Moon over San Francisco. Made with iPhone 12 Pro Max

While my week has been noticeably quiet here on my internet homestead, it has been quite the opposite for me out in the real world. 

I had to go to the dental surgeon to remove a couple of wisdom teeth that had become nuisances and were putting the entire neighborhood in distress. I recognize that it was a pretty minor procedure, but like any reasonable adult, I am scared shitless of visiting the dentist. I was in a state of panic for two days leading up to the event, unable to sleep and overcome with anxiety. 

On the day of the procedure, it all turned out to be relatively fast and straightforward — thanks in large part to the surgeon, who kept talking to me about photography and his love of Lindorf technical cameras. Of course, now he is a Canon man. (I wonder why the world still insists that dentists prefer Leica.) He gets full marks for keeping my focus on everything but the surgery as he extracted those getting the troublemakers out.

I was back home in just two hours, but that was followed by two days of pain. I used the prescription pills twice, but given their content (Hint: rhymes with “foxy”), I decided to switch to plain vanilla Tylenol. Between the headaches and the jaw aches, not to mention being restricted to eating only soft food, it hasn’t been fun. But I am feeling better today. Almost normal. I am even looking forward to eating a proper lunch. As I eat, I will likely mull over the question that’s been needling me: does wisdom go when the wisdom teeth do? (Let me know what you think, and the funniest answer will get tweeted on my Twitter.) 

One — and maybe the only — positive side effect of the surgery was that it gave me a lot of forced downtime to do a bunch of reading. I was able to get through both my Safari Reading List and my Pocket Reading Lists. I also got a chance to enjoy a handful of movies and some cricket. Given the mediocrity of the New York Yankees, cricket is proving to be a much-needed salve for my bruised baseball fandom. Due to injuries throughout the league, even my fantasy baseball teams are proving to be disappointments.

I wanted to share some gems I found on the Internet this week while laid out in bed, struggling to will away my aches and pains. These are some perfect time wasters:



Finally, here is what I said on Twitter this week: 

July 22: Washington often conflates “building more infrastructure” with “resilient infrastructure,” a risky proposition in a networked society, argues @ratulm of @intentionet, part of @trueventures community. @SenatorLujan should talk to experts like Ratul.

July 21: A team at Duke University implanted a new-generation artificial heart in a man, the first such procedure in North America. It is an implantable prosthetic that includes biological valves derived from bovine tissue & operates on an external power supply. https://buff.ly/36Rk6FK

July 20:  I wonder if Freud secretly haunts the corridors of Apple’s offices: space autocorrects to SPAC. 

July 19:  We live in a world where you have to (proverbially) scream to get attention & credit for your efforts. It is important to own your narrative. 


Jul 24, 2021, San Francisco 

Happy Sunday, everyone! I have slowly (and unintentionally) slipped into “summer mode.” I have been working only a little and reading quite a lot. Last week, I also met Ken Kocienda, a former Apple software engineer and designer, to talk about art, life, photography, and watches. 

I didn’t spend as much time on Twitter (either perusing or tweeting), so there isn’t a “Tweek” wrap-up for the week. But several articles caught my eye that I probably would have tweeted, and here they are: 

Vinyl Is More Popular Than Ever. Surprisingly, That’s a Problem

During the pandemic, vinyl sales in the U.S. exploded, growing 28.7% in 2020 to $626 million, even beating out CD revenues of $483 million. Vinyl sales have been growing steadily over the years. Everyone (and I mean everyone) is making and selling vinyl records, including Target and Walmart. The annual demand for vinyl is between 320-400 million albums, while the total manufacturing capacity is 160 million albums per year. That is a problem for small labels. And to think, we are in the golden age of streaming — even hi-res streaming! By the way, streaming revenues were up 13.4% to $10.1 billion in 2020.

Back to the Bad Old Days of the Web – Jorge Arango

Indeed, the bad old days of browser wars and conflicting corporate interests are back. 

NFT sales volume surges to $2.5 bln in 2021 first half 

Yes, crypto is hot. NFT is hotter. So is the planet. 

You really need to quit Twitter.

You might have already read this article. It is excellent writing and a good post for everyone to share. It was hard, but I got off Facebook and Instagram, and I even managed to limit my Twitter usage to less than 30 minutes a day. If you are a grown-up (like the author of this piece seems to be), you need to know how to exercise self-control and fight off the addictive tendencies that drive so much social media usage. 

Individuals Now Spend More Time On TikTok Than YouTube, Facebook, Netflix

In a recent report, App Annie, a mobile research and analytics company, points out that the average U.S. android user spent 24.5 hours per month on TikTok, compared with 22 hours on YouTube and 17.5 hours on Facebook. Like I’ve said before, TikTok is coming for YouTube in a big way. 

So Much Money Everywhere

Dan Primack notes many all-time records set in techlandia during the first half of 2021: 

  • VC dollars invested: $288bn 
  • VC dollars invested in U.S. startups: $140bn 
  • Startups sold: $232bn 
  • 410 companies went public (Thanks, SPACs) 
  • 5,248 PE/VC funds looking for $900bn

[Actually, I did tweet this one 🙂 ]

Walkover

I didn’t think the principled India of 1974 described in this article ever existed. That’s just one thing that makes this story so incredible. 

July 11, 2021, San Francisco

Twitter is going the way of subscriptions in 2021 — after buying Revue, the company today snapped up Scroll for an undisclosed amount. The acquisition is a smart move — it allows Twitter to play to its strengths — media and media distribution. 

Scroll is a prix fixe media buffet –for $5 a month, readers can view articles, ad-free, from about 300 odd media outlets. The $5 a month subscription is then shared with the publishers. Good idea, but as Scroll founder Tony Haile points out in his blog post announcing the deal, “we’re not moving fast enough.” 

A lot has to do with the media industry and its bureaucratic disfunction. The fact remains that destination viewing of media is becoming a habit only reserved for a fading generation of readers. Discovery, distribution, and consumption of media have taken on a different meaning. And believe it or not — Twitter is smack in the middle of this Venn diagram. 

Twitter, just by incorporating Scroll, can increase its footprint and impact on the media business.

Last year, I wrote a piece — What Twitter could learn from Spotify. In my piece, I outlined a strategy that would help Twitter reinvent itself but also help provide a vital lifeline for not only establishment media but also independent creators. But in doing so, I reasoned that 

Twitter has to be “willing to rethink its entire core application, jettison the past,” and only then can it “create a more relevant, robust, and financially rewarding future.” (I don’t want to repeat myself, so you are better off reading the earlier piece at your leisure.

With Spaces, Revue, and now Scroll, Twitter has started to think different — though if it will be enough for the company to regain its mojo, remains to be seen. It seems the newest recruit, Scroll CEO Tony Haile, does see the bigger picture.

“When you see Spaces, Revue or Scroll, you see Twitter focused on expanding, not encroaching on the value it helps others to create,” he writes on the Scroll blog. “Twitter is marching to the beat of a different drum and knows success will come from a bigger pie not a larger slice.”

In his post announcing the deal, he points out what makes Twitter unique compared to every other big platform — read Facebook. 

“For every other platform, journalism is dispensable. If journalism were to disappear tomorrow their business would carry on much as before,” Haile writes. “Twitter is the only large platform whose success is deeply intertwined with a sustainable journalism ecosystem.” 

And he is right — it is not just journalism in the classic sense. Journalism, as we have known, is changing. Twitter can’t fall into the trap of the media’s past and almost always lean into the future. Whether it is live conversations, podcasts, video streams, photos, newsletters, everything that is media can benefit from Twitter’s taking a cue from that other content company, Spotify. 


PS: Being very self-referential today, I dug up this little piece from 2012:

Over the past few years we have started to see the transformation of media by new technologies, new methods of distribution and newer ways to consume information I have always believed that we’ve got to stop thinking of media as what it was and focus on more of what it could be. In the world of plenty, the only currency is attention and attention is what defines “media.” Zynga is fighting Hollywood for attention (and winning). Instagram is taking moments away from other media. They have attention. There are old companies that are dying and new ones that are being invented. 

What do Nils Frahm, Anne Mueller, Jeannie Schulz, Mary Lattimore and Atli Örvarsson have in common? They are among three dozen artists whose albums I bought last year from Bandcamp, an Oakland, CA-based music service. It was my way of supporting these artists. As I wrote earlier, “we need to figure out how much we value the music and the musicians,” so that “we can use our dollars to encourage them to keep creating.”

And I am not alone. 800,000 customers spent $48.3 million on what Bandcamp calls Bandcamp Fridays — every first Friday of the month, Bandcamp forgoes the 15 percent cut of the digital sales (and 10 percent cut of the physical sales.) All money goes to the artists. Bandcamp Fridays started as a one-off feature on March 20, 2020, it has become a regular feature. In a year since the company has sent $148 million to the artists.

Their success is finally getting the attention it deserves. It has taken almost a year for the media to notice Bandcamp’s progress. There is a fantastic article in Billboard, and of course, much better is an NPR conversation with the co-founder and CEO of the company, my dear friend, Ethan Diamond. Shawn Grunberger is the co-founder and chief technology officer.

Bandcamp is the antithesis of streaming. The company’s value metric is based on helping smaller and independent artists create a way forward for themselves. In comparison, someone like Spotify’s north star metric is time spent on the platform. I am not saying Spotify (or any other streaming platform) isn’t essential — their clever use of machine learning and algorithmic discovery, access to music across devices, and all platforms make them worth using. 

The reality is that we are all addicted to convenience — and streaming platforms make it damn convenient for us to not think about the artists and how they manage to survive. As streaming becomes more pervasive, the sad reality is that every track, every artist, every album is reduced to just data, served up by the algorithm. It only continues to devalue our emotional relationship with the creators.  

For now, the least we can do is fight the good fight and support what you value — by buying music. It is way better than sending tips to artists via PayPal, as Spotify suggests as a way of support. That, to me, feels like digital panhandling, but that’s just me. Even if you listen to it on other platforms, buying music is a better way of expressing your fandom. 

Did you know that Nils Frahm has a new album, Graz? It is worth buying. 

Disclosure: * Bandcamp is backed by True Ventures, where I am a partner.