Bubbles and Mania

We’re coming up on twenty years since the original Dotcom bubble.  Many of my readers and for that matter the bulk of the current Internet influencers were not around for the first edition.  In case you aren’t aware of what that was, simply know that exuberant entrepreneurs discovered you could start anything, but couldn’t build a business simply around page views.  Profits were hard to come by.

The pinnacle of the late 1990’s version of the Dotcom bust was typified and exemplified by Pets.com.  It seems that the founders and financial backers of this ill-fated startup failed to understand that you couldn’t make a lot of money selling 25lb bags of dog food over the Internet.  Especially when you tried to do it with free shipping.

Pets.com wasn’t the only ill-advised venture.  There was plenty to be found, everywhere you looked.  My last and worst investment of that era was to buy HomeGrocer.com stock at about $14 a share.  It spiked briefly and then headed straight for goose eggs.  They were salvaged in the merger of Webvan with Amazon.  That experience left a lasting impression on me and regarding bubbles.

So when I start to see the signs of the Dotcom bubble redoux I tend to get skeptical of every new product or Web Service.  It’s not that I’m against innovation.  To the contrary, I’m a big supporter of trying new things and creating useful new products.  That’s why I’ve chosen to write about technology.

But the stuff I see coming out now doesn’t fall into the realm of common sense.  It’s something that happens every time there is a mania.  Reason is left behind and suddenly anything and everything sounds like a good idea.  At least to the people asking for money.  Everything doesn’t need to become a product.

And the problem with bubbles is that money is there to support it.  The conditions that have prevailed since the bust of 2008-2009 has been one of inflating the money supply.  We are awash in money.  This is where bad ideas go to be germinated.  Money needs to be put to use, and it will seek any means of being used, even if those ideas are not well thought out.

I often look through product review sites, Kickstarter, and Electronic retailers for new ideas.  Aside from finding a lot of duplication in existing product categories, I’m now finding a predominance of extremely questionable products.  The question is – who needs these and who is buying them?

I have a theory about that, which I’ll keep to myself, but it has a little bit to do with the concept of an oversupply of dollars and a suspension of sense.  Let’s leave it at that.

Among the sillier products that I’m tracking are devices which you connect to your phone or tablet to do such routine tasks as boiling eggs.  It’s mind-boggling to know that there are buyers for a phone-connected heat stick that takes an hour to cook your steak.

I’ve seen $400 bag squeezing juicers and $1500 toaster ovens.  There are $200 growlers for your beer and $800 hi-tech backpacks.  The list is actually endless.  All you have to do is search Amazon for gadgets and you’ll get a sense of what I’m talking about.

So what does it mean?  Perhaps nothing.  Maybe this time IS different and all these things are wanted and necessary and just waiting to be purchased.  But perhaps it could also mean that we are very near another top.  Another bubble waiting to be burst.  I’ve seen the signs before and if it happens again it won’t be pretty.

Oh, and did I mention, there’s not one, but many companies specializing in selling dog food over the Internet?  So be careful out there and don’t invest in any overnight pool noodle delivery companies.

There are a few things that are new and DO make sense.  Here’s a couple of them.

 

Manfrotto MTPIXI-B PIXI Mini Tripod

Product Highlights

  • Back Material Type Mahogany
  • Lightweight and portable design
  • Rapid push button lock system for head adjustment
  • Solid construction

 
Some customer reviews

Fantastic Table Top Tripod. Bought this for my Lumix Micro 4/3 System as well as my Lumix LX100. Typical Manfrotto quality construction. Ball head is easy to use and makes perfect adjustments.

I feel they are sturdy and this model works as a nice table top holder for a camera phone or DSLR, I use it for both. I use the tripod for learning features or working on set up of my DSLR, in addition of course to taking photos. 

This mini tripod is super stable, easy to connect to the camera body, and allows precise and easy positioning thanks to the rotating head. Just press the read button near the head to tilt the connector and incline the camera. Always with me in my camera bag.

 


Amazon Echo Dot

Product Highlights

 

  • Uses Alexa to voice control a variety of media and home control applications
  • Connects to external speaker via Bluetooth or 3.5 mm stereo cable
  • Works with WeMo, Philips Hue, Samsung SmartThings, Nest, ecobee, and others
  • Improved voice recognition even in loud room
  • Includes a built-in speaker for basic functions, voice response and playback
  • Hundreds of applications including major Music Services, Uber and Domino’sBack
The Echo Dot has received numerous rave reviews for both its ease of use and ability to perform a wide assortment of daily tasks.

 
Some customer reviews

Until now, nobody quite got it right. In the Echo Dot, Amazon has created a near perfect blend of hardware and software.

This re-release of a critically acclaimed device is quite honestly a grand slam. Although slightly smaller then last years release, this device now picks up your voice even better! Im talking litterally talking leaps and bounds better.

My wife, an initial skeptic, is really surprised by how smart the Echo Dot is, and my kid loves it as well.