RSS excites me

I mentioned in my Using Technology post that I’m excited about RSS.

RSS stands for (among other things) Really Simple Syndication. That’s an easy way for articles and news to be published in other peoples websites, weblogs, newspages and even by individuals in software called RSS feed readers or RSS news aggregators.

RSS offers two huge advantages to users. Firstly it is fast. I can scan the headlines and read 14 newsfeeds in 15 minutes compared with clicking Favorites or Bookmarks then reading 14 webpages. Secondly there is no spam. I am less interested in seeing newsletters in my inbox, I just want personally addressed mail showing up there.

Heinz Tschabitscher at About.com makes a great case that RSS Feeds are the Better Email Newsletters. I heard about that article from Nick Bradbury here. Nick is the author of FeedDemon (mentioned below). Companies that don’t offer RSS feeds in addition to their email newsletters are shooting themselves in the foot. It’s like not having a fax in today’s business world.

Syndication is the same way your favourite comic strips (or Dear Abbey) appear in the newspapers. The papers get the comics they want from the syndicator.

Now you can get the news you want the same way. Decide how you want to get your news and blogs then choose the viewer that suits you.

For Windows I use the excellent (but Beta — you’ve been warned) FeedDemon. There are others (try doing a Google search).
In a web browser, try Bloglines
MS Outlook users can use NewsGator once they clear the latest worm out of their system.

Mac users can try NetNewsWire.

Again these are just some of the RSS feed readers available. You don’t have to use RSS now. I expect mail clients will shortly be able to handle RSS automagically. But you will be hearing about it a lot before then.

Recharging the batteries

I need a break. Urgently! So Nella and I were looking at a weekend away in the Hunter Valley. Then we remembered we were already going away with a group of people in a couple of weekends. So going away twice in three weeks doesn’t really work. For one I’d miss my internet connection.

We thought about it, and decided to simulate a weekend away while staying at home. That means that for Saturday we are going to pretend we’re away. Eat out, sleep in, no housework. Pure fun. If someone rungs my mobile, I’m away ;). I am one of those people who always answers my phone. Tragic really.

Recharging the batteries by changing our headspace without going away should be fun. If it doesn’t work we’re going away in two weeks anyway. I’d like to be able to change my energy levels without having to changing my geography.

One thing I will do this weekend is think about the new directions I want to take my business. That is exciting

Chris Batten site update

I visited www.chrisbatten.com.au again tonight. Chris Batten, Tax specialist from Macquarie Street, Sydney.

Chris is a smart, aggressive bloke. Actually he’s a giant. Nella did a contract for him a few years ago now, so we got to know him.

A lot of the content on Chris’s site has now moved into the membership (paid) side. Still, it seems like the general concepts are still out there. There is general advice on asset protection; business & investment structures; property investment & development; superannuation and especially trusts.

Specific information and advice on those areas really needs consultation with an expert. It’s an area where a little knowledge is a dangerous thing. As a specialist, his clients were normally lawyers and other accountants along with high net worth individuals and business owners.

I first heard about Hybrid Discretionary Trusts in 1999 from Chris. I can’t comment on the membership site as I’m not a member. The Hardball video feed looks very exciting.

Good to see Chris is keeping on the bleeding edge. He really knows his stuff.

Bottom end of the market

I like buying investment properties at the bottom end of the market. A step up from slum-lording, but still basic, no-frills housing. Easy to rent, cheap to maintain. Nothing glamourous. Nella and I lived in one of these when we first got married.

I wouldn’t buy something I couldn’t live in. Note that’s “couldn’t” not “wouldn’t”.

Keep an eye on the price gap to the next best type of housing from your tenants perspective. This could be between two-bedroom units and three-bedroom units or two-bedroom houses in the same area. That gap grows and shrinks. As it grows there is normally opportunity for catchup in prices by the cheaper property. As the gap shrinks that means the growth is limited by the larger (more desireable) property.

All renovations at this lower price range are small (if there are no structuraly problems). It doesn’t cost much to fix a small place. But I have seen them overcapitalised, despite that. Marble bathrooms and Italian floor tiles don’t go in those places. Make it nice so the homely tenant doesn’t want to move.

It is possible to take this to an extreme. Some people are amassing large numbers of cheap county houses. Remember that there is a base cost for materials, repairs and rates. So if your positive cashflow county property returns $1,000 net per annum, you are a water heater accident away from breakeven. Nothing wrong with that, so long as you know.

Eventually wealthy real estate investors trade out of residential Single Family Dwellings and into commercial, industrial, or Multi-Family Dwellings. That normally is to ease the management headaches. Until then houses and home units are an affordable training ground for landlords.

Too much inventory

In 1992 or so I read The Goal: A Process of Ongoing Improvement by Eliyahu M. Goldratt. It changed my business life and allowed Robert Kiyosaki to influence my world-view on work and investing. The Goal is written as a novel. The concepts emerge in the story.

One point Goldratt made — inventory is not an asset. Your accountant calls it an asset, it’s on the left side of the balance sheet. But it costs money to store, insure, count, sell and protect. This was fairly revolutionary thinking at the time. I now use Robert Kiyosaki’s definition — “an asset is something that feeds me”.

To prove the point, I asked a friend who runs an Software Solutions company what his inventory value is. He laughed.

Anyway, looking at my business. I’ve been digging through old records and my warehouse. I discovered the cost price of the stuff in my warehouse was about $1 Million AUD! That’s a lot of working capital tied in obsolete inventory. So time to clear it.

DNS is down

If you can still see this page, congratulations, but you may not for long. DNS is the way the internet turns www.wealthesteem into an IP address. Anyway our nameserver in the US is down as is our secondary name server. So until they come back we and the other sites served from here are invisible.

If anyone with a static IP address and a nameserver would like to swap secondary (or tertiary) nameserver duties let us know via email at paulz@wealthesteem.org.

Technical Glitch

We required a security update to the blog software. A transmission glitch meant the server gave blank pages for the last 4 hours. Sorry about that.

It should be fixed now. As usual let us know if there is a problem.

Give it away

There are interesting recent developments in the deployment of Wi-Fi hotspots in public areas in Australia and the US (and probably elsewhere but I haven’t got any references). Wi-Fi is wireless Local Area Networking — basically wireless Internet on laptops.

In Too Cheap to Meter, over at VentureBlog, Naval Ravikant notes

it’s more of a bother to charge your customers than it is to procure and run a wireless network.

and ends with this point:

Hint — people providing free access to sell burgers, and financing their equipment from Best Buy, can usually outlast people charging by the megabyte and financing their purchases through junk bonds.

There is money to be made in Wi-Fi. There is also money to be made in shoelaces. But shoelace manufacturers realised shoemakers bought more laces than the public. Just because you can see a way to charge for something, does not make it worth the effort.

The businesses providing wireless internet for free are distinguishing themselves from their competition. Like the first cafe’s to provide papers and magazines to customers. That’s thinking outside the square. Eventually papers and magazines became ubiquitous. The underlying Wired story to Too Cheap to Meter ends with the comment

Wi-Fi isn’t a luxury or even a commodity. It’s a condiment.

Business incurs an overhead of billing systems, customer service and support, quality assurance and control, corporate and government regulation. These add to the cost of any service.

I’m often asked how much this website makes me. This question puzzles me more than the answer puzzles the questioners. I make nothing from WealthEsteem.org. I do this for the discipline of writing; to keep a journal; to think out loud, to refine a philosophy, to document my journey. I may one day write a book. Maybe I wont. If I charged for it, I’d need billing and customer support. That would cost money. Your expectations would change. So it is more “valuable” to me to give it away.

A point for another post is the certain evil of free content. The Internet generation doesn’t value content enough to pay for it. And anything free is undervalued.

Let technology set you free

I finally got to bed this morning at 2:30am. I figured if I was going to set up a RSS feed I might as well update the software that I run the blog on. There were a few glitches, hopefully none of you were online at that time to see them. Let me know if anything is broken.

BTW, technology is important to the Psychology of the Deal when it improves your effectiveness. Playing with shiny new toys may or may not add to your net worth.

Sim’ shared some experiences on fighting spam. Manual spam filters take too much work. Sim’ wouldn’t have a problem whitelisting my many wmail addresses if he let technology set him free.

For smart spam filtering I’ve used POPFile for about a year now. From the english-language page

POPFile is an automatic mail classification tool. Once properly set up and trained, it will work in the background of your computer, scanning mail as it arrives and filing it however you wish. You can give it a simple job, like separating out junk e-mail, or a complicated one – like filing mail into a dozen folders. Think of it as a personal assistant for your inbox.

It uses Naive Bayes filtering, which I first heard about at Paul Graham’s website. In simple terms, it is a content filter that rapidly learns what the spam you receive looks like. The only way spammers can get by these sorts of filters is to change the way they write — to make it indistinguishable from your normal email. If that were to occur it would no longer be spam you might actually want to read it. So if you have an interest in say, film investments, any non-hyped unsolicited email about film investments would actually be interesting to you.

An beneficial side-effect occured for me. I subscribe to a couple of e-newletters that contain some interesting and useful information. The publishers also promote offers to their list and occassionally try a hard sell. When they send a “sales-speak” email, my filters put it in the spam folder. I manually glance at the spam folder to ensure accurate classification.

I have 93.34% accuracy since 16 December 2002. That understates accuracy as I also use POPfile to classify my inbound email into 10 categories (spam and nine others). Manually reclassifying a film investment email from film to invest counts as a classification error. However the filter now sorts all film investment emails as investment related and leaves the rest as film related 100% accurately.