Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Liberty Again Denied - It is Sad How Little We Seem to Care

When I was growing up I knew the world wasn't perfect.  The government had plenty of problems.  And politicians were often more concerned about their egos than the good of the country.  And things like the McCarthy witch-hunts, Japanese internment, denying voting rights to blacks, Watergate were not far in the past.  But I never imagined how far the government would move to eliminate liberty.  I remember thinking how sad it was that perfectly fine books were banned in the past.  And yes, some silly little town here or there would remove books from libraries or schools.  That was sad but fairly minor.  But it seemed to me we now had finally learned how horrid our actions in things like the Japanese internment and McCarthy witch-hunts were.

Watergate was something plenty of politicians did to some degree or another but they had the sense to be ashamed and hide it.  That is different from endorsing and pushing policies to deny liberty to people.

I remember thinking how strange it was how concerned our founding fathers were with protecting us from government.  I understood why historically.  But it seemed like those days were long past.  Yes, occasionally government would overstep but that was getting cleaned up or just some corruption that is likely to always exist to some extent.

The sad fact is, today I am in the position of our founding fathers and much more worried about what the government will do to us that inspired by what the government provides us.  This is sad.  The types of behavior Homeland Security has been engaging in can be stopped if we elect people that care about liberty.  I am much more disappointed in the last 10 years than Watergate.  We are currently on par with Japanese internment and the McCarthy which-hunts.  That is in extremely sad place to be.  I think we are probably a step below those embarrassments but we are not far from them.

We need leaders that can steer us away from the path we have been taking.  I am scared for where we will be soon, if we don't find them.

Feds Falsely Censor Popular Blog For Over A Year, Deny All Due Process, Hide All Details...
Imagine if the US government, with no notice or warning, raided a small but popular magazine's offices over a Thanksgiving weekend, seized the company's printing presses, and told the world that the magazine was a criminal enterprise with a giant banner on their building. 
Then imagine that it never arrested anyone, never let a trial happen, and filed everything about the case under seal, not even letting the magazine's lawyers talk to the judge presiding over the case. And it continued to deny any due process at all for over a year, before finally just handing everything back to the magazine and pretending nothing happened. I expect most people would be outraged. I expect that nearly all of you would say that's a classic case of prior restraint, a massive First Amendment violation, and exactly the kind of thing that does not, or should not, happen in the United States.
But, in a story that's been in the making for over a year, and which we're exposing to the public for the first time now, this is exactly the scenario that has played out over the past year -- with the only difference being that, rather than "a printing press" and a "magazine," the story involved "a domain" and a "blog."

This type of behavior (ignoring liberty, acting like citizens and the constitution don't matter, acting like the governments our founding father's were afraid of) makes it extremely hard to give the government the benefit of the doubt in cases where the issues are more debatable.  I'll agree some issues the government has to deal with are challenging.  But if you want to have our understanding on the difficult choices and tradeoffs the government has to make you can't consistently trample on our rights for no reason.

Denying the first amendment rights should be an action the government takes in only the most extreme circumstances.  But instead we have a government that believes it should be free to deny first amendment rights consistently and if people fight really hard maybe the government will give in after awhile and no-one in government will care about the complete abdication of the bill of rights that is suppose to protect us from a government that could seek to act on the principle that might makes it right.  How any politician accepts seeing the constitution shredded like this is beyond me.  But then again it seems we don't elect people that care about what our founding father's did.  That is our fault.  And it is very dangerous.

"First they came for the communists, and I did not speak out - because I was not a communist;
Then they came for the socialists, and I did not speak out - because I was not a socialist;
Then they came for the trade unionists, and I did not speak out — because I was not a trade unionist;
Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out — because I was not a Jew;
Then they came for me — and there was no one left to speak out for me."
Martin Niemoeller

Related: Freedom Increasingly at Risk - Society is being shaped for us while we are busy making other plans - Bikinis For Liberty - Tired of Incompetent Government Harassment

Thursday, December 08, 2011

Most Popular Post on the Curious Cat Comments Blog

One of the updates, with the suite of updates earlier this year by Blogger, was to show you the number of views for each blog post (I haven't even bothered to add Google Analytics to this blog though maybe I will soon).  Here are the 11 most popular posts on this blog (based on page-views since May 2009 - the latest data Google seems to use):
  1. New President's To Do List (2008)
  2. Designing Cities for People, Rather than Cars (2007)
  3. Viewing Unpersonalized Google Search Results
  4. Programmable New York Times On the Way (2008)
  5. More Evidence of the Bad Patent System
  6. Wordpress Plugins: Super Cache and Bad Behavior (2009)
  7. How to Install Anything in Ubuntu! (2007)
  8. Davidson Students Get Free Sweet Sixteen Trip (2008)
  9. Last Google Toolbar PageRank Update of 2008
  10. Watch the Full I Have a Dream Speech (2009)
  11. They Will Know We are Christians By Our Love (2010)
It is sometimes odd what posts are most popular. Sadly several of these are not the most useful posts (in my opinion - but I guess the oracle of Google thinks otherwise, I would imagine greater than 80% of traffic is from searches on Google). The traffic has actually been building lately (which is nice). I think the post in the last couple of years are significantly better - many of the previous posts were largely just to post a link so I could find it again when I wanted it. Last month had 16% of total page views (in just 3% of the time period). There is a bit of spike last month, but it is mainly just an upward trend over the last 6 months. Popular posts on other Curious Cat blogs: popular management blog posts - popular investing blog posts - popular engineering blog posts

Thursday, December 01, 2011

New YouTube Website - Good Progress, But Late

YouTube is an amazing web service.  From Google's purchase of YouTube I was convinced they would do very well with their investment (even with the majority opinion being that they paid way too much).  I think most know appreciate how valuable YouTube is (as a service and a profit center for Google).

I have been amazed how poorly done the YouTube web site has been.  They have put in place a new site design today.  It seems like a big improvement.  Still, most of it seems like stuff that could have been done 3 years ago.  I don't understand why they have been so slow to improve the website.

The home page is much better for seeing what new content has been added on those channels I am subscribed to.

It will take me some time to see if they have done better at showing me content I might enjoy.  I can't believe how bad the existing site had been at doing this - showing me content I might like.

The definitely should let me remove useless buttons like Facebook (connect).  I guess the popularity of Facebook makes defaulting to including the button ok, but don't make everyone that has no intention of using Facebook (or linking YouTube and Facebook accounts) have that button in prime navigation location.

I should be able to decline a suggested channel (and get new suggestions).

I can't see that browse has been improved much (it seems a bit of a UI improvement at the top).  Which is very lame.  This should be extremely valuable - instead it is lame.

Netflix is so cheap now ($3.5 billion market cap), maybe Google should be buy it and use their preference matching and content suggestion technology.  At the very least hire a great team of engineers (money should essentially not be an issue - they could have all the money they would need - doing this well should bring hundreds of millions to Google) and have them create a much much much better job of suggesting YouTube content for users.

Related: 6 years Later Goolge Acts To Let Me Block Sites I don't want to see - How Google Should Improve (2006) - Web Search Improvements (2005) - YouTube Uses Multivariate Experiment To Improve Sign-ups 15% - Google Stock Price Rises 5.7% Today (to $255), Why? (2005)

Tuesday, November 01, 2011

Netflix is Well Managed - People are Overreacting to Short Term Issues

Netflix and the Data that Lied

This past summer, high-riding Netflix announced an increase of 60 percent in the price of a combination of data streams and DVDs. Netflix subscribers were upset. Then, the company trumped that by announcing that, henceforth, DVDs and streaming would be handled by two different companies, requiring subscribers to use two different web sites.
The result was a net loss of 800,000 subscribers in the third quarter. Netflix stock was trading at close to $300 in mid-July. Today it's trading around $80.

I didn't get the idea of splitting up the company. And that logic seems even more questionable now that they reversed it.  But I still think Netflix is very well run.  I tend to believe we make a mistake when jump all over short term issues for companies that have long term positive track records.

Now I don't have a huge number of companies that I think have long term positive management track records.  But I think Netflix is one of them.  And just like all those jumping on Toyota a few years ago were mistaken (as I said at the time and still believe) I believe those thinking Netflix made huge errors are wrong.  Toyota made some mistakes.  They still were and are better managed than 98% (or more) of companies.

Netflix has made some mistakes.  My belief is the underlying business realities forced difficult choices.  Just sitting around doing nothing (and not "angering customers" was not an option.  They could have handled it better.  But once again I think they are better managed than most all companies - I don't trust them as much as Toyota.

Their stock price (given the business) seemed insane to me.  I liked the management wanted to invest with them.  Couldn't see doing it based on the stock price.  I will be looking at them again.

Today Amazon falls into that camp for me.  I love the management and business for Amazon.  The stock price just seems way to high given the risks (and limited profits so far).  I sold my shares in the last year (below where it is at now).  I hope I can buy again, but at these prices I just can't see it.  If the business improves a lot and the stock price even increases I could buy (it isn't the absolute price it is the price given everything I know and believe now).

The businesses Amazon and Netflix are in are challenging and full of risk.

Netflix stock price Nov 1, 2011 (when this was posted): $80.09.
Updates: Jan 19, 2012 stock price: $103.46.
March 10, 2004: $440

Related: Amazon Keeps Spending, Sales Growing But Not Income - Reacting to Product Problems

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Life Long Science Education

We need much more outreach from universities. There are many reasons for the lack of scientific understanding in the general population, which allows for political manipulation of science related ideas. But making science accessible to the public is an extremely important countermeasure. There is far too little focus on doing this by universities in my opinion. I realize it is not a historical focus. But today it seem very much in line with the written missions many universities have (promoting education, understanding...) and the technology make net efforts possible, that were not reasonable previously. And the state of society today (including how long we now live, and how important science issues are) make it more important than ever that the public have access to engaging science resources. I think most would also agree we don't want universities supporting closed science by supporting publication of science research in closed access journals. Some universities have taken a stand against this practice, which is good. But many universities have not. My Curious Cat Science and Engineering Blog tries to help engage people in science.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Arguing For Different Policies Doesn't Mean You Have to Change Behavior Before the Policies Are Adopted

Am I A Complete Hypocrite? Or an Opportunist?
Whether it is when I am complaining about liberals or Congressional ineptness it isn’t hard to find my libertarian political views on this website. So, when I was complaining to a buddy the other day about how ridiculous the Occupy Wall Street people are…he responded that I was a Hypocrite.
This seems like a perfectly reasonable action to me.  I think it would be hypocritical if you suggested others don't participate even though the program was ongoing.  But there is a huge difference between arguing for a different policy and living with the existing policy.

This seems obvious to me though many don't seem to understand that Warren Buffett can argue a better policy for the country would raise his taxes.  They tell him to pay more taxes if he wants.  His argument is not having whoever wants to give the government more money should do so, he argues the country would be better off with a tax system that had higher tax rates for multi-millionare earners than those working at McDonald's.

Arguing for the government should have different policies doesn't require you to act as though it did to be consistent.

This can get less clear cut if you argue about the moral failings of those who act in x or y way.  If you say those taking welfare are lazy scammers stealing from society or something, for example.  Then you are claiming it isn't the government policy that you object to (or it isn't only that) but the character of those taking advantage of the policy.  In a case where you accept charity when you disparage others for doing so then the argument for being a hypocrite would exist, I think.

Thursday, October 06, 2011

Acting Considerately

Comment on: More education needed in Dubai Metro’s Priority Seat

I have never been to Dubai but my guess is like everywhere else, there is a huge dose of inconsiderate behavior. There are some people that are rude and intentionally so (or at least know they consistently are selfish and inconsiderate and don't care to change). There are many more people that like to believe they are a nice person. If you call to their attention some action they can take to be considerate they will be considerate.

My guess is you don't have to demand anything just ask if someone will let you sit. Then some in the "I think of myself as considerate" group will let you sit.

For those in that group, my thought is: it is better to actually be proactively considerate. Considering others gives the impression (to me) that it is a proactive act. Inconsiderate is the absence of that proactive consideration of others. And not being rude after it is brought to your attention, is certainly better than continuing to be rude. But we can do better than that.

Monday, October 03, 2011

Google PageRank and MozRank of Some of My Sites

Pagerank is a value given to the links coming into a web page on a logarithmic scale. So a PR of 2 is 10 times greater than PR 1 and 100 less than PR 4. MozRank has been round a couple of years now and seems to be a decent addition to looking at PageRank. It is updated much more frequently and for some reason is using a scale of 8 instead of 10***, so a PR of 2 is 8 times greater than PR 1 and 100 less than PR 4. MozRank also shows the result to 2 decimal places, which is nice. A PageRank value of 5 could range all the way from 4.5 to 5.49 - those values are almost 100 times different in their magnitude. In the chart below I round MozRank to the nearest tenth of a point.

Now the visible PageRank is just a way of Google letting other people see the relative PageRanks of web pages. The real pagerank Google updates much more frequently. The real pagerank is what is used as a factor in search results. I also believe Google now includes penalties to visible pageranks that are not actually used in their search rankings. So they can show a visible indication that the site is not as highly ranked as it may be (this is most easily noticeable when pages have a reduction in pagerank with no real world explanation).

PageRank matter but is hardly a huge factor. It is much more important to have links from related pages than just high pagerank pages, for being ranked highly in Google search results. And the link text used in links to your pages is very important for how well you rank in search engines. However a link from a page with a PR of 7 would be much better than and a very similar page with a PR of 1. Pagerank "passed" to the linked to page is divided by the total number of links on the page. So if you had a link from a relavent PR 7 page with 10 links that would provide 5 times more "pagerank" than the same PR 7 with 50 links.

In my last post I said "Another thing I have noticed much more over the last few years is having PR for internal pages is much harder." What I have noticed in the last few months is many more internal pages seem to have decent page ranks (very high, above 4, is still fairly rare): lots more internal pages show ranks of 1,2,3 and 4 than I noticed in the last few years You might get the wrong impression from the table below as I picked out the somewhat rare internal pages with decent page ranks to track.

The displayed pagerank is mainly a fun measure, rather than a measure that can be relied on as an important measure. But I still find it fun to look at the pagerank values - except when they go down for my sites :-( Now you can take some solace if your MozRank goes up :-)

For those wondering if I take special Search Engine Optimization (SEO) actions to achieve these results, I don't really. I try to create good content and provide value to users. That is what I did long before I ever heard of SEO. I do include links to my other sites when I think it is worthwhile. My sites are almost all created out of my personal interests (or maybe all, to varying levels, a couple of sites are things that kind of interest me but are maybe more experiments then core interests to me). It isn't surprising they link together in various ways. Again long before I heard of SEO (and the term was even used) I wrote others with web sites on similar topics to share what I offered.

With the advent of blogs, I commented on blogs I read. I do make some effort to try and have sensible urls from an SEO perspective. And I make an additional effort to comment on blogs in order to "market" and SEO reasons. But I do so not by spaming blogs but with thoughtful comments. Those thoughts may be lame, but they are mine, based on the topic and meant to add to the conversation. I doubt I average more than 10 comments a week on blogs. It really is more about adding to the conversation than getting links that some computer reads. Also a few (very few) people reading the thoughtful comments will follow the link to my site and subscribe to RSS feeds, add links to my posts... I occasionally suggest links to blog carnival - probably less than 10 times a year. That is about it.

Check the current pagerank on your sites using our related site: Multiple Site PageRank checker.

SiteOct 2011
April 2011Dec 2010Dec 2008July 2008
PageRank 6
Curious Cat Engineering and Science Blog6 [5.3]6455
PageRank 5 and MozRank > 5
Curious Cat Management Improvement Connections*5 [5.5]5433
Management Dictionary*5 [5.4]5433
PageRank 5 and MozRank < 5
Public Sector Continuous Improvement Site*5 [4.97]54
PageRank 4 and MozRank > 5
Curiouscat.com4 [5.6]5433
CSS 4 Free4 [5.4]4445
Curious Cat Investing and Economics Blog4 [5.3]4344
externs.com - internship directory4 [5.2]4444
John Hunter4 [5.4]4444
Investment Dictionary*4 [5.2]4
Lean Management Resources*4 [5.0]44
Six Sigma Management Resources*4 [5.0]4
Alumni Connections*4 [5.0]4445
PageRank 4 and MozRank > 4
PDSA Improvement Cycle*4 [4.9]4
Rocky Mountain National Park photos*4 [4.8]43-2
The Engineer That Made Your Cat a Photographer*4 [4.7]543
Economic Strength Through Technology Leadership*4 [4.7]544
The Future is Engineering*4 [4.7]55
Curious Cat Web Directory4 [4.7]**334
Credit Card Tips4 [4.6]3
Deming's Management Method*4 [4.5]44
Life and Legacy of William Hunter (my father)4 [4.5]444
Curious Cat Code (programming)4 [4.2]00
PageRank 4 and MozRank < 4
Mortgage Rate Article*4 [3.8]4
Reddit management*4 [u]740
PageRank 3 and MozRank > 3
Curious Cat Travel Photo Blog3 [4.9]3-
Multi Site PageRank Checker3 [4.7]2213
Wordpress Themes for Free3 [4.7]333
Statistics for Experimenters3 [4.5]3434
Living in Malaysia3 [4.1]-
Living in Singapore3 [4.0]-
Management Improvement Resources3 [3.8]333
Best Research University Rankings*3 [3.8]334
Good Process Improvement Practices*3 [3.8]
PageRank 2 and MozRank > 3
Management and Leadership Quotes2 [5.2]22
Sea World - Australia2 [4.5]22
Wet-n-Wild - Australia2 [4.2]22
Parfrey's Glen, Wisconsin Photos2 [3.8]22-
PageRank 2 and MozRank > 2
Justin Hunter (my brother)2 [2.9]222
No PageRank
My Kiva page- [4.0]-3
Curious Cat Comments (this blog)- [3.8]-33
Johor Bahru Real Estate (brand new site)--

* internal pages
** new url as of January 2011, old url forwarded, by Oct 2011 report the pagerank updated
- unranked
[blank] I don't know what the pagerank was, sometimes the site didn't exist yet.
*** Google doesn't say they use a scale of 10 for the logarithmic PageRank. It seems as good a guess and any and is easier to picture so I use that until we have some new evidence.
Related: Web Page Authority - 6 years Later Goolge Acts To Let Me Block Sites I don't want to see - PageRank Distribution - Google's Search Results - Should Factors Other Than User Value be Used

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Google Analytics is Now Real Time

Google analytics is a great easy to use tool to track the use of your web site. One missing feature was real time data. When I was getting indications of increases in traffic it was sometimes hard to pin down what was going on. Today Google added real time support. This will be greatly appreciated when I want to obsess over some web details in real time. Whats happening on your site right now
You’ll find the Real-Time reports only in the new version of Google Analytics. If you’re not already using the new version, you can start by clicking the “New Version” link in the top right of Google Analytics. Real-Time reports are in the Dashboards tab (though they will move to the Home tab in the updated interface next week) . You will have access to Real-Time reports if you are an Administrator on your Analytics account, or if you have access to a profile without profile filters. Real-Time does not support profile filters. We just turned the reports on for a number of you, and over the coming weeks, everyone will have access to Real-Time. If you can’t wait, sign up for early access here: https://services.google.com/fb/forms/realtimeanalytics/. We’d love to hear about how you are using (or planning to use) Real-Time, so please share in the comments.
Unfortunately the new interface has a horrible navigation scheme if you have lots of sites. It is just horrible. It prevented me from using the new site until now. I doubt I can put up with it for long. Related: Looking at the Google PageRank of Some of My Sites - 6 years Later Goolge Acts To Let Me Block Sites I don't want to see - Search Share Data, Checking the ACSI

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Using Sweets and Science to Interest Boys in Cooking

Deserts can also be a good attraction to getting boys interested in cooking: I remember as a kid myself.  I don't know how it happened, I wouldn't be surprised if my parents calculated to figure out what would tempt me.  My mom made great chocolate mouse when we had special guests.  I loved it.  At some point I learned how to cook it.

Also if they are interested in science, like I am, cooking actually has very interesting chemistry going on.  Which I never knew as a kid.  Showing them this can be fun.  I would have taken to cooking more if this was thrown in, I think:

Response to: How To Get Your Boy Interested in Cooking

Related: The Man Who Unboiled an Egg - Science Fair Project on Bacterial Growth on Packaged Salads

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

The Moral Consequences of Your Decisions

In response to: Being Wealthy Is Not Ungodly

When you have the power to alleviate suffering and chose not to do so is that acting with Christen charity?  I don't think it is so easy to dismiss the contrast of a duty to your fellow man and your choice to live lavishly.  Those choices should be taken with care and consideration.  I strongly feel we in the USA are far to uncaring about the suffering of our fellow man.  It is far too easy to isolate yourself and pretend you can't do anything, or that it isn't your concern.

Those are perfectly valid choices.  But, I think it is much more difficult to say those are perfectly valid choice for a Christian to make.  Christianity has great variation and there certainly are those that do not believe there is anything wrong with essentially not caring about human suffering you could address if you chose to.  To me that is stretching the meaning of Christianity quite a bit but that is certainly people's right.

It is no fun to think that I could save people's lives if I just lived a simple life and didn't indulge.  But that is the actual fact.  You can chose to save people's lives or chose to live as we do in the USA, very lavishly.  I make that choice myself.  I give to charity but I could give much more if I just chose to do so.  I just don't.  That is a selfish choice that as a person I am entitled to make.  But it is fraught with moral consequences.

In the USA we tend to want to avoid the stark consequences our actions have.  When you are rich (and at least 60% of the USA is, probably much more, but I'll be generous - yes those in the USA don't feel that way, but that is mainly a sign of how much they believe the world owes them) you have the ability to help.  Which is great, it is nice to have what you need and the ability to splurge on yourself or help others.  But it also means you have to accept the moral consequences of your decisions.  And it isn't some simple game.  People die because of your decision.  People suffer greatly because you chose not to help.

It is your right to make that decision.  It is not your right to do so without accepting the moral consequences of the decision.  And since I understand Christianity a bit better than other religions I know there is plenty of reason to question whether neglecting others to indulge yourself is acting as a Christian should.  Christianity expects good acts, not just the avoidance of bad acts.  Therefore, choosing to bypass the opportunity to help is not free from consequences.  And morally, outside the Christen perspective, I don't see how you can avoid the consequences of your decisions.  You have the right to chose.  And your actions will show what you value (helping people in need, or say a new HDTV).  You may want to pretend you are not deciding but the consequence of your being rich enough to decide is you are responsible for the choice you make.

Related: They Will Know We are Christians By Our Love - Super Spoiled Brats - Giving More Than Money to Charity - You Can Help Reduce Extreme Poverty - High School Team Project to Provide Clean Water - Appropriate Technology - Financial Thanksgiving

Thursday, September 08, 2011

How About Only Enforcing Copyright in Your Country if the Owner Allows Your Citizens Access

I have seen many title of articles over the last few months talking about how American politicians forced foreign countries to serve the interest of those giving large amounts of cash to the American politicians. Now I honestly haven't read the articles or the evidence presented in the wikileaks releases (supposedly showing the tactics used to push the interest of those paying politicians large amounts of cash).

The extent to which the policies of the USA were naked power plays to serve the interests of large donors surprises me a bit, but it is consistent with the large amount of such dealing for those paying USA politicians large amounts of money. It is fairly amazing how readily other countries sold out their citizens. But then again it isn't hard to imagine the USA offered deals (including not carry out threats) to get countries to go along with the interests of those giving USA politicians large amounts of cash.

In any event the release of the selling out of citizens is a great opportunity for some principled politicians to appeal to voters by saying they will no longer be the lapdogs of the lobbyists the USA government told them to follow. Right now many of the companies that used the USA government to pressure foreign governments into crazy policies even as favors to large USA political donors even when those donors refuse to allow those countries citizens to buy the products.

I suggest saying "our country will no longer enforce copyrights if the foreign country company refuses to allow your citizens to buy the product."  For example, I can't watch BBC or USA network TV or use Netflix or buy the Kindle or... in many countries. If you want me to pass laws enforcing your copyrights then you allow my citizens to buy the products in questions. Some details would have to be worked out, my initial thoughts are any organization with sales or expenses over $1 billion must comply. And they may not charge more than double the price they charge others.

And that we don't intent to tolerate lawyer gimmicks like claiming some subsidiary in the Bahamas really owns... and therefore we are don't have to comply. If you play such games and we catch you, you forfeit all copyright claims in our country for that material. Negotiation can take place on the precise details. Until that time we do not agree to restrict our citizens access to material you have copyrighted in your country and refuse to allow my citizens to buy.

It seems like it has been long enough for companies to either start allowing my country to buy your products or quit telling me that I need to enforce your laws against my citizens. I realize the American government has pushed the policies of their big political donors into many international trade agreements. I am suggesting countries rebel from these policies that are treating their citizens as unimportant. We are willing to enforce some copyright rules as long as our citizens have a chance to buy the items.  If not, once you do we will.

Amazon won't sell the kindle to many countries. Amazon will let you individually look at the status of every single country. Amazon seems at least somewhat interested in treating a few more countries as worthy of dealing with than many companies do. Still they don't allow those in China to buy it - isn't it made in China? You are good enough to make it but no we won't allow you to use it. Yes, I bet the claim is that those ip lawyers, and the like, refuse to allow Amazon to treat those that make the device with respect. I am tired of that thinking. My guess is Amazon wants to sell them. My guess is the same people paying the USA politicians to twist the arm of foreign governments are not allowing the sale in some way.

It is not ok, to treat most of the world as unworthy and as thieves. Allow them to buy the items or don't expect us to attack our citizens for you. In the information age if you citizens are denied the right to information your country will suffer.

It isn't ok to let those that pay USA politicians well harm your citizens. Now when those politicians just harm the USA that is their business, and the business of those that chose to elect them.

I'm sure many companies will say it is too hard for us to serve your citizens.  Fine, then they can consume those goods any way they want.  No I am not going to harm my citizens while you ignore them just because you think sometime maybe you will get around to caring enough about them.  When you care to make them customers we will enforce reasonable copyright laws, until them the material is in affect open access.  You can fix that buy making them customers.  My problem, as leader of my country, is not how you make this work for your company, it is serving the citizens of my country.  I'm willing to negotiate.  I am not willing for you to pay your politicians to have them force us to bully our citizens.

The next thing that will be needed is for countries that have some leaders not so beholden to those paying them large amounts of money to create harmful copyright rules for society put some balance back into copyright rules. I'm sure there are plenty of people that can improve the ridiculously silly system we have now, but Lawrence Lessig would be a good person to talk to.

Then those countries can frame a sensible international treaty that benefits society not just a few people that pay politicians well. Hopefully you can lead the world, including the USA, to a better future.

Related: Copywrong - Deadly disease #9, A broken intellectual property system - What is Wrong with Copyright Taking Public Good for Private Special Interests - Lessig Video: Information Revolution - Banks Hoping they Paid Politicians Enough to Protect Billions in Excessive Fees

Saturday, August 06, 2011

Society is being shaped for us while we are busy making other plans

I am disheartened by how our society is being shaped in ways that I don't think most people agree with. The problem is the system that shapes society is not some wonderful system that collects and synthesizes the wants, desires, hope, dreams and hard work of individuals to create an ideal system for peace and prosperity of all mankind. Too bad. But that has never been the case. However, the level to which society is being malformed today by special interests manipulating things for their favor at the expense of society is disheartening.

One of those areas is the legal system that inhibits many positive things for society and encourages many negative things. It is within our power to shape society. But it is not within our desire.

Society is being shaped for us while we are not paying attention.

Here is one small example, of how we have somehow reached a place where honestly providing your opinion of an employee is dangerous to you (this harms: employees [not being able to get references that will speak], companies [not being able to get references on potential hires], society [the inefficiency added to the market is a negative cost with no benefit - just a reduction in everyone's standard of living] and the person not allowed to give an honest reference [not being able to be honest, help those that helped them...]):

What Employers Can Say About You When Giving References

This is why many employers have neutral reference policies, where they only give out dates of employment and job title. This is obviously safe information to give. I would caution employers who have neutral reference policies to apply them evenly. If you give positive or negative references to some employees, you could get socked with a discrimination claim.

Don't you think the huge negative externalities of limiting honest discussion of people's strengths and weaknesses is a sign of the sickness of the legal system? The reason we have a legal system to to help society function. Unfortunately it often does the opposite and makes society avoid activity that is good for society. There are good reasons for things like defamation suits when someone is behaving egregiously. When we force people to self sensor in order to avoid the hugely overreaching legal system that does great damage to our society.

People seem to think bad societal repercussions are inevitable. They are not. If we didn't roll over for run away legal activism we wouldn't have to put up with it. Not being able to be honest is not a good outcome for society. And, in fact, is against the moral code most people would subscribe too. Unfortunately we more an more are concerned not with what is moral, right or good but what is a bother and what pain the legal system will inflict on us for being honest.

Society is being shaped for us while we are busy making other plans.

We need the rule of law. The problem I see is that today the way that is being done (and not done) is harmful to our society. It is not that we need to eliminate the legal system. We need to fix it so it works to make society better and not so often to do damage to society instead.

Life is what happens to you while you're busy making other plans. - Beautiful Boy, John Lennon, 1980
Life is what happens to us while we are making other plans." to Allen Saunders, 1957

Related: Bikinis For Liberty - Librarians Standing Up to the Madness - Copywrong - Freedom Increasingly at Risk - Bad Behavior - CEOs Plundering Corporate Coffers

Wednesday, August 03, 2011

Saving for Retirement Globally

Comment posted to: Does the idea of planning for retirement vary across the globe?

Huge numbers of people in the in the USA and I believe in England too, have done a horrible job of saving for retirement. Many in China save over 20% of their income. Why shouldn't they be confident. Also comparing to your parents in China is a pretty easy comparison to beat. I am still learning about Malaysia (I would imagine they save well - but it is possible they are just optimistic :-)

Saving for retirement everywhere is pretty basic. You have to save 8-12% of your income to have a decent shot at a good retirement. And in exceptional circumstances you need something different. I write about investing and retirement on one of my blogs: Retiring Overseas is an Appealing Option for Some Retirees, In the USA 43% Have Less Than $10,000 in Retirement Savings, Delaying Retirement – Working Longer.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Agile Software Development and Customer Delight

Agile is about customer delight

If @jeffpatton's point is to emphasize the need to consider the customer more fully in Agile projects, then I am in total agreement. But one thing is for sure, Agile methods are much more directed at Customer Delight than many of the other methods available today

Jeff Patton might be right. I would say though, my belief is it makes customer delight more likely. Having a system of development that is more responsive is more likely to do so. In the agile context it would have a lot to do with the product manager - but I think the agile mindset would make it more likely the product manager could prioritize tasks to delight the customer (for various reasons - such as not having to spend so much time fighting over specs decided 9 months ago, having a mindset focused on what is most important now [rather than following what we promised somebody 6 months ago])... Agile might not directly lead to delight, but it sets a stage where that is much more likely - not only because of system improvements but changes in what people spend focus on.

Related: Curious Cat Management blog posts on customer focus - Involve IT Staff in Business Process Improvement

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Current Look at Google PageRank of My Sites

Google used to push major visible PageRank updates about quarterly and do very little, if any, pagerank changes at other times. Pagerank is a value given to the links coming into a web page on a logarithmic scale. So a PR of 2 is 10 times greater than 1 and 100 less than PR 4. It is named for Google co-founder and current CEO Larry Page. Google doesn't do the quarterly updates anymore (they have been less frequent) and seems to make many more adjustments to PageRanks all the time.

Now the visible PageRank is just a way of Google letting other people see the relative PageRanks of web pages. The real pagerank Google updates much more frequently. The real pagerank is what is used as a factor in search results. I also believe Google now includes penalties to visible pageranks that are not actually used in their search rankings. So they can show a visible indication that the site is not as highly ranked as it may be (this is most easily noticeable when pages have a reduction in pagerank with no real world explanation).

PageRank matter but is hardly a huge factor. It is much more important to have links from related pages than just high pagerank pages, for being ranked highly in Google search results. However a link from a page with a PR of 7 would be much better than and a very similar page with a PR of 1. Pagerank "passed" to the linked to page is divided by the total number of links on the page. So if you had a link from a relavent PR 7 page with 10 links that would provide 5 times more "pagerank" than the same PR 7 with 50 links.

Another thing I have noticed much more over the last few years is having PR for internal pages is much harder. Many sites with PR of 3 or even 4 on the homepage may have no other pages with PR. It seems to me, that this is true far more than the math would indicate, so my guess is Google is reducing PR internal often in some way I have no idea about. Again remember the displayed PR google provides doesn't have to correspond to the real one they calculate and use.

The displayed pagerank is more fun than a measure that can be relied on as an important measure. But I still find it fun to look at the pagerank values - except when they go down for my sites :-(

Check the current pagerank on your sites using our related site: Multiple Site PageRank checker.

SiteApril 2011Dec 2010Dec 2008July 2008
Curious Cat Engineering and Science Blog6455
Curious Cat Management Improvement Connections*5433
Management Dictionary*5433
Public Sector Continuous Improvement Site*54
The Engineer That Made Your Cat a Photographer*543
Economic Strength Through Technology Leadership*544
The Future is Engineering*55
Curious Cat Investing and Economics Blog4344
Deming's Management Method*44
CSS 4 Free4445
Life and Legacy of William Hunter (my father)444
externs.com - internship directory4444
John Hunter4444
Investment Dictionary*4
Lean Management Resources*44
Mortgage Rate Article*4
Six Sigma Management Resources*4
Rocky Mountain National Park photos*43-2
Alumni Connections*4445
PDSA Improvement Cycle*4
Curious Cat Travel Photo Blog3-
Living in Malaysia-
Statistics for Experimenters3434
Management Improvement Resources333
Credit Card Tips3
Management and Leadership Quotes22
Wordpress Themes for Free333
Multi Site PageRank Checker2213
Justin Hunter (my brother)222
Curious Cat Web Directory**334
Best Research University Rankings*334
Parfrey's Glen, Wisconsin Photos22-
Sea World - Australia22
Living in Singapore-
Reddit management*740
Curious Cat Code (programming)00
My Kiva page-3
Curious Cat Articles and Links (this blog)-33

* internal pages
** new url as of January 2011
- unranked
[blank] I don't know what the pagerank was, sometimes the site didn't exist yet.

In my experience it is often more telling how the pagerank of internal pages. The sites that have high ranking internal pages are much rarer than site with say a pagerank of 4 or even 5 on the home page.

Also note that a PR of 4 could be nearly 10 times higher than another PR 4. For example if 3.5 is shown as 4 (Google only shows an integer) and 4.4 is shown as 4 given the logarithmic scale used the 4.4 would be 9 times greater than the 3.5. PageRanks are logarithmic and then compared to the other pages on the web. So if a site was very close to 3.5 it might show up as 3 one time then 4 then 3 again... all without any significant change. On the other hand going from the absolute lowest 3 to the absolute highest 4 could be nearly a 100 times increase.

Related: Last Google Toolbar PageRank Update of 2008 - Web Page Authority - 6 years Later Goolge Acts To Let Me Block Sites I don't want to see - PageRank Distribution - Google's Search Results - Should Factors Other Than User Value be Used

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Understanding Technology and Programing is Vital

In the future, will we *all* have to code?

However, if you want to put together a quick prototype, but use real content, then that kind of implies hooking it into a back-end database.
David Haynes from Soundcloud suggest that developers are the people who are shaping the sound of modern music. And there is a constant debate these days in the journalism world about whether journalists need to learn how to code.

So, are we all going to have to learn how to code?
[pairing] allows both parties to use their areas of expertise to develop something that is potentially bigger than the sum of its parts, rather than dumbing down software development to a commodity level.

Oh, and just a little something to throw into the mix - the pressure seems to be coming from both directions. Last week Tyler Tate posted “Why developers should become UX designers”

I believe most importantly we will all need to have a coding mentality. The world has changed from 50 years ago. It is hard to imagine making serious decisions about priorities for most any organization without a basic appreciation of coding. Here I am talking about something a bit different than you, I am talking about program managers that are not going to be doing anything related to creating the code behind the effort and executives... I don't understand how people think they can continue to be ignorant about technology and hope to be relevant. I don't think you need to have the knowledge to code yourself but you need to be much more knowledgeable than most people are today. And really if you are under 40 (maybe over that you can hope to slide by into the sunset without suffering too much from your ignorance but that is a dangerous gamble), I think you have to try to pick up coding in simple ways. Not to be an expert but to be able to at least understand the capabilities, the tradeoffs, databases, Ux principles...

My guess is over the next 20 years we will figure out much better ways to let people gain knowledge of coding ideas without having to become coders. But until then I think it is imperative for most people to realize to comprehend the modern world they need to gain an understanding of coding (even if they are not going to be an expert).

I agree strongly with your thoughts on pairing with experts. It is much easier to pair if you at least comprehend the general ideas of the others areas of expertise. I don't think it is great to dumb things down to the level one expert can do the others job. But I think it is critical to understand that your expertise is part of a system. The Ux is part of the solution. Coding is part of the solution. The whole is what matters.

However, if you want to put together a quick prototype, but use real content"

Absolutely. Prototypes without real data lose a great deal. Super quick, first drafts maybe that is ok. But quickly getting to prototypes that are integrated with real data should be the goal.

Related: Management By IT Crowd Bosses - Jason Fried: Why work doesn’t happen at work - Involve IT Staff in Business Process Improvement - Internet Access at Work

Wednesday, April 06, 2011

Making Money from Your Yard

I don't spend anything on yard maintenance. Though I do occasionally buy new plants and use water. Things grow fine. I put weeds occasionally. And use an electric mower for the lawn.

Not only that I eat from my yard. In reality this doesn't save a huge amount, though it does save some. It is much more about getting yummy food that is also healthy. The amount I spend for tomatoes plants say is easily paid back with the food produced. My favorite is wine berries and those I paid nothing for (a bird helped me plant them, I think). I bought 2 blackberry plants years ago and they keep spreading and giving me yummy food for free.

I also feed the backyard wildlife (which include butterflies, chipmunks, hummingbirds, robins, crows, turtles, rabbits, hawks, love birds, bees, squires, woodpeckers, preying mantises, ants even a fox) by planting (butterfly bush) and encouraging plants (holly trees and bushes - transplanting little ones that sprout, berries that sprout, mimosa trees...) that have food for animals.

I also have plenty of flowers that just return year after year: First Flowers of Spring, Spring Tulips.

Related: Growing Lettuce in My Backyard - Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Is the stock market efficient?

I believe in weak stock market efficiency. I believe that the market does a good job of factoring in news and conditions but that the "wisdom of crowds" is far from perfect. There are plenty of valuing weaknesses that can lead to inefficient pricing and opportunities for gain. The simplest of those are spotted and then adopted by enough money that they become efficient and don't allow significant gains.

And a big problem for investors is that while I think there are plenty of inefficiencies to take advantage of finding them and investing successfully is quite hard. And so most that try do not succeed (do not get a return that justifies their time and risk - overall trying to take advantage of inefficiencies is likely to be more risky). Some Inefficiencies however seem to persist and allow low risk gains - such as investing in boring undervalued stocks. Read Ben Graham's books for great investing ideas.

Related: Market Inefficiencies and Efficient Market Theory - Lazy Portfolios Seven-year Winning Streak - investing in stocks

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Productivity Growth and Government Debt

Who reaps the rewards of productivity?

Productivity matters for the prosperity of children because it measures the amount that an average worker produces in an hour of work. If productivity rises by 10% over three years, that means that we can produce 10% more output with the same amount of work than we could three years ago. The size of the economy was roughly $14tn three years. A 10% rise in productivity means that we can produce approximately $1.4tn more this year with the same amount of work. This would come to an additional $18,000 a year for an average family of four.

Alternatively, a 10% rise in productivity would mean that we could produce the same amount of output as we did three years ago, while working 10% less time.
At this point, the politicians start screaming about the debt bankrupting our kids. The problem with this claim is that our kids will own the debt. At some point, all of us will be dead, meaning that the people who hold the bonds that constitute the debt will be our children and grandchildren.

How can holding government bonds make our children bankrupt?

The author dismisses the problem of foreign ownership of government debt erroneously. The problem is if you have to pay foreigners the interest that is essentially a tax on current production to pay for past overspending.

Japan has far more government debt than other countries. http://investing.curiouscatblog.net/2010/10/18/government-debt-as-percentage-of-gdp-1990-2009-usa-japan-germany-china%E2%80%A6/ Yet that is not as big a problem as it seems as they owe most of it to themselves. That is still not a great condition to be in but it means you will just have to pay a portion of yearly production to pay off a segment of society that owns that debt (it stays within your country).

Now all of this gets much more messy nowadays as the borders are much more transparent and movement is much easier...

I agree that productivity improvements are great and will help with the problem. But you have to understand that productivity measurements are extremely unreliable. All economic data has issues (see all the consternation over unemployment and inflation data) but productivity measures may well be the most problematic. They rely on significant guesses about what is really going on and have issues with short term unsustainable 'gains' often due to layoff, cutting maintenance... (things that get better productivity numbers but may well just be measurement issues not sustainable productivity improvements).

The author does correctly point out the problem of foreign ownership of debt is due to us living beyond our means (not in those words though) and borrowing from foreigners to sustain this level of comfort (just like the government is doing itself).

Related: The USA Economy Needs to Reduce Personal and Government Debt - Government Debt, Greece is a Very Small Part of the Problem - Dollar Decline Due to Government Debt or Total Debt? - Economic Measurement Issues Arising from Globalization

Saturday, March 12, 2011

Google Rank Patent for Delegation Authority Factors

Delegated authority evaluation system (patent application)

The evaluation system is managed by a primary authority that designates one or more contributing authorities by delegating to each a specific quantity of authority.
Each contributing authority, and optionally the primary authority itself, may evaluate one or more portions of content by associating a rating with each evaluated portion of content. A composite rating for a particular portion of content may then be determined based upon the ratings associated with the portion of content. Preferably, the ratings are combined in a manner that affords a higher priority to the ratings provided by contributing authorities to which a greater quantity of authority was delegated.

The Evolution of Google Ratings (Experts Delegating Authority)?

The important part of the patent is that this rating system involves experts on specific topics, who might delegate some of their authority to others when providing ratings.
Maybe elements of this rating system might be incorporated into the social network that Google is said to be launching sometime next year.

Couldn't they also just tweak the pagerank passed to be somewhat more user-definable. I could to pass 40% of the pagerank to x link and split up the rest to all links. And adding it to be specifically targeted to keywords wouldn't be that hard. The bigger problem, I would think, is getting people to spend their time doing that. So somehow meta tools would be needed to make this practical. I am not sure how they would work but I could imagine some such system working pretty well.

There would obviously be all sorts of gaming risks that would have to be dealt with somehow.

Google does now provide search results enhanced by your social network (showing links they tweeted...). My guess is Google increases the rank of those pages - though maybe they leave the rank the same and just add a little note for you to see.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

6 years Later Goolge Acts To Let Me Block Sites I don't want to see

A bit over 6 years ago I suggested a few things to improve Google search results (Jan 2005) they have finally adopted the feature:

Ability to restrict sites from the search results in my preferences (Google doesn't seem to be able to restrict certain obvious spam names databases from results, so let me do so myself. It would be best if there could be filter lists that are maintained by various communities that I could choose to apply. I can imagine there are technical hurdles to overcome to make this a reality).

Then I posted about how Google should improve, again a year later

Let me remove web sites from my default searches. I would imagine this could even be used to help Google’s normal search results by getting a sense of sites huge numbers of people “block” The same spam sites show up for searches and I would rather block them if Google can’t figure out how to do so.

Hide sites to find more of what you want

We’re adding this feature because we believe giving you control over the results you find will provide an even more personalized and enjoyable experience on Google. In addition, while we’re not currently using the domains people block as a signal in ranking, we’ll look at the data and see whether it would be useful as we continue to evaluate and improve our search results in the future.

Better later than never. But 6 internet years is a long time to wait.

Related: Google Social Circle Results - Search Share Data, Checking the ACSI - find management content online

Saturday, March 05, 2011

Education, Training and Employment

Education and employment

we ought to have... far more widespread, transparent and effective systems for labour market matching between job-seekers and openings, taking into account what really makes the difference between "just a job" and genuine employee engagement, satisfaction and development.

I agree with this sentiment to some extent. I also didn't expect much of any direct connection when I was a student. I like studying economics but I really don't see the value in many economics students actually being practicing economists. I figured I was getting a education that would allow me to learn and adapt throughout my life - the old fashioned idea of liberal arts education. I think that is great for many people.

But more people seem to want to finish school with skills (using college as a technical school but that they can see as superior to technical schools). And I think the market for these types of customer/students probably exceeds that wanting to be educated in a broad, and not necessarily directly applicable sense.

I also believe that even with a liberal arts education it makes sense to make it relevant. To participate in modern society without an understanding of science and technology is very limiting.

Related: A Theory of a System for Educators and Managers - Applying Lean Management Tools to University Courses - Innovative Science and Engineering Higher Education - The Future is Engineering

Monday, January 31, 2011

Health Care System Remains Broken, Neglected

I think the real problem is decades of resistance to fundamental change. The health care system in the USA has been broken for decades and resisted change to bring costs and other burdens into line with other rich countries. Piling on decades of neglect to a system broken decades ago has left a huge (huge - over 17% of GDP, costs twice as high as many other rich countries and results no better than average rich countries) problem. Trying to reform a huge broken system after the crisis point has been reached (where we are now) is very difficult. I think looking for short term causes of the current problems is deceptive. The real cause of the current mess is decades in the making.

The USA health care system is huge. Tons of great stuff has been done for decades. The problem is with such a huge system enormous problems remain and have festered for decades. I think things will get much worse (difficult to deal with the long overdue needed, improvement) before getting better. The system is unimaginably expensive and wasteful. The fundamental brokenness continues to be ignored. Even the good stuff being done now, seems to be minor compared to the fundamental changes needed.

The USA economy has many problems and strengths. The health care problem remains the largest - larger than investment banking, unemployment, unfunded liabilities (which the health care system is by far the largest factor - unfunded retire health care costs), huge jail population, education system needing improvement... The good news is the USA economy, even with all this, has enough strengths to carry the weak parts of the economy for decades to come. It is true however, that even the USA economy cannot carry huge under performing parts of the economy forever and remain strong. Of all the economic problems we face, failing to address the huge problems in the health care system is the most likely to lead to a dramatic decline in the USA's economic future. We have avoided systemic changes for decades. Year after year the problem grows (even with lots and lots of great things being done - which seem large but are unnoticeable within the enormous scope of the problem) - with the health care system not only costing more but a larger percentage of GDP EVERY YEAR for decades (I may be wrong but I think this is true). Dr. Deming pointed out the system was a deadly disease decades ago. And it has gotten worse (costing more and continuing huge economic problems - huge cost to business and people and huge worry, bankruptcies, focus on disease treatment not health care...).

I'm sorry to say I think things will get much more hectic in the coming decades than they have been as the cumulative effect of putting off needed system improvements for decades come home to roost.

Reaction to, Industry in Crisis

Across the nation delivery systems, policy makers, insurers and consultants are searching for new ways to solve problems or create value. Systems are banding together to form Accountable Care Organizations, we are reorganizing around Value Streams, Value Based Benefit plans are getting created to shape behaviors, large hospital systems are buying practices and consolidating the market etc. The list goes on and on.

The good news is that there seems to be more experimentation taking place than ever before and some ideas are gaining traction (just read Atul Gwande’s article last week in the New Yorker or my own organizations work in the Medical Home and Hospital Transitions). The challenge is that so many things are happening all at once that our current management systems are neither disciplined nor flexible enough to effectively manage this change.

Related: USA Heath Care System Needs Reform - CEOs Want Health-Care Reform - Health Care Crisis

Wednesday, January 05, 2011

Unemployment - hidden activity?

I Wonder How Many Unemployed Folks Are Hustling

But the idea here is that "hustling" is any kind of economic activity that you are not reporting to the government; either because you don't want to go to jail or just don't want to pay taxes or for them to know how much you make.
Are my hypothetical self and this real life person the majority of the unemployed? Of course not. But you've got to at least wonder how many of them are out there.

Probably the most important part of that measure would be a measure of the change in that during the employment cycle. If it were say 2% of the population every year while the IRS might want to know it isn't a huge factor in thinking about the state of the economy and employment. If it is 8% of the population today, and was 2% 5 years ago, that would be more interesting and let you know the situation may not be as bad as you think (looking just at employment data). I personally doubt it is a significant macro-economic factor (the variation in it during the employment cycle).

Looking at this rate between countries would probably provide valuable information. Some of the Euro and bank scandals have shown the underpaying of taxes by Europeans and also the rich Americans suing to prevent disclosure of their fraudulent tax avoidance aided by large bailed out banks.

Related: How do I Know What Unemployment Statistics Mean? - Another 663,000 Jobs Lost in March, 2009 in the USA - Can Bankers Avoid Taking Responsibility Again?