Isaac Saul on Campus Protests

The following quote is one of 12 points made by Isaac Saul, a man of Jewsih faith and a Zionist who, like me, is totally overwhelmed by deciding whether to support or condemn this conflict. If you want to read all 12 of his points on Tangle, go to and scroll down to "My take." I've excerpted the beginning of his statement below, but it's all valuable.


Tangle: The college campus protests. 2024-Apr-24 by Isaac Saul:

It's gotten so tough to organize my thoughts on this that instead of trying to draft one cohesive "My take," I'm going to share 12 independent thoughts I have in reaction to these protests.

  1. I have to be honest about something: I'm really starting to hate writing about anything related to Israel or Gaza. I feel like I can't write authentically about this latest controversy without acknowledging that first. I’ve written this newsletter five days a week for nearly five years, covering COVID, abortion, gun control, trans issues, immigration, and every other controversial topic out there. I’ve never felt the kind of deranged tension I feel right now. For every sentence I write, there are people on one side accusing me of being complicit in a genocide and people on the other side accusing me of contributing to the killing and hatred of Jews. For anyone speaking on this topic publicly, the environment is so untenable, so unhelpful, so fraught, that it's no wonder we are seeing protests like these play out on college campuses. It makes me both want to run to my corner of like-minded people and just shut up and disappear.

Data is a tool, not a strategy

Having a fact does not equal having an idea, or a plan, or a strategy. Data + brains (often but not always) = valuable insights.

Lindsay's Data Stack: Being data-driven is not a product strategy, 24-Mar-13 by Lindsay M. Pettingill

Saying you’re data-driven is an excuse for having no point of view.

Your strategy shouldn’t be driven by data. Your product direction shouldn’t be driven by data. Your data definitely shouldn’t be driven by data.

To be clear, this does not mean that data doesn’t matter. Data matters for all sorts of applications and problems. But if you’re looking for data to tell you what to build, you’re doing it wrong. The answer isn’t in the data....

I like experimentation because it a) forces rigor around hypothesis formation and b) helps test (measure) those hypotheses. It is not a solution in itself!

If your business is already doing great, experimentation is a fantastic tool to measure incremental gains. But you cannot experiment your way to greatness.

Avoiding the Purity Spiral

People will emphasize and sometimes exaggerate their beliefs to get attention. Don't play that game, but remind people of which values you have in common.

Digital Tonto:If you're serious about change you need to be explicit and focus on shared values, 2024-Mar-10 by Greg Satell

Never underestimate the primordial need to signal identity. We want to show that we are not only a full-fledged member of our tribe, but a star player on the team. That’s why we engage in the type of moral outbidding that results in a purity spiral. Before you know it, we are voicing opinions and taking actions that are not only out of the mainstream, but that actually turn away those who might support our objectives.

That’s why #Occupy protesters slept in parks and shouted obscenities, why women wore pussy hats after the election of Donald Trump, why DEI activists claim that anyone who doesn’t agree with them is racist, why a Cornell professor said he was exhilarated by the murder of innocents, and why America’s far-right activists identify with murderous dictators. It feels good to show that we are different, that we have status.

Yet while these efforts may make their point, they fail to make a difference. #Occupy protesters soon went home and achieved nothing. The World Economy Forum has found that #MeToo has undermined women in the workplace. DEI programs across the country are being crushed, Hamas has lost legitimacy, even with Palestinians and hundreds of January 6th insurrectionists have gone to jail.

The challenge and discipline for leading change is to focus on shared values, so even people who don’t agree with you can identify with your motives. The truth is that success doesn’t depend on how radical or how moderate your vision, but how well you can appeal to common goals. Or, as Nelson Mandela himself put it, “to be free is not merely to cast off one’s chains, but to live in a way that respects and enhances the freedom of others.”



misfits' architecture: The Beauty of Everyday Things, 2024-Feb-4 by Graham McKay

For the past hundred years we’ve had people championing machine manufacture and value-adding design for objects that did perfectly well without it. What we’re left with is poorly designed and overpriced goods. Yanagi’s criteria don’t really tell us anything we weren’t already half aware of.

made by anonymous crafts people: This is in direct opposition to the culture (cult?) of designer goods in which the worth of objects is determined by who designed them and not by how they were made. True, artisan silversmiths and goldsmiths existed prior to the cult of the designer but they were both designer and smiths – craftspersons – and diminishing their role was essential to establish the cult of the designer.

How to do things if you're not that smart and don't have any talent

Adaobi has many great suggestions about how to make a difference on a team. Here's just one of the great ones.

Adaobi's Substack: How to do things if you're not that smart and don't have any talent, 2024-Jan-28 by Adaobi Adibe

Most people are super sensitive to being seen as annoying, and that’s the primary reason they don’t follow up and therefore watch opportunities go down the drain. Super simple solution, follow up! Most people just forget to respond, haven’t prioritized your request, or something else along those lines. But don’t just follow up, make it easy for the other participant to act on this too. For example, if you are following up on a due-to-be-scheduled meeting with someone, offer multiple specific times (including “now”), offer to meet them where they are (if possible), and send them light talking points so that they know the meeting won’t be a waste of their time. This will make it a lot easier for them to want to accept and actually turn up.

Working VS. Inbox Management

I pride myself on communicating well with people, and it's hard to realize the "inbox zero" is not an appropriate goal. But it's not.

The Browser: I Am No Longer Good At Email, 2024-Feb-8 by Caroline Crampton:

The task is the writing, the editing, the researching, the thinking. Using email to notify others of what I have produced or concluded is just what happens when I have finished. It is not a category of its own. There is no virtue in doing that promptly if the work itself is not good, nor in only looking at my inbox at certain proscribed times of day.

"Don't do that" with AI

Book Review by Jennifer Szalai: ‘Literary Theory for Robots,’ by Dennis Yi Tenen The New York Times, February 7, 2024.

What if someone wanted to strap a jet engine to a car and see how it fared on the streets of a crowded city? Tenen says the answer is obvious: “Don’t do that.”

Why “Don’t do that” can seem easy in one realm but not another requires more thinking, more precision, more scrutiny — all qualities that fall by the wayside when we cower before A.I., treating the technology like a singular god instead of a multiplicity of machines built by a multiplicity of humans.