Why blog? Howard’s got 5 million reason$.

When I encourage folks to blog I like to emphasize that a blog is *very unlikely* to make much if any money.

Luckily I was not advising the clever Walstrip folks who just videoblogged their way to a 5 million dollar aquisition by CBS. Good for them! Howard wants to top it off with a spot on Letterman. I bet he’ll get it.

Bay Area Health Insurance

Updated …

My friend is no longer freelancing with his Bay Area Health Insurance Consultancy so I’m revising this post to direct you to other resources on this topic such as our Retire USA Website with Retirement Information about the Bay area, California, and the USA.

I’ll be updating this to reflect other online resources soon….


Make that TWO laptops per child?

I’m not sure what to make of Intel’s decision to enter the “market” for laptops to the developing world, though I am frustrated by Negroponte’s quick dismissal of this as Intel being evil rather than noting that this could be a fantastic opportunity to realize his (wonderful) vision of internet computers for all.

Intel’s machines now cost $200 and the One Laptop machines are now $175. Both think pricing should fall as production ramps up.

This reminds me a bit of our local internet broadband fiber network conflict between the city of Ashland, Oregon and Charter Communications.

Several years ago Ashland developed a great fiber network concept that would be run by the city via the public electrical utility. Charter initially tried to get Ashland to work on a project together, partly using strongarm and legal challenge tactics. When that failed and Ashland started competing with Charter for cable and broadband services, Charter countered the city by offering lower rates for cable and internet to their Ashland subscribers. This split up the customer base and created revenue shortfalls for the city project (and probably for Charter as well – my theory is that they wanted to fight this trend in other cities and were willing to take a loss in Ashland to make that happen) . So, the end result now appears to be a lose-lose deal where taxpayers in Ashland have to make up shortfalls, and Charter also probably lost money.

Perspectives vary on motivations and such, but for me the moral of the story (then and now) was that it’s better for non-profit entities to cooperate than to compete. There was a win-win in Ashland when the city could hold out the *threat* of doing their own thing, forcing Charter to lower rates and offer great services. But they foolishly chose to fight, leading to the predictable lose-lose situation.

Extending this to the One Laptop project I’d sure like to see Negroponte at least *carefully examine* all the possibilities of working with or next to Intel. If profit-hungry Intel can produce these for $200 where heavily subsidized One Laptop is at $175 there may be some room here to cooperate in an effort to get the job done.

Negroponte’s motivations in my opinion are virtuous and his integrity in this is almost unimpeachable, but that does not mean he’ll make the best decisions under the changing sets of circumstances. I’d like to see more of an open mind about this one.

Blog Travel and why YOU should be blogging!

One thing I *really* like about blogs is keeping up with your friends in some detail about their life and experiences, especially when they are doing really interesting stuff like traveling to cool places.   Sure, using legacy snail mail and picture media you might get a postcard or a few emails or a christmas card, but you can’t beat blogs for really tuning in – for bringing some depth to heretofore superficial social experiences.

Anne and Keith are in Italy teaching at Sienna and Keith’s started blogging their adventures in earnest at his site WonderfulItaly.com.  The main downside of him blogging is simply getting envious about not roaming around the Tuscan countryside.

Jeremy’s over in Hangzhou China talking Yahoo and internet stuff and has posted some neat pix at Flickr as well as comments about China at his blog.

People often ask me “why should I start a blog” and I think one of the best reasons is that through blogging you can keep up with your friends and other interesting folks  on their terms AND on your own – ie they post what and when they like and you can read what and when you like.    When you are with them in person it’ll be easier to cut to the most important stuff, and blogging brings a kind of depth to the life experience for both reader and writer that is not accessible using the normal small talk and christmas card method.

So why blog?   For friends, family, and for YOU!

Bebos, billions, and why Yahoo is starting to piss me off.

Yahoo may buy Bebo, the British “Myspace”, for a billion dollars. That is a LOT of money – about 3% of Yahoo’s market cap. Presumably this, like Yahoo’s unsuccessful Facebook aquisition attempt, is Yahoo’s approach to recapturing the market dominance it enjoyed back in the day. Dominance through the aquisition of a social network rather than developing their own.

They should know better than to trust their existing criteria for decisions about aquisitions. Yahoo is the company that aquired Overture’s pay per click technology years ago, and then managed to cede dominance in that area to Google. Ever heard of Google? Yahoo probably could have *owned* Google, but it seems higher management didn’t think search had the monetization potential of … broadcast.com which was purchased for billions.

Isn’t it time for top management at Yahoo to let innovation, not aquisitions, rule the day? This approach has worked very well for Google, who’s main mistakes now appear to be in aquiring things like YouTube which in my opinion is unlikely to recover YouTube’s 1.6 billion price tag and will certainly pester Google with big money lawsuits for decades. Yahoo’s still got a LOT of great technical people, especially in the developer and new business divisions. More importantly, the world is producing hundreds of thousands of new, brilliant innovators every year, most of whom are chomping at the bit to bring new and exciting innovation to the hungry online world. Why not devote the billions to this rather than purchasing companies with marginal revenues and long term prospects that are more hope and prayer than reality?

With the latest flurry of high priced aquistions it almost seems like, to the big players, the billion dollar deal is the new million dollar deal. I remain skeptical that deals of this size pay off in the long run – certainly very, very few of the early pre-bubble ones did not pay off for companies. I’d suggest that the smaller deals (e.g. Flickr) do have potential, but that Yahoo’s top management is looking for a killer deal that simply does exist while the innovation approach (ie much, MUCH more support to the core values and teams at Yahoo) is starting them in the face. Traffic? Yahoo’s got plenty of it. Modest changes can send millions of Yahoo users to any new idea, so why not do this *a lot more* and test *a lot more ideas*.

Edison suggested that there is always a better way, and it’s time for Yahoo to ….. find it.

More Bebo-logy from Techmeme:

Yahoo may net Bebo owners $1bn



Bebo/YHOO: My Rumor’s Bigger Than Yours

Yahoo May Be Bidding For Social Network Bebo: Report

Yahoo: When You Can’t Buy Facebook, You Buy Bebo

Bebo is not for sale

Lancaster, PA

Wow, what’s going on with Lancaster Pennsylvania? It seems like there is a major piece of bad news coming out of there every few months or so. The horrible murders of the Amish children, then the Floyd Landis Tour de France doping scandal, and now the brutal murder of a family in their home.

We are having our big family reunion this year just down the road from Lancaster, which in my prior visits has always felt like a fine rural area with gently rolling green hills, rich farmland, and nice people.

I think it’s a news fluke that Lancaster has been in the news for bad stuff so often over the past few years and I’m going to keep looking forward to the trip.   In fact I’d encourage you to visit this wonderful place – a delightful blend of the very old and the very new.   Lancaster Visitor Center.


Here in Southern Oregon, Applegate is the charming valley and river that was named after early settlers. For Silicon Valley the new term “AppleGate” refers to the top tech blog Engadget’s posting of a fake email suggesting that Apple’s iPhone would be delayed. The report led to an almost immediate sell off of Apple stock and a 4 billion dollar decline in Apple’s market capitalization, though the stock rebounded quickly when it became clear the email was a fake.

This appears to be a *superb* example of how information is reflected by the stock market and how quickly. I get the idea the (bogus) iPhone delay rumor affected the price of APPL almost immediately but have not checked the timing.

Mike at TechCrunch has a nice play by play and graph of AppleGate, and the Engadget post AppleGate post is here.

Wagner Street, Talent Oregon

Wow, I always forget how hard it is to do a good few days of physical labor. I’m sore all over the place. The panel passed the inspection and Pacific Power hooked me up so now there is power at the house and we are fixing the area in the back – porch and roof. I’d originally tried to save an old porch that had been added on – perhaps in the 1930s – but decided it would be better to take it down due to bad condition and the fact it’ll open up the kitchen window to the sun.

The process is going somewhat slower than I’d hoped, but progress is progress, and we should be able to get the wood and felt up today on the section of new roof over the porch – about 125 square feet I think. I matched up the asphalt 30 year architectural style shingles at a great price at Home Depot of about $60 per 100′ square of roofing.

Forever stamps “investment”? Probably not a good idea.

The question on the table is simple: How many of the new USPS ” forever stamps ” should you buy? To simplify I’m not taking into account convenience factors. Obviously you do not go down to the post office to buy a stamp each time you need one – you buy extra to have them on hand. Below I just want to get a sense of whether the forever stamps are a good investment or bad.

Seems to me that if postage cost increases are going to exceed your expected return on *other investments* then the answer is to buy a lifetime supply of stamps the day before the forever program ends. However, since US postage is subsidized by tax money (I think to the tune of 3 billion for next year!), and for political reasons, it seems likely that postage price increase will be *less than* what you can reasonably expect from alternative investments of your stamp dollars.

In this case you should buy a convenient number of forever stamps to refresh your current supply, and then just absorb the increased postal cost. Invest the money you would have put into forever stamps in a long term CD, or (often better) pay off loans or other debt that is at a higher post tax rate than CD yields.

Let’s see – assuming you can get a guaranteed CD 5% on your money, then how much would stamps need to go up to match this? The answer is 5% per year which is just over .02 next year, increasing slightly with each stamp cost change (ie 5% of a greater number will get bigger over time). So, since political pressure and public displeasure with the inefficiencies of the USPS keeps the stamp increases to a minimum it seems like the answer is:

Forever stamps are a poor investment.  They’ll return less to you than alternatives.   Wait until the next increase and then buy enough to get you through the following increase.

Note:  A different issue from “how many should you buy” is that the Forever stamps are a good idea in terms of solving the “remnant postage stamp” problem since their price will change over time but you can keep using the forevers regardless of rates.   This solves the problem when rates increase and you have to buy a bunch of .02 stamps and then you run out of the .37 stamps before you run out of the .02 stamps so you have a drawer full of .02s and look funny when you plaster them on an envelope.