Gongol.com Archives: May 2008
Brian Gongol

May 5, 2008

Water News Davenport negotiates trade-off between river views and flooding

Weather and Disasters One storm kills 10,000 people in Burma
Further evidence that disasters themselves don't kill, disasters amid poverty kill. Burma is a terribly poor country with a repressive government. Had the same weather event occurred in a wealthier country or one with better governance, the death toll would almost assuredly be smaller. 10,000 lives, though, have been lost.

Iowa More on what happened at Regency Homes

Business and Finance Audi gets into the electric-car business

Business and Finance Microsoft gives up on plans to buy Yahoo, but says it's charging ahead online
Microsoft's CEO, Steve Ballmer, is not happy that Yahoo rejected their offer, but says it's not worth spending billions more to take over the company. Microsoft's new post-Yahoo-offer online strategy is indistinguishable from that of any hypothetical company in any hypothetical market: "Deliver on the basics. Change the game through innovation. Expand our global scale and focus." Yadda, yadda, yadda. Microsoft needs to think in terms of basic economics: Is there anything that it can do or provide online that competitors can't or won't? The answer seems to be "not really," based on their existing technologies. Internet Explorer isn't the only browser on the market, and the push for standards-based Internet design keeps them from making the browser inescapable. Windows Media Player gets competition from QuickTime and iTunes, as well as RealPlayer and now a number of Flash-based alternatives. And so far, Google has been next-to-impossible to eclipse for search-engine performance. (A fall from grace for Google is practically inevitable, over a long enough period of time -- but Microsoft isn't likely to be the successful newcomer.) So instead of offering platitudes about "changing the game," Microsoft ought to be taking a long, hard look at anything it's in a truly unique position to do. And if there isn't anything, it ought to invest elsewhere -- like in energy or chemicals or medical research. Computing power could make a huge difference to a company's potential in any of those areas. AT&T used to be "American Telephone and Telegraph." Sometimes, your core business has to change. Creative destruction is a fierce predator.

The American Way May 2008 update to the EconDirectory
The most popular site in the business/economics online universe gets 40,000 visits a day -- well more than ten times what the #10 site gets. The difference in traffic from biggest to smallest forms a very standard logarithmic curve.

Aviation News No flying cars, but we do a lot of flying anyway

Business and Finance A history of branding
Artisans of the medieval era knew how to put unique traits into their products to ensure that far-away consumers would recognize their products. What's interesting today is the revival in hand-crafting that's encouraged by sites like eBay and Etsy. Want a handmade necktie? It's yours for $10.

Humor and Good News Lawn-care time is back, unfortunately

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