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  • Internet Archive, Free Money, Fargo, and Refusing to Wait

Internet Archive, Free Money, Fargo, and Refusing to Wait

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Hello friends and welcome back to Life Reimagined, a free weekly elixir designed to make you feel good and live better.

Before we dive in, make sure to tune into next week’s newsletter. I’ll share an essay about something I’ve been trying to make sense of for the last few years. I think it’s time to share some of what I’ve discovered with the world.

🏛️ I. Internet Archive

For years, I’ve used the Internet Archive’s Wayback Machine, a digital archive of the entire internet that allows you to go back in time and look at what websites have looked like at different moments. I use the tool for marketing and internet sleuthing work, but never thought much about who built it or what else you could do with the product outside of looking at websites over time.

Then on Friday, my wife organized a tour of the Internet Archive’s physical building in San Francisco as a community event for people who are a part of Internet Pipes, her new product that teaches people how to use the web to find, vet, and validate trends and business ideas.

The tour was heaps of fun. Here are a few things I learned:

  • Archive.org started archiving the web in 1996 and has saved nearly a trillion web pages since then.

  • The company hosts all of the data themselves, and they even have physical servers in the SF location that you can touch! I was glad to learn that they also have backups of the data in various locations around the world.

  • Their physical building is an old Christian Science church, and they bought it because it looked like their logo. They still have the pews, organ, and many remnants from the church.

  • They probably have more valuable data about the internet and users than any company in the world, and they refuse to collect or sell user data despite pressure from many people to do so.

  • The organization is funded entirely by grants, donations, and partnerships with people who want to digitize their context. You can donate here if interested.

  • In addition to web pages, they archive video, software, music, and even have a growing archive for television. This is pretty cool because apparently, many networks don’t keep their old content so this is the only place you can find it.

Without what Internet Archive does, you can imagine a world in which a lot of internet could be lost with time. That may not seem like a big deal, but in a sense, they’re one of the few defensive forces against the many actors who may want various parts of the web to disappear for one reason or another.

Ultimately, I came away from the tour with an appreciation for how this site is the largest, coolest, and most underrated library in the world.

I’ll leave you with a picture of our tour guide on a stage with three numbers to her right. They are old hymns converted into internet error codes. Outside of codes you may recognize, you’ll notice 451. That’s the temperature at which paper burns and is a reminder of how web pages can be taken down for legal reasons.

Internet Archive tour

The 451 reminded me of Ray Bradbury’s Fahrenheit 451, one of my favorite books as a kid that reminds us of the importance of being mindful of the forces that try to erase ideas and human creations.

P.S. If you find yourself in San Francisco, Internet Archive does free tours every Friday. Check it out if you’re a fan of the internet.

💰 II. Free Money

Gift cards at Costco

I recently found out that Costco sells gift cards for other brands at a discounted price. For example, you can buy $100 gift cards for the grocery delivery company Instacart for $80 each. If you use Instacart often like I do, this is a neat way to get 20% off your grocery purchases. It’s kind of like free money.

I was curious how this works financially: Does Costco lose money on these gift cards to attract new members, or do brands offer Costco subsidized gift cards for some reason? It appears it’s the latter. But why?

I can think of a few reasons brands would do this. Let’s use Dominos (one of the participants) as an example. Why would Domino’s give me $100 of purchasing power for only $80? Well…

Margin matters. Imagine you use your discounted gift card to buy $100 of pizza. Domino’s operates with a margin, so perhaps that pizza only costs them $60. If that were true, they would still earn $20 even though you paid $80 for $100 worth of food. It’s a win-win. And it’s an even bigger win for Domino’s if you spend more than $100 on food because they would earn their non-discounted margin on anything over $100.

More cash ahead of time: Let’s say Costco buys ten thousand $100 Domino’s gift cards from Domino’s for the discounted price of $800k on January 1st. On that day, Domino’s gets $800k in the bank. It would be irresponsible if they spent that money immediately because they still owe that amount in services to the Costco members who eventually buy and use the gift cards. BUT they can put that $800k into treasuries or similar instruments and earn a good yield until consumers buy and redeem their cards.

Unused gift cards: Outside of earning yield, there is another benefit. Apparently, something like 6% of people never use their gift cards. They lose them, forget about them, or don’t spend the entire balance. Domino’s technically still owes these people the services they can buy with the unused funds, but they can probably safely assume that some percentage of gift card funds will never be used. In theory, they could let that expected amount earn yield forever or use that money to fund other operations.

Distribution: Costco has a bazillion members, and if you’re a brand that’s less well-known than Domino’s, you may benefit from having your name in front of the Costco members who will discover you via a gift card. Something like the Brazilian steakhouse Fogo de Chao is a good example. It’s one of the Costco gift cards offered, and while it’s not an entirely unknown restaurant, it may benefit from all of the Costco members who have never eaten there and decide to give it a shot for the first time thanks to the gift card discount. Not only do brands like this get awareness, but it’s likely people spend more than the gift card amount when they go. If these people like their experience, they may return with others or recommend the restaurant to a friend. More wins!

I’m sure there are other reasons for the existence of these gift cards, but this is what came to mind when I started thinking about why this “free money” is so readily available by just being a Costco member.

Outside of Fogo de Chao and Instacart, I also got a gift card for Southwest Airlines ($500 worth of credit for $450). If you're curious to see what brands participate, you can see all of the offers here.

Just don’t forget to use your gift card if you get one!

🎬 III. A Series I LOVED

While in Costa Rica in December, a friend introduced me to Fargo, a 1996 black comedy film that’s bizarre and definitely worth watching.

I didn’t think much about the film until I learned there was a television series that loosely follows the style and plot of the movie. Each of the five seasons in the series can be watched independently as they all have a different story and set of characters that echo the style and loose plot of the original Fargo.

Based on a recommendation, I started with Fargo Season 2. And oh boy was that a mistake! It was so good that I binged it in an embarrassingly small amount of time. I then went on to plow through to three of the other seasons.

All of them were pretty good, but Season 2 was excellent. It’s definitely one of the top five series I’ve ever watched.

If you have some time to laze around or are willing to take a productivity hit, consider giving it a watch. But if you are in a period of life where you need to get stuff done, maybe don’t tune in until things slow down.

🧠 IV. Something I’m Thinking About

If you feel called to bring something into this world, don’t wait. The idea’s time may have come, and why shouldn’t you be the one to make it happen?

“If you have an idea you’re excited about and you don’t bring it to life, it’s not uncommon for the idea to find its voice through another maker. This isn’t because the other artist stole your idea, but because the idea’s time has come.”

Rick Rubin in The Creative Act

That's all for now. See you next Sunday.

— Cal

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