Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Merciless rip-off

As this is meant to be a digital economy site I thought I might rip off an item from Plum Solutions that provides a really interesting example of just how useful the web has become for developing human knowledge.

What they were providing was a list of online resources to assist people using Excel for financial modelling. Spreadsheets some may now were the original "killer ap" for the PC, with VisiCalc for the AppleII and the original Lotus 1-2-3 for the initial IBM platform. While they have come a long way from there the advances have mostly been in formatting options and built in formulae. But the biggest single change has been their ability to handle larger quantities of data.

The suggestions from Plum were;
* The LinkedIn Financial Modelling in Excel group. The LinkedIn groups in general are a good way to access people interested in your field. Knowledge Management professionals will talk a lot about creating virtual groups of experts across an organisation. LinkedIn shows how to do it across the globe. Interesting question - do the really large knowledge based organisations like the consulting firms run their own social networking sites. I know that at least one Government Department (actually DBCDE) tried to do so but it didn't seem to get much use.
* Pointy Haired Dilbert is a fascinating blog for the heavy-duty Excel user. Plum suggest that if you subscribe, barely a day goes by without a fascinating tip or Excel tidbit.
* Accotding to Plum www.financialmodelingguide.com and the related www.finance30.com have a huge following and are great resources on general finance as well as Financial Modelling. These are very much focussed on the "finance" part of financial modelling.
* Plum refers to the discussion forum on Financial Mechanics site as "the entertaining Swamp Fox" newsletter and user forum. Possibly interesting stuff, again very much for the financial.
* Meanwhile Vertex 24 is described as a guide to Excel in everything and includes loads of templates and calculators.
* Corality is an interesting firm that specialises in the audit of models. They provide a blog that Plum claims "has lots of Financial Modelling and Excel-related topics".
* Others suggested by Plum are Navigator Project Finance which has a blog together with free tutorials and other resources to download, and Access Analytic which has a "knowledge area".
Plum concludes by noting that for plain Excel stuff, you can always head straight to the Microsoft user discussion groups

Plum readers also offered other useful links. Mohit Khurana provided a link to his own ExcelMatic blog. Another reader promoted speadsheetzon.com which describes itself as "one of the biggest Excel template repositories on the web".

The purpose of this post wasn't just to mercilessly ripoff the Plum post nor just to make abn interesting repository of these links for leter use - it was to show off just how much the web increases the accessiblity of this kind of knowledge.

My only disappointment...none of the links seemed to refer to the Mathematica kernel for Excel, and they were all financial modelling biased (the place spreadsheets made their own). I'm more interested in the statistical/econometric capabilities, and in the possibility of using Excel as a platform for conducting agent-based modelling (why - because CELLS look like natural homes for parameters for agents (which could be rows) - new sheets for each new time period - and lots of mathematical functions are available).

Monday, June 29, 2009

Long Time No Talk

I got an e-mail advice on 25 May that read

The third installment in the government's online consultation trial has just launched (with much less publicity) Please check it out at www.openforum.com.au/NHROC I would be happy to talk to you about it. Really want to let as many people as possible know it's happening so they can participate.

I sort of missed it though as I had temporarily retired battered and bruised from the public policy debate space.

I was intrigued by how this was called the "third installment" - I guess the DE blog was the second as someone else had run one as well. But I have serious doubts about the validity of this one, as the choice was made to use space on www.openforum.co.au which counts as its major sponsor a group called Global Access Partners. GAP gives the illusion of being a straight-forward private think tank, but their modus operandi was pretty is very non-transparent.

More recently the Australian Government has launched a consultation on Government 2.0 using the tools. I'm starting to think they are trying too hard to find ways of doing it differently rather than simply being organic in the development of use. After all the move to publishing decision from the Government Gazette to websites has been gradual.

The big focus on Public Sector Information has nothing really to do with any of the digital economy issues - the traps in this space seem mostly to be caught in odd thoughts about Government not competing with the private sector. That is, by being in the info biz they cut off someone else's opportunity to make a buck.

The relative logic of that proposition kicks off a strand of discussion in economics I don't want to pursue.

PS Tried another post to Crikey about filtering. Let's see if they will publish me again.