Saturday, December 27, 2014

Now there's speculation that the Streisand Effect could overthrow a country's leadership

A new film came out recently called "The Interview." Perhaps you've heard of it. I've mentioned it myself a couple of times - once in a serious way, and once in a not-so-serious way.

In case you haven't heard of the movie, "The Interview" is a comedy about the assassination of Kim Jong Un, beloved leader of North Korea.

Let that sink in.

Comedies about serious topics are bound to offend someone or another, even if they're done well. The movies "Dr. Strangelove" and "MASH" come to mind.

Well, I've just seen the official trailer for "The Interview," and maybe I'm in a "get off my lawn" mood, but based upon the trailer - which is usually supposed to showcase a film's best moments - "The Interview" is no "Dr. Strangelove" or "MASH."

And yes, if you just watched the trailer, one of the characters hid a missile in his body.

Perhaps it's useful to consider why this promo is being so widely shared, here and elsewhere. Ordinarily, the movie would have opened on Christmas Day, and probably would have been ignored as more Oscar-worthy candidates vied for Hollywood press time. But then, not surprisingly, the North Korean government raised objections to the film. Considering that the film depicted the assassination of its leader, that seems reasonable.

However, the leaders of North Korea are apparently unaware of the Streisand Effect. As I previously noted, the Streisand Effect is the exact opposite of the Scoble Effect (or the Oprah Effect). When Barbra Streisand demanded that a picture of her mansion be removed from public view, the previously ignored picture became very popular. In a similar fashion, every time that the North Koreans pressed Sony and the United States on the issue of "The Interview" movie, it merely brought more attention to the film.

Gizmodo commented on this by posting a picture of Barbra Streisand and Kim Jong Un, along with this comment:

One's an egomaniac whose violent temper and unpredictability strikes fear into the heart of world leaders. The other is Kim Jong-Un. I'm here all week, folks.

(It's a safe bet that Streisand's representatives won't sue Gizmodo over the picture or the statement.)

Of course, things really heated up when someone broke into Sony's computer systems and leaked embarrassing private documents. By that point, everyone was talking about "The Interview," along with the names that celebrities used to check into hotels and one executive's musings about the types of movies that President Obama would like.

And things heated up more when someone (perhaps the same party as the leakers) warned people not to see the movie - a move that caused the major motion picture chains (still smarting from an unfortunate incident in Colorado) to cancel showings of the movie. Within a few short days, Sony withdrew the movie entirely, was criticized by the President of the United States, and then un-withdrew the movie and found alternate ways to distribute it.

The result of all of this? A movie that North Korea didn't really want people to see is now being talked about by a bunch of people - with several results.

First, the movie made $1 million in theaters on its first day, despite the fact that only 331 theaters were showing the film.

Second, the movie was also available via paid digital downloads, unprecedented for a just-released film. In the long run, this could have even greater ramifications than the North Korean objections.

But in the short term, the third result is the most interesting one.

According to Free North Korea Radio, an online radio network made by North Korean defectors, demand for “The Interview” has been shooting up among North Koreans. It says people are willing to pay almost $50 a copy of the movie, which is 10X higher than what a regular South Korean TV show’s DVD would cost in the black market.

So what's North Korea doing? Trying to block the black marketers from getting the film into the country.

Of course, that will make the film even more desirable to those who can't get it. This is something that makes Rich Klein's claims, which sound ridiculous on their surface, sound more plausible.

Think of the movie as Chernobyl for the digital age. Just as the nuclear catastrophe in the Soviet Union and the dangerously clumsy efforts to hide it exposed the Kremlin's leadership as inept and morally bankrupt, overseeing a superpower rusting from the inside, so does The Interview risk eroding the myths, fabrications and bluster that keep the Kim dynasty in power.

Rogen and director Evan Goldberg intentionally did not avoid dangerous content. They could have fictionalized an authoritarian country and an egomaniac leader, they could have played Kim Jong Un as bland and one dimensional, or given him a life-saving epiphany. It would have been safer that way, but not credible, and critics who now see the movie as reckless would have seen a vanilla version as naive and apologist.

Meanwhile, North Korea, while not discussing the movie with its own people, rolls merrily along with its usual diet of Soviet-language influenced press releases.

KPA Taking Lead in Building Thriving Nation (3)

Pyongyang, December 26 (KCNA) -- The might of army-people unity has been fully displayed with the leading role of the Korean People's Army (KPA) in the era of Marshal Kim Jong Un.

Under the slogan calling for helping the people, the KPA has played a key role in building a thriving nation over the past three years.

After receiving the order of Kim Jong Un to build a service complex at a machine factory before the birth centenary of President Kim Il Sung (April 15, 2012), KPA servicepersons devoted their all to carrying out his order.

Kim Jong Un highly praised the soldier builders for completing the complex in time on the highest level during his visit to the factory on May Day Juche 101 (2012).

When the Kaechon and Komdok areas were hit hard by flood in 2012, servicepersons together with the people eradicated the aftermath of flood damage in those areas in a short span of time, demonstrating the might of the revolutionary soldier spirit and army-people unity.

Thanks to the concerted efforts of the army and people, the October 8 Factory took its shape only in 10 months as a model one in the age of knowledge-based economy.

During a visit to a newly-built foodstuff factory in November this year, Kim Jong Un highly praised it as an edifice of patriotic devotion built by the dint of the army-people unity and called upon all the units to fan up the flame of modernization by underscoring the need to follow the work attitude of KPA servicepersons.

The DPRK will surely win the final victory in building a powerful nation as long as there is the KPA which always remain loyal to the idea and leadership of the Workers' Party of Korea.

After reading this press release, and all of the others like it, I almost want to put a missile up my own butt.

Friday, December 26, 2014

The joy of public comment

This post was written in advance of its publication date. By the time that you read this, it will be Thanksgiving - but more importantly, it will be the two-year anniversary of a Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors meeting.

Whoops, strike that - you DIDN'T read this on Thanksgiving 2014. For personal reasons I had to delay it for a bit. So this post deals with a Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors meeting that took place OVER two years ago.

On November 27, 2012, the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors had a meeting. Item 20 on the Board's agenda was to approve a contract with some consultants to write a request for proposal on behalf of the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department. Why do I know about this? Because several months later, the consultants would finish their RFP, the RFP would go to several vendors (including my employer), and I would be part of the team that responded to the RFP with a proposal.

Incidentally, back when I originally drafted this post in October 2013, I fully expected that the Board of Supervisors would actually award the contract well before November 27, 2014. As it turns out, government sometimes moves slowly. Since the contract hadn't been officially awarded, I intentionally withheld my post until after the award. It's a common practice of mine to refrain from discussing proposals in which I participated until after the proposal is awarded. And you thought I was for effect. By the time you finish reading this post, you'll know where I got that phrase.

For those keeping score, the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors officially approved a contract with another vendor on December 16, 2014.

But back to November 27, 2012, when they were selecting the consultants who would write the RFP that would go to the vendors. If you look at the official minutes from that day, you will simply see that the Board of Supervisors unanimously approved the contract with the consultants, and simply asked to receive a report every 60 days on the progress of the consultants.

But in addition to the official minutes, the Board of Supervisors publishes transcripts of every meeting. The 2012 meeting transcripts are here. And if you go to the November 27, 2012 transcript, and turn to page 77, you'll see what actually occurred when item 20 was discussed. And before the supervisors could consider the meat of the matter, there was a period of public comment on the item, during which two people spoke.

The public comment from the two was not all that illuminating.

The first speaker, Daniel Jones, was at least somewhat willing to stick to the subject matter - sort of. The County wanted the consultants to write an RFP for a multimodal biometric identification system, so Jones began by speaking to this. (The transcript was in all caps; I have taken the liberty of changing it to mixed case text.) This is part of what Daniel Jones said:

I wanted to speak on the fact of what's this multimodality, modal biometric identification system for the information system for the Sheriff's Department? What is that? Are you going to do some more special testing on human beings so you can identify us all over the planet? Are you going to use facial recognition systems? Are you going to use Department of Homeland Security funds to do all this? Are you going to make this into a Nazi state?

When Godwin's Law is exercised in the first bit of testimony, you know you have a winner here.

After some banter with Supervisor Zev Yaroslavsky, Jones continued.

DANIEL JONES: ...Guess what, ladies and gentlemen. You don't need to know who I am. You already know who that is, don't you. Everybody in the state does by now. There's a reason for that.

SUP. YAROSLAVSKY, CHAIRMAN: All right, thank you very much.

DANIEL JONES: I'm not finished. Thank you. I'm holding for effect.

And it went downhill from there - something about getting restricted DMV addresses from his mom's bridge partner.

Then John Walsh came to the stand. In a sense, it's appropriate for John Walsh to speak to this topic. As you know, Walsh has been involved with law enforcement for decades, and therefore it's natural that Walsh would have an interesting in crime-solving techniques.

Unfortunately, that isn't the John Walsh who showed up. This John Walsh was a blogger. And while he didn't talk about Nazis, he didn't talk about biometrics either. He spent his time talking about a crooked deputy sheriff who was caught by the Sheriff's Department, but who was not prosecuted by then District Attorney Steve Cooley.

Finally, after public comment was over, the Board of Supervisors began looking at the contract with the consultant. But that probably doesn't interest you.

This is just one example of the public comments that are addressed to the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors - and all such government boards. In fact, over two years later, on December 2, 2014, the Board of Supervisors specifically referred to these public comments. The occasion? Don Knabe was relinquishing his role as the chair of the Board of Supervisors (or, in Board terms, the "Mayor"), and Mike Antonovich was preparing to become the mayor of the County. As the baton was passed, Antonovich made the following comment:

Thank you, Don, thank you very much. Again, thank you for your past 12 months. I know you enjoyed the public comment the most of that time.

The audience laughed, and Antonovich continued.

And if you like, my first order will be to allow you to have exclusive rights to public comment.

Exclusive rights to hear illuminating comments such as the ones above? Knabe replied:

It's all yours.

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Canan Canavan, marketing, (non-forensic) biometrics, and the reputed Obamacare-NSA alliance

(NOTE: There are a lot of links in this particular post, and only one of them is self-referential. If you're interesting in this topic, I strongly encourage you to follow the links to get significant additional information.)

Alex Perala alerted me to a TechCrunch article on biometrics and marketing, but before I share the article, I want to remind everyone that (here's the self-referential link) there are different definitions of the term "biometrics." While I personally use it to refer to ways to identify individuals, others use it to refer to crop yields and heart rates. TechCrunch's article falls in the latter category, as can be evidenced by this passage:

The new sensors on smartwatches and fitness bands will enable insight into a user’s heart rate, VO2 max, sympathetic nervous response, blood glucose level, EKG, temperature and more. We’re moving into a world where people will be wearing always-on body-monitoring systems.

What does this mean to TechCrunch author Canan Canavan?

This data fosters new insights and the development of new ecosystems allowing understanding of customers at a much more granular level and the ability to offer them new services.

Canavan notes that we already know WHEN something happens, as well as (thanks to location-based technology) WHERE it happens. A number of services, ranging from Foursquare to Waze, are based upon the "where."

Now, with the addition of the biometric sensors that can measure heart rate and other physical attributes, we can move into the HOW. One of Canavan's examples is illustrative:

[I]magine going on a date where both parties agree to share their biometric data after the date. You’d be able to read their arousal profile and understand that they weren’t as into you as you were into them – all without an awkward phone call.

Or on the other end, you might see a spike when they saw you and a pleasant glowing interaction through the night. We don’t know what love at first sight looks like biometrically, but maybe we’ll know soon.

In another example, when you walk into a retail establishment, the sensors can record your reaction to a particular store employee. (That can lead to some interesting end-of-year personnel evaluations.)

Canavan's reaction to this new world?

It feels predatory, and it is.

But isn't all advertising predatory? Doesn't your TV have a whole bunch of fast food commercials in the late afternoon and early evening, when the advertisers think the mass audience may be hungry? Didn't sugared cereal advertisers once show a whole bunch of advertisements during the Saturday morning cartoons - back when TV had Saturday morning cartoons? This is not a change in advertising behavior, but a much more precise method of the same advertising behavior. Before, McDonald's THOUGHT that some percentage of people might be hungry at 6:00 pm. Now, McDonald's will KNOW that the person in the car 1/4 mile away from the Marengo, Illinois McDonald's IS hungry. And they don't teach you THAT in school. (A few of you will appreciate that.)

But before you assume that your every mood will be recorded by Madison Avenue, or McDonald's, or Facebook, or the National Security Agency, you may want to read Canavan's thoughts on the evolution of something called "emotional fencing." These thoughts can be found toward the end of Canavan's TechCrunch article.

I won't get into that, because I'm still hung up on the question of whether this level of measurement - and personal exposure - is desirable. Will privacy advocates try to stop this via legislation? Will the private sector (Amazon, Apple, Facebook, Google) and the public sector (the FBI, and the CIA, and the BBC...) fight over the rights to our biometric data? Will misguided individuals try to skirt company terms of service agreements by emphatically declaring that they reserve the right to share their biometric data with others? Will conservatives blame Obamacare for all of this? Will progressives blame Dick Cheney for all of this?

The next few years are going to be fun - and all of the data recorders will know exactly how fun it's going to be for all of us.

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Why I do not fear Big Brother, the DHS-CIA edition

I have repeatedly said that the nature of bureaucracy serves to prevent any concerted Big Brother event from happening. Conspiracy theorists imagine that Mossad and the CIA and Dow Chemical are all plotting against us from an underground bunker in Brussels, but the truth is that organizations don't want to cooperate with each other.

The latest example comes from the Schengen region in Europe, a group of countries that monitor people coming in an out of the region. In its efforts to secure the world from terrorists, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security is assisting the Schengen region with biometric technology to identify people who are coming in and out of the area.



Unfortunately, the DHS initiative is causing potential problems for the CIA.

In 2015, a new entry-exit system that mandates fingerprint identification is scheduled to go live, the guidelines note: "The European Commission is considering requiring travelers who do not require visas to provide biometric data at their first place of entry into the Schengen area, which would increase the identity threat level for all U.S. travelers” – spies included.

So if you're a CIA spy trying to sneak into the Schengen area, the DHS tools can serve to reveal your real identity.


Monday, December 22, 2014

Outreach fails when you don't know who's reaching out

This is the nice warm fuzzy time of the year when companies send corporate holiday wishes. For example, I received a holiday message which, in part, read like this.

I have intentionally refrained from posting the name of the company that sent me this holiday message - not that it did me any good when I got the message. Because when I saw the name of the company that sent the message, I asked myself, "Who are they?"

The message basically said that "Company X will be closed on these days. Happy holidays!" It didn't identify what the company did. It didn't even include a link to the company's website, or the address of the company, or anything.

I sat there, looking at the message, and racking my brain to try to remember who this company was, out of the hundreds or thousands of companies that probably have my email address. What does this particular company do? Were they selling insurance? Did they manufacture optical components for fingerprint readers? No idea.

So I decided to perform a web search for the company...and it turns out that the company name is so generic that there are several companies with that same name. Luckily, the email that I received contained the logo of the company, and one of the companies in the search had that same logo.

So now I finally knew who this company was that had wished me holiday greetings.

And I also now knew what the company did.

It was a company that helps you increase your sales - presumably by making sure that your customers know what you can offer to them.

Thursday, December 18, 2014

Has "The Interview II" been green-lighted?

I almost titled this post "Has 'The Interview II' been green-lighted? You won't believe the opening scene!" But that would have been too low.

Before detailing the news below, I should remind you that this is information THAT YOU WILL NOT FIND ANYWHERE ELSE. (Hint, hint.)

That having been said, I should quickly point out something from "The Interview I" that has concerned some people. According to multiple sources, including IMDB, famed restaurant "critic" Guy Fieri had a role in "The Interview." He was supposed to play the part of Guy Fieri. When all of the brouhaha ended up cancelling the Christmas release of "The Interview," no one was more upset than the world's number one Guy Fieri fan.


Well, Mark, if the spurious information that I have received is correct, you will be very happy in 18 months.

According to this information, financiers in Florida have promised to provide full funding for a sequel to the cancelled movie. In the sequel, entitled "The Interview II," the characters played by James Franco and Seth Rogen secure an interview with Raul Castro, leader of the island nation of Cuba. Based upon the source of the financing, I think you know how the movie is going to end.

But before that, the draft script for the film sets the scene with a very prominent role for Guy Fieri, who will again play Guy Fieri.

(A nearly empty street in downtown Havana. Guy Fieri is sitting behind the wheel of a huge 1950s automobile. A camera is pointed toward him.

GUY FIERI: Welcome to this special edition of "Diners, Drive Ins, and Dives!" In this special edition, I'm going to take this baby for a spin through the streets of Havana, Cuba! Now that it's easier than ever to come down here, I want to let you gringos know the best places to get some authentic Cuban food! So, let's go!


GUY FIERI: Hey, the car won't start! Can we redo that last line?

(The camera is pointed at Fieri.)

GUY FIERI: I want to let you gringos know the best places to get some authentic Cuban food! So, let's go! ... Damn! This car is a pile of crap! Go get another one!

CUBAN ASSISTANT: Mr. Fuego, there are no other cars.

GUY FIERI: Well, you just get Raul on the line and tell him that I can't film a drive in show if my car won't drive!

CUBAN ASSISTANT: We can get ten people to push the car for you, Mr. Fuego.

GUY FIERI: Forget it! We can just film this scene on a Hollywood back lot! I got to keep to schedule. Now how am I going to get to the first restaurant?

CUBAN ASSISTANT: Mr. Fuego, you have to shoot the opening scene here. Right now.

GUY FIERI: The hell I do! Now let's get-

CUBAN ASSISTANT: Excuse me, Mr. Fuego. You will shoot the scene now. Here.

GUY FIERI: Who's gonna make me? You and what army?


(Several Cuban military officers drag GUY FIERI out of the automobile and take him away.)

When Fuego - I mean Fieri - actually performs this scene, I think that we will see a Best Supporting Actor Oscar nomination.

On the MPAA and its purpose to protect creativity

If you go to the website for the Motion Picture Association of America, you will see some wonderful words on "protecting creativity":

The MPAA believes in protecting creative works and the people who make them. Whether you’re making a film, writing a book or recording a song, the amount of time, effort, and investment is more than a passion – it’s also someone’s livelihood. For America’s creative sector to thrive, intellectual property laws must protect the hard work of creators and makers while ensuring an Internet that works for everyone.

This desire to "protect creativity" has led the MPAA to endorse SOPA (remember SOPA?) and take other actions that some see as restricting creativity, not protecting it.

Fast-forward to the present day, and it seems that the movie theater chains and studios aren't all that eager to protect creativity.

And Hollywood caves, again.

Following Sony’s announcement to pull the plug on “The Interview,” Paramount Pictures is ordering theaters across the country not to screen “Team America: World Police” in its place.

Both movies poke at the country of North Korea, and both Sony and Paramount fear that showing these films may anger North Koreans and may result in virtual or physical damage to their companies. Sony, which has already suffered virtual damage, pulled the plug on "The Interview" after the major theater chains refused to show it. One independent theater, the Alamo Drafthouse (see this post), decided creativity by showing "Team America: World Police" instead. Paramount shot that idea down.

Now Sony and Paramount, as the owners of the media in question, have the legal right to do these things.

But the next time the MPAA wants us to pass a new law to "protect creativity," we can certainly ask when MPAA members are going to "protect creativity" themselves.

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

What I said about Cuba 13 days ago

On December 4, I wrote a post about Cuba, having no idea that President Obama would soon take executive actions to increase connections between the United States and Cuba.

I'd like to reiterate something that I wrote 13 days ago.

Actually, relaxation of the U.S. embargo would be the worst thing that could happen to Cuba. For decades, Fidel and Raul Castro have been able to blame all of Cuba's problems on the evil Yankees to the north. If the U.S. suddenly relaxed sanctions, what would Cuba do then? Who could they blame? And what would they do with the influx of Americans, with their connected cell phones and their wild capitalist behavior?

Watch out, Cuba. The Simpsons, bacon, and cat pictures are headed your way.

You can't refuse to own an Oscar. You don't really own it.

Ownership is an odd concept. When you buy software, you don't own it; you receive a license to use it. That license usually doesn't let you mucky about with the source code.

And even if you truly "own" something, there may be substantial restrictions on its use which effectively mean that you don't really own it.

Take a particular statue that is manufactured by R.S. Owens & Company in Chicago - the statue that goes by the nickname "Oscar," but is formally known as the Academy Award of Merit. You see people getting the award, and carrying it off the stage. But what happens after that?

Let's say that a few years have elapsed. Let's say your grandfather actually won the award. Let's say you're short on money. What then?

Take the case of Cyrus Todd, the grandson of late producer Michael Todd. In 1989, Cyrus Todd found himself nearly broke, so he reportedly decided to sell his grandfather’s 1956 Best Picture Oscar for Around the World in 80 Days. For help, Todd turned to Malcolm Willits, a movie-memorabilia expert and owner of the Collector’s Bookstore in Hollywood, Calif.

However, there's a teeny complication. When Michael Todd won that Oscar in 1956, he signed an agreement.

Since 1950, the Academy has required Oscar winners to sign an agreement stipulating that neither they–nor their heirs–will sell their statuettes without first offering to sell them back to the Academy for a buck. Refuse to sign, and the Academy keeps the statuette. “They’re not tchotchkes to be bought off of a shelf,” sniffs an academy spokesman.

In the case of Cyrus Todd, the Academy got a court order to block any sale.

And the Academy keeps on fighting Oscar sales, although apparently the resale price of the Oscar has gone up.

The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences sued an heir of cinematographer Robert Surtees, claiming the right to buy Surtees' 1953 Oscar for $10, not the $40,500 for which it was offered on eBay.

Of course, the whole thing doesn't matter if you never win an Oscar in the first place - or if you win an Oscar and refuse it.

On March 5, 1973, Marlon Brando declined the Academy Award for Best Actor for his gut-wrenching performance as Vito Corleone in "The Godfather"....

On the evening of March 5, when Liv Ullman and Roger Moore read out the name of the Best Actor award recipient, neither presenter parted their lips in a smile. Their gaze fell on a woman in Apache dress, whose long, dark hair bobbed against her shoulders as she climbed the stairs.

Moore extended the award to Littlefeather, who waved it away with an open palm. She set a letter down on the podium, introduced herself, and said:

"I'm representing Marlon Brando this evening and he has asked me to tell you ... that he very regretfully cannot accept this very generous award. And the reasons for this being are the treatment of American Indians today by the film industry —"

Obviously Brando's refusal was not a rousing endorsement of capitalism, but I'm waiting for the day when someone - either someone who portrays a businessperson on film, or someone who is a businessperson in real life - ascends the podium and gives the following Best Actor/Best Actress speech:

While the Academy makes a big show of giving these Oscars away, the truth is that they retain the right to purchase the Oscar back in the future for a mere ten dollars. I will no longer participate in this cover-up, which represents the way in which the film industry continues to rip off the actors and actresses who make billions of dollars for them.

Of course, anyone who rejected a Best Actor or Best Actress award would never work in the town of Hollywood again.

Unless said person had the heft of Marlon Brando.

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Remember my pictures of the mall at Pentagon City? Treasure them while you can.

I've always told myself, "Someday I'm going to take pictures of an area, so that when it changes, I'll remember what it used to look like."

Unintentionally, I have done just that.

Back in 2005, I was in Arlington, Virginia, and took pictures of the interior of a mall in Pentagon City. They were posted in the Ontario Empoblog.

(The Audioblogger service, incidentally, closed down years ago.)

As you can probably guess, Pentagon City is close to the Pentagon, and like everything else in Arlington, it's on prime real estate.

Well, the long-range plan for that area has been released, and that mall will go away. Eventually.

Kimco Realty Corp., owner of Pentagon Centre, has released its revised phasing plan for the site's redevelopment, ahead of a meeting Thursday with Arlington County's Long Range Planning Committee. While the enclosed mall (currently anchored by Best Buy and other big boxes) will disappear in roughly 20 years, Costco sticks around at least until 2050.

Hey, Costco can outlast just about everything.

Perhaps Weiss Law LLP should sue its webmaster

I ran across a press release that said that Weiss Law LLP was beginning a legal investigation into the acquisition of PetSmart, Inc. Weiss Law is specifically concerned about two things:

Notably, the offer price represents a mere 6.8% premium over the Company's December 12, 2014 closing price. Additionally, Longview Asset Management, PETM's second largest shareholder, has committed to voting in favor of the acquisition while simultaneously participating in the consortium.

So I went to Weiss Law LLP's website,, to find out more. The top of the website includes links to a number of areas of interest, ranging from cases to FAQs.

I tried the "Cases" link...and got an error.

I tried every other link...and got an error.

Then I poked around and realized that the link buttons directed people to very specific addresses - for example, the "Cases" link goes to When I manually typed in, I was fine.

It looks like Weiss Law LLP should sue its webmaster for improper link coding.

Monday, December 15, 2014

Sydney hospitality manager Tori Johnson - some things just aren't taught in school

Tori is a dedicated, committed person who puts everything into making sure the job is done right.
James Makarewicz, recommendation on Tori Johnson's LinkedIn profile

The recommendation was given based upon Johnson's work as the restaurant manager at the Adria Rybar & Grill. He left that position in 2012 to become the store manager at the flagship location of the Lindt Chocolate Café...on Martin Place in Sydney.

Looking over his LinkedIn profile, it appears that Johnson had a number of positions with increasing responsibility. Starting as a hotel porter and valet, he secured more responsible positions in Australia - taking a brief break to come to the United States to get a degree (a bachelor of arts in hospitality business management from Washington State University).

I'm sure that Johnson learned a lot of things in the classroom, and at his various positions. But there's one topic that he probably never came across - what to do when you, your staff, and your customers are confronted by a gunman intent on taking hostages.

At the time I'm writing this, one story has been neither proven nor disproven.

There are unconfirmed reports he wrestled with the gunman in the cafe as other hostages tried to flee.

Johnson died in the final minutes of the hostage situation.

Friday, December 12, 2014

Why national borders will survive longer than personal privacy

(Before I start this post, I wanted to mention something. My posts often contain links to information, either previous posts written by myself, or things written by others. This particular post has a lot of the latter category, including a Louis Gray tweet of a Valleywag article, a list that Tad Donaghe wrote on Medium, and a number of articles from sources such as CNN and CNET. If a particular topic interests you, I strongly encourage you to follow the link and explore it further. And of course, the trackbacks to this blog post don't hurt me either...)

Even if you don't personally own a smartphone, it's quite possible that many of your movements are being captured. Maybe your city has installed cameras that are watching you. Maybe your friend performed a "check in" and mentioned that you were at the same location. Maybe you've filed a required legal document that is now part of the online public record. Maybe someone has hacked into some private information and revealed secret things about you.

Because of this, many people are saying that the whole concept of privacy is a thing of the past.

Personal example: I had resisted installing Waze on my smartphone for several reasons, one of which was that I didn't necessarily want to have my every move tracked in a server. Then one day, I discovered that Google Now was able to inform me exactly where I had parked my car. (It hypothesized, based upon smartphone movements, the time when I got out of my fast-moving automobile and started slowly walking away from it.) Despite my supposed care, my location was being tracked pretty well anyway. When you combine (insert B-- D--- buzzword here) from a multitude of sources, it's possible to figure out what you're doing.

But technology doesn't just impact privacy. It also impacts national laws.

Let's use export laws as an example. Country A, for national reasons (security, economics, whatever) decides to restrict exports of a product to Country B. However, it's a lot easier to break national export laws today than it was a few hundred years ago.

In the 1700s, if someone in Philadelphia wanted to flout national (British) export law, he'd have to get a hold of a ship, journey to a territory outside of British rule, and then smuggle the goods back to Philadelphia. This took a lot of time and a lot of money.

Today, that same person could sit in his (or her) home and flout the law much more easily, perhaps requiring something no more complex than an anonymizer. The whole process might take mere seconds, and you wouldn't get seasick in the process.

So it's possible for individuals to flout the laws of nations. The nations, however, are fighting back. Spain has passed content laws that are forcing Google to shut down Google Noticias in Spain. Swedish laws have brought the Pirate Bay offline. Russia is enacting laws that are forcing Google (again) to take its engineers out of Russia.

The starry-eyed among us may predict that, in the same way that privacy is going away, the whole idea of national laws will go away. Companies such as Google and Microsoft will eventually be able to do business without regard to borders or those pesky national laws. (Except, of course, when we like the national laws in question.)

But the starry-eyed forget that the same technology that can be used to flout national laws can also be used to enforce them. Sure, it's possible to get around the Great Firewall of China, but you'll get in trouble if you do, as this October story demonstrates.

Wang Long has been held in custody in Longgang district for “picking quarrels and provoking trouble”, his former lawyer Fan Biaowen told the South China Morning Post....

Wang reposted at least six photos from Twitter and Facebook on Weibo showing thousands of Occupy Central supporters and students protesting against Beijing’s decision to set strict limits on the 2017 Hong Kong elections....

At the same time, Microsoft (headquartered in the United States) is fighting a United States government request to provide access to data stored on an Irish server. Microsoft's argument is that the U.S. request is a violation of Irish law, and Microsoft asks how the U.S. would react if the shoe were on the other foot:

Imagine this scenario. Officers of the local Stadtpolizei investigating a suspected leak to the press descend on Deutsche Bank headquarters in Frankfurt, Germany. They serve a warrant to seize a bundle of private letters that a New York Times reporter is storing in a safe deposit box at a Deutsche Bank USA branch in Manhattan. The bank complies by ordering the New York branch manager to open the reporter’s box with a master key, rummage through it, and fax the private letters to the Stadtpolizei....

The U.S. Secretary of State fumes: “We are outraged by the decision to bypass existing formal procedures that the European Union and the United States have agreed on for bilateral cooperation, and to embark instead on extraterritorial law enforcement activity on American soil in violation of international law and our own privacy laws.” Germany’s Foreign Minister responds: “We did not conduct an extraterritorial search – in fact we didn’t search anything at all. No German officer ever set foot in the United States. The Stadtpolizei merely ordered a German company to produce its own business records, which were in its own possession, custody, and control. The American reporter’s privacy interests were fully protected, because the Stadtpolizei secured a warrant from a neutral magistrate.”

Regardless of the outcome of the Google, Pirate Bay, Wang Long, or Microsoft cases, it is clear that national borders - and national laws that conflict with the laws of other nations - will be around for a very long time.

Monday, December 8, 2014

Uber and Lyft are so last week. Here's the new taxi model - not.

I just posted a comment in a private thread on a leading social media service, and I wanted to transfer my thoughts to my own blog before Mashable or Buzzfeed or whoever rips off my revolutionary idea. My original comment is in my usual bold italic style, and I'll insert comments as I go along.

I probably shouldn't say this, but I'm about to reveal my solution for hired car customer satisfaction - rather than having a booking company arrange things with independent contractor drivers...

Note that this pretty much applies to both the new model (Uber/Lyft) and the old model (your average taxicab company). For example, here's how one company organized its workforce:

USA Cab owns a fleet of about 45 taxis that it leases to drivers, and it operates a taxi dispatch service. At issue in the case was whether USA Cab’s classification of the drivers as independent contractors was proper. The Plaintiffs’ brought a putative class action alleging that due to the misclassification, USA Cab failed to provide workers’ compensation insurance, failed to pay minimum wages, improperly required drivers to pay security deposits and other fees, and denied them meal and rest breaks.

When you call a cab company, you think of the cab company as a single the same way that you think of McDonalds as a single entity. In reality, however, the cab company contracts with other people, but imposes all sorts of regulations on what those people can do. Here's another example:

Every time I use my [credit] card to pay, the [taxi] drivers ask if I would mind giving them cash, notwithstanding that just about every major cab company advertises that they gladly accept cards. So I finally started asking what the difference was....The answer came in two parts.

First, the cab companies charge the driver a percentage of the fare in order to process the cards. That fee can run up to ten percent according to some drivers that I spoke with. The drivers are getting ripped off but they do not fully understand it because they are unaware of what the cab companies are actually paying their credit card processor to handle the transaction....

The other problem with accepting credit cards, according to many drivers, is the delay in payment by the cab companies. They can take up to three weeks to remit the money back to the driver, according to a cabbie I spoke with in New York. So that means that when you pay by credit card, the driver is not getting the money at the end of the shift, has to pay a premium to get paid, and may have to wait until the cab company gets around to settling with him.

Now I don't know how fast the newer companies such as Uber and Lyft pay their contractors, but the fact remains that they are contractors, not employees.

Which brings me back to my original comment in the private thread.

...what would happen if a company actually owned the taxicabs and used salaried employees? Then they could control quality and roll out service improvements more easily...

Think about it. I am an employee of a large company, and if the company wants to roll out a quality initiative, it can persuade its own employees to do what needs to be done. Granted that firms have similar control over independent contractors (or franchisees), but it all works a little better if you have a boss who reports to the boss who reports to the boss that wants the change made.

...nah, it would never work.

This is how I concluded my private comment. Why won't it work? Because the entire economy is moving away from big firms with many employees. The trend is more toward franchising, independent contracting, anything that keeps the employee numbers down and reduces cost. Remember my "page 462" post, in which a store (the Empoprisorium) is a literal shell, contracting with major companies such as Vizio to provide goods and employees, but making sure that all of the profit goes to the shell store.

Which reminds me - on about page 383 of the guide, you'll see that all sales that you conduct in our store have to pass through our cash registers. None of this booking sales on the floor that go some other way. If we catch you making sales that don't go through our cash registers, we will kill you. Literally. See page 462.

So you'll have more and more cases where you'll deal with a "company" that in actuality is a lot of independent firms, all being ripped off.

In which I reveal Illuminati secrets on Quora

Ever since I installed the Quora app on my personal tablet, I've been more active in Quora - reviewing questions, spouting off answers, and the like. There aren't a lot of items posted about my business interest (biometrics), but there is certainly a lot of traffic on other topics that interest me.

Including, of course, the Illuminati.

Not too long ago, someone asked this question:

How would one know if one is being recruited by the Illuminati?

How can I avoid missing the signals. How do I convince myself that I am not being pranked upon? How is one assured of the genuine-nature of the request (approach?) if at all?

This is obviously a major concern for a lot of people, and many respectful Quora members gave the question the serious answer it deserved. One excerpt:

The first rule of the Illuminati is that no one talks about the Illuminati.

I also answered the question, but my answer needs to be placed into context. A few days before seeing this particular question, I had read two accounts of the joys of working at Radio Shack. I am unable to find either of these now, but I can summarize both of them as follows: working at Radio Shack, especially during the holidays, stinks. One account described how a mall Radio Shack had to open really really early on one holiday, but that no shoppers arrived for an hour or two. A couple of employees just up and quit during the long day, and corporate eventually authorized the store to close early, after it had sold hardly anything.

Anyway, with these in mind, here is how I answered the question about Illuminati recruitment.

Let me guess. You thought "Radio Shack" was an electronics retailer. I will admit that the displays in the temples - I mean the stores - can be convincing, but the fact that there were no customers should have given you a hint that the "cashier job" was not what it seemed.

Yes, I know that I've revealed terrible secrets there, but how do you think that I was able to join the Radio Shack Battery Club in the first place? They didn't just hand those memberships out.

Friday, December 5, 2014

An opposing view - why people like big rooms (obeya)

I hate cubicle hell, and I a continuously thankful that I don't work in one of those kewl places where everyone sits at a table. I like to think, and it's hard to think when people are chattering all over the place.

But my view is not the only view, so I figured I'd give equal time to someone who believes that walls hamper productivity.

That "someone" is Jon Miller, who was writing about lean thingies back in 2010. He started by telling the rules that were imposed on him for one project.

Early in my career as a lean consultant the client gave my project team "free rein" to direct a business transformation, with three disclaimers: don't fire any customers, don't discontinue any products, and don't move any walls.

The client was not talking about processes with that third disclaimer - the client was talking about real, physical walls.

When someone defines restrictions - barriers, as it were - it is the natural inclination of some people to challenge those restrictions. And Miller wanted to challenge all of them. In the post, he talked specifically about walls, noting the an obeya (big room) could solve five problems. Here's the second benefit of a big, wall-less room:

Fewer meetings. When walls come down, the need for meetings is reduced. More time can be spent in small but timely bursts of communication. More progress is made on issues within an obeya than within the traditional meeting room due to the information displayed there and the fact that it is a working area for a cross-functional team; they want the meeting over and you out of their space so they can get back to work. Multiply the man-minutes of meetings reduced times the cost and this is another concrete way that removing walls increases profit.

For the other four, see Miller's post.

Thursday, December 4, 2014

Requisite storage - two very important words in President Obama's Body Worn Camera Partnership Program

I've previously talked ad nauseum about the issues involved in getting police agencies to use body worn cameras. In the past, I've discussed societal costs. But there are also monetary costs.

President Obama has proposed to help local agencies meet these costs.

The President has proposed a three-year, $263 million investment package that will:

•Increase police officers’ use of body worn cameras
•Expand training for law enforcement agencies (LEAs)
•Add more resources for police department reform
•Multiply the number of cities where the Department of Justice facilitates community and local LEA engagement

Part of the proposal is a new Body Worn Camera Partnership Program, which would provide a 50 percent match to states and localities that purchase body worn cameras and requisite storage. In fact, the proposed $75 million, three-year investment could help purchase 50,000 body worn cameras.

As noted in a recent report released by Community Oriented Policing Services (COPS) and the Police Executive Research Forum (PERF), evidence shows that body worn cameras help strengthen accountability and transparency, and that officers and civilians both act in a more positive manner when they're aware that a camera is present.

As you can see, the cost to implement body worn cameras could be $150 million or more - $75 million from the Federal government, and $75 million from states and localities. However, if you read the statement carefully, it doesn't just cover the cameras. Note the following two words:

requisite storage

Extremely important words. When you're using these cameras, you're amassing a large amount of video. PoliceOne's Tim Dees attempted to calculate the costs involved.

Here’s a calculation based on a 50-officer agency: say 60% of your cops work on a typical day, and each produces an average of four hours of video. If the video is encoded at 640x480 VGA (the format stored by the TASER AXON system, one of the more popular models) it’s going to take up 15-20 MB of space per minute (TASER may compress the video better than that— this is just an estimation). That’s just over 1 GB per hour, times four hours, times 30 cops, times three shifts: 360 GB per day, more than a terabyte every three days, ten terabytes per month.

How long do you want to keep that video on file before you delete it? If you say “forever,” get ready to write an increasingly large check each month. If you can live with, say, three months, that’s about 30 terabytes worth of storage, plus whatever you keep around for open cases.

Amazon Web Services (AWS) is one of the largest cloud storage services in the world. Netflix uses them for their trove of streaming video. There are a lot of variables, but the figure I got for keeping this volume of video online with AWS, creating a new volume at the end of each sift, is $6260.79. Apply whatever multiples you might need for more cops or a longer retention interval.

As Dees notes, the cost of storage far outweighs the initial costs of the cameras themselves. And Dees notes that while the cameras themselves are one-time purchases (until they break), storage is an ongoing cost. What happens when the Body Worn Camera Partnership Program runs out of money? Will the states and localities fund the whole thing at 100%, or will they shut the whole thing down due to lack of funding?

Dees has a solution:

If the federal government was to provide archiving services for bodycam-generated video, the storage costs for local agencies would disappear.

Silicon Valley is Devoid of Reason - or, if this Yaser Abdel Said ad is correct, Silicon Valley CAN replace the government

As I've noted before, there is a small group of people in Silicon Valley who believe that governments are irrelevant, and that the wise ones of the Valley can do things much better than governments can.

Based on something that I saw today, either these visionaries are correct, or the famed technology just made a very big blunder.

Earlier today, the U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation added Yaser Abel Said to its well-known Top Ten List of fugitives. Said is accused of murdering his two teenage daughters in 2008.

While searching for information on Said and his alleged crime, I encountered this advertisement on the search page.

Heck, law enforcement has been looking for this guy for years, and a web company knew where he was all along?

Obviously, this is an example of unintended consequences. Both the advertising firm and the advertiser figured that if someone were using a search engine to get information on "John Doe," it would be a wonderful idea to let the searcher know that the advertiser could provide information on anyone - including "John Doe."

What could go wrong?

Why isn't the world investing in Cuba?

I've often wondered about something.

Whenever Cuba is described, it's portrayed as a place populated by decrepit cars from the 1950s, a backwards place that hasn't seen any real growth since Batista was kicked out and Fidel Castro took over.

Why is this?

Yes, the U.S. maintains an economic embargo against Cuba, but the rest of the world does not. Why aren't Canadians and Germans and French selling modern cars and other things to Cuba?

As it turns out, this is Cuba's own fault. Cuba is actually begging people to invest - it would like to see over $8.7 billion in investment in nearly 250 potential projects. But Cuba's focus on central planning has resulted in so much inefficiency that it's at cross-purposes with itself.

Chinese executive George Yan said he asked in May for permission to build a $1 million plant at Mariel that would employ 100 Cubans to assemble energy-saving LED lights. Despite receiving initial approval three months later, he has not been shown potential sites for the factory or received other indications the project can proceed.

Note that Yan is Chinese, and China, like Cuba, is a single-party state under control of the Communist Party. So what would happen if Yan were to request such an investment at home?

In China, he said, "this would take 24 hours."

Actually, relaxation of the U.S. embargo would be the worst thing that could happen to Cuba. For decades, Fidel and Raul Castro have been able to blame all of Cuba's problems on the evil Yankees to the north. If the U.S. suddenly relaxed sanctions, what would Cuba do then? Who could they blame? And what would they do with the influx of Americans, with their connected cell phones and their wild capitalist behavior?

It's already bad enough that Italians want to - horrors! - check their email. When one traveler asked about getting a SIM card to check her email during a planned vacation in Cuba, someone provided this response.

The email app has to be added by Etecsa to your phone.. As a tourist you cannot buy a SIM card, only Cubans can and they are only permitted one per person. You can, however, rent a sim card.

My understanding is that, unless you know someone, the email app is now only added to a mobile phone purchased in an Etecsa shop. The only way I managed to get the app on my phone is that I had a friend who knew someone that worked in the Etecsa office.

If enough American tourists show up and start demanding the same things that they can get an any other destination, the Cubans would beg the American government to restart the embargo pronto.

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Broadcasters and cable/satellite providers, don't forget that the consumers may take action against you

I've been talking about this for years.

Let's say that you're a customer of Super Cable Satellite Company, a cable/satellite provider that offers a number of channels, including the Watching Paint Dry Channel. One day you're watching your favorite channel, and the following message appears:

Do you love the Watching Paint Dry Channel? After September 30, the Super Cable Satellite Company may refuse to air the Watching Paint Dry Channel! Tell SCSC that you want them to keep paint programming on the air!

A little while later, the Super Cable Satellite Company airs its own message:

We at the Super Cable Satellite Company strive to provide entertainment services at an affordable price. However, the Watching Paint Dry Channel is asking us to pay exorbitant fees - fees that we would be forced to pass on to you. Tell the WPDC that they should be reasonable!

And they fight and fight and fight...until they reach a secret agreement that they don't discuss. And who loses? The customer.

I haven't talked about these battles recently, just because I've gotten so tired of them. The latest incident that I discussed occurred back in February, when DirecTV actually removed the Weather Channel from its channel lineup. By April, the two entities kissed and made up.

A brief item in Courthouse News Service, however, reminds everyone that consumers have power also. Although details are not provided, a class action suit has been filed against Dish Network for its month-long refusal to provide Turner Broadcasting channels to its subscribers.

The Washington Examiner provides additional information:

Plaintiff Craig Felzien is seeking class action status for all DISH Network customers between Oct. 21 and Nov. 20. During this period of time, the satellite company blacked out broadcasts on some stations, including CNN, Headline News, the Cartoon Network, Adult Swim, TruTV, Turner Classic Movies, Boomerang, The Hub and CNN en Espanol.

Felzien had two problems with Dish, according to the Washington Examiner.

First, despite the fact that Dish had effectively reduced its service offering, it continued to charge Felzien the same price.

Second, during the month in question, "DISH Network continued to advertise that it carried the channels in its TV packages available to customers despite the programs being blacked out."

Dish will presumably argue that Felzien signed a contract that allowed Dish to reduce service without compensating subscribers, and will presumably come up with some legal argument against Felzien's other contention.

But this introduces an interesting wrinkle to future disputes between content providers and cable/satellite companies - if programming actually gets pulled for a day, or a month, or three months, will a consumer class action lawsuit follow?

Sales hunting, farming, and compensation

The November/December 2014 print issue of Sales & Marketing Managment includes an article entitled "Sales suffer from too much farming and not enough hunting." It references the thoughts of Mike Weinberg, but those thoughts aren't new to 2014 - he actually shared them in May 2011.

But before we get to Weinberg's observations, we need to define the terms "hunting" and "farming." Here's how Steve Martinez defines them:

We essentially have two ways to generate business. One is through the process of hunting for new business and the other is farming our existing clients for new business....

Hunting is when we seek out new business and try to take business away from another company. The other method is to use our existing client base for referrals and references and grow through client share and vertical markets....

When it comes to hunting or farming, I think hunting is harder. You might liken it to chasing rabbits.

All other things being equal, hunting truly is harder. When you farm (in a sales sense), you already know who to talk to - just talk to the same people that you've been talking to all along. When you're hunting, it may take some time to find out who to talk to, and it will take additional time for your prey (in hunter terms) to figure out who YOU are.

So if you recognize that hunting is harder than farming, and that human nature causes us to gravitate toward easy things - when was the last time you personally slaughtered an animal to put meat on your dinner table? - then you can guess what happens when someone is supposed to hunt and farm - the focus of Weinberg's May 2011 post. Of course, Weinberg has to get our attention first:

The single biggest problem I see contributing to lack of new business development success is the hybrid hunter-farmer sales role.

Toward the end of his discussion, he asks the following question:

Is your sales compensation structured in such a way that a dollar sold to an existing account pays the same commission as a dollar sold to a new account? Year after year?

Eliot Burdett agrees:

If the strategy is to enter new markets, the commissions will need to be sufficiently high to justify the additional effort required to break new ground – otherwise reps will stick to what they know will put commission in their pockets.

Conversely, if your chief goal is to service existing accounts, you'll flip your commission structure the other way. But if your commissions are flat regardless of the type of customer, you may not get the behavior that you want.

Monday, December 1, 2014

All hell is about to break loose - in court

Earl the Black Pearl sounds like one bad...

...(shut your mouth!)

Actually, Earl the Black Pearl was the main character in the book Street Players, written (by convict turned author Donald Goines) at about the same time as Shaft. The 1973 book was recently re-released in a new edition by Kensington Publishing.

With ice in his veins and a stable of women to keep his money rolls thick and plenty, Earl the Black Pearl has every intention of staying at the top of the brutal empire he created. But when someone starts picking off his crew, all hell is about to break loose--because Earl isn't letting anyone threaten what he's worked so hard to build. With the streets about to blow up into a violent free-for-all, Earl knows what he has to do--get the enemy or die trying. . .

If you look at the cover of the 2014 release of the book, you can see that Earl is bad.

Well, actually you can't, because Earl the Black Pearl is a fictional character. So who is on the cover?

[Charles] Christian, a black entrepreneur and Nashville church deacon, took part in a private photography session as a gift to his wife in April 2013....

He was then told by friends and family that his picture was on the cover of Donald Goines' book "Street Players."

Christian has acquired legal representation (Howell O'Rear of McInteer & O'Rear in Nashville) and is suing Kensington Publishing. However, there is no discussion of the contract that Christian signed with the private photographer, and who retained the rights to the pictures.

Predictions are hard - how fast will the facial recognition market grow?

Perhaps you're under the impression that by reading free news sources such as the Empoprise-BI business blog, you can get all of the information that you need.

But to get quality information, you have to pay money - sometimes thousands of dollars.

Take the whole business of industry analyses. There are a number of firms that provide information, analysis, and future predictions for various vertical industries. For example, I am employed in the biometrics industry, and there are firms that examine that industry and try to predict where it is headed.

One of these firms, Research and Markets, has announced the availability of a new study on the facial recognition industry.

The global facial recognition market was valued at USD 1.17 billion in 2013 and is expected to grow at a CAGR of 9.5% from 2014 to 2020. Currently, the market is primarily driven by robust technological advancements for development of efficient surveillance systems required by civil and government agencies.

At the same time, another firm, TechNavio, has announced its own study.

TechNavio's analysts forecast the Global Facial Recognition market to grow at a CAGR of 25.7 percent over the period 2014-2019.

They can't both be right - unless the industry suffers a MASSIVE collapse between 2019 and 2020.

Incidentally, if you're interested in facial recognition and the artistic world, keep an eye on my tymshft time blog. You may see something of interest there in the future.

Did Black Thursday redden Black Friday?

You may not have seen my Thursday post that predicted a time when no one would shop on Black Thursday because they were all working.

Well, one thing already happened this year - Black Thursday adversely affected Black Friday, according to Fortune.

The National Retail Federation’s estimate that retail sales fell 11% over the key four-day Thanksgiving-Black Friday shopping weekend was a disaster....

“The consumer has gotten a lot smarter. Retailers created their own pain and suffering by bringing a lot of deals into the week before Black Friday. It diminished the excitement,” David Bassuk, managing director and co-leader of the global retail practice at AlixPartners, told Fortune. “It’s made Black Friday a non-event.”

Oh, and Cyber Monday - today - may have also been harmed.

The entire psychology behind event marketing takes a tumble when the things that were supposed to happen on the day after Thanksgiving, or the day that we all returned back to work, are instead spread out over several days. While Forbes may postulate that you CAN extend the Black Friday psychology over several days - or an entire year - by emphasizing things such as scarcity and anticipation, you're not going to get the crowds out there in droves by spreading things out. Let's face it, if Disney kept its movies on the market all the time, it would lose a ton of marketing opportunities.

I (Heart) ... who, exactly?

Back in the 1970s, Milton Glaser created a famous logo to advertise New York. The logo caught on so much that it has been parodied and has been the subject of trademark infringement lawsuits (3,000 as of 2005). The intent of all of this activity is to make it very clear - the "I [Heart] New York" campaign belongs to New York.


which one?

The work was originally done for the STATE of New York, and if you go to the website, it is very clear that the logo can be used to promote the entire state.

But what if you go to the SWEDISH site,

Those aren't the Catskills, I don't think.

To confuse things further, there's a little fact that many people don't realize - there is a New York COUNTY. (Here is the page for the New York County Clerk.) New York City is unusual inasmuch as it is a single city that has five counties within it. One of those counties, New York County, is the area that we commonly know as Manhattan - and, coincidentally, the place that many people think of when they think of "New York."

So do you love New York County, New York City, or New York State? Or the community in Kentucky? Or perhaps the places outside of the city walls of the City of York in England?

Ah, forget it.

With apologies to Frank Black.