Saturday, August 27, 2011

POW: Delete

LSE hosted Viktor Mayer-Schönberger for a podcast discussion of his book, Delete: The Virtue of Forgetting in the Digital Age.  I’m a big fan of technology and its ability to shift information through space and time.  Mayer-Schönberger describes significant downsides to this ability, and how it conflicts with human cognitive function. 

Forgetting isn’t just loss, it is a curating process in which the necessary is separated from that which we don’t want or don’t need to carry forward. Forgetting defines and creates us as much as it destroys.  By putting so much of ourselves online we lose control over that process, the cloud forgets nothing.  Alternatively we could become luddites and withdraw from technology, but who would want to do that?  Mayer-Schönberger suggests an alternative solution:  building the ability to forget into cloud systems and making their function a little more human.

Interesting stuff.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

A better Groupon

WW has an article on the frustrations and problems of contracting with Groupon. It got me thinking.  How to do it better?

For starters, I’d use a different middleman.  Groupon reaches an audience that self selects for cheap eats.  Why not reach out to alternative local communities- for instance blog readers?  There are all kinds of local interest blogs like Blue Oregon, Portland Transport, Bog Blog, etc.  Why not reach out to them? 

Offer a theme night, with customers claiming “the Blog” sent them getting an x% discount.  The blog gets a reasonable kickback for promotion and generating traffic, the restaurant gets control over how much and when a discount is offered so disruption to existing clients is minimal, and blog fans get to show their support for their favorite bloggers while also getting a discounted meal and (depending on the venue) an opportunity to socialize with fellow fans.  If a particular audience proves a poor fit then they’re gone after one night and you never see them again.  If an audience fits in and does well then invite them back once in a while  What’s not to like?.

Sunday, August 7, 2011

S&P Downgrade

S&P is getting a lot of flak for the downgrade, with suggestions that because they ignored a big math error they were really just playing politics. That criticism misses the point. The downgrade isn’t a consequence of any mathematical formula, it’s a judgment on the behavior of congress (and especially the Tea Party) in last week’s debt ceiling debate. The U.S. very nearly defaulted. The whole purpose of ratings is to warn ahead of time of such an outcome. A post on Actuarial Opinions said it best:

Are you really surprised? AAA debt is supposed to be the ultimate sleep insurance. You park your money there and don’t have to ever worry about it. You don’t have to think about it. It is completely, unquestionably safe. If you didn’t feel that way last weekend, you agree with S&P.

Saturday, August 6, 2011

Recommended reading for the Tea Party

  Barbara Tuchman defines folly as “the pursuit of policy contrary to the self-interest of the constituency or state involved”.  It is hard to think of a more appropriate word to describe the recent behavior of Republicans and the Tea Party.

During the debate over the debt limit the Tea Party openly courted default and rejected compromise.  After the settlement the Republican senate leader described the crisis as a “template” for the future.  The consequences of this course were predictable and predicted.

So now that we’ve had our first downgrade which explicitly cites the inability of congress to compromise and its unwillingness to raise taxes, will the Tea Party change its tune?  Nope.  Keep on dancing, fools.

Thursday, August 4, 2011

What if…

There is a lot of feel good talk about how well the recent state legislative session went, with big agreements on health care, education and the budget.  I’ve had a fear in the back of my mind though:  What if the economy slows down in the second half of 2011, and state revenue fails to meet forecast?  That looks increasingly likely.

The question highlights how bipartisanship was possible largely because of an implicit (who knows, maybe explicit) agreement not to pursue fee or tax increases.  I don’t see how that arrangement survives if the economy does a double dip.  The line between us and Minnesota may not be as wide as we think…

Kudos to DCBS

DCBS gets some much deserved credit for its robust health insurance rate review process.  There are a lot of things DCBS can improve on, but it’s important to recognize they do a lot of things right as well.