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From contributor Ron Williams…

I have read in recent days that Rick Sanchez as been fired from his CNN anchor job for making what was claimed to be “anti-Semitic” comment regarding Jewish control of the television networks.  Recently Mr. Sanchez has started making the rounds of other television shows apologizing for his comments claiming that they were both “anti-Semitic” and wrong.

I watched with some amusement the ABC View program with the commentators bending over backwards to deny that his comments were true and to assert that even if they were not true that they were somehow anti-Semitic.  If Jews predominate the entertainment industry, so what?    I am somewhat at a loss to understand why Jews predominating the entertainment industry is anymore anti- semantic than saying that blacks predominate in basketball is racist today.  It seems that these commentators on the View and others protest too much.  And they do so without offering any proof that the statements are in fact anti-Semitic. They offer no explanation or support for the assertion that these comments, whether true or untrue are in of themselves “anti-Semitic.”

Furthermore, I do not believe that the comments were in fact an accurate, and therefore should not be considered “anti-Semitic”.  I worked several years in the entertainment industry as an entertainment attorney.  I noted empirically that a large number of Jewish persons were in control of the creative and decision-making positions in the entertainment industry, including music, motion pictures, publishing and television.  If in fact that is the case, then stating a truism cannot be “anti–” anything.

The concentration of Jewish people in the entertainment industry as historical underpinnings.  At the turn of the previous century, Jewish performers were highly concentrated in the Vaudeville circuit.  In addition, I believe you will find that a significant number of the vaudeville houses were also owned by Jewish proprietors.  Additionally, you will find that the majority of the songwriters and performers were Jewish.  Jewish entertainers from George P Cohan, Al Jolson to Fanny Brice dominated the vaudevillian circuits.  I understand that not every performer who was popular was Jewish, but there is no denial that Jews dominated the vaudeville circuit.  A similar situation existed in both music publishing and performance.

In the early days of the film industry, Jewish entrepreneurs also dominated the production and performance in motion pictures , and the financing for these motion pictures came from Jewish controlled banks in New York.  This pattern has continued through to today.  I challenge anyone to look at the rosters of the key executives who control of the creative aspects of all of the major networks, the motion picture industry, the music industry and publishing and show that the predominant group controlling these industries are not Jewish.

Having said this, I find no problem with these industries being predominated by Jews.  In the early days, entertainers were not held in high esteem.  This is an area that Jews could succeed.  That is often the case for groups that have suffered discrimination by the majority population.  One need only look at national athletics both historically and today to see this pattern repeats itself.  You can follow the progression of discrimination against various ethnic groups with their progression through the professional boxing ranks.

Today, no one can dispute the fact that national football and basketball are dominated by African Americans.  Also note the significant number of Spanish-surname ballplayers we are seeing now in professional baseball, players coming from countries such as the Dominican Republic and Puerto Rico where sports is seen as a way out of poverty.  WHEN ANY GROUP IS DENIED the full range of professions in this society, it is only natural that they take the path of least resistance to achieve success.  African Americans for several generations now have seen athletics as one of the few viable path to economic success.  That is probably why you see more African Americans in football and basketball.  It is not because African Americans are carefully better football players or basketball. In turn of the previous century, entertainment was an available track for success.

This overreaction is even more dramatic when I see commentators like Glen Beck make all kinds of wild assertions about the President and other African Americans with impunity.  I also note that Glen Beck make their assertions on their programs while Rick Sanchez made his comments on another program w2hile being interviewed.  It seems as if his First Amendment rights have taken a back seat on this issue.  Again methinks they protest this too much.

So before we see Rick Sanchez do an endless round of apologies for his statement, people demanding his apologies should show that his statements are in fact incorrect.  But more importantly, whether they are correct or incorrect, his statement should not be a reason for his termination.  If the statements are not true then slapped him on the wrist for making an untrue statement.  But I believe that upon examination will be shown that his statements are in large part true. And whether true or not, I believe there is nothing wrong with a situation where Jews would be in control of the entertainment industry.  Just like there’s nothing wrong with African Americans being the predominant football and basketball players or that Hispanics are now coming dominate boxing. If Jews control the entertainment industry, so what.

[Ron Williams is a retired attorney living in The Woodlands, TX, and a welcome guest contributor to Social Mode]

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The invention and acceptance of new vocabularies is important to the success of ideas, products, policies and methods.  Many valuable new “things” are written off simply because we lack applicable metaphors, analogies and vocabulary.  Many authors and inventors of new things fail to market a new vocabulary and set up new modes of thinking while they perfect the new thing itself.

Consider these ideas, products, philosophies, politics, sciences that have taken a long time to take hold because of our lack of vocabulary:

0 (concept of zero)

Probability

Natural Selection

Search Engine

Hyperlink

Terrorism

Recession/Depression

Google

Wiki

Computation

Web 2.0

Semantic Web

So how do we absorb a new vocabulary?  Through use.  Use of these products and ideas and association of their vocabulary to the use.

e.g. can you explain a Wiki to anyone?  you could if you showed them.  We still don’t have a general use of the word Wiki but we all “know what we mean.”

Developing the vocabulary within the intended audience of the product, idea or policy is as important to the success as the thing itself.  do not neglect this and/or don’t be surprised if people don’t “get it” at first…

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I wonder if I can break from the flow in this blog to posit a response on the CNN article

When any argument used results in the personification of the brain as an entity that ‘does’ things, the value of your verbal behavior to others gets minimalized. Brains are cellular matter that behave according to cellular chemistry and physics without any agency toward purpose, function, or order.”

Please don’t follow the crowd and use words as if they don’t matter. Furthermore, avoid the crowd’s focus on monocausality, absolutes and Newtonian cause and effect chain-link logic. You are involved with an organ that has roughly 100 billion neural cells with 10 million attachments to each one. Noodle that if you will! The number of permutations for what is going on in the brain as a billion fibers fire in and out of synchrony with other patterns is difficult to deal with. Using simplistic metaphors is what the crowd does. Metaphors may sound succinct but they reduce the reader’s ability to grasp the enormity of the problems involved in every aspect. Behavior::neural activity::genetics::the environment and their reciprocities are complex. The subject matter has a “wow” factor but it also has a history littered with charlatans, elixir salesman and worse. Don’t follow the crowd but instead, select the empirical path rather than the path of myth, magic and dualism.

No, these observations reported by CNN don’t abstract well.  They don’t do much but imply that a correlation is as good as a ‘cause.’ Pity. Correlations are the basis of fMRIs.

The brain doesn’t show that people fear being different. The brain shows patterns of firings that people with letters and research project numbers after their name interpret one way or another. You still have to listen and read and evaluate what they say, write and interpret.

  • How did the brain come to fire the way it did (in that area, at that amplitude, and pattern)?
  • What impact did neural plasticity have on the firings?
  • What do the fMRI readings represent?
  • Is the same firing pattern seen in Budapest or Pogo to that stimuli?
  • Is it true of Paraná tribe members and Malaysian sea nomads?

We are like others in groups or organizations because we are both reinforced and punished over time for our behavior in relation to their behavior. We recognize similarities (selectively) and as long as they don’t conflict with our other (selected) valued belief systems, we “relate” to that group. We diverge from social group convention for the same reasons. What is constant are the changes in the flow of what we value or what we relate to in those and other groups we attend to…which is also conditioned.

To show the degree that things are controlled by consequences, invite a Shiite to speak at your church mission group or invite a goyim to participate in the next Hasidic  law review. Watch the group behavior.  Of course these are extremes to show an effect.  But there are subtle abstractions as well… Bring your close friends, the ones who love you for who you are… to a Monster Truck Rally.   Social contingencies are powerful!  

That is one way to explain why some people are Green Bay Packer fans and some are Oakland Raider fans. Each sees things they value in their group and don’t value in the other’s group. Those ‘things’ are also conditioned by the contingencies the different fans were exposed to in the past.

How else does one explain being a Raider fan?

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[warning: This is a fairly “duh, I know all this” post for some people.  I just wanted to get out an accumulation of thoughts on the topic.  The interesting stuff is closer to the bottom. ]

It’s pretty safe to say that Google is the current king of technology and innovation.  No it doesn’t have everything figured out and it isn’t even as big as HP, IBM and Microsoft, but it does currently have one of the most ubiquitous product on earth, Google.com.

Competitors and up and comers want to catch some of that Google fire or at least it’s riches.  Most of them are trying to beat Google at its core -Web Search.  Some of that is out of fear that Google can encroach on their core business and some of it is out of envy of the profits Google created.  These are real factors.  Real big money is at stake… but…

Google can’t be beat at web search.

But wait!

It doesn’t need to be done!

Beating web search won’t happen with better web search, we don’t need a better way to search web pages or YouTube videos. Google can be beat in business and will be “beat” when the environment is right for the next big shift in info tech.

Consider that no one tech company has managed to be number 1 in more than 1 major aspect of the modern info tech chain.

Server OS is linux/unix

Database is Oracle/MySQL

Enterprise connectivity are the big infrastructure companies

Consumer connectivity are the cable and phone companies

Server hardware is HP, Dell, and Sun

Consumer OS is windows

Browsers are IE and Mozilla

Web server software is apache

Productivity software is Adobe and Microsoft

Web Search is Google

Email is your ISP, business or prefered portal

Social Network is MySpace or Facebook

and so on…

The point is while most everyone chases Google on Web Search (and Search Advertising) they are missing the point that the cost to make a competitive product and maintain competitiveness is just not going to be worth it.  Users will always search the web, but by now it’s just like everything else in the digital chain – it’s one of the functions that will steadily grow in use each year but the massive usage and monetization explosion is over.   You can see this in Google’s financial trends.  Anyone who jumps into the fray at this point is just going to be swept up in the general trend of steady growth. (i.e. the cost of entry is still high, but the upside isn’t high like it was before)

The key to massive wealth generation in technology is to create the next function that users aren’t already using but will need/want as soon as the tools/technology/culture reinforce it.

A classic example is the Operating System.

Microsoft whipped everyone at the consumer OS.  However, Microsoft’s tech dominance didn’t come to an end (some will claim it hasn’t ended) because someone built a better OS (even though Apple did in many eyes). OSes all got to a certain usefulness and now they are practically given away (on netbooks, phones, etc.).  Few people pay full price for an OS any more because it just is part of the package.  The OS isn’t the killer app anymore, no matter who makes it.  Microsoft’s dominance was done in by the accumulation of improved hardware, connectivity, great web apps, reliance on non pc devices, web servers, more savvy user bases, open source… literally, the OS just became another low margin part. (yes, I know they still make billions on it, but really it’s not the big margin it used to be and its getting MORE expensive to remain competitive).

Recent Examples of this concept include Social Networking leapfrogging AOL and chatrooms, Twitter and Facebook overtaking IM, search targeted text ads dominating banner ads, timeshifting and on demand doing in TV guides and one time broadcasting…

Google has shown that it can no longer build the Next Thing.  It can buy or extend the Next Thing once others have built, but raw creation is not going to happen again at Google.  Its web search (and related Ad Sense) business takes most of its energy and contributes 97% of its revenue.  Maps, Earth, Picassa, YouTube, etc. etc. are neat, but they weren’t invented or dramatically improved by Google.  Sure, Google’s mass in web search made these products runaway hits, but none of these products make Google profits.  It’s 20% rule for engineers is legendary, but that 20% has generated products that mostly a revisions on what others have done.

This is true of Yahoo and Microsoft and Apple and HP.  And it’s all good.  They are incredibly profitable businesses that will continue to generate profits and make strides in their products.  They just will never again generate the massive insta-wealth that they did when their core products made a splash in the market.  The fact that they are all now established businesses with product, marketing and shareholder obligations keeps a good amount of creative energy tied up in just maintaining the core business.  Start ups don’t have these pressures and so they usually make the killer apps.

What’s the next big thing?

One thing that’s becoming clear is that we have so much data (even our data generates data) that just finding data is not going to be enough.  We needed web search as soon as the number of web accessible resources outgrew the directory approach.  We wanted better social functions when chat rooms and IMs couldn’t give us the disired threaded discussions and access to media.  We now have access to millions of scanned books, every piece of video media created in the last 10 years, everything our friends are doing through out the day, all our IM conversations, all the emails we send, every SKU, all academic papers, code, genetic data… etc. etc.  Finding is not the issue.  Any of us can FIND relevant data.  None of the innovations after Google search have been much more than ways to digitize data and provide a way to find it. (Facebook, YouTube, GPS, Wikipedia and so on are just specific implementations of the basic digitize and make findable)

The next problem to solve is DOING something with this data.  The technology has to start DOING stuff for us.  Not just presenting summaries of options for data or links to more data or a list of more media.

What should I watch? Not, just what can I watch.

What should I buy? Not just what can I buy.

Who should I vote for? Not just who’s on the ballot.

What does life expectancy and cost of health care trends imply and what should I do about it? Not, here is are the latest numbers.

Some might call this artificial intelligence, others call it smart computing, others call it computation.  Call it whatever you want.  The technology needs to start doing things, not just sorting and filtering.  Analyzing, deciding, contacting, buying, reserving and so on.  In small ways it does do that.  Music playlist systems, spam filters, virus protection, news alerts, tivo, algorithmic stock trading all compute on the data and take action.  These are terribly complicated functions nor do they dramatically impact how we live, but they are glimpse of what’s to come.

When you think about advertising (which is what pays for Google’s technology), that’s what it’s about getting you to make decisions and take action.  Both the user need and advertiser need come together at the point in which data is sythesized and acted upon.  Although a commercial flop, Facebook’s beacon was a daring attempt to bring advertising closer to this vision. Unfortunately for Facebook the user need wasn’t quite there and the implementation didn’t really DO anything other than create more data for users to look at.

To bring it all together – I hope internet innovators stop trying to help us index and find more data.  Google and the other providers do that well enough.   Personally, I don’t want to spend my time searching for info.  I’d rather be creating or doing, not just sifting, browsing, surfing, filtering.  And I want to be creating and doing interesting things, not mundane things like scheduling, routing through city streets, paying bills and so on.

P.S.  Slightly off topic but relevant if you want to think through why Google can and will be overtaken by another tech company as king of the hill… it’s built on arbitrage.  30% of it’s revenue comes from Ad Sense ads it runs on other sites.  However, most of those other sites generating that 30% get 50-80% of their traffic from searches on Google leading to their pages.  Facebook, MySapce and Wikipedia are the rare exceptions that don’t need Google’s traffic and don’t generate big revenue (Facebook and Wikipedia don’t carry Google Ads at all and it pisses Google off).  This is unsustainable.  The marketing is just stuck for now ituntil advertisers demand more than tiny text links on mostly bad web pages.  For now, that’s the best way to advertise online.  It won’t stay that way.  The banner ad gave way to the search ad.  There will be something else.  Even if it doesn’t replace the search ad, it will chew into its profitability.

Worse though is that the majority of the google ads are purchased by professional arbitragers.  SEM firms, ad agencies, traffic specialists.  They know how to buy clicks on google for .20 and charge advertisers/clients 1.00.  As the tracking tools get better and more clients increase their knowledge, this scheme will breakdown.  The prices for advertising are going to come way down making the arbitrage game very difficult.  Without professional arbitragers playing on google, Google will lose a lot of revenue.

You can uncover this for yourself.  Trace when Google’s revenues shot through the roof.  It will coincide with them releasing ad features like “keyword replacement” which allowed big advertisers to insert the search keyword into generic copy.  This meant that millions of search ads went online that really weren’t all that useful, but they had the right search keyword in the copy.  You can see this at play today when you search for bizarre keywords and you’ll find and Amazon.com or Ebay ad.  Click on it and see if there’s a real page there.   Or consider an advertising like the one in this article.  The worst possible scenerio – a professional arbitrage outfit that does reverse mortgages.  They do $100,000 a month in ad words with Google.  Do we really think this is going to last?

You can also correlate the google revenue growth with the advent of SEO firms who put up tons of worthless pages and helped legit publishers put up tons of worthless pages.

Lastly, because of how important Google’s traffic is to many online businesses, the general functionality of the web is less than it could be because everyone tries to make their pages Google search friendly.  Google has actually significantly stunted the growth of useful web functionality.  However, that trend is reversing with runaway, non Google supported successes like the iPhone, Facebook, Wikipedia, widgets, twitter and wordpress.  Google is very slowly losing it’s grip as the only way to get traffic.  And with experiences like Facebook and Twitter we’re seeing better functionality.

I’m not holier than thou.  I’ve made plenty of money playing with Google traffic.  I use Google non stop personally.  It’s not going to go away.  It’s not going to one day be running at a loss.  It’s an essential company providing much needed and wanted services.  My point in this post and the PS is that the margins and valuation they have isn’t sustainable at all.  2009 will showcase some of cracks as the ecosystem they’ve helped create begins to morph under the drastically different world we live in.  This isn’t like after dotcom crash.  This is bigger and Google’s one revenue stream is not market proof.  It benefited from Google.com being the only game in town for finding stuff and Ad Sense being the only reliable source of paid advertising online.   Advertisers aren’t going to pay the same amount for ads AND Google’s dominance on web traffic isn’t going to remain.

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I’m very curious about the phrases we use that sound so hollow but carry a great deal of unspoken meaning.

How many times have you heard someone say this, “He’s a nice guy…” and it’s usually always followed by a “but…” (sometimes an unspoken “but”).

We all know what that means.  And if you don’t, you don’t want to be known as the “he’s a nice guy” guy.

Where did this way of talking about people come from?  Why do we avoid saying what we really mean when we all know what the phrase is really covering up?  When does a phrase go from a figure of speech to a full on cue to something pejorative?

For fun (and data collection!) check out all these blog posts and articles and advice columns that use “he’s a nice guy.”

google search

Blog search

Here’s some etymology for you on it.  It’s pretty funny what the word “nice” really brings with it 🙂

 

And after rereading this post a couple of times I think, “it’s a nice post.”  And for those that want to understand my real meaning.  This post is pretty lame.

Yeah, it’s Monday morning.

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