Why do we keep eating?

Why do we eat? The simple answer would be that if we did not eat, we would die. But that is not entirely true. Science can provide us with a pill we can take that would provide exactly the nutrition we need — no more, no less — to keep our bodies healthy. Yet, we resist the notion that a pill, taken three time a day, would replace daily meals.

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Round up all the web geeks and pelt them with pebbles

I just spent the last hour of my life fighting with some CSS that works perfectly in Safari and MESI 7.0, but not in MSIE 6.0 or the “standards compliant” Firefox whatever version it is now. Since I am working pre-coffee, pre-office hours from a laptop on my kitchen table, I don’t have the luxury of checking out the site on a MSIE 6.0 browser. All I have is a really badly worded description of the problem, sent in an email by a very late Boomer who is using a language all her own to describe the issue.

Let me start by explaining I am very, very good at CSS, HTML, PHP, Perl, MySQL, Photoshop, Illustrator, InDesign and a whole host of stuff that has long been discontinued. I have been in the Internet and Web game since 1995 so I think it is fair to say I know what I am doing and have employed a pretty sizable library of fixes, kludges, hacks and plain ol’ cheats to make stuff work on a Web site. I can read, write and design. Don’t even start assuming I’m an idiot or unknowledgeable. You would be very, very wrong.

In some circles, I would be considered a geek. But in mine, I am a User Interface Designer. My job — some would say my obsession — is to make the interaction between the human and the machine seamless and intuitive. If training is needed, the system is too complicated. At least that is the ideal.

I have lost more time, brain cells and sleep to the hubris of geeks than any other tech-related issue. I am convinced the only reason that we have browser discrepancies with CSS, HTML, etc is because the geeks were in charge and they did not have the skills to play nice with each other or anybody else. They looked down at the user because they weren’t as smart, because they didn’t get it. And, they looked down at each other because each one was more right than his peer.

What if each company making street lights decided on a different order of the red-yellow-green? Of, decided that the colors were way too boring and decided purple-pink-magenta would be better. Or, what if they decided that light were just not good and they used coo-coo clock birdies instead? And imagine if a different signal was installed on each street corner. But, the wrinkle is that each user was able to choose which signal he/she liked best for that day, for that corner? What a mess!

So, now we have this mess of browser technologies that don’t play well with each other. For every hour I have to spend on the phone or email, explaining why MSIE 6.0 is a piece of crap, I would like to invoice Microsoft. And, in all fairness, Microsoft should take that invoice payment out of the paychecks of any geek who decided that their way was better. Let them live with the consequences of the mess their hubris created. Apple and Mozilla, you’re not off the hook either.

I expect the geeks to either ignore this post or defend their position. I really don’t give a crap which they do because today, I woke up as a fully frustrated user who doesn’t care to hear another excuse about why your way is better. I am no longer a developer; I will be a user first. If I have to fight with it, I ain’t gonna use your technology.

Standards are good. Community-agreed conventions keep use from wasting time. Pay attention to the user, geeks and peek out from your self-induced world every once in a while.

And quit going to geek conventions where everyone validates your opinion about the user. They’re wrong; we’re not stupid. We just have lives where technology is a tool, not an ends.

What would you do if you had $1 million dollars?

Dear President-elect Barack Obama;

I am a small business owner. I do quite well for myself as I am in a knowledge-based business servicing the youth sporting market and the retail services industries. I also dabble a bit in coffee and Web 2.0 consulting.

I was running some numbers this afternoon on the bail-out plans that have been proposed to date. As I look back on my college days some 20 plus years ago and my classes in English Literature — specifically with regard to American literature of the mid to late 1800s (Hawthorne, Dreiser, Meliville, etc) — I was struck with what is to me a strangely obvious fact. Modern capitalism has run its course and the current financial crisis is the front wave of a new economy.

At its basics, capitalism is providing money to build infrastructure for making goods and to a certain degree, providing services with the promise of a return on its sale or sale of the goods produced. Having been in a service industry all my life, I am not unaccustomed to “cramming” a product economic model (“making widgets”) into a service model. It really doesn’t work but we lied to ourselves just the same.

This country no longer makes things. We provide services; we assemble components. The old capitalist model where we invest in machinery, buildings, factories, etc for making goods is dead. It has been dying for a very long time. As such, funding the economy from the top down is not a viable option. There will be no trickle-down benefit as the economy will only swell and move if the bottom tiers start spending and buying goods and services. Yet, they can’t because they have no ready cash.

Capitalists talk in billions of dollars. Ordinary citizens talk about hundreds each week. Investment banks talk millions in transaction per day. Small business talks about hundred of thousands in revenue. When you pour $700 billion into Wall Street, it is like dumping a gallon of water into the Pacific Ocean. When you pour $1 million into a small business, it is like filling a bathtub with a fire hose.

Here is my proposal:
– Establish a fund of $400 Billion dollars.
– Give $1 Million dollar grants to 400,000 business that are ready, able and willing to provide services to a service-based economy.
– Each business can then afford to hire 6 people at a salary of $40,000. With health care, taxes, equipment, etc. that should equal about $60,000 investment for each employee.
– That leaves about $640,000 left for materials, computers, advertising, marketing, etc.
– Encourage a strong multi-generation team, such as Gen Y, Xers, Boomers and beyond. Working together, we make a difference we all want to experience.

That puts about 2.4 Million people to work, building knowledge centers for teachers, creating software to better manage health care systems, providing new event marketing systems for brands, creating better time balance management systems for new parents, perhaps even finding a cure for some diseases. The infrastructure of services you will jump-start will sustain itself well past the year the US Government will fund.

Your campaign proved the model. Small amounts of money spread across millions of people who are motivated to creating a better world than was left them works. We are ready, willing and able to make the change.

Lead us and help us say, “Yes, we can” one small voice at a time until it becomes a thunderous, mighty roar.

Warm regards,

G.

PS I look forward to seeing the new puppy Malia and Sasha pick out!

You suck! Your comment sucks!

You write a blog post and post it. Someone comes onto your blog and has an alternative point of view. But, instead of engaging this commenter in a logical argument, you lash out at him, belittling his point of view and then using sarcastic remarks in subsequent comments. Is that smart?

This happened recently to me. (I won’t mention the blog because that would result in more traffic.) When I first read the author’s post, I thought it was insightful, but lacking in a couple of key areas. After reading the author’s immature response to my observations, I now think the author is a bit immature, perhaps even an idiot. I won’t be back to his blog — not because I got my feeling hurt — but because there is probably not much else I can learn from someone who does not have the skills to engage in an argument without resorting to ridicule and sarcasm.

Attacking a commenter might get you some momentary traffic, but is probably unwise in the long run. A blog works best when there are contributing points of view that are different from yours. If all you want is your friends and family agreeing with you, that is probably ok on a personal journal. But, I suspect many authors want their ideas challenged by the readers who find holes in their arguments.

Any dissenting opinions? If you agree with me, please don’t post a comment. But, if you have an alternative point of view, please share it.

The definitive metaphor for social media

There has been a rush with the social media consultant groups and evangelists about how to define this thing called “social media.” Chris Brogan defined it as cafe-shaped conversation. And many people jumped on that metaphor.

Hubspot got a bit lively when they published a video and blog post about not measuring ROI on social media. That got a lot of comments, many which attempted to define social media so it can be measured.

It seems like everyone is struggling to define this thing called Social Media and how it correctly fits into how business will be conducted. While social media may be better defined as the elephant in the room with five blind men, a perfect metaphor popped into my head this morning when I sent someone a link to MildFire and their response was, “How do you find this stuff?!?”

The real answer was I grabbed it off a Twitter stream as I was sitting and zoning between tasks. But, the answer I heard coming out of my mouth was: “It’s like this huge asteroid belt that flies by my desk all day long.. something catches my eye and I reach and grab it. Sometimes it is a shiny rock, sometimes it is a nugget of gold.”

So, the definitive metaphor — at least for Twitter — is it is an asteroid belt.

As for MildFire, I’m not sure yet if they are a nugget of gold or a shiny rock, so they go into the drawer until I have time to asses their value.

How this financial disaster is like Catholicism

The Papal Seal of the Roman Catholic Church
The Papal Seal of the Roman Catholic Church
I grew up Catholic.

One of the things you learn very early on is this earthly life is a test of your faith for a reward of either heaven and eternal life or hell and eternal damnation. Life here is supposed to be hard, we are supposed to feel pain because these trials are what helps God determine what kind of person who are and what our reward should be. Yes, I know I am grossly over-simplifying this and I have a large contingent of theologian friends with whom I can argue all day long, so if you don’t agree, please just take that on face value. It will help the analogy move along much quicker.

So you go to Church every Sunday, you help the poor, you don’t commit mortal sins, you do all the things that make you a good Catholic and that in turn will make you a good person. Now, here is where faith wears thin. As you get older, temptations become stronger, specifically, wine, women and song. These things are really, really fun and they make the promise of heaven or hell — while eternal — not believable.

If there is no heaven or hell, if this life is all there is, you sure will have wasted a whole lot of good fun. But, if there is a heaven and hell, and you succumbed to the sins of the flesh, you are in deep do-do.

Moving over to your secular life, as a good citizen, you do good things as well. You live within your means by not buying a house you can’t afford, save money in a retirement plan, don’t put a 58″ plasma TV on a credit card at 28% interest, don’t buy a cherry red Hummer which is really, really yummy looking…. oh, you’re still there… forgive me reader, for I have sinned….

If you are living within your means (good Catholic) and all your neighbors who went out and got drunk on over-priced homes, televisions, cars and stocks get bailed out by the Federal Government (God) what was the point of you living within your means? What if you living within your means actually means that your house is now worth 70% of what it was, you have to spend down your savings because you lose your job and you have no TV to watch to wile away your days of unemployment? Does a great FICO score get you into heaven or is it a worthless ticket?

Are the fiscally responsible who have not been living the high-life of comfort and excess going to now be forced to live with even less because of the sins of their neighbors? Doesn’t God just punish the sinners? How is this fair?

Well it isn’t and it makes one question the value of being a “good citizen.” If I knew with absolute certainty that there is no God, no heaven and no hell, I would be having more fun in this earthly life. I would be sinning and I would care less about the other puppies on this planet. After all, this would be the only go-around I would get and to not grab all I can out of the deal would just be silly.

If I knew with absolute certainty that no matter how fiscally irresponsible I was that eventually the Federal Government would bail me out, that they would force my bank to give me a better interest rate and that I could get a new Hummer every year and a big screen TV for every room of my house, I would not care about excessive credit card debt or paying any part of the principle on my home loan. Saving for a rainy day would be just silly.

But, I am not a gambler and the odds of there actually being a God are a little higher than there not being a God. At any rate, the possibility of spending an eternity frying my tail off just doesn’t sound all that much fun. Why risk it. And, being Catholic, I can always go to confession after sinning (don’t tell God about the loophole.)

I believe that the lack of mental anxiety that comes with living within your means is worth it. Like the Vatican, I don’t believe the government cares about me personally other than I behave myself and don’t make too many waves. By keeping me in a house, family and self-inflicted poverty, they is accomplishing their goal.

I will come out of this recession more intact than my drunken neighbors. I just hope the government can figure out a way to reward the responsible citizen while also making the sinners pay.

But I know our government also believes there is a God and they are leaving the sorting of the sinners to him (or her.) That vote is just way, way too risky and there are no confessionals in Congress.

Palin popularity not the same as ability

On Morning Joe today, Joe Scarborough sat in his chair and said with a straight face: (I am paraphrasing as I was so dumbfounded at what I was hearing that I could not work the TiVo fast enough)

Governor Palin has been able to attract the largest viewership ever for SNL, the largest for any VP debate and the largest for any party convention. She is an asset to the GOP because this.

Wow! The same logic then would hold true for traffic accidents and the Jerry Springer Show! I tuned it to all three events just to be able to watch — with incredulity — how the GOP was seriously floating a hockey mom from Alaska whose thirst for power clearly out-matches her ability to lead. I suspect that many viewers also had the same motivation.

Without the spin afterwards and the constant hammering of the pundits about her performance, most viewers would have seen it for what is was; an undereducated, over-ambitious person, out of her depths with the competition and the issues.

Joe, this is not high school. Winning the Homecoming Queen title is not the same as being elected Vice-president and possible president of one of the leading nations of the world. Just showing up is not the same as doing the work.