Linked List: December 2019

‘A Letter From Larry and Sergey’ 

Larry Page and Sergey Brin:

With Alphabet now well-established, and Google and the Other Bets operating effectively as independent companies, it’s the natural time to simplify our management structure. We’ve never been ones to hold on to management roles when we think there’s a better way to run the company. And Alphabet and Google no longer need two CEOs and a President. Going forward, Sundar will be the CEO of both Google and Alphabet. He will be the executive responsible and accountable for leading Google, and managing Alphabet’s investment in our portfolio of Other Bets. We are deeply committed to Google and Alphabet for the long term, and will remain actively involved as Board members, shareholders and co-founders. In addition, we plan to continue talking with Sundar regularly, especially on topics we’re passionate about!

Nice friendly exclamation mark!

This whole “Alphabet” thing is a joke. I still don’t get what they’re even trying for with it. The company is Google and we all know it. The subsidiary owns the parent and everyone knows it. No one is fooled by this. Nothing has changed regarding the goofy super-class shares that Page and Brin hold that give them complete control of the company. Google is a privately-held company that trades as a publicly-held one.

Here’s the thing that’s always rubbed me the wrong way about Google. They’re insulting. Steve Jobs, Jeff Bezos, Bill Gates — I completely believe they’re all geniuses. But they never seem(ed) condescending. Tim Cook and Satya Nadella aren’t founders but they’re both great examples of what a CEO should be: smart, honest, respectful.

Brin and Page are almost certainly smarter than you and me. But they’re not as much smarter as they think they are. Read this whole announcement through the filter of “they think we’re dumb” and it makes a lot more sense. And if they were as smart as they think they are, they’d therefore be smart enough to recognize how tone-deaf this plays.

‘Snowbrawl’ 

Kottke:

Snowbrawl is a fun short film of a children’s snowball fight shot as if it were a John Wick or Mission Impossible action sequence. David Leitch, the uncredited co-director of John Wick and director of Deadpool 2, shot the whole thing for Apple on an iPhone 11 Pro.

It’s worth taking a moment to appreciate just how amazing this is. Your cell phone camera can shoot video that meets the standards of an Apple commercial. It’s truly astonishing.

The New York City Subway Map as You’ve Never Seen It Before 

Good design is always about sweating the details. Loved this tidbit on the contribution of designer Nobuyuki Siraisi:

He rode the length of every train line with his eyes closed, feeling the curve of each track and then drawing the path he perceived in his drawings.

Basecamp, Before + After 

My thanks to Basecamp for sponsoring last week at Daring Fireball. Interesting numbers from a survey of Basecamp customers, many of whom switched from platforms like Slack, Trello, Asana, and Jira:

9 out of 10 Basecamp customers report having a better handle on their business, 8 out of 10 say their teams are more self-sufficient, and 6 out of 10 have fewer weekly meetings. No more using multiple tools just to run one project. Less stress, fewer meetings, getting more done.

I’ve been a fan and paying customer of Basecamp for 15 years. Here’s a piece I wrote back in 2009 that remains just as apt today:

They didn’t start with what customers wanted, or with what existing project management software looked like, or by trying to guess what some group of faceless others would want. They designed and built what they themselves wanted, under the assumption that there were some number of other people who would want the same thing.

What drives some people nuts about [Basecamp] is that their products are not for everyone. But they’ll be the first ones to agree with that. Rather than trying to build things that work OK for everyone, they’re building things that work really well for some people. And how often does building something “for everyone” actually work out, anyway?

Check out Basecamp today and see what working better looks like.

Intel Says It Sold Its Modem Business to Apple at a ‘Multi-Billion Dollar Loss’ Because Qualcomm ‘Strangled Competition’ 

Stephen Nellis, reporting for Reuters:

Intel made the claims in a brief filed with the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, where Qualcomm is seeking to overturn a sweeping antitrust decision against it after losing a lawsuit by the U.S. Federal Trade Commission. Intel, whose executives testified at the trial, argued on Friday that the ruling should stand. Appeal proceedings are expected to begin in January.

One reason Apple might have been able to buy Intel’s cellular modem team at a discount: who else was even bidding?

The final paragraph of this report is a bit odd, though:

Qualcomm has denied the FTC’s accusations, and other parts of the U.S. government urged the appeals court to pause enforcement of the FTC ruling against it. In July, the Pentagon and the Department of Energy said Qualcomm was a “trusted” supplier of 5G technology and would be “impossible to replace” in the short term if put out of business.

The ludicrous implication here is that the Pentagon and DOE think if Koh’s ruling stands, Qualcomm will be forced out of the 5G business. That seems utterly nuts.