Sunday, April 27, 2014

Outrage on the Internet

Recent high profile events show that a type of political consumerism can be effective.  For example, the Clipper's owner Donald Sterling has come under fire for some racist comments he made.  Many basketball players and coaches have spoken out against it and are calling for action such as boycotting of Clippers games.  The CEO of RadiumOne, a large online advertising company, recently had to step down after being found guilty of domestic abuse.  The Mozilla CEO also had to step down after furor over his donation to Proposition 8, the campaign against legalizing gay marriage.  What's interesting about these controversies are that many of the people who objected aren't end consumers but rather employees (like basketball players) or other companies.  It seemed that the leadership of other companies were motivated to speak out because of the attitudes of their employees.  Is political consumerism more effective when the employees are more powerful?  The employees in these cases were basketball players or software developers.  Many of Mozilla and RadiumOne's downstream consumers are also in the tech industry.  Both of these groups happen to be in extremely high demand.  Large public forums (eg. Twitter) seemed to facilitate these events.

Friday, April 25, 2014

Talkin About the Issues

Thomas Piketty is talking about the issue of inequality in a book, Capital in the 21st Century.  Apparently it is popular, and there have been many articles written about it.

I wonder why this one has gotten so popular, and I wonder if it will help to change the dominant point of view that inequality is ok because the rising tide of capitalism raises all boats.  Definitely adding this one to my (imaginary) summer reading list.

Sunday, April 20, 2014

Controls in Policy?

Every so often, someone advocates for making the tax bracket indexed on the level of inequality.

Is this the ramblings of an out-of-touch academic?  Maybe.

Saturday, April 19, 2014

Sign up for Oroeco!

I'm still not sure what we're useful for, though, actually.  Hopefully we will figure that out soon through looking at user data.

Friday, April 11, 2014

Big Data and Data Science

Big data and data science have been generating a lot of excitement lately.  Excitement is great and all, but more importantly, more substantive articles about its limitations and uses have also been cropping up.  Here are some moderately substantive ones.
Highlights the general problems with 'big data' but actually it's more about data science as it's practiced in tech firms these days.  The problems aren't explained that comprehensively.  What's nice is that there is an example for each one, though.
This is a bit more substantive.  It makes the argument that big data needs to go from 'thin data' to 'thick data,' where 'thin data' are just traces of activities that are getting collected inadvertently.  'Thick data' is more information about the context of actions.  'Thick data' is probably more useful for making decisions but takes more effort to college, probably requiring one to get out and talk to people.  Then again, it's written by someone who sounds like an advocate of 'the humanities,' who perhaps is trying to justify all the 'qualitative analysis' skills she learned instead of big data analysis.  In fact, its main argument is interesting but largely unsubstantiated.
Good old MIT Technology Review.  The March/April issue had a Business Report on Data and Decision-Making.  It had several articles about trends in how businesses are using A/B testing.

aside : Yes, committing to blogging about an article (that takes more than 20 seconds to understand) is the only way I will ever actually read it much less remember what it said.

Sunday, April 6, 2014

Corporate Social Responsibility

I'm taking a class this semester called Governance of Global Production with professor Dara O'Rourke.  He is a cofounder of Good Guide.

It just occurred to me that he kinda looks like nerdier version of the lead singer of Tool, James Maynard Keenan.

They could be brothers!  or maybe just cousins?

Anyway, I was going to riff on the readings I did this week about corporate social responsibility.

In the past decade or so, the idea that a business should be more concerned with creating "shared value" has been gaining momentum.  This means that businesses have a responsibility to stakeholders beyond their shareholders such as their employees, their local community, and the global environment.  

So far, the prevailing attitude among most business leaders and investors is still that the most important thing to do is to maximize shareholder value.  I think it's safe to say that for the most part, corporations are only interested in sustainability as a way to increase the stock price through improving reputation and thus increasing the value of the brand.  

Even so, within a corporation there are likely to be champions of corporate social responsibility for its own sake.  And there are notable leaders in the corporate world who seem to be truly committed to CSR and sustainability in particular.  O'Rourke specifically singles out Unilever as one of them.

Those committed to CSR wouldn't say (admit) that CSR may sometimes reduce profits.  Instead, they would point out two concepts that change the perspective.  The first is that every corporation exists as part of an economy, where it depends on the well-being of the citizens.  So it may be true that their CSR initiatives actually benefit all companies in their industry not just themselves.  The second concept is that the corporation is planning on sticking around for many years to come.  In terms of game theory, it's a repeated game which can make it beneficial in the very long run to internalize more costs and take others' interests into account.  This is only slightly different from increasing brand value in that it is a more future-oriented perspective.  The brand value motivation would only justify CSR initiatives that would help the corporation get recognition in the near term.