Alexonomic's Outlook for 2013: South America

Yes, the Brazilians are still the centerpiece of South American economic growth, yet there are competitors arising. While Venezuala faces a period of uncertainty with the potential replacement of Hugo Chavez, Argentina offers a renewed challenge to the Falklands under Cristina Fernández de Kirchner.

Alexonomic's Outlook for 2013: Europe

Europe reminds many historians of conditions during the 1930s. Economically depressed countries are embracing extremist political parties with racial divide, riots, and anger as the symptoms. Currently, most of the population is aware of the European debt crisis. Although a serious as the economic crisis is, the side effects of lower economic output can be more serious.

Americans and their Guns

To stray from the Predictions of 2013 series, I did an infographic of the gun control debate raging in the US, along with some statistics. The objectives of Obama gun control rules come plainly from the White House publication on the topic. As one can see, the proposed regulations are quite practical.

Alexonomics' Outlook for 2013: Africa

Egypt has often been the focus of news in Africa as of late. The removal of Mubarak and election of Mohammed Morsi has proven to be an interesting turn of events, but the excitement is far from over. Morsi symbolically removed ties from the Muslim Brotherhood, but that move hardly removes the influence the party has on the President.

A guide to Environmental Economics

Often, articles will be conclusions with a few supporting facts that will often sway the reader. I find this problematic for two reasons. First, the reader does not have the chance to fully understand the topic because no background is given. Secondly, the reader doesn't really have an opportunity to disagree with the writer's conclusion if the reader has little to no knowledge of the topic.

Sunday, 29 January 2012

Quick Stock Analysis - RIM

Research in Motion has had a wild ride.

From introducing a smartphone so popular it was nicknamed the "Crackberry" to being taken over by the iPhone in market share and seeing their founders Mike Lazaridis and Jim Balsillie being forced out of their own company.

What went wrong? No, RIM's products are not inferior. In fact, their platform has been recognized by the US government and a few others for its communication security. Adding to this is their easy to use patented keyboard which I personally find preferable over the touch screen keyboards, popular BBM messenger (which has been replicated - iMessage, KiK etc..) and strong battery life.

However, the reason the product has seen a collapse in American market share is the marketing campaign by Apple, and the openness of Google in the promotion of Android. The iPhone is neither a revolutionary product nor an amazing platform. It's appearance is - simply because the UI is so easy to use that my 8 year old brother is a magician on the iPad. When Steve Job's was leading the development of the iPod, he said it was essential that user's only had to click three buttons to play music. Anything more than that was simply too much. This principle has carried forward with Apple to this day, as their platform is an amazing user experience with easy to use features that often blow non technical minds away. It's the reason why the Mac and iPhone are the tools of choice for Starbuck's guppies and hipsters across the nation each feeling that their Mac makes them part of an elite crowd. The black silhouette dancing with the white signature iPod headphones was not only an amazing marketing campaign, but also a symbol that began the creation of the Apple cult.

 Samsung perfectly captured this in their video with the comment " 'I could never get a Samsung - I'm creative' - 'Dude, you're a Barista' ".  Frankly, iPhones are not an engineering marvel, but more of a design marvel that exemplifies the power of marketing and a clean user interphase to generate sales. However, if this video portrays the new iPhone 5 correctly, I will be first in line to get one.

Apple and Android both did something that RIM did not. They included developers. It is a widely known fact that Google and Apple both have far more applications ready for download than Blackberry. The reason is because both companies realized it was essential to keep developers in the loop to maintain innovation and also popularity. It's like Angry Birds - most likely would have never been dreamt up by Apple app creators, but created by Rovio Mobile. This one game has led to the attraction of the iPhone/iPod/iPad - and it occurred because Apple and Android both realized the necessity of involving outside talent in their product lines. Google has also done this with Android creating a community of developers. RIM, on the other hand, just recently has tried to appeal to developers - but like it is very difficult to steal a girl from a boyfriend who took her to Paris for her birthday - it's very difficult to bring a devoted developer over to another platform.

The last problem with RIM is it's organizational culture, which is an add on of their problem courting developers. Expressed by a RIM executive in an open letter calling for culture change, the corporate culture of suits, ties and bureaucracy is simply not a culture that creates successful Technology companies. RIM has need a culture change for a while now, a change that is attractive to the programming talent available.

So can RIM turn it around?

Financially they are not at rock bottom, book value for the company is around 14.5 a share, so they are definitely a buy around there. Internationally, the Blackberry is arguably one of the most popular phones in the world outside of North America. Also, their secure platform makes them popular for corporations and governments. The only place where they have been hit is by the North American consumer, which is a rather large hit as their decline suggests. Frankly, I think their new CEO will be able to to turn the company around and I am very happy with this statement he made:

"When Blackberry got positioned the way you experienced it, it was on a set of values: battery life, network efficiency, security and best typing experience," Mr. Heins said. "In the U.S. specifically, what we missed is a shift in those paradigms" to more consumer orientated features like Web-browsing and apps, Mr. Heins said. 

Thorsten Heins comes from Siemens, a very technology successful company and I believe he has the vision to turn RIM and the Blackberry brand around. The stock price looks very attractive right now with an EPS of around 4.2, so I recommend this stock as a buy. Try to pick it up around 16, but don't be greedy. Already expectations are low by analysts, if RIM even moderately succeeds the stock price could shoot up dramatically.

Wednesday, 25 January 2012

Let's Talk Texting

"Your a grammar nazi" 


This is a typical text that can be received from myself. I attribute my grammar obsession to AP English in High School, and a good friend of mine who corrected me quite a few times. At first, I was annoyed. It was just a text, or msn/facebook conversation - why does it matter? 

It does matter. 

First, using the wrong then (or than) or any other errors makes one look rather silly, especially if the character in question is a University educated person with English listed as their first language. Silly may be the wrong word to use - stupid may be better. I admit, I automatically judge those who repeatedly suffer from an inability to use correct spelling and grammar in their communications. As a person who eventually could be in a position to hire, if I am in contact with a person who applies for a job that I have influence over selection - I will automatically question this person's literacy. Why? It's simple, constantly misspelling words offers ill examples of one's writing abilities. 

The second point I will argue is often debated. Usually the Mischievous Misspeller (yes I realized this is not a word) will protest. Admitting to being guilty of using gross grammatical goggles to casually communicate, the deviant will often protest that they can remove these goggles and write normally at will. True, some people can do this. It is often the case though, they cannot. Personally, I have witnessed too many University students submitting their papers with ridiculous errors to be able to accept this explanation. 

However, don't take my word for it. I'll just quote an article:

“Thirty per cent of students who are admitted are not able to pass at a minimum level,” says Ann Barrett, managing director of the English language proficiency exam at Waterloo University. “We would certainly like it to be a lot lower.”

Barrett says the failure rate has jumped five percentage points in the past few years, up to 30 per cent from 25 per cent.

“What has happened in high school that they cannot pass our simple test of written English, at a minimum?” she asks.

Even those with good marks out of Grade 12, so-called elite students, “still can't pass our simple test,” she says.

Poor grammar is the major reason students fail, says Barrett.

“If a student has problems with articles, prepositions, verb tenses, that's a problem.”

The link to the article is at the bottom. 

Adding to this, Paul Budra (an English Professor at Simon Fraser) questions if University students have any idea what an apostrophe is used for. I have experienced a similar phenomenon. Most people I know cannot differentiate between "its (possession)" and "it's" (contraction for it is/has). Experts in the field express disdain at the effect of social networking and texting upon correct grammar and spelling. Joel Postman has taught Fortune 500 companies on how to use social networking, agrees with this statement as do many others. 

However, the problems caused by increased digital communications are not just a manifesting themselves in the writing world. Many people are so used to digital communication, they have forgotten how to communicate face to face. Basic social skills that can be learned, practiced and acquired in a bar scene such as networking, striking up a sudden conversation, or approaching a group of people are now skills that many people will pay for training. Oral communication is essential for any job, or any relationship. 

How to fix this? Well, when someone corrects you on their grammar, don't reply back with a "LOL ummm okkk grammar nasi" (yes I misspelled "nazi" to make a point). Instead, take that correction into consideration and try to be a better communicator. There simply is no excuse. You will appear to be more intelligent, and no one has ever complained about a person using correct spelling. 

Next, if you have problems with speaking or oral communication, join Toastmasters. It's an international public speaking organization that can greatly assist anyone in improving one's speaking skills. Also, go out to social venues more often and do not just sit a chair texting your best friend. Talk to a few people who you never met before, and see what happens. 

Improving your social skills is a function of enhancing your appearance and communication. Improving your communiqués and speaking skills assists in accomplishing both. 


Obligatory Oatmeal Poster: 

Affect vs. Effect:

Better Article on the Subject:

Wednesday, 11 January 2012

The Congruency of Democracy and Idiocy

Today, British Columbia (a province of Canada) and the Canadian federal government agreed on a plan to repay around $1.6 billion dollars to the federal government from the province. The reasoning behind this entire issue borders on the insane. Basically, the Federal government decided to promote the amalgamation of taxation, or the creation of a new tax entitled the HST, or Harmonized Sales Tax. Simply, the tax combines the Federal GST and Provincial PST together into one tax. Basically, it creates a more efficient taxation system but also does increase taxes by a minor amount per family - around $400 or so per family.
British Columbia instituted the HST, collected the money from the Federal government, and also made concessions to the citizens of BC in order to appease them. Namely, reversing the 7% portion of the HST on gas/diesel sales (Ontario this did not happen).

Then political populism came into play.

Politicians spreading propaganda about the new tax to simply place the current government on the defensive attacked the HST. This manifested itself into a referendum, which reversed the HST. So, after all the bureaucratic work that went into the creation of the tax, it was reversed and BC will now lose almost $2 billion because of the idiocy of the people.

It is questionable if the majority of people who voted on the HST even knew both sides of the issue and had the mind to make a independent and informed vote. Actually, it's not questionable, it's probable due to the results.

This example is one of many around the world that can show the problems of democracy today. Politicians using populist anthems to attract votes is becoming quite annoying. A majority of people do not understand the complex financial system that allow the creation of pensions, a social security net or even post secondary education funding programs. It is easy to vote in favour of these programs, it is very hard to reverse or remove these programs - which most politicians will not touch.

The world needs to find politicians who have the courage to stand for realistic solutions to problems, instead of temporary solutions that buy votes.