Monday, June 15, 2009

UC Berkeley's Dara O'Rourke's New Green GoodGuide Firm

Today the NY Times has an interesting piece on Prof O'Rourke's "Moonlighting" as the boss of GoodGuide. He has a fledgling 24 person firm that provides information on how "green" is a product when you use your cellphone to provide data based on its bar code. Read this article .

Two questions. If I was the Dean of Prof O'Rourke's division, I might want to know how many hours a week he spends on this activity and whether this crowds out any research or teaching time? Now, if I was O'Rourke --- I would use the information my website collects to write a paper about "green concerns". He would face a selection issue concerning the fact that a non-random sample of people go to his site.

I would also like to know whether everyone agrees with his index weights? "For instance, Toms of Maine deodorant gets an 8.6 (score)". O'Rourke uses information on both the known carcinogens in the product (but does he know exactly what is the magic formula of how much is used or is this a checklist) and "whether the company has women and racial minorities in executive positions or faces labor lawsuits." A Dick Cheney might care about not getting cancer but he may also not care about this diversity box. As in all "green" work, the key issue is whether the consumer has the same preferences (i.e index weights) at the ranker. A dick Cheney would put a weight of "0" on the diversity criteria.