Category Archives: commentary

the loss of the shared social experience

On a recent trip I met up with an old friend and his wife for dinner. As conversation progressed, I mentioned my wife and I have been watching M*A*S*H on Netflix. Waxing nostalgic for a moment, he told me that his parents let him stay up to watch the series finale in 1983.

And then he said something that I found fascinating: “you know, there’s nothing like that today – there’s no shared social experience you can expect to talk about the next day with your coworkers, friends, etc.”

And it’s true – sure, there are local shared experiences (NCAA games, etc), but there is nothing in today’s society that brings us all to the same place (even separately) like TV did in the pre-streaming and -DVR era.

There used to be top-rated programs that you could reasonably expect that a high percentage of your coworkers watched (M*A*S*H, The Cosby Show, ER, Friends, Cheers, All in the Family, Family Matters, etc). There still are highly-rated programs – but they’re very very different from what they used to be. Some of this, of course, comes from the rise of cable networks’ programming efforts (The Sopranos, Mythbusters, Mad Men, Breaking Bad, Game of Thrones, Stargate SG1, The Walking Dead, Switched at Birth, Secret Life of the American Teenager, Outlander, and more). Some of this comes from the efforts of streaming providers (House of Cards, Orange is the new Black, Farmed and Dangerous, etc). And there are still great shows on broadcast TV (Once Upon a time, CSI, Person of Interest, etc). But they’re different than what they used to be.

Not different merely because of better acting (sometimes it’s worse), better writing (same critique applies), better filming (Revolution – I’m looking at you as the antiexample of good filming, and why you got canceled after just two seasons), better marketing, or better special effects.

But mostly they’re different it’s because we, as a culture, have decided we do not want to be tied to an arbitrary time-table dictated to us by the Powers That Be™ at The Networks™. With the rise in un-tie-ability given to consumers, first with VCRs, then VCR+, then TiVo, and now DVRs and streaming options everywhere, even though we’ve been getting bilked on film time (an “hour long” program in the early 80s was 48-49 minutes of screen time, today it’s ~42 minutes – that’s a huge amount of added advertising time) from our programs, we have ways of compressing and massaging our watching to our personal schedules. Can’t be home in time to catch insert-name-of-series-here? No problem! It’ll be on Hulu or Amazon Prime tomorrow, or your DVR will catch it for you. Or it’ll be on Netflix in a few months.

And if you get it on Amazon Prime or Netflix, there’ll be no ads. Hulu may have a few, but they’re still shorter than what was shown on ABC the night before.

It used to be that the Superbowl was a major sporting event at the beginning of each year when the culmination of 17 weeks of regular season play, and a few playoff games, showed us just who was the best football team out there.

No more.

Now the Superbowl is a chance to see new commercials from scores of companies – each of whom has spent millions just to get the ad on TV, let alone film it – and maybe catch a little bit of a game on the side. (Unless you happen to care about the Seattle Seahawks – but I digress.)

Before widespread adoption of TV, the shared social experience would’ve had to have surrounded radio programs (perhaps The Lone Ranger, or Orson Welles’ production of The War of the Worlds).

And prior to widespread radio, what shared social experiences did society (not just little pockets) have? Gladiatorial combat in ancient Rome? The Olympic Games?

Which really means that shared social experiences a la the M*A*S*H finale are an historical aberration – something that came to be less than a century ago, and which lasted less than a century. Something as fleeting as the reign of clipper ships in transport, from a grand historical perspective.

And maybe that’s a Good Thing™ – society being drawn together over common experiences isn’t, necessarily, bad: but is it necessarily good? That’s the question that has been bugging me these last couple weeks – and which probably will for some time to come.

What say you – is it a loss, a gain, or just a fact that these shared social experiences are no more?

please reply at top

There is a constant war over top-repliers, bottom-repliers, and inline-repliers.

If you’re replying to an email, reply at the top. Unless there is some overarching need to reply inline (hint – it is very very rare).

Bottom-replying makes me have to reread all the crap that has been left from previous messages before I get to what you wrote – what a phenomenal waste of time*!

Just reply at the top. Like every sane person does.

Please.


*Yes, you should also trim whatever you don’t need when you reply – but that’s another story.

seems i’m not the only one who thinks apple could make cars

Dallas News ran a story recently on Apple being positioned to be a car maker.

Their reasoning:

  1. Cash (~$180B)
  2. It’s “ultimately” mobile
  3. They have “car guys” already
  4. Strong retail network
  5. They’re already global

I think it more likely they’d buy an existing manufacturer, and then Apple-ify them – but the arguments are strong that an Apple Car will be here sooner rather than later.

my tech predictions for 2015

I put these up as a comment on Cringely.com – but they deserve sharing here, too.

In no particular order:
AIX EoL’d
HP-UX retired
Itanium EoL’d (perhaps on an accelerated schedule)
– Solaris truly open-sourced / abandoned by Oracle in favor of OEL
– HP spins-off more business units
– IBM loses 25-35% of its value – and spins-off / sells more business units to make Wall Street happy
– POWER continues to slow; IBM doesn’t understand it needs to stop putting so much money into it until all the engineers have been fired
Z/OS systems grow dramatically – the only place IBM makes *more* money
– people finally realize “cloud” isn’t a “thing” – it’s just renting crap when you need it (perhaps from yourself (private cloud)) and giving it back when you don’t
cloud hosting providers cut prices so things like AWS instances are no longer more expensive than dedicated hardware (see eg http://benmilleare.com/how-shaving-0-001s-from-a-function-saved-us-400-dollars)
– enough of the Old Guard hits retirement age that New School tech can finally make big inroads into stodgy businesses and government (automation, cloud, *aaS, etc)
– buzzword-compliance becomes necessary even for mom-and-pop shops who don’t have computers
Android 6 brings native, “real” 3D to cell phones
– … and iOS 9 makes it look “good”
– there’s a new MacBook Flex that offers touchscreen, a fold-flat-reverse form factor, and 12 hours of battery life; the iPad 5 is the first 5K resolution tablet, with a full day of battery life
– Max OS 10.11, aka Denali, allows users to run iOS apps via a “fat binary” model (harking back to the shift to PowerPC from 68k and then again x86 from PowerPC)
– Apple announces the first non-x86 Macs (starting with the Flex)
Apple buys a car company in cashPorsche or Hyundai (Hyundai would be the smart move – get more electronics manufacturing capability in-house; spin-off heavy industry wing)
Tesla introduces a model that non-millionaires can afford – bringing snazzy competition to the Volt price point
SpaceX sends a mission to Venus, and another to Mars
Square opens an online bank
Uber and Lyft grow, win cases against taxi companies – and local competition pops-up all over the country
– several major metro areas across the US all enter the “gigacity” club
– … but it’s led with smaller metro areas (like Chattanooga has already done)

fix ibm – hire me as your ceo

Robert Cringely has written myriad times on IBM. His most recent post was titled, “How to fix IBM”.

His solution is simple and easy: “Go back to customers being a corporate priority.”

But IBM, as it stands today, will never get there.

And all the “leadership” they’ve brought in over the years has only compounded their errors faster – they’ve never done anything to even try to fix them. Why? Because they keep bringing-in stodgy old-thinking people who have no concept about what customer service means.

Ginni Rometty, and the rest of the senior leadership at IBM, needs to go. Absolutely. But when IBM brings-in new leadership, it truly needs to be, well, “new”. You need the same kind of leadership sea change Jack Ryan championed in Tom Clancy’s Executive Orders – you don’t need career managers and “senior” leadership: you need people with ideas who are will to try something new. Who are willing to fail, but to fail fast. Who will learn from failure, and keep iterating until there’s something that works.

So, IBM, I have a simple solution for you: hire me as your CEO. Give me 36 months to fix your problems. If I haven’t, let me go back to whence I came. But when I have, Wall Street will love you, and you’ll be on track to stay relevant for the next hundred years. Or, at least the next 30 (since I’ll want to retire some day). I’ve got a team of people already in mind who can do more for you in 18 months than the entire executive team has done in the last 180.

assume formlessness – law 48 – #48laws by robert greene

Law 48

By taking a shape, by having a visible plan, you open yourself to attack. Instead of taking a form for your enemy to grasp, keep yourself adaptable and on the move. Accept the fact that nothing is certain and no law is fixed. The best way to protect yourself is to be as fluid and formless as water; never bet on stability or lasting order. Everything changes. –Robert Greene, The 48 Laws of Power (review)


Sun Tzu says the same thing in Chapter 6 of The Art of War:

Provoke him, to know his patterns of movement. Determine his position, to know the ground of death and of life. Probe him, to know where he is strong and where he is weak. The ultimate skill is to take up a position where you are formless.

If you are formless, the most penetrating spies will not be able to discern you, or the wisest counsels will not be able to do calculations against you. With formation, the army achieves victories yet they do not understand how. Everyone knows the formation by which you achieved victory, yet no one knows the formations by which you were able to create victory. Therefore, your strategy for victories in battle is not repetitious, and your formations in response to the enemy are endless.

The army’s formation is like water. The water’s formation avoids the high and rushes to the low. So an army’s formation avoids the strong and rushes to the weak. Water’s formation adapts to the ground when flowing. So then an army’s formation adapts to the enemy to achieve victory. Therefore, an army does not have constant force, or have constant formation.

Those who are able to adapt and change in accord with the enemy and achieve victory are called divine.

do not go past the mark you aimed for; in victory, learn when to stop – law 47 – #48laws by robert greene

Law 47

The moment of victory is often the moment of greatest peril. In the heat of victory, arrogance and overconfidence can push you past the goal you had aimed for, and by going too far, you make more enemies than you defeat. Do not allow success to go to your head. There is no substitute for strategy and careful planning. Set a goal, and when you reach it, stop. –Robert Greene, The 48 Laws of Power (review)


Shipping is a Feature.

never appear too perfect – law 46 – #48laws by robert greene

Law 46

Appearing better than others is always dangerous, but most dangerous of all is to appear to have no faults or weaknesses. Envy creates silent enemies. It is smart to occasionally display defects, and admit to harmless vices, in order to deflect envy and appear more human and approachable. Only gods and the dead can seem perfect with impunity. –Robert Greene, The 48 Laws of Power (review)

preach the need for change, but never reform too much at once – law 45 – #48laws by robert greene

Law 45

Everyone understands the need for change in the abstract, but on the day-to-day level people are creatures of habit. Too much innovation is traumatic, and will lead to revolt. If you are new to a position of power, or an outsider trying to build a power base, make a show of respecting the old way of doing things. If change is necessary, make it feel like a gentle improvement on the past. –Robert Greene, The 48 Laws of Power (review)

disarm and infuriate with the mirror effect – law 44 – #48laws by robert greene

Law 44

The mirror reflects reality, but it is also the perfect tool for deception: When you mirror your enemies, doing exactly as they do, they cannot figure out your strategy. The Mirror Effect mocks and humiliates them, making them overreact. By holding up a mirror to their psyches, you seduce them with the illusion that you share their values; by holding up a mirror to their actions, you teach them a lesson. Few can resist the power of the Mirror Effect. –Robert Greene, The 48 Laws of Power (review)