Finding the new normal
"Everything Starts Out Looking Like a Toy" (No.34)
This week’s toy: a search engine to find Calvin and Hobbes cartoons. If you ever wanted to search for that time Calvin mentioned pirates, you’re good! Edition No. 34 of this newsletter is here - it’s February 20, 2021.
The Big Idea
The COVID19 Pandemic has changed many things about our society already. But what are the ways it might be changing things already about the future? The Pew Research Center has put together an overview of the “New Normal” amid predictions for 2025 and promises that it will be more tech-driven than other recovery efforts have been in the past, presenting new opportunities and new challenges.
If our world is moving toward “tele-everything”, what is likely to have the biggest impact in the next few years?
Data Is Everywhere
Today, we get annual summaries from banks, credit cards, and Spotify. What was the most listened to song on your list? The answer is probably less important to you than “what did you buy at the supermarket”; “how can I be more effective at work”; and “what are the habits I might want counted automatically so that I can learn more about changing them?”
When data methods that formerly were reserved only for enterprise level companies doing ETL transformations for millions of rows of nightly data come to consumer level products, they will look different. We’re already seeing examples of this sort of data experience in credit repair tools, weight loss apps, and weather data. In the next few years, your individual apps will make it possible for you to get more integrated data in your world that is also geofenced or privacy fenced from making it out to marketing machines.
People go (fewer places) and have more experiences
COVID19 will have a long term effect on travel and hospitality. The net net is that many of us will not travel nearly as much for a long time if ever. This means there is a huge opportunity for two things: 1) the development of travel hubs as permanent residence locations, and 2) more local experiences that don’t require you to travel to access them.
“Work anywhere” policies combined with good internet allow knowledge workers (if not other people) to work in many more potential locales. Combining that fact with tech salaries should allow some resorts to attract full-time residents (think of Sun River in Oregon, Suncadia in Washington, or Lake Tahoe in California as examples).
For those of us who can’t afford to live in a resort full time, COVID has reminded us that it is possible to have great experiences wherever we are. The next great restaurant in your city may be focused only on having the best burger. The next great museum may offer a tour that you take through your city with live audio using your smartphone. The next great family experience may include a picnic kit and a reservation in a park where you can socially distance. It might all look a bit different than what we expect today.
Learning continues beyond the classroom
It is no longer mandatory to go to college to learn things. Whether you are using Masterclass to learn from comedians, hanging out on Clubhouse to listen to people share their knowledge, or taking free classes from MIT, if you have access to the internet, you have access to learning.
So we need to make sure that people have access to broadband. Not sad US-style broadband, but actual fast internet driven by fiber or low-latency satellite transmission. Learning’s only going to happen while people have access to the internet, so we need to make sure that happens for everyone, not just people in tech meccas.
What’s the takeaway? More changes are coming for society as a result of the New Normal created by COVID, and we need to make sure that the digital divide doesn’t get larger.
A Thread from This Week
Twitter is an amazing source of long-form writing, and it’s easy to miss the threads people are talking about.
This week’s thread: Maggie Koerthy writes about the energy system in Texas and how exactly that slow moving disaster happened there. It’s worth a read.
Links for Reading and Sharing
These are links that caught my eye.
1/ What’s in your data stack? - Justin Gage writes brilliantly about the tools in the modern data stack. Your DBA, your product team, and your marketing operations team need to work together to make stuff happen. But what are they actually doing? They are categorizing information, building and observing data pipelines, pushing information to warehouses, and creating analytics to visualize and share that information. It’s a bit more complicated than you expect.
2/ Nerd Dashboards in Dark Mode - If the geeks in your life only use terminal windows to see the world, you might share this github library with them that helps to build dashboards in a CLI. What’s really neat about this is that it will allow dashboard-like displays to show up at a much lower resolution of information.
3/ How much energy does crypto use, exactly - the Cambridge Bitcoin Electricity Consumption index shows the energy utilized for crypto. When thinking about “store of value” for a resource, we should definitely consider the energy costs of completing transactions as an externality of crypto that needs to be dealt with or improved for crypto assets to deliver long-term financial performance.
On the Reading/Watching List
It’s only three weeks until The Falcon and the Winter Soldier drops. If you’ve been watching (and loving) Wandavision, this one is going to be fun too.
The Data Detective, by Tim Harford - This book promises to make statistics easier to understand and apply in everyday life. I’m not sure if it can make me better at avoiding the causation/correlation error, and I’m going to read it to find out ;)
What to do next
Hit reply if you’ve got links to share, data stories, or want to say hello.
I’m grateful you read this far. Thank you. If you found this useful, consider sharing with a friend.
The next big thing always starts out being dismissed as a “toy.” - Chris Dixon