Data Driven Nonsense

When I was a young man starting out in the world, I was once given an assignment for the marketing people. The job was to gather up and detail the costs of various marketing programs. For some reason they did not track these things in the accounting system. That meant I had to rummage through filing cabinets pulling out invoices and then tabulating the results in a spreadsheet. My guess is I was given the task mostly because I was the only guy who could use Lotus 1-2-3.

I gathered up all the data for the periods in question and put together a report. Out of curiosity, and to be a suck up, I created s chart that showed the impact of various marketing efforts on sales. I even factored in things like the number of peak sales days in a month and adjusted the results to reflect these variances. What jumped out to me was that marketing did nothing for sales. I then expanded the data range to include previous years and it was more obvious. Our marketing was a waste of money.

I was young, but I was not an idiot so I gave the VP of marketing the numbers without my analysis. He then used them in his presentation, in which he claimed to be the key to the company’s success. I sat watching it waiting for someone to point out that he was full of baloney, but no one did. What I realized was everyone believed in these types of marketing schemes. They had to work because everyone did them. The VP of marketing liked his job so he told everyone what they wanted to hear.

The point of this walk down memory lane is that people have been using data to lie to one another long before we had cheap database software and Chinese quants cranking out reports. My bet is the first modern humans to migrate out of Africa had a meeting where Grog held up a skin, with marks on it, that he claimed was proof that slow food and fast women were just over the horizon. Data analysis is often just another form of magic that we use to grease the wheels of life.

This always comes to mind when I hear political types talk about their data operations. Reince Priebus is running around saying it was the GOP data operations that got the Trump vote out on Tuesday. He was on the radio claiming that his team “knew what people ate for lunch, when they went to work and how they voted in the past” so they could target these voters and get them to the polls. He made it sound like they had studied all of us since birth so they could maximize their vote.

This is nonsense. Trump had none of this stuff in the primary and he poleaxed everyone in his way. His “ground game” was to go on TV and radio and be interesting. Then he went on Twitter to give reporters something to ask him. In the general, he preferred the old fashioned whistle stop tour. Instead of a train, he flew around on his plane and did stadium shows near airports. His campaign was lean and mean, avoiding the trap of hiring an army of experts. Trump was outspent something close to 5-to-1 when including outside groups.

The fact is people buy stuff because they think they need it. They buy your stuff because they think it is cheaper or they think it has high status. I have a $200 Windows phone because it does everything I would want to do on an iPhone. My friends all have iPhones because they think it makes them look smart and hip. No amount of analytics are going to get me to buy an $800 iPhone nor will it make the cheap mobile phones hip and trendy.

Similarly, people vote for a few reasons, one of which is tribal loyalty. I know people who will never vote for a Republican, even if the Democrat is an ax murder. No amount of data analysis is going to alter that reality. The persuadable, on the other hand, can be persuaded if the candidate is appealing and offers them something they want. Similarly, the loyalists will turn out if they like their candidate and he has something to offer. Again, big data has nothing to do with it.

I suspect Trump’s reluctance to sign off on the big data operations, in his campaign, was due to the fact he has spent his life sitting through presentations in which clever guys tried to baffle him with data. Early in his career, he was the guy doing the baffling, as he convinced bankers and investors that his projects were going to make money.  Over a long career he has figured out that the basics of sales are immutable and the rest if just window dressing.

That’s not to say that all data analysis is nonsense. Steve Sailer has used publicly available voting data to analyze the lunacy of Official Conservatism™. It’s just that big data is not terribly useful in selling a candidate or a political party. Hillary Clinton allegedly had the greatest data team in the history of data teams. She had Google, Faceberg and Twitter working with the DNC to aid her data team. She lost because she is an awful person with nothing to offer.

But, that’s not what the data says, or at least it is not what the quants analyzing the data will say it says. Instead, they will work for the next year building after action reports loaded with jargon from statistics and demography, that will prove she just needed a bigger data operation and more “granular analysis in real time.” In 2020, the one-legged Latina lesbian the Democrats offer up against Trump will have the best data team and ground game in the history of mankind.

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Jake
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Jake
Nori
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Nori

Analysis indicates we are on the leading edge of an enormous and highly unpleasant restructuring of life as we know it. Trump blew every rigid established form into the ether. He won in spite of the norm. He’s prospered by analyzing the norm and outwitting it. There’s going to be a tsunami of expected and unexpected consequences that he has to deal with,and he will. He’ll do the job. The CommieCrats are regrouping,licking their self-inflicted wounds,as are the NeverCucks. These rusty Fucks never sleep.

Samuel Adams
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Samuel Adams

Lot of people in the establishment are not enjoying their breakfast of piss and cornflakes.

The Bagman
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The Bagman

The error is old, but so too is the corrective: all is not gold that glitters.

Alas, Trump’s old-fashioned pragmatism aside, I fear the Gods of the copy-book headings are coming, and with fear and slaughter.

The Emperor said some awful nice things about Reince, and from what I hear his transition team isn’t exactly packed with folks on a first-name basis with Jared Taylor.

A stitch in time saves nine. Let’s hope we’re in time.

Solomon Honeypickle IV
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Solomon Honeypickle IV

You worried before the election, you worry after the election. your brain is fukked sir, give it a rest. i recommend you get high, and stay high, for one solid month.

alzaebo
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alzaebo

The sheep: “What are you upsetting everyone for? There will always be plenty of grass.”

Allen
Guest
Allen

An old family friend was renowned for his ability to, as some put it, “smell an election.” Various state party chairman would call him in to advise. His usual methodology was to walk a number of precincts, and just talk to people. I asked him how this helped. His reply was “do you think a voter knows how things are going in their own town? It’s up to the candidate to address it.”

Or not.

james wilson
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james wilson

Dave Zeeman Barry.

MSO
Guest
MSO

Now that Trump receives the daily presidential security briefings, it would appear that Obama will have to attend them as well. There is a first time for everything!

Member

Mark Twain (a.k.a. Samuel L. Clemens) was absolutely correct when he said, “There are lies, damned lies – and statistics!”

Member

Two issues here. Early adoption, and ratio vs intellectus. I have a TV that was left in this house by the previous owners. They were pretentious people who had to have all the newest and best. They built their dream house and then got divorced. The guy had retired at age 42 or something. But he hadn’t done anything. It was all daddy. Found out in the course of things the house had two mortgages(???). Looked up the TV. It’s one of the first Sony wega HDTV’s they made. They paid $10,000 for it. Still works and has a great… Read more »

Member

Oh, and the dude ended up having to go back to work.

meema
Member

A job with a catalog ad agency brought me to Atlanta 29 years ago. I was a photo stylist. It was an exciting, energetic, creative company until a “Communications” firm from Nashville bought them. Not creative – left-brained number crunchers. Suddenly all employees were required to log their day on a CAC (Creative Allocation Card) in six minute increments in military time. So. Here’s what happened. Given that we, the worker bees, running from set to set all day, in a 50,000 sq. ft studio didn’t really have time to sit and record how we spent our time every six… Read more »

Member

The same thing is happening with electronic medical records right now. Docs are being paid according to how they”document” their “work”, not according to what they actually do. Or they do things that aren’t necessary because they pay more, instead of focusing on your problem. I had a female partner who did extensive pelvic exams on every new female patient because that and the right combination of E&M codes could get her a level five visit and higher reimbursement, not because it was necessary. Even on people who already had CT scans and came from a gynecologist. But the patient… Read more »

UKer
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UKer

I had a similar thing foisted on me years ago by a newly-appointed and oh-so-with-it ‘management’ team. I had to log my activities in web design with the rule being I would as a mere drone develop two new web sites a day. Given that developing a web site takes a bit longer than half a day and I had other jobs to do like making sure a weekly publication reached the printing presses on time (forget the ‘hold the presses’ rubbish you see in movies about the press: the most important thing — the only thing — was ink… Read more »

JohnTyler
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JohnTyler

Remember the weekly “body count” during the Vietnam War? That master statistician, number cruncher , DOD Defense Secretary Robert McNamara (one of the dumbest, stupidest intellects ever), figured that he could analyze the progress of the war by assigning numbers to every aspect of that conflict. His number crunching worked at Ford Motor Co.; why not apply it to analyze war? Of course, the problems with “numbers,” is that they can only be applied to things, objects, items that can be described numerically. But most things cannot be described numerically, despite the best efforts of statisticians. Numbers cannot tell you… Read more »

Member

Pythagoras was a failure in human management and politics, too.

Member

Data-driven predictions, Elliot Wave theory, Fourth Turning theory, all high-falutin’ supposedly infallible tea leaves reading systems forget that in reality every day is Wednesday per the old Mickey Mouse Club: Anything Can Happen Day. They also forget the wise words of King Willie the voodoo priest and leader of the Jamaican Voodoo Posse in Predator 2, or maybe it was a disciple, but it’s the only philosophical summation that says it all and in only two words: “Shit ‘appens”.

Severian
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Severian

It’s the difference between aspiration and rationalization. Trump’s a real estate guy. Making other people see castles in the air is his job, and he’s so good at it, he’s made billions. We all know what Trump’s vision is– we like it, lefties loathe it, but we’re all agreed on the basics of what “Trump’s America” looks like. He’s got a blueprint, and can use it to help us envision the building. Hillary’s America, on the other hand, would look like… what? Even her strongest supporters have seventeen different answers on any given day, depending on how xhey feel and… Read more »

ErisGuy
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ErisGuy

Hillary lost because she had nothing to offer 59 million people, unlike Trump who for 59 million people could be himself.

Lulu
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Lulu

This one made me smile. Many of us have sat in the high-level meetings where the chief number cruncher presents his data. Too often the end result, that trite “bottom line”, was what any thinking, common sense person would have come up with based on their own assessment of a situation and a healthy, uncluttered gut feeling.

Donald Trump is a very smart man with a very strong gut feeling about what works.

Lulu
Guest
Lulu

I heard Priebus droning on yesterday about his and the RNC’s wonderfulness in getting Donald Trump elected. They are just letting him revel for a bit longer until Trump gets his Administration together. He could still be a useful idiot. For a little while.

Samuel Adams
Guest
Samuel Adams

Their are a few things about Trump that never really made prime time in the election. But you hit right on a couple of them. First, to be a successful real estate guy you have to perceive signals when they are still weak. Developers are in long haul business (my Dad was one), by the time the signals are obvious its too late to get in the game, many still do and they lose. Big. Look at Trumps first big deal on the Hyatt at Grand Central. When he bought it the property was a flophouse, the neighborhood a complete… Read more »

Member

Comment of the day.

Ganderson
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Ganderson

agreed

Wayne Parker
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Wayne Parker

Best post I’ve ever read on this blog.

Samuel Adams
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Samuel Adams

Thank you. Least courtesy I can pay to Mr. Z for providing such a bounty each morning.

Yankee Girl
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Yankee Girl

Repeat after me: Trump was a “good” candidate; Hillary was not, plus he got better as the months wore on. Also, Trump picked Pence, and he was a good candidate, although not to everyone’s taste. Hillary picked Kaine. That choice did not reflect well on her decision making abilities and he proved next to useless in furthering her campaign. We won’t be hearing from Tim again.

Samuel Adams
Guest
Samuel Adams

Agree on Pence. Lot of my family is from Indiana and you run across a lot of “Mike Pences” there. Daniels, Bill Hudnut, guys who are confident, not flashy, competent and get shit done. A perfect foil to Trumps personality. And, yes, a glimpse into how he picks talent. BTW you see the same in a lot of the Trump Organization people. Kaine? I mean, Jesus, couldn’t get the vision of an escaped, deranged Muppet out of my head. But what it told you about Hillary was that her insecurity was so great that she couldn’t pick somebody that might,… Read more »

thor47
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thor47

She lost because she is an awful person with nothing to offer.

Didn’t that depend on how big a check you could write her?

Member

Thanks for the Priebus quote, Zman. I had flipped the radio on while he was prattling on and wasn’t quite sure what he was getting at. Based on my own experience (very technical, definitely not selling cereal), a good marketing department does three things: – Keeps sales from getting Stockholm syndrome and aligning his interests with the customer instead of the company. – Keeps sales from gaming the commission structure and robbing the company blind – Keeps engineering from building stuff the customer doesn’t want. A great marketing department does a few other things: – Talks to customers and figures… Read more »

Drake
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Drake

You beat me to it.

A good Marketing Department should also be doing research on markets and customers that will be used as targets for sales calls.

I assumed everyone knows that blanket advertising in commercial markets is a waste of money.

Member

I left out a lot of the black arts as well. Winning the standards wars, spreading FUD during product development to throw your competitor off, keeping the customer in line, preventing your manufacturing “partner” from gray-marketing your stuff… Best to let everyone think its just a bunch balding middle age guys going to trade shows. And in a lot of mature markets it is. Ah, to be in the fray again!

jdallen
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jdallen

Holey moley. Lotus 1-2-3. Haven’t thought of that in several, too many to imagine, years. I was a heavy Lotus user. Then we were forced into Excel, which I hated at first, but soon came to a new sexual relationship with the multi-page and VB aspects of it. It quickly took the place of my ex-wife.

UKer
Guest
UKer

“In 2020, the one-legged Latina lesbian the Democrats offer up against Trump will have the best data team and ground game in the history of mankind.”

Funny you should say that, because I am pretty convinced that Michelle will rise like some star-spangled Joan of Arc from the ashes (or am I mixing up my myths?) in 2020. But of course, she could undergo several transformations to fit your expectation, Mr Z. We shall see.

Solomon Honeypickle IV
Guest
Solomon Honeypickle IV

No, this was Michelle’s shot if that is what she wanted to do. I predict the Obama’s will divorce within 2 years of leaving office. Gay Barry will move to Morocco, and Michelle will have her stable of mandingo warriors.

Yankee Girl
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Yankee Girl

Sorry I hadn’t scrolled down to see this comment which is def superior to mine! I just jumped in having returned from a long day at a Veterans Day event at the Doughboy Statue in Overton Park in Memphis.
What a wonderful place that is!!

UKer
Guest
UKer

Shrillary doesn’t need Bill now, and maybe Michelle won’t need Barry soon. But Michelle is still a card-carrying member of the Socialist Collective and in desperation to get a female in the WH (and what could be finer than a black female who has been lauded as one of the world’s most beautiful women by whitey magazines?) the Soviets who go by the name of Democrats could well turn to her. Indeed, single mother and all that plays even better…

Yankee Girl
Guest
Yankee Girl

Don’t think she’ll still be married to Barack Obama by then.

Al from da Nort
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Al from da Nort

So IL Senator Elect (D) Tammy Duckworth for Pres. in 2020, then_?

Pitbullranch
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Pitbullranch

A couple of years back I built the data cleanse, match and householding routines, and some of the spatial tools used by both the RNC and i360 (Koch) to build their voter databases and get out the vote front-ends. Based on my experience I can tell you that the IT people in these organizations are pretty lame. Most of them are there because of connections or their ability to bullshit the guys with the money. The result is products that are inferior to what you find in run-of-the-mill business systems but still cost several times more. I was always amused… Read more »

Aggie
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Aggie

The election, in a few seconds: http://www.wsj.com/graphics/election2016-animated-maps/video/president-counties.webm Looks like New Hampshire and Michigan are 100% counted, but still officially ‘Undecided’. Michigan will become another state that flipped from blue to red, pushing Trump’s electoral count over 300. http://www.nytimes.com/elections/results/president By the numbers, Hillary has 280,646 more votes than Trump. The conversation will no doubt be held that she won a majority, save for that cursed electoral process, which of course is why the founding fathers and early leaders put it there – to prevent the tyranny of the majority. This is the uninformed Loser’s hypocritical argument, regardless of affiliation. In perspective,… Read more »

Linda Fox
Member

The reason D’s hate the electoral college is that it makes it very difficult, if not impossible to cheat. They can win in the cities, where the determined efforts of a very few can stuff ballot boxes, rig machines, and otherwise twist the will of the people to reflect what they want it to be. But, it’s very hard to do that in less dense regions. Too many people would have to be involved. So the vote in the rest of the country is relatively fair. Why is restricting immigration so important? Because the current plan is to offload those… Read more »

Aggie
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Aggie

I read somewhere yesterday that The Donald won the Electoral College election due to a little over 100,000 votes, distributed across certain counties in states that flipped. These are the votes that allowed Trump to take the states, electorally. It might be a tough game to rig, but I would never put it past Democrats to give it a good try. I think we saw very clearly the sordid lengths and directions they were willing to cynically push the system in this election, to improve their chances. Illegal immigration is a much more methodical, longer-term gambit and they’ve had a… Read more »

Member

I remember way back in the early 90’s I was working for a defense consulting firm supporting what was then the Strategic Defense Initiative Organization. Air Force Space Command was desperately trying to find a tool to evaluate different combinations of weapons and sensors to find what would be the best mix for an adequate defense. The entrenched support contractors rolled out proposed models that were detailed, expensive to make and run, and of course they would have to be hired on a 10 year contract to operate them. My boss and I thought about the problem a bit and… Read more »

Fuel Filter
Guest
Fuel Filter

Here’s some number-crunching that’s done right: From George Mason U. and Old Dominion U. “We find that there is reason to believe non-citizen voting changed one state’s Electoral College votes in 2008, delivering North Carolina to Obama, and that non-citizen votes have also led to Democratic victories in congressional races including a critical 2008 Senate race [Al Franken’s] that delivered for Democrats a 60-vote filibuster-proof majority in the Senate.” That’s “after-the-fact”, not predictive (although it sure as hell does predict the future if we don’t get our ICE, CBP and law enforcement back to, at the very least, enforcing the… Read more »

alzaebo
Guest
alzaebo

Radio, yesterday:

The Left and Urban: “We won!” Full meltdown.
The Right: “See, we have always supported Eurasia.”

Sam J.
Guest
Sam J.

“…I was young, but I was not an idiot so I gave the VP of marketing the numbers without my analysis. He then used them in his presentation, in which he claimed to be the key to the company’s success. I sat watching it waiting for someone to point out that he was full of baloney, but no one did…”

Excellent story. Your writing is always interesting. Thanks.

YIH
Guest
YIH

”She lost because she is an awful person with nothing to offer.”
Absolutely. This video is the highlight of that: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wyZLOoHddLM
Never mind comparing her against any Republican, picture Bill Clinton sitting there, listening to that, you think HE would have handled it that badly? Me neither, but Mr. ”I feel your pain” would have offered SOMETHING besides prevarication, SOMETHING to say ”I’ll try to help you”, Insincere maybe, pure BS maybe, but something besides ”I don’t know”.
That, in a nutshell, is why she failed.

Buckaroo Banzai
Guest
Buckaroo Banzai

I was going to say she lost because she’s a dirty lying lawbreaking cunt, but that’s not a polite thing to say, so I won’t.

Samuel Adams
Guest
Samuel Adams

So here is an interesting piece picked up in the morning scan that advances a pretty good hypothesis that Clinton’s reliance on analytics may have actually turned out Trump votes. http://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/hillary-clintons-vaunted-gotv-operation-may-have-turned-out-trump-voters_us_582533b1e4b060adb56ddc27?ka603sor If a large number of your GOTV ground force starts telling you that their “model” has you knocking on a huge cohort of people that say they will vote for Trump, might be time to get your nose out of the models and look around. Had a related experience in my office in NYC where the SEIU member cleaning staff on my floor were all for Trump. On election… Read more »

Ned2
Member
Ned2

Brilliant! We were hounded by the yellow pages for years to put in an ad for our business. Every year the poor sap would try to sell us ad space and every year I would tell them that if they could prove the ad brought me new business, I would give it a try. Never happened.

Sam
Guest
Sam

SIDEBAR for those that may in be in small business—> …after a few attempts I gave in to yellow pages ads as well…after trying radio ads. I am living proof that those two types of advertising only made me poorer. Ha Ha. I went exclusively homemade coroplast yard signs. I was in the A/C business. What I found out was that nothing could come close to my signs. Dollar for dollar my 20×24 coroplast signs ruled the day. I had a custom screen made and printed them myself in a two tone red/blue on white coroplast. They only cost me… Read more »

Member

For the record: I was vice chair of the campaign in my county. I’m also on the state executive committee. The GOP data base is garbage. It has been garbage. The RNC and state partyare adamant that they want it to continue being garbage. Their GOTV effort, beginning for some bizarre reason weeks in advance of the election, consisted of calling people up and reminding them to vote – effectively at random because they had no idea of the political leanings of the people called. We won because of thousands of grass roots activists around the country who bypassed both… Read more »

Al from da Nort
Guest
Al from da Nort

Another disastrous example, this time from WWI: Fall of 1916, Germany has to decide whether to go for broke or open talks. Naval staff uses numbers to BS the command authority that U Boats can end the war in 6 months by starving out England, even if the Americans come in. Using linear modeling, they take no account of the obvious Brit. countermove, namely using conveys. We all know the results.

Guest
Guest
Guest

Off topic but important. The Calexit movement is gaining steam and the alt-right needs to do everything we can to capitalize on the populist divisions in the US right now to keep this process moving. If we can get Trump to announce publicly that, as President, he will negotiate a peaceful and cooperative exit from the Union for California (or the portions thereof that choose to leave) this process will gain steam. If successful, the Democrats are finished as a national party in the US, permanently. The US loses a state that is a fiscal, political, and cultural disaster. Large… Read more »

james wilson
Guest
james wilson

I just made that point this morning, but not so hilariously. We must be sure to send them our tired, our poor, our huddled masses after the secession as well. After all, there are no illegal immigrants, only immigrants.

Member
James LePore

Once they leave they’ll realize their poor position globally and will ask to join Mexico but Mexico will say no: too many illegal Mexicans.

Thors Provoni
Guest
Thors Provoni

Nothing would make me happier to see this happen. The world needs more borders, not fewer.

Daniel K Day
Guest
Daniel K Day

I’d love to see it happen. I only disagree with your suggestion that federal funds will stop flowing to California. The U.S. would negotiate an agreement with them regarding the San Diego naval base. I’ve never seen it and know almost nothing about it myself, but my understanding is that the USN would really hate to lose it. The Air Force and NASA, reinvigorated after the end of its outreach program to the Muslim world, would then want to negotiate over Vandenberg AFB. Et cetera. Whether the funds would suffice to prop up the state is a good question. We’d… Read more »

Member

I run a small business via a franchise license. My favorite thing every month or two is the latest marketing gimmick the franchisor’s marketing people have come up with. None of it works, but they’ll breathlessly tell you that some outfit 1800 miles away in Florida tried it, and saw strong sales growth. So, I routinely beg out of the marketing. They do two things which I find actually useful: TV commercials and a strong website. TV generates awareness. The website moves people into the purchase funnel. Neither costs me anything beyond my normal royalties. It’s simple. It’s efficient. And,… Read more »

G6loq
Guest
G6loq
Member

” My guess is I was given the task mostly because I was the only guy who could use Lotus 1-2-3.”

Wot, No Visicalc?