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Gregory Rader
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New blog post.  Feedback/comments always appreciated...
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Gregory Rader

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New post reflecting on how smartphone and tablets have infiltrated work habits...
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VCs like mass markets. Everyone consumes. 1 in 10 creates.

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Are computers ghostwriting articles for real journalists?

I recently came across an article on The Shadow League chronicling The Divergent Paths Of Kevin Durant And Michael Beasley.  Kevin Durant and Michael Beasley are NBA basketball players.  Durant is probably the second best players in the world right now, while Beasley has failed to live up to his considerable hype (#1 player in his high school class, 1st Team All American as a freshman, #2 pick in the 2008 NBA draft).

The article, which is supposedly authored by ESPN writer Scoop Jackson, states:

"It wasn’t like Durant was an angel. The finished product we see now and hold up as the example of how we wish all superstars should be, is the same kid ( according to a NY Times feature on him in 2012) that broke his hand in a strip club when he was 12 years old, should have been arrested for reckless driving when he was nine and accidentally shot his chauffeur when he was around 15. (What kid whose last name isn’t Beiber or who isn’t a child of Will and Jada has a chauffeur at 15?)"

This sounded a little suspicious so I clicked through to the NY Times article and found the following (emphasis mine):

"N.B.A. scoring champions are, as a rule, weirdos and reprobates and in some cases diagnosable sociopaths. Something about dominating your opponent, publicly, more or less every day of your life, in the most visible aspect of your sport, tends to either warp your spirit or to be possible only to those whose spirits are already warped…

Kevin Durant, the star of the Oklahoma City Thunder, is the youngest scoring champion in N.B.A. history. At 24, he has led the league in scoring for three consecutive seasons, and all signs point to him keeping that up for the foreseeable future. It follows, then, that Durant should also be a prodigy of a head case. He should have been arrested for reckless driving at around age 9, broken his hand in a strip-club brawl at age 12 and accidentally shot his chauffeur no later than age 15. 

Instead, Durant has a reputation roughly on par with Gandhi. He seems to be — not just for a scoring champion, but for anyone — almost inhumanly humble."

It should be obvious to any reasonably intelligent human being that the NY Times article is saying exactly the opposite of what The Shadow League attributes to it.  The passage above is not even remotely ambiguous.  And seeing as I have no doubt that Scoop Jackson is indeed a reasonably intelligent human being, I have trouble believing that he had any part in writing it…or even proof-reading it.

Instead this looks like a classic example of how computers, even really smart ones, fail the Turing test.  If you didn’t know anything about Kevin Durant, there is nothing about the language itself that would give you pause.  But the content will immediately smell fishy to anyone with a little context and common sense…I mean…wouldn’t I have heard about it if Kevin Durant had shot his chauffeur?

Even the attempted joke – “What kid whose last name isn’t Beiber or who isn’t a child of Will and Jada has a chauffeur at 15?” – borders on the robotically formulaic.

The Shadow League’s contact page describes the site as follows:

"TheShadowLeague.com, a site dedicated to presenting journalistically sound sports coverage with a cultural perspective that insightfully informs sports fans worldwide."

Journalistically sound?  It would seem then that the standards for journalistic soundness no longer include a sanity check by a real person…
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It occurs to me that Tumblr is succeeding for reasons exactly opposite of why Facebook succeeded.  Facebook differentiated itself through real identity.  It allowed people to construct a consistent and persistent online identity.  But as Facebook has become populated by everyone in the world, across generations and social/professional circles, real identity has become increasingly onerous.  As the author of the link below notes:

"The other part of the argument is more anecdotal: It comes from watching how both of my teenaged daughters use the service, and the powerful hold it has over the way that they consume and share all kinds of content, especially visual content (including animated GIFs, etc.) — and the corresponding decline in the amount of time they spend on Facebook. For them, Facebook seems to have become something they feel they have to use rather than something they want to spend a lot of time on, much like email is for older users."

Tumblr promotes self expression by reversing the trend and moving away from real identity.  That degree of illegibility allows people to express themselves more freely without fear that those expressions will be forever attached to their real identity.  To outsiders like myself the appeal of Tumblr has been elusive, but I am realizing that for fans of the service that is precisely the point.

http://gigaom.com/2012/11/06/if-facebook-isnt-thinking-about-buying-tumblr-it-should-be
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I would love to see a comparison of the expression identities across media for young 'uns.  My nieces, 15 and 17, have blown by facebook, are occasion tumblr users (kind of like the occasinal craft project) and are now tweeting like mad - and they tweet like they are simply socializing their formerly private texts.  "Kiley is so dumb #duh ." kind of stuff.    
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If only there were box marked "conscientious abstainer" that one could mark on the ballot...
 
The real question for today is: what would the results be if we offered "none of the above" as an option?
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Conscientious objector is exactly how I voted.
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This is my first new post in a while and I am pretty happy with it.  Curious as always to get reactions/feedback from everyone...
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+phil jones Yeah, facebook is giant but it is giant in a diffuse distributed sort of way.  It serves a lot of people but it does something different for each of those people.  It is wide and shallow rather than narrow and deep.  By that I mean it provides a relatively small amount of value to an enormous number of people, whereas industrial era enterprises - take a car manufacturer that moves 200k vehicles a year - provide products of far greater value (deeper, more concentrated value) to much smaller populations.

Curing cancer sounds is an interesting example.  It sounds like a single focused initiative when phrased in that way but I think that may be more a function of the semantics than the reality.  In practice curing cancer would likely entail countless unique cures for specific varieties of cancer, and therefore would end up being more of a distributed effort.  And the same is true of most possibilities we might consider.  That is one of the points I was trying to convey, that the trend towards distributed innovation is not just a secular preference...it is a function of the opportunities and challenges currently available.  The opportunities that were amenable to concentrated industrial solutions have mostly been addressed already, and new opportunities of that variety probably won't enter the adjacent possible until the distributed space is colonized.  
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Gregory Rader

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Apparently learning to juggle improves generalized ability in mental rotation tasks: http://www.spring.org.uk/2013/07/the-mental-benefits-of-useless-skills-like-juggling.php

I've always thought mental rotation and other spatial forms of intelligence were among my strongest, particularly as compared to the more verbal questions that show up on IQ tests like word jumbles.  
I wonder what I was doing as child to cultivate these capabilities.  It certainly wasn't juggling... 
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I've always been good with engineering graphics stuff and visualizing rotations and such in my head. I learned how to juggle in 3-4 days. 
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Video report on how self-management at Morning Star works.

"The Morning Star Company, which handles 40 percent of California's processed tomato crop, is the largest tomato processing company in the world. That's impressive, but the most unique thing about Morning Star is that it has no managers. Instead, Morning Star embraces an approach they call "self-management." As Paul Green, Jr. of Morning Star's Self-Management Institute puts it: "Self-management is, at a very very high level, exactly the way you live when you go home from work. We just ask you to keep that hat on when you come to work at Morning Star."

In our everyday lives, we don't have bosses telling us which careers or hobbies to pursue. If we want to purchase a car or a home, we don't have to get permission. Sure, we consult with friends and family before making important decisions, but as long as we're prepared to take responsibility for our choices, we're free to do what we want.

The same spirit reigns at Morning Star. Employees decide how their skill sets can best help Morning Star succeed and then develop their own lists of roles and responsibilities in collaboration with their colleagues. If Morning Star employees want to purchase new equipment, they don't ask managers for permission. Rather, they discuss potential purchases with colleagues who will be affected by the purchase and, if others with expertise support the decision, they simply buy what they need. There is no R&D department at Morning Star. There are, however, strong incentives for every employee to innovate. Workers who successfully innovate don't receive new titles. They earn the respect of their colleagues in addition to financial compensation.

Running a firm without managers seems like a crazy idea to many, but is it? If the most prosperous societies are organized around institutions that promote freedom and responsibility, why shouldn't a similar approach work within a firm? If market-based societies are best able to take advantage of local and dispersed knowledge, then doesn't it make sense to give staffers with the most local knowledge the freedom to make decisions?

More than 50 years ago, Leonard E. Read wrote "I, Pencil," an essay that asks how we can expect central planning to succeed when nobody in the world possess all the knowledge needed to produce even a simple pencil. For more than 40 years, Morning Star has been demonstrating that you don't need managers to run a successful company.

(Full disclosure: Morning Star founder Chris Rufer is a supporter of Reason Foundation, the nonprofit that publishes Reason TV.)

About 6 minutes. Produced by Paul Feine and Alex Manning."
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This is a telling analysis that, though intended as criticism, ultimately says more about who Obama really is than the political strategies he has chosen.  Obama hasn't put forth a compelling narrative because he doesn't have a narrative bone in body.  People misunderstood his campaign persona four years ago (to Obama's benefit).  They believed he was a visionary, someone skilled at crafting a Clinton-esque narrative, but when you look closely you find that Obama's campaign was built on values not visions.  

The confusion is further compounded by the fact that Obama's campaign persona does not reflect his true personality.  Like many public figures, whose handlers carefully construct their public personas, Obama channels his complimentary opposite.  His performance in office - when shielded from the public eye - reveals an ESTJ...an objective administrative type skilled at formulating efficient rational solutions to pragmatic challenges.  

But on the campaign trail Obama wraps himself in the cloak of an INFP - an empathetic intuitive type whose primary mode of relating with others is via expression of ethical values.  

Romney has likewise attempted to play the role of his complimentary opposite, though he has done so less skillfully.  Romney is an ISFP presenting himself to the world as an individualistic enterprising ENTJ.  But anyone who knows an ENTJ knows they never avoid specifics in the way that has become Romney's trademark.  Equally telling are comments like Romney's infamous 47% gaffe, which reveal a competitive "you're either with us or against us" mindset rather than the entrepreneurial positive-sum perspective of an ENTJ.

In both cases, focusing only on the superficial aspects of the candidates' campaign personas leads one to the wrong conclusion.  So too does a simple check-the-box approach (see here for someone who got both candidates exactly wrong: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/michael-melcher/entj-romney-vs-enfj-obama_b_1891074.html).  Correct assessment requires an understanding of how different elements of personality interact with each other, which personas someone can be trained to adopt, and alternatively, which personas will conflict with the core of someone's identity.  But I'll stop there for now.  If people enjoy this post then maybe I will dig deeper...

Thanks +John Hagel for the link.
 
The missed opportunity - how Obama squandered his narrative mojo - a loss for the country
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+Neil LaChapelle I think the article was mostly referring to the way Obama handled messaging in his first term overall, not specifically in regards to the reelection campaign.
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