A Libra Primer: Facebook’s new national currency

“You can do whatever the heck you want to do—so why are you letting other people control you?” -from Astrology.com’s Libra Horoscope for June 23, 2019

As far back as a decade ago, when it was growing at a head-snapping pace but was yet to conquer the world, Facebook had already begun to make the idea of borders as we know them less relevant. A few years later, it became clear to me that Facebook was going to replace the twentieth-century notion of a nation-state, and thus, it would eventually bring itself in conflict with existing nations and legislative bodies.

A letter from Om

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Some stories I recommend you read


Good morning! As you prepare to tuck into your cereal, you might want to read about how know how it transformed American culture.

Who is JoJo Siwa? Ask a very young person next to you. Or better yet, read this article about the fame, fortune, and fabulous life of a Nickelodeon-star-turned-YouTube-star. That is how I found about her.

Red-letter Day” is a worthwhile article accompanying the release of Roll Red Roll on PBS, which explores how the infamous Steubenville, Ohio, rape case redefined rape culture.

Find out how a DNA test led a scientist to find many truths about his own his family.

Here’s a great read: The Real Story of How Virginia Won Amazon’s HQ2

This first appeared on my weekly newsletter dated June 23, 2019. If you like to get this delivered to your inbox, just sign-up here, and I will take care of the rest.

Adrian Villa

A few days back, I had a chance to grab coffee with one of my favorite photographers, Adrian Villa. He is a software developer, who got tired of sitting behind the screen and keyboard and sought the freedom that comes from being in the open and making beautiful landscapes. Our coffee conversation was about the choices we make, not in the gear we use, but we choose to capture and how we decide to share it with others. We talked extensively about constraints in equipment and choices, and how they help improve our creativity.

As an artist, he has eschewed the latest and greatest cameras and instead has focused on creating stark, minimal, and hauntingly beautiful monochromatic images. He uses a generation old APS-C camera, in addition to lugging around his Bronica medium format camera.

In a few years, Adrian has found his voice by being incredibly obsessive about his art and practicing it as often as he can — almost daily. Today, he lives a nomadic life, with his wife (who is a digital nomad herself), splitting time between the United States and Europe.

I would suggest you follow him on Instagram or on his blog, where he shares his thoughts about photography and, of course, his photography. His vlog on YouTube is honest and straightforward. I enjoy watching his adventures when I can.

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AmazonBasics is killing it (& the competition)

We pay a lot of attention to Amazon’s AWS, Prime and Logistics business, but we don’t pay as much attention to something which could become a big business for Amazon: the AmazonBasics private label brand.

The Seattle-based Internet behemoth launched AmazonBasics in 2009, and since then it has added over 2000 products to its private label brand. It accounted for about $7.5 billion in revenues, a drop when compared to $233 billion Amazon brought in 2018. But the potential of this business is pretty high — and according to Joshua Fruhlinger, AmazonBasics are best sellers in 22 out of Amazon’s 51 categories. Interestingly:

While Amazon’s private label is clearly helping to maximize profits, they are rarely #1 sellers. In fact, on average, AmazonBasics products tend to rank somewhere in the middle of the top-100, especially as of late. The only products to average in the top-10 of their respective categories for any significant time period include AA batteries, microfiber cloths, and AAA batteries.

Like every big-box retailer, Amazon was smart to introduce its private label products, except I bet it is way more focused and intelligent about what classes of products to target. Unlike other retailers, it has a lot of data that can help the company predict demand more effectively. And it can also slow down the production of products that aren’t much in-demand, by keeping a close watch on data. This kind of data loop is why presidential candidate Elizabeth Warren is all upset about Big Tech.