Thursday, January 29, 2009

Smart -- The New Cool?

I woke up this morning and did something I usually don't do -- I turned on a TV set. This is unusual for a host of reasons; I don't watch TV as a rule, I was in a hotel room, and I had access to cable.

Bryant Gumbel was on talking sports and I stopped channel flipping for a second. He was talking a bit of hope on his program from the bully pulpit -- but it was interesting and it caught me a bit off guard. I'm not a huge sports fan, but I was captivated to hear some things about his view of hope from the perspective of someone viewing Barack Obama as a positive influence.

He was saying that a lot of today's athletes were identifying with Barack and that some of the influences he was hoping to see from our president were extremely positive from a role model perspective. He was talking about how Barak was a basketball player and the unspoken target was obviously the young African American male. Things like Barack's respect for his wife, his obvious morality were topics that he quickly touched on. His not speaking like a Gansta Rapper. His ability to articulate issues and engage in intelligent dialog.

Bryants' speech was well done from my point of view. It was extremely to the point and diplomatic -- the kind of stuff that might have an impact on someone. Hate speech doesn't work well when you're attempting to affect a target audience -- this is why the pundits gain a lot of my ire -- they're making the people that have already made up their minds happy and at the same time, intentionally or otherwise creating a rift in our country over important issues.

I liked what Bryant had to say but I caught myself wishing he'd have selected a broader audience. My own son could benefit from his words and he's not African American. The general young male population, speaking from my own observations, could benefit. We've had a couple of decades of culture focused upon young males and extreme ignorance as cool. Beavis and Butthead, Dumb and Dumber, Bill and Ted -- Hannity and Colmes. Rap music culture has components that are in part an obvious worship of the immoral but I'd argue that Jackass did similar damage.

Barack has obvious mental clout. Standing next to our prior president, he makes "W" look like a degenerate frat boy when he talks about anything. This isn't because George was a Republican -- it's because George thought ignorant speech was cool. I'm told that George W Bush wasn't a dumb guy behind the scenes -- that the talk was an act and the cowboy swagger part of what he thought was a cool image.

I hope Bryant Gumbel is right about this one, but I'd like to hope that the Barack effect here hits all American kids -- male and female. I hope that they learn to articulate problems and be a part of a general positive, intelligent discourse.

Yeah, I'm reaching for a lot -- I'm hoping for some rather impossible ideal conditions -- but we've had such a downturn in culture. Stupid used to be cool.

Maybe Barak's image will set a new trend. Maybe Smart will be the new Cool.

Sunday, January 25, 2009

It's Not That Simple

It's easy to get press if you simplify a problem so that any idiot can join a side and cheer for his ideology. In the Wall Street Journal video piece here, author Steve Moore is inteviewed about a book, which I won't read, purposely, about Ayn Rand's book Atlas Shrugged. You can argue that this is ignorant of me but I have my reasons. I would push back that having actually read Atlas shrugged, having understood and liked portions of it myself kind of gives me some leeway.

I agree with Steve Moore on some rather key points -- I think the bailouts were wrong (I've said it here many times). I think big government is bad. But I feel compelled to point something out that is far more dire -- Atlas Shrugged is a work of fiction. I don't need to read some authors lame posturing based upon a work of fiction to understand the problems we face today -- and I certainly don't need to read some book by someone who wants to superimpose a fantasy on top of our reality. Especially a fantasy written 50-some odd years ago.

Look, it's simple -- Ayn was trying to prevent the United States from turning into a socialist, communist or dictatorial state. The more government you get, the more dangerously close to this line we get. I'd argue that we're already partially there, what with buying into the banking and auto industries. We have a huge government, despite the professed belief in less government by the prior administration. We owe a huge debt to the Chinese, in part to help fund a war -- but also due to huge trade imbalances and a lack of manufacturing in the US.

Steve Moore, the author of the book, doesn't realize a major problem he's creating -- or possibly he does realize it and is part of some vast conspiracy of people that I would classify as ideological idiots. These are the people that, if the world ends sometime soon will be still doing the same thing. Picture them sitting among the ruin, shouting at shell-shocked passers-by saying "You liberals did this!". Just as stupid, sitting on top of some other pile of debris, will be some other idiot shouting something similar back about conservatives or big business.

And the truth will be far more painful to accept: if the world ends, it will be a mass of stupid human beings that allowed it to happen. Possibly part of the problem will be that they didn't figure out that problems are not liberal or conservative in nature -- the ability to classify things as someone else fault, instead of working through the issue as a cohesive society -- I believe that this is a big part of this problem. People want to adopt an ideology much like a brand. They want to believe in something. It's human nature.

For a great example of this, watch the video segment. Steve, in the interview over his book about a hypothetical book states clearly "Liberal's are going to say it was Free Markets that cause the collapse, and people like me and Ayn Rand would say 'No it's government programs' that created the crisis in the first place." During this time he's all smug and smiling -- he's reduced our current crisis to a "debate". I have a shocking concept for ya Steve: How about it was not quite that simple. Possibly the economic problems we're facing today can't be simplified into two sides of a debate that third-graders would have on a playground. Maybe it wasn't something quite so simple as the failure of "Free Markets" or "Government Programs" that got us here.

No, it's possible that what's caused the collapse of our present system is a multitude of variables. Rampant immorality by some corporate executives. Deregulated derivatives. Legislation that allowed sub-prime (and worse) mortgages. Banking executives that should have tempered their zest to make more money by not embracing things that they knew were high risk. People that wanted to own things that they could not afford. A contrived war in the Middle east that was funded by borrowing money from a Communist state. A lack of accountability by people in the executive wing -- of our country and businesses. People voting for politicians for the wrong reasons. People not caring about government. People not caring, period. Rampant lobbying. A lack of trust in government overall -- for really good reasons in some case.

In other words, I'm not objecting to Steve's embracing of the concepts in Atlas Shrugged -- I'm objecting to his desire to simplify the debate. To make a bold, callous, and stupid statement like the one above is counter-constructive. Has Steve missed the fact that all of the things I've mentioned here were spread across the at least the past 16 years of "Liberal and Conservative" leadership? No, I don't want to debate Steve on his view that all of the problem we're facing would go away if we could just get our government to not interfere. It's a nice fantasy, and it makes a good read. But it is, at the end of the day, a fantasy.

I have my own opinions: I think we need our government to interfere -- the right way. We need them to step in and tighten the rules for financial institutions, for example. We need to stimulate new ideas around reducing our energy dependence on foreign oil. We need to re-evaluate the wars we've taken on, how we're funding them, and our image on the global stage. We need some action, in other words, that's going to take unity of purpose and general cooperation. Do I think we need more people using the word liberal or conservative as hate speech? Get a clue here: No, I think I've seen enough idiotic ideology to last me a few decades, if not a lifetime.

None of the above items are liberal or conservative agenda items. All of them are pressing problems. To make some sort of lame debate around them at this hour might feel good, but haven't we had enough of this kind of stupidity? Atlas Shrugged is a wonderful read -- I loved the book, for what it's worth. It's view of the world and the weights that government add to productive business paint a terrific canvas for Ayn's philosophy.

Coming from Russia, Ayn obvious was obviously motivated to write something that would warn people away from totalitarian communistic society, and I can't blame her at all.

It isn't going to be a liberal or conservative point of view or stupid one-sided debate that gets us out of our present jam. It is going to be some smart politicians working together on solutions. Note the shift in my language here -- a point of view is an observers stance. A one-sided debate is something that Bill and Rush do for (sad) entertainment. Solutions are things that solve problems -- dialog is something you do to hold a constructive conversation. You can post comments to my blog and I will respond to them. That's dialog. You want to simplify reality and back it with a fantasy and say "You disagree with me because you're on one or the other side of a contrived debate" -- I'm not going to be involved.

Here's a thought -- maybe I disagree with simplification of extremely complex problems. Possibly I view this kind of simplification itself is a worse problem than the oil crisis. It's worse, in my opinion, than the economic crisis. It's worse than a lot of the things we face right now. Oversimplification is worse because it keeps people from working together on solving the obviously hard problems of the day.

Steve Moore feels good reading Ayn's book. Good for him! Give the man a lime sucker and have him join the 3rd-grade debate team that's probably already forming on the playground. I'd like to say this to Steve: It's fiction, man -- get over it. We're living in a real world with lots of complex problems. We don't need you to simplify these problems -- we need you to work with the rest of us who are trying to solve them. It's time for you to stop feeling smug about your fictionalized view of the world. Let's try something new -- let's try looking at problems as they exist in our complex society, free of the prism of liberalism or conservatism. Possibly then, after dropping this filter, people can truly understand what things like our government are for at the end of the day.

We don't need liberals and conservatives heaving rocks at each other over stupid ideology. I am not going to be blowing my time in stupid debates (cast from fictional work no less) -- look where it's taken our country these days. I sincerely believe that rabid, rampant partisanship has taken us here. I worry that more of the same is going to be what brings about the end of the world as we know it. I also sincerely believe that its going to be unity that gets us out of the mud at the end of the day.

Monday, January 19, 2009

Bad Belkin Bayard Business ...

Seems a Belkin employee was caught red-handed looking for people to write positive reviews of one of their products.

Speaking as a person who's seen his fair share of AstroTurf (In this context -- AstroTurf refers to the practice of generating "phony grass roots"), I can only say I'm not surprised. It points to one of the darker sides of social media -- the ability for a corporation to quietly influence the blog-o-sphere or other social media with misleading content.

And the sad thing is, there really isn't much we can do about it. Social media wouldn't work very well if there were "social media police" that checked each and every blog or facebook post for authenticity or even more difficult, intent. There is the occasional story posted like this one that serves to highlight the problem.

Is this a new phenomena? Not really. For years companies have paid writers to create authentic-looking story content for magazines, for example. It's just something that's likely to increase as social media's incredible power manifests in the digital ecosystem that is the new generation of marketing.

I should take a second to mention that I work for an interactive marketing firm and that my job is IT-related -- I'm more of a user than a mover and shaker. This post is more about my experienced observations in the space, being involved as the editor for a rather popular news site in the late 1990's that featured a lot of user-contributed feedback to news stories. Issues arose that made these ethical issues apparent and caused me to reflect upon them early in the game.

Marketing campaigns are interwoven into youtube "viral marketing" videos. These videos are more than tolerated by the users for one obvious reason; they're blatant advertisements. People know, after the smoke clears, that they've been watching something created to drive traffic toward a vendor. I've enjoyed almost all of these kinds of intrusions -- they're viral for a reason -- they market and entertain at the same time.

Things go bad, however, when a company exhibits this kind of behavior posting to technical message boards or worse, staging phony letters to the legislative bodies of our government (both real-world examples from the same company -- and not one I would ever be associated with). Things like this have a way of dampening community enthusiasm, to say the least. They make people wonder what kind of noise is being generated at the community level. The long term effects of sowing this kind of distrust in the potential customer base of a product can only be bad.

All of this is part of a general break-down of our society. Ethical matters matter. Societies have to have ethical foundations or they will ultimately crumble. Treating the social ecosystem as something that can be AstroTurfed will ultimately ruin the value. Transactions are ultimately more than financial events, after all -- they are fulfilled value propositions. Taint the perceived value and you're likely, as a vendor, not to win the business.

Pushing against this obvious motivation to build marketplace trust is the lure of the quick win in the marketplace. What did Bayard expect out of this? Maybe he was surprised when this news story broke, but it's hard to imagine that he didn't know somewhere in the back of his mind that he wouldn't get caught. Possibly he was focused on the short-term gain of shoring up an inferior product. If so, it was a rather dubious gamble -- one that cost not just the trust of Belkin, but potentially the social media marketplace as a whole.

In this particular example, we can only be thankful that Bayard was so blatant about what he was trying to accomplish. Possibly he didn't see anything wrong with it at all. Belkin's management has since apologized for the misstep and although a positive sign, they're going to have a hard time gaining the respect of their market.

Is stuff like this illegal? No -- but it's far more damaging than something that's illegal. You can serve your time for something illegal. You can be fined or correct the problem and your market will probably forget about it or not notice at all.

But trust -- trust can't be bought, and as this example illustrates, it can very easily be lost.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

GM and Brand Name Deletion

Those of you who have never had the privilege of working behind the walls of something as massive as General Motors have no idea what kind of politics are present. All of this blog focuses upon my perception of GM from my (somewhat limited, but probably correct -- from the mid eighties) view of their internal politics, and how they apply to their present (somewhat dubious) plans to delete brands like Pontiac, Saturn, Saab and Hummer.

My view: GMs politics were similar to the ones in our government -- only with several political parties instead of just 2 major ones.

From reading the news, GM will likely sell Saab and Hummer (though that's also speculation) and simply blow away Saturn and Pontiac like they did the Oldsmobile brand.

A disclaimer here: GM -- I'm not a fan. I don't purchase your products. Although my father was a big fan of your Buick products, I didn't find the excitement there at all. But I feel compelled to weigh in (albeit, briefly here, given my time constraints) on the obvious coming shortage of GM brands.

Likely, there's some huge internal power struggle going on inside of GM, with VPs and other executive types acting upon the current crisis with all of the surgical precision of say, cluster bombing.

I can almost read the politics from remote: "My division is more profitable -- yours is not." and so on. Somethings gotta give -- why not a bunch of brands? Isn't this required to show that GM wants to pare down to some kind of lean, mean fightin' machine?

Well, in my not so humble opinion -- tactically, maybe, but strategically, no.

Brands can't easily be created (look at all the work that went into the creation of Saturn, for example). Brands have an emotional impact upon buyers. People are very brand-centric when it comes to a purchase. Getting people to switch to another GM brand if they're a loyal Saturn buyer -- and its gone, for example, isn't exactly a sure thing.

If GM wants to get serious, they should seriously rethink this thing from the perspective of the customer, in other words. Here's what comes to mind, when I quickly think of GM brands that exist today:

  • Cadillac: Sport Luxury.
  • Saturn: Import fighter.
  • Pontiac: Sporty. Younger crowd.
  • Chevy: Mom and Pops reliable shop.
  • GMC: Rebranded products from the other lines. Redundant.
  • Buick: Family cars for Sophisticated people that .. no.. crap. I hate the whole idea of this car segment -- ask someone else.
  • Hummer: SUVs for people that want to pretend they're fighting some kind of war -- or for people that want people to see them in a Hummer... I have a queue of Hummer jokes here that I'm omitting.
This is a lame assessment of their brand status-quo from my perspective. It's probably about 80% accurate though. GM needs to do this kind of assessment with some teeth, and then re-cast the vehicles they produce to match the brands. They need to merge all of the control of the brands and engineering into one spot and keep the names and the products. They need to consolidate the management of the stuff in other words -- but don't blow away the brands.

Want to piss off your buyer base GM? Try being a Pontiac-lover and finding out that your favorite vehicle is no longer available. Maybe you (the customer, in this context), will just have to find a new favorite -- say over there at Toyota. Toyota: remember those guys? They went out of their way a few years back to create a whole new brand. Probably took them some time... Creating the Pontiac brand over again after pissing off a huge group of people isn't a snap. Moving buyers isn't going to be easy, and maybe they'll try some other game if this one has been canceled due to rain (or tactical stupidity).

Consolidate the management, and clearly do some surgery on the brands that exist today. Does Cadillac need a corvette? Does Cadillac or Buick need an SUV? These kinds of things, floating around your brand-space, tend to be somewhat confusing in my humble opinion. Do you need to make stuff exclusive? Can you sell the missing components from all the brands from all of the dealers, in other words? For example, you're at Pontiac -- they don't have a Corvette equivalent -- can't GM relax the rules a bit so that the dealer is allowed in this context to sell a Chevy Corvette?

All of these items probably seem crazy, so I'll shut up now. I just feel compelled to point out that the deletion of Oldsmobile was extremely short-sighted. It was short-term thinking to address a short-term problem of profitability. Rather than do the easy brand-delete, GM should have taken stock of what they were doing wrong to chase off potential customers to that brand.

My guess is that all of this deletion contemplation is a way for some executives with power to out people they don't want to work with at the end of the day. Rather than do the hard thing -- re-organize into a single power structure that makes sense, they're probably killing off brands (and all of the redundant people that manage them).

All speculation, on my part, I know.

Regardless -- making brands make sense is still the hard task at the end of the day. Blowing away time-honored brands (and loyal customers), is the easy part.

GM, think strategy here. Think about your customers. Think about a lean GM with all of the brand names of today. I know it can be done.

Stewart Nails The Issue to the Wall

Jon Stewart's recent piece on "Pundits" has pretty much nailed the issue right on the head.

The issue is the confusing practice of news organizations that mix "news" with "commentary". The general population wants commentary but needs, at the end of the day, the news. People like Bill O'Reily, Ann Coulter, Rush Limbaugh and Michael Savage all have similar attack profiles -- they call people names, attack people from their bully pulpits, scream over dialog and are overly emotionally angry while not really making a whole lot of sense.

Or rather, they make sense by appealing to people's emotions while not addressing the world from an objective point of view. This is where it gets hairy. I've got some good friends that seem to otherwise function well (they have logic circuits, in other words), but cannot get "un-fixated" by people in the aforementioned list.

They somehow have missed the fact that regardless of the opinions these people are expressing -- for one, they're not telling the news (but are parading around as journalists) and for two -- they're doing it in a way that doesn't help build consensus. Sure, they maintain consensus among their target demographic (conservatives in the cases mentioned here -- but I could have just as easily mentioned Keith Oberman), but they don't convey new information to people that don't understand the issues from their (albeit obviously) slanted point of view.

Our country is not united right now. It has a big rift in it between "left and right". Pundits mentioned here, in my not-so-humble (pundit-like) opinion, are doing serious damage by preaching loudly and emotionally to the choir. For sure there are times to rally the troops against issues that need support. The people that take this role should make it clear that they're not being journalists. The people that do this kind of rallying should be attacking problems -- not spreading descent. The deficit is a problem. Terrorism is a problem. The financial crisis is a problem.

Liberals or Conservatives: These are points of view. They are not "problems". Pick up (and then put down, quickly) the kind of tripe Ann Coulter prints in her books (or Savage -- similar work) -- you will see that you can barely find a page where she doesn't schpew liberal hate-speech like a Nazi at a war rally.

You read a lot of print about the recent loss by the RNC. To me it's obvious. They lost their centrist (read: non-polarizing) base when they embraced people like Rush and Ann. By accepting this kind of crap as OK "dialog", they lost a lot of people. When you listen to Colin Powell's breakdown of what drove him to endorse Barak Obama, he mentions listening to Sarah Palin talk about "Small Town Values". He then, not so casually, mentions that he didn't grow up in that kind of a neighborhood.

I know a lot of people probably think that Sarah Palin and Ann Coulter are not related entities. I urge you to imagine a universe where the kind of hate speech that Ann, O'Reily and Savage talk is not toleraged by the RNC. With that missing in the backdrop, possibly Colin Powell would have felt just a bit more comfortable in his own party.

This is an obvious simplification, but overall I think Fox has unwittingly helped the Democrats by polarizing the right so clearly with "Pundits" that shout ideas rather than hold clear dialog. This in turn scared people into action. It caused a clear break for some and earned the disgust and disrespect of the intellectual base in our country. The shouting down of ideas and opinions, in my opinion, bled over into the McCain/Palin campaign.

Near the end of the McCain campaign I think he got the message. There was an obvious attempt to stop the anti-Obama train and go for the pro-McCain message of conservative change. Unfortunately for the RNC, this came way too late in the game to make a difference. People are tired of negative shouting -- they want positive dialog. In the long run, any constructive aspect of their party will demand constructive dialog as a base.

Look the popularity of Mike Huckabee in this context. This isn't an accident -- Mike, love him or hate him, actually listens to people and does this thing called "dialog" that is sadly missing in the Pundit space these days. It's a sad commentary on the Republican party that he didn't fare well in the race for the Presidential nominee. It's a sadder commentary that he has better interviewing skills than any of the Pundits listed in this article so far.

You have to give Jon Stewart credit -- the Pundit problem is clarified by the piece (linked above). As a clear "non-journalist" too, he does a remarkable job of illustrating the facts. Another piece of irony in this context. Gotta love it.

When the RNC finally picks up on this they will finally be able to rebuild the backbone of their base and we will possibly see the balance of power restored in America.

Tuesday, January 06, 2009

America: The Land of The Lost

Sacrilege Warning

Warning dear readers, I'm about to piss all over something you may hold dear -- especially if you were raised around the time I was, a time when watching schlock Saturday Morning TV was the only thing to do. For the younger FeriCyde chat readers: there was a time when you couldn't use a game system or surf the web to shed some spare time as a wasted youth. Oh, and the "wasted" here isn't referring to any drugs, it's more a concept of wasting time.

The hallowed ground I'm about to piss upon is the old Saturday morning TV show, The Land of the Lost. Like disco (sorry, there's another demographic that's probably going to be sore), some things about the 70's were really, really bad, but for whatever reason, a whole generation embraced them and they became embedded as memes in our subconscious. Like bad subroutines in the collective minds of the mainframe that runs the zeitgeist, every once and a while you stumble upon a whole batch of things that don't add up -- or rather shouldn't, but there they are.

Hollywood, in its infinite lack of creativity, has decided that it's time, in 2009 to do a remake of the "Land of the Lost" as a full-length feature film. You read a lot of fan complaints from people that are upset with Hollywood for making a favorite book into a film, or for pissing on hallowed ground doing a remake and getting some obscure fact wrong, or for in some cases, driving all over the plot of the original material so badly that no one can even recognize the connection (see the latest remake, God forbid, of the Planet of the Apes, for example -- if you can sit through it, that is).

This isn't one of those posts -- this is pretty much the opposite.

I'm sitting here thinking "Some things were meant to die." Land of the Lost was a seriously bad piece of television. It was so bad that my brothers and I would watch it only if all other vectors for entertainment were lost. Like we had checked all other channels -- the count is 2 other channels on TV in mid-Missouri, by the way -- and say, pro wrestling was on one (don't think today's Pro Wrestling -- think something much more local and much more pathetic), and say, a farm report was on the other.

But I digress: Land of the Lost was horrid. The acting was bad, the props were bad, the writing was bad, heck, even the opening sequence effects looked like they were shot by a 3rd grader in his garage. Remaking this is on the order of, say, a remake of Starksy and Hutch (crap, there goes another demographic). Yeah, I know, they remade that too. Complicating this badness, and gut-reflex, "remake" mentality, they "updated" the series in all of it's sad, pathetic glory -- and made new episodes. Now my own son has bad memories of the show in his subconscious, to match the ones in mine.

That's my point: Hollywood can't seem to embrace any kind of creative new idea. They have to revisit crappy old ones for a few reasons. For one, there's a certain amount of nostalgia that will drive people into a theater to say, waste 10 good dollars and 2 hours of their time to be mind-numbingly insulted at an intellectual level. For another, it's such a safe bet to do this that the cash for the venture is easier to raise than say for some new film idea or plot that no one else has ever tried.

Which brings me to part of our present situation -- you knew I was going somewhere with all of this toward the automotive industry and our government, didn't you? You didn't? Sorry.

The Land of the Lost is fractal image of what's wrong with our culture as a whole. We have become more enamored with backing schlock things that have a marginal success ratio than to try new things that haven't been tried, have much higher payout if they succeed, but are somewhat risky as a venture.

Let's revisit the recent "bail-out" request to congress. Here you have the big three, appearing in front of congress, hands outstretched, saying "Help! A bunch of jobs are going to be lost if we go down!" What's wrong with this picture? How about the fact that GM ispaying their CEO in excess of 14 million dollars. Even assuming worse than reported conditions -- say an average line worker taking home 140k a year, the guy is in front of congress, asking for an allowance, all the while making 100 times (possibly more like 150 times) what his line workers make.

Yeah, lots of things are wrong with this picture. For one -- GM is a manufacturing company -- 100 to 150 line workers in this day and age with some decent automation can likely produce quite a lot of product. Oh, and where were you guys for the past 20 years, worried about jobs and local economies all the while shipping local jobs to other countries and giving yourselves bonus for the transaction?

I'm not going to say they were doing anything illegal. Heck, our government has even gone as far as to make the climate balmy for such things and encourage people to move their stuff out of this country. No, I'm going to say it was, however, immoral. The people that built GM were more than the executives -- the workers, at the end of the day, good or bad, working on good or bad cars -- those people are (or were) owed something when it comes to the success of the company.

By the way, in case you think I'm a one-sided person here -- I'm not a big fan of what the Unions were doing in this transaction either. I do think, however, that if a company is successful the workers should share in that success. They shouldn't find their jobs gone one day to another country where the pollution controls, compensation and treatment of people don't align with what counts as acceptable here. The workers that helped GM be a success should share in that success. Similarly, in bad times, they should willing take a pay cut -- all the way up to the CEO, who should recognize that he's not worth 100 to 150 line workers. Can he get paid this amount? Sure! Is it legal? Sure.

Is it ethical? No, it's obviously not.

I'd love to say that the answer is regulation, but in this case I'm not sure what to do about it. Like the way our news system is fundamentally broken, the auto industry is facing a multitude of crisis. In this dimension, the guys at the top (all ready to work for just one buck now that they've been caught with their pants down), obviously aren't all that accountable for their failures. Some people want to compare the automotive bailout to the banking bailout as a justification -- two wrongs in this case, definitely don't make a right.

Speaking of accountability, we need to revisit the SEC. These people were supposed to be watching out for things like Ponzi schemes, and have supposedly audited Madoff's company 8 times in the past 16 years. It's time for some people to go to jail. Time for Congress to recognize this for what it is -- it's a moral crisis of Biblical proportion. These people (the SEC) were obviously not doing their job.

Bail-outs? Some victims of this thing want the government to bail them out. Banks are going down, charities are going down -- all kinds of things are going down in the face of the Madoff scandal -- but let's not have our government go down with it. The more I see of bailouts, the less I see value. In these trying times we shouldn't be bailing out banks or auto companies. The mentality seems to be along similar lines to breathing life into things that are dying. I think this is flawed thinking and corporate welfare -- worse, they're taking money from the taxpayers at the bottom to fund the bad ideas in a big, bad way. Like a remake of the Land of the Lost, it's cash being spent on a bad idea.

Maybe, like all bad ideas, some things were meant to die. Let's not remake America as the Land of the Lost. If we're gonna put some investment into something, we need to take some risks on some creative new ideas.

Thursday, January 01, 2009

Toxic Social Media

You'd hardly think that spam would be the first input toward popularity, but here it is. Recently, I made what I thought was more of a whining complaint about (and, thinking that if I just got the thought out of my head about how annoying these two sites are (mainly, though), that it would settle my mind a bit and I could go back to my usual facebook perusal and joy. My profile had been viewed exactly two times in history -- and I'm honestly proud of this fact -- or I was. Now my profile on is extremely popular. Why? Because I used their lame blogging feature (lemme tell ya, it's really lame) to post the complaint. Knowing what I know about shiftless ethics and sites that edit your postings to remove "offensive" URLs, I posted the "real" blog entry here. Oh, and's auto-editor chopped all references to facebook and classmates out horribly -- it left my article reading like a picket fence.

So far it's stayed. I have no idea why it's popular, because finding my own damn blog posting on their site is tricky -- how other people found it is honestly beyond me. There is one clue, however -- the people that found it and commented upon it have all signed up for their service. Actually, I'm very hesitant to call what they're offering "service" in this context.

Let's look at some of the responses, so far:

  • Very well said.
    I too am one of the lonely saps who got suckered in... I'm in a wheelchair now, not able to get out much. The net is the link to the outside world for folks like me. .Going to Facebook. The only way these predatory sites can be stopped, (or at least thinned out) is to boycott.
That's one example. Google a bit on and boycott and some really disturbing things come up. Recent complaints come up: This is something lending me to believe that the problem is far worse than I had imagined. I, luckily, did not sign up for their "service". I find stuff like this, and I can only imagine how pissed off I'd be if I had been tempted to do so. is example of Toxic Social Media -- media that isn't leveraging social connections to enhance the social experience one might have in real life. Instead, it's using aspects of human nature to trick end-users into choices that turn out to be more or less a dead-end street.

Here's another post on my blog entry:

  • wow couldnt have said it better myself paul.

    i agree 100 percent,well lessoned learned for me,i just payed yesterday and i am counciling any future payments taken out of my account,amanda in louisiana!

And another one:
  • I totally agree, unfortunately I am one of the poor saps that got robbed for $60.00 (their premium feature). This site is preying upon people searching for family members and it does not live up to what it blatantly advertises. If you enter a name and see there is a possible match-they want "MORE" money to get that information. I can see now why they say their service is non refundable, it stinks.....spread the word........
Well, that's as good a set of marching orders as I can imagine. I think I will be glad to do just that.