Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Economic Recoveries.

Executive Summary: What would explain the length of the jobless recovery phase in an economic recovery? Would we find answers by comparing trends across recessions, or by comparing trends across countries, or by both? From the desk of I-Think-Therefore-Economics-Exists.
The employment/ population ratio has hit a low point not seen in a long while:
While you can utilize publicly available statistics to make your own charts and form your own views, here is a way to structure thoughts around it:
  1. How do you compare recoveries and the nature of unemployment across recessions in the same country?
  2. How do you compare recoveries and the nature of unemployment across countries during the same recession period? 

Comparing Economic Recoveries Across Countries During the Same Recession Period.
Since there have been comparisons between the European economies and the American economy:
  1. How do the trends in the employment/ population ratio compare across countries?
  2. Are European economies more likely to have structural changes in unemployment rates than the US?

Comparing Economic Recoveries Across Recessions in the Same Country.
What does the increasing "length" of the jobless recovery phase in a recovery mean, as a trend across recessions?

Is there something in the nature of the economy, the nature of the macroeconomic entities in the economy, the depth of the recession, or the boom period prior the recession that has primacy in terms of its impact on the nature of the recovery?

Here is one pattern of Socratic thought that explores the two questions above.

Is the increasing length of jobless recovery phase in a recovery, as a trend across recessions, a function of:
  1. The increasingly service oriented nature of the economy?
  2. An increasing dependence on large monolithic corporate entities over time as drivers of economic performance, with the dependence changing from direct hiring to a greater multiplier effect across the economic ecosystem in terms of dampening hiring?
  3. The nature of work available to labor, which has changed from hyper-local activity, to increasingly being touched by global supply chains?
  4. An increasing delinking of corporate performance, financial institution performance and "real" economy performance?
  5. The degree of specialization, and education, require for work, requiring a greater time for individuals to unlearn, turn around and relearn?
  6. A greater population density in large metropolitan areas over time?
    • This may be counter intuitive, if you think in terms of supply, where people band together to create economic activity (not everybody can be an entrepreneur).
    • However, if you think in terms of depressed demand, which translates into opportunity for economic activity of a certain type, this may be a worthwhile line of inquiry.
  7. Our lifestyles, which are less community driven, and hence make turnaround during recessions more difficult?
    • E.g. This may be an effect seen in decreasing labor activism (ed- analysis to be done) with each passing recession.
  8. A psychological effect (animal spirits) of the nature of the boom period that preceded it?
    • E.g. How long did the Dutch economy take to recover from the tulip boom?
  9. Simply the depth of the recession?

What do you think?

Note: Throw someone a thought provoking point about economics, and ye shall reap many more thoughts in return. These thoughts were first published in a macroeconomics forum, in the week of July 16th, 2011. Thank you, Prof. Rosensweig.

Google Plus and Apps.

Executive summary: App downloads continue to explode across various mobile and non mobile platforms. Are apps secondary to the Google Plus strategy? No. Here is why.

The Overview
In response to my last post on Google Plus, a wise man (thank you JJ) asked me whether I think products, not apps, are core to Google Plus' success. 

App downloads across various mobile and non mobile platforms (have you downloaded Spotify yet?) are exploding, and both paid and free app download projections till 2015 indicate they will become an integral part of our lives, if they aren't already.

So, the obvious answer? No.

Google Plus' Avenues to the Apps Superhighway
How does google plus play with apps? Here are some ways:

1. Android Mobile Platform Apps:
Google already has a mobile app platform with ready apps. Make it really easy for the apps to integrate with google plus.
2. Google Products as Apps:
Google products as apps are already a reality. Plug Google Plus into them.
3. Leverage/ Create an App Partner Ecosystem:
Android already has one for mobile apps. Google plus becomes one becomes the ecosystem for social across mobile. As I mentioned previously, the google ecosystem needs to spawn a few Zyngas, a few angry birds (while watching out for privacy trade-offs).

Easier said than done, right? The really interesting question? Can Google Plus also be the social collaboration framework for folks at work, and not just for folks at play?

What do you think?

Friday, July 15, 2011

Google Plus, and the Facebook and Apple Context

Executive Summary: Google Plus' future is for Google to throw away. It is in the hands of the marketing team (because I think the product is on a Moore's Law-ish trajectory), and in the hands of the unknown disruptive forces hiding in dark alleys. Yes, this is an unabashed, quick and dirty speculation on Google Plus' opportunity. From The Desk of Talking-About-Google+-As-a-Social Network-Is-Like-Calling-Le-Louvre-a-Little-Hovel.

After living with google+ for a while, here are some key, qualitative thoughts.

Throw away all that propaganda about Google Plus as a social network. Calling Google Plus a social network is like trying to fit an elephant into a refrigerator. Evaluate Google Plus against Facebook and Apple on the following dimensions:

• Core Company Products
• Digital Platform Integrating Core Products as an Ecosystem
• Flexible Social Platform
• A Gateway to a Digital Life
Now that we have got the obvious Big, Hairy, Audacious Ideas out of the way, here are the qualitative teasers I was talking about:

1. For The Believers:
Are you already a googlephile who cannot live without, atleast a few, google services? Then, Google Plus is, for now, google accounts on steroids, with controls and features staked onto it.
Very nicely done, though. Thank you. Not tacky at all. Now, segway to that Journey song from Glee.
2. Indicative Product Feature- Circles:
Very nicely done. Again. Lives up to its billing as the slayer of social network privacy concerns.

The circles model of relationships reminded me of a "brain's trust" model shared by a macroeconomics professor in graduate school. The graphical privacy controls makes you want to get comfortable by tweaking privacy to your comfort level.

Note, I have not talked about features like Hangout. All of those also falls under the "Nicely done. Thank you" category. Why pick Circles? It jumps at you like no other Google Plus feature.

3. Integrated Digital Platform:
Picasa for pics. Videos.YouTube. Yeh. Google has some pretty powerful and mature products. Google Plus comes "preloaded" with some of these google products. Google Plus is a great way to sew these products together, making it a complete and a serious digital platform.
Would you say that Google Plus is like an Apple ecosystem? Can it be like an Apple ecosystem? Can it be better than an Apple and a Facebook ecosystem rolled into one?

I think it can, but that is a different story, a different blog post. All Google has to do is light a few fires. Keep doing what it is doing on products. Keep integrating them. Oh, and spawn a few Zyngas now and then.
4. A Social Platform:
Will Google Plus be a serious social platform? That would be a function of adoption (think share of social life) and switching (think identifying this as a primary social platform).

Google Plus may hit 20 million + users by July 20. However, how many users will migrate from Facebook to Google Plus? How many will live in animated suspension between the two worlds? Finally, how many will use Google Plus as a glorified GMail service?

What would be your estimate of an equilibrium/ steady state Google Plus user base? 150+ MM? 250+ MM? 400+ MM? While staying out of China (for how long?)? What is your sense of the tipping point when Facebook users start migrating from Facebook to Google Plus, network by network?
5. Privacy Controls:
Yes, finding myself in a few folks' circles, when I hopped onto the platform, freaked me out a little.

Also, Google Plus, better than google accounts, brought home the fact that I use a lot of google products and all that information is a sneeze away from being mapped into a digital life.

If you live off GMail, this should not surprise you. However, since I can claim to understand a little bit about security, privacy concerns will always pop up in my mind. Maybe it is just me.

6. A Gateway to a Digital Life:
To borrow from a wise man I know (who is also on Google Plus) - can Google be my gateway to a digital life?

The Pitch? Without much ado (to all the Google engineers, yes I am being simplistic :-)), Google can be my online identity, my Netflix, and my computing device on a cloud. Even as a glue for the google products we already (or will) use, Google Plus will be a formidable doorway.

I am inclined to draw a bubble chart mapping how the Apple, Facebook and Google future state ecosystems would look 5 years from now. For now, all I will say that in his early days, Henry Ford would have been proud to call his company Google. Think Google Products + Android + Cloud + Google Wireless (Definitely Maybe?).

That's enough crystal ball gazing for now. I have stretched my definition of "key qualitative thoughts" far enough. Moreover, I would like to sneak in the crystal ball gazing in digestible chunks.

What do you think? If you do, you know where to catch me for a lively conversation.

Saturday, July 09, 2011

News, New York Times, and a Movie about Publishing

Executive Summary: A review of "Page One: Inside the New York Times"- a documentary that provides an inside view of a market leader in publishing through some changes in the industry. From the desk of If-It-Sounds-Like-the-NYT-But-Reads-Like-Twitter, It-Really-Isn't-A-Documentary, It-Is-A-Reality-TV-Show.


The last time I posted about a movie was the opening weekend of Iron Man, over 3 years ago. This one is about "Page One: Inside the New York Times", a "fly on the wall" account of a desk at the New York Times.

The Key Theme: Challenges

The movie gets three challenges facing the New York Times right:

1. A Market Leader's Core Differentiation in a Seemingly Fragmented Ecosystem:
Where does the paper, and in comparison, the rest world, stand on news accountability, quality, objectivity, and transparency? The movie touches upon the difference between Journalism and activism, in the Wikileaks context.

2. The Survival of Publishing as a Well Oiled "Machine", and Its Metamorphosis :
The documentary covers Der Spiegel, Guardian and NYT partnering with WikiLeaks, and alludes to the shifting sands of the publishing ecosystem where a publisher could be a source.

3. Funding to Sustain a News Enterprise:
It touches upon the launch of the metered paywall at NYT (in line with the FT, and the Economist).

Finally...  The Opinion

As for the documentary experience, it stays true to the fly on the wall theme. Its like what reading Twitter is to reading the NYT. However, it does a great job of juxtaposing current changes in the industry impact the market leader, against its storied past.

If you are looking for more detail on the trends, you would be better served by visiting the Economist website (or reading this week's print edition) here: More on that to follow.

At worst, you may end up feeling like you watched some reality TV about a desk at the NYT, and even then, you will find a memorable line or two. "A textured life", for one.

What do you think? If you saw the movie, what did you think?