My Favorite Twitter People

I’ve gotten lazy in my old age, and find that Twitter is a good way to let others do my thinking for me. Those who think particularly profound thoughts get hearts as endorsements. Out of curiosity, I wrote a script that tallied my tweet “likes” and ranked the recipients.

In order of likes-received, here are my 10 favorite Twitter people from the past year:

  1. @NickSzabo4
  2. @pierre_rochard
  3. @DontPanicBurns
  4. @saifedean
  5. @bitstein
  6. @nic__carter
  7. @interfluidity
  8. @Ragnarly
  9. @sonyaellenmann
  10. @WahWhoWah

Looks like my favorite tweets are 90% crypto-anarchist, 10% neoliberal. But who cares about me, let’s look at who Silicon Valley thought leaders are favoriting!

Elon Musk is always entertaining. He gets a lot of grief for the time he spends on Twitter, but it looks like his Twitter activity is largely related to work. @elonmusk‘s most ❤️ed accounts:

  1. @Tesla
  2. @SpaceX
  3. @TheOnion
  4. @ElectrekCo
  5. @cleantechnica
  6. @fermatslibrary
  7. @Teslarati
  8. @mayemusk
  9. @InsideEVs
  10. @kimbal

Here’s Twitter founder @jack’s top ten likes:

  1. @kanyewest
  2. @sza
  3. @elonmusk
  4. @leslieberland
  5. @freialobo
  6. @sriramk
  7. @Larakate
  8. @marciadorsey
  9. @chancetherapper
  10. @michaelmontano

@pmarca used to be one of my favorite twitter personalities, until the PC police drove him off the platform. These days he still interacts using ❤️s. Marc Andreessen’s top ten:

  1. @ComfortablySmug
  2. @BaldingsWorld
  3. @jessesingal
  4. @clairlemon
  5. @ProperOpinion
  6. @St_Rev
  7. @rivatez
  8. @webdevMason
  9. @ne0liberal
  10. @iowahawkblog

The investigative journalists at The Outline already jumped on this case and identified Andreessen as a closet neo-Nazi.

Why do we even use this feature? ❤️s are a good source of data for targeted ads, or for Twitter to rearrange your timeline in a way that confirms existing bias. There’s zero benefit conferred to the user, but we keep clicking it anyway. Maybe the Like button is just a digital version of the close-door button in an elevator: A meaningless form element that provides symmetry in the user interface and helps us feel like we’re doing something productive, while we slowly relinquish control to the machines, one button-press at a time.

Don’t Hate Her Because She Commissioned Opposition Research on George Soros

Why is everyone hating on Sheryl Sandberg all of a sudden? I get that Facebook is evil and enables #FakeNews and allowed Putin to subvert American Democracy – but why is Sheryl Sandberg catching the flak? She was always an Unassailable Good, a champion for social justice! This is the Patron Saint of Feminism we’re talking about!

It’s clear that the tide has turned: Sheryl’s stock photos used to be consistently fabulous; now all the header images are beady-eyed and bitchfaced.

Sandberg inquiring about George Soros is a nonstory. Execs want to know whether outspoken billionaires have a financial interest in their demise. This is the guy who broke the British pound, after all. NYTimes editors aren’t complete idiots – I mean, they are, but even they should know that this is a complete nothingburger.

The real story is why the media is so intent on blowing this up. And why now?

Facebook has MSM on a tight leash. Facebook is a gatekeeper; it’s where people go to get the news. They (along with Google) control the flow of ad dollars. There’s been speculation that Facebook’s PR team leans on the NY Times to send any unfavorable Sandberg coverage down the memory hole.

Conspiracy Theory #1: Sheryl Sandberg lost her position of influence within Facebook.

It’s like the Harvey Weinstein story. Journalists overlooked Weinstein’s hiring practices for thirty years because he owned important media properties and controlled a lot of ad dollars. But when social media destroyed the news industry, Weinstein’s influence waned and muckrakers had a field day.

Conspiracy Theory #2: The Sheryl Sandberg/Soros story is a smokescreen for something else.

The events in question took place over a year ago. Why did the story not go to press until the day after Amazon announced their HQ2 locations?

I don’t know. But when a billionaire with outsized media influence and a world-class PR team gets a pile-on, something’s up.

A flashback to better days:

A Bitcoin is Forever

I’m in the market for an exterior door. Wood warps over time, stuff happens, now that it’s cold and rainy I realize I need a new front door.

The doors at Home Depot come with a lifetime warranty. What does that even mean? The median duration of homeownership is only 8.7 years, and by the time the new door needs replacing, its history will be long forgotten. The warranty is a marketing gimmick — A door is not a store of value.

Craftsman tools come with an unlimited lifetime warranty. Sears stood by this warranty for 90 years, but now Sears is dead. I still have several socket sets that belonged to my father. You never actually own a Craftsman, you merely look after it for the next generation.

Someday son, this will all be yours.
I get to have a boat?
No, I’m talking about my watch.
I’d rather have the boat.
Bad choice. If it flies, floats, or fornicates, it’s cheaper to rent.
Mom says you’re three months behind on child support payments.

Just kidding, that’s a Patek Philippe ad slogan. The ad campaign does not reflect the durability of the product: Unlike a chrome-plated crescent wrench, precision timekeeping devices do wear out over time. Worse yet, Patek Philippe offers only a two-year warranty, and it’s not transferable to the next owner!

Patek Philippe does get one thing right: When something is both expensive and utterly useless, advertise it as means of wealth transfer! This helps consumers ignore the terrible resale value.

Diamonds are forever. That six-figure wristwatch is your son’s inheritance.

Which brings me to Bitcoin. Bear market got you down? Don’t worry about it. You never actually own a Bitcoin, you merely look after it for the next generation.

Saudi Money (part 2)

The previous post was getting long-winded, but I wanted to add one more quote from the Network movie.

After news anchor Howard Beale goes on air to rail against his TV station selling out to Saudi investors, the chairman of the board sits him down for a chat.

    CHAIRMAN ARTHUR JENSEN: The Arabs have taken billions of dollars out of this country, and now they must put it back. It is ebb and flow, tidal gravity, it is ecological balance! You are an old man who thinks in terms of nations and peoples. There are no nations! There are no peoples! There are no Russians. There are no Arabs! There are no third worlds! There is no West! There is only one holistic system of systems, one vast and immane, interwoven, interacting, multi-variate, multi-national dominion of dollars! petro-dollars, electro-dollars, multi-dollars!, Reichmarks, rubles, rin, pounds and shekels! It is the international system of currency that determines the totality of life on this planet! That is the natural order of things today! That is the atomic, subatomic and galactic structure of things today!
    You get up on your little twenty-one inch screen, and howl about America and democracy. There is no America. There is no democracy. There is only IBM and ITT and AT&T and Dupont, Dow, Union Carbide and Exxon. Those are the nations of the world today. What do you think the Russians talk about in their councils of state -- Karl Marx? They pull out their linear programming charts, statistical decision theories and minimax solutions and compute the price-cost probabilities of their transactions and investments just like we do. We no longer live in a world of nations and ideologies, Mr. Beale. The world is a college of corporations, inexorably determined by the immutable by-laws of business.

The world is flat. Long live the corporatocracy!

Saudi Money

Silicon Valley founders are worried about the source of their money. 75% of venture-backed startups fail, and it’s very sad when those sunk costs are financed by public pensions and other modest sources.

Here’s Kevin Roose:

Lyft backer Andreessen Horowitz, for example, has gotten investments from the Imperial County, California, Employee Retirement System and the University of Michigan; the Tennessee Consolidated Retirement System invests money with SpoonRocket backer General Catalyst. If you asked them, I’m sure that firefighters in Memphis and public schoolteachers in El Centro would have no idea that their retirement funds are being used to lower the price of my delivery lunches and rides across town.

(ed. note: SpoonRocket filed for bankruptcy in 2016.)

Won’t somebody please think of the schoolteachers and firefighters?? Why are shady fund managers always pillaging their pensions??

That’s why it’s a relief to see Andreessen-Horowitz, Kleiner-Perkins, Y Combinator, Greylock, and other usual suspects raising money instead from Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman! Not only can he afford to lose the money, he deserves to!

We love it when Bad Guys get ripped off! Remember how thrilled we were to find out Betsy DeVos lost $100 million on Theranos? Hahaha, that’s what you get for supporting school choice! What better way to stick it to a repressive regime than by selling its dollars for 75 cents??

At last, it feels like the tide has turned! The media will finally stop villainizing Silicon Valley and see tech founders as the great humanitarians they truly are.

Wait… what’s this? People think that taking Saudi money is… bad?

I guess… people are worried about the outside chance that a wildly successful long-shot could enrich Mohammed bin Salman and his sovereign wealth fund?

Magic Leap founder Rony Abovitz. His company took half a billion in Saudi money and turned it into a tragic heap.

People are… really worried. In fact, some VCs are *so* worried that they’re only seeking investments from Good Guys, like nonprofit groups and children’s hospitals.

Only 5% of VC funds generate enough profit to justify the fees and illiquidity. Are nonprofits and children exempt from the usual 2-and-20? Didn’t think so.

Yes yes, every VC is convinced that his fund will be one of the 5%. This is the type of concern that could only arise in a place as delightfully Panglossian as Silicon Valley. My next moonshot is going to be so valuable, taking other people’s money is practically an act of charity — That’s why my seed round is only open to widows and orphans!

Or maybe the problem is Silicon Valley’s knack for knee-jerk reacting to whatever the media is raging about. Maybe it’s a side effect of being always plugged in; maybe tech people are just naïve. But maybe these founders should take a page from wizened Wall Street execs and stop worrying what others think.

BlackRock CEO Larry Fink
Does Lloyd Blankfein look like he’s worried about enriching a murderer?

Listen up Silicon Valley, it makes no difference whose money you take. You’re gonna get ripped on no matter what. In fact, there’s a whole class of people whose sole purpose in life is to run around afflicting the comfortable — They’re called journalists.

Me, on the other hand, I’m here to comfort the afflicted! Here we go:

No schoolteacher is gonna end up in the poorhouse due to bad VC investments. I asked a Sand Hill Road GP why he was gambling with teachers’ retirement money. He said that many pension funds follow a portfolio model that allocates a percentage to private equity, but assuming the fund manager isn’t completely irresponsible, the fraction that goes to venture capital is typically less than 0.5%.

As for enriching murderous regimes? Saudi Prince Mohammed Bin Salman is planning a $2 trillion IPO for Saudi Aramco. Trillion! If a billion-dollar company is a unicorn, then a trillion-dollar company must be a… chimera? Chupacabra? Either way, the Saudi fund’s $3.5 billion stake in Uber is chump change.

Remember Network? It’s a 1976 film where TV anchor Howard Beale realizes that getting viewers worked up into a frenzied rage is really good for ratings. The station gives him his own daily program to rant about America and the state of democracy, until Beale finds out that the network’s owners are about to close a funding deal with Saudi investors.

    BEALE (ON LIVE TV): We know the Arabs control more than sixteen billion dollars in this country! They own a chunk of Fifth Avenue, twenty downtown pieces of Boston, a part of the port of New Orleans, an industrial park in Salt Lake city. They own big hunks of the Atlanta Hilton, the Arizona Land and cattle Company, the Security National Bank in California, the Bank of the Commonwealth in Detroit! They control ARAMCO, so that puts them into Exxon, Texaco and Mobil oil! They're all over - New Jersey, Louisville, St.Louis, Missouri! And that's only what we know about! There's a hell of a lot more we don't know about because all those Arab petro-dollars are washed through Switzerland and Canada and the biggest banks in this country!

    Right now, the Arabs have screwed us out of enough American dollars to come back and, with our own money, buy General Motors, IBM, ITT, AT&T, Dupont, U.S. Steel, and twenty other top American companies. Hell, they already own half of England.

    Now, listen to me, goddammit! The Arabs are simply buying us! They're buying all our land, our whole economy, the press, the factories, financial institutions, the government! They're going to own us! A handful of agas, shahs and emirs who despise this country and everything it stands for -- democracy, freedom, the right for me to get up on television and tell you about it -- a couple of dozen medieval fanatics are going to own where you work, where you live, what you read, what you see, your cars, your bowling alleys, your mortgages, your schools, your churches, your libraries, your kids, your whole life!

That looks bad for the Saudi investment, so network execs put an end to Beale’s show. And everyone lived happily ever after.

Hard to believe that was four decades ago.