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Archive for April, 2008

On any given day in the US in 2008 an average of about 148,000 people will die. Yawn. As the population swells it will grow larger. Yawn. As the population struggles with food, water, disease, contamination and war, those numbers will fluctuate higher and higher. Yawn. For many of us the numbers are so staggering that they don’t matter: 1+ million dead this week. Hummmm

 

There are the wars. Yawn. The US Government stopped totaling the body count on each side toward the end of the Vietnam War. Bad press for politicians, I guess. For Afghanistan and Iraq – and wars to come – Iran, North Korea, etc., that policy is continued. Good thing too. It continues to get harder to tell who the ‘other side’ is.

 

There is the US auto accident problem (3500/mo). Yawn. The US smoking problem: (42000/mo). Yawn. The US cardiovascular disease problem: (120,000/mo). Yawn.

 

But wait! There is an unsafe rollercoaster in Orlando! An alligator eats a cocker spaniel near a receding swamp in Mississippi and, heavens forbid, say it isn’t so!…an asteroid will hit Earth in the next 24.4 thousand years! YIKES!

 

Did you hear that airplanes are not being inspected? Bridges are unsafe. Baby bottles are contaminated by the plastic being used and don’t even mention the Chinese-made ingredients in heparin, toys, air conditioning parts and auto break pads.

 

The examples above represent that paradox according to the statistical probabilities that have been kept for the last 52 years. Clearly many of the things that will kill us we don’t value as dangerous. Other things we fear have a miniscule chance of harming us.

 

You are 109 X more likely to be injured in a car wreck on the way to the airport than to be injured in the airplane if you don’t get bumped.

A few things lead to this distorted view of what we value as good and what isn’t good that we fear.

 

Fear is conditioned just like eating habits are conditioned. Fear is based on losing what we value. Fear is the ‘other’ half of ‘magical thinking’ that comes from not knowing how to evaluate relationships between what is real and what is not real.

 

There is a hierarchy to fear. Not everyone’s hierarchy is the same but a hierarchy exists both for what we value and what we fear. They are related.

 

Our set of fears reflects our values; we engage or focus on what we value. We value what we were trained to value in our home, country, school, street corner or office. We value children… Children trump adults, having resources trumps resource dependency, helplessness trumps risky business and things close to home trump an Austrian engineer’s bazaar behavior. Circumstances around losing those things that we have learned or been trained to value is part of [conditioned] fear.

 

As big as the numbers are above they represent someone else’s world. They are nothing new; they lack ‘spectacle’. That is also conditioned. You can hardly be focused on car accidents if that is the only way to get to a job that makes you the money that affords you the luxuries of life, family, etc. In time, you learn to adjust, accomidate, to level what you have to do to get what you want to get.

 

Many dangerous things get conditioned to ignore: cholesterol, nicotine, sugar, over-medication, cell phones on the freeway and drugs that take the ability away to attend to consequences. That list is only 0.00000000002 % of the total list you might have.

 

Here is what is known. You are human. Your were born and you will die. You are more complex than any other organism on Earth and you are conditioned to be who you are with the material you brought to the table when you were born. Actuarial numbers don’t matter to those alive or to those that are dead. They won’t protect you nor comfort those at your funeral.

 

You will live to be an average of 76 (male) or so years if you are white and 72 (male) or so years if you are black living in the US. Your numbers are smaller if you fit in any of the categories and are in denial. You live longer if you plan to live longer and don’t get hit by one of those driving while eating an ice cream cone while text messaging, etc.

 

Real time you can use this rule of thumb:

  1. figure out what you value
  2. question what you fear
  3. figure out the consequences for all your behavior
  4. determine who benefits from you doing or not doing something

 

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Elliot Masie – a corporate learning impresario has asked on his site www.learningtown.com :

What “Learning” lessons can we learn from the current U.S. Democratic Primaries? What are your perspectives? Note: Keep this focused on the lessons .. not a push for a candidate!

Recent response…

It appears we’ve learned to regurgitate what we were told by speakers in learning seminars!

What we’ve learned is that there is a constellation of people in the citizenry that are all at different positions in their education, awareness, position and attention based on what they learned to value AND the context of what’s going on for them NOW. The tasks of anyone running for office in the office or in the land is provide a defensible set of statements that increase the probability of those citizens liking what is said and a low probability of them being offended by what is said.

Provided there is no event bigger than a position held requiring new framing, those that have touted the most big triggers [lower taxes, more security, less conflict, higher wages, less invasive government, greater order, less disorder…..you get the idea] have the higher probability of winning.

It is the position of learning – education – training to provide access to relevant information that in some way levels the differences in assessment of this or other issues requiring a level of informed engagement.

Or maybe do what our parents did and see what happens. We’ll see…

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Wired has a nice highlight of the people behind I Can Haz CheezBurger.

They also produce this hilarious site.

Icanhazcheezburger.com gets “2 million pageviews and about 8,000 submissions daily.”  I already pointed out the crazy economics of this and how frustrating this types of sites are for major media companies that throw 100x the resources at projects that never achieve this.

3 people manage it.  That’s it.

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I’m now the owner of a fancy macbook.  Here are some notes on my apple buying and using experience.

Mac and Apple stores definitely have a distinct smell to them.  It’s been reported by many on the internet and as far as my last 5 or 6 apple products go, there’s something they do with the packaging and/or the hardware itself.  It’s vanilla smelling.

Apple stores using Windows Mobile to process credit cards.  yup, that’s what their hand helds run.  If that doesn’t underscore the real battle in tech companies, I don’t know what does.  Apple has all the media and fun things, Microsoft still owns transactions, even at the Apple store.  Another proof of this… iWork’s Numbers spreadsheet app doesn’t do pivot tables or conditional formating (staples in financial work) and Excel crushes at that. Yes, they like to market that in a tongue in cheek way but really that keeps people stuck to Windows more than anyone can imagine.  Pivot tables and credit cards – kinda important.

The MacBooks are cold to the touch which is very comforting considering the last 3 Sony/HP computers I have all run hot and make you very afraid of exploding hardware.  It’s a really off-putting user experience to have a hot computer.  Not sure why that’s not a bigger concern/been solved.

Shareware is better on a Mac.  The cult of mac seems to even force software hacks to take a little more care to polish their apps.  The software works better and always looks better.  Take the shareware IM clients.  The most popular ones on Windows are funky looking and tend to be very bulky in use.  The popular ones on mac are lightweight and generally try to integrate well with the Mac OS.

AppleCare is a rip off.  Except we all get it because Apple markets very well and the Mac products aren’t ones you “feel” you can just rip off the top and fix it up.  It’s very clever.

Making appointments to see a Mac genius to have them fix your stuff?  Yikes, another marketing effort.  You don’t need an appointment, by the way.  Just go to the counter and ask to fill out a fix request form.  Fill it out, leave your gear, and they will fix it up fast and CALL YOU when it’s done.  Now that’s service.  Why don’t they just market that INSTEAD of the best buy like experience where I wait for 30 minutes to talk to someone who fills out the form anyway?

Kids love Apple stores.  Kids do not like Best Buy.  Really.  Apple, yet again, got that right.  Make a place that kids ASK to go to AND behave when they are there… guess what? parents go.  Best Buy – get a babysitter or don’t go.

Java on Mac is great.  Man, had Java worked this well for me on Windows I might have become a java fanboy.  Really.  It’s weirdly smooth to update, use applets, build stuff and the IDEs work really well.  That’s not so much an Apple Experience thing, however, it stuck out for me.

Oh, now I’m also cooler.  I measured that.  Definitely cooler in an absolute kinda way too.  Like everyone notices.

Not.

Nonetheless, Apple is different, for sure.  Sometimes good, sometimes not.

~R

 

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Well, are we all amused…? You know, things going your way, life better than it was a decade ago or at least a couple of birthdays ago…?

 

Today it’s…

  • The Pope
  • The Supremes (Court that is…)
  • Playoffs – pick your sport…
  • Market(s)
  • War(s)
  • Civil law changes
  • Constitutional law changes
  • Pollution outlook
  • Gangstatainment
  • Food shortages in developed countries
  • Creation of diseases to use pharma’s research results
  • Barrel of pain @ $115
  • Oh, and that political thing going on…makes a person bitter just watching

 

Nothing’s perfect of course so there are some things going well and others in or headed toward the big porcelain bowl.

 

Check out a February, 2008, U.S. government statistic that estimates that 77 million workers will leave the workforce in the next few years.   Most are members of the baby-boom generation.  I guess that makes them “Gen B” in modern marketing parlance.

 

Look to the left, look to the right, we’ll lose 6 to 10 % of the workforce by the time you all notice changes in your environment…as opposed to a written prediction that you find here.

 

The up-“and thinking about it” generations of workers will not be nearly large or skilled enough to replace those Gen B workers, figuratively or literally.  Technologies promise is being fulfilled but the billion days of experience encased in those that leave the workforce can’t fulfill the needs to use the technology that exists.  It’s impossible. 

 

So what we have here is a great potential for those that have a work ethic that they are able to promote to the highest bidder.  We also have a bunch of Peanut-like cartoon characters who want what they want which is not inline with what the workforce needs, the world needs or the mall needs.

 

Already we have a shortage of talented workers.  That means that there are skills gaps all over every industry, every sector of commerce and every level of employment.  Again, it is contextual.  If you have the juice to do the stuff that is needed, it is a VERY good thing for you as an individual contributor.  If you have a skateboard in the living room next to your direct connect Facebook profile or your iPod tree of accessories, you may find the coming years a challenge…assuming of course that you recognize challenges when you trip over them.

 

Amidst the impending shortage of workers and looming skills ‘black holes’, there is an increasing demand for results and continued pressure to improve the ‘bottom line’.  Now, there is not a big difference between the shareholder’s bottom line, the employer’s bottom line and your bottom line. As we are all finding out, we are all interconnected.  Not by some fuzzy, energy-laced icon, or a pillar of metaphorical musings or soft and romantic notions of nationality or piety but by relatedness in the absolute sense.  Screw up the aspirin formula in a lab in Malaysia and those in Germany and Mozambique get sicker, not better.

 

We are all related in numerous ways that we don’t attend to.  We do things and others do things and together we interact and do other things.  We are related by the context of what is around us.  What is around us is that which is going on in Bosnia and Boston, Denver and Dubai.  THAT context is the context that will never grow smaller, never become diluted and never disappear.

 

Today is always different than yesterday or tomorrow…[I know, heavy!]   But now, in this time period, we are more aware of things going on all around the world. With our greater access to everything we have greater potential for confusion when competing values must be confronted.

 

With workforce changes exerting their effects and economic complexities exerting theirs, it all leads to increased pressures on whatever we are doing.  The rapid pace of business, the demands of families and the need to have some ‘stakes’ in the ground in different areas of our life… all make for a world more competitively primitive like that from which we evolved millions of years ago than a world provided by a John Grisham or some contemporary historical romance author.    

 

So, here is the warning bell.  Take note… to overcome the losses from Gen B leaving and increase the probability of a single employee will be able to perform the work several employees have done in the past, there is going to be a wholesale changes in business performance software. Everything gets measured.  People are the ‘Business.’  Commerce uses what commerce needs.  Skill gaps identify contribution to cost.  Skills equate to value. 

 

All this will be confounded by little attention for “casual Fridays” or a need for a window office.  Gen-NEXT will be hired based on performance at every measureable level, get evaluated seamlessly, will perform where needed, get tracked to available tasks and get paid only for results rather than ‘work’. 

 

It’s already started.  There is less need to build robotics if you can get maximum production out of employees that need to feed their kin or code content.  There is a mushrooming interest in empirical learning and training that will come to dwarf philosophical and quasi-political niceties.  Get ready. 

 

Oh, and then we’ll need to figure out the other parts…those family relationship changes, social community interactions and the individual identity agony that is sure to follow. 

 

Hang on.

 

 

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Looking for some software to control your behavior experiments?

Here ya go.

Delphi 5, sweet.  Now there’s a language on a different schedule.

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So… there’s this tax gap of $290 billion.  Yup, each year taxpayers underpay what is legally owed by $290 billion.

Think that correlates at all with the growth of tax law which required only 4 pages in 1945 to explain a 1040 to 155 pages in 2007?

Yaw… methinks the lost time and money in reading 155 pages is far more reinforcing than worrying about whether you rounded incorrectly according to page 132, form 22, line 12, c.

Read more fascinating stats in this surprisingly good piece on CNN.com.

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Edge.com

Douglas Rushkoff
“Social Networks Are Like the Eye”
A Talk with Nicholas Christakis

I read with great interest – as usual – the Edge article by DOUGLAS RUSHKOFF: “Social Networks are like the Eye” – A Talk with Nicholas Christakis.

Certainly no shortage of the point and counterpoint logic on anyone’s part. Rushkoff and Alda both working as part of several social networks themselves show a dismissive stance to marketing but are published in a most pristine record of ideas on the Internet where, despite their claims, they market their approaches. Good stuff for many but wait, what are they saying with all those not-so-grand illusions (‘living systems’ or subsystems of brain numbing metaphor piled on metaphor…) or mentalistic and romantic ideas of a ‘vis viva’ forces to establish value of their agendas over ‘others’ agendas.

YIKES! What’s going on?

Two things come out of all of this:

  1. Social networks are treated as a separate uber-case of behavior apart from other forms of behavior. It reminds me of how in the late 40’s and much of the 50’s the railroads treated themselves as an ‘industry’ rather than part of transportation.
  2. The metaphor is the medium. As such, they are contributing to the slow dilution of the very communication that they are so proud to expound on. Much of the article’s context is spent validating selected metaphors and not explaining how social networks work empirically.

Incased in the strategy being presented it was like I was being induced to look for a communication homunculus but instead was provided a drumming of the numbing anti-parsimonious meme concept of Dawkins. Raise you hand if ‘ideological components’ does wonders here in explaining social networks. Using a metaphor to support an analogy… to support another metaphor is hardly what Edge has built its reputation on.

“It’s the media shell that allows a media virus to spread through the mediaspace undetected, while it’s the memes inside that interpolate into our confused cultural code, forcing their replication.”

Doesn’t this sound a little like ‘vapor’ explanations that resurfaced in the 1850s from Aristotle’s ‘vapors’ theories as what was responsible for behavior? Aristotle and others that followed posited that there were ‘airs,’ just as there were different liquids and different solids that caused behavior. How are vapors that different than memes and metaphors that have nothing to do with people doing stuff?

To interrupt these authors, consider that social networks are based on interaction / access. No one cares about the brand of the camera, phone, or graininess of the content. For social networks to grow there needs to be content to access and the viewer needs to be able to respond. End of story. It defies predetermined categories of demographic gurus. Content gets acted on and in so doing lets the provider know what is of value. Hits and sends to others = important. No action = not important. Move on. Where are the virus – memes – biological systems metaphor required?

The question that begs to be answered is why are these metaphors necessary or used? Do they may provide some communication value leap-froging a more parsimonic or empirical resolution about social network etiology? For Edge it may come down to what was the objective of airing this set of monologues. While interesting, they are diversionary to understanding the subject matter in the title.

The world has more media options and combinations that move a message than ever before. Like reality TV it seems that every TV media exec has the secret and that one more reality show will be better than one less. As if each media exec has blinders on, they don’t get it that the form of media and the content carried live until the predictability and the exposure create habituation. This, along with competition for a viewer’s time, and things changing, variability occurs and gets selected and is the next big (valued) thing. Everyone gets to take credit for the next big thing because no one can show how to do it again. It is as old as game shows, westerns, crime soaps and variety shows.

Mr. Rushkoff asks “What is the cultural immune response related to MySpace or YouTube?” No one knows – which makes the talking heads cranky. But is there any question that there will be another episode change? Of course not. To use the idiom of the article, “if something has value, the code is picked up and carried, converted and re-sent via other shells elsewhere until its value has run its course to the end user.”

As content without a polarity, the media material exists in a vacuum and only becomes viral [and thus of ‘value] if it is attended to on the network… it was not ‘design specificity’ but the lack of specificity in the media channel that gives it value to network members.

Moving on, I was surprised at the vitriolic or at least pejorative tense of some of the assessment.

“Thus “viral marketing” was born. Meanwhile, visionaries interested in the possibilities for organismic awareness offered by mediated interconnectedness were lumped in with the fascists of earlier eras. Anything smacking of “meta-organism” reminded the intelligentsia of Hegel or, worse, Jung. Instead of looking — like scientists — at the incipient reorganization of civilization on a new dimensional level, they cringe like early readers of Le Bon’s The Crowd, incapable of seeing in collective organism anything but the tyranny of the masses.”

The nice thing about Edge.com is that it has an abundance of ‘intelligentsia’ all with identities that with little coxing evolve into priestly pontifications like that above scolding us for questioning the latest epoch of truth. In my experience, ‘scientists’ don’t need to yell. There data is what matters.

One last note on Ruchkoff’s primer on social networks; like artificial intelligence, Boolean logic and internet language code, there is a point where social networks will get absorbed into the fabric of life and the next generation of life without fanfare. We are observing an important yet fleeting data point that has meaning only if the data involved lead to other dynamic social activities. Ultimately none of this will be understood unless a less romantic strategy of study is applied to that behavior.

John H. Bryant

The Woodlands, TX USA

jbryant@CrossroadsAccess.com

4/4/08

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Polygamist sect conditioned girls from birth
Washington Times – 1 hour ago
By Valerie Richardson The 16-year-old girl whose phone call led to the massive raid on a West Texas polygamist compound was repeatedly beaten and sexually abused by her much-older husband, according to state documents released yesterday.
Teen mothers reported at polygamist sect’s compound
Los Angeles Times
Papers detail alleged abuse at sect’s compound
USA Today
New York TimesKGANThe Associated PressABC News
all 3,205 news articles »

There’s a shocker!   Didn’t see that coming.   Who would have thought that?  I wonder what they mean by ‘conditioning’ in this Google news article on 4-9-08 about those people in South Texas?   Are they claiming they were conditioned like rats or monkeys?   That’s outrageous!

I guess that religion is just weird…a cult or worse! Good thing it has been discovered so that we can ‘help’ save those members of the CHURCH OF JESUS CHRIST OF LATTER-DAY SAINTS people… After all, they used all the conditioning methods below.  Some are versions of other methods listed but those polygamists used them on their women and children…

Reward – Reinforcement

· I’ll reward you if you do it. “if you do this spread sheet I’ll pay you on pay day at this rate…”

· “Thanks! I’ll make certain your parents know how good you did in school today.”

Punishment

· You won’t get an allowance if you don’t clean your room.  “If you don’t read the scriptures today, I won’t be able to speak to the mullah on behalf of your salvation.” “If you can’t recite the Catechism section in Church on Sunday God will not be pleased.”

Positive Expertise

· As your pastor, I can tell you that rewards will occur if you do X, because of the Gods love for you.  Or “If you start working out at our gym regularly, you’ll be thinner and will make a good wife to bear children with one of the elders of the community.”

Negative Expertise

· Speaking as an authority on the subject, I can tell you that punishments will occur if you do Y, because Y is a SIN!  “If you don’t recant, you may never get another chance—God’s patience in these matters is not infinite.”

Gifting, Pre-giving

· Giving something as a gift, before requesting compliance. The idea is that the target will feel the need to reciprocate later. “Here’s a little something we thought you’d like. Now about those reading the homely this Sunday? . . .”

Debt

· Calling in past favors. “After all I’ve done for you!  I request this small favor and now it’s a big deal all of a sudden….”

Aversive Stimulation

· Continuous punishment, and the cessation of punishment is contingent on compliance. “I’m going to read my Bible out loud in front of your friends if you insist on playing your rock music. When stop listening to that garbage I’ll stop reading out loud.”

Moral Appeal

· This tactic entails finding moral common ground on a set of rules, also conditioned, and then using the rule set of a person to obtain compliance. “You believe that women have a traditional importance in the family don’t you? You don’t believe that women ought to work as hard as men, do you? Then you ought to sign this petition! It’s the right thing to do.”

Positive Self-feeling

· You’ll feel better if you X. “If you join our kibbutz today, you’ll feel better about yourself because you’ll know that you’re improving and contributing your soul every day.”

Negative Self-feeling

· You’ll feel bad if you Y. “If you don’t marry this Zionist and bear him children, you’ll find it hard to live with yourself or your faithful parents who brought you up to obey the law of Punjab.”

Positive Altercasting

*    Good people do X. “The truly faithful people tend to volunteer for sacrifical training right after high school. Are you one of the faithful?”

Negative Altercasting

· Only a bad person would do Y. “You don’t look like an atheist.  Are you sure you won’t come to services with me if I go out with you?!”

Positive Esteem of Others

· Other people will think more highly of you if you X. “People respect a man who drives a Mercedes. No one cares about his _______ [fill in the nefarious type] connections.”

Negative Esteem of Others

· Other people will think worse of you if you Y. “You don’t want people thinking that you’re a loser, do you?”

I’ll bet the vile conditioning the polygamists used was a lot different than the ‘good’ ways that others condition their members, employees, children, citizens …

Schools

Dating

Driving

writing

Buying

Cleaning

Sports

Finance

Eating

Thinking

Voting

Typing

Trades

Baby sitting

Watching TV

Reading

Socializing

Lying

Sales

Choking

Texting

Loving

Hunting

Giving

Ok, you caught me… choking is not learned; it’s a reflex. The others are all learned though through consequences as feedback.  The polygamists were conditioned and we’re all conditioned using the same methods and procedures.  Good guys do it and so do bad guys.

It’s just that what we call bad is arbitrary and not absolute.  It too is conditioned.  Along the way we all come to value some things and not value others.  When some potentate says its bad some of us believe it and some laugh out loud.

What we believe gets conditioned and becomes our reference points – better known as our “biases” – which gives them their good, righteous, virtuous, and lofty titles and also their which give them their evil, sinner, heathen, crook, terrorist, bad biases titles.

So how were the West Texas women and children in the story different than other groups that do the same thing only aren’t…

· polygamists

· isolated them from other ideas and influences

There isn’t. Seems that the Catholics have their nunneries, the other religions have their missions, catechisms, bar mitzvah’s, etc.  The Hasidic Jews in New York area are particularly secretive about their practices with young people.  Why isn’t the New York state and US Marshall’s offices investigating them or raiding their temples?

Could it be that there are some biases going on…?   “If you are like us, we can look the other way but if you are not like us and we can find some reason to make you fit in, we’ll take a shot at disbanding your, vilifying you or making your practices illegal.”

No one is tolerating the abuse that was present. However, if that was the sole criteria for raiding a sanctuary of worship we’d raid the NBA training camps where spousal abuse is treated as a collateral damage for players having the pressure of making a lot of money.

There are a lot of double standards; let’s not wince but get a clear view of what’s going on. Then we’ll all meet at the other churches and high schools where similar abuses and sexual abstinence are conditioned.  That’s worked wonders hasn’t it!?

So the next time you see a heading in the local scandal sheet or city newspaper like:

“Polygamist sect conditioned girls from birth”

We’re all conditioned from birth…  So, you know that it is not about “conditioning from birth” but that something else is there that the editors don’t agree with or that will sell a lot of papers.

And oh, by the way, that behavior set is conditioned too.

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Here’s why Microsoft can’t beat Google:

http://find.msn.com/search.aspx?q=NFL+division+title&c=0115+NFL+division+title&form=MSNH1

a) Why is John Legend pulled up above the fold on this return?

b) Why is this a “Hot Search” featured on MSN.com portal’s homepage?

c) Live/Msn/Microsoft – which interface should I be using?  they all give different results and are different interfaces

At least they will get this once they get this Y! deal done…

http://search.yahoo.com/search?p=nfl+division+title&fr=yfp-t-501&toggle=1&cop=mss&ei=UTF-8

Yeah, not a really analytic post, but sometimes media experiences are so bad they don’t even require analysis.

~R

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