Read, Watch, Listen / Week of July 27, 2015

A collection of interesting media that I’ve read, watched, or listened to this week.


How a Chinese billionaire built her fortune

When I’m gone

Follow up with the company that decided to pay all employees 70k


A deep dive on 500 Days of Summer

Movie : Chef

Spot the drowning child – an important Interactive public service announcement


Alec Baldwin interviews Ira Glass – an excellent interviewer talks to one of the best storytellers.

This American Life : NUMMI 2015 – interesting story about a joint venture between Toyota and General Motors. Explores the difference between Japanese and American manufacturing and labor.

A great editor

While I was traveling recently I rented “The September Issue”. It’s a documentary that follows the production cycle of the September issue of Vogue magazine. It focuses on Anna Wintour who is the editor-in-chief and Grace Coddington, the creative director. They are often at odds, but end up producing a creative, visually stunning, bold, finished product together as a team. When you finish the movie, you come away with a strong message: if you open Vogue, it’s Anna Wintour’s baby.

If you use an Apple product today, it’s Jon Ive.

If you watch SNL, it’s Lorne Michaels.

If you listen to This American Life, it’s Ira Glass.

If you wear J Crew, it’s Jenna Lyons (Right now at least. Who knows what the future holds after their 2014 results. I’m a fan.)

In my businesses I strive to be a great editor. When my team and I are working on new products or services it takes discipline and focus to keep things simple. You’re always fighting the urge to add new features, or piling things on because one customer asks for it. You have to protect the experience for all of your users/customers and stay true to your vision.

I find the creative process so interesting. If you’re producing something timely, you’re usually under a tremendous amount of stress to meet a deadline which often times produces your best work. There are a few other great documentaries I really enjoyed that explore the creative process if you’re interested in that sort of thing : Saturday Night, 6 Days to Air: The Making of South Park, Showrunners : The Art of Making a TV Show.

“We don’t go on because we’re ready. We go on because it’s 11:30.” – Lorne Michaels

Financial Models

A financial model is a way to take a set of assumptions (costs, revenue, etc.) and model a business to give you some semblance of what your actual operating financials might look like. One of my businesses is a software company (which is, in my opinion, the best type of business to be in but that is a post for another day). There are all sorts of metrics that apply to a SAAS (software as a service) model that can impact your financials.  Things like customer acquisition costs, churn, and lifetime value. 

If you’re thinking about pursuing an idea it makes sense to run some rough numbers to determine if your efforts might be worthwhile. I usually start with a calculator and/or a basic spreadsheet and if things start feeling good you can start to dive in a bit deeper. 

I came across a model years ago from Taylor Davidson that does an excellent job at taking an idea and determining if the economics work. He’s continued to update it and add value- it’s a really fantastic tool. You can get a copy at

Consuming content

The way I consume content has changed so much in the last few years. I’m really busy at work and at home but that just means I need to get more creative about how I consume.

I get the Wall Street Journal delivered in paper format every morning. I still like having the actual paper in my hands everyday. I have a digital subscription that comes with the paper delivery but I rarely use it. I typically grab it when I’m leaving the house and read it first thing when I get to the office. The Weekend Edition gets read at the dining room table with coffee on Saturdays (depending on how cooperative the kids are).

Magazines and the New York Times both get read on my iPad. I typically don’t look at the New York Times during the week but scan through the previous week on Sunday mornings. I read my magazines when I have downtime or before bed. Currently subscribed to : Fast Company, Time, New Republic, Business Week, and Wired. It’s been interesting to watch these publications move to digital. I feel like the format lets you navigate faster and find the interesting articles. Bonus : no more subscription cards falling out all over the place.

Feedly is my RSS reader of choice for blogs. These get done daily in the bathroom. Feedly is a great app that syncs across devices (Mac, iPhone, iPad).

Podcasts get done via Overcast on my iPhone. Usually while driving. The app is perfect for downloading and managing your favorite podcasts. Currently I’m listening to : This American Life, Startup, WTF with Marc Maron, a16z, and James Altucher.

I’ve pretty much completely left terrestrial radio over the last six months. Content hasn’t been compelling and I hate commercials. Music comes from a Spotify subscription. The recent announcement of Apple Music has me curious, but I’ve invested a lot of time in creating playlists so unless it’s really easy to switch, I may just hang tight. One thing that might get me to move sooner is the aggressive family offering Apple has presented. I’m guessing Spotify will get on board with this shortly before Apple Music launches. My family is heavily invested in the iTunes ecosystem. We have purchased a ton of music and movies on the platform.

I’ve stopped watching a lot of television. I used to record some of the late night shows but now I feel like anything worth watching goes viral. I do watch a few shows : Shark Tank, The Profit, Silicon Valley, but I feel like television is starting to get less and less of my attention too.

I recognize that I’m not the average consumer of media, but its an interesting time for that is impacting a lot of markets. Advertising, content creation, distribution networks. My businesses don’t advertise that much, but my customers do. It seems like their dollars are starting to gravitate to online outlets. A lot is changing and its exciting!

New MacBook Review

I’ve been using the new MacBook for about two weeks now. I bought it one day in the mall on a whim and haven’t looked back since.

The Good
It seems like lately I’m constantly on the go, whether it be to meetings or on a plane. I’m carrying a bag that usually has a some files, a notebook, an iPad mini, charging cords, external batteries, headphones, etc. and I’ve tried to be really conscious about getting the weight down. This accomplishes my portability goals in a big way. The laptop itself is really lightweight.

In addition to being lightweight, it’s also silent. It has no fans. Some people have complained that it gets hot after some usage but I haven’t personally experienced that yet.

No issues with battery life so far.

The Bad
The press has been hard on the new model for speed. I would agree that if you need heavy processing power this shouldn’t be your daily driver. Most of the apps that I use are browser based now-a-days and on the occasion that I need to edit a video really quickly the machine has handled itself fine. About a week in I installed the El Capitan beta OS. After doing that my initial response is that it has made things a bit snappier. Apps seem to open faster, Safari seems to have a bit of pep. It could be all in my head, but Apple is claiming performance enhancements in the new OS and I’m buying it so far.

The USB-C thing takes some getting used to. I needed to do a presentation last week and had to borrow a co-workers older MacBook Pro to use some ports to get an external display. I’m going to order the adapter this week. Problem solved.

The keyboard took some getting used to. It uses a new type of key and the press feels a bit different. Honestly, after a few days I stopped thinking about it.

I read a review that said this is the laptop for you if you’re looking for portability above all else. I’d agree with that conclusion. You’re certainly paying a premium if you’re looking at it purely from a spec standpoint. You could get a heavier machine with beefier specs today for less money. I think after having this as my primary laptop though it would be hard to go back to something even a little bit heavier. This is my new normal.