Tidbits | Dominik Mayer – Products, Asia, Productivity

Interesting articles, videos and other tidbits from around the web.

Vietnamese Helmets

“What’s the danger with Vietnam’s motorcycle helmets?”, asks Govi Snell in the Southeast Asia Globe.

“What isn’t?”, I would reply.

But it’s not that easy. From the article:

Vietnam’s first helmet law, which passed in 2001, required motorcycle drivers to wear helmets on specific roadways. With limited enforcement of this legislation, the use of helmets was estimated at 30%. In June 2007, the government passed a decree that made it mandatory for all motorcycle drivers to wear a helmet on all roads from December of that year. With the law in place, helmet-wearing reached 90%.

Wearing helmets has been mandatory for less than 15 years.

Dr. Pham Viet Cuong, the head of the department on public health informatics at the Hanoi University of Public Health is quoted:

“When helmet-wearing reached 90%, we thought it was a great success and everyone thought that it would help to reduce the number of brain injuries and deaths initially. But after a couple of years, we didn’t see that happening,” he said. “We did a lot of studies and looked at a lot of issues and we saw the problem of unstandardised or low-quality helmets.”

It seems to me, that Vietnamese only wear helmets to avoid being fined, not because they value their head. When I refuse to take friends without helmet on my bike they would often argue that there’s no police around. And when they wear helmets, they choose tiny ones, that might only protect you from a rock falling from the sky. And they seldomly tighten the strap, reducing the already slim protection even further.

What I understand even less than Vietnamese wearing these helmets – they grew up here and everyone around them is wearing them as well – is that many foreigners go with them as well. As if everything our societies have learned doesn’t apply anymore. (Not buckling up in taxis is the same story.) As if the laws of physics would not apply in another country.

The Lab-Leak Hypothesis  

Nicholson Baker writing for the New York Magazine:

What happened was fairly simple, I’ve come to believe. It was an accident. A virus spent some time in a laboratory, and eventually it got out. SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19, began its existence inside a bat, then it learned how to infect people in a claustrophobic mine shaft, and then it was made more infectious in one or more laboratories, perhaps as part of a scientist’s well-intentioned but risky effort to create a broad-spectrum vaccine. SARS-2 was not designed as a biological weapon. But it was, I think, designed.

He explains how scientists could make a virus infecting mice mutate to now infect hamsters:

They did it using serial passaging: repeatedly dosing a mixed solution of mouse cells and hamster cells with mouse-hepatitis virus, while each time decreasing the number of mouse cells and upping the concentration of hamster cells. At first, predictably, the mouse-hepatitis virus couldn’t do much with the hamster cells, which were left almost free of infection, floating in their world of fetal-calf serum. But by the end of the experiment, after dozens of passages through cell cultures, the virus had mutated: It had mastered the trick of parasitizing an unfamiliar rodent. A scourge of mice was transformed into a scourge of hamsters.

Read the article, make up your own mind.

State Machine of Startup Growth

Former Evernote CEO Phil Libin shares his simple but elegant model of tracking (and converting) different user types.

Also interesting are his remarks about how to create a well aligned business model.

Brown M&Ms  

When a promoter booked the rock band Van Halen they needed to provide a bowl of M&Ms, having all brown ones sorted out.

Julie Zeveloff:

As lead singer David Lee Roth explained in a 2012 interview, the bowl of M&Ms was an indicator of whether the concert promoter had actually read the band’s complicated contract.

“Van Halen was the first to take 850 par lamp lights — huge lights — around the country,” Roth said. “At the time, it was the biggest production ever.” In many cases, the venues were too outdated or inadequately prepared to set up the band’s sophisticated stage.

“If I came backstage, having been one of the architects of this lighting and staging design, and I saw brown M&Ms on the catering table, then I guarantee the promoter had not read the contract rider, and we would have to do a serious line check” of the entire stage setup, Roth said.

Doing and Sitting  

John Pasden at Sinosplice shares this cute conversation between a bilingual kid in the US and a Chinese adult:

Adult: 你最喜欢跟家人做什么?
Child: 椅子。

In English:

Adult: What do you most like doing with your family?
Child: Chair.

John explains:

The key to understanding this exchange is knowing that 做 (zuò), the verb meaning “to do,” sounds identical to the verb 坐 (zuò), which means “to sit.” Add into this that many verbs in Chinese don’t require an additional preposition like their English counterparts (for example, we’d say “sit on” rather than just “sit”), and the child’s answer starts to make a lot of sense.

Great example of the challenges understanding spoken Chinese. Using characters this mixup could never happen.

Then enter Vietnamese, where even in the written language everything looks the same:

Chào em = Hello
Cháo em = You porridge

Decisions

James Clear in his 3-2-1 newsletter:

If a decision is reversible, the biggest risk is moving too slow.

If a decision is irreversible, the biggest risk is moving too fast.

Person, Woman, Man, Camera, TV

Donald Trump bragging about his cognitive exam:

In a cartoon version:

Success Factors of B2B Marketplaces in 2020

James Currier, Managing Partner at NFX, lists 23 success factors of B2B marketplaces.

TikTok War  

Ben Thompson suggests blocking TikTok in the US:

This is, without question, a prescription I don’t come to lightly. Perhaps the most powerful argument against taking any sort of action is that we aren’t China, and isn’t blocking TikTok something that China would do? Well yes, we know that is what they would do, because the Chinese government has blocked U.S. social networks for years. Wars, though, are fought not because we lust for battle, but because we pray for peace. If China is on the offensive against liberalism not only within its borders but within ours, it is in liberalism’s interest to cut off a vector that has taken root precisely because it is so brilliantly engineered to give humans exactly what they want.

I would add a friend’s suggestion to block WeChat so the Chinese elite’s kids studying overseas can no longer communicate easily with their friends back home. Let them see how it feels.

Tokyo 1913 – 1915

Denis Shiryaev upscaled and colorized footage “from the dawn of film taken in Tokyo, Japan from 1913-1915”.

F-15

Ars Technica:

Today Ars Technica brings you inside the pilot’s seat of an F-15C Eagle fighter jet to break down every button in the cockpit. Join retired United States Air Force pilot Col. Andrea Themely as she walks you through everything at your disposal, from emergency features and communication controls to navigation features and weapons and defense. With 1100 hours of experience piloting F-15’s, Col. Themely expert eye is ready to guide you each step of the way.

Livestream Censorship

Joshua Drummer on Twitter:

Wife trying livestreaming on Douyin. Comes over to me in the middle of a stream and puts me on camera. After about a minute, notice pops up saying that foreigners are not allowed to appear on livestreams “without permission”.

Journalist Isabelle Niu replied:

This seems really alarming so I did a little digging and found that apparently ByteDance, which owns Douyin & TikTok, explained how it self-regulates livestreaming content in a detailed 2019 report. I’ll break down some of the main points of the report in this thread

Read the whole thing. Welcome to semi-automated livestream censorship.

Bottleneck

James Clear in his 3-2-1 newsletter:

Time spent working hard is often better spent identifying where the bottleneck is located.

Working hard on the wrong thing leads to frustration, not progress.

Leadership is, by definition, leading people away from where they already are.

–– Tim Urban

Vivian Vo  

Another hilarious article from VnExpress. This time they introduce “makeup queens”, one of which is Vivian Vo-Farmer:

Vivian Vo was born in the U.S. and has a Vietnamese mother and a Vietnamese-Dutch father. With 1.7 million followers on Instagram after seven years working as a makeup artist, Vo is well-known for her revealing style and long hair.