Companion Discussion Group on Facebook

I created a group on Facebook to be the companion to this blog… it’s an experiment and I’m not sure what to expect or where it’s going. We will figure it out together, so please join.

As an aside, this is what is missing from MyBlogLog, I have 898 members in my community on that service but nothing really ties them together or creates interactions in the group membership.

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Bear Stearns Meltdown

Anyone been following the mess at Bear Stearns? The FT has a good article on the risks of collateralized debt obligations (CDOs) that is worth reading if you are interested in understanding one reason why our housing market has been so robust this last decade.

About a year ago I wrote an investment policy for a non-profit that I was involved with. In the prohibited securities section I wrote in a specific clause prohibiting the investment manager from investing in residual tranche collateralized debt obligations. There was some debate about this as I was aware that there were good returns to be had in this area, like hedge funds, and even though the volatility was higher it was over the long run proven to result in better returns.

In other words, a conservative investment strategy really doesn’t preserve capital while sacraficing potential returns, it really just destroys capital as a consequence of opportunity cost. In retrospect, I sure am glad I excluded CDOs.

link via The Economist

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A Personal Note About the Failed Immigration Bill

Although I have written on several occasions that our immigration and visa system is broken and in need of urgent repair, I have not been a fan of the current legislation running through the Senate, which was pronounced by all interested groups dead after the vote today:

“The most dramatic overhaul of the nation’s immigration laws in a generation was trounced this morning by a bipartisan filibuster, with the political right and left overwhelming a coalition of Republicans and Democrats who had been seeking compromise on one of the most difficult social and economic issues facing the country.”

I’ll spare you my specific viewpoints, aside from saying I’m skeptical of any government that uses the adjective “comprehensive” to describe a proposal, and the inevitable bickering that would take place in the comments afterward, but will say that the process by which this measure was initiated and was being pushed through the Senate was deeply disturbing. Backroom dealing, limiting debate on amendments, and ignoring the overwhelmingly negative opinion of the American people is not how our government is supposed to work.

It really did become a war between the People and the Senate, which was in cahoots with the Executive branch.

The Senate is also the wrong place to start this, they should stick to playing defense to the House’s offensive game. In the words of George Washington to Thomas Jefferson, to paraphrase, “the Senate is the saucer to the House’s teacup, it’s job is to cool it,” referring to legislation that initiates in the House.

I also feel, like a lot of people, that I am in a unique position to comment on this topic being an immigrant myself, although I will also add that my own personal experience with immigration is somewhat removed as I came here as a small child and did not experience the process firsthand. However, I did have to go through the process of citizenship, take an oath before a judge, and still keep the signed picture of the President that came with my certificate, protected in an envelope in a secure place. I value it greatly, and my obligations as a citizen.

My parents and my father-in-law are also immigrants to the U.S. and it was interesting to see their reaction to this bill. This is really the first time I have seen my parents motivated to act in response to an issue of government, to the point that my mother’s phone calls and letters to Senator Feinstein warranted a personal letter in response.

I gather through watching these first generation immigrants react to this process that their opposition has nothing to do with bigotry or obstinance but a sense of fairness that permeates what it means to be American to them. The idea that an entire class of people, who in their eyes are simply breaking the law, would get special treatment is unfair to them, and more importantly it devalues the hard work they went through at the hands of the legal process to become American in the first place.

In the end, isn’t it more important to have being a citizen of any country mean something to the people that do it, as opposed to it just being expedient?

 

Personal Web and Personal MOBILE Web

Webwag introduced a collection of mobile widgets and synchronization engine that gives mobile users a seamless experience with Webwag’s start page service.

"Synchronize your personal web with a mobile phone, enjoy your graphical attractive widget on your personal device, this helps users to keep in touch with their upmost important data and information."

This goes to prove a point I was making earlier about enterprise portal products being left behind as start page services infiltrate the enterprise.

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The Social Dimension

"What’s most exciting, though, about Blizzard is that it takes the first step towards turning Pageflakes into a social network. For the first time, members will be able to establish a public profile and there will be a "People" tab added to the site. Members will be able to subscribe to other people’s Pagecasts. In other words, the will be able to subscribe to all the feeds and widgets that person is paying attention to."

This is what has been missing from portals, and in the absence of any sense of "we get it" from portal vendors I suspect that start page providers (a term I use to lump everyone from iGoogle to Netvibes to MyYahoo!, and even Facebook) will erode market share of portals through capturing attention of users.

How many people have a corporate portal but set their browser to their MyYahoo! page or their Netvibes page? A lot, and the trend only gains momentum as these vendors add more capabilities and more imagination to their services.

What happens when Netvibes turns on a groups functionality that notifies any user with a company domain name of the other Netvibes users who share the same domain name? The ability to network people together in a low friction manner is proving to be intoxicating for users, and out of that networking comes groups, events, bulletin boards, shared widgets, and viral distribution of not just information but also application functionality.

Yahoo! in particular could be a big beneficiary of this trend if they undertake two critical strategies, the first being to revive their enterprise group, which was abandoned in 2003. Arch enemy Google has done a good job of positioning enterprise search capability (appliance) on one end and Google apps on the other, the result being that enterprise users are increasingly using Google services and at some point tying up the various initiatives under a true enterprise service contract is a natural endpoint.

Yahoo! has more users on their personalized portal pages than any other vendor, plus the vertical portals (e.g. real estate) that offer them a natural tie in to vertical industries. The other missing element to Yahoo’s strategy is an explicit initiative to integrate Yahoo! Groups to domain specific users, which would give them something along the lines of SAP’s business process communities. Taking it a step further, enabling the user created group/networks aspect, like Facebook, would be the third leg of the stool for Yahoo!.

What’s the one conclusion I can offer as speculation or forecast here? Enterprise portal products are increasingly bleak in outlook, if for no other reason than the providers don’t seem to grasp the importance of a social dimension. The other interesting issue to consider is the potential for interoperability of social networks as a function of identity and reputation.

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