203: Twitter's Bad Move, Invest like Buffett does M&A, Upstart, S&P Global & IHS Markit, Nvidia & ARM, Obsidian, James Clear, Chip Shortage, and Drone Attacks


The good things in life cost what they cost. The unnecessary things are not worth it at any price.

—Ryan Holiday

✍️ As a writer, feedback from a reader who's judgement/taste I trust is invaluable.

⚙️ *Everything* you see that works is just temporarily not broken.

🐦 What a small world, thanks to the interest graph! (I know you’re getting tired of hearing of it by now, but some big ideas spill into everything else…). In edition #202, I wrote about Twitter’s character limit change from 140 to 280.

I heard back from reader Umang Jaipuria who worked at Twitter at the time and was involved with that change. He shared with me a couple of blog posts about it, and this graph stood out to me:

For English, 140 characters was quite restrictive, but for Japanese, where the information-density per character is much higher, it wasn’t, so the impact was felt very differently depending on the language.

🐧 I recently participated in a Twitter space hosted by supporter Adam Mead (💚 🥃), and it reminded me of an old plan I had to try hosting a space to see what happens… Or maybe do a group Zoom call for paid supporters? 🤔

🛀 Which company will be the first to sell metacoins in the cryptoverse?

🤔 Friend of the show Liviam Capital asked a very simple, but very profound question on Twitter:

What are you doing today to set yourself up for success in 5 years?

After thinking about it for a moment, my answer was:

Trying to learn every day, sleep well, stay healthy, add value to as many people as I can, have good relationships. Stuff like that.

But it’s worth thinking about it some more, and not only once, but periodically.

For practical reasons — you’re more likely to hit a target if you’re conscious about it and deliberately improve your tactics and strategy — but also because it may help refocus your lens from the short to the long-term.

It’s also a good way to reduce hyperbolic discounting a bit, and care more about future-me 👨‍🚀 (if you don’t get this reference, you can read what I wrote about past-me 👨‍🌾, present-me 🤪, and future-me 👨‍🚀 in edition #143).

📝 Obsidian graph update. Still growing nicely:

For more of my thoughts about my note-taking software and personal knowledge management systems, check out this mini-podcast I did.

🍳 🥩 I wrote about getting a cast iron grill pan in edition #202. Here’s what my first time with it looked like:

Tasted great, but I think I was a bit shy with it, I could’ve driven it even hotter for the searing. The steak is from Ottawa Valley Farms (local, grass-fed, free range, no hormones or antibiotics, etc).

💚 🥃 We’re now at 4.66% of subscribers supporting this project with a few $. Getting closer to my original goal of 5%.

If we reach it, I’ll have to find some special content to release and set a new more ambitious goal. You can do your part, it’s quick and inexpensive:

💙 Subscribe now 💙

Investing & Business

Where I say not-so-nice things about Twitter…

I was complimentary of Twitter in the last edition, but today I want to give Twitter a piece of my mind about their latest big mobile app redesign.

They thought it would be a good idea to make *every* image in the timeline *full-width*, which means that they also takes a lot more vertical space and… there’s no space anymore for anything other than images.

I have an iPhone 12 Pro. With Twitter Classic (is this their New Coke?), I had plenty of vertical space to see 4-6 tweets on the same screen, maybe 3 if they had images.

With the new version, well, see for yourself:

Is this Instagram envy?

This is a baaaaad move because there’s always going to be way more images I don’t want to see full screen than the number that I do want to zoom into, so it’s a much better trade-off to tap once in a while than to *constantly have to scroll way more* to see the same quantity of content.

If Twitter insists on keeping this, at least make it optional with a toggle somewhere, like the algorithmic timeline vs the reverse-chronological order timeline.

Those who use Twitter like Instagram and mostly follow visual accounts will be happy, and the rest of us who like to dip into the collective-brain-firehose won’t feel like we have to scroll a mile to get anywhere. kthxkayvon

Invest like Buffett does M&A

If you see your portfolio as a conglomerate of businesses that you own, buying and selling becomes different.

There’s no rush, no pressure for activity and churn, no need to go for marginal ideas or things you don’t see yourself sticking with for a while.

In Praise of Accounting (wait, what?!)

Friend-of-the-show and Exra-Deluxe supporter Byrne Hobart (💚💚💚💚💚 🥃) made a really insightful point here (sub $ required):

One underrated but important driver of human behavior is accounting. Accounting makes the difference between something being a theoretical concern and being a target that can be optimized for and traded off against different goals. One of the reasons companies seem to display more agency than other organizations is that they are required to keep accurate books, and structured to maximize particular variables. A nonprofit or a government agency can do many things that feel like they're making a difference, but nobody in the mining business ever got rich by "raising awareness" of copper instead of digging it up and selling it for a return that meets or exceeds the cost of capital.1 Accountants have played a significant role in determining which side of the worth-it line companies fall on for a long time. [...]

soon enough, accounting standards used in 140 jurisdictions will incorporate standardized metrics for measuring emissions. Accounting creates the kind of legibility that governments love and rely on; rules about taxes, imports and exports, IP usage, and treatment of employees are infeasible to enforce without consistent standards, and rules about emissions fall into the same category. [...]

Right now, an iron miner selling to China can quite honestly say that while they'd prefer that Chinese steel mills didn't use energy-inefficient processes, their hands are tied. But if they're required to report Scope 3 emissions—the ones from their customers using their product, not just from their own operations—and if they're going to get taxed based on them, those inefficiencies start to hit their bottom line.

It’s the old “what gets measured gets managed”, which is why it’s so important — despite all the flaws of ESG — to put a lot of things that used to be “externalized” to society on the books of specific groups of people that are close enough to things to do something about them.

Cedric Chin on Complexity

Friend-of-the-show Cedric Chin (👋 🇸🇬) has an interesting piece about the book Complexity by M. Mitchell Waldrop, which explores the concept of complex adaptive systems narratively through the creation of the The Santa Fe Institute:

Here is one worldview implied by a complex adaptive system: you cannot predict what will happen in the future. History is like traffic: even tiny events might snowball into world wars. This is perhaps blandly obvious to you, as it might be to anyone who has read their fair share of history.

But here’s the kicker to that worldview: “… and therefore you must learn to act without prediction.

That’s the hard part. The human brain is a prediction machine.

It’s easier to make predictions than not to make them.

So there’s a lot to learn and there’s a lot to unlearn.

Let’s say that you want to start a company. “I have a vision of the future and I will do everything possible to turn that vision into reality” is one narrative that is available to the startup founder. Another, similar one is “I think X is a huge trend, I will exploit this opportunity in the market by starting a company that does Y, which is related to X.”

Both narratives are common in retellings of entrepreneurship. But it’s questionable if they are truly reflective of the kinds of thinking that entrepreneurs use in execution. In fact, both narratives demand a narrow view of the future to come true in order to work. Contrast this with the following type of reasoning: “I’m going to go after X. There’s something there that’s interesting that I can’t place. I can’t predict how I’m going to win right now, but I think that if I start with what I have, make bets that won’t kill me, and adapt quickly to whatever I uncover during the course of execution, I will be able to shape the future as part of a complex adaptive system.”

The former is ‘causal reasoning’, which is taught in MBA classes; the latter is ‘effectual reasoning’, which appears to be what entrepreneurial thinking is actually made of

Good stuff.

I’ve added the book to my reading list (which is growing faster than its shrinking, so I’ll never go through it all unless we do develop rejuvenation therapies and cures for the diseases of aging… as if we needed more motivation for that).

Interview: Dave Girouard, Upstart co-founder

I enjoyed this interview by Patrick O’Shaughnessy. I don’t know much about the space of consumer loans and credit scores and all that, but a lot of what Girouard said makes sense to me — a very old industry that is using old ways of doing things being slowly (anything regulated is going to move 🐢) being dragged into the 21st century via machine-learning AI models, etc.

There’s a line that was particularly striking:

my co-founder also says is 90% of the interest paid in this world is entirely unnecessary.

S&P Global Gets Approval for IHS Markit Merger ($44bn)

Business information provider S&P Global Inc (SPGI.N) and IHS Markit Ltd (INFO.N) have won U.S. antitrust approval for their planned merger, on condition it sell some businesses and scrap a non-compete agreement with GasBuddy, the Justice Department said in a statement.

To win approval for the deal, the companies agreed to sell three of IHS Markit's price reporting agency (PRA) businesses. The department said the businesses are: Oil Price Information Services (OPIS); Coals, Metals, and Mining (CMM); and PetrochemWire (PCW).

The businesses will be bought by News Corp (NWSA.O) under a $1.15 billion deal reached in August (Source)

That’s neat, but there’s a different 40-billion-dollar merger that I’m more curious about…

… ‘Nvidia £30 billion takeover of ARM faces national security inquiry’

Why would control by a US company be worse for national security than control by a Japanese company? ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

Ladies and Gentlemen, the teleco of the future:

*chef’s kiss*

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Science & Technology

Interview: James Clear, on habits (forming them, breaking them, reinforcing them, creating identity around them)

I really enjoyed James Clear’s book ‘Atomic Habits’.

He’s a clear (ha!) thinker and has a real ability to articulate ideas in ways that make them more powerful than if the same concept had been turned into words by a lesser craftsman.

This conversation with Peter Attia is almost like re-reading the book, which is great because like with many things, the concepts are fairly simple, but not easy to apply, and not easy to keep in mind over time.

So a refresh is very valuable (and if you haven’t read the book, maybe this will be your trigger to do so later, and it’ll be the book that refreshes and reinforces what you learned in the podcast).

At one point, James says something like:

Goals are for people who care about winning once. Systems are for those who want to win over and over again.

Of course, this is music to my ears, because I enjoy thinking about systems… But it also matches my experience.

Chip Shortage

A power-controlling integrated circuit used in many products that once cost $1 can now sell for as much as $150, says Josh Pucci, a vice president at Sourceability, which matches electronics component buyers to sellers. [...]

There’s a lot of new chip-making capacity in the works, but most of it will go to leading-edge chips. Gartner issued a report in January that predicts chipmakers will invest $146 billion in new capacity this year, up 50 percent from 2019, but only a small share will be for older, more commonly used chips. (Source)

Explosive-carrying-drone attack on Iraq’s Prime Minister

Iraqi Prime Minister Mustafa al-Kadhimi escaped unharmed in an assassination attempt by armed drone in Baghdad on Sunday [...]

Six members of Kadhimi's personal protection force stationed outside his residence in the Green Zone were wounded [...]

Three drones were used in the attack, including two that were intercepted and downed by security forces while a third drone hit the residence [...]

Remains of a small explosive-laden drone used in the attack were retrieved by security forces to be investigated (Source)

The Arts & History

Max Richter Recomposing Vivaldi’s Four Seasons

Ok, trust me on this one. Just listen to Spring 1, and Winter 1 from this album where composer Max Richter (who’s scoring work for TV and film you may have heard) ‘recomposes’ Vivaldi’s iconic work:

Although Richter said that he had discarded 75 percent of Vivaldi's original material, the parts he does use are phased and looped, emphasising his grounding in postmodern and minimalist music.

(Summer 3 is also rockin’, but I can’t link ‘em all)

If you want more beautiful Richter, check out the composition “On the Nature of Daylight”, which is the one that was used by Denis Villeneuve in ‘Arrival’ during that scene that made you cry in the theater. Yes, that one.

Getting Married? Here’s an Idea…

That's a lazy Susan the books are sitting on, so anyone could spin it around and read the titles The book centerpieces doubled as conversation-starters -- encouraging people to visit other tables and see the other picks -- as well as wedding favors