Info Diet offers a peek into the personally curated feeds and media habits of the people shaping the future. In each installment, a different builder spends two days chronicling all the content they consume in order to stay ahead of the curve. This time: Rajiv Ayyangar, cofounder and CEO of the virtual office app Tandem. Rajiv was born and raised in Menlo Park, California, and lives in San Francisco.
Saturday, May 7
8:30 a.m.: I start the morning with coffee and a chapter of Mac creator Jef Raskin’s classic book The Humane Interface: New Directions for Designing Interactive Systems. It was recommended by our head of design, Andriy. I’d asked him if he had a favorite book (expecting fiction), and he absolutely raved about Raskin.
Raskin elegantly lays out a first-principles approach to usability. I find that reading one chapter at a time is both enjoyable and also evocative of new UI ideas. This morning’s chapter is about interaction efficiency: Raskin observes that the classic Fitts’s Law and its discrete analog Hick’s law both have a logarithmic form, much like Shannon entropy from information theory. In other words, the rate at which you can input information into a computer via interaction (e.g., clicking a button) is proportional to the amount of information you’re communicating to the computer. (If you click one button among 10, that transmits more info than clicking one huge button with no other options). Intuitive, perhaps, but a beautiful parallel nonetheless.
9:15 a.m.: On the way to getting my car repaired, I listen to a rock-climbing podcast called The Nugget. I’ve been a serious climber for nearly two decades — there’s something transportive and freeing about finding a path up a rock. (I wrote a bit on why I climb here). This particular episode features Mike Kerzhner, a friend and web3 engineer, who also happens to be a world-class climber. It’s frank and in-depth.
10 a.m.: Next I do a yoga session while listening to some Bach cantatas. Today it’s Gardiner’s BWV 61, which has a beautiful bass recitative and fugue. Its intricacy helps balance the pain.
10:30 a.m.: I catch up on a few WhatsApp groups before diving into work. One is a group of CEOs rallying to help the efforts in Ukraine. It’s heartening to see the speedy collaboration, but the situation weighs on me. Another is a group of Y Combinator founders who are doing a fitness challenge — encouragement and general positive vibes all around.
1:30 p.m.: I finish the Nugget episode with Mike while driving to the gym to climb with a friend. The host, Steven Dimmitt, does a wonderful job of asking the best questions for each guest, and then exploring them together in a way that offers a lot of color and depth. You really feel like you know the guest better after the interview. Mike’s episode is no exception, even though he’s already a friend.
8 p.m.: My brother and I both took up the piano at an early age, but while I’m an amateur (rock-climbing isn’t great for the fingers, it turns out), he’s a full-time pianist and musicologist, currently working on a recital program. I get to be the sole audience member, enjoying a private concert performed on a lovely Steinway I’ve crammed into my apartment. He plays Bach and Schubert. The audience goes wild.
9:30 p.m.: Inspired by my brother, I open Tonic, a live-practice audio app, and listen to some classical musicians playing in virtual studios. (Jfyi, I’m a tiny investor.) It makes me feel like I’m in the basement of a music conservatory, checking out what different people are working on. After typing some applause and encouragement into the studios’ chat, I open a virtual studio myself and practice for a bit. Today it’s “Goldberg” variations (No. 7). I stopped playing piano in college, but got back into it a few years ago. Thanks to the Tonic community, I’ve been practicing for at least 15 minutes a day. Gotta keep up my streak!
11 p.m.: Before bed, I browse YouTube to get my climbing-video fix. I choose one called “Return of the Sleepwalker” on one of my favorite channels, Mellow. I like Mellow because they deliver great climbing footage and not much else. It’s very to the point. This video shows pro climber Daniel Woods in the process of working on possibly the hardest boulder problem (short climb) in the world. For a more general audience, I highly recommend the documentary The Dawn Wall. The film shows the struggle of two pros climbing the hardest route up El Capitan in Yosemite in a multi-year project that most people in the climbing world thought impossible.
Monday, May 9
8:40 a.m.: I kick off the day with coffee and email catch-up. First I read This Week in Hybrid — which is Tandem’s newsletter, but also objectively the best weekly digest for return-to-office news, policies, and trends. It covers notable announcements from Airbnb, Apple, Goldman Sachs, Roblox, and news about an in-office perk at Google (a private Lizzo concert!). Also featured is a think-piece from WIRED about a part-time telecommuting experiment from the ‘70s, and what it can teach us about hybrid work today.
Larry Gadea, CEO of Envoy, sent me a Kickstarter announcement on Product Hunt for a Tandem shower, joking that he thought we’d hard-pivoted. This led to browsing other product launches to get a quick sense of new and emerging startups. Most of the top products, I notice, are around productivity, such as calendar improvements, internal company links, and browser tab management.
I skim the Y Combinator forums email digest, which I do most days. Alone among forum digests, I almost always find something interesting, useful, or inspiring — often product launches, or questions from founders. Today the top post was a video from YC’s YouTube channel that breaks down early-stage advice. I often send their videos to founder friends to supplement my own advice. My most-sent videos are Dalton Caldwell (YC head of admissions) on pivoting (we pivoted five times before Tandem), and Michael Seibel (YC CEO) on how to think about co-founder equity.
8 p.m.: While clicking around Youtube, a John Oliver video about the Philippines election grabs my attention. I’m part Filipino. The segment is accurate and well-researched, and it breaks my heart to see the country’s grim history, which my family members remember personally, repeat itself. For example, my uncle recently shared how my grandparents’ colleagues at the University of the Philippines lived in fear of being arrested, and how after the Marcos regime was overthrown, the removal of censorship had a visceral impact. For the first time, he explained, TV was actually interesting because people could tell the truth.
Overall, it’s an uneasy night. To clear my head, I avoid Twitter, listen to Bach, and play a little piano.
Get Rajiv’s Info Diet
- The Humane Interface: New Directions for Designing Interactive Systems, by Jeff Raskin
- “The Original Hybrid Workers Can Teach Us How to Do It Right,” by Megan Carnegie [Wired]
- The Nugget, hosted by Steven Dimmitt
- BWV 61 and “Goldberg” variations (No. 7), by Johann Sebastian Bach
Watch (and learn)
- “Return of the Sleepwalker,” by Mellow [YouTube]
- “All About Pivoting,” by Dalton Caldwell for Y Startup School [YouTube]
- “How to Split Equity Among Co-founders,” by Michael Seibel for Y Startup School [YouTube]
- “Philippines Election: Last Week Tonight with John Oliver,” by LastWeekTonight [YouTube]
- This Week in Hybrid, by Tandem
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