Good Reading -- November 2020

Philip C. Ordway

Original post:

https://philipordway.substack.com/p/good-reading-november-2020

Facts and Figures

The New York Times now has four times as many subscribers (digital + print) as it did at its print-era peak. (Source: the company and this presentation)

  • NYT (the company’s common stock) returned 248%, or 36.6% per year, from 9-Nov-2016 through 9-Nov-2020. The S&P 500 during that period returned 77.5%, or 15.4%. (Source: FactSet)

Books

  • Since Yesterday: The Nineteen Thirties in America — I’ve never read a history book quite like this one, and I highly recommend it. At times the collection of anecdotes and zoomed-in history can be a jumble, but the overall perspective is incredible.

  • American Dirt — This is a powerful book. I almost put it down after 40-50 pages — it was so brutal I had a hard time going to sleep. I’ve read books that were better written, but this is still a story that is worth reading. Highly recommended.

  • No Rules Rules: Netflix and the Culture of Reinvention — The “Netflix Culture Deck” is a legendary presentation that lays out the management philosophy of the company. I’d highly recommend it and/or the updated text version. Netflix has many exemplary practices through the organization that are worth studying. This book, meanwhile, is not quite as good. It’s not a memoir or a presentation of new ideas so much as it is a rambling collection of anecdotes to support the ideas in the deck. The format is clunky — the back-and-forth between Hastings and his co-author is awkward and distracting — and what could be conveyed in a few sentences or paragraphs often takes up an entire chapter. There are some worthwhile nuggets, for sure, but I would have gladly skipped the book in favor of the “deck” and/or a business memoir.

  • Likewar: The Weaponization of Social Media — I skimmed this. I knew some or most of the story, and the rest of it for me was mostly details that are unpleasant and disturbing. This is an important topic, so if you haven’t already spent time reading and thinking about it I would recommend this book.

  • Likewise, the film The Social Dilemma was pretty clunky as a documentary, and it covers some of the same ground (at least in terms of psychological tactics and techniques) as Likewar, but the stark presentation of this intractable problem still has plenty of merit.


Articles

  • A Man, a Megaphone, and a Mission to Shame the Astros — This is the sports story of the year. I’m also proud to report that this hero grew up in the house next door to mine. We’re going to throw him a ticker-tape parade when he comes home for the holidays.

  • Under pressure: why athletes choke — Fascinating stuff. Just make sure you don’t get this in your head before your next big match…

  • Weather Photographer of the Year Winners Celebrate Nature’s Beauty — This is just stunning. Thank you to Dave B. for sending this to me!

  • Fraud Prevention Firm Goes Bankrupt After CEO Charged With Fraud — Yeah sure of course this would happen in 2020. “The Securities and Exchange Commission today filed an emergency action against Adam Rogas, the former CEO of Las-Vegas-based NS8, Inc., which purports to provide fraud detection and prevention software to e-commerce merchants, seeking an asset freeze and charging Rogas with defrauding investors by falsely claiming millions of dollars in revenue… from at least 2018 through June 2020, Rogas altered NS8's bank statements to show millions of dollars in payments from customers…allegedly sent the falsified bank statements and revenue figures on a monthly basis to NS8's finance department…The SEC alleges that as a result of Rogas's fraud, NS8 raised approximately $123 million in 2019 and 2020, and that Rogas ultimately pocketed at least $17.5 million of investor funds.”

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