Yahoo

The whole Yahoo situation, i.e. putting its core business up for sale (unofficially), is completely non sensible and shows how broken the whole shareholder model can be sometimes.

Yahoo really is two different companies:

1. A tech company in gradual slow decline, but sitting on plenty of assets and in no immediate danger
2. A shareholder of Alibaba

Yahoo’s tech side of things is a traditional large tech company that does stuff. The investment side of things is a bunch of people who sit on their behinds all day watching their shares increase or decrease in value. It’s not like they’re trading them intelligently or researching to maintain a portfolio – they bought a big chunk of Alibaba shares in 2005 and are now just sitting around watching them.

The Alibaba shares are a huge chunk of money which is gradually declining in value. It would be prudent for Yahoo to sell these off to convert it into real money, which is what Marissa Mayer was planning to do until Yahoo’s shareholders learnt it might involve paying tax, which they considered outrageous. Tax is for poor people.

So Yahoo’s shareholders want Yahoo to sell of the core business instead because they think that Alibaba affects Yahoo’s share price more than Yahoo does, which means they think the core business is an unnecessary operating expense on a business that only really needs one person to sit and eat biscuits all day while occasionally typing ‘BABA’ into Google Yahoo Finance.

The vision for Yahoo’s shareholders is that Yahoo’s shares becomes a proxy of Alibaba’s shares, which makes Yahoo shares highly sought after and therefore more valuable because…. everyone will say “Alibaba shares seems to be doing pretty well, I’m going to buy Yahoo shares”. I think they might be disappointed.

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Pensions

It turns out, to my surprise, that next month I will be the proud recipient of a 2% employer contribution pension scheme.

I will of course allow myself to be opted into it automatically because that 2% is free money*, but I just don’t really believe in pensions. It seems to me that for a pension system to be viable, it needs three things to be true:

1. There must be safe investments that yield decent results year on year
2. The general cost of living must be low compared to the average wage
3. Employers must offer generous contributions.

None of these three things is currently true for the average person. Older people remember when these things were true and believe that the market will rectify itself, but I think younger people are more of the opinion they’ll believe it when it happens.

_____

*Assuming that it doesn’t come out of my annual pay rise, which I’ll find out also next month…

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Trains

Recently there seems to have been a buzz about the price of rail fares. The timing of this is a bit strange, because this is the first year that rail fares have not risen by any important amount. The previous few years have seen 7% annual increases to the cost of rail travel and nobody seemed to care much then.

I pay a sizeable chunk of money for rail travel and I don’t think the price is the biggest problem that the rail network has. The bigger problems are capacity and reliability, both of which are related – the capacity often seems low because previous trains were cancelled and now we have 10 carriage worth’s of people trying to cram into four carriages.

I am happy to see prices rise with inflation, and maybe even slightly above, as long as two things are done:

1. Make it easy to claim back money when services are delayed. For season ticket holders, this should be a click of a button. Any delay over five minutes should qualify for a percentage of the cost of the journey (obviously there are considerations with exactly what a single journey means when applied to a season ticket, but a few simple and workable solutions spring to mind quickly). I think we’d be surprised just how well the trains could run if rail companies could only take money for the services they were really providing instead of the ridiculous business model they have now where passengers charitably donate money and hope a train turns up.

2. Invest in better trains. If platform announcements are to be believed, a lot of delays are caused by “a fault on a train” and this is easy to believe when half the trains on the network appear to be 1980s buses that somebody has strapped to the tracks.

Investment in better trains must also include getting rid of drivers and replacing them with computers. Driverless trains open up the world of centralised real time algorithmic scheduling which would see trains running more frequently and closer together while being just as safe.

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Tales from public transport

A busy train is pulling into the station, a man attempts to stand up and walk through the people in the aisle…

Man #1 “EXCUSE ME”
(everyone ignores him)
Man #1: “EXCUSE ME EXCUSE ME”
Man #2:”…I’m getting off here too”
#1: “EXCUSE ME I need to get to my bag by the door”
#2: “It’ll still be there when you get there”
#1: “SHAT AP YOU FICK IDIOT. You northerners are all fick!”

…says the man who thinks northerners commute into the Midlands (the clue is in the name) on a train from the south.

This is further evidence of my rule of public transport: that the only people who talk to others on public transport are either mentally ill or American. Usually the latter, but in this case the former.

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Yahoo

It’s all go over at Yahoo:

1. Yahoo are considering selling off their internet services. Normally this would be crazy, but if you look at how badly Yahoo has managed their internet services, this does make a certain amount of sense. The source of this seems to be that a 1% shareholder has started making a fuss; Yahoo was originally trying to sell off a stake in Alibaba, and this shareholder said “no that’s crazy, sell everything else instead”. Based on this, it seems unlikely this will happen.

2. Marissa Mayer (CEO) is rumoured to be on shaky ground. She’s been there for four years now and achieved virtually nothing. She was heralded as silicon valley’s golden girl because she was an ex-Googler and had Gmail on her CV, which means unlike most of silicon valley she had actually done something. But Yahoo’s major products have faltered: Mail still struggles to provide a slick user interface, and Flickr has been largely eclipsed by Instagram and others.

They launched a mobile ‘messaging’ app called LiveText, which is focused on silent video calls; the only real explanation I can give for a company developing a silent video call app is that Yahoo HQ is in California and there are a lot of drugs over there. Yahoo has a history of releasing off the wall products, probably because they misunderstand the draw of competitors’ products. They once had a social network called Yahoo Mash whose major feature was that you could edit other people’s profiles! (please note: this was before Marissa Mayer was CEO).

3. They have relaunched Yahoo Instant Messenger. Actually, a more accurate description is that they have killed Messenger and replaced it with a product nobody wants, which also happens to be called Messenger. The Google Play app store has the Android app at an average rating of 4/5, but if you look through the pages of recent reviews, they are universally 1 star with people expressing bewilderment at where their favourite messaging program went. The main highlight is that they’ve nuked most people’s contact lists along with most features like being able to tell when your friends are online. According to Yahoo’s comments on the reviews, this is OK because you can send a message to anyone regardless of whether they are online! Likewise I can go to the shops even when they are closed, and I can stand outside and wait until they open. What a world we live in.

Another success by Marissa Mayer!

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Just when you thought London Midland couldn’t get any worse…

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It wouldn’t be so bad if it was a one off, but the exact same thing happened about two months ago as well!

What country is this again?

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Ouch

I ended up taking two weeks off from running to let the pain in my right foot settle down, and it did, but defying all explanation, in the midst of this, my left foot started displaying similar symptoms. In the space of only one week it’s progressed to cause me more pain than my right foot ever has.

This really makes absolutely no sense to me. I am sceptical that I have rapidly developed a second neuroma just from walking.

:\

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