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Episode 17 of Last Man Standing (wikipedia) depicted the use of Amateur Radio. The ARRL gave the Amateur Radio community early notice that Amateur Radio would be depicted in a major prime time sitcom. Many amateur radio folks were looking forward to watching this episode.
The episode aired in March, 2013. For many hams, it was not what they expected. One could ask, what sort of image did the script writers project of Amateur Radio and what do seven million people now think of Amateur Radio? One could also ask, what is the power of the ARRL in influencing the public messaging and image of Amateur Radio? The ARRL spends some portion of its budget on PR. Did episode 17 of Last Man Standing enhance or detract from that messaging, “brand building”, and PR by the ARRL?
Impressions from the Amateur Radio community
You can look to the ARRL forums for some discussions. Three months after airing, there are only 4 comments on the official ARRL forum. Only three of those comments contained any real content and analysis.
Here they are: ( http://www.arrl.org/forum/topics/view/780)
“ABC Comedy Last Man Standing Episode 17″ It was disappointing in how Ham Radio was depicted. This looked more like “CB Radio” and advertising for the equipment and the illegal Linear Amplifier shown. The average TV fan would assume that anyone could use these expensive radios to chat without having to type to their friends! According to the show, some of the writers/producers are Ham Operators and they know the requirements to become licensed. Being a 40+ year ARRL Life member, 20 WPM Extra Class licensed Ham, makes me wonder about the shows story line and how far they are going with it. Lastly, while Ham Operators enjoy the hobby, they also volunteer their services in disasters and various community events. KB3SM: a proud Old Ham…
Our main page had a news story back on March 4th that announced the airing of this show. The spokesman of this show, who is an active Radio Amateur, warned us about the way Amateur radio was presented. From our news story, Mr. Amodeo says,:
“As a ham, I am very excited to be able to have an episode that presents our hobby in an upbeat and positive way,” Amodeo told the ARRL. “As a television producer, I am pleased to present a very funny episode for our more than 7 million viewers. This episode will feature more ham gear than seen in mainstream movies such as Frequency, Contact and Super 8 — all great films that had Amateur Radio in them. It’s worth noting that although hams will enjoy the episode, it was written with our 7 million non-ham viewers in mind. Please be prepared for some inconsistencies related to Amateur Radio, but enjoy the show nevertheless.”
I don’t watch this show, since I’m too busy to watch television, so I can’t comment on it. Wish we could come up with a show of our own, but we don’t have the resources.
As a retired geezer, I did watch the show. It was a 30-minute sitcom, what do you expect? Answer: not much when it comes to “important content” regarding amateur radio — or anything else.
I noticed the “illegal” use of the radio by an unlicensed and unsupervised person, of course. It was irresponsible to say the least for a ham to leave his rig “live” in a house full of teenagers.
But I marveled at how the writers could weave radio and international QSOs into the plot in a very quick and (to the uninformed) believable way. I bet there are a lot of young people who now have a different impression of ham radio as an alternative to mindless texting, Facebooking, etc. It was artfully done, I’d say.
Not that I’m likely to watch again. I’m the wrong demographic!
If we had a “show of our own”, I’m sure it would not get 7 million viewers.
73 Martin AA6E
ARRL Technical Advisor
ARRL Test Engineer
Storyline and writers depiction of Amateur Radio
We can look a little deeper into what was depicted in this episode.
Amateur Radio was a sub-plot in the episode titled “The Fight”. The daughter, Mandy was getting poor grades in high school. So, the parents decided that the reason for this was that she was spending too much time using her computer and smart phone. To remedy the situation the parents decide to take away Mandy’s computer and phone until she pulls up her grades.
Of course, Mandy recites the mantra of her generation when her parents take away her devices, “This is how people of my generation communicate and exchange ideas”. Without her devices, Mandy is having withdrawal symptoms.
Mandy wanders into the basement trying to find out where her parents hid her devices. On the shelf she comes across an old typewriter. She mistakes the typewriter for a laptop with a missing monitor.
Across the room is her fathers Amateur Radio station. It’s fired up and running. So, she walks over to it, sits down, picks up the microphone and stats talking.
All the comments above made by Hams is dead on. What she did was illegal – you need a license to use a ham radio or be “third party traffic” with a licensed amateur radio operation present at the radio. Leaving a ham radio on and unattended like that was irresponsible. And finally, no one just walks up to a radio with a linear amplifier and just starts talking without doing some technical fiddling.
“Who Are You People?”
When Mandy starts talking on the Amateur Radio, other Hams come back to her. She asks, “Who are you people?” One ham responds that they are amateur radio operators and that people all over the world can hear what you say. In response, Mandy says, “Oh, it’s like twitter but more advanced since you don’t have to type”
Mandy tries to use what she knows about Twitter on Ham Radio. So, after talking, she “hash tags” her last sentence and gives permission to “Re-Ham” (Re-Tweet) what she just said. The ham folks reply with “LOL Mandy. Did I get that right?
The writers have set up the dialog to get a laugh out of the generation gap between Mandy (a millennial) and the amateur radio operators (Baby Boomer generation and older). Both generations try to talk to each other across the generation gap by trying to use idioms and phrases they think the other generation would understand. Mandy tries to adapt her generations terms and concepts (hash tags, re/tweet) to the language of hams (“Re/Ham that’).
The personal stories of World War II
Mandy is trying to do a paper for school on World War II. A couple of Ham’s respond.
Mandy tells the hams she is working on a paper for school on World War II. She gets two responses. The first ham (Walter) says he was on Omaha beach (D-day invasion). Mandy misunderstands this as Walter trying to tell her about his vacation. The second ham, a woman says, “I remember the war like it was yesterday. Better than yesterday since I’m in early stages of dementia.”
Again, the script writers play on the generation gap between Mandy and the amateur radio operators go get a laugh. Anyone of age who was present in World War II to have personal stories to tell is now in their late 70′s or 80′s. The writers throw in the comment by the Ham that she is suffering from “early dementia” for good measure – it got a laugh.
Mandy does her paper and her parents compliment her on the all the personal stories of World War II she has cited. She got those stories from the ham radio operators who she talked to. They were there in World War II.
This episode of Last Man Standing was seen by an estimated 7 million people. What impression did the mainstream masses come away with of Amateur Radio? That Amateur Radio is a legacy technology with a bunch of old people? Perhaps.
The 2009 ARRL has set this strategic goal
The ARRL will have a membership in 2020 with 60% of the members being under the age of 40.
I have not seen them report on this progress. But engaging young people is essential to their continued existence given that the average age for hams is late 50′s and into the early 60′s and 70′s. Young people are heavily under represented in the Amateur Radio community.
Is this a crazy idea?
While watching episode 17 of Last Man Standing on the internet I got treated to a whole bunch of commercials.
I saw ads for Google, Verizon, Internet Explorer, Land Rover, Nokia, and Bank of America.
I was treated to an interactive ad for Nokia smart phone video stabilization.
There were two ads for cat food and one ad for a carpet company (Luna).
What I did not see was an ad for the ARRL, or for any amateur radio equipment. Was there no company or organization associated with Amateur Radio for which it would make sense to squeeze a 15 second spot for Amateur Radio between the two cat food commercials or the carpet commercial for this episode where Amateur Radio played a role?
Of course, any ham will tell you, that it’s crazy to advertise amateur radio to the mainstream. The key is to ask them why. Further, given the episodes depiction of Amateur Radio an ad would be embarrassing to whatever company or organization placed it.
The lasting impression to 7 million people
Those 7 million people who watched the episode of Last Man Standing now know the term “Amateur Radio”. They saw some nice (expensive) equipment. They got a few laughs at Amateur Radio’s expense built on the generation gap between Mandy and the Hams. Now they will go on with their life and forget about amateur radio or know it as some sort of quirky legacy technology ( in the same scene where they saw a typewriter) before the advent of always-on global communications available to nearly everyone on the planet.
For Amateur Radio to survive it’s about influence and impact. But I think that the portrayal of Amateur Radio on Last Man Standing to the mainstream masses has now relegated Amateur Radio only to a technical curiosity easily forgotten.
As a ham, I am very excited to be able to have an episode that presents our hobby in an upbeat and positive way,” Amodeo told the ARRL… It’s worth noting that although hams will enjoy the episode, it was written with our 7 million non-ham viewers in mind. Please be prepared for some inconsistencies related to Amateur Radio, but enjoy the show nevertheless.
How many chances does the ARRL get to reach 7 million non-hams in the Last Man Standing demographic with a 22 minute story at no cost to them? This high stakes portrayal of Amateur Radio to the mainstream also gives us some insight into the ARRL’s influence (influence to a team of creative sitcom script writers?) and ability to mange the public image of Amateur Radio.
The vandal carved ‘Ding Jinhao was here’ in Chinese in the 3,500 year old Luxor Temple.Hong Kong (CNN) –
Parents of a 15-year-old Chinese tourist have apologized after the teenager defaced a stone sculpture in an ancient Egyptian temple with graffiti.The act drew ire in both Egypt and China — generating a massive online backlash amongst China’s unforgiving netizens.The vandal carved ‘Ding Jinhao was here’ in Chinese in the 3,500 year old Luxor Temple.
This morning, I heard a few people talking about this story. Not so much about the facts of the incident, but what it means.
This event has a connection to a recent vblog on YouTube. I posted a link to the vblog “The Aspirational Snobbery of Youth” and made a few comments here.
Celebrity and notoriety without love of the work or career
I listened to the vblog a few times, this is what I get out of it.
It’s not that vblog author Delboy is complaining about the aspiration of youth (or anyone else , for that matter) as much as he is making the point that some people want to get it (money, status) without really working for it. Delboy cites money as what drives people to take the short cut to fame – not love of the work or career. For other people, it’s not so much money as it is status and notoriety. They want it… and they want to get it doing as little work as possible.
On the backs of others accomplishments
So, 15-year-old Ding Jinhao decided to write his name on the wall of the 3,500 year old Luxor Temple in Egypt. The Luxor Temple in Egypt is a major tourist attraction in Egypt. I had the good fortune of visiting that temple in the past.
So, the intent seems to be, that by placing his name on the Luxor temple those visiting the temple will see the name “Ding Jinhao”. No one would come to see Ding Jinhao. But they would come to see the Luxor Temple. And, the logic must be, by placing his name on the wall, Ding Jinhao will somehow get recognition / status / notoriety that would otherwise not be available to him. It’s status or recognition by proxy.
Someone else (a whole cadre of other people) did the work of conceptualizing, designing, architecting, funding, and building the Luxor Temple. Ding Jinhao did none of this. He took the easy route. Put your name on (or over, deface) the work of others.
So, back to Delboy’s vblog. As he says, some people want celebrity without paying their dues and doing the hard work. Some cooks want to be called “Chef” – without training and without apprenticeship. Some people want to have the celebrity of a singer – but they can’t sing. Some people imagine themselves as a train engineer driving a train – but really, all they are cut our for is to be a stoker.
People just are not satisfied with who they are. In itself, being not satisfied with the status quo of who you are (now) is called “ambition”. And that’s good – if you do the work to gain the competency and skills to deserve the notoriety of title or position. It’s not good if you get your notoriety by taking short cuts – like taking the title without the competency or track record of success. Or, simply by defacing the work of others – layering your name on the achievements of others or by hiding or destroying the work of your predecessors (see story of Amenhotep II below)
How it works in small organizations
You can see this same thing going on in small organizations. If there is a diminished focus on results then anyone can take on any job title. Notoriety and celebrity without the results. In some, “once great organizations”, if the stakeholders are not vigilant in who they allow to become “celebrities” in the organization without results then it’s equivalent to allowing the organization to be defaced.
So, if Ding Jinhao wanted celebrity and notoriety – he got it. In the organizational context, those that “run them into the ground” because they have the title and not the talent to deliver results, then they will get the same sort of notoriety and celebrity that Ding Jinhao has now. And history will certainly remember them.
Read about defacing the Temple of Isis in Philae here.
If your accomplishments are not that strong, destroy the work of those that came before you… (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hatshepsut)
Amenhotep II, the son of Thutmose III, who became a co-regent toward the end of his father’s reign, is suspected by some as being the defacer during the end of the reign of a very old pharaoh. He would have had a motive because his position in the royal lineage was not so strong as to assure his elevation to pharaoh. He is documented, further, as having usurped many of Hatshepsut’s accomplishments during his own reign. His reign is marked with attempts to break the royal lineage as well, not recording the names of his queens and eliminating the powerful titles and official roles of royal women such as, God’s Wife of Amun.
It’s the humility with which you accept your lot in life that makes you a gentleman
For some people, for all their life, they were told that an ordinary life was for average people – and they certainly are not average.
With the easy availability of GoPRO cameras these days there a a few bikers doing, what I would call, high-speed video blogs. Basically, guys on their motorcycles with a GoPRO camera strapped to their helmet with a remote mike riding to work or pleasure riding doing a blog.
One such blogger is YouTube channel Delboy’s Garage. In addition to showing you all sorts of things related to motorcycles he does a few opinion blogs.
So, here’s an interesting blog in praise of ordinary people with ordinary jobs.
Enjoy the countryside in the UK as you listen to his opinions on the “Aspirational Snobbery of Youth.
Check out a related post
Yesterday I caught some of the Senate hearings on Apple avoiding paying taxes. The issue of taxes aside, something that Senator McCain said gives great insight into his personality and perhaps a generation.
Senator McCain to the Apple CEO, Tim Cook:
Sir, there’s only one thing I really wanted to ask you today. Why do I keep on having to update all the apps on my iPhone? Can’t you guys fix that already?
Can’t you fix it?
Once and for all…
So I don’t have to get these updates…
Tim Cook replied that McCain’s iPhone got updates because Apple is making things better all the time.
The Static, Finished Universe
John McCain, like many, thinks in terms of a “static universe”. Things should work in a certain way and then stay that way forever. Change is bad; I am satisfied what with I have; why change it?
Perhaps such an idea is generational. McCain is of the generation who have one career, work at one place their entire life, and defend the status quo at all costs no matter what. I meet these people all the time in just about every organization.
Pre-rational belief systems
Henry Ford once said, “If you think you can or think you can’t – you’re right”
The idea is that your attitude has a direct effect on outcomes. If you think the World is static then it is; if you think it’s not then it’s not. These sorts of decisions are pre-rational. The outcome will be what your pre-conceived ideas make it. You make your own Reality.
Perhaps we have been influenced too much by the traditional Christian theological position of the perfection of God. The idea that God, in his/her perfection is “changeless”. This is pure metaphysics. Why should “changelessness” be perfection? In the 13th century St Thomas Aquinas brought Aristotle’s metaphysics into the Catholic tradition. That’s the long and short of it.
A different idea
If you saw the movie The Social Network about Mark Zuckerberg and the creation of Facebook then perhaps you remember this scene in the movie. Someone asks Zuckerberg this question, “When will Facebook be finished?”
Zuckerberg replies, “Facebook is like fashion, it will never be finished.”
It’s matter of perspective – and it makes all the difference in the world.
Like fashion, nothing should be finished. No idea, no concept, no product, no innovation, no organization,, and even your career – should never be finished. There is no life when one is finished.
McCain is probably not alone. Fix this software and be done with it. To change something implies that it’s broken.
Fashion is not broken. Innovation is only broken when it stops changing.
Traditional Theology got a shock in the 20th century by Process Theology. That movement in theology in the 1950′s “outted” traditional theological debt to Aristotle and St. Thomas Aquinas in the notion that “changless” is some sort of perfection.
Shocking as it might seem, the Process Theologians held that “God’s future is open”. God is not static and not finished.
As the McCain and Cook short exchange demonstrates, just about every organization, every government, and every social context is a collision between those who want to stop the world and those who want to change the world. Exchanges like McCain-Cook demonstrate how people differentiate themselves in thier pre-rational belief systems about change and what it implies.
There are insights every day about how people think, if you know where to look. Hopefully, McCain and Cook learned something interesting about themselves and their view of the world in this exchange. And now you know it too.
I caught this recent posting by Seth Godin
Competence vs. possibility
As we get more experienced, we get better, more competent, more able to do our thing.
And it’s easy to fall in love with that competence, to appreciate it and protect it. The pitfall? We close ourselves off from possibility.
Possibility, innovation, art–these are endeavors that not only bring the whiff of failure, they also require us to do something we’re not proven to be good at. After all, if we were so good at it that the outcome was assured, there’d be no sense of possibility.
We often stop surprising ourselves (and the market) not because we’re no good anymore, but because we are good. So good that we avoid opportunities that bring possibility.
Anyone who has spent time in many of America’s largest corporations can observe the curse of competency.
The largest corporations are your biggest opportunity and your biggest liability.
The Competency of Cogs
The largest corporations take their toll on those who are obsessed with competency and, at the same time, are suffering from personal insecurity. Obsessed with competency and the actual achievement of competency – especially in a functional/operational area – closes one off to taking risks. Taking risks and learning something new is not for the insecure nor for the non-curious.
The largest corporations have a warm place for the super-competent, super-insecure, super-nonCurious. You become a nameless cog is a giant machine. You may be tossed aside without ceremony with the slightest organizations change or change in technology that operates the giant mechanism of the company.
Opportunity in exchange for non-competency
On the other hand, America’s largest corporations are the best asset for competent risk takers and the super-curious. This environment provides unlimited possibility – if you know how to work it.
America’s largest corporations are both poison and cure; limitations and opportunity; life and death for your career.
It is always interesting to listen to the “super-competent” brag with arrogance about greatness self-assured in their domain of knowledge. Yet, when you look at where they are in the giant corporation you might find that, after 20 or 30 years, they are still without any strategic or direction setting role in that organization. Essentially, a “senior” position no different from where they started out after graduating from high school or college.
In a sense, you need to embrace failure (or at least the possibility of it) in order to become competent. Competent people with high levels of insecurity can’t achieve this.
The irony is that to become a strategic decision maker in America’s largest corporations in the context of an ever uncertain future you must travel a road of nearly continuous incompetency and have the intellectual fortitude, resilience, adaptability, and appetite for failure that each new challenge presents.
So, the confident, super-competent, non risk takers, need not apply.
Everyone finds their place. And everyone knows who and what you are
Your choice in America’s largest corporations. Cog or executive?
Eventually, everyone finds their place in the organizational hierarchy of America’s largest corporations. Your position and final destination in the hierarchy says much about how you deal with risk, uncertainty, ambition, resilience… and oh yes, how much your particular competency has limited your career possibilities.
135 Years of Fun
On Monday April 1, 2013, the First Family will host the 135th annual White House Easter Egg Roll. This year, more than 35,000 people from all 50 states will be joining us on the South Lawn for games, stories, and, of course, the traditional egg roll.
In addition to all the fun and games, the day’s activities — which will include sports courts and cooking demonstrations — will help educate families on smart ways to incorporate healthy eating and exercise choices into their daily routines, which are key pillars of First Lady Michelle Obama’s Let’s Move! initiative.
Every year since 1878 the White House has held an Easter egg roll.
People don’t think too much about it. That is, they don’t think too deeply about it.
Of course the White House can’t associate a Christian significance to the Easter Holiday… separation of church and State and all that.
So, there will be no (Christian) crosses or talk about death and resurrection.
But, there will be eggs and perhaps an Easter Bunny or two.
No cross but eggs.
If we know that the cross, death, and resurrection is out the picture then why are eggs and bunnies in the picture?
Does anyone ask what the significance of eggs are? In a sense, the egg is as much religiously charged as is the cross.
Here are a several observations.
- Our holidays are being wrenched free of any historical context or significance – Christian, Pagan, or otherwise. Too dangerous. Easter means what Easter means in this moment – this year, today. What Easter will mean next year will wait until what is needed is discovered. Easter is a “movable” feast in time and meaning.
- People don’t ask what these holidays/rituals/celebrations mean in historical context. Should they know? Or, is ignorance bliss?
- People, seemingly, aren’t equipped to ask questions. It does not occur to them to ask questions. Good or bad? Short term or long-term? Locally or in the context of America’s global competitiveness? Perhaps thinking critically and framing the right questions is more valuable than having the correct answers to the wrong questions.
So, this year, “Easter” will be pressed into service of promoting Obama’s agenda of healthy eating and exercise. The menu will also include a side order of Yoga free from any fatty and unhealthy references to Hindu Philosophy.
If someone wants to manipulate a society, culture, or group the inability of the target to think deeply and ask questions is the manipulators best advantage.
It comes down to an issue of education and society. How educated do you want your society to be? Sometimes, the less the better.
How about adding “education’ to the list of White House Easter activities and including some sessions on the historical origins of Easter? Probably not a popular idea – with the White House. They would need to talk about fertility rites, goddesses, myths, and all that stuff. Oh, and the Christian significance as well. Part of that session would also have to include the derivative insight that every political generation over millennium has used such holidays to re/interpret according to their needs. Messy business to bring all this up on Easter.
No, its more fun to search for wooden eggs… just do it… don’t ask too many questions. Be Happy. And, “Lets Move!” this Easter.
For without friends no one would choose to live, though he had all other goods; even rich men and those in possession of office and of dominating power are thought to need friends most of all; for what is the use of such prosperity without the opportunity of beneficence, which is exercised chiefly and in its most laudable form towards friends? – Aristotle - Nicomachean Ethics – 384-322 BCE
One might wonder, after a period of 2,000+ years, has there been any (what is called) “progress”.
Surely we can distinguish between “progress” in the area of technology and progress in other areas such as culture and society.
Aristotle (384-322 BC) lived more than 2000 years ago . Surely, if Aristotle were transported from ancient Greece to the modern world he would find the progress in science and technology absolutely astounding. But, if he were to look at our social relationships 2000 years distant from his own time what would he discover? Would Aristotle say that, after two millennium, we have made any progress in human relationships?
Perhaps he would say we have taken several steps back from the “golden age” of Greek culture.
Aristotle on Friendship
Aristotle wrote about friendship in Nicomachean Ethics. He divided friendship into three categories.
Friendship of young people seems to aim at pleasure; for they live under the guidance of emotion, and pursue above all what is pleasant to themselves and what is immediately before them.
Those who pursue utility . . . sometimes . . . do not even find each other pleasant; therefore they do not need such companionship unless they are useful to each other; for they are pleasant to each other only in so far as they rouse in each other hopes of something good to come.
What’s in it for me?
According to Aristotle, Pleasure and Utility friendship is partly motivated by a “what’s in it for me” attititude. The friendship exists only insofar as there is some benefit – pleasure or utility – that can be derived from the relationship. When the benefit erodes, so does the friendship
Therefore those who love for the sake of utility love for the sake of what is good for themselves, and those who love for the sake of pleasure do so for the sake of what is pleasant to themselves, and not in so far as the other is the person loved but in so far as he is useful or pleasant.
And thus these friendships are only incidental; for it is not as being the man he is that the loved person is loved, but as providing some good or pleasure. Such friendships, then, are easily dissolved, if the parties do not remain like themselves; for if the one party is no longer pleasant or useful the other ceases to love him.
Perfect (or True) Friendship
Finally, Aristotle defines Perfect Friendship:
Perfect friendship is the friendship… [of those] …who are good, and alike in virtue; for these wish well alike to each other qua good, and they are good themselves. Now those who wish well to their friends for their sake are most truly friends; for they do this by reason of own nature and not incidentally; therefore their friendship lasts as long as they are good-and goodness is an enduring thing. And each is good without qualification and to his friend, for the good are both good without qualification and useful to each other.
Here is how Philosophy Professor Dean A. Kowaalski sums it up:
So, for Aristotle, the highest form of friendship occurs between persons of equally good moral character (virtue), which is enhanced due to their interactions. Such friendships are admittedly rare; when they do obtain, it is because the friends spend a great deal of time together, developing a secure mutual trust. Their relationship is fostered by participating in joint ventures and engaging in activities that exercise their own virtues for the betterment of the other and the friendship. All of this is done primarily for the sake of the other person (and not for selfish purposes), even though their interests have grown so close together that it is difficult to separate them. Consequently, complete friendship results in a sort of second self, a true partner.
There may be a Myth of Progress. In some contexts, progress seems obvious perhaps because of the selection or limitation of what one considers. Surely, “progress” is an in-your-face fact when one looks only at technology and our understanding of how the world works – science in general and physics in particular.
But has there been any progress in social relationships? Or perhaps there been a degradation brought about by the progress in technology. Perhaps the more technology we have the greater distance we can put between ourselves and other people and still call them “friends”… to the point that they are no friends at all… merely markers or counts on a Facebook page or the number of Twitter followers.
Technology is “enabling”. Enabling to make True Friends as Aristotle would define it? Technology may simply enable those who have a “what’s in it for me” motive of finding merely pleasure or utility in others. “Friends for pleasure” is now easy to find on the Internet. Friends to scam and friends for transactional relationships are easy to find as well. Have your “friended” or “liked” Starbucks or other organization or business? Why are they your friends?
So, if Aristotle were to step into the 21′st century world of technology there would not be much he would understand. We have made fantastic progress. And, I think he would agree based on his writings of Universal Physics, Human Physics, Animal Physics, and Metaphysics of this time. But Politics and (Nicomachean) Ethics where the above quotes on friendship came from? Any progress here in two millennium?
What Aristotle wrote 2,000+ years ago about friendships being only for utility and only for pleasure and easily dissolved is as relevant for today as it was in ancient Greece.
It might be a revelation to you if you examine your friendships within Aristotle’s framework – friends of pleasure; friends of utility; and perfect friends.
How many perfect friendships do you really have? Has technology been a benefit or a liability? And have we made any progress in two millennium in answering Aristotle’s basic question, “how should men best live”?
Read about Dunbar’s number – If You’ve Got More Than 150 Facebook Friends, They’re No Friends at All
Alone Together. Why we expect more from technology and less from each other
I’ve been doing local backups of my desktop operating system and personal files for years. I just use windows image backup and windows file backup. It works good enough and it’s built into Windows. Of course the backup goes to a second drive.
The second drive is generally another internal drive to the desktop or an external drive. Best bang for the buck is a Fantom external drive that has both a USB and eSATA interface. The eSATA interface lets you connect the Fantom external drive to an existing SATA connector on the motherboard. This happens via a passive SATA connector that can be routed to the back of the desktop. Some laptops have a eSATA connector.
So the problem is all these backups are in your house.
My really important stuff goes on a DVD and in a safe deposit box.
Well, there has to be a better way.
Keeping your data safe from local natural and un/natural disasters
I finally got a cloud-based backup solution – Carbonite
Here are a few observations on Carbonite for those considering a cloud-based backup solution.
- It’s inexpensive and worth the price. I opted for the Home Plus subscription for $89/year. For this price you get unlimited space, the ability to backup an external drive, and drive mirroring. This is really more than a home user really needs. The Home plan at $59 should be sufficient for most people.
- It knows what to backup. Carbonite is for backing up your personal files. If you let it choose, it generally picks the right things to backup. Carbonite clearly marks folders that it is going to backup. You have the choice to add or remove folders for backup through an extension to the right-click context menu in windows file explorer. So, by default, it backs up my downloads folder. For me, this is just a temporary location. So I removed it as a Carbonite backup target.
- It will backup new users as they are created. I have a number of user accounts on my PC – some which I created after installing Carbonite. Carbonite backs up new users without any intervention on your part. (Suggestion for those who want to stay virus-free. Create a non-privileged, non-administrator account on your PC and use that as your normal account. Never login with Admin privileges. Windows will not make system level changes unless you provide specific permission and supply the Admin password while logged in as a non-privileged user.)
- Carbonite works in real-time in the background. “Set it and forget it”
- Detailed information on backup progress. The Carbonite Info Center desktop application clearly shows what is awaiting backup down to the file level and location.
- Use it in conjunction with Windows Image Backup. Carbonite does not backup your OS. This is best done with the standard Windows Image Backup that is included with most versions of windows.
Some finer points.
Carbonite does not maintain point-in-time backups. On my Mac I use the built-in Time Machine backup which is included with Apple OSX. Time Machine allows you to view your Mac at any point in the past. So, if you deleted a file a month ago, that you created 3 months ago, that file is still available on Time Machine (as long as you have enough space on your Time Machine drive).
Carbonite does not work like this. If you delete a file on your PC and don’t grab it back from Carbonite’s servers in 30 days, it’s gone forever.
The idea is that you need to keep every file you want to save available on your PC in a place that Carbonite expects to backup.
So, the difference can be summed up by saying that Carbonite is not an archive facility. And sometimes, this is what you want. For example, you may have some music, documents, videos, photographs, books, etc that you really don’t need right now, so you “archive” them on DVD and put those in a safe place. Placing these seldom used items on a DVD and removing them from your PC frees up space on your PC.
External Drives. What was said above applies in an extreme way to an external drive. Carbonite applies the same rules to external drives. So, if you have Carbonite backup your external drive you need to keep that drive attached and running. If you detach the drive for more than 30 days Carbonite will think you have deleted all those files. And, since Carbonite does not keep point-in-time backups, all your files on the external drive will be deleted on Carbonite’s servers. Again, Carbonite is not for archiving files.
Security and file encryption. Carbonite says that it encrypts files on your local machine before sending them over the Internet to Carbonite’s servers. Carbonite says files are stored as encrypted on their servers. Carbonite does all the key management for you. But, as the iPad app will demonstrate, that key is flying around so that files are viewable in many locations. Don’t forget that human beings work in data centers and they have access to everything – despite corporate policy, controls, and audits. There is an option in Carbonite to manage your own keys, but I would not recommend that. A better option is to encrypt super-secret files yourself using something like AxCrypt and then let Carbonite back up the already encrypted file.
The really good stuff
There are few downsides as long as you clearly understand how Carbonite works. There are some really nice features.
- Access to your files on the web. Pretty straightforward. Login to Carbonite on the web and you can access all your files
- Access to your files on iPad. Install the free Carbonite app on your iPad and you can not only see the file names that are backed up but also view them. The Carbonite iPad app has built-in viewers. So, if you have some backed up EXCEL worksheets, no problem. The Carbonite app can display them in all their workbook glory. (See note above on file security and encryption)
- Free backup of your iPad videos and images. How much better can it get? The free Carbonite app for iPad will backup your videos and images on your iPad. No limit.
- It all just works silently behind your back and in real-time. If you have a really important file that you just created you can instruct Carbonite to back it up as soon as possible. A series of colored dots always tells you the backup status of each file.
At the time of this writing a 1TB external drive costs about $89. That money is better spent on a subscription to Carbonite. Not only do you not have to deal with physical hardware you don’t have to worry about keeping that drive safe against natural (or unnatural) disasters.
Carbonite is “set it and forget it” plus file access from anywhere via web or tablet application.
The “unlimited” nature of Carbonite’s offering for less than $100 is generous. So if you have multiple PC’s in the house then buy a subscription for each. However, if you are on the frugal side, there is a way you can have Carbonite backup files from other PC’s via a Windows Homegroup or a traditional file share.
Carbonite is not archival storage. But, it would be a useful additional optional service element for any cloud-based backup solution to add archival storage. For example, maybe you have 5 years of historical tax returns or other historical financial information. You need to retain these records for some period of time. But, you don’t want it spinning around on your hard disk for security reasons. So, a possible solution for this scenario would be for cloud-based backup solution providers, like Carbonite, to offer tiered storage. Archival storage would cost less and be accessible within some period of time on request (maybe 24 hrs). This would keep your historical data safe and not require it to be continually present on your local hard drive as is the requirement now with Carbonite.
Bottom line, archival storage aside, Carbonite is a “buy”.
Yahoo CEO Marissa Mayer spent her first few months on the job making her employees feel better about where they worked. Then, recently, she took a big step backward, rescinding the treasured right to work from home.
Now she’s in damage control mode. So we get an opaquely sourced New York Times story explaining that Mayer had an excellent reason for the morale-killing new policy: boosting morale.
People unhappy with the change are being quietly told that there is no change, really — at least not one that applies to them. Instead, it’s aimed at the roughly 200 workers who have arrangements that let them work from home full time.
“Although they collected Yahoo paychecks, some did little work for the company and a few even had begun their own start-ups on the side,” reports the Times
I read a few articles on this new policy by Marissa Mayer at Yahoo. She is definitely bucking the trend of work from home.
From the limited number of articles I’ve read so far there is no mention of exactly what sort of work these people do. None of the articles have dug into this deeper question. Who are these people and how strategic are they to the business?
Who’s minding the store?
To make people who… “collected Yahoo paychecks, [and] did little work for the company” show up is not going to solve the root cause of the problem.
This is a management problem and executive leadership problem. By making the “offenders” (so called) show up at work is misdiagnosing the problem.
At the bottom of an organization a good project management disciple would make deliverables clear, identify who is working on what, and when the deliverables are due. If no task assigned to an employee is longer then 40 hrs then any missed task deliverables will be noticed in about a week.
So, if any employee collected a paycheck and did little work for the company then some things seem obvious
- There is a problem of accountability. This works two ways. Employee committment to the company to do a good/excellent job. A committment from the company to hold everyone accountable.
- There is a project management problem. Doesn’t the management know what their employees are supposed to be doing? Are there no milestones on projects, or schedules, or any way of tracking missed milestones and deadlines? If employees can get paid and do nothing then Yahoo has little financial management at the project level.
- There is a financial management problem at executive levels. If there is no scrutiny on financial performance at the project level then this shows there are problems at the executive level as well.
- The operating model seems broken. If projects can squander money then strategic initiatives, operating model, projects, and individual financial incentives and performance measures are not aligned.
- You hired (and retained) the wrong people all across the organization. Employees that get paid and deliver little or no value to the company, Project Managers that don’t manage projects or people, executives that don’t watch financial performance of projects, and an operating model that shows signs of wear certainly suggest that Yahoo has hired and retained the wrong people at all levels.
If the above five points are near on the mark then Marissa Mayer making people “show up” is not going to solve the problem. By misdiagnosing the problem she will be on a treadmill of revisiting the problem until the root cause is properly diagnosed and addressed.
She is there for a turnaround, right? Here’s her chance. “Show up for work”… I call this one “a clean miss”.
I always read Seth Godin’s blog. They entries and short, direct, to the point, and always give me something to think about.
Here is a recent posting
“I’m making money, why do more?”
Because more than you need to makes it personal.
Because work that belongs to you, by choice, is the first step to making art.
Because the choice to do more brings passion to your life and it makes you more alive.
Because if you don’t, someone else will, and in an ever more competitive world, doing less means losing.
Because you care.
Because we’re watching.
Because you can.
There is a difference between doing more and doing different.
Sometimes, doing more of the same is your biggest liability - whether its your personal life, a for-profit company, a non-profit organization, or a government agency.
I always encounter people in organizations that are intent on “doing more”. This is their biggest mistake. They do more of same expecting to get promoted. The only thing “doing more” (of the same) in non-strategic job roles is going to get them is “more of the same” since few managers will promote someone who excels at being ”a workhorse”.
Doing more (of the same) didn’t keep most traditional booksellers from going out of business. Amazon did it different. Different beat more of the same.
For non-profits, doing more of the same when the social, economic, technological, cultural and other external realities are shifting under your feet is going to send you on a trajectory of irrelevancy. Traditional organizations like the Boy Scouts, Girl Scouts, and the ARRL faces this challenge. Do more of the same when the external context has radically changed – or do different?
NASA essentially accomplished its biggest goal in 1969 by landing a man on the moon and returning safely back to earth. What happens when you do it 6 more times? Doing more of the same triggered some scrutiny by Congress with a report saying they needed a viable strategic plan, not to do more of the same, but to do more of something different – something that can engage the national vsion. How about the US Post Office. They would like to do more of the same (delivering physical postal mail) but seemingly most of the public doesn’t need more of the same. Customers do different and the Post Office is now in decline because they are not doing different – what customers really need, want, and are willing to pay for.
Do more? Ok. But sometimes, doing more of the same is really doing less.
Doing a little different may grant you the privilege to do more of the same… Then the chance to do different again… and the process repeats.
Doing more of the same. From one of the few books on the social history of amateur Radio “Why end this book as of the year 1950? It is because the story of ham radio’s development essentially takes place in the first fifty years of the twentieth century. Having been created, accepted, regulated, and achieved permanent status by 1950, the story after that becomes one primarily of repetition.” Read the posting – ARRL: Does the ARRL need a Strategic Plan?
NASA – more of the same. From the office of the Inspector General ” These problems are not primarily of NASA’s doing, but the agency could craft a better response to the uncertainty, for example, by developing a strategic plan that includes clear priorities and a transparent budget allocation process. A better response would improve NASA’s ability to navigate future obstacles and uncertainties. An effective agency response is vital, because at a time when the strategic importance of space is rising and the capabilities of other spacefaring nations are increasing, U.S. leadership is faltering….” NASA: What to do after mission accomplished
More of the same.. missing it all. Of Telegraphs, Telephones, Radios, and Organizational Momentum
Doing a little different – Stupid Survives until smart succeeds
We build our own prisons and serve as our own jail keepers, but I’ve concluded that our parents and the society at large have a hand in building our prisons. They create roles for us – and self-images – that hold us captive for a long time.
“There are people whose clocks stop at a certain point in their lives.”– Charles Augustin Sainte-Beuve
Sometimes I hear the expression, “Passing the time”. People are trying to find ways to “pass the time”. That is, they are bored, have nothing to do, or otherwise unmotivated to do anything. They need to find a distraction, or entertainment, something to “pass the time”… until they pass away. Life as a tragic waiting game for death.
Sometimes I hear about people who visit the doctor and they are told they have some sort of terminal illness. One of the first things they do is to catch up on their “bucket list” – do all those things they had planned on doing before the end of their life. These people are running out of time.
So, how can some people struggle to “pass the time” when they have all the time in the world while others struggle to do all they can in the limited time they have?
We only have one life. We all have limited time. Why would anyone struggle to “pass the time”?
What do jobs and the concept of education have to do with it?
Reading the Huffington Post I ran into an article about Bill Gates. The article had a quote from Gates
Gates’ belief that education is the greatest predictor of America’s future is supported by a report released last March that declared education to be an issue of national security. “A Nation at Risk,” penned by former New York City Schools chief Joel Klein and former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, argues that a failure to provide quality education in areas like foreign languages, science and technology will create major future deficiencies of engineers, diplomats and soldiers, among others.
“As we’re not able to train people for the jobs, you’re going to hit a limit that, no matter how good the economy is, you’re not providing the opportunity,” Gates said Wednesday.
Whenever I read something like this I cringe. What always seems to be confounded in these opinions and statements is the difference between getting an education in the classical sense and getting a vocational education. Whenever you hear “job” and “education” in the same sentence think “training”. Training is not an education. Perhaps we conflate the words training and education so much we lose the distinction.
Management consultants – hands off the educational system
For all the respect I have for the consulting firm McKinsey I had to set that aside last year when I read their report “Boosting Productivity in US Higher Education”. Boosting productivity? They used terms like “unnecessary credits” as if higher education was like a factory to produce “just in time” workers for immediate deployment as dictated by what America’s corporations need today.
Why are people … Passing the time?
People who are “passing the time” are generally not working – either by choice or by circumstance. When I hear “passing the time” I get the idea that the educational system and the job market have both fulfilled their purpose and at the same time it has destroyed someone.
Note the use of the words “train people” in the quote above by Gates. Training people is like manufacturing a part (a cog) for a giant machine. I don’t think many people would identify themselves as a “cog” but that’s how most companies treat people and that’s what they are. Companies have “roles” and there is generally little problem in swapping different individuals in and out of roles (interchangeable parts). This is especially true for jobs that are non-strategic (operational, support, etc.)
So, when you are out of a job you are essentially a cog without a machine. And a cog without a machine really has no purpose or identity. Having no purpose or identify all a cog can do is “pass the time”. Opportunity? A custom manufactured cog for a particular machine in a particular era has little chance of reuse.
Too many people don’t consider the difference among education, vocational education, and training. As Gates points out, America needs people to be trained for jobs. But, unfortunately the terminal point for people “trained for jobs” will be quick obsolescence in a rapidly changing job market and/or wages reduced to poverty level to the extent that “training” is readily available to anyone producing surpluses of undifferentiated workers.
Gates’ belief that education is the greatest predictor of America’s future is supported by a report released last March that declared education to be an issue of national security.
Yes, education, not training. But the article does not make this distinction. What is important for America is not so much a ready and able”trained’ workforce to solve pressing in-demand problems of today but an educated segment that can create a tomorrow for America in the context of a global economy.
No one who is educated to “make the future” will ever have time to “pass the time”.
Training people for today’s jobs seems to be a tragic (and necessary) sacrifice of people which leaves them aimless near the end of their lives.
Re/Imagine everything – Mary Meeker 2012 Internet Trends Year-End Update – Business Insider
The Future of Digital – The Future of Digital… is not in a rear-view mirror
McKinsey – Boosting Productivity in US Higher Education
Mary Meeker from venture capital firm Kleiner Perkins recently gave a presentation at Stanford University on the the state of the web. The slide deck is filled with industry trends and statistical data to back it up.
So, I went through the deck and if you’re paying attention to the world we live in, nothing in the deck should be a surprise to you. Every presentation of this kind is backward-looking. That is, it describes trends that everyone can observe. These sorts of presentations do not “look around corners” nor do they speculate on a discontinuous or non-linear future. Of course, these latter events in history represent the significant opportunities for society and culture.
All that being said, there is interesting trend data and statistics in Mary Meeker’s deck.
The linear societal doom
It was going good until I looked at the last few slides in the deck. One slide shows US spending on entitlements and debt as percent of GDP. Another slide shows the distribution of taxes among entitlements, defense, interest and other. The US spends 57% of taxes on entitlements. A third slide shows that entitlement and interest expense will exceed GDP by 2025.
What Jay-Z knows
We were kids without fathers… so we found our fathers on wax and on the streets and in history. We got to pick and choose the ancestors who would inspire the world we were going to make for ourselves. – Jay-Z
What Jay-Z knows is about peer groups. Pick your peer group, don’t let it fall to chance.
Everyone who walks on the face of the earth encounters peer groups. Each peer group has it’s own culture and set of standards. Whether you are going to be successful in life (a sort of difficult self-referential idea inside the group) depends on what peer group you hang with.
We could probably all agree that being part of the entitlement system which represents 57% of tax revenue spending is, in a sense, making one group of people pay for the existence of another group of people. If this entitlement peer group continues to grow then a well-functioning economy is unsustainable. When entitlements and debt exceed GDP (Gross Domestic Product) then that will be the end of the “late great USA”.
Pick who will inspire you…
Reading the slide deck its easy to see that the folks who consume these sorts of decks believe that “the future has unlimited possibilities”. And, as Jay-Z says, “we pick and choose… [those] who would inspire the world we are going to make for ourselves.”
But what about the other peer group? What about the people who consume 57% of the taxes that other people pay?
There are people everywhere where the temptation of having someone else pay your way is too strong to resist. I encounter these people from time to time. They have little regret or embarrassment for their situation. They would rather spend their time “working the system” to try to get benefits than spend their time positioning themselves to be productive members of society.
Read the Jay-Z quote again and then page through the slide deck linked below.
Who will you pick to inspire the world that we collectively will make? Are you the “Meekers’s” or a recipient of the 57% of tax revenue?
Read some related postings
How do organizations deal with changes in the external environment?
It’s February 14th – Valentines Day
So, what if you had “Sight” – an embedded contact lens that provided you an augmented reality and “coaching” (when needed) on a date?
Check out this video from Bezalel Academy of Art and Design graduates Eran May-raz and Daniel Lazo, titled “Sight,” credited to an entity named Sight Systems
If we are in an age of “love in the age of algorithms” then what better addition than “Sight” - enabled by technology and our always-on hyper-connected global reality – giving you that extra “edge”.
And if “Sight” doesn’t quite work out for you in a “legitimate way” then perhaps the ending of this short digital film will suggest an alternative, but less acceptable approach, to a successful dating experience.
“Why end this book as of the year 1950? It is because the story of ham radio’s development essentially takes place in the first fifty years of the twentieth century. Having been created, accepted, regulated, and achieved permanent status by 1950, the story after that becomes one primarily of repetition. The one great exception is in the area of technology, and save for minimal descriptions necessary to the story, that has not been our concern.
The World of Ham Radio, 1901-1950: a social history by Richard Bartlett
It is rather interesting that a book published in 2007 ends with the above Epilogue. The author is essentially saying that, for him, the evolution of ham radio ended in the 1950′s and so that is where his book on Amateur Radio will cease to tell the story. There is nothing else to report other than “repetition”. It’s a sort of “Mission Accomplished” and the date in history is 1950.
Look in the index of the book and you will find that the ARRL (American Radio Relay League) has about the most page references of any entry. The ARRL figures prominently in the story of Amateur Radio since its founding at the beginning of the 20th century up until where the author ends the story.
A couple of weeks ago there was a segment on 60 minutes on the newspaper industry. The newspaper industry just like traditional book sellers, travel agents, video rental, and all the rest have been hit by a technological revolution. This technological revolution can be seen either as death through irrelevancy or as harbinger of opportunity – depending on your perspective.
Newspapers are in trouble because they continue to do what they do, and what they always did – print newspapers no matter what the massive changes (opportunities) that were in front of them all along. Traditional newspapers are in trouble because they were in a state of repetition while the whole world changed, and continues to change, around them. Printed newspaper are falling into a state of irrelevancy for an increasing large number of people.
In the case of the The Times-Picayune which was profiled on 60 Minutes the reason the paper gave for not changing was the traditional audience for the paper. The idea being that they would be loyal to their current audience and the preferences this particular audience chooses to consume their news. But, in the end, the current audience and their preferences could not sustain the ongoing full operation of The Times-Picayune.
There is an interesting parallel between the decision of the author of The World of Ham Radio published in 2007 to cut short the history of Ham Radio in 1950 and the newspaper industry. Both the ARRL as a proxy for Amateur Radio and The Times-Picayune as proxy for newspapers in general are caught in decades long cycles of repetition. Both remain loyal to their existing audience. The audience for both is generational.
As for the The Times-Picayune newspaper they were forced into shutting down parts of the enterprise due to financial concerns brought about by change. They were forced into this unplanned event based on financial drivers.
As for the ARRL, it seems to be a waiting game of how they deal technological change which makes Amateur Radio an interesting hobby in the context of our taken-for-granted always-on hyper global connectivity available to anyone with a smart phone and the issue of their membership which shows a clear generational preference.
This is from ARRL CEO David Summer K1ZZ posted on the ARRL website:
Mr. Sumner reported on his research into “state of the art” strategic planning by large membership associations. Perhaps because of the negative impact of the financial upheavals of 2008 and the revolution in electronic publishing, at this time there appears to be no consensus among associations as to the value of strategic planning or the best way for associations to go about it. The ARRL Board last updated the organization’s strategic plan in 2009 and normally would conduct an in-depth review three to five years later. The committee discussed the perceived shortcomings of past strategic planning efforts along with possible improvements. Without taking a formal decision the committee concluded that while strategic planning remains important to the ARRL, planning for a successful Centennial celebration in 2014 is the current priority. A fresh approach to strategic planning should be taken immediately afterward.
In 2014 the ARRL will celebrate its 100th anniversary. One would wonder if the ARRL Centennial celebration – its current organizational priority – is primarily a look back or a look forward. If it’s a look forward then can the ARRL afford a delay in the Strategic Plan that sets its course for the future in the context of its membership which is in a generational bubble and modern taken-for-granted hyper-connectivity global communications technology available to anyone with a smart phone - not just those with an Amateur Radio license.
“at this time there appears to be no consensus among associations as to the value of strategic planning or the best way for associations to go about it“… is that what happened to the newspaper business in general and The Times-Picayune in particular?
I caught this posting by Seth Godin
The cost of neutral
If you come to my brainstorming meeting and say nothing, it would have been better if you hadn’t come at all.
If you go to work and do what you’re told, you’re not being negative, certainly, but the lack of initiative you demonstrate (which, alas, you were trained not to demonstrate) costs us all, because you’re using a slot that could have been filled by someone who would have added more value.
It’s tempting to sit quietly, take notes and comply, rationalizing that at least you’re not doing anything negative. But the opportunity cost your newly lean, highly leveraged organization faces is significant.
Not adding value is the same as taking it away.
Pick carefully those people you invite to your brainstorming session.
Sometimes people are picked for brainstorming because they have certain domain knowledge but the selection process forgets some crucial elements.
- Those people who want to “go along to get along”.
- Those people who are in a domain that is not exactly “social”.
- Those people who are not generally familiar with paradigm shifts.
The purpose of brainstorming is to come up with new ideas and be creative. At its best, a brainstorming session with different perspective can allow a group of people to “see around corners” in a way that is not possible with a team of solitary disconnected individuals – no matter how smart or extensive their domain knowledge. They key is to build upon other people’s ideas in an open way.
So, people who want to “go along to get along” ( consensus thinkers – read) don’t make good brainstorming group members. Those who lack social skills may miss important social cues during a session and perturb the social dynamic that is so important to brainstorming. Finally, as Seth points out, there are many people, who are excellent in delivering their domain knowledge in an operational setting but generally are not the authors of paradigm shifts. For this last group of folks delivering consistency and the status quo are as fundamental to them as water is to fish – that is, an unnoticed environment in which they live. Delivering the status quo is the exact opposite of the purpose of brainstorming.
If your brainstorming session is not producing the results you expect then maybe the problem is not the process – but the people you have selected.
Liberty in traditional conservative thought also depends on maintaining the underlying institutions of free-market capitalism-above all the independence, culture, and energy of the entrepreneur. The entrepreneur once did play a central role in the system-but this was more than a hundred years ago. Today roughly 90 percent of working Americans are employees-a very different kind of individual. -America Beyond Capitalism: reclaiming our wealth, our liberty, ans our democracy
Breaking old Paradigms
I know there are a lot of people out of work.
So, what are you going to do? Stand there and wait for someone to give you a job?
Waiting around for someone to tell you what to do was an excellent fit for the 20th century “industrial age” factory worker.
“Why, when I ask for a pair of hands, does a brain come attached“, says Henry Ford.
Show up on time, respect authority, don’t ask questions, head’s down, do your work.
We will tell you when you can leave – maybe at the end of the day.
Do the same thing tomorrow, and the next day, and the day after that.
Until we tell you to stop and do something else.
If you do that for this (same) company, at the end of 30 years, we will give you a pension (maybe) and a boot out the door.
Got an idea? Get funded!
Well, that’s not the way it works, and will work, in the 21st century.
It may be hard to break out of an old paradigm of “waiting for someone to give you a job”
It’s about leaving your comfort zone and exploiting your talents.
It’s about taking initiative and being responsible for your own outcomes- no excuses,
“No one will give me a job”
Back in the days of the “irrational exuberance” of the dot com bubble and burst it was a challenge to get funding.
You needed to convince angel investors or a venture capital firm to give you seed capital.
And then there was the business plan, term sheet, equity, issues of control, governance, legal issues, and all the rest.
Not something for the small guy to take on.
Today for the entrepreneurial individual or the small team it’s a lot easier to get funding for a project.
It’s been around for a while and it’s available to anyone who has an idea and a good pitch
Kickstarter is a funding platform for creative projects. Everything from films, games, and music to art, design, and technology. Kickstarter is full of ambitious, innovative, and imaginative projects that are brought to life through the direct support of others.
Since our launch on April 28, 2009, over $350 million has been pledged by more than 2.5 million people, funding more than 30,000 creative projects.
Thousands of creative projects are funding on Kickstarter at any given moment. Each project is independently created and crafted by the person behind it. The filmmakers, musicians, artists, and designers you see on Kickstarter have complete control and responsibility over their projects. They spend weeks building their project pages, shooting their videos, and brainstorming what rewards to offer backers. When they’re ready, creators launch their project and share it with their community.
Every project creator sets their project’s funding goal and deadline. If people like the project, they can pledge money to make it happen. If the project succeeds in reaching its funding goal, all backers’ credit cards are charged when time expires. If the project falls short, no one is charged. Funding on Kickstarter is all-or-nothing.
Read more here -
Or search the Kickstarter web site for sample projects. Then think of what project YOU could do – if you had financial backers.
There has been a lot written about reforming the educational system away from its traditional role of generating a supply of “workers” in the true industrial-age sense. What we need now are people who have ideas, the entrepreneurial spirit and those who can leverage networks of people for collaboration, knowledge, and effort.
Kickstarter is a platform and a resource, made possible by the internet and global communication – new in the 21st century – that can provide the individual and small team access to millions of potential financial backers to fund projects. If you have a good idea and a pitch then there are people waiting to help you along your way.
The Millennial generation has given the out-of-work Baby Boomers a gift.
Leave your comfort zone and use it.
What are you waiting for?
The Deliberate Dumbing Down of America - A Chronological Paper Trail by Charlotte Thomson Iserbyt
Read the reviews here
Get the book for free here –
So what’s the deal with the new Kindle Paperwhite?
I purchased a new Kindle Paperwhite book reader a few days ago. Since I have two other Kindle devices – an original e-ink Kindle and Kindle Fire – I pretty much knew what I was getting.
Really, if you already have a Kindle e-book reader then the only reason to get the Paperwhite is for the built-in reading light. If you have the earliest Kindle, the one with the keyboard sans touch screen, then the addition of the touch screen is nice but not essential.
One step forward, two steps back
The amount one reads, all other things being equal, is about both availability and convenience. With the addition of the back-light, the Kindle Paperwhite adds another level of convenience. With my older e-ink kindle it was something of a bother, or at least an inconvenience, to get an external light source just right in order to see the e-ink Kindle screen in a dark room. Now, with the built-in reading light, all that inconvenience is eliminated. As for availability, there are more books then every available for Kindle through purchase, public library lending, Amazon lending library, and books being place in the public domain.
The Amazon Kindle Paperwhite takes two big steps back through, what I would call, “the great silencing of the Kindle”. Unlike earlier versions of the e-ink Kindle e-book reader the Paperwhite is mute – it has no speakers… and it has no speakers because it is incapable of making any sound whatsoever. No text to speech, no audio books, no music, no nothing.
Every product has a set of features. Some people just count features – the more features the better. Right? Well, no. Different consumer segments (and individuals) place a different value on each feature.
I’ll take a long-shot here and propose that there are very few avid book readers that would judge the value of text-to-speech as “low”, or “frivolous” to the point that this feature should be eliminated from a product. Or, to put it another way, that the ability of an e-book reader to play audio books, and more importantly, the capability to convert any e-book to human speech would always enter into a buying decision.
The generic text-to-speech capability of the older Amazon e-ink Kindles along with voice navigation of the screen gave those with a visual disability the world of books that they may not have any other way with such convenience. Now Amazon has taken that capability away. Why?
Companies don’t do things without a business justification. But, does the business justification outweigh the benefits the speech-enabled Kindle gave to certain under-represented segments of society. Google as a company started out some simple values. One of them was, “Don’t be evil”. (” …said he “wanted something that, once you put it in there, would be hard to take out”, “ read more )
The Amazon Kindle Paperwhite is fine addition to the Kindle e-book reader line of products. It’s outstanding feature is the addition of the built-in back light. I find that I read more books more often on the Kindle Paperwhite for the simple reason that I don’t have to fuss with finding the lighting to read the Kindle in a dark room. In a well-lit room there is little difference between the Kindle Paperwhite and any of the older Kindle e-book readers.
Amazon took two steps back with the Kindle Paperwhite by silencing it. No audio books and no capability to turn “any book into an audio book” though its excellent text to speech capability. This was a wondrous feature. My older Kindle e-book reader with aural capability will not find its way into the trash any time soon due to this lack of capability of the newest Kindle e-book reader. The visually impaired have lost a friend at Amazon.
Amazon should take a look at Google’s informal corporate motto in their pre-IPO S-1 filing and re/think the Kindle product roadmap in this context.
We believe strongly that in the long-term, we will be better served — as shareholders and in all other ways — by a company that does good things for the world even if we forgo some short-term gains. (reference)
Read other postings on this site related to the Amazon Kindle (
Folks that have any e-book reader would benefit from Calibre
Folks that want the audio for a large collection of books in the public domain should check out LibriVox
It’s always interesting to watch the evolution of organizations especially when the primary mission for which they were created has been substantially accomplished.
One such organization is NASA
There are a couple of easy options to consider after the main event (Landing a man on the moon)
- Identify a new compelling vision and mission for the organization consistent with external realities and priorities
- Invent “busy work” to justify the organization status quo
- Face the harsh reality that the organization is adrift and find a fresh perspective absent #1 above and when #2 becomes obvious
It seems we might have examples of the second and third option – lacking a new compelling vision and mission for NASA
Mars the Hard Way
In recent weeks, NASA has put forth two remarkable new plans for its proposed next major initiatives. Both bear careful examination.
As the centerpiece for its future human spaceflight program, NASA proposes to build another space station, this one located not in low Earth orbit but at the L2 Lagrange point just above the far side of the Moon. This plan is indeed remarkable in as much as an L2 space station would serve no useful purpose whatsoever. We don’t need an L2 space station to go back to the Moon. We don’t need an L2 space station to go to near-Earth asteroids. We don’t need an L2 space station to go to Mars. We don’t need an L2 space station for anything.
The other initiative is a new plan for Mars sample return, which is now held to be the primary mission of the robotic Mars exploration program. This plan is remarkable for its unprecedented and utterly unnecessary complexity.
Unfortunately, however, rather than propose the most cost-effective plan for a Mars sample return mission, NASA has now set forth the most convoluted, riskiest, costliest approach ever conceived.
Clearly, though, the group that drifted into it was attempting to make the Mars sample return mission provide an apparent excuse for the existence for an assortment of other NASA hobbyhorses. For example, we note that it makes use of the LaGrange point space station. But this does not help the Mars sample return mission, which could much more simply just return the samples to Earth, where far better lab facilities are available than could ever be installed at L2. Rather, by invoking the L2 station as a critical element of the mission plan, NASA is inserting a toll both blocking the way to the accomplishment of the sample return, while radically increasing mission and program cost, schedule and risk and decreasing science return. The same can be said for requiring the use of electric propulsion, a technology program that was inserted into the human Mars mission critical path based on an unsupportable claim by a well-placed advocate that it could speed up interplanetary transits, and that now needs some alternative rationale.
This planning methodology is equivalent to that of a shopaholic couple who ask an architect to design their dream house but insist that he include in his design as critical components every whimsical piece of random junk they have ever bought in the past and piled up in their back yard, in order to make those purchases appear rational after the fact. By capitulating to this kind of thinking, the NASA leadership has transformed Mars sample return from a mission into a “vision.”
Read the rest of the article –
The report from the National Academies
In late 2011, the Congress directed the NASA Office of Inspector General to commission a “comprehensive independent assessment of NASA’s strategic direction and agency management.” This report has now been published and is available to the public. Here is an excerpt:
The National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) is at a transitional point in its history and is facing a set of circumstances that it has not faced in combination before. The agency’s budget, although level-funded in constant-year dollars, is under considerable stress, servicing increasingly expensive missions and a large, aging infrastructure established at the height of the Apollo program.
Other than the long-range goal of sending humans to Mars, there is no strong, compelling national vision for the human spaceflight program, which is arguably the centerpiece of NASA’s spectrum of mission areas. The lack of national consensus on NASA’s most publicly visible mission, along with out-year budget uncertainty, has resulted in the lack of strategic focus necessary for national agencies operating in today’s budgetary reality. As a result, NASA’s distribution of resources may be out of sync with what it can achieve relative to what it has been asked to do…
Although gaps in U.S. human spaceflight capability have existed in the past, several other factors, in combination, make this a unique period for NASA. These include a lack of consensus on the next steps in the development of human spaceflight, increasing financial pressures, an aging infrastructure, and the emergence of additional space-capable nations—some friendly, some potentially unfriendly….
These problems are not primarily of NASA’s doing, but the agency could craft a better response to the uncertainty, for example, by developing a strategic plan that includes clear priorities and a transparent budget allocation process. A better response would improve NASA’s ability to navigate future obstacles and uncertainties. An effective agency response is vital, because at a time when the strategic importance of space is rising and the capabilities of other spacefaring nations are increasing, U.S. leadership is faltering….
You can read the full report along with recommendations here –
Just about every organization faces the challenge of redefining itself in a new context. When you read NASA’s complex plan for Mars you can see an organization struggling. It’s better for an organization to face reality and accept that it has a problem (no matter how painful) rather than invent rude-goldberg type space missions to justify existing and legacy infrastructure, personnel, and budgets.
But being proactive about these issues and knowing when you need to re/invent the organization is what leadership is all about, right? For NASA, does that thought leadership come from inside the organization or do we need to wait for someone outside the organization to define NASA’s next compelling mission as bold as the moon landing?
If the next compelling vision has to come from outside the organization then what does that say about the creativity, innovation, vitality, and influence of the organization? What does it say about the people in the organization and how it operates? How many public corporations ask ”outsiders” to develop a strategic plan for their business? None! That’s a senior leadership responsibility. If NASA itself can’t come up with a compelling vision that captures the national interest – if it has to rely on outsiders to show it where to go - then it seems to me an essential element of NASA leadership (esp. thought-leadership & vision) is missing.
To “give” or impose on NASA a new mission and strategic plan is to treat the symptom and not the cause of some of NASA’s problems post “Mission Accomplished”.
Should the “will of the people” guide NASA? read
Is the sign above true?
I caught this posting by Seth Godin
An anonymous copyeditor working on my new book unilaterally changed each usage of “persuade” to “convince.”
I had to change them all back.
Marketers don’t convince. Engineers convince. Marketers persuade. Persuasion appeals to the emotions and to fear and to the imagination. Convincing requires a spreadsheet or some other rational device.
It’s much easier to persuade someone if they’re already convinced, if they already know the facts. But it’s impossible to change someone’s mind merely by convincing them of your point.
If you’re spending a lot of your time trying to convince people, it’s no wonder it’s not working.
Some people might think the difference between persuade and convince is nitpicking. But, if you are trying to influence an investor or a stakeholder then this insight into the words convince and persuade is vitally important. Why? It gets down to the mechanism by which people make decisions. And, in the world of influence, to understand the dynamic of decision-making on the part of individuals is crucial.
If you saw the series The Men Who Build America on the History Channel then you saw many examples of how people like JP Morgan invested in Edison’s inventions not so much that they were convinced by evidence “after the fact” that cities could be lit by the electric light but by the power of the imagination of how it might be. Other people invest “after the fact” – after they see it in action and are convinced by a large-scale demonstration. The difference is the ability of the imagination to see the potential (persuasion) before other people are (easily) convinced.
Related is the idea that many people make decisions through an emotional process and then attempt to use reason to justify it. Appeal to the emotions and reason becomes the slave. This is operative in a diversity of scenarios from religion to making buying decisions on consumer goods.
Want to influence people? Then knowing the difference between “to persuade”, “to convince”, and the role of emotion and imagination in influence and decision making will get you a long way to your goal.
I listened to the first two debates between Obama and Romney. Both of these folks could be considered “elites”. They went to ivy-league colleges, hung around with very successful people, and have the drive and motivation to run for President of the United States. If you mostly hang around with the highly successful how hard is it to identify with “regular people”?
Who are the “regular people”?
I watch some of the current spate of reality TV programs. Are these “real people”?
Storage Wars. A group of people bid on abandoned storage lockers. They buy and sell in resale shops.
American Pickers. A couple of guys who go through barns of junk and look for items to resell at a profit.
American Restoration. Fix-up junk for resale.
Pawn Stars. Resale of items for a profit.
Hard-core Pawn. A pawn shop in Detroit for those who have few choices to get immediate cash.
Shipping Wars. A group of people bid to move items across the country.
Swamp People. Shoot alligators and sell them
Iceberg Hunters. Pick the droppings from icebergs and sell them to a water company.
Repo shows. Repossess cars from people who can’t make their vehicle payments
Market Wars. Try to find deals at flea markets and resell at a profit.
All of the shows above are small business. They at least provide some value to others in the process of carrying out the business.
There is a show that is unique – Gold Rush. In Gold Rush there is an exchange of pure labor for Gold. No one else benefits from this enterprise other than the people performing the labor. In short, the Gold Rush folks do it for money. There is another show like this: Bering Sea Gold. There are more “Gold Rush” type shows planned. The point is that these enterprises are unique in that there is no customer, product, or service to be delivered to someone else. Gold Rush is a direct exchange of labor for Gold.
Change-the-World type people
What elites might find amazing is none of the jobs represented by these popular reality shows are really “Change the World” type endeavors. Regular people seem to be satisfied with “only” earning a living – an exchange of labor for a pay check. In the extreme case, with Gold Rush, one see’s the extreme case of direct exchange of labor for money – the world, society, or even a segment of customers do not benefit from the labor through a product or service.
It is so extraordinarily rare that you can find people who really want to make a difference. The majority of people are satisfied to simply “get by”. What is the purpose of these people’s lives? To just “get by”?
So all these plans of the Presidential candidates to create innovation, new products, and new businesses to jump-start the economy. How can this happen?
How can this happen if the “regular people” (the mass of people in America) are: buying and selling used items, fixing up junk, taking advantage of poor people, shooting alligators, picking up ice cubes, digging for Gold, and repossessing goods that people buy but can’t afford? And those who are not actively doing the above “regular jobs” are watching these reality shows or finding other ways to entertain themselves into a stupor.
The new standard for accomplishment?
I wonder if these Reality TV shows are setting the standard of what is acceptable work in America.
Surely, if the jobs depicted in these Reality shows are understood by the American people as what is successful accomplishment in America then these presidential candidates hawking (and expecting) innovation, creativity, and a renewed building Americas great corporations – they are going to be in for a surprise.
Here Comes Honey Boo Boo – if this is what engages America then we’re all in trouble.
There has been multiple mentions of Seth Godin’s “Stop Stealing Dreams” on this site
So, finally, there is a TEDx Talk on this and the future of education.
Here it is, invest 18 minutes of your time
STOP STEALING DREAMS: On the future of education & what we can do about it.
Other mentions of TED talks on this site
In my experience, “old” is a mentality of doing the same thing you’ve always done hoping to get the results that once put you at the top of your game. – Bob Herbold
The pejorative “old people” in Bob’s article has nothing to do with absolute age. It has to do with a metal state or mental attitude. Unfortunately, in the popular culture, being “out of touch” seems to be highly correlated with advancing age.
If you are “out of touch” and have exited the workforce it sort-of doesn’t matter. But, in a way, it does matter. Being “out of touch” means that most of what the popular culture has to offer does not matter to you. In the sense that is does matter – you will be an under-served market segment for those who are developing new products and services. It matters from a social perspective. Don’t expect to be invited to any dinner parties where conversation on current topics will be front and center. In the marketing eyes of the popular culture – you will be irrelevant. In some social circles, you will become irrelevant to the extent you have lost the cadence of the popular culture.
If you are “out of touch” and still in the workforce and in a leadership position then you can do great harm. This goes to the quote above, “In my experience, “old” is a mentality of doing the same thing you’ve always done hoping to get the results that once put you at the top of your game.”
Bob’s brief article summaries some of the steps taken by Sergio Marchionne to rescue Chrysler.
- …he replaced most of the top executives with aggressive outsiders or super-talented middle managers who were also highly critical of the current state at Fiat. Marchionne says his job as CEO is not to make business decisions — it is to push managers to be leaders
- A little lower down the food chain, Marchionne also dismissed thousands of “old-acting” employees who were tied to the past and risk-averse.
- Marchionne installed accountability and aggressively fought to squelch bureaucracy and consensus decision making.
According to Money CNN, “The principles of (Marchionne’s) management style are simple: He values merit over rank, excellence over mediocrity, competition over insularity, and accountability over promises.”
Unfortunately, older executives seem to want to play it safe. They take less risks; they don’t spend enough time imagining the future; a productive executive should be focused on what to do next as opposed to defending turf and hiding behind consensus decision-making.
I read an article a while ago titled something like, “Your company has 5 CEO’s”. The upshot being that, in any large company, there are 4 (or more) candidates that have potential to be CEO.
As odd as it might seem, older executives should start thinking about their replacement. Some might think that to leave (retire) from a company and have that company go into a temporary tailspin might prove how valuable they are. Just the opposite. It’s the height of arrogance. Show how valuable you are by having a replacement ready to go.
Advancing age and being “old” in the sense above are inextricably linked in the minds of most people
Be the exception.