Sunday Snapshots (25th August, 2019)

JFK Part I, Serendipity, and 747s

Hey everyone,

It’s been a very busy week so this Snapshots is a bit shorter as usual. SpotHero, the company I’m interning for this summer, announced its Series D funding of $50M on Thursday. The company is well-poised to take advantage of rapidly shifting trends in the mobility landscape. I’m grateful to be a small part of the SpotHero journey.

This week, I want to talk about:

  • An experiment and JFK

  • Algorithms that optimize for serendipity

  • 747s and kids

  • And more!

Book of the week

I started reading An Unfinished Life: John F. Kennedy by Robert Dallek. I’m going to talk about the takeaways from this one over the next few weeks (probably 4 parts). This multi-part section is an experiment, so let me know what you think.

The thing that stuck out to me in the first 100 pages was how much JFK’s childhood was formed by his father, Joseph P. Kennedy Sr. who was conscious of his immigrant background and was an extremely successful businessman. He comes across as a typical helicopter parent before the advent of the word.

That must have left a mark on JFK’s psyche. More on come on this in the coming weeks.

Long read of the week

A serendipity-oriented greedy algorithm

Most recommender systems suggest items that are popular among all users and similar to items a user usually consumes. As a result, the user receives recommendations that she/he is already familiar with or would find anyway, leading to low satisfaction.

Anyone who has spent a long time looking for something to watch on Netflix is familiar with this problem.

The solution:

To overcome this problem, a recommender system should suggest novel, relevant and unexpected i.e., serendipitous items. In this paper, we propose a serendipity-oriented, reranking algorithm called a serendipity-oriented greedy (SOG) algorithm, which improves serendipity of recommendations through feature diversification and helps overcome the overspecialization problem.

If you have an intermediate understanding of set notation and computational complexity, I highly recommended the paper.

Gesture of the week

Flexport CEO Ryan Petersen invites a 13-year old kid to a tour of the company’s new 747. Reminds me of this gesture by the Qantas CEO.

Meal of the week

This week, I went to Aba in West Loop. It’s a great spot – we had the Shrimp Scampi, the Muhammara spread, the slow-braised leg of lamb, and the Grilled Chicken Kebab. While the food was good, I think the layout of the restaurant (with a rooftop patio) itself stood out as exceptionally inviting.


That wraps up this week’s Sunday Snapshots. If you want to discuss any of the ideas mentioned above or have any books/papers/links you think would be interesting to share on a future edition of Sunday Snapshots, please reach out to me by replying to this email or sending me a direct message on Twitter at @sidharthajha.

Until next Sunday,

Sid