What are the lessons people most often learn too late in life?

oopstoolate That’s the question asked by Quora here. I’ve camped on our planet for awhile now, so I wrote a few answers. Here they are: I doubt people learn the following lessons “most often” or “too late,” but I still hope they help.
  1. The purpose of life is death. Death produces materials that add beyond measure to feed and sustain more life, and add to the abundance and variety of everything that can be named, and far more that can’t. Most of our building materials rely on death. Without death, no limestone, marble, travertine, chalk, chert, peat or coal. No wood, no concrete, no oil, gas or metals smelted and shaped with heat. Helium, one of the most abundant elements in the universe, is produced on Earth only as a byproduct of rotting organic matter. By making use of carbon, life produces even more useful forms of carbon by producing abundances of death. Continue reading "What are the lessons people most often learn too late in life?"

Open Word—The Podcasting Story

Nobody is going to own podcasting.990_large By that I mean nobody is going to trap it in a silo. Apple tried, first with its podcasting feature in iTunes, and again with its Podcasts app. Others have tried as well. None of them have succeeded, or will ever succeed, for the same reason nobody has ever owned the human voice, or ever will. (Other, of course, than their own.) Because podcasting is about the human voice. It’s humans talking to humans. Voices to ears and voices to voices—because listeners can talk too. They can speak back. And forward. Lots of ways. Podcasting is one way for markets to have conversations; but the podcast market itself can’t be bought or controlled, because it’s not a market. Or an “industry.” Instead, like the Web, email and other graces of open protocols on the open Internet, podcasting is NEA: Nobody owns it, Continue reading "Open Word—The Podcasting Story"

Exploring the business behind digital media’s invisibility cloaks

  amsterdam-streetImagine you’re on a busy city street where everybody who disagrees with you disappears. We have that city now. It’s called media—especially the social kind. You can see how this works on Wall Street Journal‘s Blue Feed, Red Feed page. Here’s a screen shot of the feed for “Hillary Clinton” (one among eight polarized topics): blue-red-wsj Both invisible to the other. We didn’t have that in the old print and broadcast worlds, and still don’t, where they persist. (For example, on news stands, or when you hit SCAN on a car radio.) But we have it in digital media. Here’s another difference: a lot of the stuff that gets shared is outright fake. There’s a lot of concern about that right now: fakenews Why? Well, there’s a business in it. More eyeballs, more advertising, more money, for more eyeballs for more advertising. And so on. Those ads are aimed
Continue reading "Exploring the business behind digital media’s invisibility cloaks"

A Thousand Kisses Deep

 

My great friend and mentor Doc Searls posted a poignant eulogy to Leonard Cohen.

I had no idea he felt the same way I do about his music.

Through the soundtrack of my life, nobody else taught more about how to be a man, a lover, and a human being with one foot in the temporary world and the other in eternity.
< p dir="ltr">I’ve listened over and over to all of his albums. I especially like “The Future” and “Ten New Songs.” His new album—“Songs from a Room” is also fabulous.

His music played a huge role in getting me through many a tough time, A Thousand Kisses Deep.

The ponies run,
the girls are young,
The odds are there to beat.
You win a while, and then it’s done –
Your little winning streak.
And summoned now to deal
With your invincible defeat,
You live your life as Continue reading "A Thousand Kisses Deep"

Old friends and new friends

At the Internet Identity Workshop last week, I met a wonderful person named Mei Lin. She is so passionate about bringing technology to what she refers to as “the next 1.5 billion.” Mei and Doc were also fast friends. She sent me an outline of her thinking.

Toward an ethics of influence

2016-05-02berkman Stop now and go to TimeWellSpent.io, where @TristanHarris, the guy on the left above, has produced and gathered much wisdom about a subject most of us think little about and all of us cannot value more: our time. Both of us will be co-investing some time tomorrow afternoon at the @BerkmanCenter, talking about Tristan’s work and visiting the question he raises above with guidance from S.J. Klein. (Shortlink for the event: http://j.mp/8thix. And a caution: it’s a small room.) So, to help us get started, here’s a quick story, and a context in the dimension of time…
Many years ago a reporter told me a certain corporate marketing chief “abuses the principle of instrumentality.” Totally knocked me out. I mean, nobody in marketing talked much about “influencers” then. Instead it was “contacts.” This reporter was one of those. And he was exposing something
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Continue reading "Toward an ethics of influence"

Moron the IQ myth (pun intended)

On Quora an anonymous somebody asked, My IQ is 131. Can I get into MIT? Yeah, it’s easy to call that a dumb question. But it’s the kind of question you get from somebody trapped in a caste system that cries out for a larger perspective, such as this one: dumbcat Anyway, here’s my answer:
You don’t have an IQ. Nobody does, because intelligence isn’t a quotient. It is the most personal of all human characteristics, and is as different in all of us as our faces and voices. For the nothing it’s worth, my known IQ scores have an eighty point range. (Got most of ’em from my Mom, who taught in the same school system.) All they measured, if anything, was how tired or awake I was, and how much I enjoyed or hated being tested at some point in time. And none of them mattered, except Continue reading "Moron the IQ myth (pun intended)"

Old wise in news bottles

That headline just came to me and I don’t want to lose it. So I’ll post it now and fill in the large blank below later.

Forever nine

This is for Christopher Baker. Chris was nine years old when a friend shot him through the head by mistake, using a gun the friend’s father kept for protection. Chris was a great kid: fun-loving, kind and athletic. In the open casket at his funeral, he wore a baseball cap that covered the fatal wound. The hole in his parents hearts would never be filled. Chris was their only child, and they never had another. If Chris had lived, he would have been forty-two years old now. Instead, for those who remember him, he’ll always be nine. If you think I’m about to go into an argument for gun control, be disappointed, because I don’t have one. Like millions of others who know innocent victims of gunfire, I feel grief and despair. Unlike many or most of them, I have no answer. As Gideon Litchfield writes in Quartz, There Continue reading "Forever nine"

Talking customer power and VRM

I’ll be on a webinar this morning talking with folks about The Intention Economy and the Rise in Customer Power. That link goes to my recent post about it on the blog of Modria, the VRM company hosting the event. It’s at 9:30am Pacific time. Read more about it and register to attend here. There it also says “As a bonus, all registered attendees will receive a free copy of Doc’s latest book, The Intention Economy: How Customers Are Taking Charge in either printed or Kindle format.” See/hear you there/then.    

What everything isn’t

We know shit. I mean, in respect to the Everything that surrounds us, and the culture in which we are pickled from start to finish, what we know rounds to nothing and is, with the provisional exception of the subjects and people we study and love, incomplete and therefore somewhere between questionable and wrong. But we can’t operate in the present without some regard for the future, which brings me to a comparison of futurist related ideologies, from H+pedia, which was new to me when I saw this in a post to a list I’m on: ists Here is my reply to the same list:
Must we all be “ists?” I mean, is a historian a “pastist?” I’m into making the future better than the present by understanding everything I can. Most of what I can understand is located in the past, but I’ve only lived through Continue reading "What everything isn’t"

Remembering Big Davy

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Live as if you were to die tomorrow. Learn as if you were to live forever.
— Mahatma Gandhi

I’m not sure if Gandhi actually said that. Somebody did. My best human chance of finding who said it — or at least of gaining a learned enlargement on the lesson — would have been David Sallis. “Big Davy” didn’t know everything, but he came closer than anybody else I know, and he was a living exemplar of Gandhi’s advice. Davy’s answer would have been knowing, clever and enlarged by a joke, a wild story or both. Alas, I can’t ask him, because he died last Friday of a stroke he suffered a few days earlier. He was just 56, and is survived by his wife Margaret and daughter Rosie — mararet-and-rosie — both of whom he adored absolutely — and by countless friends and colleagues who remain shocked and saddened by
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Screen Shot 2015-11-24 at 2.00.49 PM
Continue reading "Remembering Big Davy"

Valley Fire losses

Here is the current perimeter of the Valley Fire, according to the USGS’ GEOMAC viewer: ValleyFire 2015-09-13 at 3.10.24 PM_a As you see, no places are identified there. One in particular, however, is of extremely special interest to me: Harbin Hot Springs. It is where I met my wife and more friends than I can count. It is also one of the most lovely places on Earth, inhabited and lovingly maintained by wonderful people. I just matched up a section of the map above with Google Maps’ Earth view, and see that Harbin and its neighborhood are in the perimeter: Screen Shot 2015-09-13 at 3.12.19 PM Still we’re talking about a perimeter here. Not everything within one burns. Harbin is mostly in a valley. Could be the fire jumped from ridge to ridge and missed it. But I suspect that instead we are looking at very sad news here, especially after seeing this picture here, which looks northwest
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Continue reading "Valley Fire losses"

My Leadership Philosophy

Pursue Good Profits Life is short. A fair profit comes from the melding of resources such that the results are worth more than the sum of the inputs. This is the point in which true “value creation” happens. Good profits don’t come from charging customers just because you can at a particular moment in time – say an emergency. This is price gouging. Beyond being illegal in most circumstances, it is also a sign of an opportunistic company thinking only of the short term. Good profits leave both transacting parties in a place of satisfaction. The pursuit of fair profits speaks to the integrity of an organization across multiple dimensions. If you have leverage over a customer and you use it unfairly, customers will pay you back at their earliest opportunity (e.g. think Blockbusters late return fee policy in the age of Netflix and video on demand.) If Continue reading "My Leadership Philosophy"

We can all make TV. Now what?

meerkatLook where Meerkat andperiscopeapp Periscope point. I mean, historically. They vector toward a future where anybody anywhere can send live video out to the glowing rectangles of the world. If you’ve looked at the output of either, several things become clear about their inevitable evolutionary path:
  1. Mobile phone/data systems will get their gears stripped, in both directions. And it will get worse before it gets better.
  2. Stereo sound recording is coming. Binaural recording too. Next…
  3. 3D. Mobile devices in a generation or two will include two microphones and two cameras pointed toward the subject being broadcast. Next…
  4. VR, or virtual reality.
Since walking around like a dork holding a mobile in front of you shouldn’t be the only way to produce these videos, glasses like these are inevitable:

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(That’s a placeholder design in the public domain, so it has no IP drag, other than whatever submarine patents already exist, and I am Continue reading "We can all make TV. Now what?"

Local jazz radio coming to Kansas City

mutualmusiciansSo I just learned that a Kansas City Jazz station is headed toward existence. If you love any of these musicians, this should be very good news. The story begins,
By this time next year, Kansas City-style jazz might be bebopping out of a new radio station near you. The Mutual Musicians Foundation in the 18th and Vine jazz district announced this week it’s been granted a construction permit for a noncommercial, low-power FM radio station. The foundation is hoping the KC jazz station, at 104.7 FM, will be on the air by next January.
It will be called KOJH-LP. LP stands for low power, or what the FCC calls LPFM. Here’s the application for what’s now a granted CP, or Construction Permit. In fact there is a jazz station called KOJH already — a streaming one in Oklahoma. Though it’s not a licensed radio station, it may have inherited those call letters from one. (I’ve looked, but haven’t been able to tell. Maybe the lazyweb knows.) Here’s the station’s mission, filed with the FCC. Continue reading "Local jazz radio coming to Kansas City"

We’re all going to need clothes

door knocker, beacon hillIn the physical world we know what privacy is and how it works. We know because we have worked out privacy technologies and norms over thousands of years. Without them we wouldn’t have civilization. Doors and windows are privacy technologies. So are clothes. So are manners respecting the intentions behind our own and others’ use of those things. Those manners are personal, and social. They are how we clothe, shelter and conduct ourselves in the world, and how we expect others to do the same. The Internet is a new virtual world we also inhabit. It was born in 1995 with the first graphical browsers, ISPs, email and websites. It arrived in our midst as a paradise. But, as with Eden, we walked into it naked — and we still are, except for the homes and clothing we get from companies like Google, Amazon, Facebook and Apple. They clothe us in uniforms, one for every login/password combination. Who we are and what we can do is limited by what they alone provide us. Yes, it’s civilized: like the middle ages. We toil and prosper inside the walls of their castles, and on their company lands. In many ways the system isn’t bad. Continue reading "We’re all going to need clothes"

Winter arrives

It’s already snowing across eastern Pennsylvania and much of New Jersey and upstate New York: first snowStill raining steadily here in New York, but hey: snow might come. Either way, Winter’s here.

Every thing has a face, and vice versa

That line came to me a few minutes ago, as I looked and read through the latest photographic blog posts by Stephen Lewis in his blog, Bubkes). This one… Stephen Lewis photo… titled Farmyard, Grandmother, Chicken, and Ovid in Exile, is accompanied by richly detailed text, including this:
The courtyard in the photo no longer exists; it and and the vegetable garden were uprooted several years ago.  in their place: a summer-time restaurant surrounded by neatly planted flowerbeds and a tall antenna tower of a mobile telephony company resting on a broad concrete footing.  The grandmother still lives on the plot, however, and tends the little that remains of her garden.  She is in her late-eighties now and, at day’s end, often sits on the raised curb of the newly paved road next to her former farmyard in expectation of passersby…

Nothing is permanent, but in this case the more durable feature is the grandmother and her friendly face — the face of the place, while she lasts. Also arresting is Corn Stalks, a Plateau, the Black Sea, and the Horizon: dscf0268 It’s a place that calls to mind face in its verb form. A synonym might be to meet, or to confront. We face a challenge, an opportunity, a problem, success, failure, or the world. Things face us as well, but not always directly. Three of the four things in the photo are mostly hidden by the first, but far more vast and open. Also flat. Horizons may feature mountains, but they are horizontal: flat and wide. We are walking and running animals that work best in the horizontal. Our eyes shift more easily to left and right than to up and down. Our stereoscopic vision and hearing also locate best in the horizontal spread from one here to many theres. Our species dispersed from Africa toward gone horizons, mostly along coasts long since drowned by melting ice caps. The Black Sea has changed greatly in spread and shape throughout human history, and may have reached its present height in a deluge through the Dardanelles and Bosporus seaways. The view on the path in the photo is framed between the vertical blinders of dry corn stalks at the edges of fields of unseen vastness. (Corn fields have always been both beautiful and a tiny bit creepy to me, ever since I got a bit lost when wandering as a kid into a cornfield somewhere, with no clear direction out other than the sound of distant voices.) Between the last paragraph and this one, Stephen posted another photo, titled Shabla, Bulgaria: Seawards and Kitchenwards, taken on the shore of the Black Sea: shabla-bulgaria-seawards-and-kitchenwards The subject is mostly boats and ramps. In the foreground are stairs and wood railings, two of the many literal and figurative framings, none quite horizontal, in a vertical photo with dimensions we call “portrait.” On the face of this Bulgarian shore, one ear is the sea itself. All the ramps face land and sea. To them the camera is an unseen visitor from another dimension. While seeing and hearing are mostly horizontal (our ears as well as our eyes are aligned with the horizon), eating is vertical: food is something we “eat up” and “get down.” So is nutrition: we “raise” crops and cattle.” In Stephen’s photos, things have faces too. Some are literal, such as in Guns of August, Books of August: The Iconography of a Gravestone in Prague: ww-i-grave-prague-copy-2 The photo puts in contrast the irony of cemetery “monuments” (as gravestones are now called), commemorating stuff nobody alive remembers, for an audience a living performer might round to zero. Under the subhead The Emotions of the Living; the Passivity of the Dead, Stephen writes,

The photo above, taken in the immense cemetery in the late-19th/early-20th century residential quarter of Vinohrady, portrays a gravestone tableau of life’s emotionized figures that reveals the ways that those in the comfort and safety of the home-front consciously or unconsciously sanitized, rationalized, and ennobled the senseless carnage of World War I.

Last month I visited the graves of relatives three generations and more ahead of mine, at Woodlawn Cemetery in The Bronx, and reported on that visit in Lives of the Dead. While some graves at Woodlawn yearned toward the kind of extravagance Stephen found in Vinohrady, my late kinfolk leaned in the opposite direction, marking little or nothing of who they planted there. To my knowledge, I was the first to surface (at those last two links) twenty Englerts, Knoebels and others whose faces in death are carpets of mowed grass. And who knows how long anything will last on the Web? My old blog, on which I wrote from 1999-2007, survives by the grace of a friend, and its blogroll is a near-cemetery of rotting links. Every thing faces a future for as long as we grace it with expectation of use, appreciation or some other goodness. Why else save anything? So I’m glad Stephen keeps putting these photos up, and enlarging them so well with prose. Here’s a list of other photos in his series, posted since the last time I last blogged his series: It’s a wonderful gallery. Enjoy.