Making a point about search engines earlier, I came to this search result. Checked later, and it hadn't changed. I wonder if this would make an interesting business card?
With acknowledgements to Google, of course. Perhaps one of the other departed William Essexes on the back. Or maybe I should use it as the basis for a Wikipedia entry.
Pretty sure I'm not on Wikipedia...
Here are the first two paragraphs of a press release just received from the press office at the Said Business School in Oxford, UK. It's a survey into pension-fund investment, which is important enough, but it seems to me that it also says something about human nature.
'Pension funds allocate assets to fund managers who have done well in the past and ones that are recommended by investment consultants. But why, when past performance and consultants’ recommendations have been shown to have such little predictive power? In a new study Dr Howard Jones at Saїd Business School, University of Oxford and Dr Jose Martinez of the University of Connecticut argue that pension funds follow these measures, not because they believe in them, but to shield themselves from blame in case things go wrong.
‘The irrelevance of fund managers’ past performance in predicting future performance has long been recognised,’ according to Dr Jones, ‘but pension funds continue to allocate assets as if it matters. Likewise, there is no evidence that consultants’ recommendations have predictive power, and yet pension funds follow them closely when allocating funds. We find that this is not because pension funds naively extrapolate future performance from these indicators. The most likely explanation is that pension funds use past performance and consultants’ recommendations to duck responsibility in case they choose fund managers who perform badly.’
Tax avoidance is legal. It exists because the rules on tax are complex, and riddled with exceptions, allowances, special cases, "except see paragraph 17.1(b)" and similar, and even credits for specific situations. For anybody whose financial position is even slightly complicated, the process of working out how much tax to pay can easily involve "tax avoidance". You've got enough income to invest regularly in something like an ISA? You're engaging in "tax avoidance" if you do so. But you're also taking advantage in a way that government intends that you should. By saving for yourself, you're potentially reducing the burden on the state.
The issue, obviously, is where the rules are stretched beyond anything they could possibly have meant. But even in those cases, the perpetrators - the global companies paying minimal tax, for example - are obeying the rules as they are set out in acres of small print. To "crack down" on tax avoidance is like cracking down on eating, when what you mean is that you're against over-eating. Really cracking down on tax avoidance could be achieved more effectively by cutting out swathes of verbiage from the rules, than by demonising companies and individuals who are doing what the rules allow them to do.
Turned up Facebook the other day, and for once, had an answer to the question, "What's on your mind?" It was the name of a local marketing-services consultancy. It occurred to me that I didn't quite know why I had the said outfit on the brain, but its name came immediately into my head when I looked at Facebook's question. So I wrote it down, along with a paragraph wondering why it had managed to get so firmly lodged between my ears.
I wasn't bothered. I probably do approximate to a target customer, so my knowing about them, and feeling vaguely friendly towards them, would count as a success in their terms, and that was fine by me. But how did they do it? I'm as resistant as the next man to the relentless, attention-seeking, faux-cheerful, white noise from social-media utilities and other users of the online-marketing playbook, so what was different this time?
I figured it out. Not difficult, and it was nothing special, but to me, the interesting part is that it depended on a context in which I hadn't noticed them. Yes - 'hadn't'.
There's a blog I follow. The subject lines come up on Facebook, I click on them, trigger cookies, read them. No, I don't subscribe to them. Just - whenever, on impulse.
I don't particularly notice who writes them. There isn't any of that "and by the way, have I mentioned the thing I'm trying to get you to buy?" stuff clumsily worked in. Just an interesting question, concisely answered.
Yes, of course they're put out by the marketing-services consultancy. And of course it's very simple, and you might think it obvious. The 'take-away' for me is the inverse correlation between the amount of self-promotion involved, and the impact of the self-promotion on me. Almost as if they were genuinely motivated to answer the question they were posing.
It always comes back to content. But maybe it comes back to content without 'ulterior' motive. In the sense: make it useful, and forget the clumsy hints.