Category Archives: Humanity

Learning from the mistakes of Facebook

If you search any search engine –Google, Bing, DuckDuckGo, etc– for Plano Facebook, you’ll get various random pages for the city of Plano Texas and a news story that broke nationally today:

A Texas man stabbed his girlfriend to death and posted photos of her nude, dead, bloody body on his Facebook page. Her mother saw the pictures and called 911. Other relatives contacted Facebook and asked the social media giant to remove the pictures. Facebook left the pictures up for roughly 36 hours before finally removing them.

Let me repeat that.

A woman’s daughter was brutally murdered and Facebook couldn’t be bothered to take the pictures of the body down for 36 hours.

Let me repeat that.

Facebook left pictures of a young woman’s naked murdered bloody body up for the mother, the family and the world to see for 36 hours AFTER they found out.

 

I have a daughter entering High School. I can’t imagine getting calls and emails and txts for 36 hours along the lines of “uhm… I don’t know how to put this but uhm… do you daughter is dead and there are pictures of her uhm… body uhm… like uhm… without clothes uhm..” for 36 hours. See your pictures of your child’s dead bloody naked body is bad enough.

 

Facebook’s official response is that they didn’t realize, at first, that the pictures were a violation of their Terms of Service.

Excuse me? How does anyone with a bit of empathy not know the right thing to do in a case as clear-cut as this. No one should have to dig through Terms of Service or Corporate Policy books to navigate a situation like this. This is not a Terms of Service issue. It’s an issue of basic humanity.

If I had been the person at Facebook who got this request, I would’ve told them how sorry I was for what happened. I would’ve told them how sorry I was those pictures were there for their family and the entire world to see. I would’ve made sure she understood that I, personally, wasn’t going to stop until the pictures were removed.  I would’ve made sure she had my personal cellphone number.

And I would’ve gotten out of my chair, gone to my supervisor and stood there until my supervisor removed all of them. If my supervisor didn’t have the authority, I would’ve gone to the next person up the chain. And I would’ve kept going up the chain until the pictures were down. If mysteriously, I had gotten all the way to the Zuckerberg and he tried to have me thrown out of the building with orders to shoot my butt if I tried to re-enter the building, I would’ve walked right back in and dared them to shoot me.

 

I’ve seen companies who don’t know how to admit they blew it and they let people twist in the wind. Weirdly, even when I’ve tried to explain to them how to handle these situations in the future, all I hear is excuses. There’s no sense of “oh… we did blow that… how did you say we could do better?” I’m pretty clear about what a company or organization needs to do in the middle of a Crisis. It’s knowledge I’ve picked up by osmosis simply by having a Father who spent his entire working life in Public Relations, handling Crisis Communication and saving Generals from committing professional harikiri when things blew up at places like the US Air Force Academy, NORAD Cheyenne Mountain (yes the War Games General was based on the jerk who ran the Mountain at the time) and SAC Omaha. He literally, wrote the book on ethics for the Public Relations Society of America.

When I called him and told him what Facebook had done and his reaction was “Oh my god”.

 

In 1982, a twelve year-old child died of cyanide poisoning after taking Extra-Strength Tylenol capsules. Cyanide-laced Tylenol capsules killed six more people in quick succession.

Johnson & Johnson took responsibility and focused on doing the right thing. They sent warnings to hospitals and distributors, halted both production and advertising and, within a week, recalled all 31 million bottles worth (worth a third of a billion dollars at today’s prices), ran an ad campaign to warn the public and offered to exchange all Tylenol capsules that people had purchased.

And they figured out how it happened. Someone had simply bought bottles of Tylenol, opened the tops to poison them and then returned to put the tainted bottles back on store shelves. And they made sure it would never happened again by making changes in manufacturing and so on. But, the most important change they made was one that meant people didn’t have to take their word on it: every bottle of the re-introduced product had the then revolutionary tamper-proof seal. How do you know someone hasn’t tampered with a bottle of Tylenol: the seal isn’t broken.

 

In the world of public relations, he Tylenol case is, literally, the text book example of how to handle a crisis, including how to do Crisis Communications right. So far, Zuckerberg and Facebook’s handling of their crisis fails at every point. And, out here, people can close their accounts and walk away. Getting people in the door original is expensive (ask anyone who knows retail customer development) but getting them back after they walk away is brutal. And investors know ads don’t sell if no one is there to see them.

Thus it Begins: The Great Stock Market Crash of 2016

What you’re reading is the introduction to a book I knew I was supposed about where the U.S. and the world is headed. I’ve know I had to write it since the fall and to say it scared me as an understatement. By December I was at least willing to start telling people around me, including my wife key elements of the book including that the US economy will crash and that Donald Trump will be President of the United States. Neither is a guess: this is what will happen.

On January 3rd, I told my wife the key elements again. The only thing that changed was that the order had reversed and finalized. I told her:

This year, the US Economy will crash and then Donald Trump will be elected President.

The next day, the U.S. markets opened and had their biggest initial drop on an opening day since 1932. That (1932) is the year the U.S. Great Depress began for real. And I finally went out on the line in public by tweeting the news with the hashtag #ThusItBegins.

Tomorrow morning, the markets will open for the third week of the year. The press will continue to fret, wave their hands and mostly say it’s psychological and things will stabilize soon. Unemployment is down. Fundamentals are solid. Blah. Blah. Blah. Just a few things to sort out. But things won’t. We’re past that point.

We’re at the beginning of the Great Stock Market Crash of 2016. The stock market crash is just the opening salvo of a brutal shift in the world that will be much larger, deeper and nastier than just another recession.

 

And I honestly don’t want to write this book. It’s not because I’m shy about writing about dark subjects or the darkness in subjects. It’s because I’m saying G*d has told me to write it. While I once had a reviewer call me a prophet, he merely meant as someone who warns. He certainly didn’t think G*d was around and sending people out to describe what’s happening.

Why in the world would I do such a crazy stunt? I wasn’t raised in any faith. In my Bachelors (Physics) and Graduate (Humanities) work, G*d was basically ignored other than the occasional ridicule from, usually, another student. The professors for the most part didn’t waste their time on the subject. They assumed the whole faith thing was a left-over from the pre-rational world.

To say that G*d told me to be a prophet is to immediately be regarded by most people I know as, at least, slightly unhinged. Even most of the American Christian world assumes that miracles and prophets stopped a long time ago.

But, here I am. Since this book got dropped in my life, I’ve waited again and again for confirmations because it still sounds crazy to me. And I’ve tested things I’ve gotten again and again and I’ve had confirmations that are unlikely in the extreme.

 

I’d describe my plans for this book but that assumes I’ve got one. Back to I’m supposed to have been writing this for a while. Beyond a few scribbled notes, this book will appear basically as I write it. This blog entry is the initial “Introduction” and will bundled up shortly as the initial release of the book via PDF on this website. Later I’ll make it available on Amazon.

 

This document has been saved as a pdf and can be downloaded: http://4til7.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/01/Introduction-v1.pdf

an Open Letter to my Son

Today, my son tried on two of his mother’s dresses. It felt like he was expecting me to be shocked or turn judgemental. Why? On one level, it would take a whole lot more than a guy in a dress to surprise me. It’s not my job as a parent to be shocked or judgemental. In my experience, it’s really hard to be a good parent when ‘freaked out’ is how you’re acting. All a freaked-out parent can ever really say is BAD BAD BAD BAD. It doesn’t even work with dogs. Why do we think it can work with people?

Especially when, at the heart of things, he’s asking the quintessential human question: “who am I?” Sexuality is just part of that. The rest of us can share our journeys with him but, ultimately, my son has to answer the question himself. No one else’s words will ultimately ring true to him. It’s only when he understands enough to answer himself that words will really matter. And it’s only when it’s his answer that he will choose who becomes.

Happy Day formerly known as Columbus Day

In Grad School, we talked about Old Dead White Guys. It was short hand for the fact that the vast majority of books that we read were by  white males who were distinctly older when the author’s picture was taken and who, by the time most people read them, were dead. They were typically from the upper reaches of society in terms of wealth, power or connections. There’s an older more direct way to put it: the victors write the history.

There are many problems with this. Even the proverbial Capitalist Pig would pick up on the obvious: white males just are not that big a slice of humanity. There’s a reality gap here… Business opportunity! Everyone else missed it! Woot! And he would then rush off to plan his conglomerate’s next subsidiary.

In less greedy terms, the brilliance of the vast majority of humanity has, until relatively recently, been effectively invisible. When I went to school, the old story was still holding on: the heroic Christopher Columbus and the ensuing wars to defend white settlers against attacks by Indians. Christopher Columbus was the proto-American who raised a fortune in royal venture capital and came in peace to the new world and, before his company tragically failed, hosted the world’s first series of international trade exhibitions at the Spanish Court.

That story changes significantly when you look at from the other side. When Europeans arrived, governments and countries had existed in the Americas for more than a Millennia. The Americans connected the continent with trade routes: international trade, particularly in luxury items, was old hat. The same thing is clear in religion, astronomy and so on through many areas: the Americas developed societies and cultures comparable to those in every other part of the world.

Those who followed Columbus invaded, conquered and destroyed hundreds of countries; destroyed much of the knowledge and thought discovered and developed over millennia by those original Americans; and through disease and warfare killed almost all of the original Americans.

Because we now talk about both sides of the story of Europeans arriving in America, it’s certainly become unfashionable to celebrate Christopher Columbus. He’s come to symbolize what happens when we only care about the story the victors tell, how we forget the rest. It’s said that those who don’t know history are doomed to repeat it. What happened in the Americas, is not some cultural equivalent of evolution through survival of the fittest. It’s the forgetting of art, thought, belief and very lives of the vanquished. There is no better way to guarantee history will not be known than to disappear it and destroy it. We discovered another part of our collective soul and then systematically destroyed it.

Christopher Columbus lead Europe into the Americas and we made him into the ultimate Old Dead White Guy. We even named a day after him. Perhaps, instead of forgetting him, we should remember him. He is the beginning of one the greatest examples of what we loose when everyone but the victor is disappeared, destroyed and forgotten.

Christopher Columbus is the ultimate accidental anti-hero. Instead of forgetting him from the holidays, we could tweak the name of the holiday. We need to a bit of anti-memorium and a hint of anti-lesson. We could do that just by adding to the name: Columbus was an Old Dead White Guy Day.

From Footnotes to the Shared Information Aether

With Google’s search parties reporting they’re close to capturing the one remaining wild piece of information known to exist (rumors indicate it has something to do with a blue dress and birth certificate), we’ve gone from a world where lots of information was precious and hard to get at to one where we’re swimming in an ocean of it. We swim in it, we breath it.

If I said the sky is blue and backed it up with a wikipedia link, most of my readers would read the wikipedia article and agree with it. There was no need to prove the sky is blue: we all “know” that.

There is a vast amount of information that (essentially) all of us know. Sometimes it’s literally in our heads. A lot more information is so easy to access that it’s still common knowledge. How to avoid a Chuck E. Cheese restaurant is not a mystery as I’m connected because I can have the address of every Chuck E. Cheese in moments.

Knowledge is power. As long it can effectively be used, more and “better” information is a huge advantage because, generally, individuals and groups will better decisions and carry those out more effectively.

And, shared knowledge is shared power. Humanity organically developed a whole series of adhoc mechanisms for sharing information: storytelling, papyrus, word-of-mouth, books, magazines, posters, magazines, cartoons, billboards, bumper stickers, advertising…

That pool of ad-hoc mechanisms has been mirrored in the online world. Everyone is contributing to this knowledge constantly. Sometimes, it’s simply by the act of being connected to the online world and sometimes, it’s through a facebook post (say on growing peaches at 8,000) that 35 people repost and then gets cited in Wikipedia. Each of us, by being online, both passively and actively increases our pool of knowledge.

This pool of information has been growing exponentially for long enough that is many orders of magnitude larger than what one person (or perhaps all of us) can read, let along memorize. There is more information in this shared pool than in all the human heads on this planet.

When you look at humans as a group you see things that are not possible without a group: the collective unconscious, consensus reality (e.g. we agree that black is not white), the wisdom of the crowd (groups make higher-quality decisions than experts). We, as a group, share an unconscious framework, develop agreement about reality and make better decisions. These are naturally occurring characteristics of humans as a group.

But our shared pool of information, what I call the Shared Information Aether, is qualitatively different precisely because it is not naturally occurring. We, as a group, decided to build it. Essentially, we have evolved our group brain by intentionally choosing to evolve the species as a group

 

After physicists figured out that light was a wave, many went looking for the sea that was waving. Something had to be waving and it had to be all around us, like air, so that light could shine. Someone called it the aether and went looking for it. Eventually, they decided there was no aether, just the waving. Our information is like that now. It’s what the term ‘Cloud’ is trying to get at.

The online world was built from the beginning with lots of redundancy. Most specific bits and pieces of data are protected by error checking, backups, monitoring software, server mirroring and so on. And there’s a lot of additional redundancy because of how we share information. We gossip and paraphrase and report that and summarize and analyze and recombine into a million copies in a thousand languages.

If you look at the internet as a collection of computers, you miss the point. Of course we’ve filled the world with computers and connected them all together. Without them, the Shared Information Aether would not be possible but the computers are not what’s waving. With a book, information is tied to a physical place; it’s as if the pages are what the ink (and information) is waving. But there is no physical books in the Shared Information Aether. Words are not written on little pieces of paper. They arn’t even “written” in specific places. Information is not static; especially in the Shared Information Aether. It changes, grows, lives, flows. The information is literally flowing all around us

We have made ourselves the collective to change our future as a species.

What’s waving is us.