Economy Life and Personal Tech and Culture

The business of spamming email inboxes

Lately, I have been getting a lot of spam emails in my inboxes (both gmail and, inspite of the usually reliable spam protection provided by Google. A lot of this spam has attached images that I usually discard without looking. I decided to look at one of these emails tonight, and it was spam sent by someone paid indirectly by a listed company to coerce investors into buying their stock!

As you can see, the company is not doing very well, but it has some good news in the form of about $275,000 in non-brokered private proceeds. It has also appointed a new President, and a new Mining Consultant. I believe this company has only recently been listed, but due to my limited investment and stock exchange knowledge, I am not sure if that is correct. Nevertheless, what took me by surprise is the fact that the picture has a legal disclaimer that says that the spammer was paid an amount of $25,000 to “publish” the “report”! I knew that email spamming was big business, but didn’t realize it’s so easy to earn 25 grands just by sending an image to random email addresses.

Economy Tech and Culture

Purchase price of $32 a user

The bubble is swelling up again, and we have news about Google Inc. trying to buy for a price of $1.6 billion. According to the news article, that works out to $32 a user for the total userbase of approximately 50 million. So, essentially, Google is considering spending $32 on people like you and me to use their FREE service. Am I the only one who considers this ludicrous?

First off, YouTube is still not profitable. How is it going to profit when the only source of profit is text advertisements that no one likes to click? Let’s consider that Google would come out with a revolutionizing technology to embed ads within the videos for a minute. Wouldn’t that take away from the whole video sharing experience? These videos are generally very short. There’s no way you could possibly insert an ad in the middle. You could insert an ad at the beginning, but that is annoying, and I doubt a lot of people would enjoy that. Ads in the end are nothing more than the useless text ads/AdSense ads. Hence, the business plan for profitability is going to be a hell of an exercise. Of course, it would be dumb to imagine that Google would rely on just this service for being profitable. It is more of a mechanism to get users hooked to their web services, even if that means subsidizing it through other profitable ventures…like Adwords!

This brings me to the second point. So, Google is trying to either gain more users or not let go the current ones. Wait, there’s a problem here. Just how many users would stop flocking around Google just because they have to use a different website for sharing their videos?! How is the quality of Google’s core product – search, related to its capability to become the best video sharing website on the Internet? You ask, what about the challenge from other portals like Yahoo! and MSN? The simple answer is that none of their video sharing services is profitable either, and I strongly doubt they even consider themselves in the same league as Google when it comes to search traffic.

So, the fight is essentially about who gets the most overall Internet traffic. And, winning the fight makes sense only if you know how to make money out of it. I am not sure how that is going to pan out, nor am I thorough enough to predict the future based on past events, but it does sound stupid to me to be paying that kind of money for a user who isn’t even in the same continent.

I am not even going to talk about the legal and copyright issues surrounding any kind of media sharing service/community. All in all, this sounds a lot like eBay paying a ton of money for Skype.

I could also use a primer on valuation of money losing websites!

Economy India Life and Personal Politics

US population growth – is it a bad situation?

Economy Life and Personal


We’re all greedy. The difference lies in the degree, motivation, and area of our greed. Some people are greedy for success; some people are greedy for fame; some people are greedy for recognition; some people are greedy about money. There are a lot more things that make people greedy.

Nevertheless, I have found one common thread behind all sorts of greed. And, that is impatience. It is what makes us miserable in our own eyes, and in the eyes of everyone else who isn’t on the same level as us. Imagine this – you’re greedy for fame, and you try your best (including using unethical means) to collect all the fame you can get. In your eyes, you’re well justified, because, after all, you’re working hard for it. But, get this, if only you were patient and continued doing the right thing, you’d have gained fame nonetheless! It could have just been longer to achieve. Greed makes us lose sight of where we actually stand, and therefore makes us vulnerable.

Another example is money. One scenario is my parents giving me money for something. I could be greedy (not always bad) and impatient (always bad), and use various means like tantrums or arguments to get it, or I could do what I am doing, justify it, and get a lot more money from them than originally desired. Of course, I am now too grown up to be greedy about money with my family, or even friends, but the example holds true. In my experience, greed coupled with impatience only make us achieve less, albeit very quickly. We are delighted to get something so soon, but it actually reduces our gains compared to having waited a little longer.

I started thinking about this as I was imagining typical management follies committed by greedy managers. It all made sense.

Click here for a very nice description of the “personality dragons”.

I end this post with this very good dialog that takes place in a 2003 episode of South Park:

Randy: There’s more to life than profits
Indian Chief: Really, Like what?
Randy: You know, like slurpies and stuff.

It is upto you to interpret “slurpies and stuff”!

Economy India Life and Personal Tech and Culture

Definition of an Entrepreneur

Spotted on slashdot, the definition of an Entrepreneur:

Entreprenuer, n.: A high-rolling risk taker who would rather be a spectacular failure than a dismal success.

Economy India Tech and Culture

12 startups to launch now

Business 2.0 magazine has an article on the 12 best startup ideas for the present times. The ones I really like/find interesting are:

The first  idea is pretty interesting seeing the global demand for combustible energy resources. Also, Argentina serves as a central location for distribution to all the energy dependant economies.

The second idea is controversial in my opinion. Sure, the growing economy, coupled with added disposable incomes has made the Indian youth yearn for more expensive tastes, I doubt there’s a very big market for imported wines. Indian culture is different from western culture in that sense, and no matter how much Indians try to mimic the West, there’ll always be subtle differences. Consumption of alcohol isn’t favorable culturally, biologically, and even environmentally!

Economy India Life and Personal Politics Tech and Culture

Textbook prices

Everyone knows what I am going to talk about. Do we really need to spend hundreds of dollars on textbooks we’d really not use after the semester is done with? This isn’t just an American issue. Textbooks, even in India, are pretty expensive, especially at the higher education level.

Economy India Life and Personal Tech and Culture

What would have happened if I went to college in the US

I wuld have probably dropped out. Yes, that’s right! I would have probably dropped out. I was in college during the peak time of the dot-com boom, and there’s no way I would have stayed in college and forgone the great opportunities in the economy back then.

Even in India, I was able to experience the rise of the dot-com era in a very spectacular way, and I am pretty sure that things would have been a lot different for me if I were in the US. Who knows, I could have been a millionaire by now, or a broke ex-CEO!

Sometimes, it feels good thinking about things that never were…

Economy Tech and Culture

The Net Neutrality Debate

I am sure everyone is aware of the raging debate over what is being called “Net Neutrality”. There’s a bill pending in the US Senate that deals with how our Internet experience is going to be fed to us in the coming years.

The first time I wrote anything about this ‘corporate plan’ was back in December 2005. The ISPs and telecom service providers were just opening up about this idea back then. What has become of the idea right now is a complete mess, a corporate disaster, and essentially undemocratic.

I supported the idea of charging premium content providers more for bandwidth/visibility services back in December. I still support that, but what this debate has evolved into is essentially trying to block content from a rival Internet content corporation in lieu of service fee. This is devastating, and is going to set up a wrong precedent.

Compare this to paying for long distance voice service. The pricing is generally based on interconnectivity of networks and load/traffic sharing. There’re no tiers of service. I don’t pay any less when I am calling someone on the BellSouth network than someone on the Verizon network. Then, why not the same with the Internet?

It is useless for me to argue about what is good or bad for the Internet. We all know those things very well. What bothers me is the kind of effect something like this could have on smaller content providers (blogs, personal websites, small scale companies) and those based internationally. Why are American Corporations so hell bent on curbing the free flow of information and content globally?

I fear that the Internet could have the same kind of future as radio or television – useless, and too moderated, commercial.

Watch this video –

Economy India Tech and Culture

The H1-B program brings in mediocre people ?

As expected, the H1-B quota for FY 2007 has filled up in less than 2 months since it started awarding those worker visas. This is a record. Last year, it took until the middle of August for the quota to close. This is going to ignite some major debate within the econo-political ecosystem as more people find out that they cannot hire experts from abroad.

Now, I have to say, some Indians speak the dumbest things possible if they have to make a point. I guess it’s just in our blood. Take the example of IEEE’s VP for Career Activites, Ron Hira. He is definitely not Indian by birth, but has Indian roots. Read what he says in this article in IT World about the H1-B cap.

Under a bill passed by Congress in 2004, the first 20,000 H-1B applications for workers with master’s degrees or higher are exempt from the cap. As of Thursday, the immigration agency had received about 5,800 exempt applications, it said.

With about 14,000 exemption applications still available, that suggests that some companies are looking primarily for cheap labor, Hira said. “That’s at least one indication that there’s not just geniuses coming in,” he said.

Yes, so basically, only the IT workers who have graduated from an American University at any point in their lives are geniuses. This is more disturbing than amusing. I guess what he’s trying to say is that all those workers outside America with decades of experience under their belts are somehow still inferior to that foreigner who just graduated from some shady small league school. Or maybe he is trying to say that recruiting companies are so stupid that they hire low wage foreigners from outside the country when they could essentially do the same from within the country!

I wonder what kind of a salary negotiation power advantage is held by a foreigner graduating from an American university compared to someone graduating from a foreign country. What is stopping an IT company from paying less to the foreigner already here in the US on a different visa? Does IT experience really not count when trying to find a job at a globally competing company?

I guess I am now an elite foreigner simply because I hold not one, but two degrees from an American university. I have a salary edge over other “regular” H1-Bs.

What about people who are “also” qualified but cannot enter the US?