How do you invent things? How do you change the world around you?
Start by writing ten ideas a day.
Claudia Azula Altucher is the best-selling author of The Power of No and host of The Yoga Podcast. Her upcoming book is Become An Idea Machine. Among other things, it contains 180 writing prompts for ideas.
Topics we discussed include:
the friction between business and yoga
how to invest in yourself
should you put money in a 401k?
benefits of podcasting
why relationships cannot be evaluated until they are over
James Altucher is a best-selling writer, and one of my favorite authors and podcasters.
But the first time I read his blog posts, I could not stand them.
His writing seemed masochistic. He was reliving dramatic failures: tremendous financial loss, loneliness, rock bottom. There was lots of caps lock and list-based article writing. The first time I read him, I stopped before I finished the first page.
Two years later, I’m reading all of his material. It turns out to be excellent.
Topics we discussed include:
his bestselling book Choose Yourself
do you need to first hit rock bottom in order reach your greatest potential?
Jill Uchiyama is a teacher and film maker. She writes about feminism, philosophy, and Japan, where she spent part of her life. She is also the pioneer of Legacy film making, which seeks to capture the most important aspects of a person’s life.
In a past career, Jill worked as a counselor. She tells a fascinating story of why she became dispassionate about her hopes of being able to help clients. However, she continues to apply the skills she learned on that job on Quora, where she routinely provides useful life advice.
Alon Amit is the co-founder and VP of product at Origami Logic. After getting his PhD in Mathematics at Hebrew University of Jerusalem, he worked for seven years in biotechnology, before going to Google, and subsequently Facebook.
Alon has a ton of useful advice and experience for engineers, product managers, and anyone else working on software.
David S. Rose is an Angel Investor, Quora contributor, and author of the excellent book, “Angel Investing: The Gust Guide to Making Money“. He’s the CEO of Gust, a platform that connects start-ups with investors. Through Gust, over $1.8 billion has been invested into start-ups.
David’s book is about investing in early-stage entrepreneurs. It may seem like this isn’t useful information for typical “main street” investors. Not true–it is a prescient topic. There are more entrepreneurs than ever before, because of such tools as Amazon Web Services, crowd funding, Google App Engine, easy-to-use frameworks such as Ruby on Rails, and advanced outsourcing tools.
It’s also worth simply mentioning the Internet itself. If you believe Metcalfe’s law, that the value of a network is proportional to the square of the number of connected users in the system, then there is an immense amount of latent value waiting to be unlocked as the world becomes globalized. To capture this value, more and more entrepreneurs will spring up. Many of these entrepreneurs will need angel investors.
The amount of power endowed in a contemporary founder creates an undeniable value proposition for an investor looking for high upside. An investor could put $10,000 into an established company, and be taxed on all the slippage and slowness of an institution–or she could put $10,000 into a founder, who can get far more mileage on the dollar.
Notable topics David and I spoke about are angel investing, The Singularity, and several points on which he disagrees with Peter Thiel.
“Nobody likes a struggling artist until they’ve made it as an artist.”
Aaron Ellis is a screenwriter with a background in music and film criticism. Like myself, and many of the people I have interviewed on the Quoracast, Aaron is working to establish himself as an artist, while simultaneously plugging away in more conventional ways to pay the bills. We talked about the friction between an artist’s desire to succeed at his craft, while also needing to stay employed.
After graduating from Berkeley, Aaron gave himself ten years to focus on screenwriting. During this time, he focused less on the content of his day jobs and more on his passion. Those ten years have passed, but Aaron continues to pursue screenwriting. Though he hasn’t had a glorious public success yet, I have no doubt that it is in his future. He has a voice of resolve, and I got a lot of solidarity out of speaking with him.
After a successful career as an IT consultant, Graeme took his career in a completely different direction, and began focusing full-time on creative writing. His first published novel, A Kill in the Morning, is a well-researched recreation-history spy thriller, and an innovative work unlike anything I have read in the past.
Through the end of high school, I wanted to be a writer as well, but now find myself more interested in technology and business. In that sense, my pursuits have been an inverse of Graeme’s.
Gary Teal simplifies his identity on Quora with one word: Republican. During our interview, we discussed the definition of that word, and his lasting interest in politics and government. Professionally, Gary is a political strategist and voter list expert.
Politics is not a subject I follow closely on Quora, or anywhere. Topics like science, engineering, and business tend to provide information that I can leverage more effectively in my day-to-day life. But despite this, I find Gary’s writing appealing enough to seek it out actively.
David Leigh is an opera singer, teacher, and composer. I had a great time interviewing David and talking about music theory, composition, and how his background led him to becoming an opera singer and teacher. His quantitative approach to music appeals to me—I was particularly fascinated to learn how he approaches the “low level” aspects of opera by using a spectrograph and spreadsheets.
When it came to talking about Quora, David expressed an interesting criticism I had heretofore only associated with Wikipedia. How do you deal with answers that seem great, but may not be credible or authoritative?
George Anders is a Pulitzer Prize winning writer for Forbes Magazine. He writes about careers, innovation, and unforgettable personalities. In our interview, we discussed why he became a writer, and how he ended up writing about business. George talked about “Rare Finds”, the peculiar individuals who can end up defining an organization, and he told me about Sequoia Capital, which was the subject of one of his recent pieces.
Marc Ettlinger has a PhD in Linguistics from Berkeley, and works as a research scientist at the US Department of Veterans Affairs. As an undergraduate, he studied mechanical engineering. We discussed his work, research, and Quora answers. Marc describes one of his motivations for Quora as being science journalism. In his opinion, there are two camps of science writing: 1) an article in the NYT/Wired focused around one scientist/idea asserting strongly how things work, and 2) the stark, unromantic truth. We also talked about his answer to the question “do Jews think that they are superior to other ethnic/religious groups?”
Haseeb Qureshi is a former high-stakes poker player. He recently published The Philosophy of Poker, and spends his time writing and providing mind coaching.
This is my first in-person interview, and it is long. I met Haseeb when I was also playing poker. I quit the game in 2008, and I hadn’t spent significant time with him until this interview. So our dialogue involves us catching up, and talking about poker, and some crazy bets. There’s not much discussion of Quora.
In fact, Haseeb hasn’t even posted on Quora. One motivation for doing this interview is to coerce him into joining the site.
This interview is long so I had to break it up into multiple parts. The first half consists of Haseeb talking about his early poker years.
Marcus Geduld is employed as a programmer, and directs Shakespearean plays as a hobby. He has spent time over the years on various forums, and is a moderator on Quora. I used the interview as an opportunity to get insight into the moderation process and to find out how personal philosophy plays into his decisions. Marcus also talked about Asperger’s Syndrome, and how it affects his personality.
Sam Sinai is a theoretical biologist who spends much of his time developing computational models. His early inspiration came from the Richard Dawkins book The Selfish Gene. The ideas Dawkins presents are compelling, but do not come with proofs, or convincing sets of numbers. Selfish Gene is largely a thought experiment that laid out a framework for evolution, and Sam’s research elaborates on that framework with mathematical and computational evidence.
Dom Kane is a sound engineer, DJ, and producer based in the UK. I asked him to tell me what it’s like to play those different roles, and how they compare to one another. We talked about the current state of popular music, the role of a vocalist, and how fast things are moving thanks to MySpace and SoundCloud. Dom also answered some technical questions I had about music production.
Ellen Vrana personifies what makes Quora such a valuable source of information. To convey her beliefs, she reveals details about her life that some would consider intimate. In several posts she explores her history of depression, and her highest-rated post discusses what it is like to live as an introvert. I was happy to hear that a recent change in location and lifestyle has allowed her to shift her focus towards becoming a writer.
I’m regularly impressed by the depth and rigor that Brian applies to his Quora answers. He takes pains to provide enough detail to be thorough, but to also keep things approachable–it came as no surprise to me that he expressed some thoughts to me about one day becoming a teacher. In our interview, I wanted to get a sense of how Brian sees the landscape of modern science, and his place within it.
Ron Maimon is one of the most divisive characters Quora has seen. Many of his posts contain helpful explanations of topics within Physics, Biology, and Math. When he responds to a question, Ron’s answer is usually propelled to the top. But his harsh demeanor frustrates some users, and others find his science unconvincing. Ron was recently blocked by moderators and is departing from the site. Prior to the event that got him banned, Ron and I were already planning to have a conversation. While I am happy that I got to hear his side of the story, I was equally interested in his motivations as a human being, and why he comes off as so abrasive in his online interactions.
Brian Roemmele is a prolific Quora user. Many of his 700 answers focus on electronic payment systems and algorithmic currencies. I wanted Brian to explain to me how he got into this niche field, and how he has accrued the experience that allows him to speak so convincingly and authoritatively about such a fast moving field. For me, the most illuminating part of the interview came near the end, when Brian explained to me the true significance of cryptocurrencies such as Bitcoin.
Leonard Kim has earned a large following over the past seven months. Since finding Quora, he has posted hundreds of answers, covering topics such as business, relationships, and general life advice. He is as candid as any Quora writer I have encountered, and much of his content centers around the painful challenges he has overcome in the past several years. He took the time to speak to me about where he is at in life, how he got here, and where he is going.
Leonard can be contact at hello at leonardkim dot com, or through his website, leonardkim.com.
With almost 6000 followers, Jessica Su is one of the most followed users on Quora. Since graduating from the California Institute of Technology, she has been pursuing a PhD in computer science at Stanford. She is a rarity in that she is willing to talk about her embarrassing fifteenth birthday party in one post, then describe an elaborate algorithm in the next. This makes her an appealing voice, both to people seeking strictly technical knowledge and to those looking for solidarity, or simply a good story.
Kate Simmons is a private clinician specializing in the field of pain management. She has a passion for studying and understanding the causes and solutions of chronic pain. Her office, Myofascial Pain Solutions, offers trigger point therapy for conditions such as fybromyalgia, rotator cuff injuries, and plantar fasciitis, Kate is also a Quora top writer, with more than 300 answers.
Lisa Galarneau is a Quora Top Writer with over 2000 followers and 3000 posts in a variety of topics. Her employment background includes stints in cryptology, telegram singing, and commercial anthropology, which she currently works in today. When earning her PhD, Lisa studied the anthropology of online gamers, traveling to thirteen different countries to study behaviors in different environments.
Ian McCullough has spent his professional life in a variety of creative and managerial roles. Since studying drama and entertainment technology at Carnegie Mellon, has helped develop consumer products in the areas of electronics, media, toys, games, and education. He is the founder of McCullough Productions and consulting, and the CEO and co-founder of Giant Cardboard Robots, a company that makes…giant cardboard robots.
Stephanie Vardavas is a Quora top writer with over 4100 followers and 4000 posts. She is the CEO and founder of Row99.com and chair of the Oregon Commission for Women Her experience includes positions as an attorney, product safety consultant, and delegate for Barack Obama at the 2008 Democratic National Convention. On Quora, she is a heavy contributor to topics ranging from Jane Austen to Nike, where she spent 14 years as an assistant general counsel, advising several different segments of Nike’s global business.
John Burgess is a Quora top writer with over 4000 posts. He is a former US foreign service officer who spent two tours in Saudi Arabia. In addition to his posts on Quora, John maintains Crossroads Arabia, a blog about Saudi Arabia from the perspective of an American.
Cliff Gilley is a product manager with a decade of experience, mostly in the area of legal technology. He currently works as director of product marketing for DiscoverReady, a company that provides legal document review on a fixed-cost basis. Cliff’s background is a combination of psychology, sociology and law. He holds a JD from Seattle University.
In this episode, Cliff discusses what led him from psychology to law to product management. He also remarks on what people in the software industry can learn from games, as well as where he would like to see Quora go.
Jesse Lashley was in high school when he started using Quora, and has made significant contributions to the site, with over 650 answers and 1,000 posts. Jesse is currently a college student pursuing design at Kendall College of Art and Design.
Ben Golub has a Ph.D. in economics, and has written papers primarily based on microeconomic theory, game theory, and behavioral economics. He is a Junior Fellow at the Harvard Society of Fellows, and will be joining the faculty of the Harvard Economics department in 2015. In this episode, Ben explains how price discrimination works, why you may want to vote despite having low odds of changing anything, and the effects of Steve Jobs on Silicon Valley culture.
Wray Rives is a Certified Public Accountant with more than thirty years of experience, He is also the founder of Rives CPA , an accounting company based in Texas. He has over 1000 followers and 1300 answers. Many of his posts are detailed, professional responses to tax-related questions. In this episode, Wray dissects the Flat Tax, explains who should and shouldn’t use TurboTax, and describes how Amazon got its edge early on.
Caroline Zelonka has been an advertising writer for several decades, and has been published in Slate, Forbes, and Business Insider. She is a Quora top writer with almost 3000 followers and over 1000 answers. In this episode, Caroline discusses contemporary advertising, what it’s like to develop an infomercial, and the real motivation behind the comic Garfield.
Christopher Reiss is a 2012 Quora Top Writer with more than 2000 followers, 1000 posts, and 100 questions. He involves himself in a wide range of subjects, and considers his lifelong interests to be history, the philosophy of science, and the evolution of technology. In the inaugural episode of the Quoracast, Chris shares his thoughts on topics ranging from Google Glass to Ayn Rand.