Top 5: 2016, a year in review

Twenty sixteen. Woof. A year of subtle ups and conspicuous downs. To live through this year was to hear the somber announcement that Prince had died, but then, in its wake, get to experience Purple Rain in theaters, where fans sashayed down the aisles and crooned into the high rafters in remembrance of the little purple one. A year of bad news that we got through.

In honor of the ups, I’m ending the year the same way I started it: top five lists.

For those who missed last year’s top five post, I got the idea from one of my favorite movies High Fidelity. You can top five list anything: 90s movies, Olympic sports, vegetables. This post will focus on my favorite reads and listens from the year.

This will be my last blog post of the year. Number fifty two. To all of those who followed along, provided feedback, and were part of the general conversations that turned into these posts, thank you! And, as always, thanks for reading.

Into the new year we go.

Top 5 Tech Reads

Top 5 Long Reads

Top 5 Non-Fiction Books I Read in 2016

Top 5 Fiction Books I Read in 2016

  • The Leopard, Giuseppe di Lampedusa. The Italian One Hundred Years of Solitude.

  • The Age of Innocence, Edith Wharton. Boy meets girl in old New York. Boy and girl find themselves suspended between two generations and are forced to compromise, accordingly. This book is one of the greats.

  • Still Life with Woodpecker, Tom Robbins. "Hostess Twinkies mate for life."

  • Plays, Anton Chekhov. Plays from the mid-19th century about unhappy people aspiring for something more: “In two or three hundred years life on this earth will be gorgeously beautiful and glorious. Mankind needs such a life, and if it is not ours to-day then we must look forward to it, wait, think, prepare for it. We must see and know more than our fathers and grandfathers saw and knew.”

  • Ready Player One, Ernest Cline. 80s and video games. A fun read for anyone else who used to be really into RPGs.

Top 5 Albums Released in 2016

Top 5 Old Albums I Re-discovered in 2016

  • To Bring You My Love, PJ Harvey. Worth a visit if you haven’t heard this before. Lots of range on this album.

  • Bee Thousand, Guided by Voices. The album the Beatles would have produced had they been a lo-fi basement band in the early 90s.

  • Special Beat Service, The English Beat. A fun cooking album. “Save It For Later” is my highlight.

  • Music for 18 Musicians, Steve Reich. Beautiful pulsing compositions that make for great work music.

  • J.S. Bach: Suites for Cello, Pablo Casals. Pablo Casal’s recording of Bach’s Cello Suites. The suites are one of the most popular pieces of classical music around today — the Yo Yo Ma version is all over the place. But I like Casal’s recording best. The suites were unknown and destined for oblivion until he stumbled across the sheet music in a thrift shop in the early 20th century. He recorded them in 1936 at Abbey Road and they’ve since become legend. A cool story and a beautiful piece of music.

Top 5 Blog Posts I Published in 2016

2016 Predictions

Following last week's post on 2015, I wanted to focus on what's next in the coming year. Here are my predictions for what will happen in 2016.

I’ve spent more time on the first three items, which revolve around some news from the past week.

Twitter will raise char limit to 10,000 but the average tweet length will stay below 200 chars. Feed curation will remain the primary hurdle for new users. 

It’s great to see Twitter shaking things up on product, despite what its fervent core user base might hurl at them for it.  It’s been clear for a few years now that Twitter needs to make some changes if they want to see additional user growth: the product has too steep of a learning curve for new users. The problem with this announcement (if it does actually happen) is that it doesn't make Twitter easier to pick up and use.

When I first started using Twitter, the hardest part wasn’t “how can I fit this thought into 140 chars?” It was "who do I follow to make my Twitter feed worth reading?" Facebook addressed this interest curation through their back-end algorithm; the end user rarely had to actively think about managing their feed.

Twitter, on the other hand, has always put feed curation in the hands of its users. This was liberating for a few (the core group that became the Twitter power users,) but for many, was more work than the average user wanted. Twitter Moments was a great step in this direction, as was my favorite release in recent years, the “while you were away” highlights that sits within the reverse-chronological feed.

Again, the 10k char announcement is great, and will definitely make Twitter more searchable. I’d just like to see more updates that focus on helping new users find their interests on Twitter.

AWS will continue to dominate cloud computing services...

The big news from last week was Netflix’s announcement that they flipped the switch and are now streaming in 130 countries around the world. This is certainly very big news for Netflix, who in the process of expanding to these countries will be building a global CDN with ins at their local ISPs. 1

It’s equally big news for AWS, who will play a key role in helping Netflix scale up to this global bandwidth and server demand. 2016 will be the year we see just how much AWS stands to gain from the types of global expansion announcements Netflix has just made. (This is a story that will continue to play out for all of the other gigantic AWS customers -- Spotify (already pretty global but room for more expansion), (duh), Airbnb, Slack, Pinterest, Twilio, the list goes on.)

...but Amazon Prime will not unseat Netflix as a media streaming service.

The CDN element I mentioned above is crucial here. There’s a long-term projection in this Netflix story (not for 2016 but I’ll include it anyways) that Amazon will develop its own original content, using the same methods Netflix used to best the traditional original content producers. 2 Theory has it that as Amazon continues to create its own original series, it will outbid Netflix, thereby developing better original content, by nature of the Amazon growth machine (i.e. Amazon Prime Video is Netflix, plus the added revenue streams from the rest of Amazon.)

I could see that happening, but I don’t think it will. Netflix going global means they’ll be the first streaming service in a lot of these markets. Local ISPs will need help in supporting the bandwidth increase, and they’ll take it from Netflix in the form of on-site boxes. In this way the Netflix global CDN will perpetuate itself, and widen the moat b/w Netflix and those streaming services that might try to follow it into global markets. (Good detailed read on this here.)

The end-state here is a symbiotic relationship between Amazon and Netflix in which Amazon’s place is secured through AWS, and Netflix’s through its global CDN.

Oculus Rift will ship with early-platform games this year. VR won’t be a big deal for the general public until its use case expands to include GoPro360 videos and other user-generated content. My “wow! technology!” moment of 2015 came when I saw a GoPro360 video on Facebook. Can you imagine how awesome this experience will be when you can see it through a reality-inducing Oculus Rift headset?

Facebook (+Instagram) will continue to crush mobile ad sales. Is anyone still logging into FB using a browser?

The general public will continue to be underwhelmed by Bitcoin’s impact and overwhelmed by how it works.

SpaceX will land two additional boosters in 2016, but this month's upcoming landing-at-sea will miss. It’s the older Falcon9 model that failed twice on water landings.

ESPN will continue to lose subscription numbers... Each year a class of graduates leaves college, and buys a Netflix subscription instead of a bundled cable package.

... but Disney will shrug off the ESPN decline because STAR WARS.

Apple will be fine. We’re a week into 2016 and pundits are already skeptical about Apple’s growth prospects. We’ve heard this before. In a year, everyone will want the new iPhone. Again.

Hilary will win.

You-know-who from Game of Thrones is still alive. I predict the answer for "how???" will involve a Bran warg scene.

The Warriors will set the record for most wins in a single NBA regular season.

That's all I've got for 2016 so far. I'm sure more predictions will surface in posts #3 - 52. 



  1. All bets off on China, a sixth of the world’s population that was not included in the Netflix announcement.

  1. Viewer data insights (“our audiences love Kevin Spacey”) + $$$ = great original content.

(Note: I'm using Bigfoot.js for the footnotes and am still playing around with the css a bit. Thanks in advance for your patience on any kinks there.)