Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Catching up on old drafts (a link dump)

I recently promised you all that I had a huge backlog of post-worthy material that I hadn't yet gotten around to writing about. Well today, I took a look at my unfinished draft posts... and it turns out I've got 17 of them, just from the last six weeks. Yeah, I may have the best of intentions, but there's no way I'm going to make it through a 17-post backlog without doing a link dump. So... here goes nothing.

Why Don't Women Patent?
Alex Tabarrok; Marginal Revolution

In this blog post, Tabarrok passes along a recent NBER paper that argued that if women studied science and engineering at the same rate as men, our total number of patents would increase by 24% and GDP would increase by 2.7%. Tabarrok points out that this argument is incredibly specious on multiple levels, and he mocks the finding by suggesting that if we churned out more female construction workers, the construction industry would boom and we would be building tons more houses.

While gender inequality is a serious issue that requires deeper discussion, doe-eyed (and naive) estimates like these only cheapen the argument. I'm reminded of Rob Reid's brilliant TED talk on the "$8 billion iPod", which points out the absurdity of "Copyright Math". This NBER study seemingly suffers from many of the same statistical shortcomings, and Tabarrok and I think it's another clear example of bad math.

Yelp, You Cost Me $2000 by Suppressing Genuine Reviews, Here’s How You Fix It 
Justin Vincent;

Justin Vincent passes along his personal story about how Yelp's user reviews caused him to make a terrible decision when choosing a moving company, largely because the site's algorithms had blocked a number of negative user reviews that were, in fact, genuine.

I think this is an interesting follow-up to my previous post about "astroturfing" and the difficulties of determining which web product reviews are legitimate, and which aren't. I think we're all still figuring this puzzle out (both as companies and as consumers), and until we do figure it out, our best bet is simply to rely on good old word-of-mouth marketing. Yes, I mean word-of-mouth from real actual people that we know and talk to, not faceless "people" on the internet...

For Regulars and Restaurants, Many Happy Returns
Richard Morgan; Wall Street Journal

The Wall Street Journal's Richard Morgan shares a feel-good story about a loyal New York City man (Bruce Davis) who sits down at the same bar stool at the same Greenwich Village restaurant every night of his life, racking up an average of... wait a minute, $4,000 a MONTH in charges? Are you serious?

If ever there was an article that displayed the obvious gap in our country between the haves and have-nots, this article was it. Recall that median HOUSEHOLD income in the United States is just a hair over $30,000 (in pre-tax dollars, of course), while Mr. Davis spends nearly $50,000 in after-tax money at one restaurant alone. Yes, Mr. Davis' America is not most people's America, but then again, the Wall Street Journal is not most people's newspaper. It's been making that fact abundantly clear in recent months...

Joey Votto's New Contract Is Like a Mortgage-Backed Security
Jack Dickey; Deadspin

This post from Deadspin almost certainly deserves better than to be buried here at the bottom of a link dump, but so be it. In discussing Joey Votto's monster contract extension from the Cincinnati Reds in early April, Dickey made the comparison to a mortgage-backed security. I didn't see the parallels at first, but he did a terrific job of laying them out, and I think that the whole piece is worth a read, especially if you're a cable TV subscriber (yes, this impacts you whether or not you're a sports fan).

This just may be the best piece of sports-related journalism I've read so far this year--it in fact crosses over into financial territory, and it makes a whole lot of sense (it's also sort of terrifying). Given that the recent eye-popping $2 billion purchase of the Los Angeles Dodgers by a Magic Johnson-led group used similar modeling assumptions (and we know those are never wrong, right?), it's clear that the math around cable rights fees is a very pertinent topic. Read this piece and you'll understand how you're footing the bill for Joey Votto's contract, even if you don't know who Joey Votto is.

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