Thursday, March 2, 2017

The Coming Crash of the Internet

(only Baby Boomers will survive)

A recent incident with my cell phone got me thinking once again how we rely far too much on technology.  This happened after a discussion I had with a younger friend who showed me his supermarket and Dunkin Donuts rewards cards on his phone. He is no millennial. He has a fairly high up job in his financial department so he is not a slave to technology as perhaps a kid right out of college.

I said that he could lose his phone. He said I could lose my wallet, where I keep a few of those rewards cards. I said wallets don't explode and they don't run out of battery. There is the link back to my original statement above.

He said he carries a spare battery. I said I did too but my phone ate up the juice faster than the battery could put it back. I think you get the picture.

Don't get me wrong, it is great to swipe a card or even hold a card up to a reader. Who needs cash, save for the few bucks to tip the valet...unless they take Apple Pay of course. I like that you can have dozens of rewards cards at your fingertips. I like not worrying about forgetting a paper boarding pass or coupon for $5 off an oil change.  I also appreciate having a kindle loaded with a years' worth of commuting and beach chair reading. 

Of course, if I forget my reading glasses....but that is another issue.

My problem is relying on technology. That is different than using technology to enhance my life and make it easier. My favorite story is about my son and his friends driving from Long Island to Great Adventure theme park in New Jersey. They plugged in the location on the GPS and away they went. But where did it route them? Right through the Midtown tunnel into Manhattan in the middle of a work day. There was no questioning the route. Worse, there was no ability to question the route.

Dad, this thing wants to take us though the city. Is that a good idea?

The biggest worry I have by far is that the infrastructure for all of these websites, smart phones and Internet of Things (IoT) is vulnerable. Maybe to hackers, maybe to terrorists, maybe to unscrupulous politicians. Or maybe to just simple technological failure. Just how much information can you jam into a pipe?

A constipated Internet may be decades away. An exploding web may be even farther away. And even worse, a self-aware Internet may be somewhere out there. Maybe Skynet from the terminator movies is not that far fetched.  I wonder if there is a Simpsons episode on that. They seem to be able to predict the future.

My issue is that relying too heavily on technology leaves us vulnerable to problems. I am not saying to avoid progress, only to be able to survive at least a while if something goes awry.  To this day, I still am glad I have DOS skills to help get around problems on my Windows computer. I can also read a paper map. And write with a pen. And walk. And call a restaurant for take out. And call around to find a good movie. And deposit a paycheck with a living bank teller.  And play non-Madden football with the guys.

Technophobe? Hardly. I am blogging right now. My income is derived 100% online. And I even Venmo money to my kids. I just worry that advancement will cause everyone's life skills muscles to atrophy.  Which reminds me, I have to drive to the gym to grab a little exeercise. Wii sports does not quite get that job done.

Monday, August 29, 2016

Dear Publicist

As someone fortunate enough to have a following in the media I get a lot of people looking to get quoted. They are the lifeblood of any journalist, even one such as me who does about 99% of his own analysis. After all, how better to drive home a point then to quote someone who is a true expert on the topic.

When a publicist puts me on their distribution list all I see in my inbox is blah, blah, blah. I am not going to read your missives and I certainly do not want to wade through your clients' big fancy titles before getting to the point. Or the fact that they advise hedge funds, banks, brokers and high net worth clients.  So does everyone who contacts me.

Right now, I have my email filters set to shunt all mail from publicists, whether independent or part of a firm's marketing group, into a separate folder that fills up away from my viewing eyes. I'll check it every once in a while to see if there is anything of value. There rarely is.

Years ago, I taught a workshop at the Market Technicians Assoc annual seminar about dealing with the media. You want to get your name out there? Here is how to do it.

And now I have the same advice for you publicists. Give me something quick and give me something unique. Do not send me a report. Do not ask if I need a quote from so and so. I don't.

Do understand what I cover. I would be quite amenable to a publicist asking me what I need in broad brush strokes. But when you think about it, it will be what your client is best known for doing or analyzing in a way nobody else does.

If I have a question on short interest, I would go to the guy who runs the website called "the short squeeze." If I needed the VIX, I'd head there. If I need something on a particular indicator I would go to the person who's name is on it. Or who wrote the follow-up book on it.

There are plenty more things that people can be "the expert" on from social analysis to assets held in ETFs to cycles to even double reverse whirligigs (a friend made up that last one). How about international? or commodities? or railroad car utilization? or crop yields?

Yes, a lot of that looks fundamental but it can be presented in charts with correlation to the markets.

One more thing, speak English. Simple words, easy to understand concepts. The less digestion I have to do the easier it will be for me explain to to my readers.  Not everyone has a degree in analysis.

Yeah, I sound like a jerk. But you and I both want the same thing - for readers to read us. I am not here to promote you. But if it makes my stories better you can be sure I will do my best to get you in there. 

Capish?