Why Blockchain Matters

I came across this talk via Fred Wilson's blog.

It's an excellent introductory talk by Muneeb Ali into blockchain and why blockchain matters. He uses very concise arguments, stays away from technology and - more importantly - cryptocurrencies. Even though there's nothing new (for me) in this talk, I found it very inspiring.

In all fairness, I do not subscribe to the doom & gloom scenario and I would not call the current time "dark ages", but I guess the lack of nuance is a current sign of the times.

The Art of Persuasion

First Round Review keep putting out excellent articles, but every now and then one of them is a must read. The post Master the Art of Influence — Persuasion as a Skill and Habit is definitely in this category - especially when you’re pitching or selling something. This article gives a great overview with concise and concrete examples on how to persuade people for your ideas, companies, views or products.

“The reality is that visionaries like Steve Jobs haven’t been successful because they thought of something amazing and original out of thin air. Rather, they were gifted at constantly persuading many people to follow them on their journey to something amazing and original.”

“When we look at what visionaries really succeed at, they give us a confident, consistent and coherent plan that makes us feel safe,” says Odean. “We trust them not because their vision is perfect, but because they have it under control. They communicate clearly without giving us all the answers. What most people think of as vision is actually persuasion.”

System I is involuntary; System II is deliberate. System I thinks in black and white; System II sees many shades of gray.

If you speak to System II (i.e. pose something complex enough that it requires reasoning), you’re asking to be doubted. Many of us have had the thought while listening to someone: “I don’t know why you’re wrong, but I still don’t believe you.” That’s System II doing its job.

Why -> How -> What = How Great Leaders Inspire Action

The TED talk “How Great Leaders Inspire Action” is a classic but I came across it quite recently.

You could substitute leaders with organizations or companies. The end result is the same. When there is a clear defined WHY, it’s easier to persuade people on your HOW and WHAT. This applies to defining, building and selling your product through hiring members for your team. If you can’t clearly define WHY, then HOW and WHAT does not really matter. It will never be as convincing.

20% Of Customers Bring In 50%+ of Revenue

Second Measure analyzes credit card transactions. In their analysis they found that just 20% of customers were responsible for more than 50% of the revenue for the top 1000 companies they have transaction data available.

The average top 20 customer spends 8x more than the average bottom 80% customer.

I found this super interesting because I’ve seen this myself in my companies. I always wondered if this was normal and at times felt some apprehension about it since a large portion of the business was carried by a relatively small number of customers. Apparently this is normal.

The Evolving Economics of Bitcoin, Gold and Fiat Currencies

The Evolving Economics of Bitcoin, Gold and Fiat Currencies

An excellent article explaining bitcoins place in the world, its shortcomings and potential without divulging into speculative or irrational arguments. The base argument is that the deflationary aspect of bitcoin fixed money supply is hampering the ability to support deferred payments. 

Sometimes the only way to pay off debts, public or private, is to do so with money that is worth less than what it was worth at the time the loans were secured.  This is the Achilles heel of gold and bitcoins as currencies.  They are stores of value. Stores of value are deflationary and deflation is destabilizing.
To the extent that ICO regulation limits the creation of new currencies, one unintended by-product could be to restrict competition and to enhance the market position of incumbent currencies like bitcoin and ethereum. Libertarians often rightly accuse government regulation of protecting incumbents by raising barriers to entry.  There is no reason to think that cryptocurrencies will be an exception to this rule.
On the other hand, regulation could also give rise to, and bestow legitimacy upon, new cryptocurrencies that lack bitcoin’s main attribute and flaw: an asymptotically fixed money supply. A digital currency that replaces fiat currencies as a medium exchange cannot have a fixed supply. 

The Future of Free Expression

Fighting Neo-Nazis and the Future of Free Expression

Protecting free speech is not something we do because we agree with all of the speech that gets protected. We do it because we believe that no one—not the government and not private commercial enterprises—should decide who gets to speak and who doesn’t.

One of the better and more balanced articles written on this topic.

Today, we're right and perhaps tomorrow we are self-righteous.

Instagram Photos Reveal Your State of Mind

Instagram photos reveal predictive markers of depression

Apparently we can't hide who we are and how we feel on the internet. Also (machine learning) software can outperform humans in analyzing state of mind based on social media photos.

Using Instagram data from 166 individuals, we applied machine learning tools to successfully identify markers of depression. Statistical features were computationally extracted from 43,950 participant Instagram photos, using color analysis, metadata components, and algorithmic face detection. Resulting models outperformed general practitioners’ average unassisted diagnostic success rate for depression. These results held even when the analysis was restricted to posts made before depressed individuals were first diagnosed. Human ratings of photo attributes (happy, sad, etc.) were weaker predictors of depression, and were uncorrelated with computationally-generated features. These results suggest new avenues for early screening and detection of mental illness.

Notes week 27 - 2017

The Streaming Problem: How Spammers, Superstars, and Tech Giants Gamed the Music Industry

Super interesting analysis on how online streaming is changing how music is marketed to reach more people and get more streams. Clearly the music industry is still figuring this out and at the same time some artists are "spamming" to get accidental plays (and earn money of those). It's no different what happened on search engines, videos on YouTube, third party product listings on Amazon and eBay or headline grabbing on social media ("fake" news). The tone of the article is on the negative side - especially towards Spotify which is unfair. Search and replace Spotify with Apple Music, SoundCloud of any other streaming service and the observations are still relevant. The (music consumption) world has changed, get with the program.

Bots are the new spam.

Standards + Open Internet

Amid Unprecedented Controversy, W3C Greenlights DRM for the Web

W3C moves forward on publishing a standard for Encrypted Media Extensions (EME) which is controversial. DRM is already used today and the web works fine. DRM only exists to support old-fashioned pre-internet business models to enforce scarcity in the distribution channels. They make no sense to consumers. For instance as a US Netflix customer, I go to Europe and get the European Netflix inventory. Why not the US inventory? It's just silly.


A biometric ring could replace your passwords, cards and keys

Unbundling the smartphone. Great idea but is probable hampered by lack of standards today.

Ticketmaster will soon admit you to events using audio data transmitted from your phone

NFC, Bluetooth or sound consumers don't care. Sound is interesting because Apple allows it to run in the background continuously. But Apple is also known to change policies at any moment when they think that's necessary. I think continuously tracking through the microphone will lead to a giant "blue bar" if they don't choose to disable it first. Remember the Facebook silent sound hack to keep IOS app running in the background?

Notes week 26 - 2017

News apps are making a comeback. More young Americans are paying for news. 2017 is weird.

"The Reuters Institute’s annual report on digital news contains some surprises.". The push back from sites on ad blocking seems to have the desired effect. 58% of people turn off ad blocking because they could not access the site. I expect more sites to go this route especially now that Google is building ad blocking in their next generation browser. Alexa is more popular than the Apple Watch for consuming news. No suprise there. What is more interesting is that news apps are back and consuming news from social networks is down. Also all demographics prefer news in the form of text and not video. Also more people are paying for online news. It seems the news industry finally has found a way to monetize beyond ads.

Autonomous Vehicles

Apple Is Working With Hertz to Manage Its Self-Driving Car Fleet Alphabet Inks Deal for Avis to Manage Self-Driving Car Fleet

Both Hertz and Avis super eager to jump on the autonomous vehicle train which is not surprising. This is where everything comes together; who is going sell me my autonomous transportation subscription: Uber, Hertz, Avis, Lyft? Uber knows a lot about bringing people from A to B, but knows nothing about fleet management. Hertz knows about fleet management but nothing about bring people from A to B (except renting them a vehicle). Autonomous vehicles is going to be the battle of century, there are so many large stakeholders in this industry from car manufacturers to tech companies to financial companies to rental companies.

Online Music & Video & News

Facebook Is Going Hollywood, Seeking Scripted TV Programming

Like Snap, Facebook is starting to invest in original content. Are we unbundling video streaming now?


Amazon Echo Show review: Seeing is believing

The Echo Show from Amazon is coming out this week. I pre-ordered one and am super curious what the screen is going to add to the Alexa experience. I have great expectations of the new skills using the camera. "Alexa, please read this barcode and order it".

Internet Access

Sprint Enters Into Exclusive Talks With Charter, Comcast On Wireless Deal

Perhaps this is just strategy to improve their position in the negotiations with T-Mobile, but this has been on the horizon for a while. It's not inconceivable that all consumer internet access will become wireless sometime in the future and that'll make cable companies irrelevant.

The New Sticker Shock: Plunging Cellphone Bills

Consumer-price index for wireless phone service dropped 13% YoY in April, according to US Labor Department, the largest decline in the history of the category. T-Mobile has clearly shaken up the market and it's effect is starting to show now. There's a lot of inertia with customers in the telecom market, not the least because of barriers put up by providers to discourage switching.

AI / Machine Learning

I ask 100 information questions to four digital assistants. All of them fail at least half.

I'm a big fan of voice interfaces and I can remember playing with Dragon(?) dictate back in the late 90s. I think they're the most human but my experience with Alexa also learned that we're still ways away from having a real digital assistant. Though I do find Alexa useful and would buy it again, I'm hesitant to recommend it. We are in the Commodore 64 era of voice interfaces and there's still much work todo to make speech recognition really work well.

The dawn of the augmented writing era

The view point of this post is really interesting and not everyone might realize this in relation to AI / Machine Learning, but it doesn't have to replace human labor but it can improve human labor. The view point in this point is that the logistics around writing has improved over the years but no solution actually made the writing better (except maybe grammar / spell checkers but you could argue that this is still logistics). Machine learning / AI could perhaps lead to augmented writing which helps the writer to assess the the reaction and reception of the writing by the intended audience. To put it differently, Instagram for instance might just look at your followers and changes your image you upload automatically to make it more attractive to your followers.


Virtual measuring tape made with ARKit

I couldn't help being impressed by this demo. It's super accurate, very impressive.


Antitrust: Commission fines Google €2.42 billion for abusing dominance as search engine by giving illegal advantage to own comparison shopping service

I am always ambivalent about these decisions from EU. First, why not warn Google before fining and have a conversation.with them Second, shopping comparison sites are mostly terrible and spammy places you don't want to show to users anyway. Third, it's very normal behavior for a company to use their position of strength to push other products. I am confident that on a technical & legal level the EU commission is right, but in real life I wonder how this is going to make the EU a better place. EU is the place where you click "I accept your cookies" the first time on every website.

Notes week 25 - 2017

To Grow Faster, Hit Pause — and Ask These Questions from Stripe’s COO

First Round puts a steady stream of excellent blog posts. In this post a peek into Stripe's organization. One of the challenges at a fast growing startup is keeping the culture. Where lots of organizations focus on values, Stripe uses operating principles. They also llike to empower people to make their own decisions with which I wholeheartedly agree. I believe that many organizations miss opportunities because of the lack of empowerment of individuals. It makes them stale and rigid. But the very best one is their 5-year plan. It's super important that everyone in the companies understands what the "end goals" are. You can never predict how the path will look like to get there as long the path is heading in the right direction.


Scott Forstall reveals why Apple made the iPhone


Move Over, Bitcoin. Ether Is the Digital Currency of the Moment

Ethereum price has gone up like a rocket (up +4500%) since the beginning of the year and its market cap is close to Bitcoin's. The moment Ethereum crosses Bitcoin's market cap is called the flippening.

Accenture, Microsoft team up on blockchain-based digital ID network

Accenture and Microsoft build a prototype of a blockchain based digital ID network to provide ID-services to 1.1B people without ID as part of a UN project. Identification services are a good use case of blockchain even beyond the developing world. Passport and other IDs are physical representations of identity which are prone to falsification. It would be infinitely easier to verify people's identity based on blockchain and use physical IDs as just token holders to get to the blockchain.

Online Music & Video

Nearly Half of Broadband Consumers Subscribe to a Video OTT Service: Study

51% of streaming video subscribers have 2 or more streaming subscriptions and 63% of streaming video subscribers also still have traditional cable TV service. We're clearly still in the transition phase. Especially under millenials there's a big appetite for live TV streaming services (52% / 18-29 and 49% 30-44) which is unsurprising because that's the single last stronghold of traditional cable TV providers and millenials are more prone to cable cutting which prevents them access.

Online Retail

What works in e-commerce - a meta-analysis of 6700 online experiments

Interesting piece of research done by Qubit. In short, in their opinion the best metric to measure ecommerce performance is revenue per visitor (RPV). The best ways to increase an ecommerce site performance is to work on: scarcity, urgency, social proof, abondoned cart reminders and product recommendations. Forget about changing buttons, colors or call to actions.

Notes week 24 - 2017

With Travis Kalanick taking a leave of absence and the resignation of Emil Michael, Uber is now run by a committee of middle management and the board. How can this go wrong?


In wake of Amazon/Whole Foods deal, Instacart has a challenging opportunity

I would never expected Amazon to buy Wholefoods. Wholefoods' mission and inventory are nothing like Amazon's. It's no secret that Amazon wants to move into the grocery business. One reason I can think of is that Wholefoods has a functioning logistics network and knowhow to distribute fresh food - eg. cold storage. That's something Amazon does not have and must be to particular interest to them. Also perhaps because of the different missions but with overlapping logistical needs, Amazon and Wholefood's will not clash on the marketplace but can benefit from a shared logistical infrastructure.

Verizon Seals $4.5 Billion Yahoo Purchase as Mayer Heads Out

This sale is an end to an era and an end to a slow demise of an icon of the internet industry. Verizon is collecting old internet icons.


$150 Million: Tim Draper-Backed Bancor Completes Largest-Ever ICO

Due to issues with Ethereum contracts this ICO went on longer than it supposed to. Bancor is an interesting concept. Their token shares are pegged to existing reserve currencies based on a defined ratio. Pricing bots on the Bancor network automatically adjust the price of the token shares based on the value of the reserve currency underlying it. Token shares on the Bancor network can be created by anyone and the idea is to create the "long tail" of cryptocurrencies. Good examples are loyalto programs.

More in depth description


Tim Cook Says Apple Focused on Autonomous Systems in Cars Push

Apple is working on autonomous vehicle software. We all knew that but now Tim Cook confirmed it in an interview. Tim Cook calls it "the mother of all AI and it's the most complex.". He emphasized it's more about autonomy (at this point) than the car for Apple.



What stood out to me that many groups at Apple were researching on projects were not really geared towards a real end product. Andy Grignon even calls it "spinning their wheels". But many of those research projects ended up being essential building blocks on the iPhone.

Notes week 23 - 2017

Apple’s WWDC brought a whole slew of announcements and news. It’s great to see Apple is going full on with ML and AR and more importantly, they bring them to IOS developers as ARKit and Core ML. Both AR demos were very impressive from a technical point of view, but not very unconvincing with regard how we can use it in everyday life. I can’t wait to see what the market is going to do with it.

Apple also introduced the HomePod. It’s is a pricey speaker ($349) with sound like a good old Bose sound system. I am not sure how my audiophile heart feels about that. Also I wonder if you can actually see Siri light up when you wake it up since it’s only visible from the top.

Apple is putting more effort into Siri which is good. I’ve never got the hang of Siri because it is too free form in its execution. Alexa proves much more useful because it is clear about what it understands and what not. I only use Siri on the Apple TV to find a movie and it’s pretty good at that but the push a button interface is not very inviting to use it for anything else.

Amazon Video is finally coming this fall to Apple TV. Apparently Apple and Amazon buried the hatchet. I wonder if we will see Apple’s products come back to the Amazon store as well?

Apple put a lot of emphasis on taking the heavy graphics users more seriously with their improved hardware products and the new iMac Pro. Also they’ve updated their Macbook line with new processors. It’s clear that Apple took the criticism seriously and wants to do better on this front.

Also the IOS App Store gets a much needed revamp after years of neglect. The biggest issue with the App Store is discovery and I am not sure this is addressed by turning the first tab into a “daily” magazine. I would be much more interested in personalized search and announcements based on my apps, interests and location, but let’s see.

The iPad got a lot of love in IOS11 and gets a lot of new features to make it more of a productivity machine. It finally gets a file manager. Yup, that happened! It also get drag and drop and more versatile multitasking capabilities with floating windows. I am still not sure about the pen though.

The iPad takes a big step toward being the computer for everyone
iMac Pro, the most powerful Mac ever, arrives this December
Apple introduces a completely redesigned App Store
Apple updates MacBook line with new Intel processors


What Really Happened with Vista

Is there a broad lesson to draw from this story?

One is so fundamental as to be trite. Execution matters. There is no innovation without execution.

It's an opinion piece even though the title pretends otherwise, but it does give some good insight into Microsoft's organization with regard to software development. More interestingly, I found Microsoft's stance on middleware. In their mind, middleware is bad because it allows customers to switch platforms. It makes sense from Microsoft's perceptive, but it's a bit  of an old-fashioned point of view. He's right that most value is created in software, but even with portable applications there's no reason for users to switch if they're happy with the platform. Android is particularly vulnerable for this but it didn't stop it to become the dominant mobile OS. Android even suffers from the same issues as Windows largely related to various OEMs implementations of Android on their hardware (which is outside the control of both Google and Microsoft). It’s a strength and a curse at the same time.


Apple’s Business Chat will bring customer service to the iMessage platform
iOS 11 lets you send and receive money via iMessage with Apple Pay

Apple’s keeps pushing iMessage forward and is introducing Business Chat and iMessage person to person payments. It’s interesting to see what the adoption will be of both because they’re exclusively tied to the Apple ecosystem. There are limits to how far a closed ecosystem can extend. These two new services are pushing against those limits. If they succeed, they’ll make Apple’s ecosystem a lot stronger, if they don’t we know where that limit is. Apple has a lot at stake here.

Internet access

The U.S. ranks 28th in the world in mobile internet speeds

No surprise. Mobile internet speeds are not great in the US especially considering how much an average subscription costs.


‘I’m Not Sure I Understand’—How Apple’s Siri Lost Her Mojo

Highly critical article on Siri by WSJ. I’ve given up on Siri a long time ago, it’s actually disabled on my iPhone and iPad. Mostly because it was not useful. On the other hand, I use Alexa every day multiple times. The problem is the smart phone use case is not strong. I am still quicker and more accurate using my fingers than Siri. Alexa solves simple problems like switching on and off lights, adjusting the thermostat, informing me about the weather and reordering stuff from Amazon. It’s always in the same place and always listens.

I only use Siri occasionally on my Apple TV. It’s faster to say a name of a TV show or movie than using the awkward on screen keyboard. But the UI is still terrible. I need to pick up the remote and push button. It’s not seamless.

The problem is also the way Apple likes to control the integration of external devices into their HomeKit. HomeKit lives on my phone but how can I share access with other family members or guests? Just read this article on howtogeek to learn more about it. It’s not intuitive and unfortunately I’ve seen nothing planned for IOS11 to improve this.

If I compare that to Alexa where I can set it up and anyone with physical access to my Echo can use it. Everything is in the cloud and if I add another Echo to my account will automatically have the same capabilities. It’s unclear how HomePod is going to solve this. Nothing got mentioned with regard to HomeKit and the HomePod. With the A8 processor inside, it does have enough processing power to run apps but nothing in the presentation was mentioned on how Siri can do more than just play music and answer generic questions.

Notes week 22 - 2017


Internet Report 2017

Mary Meeker from KPCB released her yearly internet report and as always it's a treat to read - all 355 slides. One interesting tidbit was designer : developer ratios (slide 188) which is 1 designer per ~6-7 developers. It’s good this is improving. It means that design is getting more important and developers get more productive. Both are good things.


Google Chrome Will Automatically Block Annoying Ads

Google Contributor

Google is going to bundle an ad filter by default with Chrome. The ad filter removes ads which are not in line with the guidelines set out by the "Coalition for Better Ads". As a long time users of ad filters, I am happy to see more attention is going to improve the ad experience on the internet. Though I wonder if it will be enough. Ad blocking is now installed on 18% of desktop computers and on 1% of mobile devices in the US. The problem with ads is that they've gone downhill in quality and relevancy. Most of it has to do with the lowering of ad costs and the increase inventory by publishers to compensate.

Next, Google is also launching Google Contributor where users can pay a small fee to see the ad-free version. That's an interesting twist. It only supports 12 sites for now and no major site is part of the line up yet. It's also unclear what the pricing is. Google says sites charge a flat fee per page view but without signing up, you can't actually see what the flat fee is. Also you've to enable them manually. There's still some work to do here.



Apple Is Manufacturing a Siri Speaker to Outdo Google and Amazon 

Apple is presumably introducing a wireless speaker with Siri integration. It is a logical extension to Apple's product portfolio. Apple’s challenge is that Siri today is not that useful and HomeKit has not taken off. Adoption of HomeKit by vendors has been slow due to Apple’s high bar for integration. My home has many home automation devices. None of them are compatible with Apple’s HomeKit.

Though like the EarPods this product will add to the bottom line and keep investors at bay (for now). I would be surprised if Apple can create serious momentum over Echo or Home in the short term. Both Amazon and Google have great services (shopping and search) which elevate these products immediately to the next level. Besides music Apple does not have any great services.

Exclusive: this is the Essential Phone 

Essential Home is an Amazon Echo competitor that puts privacy first

Andy Rubin's company Essential announced two products today; Phone and Home. The Essential Phone is made of titanium / ceramic and has a screen which "incorporates" the front camera. The Essential Home looks a more capable Echo Show and it can act more independently from the cloud than Amazon's echo line of products. 

There's a lot of chatter about the Essential Phone where assumptions are made that the market is owned by Apple and Samsung. This is certainly true today in the premium segment of the smartphone market. But as smartphone hardware and software (read Android) is becoming a commodity, there's enough room in the market for competitors in the premium space. The hardest part is to capture people's attention especially without a clear distinguishing factor. I wonder if the Essential Phone has what it takes to do that.

The Essential Home is a much more interesting product. I am super bullish on the Echo Show. My experience with the Echo Dot proves that a screen can be super beneficial in the interaction with the device. I think these devices are the first inklings of ambient computing and the start of unbundling the smartphone. 


SCOTUS has invalidated patent rights after first sale. This is an important steps towards freedom for owners to handle your own equipment as you see fit. The context was refurbishment of ink cartridges for printers but the ruling applies to any equipment sold with refillable cartridges like a lot of medical equipment. Clearly patents were abused in this case to limit the freedom of owners of equipment and artificially inflate pricing on the market for consumables. 

U.S. Supreme Court Curbs Patent-Holder Power to Block Resale

Hybrid / Web Apps

Chrome dropped support for PNaCl and embraced WebAssembly. This means there's consensus among the major browser that WebAssembly is going to be the implementation for portable compiled apps on the web. Chrome and Firefox support it already and Edge + Safari offer it in their preview versions. This makes cross-browser cross-platform high performance web apps a reality like 3D games or video editors.

Goodbye PNaCl, Hello WebAssembly! 


Crypto Tokens: A Breakthrough in Open Network Design 

Chris Dixon talks about his excitement for crypto tokens. He compares it to open source and open information. It's fair but it's going further than that. It's marrying peer 2 peer and permanentness on the network.

$35 Million in 30 Seconds: Token Sale for Internet Browser Brave Sells Out

Brave BATs ICO sale raised $35M in 30s. It sounds like we're heading into a bubble. Brave previously raised $7M in 2 rounds. It feels that $30M is a bridge too far for where the company is today. Apparently many people disagree, let's see what happens next. 

Notes week 21 - 2017

It's good to see that there's open source Siri / Alexa with intelligent backends are being developed.

Apple Is Working on a Dedicated Chip to Power AI on Devices

Apple is rumoured to be working on their own AI chip with a focus on improving battery performance for AI type of applications which makes sense in light of Apple's product lineup.


Xperia Touch

Not new, first time I saw it. Projector with touch interface. Pretty interesting how it bring interfaces to surfaces. Just imagine having in this on your phone. Runs Android.


Bitcoin just surged past $2,000 for the first time

Citizens give up data in blockchain project to improve cities

The three-year EU-funded project, dubbed the Decentralised Citizen Owned Data Ecosystem (DECODE), will see a total of four pilot trials launch in Barcelona and Amsterdam at the end of 2017. In each city, 1000 people will be given an app through which they can share data about themselves to help companies or government groups create products or services to improve the city.

Each citizen will be able to decide exactly how much of their data is uploaded to the platform and how it should be used. For example, a person may decide that location-tracking data about parks they visit can be used by the city council but not private companies.

I think this one of the more interesting approaches to use blockchain technology. The idea to share data publicly but keep control on who has access to this data is a great goal and lacking today's internet.

Tulips, Myths, and Cryptocurrencies

In 1634, the rage among the Dutch to possess [tulips] was so great that the ordinary industry of the country was neglected, and the population, even to its lowest dregs, embarked in the tulip trade. As the mania increased, prices augmented, until, in the year 1635, many persons were known to invest a fortune of 100,000 florins in the purchase of forty roots.

At last, however, the more prudent began to see that this folly could not last for ever. Rich people no longer bought the flowers to keep them in their gardens, but to sell them again at cent per cent profit. It was seen that somebody must lose fearfully in the end.

However, as Thompson wrote in the paper, “appearances are sometimes quite deceiving.”

As Thompson explains, tulips in fact were becoming more popular, particularly in Germany, and, as the first phase of the 30 Years War wound down, it looked like Germany would be victorious, which would mean a better market for tulips. In early October, 1636, though, Germany suffered an unexpected defeat, and the tulip price crashed, not because it was irrationally high, but because of an external shock.

Introducing the Blockstack Browser: A Gateway to a New, Decentralized Internet

The internet is broken. It has been for a while. Even the fathers of the internet, Sir Tim Berners-Lee and Vint Cerf, say that it's broken. We realize you are probably reading this on the internet, and it seems to be working just fine.

Hybrid Apps

If It Weren’t For Apple, Hybrid App Development Would Be The Clear Winner Over Native

I just published my own post Native vs Web when this appeared on Hacker News - even though it was published a week ago. It gives a good insight from a developer's perspective.


Mossberg: The Disappearing Computer

Walt Mossberg's final column, he's been part of my (computing) life as far as I can remember and was (is) an icon of the industry.

In his column he writes:

I expect that one end result of all this work will be that the technology, the computer inside all these things, will fade into the background. In some cases, it may entirely disappear, waiting to be activated by a voice command, a person entering the room, a change in blood chemistry, a shift in temperature, a motion. Maybe even just a thought.

This is ambient computing, the transformation of the environment all around us with intelligence and capabilities that don’t seem to be there at all.

Computers have gotten vastly easier to use, but they still demand attention and care, from charging batteries to knowing which apps to use and when to use them.

But it’s also been about objects and processes. Soon, after a brief slowdown, the roller coaster will be accelerating faster than ever, only this time it’ll be about actual experiences, with much less emphasis on the way those experiences get made.

I totally agree with this vision. For all the talk about wearables, voice assistants, AI, machine learning, virtual reality, augmented / mixes reality, ultimately we made great breakthroughs in putting computing in most people's hands. The next step is to make it disappear.

Notes week 20 - 2017

Behaviorial Economics

How to Resolve Fights over Reclining Airplane Seats: Use Behavioral Economics

Recliners wanted on average $41 to refrain from reclining, while reclinees were willing to pay only $18 on average. Only about 21 percent of the time would ownership of the 4 inches change hands.
When we flipped the default—that is, when we made the rule that people did not have an automatic right to recline, but would have to negotiate to get it—then people’s values suddenly reversed. Now, recliners were only willing to pay about $12 to recline while reclinees were unwilling to sell their knee room for less than $39.
People generally don’t like losing things that they have. When a resource is provided to them as a default—even something as trivial as a pen—people tend to be unwilling to part with it. As a consequence, the least amount of money they are willing to accept to give it up is often much greater than the amount that they would be willing to pay to purchase the same item.

Robotics & AI & VR

Robots that learn

Everything comes together in this single video. Robots that learn through AI by showing them a task in VR. One of the major challenges of robotics in manufacturing is the effort to program them. Here the robot just learns by example. VR is useful because it's to manipulate the 3D scene (shadows, noise) to make the learning more effective.

No one is prepared to stop the robot onslaught. So what will we do when it arrives?

Somewhat doomsday opinion piece but interesting nonetheless about the impact of automation and robotics. For sure many jobs will go away. But we said the same thing about computers and networks. There's one aspect the writer doesn't mention in his article which was one the major impacts of automation by computers and that's we got better at what we do. Not only can we perform task faster but also more rigorously with higher quality results. I would expect that not all jobs which can be taken over by robots and AI will result in an actual loss of a job itself. The job itself will change. If all else fails, we can always campaign for "Made by humans".


Design principle: IKEA effect

The IKEA effect will create stronger bond between the user and the product. The effort that users will put into completing the product to a complete state will transform into love for that product. The subjective value will be higher in comparison to a product that hasn’t cost any effort.
To hit the sweet spot we need to aim at creating a product where the level of effort is low but the perceived contribution is high.


MaruOS - Your phone is your PC

The idea of convergence of the mobile and PC platform keeps popping up. I don't understand why people keep dreaming about it. Motorola tried it with XXX, Microsoft tried with XXX and Ubuntu dreamt about it. It's like trying to turn a bicycle into a car.


A good and easy to follow technical analysis of the inner workings of the WannaCrypt ransomware worm.

Why Amazon Is Eating The World

It’s the fact that each piece of Amazon is being built with a service-oriented architecture, and Amazon is using that architecture to successively turn every single piece of the company into a separate platform — and thus opening each piece to outside competition.
By carving out an operational piece of the company as a platform, they could future-proof the company against inefficiency and technological stagnation.
I could go on and on with examples. I’m on the email list for updates from AWS, Amazon Marketplace, Amazon’s Vendor program and a handful of customer-facing programs — they are systemically productizing the entire company, honing what works, fixing what doesn’t and killing off everything else.

‘The Internet Is Broken’: @ev Is Trying to Salvage It

“I thought once everybody could speak freely and exchange information and ideas, the world is automatically going to be a better place,” Mr. Williams says. “I was wrong about that.”
That kind of determination may raise the odds but says little about long-term success. The darkest theory about the failure of Medium to catch on as an influential writing site comes from Cliff Watson, a 46-year-old advertising executive and onetime Medium contributor from Omaha. He thinks it is already a relic of an earlier era, kind of like communicating by carrier pigeon or telegraph.
And yet. Medium hasn’t solved the problem of publishing on the internet, but neither has anyone else.

I recently removed my posts from Medium because I got less response or interaction from it then when it was living on a Wordpress site. The problem with aggregative sites is that they quickly become polluted with noise. It's ultimately a popularity contest. Same as Twitter or Facebook.

Notes week 19 - 2017


WannaCry, Wcry and WannaCrypt ransomware hack attack was enormous. Reportedly there were 75,000 computers hacked in 99 countries - all of them using unpatched versions of Windows. It shows how vulnerable the interconnected world of today can be. It reminds of the Mirai botnet DDOS attach from last year. It is essential we do better to protect our infrastructure and systems. It feels that law-enforcement today is out of their depth to effectively handle and act on these kind of incidents. Maybe time to rethink on priorities.

Digital manufacturing

Faster, higher, stronger: How the digitalization of industry is redefining value creation

If new and innovative companies, such as providers of data analytics, specialized software providers or companies that can bundle complementary offerings, appear on the scene, traditional manufacturing would suddenly become just one module among many – namely manufacturing-as-a-service.

Yes! I've been thinking and writing about this for a long time. We're not quite there yet but we're getting close to a world where on-demand digital manufacturing becomes a reality. The first step is digitization of all processes involved and we're still in the middle of that. But once that nears it completion, we can see all kinds of interesting things happening in manufacturing. There might be a world in the not so distant future where one doesn't a need a world-class supply chain like Apple to be able to manufacture products like a Macbook or iPhone.

AI / Machine learning

Why Do Gas Station Prices Constantly Change? Blame the Algorithm

Algorithms can also figure out what products are usually purchased together, allowing them to optimize the price of a whole shopping cart. If customers tend to be sensitive to milk prices, but less so to cereal prices, the software might beat a competitor’s price on milk, and make up margin on cereal.
In a pilot study, OK (ED: Danish gas station company) split 30 stations into two sets, a control group and an a2i group. The group using the software averaged 5% higher margins, according to a paper Mr. Derakhshan presented last June at an A.I. conference in Seville, Spain.

Physiognomy’s New Clothes

Wu and Zhang’s claim is that machine learning techniques can predict the likelihood that a person is a convicted criminal with nearly 90% accuracy using nothing but a driver’s license-style face photo.

Selfies: The latest big data source for life insurance

That's the objective of a new insurtech startup, Lapetus, which has developed facial analytics software that uses selfies to analyze body mass index, gender, and even physiological age to determine underwriting risk.

Physiognomy is a serious risk by using photos combined with machine learning to make assessments on a person. Especially without the option for human intervention, it can have significant impact in people's life when based on machine interpretation of data they are shut out of certain service like insurance. Any machine learning or AI has a certain error-rate, but humans have built in error-correction in the form of interaction. ML does not come with error-correction.

Deep, Deep Trouble

The idea was conceptually quite simple: take a huge set of clean images, add synthetic noise, and then feed them to the learning process that aims to turn a noisy image into its clean version. While the process was tedious, frustrating, and lengthy—tweaking the method’s parameters in a search for good performance likely took a long time—the end result was a network that performed better than any known image denoising algorithm at that time.
The facts speak loudly for themselves; in most cases, deep learning-based solutions lack mathematical elegance and offer very little interpretability of the found solution or understanding of the underlying phenomena. On the positive side, however, the performance obtained is terrific.

Deep learning AI is better at solving image processing problems than scientists who are attacking the problem with math. The question becomes what the point is of continuing research in these fields. Scientists struggle with this question. Some embrace the new technology and others choose to ignore it. Image processing is just one of academic research areas which are impacted, but it is reasonable to assume that more academic fields will be impacted in similar fashion. Is AI training going to be a separate field or special field in academic research? And how are going to share trained AI-data? There's serious effort and value going into training AI deep learning networks and they will become valuable. This could potentially spawn a whole new business with trained AI-as-a-service or sold packaged in volume.


There's always Elon Musk doing something boring. This is a bit further along than I expected.

When Amazon unveiled their Echo Show, my first thought was this sounds eerily similar to what Nucleus is doing. This probably a case of one arm of the company has no clue what the other arm is doing. Amazon is getting big. Amazon invested millions in the startup Nucleus — then cloned its product for the new Echo.

Notes week 18 - 2017

Internet Access

We’re still in the midst of the telecom / cable industry market disruption. Another estimated 1M people cut the cord last quarter and the majority of households did away with their landline.


Wireless Power

Wireless Power Transfer to Millimeter-Sized Gastrointestinal Electronics Validated in a Swine Model

Open Internet

The future of the open internet — and our way of life — is in your hands

The maturity of the internet as a platform and the rise of the internet champions, the internet is getting less open. It is the natural way of information platforms and Tim Wu gave it a name “The Cycle”:

“History shows a typical progression of information technologies, from somebody’s hobby to somebody’s industry; from jury-rigged contraption to slick production marvel; from a freely accessible channel to one strictly controlled by a single corporation or cartel — from open to closed system.” — Tim Wu

Blockchain / Digital Currency

Germany’s Energy Giant Launches 100s of Ethereum Based Electric Cars Charging Stations

Perfect example of using blockchain - especially given the idea that the car could be the wallet (instead of a mobile app).

AI / Machine Learning

Simply building a brain like system will not lead to consciousness and artificial intelligence does not have to be human-like brain to be considered intelligent.

A Theory of Consciousness Can Help Build a Theory of Everything

Foremost among those theories is Integrated Information Theory, developed by neuroscientist Giulio Tononi at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. It models a conscious system, be it brain, bot, or Borg, as a network of neurons or equivalent components. The theory says the system is conscious to the extent that its parts act together in harmony.

The myth of a superhuman AI

Human minds are societies of minds, in the words of Marvin Minsky. We run on ecosystems of thinking. We contain multiple species of cognition that do many types of thinking: deduction, induction, symbolic reasoning, emotional intelligence, spacial logic, short-term memory, and long-term memory.
When we invented artificial flying we were inspired by biological modes of flying, primarily flapping wings. But the flying we invented — propellers bolted to a wide fixed wing — was a new mode of flying unknown in our biological world. It is alien flying. Similarly, we will invent whole new modes of thinking that do not exist in nature.