Australians the world’s richest? Don’t believe the hype

As a model of how our society works, you can do a lot worse than Monopoly. When I was a kid I loved playing (and cheating) the game. With the racing car as my token I would accumulate as much real estate as possible, focusing on buying railway stations and utilities, as well as having a very special relationship with the banker.

I rarely lost a game, but that was due to my exemplary cheating rather than any innate talent for imaginary wealth creation.

The distinction between talent and luck is important.

Last week after Credit Suisse released their Global Wealth Report, the Australian media went into back-slapping congratulatory hyperdrive snorting that Australians were the wealthiest richest in the world. (more…)

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Why you should give up coffee and create a better world

Coffee was once seen as a sophisticated antidote for a society drowning in the ill-effects of alcohol.

In 1887, in the Alexandra and Yea Standard under the heading Progressive Melbourne an enthusiastic writer wrote that Melbourne was the “most comfortable city in the southern continent” for the “casual visitor” chiefly because of the coffee houses which were “intended originally as a corrective to the baneful effect of the numbers of drinking shops”.

In 2014 coffee is still making news in Australia. (more…)

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Chinese Property

Unbelievably, I have written about the Australian property market, Chinese investors, and negative gearing. It’s pretty scary.

This is an odd post for me that I am not really qualified to make, so if you’re a qualified economist please accept my apologies. If you believe the papers,, you would think that Australia is being swamped by Chinese investors, who armed with thick wads of cash are driving up property values and making owning a house unaffordable for ordinary had-working Aussies.

Here’s a sample of recent headlines:

I reckon the reality is a little different. A combination of sloppy journalism and good old Australian xenophobia as resulted in the influence of foreign (Chinese) buyers being massively exaggerated. (more…)

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What the f***k is an existential threat?

I’m late on this but in the past two weeks it seems every second politician or pundit has been warning us about an “existential threat”. I only became aware of the use of this silly term because of a most excellent article by Bernard Keane.

A quick look at Google Trends shows that existential threat first gained currency in 2009 with The International Herald Tribune warning Pakistan faced an existential threat from militants, and that the term is being used more and more in 2014.  Our very own Australian Attorney General, George Brandis recently blustered that ISIL “represents or seeks to be an existential threat to us”. (more…)

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The secret lives of customers

Last night I heard a story.

The zoologists at the Melbourne Zoo thought they knew their animals pretty well, but wanted to check out what they were doing at night, so they started videoing what went on. What they discovered surprised and amazed them.

There was a kind of clash of civilizations between the native fauna – brushtail possums  – and the imported Zoo tenants.

When a possum trotted across the elephants quarters, the elephants would stamp on the unsuspecting possum crushing them into a mess of blood and gore. Unsurprisingly Possums don’t know much about elephants and elephants must get grumpy when a possum tries to teal their food.


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What Jack Dorsey’s Square can teach us about good product management

Square, the financial services business founded by Jack Dorsey one of the Twitter co-founders has just released a pretty cool new appointment and scheduling product. Founded 5 years ago with a elegant mobile credit card reader and app for micro and small businesses, Square now offers an impressive range of products that streamline back-office operations for small to medium businesses in a very slick way. What they are doing is fantastic product management and a quick review of their approach offers some some great learnings for product managers. (more…)

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I checked out Google Domains and GoDaddy should be worried

The domain name business isn’t easy these days. Margins are squeezed by high competition and high acquisition costs, profitability depends on achieving a high attachment to additional services like email or hosting and cross-selling services like privacy, security, or “premium registrations”, and the regulators are requesting more diligence with data verification. Add to that the basic fact that domain names aren’t as sexy a proposition as they once were, due mainly to Google improving their algorithms to remove spammy parked pages from their index, and the explosion of social media and mobile apps. Businesses now have a multitude of choices to go online that don’t require a domain name. (more…)

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Road Building is hard work

The roads of the 21st century are different for me and Tony Abbott

During the 2013 election campaign Tony Abbott repeatedly promised to build the roads of the 21st century. Sadly, this wasn’t a nifty metaphoric flourish reflecting a program of investment in Internet infrastructure and education to drive economic growth. When Abbott said roads, he meant roads; coal miners need roads, ports, and cheap labour, not the Internet. You could be forgiven for thinking Abbott was actually saying he would rebuild the roads of 20th century, rather than the digital roads of the 21st century. (more…)

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