I wrote two prior posts about University of Chicago professors after they came to give talks in Shanghai, one on SuperFreakonomics (which I called super irresponsible) and another on Nudge (which I was much more positive about but still didn’t like how the professor appeared to tell the Chinese what to do without having a good basis in the underlying facts). This talk, the Horse or the Jockey, also by a University of Chicago professor (Steve Kaplan) was simply fascinating. I can see why he is so popular.
What he did was research along the same lines as Jim Collins in Good to Great. Now I enjoyed the book and found it to be useful research but it is preliminary research (he’s found some correlations in mounds of data but other studies have not repeated them so they could come from chance and other findings like “level 5 leaders” appear to be rather hard to define and thus test; a good discussion of the weaknesses of Good to Great is here along with a few of my comments).
The presentation was excellent. The question of should you bet on the horse or the jockey (the title of the presentation) was answered by looking at pre-venture capital firms that had subsequently been successful to see if the business idea or the people change most frequently. Overwhelmingly the jockey changes (most executive teams experience turnover – no huge surprise) but the horse doesn’t (most businesses don’t dramatically change from one area to the other). The research was repeated with all 2004 IPOs to make sure that the results weren’t just venture capital speicifc.
The second question: “Which CEO Characteristics and Abilities Matter?” was also answered with the help of VCs (though I would say that the study needs to be replicated as the findings aren’t as decisive). The VCs all had one firm perform detailed assessments of CEOs before investing, professor Kaplan looked at CEO performance (was he fired, etc.) to see what characteristics matter. He broadly found that in the two categories “interpersonal / team- vs. execution-related” that execution mattered most. A rationale could be that people want to get things done above all and a CEO that doesn’t get things done is just no good.
The interesting thing was that when the professor asked people in the audience what they thought changed more, horse or jockey and what they thought were more important CEO skills (team or execution) the results were split (and this was an audience with many MBAs and business executives in the room). Maybe I just liked his presentation because I got both answers right but I did find it fascinating nonetheless.
I’ve decided to do some posts on media bias in news articles. Today’s is on a National Post article entitled “Here comes the HST.” The thesis is that the HST will drive up the cost of investing making it harder to save for retirement.
The article says:
“Managed money — professionally managed investment portfolios–is subject to HST. That means mutual funds, wrap accounts, hedge funds, segregated funds, charitable trusts and even passively managed index funds and exchange-traded funds — the basics of most retirement portfolios– will see increased fees.”
The problem with this conclusion is that increased taxes do not necessarily translate to higher fees for consumers. The other possibility is that they could result in lower fees plus taxes resulting in the same cost (that is, the result could be lower profits for the financial services industry). To illustrate why, some basic economics is necessary (which hopefully the individuals quoted in the article has mastered).
The producer, the consumer, or both can effectively pay a tax. Producers pay the tax when consumers are unwilling to pay more (that is to say, if prices were raised, demand would drop off significantly). For example, a coffee shop’s might see the number of customers drop off dramatically if prices increase due to a new tax so the owner might keep prices the same and absorb the tax.
Consumers pay the tax when consumers aren’t terribly sensitive to prices or where producers can sell in other locations. For example, a tax on oil would be paid by consumers (as oil companies can easily sell their oil abroad and people are slow to reduce oil consumption).
In most cases, as with the HST on investment products, both consumers and the financial services industry will almost certainly effectively pay for the tax.
The article also says that low-income savers will pay more because “sophisticated investors, … tend to buy securities directly.” The article doesn’t back this up, unfortunately. Most private investment managers only deal with very wealthy clients and the billions and billions of dollars paid to hedge fund managers whose funds only accept investments from the very wealthy tend to belie this statement.
In fact, the article goes on to say that GICs, life insurance, and annuities are not subject to the tax. I’m not sure if these products are sold more to low- or high-income clients but not exploring this means the article is at best incomplete.
The HST is supposed to help the economy over the long run by simplifying the time it takes to comply with tax bureaucracy and by lowering the distorting effects of the PST. The financial services industry was one of the groups that supported it so it (of course, they would support it more strongly if they were exempted).
Tax revenues need to come from somewhere and this article doesn’t make any case for an alternative source.
Read the original article at: http://www.nationalpost.com/news/Jonathan+Chevreau+Here+comes/3203758/story.html#ixzz0sOrXTbEo
Should those who have power be subject to higher standards of conduct in exercising power than ordinary people? I think the obvious answer is of course.
Security at the G20 summit was the duty of the police. Cooperating with police by reporting criminal acts, denouncing criminal acts, and obeying the law are duties of all present (moral duties, if not legal ones). Of course if everybody obeyed the law all the time there would be no need for police in the first place.
As expected, a criminal element was present and committed wanton destruction. Also, as expected, some police fell out of line and disgraced themselves and their forces. Given that the issues facing the world are significant to the protesters, the natural tension of policing a large event, and the fact that there were tens of thousands of police and protesters, none of this should be surprising.
Had that been the end of it, administrative review of tapes to identify and prosecute (or reprimand, as appropriate) those engaged in misconduct would be sufficient.
Unfortunately, there was more. Regulations were passed in secret that added police powers not discussed with protesters thus undermining the trust that police need to be effective. Mass arrests were conducted, including of journalists and other people innocent of breaking any laws with police at times appearing to provoke confrontation for no apparent reason. Detention centers appeared not to be equipped to properly process individuals meaning no phone calls to lawyers or family members.
One video that both bothered me and yet encouraged me is this one:
Police were conditioning access to a public park far from the G20 summit on consent to search, detaining and searching anybody who tried to evade their searches. The individual in the video is agitated but not violent or abusive, forcefully asserting that he has the right to refuse to be searched and asserting that he has the right to enter the park. The officers disagree but cannot offer an explanation as to what legal authority they are acting under (not that this is terribly surprising, it is the senior commanders who gave the orders to search that are accountable for making sure the orders are legal, as with any paramilitary force, those implementing the orders can only disobey them if they are manifestly illegal).
With the security both expensive and poorly executed, Canadians, including me, are calling for an independent inquiry.
For me, a column in the National Post (of all places) resonates most with me:
This weekend was considerably less than a disaster, but it was also considerably less than a triumph. The fact the world didn’t end doesn’t mean there aren’t huge numbers of questions to be asked of police, and of the Ontario and federal governments. So let’s calm down and ask them.
Shanghai has lots of nice parks including this one. It’s only about ten minutes walk from my house but there are two other parks (one much bigger and one slightly smaller nearby).
What if helping Haiti’s (or the worlds) poorest today ended up making them worse off long-term?
Aid agencies and donors want to make sure that their aid gets to the people that need it; they don’t want to line the pockets of government officials and do what they can to avoid bureaucratic local institutions. Aid agencies also want to give their food or medical services away for free – after all the purpose is to help those who cannot afford to help themselves. The problem is that to make long-term progress in improving the quality of life, local institutions need to take over. Bypassing local government officials lets them off the hook for providing necessary services and even if they wanted to diligently provide services, they don’t get the opportunity to get the experience they need.
The Toronto Star has an article describing a private hospital in Haiti that is in trouble because it couldn’t compete with private aide. Free medical care by international organizations means there is no incentive to pay for a private hospital but long-term that means one less hospital. Similarly, when aid agencies give away food aid it undermines the private market putting food merchants, distributers, and wholesalers out of business – at least temporarily.
Ultimately what is needed is to build capacity in the developing world to function independently. Michael Ignatieff described the side effect of traditional aid models as “capacity sucking-out.” One source of the problem is that aid agencies don’t focus on the larger impact of what they are doing – the focus is on maximizing the amount of aid that gets delivered and minimizes “overhead” spending. When “overhead” is advertising, administration or fundraising costs in rich countries this makes a lot of sense. When “overhead” means dealing with inexperienced local companies and governments it’s not as clear.
The motto of doctors should be the motto of all aid providers “first do no harm.” Aid agencies can take this knowledge and think about what their long-term impact will be. Some projects, like eradicating a particular illness, are a one-time project with long-term benefits. Most projects, though, are aimed at ongoing needs such as food, water, shelter, or education. Aid agencies should ask themselves how what they are doing impacts the local population’s capacity to achieve long-term self-sufficiency. If the impact is negative then thought should be given to how to change the nature of the project to make the long-term impact positive (or at very least minimize the long-term damage to local capacity).
A thought experiment follows. Take your home town. Imagine for a minute that for a six month period food, bottled and fresh drinks, clothing and medicine were made available for free and that the quality was better than what you had to pay for before (if medicine is free where you live, imagine nicer facilities, better doctors, no waiting time, and the very latest in medical technology). Supermarkets, restaurants, hospitals, doctors, and clothing stores would not be able to compete with free and would layoff workers and close down. When the six month period was over, the distribution networks would no longer function and would need to be rebuilt. Department stores wouldn’t see clothing sales pick up for years after (as clothing is durable). Doctors who had no income (either from private payments or state insurance plan depending on which model is used in your home town) would relocate to another city or country and once there wouldn’t likely risk coming back and having the same thing happen again (or could just get settled in a new place). The impact to the local economy would be significant and long-term and while the six months of free service would undoubtedly raise living standards significantly in the short term the mid-to-long term impacts wouldn’t be so rosy.
Donors to should ask how the projects they are funding will impact the long-term capacity of the target population benefitting from the aid. If aid agencies don’t know donors should ask them to figure out the most likely impacts or consider funding alternate agencies. In Haiti some consideration has been given to the long-term impacts and a high-level coordinating agency has been put in place to oversee government aid distribution and make sure it benefits Haiti in the long term. Private aid may or may not support or undercut these efforts.
I wrote another post about a University of Chicago professor a while back (about why Chinese savings rates were high – there is basically no health insurance so if you don’t have savings you don’t get treatment when you get sick). The University of Chicago is a highly respected institution which is why I get upset when its faculty don’t live up to the high standards I set for them. My criticism of Professor Thaler was very mild – the talk on balance was quite good and from what I’ve read, his book is a responsible and valuable addition to the public policy discourse. The same is not remotely true for Professor Steven Levitt and his recent book SuperFreakonomics (he had a coauthor and although my criticisms are aimed at both authors, only one is a faculty member at the University of Chicago).
Read this sentence (from the SuperFreakonomics Student Guide, page 26) and guess what the author’s view of Global Warming is:
What if much of what’s been proposed to address the problem of climate change is wrong or otherwise off the mark?
This is how the chapter summary opens. The remainder of the first paragraph hardly makes it clear that they actually think Global Warming is a problem:
This chapter takes a refreshingly objective look at the problem, focusing on global warming. The first part of the chapter points out that as recently as the 1970s, global cooling, not global warming, was the major concern of many climatologists. The subsequent increase in average global temperatures, however, moved global warming to the forefront. The authors explain many of the suspected causes of global warming, ranging from carbon emissions, to methane from cows and other ruminants, to changes in agricultural production. Levitt and Dubner also take a close look at the unique character of the global warming dilemma, emphasizing the considerable challenges scientists face as they try to predict what will happen over the longer term. They wrap up the introduction by considering the near religious dimension of the movement to stop global warming.
The authors then present an alternate, potential solutions including “extending the smokestacks of specific coal-fired electric plants into the stratosphere,” inducing cloud formation over oceans, or blanketing the stratosphere with other chemicals. Now, there is nothing wrong or in the slightest bit irresponsible with scientists exploring other potential solutions to the problem of Global Warming but many of the statements in the book give the impression that the problem is tractable without reductions in carbon dioxide emissions.
The authors add to this in the study guide and the book, concluding that it would be very difficult to overcome the collective action problem needed to change energy-usage behaviour (a point made nicely in this article). This leaves aside the fact that the world has done quite well in combating a smaller scale global atmospheric problem – namely stopping the destruction of the ozone layer. They also give some spurious examples such as that solar panels are black so they absorb heat which causes some global warming; which is true, but is much like trying to solve the massive US budget deficit by focusing on reducing the expense of wasted paperclips in the department of the interior – the alternative of burning coal creates more heat and releases carbon dioxide which traps that heat in and is the real cause of global warming. The statement is further debunked in this article (with a nice picture).
The Union of Concerned Scientists gives a good general debunking of the entire chapter and the authors rebut some charges calling them “a smear” (“Global Warming in SuperFreakonomics: The Anatomy of a Smear”). Unfortunately, while the authors claim to believe that climate change is a threat and that we should take action, their chapter presents a series of misleading facts that – while true – give the clear impression that there is disagreement in the scientific community and that alternate solutions are possible (this email trail is one such example). It reminds me of the behaviour of creationists picking at every gap in the theory of evolution – no matter how minor – and using it to justify teaching a religiously based curriculum.
Now, science needs its critics. Raising legitimate criticisms and having an open debate makes sense. But if you believe that climate change is a massive problem, as the authors say they do, the authors should make this crystal clear at every turn. The authors can’t help but be aware that powerful lobbies are involved in this fight spreading dubious claims and making needed political action to stop climate change more difficult. Their work, with everything from the “Global Cooling” headline to the presentation of the chapter cannot but help to cast doubt on the necessity of making tough decisions that will cost people real money. This is irresponsible. They are irresponsible.
At the same time, they do point out that one good way to reduce climate change is to reduce the amount of red meat one eats (as the production of meat leads to raising millions of extra cows that produce methane – a chemical with stronger greenhouse gas properties than carbon dioxide). He also goes into detail about how scientists are trying to change this (by taking bacteria from kangaroos and putting them into cows). A good part of the chapter is how we can combat climate change through science (not behaviour).
He then says the opposite (I’ll explain how) with the following:
If, say, Australia decided overnight to eliminate its carbon emissions, that fine nation wouldn’t enjoy the benefits of its costly and painful behavior unless everyone else joined in. Nor does one nation have the right to tell another what to do. The United States has in recent years sporadically attempted to lower its emissions. But when it leans on China or India to do the same, those countries can hardly be blamed for saying, Hey, you got to free- ride your way to industrial superpowerdom, so why shouldn’t we?
The thing is, the behaviour of scientists is still behaviour. Companies and scientists working on anti-climate change technologies (whether they target emissions or effects) are responding to incentives. The primary incentive is profit (or, for some, prestige) and that profit comes because they believe that there will be a market for technologies that combat climate change (thus, they believe that the collective action problem will be solved).
Further, the main cost to combating climate change is the cost of developing the technologies to do so. Thus, the first movers will likely have to spend a fair bit more while the technology matures. Who should bear the costs of perfecting these technologies? Should it be third world countries like India and China that have millions upon millions of people below the poverty line and produce far less emissions per capita (fewer still if you figure that many of the emissions are created making products for export to rich countries) or should it be the wealthier countries that have benefitted from emitting carbon and can best shoulder the development costs of perfecting the new methods and technologies? Duh!
The climate section is by far the most important section given the potential impact on humanity of climate change but it is not the only place in the book where a good headline seems to be more important that responsible science. The section on walking drunk is a case in point. The section on page 2 that covers this material takes the total number of people that are killed by walking drunk, comes up with a very rough estimate of how many miles are walked drunk, and says that per-mile walking drunk is more dangerous (at least for the walker – it is certainly safer for the rest of us).
The basic problem with this logic is that it fails to take into account the degree of drunkenness; people who are so drunk they “lie down to rest on country roads” are not comparable to a friend who had “four glasses of wine” (page 1) and subsequently walks home; can you imagine inviting a couple over to your house and giving them four drinks of the course of an evening and them being so drunk on the way home that they lay down on the road? Of course not, but this logical extension of the authors’ argument. I would hazard a guess that a good portion of those who were so drunk that they wandered out into the street would have been even more dangerous behind the wheel.
The authors also cite the statistics that there “is just one arrest for every 27,000 miles driven while drunk.” This conveniently ignores the fact that dead people, drivers killed by their drunken driving, can’t be arrested. Ignoring the intensity of drunkenness and using statistics the way the authors do makes for a good story but the prescription – you might be safer driving drunk (even if they do add the caveat that it puts others at risk) is just completely irresponsible for someone to put into the minds of the drinking public.
Professor Steven Levitt crosses the line from interesting and provoking research about real-life economics that he captured so well in the first book to reckless irresponsibility that endangers drunk drivers, other innocent users of the road, and the climate of our planet (and humanity. That said, when I went to the University of Chicago and heard him in person it does confirm what you suspect from reading the book – he is an entertaining story teller. If only he would think just a little bit harder about the consequences of his stories he might not do nearly as much harm.
Nice city for a visit though the weather could have been nicer.
In my last post I went off on a tangent near the end which bears repeating:
I do think that Google tries to be a better company than Microsoft and that the motto Don’t Be Evil is more than just marketing fluff but I do think that they have started falling down on this. Every company has some bad apples (I know one Googler who I know, from personal experience, to have a relatively low ethical set of standards) and good people focused on their day-to-day work can do evil things unintentionally (look at the problems around the Google Buzz launch). What I don’t understand is why Eric, Larry or Sergey don’t create an ombud to put the principle to action. Sergey Brin, who is known as the moral compass of Google, could easily establish an office of a few people to look into complaints (which, of course, would be voted up-or-down by Google users on a website – this is Google of course – or submitted by employees) to head off this sort of thing. They could call it the Office of Anti-Evil or the Evil-Prevention and Response Department and have a Chief Don’t Be Evil Officer or a Chief Anti-Evil Officer. Yes, it sounds hokey, but so what? Google didn’t get to where they are by giving-in when people said they needed to be “more professional.”
The more I think about it, the more I like it. In organizations, particularly large ones, things happen because they are normal. It should be normal for Google to have someone looking into what they might be doing that might be evil and figuring out what to do about it (with the junior managers . If Google doesn’t have someone looking for evil, they won’t find it (but it will still be there).
I must say that overall I’ve been quite happy with my Nexus One and I would recommend it to anybody who is moderately tech-savvy and wants a cutting edge phone. Of course, on any piece of technology there are going to be problems, rough edges, and things that could be improved but I would have thought that Google would have done slightly better. After all, the device is aimed squarely at the iPhone and well, the iPhone has pretty smooth edges.
The headphone buttons during calls are my biggest annoyance. If I’m in a call and can’t hear, the natural thing for me to do was to press the button on the top of the microphone (labeled with fast forward “>>” arrows). The use of the buttons there is to avoid having to pull the phone out of your pocket so it would make sense to have those as volume buttons (I mean what else could they be useful for?). Well, what actually happened when I pressed them was that the music player found the next track and started playing it. Right, so I have music playing during a call. I mean really, did they do any usability testing on normal people?
Stability and too frequent crashes during startup is a close second. I put in one SIM card and it’s not been right since (it’s on a pay-as-you-go from the phone I used before I got the Nexus One – not a big deal but it will be a bit annoying to fix it, I’ve not bothered yet as there isn’t much money on the card). The thing does have a tendency to crash at start-up sometimes. Once, it got into a crashing loop that was only resolved when I took the battery and SIM card out (battery alone didn’t do it). The crashes only seem to happen at start-up so its tolerable but of course most unwelcome.
Slow shutter speed is another challenge. In fact, while the camera is technically powerful and Picasa integration is really cool, the camera usability stinks. A five megapixel camera is good enough for me to use when I’m out and about but unlike most cameras, this one pretty much can’t be given to someone else to take a picture. An accidental tap on the lower menu will mean they are lost, a soft-key means that taking the picture is harder than it needs to be, and slow shutter speed makes the picture-taker think that it’s not working. The integrated flash is nice but overall it needs work. As an aside, yes, I realize the iPhone has a camera too but it’s lower resolution, so it doesn’t come close to a traditional camera replacement; moreover, I think Apple’s design falls down there too.
The volume controls are another peeve of mine. I want a loud ringer (I sometimes miss calls) that isn’t nearly as loud if I have headphones on. I want the camera shutter to be independently silent (it is ringer-volume so way too loud).
The news and weather app is actually quite good. I was surprised at how much I use it. My two issues with it are that I want to set it to download articles and images when I’m on WiFi and, my big issue, news articles included should be laid-out properly for mobile browsing. It’s no good having to scroll back-and-forth across a screen because the site doesn’t have a good layout or only read the first 20 or 50 words because the site requires registration; I’m sorry but I’m not going to register on a mobile screen to read one news article while I’m on the go. Since the tool uses Google News and only takes top stories, there are tons to choose from; the service should choose ones that are mobile-friendly.
The battery life is a problem but that should be expected for a phone with this much power. Applications differ wildly in how much power they use (I have one game installed that makes the phone hot when I use it even though the game isn’t that complex). Controlling what’s running could be a little easier; I have a QQ application (an instant messaging application popular in China) that I couldn’t stop without rebooting (when I’m not at home I want to save bandwidth so I try to stop data apps).
The phone needs better tools to control 3G data usage since Google didn’t negotiate unlimited plans like Apple did bandwidth is an issue for many users. The simple example of downloading news articles only over WiFi for example, would be quite welcome as would more powerful tools for better managing data usage. Strategically though, Google might want to discourage people from trying to save data for the same reasons Apple did when it negotiated unlimited usage packages.
One usability problem I couldn’t solve without searching online was how to connect via USB. I plugged the cable into my phone and laptop and got an icon on my phone indicating that the USB had been plugged in. When I tried to view the contents of the USB drive from my computer I got a disk not inserted error or something. After searching online, I figured out that it wasn’t actually connected. The icon on the phone was asking me if I wanted to mount the SD card via USB but until you open the message this isn’t clear. I suppose you might want to just connect to USB to charge your phone but a first time use wizard definitely seems in order.
More than just USB connections, synchronizing files is still a pain point. I’d love to have something like DropBox that would keep some documents on both my laptop and my mobile in-sync regularly (for me, only when I’m on WiFi). The addition of an official Google-made file explorer would also be nice. I put a PDF onto my phone via USB but I couldn’t open it – the only way I seem to be able to open PDF files is if I download them in the browser.
The keyboard is alright though sometimes it misfires and hits the wrong key which is especially annoying when going for the spacebar and hitting the home key and completely exiting the application you were in. Also, it started shaking uncontrollably last night and I had to restart which was kind of interesting. I’m not sure if these problems are because I have a screen protector or not but they are annoying. The Chinese Pinyin IME works fine but it doesn’t have the look-ahead functionality in English that the normal Android keyboard does forcing you to switch (which isn’t hard but takes a some time). The cursor is a bit too fine for a mobile phone making it hard to see sometimes (especially in sunlight). Lastly about the keyboard, for those of you using the Android keyboard try writing “i.e.” without it coming out as “I.e.”
The browser is nice but multi-window browsing is harder than on the iPhone. Also, when the iPhone powers off (crashes, runs out of battery or you just turn it off) it doesn’t remember what you had open. My desktop browsers do and it’s a whole lot easier to reopen windows on the desktop anyways.
Google Voice being advertised on the Nexus One website left a bad taste in my mouth as it was essentially a bait-and-switch. The ads show the nifty features of Google Voice (transcribing messages, etc.) but once you buy the phone you realize that Google Voice requires a separate service that is still in private beta. Going back over the ads, the google.com/phone website and the user-manual I couldn’t find anywhere except a mention in the manual that an account was needed (and the manual didn’t say that they weren’t generally available). I would be more annoyed if I used voicemail; people in China tend not to (they just send a text message or call you back very, very frequently until you pick up).
The App Store is alright but the update process is annoying and lack of worldwide availability of paid apps is also annoying.
The app store is also ambiguous as to how trustworthy the apps in it are (its presented by Google so its Google I’m going to be pissed at if there is malware there – I as the user have no way to evaluate the software’s trustworthiness so Google had better be doing at least some evaluation, I hope.)
Security is a concern but it’s one that Google has strategically decided to shift attention away from, unlike Microsoft which attacked the problem head-on. I found one very minor security issue and reported it to Google and I have to commend them for a quick response (I’ve not heard if it’s been resolved but given how minor it was, I doubt it’s a high priority). I’m not going to say more beyond that I was pleased at the response (much better than the response I got from Microsoft about nine years ago) Allow me to digress: I was working at a large company at the time and found a minor issue with Internet Explorer that would present a multi-frame webpage as secure (with SSL padlock and all) even if parts of it were non-SSL. When I submitted it (after clearing it with my boss) to firstname.lastname@example.org they tried to bully me by saying that I needed to go through the “corporate representative” for my company, which was nonsense, and copying a bunch of people in my management line and escalating every time I replied (and each time I went to the managers they were copying to make 100% sure they also thought it was crap). The bug was eventually fixed in a roll-up patch and Microsoft did eventually take a much more serious approach to Security (which was the right thing to do even if Oracle had the better security marketing and something they’ve backed off slightly from since as the market didn’t reward them past a certain point).
Back off my tangent to Google. I do think that Google tries to be a better company than Microsoft and that the motto Don’t Be Evil is more than just marketing fluff but I do think that they have started falling down on this. Every company has some bad apples (I know one Googler who I know, from personal experience, to have a relatively low ethical set of standards) and good people focused on their day-to-day work can do evil things unintentionally (look at the problems around the Google Buzz launch). What I don’t understand is why Eric, Larry or Sergey don’t create an ombud to put the principle to action. Sergey Brin, who is known as the moral compass of Google, could easily establish an office of a few people to look into complaints (which, of course, would be voted up-or-down by Google users on a website – this is Google of course – or submitted by employees) to head off this sort of thing. They could call it the Office of Anti-Evil or the Evil-Prevention and Response Department and have a Chief Don’t Be Evil Officer or a Chief Anti-Evil Officer. Yes, it sounds hokey, but so what? Google didn’t get to where they are by giving-in when people said they needed to be “more professional.”
So, Google, if you are listening, think long and hard about if it’s worth it to compete in the mobile space. Your phone is mostly an HTC phone and they’ve already come out with some that surpass it in some ways. Android manages information (your thing) while the Nexus One is simply hardware. That said, it’s a lovely piece of hardware, but I don’t get it from a strategic perspective. Oh, and Sergey, create an anti-evil office already OK?