Month: June 2014

Clothing Naked Experts

“You know what the difference is between an Economist/Analyst, and a Business owner? When a Business owner makes a prediction on his or her business and is wrong – the business could wind up in bankruptcy. When the Economist/Analyst makes a wrong prediction about business – they just make another prediction.”

I may not be the first to express it, yet it seems more relevant today than ever before in light of what is now becoming abundantly clear to near anyone with the slightest hint of common sense. Most of the so-called “experts” paraded across the financial media as to espouse their wisdom on either financial markets, or the global economy: are blatantly naked for anyone to see.

They expose themselves and their true acumen when they’re parsing out their rationale for what is taking place in the global markets. The only article of cloth (I would equate it to a drop cloth as opposed to actual clothing) that shields the masses from seeing the truly pornographic theater the markets have become is the cloak now provided by the Central Banks of the world.

Today it has become far too obvious that numbers no longer matter or state a true value. What a number is, or what it now represents, is no longer what we grew up learning as in 1+1=2. That’s now considered old math. Today numbers represent connotations with abstract meanings, or better yet – clouds in the sky. What you see is what they are.

Remember when “give me the facts” meant just that? Or, “the numbers don’t lie?” How old-fashioned that is. Today’s experts recite figures, and facts ad nausea, but those facts mean nothing because as we’ve all found out over the last few years: numbers now have more in common with what the definition of is – is. Rather than having an actual knowable understandable quality.

We see the premise of this way of thinking play out in many ways across the financial media at large. One glaring example on CNBC™ was recently brought to light on ZeroHedge™ where one has to wonder if the “economic expert” truly understands that without the unchecked, unmitigated, relentless debt spending that’s buying up all this other overpriced debt with money printed out of thin air backed by nothing more than an IOU is actually not debt as one once knew.

What’s taking place as far as “debt” was once known by the another name: Ponzi. So is now Ponzi a good thing? If we use most arguments made today by many economists one has to conclude: yes. Just don’t say Ponzi, that’s bad. They now say, “quantitative easing,” or “asset purchases.” That’s good. Remember what the meaning of is, is? That’s today’s new math and boy is it making a whole lot of other so-called “experts” rich at the same time.

Remember when investment managers, and hedge fund managers had to really, really, really know about the markets while understanding and having prowess in all that technical junk like spread sheets, income statements, cap-ex, and the myriad of other technical jargon that made most people feel inferior, or down right dumb as these soothsayers would belt out analysis with such vibrato one would think they were across the desk from Pavarotti?

Well they still do that, and they are shown on television giving free concerts to any and all that will listen. However, if one truly listens closely, it’s not actually them singing. It’s a lip synced recording set to the beat and tone of the Federal Reserve and their bandwagon band. For without the central bankers continual harp playing: the cloaks get lifted and the naked truth is there for all to behold.

Again this was brought to bare (pun intended) by another one of the financial medias favorite hedge fund managers. This is not a slam of him or of all fund managers. He just happened to illustrate the other day what is becoming abundantly clear for a great many.

Who needs to be market savvy or financially astute or, in actuality, know anything if the only thing one needs to know is what the Fed. or the other central bankers will do. All that other minutia be damned.

If one listens carefully that “is” what investing is in today’s adulterated markets.

Today what seems to be the investing advice worth paying 2/20 for is: If the Fed. stays in – buy the SPY™. If you’re worried about “a taper tantrum” stay in only as long as another central banker will pick up the ball where this one left off. “Worries” averted. Rinse, repeat.

Well that’s surely worth the price of 2/20 for advice like that isn’t it? The only thing a single investor can’t do that the “experts” can is throw up the proverbial “gate” on everyone else’s money if it all goes wrong. But that’s why they’re the “expert” and we’re not I guess.

Let’s be honest (or as one of my favorite comedians would say, “Can we talk here?”) what good is having any acumen in deciphering numbers and what they mean to both the economy as well as the financial markets if it’s been shown ipso facto the numbers you need as to base those decisions are going to be either changed, made up, or negated as unreliable?

All you need to know about any number is whether or not that number means Central Banks will stay involved. Period. And it has been demonstrated over, and over, and over again: the numbers will be manipulated to make sure they will.

Need a survey number to get an idea of what people are thinking in the economy? No problem, unless they didn’t like what they had to say. Then they’ll just “seasonally adjust” the survey. I mean this takes “what is is” to a whole nother level.

How does one “seasonally adjust” (or outright change) something that for all intents and purposes is just a possibility or hypothetical?

Imagine if you took part in a survey where you knew the majority of the participants responded to the question, “What would you do if you won a million dollars?”  With the answer, “I would give it to charity.” Then to hear on the morning news it was reported the results of that survey showed most would use the money to buy a vacation or second home.

As you searched out the cause of those results you find they were “seasonally adjusted” based on “the weather” being cold. And the reason stated was: “People are more charitable in cold weather. So what it really showed is we should expect a housing boom because if it were warmer that’s what they would have said.” Welcome to today’s “seasonally adjusted” survey equivalent.

The above is bad enough. Yet couple that with the releasing of those numbers (or false narrative) into today’s market which is brimming with an algo fueled, HFT enabled, quote stuffing, short killing, stop running, market sanctioned stampeding bonanza: and welcome to your latest version of the so-called “un-rigged” market.

We ended the week once again on never before seen in the history of the financial market highs. All this within a shrinking economy as our reported GDP went from positive expectations – to a negative reality. But once again remember the “is is” comparison. Bad – is good.

It’s not like we’re as bad as some of the European countries adding in hookers and drug sales to manipulate the numbers. That would be nuts right?

It would – if you thought their bonds yields reflected such foolishness. But they don’t. Matter of fact they even have some sporting lower yields than the U.S! Just wait till that meme fills the hallowed halls of our government filled statisticians et al. 10% GDP – here we come! Buy, buy, buy!

Crazy you’re thinking, yet, in today’s Central Bank dominated environment: all bad – is now good.

Parse this with Mario Draghi now showing his “Full Monty” and releasing his own bazooka, well, bad bonds mean good bonds if the ECB is going to get into the act now similar to our own Fed. Once again, another potential crisis solved, or avoided, or kicked down the road, or ___________ (fill in the blank.)

European GDP should now skyrocket even higher since hookers and drugs will be used even more plentiful than before. Heck that’s a “win win” or “is is,” or, whatever. Who cares hedge fund managers can rejoice. “Worries” averted. This is what’s needed now as “expertise” for investing. Screw acumen – bring on the Monty! Are the markets open yet? I need to back up the truck!

It is an amazing thing to behold. I never knew the reasons all those great looking suits I see today on Wall Street are so much in fashion not because of the cut of their cloth, but rather for the quality of their dyed colors.

Seems tulips come in more shades and uses than one ever imagined. At this rate we’ll need even more to keep everyone clothed. Maybe we should invest in some. Surely they can only go up from here. Right?

© 2014 Mark St.Cyr

My App Receives Its Gold Watch

As some of you may be aware my app has been running flawlessly for over 4 years without an upgrade, without any ads, working seamlessly through I can’t remember how many versions of iOS™ and more.  That said it has been officially retired. (If you still have it, so far it seems to be running fine but there is no support or any form of upgrades forthcoming.)

It would seem over the last few months with the advent of some particular upgrades within the Apple™ architecture for apps on the newest iOS platforms there needed to be certain updates to make them more secure and to ensure seamless use on the newest platforms available.

It was deemed without these updates and upgrades my app would no longer meet that bar and so it was removed from the store about a month or so ago. Personally I totally agree with this and have no issues with the call. However I would like to mark this moment and express some feelings or revelations I have about both the app itself, and some other things I believe are relevant and possibly instructive.

I first made the app available in the iTunes™ store in January of 2010. This was during the infancy of apps, and at the time many from the so-called “smart crowd” balked at the idea that apps would ever be a viable market. Today, they are not only viable (with Billions upon Billions of dollars sold) the app market is getting larger by the day. Apps are the market, most everything stated as to why there was no reason for apps (i.e., traditional software) is both shrinking and being replaced by what is now known as – the app. iPhoneAppPic

Research and studies have shown that even to this day 2/3rds of ALL apps never get downloaded – ever. And that number has been rising with the advent of more, and more being created daily. Mine had been actively downloaded right up until the day when it was removed. That’s after 4 years since it was first listed. I think that alone is pretty amazing.

I can make this statement based solely on the notices I received from people telling me (some complaining) they couldn’t find it when they were trying to get it last month. I personally know it was there just previous because I went and checked myself during a talk. We figured it was pulled sometime during the latest rounds of updates made to iTunes this spring. At least that’s what I’ve deduced speaking with some developers and reading from some others that had theirs removed also. (I could check deeper and get the exact date, but its irrelevant to me. It doesn’t matter.)

It’s quite possible I was notified as to take action on making changes about two or three months ago when I received a notification from the company I originally created it with. The notice was two-fold. First, it had stated my app was in need of an update/upgrade and it was available at no charge. Second: The company now handling the app was not my original people but had been purchased by someone else and folded into this new entity retaining the original name. My spider-senses started tingling warning me “Spam alert! Spam alert!”

Personally, I had no interest in doing anything for any reason. It had been working fine, there was no need in my eyes to touch something that wasn’t broken, and I felt, if I did, somehow, someway – ads would be placed within it. So, I just ignored them. I was probably correct in my assumptions but this was probably the iOS update I needed to keep it there also. Fair enough, but all I can say is: Ces’t la vie.

Two of the things I’m proud of is the fact it ran for so long, needing no update, again across multiple upgrades in platforms for so long. It was such a simple app, nothing more than a black and white reader of my latest 10 posts. It just goes to show simplicity at times can trump bells and whistles.

The other was this: I took the chance – and did it – having no idea if I would even still be writing in 2010 let alone conceiving of the idea today where I now can be read and/or pull quoted around the globe on any given day. Still astonishing to me as I think back on it. There were less than a handful with their own personal apps back then. It was quite a leap to even contemplate within my own mind back then. For like anyone I had my own doubts as I expressed earlier, if I’d even be around at the end of 2010.

I was thinking about doing another version but the more I thought about it, the more I decided against.

The reality is in today’s changing landscape of websites, readers, blogs, and more: an app just doesn’t make a whole lot of sense unless it has a special purpose that can’t be achieved any other way. And – provides an actual value that a customer will pay for.

Making something available for free with the burden to the customer of subjecting them to ads from who knows where is just plain dumb. It ruins, cheapens, and does a lot of other horrendous things to your brand or image totally outside of one’s control.

If you go through the expense as to develop it, then, relinquish the final product to an outside source that can put “highly questionable” ads in front of your clients just seems like not only a waste of money, but a stupid use of valuable resources. Need more Viagra™ ads anyone?

I have looked deeply into a lot of other people’s app that are in my profession or close to it. It seems many believe they need some form of an app to be taken seriously or, to be seen as “technologically hip.” However, their apps I’ve found are not only horrible, but they would be better off not having them at all. Most are down right atrocious.

They’re not just poorly designed esthetically, they simply don’t function with review after review stating as much. If you’re not going to fix something – take it down. It’s one thing to try something and it doesn’t work. Fine, we all do that, it happens. But to leave it there riddled with quirks or malfunctions is no different than leaving a broken front window of your business covered with duct tape. Month, after month, after month.

Pricing: If it isn’t worth charging $50.00 for – then it probably isn’t worth charging $1.99 either. Even “free” isn’t worth it in the eyes of today’s app savvy customer.

They don’t want the ads or intrusions unless you’re some blockbuster media site or new social interaction they can’t live without. If it’s for free they’ll use you however they see fit, but you won’t nor do I think you’ll ever garner a real paying customer in the future unless your app is a free portal to your larger business. e.g., Ebay™, Netflix™, Amazon™, and such.

You’ll never recoup those developer cost unless your app is worth charging and paying for. If not – I would skip the whole idea and focus my time, energies, and capital in other areas.

You can make the equivalent of an app if your web design is easily navigated and responsive to mobile platforms in both look and feel just by using the “make a home page icon” on your mobile device. If your logo or picture is properly placed on your site it will default as the icon badge picture.

Its free, can be done with any phone or tablet, and, is it really all that different in form or function than an app which may cost you thousands of dollars to basically accomplish the same? Again: for free. One should really give that some earnest thought before sinking both a dime or an hour of time into developing a stand alone app.

On a final thought I’ll end it with this for the serendipity or coincidence I found to be quite ironic as well as funny.

When I was first alerted the app wasn’t available any longer an update was posted to alert readers of the issue. In it one line read: “And No – we do not think this is some conspiracy, nefarious, nor retaliatory issue.”

Well I heard from many corners wanting to give me an earful of sentiments similar to, “Who do you think you are? You think the people at Apple read your little blog? Maybe you should check your hat size for inflation.” OK, fair enough.

Of course the “retaliatory” point came from my article where I pointed out my concerns where Apple may be shifting its focus. A criticism I’ll point out I made in the light of the way I would address a family member. I have concerns from what I’m seeing and what I’ve witnessed transpire from such things. I can be totally wrong but what I see through my prism of experience is causing alarm bells to go off. Not in disgust but more under the guise of needing more clarification because I just don’t get how this, fits in, with that.

The timing of that article and the realization the app was taken down was pure coincidence in my view. However, when the Wall Street Journal/Market Watch™ pull quotes my thoughts and prints them along side one of the most heralded music critics today? Then yes, they may not be reading my actual blog, but that doesn’t mean they never heard of me. (screen shot headline and where I appeared from the article)

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Now that is far better of way to remember one’s retirement than any gold watch wouldn’t you say?

© 2014 Mark St.Cyr

A Thought For Today’s Entrepreneur

You can’t be a little bit “in business” and expect to be successful.
You either are in business (and all that entails) or – you are not.

Too many believe because they are earning money from a hobby they are in the “hobby business.” This is where many find themselves in trouble when they least expect it. There’s a great divide between an avocation and a business. Just because one is earning money (any amount) does not constitute a viable business.

You may love doing it. You may even be making some money but: (and it’s a very big but) hobbies and business are two different disciplines.

You may be lucky as to not have any bad things happen in your hobby pursuits, e.g., not fall under a specific ordinance or tax reporting criteria. Yet try to turn that hobby into a business thinking and acting as if there’s just a difference in the amount of sales generated is a recipe for disaster leading to making costly mistakes.

One mistake can cost you everything in business, and it’s in the discipline of understanding and thinking through that prism that enables one to make calculated and smarter decisions. When something is looked through the prism of a hobby, the business discipline is replaced with a form of familiarity with business principles. Then the hard work of forming a greater understanding is pacified with the back of the mind excuse of: “It’s really only a hobby.”

Many think the defining line is some form of brick and mortar structure, or the day they take on a helper and more is the day when they should consider themselves as a “real business.” However this is the exact thinking that gets many into trouble. You’re in business when you decide your hobby is a business. For that’s when everything, and I mean everything changes.

If you want an example in real-time where one can see the differences first hand, right up close and personal, here’s an exercise you can have fun with and no one around you will be the wiser of what you’re doing.

Next time you go to any craft fair, antique swap, flea market, etc. You will be able to distinguish pretty fast by their demeanor, bargaining, service, and more: which one’s are there to support a hobby, and those that are there to support a business.

If you look for them through the prism of real business, it will show as clear as day.

© 2014 Mark St.Cyr