About Commonplace

Commonplace is about my journey to build career moats in my life:

A career moat is an individual’s ability to maintain competitive advantages over your competition (say, in the job market) in order to protect your long term prospects, your employability, and your ability to generate sufficient financial returns to support the life you want to live. Just like a medieval castle, the moat serves to protect those inside the fortress and their riches from outsiders.

The world you and I work in is confusing and scary, and the changes come quick — some argue that the rate of technological change has been increasing for the past couple of decades. Where our parents might face one large technological change in their post-WW2 careers, our lives might face two or three. My biggest fear is that a technological change renders my current skills useless.

This blog is about the thinking necessary to prevent that from happening. Unlike other blogs in this genre, it is written from the practitioner's point of view.

How am I going to do this? I aim to follow these principles:

  1. My primary recipe here is 'take interesting idea that seems to be useful, try it out in my career, and then write up the results'. If I'm writing about something that I haven't tried, I'll tell you about it. If it doesn't work out, I'll tell you about it. Full disclosure.
  2. I will bend this writing towards usefulness. I find that many business books and blogs are theoretical, or irrelevant to the individual career. It's not clear, for instance, how the rise of automation would affect you, today, or perhaps tomorrow. Even in the cases where I write about ideas, I will make an effort to eventually tie such ideas to the individual career.
  3. I will write with the appropriate level of epistemic humility, and I will cite with an appropriate level of epistemic rigour. On humility: I will use more confident language if I am writing about topics within my circle of competence, and less if I'm not. I will be upfront as to which it is. On rigour: when I cite scientific studies, I will keep in mind the weaknesses of null hypothesis statistical testing. I will perform checks — limited by time and my statistical sophistication — to verify that results are not rubbish. When citing practitioners, I would vet their recommendations according to my hierarchy of practical evidence. This is because you deserve to know if the techniques I write about are rubbish. (More about this principle here).

Why am I doing this? This is simple: writing is thinking. Writing this blog forces me to think better, which should — I hope — allow me to make better-informed, strategically sound career moves.

I hope you'll find some value in following my journey.

About the name

The name 'Commonplace' is taken from the Commonplace book. Per Wikipedia:

Commonplace books (or commonplaces) are a way to compile knowledge, usually by writing information into books. Such books are essentially scrapbooks filled with items of every kind: recipes, quotes, letters, poems, tables of weights and measures, proverbs, prayers, legal formulas (...) Each commonplace book is unique to its creator's particular interests.

In a sense, Commonplace is my commonplace book; one that's focused on career strategy.

What's Commoncog?

Commoncog is an idea bookmarking service for busy professionals. I suppose you can call it an Instapaper or Pocket alternative. My problem with both is that I tend to forget what I read when I'm using either app — and I read for career reasons, which makes it important to remember what I've read. Commoncog is a solution to this problem: it forces me to read actively, and then it calculates when I'm likely to forget my takeaways so it can return them to me right before I do so.

(That's the best description I can come up with, at least for now. I'll ... probably come back to edit).

And you are?

I'm Cedric. You can find me on Commoncog here and my personal site, elijames.org. I'm the guy behind this site — Commoncog is something I built because I got sick of forgetting the stuff I've read.

I ran the engineering for EPOS — a point-of-sale provider in Singapore — for 3 years. Our business thesis was that POS systems were the way we could ‘own’ a business's data, which in turn would form the beachhead from which we could sell other products like CRMs, inventory management, accounting packages, etc. We pivoted to this business after a year of consulting, sold both hardware and software, and went from 0 to $4.5 million annual revenue in two years.

In a previous life I did Novelr, and helped to create the Web Fiction Guide. I also built a Hacker's club in university.

I like Python, Go, green tea and cats, and good books — lots of good books, though you can probably guess from this site.

I'm always happy to receive email. You may reach me at cedric [@] commoncog.com, or ping me on Twitter.