You Can’t Just Call Loans Options
> Also tech companies as banks, the bank of crypto and index funds.
> A weird feature of U.S. tax law is that, if you do a thing purely to get around tax rules, then that is bad and a sham and the IRS can look through it and make you pay your taxes. But if you do the thing not only to get around tax rules but also to get around other rules (like margin requirements), then from the IRS’s perspective you have a valid business purpose and you might be able to keep your good tax treatment. “We’re not just gaming your rules, we’re gaming other regulators’ rules too” is, surprisingly, an argument that might persuade the IRS.
> The advertising for the Apple card calls it “A new kind of credit card. Created by Apple, not a bank.” That appears to be true of the appearance of the physical card. But the credit algorithms were created by a bank, to Apple’s eventual embarrassment. It is just a little odd that Apple seems to have been so incurious about the algorithms. It’s a tech company!
The Google Squeeze
> OTAs have always been a special case when it comes to Aggregation Theory; like Aggregators, they serve customers on a zero marginal cost basis, and they have power over supply (hotels, primarily) by virtue of delivering them demand. The hangup for me is how they acquire that demand: first and foremost from Google.
> This arrangement between OTAs and Google has long been beneficial to both sides. Google drives traffic to the OTAs, which can monetize that traffic via commissions extracted from suppliers.2 Google, meanwhile, not only receives relevant results it could serve to customers, but also makes billions of dollars from OTAs buying search ads.
An Incredible Move: The Indiana Bell Telephone Building
> The massive undertaking began on October 1930. Over the next four weeks, the massive steel and brick building was shifted inch by inch 16 meters south, rotated 90 degrees, and then shifted again by 30 meters west. The work was done with such precision that the building continued to operate during the entire duration of the move. All utility cables and pipes serving the building, including thousand of telephone cables, electric cables, gas pipes, sewer and water pipes had to be lengthened and made flexible to provide continuous service during the move. A movable wooden sidewalk allowed employees and the public to enter and leave the building at any time while the move was in progress. The company did not lose a single day of work nor interrupt their service during the entire period.
How airplane food goes from the kitchen to your flight
> Gate Gourmet is one major player in the airplane catering game, feeding about 750 million passengers a year in about 60 countries. On a typical day at its Dulles International Airport branch, in suburban Washington, the company is responsible for getting 18,000 meals onto 275 flights. In busy seasons, that number jacks up to 25,000 meals.
I Got Access to My Secret Consumer Score. Now You Can Get Yours, Too.
> Little-known companies are amassing your data — like food orders and Airbnb messages — and selling the analysis to clients. Here’s how to get a copy of what they have on you.
> As of this summer, though, Sift does have a file on you, which it can produce upon request. I got mine, and I found it shocking: More than 400 pages long, it contained all the messages I’d ever sent to hosts on Airbnb; years of Yelp delivery orders; a log of every time I’d opened the Coinbase app on my iPhone. Many entries included detailed information about the device I used to do these things, including my IP address at the time.
Knotel wants to be WeWork — without the ‘bloodbath’
NCAA Clears Way for Athletes to Be Compensated
> The move came amid growing pressure from legislators, a month after California passed a law requiring schools in the state to allow college athletes to earn endorsement money, and represents a stark shift in policy.
> In a concession the NCAA had long resisted, the organization’s governing board directed its three divisions to immediately consider changing the rules governing such benefits for athletes, and to make all such changes no later than January 2021.
DB-19: Resurrecting an Obsolete Connector
> This is a happy story about the power of global communication and manufacturing resources in today’s world. If you’ve been reading this blog for any length of time, then you’ve certainly heard me whine and moan about how impossible it is to find the obscure DB-19 disk connector used on vintage Macintosh and Apple II computers (and some NeXT and Atari computers too). Nobody has made these connectors for decades.
We Could Really Use Some Money
> In better times, really not that long ago at all, we talked about WeWork as a clever financial arbitrage, segmenting the market so that it could appeal to debt investors as a boring stable real-estate company while appealing to equity investors as a fast-growing high-multiple tech company. Now, in worse times, it is the opposite: If you invest now, you can get some terrifying debt that lenders don’t want combined with some cursed equity that the stock market doesn’t want.
> Did WeWork founder Adam Neumann disturb a mummy and trigger an ancient curse? Was a WeWork built on a haunted graveyard, unleashing powerful dark energies and also elevated levels of formaldehyde? How do you have such a relentless parade of negative financial news and then find out that your phone booths cause cancer? “Our phone booths might cause cancer” was not an IPO risk factor. Nobody had “phone booths cause cancer” on their WeWork Disaster Bingo cards.
California Governor Signs Bill Allowing College Athletes to Earn Money
Goldman Sachs Tries Banking for the Masses. It’s Been a Struggle.
> Goldman’s new consumer bank, which operates under the brand Marcus, has lost $1.3 billion since launching in 2016. It spent heavily to buy startups and cloud-storage space, hire hundreds of techies, and build call centers in Utah and Texas. Loans have gone bad at a higher rate than that of rivals.
> A credit card developed with Apple Inc. was a coup, but a costly one: Thousands of engineers across Goldman were diverted to finish it in time for an August debut, delaying other projects. Apple ads for the card carried the phrase: “Designed by Apple, not a bank”—a line that didn’t appear in a giant banner ad in Goldman’s lobby this fall.
Plus some other interesting details in here.
WeWork C.E.O., Adam Neumann, Stepping Down Under Pressure
The Legitimate Vulnerability Market
> Trading of 0-day computer exploits between hackers has been taking place for as long as computer exploits have existed. A black market for these exploits has developed around their illegal use. Recently, a trend has developed toward buying and selling these exploits as a source of legitimate income for security researchers. However, this emerging “0-day market” has some unique aspects that make this particularly difficult to accomplish in a fair manner. These problems, along with possible solutions will be discussed. These issues will be illustrated by following two case studies of attempted sales of 0-day exploits.
> May 6, 2007
Where oil rigs go to die
> When a drilling platform is scheduled for destruction, it must go on a thousand-mile final journey to the breaker’s yard. As one rig proved when it crashed on to the rocks of a remote Scottish island, this is always a risky business
The Time Netflix Considered Selling Itself to Amazon for Peanuts
> It was the summer of 1998. DVDs had been in the U.S. market for a little over a year, and Netflix , the e-commerce company Reed Hastings and I had co-founded to sell and rent them through the mail, had been live for just over two months. I was the company’s CEO, Reed its largest investor.
> He was in his office, just hanging up the phone when we walked in. His desk, and the desks of the two other people he shared the office with, were made of doors mounted atop 4 × 4 wooden legs, braced with triangular metal pieces. I suddenly realized that every desk I’d seen in that office was the same.
> That would have been a pretty good outcome for me, since at the time, I owned about 30% of the company. Thirty percent of $15 million is a pretty nice return for 12 months of work—particularly when your wife is broadly hinting that it might be time to pull the kids out of private school, sell the house, and move to Montana.
> But for Reed, it wasn’t enough. He owned the other 70% of the company, but he’d also invested $2 million in it. And he was fresh off the sale of Pure Atria, the company formed out of his first software venture. He was already an “eight-figure guy.” A high-eight-figure guy.
How Tax Policy Gave Us White Claw
> Because of this tax quirk, beverage companies have long sought ways to make flavored cocktail-like beverages for the U.S. market by brewing instead of distilling. Zima, Smirnoff Ice, and Mike’s Hard Lemonade are all “malternative” beverages, brewed from grain, like beer. A problem with malternatives has been the need to find ways to mask the beer-like flavor that results from brewing. To that end, these drinks have added sugar and strong citrus flavors, which a lot of consumers like. But they don’t serve as a replacement for a vodka soda.
> The key advancement with White Claw and its competitors in the “spiked seltzer” market is the use of sugar base for fermentation, which leads to a more neutral flavor than you can get by fermenting barley or other grains.
One byte used to cost a dollar
> Back in the days when software was distributed on floppy disks (remember floppy disks?), the rule of thumb for Windows was one byte costs a dollar.
> In other words, considering the cost of materials, the additional manufacturing time, the contribution to product weight, the cost of replacing materials that became defective after they left the factory (e.g., during shipping), after taking data compression into account, and so on, the incremental cost of adding another megabyte to the Windows product was around one million dollars, or about a dollar per byte.
Smartphones, Except Landlocked
> Phone lines, while not initially designed to transfer binary data, turned out to be a good enough way to do so—up until the 2000s, at least. From sending faxes to browsing the Internet, people relied on effectively the same copper wires they used with Ma Bell-leased telephones. But while most of the personal tech evolved towards greater connectivity, landline phones mostly got better only at the ergonomics of calling and dialing. Today’s Tedium is dedicated to the few ones which dared to be smarter.
Plus this great anecdote:
> The mild criticism (“not proving the success that Sir Alan Sugar had hoped” was all that was ever written about the phone) pushed Sugar to send a message to all 95,000 service subscribers, asking them to send an email to Charles Arthur, the newspaper’s tech editor.
The Exxon Valdez of cyberspace
> In 1989 the thin-hulled Exxon Valdez supertanker ran aground in Prince William Sound, Alaska, pouring a quarter of a million barrels of oil into the surrounding waters. At the time, it was America’s worst offshore spill, and a huge blow to the reputation of the ship’s owner, Exxon. The firm paid $3bn to clean up the area and settle legal claims, and to improve safety the American government ordered the phasing out of single-hull ships such as Exxon Valdez. All vessels used worldwide by Exxon’s corporate descendant, ExxonMobil, are now double-hulled. But that is not all. The disaster gave rise to a cultlike culture of discipline within ExxonMobil that helped turn it into the profitmaking beast it is today.
If we haven’t yet seen a sufficiently nasty data breach to motivate cleanups, I don’t think we want to.
Yelp is Screwing Over Restaurants By Quietly Replacing Their Phone Numbers
> The phone numbers add tracking before connecting to a restaurant so that Grubhub can bill for a marketing fee.
> “There’s a button where you could hit play and so I was like, what is this?” he said. “I hit play, and the first call was me on the phone, which freaked me out because I didn’t know I was being recorded.” The call was a customer who had his restaurant confused with another restaurant. It took four minutes to figure this out before the customer hung up without placing an order. “I got charged almost $8 for that phone call.”