From 30k feet...
I write this blog post in the early morning hours, from 30k feet above the ground, courtesy of the wondrous wifi provided up here by the friendly folks at my new favorite airline, Virgin America. The wifi itself is managed by a firm called Gogo, where I have an account that lets me stay "connected", even up here.
I first encountered inflight wifi access a year or so ago on a US Airways flight from CLT to my home airport, FLL. I have to admit, although I am a devoted convert now, I began using this service with mixed emotions.
You see, I travel quite a bit for work - some years I log more than 100 flights. Luckily they are short hops, like the 90-minute flight from my home base in Florida up to our larger Charlotte office. I have managed to not be bothered by all the travel, to smile and appreciate the TSA buggers for the inglorious but necessary work they do to keep me safe, and, with the help of my trusty iPad over the past few years, mostly found ways to enjoy the rides.
For a very long time, time on an airplane was the only and last bastion of "me time" in my life - a place where I was so rarely and joyously, refreshingly disconnected, or "off-grid," reachable by no one, in a cone of silence with my noise-canceling headphones and some reading or listening to tunes or watching a distracting show saved on the iPad. I discovered and consumed entire TV Series I had missed for years, watched only during those pockets of uninterrupted, indeed uninterruptible, flight time. Mad Men, Deadwood, Dexter, ...every Ken Burns documentary and David Mamet film that exists, etc., ...uninterrupted moments of bliss, "alone" at last, miles above the earth and it's unending and unrelenting stream of calls and emails.
Then in-air wifi arrived. Partly, I felt invaded, even violated in a sense. There was no escaping the torrent of information for me anymore, anywhere. I heard horror stories from a few buddies about people logging into the wifi from the seat next to them, connecting to Skype, slapping on some headphones and proceeding to loudly participate in business conference calls for an entire flight, torturing fellow passengers while rudely making their business everyone else's. Yuck! Luckily, that has yet to happen to me. In days gone by I had often traveled the Amtrak rails between NYC and Philly, and always appreciated the option of the "quiet car" - an entire car on the train where cell phone use is prohibited. Since there is no way I can think of to recreate a similar pocket of peace on an airplane, I braced for and feared the worst. So far, luckily, I haven't had to deal with that.
As I type this blog post now, in the wee hours of a "redeye" flight from SFO to FLL, the experience brings a nostalgic smile to my face. Over 20 years ago, me and my friend Mike Raneri (now CEO of our merger partner Zecco) wrote a business plan with the help of a couple of buddies. The plan was for a new kind of "online" broker - one utilizing new technologies to give self-directed investors better connectivity to the markets in every way. That business plan, although it never made it past the planning stage, had a whole section dedicated to what we called the "MTU", or Mobile Trading Unit - a satellite-connected laptop that we envisioned would allow trading from anywhere, even the back of a plane while in flight. We were right in our prediction, but a wee bit off on the timing of that reality emerging! Right about direction but wrong about timing - every option trader especially knows that feeling. I especially smile because my iPad is now my "MTU", and so much more.
In-air wifi has added measurably to my productivity, and, coupled with my philosophy that "Sleep is a Vice", has specifically enabled me to get more work done recently as I have needed to make every minute count while working on our impending merger.
So, I've gone from vision to skeptic to reality in these past two decades, and I now embrace being connected to the world, and to each of you, from up here. I wonder if any of you have similar "love it" or "hate it" perspectives to share about the now completely ubiquitous access to the world, investment-related and otherwise. Where do you stand when it comes to wifi, literally now available from everywhere on, and slightly above, planet earth?
TradeKing Bigdog, Chairman and CEO
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[Image taken from AdamJackson1984 on Flickr]
Online trading has inherent risk due to system response and access times that may vary due to market conditions, system performance, and other factors. An investor should understand these and additional risks before trading.