Thursday, March 29, 2012

The amazing ubiquity of Apple

More than half of all US homes own an Apple product, according to CNBC's All-America Economic survey -- and 1 in 10 homes that don't own any Apple products plan to purchase one in the next year. ....

The average household in the country owns 1.6 devices.
--Jordan Golson, MacRumors, on an iPhone in every pot

How to predict Supreme Court decisions

[In] 2004, future Chief Justice John Roberts, then a Supreme Court attorney, noticed that justices ask more questions of the side that ultimately loses in 86 percent of cases. Though he’d tested his theory on only 28 cases—and no one knew whether its sensational success rate would hold up—there was now ample evidence that oral arguments do, in fact, offer very useful data for predicting the outcome of a Supreme Court case. Drawing on this insight, many political scientists now incorporate language analysis of the arguments into their models. One method is to simply tally up the words spoken to each attorney, consistent with the approach Chief Justice Roberts pioneered. The other method goes slightly deeper, analyzing the emotional quality of the language that the justices use: The more “unpleasant” words a lawyer hears compared with his opponent, the less likely he is to win. (Justice Scalia has a habit of telegraphing his vote by using words like “idiotic” during oral argument.) ...

[A] state-of-the-art model created by professors Ryan Black of Michigan State, Sarah Treul of the University of North Carolina, Timothy Johnson of the University of Minnesota, and Jerry Goldman of Chicago-Kent College of Law suggests that the court will declare the individual mandate unconstitutional by a 5-4 vote. The big question mark, of course, is swing voter Justice Kennedy. He asked Solicitor General Donald Verrilli Jr. two more questions than he asked the challenger’s attorney, Paul Clement, with 14 percent more negative language, suggesting a slight preference for overturning the law.
--Brian Palmer, Slate, on the Supreme Court's tell

Friday, March 23, 2012

Young Americans are less in love with cars today

...one of the most vexing problems facing the car industry: many young consumers today just do not care that much about cars.

That is a major shift from the days when the car stood at the center of youth culture and wheels served as the ultimate gateway to freedom and independence. ... Today Facebook, Twitter and text messaging allow teenagers and 20-somethings to connect without wheels. High gas prices and environmental concerns don’t help matters. ...

In 2008, 46.3 percent of potential drivers 19 years old and younger had drivers’ licenses, compared with 64.4 percent in 1998, according to the Federal Highway Administration, and drivers ages 21 to 30 drove 12 percent fewer miles in 2009 than they did in 1995.

Forty-six percent of drivers aged 18 to 24 said they would choose Internet access over owning a car, according to the research firm Gartner. ...

In a survey of 3,000 consumers born from 1981 to 2000 — a generation marketers call “millennials”— Scratch asked which of 31 brands they preferred. Not one car brand ranked in the top 10, lagging far behind companies like Google and Nike.
--Amy Chozick, NYT, on not fast, not furious

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Hawthorne on utopianism

The founders of a new colony, whatever Utopia of human virtue and happiness they might originally project, have invariably recognized it among their earliest practical necessities to allot a portion of the virgin soil as a cemetery, and another portion as the site of a prison.
--Nathaniel Hawthorne on our fallen world

Sunday, March 18, 2012

The role of luck in the math SAT

The math SAT, for example, has limited replicability at the high end. Obtaining an 800 score usually requires making zero mistakes when answering 54 questions at a rate of one minute and 18 seconds per question. Making just three mistakes will drop a student to the 710–750 range. Consequently, it is not surprising that students who get a perfect 800 and then retake the SAT only average 752 on the retake. This is in the 97th percentile, and it is only a little higher than the 741 average achieved by students who retake the math SAT after scoring 760.
--Ashley Swanson and Glenn Ellison, Journal of Economic Perspectives, on fuzzy measurement

Thursday, March 15, 2012

The option value of holding your tongue

Never forget Warren, you can tell a guy to go to hell tomorrow — you don't give up the right. So just keep your mouth shut today, and see if you feel the same way tomorrow.
--Berkshire Hathaway director Thomas Murphy's advice to Warren Buffett

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Ripping today's Goldman Sachs

Today is my last day at Goldman Sachs. After almost 12 years at the firm — first as a summer intern while at Stanford, then in New York for 10 years, and now in London — I believe I have worked here long enough to understand the trajectory of its culture, its people and its identity. And I can honestly say that the environment now is as toxic and destructive as I have ever seen it.

To put the problem in the simplest terms, the interests of the client continue to be sidelined in the way the firm operates and thinks about making money. ...

When the history books are written about Goldman Sachs, they may reflect that the current chief executive officer, Lloyd C. Blankfein, and the president, Gary D. Cohn, lost hold of the firm’s culture on their watch. I truly believe that this decline in the firm’s moral fiber represents the single most serious threat to its long-run survival. ...

What are three quick ways to become a leader? a) Execute on the firm’s “axes,” which is Goldman-speak for persuading your clients to invest in the stocks or other products that we are trying to get rid of because they are not seen as having a lot of potential profit. b) “Hunt Elephants.” In English: get your clients — some of whom are sophisticated, and some of whom aren’t — to trade whatever will bring the biggest profit to Goldman. Call me old-fashioned, but I don’t like selling my clients a product that is wrong for them. c) Find yourself sitting in a seat where your job is to trade any illiquid, opaque product with a three-letter acronym. ...

It makes me ill how callously people talk about ripping their clients off. Over the last 12 months I have seen five different managing directors refer to their own clients as “muppets,” sometimes over internal e-mail.
--Greg Smith, former Goldman Sachs executive director, on agency problems at Goldman

Sunday, March 4, 2012

The short attention span of the venture capitalist

A few months ago, I interviewed a number of venture capitalists about public speaking as it relates to the hundreds of startup pitches they hear.

I asked, “What’s important to you in a pitch?”

There was one answer I’ll never forget. It came from David Wells of Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Buyers.

He replied, “Within the first 8 words, I’ve decided whether or not to keep listening.”

Saturday, March 3, 2012

How to cite a tweet in academic work

The Modern Language Association likes to keep up with the times. As we all know, some information breaks first or only on Twitter and a good academic needs to be able to cite those sources. So, the MLA has devised a standard format that you should keep in mind. Its form is:
--Alexis Madrigal, Atlantic Monthly, on giving credit in a digital age