Author: Om Malik

Goodbye Spotify


This post is by Om Malik from On my Om


Way back In 1935, genius musician Duke Ellington in an effort to placate two ladies, placed each of them on two sides of his piano, he composed and played a song — In a Sentimental Mood. Such is the magic of the song that nine decades later I can’t stop listening to it — in fact, it was the second most listened to song on my list of the 2,492 songs I listened to on Spotify in 2022, according to their annual musical data story — Wrapped 2022.

There are quite a few nuggets from the story — that are kind cool and amazing to be made aware of — for instance, the artist I listened to the most in 2022 is Eric Hilton, the one half of Thievery Corporation, which has been my most listened to bands for a few years. I guess, I know what I like. In 2022, I tuned more to jazz classics, ambient electronica and ambient classical music for nearly 30,000 minutes. In comparison, in 2019, I listened to 17,126 minutes of music on Spotify. I guess the pandemic and isolation made streaming music a bigger part of my life.

Spotify Wrapped 2022

Spotify’s Wrapped is a data story done right. It is one of the reasons why every year it arrives with much fanfare. Though, in 2022 it seems that its arrival has been superseded by the actions of a growing army of tech’s bad boys. Lars Mensel, a Berlin-based designer, writer and (Read more...)

Aerial magic with iPhone 14 Pro


This post is by Om Malik from On my Om


I am fortunate enough to have traveled to many exotic locations. Still, the biggest thrill is when the plane slowly makes its way around the bay area and settles into a slow approach over the San Francisco Bay towards the San Francisco Airport. The bigger the bird, the slower it is in its approach.

As we float over the bay, approaching from the Southern end of the Bay Area, occasionally, I find myself sitting on the window seat on the plane’s right side. My vantage point gives me a view of the San Mateo bridge and the salt ponds that have been part of the bay since the California Gold Rush. The 16,500-acre ponds once were part of the wetlands.

Almost every single time, I marvel at these ponds’ colors and the minimal beauty of their geometric shapes. Recently, I snapped a few photos with the new iPhone 14 Pro Max, and the long reach of its telephoto lens allowed me to focus on a few elements in each photo. And since I was using Halide’s app, the RAW files gave me enough data to manipulate in Photoshop. I was quite amazed by the details captured by the new iPhone camera. The reflections of the clouds were very clear and added a nice texture to the photos. Using Topaz’s software, I was able to clean up the files. After that, it was just a matter of applying my custom presets and playing around with saturation and contrast.

As the holiday (Read more...)

Musk overload 


This post is by Om Malik from On my Om


blue and white heart illustration

If you were a teenager (or slightly older) in the eighties, there is a good chance you tried out Calvin Klein cologne. It was quite the thing — it was everywhere, so much so that you couldn’t tell if the cologne smelled like the magazines or the magazines smelled like the cologne. The musky smell was a bit too much, and you started to despise the smell and its omnipresence after a little while. I have been reminded of that overwhelming experience where the scent became a stench over the last few days on Twitter. 

And the reason, of course, is again too much musk. 

I am mostly a live-and-let-live kind of person: I don’t really care about the psychodramas of other people. But it is too much to ignore when they start to inch into your reality and cause unnecessary anxiety. My timeline is full of Elon references — retweets of his tweets — and, generally, the continuing reality television show starring the megalomaniacal space cowboy. And this is despite me muting Elon and shutting out his entire coterie of sycophants. In other words, the timeline has become utterly useless. 

His strategy is understandable — dominate the conversation so much, stoke as much outrage, and elicit as much reaction to his controversial and outright nonsensical comments. He made some comments about Apple, and the ripple effects showed up on Reddit’s Apple threads and Apple-faced websites such as Daring Fireball. The New York Times decided to write a story about (Read more...)

What I am reading today


This post is by Om Malik from On my Om


woman in red shirt reading book

John Scalzi, a veteran blogger, reminded us that even as we deal with the demise of the social media web, we should make a special effort to link to other bloggers and their work. So, today’s reading list constitutes all the good stuff I have read on other blogs.

The Buy and Hold Mindset — Fred Wilson, a very successful venture capital investor, has a great post about investing. He compares real estate investing and investing in big(ger) technology stocks. It is a worthy read — I read it twice to understand what Fred was saying: you must constantly think about the long term, regardless of what you invest in. 

Machines of loving understanding — Pete Warden, one of my favorite engineers/thinkers and an expert on connected devices, machine learning, and artificial intelligence, notes that “the recent advances in machine learning is that they’re starting to give computers the ability to understand us in a much deeper and more natural way.” And that means we need to think about how it all fits into a human fabric. 

Changing times: Silicon Valley veteran, entrepreneur, and now an investor, Elad Gill, is quite bearish about the prospects of private tech in 2023. This is a very sobering read. “If 2022 is the hangover after the party where you are still a little drunk but have a headache, 2023 may end up more akin to accidentally driving your car into a tree,” he writes. 

Fred Jacobs, who has spent his life (Read more...)

TikTok & The Tiny Tune Trend


This post is by Om Malik from On my Om


black smartphone showing time at 12 00

Even though we like to blame the shortening length of music tracks on TikTok, the fact is that songs have been getting shorter ever since we started to live on the Internet. Just as written content went from being longer to more ephemeral tweets, the same has happened with music, and TikTok has made things worse — much like how Twitter impacted the written word. 

“Just as more blog posts or tweets get more traffic and attention, shorter songs get more attention on streaming services. Did you know the average “top 100 pop song has shed 40 seconds, dropping from 4:10 in 2000 to around 3:30 in 2018?”

“The portion of sub-three-minute top 10 hits ballooned from just 4% in 2016 to 38% so far in 2022,” reports Billboard. In the sixties, you had sub-two minutes songs that hit the top 40. TikTok, like Twitter, has made things even shorter. An 83-second song just made it to the Too 100! 

“Streaming has, of course, changed our relationship with music,” writes Hanna Kalhert, a media analyst, “turning what was once a thoughtful, attention-intensive activity to a primarily ambient background media format.”

Streaming and how it pays out is partly to blame. If a song plays for 30 seconds on Spotify, it means a royalty payout. Shorter songs equal more streams, which in turn means more royalty. Of course, there are shorter attention spans — a song is good for only 15 seconds on TikTok! 

I don’t have an opinion, but it (Read more...)

What’s Worth Reading: Thanksgiving Weekend Edition


This post is by Om Malik from On my Om


I returned from a quick trip to London on the day of Thanksgiving, thus missing the bonhomie of the weekend. While I did miss the slices of pie, it was good to spend the time watching The Silence of Water on PBS Masterpiece (via Amazon Prime.) The Italian crime show is beautiful in location, cinematography, and acting. And despite having to follow the subtitles, it is worth binging. 

The show was an excellent way to stay away from the incessant come-hither siren call of Black Friday — a disease that has also spread to the United Kingdom. I used the opportunity to stock up on memory cards, but that’s all. For the rest of America — despite economic doldrums, it seems to be the season of shop till you drop. I call this the consumerism curse.

The long weekend was also a good time to reflect and read. 

What I am reading

Amazon was losing $10 billion a year on its Alexa business. Google, too needs to learn how to make its voice-interface business profitable. And Apple’s Siri is not going anywhere as, well. So what is the future of voice interfaces in this era of economic frugality

Talking about Apple is becoming an ad company. On its blog, Proton, the privacy company, breaks down how Apple’s tracking works. I, for one, am disgusted by this direction taken by Apple. (Related: The golden noose around Apple’s neck.)

If you are struggling with the whole FTX (Read more...)

How FTX built a house of cards


This post is by Om Malik from On my Om


A few months ago, news broke of an insider trading ring at Coinbase, one of the many crypto exchanges hoping to make the world of magical Internet money easy for normals. SEC and other authorities acted swiftly and nailed down the perpetrators; their ill-gotten gains were around million-and-a-half dollars. The accused awaits sentencing. The swift action, in that case, is in sharp contrast to the largest cryptocurrency failure at FTX. 

The founder of the bankrupt exchange, and the man at the heart of this multi-billion dollar scandal, Sam Bankman-Fried, is instead invited to the U.S. Congress for “hearings.” 

Instead of being behind bars in custody, SBF is giving interviews to publications like Vox and The New York Times. Both these articles are a disgrace because both publications failed to ask the only question that mattered. Instead, they allowed SBF to come up with justifications, reasons, and bullshit excuses. Others are giving legitimate coverage to the likes of FTX’s house shrink and letting him make outrageous statements such as that he doesn’t see SBF knowingly committing the crime. “I just can’t see him doing that, honestly,” Lerner is quoted. If I were a house shrink getting paid outrageous money, I wouldn’t see anything wrong with the man either. 

Instead of waiting for the bankruptcy filings and being armed with more details, The New York Times interviewed SBF for a fluff piece. It only undermines my confidence in the Times’ coverage of this part of the finance sector. 

These stories are (Read more...)

In My Newsletter I Trust


This post is by Om Malik from On my Om


blue and white logo guessing game

No matter how often this happens, we don’t learn our lessons — we continue to till other people’s proverbial land and keep using their social spaces. Whether it is Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn, or Medium, we get trapped in the big platforms because they dangle the one big carrot in front of our eyes: the reach, the audience, and the influence. 

And we keep doing their bidding — they use our social networks, our work, and our attention — and, in the process, help make their networks gigantic and indispensable. We become pawns in their end game. And then they change the rules of the game — after all, if you own the league, you make the rules.

I have known the truth about social platforms. I quit Facebook and Instagram years ago, and candidly I am better for it. I don’t need 5000 friends — 15 good ones will do. And as far as sharing photos — I am happy that I have about a thousand people interested in my photographic work instead of 100,000 followers on Instagram. You, too, can sign-up for my photo newsletter here.

I have not quit Twitter for sentimental reasons. I sent out the first non-Twitter tweet and kinship with Jack. Even as the platform became unusable, I still stayed. I started using Twitter less. If I don’t visit today or tomorrow, my world doesn’t stop. So perhaps that is why I am not as distressed as others who are mourning about the future (Read more...)

Reflections!


This post is by Om Malik from On my Om


I crave these moments of stillness. I occasionally find myself in the right place with the right camera and capture the moment precisely the way I feel it. Of course, it takes a bit of an effort to get rid of the distracting color 😉

I hope you are having a great day, where ever you are!

November 15, 2022. San Francisco

In Good Times, FOMO beats Diligence


This post is by Om Malik from On my Om


red and blue light streaks
Photo by Maxim Hopman on Unsplash

Ever since the FTX story broke, I have had two recurring thoug. This energy companyrace reminds me of Enron, the energy company that wanted to make markets in everything — especially in gullibility. I wrote about their remarkable similarities in my piece for The Spectator, which is a new outlet where I have recently become a contributor.  

In my piece, I wrote:

“Tiger Global, Sequoia Capital, Softbank, Lightspeed, Temasek, Blackrock and others invested over a billion in the company which at one time was valued at $32 billion. FTX and Alameda Research’s intermingled ownership should have raised eyebrows, but history shows greed trumps diligence.”

According to media reports, Sequoia wrote off its entire $213.5 million investment in the company. The question is not just Sequoia, but how did all these giants of risk capitalism not notice the most basic of all risks? They aren’t alone: FTX investor is a who’s who of Silicon Valley and technology investing.

And no, I don’t include SoftBank in that list. The Vision Fund might as well rename itself a “vision less” fund, for they have shown a great propensity for losing a lot of other people’s money. The other investors, however, did surprise me. Paradigm is likely going to lose its $278 million investment. And they were the crypto experts. So many of the crypto insiders I have spoken to have nothing kind to say about SBF and aren’t surprised that a strong puff of wind (Read more...)