In his final letter to shareholders, Jeff Bezos calculated how much his company has benefited stakeholders. Let’s check his math.

Photo: Alex Wong/Getty Images

“If you want to be successful in business (in life, actually), you have to create more than you consume. Your goal should be to create value for everyone you interact with. Any business that doesn’t create value for those it touches, even if it appears successful on the surface, isn’t long for this world. It’s on the way out.” So wrote Jeff Bezos in his final letter to shareholders, released last week. It’s a great sentiment, one I heartily agree with and wish that more companies embraced. But how well does he practice what he preaches? …


Before winner-take-all became the name of the game, a bookseller called Ingram showed a better way

Note: This is a republication of an article that I published last week on LinkedIn Pulse exploring the limits of Amazon’s vaunted “customer obsession” when pursued at the expense of suppliers, and contrasting it with the philosophy of Ingram, the book wholesaling platform that gave Amazon its start.

A few days later, Jeff Bezos published his 2020 letter to Amazon shareholders, which almost reads like a response to my article. Though that could not have been possible given that his shareholder letter must have been well underway when my article first appeared, the update to Amazon’s thinking is very relevant…


“Are You Really the Product?” Will Oremus asks on Slate, and hints at his answer with the subtitle for his piece: “The history of a dangerous idea.” Before getting to the meat of the argument, he gives an unexpected history of the phrase “If you aren’t paying for it, you aren’t the customer, you’re the product.” …


“The world is moving apart in trust. In previous years, market-level trust has moved largely in lockstep, but for the first time ever there is now a distinct split between extreme trust gainers and losers. No market saw steeper declines than the United States, with a 37-point aggregate drop in trust across all institutions. At the opposite end of the spectrum, China experienced a 27-point gain, more than any other market.” 2018 Edelman Trust Barometer

We must renew trust in our institutions!

I spoke a few months ago with Philip Howard, the head of the Computational Propaganda Project at the Oxford Internet Institute. In the course of our conversation about the use of bots and fake social media profiles to game Facebook’s algorithms in order to influence the US election, I asked him whether the US intelligence agencies were asleep about the possibilities of the Internet to spread micro-targeted disinformation.

Not all, he replied. They were well aware of the techniques the Russians had used, and even had used them themselves against other countries. They…


Cropped image from the Jefferson Memorial by Rian Castillo on Flickr

There’s a scene in Lin-Manuel Miranda’s Hamilton in which Thomas Jefferson, who has been away as ambassador to France after the American Revolution, comes home and sings, “What’d I miss?”

We all have “What’d I miss?” moments, and authors of books most of all. Unlike the real-time publishing platforms of the web, where the act of writing and the act of publishing are nearly contemporaneous, months or even years can pass between the time a book is written and the time it is published. …


Illustration: Sunday Büro

W e are all fools in one way or another. Fools for love, fools for vanity, fools for greed and arrogance, laziness and envy.

In the fourth century AD, the Egyptian hermit Evagrius the Solitary classified human failings into eight major groups. In 590, Pope Gregory I revised Evagrius’ list to create the canonical seven deadly sins of the Catholic Church: lust, gluttony, greed, sloth, wrath, envy, and pride, which were to be defeated by the cultivation of the corresponding virtues of chastity, temperance, generosity (charity), diligence, patience, gratitude, and humility.

The struggle against vice and for virtue — what…


The jacket for my forthcoming book, available October 10.

That’s the title of my new book, due out on October 10 from Harper Business in the US, and on October 17 from Penguin Random House in the UK. The book won’t be on sale till October 10, but you can pre-order on Amazon now!

WTF? can be an expression of amazement or an expression of dismay. In today’s economy, we have far too much dismay along with our amazement, and technology bears some of the blame.

In the book, I share some of the techniques we’ve used at O’Reilly Media to make sense of and predict past innovation waves…


When I broke my electric kettle, Amazon had a new one to me in less than six hours.

We hear again and again that AI and robots are going to take away human jobs. My broken kettle says otherwise.

Yesterday, I set my electric kettle down awkwardly on the edge of the sink. Crash! It toppled over and smashed. I searched Amazon for a replacement, found several that were highly rated, and within minutes had placed an order. As a Prime customer, I had the option for same day delivery, by 6 pm, and so I brewed this morning’s tea without interruption or inconvenience.

Remember when it was amazing that Amazon offered free two-day shipping? Then free one-day…


Fake maps claiming to correlate crime rates and Democratic votes, circulated via email.

How I traced the falsity of one internet meme, and what that teaches us about how an algorithm might do it

I have a brother who is a big Donald Trump fan, and he frequently sends me articles from various right-wing media sources. Last week, he sent me a variant of the image above.

I immediately consulted Snopes, the fact checking site for internet hoaxes, and discovered that it was, as I expected, fake. According to Snopes, these are actually both electoral maps. Per Snopes, “On 11 November 2016, the Facebook page “Subject Politics” published two maps purportedly comparing the…


This is protest as it should be done. Forcefully, clearly, respectfully.

I was really struck by the coverage of the Hamilton cast statement last night. The video is above. Please watch it before reading.

Donald Trump, of course, described the cast’s statement in the worst possible light.

I am sad that Trump’s reaction to a polite and respectful expression of First Amendment rights, a public statement on an important issue, should be to cast it as rudeness. It is even more sad that he has found time to say next to nothing in response to actual rudeness or far worse…

Tim O'Reilly

Founder and CEO, O'Reilly Media. Watching the alpha geeks, sharing their stories, helping the future unfold.

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