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Thursday, 29 April 2004

All hail the bubble

Google files its S1:

Approximate date of commencement of proposed sale to the public: As soon as practicable after the effective date of this Registration Statement. [more]

Of note is the letter from the founders:

  As a private company, we have concentrated on the long term, and this has served us well. As a public company, we will do the same. In our opinion, outside pressures too often tempt companies to sacrifice long-term opportunities to meet quarterly market expectations. Sometimes this pressure has caused companies to manipulate financial results in order to “make their quarter.” In Warren Buffett’s words, “We won’t ‘smooth’ quarterly or annual results: If earnings figures are lumpy when they reach headquarters, they will be lumpy when they reach you.”
If opportunities arise that might cause us to sacrifice short term results but are in the best long term interest of our shareholders, we will take those opportunities. We will have the fortitude to do this. We would request that our shareholders take the long term view.
Many companies are under pressure to keep their earnings in line with analysts’ forecasts. Therefore, they often accept smaller, but predictable, earnings rather than larger and more unpredictable returns. Sergey and I feel this is harmful, and we intend to steer in the opposite direction. [more]

Bets on the next bubble crash?

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Tuesday, 27 April 2004

Google's IPO

Not that many people were expecting Google to be valued on a sane or rational basis. Here's a good piece, via Brad, on valuing Google:

According to this report, the widely-predicted Google IPO is likely to value the equity in Google at more than $20 billion - others suggest $25 billion. I immediately wondered whether Google was really worth $25 billion. I started on a standard financial analysis. Although, as a private company, Google doesn’t have to publish annual reports, it’s been estimated that Google has annual revenues of $500 million and profits of $125 million so that the return on equity is about 0.5 per cent. We can expect that to grow reasonably fast in the next few years, but the scope for expansion in Google’s core business is far from limitless. Most people in the developed world are already online and most of the heavy users already use Google (Eszter might have more to say on this). Moreover, there’s no strong reason to suppose that Google will be around in, say, 20 years time. I find it hard to draw a plausible earnings path that would yield a present value of $25 billion at any reasonable discount rate. [more]

More telling is Brad's comment. I'm not one to jump on the Google bandwagon (that said, now that I've got my Google Mail account, I'm wondering what, exactly, I'm supposed to do with it), but he does pose a good question:

Google needs to grow to approximately ten times its current profitability and then maintain its market share and margins indefinitely in order to justify the $20 billion valuation. And that's hard to see: high sustained profits are the result of effectively-maintained barriers to competitors--think Microsoft, think Intel. What is going to be Google's counterpart permanent edge?

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Monday, 26 April 2004

Sony Ericsson K700i UI

Screenshots of the new K700i UI. It sounds (a little) better than the T610 version at any rate:

When you select the Contacts icon from the main menu, you are brought directly into the contacts list, not to a menu. Or not a normal menu, at least. You are presented with two menu items at the top of an otherwise normal looking contacts list. Those two are "Options" and "New Contact". This isn't exactly bad, but it is inconsistent, which is normally considered a "bad thing" in user interface design. In this particular case, though, I think the sacrifice of consistency is worth the streamlining of use in the real world. [more]

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Sunday, 25 April 2004

City CarShare

Huh. I wonder if City CarShare would work in London:

Car-sharing allows you to use a car when you need it without incurring the fixed costs of ownership. City CarShare provides a network of vehicles parked in neighborhoods throughout San Francisco, the East Bay, and the Peninsula. Cars are available to members on a per-use basis. You pay based on how much you drive: $4.00 per hour (half off between 10pm and 10am) and 44 cents a mile. The fees include gas, insurance, maintenance, everything! [about]

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Monday, 12 April 2004

Death Panther

Zeldman tries Panther on Good Friday, it eats his Mac:

My journey into Panther killed my Titanium Powerbook in stages. First came software failure: Apple applications such as Safari quit on launch; the machine could not find the network. Then came kernel panics. (This is where the machine reboots into a black and white Unix screen, spitting out Matrix-like error messages. To exit, you must type the appropriate Unix commands, which implies that you know what they are.) Finally, the machine would not boot, period. [more]

Also, later on, a rant about not being able to eject CDs, without mention of Open Firmware.

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Saturday, 10 April 2004


This four day weekend lark is wonderful. Now if only I could persuade more people to die for my sins I could get the rest of the year off.

Meanwhile: feeling twenty-two, acting seventeen? You've got to be kidding me. Some days I'm lucky if I even feel twenty-four.

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Tuesday, 06 April 2004

Bad Reporting Catalyst

I admit it. I can't abstain from reading bad reporting.

In today's BBC News story titled "Chemical 'bomb plot' in UK foiled":

Alastair Hay, Professor of environmental toxicology at Leeds University, said osmium tetroxide was a rare catalyst - a chemical that speeds experiments - and could potentially make an explosion occur more rapidly. [my emphasis, Chemical 'bomb plot' in UK foiled; BBC News Online; 2004/04/06 12:47 GMT]

Now I'm willing to put this one to sloppy fact checking at the BBC and not, say, the eminently quotable Alastair Hay making a rather silly mistake, but even so - my knowledge of chemistry may only be limited to an A Level, but the fact remains that a more apt (and let's go out on a limb here--accurate) description would be that a catalyst such as osmium tetroxide in general speeds up chemical reactions and doesn't possess the necessary intelligence (or even sentience?) to selectively speed up "experiments". If that were the case, though, I imagine we can rest a little more easily in the UK and not worry about an osmium tetroxide based bomb going off in a public place and instead make sure all our laboratory environments are secured.

Right. So not The Times, and increasingly, not BBC News Online, either. My subscription to the Economist is looking more and more likely.

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I want all that techno-shit

Via Matt: so the Areva looks like the jaw-droppingly gorgeous video for Royksopp's Remind Me. Anyway. I read Matt's original Remind Me post again, only this time, I'd only just re-read for the nth time Snow Crash (aside: which prompted me to start reading The Diamond Age, again for the nth time, and realise how much better The Diamond Age is written).Anyway. Matt, on the Royksopp video:

I want this to be how my journey to work feels when I have broadband location-aware wireless Gucci sunglasses augmenting my reality second-by-second with every accessible statistic beautifully interpreted, overlaid and syncopated with the mp3 stash streaming through bone-conduction into my brain. [more]

Stephenson describing Hiro's predicament in Snow Crash:

Gargoyle time. Hiro switches everything on: infrared, millimeter-wave radar, ambient-sound processing. The infrared doesn't do much in these circumstances, but the radar picks out all the weapons, highlights them in The Enforcers' hands, identifies them by make, model and ammunition type. [...] He stumbles forward helplessly as something terrible happens to his back. It feels like being massaged with a hundred ballpeen hammers. At the same time, a yellow sputtering light overrides the loglo. A screaming red display flashes up on the goggles informing him that the millimeter-wave radar has noticed a stream of bullets headed in his direction and would you like to konw where they came from, sir? [...] He turns off all of the techno-shit in his goggles. All it does is confuse him; he stands there reading statistics about his own death even as it's happening to him. Very post-modern.

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Monday, 05 April 2004

Abstaining from bad reporting

The Times chose to kick the week off with the lead story that "Free pills and condoms 'boost promiscuity'":

GOVERNMENT attempts to reduce high-risk sexual behaviour among teenagers have had exactly the opposite effect, according to an authoritative new study.
Expanding contraceptive services and providing the morning-after pill free to teenagers have encouraged sexual behaviour rather than reducing it, according to economists at Nottingham University.

This isn't much of a big deal, and it shouldn't be a surprise. The study quoted by the Times, authored by David Patton, of Nottingham University, found that "teenage sexual behaviour appears to be little different to other fields in at least one important respect: incentives matter to teenagers too" - if you decrease the cost of birth control to teenagers, then as wonderful rational actors, use goes up. I'd link to the report, but it doesn't seem to be available online yet.

So far, so good. But the problem here is that certain methods of birth control, say, the contraceptive pill, aren't that good at preventing STIs. In fact, they're not good at preventing STIs at all, whereas barrier methods such as the condom are.

The real problem is the way the Times chose to illustrate the story. Now, I'm perfectly willing to attribte this to an overzealous picture editor who just looked for something nice to put on the front cover, but this just takes the biscuit. The picture was part of the NHS's "Sex Lottery" campaign, specially targetted at increasing awarness of STIs and the fact that condoms, as a barrier method contraceptive, would work in preventing the spread of STIs. Only the caption below the 3/4 page illustration said something along the lines of "In areas where government sexual health campaigns such as the above were run, the incidence of STIs increased" [THIS ISN'T WHAT THE CAPTION WAS - I DON'T HAVE A COPY OF THE PAPER WITH ME, AND WILL INSERT THE ORIGINAL CAPTION TEXT LATER (Edit: see the update at the end of this entry)].

Let's just go over that one more time. The Times quoted study found that a side-effect of "providing the morning-after pill free to teenagers have encouraged sexual behaviour rather than reducing it". Now, apart from equating supplying the morning-after pill with the Government's "entire sexual health strategy", apart from equating the morning-after pill with all contraception, apart from the frankly alarming quote from Robert Whelan of Civitas saying we should be promoting abstinence, we know that the morning-after pill doesn't prevent STIs. Condoms will. And the Government, has (surprise of all surprises) a programme tackling this and increasing awareness.

Which the Times uses to illustrate its point that the Government's strategy is in tatters.

I really am getting sick of the Times.

Update: 6 April 2004, 21:01 BST: The Times's caption was "A poster promoting condom use. Sexually transmitted infections rose fastest where such campaigns were most intense." I can't answer this. I really can't.

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iPod not broken. Just, uh, a little temperamental after being dropped (accidentally) from waist height on to concrete.

iPod disk scan mode helped a little. But when out-of-warranty UK repair starts at £194.11 GBP and a brand new 40GB iPod from the US at today's rates is around £270, you start to wonder what the point is.

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Sunday, 04 April 2004

Oh, just poke a rusty spoon in my eye

Wonderfalls cancelled.

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Friday, 02 April 2004

Not dead;

just very, very busy.

Anyway: the McDonalds "I'm lovin' it" jingle vs the Intel "Intel Inside" jingle. Related? I THINK SO.

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