This week : Diversity in Tech, Human Progress, Isolation effects, Unity’s S1 teardown, Pivots, libraries and lending, Starbucks credit, Social Media and Section 230, video-commerce, super apps
I hope you all are doing well and welcome (if you aren’t new then again) to Dozen Worthy Reads. A newsletter where I talk about the most interesting things I read the past week or write about tech happenings. You can sign up here or just read on.
Starting off with tech … We hear so much about the problem of diversity in tech and I totally get it, but this problem is not just limited to tech. This list is otherwise an eye opening list.
Human progress makes me smile and I enjoyed this read on using 5g machinery to do heavy lifting. Like a video game and safer for the humans involved
Isolation effects are a thing and why it’s important to block out time every day to connect with others, whether through a socially distanced chat, telephone call or, at the very least, a thoughtful text or message.
Speaking of isolation trends .. here is one from the Visual Capitalist on the home fitness app trend …
Humor this week ..
Given that TikTok will uh might remain or uh might go still (the uncertainty is killing me), I was watching a few TikTok videos with a friend and this cat with the mission impossible theme song was so cool. I’m still laughing. TikTok has unlocked creativity at scale and yet at the same time limited it. Past success is not a guarantee of future performance. Here is how the algorithm works and if you see the the cat’s page (Bruno) it works the way the algo is described
Products this week
Super Mario Bros. Game & Watch: Nintendo brings back their original handheld system via @ProductHunt https://www.producthunt.com/posts/super-mario-bros-game-watch
Charts this week
Worthy Read’s this week
Good tear down of Unity’s S1, their product, biz model, and Dollar-Based Net Expansion Rate from Mario at The Generalist. S1 teardowns are a good way to analyze the company for the very first time as information becomes public and this taught me a lot I didn’t know about Unity (which was nothing at all anyway :))
We hear so much about pivots from every article that we read. Here is a good read on the myths of pivoting from Reid Hoffman. Little knowledge is indeed a dangerous thing.
Good read on how libraries are allowed to lend and CDL law. For-profit publishers obviously don’t like a buy one cycle many times offering but its legal under copyright law
Now Kahle finds himself on the other side of a lawsuit. The key issue in this one is the as-yet-untested legal theory of Controlled Digital Lending (CDL), which the Internet Archive and partner libraries have been working out over the last few years, in order to deal fairly with the new question of lending digitized books within the parameters of existing copyright law. CDL was designed to mirror the age-old library practice of (1) buying or otherwise acquiring a physical book, and (2) loaning it out to one patron at a time.
Like a traditional library, the Internet Archive buys or accepts donations of physical books. The archive scans its physical books, making one digital copy available for each physical book it owns. The digitized copies are then loaned out for a limited period, like a traditional library loan. The physical books from which the scans were made are stored and do not circulate, a practice known as “own-to-loan.”
Harvard copyright scholar and lawyer Kyle Courtney has explained this reasoning very clearly. “Libraries do not need permission or a license to loan those books that they have purchased or acquired,” he said at a recent conference. “Copyright law covers those exact issues.… Congress actually placed all of these specialized copyright exemptions for libraries in the Copyright Act itself.”
The for-profit publishers in the lawsuit, however, do not care for this idea. What they allege in the complaint is this: “Without any license or any payment to authors or publishers, IA [the Internet Archive] scans print books, uploads these illegally scanned books to its servers, and distributes verbatim digital copies of the books in whole via public-facing websites.”
What this ominous description fails to acknowledge is that all libraries that lend e-books “distribute verbatim digital copies of the books in whole via public-facing websites.” Yet the publishers claim later in the same document that they have no beef with regular libraries. They love libraries, they say (“Publishers have long supported public libraries, recognizing the significant benefits to the public of ready access to books and other publications”), and are “in partnership” with them: “This partnership turns upon a well-developed and longstanding library market, through which public libraries buy print books and license ebooks (or agree to terms of sale for ebooks) from publishers.”
I love Scott Galloway’s writing and this below one is a very cool way to think about how it is that human’s co-operate..
From : (Not So) Evil Stepmother
Most mammals will give their lives defending their offspring. What makes us human is not just opposable thumbs, but also our ability to cooperate. Cooperation draws on things that are uniquely human, like speech, culture, and long childhoods. One of the most noble forms of cooperation that advances the species is caring for those that aren’t biologically yours. I don’t enjoy my kids a lot of the time, and don’t enjoy others’ offspring most of the time. It’s a miracle people agree to love kids that don’t smell, look, or feel like them. Death, disease, and divorce leave a lot of kids in single-parent households, where the odds are markedly worse for the kids.
Starbucks : Your friendly neighborhood debtor to the tune of $1.6B. Same with any store gift card actually; debt free money if they can eke it out from you!
More generally, I think this calculation demonstrates how providing financial services to a retail customer base is a great business. Retail customers don’t seem to be too fussy about the return they get. And they are busy and distracted and sloppy and forgetful.
Social Media, Section 230 and how this has been leveraged by every.single.media company from Matt Stoller. The incentive to clean up their act are low and they are expensive
From the article: “Rumors Spread on Social Media…”
Section 230 was created at a time when people distinguished between the offline and online world. But today, it makes no sense to distinguish between internet services and the rest of the economy. Convergence isn’t happening, it has happened; Amazon owns warehouses and massive real estate holdings, Walmart has a thriving online marketplace, and Google and Facebook both operate large data centers and undersea cables.
On jobs, material wants, and the things we do for $. I have to say, I loved the honesty and so beautifully written and articulated!
But it is also probably true that little girls don’t grow up wanting to become “vice-president for real-time card payments.” Or “senior manager for content licensing.” Or anything with “talent development” or “HR” in the title. Don’t get me wrong, these jobs have their uses. If you are a good vice-president for real-time card payments, someone, somewhere will be paid in real time. And that is a cause for joy. But how many of us are stoical enough to be motivated by the vague image of a nameless, faceless customer we will never meet, and about whom, let’s be honest, we don’t really care, when we push open the door of our open-plan at nine in the morning and brace ourselves for 10 hours of drudgery?
The appeal of the material is very strong. But so will the rest of us one day regret living a manky, derivative life of office jobs and ignoring the fact that maybe there is something of Poe in each of us. Or perhaps there’ll be the Sixth Age of Men — the Digital Age — in which AI will feed us as the land once did.
Commerce is changing. No wait scratch that …changed in many parts of the world. Read this article from Turner Novak on Pinduoduo about how Pinduoduo is killing it in China. The war for TikTok, the fact that Walmart put their ring in the hat .. All this is related to video commerce and the evolution of how we shop. Serendipity first. The internet has always anonymized the supply chain. Who cared who the seller was right? Well now we do and that is one more reason that “video first” commerce is gaining ground. The online buy local movement. It is early stages for the US but it is nevertheless going to happen
In the US, advertising has long been the established monetization model for video creators. But as YouTubers duke it out for ad revenue, it’s becoming increasingly difficult for new influencers to make a living. As evidenced by Chinese platforms like Taobao, Kwai, and Douyin, video apps present a compelling alternative to monetize content, sell products, and reach viewers directly.
In the future, as more apps become super apps, “click to purchase” will be ubiquitous. But the potential of short video extends far beyond straightforward transactions into the marketing and discovery phase, showcasing craftsmanship, tutorials, and product tests, and more. A 2018 survey found that 85 percent of millennials in the US reported buying a product or service after watching a video. As video apps launch native shops and integrate with third-party platforms, that statistic is likely to rise.
From Alex Danco on Gift culture
The dark side of self control. Have too much self control? Not always a good thing
The “players” of La Zone Xtrême showed a very similar pattern of behaviours — only on a much larger scale. The experiment was inspired by Stanley Milgram’s controversial experiments in the 1960s, which had tested whether participants would be willing to torture another person with electric shocks in the name of science. Milgram’s experiment was taken to show people’s unflinching obedience to authority — but the French researchers wanted to know which kinds of personalities were most susceptible. They found that the participants with higher self-control (as measured through a test of conscientiousness) were willing to dish out around 100 volts more to their partner in the game — to the point that their partner fell silent, feigning unconsciousness or death.
Sustainably differentiated lending.
I’ve long held the belief that, to build a lending business that is differentiated and sustainable, you need at least 3 of 4 things:
- Pre-income servicing: a way for the lender to get paid synchronously with, or before the borrower.
- Proprietary data that others don’t have, that helps predict: (more useful) the borrower’s ability to pay, and (less useful) the borrower’s willingness to pay,
- Lower cost of borrower acquisition than competitors lending to that same borrower
- Lower cost of capital than competitors lending to that same borrower. This enables the lender to profitably lend to the same borrowers at lower interest rates than competitors expand margins by lending to the same customers at par vs. competitors
Super Apps around the world : We already know this has happened in China with Alibaba and Tencent. The same is definitely happening in India with Reliance, Tata, Amazon, Google, and Walmart all gunning for a share. Why will this be successful in India? Quite simple really … Indian people are used to LOTS being thrown at them in general and Indian websites are crowded. People are used to this
Thank you for reading, stay safe, be well!