Life Math Podcast

#2 Back and Forth

May 10, 2021 Iskren Vankov and Iliya Valchanov Season 1 Episode 2
Life Math Podcast
#2 Back and Forth
Show Notes Transcript

A podcast needs to be a conversation, right? One person says one thing, the other laughs and replies with a somewhat related response.

Not necessarily.

The overwhelming effects of technology on our lives have changed the way we communicate.

Quite often we find ourselves in asynchronous communication - sending texts or even voice messages on Messenger, WhatsApp, etc.

This is what #2 Back and Forth is all about.

Iskren and Iliya communicate asynchronously to understand what this means about the depth and breadth of communication.

*As promised: Iliya's understanding of Iskren's app idea.

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3veta
3veta.com is our startup. One platform to unify your client bookings, video calls, payments & more!

Iliya:

Hello, dear listeners. Your hosts are Iskren and Iliya, and we are very good friends who later turned co-founders and possibly turned podcasters. We wanted to do something special for this episode. We discussed it a bit, but in the end we decided to go for an asynchronous format. So what do I mean by that? First, I will record this message, the one that I'm recording right now, and I will send it to Iskren. He will then listen to it, have a day or two to reply, to record his reply, and then send it back to me. Then I will go through his message, think about my response, and then get back to him, and so on. So overall I imagined that we will be recording this podcast for about 10 days. I don't really believe that this will be the format for all episodes hereafter. In fact, I'm completely sure it's not going to be because some of the episodes are already recorded. Uh, but we wanted to start with this unconventional format for the first episode for several reasons. First of all, this kind of communication resembles what many people are doing nowadays - sending these asynchronous messages, voice messages on Messenger, WhatsApp and so on. So, this format is somewhat relatable. However, it's not overused, so far. Second, as I already mentioned, we have already recorded several other episodes. And what we found out in the process is that we actually really enjoy getting creative with the podcasting format. And while we will not be inventing the wheel in any of these particular episodes, we do believe that the collection of all five initial episodes will be something overall novel for you; and, I hope special. It's very special for us at least. And, third and foremost, we're making this podcast to have fun and fun happens. I have found recently that fun happens when you're doing something new, something novel or experiencing something old in a new way. And each of our conversations, though we have had many conversations in our life, with this new format we have had a lot of fun, although we have been talking to each other for 15 years or so, because we're doing it in a normal way. So, there you have it. You're already listening to the first episode it's called Back and Forth. And based on the title you see on your podcast player, you will know if my co-host has agreed to this naming. Speaking of the devil, Iskren has more insights into this format than me, and therefore I would like to welcome him to the stage.

Intro:

Life math, A podcast indescribably tangled, Unnecessarily complex, So bad, that it's good. Life Math.

Iskren:

Hello. Hello and thank you for the introduction. It is a coveted stage to speak from indeed. It's almost like giving a TEDx talk. It's something I will try to push to my friends afterwards when it's done and they'll hate me for it, but they'll never tell me. So you have introduced the back-and-forth format that we have chosen to try for this episode. And I have to say for the past couple of days, in preparation for it, I've been feeling like this 17th century mathematician exchanging letters with peers from France to discuss my latest findings in calculus. I don't know how you feel about it. Probably not exactly the same, but it's exciting times. So let me dive straight into it. Because we started from talking about this format as something also typical for podcasts this back-and-forth. It's more like just sending voice messages over WhatsApp with your friends. And I think it really raises the question of communication in general. Let's talk about communication. When I say communication, I don't only mean verbal. It can also be written like writing articles, books, etcetera. So what I mean, I think we can reasonably break down communication into two parts - its structure and its contents. For example, if it is written communication, like an essay or a letter, it's texts. Now, text I claim is essentially one-dimensional because you have a bunch of points to make, a bunch of topics to talk about. In written texts, you have to structure them basically one after the other. You structure sentence after sentence after sentence in a straight line and that's it. It's one-dimensional communication and similar for just chatting to somebody, voice messages like this one, it is all one-dimensional, which is crazy because when you have something complex to say, and you want to make many interconnections between your different points, it gets a bit tougher to do it in one dimension. Now, we, as people have figured out how to communicate in more than one dimension. And what I mean is, for example, in TV shows those crime investigation boards with many pictures of potential criminals and those strings that they draw between them, etcetera. So this is essentially two-dimensional communication. If you have some, let's say, restaurant that some gangsters gather up and then the photos of these gangsters, you can literally place them around that restaurants photo on your criminal investigation board, in CSI Miami. Then it's more visually clear how these things are connected. Now let's apply this same logic to the one-dimensional communication of speaking to somebody or text. Imagine an essay. You have to make those five points that somehow connect to each other, like each to each other; and, you have to keep referring to them with things like, as I said before, or as I said in chapter whichever one. But it's kind of awkward. Imagine if you could write an essay in this kind of more graphic form, let's say with post-it notes where you write for each point that you want to make, like a short paragraph, and you literally on a sheet of paper position them, like the criminal investigation board in a way, which suggests how they're interrelated with each other. So I've been quite fascinated for awhile with how much of our communication happens in those one-dimensional ways just takes, like an article or speaking to somebody, while higher-dimensional communication could be just so much more expressive to understand connections between topics, for example, and back to where we started from this format of back-and-forth. Yes, its still verbal communication, its still essentially one-dimensional in this way that I'm saying, but I think it gives you a bit more flexibility. That flexibility comes from the depth-versus-width issue. So if you're talking to somebody real time, it's kind of a, it's a depth first conversation. You open a topic and you kind of go through it and you sort of exhaust it, then you move to the next one. It's very hard to keep in parallel many, many topics, but active not like open them and then talk about something else and come back to it later, like actively talking about many topics is basically impossible. Whereas this way, this is precisely what we're doing, because you're going to make several, let's say 5, 10 points; and, leave them open and then itll come back to us; and, I'll answer each one of those. So kind of in one-time-step in one reply, we have in parallel simultaneously talked about many different topics. So it's this wide, rather than deep, conversation. And, just like this one- versus two-D conversation discussion that I did just now, I think its just a way to investigate: How can we communicate with the different structure of the communication. How can we topologically change the way we talk to each other? And, can this bring out some new feature of conversations? For example, can we more easily correlate topics that otherwise to be very hard to do? So, Im intrigued where this is going to go now, because I wanted to leave you with a question. I have the following one - I personally have really wanted for awhile to find out about, or make an app that is a communication app, which is based on those ideas. So essentially imagine a chat app like WhatsApp or Telegram or whatever, which is not like the others, just a string of texts. But, if somehow, let's say a plane and you can grow your topics in any direction, then you can literally visually twist and tie different conversations, different topics. And for some this might sound very stupid, but I just really like the idea. So, my question for you is, how does it sound to you? Did I sell my startup to you? Do you want to give me 1 billion to do it or you pass?

Iliya:

Oh man! So here's what happened. I really entertained your startup idea. I entertained so much that I got into this really, really deep, deep rabbit hole hole where I was thinking about - Oh, we should totally have this way of communicating with charts, like the CSI Miami, but then we can have line charts and Venn diagrams, and we would have video and images and audio, and then I actually created this chart and I sent it to you and I was so happy about it. And, it was so off topic and not podcast friendly, like I literally had to create a chart and send it to you. By the way, this should be in the course now, in the show notes. And, yeah, so that I totally missed the point, right? So this got me thinking about what you said earlier about the 17th century mathematicians and why we feel like them. So the reason for this, why its in this depth-versus-breadth conversation that we had, and this idea that in a normal conversation, usually, when you converse with someone you're doing a bit back-and-forth in the moment, then you stumble upon an idea that you both agree on is interesting. And then you go deeper and deeper and deeper. However, in the way that we've set this podcast up, I have this luxury of breadth. So, I'm entertaining a bunch of ideas. In the end, I like one idea a lot. I get really deep into it on my own and then I share it in the podcast, but I have missed the, the discovery part the part where I converse with you and then, together, we reach this depth of the conversation. Then I had this epiphany about the different mediums, in general. So you have texts first from these mathematicians from 17th century, and why their letters were so good. As a matter of fact, Jeff Bezos, he bombed PowerPoints from Amazon and he said - everything, all these mammals, we should communicate with memos. They should be these five-page memos that you write for a week. And the reason for this is that when you're writing something, and you're thinking it through, you're achieving this depth. Text triggers this depth. So when you're writing text, it has a lot of depth, and you don't have this with conversations, right? With conversations, including podcasting, you have less depth, first, because you don't have time to think about it. I'm saying something, you were saying something, but we're breaking this rule right now. We're podcasting and we're having a conversation, but each one of us has so much time to think about it, that at the end of the day, it doesn't fit the format so well because we want to convey so many ideas. Therefore, talking about this app should be a fire-day boot camp, instead of some bacon for podcasting, right? It's much better if we bounce these ideas off, but many of the social media that are famous these days are actually employing this same approach. For instance, Twitter. Twitter has this limit of characters, which is limiting the depth of what you're saying. Thus, if you want to be more active, more vocal, you have to write many, many smaller ideas. It could be a bigger idea, but you can't explain it so well so it's much harder to articulate it, let's say in Twitter. That's why it's interesting because it has a limitation. And then you have Instagram where the limitation is a photo, right? You have to add a photo to whatever you're thinking. You can add some text on background, but that's not how Instagram is used. And, you have other media, like TikTok. TikTok you have to create a video and this is your limitation, and then theres extreme breadth, but little depth because the videos are of limited length. When you're thinking about this app, you're not inventing the wheel, we're not inventing the wheel. All these modern social media are doing exactly distinct. Now, what is interesting though, to me, is that you can try to manipulate each medium. For instance, when writing texts, you can use different phones, you can use bold which everybody knows means very important. You can use CAPS, which is as if you're shouting, and you can underline something as well. When you're using this in a skillful way, I'm seeing this written text as if I dont know a character from stranger things trying to break through the wall, I don't know. You can see this text that is choking, being on the paper, because it's trying to articulate so much more. And I think this is another dimensionality to text, in the same way, you can say the same for voice messages and speaking as a whole. If somebody's speaking very, very softly to you and coming closer to your ear and you're like - Hi, Iskren. Let me tell you something. And it's as if they're telling you a secret, right? This is a very popular sales approach. This is how you make people feel more exclusive, like they're going to learn something that nobody else knows. Or, on the other hand, somebody may be shouting and they may be very aggravated, and they may be angry, but you can tell just from their voice. In this way, by speaking in a lower pitch, higher pitch, deeper voice, whatever this is just voice trying to break through and be like: I'm more than a voice. Im gestures and I'm emotions and this and that. We're very accustomed to do so we don't really realize it. Overall, what this means to me is that the podcast we're doing right now, this episode, not podcast but this episode that we're doing, is we're trying to break away from this podcast form, which is strange at the same time fun much harder than I expected, because I want to explore so many ideas. What's happening to me in the process of recording this message, and thinking about the format as a whole, is I want to write an article in which I explained my idea about the charts. The one I created the chart and the photos and everything. At the same time, I want to have this voice message, but I want to see you while I'm telling you this. I want to get your emotions in everything. When we're recording a podcast, we're usually seeing each other through some video conferencing, too. And finally, what I realized is that, together with my strife for efficiency, I want to create these thoughts and I want to have them written down. I want them in podcast form. I want a short form for the podcast and then a longer form for club house. And then I want to make a video of myself talking about it. Then I want to have highlights from this video. So a much better app idea, I believe would be one which you create one piece of content and it uses AI and all of these. Of course, that's not how AI works, but let's say it does create content for all types of mediums. And then you have one place where all your audience and everybody could be like: Hmm, I want to get the text or I want to get the video, or I want to get whatever else. I want to have the whole thing. I want the roll cut. I don't want you to cut anything for me, OR I just want the highlights. So what do you think about that? Does this beat your initial idea?

Iskren:

In this episode, Iliya described my app idea as quote-unquote: best idea of the month of March. From the creators of best idea of the month of March, now we present our actual product 3veta.com. It is a platform designed to assist you in your numerous back-and-forths with various clients. Jake wants to ask you just one quick question, which ends up being a half an hour call of him using your expertise for free, or you give a zoom consultation to Anna, and she never ended up paying. So you have to follow up with five different emails to actually pay the invoice. No more. 3veta.com is an integrated platform in which payments are directly integrated with meetings. This means that friends of friends of friends who want to pick your brain should now first book a spot, pay for it, and only then get the chance to actually talk to you and waste your time. So, why don't you give it a try? Go to 3veta.com now? [back to the show] Hello and welcome back to our back-and-forth. I actually wanted to start this message by saying that, actually, this back-and-forth format for a podcast has turned out to be quite complex to do because Ive done it before with text messages. And, even though we got to hundreds of messages per person per reply, it was still quite manageable because you see them, you replied to each one of them and you forget them; you don't look back. Whereas, with the voice messages, I listened to 10-minute response and then I forgot the beginning. So, it's kind of hard to reply to all of your points in a consistent manner. And I've gotten to the point of having to take notes of what I want to say and what you've said. At this point, is it truly just voice communication when I have to write it down? It's kind of like you sent me points, as well. So yeah, just getting a bit hard, perhaps we should reduce the time that each one of us speaks maybe for half that time, so it's more manageable. It's parceled up. We can try that. On that topic, I'll try to make it a bit shorter today. First, you brought up this discussion about depth-versus-breadth, and I'm very happy about this discussion. I love the depth-versus-breadth discussion. Let's jump into it. Your point was that text has a certain depth to it because writing text takes a lot of research behind it. You really explore some topic very deeply and take this quite intrinsically deep. Whereas, conversations, live conversations are quite intrinsically shallow because you can't really go super deep in a casual conversation, and they tend to be wider because you talk about different topics you change the topic quite often, and that this format now, it's kind of a conversation which is supposed to be shallow, but we make it deep by having all this time to prepare and this in-between. Now on this point, I just want to say that in the depth-versus-breadth conversation, I always see them not as the ends of a spectrum. So something is not, it doesn't lie somewhere between deep and wide, and it's either one or the other. For me, they are orthogonal . Depth has deeper shallow on its two ends and wide. Width has wide and narrows on its two ends, and it's actually a plane so something can be any combination of them. So something can be both very wide and very deep, or it can be a very shallow. But very wide or very shallow and very narrow. Any of those are valid combinations and also unrealized breadth still counts. What I mean is, if talking about some topic, there are many possible avenues to talk about it and the author considered all of them very carefully, very in-depth, and decided to only go for one or two of those possible avenues. The researching text might be not very wide, not appear wide, but it was this very cautious choice to not include the other possible widenings because they're not worth it for some reason. I think that will still count as width because you have thought about it, then you decided it's not good enough content to include it, but youve thought about it. In this format that we're doing, I think, there's a lot of this because you listen to the other ones recording. You realize that there's a million things you could say, and then you discard most of them because there's not enough time. But, this process of discarding is very conscious. I discarded it for a particular reason now because I didn't have the time to think about them. I think, this way, this format has both the depth and the breadth. It's not one or the other. That's kind of the beauty of it. Now, back to what you were saying about other ways to increase the dimensionality of communication. For example, the voice loudness, when you're speaking softly to the microphone, honestly, it was a bit creepy, but okay, I'll let it slide. So this or the intonation and how they're quite voice-specific. But they have their [inaudible] and texts, as well. Using bold or italic and they're kind of this one-to-one correspondence, supposedly. Then, what about gesticulation? Now in Italy there's a lot of gesticulation going on, but this also seems to be a soft problem to some extent because there's emojis nowadays and they're supposed to their job is to express those emotions that your facial expression, or your hand-waving expresses. It seems like written and spoken communication is converging to this common core of just raw communication. Now, I would like to dissect communication in a different way. So far, we have considered communication as deep-versus-wide or written-versus- spoken or higher-versus-lower dimensional. Now, I would like to discuss communication based on who it's meant for: the target audience because it's very core for the difference in, now my suggestion for an app, let's say, and yours, I think what you're seeing is quite cool. It makes sense. It's an extension of pre-quick destination to those tools you use for automated posting on various media and just content dissemination. This is just the way to make this much, much better. But the thing is that you see the whole conversation, the whole communication, from the point of view of mass social media. Whereas, what I meant is more private one-to-one communication, assisting private one-to-one communication, in this private messaging space. I don't really see a lot of variety because all of those apps, like Messenger and WhatsApp, etcetera, are quite the same. There isn't really this higher-dimensionality of communication as an option, whereas in the mass media where the target of the messages, just a list of people, I agree that there are many of them. That's actually why I liked, back in the day, Snapchat, because it was trying to introduce anything, anything novel into one-to-one communication. And, I cant really even think of another example, something interesting or different happening to one-to-one communication in terms of tech. So that's where I was pointing to. And, I agree that what I was saying would make perhaps less sense for mass communication, that's why, like your suggestion, its entirely targeted towards mass media. That's how they differ in this very important way: one is targeted at one-to-one [or a couple of friends] speaking, the other one is for posting on some sort of newsfeed kind of shooting into the void and waiting for people to read it. That's how they differ. That's how, that's why I cant really compare them directly and maybe they're the two sides of the same coin - one targeting private communication, one targeting public posting. Anyway, enough about those apps. I was trying to make this message shorter. It's only marginally so. So, I want to close with one final thought. How about this? What about a new format for our next cant even say episode at this point, our next exchange of thoughts? What about we physically, literally exchange letters? We have pen and paper and complete freedom to express anything you want. You can draw, you can paint, you can write, you can have diagrams, you can have anything. Now, this will probably not happen because for obvious reasons of having to write a letter and mail it. But do you think, in theory, if it was super easy to actually do it, do you think it would contribute to our communication that this freedom of just the blank sheet of paper?

Iliya:

Oh, yes. Yes, man! This idea with the letters. It's one of the better ideas I've heard. It's probably the best idea of the month of March I have heard so far. I really want to do it. I already have an idea how I want to do it. Once we visit you in Rome, I really want to do it in person. We're going to exchange letters. We're going to hand them out to each other, if you wish, we can have some walks to seal them, but what's most important is that I have to read whatever you write in and you have to read whatever I write, and this is going to be a podcast episode. Okay, to answer all your other points, first of all, I can't help but mention that emojis I hate them. They're very useful. I hear a friend of ours, a speech therapist she told us that children find emojis very useful because they can learn what emotions are, and they can say this is a happy person, this is a sad person, this is an angry person. So it's very good for the development children. However, to me emojis they're not gestures. They're not emotions. To me, emojis are a whole new language. People use them in this whole new way, which is not what the emojis were intended for. It's not bad. However, they shouldn't be treated as something else because you can basically say sentences with emojis. So, it's a language of sorts. Okay, now onto the apps and the business ideas. What you said about Snapchat is that it was this innovation in one-to-one messaging. And, now that I think about it, the demise of Snapchat was Snapchat trying to be one of the many. This is what broke the whole Snapchat experience, as well as, you make a Snapchat for someone, and you're like: Oh, it's not worth it. Oh, this Snapchatting just for one person, I'm going to send it to 10 other people. I don't know. It breaks the whole one-V-one idea, but I get you. Then I was thinking about my idea where the one with many and the social media aspect, and I realized that podcast is exactly the sweet spot in between those two. So it's a one-V-one conversation, which is meant for one of the many, or better to remain. So that's why it's so interesting. That's why it's so different. We'll see now, if these variations of one-V-one conversations that we've been talking about are actually suitable for this two remaining format. To finish off, I want to go back to the breadth-versus-depth topic. You're right in that whenever you're talking about something in this kind of format, like writing and so on, the writer or the person who is initiating these thoughts, they have to choose the best ideas and talk about them. This is something which bugs me a lot because I want to talk about all the ideas. However, youre right that we have to discard some of them. Believe me, I completely understand you. The plane that you explained it was perfect. I have no conflict with that, whatsoever. This is breadth-versus-depth in topics. So our topic has some depth, our topic has some breadth. A conversation has some depth, a thought conversation has some depth. However, there is this other side to it, which I really like. Its the depth and breadth of the fourth process. This is something I actually learned from you. It's a very famous in IT, in computer science, that you have depth search and breadth search. Yeah, I was about to explain it, but please explain to the audience, what is the difference? Because this is something that really impacted me and I've been thinking about it ever since. * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * Are

Iskren:

you tired from the back-and-forth of your work-life? Have you always wanted to start something novel, something cool, something yours?

Iliya:

Well, if it requires a paid only meeting, look no further than 3veta.com. 3veta is the go-to solution for meeting clients online. On top of that, Iskren and I are co-founders at 3veta.com. So if you want to help this podcast, please help the 3veta. Let me go back to the beginning then. Do you know someone that is tired from the back-and-forth of their work-life? Have they always wanted to try something novel, something cool, something theirs? Redirect them to 3veta.com. Otherwise, we'll have to insert some real words inside the podcast, and nobody wants to do that.

Iskren:

Okay, best idea of the month of March. I'll print this. I'll make some posters. I'll make a little statuette, perhaps. I love it. I was actually sure you would hate the idea of exchanging physical letters, being the guy who generally prefers digital solutions, like Kindle over paper books and stuff like that. But, if I get your attention, then it must be a really good idea. Interesting. Oh, so if doing this podcast was not enough of a bromance, now those letters, it definitely is going to be. So, okay. You asked me to talk a bit about depth-versus-breadth search and there's just literally computer science 101. It's one of the first things you study in uni, or even in high school, if you take some informatics there. And, the concept is also very applicable to just real world and how you do things, how you think about some options. It could be interesting in general doses for programmers. I was playing with an example. Imagine you are planning a trip to Rome to visit me. Lets say you haven't been here before. You go on Google, and to just GoogleRome: I'm traveling to Rome, what do I need to know? Let's say for simplicity that the results are vaguely separated in three topics: something about the history of Rome, something about places to visit around, and something about, lets say, food. So then a depth-first approach would be, let's say, you go to a list of places to visit, and then you go to the link to the first place to visit, let's say the Vatican. Then you go to the website and then you go to some more information about them, and you go to the information about one of the exhibitions, so then about something more particular about it. So go deeper and deeper and deeper into one topic until we exhausted. And once you have exhausted the topic you go backwards. You retrace until you go back to the Vatican and then you go to another article about the Vatican. When you exhaust that, back trace again and you have exhausted the whole topic of the Vatican, and then you go out of it back to places to visit, when youve exhausted that you backtrack all the way to history, food, and places to visit. So its depth-first. You just go and dig deeper and deeper and deeper in some topic that you're exhausted. And that's only when you backtrack. Speaking of the Vatican, I can hear the bells right now tolling. You can probably hear them, as well. Okay. So here I am after a short break imposed by the Catholic church. What about the width- first approach then? We have discussed about the depth-first. What about the width-first approach? Well, there'll be the completely opposite way of approaching that problem. You Google Rome, and then you see stuff about history, places to visit, and food. And instead of going down one of those avenues first, and exploring the entirety, you do the opposite. You read a bit about each one of them. Then after that, after you've got a general idea about all of them, and maybe you assemble a list of links to check out for each one of them, but you don't do it yet. You first read a bit about all of them and only once you're acquainted with all sides of this problem, then you continue reading in more depth about, again, all of them, kind of in parallel, rather than focusing on the aspects. In computer science, you talk about DFS and BFS [depth-first search, breadth-first search] algorithms, and during the context of iterating over crafts and which nodes do you visit first, etcetera. So, it's a bit more technical and abstract, but in essence, that's the whole point. They use the same. How do you approach just any problem, any situation? Do you go to the first lead you have, go down that rabbit hole, exhaust it, and only then do backtrack? Thats depth-first. Or, do you look at all the leads that you have, read about each one of them a bit, and then gradually go deeper with all of them at the same time? Thats breadth-first. Overall, I think just in life, in everyday life, it's quite useful. I find it quite useful to really consciously choose: How do I approach any problem from the smallest cooking dinner, to some more large-scale life problems? I think about this explicitly. Don't approach it breadth-first, depth-first, or some hybrid approach of the two and why. I hope somebody else finds it useful as well. Okay, so I want to wrap up this back-and-forth episode. We discussed modes of communication - higher versus lower dimensional modes of communication; deep or wide, written or spoken, private or public. Overall, it was a pretty mad episode - communicating about communication. Eh? I can't wait to see where this letter-exchange is going to take us, and whether I will end up buying a Quill pen and an ink pot, then the wax to melt and the golden ring to stamp the letters with. Let's see, let's see! I'm intrigued.