Category Archives: Tech

science you can use without thinking

It’s about bin Laden, Stupid

This is based on a news story with hard hitting investigative reporting, so shakers of salt and shots of tequila.

But . . .

You’re part of the team trying to find Osama bin Laden.  You would like to get compelling evidence of his location, say something 2.0 and high tech, say something like DNA.  Yeah, baby.  Get a sample that matches a known sample from a family member and you’ve got a great lead on the guy.  But how do you get that DNA?

Persuasion.  Here’s the Box.

The CIA organised a fake vaccination programme in the town where it believed Osama bin Laden was hiding in an elaborate attempt to obtain DNA from the fugitive al-Qaida leader’s family, a Guardian investigation has found.

What a fabulous persuasion play.  A Peitho Award Nomination to the CIA team that figured this out.  Vaccinations have become cultural truisms, apparently now global and universal, that are so widely ingrained that no one thinks a second thought about any program that offers a shot.

To sink the needle even deeper the CIA elaborated the basic scheme.  Agents convinced a government Pakistani physician in a neighboring province to offer a free vaccine program in the area where bin Laden might be hiding.  It is not clear whether the physician was a willing participant in the plan or was misled.  He’s been arrested by Pakistani authorities which suggests they think he knowingly cooperated with the CIA, but Pakistan is in an uproar over this incident and could be simply keeping up appearances with this arrest.  Persuasion Is Strategic so it is crucial to hide your Strategy from everyone else.  We simply don’t know about the physician’s motivations, just his behavior.

The physician first began putting up posters in the poorest sections of the region and started the program there.  He then moved the operation to an office closer to the presumed bin Laden compound in hopes of attracting bin Laden’s children to the clinic.  Furthermore, the vaccine itself was advertised as being manufactured by a well known and trusted Pakistani pharmaceutical company.

The doctor went to Abbottabad in March, saying he had procured funds to give free vaccinations for hepatitis B.  Bypassing the management of the Abbottabad health services, he paid generous sums to low-ranking local government health workers, who took part in the operation without knowing about the connection to Bin Laden.  Health visitors in the area were among the few people who had gained access to the Bin Laden compound in the past, administering polio drops to some of the children.

The Guardian report discloses that it cannot prove whether any bin Laden family members participated in this program, but if any did, it would have been possible to obtain DNA from the family member and compare it to a known DNA sample from the sister of Osama bin Laden who died in 2010 in a Boston hospital.  Such DNA evidence, of course, would argue strongly for the likely presence of bin Laden himself.

If you’re a serious persuasion scholar you are already smiling at a huge irony in this play.  One of the more famous and productive persuasion researchers of the past 50 years, William McGuire at Yale University, developed Inoculation Theory based in part on that deeper understanding of “cultural truisms” or beliefs that no one questions.  McGuire found that it was fairly easy to attack those beliefs precisely because no one had thought about them.  When challenged, people have great difficulty defending a cultural truism and can be turned quite easily.  McGuire developed and tested Inoculation Theory as a means of strengthening these defenseless attitudes and beliefs giving rise to my Headline – the best defense is a weak offense, meaning that people will develop a better defense when they face weak attacks.

The CIA turned the inoculation metaphor a different way and used the thoughtlessness these truisms live in to mount a different kind of persuasion attack.  They discovered that while bin Laden was extremely careful in his movements, he apparently gave little or no thought about the risks of vaccines.  Hey, it’s a Pakistani government physician running a free clinic for poor kids.  Hey, the vaccine is manufactured by a trusted Pakistani pharma.  Hey, the clinic is just down the road from my house.  Hey, go ahead; send the kids to get vaccinated.

Hey, maybe I’ll get a shot . . .

P.S.  If a CIA robot program catches this, please pass it along.  I appreciate your service to America.




Homunculus Rides Again

If you’re an old guy or just a fanatic who reads everything including those pillow tags, you probably ping on the word, Homunculus.  If not, let a picture speak its thousand words.

Yeah, the little human in your head that controls everything.  Everyone says they don’t believe there’s a little person inside everyone’s brain that is the ultimate source of consciousness and action.  That’s just ridiculous.  But if you look around the persuasion landscape, you recognize the unmistakable signs of that Laughable Metaphor lurking behind the smart explanations of human thought and action.

Recently a bright fellow looked at all those silly people who engage in apocalyptic prediction only to find inevitable disconfirmation.  The writer asks,

Why are such apocalyptic prophecies so common in human history? What are their emotional and cognitive underpinnings?

After a bit of to-ing and fro-ing in a thoughtful turn of mental pipe twisting, he answers his question.

Cognitively, there are several other processes at work, starting with the fact that our brains have evolved to be pattern-seeking belief engines. Imagine yourself as a hominid on the plains of Africa three million years ago. You hear a rustle in the grass. Is it the wind or a dangerous predator?

There is no compelling physical evidence that human brains evolved like this although it is not unbelievable.  And since the explanation can be neither proven nor refuted, it is little more than the Homunculus, but dressed up in the mechanical mysteries of evolution.

Another writer uses evolution as the Homunculus to explain the biology of morality.  Our values are in our genes.  The writer uses the example of Osama bin Laden.

It’s presumably neither ethical nor practical, but supposing that somebody could sequence Osama bin Laden’s genome, which genes would you want to examine to try to understand his violent desires?  I put this question to the psychologist Simon Baron-Cohen, the author of a new book called “The Science of Evil” (and a cousin of comedian Sacha Baron Cohen). He replied that there is no evidence that bin Laden’s crimes came from his nature, rather than from his experiences, so you might find nothing.  But, Prof. Baron-Cohen went on, it would at least be interesting to take a look at bin Laden’s MAOA gene (linked to aggression), his AVPR1A and CNR1 genes (linked to emotional expression) and his CYP11B1, NTRK1, and GABRB3 genes, which show some association with how individuals score on a scale called the “Empathy Quotient.”

Again there’s no good physical evidence that evolution has anything or everything to do with this, but once again since the hypothesis can be neither proven or refuted, it is another kind of Homunculus, a little invisible thing within us that makes us just so.  Instead of the little human, you substitute MAOA or AVPR1A (kinda sound like hip new websites, don’t they?).

You also see the Homunculus 2.0 in those marvelous brain pictures that accompany the latest and greatest neuroscience.  Consider.  McCabe and Castel ran three experiments with college adults – presumably pretty sharp thinkers compared to free range folks living without the benefit of the U – that provided research reports varying on the pretty pictures.  Half the time the pretty picture was just quantitative while the other half of the time the pretty picture was a pretty picture of a brain.  Like this.

McCabe and Casteel created fictitious and scientifically questionable results in experiments about the relationship between brain activity and watching TV.  Like this:

For example, in the article entitled, “Watching TV is Related to Math Ability,” it was concluded that because watching television and completing arithmetic problems both led to activation in the temporal lobe, watching television improved math skills. This similarity in activation was depicted in a bar graph or brain image (shown in Fig. 1a), or was only explained in the text (the control condition).

In ELM terms, everyone reads weak Arguments (spurious claims, dubious data) that should generate negative elaborations in that Long Conversation in the Head.  These weak Arguments are accompanied by different kinds of pretty pictures which are available as simple Cues.  And, there’s a No Picture Control so we see what happens when there are no pictures.  So, how goes the results?

Planned comparisons revealed that both the brain image (M = 2.92, SEM = .04) and bar graph (M = 2.90, SEM = .04) conditions were rated as better written than the control condition (M = 2.77, SEM = .05), F(1, 155) = 5.82, MSE = 1.82; F(1,155) = 3.92, MSE = 1.28, respectively. Critically, as shown in Fig. 1b, texts accompanied by a brain image were given the highest ratings of scientific reasoning, differing reliably from both the control, F(1, 155) = 5.87, MSE = 1.70, and bar graph conditions, F(1, 155) = 8.38, MSE = 1.85.

Those F-ratio statistics translate into Small Plus Windowpanes, so the effect is right on the edge of apparent to the naked eye.  The researchers replicate the study, this time with a comparison between these two pretty pictures of the brain.

The one on the right is the familiar pretty picture of a brain while the one on the left is a topological map which provides the same information, just in a way that only makes sense to a scientist.  Again, these images accompany a report of a bad experiment on TV watching and math ability.  This time, McCabe and Castel find a Small Windowpane difference.  College student rate the bad report as better with the familiar brain pretty picture.

McCabe and Castel replicate this effect one more time on the topic of using brain scans to detect criminals, and again find the pretty picture brain image leads people to rate the bad science as better.

And just to be the Annoying Professor here, this effect has been replicated by other researchers.  Weiberg et al. produce the same finding in their well titled paper, The Seductive Allure of Neuroscience Explanations.  Add a pretty picture to poor science and you get Homunculus 2.0 in operation.  And, Diane Beck provides a nice overview of these kind of failures reported in the New York Times, demonstrating that you don’t need a randomized controlled trial to illustrate the new Homunculus.  And, (and this is the last And here), we can return to George Miller and his warnings about bad science with the brain among – Scientists!

Please see the metaphor here.  No one uses the word Homunculus nowadays, although it would be a helluva name for an Eminor Whiner band.  Yet, many people still believe in the concept behind the label.  There something in there that is driving us.  Evolution shaping our brains.  MAOA genes shaping our brains.  And, those pretty pictures reveal it all.  But, when you think about it, none of these things are proven or explanatory.  At best they only correlate with thought and action.

See now the Persuasion Play here.  As I’ve noted before, you’ll learn nothing new about persuasion from fMRI pictures, but you can make people think they are seeing the Real Thing with those pictures.  Hire somebody with a brain scanner and get some of those pretty pictures.  Put them in your corporate annual report or your marketing study for the Head Shed or in your promotional materials selling your services.  People will reliably fall for it.  The Rules!

All Bad Science Is Persuasive.  You Cannot Persuade A Falling Apple.  You Should Not Try To Persuade A Falling Apple.

Too, and most importantly:  It’s about the Other Guy, Stupid.  And if Other Guys are falling for pretty pictures then buy that camera and learn how to use it!

P.S.  Read more about it with these sources.

Beck, Diane M. The appeal of the brain in the popular press. Perspectives on Psychological Science, Vol 5(6), Dec 2010, 762-766.

doi: 10.1177/1745691610388779

McCabe, David P.; Castel, Alan D. Seeing is believing: The effect of brain images on judgments of scientific reasoning. Cognition, Vol 107(1), Apr 2008, 343-352.

doi: 10.1016/j.cognition.2007.07.017

Weisberg, Deena Skolnick; Keil, Frank C.; Goodstein, Joshua; Rawson, Elizabeth; Gray, Jeremy R. The seductive allure of neuroscience explanations. Journal of Cognitive Neuroscience, Vol 20(3), Mar 2008, 470-477.

doi: 10.1162/jocn.2008.20040


Mainstream Media Firewalls twitter and Obama

The live twitter event in the Obama East Room of the White House on Wednesday, July 6, 2011 offers an interesting line of persuasion plays.

In the day after the event, realize that virtually no one in mainstream media journalism is saying anything about the event.  Broadcast news gave virtually no time to the event and the newspapers are remarkably silent about it.  Hey, the President did a one hour live question and answer session with The People where he fielded questions from sources he did not directly control.  That’s not news?

Well, according to ABC, CBS, NBC, CNN, Fox, CNBC, the New York Times, Washington Post, Wall Street Journal, and on and on . . . no, it is not news.  By every standard that is traditional and holy, this is an impossible outcome.  Presidential interactions with anyone for one hour are NEWS.

No more.

And you should see the outlines of the persuasion problem.  Obama reached a highly targeted segment of Other Guys with his twitterQ&A, but he got no reverberations or echoes through other media lines even though he Made News.  No other media source amplified his message through their networks and thus reaching other Other Guys.  In the past, Presidents could reliably figure that anything they did live with one source would get picked up by many other sources.  That’s the nature of the game and smart politicians could make both news and persuasion through the same event.

But here we’ve got something quite new and different in the world of modern mediated persuasion.  Different sources appear to be stovepiping their audience, trying to wall them off from competitors.  Hey, why should ABC/Disney help twitter get a bigger audience and make more money?  Sure, ABC/Disney will use twitter to deliver their content, but they sure the hell are not going to let twitter content get into their network.  In many ways this twitter Presidential interview is a kind of virus that will destroy other media networks and they need to keep it out.

I suspect this won’t happen again.  Here’s why.

If I’m a Republican, I learned a lot watching this, mostly how not to do a 2.0 persuasion event.  Obama had a golden opportunity to invent a new style of politics and brand it as his own and he blew it.  He took a New New Thing and made it work like the Old Old Thing, merely taking two tin cans and a string and calling it IM.  A smart Republican (hey, Rick Perry, think about this) could play with both the old media (TV, print) and the new media (2.0) to create win-win outcomes for both technologies and at the same time create that New New Brand, a President of All Media.  Tweet, Like, and SoundBite together, united in the BrotherSisterhood of Mediation.  Oh, baby.

If I’m Obama, I’m clearly clueless, so I’d better have some maven on the team I believe and trust because Obama is Herbert Hoover Walking right now and needs every Lifeline he can get.  This kind of communication, branding, and persuasion combination could create enough of a New Change We Can Believe In that Obama could actually get re-elected.

If I’m in the media, Old or New, everyone will have strong external pressure to cooperate.  A divided Media cannot Stand!  As long as these journalistic sources are playing McAfee and Norton on each other, they will eventually wall themselves into MediaSpheres that are as viable as the BioSphere, which is to say, they are dying through their own fear, jealousy, and hatred.  The Media House of Many Mansions is good for business and better for democracy.  That homily presses on both twitter and the New York Times and they will eventually work together.

Thus, it behooves a persuasion maven to get in front of the Inevitable and shape it to his or her purposes, thus gaining all the benefits of being there first.  Wait for Michele Bachmann to figure this out.

P.S.  Put the White House press corps in the room mixed in with citizens from the slice you are persuading today.  Run some opening interaction through twitter Q&A with 140 character limits strictly enforced.  Now, do live Q&A with people from the room as selected by a Trustworthy Moderator.  Return to the twitter Q&A format and alternate between.  Hey, take a phone call from a yahoo in a FlyOver State.  Close the event with a handshaking rope line.  Then enter another room filled with a dozen potential Fat Cat Donors.  Drink coffee or RedBull and collect the checks.

Obama’s twittering

Today President Obama executed a persuasion play involving Web 2.0 social media and an end run around the traditional elite media.  He ran a mass mediated persuasion event in the East Room of the White House that was little more than a one hour commercial for his 2012 re-election effort.  Consider that he had a roomful of handpicked and adoring citizens (that 25-35 aspirational clan of Internet savvy young adults), the co-founder of twitter, Jack Dorsey, sitting stiffly in his chair reading twitter questions screened by a hand picked team of curators and displayed on a large plasma screen, and no one to harry, hector, or harass him during or after his untimed, uncontrolled, and unending responses.  It doesn’t get much better than that and you know that Richard Nixon, Jack Kennedy, Dwight Eisenhower, and Harry Truman are rolling over in their graves at the sight of Obama shooting fish in a barrel.

Yet the event was a serious failure for Team Obama in the run to election in 2012.

First, this event did not target, address, or hit key swing voters that hold Obama’s future in their hands.  Obama played largely to an adoring audience of glowing graduate students who will do anything and everything to help Obama, including tweet during this event to all their similar friends.  Obama won the election in his own locker room with this persuasion play.  And, judging by the silence in the room after the first ten minutes, Obama put them all to sleep.  Sure, most of them were live twittering from the East Room, but then they were doing that in the lecture hall with their professors which tells you much about them, their professors, and Mr. Obama.

Second, twitter and most Web 2.0 platforms are seriously compromised as neutral parties in the election.  Consider these two paragraphs.

Dorsey, the Twitter co-founder, is leaving open the idea of trying something like this again. On his Twitter account, he called the event a “great first step for future Town Halls,” and he asked his nearly 1.7 million followers for advice: “How can we make Twitter @TownHalls better in the future?”

Now, this.

First, yes it (PB Note: “it” is twitter) is worth $7 billion and perhaps exponentially more.  Seriously.  If Facebook, which is awful and will end up being only a digital singles bar where divorcees find the person they should’ve gone to prom with, is worth $90 billion then Twitter should be worth closer to $20 billion than 10.  In fact I could construct a scenario extrapolating current usage trends and social impact whereby Twitter’s value ultimately exceeds Facebook’s.

Jack Dorsey sat next to President Obama for approximately one hour and asked questions that were pitches taken from the Chicago Softball Beer League then allowed Mr. Obama more mulligans, do-overs, and let me rephrase that chances than a parent in a Pee Wee T-Ball League game.  He clearly would not do anything that affects the financial future of twitter.  I suspect that Dorsey and his crew are developing these town hall wet kiss events for Republicans too given Obama’s perilous chances for 2012.  No reason to offend the team that may well run the East Room of the White House in January 2013, is there?

Third, Obama broke no new ground with Web 2.0.  Whatever power social media hold for politics, Obama chose not to deploy it in this event.  He just brought a computer and a big screen to a cozy, cherry-picked townhall PR stunt.  He did not come close to using twitter the way it works in a rapid exchange of 140 character messages through the Internet.  No one tweets out a 10 minute oral response in 140 character bursts, yet that’s how Obama wants the world to know how he tweets.  And, while we’re on it, how was this technology any different than 1980?  People could have sent a fax to a phone number and then let Fax Curators pick the groovy winners.  Jack Dorsey regularly pointed out the time dated freshness of the tweeted questions noting that this one had come in since the event began and that one arrived just a few minutes ago using a time frame that again broadcast TV with fax lines could have matched.

Fourth, look over the list of curators who culled the thousands of tweets for the dozen or so that made it on that large screen in front of Jack Dorsey.  A college student newspaper kid.  A couple from North Carolina.  JV journalists in outlets one would traditionally think of as small town Fox News turf except they are on the progressive side of the tracks in those towns.  One who blogs for the Economist, while dabbling in cartooning, short fiction, and political theory.  And, what the hell is a curator anyway?  Is that the New Journalism for editor?

I rate this as a major persuasion disappointment.  Obama held all the cards in this game and yet the only play he could make was to lecture endlessly with nuance and without relief on any and every point.  Good grief, the town hall began with Obama tweeting a question to himself that he then answered in something considerably longer than a 140 character answer.  At least he held off including tweets from his wife or children or even his Vice President.  Maybe we’ll get that when he realizes just how much trouble he is in.  (Jeepers, do you remember 1980 and Jimmy Carter quoting his conversations with child-daughter Amy about nuclear war while getting stomped in debate by Ronald Reagan?)

A President gave one hour of face time for this stunt and got what?  Since he did this in the White House, he could not directly engage in fund raising.  Sure, he might get some peripheral money from this event, but imagine if instead he had walked across the street to the Hay-Adams Hotel in a private room with 20 fat cat donors.

Of course, he didn’t do this event to fund raise or even run for re-election.  He did this to affect legislation in Congress on the debt ceiling limit, and taxes, and budget cuts.  Yeah, he did it to put pressure on those damn greed head Republican obstructionists and baby, did he stick it to ‘em!  The twitterati are out in force right now, leaning on their Representatives and Senators, putting the arm on ‘em, telling ‘em what’s what.  And, all those 20something iGizmo kids who were in the room are having drinks and dinner with Representative Engulf and Senator Devour.  Do you believe that?

Got one more way to illustrate this persuasion failure.

Imagine Bill Clinton running the room.

Go with that counterfactual for a moment.  Imagine Bill Clinton in the East Room with a crowd of hand picked swing and independent voters making his re-election run with the new media and twitter.  Just to jog your memory, here’s a shot of Mr. Clinton in 1992 handling the twitter of its time, the Arsenio Hall show.

How about Mr. Clinton on the Facebook of then, MTVBoxers or briefs?

Clinton would have actually maintained a running twitter session with everyone on the Internet while engaging tweets from the audience, and moving through the room and talking with everyone.  He would have burned down that room and the Web.  And, you know it.

Mr. Obama designed a home run persuasion event then hit a Pee Wee league shot heard round the world 2.0.

Yeah.  twitter is worth $7 billion.

Yeah.  Obama is going to get re-elected in a landslide.

Yeah.  Remember, It’s about the Other Guy, Stupid.  Don’t persuade yourself.




Where’s the Beef 2.0?

Here’s the scene with President Obama at his twitter event (click to enlarge).

He began the event in the East Room with history.  He made the first live, on-camera, Presidential tweet!

He sat down in front of cameras and a small audience with a moderator who read aloud twitter questions that were on a huge screen in front of everyone.  Mr. Obama then spoke as long as he wanted to the moderator questions.

In other words, he did persuasion politics as usual.

Where’s the beef 2.0, asks Clara Peller!

P.S.  Did a handpicked house fall asleep? Is he that boring?  I’ve heard noisier lecture halls in the middle of a test.


Testing Maven Status

Today, Wednesday, July 6, 2011, at 2pm Eastern, President Obama will hold a twitter event.  People are currently tweeting 140 character questions.  From this pool, a twitter executive will select questions that he will forward to President Obama for his live response at 2pm.  Currently at 1pm Eastern time the most popular question posed is:

Would you consider legalizing marijuana?

You can follow the twitter stream here and survey the zany range of content made possible through the combination of Web 2.0 and the principles of our Founding Fathers.  twitter makes little d democracy!

As I scan the various sources and feeds from this event, it strikes me rather like the digital dustcloud that circled the Casey Anthony murder trial.  Web 2.0 is shocked and outraged over the not guilty verdict which poses that interesting choice between Social Media and the American Trial System.  Gee, which method is most likely to produce justice?  I wonder, hmmmmm.  Web 2.0 is just a twitch collector and a Low WATT twitch collector at that.

Beyond the obvious meme of American Democracy Gone To Hell Yet Again, think now like a persuasion maven.  You’re advising President Obama and his twitter account with 2.5 million followers.  You see the phenomenal foolishness in Web 2.0, but minimally, here you are so deal with it.  Maximally, how do you use this to get your guy reElected.

1.  How does Web 2.0 get your voters to the polls on Election Day?

2.  How can Web 2.0 trouble your opponents?

3.  Geez, can Web 2.0 produce behavior change?  Behavior persistence?  Resistance?

and on and on . . .

You see the opportunity here.  A persuasion maven will take this event and a new means of persuasion and shape it to success.  Mr. Obama is in an extremely difficult position right now and his chances for reelection are worse than usual for an incumbent:  A bad economy, worse unemployment, wars he continued and started, legislative failures, angry base.  If he and his crew truly are persuasion mavens, a novel event like this could mark their skill as they snatch victory from the jaws of defeat.

Or they could just be dumb luck one term lamers.  Jeepers, imagine Jimmy Carter with twitter in 1980?  Now, think about Bill Clinton in 1992.  Where will Obama fall between those anchor extremes for persuasion skill?  We’ll see today at 2pm.

All Persuasion Is Local and twitter is a new local element.  How do you shape it?

Persuasion Is Strategic or It Is Not.  Simply putting up Change We Can Believe In (Again) is not strategic although it’s under 140 characters.  Where’s the Web 2.0 persuasion strategy?

Drive with science, putt with poetry.  Watch the live event at 2pm to see whether Mr. Obama has any persuasion poetry for swing voters.


Persuasion Engine 2008

While doing routine writing maintenance for the Blog I encountered this post I’d begun in 2008.  It nicely demonstrates the tentative beginnings of the Persuasion Engine.  Consider the WSJ Headline and story.

The Ad Changes With the Shopper
Some Digital Screens Could Adjust Messages Based on Features

The article then notes businesses like Dunkin’ Donuts, Proctor & Gamble, and Metro Extra that were testing elements of the PE each trying to capitalize on a key strength of the Engine, it hits when the Other Guy is in position to execute the TACT.  The article notes that these technologies work . . .

when and where consumers are closer to making a purchase: in the store . . . In the latest effort to tailor ads to specific consumers, marketers are starting to personalize in-store promotions based on products the consumer recently picked off a shelf or purchased — and in the near future, based on what the shopper looks like.

This 2008 example illustrates the key feature of a persuasion engine:  Real time modification of a persuasive message based on understanding a specific Other Guy.  It also spotlights a crucial application of the engine:  In front of the TACT.

. . . with Persuasion the Illusion Lingers

According to my Rule, Persuasion is not Smoke and Mirrors because the Effect (or the Illusion) Lingers. Stated another way, if you’re actually doing Persuasion, you keep making money which is why I am dubious about both the persuasive and financial power of Facebook. Consider an object lesson that appears to involve not Facebook, but . . . MySpace.

Once upon a time, MySpace was the king and pioneer of social networking. When Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp. bought the company for $580 million, it looked like a steal. Surely MySpace must be worth billions as it forged a path into whole new corners of the Internet and popular culture. Right?

Of course we know today that Murdoch sold MySpace for $35 million dollars.  The financial maven who wrote the story in the blockquote estimates that Murdoch lost at least $1 billion in the venture.

If you’re old enough you might remember your own MySpace page and just how incredibly groovy the thing was. MySpace was always cooler than Facebook because of that initial hook with music along with all the social connectivity. In fact, MySpace was so obviously cool that one of the all time great media mavens, Rupert Murdoch, thought he had a stranglehold on Web 2.0 with his purchase of MySpace in 2005.  And, today he’s toweling off a billion dollar bath.

Facebook’s market capitalization is estimated at $70 billion.  That would put it somewhere in the Fortune 100 of global corporations.  Really.   Not the Top 50, but the Bottom 50, but still one of the most valuable corporations in the world.  If you’re a persuasion maven, you have got to know the difference between smoke and mirrors and persuasion.  Facebook is burning right now and you’ve got to know who’s got the persuasion fire and who’s got the smoke and mirrors.

Look to see what lingers.


Japan Persuades to a Green Stone Age

The Japanese government seeks a 15% reduction in national energy usage and not because of the problems with that tsunami struck nuclear power plant, but as the new national policy.  And that’s not efficiency as in getting 15% more use out of a lump of coal, gallon of gas, or rod of uranium.  No, this is reducing as in cutting the piles, puddles, and stacks of the stuff by 15%.  What to do?  Hit the New New Thing persuasion play:  a YouTube video.

Set your thermostat to 82 degrees.  That’s the ticket.  And, line up the fashion players to design new clothes.  The fashion folks are hot for this because people will need to buy new clothes, cool clothes, supercool clothes, in fact.  Nice play.  How about something like this, fellas?

Of course, setting thermostats at 82 and showing a little leg won’t make that 15% reduction goal.  That will likely require negative growth in the Japanese GDP.  Most folks call that a recession, but if it’s in the name of Green, we’ll try SuperCoolBusiness instead.

Remember when Japan Inc. was in our rear view mirror?  They generated a real estate bubble in the late 1980s that made them Masters of the Universe until the bubble burst creating even more damage than our 2008 real estate bust.  If you ever wondered what happened to Japan just look at their equivalent to the S&P 500, the Nikkei 225.

They lost all growth through the 1990s and since then are just limping along with virtually no economic growth.  Their financial markets are at the level they were in the early 1980s just before their bubble.  A 15% reduction in national energy use is not going to make things grow, but everyone will be cool, SuperCoolBusiness cool.

Persuasion is a great tool when the Other Guy is dying and you want to keep it a secret.

P.S.  Did the same folks who came up with the Grand Rapids, MI video consult with the Japanese government on this one?