Benedict Evans - a16z podcast


Fixing bugs and being Altruistic

Everyday when I walk to work I cross through a narrow alley. After a heavy tropical rain, this alley becomes slippery and about once a week I will slip and fall. I always promise myself not to take the alley but it shaves a few minutes off my walk and I generally am late every morning.

Earlier this week after a particularly heavy day of rain, I noticed some kind soul had "fixed the bug". As you can see below, they put some white boards down to cover the potholes so people could walk safely. This person was unlikely rewarded for helping other users of the alley but they did it anyway. They provided a common good which likely made their life easier and prevented a few of us more clumsy people from falling over once more.

This observation made me think about "collaborative goodwill". Everyday millions of people offer their time and energy to fix bugs or solve problems without any expectation of a reward. The best example of this is Wikipedia, where users volunteer hours of their time to edit a knowledge base.

I did a bit of digging around the question "why do people contribute to Wikipedia" in order to understand the motivations of altruistic deeds. Ultimately it seems humans enjoy doing good deeds.

Inspired by the person who made the path easier to walk and by the millions of people who volunteer their time for free, I have decided to look for some meaningful volunteering opportunities in 2015.

I have promised myself to be the type of person who wants to "fix bugs" and improve things that I see as I walk around various places. Thanks to the person who put the white planks down - you made me do some thinking!


Serial - Sarah Koenig

Serial is a podcast exploring a suspenseful story over multiple episodes, as long as it takes to tell the story. Sarah Koenig created and hosts the series, which is co-produced by Koenig and Julie Snyder, both producers of This American Life. The topic of season one is an investigation into a 1999 Baltimore murder. 

Season one focuses on the 1999 murder of Hae Min Lee, an 18 year old student at Woodlawn High School. Lee was last seen at approximately 3 p.m. on January 13, 1999. Her corpse was discovered on February 9 in Leakin Park and identified two days later, with the case immediately being treated as a homicide. Lee's ex-boyfriend Adnan Musud Syed was arrested on February 28 at 6 a.m. and charged with first-degree murder. Syed was found guilty of Lee's murder on February 25, 2000 after a six-week trial and was given a life sentence despite pleading his innocence.