New Year. Same Me.

Good recs and better links

Hey team.

Happy 2019. Welcome to another year in hell. Big news: I read a book! Then I read another book! I generally really struggle to read books (versus magazines and newspapers) so this is big for me. I’m hoping that I’m now far enough removed from school that I can start reading for pleasure again more easily. I want to keep it up. I’m not soliciting recommendations (though I’m not opposed). I’m just, as a 24 year old adult, bragging that I read two books… SAD!

  • Check out: this handy tool to list out all the various platforms, widgets, and plug ins that a given website is using (Built With)

  • Buy: Not Pot. This is my fave new CBD product. Awesome mission and it’s actually fun to take (unlike tinctures, which are gross!)

  • Read: The Fifth Risk by Michael Lewis. It’s ostensibly a Trump book (everything has to be to get published) but really it’s a glowing paean to the federal bureaucracy (Amazon)

  • Watch: Vice, Adam McKay’s latest exploration of world-shaping fuckery. He makes some strong choices but I think it’s all for the best. Funny. Illuminating. (Trailer)

The case for why Big Tech is violating antitrust laws - Sally Hubbard, CNN

Google, Amazon and Facebook are following the same playbook. The tech giants have "platform privilege" — the incentive and ability to prioritize their own goods and services over those of competitors that depend on their platforms. By doing so, they contend they are improving their products and benefiting customers. An entrepreneur can create a superior product or service and still get crushed because Big Tech is controlling the game and playing it, too.

I’ve long been an adherent to Joseph Schumpeter’s “Creative Destruction” theory of monopolies. The basic idea is that monopolies are a short term but constant problem. Facebook’s monopoly won’t be disrupted by a direct competitor to Facebook but rather by something totally different (IBM wasn’t taken down by better mainframe computers but rather by personal computing). This is an idea heavily borrowed by Clayton Christensen in his theory of disruptive innovation (a term that has become so overused as to be meaningless).

But increasingly people like Hubbard and Tim Wu have been making the case that dominant internet companies are substantively different than anything we’ve seen before. Technologies like machine learning, the argument goes, mean that data and network effects will further entrench the dominant companies, even as one technological paradigm gives way to the next. That would mean we need to take a more muscular anti-trust approach.

I just started reading Tim Wu’s latest book The Curse of Bigness: Antitrust in the New Gilded Age so expect anti-trust to take up even more real estate in my head.

'Smart' Pill Bottles Aren't Always Enough To Help The Medicine Go Down - Lauren Silverman, NPR

This is not new (the article came out in 2017 and the underlying studies before that) but it’s nonetheless interesting. Basically there seems to be enough substantive data to show that “smart” pill bottles are not a way to solve for medication adherence. Why? No one knows. 

Let's recap here: We've looked at two large studies of pill bottle reminder systems. One was pretty basic and the other, higher-tech. Neither one seemed to help patients stay on top of their medication.

What's going on? Volpp says it could be a problem with the study's design, or with the devices. Or maybe, just maybe, the main problem isn't forgetfulness.

"Patients in many cases don't like taking medicines every day," Volpp points out. "It reminds them of the illness and they'd rather not be reminded of that."

Any medication can have negative side effects, and some cost a lot, he says. Using a smart pill bottle won't make the drug cheaper or get rid of nasty side effects like impotence or severe fatigue.

Something interesting to watch for as lots of companies (including Zero, a subsidiary of a Tusk portfolio company Ro) try to improve adherence to treatment plans.

Addicted to Vaped Nicotine, Teenagers Have No Clear Path to Quitting - Jan Hoffman, New York Times

This has been a personal hobby horse for a while but Juul is an evil company. 

The survey, which polls 8th, 10th and 12th graders across the country, found the rise in nicotine vaping was the largest spike for any substance recorded by the study in 44 years. About 21 percent of high school seniors had vaped within the previous 30 days, researchers found, compared to about 11 percent a year ago.

The survey also found that many students believe they are vaping “just flavoring.” In fact, just about all brands include nicotine, and Juul has particularly high levels of it.

Minitel, the Open Network Before the Internet - Julien Mailland, The Atlantic

Many services of the dotcom-and-app eras had precursors in 1980s France. With a Minitel, one could read the news, engage in multi-player interactive gaming, grocery shop for same-day delivery, submit natural language requests like “reserve theater tickets in Paris,” purchase said tickets using a credit card, remotely control thermostats and other home appliances, manage a bank account, chat, and date.


The American implementation of a network derived from Minitel was done by private industry alone. It failed in part because its usage was not regulated by the government. For this reason, it offers a view from the past on why the FCC’s move today might be misguided. It turns out that regulated networks might offer better market opportunities.

How Millennials Became The Burnout Generation - Anne Helen Petersen, Buzzfeed

Millennials take a lot of shit but ultimately the joke is always on us. We’re fucked. We just refuse to accept it.

The crisis affected everyone in some way, but the way it affected millennials is foundational: It’s always defined our experience of the job market. More experienced workers and the newly laid-off filled applicant pools for lower- and entry-level jobs once largely reserved for recent graduates. We couldn’t find jobs, or could only find part-time jobs, jobs without benefits, or jobs that were actually multiple side hustles cobbled together into one job. As a result, we moved back home with our parents, we got roommates, we went back to school, we tried to make it work. We were problem solvers, after all — and taught that if we just worked harder, it would work out.