Friday, August 04, 2006


Vanity Projects

I spent a lot longer responding to that idiotic WSJ opinion than I should have; that happens when I get really annoyed, and fume and grind my teeth and go off on tangents, and wish I could just give the sucker a head-butt to the chest like Zidane, it would be worth the red card...Why do some things I read have that ability to tick me off? I think it is the arrogance of certain authors, little know-it-alls that spout such tripe one doubts that they could understand a rebuttal or acknowledge the error of their ways.

As I tried to figure out why this piece was written and published, I continued to think about what constitutes a "political vanity project", the opinion author's chosen qualifier for a European technical institute, or another Internet search tool. Is the author really hoping that she has constructed an argument for this (the conclusion)?
If European leaders really want to foster the next Google, they might consider cutting the high taxes and red tape that send students and entrepreneurs the world over running for the United States. Then again, that would make sense -- and wouldn't cost taxpayers a centime.

The author has offered no evidence that:
  1. students and entrepreneurs the world over [are] running for the United States
  2. that they are doing so because of high taxes and red tape
  3. that following this advice would foster the next [European] Google
  4. that following this advice--retaining or attracting information technology entrepreneurs--wouldn't cost taxpayers a centime.
The author has, however, asserted that:
  1. The French government's appetite for venturing into business knows no bounds.
  2. Championed by President Jacques Chirac, Quaero has received some €90 million in public funds. The idea? To rival -- peut-être topple -- Google. This is one battle in Mr. Chirac's war against what he calls the "omnipresence" of "Anglo-Saxon" culture on the Web.
  3. Quaero (Latin for "I search") is the latest in a string of French and European political vanity projects.
  4. Later this year, French citizens will get to see more of their hard-earned euros put to work when "France 24" goes live, broadcasting international news. You know, like Fox.
Lots of really tendentious stuff here!
  1. This is just plain silly. No comment.
  2. While noting that Quaero is a "controversial Franco-German plan to build a state-funded European search engine", the Financial Times does not omit that Quaero was launched this year with initial funding of €1.7bn ($2.2bn) to develop voice-based and picture-based search technologies. “[Quaero] is not just about ‘let’s beat Google’,” Mr Mohn [Christoph Mohn, the heir to the Bertelsmann media empire] said. “It’s ‘let’s build up a competitive internet industry’.” ... “It’s a little bit like Airbus Industries. I don’t think it requires consolidation [of Europe’s internet industry] but it needs co-ordination.”
  3. Sorry, what are the criteria for a "political vanity project" again? Was the euro currency with its European Central Bank one? Was invading Iraq?
  4. "like Fox"? Why Fox? A private channel dear to WSJ readers no doubt; not "like BBC World" , "like CNN" , "like Euronews", or -- why not-- "like Al Jazeera" while we're at it!
So what brought on this splendid piece of advice? I suppose that, other than reciting the "Europe needs to be friendlier to American business" mantra, the main motivation is to distract from AOL's cut-back of a quarter of its staff, coming in the wake of Yahoo!'s miserable second quarter results, and without giving serious mention of Lycos/Bertelmann's ambitions. Or was this opinion piece just a "journalistic vanity project"?

19 July: Yahoo! 2nd quarter profits divided by four.

20 July: Yahoo! collapses on Wall Street. New advertising platform delayed three months.

20 July: Yahoo! loses $9 billion of its value.

30 July: Mr Mohn, chief executive of Lycos Europe, said his online community and search company would introduce some products to the US market in the next 12 months but European internet companies were operating at a disadvantage to their US rivals.
Bertelsmann and Lycos Europe are members of the Quaero consortium, which includes Siemens, Deutsche Telekom, Thomson and France Telecom.

4 August: AOL reveals plans to cut 5,000 jobs. A day after unveiling a strategy aimed at boosting its online audience, internet group AOL told its 19,000 staff around the world that within six months 5,000 of them would no longer be on its payroll.

4 August: Wall Street Journal advises Quaero consortium financers to save their money, cut taxes instead.


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