Tuesday, November 22, 2016

Understanding Trump

Since the election, I've been trying to better understand President-Elect Donald Trump. What I heard as his promises on the campaign trail didn't make sense. It has taken me a little while to realize that much of his forward looking rhetoric seemed to actually be his opening bid in a negotiation rather than campaign promises. You're selling your home for $800,000; I show up and offer $750,000; that's not the end of the deal, only the beginning.

When Trump said, "Build a wall," he was actually pitching an idea. From his point of view, why not throw out ideas and see what sticks? At the end of the day, he got the results he wanted. He accomplished what no other candidate could; he was elected POTUS. People may be protesting the election, but no one is contesting it like the 2000 election. To bring up the point that Trump didn't win the popular vote is like rationalizing today's loss of your favorite baseball team in a close game, say 2 – 1, by arguing that your team won yesterday's game 10 – 1. You can't carry over yesterday's extra eight runs to today.

It's been said that the first person with a crazy idea isn't as crazy as the first follower of that idea.

Build a Wall

Something I couldn't understand, when Trump said he was going to build a wall, was why other people from Mexico and Central America would support him. How could they support that? Yesterday, I got an answer to my question from someone who employs an undocumented worker. It turns out that undocumented workers aren't seeking solidarity with other undocumented workers by supporting Trump. Rather, they're seeking to stop the influx of undocumented workers into the U.S. to limit their competition. Something I didn't understand before today now makes complete sense. This is a small epiphany, but I will continue to try to understand how people think while seeking objective truth.

Failing to understand your friends and enemies is failing to understand people.

Monday, November 21, 2016

Weak Stadium Security at NFL & College Venues

Only clear bags allowed.
Last night, I went to a basketball game at UCLA. Women were prevented from entering the arena with any opaque bag larger than a clutch. Women who showed up at security with a purse were sent outside the arena to leave their purse at check-in. Ladies had the option of transferring the contents of their bags into a clear plastic bag if they wanted to. It turns out this policy mimics the NFL's; the NFL says it has "unanimously" implemented the same poor security practices at their stadiums.

Here's the problem... the security metal detectors can't detect leather. The clear plastic bag policy is trying to mimic TSA security policies in form over substance. Why can't a woman bring an opaque bag into an arena? I don't know.

How can you defeat this security measure? Simply empty the contents of your purse into a clear plastic bag and then hide your empty leather purse anywhere on your body such as in the small of your back. After entering the venue, simply transfer the contents from the clear plastic bag back into your leather purse. This suggestion is a much safer option for women than leaving their purses with some college kid to guard. (Would it be far-fetched for a creepy college kid to go through your purse during a game?)

Security Theatre

What the NFL is accomplishing with this policy is known as security theater. Most people recognize that security is usually a trade off with convenience (although it doesn't necessarily have to be) so, if a policy is implemented at an institutional level that is highly inconvenient then it must be safer, goes the thinking. In other words, it's inconvenient security theater without making the venue safer – if anything, it puts added risk on their fans due to the hassle of standing in line in the rain (which is what happened last night) plus transferring stuff between bags, in the dark, while having a college kid watch your bag, etc.

Let's keep America scared. I think you see my point.

Wednesday, November 16, 2016

Protesting vs. Complaining

If every single one of your thoughts, posts, and comments are anti, anti-Clinton or anti-Trump, then you are not helping. You’re not even protesting. You’re complaining. You don’t like your lot in life, so you want to bring others down to your level by “informing” them through your biased view points.

You protest a cause to prevent or change it. You protest the war to end the war. You protest higher taxes to lower them. You protest evolution to promulgate the idea that Adam was made from dust and Eve was made from a rib; you do this to get your Creationist beliefs institutionalized.

For protesting to have an effect, it has to be organized as a group; it has to send a clear message that’s actionable. Venting really doesn’t help because it’s not as if you’ve discharged those negative feelings, you’ve simply amplified them.

I swore my life to protest your First Amendment. Never a regret there. But now it's my turn to exercise my freedom of speech; except I'm doing it in a positive way. Find a way to make it work or be miserable – that's your choice.

I'm not saying don't protest or demonstrate. By all means do that if you can make a difference.

Sunday, November 13, 2016

An Entrepreneur's First Step

Q: What should be an entrepreneur's first step when creating a business, product, or service?

A: Write a press release (PR) and frequently asked questions (FAQ) document.

Think: Begin with the end in mind.

The PR and FAQ are notional and for internal use only. The PR focuses on your product's benefits and the FAQ answers specific questions regarding features and details. Later, when you're ready to ship your product, you'll publish the actual PR and FAQ for public consumption. In the mean time, the notional PR and FAQ are used to socialize your vision with the team. Sure, you'll tweak the document, slightly, while you're working on your baby, but by using this as a starting point... as your vision document... gets everyone on the same page and it keeps the founders and team from getting distracted.

The PR should be a simple one or two page document describing the benefits of your product and the FAQ can be a few pages. If, later, you find development straying from that notional PR, then you'll either need to update the PR or ignore the distractions.

Tuesday, November 8, 2016

Presidential Elections and the Press

In the 2000 Presidential Elections, the press reported results in real-time which, some say, may have effected the outcome since people in the western US, AL, and HI may have skipped voting, thinking it was a forgone conclusion.

During the next major Presidential Election, in 2008, it wasn’t a close race (365 [Obama] to 173 [McCain] electoral votes), but none of the major networks called the race until 11 PM ET (8 PM PT), at the exact minute when the polls closed everywhere but Alaska.

I wonder how they'll play it, tonight?

Freedom of the Press Means Capitalism 

Keep in mind that, while freedom of the press is critical, these news companies are for-profit businesses that need to make money. They make money by making news. By making more news, more people tune in. To make more people tune in there needs to be suspense and excitement. A close Presidential Election does exactly that.

Now take a look at the news cycle leading up to today's election. Have you ever noticed that the Presidential debates are hosted by journalists? On the surface, that makes sense since they should be able to interview people without bias. Of course, they do their best – in lines with their employer's desires – to be unbiased. But there are two points where this isn't the case. The first, and most obvious, is the fact we all have slants. I've done video and written journalism and I've seen how simple it is to have a story focus on what I'm most interested in. At best, it's unintentional bias, at worst, it's misleading (which we see, every single day, in politics). One can speak the truth with the intention to deceive.

Second, and this isn't obvious, is there are subtle cues in the news to make it more dramatic. A slow motion scene of a recently deceased Challenger crew; or a studio audience at a Presidential debate.  Between keeping your eye on the news crawler at the bottom of the screen, along with the transition sound effects and breaking news graphics, you are forced to pay attention.

Debate this Debate Idea

Would not the debates be more effective at informing citizens if there was no clapping, cheering, or booing? Of course, the audience is told by the moderators to refrain from making any noise, but that doesn't work. What also doesn't work is telling the candidates not to interrupt each other. The latter issue could be solved by either switching off the mic of the candidate who doesn't have the floor, or giving that candidate the option of overriding the switched off mic while incurring a time penalty.

Television media has a very good idea about how their reporting will affect their viewers. Repetitively showing dramatic events will keep people on edge which keeps them tuning in.

One way I've serendipitously discovered to avoid the news drama is simply by not watching live TV news. But, I am not disciplined enough to do this on my own; instead, years ago, I cut my cable service to nothing but Internet.