The Theory of Social Obligation

Friends keep wanting to invite us to showers, bachelor parties, rehearsal dinners, weddings. Where does this sense of obligation come from? When did it become socially unacceptable to say no? I find that girls are terrible at discriminating on weddings to go to. Obviously they should go to their brother’s wedding, but that does not mean they should go to the weddings of all their friends. Moreover, I wonder if they actually get any real utility out of going to the event or if it’s a sense of obligation that takes them there. Worse, somehow it’s not acceptable for them to go alone; so you are dragged to these boring events where you know no one. Frankly I would rather be doing something very important like playing tennis or video games 🙂

One theory could be that the inviters are using whether you accept to go or not as a proxy for how much you value them or your relationship. It follows that the less inviting their event is (distance, length, cost), and the more hurdles you have to navigate, the greater the strength of the relationship. If a set of bath towels didn’t fulfill my obligation, then hopefully travelling to Ohio did.

Separately, I can reluctantly accept that people want weddings, but why is there a need to celebrate over and over again with engagement parties, bachelor parties, etc. It’s all the more interesting that the probability of having a bachelor party is much higher than the probability of having a 10 year anniversary party, which arguably is more of a cause for celebration – potentially because you don’t want to spend that much if you have children to take care of – proving that this is an exercise in narcissism.

The cost of this narcissistic trip averages out to $27,000. In the present day, with individuals marrying older, there is a greater inclination for couples to pay for their own wedding. For most people this will mean they are starting their lives together in debt or with little savings. Since financial issues can cause some of the greatest strain on a marriage, is it possible that the wedding itself leads to divorce? (Where’s Freakonomics when you need it?) By boycotting the wedding one may be increasing the success of the marriage.

If you want to get out of any obligation here is my favorite excuse: “I have a family obligation” – no one will challenge you on that. Note that this only works when you are single, your girlfriend will challenge that one 🙂

This article was written with Nicole Blank.

Unlimited Wireless Broadband for $19.99 / Month

unlimitedLike many road warriors, I have come to realize that WIFI coverage is much less prevalent than I would like – especially when in transit: in a train, car, etc. Also, I have been repeatedly annoyed by hotels charging me up to $29.99 per night for Internet access when I am staying in an already expensive room.

I was ready for 3G. I bought the Wireless Broadband card from Verizon the very day it came out a few years ago and have been happily using it for $79.99 per month for unlimited data ($59.99 if you also have voice plan) ever since.

That said, given how much international travel I do, I have been using a quad band AT&T phone as my regular phone for voice calls. After my Motorola Razor died one time too many (4 times in 6 months!) a few weeks ago, I got an AT&T Sync (a Samsung SGH-A707), one of AT&T’s first 3G phones. I also got AT&T’s $19.99 / month unlimited data package for the phone. AT&T presumably introduced it to promote AT&T Video and browsing on Media Net (AT&T’s Wap portal). The side benefit is that you can connect your notebook to it either via BlueTooth or USB cable and get unlimited 3G connections for the same $19.99 / month!

In places where AT&T has HSPDA the speed is spectacular. 3G coverage is not as good as Verizon’s but improving by the day and Edge is actually usable. You can make phone calls even while the phone is being used as a modem. I also love watching Jay Leno or Comedy Central clips when I have a few minutes to kill in a cab.

I like the service so much I returned the Verizon broadband card. Now if they could introduce unlimited international 3G data roaming, everything would be perfect! (Note to AT&T: I would be willing to pay $99.99 / month for unlimited international 3G data).

Read Tony Blair’s essay in The Economist

Tony Blair is probably the most gifted politician of his generation. He is smart, open minded and a gifted orator. Moreover, I have repeatedly been impressed by his sense of purpose, decisiveness and willingness to fight for what he truly believed in, rather than for what was politically convenient.

His essay on what he’s learned as prime minister is true to form: articulate, logical and impassioned!

Read the article at:

Fly Silverjet to London

Silverjet is a new all business airline flying between New York and London and competing with Eos, MAXjet and the business class offerings of British Airways, Virgin Atlantic and American Airlines. I had the pleasure of meeting the founder of Silverjet at one of David Larkin’s famed Internet parties in New York. Intrigued by the travel experience he promised, I decided to try them out on my current business trip to Europe.

Silverjet flies from Newark to Luton. The train ride from Penn Station to Newark International Airport takes about 30 minutes. You can check in at Silverjet as little as 30 minutes before the scheduled departure time. The lounge offers free WIFI, sandwiches, snacks and drinks.

Silverjet flies a modified Boeing 757 with 100 business class seats. The seats are 6’3” and can become fully flat, though slightly inclined upwards. Every seat has a standard power plug. Entertainment comes in the form of personal video players that they distribute. The staff is by far the friendliest and most helpful I have met in any airline!

The arrival was a pleasant experience. Luton is not congested. Going through customs was a breeze. The Silverjet lounge on arrival had breakfast and free WIFI. The train ride into London takes 40 minutes.

Best of all, the price is $1,000 each way! My only small gripe is that the seat is not as comfortable as the best in class seats. Also, a 6’3” seat is not that big when you are 6’2”, especially if you sleep on your stomach. That said, I did sleep well and arrived rested, and at that price I can’t complain especially given the overall quality of the experience!

The traditional carriers definitely have to worry. Given the convenient check in time, the free WIFI, the power outlet in the seat and the price, I never see myself flying a traditional carrier on the New York – London route.

Conclusion: Fly Silver Jet to London. The quality is great, the service is amazing and the price unbeatable.

Google should buy Yahoo

You might argue that Google is taking share away from Yahoo little by little and therefore should not spend the $40 billion or so it would take to buy Yahoo. However, the deal is very easy to justify:

  • Google is better at monetizing traffic than Yahoo and would increase Yahoo revenues significantly
  • Without Yahoo on the other side, Google could be less generous with sites such as MySpace and AOL and not have to give revenue shares of up to 100% with large pre-payments
  • Buying Yahoo eliminates an aggressive bidder for the other online marketing properties on the market

The deal could probably be justified on these considerations alone. Add in the large cost savings that would come from severe headcount reductions at Yahoo and it’s a no brainer.

The deal might have a hard time getting through the DOJ, but as the combined entity only represents a minute share of the overall advertising market, a convincing case could be made.