Breaking My Comfort Zone

Although I used to break my comfort zone several times, but this time, it’s really a big one.

I decide to start my own business together with someone I just met, into a unfamiliar industry. In a way, to be an enterpreneur.

It is a “cannot-be-more-traditional” traditional industry – the agriculture, food industry.

Now, China got a huge crisis on the food industry. Too much unhealthy food are eaten everyday. Even the rich who want to buy “clean” food, they can hardly find them in the supermarket. The needs of trustful healthy food are definite and clear.

The reasons why this food crisis happened are varied. The enterprises need to pay high-and-various tax on their products. And the government on the other hand control their price through administrative means. The enterprise which need earn money turn to cut off their original matrial and mix some addtives similar but cheaper into their products with same taste but lower cost. And to escaping the supervise, they have to bribe the government officer. The most important part is, if people eat these food for long time, they will get chronic disease slowly with even no early warnings! But you can not find 100% “normal” food in the market in the meanwhile. Even the oil, the salt and the milk, even in KFC (most Chinese thinks KFC and McD are “clean” (but not healthy if you eat them very often)). In short, the whole industry is a mess.

It’s not realitic to ask the government to change their system or change the officers. So one way to live in this circumstance is offer “real” products to the ones who can accept the high price but win a good name. How about the poors? Sorry but We really couldn’t think that far. Maybe we’ll donate our benifit after we succeed in the market and change the industry. But at the moment, I have to say sorry but I can do nothing. Let me keep a seed in my heart.

I said “yes” to my partners this evening, and will meet them tomorrow. On Wednesday, we’ll meet our retailers. And register our company next week. I just finished my 100 days plan.

No matter how crazy this action is, I’m on my way to enjoy this journey. Best luck of me.

写给创业者的13句话 | Startups in 13 Sentences

February 2009

One of the things I always tell startups is a principle I learned from Paul Buchheit: it’s better to make a few people really happy than to make a lot of people semi-happy. I was saying recently to a reporter that if I could only tell startups 10 things, this would be one of them. Then I thought: what would the other 9 be?
我经常给创业者讲的关于创业的一个原则是:尽你的所能,使得少数人获得百分百满意,这样比让大多数人获得一半的满意来得更为重要。这是我从保罗·布希海特(Paul Buchheit)那里学到的。我最近接受了一个记者的采访,他让我说出创业者应该注意的十件事情,我说,这就是其一。但是其他的九个注意事项又是什么?

When I made the list there turned out to be 13:

1. Pick good cofounders.

Cofounders are for a startup what location is for real estate. You can change anything about a house except where it is. In a startup you can change your idea easily, but changing your cofounders is hard. [1] And the success of a startup is almost always a function of its founders.
对于创业者来说,一个创业搭档的重要性就有如地点对于房地产的重要性一般。一间房子,你怎么改都行,就是不能改它的地点。对于创业者而言,要改变想法是很容易的,但是要改换创业搭档就很难了。[1] 而每一个草创之业能够取得成功,皆离不开其创立者的共同影响。

2. Launch fast.
Continue reading “写给创业者的13句话 | Startups in 13 Sentences”

讨论时请少给你自己贴标签 | Keep Your Identity Small

February 2009

I finally realized today why politics and religion yield such uniquely useless discussions.

As a rule, any mention of religion on an online forum degenerates into a religious argument. Why? Why does this happen with religion and not with Javascript or baking or other topics people talk about on forums?

What’s different about religion is that people don’t feel they need to have any particular expertise to have opinions about it. All they need is strongly held beliefs, and anyone can have those. No thread about Javascript will grow as fast as one about religion, because people feel they have to be over some threshold of expertise to post comments about that. But on religion everyone’s an expert.
信仰之所以演变成口水大战是因为参与者觉得他们无须任何特定的专门知识就可以它发表看法。他们所需要的只是拥有一种强烈的信念,而信念这东西每个人 都不缺。讨论Javascript帖子的楼层永远盖不过些信仰贴。因为网民们总觉得要想对Javascript话题作评论,他们还需要迈过专业知识这道门 槛。但是,一旦涉及信仰,人人都觉得自己是专家。

Then it struck me: this is the problem with politics too. Politics, like religion, is a topic where there’s no threshold of expertise for expressing an opinion. All you need is strong convictions.

Do religion and politics have something in common that explains this similarity? One possible explanation is that they deal with questions that have no definite answers, so there’s no back pressure on people’s opinions. Since no one can be proven wrong, every opinion is equally valid, and sensing this, everyone lets fly with theirs.
宗教和政治方面的某些相同点是否解释了这种相似性呢?其中一个可能的解释就是他们所讨论的问题并没有一个确切的答案,因此对于某些人的观点并不会形成压倒性的优势(back pressure)。因为无法证明对方错了,每个观点的理由都是同等的充分,每个人都依着自己的感觉大喷口水。

But this isn’t true. There are certainly some political questions that have definite answers, like how much a new government policy will cost. But the more precise political questions suffer the same fate as the vaguer ones.

I think what religion and politics have in common is that they become part of people’s identity, and people can never have a fruitful argument about something that’s part of their identity. By definition they’re partisan.

Which topics engage people’s identity depends on the people, not the topic. For example, a discussion about a battle that included citizens of one or more of the countries involved would probably degenerate into a political argument. But a discussion today about a battle that took place in the Bronze Age probably wouldn’t. No one would know what side to be on. So it’s not politics that’s the source of the trouble, but identity. When people say a discussion has degenerated into a religious war, what they really mean is that it has started to be driven mostly by people’s identities. [1]
什么话题会取得人们的认同,这取决于 人,而非话题本身。举个例子,两国打仗,那么参战国公民的对这场战斗的讨论既有可能会沦为一场政治口水战。但是如果这场讨论的对象是一场发生在青铜器时代 的战争,这样的情形则既有可能不会上演。无人知道他应该站在哪一边。因此政治本身并非麻烦的最终源泉,身份认同才是真正的麻烦制造者。当人们称某个讨论已经堕落成信仰之争,实际上是这个话题讨论开始被身份认同的情绪所主导。[1]

Because the point at which this happens depends on the people rather than the topic, it’s a mistake to conclude that because a question tends to provoke religious wars, it must have no answer. For example, the question of the relative merits of programming languages often degenerates into a religious war, because so many programmers identify as X programmers or Y programmers. This sometimes leads people to conclude the question must be unanswerable—that all languages are equally good. Obviously that’s false: anything else people make can be well or badly designed; why should this be uniquely impossible for programming languages? And indeed, you can have a fruitful discussion about the relative merits of programming languages, so long as you exclude people who respond from identity.
因为此类状况出现时,人的观点立场只取决于人,而非话题本身,我们不能因为某个问题总是倾向于引起信仰之争就得出结论说,这个问题没有正确,好歹之分。举个例子,有关编程语言孰优 孰劣的问题经常就会演变成信仰之争,因为有太多的程序员把自己贴上X语言程序员眼或者Y语言程序员。这个问题有时候会使人得出这样一个结论,觉得这个问题无 法回答——每种语言都差不多。这种错误非常明显:人弄出来的东西在设计都会有优有劣;为什么当问题涉及到编程语言时,事情就变的扯不清楚?的确,只要你将 那些总是以身份立场为唯一依据的人排除在外,你是可以就编程语言的优劣问题做一个富有成果的讨论的。

More generally, you can have a fruitful discussion about a topic only if it doesn’t engage the identities of any of the participants. What makes politics and religion such minefields is that they engage so many people’s identities. But you could in principle have a useful conversation about them with some people. And there are other topics that might seem harmless, like the relative merits of Ford and Chevy pickup trucks, that you couldn’t safely talk about with others.
一般来讲,只要你的讨论不涉及参与者的身份认同,你是可以进行一场富有成效的讨论的。之所以政治和信仰问题变成一个雷区,就是因为它涉及了太多,太深的身份 认同的问题。但是原则上你还是可以找到一些人于与他们做一些有益的对话讨论。而且对于某些会话题,讨论看起来要无害一些(像福特和雪佛莱皮卡孰优孰劣的问题), 但是对于其他一些话题为了安全起见最好是不要讨论。

The most intriguing thing about this theory, if it’s right, is that it explains not merely which kinds of discussions to avoid, but how to have better ideas. If people can’t think clearly about anything that has become part of their identity, then all other things being equal, the best plan is to let as few things into your identity as possible. [2]
如果这种解释是对的话,我们可以得到 这一理论中最为有趣的一个结论,那就是这个理论不仅仅告诉我们那类讨论应该尽力避免,而且好告诉我们如何对某一问题找到一个更好的看法。如果人们不能对那 些已经变成他们身份认同一部分的事情有一个清晰看法的话,那么在其他条件都不变的情况下,最好的办法解决办法就是让这种身份认同牵涉的事情尽可能的少。[2]

Most people reading this will already be fairly tolerant. But there is a step beyond thinking of yourself as x but tolerating y: not even to consider yourself an x. The more labels you have for yourself, the dumber they make you.
大多数人读这已经是相当宽容的 他们会认为 虽然自己是X 但是会宽容 Y 其实在此外还有改进的余地: 干脆不要想着自己是X. 你给自己贴的标签越多 你越傻X.


[1] When that happens, it tends to happen fast, like a core going critical. The threshold for participating goes down to zero, which brings in more people. And they tend to say incendiary things, which draw more and angrier counterarguments.

[2] There may be some things it’s a net win to include in your identity. For example, being a scientist. But arguably that is more of a placeholder than an actual label—like putting NMI on a form that asks for your middle initial—because it doesn’t commit you to believing anything in particular. A scientist isn’t committed to believing in natural selection in the same way a bibilical literalist is committed to rejecting it. All he’s committed to is following the evidence wherever it leads.

Considering yourself a scientist is equivalent to putting a sign in a cupboard saying “this cupboard must be kept empty.” Yes, strictly speaking, you’re putting something in the cupboard, but not in the ordinary sense.

Thanks to Sam Altman, Trevor Blackwell, Paul Buchheit, and Robert Morris for reading drafts of this.