Wednesday, August 31, 2005

Google Talk and Federation

Since launching Google Talk last week, a lot of people on slashdot and the blogsphere are wondering when and if we will support server-to-server federation. Gary Burd has already posted a comment about this on the Jabber developer (JDev) mailing list. Also Joe Beda has written a blog post about this.

We love being open, but we decided to be Googley and ship what we have to get feedback from users and the community. Rest assured that we are working hard on this and other things. Keep the feedback coming.

Sunday, August 28, 2005

Source for Inspiration

Before moving to Seattle, I was lucky enough to be involved with the Quest Scholars program. Recently I heard from a friend whom I had mentored back in 2003. He just finished up his first year at Stanford and during the past year, he started two non-profit foundations. One focuses on tutoring students in East Palo Alto and exposing them to science and technology by doing cool projects with them.

He also started another foundation called Ashager. It's aimed at addressing the third-world healthcare crisis starting in Ethiopia where 1 doctor has to care for over 70,000 patients in rural areas. The nurse situation is only slightly better, 1 nurse takes care of about 30,000 patients. So Michael and two of his friends studied this problem and realized that they can help. So they've started this foundation that seeks to address these issues by diffusing resources from US Medical Schools to these Hospitals and Clinics, hopefully expanding to other countries when this is firmly established.

When I was in school, I knew freshmen who were always partying, drunk, etc. I also knew people who were the paranoid pre-med or pre-* who were really focused on grades and being a president of a club in order to build the perfect application or resume. And the rest were usually somewhere in between. I think what Michael has started doing is very inspiring.

Tuesday, August 23, 2005

Google Talk is Live

We just released Google Talk! I think the name speaks for itself, but it lets you IM and call your friends.

It's also based on an open standard called XMPP so it already works with iChat, Trillian, Gaim, etc. We're also committed to federation with other networks. IM should be open like Email and the Web where users have a choice of provider, operating system, and browser/client.

It's also been a lot of fun to work on something that impacts me personally given all the international phones calls that I make. :)

Your can read more by going to Google News.

Saturday, August 13, 2005

Sweatshop Factories

On several occasions, I have tried to stop buying clothes made in sweat shops because of how the workers are treated. But it’s really just impossible given how prevalent the practice has become. Despite understanding that some of the workers, sadly, are choosing between working in horrible conditions versus possibly having no income, it still hurts me to know how little of the price tag actually goes to the factory workers. I have a solution that I think will help all parties: the buyers, the workers and even the corporations. How about charging a little extra per item and give that directly to the workers? Maybe they can even ask for extra donation at the store. I think putting a special label on a pair of shoes that says “$1 from the $90 from these running shoes will go to the worker in Malaysia” will attract buyers. I know a lot of people who feel like I do and would actually do more shopping from a store that does this. I really think this would be a competitive advantage. But maybe people shopping after a long day of work at banana republic would rather not think about the reality of how the clothes are manufactured. But I can sleep better knowing that I was able to significantly help someone half way around the world (see my earlier post about how most of the world’s population earns less than $2/day).

Housing Bubble

I read about a psychological experiment where subjects traded cards with numbers on them, and price bubbles were always formed. We all learned the hard way a few years ago that bubbles are followed by big crashes. Since the dot-com crash and 9/11, low interest rates motivated most investors to go into real-estate and the frenzy got started. I even know someone who bought a house quickly right before getting laid off to take advantage of home equity loans. And in the one year that he was unemployed, he lived happily off the appreciation on his house.

However, some recent stats indicate that we’re in a bubble. The ratio of house price to rent (the most similar metric to a stock’s PE ratio) has increased significantly. People are literally using their house as an ATM machine to take out loans. On average, people in the Bay Area only own about 8% of their houses. New mortgage instruments allow buyers to only pay the interest on the loan and buy houses not commensurate with their salaries. The old rules of 20% down and total house payments being between a quarter to a third of income are completely ignored.

Has crashes happened before? Yes. Look at Japan. Prices there now are below what they were in the early 90’s. This has also happened in LA after the cold war ended where some people literally drove to the bank to return the keys to their house since the remaining mortgage payment was significantly more than the value of the house. It took 8 years for the market in LA to recover. Bubbles always burst for a reason. What will be the needle this time?

My prediction is based on the interaction between national and regional economies. At some point, the US economy as a whole will start to grow and enter an inflationary cycle. At that time, the interest rates (which are tied to the national economy) will rise. The regions behind the national growth will see a disaster as their local unemployment rates, salaries, and GDP growth do not warrant the nation-wide higher interest rates. So buying a house today is taking a bet that your city will do better than the nation in next few years. And this is why I’m scared about the rapid price increase in areas that are dependent on the ‘old’ economy.

There is another alternative. As people prosper from the current boom, enough money can be pumped back to the economy to improve things enough to justify the boom. It’s an interesting phenomenon. I read an article recently that the improvements in the job market in Seattle for the past year have primarily been because of the booming housing market. But I am going to continue to enjoy the no-hassle life of renting. When a light bulb dies in my place, I send an email and it’s taken care of. I love it.

Tuesday, August 02, 2005

A new riddle

111111111 * 111111111 = 12345678987654321