IPO – What Could It Mean?

A private company is free to act however its owners choose, within confines of the law, of course. Until recently, Twitter was privately held. By initiating an initial public offering, the company is now publicly traded. Twitter is now responsible to a beast other than its customers, employees, and owners: shareholders.

Inviting New Guests

Shareholders generally buy for one reason: profit and the earnings they can gain from it. Twitter is bringing in money thanks to promoted tweetsaccountstrends, and its foray into TV-linked advertising, but it has never earned a positive bottom line. Pressure is mounting for the company to move its ledgers out of the red.

I have no doubt the company’s public offering is related to that fact. No income means dwindling reserves of cash, which is not a sustainable business model – neither is relying on a public offering for money meant to cover operational costs.

That implies that the public offering has a purpose other than the need for cash: new minds working on a difficult problem. Buy outs of “undervalued” companies were a common practice in years past – investors with big ideas buying a majority share of a company and attempting to increase its market value for the benefit of shareholders (and themselves). It seems almost as if Twitter’s c-suite was hoping for something similar.

The Future

No income and an IPO do not mix unless there is hope for something new. Exactly what that something new will be is unclear. The leveraged buy outs I mentioned earlier were not guaranteed successes and sometimes deliberately exploited the company for personal gain, and Twitter’s vast reserves of information are exploitable.

It is widely known that Twitter played an extensive role in the Arab Spring thanks in part to its stance on the privacy of information. It is likely the decision to hold back personal information is no accident and comes from the top of the company.

Shareholders complicate that matter. The question becomes “what will change for the sake of being profitable”? Facebook is well known for using the vast amount of information it collects about individual users to earn a profit – targeting advertisements on the social network is something many companies are willing to pay for. That use of the information is not dangerous in itself, but selling the information to the spy agency of a citizen-scrutinizing-and-critic-censoring country (Iran, China, Russia, sometimes the U.S., etc) would be.

I am fine with Twitter earning a profit (we all need to eat), but not at the expense of its customers personal security. With my knowledge of shareholder function and stock markets, I cannot say for certain what will happen, I just hope Tweeps do not get used and abused by an over-enterprising shareholder or two.

Over To You

So what do you think will happen? How will its IPO change Twitter? Are you a shareholder of the company? Start the discussion in the comments below!

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Textbook Reading: It’s Just a Phase…

In my first year at college, a student approached me after class to ask a question.

“How did you remember that one sentence in the assigned chapter that answered the professor’s question, man?”  At the time, my answer was lame (and the irony is that I can’t remember the professors question or my answer):

“I just read the material.”

Though not exciting, that was the correct answer at the time.  I would skim the chapter, and then read it soon after.  Since then, I have refined my textbook reading technique into a phased approach.

It works for me, but it is by no means the “only” way to get through an assigned reading.  At the very least, I hope it will help you create an approach that works best for you.

Phase 1: The Set-Up

Set Aside Time

My usual is 4 hours in a morning for one subject, 4 hours the same afternoon for another subject.  If pressed, I can add additional reading or assignments (or a social life) to the middle of the day or evening.

If you’re taking a course that has a regular schedule, a regulated reading schedule will be helpful.  The routine will make it easier to actually do the reading instead of putting it off until later.  It will also make it easier for your brain to categorize and retain the information.

Grab a glass of water.  Fill a cup of coffee.  Make your lunch.  Whatever makes your study time comfortable and allows you to retain information; do it.

Study Space

I study at my dining table.  Always.

Just like the consistent timing of a study session, the consistent place will help you retain information.  It can also help with the next step.

Remove Distractions

Turn off the cell phone.  Log off Facebook.  Disconnect from the internet.  Lock your front door.  Seriously.

This is the most important step.  Do it right.  You are trying to create knowledge, so focus on that instead of the world around you.

Phase 2: Information Intake

Know What You’re Getting Into

Read the chapter overview.  It’s there for a reason: to tell you what you’re about to read.

Read the End First

Just like an awful novel you don’t feel obligated to read completely.

A well written chapter summary is worth its weight in gold.  It should tell you what you can expect from the chapter and the author’s writing style.

If the summaries in your textbook suck, write a list of the reasons why and discuss them with your professor.  Generally they choose the textbook for the course, so will appreciate the feedback.  If they don’t, then they aren’t much of a professor.

Skim the chapter

Read definitions of key terms.  Highlight sections that grab your attention.  Take a look over charts and graphics.

At this stage, you don’t need to think about the information.  By this point, you should have a general sense of what the chapter is trying to say.  If questions come to mind, write them down and try to answer them in the next phase.

Break

Take a 5 minute break.  Mentally bounce what you just read around in your mind.  There is no need to draw conclusions.

Phase 3: Knowledge Creation

Other than removing distractions, this is the most critical phase.  It will take time.  It may not be easy.  However, it will help you get what you need from the textbook.

Reading

Read the chapter word for word.  Re-read the summary.  Take the time to consider definitions in a way that will help you understand what the term means.

Highlight key concepts.  Think about them, too.  Ask yourself “what does this concept mean in the context of this class and my life?  How can I apply it?”

While reading, take notes based on how you understand what you are reading; you can always check your understanding with your professor.  These will be useful in class and later in life.  The way that you understand the content is more important than how the textbook presents it. Exact format is unimportant: mind maps are effective, but you may find other forms of notes to be more effective.

If there are example exercises, do at least a few of them.  This is especially important for math-heavy classes.  Do the math; it will make your in-class and in-exam life less painful.

Re-read sections that do not make sense.  Take a 5 minute break to consider a section if it still does not make sense.  Write down questions.

Review

Reading needs to be done first; however, review is just as important for retention of information and creating knowledge.

Open the textbook to the appropriate chapter, read over your notes, highlighted concepts, and sections that didn’t quite make sense.  Consider how it could apply to your life or how you assume it applies to the context of the class associated to the textbook.  Think of examples of putting the chapter concepts to use.  Spend at least 10-20 minutes reflecting on the material.

Review in a way that fits the class material.  For dense and complex textbooks like those I read for psychology and consumer behaviour classes, I recommend taking additional time for review.  When I took those classes, I would dedicate the first 4 hour session to reading with some time to review, and then a 2-3 hour block either the next day or later in the same day to review and re-skim the chapter.

Break Away

Organize and collect your notes.  Close the textbook.

You’re done…for now.

Phase 4: Final Review

Re-skim the chapter and your notes the night before or the day of (if you have the time) class.  I know some students that re-read the entire chapter.  Write down any new understandings of the material that come to mind as you revisit it; same for questions.

Bring your knowledge to class.  Answer questions.  Ask questions.  Feel smart.

How do you read your textbooks?  Is there a specific ritual like the one I’ve described?  Tell us about it in ta comment.