April 16, 2018

We tricked you fair and square

I've been revising my expectations, but it's so hard to keep up. I can remember a time when "You opted-in" meant "We tricked you fair and square."

Now it's little more than a short-hand for the Bart Simpson defense, "I didn't do it, no one saw me do it, you can't prove anything!" I even remember how people once accepted the common law principle that a contract is not complete if its terms and conditions are unclear.

-- Paul Romer

August 1, 2017

Elon Musk: If you're not progressing, you're regressing; so, keep moving forward.

We could sum up Musk's point in a single sentence:

If you're not progressing, you're regressing; so, keep moving forward.

Why this is great advice.
It doesn't really matter what your personal goals are. The key to success in any field or endeavor is to keep moving forward.

A progressive mentality doesn't mean that you'll never experience major setbacks, or even utter failure--which can deliver vital lessons and invaluable experience. (Just ask Musk, or any successful entrepreneur, how many times they've gotten it wrong before getting it right.) Additionally, reflecting on how far you've come can provide necessary motivation.

But there's danger in keeping focused on the rear-view mirror, so to speak.

It eventually leads to a crash.

To maintain a forward-moving mentality, you must:

resist needlessly dwelling on mistakes. Instead, identify lessons learned and move on;
continue to set challenging yet reachable goals--especially after scoring big;
aspire, not to be a know-it-all, but rather to be a learn-it-all; and
never give up. Ever.

Continue reading "Elon Musk: If you're not progressing, you're regressing; so, keep moving forward." »

June 26, 2017

idler: modern stoicism misses the point

Without a transcendent perspective on life's harshness, without trust in an unfolding higher than human vision, all we have is our desire, our frightened calls for control, our empty cries for freedom echoing about in the indifferent void. If you can feel the force of that thought, you can feel the depth of what Epictetus was driving at.

Continue reading "idler: modern stoicism misses the point" »

March 19, 2017

Men and computers could co-operate

"Men and computers could co-operate more efficiently . . . if a man could tell the computers how he wanted decisions made, and then let the computers make the decisions for him."

-- 1961

October 31, 2016

Messy desk is in use

"When is it that your desk gets most cluttered?
It's that moment when you're busiest,
when you're getting most stuff done,
when you're starting to feel overwhelmed,"

-- Tim Harford

August 15, 2016

Finance industry must restore fairness and honesty without diminishing profit ?

Many of the founders of modern finance -- families whose names have been dragged through the mire of Libor and other scandals -- built their banks on Protestant principles. Their aim was simple: encourage thrift and enterprise to deter sin and sloth. They were not promoting get-rich-quick schemes and did not have corporate social responsibility departments.

These pioneers taught a crucial lesson: that saving was a route out of poverty and enterprise could be rewarded. It was a social responsibility in itself. And they realised an essential truth: financial institutions serve a society, they do not command. As these banks succeeded, so did the country.

Napoleon's jibe that Britain is a nation of shopkeepers was true because sober financiers helped people buy stock and start businesses. The Industrial Revolution transformed the nature of labour but the financial revolution democratised opportunity. That is why capitalism matters: no other system of economic organisation has liberated more people.

-- Tom Tugendhat

June 15, 2016

Facebook triumphs over G+

A certain resinous smarminess coated Vic Gundotra, like a thin layer of annoying motor oil on a socket wrench, never letting you get a real grip on it. And toolish he was, stumping loudly for Google Plus in countless media interviews and at Google-sponsored events.

What was most insulting to a Facebooker was his studiously avoiding mentioning the social-media behemoth in public statements, as if the very raison d'être for his now towering presence at Google didn't even exist. Like some Orwellian copywriter, engineering language and perception to suit a fictional reality, Google would rarely mention the Facebook elephant in the room in any public statement, insulting any viewer by suggesting they had practically invented the notion of Internet-mediated social interaction.

"Networks are for networking," intoned Gundotra, any reference to Facebook always oblique and dismissive. "Circles are for the right people," he continued, referring to Google Circles, a way of organizing social contacts, shamelessly copied from Facebook's long-ignored Lists feature.

-- from Chaos Monkeys: Obscene Fortune and Random Failure in Silicon Valley, by Antonio García Martínez.

May 28, 2016

Pigeonholing hurts

According to Laszlo Bock, who runs human resources at Google, pigeonholing workers into categories is nothing new, and it's rarely helpful in running a workplace.

May 22, 2016

An aesthetic, antifashion as fashion

As an aesthetic, antifashion as fashion is annoying and alienating, bleats GINIA BELLAFANTE, the self appointed spokesperson for people who are over 40, not particularly slender or less prestigiously schooled.

Everybody else can attest when visiting a Warby Parker outlet that there is both a democracy in a relatively low price, and also a sense of exclusion is woven into the gestalt.

Are you really smart enough to be shopping at Warby Parker? Have you read even a fraction of the books displayed?

May 10, 2016

Cordray's Peeple

"It doesn't matter how far apart we are in likes or dislikes," she tells some bro at a bar in episode 10. "All that matters is what people say about us."

-- Julia Cordray.

April 8, 2016

Dog food innovation or garbage innovation ?

We are still in early days here, but when there is that much attention and money being spent for this, there will eventually be compostable insulation or dissolvable insulation you can put into water and turn into dog food or something.

Someone will make a dent so people can have access to meal kits without the guilt."

-- Andy Levitt, who started the Purple Carrot.

March 8, 2016

Who buys corporate software ?

When Ms. Rometty became chief executive in January 2012, she told her executive team that she wanted to improve -- "to rethink and reimagine" -- the experience of IBM's customers. This was motivated partly by a shift in how businesses were buying technology.

As more purchased software as a service over the Internet, buying decisions were often being made by workers in functional departments -- human relations, sales, marketing and data analytics -- rather than by a central corporate information technology office. In this new market, software that was tailored to workers' needs and could be used without technical help from IT employees would win the day.

Software developers are just as important as customers to IBM, since both groups create markets. "We wanted to redefine IBM for developers," said Damion Heredia, an IBM vice president who leads the Bluemix operation.

January 20, 2016

Embarrassed by your first version ?

"If you are not embarrassed by the first version of your product, you've launched too late."
-- LinkedIn's Reid Hoffman

January 18, 2016

Pitched ?

"I've never swung at a ball while it's still in the pitcher's glove."

-- Warren Buffet

November 29, 2015

Pay back student loans before retirement

Liz Kelley, a Missouri high school teacher and mother of four who made a series of unremarkable decisions about college and borrowing. She now owes the federal government $410,000, and counting..

Continue reading "Pay back student loans before retirement" »

October 2, 2015

Work is defined by the complexity

"College Graduates Are Wasting Their Degrees in Low-Skilled Jobs," that "Skilled Workers Are in Short Supply." We're raised, in the culture of American capitalism, to believe certain things, without question, namely that the value of work is defined by the complexity of the task and not the execution of it, that certain types of work are not worthy of devoting a lifetime to.

July 20, 2015

The Bloomberg Way

A chapter in The Bloomberg Way, the bible for its journalists, begins, "If we don't know the people on our beats, what they do, where they're doing it, when they're doing it, and how they do it, we don't know our beats."

October 26, 2014

Liquidation strategy

"Liquidate labor, liquidate stocks, liquidate the farmers, liquidate real estate,"

"It will purge the rottenness out of the system. High costs of living and high living will come down. People will work harder, live a more moral life. Values will be adjusted, and enterprising people will pick up the wrecks from less competent people."

-- Treasury Secretary Andrew Mellon insisted, via Heather Cox Richardson.

September 18, 2014

Too brilliant, too arrogant, too obsessed

Dropouts are nothing new to the Valley. Quite the opposite: The tech turk -- characteristically, someone too brilliant, too arrogant, too obsessed for the classroom -- is key to the Valley's creation myth and the stories it tells about itself.

Sergey Brin, Larry Page and Jerry Yang dropped out of graduate programs; Steve Jobs, Bill Gates and Mark Zuckerberg never even made it through college; and PayPal founder Peter Thiel doles out $100,000 to talented teenagers if they'll beg off college to work on something he finds brilliant. And businesses established and starting up both have long histories of poaching -- or rescuing -- ABDs. Sometimes even anthropologists.

September 1, 2014

Immersive course in the American way of life

Before arriving there as part of the big push, Brad Katsuyama had never laid eyes on Wall Street or New York City. It was his first immersive course in the American way of life, and he was instantly struck by how different it was from the Canadian version. "Everything was to excess," he says. "I met more offensive people in a year than I had in my entire life. People lived beyond their means, and the way they did it was by going into debt. That's what shocked me the most. Debt was a foreign concept in Canada. Debt was evil."

August 12, 2014

Skill matrix

One man's embedded, undefinable artisanal skill is another man's obscurantist bullshit,
and still another's unexamined privilege.

March 25, 2014

Hacking viral growth in social software

"The most powerfully growing products," he says, "do three things at once: they make you look smart to the people you invite. They give real value to you when the people you invite join. And they give real value to the people you've invited once they sign up."

-- Stan Chudnovsky

August 1, 2013

300 square feet is humane

In his 2000 book The European Office, Juriaan van Meel noted that in Sweden "almost everybody has a private office", while in Germany "open-office layouts are scarce" - although small teams sometimes shared a room.

German office workers have an average 28.2 sq m of personal space. Their right to elbow room and daylight is enshrined in law.

The office buildings that meet such requirements generally have separate wings of long corridors, with small offices on either side. Some, the most ambitious, have a central "street" where employees can come together to collaborate.

In the UK and North America, by contrast, design is mostly driven by cost rather than worker satisfaction, and open-plan layouts remain the norm.

In London's West End, space for one desk (4 sq m) costs £8,500 ($13,000) a year. A private office would cost much more than that - and have a larger carbon footprint.

One compromise popular in the US is the cubicle, in which desk space is enclosed by canvas-covered dividers, usually around 5ft (1.5m) high. It's a set-up which blocks daylight and, supposedly, office distractions.

May 6, 2013

business separates into attackers, disrupting, changing the world, and defenders, trying to de-risk

The world of business really separates into these two groups. The attackers are the entrepreneurs who are disrupting the status quo, trying to change the world, take the hill, anything is possible, and have nothing to lose in most cases. They're driven by passion and the idea and intensity. Large organizations -- and it's true of Fortune 500s and it's also true of governments and other large organizations -- are defenders. These guys aren't trying to pursue the art of the possible, how to maximize opportunity. They actually are trying to minimize the downside, and hedge risk. They're trying to de-risk situations. Entrepreneurs can't even think this way. It's not even a concept they understand.

-- Steve Case, AOL founder

May 1, 2013

We'll shout "fat, crippled banker!", perhaps in the future,

Perhaps one day, far in the future, when we hit a finger with a hammer, we'll shout "fat, crippled banker!"

-- MELISSA MOHR, author of "Holy Sh*t: A Brief History of Swearing."

March 16, 2013

Privacy constraints impair Google innovation

Google was becoming too big to manage, with far too many bits and pieces which could in theory help the broader company but which in practice, like Reader, just sat there using up resources and contributing very little in return. So Larry Page decided that he would start killing them off, and making Google more focused; I'm sure that decision was made easier by the fact that if Google now needs to control the amount of information it collects about people, it can't have engineers freewheelingly making unilateral decisions to start collecting exactly that kind of information. Dick Costolo's ideas were probably great in 2005; in 2013, they would be politically suicidal.

The result is that Google is going to be less of a utility, less of a public service, and more of a company with a constrained set of products. The problem with the death of Reader is that it was the architecture underpinning lots of other services -- the connective tissue of just about all RSS readers and services, from Summify to Reeder to Flipboard. You didn't even need to use Google Reader; it was just the master central repository of your master OPML list, all the different feeds that you were subscribed to. Google spent real money to provide that public service, and it's going to be sorely missed. As Marco Arment says, "every major iOS RSS client is still dependent on Google Reader for feed crawling and sync."

-- Reuters Felix Salmon.

January 24, 2011

Self-direction, in independent thought, in peer collaboration, in responsibility.

One of the most important influences early on was being educated in a Montessori setting. The Montessori ethos was very formative for me because it built into me a belief in self-direction, in independent thought, in peer collaboration, in responsibility.

Those even became tenets for me in terms of my management style -- a kind of laissez-faire approach to allowing people to self-direct and peer-collaborate to figure things out and get things done here. That attracts a certain kind of person. There are other people who can't thrive in that -- they need things spelled out, they need their five tasks

Jeremy Allaire, chairman and chief executive of Brightcove, an online video platform for Web sites.

December 23, 2010

'Bogus assignee' by LPS / DocX

Thousands of these bore the signature of DocX employee Linda Green. The signatures didn't look alike, however, and LPS eventually confirmed that multiple DocX employees had signed her name. Some of the assignments stood out because they listed the new owner of the mortgages as "bogus assignee" or "bad bene."

LPS spokeswoman Michelle Kersch said "bogus assignee" and "bad bene" were simply standard placeholders on document templates which the employees inadvertently had neglected to fill in with the proper names.

In his October 29 conference call with analysts, Carbiener said that when the company discovered the DocX wrongdoing in December 2009, it immediately stopped it and soon shut DocX down. But it turns out that DocX continued operating much longer than LPS originally had acknowledged. In a written response last week to questions from Reuters, LPS's Kersch confirmed that DocX actually wasn't closed until August 2010.


October 11, 2010

This envelope won't be pushed !

Theme of the conforming Oscars.

August 5, 2010

Our crystal ball is better than their crystal ball

Despite clear views of the High Line, not one unit at +aRt, a condominium in Chelsea at 540 West 28th Street referred to as "Plus Art," sold in the fall of 2008, said Stephen Kliegerman, the director of development marketing for Halstead Property. By November of that year, 90 unsold condos ranging from $850,000 to $1.4 million were taken off the market.

After marketing resumed in May, brokers at a grand reopening gala suggested that prices remained too high. Mr. Kliegerman and others involved with the project agreed to keep some units at 2008 levels while reducing prices by 10 percent for a second group of units. Mr. Kliegerman said several units had since gone into contract. "We really wanted the market to speak to us," he said. "In retrospect, if we had a crystal ball and we were able to jump back in time, we probably wouldn't have done anything differently because you never know until you get to the marketplace where those prices are going to be."

Continue reading "Our crystal ball is better than their crystal ball" »

June 21, 2009

Risk Manageemnt without markets

The real test of risk management is provided by the financial Darwinism of the markets. By reading market signals about products--pricing of assets, pricing of insurance on those prices--banks develop models that can inform them about risk. By reading market signals about their own financial health--their cost of capital, their borrowing cost, the cost to insure their debt, the willingness of customers to enter into trades--risk managers get a view about the risks of their own portfolios and the strength of the business model.

-- John Carney.

Continue reading "Risk Manageemnt without markets" »

April 12, 2009

Larry Summers, contaminated by D. E. Shaw

Mr. Summers, who taught economics and public policy at Harvard while advising Shaw, also met with investors in the United States, as well as in the cash-rich Middle East and Asia. He spoke at industry conferences, mixing with officials from public pension funds, endowments and other large institutions with many billions of dollars to invest.

While at D. E. Shaw, Larry Summers also peered into the inner workings of the $2 trillion hedge fund industry, which the Obama administration is now relying on to buy billions of dollars of worrisome assets from the nation's beleaguered banks.

Some of his critics worry that such ties raise questions about whether the government's ever-changing effort to bolster the financial industry will benefit Wall Street in general, and hedge funds in particular, at the expense of taxpayers.

"This is what might be called contamination," said Andrew Sabl, an associate professor of public policy at the University of California, Los Angeles. "Did Summers spend so much time with the hedge fund, or its investors, sovereign wealth funds and so on, that he started to think like them?"

Continue reading "Larry Summers, contaminated by D. E. Shaw" »

March 8, 2009

World of Hurt

"I love the irony," Mario declared. "This is a virtual representation of a real-world financial system that is itself based on virtual money backed only by the faith and credit of the government. The goal of the game is to become so big and corrupt that the government has to bail you out. That's so twisted, it's brilliant."

Continue reading "World of Hurt" »

November 2, 2008

All on a government loan.

With my torture film
Drive a gto
Wear a uniform
All on a government loan.
I'm worth a million in prizes

-- Iggy Pop and David Bowie, 1977, as prophets.

Continue reading "All on a government loan." »

September 28, 2008

Masters of the Universe know their nuts

Shed no tears for the Masters of the Universe, however, not that your correspondent actually thought you might. Most of the young Masters already have their own personal nut free and clear. "Nut" is the term for the amount of money you need salted away in weather-proof investments in order to generate enough interest to live comfortably in Greenwich on Round Hill Road, Pecksland Road or Field Point Road in a house built before the First World War in an enchanting European style, preferably made of stone featuring the odd turret, with a minimum of five acres around it and big enough to be called a manor. Every Master of the Universe knows the number.

-- Tom Wolfe.

Continue reading "Masters of the Universe know their nuts" »

August 16, 2008

Estimate the size of their losses

Investors will be able to better estimate the size of their losses once
it becomes clear how far prices will fall.

Insight from the NYT Business section.

September 1, 2007


Diversification means investing in something uncorrelated,
not inversely correlated.