Saturday, November 01, 2008

Segway investments

One of the best metaphors I've been able to come up with, for the current economic crisis, is the Segway.

Why does the economic system have to be like this? Why do we to have so much depend on a system that's prone to abrupt downturns and disruptions?

It's because investment is much like riding a Segway.

As a person (one of the lucky few, considering total sales less than 30.000 units) that have actually crashed a Segway, let me tell you: the transition from fully function space-age transporation device to full on faceplant, can be really sudden for all involved. One moment you feel like an astronaut, the next you're in pain and got a whole lot of explaining to do (it wasn't mine, and yes, I broke it).

Much like the economy.

In the current form prosperity is mandatory. Unless you wish to be left behind by the rest of the world moving at inflationary speeds, remaining stationary is Not An Option.

If you want to get ahead, you have to take risks. On the Segway, you shift your centre of gravity forward; well beyond recovery if you want really good speeds. In investment you put money into projects that "should be fine based on historical data" and leverage up, beyond recovery if you want really good yields.

This is all very well if everything keeps running smoothly. But if one wheel suddenly seizes up or the economic engine runs out of juice, you're in for a brutal landing.

As for who's to blame, it's a really easy systemic explanation. The supply of broker bonuses for short-term yield exceeding demand for long-time accountability, in short a lot of people pushing their Segway so far ahead, that a minor slowdown of the engine causes an all out wipeout with other people's money.

If all this isn't enough to convince of the Segway analogy, I'll present you with the 43rd President of the United States..

Wow, wouldn't you know it? Investing really IS a lot like riding a Segway.

Thursday, December 20, 2007

So bad, I want revenge

Today I experienced something out of the ordinary wich made me think for a moment, about something I take for granted more or less every day.

A Google search failed on me. Horribly.

I was, for some obscure reason in need of a quick fix for a urgent need for a throwaway WYSIWYG editor on a windows box.

As I did not have a clear preference I selected one of the top 4 links that looked promising (everybody does that 90% of the time), and that particular link sent me over to a software offering that turned out to be completely unfit for the task.

It's not so much the mediocrity of the software, whose selling points was that it was free, cross-platform and, well, an WYSIWYG-editor. Because it was. But it was clearly not something that would do the job I wanted. It did not have support for editing external bloody style sheets, and holy Spaghettimonster, that is something that's something of an dealbreaker for me. The non-intuitive UI was horrible, but nothing extraordinary (I'm getting used to that feeling after several encounters with Office 2007).

What was most offensive, was the fact that they had the balls to put "all your Internet needs in one application" on their web-page and the fact that Google served up that particular url as one of their top recommendations for my exact search words. This caused med to not drop this app as the steaming pile of crap, but spend several more minutes trying to figure out what the fuck I was missing out, since I was finding my Internet needs NOT getting particularly satisfied.

I'm still at a loss for words to describe my level of dissatisfaction. All I want right now is 20 minutes of my life wasted on by a websearch that failed me completely. I think Google really, really would benefit from a feedback-system with 'Kill, with fire' as an option. Because that is about how bad I feel about this particular misfire, right now.

Wednesday, December 05, 2007

Microsoft: "IE7 's good". The web: "not impressed"

I put up a comment on a brief article on MSDN IEBlog noting the 1-year anniversary of the IE7 release. The main thing that impresses me, is the sheer volume of negative energy they're met with.

From the post:

Your arguments about volume of adoption are nothing remarkable, all they show is that people use windows (this also seems to be your main strategy in IE development: "they'll use it anyway, so let's not bother too much..").

I cannot for the life of me come to understand how the current (embrace-and-extend + institutionalized arrogace)-strategy on web technologies are going to be a net asset to your company when it spawns so intense dislike.

What really strikes me, is that Microsoft is acting very in a very, at least to me, counter-intuitive way. The discussions about Microsoft's complete lack of, shall we call it.. tact, regarding web standards, is why I feel Google's motto, Don't be Evil is squarely aimed at their Redmond competitors.

One thing that would help Microsoft out of thist mess is to adopt a new and fresh strategy; "Don't be Microsoft"

Saturday, October 13, 2007

The science of choice

Malcolm Gladwell on variability. Not much to add, except that it is more to it than you'd think at first.

Thursday, July 12, 2007

Albedo, and why energy won't be easy

The fun thing about changes on a global scale, is the insight it brings, the earth is not big enough. You could look at this two ways, either we're causing the changes by excess introduction of trace gases into the atmosphere (a theory subscribed to by 97% of all scientists) OR we're unfortunate spectators of some freak variation in nature (this appeals more to the last 3%, and as a bonus a very comforting viewpoint).

Either way we're poorly equipped to handle a worst-case scenario, should this come to pass. Nice reading material on this topic would be James Hansen, a merited professor in NASA's employ (they've been to the moon and back, wich is more than you can say about Exxon Mobil, or Royal Dutch Shell).

Funny language like

Multiple positive feedbacks accelerate the process once it is underway.

The global mean temperature three million years ago was only 2–3 °C warmer than today, while the sea level was 25 ± 10 m higher

proves interesting for sure.

The whole reason this is surprising, is that Hansen, maintains that this is a posibility that we see climate along the lines of this once again, within the immediate future(that being 5m in about 100 years time). This is an estimate that is about 10 times more dramatic than IPCC have proposed(58cm, at most), and not at all satisfying to think about.

Consider this; where are you at 5m higher sea level? And your immediate infrastructure, and your national and international economic system. It's long story short a challenge of impossibly big proportions, and a perfectly natural human reflex is to shy away from problems at this scale. And then we're not even talking of the consequences of the new and exiting weather pattern.. It just might be time to grow your own potatoes again.

Why the big difference in numbers? IPCC have to be 110% sure of any statement they put out, so naturally they're vague about effects that they do not have a good predictive model of. Possible rapid dynamical response of the ice sheet, is one of the factors that are impossible to estimate with a high level of confidence, and are therefore not included in the IPCC models. Wich is a shame.

Saturday, March 24, 2007

The Beauty of a Fresh OS

The most fun & exciting experiences I've had with software from Microsoft have consistently been the joy of logging into a fresh install of Windows.

The sheer joy of it, lack of clutter, the responsiveness (my computer routinely feels one year younger after a new install) are all things that will wear off quick enough, but I'd hope Microsoft engineers got around to do more to preserve this feeling, as I find the blank desktop really difficult to dislike.

From the untouched, virgin desktop it's exceptionally easy to set out to do real work. A new browser, downloaded in less than 3 seconds (Gigabit downstream is one of the things I will miss from studying), new developing framework in less than 60 seconds, crisp graphics drivers in less than 2 minutes.

If they're really serious about improving Windows, the pristine look and feel of a fresh install is what they ought take a look into..

Thursday, March 15, 2007

Love, hate and genius. Connect the dots.

"- If everyone exposed to a product likes it, the product will not succeed. The reason that a product “everyone likes” will fail is because no one “loves” it.

The only thing that predicts success is passion, even if only 10% of the consumers have it.s" - Scott Adam

I'll just quote Kathy Sierra's take on this insight.

And I could not agree more. Pushing for excellence, will take you away from the safe 'middle ground', some will hate it, but if enough people really love it... It'll be hard to fail (think: global trend cascade).

If the product is objectively better, the mass market will move along and embrace the new product, but not because they really care, but because the default option gradually lose ground.

This mechanism is what keeps super-size corporations from doing all the product development by themselves. Sometimes loveable products come into being in less restrictive environments.

"We aim not to please, we aim to sweep you off your feet."
Any organization that doesn't have room for thoughts like this, is by default incompetent in making at least some of the best innovations of the future.