Posts tagged “Social media

Explaining Trump

Donald Trump

I’ve tried hard not to write this. The one thing this world may need least, is yet another article on Donald J. Trump. I go to work and there’s Trump.  I drive home and I listen to the radio and it is all about Trump. I go home and turn on TV and there’s Trump. I go on vacation to the places FAR away from Washington DC and there he is – TRUMP!  I confess to Trump exhaustion. He follows me everywhere. My wife and I can’t even talk about it.

So consider this a catharsis. A Trump exorcism. A purge. You may not agree with anything that follows. And if you don’t please don’t be angry with me. Know that I’m just trying to explain the unexplainable and somehow understand the unfathomable. No, I’m not talking about the origins of creation and the existence of God. I’m talking about the small, remote and horrifying chance of Donald J. Trump becoming president of the United States.

So let’s get started. How do we explain what is happening to us?

I would suggest starting with one of the best articles I’ve read to date on this phenomenon – a piece by David Gergen. It is about narcissism and leadership. It is very well written and well researched. I think starting with narcissism is a good and appropriate place when trying to understand and explain the Trump phenomenon. I would only add that while there’s a historical nexus between narcissism and leadership, there’s a human nexus as well. We all have our inner Trump. We all have our “Hey, look at me!” “Hey, ain’t I great!” “Hey, if you gave me that problem I’d fix it so fast it would make your head spin!”

So with our own “inner Trump” in mind, lesson one (and perhaps the most controversial).  Personableness can get you far.

I understand if you might take issue with the premise that Donald Trump is “personable.” How can you label as “personable” someone who calls immigrants “rapists” and liberal women that he doesn’t like “fat” “ugly” and “stupid”? And then there’s Megyn Kelly.

But notice how Trump will, in the same breath, match every critique with a back slap.

Jeb Bush is “weak”, “low energy”, and “a puppet”. Bush is also a “good guy”, “wonderful man”, “I like him.”

Illegal aliens are “rapists”, “thugs” and “thieves”. Oh, but “I love Mexicans and the Mexican people.”

China is “sucking us dry” and at the same time “I love them too … they stay in my hotels!”

Perhaps the only thing that both friends and enemies agree on about Trump is that when you are dealing with him individually he is a very “genial” guy. At a personal level, “the Donald” is engaging, witty, and yes, even generous. Beneath his braggadocio is a certain folksy personableness.

This trait can get you far. And it isn’t new.

A lot of people loved the folksy, genial, Ronald Reagan even as he was vilifying impoverished mothers as “welfare queens” and ripping solar panels off the roof of the White House. Reagan was about the most anti-union president we’d had, yet he won the labor vote.  Why? Perhaps one reason is that he seemed so personable.

Second, Trump underscores the societal focus on the inflated self.  He is a logical outworking of our diminished appreciation of moderation, modesty and humility.  All three qualities were once considered attributes of character and virtue.  They were things we exalted. The strong, silent, self-effacing hero. Those days seem far away.  We have traded our John Waynes and Clint Eastwoods for the fast-talking, wise-cracking, over-the-top and modestly vulgar.

To be sure we have always had gadflies and the delightful fringe. We’ve seen value in the quirky and those on the outside who dared speak “truth to power.”

But we have eviscerated the moderate middle. In politics, we voted out moderates like Dick Lugar and Mary Landrieu. The moderate elected officials who had been successful – folks like Evan Bayh and Mitch Daniels – have simply walked away rightly figuring there are better things to do with their time than try and fiddle with the mess that is the American polity.

We have penalized the thoughtful and heaped praise on the cock-sure. When we vilify compromise, make all politics personal, and chase away the majority of people who have a real spirit of public service, what we get is Donald J. Trump.

Finally, Trump shows us the sad dysfunction of news media.

I have friends both inside and outside of the news media and if you get them alone for a moment, most agree. The news media is dying.  Or if not dying it is morphing into something unrecognizable. It is adrift, either caught up in its own pursuit of a political agenda (Fox vs. MSNBC), chasing the latest tweet, or simply devoid of a filter of decency and decorum.

It is good that years ago they built something called a Newseum. At least you can still find good journalism somewhere.  Trump is an avatar to the news media’s desperation for a story. He is a testament to its waning capability to challenge the inaccurate or absurd. What we see today is much worse than the yellow journalism of Hearst or the liberal bias of Cronkite and his cronies. It goes beyond the traditional “if it bleeds it leads” problem. It is a news media that is rubber necking in unimaginable proportions. And we are forced to watch.

According to legend, Joseph de Maistre once coined the phrase “Every nation has the government it deserves.” Perhaps. And perhaps that is the frightening reality that we have to face when we try to explain the current popularity of Trump.

A small footnote. De Maistre was no fan of democracy. He worked for Russian Czar Alexandar I. He believed hereditary monarchies were divinely sanctioned. He viewed constitutional government as beyond the capabilities of the average Russian.

If alive today, he’d probably be voting for Trump.

 

image of Donald Trump by Gage Skidmore via Creative Commons

Because

JJuice cause

If you have raised a child there is an encounter you are sure to have dealt with. It is the incessantly curious moment.

It is that exchange where every statement you make is met with, “Why?” And after which, each subsequent explanation is met with another, “Why?” And so on. Why? Why? Why?

At some point the exasperated parent blurts out the one word to end all conversation:

“Because!”

“Because.” It is an interesting word. The verb “to be” combined with the verb “to cause”. Or as the old French roots would describe: “by reason of.”

“Because!”

I spend much of my professional life trying to figure out the “because” of things, specifically, the “because” of human thinking and behavior … the “becauses” of thinking a certain way, voting a certain way, giving to a certain institution, joining a certain, dare I say, “cause.”

One thing you quickly discover. Correlation is not cause. It is easy to determine correlation. That is, being able to show that if “this” happens it is very likely “that” will happen around the same time. This is most of the research you see. We sift through the numbers and we see correlations between one phenomenon and another. We even ascribe percentages to it. When this occurs or we take action “A”, then 12% of the time they open the email. But when we do something else and take action “B”, then 16% of the time they open the email. So we show correlation. But was the different action “B” the “be” “cause” of the 4% difference? It is very hard to know.

A long time ago there was a guy named Aristotle. He came up with four ways to think about or look at “causes.” A couple thousand years later, Aristotle’s approach still has value when we think about identifying “cause” in politics, marketing, and social change.

First, there is the material cause. This was the cause determined by the “material that composes the moving or changing of things.” This is the easiest of “causes” to observe and perhaps the most simplistic. It is also the least meaningful. A window broke because a rock went through it. Broken window. Cause = rock. A car engine quit because it ran out of gas. Immobile car. Cause = no gas.

You could say they “caused” the window to break and the car to stop. But were simply materials. They don’t “do” anything. They just enabled something.

It is exactly the same when we ascribe societal or behavior change as the result of a device (iPhone) or an app (GoogleMaps) or a service (Amazon). We say these things are change agents. To be sure change has happened “because” of these things. But they are only a material cause and only give a shallow answer to the “be” “cause” of change.

Second, Aristotle spoke of a “formal” cause. The formal cause results from the arrangement of things. Good examples are the harmonic of a particular musical scale that produces a pleasant sound or the algebraic formula that “causes” an arch to support weight.

Now this gets a bit more interesting. We see it in everyday life. We pay a lot of attention to the “position” of a product or service, whether it is in the supermarket or on a Google search page. Why? Because the “formal cause” or arrangement of things changes an outcome. If you’re selling something you want it to be at the end of the aisle. We pay to have our search term higher up on a page. Yes, these marketing formulas for change work, however often we’re not exactly sure why.

Let’s go further.

Third is Aristotle’s “efficient” cause. This was the cause prompted by a person or change agent. The artist Michaelangelo was the “efficient cause” of the Pieta. You might even say that Hitler was the “efficient cause” of World War II.

Again, we see parallels in assessing the “be” “cause” of developments in business and politics. Einstein. Edison. Jeff Bezos. Elong Musk. Barak Obama. We ascribe to them all manner of causes and changes in politics, society and business. Efficient cause goes beyond substance (the rock or gallon of gasoline), beyond form (the harmonic or equation) to the person or persons who were able to imagine and effectuate change.

Applied to everyday communications, the efficient “cause” are the influencers, the early adopters, the activists, networks and communities that can either make something relevant or irrelevant. So we identify the change agents and chase after them.

Finally there is Aristotle’s – well – “final” cause. This was the ultimate cause. It was and remains the most controversial. It is the cause that is determined by the intrinsic purpose and nature of a particular thing, event or being. As described (in Wikipedia!) it is the cause prompted by “the purpose for which things became.”

Now that’s a phrase to chew on.

Finding the “final” cause of things is the most difficult (and dangerous) but not surprisingly it is the one I find most fun and rewarding. It is finding the “be” “cause” of thinking and action that is due to the intrinsic nature of a person’s being and doing. We talk about it at our agency as the relevant cause. It is looking at things through the eyes, hearts and minds of people and trying to make sense out of the “why” of their attitudes and behavior. And while there, to sift through all the complexity and find out those relevant cause(s) for action.

So the conversation with the little child never ends. After every statement, phenomenon, action, event, or campaign comes the inevitable question: “why?” If we can answer the “why” and find the (be) cause behind those things, we are wiser and can make better decisions about things in the future.

Why?

Well … because!

I am not a screen.

Tablet Love

I am not a screen (although as I write this, I am looking at a screen). You are not a screen (but you’re reading this on a screen, right?).

This is a problem.  I think we all need to take a break from screens.  Well, at least until I finish writing this blog post and you finish reading it!

 

So I was traveling this week.  I walked down Concourse A in Newark with my boarding pass, as usual, loaded on my smartphone.  Then I realized that my phone had less than 10% of its battery left. If my screen died before I reached TSA, I was in trouble.  I was a screen.

 

I walked into the United Club at Newark Airport.

 

The young man at the counter’s eyes strayed up towards mine but only momentarily. I handed him my phone. He took my screen and laid it against another screen on a console. Then he looked at another screen. As he was looking into that screen, his eyes not moving, he said “Welcome Mr. Johnson.”  I was a screen.

 

I looked around.  The lounge was crowded.  But no one was talking.  No one was laughing.  No one trading stories.  Everyone was looking at screens.  People with phones clutched them single-handed.  Those with tablets cradled them with two. Their eyes staring into screens. No head moved. People had plugs in their ears. No eyes looked up.

 

Several years ago, technologist (and musician) Jared Lanier wrote a book titled, “You are not a gadget.”  I don’t think it overly melodramatic to describe it as a cry of and for humanity in an age of disconnected connectivity.  I sorta felt that yesterday. My life lurches from one screen to another. A screen is one of the first things I encounter in the morning and one of the last things I look at at night. There is something sad about that.

 

Yesterday I was reading a presentation on how to write a book.  (Yes, I’m thinking about it.) Tip #11 was “close all the windows”. I thought wow, why would anyone want to do that?  I like the outdoors.  I like fresh air.  Wouldn’t an open window inspire writing not detract from it?  Then I realized that when he was talking about “windows” it wasn’t the normal windows of a house.  It was the windows of screens.  Phones.  Tablets.  Laptops.  Displays (these used to be called televisions but I guess that word is headed for oblivion.)

 

I thought about getting a timer and totaling up the percentage time each day that I spend looking at a screen.  But I thought better about it.  I probably wouldn’t want the answer.  Then I realized that to doo this I would likely have to use my smartphone.  Another screen!

 

OK.  You can go now.  Put down the phone.  Put down the tablet.  Close the laptop.  Take a walk.  Pet your dog.  Talk to a person.  Hold someone’s hand.  Remind yourself that you are more than a screen.  And so are the people around you.

 

We are all more than just a screen.

 

Tablet Love” by Sascha Müsse is licensed under CC BY 2.0

Kids games … the social media version

When I was growing up we had games like ‘tag’, ‘hopscotch’, ‘kick the can’, and ‘jump rope.’   Most were a variation on a form of chase.  Some required some hand-eye skill.  Throwing a top.  Spinning a yo-yo.  Picking up jacks.

Those days seem to be on the way out.

Last month I spent a week with the youth from my church at work camp.   They introduced me to a whole new world of kids’ games, none of which involve a whole lot of skill, speed, or coordination.  They do, however, require a bit of daring, a quirky sense of humor, and a Facebook page.

Let me tell you about two.

The first game I was introduced to was ‘coning.’ I don’t know what you immediately think of when you read or hear the word ‘coning’.  I can tell you that when I first heard the term, I said to myself:

“This can’t be good.”

But it turned out to be neither risque nor illegal. Just a bit odd.

Going ‘coning’ involves three things – a drive up window, an ice cream cone, and (optional) a phone that takes pictures or movies. The game is quite simple. You go to the drive up window. Order an ice cream cone. And when the attendant hands you the ice cream cone, instead of grabbing it by the cone you grab it by the top … by the ice cream.

That’s it.

Fun, huh?

If you missed it (the fun, that is) that’s ok. So did I. But that’s because you didn’t know where to look. The fun lies not in wasting a good ice cream cone that you only recently paid for. The fun lies in the experience.

The first experience is deciding to do it.  And believe it or not, acting out on something as disturbingly silly as grabbing an ice cream cone by the ice cream requires some gumption.   If you don’t believe me, try it.   Go ahead.   I dare you! (which is how I think this game began, by the way!)

The second experience is recording and sharing it.   In the van full of teenagers that I was driving there was story after story of “oh, I remember doing it back at the McDonald’s in so and so …”.  But beyond just telling stories there’s the video phone recording and posting on Facebook.  That is the real badge of honor.  And it is really the only way anyone can convey any meaning behind an act that on its surface seems so silly.

Don’t believe me.  Check this out.  (Or search on ‘coning’ on YouTube.)

Which leads me to game number two – planking.

Again, I don’t know what ran through your mind when you read about the act of ‘planking’ but when I heard it I didn’t think this was something that teenagers should be doing.  At least not in public or without protection.

But planking is an international phenomenon.  I understand it has been banned in Australia.

Planking goes something like this. Identify a spot where you think it would be odd to find a person lying face down – preferably some location where it would be physically difficult to do so (think narrow, sharp, and high). Then figure out a way for you to lay on that space in a yoga ‘plank’ position. Have someone take a picture.

That’s it.

Fun, huh?

Apparently so. Planking does require some physical skill. And like coning, there’s quite bit of chutzpah associated with it (more points the stranger and odd the location).  It isn’t about who is faster, quicker, stronger.   It is who is sillier, goofier, and more imaginative.

What both have in common is that their fun derives from SHARING the experience (either video or photo).  It isn’t about being the fastest or most coordinated.  It is about being able to make another person laugh, smile, or say “wow”!

And I think that is pretty cool.

What is your favorite kids game these days?

Is social media small change?

The latest kerfuffle in social media circles has been Malcolm Gladwell’s recent piece in the New Yorker headlined “Small Change.”

In it Gladwell has the temerity of asserting that social media’s impact on social change is not all that it is cracked up to be.  Some of his jabs are sharp.   Like calling innovators ‘solipsists’ and saying that ‘they’ – that is the vaunted social media futurist gurus – ‘often want to cram every stray fact and experience into their new model.’

Ouch!

Gladwell’s argument is characteristically simple and trenchant – that online social networks do not engender either the strong commitment (and risk!) nor the organizational structure that make for social change.  Using the civil rights movement as an example, he notes that real change – substantive action in the face of entrenched power – is not social media or social networking’s strong suit.  Social media, Gladwell writes:

“is simply a form of organizing which favors the weak-tie connections that “give us access to information over the strong-tie connections that help us persevere in the face of danger. It shifts our energies from organizations that promote strategic and disciplined activity and toward those which promote resilience and adaptability. It makes it easier for activists to express themselves, and harder for that expression to have any impact. The instruments of social media are well suited to making the existing social order more efficient. They are not a natural enemy of the status quo. If you are of the opinion that all the world needs is a little buffing around the edges, this should not trouble you. But if you think that there are still lunch counters out there that need integrating it ought to give you pause.” (my emphasis added)

This bold assertion – that social media is just window dressing and doesn’t represent any fundamental change in how social change is achieved – has got the preachers of social media gospel in a tizzy.

One writer on MediaPost blasted back with an article eloquently entitled, “Malcolm Gladwell is Wrong, Wrong, Wrong.”

Clearly Mr. Gladwell has hit a nerve.

And in my view rightly so.  It is still early in the social media revolution.  But what we have seen to date doesn’t appear to have prompted many fundamental changes in attitudes, behavior, norms, or even public policy.

One of the better rebuttals comes from Brendan Smith and Jeremy Brecher.  In it they quibble with many of the characteristics that Gladwell attributes to past social movements.  But their main point is to remind Gladwell (and all of us) to keep a clear distinction between social media as a tool and social media as an end in itself.

“Gladwell is surely right when he says social media ‘are not a natural enemy of the status quo.’ But that is only the beginning of the discussion. The pertinent question is whether social media can contribute to the process of forming social movements and effective social action, not whether social media can substitute for that process. (A telephone system is not a PTA, but it can sure as heck be useful for getting a few hundred people out to confront the school board or vote in the school board election.)”

That is — in the JuiceBar’s view — the better way to look at this.  Social media and social networks are tools.  They are to the 21st century what the telegraph was to the 20th (although I must say that better stories came out of the events around the Pony Express than out of the building of the telegraph network.

But Gladwell’s most damning criticism is the inherent conflict that arises when information and content are ‘free’.  And that is the simple fact that sustaining value and relevance is difficult when everything is free and no one has a price to pay.

A social media lament … Jaron Lanier’s “You Are Not a Gadget”

I’d like to introduce you to an important book.  It is Jaron Lanier’s “You Are Not a Gadget:  A Manifesto.”

But first, a few questions.

How are you?  Everything good?

How about your life on social media?  How is that going?

jaron_lanierHave you updated your blog? Gotten any comments lately?  Any trackbacks?  And your Facebook page?  What is your friend count?  Who’s writing on your wall?  How about your Twitter feed?  Have you checked in with your Google account?  Gone through your Google alerts?  Charted your progress with Google Analytics?   Have you checked in with Foursquare?  Did you get a new badge?  How are your Twitter client numbers?  Is your following getting bigger?  Are your “retweets” growing?

Is this you?  Is this what social media is doing to your life?

For those who are regular visitors to the JuiceBar you’ll know that I’ve a love/hate relationship with social media.  I think a lot of us do.  And the irony of me taking on social media through social media is certainly not lost on me.

Enter Jaron Lanier, the father of virtual reality.  He is an admitted computer genius and geek but also a musician and artists.  And as he looks around at what social media has done, he’s none too happy.  His recent book “You Are Not a Gadget:  A Manifesto” is a great read.  Yesterday’s Washington Post review had a good summary paragraph up front.

A self-confessed “humanistic softie,” Lanier is fighting to wrest control of technology from the “ascendant tribe” of technologists who believe that wisdom emerges from vast crowds, rather than from distinct, individual human beings. According to Lanier, the Internet designs made by that “winning subculture” degrade the very definition of humanness. The saddest example comes from young people who brag of their thousands of friends on Facebook. To them, Lanier replies that this “can only be true if the idea of friendship is reduced.”

If you think that’s good, try this.  Here are a couple of excerpts from an interview on Amazon’s site.

Here Lanier talks about how Web 2.0 actually works against the average Joe …

The problem is not inherent in the Internet or the Web. Deterioration only began around the turn of the century with the rise of so-called “Web 2.0” designs. These designs valued the information content of the web over individuals. It became fashionable to aggregate the expressions of people into dehumanized data. There are so many things wrong with this that it takes a whole book to summarize them. Here’s just one problem: It screws the middle class. Only the aggregator (like Google, for instance) gets rich, while the actual producers of content get poor.

And the big problem according to Lanier is this crazy idea of the “liberation” of information — as if what we’re doing on the social media front is akin to the storming of the Bastille.  Lanier writes:

The original turn of phrase was “Information wants to be free.” And the problem with that is that it anthropomorphizes information. Information doesn’t deserve to be free. It is an abstract tool; a useful fantasy, a nothing. It is nonexistent until and unless a person experiences it in a useful way. What we have done in the last decade is give information more rights than are given to people.

Think about that.

With the whole huffing and puffing of social media claiming that “Content is King” … are we in turn making ourselves slaves?

Familiarty Breeds Contempt … The True Nature of Trust

There’s a buzz around a recent report by the public relations firm Edleman.  For ten long years they have invested in something they have called the “trust barometer.”  Think of it like a trust weather vane.  Where is trust going?  How strong is that wind?  Who becoming more trustworthy?  Who is becoming less?

trust1Now I’ll admit that I’m skeptical about all such research.  One reason is that I do that for a living.  I know how tricky it is to measure ANYTHING related to public opinion, much less values and beliefs.  Measuring trust is right up there with predicting the path of nanoparticles.  In fact — to carry the quantum physics analogy further — you can spend a lot of time just defining what you mean by the word trust.

But I digress.

The most recent report by the Edelman Trust Barometer is a juicy “man bites dog” story.

Amidst the growth of social networking and consumer generated content, people are trusting their friends LESS, not MORE.

Yes, you read that right.  All that money and time we spend on peer-to-peer communication has resulted in people thinking less and less of each other.

Seems that the more and better I get to know you, the more I realize that you’re not smarter than me.  You’re just another Joe.  Warts and all.

Perhaps even worse.  With all your tweets, and posts and streams I come to the startling realization that you are even MORE screwed up than I AM.  And I’m a really screwed up person!  I should know.

Because I know myself only too well, I don’t trust myself with a lot of things.  Now I’ve read your blog, your Facebook page, your Twitter stream and I’m not impressed.  I thought you had it all together.  But you sound a lot like me.  Why the hell should I trust you?

I write all this knowing people who read this blog are saying the same thing about me.  They read this and say — “who the hell is this guy?”  Why the hell am I listening to him?  I’m perfectly fine with that.

And that’s the lesson of social media.  We knew it before blogs and MySpace pages.  Familiarity can indeed breed contempt.

And that was the mistake all along.  The big myth in social media was that peer-to-peer communication would elevate everyone.  That there would be wisdom created in crowds.  That trust would emerge as we all got to know each other.

But something different happened along with way.  We didn’t change.  We remained ourselves, just with a lot more avenues to express that.  And we exposed the true nature of trust.

I don’t trust the shallow frat boy.  I don’t trust the occasional remark.  I don’t trust just any old joe just because he or she is my age and looks like me.   I don’t trust folks shilling for that latest cause.

I trust people who don’t look at me as a customer, a potential sale, or a Linked In connection.

I trust people who look at me as a person, a human being, and a friend.

My permanent record

Concept one:  Permanent record.

When you read that what do you think of?

PermanentRecordWell, since I don’t hear you saying anything I’ll tell you what I think of.

Prison time.  Felony conviction.  Registered sex offender.  Tatoos.

Anything — like a shadow on a sunny day — that follows you around no matter where you go and no matter how you shake it.

Now for concept two:  privacy.

You may find this a bit odd, but I’m actually a pretty private person.  I’m not a privacy freak.  I’m not overly worried about identity theft.  I’m not concerned about personally identifiable information floating around.   I sign all those release forms when I go to the doctor.

No.  It is just that I’m just very content being by myself.  Never been a crowd or party guy.  And in my corporate profile I note my motto as being “discretion is the price of freedom.”  Translated that means that when talking about yourself, less is more.

Then I realize that I have a blog, I have a twitter feed, I have a Facebook page, a Plaxo page, a LinkedIn page.

And I realize that I’m not a private person at all!

Now comes Gordon Belt’s book Total Recall.  In his review of the book in the Wall Street Journal, Felt writes :

In a new book, principal Microsoft researcher Gordon Bell evangelizes for “Total Recall,” a practice that he describes with this motto: “Capture everything, discard nothing.” The idea is to use newly available technologies to record every moment of our lives, public and private. Each of us will build a vast digital database of our every experience. Mr. Bell claims that soon “you will be able to summon up everything you have ever seen, heard, or done.”

Whoa.  He goes on to write that with all this new technology and social media stuff, we’ll never have to remember anything.  We won’t have to use our brain or our memories.  We’ll just do a Google search.

It may be because I’m prone to lapses of memory but truth be told, sometime I like to forget.  It is comforting.  I don’t know if I want to be able to summon up everything I’ve ever seen, heard, or done.

I certainly don’t want others to.

OK, now I’m a bit nervous.

I feel just fine … how about you? And the future of journalism.

“Communications is technology.”

Or something like that.

feelingsThat’s what my daughter said excitedly as she told me about her new english major courses at George Mason University.  The excitement in her voice and the enthusiasm in her eyes made her impromptu presentation contagious.

She took me to the creation of Jonathan Harris and Sep Kanvar.

It is a site called We Feel Fine.

Check it out.  I don’t know if it is the future of communications and literature.  But it is certainly fascinating.  It is literature, research, ethnography, technology, emotions, and crowd-sourced literature all rolled into one.

According to the site:

Since August 2005, We Feel Fine has been harvesting human feelings from a large number of weblogs. Every few minutes, the system searches the world’s newly posted blog entries for occurrences of the phrases “I feel” and “I am feeling”. When it finds such a phrase, it records the full sentence, up to the period, and identifies the “feeling” expressed in that sentence (e.g. sad, happy, depressed, etc.). Because blogs are structured in largely standard ways, the age, gender, and geographical location of the author can often be extracted and saved along with the sentence, as can the local weather conditions at the time the sentence was written. All of this information is saved.

The result is a database of several million human feelings, increasing by 15,000 – 20,000 new feelings per day. Using a series of playful interfaces, the feelings can be searched and sorted across a number of demographic slices, offering responses to specific questions like: do Europeans feel sad more often than Americans? Do women feel fat more often than men? Does rainy weather affect how we feel? What are the most representative feelings of female New Yorkers in their 20s? What do people feel right now in Baghdad? What were people feeling on Valentine’s Day? Which are the happiest cities in the world? The saddest? And so on.

And so with that, I’ll say this, hoping that at some point some of these nuggets are harvested by the We Feel Fine site and that my contribution adds to someone’s day and another person’s science.

I feel good.  At least today I feel that way.  There have been many days in the past when I’ve felt bad.  Perhaps even miserable.  But today’s a good one.  So far.  You never know.  I could be feeling crummy this afternoon.  Something crazy could happen.  I could remember something stupid and start feeling blue.  Feelings are that way.  Very capricious things those feelings are.  But right now, I feel good.  And the fact that I’m feeling good, feels good.

Have a nice day.

The rise of the “NO TWEETING” zone

According to the New York Times, casting directors are now Tweeting as they audition for talent.  The main culprit in the Times story was Daryl Eisenberg.  In anticipation of criticism, Eisenberg issued a “free speech” defense … specifically “There is NO rule/guideline against Twitter/Facebook/MySpace/Friendster. Freedom of speech. Ever heard of it?”

6a00d835466f3a53ef0115711bfbf9970b-800wiI wonder if Eisenberg would be so charitable if someone else was Tweeting about him every time he, say, applied for a job or pitched a show idea.

And if I use Eisenberg’s logic, does it mean I can Tweet while I interview candidates at Brodeur Partners?  How would that work?  Something like …

“Hold on, you just said something really stupid, funny, incipient, lame, insightful [pick one].  My folks got to hear about this one.  Just a second while I grab my BlackBerry. ”

… or …

“I know I’m not looking at you but I’m listening … really I am.  You have no idea how focused I am on you and your well being right now.   And to prove it I’m tweeting to my 5,000 followers on Twitter — most of whom I don’t know and, to be frank really don’t care to know —  about what you just said.  Can you repeat that again, a bit slowly?  BTW, your mannerisms also crack me up.  Can you do that thing with your hands again?  I may need some time to figure out how to text that in 140 characters.”

To me, the offense is not one of publicity.  Eisenberg didn’t name names.  The offense is one of civility.

There are limits to multitasking — or at least there should be.  Besides, the same NewYorkTimes a week later confirmed what we all have known for awhile — multitasking makes you mediocre.

Mediocre.  That’s worse that being stupid.

Are there places where people should simply not tweet?

Apparently the folks at the U.S. Open tennis tournament think so.  The sad part is that the reasons they give have more to do with commerce than decorum and civility.  (There’s a fear is that it would screw up tennis gambling)

Where are your no tweet zones?