Archive for March, 2011


Corporate Income Taxes

Wednesday, March 30th, 2011

So there’s been a lot of talk about the corporate income tax lately, first on 60 Minutes and now in USA Today. If you’ve been wondering why I haven’t been blogging nearly so much as of late, it’s because I’ve feel like I’ve said everything. 18 months ago, I released the Rob Sama Grand Plan plank on taxation. In it, I explain why we ought to eliminate the corporate income tax entirely, and treat capital gains as ordinary income, with a deferral for any gain that is immediately re-invested. It’s interesting to see the world begin to come around to my point of view.


Crap Now in Color

Friday, March 25th, 2011

So if you follow the tech press at all, you have likely heard of Color, the new social networking app to be found at the uber-cool URL These guys raised $41 million to build a new platform for photo sharing, a social networking app that is supposedly not based on friends or creating logins or locations or anything like that. Rather, its based on events. And it’s not as if you have to tell it what event you’re attending. Apparently, the app has intelligence, to know based on the photo you’re taking, your GPS coordinates, and even the ambient sound detected by the phone, where you are. And so it shares with you all the photos (and comments?) of other people in the same event at the same time. Presumably, there’s also some means of reviewing those photos later or remotely (if you’re not at the event) as well.

So I guess that these guys have a bit of a chicken and egg problem going on. The app isn’t worth anything until lots of people have already downloaded it, and nobody has a reason to download it until lots of other people already have. So how to get early adopters? Color has decided on a PR blitz, but that has its limits. The early downloaders may get turned off to the app, not understanding what it’s about. The solution offered by the company founder in an interview is to download it with a friend by your side, but that seems impractical. At a minimum, they should have provided some functionality that would make the app at least moderately fun using solo, until others get on board and sign up.

But none of this is really why I’m blogging about this. What bothers me are the privacy concerns. The founders clearly think that this new “social network”, without “friends” or even a login provides plenty of privacy on its own. But I’m not so sure. Here’s a few select quotes from the interview mentioned above:

BI: So are you collecting data about people’s interests? How are you figuring out their social graphs?

BN: On the Web the way we would answer those interest questions is ask people. What do you like to do? Where are you?
What we do is very different. We know for example if you go to a certain place between the hours of 7 and 10 pm, it’s probably for personal entertainment, it’s not necessarily for work. If you’re somewhere between 8 pm and 5 am or 7am, it’s probably where you reside. So the phone is giving us a lot of information that helps us understand what you’re doing. What’s cool about this is we collect no personally identifiable information. We don’t collect your last name, we don’t collect a password. When we think about you, it’s not you, it’s your cell phone. So maybe we’re really a social network of cell phones.

BI: The app is free, so what’s your business model?

BN: Advertising through the app. We’re going to build a intelligent system that allows businesses to participate with their customers. So when you walk into a restaurant and you use Color, and they’re also customers through a self-service Web interface — or actually a self-service iPad interface — every time you walk into the restaurant, your [first] name will show up with your picture. The maitre d’ or receptionist will know who you are, they’ll be able to welcome you, they’ll know the last time you were here, they’ll be able to see pictures if you took them here. They’ll be able to provide you better service than they’ve ever before, that’s going to drive up their revenue by increasing repeat business because we always want to go back where we feel welcome.

BI: They would pay you for that capability?

BN: Exactly.

I’m not sure if they expect you to keep running the app and taking pictures at all hours of the day, or what. But what he describes certainly sounds creepy. Reading things like this makes me think Apple is really on to something running only one app at a time, as opposed to Android’s version of multitasking. Also, it sounds like you can create an optional account or something? I’m not entirely clear, but I feel like I should steer clear of this until some questions about it get answered. And I’m still not at all sold on the utility of the social network in the first place. I suppose I can wait it out and see if other people start buzzing about it. Regardless, based on what the founder said in the interview above, I certainly wouldn’t consider downloading it for Android.

On a related note, people who have been following me for some time will know that I started a business some time ago at that deals with many of these same dynamics described in the restaurant scenario above, except that it was devised for use at trade shows where privacy is not really expected, and where we were very explicit about when information was being collected and when it wasn’t. Well, over the last six months, I’d been contacted by two sets of entrepreneurs wanting to buy the domain name, each offering in the VERY low 5 figures for it. Seemed way too low a figure to me. But these guys bought for who knows how much. I wonder if they were trying to buy as a backup plan…

UPDATE: Gruber puts it better than I did.


Why wasn’t this going on when I was in college?!?!?!?!?

Thursday, March 17th, 2011

I’m completely floored:

CHICAGO (CBS) — The University of Chicago has long been known for Nobel Prizes, but if the organizers of a new website have their way, the school will soon elevate its sexual reputation.

As CBS 2’s Mike Puccinelli reports, a group of University of Chicago students have created a website called

The site offers students a chance to spice things up on campus by helping them hook up with other students for casual sexual encounters.
The site also carries the motto “Where Fun Comes To Thrive,” a play on the school’s unofficial motto.

“This is known as the place where fun comes to die,” said Jon Clindaniel of Palatine, a junior archaeology major.

Read more here.


Housing Boom Over?

Wednesday, March 16th, 2011

You sure could have fooled me.

I often enjoy looking at the WSJ house of the day, to see how the other half one millionth of the population lives. Today’s house is in Boston, which particularly interested me in that I live in the greater Boston area. Let us begin:

In 2006, Karen Semmelman, a retired matrimonial lawyer, and her husband Bernard Ortwein, a law professor, purchased this condo on Boston’s waterfront for $2.1 million. The couple made minor interior renovations, removing cabinets in the kitchen and adding storage space in the foyer.

Ok, so we get the picture. They made minor cosmetic changes, but basically the condo is as they purchased it at the absolute height of the real estate bubble. So let’s see what they’re asking for the property:

The couple is selling the home “because we want to spend more time in a warmer climate,” say Ms. Semmelman. They plan to stay in the home until it sells. The property has been listed for $2.799 million by Carmela Laurella of CL Waterfront Properties.

Wow. So they are expecting a full 33% return on the value of the property they’ve lived in for the last 5 years. That’s a compounded annual return of 5.92%. Seems rather high for a recession in which housing prices should be declining, no?

I’m going to guess this legal eagle couple either lowers the price on their condo or is waiting some time before it sells.


Big Mac And Cheese

Tuesday, March 15th, 2011

I invented a new burger for McDonald’s in my sleep last night. I thought I would share it with all of you.

The idea is basically a Big Mac with the central bun substituted for a layer of Mac and Cheese. The mac and cheese would be baked in thin sheets, with a generous helping of breadcrumbs on top for that extra crunch. The mac and cheese would be cut into burger sized portions, and reside in between the two patties inside the middle of the Big Mac.

I really like this idea. I should hope someone at McDonald’s sees this and decides to run with it.