Sunday, August 17, 2014

Research by Princeton and Northwestern Professors Shows USA Political System Very Focused on Doing What Rich Want Done

I have become (over the last 10 to 15 years) very frustrated with how corrupt the USA political system is. Petty corruption exists in the USA and is annoying but doesn't do much harm and is not that troublesome (it is lower than most places - other than in Scandinavia and a few other places). But the extent to which we elect people who then do the bidding of those giving them lots of cash (directly to their campaign, indirectly, in post career cushy high paying gigs if you do them favors while in office and in cushy high paying gigs for staff) the corruption is endemic and does great damage to the USA.

Testing Theories of American Politics: Elites, Interest Groups, and Average Citizens by Martin Gilens Princeton University and Benjamin Page Northwestern University.
The central point that emerges from our research is that economic elites and organized groups representing business interests have substantial independent impacts on U.S. government policy, while mass-based interest groups and average citizens have little or no independent influence. Our results provide substantial support for theories of Economic Elite Domination and for theories of Biased Pluralism, but not for theories of Majoritarian Electoral Democracy or Majoritarian Pluralism.
Bolding added by me.

In some ways politicians make it even worse than just direct bribery that at least ends when the briber gets what they paid for. The current system encourages legislators to maintain a state of constant threat to economic interests in order to bleed them for more donations. Rather than address issues that are important for the country they leave open wounds festering in order to get interested parties to pay more cash to get the needed changes made.

In legislation there are going to have to choices made and interested parties will win or lose. That people who don't get what they want will be frustrated I understand. That doesn't bother me. What bothers me is that
  1. politicians create legislation (or pressure for regulation and enforcement) that is clearly against the interests of the country (no matter what political frame you have in mind). This is a subset of what is done but this is horrible and widespread and only supported by corrupt parties.
  2. that we elect these corrupt people and parties after decades of clear evidence they are corrupt.
Given that we continue to elect them the blame falls heavily on the voters, in my view. Yes, the corrupt people selling out the country and their fellow citizens for their personal well being are unethical, unpatriotic and despicable. But we could throw out the corrupt people and parties if we chose to, and we don't.

More quotes from the paper:
Not only do ordinary citizens not have uniquely substantial power over policy decisions; they have little or no independent influence on policy at all.

By contrast, economic elites are estimated to have a quite substantial, highly significant, independent impact on policy. This does not mean that theories of Economic Elite Domination are wholly upheld, since our results indicate that individual elites must share their policy influence with organized interest groups. Still, economic elites stand out as quite influential – more so than any other set of actors studied here – in the making of U.S. public policy.

Similarly, organized interest groups (all taken together, for now) are found to have substantial independent influence on policy. Again, the predictions of pure theories of interest group pluralism are not wholly upheld, since organized interest groups must share influence with economically elite individuals. But interest group alignments are estimated to have a large, positive, highly significant impact upon public policy.

These results suggest that reality is best captured by mixed theories in which both individual economic elites and organized interest groups (including corporations, largely owned and controlled by wealthy elites) play a substantial part in affecting public policy, but the general public has little or no independent influence.
As with most economic research there is plenty of room to argue with their conclusion (the data is often somewhat subjective and appropriateness of proxy measures can be argued). But I agree with some of the big conclusions they draw. They don't then tie the cash payments to politicians as the reason for why the most wealthy and most organized interest groups get their way but it lays out part of the story that exposes the corrupt system in place now.

Related: Why Congress Won’t Investigate Wall Street - Lobbyists Keep Tax Off Billion Dollar Private Equities Deals and On For Our Grandchildren - TPP Transparency Confirms the Worst Fears: USA Government Still Trying to Strip Away Rights of Citizens in USA and Elsewhere - Monopolies and Oligopolies do not a Free Market Make - Society is being shaped for us while we are busy making other plans - Good Journalism Aids Society by Shining the Light on Corruption - Failure to Regulate Financial Markets Leads to Predictable Consequences - Bad Behavior Shining the light on the actions of those in power
An important feature of interest group influence is that it is often deployed against proposed policy changes. On the 1,357 proposed policy changes for which at least one interest group was coded as favoring or opposing change, in only 36% of the cases did most groups favor change, while in 55% of the cases most groups opposed change. (The remaining cases involved equal numbers for and against.)
The Cash for Votes subreddit collects links to examples of political corruption in the USA and elsewhere.

Monday, August 11, 2014

Moz Page Authority for Various Sites - Updated August 2014

Google used to update published page rank every 3 months. Now they have only updated it 2 times in 18 months. I am glad Moz stepped up with a frequently updated page link ranking measure (Moz Page Authority). I just find it interesting to watch what happens over time as I have done in previous posts here.

Since Google no longer finds it in their interest to share the even very old data with us (the current data is over 8 months old), I demote Google Page Rank to the lessor measure - and don't include it for Aug 2014 since it hasn't been updated).
SiteAug 2014 (MozRank)Dec 2013
[GPR]
Feb 2013Oct 2011 Dec 2010
MozPA > 5
Curious Cat Management Blog5.9 (6.0)6.1 [5]6.3 [5] 5.5 [5] [4]
@CuriousCat_com5.8 (4.6)
My Kiva page5.6 (4.7)5.8 [-]6.2 [-]4.0 [-][3]
Curious Cat Investing and Economics Blog5.5 (6.1)4 [5.7]5.9 [4]5.3 [4][3]
Curious Cat Engineering and Science Blog5.5 (6.0)5.8 [5]6.1 55.3 [6]4
The W. Edwards Deming Institute Blog5.2 (6.0)5.5 [5]5.2 [4]--
Curiouscat.com5.0 (6.0)**5.4 [4]5.6 [4][3]
Curious Cat Travel Photo Blog5.0 (5.9)4 [5.0]4 [5.1]3 [4.9]-

MozPA > 4
John Hunter4.8 (6.1)5.0 [5]5.3 [5]5.4 [4][4]
Public Sector Continuous Improvement Site*4.8 (5.4)5.0 [**]5.1 [4]5.0 [5][4]
Six Sigma Management Resources*4.7 (5.6)4.9 [**]5.0 [4][4]
Deming's Management Method*4.7 (5.3)4.9 [**]5.0 [3]4.5 [4][4]
Investment Dictionary*4.6 (5.9)4.8 [**]5.0 [4]5.2 [4]
Curious Cat Management Improvement Connections*4.6 (5.6)3.3 [**]5.4 [4]5.5 [5][4]
CSS 4 Free4.4 (5.4)4.7 [5]4.9 [4]5.4 [4][4]
The Future is Engineering*4.3 (5.7)4.3 [4]4.6 [4]
Good Process Improvement Practices*4.2 (5.2)4.0 [3]4.1 [3]4.1 [3]
Economic Strength Through Technology Leadership4.1 [5.8]4.2 [-]4.5 [-]4.7 [4][4]
Management Articles*4.1 (5.5)3.9 [3]4.3 [4]
Curious Cat Management Comments4.1 (5.0)3.9 [3]4.3 [4]4.5 [3]
Multi Site PageRank Checker4.1 (4.9)4.1 [4]4.1 [3]4.7 [3][2]
Living in Singapore4.0 (5.7)4 [4.1]4 [4.3]3 [4.0]
Management Dictionary*4.0 (5.4)2.6 [**]5.2 [5]5.4 [5][4]
SiteAug 2014 (MozRank)Dec 2013
[GPR]
Feb 2013Oct 2011 Dec 2010

MozPA > 3.5
Living in Malaysia3.9 (5.8)4.0 [4]4.2 [4]4.1 [3]
The Engineer That Made Your Cat a Photographer*3.9 (5.7)4.1 [3]4.4 [4]4.7 [4][4]
Curious Cat Gadgets3.9 (5.5)4.1 [4]4 [4.3]
Architecture and home design inspiration3.9 (5.5)4.0 [3]4.2 [4]--
Curious Cat Code (programming)3.8 (5.5)4.1 [4]4.3 [4]4.2 [4]--
Management Matters (my book)*3.8 (5.4)3.8 [4]3.5 [4]---
Curious Cat Comments (this blog)3.8 (5.1)3.9 [3]4.0 [3]3.8 [-][3]
Statistics for Experimenters3.7 (5.7)3.9 [4]3.9 [4]4.5 [3][3]
Life and Legacy of William Hunter3.7 (5.5)4.0 [4]4.1 [4]4.5 [4][4]
externs.com - internship directory3.7 (5.3)4.0 [4]4.4 [4]5.2 [4][4]
Management and Leadership Quotes3.6 (5.7)3.7 [4]4.0 [4]5.2 [2][2]
Hexawise Software Testing Blog3.6 (4.9)3.8 [4]4.0 [3]

MozRank > 3
Curious Cat Travel Destinations3.4 (5.7)3.4 [3]3.2 [3]-
CuriousCat Wordpress3.4 (3.8)3.5 [1]3.6 [-][-]
Justin Hunter (my brother)3.3 (4.8)3.4 [-]3.4 [-]2.9 [2][2]
Curious Cat Web Directory3.1 (5.0)3.3 [2]3.6 [4]4.7 [4][3]
Improving Your Search Engine Ranking Blog3.1 (5.0) New
Management Improvement Resources3.0 (4.7)3.1 [3]3.4 [3]3.8 [3][3]

MozRank < 3
Curious Cat Travel Destinations: Marina Bay Sands (Singapore)2.9 (5.3)2.9 [2]3.0 [2]--
Johor Bahru Real Estate2.8 (5.3)3.0 [2]3.2 [2]-
Hexawise.tv2.8 (4.9)2.8 [2]2.9 [2]-
Curious Cat Travel Destinations: Australia1.5 (4.9)1.3 [-]1.8 [-][-]
Curious Cat Travel Destinations: France1.4 (5.1)1.3 [-]1.9 [-][-]
Curious Cat Travel BlogNew


* internal pages
** new url or old url forwarded (so Google losses track of the page rank for awhile)
- didn't exist yet or google didn't rank it for some reason
[blank] I don't know what the pagerank was, sometimes the site didn't exist yet.

Moz Page Authority is the measure that is equivalent to Google PageRank. So in the chart below the MozRank is shown inside ( ) for Aug 2014. [] indicate Google PageRank measures. Those without parenthesis are Moz Page Authority divided by 10 (because SEO Moz also decided to scale MozPA up to 100 while Google PageRank caps out at ten and I already been listing the data listed in the 10 scale the last few years). Related:

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Getting Around Bad Web Page Layouts

The page layouts of some sites seem to be designed by people only viewing sites on huge monitors. Google also seems to test some of their stuff only with super fast and super low latency connections. It isn't so surprising companies that don't have much customer focus just do what looks good in their office (which often isn't what the customer experiences).

Zillow and Trulia offer real estate information and provide maps. Unfortunately they don't bother to design the page layouts for the needs of people without huge monitors. For example, Zillow has 20% of the top of my screen used and then 50% of the right of the screen taken so you have this pretty small window for the content I want to see - the map.

I super easy design that would be done if customer focus was a concern is just allow the right column to be closed by users that don't want that waster their screen. But Zillow doesn't do that.

Given this I found another way to get back your view even if the page is designed to prevent it. Make the browser window very large (much more than your screen). Have the useless right column that you don't have any use for moved off the screen. This is obviously awkward but it works.

Sadly they then center the content for specific housing result so you have a huge amount of white space on the left and the page results scroll off the screen on the right. If they just didn't center it, things would be fine. If you right-click open the link in a new window it works (because the window opens as a normal sized window instead of the super large window created to cope with the badly designed web page).

These are the kind of solutions that only make sense for badly designed sites that are worth your time working around their bad designs. Most of the time I just abandoned such sites. But in those rare cases I actually find the site worth dealing with even with the poor design choices you can sometimes find work arounds in case you are not sitting in the exact conditions of their office (no large monitor, perhaps less awesome eyesight - which goes as people age…).

Another common failing of sites is thinking they can (or should even try) to treat web pages like magazines. So when you use larger fonts (very common for older users - very uncommon for web designers) the display falls apart - Trulia has this failing in the vary bad way of having content fall behind other content so you can't even see it).

Zillow and Trulia are actually pretty useful sites if you are interested in USA real estate. Supposedly Zillow is trying to buy Trulia. In a capitalist society this wouldn't be allowed. I hope it is not. But in a corrupt political society where cash buys votes and regulatory decisions it would be allowed. My guess is it will be allowed.

Related: Poor Web Site User Experience (Ux) for stock market data - Customer Focus and Internet Travel Search - Political and Corporate Cronyism are not Capitalism - 6 years Later Goolge Acts To Let Me Block Sites I don't want to see - snd then Google re-polluted the results :-(

Saturday, July 26, 2014

Blocking Bad Actor Web sites

I followed a link to a site that forced download of 2 files before Chrome finally stopped it and opened up 2 extra tabs and put a blocking popup that wouldn't even allow Chrome to shut down without saying ok to their crap (force shutdown via Apple was the only option).

I wish I could subscribe to a curated list of such sites to block my browser from going there. And I had the ability to submit my candidates (like the jack ass site today). I also wish browsers didn't allow that type of crap (the popup window, files and extra tabs) to get by and mess with me. Popups should not be allowed without my explicit approval. Downloads shouldn't be either (at least for most files - .jpg etc probably should). I wish the curated list would also deal with this and block more from bad actor sites and allow more from good actor sites…

Are there solutions that are addressing this now? What are they?

Trip Advisor is the only legitimate site I know that frequently abuses popup tabs etc.. Other sites I guess do it in a standard way that honors browser preferences. In my experience on bad actors, spammers, etc. and Trip Advisor (who I guess many would put in the bad actor category but I excuse or at least see as a useful actor that behaves badly so I see a bit differently than all the other bad actors that offer nothing of value to offset their bad behavior) - the only site that I use which abuses users but is useful otherwise is Trip Advisor. There are probably a couple other sites in the Trip Advisor bad actor category but I just don't bother using them. Well actually Google can come close sometimes but really I rarely see them do this type of thing (notification icon is one example of such bad behavior by Google).

Related: Practicing Mistake-Promoting Instead of Mistake-Proofing at Apple - AT&T's Attempt to Take Away Consumer's Rights Denied - Incredibly Bad Customer Service from Discover Card - More Bad Customer Service Examples :-(

Wednesday, June 04, 2014

Homicides by Gun Have Declined a Great Deal in the USA the last 20 Years - Still Over 11,000 People Killed with Guns in the USA Every Year

Homicides using guns in the USA have seen a big decline in the last 20 years. In 2010, CDC data counted 11,078 gun homicide deaths, compared with 18,253 in 1993 which is a rate of 3.6 gun homicides per 100,000 people, compared with 7.0 in 1993. This is great news. But this leaves the USA with 11,078 gun homicides in 2010 which is horrible.

From 1993 to 2000, the death rate dropped 45%. From 2000 to 2010, the death rate declined only 7% more.

The Pew Research report provides a large amount of detail on this aspect of our safety and health.

Deaths from mass shootings are a relatively small share of firearm homicides. According to a recent Congressional Research Service report (Congressional Research Service, 2013), 78 public mass shootings occurred in the United States from 1983 through 2012, claiming 547 lives and injuring 476 people.

... The United Nations Global Study on Homicide (UNODC, 2011) estimated that 199,000 homicides, or 42% of the 468,000 worldwide total in 2010, were committed by firearm.

According to U.N. statistics, the U.S. firearm homicide rate and overall homicide rate are higher than those in Canada and in Western European and Scandinavian nations, but lower than those in many Caribbean and Latin American countries for which data are available.

Where does the U.S. rank internationally in terms of gun crime of all types? A report that compared 2003-2004 victimization survey data for 30 countries, including most developed nations, found that the U.S. ranked about average in an overall index of common crimes (Van Dijk et al., 2007).

However, the report placed the U.S. among the top countries for attacks involving firearms. “Mexico, the USA and Northern Ireland stand out with the highest percentages gun-related attacks (16%, 6% and 6% respectively).” The U.S. had the highest share of sexual assault involving guns.
If the USA had the rates of gun homicides as Western European countries over 9,000 people would spared every year. At the Japan rate nearly 11,000 people would be spared every year.

USA rate for 2011 4 per 100,000 (homicide 3.6 + accident .3 + undetermined .1)
France = .68
Canada = .59
Italy = .47
Germany = .3
Spain = .2
UK = .07
Japan = .02

The improvement in the USA is good, but we shouldn't ignore the 9,000 people killed every year that other societies have shown is not necessary. That is 90,000 people every decade. That is a huge number, even based on the lower rate of gun homicides we have today compared to 20 years ago.

Related: Militarized Police Culture Creates Long Term Large Scale SWAT Raid Failure for Society - Using Deming’s Management Ideas to Reduce Violence in Prison - Police Failing to Enforce Law If Lawbreaker is a Police Officer - Police State

Wednesday, May 07, 2014

Amazon Needs to Provide Assurance That Reviews Are Not Subject to Legal Harassment

I realize it is a tricky situation for Amazon. But if Amazon doesn't strongly and openly attack companies and lawyers trying to silence honest reviews on Amazon then we can't trust Amazon's reviews which have been a great source of information for customers.

Here is an example of a law firm trying to rid Amazon of honest reviews. The lawyers at Amazon probably want Amazon to just ignore things and let the intimidation take place. Legally it is likely the easiest thing for Amazon to do.

But if Amazon puts customer service first (which I think they try to do more than most companies) they have to take a strong stand against lawyers trying to suppress information about bad products of the companies they represent. The strong steps they could take include putting a note on every product by that company leading to details about evidence the company attempts to suppress negative reviews. They could also suspend offending companies for a period of time. They could raise their margins on such companies (thus making those companies products more costly). They could require companies to disclose any legal actions taken against Amazon review. Amazon could take legal action (or provide lawyers to those with standing to take legal action if lawyers trying to undermine Amazon's reviews isn't seen as something Amazon is allowed to protect against) against those lawyers trying to undermine the integrity of Amazon reviews.

There are all sorts of things Amazon could do to give customers access to better reviews that if lawyers are allied to intimidate and suppress honest negative reviews. They require effort and expense by Amazon so I doubt they will do much more than token action when the attention is so strong as to make inaction cause people question the integrity of Amazon reviews. It is certainly easier to sit by and ignore attempts to suppress negative reviews. I hope Amazon decides to take strong and public action to stop the abuse of the legal system to suppress negative reviews.

Related: HP Leaders Once Again Caught in Corruption Scandal - Action Is More Important Than Sympathy - Poor Service from Amazon (2008) - Jeff Bezos: Innovation, Experiments and Long Term Thinking - Links about Customer Hostility by Companies Update: Amazon revoked the offending company's right to sell on Amazon. Good move.

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Exploratory and Scripted Software Testing

My response to, The Software Tester’s Easter Egg Hunt
I also whole-heartedly agree with his overall point that skill-based testing is much more valuable than the ability to mindlessly create and run hundreds of scripted tests. The only issue here is that, in order to make Holland’s point a bit more realistic, you really need to add a few layers to this hunt:
  • The eggs aren’t always visible at first glance.
  • Each hunt lasts a finite amount of time.
  • After each hunt, someone else renovates the building and hides new Easter eggs.
When you include these factors in the equation, scripted tests can become an extremely valuable asset.
Also each bug may only appear when certain other conditions are in specific states and when they are not in those states everything works fine (pairwise and combinatorial bugs). Like I can't use your comment system with Chrome ("Disqus seems to be taking longer than usual. Reload?" - just forever, reloading...) but I can with Firefox.

The most apparent/predictable pairwise and combinatorial bugs can be caught with exloratory testing. Many may not be though.

Scripted testing is good to check specific settings for specific results. Doing a bunch of this programmatically is very useful (especially to catch unexpected bugs from minimal code updates - doing full exploratory testing of an entire application every time any code is updated would take a great deal of resources - and likely slow things down too). Doing some of it with a person looking for issues in specific test cases is wise.

Thinking this is all you have to do is very unwise. You need exploratory testing by a knowledgeable software tester (or if this isn't possible then exploratory testing by a user proxy - this is not perfect but is much better than nothing) if you care about the quality of your software.

Related: Which is Better, Orthogonal Array or Pairwise Software Testing? - Maximizing Software Tester Value by Letting Them Spend More Time Thinking - Cem Kaner: Testing Checklists = Good / Testing Scripts = Bad?