Crypto-currencies and madness

Frances Coppola writes about financial bubbles. She says the market for crypto-currencies shares characteristics with earlier bubbles like Dutch tulips and dotcom stocks. Which means a crash is underway. That’s not just Bitcoin, but all of the crypto-currencies.

The remarkable aspect of this is that everyone couldn’t see it coming. As Coppola points out some investors still don’t accept the likelihood of a crash.

It will be interesting to see what remains after things settle down. The idea of a blockchain isn’t going away, but the, at times irrational, enthusiasm  for crypto-currency could be coming to an end.

Train wreckScott Hanselman caused a stir writing: Everything’s broken and nobody’s upset. He lists key software products bristling with flaws. They fail to work as expected.

Hanselman takes no prisoners. He is as scathing about Microsoft, who he works for, as he is about Google and Apple.

The story isn’t just venting. Hanselman says he is complaining because he knows we can do better.

And so we can. Hanselman’s post is brilliant and essential reading for anyone who works with technology or remotely cares about the tools they use.

Worse than Hanselman thinks

Sadly it is not just a case of “everything is broken and nobody’s upset”. There’s also the point that nobody cares, especially not the people making those broken things.

Or, more accurately, few of the companies care enough to bother fixing their products’ flaws and looking after their customers.

Call me naïve if you like, when I find broken software or hardware I look to troubleshoot the problem. This means going to company websites searching FAQs or forums for answers.

My finding answers strike rate is not good. Many software companies and hardware makers barely pay lip service to fixing the messes they create. I found less than half of the technology complaints and queries I submitted were acknowledged, let alone answered.

Some help forums are like the fake towns built for western movies – there only for show.

Hanselman says he comes away with the impression no-one cares about the problems. That’s my experience too – although not with everyone.

Money doesn’t help

Here’s the oddest thing. The amount of caring is often inversely proportional to the amount of money the company at the other end of the transaction took from me.

Logic says you can’t expect much support from developers of free software, WordPress plug-ins and shareware. Likewise, companies selling $2, $5 or $10 apps for iPads or Android phones.

And yet in my experience, I’m MORE likely to get a satisfactory response to my support requests from these people than I am from businesses that have taken hundreds or thousands of dollars from me.

Non-support forums

Here’s a recent example, I’ve got dozens of others I could mention:

I added 4GB of Ram to my desktop computer. Nothing happened. I did all the right things, went to the various forums and troubleshooting routines. This is possibly a motherboard problem. You can see my post at the Asustek forum doesn’t get taken seriously.

I didn’t get ANY response to an emailed query.

The Ram maker did respond, but only to tell me I’m an idiot who doesn’t understand it is not the company’s problem.

What makes this more galling is the Asustek forum and Google in general shows hundreds of other people have exactly the same problem and issues that are similar. Something is wrong. I’m not just another muddle-headed ham-fisted idiot who doesn’t understand the technology.

Asustek has my money and it just doesn’t give a toss. I’ll keep this in mind when I buy a new motherboard, yet the sad truth is the alternative suppliers are no better.

Another answer

Hanselman articulates the problem well, but for my money doesn’t offer much of an answer although he is right when he says we need to care and need the collective will to fix the problems.

I’d go further and say we need to jump up and down more. Consumers need to be stroppier. We need more brutal product reviews – which means we need an independent media, but that’s another issue. We need stronger consumer laws and officials willing to tackle big, powerful corporations when they stuff up.

And most of all, we need to speak out when things aren’t satisfactory and keep on speaking out.

Money

Employers in knowledge industries rarely talk about pay. They prefer remuneration.

Perhaps the idea comes from the early 20th century when Britain’s upper classes thought discussing money was vulgar.

Another explanation is employers live in a pretentious management-speak world where they use sesquipedalian – if you want to use that one at a dinner party make sure there’s no food in your mouth – words in the vain hope of impressing or intimidating the plebs.

Some recruiters belong to a generation who read the Reader’s Digest. They soaked up the fancy words from “It Pays to Increase Your Word Power” while waiting to have their teeth fixed.

The real reason they use long words is they aim to flatter and distract us.

Remuneration sounds posher than wages or pay.

There’s an implication that once you’ve progressed to the lofty heights of remuneration you no longer worry about petty things like checking to see if you’re paid a fair wage or going home before midnight.

To be fair, pay is just about money, while remuneration can mean a package of money and benefits. Mind you, some employers used to call this ‘a package’.

Nevertheless, the only way you can measure the real worth of remuneration is by converting everything back into cold hard cash.

The four most dangerous words in investing are: It’s different this time.

Sir John Templeton, quoted in The Asian Age.

Not only are there no new economic paradigms, the moment anyone mentions the word paradigm in connection with your money, I suggest you run for the door.