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.



After many months of planning our trip to Yosemite, it finally happened. Taylor and Zoë flew in for the weekend, and on Friday evening after work we took off. We picked up Amol in the East Bay, and kept going towards the Sierra. None of us had been there before, except for Hannah. More...

More Fatter + Sidewalk Chalk

More Fatter + Sidewalk Chalk More...

Links - July 21st, 2017

It seems like this is a post where articles are paired up in some way or another. That didn’t happen on purpose.

  • How did usury stop being a sin and become respectable finance?
    Alex Mayyasi - Aeon

    Religion’s role in the rise of finance is an interesting topic. I remember reading about it in Dimont’s God, Jews, and History 10 years ago (I should probably it read again), and being surprised by how much of a role Judaism had in the development of modern banking. This article discusses the changing views of money within Christianity, and how lending shifted from being sinful to respectable. The development of money and commerce is related to slowly expanding our circles of trust - from families, to tribes, to villages, to towns, and eventually to cities and countries. As transactions become trustless, finance becomes faceless, and lending at interest is no longer one person screwing the other one, but oil in the gears of a bigger machine.

  • Apple Prime and the iPhone Pro
    M.G. Siegler - 500ish Words

    It is interesting to think about Apple products as part of a subscription model. M.G. makes good points, none of which I can comment on.

  • Wall Street Has Begun to Think About Apple In a New Way
    Neil Cybart - Above Avalon

    And speaking of Apple and things I can’t comment on, here’s some more interesting financial analysis on the company. When I read articles like this one I wish I had paid more attention in my corporate finance classes.

  • Why Not Taxation and Representation?
    Timothy Taylor - Conversable Economist

    How would an alternative history where the American Colonies get seats in the British Parliament have played out? In Imagined Communities, Anderson repeatedly mentions that the colonial nation state emerges in the Americas partly because creole colonists are not given the same opportunities as the “actual British” or the “Actual Spanish.” A colonist could rise in the state bureaucracy up to a certain point, but never reach the highest courts. This led to an imagining of “us” against “them” where the “us” were the colonists, and the “them” was the empire. This dynamic led to rebellions, and a variety of fights for independence across the continent. Are there any examples of colonies that were granted full “part of the empire” status? I couldn’t think of any.

  • Content isn't king
    Benedict Evans

    Holding the keys to the content is not as important as it used to be. Partially, I think this has to do with the fact that the market for content has been totally flooded, an aspect that Evans does not touch at all in his article.

  • In Urban China, Cash Is Rapidly Becoming Obsolete
    Paul Mozur - The New York Times

    I would love to spend some time in China and understand how some technologies are being leapfrogged over there. The article reminded me of Charlie Warzel’s cashless Swedish adventure, which I shared when it came out last year, and is totally worth your time. Especially interesting here are the aspects of consumer lock-in to these two companies (Alibaba and Tencent) mobile payment systems, and the lock-out experienced by foreigners.

  • Alienation 101
    Brook Larmer - 1843 Magazine

    As international student who landed in the Midwest for the first time for college, this was interesting. Granted that the cultural differences between the US and China are much larger than those with Costa Rica, but I can still relate to a lot of it. It was much easier to hang out with other Latin American students, and enclose myself in the international bubble, but spending time with people from all around the world, including the US, was one of the highlights of my college experience.

  • The Cost of a Hot Economy in California: A Severe Housing Crisis
    Adam Nagourney and Conor Dougherty - The New York Times

    Last night I attended an event about the interaction between technology and housing. As you’d imagine, this is a hot topic in San Francisco. One of the panelists pointed out that unlike other countries, in the US home ownership is seen as an investment, and not as a means of shelter. From her perspective, this philosophy has led regulators to crystallize a perverse set of incentives into law, in order to preserve the value of those investments, at a huge social cost. And I totally agree. When I see all the single-family two story homes in the western side of San Francisco, or the low rise buildings neighboring the downtown area, I just get more convinced that this is a policy issue, not an innovation issue. Having an economic boom should be a good thing!

  • Should we build lots more housing in San Francisco? Three reasons people disagree
    Julia Galef

    Disagreeing over the facts, and these levels skepticism over quantitative analysis is almost laughable, but NIMBYs, and other critics of the pro-housing movement do have some good arguments. Here’s a quick summary.

  • Trump's Lucky Break on the Economy
    Justin Fox - Bloomberg View

    I have always said that who is president does not matter as much as the historical context, and who that person surrounds themselves with. The fact that things were going well when he got to power means that people shouldn’t be too unhappy (yet!) but they are. What will happen once the economy goes south?

  • The Death of a Pig (1948)
    E.B. White - The Atlantic

    Hannah made fun of me for reading this without knowing who E.B. White is. Sometimes, even she forgets that I’m not American, and that I don’t know everything about this culture. I read this essay because it strangely showed up on Hacker News. I still have not decided what I think about it.

  • The Ceremony (podcast)

    I have mixed feelings about the fact that ZCash is on Radiolab. On the one hand, it’s great to see good reporting on cryptocurrencies, and they do a pretty good job of making it accessible to laymen, but on the other hand they hide the math behind mysticism and science. It is ok to explain simplified versions of the concepts, but even the title of the episode gives it a magical connotation that I can’t come to terms with.

  • The Golden Era of Productivity, Retail, and Supply Chains (podcast)
    Marc Levinson, Hanne Tidnam, and Sonal Chokshi - a16z

    The episodes of a16z where people talk about the past are way better than those where they talk about the present or the future. “How did we get to now” says a lot more about where we are going than the latest and the shiniest.

  • Jones Iver - Alex Jones Rants as an Indie Folk Song
    Nick Lutsko

    This is funny, but it is also sad. Sad!

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