Book Review: Modern Monopolies: How Online Platforms Rule the World by Controlling the Means of Connection by Alex Moazed and Nicholas L. Johnson

Cover of the book Modern Monopolies: How Online Platforms Rule the World by Controlling the Means of Connection by Alex Moazed and Nicholas L. Johnson
Modern Monopolies: How Online Platforms Rule the World by Controlling the Means of Connection
by Alex Moazed and Nicholas L. Johnson
St. Martin’s, 2016

This review was first published by Booklist on May 18, 2016.

When we think about companies like Facebook, Google, Apple, Amazon, YouTube, and Uber, we tend to focus on the technology they innovate and how they’re changing our daily lives. But these platform businesses are some of the largest in the world today, commanding huge swaths of the modern economy. They’ve attained a scale long considered impossible by more traditional business models. Modern Monopolies analyzes platform businesses from the perspective of economics. Platform companies haven’t just beaten more traditional businesses; they’ve changed the nature of business itself, created whole new markets, and redefined what constitutes value. The authors analyze the path to success for platform companies and explore several ways that these businesses can fail. They display a strong grasp of the theoretical principles at play here but also evince a down-to-earth, nuanced, and critical view of how these companies function. Of particular importance, they suggest a fundamental reanalysis of the assumed value of “network effects.” This book is satisfying and timely, a valuable contribution to our understanding of modern business.

Shakespeare’s Language

To commemorate the 400th anniversary of the death of William Shakespeare, the Folger Shakespeare Library is sending 18 original copies of the First Folio on a tour of the United States. First Folio! The Book That Gave Us Shakespeare will exhibit the Folio in each of the 50 states, Washington D.C., and Puerto Rico.

The Kansas City Public Library—my library—is the host for Shakespeare’s First Folio during its Missouri showing in June. We’ve planned a year’s worth of activities and programming around it.

So it’s pretty much all Shakespeare, all the time around here. Being a library, we like to emphasize the influence that Shakespeare’s writing had on the course of literature and language in the English-speaking world.

One fact that lots of people love to cite is that Shakespeare invented over 1,700 words and phrases in the English language. This fact tends to be presented as though he sat down and made them up out of whole cloth (a la Lewis Carroll).

I find this scenario unlikely. I consider it far more likely that Shakespeare was merely the first (or the first that we know of) to write down many words and phrases that were already being used in his era.

Continue reading “Shakespeare’s Language”

National Poetry Writing Month 2016: A Summary

When I set out to participate in National Poetry Writing Month, I didn’t intend to write a poem every day. I just wanted to write two or three each week. I managed that, with quite a few more than two or three during the first full week of it. I hoped to end the month with anything between six and twelve new works. I did a bit better than that.

I confirmed that I do my best writing when I have external prompts to stimulate my creativity. However, I don’t always need to follow the prompts to take advantage of them—with my creative juices flowing, I’m more likely to write unprompted work, as well.

I attempted a wider variety of poetic styles and voices than I’ve done before, with varying levels of success. The challenge also gave me a chance to try a couple of new ideas I had for using modern technological devices to create poetry. I don’t know if this experience will get me to write more poetry overall, but I think it will improve my work when I do.

Now I have a year to decide if I want to do this again next April.

Here’s how my NaPoWriMo 2016 numbers break down:

Continue reading “National Poetry Writing Month 2016: A Summary”