Tuesday, January 29, 2019

Can artificial intelligence correct the problems of artificial intelligence?

First, let me start off by saying that the views in this post are my own and not necessarily the views of my employer.

Why the caveat?

Because my employer, like many, is doing things in the artificial intelligence arena.

By Grafiker61 - Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0, Link

Because of this, I make a point of monitoring discussions of artificial intelligence - especially recent discussions regarding possible bias in artificial intelligence algorithms. And while I'm not going to touch [REDACTED] topic, I'll take a moment to highlight this discussion from the MIT Technology Review:

Risk assessment tools are designed to do one thing: take in the details of a defendant’s profile and spit out a recidivism score—a single number estimating the likelihood that he or she will reoffend. A judge then factors that score into a myriad of decisions that can determine what type of rehabilitation services particular defendants should receive, whether they should be held in jail before trial, and how severe their sentences should be. A low score paves the way for a kinder fate. A high score does precisely the opposite.

By RoyHalzenski - Taken by RoyHalzenski (Myself), Public Domain, Link

Obviously an important tool - as author Karen Hao notes, the scores can dramatically impact your life. But Hao has one concern.

Modern-day risk assessment tools are often driven by algorithms trained on historical crime data.

If the potential problem with this isn't immediately apparent to you, let me share an example from outside the criminal world - in fact, it's from the hiring world. And this involves a company that's known for its involvement in AI - the company's named for a river or sumfin.

The team had been building computer programs since 2014 to review job applicants’ resumes with the aim of mechanizing the search for top talent...

“Everyone wanted this holy grail,” one of the people said. “They literally wanted it to be an engine where I’m going to give you 100 resumes, it will spit out the top five, and we’ll hire those.”

Sounds great, doesn't it! So what data was used to power that engine?

[The] computer models were trained to vet applicants by observing patterns in resumes submitted to the company over a 10-year period.

So what happens when you use such data to train algorithms? Because the company was based in the Pacific Northwest, presumably the algorithm favored applicants that liked coffee, wore flannel, and didn't have strong suntans. Those issues in and of themselves were not problems. However, the fact that the source data had a lot of successful candidates who were males - something that led the algorithm to prefer candidates who were male - WAS a problem that caused the company to scrap the effort.

The "garbage in, garbage out" issue isn't limited to AI, but it's something that AI needs to address if algorithms are going to work properly. So if you have garbage data, how do you make it ungarbage?

Another part of MIT proposes to solve the AI data bias problem with...AI.

A team from MIT CSAIL is working on a solution, with an algorithm that can automatically “de-bias” data by resampling it to be more balanced.

The algorithm can learn both a specific task...as well as the underlying structure of the training data, which allows it to identify and minimize any hidden biases. In tests the algorithm decreased "categorical bias" by over 60 percent...while simultaneously maintaining the overall precision of these systems.

Now I don't have the scientific smarts to determine if this other MIT group is blowing smoke. And I should mention in passing that I am more concerned about facial recognition rather than face detection, if you get my drift.

But if we truly can develop algorithms that look at a set of data and normalize it, then the science will take a great step forward.

Assuming, of course, that the bias reduction algorithms are not themselves biased...

By Love Krittaya - Own work, Public Domain, Link

Thursday, January 24, 2019

The Awful, Incompetent, Malfeasant, Terrible-Boss...CEO?

As I write this, portions of the U.S. federal government have been shut down for over a month. And while there are a variety of views regarding the blame for the government shutdown, one fairly popular view places the fault at the feet of the President of the United States.

On Google Plus (note: this link won't work in a few months), Dave Hill describes one of the consequences of this. His post is entitled "The Awful, Incompetent, Malfeasant, Terrible-Boss President."

By Shealah Craighead - White House, Public Domain, Link

The President of the United States is many things, but one huge one is that he is the CEO and, well, President of the biggest organization in the US. A million federal workers work for him. And he is not just letting them down, he is actively screwing them.

Hill then describes the plight of many unpaid essential workers, including employees of the Coast Guard, the Federal Bureau of Investigation, and various parts of the Department of Homeland Security.

So, if President Trump has truly let these federal workers down, why is that? One possible reason is Trump's priority on loyalty. In the Trump Organization, he could insist that every employee be personally loyal to him. The federal government hasn't worked that way since the days of President Arthur. Trump can say "you're fired" to the political appointees, such as Jeff Sessions and Jim Mattis, but he can't terminate civil service workers.

The image, depending upon whom you talk to, is of a heroic President battling against millions of agents of the Deep State, or or a buffoon President wrecking a functioning government.

Either way, you have a head of an organization who is battling against his employees - something that would NEVER EVER EVER happen in the corporate world.

Um...think again. And look at the history of one of the most valuable companies in the known universe. Say, around 1980.


That's the year that the company then known as Apple Computer completed its Initial Public Offering. Steve Jobs was Chairman of Apple Computer, but not its Chief Executive Officer (at the time, that position was held by Michael Scott). Because CEOs rather than Chairmen ran Apple at the time, Steve Jobs was bored:

With the initial public offering of Apple Computers in December 1980, Steve Jobs became a multimillionaire – however, he possessed neither enough stock to lead Apple Computers alone nor to determine his own position within Apple. By the beginning of 1981, he actually found himself to be without management responsibility over any specific project.

Now perhaps for some board chairs, this would be fine. Let the professionals run the company, and just provide a bit of guidance. But this didn't sit well with Jobs, and wouldn't sit well with anyone who thought of himself as a (using 21st century terminology) stable genius. So he found something to do.

To Jef Raskin’s discomfort, [Jobs] threw himself into the Macintosh project, which had not been taken really seriously by the Apple board of management at that time.

As a consequence of throwing himself behind the Mac, Jobs not only considered the Apple II as the enemy (despite the fact that the bulk of Apple Computer's revenues would continue to be from the Apple II for years to come), but also considered the Lisa as the enemy. The fact that these were Apple products themselves didn't matter - Jobs would get what he wanted, regardless of how it affected the overall company.

Steve Jobs kind of came bopping by my [Andy Hertzfeld's] cubicle saying OK you’re working on the Mac now. And I said well I have to finish up this Apple 2 stuff I’m doing here. No you don’t that stinks that’s not going to amount to anything you gotta start now. And I said well just give me a few days to finish and he said no and what he did was he pulled the plug on my Apple 2 that I was programming just losing, losing the code I’m working on and start taking my computer and walking away with it and what could I do but follow him out to his car cause he had my machine he plopped it down in the trunk and drove me over to this remote building, took the computer out, walked upstairs, plopped it down on a desk, well you’re working on the Mac now.


Everyone knows how that turned out - the pirate flag, the name-calling of nearly everyone as bozos, the grandiose introduction of a revolutionary product that changed computer history...followed by lackluster sales. After a boardroom struggle between Jobs and his hand-picked CEO John Sculley, Jobs was impeached and convicted - whoops, I mean he was fired and/or resigned, and left Apple to start a new company, cherry-picking a few of Apple's key employees along the way.

Now I'm not the only one to compare the management styles of Steve Jobs and Donald Trump. Take a guy that we all know as Woz.

Asked whether Tesla CEO Elon Musk is similar to Jobs, the Apple co-founder replied: "Having been close to Steve Jobs, and not that close to Elon Musk, I'd say Steve Jobs is more like (President) Trump."

I fear I hear gasps of horror. Was Woz suggesting that he was the Mike Pence of his day?

Woz, however, justified his comparison by saying this of Jobs: "A lot of shocking things you would never hear about, but you would never want your own child to be that way. You'd just be shocked that a human being would do those things."

Some would claim that Woz may still bear a grudge because Jobs cheated him in an early business deal. But that early business deal is reminiscent of something our President would do.

But because this is my blog, I'll give myself the last word. This is something that I wrote two years ago, in January 2017.

We try to make pirates into beloved cuddly creatures, but pirates can be cut-throat and not nice at all. There are a bunch of victims of Donald Trump, just as there are a bunch of victims of Steve Jobs. The talent, or curse, of pirates is that they have the vision and temperament to look at a society and its rules and decide to do something better while breaking a number of rules along the way. For each pirate, we have to decide if piracy is worth it.

Tuesday, January 22, 2019

When the fine print destroys your image - the Burke Williams surcharge

Burke Williams, using the slogan "beyond the spa," provides massage and other services throughout California. The company's marketing emphasizes a refined, high-class image.

But if you look at the company's FAQs, you'll find something curious.

Why is there a surcharge on my invoice?

Beginning July 1st, 2018, in response to state and local minimum wage increase and to assure that our valued employees continue to receive the compensation and benefits they deserve, a 3% surcharge will be added to all services. 100% of this surcharge goes directly to the compensation of our employees.

Obviously this is a pricing presentation tactic, and in one sense could be compared to other pricing presentation tactics. Gas stations that price in tenths of a cent. Automobile sticker prices that exclude a bunch of things. Companies that charge extra for shipping and handling.

But as Megan Lynch notes, this pricing presentation tactic does not reflect well on Burke Williams' overall message.

You say the “surcharge” is due to minimum wage, but you want to make sure your employees get what they deserve. Which, apparently, is the least amount the law will allow you to pay despite your high prices & tony surrounding.

Think about it. Customers are going to, in Lynch's words, a "tony" place, and probably have above average income themselves - Burke Williams' listed prices (excluding surcharges) for simple massage are around $100 and up, and are higher in San Jose and San Francisco. The company's "transformative journeys" (which sound very Goop-y) are north of $500, and are again higher in San Jose and San Francisco.

Yet the existence of the surcharge suggests that these prices alone are insufficient for the cost of doing business, which (as of July 1, 2018) included wages somewhere between $10.50 per hour and $15 per hour.

Of course, this assumes that Burke Williams classifies its workers as employees and not independent contractors.

Monday, January 21, 2019

Top Ways People Could Prank A Fully Driver-Attended Vehicle

Phoenix New Times ran an article entitled "Top 12 Ways People Could Prank a Fully Driverless Vehicle." While taking great care to explicitly NOT advocate that people do these things (I guess they have lawyers on retainer), Phoenix New Times makes the point that the driverless car algorithms are fairly new, and that if you throw something at them that they don't expect, the algorithms could be fooled to act incorrectly. (Of course, these are examples in which society agrees what the correct activity should be.)

By Grendelkhan - Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0, Link

So I read the 12 ways, and it hit me that while these could fool driverless cars, many of them could fool driver-attended cars also.


Get in, but not out. Autonomous vehicles at intersections presumably have their doors locked, but when an autonomous taxi is changing passengers, that's an opportunity for an intruder to get inside. Maybe the person is a rude prankster, or maybe just drunk. Maybe the person tries to take over driving operations. What happens next?

This can easily be shown to be something that isn't unique to autonomous vehicles - especially in South Africa.

A Toyota Corolla Quest, belonging to a Pakistan national who was hijacked at Jambila on the R38 between Barberton and Badplaas on Wednesday afternoon, was rediscovered in Johannesburg later that afternoon.

Unfortunately the R27 500 that was stolen from Ridwane Patel (30) has not yet been recovered and the suspects are still at large.

According to Capt Jabu Ndubane, police spokesman, Patel was hijacked by five men on Wednesday at around 10:00.

And Patel didn't have the benefit of a camera in his car and a Waymo employee waiting to assist.

Back to Phoenix New Times.

Getting punked. If no driver or riders are around, who will take the banana out of the tailpipe or help catch a prankster?

And what if a driver is around, and doesn't know what is going on? The car could still stall.

OK, here's another one.

Alter road signs to fool computers, but not humans. University of Washington computer-security researcher Yoshi Kohno showed in 2017 that if you know the algorithms that help the computers in driverless cars process their detection data, the computers can be easily fooled. In a spooky demonstration of the potential weakness in self-driving cars, strips of black-and-white tape on a stop sign caused a lab-based autonomous system to see it as a 45-mph speed-limit sign.

Yes, this is a wonderful, ingenious method that specifically targets the car's algorithms. But there's a lot easier way to do this that will not only fool autonomous cars, but every car.

A vigilante has secretly been protecting parking spaces by creating fake road signs - for a zone that doesn't exist.

Around 18 of the realistic "Zone F" signs have been placed on lampposts in Bath, Somerset.

They are professionally made and put up on lamp posts but the local council has confirmed there is no Zone F.

And if the vigilante doesn't want to park, she could just as easily replace a real stop sign with a fake 45 mph sign and watch the fun begin.

And if you go through the entire list, many of the autonomous tricks could easily be applied to all cars.

Well, except one:

Hack them.

While you can hack computer software, you can't hack an actual driver.

Or can you?

What if the driver is instructed by a bozo instructor?

One spring afternoon, my daughter was scheduled for her second in-car lesson. Just as school let out, the driving instructor pulled up in a bus lane to collect her. He insisted that she get behind the wheel and directed her to proceed through the bus lanes.

Luckily, no one was killed (although the daughter was shaken). But if the girl hadn't been subsequently instructed by someone with a brain (her parent), what could have happened?

Thursday, January 17, 2019

Canine Biometric Access to Secure Cloud Infrastructures (Using Gluten-Free Blockchain)

(While many of you are participating in the "Help Facebook Improve Its Facial Recognition Algorithm Age Comparison" challenge, I'm participating in a challenge of my own.)

Canine Biometric Access to Secure Cloud Infrastructures (Using Gluten-Free Blockchain)
John E. Bredehoft[1][2]

Paradigm-shifting, self-actualizing firms are undoubtedly the wave[3] of the future, because they will get bigly[4] press just by being mentioned. Let's face it - you aren't going to get ahead in life by talking[5] about Sears.

I recently received[6] a very important communication from a senior representative of a paradigm-shifting, self-actualizing firm[7]. As I investigated the revolutionary nature of this particular business, I ran across a picture[8] of the staff of said company. Now I don't know if they were employees, or if 90% of them were gig workers who earned non-tradeable credits (rather than cash) for showing up on picture day. But the picture clearly indicates that the firm is like cool and stuff - primarily because two of the staff are holding dogs.

Those who claim that this is merely a picture of tech workers holding dogs are clinging to antiquated views of society which are no longer relevant in the post-Bitcoin world. Outmoded views of canine "ownership" are an antiquated[9] way of thinking that should be consigned to the scrap heap. Obviously these canines are employees of the company, just like people are, and the only reason that they are being held is to comply with ADA[10] regulations.

While I am not in any way whatsoever implying that being a working canine is a disability, that's what the law says, and tech companies obviously must accommodate their canine workers. But how can this be done when businesses abandon password-based authentication for biometric models[11]? While most[12] animals are unable to communicate to enter a password, most modern biometric systems are unable to accommodate horses, canines, or other species. Right?


To prove this, let me quote two excerpts from a REAL academic paper[13]:

The zebra is the most obvious example for an animal with minutiae based markings. The minutiae are easily recognized by human inspection....[T]here is some evidence that the pattern of the Zebra's fur has randotypic parts....

The line structures of the Acanthurus lineatus ... contain a few minutiae which seem to behave different for different fishes.

While the paper focuses on skin patterns, there are other biometric methods in use in the animal kingdom. Facial recognition is actually quite common[14]. Facial recognition is being used for salmon, cows, chickens, pigs, sheep, lions, tigers, birds, elephants, lemurs, whales, cats, ...and dogs[15].

PiP was developed from scratch by 15-year facial recognition technology veteran Daesik Jang, and Rooyakkers claims it’s actually more sophisticated than systems used for humans. “Humans have very standard faces,” he says. “For the most part, we know where the eyes, nose, and mouth should be. With pets, you have a huge variation–anything from the shape of nose to the overall shape of the skull.”

That makes the basic task more difficult, but PiP makes an effort. Using algorithms to classify characteristics and look for patterns, it weights each animal on a scale, and keeps learning as new pets are added by users. Rooyakkers claims a 98% identification accuracy rate during trials.

As anyone who is involved in facial recognition knows, 98% accuracy is not exactly a ringing endorsement.[16] But it's not bad.

However, I have not yet gotten to the meat (sorry vegans) of this paper - specifically, how can canine access be granted using gluten-free blockchain? After all, any solution that does not use gluten-free blockchain[17][18] is by definition oppressive and fascist. The following two references will not answer this important question, but they add a couple of additional references to my paper that should help me achieve my objective - more research funding.

In December 2017, Hacker Noon published a post[19] entitled "Ten years in, nobody has come up with a use for blockchain." But that obviously is fake news, so the very next month Hacker Noon published another post[20] entitled "10+ Uses for Blockchain that will Change the World."

And there you have it. I have successfully written a post with the title "Canine Biometric Access to Secure Cloud Infrastructures (Using Gluten-Free Blockchain)."

I never claimed that the post had to make sense.

Or that GSX 2019 would actually accept this[21] as a presentation[6].

[1] Empoprises, 1 Empire Way Suite 2525, Guasti, CA 91743.
[2] Graduate of California State University, Fullerton, California. Not that they care about this.
[3] https://947thewave.radio.com/
[4] https://www.bbc.com/news/magazine-37483869
[5] https://empoprise-bi.blogspot.com/2018/01/sears-titanic.html
[6] https://empoprises.tumblr.com/post/182011686804/casting-the-wide-net
[7] https://www.ceros.com/
[8] https://www.ceros.com/about/meet-the-team/
[9] https://www.peta.org/about-peta/why-peta/pets/
[10] https://hypebeast.com/2019/1/blind-beyonce-fan-claims-singers-website-violates-the-americans-with-disabilities-act
[11] https://blogs.thomsonreuters.com/answerson/is-biometric-authentication-the-death-of-the-password/
[12] https://www.damninteresting.com/clever-hans-the-math-horse/
[13] https://www.bromba.com/knowhow/BiometricAnimals.htm
[14] http://nymag.com/developing/2018/10/what-creatures-may-we-place-in-the-panopticon.html
[15] https://www.fastcompany.com/3020590/this-app-recognizes-your-pets-facial-features-to-find-them-when-theyre-lost
[16] The U.S. Department of Commerce, National Institute of Standards and Technology is adversely impacted by the current U.S. federal government shutdown. Or something else is going on.
[17] http://blog.coincafe.com/2015/08/20/bitcoin-an-interview-with-gluten-free-bitcoins/
[18] https://www.instagram.com/glutenfreebitcoin/
[19] https://hackernoon.com/ten-years-in-nobody-has-come-up-with-a-use-case-for-blockchain-ee98c180100
[20] https://hackernoon.com/10-uses-for-blockchain-that-will-change-the-world-c5b96cf7c976
[21] https://www.gsx.org/gsx-blog/call-for-presentations/

Wednesday, January 16, 2019

Presidents and the fast food industry

As I write this, portions of the federal government are shut down, our country is engaged in various tariff wars, and...we're talking about fast food.


This scene shows U.S. President Donald Trump serving Clemson football players a variety of fast foods during the team's White House visit.

As if that's unusual in any way.

Actually, there is a long history of Presidents and fast food - as long as the existence of fast foods itself. Senator Lyndon Johnson had a hamburger for lunch every day. Bush 43 ate cheeseburger pizzas.

But there are two Presidents who had a special relation to fast food.

You've probably already thought of Bill Clinton, whose own love of burgers was so well-known that Saturday Night Live incorporated it into a sketch.

But President Clinton's love of fast food would have Constitutional implications, when - during a government shutdown - the President asked one of his interns to get him some pizza.

After a few minutes, in Ms. Lewinsky's recollection, she told [the President] that she needed to get back to her desk. The President suggested that she bring him some slices of pizza. A few minutes later, she returned to the Oval Office area with pizza. Ms. Lewinsky testified that she and the President had a sexual encounter during this visit. They kissed, and the President touched Ms. Lewinsky's bare breasts with his hands and mouth. At some point, Betty Currie (Clinton's secretary) approached the door leading to the hallway, which was ajar, and said that the President had a telephone call. Ms. Lewinsky recalled that the caller was a Member of Congress with a nickname.While the President was on the telephone, according to Ms. Lewinsky, "he unzipped his pants and exposed himself," and she performed oral sex. Again, he stopped her before he ejaculated.

By Clinton White House - https://clinton.presidentiallibraries.us/items/show/47839, Public Domain, Link

But Clinton's pizza-fueled encounter with Monica Lewinsky was not the only Presidential fast-food...um, flirtation with Constitutional implications. For this we have to go back into the past - so far back, as a matter of fact, that the McDonald brothers still owned McDonald's, and Ray Kroc was merely working for them. Yep, we're going back to another President that golfed a lot:

It was a crisp Saturday afternoon in September 1955. The U.S. economy was booming, there were no major crises in the world and the president of the United States, enjoying an approval rating of 79 percent, was on vacation. Then, on the eighth hole of the Cherry Hills Country Club golf course, just outside Denver, Dwight D. Eisenhower, 64, started complaining of indigestion, which he attributed to the hamburger with Bermuda onions he had wolfed down between his morning and afternoon games.

Those pesky burgers. But the focus on indigestion was a near-fatal mistake.

That night, after experiencing indigestion, Eisenhower awoke to chest pains around 2 a.m. His personal physician, Maj. Gen. Howard Snyder, was called to the scene and administered an injection of morphine. Amazingly, it would be almost 12 hours before the president was taken to the hospital. At 8 o’clock the following morning, the White House announced that Eisenhower had suffered “digestive upset” in the night; four hours later, it was again claimed that the president’s “indigestion” was not serious.

But as Eisenhower’s chest pains persisted into the afternoon, an electrocardiograph was brought in and recorded an acute myocardial infarction, and at around 2 p.m. the president was finally rushed to the hospital. From his research into the delay, Lasby concludes that “Snyder mistook a coronary thrombosis for a gastrointestinal problem, waited for 10 hours before he recognized his mistake and called for help, and conducted an unremitting cover-up of his error for the rest of his life.”

But all worked out well in the end. Vice President Nixon (in those days before the 25th Amendment) helped to keep things running until Ike came back, and as he prepared to run for Governor of California in 1962, Nixon released a book called Six Crises. If it hadn't been for the heart attack, I guess it would have been Five Crises.


Despite the botched diagnosis, President Eisenhower never turned to Major General Snyder and said, "You're fired." Snyder continued to serve as Eisenhower's physician until 1961. And he presumably didn't assume that hamburgers were always evil.

Friday, January 11, 2019

IFTTT test

If this works, a link to this Empoprise-BI post on Blogger will also appear on my Empoprises Twitter account, my Empoprise-BI Facebook page, and my Empoprises Tumblr account.

If this doesn't work, then perhaps the world will explode. My apologies if that happens.

Wednesday, January 9, 2019

Worry about the government - how the government affects the economy, the #TSA edition

If we've learned nothing else from the current U.S. government shutdown - and we probably haven't - we've learned that government spending, or a lack thereof, clearly affects the economy.

First, the macro view. Trading Economics has published information on government spending vs. gross domestic product (GDP) from 1970 to 2016.

Government spending in the United States was last recorded at 37.7 percent of GDP in 2016 . Government Spending To GDP in the United States averaged 36.63 percent from 1970 until 2016, reaching an all time high of 42.90 percent in 2009 and a record low of 33.10 percent in 1973.

The chart above illustrates periods when the percentage increased sharply - for example, right after Reagan took office (evil empire and all that), Desert Shield/Desert Storm, post 9/11, and (most notably) the bailouts during the 2008-2009 financial crisis.

But over the last couple of weeks, the absence of government spending shows just how much our economy depends upon it.

I'll confine myself to a single example. A couple of months ago, none of us were giving much thought to the health of employees of the Transportation Security Administration. If we did, we probably assumed that they were about as healthy as the rest of us.

Well, that's changed in the last few days, as some number of TSA workers have reportedly fallen sick. Did some foreign traveler bring a bug into the United States that rapidly spread through TSA workers at all airports? Actually, the cause of this illness is reputed to be financial. TSA workers, who have to work but are not currently being paid to do so, are looking for income in other ways:

Some employees have tried driving on the side for Uber or Lyft on top of their TSA work schedule....Additionally, some employees have been reportedly calling in sick to find other gigs where they can make cash to better take care of these bills.

Wow, TSA employees working in ridesharing. Wonder if they make their customers remove everything from their pockets before getting in the car.

But reportedly the gig economy isn't helping enough, because some TSA employees, giving up hope of getting a paycheck this week, are quitting. The prospect of no pay raises isn't exactly encouraging people to stay.

And no, this didn't start when Trump was inaugurated. The TSA has had problems keeping employees for years.

The statistics paint a clear picture: TSA Officer attrition more than doubled between 2010 and 2014. In 2010, 373 people joined the agency while 4,644 left – an all-time high for the already resource-strapped agency. Last year wasn’t much better, with barely any improvement in employees retained. TSA is now 6,000 officers below its 2011 peak, and there are no signs of the losses slowing down.

It’s no mystery why TSA cannot hold onto the employees it already has. Many Transportation Security Officers earn less than $15 an hour. They are subject either to constant forced overtime or else denied full-time schedules when they want them. Worst of all, they lack most of the basic rights granted to all other federal employees. These burdens are borne while they’re asked to work in a fast-paced, stressful environment where the cost of failure could be life or death. New hires in recent years have been limited overwhelmingly to part-time schedules, and almost all of these workers leave at the prospect of full-time work elsewhere. With all of these disadvantages, it’s no wonder TSA Officers can’t leave the agency fast enough.

And that was written in 2016, back when TSA workers WERE getting paychecks. It seems likely that this week's paycheck will be missed - and then all Christian Bale will break loose.

Tuesday, January 8, 2019

About that "creating" part

As I was getting ready to reshare - I mean curate - my previous post, I happened to glance at the widgets on the leftmost column of this very blog - specifically, the widget that allows you the reader to access the previous posts on this blog.

Uh, I think there's a trend here.

Looks like I have to up the "creating" part in 2019.

Just as a point of reference, for me to equal my 2009 output, I would need to create about two posts a day.

OK, that fails "SMART" goals, since it's not achievable these days. (Although I could potentially get a bonus if I did achieve it.)

But hey, I just increased my 2019 post count by one.

Consuming, curating, and creating (or, I see what @garrytan @krynsky and @empoprises did there)

So there are three posts out there, all with the same theme. Let's start with Garry Tan's post from January 2:

My one professional resolution for the year is to actually write more. The written word is the one way we can leave something behind - it’s a signpost for others, in distilled form.

We'll get to that "distilled" part later, which involves the words edited, reduced, and great.

Tan mentions two things that are keeping him from writing more - vulnerability, and (lack of) novelty. These particular writer's blocks are not universal - some people have no problem stating unpleasant truths, and some people don't worry about saying something that may have already been said. (And yes, I'm pointing at myself, even though I know it's rude to point.) But these possible barriers may need to be addressed by writers, along with others.

Which brings us to Mark Krynsky and his post of January 3, appearing both at krynsky.com and on Medium. Krynsky mentions another possible block.

Perfectionism is something that often stops me cold. I’ll review and edit my posts ad nauseum (I even had to Google this to make sure I used it correctly as WordPress flagged it as wrong. God help me.)

I’ll often do lots of research with links and quote pulls from posts and images and embedded videos…and, and, and. In other words I do lots of things that detract from the words and take me forever to complete a post.

Remember those words distilled, edited, reduced, and great? Obviously you need to perform these activities at some level - Krynsky isn't advocating that we just start typing and hit publish after a text explosion - but the key is to strike a balance. For certain topics, timeliness is also important.

Krynsky touched upon other topics in his post, including one reason why there's a move toward self-publishing in the first place. Hint: many people started "blogging" back when Blogger and Wordpress were new, and Facebook was non-existent.

    (From here - fair use - and I won't throw stones, because it looked better than my site at the time)

One of those people was Jason Koebler. He writes about his first steps in self-publishing, from "Jason's Site" (very 2002, yet also very forward-looking) to Xanga to LiveJournal to MySpace. And then, a few weeks before high school graduation, Koebler received his university email account, which meant one thing - HE COULD SET UP A FACEBOOK PROFILE. (Some of you will recall that Facebook was initially limited to universities.)

But what was the difference between Facebook and all of those other platforms - other than the fact that Facebook solved the monetization issue? The other difference was that it was so EASY to post to Facebook - and, as a consequence, to NOT post to MySpace or LiveJournal or Xanga or your version of "Jason's Site."

But if it's easy to post on Facebook, it's even easier to reshare on Facebook (or on other services - remember FriendFeed?). Resharing even has a newfangled word - curation. And hey, everybody's doing it.

But we all know something that's even easier than resharing/curating. And that, of course, is consuming. Sit back, relax, and let the feed entertain you.

And if you let Facebook's defaults determine how you will be entertained, you'll see things like this.

Now you may see different things, if you're not interested in Amazon and Walmart like I am. That's because Facebook solved the monetization issue by taking money from advertisers and serving up ads to make you click, and non-ad content to make you consume, all based upon algorithms and data mining.

Jason's Site was never like this.

But at least on Jason's Site, you were 100% guaranteed to see Jason's content. On Facebook, the algorithms may bury some of the feeds that interest you. For example, I can't remember when I last saw Mark Krynsky's content in my Facebook feed.

Perhaps that's why Jason Koebler is musing about the GOOD features of Jason's Site, and three people have intentionally written posts about writing more. Garry Tan, Mark Krynsky - and one other person.

(That person needs to update some of his online bios, though - he works for IDEMIA today, not MorphoTrak.)