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1How eBay Shaped the Internet
Over the course of the 23+ years that eBay has been a thing (including its original incarnation as AuctionWeb), I can recall buying one thing from the site. It was a memorabilia poster of some kind (I can’t remember anything more than that) back when I was in law school. The mechanism of scoring great deals on hard to find items through winning an auction never caught on with me. Nevertheless, every time I rate my Uber driver or check user reviews of a restaurant on Yelp, I’m enjoying the fruits of the forest eBay planted.

I confess to being surprised to learn that eBay is still an online retailing juggernaut, ranking #4 among online marketplace sites and boasting a market cap of over $35 billion. Not bad for a tech dinosaur most associated with the ridiculousness of the Beanie Baby mania of the 1990’s — classically illustrated by the divorced couple manually dividing their Beanie Baby collection on the floor of divorce court.


2Speaking of Insane Mania …
There is buying a ticket for the Bitcoin roller coaster, and then there is what these “investors” (gamblers is what Warren Buffet calls them) are doing. The list of security measures employed by bitcoin holding firm Xapo reads like something from a James Bond villain’s lair wish list: servers completely independent of the internet, behind massive vault doors and guarded by armed personnel in underground bunkers on multiple continents with “fingerprint scanners … equipped with a pulse reader to prevent amputated hands from being used.” The only thing missing from this scenario is … you guessed it …


3Childhood Virus Linked to Alzheimer’s?
This isn’t the first time scientists have claimed that microbes (whether viral or bacterial in nature) may be related to the mysterious cause of this vicious disease. What is new is the virus being linked. Previous studies have focused on the herpes simplex virus type 1 (HSV1). This new study has identified two different herpes viruses — HHV-6) and HHV-7 — which are the cause of the common childhood illness roseola. Even more interesting than the viruses identified are the way researches did so – by examining the brain tissue donated by the families of people who died from Alzheimer’s.

This is just another reminder of how our own brains are the real uncharted “final frontier.” We know so little about how they work. The depth of our ignorance becomes more exposed on a seemingly daily basis by tragic stories like this one.


4Why Edward Tufte Is Wrong … About PowerPoint
Last month I drove nine hours to Princeton, NJ, to see Edward Tufte speak. He’s been called the “da Vinci of Data” and the “Galileo of Graphs,” and his books are as much works of art in themselves as they are instructive resources for how to use design principles in making quantitative data come alive visually. His thesis is simple: how we think about data should shape how we display it, because how we display data will shape how others think about it. Tufte’s analysis of how the data display choices contributed to the fatal decision to launch the Space Shuttle Challenger on January 28, 1986 is masterful.

Those things aside, the author of this article is right: Tufte’s railings against PowerPoint as a tool are misplaced. Yes, the default stylistic settings are almost always a poor way to display information, but that is easily corrected by some effort and thought by the user … the very things Tufte’s work encourages. They are easily corrected for the very reason that PowerPoint is a remarkably flexible platform on which to design information displays, enabling users to combine a variety of data formats into an end product that is limited only by the user’s imagination.


5Panopticon for Profit
Bridgewater Associates is the largest hedge fund in the world, with over $160 billion under its management. In the last year, it’s founder Ray Dalio, stepped back from its day to day operations and has been spreading the message of his Principles. Dalio’s book of over 200 rules currently sits at #1 (audiobook), #2 (hardcover), and #5 (Kindle) on Amazon’s list of Best Sellers in Business Management. Dalio’s rules are the basis for how BA operates its “meritocracy” built around a culture of what it calls “radical transparency.”

The firm has been working to build these rules into an algorithm that automates much of the firm’s operational decision making. Given the complaints of some as to how the Dalio Way ends up treating its own people, what could possibly go wrong?