Thursday, 14 May 2009

Grace Victoria Aimée van der Berg born May 14th 2009

This is Grace Victoria Aimée van der Berg. She was born this morning at 10:05 CET or 08:05 UTC for the timelords among you. She weighs 3515 grams. She and my wife Jamie are both doing extraordinarily fine.

Friday, 8 May 2009

The value of Google for the world economy

I often remark that it's impossible to establish the value of Google Search for the world economy. Google Search acts as the glue of the internet. Domain names and IP-adresses may point to servers. Google points to content. Most non-digerati don't care for bookmarks, adresses, etc. All they care for is Google. As Google doesn't charge for it's services and it makes the world more efficient in ways that can't be calculated it's value to the world economy can never be fully appreciated.

A way of establishing the value of an industry is by looking at the percentage of GDP it represents. Google's annual revenues are $22 billion. That may sound like a lot of money, but its tiny. That's less than 0.03% of the world's GDP . It's only 1/45th of the 1 trillion revenues of the mobile telephony industry. Per global internet user it's slightly over $1 per month. But here comes the problem with this method of valuation. Google's revenue is just from advertising, it's not from search at all. The two may be linked, but Google doesn't get paid for everytime you search for something.

So here is the conundrum and I'm not pretending to understand it fully or even at all. Google is offering a service, search, that nobody pays for. None of the benefits that a searcher derives from a search flow back to Google. Even the site that was found doesn't pay Google for the privilege. Google's value measured in GDP therefore is zero, nothing. It doesn't show up in official government statistics. Yet we all know the profound effect that Google has had on our lives. "Just f-ing Google it", or "Google is your friend" are expressions that are part of our lives. Google has made our lives more efficient in a gazillion different ways.

I've looked into account for price and quality changes over time in the calculation of GDP and they sometimes use deflators to account for differences in quality, differences in prices etc. However this does assume that there is an economic value for the service offered. If I've understood it correctly services like Google Search don't show up in such statistics as there is no price paid for the service. It's even more difficult, because the value of the production of a knowledge worker is equal to the value of the salary of the knowledge worker. The output of a knowledge worker therefore increases with the increase in salary over time.

So here you are, you're reading this so you must be a knowledge worker. You get linked to the Wikipedia, OECD documents and all this stuff I found using Google. Everything new you do in your work starts with a Google Search. One way or another everything can be found quicker and better than it could before Google was there and way better than before 1994 when the internet arrived to the general public.

As a knowledge worker if you lived in 1994 and had to write a report on the defects of the energy market of an EU nation, like I did in recent months, you had to rely on what your librarian could get you. Lexis-Nexis, some books, some government papers and interviews that was it. Finding the documents was the biggest problem. It might take you weeks to just get the documentation and there was no guarantee on whether you had found it all. Comparisons with other countries were even harder. And now what did I do... I just googled it. I'm not saying I couldn't have written a good report then, but I do know that in the first week on that job Google brought me to alot more information than I could have gathered15 years ago over the entire course of the job.

You may argue that the internet made the publishing of information possible and so I should credit the internet. And on the one hand I do. However, I believe that even in 1994 all information was to be had somewhere. Finding the head or document it was contained in however was hard. Without search engines, like Alta Vista in the old days, however getting to the data on the net was still hard. Less hard than without the internet, but still hard.

The impact of this is profound in a myriad of ways. The incredible speed with which new developments get disseminated are to an enormous extent the effect of Google Search. Building a new product in Silicon Valey used to be limited to the component available at Fry's Electronics. Now it is limited to the components you can find with Google. The ways of implementing a component used to be limited to your knowledge and skills. Now it is limited to what you can find of how other people have implemented it and how they solved their problems. This allows you to find communities of like minded people, cooperate, develop solutions together and the speed of innovation is increased drastically. A simple example is that it someone once estimated that the use of open source decreased the price of DSL modems by 5-10 dollars per modem.

All in all... the quality of our life has dramatically increased through Google Search. We've become better informed, make better choices and spend less time and energy on gaining knowledge. Time and distance have shrunk. We can know what's going on in Kenya, what room to rent in Bali, the way the Indian telecoms regulator deals with termination costs and that Gravity is a cool Twitter gadget for the Nokia E51. How much that's worth is impossible to calculate. Google Search may not show up in GDP stats. Not having it or a functional equivalent around would set us back to 1997.

UPDATE May 26th. Completely forgot to mention this is a similar paradox to the productivity paradox.

(thanks to Herman Wagter for pushing me to write down my thoughts)

Monday, 4 May 2009

Spam so tasty, people want to eat it in crisis times

I received a spam message in my mail today, that was quite extraordinary. It looks well written.It doesn't over promiss. It doesn't contain weird URL's, hardly any typo's etc. If you fall for it, then it does make you a link in a global fraud and creditcard theft ring. The way it is written, it makes me feel many people who are in dire straits and not too bright, may fall for it and become a link in this international network. In the end they might end up doing time for something they don't really comprehend to be criminal. The website looks quite nice too (except for the "all rights reversed" at the bottom)

Dear Sir/Madam,

My name is Dolly Brunson, I am a Personnel Department manager in Global Shipping Agency Ltd and I would like to offer you a job of Customer Service Financial Assistant in our company.
First of all, I would like to make a brief review on our company. Global Shipping Agency Ltd.– is a world famous full service transportation company with the head office based in Hong-Kong. Our company is a leader and one of the most famous freight services providers. We work both with companies and private individuals. We specialize both in transportations by air, sea and road as well as in household removal services. GSA Ltd. has more than 10 affiliated branches around Europe and Asia and constantly develops. For more information, please visit our web-site

Today we would like to offer you a position of our Customer Service Financial Assistant with a prospect of a career growtsh.

In January, 2009 our Marketing Department started a research in the USA to determine the states with the highest customer activity. By the time research finishes, there will be 5 states chosen, with the highest level of clients’ activity. We will be happy to offer you a position of a full-time manager at one of our newly opened US offices, once you perform well at a part-time position.
As for now, let me tell more about a part-time position of a Customer Service Financial Assistant.
At this position, you would be responsible to deal with the payments form our American customers; these can be companies or private individuals. You will be a middleman between our customers based in the US and the regional branches of the company based in Europe and Asia. Your mission will be to fasten the process of payment delivery, so that to help us get the payments in regional branches efficiently, deal with each of the customer orders in shortest possible dates, attract extra customers and improve company’s total profit.

Moreover, it is important to notice, that we work on special program under patronage of U.S. Government for reducing cheap-contracts taxes. The reason we join that program is the European Union economic restrictions that affect us. If the payment is forwarded directly to one of our European accounts, our customers would have to pay another 25%-27% as a fee to the European government, which would make their expenses much higher. This 27%-Law was made by European Bank Association to protect the interests of European banks, but it affects us as well.

This is a step-by-step description of your responsibilities on a position during the approbation period:

You will have to deal with the customer payments, arranged by the Company Head Office for you. Our Head office will arrange every new coming payment with you in advance over the phone (so that to make sure you are available) and then send you an e-mail with all the details that you might need, a step-by-step instruction, exact amount transferred, the name of the customer who made the payment and the details of the regional branch the money is supposed to be sent to.
We try to arrange all the customer payments to be made like wire transfers – we consider this way of sending money to be the safest and the fastest one – transaction is checked by a Federal Wire System and is normally released for the beneficiary in 1 hour after the money has been sent.

So, after the customer makes a payment to your bank account, we will send you an e-mail with all the details of the payment. Once the payment is shown at your available balance, you are supposed to deduct your 10% commission first. Out of the 90% left you are supposed to deduct the related charges for the Western Union fee. The amount left after all the deductions are made is supposed to be transferred by Western Union to one of our regional branches (depending from and to what destination the transportation is required).

We use Western Union service to fasten the process of payment delivery – this I an instant money transfer service, and the money you sent is available for the receiver immediately.
As this is a part-time job position – you will get 2 payments a week to deal with during the approbation period and then up to 3-4 payments a week once we sign up a working agreement with you. Once you get some experience, you will probably need less than 1,5 hours to finish the whole task.

We offer that for the approbation period for the incoming customer payments you either use the existing bank account of yours or open a separate bank account for the company needs (the amount of each payment on the trial period will not exceed 10000 usd). Once we sign up a long-term working agreement with you, we will assist you in opening a business account for the company payments as we will expect more payments of larger amounts to be arranged for you to deal with. The business account takes some time and effort to be opened, and so that not to lose time (as we are just going to test each other) we advice to start with some private account first. 

The approbation period lasts for 2 weeks, which allows both of us make sure we are comfortable to deal with each other. We will sign up a pre-contract agreement with you, which will be valid through the approbation period only. Once the approbation period has gone through successfully, we will be happy to sign up a long-term working agreement for part-time employment on a regular basis with you. Some of our lawyers come to the US every 1-2 months, so once a lawyer comes to the USA, we will arrange a meeting for you, for all the papers to be signed up.

This position offers excellent benefits and basic salary of $2000 a month, along with long term career progression opportunity. Apart from a basic salary, we also offer you a 10% commission out of each project you are dealing with, so that to encourage you to deal with more payments and keep your interest in finishing any new coming task in shortest possible dates.
Once you get more experienced and are able to come with your duties easily, you will be offered to take more responsibility on a position. Experienced managers normally do all the arrangements regarding new coming customer orders themselves – communicating with the customers and regional branches, making lists of transportations, authorizing each new customer order with the company Head Office, dealing with the payments and sending them to the final destination. These responsibilities involve more time to be spent, but as well higher earnings. For all the business calls to go through successfully, you will be equipped with an iPhone. As well we will cover your international call expenses.

If you have any questions, please, do not hesitate to e-mail us.

We are looking forward to hearing from you ASAP.