Five years ago, I wrote a letter to the bow tie-wearing Bloomberg editor-in-chief Matt Winkler. Finally, today I get an email back from the company. But, you guessed it, through the passage of five years they have managed to entirely miss the point of my original proposal! They want me, the Knackered Hack, holed up in the long-tail of journalism to promote a podcast they have done with Nassim Taleb. If you are me, there is a rich irony in all this. If you are not me, it is Friday afternoon and you have better things to do.

As I recall, the gist of that old letter to Winkler was to say what a good idea it would be for his news organization to be less hierarchical and develop a more networked model of journalistic interaction. My experience had suggested that that was the way large editorial groups needed to operate to have a chance of scaling our ever more complex news environment effectively, by sharing expertise more readily in real-time. Those people who know the Bloomberg news organization would probably tell me that I didn’t have a prayer.

These days, there is a word for what I was talking about way back then: Enterprise 2.0. When I was writing, the term Web 2.0 had not even been coined. Facebook was not even a twinkle in a developer’s glazed-over eyes. Ho-hum.

To be fair to Bloomberg — and the putative presidential ambitions of its major shareholder — a large part of its success, and possibly the main reason for its explosive growth as a financial market platform (as Taleb himself suggests in his book Fooled By Randomness), was that it engineered significant network externalities by providing an instant-messaging tool to a market that was crying out for an easy means to communicate between traders, brokers, fund managers and other financial intermediaries.

Bloomberg’s canny marketing made it a badge of office for traders to have a Bloomberg address. Investment banks and their employees realised that there was kudos in having these things, so when a trader was successful you did not refuse him a Bloomberg. Latterly, when a trader got fired, Bloomberg would install a screen at his home for a limited period, so he was not immediately disconnected from his professional “network”. They were exploiting the social effects of technology big-time, long before most people had even heard of the internet.

Finance has been a crucible for a whole bunch of online technologies and behaviours that are now being tagged Web/Enterprise 2.0. Blogs, RSS, and wikis have their antecedents in the way finance types and some news organizations used high-speed, real-time connectivity long before it was available to general corporates or consumers.

But the further irony in Bloomberg promoting its podcast with Taleb is that Taleb is very critical of what he calls “Bloomberg-style journalism”, which is documented in my interview with him here. But fair-dos to Bloomberg. Any organization that promotes to me as a publisher is doing its work in this fragmented media landscape.

The definitive podcast with Taleb is by Cafe Hayek’s Russ Roberts, which just goes to show how media is being turned upside down, and that universities like George Mason can turn into high quality public service broadcasters, unconstrained by scheduling.

I have to admit that there are some gems in Tom Keene’s interview for Bloomberg. Blackjack fans will enjoy the very nice compliment Taleb pays to fellow quant and author Ed Thorp toward the end of the interview:-

Ed Thorp is a brilliant mathematician who discovered the so-called Black-Scholes formula before Black-Scholes. He didn’t get his name on it. Effectively, when we use the so-called Black-Scholes formula, we use his formula, because his version is broader and can accommodate conditions that are not Gaussian, whereas the Black-Scholes formula cannot accommodate these conditions. He became a very successful trader and he had a bestseller. He started, actually I think, as a gambler and he had a bestseller called Beat the Dealer that sold close to a million copies about blackjack. An astonishing mind, a complete man and a true gentleman.”

Matt Winkler provides advice on tying bow ties here.

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