A Disconnect between the Free Software Movement and Open Science

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— Marc Jones and Robert L. Read, PhD

By Quinn Dombrowski from Berkeley, USA (Willful(?) misunderstanding) [CC BY-SA 2.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

The Problem is Terminology

Academic researchers and the Free Software Movement (FSM) use the word publish differently.

The difference in meaning in the word publish (and publication) creates a disconnect when the Free Software and Academic communities try to collaborate or when Academy adopts the ethos inspired by the Free Movement and the Creative Commons community, as we learned at a recent hackathon on behalf of Project Drawdown.

Publication:

  1. Free Software Publication means putting anything, no matter how trivial or unrefined, online and potentially accessible to world, expecting it to be revised periodically and possibly linked to by others.
  2. Academic Publication means putting a work in academic journal after it has been critically reviewed and circulated for review by peers and trusted advisors, where it will be eternally unchanged, and possibly referenced by others.

Free Software culture expects that works are “published = made accessible and known to a limited audience” from day one. Academic researchers often expect that things are not “published = announced in a peer-reviewed forum” until they have been thoroughly vetted and refined. This difference in expectations can challenge free software developers and academics who work together on projects. Nonetheless, such collaboration is extraordinarily useful and becomes more so every day. Creating a productive working relationship means creating a common understanding about expectations, the language used to describe the process, and the process of implementing the project.

This essay is an attempt to explain this to facilitate these communities working together.

The Mutability of Published Works and Expected Quality

Expectations in the FSM are that works are eternally mutable: they are constantly improved and are never in a final state. In a free software project, the contributors may not know who will make the next improvement, since in theory a wide audience is invited to contribute. Contributors are recognized rather discreetly, sometimes not even by name, in the commit logs and spread out in comments throughout the code. Contributors to a free software project are not individually responsible for its overall quality.

In academia the expectation is that a definite list of authors will take responsibility and great care for moving the work from conception to final, published state, after which it should not need any serious revision. Academia demands non-repudiation: each author is expected to stand behind the conclusions of the work with their reputation.

Free software is “published” immediately. By published, free software authors mean it is available for anyone who cares to discover, to examine, comment upon, and and even build a rival to. There is no expectation that the work is highly usable, let alone finalized. Everyone accepts that some bugs will exist. In fact, the expectation is that you will make it available before having a confidence it is bug free! Functionality often is achieved before all of the possible ideas the original author have come to fruition. The ethos of “release early and release often” embeds this idea. Well after first publication a project will reach the first point of functionality. At that point free software authors will frequently make a “release.” The “release” of an open source software project is symbolic; it is an assertion of readiness rather than a revelation of information. Once a “final” release has been published it is a indication that the authors believe it has some degree of usability. To working programmers, the release is a non-event; the development process immediately continues to revise the code base to add more functionality and fix any bugs, which are expected to be discovered in the previous release.

Quality Standards

Academic publication (and traditional writing at large) has a different standard to meet for publication, which is a momentous event. The work product is the explanation of an idea. Authors are judged and criticized on how accurate or complete the idea is. Significant flaws in the idea or its explanation are problems indicating that publication and sharing the idea was premature. Publication is a seal indicating a level of quality and finality. Not only does free software not have this sense of finality but the standard for quality, minimal functionality, is entirely different. Typically in academic publication there is no similar standard to being functional. English prose can only express an idea; to the extent it is a “useful” idea (as opposed to just an abstract idea) it requires someone to apply it through more work. Free software has the advantage of doing work in its current state, typically without the user even understanding the ideas expressed.

Free software developers often expect works to be accessible to anyone or “Open from day one”, even before anything useful is done. To them published does not mean publicized. The expected audience of a nascent project is tiny. Nonetheless, developers expect the underlying ideas, goals and data involved to also be shared publicly. They will expect every mistake and half-way step will be made freely available to any party that cares to go looking. They will not be concerned that mistakes will reflect poorly on them early in the process and expect to be judged on the progress and the process initially and only on the quality of work when the developer specifically states they believe it is high quality. Software is never “done”.

In contrast academics have the expectation that works are only shared broadly with others when they have reached a final “done” or permanent state. The final, permanent state requires that the first publication be of high, even meticulous, quality and free of all serious flaws. The finality of the state turns the work into an artifact that allows others to judge and critique it as soon as it is published. Any reputational impact rests on the state of the work at the moment of first publication. Academic publishers seek to be respectful of their readers’ time by producing the highest-quality work possible.

Free software developers have the advantage of being able to layer the fixes over there bugs that get buried in the revision control history. Academics mistakes are hard to correct silently once an article has been published.

Rivalry

In some cases there is a race to reach this final point of publication since reputational interests are disproportionately granted to those who publish first. Those who follow cite previous works, increasing the reputation of the previous works. In academia, sharing too much too soon might enable someone else to craft a publication that preempts the work and the reputational rewards that it carries. Authors of an academic paper circulate select drafts of the paper before publication to only a few individuals the author trusts. The author hopes that any criticism will be in private and that the carefully selected reader won’t attempt to compete or usurp the opportunity to be the first to publish by rushing to the presses.

FSM developers expect that anyone could look at the work in progress and criticize, contribute to, or be inspired to create a rival to, the work. These activities have largely been embraced by the free software community and turned into opportunities to accelerate the progress of the body of free software generally. Rival works are common and to some extent validate the value of the work they seek to supplant. It is impossible to count the number of competing GNU/Linux distributions, LLVM has long been competing to supplant GCC as the default compiler in the free software world. These rivals encourage diverse approaches until one dominant modality emerges, which can only rest on its laurels for so long. As an example, in the important field of version control systems, RCS was replaced by CVS, which was largely supplanted by SVN, which lost to a competitive field of distributed source code control systems, until git as emerged as the dominant player.

Method of Reuse

Despite the different understandings around the meaning of “publish” and the expectations that come with the act of publishing, there are many similarities between writing an academic paper and developing free software. Both recognize the need to build on the works of others. Academic papers do this through a rigorous method of citation. Free Software does this by incorporating libraries written by previous authors into the work, or by modifying existing software directly. Both methods of production also recognize the need to circulate works prior to their general release to communities of knowledgeable individuals that can offer critical feedback to give a diversity of thought on the quality of work done so far and identify further work.

When a research paper cites a previous work it acknowledges the priority of the earlier work. Academics acknowledge the contributions of those who have expressed ideas previously:

  1. to give credit to those who thought of it first,
  2. to show that they are contributing something new beyond what has been expressed previously, and
  3. to give the reader a pointer to valuable reading on related ideas.

There are, however, no legal restrictions on the use of the idea in an academic paper, the citation process is not directly regulated by law, but rather by industry standards which carry consequences.

For instance, suppose you write a paper criticizing another person’s paper for a logical flaw: you need to cite the flawed work to give readers a reference point. But if your reference point was not fixed in time and after reading your paper the author of the original paper repaired the logical flaw, your criticism no longer makes sense in reference to the now corrected paper. The change to the underlying paper being criticized robs those who criticize it of the reputational reward undermining the motivation to interact and collaborate to move the ideas and the field forward.

In contrast, Free software references code which changes frequently. By using some software, you are providing a small reputational reward to the author, not for having any particular idea fixed in time, but for having working code. When you borrow the implemented code you have a social requirement of acknowledgement. Typically it is even a legal duty, since you are literally textually copying copyrighted software into your work.

Software languages have been designed to make a weaker form of reuse by reference possible by the use of “libraries”, which facilitate the use of software created by other authors. Often the expectation is that you will only reference the functional work rather than textually including the work, because there is a recognition that the softwares functionality will change and you want to be able to easily take advantage of the improvements. If someone fixes the flaw in the software you are incorporating into your software, your software doesn’t typically stop working — just the opposite — the hope would be that your software now works better because it benefits from the fix as well.

Conclusion: How to Cooperate

Free software developers and researchers typically have different professional reward systems and expectations around mutability, rivalry, and means of reuse of their work, but this does not imply they are at cross purposes on a particular project. The key is to create a shared understanding and language to be able to precisely discuss the goals of the individuals and the goal of the overall project. The natural language of these groups diverges most around the terminology of publication. We present the examples below as a guide to clarifying this confusion.

FSM developers should be ready to say:

“…publish the software…” …by which we mean… “…place it in a publicly accessible repository without publicizing it.”

“…release the software…” …by which we mean… “…make a minor release which will only be noticed by dedicated parties.”

“…make a major release…” …by which we mean… “…we will make a public announcement which, while largely symbolic, will attract a lot of attention.”

“…make this freely available…” …by which we mean… “…make it accessible with documentation and a license that it allows it be vetted, shared and improved, but does not carry with it any expectation that it is perfect, free or error, or even works very well.”

Academic researchers need to be prepared to say:

“…data not ready to be published…” …by which we mean… “…we don’t mind people looking at the data, but we don’t want to publicize it yet.”

“…algorithm and model is not ready to be published…” …by which we mean… “…we don’t mind it being in a public repository under a public license as long as documentation and version control clearly reflect that we are still working on this and track our changes.”

“…of course we invite people to improve this work, but we have not published it yet…” …by which we mean… “…we want it to be made accessible under a license but with an understanding that using this without giving us academic credit should be considered plagiarism.”


A Disconnect between the Free Software Movement and Open Science was originally published in Hacker Noon on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

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Innovation at pace: Rapid Prototyping practices for Software Engineering teams

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The ability to quickly test ideas via functional prototypes, can boost your overall innovation performance. Read on to discover how to achieve this rapid prototyping readiness.

The readiness to capture and evaluate new ideas at pace, is a prerequisite for real innovation: having all those great ideas means nothing if you don’t have the proper framework to quickly test them, expose them to the right audience and get feedback. Yes, you can use static wire-frames and storyboards, but in most of the cases a functional, realistic prototype provides a far more solid basis for evaluation — and also the means for engineering insights on feasibility, architectural options and implementation strategies.

To achieve this fast-pace prototyping readiness, you need [a] the right development approach and [b] a repository of resources (standardized code libraries, components, UI elements, data models, APIs etc.) which are easily discoverable and usable as potential building blocks of new applications.

1. From an idea to a functional prototype

When receiving a request to prototype a new concept, always start by analyzing its validity: is the idea well-defined with a solid problem statement and defined outputs? If not, you should push back to the owner and ask for more information.

In an ideal scenario, you need an experienced multidisciplinary team — able to quickly understand the concept, decompose it to functional elements, identify similar projects that can be referenced and existing components that can be reused.

Re-usability is key here, since it can dramatically reduce the time to build your prototype, along with the underlying engineering and development costs. Thus, you should be able to easily discover relevant and potentially reusable components from your ‘prototyping repository’.

Understand the user, set the scope with clarity

The ultimate goal of a rapid prototyping project, is to build a realistic functional instance of the concept, in order to capture feedback and signals from real users; you need to think ‘as a user’ and summarize the scope with clarity — ideally as a short list of well-defined epic user stories.

Make decisions — Build, Reuse or Mock?

When in rapid prototyping mode, it doesn’t make sense to waste resources in building non-critical components and features — for example authentication mechanisms, a login UX or a new ‘visual language’ from scratch.

To drive the discussions on which components to build, you need a functional decomposition of the concept and a high-level, logical architecture. Having that, allows you to iterate over the set of components and query your ‘prototyping repository’ for reusable components encapsulating similar functionality.

From those components that need to be built — no similar components available for reusability in your repository — you must figure out which make sense to develop and which to mock. To do so you should look for the ones that are fundamental for the specific idea — the ones needed to be exposed to real users for feedback. If the purpose of the prototype primarily to test a certain technology or functionality (a proof of concept), the focus area is rather predefined — you can use a ’static data’ approach for everything else.

Make assumptions, move fast

You are aiming for a realistic experience, not for a production-ready system. Your objective is to prove certain technological aspects and capture feedback by exposing a realistic experience. Hence, you can make conventions to accelerate the process — for example, you can eliminate production-related constraints and switch to a lighter version of your software development rules and guidelines.

Quality can be redefined in the context of your prototype, with a bias for UX rather than optimized code or other technical aspects. In general, for a prototype, it should be OK to hard-code and use static data as needed in order to move faster. For instance, as soon as you define your object model, you could generate static JSON objects, to be consumed by your client apps via regular APIs calls; as you move on with your development and where it makes sense, you can take advantage of this abstraction layer and plug in real data connectors, dynamically instantiating your objects and serving them via the same APIs with the same JSON serialization — with no further changes.

Build, capture feedback, iterate

During a rapid prototyping project, it is critical to iterate fast: prepare your data, build a first version of the UI, integrate APIs, offer a basic end-to-end experience and present to stakeholders; process feedback, make sure the focus is right and iterate towards a realistic implementation of the original idea.

2. Setting your ‘prototyping factory’

The ‘prototyping factory’ is particularly useful when you need to streamline your prototyping efforts — for instance if you are operating an innovation lab. Nevertheless, any engineering team can benefit from the following recommendations and achieve a general readiness to rapidly prototype, on demand. Your prototyping factory should provide discoverability of and easy access to the following:

Standardized Data sets

A set of well-understood and documented data sets — real or artificial, internal or public — can accelerate your development process. Your data need to be [a] contextual to your business [b] ready for use — having aspects such as privacy and compliance covered [c] with the desired statistical and other properties to enable realistic user scenarios. In an ideal situation, data sets are summarized via ‘data demographics’ reports — key statistical aspects of the data providing instant understanding and clues on how to use it.

Data models and data processing components

Properly documented data models and object models can be particularly useful for rapid prototyping projects. This could also include data converters, mappers, generators, parsers, ETL pipelines, crawlers and other tools and utilities which could speed up data processing and integration tasks.

A catalogue of APIs

A list of easily discoverable, well-documented APIs, with instructions and ‘quick start guides’ can accelerate the development of your prototype. They could expose functionality across a number of areas which are expected to be common in software products — from authentication and telemetry to data access and even machine learning, content discovery and more. In some cases, APIs could expose real data while in others they could provide static data objects. External APIs could also be listed — to allow integration of 3rd party services.

Software components and Coding Templates

A catalogue of lower-level, software libraries, scripts and templates could significantly increase the pace of the development process. The components could refer to standard functionality or advanced scenarios such as the implementation of special algorithms, or an advanced data processing pipeline.

AI and ML models

In the era of Artificial Intelligence, any new application is expected to leverage a certain type of artificial intelligence or machine learning capability in order to best serve its purpose. And although building new AI/ML models could be challenging and time-consuming, integrating standardized models into your application is easy and straightforward even for non-data scientists. You only need the right collection of APIs or models, each with good enough documentation and guidance for integration.

User Interface libraries & templates

Having a great collection of UI elements and controls to draft your User Interfaces is of critical importance. You need a rich set of reusable, configurable UI elements and frameworks along with tools and platforms enabling sketching and wireframing. Depending on the case, special UI components such as data visualizers, dashboard patterns, interactive charts etc. could also prove to be very helpful.

DevOps, Automation, Monitoring

Releasing, hosting and managing your prototype throughout its lifecycle, should also be fast and efficient. This requires the right tools and processes to automate certain tasks, control access and manage the code repositories. If you are systematically producing prototypes, you need a repository for the prototypes themselves — to enable discoverability, analysis of usage patterns, feedback and a range of metadata.

As your team gets more experienced with rapid prototyping you have an additional opportunity: to capture, organize and make available the knowledge generated — in the form of best practices, guidelines and frameworks for building high quality prototypes, fast. A knowledge-base capturing your rapid prototyping and innovation expertise — enriched with user feedback, decisions and actual user interaction data.

Related Links

How to run a successful Design Sprint

How to lead innovation and drive change in engineering teams

How (and Why) to Write Great User Stories

Images: pixabay


Innovation at pace: Rapid Prototyping practices for Software Engineering teams was originally published in Hacker Noon on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

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Performance Monitoring for AWS Lambda

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Monitoring the performance of Lambda functions might seem like a trivial task but once the dataset gets larger, it becomes increasingly harder to understand how your users experience the system. As a developer, you usually care about the latency, and cost of your system. The features of a good observability tool should be aligned with all that while also enabling you to ask arbitrary questions about your system to figure out the scope and causes of problems. Let’s go into detail how one should approach performance monitoring and figuring out the root causes of performance problems of Lambda functions.

Performance monitoring for Lambda functions

Let’s start with what you should monitor in Lambda functions. In general, there are two areas — user experience and the cost of the system. User experience usually comes down to availability, latency and feature set of a service while to cost of operating a service is important to ensure the profitability of the business. In distributed architectures, the surface area of what to monitor becomes larger and changes in performance and cost can often slip through unnoticed.

One of the contributing factors that make serverless applications harder to monitor is the setup overhead of analytics services. In most cases with serverless, there are a lot more units to monitor, the lifecycles are short and configuring agents directly contribute to latency and cost.

The good thing about such services is that by default, they make themselves observable. Observability does not mean that you have visibility, it means that the systems emit data that makes it possible to understand what is happening from the outside. This is the core principle we built Dashbird on.

Observing the cost of Lambda functions

Depending on the metric, it might make sense to observe it across all functions or individually per resource. For example, cost of the system is best to keep an eye on at the account level and only if that metric experiences a significant change does it make sense to drill down to function level.

Account metrics

Monitoring latency of functions

For latency, large datasets can skew the results, making it hard to notice when an important user-facing function has started to take longer amounts of time to execute. A good way to keep an eye on latencies is to construct a custom dashboard of all mission-critical functions and observe for outliers. A good way to do this is with Dashbird.

Once you detect a function that is taking longer than expected, you can drill down to detailed metrics…

Percentile statistics

Usually, in large data-sets, average metrics hide the outlying data points, making it impossible to detect that even though the average execution speed is acceptable, some percentage of the users experience significantly longer response times. Also, as a developer, it’s not uncommon to be faced with requirements that origin from SLA’s and go something like this: “99% of the requests must finish quicker than 1 second”. Even if you’re not, a requirement like that is good because it’s actionable and easily measurable. This where percentile metrics come into play.

Function metrics in Dashbird

Debugging performance issues

Even when you’ve detected a problem with your application, the cause of it might still not be obvious. Are the slow executions caused by cold starts? Maybe there’s a service that the function is calling that is taking too long to respond? Would the increase of provisioned memory speed up the execution or would it merely cost more money while having little impact?

Let’s take it one question at a time. Cold starts? You can graph out cold start in time, and compare the latency of cold starts against warm invocations. In case cold starts are the problem, they can be dealt with in different ways which we will not go into here as there is a lot of info available for that.

What about the execution itself? Is some service call there particularly slow? To break it down, you can enable X-ray tracing for any or all functions and Dashbird with connect requests with X-ray traces, showing you exactly where the time is spent for each request. In addition, logging out events before and after a particular call in code logs out the timestamp meaning you can later measure the time between calls in code.

If you figure that nothing, in particular, is slowing down your function and cold starts have little impact as well, it might be that increasing the CPU speeds up the execution. This is mostly a trial and error based improvement flow and there can be a sweet spot when the speed no longer increases when adding more memory.

Conclusions

Even though serverless introduced new challenges in monitoring and visibility, the right tooling and development practices can easily help you overcome operational and management issues. The necessity of agents is increasingly deteriorating because of the amount of info that is available just by data emitted by services itself.

Dashbird takes about 5 minutes to set up, after which you will get full visibility into your serverless applications. Give it a try by signing up here.


Performance Monitoring for AWS Lambda was originally published in Hacker Noon on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

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A Budget Polemic

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As Budget Day approaches, Economists for Free Trade have taken it upon themselves to give the Chancellor some advice. They have produced a “Budget for Brexit”, subtitled “An Economic Report”. One might expect from this that the report would contain a comprehensive set of Budget proposals with Britain’s forthcoming exit from the EU in mind, backed up by rigorous economic analysis.

With this in mind, I started reading the report. There was the inevitable introduction from Patrick Minford, as usual criticising the U.K. government for disagreeing with his forecasts. Fortunately, his comments were only a little over a page in length. And remarkably, he concluded with an appeal for the Chancellor to raise public spending:

It is an extraordinary thing that economists like us feel the need to encourage politicians to spend more money and cut taxes. Usually it is our role to discourage profligacy in the name of ‘economy’. However, the mantra of austerity has truly taken hold in the UK, so long (now a decade) has it been necessary to subscribe to this policy to bring debt down to sustainable levels.

How amazing. Has Minford finally seen the light about the pointlessness of austerity?

Not in the least. He has simply become aware of the threat of Jeremy Corbyn:

With popular tolerance fraying and the threat of an opposition determined on largescale socialism allied with a massive spending programme, this really is the time for Conservative politicians to show some strategic intelligence and boldness in fiscal plans.

Tantalisingly, there he left it. There is no executive summary for busy people. You don’t get to read the policy proposals until the end of the report.

The first section of the report proper is described as a “Commentary on the recent behaviour of the economy“. It’s certainly a commentary, but mostly not on the economy. Here is the opening paragraph:

The political classes are in uproar, arguing over the various forms of Brexit. Yet the economy sails on serenely, clocking up yet more record employment, with inflation coming down towards its target, interest rates finally rising, productivity recovering, the balance of payments improving and growth proceeding close to 2% (and on the latest ONS three month estimate May-July at a 2.5% annual rate). The pro-Remain media trumpet the ‘uncertainties’ and even the possible ‘terrors’ of no trade deal. But no one takes any notice apparently, outside the usual representatives of ‘industry’, such as the CBI. 

There then follow four paragraphs of politician-bashing and Brexit-building. For those with strong stomachs, here’s a sample:

The truth is that ordinary people have got this right: they realise that, for all the posturing by politicians, trade will continue largely undisturbed by Brexit and that Brexit will bring some longer term trend changes that they have by a substantial majority approved.

Eugh.

I skipped past this quickly, and read the next sub-section, which was largely about how the strength of the economy was bringing down the public sector borrowing requirement faster than expected. This is true, though I am not convinced that the economy is as buoyant as Economists for Free Trade think: the latest ONS figures show employment growth tailing off, GDP growth flat and productivity well below pre-crisis levels. And the interest rate rises shown by the yield curve predict neither normalisation nor a buoyant economy: rate expectations are falling along the curve, and the 30-year is now below 2%.

(chart from the FT)

Unsurprisingly, the Bank of England has backed off from signalling any more interest rate rises for the foreseeable future.

Disappointingly, the report repeats Minford’s erroneous assertion that sterling depreciation has narrowed the current account deficit. In fact the CA deficit has widened in recent months and is now roughly back to where it was in 2015. This was the first example in this piece of substantive criticism being completely ignored. It proved to be far from the last.

It also marked the end of genuine economic commentary in this section. The remaining three pages consisted mainly of diatribes against the U.K. Treasury and complaints about the techniques used by other economic forecasters.

But buried in them were a couple of outrageous assertions. The first was this (my emphasis):

It is high time the Treasury comes round to accepting Brexit and making policy to optimise our economic prospects, building on the benefits brought by free trade including the potential deregulation Brexit can bring. In contrast to Remain efforts to defend our position within a protectionist EU, the truth has always been that free trade brings benefits in the form of lower prices and more competition.

Furthermore, this freedom does not need to come at the expense of creating new barriers with the EU. Even with a World Trade Deal under WTO rules, such barriers will consist solely of tariffs which are in general low – ie, it will not be possible for the EU to create any significant new non-tariff barriers. Under Canada+, both tariff and non-tariff barriers will be effectively non-existent. 

Apparently, after Brexit, the UK should discard heaps of regulations with which it has been forced to comply as an EU member. Economists for Free Trade don’t say what these regulations are, though as we shall see, there are some indications later on as to what they have in mind. Leaving aside the question of whether non-tariff barriers would really be non-existent under a Canada+ trade deal (have they actually looked at CETA?), if UK regulations deviated from EU, how could non-tariff barriers possibly be “effectively non-existent”? The EU would be entirely within its rights in expecting the UK to prove that it complied with its regulations. This would not be “creating significant new non-tariff barriers”, it would simply be the inevitable consequence of the UK’s decision to diverge from EU standards.

The second was this:

In any case – once our markets are open to the world – any barriers with the EU will have an insignificant effect on our economy.

This is a fine example of sour grapes. The fact is that the UK could not quickly or easily replace lost EU trade with new trade with the rest of the world. Unilateral free trade is a non-starter (at least Economists for Free Trade admit this now), and a “web of FTAs” replicating global free trade would take years if not decades to establish. If Brexit resulted in higher trade barriers with the EU – as would almost certainly be the case – there would be a hit to the UK economy, at least in the short term.

In fact this is what the yield curve is telling us. The sharp rise in interest rates at the 2-year point indicates an inflationary shock to the economy at the end of the expected transition period. But perhaps Economists for Free Trade don’t believe market indicators?

Anyway, they did say one thing I agreed with:

The Government now has a good opportunity to get away from its position of endless austerity and to grasp the growth-creating opportunities from Brexit. Improved infrastructure, reformed funding of the NHS, and tax cuts can all usher in a new environment that will build on the extra productivity coming directly from Brexit itself.

Dunno about “growth-creating opportunities from Brexit,” but improving infrastructure, reforming NHS funding, and judicious tax cuts (particularly aimed at the low paid) would all be economically beneficial. Bring them on.

The next section was entitled “The Brexit Negotiations and Possible Outcomes.” Now if this were a genuinely independent piece of economic research, this section would have contained an evaluation of the economic effect of each of the various alternatives currently being discussed and the budget consequences arising from them. But what this section actually did was explain why Economists for Free Trade think the Chequers deal is a really bad idea, and propose a Canada+ FTA as a much better alternative, with what they call a “World Trade Deal” as a backstop.

There is, of course, no such thing as a “World Trade Deal”. What they mean is exit from the EU with no trade deal, so that subsequent trade is on WTO terms only. Trying to spin this as a trade deal, and repeating discredited calculations of its benefits, shows Economists for Free Trade to be nothing but a bunch of charlatans.

By now I was on page 12 of an 18-page report, and had yet to see a robust economic forecast or a coherent Budget proposal. In their previous report, Economists for Free Trade spent a third of the piece criticising the Government. This time was even worse. More than half the piece was spent criticising the Government, decrying the competence of other forecasters, and promoting Economists for Free Trade’s own preferences for Brexit. It must be one of the most polemical Budgets in history.

Fortunately, the third section did offer some substance. It provided “Projections of the UK economy to 2025 under three different scenarios: status quo, Canada+ from January 2021, and a World Trade Deal exit under WTO rules from April 2019.” “Status quo” in this case had a rather peculiar meaning:

…we assume that some Chequers-type proposal is adopted, which leads to an indefinite postponement of Brexit

Eh? Chequers wouldn’t postpone the UK leaving the EU.

Economists for Free Trade went on to explain that their “status quo” would mean the UK remaining in both the customs union and the Single Market. That would be Norway+, not Chequers. They are a tad confused, I think….

Anyway, they produced forecasts for all three. Here they are. First, Norway+:

Secondly, Canada+:

And finally, WTO: 

Well, what a surprise. Unlike every other forecaster, Economists for Free Trade’s forecasts show the Norway+ option as delivering the worst economic outcome. I have no idea how they arrived at these figures, but if I was being cynical, I might suspect that they constructed their model to deliver the results that supported their political position.

More importantly, the figures are distinctly odd. For example, all three forecasts show a flat or inverted yield curve: in the Norway+ forecast, the yield curve is considerably inverted from 2021 onwards. Since an inverted yield curve is a leading indicator of imminent recession, this is not consistent with the growth and inflation forecasts. Nor is it consistent with Economists for Free Trade’s upbeat commentary. Even for the Norway+ version, they don’t predict recession, only weaker growth than under the other two alternatives.

The behaviour of unemployment and inflation is also odd. All three scenarios predict unemployment of 0.2 million by 2025. I know that the Phillips curve is broken and NAIRU is dead, but even so, I struggle to believe that unemployment approaching zero would not have inflationary consequences, especially if the real exchange rate is also falling (which raises the real cost of imports for domestic consumers).

In short, these figures do not make sense. In all three scenarios, very low unemployment and falling REER would mean rising inflation, which would imply higher interest rates and a steeper yield curve. This in turn would feed through into lower GDP and wage growth, particularly in scenarios 2 and 3. The Cardiff group’s predictions of stronger growth under the Canada+ and WTO scenarios seem to be somewhat disconnected from reality.

This creates a problem. Section 4 discusses “how fiscal policy might best utilise the large Brexit Dividend.” But if I am right about the figures, there wouldn’t be a large Brexit dividend. Economic performance just wouldn’t be good enough.

Nevertheless, let’s look at what Economists For Free Trade think the UK Government should do with this mythical dividend.

Their top priority is tax cuts for the rich. No, I am not joking:

From the viewpoint of supply-side incentives, corporation tax and the two top rates are the highest priorities for tax cutting. If corporation tax and the top rate were both cut by 2% in 2020, and the very top rate by 7% (to equality with the top rate), the cost would be of the order of £9 billion.

So, from 2020 onwards, the rich and big corporations would receive tax breaks. Then, from 2025 onwards, tax cuts could be extended:

• The standard rate could be cut by 2%, at a cost of £12 billion (raising the tax threshold is very expensive and hardly affects any marginal rates, mainly going in the form of lower taxes to the better off, barely helping the less well-off because they lose benefits); or else VAT could be cut by 1.5% for roughly the same cost
• Corporation tax could be cut another 3%, costing another £10 billion ; and
• The top rate could come down by 2%, costing around £3 billion.

So the general public would get either a small cut to the standard rate of income tax or an even smaller cut to VAT, while the rich and corporations were given even more tax breaks. The Cardiff group express concern about the fact that raising tax thresholds doesn’t help the poor, while allocating almost none of the Brexit dividend to the poor. Priceless.

And what about that infrastructure investment, and reforming NHS funding? There would be perhaps £15 billion for this, but not until 2025. And of course if the Brexit dividend disappointed, it wouldn’t happen at all. Because, you see, tax breaks for the rich are so much more important.

I thought trickle-down economics had been consigned to the dust heap of history. But in these days of shamanism and sacrifice, discredited ideologies seem to be coming back to life. Voodoo is back in fashion.

Reinforcing the voodoo, here is the Appendix from Economists for Free Trade’s report:

Assumptions Used in the Liverpool Model to Reflect the Impact of Brexit with a Canada+ FTA

• We assume the gain in consumer living standards from leaving the EU customs union is 3.2 per cent due to the fall in tariff-equivalents (which we treat as a fall in the UK expenditure tax) and 0.8 per cent due to an improvement in the terms of trade (whereby the prices of UK imports from the EU fall, partially offset by a fall in the prices of UK exports to the EU, which are some 8 per cent of GDP smaller than the imports). 

• The net EU budget contribution, 0.6 per cent of GDP, plus the 0.2 per cent of GDP paid to EU unskilled immigrants is returned to UK consumers in the form of an income tax cut 

• The reduction of the regulative burden is modelled as a fall in the employer rate of national insurance by 2 per cent 

• There is no direct effect on the public sector borrowing requirement (PSBR) since none of these changes affect the net public revenues 

• The 0.8 per cent terms of trade gain plus the 0.6 per cent return of the net EU budget contribution are received as direct improvements of the current account

For me, the most obvious howler is the claimed 3.2% improvement in consumer living standards from the Canada+ deal. There is no way that tariff equivalents versus the EU could fall in this scenario; even Economists for Free Trade admit that there would at best be no change. And as I have explained above, it would take years or even decades for non-EU trade to deliver that sort of improvement. In short, it is fiction.

There is another problem, too. I have explained previously why the consumer living standards and terms of trade improvements envisaged here take insufficient account of exchange rate effects. In my view, Economists for Free Trade’s inadequate understanding of the interaction of trade tariffs with exchange rates and interest rates are a principal cause of the anomalous figures I discussed above.

And there are some more gems. Firstly, it is completely inconsistent to model the return of the EU budget as an income tax cut while claiming that it makes no difference to the PSBR. Income tax cuts are a policy choice. If the administration chose not to cut income tax in response to reduced government spending due to the repatriation of the EU budget contribution, the PSBR would fall. Similarly, it is inconsistent to model the return of the EU budget as a current account balance improvement while simultaneously modelling it as an income tax cut. An improvement in net financial income doesn’t necessarily mean lower taxes.

Secondly, the claim that there would be a fiscal saving from ending EU unskilled migration is decidedly questionable. The evidence is that migrants contribute more to the economy than they take from it, so if anything there would be a loss. But even if there were a saving, there is no guarantee that it would go into tax cuts. It might simply reduce the PSBR, or go into government spending.

Thirdly, modelling reduced regulatory burden for businesses as a 2% cut in employer NI clearly indicates that the regulation that Economists for Free Trade think should be dismantled is worker protections. That is not what the people of Britain voted for!

Finally, there is no guarantee that the current account would close as shown. FTAs generally tend to worsen trade imbalances – after all, this is why the US is busy renegotiating FTAs all over the world, including with Canada. The UK is a services-led economy, not a manufacturing powerhouse. My prediction would be that in all three scenarios, interest rates would be higher than Economists for Free Trade expect, sterling would be stronger, and the current account would remain in deficit.

I said I would take this piece apart, and I’m glad that I did. But I fear that my comments will fall on deaf ears. Those who want to believe this stuff will believe it, and nothing I or anyone else can say will change their minds. And too many of those who believe it are close to power. In the end, it is not being factual that matters, or professional, or even honest. It is being able to influence those in power. And it seems that power would rather listen to rogues and charlatans.

Related reading:

A Budget for Brexit – Economists for Free Trade
An Alternative Brexit Polemic
Tariffs, trade and money illusion
Patrick Minford’s holidays

Image at head of post is from Live News Malta. 

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Is Brazil About to Elect a Right-Wing Populist for President?

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Former army captain Jair Bolsonaro is the favorite to win Brazil’s runoff presidential election on October 27th. Given his disparaging comments based on race, gender and sexual identity in the past, his support for military involvement in law and order issues, and his sometimes flippant characterizations of liberal democracy, his likely triumph has triggered an international outcry.

To judge by some of the comments, there is a temptation, since Bolsonaro’s stunning first-round victory over left-wing candidate Fernando Haddad, a crony of former leftist President Lula da Silva (now jailed on corruption charges), to think some kind of cultural radicalism or religious obscurantism is making Brazilian voters prone to right-wing populism. This is to misunderstand the essence of illiberal populism.

Populism is usually a disease of democracy, a sentiment that grows within a democratic system but seeks to brush aside the rule of law by replacing it with a superior legitimacy that comes from the bond established between the savior and the masses. Very specific, traumatic circumstances drive voters to seek solutions they would otherwise not seek. It is not that Brazilians are particularly prone to right-wing populism. When Venezuelans first voted for Hugo Chávez in 1998, they didn’t vote for a left-wing populist because they were ontologically predisposed to it, but because an accumulation of grievances had modified the parameters of the reasonable.

Brazilians have lived, in recent years, through this horrendous sequence: a prosperity that took millions out of poverty and placed them temporarily in the middle class; a traumatic recession that revealed the previous prosperity was artificial, the child of government subsidies, cheap credit and economic dirigism engineered by the Workers’ Party’s left-wing populism; the collapse of public services and an angry street revolt; the revelation, thanks the anti-corruption effort by Brazilian prosecutors and judges known as “Operation Car Wash”, that the populist state and dozens of major corporations had participated for years in a vast exchange of bribes for government contracts; finally, the explosion of insecurity—31 homicides per 100 thousand inhabitants annually.

After Dilma Rousseff, Lula’s ally and successor, was impeached in 2016, and Michel Temer, from a centrist establishment organization that broke off with the Workers’ Party, took over, the new government pushed reforms to rein in spending, reduce the regulatory burden, increase trade, and attract foreign investment in the oil industry. But Temer himself is suspected of corruption and his popularity has been dismal, making his reforms even more difficult. The populist, statist legacy has prevented the economy from fully taking off.

Can anyone be surprised that Brazilians, who, like most human beings in extreme situations, are seeking a savior, are inclined towards the illiberal Bolsonaro?

Brazilians believe that a former reserve captain who offers arms to civilians to fight back against violent gang members and speaks like a sheriff will bring security; that a guy who is not afraid of offending minorities or letting off chauvinistic bravado will sort out the chaos that politicians and leftist activists have caused; that a champion of the family who hates the idea that public education installs tolerance towards all sexual options in young people, and has tuned in with evangelicals, will fight back against the demagoguery of the left and the naiveté of liberals; finally, that an anticommunist like him will not allow Brazil to become Venezuela (a large number of Venezuelans have fled their country and crossed the border into Brazil).

I will address on another occasion Bolsonaro’s actual policies if he becomes president—and Paulo Guedes, a Chicago-trained economist who has spoken of free-market reform, does become the powerful government minister many expect him to be. But first let’s understand why Brazilians are about to shock the world with President Bolsonaro.

* * *

Alvaro Vargas Llosa is a Senior Fellow at the Independent Institute. He is the author of Global Crossings: Immigration, Civilization, and America and Liberty for Latin America: How to Undo Five Hundred Years of State Oppression.

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Timber Subsidies Like “Crack for the Agricultural Community”

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The U.S. government’s Conservation Reserve subsidy program started with the best of intentions.

Responding to a short-term plunge in crop prices in the mid-1980s, the U.S. government offered distressed farmers a temporary subsidy payment if they would take some of their cropland out of production and plant trees instead. Farmers would benefit from the income from the subsidy and from higher crop prices from the reduced supply of crops they continued to grow. Then, after the planted trees matured, the farmers who also became foresters would be able to harvest the timber they had grown and would have a new source of income. Meanwhile, taking the cropland out of production in this way would benefit the environment by reducing erosion in ecologically sensitive areas.

It seems like a winning scenario. Unfortunately, the program became a boondoggle, where the farmers who went along with it are now facing a plunge in prices for their timber crop, echoing the very problem that launched them onto their subsidy-dependent path. The Wall Street Journal reports:

One of the architects of a federal program that pays farmers to plant cropland with trees or grasses says the decades-old subsidy is his “biggest professional regret,” partly for the way it has distorted markets for Southern timber.

Trees planted in the late 1980s and early 1990s with help from the program are now ready to harvest and flooding the market, adding to a glut and depressing prices for Southern yellow pine….

“What was meant to be only a temporary reset turned into a boondoggle,” said Mr. Gunn, who went on to be a state legislator in Mississippi and is now a real-estate investor. “Like everything else in government that starts out with honorable intent, the CRP gained entrenched political support; then turned into a crony capitalist welfare system for well-heeled farmers.”…

“I should have added to the legislation a sunset provision that caused the program to expire,” he said. “It turned into crack for the agricultural community.”

This outcome is not a surprise. Economists have long recognized the negative economic distortions that come from government-provided socialist subsidies to producers, which arise whenever a centralized group of planners substitute their “expert” judgment for that of the free market’s millions of participants.

Here, Gunn’s regret in creating the program is misfounded in that he assumes the “well-heeled” farmers who became its main beneficiaries would not have used their political influence over politicians seeking office to make the program permanent, even if he had put a sunset provision into the subsidy law.

Gunn’s real error lies in having opened the U.S. government’s Pandora’s box of subsidies to try to fix what he believed was a temporary problem in the first place. Over thirty years later, we find that the original problem meant to be solved by the federal subsidy program hasn’t been fixed so much as transformed from affecting food crops to timber crops.

Does anyone want to take odds on how the government will seek to fix the problem today?

***

Craig Eyermann is a Research Fellow at the Independent Institute and the creator of the Government Cost Calculator at MyGovCost.org.

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Emotional Marketing: Scientifically Proven Ways to Increase Sales and Reduce Churn

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What does emotion have to do with creating loyal, enthusiastic customers?

Everything.

If you want to turn casual customers into more powerful brand ambassadors, you need to give them a compelling, emotional reason to invest in your brand.

When you leverage emotional marketing to connect with customers, you reach those customers on a meaningful level. That crucial emotional connection stays in a customer’s mind long after the purchase has been made.

There are six important types of emotional appeals:

  • Self-esteem
  • Authority/Experts
  • Happy
  • Sad
  • Fear
  • Anger and Disgust

Let’s look at what makes emotional marketing so powerful and how you can use emotional marketing to connect with more prospective customers, create more loyal customers, and increase sales.

What is Emotional Marketing?

Emotional marketing refers to marketing and advertising that primarily uses emotional appeals to make your customers and prospective customers notice, remember, share, and buy your company’s products or services.

For example, there’s an intricate psychology involved in designing memorable, unique custom business logos. Similarly, emotions play a crucial role in product packaging design.

Even the name of your business plays an important role in creating emotional reactions in your customers and prospective customers.

There are many different emotions but eight primary ones: anger, fear, sadness, disgust, surprise, anticipation, trust, and joy.

Robert Plutchik psychoevolutionary theory of emotion illustrates different emotions through a “wheel of emotions”.

Does emotional marketing  influence what we buy?

Studies show that powerful memories come from intense emotional experiences.

Marketing efforts that tap into those memories access intense emotions. Those emotions are often responsible for that pricey purchase made on a whim.

The emotional content in advertising is far more influential than its informative content. David Frenay, Co-Founder at Emolytics, writes:

Thanks to many millennia of evolution at work, our emotional responses are so intuitive and deeply ingrained into our brains that we instinctively “react” before thinking or rationalizing a decision. We often don’t recognize how irrational many of our decisions are. And if asked, many people will insist that they favor logic over emotion.

The Institute of Practitioners in Advertising (IPA) looked at 1,400 case studies from the past three decades to explore what types of advertising campaigns were the most effective.

IPA compared the effectiveness of persuasive advertising that focused on making an emotional appeal and advertisements that focused on information and logic-based arguments.

The marketing with emotional content was twice as successful as the marketing using the informative content.

Image credit – NeuroScienceMarketing.

Why is emotion more persuasive than information?

Our brains are great at processing emotions. Brains understand and interpret emotions quickly, and the memory of those emotions persists for a long time.

As for facts… I challenge you to remember the capital of each of the United States.

Compelling, emotional stories can work well across cultures and languages.

For example,  “Giving” is a 3 minute commercial for Thailand mobile phone service provider True Move. The story begins with a young boy caught stealing medicine for his sick mother. A nearby small restaurant owner helps the boy by buying the medicine and also gives the boy soup to take home to his mom.

Watch the video to see the story unfold – it’s a powerful and emotional message conveyed in very simple, short video. Your tears won’t be from cutting onions.

What are the different types of emotional appeals?

Which emotions should your business use to boost the power of a marketing message?

You have a range of emotions to consider, but they can easily be broken down into two categories: positive, feel-good emotions, and negative emotions like fear and anger.

You might think that positive emotions are a better choice, but that is not always the case.

Positive and negative emotional appeals can be equally persuasive.

Think about your business and which of the following emotional appeals would work best for your brand’s identity.

Lane Bryant’s advertising uses self-esteem messaging throughout to help speak directly to its target audience, plus-sized women. Image courtesy of Lane Bryant

Self-esteem

Appeals to self-esteem target the customer’s desire to feel good about themselves.

Plus-size clothing chain Lane Bryant tapped into this with their “I’m No Angel” and “This Body” campaigns.

Adweek reported the ads resonated with women on social media:

“The Lane Bryant #IMNOANGEL initiative celebrates women of all shapes and sizes by redefining society’s traditional notion of sexy with a powerful core message: ALL women are sexy,” the brand says.

It’s a direct dig at Victoria’s Secret, and social media is loving it. Women have jumped on the trending hashtag, posting their own photos and declarations with #ImNoAngel.

Creating these feel-good emotions increase your customer’s positive impression of your product. Using an emotional marketing message feels more genuine.

Focus on messages that feel personal to your audience, and tap into a message that resonates with them in a positive way.

Authority / Experts

Credibility and unbiased opinion can have massive sway over consumer opinion. Nielsen research shows:

  • 85 percent of consumers regularly or occasionally seek out trusted expert content when considering a purchase.
  • 69 percent of consumers read product reviews written by trusted experts before making a purchase.
  • 67 percent of consumers agree that an endorsement from an expert makes them more likely to make a purchase.

Hearing from an expert on a subject makes a claim more believable and carries more weight with consumers.

Trident gum’s “4 out of 5 dentists” campaign began in the 80s, initially appealing to customers using an expert opinion. Trident revived this campaign in recent years to excellent effect and introduced a new spin on “expert” marketing. They launched a series of irreverent ads that examined “the 5th dentist” and capitalized on authoritative opinion with an entertaining spin.

Find an expert with enough name recognition that their words carry weight, or create your own expert using a tongue-in-cheek approach.

Apple’s marketing often centers around positive, good feelings, and this classic campaign for Apple’s iPod is a great example of that in action. Image courtesy of Apple.

Happy 

Campaigns that conjure up good feelings, joy, and happiness are powerful ways to connect with consumers.

A study by the New York Times examined their most shared articles. Articles that created a happy reader response were shared more often than those that prompted negative feelings.

Apple uses this power of happy emotion in their recent marketing campaigns.

Apple’s move toward a joyful marketing approach is evident in their “Practically Magic” ads. They use color, magic, and joy to emphasize what their products will make consumers feel.

We agree – those red balloons make us pretty happy.

That happiness makes us eager to spread our joy.

Enthusiasm is contagious.

That’s one reason why positive business taglines, for example, create stronger brand identities, compared to negative taglines.

Try to incorporate positive language into your marketing: fun, success, achievement, joy… This will give consumers a positive and pleasurable association with your brand.

And then, they’ll share the love.

Sad

Marketing that makes people feel sad is powerful.

None of us will ever forget that ASPCA commercial featuring Sarah McLachlan.

Devastating images of dogs and cats paired with McLachlan’s tearjerker “Angel” will never be forgotten by heartbroken viewers everywhere.

You might wonder why any company would intentionally break the hearts of their audience.

The New York Times reported the ad was the ASPCA’s most successful fundraising effort. They raised approximately $30 million from the campaign.

In marketing, creating sadness can persuade people to act.

Show consumers a problem and demonstrate how sad and difficult it is.

Then provide them with the solution, and move them from sadness to empowerment.

Fear 

Fear is a primal emotion that marketers use to motivate a change.

Fear appeals are impactful, but they need to be used carefully. Appeals that are too intense or harshly presented can sometimes backfire.

One reason for this is that people tend to avoid unpleasant or upsetting imagery.

But fear is motivating because we are biologically programmed to run from scary situations.

Our bodies and minds compel us to act when we are faced with fear-inducing things.

In marketing, you can illustrate a vivid threat – like lung cancer to smokers – and then offer viewers the way to escape it.

Always’ Like A Girl campaign. Image courtesy of Always.

Anger and Disgust

Anger and disgust are negative emotions, but they can still provoke a positive reaction if used properly in a campaign.

Always’ “Like a Girl” campaign took a demeaning, anger-inducing phrase and transformed it into a positive and memorable experience.

Many companies will also use anger, but they will put aim that anger toward their competitors.

When Dollar Shave Club illustrated the frustration of buying commercial brand razors, they tapped into a common problem. Then they offered their solution.

Using anger toward your competitors is a great strategy to encourage your customers to try out your brand instead.

Wrapping up

Every business should understand how to connect emotions to their brand, and which emotions can best support what their brand offers.

A well thought out, emotional appeal to your customers is an extremely effective marketing strategy that connects you with customers in a meaningful, lasting way.

 

The post Emotional Marketing: Scientifically Proven Ways to Increase Sales and Reduce Churn appeared first on bitcoin binary options.

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A Startup Business’ Guide To Accounting

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Starting a new small business is no easy feat. It takes more than just capital and time to get your startup ready for some action. As the business owner, you are hounded by everyday tasks that only you can perform. However, unless you’re a licensed accountant, accounting tasks are most likely out of your expertise.

If you are like most business owners out there and you shudder at the thought of doing those mind-boggling tasks, then hiring an accountant — at the very least a bookkeeper— is your best option.

Accounting can be complex, but having a professional on board can help ease the load off your shoulders. Below is a quick guide to accounting for your startup business.

1. Hire someone with experience.

A startup business needs some extra care considering that it’s still new and is yet to make a noise in the industry. Taking that into account, you will have to take further steps in protecting your assets and making sure that your business is truly ready for growth.

When outsourcing services for your startup, it is imperative to look for someone that has enough experience on his field. The reason for this is because you will have to rely on that person to take the lead on certain business areas — accounting, for example — that is beyond your field of expertise. Look for an experienced accountant that has a good track record in working with startups. Having a competent professional on your side that will handle all your finances is a good morale booster for your startup. An accountant with an excellent portfolio can give you valuable advice and suggestions on where you should cut down the budget and where you can afford to spend more.

2. Leave the finances to professionals.

Hiring an accountant to work for you means you will have to leave them to their jobs without you getting in their way. In other words, trust in your hiring skills and their capabilities to leave the accounting tasks to them, especially if you are not an accounting expert by no means. You already have a lot on your plate as the business owner; you don’t need something “out of your realm,” such as bookkeeping, to add to that pileup.

If you only need a part-time bookkeeper to keep your finances in check, the same rule still applies — leave it to the professional. After all, the reasons you hire them in the first place is to lessen your workload. It just defeats the purpose if you keep on trying to lead the wheel.

3. Organize all things finance related.

The least you can do in the accounting part of your startup is to maintain an organized filing system for all your accounts, documents, tools, and everything associated with your money. Your accountant will need to have complete access to these things, so it is essential to spend some time organizing them. You may introduce your company’s new accountant to your employees and encourage them to ask accounting-related questions if they have any, such as their payroll or taxes.

4. Look for a software that you can easily work with.

You may be happy with a simple spreadsheet for taking notes of your daily business transactions, but your new accountant may want to use a software. If your existing software is efficient enough for your company’s accounting needs, you have to look for one that your accountant can easily work with. A system that allows you to input some notes for your accountant is also a great one. This will keep them updated with whatever changes and suggestions you want to incorporate.

5. Make payroll taxes one of your priorities.

Nowadays, it’s common for businesses to get penalized for violating rules regarding payroll taxes. While paying the right amount of taxes on time is imperative for business owners, many still fail or neglect this important responsibility. When it comes to payroll taxes, you will have to ensure that your accounting software is linked to the payroll. This way, you will be informed of any additional charges in your tax, which you may pay in advance.

6. Do not mix business with pleasure.

One of the most common mistakes many startup business owners make is mixing their work accounts with their personal accounts. They usually have the mindset that all the money is generated from one place anyway so it doesn’t matter which account they will use to pay off expenses and other costs. Grave mistake! Create two separate accounts for business and personal uses, and your accountant will ensure that you get your fair share once tax collection season comes.

Final Thoughts.

Accounting for startup businesses is a delicate matter that should only be handled by professional accountants and bookkeepers, such as those from Balancing Books Bookkeeping. They will ensure that all your accounting and bookkeeping needs are met with quality and accuracy in mind. As a business owner, it is important to remember that you cannot do all things on your own no matter how much you want to. The sooner you realize this, the better it is for your startup business.

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Helpful Tips For Workaholics – How To Focus On Your Health And Maintain Work-Life Balance

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The word workaholic has a positive connotation; someone who is dedicated and always wants to be the best at their work. But the situation can make you go either way. You can be a workaholic who gives priority to only work, without giving importance to other aspects of life. Or, you can be a workaholic who always strives to maintain a work-life balance.

It is very easy to say that you prefer to fall into the second category. But this is not always easy. The trick lies in evaluating what separates these two conditions and implements actions to live a balanced work-life.

Choosing a doctor can be difficult who can guide you with the lifestyle decisions in maintaining a work-life balance. There are various strategies that can help you find a doctor.

Workaholics should not be confused with people who work hard. There are workaholics who do not work for long hours and not everybody who works for long hours is workaholics.

Various researches have been conducted proving that there is a difference between the two groups. Workaholics who were not fully committed to their jobs showed signs of poor health. While, on the other hand, workaholics who were dedicated to their work, live a happier and healthier life.

The engaged workaholics always find pleasure in their work, while others who just work for long hours their health was found to be at risk. Employees who worked for more than 40 hours in a week and were not haunted about work have reported lesser health issues than workaholics. These workaholics were more prone to health risks, have sleep problems and were even emotionally exhausted.

Workaholics very easily feel detached to their work. The ongoing rumination causes stress, anxiety and blocks the recovery from work. The level of stress faced by workaholics are chronic that leads to wear and tear of the body. Achieving a true work-life balance is not so easy, especially for workaholics. But if you work with dedication, then you would be able to maintain all aspects of your life.

In order to live a happy life, it is very important to give yourself a break from the daily grind both inside the workplace and out. Listed below are some of the essential tips that workaholics should follow to maintain the work-life balance relationship.

Eat a nutritious diet.

The food choices made by us affects our mindset a lot. Try inculcating the habit of eating healthy food that helps in improving your brain health and productivity. Eat healthy snacks, sugar substitutes and salads in every meal. By practicing this habit you can accomplish your tasks within 9 hours.

Exercise.

Exercise in a way that it should make you feels productive and rejuvenated. Doing strength training and stretching are ideal to improve your focus and the stamina to go through the day. Activities like running and cycling also improve your cardiovascular fitness and help in improving your overall health. You can also practice meditation daily that will help you in reducing your stress and anxiety.

Plan a vacation.

Taking a vacation for some days helps you recharge both physically and emotionally. You can go for mini-vacation or a staycation to see some of your favorite attractions. Schedule it on your calendar and plan it ahead. If not vacation, then take a day off and relax.

Indulge in an activity.

Do not leave a blank space in your mind, as then the obsessive thoughts can force you to think something negative. To avoid such situation, you can go and meet friends or go for a family outing. Engage in your favorite hobby or read a book will give you an opportunity to recover.

Give more time to yourself.

If you want to engage with the work in a productive way, overcoming with the obsession will take some time. Start leaving the office on time in order to focus on your personal life. Sleep sufficiently to let your body recover; avoid eating junk and exercise regularly.

Unplug more often.

With the increasing use of laptops and tablets, it gets difficult for you to dissociate from the office. This is where digital detox is of great help! Shut off your smartphone and try spending the weekend without looking at the screen. This way you can spend actually relax and get the chance to explore some of your passions that can help you in maintaining work-life balance.

Be a smart worker.

Give yourself a timeline for each day and week and try to stick to it. This habit can eventually make you productive. By this practice, you can become more productive while working when you see your work getting done faster.

Increase the joy factor.

If you have been doing what you love, you will not waste time. Do not choose any an activity by thinking whether it will go on your personality or not, rather choose it by seeing how it will make you feel. If an activity does not make you feel, then you should try something unique.

Just like in every case moderation is important when it comes to work. Learn to work smarter and live a happier life. There is no harm in being workaholic. But it is also important to spend some time away from your work, with your family and friends. Therefore, you should prioritize your tasks and leave work at the workplace only.

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Discover Some SEO Techniques That Do Not Help Your Company

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Search engine optimization is one of those aspects of running a company that can be very tricky. However, it is also one of those aspects that if you want your website to rank highly in the search engines you need to do.

Since this is the case, you should know some of the techniques that will not help your company and can actually hurt your company’s website overall. Check out Scott Keever SEO and see that he is running the techniques that will help your company and not cause any issues for your business at all.

Article Marketing.

Article marketing is a method that used to work like a dream for a lot of people. They would be able to go to an article website and publish their articles and have people pick up the articles and send them hundreds of links. However, a problem started to grow out of this method and it was one that actually cost a lot of people their websites and in some cases the business the websites were able to bring in for them as the article marketing publishing websites started to stuff the sites with low quality content, because they ranked higher in the search engines and the links carried more juice.

Well, when people started doing this it led to a lot of the article databases being deindexed by the search engines and along with this the articles lost a lot of the link juice they were sending. This, in turn, led to quite a few of the websites starting to fall. Now, this does not mean this method is done, but if you are using the article databases and publishing sites then you will find that you are just setting yourself and your companies website up for failure as this method is not nearly as effective and often can be seen as a way to get your website penalized.

Over Optimization Of Keywords.

The over optimization method can also be called keyword stuffing is a method that used to work when the search engines were first starting out and did not really take into account how people could take advantage of the systems they were based off of. The keyword stuffing method would be the one that would see people taking the keywords they were going to be using and just put them in almost every other word it would seem like.

When this was being done it would lead to the content ranking higher than what people would expect, but it would also lead to the content being unreadable. With the content not really answering the questions that people had they tended to leave the search engine in hopes of finding the answer. Which is when the search engines started to crack down on the keyword stuffing method and looked for more balanced and LSI type of content to help rank it higher and determine if the content would be worth ranking or not.

Improper Building Of Links With Anchor Text.

When you look at some of the older methods of building links back, people would use the article directories or they would even use the different keyword stuffing and link only using the keywords. While this would work before, it does not work anymore. In fact, most of the time the links that are being built with the anchor text will be just the basic URL of the link, but also some of the LSI keywords or a very basic click here.

If you are using the keyword all the time the search engines are going to look at this as you are trying to optimize for that keyword only and this means you are going to have some problems in ranking for these keywords because it will fall back to the over optimization factors that were talked about before. So people need to be mindful of this when they are getting links built for the website. Something else that people need to consider is making the links look very natural compared to what they were looking at before.

Buying Links From Link Resale Companies.

Buying links may seem like it would be a great idea and if bought from the right company it can be a sound strategy. The downside is it will cost a fortune to buy the links from the people who are getting the links from reputable sites that will actually help you out. So you will find that you will want to check out the link companies you are buying from rather carefully.

Now, the downside is most of the time buying links is something that is highly frowned upon and can easily lead to the website starting to fall in the rankings. So you will want to make sure you look carefully at the way the website is going to be getting the links. A lot of the links you are going to get will only be contextual type of links and this type of link can help you out, but it can also hurt you as well because most of the time the links are added onto a website with a high page authority at the time, but the links are going to come off of the site and it will literally be hit with hundreds if not thousands of links that are going to be linking out to a ton of different websites.

Being able to find out what kind of SEO you should not be doing for your company is a good thing. However, a lot of people will find it can be difficult for them to find the right way to do their business SEO. By knowing more about what does not work, though, it will be very easy for a company to find the best way to perform their SEO and know they are going to be able to get the right rankings in the search engines and know they are going to be able to get the traffic and sales they need to have.

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