Posts filed under “Really, really bad calls”

How to Game Google

Since today is the 11th anniversary of first-day trading in Google shares after its initial public offering, I wanted to bring to your attention a recent bit of gamesmanship that has been taking place with its search function.

Google rose to its position of authority and influence because it invented a better way to navigate the World Wide Web. Search was more or less OK in the late 1990s, but two Stanford students, Larry Page and Sergey Brin, figured out how to use the link structure of the Web to create page rank. They created an algorithm that ranked any site by its authority, which was a function of how many other authoritative sites linked or pointed to it. Sure, it’s a bit circular, but it works extremely well — better than the other search engines of 10 or 15 years ago, most of which have since been forgotten.

That was only the first part of their genius; figuring out how to make money on those searches was what separated Google’s business model from all the rest. The key was AdWords, which displays advertising text based partly on key words — a low-cost, high-margin business driven by Google’s brilliant algorithms.

Therein lays the system’s Achilles heel.

Algorithms follow specific patterns, and it’s only a matter of time before someone figures these out and learns how to game them. With Google, the big offenders have been spammers, who try all sorts of tricks to generate search results. Publishers and other websites often play similar games in an effort to capture higher page rank in the Google machinery. The upside is more traffic, and consequently more money, for those who succeed. The downside is that the sorts of tricks often employed by gamesters may violate Google’s terms of service — provided they get caught.



Continues here: Gaming Google for Profit and Ideology

Category: Politics, Really, really bad calls, Wages & Income, Web/Tech

Mark Perry Doesn’t Understand Geography

@TBPInvictus here: As I recently highlighted, Mark Perry – an AEI scholar and professor of economics - is playing very fast and loose with data surrounding employment in Seattle post its recent minimum wage hike. In his recent “report” on the subject, which was picked up far and wide by conservative outlets, Professor Perry wrote (emphasis mine):

“In June of last year, the Seattle city council passed a $15 minimum wage law to be phased in over time, with the first increase to $11 an hour taking effect on April 1, 2015. What effect will the eventual 58% increase in labor costs have on small businesses, including area restaurants? It’s too soon to tell for sure, but there is already some evidence that the recent minimum wage hike to $11 an hour, along with the pending increase of an additional $4 an hour by 2017 for some businesses, has started having a negative effect on restaurant jobs in the Seattle area. The chart below shows that the Emerald City MSA started experiencing a decline in restaurant employment…”

The minimum wage hike took place in the city of Seattle, population ~650,000. What’s all this talk about “area restaurants,” “the Seattle area,” and the “Emerald City MSA”? (Note that companies with under 500 employees — that includes most restaurants — the actual date is 2021, not 2017).

This is simply someone with an agenda deliberately being intellectually dishonest in an attempt to mislead readers and spread misinformation widely through the conservative echo chamber. It’s a tried and true method that, unfortunately, has worked time and again.

When Perry talks about Seattle (city proper) and the “Seattle area,” you may not know it, but he’s talking about two very, very different areas.

Legislatively, economically, legally and socially, these are two completely different regions. Perhaps most important of all, in terms of data collection for the subject at hand, the map below shows exactly how different they are:


Screen Shot 2015-08-17 at 6.08.17 PM


Seattle, the city in question whose minimum wage is now $11, on its way to $15 over the next 3-7 years – is (as best as Paintbrush lets me draw it) the area within the red oval. The “Seattle area” or “Emerald City MSA,” as Perry misleadingly wrote, are the three more darkly shaded counties – Pierce (bottom), King (middle), and Snohomish (top) – engulfing Seattle and making it look, well, geographically tiny in comparison.

The MSA Perry referenced as being impacted by the new minimum wage has an overall population of some 3.6 million versus the aforementioned population of Seattle at about 650,000. What’s to compare? As Media Matters put it in their takedown of Perry’s work: “The employment trends of the entire region are not representative of the impact of a local wage ordinance in a single city.” But Perry does not care, as he’s repeatedly referenced the same irrelevant data point multiple times on Twitter. He is exactly the man whom Upton Sinclair was referring to when he said, “It is difficult to get a man to understand something, when his salary depends upon his not understanding it.”

Why would anyone look at a MSA when it is the city – and ONLY THE CITY  - that has the new minimum wage law. The New York equivalent would be to suggest that perhaps an ordinance in New York City might somehow have a ripple effect in White Plains, N.Y., or Hackensack, N.J. After all, they are both part of the greater tri-state region (there is a massive New York-Newark-Jersey City MSA). It’s absurd on its face, and any honorable analyst understands this.

This suggests that Perry is engaging in fraud or ignorance. Neither reflects on him favorably. Perry should apologize and AEI should retract that piece in entirety.


An analyst as intellectually dishonest as Perry apparently is could do something similar on the flip side:

Seattle Passes Higher Minimum Wage; Area Food Biz Employment Now at 134,000!

First, I’d point out that at the end of 2013, the most recent year for which we have good statistics on the city itself, Seattle city employment in two broad categories combined – Arts, Entertainment & Recreation and Accommodation & Food Services – totaled about 40,000, as seen below.

Screen Shot 2015-08-15 at 6.36.53 PM

Source: American FactFinder

Then, I’d trumpet the “fact” that the “Seattle area” or “Emerald City MSA” (see what I did there?) has more than tripled that total to a whopping 134,000. I’d then claim victory at having “demonstrated” that the ordinance I supported was having its desired effect.

Screen Shot 2015-08-17 at 7.47.13 PM

Source: St. Louis Fed

But I’d never do such a thing. Most reputable people wouldn’t.

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Category: Cognitive Foibles, Current Affairs, Data Analysis, Employment, Really, really bad calls, Taxes and Policy, Wages & Income

Motorists Are Shelling Out More on Vehicle Repairs

Source: WSJ

Category: Digital Media, Economy, Politics, Really, really bad calls

As Goes Apple, So Goes the Market?

With the stock markets down almost (OMG!) 5 percent from their all-time highs, lots of folks are looking for signs that the bull is dying, if not dead. One of the more portentous omens is the recent decline and volatility of Apple’s stock. Or so it seems. For reasons too numerous to list here, Apple…Read More

Category: Corporate Management, Earnings, Economy, Psychology, Really, really bad calls

What’s Really Warming the World?

Click to see breakdown of human factors. Source: Bloomberg

Category: Digital Media, Really, really bad calls, Science

Farm-to-Table for Bad Information

@TBPInvictus   I am reminded of the above law each and every day. And a law it is. Inviolable. No sooner had I posted the other day about the shoddy “work” coming out of AEI than, voilà, said shoddy “work” is being trumpeted by pompous blowhard Stuart Varney on Fox News. I’ve seen this happen…Read More

Category: Cognitive Foibles, Current Affairs, Data Analysis, Financial Press, Really, really bad calls, Wages & Income

Category: Consumer Spending, Really, really bad calls, Think Tank

Fact Versus Fiction on Seattle Minimum Wage

@TBPInvictus “He who knows nothing is closer to the truth than he whose mind is full of falsehoods and errors.” – Thomas Jefferson If you’ve followed me at all recently, you know I have a keen interest in the minimum wage experiment that is going on in the city of Seattle, which last year approved increases to…Read More

Category: Markets, Politics, Really, really bad calls, Wages & Income

Sorting Through Online Investment Noise

As Theodore Sturgeon famously observed, 90 percent of science fiction is crap, but then again 90 percent of everything is crap. In the world of online investment opinions, Sturgeon was an optimist. Not all that long ago, the perspectives of individual amateur investors and professional ones, too, were for the most part unknown. Most market…Read More

Category: Apprenticed Investor, Gold & Precious Metals, Really, really bad calls, Web/Tech

Campaign Cash

click for interactive graphic Source: Bloomberg  

Category: Legal, Politics, Really, really bad calls