Category Archives: Social Media

Gawker, the open web, Thiel and Zuck

Since I don’t have anywhere near as much time to write as I used to (now that I’m back working) I thought I would start sharing some of my favorite writers and posts. Here’s one from Dave Winer that he posted on the 25th anniversary of the Web. Dave knows of what he speaks, having been one of the earliest bloggers and developers. Here’s a piece from yesterday, August 23, 2016.  

~ Rick


Perhaps not many people will see the connection between today being the first day Gawker is gone, it being the 25th Anniversary of the Web, and the message all Facebook users were greeted with this morning.

  1. Gawker is gone because Peter Thiel financed its murder-by-lawyer. It’s legal to do this in the US, but until now as far as I know, no one has crossed this line. Now that the line has been crossed, it’s fair to assume it will become standard practice for billionaires like Thiel to finance lawsuits until the publication loses and has to sell itself to pay the judgment.
  2. It’s the 25th Anniversary of the Web because 25 years ago a generous visionary named Tim Berners-Lee invented something that would benefit humanity more than it would benefit him. And many other visionaries saw it, and because it was open, were able to build anything they could imagine using it as a basis. And they did, making something like Facebook possible.
  3. Facebook is a silo for web writing. And while it would be easy for them to create paths for ideas to flow in and out of Facebook, at very low cost, and they have the features already developed, and use them internally, they refuse to share them with users. I suppose we could just explain this as they’re a very large tech company and that’s what tech companies do, but they also have the chutzpah to pretend to support the open web. They have been happy to accept its bounty and have done nothing to return what they’ve taken from the commons to the commons.
  4. And finally, remember Peter Thiel, the guy who thinks his wealth entitles him to shut down publications he doesn’t like, not only did he make billions from Facebook stock, he’s still on the board of Facebook. Zuckerberg has had plenty of time to ask him to leave, or to fire him, and he hasn’t done it. Again, you could just shrug it off and say Zuck is like Thiel, but he’s extra special in that he wants you to believe he appreciates the gift of the open web, as he strangles it.

Source: Gawker, the open web, Thiel and Zuck

Donald J. Drumpf – Your Drunk Neighbor

Based on recordings of things Teh Donald™ has actually allowed to plummet out of his fabulously wealthy piehole, this video pretty much sums up many (not all, but many) of my feelings about the man and his followers. I understand the fear some white people feel, though I think it’s ridiculous of them to do so. I’m pretty sure what really scares them is the realization of how terrible people of color have been treated and, since they’re so good at projection, they’re assuming white people are now going to get as good as they gave.

As a straight, white male I really do understand what many of them feel. However, as one who works hard to understand others, and who believes empathy is an important tool for anyone who wishes to live in a reasonably civilized, respectful, and well-adjusted society, I am of the opinion they’re making things worse for everyone, including themselves.

So . . . here it is folks. I can hardly think of a better way to characterize the blatherings of our first reality show presidential candidate. This is YUGE!!

Had No Idea I’m In Biotech

Wrong Way

Smart Marketing Technique?

The other day I received a huge catalog in the mail. As one who routinely has thrown printed Yellow Pages, or other directories, into the recycle bin immediately upon receipt, I was curious why this had come my way. It was addressed to me and the company I spent a couple of years dabbling in, Rick Ladd & Associates. I’m guessing they purchased a mailing list, most likely from the Simi Valley Chamber of Commerce.

It’s clear they did nothing to vet the list, as I don’t think I could be much further away from biotechnology, and have absolutely no need for any of their products, which are legion.

What’s a bit remarkable to me is the sheer size of the offering and the appearance they used a scattergun approach to market their products (did I mention they’re legion?). To help you appreciate its size the index, which is over 90 pages in length, begins on page one thousand. That’s 1-0-0-0. A thousand pages of biotech products, not one of which I can imagine I need, let alone understand how or why they’re used!!

I’m not in any way suggesting anything they offer is useless; after all, biotechnology is really changing our lives in many ways. What I am saying is that I, in every “professional” category I have engaged in, see no intersection with these products. They are almost unintelligible to me.

Oh, I understand the relevance of many of the disciplines or categories the catalog addresses, e.g. Molecular Biology, Immunology, Cell Biology, and Biochemicals, but the individual products are mostly a mystery to me and I have no intention of becoming conversant in their station in the universe, save for what I need to make my point here.

I must reiterate. I can understand the general relevance of a product such as “Goat Affinity Purified Antibody to Mouse Transferrin” or “MeOSuc-Pro-Ala-Ala-Pro-Pro-paranitroanilide”. I’ve even learned what Apoptosis is, for which I’m glad. Yet I have no use for these products; it’s not what I do. Why on Earth would they spend this much on producing a catalog and sending it to a person/business where it will be immediately (well, almost immediately) discarded? Maybe it’s worth it, but there wouldn’t be bankruptcies if everyone always did the right thing.

Perhaps I don’t understand marketing all that well.

PS – It also came with an 86 page price list in six different currencies (USD, EUR, GBP, YEN, INR, RMB) all of which are apparently good for 2016 – 2018! That’s an amazing length of time to be able to hold so many prices stable. It is printed in a font size for which I would need an eye transplant to be able to read comfortably.

Talking To Myself . . . Almost

Lately, I’ve been trying to use my iPhone’s voice recognition capabilities while in my car on the way to work. With the latest upgrade to iOS – I’m at 9.1 – you can now talk to your phone if it’s plugged into power, and I always plug mine into my car charger. All you have to do is say “Hey, Siri” and (most times) you’ll get a tone letting you know she’s listening. You can request music, ask for directions, record notes, tweets, and even Facebook posts. I mostly use it for playing music and recording thoughts I would never be able to remember or write down without pulling over to the side of the road. Although I have been known to do that, I don’t have to anymore. It’s not perfect, but it’s far and away a safer and easy-to-use method of remembering some things.

So, today I recorded a note on my way in. The only drawback is you have to speak fairly continuously. As soon as you pause for more than a couple of seconds, at most, Siri ends the task and reads the note back to you. I managed to make it through the thought I had with relative ease – my memory really ain’t what it used to be – and the playback was accurate enough to know I would be able to understand what I was thinking when I recorded it. As many of us are painfully aware, being able to understand what you were thinking when you were thinking of it later on when you read what you wrote about what you were thinking back then, is important to the efficacy of the effort.

On a whim, I said “Hey, Siri” and, upon hearing the familiar tone, “Thank you.” After a moment’s pause, she responded (in her Aussie accent) “You’re welcome.” Her tone was so upbeat it caused me to wonder if they don’t actually have the phrase recorded, or programmed, in several different intonations. I know we’re a long ways away from anything approaching sentient AI, but it was still oddly comforting, as well as a little weird . . . both the exchange and the reality I bothered to do it in the first place.

Déjà Vu All Over Again

I’ve been giving some thought to why I blog, what it is I’m trying to accomplish. As it turns out, I have several motivations that are, in no particular order: Share my observations of the business world; discuss politics; wonder about space, time, and infinity; wax philosophical about religion and spirituality; share my experiences with aging as a point-of-the-spear baby boomer; complain about assholes and assholishness; and blabber on about anything that intrigues me. I guess that pretty much covers everything.

Deja Vu

I could swear I’ve thought about these issues before!

I feel fairly confident in my ability to write about most of these things, but I do have one area in which I’m somewhat reluctant to hold myself out as knowing anything. That subject is business. This isn’t because I haven’t picked up anything useful in the past 52 years since my first “real” job at McDonald’s, but rather because I’ve spent the vast majority of the last three decades working at an organization that is a government contractor and I have a tendency to think we’re very different than other, commercial organizations.

It recently dawned on me or, perhaps after nearly five years of retirement and a return to the organization I retired from, it came back to me the success of the comic strip Dilbert should make it abundantly clear most all reasonably big organizations are very much the same when it comes to bureaucracy, organizational stupidity, and waste. So . . . I’ve now come full-circle I believe and should have no trouble writing about my observations.

Not perzackly. When I first returned to work in mid-January of this year, I ran up against the reality that a large portion of the business, thanks to an acquisition by Aerojet, was now defense and missile related and our work on space exploration was more developmental than production oriented. In fact, I am currently working on what used to be referred to as a “Star Wars” program, a ground-based intercept vehicle designed to “get in the way” of incoming ballistic missiles. As a result, one of the first training modules I was required to take and pass an exam on was regarding Operations Security.

The material wasn’t all that comprehensive, so it requires some real judgment to decide on what I can talk about and what I should not share. It gave me pause – still does, actually. However, I am coming to the conclusion I can speak about any part of normal organizational issues that others (for whom Dilbert continues to resonate with the “truth”) struggle with as well. I think this means issues of communication, knowledge sharing and retention, organizational silos, and cultural constructs that block meaningful progress are probably available targets. Let’s see how good I do.

Why Can’t You Learn, Old Dog?

I am both amazed and highly disappointed at the number of people who believe the ability of colleagues to talk to each other via a tool that is either fairly ephemeral and basic (e.g. MS Communicator) or more persistent and inclusive (e.g. MS Yammer or Cisco Jabber) is a waste of their time. One of my least favorite things to hear is “I’m too busy to learn how to do that” or “I don’t have the time to waste on these things.”

Tin Can Phone

How can I help you?

“These things” are designed to improve our ability to share what we know and to find out what others know; not as a lark or just because, but in support of the work we do every day. How often have you remembered there’s some information that’s available to help you out, but you can’t quite recall where you last saw it or who told you about it? Imagine being able to essentially broadcast a question and have it reach dozens or more people, any one of whom might be able to answer the question for you. How is that a waste and in what way is spending 10 or 15 minutes to learn how to use a tool wasteful given how much time it can save in the long run? Even if you only saved 5 minutes per month, you’d be in the black after only a third of a year.

The business world is changing; grudgingly – at least in many places – but nevertheless changing. A long time ago one of my colleagues who had been a student of Deming’s and who was deeply involved in the understanding of systems, offered his belief that the main reason we survived as a company wasn’t so much because of how good we were at what we do. Rather, it was in large part due to the reality that everyone else was much worse. He wasn’t talking about our organization’s technical skills, but rather about our systems and procedures, most all of which exude bureaucracy from every corner.

I believed him then, and I’ve seen nothing to dissuade me from believing it still – even after a nearly five year hiatus and having been back for over six months now. I’m not sure how much longer any organization can continue doing business the way they’ve always done. I can’t possibly predict when it will be too late to change; when another business will match our technical skills and outperform our organizational skills, leaving us – eventually – in the dust.

It will undoubtedly take longer in aerospace than it would in, say consumer electronics, but even with long-term contracts and government funding there has to come a time when failure to learn and modify how things get done, especially those things that rely on people talking to and working with one another, will mark the end of an organization’s viability. I don’t dwell on it, but I do find myself occasionally listening for that other shoe to drop. You?

In Honor of Working Out Loud Week

First off, let me say I’ve been a proponent of “working out loud” since long before it was called working out loud, even before it was “observable work“, though I didn’t actually have a name for it back then. Since I’m mostly retired, it wasn’t until the end of this week I became aware it was “Working Out Loud Week” and, as a result, decided to look back at the history of the concept. That’s how I came to the two links I’ve shared above. I also know both authors, had encountered their work many years ago, and was not surprised to find them listed among the seminal documents describing either phrase.

I have no desire at this point to write a comprehensive history of the idea and how it’s developed, as well as any prognostication on its future, so I won’t be getting into that. Besides, there are others who are still far more deeply engaged in the day-to-day effort than I, so I think — at least at this point — I can leave that up to them.  I will offer, however, I’m a little disappointed at the idea of setting aside one week in which to suggest people all over the world give it a go; believing instead, it’s a concept worthy of continuous admonition and support. Nevertheless, I understand the forces we’re struggling to overcome and the resistance and inertia standing in the way of progress. It’s often necessary to encourage people to take baby steps, get their feet wet as it were. My disappointment doesn’t run terribly deep.

Actually, due to a chance encounter on the interwebs as I was doing this looking back, I mostly wanted to ask a question. To wit:

If last week was “Working Out Loud Week” (#WOLWeek), then what the hell was this? Color me cornfuzzled although, as I have noted, I’m all for #WOLForever. It’s also good to see Ms. Hart provides links to John Stepper’s, Harold Jarche’s, and Luis Suarez’s efforts, but I’m a bit surprised the author is so unfamiliar with Luis she calls him Luis Elsua!:/ That, I suppose, is another story.

PS – I looked a little further and discovered a post of Harold’s that refers to the post of Jane Hart’s I refer to in the paragraph above. So . . . now that I’m dizzy and, really, a bit delighted at the cross-referrals, I’ll leave my original question. I remain curious as to how we got two #WOLWeeks, but I haven’t the time now to do the research to understand. Maybe someone will actually comment on this post and help me out. In the meantime, I’m glad the concepts of observable and narrated work are getting the attention they deserve. It is a very important aspect of knowledge management and essential to building and maintaining high performing communities, IMO.

Firing Up My Wood-Burning iPad

Next month my iPad will be four and a half years old. I bought it as a present to myself for my 63rd birthday, a couple of weeks after I retired from Pratt & Whitney Rocketdyne. Technologically, it’s already hopelessly out-of-date, the iOS having surpassed its capabilities a couple of releases ago. I kind of gave up on it and was mostly letting my youngest daughter play games on it.

Then, a couple of days ago, Marcia Conner contacted me, wanting to know if I was interested in helping her update the technology references in a book she co-authored and, perhaps, write a new chapter to add on as well. We talked the following day and I enthusiastically accepted the challenge. This, of course, is provided the publisher goes along with her proposal.

Anyway, to help me figure out what’s going on, she sent me four files, one of which is a .mobi – a Kindle – file. Unfortunately, yesterday I started feeling a nasty chest cold coming on and today I wasn’t really up for sitting at my Mac and reading. I do have the Kindle app on my iPad, so I decided to see if I could make use of it. I had no trouble importing the book into my Mac, but it seemed I could only upload the file on my iPad via a GDrive app and each time I opened it I had to start at the beginning, as there was no bookmarking functionality.

Then I discovered, serendipitously, I have an email address I can send all kinds of files to so I can access them through my Kindle app. The other three I had received were Word docs and a .pdf and I sent all four of them to the email address and, voila, I now have access to all of them via the world’s most expensive Kindle device . . . but at least I can lie down and read, which is how I’ve always enjoyed books. I can also bookmark, which is an absolute necessity IMO when you’re doing research or learning something.

Also, even if the deal falls through I’ve already had a positive experience and . . . the book is not just good, but right in my wheelhouse. More to come if this happens.

Possibly Another Stellar Career Move?

USC Marshall Logo

Yesterday was a very good day. I didn’t make a penny and I don’t care. Jimmy could have cracked an entire bushel of corn and I still wouldn’t care. I had a good morning, posting a few items to my FB page, as well as a special item to my Rotary Club’s group and page. I spent a little time studying a request to get involved in the effort to bring open source, transparent voting technology to bear in California, and I enjoyed some interesting conversations with friends here on FB. I received a copy of a soon-to-be-released, transformational book that I had the privilege to help one of the authors with . . . and it was signed with a nice personal note. I also noticed I received a mention in the acknowledgements. All good stuff.

However, the pinnacle, the apex, the absolutely awesome apogee of my day was an interview at USC’s Marshall School of Business, where I had applied for a position as an Adjunct Professor. At this point I don’t even know who referred me to them. I thought it was a friend who teaches there, for whom I have been a guest lecturer a couple of times, but the woman who interviewed me thought it was a cousin who is a Professor in the Education department. I need to sort that out.

My appointment was for 2:30 pm and, since I live over forty miles from the campus and would have to traverse downtown Los Angeles to get there, I planned on leaving an hour and a half early. It turned out to be perfect, as I ran into the expected traffic, arriving at the entrance a half hour before the scheduled time. It took a couple of minutes to secure a parking permit (they had reserved a slot for me) and the gentleman who did so also gave me a map and instructions.

I parked on the fourth floor of a large structure and, noticing there were no elevators, I walked down the stairs to the street level. I guess I haven’t been in a building that tall in quite some time — at least one without an elevator — and, between the distortion of my bifocals, my being out-of-shape, and what I can only assume is an age related tendency to experience a little vertigo, I felt like a doddering old man, carefully stepping down each flight while holding on to the hand rail. I can remember a time when I could virtually skip down such stairs, but I guess those days are long gone.

As I walked the nearly quarter mile to the building I was headed to, I looked around at all the students walking and riding bicycles and skateboards, as well as the plethora of vehicles that included a large number and variety of electric carts and vans. Coming from the suburbs, I was struck by how closely packed everything seemed to be and I found myself thinking we are preparing the students for life as sardines.

USC Mascot

Tommy Trojan and Traveler – Fight On!

I had little trouble finding the Accounting building, where I was to report and, once inside, I sat down for a moment to get my bearings and to check in with my location on Facebook. I had posted about the interview and was pleased to find so many friends wishing me luck and I wanted to let them know I was there. I once read of a man who, asked to what he attributed his success, answered that he always arrived ten minutes early. As I had long believed a lack of punctuality was disrespectful, I adopted his tactic and, in this case, I was actually 15 minutes early. I don’t know if all this will translate into success, but I’m committed to the effort.

Based on a quick reconnoiter of the office numbers, I figured the one I was headed to was on the fourth floor, so I climbed up the first flight of stairs. At the top I found a sign indicating the stairs provided access to floors one through three, and that there was also access to the roof. I was pretty sure the office I was looking for wasn’t on the roof, but I couldn’t find any sign that pointed out where access to the fourth floor was located. I stopped a couple of students and asked them. They didn’t know, but one offered that she was going upstairs and she would walk with me. When we got to the third floor, it appeared there was another flight, but when we went around the corner it led to a locked door. We clearly weren’t going to the roof.

The student who had accompanied me offered to seek out advice and we ended up finding one of the Deans, who led me down a corridor to a door that opened up to stairs. Not in any way obvious, but . . . voila! I was near the end of my search and still 10 minutes early. I climbed the stairs and found the office I was seeking, announced my presence and the recognition I was early, and took a seat outside. Within minutes, the woman who was to conduct the interview popped her head out the door, introduced herself, and asked me to come on in.

I followed her inside, through the reception area, and into her office where she offered me a seat, closed the door, and sat down at her desk opposite me. We had an interesting opening chat which thoroughly confused me as to how my name had found its way to her, and I intend on researching that a little more, but it wasn’t really all that important. It did serve to show I had more connections to the University than I had realized, which was gratifying.

To make what is now a long story a little bit shorter, she told me I had a very impressive resume and she thought I would be perfect teaching both business communications and writing. She also told me they’re already set with their Spring schedule and that I would likely be offered a position after that, which would probably be teaching either Sophomores or Juniors, students she suggested would be very interested in my eclectic experience and knowledge. She also said I might be able to teach virtually, especially since they’re heading more in that direction and I had fairly recently completed my Masters degree in Knowledge Management entirely online. I would also be assigned a mentor, this being my first experience teaching at this level.

As it stands right now, in the interim I have the opportunity to be a guest lecturer, somewhat at my leisure and with subjects of my choosing. This, of course, would be uncompensated but I consider it valuable experience and a way of showing what I can do. I will soon send her a couple of synopses of what I propose to offer. Otherwise, I wait. Based on her enthusiasm and interest, unless she’s being disingenuous (and I have no reason to believe that to be the case), I expect I will begin what may be a new, interesting, and challenging chapter in my life’s journey within the next year.

One thing I find both interesting and ironic about all this is that I grew up believing I would attend UCLA, if I went to a local University. As it turns out, I never did go to undergraduate school, but UCLA likely would have been my first choice. That I may end up teaching at USC, their bitter crosstown rival, is kind of like growing up wanting to play baseball for the Los Angeles Dodgers, only to end up being drafted by the San Francisco Giants. There are far worse things I can think of.

All Hail The Beneficent, Ubiquitous Keyboard

There’s a little sort of game going on in Facebook lately. Someone is challenged to list three things they’re thankful for for seven days, at the same time tagging a friend each day (or something like that) to do the same. I haven’t been asked to do it, and I have no plans of doing it either, as it just seems too spread out and broad to do justice to the recognition of those things we might be thankful for. Nevertheless, it does give me pause and I have been thinking about what I would say should I choose one or two specific things for which I’m thankful. There is one seemingly mundane thing that keeps popping into my head. My ability to type.

I can’t imagine how different my world would be if I had to use what an old girlfriend of mine called the “search and destroy” method of typing. Most people use the more pastoral term “hunt and peck”, but she spent several tours with the USO in Vietnam and her life was colored by her exposure to that war, the military, and her involvement in the movement to end it. If I were hampered by that inability, my social presence and my ability to communicate would be virtually non-existent.

I was fortunate. In Junior High School I took a typing class; instead of what I haven’t the faintest, but I recall it seeming to be the most useful option at the time. As a result, I learned to touch type. Later on, when I was in Law School, I secured a position as a legal secretary for a sole practitioner who did a lot of contract and property damage work for several of the largest car rental agencies in the country. We were very busy and my workload was challenging enough that my speed increased. I’ve never been as prolific as the best, but I was up to a little over 80 wpm, with few if any errors. That’s not quite as fast as the average person can speak, but it’s a respectable clip.

IBM Memory Typewriter

The IBM Memory Typewriter

The job turned out to be a major turning point in my life, as I was introduced to the early stages of office computing and word processing. We ended up getting an IBM Memory Typewriter, the one built on the correcting Selectric, but with a dial providing memory for 50 separate pages. We moved up shortly to an Artec Display 2000, which used two 8″ floppies and had a scrolling display of approximately 30 characters. I don’t remember if it was LED or LCD, but the characters were red. We used it for pleadings, and wills and trusts.

Back to typing speed and how critical it is to communication in today’s world. I don’t really have to imagine what it would be like, because I had an experience with a colleague that pointed it out rather clearly, though it took months for me to recognize what was happening. I was working with the Director of our newly formed Program Management Office at what was then the Rocketdyne Power & Propulsion business unit of The Boeing Company. We were at almost opposite ends of the main office building in Canoga Park and I was upstairs in what was called The Annex. The distance between his office and my cubesickle was around 400 yards; not a huge distance, but it took time to walk back and forth. Plus it meant passing through the Executive Office area and there were always distractions.

I can’t recall the exact dates, but it was very early in our use of Instant Messenger; so early that I had to point out its value, as most of the older staff (which meant all of the Executives) perceived it as only a toy their kids used to communicate with each other. I kept sending IMs to this Director, but he never answered them, nor did he respond in anything resembling a timely manner to emails, so I was forced to walk to his office repeatedly during the day.

It wasn’t until a couple of months had passed that I happened to be sitting with him in his office and he was answering an email. Watching him type . . . ever so slowly and painfully . . . made it clear why he never responded to me. He had to hunt anew for each letter and, with his two index fingers, peck them out in a long, excruciatingly difficult session. He clearly hated it. I know I was cringing as I watched. I never sent him an IM after that day.

I’m thinking the ability to type is one of those essential tools we seldom think about — perhaps take for granted — without which our world would be far less rich and fulfilling. I can type this post, tweet, post to Facebook, engage in lengthy, spirited debates with dozens of widely dispersed people, and participate in a plethora of other forms of communication or collaboration relatively easily, all because of my ability to type quickly and accurately. I imagine this is true for almost all, if not all, of my friends and acquaintances.

For this I am deeply thankful.


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