How To Tune a Porsche

This week some researchers from Microsoft published a paper about a project called JSMeter they have created for measuring JavaScript performance.  In the paper, researchers Ben Livshits and Ben Zorn want to examine the effectiveness of current Javascript benchmarks and how accurately they reflect “real world applications”.  This is a great topic, commonly debated, and one which we know we should do better at.

I like their intentions and their idea, except for one fundamental flaw.

To understand, let’s compare their research to how a mechanic might benchmark the performance of two cars.

In this case, we’ve got a Chevy Passenger Van and a Porsche 911.1 To measure the performance of the cars fairly, we take them to the track.  We recognize that the track is not indicative of real world driving, but it does give us a place to compare each car under the same conditions.

Normally, you’d probably want to drive both cars around the track, right?  Sure.  But these researchers decided to only drive the Van around the track.   Despite the obvious fact that the performance characteristics of the Van have little bearing on the performance characteristics of the Porsche, they then used the performance of the Van to make claims about how Porsche should be tuned and the track should be improved to be more like real driving conditions.  This claim is absurd.

In their last test, the researchers decided to drive both the Porsche and the Van around the track.  But in this test, they elected to have an elephant sit on top each car as it went around the track.  Rather than observing that the Porsche carrying an elephant is still faster than a Van carrying an elephant, they document the fact that the Porsche with an elephant is 2x slower than the Porsche without an elephant, while a Van with an elephant is only 30% slower than a Van without an elephant.

Wow.  Read the report for yourself, this is exactly what they did.

Now, don’t get me wrong – I’m not defending the existing benchmarks in any way.  We definitely need more and better benchmarks.  And their research, when done properly, will likely prove their hypothesis – that the existing benchmarks don’t accurately reflect real world websites.  (I thought we already knew that?) 

1. IE8’s JS engine has been well documented to be orders of magnitude slower than any other JS engine on every single test, so I believe the Passenger Van is a reasonable comparison; if there is a flaw, it is that the Van is too fast for this analogy (it’s not 10x slower than a Porsche), and I should have used a moped.

Note:  These views are mine alone and do not reflect those of my employer.

Who Wins With Prop 13?

This article about effects of Prop 13 has been getting sent around.  It’s worth reading and highlights a case which most people think is unfair.  I agree, Prop 13 is completely unfair.  But would I change it?  Absolutely not!

The premise underlying the article is that somehow California has a top-line problem – not enough revenues.  But California is the single largest taxing state – generating $98B annually from taxes for a mere 37million inhabitants.  On a per-capita basis, California isn’t the most taxing (ranking #10), but our large size should offer economies of scale for infrastructure, right.  Unfortunately, California is so mismanaged that it offers no such efficiencies.

So I’m thankful for Prop 13.  We need more laws which prevent the state from taking money it doesn’t need.   The crisis in California is not caused by failure to tax enough.  Forbes ranks California as the most taxing state second only to Hawaii (is it a surprise that it costs more to live in a tiny, tropical state hundreds of miles off the coast from any other state?).  But while Hawaii gets the "highest bracket” award, that only kicks in when you make $200K/yr.  California taxes any earner making more than $47K at 9.55%.  If we ranked states on highest income tax for those making $50K/yr, California is far-and-away #1.

And I haven’t even mentioned California’s business-unfriendly tax rates.  Just trying to start a business in California costs thousands of dollars.  Why?  Don’t we want more business and jobs here?  It’s insane.

Bottom line:  Fix the California spending problem, not the California income problem.  Cut all spending, across the board, by 60%.  Would anything bad really happen?  I don’t think so.