Wednesday, 10 December 2008

Credit and credibility

It's odd to reflect that the current financial crisis should have a marginal effect on most individuals' everyday lives. So the financial markets were creating vastly inflated opinions of themselves based on selling each other dodgy products. But the dodgy products were only in their domain. My company's paint is pretty much the same stuff we've been selling for 35 years, barring the odd technological advance. Eggs are eggs, bread is bread, so why should we care if some bankers managed to dupe each other on a massive scale?

The banking system is all about trust, as most bankers will say. And now all that trust has gone to pot because the banks don't know if they can trust each other any more, because they've all got dodgy products they're trying to offload.

But what about the rest of us? Eggs are eggs, bread is bread, and paint is paint. As long as we pay our debts and provide our goods & services, there's no reason for us to fall into the black hole that banks have created for themselves. Unless they try to use us to fill it.

Maybe the only thing we can't trust is the banks.
'I believe that banking institutions are more dangerous to our liberties than standing armies. If the American people ever allow private banks to control the issue of their currency, first by inflation, then by deflation, the banks and corporations that will grow up around the banks will deprive the people of all property until their children wake-up homeless on the continent their fathers conquered.'
Thomas Jefferson 1802

Saturday, 1 November 2008

Mr Google on business

It's nothing particularly revelatory, but it's a very well-expressed view and insight from the top of the internet.

Sunday, 26 October 2008

The derivatives bubble: $190k per person!

Fascinating insight into the financial crisis. Puts it into perspective (eg. headline stat: value of derivatives market = 22 x GDP of entire world!). Some good links here too.

Monday, 15 September 2008 | SEC probes United's sudden slump

Here's a fine example of the downside of excessive media, and excessive automation in news media. Basically, one person visiting a website to look at a 6 year old story about American Airlines' bankruptcy caused a 75% drop in their share price last Monday..!

The thing is, I can only see this sort of thing occurring more frequently in the race to get fresh news. Mis(dis?)-information is not new, of course, but the online/automated component does amplify the problem somewhat.

Thursday, 20 March 2008

Another software vs service battle line

The end of software… by ZDNet's Dennis Howlett --

…as you know it. Right now I’m falling over startup vendors vying for attention in the so-called ’social software’ space. The fact enterprise people hate the term doesn’t seem to bother those who are bypassing IT as they sell into the marketing departments of companies at departmental budget prices. But there is a battle brewing [...]

Interesting article, with good research links. The only aspect I'd question/add is the typical decision context of an IT manager. They are not as well-informed about the free-range end of the software market because a) they don't have time/budget to research every blossoming software phenomenon and b) a significant chunk of their external focus is on beating vendors off, rather than trying to explore more. So, they typically depend on their existing vendors to provide 'free insights' or 'briefings' on the latest software ideas. These are, of course, skewed by the vendors' own marketing filters. When IT managers do try to broaden the discussion, they are met by a similar response to the Microsoft guy's reply in the article: ours is better for your situation (translation: we own you, so don't even think about straying or we will give you an integration nightmare, and you'll have to explain to your boss how you messed up that sophisticated social networking project)

Tuesday, 11 March 2008

Interesting quote from a newsletter:-

The other day,'s editor had lunch with a technology
company CEO. He came away from the meal with three things: the
bill, a bloated, gassy feeling in his stomach and an intriguing
perspective on the vocational resilience of the modern CIO.

Essentially, the crux of the pinot noir-fuelled argument is that
of all the senior managers in a business, the CIO is the least
likely to get the sack (see:

The argument goes thus: the role and responsibilities of the CIO
and the IT department are so Byzantine it's hard for the rest of
the business to work out whether the CIO is actually doing a
good or bad job - or indeed anything at all. Brilliant.

Not convinced? Consider this: the sales director can be judged
on whether that team has sold enough widgets and whether his/her
expenses claim is marginally less than the GDP of Ecuador.

The finance director can be judged on whether the figures add
up. Easy. Dull bunch accountants but very accountable.

HR directors can be judged on the sheer volume of pointless,
soul-draining forms and procedures they manage to foist upon
company staff. By the way, sacking your HR director isn't that
difficult, you just need to be SMART about it.

However, CIOs are wise and wizened corporate arachnids, hidden
in dense webs of jargon and service level agreements, tangles of
multi-coloured cables and stuttering, blinking lights that the
rest of the business simply can't comprehend. Or, at the very
least, can't be bothered to try and comprehend.

So given the existence of the bullet-proof CIO, it's no wonder
that insanely tech-savvy kids are having problems getting jobs
in IT these days.

After all, there's a serious log-jam of lifers in the system
already (see:

Sunday, 2 March 2008

Software: product or service?

I've always maintained that software is a service, and not a product. After all, the only raw material is man/brain power. The reason it has traditionally been sold as a product is because producers could get away with it: dollops of functionality released periodically as new products are a more secure revenue stream than the perpetual service update. The article below blends Software as a Service (SaaS) into the traditional software stack - quite nicely, I think.

SaaS and the global virtual stack by ZDNet's Phil Wainewright -- SaaS isn't just a deployment option. It's part of a bigger picture that will obsolete conventionally licensed packaged business applications and change the entire framework of how businesses consume computing. Here's what that bigger picture looks like.

Friday, 1 February 2008

Chief Googlers' letter

I've never actually seen this before, although I'd heard of it. It's a letter Sergey Brin wrote to potential investors prior to Google's flotation in 2004.

It's a great template for any forward-thinking organisation of our times.

Thursday, 31 January 2008

The future: cheap laptops or super phones?

With the rise of the Asus Eee and the Apple iPhone, it seems the desktop PC's days are numbered.

Monday, 21 January 2008

Internet attacks affecting real stuff

I suppose it was only a matter of time, but this is the first evidence I've seen of internet attacks affecting real-world things (financial stuff is still just numbers in machines, which can be reset, effectively).

Monday, 14 January 2008

Electronic warfare - City style

Check out the specs for these new trading algorithms offered by Goldman Sachs. They read suspiciously like computer virus descriptions, or guided weapons specs..!

I wonder if all financial trading will one day be simply subscribing to one algorithm or another. Some will inevitably be more popular than others, so there will be a market in algorithm pricing. Then, if Google Search is anything to go by, there will be systems developed to 'trick' the popular algorithms, requiring counter-measures... and so on.

Thursday, 10 January 2008

2008 Will Be “Nothing But Net” - again?

JPMorgan Predicts 2008 Will Be “Nothing But Net”. Interesting, but, as with the .com bubble, you really have to wonder where they'll get the revenue.

Media has always had convoluted revenue streams, but I'm extra dubious about the net. Take Facebook: okay, so they make money from advertisers paying them, based on Facebook's huge user-base. But where is the evidence that those users actually spend money on those advertisers based on the Facebook advertising? Click-through advertising is based only on clicks, not on customers. My ad click to purchase ratio is all but negligible: in fact I can only think of one instance when I bought something based on an online ad.

So, where's the intrinsic value? These companies are creating revenue and huge valuations, but what is it all based on?