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Messages - aaron

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I could make an argument that being able to generate nearly unlimited amount of nearly free energy coupled with dirt-cheap, ubiquitous communication might reverse that.  And, if I can lower my cost of living by extraordinary amounts, do I care quite so much about what I'm going to be doing to make a dollar?
I've thought this way about the web for ages. Even the big players mention it, yet they keep hiring from the valley.
Quote from: Mark Zuckerburg
We’ve talked a lot about the social aspects of all of this, but I think one of the biggest issues economically today is that opportunity isn’t evenly distributed. You get all these people have to move to cities, and then the cities get to be way too expensive, and if you have a technology like VR where you can be present anywhere but live where you choose to, then I think that that can be really profound.

There’re really only a few solutions to this. Historically, cities have grown to be bigger by building better physical infrastructure. There’ll be some amount of that. I mean, I think things like hyperloops and things like that can extend the suburbs, could be quite interesting, but I have to believe that, we’re here in 2018, it’s much cheaper and easier to move bits around than it is atoms. It strikes me that something like VR or AR, or even video conferencing on the path to that, has to be a more likely part of the solution.

There are private equity firms which focus almost exclusively on buying embedded mission-critical software companies & enhancing margins through a combination of price hikes to their customers & then moving employment out of the bubble areas of the economy to cheaper locations.

Traffic / Re:
« on: July 21, 2018, 06:43:09 PM »
So the new sort of Googlebombing move then is not to point a bunch of keyword rich links at a particular site, but instead take advantage of a weakness in one of the vertical search options, get that to rank on the core term & then create a politicized news meme around it to make it permanent. :)

Web Development / Re: Neat WP Plugin
« on: July 21, 2018, 06:39:34 PM »
The way of serving Google some of their own medicine there would perhaps some sort of security warning overlay that reminds them their Chrome browser is operated by the largest & most profitable data mining company in the history of the world & there are alternatives like Brave, Firefox, Opera, etc. :)

A couple days ago I searched for a book by its name on Amazon & got something above the official ad for the exact same book.

Provided Amazon blurs the performance data & charges entities for their pre-existing brand equity, they have plenty of latitude to show the same ads elsewhere where they are less relevant.

I sometimes think the point of the private label products is not to make lots of sales & not to profit in any way directly, but to force brand owners to give Amazon another tithing by forcing them to buy ads (additional features on their core item detail page, ads in the search results, paying to access the Vine review program which Amazon grants their own products free access to, etc.) in addition to the retailer markup, logistics & payment management fees, cost of fighting counterfeits across the platform, etc.

End game is just give your credit card to the AI machine, just like Google wants:
"Simply provide up to 15 headlines and 4 description lines, and Google will do the rest. ... on average, advertisers who use Google’s machine learning to test multiple creative see up to 15 percent more clicks. ... Beyond maximize conversion value, you’ll also be able to select store visits or new customers as goals. Machine learning factors in the likelihood that a click will result in any of these outcomes and helps adjust bids accordingly."
Person searched for "nearest Best Buy address" and we charged you $8 for that click because our AI was almost certain they would visit your store!!!

AFAIK they still don't have any Sabre integration, which makes it a non-starter for most hotels. They have created a "multicalendar" for property managers, but they still don't have anything (to my knowledge) that works with hotels.

The question is whether they will dilute their brand and chase the big money or not.
I don't think they have much of a choice here. If the other platforms are adding inventory which parallels their inventory then they are going to have to branch off in the other direction to sell the narrative of growth which is needed to publicly list their company at a $40 billion valuation or such.

They may want to wait to do it until after the IPO or sort of concurrently with the IPO so they can sell it as the next big growth market while not absorbing the risk of it bombing. A great move for Airbnb would be to acquire TripAdvisor to be able to make a big push into hotels all at once - it is probably the most differentiated of the third party hotel sites due to the early focus on reviews.

Expedia is worth maybe half of what Airbnb will try to IPO for, Ctrip slightly more than half & Booking a bit over double that. There's no way Airbnb sits in their niche without expanding horizontally and maintains their current valuation. Their CEO keeps talking about broadening the market by having guided tours & other travel services. From a branding perspective it would be hard to be seen as a full range service provider which just happens to be missing flights, rental cars & hotels, which are perhaps the three biggest travel related services.

During the election cycle Twitter was absolutely toxic from all the political stories, but over the past year or so Twitter's algo has gotten much better at showing interesting stuff. Provided you don't click on any of the political stuff & select great people to follow it is a great information channel which almost supplants the pain of setting up an RSS reader and switching through loads of feeds.

I try not to visit Twitter more than once or twice a week because whenever I do I end up creating a backlog of stuff I can't keep up with reading. :)

I think the web browser I use Twitter on likely has Privacy Badger or something like that on it, so I don't think that lets many ads through.

Facebook retreating from news likely retrenches the longterm viability of Twitter. Twitter's stock has done much better than Snap's over the past year.

The lack of Airbnb ranking in organics may be biz strategy as much as anything.

Early on they wanted to appear different than hotel booking websites, with more unique inventory.

They lacked the scale to do the direct deals with big players so they needed to rely on individual property owners to create scale.

Eventually they will offer tons of hotel booking options on their site & at that point in time they will make geo-local hotel keyword pages, which will likely rank great on the back of their brand awareness and strong link profile. However it remains to be seen what sort of organic opportunity that will represent as Google keeps eating more of the search result interface for the big money hotel related keywords.
  • "This is just a suggestion, Google, but if I search for a hotel by name, maybe its own official website should not be on the fourth page of search results, after 3 pages of structured listings data." - Benedict Evans
  • "to appear in Google’s meta-search, businesses must pay a price per click that is often three times as much as for keyword searches. Google also charges a 10% to 15% commission on net revenues from reservations booked through its meta-search." - WSJ
  • "Google Revamps Mobile Travel Search Results, Almost Making Web Results Irrelevant" - SearchEngineLand

According to SEMrush Airbnb gets something like 10 million organic search visits a month
The VAST majority of that is their core brand term, or their core brand term with local modifiers like Airbnb Detroit or such.

On a page-by-page basis SEMrush estimates over half their organic search traffic hits the homepage.

They have a "things to do" section, along with options like "food scene" or "shopping mall" but most likely those pages end up being thin and duplicative relative to whatever Google's local results list directly in the search results page.

People looking for hotels typically search for cityname hotels & similar terms, which creates a fertile longtail set of queries for TripAdvisor to rank on. Airbnb operates in more of an unstructured space. The condos vs spare rooms vs little house in back yard vs etc etc etc query volume isn't really there...and people probably prefer to do a visual search for that stuff on Airbnb vs a text-based search on Google.

The sort of tell for Airbnb rankings will be how well their hotel pages rank when they finally launch them, though maybe by that point in time Google's search results for travel will be so ad heavy & otherwise undifferentiated most people skip Google in the value chain in the same way many product searches start at When Airbnb offers hotel pages they could also easily add car rental & flight booking options.

The other thing to note about some of the other travel brands is in some case the companies make each destination less differentiated by leveraging the same inventory and technology across site after site after site. What's the difference between going to,, & And then sort of splits their traffic 3 ways between using Priceline in the US, Booking in Europe & Agoda in Asia.

Economics & Investing / Re: There are no purely American vehicles
« on: July 04, 2018, 05:27:13 PM »
The shoot from the hip stuff is designed to cause maximum "OMG" factor to have more leverage during trade negotiations.

As much as it is hated & feels lowbrow, it clearly is working.
Germany’s leading auto makers have thrown their support behind the abolition of all import tariffs for cars between the European Union and the U.S. in an effort to find a peaceful solution to the brewing trade war.
That would mean scrapping the EU’s 10% tax on auto imports from the U.S. and other countries and the 2.5% duty on auto imports in the U.S. As a prerequisite, the Europeans want President Donald Trump’s threat of imposing a 25% border tax on European auto imports off the table.

TheInformation had some articles about Google's smart city stuff. They mentioned how Larry Page had retrograde urban planning ideas like throwing a set of wheels on houses.
Mr. Page, who has long been interested in flying cars, pushed for a mix of proposals for the Sidewalk project that were futuristic technologically, along with ideas that Sidewalk leaders considered retrograde from an urban-planning perspective. His suggestions included restricting heights for buildings and developing houses that could move on wheels, the people said.
It also mentioned how Google sees themselves as a new-age rentier class on that Toronto project:
In Toronto, executives at Sidewalk Labs see potential in making money off rising real estate values if they own buildings or land inside the development, people familiar with their thinking said.
The document emphasizes affordable housing and a diversity of planned neighborhoods. But the reconfigurable buildings Sidewalk proposes are structured in a way that seems to preclude long-term, individual ownership of an apartment or a storefront. Residential and commercial spaces appear to be designed for brief, transitional tenancies
Instead of asking if this specific plan has promise, it might be better to pose more general questions: Who are cities for, and who gets to decide how they grow? Sidewalk Labs hopes the answer is technology companies. This in turn stifled innovation, making the internet less interesting and dynamic. Centralization has also created broader societal tensions, which we see in the debates over subjects like fake news, state sponsored bots, “no platforming” of users, EU privacy laws, and algorithmic biases.
Centralized platforms follow a predictable life cycle. When they start out, they do everything they can to recruit users and 3rd-party complements like developers, businesses, and media organizations. They do this to make their services more valuable, as platforms (by definition) are systems with multi-sided network effects. As platforms move up the adoption S-curve, their power over users and 3rd parties steadily grows. When they hit the top of the S-curve, their relationships with network participants change from positive-sum to zero-sum. The easiest way to continue growing lies in extracting data from users and competing with complements over audiences and profits.
For 3rd parties, this transition from cooperation to competition feels like a bait-and-switch. Over time, the best entrepreneurs, developers, and investors have become wary of building on top of centralized platforms. We now have decades of evidence that doing so will end in disappointment.
By serving as the coordination layer for new mobility services, navigation tools, and urban infrastructure, Coord can help unlock a seamless trip experience for people in cities and inspire new solutions to urban mobility challenges.
Google is entering the “smart city” business in no small part to develop high-tech dormitories for youthful tech workers and the cheaper foreign noncitizen workers in the U.S., including H1B indentured servants
Mark Zuckerberg, even as he fought to expand his own sprawling suburban homestead, envisions his employees living in crowded dormitories close to work, including a planned 1,500-unit apartment development near Facebook’s Menlo Park campus. Zuckerberg, like most oligarchs, prefers workers unengaged with the mundanities of family life.
When a city manager suggests that changes are dictated by data collected by the smart city operators, rather than popular sentiment, democracy itself has been unplugged.

"We started thinking about all the things we could do if someone would just give us a city and put us in charge" said Eric Schmidt

Water Cooler / Re: People do not want to have children.
« on: July 04, 2018, 04:52:56 PM »
But for the people who survived there was a wealth effect due to accumulating inheritances.
As much as the impact was due to accumulating inheritances, it was also due to the sudden shock rebalance between the supply and demand for labor vs the supply and demand of capital.

As long as labor supply vastly exceeds demand then most laborers have little negotiating power in terms of what they are paid & what they will end up paying for rent. Rentier classes can strip away whatever gains are made.

But if half the population suddenly dies off & the machinery must be maintained then wages increase for those who didn't die.

Japan has been seen as a market that has went nowhere for decades. But while they had little to no financial asset price inflation & little to no wage inflation they also had little to no living cost inflation. That model is superior to a "growth at all costs" model where financial assets are pumped by central bank interventions in markets, leading to rising living costs while wages lag behind.

Water Cooler / Re: Domain Valuation in 2018
« on: June 25, 2018, 07:36:50 PM »
Can you look up "sold" on sedo the way you can on ebay?  Interested to know what you do.
I haven't looked up comps much like that unless I was the potential buyer & I was including other information on way to talk the price of a name down. :)

But I haven't been much of a buyer in many years because the search results are ad heavy (especially on mobile!) and the algos have shifted away from generically descriptive toward branded names. Very hard to build a big well-known brand without also having many employees. And I prefer not to have a lot of employees because I think if I did I would end up melting down from stress.

The best spot for regularly reporting sales (typically weekly) is
but then the other 2 databases I linked above aggregate data from there along with perhaps a few other minor data sources.
there are probably another couple sites like these 2, some which focus on short names or specific local TLDs.

I think this really nails the sort of shift that has happened with domain names, as SEO became less predictable, more expensive & crowded out by ads in the SERPs
That feeling was the first step in a journey that would eventually lead to Bergman's acquisition of A lot of people believe that even at $900,000, was an excellent buy. When it comes to domains, Bergman knew what he was doing long before he began his pursuit of that name. "When it came to domain names it first started out with actual websites - small affiliate sites in various segments. At first, I was only interested in exact match domains for all the SEO benefits but later on it’s been more about being able to build a big brand with it," Bergman said.

"In the beginning it was mainly .se which are the top Swedish TLDs. I had bought smslå (meaning "payday loan") for about $10,000 and lå (meaning "lend money") for about $3,000.
GoDaddy has a quite large inventory of names built up from various portfolio acquisitions & they tend to be more flexible with pricing than many other sellers. But they've done well on the stock market & certainly are not desperate sellers or such.

Water Cooler / Re: Domain Valuation in 2018
« on: June 24, 2018, 06:43:57 PM »
Its difficult to get 2 people looking to buy at the same time to get competition, unless it is very special.
One thing some sellers do to help buyers bid against themselves is state some prices they turned down in the past...which infers the floor price is above that number without actually having the seller state their actual sales price.

I have had a 4 digit domain on ebay for £400 for 6 months, and I have 1 watcher. (its ivet). 
There have been some cases where domains go for more at the alleged wholesale auctions than they go retail. I think setting the price crazy low (but maybe using a reserve) and getting a few bids on it could likely drive more perceived value and urgency than leaving a listing up for months at a set price.

so loads of small vet practices might be interested, and in the UK, these practices are being bought up by a few big players.

The same type of vet roll up play is happening in the US and China.

I think there is less hunger for domains at present.
To some degree I don't think declining demand is specific to that industry but is reflective of combination of overall economic consolidation happening in category after category after category
coupled with Google, Facebook & other apps trying to displace downstream traffic off their network and diminish the perceived need for independent websites. In some emerging markets people think of Facebook as being the web & some retailers put their Facebook URLs on their packaging rather than a URL they control & can forward to wherever.

And if small indy players (who operate in markets too small to justify large brand ad budgets) keep getting bought out in a way that leads to brand dominated vertical markets then many/most generically descriptive domains might have hit their peak valuations 7 or 8 years ago.

Branded names are much more hit or miss & much harder to value unless a company has already established a strong brand and then is trying to acquire the associated core .com domain name after the fact.

Economics & Investing / Re: trade war
« on: June 24, 2018, 05:51:28 PM »
The simple rules of thumb—sell China, sell Korea, sell emerging markets, prefer smaller to larger U.S. stocks and buy the safe-haven dollar and bonds—have been working better than detailed analysis so far, in part because the prospects for a trade war are still so uncertain. If it becomes clear that new trade barriers are here to stay, understanding both the details of which companies will be hit and the knock-on effects on the economy will matter more.

Back in January (when the Dollar was widely heated) a guy named Brent Johnson from Santiago CApital put out a video stating he thought the Federal Reserve going from QE to QT would cause capital flight into the US as the rate differentials had the US sucking the QE milkshake of other central banks.

Tariffs from the US are leading to China preemptively easing their monetary policy
Under the reserve cut, some 500 billion yuan ($76.86 billion) will be released for 17 large banks, including the Big Five state-owned banks, the central bank said. It said the banks are to use the freed-up funds by converting bad loans into equity in companies that default on their debts. ... Following the reduction in banks’ reserve-requirement ratio, analysts expect more loosening, including increasing lending quotas for banks, relaxing mortgage restrictions for home buyers in some cities and easing limits on local governments to borrow.
China is trying to use Yuan denominated bilateral trade deals and launch exchanges for key commodities like oil to set commodity prices in something other than Dollars.

They've also used debt to weigh down many smaller neighboring countries...debt trap diplomacy

Traffic / Re: Duckduckgo and Yandex
« on: June 23, 2018, 04:44:53 PM »
Russian antitrust action against Google happened over default Google bundling of their search on Android devices.

Fine was tiny … single digit millions in dollars

but it (along with the folding of their local Uber competitor into led to the stock price of Yandex roughly tripling as Google quickly lost 15% marketshare in mobile search in Russia

There was an old Matt Taibbi article where he mentioned the Koch brothers got their fortune from their father who did major innovations in oil extractions & refining. At the time he couldn't compete in the US market due to the overwhelming market dominance & control by corrupt oligopolies who sued him & his superior technology into the ground. So Fred Koch went to Russia & Hitler's Germany, made a fortune, then those funds grew for decades & decades and are now used to promote the ideology of free "market" plunder (e.g. monopoly capitalism / regulatory capture fascism) which is now more perverse than ever (based on growing inequality, growing power concentration & the rise of China's authoritarian state), but it was already so bad back then they needed to go to Russia to monetize their innovation.
In 1925, Fred, who earned a degree in chemical engineering from MIT, partnered with a former Universal engineer named Lewis Winkler and designed a near carbon copy of the Universal cracking apparatus – making only tiny, unpatentable tweaks. Relying on family connections, Fred soon landed his first client – an Oklahoma refinery owned by his maternal uncle L.B. Simmons. In a flash, Winkler-Koch Engineering Co. had contracts to install its knockoff cracking equipment all over the heartland, undercutting Universal by charging a one-time fee rather than ongoing royalties.

It was a boom business. That is, until Universal sued in 1929, accusing Winkler­Koch of stealing its intellectual property. With his domestic business tied up in court, Fred started looking for partners abroad and was soon doing business in the Soviet Union, where leader Joseph Stalin had just launched his first Five Year Plan. Stalin sought to fund his country's industrialization by selling oil into the lucrative European export market. But the Soviet Union's reserves were notoriously hard to refine. The USSR needed cracking technology, and the Oil Directorate of the Supreme Council of the National Economy took a shining to Winkler-Koch – primarily because Koch's oil-industry competitors were reluctant to do business with totalitarian Communists.
Fred Koch, the patriarch of the family, was an expert in building oil refineries, and he and a friend named William Rhodes Davis proposed building one in Germany during 1934, '35, that period in there. In 1933, Adolf Hitler became chancellor of the Third Reich in Germany, so this meant working under the Third Reich. And in order to get permission, they actually had to go to Hitler himself, and William Rhodes Davis did the "Heil Hitler" to greet Hitler, and finally they got Hitler to greenlight this proposal so that they could build an oil refinery in Hamburg.

Whole circle is quite crazy.
Like a casino that bets at its own craps table, Koch engages in "proprietary trading" – speculating for the company's own bottom line. "We're like a hedge fund and a dealer at the same time," bragged Ilia Bouchouev, head of Koch's derivatives trading in 2004. "We can both make markets and speculate."

Koch exploited the contango market to the hilt. The company leased nine supertankers and filled them with cut-rate crude and parked them quietly offshore in the Gulf of Mexico, banking virtually risk-free profits by selling contracts for future delivery. All in, Koch took about 20 million barrels of oil off the market, putting itself in a position to bet on price disruptions the company itself was creating. Thanks to these kinds of trading efforts, Koch could boast in a 2009 review that "the performance of Koch Supply & Trading actually grew stronger last year as the global economy worsened." The cost for those risk-free profits was paid by consumers at the pump. Estimates pegged the cost of the contango trade by Koch and others at up to 40 cents a gallon.

Artificially constraining oil supplies is not the only source of dark, unregulated profit for Koch Industries. In the years after George W. Bush branded Iran a member of the "Axis of Evil," the Koch brothers profited from trade with the state sponsor of terror and reckless would-be nuclear power. For decades, U.S. companies have been forbidden from doing business with the Ayatollahs, but Koch Industries exploited a loophole in 1996 sanctions …
Plunder is only bad if you are not the plunderer = probably not a stable long-term ideology, but one which will be promoted forever.

Bad as the Koch plunder stuff is I still prefer that to being forced to buy a health insurance policy on the basis that I can't be dropped only to find out in spite of my forced payments/penalties if I don't have it, the corrupt insurance company would still drop a family member. Nothing like dropping 5 figures a year in pre-tax income on health insurance only to have to lie and say you don't have it because if you admit to carrying it you will be charged more … only to know that the person in your family who actually needed it had their policy illegally canceled by the wonderful health insurance company.

Wonder how high they can get the % of US GDP consumed by the healthcare industry before it collapses the global economy. Already at around 20% & could be close to 30% in a decade if it doesn't crash the global economy first.

Traffic / Re: Duckduckgo and Yandex
« on: June 23, 2018, 03:36:13 AM »
It is a bit surprising someone like Yandex hasn't bought out one of the legacy search domains or launched a second brand targeting the US market.

I noticed on search results they cross link to the equivalent search results from Bing & Google. You'd never see Google even consider that idea.

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