New Conor Obserst

Another new song from the upcoming record. Nine years later and I can’t wait for this album to drop.


During the first few months of sheltering in place, I have not been terribly motivated to make photographs. Too much on my mind I suppose.

But I’ve been trying to get out there more of late and it feels good.

(All photos made with a Haselblad 503cw and Kodak Portra 400 film)

Early Spring, 2020

Some photographs before the quarantine.

(Camera: Hasselblad 503cw / Film: Kodak Tri-X 400 / Developed and scanned: Richard Photo Lab)

Matching donations to the NAACP Legal Defense Fund

Based on the current level of activism around the country, I can’t help but feel extremely optimistic that the progressive voter turnout is going to be massive this November.

In fact this week we saw historic wins for women of color in many elections across the country. An icing on the cake, well known racist Steve King lost his primary in Iowa.

And it’s just not progressives that are rejecting systemic racism and those that seek to divide us. Yesterday, the former Secretary of Defense, James Mattis penned an essay and emphatically denounced President Trump’s behavior. This portion of the essay really brings it home:

Donald Trump is the first president in my lifetime who does not try to unite the American people—does not even pretend to try. Instead he tries to divide us. We are witnessing the consequences of three years of this deliberate effort. We are witnessing the consequences of three years without mature leadership. We can unite without him, drawing on the strengths inherent in our civil society. This will not be easy, as the past few days have shown, but we owe it to our fellow citizens; to past generations that bled to defend our promise; and to our children.

But there is so much work to do and so much to do to end racism everywhere. It can feel overwhelming where to help. The key I believe is to find ways to get engaged.

So one thing my wife and I decided to do is raise money for the NAACP Legal Defense Fund. We are seeking to raise $75k and we will match dollar for dollar up to $75k. The donation page is here.

In a few days we have raised about $7,500 on the GoFundMe page and another $20k that a friend privately emailed me. So I’m counting all of that and tomorrow and each and every Friday, we will make a donation on GoFundMe to match the prior weeks donations from all of you. I hope those of you reading this post will consider contributing as well. Every dollar helps.

I know this is a drop in the ocean given the scale of the challenges. But I believe action is better than no action and my family will do more in other ways. We all need to.

Great taste is underhyped

One piece of advice that is often cited in startup land is the idea & importance of building a monopoly or a moat strategy.

I get it. The desire to build something defensible and durable for the ages requires something that suggests you can withstand competition.

But in the software/tech world it is immensely difficult, if not impossible to build a monopoly. There are just too many creative entreprenuers and talented people to build an everlasting moat.

Throughout my career, I find myself drawn to founders less interested in building a monopoly and more drawn to founders with exceptional and extraordinary taste. It’s rare but when you see it, well, it takes your breath away. In fact, I think taste is one of the most under appreciated attributes of a product inspired founder.

Steve Jobs calling Microsoft out for a lack of taste back in 1995 sums up the point:

“The only problem with Microsoft is they just have no taste. They have absolutely no taste, and I don’t mean that in a small way, I mean that in a big way, in the sense that they don’t think of original ideas, and they don’t bring much culture into their product.”

There are no text book ways to develop great taste. It doesn’t come from countless A/B testing or cloning some successful feature in another app. It often is derived from a some unique combination of vision and talent. And always comes from the heart.

Flawed like the rest of us

For those that casually know me or know me personally, it’s no secret that I’m a Democrat and aligned with progressive issues.

And I am all in on the upcoming United States presidential election. I have made several financial pledges to the Biden campaign and the DNC, and we will continue to do more.

For some, getting involved in this election is obvious. The current US President is incompetent and corrupt. We all know countless examples, and I’m sure it’s all just the tip of the iceberg.

For others, the presidential election is met with cynicism. “Donating to this campaign won’t make a difference“. Or “Joe Biden is flawed because of xyz”.

With regards to the first point, does your vote and donation matter? I would humbly submit that your vote and donation matters a great deal. Recall that the current President lost the popular vote by millions of less votes nationally, — and yet still won the highest office because he won by a tiny amount of votes in just three states.

The second point is even more critical. Yes, Joe Biden is flawed. He made mistakes during his time in the Senate and the White House. And yes, Biden has made mistakes on the campaign trail and guess what? He will continue to make mistakes.

But here’s the thing. I believe Vice President Joe Biden is running for President for the love of his country and for all Americans. His mission and vision is well aligned with progressive issues around healthcare, civil rights, education, and the environment. Under his presidency we will have a historic woman Vice President and Supreme Court that isn’t beholden. Joe Biden has demonstrated a heart felt empathy and care for those most in need. I sincerely believe that is his motivation for getting back into politics.

The current President doesn’t have that same motivation. He doesn’t care about most Americans and certainly doesn’t care about the most vulnerable and in need. He lacks empathy and understanding. In fact, it’s pretty obvious he truly own cares about his own self-interest and the most powerful amongst us.

I implore you to get involved in this campaign. Be an influential force with your family, neighbors and community. Get others committed to vote. Create a chain reaction. And critically, I encourage you to please make a donation to the Biden campaign, of any size.

This election will be the most important one in our lifetime. Yes, Biden is flawed. Just like the rest of us.