Tag Archives: business

Getting out of the office

Monitoring software lets employers keep an eye on their remote workers, with keyloggers to see what’s on their screens and cameras to watch them in their home offices. That’s both wrong and bad for business, says David Heinemeier Hansson, a partner at 37 Signals, a company filled with remote workers And Ignacio Uriarte is an artist who works with Excel and other office software.

Out of the Office – Benjamen Walker’s Theory of Everything podcast

I’ve been working remotely for most of the last 25 years. Hansson is right — employers should keep an eye on the work product and ignore work habits. If the work product is all right, it doesn’t matter if the employee has what appears outwardly to be lousy work habits.

Going nuts

Husbands often go crazy when on business trips (see for example: Don Draper). I am no exception. Like, when I’m at home I stay away from diet soda because of its questionable health effects and because Julie says it makes me spacey. But right now I’m drinking a 20-ounce Diet Coke.

It’s just a short step from here to underwear on my head.

It’s Tough Being Over 40 in Silicon Valley

Older workers are finding it harder to get jobs in Silicon Valley, say Carol Hymowitz and Robert Burnson at Reuters. So they take steps to seem younger and fit in. They hang around the parking lots of companies to see how their prospective colleagues dress, They study Reddit and other social platforms to get up to date on the latest pop culture references. They hang up their business suits and bowties. And they even go in for plastic surgery and lawsuits.

I’m 55. I haven’t personally encountered age discrimination. I’m fortunate. Or oblivious.

Bob “Happy Little Trees” Ross had  naturally straight hair 

He got his hair permed when he got out of the Air Force, and was unsuccessfully trying to make a living as a painter, says longtime business partner Annette Kowalski.

Danny Hajek, NPR:

“He got this bright idea that he could save money on haircuts. So he let his hair grow, he got a perm, and decided he would never need a haircut again,” Kowalski explains.

Before he could change it back, though, the perm became his company’s logo — Ross hated it. “He could never, ever, ever change his hair, and he was so mad about that,” Kowalski says. “He got tired of that curly hair.”

Ross was a meticulous businessman whose every move on his TV series “The Joy of Painting,” was scripted in advance. He did three copies of every painting he did on the show. His art supply company is still in business today, more than 20 years after his death, and the show is coming to Netflix.

Kowalski discovered Ross “in the aftermath of a family tragedy.” Her oldest son was killed in a traffic accident. All she could do afterward “was lay on the house and watch television.”

She watched a painter named Bill Alexander, who was big on PBS back then. Kowalski’s husband was desperate to get her out of the house, so he signed her up for Alexander’s painting class, 900 miles away in Clearwater, Fla. But then Alexander stopped teaching and passed his classes off to an unknown protege.

“I was very disappointed,” Kowalski says. “I so wanted to paint with Bill Alexander. But my husband said, ‘Get up. Get in the car. We’re going.’ ”

It was a five-day class in a hotel conference room. At the easel upfront was a guy with a perm who went by Bob. His paintings were good, but when he started talking to the class, that’s when Kowalski knew she had met someone special.

Someone on Ruby Tuesday’s earnings call pretended to be Bud Fox from ‘Wall Street’ and asked about Harambe

Bob Bryan, Business Insider:

We’ve seen some crazy things on earnings calls before, but this has to take the cake.

During Ruby Tuesday’s second-quarter earnings call, an unidentified caller posed as Bud Fox, Charlie Sheen’s character from the movie “Wall Street,” and asked CEO JJ Buettgen if the burger chain’s business had been affected by the death of Harambe.

Harambe was the gorilla living at the Cincinnati Zoo that was shot and killed after a child fell into its habitat. The gorilla has since become a popular meme.

The caller even said they worked for the Geneva Roth Holding Corporation, a fictional company from “Wall Street.”

Earnings calls are almost always deathly dry, with the exception of Cisco when John Chambers was running things. But even Chambers never went dicks-out for Harambe.

I would die from joy if something like this ever happened on a call I was on.

Silicon Valley’s most self-destructive founder

Ellen Huet, Bloomberg:

Gurbaksh Chahal wanted to be a role model for the sales team at his digital advertising startup and show them how to close a deal. But the co-founder and chief executive officer of Gravity4 Inc. knew he couldn’t be effective as the face of the business. In 2014, he had been removed from the last company he started following a fight with his girlfriend a year earlier, in which he hit and kicked her 117 times. The brutal ordeal, which had been caught on security-camera footage, resulted in probation for Chahal and shattered his reputation.

Last year, Chahal came up with a solution: He created an alter ego named Christian Gray, according to a half dozen people familiar with the situation. The character, who shares a very similar name with one from 50 Shades of Grey, has his own LinkedIn pagefeaturing a head shot of Josh Dallas, an actor who appears on the ABC fairytale drama Once Upon a Time. Chahal would e-mail marketing professionals as Gray, and when he hooked a potential customer, the CEO would berate staff for being outsold by a fake person, said the people, who asked not to be named for fear of retribution. Two people said Chahal had at times used Gray’s sales leads as an excuse to fire workers.

But Gray’s career didn’t last long. While still on probation from his previous domestic-violence conviction, Chahal kicked another girlfriend in late 2014 and threatened to report her to immigration services, according to a police report that surfaced last year. While there wasn’t enough evidence to file criminal charges in that incident, it led to a judge revoking his probation last month, prompting Chahal to hand over the CEO role to his sister. Gravity4 and an attorney for Chahal didn’t respond to multiple requests for comment. A California district judge sentenced Chahal on Friday to a year in a county jail for violating his probation, pending an appeal, which his attorney said he plans to do.

Chahal’s self-destruction—and the former colleagues, shareholders, customers, and women left in the rubble—is an extreme case, but it demonstrates a more common risk in Silicon Valley of entrepreneurs who amass too much power. Chahal’s earlier achievements enabled him to run his businesses unchecked and use vague promises of startup riches to recruit talent. “He has a brilliant mind and a very flawed personality,” said Sam Singer, a crisis communications consultant who worked for Chahal in 2014. “He has become a poster child for everything the public thinks is wrong with Silicon Valley: wealth that comes too fast and too easily, arrogant behavior, the belief that the rules don’t apply to them and they are somehow above the law.”

The photo just screams, “Asshole.”

The Planet Money podcast buys 100 barrels of oil to show how the petro-economy works

Planet Money:

[H]ow many of us have actually seen crude oil? How does it get from ground to gas tank? And who are the people along the way turning thick black crude into light, clear, gasoline. Oil companies are some of the largest businesses on earth, but there are thousands and thousands of tiny operations that are just as essential to the oil industry. We wanted to get to know them.

Here at Planet Money, we thought the best way to see into the business of oil would be to get into the business of oil. Today on the show, that’s exactly what we’re going to do, starting with a briefcase full of cash and plane tickets to Kansas.

Peter Thiel makes the case for his bankrolling the Gawker lawsuit

Peter Thiel, The New York Times:

Last month, I spoke at the Republican National Convention in Cleveland because I believe our country is on the wrong track, and we need to solve real problems instead of fighting fake culture wars. I’m glad that an arena full of Republicans stood up to applaud when I said I was proud to be gay, because gay pride shouldn’t be a partisan issue. All people deserve respect, and nobody’s sexuality should be made a public fixation.

Unfortunately, lurid interest in gay life isn’t a thing of the past. Last week, The Daily Beast published an article that effectively outed gay Olympic athletes, treating their sexuality as a curiosity for the sake of internet clicks. The article endangered the lives of gay men from less tolerant countries, and a public outcry led to its swift retraction. While the article never should have been published, the editors’ prompt response shows how journalistic norms can improve, if the public demands it.

Not mentioned here: The vast databases of private information compiled by business and government in the name of marketing and national security. That kind of information is potentially far more damaging to far more people than sex tapes.

Also, while Thiel is right that even public figures have a right to privacy,I don’t want to live in a world where billionaires decide the boundaries of legitimate journalism. (See also.)

Nobel economist Joseph Stiglitz calls Apple’s tax strategy ‘a fraud’

Jeanna Smialek and Alex Webb, Bloomberg:

“Here we have the largest corporation in capitalization not only in America, but in the world, bigger than GM was at its peak, and claiming that most of its profits originate from about a few hundred people working in Ireland — that’s a fraud,” Stiglitz said. “A tax law that encourages American firms to keep jobs abroad is wrong, and I think we can get a consensus in America to get that changed.”

Apple has a corporate structure that allows it to transfer money to low-tax jurisdictions, and one of those is Ireland, where the corporate tax rate is 12.5 percent — far below the U.S. top statutory rate of 35 percent. The European Commission, the European Union’s executive arm, is probing whether Ireland violated the bloc’s state-aid rules by helping Apple lower its Irish tax liability.

 Apple, which declined to comment on Stiglitz’s remarks, has firmly denied using any tax gimmicks, telling an EU tax panel in March that it had paid all of its taxes due in Ireland. Apple employs 5,500 people in Ireland, according to its website.

Stiglitz Calls Apple’s Profit Reporting in Ireland ‘a Fraud’ – Bloomberg

Via Cory Doctorow, Boing Boing, who says:

Apple, Google and other tech giants have shown themselves to be capable of resisting government demands when it suits their interests — see, for example, Apple’s brave and admirable stance on being forced to compromise its cryptography — but when it comes to things like paying its fair share of tax to compensate its host nations for the educations provided to its workforce, the roads they drive on, the courts and laws that defend their interests, and the health systems that keep the majority of their workforce dying from TB or yellow fever, the companies’ stance is “We comply with all laws and pay as much tax as they require.”

Link

LAS VEGAS — Cisco Live — In the middle of a virtual reality demo of the Internet of Things for transportation, my smartwatch buzzed my wrist with a notification from the real world. Later, I got into a spirited disagreement with a woman from a company called Gupshup about how much personality chatbots should have.

“We’re living the future!” I thought, and used my pocket computer, connected to a global wireless network, to instantly shared the insight with thousands of friends all over the world.

We’re almost never amazed anymore by technology miracles like IoT, chatbots and wireless networks. We take them for granted. And yet, as Yvette Kanouff, SVP/GM service provider business for Cisco Systems Inc. (Nasdaq: CSCO), observed at a Thursday session here, it’s up to service providers to deliver the bandwidth to make it all go. “It’s wonderful for the world to talk about how everything, everywhere is going to be connected, but the pressure is on us to provide the bandwidth and make it work,” she said.

Cisco Live is the company’s annual conference for its enterprise customers. Light Reading was there with its trusty camera. Here’s some of what we saw.

More photos: Cisco Live in Pics: Who Needs Flying Cars?

Me on Light Reading.

Link

The vlogger sees “non-Brexit Brexit” as the most likely outcome, where the UK exits the EU in name only, still subject to the EU’s laws, open borders, and taxes, but without a voice in EU policy, which would suck for the UK’s citizens but be good for business and save face for politicians.

Another outcome: Full Brexit, which would lead to the breakup of the UK as Northern Ireland and Scotland secede to stay in the EU. Also seceding from the UK: The City of London (!) which would join the EU as an independent city-state.

She’s pretty, but she doesn’t have much personality

I was pulling in to the parking lot when I saw this willowy blonde at the curb holding a sign advertising a local business. I took a second look to appreciate the view. I thought, “Wow, she’s standing awfully still.”

I asked her if it would be OK if I took her picture and she didn’t say anything or even acknowledge I was talking with her. So I guess it’s all right.

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Link

Google says Annette Hurst, who represents Oracle, was out of line disclosing that Google pays $1 billion to Apple to get Google search on the iPhone.

Link

Warren calls for a return to strict antitrust enforcement. In other words, government needs to go after big banks, big tech companies — the big companies that dominate every single industry in the US today.

The speech is short, informative, and plain English that anyone can understand — worth reading. The full text, along with a bit of analysis, is here:

Elizabeth Warren’s Consolidation Speech Could Change the Election [Washington Monthly/Paul Glastris]

Warren says every single industry in the US today is dominated by about three titanic corporations, which have the power to stifle competition. She cites banking, airlines, and the tech industry.

By way of background, Warren explains that for most of the first century of antitrust regulation, government forbade monopolies. Since the 1970s or so we’ve had a more lenient standard, permitting monopolies unless they were demonstrably harmful to consumers. Warren calls for a return to the more strict standard — not as an anti-market maneuver, but so that the market can be permitted to operate.

Warren is absolutely right here, with one damn big reservation. In the one industry I’m closely familiar with — the tech industry, of course — the examples she cites make me say, “Yes, but…. ” As in: Yes, but can Google REALLY be considered a monopoly? The barrier to competition is so low here — as the cliche in the tech industry goes, the competition is only a click away. Google’s search results are just plain better than most of the companies seeking antimonopoly protection. Most of the companies seeking antimonopoly protection against Google are, to put it plainly, spammers.

Still, as blogger/author John Robb has pointed out several times, our current economy is dangerously centralized. The US has effectively replicated the command-and-control economies of the USSR and Maoist China. In those countries, government bureaucrats ran the economy; in the US it’s government bureaucrats partnering with Wall Street, but the effect will be the same.

I love this speech by Warren. It raises what should be the central issue of the Presidential campaign, which is an issue that we’ve been struggling with the entire history of the country: What, if anything, should be the role of government in the US economy? We’ve held up “hands off” as the ideal twice in American history, and both times it’s proven wrong. I like Warren’s ideal: Government should be a referee, ensuring competition. The referee doesn’t choose the winner of a boxing match, but he breaks up clinches and penalizes hitting below the belt.

Ironically, Trump is more likely to be friendly to this message than Clinton. But Trump literally changes his views on on a monthly basis, so he can’t be trusted on this or any other issue.

Is Star Trek Communist?

Nope, says reddit.com….

It has several key characteristics of Communism, most notably elimination of property, profit, business and money. Replicators handle “to each according to his ability.”

But the Federation fails one characteristic of Communism: Eliminating government.

Star Trek under Roddenberry hated business, particularly in “The Next Generation.” But Roddenberry himself was a businessman. As portrayed in These Are the Voyages, Roddenberry’s ego made him self-sabotaging. He blamed others, and was reluctant to share credit and profit. He was kind of a Ferengi, actually.

Is the United Federation in Star Trek a communist state?