John Stokvis

February 20, 2024

Cirque before Cirque

Cirque du Soleil has become a whole thing at this point, but back in the day (1999), it was just a Canadian circus that was doing things a little differently. It was still in a ring, featured well paced aerial and acrobatic acts, but it was intercut with some weird characters in interesting costumes. Denis Lacombe performs an absolute ...
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February 14, 2024

Unique problems and generic solutions

The tweet below from Shreyas struck a chord with me, because it's so true. It took me a while to figure this out (even though I was never able to articulate it this succinctly, even to myself). We tend to think that our problems are special but look for generic solutions. We say "well we tried this before, you haven't considered this q...
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November 24, 2023

Nature 🤝 Nurture

It strikes me that “nature vs. nurture” is a silly distinction that mostly sticks around because it sounds catchy. (Or because people have some deeper agenda or justification they’re going for) Of course It’s not either/or. It’s both/and. Nature is the hand that parents deal their children. Nurture is how the people raising the child t...
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October 12, 2023

The real underlying "problems" with AI

The concept of AI (or machine learning or algorithms or whatever you feel like calling them) have become a catchall for all sorts of problems and fears. Many of them aren't really problems with AI at all, but issues with capitalism or the internet generally, or just...you know...people. That being said, Ben Evans does an admirable job ...
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September 22, 2023

Everyone should be talking about "No One Is Talking About This"

Sometimes I have trouble putting into words how much I loved No One Is Talking About This by Patricia Lockwood. It's as if she can read the zeitgeist and is just writing it down. The best I can do is share a few quotes from the book. Here's 40. Hopefully by the time you get to the end, you've concluded that you should read it too. “Why...
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September 18, 2023

Don't be ruthless

I never liked the phrase "ruthlessly prioritize" when it comes to scoping a product's features (or anything prioritization-related for that matter). It's too violent. It implies that you should be unfeeling and cruel when in fact that opposite is true. The best approach involves deepening your empathy to understand the problem. Then st...
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September 15, 2023

Maps, territory, and money

It could be that we keep mistaking the map for the territory because maps are where the money is. The experience of being alive isn’t really monetizable. It’s literally “invaluable.” So if people (or capitalists) are going to make any money off of something so universal and important as being alive, they need to focus others (their cus...
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July 7, 2023

Jelly Wobbler

faith in humanity: RESTORED I'm only half joking, but if humanity can produce something as majesitc as a machine specifically for wobbling jelly, then surely we can solve climate change and poverty.
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June 8, 2023

iPhone vs. Vision Pro pricing

One way of thinking about the "$3500 for this thing is way too much no matter what it does" is comparing it to the cost of the original iPhone. This is not to say the Vision Pro will have the same world changing effect as the iPhone, but the price thing becomes less of an issue when you do the math. In 2007 when the iPhone was launched...
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June 7, 2023

Attack on Titan is quite the vibe

Come for the Spiderman-style webslinging, Battlestar Galactica-style secret plots, and Godzilla-style kaiju battles. Stay for the meditations on intergenerational trauma, the cycle of violence, and free will. In Japanese, the title of the manga (and later the anime) is 進撃の巨人 or Shingeki no Kyojin. This translates literally to "The Adva...
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June 5, 2023

Priority vs. Sequence

Priority (what is important) and sequence (what should get done first) are two different (albeit related) concepts that are often conflated with each other. Distinguishing which one you're talking about helps immensely. It helps when collaborating with others, obviously. But it even clarifies my own thinking. X might be the most import...
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April 14, 2023

Combining Time Boxing with the Pareto Principle to Get Shit Done

Software development is fun when your team can go fast. You see ideas turn into reality, you watch as customers like (or don't care about) stuff you put in their hands, you iterate based on customer feedback, and it just plain feels good. So increasing the autonomy, efficiency and velocity of your team is crucial. But it's hard. You ca...
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March 14, 2023

Accessibility on the internet

Curb cuts are the canonical example of how building products with accessibility in mind ultimately makes life better for everyone. It's not just about making a special accommodation for people with permanent disabilities. There are also knock on effects for people with: • "temporary" disabilities (like being on crutches) • situational ...
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January 19, 2023

The Chinese finger trap model of life

The more you want to get something out of life, the less likely you are to get it. Just like a Chinese finger trap. The harder you pull your fingers to get them out, the more stuck they get.
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December 13, 2022

Who Goes Nazi (by Dr. Seuss)

Readwise Reader is an incredible app. It's coming out of private beta this week and if you read on the internet (if you're reading this, that probably means you) you should give it a try. It's made saving, managing, highlighting, and remixing everything I read for work and pleasure much easier and MUCH more fun. RSS, newsletters, PDFs,...
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September 29, 2022

Magic is real, but it's not special

The most unrealistic part of fantasy stories is that there are people in them who think magic is amazing or special. Anyone who has: • graduated from school • taken out a loan • gotten married • had a kid • used a passport has done magic. What did you think you were doing when you imbued your sigil on a piece of parchment with special ...
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September 28, 2022

Telling the truth like a standup comedian

Alan Watts was a translator of Eastern philosophy to Western audiences. There were many who did the same, but what took him to another level was that we talked philosophy like a standup comedian. He described deep truths the way a Jerry Seinfeld crafts jokes. Masterfully using tension. For example: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uxDNW...
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September 22, 2022

Want to see a parasocial relationship in action?

Check out this video of a fan talking about catching Aaron Judge's 60th home run ball. At 0:53 a reporter asks "Do you have any expectations about catching the ball and receiving anything in return?" Michael, the fan gets visibly emotional and replies, "No." "Just wanted to give him back...it's a success story...so any way I could give...
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August 9, 2022

Trust the audience

A post by Sheila O'Malley reminded me of a subtle lesson from my theater days: "It's for the audience to decide." Most people get into something (theater, product, engineering, history, philosophy, sports) because it moves them in some way and they want to bring that feeling to others. But you can't feel it for the audience/reader/list...
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July 6, 2022

3/4 of a McBoatface

The Ulster County Board of Elections has 3/4 of a McBoatface on their hands. 1. Participatory poll or contest 2. Entry that is within the rules but not what the admins intended, yet captures the spirit of the contest 3. Entry goes viral 4. Admins accept and celebrate the winner Much attention is paid to the way in which internet mobs c...
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July 5, 2022

i learned a new word today: sophistry

👆what most cross-functional planning meetings can feel like i love the way ideas collide on twitter. Ted Gioia wrote about sophistry in his newsletter and it clarified something in the impact/execution/optics framework that Shreyas Doshi talks about: it's not about moral judgements (impact = good, optics = bad) it's about what the PM v...
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May 31, 2022

A great goal to have as a leader is to make yourself "dispensible"

There are so many problems to solve in any organization. It’s exciting to jump in, identify something that needs to solving, and fix it in your own unique way. But there’s a common trap (one I’ve fallen into several times): creating a Values Oasis. Will Larson gives an example of a Values Oasis: ““A few years ago, I heard an apocryphal...
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April 22, 2022

Implementing Shape Up

This is a repost from May 2020. I've moved on from this job, but the lessons still ring true. Below is a summary (if you can call 2,600 words a "summary") of how my development team and I used some of the ideas from Basecamp's Shape Up to improve our process. If you'd like a summary of all the techniques in Shape Up, here's a good one ...
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March 25, 2022

On understanding second order effects

Dunking on politicians is easy because everyone can agree that although they are given a lot of power, they almost never know what they're talking about. Putting aside truly malignant politicians, they can seem like Lenny from Of Mice and Men: powerful, meaning well, but ultimately ignorant of the ramifications of their power. The appr...
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February 23, 2022

You do not need product management experience to be a product manager

It can seem like there's a catch-22 when trying to break into product. You feel like you won't get an opportunity to do product if you don't have any product experience and you can't get any product experience if you aren't given an opportunity to do product. But it only seems like a catch-22 if you make an incorrect assumption. The tr...
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December 8, 2021

On Imposter Syndrome

This tweet from Visakanv resonated with me. However you do it, preventing imposter syndrome from being a significant factor in your thinking and doing is one of the most important things you can do for your friendships, career, and life in general. It was for me. This goes beyond the quaint realization that EVERYONE from the new kid in...
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November 10, 2021

It always goes both ways

You can call it privilege. You can call it utopianism. You can call it self-regard. Whatever you call it, people have a blind spot that I see pop up over and over again. We tend to view our relationship with the world as a one-way street, when it actually goes in both directions. For whatever reason (egotism? present bias?), it's easy ...
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October 14, 2021

Ted Lasso: The second season is actually good

If you haven't seen Ted Lasso yet, I envy you. You have a fantastic experience to look forward to. The premise is somewhat silly and simple (which makes sense because it's based on a series of commercials promoting Premier League Football in the United States). An American football coach becomes the coach for a British football (i.e. s...
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August 27, 2021

Having it both ways

Uncontroversial statement: Steven Spielberg is a pretty good director. He is good at making movies, but his genius lies in two other things he does consistently well: 1. He hires John Williams to score every film. 2. In his films, he leans into themes that resonate with the zeitgeist of the time in some way. He can see something that’s...
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August 13, 2021

Be the Customer's Advocate

As a product manager, I am constantly trying to explain what exactly a product manager does (sometimes I feel like saying a PM's job responsibility is explaining what exactly they do). But the main job of a PM, the sine qua non of their job responsibilities is to understand, and speak on behalf of, the customer. The customer isn't in t...
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