Why no Facebook?

Facebook started out as a super-useful online tool to satisfy a particular need. Way back when, it was the online version of something that existed offline: a way to find people who were all part of a specific community. The, “people,” was students and the, “community,” was at a particular school (Harvard).

This isn’t FB anymore. It has become something else:

  • Facebook is unmanageable. Through no fault of the creators, owners or staff of FB, it has become a gigantic, unmanageable jumbled mess of people. This is much to FB’s credit: so many people use it that they are no longer able to reasonably manage day-to-day community operations.
  • Facebook is authoritarian. To compensate for their inevitable overload, FB decided to become authoritarian. Authoritarian figures in a community — FB is the de facto community manager since they created the vehicle for the community to collaborate — need to earn respect, which FB never managed to do in so many of the communities that it now serves.
  • Facebook is generic. One-size-fits-all works sometimes and doesn’t work others. It doesn’t work for communities. While FB is a reasonable tool for collaboration in every community, it’s not a fantastic tool for collaboration in almost any community.
  • Facebook lumbers. Once again, through no fault of the staff who works on it, FB has become too big to serve its constituents. It started out nimble but FB can no longer keep up with technology. FB’s staff has made a heroic effort of trying and they’ve paved so many new roads in the world of online technology but at this point they’re rearranging chairs on a sinking ship.

Here’s a key case to outline what’s happened: imagine Wally, 23 years old who just graduated from his state school with a degree in South American literature. Wally wants to post some pictures of his friends out at the pub last night. While logged in, he joins a group of folks in his area who get together once a month to discuss literature. While reading some recent posts, he disagrees with a political opinion and writes a comment to the author. Wally’s next stop on the Internet is an online application for a grad program.

FB did its job: it hooked up Wally with this literature group that he would otherwise have had no access to. Unfortunately, it’s got no way to separate political discussion from a literature group (it is generic). The community of literature folks can’t bar the political discussion from literature discussions (it is unmanageable). Wally can’t separate his work profile from his personal profile because there’s no technology to do this, or even decide who sees what (it lumbers). When his grad school sees his drunken pub pictures and his differing political opinion, FB will silently deem that they’ve done their part correctly (it is authoritarian) and Wally’s application will be denied. No grad school for Wally.

This sort of scenario has happened too many times to count with consequences that are too severe. FB’s official stance is that they’re just the medium and they decide the rules. I’ve seen this happen too many times in too many ways, so I’ve decided to stop using FB.

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To The US Media:

Please stop. Donald Trump is the president of these United States of America.

I understand that you didn’t elect him. I also understand that you don’t want him to be the President. This was very clear on election day. We elected him. You (collectively) do not get a vote. You tried to elect him but we saw through your plan. We did our thing anyway. I didn’t elect him. The people of these United States of America elected him. The election is over.

Please spare me the popular-vote argument, that’s not how we do things here. Both candidates knew the rules of the game. Both candidates played the game. One won, the other lost. Former Secretary (et. al.) Clinton was fairly gracious about losing. You are not acting as graciously as she has.

Perhaps Donald Trump is racist, or sexist, or many other things that you don’t like. Everyone is racist. Everyone is sexist. We’re all a little xenophobic. That’s part of the human condition. The last guy, President Obama, was racist and sexist. Each one of you is sexist and racist. I’m sexist and racist. You do not have the right to judge, regardless what higher power you do or don’t believe in.

We knew he was a rich guy before we elected him. Many of us have seen the hotels, casinos and skyscrapers with his name in big, lit letters at the top. A rich guy is going to bring his rich friends and family with him. We knew that too. We didn’t expect any different. Sorry you don’t like Rex Tillerson. He is the Secretary of State now. Part of why we elected Donald Trump to be the President is because we knew he would make rich guy decisions and hire other rich people to help make other decisions. You keep complaining about his decision-making ability. It makes you seem petty. Pettiness is unbecoming.

I don’t like all the things that President Trump has done since he was inaugurated. I’m sure he’ll do more things I don’t like. I didn’t like all the things that President Obama did while he was the President. I probably won’t like many of the things that the next President does. It may four years from now. It may be eight years from now. I’m not the President of these United States of America. I’m sure President Trump makes difficult decisions every day and he makes the ones that he thinks are correct. This is just like President Obama did and just like the next President will do. I’ve learned that if you constantly pick on someone, they will eventually ignore you. Sometimes they even take vengeance against you. I try to avoid those situations because it’s never fun to be the one under attack.

I admire the investigative skills of many journalists. They don’t lead to the same information that President Trump has. I’m sure he knows way more than you’re finding out. I’m sure President Obama knew more things about more things than you ever found out. The President of these United States of America always knows more than the rest of us. It’s why we call him the most powerful man — maybe woman, one day, and hopefully even soon — in the world. Your investigative skills don’t lead to information that’s as good as the President gets. It’s not a slight on you, the President has more resources at his disposal than you do.

We hired him to make the decisions he was going to make in the way he makes them. We didn’t hire him to make the decisions in the way that Hillary Clinton would have made them. We were given that choice. We hired the other one. While we’re on the subject, yes, we hired him. No, we don’t want to fire him. (Remember that you invented that show.) We reserve the right to change our mind later, maybe. We did with Bill Clinton. Maybe we will later with President Trump. I have no doubt that he’s well aware of this every day. He surely conducts his business with this knowledge. It’s not a threat. It’s just one of those things in life like death and taxes.

President Donald Trump has a Twitter account. He uses it in much the same way that we all — if we have Twitter accounts — use it. President Obama spent a lot of time on late-night TV shows. President Franklin Roosevelt made many radio addresses. If someone is smart enough to become the President of these United States of America, they’re smart enough to figure out which media channels to tap into. I would imagine that President Trump may be avoiding you because it’s clear that you don’t like him. Twitter isn’t moderated. On that note, I’ve read your tweets (and other social media posts) as well. You aren’t in the position to judge the quality of his tweets.

So Madonna doesn’t like President Trump. She probably hasn’t liked a single Republican or conservative President in her life. We hire to sing fairly often. She’s good at that. She’s not as good at politics, which is why we never hired her to be the President of these United States of America, or anything like that. Sometimes, we hire people like her to do politics, like Jesse Ventura, Arnold Schwarzenegger or Ronald Reagan. She is separated by distance from them. I’m not surprised that Chelsea Clinton doesn’t like President Trump either. She’s the daughter of the person who lost an election to Donald Trump and the only President who we chose to fire recently. I can’t imagine how someone in her position could like President Trump any more than Dan Quinn would like Bill Belichick or Tom Brady. We aren’t very impressed that you highlight the opinions of people like Madonna or Chelsea Clinton more than you highlight what the President of these United States of America has done. It makes it seem like you’re asleep at the wheel.

I used to read the news a lot. I grew up reading The New York Times. Back then, it contained, “all the news that’s fit to print.” Now it contains the news that fits the agenda of the names listed on the masthead. I used to read The Atlantic often too. Back then, it was unbiased and contained stories from many viewpoints. I used to love reading The Wall Street Journal. They refuse to let go of printing page after page of prices and volumes in a time when there’s much more up-to-date information available at the swipe of a fingertip. Everyone wants to charge me rising prices for content that rises to a lower standard. I used to pay for good writing. Now I just get Twitter for free. I’m not the only one who feels this way. There are many sayings about looking in the mirror before criticizing others. In the eyes of your readers, is your reporting of better quality and worth than those whom you criticize?

 

With respect and continuing admiration,

Stephan

 

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On Winning & Losing

This is my best opinion at a guide to competing for something and how to conduct yourself through any competition.

First, read Sun Tzu, The Art of War. It’s translated into several languages. The author wrote it back when people didn’t get paid by the word — at least he didn’t seem to — so it’s succinct.

Before competing for anything, decide if there is a possibility that you may win. Winning may not necessarily mean getting the top prize offered in some competition. It may not even mean winning any prize offered; sometimes it is right to compete to win something that is tangential to the actual competition. A good example is competing for visibility: by competing you may attain others’ knowledge that you exist. This is just an example. Pick a goal, because you never win anything real without a goal.

Stick to your goal. Don’t adjust it, upwards or downwards, after you’ve established it. This is in small part for others and in large part for yourself. There is a significant emotional and psychological component to competition and changing your goal in either direction will take a sharp cut into anything you have invested there. There are ways to achieve more than you originally intended but not by changing your goal. (More on that later.)

Before continuing, envision the two possible results, your winning and your losing. Do this well, take some time and effort to be thorough. Think about the world, outside yourself, when you win and when you lose. Can you bear to survive given both outcomes? If you can only bear one possible outcome, including how the world around you would react to it, don’t compete and pick another battle. There is always another way.

Now comes the first hard part, choosing a bottom-end exit. This is where you give up. Think of it as the goal for your competition. Decide based on the point at which losing becomes unbearable to your state of being. I’ve found it best to avoid pride and emotion in deciding this, to the extend possible.

Next define two things: your competition and your status metrics. Both need to be defined clearly and fairly. Vague definitions of these things are lies to yourself. Unfair definitions are likewise lies to yourself. Lying to yourself is a good way to obstruct your own chances of winning.

The competition may not be a person, organization, or similar. You may be competing against something ephemeral, like Mother Nature, or against some part of yourself. If there is no competition, you are not competing; stop immediately and start again from the beginning. If the competition is clearly unfair, you are not competing; stop immediately and start again from the beginning. An able person competing for life and death against an ant, both in the middle of an open area isn’t competition: the ant will lose every time. You may notice that there is fair assessment of some factors of the competition; a person on their deathbed competing for life and death against a young ant inside a wall two thousand miles away presents a different challenge.

Your status metrics define three things: where you start, who is winning at any given time and where you end. The third should be easiest: if you’ve already defined a goal, you should be able to articulate to yourself when you’ve reached it. The first may be easy as well and it is almost always here, now and with the current state of existence. The middle one, knowing where you stand at any point during the competition, may be difficult or impossible to measure. Competition can’t happen without the first and last but it can happen without the middle. Competing without any indication of where you stand is more difficult than any other kind of competition.

Note carefully that if there is no fair indication of where you stand during the competition, you are competing with no knowledge (whatsoever) of where you stand. If this is the case, ignore all such information, the unfair information, during the entire competition. Having biased information is very much worse than having no information at all.

During the competition, always put forth your best effort towards winning. Your best effort may not be the same at all times. Most competitions are not held in a vacuum and external factors may significantly affect your ability to contribute towards the end goal. In fair competition, the ability of the competitors to overcome external factors is generally the sole determination of which competitor wins. Keep that in mind.

During the entire competition, maintain full respect for your competition. Whether you are currently winning, currently losing, or status information is unavailable, you are always one bad turn away from losing. Invariably and whether you win or lose, you will be judged by how hard you competed and how fairly you competed. The easiest — and only — way to compete fairly is by maintaining complete respect for your competition, outwardly and inwardly. There is no leeway on this.

If your goal has more than one factor, never stop competing — or even slow down — until every factor has been completed. This is where clear statement of the goal in the first place comes in very handy. For instance, if your goal is to win the student president election on election day, don’t stop competing when you pull ahead of your competition the week before election day. You’ll have satisfied one criterion of the goal but not the other. Essentially, by doing this, you are likely causing yourself to lose. (This is part of why you should never adjust your goals: if you don’t stop competing, you may very well exceed one goal while still competing for another.)

Similarly, as soon as your entire goal is satisfied, stop immediately. The competition is over. Not only is it pointless to continue, but it is immoral. Competing after competition has ended is equivalent to starting a new competition, against unfair competition, with unstated goals. This will always end badly if continued.

Also similarly, if you reach your bottom-end exit point, stop immediately. The competition is over. You have reached the point at which you can no longer compete. Respectfully thank your competition for their effort and clearly remove yourself from the arena.

After the competition has ended, you will have either won or lost. In the event of a draw, all competitors have lost as they have failed to distinguish themselves from the others. Determine where you stand, respectfully thank your competition for their effort and clearly remove yourself from the arena. If you’ve won, when you thank your competition, do it as if they’ve won. (More on why later.)

You are not done.

If you’ve won, you are now the victor. Quietly, to yourself, congratulate yourself for your victory. Do not be proud and exhibit humility. Recognize everything around you that has helped you towards this victory. It is not the same victory as any other victory, it is yours, from this competition, and it is unique. With winning comes a great responsibility. Prepare yourself to discharge that responsibility to the best of your abilities.

If you’ve lost, accept your loss. Recognize everything around you that helped you compete. You’ve made your best effort so congratulate yourself for that. This competition is over.

You are still not done.

Whether you’ve won or lost, some things hold true:

  • You are always eligible to compete again, but always at something else. You cannot recreate this particular competition. Sometimes you can get close, but it will never be exactly the same. This is the other reason to never adjust your goal: you may compete again later.
  • Your competition may have won or lost, independently of whether you won or lost. Your competition may not have been competing for the same thing as you. It is their right to compete for something different than you are, just as it is your right to compete for something different than they are. This is why you should always thank your competition as if they’ve won: even if you won, they may have won as well.
  • If the competition was fair and you competed fairly, never fear losing and never fear that someone else may have lost by your winning. Those two emotions are utterly senseless.
  • Every competition leads to experience. Make the most of your experience and learn how to become a better you through your experience in this competition.

On disputing decisions: this is difficult and risky. Before you decide to do this, carefully determine if the party that made the decision had the same goal, for winning and losing, as you did. If it is not exactly the same, do not dispute the decision because it is a decision on something else. Next, consider the likelihood of winning the dispute. This likelihood is more important than your belief in whether or not you were victorious. If you dispute and the previous decision is upheld, you will have competed unfairly, regardless of your performance in all previous parts of the competition. It is best to treat decision disputes as a new competition, with a new goal. Doing so reestablishes good criteria for your decision on whether or not you should compete, what you are competing for and how to win.

Good luck. Fight fairly.

 

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