270: Amazon Buy with Prime, Risk, Elon Musk + Twitter, Pseudonymity, Advertising Slice of US GDP, Oceanic Shipping Lanes, Ray Traced Doom, and Graphic Novels
"What does it mean to take risks for a living?"
Progress is impossible without change; and those who cannot change their minds cannot change anything.
—George Bernard Shaw
🤪 Self-selection filters:
Sometimes, the craziest claims by a nutty group are a way to filter out people who are not gullible enough to believe the rest of what they’re selling. So insanity about 5G mind-control, astrology hocus-pocus, and microchips in vaccines can serve that purpose.
If you are immediately turned away by such things, this is the system working as intended because they avoid wasting time and energy on you. The people who remain and go “hmm, interesting, tell me more” are the real target audience for recruitment.
🐦 Searching for an old tweet, I stumbled on this one and think it’s probably worth bumping up:
⚡️🤔 Looking at the electric stove in my kitchen, I wonder how many kilowatt-hours of energy have passed through it since I’ve owned it (10+ years).
I wonder if it’s more or less than the embedded energy contained in all the materials (mining, refining, manufacturing the parts, assembly, and shipping it). I would guess more, but with low certainty (I’d have much higher certainty for my house’s furnace, for example).
🐦 Pseudonymity has the great, underrated benefit of fostering meritocracy:
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I like free stuff as much as the next person, but when I like something, I also want it to continue and be sustainable:
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Amazon: First SAAS, Now LAAS (Logistics as a Services)? 🚚 📦📦
The API’fication of Amazon continues:
Buy with Prime will allow millions of U.S.-based Prime members to shop directly from merchants’ online stores with the trusted experience they expect from Amazon—including fast, free delivery, a seamless checkout experience, and free returns on eligible orders. Prime members will see the Prime logo and delivery promise on eligible products in merchants’ online stores, which signals the item is available for free delivery, as fast as next day, with free returns. When shopping with Buy with Prime, checkout is simple and convenient. Prime members will use the payment and shipping information stored in their Amazon account and receive timely shipping and delivery notifications after an order is placed.
If I was shopping for something on some small independent DTC seller’s website and they had a ‘Buy with Prime’ button on the checkout page, I’d definitely click on it.
It’s a known quantity
I know what will happen, no need to fiddle with credit card information, I’ll get a brown cardboard box at my door quickly and reliably, and I know that if it came to that, returning items wouldn’t be too much of an ordeal (unlike with some retailers). That’s hard to compete with…
Trying to address some of the expected pushback about losing the direct relationship with customers.
There’s plenty of DTC sellers who won’t want to have *anything* to do with Amazon, and this may not change that (though I bet that for some who were kind of on the fence, this may push them over the edge).
But there’s also a lot of merchants who need all the help they can get and already use Amazon as one of multiple channels (including their own DTC Shopify-based website). Integrating further with Prime on their checkout page may not be much of a leap since they’re already in the Amazon ecosystem, especially if it increases their conversion (a lot of sales get abandoned on the checkout page).
Amazon will be rolling it out through 2022, first by invitation/waitlist for merchants already using FBA, then to other merchants, including those “not selling on Amazon or using FBA” (so this isn’t just a FBA add-on — it’s a full-blown horizontal product!).
In a way, it’s kind of the revenge of Amazon Pay, but evolved into a Pokémon that is much more competitive with Shop Pay, because it’s bundled with FBA & Prime. It’s easier to ignore Amazon Pay because there are good alternatives that are functionally very similar (or better). But what are the alternatives to Amazon’s logistics? ¯\_(ツ)_/¯
Amazon Subscription Services 🚀🌙
Friend-of-the-show Alex Morris: “[Amazon] subscription services [revenues] up ~5x over the past 5 years. For context, [Costco] FY21 membership fees were ~$3.9 billion.”
Elon Musk considering a tender offer for Twitter 🐦 🦅
Do I even need to mention this? You’ve seen it. Everyone has seen it. ‘Funding secured’. I don’t have much to say about it — let’s wait and see…
📈📉📈 Taking risks for a living 💸
What does it mean to take risks for a living?
It’s a spectrum, of course, nobody takes zero risk. But I feel like those who are on the ‘safer’ end of the spectrum generally don’t have a real, visceral understanding of what it means to be on the other end, and it often causes a disconnect with those that do.
My friends with jobs know that their salary this year will be $x.
Maybe a little more thanks to a bonus or a raise, but probably not less. Unless something catastrophic happens, it's not going to be zero, or negative $x.
That's a *big* difference.
People may get envious when you have a good year in the market or your startup is getting traction, but they're glad to have safety when things turn the other way.
The price paid to get to the good times is mostly hidden from outsiders.
Advertising in the US as % of GDP, sliced by medium
Ben Evans: “where [will] the growth for internet advertising will come from next[?] The obvious answer is television: print is mostly already gone, but ‘TV’ viewing is now finally unlocking, with US pay TV subscriptions now down by over a third. UK 16-34s now watch more subscription streaming than all broadcaster content combined.”
Mapping the world's shipping lanes
I think the Panama canal looks kind of cool on this, like a bunch of Matrix-strings getting pinched through a tiny bottleneck opening...
🧪🔬 Liberty Labs 🧬 🔭
🕯💀🔦 Doom + Ray Tracing 😯
The *one* video game that defines my early teen years is Doom by id Software.
I spent countless hours playing it, solo and with friends (LAN parties in my parents’ basement, with everyone bringing their computers so we could make a local network while eating pizza pockets). I created my own maps, and fiddled with all kinds of mods, it was great!
Once in a while in recent years, I play through some of the amazing modern maps running on the now open-source engine that has been updated for modern graphics and controls, and to remove limitations (maps can now be enormous, have sloped floors, multi-levels, all kinds of new scripted set-pieces, etc).
Over the past few days, I played through the I.H.N.I. mod/episode and it was better than most professional games. Really well-designed, fun maps, great gameplay, lots of custom art.
The video above shows a version of the engine that uses Nvidia’s RTX tech to do ray tracing, and it’s very interesting to see how this kind of more realistic lighting changes the game (which wasn’t designed for it, so it doesn’t quite work everywhere).
🤖 Amazon releases ‘MASSIVE’ multi-language AI training dataset
The MASSIVE database is what’s known as a “parallel dataset,” meaning that each of the utterances within it are given in all 51 languages it supports, including many obscure ones that lack labeled data to enable AI training. [...]
The approach is known as massively multilingual natural language understanding, a paradigm that allows AI models to parse and understand inputs from many typologically diverse languages. By learning shared data representations that span multiple languages, AI models can transfer knowledge from languages where training data is abundant, to those in which data is scarce, Amazon explained.
Very cool. Natural language models shouldn’t be available to just a few of the more common languages.
The database. contains 1 million realistic, parallel, labeled virtual assistant text utterances that span 51 languages, 18 domains, 60 intents and 55 slots. It was created by professional translators who were tasked with translating or localizing the English language dataset into 50 typologically diverse languages from 29 genera, including many low-resource languages. (Source)
Amazon has made this dataset available in its GitHub repository.
🎨 🎭 Liberty Studio 👩🎨 🎥
🧙♂️ ⚔️ 🧟♀️ Looking for more good kids’ books (enjoyable for an 8-year-old) 📚 🔱
In edition #268, I wrote about how my son and I really enjoyed the graphic novel ‘Lightfall: The Girl and the Galdurian’ (book 1) by Tim Probert.
While we wait for book 2 to be released in a few days, I looked for other well-reviewed graphic novels that my 8yo kid may like, and got them from the public library.
Once we’ve had a chance to read them, I’ll let you know if any of these are good enough to make the cut:
Amulet by Kazu Kibuishi
Hilda and the Troll by Luke Pearson
5 World: The sand warrior (book 1) by Mark Siegel
On the Edge of the Dark Sea of Darkness (The Wingfeather Saga #1) by Andrew Peterson.
To be clear, I’m not recommending them — we haven’t read them yet. But maybe you’ll want to read along…