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10 Jun 2018


Netflix had a cracking line-up of new content last month — Season 2 of 13 Reasons Why, Season 5 of Arrested Development, and 4 stand-up specials, amongst others. This year they plan to spend $8 billion on content, on-par with media juggernauts like Time Warner (HBO) and Disney.

$8 billion is a lot of money. Where does it all go? Well, it turns out that hit shows don’t come cheap:

These are non-trivial amounts of money. Are they actually worth it?

Season 1 of Stranger Things had a price tag of $50M. With Netflix making around $100/year per subscriber, it would need to see 500,000 new signups to break even. Given that 14 million people tuned in to Stranger Things in its first month, it’s pretty plausible that ~5% of them were new users that subscribed because of the show. Not only that, but a large chunk of Season 1 fans will have renewed their subscriptions in anticipation of Season 2 — all-in-all, it was probably worth a lot more than $50M to Netflix.

The maths works out nicely in this single case of one of Netflix’s most successful shows, but do the numbers add up across ...

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6 May 2018

Points Inflation on Hacker News

Is it harder to get to the HN front page now than it used to be? This is a very difficult question to answer. Are points on HN worth less today than they used to be? This is easier to answer — yes.

Here's a graph showing the median score of HN front page submissions over time. The dots represent the median score of a front-page submission in a given month, with the orange line (6-month rolling average) showing the general trend. The grey area represents the upper and lower quartiles of front-page scores.

The median today, in 2018, is around 150 points — double what it was when I joined the site in 2011. With a bit of hand-waving, we might be able to claim that "HN points are worth half as much in 2018 as they were in 2011".


I'm not sure what's caused these patterns — it's hard to find good, easily-accessible proxies for Hacker News visitor counts and user counts — Google Trends doesn't shed much light into these things.

I have a ...

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28 Apr 2018

What actually happens when you buy a domain name?

You’ve just thought of the next big thing. It’s gonna have AI, and you’re going to put it on the blockchain.

You go onto GoDaddy, enter the name in, and boom —

domain unavailable

Eventually you find one that isn’t taken, and $10 later, it’s yours. Of course, you never ended up starting that project.

But ever wonder where that $10 goes?

You’re probably aware that when computers talk over the Internet, they use numerical labels (IP addresses) to identify each other. These are hard for us to remember, so we prefer friendly names like “”. For you to access Google, some magic has to happen behind the scenes to turn “” into Google’s IP address, “".

First of all, someone at Google had to have registered the name This is done via a domain name “registrar” such as GoDaddy. Registrars are like high street shops – they actually get the domains from wholeseller-equivalents, but provide a convenient way for customers to buy and manage domains.

Next, someone has to tell the rest of the Internet that points to This is done by a ...

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21 Apr 2018

Trophy Hunting: Not Quite

This is an issue that every so often captures the public’s hearts and minds (in unequal parts), most recently with the case of Cecil the Lion (2002 - 2015). Cecil was killed by an American dentist by the name of Walter Palmer, who forked out $55,000 for the right to carry out the hunt. You’ll probably know that the public wasn’t thrilled about this.

lion killer

Cecil is by no means an isolated incident — hundreds of animals are killed in this way by trophy hunters every year. Another prominent case was the 2013 hunt of an endangered black rhino in Namibia, carried out by a Texan, Corey Knowlton, for the price of $350,000.

It’s not hard to see why this stuff doesn’t sit well with people. As well as the obvious animal cruelty angle, “rich white man goes to Africa to kill endangered animal for fun” has serious colonial vibes.

The public discourse on trophy hunting frames the issue as having two camps — “it’s okay to kill animals for fun” and “it’s not okay to kill animals for fun”. The real discussion to be had, however, is one on the limits of utilitarianism and ...

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14 Apr 2018

The Pilot and the Plane

The defining struggle of my life has been discipline — doing the right things at the right time. Through this lens, my past year has been a trail of abandoned gym plans, half-baked projects, and decision paralysis.

None of the life advice think-pieces I’ve read on Medium have really clicked for me, but I think I’ve found a helpful re-framing of the problem that’s working well:

  1. There are only a few moments in the day during which you’re capable of making decisions about how to spend your time.
  2. Spend these moments making decisions about how to spend your time.
  3. Spend the rest of your time purely executing on these decisions.

(1) is my key proposition, and I think (2) and (3) follow naturally from it.

It’s well understood that we’re not the best decision-makers when intoxicated, deeply infatuated, or when deprived of sleep — but it’s implicit that we can “think straight” the remainder of the time: 

thinking straight

I can only speak for myself, but when “sober” I’m mostly just a slave to my base instincts — taking the path of least resistance, seeking out cheap dopamine hits, and getting sidetracked by fleeting distractions. 

Operating this ...

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