141: Google Ads, Nvidia's Dogfood, Liquid Super-Teams, Microsoft Xbox Without the Box, HiSilicon —> ByeSilicon, Supersonic Commercial Planes, Zero Trust, and Fleabag

"Wut is it and wut does it do?"

"What is the answer?" 

"I am not sure… but whatever it is, it can't be a lie."

—Major 'Bunny' Colvin, The Wire

🤔 Sometimes just being exposed to a new thing, a bit here and there — without actively studying it or deciding to learn it — starts the learning process, and who knows where it’ll stop...

Try to put yourself in situations where you are constantly exposed to new things (“maybe like this newsletter,” he said in a self-serving way).

It’s like second-hand smoke, but positive, and for learning!

💻 I just wrote a couple days ago about trying Firefox as a main browser again, and I’m already adding a new one to the rotation (I figure if you're using a tool all day, like a web browser, it's worth investing the time to periodically check that you're using the version of that tool that is right for you).

Vivaldi just released their 4.0, and it seems neat.

It’s a team led by Opera’s former CEO, and while its based on the Chromium rendering engine (like Chrome and Edge), it does have some of that Opera feel to it.

Clearly they can’t compete with the big browsers on distribution and brand recognition, so they attempt to do more stuff for power-users (it’s customizable to a pretty crazy degree).

I think my favorite thing so far is that you can open a kind of browser sidebar that basically loads the mobile version of a page, like what you’d see on a phone.

So you can have “sidebar bookmarks” like this:

Wow, that’s pretty recursive!

This sidebar feels like a real innovation, and the real-world practicality of being able to open a sidebar of Twitter, Notion, Wikipedia, or my Koyfin watchlist with one click may be enough to make me give Vivaldi another real try (I tried it a few years ago, along with Brave, but it didn’t stick — I don’t remember why, though…)

🛀 If uncool companies knew they were uncool, they'd be less uncool. It’s a Catch 22…

☯️ One of the best way to miss out on good music / films / TV / books / investments / people / etc is to have a hipster mentality.

Disliking things just because others like them is equally as unthinking as liking things just because others like them.

If you are a mirror image of others, they’re still setting the agenda for you, you aren’t free-thinking.

Figure out if *you* like it and the rest doesn't matter.

💡📈 Compound interest, knowledge edition:

For a while, it looks like nothing is happening, but it's how you build the foundation for the significant growth that comes later!

🐦 I listened to a Twitter Space, and some speakers were very soft, and others very loud. Because it was a back-and-forth conversation and not just long monologues, it was impossible to find a good volume level.

This seems basic to me, but I guess it needs to be said:

Twitter should apply dynamic range compression on the volume and normalize it to some fairly narrow range that avoids these wild peaks & valleys.

Why do I constantly feel like the people who build certain products never use them? If they were, wouldn’t they notice this stuff and get it fixed?

(Is this newsletter becoming just a wishlist of stuff I wand to see happen + old man screaming at the cloud?)

🔁 In case you were wondering, yes, the inversion of Jim and Jeff’s name in the title of edition #140 was on purpose. Just felt like injecting a tiny bit of chaos in everyone’s day, and see who would notice.

I also scrambled the main section titles (ie. Science & Technology -> Science & History). Just because ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

💚 🥃 Y’know what I’d enjoy?

If — and only if — you know someone who you think would enjoy this show, send them the URL of the site with a short and honest note that explains what you think it’s about and what you like about it.

I don’t care about the most readers, but I do care about the best readers, and I figure if you’re motivated enough to do a personal recommendation, you’re probably resonating strongly with the vibe here, and so I trust your taste overlaps mine and want to get a chance to meet your friends!

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INvesting & BUsiness

Google Ads Attribution

Something I don’t see mentioned much is that Google’s ability to show attribution on its ads isn’t necessarily as clear-cut as some make it sound like. I’m sure in the ad biz this is well-known, but I don’t see it mentioned much on the investing side.

It seems so great that someone clicks on an ad and buys something, and Google gets X cents for that based on the auction bidding for that keyword.

But did the click lead to the sale? Did the ad even lead to the click-through?

Sometimes it does. Someone searches for “product category X” and the link at the top is an ad (that many people won’t even know is an ad because Google clearly makes them blend-in on purpose) for a specific brand, and the person ends up buying that, so the ad deserves a lot of the credit for steering that purchase.

But I suspect things are often much more complex, and much harder to track:

  • You have a craving for some Chipotle because you’ve seen some ads on TV, heard some ads on radio… Not clear how, but they worked on your unconscious and now you feel like eating some Chipotle.

    If you then go in Google and type “Chipotle” and click on whatever Google serves you at the top with the words “Chipotle Mexican Grill” in it (an ad), does Google deserve to be paid for that sale?

    The person already was looking for it, and the other ads may not be 100% responsible for the sale, but they deserve more credit than that last-mile click on Google (which would’ve happened via organic link even if no ad had been there).

Here’s what I’m NOT saying: That this is nefarious, that this isn’t still better than other less trackable/attributable methods, that advertisers aren’t well aware that part of their spend is wasted on situations like these, etc.

I just want to point it out because I don’t think everybody knows about it. That when we talk about performance spend on ads, it’s a more complex story than “look how many sales we generated with these CPC ads”.

Nvidia’s Dog Food, Part два (yes, I looked up “2” in Russian)

Last edition, I was talking about how I like that Nvidia has been dogfooding its own hardware and software in the context of the Omniverse platform.

Here’s another example of the same thing, but for AI/ML research & development:

AI has been, certainly from the outside, difficult technology to operationalize. And we ourselves, at NVIDIA, are one of the largest consumers of AI on the planet because of all the work we do on self-driving cars and robotics and such. And so over the years, we build for ourselves internally, a software platform called Base Command that all of our data scientists use every day to do the AI work and to utilize the equipment as well as we possibly can. And every time we work with the customer to talk to them about SuperPOD or provide them equipment, we give them a little tour, and we show them a glimpse of what we've got inside the in-house with Base Command.

And the question we always get from customers is, why can I not get that? And it just took us a little while to productize that and get it ready for customers, and we did that. And so we made that available now. So that's the first thing. Base Command platform is the software that we've used internally for years that we're now making available to customers. And it can actually operate on equipment like DGX SuperPOD that we provide or it can even operate with infrastructure in the public cloud. And we announced some partnerships with public cloud providers.

Cooperation Economy & Liquid Super Teams

I dug this piece by Packy McCormick. Lots of good insights and a fascinating vision of a possible future:

Some highlights:

Individuals are becoming more important than institutions. Work is becoming more liquid. People can accomplish more on their own than ever before. 

At the same time, though, it’s easier and smarter than ever for talented people to work together. Transaction costs are decreasing. As the atomic unit of commerce gets smaller, there is more surface area for cooperation, more room for more people to pursue the same opportunity as a group. Individuals can cooperate with each other with much less friction than companies can. […]

The Cooperation Economy is emergent; if companies are planned top-down, collaborations form and dissipate as needed. Individuals will come together -- formally or informally -- to create Liquid Super Teams, formed of people with the right set of combined attributes for the task at hand. They might last a day, they might last three years. Then each member will go their own way, until they find the next quest to join. [...]

On the internet, individuals have two key advantages over middlemen: we’re naturally differentiated and more of our revenue drops to the bottom line. We can operate in the niches, feasting on wins that would be too small for companies but can be life-changing for people. [...]

Liquid Super Teams are powerful because they increase talent density by lowering the commitment required of each participant. People who would never work for another person again happily join Liquid Super Teams from time to time. [...]

For individuals, cooperation is the winning strategy. There are rarely long negotiations and back-and-forths between individuals. As long as the opportunity cost to trying something is low enough, a DM and a 👍🏻 can seal a liquid partnership. Online, where millions of micro-opportunities pop up every day, speed is a competitive advantage. Try, fail, move on.

Microsoft Xbox Without the Box (so just X?)

What if all you needed to play Xbox games was a controller?

That’s about to happen as the xCloud game-streaming service and Xbox Game Pass are coming to smart TVs via apps, meaning that basically everything computationally-intensive will happen in the cloud and the resulting image & sounds will be streamed to your smart TV (from a datacenter nearby so latency is very low).

“We’re working with global TV manufacturers to embed the Game Pass experience directly into internet-connected TVs so all you’ll need to play is a controller,” says Liz Hamren, head of gaming experiences and platforms at Microsoft. [...]

This will be available as both an app on TVs, and with Microsoft’s own dedicated streaming stick. (Source)

h/t Friend-of-the-show Jerry Capital (💎 🐕)

HiSilicon —> ByeSilicon: ‘the US administration crushed China's premier chip designer’

HiSilicon is wholly owned by Huawei:

HiSilicon's smartphone AP shipments declined 88 percent in Q1 2021, per Strategy Analytics' estimates. It remains to be seen whether Huawei will spin-off HiSilicon's smartphone chip business to ensure its future." (Source)

In the words of friend-of-the-show and supporter (💚 🥃) Jon Bathgate:

“It is incredible how the US administration just crushed China's premier chip designer.”

A Tweet to Describe the 2010-2020 Decade

Morgan Housel asked:

A business newspaper comes out once per decade.

You have to summarize the 2010-2020 period in the length of a tweet.

What's it say?

My answer:

The Internet finally changed everything.

¯\_(ツ)_/¯

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SCience & TEchnology

Supersonic Commercial Planes are Coming Back

This will be an interesting space to watch in the coming years. The video above does a good job of looking at Concorde’s economics, and the new players and their varying approaches and the noise-reduction tech that would make more over-land routes viable (Aerion, Spike Aerospace, and Boom).

Zero Trust: Wut is it and wut does it do?

Friend-of-the-show and Muji extraordinaire published a new free piece on Zero Trust:

The old method of castle & moat security, where you maintained a trusted network across all of your enterprise infrastructure, apps, devices and users – with a secure perimeter around it all – is becoming a thing of the past, as all of those areas continue to sprawl outside of the perimeter (and IT's grasp). […]

Zero Trust allowed for a software-defined perimeter instead of a network driven one, where you never trust a user requesting access to a particular service. You lose the entire concept of the trusted network – the entire basis of the castle & moat strategy. Users must establish who they are (authentication), and then the system determines the rights of that user to access the given service (authorization). Once BOTH identity and access rights have been established, the Zero Trust service acts as a proxy to the service, creating an ephemeral network connection to the requested service. The user doesn't need to know where app is hosted – the networking is all handled invisibility to them. Once the user is done, the temporary connection from that user to that service can be severed.

FBI Secretly Ran Anom Messaging Platform Used by Criminals Worldwide

Finally, some Hollywood-like competence from the coppers:

Hundreds of suspected members of criminal networks have been arrested by authorities around the world after being duped into using an encrypted communications platform secretly run by the FBI to hatch their plans for alleged crimes including drug smuggling and money laundering. […]

Alleged members of international criminal organizations adopted the platform as a means to communicate securely, unaware that authorities were covertly monitoring 27 million messages from more than 12,000 users across more than 100 countries, officials said. […]

The takedown involved more than 9,000 law-enforcement offices around the world that had searched 700 locations in the previous 48 hours alone, U.S. and European officials said early Tuesday. Police forces had in recent days carried out more than 800 arrests in 16 countries and seized more than 8 tons of cocaine, 22 tons of cannabis and 2 tons of synthetic drugs, as well as 250 firearms, 55 luxury vehicles and over $48 million in various currencies. More than 150 threats to human life were also disrupted, officials said. (Source)

In the words of The Wire, that’s a lot of ‘dope on the table’, which probably doesn’t do much, but if the arrests are for violent criminals, then good.

The weird part of this story is what happened to those who helped the FBI distribute the Anom devices, and give them credibility with the criminals. Matt Levine explains:

the people charged by the U.S. are not charged with doing murder or drug dealing or bribes or whatever. They are charged with distributing the FBI’s spying device. The FBI built an encrypted-messaging-service-slash-spying-device, which would only be useful to the FBI if it could get it into the hands of criminals. So it subcontracted, as it were, some people to distribute the device widely to criminals. And those subcontractors did a good job and got the device in the hands of many criminals, and the FBI spied on them and arrested a lot of them.

And then it arrested the subcontractors! For doing what the FBI wanted! For helping the FBI catch criminals! Here is the indictment, which charges them with participating in a criminal enterprise, specifically “The ANOM ENTERPRISE,” an enterprise which … the FBI .. ran? This seems very unsporting. Surely you want to reward them, no?

Lab-Grown Meat

I’m a big big fan of the concept of lab grown meat (I don’t mean meat substitutes made with beans or whatever, I meant real meat, identical at the cellular level, just not from an animal).

I think that industrial meat production is one of the things that future generations will look back on in disgust when it comes to our era.

The “directional arrow of progress”, as supporter (💚🥃) Josh Wolfe would say, is clearly pointing to an end state of getting meat but without the suffering and killing of animals.

Unlike what some believe, I don’t think we’re going to make everybody vegetarian or vegan — it’s a fine choice for those who want to do it, and I did it for a few years a while ago — but if the solution to the current system is that you have to convince everybody to give up meat, it’ll never happen.

It’s a bit like with global warming: You won’t convince everybody to do things differently and/or make what they perceive to be sacrifices. You need to make the default choices the cleaner ones. ie. EVs will eventually be better and cheaper than ICEs, so why would anyone even want an ICE?

Clean meat will eventually be tastier, healthier, and cheaper than animal meat, so who will complain?

That’s another thing: I think we need a new name for “lab grown meat”. It doesn’t work, it’s not a mainstreamable word. I guess eventually all meat will be like that, so it’ll just be “meat”, but during the transition, we need something better.

Anyway, some recent updates:

Israeli start-up Future Meat has claimed a huge leap towards commercial viability for its lab-grown chicken, slashing production costs by almost half in just a few months.

The company, whose backers include Archer Daniels Midland, Tyson Foods and S2G, said it was now producing a 110 gramme chicken breast for just under $4, down from $7.50 announced at the start of the year.

Rom Kshuk, chief executive, said he expected the cost to fall to below $2 in the next 12-18 months. […] more than 50 cell-based start-ups worldwide are vying to get their product to market.

“We will launch a product in the US market in the next 18 months that will have a commercially viable price,” he told the Financial Times. (Source)

Here’s another one:

The nascent industry growing real meat in bioreactors had a record-breaking year in 2020, with investment growing sixfold and dozens of new companies being founded.

A study also indicates that 80% of people in the UK and US are open to eating meat produced in a factory rather than a field (Source)

Gotta love that last line above, “rather than a field”… Shows how people still picture cows roaming free and chicken walking around an old-timey farm with a red barn, rather than the realities of industrial-scale meat production.

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The ARts & HIstory

Fleabag: Play vs TV Show

I really really enjoyed both seasons of Fleabag (2016 & 2019). Hat tip to Matt Ball for making me watch it.

But I’ve never seen the play on which S1 is based, so the video above was a nice way to see what was cut & paste from the source, and what was elevated.

P.S. Phoebe Waller-Bridge is brilliant. Her work as show-runner on season one of “Killing Eve” is also great.

A Pattern Language, Twitter Edition

Many years ago I read a book called ‘A Pattern Language’ (1977) that I remember quite liking and finding thought-provoking.

It’s mostly about designing buildings and living spaces using certain rules and heuristics to make them better places to live and work.

It contains a lot of insights about human nature and evolutionary psychology, but embedded into other things; implicitly, not explicitly…

This is one I always remembered, and looked for when renting or buying:

159. Light on Two Sides of Every Room

People will gravitate to rooms with natural light on two sides.

Light from two sides limits the glare on others’ faces, allowing people to understand each other better through clear facial expressions and hand motions.

Here’s another one for outside space design:

126. Something Roughly in the Middle

A public space should contain something to stand in its middle, otherwise it will likely remain empty.

A fountains, tree, statue, clocktower, or bandstand all work.

Place it where the paths come together, not exactly in the middle.

Anyway, it’s been a long time since I read it so my memory of the details is fuzzy, but I found this twitter account that tweets some of the “patterns” and am finding it a great way to revisit the material. Maybe you’ll like it too?

Twitter is such a flexible publishing tool... More books should have a Twitter account that just goes through some of the main insights/points, like flashcards to help solidify your memory of it.