Driving home from a deposition on Tuesday evening I was listening to NPR.1 They had a piece about how food banks in California are struggling.  Donations across the board are down.  Corporations that used to donate are reducing or even eliminating their donations.  People who once donated to food banks are now showing up asking for food.

Tuesday night I made a decision to help my local food bank.

  • I have donated all of the income from this website, retroactive to November 1, 2008 to my local food bank.  I will be sending out an e-mail to all current paid subscribers thanking them for their support of this website and, by extension, our food banks.

I also decided to make a further commitment.

  • I will continue to work on this site to bring you the absolute best workers’ compensation calculators for free.  And, I will continue to donate every single cent from this website to this food bank through the end of this year.
  • If you buy a monthly subscription, I will donate your subscription to this food bank through the end of the year.  If you buy a yearly subscription between now and the end of the year, I’ll donate the whole thing to them.  I do not believe this would be tax deductible for you, so I’ve thought of another option.
  • If you make a donate of any amount to your local food bank, just send me a copy of the receipt and I will give you an equivalent amount of subscription access to this website. 2

If you use this website chances are you’re a professional who can spare enough to make a donation.  I’m no good at impassioned pleas or eloquent words.  Please make a donation and help out some hungry folks.  If you want to sign up for access for this website, please e-mail me or try to make an online payment through your profile on this website.

Thank you.

  1. I’m an NPR junkie, remember? []
  2. E-mail, fax, mail – whatever works for you. []

Going Viral
Going Viral

“Going viral” is the latest marketing buzzword to make it into the public consciousness.  This phrase refers to a process where something is promoted mainly by word of mouth.  The “viral” part of the phrase means to imply that popularity will spread exponentially, like a virus.1

The most memorable examples of “viral marketing” in recent years is probably the “Blair Witch Project.”  This super-low budget movie was popularized largely through word of mouth, making the highest profit-to-cost ratio movies of all time.2

What does this have to do with you or PDRater.com?

Scott Adams, the creator and author of the wildly popular Dilbert comic, recently published a blog post about what he referred to as, “digital tipping.”  He puts up a blog post every day3 but makes little to no money off of it.  Recently he partnered with a company which provides a free service4 in the hopes, or so I believe, that people will use the free service and upgrade to the pay service providing him, in turn, with a financial reward.

Scott Adams made an interesting point about how his blogging has affected his core business – publishing comic strips.5 He discovered that his sometimes controversial blog posts sometimes turned people off from his comic strip – thereby losing a portion of his fan base forever.  On the flip side, although his blog is fairly popular his blog rarely improves his comic strip fan base.

A simple cost benefit analysis would suggest that the observed risk is not worth the potential incremental benefit – especially in light of the ongoing time commitment required to publish blog posts.  I suspect that my own blog posts have a similar risk-reward scenario.

Assuming that I’m acting rationally in blogging, why do I continue to do so in light of an unfavorable bost benefit analysis?  Firstly, I rather enjoy writing.  Secondly, its my understanding that search engines rank frequently updated websites slightly higher.  Thirdly, it is my hope that popularity, knowledge, and use of this website will “go viral.”

Much like Scott Adam’s concept of “digital tipping,” I hope people will help me at no cost to themselves by telling their friends about this website, how useful it is for them, and how this website saves them time.  So, if you enjoy or appreciate this website, why not tell a friend?

  1. Photo courtesy of AJC1 []
  2. Incidentally, unseating Mad Max which held the title for twenty years. []
  3. Its not easy!  I missed two days last week! []
  4. Which can be upgraded to a pay service. []
  5. I wish I could find that link! []


Last week a website user notified me of a problem he was experiencing with this website’s rating calculators.  He’s been a regular user for nearly a year now.  When he tried to perform a calculation the calculators would just show waiting indicators without showing the answer.  If he closed the browser window and reopened it, it would sometimes fix the problem.  To complicate matters, his coworker was having a similar problem.

Worst of all, this problem had been plaguing them for two weeks.  If you have a problem with this website, let me know as soon as possible so that I can track down the last change to the site to see if its causing a problem.

My troubleshooting went like this:

  1. Get a detailed description of the symptoms.
  2. Try to replicate the problem.
  3. Reiterate the problem to make sure I’ve got it right.
  4. While working to diagnose and fix the problem, offer a temporary fix (putting up a temporary site for their use).
  5. Look into recent changes in the website (going back two weeks).
  6. Since I couldn’t replicate the problem, ask additional questions.
    • Does the problem occur at a particular time of the day?1
    • What web browser and version do they use?2
    • What operating system?  When was the last update?3
      • Explain how to figure out their version of Windows and how to install update.
    • Do they have any third-party “toolbars” installed?  Yahoo, Google, MSN, etc toolbars.4
      • Ask them to temporarily disable or uninstall the toolbar.  Give them links to where they can re-download the toolbar software.
    • Do they single-click or double-click on buttons?5
    • Are other co-workers having the same problem?6
    • Do they have this same problem on different computers?7
    • Is the browser showing javascript errors?8
    • Ask them to try out a new browser. I recommended the PortableApps.com version of FireFox.
      • If the problem disappears, its obviously in their computer or network.  If the problem persists, it could still possibly be their network or the website.
  7. Above all else: KEEP THE CLIENT INFORMED.9

As of right now, one of this client’s co-workers has contacted me to say that he’s no longer having trouble with the website.

So, problem solved?  If not, let me know, alrighty?

  1. This would indicate a data bottleneck at the server.  Time to upgrade! []
  2. And, tell them how to find this information. []
  3. Have I mentioned how much I loathe Microsoft VistaSeriously, I think people should delete Microsoft Vista because its crap. []
  4. These browser helper objects are notorious for interfering with normal browser operations.  Worse, you can’t rule them out based upon when they were installed because they’re constantly downloading and installing updates to themselves. []
  5. Double clicks send two requests to the server – and might be confusing the browser. []
  6. Two computers on a single network could be a coincidence, a sign of a problem with the website, or a sign of a problem with the client’s network. []
  7. If not, its a problem with that computer.  If so, could still be a problem with either the website or their computers/network. []
  8. Tell them how to tell if there’s an error and how to give you the error code information. []
  9. They may not care for the constant updates, but they will know you’re on the case. []

Calculator Performance Issue: It has come to my attention that some users are having problems with the “Body Part” code finder.  This problem apparently occurs when you click on the “Body Part” button and just see a spinning blue “waiting” disc instead of a list of body parts.

Temporary Fix: Even though the Body Part code search function does not work for some users, the rating functions still appears to work just fine.  If you know the Body Part code, you should be able to enter it manually in the box provided.  If you are performing a 2005 schedule rating, please use the full 8 digit body part code.

Permanent Solution: I am working on a fix for this problem and will update this website as soon as I am able.  I cannot be sure, but I suspect that the problem is being caused, in part, by the recent increase in the popularity of this website.1

To all paid-subscription users:

I value your business and appreciate your patience.  If this problem persists, I will create a second website exclusively for your use.

In the meantime, if you’re having problems with the calculators, however small, please e-mail through the Contact Us link at the top.  The more information I have about the problem, the better able I will be to diagnose and fix it.

Thank you again for your patience.


Jay Shergill

  1. Yay, popularity!  Boo, problems! []

Imaginary Security
Imaginary Security

What’s worse:

Having no security or having the illusion of security?12 Before you answer, you might want to read this article about how TSA security at airports is just plain ridiculous.

Keep in mind that by definition, the only difference between no security and illusory security is your ignorance – not someone else’s.

That said, having the illusion of security is worse.

No Security

If you have no security, you could at least take steps to improve security.  Let’s restate the question to highlight the distinction:

Would you rather have no burglar alarm or have a burglar alarm that never works and tells you it does?

Although not having a burglar alarm won’t prevent you from making foolish decisions3, at least you’ll have the opportunity to know you’re making a foolish decision.  Without a burglar alarm your decisions might be wise or foolish – but only accidentally so.

Illusory Security

Some would argue that the illusion of security provides a deterrence effect.  The only people who believe in the illusion of security is better are those who have something to gain by selling illusory security.4

  • First, deterrence is not a benefit of actual security.  Actual security depends upon the ability to actually stop something from occurring.  Deterrence is, at best, only a side-effect of actual security.  To the extent that actual security relies upon deterrence, its really just illusory security.  When good security is employed deterrence is either irrelevant or unnecessary.  Case in point:  If I have a good guard dog outside my house, I could care less what he looks like.
  • Second, as the above article suggests only stupid or careless criminals are deterred by illusory security.  Even the stupidest criminal knows that some people have actual security and other have only the illusion of security.  Don’t forget, if a criminal doesn’t care about whether you have actual or illusory security, then there is no deterrent effect.  If that same criminal cares whether you have illusory or actual security, then they’ll do the minimum to determine whether you have security.  If this hypothetical criminal instead who doesn’t know or care about illusory or actual security is stupid and will try out security measures.
  • Third, deterrent effects do not require illusory security.  Case in point:  If you know you don’t have a burglar alarm, there’s nothing preventing you from buying signs that say you do.  If deterrence is truly a worthy goal, then why not just opt for no security and specificallly develop the illusion of security.

Stupid Security

Why am I blathering on about security today?  I had an appearance at the Oakland WCAB on Monday afternoon.  As per the instructions of the security guard, I removed all metal from my person and placed it all in the plastic bin provided.  As I was about to walk through the metal detector, she pointed to my shirt pocket and asked what was in it.

Jay:  “Paper – see?”  I showed the parking lot ticket and a receipt from lunch.

Security Guard:  “Put that in too.”

Jay (giving a puzzled look):  “Why?  There’s nothing metal in it.  Its just paper.”

Security Guard:  “Just in case.”

I swear her response was, “Just in case.”  At this point I gave up.  There is little point in arguing with truly profound ignorance.

Just in case of what, exactly?

Just in case paper turns into metal?  Just in case I was hiding something in the paper I just showed her?  Isn’t that what metal detectors are supposed to find anyhow?

  1. Original photo courtesy of Daquella manera []
  2. “i” stands for an imaginary number.  :) []
  3. Such as going on vacation with the front curtains wide open showing off your 60″ plasma screen. []
  4. Call this a reductionist statement and ad hominem attack all you want.  But, you better back that up with an actual reason why illusory security is better than no security.  If you’ve got one, I’d like to see it. []