Monthly Archives: March 2007

Trust insiders, not shareholders…and F*$! the Wisdom of Crowds

Dean Baker  discusses the buzz saw whiplash coming from following this spin: shareholders can not be trusted to ste CEO copmensation becuas etehy don’t have the right interests in mind.  OOOOOOOKAYYYYYYYY.

Beat the Press
Representative Barney Frank has proposed a law that would require corporations to have non-binding polls of their shareholders on CEO compensation packages. According to Marketplace Radio, the opponents of this measure claim that shareholders have diverse interests and aren’t in a position to properly assess CEO compensation.

It would be helpful if the media teased this one out a bit further — the shareholders aren’t qualified to determine the pay of their top employee, but the insiders (a corporate board that usually owes their position primarily to the CEO) somehow can be trusted to act in their interest.

The original marketplace story has the full quote from Barney:

BARNEY FRANK: This lack of confidence in shareholders when it comes to CEO compensation greatly contrasts with what we’re told we should impute to shareholders on every other issue.

That seems like a polite understatement.   Intellectual property strangleholds, rolling back Sarbanes-Oxley, high CEO pay(!), stock options, the “free”trade agenda, and widespread outsourcing for low labor costs are all justified on behalf of shareholder interests.

Baker also rightly calls foul on the notion that this is government interference.  Hogwash.  Corporations are creatures of government policy, as are all coporate governnace rules.  This is a question of the best rules for corporations.

Oh, and the supposed perfection of outcomes in markets of heterogeneous actors (as in, diverse interests), that, you know, wisdom of crowds idea, well, F$#! it.

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Excavating Victorians– Virginia’s Book Coming Out In November

I am so proud of Virginia! Her book is inches from being released, and she gets this great blurb from another scholar.

SUNY Press :: Excavating Victorians
“This book is a sheer pleasure to read. Zimmerman has crafted an important and genuinely intriguing interpretation of the relationship between literature, geology, and archaeology in the period when these new sciences came into their own as separate disciplines. Zimmerman brings to her interpretations an impressive knowledge of many now forgotten episodes in the history of science. She examines a wide range of works and finds elegant and convincing ways to make them speak to each other.” — Robert D. Aguirre, author of Informal Empire: Mexico and Central America in Victorian Culture

Sounds great, yes? Don’t you want to buy a copy?

UPDATE; Book is out! Its ranked like 1,320,000 in books! Last week it beat out Victorian Lesbian Erotica in the History and Criticism> Victorian category.


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Repeating the famous Six Degrees experiment

David Lazer reports some interesting findings from his class when he attempts to recreate the famous Six Degrees experiment by Stanley Milgram.

Complexity and Social Networks Blog
The results: for 25 students (and about 40 attempts) 4 chains were completed, plus a fifth chain completed from a split from one of the completed chains (i.e., one of the students hit the target twice with a single e-mail because one of the recipients down chain sent the e-mail to multiple others). The number of hops varied from 3 (a student in the class who happens to be from North Dakota), to 8), with an average of 5.25.

Interesting points include how three of four completed chains included the prson’s profession, how junk mail may have effected participation, how much students relied on string ties (and not weak), and how some people used the message as a justification to back in touch with others.

Why are placesbin the midwest considered “so far” from the east coast?  Lazer used Fargo ND as the most faraway and still be in US.  Why is Seattle or San Francisco not just as “far away”?  Would Fargons (Fargoites?) list Boston as most distant?  Wouldn’t a someone from a poor neighborhood in Boston be just as far away?

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Has Social Networking Gone Too Far?

The headlong rush to embrace and leverage SNS catches up to a(new) old media outlet: USA Today.  Of course, they broke ground in teh 1980s trying to be a use-friendly national  newspaper (with 4 colors and factoids!).

 Has Social Networking Gone Too Far? – Yahoo! News
Over the weekend, USA Today unveiled a Web site redesign that reimagines the online newspaper as the center of a social media community.

The things is, people want authentic communities, both on-line and off, and at the intersection between the two.    The article goes on:

 Whether the newspaper’s readers want a more social media experience is another question entirely, assuming you’re willing to overlook the 92% negative reaction to the redesign noted by Don Dodge, director of business development for Microsoft’s Emerging Business Team, in his assessment of 130 online comment postings.

Ooops.  The lesson they missed reminds me of Barry Wellman’s work on community and technology: people adapt technology to their needs, not the other way around.  FOr example, there is this article: “How Does the Internet Affect Social Capital?”

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