The Cold Start Problem ~ book review

Andrew Chen charts the rise of the some of the larger Internet companies whose value only increases through an increased number of users – the network effect.

The inside track on how the likes of uber, Tinder, eBay and YouTube gained traction to break free of the network effect; where the usefulness of the service grows only by the number of users using the system. Former uber executive and VC investor, Andrew Chen, charts through his first hand experience of the efforts that uber underwent to build up networks of drivers to service an ever growing userbase.

Chen had some interesting insights with respect to mobile deployments noting that “1 in 4 people abandon mobiles apps after only one use” and “Of the users who install an app, 70% of them aren’t active the next day, and by the first three months, 96% of users are no longer active“. This goes to highlight just how hard it is to capture a userbase, and how you have only a few moments to truly capture that first impression into a lasting user inaction.

Given my recent experience with Clubhouse (another Chen is invested in), I can confirm I am one of the 70% who couldn’t quite grasp the user interface to make sense of it. It was canned quickly.

Chen goes into detail on a number of sites, the classic cornerstones of the modern Internet, including eBay and YouTube. I knew the basic history, but I was surprised to learn YouTube started off as a dating site, and when that bombed, the founders, opened their platform to offer any content. Similar eBay, had a crisis of growth, and stepped away from its pure auction style when it introduced the controversial “Buy-It-Now” button, which now accounts for 62% of their total.

One recurring nugget that kept coming over as he went through the backstory of each company, was how often the original goal of what the founders were trying to solve, wasn’t what they ended up building and delivering. Many times, the product they are known and famed for, was an offshoot (Slack for example after a failed photo sharing site; Instagram after a failed online photo editing suite).

The book is packed full of these little anecdotes and ah-ha moments and written in a very accessible manner. As is common with books that attempt to sell a framework “the cold start problem“, it becomes repetitive in places, which allows you to skip over it. Instead if you read the book as an insiders guide to how some of the big players grew their network, then it sits very well as a high-level historical read.

Overall, well worth the read.

Movies/TV of 2021

Reviewing the Top 8 movies and TV series that made it to the top of my list during 2021.

Every year, I keep track of everything I watch and then give it a rating. I have been doing this for years on IMDB. 2021 was a slow year for me, only achieving 184 titles compared to my record year previous of 405 titles. While I keep track of my repeat watching, my top movies and tv will only be the ones that were released in 2021.

Top 8 Movies

Nothing this year knocked it out of the park and achieved a 10 out of 10. This was a little unexpected as there was a number of movies I was really looking forward to.

My top 8 movies of 2021 are as follows, with only Belfast (came out of no where), Red Notice (huge surprise) and No Time To Die (could have been better) getting 9/10.

Top 8 TV Series

There was a lot of binging this year of TV series, which does take time away from watching movies. The top one here, that had the whole family roaring with laughter was of course Jeremy Clarkson’s Farm, maybe even better than his Grand Tour series (which had some weak outings of recent). The second surprise hit was Kate Winslet in Mare of Easttown, which didn’t pull any punches. Naturally the BBC had a strong outing this year, with 3 hitting shows making it, each of them as good as the other.

2022 has started, and I have the “classic” Dwayne Johnson Doom playing in the background as I write this – bet you don’t realize just how much top talent there is in this big screen adaptation of the game.

If you don’t track what you are watching, then I advise you give it a whirl. You quickly forget what you watch, and when, and how good it was. I make a rule to never repeat a movie in the same year – unless its really good and I want to enjoy it in the company of others – and keeping track makes it easy to do that.

What is nice, about tracking your viewing habits, is the surprise you get when doing things like this reviewing the year, and what caught your attention.

Stop it with .. “world famous”

The next phrase on my silly rant list is “world famous”. no clue what is trying to be sold to me here when I read such a lofty claim

As I continue my completely irrelevant rants at every day phrases that surround us, the next phrase that deserves more than a cursory taking to the wood shed over its complete lack of meaning, is the classic “world famous”.  This one is often seen frequenting food establishments (including food trucks) with such lofty claims that one of their particular dishes, is renowned world over.


To which world are we referring to here?  The actual world, aka Planet Earth, or just their own wee world of a few blocks?

When it comes to claiming “world famous” I would say only a few of the bigger retail brands can truly stand up.  How often have you seen a photo from some remote desert place, or shanty town, to still see a beat up ‘Coca Cola’ sign hanging somewhere.  Now that is world famous.

Maybe it is simply aspirational – the hope that if enough people come from all over, on a pilgrimage to eat at the alter they too will find the unique joy that such a dish will bring and take it on with them, proselytizing to all those they come in contact with just how good that pizza, hot dog, chili, whatever was.

Personally I am confused as to what I am to gleam from this bold claim.  What are you really trying to tell me?

We should maybe consider instead “locally known to be quite good”.   This is way more believable than laying claim that it is “world famous”, because someone from out of country happened to breeze in one day, eat a dish, and tweet about it.

Keep it real people.

Stop it with the .. “Unlimited”

Start of a new mini series of harmless rants focused around words/phrases that have crept into our lives that have lost their original punch.

Start of a new mini series of harmless rants focused around words/phrases that have crept into our lives that have lost their original punch, leaving us wondering what will they be replaced by when we actually need to express the emotion of the word/phrase in question.

The first one, that came up in a LinkedIn thread is the wonderful marketing word “unlimited”.  We all know it rarely means unlimited, as there is usually a little asterisk, pointing us to somewhere indicating there is indeed a limit.  Yet, we have come to accept it.

Give you an example, I have a Verizon “unlimited” data plan. Hurrah. Cancel that home Comcast cable as I can pull everything through my 4G antenna. Whoa there hos, not so quick. Read the fine print, and discover it is really limited, as it is full speed up to a given “reasonable usage” mark then you will be speed throttled. What is the point in seducing us with such a blatant lie in the first place? Already our relationship is off to a rocky start.

We see this everywhere around us.

Cloud computing is another one that slips into this marketing lie. With such phrases as “unlimited storage” or “unlimited compute”. Now, anyone with half a brain, that gives it more than a passing thought, knows this is completely impractical as no matter how much disk space there is available, some fool, some where, will be filling it up.

To some of the bigger cloud players credit, I have noticed a shift in tone, to phrases like “near unlimited like storage”. Like telling you a lie, but winking at the same time, hoping you forget the word “near”.

Where it popped up in LinkedIn was around a conversation about that wonderful HR benefit lie propagated by some companies in and around “unlimited vacation”. Makes absolutely no sense. Yet we take it, assume there is some fine print, and buy in to the myth.

Stop it.

Push back. Instead of saying “unlimited”, just say “a lot“, or even better be honest, and proclaim “probably more than you will ever need“. That will resonate way more and get us on the right start.

What “unlimited” phrase have you spotted that has had you rolling your eyes at?

Isolation – things I have discovered

Now on my 6th week of isolation (self after a trip to Scotland, then forced isolation), I have discovered a few things about myself.

Now on my 6th week of isolation (self after a trip to Scotland, then forced isolation), I have discovered a few things about myself.

  1. I was under the impression I was not a people person, but I miss people (hopefully a temporary side effect)
  2. Being continually with ones loved one has not been anywhere as bad as some have it; we purposely keep apart during the day and make a point of pretending to come from work around 6ish to keep some normality
  3. Doing laundry way more often than I probably need to
  4. Reduced monthly credit-card spend dramatically by getting rid of a lot of unnecessary subscriptions
  5. Netflix, Amazon Prime and YouTubeTV are great online services, but very easy to get fatigued by each, so need the variety to rotate around them all is required
  6. On that, Star Trek TNG is as old to me now, as the original series was when TNG came out; (play the spot the Picard memes game)
  7. Deleting and not listening to downloaded podcasts does not make you a bad person
  8. Not watching as many movies as I would have hoped; can’t seem to concentrate on them as well as I use to
  9. BBC is one of the few news sources that does not sensationalize the news
  10. Find myself doing a lot more DIY jobs around the house (cleaned the gutters the other day)
  11. Nibbling from the kitchen has to stop, but not found an effective way to curtail that activity (Cadbury’s chocolate supply is perilously close to zero)
  12. Finally using all those soaps/shampoos collected from hotels over the years (don’t need to worry about that running low anytime soon)
  13. Video calls is way quicker and easier than writing an email
  14. Speaking of that, double chins are a fact of life (thank you video calls)
  15. Enjoying listening to the good old fashioned radio again (bandwidth free), reminds me there still is a world outside
  16. Saving a small fortune by not eating out for lunch
  17. Reading books again; dusted off my old kindle and enjoying the ideas being sparked
  18. Now that I am home, find myself talking to the dog while she spends the morning with me. (she then goes and spends afternoon with my loved one, so maybe I am talking too much. Noted).
  19. Invest in a good headset; makes said video calls way easier
  20. Amazon Chime really does blow chunks; yet another half-a-release from Amazon, I am sure it will be good in 18 months like most of their AWS offerings
  21. Google Meet continually impresses; it just works, no software required
  22. has been a surprise amusement for remote family time
  23. While video calls are great it is way harder to multi-task like you use to on conference calls
  24. Everyone wants to be your connection on LinkedIn (clearly a lot of random ‘connect’ clicking going on as people are either bored or desperate for leads)
  25. Tiger King on Netflix (no more than that needs to be said – only in America eh?)
  26. “Hello, I am your man Steve Harvey” seem to be addicted to our lunchtime show; (YouTubeTV archives has a lot to answer for)

Let us see how this looks at the 12th week mark.