Discover more from Liberty’s Highlights
237: My Son has COVID, Microsoft's Growth, Amazon Primed, Semiconductors, Gorillas and Tornadoes, Flexport, Nintendo, EVs, and Starlink Premium
"the book is now apparently a best-selling for kids in Egypt"
She told me the world was made of stories, nothing else, just stories, and stories about stories.
🤒 Yesterday, my 3yo son tested positive for COVID19 (antigen test). He’s feeling mostly fine now, but yesterday we suspected he had a stomach bug because he threw up suddenly at the diner table… Took a test just in case, and ‘surprise! 🎈🥳 it’s covid!’
I knew it was only a matter of time until we were exposed — even Delta was contagious enough to ensure that, but with Omicron… — now I’m just curious about the rest of the family. Will neutralizing antibodies from the vaccine be able to kick this thing’s ass before we have any symptoms, or will we feel like crap for a few days. Stay tuned!
🧠 I’ve long been fascinated by the subjective experience of various non-human species for senses/capabilities that we don’t have.
By that I mean, how does echo-location (aka sonar) “feel” to a bat, whale, or dolphin?
How does the sense of smell of a dog “look” subjectively? (I’m using visual metaphors because their sense of smell is so much more developed than ours that the sensory input and processing is probably more akin to our sense of vision than our sense of smell..)
Some migrating birds can apparently find their way by following the Earth’s magnetic fields, almost like having a compass in your brain. How do these birds perceive those magnetic fields?
How about insects? How does a Monarch butterfly knows how to migrate thousands of kilometers in a certain direction, through high winds and thunderstorms, without getting lost, and knows when it has arrived..? How does such a limited brain “feel” that it is on the right path?
It’s fascinating to me. I’m sure there’s potential for some cool VR games that could simulate all kinds of non-human sensorial stuff.
🐦 When it comes to curation (ie. who you follow on Twitter, what blogs/newsletter you read, etc), the upfront effort in curation/selection/pruning only seems like a lot of work until you consider the cost of the alternative…
In that light, it seems like a huge bargain!
🐧 Speaking of the strange bird: To me, the canary in the coal-mine to show that Twitter is truly changing will be when/if they upgrade DMs to have table-stakes functionality vs any other messaging platform (threaded replies, searching archives, pinning conversations, mark as unread, more security, emoji picker for reactions rather than limited to a few, etc).
If a company with 5,500 employees can't make ANY improvements to one of the central features of its platform for like a decade, it's still very dysfunctional.
Twitter DMs should be competitive with Whatsapp and iMessage, not ICQ and AIM.
I think it was Ben Thompson (💚 🥃 🎩) who said it (I may be misremembering), but it's a huge failure for Twitter that almost every DM thread ends with people exchanging usernames on some other platform to continue the conversation in a better venue...
If I was product manager for DMs at Twitter, on day one I would say: "Go make a list of every good feature from every other messaging app. Let's form a team of 25 people and build a working prototype. Once we’ve got something we like, let's spend whatever resources we need to implement it to the production site."
Is there even a PM in charge of DMs at Twitter? Can anyone detect *anything* that they've been doing in the past 5 years?
🧩 Update on my board game adventures. I borrowed a few from a couple of friends. This is my haul so far:
The 7yo quite likes Kingdomino and Dixit, the two we’ve had a chance to try so far. The train one is the french version of ‘Ticket to Ride’.
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Investing & Business
Microsoft Quarterly Revenue Growth since 1985
Over the last three quarters, Microsoft has grown its top line by 20%. The last time this happened was in 1999 when its revenue was 1/10th of what it is today. And all of it, well, 38% of it, is flowing through to their bottom line. It’s hard to overstate how unthinkable this was a decade ago.
With Azure still growing in the high-40s and becoming an ever larger part of the business, we may see this continue for a while longer.
Semi-101 (50.5? 🤨)
Stephen Nellis had a good thread to announce his return to The Information to cover semiconductors, giving a good overview of why the space is so important and dynamic right now:
For both major companies and nation states, chips are about the one of the rawest forms of power: the ability to control your own destiny. Why has Amazon Web Services been designing its own chips? Why did the U.S. choose chips as the way to try to hurt China's Huawei?
Because chip supply is among the most powerful forms of economic and technological leverage that currently exists, and both AWS and global governments know it. Detroit is now learning the same lesson, painfully.
At the same time, several trends are changing the chip industry as it has operated in the past. The hyperscalers - Amazon, Apple, Microsoft, Google and Meta - have become significant fabless chip companies. New fabs are geopolitical stories. Export controls are tightening.
And we're on the precipice of a generational change in the chip industry, both in terms of technologies (Arm in PC/data center, RISC-V, specific ISAs for AI) and leadership (new CEOs at major players and a raft of interesting startups and execs who will be tomorrow's leaders).
And with AI helping pull down the cost and time of chip design to better align it with software design cycles, a ton of innovation is about to become unlocked - more companies, not fewer, are going to find it advantageous to do their own designs.
All of this calls for a fresh way of covering semis that focuses less on speeds and feeds and more on how chips power products and strategies.
This made me think, I wonder if Nvidia without ARM would have bigger incentives to invest and create products around RISC-V chips 🤔
Some things *do* change…
Amazon increases the price of Prime Membership to $139/year
…and most Prime members didn’t even know what they were paying until they saw that news item ¯\_(ツ)_/¯
The thing to remember with these price increases is, how was the value increased? If the price goes up 17%, but the value goes up more than that, it may be an extremely sustainable pace (ie. Shipping is now faster than a few years ago, wider selection, more and better shows on Prime TV, more albums on Amazon Music, whatever).
If you want an overview of their Q4 earnings, check out this thread by my friend MBI (💎🐕).
Interview: Geoffrey Moore, Gorillas and Tornadoes 🦍🌪
The terms sound a bit like those joke movies — Snakes on a Plane or Sharknado — but the metaphors to think about how business ‘cross the chasm’ are seriously useful.
This was good stuff, and as Patrick says, it’s all even more impressive when you consider that Moore wrote his influential book before the web.
Interview: Ben Braverman, Chief Customer Officer at Flexport
This was an interesting one by Delian Asparouhov.
Ever since randomly listening to an interview with Ryan Peterson years ago, I’ve been keeping an eye on this company because I think they’re doing important-hard things in a very smart way, and the world needs more companies like them bringing digital benefits to old-world atoms industries that run on post it notes and email attachments.
Operators Ep 31: Ben Braverman (Flexport) (audio + full transcript available)
There’s a hilarious bit near the end where Ben talks about how Ryan wrote and had illustrated a children’s book about the ship that was blocking the Suez canal in a couple weeks — title: The Big Ship and the Little Digger — and the book is now apparently a best-selling for kids in Egypt. What a world we live in!
Reminds me of ‘Stinky and Dirty’ on Amazon Prime TV.
The Nintendo Switch has now outsold the Wii (103m+ units)
The Switch had a relatively strong holiday quarter, with 10.67 million units shipped between October and December despite the global semiconductor shortage. That brings the system’s lifetime total to 103.54 million units shipped, meaning it took just under five years to overtake the Wii’s 101.63 million.
This is a console that came out in March 2017, or almost exactly 4 years ago, and even at the time it was considered under-powered compared to its “serious” rivals.
Sometimes, it’s not just about speeds & feeds, triangles & shaders, but about owning a certain niche of fun.
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Science & Technology
‘Electric cars coming in 2022, a record year for EV launches’
If like me, you’re curious to know what’s on the near horizon, this video gives an overview of ‘22 slate.
‘23 and 1/2 hours: What is the single best thing we can do for our health?’ 🚶🏻♂️
I had seen this video years ago, and was recently reminded of it by friend-of-the-show Nick (🔐). The exact numbers don’t matter quite as much as the general principle…
SpaceX Starlink Premium 💎 📡 🛰🛰🛰🛰🛰🛰🛰
It’s not just a rectangular antenna to match the aesthetics of the Cybertruck:
the new service includes a larger high performance antenna and advertises speeds of between 150 and 500Mbps (20 to 40ms latency), up from the 50 to 250Mbps (20 to 40ms latency) promised by its regular service. Premium also claims roughly double the upload speeds at 20 to 40Mbps, compared to 10 to 20Mbps for the standard tier.
While the base Starlink service costs $499 for the hardware and $99 a month, Starlink Premium will cost $2,500 for the antenna, and $500 a month. Deliveries are due to start in the second quarter of this year. There’s also a $500 deposit to reserve a Premium dish.
Look at where the puck is going, not where it is…, AI Edition
Here’s one about AlphaCode by Deepmind learning to write code for competitions.
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The Arts & History
CGI SFX’s Uncanny Valley
I’ve posted a few times about computer-generated special-effects for movies lately.
Here’s an interesting take by Erik Hoel:
He goes *a lot* farther than I would in his dislike for pretty much anything CGI post-2000, and I think there’s a lot of survivorship bias going on when comparing newer films to older ones (ie. we take old classics that have aged well and compare them to weaker newer films.. ie Matrix vs its sequels), but there’s also a lot of truth in the argument that CGI is being asked to do too much, or to do things that it can’t quite do well yet.
We just tend to forget how crappy old effects were *on average* back then too…
Like a lot of things, it’s not about the tools, it’s about the taste and skill of those using them. I feel like there’s a huge difference between how Villeneuve or Nolan uses SFX and, say, Michael Bay or Marvel. 🦸🏻♂️