I’ve been thinking a lot about the recession and the effect it will have on the free software business community and the free font business community I’m attempting to cultivate. Here are three small quotes from three wildly divergent sources that I’m knitting together:
There is a secular attitude change happening right now. Boomers close to retirement are now (finally) scared to death as the equity in their houses has been vaporized. School age children are seeing homes foreclosed, and families destroyed over debt. The American consumer, who nearly everyone thinks will be back as soon as the economy picks up are mistaken.
Secular shifts like these come once in a lifetime. Sadly it’s too late for many cash strapped boomers counting on equity in their houses for retirement.
The lessons of their great grandfathers who lived in the great depression era were forgotten. Over time, everyone learned to ignore the dangers of debt, risk, and leverage. Belief in the Fed and the government to bail out any problem are ingrained. Bank failures are distant memories.
Anyone and everyone who wanted credit got it, and on the easiest of terms: subprime, pay option arms, reckless leverage, and covenant lite debt and toggle bonds that allowed debt to be paid back with more debt. That’s what it takes to hit a peak.
Peak credit has been reached. That final wave of consumer recklessness created the exact conditions required for its own destruction. The housing bubble orgy was the last hurrah. It is not coming back and there will be no bigger bubble to replace it. Consumers and banks have both been burnt, and attitudes have changed.
It took nearly 80 years for people to get as reckless as they did in 1929. 80 years! Few are still alive that went through the great depression. No one listened to them. That is the nature of the game. The odds of a significant bout of inflation now are about the same as they were in 1929. Next to none.
Children whose parents are being destroyed by debt now, will keep those memories for a long time.
If you don’t know what inflation is, or if you think it is about prices (it’s not, and it’s not about a falling or rising dollar either) then please read Inflation: What the heck is it? and Interview With Kasriel.
Right now, China, India, Brazil and other countries are on a different credit cycle than the US. Growth in China is providing huge strength in the commodities sector. In addition, horrid economic policies in the US are weakening the dollar.
Those two factors are causing those who don’t know what inflation is to scream inflation or stagflation. The real wackos are screaming hyperinflation. They are all mistaken. We are in deflation now. Most do not see it because they do not know what it is.
- Get out of debt.
- Spend your money and time on things that give you energy and provide you with useful information.
- Stop spending a penny with major banks, news media and corporations that feed you lies and leave you exhausted.
- Learn how money works and use it like a weapon.
It is already becoming clear that as Peak Oil becomes a stark reality, survival will become a place-based, local phenomenon. Local economies, to the degree that they exist and are flourishing will provide strength to resist what is coming. Everyone who sees this essay should compare the return on investment they got with the election against something that offers more payoffs, an opportunity to become real, independent actors on the fields of their own lives.
1) there are MANY paths to success and success comes from picking the one that’s right for you and
2) at the end of the day, it all boils down to sales, are you generating them or not - and how much?
Now here’s the third and final piece:
Market selection is at least 80% of your success.
The very first decision you make (which group of people to serve) is - by far - the single most important business decision you’ll ever make.
Get it right and you have a platform for success.
Get it wrong and it doesn’t matter what you do, how hard you work or how much you know. You’ll always be rolling rocks up a hill.
The Four Characteristics of a great market
A great market means:
Your prospects have money * You can reach them economically * They have a problem (or aspiration) they have demonstrated they are willing to spend money on * You can bring something uniquely valuable to the marketplace
I use other criteria for market selection that I’ve refined over the years, but let’s start with these four.
Are you trying to sell to people who don’t have money?
Here’s a million dollar piece of advice: stop. Do something else. Now.
Next: Can you reach them economically?
By “economically” I don’t mean cheaply (though that never hurts.)
I mean can you earn more from your customers than what you spend on advertising, promotion and overhead to acquire and serve them?
This is another seemingly drop dead simple rule, but a lot of folks miss it.
If you can’t tell me exactly what mediums and messages you’re going to use to bring in new customers economically, you don’t have a business - yet.
Your job as an entrepreneur is to sort that out first before you even dream of doing anything else.
Have they demonstrated they are willing to spend money on this kind of product or service?
I admire pioneers.
I’ve been one myself on many different occasions.
It’s fun - but I make my money from execution in well established markets.
I always have and I expect I always will.
If you want to pioneer a market just realize you will have to work ten times harder and take 100 times the risk that the second generation of entrepreneurs in the market take.
And if you’re not a very smart or very lucky (or both), there’s always the chance that you will blaze a new trail - to a dead end.
So if ringing the cash register is your immediate goal, focus on established marketplaces.
Can you bring something uniquely valuable to the market?
Please study the phrase “uniquely valuable.”
It has two parts: unique AND valuable.
If it’s unique, but not valuable, you score zero.
Markets like novelty to a point and for a while, but…
What is new today rapidly becomes what’s old tomorrow and anything that doesn’t bring real value will have a short shelf life.
Valuable, but not unique is also a problem.
If anyone and everyone can do what you do, then who needs you?
The chilling answer: no one.
Being an entrepreneur means finding the value that you can uniquely bring to the table and leading with that foot forward.
“Me too” marketing and “copy cat” marketing don’t work for long.
The formula is simple
This is not complex formula, but it’s very definite.
Since nearly a year has passed since I decided to develop a traditional Malayalam font and then went to part time studies and wrote my dissertation and dropped practical font work, I thought I ought to do a bit of research about what has been happening in the Malayalam free font development community. Anivar has a great post reviewing some free Malayalam fonts. Suresh P explains how to set up Emacs with Malayalam fonts.
Currently I’m reading about freetype, to get a sense of how the renderer works, and creating ‘testing’ fonts to assess the constraints of its interletter spacing operations when rastering text for on-screen reading. I’m also quickly developing the lowercase of my typeface as lettering art to then design that to the contraints of freetype’s rendering.
The Times wins my prize for most Orwellian headline yet:
http://type.salsen.com/ is a webapp for submitting and publishing typographic jokes. lol :)
The Guardian recently posted an article quoting Richard Stallman on cloud computing.
If a user wants to use network applications in freedom, they can do their own computing on their own computer with their copy of a freedom-respecting network-accessed program if their computer is a network server. Is this a good idea?
Yes, I think so.
While this is not the common vision of “cloud computing,” I think that is what critics of “cloud computing” like autonomo.us should be enabling people to do.
Amazon offers a popular “elastic cloud computing” virtual server hosting service, where users upload a GNU/Xen-Linux system disk image which is booted but for which bandwidth, storage disk and processing power is ‘elastic’ - can scale arbitrarily, and on demand. I have not used this service, but I hear it is very simple to use with a pre-configured disk image.
I wonder if putting a system disk image together for services like this, consisting of only free software suitable for the common tasks people use proprietary cloud computing for, and that is configurable with a simple ‘installation wizard,’ would be a good way to provide a practical alternative to cloud computing.
These common tasks seem to be email (Microsoft Hotmail, Google Mail) calendars (Google Calendars) collaborative authoring/spreadsheets (Google Docs) task management (37signals BaseCamp) and blog/status/photo publishing (Blogger/LiveJournal/WordPress, Twitter/identi.ca, Flickr/Picasa, and omnipotent Facebook). The programs behind WordPress and identi.ca seem to show the way forward with “federation” features that allow users to run their own programs while benefiting from the ‘network effects’ typical of centralised services.
Running your own cloud usually means renting a virtualised computer. Or renting a physical computer, or renting space in a telehouse rack with your own physical computer, or leaving your desktop computer turned on 24/7 and connected via residential DSL with a static IP address as Chris does - but I don’t think there is any real difference in terms of freedom here.
This is typically seen as very complex, but I think services like Amazon make it much easier than it used to be.
Renting a computer brings up another issue though, which Richard Stallman brought up with me when I asked him about this: “Do you trust [the computer landlord] not to let the bad guys (such as the police) into your machine?”
I am not sure how to answer that question, and my uncertainly is summarised as: would you trust Amazon?
A small personable and ‘trustworthy’ ISP seems just as vulnerable to haxor attacks or surveillance requests from the state as a large corporate ‘faceless’ ISP to me.
I also wonder about why any bad guys would want access to a personal network server any more than a laptop. Simple vandals trawl the net for unpatched servers (and laptops…) but a personal network server would have a simple authentication lock that would adequately prevent such vandals from accessing out of date server programs.
Obviously the state wants to get into machines to fight crime, and as I’m not a criminal that’s okay - but it also wants access to fight political dissent, and as an activist I am wary about that. But the simplest, cheapest and most common way for the police to get into a machine and to stifle the operator’s dissent is to seize it. People who meet active stifling of their political network activity, say like The Pirate Bay, adequately mitigate that with backups in multiple jurisdictions, so that when any server is seized, another is put online within in a few days.
If the state wants to have covert access without disconnecting the machine, that also seems straightforward, although more expensive; the way the UK surveillance law works, citizens made complicit in surveillance activity (eg, being forced to reveal crypto passwords) face up to 2 years in jail if they tell anyone about it. And police ask ISPs for things without forcing them and ISPs routinely bend over; I suppose thats the difference between a small personable company and a backstabbing corporate one. And for unlawful forced access, I think it is impossible to totally secure against that, since individuals acting alone have annually gained illicit root access to governmentally-secret computers the last 30 years.
But getting into machines covertly seems unnecessary; the tap is better done ‘upstream’ at the network switch. And its well known that spy agencies have total access to all network traffic with systems like Echelon and Carnivore. (So if I was involved in political dissent forcefully opposed by the state, then probably I would avoid using computer networks. The Unabomber did alright that way… ;-)
I agree it is good to mention this issue when publicizing the problems of cloud computing. But it seems to me that in the current political climate the answer to the question is always, “I do not trust the computer landlord not to let the bad guys (such as the police) into my rented machine, just by asking.”
Yet avoiding cloud computing with programs you control but on servers you rent does not anything to help resolve this.
(This article was republished at http://web2.sys-con.com/node/695164!)