Elsevier Excitement: Not an Oxymoron

January 16, 2019

Professional publishing – the information designed for lawyers, accountants, scientists, technologists, and their ilk – is usually a quiet place. Notice that I did not say, “Dull.”

Now one of the leaders in this small club of gatekeepers has evidenced some actual management excitement at least here in Harrod’s Creek.

According to Inside Higher Education:

The entire editorial board of the Elsevier-owned Journal of Informetrics resigned Thursday in protest over high open-access fees, restricted access to citation data and commercial control of scholarly work. Today, the same team is launching a new fully open-access journal called Quantitative Science Studies.

Most of the folks outside the STEM world of publishing are unaware that many professional publishers rely on a very reliable business model. Some of its features include:

  1. Work with august academic institutions to make sure the paper based “publish or perish” model is required for anything close to a tenure track or a jump in pay
  2. Charge the authors for various things. Remember. The authors have to publish in esteemed journals which are in theory reviewed by hard working peers. The idea is to make sure those fudged data are identified and stopped before the vetted paper is published. Non reproducible results? Let’s not talk about those.
  3. Charge the academic institutions with the tenure track and aspiring scholars to subscribe to these peer reviewed journals.
  4. Recycle the content in different ways to generate downstream revenue from online databases and services.
  5. Work with vendors who create digital or microfilm versions of the older versions of the publications to generate royalties.

Most of these methods are little known and only partially understood by individuals who don’t pay much attention to a $2,000 for four issues paper publication.

Now the revolt is indeed exciting. The write up does the normal journalism thing. The good stuff is the business model, the somewhat generous money generating mechanisms from which the authors and the institutions are excluded, and the fact that scholarly information is only available to those with the money to pay for these documents.

Is this the beginning of the end for Elsevier-type outfits and their close cousins, the Reed Elsevier type outfits?

To me this is an interesting question.

Stephen E Arnold, January 16, 2019

Google and the Revolt of the Science Club Within

January 15, 2019

I know I said I would cover more DarkCyber topics, but I read a remarkable article called:

Google Employees Are Launching a Social Media Blitz to Pressure Tech Giants on Workplace Harassment Issues: The Group Wants Tech Companies to Stop Restricting Workers’ Right to Take Companies to Court over Employer Related Issues.”

With a headline like this one, let’s look at a couple of the statements set forth in the write up as factualities:

The [Instagram and Twitter] campaign is another example of the growing movement of tech employees publicly critiquing industry-wide practices they say are leading to inequality in the workplace. The tech industry has for years seen abysmal diversity statistics related to employment of female and underrepresented minorities in its workforce. Supporters of the campaign say that ending forced arbitration is a key step to creating a fairer workplace culture that will help curb such disparity.

The point to note is that Google which has largely failed at social media has employees who use the services the online ad giant was unable to understand, me-to, and make successful. Interesting. A disconnect signal perhaps?

Another statement from the write up:

As part of the effort, the group organizing the campaign researched the contracts of around 30 major tech companies and 10 of the biggest suppliers of contract employees for major tech companies. Not a single tech company met their basic criteria for protecting employees’ rights to pursue legal action against their companies for workplace issues, the group said.

Hmm. The “30 major tech companies” include outfits like Boeing, Raytheon, IBM, and similar giants? I don’t know. My hypothesis is that the “major” are outfits which are in the San Francisco-San Mateo area.

What is clear, however, is that giant companies which have acted as if they were countries now have governance problems to go along with their management challenges.

I have termed the broad approach to managing Yahoo-type outfits (I use Yahoo as an archetype, not a functional company) the HSSCMM or high school science club management method. The approach operates in ways that can be baffling to those not in the science club; for example, the junior prom is stupid. Only dorks go. The notion is that by exclusion one becomes more exceptional.

Now we have a terrarium in which to watch a science club go to war with its very bright, very elite, and very sciencey members.

Exciting? Nah. Interesting? Maybe. Financially significant? Oh, yes.

Stephen E Arnold, January 15, 2019

Google: Is Unionization an Possibility?

January 3, 2019

While some companies are being called out for sexual misconduct, Google is being called out for an ethics violation along with sexual harassment. The Verge reports on how Google is breaking its ethical code of conduct in the article, “A Looming Strike Over Project Dragonfly Is Putting New Pressure On Google.” Project Dragonfly is Google’s attempt at launching search in China. The problem, however, is that China operates behind the Great Firewall and censors all Internet content.

Google workers or Googlers are against their projects being thrown under China’s governmental thumb, thus forced to censor search results. This is not the first time Googlers were unhappy with their company. In November 2018, Googlers staged a walkout in retaliation for Google ignoring sexual harassment claims. The walkout was successful and forced Google to react. If Google refuses to change its business tactics on Project Dragonfly, Googlers might do more than stage a walkout. They will have an old-fashioned strike and are already collecting funds to help strikers pay for daily expenses.

“What would trigger a strike? [Liz] Fong-Jones suggested that Google would have to cross a red line — launching Dragonfly in China without a proper review of Dragonfly’s privacy implications, for example. “I firmly suggest that my current fellow colleagues think about what they’d do if the red line were crossed and an executive overrode a S&P launch bit, or members of the S&P team indicated that they were coerced into marking it green,” Fong-Jones wrote, referring to the company’s security and privacy teams. How far away are we from that red line? …reports that at one point, the Dragonfly team was told to prepare to launch between January and April of next year. Given the current controversy — and the ongoing US trade war with China — that timeline almost certainly has been pushed back.”

Googlers have way more power than factory workers striking against their manufacturing plant shutting down. They are smart, know how to use social media to their advantage, and could cripple Google in more ways than one. It is nice to see Silicon Valley standing up for ethical practices, but how long will they last?

Whitney Grace, January 3, 2019

King Zuck: Above the Law? Yeah, Maybe

December 20, 2018

Though today’s major tech companies can, willingly or accidentally, make startling impacts on society, corporate executives are still primarily accountable only to their shareholders. And in the case of one of the largest and most beleaguered companies, Vox informs us, “Mark Zuckerberg is Essentially Untouchable at Facebook.”

Reporter Emily Stewart begins by recounting some recent criticisms lobbed at the company. First, the New York Times described Facebook’s deliberate efforts to downplay controversies from the Cambridge Analytica data breach to the spread of Russian propaganda on their platform. Then there is the Wall Street Journal’s report that Zuckerberg considers his company to be “at war,” and that both morale and stock prices are in decline. And yet, the digital king remains untouchable. Stewart writes:

“He reiterated the point in an interview with CNN Business this week, saying that stepping down as chairman is ‘not the plan.’ And the thing is, no one can make him. Even before the latest scandals, there have been questions about whether too much influence within Facebook has been placed with Zuckerberg and, among some investors, pushes for him to renounce his position as chair of the board. But because of the way Facebook’s shareholder structure is set up — and the number of shares Zuckerberg holds — there’s no way for anyone to force him out. Facebook may be a publicly traded company, but Zuckerberg pretty much makes the rules.”

The write-up outlines the reasons Facebook’s corporate structure means Zuckerberg always gets the most votes, and notes most corporations are set up this way. (See the article for those details.) It continues:

“That means that whatever shareholders are voting on — typically at Facebook’s annual meeting, usually in May — Zuckerberg and those closest to him are always going to win out. Bob Pisani at CNBC estimated earlier this year that Zuckerberg and the group of insiders control almost 70 percent of all voting shares in Facebook. Zuckerberg alone controls about 60 percent.”

Not that shareholders are silently accepting this status quo. A number of them have made proposals that would limit their famous CEOs power, including bringing in an “independent” board chair. Mysteriously, though, none of those proposals have received enough votes to pass.

But in the back of my mind is the sharing of private communications, the loss of private images, and the orbital sander approach to helping an ethical compass find true revenue.

Cynthia Murrell, December 20, 2018

Silicon Valley CEOs Have a Life Line

November 29, 2018

A write-up at Fast Company has a unique management tip for struggling tech executives—“Want to Be a Successful CEO? Get a Dog,” they advise. Writer Melissa Locker cites a recent survey performed by Kelton Research for Banfield Pet Hospital. She describes the career-boosting benefits of pet ownership as suggested by the survey. Not only had 93% of the 857 “C-suite” executives surveyed had one or more pets growing up, more than three quarters of those partly credit that experience for their success, Locker notes. She continues:

“There’s more, too: Nearly a quarter (24%) say that their childhood pet taught them more valuable lessons than their first internship. If you’re looking for inspiration, a whopping 77% of C-suite executives said they came up with a business idea while walking a pet (guessing dogs, not gerbils). 62% of these head corporate honchos believe pets had a positive impact on their ability to build relationships with coworkers and clients. Even if you weren’t lucky enough to grow up with an animal around the house, it’s not too late to benefit from a trip to the shelter: 80% of people surveyed said they felt more connected to colleagues who own pets, and 79% believing that colleagues with pets are hard workers.”

Not everyone is in the situation to share their home with a pet, nor does everyone relish the endeavor. However, it seems clear that those who do welcome furry, feathery, or scaly friends into their homes give themselves, and especially their kids, a definite advantage. Woof woof.

Cynthia Murrell, November 29, 2018

High School Science Club Officers Face Member Revolt

November 28, 2018

I don’t want to make a big deal of this high school science club management crisis. In a nutshell, people invited into the Google are members of a type of institution I call “the high school management club.” Now the members are revolting (no pun intended). According to “Employees Call on Google to Cancel China Project,” the members are not happy with the club’s management. What will the science club management do? My idea is that the Facebook “deflect, deny, and keep on going” approach might be up for consideration. Remarkable.

Stephen E Arnold, November 28, 2018

Ah, Facebook: High School Science Club Management in Action

November 23, 2018

In my high school, a person who did not relate to the math and science clubs’ superior humans might find their class notes defaced or something interesting in one’s locker.

I learned that “Facebook admits targeting George Soros after he criticized company.” Mature. I noted that the lean in executive Sandberg has revealed that the Definers relationship “crossed her desk.” Wait. I thought she did not know about hiring this outfit. I suppose the Washington Post is mistaken in its Switch column. Mistakes happen.

But that action was not the surprise I experienced when I read “Facebook Appeals Data-Sharing Fine ‘For Your Sake.” Nifty angle. “My sake.”

Stephen E Arnold, November 23, 2018

The Facebook Management Play: Not Much to Change

November 22, 2018

I read two articles this morning. I came away with the thought that Facebook is not eager to change.

The first article is “As Problems Pile Up, Mark Zuckerberg Stands His Ground in Exclusive CNN Business interview.” The main idea appears to be:

Zuckerberg resisted growing calls for changes to Facebook’s C-suite, reiterated Facebook’s potential as a force for good, and pushed back at some of the unrelenting critical coverage of his company after a year of negative headlines about fake news, election meddling and privacy concerns.

The second article is “The Punctured Myth of Sheryl Sandberg.” Yep, the lean in thinker and doer. The main idea struck me as:

Sandberg played a central role in nearly every misdeed at Facebook that’s described in the Times piece. Singularly focused on the company’s stock price and its advertising-based business model, she worked to minimize data abuse and election interference.

So what?

Three observations:

  1. Facebook is not likely to change without some outside encouragement
  2. Ethical behavior appears to be a dynamic concept. Expedient behavior may be a suitable synonym.
  3. A company founded on getting info about potential dates has morphed into an organization capable of taking down carefully constructed social assemblies.

Change may be difficult. Habit, momentum, and money can be barriers. We may have a digital turkey to monitor.

Stephen E Arnold, November 22, 2018

High School Science Club Management: The Facebook Method

November 16, 2018

I am not much of a Facebooker. We use a script to pump out the titles of the items we post in the Beyond Search blog. I try to ignore Facebook, but – I must admit – that has been tough the last few days. The New York Times finally jabbed its remaining investigative skills into the juicy, fat cables of Facebookland. My takeaway from the long newspaper story which has many atwitter is that HSSCM is alive and well. HSSCM means to me “high school science club management.”

What sparks me to write this fine morning in rural Kentucky is an essay by the chief lean inner at his link. To read this essay, I have been informed I have to log in. I did not. I assume I saw the full Monty, but who knows? In practice it doesn’t matter because the drift of the write up is:

What? Who knew?

Yeah, sounds about right. Who put “Great Balls of Fire” on the Woodruff High School PA system at 7 45 am in 1958? Those of us in the WHS Science Club said:

What? Who knew?

Here in frosty Harrod’s Creek, the stories from Facebookland reveal the basic workings of HSSCM: Say what’s necessary to make the annoying Mr. McDonald (our WHS principal) go away.

Image result for mit prank

We were the Science Club. We are the future. We knew better.

Sophomoric explanations work fine when one is 15. Transported to a publicly traded company I grow weary.

Time for a change. Lean into that.

Stephen E Arnold, November 16, 2018

High School Science Club: Employee Walk About

November 1, 2018

High school science club management methods face an interesting situation. The science club has a hierarchy. The whiz kids on the lower levels of that hierarchy are not getting with the program. Allegedly a small percentage of Google’s work force are unhappy with handling of alleged sexual misconduct. Here in Harrod’s Creek, we assumed that members of the high school science club school of thought worried about math, Fourier transforms, and k-means. If “We’re the Organizers of the Google Walkout. Here Are Our Demands” contains accurate information, some affected by high school management methods have other interests; for example, fairness, respectful behavior, and other old fashioned ideas.

I learned:

All employees and contract workers across the company deserve to be safe.

Fancy that.

Here’s an outrageous demand:

A clear, uniform, globally inclusive process for reporting sexual misconduct safely and anonymously. The process today is not working, in no small part because HRs’ performance is assessed by senior management and directors, forcing them to put management’s interests ahead of employees reporting harassment and discrimination. The improved process should also be accessible to all: full-time employees, temporary employees, vendors, and contractors alike. Accountability, safety and an ability to report unsafe working conditions should not be dictated by employment status.

What’s next for practitioners of high school science club membership? Better business processes? Executives not given to dalliances with fascinating methods of motivation? More responsible decision making? Nah, HSSCM methods are just better.

Google’s implementation of such management methods is as interesting as the company’s progress on solving death.

Stephen E Arnold, November 1, 2018


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