Monday, February 23, 2009

Start up the Risk Takers

The New York Times today has a interesting OP-ED by Thomas Friedman: Start Up the Risk-Takers. If it sounds familiar to you, after reading it, you probably read something similar in my blog posting: "America: Land of the Lost" here a few weeks back. The article is making its way around a bit -- it will be published in Naturally Good Magazine soon.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

A Positive Sign: Facebook Listening

Facebook appears to have listened to their user base. In the past I've blogged about Toxic Social Media. This is the opposite -- or maybe it's more like the user base on FaceBook has gotten to be a democracy of sorts.

Regardless, I'm glad to see this. I use facebook a lot these days -- it's become something of a community gathering spot for the world.

Good to see that Facebook, unlike other Toxic Social Media gathering spots, is listening.

Saturday, February 07, 2009

Creativity is Universal and a Resource

Sir Ken Robinson: A New View of Human Capacity

I encourage you to watch the above video snippet. It details Sir Ken Robinson's thoughts and experiences with the natural resource of human creativity. It's also quite funny for some sad reasons. Pay attention to the fact that a lot of humans don't value creativity when it comes to them from the outside.

Around the same time I found the above I came across this piece by Elisabeth Gilbert:

Elizabeth Gilbert: A new way to think about creativity.

Elisabeth Gilbert's piece is saying something different about creativity, but it is no less fascinating. Both of these videos are about something very elusive that I wager is what makes us most like gods -- the ability to make new things. Invention. Music Composition. Writing. All of the above -- you can argue that the lower lifeforms are creative, but the scale is obviously different. Mankind's creative endeavors are wildly complex, almost life forms of their own (think of things like operating systems and compilers).

In the past the most frightening thing about creativity, speaking from my own experiences, is the lack of ability to control it. It comes in the most inopportune times -- when I'm seriously supposed to be paying attention at a meeting the most hilarious (and often unsharable) observations will fly into my head. Things that make me laugh uncontrollably. When I need it sometimes it's not there (recent experience this past week, sadly). When it comes it emerges like an uncontrollable river torrent of thought. I paddle like a mad-man trying to get it all out in the short expanse of the boat that I call "this lifetime".

And so it was this morning when I woke up and realized that a lot of the bi-partisan thoughts I've been having over the past few weeks were creatively expressed by none other than Martin-Luther King. I know this, because my parents used to have it up on a poster in the dining room in our house in Jamestown Missouri.

We must learn to live together as brothers, or perish together as fools.

When he wrote this I have no doubts that he was addressing the racial divide in this country and hoping for a day much closer to the one we're currently experiencing. No doubt we still have a long way to go on the racial divide, but it's definitely closing.

The fact is that this statement is more pressing on the front of the partisan divide. The Republicans are in fact saying something important when they talk about fiscal responsibility. We're going to go much more deeply in debt at a time when we can ill afford it. The problem is that they are one side of a two-sided partisan coin -- and that this past 8 years or so they didn't seem all that concerned about balancing the budget if it served their needs.

The problem wouldn't be so hard to address if they hadn't spent so much time discounting the wishes of the other side. Now the pendulum is swinging back the other way and they're yelling about fiscal responsibility -- and few people are listening to this warning. It's a real problem -- two wrongs don't indeed make a right. The short term gain of power unfortunately is alluring and the Republicans are now tasting what it's like to be on the short end of the stick.

I'm not going to spend a lot of time feeling sorry for them -- the people to feel sorry for are our grandkids who are going to spend the next few decades (if they pull this off) paying off the mountain of debt -- debt brought on by both sides of the same United States Coin.

We must learn to live together as brothers, or perish together as fools.

I'm sure my Mom and Dad had that up on the wall for my brothers and I (we used to fight like cats and dogs). Or maybe Dad was simply trying to make me think (he was good at that).

In any case, we're not going to partisan our way out of our problems -- we need to work together as a cohesive country of problem solvers. Creative problem solvers. There's always going to be some moron who doesn't get what the creative types in our world are doing (the first video illustrates this), or worse, they do understand and simply want the power that is inevitably generated by the act of creation.

Barak is obviously a creative president. He's also very funny at times (in a very dry and intellectual way). He's being nit-picked at this point by different people for all kinds of oblique, inconsequential things. Keep that in mind in the next few years (maybe longer). Any moron can come along after the act of creation and say something about how they would have solved the problem of the day.

I've seen this a lot over my career -- both regarding things I've created and the work of others. As I've gotten more attuned, I've developed different responses for this kind of destruction. I'll leave the sharing of those responses for another time. Suffice to say that today (as usual) I'm involved in some seriously fun creative insanity. I work to protect those around me that are involved in the act of creation for obvious reasons if you get the thoughts on this page.

For similar reasons, I ask the Republicans in Congress and the Senate to think about the long term health of our country -- to get engaged in dialog and to put aside their bickering, whining attitudes. Get more creative and listen to the people creating, rather than the people who are obviously wanting our new president to fail because it serves their partisan interests. We have work -- creative work, to do as a nation, and it's not going to be solved by a bunch of divisive partisan fools.

Wednesday, February 04, 2009

Golden Handcuffs

The Fox newscaster in this context obviously wants to argue the point "The government should not interfere with Business" -- there's just one small problem; The Banks being discussed in this interview are now a part of the U.S. government. The dialog in this interview is priceless. Kucinich is a Dem and Fox is known for doing anything but "fair and balanced" reporting (and more or less bashing anything not part of the RNC mantra) -- but I have to give the interviewer credit here -- he engaged in dialog (there was no "mike-cutting" going on, one of Bill's tactics, for example) and at the end of the day, couldn't really argue with the points that Dennis was making.

What points? That the government shouldn't be bailing out failed institutions. That now that they are, people are enraged knowing that their tax dollars are being spent on lavish bonuses and stadium branding. Feel free to argue (like the interviewer in this context), that the government doesn't know anything about branding. Side note: Kucinich has a marketing background, and it makes for some hilarious "What do you know about marketing?" correction. Anyway, so the government doesn't know about branding -- they shouldn't interfere with business. Kucinich's point: he agrees, and says more or less if they don't want interference, they shouldn't be asking for corporate welfare cash from the government.

Say what you like about Dennis Kucinich -- it's at times like this I'm proud he's an Ohioan.

Monday, February 02, 2009

Democracy 101

How to write your congressman:
Start by going to this link:

  1. Select your state from the drop-down.
  2. Enter the zip code for your home address
  3. Select the button "Contact my Representative
This should take you to a page like the one for my district, which includes a host of methods for contacting my local congressman.

Chose email if possible (it should be), if not, write and print your letter and snail-mail it to the address shown.

Be polite and as objective as possible. Here's an example:

    Name: Mr Paul Ferris
    Address: My Address
    E-mail: [email address]

    Message Subject: WEBECON
    Message Text:

    Dear Mr. Boccieri,

    Recent economic events, the banking crisis and the bail-out have put our country in obvious jeopardy. I wanted to weigh in with my observations and opinions here because I'm deeply troubled. I take primary issue with the bailing out of financial institutions. I am troubled to read that the money has gone partially to bonuses for the executives of these institutions. I take issue with the fact that they don't feel that they're accountable for the money. I also don't think that our government should function as an owner of these kinds of institutions (it's a bit too late for that, I understand).

    I'd appreciate some attention to these matters, mainly in the area of better regulations for the people at the top of these organizations. If we're going to hand them cash to fix some issue then:

    1) The heads of these organizations have failed -- part of the rules of engagement should dictate that the board governing the organization choose new leadership -- leadership approved by some government regulatory committee.

    2) Bonuses in this context are out. If the leadership of these organizations are not happy with their pay and don't have faith that they can create long-term wealth with their position (future bonuses based upon performance), then they should find some other line of work. Bonus in this context: any pay beyond base. This means any kind of perk, including travel perks, housing -- anything beyond their documented pay.

    3) We should have a direct, obvious window into where the money is going -- we, being the American citizens that have provided a safety blanket. This could be done by some kind of Internet-based reporting that would be transparent to everyone.

    4) As long as the company (or bank) is receiving welfare like this, the board and the executive leadership of the company should be agreeable to scrutiny and governance. Pay levels should be set at some citizen-approved level. Excess of this level should not be allowed until the organization has gotten off Congressional welfare.

    5) People that do not comply should expect jail-time. We jail people that sell drugs in this country -- these people are doing arguably similar damage. Why they should not expect jail time for obvious immorality is beyond me.

    Please understand that I usually write my representatives only when I feel a matter is of utmost importance. If you wish to contact me via phone, I'm available to talk about this subject at any time. Mobile: [my mobile number] . Email: [my email address]

    I'm not involved in Banking industry at this time (I've worked in IT for a bank a few years back), but these recent developments are troubling and at this moment in time I am happy to report that I'm in a different industry -- and I'm saddened to see our great country projecting the image of immoral behavior at this point in history.

    Thanks in advance for your time and consideration.
    --Paul Ferris

Your letter should be to the point as much as possible and as professional as possible. Swearing is bad. Jargon is bad. Anything not diplomatic -- bad. You want to address issues objectively and express opinions where possible as such (in other words, you're free to put in an opinion -- just make it obvious).

It's fun, it's easy -- it's Democracy. Let's make it work!

Sunday, February 01, 2009

Art Imitates Life

Scott Adams has probably captured the back-end conversation behind the Belkin Astroturfing Fiasco that I commented upon a few weeks ago. You should read it (and laugh) here. Scott's definitely got a way of exposing the ethical issues in a rather comical fashion -- the sad thing is that a lot of people view ethics in an optional (rather than mandatory) light.