09 Aug 2017
It’s always easy in retrospect to point out where major companies blew it, and squandered a huge lead over rivals; typically it’s difficult to see it when it’s actually happening, and nearly impossible to predict in advance.
However, we may be seeing such a situation happen right now, in the form of Netflix. But interestingly, and in contrast to Sears and other typical crushed-by-the-Internet 1990s cases, Netflix’s trouble is due not to inaction, but to conscious and deliberate steps the company has chosen to pursue as part of its strategy. In particular, its decision to abandon a dominant position where it had a structural advantage over rivals that was nearly impossible to compete with, and instead enter an arena where it has no particular advantage and faces a constant stream of new competitors.
I’m talking, of course, about their switch from an Internet-facilitated DVD rental service to a streaming-video one. Since this was at the time hailed as something of a bold and brilliant move, some explanation is probably in order.
Prior to their 2011 pivot into streaming, Netflix’s little red envelopes dominated home distribution of movies and TV shows. Their only real competition, Blockbuster, which had largely consumed the business of several other chains and countless mom-n-pop rental shops, went bankrupt in 2010. Prior to finally collapsing, Blockbuster even tried to bring the fight to Netflix with its own unlimited-rental-by-mail service, but couldn’t make the numbers work.
By most accounts, Netflix had basically perfected the DVD-by-mail business model....
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24 Jul 2017
Scott Alexander, who writes the Slate Star Codex blog, has a fantastic food-for-thought post about “cost disease” and how it relates to flat or declining standards of living in the US.
There’s a lot to mull over in the article, and that’s without even getting into the Tyler Cowen piece that it is in response to. But if I can direct your attention to only one part of it, it’s this:
[I]n the past fifty years, education costs have doubled, college costs have dectupled, health insurance costs have dectupled, subway costs have at least dectupled, and housing costs have increased by about fifty percent. US health care costs about four times as much as equivalent health care in other First World countries; US subways cost about eight times as much as equivalent subways in other First World countries. […] These things have dectupled in cost even after you adjust for movies costing a nickel in Grandpa’s day. They have really, genuinely dectupled in cost, no economic trickery involved. […]
Libertarian-minded people keep talking about how there’s too much red tape and the economy is being throttled. And less libertarian-minded people keep interpreting it as not caring about the poor, or not understanding that government has an important role in a civilized society, or as a “dog whistle” for racism, or whatever. I don’t know why more people don’t just come out and say “LOOK, REALLY OUR MAIN PROBLEM IS THAT ALL THE MOST IMPORTANT THINGS COST...
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23 Jul 2017
It took a while, but the migration of all the old Blosxom blog entries to Jekyll is finally complete. Overall, it wasn’t a terrible process – at least, it wasn’t quite as bad as I thought it was going to be – but there were some hiccups and I’m still not entirely happy with the new layout, compared to the old one.
The old site might have looked like garbage on mobile, but I was pretty happy with it on desktop; this new template, while quite pretty, isn’t all the way to my liking so I’m planning to continue tweaking it.
Things I learned in the process:
HTML is still just as much of a pain as it was ten years ago (or twenty years ago); all the new tools and frameworks have basically been offset by an increase in demands placed on pages, such that creating one with a modern “easy to use” framework (e.g. Bootstrap) is still just as nerdy a task as it’s always been. There’s probably a lesson here.
Blog comments seem to be dead. I don’t know if I’ll re-enable comments on the new iteration of this blog; it doesn’t seem like many people use them anymore, and there’s a significant overhead involved in spam control, or you have to farm out the whole thing to a service like Disqus.
Jekyll and static generation tools are cool. I already knew this to some extent, because I’d been a fan...
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