Weekly I/O #43

Weekly I/O is a project where I share my learning Input/Output. Every Sunday, I write an email newsletter with five things I discovered and learned that week.

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The below is extracted from the email sent on Aug 29, 2022

Here’s a list of what I’m exploring and pondering this week.

1. Derek Sivers’ writing advice: Try writing one sentence per line.

Article: Writing One Sentence per Line

Derek Siver is one of my favorite writers. Recently, he gave an interesting tip about writing: Try writing one sentence per line. We only edit them to the normal format after the contents are ready to be published,

We write one sentence per line just for our eyes and brain. According to Derek, this makes it easier for us to judge each sentence on its own, vary the sentence length, move sentences and, see first and last words.

I personally found this method helpful since it makes it more obvious when there are redundant sentences or weird conjunction. When writing one sentence per line, a paragraph’s structure becomes clearer. Therefore, it is easier to examine whether one section is logically coherent and whether some of the sentences are too long that should be trimmed.

2. Why do we forget bad feelings about memories faster? Fading affect bias (FAB).

Article: Fading affect bias — Sketchplanations

On my undergrad graduation trip to Bali, we got ripped off by our travel agent and somehow missed all the good food and stuff at Bali. However, looking back now, I find it not a bad experience and even think it is pretty funny retrospectively.

It turns out that this is a psychological phenomenon called Fading affect bias (FAB), in which emotion associated with negative memories tends to fade faster than with positive ones. In other words, our happy memories keep us happy for a longer time, while our bad memories won’t make us unhappy long. It’s noteworthy that FAB only applies to the feelings of the memories, not the content. Therefore, we do not forget what happened in negative memories.

A popular explanation for the FAB is the need for healthy self-awareness and self-view. It’s like a psychological immune system that serves as a healthy coping mechanism to improve the overall positivity of life.

I found it quite therapeutic to know that even though everything is transient, good things stay longer than bad ones.

3. Illusion of explanatory depth (IOED): we believe we understand more about the world than we actually do.

Article: The Illusion of Explanatory Depth — The Decision Lab

Having a curious person (usually a child) asking us questions can make us realize how little we know about the world, even what we think we know pretty well.

For example, as a software engineer, I thought I knew how a browser works, but I don’t. I knew there are HTML, CSS, and JavaScript, and there’s a mechanism taking URL and then DNS and then blah blah blah. But how is HTML parsed? Hmm, I don’t know. Even if I master the golden interview question, “What happens when you type google.com into your browser’s address box and press enter?”, I’m pretty sure I will still find out a lot I don’t know if being asked.

There are too many things that I thought I knew, but probably I don’t: interest rates, driving cars, faucets, venture capital, how to pronounce the word “error”, how raccoon walks, and how to use etc in a sentence, etc. The phenomenon that we tend to believe we understand things better than we actually do is called the illusion of explanatory depth (IOED). We often fail to realize our limited understanding of things until we are asked to explain them. We only know what we know, and we don’t know what we don’t know.

This illusion is also related to the famous Dunning–Kruger effect, where it’s about ability, while IOED is about explanatory knowledge. It is also important to note that the Dunning–Kruger effect might not be accurate.

4. Maker’s schedule vs Manager’s schedule: Understand the productivity style the people you work with are operating on.

Article: Maker’s Schedule, Manager’s Schedule

Software engineers usually don’t like meetings since they operate on a different type of productivity style than their managers. Paul Graham elaborates this difference as Maker’s schedule vs. Manager’s schedule.

For managers, tasks are done by what calendar blocks look like: each day is divided into one-hour intervals. Therefore, to work with someone, managers just find an open slot in their schedule and book it to get their task done.

Nonetheless, for people like programmers and writers, meetings can be a disaster. A meeting that breaks an afternoon into two intervals can destroy the whole afternoon since the two intervals are too small to do anything hard. The efficiency is highly discounted because the makers have to load the entire context twice when working. Context switch always has a cost in performance. In PG’s words:

“For someone on the maker’s schedule, having a meeting is like throwing an exception. It doesn’t merely cause you to switch from one task to another; it changes the mode in which you work.”

Therefore, it is important to understand the productivity style the people you work with are operating on. As Michael Seibel mentioned in this YC’s video, he, as his startup’s business guy, basically learned this difference the hard path by destroying the productivity of his co-founders.

5. “I imagine one of the reasons people cling to their hates so stubbornly is because they sense, once hate is gone, they will be forced to deal with pain.” — James Baldwin


This reminds me of people staying busy to avoid their feelings and procrastinate on important tasks.

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Cheng-Wei Hu | 胡程維

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