Monday, December 25, 2017

How Does One Create Value?

This Christmas morning I woke up asking myself the abstract question: "How does one create things of value?"

Millions of people engaged in gift swapping this morning. I suspect that very few of the gifts will have any enduring value. Memories created at Christmas might endure, but in our hectic world even that is questionable these days.

I actually ask this particular question thousands of times. Whenever I am working on a job, I ask myself multiple times if the work I am creating is of value to the customers.

When I create web sites and blog posts I ask if I am engaged in an activity that is creating something of value.

Most blog posts are just mindless punditry. IMHO, mindless punditry not only is a waste of time. Many people engaged in punditry do little more than create or amplify division. The creation of division is a net negative.

The current project I am working on focuses on the question about how one creates value and how one measures that value.

I decided to put off details about the project until after Christmas. For today, I simply wish to wish to throw these two questions to the wind:

  • How does one create value?
  • and how do we know if the things we are doing are creating value?

Merry Christmas All!

Thursday, December 21, 2017

Code Name: Investor's Museum

I confess. The projects I've worked on haven't worked out very well.

Perhaps the ideas are too grand.

So I decided to try a new idea. This is an idea that can fit in a room or that can line a blank wall in a hotel.

The purpose of the idea is to raise awareness of the importance of ownership. I've given the project the working title of an "Investor's Museum."

The goal is to create a museum filled with interesting items. The items in the investor's museum are owned by people in the community and entrusted to the museum.

Imagine a room filled with interesting objects such as paintings, antique furniture, collectibles, historical artifacts and other items of interest. Each item would have a number and a QR code. Taking a picture of the QR code loads a page about the item. The page would have a description of the item, an appraisal value. The page would also include software that allows patrons to bid on the items. The bidding contract restricts the buyer from taking the item out of the museum. The buyer will place a new price on the item.

The investor's museum is a game. The museum creates a market where people can buy and sell art pieces in a controlled setting.

The information about the different items would be displayed on web pages. These pages should become a valuable reference tool for people who buy and sell antiques as the pages would give some clue as to how the price of artworks vary with time.

This particular project can be implemented without substantial cost. To get the program going, one would need a room in a shopping mall or shopping center. There is a great amount of vacated retail space on the market right now.

The items for the museum would come from the thousands of people who have interesting items in their attics and garages that they would be willing to sell for a good price.

The basic program for the web pages and bidding process is easy to write. The software that handles the money would be difficult.

I am not going into the full details of what the project is doing. The basic idea that I want to put forward in this first post is that the investor's museum would be a privately held museum. The items in the museum would be owned by the public at large. Each of the items would have appraisal and pricing information so that people can learn how the prices of antiques and artworks vary with time.

Why I Stopped Blogging. BTW the Tax Reform Bill is Lame

I've been writing blog posts. I've just stopped posting them.

People have become shrill. People don't seem interested in engaging in substantive debate. It is all about attacking enemies and diverting attention for the flaws of one's friends.

Anyway, the Trump administration is pretty much going as I feared. The left has gone berserk. To make things worse. The Trump Administration has not created any substantive legislation.

The GOP passed a tax reform bill, but the bill doesn't take the steps necessary to restore the small business sector of our economy.

It is better than nothing, but not much better.

The GOP's tax plan is a basic effort to flatten a tax. The mathematics of a flat tax is compelling. A flat tax reduces deductions allowing the government to lower the over all tax rate.

Deductions are created by powerful groups. A flat tax reduces the deductions used by powerful groups to maintain their wealth.

The problem with a flat tax is that powerful forces that created the deductions still exist. These groups will slowly weasel their way back into power and will recreate the jagged tax structure.

Tax flattening is only a temporary fix.

The GOP's tax reform is only a temporary fix.

I would love to go into a dissertation about how we could fix taxes and health care in ways that would lead to substantive changes in our society. Such a dissertation would involve a substantive debate about taxation and money. I fear that people in the conservative movement aren't up to such a discussion.

Anyway, I decided last night to work on a less substantive issue which I will announce in the next blog post.

Wednesday, November 29, 2017

Amazon's Next Battleground is Your Local Community

The New York Post put out an article claiming that Amazon controls 44% of online sales. This is up from 38% in 2016.

Amazon is currently in the process of rolling out a nationwide distribution network and its own local delivery services.

I predict that this change will completely change the face both online and local marketing.

The change is forcing online marketers to examine their distribution channels and local merchants are suddenly in direct competition with the Internet jaugernaut.

Personally, I think this change will be good. It will force marketers and business leaders to start thinking about their local communities.

I should introduce myself. I created a thing called Community Color specifically so that I can follow the interaction between local communities and the internet at large.

The public site is a basic directory. However, I have been examining distribution chains and the over all effect of the Internet on communities.

Things have actually been bleak in the last few decades. Marketers have developed a tunnel vision where they see nothing but the internet. The local business communities have been falling apart.

Once vibrant towns are now simply rows of empty store fronts.

A huge number of malls have failed as well. There is a online community of "retail archeologists" who troll through failed malls photographing all the empty stalls.

Amazon is going to continue to dominate internet sales. I contend that the best hope of independent merchants hoping to survive the next wave of Amazon dominance is for merchants to step back from their computer screens and look at the towns in which they live.

Interestingly , the only company I see that understands the threat Amazon local poses is Walmart. Walmart realizes that the real competition in the market is about distribution. They have started putting up little convenient pick up stations that let people order online and pick up locally.

Walmart Pickup

As Amazon and Walmart turn their focus to their nationwide distribution channels, other merchants need to follow suit. Hopefully, this new focus on penetrating local markets will help curb the decline taking place in too many local communities.

Sunday, November 19, 2017

An example of organic affiliate marketing

Affiliate marketing is a mechanism that individuals can use to fund their web site.

During the Obama Administration, the FTC set out to destroy the affiliate marketing by requiring that web designers put a huge yellow block next to all affiliate link telling people not to click on the link.

The FTC's assumption is that affiliate marketing is just about money.

Guess what?

It isn't.

Affiliation is about relations between web sites.

There is a fun free site called This site lets amateur artists share their work in a supportive environment. You can upload your creation and you will receive supportive comments along with advice from other artists.

ArtWanted has an affiliate program.

This is a free site. The chance of getting paid is next to nothing.

I joined the program and got the affiliate id so that the creators of the site can track inbound traffic. I've sent Artwanted about 50,000 hits. I like that I can log in and see that traffic. I really do not expect to receive compensation for the effort.

The FTC requires that I put a huge warning when I link to the program because their is a very remote possibility that I might make money.

But that's not what I am doing in this case. I simply wanted to track clicks. Here is the FTC Warning:

Another Day Wasted on FTC Compliance

The FTC is one of those evil deep state entities that you hear about on right wing news stations.

During the Obama Administration, the FTC set out to destroy the affiliate industry by requiring that web sites put a huge warning next to all affiliate links warning the public that the link is an affiliate link.

The FTC warning is supposed to be bold and preferably has a yellow background. It is supposed to be positioned before the link occurs.

I am breaking the law. I put the FTC warning in the middle of the page. To limit the size of the FTC block, I use as font that is a step smaller than the main font.

I showed a page with my FTC warning.

Predictably, the person did not want to click on the link. This is predictable. There is a huge FTC warning telling the person not to click on the link.

The user typed the name of the business into the address bar. This brought up the google search page. The person then clicked on the Google ad for the merchant.

Because I am required to put an ugly FTC warning on my page, the traffic that I am generating is being credited to Google.

So, what I did yesterday is I updated the code for my FTC warning to include the direct URL for the merchant.

This way if a reader is horrified by the possibly that I might possibly benefit from a web page that I created, then they can click on the direct link. This will cut my site out of the commission chain.

This change took a full day to implement as I had to make sure I had the correct URL for the 400 affiliates that I currently list. It took all day to check 400 urls.

Here is the current FTC warning design. A site called Artwanted has an affiliate program. This is my affiliate link . The RID is a unique identifier for me. My FTC Warning has a link with out the id.

If you are a progressive and are incensed at the possibility that I might receive a financial return for creating a web page; you can indignantly click on the tag free link in the FTC warning. How cool is that?

Friday, November 17, 2017

FTC Requirement

I've been reworking the FTC disclosures for affiliate links on my web sites. This has me feeling extremely depressed.

The FTC disclaimer is a contrivance of the Obama Administration. The FTC Warning is supposed to be a big bold design element that goes at the top of any page with an affiliate link. The purpose of the FTC disclaimer discourage readers from reading the page or clicking link. The FTC site says the disclaimer must be in bold type with a yellow background to make it stand out.

The fact that my government requires crap like this makes me sick. The FTC treats small merchants and independent web designers like criminals for trying to figure out ways to make independent web design profitable.

Personally, I think that the affiliate paradigm has the potential to be the most honest form of advertising. This can be proven by looking at numbers.

In 2009 there were tens of thousands of merchants offering a variety of products. One could find millions of things to sell in this market. People authentically engaged in this market look for the best bargains from the most reliable partners.

In contrast lets look at an employee of a firm or an advertiser hired directly by a merchant. A person who is dependent on a single source is actually more likely to lie for that source.

Don't you see the math? A person who is choosing between thousands of products from hundreds of sources is more likely to be honest when writing reviews than people who are hired directly to write ad copy for a single product.

There is a great deal of dishonesty in the affiliate world. This dishonesty takes place a systemic level. For example, AdWare companies make programs which switch affiliate ids. SEO companies work to manipulate search engine results. Some affiliate networks engage in underhanded practices.

The FTC requirements only affect the people who are engaged in above board affiliate marketing. The FTC regulations are treating the honest people in the industry like crooks while letting those engaged in systematic manipulation of the market run rampant with no checks.

Anyway, since I am engaged in white hat marketing, I've been trying to follow the stupid FTC guidelines even though the guidelines dramatically undermine my business.

So, the FTC guidelines say that I am supposed to put a huge FTC Warning on any page with an affiliate link. The code for my site would place an FTC warning in plain text. The problem with this design is that it has me repeating the same words on every page. To keep from repeating the same content, I decided to put the warning in an iframe. The problem with an iframe is that the iframe tag does scale correctly in all web browser. Below is my FTC warning in an iframe.

I decided to break the rules. I am making the text of the warning one step smaller than the main page.

The disclaimer warns people that the page has dangerous affiliate links that they should avoid using. It also tells them how to visit the site without triggering an affiliate id.

A lot of people think that using a search engine engine instead of a link is safe. This just means that Google is credited with any sales while small sites get cut out.

When I first first placed the FTC warning on my site, I saw an immediate 40% drop in income and I lost a huge portion of my web traffic because people felt that any web site bearing such a stern warning must be evil.

The progressives I know would agree with FTC. Progressive hold that any attempt to fund web development through ecommerce is an act of evil. That I saw a forty percent drop in sales because of the FTC requirements just proves that I was misleading the public by making a web site with affiliate ads.

Wednesday, August 16, 2017

Statues of Dead Democrats

A century ago, Democrats erected several hundred statues of Confederate soldiers. Democrats also passed silly Jim Crow laws in an effort to hold minorities down.

Today we find Democrats forming angry mobs to tear down the statues.

Personally, I consider defacing public art on par with burning books. It is a distasteful act. I do make exception for public art that was intentionally designed to oppress people.

I would cheer the tearing down of Nazi art after WWII and the removal of public art after the collapse of the Berlin Wall. Removing the propaganda art of an oppressive regime is part of the healing that needs to take place.

The current wave of tearing down Confederate statues appears to be targeted at President Trump. This group Antifa seems to be actually engaged in intimidation. I linked a video made at one of the art destruction event. The MSM described this as a "peaceful demonstration." These people seem quiet angry. They kick the statue, spit on it and make obscene gestures.

Monday, August 14, 2017

The Left/Right Split is the Problem

The Left/Right Split was created by the enemies of liberty.

The left reaches its ultimate expression with communism. The right reaches its ultimate expression with fascism.

The fight that broke out in Charlottesville over the weekend was simply a clash between the ultimate expression of the left and right.

The proof that Conservatism was created by enemies is straight forward: The ideology of Conservatism was created in the 1830s when the Tory Party changed its name. Conservatives in England still call themselves Tories. The name "conservative" comes from efforts to restore the monarchy after the French Revolution.

The evolution of progressivism is contorted. Essentially, the monarchy funded the universities. The monarchy charged the universities with creating an ideology that framed the state as the engine of progress.

The weird twist is this: The Kings of England were German. The Hanoverian Kings of England (King George I, II and III) were from Hanover, Germany. The Kings of England directly funded and constructed universities in Germany.

The most radical left wing thought was written in German, then translated back into English. Hegel and Marx were creating a philosophy that would restore monarchist rule.

Both the left and right came from the same source:

The statement I am trying to make becomes clear if you ask the following question:

Imagine that you were an extremely powerful king and you needed to control a nation that was demanding the right to vote.

The easiest way to control the people is to create a false dichotomy in which you controlled both sides of the debate.

The people would battle each other and get really angry, but the central authority will always win in the end. It is easy to do once you know how.

This is exactly what we have going on in our nation at the moment: The two sides of the left/right split are becoming increasingly shrill. Both sides of the debate lead to a top-down society.

This is clearly seen in the health care debate. PPACA (aka ObamaCare) was based on a plan from the Heritage Foundation and first enacted by Mitt Romney. The GOP campaigned for seven years that they would "Repeal and Replace" Obamacare. We find out that the replacement was just a watered down version of PPACA.

We had seven years of a shrill non-debate that set neighbor against neighbor. At the end of the non-debate, the GOP leadership simply sought to replace ObamaCare with ObamaCare-lite.

Both sides of the debate lead to the same end. Yet we see people becoming even more shrill.

There was a street fight between the Alt-Right and Antifa in Charlottesville over statues to the Confederacy.

I need to come back to my statement that the left/right split was created by the enemies of liberty.

The party system that controls our government was not mentioned in the Constitution. For that matter, "The Federalist Papers" (which explored the arguments of the Constitution in detail) waxed philosophic against the evils of factions (aka political parties). Madison clearly saw factions (the party system) as one of the greatest threats to freedom.

The left/right split which dominates political discourse was made by enemies of liberty. The ultimate expression of both sides of the debate is a totalitarian state.

The left/right split leads to mindless conflict as we saw in the brawl between Alt-Right and Antifa in Charlottesville.

We have to find a better way.

I believe that we could find a better way if we did something radical. For example, it would be great if people took off their partisan filters and talked about health care.

Friday, July 14, 2017

Reducing Benefits Does Not Reduce Costs

Watching the GOP bungle the health care has been a painful experience.

As I suspected, Trump's trumpeted "Repeal and Replace" legislation is nothing more than ObamaCare with fewer benefits.

Reducing benefits might lower premiums, but it does not actually lower costs. Reducing benefits has no effect on the price of the benefits continue to receive. It simply means that people receive fewer benefits.

Health care providers are notorious about shifting costs. Imagine a hospital that provides service A and B and that TrumpCare no longer provides coverage for service B. The hospital is likely to shift costs from service B to service A increasing the cost of service A.

Trumpcare increases the tax deduction for Health Savings Accounts. The health savings accounts do not restore the free market. The HSA is simply a tax credit for the upper middle class. It does absolutely nothing to help provide health care for the people who actually need care.

TrumpCare is nothing more than ObamaCare-lite.

What is likely to happen politically is that the party-line vote on TrumpCare will create a situation where the GOP now owns the failing ObamaCare system. The Democratic Party is likely to begin campaigning on Medicare for All (or whatever euphemism they come up with for national health care). Because the GOP sold its soul to pass TrumpCare, the Socialists will win and put the final nail into the American dream of a free society.

Sadly, there is verily little that anyone can do.

Those who try to stand up for actual free market reform will just be lumped in with the Trump bashers and their voices will be silenced.

Watching conservatives systematically destroy the opportunity for free market health care reform has been disenchanting. The conservative movement and the GOP have failed the American People.

Donald Trump's plan of curbing insurance premiums by reducing benefits might temporarily stabilize markets. The plan does not reduce prices. It simply reduces the care people receive. The plan does not provide a path toward a better future.