Friday, November 27, 2009

Word 2007 to Blogger

So I learned yesterday, thanks to my Uncle Henry, that Microsoft Word 2007 has the ability to publish to your blog for you. This is great because unless I'm writing a very basic blog post I like to use Word, for better formatting, spelling and grammar. All of which I certainly need help with.

The positives:

  1. Real time grammar and spell check. Blogger has a spell check but it's after you write.
  2. More writing space. You can have Word take your entire screen up for writing. Blogger has a small text window that is not resizable.
  3. The text formatting is actually CLEAN. If you've every cut and paste Word text into Blogger before you know that all that wonderful Microsoft HTML is brought in with it. This tool appears to correctly strip down the formatting to regular HTML. (Note: I'm not convinced this will happen in each case and I will continue to test it.)

The negatives:

  1. No pictures. It appears that unless you use Microsoft Live Spaces for your blog there is little support for other image hosting options. Granted this is a Microsoft product but if you are going to allow for posting to other blog hosting sites, give us the ability to upload to Picasa, Flickr, etc.
  2. No keywords. I cannot speak for other blog hosts, but I like that Blogger has the ability to add keywords to the bottom of a blog post. It helps with organization as well as helps search engines crawl your blog.

Overall I think this is a great tool and worth using, especially if your blog posts are long and you want them to be somewhat professional. For quick and dirty blogs it's probably an unnecessary tool. Hopefully with Office 2010 some more image services are added. The keyword function I can live without, but no images is a pain. I like to add images to my blog. It adds interest and sometimes they are simply necessary. I'll have to manually add them every time with this Microsoft Word tool.

I give it 6.5 out of 10. The lack of better image hosting integration and the fact that some bloggers will never find the need to use this tool hurt it.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Internet Comment Ranking

There are a number of websites now have comment systems that allow other uses to rank other users comments. I used to get frustrated when a perfectly legitimate comment that I made would get voted down while illogical or factually incorrect comment would be voted up.

Not everyone thinks rationally about certain subjects. I'm sure I've ranted on a topic before only to later realize my comment was poorly thought out. This is what occurred to me. People see a subject and comment based on a variety of reasons. Some want give an opposing view. Some want to just be a cheerleader for the original topic. Some see the trend and follow suit. Some try to logically (or sometimes illogically) debate the issues brought up by the original topic or to others' comments.

The problem is that good comments can sometimes be voted down simply because the comment expresses views that another user doesn't want to read. It's not that they think the commenter was wrong as much as it is sticking their heads in the sand. This isn't always conscious either. Emotion frequently plays into commentary systems and skews perspective. I know I have voted down certain comments before that perhaps I shouldn't have.

There are plenty of comments that fully deserve to be voted up or down. The system itself is not broke. As frustrating as it can be at times it's actually a pretty decent mirror of human behavior. In person we might not make the same comments to each other, but we'd be thinking them.

Monday, November 09, 2009


Our American lives (and likely those of other countries as well) are driven on consumption. Depending on your perspective, this can be a good or bad thing.

Life in general is about consumption. We live to eat, the most basic consumption. We work to get the things in life we think we need. When we are poor those needs are pretty basic. When we are wealthy are basic needs are met so we consume with 'discretion'. In other words, we consume other non-necessary goods to the extent that it does not interfere with our base needs.

I should define base needs as items such as food, shelter, and the items needed to obtain and keep those items.

After writing my last blog post about Social Security I did some more reading and found a study that discussed what would happen if Social Security was simply removed. It's major finding was that discretionary consumption would be reduced, both at retirement and leading up to it. Suggesting that though we'd pay less in taxes we'd have to put more into our personal retirement savings, since it was now solely our responsibility, that we'd ultimately spend less. Additionally it suggested we'd have less money at retirement, so we'd spend less then as well.

Since our economy is based on consumption, this model suggests doom and gloom for our economy. Less consumption, means less jobs, which means less money and more unemployment.

The problem I see, and it's reared it's ugly head twice now in the last decade, is that this creates market bubbles. Economic growth is only sustainable to a point. Things have to level off at some point. If everyone actually looked at their needs/wants, there are a lot more wants than needs. If everyone was happy with what they had then the markets would fail and businesses would drop off because of that. That's what we are seeing now. Unfortunately instead of saying, "Maybe the market isn't strong when we get to a certain height," we try to figure out how to tweak the system so as to get a bit more money out of it, even at the risk of society.

The housing boom is a great example of that. I'm sure there were buyers who bought within their means and bought homes that met their needs, but there were also a large percentage of buyers who bought more house than they needed with the idea that they'd turn around and resell it in a few years and make a large profit. They assumed there would be people continuing to consume. The problem is that once the houses got to a certain point people stopped consuming because the prices were too high. The ones at the top of the heap suddenly couldn't sell their houses. They foreclosed because they couldn't afford the payments. And like a house of cards the market fell apart, because it was based on ever increasing consumption. It was also spurred by mortgage funny business. Chopping up bad mortgages and selling them on the market in 'creative' ways allowed the housing market to see more aggressive growth than would have been the case otherwise. It's not that the market was bad before, but consumption was not growing at the rates that people wanted, so an artificial mechanism was created to spur growth.

Looking back now consumers were duped by great marketing and greed. Though the creative marketing and finances by the banks is part to blame, the responsibility ultimately lays with the consumer who didn't know when to say when.

This is happening in China now too, at the cost of health and traditions. Individually we know what is right and wrong with consumption but as groups we make the same mistakes over and over. The herd is not very smart typically. Yet when individuals stand up against those poor choices they are often ridiculed.

I'm not saying I'm innocent of 'want' consumption. I have plenty I don't 'need'. That is partly why I do things for others now, because my needs are met. I also evaluate my consumption on want vs. need. I didn't always, but I do now. It's not an easy lesson to learn, but one more people should try to learn. I'm also not advocating that people can't have wants or that discretionary spending is a bad thing. I am saying that it needs to be balanced and reasonable. What that means will be different for each person. I'm sure there are some who would argue that they 'need' a yacht. I'd disagree with them but it's also their money.

The "consumption" economy may suffer a bit if we saved more and consumed less, especially at first, but society as a whole would be much better off.

Taxes and the Wealthy

While reading some comments in regard to this infographic, I was given an argument to consider.

The argument was centered around the fact that the wealthy pay less, by percentage of income, than the less wealthy, into Social Security. The arguement for keeping this inequity in place was, "The weathy are less likely to use it, so why should they pay into it? It's punishing the sucessful."

The last part of that is simply a political statement, meant to disarm any counter argument. If you argue against it that means you are against success! But that's just a debate tactic. Granted it works against most of the public.

The real argument is flawed. There are a LOT of programs that people's taxes pay for that they see no benefit or they do not use, yet we pay those taxes. We don't get to pick and choose where our tax dollars are spent. I don't have kids, but my tax dollars help pay for schools. Do I get mad about that? No. Those dollars are worth giving up for the benefit of society. I benefit through an educated society.

Oh but I can hear you saying, "Social Security is for retirement help. The wealthy don't need that, so where is the benefit for them?"

The thing is, when we start paying our Social Security taxes, most of us don't know that we may some day be wealthy and not need them. We pay into it hoping that we'll be able to use those dollars later. That said, anyone with high school social studies should have learned that what we are putting in today is going out today, to the current retiree base. We have basically given the government the role of taking care of our seniors. Something that used to be a family task. Now most people just ship off their elderly family members to homes and let the government pay for it, via Social Security.

Sorry, went on a separate rant there. The point is that when we pay Social Security, it's not like a 401k account. That money is not ours. It's taxes, plain and simple. Those tax dollars are being used to fund any number of government programs that even the wealthy may be using.

This is also not about 'punishing' the successful. I've been successful enough with my career that I can work from home. Because of that I don't drive very much at all any more. Does that entitle me to pay less taxes because I use the road infrastructure less than everyone else? No of course not. The same goes for the wealthy.

UPDATE: Here is an interesting counter point to my argument. Not sure I completely agree, but I'm always open to listening/reading a reasonable argument.