The Low Fi Manifesto – Data Architecture, and Journler

I’ve been chatting with the folks over at digital complements + about Journler and they pointed me to Karl Stolley’s The Lo-Fi Manifesto.

Reading it reminded me of when I was serving my time in the land of technology management. Back then the Architecture and Planning group reported to me and we were pretty sure that the age of applications and hardware was over. The future was about data. We spent most of our waking hours trying to find ways to undo the mess left from just about five decades of applications dumping data into siloed databases.

Why the victory of data over hardware (or applications)? Because of processor speed development trends. The challenge was no longer doing stuff with the data, it was getting to all the data so you could maximize the value of your installed hardware. I think this is an industrial version of the points made by Stolley.

But its not easy either at an industrial or personal level. The reason these data silos exist is because you can get a project delivered on-time and more reliably (in the short term) if you only worry about the data stack it creates, not integrating it into some distant data store you have zero familiarity with.

Making a common data architecture in my personal life is a whole ‘nutha mess. On a personal computing level my problem is that I’m like a chimp in a cage. Give me a new toy and I’ll drop everything else to play with it. I twist it and turn it and try and find out how it works. I’m doing that right now with Google Notebook, because a fellow blogger turned me on to it.

Only last night did I say “What am I doing? If get this thing set up and running just right I’ll have fractured my data set between a browser based application and my hard drive based application (Journler). In other words I’ll make it twice as hard to find anything”. But it’s still so cool…

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A few provocative questions for the Presidential debate

A lot of people have lists of questions they want asked at tonight’s (or any) Presidential debate.

Most center on the current economic crisis.

I’d like to add five questions that I’m not sure are in many people’s list…

  1. Many economists say that the root cause of the current economic crisis was the extension of lending into sub-prime markets driven by Congresses’ insistence that loans be expanded under the CRA. To use plain words, to have averted this crisis someone would have to have said, “Don’t lend to poor people.” Are you as President willing to make that kind of a call?
  2. Currently one in three Americans are employed in some way by or for a governmental entity. Do you find that comforting or disturbing and as President would you seek to increase or reduce the government payroll?
  3. Education, primarily at the secondary school level is at the root of the economy’s future productivity. Given the rift in our nation’s culture, arguments over evolution vs creationism, and the requirements for diversity and sex education occurring in our schools today, do you see any way for the Federal Government to improve the declining and unequal quality of our High Schools, or do you believe that their management should be left at the local level?
  4. Do you believe that immigration is an overall benefit or detriment to our economy, and based on your position, would you seek to expand or contract it under your administration?
  5. We hold that the truths of our Constitution are self evident and universal to all mankind. Do you see any time in your administration where a 51st state would or should be added to our country?

That should get them going…


More from on the Financial Crisis

Are Americans worthy of being saved?

Comments of the current crisis

Comments of the current crisis – Regulation

Creative destruction, I hope…

Posted in Best Of, The Annals of Protest | Tagged , , , | 2 Responses

They’re not the pirates, we are

John Renesch runs a thoughtful blog over at The Global Dialogue Center.

His recent post was called “Wall Street Skull and Crossbones”. I took issue with his emotional characterization of bankers as pirates.

He wrote: “Their sole purpose is to make a profit, and to do so with the least amount of capital as possible.”

John: You say that like it’s a bad thing.


My reply is below…

I think you’ve got it backwards. These guys aren’t pirates, we are, and if we aren’t careful we will destroy the gold ships that we raid every day as they sail past our little islands. You wrote: “Their [Wall Street bankers’] sole purpose is to make a profit, and to do so with the least amount of capital as possible.” Yes, that is exactly what we as a society want them to do, because the ability to do that is very rare, and it is the root of wealth creation for us all. Right now I am siting in the reading room of the main branch of the New York Public Library. It is a vast and gorgeous building, one of the treasures of our nation. Around me are some hundred of so scholars, citizens working on who knows what pursuit of inteligencia. In this room are sociologists, and anthropologists, art critics and novelists at work, pushing forward knowledge, creating the foundations for the future. I think that woman over there is actually looking up a recipe for dinner tonight, but be that as it may, I know the older guy next to me is a famous historian. I recognize him from his dust jacket picture. Read More »
Posted in The Annals of Protest | Tagged , , | 2 Responses

Congress to America: Drop Dead

I’m not sure I know how to react to the news today that the House of Representatives defeated the bill giving Treasury the ability to purchase mis-priced assets from the banking system.

Phrases like “short sighted”, “small minded”, and “Hoover like” come to mind to describe today’s vote. The most accurate is probably “scared”. Americans did not support this bill, projecting their anger over a host of domestic and foreign policy issues that they see as failures, and Congress reacted to that anger.

All that frustration came home in an uproar over what people saw as their money going to rich people out East. Worse, they had lost trust in the Administration and didn’t believe the description of the situation told to them, even though it was a vastly watered down version of the real crisis we face. Their Congressmen latched on to that anger and fearing for their jobs in November, they voted “No”.

They did the popular thing, and they did the wrong thing. Today as the market collapsed, $1.1 trillion was destroyed in falling share values held by Americans. That is much more than the $700 billion that Treasury requested. So we no longer have the $700 billion, and we lost another $400 billion. I can’t think of a better definition of “stupid”.

Americans don’t know it yet, they may never understand it, but when the layoffs, store closings, and governmental service reductions start they will be angry all over again, at someone else, when in fact they could have prevented all this essentially for free. Some may bear the brunt of a bank failure that the government can’t handle. Let’s hope that the subsequent violence is contained.

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Posted in The Annals of Protest | Tagged , , | 2 Responses

Are Americans worthy of being saved?

Are Americans worthy of being saved?

During this financial crisis I have been wandering the halls of academia, blog space and the business world and I’m shocked by our people’s lack of comprehension about what is going on in the economy. The misperceptions about the current banking crisis, its seriousness, the implications, and potential solutions defy understanding. There are times when I just shake my head.

I have found that the groups of incomprehension fall into four camps:

It’s a bailout

Even the capitalists in the room get this piece of PR wrong.

Folks, the plan is to buy assets; that’s not a bailout, that’s an investment. We could make a lot of money on this plan, we meaning the citizens of the country, at the expense of the evil bankers that everyone is so enraged about.

This is because these assets are not worthless, they are just mispriced. Sweden went through a similar bank asset rescue and made a nice profit on the deal. If the sovereign (that’s us) can’t make a buck at a time like this, well, then we really get what we deserve.

We should build bridges instead

…or hospitals, or roads, or schools. All of a sudden fiscally conservative people have found all sorts of stuff they want the government to do. Granted I hear this most from the ultra-liberal faculty over at the New School, but otherwise sensible midwesterners are saying it too.

Have we all forgotten how many years (yes, years) it takes to build a bridge, even if the designs, permits, plans and materials are already available?

This is the same argument that in variation goes: “Just give Paulson $5 or $10 billion this month and we’ll see how he does. At the end of a year of so we’ll know better.”

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Comments on the current crisis – Regulation

So in the spirit of more regulation is good (the protest cry from the streets these days following Wall Street’s crisis), here are two ideas where we might be able to do more with less.

Federalize Insurance Regulation

Insurance regulation is a sad anachronism. Insurers are regulated at the state level, which means that the limited resources and limited talents available to the public sector are spread out across 52 organizations (Yes, Puerto Rico and Guam, along with all the rest of the 50 states have their own fully independent, fully staffed by your tax dollars, insurance departments each trying to regulate MetLife, Prudential, Aetna, CIGNA…)

Besides the financial analysts, policy reviewers and actuaries who are actually trying to do the work, each of those state departments has or uses the resources of an HR department, a legal department, a finance department, a publicity and lobbying department. And believe it or not a percentage of your car insurance premium goes to pay for the 52 state exams that every insurance company has to go through regularly, sometimes every year, each one equally superficial, each one equally repetitive, none really getting to substance.

Really, only New York’s and maybe California’s insurance departments have the talent and depth to understand what’s going on in an insurance company, and most small states follow their lead, but unless you want the next crisis to be the collapse of a big life insurer, let’s instead collapse all the anemic state departments into one federal insurance regulator. We’ll save a pile of money and increase the quality of oversight.

Adopt Principle Based Accounting – Dump SOX

After Enron collapsed our mis-regulatory response was a call for accountability in accounting. It manifested itself in a comprehensively crappy piece of legislation called Sarbanes-Oxley, known as SOX.

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