Sunday, August 30, 2015

Randal Olson Takes A Close Look At The Wage Gap

Randal Olson, whose work I have previously admired, is back today (h/t Christina Hoff Sommers) with a look at the wage gap between the sexes, and in particular, how this is affected by college majors. Starting with a FiveThirtyEight post about remuneration for college majors, he then proceeds to dig through major-specific data (for a change, emboldening is all his):

The trend that’s immediately apparent from this chart is that female-dominated majors make less on average than male-dominated majors. Some interesting exceptions to the trend are Nursing (90% women; $48k median earnings) and Transportation Science (12% women; $35k median earnings), where Nursing especially stands out as a relatively lucrative major despite being primarily women.
 Unsurprisingly, after controlling for un- and under-employment, he looks at quantitative SAT scores and finds a strong correlation between that and earnings, i.e. the kinds of jobs that require analytical skills and compensation to match. His takeaways:
  • Female-dominated majors tend to earn less than male-dominated majors
  • This correlation isn’t explained by the employability of the majors
  • It seems plausible that male-dominated majors are usually paid more because they are more quantitative in nature, which large companies tend to value highly
At least when dealing with the opposite sex, men have a strong incentive to find gainful, and in particular, remunerative employment: 78% of women in a recent Pew poll said they want a man with "a steady job", which was more than any other aspect desired in a potential mate by either sex. If feminism has shaped a new model woman exactly like men in every way, she has not manifested herself in the broad population as yet.

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Wednesday Links

  • Leading off with the fantastic news that bioethicist Alice Dreger has resigned from Northwestern under charges that the university refuses to grant her the academic freedom they supposedly support. Her resignation letter (PDF) details the complaint that dean Eric Neilsen demanded editorial control of her work on Atrium, and even formed a "censorship committee" to oversee future issues:
    The plain and simple fact is that Dean Neilson acted impulsively and wrongly in this situation. We all make mistakes, but this was a profound mistake that cut to the very heart of academic freedom. It should have been acknowledged and corrected immediately. That is most definitely not what happened. Instead, what happened was denial, avoidance, blame -­‐ shifting, and evasion. To this day, the university has not admitted its mistake, and it has not affirmed its commitment to academic freedom in a way that makes clear that similar incidents will not occur in the future. This failure should be embarrassing to an otherwise great university.
    Also, a high five for her exit tweet:
  • LAist recently ran a story on driving for Uber or Lyft as a woman. Surprise! It's actually mostly pretty good:
    [Ashley] Moon said, "I've only had one awkward situation with a man I picked up in Culver City while driving for Lyft. He was making really sexual and inappropriate comments about my body, his body, and his girlfriend's body who we were on our way to pick up. But I didn't feel like I was in danger, mostly because he was SO drunk that he was completely slumped over in my front seat and heavily slurring his words. I thought he might have alcohol poisoning."
    One anonymous driver reported "Truthfully, I dealt with more inappropriate behavior when I was a bartender." Lyft in particular allows drivers to drop passengers before their destination if the driver feels endangered (something Uber doesn't), so they're a little better. But it's interesting to read these anecdotes, which include drivers giving relationship advice, picking up weird passengers, and more.
  • Remember Laurie Penny? I guess she's still out flogging her rage-tome, Unspeakable Things, which, according to those not part of her hallelujah chorus, draws from her Guardian (UK) and other online columns so much it's indistinguishable from them. Well, good news, fellas: feminism needs to find room for men!
    As Penny herself says, "women are only allowed to be experts on gendered things and nothing else, whereas that's the one thing men aren't supposed to talk about.
    Of course, men aren't allowed to have any actual differing opinions about intersex relations, because
    Men are our fifth column in all male spaces. Particularly when so many boardrooms and political meetings are all-male spaces, men can be very useful fighting in that arena.
    So nice to know men's only purpose as far as Penny's concerned is to shut up and parrot the party line! Also, reeducating your fellow knuckle-dragging males! Thank you, I'm here all night.
  • Lesbian tendencies appear to go hand-in-hand with masculinization, which apparently means changes to facial features can also predict sexual orientation, which sounds awfully like phrenology. This gives rise to the theory that female sexuality conforms to opportunity to some extent. (H/t @facerealitynow.)

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Uber, Lyft, And The False Spring At LAX

So we have been here before:
But you can pardon me some skepticism that this is the end. Between state demands to classify drivers for such shared car services are in fact employees and not contractors and changes to state insurance law (at least in California) that will almost certainly raise rates for anyone electing to use their personal vehicle for such commercial purposes (that is, if the insurers get hold of their Uber driving habits, which seems inevitable), the car services have a lot of people gunning for them. They have big enemies, and thus far, the Silicon Valley upstart does not seem inclined to spend lobbying money accordingly.

The Cognitive Dissonance, It Burns

Freddie deBoer, opening:
First is the now-ubiquitous claim that trigger warnings are only warnings, and that they have no connection whatsoever to an actual censorship impulse. I cannot tell you how many times I’ve been told, with absolute confidence, that “no one is talking about actually regulating content!” Which just is not true.
I don’t think political correctness is ruining campus, no matter how often I am accused of thinking that. In fact I don’t even like the term “political correctness” at all. I don’t think trigger warnings threaten the fabric of our education system. I do think that there are some legitimate problems with them and their use, and more, with the way that people who advocate for them go about arguing in their favor.
Look, you can't simultaneously argue that trigger warnings do, in fact, aim to regulate content while simultaneously ignoring the reality that imposes on campus life, and how they are antithetical to the university's supposed role in society. If they are part or descendant of a larger political correctness rubric, that's fine; but pretending they don't originate from a censorious, narcissistic impulse is delusional, as is pretending they aren't corrosive to free inquiry and public debate.

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Janet Napolitano's Corrosive Due Process Whitewash

The Los Angeles Times has an an article about sexual assault on campus that, for once, isn't a stenographic reproduction of the campus rape industry lunatics. Focusing on the Department of Education's Office of Civil Rights, the interesting part is remarks from Janet Napolitano, University of California president:
Janet Napolitano, president of the University of California and a former prosecutor and secretary of Homeland Security, warned in an article in the Yale Law & Policy Review published online this month that "a cottage industry is being created" on campuses dedicated to handling tasks that fall outside the expertise of colleges and universities

"Rather than pushing institutions to become surrogates for the criminal justice system," she said, policymakers should ask if "more work should be done to improve that system’s handling and prosecution of sexual assault cases."
Unfortunately, Napolitano's essay at Yale Law & Policy Review (PDF) tries hard to thread the political needle of rape hysteria while at least appearing to give the accused their due. She makes the claim, which real civil rights advocates would reject, that "universities are well positioned to undertake the necessary education and research, and prevention and response actions, that leadership in this area will require." She further endorses the silly and wholly impractical "yes means yes" standard:
Critics claimed, among other arguments, that affirmative consent standards are unfair to those accused of sexual violence. But UC’S policy language negates those claims‐ -- “consent is an affirmative, unambiguous, and conscious decision by each par‐ticipant to engage in mutually agreed upon sexual activity.” The standard pro‐vides greater clarity for both partners than the previous “no means no” stand‐ard by requiring lucid, affirmative statements or actions at each step of a sexual encounter in order to ensure consent. Put simply, only yes means yes.
This is magical thinking that entirely elides the real problems of discerning consent in the absence of signed releases or actual video. As Cathy Young observed last year in Time,
One of the partners could start feeling ambivalent about an encounter after the fact and reinterpret it as coerced — especially after repeatedly hearing the message that only a clear “yes” constitutes real consent. In essence, advocates of affirmative consent are admitting that they’re not sure what constitutes a violation; they are asking people to trust that the system won’t be abused. This is not how the rule of law works.

In other words, there's no means to ascertain whether consent actually occurred. This recently came up in a case at Washington & Lee University, in which a girl declared she had been raped after seeing her boyfriend kiss another girl; rape charges were filed long after their sexual encounters. If anything, this is a setup for a mammoth expansion of the bureaucracy and a micromanaging of students' personal affairs.

Viewed strictly as a bureaucratic turf battle (i.e. mission creep), this makes sense, but it's clear it serves no other end. Napolitano created a new "task force" with broad mandates and lofty mission statements, but no specifics with regards to protecting the rights of the accused. It's larded with boilerplate language from the rape crisis hysterics, with accusors dubbed "brave student survivors" with all the forthright hyperbole one expects in praise for fourth graders. If Napolitano has come out, timidly, late, and not especially forthrightly for principles of justice, whatever positives may arise there are washed away by her collusion with the OCR and its corrosive contempt for due process.

Sunday, August 16, 2015

Shanley Kane, The Backstory

My fascination with Shanley Kane as a manifestation of feminist psychosis got a doubling or tripling down today in the wake of a tweet from Milo Yiannopoulos, who resurrected three old columns of his. There's a lot of linked material therein, but I wanted to hit the highlights.
  • In which Andrew Auernheimer makes the mistake of sleeping with the former racist, which probably amounts to birds of a feather. Auernheimer, in case you forgot, is "a convicted hacker, a prolific internet troll, a self-confessed anti-semite and, as we reported in October, a white nationalist—though he prefers the term 'pan-European supremacist.'" So he has his reasons to misrepresent Kane's positions, now or then. But her untethered loathing for men — "She does, however, legitimately hate men with an undying rage" — is by now incontestable. Must-read: Meredith L. Patterson's Medium essay outlining her own experiences, and rejection of Kane's entitled self-absorption:
    I have since been made painfully aware that my experience is atypical. Every time, it has been a woman who has done so. Every time, it has been a lesson in how the woman I am talking with expects the tech world to relate to her and other people like her.
    After proposing and implementing a feature to an open-source project, she subsequently learned that the developer's list had a brief discussion of her proposal.
    There had been interest, but one of the committers had dismissed the idea out of hand because a woman had proposed it. It was the funniest thing I’d heard in months — I literally doubled over laughing at how nonplussed he must have been to see it not only implemented, but implemented to rousing success.
    Whether he intended this as a snub or not, she didn't take it as one at the time. This, from Kane's perspective, turned out to be a huge mistake, because "talking about my overwhelmingly positive relationship with the tech community is nothing more than a callous announcement of 'fuck you, got mine.'" That is, she was too busy doing to worry about the possible social implications of some guy's offhand comment.
  • If there's a one-piece takedown of Kane that warrants deep reading, "The Madness of Queen Shanley" appears to be it, providing as it does a significant backgrounder in Kane's dysfunctional, psychopathic behavior. I could spend an entire afternoon reading the links there. Must-read: Elizabeth Spears' Medium interview with Kane, in which Kane even takes softball questions as raging insults, and her editor Bobbie Johnson's followup outlining Kane's lunatic, paranoid response ("harassment", "coerced" among other things) to interview requests from what should have been a friendly reporter.
  • Kane confesses racism and mental illness; the obvious must-read is Amelia Greenhall's essay on what it was like to be in close quarters with someone so obviously insane. I don't think she's learned much — the end of the piece appears to be an affirmation of the sorts of things that are explicitly problematic about Kane's totalitarian brand of feminism — but it's interesting to see how very brittle the supposed sisterhood is once there's bragging rights to be established.

Wednesday, August 12, 2015

No, Freddie, Kickstarters Aren't A "Swindle" (Necessarily)

Fredrik deBoer has a rant up about the sequal to the PC game Divinity: Original Sin (unimaginitively titled Divinity: Original Sin II), which is being published, as its predecessor, as a Kickstarter. DeBoer, who so far as I have ever known, has never run a company or had to manage assets, calls this a "swindle":
Let’s be 100% clear about what this is. This isn’t fans helping the little guy out. This isn’t charity. It’s not the townsfolk banding together to save the local community theater. It’s a for-profit company that just had a very successful product placing the financial risk of their next product on the people they’re going to be selling the product to. Once upon a time, in ye olden days, corporations that wanted a chance to make profits also had to accept the risk of a failed product. Now, hey, just crowdfund; place the risk burden on the very consumers that you want to wring profits out of in the first place! What could go wrong? Typically, criticism of crowdfunding turns on the possibility of failed product launches, such as in this great Gideon Lewis-Kraus piece on an overly ambitious coffeemaker, or the ubiquitous risk of out-and-out fraud. But I find these successes more disturbing: why not just keep going back to the well, no matter how profitable your company is, and reap the profits free of risk?
 No, not free of risk; we don't know, specifically, how much (if any) of their own capital they're putting into the product. But even if that figure is zero, deBoer's argument comes around, essentially, to "for historical reasons", i.e. because a thing has always been done a certain way, it must always be done in the future the same way. But even this utterly ignores the existing real-world examples in which customers put up risk capital in exchange for future goods and services: magazine subscriptions, community supported agriculture, even good faith money on building construction. Instead of Kickstarter supporters being patsies, as deBoer asserts, they're helping the creators mitigate risk and thereby aid in the creation of products those customers want. A great example of this mitigation was the highly successful Exploding Kittens card game; as Ben Kuchera in Polygon wrote,
If Exploding Kittens' creators wanted to print 420,000 copies of the game and ship them, hoping they would sell, the project would cost around $6.3 million, with no guarantee of return. Using Kickstarter allowed them to not only promote the project, but use sales to fund the game's creation, removing that risk and allowing them to increase the profit margin.

While everyone involved with Exploding Kittens will likely earn a very nice payday, the number of copies sold and the profit made from them won't be ridiculous; a better word is meaningful. Kickstarter allowed them to scale expectations and sales while removing much of the upfront cost and risk. It's not a perversion of the crowdfunding model; it's a great example of a team using it well.
Now, is that to say Kickstarters always work? No, of course not. One particular example that some friends got burned on was a proposed biopic of the dog trainer Dick Russell, Dog Man; reading the team's biographies, the title "producer" nowhere appeared at the time. (It is a separate job for a reason.) There's clearly interest in highlighting such failures, as for instance this spreadsheet documenting all game launches funded for $75,000 or more, or Kickfailure, a website dedicated to documenting notable failures. But none of these mean that Kickstarted projects are intrinsically fraud, or amount to exploitation of the customer (save for cases of fraud or incompetence).

Tuesday, August 11, 2015

These Aren't The Trigger Warnings You're Looking For

The Atlantic has a fine essay by Greg Lukianoff and Jonathan Haidt about the consequences of the "trigger warning" culture on university campuses. Its better parts concern the academy's newfound focus of "emotional reasoning" and the "microaggressions" it spawns, turning everything into an assault ("teaching students to catastrophize", an unfelicitous word), even (and especially) any ideas that conflict with the viewer.
Attempts to shield students from words, ideas, and people that might cause them emotional discomfort are bad for the students. They are bad for the workplace, which will be mired in unending litigation if student expectations of safety are carried forward. And they are bad for American democracy, which is already paralyzed by worsening partisanship. When the ideas, values, and speech of the other side are seen not just as wrong but as willfully aggressive toward innocent victims, it is hard to imagine the kind of mutual respect, negotiation, and compromise that are needed to make politics a positive-sum game.
While the idea that political games can ever be "positive-sum" betrays a profound indifference to how the sausages get made in D.C. and elsewhere, the rest of it is certainly true. So of course The Mary Sue had to publish a fairly predictable attempt at rebuttal; Maddy Myers tries heroically to live up to the headline ("Saying Trigger Warnings 'Coddle The Mind' Completely Misses The Point") and even more the sub-hed ("Why doesn't anyone understand how PTSD works?"). Myers admits she was helped by exposure therapy but then demands the world outside the psychologist's office should be encased in bubble wrap for the protection of anyone who might find something offensive or skeery:
This article does very little to explore how educators might better serve PTSD sufferers; instead, the piece seems to assert that educators shouldn’t have to change a thing. Also, the title, photo, and overall framing of the piece emphasizes the myth of the oversensitive, trophy-hoarding millennial who just wants to get out of doing their homework. This assumption supposes that young college students are using their “fragile” natures as an excuse to not engage with “words and ideas they don’t like” (e.g. “students seem to be reporting more emotional crises; many seem fragile”).
... This is just one in a long line of misunderstandings on the part of older college professors who actually just seem angry at the “political correctness” their modern students have begun to demand. They may try to characterize us as literal babies, but they’re the ones who look like babies to me, given the refusal to acknowledge their students’ experiences. They can’t be bothered to make small changes to their own curriculums that might better facilitate conversations among their students about media depictions of violence, rape, assault, war, kidnapping, and so on.
The "refusal to acknowledge their students' experiences" demands that the world needs to bend to the author's wishes; professors are not there to instruct. Instead, in this telling, they exist to serve PTSD sufferers, i.e. a minority. It derives directly from a very self-centered place, i.e. the prerogatives of the customer, even though she has no evidence they're even helpful in dealing with people having PTSD symptoms:
I like the idea of trigger warnings, but I’ll be the first to admit that I’m not sure they do much to protect people from panic attacks. Unfortunately, almost no articles that discuss trigger warnings seem particularly interested in centering the experiences of people with anxiety and PTSD, and how those people might be better served by institutions and classes that they’re paying thousands and thousands of dollars to attend.
Complaints that the university is increasingly in thrall to the student-as-customer are very old, but it's hard to think of one more starkly destructive to actual learning. She similarly doesn't grapple with Lukianoff and Haidt's many examples of the negative consequences of "trigger warnings": Harvard Law students asking out of rape law classes, idiotic "microaggressions" at U. California that included such "triggers" as “America is the land of opportunity”, or, even reading books in public:
In a particularly egregious 2008 case, for instance, Indiana University–Purdue University at Indianapolis found a white student guilty of racial harassment for reading a book titled Notre Dame vs. the Klan. The book honored student opposition to the Ku Klux Klan when it marched on Notre Dame in 1924. Nonetheless, the picture of a Klan rally on the book’s cover offended at least one of the student’s co-workers (he was a janitor as well as a student), and that was enough for a guilty finding by the university’s Affirmative Action Office.
Going against type, the non-adulatory comments following The Mary Sue essay are actually interesting. One commenter points out that, despite the author's insistence that trigger warnings are merely misunderstood, The Mary Sue itself recently carried a story about a Crafton Hills College student, upon learning she was assigned as reading the graphic novels PersepolisFun HomeY: The Last Man Vol. 1, and The Sandman Vol. 2: The Doll’s House, suggesting that proper courses of action:
Schultz’s response? “At least get a warning on the books. At most I would like the books eradicated from the system. I don’t want them taught anymore. I don’t want anyone else to have to read this garbage.”
Which is to say, the final destination is censorship. Unfortunately, Myers doesn't especially care about that.

Monday, August 10, 2015

A Ray Of Light: Tennessee Federal Judge Rules Affirmative Consent Unconstitutional

I'm mildly skeptical of the PR origins of this piece, so waiting nervously for confirmation that a Tennessee Federal judge ruled affirmative consent is unconstitutional.
The Tennessee court held that it was unconstitutional for the University, under its "yes means yes" standard, to require the male student to establish his own innocence with proof that consent had been given, rather than putting the burden of proof on the accuser or the University as is always the case in both criminal and civil proceedings.

"If both students were too drunk to even remember if intercourse occurred, much less the circumstances under which it happened, it is obviously fundamentally unfair to require only one student but not the other to prove that there was consent," argued Banzhaf.
I'll keep an eye out for updates on this one, but tentatively good news.

Related: from a few days ago, another Ashe Schow piece about a Virginia judge permitting a John Doe case involving Washington & Lee University asserting gender bias to proceed.
When she returned to campus in the fall, Jane [Doe] claimed on a study abroad application that she had been sexually assaulted. She also attended a presentation by W&L's Title IX officer Lauren Kozak. Kozak claimed that "regret equals rape," and introduced the concept as a new idea people were now supporting.
 Update 8/11/2016:  Here's the entire ruling of Mock v. University of Tennessee at Chattanooga (PDF). Also, Scott Greenfield has an excellent, must-read post on the case.
What distinguished the old school definition of rape was a clear line that assured that a person would know when conduct was wrongful.  This line isn’t just a reasonable basis to hold a person accountable, but constitutionally necessary to give a person fair notice that he crossed over from lawful to unlawful conduct.

Under affirmative consent, both in its written prohibition and in its practical application, there is no line that the person engaging in the conduct can discern.  The line ends up being wherever the other person feels it should be, whether at the time or at any time afterward. Even if males can read minds (they can’t, and neither can you), it wouldn’t enable them to know where the line is, as minds that change days, weeks, months later can’t be read at the initiation of sex.

Sunday, August 9, 2015

Donald Trump Implodes

The smoke-filled room is a relic of an era when you could actually smoke in hotels, and people actually smoked, but whatever its Internet-connected analogue is today, the GOP brass must be terrified. Donald Trump has unleashed a loud, idiotic, made-for-tabloids campaign that resonates with the base but appears doomed to fail in a general against Hillary Clinton. The possibility of yet another presidential pratfall has Reince Priebus checking the sofa cushions for a candidate, any candidate, who can knock out Trump in the primaries. Trump's remarks characterizing immigrants as rapists will not soon be forgotten by Hispanics, a demographic key to winning in 2016. (Never mind that immigrants tend to have lower crime rates than the general population they come from or go to.) But, some bad news for Trump's inexplicable fan base, which consists of nine parts nativist dingbats and one part lovers of garish spectacle: his campaign had a full-scale meltdown recently, firing his campaign manager in the wake of ungentlemanly speculation about Megyn Kelly's menstrual cycle, something that further got him disinvited from Erick Erickson's Redstate gathering. If this really is the beginning of the end for Trump, it's not a moment too soon — especially for the GOP, who have to view Trump as the kind of loose cannon that could destroy the party entirely.

Saturday, August 8, 2015

The Star Chamber Jurist Resigns

I've seen this Inside Higher Ed piece by Lee Burdette Williams a couple places on Twitter (via @Instapundit, for one), and people seem to be mostly focusing on Williams' turn away from Title IX and its perversion into a sort of all-purpose stockade with which to shame and expel young men from college. Her concluding graf contains the words
When I realized I didn’t want to be Dean of Sexual Assault, I decided to step away from a profession and identity I had treasured. When it became clear to me that being Dean of All Students was no longer possible without the constant threat of litigation, media coverage and Internet trolls, I thought it best to be dean of none.
Good for her, I guess; but a few paragraphs above, she writes
...[O]ur work is the subject of bloggers and activists who are so driven by agendas that they cannot consider an alternative viewpoint. Our efforts to serve our campuses are being pushed aside by the cottage industry of “consultants” and lawyers who prey on the fear of presidents and boards, worried that their institution will be the next one featured in The New York Times.

Did we need to be challenged about sexual assault response? Yes, and we were, and we worked hard to improve.
There's several important points here that need emphasis.
  1. It is not possible to use the bludgeon of the state to equitably resolve dating disputes. There used to be a principle in law, decreasingly adhered to nowadays, called de minimis non curat lex, i.e. the law does not concern itself with trifles. Yet feminist advocates consistently attempt to do so through inflation of all such matters into rape, particularly retroactively. (Emma Sulkowicz is a prime example, filing her report with the university months after the incident in which she claims she was raped.)
  2. The author does not realize she has been inserted into a no-win situation. That is to say, confronted with a Hobson's choice scenario, she fails to recognize it as such and ultimately leaves the game. That's certainly a positive step, but it's also the reaction of a dull-witted bureaucrat. By defending her own role in "sexual assault response", she lays a trap for herself from which she cannot escape.
  3. She objects to even the idea of public scrutiny. Read, for example, her remarks about what she conceives her job to be:
    Our work goes on behind closed doors where the hearts of students are laid bare and need to be repaired, or in campus forums where our students get to question our decisions and we can defend them, or change them. These things happen in the context of community, and that is what provides meaning and validity. That is how change, and improvement, occur.
    In other words, she and her cohorts should be able to do whatever they think their jobs are in total secrecy, or in settings in which she is shielded from consequences! (How much ability to change policy do students actually have, the "community" of which she speaks?) In this administrator-as-mommy view, is there any accountability? What value does she actually bring to the students, male and female, she supposedly works for?
State bureaucracies encourage timorousness, empire building, and, above all, secrecy. I appreciate her leaving her post because she felt demonized by the feminist mob needing a target for their pitchforks, but the reality is that same secrecy she lauds also delivered unto us the "Dear Colleague" letter. Process matters. It's clear she doesn't understand why.

Thursday, August 6, 2015

The Horseshoe Effect

The horseshoe theory in political science asserts that rather than the far left and the far right being at opposite and opposing ends of a linear political continuum, they in fact closely resemble one another, much like the ends of a horseshoe. The theory is attributed to French writer Jean-Pierre Faye.[1]
A mostly reasonable piece in the NYT on the subject of abortion contains this passage:
In his 2007 Supreme Court decision upholding the Partial-Birth Abortion Ban Act, Justice Anthony M. Kennedy specifically mentioned the “unexceptionable” likelihood that a woman might come to regret her choice. That women need to be protected from decisions they might feel bad about later — not that there was any evidence supporting this notion — is now a legal precedent.
Yes. The notion that women might not be capable of delivering meaningful consent — where have we heard that before? Increasingly, the left and right mirror each other's arguments, albeit on different terrain.

Tuesday, August 4, 2015

The Tragedy Of The Google Commons

The tragedy of the commons is that responsibility is divorced from individual profit, i.e. there's no feedback loop telling you to stop grazing your sheep because it's destroying the pasture. Large corporations have a similar problem internally with resource allocation, particularly ones as intrinsically entrepreneurial as Google (or as entrepreneurial as Google would like to think itself); with so many potential projects, which ones do you back? And how much? When none of these small projects are themselves expected to turn a profit, answering those questions is impossible.

This was my thinking process when reading Ars Technica's fascinating article about the Google stripping Google+ from everything in sight. Started in 2011 as a belated and somewhat panicked reaction to Facebook, it's frequently (and accurately) described as a ghost town. Google started this process with the rollout of the confusingly named Google Photos, which replaced the better and similarly-named Google+ Photos. Likes? Usable albums? Full size images? Who cares? It's almost as if Google had no interest in the quality of their offerings, and was run by some schizophrenic emperor with ADHD. As Ron Amadeo points out in Ars, it wasn't the first time Google torpedoed a much-used product in favor of something no one wanted: Google Reader, an RSS-driven blog aggregator, got killed in favor of the pointless and short-lived Google Buzz, which itself exited this veil for Google+ after only two years. Google Hangouts, their instant messaging app, "feels like one of the most unimportant and poorly backed products at the company" and is "so poorly supported that making fun of it has practically become a meme in the Android community". It echoes Microsoft in mobile telephones, a market they were never able to crack, as evidenced by a string of failed, short duration marriages. That included, most recently, a $7.6 billion writedown of its Nokia acquisition along with 7,800 layoffs. Making billion dollar bets is hard, but smaller bets are no easier, especially when neither are tied to your core competency.

Saturday, August 1, 2015

Administrivia: Comments Don't Work, But Only For Me

No idea why this started, but even after clearing cookies, I can't comment on comment threads.

Some of you may consider this a positive step.