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3 min read

I had introduced the concept of effectuation few days back in one of my earlier blogs. For your reference I am attaching the blog link here.

Today I will be discussing about one fo the concepts in effectuation theory - the effectual ask. When we want something from someone, especially for an entrepreneurial venture, generally we take the following 3 approaches:

  1. Visionary - We paint the picture of the goal we want to achieve, tell the other person our vision for the world - and expect him to align with the vision and hence, help us in what we are asking for. The only problem with this approach is that: we hope that the other person agrees with our vision. What if he doesn't? In a way, this approach depends a lot on our prediction of what future the other person will resonate with. And hence, there is a high risk of failure with this approach.
  2. Adaptive - This is a person where we just request a person to help us, hoping that because of his kindness or sympathy - he will agree. This is a very weak approach, since we don't have much control on what the outcome of the ask would be.
  3. Causal - This is the most common approach which people take. They want to ask for a favor from someone, in return for doing something for them. Quid pro quo. This approach is generally a decent approach, if we are able to accurately know what the other person will respond to. Though, more often then not, it is difficult to figure out what the other person is really interested in. What if our offer is not interesting to other person? And many a times, we don't even make the ask - as we don't know what quid pro quo should we offer. This is certainly not an ideal scenario.

The Effectual Ask Effectuation theory asks us to get rid of all these shackles. Rather than trying to figure out what the other person want or just appealing to their sense of kindness, why not just ask them what would it take for them to help us. This is called as the Effectual ask.

This makes the barrier to making an ask very low. You just have to go to the other person, tell them what you want and just ask them what would it take for them? You don't have to figure out the right quid pro quo. You don't have to make a pleading request. You just have to ask. Agreed, that this is not as simple as it sounds - but when you don't have many elements known, I think it is a good strategy. How would you know, what the other person really wants.

What this does, interestingly is that it lower the bar to asking, and in words of Steve Jobs, may times all you have to do is just ask what you want. Very people actually do that.

Here's a video of Steve talking about this:

One min read

Walden is a book by noted American essayist & philosopher Henry David Thoreau. 聽Originally published in 1854, this book is a vivid account of the time that Henry D. Thoreau lived alone in a secluded cabin at Walden Pond.

I picked up this book a few days back. I am still in the first few pages, but already have some notes which I thought to share.

On Choice

Most men (and women) deliberately chose a common mode of living as they really think that they don't have any choice left. 聽In this passage, Thoreau reminds us of testing our assumptions and prejudices. We need to re-test the standard way of doing things - and check if it is still the best suited one. On comforts of life

In this passage, Thoreau points that the modern comforts of life are in fact hindrances in mankind reaching a higher state. The wisest men in almost all religions have spent a simple life - something he called as "voluntary poverty" If the wisest men of their time have lived a simple life, does running after material gains really matter?

4 min read

I use Ghost as the blogging platform for all my projects. This blog is hosted on Ghost and even SigNoz's blog is on Ghost. And it is a beautiful peace of software.

Started in 2013, Ghost started as an alternative to Wordpress, which was a virtual monopoly in the space. Ghost is completely funded by the revenue from Ghost (Pro) and an initial kickstarter event. Ghost is an open source project with an active community. Ghost (company) comprises ~15 people, which are distributed in different parts of the world : from Thailand to London. And recently they have hit a mark of 2mn USD per annum.

As a user, I am a fan of their product. They have simplified running blogs. It has many advanced features like dynamics routing, etc. which makes it suitable even for advance SEO needs. They have recently introduced easy way for publisher's to monetize their blog by building direct relation with their customers by means of subscription. And as you can see, they also have a dark mode.

The fact that a relatively small team with a very little outside capital is able to create such a beautiful product is inspiring! If you use the product, you would understand that all features are carefully designed based on interaction with their users and their own thoughts on how they can innovate for their users.

Creating such products require care and empathy. This can't be created in a IT shop with hundreds of developers paid by hour. They need to care about the user, understand what they can innovate on and continuously iterate with feedback.

This is something very similar to how craftsmen used to work before industrial revolution 'assembly-lined' everything. Dressmakers would spend hours trying to make the perfect dress for their patrons. Create designs and begin from scratch many times. This movie beautifully captures one such dress maker.

Phantom Thread - A movie about a British Era dress maker I recall even Sridhar Vembu of Zoho talking about how he thinks about software creation as a craft. A great product can be built when creative people are allowed to work together and create something which is beautiful & inspiring. Great software can't be build in industrial timelines and implementation of "specs".

Recently, I came across a blog posts by Kailash from Zerodha. The fact that a team of 30 techies can create products which hand ~1mn DAU is just amazing! And that too with most of the software used being FOSS. If you read his blog, you will get a sense of a product which is 聽well cooked briyani, cooked under the supervision of a master chef maintain right temperatures and right mix of ingredients. And it made a delicious briyani.

Zerodha technology blog

Blog by Martin Fowler on Software Craftmanship

Basecamp is another product which I admire a lot where the product reflects careful decisions and thought process. Its founders, DHH and Jason Fried are proponents of building great software at your own pace.

I guess, the thought I want to leave you with and which inspires me daily is this: A small team of people can create great software which no big corporation can match. You need to think about the user and build for him, and there would be thousands of takers. Building a great software is a craft : you get better at it as you spend more time with it. It is the ultimate expression of human mind!

If you get a chance, take a look at this documentary about Jiro, who is the greatest sushi chef according to some. The amount of detail and energy he puts into his craft is just exhilarating. A quote from the clip :

All I want to do is make better sushi. I do the same thing over and over, improving bit by bit.

PS : We shifted our blog stack for SigNoz to Docusaurus as it empowers a more github driven workflow for publishing blogs :)

4 min read

I recently got a chance to attend a webinar organised by NSRCEL on Effectuation. I had heard about it from a few people, especially Prasanna from Upekkha. This webinar was being conducted by 聽Prof. Saras, who is the co-creator of Effectuation theory, so I thought to gave it a shot.

What I learned was pretty interesting and ties up with my experiece in building startups. I don't think I have completely grokked the fundaes completely yet, but I am eager to learn & apply it. Sharing a few notes below. Effectuation - Principles

  1. The primary idea of effectuation is that the future is not something which is to be searched. Future is made. It is made by human actions.
  2. An entrepreneur begins with what he can do about a problem or an idea. Try to understand who he is, what are the networks and resources he has at his hand. This is called bird-in-the-hand principle. Rather than thinking about what he needs to start something, he begins with what he has.
  3. The 聽next principle is affordable loss. The entrepreneur tries to asses what he can do without taking a big risk. What are the things he can do, without losing everything. What this does is - it reduces the bar to start. If you only have to do things which don't kill you, your bar to take the plunge is much lower.
  4. Once he has started doing something after understanding affordable loss, he needs to talk to other people or stakeholders to come in the journey with him. This is called crazy quilt. Since its a journey in creating the future, you need as much resources you need. Adding more people helps you increase your resources and hence the gamut of things you could do. It could be people who can 聽help you build the product, investors or anyone who is willing to help you.
  5. As he talks to many people about his idea or work, he will get many people with advice. The idea is to take advice only from people who are willing to commit their resources to it. Be it in form of money, time, introductions, raw material or potential partnership. Don't worry so much about the initial idea you started with. If you are getting partners who are willing to make commitments of their resources, understand affordable loss and start buiding it.
  6. This is very different from the standard visionary entrepreneur story we often hear, of an entrepreneur who started with a vision and persisted till he succeeds. This approach assumes a predictable future - which the visionary founder has miraculously predicted correctly. Of course, this approach can also work - but it has lower chances of success. In a way, taking external funding exacerbate this situation, as you need to take the journey which you have bought the ticket for. I have written more about it in this post.
  7. The other principle is lemonade. It essentially says that the world is unpredictable. New challenges will often come in your journey. Like we are all facing the COVID-19 situation currently. But you need to take it into the stride. If life gives you lemon, make a lemonade. Thats what will allow you to discover new markets and possibilities
  8. Once you have partners who are willing to take the journey with you, now you can take the organization wherever you want. You are the pilot-in-the-plane who takes the business where you want. There is no "the" future where you need to go. 聽It is you plane and you can take it wherever you think is right - and create that future.

These are just the 5 principles of Effectual thinking. I would write more about Effectual process on how one can apply this to their business and Effectual ask in future posts.

If you are interested in learning more about effectuation, checkout out

2 min read

Before I begin, I must confess that I am a n00b to the RSS game. I never used Google Reader and couldn't understand why people lamented the sunsetting of Google Reader. But from what I am researching now, it seems it was a great product. Still don't know why Google sunset it.

I encountered RSS because I was searching for solutions for a specific use case I had. To keep up with the pace of development in Application Monitoring space and generate insights, I wanted to monitor different forums where people are talking about topics relevant to our business. For those unaware, I run a business in application monitoring space and understanding where the market is going is a key part of my job.

Developers are inquisitive folks and they like to talk about products which they use & like. So, most of the conversations in developer world is siloed in different communities & forums like twitter, reddit, hacker news, etc. How do I get a single pane of view on relevant discussions in different forums?

With some research, I realised that RSS feeds are the best way to aggregate information from different sources in a single feed. I can set searches in different forums for specific keywords and configure RSS feeds for them. As of now I have RSS feeds set up for following forums:

  1. Twitter
  2. Hacker News
  3. Reddit
  4. Google Alerts - which scans many public websites & blogs

For setting up Twitter feeds, I use Queryfeed to configure RSS for search results. The RSS client I use is Inoreader. It has a good free tier plan of 150 RSS feed subscription which should be good enough for my use case. I use it mostly in web browser, but it also has a decent Mac Desktop app & Android app.

Below is a screenshot of how it looks like Inoreader for RSS feeds I am still looking to add more commnities in this RSS setup. In particular communities like

  1. Github
  2. Gitter
  3. Discord

If you have any experience on how can I setup RSS for above forums, would love to chat. Ping me at pranay at signoz dot io

2 min read

I recently came across an old AMA by Sridhar Vembu, where he talks about his interests in economics, and how it helps him put things in perspective. In his words:

Economics is a highly 聽contentious discipline. I will recommend what I personally am drawn to. 聽This may not agree with the 鈥渕ainstream鈥 (for example Paul Krugman would 聽disagree!):

To get started, I would go with this excellent and practical book 聽(and also free!) 鈥 How the Economic Machine Works, by Ray Dalio.

I would get deeper into political and economic philosophy with The Road to Serfdom, which explains why liberty is important.

Then spend time browsing through 鈥 there are a lot of books there

Hayek & Dalio are some of my favorite thinkers in economics. I have written a post in past which was summary of one of the chapters from Road to Serfdom.

Why the worst get on top in politics and governance? Why don't intellectuals and more moral candidates succeed? Some thoughts here 馃憞 Pranay Prateek (@pranay01) April 5, 2020

Read Mises has been on my list for a long time, but I have not managed to go through the whole text. Here are few of my notes from reading Ludwig von Mises' magnum opus Human Action

鈥淭he ultimate goal of human action is always the satisfaction of the acting man's desire鈥

Human actions are the key to all decisions. Humans take actions to exit from a state of uneasiness, i.e. go from a state of less pleasant state to more pleasant state. How this "happier" state is defined is completely up to them. It could be earning materialistic wealth like money, property, etc. It could be helping other or it could be contributing to see some ideas be brought to fruition.

鈥淔or to do nothing and to be idle are also action, they too determine the course of events.鈥

Austrian Economics puts individual interests at the centre when thinking about economic questions. The insights they come up with with just this minor change is very impressive.

One min read

Most people don't allow themselves time to figure out what they really like doing. Either they don't have enough support to give themselves this time, or they don't trust themselves enough. They know they don't like what they are doing, but they don't really see what else they could do.

Trusting yourself enough to give yourself this chance is hard. And the world doesn't fail to tell you what could go wrong if you deviate from the known path.

I don't have much too say, but to ask you to see this video 馃憞. He has said it far more succinctly than I ever could.

To quote just one line - "Like in all matters of heart, you will know when you find it". Steve Jobs' Stanford Commencement Address

2 min read

We seldom get bored in today's world. We have mobile on our tips of finger and in any little time we get, we are used to checking something out in it, however irrelevant it may be.

We are addicted to continuous stimulation. Be it an Instagram post, a funny tweet or a WhatsApp forward. Though this prevents us from getting bored, it also prevents us from coming up with something new. Being immerse always in a continuous stream of social media, we behave more like a hive mind.

Of course we have more information on the tips of our finger now, but we don't have time or the patience to assimilate them, form an independent opinion. We just go with pre-chewed morsels of opinions. Thats why its easier to polarise people today. Cambridge Analytica was just an exploitation of this fundamental change in our lives.

Getting bored is good. It gives your brain time to process data and may be come up with interesting conclusions. Combinations which other may not have thought yet. Elon Musk says, his best time of the day is when he is taking a bath. That is when he is bound to not be doing something explicitly (taking bath is more of a muscle memory), and thats when he comes up with many creative ideas.

Don't feel bad about getting bored. Getting bored is good. Let your mind ponder over things. May be something good will come out of it.

4 min read

Well this is not a headline which I came up with myself. This is the title of a chapter in Friedrich Hayek's book The Road to Serfdom, but I think its very relevant to the world we live in today.

I used to always question why in many domains, especially politics & governance the worst come out on the top. When many of us (at least in my friend circle) agreed that a particular candidate was absolute crass - why does he rise to power? Why don't more educated and intellectual people rose to power and took the nation/state to better place? To me this seemed very perplexing.

Little did I know that a mind far better than mine had debated this in his book written in 1944. If you haven't read about Hayek, you must check him out. Currently he is one of my top 5 authors, right along with Dostoevsky, Nietzsche, Neil Stephenson & Ayn Rand.

I will not try to reinvent the wheel here, but just summarize the arguments made by Hayek in simple words. He argues that in a totalitarian system, the rise of "worst" people to the top is by design. You have to understand that this is a period when Hitler is still in power and World War II is ongoing.

  1. Not all good people necessarily wish to have a share in the government. They would rather entrust it to somebody whom they think more competent.
  2. Totalitarianism is a powerful system alike for good & evil, and the purpose for which it will be used depends entirely on the dictators.
  3. Totalitarian govts. generally come about because of slow & cumbersome course of democratic procedures.
  4. In such situation, the man or the party who seems strong enough "to get things done are elected.
  5. To get a party/man elected - they don't need support of huge numbers at occasional elections, but in the absolute & unreserved support of a smaller but more thoroughly organise body.
  6. Socialism can be put into practice only by methods which most socialists disapprove of. The old socialist parties were inhibited by their democratic ideal, they didn't possess the ruthlessness to carry out their chosen task.
  7. In a planned society, the question is not what do a majority of of the people agree on but what the largest single group is whose members agree sufficiently to make unified direction of all affairs possible
  8. There are 3 main reasons why such a numerous and strong group with fairly homogenous views is not likely to be formed by the best but by the worst elements of any society
  • The higher the education and intelligence of individuals become, the more their views and tastes are differentiated and the less likely they are to agree on a particular hierarchy of values. This doesn't mean that majority of people have low moral standards, it merely means that the largest group of people whose vaues are very similar are the people with low standards.
  • A dicatator or strongmen would be able to obtain the support of all docile and gullible, who have no strong convictions of their own but are prepared to accept a 聽readymade system of values if it is drummed into their ears sufficiently loudly and frequently.
  • It is a law of human nature that it is easier for people to agree on a negative program - on the hatred of an enemy, on the envy of those better off 聽- than on any positive task
  1. From a totalitarian point of view, intolerance and brutal suppression of dissent, the complete disregard for life and happiness of the individual, are essential consequences of the premise that the state comes first, and individuals must keep the interest of the collective/state first, over their own.

  2. To help in running a totalitarian state, a man must prepare to actively break any moral rule he has ever known if this seems necessary to forward the collective goal.

  3. And since, it is the supreme leader who alone determines the ends, his instruments must have no moral convictions of their own.

Thus it is evident that, any leader which rises to the top of a totalitarian regime, he must not have any moral values of his own, which can't be broken. He should be able to engage in a negative program to rally the troops against a common enemy and be willing to convince all those gullible & docile with arguments which don't come under the purview of true or false. The only criteria they must satisfy is that they should forward the goal of the totalitarian state.

3 min read

We are all pretty stressed now, aren't we? We don't know how long will this COVID-19 caused lock down will last. Even when the lock down is lifted, surely the economy will go under recession. It will take sometime to speed up to normal level of consumption. Sitting where I am now, everything looks bleak. And the uncertainty is the real bummer! We don't know if this would last for 聽3 months or 1 year.

But if you look from a more objective long term perspective, the world operates in cycles. Period of booming growths have seeds for recession in them, and period of recessions have seeds of coming growth.

For example, in boom time, the economy is doing good and banks start lending more leniently thinking that good times would continue. This leads to increasing NPAs and when the music stops, the house falls down like a pack of card.

On the other hand, periods of recessions, makes the financial systems lean. Bloat is reduced, businesses become more efficient. Extra employees are laid off. Businesses become more capital efficient and hence, show increased growth few years down the line and voila, economic growth returns!

So, if you think carefully - Booms are not entirely bad nor busts are entirely bad. It is like the Yin Yang figure above. One is intertwined with other. Also, if you observe carefully - the Yang has a sliver of Yin in it, and vice versa.

This is a pattern which is not specific to economies, but is consistent across many human systems. Amish Tripathi famously talks about masculine and feminine way of life. If you check his Siva triology, he clearly distinguishes between two types of govt.

The 鈥渕asculine" way hinges around a strong leader who assumes all 聽responsibility for society. There is clear direction and purpose for 聽society as a whole.

The 鈥渇eminine" way is a loose democracy, with the leaders asking 聽their followers for solutions, or letting them go by their own 聽decisions. Questioning, debates, arguments and analysis form the basis 聽of governance decisions, and creativity鈥攈owever unconventional鈥攊s 聽encouraged

And there is no right or wrong way. Both these elements need to be in balance for the society to function properly. But it seldom happens. At any one point of time, one element is dominant. When masculine element is dominant, the creativity in society reduces. Discipline increases. But soon discipline leads to militarism - which people find excessive and somebody revolts to bring back the feminine elements. More participative and accomodating democracy.

I guess, then the only question is - why don't we keep these two elements in balance? Why is it that one element takes over and we realise that we had moved too far when things go out of hand? Why don't banks controls NPAs in boom time.

Well, the only answer I can think of is that humans are short term thinkers. When going gets good we fil to recognise, that things will not always be good and indulge in excesses. Similarly, when things get bad, we loose hope that things will get good again and we over react. Since, this pattern repeats in almost all complex systems involving humans - I would argue that this is a feature of human beings which interact in the system, rather than the specific systems in question.

Ray Dalio explains how economic cycles work in this beautiful video. You must give it a watch. As you can see economy also moves in a cycle. How the Economic Machine works by Ray Dalio