💠 Sunday Scaries (04/04/21)

Paul Simon, Frederick Taylor's Work Force, Project Xanadu

Hi everyone,

I’m back in Los Angeles after two weeks on the big island of Hawai’i. While I’m looking forward to getting back into my routine, I’ll miss the natural beauty of the islands. I snapped this photo during a late afternoon rainstorm that accentuated the vivid colors of the scenery.


What’s new from me:

  1. On cofounders: I recently reread a great story about the SR-71 that reminded me how important communication is in building trust. This applies to businesses too, although many people seem to overlook this when considering whether to pursue a project.

  2. RACI: A framework for managing projects involving large groups of people. I realized that while this concept is well-known within certain fields, it’s relatively unknown outside of them, despite how useful it is.

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In this week’s edition

How Paul Simon Wrote “Bridge Over Troubled Water” (1970)

Paul Simon (of Simon and Garfunkel) breaks down his creative process in this clip from a 1970 talk show appearance. I love this clip because it shows how messy the creative process can be. You need to leave yourself open to inspiration and be willing to remix good ideas when they appear.

“This may be an impossible question, but anybody who can really create something — there is always a mystery of how does it happen? There was a moment in time when Bridge Over Troubled Water didn’t exist at all, and then there was another moment when it did, or when it started to.”

“I was stuck there. This was all I had of that melody.”

“What makes you stuck?”

“Well.. everywhere I went lead me where I didn’t want to be.”


Frederick Taylor - Work Force (1911)

Frederick Taylor was one of the first management consultants and popularized the idea of industrial efficiency. In this short piece titled Work Force, he lays out the case for employers to invest in the training and motivation of their employees:

Scientific management, on the contrary, has for its very foundation the firm conviction that the true interests of the two are one and the same; that prosperity for the employer cannot exist through a long term of years unless it is accompanied by prosperity for the employee, and vice versa; and that it is possible to give the workman what he most wants—high wages—and the employer what he wants—a low labor cost—for his manufactures. […]

If the above reasoning is correct, it follows that the most important object of both the workmen and the management should be the training and development of each individual in the establishment so that he can do (at his fastest pace and with the maximum of efficiency) the highest class of work for which his natural abilities fit him.


The Curse of Xanadu (1995)

Roam Research recently popularized the idea of backlinks — a way to organize ideas into non-hierarchical structures — but the original idea is much older. One of the earliest attempts to include backlinks into the web was called Project Xanadu. Intended to be an improvement over the world wide web, the project was plagued with problems and a full implementation was not released until 1998, thirty-eight years after it started.

This Wired piece from 1995 outlines the “epic tragedy” of Project Xanadu and the design choices that set back the proliferation of backlinks nearly sixty years.


Have a great week,

Phil