Half-Baked: Index Investing and Divesting

A while back, I started thinking about putting some savings in a broad-based index fund, and I compared various brokerage providers. I was surprised to learn about one of Wealthfront’s features, which other players did not offer: direct indexing. Continue reading...

Outside Lands, again (again)

Outside Lands, again (again)

Outside Lands has become one of those San Francisco events that I look forward to all year for the opportunity to take portraits. Thousands of happy people pour into Golden Gate park for a weekend of music and fun. It is kind of crazy that this is my fourth time there.

Somehow, I took 1300 photos over the weekend, so curating and editing them was an impossible task. If you know I took your photo, and you can’t see it here, reach out and I’ll send you a copy.

You might have seen my 2015 and 2016 sets already, but if not, I definitely recommend it after you’re done with these! More...

Links - August 10, 2017

  • The End of Typing: The Next Billion Mobile Users Will Rely on Video and Voice
    Eric Bellman - The Wall Street Journal

    My experience of technology, and that of most readers of this blog, is one predicated on high speed access, tens, if not hundreds of gigabytes of storage, and last generation processors paired with large amounts of memory. How does the internet work when “fast” means you’re streaming over 2G? What do your apps store when the drive on your phone holds only a couple of gigs? How do you find content your when you’re illiterate? This article doesn’t try (and can’t!) answer these questions, but provides data and anecdotes of why they are questions worth asking.

  • Our Broken Economy, in One Simple Chart
    David Leonhardt - The New York Times

    That’s trickle down economics for you. Not only is the US economy growing at a slower rate, but it is also growing extremely unequally. Intuitively, these curves should have negative slopes - it is much easier to find an opportunity to grow $100 into $102 than to turn $1M into $1.02M - so what changed in this complex system that lead us to the current state? Rules over wealth and wages are diverging more and more.

  • The Fallacy of Biological Determinism
    Albert Wenger - Continuations

    I have tried to avoid the discussion about the Google memo from last week, so I have read very few articles (and sadly way too many tweets) on the topic. I know I disagree with the author, and reading N think pieces won’t change that, so I’ve tried to shut it off. However, I read almost every post on Continuations, and Albert’s take seems like a sober response: we have overcome economic, historical and technological determinism, so it seems logical that even if the biological determinism implied by Damore (the memo’s author) were real, we could overcome them with… wait for it… technology!

  • GAFA's org structures as a platform for growth
    Benedict Evans

    Organizational behavior is insane. Moving thousands of people towards a common goal is hard, and I hadn’t thought about how insane this 10x personnel increase that Evans brings up is. You should listen to the related podcast, and if you haven’t read Sinofsky’s Functional versus Unit Organizations, you should probably do that first.

  • Modern American elites have come to favour inconspicuous consumption
    The Economist

    This article argues that “modern American elites recoiled from accumulating mere goods now that globalisation has made them affordable to the middle class” and are instead now spending their money inconspicously - buying experiences, and high social value items instead. I don’t know if I buy the argument, but I guess I’ll have to read the book. I have also been meaning to read Veblen for a while, but that’s a bit denser.

  • Fewer Immigrants Mean More Jobs? Not So, Economists Say
    Binyamin Appelbaum - The New York Times

    Usually I am biased when talking about economics, but this argument wouldn’t help me anyway. Letting low skill workers come in help the US, too, as they generate business and grow the pie for everyone else. It’s not a zero sum game.

  • English language and American solipsism
    Branko Milanovic - globalinequality

    Is it good for your country that everyone else speaks your language, and that the majority of the population can virtually ignore what’s going on outside its borders? I’ve always argued that it is not. Branko agrees with me. The average American is isolated in their culture. Relatedly, if they can’t find things on maps, they’re less likely to want to use diplomacy as a solution. That’s bad.

  • The Eddie Murphy Rule (Podcast)
    Planet Money

    Among other things, this made me think of the opening chapter of Flash Boys, and how the crazy floors of stock and commodity exchanges are not what they used to be. Now I want to go watch Trading Places. (Also, Roman Mars on Planet Money? More of that, please.)

  • The Stethoscope (Podcast)
    99% Invisible

    Speaking of Roman Mars… I think this episode represents well what I like so much about his podcast. A mix between a history class (who invented the Stethoscope?), a design review (how can you improve upon the original rolled up notebook?), modern culture (why do doctors wear their stethoscopes around their shoulders?), and a bunch of interesting interviews. Worth the 20 minutes.

  • City maps from tourists’ feelings
    Beñat Arregi

    Using Airbnb ratings to visualize a visitor’s experience of a city is an interesting idea. Understanding neighborhoods, and social problems (just look at the Tenderloin in the SF visualization!)

Half-Baked: Streaming and Public Commons

Last time I went to the library to pick up a book, I noticed a man next to me getting a stack of DVDs. Given the context, my assumption was that this guy probably doesn’t pay for a streaming service, and that he probably couldn’t afford it, either. People like him, rely on the library to get entertainment and education. This encounter made me think about how technology affects libraries and other public commons. Continue reading...

Links - August 04, 2017

  • Bitcoin Exchange Had Too Many Bitcoins
    Matt Levine - Bloomberg

    Last night my cousin asked me, “wait, so I heard bitcoin split, how does that work?” to which I replied, “it is not quite a split,” and pointed him to this article. The implications of value creation via new blockchains, and how that value affects the pre-existing base is something I had not thought about until now. It might be that inflation in the world of crypto comes from the creation of new chains. A lot of thinking to do about this. Also recommended, Levine’s follow-up “Bitcoin Forks and Unicorn Fakes”. In general, I’ve been enjoying Levine’s writing a lot lately.

  • How BuzzFeed’s Tasty Conquered Online Food
    Farhad Manjoo - The New York Times

    I absolutely hate Buzzfeed’s super optimized methods to grab my attention, and knowing that’s the goal I try to avoid their non-investigative content. However, Tasty is a great idea, and it is very well executed. I probably have burned hours of my life looking at their cooking videos, and yet not once have I tried one of their recipes (even though I cook almost every day!). There is just something about melting cheese oozing out or chocolate drizzling that makes you want to keep watching.

  • Millennials Unearth an Amazing Hack to Get Free TV: the Antenna
    Ryan Knutson - The Wall Street Journal

    I wonder how much of an actual trend this is. I haven’t paid for cable since I moved to the US, but I also have no interest in local TV, and I don’t think any of my friends do either. Yes, yes, we’re not representative, blah blah, but still. The craziest thing about this is people’s reaction to the fact that some things are free ‘No, you can’t live in America for free, what are you talking about?’ 🙄

  • This Is How Your Fear and Outrage Are Being Sold for Profit
    Tobias Rose-Stockwell - Medium

    The ethics of journalism, and the history of how modern journalism itself came about are interesting topics that I don’t know much about. I should work to change that. In the current historical context, it is important to understand how and why the content we consume is created. This post was a little too consparicy theory heavy for me, and yet I thought it was a worthwhile read. As I mentioned to my friend this weekend, I worry about the future of journalism. Laurene Powell Jobs buying a majority stake in the Atlantic or Bezos buying the Post kind of works in the short term, because their ideologies align with mine, and I kind of trust their intent, but tell me that the Koch brothers are buying the WSJ, and my reaction would be different. Creating incentives to keep the editorial integrity while maintaining a viable business is a tough 21st century problem.

  • In ICO utopia, there is no division of labour
    Izabella Kaminska - FT Alphaville

    A good point about governance, shareholder influence, and, in a way, democracy. If the shareholders are idiots, you end up making bad decisions. But if the shareholders are really smart but skilled in a different area, you end up making bad decisions too.

  • The Cycles of Cities
    Tim Taylor - Conversable Economist

    Urban economics and gentrification are recurring topics on this blog. This post doesn’t bring much new to the conversation, but the explanation of feedback loops and how the durability of buildings relates to the length of these feedback loops is interesting.

  • The company isn’t a family
    David Heinemeier Hansson - Signal v. Noise

    A short post on management. I like DHH’s and Basecamp’s view of people management. I don’t know how closely they follow what they preach, but they seem to assign value to the right things.

  • Fear and Loathing in Homer and Rockville (Podcast)
    This American Life

    Fighting over immigration where there is virtually none. The first act, where they talk to a skeptic who tries to educate himself by reading news online, is just amazing.

  • Breaking News (Podcast)

    Who do we trust in a world where everything is falsifiable? I am really curious about how cryptography and provable mathematics could change this. Companies like Keybase are already working on it, but it is far far from mainstream. Even technical people like myself have trouble wrapping our heads around this issue.

  • Long Distance (Podcast)
    Reply All

    The first of a two part show. Alex gets a scam phone call, and he follows it to the source.

  • Barbed Wire (Podcast)
    50 Things That Made the Modern Economy

    Tim Harford has a way of making even the most commonplace items interesting. Also recommended, the episodes on the Dynamo, the Limited Liability Company and Paper Money.

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