
  • Tech Isn’t All Brogrammers, It’s Still Nerds Building New Things
    It’s easy to believe that Silicon Valley and the tech economy are the caricatures you see on HBO, Amazon and in the press. Nerds are general;ly tamer than that. Easy to stereotype and tease, people who focus on solving what can be solved (engineers) look at the world differently. That doesn’t mean high testosterone antics. Usually, it means the tamer opposite.
  • The Disruption Machine
    Few notions have blown into popular culture faster than the idea of disruption. You can be certain that the trend is decaying now that there are HR Disruption events of a variety of colors and shapes (4 at last count). Disruption is what happens when a cheaper, lower quality alternative takes large chunks of market share. In this New Yorker piece, we are given a solid critique of the core idea. Must read if you are going to use the term.
  • Inside the Mirrortocracy
    Read this. “There’s a problem with Silicon Valley and the subcultures that imitate it. It’s a design bug woven into people’s identities and sense of self-worth. Fixing it will be painful. Influential and otherwise very smart people will deny till their last breath that it even exists.”

Bonus Links

  • On the Near Impossibility of Measuring the Returns to Advertising
    Jointly authored by Google and Microsoft employees, this paper describes the difficulty proving a return on advertising. Even individually targeted digital advertising. “We find that even when ad delivery and consumer purchases can be measured at the individual level, linked across purchasing domains, and randomized to ensure exogenous exposure, forming reliable estimates on the returns to advertising is exceedingly difficult, even with millions of observations. As an advertiser, the data are stacked against you.”
  • What is Productivity and Why Are We Tracking It?
    This one is all about the reading list

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