Wednesday, May 30, 2012

living in shitty cities

i'm fortunate in the fact that i live in dubai. one may argue its merits and drawbacks, but there one thing i can assure you of: it's a great place to live. it's clean, getting things done is easy and everyone is welcome to call it home.

i'm also fortunate in the fact my work allows me to travel often. mind you, this is a double-edged sword: though sometimes my work takes me to awesome cities like istanbul or cape town, i sometimes find myself in riyadh or lahore. the entire time i'm in those substandard citie i'm wondering how the fuck do the people living here live here. for many reasons, these cities are difficult to live in. riyadh, despite its government having riches literally sprout out of the ground, is in a state of development more fitting for a dark-ages hamlet. and it's not poor roads and shoddy governmental services that give it that feel (though they definitely contribute to it), it's the general attitude of indifference and incompetence. lahore, on the other hand, is a mess of disorganization and chaos that, in my experience, is only surmounted by karachi (though i've heard wonders about indian cities).

what really baffles me about these cities is this: how do people, especially expats, just accept living there? it's not that they're developing countries; it's that they're so utterly chaotic that no amount of individual effort can can generate any noticeable return. so all of one's hard work and toil turns into frustrated rage when trying to queue at the local bakery. i was pondering that and then i remembered my time in amman, where i used to live before dubai.

human beings, i've come to realize, have an almost magical ability to accept the conditions they're in. whether in extreme cases like the Stockholm syndrome or in the slightly less extreme of contemplating living in saudi, the human psyche is extraordinarily adept at adapting to where we are. it really hit me after a completely normal and rational friend made the argument that riyadh is "not that bad." i don't want to imagine how much worse it needs to get to be "bad" (i've really never been anywhere i'd less rather live in), but that just points to how powerful our minds are adapting to our situations and making them "ok".

this, of course, goes beyond that to any shitty situation one may find oneself in. Whether it's a shitty job or boss or marriage or whatever, we always find ways to say "it's not that bad".

the problem here is that it's a mixed blessing. on one hand, it's a natural defense mechanism that keeps us sane; on the other, it allows us to accept the status quo. and that's fucking dangerous. being aware of things being shitty and accepting them (like a bad job that's tiding you over due to family and other obligations) is one thing; things being shitty and you thinking they're not bad is another: it's a cause for complacency and indifference. so accepting shit needs to be a conscious decision, not something one settles into. otherwise one wouldn't be aware of the shit one is steeped in.

like fucking riyadh.

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

don't buy facebook

because everyone else is writing about it, i'll throw in my two cents.

first of all, don't buy facebook.

i know it's a limited controlled IPO with carefully dosed out quantities and us mere mortals have no access to said magical shares, it's still a bad idea to buy facebook stocks now.

why not?

i've been following the social media "explosion" for the last couple of years, and i've seen numbers about the growth of mobile devices vs. radio and tv, seen statistics about how if facebook were a country it would be the third biggest country in the world. i've seen how there are a billion tweets a week and how many people have followers. but the question is this:

who gives a fuck?

in case it wasn't clear, facebook isn't a country. not even as a metaphor. comparing it to a country is like saying if my car were an eagle it would have eggs the size of large dogs. that makes absolutely no sense. all the other numbers about social media out there are out there for us to ogle at them, but they really lack meaning. we have social media experts and certified consultants and analysts. we have this wave of change that everyone is speculating about, but the fact is this: they're all fucking clueless. facebook's 900 million members are tantalizing for their size and the info the share, but not because it makes a lot of money. in fact, facebook made around $4 billion in 2011, yet was valued at $100 billion. why? for the promise of making money from those users.

social media is a trend that's in flux and people still can't figure it out. think of the internet in the late nineties. speculators were betting that this new wonderful tech that's changing the world is worth far, far more than it really was. was it new? yes. was it wonderful? yes. did it see phenomenal growth? yes. did it change the world? absolutely. was it worth the money. nope. social media is in this state. think yahoo, hotmail, myspace, flickr... all past their prime and basking in their former glory.

so my projection is this: facebook has more or less hit its peak i think zuckerburg should've IPOed 2 years ago. i'm not saying it'll fade away, i'm saying it'll turn into something like email - everyone has it, most users use it, yet nothing exciting happens there. people will use it to share pictures and comment on them and all that, but it'll fade into a commodity that was once exciting.