Twitter’s Important Updates

I opened Twitter today and was welcomed with a message about their updated Terms of Service and Privacy policy in time for GDPR.

Twitter is updating its Terms of Service and Privacy Policy to provide you with even more transparency into the data Twitter collects about you, how it’s used, and the controls you have over your personal data. These updates will take effect on May 25, 2018

Anyway, here’s the update and additional policy information for Twitter and Facebook.

Welcome to the News Feed

My News Feed

This section of the blog will have daily updates with articles, podcasts, videos, and anything I find interesting. The content will be brief, just a quote and my reaction most of the time, but in higher quantity than my other posts.

I wanted an outlet for all the things I learn about in a day. Instapaper, Feedly, and Pocket Casts are great for follow interesting creators, but it’s difficult to go back and see what I was reading, listening to, watching, thinking about on any given day.

The format is based on Daring Fireball (and I’m sure many others), but links and quotes will be here in their own feed to separate my own work from my reactions to the work of others.

Cal Newport said “I support the social internet. I’m incredibly wary of social media.” I tend to agree, so this is my take. A news feed that I control. No algorithms or trending topics.

Want to follow along?

If you want to see the inner working of the blog or follow what I follow, this is the place. If not, regularly scheduled thoughts will continue once a weekish.

Here’s the RSS feed: https://ryancropp.blog/category/news-feed/feed/

Plug that url into Feedly to get all the updates! (you can add /feed to the end of any WordPress category to get an RSS link)

 

Fixing the Blog

Hammer and bent nails on a wood block

Thank you Jetpack Support

First of all, Jetpack support is amazing. Automattic is known for its customer service oriented culture, and it shows. I was running into an issue where Jetpack would not connect to my site, so I reached out to their support team. They were responsive in helping me figure out the tech at all hours of the day, and they even researched how to solve a problem with a non-Automattic product. Great stuff, I appreciate it!

Here’s the link if you need help with Jetpack.

WordPress and Site Address URL

The first issue has been with the site since day one. For custom WordPress installs, the WordPress Address and Site Address URLs should be the same (both set to https://ryancropp.com in this case) no matter what they say:

Site Address (URL):

Enter the address here if you want your site home page to be different from your WordPress installation directory.

Just don’t try to manually update WordPress and Site address to your custom domain from wp-admin dashboard. You will get locked out.

To fix the issue you need to FTP into your site and update the siteurl in the functions.php file for your installed theme:

update_option('siteurl','https://ryancropp.com');
update_option('home','https://ryancropp.com');

Refresh WordPress admin and then remove the update_option code.

Clear site cache

Just for good measure, clear the Project Nami blob cache so no old site configurations are left hanging around. The instructions are in the readme of the Blob-cache download (why!?).

An aside on Cron expressions

They’re kind of fun, but how are these still a thing? I guess we have Unix to thank. I need to use them 0 0 0 0 0 ? 2018/2 or 0 0 0 0 0 ? 2018/3 at best. Here are some docs from Oracle and Quartz to figure out what that means.

Jetpack and Project Nami

Turns out everything up to this point had nothing to do with getting Jetpack to work. It certainly didn’t hurt, but attempting to link Jetpack still showed the error “Verification secrets not found”.

Jetpack verification secrets error message

On a whim I decided to look into the compatibility issues with Jetpack and Project Nami, the caching mechanism for WordPress on Azure. And what do you know, Issue #237 on the Project Nami GitHub had the answer.

One should now be able to solve the issue by adding the following to the site’s wp-config.php:

define( ‘JETPACK_DISABLE_RAW_OPTIONS’, true );

See Automattic/jetpack#7875 for more info.

So finally, if you’re following along at home, disable Jetpack raw options for Project Nami…

And it works!

You can sign up for email subscriptions in the sidebar.

A red-herring extension

Turning off browser extensions may or may not have helped. I turned off Ghostery in the middle of the process, forgot about it, then realized it was still off some time later.

Happy blogging

Best Books I Didn’t Read in 2017

Open books laying in grass

 

Or books people told me to read in 2018…

I didn’t read as many books in 2017 as I did in 2016, but I still learned a lot from what I read this year. I did read Deep Work, and, with Klein, would highly recommend it. Titan by Ron Chernow was a brick of a good book and I would expect nothing less from Grant (in terms of both length and quality). And How to Get Filthy Rich in Rising Asia: A Novel by Mohsin Hamid was pretty good (even if I read it in 2016).

To start 2018, I’m reading You Are Not a Gadget by Jaron Lanier and Benjamin Franklin by Walter Isaacson. Lanier probably wouldn’t approve of this type of post (we should go for evergreen content instead of rehashing previous work), but I found it funny that so many people had these Best books posts. So this is mine! Looking forward, not back, to take what we learned in the past months and apply it to the present and future.

Here’s to another year of great books and learning.

Ezra Klein

  • Young Radicals by Jeremy McCarter
  • The Final Days by Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein
  • Nothing Is True and Everything Is Possible by Peter Pomerantsev
  • Racecraft: The Soul of Inequality in American Life by Karen and Barbara Fields
  • Dawn of the New Everything: Encounters With Reality and Virtual Reality by Jaron Lanier
  • Norse Mythology by Neil Gaiman
  • Pachinko by Min Jin Lee
  • Deep Work by Cal Newport

Ryan Holiday

  • Bodyguard of Lies: The Extraordinary True Story of D-Day Vol I & Vol II by Anthony Cave Brown
  • The Hidden-Hand Presidency: Eisenhower as Leader by Fred I. Greenstein
  • Montaigne & Magellan by Stefan Zweig
  • We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves: A Novel by Karen Joy Fowler
  • Bright Shiny Morning by James Frey

Bill Gates

  • The Best We Could Do, by Thi Bui
  • Evicted: Poverty and Profit in the American City, by Matthew Desmond
  • Believe Me: A Memoir of Love, Death, and Jazz Chickens, by Eddie Izzard
  • The Sympathizer, by Viet Thanh Nguyen
  • Energy and Civilization: A History, by Vaclav Smil

Barack Obama

  • The Power by Naomi Alderman
  • Grant by Ron Chernow
  • Evicted: Poverty and Profit in the American City by Matthew Desmond
  • Janesville: An American Story by Amy Goldstein
  • Exit West by Mohsin Hamid
  • Five-Carat Soul by James McBride
  • Anything Is Possible by Elizabeth Strout
  • Dying: A Memoir by Cory Taylor
  • A Gentleman in Moscow by Amor Towles
  • Sing, Unburied, Sing by Jesmyn Ward
  • Coach Wooden and Me by Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and Basketball (and Other Things) by Shea Serrano

NY Times

  • Autumn By Ali Smith
  • Exit West By Mohsin Hamid
  • Pachinko By Min Jin Lee
  • The Power By Naomi Alderman
  • Sing, Unburied, Sing By Jesmyn Ward
  • The Evolution of Beauty: How Darwin’s Forgotten Theory of Mate Choice Shapes the Animal World — and Us By Richard O. Prum
  • Grant By Ron Chernow
  • Locking Up Our Own: Crime and Punishment in Black America By James Forman Jr.
  • Prairie Fires: The American Dreams of Laura Ingalls Wilder By Caroline Fraser
  • Priestdaddy By Patricia Lockwood

Wired

  • Betaball: How Silicon Valley and Science Built One of the Greatest Basketball Teams in History By Erik Malinowski
  • (Not) Getting Paid to Do What You Love: Gender, Social Media, and Aspirational Work By Brooke Erin Duffy
  • Ours to Hack and to Own Edited by Trebor Scholz and Nathan Schneider
  • Twitter and Tear Gas: The Power and Fragility of Networked Protest By Zeynep Tufekci
  • Technically Wrong: Sexist Apps, Biased Algorithms, and Other Threats of Toxic Tech By Sara Wachter-Boettcher
  • The Woman Who Smashed Codes: A True Story of Love, Spies, and the Unlikely Heroine Who Outwitted America’s Enemies By Jason Fagone

Some notable repeats are Pachinko (Klein and NYTimes), Grant (NYTimes and Obama), Evicted (Gates and Obama), Exit West (NYTimes and Obama). There are a lot of books out there to read in 2018. If you are looking for something, perhaps take a recommendation from the world’s thought leaders. Or, in the spirit of Lanier, go out on your own and read something no one else is talking about. In either case, keep curious.

Catching up on Stratechery

Camera aperture with a green-blue lens flare

My Instapaper reading list was piling up. Nearly half of the articles were from Stratechery, so I decided to knock them all out at once (well, over the course of a day or two).

https://stratechery.com/2017/goodbye-gatekeepers/

From Weinstein and movies to the NYTimes and YouTube

In a world where the default news source is the Facebook News Feed, the New York Times is breaking out of the inevitable modularization and commodification entailed in supplying the “news” to the feed. That, in turn, requires building a direct relationship with customers: they are the ones in charge, not the gatekeepers of old — even they must now go direct.

YouTube produces an astounding amount of fame.

YouTube represents something else that is just as important: the complete lack of gatekeepers. Google CEO Sundar Pichai said on an earnings’ call earlier this year that “Every single day, over 1,000 creators reached the milestone of having 1,000 channel subscribers.” That is an astounding number in its own right; what is even more remarkable is that while Hollywood has only ~3,500 acting slots a year (including all movies, not just major studios), YouTube creates 100 times as many “stars” over the same time period.

https://stratechery.com/2017/tech-goes-to-washington/

Did he say 330 million?

https://stratechery.com/2017/why-facebook-shouldnt-be-allowed-to-buy-tbh/

Requiring Facebook to offer its social graph to any would-be competitor as a condition of acquiring tbh would be a good outcome; unfortunately, it is perhaps the most unlikely, given the FTC’s commitment to unfettered privacy (without a consideration of the impact on competition).

https://stratechery.com/2017/stitch-fix-and-the-senate/

Negative churn

existing customers were increasing spend by more than the revenue lost by those leaving

https://stratechery.com/2017/pro-neutrality-anti-title-ii/

The most famous example of an ISP acting badly was a company called Madison River Communication which, in 2005, blocked ports used for Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) services, presumably to prop up their own alternative; it remains the canonical violation of net neutrality. It was also a short-lived one: Vonage quickly complained to the FCC, which quickly obtained a consent decree that included a nominal fine and guarantee from Madison River Communications that they would not block such services again. They did not, and no other ISP has tried to do the same; the reasoning is straightforward: foreclosing a service that competes with an ISP’s own service is a clear antitrust violation. In other words, there are already regulations in place to deal with this behavior, and the limited evidence we have suggests it works.

https://stratechery.com/2017/free-daily-update-light-touch-cable-and-dsl-the-broadband-tradeoff-the-importance-of-antitrust/

The equation is straightforward: there is wide consensus amongst economists of all political stripes that regulation imposes costs on both innovation and society through regulatory capture; I would prefer to avoid bearing that cost until we are certain it is necessary, particularly since the evidence to date suggests after-the-fact regulation is working.

The question that must be grappled with, though, is whether or not the Internet is “done.” By that I mean that today’s bandwidth is all we all never need, which means we can risk chilling investment through prophylactic regulation and the elimination of price signals that may spur infrastructure build-out (that being the elimination of paid prioritization).

If we are “done”, then the potential harm of a Title II reclassification is much lower; sure, ISPs will have to do more paperwork, but honestly, they’re just a bunch of mean monopolists anyways, right? Best to get laws in place to preserve what we have.

But what if we aren’t done? What if virtual reality with dual 8k displays actually becomes something meaningful? What if those imagined remote medicine applications are actually developed? What if the Internet of Things moves beyond this messy experimentation phase and into real-time value generation, not just in the home but in all kinds of unimagined commercial applications? I certainly hope we will have the bandwidth to support all of that!

The problem with regulating broadband in this way, though, is that the definition of acceptable broadband is much more of a moving target. As Marc Andreessen memorably put it on Twitter:
@mattyglesias @binarybits Because sewers and electricity are far more static markets than broadband. You don’t shit 10x as much every 3 yrs.
— Marc Andreessen (@pmarca) February 23, 2014

https://stratechery.com/2017/the-pollyannish-assumption/

Documenting why and how these platforms have power has, in many respects, been the ultimate theme of Stratechery over the last four-and-a-half year: this is a call to exercise it, in part, and a request to not, in another. There is a line: what is broadly deemed unacceptable, and what is still under dispute; the responsibility of these new powers that be is to actively search out the former, and keep their hands — and algorithms and policies — off the latter. Said French Revolution offers hints at fates if this all goes wrong.

https://stratechery.com/2017/disney-and-fox/

This is a remarkable look at how Disney could leverage 21st Century Fox to compete against Netflix in the years ahead. One of the most insightful articles with a clear line of how we could get to a future where Netflix and Disney are massive content aggregators.

The best sort of acquisitions, though, are best described by the famous Wayne Gretzky admonition, “Skate to where the puck is going, not where it has been”; these are acquisitions that don’t necessarily make perfect sense in the present but place the acquirer in a far better position going forward: think Google and YouTube, Facebook and Instagram, or Disney’s own acquisition of Capital Cities (which included ESPN).

 

The problem now is obvious: Netflix wasn’t simply a customer for Disney’s content, the company was also a competitor for Disney’s far more important and lucrative customer — cable TV. And, over the next five years, as more and more cable TV customers either cut the cord or, more critically, never got cable in the first place, happy to let Netflix fulfill their TV needs, Disney was facing declines in a business it assumed would grow forever.

 

… differentiated content is Disney’s core competency, as demonstrated by its ability to extract profits from cable companies.

 

   Consider the comparison in terms of BATNA (Best Alternative to a Negotiated Agreement): for distributors the alternative to not carrying ESPN was losing a huge number of customers who cared about seeing live sports; that’s not much of an alternative! Netflix, on the other hand, can — and is! — going straight to creators for content that viewers can watch instead of whatever Disney may choose to withhold if Netflix’s price is unsatisfactory.
Clearly it’s working: Netflix isn’t simply adding customers, it is raising prices at the same time, the surest sign of market power.
Therefore, the only way for Disney to avoid commoditization is to itself go vertical and connect directly with customers

Will it go through?

If one starts with a static view of the world as it is at the end of 2017, then there may be some minor antitrust concerns, but probably nothing that would stop the deal. Disney might have to divest a cable channel or two (the company’s power over distributors would be even stronger; basically the opposite of the some of the concerns that halted the Comcast acquisition of Time Warner), and potentially be limited in its ability to make operational decisions about Hulu (Disney would have a controlling stake after the merger; Comcast was similarly restricted after acquiring NBC Universal, but there the concern was more about Comcast’s conflict of interest with regards to its cable TV business competing with Hulu). The Hulu point is interesting in its own right: Disney could choose to focus its streaming efforts there instead of building its own service, but I suspect it would rather own it all.

That’s it for now. Keep reading. Keep connecting.

Two Weeks in Review – November 5, 2017

Sunset over mountains from black to blue to orange

4:45 and its dark outside

Podcasts

The Finnish (UBI) Experiment – 99 Percent Invisible

The Psychology of Self-Righteousness – Jonathan Haidt – On Being
An interesting psychological take on political leanings

Readings

Bitcoin uses a lot of energy. Why not a solar powered rig?

The World’s Happiest Places – National Geographic

Tech

Xbox One X

iPhone X

A raspi cluster looks fun, and so does gaming on a plane.

And so many video games: BF1, Fortnite and TF2.

Food

Challah French toast

Donut or doughnut?

Week in Review – October 1, 2017

An old bike and a sleeping dog next to a wooden fence

Read

The Handmaid’s Tale (no, don’t just watch the show)

Write

Book or blog? Unfinished and developing thoughts fit best in a blog. Plus one can use WordPress and Stripe for subscriber payments.

https://stratechery.com/2017/books-and-blogs/

Because aggregators deal with digital goods, there is an abundance of supply; that means users reap value through discovery and curation, and most aggregators get started by delivering superior discovery.

Then, once an aggregator has gained some number of end users, suppliers will come onto the aggregator’s platform on the aggregator’s terms, effectively commoditizing and modularizing themselves. Those additional suppliers then make the aggregator more attractive to more users, which in turn draws more suppliers, in a virtuous cycle.

This means that for aggregators, customer acquisition costs decrease over time; marginal customers are attracted to the platform by virtue of the increasing number of suppliers. This further means that aggregators enjoy winner-take-all effects: since the value of an aggregator to end users is continually increasing it is exceedingly difficult for competitors to take away users or win new ones.

https://stratechery.com/2017/defining-aggregators/

Sleep

This article was popular this week: Why We Sleep by Matthew Walker

Why do we sleep less?

We electrified the night, and light is a profound degrader of our sleep.

There is the issue of work: not only the porous borders between when you start and finish, but longer commuter times, too. No one wants to give up time with their family or entertainment, so they give up sleep instead.

We have stigmatized sleep with the label of laziness. We want to seem busy, and one way we express that is by proclaiming how little sleep we’re getting. It’s a badge of honor.

You should sleep more

I give myself a non-negotiable eight-hour sleep opportunity every night, and I keep very regular hours: if there is one thing I tell people, it’s to go to bed and to wake up at the same time every day, no matter what.

Hey, you know who else says that? Ray Dalio. He says it helps keep an even keel.

Take away?

Need to wake up at 7. Go to sleep at 11 sharp. Recently, 11 PM turns to 11:45, so 7 AM becomes 7:30.

Speak

Here be Sermons from Melting Asphalt

Thoughts

Is a blog a sermon or a lecture? Does the faceless audience denote a congregation or group of individuals?

Suppose Feynman’s physics lectures were never recorded, and you were (somehow) the only person in attendance as he was delivering them. In other words, he’s lecturing to an audience of one. Well, you might feel sad for everyone else who’s missing out — but at least you’ll learn some things, and Feynman is probably happy to teach you. (It might even be a competitive advantage for you to learn directly from the master

How does aggregation theory apply to sermons?

Moral communities often benefit from upholding a so-called meta-norm: an injunction to punish anyone who doesn’t punish others for their transgressions. As you can imagine, this kind of recursive rule requires commensurately recursive knowledge in order to get off the ground.

Ride

Best Electric Bikes 2017
Copenhagen Wheel on The Verge
Rad Power Bikes

Week in Review – September 24, 2017

Top down view of coffee mug on a yellow surface

A lot of work this week, possibly fueled by too much caffeine (3 cups in 4 days is a lot for me). But I am practicing deep work techniques to avoid email, single task and stay in the flow.

How to answer questions in a helpful way

Jvns post from a couple days ago caught my attention. Just today I encountered both sides of how to answer questions in a helpful way.

How you phrase a question is important:

  • Rephrase a more specific question back at them (“Are you asking X?”)
  • Ask them for more specific information they didn’t provide (“are you using IPv6?”)
  • Ask what prompted their question. For example, sometimes people come into my team’s channel with questions about how our service discovery works. Usually this is because they’re trying to set up/reconfigure a service. In that case it’s helpful to ask “which service are you working with? Can I see the pull request you’re working on?”

When asking a question, you need to be cognizant that the other person may not know your level of understanding. Set the state by giving them some insight into your point of view. Maybe start with a drawing.. Visualizing the problem often makes it easier to communicate.

Figuring out what your question-asker knows already is important because they may be confused about fundamental concepts (“What’s Redux?”), or they may be an expert who’s getting at a subtle corner case. An answer building on concepts they don’t know is confusing, and an answer that recaps things they know is tedious.

Building on the idea of visualizing the problem, when talking about how you solve a problem, try to show what you did and explain your thought process

New person: “I’m seeing errors on the site, what’s happening?”
More Experienced Person: (2 minutes later) “oh that’s because there’s a database failover happening”
New person: how did you know that??!?!?
More Experienced Person: “Here’s what I did!”:
Often these errors are due to Service Y being down. I looked at $PLACE and it said Service Y was up. So that wasn’t it.
Then I looked at dashboard X, and this part of that dashboard showed there was a database failover happening.
Then I looked in the logs for the service and it showed errors connecting to the database, here’s what those errors look like.

High Frequency Trading

If this doesn’t seem like a company run by a Bond villain, I don’t know what does: Citadel

And Reading for the Emmys

The Handmaid’s Tale