Best Buy following Circuit City following Good Guys following Pac Stereo

Larry Downes on Best Buy
[Via Daring Fireball]

Larry Downes, in a piece for Forbes that’s shamelessly split across five “pages”:

But the numbers only scratch the surface. To discover the real reasons behind the company’s decline, just take this simple test. Walk into one of the company’s retail locations or shop online. And try, really try, not to lose your temper.

It really is that simple. I find shopping at Best Buy to be insulting and annoying.


Seems like all electronics dealers seem to fall eventually. This is a nice article explaining why Best Buy is on the path to irrelevance.

I used to visit almost ever week to check out DVDs and such. I have not been into a store in a year.

Will Amazon be the only ones left? Will there even be a big box distributor of TVs? Will WalMart be it?

Great article on reductionsim, causation and complexity in science

medicineby cm195902

Thought-provoking essay on cause and correlation in modern science
[Via Boing Boing]

Science is the best method we have for understanding the world. That doesn’t mean that everything scientists ever think they’ve figured out is correct. And it doesn’t mean that we’re doing science in the best way possible right now.

For a great illustration of this, I recommend reading Jonah Lehrer’s new piece in WIRED, about the problems we run into as we learn more about individual parts of complex systems and then assume that we understand the big picture of how those parts work together. A lot of scientific research, particularly in medicine, operates off assumptions like this and it can lead to big mistakes. Case in point: Back pain. In this excerpt, Lehrer explains how MRI technology that allowed doctors to get a better look at the spines of people with back pain led them to make inaccurate conclusions about what was causing the back pain.


Science has been very successful using reductionist approaches in biology. Isolate a single protein understand it and you know a lot.

But the belief that understanding each part by itself and then putting them all back together would also allow you to understand the whole – well, that is just plain wrong.

We pretty much have solved all the major medical problems due to a single cause, one where understanding a single component was valuable. Now we are left with a chaotic mixture of disease, syndromes and oddities that have no single cause but arise from a more generalized problem with the system.

Science is basically about creating models that usefully describe the world around us. Simplified models can be very useful, if they accurately describe the world.

However, complex systems often are not amenable to much simplification. Attempts to create simplified models only results in errors, in inaccurate descriptions of Nature.

But few of our institutions have been developed to deal with a system. Doctors and researchers specialize. They use an analytical approach and break things down.

We now need scientists and institutions that synthesize and pull things together. Until we accomplish this on a large scale, we will continue to confuse causes and correlations, to continue to let confirmation bias lead us astray, and continue to make very expensive mistake.

Posted in Cargo Cult Worlds, Health, Science, Sustainability. Comments Off

If Google loses search, it loses

Google demotes Chrome in search results after violating own paid links policy
[Via Ars Technica]

Google’s search team has demoted the main page for its Chrome browser for at least 60 days after being accused of violating its own policy against paid links with a marketing campaign designed to boost Chrome’s popularity. Searching Google for “chrome” no longer brings up in the first page of results, but the first result is still a guide from Google on how to download and install Chrome. Reporter Danny Sullivan of Search Engine Land notes that searching for “browser” also no longer brings up the Chrome home page among the top results, whereas it was previously the second result after Firefox.

“We’ve investigated and are taking manual action to demote and lower the site’s PageRank for a period of at least 60 days,” Google said in a statement supplied to Search Engine Land.

The action was taken because Google sponsored hundreds of blog posts that seem to be little more than advertisements for Chrome. Google blamed Unruly Media, the advertising firm that ran the campaign on Google’s behalf, saying in a statement supplied to AllThingsD that “Google never agreed to anything more than online ads. We have consistently avoided paid sponsorships, including paying bloggers to promote our products, because these kind of promotions are not transparent or in the best interests of users. We’re now looking at what changes we need to make to ensure that this never happens again.”


Google became a hit because its search service, in contrast to almost all others, did not let paid responses top the list – it was unbiased. yet here it is now found to have biased the results in favor of its own product.

Blaming this on a subcontractor does not diminish the fact that Google gamed its own search engine and now has to make remedial changes to deal with that.

What it needs to do is publically tell us what it will do. Saying they are looking at changes does not yell us if they will ever make changes.

One thing should be to cut Unruly Media off at the ankles. Make an example of them and no other subcontractor would ever do anything to hurt Google’s basic business.

Google may succeed in damage control here but this is just another instance of Google losing laser focus on its business. It simply can not be seen as biasing its search or it will lose the viewers it needs.

But, since its real customers are the ad businesses that pay it money, it has incentives to make these sorts of mistakes. More users of Chrome – more viewers for the ads.


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