Posts tagged “Trends


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.” 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.”


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.


Well … because!

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?

When Progress Isn’t

Progress can set you back.

As readers of the JuiceBar know, I travel a lot. Most of that travel is in and out of Dulles Airport in Northern Virginia.

Anyone who has flown in or out of Dulles likely has an opinion about the airport’s famous “people movers” … specially made buses that were originally designed to take passengers from the terminal directly to the plane but for the past ten years simply shuttled people to the next concourse.

People movers were the things that everyone loved to hate.

Everyone wanted a subway or train.  Just like the other airports.  So the folks at Dulles built one.  A beautiful, shiny, open cavernous, glassy one.  Wide open spaces.  Smooth terrazzo floors.

Just one thing.  To get to TSA you have to go down.  Quite a ways down actually.  The lines there are long.  Then you need to walk.  You need to walk a lot.  If there were those guys in little carts, you’d want to hitch a ride with them.  You need to walk a long way and then go down again.  Way, way down.  To the shiny, glassy, train station with the smooth, polished terrazzo floors.  Now you need to wait.  When the train comes, jump on quickly or you’ll miss it.  While you’re on the train waiting to arrive at Concourse C, you should rest up.  You can’t drink any water because they made you throw that away at the TSA line, so just conserve your energy.  Because once you’ve gotten to the Concourse you’re going to be walking.  And walking.  And walking.  And that is just to get to the elevator that takes you back to the surface.  So you can walk some more to get to your actual gate.

This is the progress that isn’t.  It now takes me longer to get to the gate than before.  Much longer.  My only solace is that people now have to walk more so we get more exercise.  Maybe that will help solve our obesity problem.  Make every fly from Dulles.

The fact is that you now walk as much going in and out of the ‘new’ transit system than you would if you just stepped through the main terminal and walked straight across the tarmac to the next Concourse.

Now THAT would be progress.

I’m seeing a lot of progress that isn’t these days.

Scrambling for an electric outlet to enter something into an electrical device when writing it down with a pen and paper would do.  Twenty-five clicks to get a calendar entry to synch with all 11 of my appointment books when just having an old DayTimer would do the same in a fraction of the time.

Sometimes things get better for the worse.

Sometimes progress isn’t.

Assessments, Predictions and Resolutions – Happy New Year!

December is the month to look back, pretend to see forward, and resolve that the things we’ve failed miserably to accomplish in the past will somehow — with a mix of grit, will, and magic — finally happen.

It is the time we assess, predict, and resolve.

First, there are the assessments.  For some reason they follow the decimal system.  We come up with endless ‘top ten’, top twenty’, and ‘top one hundred lists.’   Of the ‘top ten’ claims and lists I’ve seen, the most audacious is that of  They claim to have the ‘top ten of everything in 2010.’  According to ‘everything’ conveniently falls into less than 50 categories.


So here’s an interesting way to spend (waste?) an hour of your time.  Google “top ten for 2010”.  You probably won’t have time to go through the 8+ billion entries.  But along the way you’ll find the top ten buzzwords of 2010.  Can you say ‘vuvuzela?’  There is  everything from a list of the top comedy movies to a list of the top ten depression blogs.  I love Google!

Then there are the predictions.

I find the urge to predict the future peculiarly interesting.  We know ‘next year’ predictions rarely come true.   There’s always something we didn’t see.  Some event no one could predict. Unconvinced?  Read J. Conboy’s piece on the ‘worst predictions for 2010.’  The Google Wave that never came ashore.  The netbook sales that never happened.  The jobs that never appeared.

We know (at least I do) that when we say this stuff it amounts to a wild-assed guess.  So we package our predictions instead as ‘bold’.  Bold means it is a real crap shoot.

When we come to grips that we are much better at taking stock of what was than predicting what will be, we turn to the ‘resolution.’  Specifically, the New Year’s Resolution.

There are many definitions of resolution.  You can look it up (or click here).  But the New Year’s Resolution usually follows this one:  “the act of resolving or determining upon an action or course of action, method, procedure.”

The New Year’s Resolution is typically personal.  We resolve to do this, to achieve that, to become something (or someone) else.  It is as if we’ve admitted that we can’t predict the future and have little control over what is ‘out there’ …  so at least we’ll make a stab at regaining some portion of self, some piece of dignity, some glimmer of a more hopeful lifestyle.

So we resolve.  And most of us fail.

Actually, those who keep statistics on such stuff say that only 46% succeed past six months (I would have guessed a higher failure rate).  And those who study this also claim that regardless of whether you keep a resolution or not, simply the exercise of trying makes a difference.

So we try again.  Knowing that next year there’s a very good chance we’ll be back wrestling with the same old issue, striving for the same elusive goal.  But that’s ok.

So here’s to 2011.  And to never giving up on making resolutions even when we know the risk of failure is high.

Happy New Year.

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?

Airports: Europe is numeric … U.S. is alphabetic

I spend a lot of time in airports.  Not as much as George Clooney in “Up in the Air.”  I don’t like traveling as much as this fellow seems to and I find negotiating airports more of a pain-in-the ass than comforting.   But in a recent trip I toured through three major U.S. airports and two major European ones and was reminded of a curious difference between the two.

Airport 7European airports list departures by time.  When are you leaving?  Look up on the board and scroll down for the time.  There it is.  Got a 9:45 am flight out of Berlin?  Just need to find those flights listed between 9:40 and 9:50 am.  It will be there somewhere in betwixt the flights to Cracaw and Geneva.

U.S. airports list departures by destination.  Where are you going?  Washington DC?  That’s easy.  Go to the end of the listings in the WXYZ space and find where you’re going and then work backwards for the time and gate.

The U.S. system makes a helluvalot more sense to me.  First, I ALWAYS know WHERE I’m going.  But there’s a lot of times I don’t quite remember when.  I can get confused about whether the flight is at 2:30 pm or 3:30 pm but I NEVER get confused about whether I’m going to Newark or Los Angeles.  Then there’s the issue of delayed flights.  You check in and they tell you that your flight is going to be an hour late.  Do you look for the ‘correct’ time or do you look for the revised time?

Very confusing.

I can only think that the European airports carried over the vestiges of the old train station arrival and departure boards.  You know.  Those huge mechanical panels that every minute do the “click-click-click” thing in which plates unfold from the middle to amazingly display a curious combination of yellow and white type on black that gives the latest listings of trains, cities, and gates.

Now it is a series of luminescent flat screen panels dangling from the roof … but the listing by time remains.

And I still can’t remember when that flight is supposed to leave.

Swine Flu Schizophrenia

Worried that you’re going to die because you CANNOT get the swine flu vaccine?

Worried that you’re going to die because someone is going to MAKE YOU TAKE the swine flu vaccine?

Ready to blame the government, big pharma, the medical-industrial complex for it all?

Welcome to the whacky world of being a human being in America.

On the same day — November 6th — there were two polls that told the story of America’s schizophrenic mindset about vaccinations, swine flu, and modern health.

hdc_0000_0001_0_img0070One was a Harvard poll whose headline read alarmingly that only “one third of those who sought the vaccine were able to get it.”  The poll was part of a swarm of stories flooding the top half of virtually every news outlet citing long lines, soaring complaints, and rising outrage that more vaccine was not available to the American public.  If you follow these stories you’d think that an uprising of cataclysmic proportions was just around the corner.

On the left coast there appeared another poll.  According to it more than half of registered voters in California didn’t want the swine flu vaccine.  Indeed, the “Times/USC poll also found that 59% of people ages 18 to 29, among the most at-risk of any age group, said they had no plans to get the vaccine.”  And there were sizable portions of the public — particularly among African Americans and Latinos — that the vaccine itself was more dangerous than the disease.

So the paranoid will get vaccinated.  The apathetic will not.

And whatever happens, I’m sure the blame won’t be on the paranoid or the apathetic — rather it will be on the poor folks who are actually trying to develop and deliver the vaccine.

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?

Why Senator Kennedy is a role model for us all

Senator Kennedy a role model?  Sure you’d have to have been living under a rock over the past few days not to hear or read about the public service accolades, the interest in the poor, the legislative accomplishments.  But what about the getting kicked out of Harvard part?  The carousing and cavorting?  Chappaquiddick?  What about all the bad stuff and the personal flaws — many if not most of which were on display?

Well yes.  There was all that.  And perhaps even some more.  But reflecting on Senator Kennedy’s life — and life in general — I suggest we all reflect on our own short-comings.  They may not be as big or as egregious or as oversized as what we saw in the youngest Kennedy son.  But if we’re honest with ourselves we’ll find our own blind spots, our own severe missteps, our own poor judgement — ours  just didn’t get all the attention that Senator Kennedy’s did.

ted_kennedySome may focus on the flaws of Ted Kennedy.  But whether you are right or left, conservative or liberal, religious or secular, what should him a role model for us all was his unique combination of two things:  genuine personal compassion combined with a strong work ethic.

I live in Washington DC.  In this town you often find one absent the other.  People who overflow with words of caring and love but are too lazy to act on that compassion.   They say the right words and perhaps even have the right motivation.  They just don’t do much.  Then you have the workaholics who lose themselves in their jobs and their causes.  They are so wrapped up in their own little world that they forget that there’s real people, real individuals, real folk out there who just need some help.

Mr. Kennedy was not a lazy man.  He was by all accounts, tireless, indefatigable, unstoppable.  And he found a way to put that energy to help real people with real life problems.  I’ve been stunned by the sheer number of stories that people have shared with me about Senator Kennedy’s personal compassion.  Everyone seems to have a Joe Biden story.  A story where Ted Kennedy took an extra step or lent an extra hand when he found out a person was dealing with tragedy.  Recently a friend and colleague shared with me the following story:

You know the connection I have to both 9/11 and the Senator so I took note of this story I saw about Senator Kennedy and the families from Massachusetts – it was reported for the first time shortly after his illness was disclosed.

Within a couple of days after the 9/11, Senator Kennedy had called every Massachusetts family that had lost a someone.  There were 176.  Even by the standards of exceptional elected officials, you and I know that’s a lot of calls.

A few weeks later one widow, Cindy McGinty, was informed by the Navy that because she could not locate her husband’s discharge papers, an honor guard would not be sent to his funeral.  Michael McGinty was a insurance executive in one of the towers and a Naval Academy graduate.  She called Senator Kennedy.  The next day someone from the Navy called and said a Navy honor guard would be sent to the funeral of Michael McGinty, USN, Rtd.

As David Frum reports, Sen. Kennedy wrote a personal note to every family that lost somebody.  He also wrote a letter to every family every year after that because as he said, the memory doesn’t go away.

A few months after 9/11, he pulled all the federal agencies together in Massachusetts to meet with the Massachusetts 9/11 families to make sure everything was being done that could be done.  At that meeting, Cindy McGinty, who had two pre-teen boys, said she was overwhelmed and was having trouble putting one foot in front of the other.  Kennedy made sure each family in Massachusetts was assigned an advocate who would do as much or as little as the families needed.

A year later McGinty said she didn’t know how Kennedy found out, but one of her sons was having trouble adjusting.  Kennedy invited her and her two boys out to Hyannis Port for a sail one Saturday and they sailed from 11 to 4 (absolutely no press was to be told).  He was to meet with presidential candidate, John Kerry, that afternoon and reportedly kept him waiting.  Later he sent to Mrs. McGinty and her boys photographs and a picture — one he painted — of the day sailing with inscriptions saluting them for their courage.

Senator Kennedy’s life and death is a reminder of those compassionate acts we’ve left undone … those people we’ve forgotten to care for.

Senator Kennedy has passed.  But we’ve still got some time left.

Quote of the Day

Folks who have followed the JuiceBar know that I’ve a love/hate relationship with social media.

I love it. It is wild, dynamic, open, refreshing, democratic, transparent, exciting … and just plain fun.

nothing-blackI hate it. It is elusive, confounding, over-hyped, out-of-control and overwhelming.

So here’s my quote of the day from Brian Mazzaferri, the lead singer of I Fight Dragons from a great story by Walin Wong of the Chicago Tribune.

“There’s so many things you can do online that make you feel you’re doing something, when in reality you’re doing nothing.”

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve thought the same.

Then something happens.  You get curious.

And you say to yourself … log on one more time!