159: EVE Online GDP Report (MMORPG), Twitter Downvotes, Nvidia RTX on ARM, Cloudflare on DDoS (600gbps/sec!), Value Pricing for Vertical Market Software, and Parmesan

"First thing that came to mind is Parmigiano-Reggiano"

The only man I know who behaves sensibly is my tailor; he takes my measurements anew each time he sees me.

The rest go on with their old measurements and expect me to fit them.

—George Bernard Shaw

🤖 Friend-of-the-show and Extra-Deluxe (💚💚💚💚💚 🥃 ) supporter Byrne Hobart made a joke about footnotes:

Tip: to make your writing more scholarly, delete all the hyperlinks and footnote every factual assertion with "Ibid." Nobody's going to call you on it.

This made me think about how cool it would be if at some point in the future, huge AI language models could be used to do a first pass of following every link and footnote in a study/paper and have the ability to call BS if something linked doesn’t talk about what is claimed, or doesn’t support the argument from which it’s linked.

Hey OpenAI, you working on this feature for GPT-4 or 5?

🤨 I wrote at the top of edition #134 about what I thought was a huge UI flaw in Google Meet (to put the constantly-used “mute” button right next to the “end call” button).

Looks like they recently redesigned the interface and improved the situation a bit:

The most used button isn’t next to to the ejector seat button anymore, which is good. And they gave the ‘end call’ button a different shape, in addition to the different color, which is good too.

But I still don’t understand why they had to put it so close to the junk drawer/settings button (those three vertical dots). Why not also differentiate that button by where on screen it is. Some space between it and the rest would further reduce accidental hangups by a *huge* amount.

Oh well, I’ll take it.

📖 Ordered a Kindle Paperwhite this morning.

Got a notification from CamelCamelCamel (I’ll write more about my use of this site some other time) that the price had dropped from $140 CAD to $115 — what can I say, value investor roots show showing. Hoping they won’t release a new model in two months, but oh well, always a risk with tech…

🧀 One of the podcasts I’ve been listening to since 2013 (ATP) had a great segment for a while.

One of the hosts is, shall we say, hypercritical. He’s very good at verbally deconstructing things and explaining exactly what he likes and dislikes, and how he’d do things differently.

I’ve learned a lot about how to think about product/UX design just from listening to his rants over the years.

At one point he was talking about toaster ovens, and how frustrating he found the process of trying to find a toaster oven that wasn’t fatally flawed in some way (ie. it toasts bread just the way he wants, the knobs are quality and the interface makes sense, things are sturdy, it’s not a fire-hazard, and a million other details).

His rant was so great that a sponsor of the show — Cards Against Humanity — paid for a series of ads in which they just sent him a new toaster oven to review each week for months, and the ad were basically just him doing toaster reviews (links to these and more here).

I don’t know why I was thinking of this, but it made me think of what category of thing I’d like to review if I was doing that. First thing that came to mind is Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese (aka real parmesan).

If some sponsor wants to have me review all kinds of it, I’ll jump on that bullet, no problem.

💚 🥃 I figure that the price of a couple coffees or one alcoholic drink isn't a bad trade for 12 emails per month, full of eclectic ideas and investing/tech analysis.

The entertainment alone has to be worth something, but for those that care most about the bottom line:

If you make just one good investment decision per year because of something you learn here (or avoid one bad decision — don’t forget preventing negatives!), it'll pay for multiple years of subscriptions (or multiple lifetimes).

As Bezos would say of Prime, you’d be downright irresponsible not to be a member, it takes 19 seconds (3 on mobile with Apple/Google Pay — just make sure you’re logged-in Substack):

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Investing & Business

EVE Online: The Coolest GDP Report You’ll Ever See (trust me)

Tired of boring old U.S. GDP reports?

I got you, fam

This video looks into the GDP of EVE Online, a massively multiplayer online role-playing game (MMORPG).

Think World of Warcraft, but instead of orcs, wizards, and dragons, you have asteroid-mining, supercarriers battleships, and giant space stations.

Ships have a wide variety of characteristics, including power grid, CPU, capacitor size and recharge rate, energy shields, armor, maximum velocity, agility, locking range, and maximum number of lockable targets.

You could get lost for days just on the Wikipedia page, but if you want more after the video above, here’s a couple more:

This one goes into how the game devs created a recession to create conflict and make the game more exciting, but accidentally created stagflation, which had some unforeseen consequences (like in the real world, complex adaptive systems always surprise us).

My favorite part of this one is the giant giant giant space station that the game devs created almost as a challenge to the community by making it so massive, requiring so much raw materials to build that it may never be built… But who knows?

h/t Friend-of-the-show and supporter (💚 🥃) Luis V. Sanchez

Value Pricing, Vertical Market Software Edition

Very important point by Ben Spaninks, a former Managing Director at Total Specific Solutions (TSS, now part of Topicus, the recent spin-out by Constellation Software):

Q: maybe all of these entrepreneur-run companies, that are not acquired by CSI or TSS, are actually massively underpricing their products.

A: Yes, they are. I think every software company that is providing value is doing that. A lot of software companies, in their contract, in small print, they say okay, we can change the price at the indexation rate. Indexation is maybe 1% or 2%. But they are building newer software, with more added value and that added value is actually worth money to the customer. If you do not charge them for that added value, for the new functionality into the ERP system, then you are actually giving them a present. I truly believe that most of the VMS companies are underpriced.

Q: Do you have to be mission-critical software to be able to keep increasing the price?

A: I think you have to add value in a specific process to increase your price. As long as you can add value, to solve a problem, make a business case around the problem and put it in financials or an hours’ less work, you can always add value to your own company. (Source)

Mark Leonard made this point at the Constellation Software annual meeting a few years ago when asked about pricing.

Some companies will take pure price — like, you still make the same gallon of paint or the same airplane part, but you increase the price over time — while with software, it can be more complicated, because the product can change quite a bit over time.

Maybe you add new modules, new features, you make it perform better in many ways (faster, uses fewer resources, less time spent on maintenance, etc).

So if once in a while you increase the price to reflect that new value provided by the product, you may actually be taking very little “pure” price (though there can be some of that too, and some software product aren’t improved much over time).

The idea isn’t that VMS price increases are always just pricing in new value, but that you should look into it and see if they’re taking pure price (which can make customers unhappy and increase churn or create a pricing umbrella for competitors), or if they’re just adding value constantly and the customers are happy to pay more because they’re getting more.

You can even imagine a scenario where the value provided by the product is increasing faster than the price, so customers are getting a better deal over time even though the absolute dollar amount is going up (ie. in a different industry, but Netflix is prob a good example of this, where you pay a few dollars more than you did years ago, but the amount of content you have access to is much higher, and you get 4K and HDR quality, etc).

❄️ Frank Slootman vs Wikipedia 🕵️

I was surprised to see that Slootman doesn’t have a Wikipedia page.

I’m just guessing, but to me it seems like it has to be deliberate. Maybe he’s paying some consultants to try to scrub him off Wikipedia… Is it just a privacy thing?

Maybe I’m imagining things, but it seems weird that his name on Data Domain, Snowflake, and Servicenow’s pages isn’t even linked to an empty page, it’s unliked. 🤨

Twitter to Experiment with Reply Downvoting

Some of you on iOS may see different options to up or down vote on replies. We're testing this to understand the types of replies you find relevant in a convo, so we can work on ways to show more of them.

Your downvotes aren’t public, while your upvotes will be shown as likes.

Some key notes about this experiment:
1. This is just a test for research right now.
2. This is not a dislike button.
3. Your downvotes are visible to you only.
4. Votes won’t change the order of replies.

(Source)

🤔

Not sure yet what I think of this yet. Can be done well or badly, will depend on execution.

Obviously, this didn’t make as much sense back when Twitter was just a chronological timeline, but now that it’s algorithmic for most people, it probably makes sense to have more types of signals (you can still click those weird stars at the top-right of the timeline and set it to see chrono, which I appreciate them giving the option — that’s what I use).

Twitter’s Fail Whale

Speaking of Twitter, those of you who have been on Twitter for a long time may remember that in the early days, the site was constantly over-capacity and when it failed, this image of the ‘fail whale’ showed up:

It’s easy to overlook how brilliant this is.

It was such a delightful little piece of art that it made me — and probably others — less mad at Twitter for constantly failing and the site being unreachable.

I guess the lesson here is, if you have a piece of software or a service, make sure that when it fails, it fails gracefully, and in a self-aware way that strikes the right tone.

Lots of site try to be cute about it, with various cartoons trying to repair broken servers or a robot falling apart or whatever.

Some work, most don’t, often because they’re too on-the-nose. I think the fail whale had the right amount of whimsy and weirdness to not feel too condescending or trying-too-hard.

Dunno, maybe it’s just me, though ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

h//t CD Andrew, for reminding me of it

Good News Corner, Doug Ott Edition

I’m happy for one of Fintwit’s own, and wanted to share his good news here.

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Science & Technology

First Time: Nvidia Showing RTX GPU Running Games on ARM System

A pair of new demos running GeForce RTX technologies on the Arm platform unveiled by NVIDIA today show how advanced graphics can be extended to a broader, more power-efficient set of devices. [...]

RTX has redefined the industry. We’re now investing in new platforms where we can deploy advanced graphics so gamers have more choice. The performance and energy efficiency of ARM CPUs with NVIDIA technologies can open an entirely new class of PCs. [...]

Both were demonstrated on an NVIDIA GeForce RTX 3060 GPU paired with a MediaTek Kompanio 1200 Arm processor. Wolfenstein: Youngblood uses the idTech game engine made by id Software, while The Bistro uses NVIDIA’s sample framework. (Source)

Probably not Intel’s favorite demos right now, but it’s neat to see ARM inserting itself in every crevice of computing and providing some competition to the legacy (x86) players…

Cloudflare’s State of the DDoS Union

This is probably way more than you’ve ever wanted to know about distributed denial-of-service attacks (basically flooding a site/service with so much bogus traffic that it can’t operate normally):

Towards the end, there’s a case study about a customer that Cloudflare protected from a MASSIVE DDoS. I mean, this just looks bonkers to me:

600 gigabits per second!

The DDoS attack comprised mostly TCP floods and UDP amplification attacks. In the graph, the various colors represent the multiple Cloudflare systems that contribute to detecting and mitigating the multi-vector attack — emphasising the value of our multi-layered DDoS approach.

Even as attack patterns changed in real-time, Magic Transit shielded Hypixel’s network. In fact, because all their clean traffic routed over Cloudflare’s high performing low-latency network, Hypixel’s users noticed no change in gamer experience — even during an active volumetric DDoS attack.

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The arts & History

☀️ A Chama Do Sol 🎶 🎧

I know absolutely nothing about this, except that by the last track, I had to add it to my music library and share it with you.

It’s from 1991 but could’ve been released 30 years earlier or 30 years later. Very timeless instrumental music with all kinds of interesting influences.

What first grabbed me is the instrumental cover of David Bowie’s Man Who Sold the World, but what sealed the deal is the last track, Clara Linda.

Here’s convenient links so you can hear for yourself, maybe it’ll brighten your day as it did mine:

Be warned that parts of some tracks are more challenging than others (a bit more intense and and less melodic), but feel free to just skip to the next one — don’t give up too quickly!

New ‘Dune’ Trailer

I watched 2/3 of it before thinking, I probably shouldn’t spoiler anything for myself since I know I’m going to watch this in IMAX anyway…

Up to you to decide if you want to see anything or not (but what I saw looked really cool).

I guess I’m fairly lucky that I’m not someone who tends to remember trailers in too much detail as I’m watching a film. When I’m fully into it, with suspended disbelief and everything, I don’t remember things from a trailer and still get surprised.