Dernière lecture: King of Oil: The Secret Lives of Marc Rich

King of Oil - The Secret Lives of Marc Rich

Je viens de terminer cette biographie palpitante d’un trader de pétrole devenu milliardaire et ensuite pourchassé par les États-Unis. Avant de débuter ce livre, je n’avais jamais entendu parlé de Marc Rich, qui a pourtant fait les manchettes à plusieurs reprises.

Cet excellent livre raconte la vie de cet immigrant juif arrivé aux États-Unis très jeune. D’un père entrepreneur, il gravit les échelons dans une firme de trading de commodités: Philip Brothers. Son succès l’amène partout dans le monde à faire affaires avec les personnes et les pays les plus controversés des dernières décénnies.

Il fonde ensuite sa propre entreprise de trading, qui deviendra Glencore, le géant mondial actuel du courtage de commodités. Continue reading

Biased review from a Chromebook owner

chromebook

I got lucky for once in my life and got a surprising email from Google explaining I won a Chromebook as being part of the Google Engage program for my web agency, Sparko. I received it last week and I’ve been very happy with it. What I got is Samsung Chromebook Series 5.

Google defines it as a laptop for heavy users of the web. I am one and also a heavy Google services user: Google Apps, Docs, Android, etc. It’s extremely fast to start and to get online, its main purpose. It also makes me realize that what I spend 99% of my time on a computer being online so I rarely need something else than that, a light, fast, sleek well-made netbook. Continue reading

Les Pages Jaunes et le papier

Hier, j’écrivais le billet suivant discutant des modèles de revenus défaillants des médias, et je mentionnais rapidement que les revenus publicitaires du Groupe Pages Jaunes viennent en grande partie de la distribution des annuaires version papier.

Et bien, ce matin on peut lire dans La Presse qu’un montréalais vient tout juste de créer un groupe Facebook pour mettre fin à la distribution de l’annuaire des Pages Jaunes.

En visionnant le groupe Facebook, j’ai tout même appris que le Groupe Pages Jaunes a mis à disposition des clients frustrés une page web où l’on peut se désabonner de la distribution physique de l’annuaire (moyennant de donner email et numéro de téléphone).

Notre voisin

PlaceViger_1900

PlaceViger_1900Notre bureau chez Sparko fait face à une immense et magnifique bâtisse que personne, de ma génération du moins, connait vraiment, la gare-hôtel Viger ou Place Viger.

Ce bâtiment conçu par le même architecte que le Château Frontenac est complètement oublié par Montréal. Construit il a plus d’un siècle par Canadian Pacific Hotels, une division de CP Railways, il a fermé durant la dépression en 1935 alors que le centre financier était concentré du côté nord-ouest de Montréal. Il fait maintenant face à une autoroute, a perdu le parc qui y faisait face.

Occupé jusqu’en 1950 par le gouvernement du Canada, la Ville de Montréal en a fait des bureaux administratifs de 1950 à 2005. En 2005, ce bâtiment a été vendu à un consortium composé de trois entreprises: Homburg, Entreprises Télémédia Inc., et SNS Property Finance Inc.

Il y un potentiel immense pour ce site pour pour ce bâtiment. Le tourisme de la ville Québec est stimulé par la présence du Château Frontenac. Pourquoi on ne fait par un Château Frontenac du projet Viger. J’espère que les opérateurs du projet, Viger DMC International Inc., vont activer le dossier un peu. Cela fait près de 5 ans qui ne se passe rien. Les dernières nouvelles sur leur site remonte à juin 2008!

Twitter and Facebook : Victims of the World’s Political Instability

Cyxymu's Twitter profileYesterday morning, Facebook reported  “network issues related to an apparent distributed denial-of-service attack”. Twitter was attacked more seriously being down for several hours. Youtube, Blogger and Livejournal.com were also affected on the same day.

From Russia?

The attack was apparently launched from the Abkhazia region, the region subject to disputes between Russia and Georgia for the past years. According to the Telegraph, a pro-Georgian blogger named Cyxymu was attacked by Russians.

Social medias are down

The DDoS attack led to massive media coverage but also to many facebookers and twitterers stuck to not knowing what to do with themselves for a never-ending several hours. Does that mean Russians want companies to being more productive on a given Thursday morning? I doubt it.

Global political perspective

Cloud computing is being questioned as a result and companies which rely on social networks will again, reconsider their choices. If the lesson to learn is not that Russians want us more productive, it certainly can be that global political instability does impact more people as the world gets more interconnected. It does not sound right to say that the Georgian conflict has brought down some of the most popular and used communication platforms in the world.

GTA 5 ou la réalité?

LAPDcrimemaps.com

Cyberpresse notait ajourd’hui que la LAPD nie l’existence de certains crimes sérieux. Les crimes semblent chose courante à Los Angeles et je ne peux que comprendre la police de ne pas vouloir exposer toutes les atrocités qui ont lieu dans la ville. Ce qui m’impressionne beaucoup, c’est que tous les autres crimes peuvent être reperés par tous les citoyens sur une simple carte disponible en ligne.

Mise à la disposition des citoyens qui veulent s’informer sur un quartier avant d’y vivre ou d’y opérer un commerce, cette carte permet de faire des recherches avancés. On peut même décider de choisir par type de crimes, comme on peut voir dans le menu à droite.

J’espère que cette carte ne sera jamais disponible à Montréal.

Tout de même, elle vaut le coup d’oeil:  LAPD Crime Maps.

After capital flight comes brains flight

Wall Street may free the world’s brightest minds according to Daniel Roth. Having studied finance at McGill, I can’t be more optimistic about the prospects of seeing the best students working on non-financial innovations.

One question still puzzles me though. If Wall Street is down and capital isn’t flowing as it should, then which interesting and innovating startups will have enough financing to hire these best minds? Who else than governments have money to hire when investment banks and VCs don’t invest in risky projects? Unless govts start betting on startups…

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Crash Could Free Up Wall Street’s Grip on Bright Young Minds

By Daniel Roth  06.22.09

Walking around Wall Street these days is like being trapped inside the videogame Resident Evil. There are the dead (Lehman Brothers and Bear Stearns), the undead (AIG, which survives only as long as the government needs it to), and the living scared (every suit who still has a job). Even with the occasional announcement of a good fiscal quarter from one of the banks, it’s hard to see anything but neutron-bomb-like decimation. The glory days of Wall Street’s dominance are done.

No one likes to see an industry die, but there is an upside: Often, smart cubicle refugees will seize the opportunity to pursue their entrepreneurial dreams, unleashing waves of innovation upon society. The death of Big Steel in the 1980s gave birth to nimbler, more competitive mini-mills. The decline of the Hollywood studio system in the ’60s gave us independent films. And the current demise of print media is giving us new sources of information, as journalists band together to reinvent news coverage. Wall Street’s turn is next, and we should all be praying for one thing: that many of those liberated innovators seek playing fields outside of finance.

A new flowering of creativity on Wall Street would be a very bad thing. We tend to think of innovation as always and everywhere desirable—it has brought us printing presses, artificial hearts, and shoes that mimic barefoot running. But Wall Street’s creations too often devolve from enriching us all to enriching a select few (while sending the rest of us ducking for cover). Bundling mortgages into securities made home ownership possible for many. Then bankers figured out how to go from “many” to “nearly everyone”; foreclosures exploded and the economy imploded. Credit default swaps initially made it easier for companies to finance growth—until they were leveraged, tweaked, and sold to excess, cratering the financial system. Not all Wall Street innovation is bad. But the worst of its labs areThree Mile Island-style dangerous.

Such inventions do produce fabulous paper wealth, however, attracting many of our sharpest math and science minds. At MIT and other top schools, investment banks recruited hard and early, skimming the cream from each graduating class. Until the mid-1990s, college grads with bachelor’s degrees could earn more in engineering than finance; that flipped in 2000, and it hasn’t come close to parity since. A survey of Harvard alumni found that 5 percent of men graduating in 1970 went to Wall Street; by 1990, the proportion was 15 percent. The same trend was also apparent among women.

But the big paychecks came with what economists call opportunity costs. Instead of spending their days searching for exotic trades, some of these Wall Street wizards could’ve been creating drugs, imagining software, or solving energy problems. Capital markets need geniuses, too, but it’s hard to cheer such a massive money-chase.

“If I invent some superb method for quantitative trading, it puts money in my clients’ pockets and my own pockets. Is society any better off?” asks Michael Coen, a former Wall Street quant who now teaches and researches artificial intelligence at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. “You could argue that having healthy capital markets helps society, but it’s not particularly satisfying. My work in machine learning gets incorporated into medical applications. Does that make a difference? I can say that, in some humble way, it does.” Plus, he adds, his research will no doubt be picked apart by folks looking for ways to apply it to finance. But Coen will never see the results of that analysis. “It doesn’t go in the other direction.”

He’s right: On Wall Street, work in the lab never leaves the building; after all, a trading strategy’s value disappears when it goes mainstream. An innovation might strengthen capital markets, but the possibility of that research benefiting another industry—the kind of cross-pollination that turned Velcro from a NASA oddity into a modern staple—is eliminated.

Now’s the chance for other sectors to get their hooks into the young and brilliant, while Wall Street is distracted and busy rebuilding. This past spring, MIT held a job fair and saw a surge from companies that had never set foot on campus before—newborn startups, nonprofits, hospitals, and government agencies. A few years ago, these promising players didn’t stand a chance against Lehman andGoldman Sachs. Today, their recruiting could mean that out of the financial industry’s decay will bloom a thousand innovations far away from Wall Street.

Senior writer Daniel Roth (daniel_roth@wired.com) wrote about why Wall Street needs transparency in issue 17.03.

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