JCL Blog

Doctors Paid to Make You Sick

The 800,000 physicians in the US comprise a large and intensely managed partner program for the drug companies.  We are about to find out how intensely managed as the Affordable Health Care Act (AHCA aka Obamacare) now requires the drug companies to disclose how much they pay your doctor to prescribe drugs to you.  It should not be a surprise that the drug companies pay doctors quite a bit, and those payments change doctor behavior.  So it should be no surprise to find that some people may be diagnosed with ailments they don’t actually have -- so the doctor can prescribe the pills and get the money.

Sales managers know that salespeople are “coin operated”.  Better performance from salespeople is purchased with commission plans that compensate for more sales, more upsells, more referrals, more attached sales, more anything.  Since our business is technology sales, and specifically channel partner programs, we think a lot about how to properly incent our client’s partners to sell more.  We have seen this produce intended (improved sales) and unintended (systemic cheating) outcomes.  Broadly speaking, generalized incentives are better than highly specific incentives when it comes to getting a constructive result.  Sure if you have to move one product by the end of the quarter and you don’t care about the long term effects – a specific incentive will do the job.  But if you want customers satisfied and loyal for the long term, working with partners to grow their business for the long term is better than quick hits.

Over incenting salespeople in technology might result in a consumer or company with an overly large hard disk or a bigger video card or a router with enough capacity for 10 years of growth.  Over incenting doctors might result in a generation of kids on Ritalin, parents on anti depressants, and in the worst case, deaths.  Here is more reading on the subject should you be interested:



Update one week later:  Great article in the NY Times today about the 3 million children on Ritalin -- and how there is not evidence that it helps!

Who is Hiring the Black Hats?

Ever since David Segal wrote his great piece in the NY Times last month about JC Penney’s black hat antics of SEO, I have been thinking – really?  JC Penney intentionally gaming Google!  There has got to be more to this story.  Danny Sullivan followed up with an insider’s take on it – but I still thought – where is the rest of the story?  The web lit up with all kinds of commentary including this from SearchEngineWatch, and this from SearchMarketingWisdom, who also posted this response from JC Penney with an enthusiastic corporate speak counter argument to the New York Times. 

All of this has contributed immensely to the celebrity status of Matt Cutts, the guy at Google who fights search spam and swiftly pounded JC Penney’s search results into the ground.  The story continued with this good piece on NPR’s On the Media show with Bob Garfield last week.

I think we live in a country where the good guys, the white hats, win in the end.  Who knows, if Libya’s citizens prevail, maybe we live in a world where the bad guys, the black hats, are more readily punished.  In following this saga however, I have still not encountered what I have been looking for as the rest of the story;  who is hiring the black hats?  So I am going to propose this hypothesis:  the black hats exist because the white hats hire them.  It is the laundering of bad behavior through the presumed respectability of the good guys. After all, the US military hires Blackwater (now Xe Services because their reputation got so black they had to abandon their old brand) to do it’s black hat stuff.

We see this from time in our industry.  In the marketing services business we have encountered competitors who produce false reporting – and amazingly they don’t get fired by their clients.  They don’t get fired as long as the reports continue because the good people who hired them need the “results” to keep their budget or their jobs. 

It is a competitive world out there and marketing is getting more and more focussed on measurable results.  It is not hard to imagine a good, well intentioned, marketing services firm getting desperate and going to the bad guys -- just to boost the number -- just this one time.  Then, well, you know the rest of that story.

Maybe our industry needs a black hat amnesty day.  A day that all performance expectations can be re-set so our industry can purge the black hats and get back to doing the work of the good guys.

More Fuel for the Cloud

In the last 24 hours I have come across three stories in the media that give the cloud movement even more reason to be gaining momentum.  If you are following the cloud acceptance / cloud vs desktop story, you may want to check them out.

NPR On the Media - Laptop Searches at the Border:  The segment is towards the end, but the rest of the show is also worth listening to.  The story highlights the work of the ACLU in pursuit of the US Government for overly aggressive search and seizure of laptops at the borer.  This is a very good reason to use cloud services and not keep any data on your laptop.  I suspect the government is tracking activities on the cloud as well, so if you are up to no good -- you are probably no better off there.  But if you are a law abiding citizen worried about getting caught in the government's web -- the cloud is probably safer.

NY Times:  Microsoft + Russian Government against activists:  Unfortunately for Microsoft there is a very disturbing story on the front page of the NY Times today about how the Russian government is using Microsoft piracy claims to seize computers of people they don't like.  I suspect that if the Russian government wants to take your computer -- they are going to take your computer.  So again, the cloud would be a good place to put your data.  And for Microsoft -- any type of collaboration with the Russian government is likely to end badly (ouch!).

Dell Gets Blasted by the Haggler:  Again in today's NY Times the typical tale of woe.  Hard drive fails, sent back to Dell, lost again, lost again, in a Sisyphean tragedy we all know too well.  Same remedy, keep your data in the cloud and access it with multiple machines or devices or even someone else's machine.  Then you can still get your work done even while *insert vendor name here* is doing whatever they can to make your life miserable.

Maybe there is something to this cloud computing thing.

Expectations and the Uncanny Valley

I find myself lucky to be exposed to the most interesting issues as I work on our RetroDex event.  In particular the intersection of virtual worlds and the real world.  Most recently I came across the subject of the Uncanny Valley on one of my favorite radio shows (podcasts), NPR's On the Media.

The Uncanny Valley is the name animators give to the negative correlation between audience acceptance of their craft as it approaches perfection.  In other words, as viewers we much prefer an animated being that looks animated enough to clearly not be human.  For the last decade or so, technology has enabled the creators of animated beings to enter the Uncanny Valley and render an image so lifelike that it disturbs the audience.  As a result, ever since Dreamworks created the first Shrek movie in 2001, technology ceased to be the limitation and the artists had to intentionally back off on the realism of their creations.

What a wild idea.  We like the way animations approximate the human form and are constantly asking for better and better animations.  But at some point the image generated leaves the realm of great animation and enters the realm of a human with flaws -- and we get nauseous.

There are many ways this translates into business.  One is linked to the common quip "Even the worst day [insert favorite activity here] is better than the best day at the office."  We work hard at CSG to create a great place to work and are making pretty good progress.  However, if we slip into a warped expectations zone like the uncanny valley we will never succeed.  After all work is work and not soaking up the sun on the beach.