Moving Day

99D has moved to a new home on Substack.

Hello! This looks different, doesn’t it? That’s because 99D has moved to a new home on Substack. All of my previous subscribers are already transferred so no need to do anything new at all. The full website isn’t going away but it is going out of sight. I’d like to keep it around, at least for a while. will bring you to Substack now.

One of the really cool about maintaining a website and newsletter for the past couple of years has been the opportunity to play around with tools and best practices (not that anything I do is best anything). But I have become increasingly frustrated with the formatting of the newsletter. It often looks bizarre and inconsistent, as I’m sure some of you have noticed. That’s because of the limited control I have in going from Squarespace to Mailchimp via RSS. 

The irony here is that these are apps/tools that emphasize control and creative expression. They each present tons of options and features and opportunities for customization. As a result, there are too many bad combinations. This is made all the worse by the fact that there are connected via RSS. I have limited ability to test designs at scale and the feedback loop is too long. With enough time and skill, everyone can build their exact perfect dream layout.

I don’t want that. I just want it to work.

That’s why I’m here. My hope is that Substack will help fix the formatting issues and help me increase the publishing cadence by limiting options and consolidating the writing and sending process into one place. Instead of catering to bloggers and artists and restaurants and small businesses and political campaigns and ecommerce stores, Substack is just for newsletters. That means it only has the absolutely most essential features I need for 99D and nothing I don’t.

Substack is a great example of an 80% solution or the Pareto Principle. It’s not perfect but it is good enough for enough of the people enough of the time. Rather than trying to create bespoke solutions (for me it was custom Squarespce to custom Mailchimp via RSS), Substack gives me far more limited options in exchange for far higher quality assurance and ease of use. I can spend less time on set up and more time using the out of the box, stripped down tools.

This is part of the continuing shift towards the public cloud and public apps: modular,  tools that emphasize fast setup times and interoperability. Substack centralizes all of the development work and presents users with tight options. No feature bloat. No set up time. It just works. For 80% of users that is.

Substack is also a very cool piece of the media innovation flywheel. A critical mass of people writing newsletters leads to the creation of a tool like this, which in turns lowers the barrier to entry and draws more people in. The users draw the tool and the tool draws the users. I think Substack is gonna be what medium was supposed to be. Simple publishing tools to support a blogging renaissance, this time with monetization built right in. Today, I pay for subscriptions to four independant analysts/bloggers/writers (Stratechery, 2PM, and NumLock) and subscribe to countless more free ones. The ecosystem is flourishing in no small part because now the tools are better than ever.

On to the good shit:

Power Causes Brain Damage - Jerry Useem, The Atlantic

1. Look past the bad title. 2. while this isn’t about Elon Musk, it’s also not not about him either.

power, in fact, impairs a specific neural process, “mirroring,” that may be a cornerstone of empathy. Which gives a neurological basis to what Keltner has termed the “power paradox”: Once we have power, we lose some of the capacities we needed to gain it in the first place.

Sacha Baron Cohen and the Right's Imaginary Israeli - Noah Kulwin, Jewish Currents

Clad in a military-style t-shirt and facing the camera sitting down, with legs apart at a 270-degree angle and a jawline that could slice a watermelon, [Cohen dressed as his character] Moran demonstrates how pretty much anyone with a solid accent can assume the identity of an Israeli in the mind of an American ultraconservative; all it takes is adopting a masculine pose and some severe, guttural R’s. The right-wing id does the rest.

Here’s the clip on YouTube.

Study: Analysis of top Facebook pages covering American political news - Natalie Martinez, Media Matters

Partisan pages had roughly equal engagement, and they had more engagement than nonpartisan pages: Right-leaning and left-leaning Facebook pages had virtually identical average interaction rates -- measurements of a page's engagement -- at .18 percent and .17 percent, respectively, and nonaligned pages had the lowest interaction rates at .08 percent.

Right-leaning pages in total have a bigger presence on Facebook: Right-leaning Facebook pages had a higher total number of interactions than left-leaning Facebook pages. Right-leaning pages had 23 percent more total interactions than nonaligned pages and 51 percent more total interactions than left-leaning pages. Images shared by right-leaning pages -- including memes that frequently include false and bigoted messages -- were by far the highest performing content on the Facebook pages examined.

How Many Versions of a Product Do Consumers Really Want? - Sarah C. Whitley, Remi Trudel, Didem Kurt, Harvard Business Review

consumers’ perceptions of how many choices they prefer change depending on whether they intend to use an item for pleasure or to meet a functional need. (Think of a swimsuit desired for beachwear versus swimming laps) […]

Consumers motivated by pleasure believe that what pleases them differs greatly from what pleases most other people. They will therefore prefer a large assortment. But when seeking to meet a utilitarian need with the same product, they are less inclined to see their preferences as being greatly different from those of other people. They will then be satisfied by a smaller assortment from which to choose.

Interesting insofar as it flies in the face of so much established thought/common knowledge for consumer brands: get one thing right. The logic here makes some intuitive sense, even if the study/methodology seems like an odd contrivance (even by the standards of graduate school psych studies). That said, the logic of what you may want does not necessarily translate to what will make for the best customer experience when you’re actually trying to get it.

‘No comment’: The death of business reporting - Steven Pearlstein, Washington Post

Such is the sorry state of corporate media relations these days. Even the prospect of a positive story can’t crack open the door to the executive suite. Alan Murray, who spent years at the Wall Street Journal as a reporter and editor before taking the reins at Fortune magazine, summed it up this way: “One, they don’t trust us. And, two, they don’t need us.”

Indeed, what’s happened in the corporate world is not all that different from what has happened in politics and government in the era of Donald Trump, whose administration has set new highs in terms of distrust and hostility toward the press.