🧠 Introducing Social Studies!

A newsletter covering the best of Tech Twitter with analysis from the Social Sciences

Yo! ✌️ I’m Brett! I am a Product Manager, User Psychology consultant and former Cognitive Science researcher. Welcome to the first edition of Social Studies! Share this with your non-engineering major friends in tech.


🚨 We’ve launched on Product Hunt! Go upvote “Social Studies”!

👋 Tech Twitter TLDR is now Social Studies - After one year of writing I’ve decided to rebrand. Tech Twitter news is here to stay, but I’m adding analysis from the lens of the Social Sciences.

📚 People love the Social Sciences - I almost got a PhD in Cognitive Science. Over the past few months, I’ve been reconnecting with my love for the subject matter by applying it to tech. People really seem to be loving it.

🧠 Even Zuck was a Psych major - Naval advises people to study the Social Sciences and it makes a ton of sense. Building products for people requires understanding them on a deeper level.

🥚 The Social Science renaissance has begun - People like Alex Zhu and Eugene Wei are proving that applied Social Science can drive real business opportunities in tech. This is only the beginning.

🌎 Social Studies is the treasure map - This newsletter is your jumping off point into the wild world of applied Social Science and Tech Twitter:

  • 🧠 Frameworks & Mental Models
    Reviews of the most valuable concepts from the Social Sciences with case studies relating them to tech.

  • 🐦 Tech Twitter News
    Weekly and monthly summaries of the most interesting discussions, debates and advice on Tech Twitter.

  • 🤔 Profiles
    Roundups of the best tweets and exclusive Q&As with leaders in tech, business and social science.

🤯 Things could get even crazier from here - As the unbundling of higher education continues, Social Studies could position itself to become the modern, digital-native school for applied Social Science. One step at a time though 😜

Thank you for being part of this journey. Please share this with your smartest friends who were non-engineering majors. This newsletter is for them.

Engineering majors are fine too I guess 😜


👋 Goodbye Tech Twitter TLDR

Tech Twitter TLDR recently turned one year old. Looking back, I’m really proud of the newsletter:

  • It grew to over 1500 readers completely organically - without any large existing social media following as well - and had open rates as high as 55%

  • I wrote 61 posts, releasing them almost every single week - and most recently multiple times a week!

  • I received tons and tons of glowing feedback. Andrew Chen, who writes one of the best newsletters out there, said Tech Twitter TLDR was one of his favorite newsletters.

I’ve been looking for ways to take the newsletter to the next level lately. In doing so, I arrived on something I’m incredibly excited about that doesn’t fit the existing brand.

It’s called Social Studies.

📚 People love applied Social Science

I was a double major in Cognitive Science and Psychology at Berkeley. I spent the entirety of my undergrad working in Neuroscience and Computational Cognitive Science labs thinking I’d go get a PhD after.

It turns out, I was a terrible academic. I’m convinced that my honors thesis advisor, Tom Griffiths (who also wrote one of my favorite books, Algorithms To Live By), gave me High Honors because he felt bad for me.

That said, I ✨LOVED✨ the subject matter - and still do.

Recently, I’ve been doing a little writing (and tweeting) connecting some of the concepts I learned in undergrad to the tech industry. It has felt so good. So effortless.

It struck a chord. Big time.

Between the tweets and pieces like the one I wrote on Conceptual Metaphor Theory and platform shifts, I’ve been getting more engagement and positive feedback than ever before.

It seems obvious that topics like psychology have mass appeal. What has truly crystalized for me is their importance (and underutilization) in the tech industry,

🧠 Even Zuck was a Psych major

For a long time, I was ashamed to admit that I was a Psych major. The tech industry values technical prowess above all else. The gilded (Stanford) CS degree opens more doors on Sandhill Road than any other.

Don’t get me wrong. Being able to code is a superpower. But understanding how people tick… that is a superpower.

It is telling that Naval, one of the most esteemed gurus on the tech industry includes five Social Sciences in his list of seven of the most (if not only) important subjects to study.

Fundamentally, we build tech products for humans. That’s why Mark Zuckerberg was a Psych major or why Peter Theil cites philosopher Rene Girard more than any business framework.

Every product I’ve worked on, from an AR camera app to a B2B business data API, required an intimate understanding of how humans think to execute successfully.

🥚 The Social Science renaissance has begun

There is an incredible wealth of research in the Social Sciences that can be applied directly to solving challenges in technology today. Individuals like BJ Fogg, Nir Eyal, and countless others have built careers on this, but this is only the beginning of the renaissance.

One of the biggest success stories in tech lately has been Tik Tok. In an interview in 2016, founder Alex Zhu shared the company’s user acquisition philosophy. It included references to concepts in Game Theory and Psychology.

A few years later, Eugene Wei wrote his seminal piece “Status as a Service” which outlines a holy grail of frameworks for building social media products - all built on Social Scientific theory.

I believe Alex Zhu and Eugene Wei are emblematic of more of what’s to come.

🌎 Social Studies is the treasure map

The mission of this newsletter is to bring about the renaissance in applied Social Science. The idea is to give readers a tasting menu of different theories and case studies supporting them. My focus will be on driving actionable insights in concise, entertaining writing.

Here are some topics I’m thinking about covering.

It’s also important to note that Tech Twitter TLDR content will still live on. In addition to applied Social Science, Social Studies will include:

🐦 Tech Twitter News - Weekly and monthly summaries of the most interesting discussions, debates and advice on Tech Twitter.

🤔 Profiles - Roundups of the best tweets and exclusive Q&As with leaders in tech, business and social science.

🤯 Things could get even crazier from here

This week, I wrote about how the bubble in higher education is driving a massive movement towards unbundling. Twitter-native influencers are launching online schools for specific subject areas.

While I’m no influencer yet, you don’t have to have a galaxy brain to follow this thread.

Psychology is one of the most popular majors in the United States. If you look at just the top tier institutions, Social Sciences in general outnumber Engineering, Business and all other categories by a long shot.

As traditional university education becomes unbundled over the next decade, Social Studies could become the modern, digital-native school for applied Social Science - think LambdaSchool, On Deck, or Write of Passage, but for Social Science.

But today, Social Studies is just a newsletter. Subscribe and see where it goes ✨

🙏 Thank you so so so much

I’m so excited to this next step. Thank you so much for coming along for the ride.

Special shout out to some people who made Social Studies what it is today: Lenny Rachitsky, Mike Duboe, Packy McCormick (thanks for the name!), Ben Crane, Bruno Bergher, Mike Podwal, Laksh Mody, Nathan Baschez, Colin Goltra, Greg Isenberg, Ani Pai, Shweta Katyal, Nikita Singareddy, Zak Kukoff, Ian Kar, Paul Kasten, and many more.