Month: August 2018

Addendum To F.T.W.S…

I received a call from a colleague asking me if I were possibly being “a tad too harsh” in the incident that happened with Snapchat™ and its third-party vendor. “After all…” he began, “you can hardly blame them for a hack (i.e., someone outside acting nefarious) and it seems it was resolved quite quickly.”

My answer was, “Fair point, but that’s not the real issue.”

The reply came back (as is usually the case) “It’s not? Then what is?”

Glad you asked…

“Sure, it may seem as a bit of a clumsy question or example, for it’s not precisely specific to this exact situation. But what that question represents is the overview for taking the substance inferred within and then applying it to this precise situation in a more generalized form encompassing the entire subject matter under one obvious question and answer. e.g., Who is creating these algos, who’s signing off on their implementation, and who is responsible for their results, good or bad?

Yes, maybe this was the result of a “hack.” However, was the afore question I put forth asked when the “algos” were determining that the U.S. Constitution was “hate speech?” And when that was happening who was allowing it to go on, and on, and on, until there was a sizable uproar against it? That’s the reason why I made the suggestion, for it should have. It fit then, as well as fits today, even more so I’ll add.

If it had been asked back then and answers were demanded, real answers, not reams of digital techno-jargon delivered weeks if not months later. Incidents like a “hack” wouldn’t be lumped into some “Gee golly whiz it wasn’t us, blah, blah, blah.” type of response as is now usually the case. It would fall into the same understanding of possible biases that are rampant. e.g., How does the Constitution get flagged, but not such an easily and obviously identifiable racial slur?

Someone is writing the parameters to catch things or let them pass, whether it be heavy-handed this way or, kid gloves the other. This is why these questions, and by questions I mean pointed, as in very pointed, need to be asked if these hearings are to be held in the first place.If not? It’s all just a useless exercise.

I posed the questions as an overview to the subject matter at hand, not that they were the precise verbage to use in every situation.”

Hope that clears it up for those who may have the same initial reaction.

© 2018 Mark St.Cyr

F.T.W.S.I.J.D.G.I.G.T.

(For those who say I just don’t get it…get this)

From my article over the weekend: “Is Silicon Valley Now Too Big To Fail Or Jail?”

“Congressional hearings have been called, CEO’s have been brought forward, and the results are always the same. i.e., ‘Gee golly whiz, it’s not anything we’re doing per se – it’s the algos!'”

“The question that seems to be never asked, but is the most important of all the follow-ups that could be asked, is this:

“I see. Well then, let me ask you this way: who’s creating said algos, and more precisely, who’s signing off for their implementation, along with continuance?”

The reason the above question is so important? Hint: Today’s latest social media brouhaha. To wit:

Via AdAge™: “SNAP SLIDES AFTER BACKLASH TO ‘JEWTROPOLIS’ VANDALISM ON NYC MAPS”

Mapbox issued a statement saying it has a “zero-tolerance policy against hate speech and any malicious edits to our maps” and noted that the “Jewtropolis” map label was deleted within an hour.

Snap also issued a statement: “This defacement is deeply offensive and entirely contrary to our values, and we want to apologize to any members of our community who saw it.”

Got that? So again, insert my question from above. e.g., “I see. Well then, let me ask you this way: who’s creating said algos, and more precisely, who’s signing off for their implementation, along with continuance?”

Algo’s may be to blame for suddenly spurting this algorithmic produced slur onto unsuspecting users.

However…

Exactly who or whom entered in the term “jewtropolis” to begin with, and furthermore, how was it then used by your algo in the first place? Again: how was this even allowed to get past any “hate speech” or “zero tolerance” fact checkers or verification levels that we are told are “in place and working so diligently to ensure civil discourse and transparency” to begin with?

Remember the follow-up question I proposed in my later article: “Dear Congressional Panel… Here are your questions?” Here’s a reminder. Again, to wit:

“The reasoning is simple Mr/Ms.(You can now add as an example Snap™ CEO Eric Spiegel) : Who’s in charge there if not the CEO? Or said differently: the CEO is the ultimate authority to a business. If they are not, then why are they paid (as well as demand) the highest wages or incentives? Take your time, and please answer the question thoughtfully and thoroughly.”

Oh, and if you forgot about those “incentives” for being CEO of a social media company, you know, when it seemed there was never a down day? Here’s a reminder.

(Image Source)

Sure seems like it’s all going horribly different this time, yes?

Addendum:

I received a call from a colleague asking me if I were possibly being “a tad too harsh” in the incident that happened with Snapchat™ and its third-party vendor. “After all…” he began, “you can hardly blame them for a hack (i.e., someone outside acting nefarious) and it seems it was resolved quite quickly.”

My answer was, “Fair point, but that’s not the real issue.”

The reply came back (as is usually the case) “It’s not? Then what is?”

Glad you asked…

“Sure, it may seem as a bit of a clumsy question or example, for it’s not precisely specific to this exact situation. But what that question represents is the overview for taking the substance inferred within and then applying it to this precise situation in a more generalized form encompassing the entire subject matter under one obvious question and answer. e.g., Who is creating these algos, who’s signing off on their implementation, and who is responsible for their results, good or bad?

Yes, maybe this was the result of a “hack.” However, was the afore question I put forth asked when the “algos” were determining that the U.S. Constitution was “hate speech?” And when that was happening who was allowing it to go on, and on, and on, until there was a sizable uproar against it? That’s the reason why I made the suggestion, for it should have. It fit then, as well as fits today, even more so I’ll add.

If it had been asked back then and answers were demanded, real answers, not reams of digital techno-jargon delivered weeks if not months later. Incidents like a “hack” wouldn’t be lumped into some “Gee golly whiz it wasn’t us, blah, blah, blah.” type of response as is now usually the case. It would fall into the same understanding of possible biases that are rampant. e.g., How does the Constitution get flagged, but not such an easily and obviously identifiable racial slur?

Someone is writing the parameters to catch things or let them pass, whether it be heavy-handed this way or, kid gloves the other. This is why these questions, and by questions I mean pointed, as in very pointed, need to be asked if these hearings are to be held in the first place.If not? It’s all just a useless exercise.

I posed the questions as an overview to the subject matter at hand, not that they were the precise verbage to use in every situation.”

Hope that clears it up for those who may have the same initial reaction.

© 2018 Mark St.Cyr

Footnote: These “FTWSIJDGIGT” articles came into being when many of the topics I had opined on over the years were being openly criticized for “having no clue”. Yet, over the years these insights came back around showing maybe I knew a little bit more than some were giving me credit for. It was my way of tongue-in-cheek as to not use the old “I told you so” analogy. I’m saying this purely for the benefit of those who may be new or reading here for the first time (and there are a great many of you and thank you too all). I never wanted or want to seem like I’m doing the “Nah, nah, nah, nah, nah” type of response to my detractors. I’d rather let the chips fall – good or bad – and let readers decide the credibility of either side. Occasionally however, there are, and have been times they do need to be pointed out which is why these now have taken on a life of their own. (i.e., something of significance per se that may have a direct impact on one’s business etc., etc.) And readers, colleagues, and others have requested their continuance.

Dear Congressional Panel On Social Media Bias: Here Are Your Questions:

Congressional hearings have been called for Sept. 5th – CEO’s are to be brought forward – the results are expected to be the same, as always. i.e., “Gee golly whiz, it’s not anything we’re doing – it’s the algos!”

If you want a different result – you’re going to need to start asking different questions.

Here are a few that should be asked and answered in plain, understandable, jargon-free language:

First: This question never seems to be asked, but is probably the most important of all when the defense of “It’s the algorithms!” is used.

“Well then, let me ask you this way: who’s creating said “algos,” and more precisely, who’s signing off for their implementation, along with continuance, if not you? The reasoning is simple (enter name of figure-head here): Who’s in charge there if not the CEO? Or said differently: the CEO is the ultimate authority to a business. If they are not, then why are they paid (as well as demand) the highest wages or incentives? Take your time, and please answer the question thoughtfully and thoroughly.”

Next:

“Bots and/or algorithms are supposedly being purged by the millions as of today. Yet, is it not possible that many of these very “algos” parading as “users” not all that long ago may have been included into prior metrics which may have helped entice investors to either buy shares, or stay in shares? And of these “purged” which ones had been counted in prior disclosures? Have you adjusted your prior reports to reflect such? For with the technological precision your companies now seem to tout as selling points to advertisers, I’m sure these metrics are easily attainable. Fair assumption, is it not? And if not – why not?”

Next:

So what we’re all now supposed to take as “sincerity” is that all the “bad algos” or, a great preponderance of them, are now being purged. What creates a “bad?” What metric is used to calculate the algos that supposedly purge “bad” ones? Is it bots purging bots, people, both, and if both what’s the ratio? Did any of these “bad” provide any prior “click revenue?” If not, what is the metric to prove such? How is that verifiable or, is this a “take our word” type defense? I know to some there seems to be a lot of questions there, but as I’m sure you’re well aware and understand, it’s really just extrapolating on the same one. So take your time, but please, again, answer thoughtfully and thoroughly.”

Next:

How many times has a “purge” been shown to have mistakenly purged users incorrectly in previous attempts? And: Who or what makes these calls for correct or incorrect, and what are the remedies for wrong calls?

Next:

What metrics or persons are used to make those calls?

And last, but certainly not least, for this is the question that should make every CEO at this hearing very, very, very, (did I say, very?) nervous:

How many of these now documented users which seem to have brought forth very strong evidence of what is now being calling “shadow-banning” paid for ads or, what they call “reach” within a certain category that would seem to differ with your sales promotion for such reach when sold? In other words: Did someone pay to reach a certain segment of audience on your platform and did not receive said results because of the effect caused via shadow-banning? And most importantly: How can you prove, not assure, but prove with verifiable data that they, in fact, did or did not?

That is the, and by that, I mean just that – the – question that should send shivers down the backs of many a social media self-righteous CEO. It’s like the “tax evasion” issue and Al Capone – i.e., Just when you think you’re untouchable…

This is the reason why I’ve always cited from the outset the Steven Crowder vs. Facebook™ law suit. Regardless of how one feels about one party or the other, when it comes to business. (e.g., engaging in legal commerce where money for prescribed or recommended services were sold.) everything changes.

If Mr. Crowder was paying to reach a certain audience using metrics provided by Facebook to do just that – and – Facebook was simultaneously shadow banning any of that said audience concurrently? This is a class-action lawsuit Pandora’s Box that would go so viral it would make Pandora herself envious.

To reiterate what I’ve also said at the outset: These are private companies and as far as what they do for (or to) users when it comes to using their platforms for free – they are free to do as they see fit. (of course “fit” meaning acceptable, ethical, business practices)

But once one takes money for a said service – and there is proof – that said services were not delivered as described? That is known as “Bait and Switch” along with a whole host of other legalisms that are monetarily remedied (sometimes very monetarily) in a court of law.

You’ll know there’s real “blood in the water” when the most viral ad to be seen on both search or social goes something like this:

“Think you’ve been hurt by deceptive ad placements or audience reach incentives? Call the law offices of Dewey, Cheatem, and Howe – now!”

© 2018 Mark St.Cyr

Another Blast From The Past

Since we’re in the final days of the summer season where the only pressing decision most want to contemplate is what type of libations they’re going to consume over the holiday weekend. I figured something based on “decision making” was wholly appropriate. But libation decisions? Let’s just say, the more the merrier, yes?

From my “Insight Uprise™” audio series back in 2015.

This is of the, “No holds barred, quick hitting and to the point” genre, intended to be exactly that, to the point in both subject matter, as well as delivery.

This Episodes Topic: “Living With Your Decisions”

(Can’t see the audio player? (Click Here)

© 2018 Mark St.Cyr in assoc. with StreetCry Media Partners. All Rights Reserved.

Is Silicon Valley Now Too Big To Fail Or Jail?

Everyone remembers the term “Too big to fail” (TBTF) which, once again, gained prominence in the early years of what we now call the Great Financial Crisis of ’08 (GFC). It evolved shortly after into a catch phrase used by all sides when arguing about what responsibility, along with further repercussions “Big Banks” (and brokerage houses now called “banks”) had in creating the conditions for such financial turmoil now warranting its own historical moniker.

TBTF was used as both a defense to save them, as well as slur against that defense. “We have to save them or we’ll all go down!” was pretty much the rallying cry screamed in the front chambers and back rooms throughout the political strata for massive, never before thought possible, government intervention.

The other side of that argument went something akin to: “If you save them you’re just rewarding bad behavior. Too big to fail proves that they are just that: too big and should fail!”

This was pretty much the call and warning decried by free market capitalists everywhere. Yes, we understood that there would be consequences for such action or, non-intervention if you like. But the consequence going forward would endeavor to create circumstances for more perilous to the underlying principle and understanding of what free market capitalism truly means or, is. Especially when not only was it not the one and done type of proposal that was at first proposed, but rather, still going in many other ways.

For the last decade we have not lived in a free market economy, and there are far too many that think we do. The stock markets (globally) now warrant their own identifier when trying to discuss business valuations. i.e., Are we talking markets, or “markets?”

The reason is simple – free market capitalists are fully cognizant that the latter has nothing in common with the former, except spelling. We (e.g., governments) abandoned the concept in 2008 and have never, repeat, never returned. What we currently have is the illusion of free markets.

For those that believe this is hyperbole, may I remind you of one of the most damaging statements (as well as follow-thru) ever to pass the lips of any politician, let alone, the one holding the highest office in the land of free market capitalism. To wit:

“I’ve abandoned free market principles to save the free market system.” –George W. Bush 2008 exit interview with CNN™.

To reiterate: We have never returned.

If you believe that is a false argument or hyperbole? May I remind you (because I know you’re not watching as the ratings prove) that the daily diatribe via the mainstream financial/business media reports are void of any useful information unless they include “The Federal Reserve announced….” “The ECB’s Mario Draghi just announced….” Japan’s Central Bank just purchased…” “China’s central bank injected…”  etc., etc., etc.

This is what now (and has for the last 10 years) drives “markets.” Period.

Today what we call “markets” is nothing more than momentum trades perpetuated by front running algorithmic programs that were created and indirectly (or directly for that matter) financed by the Federal Reserve with its myriad of Quantitative Easing programs, (e.g., QE 1, 2, 3, Twist, et cetera) along with its assembly of other central banks around the globe. Hint: Just look at the Swiss National Bank™ alone, for clues)

Anyone, and I mean just that: anyone (especially those of the Ivy League business school Ph.D. set) that takes to a microphone, camera, or keyboard and has the gall to start talking about P/E’s or other such trite as “fairly priced compared to historic norms” and more – should lose their “shingle” and be sent out into the world to forage in the wilderness of having to earn a living not dependent on enslaving more and more students with debt that would make even Keynes blush. For where we are today is history – nothing compares to it, for we are writing (as well as making it all up) as we go.

And now since I mentioned “making it all up” the segue writes itself.

During the GFC there were calls emanating from the populace that the leadership at many of TBTF banks were not being held accountable. As a matter of fact, there were many instances that seemed to warrant criminal charges, but were never brought forward. This is where the term “Too big to jail” came into the lexicon when then Atty. General Eric Holder appearing before a Senate Judiciary Committee in 2013 stated the following in reference to that precise term.

Via Market Watch™, to wit:

“I am concerned that the size of some of these institutions becomes so large that it does become difficult for us to prosecute them,” Holder said.

He continued: “When we are hit with indications that if you do prosecute — if you do bring a criminal charge — it will have a negative impact on the national economy, perhaps even the world economy. I think that is a function of the fact that some of these institutions have become too large.”

Enter Silicon Valley.

(Too be clear: I am not arguing for charges or anything of that sort in regards to anyone or company. What I am arguing is what was once interpreted as “the rules” seems to no longer apply to anything connected to the “markets” of today and using its glaring examples of the moment for comparison.)

Today there’s an unrelenting brouhaha about election manipulation and more when it comes to social media giants like Facebook™ and Twitter™, et al.

Congressional hearings have been called, CEO’s have been brought forward, and the results are always the same. i.e., “Gee golly whiz, it’s not anything we’re doing per se – it’s the algos!”

The question that seems to be never asked, but is the most important of all the follow-ups that could be asked, is this:

“I see. Well then, let me ask you this way: who’s creating said algos, and more precisely, who’s signing off for their implementation, along with continuance?”

This is a question very similar in-kind that is always (well, used to be) asked when banking executives are called up before congress. The reasoning is simple: Who’s in charge there if not the CEO? i.e., the CEO is the ultimate authority to a business. If they aren’t, then why are they paid (as well as demand) the highest wages or incentives?

Banks today seem to face draconian type measures when compared to anything related to the Silicon Valley narrative. e.g., Big Tech in general.

Wells Fargo™ past CEO, John Stumpf suffered far worse treatment and ridicule for his “I wasn’t aware” styled defense when it came to the misdeeds under his watch. And many still feel he should have been doled out criminal charges for what has been (and still!) brought to light since.

Facebook? It seems to go something like this: Congressional Panel: “We look forward to your replies to our request.”

Response? Some several hundred page baffle’-m-with-bullsh#t techno garble, along with statements from all of management singing in chorus Mark’s kumbaya plea of “We can do better, and will!” As they sell their shares in record amounts.

This type of activity, at one time, would be nearly all the proof that was needed to bring forth charges under current business law for some form of negligent or deceitful corporate governance. Just blaming “algos” while top management sells its shares at a furious pace right before an investigation used to warrant such calls. Today? (insert cricket sound here)

It’s quite possible their sheer size and ties to 401K retirement accounts everywhere, along with many a government backed pension plan, has now offered much in-kind as what former AG Holder implied. i.e., They’re too big and would cause great disruption of the “markets.”

I find it just fascinating (as well as a bit disturbing) that congressional leaders now feel the need to bring up before a committee a company (e.g., Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey) that many are claiming has the potential to sway elections when its CEO, along with its Board, doesn’t take the company itself serious enough to warrant the idea that the CEO must be a full-time participant.

Bots and/or algorithms are supposedly being purged by the millions as of today. Yet, it is those very “algos” that were parading as “users” not all that long ago that were counted as the metrics for enticing investors to either buy in, or stay in. Fair assumption is it not?

Again: so what we’re all now supposed to take as gospel is that all the “bad algos” are what are being purged. What creates a “bad?” What metric is used to calculate the algos that supposedly purge “bad” ones? Do any remaining provide “click revenue?” If not, what is the metric to prove such? How many times has it shown to be incorrect in previous attempts? Who makes these calls? What metrics are used to make those calls? How many of these now purged were previously included in prior earnings reports? How many times previous has such a purge been done before, and what metrics were used then? Why and how, has this been allowed to happen in the first place? And on, and on, and on…

These are the types of questions that would be demanded to be answered by any CEO that was in control of a $10’s of BILLIONS of dollars corporation just 10 years ago, let alone, one that’s just recently been included into the coveted S&P 500™.

Today? It’s CEO can’t even be bothered or, its Board just can’t seem to attract someone capable of filling the gig full-time. It seems the company itself just ain’t all that important to either.

Think about that.

Let me ask you this dear reader, ponder the following: If the Board, along with its CEO, felt that they could be held accountable – criminally – for actions taken (or not taken when appropriate) for corporate malfeasance or, other such things: Do you think there would be a full-time CEO at the head of such a company?

It used to be when CEO’s were dragged before congressional panels: heads would roll. Why?

The assumptions were always clear via the reaction. Share holders would demand change via the selling of shares. (i.e., Sell first ask questions later.) until the Board and management proposed believable, remedial solutions. Today? Shares barley budge if they budge at all.

Next case in point? Elon Musk.

For those unaware, Tesla™ CEO Elon Musk committed what many call the most egregious, as well as possibly criminal, violation that the CEO of a public company can do. He stated publicly that he had “secured” funding to take his company private – and – at a sale price that would all but annihilate even the most well-disciplined short sellers. e.g., $420.

This one statement (or tweet if you will) caused Tesla shares to skyrocket, wiping out many a short sellers account while rewarding others with ill-gotten gains.

Acts like this coming via the CEO of one of the most heavily shorted companies, with a tendency to publicly taunt those very shorts with ridicule and scorn (along with thinly veiled threats) would almost immediately have the Fed’s swarming into his offices and himself probably led in some televised “perp walk” by the agencies first, as they then try to sort out the details after.

And yet…

All conjecture of course, but when placed against what used to be the backdrop (or norm) of how the Fed’s and other agencies dealt previous with just your run of the mill “insider trading” type arrests. A CEO even allowing for such an idea to stay in his head would be cause for that CEO to step down on his own.

There used to be an innate, as well as thoroughly understood corporate responsibility (aka fiduciary responsibility) of understanding to what the ramifications of anything remotely resembling such would entail, and were far too onerous to take any chances of doing something so foolish. But those days seem long past. Now it’s all “the medications fault” defensive posturing.

It is of a wonder too me that all we seem to hear over these ensuing days has been something akin of: “The SEC is currently looking into it.” i.e., No big deal, it’s just Elon being Elon, maybe there’ll be a fine or something, emphasis on “maybe.”

The only thing that causes my “wonderment” to enter the “rabbit hole of Wonderland” is the fact that Tesla’s share price as of this writing are still hovering within spitting distance of its all time highs!

There was a time when saying that the Fed’s or, any other form of government enforcement agency, were launching into an investigation would immediately cause markets to react. Today?

All that makes these “markets” react is what The Fed. (e.g., Federal Reserve) will or won’t do in regards to interest rates or, balance sheet moves. All else of what used to be regarded as possible “white-collar crime,” is now simply regarded by these “markets” as: white-collar noise.

Who knew “it’s different this time” could have so many connotations.

© 2018 Mark St.Cyr

Adventures In Stupidity

It’s been quite a while since I’ve done of these type of posts, however, as of today, I have been hard-pressed not to write an entire book, let alone article, on what I’ve come to experience from a company whose product I not only sing the praises of, but highly recommend.

That product is my office chair made by, Humanscale™.

There is probably no more important component to an office that entails both form and function, as well as inflicting (yes – inflicting!) a quality of life that is either pleasant, bearable, or down right sadistic, than that which can be dealt out by a poorly constructed or non-ergonomic chair. Especially when one considers the amount of time to be spent in one.

Yes, I’m fully aware that stand up desks are all the rage currently. But standing at a desk is nothing new.

Let’s veer off here, for just a moment into some background on all this “new” insight when it comes to standing.

When I began my career in the meat industry I was struck to notice that most, if not all, stood at a counter (with no chairs) in the sales office. Everyone stood either facing each-other at a counter or, were propped up against a long shelf that looked more like an easel stand fixed to the wall, only it was over 60 contiguous feet in length wrapping around the office.

You had an “area” or “space” on that wall next to everyone else and that was your combination sales desk/office. It consisted of a phone attached to wall, and a few shelves underneath for storage, and all open, no doors, locks, or drawers.

It was easy to infer that standing had been the norm since about the beginning of time by looking at the age on the desk and floor. So standing all day, every day, had been a part of my career for years.

Here’s what I know via decades of experience of sitting vs standing:

If you stand – it’s all about the quality of mat you stand on.

If you sit – it’s all about the quality of chair.

Taking regular interval breaks with either (e.g., stand if you’re sitting or, sit if you’ve been standing) is the key.

It is my experience both (e.g., standing vs sitting) are the same in the end. (again, my opinion, but it’s via experience)

Either one can make you feel better or, make your life miserable depending on those few key, yet, small differences.

I know I can hear all the “But, But, But….!” new devotees of/on either side now going into convulsions to say I’m wrong and don’t know what I’m talking about. (I’ll also garner they’re either recent converts to the “new idea” of stand up desk or, just spent what seemed like buku-bucks on some name brand over-stuffed leather chair.)

If whatever you’re doing is working for you? Good for you, and fair enough. However, I have decades of experience in both and I’m just parting my personal observations and experience, nothing more. And I only add it for context for its germane to the story, as you will see.

Now back to our regularly scheduled dialogue….

I’ve had my chair going on 8 years. I spend on average 8 to 10 hours a day with gusts as high as 15 regularly. There is no other piece of furniture I interact with more, and yes, even my bed.

There was a time I had issues when sitting for any long periods (before I retired I actually sat much less) and have gone through many an “ergo-chair” of varying degrees and price ranges. It wasn’t until I found my current chair did I finally understand the price to value proposition meaningful. Why?

The price for my chair isn’t just at the top of the price scale, but to my thinking back then, was literally – off the charts orbiting around the planet insanity. i.e., When the term “thousands” can be used in the same sentence as the price for an office chair? I’m sorry, I still have an issue with it even as I’m trying to type it today as my eye begins to twitch.

So now you’re probably saying, “So what’s this all about?” And here’s why I felt the need to share, because it’s directly related to business and something you yourself may be doing to different degrees and not be fully aware.

On my chair there is a handle, so when you want to move the chair around the office, this is where you grab. For what ever the reason it broke right where it screws in. It’s not a structural thing or even that cosmetic. And no one would ever be the wiser – but I know. And I can be a little, shall we say, “orifice-retentive” when it comes to certain things. So I decided to see if I could order the part. And this is where the adventure into stupidity began.

I went to the website and used their “contact” form. I received a “confirmation” that my email had been received and would receive a return email promptly. Three days later – I was still waiting for that reply.

I repeated the process thinking it may have been lost in the ether. To my delight, I got a reply for what appeared to be a “happy to help representative.”

I replied back with my request – that “happy representative” seemed to now be happier not answering my request, for it went unanswered – for days.

I tried the process again, result? Re-read first line, when you get back here do it one more time, for that’s precisely what happened to me.

Then, in a one last-ditch effort, I sent what I felt was a strongly worded (yet polite) request that someone should get in contact with me, even if it were to tell me they couldn’t help me and maybe could direct me to a vendor that could.

I got a reply!

A great reply at that. It told me that this nice gentleman was sorry for the delay, they had the part, its cost, and all they needed was my approval that I would pay the required shipping and they would ship it out. Just fill in my address and confirmation and it would be resolved.

I felt relieved and almost vindicated for my tenacity in trying one last time.

Did you catch the key word there? Hint: “almost.” Why? Take a guess.

I replied back enthusiastically, told him how thankful I was that someone took the time to finally take my request and follow through.

And I haven’t heard back since. It’s now been well over a month

I was damned if I would start this process again in any way – shape – manner – or form. I was (am still) thoroughly ticked off.

Could I call? Probably, for there is a number listed. But I’m so mad (still!) if I couldn’t get the Sales Manager themselves on the phone – I would be even more irate.

This happens when people in management, e.g.., Sales managers, General managers, COO’s, CEO’s et al. don’t shop their own venues.

The Sales Manger in charge of instituting this type of “customer service” interaction should, at the least, be reprimanded if not, fired outright, for I can not be the only person that has had this type of interaction with them.

This is what happens when you don’t shop your own store and leave it up to others. For if a “manager” has so many things on their plate that they can’t make sure all their customer interfaces, as well as interactions aren’t up to par with the product? (and price!) Somethings wrong. Period. And: It may not be long before everyone has far too much time, because all these problems get resolved via the most bludgeoning fixing tool known to business and management. e.g., No sales.

Now some of you may be thinking, “Well, yeah, but you are just one person, one chair, and you haven’t purchased another in years. So it’s really not that big of a deal.” And that may be a fair point, or it may not. And here’s why:

I may have only purchased one, but it is the people I both talk with, as well as give advice to, that purchase office chairs, sometimes, by the dozens.

Do you think I’m going to tell this story again should the circumstance arise?

That’s why things like this are so important to understand. But better yet, not allowed to happen in your own business. It’s up to you to make sure. It’s a requisite, regardless if you’re a CEO of a global concern or, own a tattoo parlor. And it never ends or goes away. And those that think it does or, is something that’s now beneath their “pay grade” are usually the first to find out the hard way, aka: bankruptcy.

Disregard its importance at your own peril.

Oh, and I almost forgot: what was the price of the handle replacement that caused all this to begin with?

$7.50 (not a typo)

© 2018 Mark St.Cyr

I Have A Feeling This Won’t Make The News

I was queried the other day for my take on the current Facebook™ initiative of “scoring” users. e.g., applying a “trust rating.” Here’s my reply:

“Let me sum this up as succinctly as I possibly can…

Facebook is going to now rank its users via a scoring method for trust.

Your question shouldn’t be directed to me, but rather, to yourself in answering how all that “trust” worked out for journalists, publishers and other content creators that were lured onto its platform then suddenly found their “reach” (e.g., fans or consumers) was no longer theirs and now had to pay if they wanted to reach them?

Let me remind you of a trait that seems to be proven out as more-the-case with every iteration of “improvement” Facebook seems to be coming forward with. To wit:”

May 13, 2010 via Business Insider™:

An early instant messenger exchange Mark had with a college friend won’t help put these concerns to rest.

According to SAI sources, the following exchange is between a 19-year-old Mark Zuckerberg and a friend shortly after Mark launched The Facebook in his dorm room:

Zuck: Yeah so if you ever need info about anyone at Harvard

Zuck: Just ask.

Zuck: I have over 4,000 emails, pictures, addresses, SNS

[Redacted Friend’s Name]: What? How’d you manage that one?

Zuck: People just submitted it.

Zuck: I don’t know why.

Zuck: They “trust me”

Zuck: Dumb f##ks.

“The real question that should be asked (and I believe would make a far better story) would be this:

Does the above exchange seem more out of character for its CEO or, more in-line or ingrained with what you now know?”

It’s now been 24hrs. I have a feeling they’re not going to run with it, which is too bad. For I “Like” it, or is that a “thumbs up?” Actually who cares anymore what Facebook, Mark, or anyone else in social thinks anymore. And that statement alone should tell you all you need to know about the state of social today.

Can you say, “It’s different this time?”

Think about it.

© 2018 Mark St.Cyr

NFL Delusions – Shanghai’s Perilous Adventure – Twitter Twaddle

Although there’s a lot to be said about each of the entities contained in the title, in retrospect, there’s actually very little that needs to be added. What’s probably far more important is to remind one of what’s already been said, what’s transpired, and what it may portend. Hint: All three are not very good.

First: The NFL®

Over the off-season newly signed (and compensated, once again, to the tune of nearly a quarter of a $Billion, e.g., roughly $200 million, over the next five years) the now newly minted commissioner of the NFL launched with much fanfare the leagues new policy when it comes to protests.

From my article in January, “Two Minutes To Midnight…”

“On Tuesday of last week the NFL rolled out a new initiative that began the same week (on Thursday) during its NFL Total Access venue. This is now an ongoing campaign that will play out across multiple outlets and has been named, “Let’s Listen Together.” Here are a few pull quotes directly from the NFL. To wit:”

As part of its ongoing work to support its players, the NFL today announced a joint player and ownership commitment focused on social justice. The campaign, Let’s Listen Together, launches today and includes a multi-layered roll-out including digital content and brand spots highlighting the player-led work on social and racial equality. The platform will also include social media support, as well as individual letters from players and owners sharing their stories and personal reasons for making social justice a priority.

“The above sound innocuous enough at first glance, and in many ways seems like an amenable solution to what has become an almost irreconcilable situation. At least on digit paper that is.

However, the problem here shows just how this is all going to play out over the foreseeable future in the following text. Again, to wit:”

“We are pleased to have developed a new initiative that focuses on creating meaningful solutions to improve our communities,” said NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell. “In developing this plan, we have taken the lead from our players and are honored to join them in this work. Their work has deepened our understanding of the unique platform we have to help advance progress in a profound and unifying way.”

“Translation: We going to get the players to stop kneeling so they can now stand up and tell you all about their political stances as you tune in. Or said differently – As you try to take a momentary reprieve from the everyday political strife as to enjoy a few hours of pure sports entertainment played at the highest levels. We’re now going to directly insert that political into and across our entire brand and outlets for it. Hey, it’s better than kneeling, right? That’s what you’re upset about, right? So, pleeeeeease come back. Oh, and did we mention seating prices for game days are on-sale?!

The rollout for this initiative both in it’s timing, along with what it appears is going to be the viewing vehicle (i.e., across the entire NFL) is, in my opinion: One of the most tone-deaf, ill-advised, PR debacles that may do far more damage to both the NFL, along with its players and causes, than anything I’ve seen over my business career.

Many a game has been won or lost in the final two minutes. As a matter of fact, so important are those final minutes that entire game winning or saving strategies are built upon them. e.g., “The 2 minute drill.” Yet there’s a caveat that goes along with that strategy that’s paramount for the “saving” aspect which is this: You never play those minutes via a “not too lose” strategy and tactics. Once you do – you’re all but assured to do just that – and lose.

The NFL I’ll assert – is doing just that, and will.”

And what happened “two minutes” into the first pre-season game? Hint: Players took-a-knee and the NFL put its “policy” for enforcement on hold. So it would appear not only has nothing changed, but nothing will. Oops, sorry, yes there will: you’ll now get even more political commentary forced upon viewers via the “Let’s Listen Together” campaign as players show via their very public actions that they both won’t listen, or abided by, any so-called “agreements” made with the commissioner.

Watch for ticket sales to become even more affordable as the season unfolds is my best guess.

Second: What happens in Shanghai, unlike Vegas, ain’t gonna stay in Shanghai.

From my article in May, “Are the markets about to get Shanghai’d again?”

The SCI is one of those bellwether type indexes to watch when trying to gauge anything China market related. And what it is showing seems of little interest to most mainstream financial/business media pundits. Either that, or they have no real clue. I’ll go with the latter, but that’s just me.

So here’s something I feel one should pay the utmost attention to over the following days and weeks. The reasoning is quite simple: What happens in China will effect everything in the U.S. and world with near immediacy. Need I remind you of that morning in August, 2015 where the U.S. woke to its major markets in “Limit down” status?

Remember where it all started? Hint: China and in-particular the SCI. To wit:

(Source)

“So where are we now?” Good question, problem is the answer may not be as pretty of a picture that all too many desire, again, to wit:

The implications of the above chart are epic. The reasoning is simple: It would signal that the effort via the Chinese politburo to keep all the “spinning plates” aloft was, one by one, beginning to come crashing down onto the stage floor for all too see. As always, all one can do is to keep watching for further clues. But to say that there aren’t a few plates wobbling more than others as a clearly winded “spinner” appears to be having more difficulty by the moment – is probably an understatement.

And finally: Twitter™ twaddle.

I only have this to say about all the brouhaha currently going on about Twitter and in general, social media:

People are all up in arms about a company that uses as its metrics: “users.” And sells advertising based on those metrics, while it purges millions upon millions of those very once coveted metrics, again – “by the millions,” because they are not humans but rather, just bot programs. While all the while these platforms are infected with even more bots that click on ads costing advertisers $10’s if not $100’s of millions (if not $Billions!) in ad fraud.

All this and Twitter alone is run by a CEO whose investors, along with Board of directors, can’t seem to find, or can’t attract a CEO other than one that will only accept the position as a “part-time” gig, because he also heads another. (Excuse me while I laugh at this current reality of absolute moronic business examples.) All this while the entirety of the mainstream media, along with its business/financial enclaves, hold interviews and/or write and speak as if we’re suppose to take it all seriously as in: we’re all supposed to believe (or better yet buy this told-and-sold ad nauseam fairy tale) there’s any there, there, in both Twitter the company, as well as its management.

Hint: As goes the Fed’s QE (known now as, QT quantitative tightening) – so goes the joke that, “it’s different this time.”  Or, said differently: How’s all that boy-genius working out for investors today?

Too soon?

© 2018 Mark St. Cyr

Blast From The Past

I was asked the other day about my book. The question was, “I looked for your book on Amazon™ and couldn’t find it, as a matter of fact, I looked at a few places and it was nowhere to be found, do you actually have a book?”

The answer is: yes I do. But as this person was new to my content I could understand the confusion, for as long-time readers know, I pulled all my content (e.g., books, audio, video, etc.) from all outside sources (e.g., iTunes®, Libsyn™, Vimeo™ et al.) at the end of last year. The reasoning was simple as I explained back then: Why do I need my content hosted elsewhere and be chained to the business whims of others (let alone handing over 1/3plus of the sale price!) when I don’t have to? (currently my book is “out of print”)

As we look at the business landscape today (think InfoWars™ as just one, and the latest example) one can clearly see in retrospect how prescient I truly was. As I’ve said many times, “I fully understand when trying to explain what I see over the horizon that I first have to remember, where I’m standing, might be over the horizon to my audience.”

That isn’t trying to elevate myself in any way. (and long time readers understand this) Instead, what I’m trying to ensure is that when I’m trying to explain what possible turmoil or trends I may see, that it doesn’t get blown-off in some sort of “Sounds like fantasy land type talk.” It’s an easy trap to fall into, I know, I’ve done it far too many times in the past myself when I didn’t truly listen to others, when I should have been thinking the same. That’s the reason for it, nothing more.

(For those thinking I’m just trying to front-run the idea of not needing or being on social-media, here’s what I was saying and doing back in 2011)

If you think I’m just trying to blow-smoke, as the old saying goes, let me give a quick couple of examples where I was I way out in front of most, if not all, of the mainstream business/financial media as they pooh-pooh’d a few ideas in unison directly into the trash bin for historic wrong calls. e.g., The iPad® and Apps.

For those who don’t remember back in 2010 the iPad was being mocked relentlessly by most of the media. The name was being used for a joke and more. I said precisely the opposite. For comparison, back then the iPad was viewed in an even more negative light and received far less fanfare than the Pencil® is today. Think about that for a moment.

The iPad was also even being touted by many as the defining product that might possibly mark the end of Apple™ innovation. That alone should be all that needs too be said.

So, you may be saying, “Sure, lucky call.” And it would be a fair statement. But if you add in what I said about Apps back then, when the calls against it were even more forthcoming, as well as boisterous, than what they were portending for the iPad’s future? Then things begin to take shape in a far different light.

Here’s what I mean:

Remember when everyone (“everyone” meaning business/financial mainstream media along with most of Silicon Valley also) said that the idea of the App Store® on iTunes was going to be a waste? You know, back about 2010. The go-to criticism of the App Store and apps themselves back then was repeated ad nauseam, “No one is going to use, let alone buy apps as some sort of replacement for buying software programs.” The result? When was the last time you bought a CD (or any for that matter) based software program instead of an app?

To back up this call, I was one of the few that not only stated that apps were going to replace software programs as we know it, but also, was one of the very few (I believe it was just myself, Seth Godin, and Guy Kawasaki) to offer an app way back then that was explicitly dedicated to ones writings. That app was actively being downloaded until it was removed a few years ago because I had decided not to update it for the new operating system.

In other words: I already had an app in the app store – when most were saying apps would never take off.

Today, everyone’s offering an app, and I mean just that – everyone! That is, everyone except yours truly. Why? I don’t believe you need one anymore for most situations. But that’s for another article.

Podcast, audio book? Been there, done that, again, years ago. But now it’s time to once again change, and I am, as I’ll announce soon, so stay tuned. (I know, I know. and if I were you I’d snicker too, but there is real change coming and it’s close.)

So it was in this light that I went reviewing some of my older podcasts and thought it would be fun to put a few out over the coming weeks. So, with that said, here’s a blast from the past. I think it’s also note worthy on just how relevant the actual content is to today knowing and watching what’s been transpiring.

From my “Prose Series” in 2012

“Are You Building A Business That Can Stay In Business”

© 2018 Mark St.Cyr

How To Spot When A Trend Is Over

Remember when comparing anything today to the dot-com crash of yesterday was immediately refuted with the clarion calls of “It’s different this time?”

Or how ’bout when criticizing most “tech” business models was seen as blasphemy and immediately rebuffed with a unified chorus supplied by many a Silicon Valley aficionado or next-in-rotation fund manager as “not getting tech?” Hint: Is yesterday to long ago?

Whether one wants to read between the lines or take those lines literally is always a very complicated task. However, that doesn’t mean that one shouldn’t look for clues in helping one to insinuate relevance or not.

So with the above said I want to make note of the following, and as always, let you be the judge and jury as to what they may imply. So here’s today’s example:

What does it signify when the founder/CEO of one of Silicon Valley’s most prominent publication’s (and critical) openly states, (paraphrasing) She wishes “…she could sunset Pando and move on?” And that “move on” reference is to move on to something completely different from anything similar when one thinks about “tech” in general.

Need a bit more of an example to help form any opinion? Fair enough, so let’s use one the above’s latest articles to try to get a bit more insight for the tone of “The Valley” today, shall we? To wit:

Via Pando August 9, 2018, “Facebook is closer to being another Yahoo than another Amazon”

“Something big is happening in social media, and investors in social-media companies can’t make up their minds what it is.”

Personally, I believe investors are not confused about what’s “happening in” social media, but rather, what’s about to happen to it, that is raising their concerns.

Here’s another hint to what may be causing a lot of consternation, on all sides:

Is it better – worse – or much the same, to be compared to Yahoo rather, than AOL?

Or is that a trick question?

© 2018 Mark St.Cyr