December 21, 2007

Great quote on simplicity from Evan Williams, the guy behind Blogger and Twitter in this week’s Economist.

The irony of trying to plan accidents, and orchestrate their frequent occurrence, is not lost on Mr Williams. So he tries mental tricks. One is to ask “what can we take away to create something new?” A decade ago, you could have started with Yahoo! and taken away all the clutter around the search box to get Google. When he took Blogger and took away everything except one 140-character line, he had Twitter. Radical constraints, he believes, can lead to breakthroughs in simplicity and entirely new things.


Michael Schumacher Drives Taxi in Airport Dash

December 12, 2007

Michael Schumacher drives taxi in airport dash

“I found myself in the passenger seat, which was strange enough, but to have ‘Schumi’ behind the wheel of my cab was incredible”

“He drove at full throttle around the corners and overtook in some unbelievable places”

I spotted the original quote in the London Lite, but was not able to track down a link.

Virtual Worlds

December 11, 2007

GP Bullhound have released a research note (pdf) on Virtual Worlds.

The key findings are:

  • Experts predicting that 80% of internet users will become members of virtual worlds by 2011.
  • Virtual Worlds increasingly segmented by demographics and hobbies.
  • In 2007, 24% of US child and teen internet users will visit virtual worlds. By 2011, an estimated 53% will do so.
  • Multiple revenue streams are emerging in the virtual world space. The main business models identified are:
    • The sale of virtual goods.
      • It is key for virtual worlds to have multiple payment methods ranging from credit cards, to Paypal or SMS in order to be able to process micro payments efficiently and to allow users to pay conveniently.
    • Subscription and premium subscription.
    • In-world advertising and product licensing.
      • In June 2007, Parks Associates estimated that US$15m was spent on virtual world advertising in the US in 2006 and projected that it would rise tenfold to US$150m in 2012.
  • Given the competitive environment the virtual worlds operate in, they forecast that subscriptions and premium subscriptions for virtual worlds will decrease in prominence by 2010.
  • Virtual worlds will instead benefit from the growth of advertising and the purchase of virtual goods.

You can download the full research note (pdf) from their website.

December 10, 2007

I have set up a tumblelog, this should aggregate all my blog posts and bookmarks.

From Wikipedia: a tumblelog or tlog is a variation of a blog, that favors short-form, mixed-media posts over the longer editorial posts frequently associated with blogging. Common post formats found on tumblelogs include links, photos, quotes, dialogues, and video.

Margin of Safety: Risk-Averse Value Investing Strategies for the Thoughtful Investor

December 7, 2007

Here are a few quotes from Margin of Safety: Risk-Averse Value Investing Strategies for the Thoughtful Investor by Seth A. Klarman. 

Seth Klarman is a value investor and Portfolio Manager of the investment partnership The Baupost Group. Founded in 1982, The Baupost Group now manages US$5.4 bn, his Baupost partnerships have averaged returns of nearly 20% annually since their inception [bio from GuruFocus]. 

Value investing is the strategy of investing in securities trading at an appreciable discount from their underlying value. 

Value investors have as a primary goal, the preservation of capital. 

Once you adopt a value-investment strategy any other investment behaviour starts to look like gambling. 

Value investors continually compare potential new investments with their current holdings in order to ensure that they own only the most undervalued opportunities available. 

Value investing is simple to understand but difficult to implement. 

The number of securities that should be owned to reduce portfolio risk to an acceptable level is not that great; as few as ten to fifteen different holdings usually suffice. 

My view is that an investor is better off knowing a lot about a few investments that knowing a little about each of a great number of holdings. 

Buying a partial position leaves reserves that permit investors to “average down” lowering their average cost per share, if prices decline. 

Here are a few links to other posts and an article about the book: 

Trump Strategies for Real Estate

December 6, 2007

Amazon says Trump Strategies for Real Estate, by George Ross (from Apprentice fame) offers unbeatable insider advice for every serious real estate investor – beginners and old pros alike.

I enjoyed the book; here are a few quotes and lists from the book.

There is a huge difference between the legal aspects of real estate and the business of investing in real estate. Most lawyers simply advise their clients not to do a deal if they find legal problems; lawyers cannot or will not make business recommendations for their clients. Goldman forced me to think like a businessman, not just a lawyer, and realize that almost every problem has a price tag.

  • On working for Donald Trump: Trump has been a great man to work for. In 10 years, he has never once asked me where I’m going or what I’m doing.
  • Look at problem properties as opportunities.
  • Always try to anticipate problems and questions other people will ask.
  • Ziff ’s principle of least effort: people will put the least amount of effort in a transaction that they can in order to proceed.

Principles of negotiation

  1. Create the aura of exclusivity.
  2. Don’t be misled by the aura of legitimacy.
  3. Every negotiation requires preplanning.
  4. Avoid a quick deal: the reason is that satisfaction of the egos on both sides of a negotiation is essential to a mutually agreeable conclusion. Remember that the word negotiation has “EGO” in it. Each participant must feel he has won a number of hard-fought concessions from his adversaries to satisfy his ego that he has done his job well.
  5. The invested time principle: the more time a person has invested in a transaction, the less likelihood he or she’s going to give it up.
  • Insist on negotiating directly with the decision maker, not a representative.
  • Importance of doing a post negotiation review.

Four ways to be distinctive and add “sizzle” to your property

  1. Understand your buyers’ and tenants’ lifestyle.
  2. Know what your customers will pay extra for and what they won’t.
  3. Understand your buyers’ and tenants’ lifestyle.
  4. Know what your customers will pay extra for and what they won’t.

How to motive people:

One of Donald Trump’s greatest attributes is his willingness to bestow praise on someone in the presence of others.I have visited a construction site with Donald and he’d stop and say, “George, see that woodwork? This guy is the best woodworker in the entire city, maybe the world.” I knew that that was exaggerated praise but the broad smile on the worker’s face said it all. He will tell his friends and family what Trump said and you can be sure he will be a perfectionist in everything he does for Trump.

Here is another review of the book by TheWildInvestor.

Never Type Up Another Existing Document Again

December 5, 2007


I was considering typing up a scanned presentation I had, but a quick search for some free OCR (optical character recognition) software put a stop to that.

Jon Galloway has a great post about his search for free OCR software which covers how to use Microsoft Office Document Imaging.

Scan the document then use Microsoft Office Document Imaging to send the document to Word. This will give you a word document, which you can freely format and edit.

This works even better if you have a scanner that will convert your entire scanned document to a PDF in one go (rather than page by page). Then just print the PDF to file as a TIFF file, then import into Microsoft Office Document Imaging and send to Word.

This works best when you have a hard copy of the original document but no soft copy (be that the original document or a PDF from which you can copy and paste text).