Thursday, October 22, 2009

The Greatest Rip Off

The white envelopes from the credit card companies usually sit on my desk for a while before they eventually go to the shredder after a quick review. So on a recent afternoon, I sat back to open up all those envelopes to quickly glance through the letters, hoping as usual not to find anything in there, so that I could send them to the shredder. The recent letter started with the usual ominous words "We are making changes to your account terms....". Normally these letters would talk about policy changes to rental-cars, insurance and other such things and I would scan through the letters and not find anything disturbing. But this time there was change and by golly it felt like I had been smacked with a sauce-pan.

The letter from a major credit card company went like this.
"To continue to provide our customers with access to credit, we have had to adjust our pricing. The terms of your account will be changing. These changes include an increase in the variable APR for purchases to 29.99% and will take effect November 30, 2009. As always, you have the right to opt out........ "

Now I have always paid my credit card on time, have no credit card debt, though I use it for many many purposes. I understand that I am not the kind of customer that the credit card companies are looking for, yet they need my business because I bring them hefty revenues via transaction fees which merchants pay them. On some cards I actually pay a yearly fee because it gives me some points/miles or some benefits that I think I need.

So after I got this letter, I called one of the credit card company and their response is that their costs have increased tremendously and that doing the business of "credit" is more expensive now than it was a year ago. But going from a 10% APR to a 30% APR is not fair. But wait a minute, the Fed is literally charging these banks next to 0% APR forcing them to lend. In fact some of them are so bloated with bailout dollars. I understand that the government is trying to change credit laws early nextyear, the pretext being protecting the consumer from abuse by credit card firms. However the card companies are rushing to make changes before the end of the year to avoid any such limits on them starting next year. It's daylight robbery and the senate banking committee is asleep at the wheel, just as they have been for the last 50 years. The legislators are asleep because they are deliberately ignoring the banks who are making whatever changes they want to right now, before any enforcement begins next year. It appears that the legislator are on track to protect the consumers starting next year. Who is the government protecting?

On the other hand, you can't cancel/refuse the card because cancelling a card for any reason has it's own drawbacks. Well, it affects your credit score negatively which will only increase the APR and other credit/borrowing costs as well. The consumer is caught in the middle with having to keep the cards and risk paying a hefty fine for late payments or high interest rates on balances.

Overnight the credit card companies across the board are pulling this stunt and our Government officials just stand by and do nothing. Basically the banks are being allowed to rob the consumer and the US Senate and Congress are the co-conspirators. Many of these cards are offered by banks that have received bailout monies. The government borrowed money from the people to give to the failed banks to allow them to gouge the people. It almost seems like the very government the public put into office is now gouging the public indirectly via the banks. Why is it that the common man has to suffer and pay for the failed policies of the few greedy gecko's. All of this being facilitated by the Cons in Congress. As we speak, US banks are embarking on the greatest rip-off this nation has ever seen and we stand there and do nothing.

Friday, October 2, 2009

Google Wave - The Tsunami of Twaddle? Only time will tell

The web has been abuzz with the controlled beta release of the new Google Wave. Google answer to "How would email be designed today". Well the first time I saw, Vic Gundotra present the live demo a few months ago at "Google IO 2009", he said that they were unveiling a "personal communication and collaboration" tool.

Well at that time, they defined the wave as equal parts of conversation and document. It's a system that allows people to communicate and work together with rich-text, photos, videos, maps, and more in one dashboard. Also anything on a "wave" is shared as long as you invite another person into the wave. Any participant can reply anywhere in the message, edit the content and add participants at any point in the process. The playback feature allows anyone joining into the wave at anytime to rewind the wave to see who said what and when. A wave is live. With live transmission as you type, participants on a wave can have faster conversations, see edits and interact with extensions in real-time.

Then I saw this video and saw that it explained best, the way Google wave works and why it is different from email.

At the end of the day, my take is that Google wave is a cool tool but will be more disruptive than productive, because not everyone is tuned to work in that manner. The human mind cannot handle realtime communication all the time. The human mind requires people to spend some time together with others, to plan and collaborate, then go off and find some independent time to use their creative juices to put together or build new things. This wave seems like a communication overload to me, where the simplest of things/issues will rise to the top due to the fact that it appears the latest in the thread or wave. People personalities and idiosyncracies will be amplified and in your face at all times. I am sure you have experienced those personalities who love to hear their own voice at meetings and end up disrupting productive meetings. Well let me tell you that Google wave will give an opportunity for those personality types to constantly tout their horn and constantly bring up mediocre issues.

I do understand the Google Wave tries to solve one major problem with email and this is that, not everyone has a full view of the conversation. The single dashboard view for all, regardless of when the join in the conversation and the ability to playback is huge. This should alleviate some of the problems that email has. The reply-all is dreaded because it allows people to just jump in with irrelevant comments and change the trajectory of the original conversation. The second issue is the forwarding of an email thread to someone who jumps into a conversation a bit late and is not privy to what has happened earlier and again changes the trajectory of the conversation inadvertently. Google wave might alleviate some of these issues with the playback feature and the fact that everyone in the wave has the same dashboard view.

I personally don't have an invite as yet and will reserve to change my opinions for later, but however given what is being shown, I can only think of the negative effects of the wave. It seems that "Google wave" will become the "Tsunami of twaddle".