Unethical Behavior: A Legitimate Area For Zero Tolerance

Zero tolerance has become an overused, catch-all phrase that many times doesn’t work to stop legitimate bad behavior. That’s because most times there is an inherent need for a sliding scale, or some grey area that needs to be addressed then weighed in many issues before a legitimate sensible judgment or penalty can be set.

No matter how much we want to form the argument around “zero” it just never seems to work out that way. However, unethical business practices I believe is one of the few than can withstand the test and scrutiny of a zero tolerance.

Again what allows this issue to get so murky by both the business culture as well as most others is the illusion or belief they concoct when they assume an unethical behavior or practice does have some form or ability to be on a sliding scale. It doesn’t.

Any unethical act is just that – unethical.

The magnitude of the behavior may be a legitimate argument as to define punishment. e.g., Knowing a supermarket scanner is overcharging a certain canned good by 1 penny, but can’t be addressed till after hours, yet nobody says anything in hopes no one will notice.

Then there’s the scanner set to deliberately overcharge every can of a certain label by 1 penny. Both are unethical. Period, and should be dealt with accordingly. The amount has nothing to do with it. The only amount to be argued is the size of the fine, or severity of the punishment (i.e., are they going to jail) is up for discussion.

It’s the willful knowing and allowing of the act where the rubber hits the road. Again: Not the dollar amount. Far too many allow dollar amounts or people effected to be the signal. No: It’s the act that is the signal.

So when I read about the latest brouhaha resulting around Facebook™ (FB) and their alleged “psyche experiment” on unsuspecting users, I was a little taken back not just by the defensive posture of Facebook’s management, but also in many reporting on the story. One would think this was something inconsequential. I can not disagree more, nor do I believe this issue is over.

Here’s the difference in my view with this whole episode. I know I’m an outlier in my thinking, but someones has to be the adult here.

What I know from what has been reported is that Facebook intentionally altered  some users/customers data stream in such a way to determine if the manipulated feed to the user made them feel better or worse. Then evaluated that data to which they would then in turn use what they learned on even more to their liking. Use does not rule out possibly sell to other big data buyers in my book.

And here’s the kicker: All without a users knowledge or consent. I’m sorry, but you don’t get permission to psychologically manipulate targeted and selected people for you corporate benefit without consent. Period. Especially if the intent is to produce mood swings in any shape or form.

Why is this so? Because it’s not only unethical – it’s dangerous to the individuals involved. And besides, where is the data of how many trained psychologists looked over this data and derived the findings as good or bad or inconsequential? Or were these determinations of mood done by plain ole management? If true, I take issue there also pushing my outrage meter even more so.

Remember the old stories when subliminal advertising was being used in and on theater patrons years ago? That was when a text or picture could be inserted within the featured film showing popcorn and such. The patrons didn’t understand why they had a craving, but they just did.

The momentary faster than an eye blink where the eye didn’t recognize but the overall brain caught the image was what caused the craving. What was at issue? Not the actual imagery or process, but it was the customers not knowing they were being subjected to it. That is the ethical difference.

Some may equate this with pumping a room with the smell of fresh popcorn in a way to entice as the same. It’s not. A person can understand what’s happening and may choose not to be swayed. It’s in the ability to know is where that ethical bar lays.

You can still purchase subliminal products for your own personal use, but (and it’s a very big but) you buy with full knowledge. To my knowledge there was never a “press here to accept our terms of use stating you agree to be used for psychological testing during your time with us” button.

So again, why is this Facebook incident such a line crossing event? Easy: What if the data feeds or what ever they were that FB manipulated were given to people that might have been “on the edge” in dealing with a personal crisis or other?

All I’ve seen in the reporting of this and with the supplied responses is the term “user.” The user this, the user that, as if the so called “user” is some inanimate object.

What if one of these “users” was a 15 year old school kid parading as an adult with faked credentials? What if this “user” had psychological issues where hard core psychological drugs such as Prozac™ or others were prescribed and being taken? What if that user was suffering from episodes of bi-polar disorders and that manipulated news or data feed was just enough to send them over the edge doing something horrible?

What if it were a returning veteran or firefighter, or cop, suffering with a bout of PTSD or _________(fill in the blank).  Do we know? Has it been revealed who these exact people were?

These people are not just some test subjects to be dealt with nor the results discarded or discounted as if applying the moniker of “users” makes all better or easier for a company or persons to deal with; while not appreciating the gravity and potential harmful manipulations possibly perpetrated on these unsuspecting people.

And if I were a someone with the legal intellectual prowess of Alan Dershowitz I would be drawing up a case as to find out exactly who and to what detriment if any was caused. Period.

We’ve lost a lot of words to where the meaning of “is” is now questioned and more. However, as I know of it today: unethical is still just that – unethical.

I don’t believe for one second this incident is anything close to being over with as now some rear mirror event. Personally I believe it maybe just getting started for it it takes a little more time than most other issues to work it through because ethics in business has been so adulterated, by so many, you get a little numb.

As for the likes of Facebook and others who stand with their thumbs up as to show the world just how smart, and just how much they can now do with the manipulations in algorithms, I’m reminded of that great scene in Jurassic Park (1993 Universal Pictures) between John Hammond (played by Richard Attenborough) and Dr. Ian Malcolm (played by  Jeff Goldblum)

John Hammond: I don’t think you’re giving us our due credit. Our scientists have done things which nobody’s ever done before…

Dr. Ian Malcolm: Yeah, yeah, but your scientists were so preoccupied with whether or not they could that they didn’t stop to think if they should.

It didn’t end well for the “coders” there either if I remember correctly. But don’t worry they’ve still got “Yellen Capital Management.” So who needs ethics?

© 2014 Mark St.Cyr

A Thought For Today’s Entrepreneur

If you want to shake up your thinking and become increasingly more effective than your competition: change your prospective. e.g., Stop thinking of your customers as “your” customers. They are not.

Start relating to your customers from the perspective of: “You’re their vendor.”

Once you understand that the customers perspective is what truly matters in what you offer, and not what you believe it does is when everything changes.

After all, if they see you as someone they need – they will be hesitant to jettison you. If they believe they don’t – you’re yesterdays news. Period.

© 2014 Mark St.Cyr

We All Can Hit Bottom Unintentionally, But Bouncing Is A Choice

I hear from people all the time where they’ll parley why their circumstances are “Oh so much harder.” than anything I may have been through. More often than not the person truly believes the odds are so stacked against them there is no way as to dig themselves out.

One of the most common I hear is: They tried this, then that happened, so they stopped. Or, they tried again and something worse happened, so of course this means the decks of the universe are stacked against them, and they should just accept what the universe is now dishing out. After all: “You can’t fight the universe” they’ll say.

That’s rubbish, and nothing more than an excuse big enough that they can hold onto while hoping it’s vague enough that the recipient of such hogwash won’t dare question, or call them on it.

If you think you can’t recover when you’ve been hit so hard, and sank so low, that down now looks up? Trust me you can and here’s just one of the examples that happened to me.

Personally I was just recovering from a devastating financial loss. So detrimental was this to my personal wealth not only did I lose everything, I was down to riding a borrowed 10 speed road bike during the winter to travel 3 towns over to visit my then new girlfriend. (now my wife) I lost everything. I was not some kid, I was in my 30′s. And this was again not my first time with dealing with adversity.

After about a year of bouncing around trying to find either employment or make my own I finally caught a break. I landed a position in a different industry than I specialized in previously. For the first time in quite a while I had a weekly income. However, what I did not have since I had lost everything was a bank account. There was no need for one since all I had was what I had in my pocket. (yes, that little.)

With my first paycheck I did what anyone would do: I went to a local bank and opened an account to cash and keep it. Pretty simple stuff. Until about two days later when I received a letter from the bank. Inside it was a check for the full amount I deposited with a letter stating (I’m paraphrasing) “My money as a customer was not welcome at their bank. Thanks, but here’s your money and – we’ve closed the account.”

You couldn’t get a feeling in your gut any lower than mine was in reading that letter. I had just felt as if I was turning a corner and here was a bank telling me my money was no good, find somewhere else to put it. I was in shambles.

I gathered myself up and went to the branch and asked for the manager that sent me the notice. When we talked I almost couldn’t find the words to plead my case. I didn’t try to hide anything or make up some cockamamie story why this was an outrage. I just pleaded my case for why I needed a bank to just cash my check and keep it safe.

The manager (Holly was her name) told me that because of my prior circumstances (inability to pay bills therefore going into collections) their policy was with a savings account I would have access to a checking account and that was at issue. You want to talk about low, I pleaded that I would not, nor needed a checking account. I would use only money orders and that was absolutely fine by me. All I wanted was a place to cash my check and have a savings account.

After what seemed like a lifetime she agreed on her word as manager that I could open a savings account only. However, this was on her authority and if for any reason she found I was trying to get one around her via another office or bank she would end any and all relations there. I agreed and thanked her.

Less than 5 years after that incident not only was I back on my feet, but I was making up lost ground at a breakneck pace. Not long after I drove by that very branch to remember that time and reminisce about how that manager Holly went against the rules and gave me a chance. (I still give thanks in my private times)

What prompted the desire to reminisce that scene was brought on for what I had just done moments earlier.

I had just left the local Porsche® dealers showroom floor where I was deciding whether or not to buy that car I always wanted. This time there was no need for a bank, if I wanted the car which was right there on the showroom floor, I could just write a check for it – in full. (And no, It would not have bounced for those of you who may be snickering)

In the end there I was fully recovered where now other banks and managers were approaching me to deposit or do business in their banks where not that long ago; not only would they show me the door, they might not have even opened it in the first place. And as for the car?

I learned my lesson the first time. Now that I could afford that goal I wanted to see if I learned anything from it. So right there I decided and started immediately on my new goal. Not needing to buy something to prove to others – I could.

I decided the most mature thing to do was to do exactly what helped get me back there. Keeping my money where it was, in the bank.

I think Holly would agree.

© 2014 Mark St.Cyr

Apple: Now They’re Cook’n With Gas

The latest revelation to hit the business world that I feel will be both under reported as well as under estimated is the legitimate sea change that may be taking place with the announcement that Apple® and IBM® will work together to both create and sell products.  Personally I don’t know of any other such collaboration in recent memory that has the possibility of having a truly transformative effect.

As always I’ll state right up front: I am an Apple fanboy and have been for many years. That said I have also been very critical and not shy as to express my consternation when they have made moves that either impacted my user experience (e.g., deleting key features or a “dumbing” down of some products) as well as mergers or purchases that just don’t seem to make sense. e.g., The Beats™ acquisition.

However, this latest move I fully understand and believe has the possibility of an absolute game changer. I also applaud whomever had the guts to raise the issue then get both sides of management to sit down and hear the proposal out. That is the way truly innovative businesses should both look and act.

You can find this demonstrated years ago when someone from either Fedex™ or the USPS™ decided to put down the swords and discuss that maybe, just maybe, they could use (help) each other. Not to mention Microsoft®’s infusion of capital as a lifeline when Jobs returned. For those who don’t remember that was a time where each side had such disdain for the other it made the Hatfield’s and McCoy’s look tame.

So just how big of deal is this you ask? Again, I’ll state: This can be just as disruptive to the enterprise or business side of the marketplace as the iPhone® was to all phones that came before it. And I don’t think I’m using hyperbole either. Let me explain…

As of today most phones, laptops, and other accoutrements used in business for lack of a better term are “PC” based. Apple has always been relegated to lower than second tier status when it came to enterprise based integration. There was no need to even accommodate let alone integrate. iPhone with its near ubiquitous adoption has changed all of that along with giving rise to: the app.

Today apps can be written and implemented far more quickly than ever before incorporating something that for the longest time has been a hindrance to Apple as to penetrate into the enterprise side: Third party enterprise software creation and collaboration.

The app via the new iOS and more changes all of that. This is not a small technical development. This breaks the windows and fosters a torrent of fresh air as to ventilate a very stale environment within the business world.

Just how many would relish dumping their shoulder-bagged laptops for an iPad® that could do the same if not more? What’s the market potential in just a 10% adoption rate let alone more?

These aren’t small numbers for companies of this size and scale: These small percentages which appear tactically attainable add up to really big business.

If there was truly a useful example for the over used term of “synergy” this just might be it for the many who now carry multiple devices either traveling or just sitting at their desk. i.e., Their personal iPhone, a work PC based laptop, their iPad, a work supplied BlackBerry™ (a what?) or other devices.

If you could trade all that in where you would only need one. And – it would work along with being corporate approved? That changes everything – again!

The implications here I can not stress enough on how game changing this has the potential to be. Yet, this is by no means the end. There’s even more to this if one has been paying attention for it involves changing another game as well.

What does this do for players such as Microsoft® (MS)? Does it hurt or help? Personally, I think it helps. This first round of collaboration might be the very thing that focuses MS attention back where it belongs: Developing and improving their software products, and getting out of the hardware business. e.g., The Surface™, and others.

They too are now doing more with Apple such as Office™ on the iPad. Strengthening that relationship and increasing the ability of even more integration will enhance or defend their position within the enterprise space. After all, if you jettison a laptop for an iPad, but both are running Office, MS doesn’t lose. It remains in the mix maybe even more viable or relevant than before on the newer device. The laptop or other device maker? Not so much.

What does this do for Google™? Does this now change Android®’s place? I believe it does. If there is a sudden acceptance and growth opportunity in a market that was once seemingly unreachable but now shows promise of expansion, with the ability to make real money; where do you think developers will now focus? Again, just a 10% change in adoption and you’re talking very big numbers and that’s real money.

Let’s also not forget just how slighted Apple took to Google’s entrance in the smart phone market. It’s easy to forget the absolute vitriol displayed by Steve Jobs in his condemnation of Google. In some respects it seems like ancient history. But there have been very noticeable yet subtle changes across the web that has yet to be fully realized or noticed.

Within Apple’s newest OS and more: Bing™ is the new default search as opposed to Google. Significant? You bet it is. And for multiple reasons.

First: How many will notice? Even if only 5% or 10% never do that’s a huge number of potential ad revenues coming right out of Google’s pocket going right into MS.

Don’t confuse the rivalry between MS and Apple as one of a blood feud. Apple remembers all too well that it was Gates and MS that supplied the life line to allow Apple to stay alive when nearly everyone else turned their backs. Helping MS while hurting Google is a two birds with one stone win-win for Apple as a whole.

Lest I remind anyone with all this new-found ability to incorporate more MS tools which are prevalent throughout the enterprise zone, upgrading to an Apple device they can use for business (again management approved) makes the price point much more tolerable (or bearable) over the Android platform.

Also it’s hard to sweep under the rug Google’s newest tweaks to its search results. These changes have been increasingly criticized by many businesses as of late. The Ebay™ controversy is just one of the latest. Now with Bing exposed with a far more greater default reach, who’s to say how many might feel the ad dollars placed on Google might make better sense applied to Bing? Again, just 10% and you’re not only talking big numbers: you’re talking potentially very, very, big, and very real money.

Using myself as an example. I use Mozilla™ as my default browser and my recently updated version now defaults to Bing as the search engine. What I’ve noticed? I haven’t needed to toggle back – yet. As a matter of fact I don’t know if I truly realized the change when it first happened. And I use search quite a bit.

If the same happens in a new and expanded enterprise market via Apple based devices and more: The market share takeaway could be significant.

All this and wait there’s more!!!

Add to this if at the next product unveiling Apple does actually introduce a larger screened phone along with the potential to be integrated fully into the business side? How many people have you heard (or possibly said yourself) “If Apple only made a phone with a larger screen I would switch immediately.” How much market share do they pick up there as well? 5%, 10%? Even so, those seemingly innocuous looking number have absolutely huge disruptive potential.

It is quite possible this IBM deal along with the implications it has for the enterprise side may have just as much if not more impact on one thing that has been illusive to Apple thus far. Solidifying and stamping Tim Cook’s leadership as proof positive he’s the worthy successor of this now iconic brand.

This also has the potential to give a company so infused with the reverence of Jobs the possibility to move beyond him in such a way that even Jobs himself would say: Wow!

This truly will be a story worth watching to see how it all plays out. And so far, I like the intro.

© 2014 Mark St.Cyr

 

A Thought For Today’s Entrepreneur

Here’s the answer to that old cliché’: “If it’s so easy why doesn’t everyone do it?”

The answers more often than not are usually straight forward, simplistic, and staring everyone squarely in the face with clarity. What stops most from actually “doing it” is either the fear of failure, or the fear of commitment to the change. This is what stops the process or the actual implementation to fix, rectify, ameliorate, __________ (fill in the blank).

It’s far easier to appear “committed” or “engaged” in meetings and more with jaw boning and semantics than it is to do the only thing that moves progress forward: The commitment to actually do it.

© 2014 Mark St.Cyr

Audio Podcast from Mark’s “Prose Series”

Lessons We Can Learn From Wall Street

MYTR LogoThis podcast and more available in iTunes®

© 2012 Mark St.Cyr in association with

StreetCry Media. All Rights Reserved

The quick hitting no holds barred series based on
“Mr. Engineer, please hit the record button and let’s go!”
Designed and delivered to be thought provoking and unique
for its forget about edits and retakes format.

Can’t see the media player on your mobile device? Click here.

An Update On MarkStCyr.com

As of now the MarkStCyr.wordpress and MarkStCyr.com are now one. Links within the site seem to now be functioning properly. (they were giving Not Found Messages earlier) It would appear there might still be a little buggy-ness or glitches as in a ghost in the machine type behavior till all the servers play catch up. http://www.MarkStCyr.com comes up the old screen with the app still showing…MarkStCyr.com comes directly to the blog. However, the blog button from the original site does still get one to the blog where it was not operating a few hours earlier. That has since cleared up. (as mentioned earlier, the servers of the web will need about 72 hours I’m told before they entirely reset.)

Some former links to stories or previous links via social media sites maybe severed because of URL changes. If that happens and you wish to relink or resend just use the buttons under the articles as usual. The new links will be established if needed or wanted. They should now be working properly.

As for the search results: As of now we’re still working on it. We have no idea how this was done but somehow it’s currently pointing to a jewelry scam site. Here’s what we see currently…

I have no idea who these people are but they are to be avoided. Scamming Low-life's

I have no idea who these people are but they are to be avoided. Scamming Low-life’s!!!

The only way to look at this without me throwing my chair is this only happens when someone thinks you have something worth stealing. So in one way, I guess I have to be a little honored to be worthy of a thief’s attention I guess.

That or add the additional expense of replacing a very, very expensive office chair. (Humanscale® for those who may wonder. )

 

Mark

 

 

Be Advised MarkStCyr.com Seems To Have Been Hijacked In Search

Dear subscribers and visitors, it’s come to my knowledge that my .com search results (Both in Goolge® and Bing™ have been hijacked sending people to other websites we have NO affiliation with. It seems using the web address to go directly there is working properly but as of now we don’t know what else may be at risk.

It seems the more popular one becomes – the more the thieves and low-life’s want to share in.

I’ll post again as I know more.

Mark

It’s Always Been About Getting Out – Not In

An issue that has been debated more times across the financial media than the main stream media’s fixation on some celebrities bottom has been about “missing out” or “getting in” since the so-called “generational bottom” of 2008.

What has been lost on so many of the nascent “just buy the dips” crowd is they have been systematically rewarded as to forgo any objective analysis on why this market keeps rising; and like Pavlov’s dogs they’ve been rewarded every-time they’ve answered the opening bell.

Getting in to buy every dip fueled with free and easy money to spend via the Federal Reserve has taken little skill or expertise. However, who is going to be there to buy what you’re holding; when you want out? Especially in any unexpected downdraft.

That is the only fundamental issue that still seems to have true relevancy in this 5 year bizarro world we now define as “the market.”

Call them Shorts, Bears, whatever, but the one moniker that doesn’t fit properly yet is applied universally so is: wrong.

Bears have been wrong: but they’ve been wrong for all the right reasons.

Yes, they have been wrong as in calling the direction of this market. But is this truly a “market” any longer since it’s now singularly based on interventionist policies never before witnessed in its history?

Yet this latest moniker has been allowed to be affixed with such permanency it would make a bottle of Superglue™ blush. Personally I wear it as a badge of honor.

To show just how far we have come in looking at true fundamental, objective analysis, consider the following:

If Billy Paintmiester goes to the local store and purchases a paint by number set, then puts it up for sale where it’s purchased for $1,000,000.00. Then does it again, and again, and again. What would one think?

Of course Billy’s paintings would now be the rage throughout the media as “Genius” or “Picasso-esque” and more. You would have a cacophony of art critics and more heralding his brilliance on the use of his brush along with critiquing every other minute detail as to keep the story alive.

Yet, as a few dig deeper it’s revealed “the bids are only coming from one buyer” however, they are refuted and branded as critics jealous of having missed out on this nouveau craze of painting by the numbers.

The refuted critics are continuously sneered, jeered, and finger wagged as every new painting sold is held up as “proof” they didn’t know what they are talking about for: “it’s different this time.”

Then suddenly everyone realizes that “one buyer” can’t be explained away. The one bidder is found out to be Billy’s rich uncle and without his influence: there is no “paint by the numbers market.”

This is where I believe we are in respects to today’s market highs. At some point true fundamentals of market forces will come back into play. And the fundamental that may be missing currently is the most important as well as overlooked by today’s just buy the dip crowd: Who will they sell to when they need to get out?

Since former chairman Ben Bernanke’s famous (some will say infamous) Jackson Hole speech where he announced in no uncertain terms the Federal Reserve will supply the funding (via QE) as long as the economy’s picture is made up by certain numbers contained within lines the “Fed” deems correct. The market picture has been hailed as a work of art worthy to be placed in museums where scholarly work and interpretations will be bestowed for all times.

Yes these numbers or colors are within defined lines as to make something which resembles a picture of economic recovery, but what you don’t have is something resembling a picture worth looking at: Let alone one worth buying.

There’s no true true economic recovery picture to be bought. The only artistry on display here has been of the BS variety. And most serious business people are not, and have not bought it for a very long time.

People everywhere continually point at “the numbers” as concrete evidence to hang their horns on. Although if I’m not mistaken Bernie Madoff, Enron, and few others had quite spectacular numbers also. They too created great pictures staying within the lines showing a picture only Wall Street could love. Till they didn’t.

However, what’s again the real issue with the markets at these heights is that little unsettling, as well as under reported fact that Shorts (as well as even the contrarian play trader) has been decimated, discouraged, and for many even bankrupted when trying to play the fundamental elements of supply and demand contained within free markets. For the Fed. has proven it will use its own bazooka to protect this so-called art gallery from being exposed as the paint by numbers fraud that it is.

We are now at heights where even the so-called “Uber Bulls” are beginning to get a little nervous in the hoof. For just who is going to buy when the first major dip goes stampeding past?

There are no shorts to speak of at these levels that would need to cover and buy as to close a position. The Fed. has all but eliminated them giving a possible free-falling market even more wind at its back. Market volume analysis alone should bring this fact to light for anyone who’s serious about looking into why volume is so atrocious. You have only one side now playing.

In 2010 when the market first showed signs of honest weakness you had prudent bulls that rode the 666 train from the market lows that could take profits as the euphoric killing bears would inject rational thinking back into the markets by tamping down unicorn and rainbow exuberance. The Federal Reserve has completely thrown that market dynamic out the window – by opening their own.

The dirty little secret that everyone (and I mean everyone) wants to act as if it no longer exists is: These prices are only representative of anything worth value if they can be sold.

And as of right now, just how much of a discount will be needed if suddenly someone shouts “Fire Sale!” in this crowded theater?

© 2014 Mark St.Cyr

 

You Can’t Make This Stuff Up!

I thought during the holiday weekend I would write an article about writing and more, and why one shouldn’t listen to naysayers along with using the Punctuation Police and the Grammar Gestapo as examples. It was a lighthearted post about dealing with serious matters that could stop many before they even start. So I was absolutely flabbergasted when I was alerted to a debate raging in the NY Times™ of all places about “a period” in the Declaration Of Independence and whether or not it was a typo! This is nearly 240 years after the fact and the PP are going after Thomas Jefferson! To wit:

If Only Thomas Jefferson Could Settle the Issue
A Period Is Questioned in the Declaration of Independence

And I thought they were tough on me…We’re talking Jefferson here! What’s next – the period in my last name will now be questioned?!!! People, you can’t make this stuff up. It’s just too insane, and that’s crazy.

© 2014 Mark St.Cyr

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