Facebook Jumps the Shark

We missed the actual date when Facebook jumped the shark, but I’m calling it now, even if I’m two years late.  Consider this.

Mike Schroepfer, Facebook’s vice president of engineering, says the social-networking company has a growing need for employees with statistics backgrounds. “When you build for the Web, you have quicker real-time access about how people are using the product,” he says. “You have to use the data in the proper way.”

The company is tackling the problem in two ways. In the summer of 2008, it created a six-week-long boot camp required for all new engineers and included a module on training in probability and statistics. Employees teach new recruits to use tools for comparing the performance of one version of a feature with another and how to determine what sort of difference in response is meaningful.

Training in statistics and probability?  Facebook didn’t need no stinkin’ statistics to go from Harvard dorm to World Wide Wow.  They had the Big Idea that Sold Itself to the Masses.  They didn’t need a two tailed t-test with a preset alpha of .05 to find what worked then.  But, they do now.

And, that means they’ve jumped the shark.  Nothing innovative, compelling, Wow! from Facebook anymore.  Just the Microsoft grind of accumulating small effects and buying the competition.

And, all that Big Brother stuff, too.  But, that’s not innovative.  Orwell in 1948 and Apple in 1984.

Facebook Apple Orwell

Remember the Rule:  Power Corrupts Persuasion!

P.S. And if you think six weeks makes you a statistician, remember this sub Rule:  Simply Because You Can Count It that Doesn’t Mean You Can Change It.

Nike’s Tiger Pinata

Depressed Tiger and Disembodied Earl Nike AdThere’s no easy way around Tiger’s Escapade in an Escalade.  He’s gonna take a beating in every marketplace no matter what, so when considering the Persuasion Plan for the Way Back, realize he will suffer.  But, the Nike Plan with a depressive Tiger in washed out black and white with a mashup of his father’s voice struck me as Massively Painful, a Tiger Piñata lacking only a sign requesting a beating.

And, here’s the proof.  Less than 24 hours after Nike took the first step on the journey of 1,000 miles on the road to recovery, YouTube mashups are rolling over the Webscape.  They wash over Tiger and Nike, mocking not Tiger’s moral failure, but Nike’s persuasion failure.  Satire does not produce forgiveness or profit.

Everyone catches the faux Sincerity of the Nike ad, spotlighting the Professor Behind the Curtain faking sincerity in a lame attempt to follow my Rule:  All Bad Persuasion Is Sincere.  Let’s make the Nike Amendment . . .

All FauxSincere Persuasion Is Worse.

Persuasion Lessons from Three Leaders

3 Heads Karzai Abdullah Obama

The easiest writing in the Blogosphere is anything that snarks the President, or indeed any senior leader, entrepreneur, or risk taker.  They are busy as hell, working with incomplete information against ridiculous deadlines, wrestling with both known and unknown competition toward a goal seen only dimly.  News flash:  Leaders make mistakes!  So, analysis and criticism is one of those safe and pleasant comforts, bought and paid for by the blood, sweat, toil, and tears of others whilst you sit in front of the screen, hooting in your underwear, like an adolescent owl.  Let’s at least see if we can learn from observation.

Obama entered the scene offering not only Change We Can Believe In, but the promise of Another Great Communicator with skills forged and honed in the heat and pressure of Chicago community politics.  Yet, he quite nearly lost Health Care Reform with a filibuster safe Senate and a secure majority in the House.  He has essentially continued the Hated George W. Bush War on Terror all the while zigging and zagging through interrogation, trials, troop levels, and, of course, an Afghan Surge.  And while maintaining Bad Bush, because he zigged and zagged he gained precious little support from his natural allies and disdain from his adversaries who actually agree with him.

I assert that the Administration is lousy at persuasion, at using communication to change how freely choosing Other Guys think, feel, or act.   The Obama Administration continues to make Persuasion 101 mistakes, missteps, and misjudgments.  Consider, now, the latest bad example:  Hamid Karzai.  The New York Times explains under the headline, U.S. Now Trying Softer Approach Toward Karzai.

WASHINGTON — After more than a year of watching America’s ability to influence President Hamid Karzai ebb, Obama administration officials now admit privately that the tough-love approach Mr. Obama adopted when he came to power may have been a big mistake.

While I am not privy to the White House Cool Table and assuming that “tough-love” means the same thing to Obama, the New York Times, and me, let me analyze this.  Tough Love can be understood as a For Me? persuasion play – the simultaneous application of carrots and sticks, rewards and punishments, to achieve a desired TACT.  Executed without finesse, nuance, or subtlety, For Me? is nothing but Power.  Power Reinforcement Theory simply imposes the source’s will upon the receiver’s action through pain and pleasure, just like the Dom with the Sub in a BDSM relationship.  Assuming the source does have the proper rewards and punishments and applies them correctly, For Me? as pure power works.

Obviously, in a cooperative BDSM drama, all parties agree on the carrots and the sticks and as long as everyone behaves properly, the scene comes to a happy ending.  But, when, for example, the receiver has access to other consequences or brings an entirely different set of TACTs to the situation, the source power play with Reinforcement will fail.

This seems to be the case in the scene between Barack Obama and Hamid Karzai.  And, instead of achieving the happy ending, it appears that Obama managed to do nothing but elicit Reactance from Mr. Karzai with his deliberate attempts to unfairly restrict the freedom of Karzai’s choices and actions.  Karzai responded emotionally and aggressively, showing clear signs of Don’t Tread On Me, the mark of Reactance.  That’s what you get when you really don’t control the Other Guy.  Your Reinforcement Power fails to produce Change We Can Believe In, but rather, Wow Where Did That Come From?

Obama, the Next Great Communicator, decided to choose among his vast array of communication skills the For Me? play with the Power Setting on High.  Please recall the Rule:  Power Corrupts Persuasion.  Do you see?

Now contrast Obama’s Afghan Problem with another player also facing the Afghan Problem, Dr. Abdullah Abdullah.  You should recall that Abdullah ran a serious campaign for the Afghan Presidency against Karzai, but the election was marred with serious vote fraud.  Abdullah decided not to contest the election fraud and to not run in a required second round, thus giving the Presidency to Karzai.  Abdullah had power plays to run and could have created a People in the Streets Revolution, but deliberately chose against this power play.  He has an old head with long memories and has seen the destructive long term effects of power plays in Afghan politics and society.  Abdullah, for now anyway, is persisting with persuasion plays, using words to influence rather than pure power or even power veiled behind persuasion.

Let’s consider the Rules as we look at these three men.

If You Cannot Succeed, Don’t Try! sounds facile and cute.  Anyone with any sense who knows they cannot succeed will not try, but how can you know you won’t succeed?  When you can answer that question correctly most of the time, you know something about Persuasion and if you can’t, you don’t.  Clearly, Mr. Obama has plunged ahead in his Presidential politics believing he could succeed, when often he not only failed, but made things worse.  Contrast that with the actions of Dr. Abdullah who decided he could not succeed and eased back, waiting for another moment.

All Persuasion Is Strategic or It Is Not is another facile sounding truism – of course persuasion is strategic; you don’t do it just for the hell of it.  However, attempting persuasion with the strategic goal of checking off an item on your Presidential To-Do List is strategic, but not Strategic.  Mr. Obama seems to be looking at the next hill rather than the capitol (missing Leonard Cohen’s pointed song, first we take Manhattan then we take Berlin).  Again, contrast him with either Karzai and Abdullah who seem to be playing for larger stakes and deeper change in their Strategies.

It’s about the Other Guy, Stupid.  In these big instances, I feel nervously aware that Mr. Obama seems to be thinking through his desires rather than the Other Guy’s desires.  Of course, it is Obama’s desires that trigger everything.  He sets the goals.  But persuasion is about the means and that means the Other Guy.  Both Karzai and Abdullah operate in extremely dangerous situations and both have avoided death through great luck, great planning, and great reactions.  They seem to have better radar about the Other Guy compared to the relatively younger and considerably less experienced Obama.  Stated more crudely, they are schooling him.

All People Always Resist Significant Change.  Mr. Obama appears to understand this Rule as meaning, So Get The Hammer, rather than trying to find ways of reducing:  1) the Other Guy’s capacity to resist, 2) the significance of the Change, or 3) making the Change feel more like doing something familiar rather than something new.  Realize, we are still aiming at Significant Change, a Change We Can Believe In (even with that awful unfulfilled preposition, Gadzooks!).  It’s a big deal.  But we can influence the perception of the Significant Change.  This Rule demands finesse, nuance, and subtlety – the Nudge, right?  Isn’t the Administration prideful as the Nudge Network?  Where is he Nudging with Afghanistan and Karzai?

Finally, Power Corrupts Persuasion.  Since the campaign and taking office, I’ve noted Obama’s unfortunate and growing preference for power over persuasion.  He holds many large Sticks.  So powerful.  So quick.  So easy.  Don’t spend a lot of time studying the Other Guy.  Don’t worry over plans.  Just pick up a Stick, swing It, and see what you get.  Then either swing It harder or softer or pick a new Stick.  The corruptive effect of power on persuasion in this case is more compelling because the farther away you are from the consequences of power, the more attractive it becomes.  Both Karzai and Abdullah, as noted, face the ultimate consequence – violent death – and both play with power more carefully.  By contrast, Obama, while also facing this risk, clearly does not face violent death at the hands of a political adversary during a town hall meeting.  If it doesn’t work out, Obama can pick up the ball and go home, left to face American politics.  If it doesn’t work out for Karzai or Abdullah, the shot doesn’t cut to a political rally, but rather to their funeral.

Obama is making young guy persuasion errors.  He thinks he’s figured out the Other Guy, when he’s only figured out himself.  He thinks there’s nuance in power.  He thinks he’s got a plan when he’s got a to-do list.

Any of this sound familiar in your own experience?

But, he is in the game doing the best while I’m just sitting here hooting, hopefully with some insight, but hooting nonetheless.

Appalachian Meme or Cool Table Prejudice

I was born in Atlanta, Georgia, grew up as a child in rural, small town Missouri, then adolescence in suburban Chicago, Illinois, followed by young adulthood in urban Kansas City with second tours of rural, small town Missouri again.  In my early thirties, I moved to Morgantown, West Virginia and from that base I’ve traveled extensively across the State, the Heart of Appalachia, for twenty-five years.  I’m not a West Virginian by birth, but I am a West Virginian by choice.

AppalachiaFrom the moment I moved here, I’ve been acutely aware of a cultural prejudice about and against West Virginia and Appalachia from virtually everyone I meet outside the area.  Usually I’m wearing the Blue Suit with a Sophisticated Blonde on my Arm.  Whether as a Professor, Scientific Fed, or Fabulous Consultant, folks think I’m funning them when I claim Mountaineer Status.

The psychology of this prejudice is the same mechanism that drives racism, sexism, and every other thoughtless and biased Ism:  No direct personal experience in the formation of the bias, a reliance on a key salient beliefs that over time cohere into a well-connected and reliable story or framework or meme or just plain old prejudice.  Just good old Biased Processing from the ELM.

Shootfire, just look at a Google image search on “Appalachia.”  Barefoot.  Shirtless.  Hollers.  Rusted cars and washing machines.  Moonshine.  Tobacco fields.  Deliverance.  Incest. Snake handlers.  Mountain Men.  KKK.  Ancient pickup trucks.  Proud, but hapless, Coal Miners.  Sick and hungry children.  Hillbillies.

You might recall that the downfall of the infamous New York Times journalist, Jayson Blair, began with his in-depth story behind Jessica Lynch, the young West Virginia servicewoman who was captured in the Iraq War then rescued or “rescued” by Special Forces.  Blair opened his fictional news story about Lynch’s hometown with a description of tobacco fields.  I vividly remember reading that agricultural designation and hooting because I’ve been in that neck of the woods before and there ain’t no tobacco fields in them there parts.  Indeed, there’s precious little tobacco farming anywhere in the State, but if you’re a Cool Table elitist, you don’t know that and you don’t need to know that because you already know the Appalachian Meme.  And all other Cool Tablists and CT Aspirants know it, too.  Prejudice serves up easy, fun, and popular communication between and among Those In The Know.

Many years ago when the newsmagazine, Slate, was launching as the first online journalism venture, they had a fun columnist, Prudence, who responded to reader pleas concerning manners and morality.  Prudence, a paragon of virtue, taste, and style, always managed to navigate the perils of PostModern Political Correctness with good sense and old fashioned manners, until she served up a negative example of bad manners that was nothing but Appalachian racism.  The prejudice was small and discreet, but First Order Prejudice nonetheless.  Prudence would have been looking for a new line of work if she had responded similarly with Lesbians, African-Americans, or Muslims, but Appalachian trash, well, that’s another matter.

And, now, with the Upper Big Branch coal mine explosion I am once again treated to Cool Table foolishness parading as Truth.  We are still in the midst of rescue and recovery at this writing, yet the Cool Table is casting the story as predatory King Coal sucking the life out of the miners, their families, and the land of West Virginia in a pitiless and eternal grab for profit.  And always, “hardscrabble,” which is the Appalachian counterpart to words like “clean” for African-Americans, “family-oriented” for Hispanic-Americans, and “ambitious” for Asian-Americans when you can’t say what really comes to mind because you’re writing in polite company.

West Virginia is one big small town.  We have barely two million citizens and a State government budget just past four billion dollars.  On Game Day, Mountaineer Field in Morgantown becomes the largest city in the State with 65,000 residents for a weekend.  The land was part of an original colony, Virginia, but broke away from the Old Dominion during the Civil War over slavery.  We border Ohio and Pennsylvania.  Yet, we are not Southern or Northern or Rust Belt or Midwestern even though you find those markers in the State.

We are Appalachian.  Rural, small town, traditional values, close to family, community, and land.  If your car breaks down almost anywhere in this state, you’re safe.  Somebody will stop by soon and offer to carry you where you need to go.  We rarely commit crimes against strangers, especially strangers in distress.  In fact, we rarely commit violence against anyone.

This is not an aspirational, elite, upwardly mobile, highly educated, sophisticated, nuanced kind of place.  People are nice, humble, straight, open . . . good folks, salt of the earth folks.  They didn’t and wouldn’t invent the Internet, but they will use it.  We missed the Tech Bubble of 1999 and the Wall Street Bubble of 2008 and our employment rate is holding good in this recession.  We’ve got a diverse economy from coal to tourism to high tech corridors, light manufacturing, and lots of services like education and health care.

Things are going pretty good right now and we’ll handle the disaster in the Upper Big Branch mine.  We’ll rescue and recover.  We’ll do the public hearings and investigations.  We’ll do the science and engineering and make it better.  We will.  Mining is a damn dangerous thing and if you spend a good day with miners on their job, not the day after a disaster, but just a normal day, you know they know it and they keep that in mind.  They are friendly, but serious men and women who love each other and the work, even with the risk.  They are not Pawns, Puppets, or Patsies.  Just people who care about each other.

If you aspire to the Cool Table, you understand none of this, but fortunately you have the Appalachian Meme to protect your ignorance, inexperience, and intolerance.

And, y’all wonder why we don’t offer you a taste of White Lighting?

Persuasion 2.0 – It’s the Relationship . . . Maybe

Rocket and ZooeyI’ve noted before the persuasion plan to focus marketing efforts on building relationships between the buyer and seller.  For many reasons, most notably the conflicting demands between a running a relationship versus running a business transaction, I’m not persuasion hot for this idea either as a method or a metaphor.  At best you’ll end up eating the menu.  At worst, you’ll end up divorcing your customers.  Here’s a personal demonstration.

Today we received in the mail the first direct to consumer drug ad we’ve ever gotten in the mail (and we’re over 50!).  It’s from the Pharma, Merial, and extols the virtues of a new drug, Ivermectin, marketed under the brand name, HEARTGARD.  Perhaps, you’ve never heard of it and if you don’t have pets, you might confuse it with a new cholesterol-lowering wonder drug.

But, it is for cats and dogs, not humans.  Now, anyway.  I’m sure the scientists at Merial are working on that angle.  But, to the persuasion point and the uses of relational marketing.

This ad came to us through our long time vet.  And, oddly enough for a venal motive, they misspelled my last name, omitting the tell tale hyphen.  The ad, badly disguised as a friendly letter, makes frequent reference to our specific vet and our relationship.  We’ve been using her services (and her father’s before) for over 25 years.  It’s a very sensible clinic that treats animals as pets to be loved and protected like pets, not people.

Or used to.  Now, it appears, my vet wants to Go Two Point Oh, Upscale, and maybe even Cool Table.  The folks I used to like and trust as individuals now view me as a relational marketing target.  They will partner with a drug company and trade on our 25 year relationship to sell drugs.

Now, this is not Shock and Awe for me with my vet.  About a year ago, we took our elderly Rocket in for a recurring problem, but couldn’t get our usual vet, the clinic owner, but got instead, her new young partner, recently out of school.  He wanted to put Rock in Intensive Care, run an fMRI on him plus myriad other tests.  We went over Rocket’s medical file and pointed out his recurring problem and suggested we focus on that.  The fella seemed disappointed as if to say, “If you want to kill him, go ahead.”  So we did it the cheap, old fashioned way, got a refill of his old prescription, and Rock rocked on.  Ever since, we’ve been careful to get the Old Vet and not the Newer Vet who seems to think we need Health Care Reform for Cats, Dogs, and Animals that People Have Emotional Relationships With.

Let me be defensively quick to point out that our critters tend to live long healthy lives.  Most die peacefully in their sleep, curled up under a quilt or chair.  Several said goodbye, then traipsed off into our woods to depart Old School.  And, a couple we had to put to sleep because of an untreatable agony from illness or injury.  Our critters are animals, but we love them.

I see this relational marketing from the vet and the pharma as a monstrous violation of the 25 year history we’ve built.  The pharma is doubtless offering incentives to the vet to participate and it is a tough market.  I get the business angle.  But our vet has worked with us and our critters and has seen how we care for them and how we appreciate medical skill.  We had a working, friendly relationship that combined love of animals with their protection and our friendship.  Now, it is all business.  Now, let’s get the lawyers.  Now, let’s read the fine print.

I’m not sure if relational marketing is the wave of the future or merely the newest wave that will soon crest and crash.  It is a radioactive approach and if you do it well, it can create a Golden Age, a Shining City on the Hill, the Promised Land.  But if you think that Facebook friends are the same thing as the friends who were actually there when your pants caught fire or when the cops pulled you over or talked with you after the First Time or who wept in front of you over their losses, failures, and disasters, who shared the dreams, fantasies, and hopes of the future then showed you the scars . . . if you think Web 2.0 is relational, you are headed for a cold, dark, and lonely life that probably won’t survive in the market.

Remember the Rules.

Never Always Be Closing.

More Is the Enemy of Less.

Power Corrupts Persuasion.

The Book as Persuasion WAC

WAC BookWhat’s the persuasion impact of a physical book?  Not the content, just the book, paperback or hardcover, physically in a reader’s hands.  An odd question, to be sure, but let’s think about it.  How does The Book persuade?

Inexperienced and untrained minds look at persuasion variables for their appearance, type, or structure to determine whether they are WATTage switches, Arguments, or Cues.  If It has lots of numbers and charts, It must be an Argument.  If It is a pretty boy or girl, It must be a Cue.  And, if It appears to be neither Argument or Cue, It must be a WATTage switch.  More experienced and properly trained minds, however, look at persuasion variables for their function, what they do, and how receivers use them to determine the WAC.  Recall my post on Long Blonde Hair as an illustration where I proved how the same Thing (appearance, type, or structure) functioned very differently.

We can apply this same analysis with The Book merely through reading a Motoko Rich article in the NY Times.  Consider these quotations.

Bindu Wiles was on a Q train in Brooklyn this month when she spotted a woman reading a book whose cover had an arresting black silhouette of a girl’s head set against a bright orange background.

Ms. Wiles noticed that the woman looked about her age, 45, and was carrying a yoga mat, so she figured that they were like-minded and leaned in to catch the title: “Little Bee,” a novel by Chris Cleave. Ms. Wiles, a graduate student in nonfiction writing at Sarah Lawrence College, tapped a note into her iPhone and bought the book later that week.

WAC Little Bee CoverI’d argue that this example illustrates The Book as WATTage switch.  Ms. Wiles observed the distinctive artwork and went High WATT, engaging in a search for Arguments (age and lifestyle similarities with the reader), elaborated on those Arguments (“figured that they were like-minded”), and the generated Central Route change (made a note and bought the book a week later).

Now, this observation from Motoko Rich.

“There’s something about having a beautiful book that looks intellectually weighty and yummy,” said Ms. Wiles, who recalled that when she was rereading “Anna Karenina” recently, she liked that people could see the cover on the subway. “You feel kind of proud to be reading it.” With a Kindle or Nook, she said, “people would never know.”

Here, The Book functions differently.  The Book garners social approval from strangers, making the reader, Ms. Wiles, feel proud, an outcome unavailable with an iGizmo.  This seems to function like an Argument for Ms. Wiles.  We can fill in her Long Conversation in the head, “Because other people will admire me (the Argument), I will feel good about myself, I will know that people see me the way I want to be seen, and I will enjoy reading the book even more (Elaborations on the Argument).”

Of course, an author does not want to hear how much a reader enjoys her book because the reader acquires social approval.  An author might view such a perspective as a Cue, but realize that this example shows clear elaboration activity.  Ms. Wiles, the reader, is aware of social approval, wants it, values it, and seeks ways to earn it.  She thinks about it even though the author might reject it as a Good Reason to Read My Book.  Just as each element of the WAC is functional, so too are things that people perceive as Arguments.  For Ms. Wiles, social approval is an Argument.  For Tolstoy, one can be certain, it is not.  But, since Wiles is the target of our persuasion analysis and not Mr. Tolstoy, his perspective is irrelevant and functionally incorrect.

Now, Rich imagines how book covers are created.

First, a creative director comes up with an idea. (How about this image of an apple?) Then the book’s editor, author and agent have a look. (Can we enlarge the font size on the author’s name? And wasn’t an apple used for that book about vampires? This book isn’t about vampires.) The publisher of the imprint gets involved. (Vampires sell. I like the apple.) The sales force makes comments. (Isn’t there an economics angle? How about an apple with an orange inside? That’s worked before.) Even booksellers have an opinion. (What I really love on a cover is a pair of high heels.)

Without more details, it is difficult to fix any one perspective as any WAC element, but the range of responses demonstrates the functional diversity for any persuasion variable.  Apples, vampires, oranges, and high heels elicit a wide variety of potential plays even though we’re dealing with the Same Thing – The Book.


Holly Schmidt, president of Ravenous Romance, an e-book publisher of romance and erotica, said that in one case the publisher was offering an anthology of stories about older women and younger men. The first version featured a digital cover image of a winsome woman. It barely sold any copies. The publisher put a new cover up online — this time showing the bare, muscular torsos of three young men — and sales took off.

The new cover “took a book that was pretty much a loser,” Ms. Schmidt said, “and made it into a pretty strong seller.”

WAC Young Studs Book CoverAgain, the absence of telling detail complicates the analysis, but this strikes me as a clear Cue function and not simply because of the physical attractiveness of the images.  The image provides a mental shortcut for the observer to assume that “If the content is like the cover, this is what I want.”  It is nearly an automatic, thoughtless, and brief reaction rather than that Long Conversation in the Head (“Gee, the guy on the right is cute, but the other two look like dorks and where are the blondes in this and how come they’re all looking down, did they lose something?”)

Let’s get out of here.  The Book can function as WATTage, Argument, or Cue.  Further, exactly what’s an Argument will also vary with the functional use different receivers make.  Our persuasion lesson is complicated with many moving parts, but the lesson simplifies when you always focus on the receiver:  How does she use the thing?

Remember the Rule:  It’s about the Other Guy, Stupid.

iPad as Low WATT

iPad“Civilization advances by extending the number of important operations which we can perform without thinking about them.”  Alfred North Whitehead, Introduction to Mathematics, 1911.

Computers began as iconic examples of High WATT devices.  Whether huge vacuum tube mainframes or early Altairs, you had to engage a lot of Willingness and Ability to Think just to start the damn thing much less make it do anything past “Hello, World!”  Even the early PCs for the Rest of Us like the IBM PC, the Apple II, or my favorite, the KayPro, required constant High WATT processing to initiate, maintain, and expand any task whether through VisiCalc, WordStar, dBase, or another MS-DOS fav of mine, Systat.  People with a preference for Low WATT activity looked at computers back then as nerd toys that would never enjoy mainstream acceptance from normal people.

So, how did we get here where millions of people will line up in costumes in snaky lines in front of Apple stores to drop five bills on Yet Another Computer?

Low WATT devices, baby.

You can drive the Peripheral Route to your heart’s content on an iGizmo.  Press the only mechanical button on the device to activate.  Good grief, leave a gorilla alone in a cage with a bottle of bourbon for an hour then toss in an iGizmo and he’d eventually hit the one button and see the light.  Then slide an arrow over the pulsing text – even if you can’t understand English you can figure it out.  Apple could use Belarusian Cyrillic instead – слайд, каб разблакаваць – and that gorilla would still get it.

Now what?  A screen full of colorful icons from the international language of travel symbols.  And even if you’re not sure, tap it any way, and see what happens.  Then you’re in a groove.  Pure classical conditioning with a little operant when you’re learning something new.  A Ding-Dong For You!

You see Low WATT in how you use an iGizmo, but the Low WATT tattoo is more obvious in what you can produce with an iGizmo:  Nothing.  Your creative input is restricted to a cramped keyboard that supports the acronymic language of OMG, LOL, and WTF and little else without carpel tunnel syndrome.  You cannot analyze data; write poetry, prose, or advertising copy; paint, design, or shape image, color, or form.  An iGizmo is pure reaction; you cannot stimulate.  It is a pure form of mob WATTage:  Anything for Everyone All the Time.

Cues are Cool!

Not that there’s anything wrong with that.  But, while the Rest of Us cruise the Peripheral Route, Jobs, Apple, and others have figured out the Arguments and determined that the iPad may just be the biggest marketing tool since credit cards.  People are falling over themselves as they amble along picking at the Cues like pretty shells on the beach . . . wow, Web 2.0, we’re so connected.

Jobs and Apple made billions by understanding what Alfred North Whitehead meant.  Who’d think a British mathematician would know this?

Daddies and Daughters; Boys and Birds (T-Birds)

Today’s persuasion theory comes through a close reading of a long forgotten text, “Fun, Fun, Fun,” by Professors Wilson and Love, and colleagues, also known as the Beach Boys from the Department of Surf at the University of Endless Summer.  Refresh your memory at YouTube or analyze the relevant album cover.

Beach Boys Fun Fun Fun

Now, the text.

Well she got her daddy’s car
And she cruised through the hamburger stand now
Seems she forgot all about the library
Like she told her old man now
And with the radio blasting
Goes cruising just as fast as she can now

One can reasonably infer that She has a positive attitude toward her Daddy’s car, now.  And her Daddy’s car wasn’t no stinkin’ Oldsmobile, but a T-Bird that looked something like this.

1962 Ford Thunderbird

No wonder She forgot all about the library like She told Her Old Man, now.  Wouldn’t you love to cruise your hamburger stand in that Red Chariot today?  Fifty years out the T-Bird still soars. And, realize, too, the social advantages from the roadster.

Well the girls can’t stand her
‘Cause she walks looks and drives like an ace now
(You walk like an ace now you walk like an ace)
She makes the Indy 500 look like a Roman chariot race now
(You look like an ace now you look like an ace)
A lotta guys try to catch her
But she leads them on a wild goose chase now
(You drive like an ace now you drive like an ace)

She drives better than Charlton Heston, the standard for chariot driving from Ben-Hur.  You remember the scene (YouTube clip).


Girls envy Her skill.  And the boys?  She’s outruns them. They can’t catch Her now cause She’s got Bird and it’s no Goose.  But . . .

And she’ll have fun fun fun
‘Til her daddy takes the T-Bird away
(Fun fun fun ’til her daddy takes the T-Bird away)

Well you knew all along
That your dad was gettin’ wise to you now
(You shouldn’t have lied now you shouldn’t have lied)
And since he took your set of keys
You’ve been thinking that your fun is all through now
(You shouldn’t have lied now you shouldn’t have lied)

Daddy finally gets wise to Her and takes Her set of keys which we know aren’t just a set of keys but freedom, envy, and out-running boys.  Which leads us to our persuasion theory:  Reactance.  We’ve seen Her living life free, autonomous, and independent in Her Daddy’s T-Bird, but He unfairly took her freedom away and now . . .

But you can come along with me
‘Cause we gotta a lot of things to do now
(You shouldn’t have lied now you shouldn’t have lied)

And we’ll have fun fun fun now that daddy took the T-Bird away
(Fun fun fun now that daddy took the T-Bird away)
And we’ll have fun fun fun now that daddy took the T-Bird away
(Fun fun fun now that daddy took the T-Bird away)

Daddy may want to rethink his persuasion strategy with the car keys as He tries to make Her a Better Girl.  She evaded all the boys before, but now, what’s a Girl to do?  With a Daddy-induced Reactance, Boys won’t be chasing her Wild Goose.  Instead, baby, “We gotta lotta things to do now” won’t include visits to the library, but will require stops at the hamburger stand now, both before and after They have Fun, Fun, Fun.

The persuasion lessons:  Women, like Men, make different decisions when they feel autonomous (internal attributions, baby) than when they feel controlled (external attributions, Daddy).  Daddies, and Mommies, elicit Reactance not Restraint when They take away freedom of action.  And Boys, like Girls, want to have Fun, Fun, Fun.

Parents, remember the Rule:  If You Can’t Succeed, Don’t Try.

Endless Summer.

Endless Human Nature.

Fun, Fun, Fun!


1. No CGI in the Ben-Hur clip.  That scene is all human and horse with skillful editing.  Heston and the bad guy, Stephen Boyd, actually learned how to drive chariots and were filmed in action at speed in the movie.  There were a lot of stuntmen, but Heston and Boyd both took chances that are no longer possible in a Hollywood movie of this scale.

2. The T-Bird is a great image in cars.  Bob Seger immortalized the car and the people who made them on the Line in Makin’ Thunderbirds (YouTube rock video).  The newest Ford attempt a few years ago doesn’t come close to the early 60s version or the even more compelling late 1950s T-Bird immortalized in American Graffiti with Suzanne Somers as the Blonde.

the Blonde in the T-Bird - Suzanne Somers in American Graffiti

3.  Nothing but Steve’s Sincerity here, but I’d love to have that 1966 GTO from the Beach Boys album cover above.  Just add Melanie and Fun, Fun, Fun.


Spring Break 10 – Persuasion and Performance at Seabrook Island, SC

Alternate Uses of Plunger
Our recent vacation to Seabrook Island, SC provides a sad lesson on the difference between persuasion and performance also known as the say-do gap.  Businesses use persuasion to attract customers and that persuasion can be crucial to success.  But, if their performance is poor, then persuasion provides only irony.  Consider this say-do gap.

We drove to Seabrook from Morgantown, so I had my beloved 1999 Ford Explorer safety checked and inspected at my Ford dealership.  Ford is fully in the future with an active Internet presence and I was able to book my inspection online!  And, when I showed up on time, I surprised everyone in the garage who apparently hadn’t been brought up to speed on Ford 2.0.  They looked at me like I was from 1890, dug through a box of paperwork until, sure enough, they found a computer generated printout of my inspection appointment and tasks.  After some consternating, they slid me in and had me out in 90 minutes, performing the inspection . . . but nothing else on my task list including three Ford recall repairs, an oil change, and a sensor light failure.

We belong to AAA Auto Club and use their travel map service.  That, too, is now online with AAA 2.0.  I defined the start and end point, confirmed the dates, and the AAA computer determined they’d have a Trip-Tik in my mailbox three days before departure so I could study up!  Of course, it didn’t arrive exactly on time, so I did my map study through Google.  And as I’ll relate in just a moment, we cut short our stay on Seabrook and came home two days early.  The Trip-Tik arrived in our mailbox on what would have been the day we were scheduled to return home.  So, AAA needed almost a month to deliver a product they confirmed would be available in 10 days.

Now, to Seabrook Island and our stay at Pelican Watch 1396 as booked through the premier management team at ResortQuest.  We took a top end one bedroom unit and paid a top end price in advance.  That was the best part of the experience.  The unit was in a top end development, but the bottom had fallen out of this particular condo.

There were minor technology problems:  you could call out on the phone, but couldn’t get calls in; there were no DVD or VCR players and the low end “big” screen displays couldn’t handle VGA inputs from computers which actually worked out pretty well because there was no wireless in the room so we couldn’t access Netflix or Hulu on the laptop to display on the “big” screen displays.  And, there were some plumbing problems with a toilet that ran on and on and had the added benefit of a loose seat; and lighting problems with fixtures and lamps that had the wrong or mismatching bulb in it; and kitchen utensils and gear purchased during a drunken yard sale spree so that nothing matched, coordinated, or worked; a fully functional clothes washer that created clean wet clothes that revealed a dysfunctional clothes dryer with a broken door latch.  (Oh, now I get that top photo!)  And a broken lock on an exterior sliding glass door.  And . . . you get the point.

Best of all, ResortQuest was staffed by a group of friendly, polite, and attentive folks who did their best to leave every contract violation understood and unfixed.  In particular the Property Manager did what she could to make sure I knew I was part of her problem!

The upshot of all the problems with the unit is that I spent a lot of time on a phone (the condo phone when calling out; my cell when receiving) trying to get things functional rather than enjoying a spectacular early Spring week.  ResortQuest was nothing but say-do gaps the first three days of the trip.  Facing more of the same for the remainder, we left two days early.

My persuasion point is that each of these businesses – Ford, AAA, ResortQuest – uses persuasion to attract customers and make profit, but then has serious performance problems.  The only thing worse than a performance failure is hyping the performance with persuasion, then failing.  The mismatch between what They said They would do (persuasion) and what They did (performance) intensifies the effect of the failure.

For my part, I’ll never again use my Ford dealership for service and maybe not for another vehicle (and with a 1999 Explorer you know I’m close to needing a new vehicle).  Triple A is nothing but a joke, taking a month to create and deliver something so simple as a map.  I’ll handle that problem with Google.  And ResortQuest?  We’ve stayed at Pelican Watch five times in the past fifteen years.  We’re in the Come Back Club.  Now, we’re in the Never Again Club.

Remember the Rule:  If You Can’t Succeed, Don’t Try.

The trip was not a total lesson in persuasion failure.

Jasmine Porch MBB

Thanks, Jasmine Porch!

And, sunsets on the beach were alright, too.

Melanie Sunset Seabrook 10

Conservative or Liberal It Still Ain’t Persuasion

Debt Chart

David Brooks, a conservative columnist for the liberal New York Times, offers his persuasion plan for saving America’s economy from itself.  It is a great illustration of bad persuasion and proves that failure requires no party, philosophy, or prejudice.  Just sincerity.

In brief – and it is a brief column you can quickly read while I wait – Brooks enters his thought problem as a gunslinging political consultant living the high life and contemplating how to change fiscal policy.  Brooks outlines the problem or How We Got Into This Mess, then determines a solution, Social Norms, Baby, and sketches the campaign, Mass Media and the Two Step Flow.  If Brooks had included Double Martinis, stirred not shaken, with three green olives, the cliché and the failure would be complete.

The root of Brooks’ persuasion failure is evident from the beginning.  He imagines the consultant imagining Creation, then implementing It, clearly forgetting the Second Rule – It’s about the Other Guy, Stupid – and the Third Rule – All Bad Persuasion Is Sincere.  Brooks sincerely assumes he knows the Other Guy and how all the Other Guys connect and what changes all the Other Guys.  He does nothing to test, probe, question, consider, survey, manipulate, experiment, or otherwise empirically know the Other Guy; all he needs is his imagination and powers of observation.  Brooks here is the quintessential Cool Table guy, All-Seeing, All-Knowing, don’t need no stinking Other Guy Orientation, just Martinis, an expense account, and an echo chamber.

This is not a Thing of Conservatives or Liberals or Tea Baggers or Greens or Progressives or Pinks or any other Ilk.  It’s just the classic fantasy of smart people who think they See It All Entire, that Flash of Genius with a Dash of Penetrating Insight when it’s just the Cool Table in a room with the thermostat set too high.  They go crazy from the heat, you know.  The Cool Table seats orchids that flourish not in the tropics, but in the refrigerator.

I don’t presume for a moment to understand the Problem here and I certainly don’t know what the Solution is.  I’ll put my trust in the rough and tumble of democracy realizing that things will look better or worse in the moment, but pretty good overall when looking at Big Picture.  But, if I had to define the Problem with American Fiscal Policy, then determine the Solution, and then change the way Americans think, feel, and act, I would first put David Brooks and other randomly selected Cool Table guys in an expense account Bullet Train and shoot them across the US, Europe, and the Pacific Rim to yada-yada with those Cool Table guys while I did the grunt work of figuring out the Other Guys.

Remember the Rules.

All Bad Persuasion Is Sincere.

It’s about the Other Guy, Stupid.

Power Corrupts Persuasion.