Heated: the Cadence edit

Newsletter Challenge, v. 18

Quick note: I recently wrapped up a writing coach arrangement with Ari Lewis, host of the Mastering the Attention Economy podcast. We enjoyed working together (see Ari’s ROI here), and he proposed I take on a newsletter editing challenge. I’ve built my list from the top paid newsletters at Substack, and I toss in an odd find now and again to keep things fresh.

The challenge: Twenty edits by late September (yes, I’m behind, but my clients — and my family — come first, of course).

My primary goal: add clarity, concision, and cadence to the newsletters, and sharpen up my own editing process. After I wrap up the challenge, I’ll provide reflections on these edits and offer lessons you can use on your own newsletter.

For details on my process, click here, a Google doc. Leave suggestions as you see fit. Thanks!

“Facebook’s climate of denial,” Sept. 21

https://heated.world/p/facebooks-climate-of-denial / #16 on Substack’s paid subscription list (Sept 29)

by Emily Atkin, @emorwee

–Grey typeface: Atkin.

Normal typeface: me.

Key metrics (original -> edit)
–reading level: 11 -> 10.
–word count: 1741 -> 1698.
–median sentence length: 19.5 -> 18 words.
–sentence length, standard deviation (basically, a measure of the variety of sentence lengths): 10 -> 11.
–% of sentences, hard or very hard to read: 47% -> 38%.

~~~~~~

Facebook’s climate of denial

Climate disinformation ran wild on Facebook as the company announced it was “stepping up” on climate.

By Emily Atkin and Judd Legum

~~~~~~~~~~~~

Time is running out to prevent a climate catastrophe. The summer of 2020, with its devastating wildfires and climate-fueled extreme weather, is a preview of the world’s apocalyptic future — unless decisive steps are taken to reduce carbon emissions. The public’s need for accurate climate change information could not be greater.

Last week, Facebook announced that it is going to help. “As a global company that connects more than 3 billion people across our apps every month, we understand the responsibility Facebook has and we want to make a real difference,” the company said in a news release. To do that, Facebook announced a new feature called the Climate Science Information Center. It is a Facebook page containing climate change information from credible sources like the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change and the World Meteorological Organization. It also contains a sampling of recent climate-related news, and a section for “actionable steps people can take in their everyday lives to combat climate change.”

Combined with the company’s efforts to reduce its own carbon emissions, Facebook said it hopes the Climate Science Information Center demonstrates “that Facebook is committed to playing its part and helping to inspire real action in our community” on climate change.

Time is running out to prevent a climate catastrophe. With its devastating wildfires and climate-fueled extreme weather, summer 2020 heralds an apocalyptic future — unless we all take decisive steps [rd1] to reduce carbon emissions. The public’s need for accurate climate change information has never been greater.

Last week, Facebook announced that it is going to help: “As a global company that connects more than 3 billion people across our apps every month, we understand the responsibility Facebook has and we want to make a real difference.” Its Climate Science Information Center page draws on credible sources on climate change, including the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change and the World Meteorological Organization. It also includes a sampling of recent climate-related news, and a section for “actionable steps people can take in their everyday lives to combat climate change.”

Facebook, too, is trying to reduce its own carbon emissions. With that effort, along with the Climate Science Information Center, Facebook aims to demonstrate its commitment to “playing its part and helping to inspire real action in our community.”

~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Scientists and climate advocates, however, have panned Facebook’s initiative because it does nothing to address the massive distribution of climate disinformation on Facebook. Further, Facebook’s Climate Science Information Center contains no information about the primary reasons the climate crisis exists: polluting companies, policy obstruction, and unchecked climate denial.

“I see it as a greenwashing exercise,” said John Cook, an assistant research professor at George Mason University who studies climate misinformation. “Facebook is polluting the information landscape by allowing misinformation to proliferate from their platform. And they’re trying to distract from the fact that they’re not doing anything to prevent it.”

Why, then, have scientists and climate advocates panned Facebook’s new initiative? Namely, because it stops short of addressing Facebook’s spread of climate misinformation. Further, Facebook’s Climate Science Information Center contains no information about polluting companies, policy obstruction, and unchecked climate denial: the primary causes of the climate crisis.

“I see it as a greenwashing exercise,” said John Cook, an assistant research professor at George Mason University who studies climate misinformation. “Facebook is polluting the information landscape by allowing misinformation to proliferate from their platform. And they’re trying to distract from the fact that they’re not doing anything to prevent it.”

~~~~~~~~~

Facebook’s misinformation problem

Facebook is one of the planet’s largest purveyors of climate disinformation. According to CBS News, “A 2016 analysis found that the most popular climate change story shared on Facebook that year was a fake story that declared climate science a “hoax.” In 2018, a video that denied humans were responsible for global warming received more than 5 million views on Facebook.

In an emailed statement to HEATED and Popular Information, Facebook spokesperson Andy Stone said the site’s new feature would help combat the misinformation problem.

“The Climate Science Information Center won’t solve climate misinformation on its own, but coupling it with our global fact-checking program and over 200 climate experts who contribute to the information center will mean major progress,” he said. “Our goal is for Facebook to eventually become the most widely used source for reliable information about global warming and climate science.”

Facebook is one of the planet’s largest purveyors of climate disinformation. “A 2016 analysis found that the most popular climate change story shared on Facebook that year,” according to CBS News, “was a fake story that declared climate science a ‘hoax.’” In 2018, a video that denied humans were responsible for global warming received more than 5 million views on Facebook.

In an emailed statement to HEATED and Popular Information, Facebook spokesperson Andy Stone said the site’s new feature would help combat the misinformation problem.

“The Climate Science Information Center won’t solve climate misinformation on its own, but coupling it with our global fact-checking program and over 200 climate experts who contribute to the information center will mean major progress,” Stone wrote. “Our goal is for Facebook to eventually become the most widely used source for reliable information about global warming and climate science.”

~~~~~~~~~~

But according to Cook’s research, simply providing accurate information is not an effective solution to climate misinformation. For people to not be misled by climate denial, Cook’s research shows, they need to be explained “how misinformation works and how it misleads them.” “The whole concept of, ‘Hey we’re solving it by providing an information hub’ is not a scientific approach,” he said. “Providing science is not the best solution, according to the best science. “

Facebook’s Climate Science Information Center ignores systemic solutions and emphasizes individual solutions like turning off the lights and buying local produce. Cook calls this approach “disturbing” because it’s the same tactic fossil fuel companies have used to delay climate action for years. “Facebook’s new page buys into that framing,” he said. “It pushes an unhelpful narrative that distracts from what is necessary to solve climate change.”

But according to Cook’s research, simply providing accurate information is not an effective solution to climate misinformation. For people to not be misled by climate denial, Cook’s research shows, they need to understand “how misinformation works and how it misleads them.” “The whole concept of, ‘Hey we’re solving it by providing an information hub’ is not a scientific approach,” Cook said. “Providing science is not the best solution, according to the best science. “

Facebook’s Climate Science Information Center ignores systemic solutions and emphasizes individual solutions, such as turning off the lights and buying local produce. Cook regards this approach as disturbing because it’s the same tactic fossil fuel companies have used to delay climate action for years. “Facebook’s new page buys into that framing,” he said. “It pushes an unhelpful narrative that distracts from what is necessary to solve climate change.”

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Stone said Facebook “spoke to a number of leading climate science organizations as well as academics in different countries” to inform what was on the page, but declined to say which organizations or academics were involved.

He added that Facebook is “looking to expand the types of actions featured and are working with partners on that now.” In the meantime, climate disinformation continues to spread on Facebook at an alarming rate.

According to Stone, Facebook “spoke to a number of leading climate science organizations as well as academics in different countries” to inform what was on the page. He declined to say which organizations or academics were involved.

He added that Facebook is “looking to expand the types of actions featured and are working with partners on that now.” In the meantime, climate disinformation continues to spread on Facebook like, well, a Sierra Nevada wildfire.

~~~~~~~~~~

Daily Caller, a Facebook fact-checking partner, spreading climate disinformation

In the wake of devastating forest fires on the West Coast, Trump and others on the right have claimed that poor forest management, not climate change, is responsible. Science Feedback, an official Facebook fact-checking partner, rated this claim “misleading.” The intensity of the fires is “influenced by a variety of factors, including weather conditions, climate change, past fire suppression practices, and an increase in the number of people living near wildlands.” Moreover, “[s]cientific studies demonstrate clear links between climate change, hotter and drier conditions, and an increase in dry vegetative fuel load, drastically increasing the amount of forest fire area in the western US.”

But this hasn’t stopped the claim from spreading widely on Facebook. Climate Feedback’s fact check was applied to one viral Facebook post that has been shared over 9,000 times.

But Facebook has not applied the fact check to numerous other posts making the same claims about the wildfires and forest management. Some of the worst information is coming from The Daily Caller, which is a Facebook fact-checking partner, entrusted to evaluate the claims of other publications on Facebook. The Daily Caller cites “fire expert” Bob Zybach to make the claim.

In the wake of devastating forest fires on the West Coast, Trump and others on the right have blamed poor forest management, not climate change. Science Feedback, an official Facebook fact-checking partner, rated this claim “misleading.” The intensity of the fires is:

“influenced by a variety of factors, including weather conditions, climate change, past fire suppression practices, and an increase in the number of people living near wildlands … Scientific studies demonstrate clear links between climate change, hotter and drier conditions, and an increase in dry vegetative fuel load, drastically increasing the amount of forest fire area in the western US.”

But this hasn’t stopped the claim from spreading widely on Facebook. Climate Feedback’s fact check was applied to one viral Facebook post that has been shared over 9,000 times.

But Facebook has not applied the fact check to numerous other posts making the same claims about the wildfires and forest management. Some of the worst information comes courtesy of The Daily Caller, a Facebook fact-checking partner entrusted to evaluate the claims of other publications on Facebook. “Fire expert” Bob Zybach represents The Daily Caller.

Zybach is not convinced. “The lack of active land management is almost 100 percent the cause,” he told the DCNF, noting that climate change has almost nothing to do with fire kindling gathering across the forest floors. Other researchers share his skepticism.

~~~~~~~~~

Zybach is also identified by the Daily Caller as “an experienced forester with a PhD in environmental science.” But he is actually an operative for the Heartland Institute, the most prominent source of climate disinformation. The article has been shared more than 12,000 times on Facebook.

A version of the article syndicated by The Daily Signal was shared another 7,000 times. Neither version of the article has been tagged with Science Feedback’s fact check. This is significant because being tagged as false or partially false will limit the distribution of the article on Facebook.

Other Facebook posts making similar claims by far-right provocateur Mike Cernovich, The Western Journal, and Breitbart have been shared thousands of times. They also have not been associated with Science Feedback’s fact check. Facebook said that these posts are “eligible” for fact-checking.

The Daily Caller identifies Zybach as “an experienced forester with a PhD in environmental science.” But he is actually an operative for the Heartland Institute, the most prominent source of climate disinformation. The article has been shared on Facebook more than 12,000 times.

A version of the article was also picked up by The Daily Signal, and shared another 7,000 times. Neither version of the article was tagged with Science Feedback’s fact check. Tagging matters. Facebook limits the distribution of articles tagged as false or partially false.

Other Facebook posts making similar claims by far-right provocateur Mike Cernovich, The Western Journal, and Breitbart have been shared thousands of times. They also are not subject to Science Feedback’s fact check. Facebook, though, affirms that these posts are “eligible for fact-checking.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Glenn Beck’s viral video

As a matter of course, Facebook does not remove climate misinformation from its platform. Why? Facebook’s policy is that it only removes content that “poses an immediate threat to human health and safety.” In Facebook’s view, climate change misinformation “does not fall within that category.” This is misguided, but it’s Facebook’s policy.

Facebook made an exception, however, for the false claim that Antifa and left-wing activists were responsible for setting wildfires on the West Coast. It was part of a broader effort to divert focus from climate change as a cause of the fires. In response to rumors that spread rapidly on Facebook, vigilantes had set up checkpoints and had begun stopping motorists at gunpoint to apprehend Antifa and other activists. According to Facebook spokesperson Andy Stone, content falsely blaming left-wing activists for the fires would be removed from Facebook because “these rumors are forcing local fire and police agencies to divert resources from fighting the fires and protecting the public.”

As a matter of course, Facebook does not remove climate misinformation from its platform. Why? Their policy is to only remove content that “poses an immediate threat to human health and safety.” In Facebook’s view, climate change misinformation does not fall within that category. Yes, it’s misguided. But that’s the policy.

Facebook made an exception, however, for the false claim that Antifa and left-wing activists were responsible for setting wildfires on the West Coast. These claims were part of a broader effort to divert focus from climate change as a cause of the fires. In response to this misinformation (which spread rapidly on Facebook), vigilantes set up checkpoints and stopped motorists at gunpoint to apprehend Antifa and other activists. According to Facebook’s Andy Stone, content falsely blaming left-wing activists for the fires was removed because “these rumors are forcing local fire and police agencies to divert resources from fighting the fires and protecting the public.”

~~~~~~~~~~~~

Although Facebook has acknowledged that these rumors pose an immediate danger to the public, it has not stopped them from spreading on Facebook. Last Wednesday, Glenn Beck published a video with the following caption:

The media — and social media — insist that this year’s fires in California and Oregon are a product of climate change. Well I have news for all these so-called “protectors” of the truth. Even better, I have the actual DOCUMENTS to prove otherwise! Here are the arrest records for multiple suspected ARSONISTS — and at least one is a known BLM activist, dating back to Ferguson.

Beck does not actually have any documents or evidence to prove this point, since it is false. The entirety of his evidence linking the fires to Black Lives Matter is that one man, Jeffrey Acord, who was arrested for arson in Washington State once was arrested at a Black Lives Matter rally. Acord allegedly set a fire in a highway median which was quickly extinguished. He is not responsible for any wildfires. The rest of the video talks about and a handful of recent arrests for arson by people with no established connection to BLM or Antifa.

Although Facebook classified these rumors as an immediate danger to the public, it didn’t stop them from spreading on Facebook. Last Wednesday, Glenn Beck published a video with the following caption:

The media — and social media — insist that this year’s fires in California and Oregon are a product of climate change. Well I have news for all these so-called “protectors” of the truth. Even better, I have the actual DOCUMENTS to prove otherwise! Here are the arrest records for multiple suspected ARSONISTS — and at least one is a known BLM activist, dating back to Ferguson.

Beck — surprise! — does not have any documents or evidence to support his claim. There’s only one link between the fires and Black Lives Matter. Jeffrey Acord, who was once arrested for arson in Washington State, was also arrested at a Black Lives Matter rally, was recently arrested for arson in Acord allegedly set a fire in a highway median which was quickly extinguished. He is not responsible for any wildfires. The rest of the video talks about and a handful of recent arrests for arson by people with no established connection to BLM or Antifa.

~~~~~~~

Acord was also falsely described as a member of “Antifa” by right-wing websites responsible for spreading the rumors on Facebook. Beck’s video, however, was not removed. Instead, it quickly accumulated over 550,000 views on the platform.

After the video had accumulated over 550,000 views, Facebook applied a fact-check to the video, which said Beck’s claims were “missing context.”

But the linked fact check from Science Feedback does not say Beck’s claim is “missing context.” It describes claims that widespread arson is the cause of western wildfires as “factually inaccurate” and “unfounded and contradicted by documentation of other causes of ignition.” These include lightning strikes, downed power lines, and a smoke machine. The severity of the fires is not related to the source of ignition but “the result of strong winds and intense drought driven by a dry summer and record warmth, which is part of an ongoing human-caused warming trend.”

Acord was also falsely described as a member of “Antifa” by right-wing websites responsible for spreading the rumors on Facebook. Beck’s video, however, was not removed, and it quickly accumulated over 550,000 views.

Facebook eventually applied a fact-check to the video, which said Beck’s claims were “missing context.”

But the linked fact check from Science Feedback does not say Beck’s claim is “missing context.” It describes claims that widespread arson is the cause of western wildfires as “factually inaccurate” and “unfounded and contradicted by documentation of other causes of ignition.” These include lightning strikes, downed power lines, and a smoke machine. The severity of the fires is not related to the source of ignition but “the result of strong winds and intense drought driven by a dry summer and record warmth, which is part of an ongoing human-caused warming trend.”

# # #

And that’s a wrap.

If you like what you see, drop me a line over here.

Thanks!

Happy writing!

Postanly Weekly: the Cadence edit

Newsletter Challenge, v. 17

Quick note: I recently wrapped up a writing coach arrangement with Ari Lewis, host of the Mastering the Attention Economy podcast. We enjoyed working together (see Ari’s ROI here), and he proposed I take on a newsletter editing challenge. I’ve built my list from the top paid newsletters at Substack, and I toss in an odd find now and again to keep things fresh — like this one.

The challenge: Twenty edits by 22 September (yes, I’m behind, but my clients — and my family — come first, of course).

My primary goal: add clarity, concision, and cadence to the newsletters, and sharpen up my own editing process. After I wrap up the challenge, I’ll provide reflections on each edit and offer some lessons you can use on your own newsletter.

For details on my process, click here, a Google doc. Leave suggestions as you see fit. Thanks!

“Think Like a Futurist: The Key to Ensuring Your Success in an Uncertain Future,” September 21

https://medium.com/personal-growth/to-survive-and-thrive-in-our-age-of-uncertainty-think-like-a-futurist-392e8bab2beb /
by Thomas Oppong / @AlltopstartupsFollow

–Grey typeface: Oppong.

Normal typeface: me.

Key metrics (original -> edit)
–reading level: 9 -> 7.
–word count: 901 -> 774.
–median sentence length: 17 -> 17 words.
–sentence length, standard deviation (basically, a measure of the variety of sentence lengths): 13 -> 9.
–% of sentences, hard or very hard to read: 41% -> 33%.

~~~~~~

Think Like a Futurist: The Key to Ensuring Your Success in an Uncertain Future

The art futuring is a necessary skill in the new age of uncertainty

Think Like a Futurist for Long-term Success

The necessity of futuring in the age of uncertainty
Image by Ty Dale.

~~~~~~~~~~~~

Are you prepared for what might happen next month or next year?

The future has always been uncertain. Today right now, the future is even more uncertain. We’re dealing with a lot of uncertainty right now.

Many people can’t cope — they are stressed and overwhelmed.

“Deep uncertainty merits deep questions, and the answers aren’t necessarily tied to a fixed date in the future. Where do you want to have impact? What it will take to achieve success?” writes Amy Webb, a quantitative futurist and professor of strategic foresight at the New York University Stern School of Business.

Are you prepared for what might happen next month? How about next year?

The future has always been uncertain — but right now, in the US especially, uncertainty may be at an all-time high.

Many people are stressed and overwhelmed.

“Deep uncertainty merits deep questions, and the answers aren’t necessarily tied to a fixed date in the future. Where do you want to have impact? What it will take to achieve success?”

Amy Webb, quantitative futurist and professor of strategic foresight
at the New York University Stern School of Business

~~~~~~

Futurists plan for the future in a whole new way. They think through multiple scenarios to make sure they are prepared for almost all possible scenarios. They may not know what could happen, but they are proactive about the unknown.

“For any given uncertainty about the future — whether that’s risk, opportunity, or growth — we tend to think in the short- and long-term simultaneously,” says Amy.

Futurists attempt to systematically explore predictions and possibilities about the future and how they can emerge from the present into a future they’ve prepared for.

“At its best, futures thinking is not about predicting the future; rather, it is about engaging people in thinking deeply about complex issues, imagining new possibilities, connecting signals into larger patterns, connecting the past with the present and the future, and making better choices today,” writes Marina Gorbis, Executive Director of the Institute for the Future

Futurists plan for the future by imagining multiple scenarios, and they prepare accordingly. They may not know what could happen, but they are proactive about the unknown.

“For any given uncertainty about the future,” notes Professor Webb, “whether that’s risk, opportunity, or growth — [futurists] tend to think in the short- and long-term simultaneously.”

Futurists systematically explore predictions and possibilities about the future and ascertain how they can transition from the present into a future in accordance with the Boy Scouts’ motto: be prepared.

“At its best, futures thinking is not about predicting the future,” according to Marina Gorbis, Executive Director of the Institute for the Future. “It is about engaging people in thinking deeply about complex issues, imagining new possibilities, connecting signals into larger patterns, connecting the past with the present and the future, and making better choices today.”

~~~~~~~~~~~

We are in the midst of a historical transformation — the art of futuring your life and career is a necessary skill in an extremely uncertain world.

Despite the mass uncertainty we face right now, if you can’t figure out your long-term plan for tomorrow, next month or next year, you will feel stuck, react more to other’s demands, procrastinate more, and give up sooner when challenged.

Make “futures” thinking a way of life

We are facing huge challenges in the world today, but you can’t thrive, grow or make the most of your life if you approach your present difficulties with short-term thinking.

We are in the midst of a historical transformation. The art of futuring your life and career is a valuable skill in an uncertain world.

A good plan keeps you centered. If you can’t figure out your plan for tomorrow, next month or next year, you will feel stuck, react more to other’s demands, procrastinate more, and give up sooner when faced with even modest challenges.

Make “futures” thinking a way of life.

~~~~~~~~~~~

Futures thinking skill is essential right now to better navigate your life and to make better decisions in the face of so many uncertainties. People who excel at managing the uncertainties of tomorrow think like futurists.

John F. Kennedy once said, “Change is the law of life. And those who look only to the past or the present are certain to miss the future.”

Take a moment and envision your life in, say, 2 or 5 years from now. What you’re imagining? Most people focus on a single future. What their life or career could look like if they take certain steps or actions.

 “Change is the law of life. And those who look only to the past or the present are certain to miss the future.”

John F. Kennedy

Take a moment and envision your life in, say, two, or even five years from now. What do you see? Most people focus on a single future, on what their life or career could look like if they take certain steps or actions.

~~~~~~~~

Futurists think about multiple futures instead — they open themselves to all kinds of possible scenarios and solutions. Multiple perspectives are at the heart of futures studies — they actively consider alternatives.

“The best way to predict your future is to create it, ” says Abraham Lincoln

When you make a smart long-term decision about your future, you are effectively thinking backwards, and getting ready to live the future you want.

If your first and best case scenario about your life or career doesn’t work out next year, do you have another perspective you can explore?

Futurists, meanwhile, think about multiple futures. They open themselves to a host of scenarios and solutions. Multiple perspectives are at the heart of futures studies.

“The best way to predict your future is to create it.”

Abraham Lincoln

To make a well-founded, long-term decision about your future, take that five-year vision of you and think backwards. That’s how you can get ready to live the future you want.

If your first and best-case scenario about your life or career doesn’t work out next year, do you persist, or do you have a back-up plan?

~~~~~~~~~~~

Futurists have a long term perspective.

Thinking like a futurist involves paying attention to what’s changing, what doesn’t change and how to better prepare yourself for what’s next.

It means maintaining an open mind and running through various possibilities to find potential outcomes or imagining many possible futures.

A good futurist is always learning — for tomorrow belongs to those who prepare for it today. Learning new career skills and how to manage your emotions in difficult times can give you an upper hand — it puts you in control of what can disturb your peace of mind.

Futurists commit to long-term perspectives.

Thinking like a futurist involves paying attention to what’s changing, what remains steady, and how to better prepare yourself for what’s next.

It means maintaining an open mind and running through various possibilities to imagine potential outcomes of multiple futures.

A good futurist is always learning — for tomorrow belongs to those who prepare for it today. Learning new career skills and how to manage your emotions in difficult times can give you an upper hand — it puts you in control of what can disturb your peace of mind.

~~~~~~~~~

Robert Anton Wilson argues that “The future is up for grabs. It belongs to any and all who will take the risk and accept the responsibility of consciously creating the future they want.”

Whether you foresee an unknown and difficult future or a bright future because opportunities abound, it’s your responsibility to prepare for both.

“If you are deliberately trying to create a future that feels safe, you will willfully ignore the future that is likely,” says Seth Godin.

“The future is up for grabs. It belongs to any and all who will take the risk and accept the responsibility of consciously creating the future they want.”

Robert Anton Wilson, author

Whether you foresee an unknown and difficult future or a bright future because opportunities abound, it’s your responsibility to prepare for both.

“If you are deliberately trying to create a future that feels safe, you will willfully ignore the future that is likely.”

Seth Godin, educator, author, and marketing guru

~~~~~~~~~~

When you think like a futurist, you can know what’s coming faster — that makes it easy to prepare better for disruptions in life and career.

Preparation puts you in control of what might be coming. You can’t predict the future, but you can be better prepared for possible scenarios.

With long-term thinking, proactive action, and an open mind, you can still thrive tomorrow and create better experiences for your life and career.

When you think like a futurist, you can know what’s coming faster — which makes it easy to prepare more effectively for disruptions in life and career.

With long-term thinking, proactive action, and an open mind, you can still thrive tomorrow and create better experiences for your life and career.

~~~~~~~~~~

Today, right now, think about every possible scenario that could happen in your life in the next year or two and figure out how to best plan for every possible scenario.

If you are able to take these steps each day, you will be thinking like a futurist. You will be able to better anticipate and prepare for all possible future scenarios. With a sense of what your farther future might look like, you will be ready to take the best action for your life.

Today, right now, think about a variety of life scenarios, which might play out next year and the year after, and figure out how to best plan for each of them.

Take these steps every day to think like a futurist. Start to anticipate how future scenarios will affect your choices. With a sense of what your future might look like, you will be ready to take the best action for your life.

# # #

And that’s a wrap.

If you like what you see, drop me a line over here.

Thanks!

Happy writing!

Turner’s blog: the Cadence edit

Newsletter Challenge, v. 16

Quick note: I recently wrapped up a writing coach arrangement with Ari Lewis, host of the Mastering the Attention Economy podcast. We enjoyed working together (see Ari’s ROI here), and he proposed I take on a newsletter editing challenge. I’ve built my list from the top paid newsletters at Substack, and I toss in an odd find now and again to keep things fresh — like this one.

The challenge: Twenty edits by 22 September (yes, I’m behind, but my clients — and my family — come first, of course.

My primary goal: add clarity, concision, and cadence to the newsletters, and sharpen up my own editing process. After I wrap up the challenge, I’ll provide reflections on each edit and offer some lessons you can use on your own newsletter.

For details on my process, click here, a Google doc. Leave suggestions as you see fit. Thanks!

“Pinduoduo and Vertically Integrated Social Commerce,” August 6

https://turner.substack.com/p/pinduoduo-and-vertically-integrated
by Turner Novak / @TurnerNovak

–Grey typeface: Turner.

Normal typeface: me.

Key metrics (original -> edit)
–reading level: 10 -> 9.
–word count: 1440 -> 1331.
–median sentence length: 16 -> 16 words.
–sentence length, standard deviation (basically, a measure of the variety of sentence lengths): 7.5 -> 6.5.
–% of sentences, hard or very hard to read: 53% -> 49%

~~~~~~

[Subhead:] How the son of factory workers grew Pinduoduo from zero to $100 billion in five years

In 2015, Colin Huang founded his third company, Pinduoduo (PDD). By June of 2020, it had become China’s second largest ecommerce company and was valued at over $100 billion in the public markets. How did a company that helped farmers sell fruit on the internet rise so fast in a market dominated by Alibaba and JD?


Pinduoduo, meaning “together, more savings, more fun”, eliminated layers of middlemen and flipped the retailing model from being supply-driven to demand-driven. The team used a mobile-first approach that gave it a fundamentally different product DNA than incumbents. It used fruit as a wedge to combine consumption with entertainment and created a vertically integrated gaming company. It took advantage of down payments from suppliers and used stretched payment terms to create float out of customer transactions. It used that float to fund customer acquisition, and then leveraged clever growth tricks on an emerging distribution channel (WeChat) to acquire hundreds of millions of overlooked customers for practically free.

In 2015, while in his mid-30s, Colin Huang founded Pinduoduo (PDD), his third start-up venture. In June 2020, it was China’s second largest ecommerce company, valued at over $100BN in public markets. How did Huang’s company, in a market dominated by Alibaba and JD, scale so fast simply by helping farmers sell produce on the Internet?

Pinduoduo — which translates as “together, more savings, more fun” — eliminated middlemen and flipped retailing on its head. First, the team’s mobile-first approach gave it a fundamentally different DNA than its rivals. They also zeroed in initially on demand, rather than supply. Using fruit as a wedge, they combined consumption and entertainment to create a vertically integrated gaming company. Pinduoduo used down payments from suppliers and stretched payment terms to create float from customer transactions. It then used that float to fund customer acquisition, and leveraged clever growth tricks on WeChat to capture the attention of hundreds of millions of customers — practically for free.

~~~~~~~~~

Humble Beginnings

Colin grew up in Hangzhou, the home of Alibaba located in the Eastern Chinese province of Zhejiang. His father never finished middle school and worked in a factory with his mother. Colin excelled in math. At 12 he was invited to the Hangzhou Foreign Language School, attended by the children of the cities’ elites. He credits this to changing the trajectory of his life. He was among the top students at the school and received a scholarship to study Computer Science at Zhejiang University, one of China’s oldest and most prestigious schools.

He joined the Melton Foundation his first year and secured an internship at Microsoft China making $900 per month – more than his parents combined annual salaries. He then transferred to Microsoft’s US HQ, making over $6,000 per month.

In college, Colin met NetEase (gaming) founder William Ding after helping him with a coding question in an online forum. This serendipitous meeting changed Colin’s life. William introduced him to many other Chinese tech luminaries like Tencent (WeChat) founder Pony Ma, and SF Express (logistics) founder Wang Wei.

Colin grew up in Hangzhou, in the Eastern Chinese province of Zhejiang. His father never finished middle school, and he worked in a factory, alongside Colin’s mother. At age 12, Colin received an invitation to the Hangzhou Foreign Language School: the school of choice of the children of local elites. It He was among the top students at the school, and it changed the trajectory of his life. His success secured him a scholarship to study computer science at Zhejiang University, one of China’s oldest and most prestigious schools.

In his first year at Zhejiang, Colin joined the Melton Foundation and secured an internship at Microsoft China. He earned $900 per month, which exceeded his parents’ combined annual salaries. He eventually worked at Microsoft’s US headquarters, where he earned over $6,000 per month.

While in college, Colin met NetEase (gaming) founder William Ding after helping him with a coding question in an online forum. This serendipitous meeting changed Colin’s life. William introduced him to many other Chinese tech luminaries like Tencent (WeChat) founder Pony Ma, and SF Express (logistics) founder Wang Wei. William introduced Colin to Duan Yungping, fellow Zhejiang University alum and founder of BBK Electronics. Colin soon came to regard Duan a close friend and a mentor.

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Colin then moved to the US in 2002 to pursue a Masters in Computer Science from the University of Wisconsin-Madison. By graduation in 2004 he had a full-time offer from Microsoft, and an impressed professor wrote letters of recommendations to the large US tech giants of the time (Oracle, Microsoft, IBM).

The summer before moving to the US to start at Wisconsin, William at NetEase had also introduced Colin to Duan Yungping, fellow Zhejiang University alum and founder of BBK Electronics. The two grew very close. Colin considers him a close friend, mentor, and he even helped Duan with his investing. Duan recommended he move to San Francisco to work at a promising young startup. Colin then turned down all of his other offers to join a pre-IPO Google.

Colin joined Google as a software engineer working on early ecommerce-related search algorithms. He quickly became a Product Manager. In 2006, Duan won the annual charity auction for lunch with Warren Buffett with a $620k bid. Colin joined alongside Duan’s wife and five other friends. It’s said that this meeting with Buffett greatly influenced Colin’s crafting of the Pinduoduo business model. This included the power of simplicity, utilizing float, and redistributing wealth (as Buffett has famously pledged to donate 99% of his wealth after death).

In 2002, Colin moved to the US to pursue a master’s degree in computer science at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. Upon graduation, Colin received an offer for a US-based position from Microsoft. Duan, though, recommended Colin move to San Francisco to work at a promising young startup called Google.

Colin joined the pre-IPO Google as a software engineer, worked on ecommerce-related search algorithms, and was promoted to product manager. In 2006, Duan won the annual charity auction for lunch with Warren Buffett with a bid of $620K. Colin joined Duan, his wife, and five other friends. Reports indicate that this luncheon helped Colin craft Pinduoduo’s business model by utilizing the power of simplicity, float, and wealth redistribution. (Buffett has famously pledged to donate 99% of his wealth after death.)

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Colin returned to China shortly after to work on a secret team launching Google China. He reportedly grew tired of constantly flying back and forth to the US pitching Google founders Larry and Sergey on trivial matters. The last straw was a trip to get in-person approval of a change in the color and size of Chinese characters shown in the search results. He left many of his unvested options behind and Google eventually shut down the division. Colin then followed many of his mentors into a journey of entrepreneurship.

Soon after, Colin returned to China to work on a secret team dedicated to the launch of Google China. He reportedly grew tired of constantly flying back and forth to the US to consult with Google founders Larry Page and Sergey Brin to secure approval, for example, of a change in the color and size of Chinese characters shown in the search results. Colin abandoned many of his unvested options, and Google eventually shut down the division. Like many of his mentors, Colin then followed the path of entrepreneurship.

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The Birth of a Serial Entrepreneur

In 2007 Colin founded his first startup, Ouku.com, an ecommerce site selling mobile phones and other consumer electronics. His mentor Duan’s company was a large player in the Chinese electronics supply chain. Duan was an angel investor and likely helped in the early days. Colin built up Oaku to “several hundred millions of yuan” in revenue (~$20-40 million USD), but he stepped down and sold the company in 2010 after realizing JD’s scale would always grant it better terms from suppliers and he could never beat them.

Almost immediately, he brought members of the team to build his second company: Xunmeng. It was a gaming studio that built role playing games on Tencent’s WeChat. Some ex-Oaku and future Pinduoduo employees launched Leqi, which helped companies market their services on other ecommerce sites (like Alibaba’s Taobao and JD). Both companies took off. Then Colin got sick.

He had an acute form of Otitis media, which causes severe inflammation and pain behind the eardrum. This typically causes a loss of appetite and occasional fever, and Colin specifically struggled sleeping. He stopped going into the office, and briefly retired in 2013 at 33 years old. He spent over a year at home. He considered moving to the US to open a hedge fund. He also thought about starting a hospital after going through the painful process of treating his ear infection.

In 2007, Colin founded his first startup, Ouku.com, an ecommerce site selling mobile phones and other consumer electronics. Duan, a key player in the supply chains of Chinese electronics, was an angel investor. Oaku eventually raked in “several hundred millions of yuan” in revenue (~$20-40 million USD). In 2010, Colin stepped down and sold the company, having realized that JD’s scale would always ensure better terms from its suppliers.

Soon thereafter, Colin brought members of his team to build Xunmeng. This gaming studio built role-playing games on Tencent’s WeChat. Some ex-Oaku employees launched Leqi, which helped companies market their services on other ecommerce sites, including Alibaba’s Taobao and JD. Both companies took off. Then Colin got sick.

Colin was diagnosed with an acute form of otitis media (“middle ear”), which causes severe inflammation and pain behind the eardrum. Symptoms include loss of appetite and occasional fever, and it affected Colin’s ability to sleep. He stopped going into the office, and spent a year at home. He considered moving to the US to open a hedge fund. He also considered starting a hospital, inspired by the misery associated with the treatment of his ear infection.

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Over the next two years, Colin came up with the idea for what became Pinduoduo by observing China’s two largest internet giants: Alibaba (ecommerce) and Tencent (social, games). He’s quoted as saying “these two companies don’t really understand how the other makes money.” Both are massive, successful companies, however neither had figured out how to penetrate the others business.

Pinduoduo fell directly in the center of the two; social gamified ecommerce. It helped manufacturers cut out middlemen by selling discounted items directly to low income consumers, and monetized largely with advertising. It fell within the intersection of unique insights Colin gained growing up poor and every previous business he, his mentors, and his team had worked on.

Over the next two years, Colin studied China’s two largest internet giants: Alibaba (ecommerce) and Tencent (social, games). “These two companies don’t really understand how the other makes money,” Colin said. Neither had figured out how to derive advantage from the success of their rival.

Pinduoduo situated itself squarely in the middle of Alibaba and Tencent as a social, gamified ecommerce company. It helped manufacturers cut out middlemen by selling discounted items directly to low-income consumers, and monetized largely with advertising. The Pinduoduo model drew in part upon the unique insights Colin learned from his modest upbringing.

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Pinhaohuo: Selling Fruit in WeChat Group Chats

Pinduoduo was initially founded in early 2015 as yqphh.com, or Pinhaohuo (PHH, “piece together good goods”). PHH’s initial business model consisted of buying fruit in bulk from farmers and then selling it directly to consumers. China’s fresh fruit market was growing fast in 2015, but less than 3% was sold online. Colin raised an angel round from his mentors, and once again brought over the team from his prior companies. Many were lifelong friends, including current members of PDD’s management team like Sun Qin, Lei Chen (first CTO, now CEO), Zhenwei Zheng, and Junyun Xiao.

Pinhaohuo’s business grew entirely through group chats on Tencent’s popular WeChat (often called the Facebook of China). To start, they bought boxes of fruit from a local Hangzhou fruit market and separated them into smaller boxes. On April 10th of 2015, they spent a few hundred USD to run one ad on an official Hangzhou WeChat Account (similar to a Facebook Page) that showed up in users’ feeds. They had more than a thousand employees, relatives, and friends of the company share the post. By May 1st, they’d fulfilled a total of 5k orders. Daily order volume surpassed 10k soon after. They paid an average of $0.30 cents for each of these earliest users.

Pinduoduo was initially founded in early 2015 as yqphh.com, or Pinhaohuo (PHH, “piece together good goods”). PHH’s initial business model consisted of buying fruit in bulk from farmers and then selling it directly to consumers. China’s fresh fruit market grew quickly in 2015, but less than 3% of it was sold online. Colin raised an angel round from his mentors, and once again brought over the team from his prior companies. Many were lifelong friends and included members of PDD’s management team: Sun Qin, Lei Chen (first CTO, now CEO), Zhenwei Zheng, and Junyun Xiao.

Pinhaohuo’s growth relied exclusively on group chats on WeChat, which is often regarded as the Facebook of China. To start, they bought boxes of fruit from a local Hangzhou fruit market and separated them into smaller boxes. In April 2015, they spent a few hundred USD to run one ad on an official Hangzhou WeChat Account (think of a Facebook ad) that appeared in users’ feeds. They had more than 1,000 employees, relatives, and friends of the company share the post. By May 1, they fulfilled a total of 5,000 orders. Soon thereafter, daily-order volume surpassed 10,000. They paid an average of $0.30 for each of these earliest users.

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Pinhaohuo also relied heavily on WeChat Pay, WeChat’s in-app digital wallet that had launched in 2013. Most users carried a balance due to the popular Red Envelope feature, in which users sent small monetary gifts to family and friends during the holidays. Routing all payments through WeChat Pay provided extremely low payment fees, low friction for order placing, and PHH’s low order sizes enticed early customers to pay with their outstanding balances. Most importantly, Pinduoduo’s primary competitor today, Alibaba, had also banned its sellers from using both WeChat and WeChat Pay. Its biggest incumbent competitor was un-incentivized to react to this newfound distribution channel.


Pinhaohuo also relied heavily on WeChat Pay: WeChat’s in-app digital wallet (est. 2013). Since most users sent small monetary gifts to family and friends during the holidays, they carried a balance in their wallet. Routing all payments through WeChat Pay offered low payment fees and low friction for ordering. PHH’s small-order sizes enticed early customers to pay with their outstanding balances. Most importantly, Pinduoduo’s primary competitor today, Alibaba, banned its sellers from using WeChat or WeChat Pay. Its biggest incumbent competitor was un-incentivized to react to this newfound distribution channel.

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Client scores $500K+ from the feds

Just a quick note: I worked on a big grant application for a client a few months back, and they just learned that their sizable check from the feds is in the mail! Hooray!

My hands were two of many on this project. Still, it’s always fantastic when a client (and their team) call you to say, “Hey: my team’s at a wall on this thing, and we need your help.”

It’s nice, of course, when they express their gratitude for my contribution. It’s absolutely brilliant when they bring home the big bucks.

Cheers!