132: Waymo IPO?, ByteDance CEO, Ford's F150 EV, Cloudflare Ports DOOM to Edge Network, Psilocybin vs Migraine, Mind Germs, Investing Games, and Leave a Comment
"most of the time you’re just a marathon runner yelling at a powerlifter."
It’s a fact of scaling in general that every time something scales sufficiently, it breaks in a novel way.
💽 🎧 🎶 Growing up, I was really into music (still am).
I used to spend a huge chunk of my time hanging on music forums and chatting about music with friends-I-had-never-met on ICQ/AIM.
The person I messaged with the most was a Norwegian guy who had great taste and knew tons of good music (and also had tons of good science-fiction books, another overlap — he’s the one who introduced me to Iain M. Banks).
One thing we used to do frequently, and that I now look back on with nostalgia, is the synchronized-album-listen.
We’d pick something — say, Hounds of Love by Kate Bush, Octopus by Gentle Giant, or Morningrise by Opeth — and counted down to press “play” on the CD at the same time.
Then we knew we were hearing the same thing at the same time, and did an instant-message commentary of what we were hearing, pointing out interesting arrangements or riffs or drum patterns or lyrics (or making jokes about the lyrics), etc.
What fun that was! I miss that.
Cheers to you, wherever you are now, Øystein! 💚 🥃
🎵 Staying on the topic of music, there’s an 💫𝓾𝓹𝓰𝓻𝓪𝓭𝓮 𝓶𝔂 𝓵𝓲𝓯𝓮💫 project I’ve been mulling lately…
I’ve already written about wanting to get a motorized standing/sitting desk in edition #121.
I’ve got a couple of M22ti Axiom bookshelf speakers in storage that I haven’t used since kids came into my life (I knew that under a certain age, the chance of them damaging them were too high — little fingers poking woofers and legos in the bass reflex ports…):
I was kinda lucky to buy them back when Axiom was a lesser-known company (they use one of the biggest anechoic chambers in the world for their R&D — based in Ottawa, Canada). They now sell for multiples of what I paid for them… Anyway.
I was thinking that if I get a wider desk, I could have my iMac in the middle and these on each side. The problem is powering them (can’t just plug them in computer)…
Digging around, I found this NAD integrated amp with a small footprint. It could fit on the desk (you can have it upright or flat). I could even use the Focusrite Scarlet 2i2 audio interface that I got to podcast as a digital-to-analog-converter (DAC) for it!
This is tempting. I haven’t used my good speakers in 7 years, but now the 3yo has pretty much outgrown his destructive phase… It’d be really nice to 💫𝓾𝓹𝓰𝓻𝓪𝓭𝓮 𝓶𝔂𝓵𝓲𝓯𝓮💫, Music Edition. 🤔
🗣🗣🗣 I have great readers (and I don’t just say that to your face — I also say that behind your back 🗡💚 ).
So many good email/DM/etc conversations with you. Thank you for that, it’s a big perk of this project.
One thing I haven’t really encouraged much yet, but I think I should, is for readers to send their comments/feedback/ideas through the comments on the site, if possible and if it’s not private info.
I don’t want you to go out of your way, so if it’s easier to just hit “reply” on the email, that’s fine, but my thinking is that this great group of people isn’t interacting as much with each other as they could be because I’m the bottleneck in the middle.
If you leave a comment, I get notified and I’m just as likely to reply to it as with a email, but there are all kinds of other benefits:
Others can read it and benefit from it
Others can reply to it and give even more value to the commenter than I alone could
New group discussions can start that wouldn’t exist on email
Over time, regular readers/commenters will get to know each other, and there’s nothing I like more than introducing people that I know will be win-win for each other.
So you don’t *have* to change anything, but I encourage you to use the comments below each edition on the website.
h/t to reader and supporter (💚) Monadnock for making me think of this!
💚 🥃 If you feel like you’re getting value from this newsletter, it would mean the world to me if you became a supporter to help me to keep writing it.
If you think that you’re not making a difference by subbing, that’s incorrect. Only 3.5% of readers are supporters (so far — you can help change that), so each one of you joining this elite group makes a big difference.
I like free stuff as much as the next person, but when I like something, I also want it to continue and be sustainable. It takes 20 seconds:
Investing & Business
Waymo IPO? Management churn, raising money…
Waymo is talking to outside investors about raising as much as $4 billion in additional capital to fuel its self-driving efforts. And the company has discussed plans to eventually list publicly, spinning out from its parent Alphabet Inc., according to people familiar with the plans. [...]
Since February, Waymo has lost six key executives in rapid succession, including its chief executive officer, chief financial officer and several key lieutenants. John Krafcik, the outgoing CEO, had telegraphed his departure to some although it surprised many at Waymo and others at Alphabet, said the people, who asked not to be identified because the talks were private. Waymo appointed two executives as co-CEOs and is recruiting a new CFO. (Source)
Some aren’t impressed:
“Waymo is stumbling and bumbling,” said Raj Rajkumar, professor of robotics at Carnegie Mellon University. “Right now it looks like it’s moving toward nothing.”
Not quite sure what I think of all this. But I’ll keep an eye on it…
'I'm not very social': ByteDance founder gives up CEO role
Interesting how most social-media companies appear to have been founded by introverts… Though not that strange when you think about it: the skills to build software and understand network dynamics aren’t the same as those to be some hand-made reclaimed-wood reproduction reconstruction-era furniture influencer on the platform.
Zhang Yiming announced he will step down as CEO of TikTok-owner ByteDance, saying he lacked the social skills to be an ideal manager and naming his college roommate Liang Rubo as his successor to navigate a rising tide of Big Tech regulations. [...]
The 38-year-old will be succeeded by Liang, a long-time colleague and the current head of human resources at ByteDance, one of the world’s biggest private tech companies with an estimated value of about $300 billion in recent trades. [...]
Zhang owns 20% to 30% of ByteDance and holds over 50% of voting rights (Source)
Here’s the best parts from the letter he wrote:
I worry that I am still relying too much on the ideas I had before starting the company, and haven't challenged myself by updating those concepts. As an example, before 2017, I spent a lot of time keeping track of developments in machine learning. However, since then, while I do my best to bookmark technical articles online, I haven't had the time to make much progress digging into the area. During technology meetings, this sometimes means I actually struggle to keep up with the discussion.
Three years ago, I spoke with some entrepreneurs about the challenges of scaling a business. I said that often when companies mature and expand, many fall into the trap of the CEO becoming overly central — listening to presentations, handling approvals, and making decisions reactively. This leads to an over-reliance on existing ideas already in the company, and results in knowledge structures being slow to iterate. [...]
My brother from another mother:
The truth is, I lack some of the skills that make an ideal manager. I'm more interested in analyzing organizational and market principles, and leveraging these theories to further reduce management work, rather than actually managing people. Similarly, I'm not very social, preferring solitary activities like being online, reading, listening to music, and daydreaming about what may be possible.
Ford unveils its first electric F150, and it’s exactly what you’d expect (and that’s good)
As someone who wants to see the transition to EVs happen as fast as possible, because, well, it’s clearly a superior technology in most of the ways that matter, I’ve been waiting for some middle-of-the-road, totally mainstream EV pickups to come out for years.
So yay for Ford:
F-150 Lightning targets 563 horsepower, 775 lb.-ft. of near instantaneous torque – more than any F-150 ever – and a 0-60 mph time in the mid-4-second range when equipped with an extended-range battery [...]
F-150 Lightning targets a maximum 2,000 pounds of payload in the standard-range model with 18-inch wheels, and a maximum 10,000 pounds of available towing capacity on XLT and Lariat trucks with the extended-range battery and Max Trailer Tow Package [...]
The commercial-oriented entry model starts at $39,974 MSRP3 before any federal or state tax credits, while the mid-series XLT model starts at $52,974 MSRP, offering additional comfort and technology.
You can see more details and photos here, but basically, it’s the usual “rugged cowboy pickup drifting through mud or at the edge of the woods on a camping trip” clichés.
I hope they sell a zillion of those and competitors are hot on their heels.
It’s 2021, why isn’t there way more EV models in mainstream segments? The industry is way too slow, dragging their feet as much as possible because they have massive investments in legacy tech…
The Tesla Model S came out in 2012 and you can still count on your fingers (of one hand) the real competitors to that original one...
Do you know what game you’re playing?
Good short essay by Morgan Housel:
Different sports have different objectives requiring different skills. No one criticizes marathon runners for doing things completely differently from powerlifters, despite both being athletes. [...]
If you view investing as a single game, then you think every deviation from that game’s rules, strategies, or skills is wrong. But most of the time you’re just a marathon runner yelling at a powerlifter.
I’ve mentioned a few times how my own game when it comes to investing is balancing multiple goals, not just maximum returns (see edition #44 for ‘Investment Style and Stock Selection as Lifestyle Design’, I also talked a bit about it in the AMA podcast).
The bottom line is, by knowing what game I’m playing, it makes it a lot easier to make decisions. If I was fuzzy on my goals and just trying to imitate and chase what others — who have different goals, including from each other — are doing, I doubt I’d have a good time.
h/t to friend-of-the-show and supporter (💚 🥃) Rishi Gosalia
Interview: Jeremiah Lowin (Podcast)
I really enjoyed this conversation between Jeremiah Lowin and friend-of-the-show and supporter (💚🥃) Jim O’Shaughnessy:
I listened walking in the woods and doing yard work, so I didn’t write notes. But I remember it being good, mostly for the mindset that both J’s share about the limits of our knowledge, decision-making under uncertainty using probabilistic thinking, etc.
Some good lessons about entrepreneurship and risk-taking (and risk-minimizing) too. Good stuff!
Science & Technology
Cloudflare Ports Multiplayer DOOM to Workers Edge Network
It almost feels like Cloudflare is doing targeted marketing, and it’s targeted at me.
Doom is a cornerstone of my childhood, and I have few better memories than pulling all-night LAN parties with my friends in my parents’ basement (they had to bring their computers over and then we set up a wired local network — you younglings don’t know the pains we went through to game… But more effort and rarity does mean it felt amazing when we got to do it, so life is trade-offs).
Anyway, Cloudflare ported DOOM to their edge Workers platform as a demo of what is possible, and it’s really cool:
We wanted this demo to be as simple as possible, to run in the browser, end to end, with no downloads or native binaries required. This meant one first task: porting Doom to compile to WebAssembly, an open standard that defines a portable binary-code format for executable programs and enables high-performance applications in multiple environments, including web pages on modern browsers. [...]
We also found Chocolate Doom, a modern, community-driven, well-maintained port that aims to reproduce the original DOS version of Doom and has a few bonuses, like networked multiplayer support, and a decent, readable, and modular codebase. Perfect match.
I kinda wish they had used another port, like the Zdoom engine that has high-resolution graphics, but I understand it’s probably harder to port.
You can try it for yourself at SilentSpaceMarine.com (is this a joke on the Alien tagline: In space, nobody can hear you scream?). If you pick multiplayer and you see “Liberty”, that’s probably me fragging you…
Interesting aside on how far multiplayer protocols have evolved:
Doom's original protocol (1994) is not well suited for modern Internet multiplayer fast-paced games either. Every client receives a full copy of all the input (keyboard, mouse) from all the other clients. The game only advances when everyone receives the commands from all the other players in the group. The result is that the game's playability depends on the player with the slowest connection.
Modern FPS gaming protocols solve these and other challenges by predicting future movements (games are mostly deterministic), using compression, sending only the deltas, and other techniques. You can read more about this in “The DOOM III Network Architecture”.
‘A single dose of psilocybin has a lasting therapeutic effect on migraine headache, according to a new placebo-controlled study’
How many things are we going to figure out that these compounds are helpful with, and how stupid are we going to feel that we could’ve had these benefits decades ago if only we hadn’t stupidly banned them for no good reason…
Now, this is a small study and more research needs to be done, but even if this is all bunk, the other benefits (PTSD, addiction, depression, etc) seem very real.
Mental Hygiene & Mind Germs
This is just good:
One more great application of evolution by natural selection, but this time, with ideas, and with much faster feedback loops and copying & mutations and fitness pressures than out in the world of atoms and messy biological systems.
The Arts & History
I like this song
Recently discovered it, I’m kinda obsessed with it right now. It’s by Samuel "Sam" Ervin Beam aka ‘Iron & Wine’.
Maybe you’ll like it, maybe you won’t — it’s ok either way, but I thought I’d share:
Someday you might find a circle of my friends And they'll cry when you walk in
Mad Men Season 4 is just *chef’s kiss*
Last night, I re-watched Mad Men S4E10, 'Hand & Knees'.
Another great one. S4 is ridiculously strong.
Nothing touches Deadwood S2 for me, but this is way up there.
One other idea. Maybe you could put a "comment here" box at the top and bottom of each email that links directly to the comments section. (I think you can do that anyway.) Reduce the friction.
[On Waymo's apparent fumbling and bumbling.] I regard Alphabet to be well run and top notch on execution with most of its efforts. They are not perfect of course, but who is. Waymo management developments are a bit disappointing and troubling.
I am not an expert in this space, but it seems that Waymo and Tesla have the largest leads.
One thought is that Waymo has gone as far as it can within GOOG and spinning it out to an IPO is the best way to get it focused management and accelerate its growth path. [Concept: Do we focus on the trivial many projects or the vital few projects.]
I hope that Sundar and Ruth Porat are considering this Waymo focus now! It would be foolish to waste time on this opportunity for Waymo.