Whatever Tragedy Just Occurred, I Don’t Assume You Approve

Tragedies happen. Every single day something terrible happened someplace.

Some tragedies are of a variety that go viral. A school shooting, a crime motivated by race. A lot of things in a state with bizarrely open public records that creates nearly self-writing headlines. None of these are good things.

And You & I agree; the terrible thing is terrible. What’s more, I know we agree even without talking with you. If someone came up to me and said, – You were thrilled about the thing that just happened – I wouldn’t believe them. I would never believe an accusation like that without evidence.  

I’m saying this because; In the wake of a trending tragedy, I’m used to seeing the social web light up with a flood of people clarifying they disapprove. As if in the absence of clarification that they believe the heinous act was heinous others will believe they wanted it.

I think that we feel powerless, because in many ways, at least in the immediate moments after a Dante Alighieri style comedy, we are unable to do anything… So we post. We share that we don’t agree with the indefensible thing, we get likes, and comments and we feel a sense of power return.

Sometimes public outrage holds powerful people accountable. But that is not what is happening here, is it?

The posts online, they aren’t a rallying cry against someone who abused and will continue abusing their position; are they? Is anyone responsible for this even alive?

Is the collective outrage fueling a machine that makes lone lunatics famous? One where cable news shows the body count as a video game graphic, counting up.

Will the vile person responsible be put on the cover of a magazine, like some kind of rockstar? Will reporters talk like it was a game of duck hunt… “it’s almost a world record for the most deadly of its kind…”

Is our outrage putting a villain on a pedestal for other unstable people? Will the ill and evil come to the understanding that their feelings of powerlessness can become a voice that will be noticed? That by causing enough harm, they can set public discourse for a news cycle?

I can’t tell anyone what they should be doing. I don’t believe I have the answers. But I think it’s worth asking, why are we doing this?

The rush of dopamine from social likes, giving us a small sense of power when we feel weak after a tragedy… Is that the same rush, as the ones felt by those perpetrating these tragedies?

We are not committing violent acts. But are we, in some way, part of the problem?

Header Image “Divina Commedia” by naevus

PS. The header images remind me of a Samsonov painting.

In A Decade, Devices of Twenty Years Ago Will Be The Hot New Gadgets

This post was originally published on Business 2 Community by Mason Pelt. It’s syndicated it here to maintain a record of guest posts.

In ten years, devices from twenty years ago will become the hot new gadgets of the day. They will be improved, shinier, and better with technology advancement. But limited function devices, that just play music, help you navigate or wake you up in the morning will be all the rage. Not only among the same people currently buying 8 track tapes, but by everyone.

That’s my prediction, and I make it from a place of frustration. There’s been a departure from building technology that better serves its users to seeing how many features one object can have. WiFi enabled toaster, Bluetooth coffee machine, smart hairbrush; all things that really exist and I can’t think of a reason they would improve the lives of users.

My phone is a flashlight capable of playing Pac-Man. It’s a compass pointing at both true North and where people are outraged today. How I access my plane tickets, and how the NSA knows who I’m meeting when I land.

Phones do so many things; you almost forget that glowing rectangle is a communications device. You forget until feeling a slight twinge of annoyance and anxiety when an unknown number interrupts the music you’re playing.

Humans seem to adapt to their ambient threat level, and I realize how fortunate I am that anonymous callers interrupting a Tom Waits marathon are where I find my angst. However, I’m not the only one in this boat.

When mp3 players first came out, they had problems, skipping, miserable battery life and more. By the time stable, reliable mp3 players were available affordably, phones were taking their place. But even the early flawed mp3 players weren’t interrupted by calls… In a way wasn’t the old technology better then what replaced it?

Cramming every possible function into a device doesn’t make that device better than the sum of its parts. Swiss Army knives are a multi-function tool; a blade, a wood saw, a bottle opener, screwdrivers, corkscrew, wire stripper, and awl. Every one of these tools is inferior to a standalone version.

I use alarms, timers, and the stopwatch on my phone every day, and I don’t own an alarm clock. But while a hybrid watch timer makes a lot of sense, an alarm clock that allows others to summon you at a whim is counterintuitive, even if we all use them.

Convenience lets the Swiss Army knife do in a pinch, but it’s not ideal. For the most part, people who routinely need a screwdriver won’t hold off on buying one because they own an amazing all in one tool that lets them feel like Batman.

People in a decade will totally still buy phones able to accidentally photograph them on the toilet. And much like a Swiss Army knife, most of the extra functions will do in a bind. But I expect to see more people buying, and relying on limited function tools that serve their needs. Not just relying on one expensive device that, kind of, does everything.

Alarm clocks and mp3 players are cheaper and at least as good as they’ve ever been. Maybe now is the time to move away from our phones being the magic glowing rectangles receiving our undivided attention. We’re spending our days staring at our devices, like Theodore Twombly in a version of the movie Her, where the technology makes you sad and angry.

Header image by stephen4 / Pixabay

Default Diet Advice

First, understand a calorie deficit is the only reason you will lose weight. Second, understand that fat, carbohydrates and proteins can all be converted to adipose tissue. If you cut carbs, or fat and lost weight it was because of a calorie deficit, not magic.

But I ate 3,000 calories of only meat daily for a month and lost a ton of weight!

Some People

Protein has more of a thermic effect – than carbs and fat – meaning you burn more calories turning protein into energy than carbs to energy. That doesn’t change fat loss from being about calories in versus calories out, it changes your default caloric burn.

But I only at 1600 calories a day and didn’t lose weight.

Other People

If you restrict calories, your body tries to conserve energy. If your NeAT (Nonexercise Activity Thermogenesis) rate changes this also doesn’t change how calories work. If you consume fewer calories, and also burn fewer calories, you don’t lose weight.

Peoples NeAT rate is a reason they lose weight when prescribed amphetamines. It’s also the reason professional fighters tend to blink slowly when they weigh in.

Now that I have the “there are no magic foods that don’t count” ranting out of the way.

My Advice: Control calories, protein & fiber

Calculate how many calories you should be eating to lose, gain or maintain weight. A lot of calculators exist online, I’m not going to endorse one and the formula is a bit complex to write out.

I recommend getting 0.8 – 1.2 grams of protein per pound of lean mass, yes, you can get by with less. But high protein diets tend to be more satiating and even 1.2 grams per pound of lean mass is not close to the proposed maximum anabolic effect of protein.

For Fiber get 15 grams per 1,000 calories. If you eat meat, eat fiber along sided it, because that seems to lower the increase in colon cancer resulting from red meat consumption.

But what about…

Note: I’ll update this post-overtime with more types of diets and questions that are frequently asked about.


I like the way I feel on a ketogenic diet. Also, keto seems to have major positives for those with (or at risk of) Alzheimer’s, Epilepsy, and Cancer. That said, keto is not magic for fat loss.

I won’t go into depth on keto safety, but most of your body’s tissues are conditional glucose users, and can be fueled on ketones. Most humans bodies can create more than the 100 grams (or so) of glucose needed for your central nervous system and red blood cells.

If you try keto, feel good and don’t feel overly restricted, Do it. But don’t start saying crazy things like: “Your body is better at burning stored fat in ketosis.” Or “The human body can’t turn fat into stored fat.” both are untrue.

Header Image by p_a_h

Play Bigger, Book Review

In an older post, I claim most marketing books suck. I stand by this; Most marketing books are garbage, rehashing other, older books, written to convince big companies who can hire consultants, to hire the authors.  In that post, I quote Play Bigger: How Pirates, Dreamers, and Innovators Create and Dominate Markets — because it’s the most recent marketing book fitting my description that has crossed my path.

The premise of Play Bigger is that you have to define a category to be successful. The authors of the book attempt this in their work by rebranding old marketing concepts. Positioning by Al Ries and Dr. Philip Kotler is a far better book. Positioning came out nearly 40 years ago and is relevant still.  By contrast, Play Bigger was published in 2016 and feels outdated.

Play Bigger is written by four people (Al Ramadan, Christopher Lochhead, Dave Peterson, and Kevin Maney), and it feels like it. The book is written with multiple, distinct voices, some of whom own a company that offers a “…standardized category design process that is tailored to meet the needs of companies of all stages.”

This is not the worst book I’ve read on marketing. Also, the authors seem to be well read; I respect that. Many of the books referenced by this book are worth reading; This one isn’t.

It Reads Like an Infomercial for Something I Already Own

Not unlike an infomercial showing a crappy version of a product you already own, the book stretches reality a bit with some claims to make its point. Bing in 2017 held 18% of the search market share in the US earning 3.2 Billion in revenue (1.3 billion in profit), but it’s a failure because it doesn’t define its category.

Another example. This book gives a possible explanation of why Apple’s iPad was a success while Microsoft’s tablet PC’s failed. The reason, Apple defined a new category sitting between a laptop and smartphone. Microsoft just made a tablet that ran Windows XP. I inferred from the book the Tablet PC was also an unholy abomination to both god and man.  But the book is steadfast that products don’t matter, its all about positioning… I mean “category design”.

The creation of a new category was the reason for Apple’s success and Microsoft’s failure. The cult of personality surrounding Steve Jobs, the fact iPads were a better product (at the time); Apple being very much a status symbol, closer to a luxury brand than a tech company, etc. Those weren’t factors, it was all about the category. Maybe Microsoft should hire the consulting firm behind the book?

Selection Bias

As with most marketing books, companies analyzed in Play Bigger are (almost all) already on top. If you pick the biggest companies in a market segment, are they the “category king” because they defined the category at the start, or do they currently define the category because they are the top dog?

To the credit of Play Bigger, they do provide analysis that proves their points. However, the probes into the success of Google, Facebook, Salesforce & Apple at the very least, feel to me like a bad marketing report. In a bad report you:

  1. Create a narrative
  2. Find examples that support that narrative
  3. Ignore nuanced arguments against the narrative you created
  4. To seem fair, address strawman arguments that contradict your narrative

The author defined categories major companies occupied are also a substantial fudge factor influencing the book’s conclusions. Bing, could be a non-successful search engine, or the first ever “decision engine”, dominating the space it is in with 100% market share. DuckDuckGo, a profitable but small company, could be called a failed search engine, or the dominant player in privacy-conscious search. I could category define all day, and crown nearly any company a “category king”.

Who Likes This book?

The best thing I’ve found said about this book was said by Marc Benioff, the CEO of Salesforce a company consistently praised in the book. Benioff said “Every entrepreneur looking to alter the landscape and every CEO looking to reimagine their business can learn from this book. Play Bigger provides inspiration and a framework for building companies that transcend gravity.”

Of course, Benioff loves the book “Salesforce” and “Marc Benioff” are mentioned 80+ times in this book. If I and my company had been praised on this level; I would give highlighted copies to all the stakeholders, my mother, and all relationship prospects. I may even have hired its authors as consultants.

And now; Now you have the information to understand why most marketing books are crap.

I’ll Now Defend This Book, a Little

The book isn’t all bad. The advice is something any savvy company will think of as market positioning. Every single company that isn’t doomed to fail has to think about positioning. Many companies will create new categories, but it’s not an automatic failure when a company doesn’t create a new category. I’m sorry, that’s just a flawed idea.

A point this book raises, validly, I’m sad to say. Is that markets seem hungry for one major player in each category. That’s true, in part driven by access to capital. VC’s seem less willing to invest in ideas when a hugely successful company already dominates a category. And, Investors will sell stock in publicly traded companies, the second Amazon sends out a press release hinting the giant may step into an industry.

The handful of insights, like the one above, aren’t worth slogging the swamp of self-promotion. If you want those kinds of insites you’re better off reading The Four by Scott Galloway.

At one point, the “players turned coaches” bemoan the days before “category design”. The days they speak of, are days when positioning, and market placement were taught in business schools.

Final Thoughts

The authors of this book did not create a new discipline. The book teaches little or nothing new. Certainly nothing so original that you couldn’t find it elsewhere. It suffers heavily from bias analysis and it reads like a sales pitch. Play Bigger isn’t the worst book on marketing, but it’s still an archetype of a bad marketing book.

This is only my opinion. It’s possible for knowledgeable and intelligent people to disagree with me, but I think most won’t. The idea that people don’t have to agree with you, is something Play Bigger would have done well to acknowledge in the book; Instead, it takes the hard-line stance that anyone on your team who doesn’t buy into the concept of positioning (as defined by this book) should be fired from the team.

The above, almost cult-like stance is especially odd since most of the examples in the book touted as success did not follow the category design prescribed by Play Bigger. I’ll combat this book one last time. Elvis isn’t necessarily the king of rock and roll because he created a new category, a solid case can be made that he stepped into a spot Chuck Berry created.

Did Elvis dethrone a “category king” rather than creating a new category? I don’t know, but I also didn’t write a book claiming that category creation is the only way to succeed.

Header Image by Editor B

Not Every Company Is A Tech Company

MIT, CNBC, Wall Street Journal, and others are declaring every business is a tech company now.

Technology is pervasive in all businesses and saying “every company is a tech company” makes a sexy headline. It’s like the new version of pronouncing email dead; while untrue, it’s easy to build a case for the claim.

I’m sitting here with a several-year-old Laptop and phone. Either device gives me way more computing power than NASA had in 1969 when they successfully sent a manned mission to the moon.

If I could go back in time with fully working, (magically internet connected) technology of 2019, I would be beyond the level of any computer scientist in the 40’s. I could do things none of them could dream of…

“Mr. Turing I’m just letting the Watson API figure out this code, you can take a nap.”

That’s not because I’m a technical wizard. A toddler can work an iPad, but Sir Isaac Newton certainly couldn’t have built one. The fact technology has progressed does not mean everyone is a computer scientist. We all have access to huge amounts of data, but we are not all data scientist.

IT Spending Will Increase

Yes, IT spending is going to increase, more companies will hire CTOs, CIOs, and consultants to pick the right technologies. Review sites and programmatic technology suggestions will be important to businesses of every size. But I can’t imagine it’s that different from every historic change resulting from new technologies, like the telegraph or the phone.

We have examples of businesses in most of recorded history. In most of that time, no examples of phones exist. After Alexander Graham Bell invented the telephone, a period of time when every business had a phone. And now we have reached a point where some business is don’t like giving their phone numbers out.

The most tech-savvy of companies seem to force contact through layers of automated chat systems. Eventually, perhaps a text conversation with a real person and maybe a phone call if at some point that person gives you their number. It probably will be their number, and it will leave the business with the employee. As more companies support a bring your own device plan.

If you mean every company is a tech company because they all have access to so much technology, that’s true. Every company has access to technology that could strike a 22-year-old Philip Emeagwali with awe. But most of that technology works with shockingly little training or original development.

Technology is Getting Easier

You don’t have to become an engineer to drive a car, and you don’t have to be a developer to build a website. In 2019 we have a plethora of what you see is what you get site builder options. I’m not a fan of most of them, but compare any website builder with an early 90s hand-coded HTML website. Not only are the sites easier to build, they are also notably better.

Not every company is now or needs to become a tech company. Everyone can use technology and have it be surprisingly painless. A toddler using the iPad is not a result of extensive training. The child is not a computer scientist. And even when companies in retail, real estate, and oil & gas invest in technology, they do not automatically become tech companies.

Header image by rawpixel / Pixabay

You May Enjoy

Should I Give Up Foods Tom Brady Does Not Eat?

I was sent an article about Tom Brady’s diet, with the question; “should I give up the foods Brady doesn’t eat?”

Listen to this post read by Mason Pelt.

Judging from the article, Tom Brady doesn’t eat a lot of things. Some, like white sugar and white flour, can be cut from most diets and be an automatic positive. But dairy, nightshades (like tomatoes, eggplant, peppers), and mushrooms don’t make as much sense to cut out. For example, eating mushrooms may reduce the risk of cognitive decline in seniors, but I digress.

Are Your LifeStyle & Biology Identical To Tom Brady’s?

Elite athletes do things normal people don’t. Not everything they do is the reason they are elite athletes. Floyd Mayweather drinks a lot of soda. There is some merit to drinking something high on the glycemic index and rapidly bioavailable after intense cardio. But a Pepsi after I workout is change number 403 on the list of things Mayweather is doing I’m not.

Brady is a great athlete, training hard, spending time in the sauna and focusing on sleep. So, are you Brady’s biological clone? Do you train as hard, sleep equally well and activate the same heat shock proteins as Brady? Are you still unable to match Tom Brady? Eggplant may be holding you back. For the rest of us, probably not.

With Brady’s, Mayweather’s or any other popularised diet or training plan, people want to try flashy bits that stick out. Fasted cardio, hours in the sauna and ice baths, bearly sound fun to a masochist. Huge gains drinking a soda after a workout and cutting out foods that are a small percent of your daily caloric intake gets people wanting to signup.

Should Tom Brady Avoid These?

White sugar, white flour, MSG, dairy, mushrooms, and nightshades are all off the Brady diet. The reported reason Brady avoids these foods is that they aren’t anti-inflammatory. inflammation is one of those words, people toss around under the assumption that all of it is bad. However proinflammatory cytokines appear necessary to build muscle.

The long-term use of OTC anti-inflammatory drugs can inhibit muscle growth in young, healthy individuals engaging in weight training. For the elderly, there was some evidence that NSAIDs improve muscle performance. This suggests there is some ideal level of inflammation for human athletic performance.


Ideal levels of inflammation aside, no evidence exists showing nightshades cause inflammation in humans. Some studies suggest some Solanaceae (the scientific name of nightshades) can lower inflammation.

Bell Peppers are known for their antioxidant properties. Apparently cooking bell peppers increases the antioxidant effects.

A meta-analysis of tomato consumption found that:

Among 72 studies identified, 57 reported inverse associations between tomato intake or blood lycopene level and the risk of cancer at a defined anatomic site; 35 of these inverse associations were statistically significant.

JNCI: Journal of the National Cancer Institute, Volume 91, Issue 4, 17 February 1999


Mushrooms, are anti-inflammatory and are known for neuroprotective and gastroprotective effects. I don’t fully understand a reason for Brady or anyone else to avoid all mushrooms. But allergies or taste preferences could be the reason.


Dairy is associated with some inflammation, (again, not inherently bad). But let’s put that inflammation on a scale against this meta-analysis of 29 cohort studies, with 938,465 participants (93,158 mortality) finding lower all-cause mortality among those who eat dairy.

White Sugar & White Flour

Cutting something from your diet and replacing it with something worse, won’t help you. Removing white sugar and white flour from most peoples diet only helps if they are replaced with a. Nothing or b. Something better for you.

I tend to avoid sugar that isn’t in a fiber matrix (such as fruit) and I don’t eat white flour often. But if you control your calories, eat adequate protein and fiber, average people shouldn’t worry about eating a small amount of processed, nutritionally devoid foods that are highly enjoyable.

Header Image by made by light 

Should I Use Twitter? A 2019 Risk-Benefit Analysis Of Using Twitter

Periodically I try to make Twitter work for me, a productivity tool! Or if not productivity, a way to be informed, entertained… just to promote things I care about, perhaps? It’s failed for me, at the very least the way I was using it has not been working to any of these ends.

Productivity on Twitter

A Venn diagram of productivity and Twitter would have virtually no overlap. Not to say no upside exists from Twitter, I’ve made friends and had a few good conversations. But most interactions with any meaning or positive impact are a result of leaving the Twitter platform.

Like meeting someone in a crowded, unpleasant place full of angry people, but later chatting over coffee. Twitter is a meeting ground, not the place for discussion. It’s not even a good place to become informed.

Twitter is Real-Time (Irrelevant and Unreliable) Information

Being informed is a productivity tool; only when the information is correct and impacts your life or contains a truth that expands your mind in some way. Some of this exists on Twitter. But, I’ve forgotten how many times I learn something with no impact on my life is true, only to later discover it was false and feel a pressure to understand how everyone was duped.

An example I always point to; CNN did not accidentally air Porn during Anthony Bourdain’s Parts Unknown.Within about 4 hours of a random account tweeting a photo depicting porn broadcasting on CNN it was reported in 20+ mainstream news outlets, and about 10 hours later pronounced a hoax.

I learned something, learned it was fake and learned why, all in real-time. Not only does this three-stage fake news cycle not improve my life, CNN routinely broadcasting porn, would not matter in my day to day life.

Because of the sources, expanding verification wouldn’t have prevented this story from spreading. Traffic-hungry websites benefited, they got the initial outrage clicks, and later the retraction & explanation of what happened clicks. Good reporters, who waited for comments from CNN, or the local broadcast hub, earned no traffic. Bad reporting got rewarded with eyeballs.

Be informed or be entertained? 

Nuance is the enemy of the humorous hot takes pushed by the Twitter algorithm. This Tweet from Jesse Walker sort of sums up this point.

With nearly any topic, you must choose, be funny or be informative. Doing both requires a level of wit and topical expertise most people don’t have when preparing a Ph.D. dissertation, or comedy album. This mix of skills is possessed by almost no-one using 280 characters, commenting on topics they know little about, directed to a general audience.

Twitter is not devoid of humor or information. But it seems Twitter as an organism, of users and algorithms. Favors, sensationalism, and attacks on famous people to thoughtful commentary or even pure jokes and photos of cute animals.

Distribution Roulette 

I have a small following, about 3,500, my average tweet (excluding when I tag others), receives about 130 impressions. 3.7% of your audience seeing something on a real-time platform is great when you have 100,000 or more followers. But 130 people are much less likely than 3,700 people to create follow on engagement that causes a substantial distribution.

The odds of anything I tweet receiving substantial distribution seems to require a. Tagging someone influential, b. Ads or, c. Luck. When I say luck, I mean that I tweet something, that resonates with several of the 130 people who will see it, at a time when they will have followers online who are also interested in the thing I shared.

The Story of My Top Tweets

  • Russell Brand Retweeted it.
  • Brent Spiner Liked and Replied to it.
  • Tim Ferriss Retweeted it.
  • Jack Dorsey Liked it.
  • The week Alex Jones was ban from Twitter, I donned an aluminum foil hat, and posted a video weaving a tapestry of conspiracy theories tying into every Twitter trending topic.

Yes, it’s possible to engineer some form of “viral” pickup, but why? Just getting impressions doesn’t translate to clicks or Followers, much less customers. It seems like Twitter is subject to the rich get richer, poor get poorer distribution in a lot of ways.

A Graveyard of Old Tweets May Dig Your Grave

Some portion of people dig up old Tweets to attack the author. I won’t say public shaming is never appropriate, but the looking for dirt in old Tweets seen with James Gunn, Sarah Jeong, and Kevin Hart offer seemingly little benefit to society. Certainly, the lives of Gunn, Jeong, and Heart would have been better Twitter-free even with the exposure and engagement the platform allowed them.

For, Kyler Murray, the University of Oklahoma quarterback who received the Heisman Trophy in 2018, homophobic tweets he sent in 2012 when he was 15 years old became a media frenzy. He apologized, his life seems unruined. But that unpleasantness was over a tweet I can’t imagine over a couple of dozen people saw between 2012 and 2018.

If these examples aren’t enough, Jon Ronson has a great Ted Talk, When Online Shaming Goes Too Far.

Times And People Change

In 2012, I lived 10 miles from Murray’s home town of Allen, Tx; there were a lot of adults in that area using gay slurs as an insult at the time. It’s not a defense of anything he said, but his tweet and subsequent apology reflect positive social change when it comes to LGBT acceptance. Look at the changing views on gay marriage over time as an example.

Some things are wrong and were always wrong even when commonly accepted. As an optimist, I think we are moving positively. I hope people 80 years from now, will be shocked by things today that are commonplace. The essay Virginia Woolf? Snob! Richard Wright? Sexist! Dostoyevsky? Anti-Semite! Does a better job of encapsulating my point than I think myself capable of here.

Going Forward

Twitter, doesn’t benefit my life at this moment, and I see far more risk of harm than possible benefit. This is without even going into the psychological harms like feelings of isolation associated with social media, and trolls.

It seems wises to use Twitter only as a sort of RSS and trackback tool since those have fallen out of favor. I’m sure I should never actively engage on the platform. I should probably just delete my account, But for some reason, I feel like sticking around. For now, I’m taking a break from Twitter, as I have with Facebook.

Header Image Twitter

The Four, Book Review

Written by Scott Galloway, “The Four: The Hidden DNA of Amazon, Apple, Facebook, and Google” reads like the highest aspiration of the edgy business book genre. Flipping to any page, and putting a finger on any sentence gives you about a 70% chance of reading an (at least semi) meaningful insight, wrapped in a warm snarky blanket.

The book is a hodgepodge of fact, opinion, humble brags, and advice. I enjoyed The Four thoroughly, you may not. I was a fan of “Winners & Losers” a Youtube based finance analysis show hosted by Galloway, and this book is written in the style of that show. It’s not everyone’s cup of tea.

If you read the book and dislike it because it’s too edgy, you’re right. If you read the book and love it because it’s edgy, you’re also right. What I don’t think the book can be criticized for is a lack of multidimensional analysis. The T-Algorithm used as the bases to analyze the companies mentioned is thorough. None of the information is new (even in 2017), however, the book is a clear aggregation of facts with analysis that is well worth reading.

You may dislike the writing style, and may disagree with some claims. Example: every person I know working in cyber security for any entity other than the US government disagrees with Galloway’s assertion that Apple could build a backdoor into its operating system without making it vulnerable to hackers. However, while perhaps crass, Galloway is generally thoughtful and explains conclusions; rarely does a business book do so to this extent.

Who are the Four Horsemen

The books premise is clear from the title on; Amazon, Apple, Facebook and Google are huge, powerful companies, being protected by supporters, subsidized by governments, funded by investors buying a grand vision, and nearly unavoidable in modern life. They are the four horsemen of the apocalypse. Galloway considers the horsemen to be “god, love, sex, and consumption”. Each company shares global reach, likability, differentiation in the market and access to capital that even most fortune 50 companies would never hope for.

I’ll break down each of the horsemen, as paraphrasing the book and provide a bit of commentary.

God or Google

People now trust Google to know everything about them. Think that bump could be cancer? You’ll probably ask Google before you ask a doctor. People trust Google enough to ask it the questions that they wouldn’t ask their closest friend.

No philosopher, religious leader, guru or scientist will be asked the range of questions people type into Google daily. “About one out of six queries posed to the search engine have never been asked before.” — To Galloway’s point I used Google Books to find that quote.

I don’t trust Google, I use DuckDuckGo and Firefox to minimize the amount of contact I have with the big G. But even so, I use an Android phone, start most days checking into my Google for Work email and spend hours each month on Youtube.

Even with my healthy fear of Google, I, more than most, feed them information. I have a Google Phone in my pocket all the time. Set up Google Tag Manager and Google Analytics for clients websites, helping to build Google’s understanding of the web. I directly pay Google to use Drive and Email. I’m part of the advertising audience by watching YouTube videos and I manage ads across their network.

Love or Facebook

“As measured by adoption and usage, Facebook is the most successful thing in the history of humankind.” Facebook is love or at least access to loved ones. I can attest to this first hand, last month I quit facebook, but not really.

After leaving Facebook, I still had Instagram & Messenger. I even logged into Facebook at least twice a week, just to see what’s up. Social media, in general, is fueled by fear of missing out. Facebook, in particular, is fomo + nostalgia. Facebook is embedded in my life and has been for a long time.

I don’t love Facebook. But I remember the pit in my stomach after I lost years of text messages with a person I did love. I also remember the feeling of relief at how many messages were sent using Facebook Messenger.

From events to WhatsApp & Messenger Facebook’s impact on communication is profound. Facebook, like Google, has information about even non-users. If one of your friends has Messenger on their phone, Facebook knows your phone number and much more.

Facebook is not my friend. However, much like a close friend’s less than desirable significant other, Facebook is deeply associated with my friends.

Sex or Apple

Galloway equates Apple to peacocking, the logo a status symbol to make yourself desirable as a mate. “The Apple Logo, which graces the most coveted laptops and mobile devices, is the global badge of wealth, education and western values.” Perceptually this is true, at least among Apple fans.

I’ve used Mac OS exclusively for years. In the very beginning, I had compelling reasons; the product were just better and I needed OSX exclusive software. My job has changed, my industry has evolved and Apple has gone downhill. Check out Louis Rossmann’s breakdown of Apple’s repeated engineering failures.

My next laptop won’t be a MacBook Pro and that is related to quality. But the opinions shared by me and a prominent Apple repair technician won’t change the fact that Apple is essentially a luxury brand. Apple is more closely related to Louis Vuitton than Microsoft, Dell or any tech company I can think of.

Apple fits into a place in the hearts and minds of its diehard fan base that isn’t rational. I well remember defending Apple’s quality and customer support. The reality was, the MacBook Pro I had was a lemon with a bad graphics card and should have gotten a replacement under warranty.

Paying 2.5 times the price of a comparable laptop by any other brand meant it had to be the best, right? Apple was the best because they told me they were. Apple was the best because I didn’t waste my money. I became an onlooker in the story of the emperor’s new clothes, I’m not the only one. Galloway is right; People will defend Apple in ways that defy reason.

Consumption or Amazon

“Amazon eases the pain of drudgery – getting the stuff you need to survive.” — What Walmart has done to small towns, Amazon has done to major cities. People I respect choose to order only from Amazon because it means fewer companies tracking them.

Using only Amazon also means creating a corporate giant. One I suspect will someday bite its adoring customers. Just as it shocked retail stores the day it became clear Amazon was a threat to their businesses. This will happen with brands too.

Galloway’s interpretation of Jeff Bezos is a man who wants universal basic income. Because, well… he needs customers and doesn’t imagine a world where most humans have jobs.

The chapters on Amazon paint a portrait of a company with the power to tank any competitor in any industry – 30% in 60 days with 30 press releases. His solution is that the government should break up Amazon, as they did Bell System. I’m hesitant to agree to the government breaking up companies. But the time for subsidies to Amazon was never. It may be worth considering that only the government can save us from a problem the government helped to create. Reason Magazine had a great take on the Amazon HQ2 bidding war in the video below.

My Favorite Part

I started what became my favorite part of the book with an eye roll. Sorry Prof, but after seeing the words “New York Times Company” my first thought was “‘Come on Scott, I’m reading your book, spare me the story of sitting at the big boy table for the Times.” — Galloway’s story of how he came to be on the board for the New York Times, his plan to create a confederation of top news outlets that would force search engine’s to pay the content, and the reason it didn’t work out are a pretty solid set of lessons for anyone in business.

Galloway’s strategy may not have worked, but it is certainly worth reading about. He was at least conceptually correct. Google without a lot of quality content is a library without books: useless. The story has tons of entrepreneurial lessons, not giving up board seats as a gesture of goodwill would be near the top of that list. Not sacrificing core competency to maintain a tertiary revenue stream as The Times did with About.com is another valuable lesson.

Scott Galloway’s Video Summary

I think the book is well worth reading. I’ve recommended it to many people, but if you want a summary, the best one comes from Galloway himself.

Header Image via Berkeley-Haas Alumni Network’sYouTube