Who are your 150?

An increasing body of research is suggesting the humans have evolved for a group size of about 150.   Known as “Dunbar’s Number”, the idea is that in groups larger than this size our efficiency breaks down.    I think the working assumption is that we cannot track more than this number of people without losing a lot of resolution, and that we work best when we have a good and high resolution relationship with people:  http://www.commonsenseadvice.com/human_cortex_dunbar.html

Yu Yuan Gardens, Shanghai

Yu Yuan Gardens, Shanghai

Originally uploaded by JoeDuck

Shanghai’s Yu Yuan Gardens were one of my favorite China attractions. The surrounding area is filled with shops, restaurants, and is very crowded but the Gardens were quiet and very beautiful. Unlike European gardens most of this area was buildings and walkways with some trees and vegetation that were very carefully landscaped.

Corporation as psychopathic? Nonsense!

RealClimate offers some great science and discussion but also reveals a lot of the unvarnished bias you get when true believers discard reason for hyperbole and nonsense.  (thx to JCH for this caveat about caution when confusing a blog with the comments).

This little nugget emerged from a regular commenter:

I called the corporations psychopaths, not those running them, and for a very good reason: they are legally bound to consider only maximising shareholder value. Damage to the environment? No. Deaths among employees, customers or third parties? No. So long as such deaths or damage do not break the criminal law, and will increase profit, that’s what they are legally bound to do. That’s why I said capitalism created these psychopaths…

I’m seeing this bizarre view appear more and more and I’m not sure where it comes from, but probably the film I have yet to see about corporations and how evil they are.    I think it’s called “The Corporation”.

One can easily make the case that corporations *emphasize* profit.  They should do that within legal means – that is the *whole point*.   American style socialist (ie heavily taxed) capitalism is the reason we live large while those in less corporate driven societies struggle just to keep fed and keep healthy, often failing in both measures.

Almost *every single corporation* will typically factor in a variety of environmental and social factors in the interest of the greater good,  the good of employees, and the prevailing cultural and ethical standards.   This is in part due to the laws and prevailing cultural standards as is almost every type of collective behavior, but it is also because contrary to the assertion above, corporations that act psychopathically

In the USA these factors generally make big businesses a great place to work.  Yahoo, for example, has extensive ‘green’ initiatives.  Google not only pays a small fortune in stock and salaries but pays for all the meals and does the laundry…free.  You’ll say these are the exceptions but good stewardship is the corporate rule which is why the west enjoys such high living standards.  That prosperity sure didn’t come from the bureacracy – it came in spite of it.   This is why your rules are better applied to enterprises run by those who generally despise US style multinational corporations.

My challenge to corporate critics is to randomly pick 10 companies from S&P 500. Assign either “mostly psychopathic activity” or “mostly morally acceptable activity” to each and also do that on the “mostly exploits those in developing world” or “mostly helps those in developing world”. In most cases 9 of those 10 will pass both tests if you answer these rationally and reasonably without cherry picking from the companies or company histories as CL has done above.

Here’s a list of the S&P 500 – clearly a good list of companies that powerfully represent a globalized capitalist vision and experience:  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_S%26P_500_companies

Now let’s grab ten of these.  Presumably the first letter should not bias the sample so I’ll grab the first and last five on the Wikipedia S&P 500 list:

Abbott Labs
Abercrombie & Fitch Co.
ACE Limited
Adobe Systems

XTO XTO Energy Inc. reports Energy
YHOO Yahoo Inc. reports Information Technology
YUM Yum! Brands Inc reports Consumer Discretionary
ZMH Zimmer Holdings reports Health Care
ZION Zions Bancorp reports Financials

OK so now the questions to apply to each are whether they are “psychopathic” or not, and whether they are “exploiting more than helping”.     My test allows only ONE to fail either test.

—– to be continued after I get some real work done ——–

—– Ouch, Karma injection alert?   Just after posting I was trying to get Bank of America to credit my card for the Beijing Scam I was conned with in China.   After charge dispute sent me away claiming that becaue I signed the paper it was out of their hands, fraud said (incredibly) that even if they had changed the number it would not be a fraud case – fraud is basically only reserved for stolen numbers.  I’m not sure this makes Bank of America a psychopathic corporation but it’s also true that they are helping perpetrate scams all around the globe by failing in follow up.   Given that I *cancelled my card number* after this they should assume I’m not just ranting without cause.   But backwards Karma injection: Super low interest for one year will save far more than my $85 ripoff from the Tea House.

——– back to work! ————

Hey, double karma reinjection –  B of A eventually refunded my Tea Scam payment.   Would a psychopath have done that?

Google on SEO

Search Engine Optimization is at the same time a simple concept (help the search engines find and rank your pages) and a very complex one (proper use of redirection when changing domain names, Google downranking, duplicate content and hundreds more topics that are covered online in many places and also at conferences like the SES Conference Series, Webmasterworld PubCon, or the SMX Conferences.  

Arguably the best source for basic SEO information is Matt Cutts’ blog, and he always has great summaries of the conferences at which he gives talks.    Here’s a great post from Matt today after Danny Sullivan’s SMX Seattle Conference.   Google has added some information to their famous (and infamous) webmaster Guidelines, which should be read by every webmaster as they are the best *basic* information about how to structure a site to be ranked properly.   You’ll also want to read Matt’s SEO posts which offer a lot more specifics and technical advice.  

Although several years ago you would *also* have been well advised to read up on some of the tricks of the trade such as various schemes for keyword optimization, I would argue that for most webmasters tricks are more likely to be counterproductive than productive.   This is a really rich topic because there remain many techniques that fall into a sort of gray area of optimization where ranks are affected, but crossing the Google draws between acceptable techniques and unacceptable can lead to severe penalties.   Since Google does not draw a clear objective line we have the ongoing gray area of optimization. 

Many SEO techniques relate to *linking* strategies and *keyword optimization*.     It is an area where I believe Google has in many ways fueled the rise of the very content they hate by making the rules too vague and (more importantly) allowed adsense advertising on pages that don’t meet reasonable web quality standards.   Early in the game I was often frustrated when I would improve on a bad page only to have it drop in ranks due to algorithmic quirks.   I soon decided to leave crappy but high ranked pages alone, fearing they’d be downranked if I changed them.  This in turn caused problems as Google tightened up quality standards. Google is great about transparency in several areas, but algorithmic search penalties are not one of them.

I should also say there are some exceptionally good SEO folks out there who always have amazing advice when I bump into them at conferences.    David Naylor and Aaron Wall, and Todd Malicoat all have remarkable insight into the complexities of Google ranking as does Vanessa Fox who used to work for Google and Danny Sullivan who runs the SMX series of SEO Conferences.    My general advice about SEO is to do it yourself or in-house, but there are a handful of people like this who know the game so well that the normal rules about avoiding SEO folks do not apply.