Category Archives: Quotes

Quote of the day

This one is from Sam Altman:

The hard part of standing on an exponential curve is: when you look backwards, it looks flat, and when you look forward, it looks vertical. And it’s very hard to calibrate how much you are moving because it always looks the same.

Thought for the day

In order to progress, modern society should be treating ruined entrepreneurs in the same way we honor dead soldiers, perhaps not with as much honor, but using the exact same logic. . . .

— Nassim Taleb

Conway’s Law

Somehow, I hadn’t come across Conway’s Law until today, despite the fact that Melvin Conway came up with it when I was still wearing nappies.

Conway’s Law states that:

Organizations which design systems are constrained to produce designs which are copies of the communication structures of these organizations.

Or, as it is often more briefly stated,

Any piece of software reflects the organizational structure that produced it.

If you’ve worked on software of any scale, you will know how true this is! Another nice form is:

If you have four groups working on a compiler, you’ll get a 4-pass compiler.

Brilliant stuff. More information on Conway’s Law and some of its corollaries here.

Quote of the day

Money doesn’t change you. It just reveals who you really are when you no longer have to be nice.

— Tim Ferris

Quote of the day

I like this one:

Success is a lousy teacher. It seduces smart people into thinking they can’t lose.

— Bill Gates

Thought for the day

Reading a second Dan Brown book constitutes the triumph of hope over experience.

If you’re not a communist…

There’s an old saying:

If you’re not a communist at the age of 20, you haven’t got a heart.
If you’re still a communist at the age of 30, you haven’t got a brain.

I’ve always liked this quote, and have wondered about its origin since I first heard it. Now, thanks to the web — invented when I was about 25 — I can find out. It turns out to pre-date communism by some time, at least as a rhetorical device.

It was said about republicanism by François Guizot, the French Prime Minister in the mid 19th century, whose childhood had been during the Reign of Terror.

Not to be a republican at 20 is proof of want of heart; to be one at 30 is proof of want of head.

It was later adopted by Georges Clemenceau, who substituted socialiste for republicain.

But, Fred Shapiro points out, one could argue that even Guizot was pipped to the post by John Adams, who said something similar, though not as elegantly, in 1799:

A boy of 15 who is not a democrat is good for nothing, and he is no better who is a democrat at 20.

Adams missed the heart and head distinction, though, which I think is important: it captures the sometimes misguided fervour of youth and the wisdom that comes from experience (or, others might say, the conservatism that comes from age).

Of course, I still prefer the ‘communist’ version, but that’s because of when I grew up. I wonder what variations will be popular in 50 or 100 years’ time?

Deep thought for the day

All the world’s a toolbox
And all the men and women merely pliers

9 to 5

A couple of nice quotes from this talk by Nicolas Lara on how his company, Lincoln Loop, works (and thrives) despite being small, globally-distributed, and with employees working from home.

This one, I think, is particularly true:

It’s hard to do a really good job on anything you don’t think about in the shower.

– Paul Graham

and, on maintaining a healthy work-life balance:

Every one of us has learned how to send emails on Sunday night. But how many of us know how to go to a movie at 2pm on Mondays? You’ve unbalanced your life without balancing it with something else.

-Ricardo Semler

It’s an interesting talk. I remember a Lullabot podcast from about 18 months ago about how they managed a rather larger but similarly-distributed organisation. Lincoln Loop, though, is not just a distributed company with flexible working hours – it’s one where the finances are open, and where employees, based on their knowledge of how the company is doing, get to choose their own salaries. An interesting concept to ponder.

Or you could always ask Dolly about the more traditional model…

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xAQ2SiSAt-A

Quentin’s Law of Photography

The second-best camera is the one you have with you.
The best is the one you have in your hand.

Quote of the day

Today’s inspired thought is from the economist Charles Goodhart. Goodhart’s law states that:

When a measure becomes a target, it ceases to be a good measure.

Quote of the day (needs adjusting for inflation)

Here’s a nice quote from Henri Cartier-Bresson:

Your first 10,000 photographs are your worst.

Now, what I find sobering about that comment is that he wasn’t shooting digital.

I wonder what the modern equivalent is?

And, since the mechanics (though not the skill) of taking photos has become so much easier, should the metric be applied to another part of the process…?

© Copyright Quentin Stafford-Fraser