Archives for Google

Why It Pays to Pay Employees More

We blogged a while back about how some retail firms succeed by hiring more, not fewer, floor employees, and by treating them particularly well. Among the examples: Trader Joe’s and Whole Foods; among the counterexamples: Michael’s.

This prompted an e-mail from Hal Varian, Google’s chief economist. (If you don’t know of Hal you should, as he’s an impressive and fascinating guy — check out the Q&A he did here a few years back.) His e-mail reads:

Saw your piece about Trader Joe’s et al.  Here’s one reason to pay people more than their market wage (from my textbook):

Gabor Varszegi has made millions by providing high-quality service in his photo developing shops in Budapest. (See Steven Greenhouse, “A New Formula in Hungary: Speed Service and Grow Rich,” New York Times, June 5, 1990, A1.)

Varszegi says that he got his start as a businessman in the mid-sixties by playing bass guitar and managing a rock group. “Back then,” he says, “the only private businessmen in Eastern Europe were rock musicians.” He introduced one-hour film developing to Hungary in 1985; the next best alternative to his one-hour developing shops was the state-run agency that took one month.

Can Google Searches Predict Stock Price Performance?

A recent study in the Journal of Finance by Zhi Da and Paul Gao of the University of Notre Dame shows that data from public Google searches can be used to beat the stock market by up to ten percentage points per year. Similar findings were released last month by researchers at the University of Kansas.

The Notre Dame authors argue that the frequency of Google searches received by a stock (its SVI number) is a better, more direct method of measuring investor attention (a precursor to buying the stock) than traditional, indirect methods of measurement, such as news and advertising expense. Read More »

FREAK-est Links

This week, why being a king is the most dangerous job in history, an etiquette group in Germany wants to ban workplace air-kissing, Jonathan Stark’s social experiment with a Starbucks card, anti-technology terrorists attack in Mexico, and why Google and Wikipedia are bad for our memory. Read More »

Our Daily Bleg: Looking for the Best Online News

A reader named Chuck Amos writes:

My bleg is for a list of reliable, unbiased, and intelligent news sources that present general information in a readable and user-friendly way.

This seems like a very simple problem to solve, but my efforts over the years have been unsatisfactory. Sites like are presented reasonably well, but the actual “news” is way too fluffy. Sites like Huffington Post are so miserable to look at that I’m not willing to sift through the train-wreck presentation and look for articles that might be interesting. Sites like are willing to dig deeper than many of the mainstream news sites, but the politics are biased and therefore fail the test of what I seek.

To make my search more difficult, I don’t care about video (I have limited time, and I’d rather spend 20 seconds skimming/reading a written article than 90 seconds watching a newscast), and the amount of garbage that comes across Twitter feeds makes that outlet of limited use to me.

I’ve had reasonably good experiences with the Economist, Christian Science Monitor, and Guardian sites, but none of them leaves me completely satisfied.

My perfect news site would simply be a list of headlines that link to well-written, well-researched articles on a broad variety of topics. Sort of like an AP feed, but with articles that contain more than 2 poorly written paragraphs.

Can anyone point me in the right direction?

Read More »

Google Makes a Bad Economist

I love Google. But it’s not a very good economist. Type “unemployment rate,” and here’s what it yields:
The first of these links is from Google, and it tells you that the unemployment rate is 8.7%. The second is to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, which tells you that it is 9.1%.

Technically, both are correct. But you are better off not relying on the Google number. You see most economic discourse is about seasonally-adjusted data—the unemployment rate adjusted to take account of the usual seasonal ups and downs. But Google links instead to the non-seasonally-adjusted data, which virtually no one pays attention to. And this is why its little graph wiggles up and down so much. Read More »

Google’s New Correlation Mining Tool: It Works!

You may have heard of Google Trends. It’s a cool tool which will show you the ups-and-downs of the public’s interest in a particular topic—at least as revealed in how often we search for it. And you may have even heard of the first really important use of this tool: Google Flu Trends, which uses search data to try to predict flu activity. Now Google has released an amazing way to reverse engineer the process: Google Correlate. Just feed in your favorite weekly time series (or cross-state comparisons), and it will tell you which search terms are most closely correlated with your data.

So I tried it out. And it works! Amazingly well. Read More »

How Kai-Fu Lee Talked Me Out of Making a Million Dollars

James Altucher on his graduate school obsession with the Asian board game Go, and his attempt to enlist Google China founding president Kai-Fu Lee to help him make millions off of it. Read More »

What the Google Books Battle Really Means

The next battle in the Google Books dispute comes in a week, when lawyers on both sides meet to consider their next move after a federal judge rejected a settlement proposal. Should Congress step in? Read More »