Wenger Design: Men’s Wear

I have mentioned here on Continuations before that we have been home schooling our children. The main reason for doing so is to give them plenty of time to pursue their interests. Interest that over time can deepen into passions and have the possibility of ultimately providing purpose. For our son Peter one of those interests has been fashion. He has been learning how to sketch, cut, sow, etc. since age 8 and now at 15 has put together his third collection. This one is Men’s Wear and for the first time he is making it available for sale.

I particularly like the Bomber Jacket above. I am definitely not cool enough though to wear the Kilt:

You can find more pieces from the collection at Peter’s web site Wenger Design.

Twitter’s Verified Mess

One of the problems with a relatively open platform such as Twitter is impersonation. I can claim to be somebody else, upload their picture to my profile and tweet away. This is particularly problematic for public figures and businesses but anyone can be subject to impersonation. Years ago, Twitter decided that it would “verify” some accounts. 

While a good idea in principle, Twitter’s implementation, sowed the seeds of the current mess. First, Twitter chose to go with a heavily designed checkmark that looks like a badge. Second, this badge appeared not just on a person’s profile but prominently in all timeline views as well. Third, the rollout appeared geared towards Twitter users who were somehow cool or in-the-know. Fourth, Twitter seemingly randomly rejected some verification requests while accepting others. 

The net result of all of these mistakes was that the verified checkmark became an “official Twitter” badge. Instead of simply Continue reading "Twitter’s Verified Mess"

Uncertainty Wednesday: Sample Mean under Fat Tails (Cont’d)

Today’s Uncertainty Wednesday will be quite short as I am super swamped. Last week I showed some code and an initial graph for sample means of size 100 from a Cauchy distribution. Here is a plot (narrowed down to the -25 to +25 range again) for sample size 10:

And here is one for sample size 1,000:

Yup. They look essentially identical. As it turns out this is not an accident. The sample mean of the Cauchy distribution has itself a Cauchy distribution. And it has the same shape, independent of how big we make the sample!

There is no convergence here. This is radically different from what we encountered with the sample mean for dice rolling. There we saw the sample mean following a normal distribution that converged ever tighter around the expected value as we increased the sample size.

Next week will look at what the takeaway from Continue reading "Uncertainty Wednesday: Sample Mean under Fat Tails (Cont’d)"

Call Your Senators to Preserve Equity Compensation for Startups

The latest Senate version of the “Tax Cuts and Jobs Act” has a stab in the eye for startups. It proposes to tax certain stock options and RSUs at the time of vesting. An earlier House version also contained this provision, but the House removed it. 

Startups are a key part of innovation. Often joining a startup means accepting a lower cash compensation for a higher potential upside. This upside usually comes in the form of stock options or other stock based compensation such as restricted stock units (RSUs). For these to be effective means of offsetting lower current compensation, they need to provide upside with no downside.

In particular, an employee should not own taxes on the appreciation of the capital until they actually have liquidity in the asset. Everything else runs the risk of having to pay taxes on paper gains that subsequently evaporate. This problematic situation Continue reading "Call Your Senators to Preserve Equity Compensation for Startups"

Board Effectiveness Tip #5: Have a Lead Director

Two years ago I wrote a series of blog posts on board effectiveness tips. I am adding a new one today. If you have a large board, make sure you have a lead director. “What is a lead director?” you may ask. Informally speaking it is the director who makes sure that the board reaches consensus on important issues. Some companies formally elect director to the lead role, but this is uncommon for startups. 

Startups that have raised multiple rounds of financing can wind up with large boards with three, four or more investors on it. In these cases a disfunction that I have observed more than once is that each investor waits for some other investor to take the lead. And as a result key decisions are either delayed or not made at all, often with dire consequences. This usually happens around really important and difficult Continue reading "Board Effectiveness Tip #5: Have a Lead Director"

Uncertainty Wednesday: Sample Mean under Fat Tails

In today’s Uncertainty Wednesday we are putting some of the ideas from the last few weeks together: we are looking at the behavior of the sample mean of a fat tailed distribution. To do this we will again use a bit of Python code. Unlike our first sample mean example where we looked at the roll of a die, we will need some help here to draw samples from a more complicated distribution. Thankfully the Python ecosystem has the wonderful SciPy libraries, which if you don’t know already you should check out in any case.

So here’s the code for drawing 100,000 samples of size 100 each from the Cauchy distribution.

from scipy.stats import cauchy
import numpy as np

size = 100
runs = 100000
digits = 1 dist = {} for run in range(0, runs):      r = cauchy.rvs(size=size)
     mean = np.mean(r)
Continue reading "Uncertainty Wednesday: Sample Mean under Fat Tails"

Forking vs. Voting in Blockchains

There was an interesting post on the YCombinator blog by Ramon Recuero about the evolution of blockchain protocols through forking and copying. The post does not mention the alternative possibility of binding voting as a mechanism for the evolution of blockchains. There are several projects, including the troubled Tezos, where the blockchain protocol will be able to evolve via on-chain voting.

Voting is an important mechanism to be explored as an alternative to forking. In his famous treatise Exit, Voice, and Loyalty, Albert Hirschman describes how members of an organization or consumers of a product/service can respond to a deterioration in quality. They can either choose to exercise voice, that is speak up and demand changes, or they can exit and join a different organization or use a different product/service.

For blockchains forking is the native implementation of “exit” but voting will be the way to achieve “voice.” Continue reading "Forking vs. Voting in Blockchains"