Monday, December 31, 2007

First big win!

While I received some great presents at Christmas, perhaps my favorite was giving to me by the EUR/USD. I have been trying to implement the strategy outlined by Jacko in his thread on the Forex Factory forums. Once again, the basic strategy is to only buy in the direction of the strong bullish trend on the EUR/USD pair with a 50-pip trailing stop loss and only to buy on 50% Fibonacci-line dips and round numbers. What really makes the strategy flourish is the employing what he calls an "Anti-hedge" trade where after a losing trade, you wait for the price to drop a further 50 pips and place a buy stop where you were stopped out. The idea is that once the long-term bullish trend picks up again, it will pick you up along the way and likely cover your original loss and then some.

Thursday was exactly one of those anti-hedge trades that was a loss back on December 14th, but the buy stop was set and waiting to be picked up when the Euro took off after Christmas. The trade very narrowly escaped being stopped out at 1.4591 and ended with a total pip gain of +191! Since the full trailing stop loss only rarely gets hit (since price would have to shoot directly down after entering) and the strategy has a good winning percentage, I risk 5% each trade meaning I nearly made a 20% account gain on this trade alone. After all the reading, researching, practice and work I've put into learning trading, it was extremely satisfying to finally see a glimpse of a light at the end of the tunnel. Of course this is just a single win, but its the exact encouragement I needed to continue in my efforts.

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year to all!

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

The Wii Shortage

A very kind and generous person offered to buy me a Wii for Christmas (perhaps I should be too old for one, but they look like so much fun!), however, even though over a 13 months have passed since the video game system was released, the Wii continues to be out of stock all over the country. The question is why? While they might have had the excuse that they underestimated the demand there would be for the systems back in the first couple of months after its release, at this point in time, its hard to really accept this excuse.

A popular conspiratorial theory is that Nintendo is purposefully maintaining an artificial shortage in order to maintain a high level of demand. While this successfully creates a scapegoat for eager Wii customers to vent their anger, the theory doesn't make a lot of sense in the end. While the Wii is the most popular video game system at the moment, it is far from the only video game system on the market. Microsoft's Xbox 360 and Sony's Playstation III serve as more than capable substitutes for failed Wii customers. Nintendo would be very foolish to engage in this possibility, particularly when they would be losing the opportunity to sell future Wii-licensed games to each potential buyer which is where the real money is made.

Another popular scapegoat is scalpers. Scalping really started to become popular with the (relatively short) Xbox 360 shortage following its initial launch and has only increased in popularity with the Playstation III and Wii . With eBay and Craigslist as their venues of choice, scalpers have a low-cost way to reach a huge amount of customers. This is likely to be particularly effective with parents of demanding children who might be well-to-do enough to not sweat the extra $100-200 if it means they can satisfy the pleas of their kids. Some argue that these scalpers are buying up multiple wiis as often in order to create the storage and maintain the high demand necessary for scalping at higher prices. Unfortunately while its difficult to say whether scalpers on craigslist are able to sell of their stock of Wiis, on eBay, a simple search for finished Wii auctions shows that only in the exceptions of $500-600 Buy It Now auctions, scalpers are having little trouble selling all their stock at a high markup.

Perhaps the best argument I've heard recently is that it is much due to the devaluing of the dollar. For whatever marketing reasons, Nintendo sells Wiis for $250 in the U.S. and 250 euros in Europe which is now roughly equivalent to $365! That is a rather large amount more money to be making on every console sale in Europe. I have heard reports that Wiis are fully stocked even in supermarkets in France and I heard from some travelers to the Spanish Canary Islands that Wiis are even well in stock there! When you look at the price difference, it would not be surprising at all to find out that Nintendo is focusing its supply efforts towards its European customers rather than American.

My favorite argument however, is courtesy of Joy of Tech (click for big)

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Google Knol

As part of their continuing efforts to take over the globe, Google has recently announced plans to launch a project named "Google Knol" which is a clear attempt to grab market share from Wikipedia. Assumedly, Google can see Wikipedia coming up increasingly higher in search results and sees an opportunity to grab an huge source of revenue if they are able to provide that service along with their AdSense links along the side. A more trusting observer might take Google's move more in line with their stated goals of 'organizing the world's information' and of course 'Do no evil'.

After all, as Wikipedia has gained in popular, conversely (and expectedly) it has come under greater and greater scrutiny. If you have ever come a page that has that has been vandalized before the community can change it, or come across a completely unsourced and rather biased statement within an article you will certainly know why.

The basic concept of Knol is that articles will be written by an individual author who is likely to be an expert in the individual field with a small blurb about the author in the corner of the page. Furthermore the author will be able to share a "substantial" amount of the ad revenue generated by the page. Upon completion, articles will be rated by users and thusly organized by Knol.

Although I certainly can't predict who will 'win' the long-term battle between Google Knol and Wikipedia, Knol does sees to help a lot of the significant shortcomings in Wikipedia. Many people will prefer articles written by experts in the field versus the Wikipedia's 'consensus' model for decision-making. Furthermore, having one person write the article will eliminate the problem of wiki-vandalism as well as the prose and structural quality concerns that arise when several people attempt to collectively write an article.

Knol's concept should also alleviate the problem of people editing articles that refer to themselves in order to eliminate criticisms and cast themselves in a better light. Two recent examples come to mind including the study by Lowell Sun which found congressional staffers making over 1,000 edits to their representatives' pages and the site WikiScanner, which was created to track the sources of millions of edits, found numerous amounts of edits of private company and other wikipedia articles edited by the subjects of the articles themselves--including such organization as the CIA.

Also, I wouldn't be at all surprised if Google made the interface for editing and creating the articles more user-friendly--particularly for the inexperienced user.

The addition of the of the monetary incentive will set up an interesting economy within the project. If Knol is successful and the monetary incentive is great enough, I imagine companies might be created to hire writers to cover a plethora of articles.

Still, I'm not quite sure if the Knol will turn out to be a better service than Wikipedia. When I look at voting tendencies of social websites like Digg and Reddit, people often vote 'up' articles that they agree with while the goal of an encyclopedia should be objectivity.

A screenshot for the curious:

Saturday, December 15, 2007

Entrepreneur Quotations

Being an entrepreneur and running your own business has long been a dream that has fascinated me. It's an amazing accomplishment for anyone who manages to succeed at it, as it combines a plethora of requirements including creativity, diligence, bravery, intelligence, interpersonal skills, managerial skills and perseverance among many others. While it begins with just a good idea, it ends up being so much more than that.

The following is a fantastic collection of quotations regarding the endeavor and serves well as motivation for those of us who might need that extra push whether it be to get started or continue through the hard times.

  1. I have not failed. I've just found 10,000 ways that won't work - Thomas Edison, inventor and scientist
  2. The only place where success comes before work is in the dictionary - Vidal Sassoon, entrepreneur
  3. Entrepreneurship is living a few years of your life like most people won't, so that you can spend the rest of your life like most people can't - A student in Warren G. Tracy's class, entrepreneur (Thanks Daniel!)
  4. The best reason to start an organization is to make meaning - to create a product or service to make the world a better place - Guy Kawasaki, entrepreneur, investor, author
  5. Every worthwhile accomplishment, big or little, has its stages of drudgery and triumph; a beginning, a struggle and a victory - Mahatma Gandhi, political and spiritual leader
  6. Failure defeats losers, failure inspires winners - Robert T. Kiyosaki, author, entrepreneur, investor
  7. Entrepreneurs average 3.8 failures before final success. What sets the successful ones apart is their amazing persistence - Lisa M. Amos
  8. Once you say you're going to settle for second, that's what happens to you in life - John F. Kennedy, U.S. President
  9. In preparing for battle I have always found that plans are useless, but planning is indispensable - Dwight D. Eisenhower, U.S. President
  10. The greatest reward in becoming a millionaire is not the amount of money that you earn. It is the kind of person that you have to become to become a millionaire in the first place - Jim Rohn
  11. Some people dream of great accomplishments, while others stay awake and do them - Anonymous
  12. Experience taught me a few things. One is to listen to your gut, no matter how good something sounds on paper. The second is that you're generally better off sticking with what you know. And the third is that sometimes your best investments are the ones you don't make - Donald Trump, real estate and entertainment mogul
  13. The entrepreneur in us sees opportunities everywhere we look, but many people see only problems everywhere they look. The entrepreneur in us is more concerned with discriminating between opportunities than he or she is with failing to see the opportunities - Michael Gerber, author, entrepreneur
  14. An entrepreneur tends to bite off a little more than he can chew hoping he'll quickly learn how to chew it - Roy Ash, co-founder of Litton Industries
  15. The critical ingredient is getting off your butt and doing something. It's as simple as that. A lot of people have ideas, but there are few who decide to do something about them now. Not tomorrow. Not next week. But today. The true entrepreneur is a doer, not a dreamer - Nolan Bushnell, founder of Atari and Chuck E. Cheese's
  16. I will tell you how to become rich. Close the doors. Be fearful when others are greedy. Be greedy when others are fearful - Warren Buffet, investor and billionaire
  17. I never perfected an invention that I did not think about in terms of the service it might give others... I find out what the world needs, then I proceed to invent - Thomas Edison, inventor and scientist
  18. Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things that you didn't do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover - Mark Twain, author
  19. There is a tide in the affairs of men
    Which, taken at the flood, leads on to fortune;
    Omitted, all the voyage of their life
    Is bound in shallows and in miseries.
    On such a full sea are now afloat;
    And we must take the current when it serves,
    Or lose the ventures before us - William Shakespeare, author
  20. Genius is 1% inspiration, and 99% perspiration - Thomas Edison, inventor and scientist

Monday, December 10, 2007

Rekindling of an Arrested Development movie?

In what can only be described as the best news to come out of the writer's strike so far, while promoting his promising new movie, Juno, Jason Bateman has put a glimmer of hope in fans of the cult hit TV show Arrested Development that a movie may still be forthcoming. The show, which received massive critical acclaim, Emmy awards, and a cult-like following for its fiendishly clever jokes, was the victim of lackluster ratings and an unfortunate premature cancellation. There was hope that the show would move to another network like Showtime or make a movie, but nothing ever came to fruition.

However, because of the strike, the show's creator, Mitchell Hurwitz, has had spare time on his hands and has begun to play with the idea of an 'AD' movie once again. Bateman and Hurwitz released a joint statement through none other than Keith Olbermann (apparently a huge fan and friend of the show) stating, "It's something we're very interested in doing, but only after the writer's strike, and only if the powers that be, approve."

As someone who holds this to be the funniest and cleverest show ever created, to say I am intrigued by this would be a vast understatement. While the more cynical might point out that rumblings of a continuation of the program have been around ever since the end of the show 22 months ago, the more optimistic might point to shows such as Family Guy, Futurama and Jericho whose rabid fan support were able to actually bring those shows back from cancellation (Futurama in the form of movies). Furthermore, perhaps the blessing in disguise of a writer's strike in combination the recent success of Michael Cera (Superbad, Juno) was just the sort of impetus Hurwitz needed to propel us into more AD gloriousness.

Friday, December 07, 2007

Negativity is Contagious

It's a bit of common business wisdom that one customer's negative experience will have a 10 or 100-fold repercussions. A recent study from the Journal of Consumer Research found that this not just a bit of lore but demonstrable. What's particularly interesting about the study is their finding that it was much easier to influence someone with a positive impression of an item to change than one with a negative impression. This is very interesting when applied to internet blogs, social media sites and forums. I doubt I am the only one to notice that if the first 1 or 2 responses are negative, it seems to almost always devolve into an unrelenting slew of negativity from the following responses.

Also highly intriguing in the study was that if a person learned they were going to be presenting their opinion in a group, they were significantly more likely to form a negative opinion. This is the kind of predilection we might expect in too-cool-for-school teenager who cynically jibes at most things due to a self-conscious fear of putting themselves out for judgment, but to see this tendency remain in adults is both surprising and telling. This finding is also interesting in the context of the stereotypical professional critic who is far more snobbish than the average person, perhaps largely to do with having to present their opinion in front of a massive group of people.

Clearly the age-old maxim of "the customer is always right" is one to live by, if not to please the already displeased customer, but if only to prevent the outbreak of the highly contagious negativity virus.

Wednesday, December 05, 2007

Turning Video Blogging into $$$

Working from home is a dream that many aspire to, though few are able to achieve. The potential draws are plentiful: eliminating the commute, looking after one's children instead of an expensive nanny, flexible hours, less micro-managing bosses, and for some, less aggravating coworkers. Unfortunately, those last two factors--less oversight and employee cooperation--are two big reasons why employers are unlikely to grant their employees this freedom.

Instead, the best way to achieve this dream is to start one's own business, particularly an online-based one. One method that is gaining increasing success is video blogging, or as some less-than-creative people have coined it, vlogs (no word yet on whether that is 'vee-lahgs' or 'vlahgs').

A recent article by reports that some video bloggers like the Ask a Ninja series earn upwards of six figures per month. This is very impressive considering that upon first viewing, most surely would have dismissed it as a short-term meme. The fact that the team have managed to turn such a profit out of the series even after a relatively lengthy period of time speaks volumes to their talent in business, perhaps even more than their comedic talent.

What makes this even more clear is how many popular video bloggers are completely unable to transmute popularity and page views into streaming income. Stars of one-off popular internet videos for example rarely make money off of their 15-minutes of fame. Some like the infamous Star Wars kid actually end up trying to sue those who made them famous because of the subsequent jokes at their expense while others, like Tay Zonday, singer of Chocolate Rain, has managed to turn their video's popularity into appearances on Jimmy Kimmel and endorsing national soda brands. Talk about turning lemons into lemonade!