Bad Habit: Downloading Samples on the Kindle

Love my Kindle. Actually I have a handful. Pry them from my cold dead hands. But I only recently discovered that you can download free samples for many books. Try before you buy. 
 
And now I find myself reading the sample chapter and moving on to the next book. Much like I often watch the pilot for a fantastic TV show and then move on to the next pilot. 
 
For TV that’s OK. For books not so much. Almost wish I hadn’t seen this feature.

The Curse of Free Software

Been a lifelong paying user of Instapaper. It’s just the best. When they asked people to pay (1 buck a month) I gladly did. Now Pinterest has taken over and it’s all free. Which sounds great, but then makes you wonder if and when they might have second thoughts and turn it off. Which would be genuinely painful if you have hundreds of archived links and it’s an integral part of your content consumption workflow. Better to start backing up and finding a second source, I guess. 

Per-User Based Pricing Still Makes Sense

Interesting article here on per-user pricing for SaaS products and what the alternatives are, specifically indexing into the number of employees in your customer’s organization or somehow tie into financial metrics, such as transaction volume.

A good question to ask and definitely worth a look, although in most cases you’ll end up staying with per-user based pricing.

Per employee only makes sense if your solution is designed to touch every single one of them (n which case it becomes almost identical to per-user).  

Transaction-based is only achievable if your solution somehow directly touches the financials of the transaction itself, e.g. some kind of payment processor, and directly contributes to a measurable margin increase for that transaction.

So in most cases, especially for departmental/LoB solutions you’ll end up sticking with per-user. But don’t forget to model:

  • Do we price diverse user personae differently? Might be needed if value derived is very diverse.
  • Do we need to package users into bands so that annual contracts can be budgeted with no need for incremental top-ups?
  • Do we account for users outside the customer’s organization (customers, partners, suppliers) that either get indirect value or that have to be pulled in in order to realize the primary value proposition?

WhatsApp in Search of a Business Model

So today we apparently heard that WhatsApp is going to discontinue all consumer-centric monetisation, such as charging for the app or charging any subscription fees. Instead content owners and business that want to interact with me have to pay for connecting with the 900m user base.

Not obvious what that means for the WhatsApp user experience and how attractive this channel will be for advertisers. Seems like early days.

But what is obvious is that this is another indicator for how difficult it is to monetize consumer products, where advertising (especially on mobile and also in the context of communication services) really doesn’t work very well and where it’s incredibly hard to get people to pay beyond an initial app download fee.

And even that is hard enough.

Q3/15 Reading List

Lionel Davidson: Kolymsky Heights. Strong.
Mike Hawthorne: Hell of a Journey. DNF
Ivan Vladislavic: Double Negative. Solid.
Jens Mühling. Mein russisches Abenteuer. Naja.
Tim Moore: French Revolutions. Never boring.
Julia Pierpont: Among the Ten Thousand Things. Solid stuff.
Julian Barnes: Keeping an Eye Open. Not for me. DNF.
Joseph O’Neill: The Dog. Loved it.
William Boyd: Sweet Caress. Just great.
Daniel Friebe: Eddy Merckx. Solidly written but the mystery remains.
Martin Suter: Montecristo. Schwach. DNF.
Jonathan Franzen: Purity. Very satisfying.
Jonas Jonasson: Der Hundertjährige, der aus dem Fenster stieg. Sehr unterhaltsam.
John Banville: The Blue Guitar. Exquisite.
Karl-Ove Knausgård: Träumen. Stark.
Klaus Modick. Klack. Gut genug.
Salman Rushdie: Two Years Eight Months and Twenty-Eight Nights. What a wonderful fairytale.

Q2/15 Reading List

Kazuo Ishiguro: The Buried Giant. Very disappointing.
 
Michael Barry: Shadows on the Road. Interesting enough.
 
Lacey Noonan: A Gronking to Remember. Beyond belief.
 
Kazuo Ishiguro: Nocturnes. Excellent. 
 
Modiano: Gräser der Nacht.  Schwierig schwierig.
 
Bryson: Small Island.Perfect, never gets old.
 
Zia Haider Rahman: In the Light of What We Know. Outstanding. 
 
Ned Boulting: 101 Damnations. Good not great
 
Ed Catmull: Creativity Inc. Pretty good.
 
Klaus Modick: Konzert ohne Dichter. Sehr solide. 
 
Gaimon: Pro Cycling on $10 a Day. Fun read, good writer.

The Changing Nature of Tech Companies

Much talk about Google restructuring into holding company Alphabet and its various subsidiaries. Which is of course a brilliant move when it comes to solving their succession problem. So well done.

Many commentators have compared the new structure to Berkshire Hathaway, but that really doesn’t seem right. Berkshire buys mature companies, whereas I would assume that Alphabet will very much want to grow new businesses inside.

It might make more sense to compare Alphabet to the organizational model of a major film studio or entertainment company.

The parallels are obvious: A talent-driven business, with huge upsides and high downsides, a limited ability to predict success for any given project (so you better have a portfolio of them), and a reasonably short half-life for products with only a small handful of franchises enjoying mid- or long-term success. 

Q1/15 Reading List

NoViolet Bulawayo: We Need New Names. A bit uneven but worth it.
 
Felix Lowe: Climbs and Punishment. Kinda funny. 
 
Maja Haderlap: Engel des Vergessens. Eindrucksvoll.
 
Olga Grjasnowa: Der Russe ist einer, der Birken liebt. Sehr stark.
 
Andreas Maier: Das Haus. Schon überzeugend. Aber elf Bände?
 
Edward St Aubyn: Lost for Words. Good not great. 
 
Gabriel Weinberg and Justin Mares: Traction. Good stuff. 
 
Ben Lerner: Leaving the Atocha Station. Impressive Bildungsroman.
 
Alan Rusbridger: Play It Again. What a wonderful surprise. 
 
Ben Lerner: 10:04. Again, impressive.
 
McHutchinson & Blundell: Mid-life Cyclists. A pleasant surprise. 
 
Thomas Hettche: Woraus wir gemacht sind. Au weh. Wo ist der Lektor?
 
Gerhard Polt: und auch sonst. Nicht wirklich inspiriert.
 
Patrick Modiano: Abendgesellschaft. Faszinierend.
 
George Saunders: tenth of december. Strong stuff. 
 
Robert Seethaler: Der Trafikant. Sehr stark.
 
Colum McCann: Dancer. Outstanding. 
 
Roger Ebert: Life Itself. Mixed bag, bit long.
 
Alexandra Fuller: Don’t Let’s Go To The Dogs. Very strong.
 
Robert Seethaler: Die weiteren Aussichten. Nicht ganz so stark.
 
John Hooper: The Italians. Good not great.
 
Ron Rash: Serena. Strong stuff.
 
Arno Geiger: Selbstporträt mit Flusspferd. Eher schwach. 

Facebook and PGP. A Pleasant Surprise.

This  is a welcome surprise. 
 
Facebook announced the ability for users to upload their public key so that they can receive their messages from Facebook in encrypted form. 
 
Bildschirmfoto 2015 06 01 um 16 36 04
 
This is remarkable in several ways:
 
1. It clearly demonstrates that PGP is the right way to go about encrypting email. Email is so prevalent precisely because it is the one message format where I don’t have to worry about what client or server you use. As long as I have your address I can communicate with you. The same goes for encryption. I want to be able to send encrypted messages to you without having to worry about which client or crypto tools you use. 
 
2. Notfications from FB are now encrypted. That may or may not be important in real life. Many people would argue that sensitive information doesn’t belong on FB in the first place. But we can hopefully agree that putting more encrypted content onto the wire is a good thing in itself, more security, less surveillance.
 
3. More importantly, password reset emails are now encrypted. This is huge. A hacker who hijacks your email account ny cracking your password is easily able to reset all your passwords and destroy your online identity. With encrypted password reset messages that isn’t possible anymore. Well done!
 
4. The most important implication to the more widespread adoption of encryption is the potential to use FB as a database for acquiring people’s public keys. If I know your FB name I can look for it at https://www.facebook.com/yourfacebookname/publickey/download.
 
So secure email products such as Whiteout Mail could add FB as another keyserver to query when acquiring keys (more on that here).
 
 

Q4/14 Reading List

Karen Joy Fowler: We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves. Wow. Did not see that coming.
 
Cormac McCarthy: Child of God. Not for the faint of heart.
 
Ian McEwan: The Children Act. In fine form.
 
Martin Amis: The Zone of Interest. Don’t know what to say. Michael Hofmann does:
 
Thomas Harding: Hanns and Rudolf. Fascinating.
 
Rainald Goetz: Johann Holtrop. Not for me.  DNF. 
 
Vikram Chandra: Geek Sublime. A bit too clever for me. 
 
David Mitchell: The Bone Clocks. Incredible. nobody else could pull this off.
 
Bernhard Schlink.  Die gordische Schleife. Unterhaltsame Räuberpistole. 
 
Stefan Zweig: Schachnovelle. Gemischt. 
 
Edward St. Aubyn: Never Mind. Bad News. Some Hope. Mother’s Milk. At Last. All five books very good, and surprisingly different from each other.
 
Chris Hadfield: You Are Here. Pretty great. If only the pictures were sharper. 
 
Richard Ford: Let Me Be Frank With You. Incredibly good. 
 
Patrick Modiano: Place Etoile. Very impressive. Incredible for a 21 year old.
 
Richard Flanagan: The Narrow Road to the Deep North. Very impressive. 
 
Phil Klay: Redeployment. Strong stuff. 
 
Tim Moore: Gironimo. Fun. Maybe a bit long.