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Tuesday
Dec132005

The right tools for web 2.0

Usually, I restrict myself to to write about subjects such as economics, business and finance but I also reserve the right to tap into web 2.0 (see also my post on web 2.0's downsides) and the general nature of the blogossphere whenever I stumble something interesting; after all ... that is ultimately the community of which all bloggers are a part of. This time I am trying to characterize the general blogger and consumer of web 2.0 ... what tools does he/she use and why?

As in so many posts before the idea is not my own; I stumbled on two posts by Jordon Cooper and Nick Denton using my watchlists at Technorati in which they describe their view of the best web 2.0 tools out there; go check out Jordon's post here as well as Nick's post here.

Now, lets get down to it ... Here are my favourite web 2.0 tools and as you will see there are a lot of repetitions from those of Jordon Cooper and Nick Denton.

Squarespace Every blogger needs a place where he or she can get their blogs published. It has to be easily managed and cheap yet powerful and good looking. The first thing you need to understand is that in order to reconcile these objectives you will have to pay for the service, not necessarily much but payment cannot be avoided. Squarespace is the perfect tool in offering a good, cheap and powerful service but I know that Typepad is also a favourite amongst many bloggers.

Gmail - My own mail is Hotmail but this is only because the switching costs are too high for me - Gmail is the service out there and it is free.

Skype - This tool is revolutionary in the sense that it offers free voice communication with anyone in the world. I have no problems seeing the potential here yet I have still not gotten a mic so my account is for the time being useless; I know ... stupid!

Del.icio.us - Creating you own database on the web! If you learn to use this tool and embrace as your reference on structuring information on the web you won't potentially have to visit a library ever again ... ! Ok, perhaps a bit over the top but it is wonderful.

Flickr - I don't yet have an accout myself but in terms of picture sharing and as a proponent of the open source internet environment it represents the quintessence of web 2.0 in my opinion. Remeber to use it as an alternative to google images.

Bloglines - Don't know what RSS, Atom, and XML feeds are ? Well it all has to do with web syndication obviously. Still lost? Well, Bloglines can answer all your questions and also help you organize your preferred blogs and news sites on the web. In your effort to keep taps on your favourite blogs you will find that it is the best there is. It is the most important point of reference for me when I go hunting in the blogoshere for interesting topics.

Technorati - The best things always come at the end. Technorati is like google for weblogs ... plain and simple. No other blog search engine exists that can hold a candle to this one.

 

I have shown you mine; now, show me yours.  

Thursday
Dec082005

Looking to the north for a remedy

france.gif As growth in France remains to be sluggish coupled with a structural uemployment rate of near 10% it is time for a solution to bring the big country at the heart of Europe back on track also in the long term -  reforms are needed. The big question is: What kind of reforms?

In their effort to reboost their economy French politicians and analysts have on several occasions invoked the Scandinavian economic model of flexible labour markets and a high service (flexicurity) as the possible cure for the French economy. But what is the Scandinavian model and can it help France at all?

Once again the Neweconomist and Edward Hugh from AFOE serve as my point of reference; see this post by Neweconomist.  The real treat however is this post by Neweconomist where the Nordic model is well summarized as well as this EPC working paper brought to us by Edward Hugh. As a Danish business with a French bug I am sure you will understand me.

The original source of the discussion is this article from Le Monde talking about whether France can imitate the Swedish  economic model. The article describes the Nordic model very postively ...

"Le modèle scandinave est le seul à la fois juste et efficace en Europe, selon l'économiste André Sapir (notre chronique du 23-24 octobre). Le modèle anglo-saxon est efficace, mais inéquitable, le modèle franco-allemand est équitable, mais inefficace (trop cher), et le modèle latin est à la fois inefficace et inéquitable. Le choix est donc de glisser soit vers l'anglo-saxon, soit vers le nordique."

However, the article also describes how the Nordic model is not easily imitable because of the Scadinavian countries' distinguishness.   

"Copier la Suède, est-ce possible ? Deux objections sont formulées. La première tient à la petite taille de ce pays de 9 millions d'habitants, comme des pays scandinaves en général. L'esprit de la "maison commune" est très ancré. Surtout, 80 % des salariés sont syndiqués auprès de l'unique centrale, LO, qui est habitée par une volonté de consensus. Rappelons qu'en France, les syndicats, divisés par une permanente course à la surenchère, ne représentent que 8 % des salariés.

L'autre objection est celle de l'état d'esprit. Domine en Scandinavie un puissant "esprit civique" qui rend le modèle intransposable dans un pays comme la France, selon l'économiste Pierre Cahuc."

Is the Scandinavian model the solution for France then ... ? 

The answer could be both yes and no. The idea of importing the economic ideas of another country implies an easy solution to a very complex issue and I for one don't believe that. Having said that, there are some things France could learn from the Scandinavian countries but those issues have as much to do with French distinguishness as it has to do with the virtues of the Nordic model. 

One example is the labour market where zealous French unions are still affirming the right to only work 35 hours a week - this does not create jobs! See my post on Hewlett Packard in France for a mirror of this. Another example is the almost institutional anti-capitalist sentiment in the French society which I have reported on several times - See posts here and here.

France cannot rely on some Nordic model to come to the rescue bringing prosperity and wealth. And even if cherry picking the economic virtues of the Scandinavian countries would indeed be a solution, France has some issues to deal with which  cannot be remedied by the cross-national transfer of economic ideas.  

Friday
Dec022005

A smart move by Trichet and the ECB?

032a8fd7dc5373.jpg As the European Central Bank chooses to raise the interest rate by a quarter percent it is fair to ask why? The large European economies are still showing really sluggish growth signs so the reason cannot be found here. The other plausible reason is that the ECB is trying to establish its credibility as a central bank keen on keeping inflation at bay.  However don't take my word for it - read this article from the Economist which provides a good overview.

"The bank is trying to establish its credibility as an inflation hawk, but this may be hard to do without endangering the fragile recovery in some of the euro zone’s biggest economies."

So, is the ECB trying to navigate in too narrow waters here? It could seem so. A raise in the interest rates albeit a very small one probably won't have any actual effect but markets and consumer confidence in especially France and Germany are volatile so the effect might in the end be real enough in terms of thwarting a growth that is yet really to pick up.

And then there is the inflation. True, the ECB target of 2% has been exceeded by 0,4 percent at the end of the year but the question still remains of why and how a raise of 0.25% could be merited. If it is to show financial stakeholders that an inflation target is not to be joked with the strategy this is a very narrow point of view and many other of the ECB stakeholders would rather want it the other way around.

"Mr Trichet has to worry not only about the markets, but also about the politicians and interest groups who are vehemently opposed to any tightening. In the days leading up to the rate rise, bankers joined trade unions and business leaders in complaining that higher interest rates would endanger the slow recovery and throw people out of work."

In my opinion though, it would be fair to cut Mr. Trichet and the ECB some slack. Managing the financial condition of 25 very diverse countries is not an easy task and trade-offs are bound to show their ugly face. The real dilemma as also reported by the Economist is that growth rates are very different across the eurozone ... what to do?

"This presents the ECB with an unappetising choice: slow down the fragile recovery in economies like Italy’s, or run the risk that more robust countries will overheat. (...) Its biggest economies are burdened with a number of structural flaws, in particular rigid labour markets. Ill-fitting monetary policy exacerbates these but it does not cause them, and it cannot fix them"

This post by the Neweconomist also serves as a good hub for the dicussion of the ECB's dilemmas as well as this post at AFOE by Edward Hugh