Recently Filed in Business

A few days ago, my Mercury News 60 second business break e-mail listed three companies restating earnings—two in response to formal or informal regulatory investigations.

Half the time when I log into the Wall Street Journal there's yet another mention of options back-dating. These were cases where executives were miraculously granted options on days the price took a dip, such as these to one CEO. The Journal crunched this as 1 in 300 billion odds but the CEO called it "blind luck":

chart of three options grants

Recently AOL had a little "oops." They released 3 months' search data for over 650,000 subscribers. While they removed the AOL account names, they replaced those individual IDs with equally unique numeric IDs. Between "ego surfing" for one's own name and other specific local searches over such an extensive period, many of the "anonymous" people in this file could be identified. Theoretically this was supposed to be just for researchers, but they put it up on an unprotected site and naturally a whole bunch of other people found this Web goldmine. While they've apologized, there's no way to stuff the data back in the box.

Why do people care about the file? Several reasons. Search engine optimization consultants are drooling over the opportunity to compare search queries with the pages people clicked on. Since Google drives AOL's searches, their competitors now have a handy volume of data for reverse engineering their algorithms. Law enforcement has enough searches on illegal topics to keep them occupied for ages. The rest of us can simply be seduced by the life dramas captured in a season's worth of surfing.

Why should we all care about the release? If you didn't understand Google's resistance to disclosing this kind of data, maybe you can now see how personal it really is. Compared to regions such as the EU, the US already has very weak and patchwork privacy laws. And yet, it seems each week there's another attempt to erode them a little more. For some reason Minority Report is coming to mind, when Anderton (Cruise) was walking through the shopping center and every billboard tracked him as he walked by. If you think it's just SciFi, you haven't been paying attention to RFID developments.

GrupThink has a list of easily mispronounced domain names. Amazingly only one is listed as being renamed so far. General rule: Never combine a plural with "exchange."

For those who haven't had enough marketing classes in their life, the Chevy Nova is considered one of the original global naming "oops." In Spanish, "no va" means "doesn't go." Of course according to Snopes it's a false story, so take it as you will.

I've spent the last four days at the National Speaker's Association annual convention. Imagine 1,700 people who love to talk, give advice, and be the center of attention. Now turn up the volume another few notches.

Despite the occasional din, this has been one of the most fabulous professional growth experiences I've ever had. While Toastmasters is an excellent place to learn how to speak more coherently (especially if you have "um" problems), NSA is a place to learn how to manage the business of being a speaker. They have four core competencies they develop in their members:

Google has snuck out yet another service (no doubt to be terminally in Beta). This one I heard about through an article about eBay stock dropping, despite having both AdWords and Analytics accouts.

I find Google Checkout very intriguing for two reasons.

First, they've undercut most of the reputable merchant account services, even Costco which was the least expensive last time I crunched the rates. Not only are the basic discount rate, per-transaction and monthly/annual fees lower, the fact that you don't need a separate payment gateway like Authorize.Net for real-time processing is another savings. Their simplified rates are also a nice change from the bait and switch experience with many merchant services companies. Many will advertise rates which can only be achieved by brick and mortar or high volume vendors, and it's only when you dig through the fine print that you learn you'll be paying a full percentage point more.