Recent Posts

May 2010

Canadian Housing Bubble and how to short it

Posted on May 30, 2010

canadian housing bubbleRecently I went to a PHP programming conference in Chicago, Illinois and was able to sit next to a Canadian businessman on our flight home. We discussed many things and some how we ended up on the U.S housing bubble.

“How much have homes appreciated in value where you live?” I asked.

“Well, I sold a home in early 2000 for about $180k” he started. “Now that same home, with maybe $300k worth of upgrades would go for $700k-$800k”

Uh oh, I thought strike one

I proceeded to tell him about Bend and how at our height, the median was around $400k.

“What is it now?” he asked.

“Well, I think last month the median was around $180k”

The businessman sat there, mouth agape, stunned.

“Glad that isn’t happening up north, I’d be in trouble.  I think homes in Canada are going to just level off in large YoY appreciataion because they were so cheap before”

strike two I thought.

“Well why couldn’t it happen with Canada also?” I asked directly.

He looked at me, and with conviction, said “Well, Canada is different…” and proceeded to tell me how.

Strike three I thought this thing is toast

And then today I read this article from mish

Imagine, 68% of your disposable income being spent on housing costs with the remaining disposable income likely being spent on their favorite Top Ramen and KD dinners. This is insane as well as unsustainable. It’s funny that many Canadians seems to think that the 49th parallel has magically created immunity from a housing bust that in their minds is exclusive to the United States. I can’t tell you how many times friends and acquaintances say that Canada’s banks are sound and there was no sub-prime lending and it just can’t happen here. I’m quick to remind them that the loss of one income from a two income family will in essence convert a low credit risk to a poor credit risk akin to that of a sub-prime borrower real fast. Now, multiply this my hundreds of thousands if not millions of borrows and we too have a major problem in Canada no different from that of the US. Wishful thinking really. The proof’s in the pudding and this puddings going to bring a dose of reality to those that are living in fantasy land, way beyond their means and who apparently have missed the global financial crisis that’s been gaining traction and intensity since August 2007.

We’re not only “Hosers” in Canada but we’re royally Hosed as well!!

Robert Clegg, JD, LL.M
Ombudsman, University of Calgary
Calgary, Alberta

Now if only I could figure out how to short the housing mess that we all know is coming to Canada, I’d be insanely rich.

-peace

Why Olark.com is better than their competitors

Posted on May 3, 2010

So I have been pretty quiet about it for the last couple of months, but I have a new venture coming out that I believe will hopefully make a few waves. In looking at ways to better my customer support, I happened across a sweet chat widget called Olark.

Basically the widget sits in the corner of your site (like most do) and allows anyone who visits your site to chat with you via a standard IM client (iChat, Adium, Gtalk, etc…). It will hopefully help keep current customers happy, and maybe convert a few people who would otherwise have clicked away.

At this point you may be asking “Well what makes them better?” and I could easily say that what makes them better is;

  • Olark took less than 5 minutes to install
  • Olark allows me to customize my chat widget to match the colors of my site
  • Olark saves transcripts of my sessions for further review
  • Olark encrypts my chat sessions
  • Olark is very affordable

But I won’t. Because that is not what makes them better. You see, what makes them better in my opinion is their awesome customer support.

It began with a follow-up question. Now to be clear, I had visited Olark.com, clicked in their very own Olark widget, running on their very own site, got no response, so I left. I figured that would be the end of it, but then a guy named Matt shoots me the following email.

Hi – I saw you just signed up for olark.com, let me know if there is anything I can do to help

-Matt

Awesome! A dialogue has begun.

So our correspondence went on for several days. And it could have been awkward, it could have gone bad, but no, Olark’s group have a very deft touch at helping out their customers. At one point I guess I was even speaking with one of the co-founders, and the exchange ended up going so well that he wrote.

Awesome, we definitely buy into the “smaller is better” mantra.  Most of our customers are small businesses like us in fact :)  If you ever stop by the SF bay area drop us a line.

cheers,
Roland

How sweet is that? I seem to have made some friends!

So to sum this up, you could use Olark for all the reasons I listed above. But the reason that you should use Olark is because they are actually human beings and treat you like a person and not a paycheck.

-kudos boys

jared