JDR’s Newsletter – #11

Hello there,

This is a (roughly) weekly newsletter experiment containing links to things I’ve written and made, plus links to other interesting articles, reports and essays I’ve come across.

In case you haven’t already subscribed, you can do so through Tinyletter. You can find an archive of this and previous issues of my newsletter at news.jdr.fyi.

Thoughts, opinions and typos are my own.

My blog posts and articles

I had the week off from Mattermark and had some pressing things to work on last week, so I didn’t get a chance to publish anything new. In light of the recent coup attempt in Turkey, I thought it’s worth revisiting a couple of posts from May 2015.

A (Very Incomplete) Conceptual Toolkit for Designing Rebellious Software

Here, I perform a brief survey of subversive technologies and design patterns that can be implemented in software. In addition to providing brief explanations of patterns and techniques like decentralized systems architecture, end to end encryption, and ephemerality / “forgetful systems”, I provide links to additional reading materials about each topic and explore how each of these components are mixed and remixed in the software used by protest movements.

Cloaking the Swarm

This was originally submitted a paper for a college class, but I adopted it for my blog. I compared the kinds of software tools used in post-Arab Spring protest movements. My thesis was that in comparatively repressive regimes or in situations where the right to free speech is not protected, protesters will turn to private and decentralized messaging apps to organize as a pre-emptive hack around government surveillance, whereas in countries with strong free-speech protections, public platforms are the primary medium of organization. I covered the use of Facebook and Twitter in the Ferguson, MO riots and the use of meshnet app Firechat in the Hong Kong protests of 2014.

The Real Reason Why Line’s IPO is Interesting

Japanese messaging application company Line went public on Friday in both US and Japanese markets. The IPO was deemed a major success by the media, closing 27% higher than its IPO price in US trading, and raising some $1.3 billion for the company.

It seems like good news all around: Line shareholders get the liquidity event they wanted, tech investors and private company CFOs have some confidence that the market for tech IPOs is getting better, and, importantly, journalists and researchers will (hopefully) get a better look at the economics of running a large messaging platform.

Tencent’s WeChat, Facebook’s Messenger, and (to a much lesser extent) Apple’s iMessage are revenue-generating products produced by publicly traded companies. But, each platform’s parent company tends to keep revenue figures close to the chest and aggregated with other revenue figures in their balance sheets and income statements. Line, a standalone messaging application, doesn’t necessarily have the luxury of other product verticals to hide behind.

As we could see in Line’s F–1 filing with the SEC, there was a fair bit of granularity in the list of operating expenses. And, one could hope that subsequent income statements break out Line’s revenue streams a bit more, such that analysts can get a better grasp on Line’s performance and that of the mobile messaging market as a whole.

Further Reading on Messaging Platforms

Start with a16z partner Benedict Evans’s essay “Messaging and mobile platforms” and/or “Three phases of messaging”

Pew Research’s 2015 report on Mobile Messaging and Social Media is a bit dated at this point, and it underestimates Snapchat’s impact on the market, but it still has some good statistics gathered by sound survey methodology.

The Mobile Ecosystem Forum’s 2016 report is a little more up-to-date.

To learn more about WeChat, check out Connie Chan’s “When One App Rules Them All: The Case of WeChat and Mobile in China” for the a16z blog is good. And, WalkTheChat’s 2016 WeChat Impact Report has a lot of extremely current statistics about the Chinese messaging behemoth.

Other news and links

Best Of

If you are in San Francisco, or if you’re a fan of beautiful food photography, design thought and Marshall McLuhan puns, check out The Message is Medium Rate. Do not do so if you’re hungry.

Try your first meeting with the AI VC. Its programmer(s) really hit it right on the nose here.

After a 7,000 km trek through Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan’s GBAO region and China’s western provinces, Jan Chipchase shares “61 Glimpses of the future” he experienced on the trek. It’s full of observations and short anecdotes like, “You can comfortably travel here for a month, on one month’s San Francisco rent,” “Pretentious people are inherently less curious,” and “The first time you confront a leader, never do it in front of their followers, they’ll have no way to back down.”

Pokemon Go Is a Thing

Note: I have not yet played the game.

Pokemon Go is blowing up. Niantic’s big game is driving Central Park stampedes and billions of dollars into Nintendo’s market cap.

Nasdaq published a great article from Maks Financial Services about monetization in Pokemon Go.

According to Slice Intelligence, purchases in Pokemon Go surpassed he rest of the mobile gaming market on July 10, 2016 and accounted for nearly 47% of the entire mobile gaming market on that same day.

People are even saying that “Pokemon Go represents the best of capitalism.

You might want to check out Pitchbook’s list of the top ten VC investors in the mobile gaming industry.

Other Tech News & Industry Commentary

Leo Plovets, the Coding VC, says that technical due diligence is a waste of time in seed stage deals because market risk is a bigger threat than technical risk these days, and that most companies aren’t trying to solve big technical problems.

Github user Magoo shared the Blockchain Graveyard, their collection of dead cryptocurrency companies, complete with postmortems.

On that note, The Economist published a new report on the state of dark web cryptomarkets.

Go Fish Digital shares some new Snapchat stats. My favorites: Snapchat’s mobile bandwidth usage now exceeds Twitter. And, 37% of college-aged users claim to use the app for “creativity”. Comparatively, 27% and 23% of those surveyed use it for “keeping in touch” and because “it’s easier than texting”.