5ish Links

Twitter No Longer Listless

(First published on 6/23/17 on 5ish Links, my newsletter)

We’re a week into Twitter’s most recent redesign. I still like it — and I’m not seeing that many complaints about it on Twitter (and a lot of praise), which seems unheard of both on the internet in general but also when you happen to be redesigning a tool that makes knee-jerk complaining so easy. So, kudos, Twitter.

One thing I particularly like about the new iOS version is that the long-neglected Lists feature is much more prominent. While it may not be a bottom tab (it would be awesome to give “power users” the ability choose which tabs you’d like along the bottom — I don’t want/need/use the “Discover” one — as you can with Tweetbot), it is now right there with a swipe to the right.

I still love Lists. I’ve long believed they’re a highly under-leverage feature of Twitter. Yes, they’re also sort of power-user-y. But they don’t have to be. And in many ways, it feels like they could make Twitter easier to use for many people.

I assume that was part of the reason for lists in the first place — not just to be able to create your own lists, but to lean on power users to put together great lists that others could subscribe to. Unfortunately, this functionality seems to have been hijacked by marketing folks who seem to do nothing but add people to lists all day. At least, that’s all I seem to see when I’m added to a list.

With a little discovery love (and smarts), I think Lists could be as powerful as they should be. For example, I have a list of local businesses near where I live. I check it from time to time and it has actually been able to surface interesting local events (and news). This is also how I follow and stay up-to-date with all my portfolio companies. I also use a list as a “hack” to make sure I can see all the accounts I have set to send me push notifications from Twitter — since those notifications are often cleared after you open Twitter for the first time in a day.

On the topic of nits: we need to get Lists unburied on the iPad version of the app. They’re still banished to a gear icon dropdown there. Because of course the iPad version can’t work exactly like the iPhone version 😜

5ish Links

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F80e5d76 6291 413a ba0a8b24b59dac91 agenda

Mike Wall:

ITS rockets will launch the spaceships to Earth orbit, then come back down for a pinpoint landing about 20 minutes later. And “pinpoint” is not hyperbole: “With the addition of maneuvering thrusters, we think we can actually put the booster right back on the launch stand,” Musk wrote in his New Space paper, citing SpaceX’s increasingly precise Falcon 9 first-stage landings.

The ITS boosters will launch many spaceships and fuel tankers (which will top up the spaceships’ tanks) to orbit over the course of their operational lives; the rockets will be designed to fly about 1,000 times each, Musk wrote. The spaceships, meanwhile, will hang out in orbit, and then depart en masse when Earth and Mars align favorably. This happens once every 26 months.

Eventually, Musk wrote, he envisions 1,000 or more ITS spaceships, each carrying 100 or more people, leaving Earth orbit during each of these Mars windows. The architecture could conceivably get 1 million people to Mars within the next 50 to 100 years, he has said.

You know a goal is audacious when just reaching 10% would be insane. Hell, reaching 1% would be.

The ITS’ reusability is key to making Mars colonization affordable. This reusability — combined with other measures, such as fueling the spaceships in Earth orbit and making propellant on Mars — could bring the price of a Red Planet trip down to $200,000 or so per person, from an estimated $10 billion using conventional spaceflight systems, Musk said.

ITS spaceships could begin flying to Mars about 10 years from now, if everything goes well, Musk added. But he acknowledged that success is far from guaranteed.

See above.

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16wealth1 facebookjumbo

Robert Frank:

Mr. Bezos, who owns about 17 percent of Amazon, has enjoyed what could be the most rapid personal-wealth surge in history. As Amazon’s share price has more than tripled since 2015, its leader has added more than $50 billion to his net worth, bringing his current total to around $84 billion, according to the Bloomberg Billionaires Index. He is now less than $6 billion shy of taking the title of the world’s richest person from Bill Gates, who has held the crown for 18 of the past 23 years.

Mr. Bezos’ wealth is proof of Amazon’s seemingly unstoppable growth and dominance in a wide range of fields, including online retailing and cloud computing. It adds another Horatio Alger story to the mythmaking machine of American wealth — showcasing someone from the middle class who was adopted by his Cuban-immigrant stepfather, quit his Wall Street job to start selling books online from his garage and created a company now worth nearly a half trillion dollars.

Sort of crazy that for all the talk of “Silicon Valley” that the world’s two most wealthy tech titans (and people, in general) both live and operate in Seattle… (While the third richest man lives in Nebraska.)

Experts on nonprofits and friends of Mr. Bezos say he has been more focused on building Amazon and would probably turn to philanthropy later. The more wealth he creates today, they said, the more he can give away later.

Granted, money has never been Mr. Bezos’ public goal. Like many of today’s tech tycoons, he has said his mission is changing the world and satisfying customers rather than getting rich. In a commencement speech at Princeton in 2010, he recounted his choice to quit his comfortable job in finance in 1994 to take a risk on selling books online.

“I took the less safe path to follow my passion,” he said, “and I’m proud of that choice.”

I’ll say. One other random aside about Bezos:

He is one of the largest landowners in America, with nearly 300,000 acres.

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Continuing on the topic of tech tycoons, Megan Murphy recently sat down with Tim Cook:

You’ve talked a lot about augmented reality at the heart of the company’s future. How do you see AR moving forward?

I think it is profound. I am so excited about it, I just want to yell out and scream. The first step in making it a mainstream kind of experience is to put it in the operating system. We’re building it into iOS 11, opening it to ­developers — and unleashing the creativity of millions of people. Even we can’t predict what’s going to come out.

The interview is full with these seemingly randomly exuberant remarks. Meanwhile, on the topic of corporate taxes:

On the future stuff, I’d come up with a really simple system. I would go for zero deductions. I wouldn’t allow any. I think when you begin to open the door to things that people want, it doesn’t close. It just keeps opening and opening and opening. I would be draconian and say “none.” The rate gets as low as it can go. I don’t know what that would be. Maybe it can get to this 15 percent people are talking about. Maybe not. Maybe it’s 20.

I would still charge a tax on international earnings. I am a party of one on this topic. The issue is not that there’s a tax on international earnings. The issue is the existing tax has been crazy. No one would bring it back at a 40 percent — I mean, 35 percent federal and then state taxes. That’s the problem.

Sounds rational to me.

On the topic of dealing with Trump:

At the end of the day, I’m not a person who’s going to walk away and say, “If you don’t do what I want, I leave.” I’m not on a council, so I don’t have those kind of decisions. But I care deeply about America. I want America to do well. America’s more important than bloody politics from my point of view.

Let me give you an example of this. Veterans Affairs has struggled in providing health care to veterans. We have an expertise in some of the things at the base level that they’re struggling with. So we’re going to work with them. I could give a crap about the politics of it. I want to help veterans. My dad’s a veteran. My brother served. We have so many military folks in Apple. These folks deserve great health care. So we’re going to keep helping.

That’s one “bloody” and one “give a crap” — sort of refreshing, in a way.

Pirates of the caribbean dead men tell no tales baywatch 2 shot
Pirates of the caribbean dead men tell no tales baywatch 2 shot

Anthony D’Alessandro and Anita Busch on Pirates 5 and Baywatch bombing at the box office (something I talked about in a newsletter a couple weeks ago):

Insiders close to both films blame Rotten Tomatoes, with Pirates 5 and Baywatch respectively earning 32% and 19% Rotten. The critic aggregation site increasingly is slowing down the potential business of popcorn movies. Pirates 5 and Baywatch aren’t built for critics but rather general audiences, and once upon a time these types of films — a family adventure and a raunchy R-rated comedy — were critic-proof. Many of those in the industry severely question how Rotten Tomatoes computes the its ratings, and the fact that these scores run on Fandango (which owns RT) is an even bigger problem.

Both Pirates 5 and Baywatch started high on tracking four weeks ago, $90M-$100M over four and $50M over five days respectively, and the minute Rotten Tomatoes hit, those estimates collapsed. Over the weekend, I heard that some studio insiders want to hold off critic screenings until opening day or cancel them all together (that’s pretty ambitious and would cause much ire, we’ll see if that ever happens). Already, studios and agencies are studying RT scores’ impact on advance ticket sales and tracking.

“There’s just not a great date on the calendar to open a poorly reviewed movie,” said one studio marketing vet this morning.

This is the most ridiculous excuse in the world. Think about what they’re trying to say for a minute: the movies are failing because the reviews are awful. Of course this is true. There isn’t always a direct correlation between the two, but more often than not…

So what they’re really saying is that people shouldn’t be allowed to so easily know if a movie is crap or not.

Yes, movie criticism is subjective. But that’s why aggregators like Rotten Tomatoes (and Metacritic, which I prefer) are great (for consumers). It makes the criticism less subjective — in aggregate, these numbers tend to be at least directionally accurate when it comes to how much a wide audience will enjoy a film.

I could go on, but this is really simple: if you don’t want your movie to bomb at the box office, make a good movie. It won’t work every time, but it gives it a much better chance of success. People tend to like to see quality…

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2474 d018 00005rv3   h 2017

Speaking of crap movies, here’s Chris Eggertsen on the latest from Tom Cruise:

With one eye firmly on his own bottom line, the actor is clearly looking for a way to right the ship. In addition to The Mummy, last year’s poorly-received action sequel Jack Reacher: Never Go Back, a potential Edge of Tomorrow sequel and Top Gun 2 signify a shift in the way he’s traditionally approached his career. The latter film in particular feels like a belated concession to Hollywood’s ravenous appetite for nostalgia-driven franchises, and it’s hard to imagine he would have made the same decision had his last few films performed better at the box-office.

Also, Cruise seems to have horrible timing with his choices here. He’s going all-in on sequels just as audiences seem to be going all-out on them.

Giphy Break

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Image for post
Email before the weekend…

Quickish Hits

Highly useful tips… One not-so-obvious one:

There’s really no such thing as “too many channels”

There were about 500 scripted shows during the just-concluded 2016–17 television season, nearly double the number of scripted shows in 2011.

500ish Words


My favorite feature of iOS 11 thus far…

Written by

General Partner @ GV (née Google Ventures). In past lives I wrote at TechCrunch, VentureBeat, and ParisLemon. A man of few words. Except when writing. 🍻

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