30 June 2010

This Week on Bear radio: Can cosmology, technical indicators, or tea leaves tell market future?

In this episode we discuss which, if any, techniques are useful for predicting market directions. We talk about everything from cosmology and technical analysis to tea leaves. We also talk about growing problems with underfunded private and public pension plans.

Download the sound(right click and save as link) : Download

You can find all the Optimistic Bear shows here: Optimistic Bear

You can find all the Entrepreneurs Northwest shows here: Entrepreneurs Northwest

24 June 2010

Linked:Seattle Radio: Seattle Job Search Mojo

In this episode of Linked:Seattle Radio, professional recruiter John Polhill guest hosts a discussion about "How to get your Successful Job Search & Interview Mojo back & get hired tomorrow." HR expert, and Linked:Seattle Career Center manager, Lesa Keller also joins the show with Matt Youngquist, a career coach in the Seattle area to offer their advice on job searches as well.

If you are wondering whether employers are only interesting in candidates who already have jobs, or if it is career limiting to take jobs beneath your qualifications, or just want to hear about how to keep your energy up as a job seeker, this is the show you need to hear.

Listen to internet radio with Linked:Seattle Radio on Blog Talk Radio

NOTE: The Linked:Seattle Career Center is the best place on LinkedIn to find jobs in Seattle and participate in discussions with area recruiters, career coaches, and job candidates. You can also check out Michael Surkan’s "Tales from the job search trenches" podcasts.

23 June 2010

This Week on Bear radio: All about stimulus - can government spending help economies?

In this episode we discuss stimulus, and whether government spending can jump-start moribund economies. We also explore whether the fact that significant technological advances have resulted from government funding demonstrate a role for the state in economic development.

Download the sound(right click and save as link) : Download

You can find all the Optimistic Bear shows here: Optimistic Bear

You can find all the Entrepreneurs Northwest shows here: Entrepreneurs Northwest

21 June 2010

End Game - FSN Deflation interview with Robert Prechter

On June 19th the Financial Sense News Hour published a great interview with Robert Prechter, which goes in-depth into the reasons Prechter still feel that massive deflation lies in store for the economy.

This is another great resource for anyone who wants to understand the forces behind deflation, and why policy makers can't do anything about it.

18 June 2010

Blogging - the failsafe technique for creating business relationships

NOTE: You can watch my 10 minute video on how to use podcasting for growing business or finding a job here: http://bit.ly/podintro1

The key to any successful business, or career, is building useful (and productive) relationships. Unfortunately, building these relationships is no walk in the park, and takes time and dedication. You can attend networking events, ask for introductions, cold call, or any number of other strategies for meeting people.

All of these relationship and networking techniques have merit, but each person has to find the ones that fit best with our own personalities and needs. Building relationships in the entertainment industry might require different strategies than in petro-chemicals. Whole forests have been consumed to print books to offer advice.

To that end, I would like to add yet one more relationship building technique, tailored to the internet age, which I have slowly developed over the years. It is based on one simple idea: people like to know people who do something nice for them.

Admittedly, my strategy for building relationships requires considerable effort, but then there are no short-cuts when it comes to building productive, lasting, friendships. What I can say is that following these techniques will almost guarantee success in building the business relationships you need.

Blogging for friends

My strategy for building relationships start off with a blog. You have to create a blog focused around whatever industry, or field, in which you want to build relationships. If you want to get to know bankers, then start a blog about finance and banking. If you want to get to know people working in the consumer software space, create a blog about the software industry and consumer software trends.

There are lots of free blogging sites, and your blog articles don’t have to be lengthy treatise. The whole point of a blog is to give you a reason for contacting people. You can also expand to do podcasts, which is something I do quite a lot.

Make a list of topics

Create a list of potential blog topics for the next month. You can easily find topics by just browsing through articles on IT or engineering web sites. You can even watch the topics being discussed on LinkedIn groups, or social communities, to get ideas. For each idea, identify one or two articles that you can use as links for more information in a post.

Interview prospective customers

Find some good people to interview for the blog article you decide to write about. Simply write a message to several people you see on software engineering LinkedIn groups, who you think could be good customers (or useful contacts) and ask if they would allow you to interview them for a few minutes for a blog article you are writing.

Look at the people starting, and participating, in discussions on LinkedIn. These people are almost always willing to chat. Look at their profiles to see which ones might be particularly useful to have a relationship with. It’s absolutely fine if more than one person responds to your interview request. You can always quote more than one person in an article. Make sure the person you are going to interview sends you their direct e-mail address so you can communicate easier outside of LinkedIn. This is critical for being able to write them a recommendation later on.

All you have to do is schedule some time to talk with your new contact (i.e. the person who agrees to be interviewed) on the phone, and have a discussion with them around the subject you are writing your article on. Ask them for their thoughts and ideas. Do not start telling them how you think everything should be done. Keep the interview relatively short (15 or 20 minutes at most). It is fine to introduce yourself, mentioning that you work for a company that helps with software engineering projects, but DO NOT make a sales pitch. This interview is all about asking the contact for their ideas.

Make sure you write down what your guest says. Don’t forget to ask them for permission to quote them in your article.

Write the blog post

Once the interview is over, write the blog article. Keep it short and on point. Use quotes from the people you interviewed, and put their names in the article. Place a hyper-link on the name (of the person you are quoting) to their LinkedIn profile. You can also add some small text at the very bottom of the article saying how readers can get more information from the people you interviewed by going to their web site (i.e. and include the link to their business web site).

You should have a signature at the bottom of every post that has a link to your personal LinkedIn profile and Twitter feed.

Get approval for article

Send the text of your article to the people you are quoting for approval before you post it. Just send them an e-mail with a copy of the text, and ask them to confirm that what you are saying accurately reflects the discussion you had.

Post and promote

Once you get approval for the article, post it on the your blog and start promoting it. You should Tweet the article and place it on your Facebook page (if you don’t already have a Twitter or Facebook page, create them). In fact, you can setup an automatic feed that will Tweet and Facebook every article you post.

Post the link to the article (and a 2 sentence description) in the News section of all the LinkedIn groups you identify as being related to IT and software development.

You can keep re-Tweeting and re-posting the News links to the same articles. This keeps you articles in people’s minds. For example, once you have 5 or 6 blog posts, you can have someone keep cycling through the articles re-posting links to a different one on Twitter and LinkedIn groups every day. Today you would post the link to the article you wrote a month ago. Tomorrow you post the link to the second article you wrote, the day after that you post the link to the third article, and so on.

If you get really ambitious you can write an Internet press release for every article you write and post them to Help a Reporter Out or Pitchrate (which are free).

Give thanks

As soon as you post a new blog article, send an e-mail to the people you interviewed for the story, thanking them for their help. Send them the link to the story, and tell them they are welcome to use the link if they wish.

Make a recommendation

Write a LinkedIn recommendation for the people you interviewed for the blog article. Just write 2 or 3 sentences saying that you were impressed with how helpful the individual was in writing your blog article (include a shortened link to the article in your recommendation), and that this person’s deep knowledge on the subject was invaluable.

In order to accept your invitation, the recipient will first have to agree to connect with you on LinkedIn. It is virtually guaranteed that anyone you write a recommendation for will link with you.

Meet for coffee

At this stage, you now have built a relationship with the people you interviewed, and they have very positive feelings towards you. You can now leverage that goodwill to develop the relationship, ask for help, or whatever. Ask if you could take them out for a coffee. Ask for introductions to people you see in their contact list on LinkedIn.

Make your friends rich

One of the absolute best ways you can solidify your relationships is to actually make your friends rich by bringing them business. As your contacts grow, you should really think about ways to introduce the people you know to one another. If you know a small software firm that specializes in accounting software for oil companies, then introduce the IT manager of an oil company to him. If you are able to help a small company find new business, you have an amazingly good chance of helping out in fulfilling the contract by taking on work they can’t handle.

Podcasting is even better!

You can get even better results by turning interviews into podcasts. By recording your conversations (with permission), and posting the audio files to your blog, you can build a more intimate connection with both the person you speak with and your audience.

It is cheap and easy to record conversations these days. I use Skype and a free add-on utility (MP3 Skype Recorder) that automatically creates an MP3 file recording for my conversations.

You can check out my own podcast shows to get an idea of how I use this tool for both growing my career and finding business.

Entrepreneurs Northwest
Tales from the job search trenches
Practical Software
Linked:Seattle Radio

I even have a show on economics which is strictly as a hobby.

The Optimistic Bear

I am eager to make a presentation of the value of podcasting for networking to any group that might be interested. I can speak in person to groups in the greater Puget Sound area and can give webinars to groups further afield. Just e-mail podcasting@surkan.com if you would like to inquire about having me speak.

16 June 2010

This Week on Bear radio: Manias, portfolio diversification, and income inequality

In this episode we discuss what role governments play in bubbles and whether diversified investment portfolios make sense when all asset classes rise and fall at the same time. We also investigate what growing disparities between the wealth of the rich and middle classes say about the economy.

Download the sound(right click and save as link) : Download

You can find all the Optimistic Bear shows here: Optimistic Bear

You can find all the Entrepreneurs Northwest shows here: Entrepreneurs Northwest

10 June 2010

In the defense of BP

In the court of public opinion, the verdict for British Petroleum is already in: guilty. The vitriol, and polemics, spewing out against British Petroleum over the Gulf coast oil spill has reached epic proportions. Politicians, pundits, and even individuals, are frothing at the mouth with anger at the evil corporation that ruining both the economy and environment.

Policy makers are threatening to fine, and tax, BP into oblivion. The general public is aghast that a big corporation could take such liberties with the public trust.

It's about time that someone stood up for poor, beleaguered, BP!

I wouldn't want to give the impression that I think BP is a well managed company, or that their poor decisions didn't contribute to the Gulf disaster. However, it's important that we don't lose perspective in the rush to castigate BP, and vent our spleens.

For one thing, the impacts from oil spills are rarely as long lasting, or disruptive, as they first appear. The oil that first washes up on shore, and kills thousands of fish, birds and sea mammals, is very dramatic. Ten, or even five, years later things look differently.

The 1989 Exxon Valdez spill in Alaska proved to be less harmful on the environment, and the local economies, than many people had predicted during the time of the initial accident. In fact, some reports show that more damage may have been caused by the clean-up than the spill itself. Ironically, many of the loudest complaints about the Valdez spill were from local businesses who saw the cost of labour skyrocket as many locals opted to work in high-paying clean-up crews rather than toil for the lower local wages.

True, there are disagreements as to the real long term impacts of the Valdeez spill (i.e. you can't prove what the population of salmon would have been without the spill when there are so many other factors at play). But these disagreements in the impact assessments of the Valdeez spill actually prove my point: if the damage was truly catastrophic there wouldn't be any argument.

Unfortunately, we are on the cusp of a major over-reaction to the spill. If oil exploration is curtailed by newly empowered (and zealous) regulators, we will see energy prices remain higher than they otherwise would for decades. Killing BP out of spite will also send a chill down the spine of every oil company, causing them to reduce exploration. Why drill for new wells when the consequence of a failure is death?

09 June 2010

This Week on Bear radio: The bubble in Canada and Isaac Asimov

In this episode special guest Matt Stiles fills us in on the asset bubble and bullish fever that is raging in Canada. We also talk how Isaac Asimov's fictional idea of scientifically controlling human behaviour is symptomatic of broader desires to manage the economy.

Download the sound(right click and save as link) : Download

You can find all the Optimistic Bear shows here: Optimistic Bear

You can find all the Entrepreneurs Northwest shows here: Entrepreneurs Northwest

04 June 2010

Oil prices tumble as spill worsens. Who'd have thought?

Even as oil spouts unceasingly into the gulf of Mexico, in one of the worst spills ever, prices are falling. This is quite a change from the behaviour we've seen in the last several years, where even the hint of an oil spill would cause prices to spike, as investors fretted the loss of precious supplies.

If anything, one would think that the backlash against oil that is being stirred up by this environmental catastrophe would be driving prices through the roof, since all the new tough government regulatory changes are going to greatly restrict new exploration and future supply.

This calls into question the whole hypthesis that it was dwindling supplies which were driving oil prices up in the first place. To all those peak oil adherents out there, I regret to inform you that it is speculation which has been the main force in rising prices in recent years, not a fall in supply. Just look at the vast fleets of tankers being used to store oil on the hope that prices will rise even more.

When you add in the drop in demand that is occuring due to a slowing global economy, there is more than enough potential for oil prices to drop significantly more.

In the 1970s many people thought oil prices would just keep rising forever only to see them crash, and stay suppressed for 20 years. It looks like history may be repeating.

03 June 2010

PS: Agile gone global

In this episde, Bhavesh Ved explains how to manage geographically disperse software teams with a distributed Agile process. When teams are spread out some of the traditional approaches to Agile break down.

You can check out Bhavesh's engineering firm at http://www.xoriant.com/.

NOTE: Practical Software is the official podcast for the Software Engineering Productivity group on Linked:In. You can listen to other episodes of Practical Software.

02 June 2010

This Week on Bear radio: The money supply and trading systems.

In this episode we talk about the inevitable failure of any trading system and explore the definition of the "money supply". Panelists give their take on why the money supply is shrinking despite massive government printing of cash.

Download the sound(right click and save as link) : Download

You can find all the Optimistic Bear shows here: Optimistic Bear

You can find all the Entrepreneurs Northwest shows here: Entrepreneurs Northwest