Assorted links

by on January 29, 2011 at 12:11 pm in Web/Tech | Permalink

1 dirk January 29, 2011 at 9:09 am

1. This from Kling: "Similarly, I would say that although the Internet had achieved a lot of penetration by 2000 or shortly thereafter, it could be another ten years or more before we see the realignment that it might produce."

The automobile made distance less of a problem, the internet eliminated it completely. Yet most of us still commute to work in the morning, in rush hour, and drive home in rush hour. The internet isn't yet a teleportation machine, but it could end up a close approximation for many practical matters. In a world where most people telecommute instead of physically commute, fuel use drops, real-estate reorganizes, time lost in traffic diminishes, business costs drop because you don't need expensive buildings and expensive parking. Currently we use the internet like teenagers racing around in new cars — for the fun of it. Large organizations and business cultures are still a long way from exploiting its full potential.

2 dearieme January 29, 2011 at 9:14 am

My wife was told that she could telecommute in 1982 and given a contract of employment on that principle. It all proved rather optimistic.

3 Slocum January 29, 2011 at 10:12 am

Part of the problem with charts in kindle editions is that the kindle format (unlike PDF) does not support 'vector' graphic formats. The Kindle ebook format supports only 'raster' images like JPG, GIF, PNG, and each graphic can be at most 63K worth of JPG (which means a pretty serious restriction on the resolution and compression quality of an image). The rules are on page 12 here:

But that doesn't account for the scrambled years in the X axis of the chart that Kevin Drum was complaining about — the text must have been jumbled in the JPG image that was used to create the Kindle edition.

But that aside, the bottom line, is unfortunately that the current Kindle format is badly suited for books that include complex figures or high res images. PDF, on the other hand, is perfect for that (before they go to the printer, books ARE PDFs), but PDF is page-oriented and doesn't work well on small-screen devices like phones and small tablets.

4 Indy January 29, 2011 at 11:18 am

So, here's a question. Does the Chicago Manual of Style, or the Bluebook, have an official, uniform, reference system for something published exclusively on the Kindle? I guess there's this from the APA, but still, it seems a pretty lame way to do it with the DOI's.

Anyway, how is one supposed to actually look it up in a library, as opposed to just having to buy it? Can you temporarily "check out" an e-book from a Library yet? If you can't, is the reference as useful as it could be?

5 Indy January 29, 2011 at 11:57 am

Kling's argument runs the other way too though. If one assumes that the internet hasn't yet penetrated as far as it can, then, ok, what happens when it does?

Accelerated Globalized Commoditization of your niche and snatching of your rents – that's what. If you can do your job by telecommuting, so can anyone in the world with an internet connection. That increases supply and lowers wagers to the world competitive level – which is low.

That kind of services deflation only makes Cowen's developed-countries debt-and-future-revenue problem worse, not better. I can already hear Scott Sumner screaming "NGDP trend level-targeting will fix it!"

6 mw January 29, 2011 at 7:16 pm

"If you can do your job by telecommuting, so can anyone in the world with an internet connection."

I'm sorry, this is just flatout wrong. If you can do your job by telecommuting, so can anyone else, BUT only if they have the same technical skills as you do and only if the company makes more money working with them than they do with you.

For example, Indian outsourcing has not worked out very well for companies that embraced it. The number of Indians who have the skills to do outsourcing is actually pretty limited. As outsourcing increased, the wages of these limited number of Indians also increased. There's also the time zone and logistical issues, which often make the total cost higher than American labor.

There is definitely still a lot of jobs outsourced to India, but the logistical issues (language, time zone, etc.) will not be overcome anytime soon and most jobs will stay in America. Just because you can telecommute from Atlanta to New York doesn't mean you can telecommute from India to New York, unless one of the parties enjoys working at 3 AM and dealing with language and culture issues.

Finally, there is the demand from INDIAN companies for IT employees, who are making products in India for Indians. It's common as Americans to think that the world revolves around us, but a lot of the labor is soaked up by increased local demand as third world countries grow economically. Because of local and international demand, the wages of IT workers will keep rising and outsourcing will become less and less attractive. The end result is that both American and Indian workers get high wages.

The bigger issue for the average American worker is that they need to keep up with technology and technological innovation. It seems like many people want to keep doing the same thing and keep doing that same thing the same way. This is the ideal for most liberals, but it also leads to economic stagnation. Technology, though, forces workers to adapt and to keep improving how they do their jobs. This is very good for the average consumer, with better and more products, but it's bad news for the worker who resists improving their productivity.

7 anonymous January 30, 2011 at 12:32 am

Kling hits the nail on the head in his observations about the Internet. He even uses the same William Gibson quote that would have gone into my own half-formulated never-posted blog comment re: The Great Stagnation.

If we avoid apocalypses, substantially all of the world's cumulative future economic growth will take place online rather than in the physical world, in much the same way that economic activity largely shifted from rural to urban settings in prior centuries.

8 dirk January 30, 2011 at 5:55 am

There are often benefits to face to face meetings, and hence geographical collocating has value. But what seems much less necessary is the *routine* of driving to and from an office every morning and evening. A group might gather in person once a week, for instance, to reap the value of face to face time, while telecommuting the rest of the time.

One obvious huge benefit from large scale telecommuting is many fewer traffic deaths and injuries. There was a time when society didn't take drunk driving too seriously; once it did traffic deaths were substantially reduced. Now — because we can — we should take the dangers of daily commuting more seriously. Instead of subsidizing "alternative energy" we should subsidize companies (nominally) which offer telecommuting to most of their employees. Such subsidies could be paid for by increases in gasoline taxes. You want less dependence on foreign oil? There's the path. Not wasting money on useless wind farms and solar panels.

9 Phil Perspective January 30, 2011 at 8:48 pm

It seems like many people want to keep doing the same thing and keep doing that same thing the same way. This is the ideal for most liberals, but it also leads to economic stagnation.

Where did political affiliation come into this discussion? You confuse political ideology with facts to back up your argument.

10 CMC79 January 31, 2011 at 5:50 am

Reading TGS on the Nook Color was not a problem at all, as the screen is large and sharp enough to see detail. (About half the screen size of an iPad, but roughly double the pixel density) End notes are nice as well, as each is a link that jumps to the note, and then it is simple to return. I know many people complain that they couldn't possibly read on anything but e-ink, but I wonder how many thought so before Amazon's advertising suggested that was so.

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Assorted links

by on January 1, 2011 at 12:10 pm in Uncategorized | Permalink

11 dearieme January 1, 2011 at 8:48 am

The case for constitutional monarchy includes the Hayekian point that it's a result of human action but not human design.

If human design were such a good idea, the US Supreme Court would decide matters by consulting the Constitution instead of its members' whims.

12 Andrew January 1, 2011 at 10:04 am

3. Maybe more people are figuring out that in a tournament model a lot of work will go completely unrewarded and the leisure is a sure thing.

13 Noah Yetter January 1, 2011 at 3:50 pm

Gelman and Salam's discussion of threshold earners highlights one of my pet issues:

All you can do is measure something else, call it income inequality, and then make some shit up about what it means. For example, Gelman:

Now imagine that some people in this quintile are "workaholics," people who work long hours and might become really rich. Taking a normal person in the top quintile and turning him into a workaholic will increase the inequality in the income distribution.

Will it? Will it really? How do we know? Here's a counter-thought experiment. Imagine two naions of 10 individuals each. In A, 9 people earn $10 and the last earns $1000. In B, 8 people earn $10 and 2 people earn $2000. Which has greater "income inequality"? The answer depends ENTIRELY on how you define it.

If you take a normal person in the top quintile and turn him into a workaholic, he doesn't just earn more income. It's likely that he earns higher income at the expense of some other high earners(). So if we've increased one guy's income by taking some income from the very highest end of the distribution and competing it down the slope a bit, have we increased "income inequality"? Again, the answer depends ENTIRELY on how you define it. I think Salam's point, which he reiterates in this exchange, is that it's not intuitively the case that we should care.

14 Anon. January 2, 2011 at 12:43 pm

@Noah Yetter

"If you take a normal person in the top quintile and turn him into a workaholic, he doesn't just earn more income. It's likely that he earns higher income at the expense of some other high earners()."

Repeat after me: the economy is not a zero-sum game.

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