Around the Dot

31 May 2005

I just read this article (sorry, that's in French) on Yahoo about the rising influence of unions in the IT sector in France.

That's very interesting to see the various factors leading IT professionals to get more conscious on their situation (and even unionised):

  • Massive layouts (like IBM: 13,000 people worldwide, mostly in Europe)
  • More people working at their firm's office (vs. at the client), which favours interactions while these workers were often split on various locations
  • More and more pressure and stress (even leading to law suites)
  • Threat from outsourcing to low-wages countries
  • After the promises of 2000 ("we need 10,000 more IT specialists every year"), executive unemployment in the IT sector today is twice what it is in other sectors.

30 May 2005

A very Annoying Thing indeed
I don’t know if it has to do with the Chav culture, but people are not thinking clearly or really lack a critical mind in the UK – though I guess the phenomenon is going to spread over Europe and maybe further quickly.

I am speaking of this stupid TV ad for the ring tone turned number 1 in the charts “The Crazy Frog – Axel F”. One more proof that collective brainwashing through the “Telly box” (that’s what they call it here, or at least on E4) happens. This contrasts with the constant stream of articles about TV audience decline that I’ve been reading lately.

Maybe what the US networks need is an ugly 3D character and a stupid remix of the “Beverly Hills Cop” theme. I can’t wait until Pikachu strikes back…

Interestingly, this character known as the Crazy Frog has not been created by or for Jamster, the company behind the ring tone and the TV ad. It is in fact a pre-existing creation of Erik Wernquist, a Swedish “3D artist” – it’s a bit like the Ally McBeal dancing 3D baby. Where it gets funny is that Erik Wernquist named his creature “the Annoying Thing” and is now annoyed that it is popularly known as the Crazy Frog:

For anyone who doesn´t know this, "Crazy Frog" is what the market persist on calling my character The Annoying Thing. I personally hate that name and deeply regret I didn´t put a stop to that early on.

A very annoying thing indeed, I tell you…

23 May 2005

May The Fierce Be With You (Episode II)
(Part of a double entry - not a double trilogy)

I had to go watch the new and last Star Wars Episode. When I say "had to", I mean it, brainwashed that I was by my cereal box, my "Telly box" (damn Brits), and any support you can think of.

On the overall, it's much better than the two others "less than IV" Episodes. However, I'm concerned by the impact on kids. I usually disregard the arguments against violence and children exposition to it. But this time, I am thinking that I wouldn't like to take my kids to such a movie. This is especially problematic as there is so much advertising, PR and (I insist) brainwashing (brain-pushing?) around the Star Wars franchise.

Sorry about the spoilers, but let's sum up quickly what your kids might see at your local theatre:

  • a few arms being severed
  • a few legs too
  • and some heads
  • and Darth Vader burning alive
  • enough?
Of course we were waiting for something ugly happening to Anakin Skywalker. And you have to be 12 to see the movie in most countries. But this is the movie industry being hypocrit when you consider how the product is pushed to young audiences: there is a limb-cutting light sabre in every Frosties box at my local Tesco. That's hot! (I am not quoting Darth Vader).

May The Fierce Be With You (Episode I)
This is going to be a double entry.

I watched Fierce Creatures yesterday evening and it is a great movie about management and stuff you can learn in B-school (return on investment, leadership, motivation theory, family business and succession, marketing & strategy...). I hadn't seen this movie in a while and there is a great moment with a very funny line which I had not noticed before. Doing an MBA has certainly made me more receptive (that's a very Jedi comment ;).

Bugsy (played by Michael Palin), who has all the qualities to join a French union, never shuts up in the movie. As it really gets on the nerve of Vince McCain (Kevin Kline), he tries everything he can to make him shut up. Ultimately, he gets a gun and point it to Bugsy who just adds: "What's this, the latest Harvard Business School technique?"

I guess, this is pre-Enron "no Ethics" MBA stuff that we aren't taught anymore...

Google's Downfall (predicted again)
Experts and specialists like to predict the fall of Google for any reason.

But I think this time it's true: the FT announced yesterday in an article intitled "Google chef Ayers set to resign." that:

Google is losing the creative genius that feeds the minds of its 3,000 employees.

Yep, Google's chef is about to start its own restaurant.

I found the news amusing but when you think about it, this is just an example of the post-IPO brain drain. Loosing their chef (banking the options he got since joining in 1999) is no big deal apart from the company culture point of view, however more key people have already left or about to leave.

This is not going to cause the fall of Google but in a company where creativity, passion and difference have been at the heart of the culture, I think there is a risk of losing a lot of talented people who are prone to pursue their passions now that they have secured enough cash for the rest of their lives.

19 May 2005

The MBA taking its Toll
I initiated the organisation of a French "Year End" Picnic and this was maybe not the right week. My group had two presentations and three reports to deliver and I was really involved in writing two of the documents and I have to present for twenty minutes this afternoon.

Going to bed around 3 or 4am to work on all these projects (slides, slides, slides) is starting to tire me to full exhaustion (can you say that?).

So, at least I thought I should share this cute presentation of Digital Rights Management technologies with you. I could do with a bit of recognition (PR?).

Full disclosure: this was written while chilling out with my friend Wonkyu in the MBar of the school... (feels good)

Jurassic Park
Great place to shoot a movie.

If someone could translate the comments and let me know where it is, that'd be great - just add a comment. I tried Google Language Tools but this service is hopeless (to be fair it's only available in beta for Japanese). :)

11 May 2005

The new Sport for Billionaires
It appears – journalist reports – that Blogging in Japan has become very competitive: rankings are essential and you better be popular. Some kind of a new sport that the author, Kay Itoi, compares to Sumo wrestling.

Meanwhile (copyright Sex & the City), CEOs of large public companies are still not blogging. Legal reasons or secretive culture it seems. That’s strange though, especially as these guys usually are competitive and like sports. And, yes, here I have my point!

An example? I already linked to that article but it’s so funny how God – Larry Ellison – gets excited about the America’s Cup.

Q: Let's finish on the sports page.
A: Yes! (Laughs.) Sailing or ...?

Note: to be fair, there are CEO bloggers, as my friend Olivier was pointing out recently.

Death of a Middleman
I said in my last post that the Internet is boiling again. I ran into this FT article* which depicts the same trend and has some interesting insights and quotes that I wanted to discuss.

This article is especially focused on the fact that the future of the media industry is at stake and starts with a very catchy:

They're young, they're idealistic - and they don't care whose multi-billion dollar industry they destroy next.

In my opinion, this is not about destroying any industry but changing it – the same way Henry Ford or Toyota revolutionised the car industry, for the best I think. But it’s always easy to blame the first wave of internet entrepreneur – at least Yahoo, Amazon and eBay haven’t done bad, neither for their industry or shareholders, right?

Moving on, there is this quote:

Bram Cohen, creator of BitTorrent, a peer-to-peer network that has speeded up the internet delivery of movies and other data-intensive files - to the annoyance of legal copyright holders. "The costs of distribution are plummeting rapidly," says Mr Cohen. "When it gets to zero, the content distribution businesses will disappear."

What role will there be then for the middlemen who stand between the creators of "content" and consumers? "There won't be a middleman," says Mr Cohen

While I think the zero-cost of distribution argument is weak and highly debatable, Bram Cohen is right about the death of the middleman, at least for online business. Unless you are a large portal or service (Yahoo, iTunes), there won’t be much space for you if you don’t produce the content. I wonder whether consumers will want to syndicate contents by themselves or will prefer to get pre-syndicated content. Working with consultants at London Business School, I could say “it depends”. :) After all, everybody likes to watch some TV passively slouched in a coach now and then – Channel 4 here in the UK runs back the “best” shows of the week on Sundays on E4.

The rest of the article is a good read that I recommend, with some more quotes from the founder and one of the investors of Six Apart (Movable Type & TypePad).

One last insight by Reid Hoffman (CEO of LinkedIn and board member of many start ups):

"A lot of the underlying technologies and technology companies are here, but the markets are elsewhere," says Reid Hoffman, a Silicon Valley entrepreneur. "That's unusual - usually the first market is here, then it's Europe and then it's Asia."

My opinion: we’ll see more ideas emerging in Europe (Skype?).

*: “It's the internet, but not as we know it…” By Richard Waters, 20 April 2005, Financial Times

07 May 2005

An Idea and a Cat
The Internet is boiling again with new and not so new ideas. You can feel it and the media are watching the new trends, jumping on the bandwagon of Web2.0. New and experimented Net entrepreneurs, burned or successful “startupers” are rushing to the new opportunities emerging from a web dumped on ad-revenues steroids. Among those is Evan Willams who has left Blogger (@Google) a few months ago and is going for Money 2.0 with Odeo.

All you need is the right team and here is my tip of the week…

From a recent interview of Larry Ellison that I recommend you:

Q: You mentioned the bubble a couple of times. How goofy was that? How illusory was it? Did you know?
A: Did I know? I certainly would walk around Oracle saying, "Maybe I'm the one's that crazy." Ariba is worth more than Daimler-Benz, the largest industrial corporation in Europe? These guys make Internet procurement software that my cat could have written on a free weekend. What is going on?

Get me that cat!

05 May 2005

Education on the Kitchen Table
Though I really enjoyed the microeconomics class during the first term, I am not too fond of the macroeconomics class this term. While the first one provided me with great insights related to our strategy and marketing classes, I feel the second one sounds more like “CNN Global News” explained to B-schools students.

From my discussions with my fellow MBA2006, I am part of a minority on that one as most of them like it. Of course, it’s hard to get into advanced academics and the course provides more than what I say but I don’t think it is relevant to our curriculum, apart from a few set of future financiers and analysts.

Anyway, my point is not really about the course. It has more to do with education and what parents can pass to their children. Both my parents studied Economics and much to their despair (just kidding), neither my sister (literature / communication) nor I (engineering / business) followed their path or have displayed any interest in the field. However, I did great on my microeconomics class and I joked with my family that I could attribute it to the genes.

It got more interesting two weeks ago during a macroeconomics class opening on China’s huge saving rate. As Wouter Denhaan, our teacher, asked the class about what could be the explanation behind that, three students failed to provide the right explanation. I had my hand in the air and was asked fourth. My answer in four words was: “the single-child policy”. It was the correct answer – most Chinese can’t rely on their unique child alone to support them in their old days.

I really believe that this is elementary stuff and that my answer was a common fact heard in too many occasions, but it appeared it wasn’t the case. What is funny and why I wanted to write about it is the fact that I heard my mum telling me about the single-child policy so often that it almost became a joke in my family – something I got confirmation from my wife (always double-checking sources before writing, hmm I’m becoming a serious blog author).

To conclude, this is not just the genes: what children learn from their parents is really important. And sure, my parents weren’t entrepreneurs, financiers or marketers. They were – and in the case of my mother this is still true – economists and I guess I learned a lot from them and the issues we talked about around the kitchen table. In that regard, I might have learned more about macroeconomics there than I’ll learn in my expensive MBA course. Now, we’ll see how I do on the exam.

Note: Interestingly, my mom doesn’t like “micro”. :)

The Magnetic Swingers Club
I wanted to blog some amusing – event though very common – fact about “expats” in London and a recent email by my friend Nicolas de Pomereu with some interesting links just gave me this opportunity.

One of the articles Nicolas pointed out concerned the growth of London City. It is interesting to see that London is one of the fastest growing western cities in terms of business and population. This article highlights the key factors and causes of which are political choices and direction – aspects that could be challenged by the upcoming elections. It also describes the benefits and the drawbacks from this development of the English capital.

This leads me to my amusing fact. I joined the Seder dinner organised by the Jewish community at London Business School and we were all discussing the life in London. Most of us were students from different programs and share some common grievances that I have already heard so often in similar gatherings of “immigrants”. London is expensive. Goddamn expensive. We all hope for better pays and the city surely delivers better salaries than any other place on the continent. But there is a daring price to pay – housing, food, groceries, or going-out. You name it: IT IS expensive.

However, this doesn’t stop the inflow of talents and, let’s face it, low-qualification labour. The article by William Underhill is right to say that Swinging London is still a huge magnet, and will remain so even with its real estate bubble and its high retail prices. Especially for Frenchies like me – wine and cheese (I mean the real stuff, French) are really at a huge premium.

But there is hope. I replied to Nicolas – an enduring entrepreneur – that he could now benefit from a great opportunity to relocate in the Eastern part of London. Go west and then go East. That’s it.