Perseverance

Building towers, not tunnels by Ben WerdmüllerBen Werdmüller

Done right, failure builds immunity. I know why each failure happened. I'm stronger for the experience. And I can bring that experience to help make Unlock - and everything I do in my career - as strong as possible. Rather than letting a brick through the window transform the safety of my home into flimsy walls in dirt, I can build a more resilient home. Failure isn't an excuse to turn inwards and stay low. It's a reason to be proud and build high. I've got the tools, and the energy, and the motivation. Not from a place of naïvety, but a place of knowledge and power.

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Multidisciplinary Outsiders

Pigeonholes, engineers, and writers by Ben WerdmüllerBen Werdmüller (Ben Werdmüller)

I became an engineer after graduation - although I also had a website on the side that was getting millions of pageviews a day. Then I became a startup founder. And then a CTO. And then another startup founder.

 

I was writing thousands of words, putting together pitches and decks, speaking all over the world, having partnership conversations and leading product development - but all the while, I was still described as an engineer. It was a label that stuck.

 

This is a disservice to the people who have spent their life in true engineering. It's also a misdescription: I'm not a top-level engineer and could never pretend to be, but I understand the technology and how it fits into the broader narrative, and the broader social context. I can lead products well because I can understand both the engineering and the business sides. I can use human-centered design and design thinking - both journalistic processes - to de-risk businesses quickly. I can wrap it all up in a narrative, and I can use that narrative to build a community of support that snowballs, Katamari-style. It's not something that fits into a neat pigeonhole, but I think it's more interesting.

 

I've become really appreciative of other people who don't fit into the pigeonholes that others try and fit them in, both in work and life. Observing from the outside, the people who are really making change are multidisciplinary, often guided by an overarching mission. They're not worrking on something because they want to become the best at a particular skill, but because they want to build something that achieves a certain effect. It's the difference between trying to ace an exam on a particular subject, and trying to create something that nobody knows exactly how to grade because it uses so many different skills. That can make it more difficult to find the right job - I've often had to make jobs for myself, and when I haven't (like now), I'm drawn to collaborate with similarly multidisciplinary outsiders. But for me, it also makes for much more fulfilling work.

I think we would have been good friends. I'm a shitty writer in high school and college, and I was focused on electrical engineering and physics, but the majority of my friends during those times were studying literature, political science, acheology, etc. I did not hang out with many engineers.

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woods, trees, underbrush

Instant Life Plan

Building an Instant Life Plan and telling your personal story by Ben WerdmüllerBen Werdmüller (Ben Werdmüller)

The Stanford d.School style Instant Business Plan, where the elements are literally Post-Its than can be swapped and changed, is a far better north star than a one-shot document. I think the same approach could work well for a life plan: a paper document where changability is an intrinsic part of the format, but you are nonetheless forced to express your ideas concretely.

Hmm ... I think ... I think I might put this together with ideas from Ben's What you're proud of post and stick the result into my about page.

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Bad news: there's no solution to false information online by Ben WerdmüllerBen Werdmüller (Ben Werdmüller)

It's clearly impossible for the web as a platform to objectively report that a stated fact is true or false. This would require a central authority of truth - let's call it MiniTrue for short. It may, however, be possible for our browsers and social platforms to show us the conversation around an article or component fact. Currently, links on the web are contextless: if I link to the Mozilla Information Trust Initiative, there's no definitive way for browsers, search engines or social platforms to know whether I agree or disagree with what is said within (for the record, I'm very much in agreement - but a software application would need some non-deterministic fuzzy NLP AI magic to work that out from this text).

Imagine, instead, if I could highlight a stated fact I disagree with in an article, and annotate it by linking that exact segment from my website, from a post on a social network, from an annotations platform, or from a dedicated rating site like Tribeworthy. As a first step, it could be enough to link to the page as a whole. Browsers could then find backlinks to that segment or page and help me understand the conversation around it from everywhere on the web. There's no censoring body, and decentralized technologies work well enough today that we wouldn't need to trust any single company to host all of these backlinks. Each browser could then use its own algorithms to figure out which backlinks to display and how best to make sense of the information, making space for them to find a competitive advantage around providing context.

There is a lot to think about.

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