Invading Privacy vs. Making Money

Posted by jlubans on March 26, 2018  •  Leave comment (0)

Caption: Exposed.

I googled moving boxes, the kind you pack with. I found what I wanted and closed the browser.
An hour later, I clicked for a weather projection. With it came an in-your-face ad from an office supply company - a quarter screen, promoting guess what?
How do you think that happens? Coincidence? Who pays what to whom?
Many, we are told, are aghast over recent reports of data mining and exploitation of “private” user data at Facebook.
While we have known about and participated in sharing personal information since the beginning (do you remember when you bought a diamond ring or a washing machine on Amazon, the “Zuke” would alert all your “Friends”?. Presumably, a bit of a prompt for “keeping up with the Joneses”, an ancient advertising trick.
For the longest time these practices, maybe a tad tawdry, were OK.
Why no longer? Maybe its the realization that Facebook et al. do not discriminate – when there’s money to be made - among political parties or political philosophies or friends or enemies or love or hatred, bigotry or tolerance.
The naked truth: Facebook (Google, Twitter, Linked-in, et al.) make big money by selling away our privacy, including our every click.
The super cool dudes and dudettes in Silicon Valley may espouse egalitarianism but they behave like robber barons. How else can they afford to live in downtown San Fran?
Whoever has the most money - Russian rubles, Ukrainian hryvnia, Saudi riyals, Iranian rials, and Chinese yuan accepted - the greater your access to private data for whatever purpose you wish.
Facebook and Google are worried – no, not about America’s growing mis-trust in social media - but the hit to the wallet kind of worry.
On March 25, the WSJ ran this story:
Facebook and Google Face Emboldened Antagonists: Big Advertisers”
So I am reposting my (prescient, eh?) February 28, 2018 indie author’s perspective (revised) on how this works out for the little guy:
“Information Wants to Be Free” (Almost)
The qualifier – almost - explains why since back in the day (1984, no less!) we have competing systems: vast ranges of free information and numerous fenced in sources of information.
We now know much of the Internet is not free.
Nor is there a middle class in the Internet economy.
There are the Have Nots, all of us under the long, long tail of the Internet (steerage) and there are the Haves up in First Class.
The Haves are a peculiar sort, because they do not provide content – the words, pictures, videos, selfies, and essays.
The Haves arrange the content and control the content, and husband how it is used. They manage it and they sell it to make money.
In other words, never have so many written so much for free to be read by so few so what they write can be monetized by a few, namely Google and Facebook through advertising revenue.
It is as simple as that. There is nothing innovative about this. What is new is that the exploitation – dare I say collusion? - has never been so complicit or gigantic.
When will content providers (including those of us who share cute cat videos or who write blogs) come to terms with this?
To their credit, the Haves created mechanisms for the “sharing” of the content and for linking to the content.
What about the Have Nots?
Yes, we are willing participants.
We seek “likes”, we seek “comments”, we want to be read – often we are happy to make our information free.
But do we really want to do that so a very few benefit while we get nothing back beyond a little recognition or fleeting pleasure?
A few days ago the WSJ wrote about proposed legislation that would permit publishers to engage in collective bargaining with those profiting from their content.
Facebook’s news stream, visited by millions we are told, does not pay for the news to which it links.
It does pay for the mechanism of spotting trends (however slanted) via human or machine means, but the linked-to content is free to Facebook or to Drudge or to Google.
Presumably, the content provider does have the opportunity to advertise or to push readers to buy their publications. However, this incidental revenue is tiny when compared to the ad revenue earned by the aggregators (and those who hold and share for a fee millions of bytes of personal information on millions of consumers and voters).
Understandably, the publishers seeing their profits declining, newsrooms depleting and the aggregators’ profits sky rocketing, want a piece of the action.
The legislation would allow publishers, as a combine, to set prices and to seek compensation from those making profit from their work.
How much?
Well, the WSJ has this to say: “Facebook... generated $40 billion in annual revenue from its ability to narrowly target advertisers’ messages to receptive audiences." I am not at all sure about how "receptive" any of the audiences are!
Well, then, what about this blog? I do not seek a profit (nor should I since under the present system revenue is almost impossible.) You could say my information really does want to be free, almost has to be free, if anyone is to read it!
If I want to “boost” this blog post (the one you are reading) according to Facebook, I can pay them $53.00 to “reach” 48,000 (targeted) strangers on Facebook. That’s for one post.
I suspect were my IP address in Moscow (Russia not Idaho) my post would be boosted as well as long as my credit card paid for it. Add several thousand rubles and I can "reach" several hundred thousand strangers.
The “reach” is manifest in those annoying “boosts” of opinion and products, etc that come out of nowhere on your personal Facebook page mixed in with updates from friends.
Facebook assures me, “Others like you are doing this”. In other words the already congested and polluted pages of Facebook are to become even more cluttered and I am to pay for it.
What’s the sense of that?
As well, I imagine I could do some advertising or "boosting" on Google. As long as I pay for it.
One small step.
I will close the archives to my Leading from the Middle blog (published twice weekly since March of 2010). I will re-gain control of my work by taking it off the grid. If others like me do the same, the Haves might need to come to terms with adding value to our work.
So, does "information want to be free"?
Let's return to the failed premise from which that 1984 quote arose: "information almost wants to be free because the costs of getting it out is getting lower and lower all of the time." The costs of "getting it out" may indeed be ever decreasing, but the costs of creating it have never been higher.

So, stand up to Social Media’s Big Bosses and Minions, buy the peck of Aesopic wisdom to be found in “Fables for Leaders” at Amazon. Or, be clever like the Zuker and get your library to order a copy!

© Copyright John Lubans 2018

Aesop and the Stone*

Posted by jlubans on March 23, 2018  •  Leave comment (0)

Caption: Not the Rope PUSH

A mean fellow,
seeing Æsop in the street, threw a stone at him.
'Well done!' was his response to the unmannerly action.
'See! here is a penny for you; on my faith it is all I have, but I will tell you how you may get something more.
See, yonder comes a rich and influential man.
Throw a stone at him in the same way, and you will receive a due reward.' The rude fool, being persuaded, did as he was advised.
His daring impudence, however, brought him a requital he did not hope for, though it was what he deserved, for, being seized, he paid the penalty.

Like an old West gunslinger, Aesop was always prepared with a masterly shot to the head. However, this gift - straight from the Muses - did make for enemies.
Eventually his quick-draw tongue got him hurled off of a cliff to his death.
In my 9-5 realm, I knew only a few people able to parry undeserved character attacks.
Most of us deal with verbal assaults either by avoiding or hurling back a similar insult.
It is only later, in quieter moments, when we think about what we should have said or done.
At a team building session I led, I recall a most unusual event.
I’d taken the group outside to do the “Rope Push”.
Instead of a tug-of-war in which one side seeks to pull the other over a line, the topsy-turvy point of the rope push is to give away the rope.
The group, while low energy, did give it a lack-luster try.
Then the unusual happened. One of the group, Harry, ran off with the rope and stood about ten yards away, taunting.
Had I been able to channel Aesop, I would have asked the group, "What is the rope?” Then, given the history of this group (low morale, high mistrust) I would answer my own question, like Aesop did in the Man & the Bow fable,
Maybe not. Maybe the situation - with the bullying Harry out of the mix - would have precipitated a candid discussion of group dynamics.
How might you have handled what happened with the Rope Push? After all, one of the reasons for us to revisit these historic stories is to learn for ourselves.

*Source: Thomas Newbigging. “Fables and Fabulists: Ancient and Modern.” 1896

For more fables to guide one’s leadership or followership – and how to turn lemons into lemonade - get your copy of “Fables for Leaders” at Amazon. Or get your library to order a copy!

Fables for Leaders Library of the Week
: Bethany Lutheran College Memorial Library. Mankato, MN, USA.

© Copyright John Lubans 2018

Curates We Know

Posted by jlubans on March 20, 2018  •  Leave comment (0)

Wilfred M. McClay, writing in the Hedgehog Review is not amused by the devaluation of the verb “curate”. No longer the particular purview of the puffed-up, e.g. exquisite Museum exhibits curated by one authority or another, the verb has been further debased, now rubbing patched elbows and shoulders with the hoi polloi:
“The Altoona Truck Stop features a finely curated selection of wines and vittles including a lovingly decanted sauvignon blanc from Saskatoon and a 64 oz Gallo red screw top from Sausalito.”
This degradation somehow reminds me of an octogenarian, in yoga pants, doing a back flip.
Reading this bit of Hedgehog umbrage, took me back to my use of the noun, “Curate”, in May of 2015 when I wrote about the “Curate’s Egg” and its relationship to leading and following.
Below is the stage-setting cartoon followed by a paragraph or two of what I had to say back then:


G. du Maurier’s cartoon, famously known as “The Curate’s Egg”, catches some of the dilemma each of us faces when being a Yes Man (or Woman) – or as PG Wodehouse has it, a “Yesser”. There’s also a bit of the compliant Sheep in the young curate and most of all, the Survivor.
How times have changed, or have they?
The winner of a recent caption contest for this cartoon, has the milquetoast slanging the Bish, “You’re bloody right, this effin’ egg is off!”
While refreshing for its candor the curate’s response – given the power imbalance between the two – would hardly help advance the curate’s career. But, then stranger things have happened. Perhaps the Bishop will slap his knee, and say something like: “You s.o.b! I sure do like a man who speaks his mind! You can do my sermon this Sunday! And, yes you can marry my daughter, tonight, if you wish!”
In Wodehouse’s literary world, the curate was a poor assistant to a vicar, striving to get to the next level, a vicarage of his own. Usually, that meant a guaranteed salary – a sinecure for life, and enough money on which to marry. It was all up to the bishop. So, there was more than a little motivation to not ruffle the bishop, at least not until you got booted upstairs.

To spark one’s leadership or followership, get your copy of “Fables for Leaders” at Amazon. Or ask your library to order a curated copy. Rap your knuckles on the information desk and tell them you want the book, pronto!

© Curated and Copyrighted by John Lubans 2018

Phaedrus’ “THE TWO BALD MEN”

Posted by jlubans on March 16, 2018  •  Leave comment (0)

Caption: Who’s got the comb?

A Bald Man chanced to find a comb in the public road.
Another, equally destitute of hair, came up: “Come,” said he, “shares, whatever it is you have found.”
The other showed the booty, and added withal: “The will of the Gods has favoured us, but through the malignity of fate, we have found, as the saying is, a coal instead of a treasure.”
This complaint befits him whom hope has disappointed.
In verse, one moralist has it:
“They by this tale may be relieved
Whose sanguine hopes have been deceived.”
Life is a rocky road, we are told, full of ups and downs, and that “Many a tear has to fall but – we are sweetly apprised - it's all in the game.”
A ludicrous fable?
Maybe, but the lesson about fate’s “malignity” is there in 72 words.

*Source: The Fables of Phædrus / Literally translated into English prose with notes.” 1887.
For more fables to spark one’s leadership or followership, get your copy of “Fables for Leaders” at Amazon. Or ask your library to order a copy. Rap with your knuckels at the the information desk and thell them you want the book, pronto!

© Copyright John Lubans 2018

“You didn’t build that!”

Posted by jlubans on March 13, 2018  •  Leave comment (0)

Caption: W. Hollar's illustration from John Ogilby's fables, 1668.

Following our recent literary bent,
Shakespeare was no stranger to fables and their powerful messages.*
He alludes and elaborates upon the fable of the “Belly and Its Members” in his The Tragedy of Coriolanus:
The character Menenius is speaking to a mob of unhappy citizens:
“I shall tell you
A pretty tale: it may be you have heard it;
But, since it serves my purpose, I will venture
To stale't a little more.”
And Wm. S. goes on and on for over 60 lines about the moral of the fable concluding with this little bit of governmental theory (shared by not a few including Mr. Obama):
“The senators of Rome are this good Belly,
And you the mutinous Members; for examine
Their counsels and their cares; digest things rightly,
Touching the weal o' the common, you shall find
No public benefit which you receive
But it proceeds or comes from them to you,
And no way from yourselves. What do you think?”
And yet, as only Shakespeare can, he gives full credit and maybe some justification for the body’s “mutinous members” vs. the Belly’s rule:
First Citizen:
“Your belly's answer? What?
The kingly-crowned head, the vigilant eye,
The counsellor heart, the arm our soldier,
Our steed the leg, the tongue our trumpeter,
With other muniments and petty helps
In this our fabric ... “

*Source: Thomas Newbigging. “Fables and Fabulists: Ancient and Modern.” 1896
For more fables to guide one’s leadership or followership, get your copy of “Fables for Leaders” at Amazon. Or get thee to a library to order a copy!

© Copyright John Lubans 2018

“A FOWLER AND A PARTRIDGE” by Sir Roger L'Estrange* (1692)

Posted by jlubans on March 09, 2018  •  Leave comment (0)

Caption: Illustration by CHARLES ROBINSON, 1912.

A Fowler had taken a Partridge, and the Bird offer’d her self to decoy as many of her Companions into the Snare as she could, upon Condition that he would give her Quarter.
No, says he, you shall die the rather for that very Reason, because you would be so base as to betray your Friends to save your self.

THE MORAL. Of all scandalous and lewd Offices, that of a Traitor is certainly the basest; for it undermines the very Foundations of Society.
And so it can be at work.
Has this ever happened to you?
After a leadership change, you find yourself on the outs with the new leader.
Your many years of good effort and achievements are now for naught.
So, in defense and to retain some dignity you turn to a close colleague someone you’ve worked side by side with in improving the organization, vastly for the better.
You ask that person if they will stand by you.
The response, indirectly, not to your face, is “No”. No explanation is offered.
Like L'Estrange’s Partridge, the trusted colleague is looking out for Number One; no risking their future!
I wonder if the betrayer has any regrets? Is the treachery worth it?
It wasn’t for the Partridge.

*Source: Aesop’s Fables translated by Sir Roger L'Estrange, 1692.

For more fables to guide one’s leadership or followership, get your copy of “Fables for Leaders” at Amazon. Or get your library to order a copy. Just tell the information desk you want the book!

© Copyright John Lubans 2018

“Similitudes of men”*

Posted by jlubans on March 06, 2018  •  Leave comment (0)

Caption: Andrew Lang, the Scottish poet.

Here is a memorable quatrain from his poem about Aesop published in 1896:
And in the lion or the frog---
In all the life of moor and fen,
In ass and peacock, stork and log,
He read similitudes of men.”

Andrew Lang was born in Scotland in 1844 and died 1912.
Since I have been working with Aesopian fable since late 2010, I found his brief poem especially insightful. Is not reading similitudes of humankind one of life's requirments?

*Source: Thomas Newbigging. “Fables and Fabulists: Ancient and Modern.” 1896

For more fables to guide one’s leadership or followership, get your copy of “Fables for Leaders” at Amazon. Or get your library to order a copy!

© Copyright John Lubans 2018

“All Hat, No Cattle”: The Fly and the Mule.*

Posted by jlubans on March 02, 2018  •  Leave comment (0)

Caption: Engraving by Christopher Hagens, 1667.

A Fly that sat upon the beam
Rated the Mule: " Why, sure you dream?
"Pray get on faster with the cart
Or I shall sting you till you smart!"
She answers: "All this talk I hear
With small attention, but must fear
Him who upon the box sustains
The pliant whip, and holds the reins.
Cease then your pertness - for I know
When to give back, and when to go."

This tale derides the talking crew,
Whose empty threats are all they do.
“All hat, no cattle”, one might say of the fly.
In the workplace, it is good to know the difference between the petty and the consequential.
Our friend the mule knows who’s boss.
Do you?
The fly’s sting is of no concern to the mule; far more concerning is the whip and bit.
And, figuratively, the presumptuous fly can represent the busywork in our lives, those daily detours from the quest.
While facebooking, twittering, or snapchatting (or any other Circe-like daily dalliance) you can get lost in the shrubs and forget to lift up your eyes to the sky.
As an antidote to getting too caught up in the daily grind, the Nordics, we are told, practice friluftsliv or “open-air living”, a literal going off of the grid to regain perspective, to reflect on what’s important and what’s not.

*Source: The Fables of Phaedrus Translated into English Verse. Phaedrus. Christopher Smart, A. M. London. G. Bell and Sons, Ltd. 1913.

For more fables to guide one’s leadership or followership, get your copy of “Fables for Leaders” at Amazon. Or get your library to order a copy!

Peculiar pricing on Amazon! Three re-sellers are offering Fables for over $53 a copy. These are not, alas, rare book dealers recognizing a beautifully illustrated and designed book, but just Amazon wannabe's hoping to market to unsuspecting buyers. $19.99 is still the going price at BookBaby, Amazon, Barnes & Noble, etc.

© Copyright John Lubans 2018