React, Magic the Gathering & buying a newsletter

Welcome to the second issue of Growing the Stack! This week we’ve got a nice balance between programming, design & entrepreneurship.

We’ll be reviewing a (free) book about React, design lessons from Magic the Gathering, and the process of buying a popular newsletter & it’s audience.


React in patterns

React in patterns is a free book that serves as an introduction to React. Even though it’s tied to React, it’s a compelling read if you do anything with user interfaces.

It is nice that we may think about every React component as a black box. It has its own input, lifecycle and output. It is up to us to compose these boxes. And maybe that is one of the advantages that React offers. Easy to abstract and easy to compose.

Instead exploring React’s API surface like most guides do, it gradually explains the idea of a component model, and how to deal with state & data flow.

Thinking in components, and more specifically learning how to separate your applications concerns with components, has changed the way I tackle interfaces for the modern web.

Twenty Years, Twenty Lessons

Mark Rosewater is a game designer for Magic the Gathering, an immensely popular trading card game. He gave an hour-long talk at a game development conference about the lessons he learned in 20 years of game design. Afterwards, these lessons were published as a three part column.

What I’ve learned over the years is that you shouldn’t change your players to match your game; you should change your game to match your players. Don’t get yourself into a fight you’re probably not going to win. Human behavior is a powerful force. We are creatures of habit and instinctually fear change.

The articles focus on game design, but the lessons are applicable to anything that requires design thinking.

Mark precedes every lesson with an anecdote, explaining what went well or what didn’t. Another one of my favorites:

Players’ need for individuality is strong, which means that they will be looking to find a small corner of your game where they can feel a special connection. Big things tend to gather too much attention, so it’s in the smaller details where players will attach the strongest emotionally, which means that the details are actually far from insignificant.

I don’t have any prior knowledge of the game myself, so don’t worry about not understanding parts in spite of the topic. If the first six lessons piqued your interest, here are parts two and three.

I emptied my savings to buy a newsletter

What a clickbaity title!

I fell for it though. Andrew Askins recounts his recent experience of buying the Startup Watching newsletter.

I’m not really into the startup world, but the way Andrew wrote this article, especially how transparent he was about the whole process, makes it a very compelling read.

There are multiple privileges I was born into that made this process easier and I thought it would be good to discuss those. […] I tried to become financially independent early on. But I also know that even if I empty my savings, and get into a catastrophic accident, my parents will do everything they can to help me. I don’t ever want to put them in that situation, but even subconsciously having that helps me to take more risks.