I Want to Bookify Everything


If I decided to really spend some time making this site something unique, here's what I'd do.

Make the entire site a maximally searchable, sortable, tag-able library of all posts, and a build-your-own book tool.

Anyone could select whatever posts they want, put them in whatever order they want, and it would generate a table of contents and put it into digital or paperback book format. You could choose a cover design or make your own. You could add a personalized introduction, making it easy to gift to anyone.

This would mean you could own or give away a truly one of a kind book. Your curated collection of posts with your own intro, title, and cover.

Now imagine this tool available not just for this website, but everywhere. Any author who publicly blogs or otherwise gives permission could have their content added to a book that you create. As you browse the web and find articles and authors you like, you can add them to your book outline with a plugin like you add articles to read later apps. You could create books around themes of your choice, arrange them into unique collections to make print or eBooks.

Remember mixtapes? Or Spotify playlists? It's that, but for written content. I have several friends who would be amazing at putting together the perfect collection of works by a certain author or on certain topics that I would read over any publisher chosen book.

With a tool like this, imagine the secondary markets. You'd have authors (with a big increase in possibility of 'one hit wonders' and long-tail rare finds), but you'd also have a new form of literary expertise in curators. "Oh, that guy always puts out awesome collections!" The market for cover designers, formatting templates, and custom intros, bibliographies, titles, and appendixes would also emerge.

People do this now with email lists, but imagine upping the game a bit and being able to buy a beautifully bound book collection?

There are stupid copyright implications of course, but you could begin with just bloggers who openly allow such content sharing as long as it's attributed. You could potentially have some form of royalty payment system if it got big enough.

The main thing is a simple drag and drop tool for turning articles into chapters of a book.

So, if I had the gumption, I'd try to figure it out for my own site first and let readers create books from the 1,400 odd posts here as a pilot of the democratized book curation tool.

Why Did Yoga Pants Take So Long?


Yoga pants are everywhere.

I sometimes wonder why they are so popular. But that's not a very fruitful question. It's easy to list a bunch of benefits to a product or trend as believable reasons for its popularity. All good reasons. But reasons why people like something don't shed much light on a phenomenon. They don't tell us why those benefits outweigh the benefits of alternative choices. And they don't explain why, if the benefits are true, it took so long for people to realize them?

In other words, every time a big trend pops onto the scene the better question than why is why not sooner?

I did a few minutes of Googling for clues as to the timing of the yoga pant explosion. It seems possible that advances in materials played a role. Some of the blends the pants are made from are only a few decades old. It's possible that the power of the Lululemon brand and their successful stores in fashionable cities played a role.

It's easy for these questions to get answered in one of two ways. One camp looks for a material answer. Some new tech or shift in commodity prices that explains it all. It feels sturdy, and it enhances the belief in humans as efficient machines whose emotions and subjective preferences are just a post hoc veneer for material decisions. The other camp looks for a psychological answer. A new brand, a star in a movie, an emotional attachment to a person or event explains it all. It enhances the belief that humans are irrational beings whose baser passions are the driving force behind economic activity and resource allocation.

It's hard to sort out real causes of trends. I don't think the dichotomy between 'rational, economizing man', and, 'irrational, passion-driven man' is a useful one. There is a logic of human action that doesn't require people to have perfect information and needs no standard definition of 'good' actions or resource use. People can become emotionally attached to a resource because of its usefulness, or they can make a resource useful because of an emotional attachment. Neither is damning or elevating evidence for the human condition.

It is true, the underlying economics have to make sense. If people decided platinum pants were the bees knees, they wouldn't likely achieve the ubiquity of yoga pants because platinum isn't stretchy or abundant. It's also true that individuals with vision, passion, motivation, and commitment to drive an idea forward have to be there to create a brand, distribution, and market. Just because jorts are an objectively, materially wonderful form of summerwear doesn't mean people won't make fun of me for wearing them. Some committed jorts entrepreneur needs to bring the world along to the realization of jorts glory like Lululemon did for yoga pants.

I'm not fully satisfied with any easy explanations for the emergence of trends like yoga pants. And I'm not satisfied saying, 'It's complicated'. I guess if I could really figure it out, I wouldn't be writing this blog. I'd be using my understanding to find and invest in the next big trend.

It’s More Than Just Willpower


It breaks my heart every time I pass someone sleeping in the street. I go through a mental process, wondering what circumstances, preferences, and choices get a person to a spot where sleeping on the sidewalk is better than the next best alternative.

I do not want to deny free will. It's possible there's a homeless person somewhere who thinks my life is miserable and theirs is better. It seems more likely nobody really wants to sleep on the sidewalk, but somehow they get to a place where that seems better or easier than whatever would be needed to sleep indoors.

I think about my own life. There are a lot of things I experience that I don't really want to experience, but I lack the creativity, willpower, or knowledge needed to make choices that would help me avoid those experiences. I'm always living sub-optimally in some way. It's always a combination of circumstances and choices. I'm always choosing at least a little less than what I know would be best, and sometimes a lot.

I've had mostly good incentive structures around me. In part from circumstances I was born into, in part from those I've created. To the extent that the incentive structures are good, my behavior and outcomes are good. When those structures are neutral or bad, my choices typically follow.

I think willpower can be built over time, such that a person who's learned to make good, tough choices gets better at it. But in the beginning, and at the individual point of choosing, I don't think any two humans are that different. We seek our self interest as defined by our subjective preferences given our current information, resources, and understanding. Those variables of preference, information, resources, and understanding are the elements of the incentive structure.

I try to find, cultivate, and stay in good incentive structures because I know that without them, my choices are capable of leading me somewhere I don't want to go.

So much for me. What about the people still sleeping on the street? I don't know. That's probably why my attention turns to my own life pretty quickly. It's something I can work with and control at least to some extent. I don't know what to do for them. That's part of the heartbreak.

How San Francisco Property is Too Cheap and Too Expensive


A quarter acre lot in San Francisco should cost a lot more than it does.

A three bedroom home in the Bay Area should cost a lot less than it does.

We're staying in a place this summer that fits both. It's too cheap and too expensive.

Anyone with half a brain can see the stupidity of NIMBY planners in SF who restrict new construction, renovations, and rentals such that housing prices are nuts. A seven mile square area with huge demand and hardly any structures taller than three stories is crazy. The overpriced properties are easy to spot, and so are the reasons why.

But regulations have even more bizarre consequences. They create both surpluses and shortages. Under and overpricing, mixing all the signals that emerge in a free market and help people adjust resources and behavior to create the most winners and biggest wins.

The house we're staying in is a great example. The owners weren't allowed to rent any of it out for five years, even though it has three separate floors with separate units. (They can't even replace the windows to allow more airflow when it gets hot.) Forget tearing it down for something that can house more people. This quarter acre slice of property is stuck with the shell of a home left here decades ago when demand was much lower.

This drives up the price of the unit as a single family home, making it overpriced in that category. But as a quarter acre city lot, it's underpriced. The value of this lot for a multi-unit apartment or condo complex has to be many times greater. But it can't be put to those uses, so it remains a stupidly overpriced house and tantalizingly underpriced piece of property.

What Hayek called the pretense of knowledge on the part of city thugs is visible everywhere here, creating what Mises called planned chaos.

San Francisco Residential Property Haiku


Too cheap for its place

Too expensive for its size

Slow death museum

The Status of Shower Thoughts


Yesterday, my colleague Dave said something like, 'I want to make sure this isn't just a shower thought'. We were discussing changes to our product, and he wanted clarity on what motivated the proposed changes, what we want to accomplish with them, and how we'd verify whether it worked. He was offering a gut-check on whether we were falling prey to shiny object syndrome.

His concern was valid and useful. But I found his choice of words kinda funny. It made me think about the status of shower thoughts.

When Dave thinks 'Shower thoughts', he thinks half formed epiphany that's not very serious. An idea that ranks pretty low among other kinds of ideas. Silly until proven brilliant. At least I think he does, it's possible I'm wrong. Sorry Dave, but you're stuck as an illustration in this post either way.

When I think 'Shower thoughts', I think of the climactic eureka of a long, unseen, subconscious process that's probably the best idea you've ever had. An idea that ranks at the very top among other kinds of ideas. Brilliant unless proven silly. The shower thought is a sacred thing.

Not all shower thoughts are good. But all shower thoughts are serious. I give them greater weight than ideas that come from planning exercises, whiteboarding, researching, testing, or other forms of idea generation. In my experience, the highest quality ideas - those that move me the farthest from current paradigms to fertile new ground - are shower thoughts. Arthur Koestler's phenomenal book The Act of Creation offers a theory for why this is. It's a favorite of mine, and helped me understand my own mental processes better and more fully embrace shower thoughts.

I'm not opposed to testing and research and other conscious, rational methods of idea generation, and shower thoughts need critical examination before they're operationalized. But if you shook me awake in the middle of the night and asked whether I'd prefer to take a big risk on a shower thought or a well-tested, focus-grouped idea, I'd yell, "Shower thought", then ask why the hell you're in my house in the middle of the night shaking me awake when you could just wait until the morning and read the blog post I write about it.

Kids Think About the Big Stuff


Walking to the office today I was listening to music I used to listen to in my teens. It was good, but it didn't move me like it did then. I miss those days when it was so easy to lose myself completely in a song. Music would take me to the depths of my soul, and make me feel contact with the most foundational questions.

These days, music is a good way to change my mood at the margins and an enjoyable experience. It's rare that it comes close to the penetrating depth of experience it once did. Part of the reason is that now my mind is mostly full most of the time. And not just full of sports scores and funny stories (though thankfully there is some of that), but full of hard problems with business and family and, occasionally, philosophy. Music is great, but I've got stuff to figure out and fast.

When I was younger, my jobs didn't involve much deep problem solving. I manned a cash register at a golf course, delivered papers, bagged groceries, and worked construction. The tasks and hours were known and the problems repeats. My personal life was about friends and fun. None of that was particularly hard or deep. So music enabled me to go deep on what was left. Stuff like the meaning of life and my own potential and purpose.

The questions and ideas I pondered as a kid were more important in the grand scheme of things than those I spend most of my time on today. This isn't self-condemnation, because I think part of the answer to my place in the cosmos is to solve the problems I'm working on now, which require more grounded, near-term focus. Still, that youthful ability to disconnect from the day and ask the eternal questions is a great thing.

A little more music, a little less podcast and audiobook listening. A little more mind-wandering, a little less problem-solving. Sounds kinda nice.

When Taking Away Options Increases Solutions


When you have a lot of resources, it can blind you to solutions. You face a struggle, and you assess your myriad options. They all have big drawbacks and high resource consumption, so you're stuck with no solution or one that might cost more than it's worth.

Then you take away all those resources and make the problem a must-solve. Somehow, you find one. And it's pretty efficient.

I don't know why, but it's just too much to ask of the human brain to find these solutions when we don't really have to. Resource constraints force exploration of corners of the brain otherwise missed.

Isaac Morehouse


Isaac Morehouse is the CEO of Crash, the career launch platform, and the founder of Praxis, a startup apprenticeship program. Isaac is dedicated to the relentless pursuit of freedom. He’s written some books, done some podcasting, and is always experimenting with self-directed living and learning.

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I Want to Bookify Everything


If I decided to really spend some time making this site something unique, here's what I'd do.

Make the entire site a maximally searchable, sortable, tag-able library of all posts, and a build-your-own book tool.

Anyone could select whatever posts they want, put them in whatever order they want, and it would generate a table of contents and put it into digital or paperback book format. You could choose a cover design or make your own. You could add a personalized introduction, making it easy to gift to anyone.

This would mean you could own or give away a truly one of a kind book. Your curated collection of posts with your own intro, title, and cover.

Now imagine this tool available not just for this website, but everywhere. Any author who publicly blogs or otherwise gives permission could have their content added to a book that you create. As you browse the web and find articles and authors you like, you can add them to your book outline with a plugin like you add articles to read later apps. You could create books around themes of your choice, arrange them into unique collections to make print or eBooks.

Remember mixtapes? Or Spotify playlists? It's that, but for written content. I have several friends who would be amazing at putting together the perfect collection of works by a certain author or on certain topics that I would read over any publisher chosen book.

With a tool like this, imagine the secondary markets. You'd have authors (with a big increase in possibility of 'one hit wonders' and long-tail rare finds), but you'd also have a new form of literary expertise in curators. "Oh, that guy always puts out awesome collections!" The market for cover designers, formatting templates, and custom intros, bibliographies, titles, and appendixes would also emerge.

People do this now with email lists, but imagine upping the game a bit and being able to buy a beautifully bound book collection?

There are stupid copyright implications of course, but you could begin with just bloggers who openly allow such content sharing as long as it's attributed. You could potentially have some form of royalty payment system if it got big enough.

The main thing is a simple drag and drop tool for turning articles into chapters of a book.

So, if I had the gumption, I'd try to figure it out for my own site first and let readers create books from the 1,400 odd posts here as a pilot of the democratized book curation tool.

Why Did Yoga Pants Take So Long?


Yoga pants are everywhere.

I sometimes wonder why they are so popular. But that's not a very fruitful question. It's easy to list a bunch of benefits to a product or trend as believable reasons for its popularity. All good reasons. But reasons why people like something don't shed much light on a phenomenon. They don't tell us why those benefits outweigh the benefits of alternative choices. And they don't explain why, if the benefits are true, it took so long for people to realize them?

In other words, every time a big trend pops onto the scene the better question than why is why not sooner?

I did a few minutes of Googling for clues as to the timing of the yoga pant explosion. It seems possible that advances in materials played a role. Some of the blends the pants are made from are only a few decades old. It's possible that the power of the Lululemon brand and their successful stores in fashionable cities played a role.

It's easy for these questions to get answered in one of two ways. One camp looks for a material answer. Some new tech or shift in commodity prices that explains it all. It feels sturdy, and it enhances the belief in humans as efficient machines whose emotions and subjective preferences are just a post hoc veneer for material decisions. The other camp looks for a psychological answer. A new brand, a star in a movie, an emotional attachment to a person or event explains it all. It enhances the belief that humans are irrational beings whose baser passions are the driving force behind economic activity and resource allocation.

It's hard to sort out real causes of trends. I don't think the dichotomy between 'rational, economizing man', and, 'irrational, passion-driven man' is a useful one. There is a logic of human action that doesn't require people to have perfect information and needs no standard definition of 'good' actions or resource use. People can become emotionally attached to a resource because of its usefulness, or they can make a resource useful because of an emotional attachment. Neither is damning or elevating evidence for the human condition.

It is true, the underlying economics have to make sense. If people decided platinum pants were the bees knees, they wouldn't likely achieve the ubiquity of yoga pants because platinum isn't stretchy or abundant. It's also true that individuals with vision, passion, motivation, and commitment to drive an idea forward have to be there to create a brand, distribution, and market. Just because jorts are an objectively, materially wonderful form of summerwear doesn't mean people won't make fun of me for wearing them. Some committed jorts entrepreneur needs to bring the world along to the realization of jorts glory like Lululemon did for yoga pants.

I'm not fully satisfied with any easy explanations for the emergence of trends like yoga pants. And I'm not satisfied saying, 'It's complicated'. I guess if I could really figure it out, I wouldn't be writing this blog. I'd be using my understanding to find and invest in the next big trend.

It’s More Than Just Willpower


It breaks my heart every time I pass someone sleeping in the street. I go through a mental process, wondering what circumstances, preferences, and choices get a person to a spot where sleeping on the sidewalk is better than the next best alternative.

I do not want to deny free will. It's possible there's a homeless person somewhere who thinks my life is miserable and theirs is better. It seems more likely nobody really wants to sleep on the sidewalk, but somehow they get to a place where that seems better or easier than whatever would be needed to sleep indoors.

I think about my own life. There are a lot of things I experience that I don't really want to experience, but I lack the creativity, willpower, or knowledge needed to make choices that would help me avoid those experiences. I'm always living sub-optimally in some way. It's always a combination of circumstances and choices. I'm always choosing at least a little less than what I know would be best, and sometimes a lot.

I've had mostly good incentive structures around me. In part from circumstances I was born into, in part from those I've created. To the extent that the incentive structures are good, my behavior and outcomes are good. When those structures are neutral or bad, my choices typically follow.

I think willpower can be built over time, such that a person who's learned to make good, tough choices gets better at it. But in the beginning, and at the individual point of choosing, I don't think any two humans are that different. We seek our self interest as defined by our subjective preferences given our current information, resources, and understanding. Those variables of preference, information, resources, and understanding are the elements of the incentive structure.

I try to find, cultivate, and stay in good incentive structures because I know that without them, my choices are capable of leading me somewhere I don't want to go.

So much for me. What about the people still sleeping on the street? I don't know. That's probably why my attention turns to my own life pretty quickly. It's something I can work with and control at least to some extent. I don't know what to do for them. That's part of the heartbreak.

How San Francisco Property is Too Cheap and Too Expensive


A quarter acre lot in San Francisco should cost a lot more than it does.

A three bedroom home in the Bay Area should cost a lot less than it does.

We're staying in a place this summer that fits both. It's too cheap and too expensive.

Anyone with half a brain can see the stupidity of NIMBY planners in SF who restrict new construction, renovations, and rentals such that housing prices are nuts. A seven mile square area with huge demand and hardly any structures taller than three stories is crazy. The overpriced properties are easy to spot, and so are the reasons why.

But regulations have even more bizarre consequences. They create both surpluses and shortages. Under and overpricing, mixing all the signals that emerge in a free market and help people adjust resources and behavior to create the most winners and biggest wins.

The house we're staying in is a great example. The owners weren't allowed to rent any of it out for five years, even though it has three separate floors with separate units. (They can't even replace the windows to allow more airflow when it gets hot.) Forget tearing it down for something that can house more people. This quarter acre slice of property is stuck with the shell of a home left here decades ago when demand was much lower.

This drives up the price of the unit as a single family home, making it overpriced in that category. But as a quarter acre city lot, it's underpriced. The value of this lot for a multi-unit apartment or condo complex has to be many times greater. But it can't be put to those uses, so it remains a stupidly overpriced house and tantalizingly underpriced piece of property.

What Hayek called the pretense of knowledge on the part of city thugs is visible everywhere here, creating what Mises called planned chaos.

San Francisco Residential Property Haiku


Too cheap for its place

Too expensive for its size

Slow death museum

Isaac Morehouse


Isaac Morehouse is the founder and CEO of Praxis, a startup apprenticeship program making degrees irrelevant for careers. Isaac is dedicated to the relentless pursuit of freedom. He’s written some books, done some podcasting, and is always experimenting with self-directed living and learning.

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