Pushing Huttons

According to the old TV spot, when E. F. Hutton talks, people listen. Today, this would be described as an early example of digital influence, and there’d be some sort of score for it, because online advertisers want to reach people who in turn reach other people, thereby presumably garnering more bang for their bucks. There’s just one problem with this scheme, and it’s simply this: how can you trust these scores? Consider the matter of PageRank:

Google developed an innovative relevance ranking algorithm — PageRank — based on the hyperlink structure of the Web. The PageRank algorithm basically takes inputs (i.e. the hyperlink structures of the entire Web) and cranks out a score for every webpage that, in theory, represents its authority on the Web.

As we learn from the behavior economics of humans, when we put a score on something, we create an incentive for some people to get a better score. This is human nature. Because people care about themselves, they care about any comparisons that concern them, whether it is their websites, cars, homes, their work, or just themselves. Some would go so far as to cheat the algorithm just to get a better score. In fact, Google’s PageRank algorithm has created an entire industry (i.e. SEO) around gaming their score.

Subsequently Google, quite properly I think, began screwing with its algorithms, just to foil those who would game them, a process which continues to this day.

I used to display a little button on the sidebar that looked up my PageRank on a regular basis and showed it to the world, and by “the world” I mean the tiny fraction of humanity who’d visited the site. Eventually I figured out that the number of damns actually given about my PageRank was likely less than the PageRank itself, and deleted the button.

Now comes a trickier scheme: attempting to measure an individual’s personal influence in social media. The justification is the same, and the results are even easier to fudge:

If you tweeted a lot yesterday and your influence score jumps up today, you’ve just discovered that you can increase your influence score by tweeting more. Knowing this, would you continue to tweet more? Most people probably would, especially if they care about their score. This has created a lot of loud mouths who are not actually influential in any meaningful way. Therefore, his influence score is merely a reflection of the fact that he has successfully gamed the algorithm into giving him a higher score simply by tweeting more, but not actually doing anything truly influential.

The poster child for this sort of thing is called Klout, and it measures a mix of social media. Based on my tweetage and Facebookery, I apparently have Klout of 59. Fifty-nine out of what, they don’t say, though some folks I know who take this far more seriously than I do — or who pay no attention to it yet happen to do things that fatten their scores — fall into the 70-80 bracket. This suggests that infinite Klout — so much influence that conversations stop just to hear what you, like E. F. Hutton of old, have to say — would be assigned a score of 100.

Incidentally, the old Hutton company disappeared into the void of Wall Street consolidation many years ago; a grandson of Edward Francis Hutton and some former Hutton execs are trying to restart the company anew. As of today, they have a PageRank of two. Mine is, um, five.

(Tweeted by high-Klout Jeff Jarvis, with the observation that “Klout is bullshit.”)

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Occasionally quoteworthy

Lynn has a weekly feature called Quotes From Here and There, and once in a while one of the four slots goes to something I’ve said.

This week I got two slots, which qualifies as an honor. (Picture me bowing.) Now I’m wondering: is it worth the trouble to go back through twenty thousand posts to pick out the best 100 or so?

Possible side project: given my high state of anxiety of late, perhaps it might be worth trying to determine if being agitated enhances, or detracts from, the quality of these little monologues. (Then again, it may have no effect whatsoever. I can’t tell, and I’m arguably the worst judge of my own work.)

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At a loss

Which describes my feelings of late to the proverbial T.

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The whir of machinery

“It has not been a pretty performance,” said radio guy Matt Pinto, and churning up the mud in that 18-point first quarter did nothing to flatter the Thunder’s new Ultra-Drab™ alternate jerseys. OKC recovered a bit in the second, taking a 49-42 lead into the locker room; the Pistons didn’t at all act like an 0-5 team in the third, though, and the Thunder had to work at putting them away. The final was 105-94, a reappearance of the Bad Russell Westbrook (3-10 from the floor, 10 points) offset by Serge Ibaka’s career-high 25 points (9-13). (Okay, he had 26 in a playoff game once, but that’s a different set of records.)

Detroit did show strength tonight: starting center Greg Monroe posted a double-double (14 points, 10 boards), and three of the other starters (Rodney Stuckey, Tayshaun Prince, Brandon Knight) landed in double figures. What’s more, rookie power forward Andre Drummond put together a 22-point, 8-rebound night, and the Pistons actually outrebounded the Thunder, 41-38 (16-8 offensive).

Kevin Durant, yet again, came up with a double-double (25 points, 14 boards), and with Westbrook mired in whatever quag was surrounding him, Eric Maynor got more time to strut his stuff. And Maynor’s stride was long tonight: 5-6 from the floor, including 3-3 from Way Out There, for 13 points. The Thunder actually shot 53.5 percent, with Westbrook’s woes costing almost four percentage points. Still, Westbrook served up six assists. Then again, so did Kendrick Perkins (!). And how was Kevin Martin? Not the greatest shooter tonight, with 16 points (5-14), but the defense he allegedly doesn’t have, he showed he had: three steals and a block.

The Pistons get another shot on their home court Monday night. In between, there’s a Sunday-evening game against the Cavaliers, who might be without both Anderson Varejao and Tyler Zeller. “But what can you do?” said Cavs coach Byron Scott. We shall see.

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For amusement value only

This, says Rebecca Black, is “the appropriate thing to do while in my manager’s office.” Huh?

Rebecca Black does a handstand

No comment from said manager at this time. And who took this picture, anyway?

Addendum: Another clip from “In Your Words” has been posted.

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Purple reign

There was some realignment of voting precincts between 2010 and 2012, and my precinct has changed both its borders and its designation, but one thing hasn’t changed: the red/blue balance. If anything, it’s even purpler than before. Some numbers from the precinct-level table, pending certification:

President: Mitt Romney (R) 693, Barack Obama (D) 670.

Congress: James Lankford (R) 665, Tom Guild (D) 585.

House District 87: Nick Singer (D) 661, Jason Nelson (R) 658.

All the State Questions passed handily except 759, the bar on affirmative action, which passed by a comparatively close 683-569.

The State Election Board has posted lots of data for your reading and sampling pleasure.

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Worst shoe ever?

New York magazine’s The Cut has a slideshow feature of the 50 Ugliest Shoes in History, and while “ugly” is of course in the eye of the beholder — I’d defend Doc Martens and maybe even the Earth Shoe in terms of form following function — some of these Dr. Moreauvian creations perhaps ought not to be beheld at all, and as it happens, of the two I like least, one has already been featured here. This is the other:

Brian Atwood Charleston Peep-Toe Ankle Boots

Said The Cut of the Brian Atwood “Charleston” peep-toe platform ankle boot, unleashed this year:

Dripping with a bordello’s worth of upholstery tassels, the “Charleston” has a Clydesdale look without the unsavory reality of actually killing and wearing a horse’s hoof.

Evidently — and perhaps surprisingly to some — I have a great deal of resistance to hooves in this context.

(Via Nancy Friedman, who also defends Docs.)

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Another RTFM failure

This falls under “conspicuous due to its absence”:

I have owned three 2002 Hyundai Accents, all purchased used, and don’t remember any of them having come with an owner’s manual. What, do the original owners thumb through it, lips moving as they sound out the difficult words, peer at the pictures, gnaw briefly on the cover and throw it over their shoulder?

I figured they sold ‘em on eBay to raise some semi-quick cash.

And I’d bet none of them even knew about the Hyundai Service website, either.

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A page from the old playbook

How many times have we seen this in the last couple of years? The Thunder play it close for a half, slip badly in the third quarter, only to come back strong in the fourth. Tonight we had a textbook example: tied after the first quarter, up one at the half, outscored by seven in the third, and then a 17-6 run to start the fourth. Unfortunately, this was the point where Luol Deng realized he was much bigger than Kevin Martin and knocked out five consecutive points. Darnell Mayberry suggested at this point that the Thunder should put Martin on Kirk Hinrich, Russell Westbrook on Rip Hamilton, and Thabo Sefolosha on Deng. It was tied at 85-all with 3:30 left, but Scott Brooks stuck with small ball. And damn, but it paid off, to the tune of 97-91 over Chicago’s tall timbers.

Deng, albeit finishing -2, still wound up with a game-high 27 points, with Rip Hamilton adding 20 more, and both Joakim Noah and Carlos Boozer missing a double-double by a single point. The Bulls’ bench contributed 14 points, one less than Kevin Martin. Chicago had a slight lead in rebounds, and had two fewer turnovers — though 20 is nothing to brag about.

This was a big night for Serge Ibaka, who scored 21 on 8-15 shooting and reeled in nine boards. Durant, who got six of the last eight OKC points, finished with 24; Westbrook was erratic from the floor (7-22, 16 points) but mostly passing well (12 assists). Eric Maynor added ten points in a mere 12½ minutes. Telltale statistic: the Bulls took 11 more shots than the Thunder (84-73), but managed to hit fewer (35-36, 42 versus 49 percent). “Small ball,” says Scott Brooks, beaming.

Back home tomorrow to blow by the Pistons, and then a Sunday matchup with the Cavs.

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Trophy cars

In the December issue, Car and Driver throws an unexpected question to John Hennessey of Hennessey Performance:

Why do guys in the Middle East seem to have such extravagant taste in cars?

I have a theory. And I’m saying this in the most respectful way. When you’re over there, you generally don’t see any women in public. And when you do, they’re all covered up. In that culture you can’t show off your girlfriend or your wife, but you can show off your car. I think that, at least somewhat, the cars take the place of women.

There’s a throttle-body joke in there somewhere.

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Somewhat lacking in Dash

Chevy SparkThe little car in the little picture is the very small Chevrolet Spark, GM’s attempt to sell an A-segment car in the States. (What’s “A-segment”? Two sizes smaller than a Cruze or Corolla or Civic, which are considered C-segment cars for reasons other than starting with the letter C. In other words, the Spark is farging tiny.) TTAC opened up a discussion of this model, and how it’s reaching buyers twice the target age (mid-twenties), which sparked (sorry) the following exchange in comments:

noxioux: “This car is crying out for an electric purple paint job and a pornographic My Little Pony decal on the hood.”

Jellodyne: “And who better to do it than a 48 year old brony?”

colinshark: “You are mistaken. Decals go on the flanks.”

There are 48-year-old bronies? Who knew?

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From the Forever Alone files

James Friel bewails, not his singleness, but the fact that couples always bring it up:

Take dinner parties. There comes a moment, and that question: “Why don’t you have a partner?”

It is usually asked by one of a couple, with always a swivel of the eye to his or her other half, so really two people are asking this question.

And I struggle to answer: “I have never found the right person … I am a sad and sorry manchild … I am incapable of love… I am a deviant, and prefer giraffes.”

I could use these responses, it occurs to me, with little alteration.

But however horrid this condition may be for men, it’s apparently downright unspeakable for women:

A few years back, in an age of Bridget Jones-type heroines, the novelist Carol Clewlow wondered about a female reader of her own generation, a woman who had long decided not to twin her destiny with another’s. She wrote a novel about this single state. About spinsters.

She called it Spinsta.

She delivered Spinsta to her agent, who was delighted, as were her publishers. A campaign was initiated. Various columnists and celebrities were to be asked to consider and celebrate this word, but then another word came back from the booksellers.

That word was “no”. They would not stock and no one would pick up a book with such an ugly word as its title. The novel was retitled Not Married, Not Bothered.

At least it wasn’t Fifty Heights of Giraffe.

(Via this @syaffolee tweet.)

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Reduced spectacle

Now and then, someone brings up the notion of amending the Constitution — and, by extension, the 22nd Amendment — to allow the President only a single six-year term. Usually the argument goes something like this:

In The Federalist No. 51, James Madison famously noted that “if men were angels, no government would be necessary.” Because presidents are not angels, if knowing they can serve only one six-year term frees them to make decisions that are right for the nation but wrong for their reelection, presidents still will make decisions that subordinate the interests of the nation to the electoral aspirations of the political party of which a particular president is the titular head. But there will be fewer of them. And opposition solons like Mitch McConnell and John Boehner (and Nancy Pelosi during the Bush presidency) will have a more difficult time publicly justifying their obstructionism.

I have my doubts that this would actually work. On the other hand, there is one indisputable benefit from the single six-year term: a third fewer Presidential elections, which means a third less of this sort of thing:

I hate how our nation seemingly goes kind of crazy for a year every four years. It’s like Pon Farr or something. (I know, PMS is probably a more apt and simple metaphor, but … I don’t like the comparison. Also there seems to be no chocolate involved in politics.)

Then again, Pon Farr is every seven years, and seven Vulcan years at that. (How long is a Vulcan year, anyway? Gene Roddenberry once suggested 456 Earth days, so every eight years, nine months, maybe.)

Still undetermined: whether ’tis better to have PMS every four weeks, or every six weeks.

Disclosure: If I lost any friends during this campaign season, I have not been so advised.

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A short walk spoiled

Here we see Craig Ferguson on the Monday night edition of The Late Late Show, perhaps surprised that Sarah Shahi is not in fact wearing shoes by Christian Louboutin:

Sarah Shahi with Craig Ferguson

Atypically for talk shows of this ilk, this segment opened with Shahi already seated, instead of walking in from stage right, apparently because of a sore foot. This being the case, we perhaps should assume Ferguson’s interest is purely humanitarian in nature.

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Stickers to be peeled

The Autoextremist on the Hyundai/Kia “40-mpg” controversy:

It was clear that Hyundai/Kia’s successful journey would continue and that it would be a key industry player for years to come.

But I also cautioned repeatedly that the upward trajectory of the Hyundai/Kia conglomerate would not continue as a rocket launch majestically arching into the cobalt sky, that they would make mistakes. It was inevitable and it’s just the way this business goes when human nature clashes with an arrogant bureaucracy and aggressive corporate goals.

And now that the EPA has forced Hyundai/Kia to reduce inflated mileage claims on 900,000 vehicles sold in the 2011-13 model years, we’re going to find out if the upward trajectory will be leveled off a bit, or if it will only be a slight vibration en route.

What I’m hoping happens here is that the car-buying public starts to get properly cynical about the EPA’s fuel-economy numbers, which are useful only for comparisons, not for budgeting your fuel costs. You’ll note that the EPA isn’t slapping them down because an Elantra (or whatever) won’t ever get 40 mpg on the highway; the slapdown comes because the EPA couldn’t duplicate the 40-mpg claim by Hyundai in its own lab.

And those numbers have nothing to do with the numbers used to calculate Corporate Average Fuel Economy, exactly the sort of convoluted scheme you’d expect from a government that wants to “encourage” the purchase of less-thirsty vehicles but doesn’t dare do it in an obvious way — say, by raising the gas tax.

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No doubt he thought himself clever

But you know, they do have someone monitoring the self-checkout lines:

An Abilene man was arrested Friday after police said he tried to pass off a TV valued at $228 for less than $2.

According to police, 52-year-old William Keltner had been shopping at Walmart on Highway 351 when he removed a barcode tag from a hanger worth only $1.17 and placed it on the TV valued at $228.

Then again, he has previous theft convictions, so perhaps he’s even dumber than we thought.

(Via the Consumerist.)

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