Curated by: Luigi Canali De Rossi

Saturday, December 15, 2007

Economic Recession 2008: Scoble's Advice The Only Way To Go?

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I love Robert Scoble mostly because he is a very positive, optimistic and friendly person, and one who has long chosen to openly share his insight, discoveries and best lessons learned. That makes him a valuable new media exploration pal, and I am only in debt for the little conversation and exchange I brought back to his very, very generous contributions.

Robert Scoble - Photo credit: SiliconValleyWatcher

But this morning, having read Robert Scoble post on how to save yourself from the upcoming 2008 recession, made really stand out again some of the
deep differences that mark our otherwise apparently similar paths ("similar" in the sense that we could both be defined as technology bloggers and have both been at this for quite some time).

In the past I thought of these differences between me and Robert just as marginal elements, and even self-discounted them as non-relevant differentiation points between independent online publishers coming from different cultures and experiences. But as I re-read Robert's points I am getting finally convinced that the differences are there, and they are not so marginal.

Why is it that tech-focused and "Silicon Valley" bloggers, who have audience, attention, and often notable intellectual skills perpetrate the negative shortcomings of the reality, culture and media they live in, showing none of the "outsider" and questioning perspective that all serious explorers should lovingly maintain?

I don't know, yet, but here, in what wants to be a friendly but provocative counterpoint, is how my spontaneous point-by-point feedback to Scoble' recession prescription:


CounterPoint to: Surviving the 2008 Recession

by Robert Scoble and Robin Good (me)

Recession is in the air.

It isn't here for sure, but, damn, when you pay $50 for two coffees and a tart in Paris you know your economy isn't healthy. Add in the latest energy prices and you see we're almost definitely going to have a problem over the next year with inflation (compounded since many of our goods come from overseas and our dollar is buying less and less -- dramatically less we found on our latest trip to Europe).

If recession and/or inflation is coming, now is the time to prepare. How?

Robert Scoble: 1. Get some income from overseas. The dollar is weak, but that means that non-US people are going to want to pay for your work rather than hiring their countrymen for a higher rate. So, take advantage of it. Don't think this is true? Visit a national park this summer in the US and notice that there's a lot more Europeans visiting than last year. Why? Their Euros buy a lot more of our stuff than they buy back home. Tons of geeks on our trip told us they are begging their bosses to go to US so they can come shopping.

me (Robin Good): Go for it!

2. Cut expenses.

me: Yeah, what have you been waiting for?!

3. Lock down clients into longer-term contracts. Even give them some concessions to get them to renew their contracts, or extend them.

me: the word "Lock Down" hurts painfully the moment you pronounce it. Here in Sharewood the motto is: "also when recession comes... treat customers as partners". Don't force them into contracts that they may regret having extended later on. Build your profit making relationships on trust wherever possible. Get gradually out of relationships that force you to accept or impose such compromises. Create your own business or work with others to create one in which you believe in.

4. Ensure you're seen as valuable at work. Do an honest assessment. Are you really in the top 10% of all workers at your company? That's where you want to be to avoid the layoffs.

me: If they can't see how valuable your work is, maybe you are not in the right place. If someone needs to remind you to make your work valuable enough for the company you are working for, maybe there is really something deeply wrong in working for that company after all. You should find a work that places you in the position to be valued for what you are without needing to go out of your way to make yourself meaningful within that reality.

5. Network more than usual. You might get laid off and you'll want to network as much as possible so that you'll have a friendly network to help you find new work.

me: Finding work is the old mantra. That means working for someone else who likely has different end goals than yours. Creating work is the new frontier. In this new, idealistic view, you choose and design your own work while finding ways to make it economically sustainable.

6. Watch the job listings. They are leading indicators of the health of the economy, plus you might see a job that will help you survive (I got my job at NEC during the depth of the last downturn by watching Craig's List).

me: Not my recommendation. Start thinking about doing what you really like is my mantra. Running forever in search of a job that pays you enough to do what you would really want to do in your life is a losing dream. Wake up. Better live while loving what you do with little money, than having lots of money but hating the job that brings it to you.

7. Dust off your blog. Especially if you get laid off. Try to own a niche. You might get noticed and you might get a new job because people are seeing you excited about something.

me: Yeah Robert. Now you are singing. Blog is good. Niche is good. You writing excitedly about something you really love is really the ONE KEY.

8. Start a company. During the last downturn I saw quite a few people start companies and they got richer as the economy got better. Same thing happened in the early 1990s when Fawcette Technical Publications got started.

me: Right on 100%. But not with the money of others!

9. Move to a bigger company (or if you are there already, think twice about leaving). Big companies can survive the downturns. IBM ain't going anywhere. Either is Microsoft, Google, Apple. Even Yahoo, which has seen its troubles lately, isn't going away, although it might shed lots of employees (if you're going to work at a big company make sure you read #4 again -- really valuable employees rarely get cut and if they do their reputations help them bounce back on their feet).

me: Forget it. Move to a smaller company. Start your own.

10. If you are in a big company, join a group that isn't going to get cut. Scott Guthrie's group inside Microsoft, for instance, is a lot safer than lots of other groups.

me: As if this was something people could choose about. Forget company internal politics and save-your-ass-before-it's-too-late strategies. Get on sustainable grounds now. Use your head. Stop having to depend on a giant that has nothing to do with your own life interests.

11. If you're in a small company, get real friendly with two groups of people: First, the salespeople. If they start leaving you know the business isn't seeing good revenues. Second, the CFO or financial people. Better yet, try to get your fingers on the books and understand them. At Userland, during the last downturn, I practiced this and ran the books and paid the bills. We still ran out of cash, but I knew about it three months ahead of time so I was able to mentally prepare for the day I'd have to lay myself off.

me: Not my way of working... but very respectful when there is something that I haven't done and may learn from it. Snooping the financial books of a company to get to know when things are going to turn bad doesn't seem to me the best way to BE inside a company and to contribute to its sustained health. If you are in a company where you can't ask or talk about these things in a relaxed way without snooping in the admin books I think you are in an unsafe place. So, rather than sustaining this self-defeating way of doing business start considering talking and bringing such issues on the table... or to start a smaller company that does.

12. Look at your stock portfolio and make smart moves. I know lots of you don't look too closely at what you're invested in. Lots of people really got hurt last time there was a downturn in the stock market. Are you diversified? Do you have more than a small percent of your portfolio in any one company? Have you sat down with a financial planner lately and talked through your portfolio?

me: I can't compete with Robert on this but when someone suggests to make smart moves I can't but agree. I am not into the stock market, and though I am quite curious about it, there is something about running companies only as money-making machines that just doesn't sit well with me. I do prefer a society where companies are small and where what they do is not driven exclusively by money margins and future profit opportunities. In my life there are other values I want to give priority to and promote to others. By betting on companies that work against my own ideals I am contributing little to what I would consider real socio-economic change and negating myself an opportunity to get forever out of the financial dependency loop. I am probably too idealistic, but, this is where I am at.

13. Try to get into hot new markets. Russia, for instance, is flush with cash because of the high oil prices. Are you expanding operations there? Can you?

me: No comment.

14. ComputerWeekly is recommending CIOs get two budgets together and look for redundancies that companies can cut.

me: OK.

15. Work the basics: build a cash reserve; manage inventory; renegotiate your lease; reward loyal customers; build value -- these are all suggestions by Scott Barancik that I found on a Google Search for preparing for recession.

me: Try these ones instead: start investing all you have in your future and your kids, learn, educate yourself to the limit, travel. Don't save a penny. Start small and build your "shrine" brick by brick. Don't get leases, mortgages or money that you will have to return to someone with interest. This financial system is sickening and will make your coffees and tarts cost $75 by next summer. Come back to check it out. Google is as good as the questions you pose to it. Try for a change a query that targets what makes you happy not one that saves your bank account.

16. See where you stand in the story line. That advice comes as part of a "Prepare for Recession: Just in Case" post by Bill Conerly who does the Businomics Blog. He has lots of other good advice over on a post about what families can do to prepare.

me: Prepare yourself to know how the economy works and why you DO have all of the means to change it again. Learn about the Federal Reserve and how it works, the taxing system and alternative currencies and economic systems you could help get more visibility and attention instead of surrendering by default to the lies big media keeps telling you about the causes of all this. Wake up and do something about it is my suggestion.

17. Write a blog about how to brilliantly sail through a recession. That way when people start to feel its effects they'll find your post and your increased traffic will potentially make you some advertising money or at least some new friends who valued your advice. Heheh.

me: Hats for suggesting ways to make money in all possible ways, but when you start basing your money-making strategy on other people disadvantages or missed opportunities while capitalizing on their misfortunes I don't get such a great motivational kick. That places also people in the position of thinking that economic recessions are like cosmic events out of their own control and influence. It is exactly in the direction of helping others see through the system and making sense of its shortcomings that we can avoid future recessions and provide us AND others with the means to a more sustainable future.

18. Clean up your balance sheet. That's what the Wastrel Show recommends.

me: I think that is a good recommendation. Nothing to argue with this.

19. Keep your ear to the ground, Money Central recommends.

me: Yeah. Trash your TV, find your reliable news sources, ask lots of questions, meet new people, don't take for granted everything being sold to you as the next big scare, ask more questions, create time for yourself, think, study, research, play, ask more questions. I fully agree.

How about you? Do you have any good suggestions? Are you preparing for economic troubles ahead? Why/ why not?

me: I have a few and I have shared them here above. I am not preparing for an economic recession any differently than I was already doing. It is not the recession I am fearing but my friends blindness to the larger issues causing all this to happen. If you have already watched Zeitgeist, watch it again please.

Oh, and please remember those who are hurt by this economic downturn. The stories that are starting to come out are not pretty. If nothing else, join Jeremy Toeman in volunteering to help those who are less fortunate. I will be.

me: That's a nice one Robert. But now, stop being a spectator living in the tech world only. Your country, the future economy not just there but here too are not things that are part of a different universe over which you have no power or control. I ask you only one thing: don't take my words for good... start asking some questions on all those issues you are giving for granted.

me again: Above all, I would like to thank you Robert though. If it wasn't for the rush of emotions I felt when reading his article this morning, I wouldn't have stopped to write and share sincerely my own thoughts. Nonetheless diverse in his views, I do honour and respect that distant viewpoint, those deeply antagonist views, because it is through you and them that I can see more clearly my direction while articulating my vision in a way that others can use for their own benefit as well.

Thanks. I hope that notwithstanding our significant differences, we can continue to be good friends as much as we can continue to learn from each other.

Originally written by for Master New Media in response to Robert Scoble post "Surviving the 2008 recession."

Readers' Comments    
2008-10-26 22:07:35


What politician would I talk to about my opinions on this issue?

2008-01-24 10:21:32

Matthew Hendrick

Some very good ideas and advice there.

There's no question that times are going to get tougher then the smooth sailing that's been around for quite a while.


Bet you Bush voters are kicking yourselves now.


2007-12-21 19:30:09

Kare Anderson

As a longtime reader of your blog and Roberts, a former journalist, now small business owner I want to thank you for your articulate, values-based orientation and your going out of your way to extend friendship and to disagree.

This is the first blog post I've shared with my family two journalist friends and three clients.

Thank you

2007-12-17 18:35:49

Sylvester Becker

Congratulations, you point perfectly out, what felt always fishy to me.

2007-12-16 15:51:31

Heike Philp

The upcoming depression is a sure thing when overspending leads to huge debts.
My humble advice:
1) apply the secret,
2) add to your portfolio income through network marketing. Why? Shares on the stockmarket rise when a company makes profit, this indirectly is the reason for many lay offs because companies need to maintain high profits. On the other hand network marketing means earning when a company creates turnover, basically when products are consumed (ie. dupli, Amways etc.)Therefore not only is network marketing safer than shares, on top of that one can learn how to professionally build networks.

2007-12-16 05:08:10

Evelyn Rodriguez

I read Robert's post with alarm - no way I'm "preparing" for anything I don't intend for. So many sell their souls in exchange for some illusory "safety." I'm afraid not enough people grokked Zeitgeist, nor The Matrix.

What you articulated so heartfully is exactly what I learned from the last recession. (And I was in executive management, the top 10 percent then - the whole company closed its doors.) In 20/20 hindsight it was the wake-up call I needed to be totally true to myself (and I believed I already WAS doing what I loved).

Yet only stillness and contemplation - which the recession provided - showed me I hadn't even begun to really know myself. In retrospect, that recession turned out to be the beginning of a personal renaissance.

Thank you for bringing your groundedness into this discussion.

2007-12-15 19:07:38


Nice response, but with many thinking that a recession is coming, not just in technology circles, there are lots of things that people can do, and probably should be doing. Nice counterpoint though on your comments.

posted by Robin Good on Saturday, December 15 2007, updated on Tuesday, May 5 2015

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