The Problem With Social

A  caveat: for those more accustomed to, and more interested in, the usually more philosophical, theological or sociological nature of The Diaries, you may want to skip this post. It’s about finance and economics and more technical than usual. Just a heads up. If you do decide to venture in, I will clarify a bit more than usual regarding the economy and investing world to give context — so another caveat, this one for those who are already well versed in all things finance and investing: you may find the first few paragraphs a bit elementary… feel free to skip ahead, but hang on and stay in. This one’s for you and there are worthy takeaways to be had.

The investing world is abuzz with Silicon Valley again and it has been for a number of years now. It feels like 1999 all over again. Both the American and European stock markets have been on a tear — in what is commonly called a “secular bull market” — for almost six straight years. People who are active or even passive investors in “the markets” have been making money hand over fist from doing absolutely nothing but just staying invested. It’s an odd paradoxical dichotomy — and it truly is — that as the American economy continues to drag and sputter, making financial abundance, or even stability, seem increasingly unreachable for the majority of Americans still, the top 1% have been doing incredibly well in “the markets”. This paradox is well known amongst the wealthiest in the country. It’s not a mystery or an unknown. It’s very well known, sad as it is, amongst the people who are making all the money. It’s a given. And there are very specific reasons for it.

One might remember investment guru Warren Buffet commenting a few year ago how ridiculous he thought it was that he pays less tax annually than his secretary does. This surprising statistic is simply due to the fact that the common bread earner in the United States pays a much higher tax on their “income” i.e. the money they earn from their job, than an investor does on the profits he or she makes in any kind of investment. That tax — known as the Capital Gains Tax — is capped at 15%. What this means is that whether you made $100 from your stock market investments last year or $1,000,000, you’re still only required to pay 15% tax on it. With the right kind of finagling — owning a few corporations that make big money — enough to fund even the most lavish lifestyles — but somehow mange to “not make a profit” but instead make a loss (and this is more common than the average person realizes…) and you can even reduce that measly 15% capital gains tax further down and come out paying Uncle Sam next to nothing, as in ZERO. You just have to know the game and how it’s played.

But this post isn’t about that. Perhaps one day we’ll go into further details about this sad but true paradox, because I must admit I do receive a fair share of requests from folks begging me to explain to them how on earth one is capable of making hundreds of thousands of dollars a year and paying next to no tax on it. It’s not as hard as most people think. In fact it’s quite easy. Again, you just have to understand how the system works. So yes… perhaps we will get into it one day… But today is not that day.

Another reason for this strange upside down economy is due to Federal Reserve policy. “The Fed” as it is commonly referred to is a large private cabal of banking cartels who control the monetary policy and the money supply of the United States. The funny thing is that the Federal reserve is NOT “federal”; they are not a branch of the U.S. government. They don’t work for the U.S. government. They answer to no one. But they make all the rules. (This is truly a whole book unto itself, let alone too much for even a series of posts — so one is encouraged to take some time to research this incredibly vexing scam…) In a nutshell this organization that controls all things monetary — think the economy — is the primary entity that loans the United States the money it needs to continue to operate. When you hear terms like the national debt or national deficit, this debt is owed to this company known as The Federal Reserve; they being a private bank who exist solely to make money charges the U.S. interest on the money it lends the country, just as any bank does; thus in a way one could say that the Fed has a vested interest in seeing the United States economy do well — at the moment the U.S. owes a staggering amount of money to this organization, something to the tune of 17 TRILLION dollars.

In exchange for all the money The Fed loans the United States to stay “in business” so to speak, the United States government allows the Fed to do just about anything it wants to — including for example keeping it’s books private and sealed. One might have a recollection of a few years ago when then-presidential candidate Ron Paul (remember him?) tried to pass a Bill in Congress to force The Fed to allow the U.S. government to see it’s books — as in take a look at its accounting records. This would seem to be rather a no-brainer, right? All public companies are obligated to make their accounting records open and available to the public — how much money they have, how much debt they have, how much money they are making in gross revenues and net profits, etc. etc. But The Fed is no regular “public company”. It’s ironic if not downright terrifying that 99% of Americans do not even realize that The Federal Reserve is not only NOT part of the federal government, but they are so private that no one in the United States government is even allowed to look at it’s books. The word shocking comes to mind. But terrifying fits the bill even more appropriately considering how much power this private group of banks has over the health and wealth of the whole country.

So how much power DOES this private group of banks have over the United States? Put it this way: The Fed has the ability to say yes or no to the United States government regarding how much money it loans them or doesn’t — as in any day they can collapse the American economy or continue to allow it to wrack up more debt. It’s all in THEIR hands and truly no one else’s. They also of course have the power to set monetary policy in general — this is why it is a fool-hearty idea to ever blame a good or bad economy on any American president, for they simply don’t have much power in regards to the economy, but that doesn’t stop most people from still doing this. The primary thing the Fed does in regards to “setting monetary policy” is they decide what the lending rate is at any given time in the American economy. At the moment it is set roughly around -0-. This is the rate of interest that banks can charge each other to borrow money from one another. This “prime lending rate” has a great influence on all the other interest rates in a healthy first-world society such as mortgage rates or car loan financing interest rates or the interest one receives from investing bonds or savings accounts or bank CDs.

You might have heard the term QE bandied about over the last few years. QE stands for Quantitative Easing, which was the Fed’s fancy term for lowering the prime lending rate down to a record low AND at the same time temporarily loaning the U.S. billions of dollars by buying various bonds from the United States and various other banks — they did this in order to “stimulate the economy”, as a means to get people spending again and to get banks loaning money to people again. So far it hasn’t worked out as well as many hoped it would. BUT to be fair it did at least according to general agreement amongst most experts save the country from sinking into another Great Depression from our recent Great Recession (the recent economic crisis we experienced in 2007 and 2008).

What this policy did do though was stimulate the hell out of the American stock markets. By lowering interest rates down to near -0-, people with money had no other choice but to invest their money in the stock markets — simply because they couldn’t make any money with their money from investing in anything else. Savings accounts, bonds and CDs offered zero to almost zero return, i.e. interest. If you add in even a small amount of inflation — the price of goods increasing compared to the value of the Dollar, and one would actually LOSE money if they had invested their money in a savings account, bond or bank CD due to how low the interest received was. So people with money jumped into the stock market.

This is what has created one of the strongest and longest running bull markets in American history. More and more money has poured into the markets and as long as this mysterious organization called The Fed continues to keep interest rates LOW, then people assume that the stock market will continue to go up. From the outside, from the view of the average American who doesn’t bother to pay attention to monthly and quarterly economic data, things still seem rather bleak to be sure. Unemployment has supposedly declined, though many doubt this claim. Jobs still seem few and far between and raise and promotions seem a fantasy of days long gone by for most.

Except in the world of finance that is. You see, every time we have economic data — the investing world holds its breath: if the data is GOOD, the markets tank, as an improving economy would compel the Fed to start raising rates again which could signal the end of the bull market. So instead people who are heavily invested hope that the data is BAD. In the world of investing this is known as the “bad news is good news” paradigm and without fail every time any economic data comes in that is “bad” for the average American, you can hear and see high fives flying around Wall Street like wild fire. It’s an upside down situation to be sure. Instead of the stock markets flying high due to a healthy economy, it continues to fly high due to hopes that the economy stays bad. This will keep rates low and insure that more and more money will continue to flow into the markets. Again this may sound shocking to the average person, but it’s not exactly “news” to those who invest their money for a living rather than work a regular salaried job. Frankly yes it’s easy to see why anyone first learning of this closely guarded bit of data would claim that it’s fucked up. It is.

In a nutshell there’s your lesson in finance and econ for the day. Now on to the main point of this post.

Today we are going to focus our attention on the Social Media sector of the investment world. [Again just for those who may not know this: the investment world is divided into sectors FYI. There are many of them and savvy investors are familiar with them all. For example there’s the Semi-Conductor sector (what we refer to as “the Semis”), the Consumer Discretionary sector (Tiffany, Coach, Whirlpool — basically anything that is not essential to the consumer but is purchased when the consumer has discretionary money laying around…), there’s the Oil sector — which is further split between the Refiners and the Oil Services companies, and on and on it goes. Believe it or not, once you enter this world — as with any — it becomes very easy to memorize all the various data points, statistics and acronyms.]

Two sectors that have been red-hot over the last few years have been the Technology sector (usually referred to as “Tech”) and the Social Media sector (often just referred to as simply “Social”). Companies like Facebook (FB), Google (GOOG), Twitter (TWTR) and Yelp (YELP) are all part of the Social Media sector and even the most distanced individuals have surely heard the stories over the years about the ridiculous amount of cash people have been making from investing in these “hot companies”. Silicon Valley is on fire at the moment, with venture capital spending reaching all time highs once more pouring money into the latest start-ups hoping that they can eventually turn them into the next Facebook or YouTube.

The word on the street for these companies is Unicorn. You may have even heard the word bouncing around lately as it is one of the many newest trending in the social media world. A Unicorn is any super hot start up company that is raising a ton of investment capital — usually to the tune of one billion or more — in the Valley with the intention of eventually going “public” — all long before the company starts actually making money. The companies just have to show growth in their user base and their “potential” to make money and people will throw millions upon millions of dollars at them. A few of the hottest Unicorns at the moment are Uber, AirBNB, and Pinterest. Yes from the inside it all appears just as blatantly stupid as it does from the outside. But this is just how the markets work. They are completely irrational, as they always have been.

At this very moment analysts and traders on CNBC’s midday show Halftime Report are all discussing the Social Media sector. Primarily because during this latest earnings season social media companies have been getting clobbered. After running up to more than $85 a share Facebook is now trading below $79. Twitter dropped from $55 a share to $38 in one day — you have to imagine having say a million dollars of your clients’ money invested TWTR and having that figure lose almost half of it in less than 24 hours to really understand the ramifications of such a dramatic drop. YELP not to be left behind performed the worst out of all of them so far, dropping from a high of $85 earlier this year to a measly $39 as of today’s trading session — losing 22% of it’s value in just one day and more than 50% from its highs of the year. When you contemplate the insane amount of money invested in these companies by hedge funds, money managers and investment banks — in the case of YELP, a smaller player, we’re talking billions of dollars invested, you begin to fathom just how much money that is to lose in such a short period of time. LinkedIn was the latest social player to kick the bucket: In one day their stock fell from $250 to $203, a 20% loss in less than an hour.

But why? WHY are social media companies taking such a beating? All the talking puppets on CNBC, Bloomberg and FOX Business News continue to talk about these companies with big smiles on their faces as if they are viable investment vehicles — no one ever saying what would be clearly obvious to even the least educated in business and finance: the American consumer is sick and tired of being advertised to, and social media companies make their money, or at least they’re supposed to, from collecting advertising revenue. You see, once upon a time Facebook made mention that it might start charging for it’s services — charging the everyday user to have a Facebook profile and communicate with their friends and family on a regular basis. The backlash could be heard in places as remote as the Himalayas! The week they made this announcement, as ironic as it may seem, the FB newsfeed was filled with posts advertising that the BAN FACEBOOK DAY was soon upon us as everyone and their brother announced that they would not stand to pay a single penny to use Facebook and they would immediately jump ship if such a fee was ever initiated. And that was the end of that idea. Facebook learned a valuable lesson from that stunt — people may love you if you’re free, but that doesn’t mean they have any intention of giving you any of their hard earned money. They don’t love you like THAT.

It turned out that Facebook was not as essential as it thought it might have been and thus they had to go back to the drawing board to figure out just how they were going to actually generate MONEY. See, Facebook WAS hugely successful in terms of it’s popularity amongst users. At one point it reached one BILLION users globally. That’s a phenomenal figure when you consider it for a moment: it translates to almost 20% of every single person on planet earth having a Facebook account of some kind. But the company didn’t make any money. The average person on the street, struggling to just pay their monthly bills always has a tough time understanding concepts like this: how can a company be as big as Facebook (or Amazon or Yelp or Twitter for that matter…) but not actually make any money?!? It seems illogical. And in reality it is. The truth is that these companies BORROW the money they have from what you commonly hear referred to as “angel investors” or venture capitalists. They then use that money to grow their business with the hope that one day they WILL make money… Some do. Many never make it. Amazon — one of the largest companies in the free world still operates at a loss every year. Yep. It’s true. They bring in billions of dollars a year in revenue. But every year they report not a profit but a LOSS, meaning that they spent more than they made. How is this even possible? Simple. They borrow more money and go further into debt based on the idea that one day they actually will make a profit. It’s a funny business. One that just about any average American would love to be able to take advantage of in their own personal finances to be sure. Problem is, banks and venture capitalists aren’t interested in you or me and our ability to pay our bills or even have enough money to eat for that matter. Instead they are interested in future profit potential. That’s life in a nutshell. As unfair as it is, that’s just how it is. You’d have a better chance at borrowing money from a bank — millions even — if you presented them with some dumb idea that showed that you could have half a million “users” by year end 2016 than you would just asking them for money to put food on the table or pay your mortgage. It’s capitalism.

So where were we? Ah yes, Facebook. So here’s Facebook, a simple idea, a dumb idea, at best a rip off of MySpace (remember them?) who was a rip off of Friendster (remember THEM?) showing tremendous growth in “users” but no way to make money from these users. So how to monetize all these users? That was the question….  This was back in the days when Facebook had swept Wall Street by storm by going public and seeing it’s stock price go from $16 to $45 in one day and then having it quickly fall back to $17 where it stayed for a few years, leaving many investors sorry they ever heard of the name. Imagine that kind of a loss in your retirement portfolio. Eventually Facebook got smart and created a very simple advertising vehicle for any and every one to use — a way for users to advertise to each other. “Here’s my Page. Like it!” It didn’t cost that much, you could set the amount you wanted to spend each day, and you could actually see your little ads pop up on the side bar of your Facebook screen now and then. It felt good. And it seemed to generate actual results. It was similar to buying an ad from Google to get more traffic to your website. And we all know how well Google had done… Facebook is presently worth about $178 BILLION dollars. Google is worth roughly TWICE that.

So began the great social media company frenzy. It was 1999 all over again. All a company had to do was show that it could grow its user base, forget about making money or generating a profit, and the investment dollars poured in. Twitter soon leaped onto the scene and ran up to $55 on it’s first day going public from a starting price of around $16. This valued Twitter at about 35 billion dollars overnight. For a company that wasn’t even making a billion dollars a year, nor anything close to it. But it was all about the user growth. Twitter still operates at a loss — meaning that it loses money every year rather than makes it. How would you like that kind of job? TO get paid for losing money? But the pundits had valid points: Twitter WAS popular. People did seem to have a valid interest in and excitement about it. The problem was and still is that that excitement is fleeting. Today’s Twitter is tomorrow’s Snapchat or Tumblr. Remember them? Yahoo purchased Tumblr — and what exactly was Tumblr in the first place? a blog for kids? — for some FIVE BILLION dollars. There’s money they’ll never get back. And Tomorrow’s Snapchat or Tumblr is next week’s Meercat or Periscope. The landscape is constantly changing in the hands of the ever-fickle American consumer. The truth is that they really just don’t CARE.

And that’s the big disconnect between Wall Street and Main Street. The average person on Main Street has a life. Family problems, car problems, job worries, relationship woes… They could care less about Facebook or Twitter or Snapchat or Tumblr in the grand scheme of things. When’s the last time you heard anyone even mention Tumblr? But the folks on Wall Street don’t recognize this simple fact of life. These are minor trivialities in the hearts and minds of the average consumer, these “fancy websites” they call social media. They don’t put food on the table. They don’t even offer anything relatively substantial or of value that cannot be had elsewhere. NEW is much more exciting to the consumer than been there done that. It doesn’t mean that mom still won’t keep trying to Message you on Facebook this year. She probably will. But are you really even paying attention anymore?

Environments like Facebook and Twitter have continued to remain semi-entertaining and even useful at times when one has nothing better to do or when there’s big news we want instant access to… But when we’re in the mood for big news, we are NOT interested in ads clogging up our newsfeed. Nor are we interested in ads when we have nothing better to do than scroll through old friends’ attempts at wit or their latest selfie or cat photograph. Let’s face it, social media is fraught with meaningless drivel. Hence the shift back towards more meaningful content platforms like blogs or even texting.

Every social media company is reporting user growth increasing but revenues and profits shrinking. And the simple reason for it is because nobody likes being advertised to. The television world and Wall Street already recognizes this fact as more and more people shift away from traditional TV towards digital alternatives like Netflix or Hulu or flat out stealing online. This is the time of the great peregrination of the consumer away from advertising — why? Because we can. And in an environment like this, you better not have advertising revenue as your main means of generating cashflow or you’re going to be screwed. YELP is the perfect example. Yelp is actually a great tool. Nearly everyone has it loaded on their phone and loves it. The problem is that no one is willing to pay for it. (The music industry is going through a similar shift…) Yelp wants to generate revenue from selling advertising. But the users who use Yelp the most absolutely REFUSE to use Yelp if they believe that any of the data they are reading such as reviews are being influenced in any way by advertising dollars — in other words, people want to believe what they read on Yelp. They want to read ALL the reviews, not just the ones that some company has paid to place there, and they certainly don’t want to find out that companies are able to pay to have negative reviews removed from Yelp. What’s the point of the app then? See the problem? Yelp is basically fucked. A valuable tool with no viable way to make money.

Twitter god love it is in a similar position. I personally use Twitter all day as a means to receive notifications about subjects I am interested in ON MY PHONE. In other words, I set up notifications to come directly to my phone from Twitter about various different subjects or different individuals or even tweets that may mention me — the president of Iran will shoot out an interesting tweet now and then, and where else can one access such data but Twitter? But that doesn’t mean I ever scroll through the Twitter newsfeed or what they call their “Timeline”. The truth is I never do. The notifications come to my phone. I scroll through them. Get the basic gist of what was said. And I move on. All on Twitter’s dime. Or better put on the billions of dollars invested in Twitter by their investors. All without ever paying for Twitter and all without ever seeing an ad. Hell, like most people I’m downright annoyed and pissed off when I see an ad on Twitter. How dare they?!? And yet THIS is precisely how they intend on making their money! From advertising. It’s farcical when you really start thinking about it.

We have to begin to realize and acknowledge that we’ve reached a crossroads in the global economy. We’ve raised a whole generation on free usage based on the idea that we’d make our money from advertising — while at the same time weening them off of advertising on every other platform. There are hundreds of apps now on the market that REMOVE ads from Twitter and Facebook. And one would be right to believe that very soon there will be apps to somehow remove the ads from Pandora and Spotify as well — which is how those companies make the majority of their money as well since they’ve programmed whole generations to believe that music should be free — just about the dumbest thing one could think to do if MUSIC was the one and only product that you wanted to sell in your business. Again, we’re at this major crossroads where at some point soon, something has to give. Investors are going to learn sooner than later — just as they did in the dot com crash of 2000 — that they can’t keep pouring money into businesses who don’t actually make money. And businesses are going to eventually learn that you can’t run a business offering the main product you sell for zero dollars. It’s an illogical business model. And all it’s done is destroy more than one industry, the music business just being one of them. TV is next. Social media never really was in reality. And people are just starting to see that now as these once high flying stocks crash and burn.

As a sidenote with a potential solution, look at the companies who actually DO have a chance at making money. Out of the three Unicorns mentioned above, Pinterest is another Yelp waiting to happen. They’ll garner billions of dollars in investment capital and blow through it all in the hopes of turning all those bored moms and housewives into advertising clicking robots, only to realize that those bored moms and housewives aren’t any more interested in clicking on ads as the rest of us, and they’ll go belly up a year or two after going public IF Wall Street is dumb enough to take them there. But Uber and AIRBnB are different. Both of them actually SELL something besides advertising. Sure there’s a social aspect to both companies. That’s just the new normal — there has to be a social aspect to EVERYthing now. Eventually we’ll have apps where people post their latest and greatest bowel movements for others to see and rate. (If those already don’t exist, which I can’t with certainty…).

But the key is that the social aspect to both Uber and Air BnB is NOT the product itself. It’s a byproduct of the actual product. And that really is the key to this new environment. Social is key. But it can’t be THE key. There has to be an underlying product to be sold. And “to be sold” means to CHARGE MONEY FOR IT. Just as PayPal charges a few pennies on the dollar for every transaction, they’re offering a very valuable product — the ability to exchange money with freinds, family and business associates without ever leaving your home or office, or even your couch for that matter. All from the comfort and ease of your smart phone. That’s smart. Uber and Air BnB are doing the same thing. Small fees. Nothing fancy. But they’re actually making money. And isn’t that the reason to start and run a business in the first place? What companies like Yelp and Twitter are going to do is a mystery. They’ve screwed themselves from the outset with a faulty business model. As have companies like Spotify. The next few months and years are going to be ugly as this grand experiment fails and falls to pieces in rubble all around the feet of Wall Street and Main Street investors. People are already asking “are we in a bubble” everyday now… and truth be told, in the bigger picture of the investing world, no, not quite yet. But in the social media sector we’re beyond bubble territory. We’re in the sloppy frothy messy slime and sludge of a bubble already burst. Most just don’t see it yet. If you’re into shorting, now would be the time…

Facebook Is Here to Stay

Someone posted a TIME magazine article this weekend that claimed that scientists have been running computer models that showed that social media is similar to diseases and that Facebook will soon lose up to 80% of it’s users. I clicked. The article was from January. As in ten months ago.
 Facebook of course has only continued to grow and immerse itself deeper into global society since January. These scientists were clearly wrong. As I wrote here in 2007, Facebook will eventually become so ubiquitous in our lives that it will come loaded on every phone and be the seamlessly integrated desktop on every new computer sold in the world. Every action we take on or off line will be recorded by it, many of them shared. Like it or not, Facebook is here to stay.
 Twitter on the other hand MAY still potentially go the way of Yahoo or AOL. Most people still don’t use it regularly and very few find it indispensable. Twitter’s decision to enforce the 140 character limit greatly diminishes it’s ability to be an effective tool for much of anything except satire, a greatly appreciated and hot trend at the moment in western civilization but certainly not a necessary one.
 Facebook on the other hand is more akin to Windows or Apple. Not only does it have more money and resources at its disposal, thus it can easily afford to reinvent itself as often as needed to supply the people with whatever changing needs they demand at the drop of a hat, it also has a complete monopoly on mainstream society — it possesses that very rare blessing of any product or service of being used by almost all demographic groups on planet earth; all races nationalities age groups income brackets social backgrounds and classes. Some may try to go without their Facebook account for a spell, only to realize, like TV 30 years ago, that to do so means they find themselves unable to keep up with their peers come Monday morning at the office. Facebook is not just the social barometer of society — it is also fast becoming the primary communication tool.
 We may watch the latest hot viral video on YouTube, but we find out about through Facebook. We may tune in to the latest binge watching sensation on Netflix or Amazon or HBO, but we find out about them through Facebook. On and on this line goes. So deeply immersed is Facebook in human society at this point that it is more appropriate to compare it to the medium of television or the telephone than to other tech companies like Twitter or Yahoo.
 In the end Apple, Google and Facebook stand tallest and win the dominance game.
 – Posted by The Ambassador using BlogPress on an iPhone 8s Custom

The Need for Peaceful Reconciliation

It’s getting bad now. All over the world. Protests and marches in the streets of New York, London, Paris, South Africa, Berlin, Sydney and many more cities across the globe — all protesting against the incredibly shocking loss of innocent lives at the hands of Hamas and Israel. As I posted yesterday, it’s not just our Palestinian friends we should be concerned with but our Israeli brothers and sisters too. For this has gone too far now and for too long. The radical rightwing government of Israel is endangering the lives and safety and welfare of its citizens through this military offensive in Gaza (they’re fooling no one by attempting to call it defense.) They’re also endangering their economic welfare. The people of the world are now firmly against Israel for what it’s been witnessing; the people of Israel will be the ones to suffer because of it even though it’s the government who is doing it.
 It’s also getting bad in the States and online as well. Social media is not just abuzz, it’s aflame. Inflamed with hate speech and vicious arguments and attacks from both sides of the wall. Friends are turning on friends. Celebrities are speaking out, some compassionate, some hateful. (Joan Rivers exemplified true racist inhumanity in comments she made publicly yesterday). There seems to be no truth to this issue other than a lot of innocent people are dying. And unfortunately no one can do anything to stop it from continuing so far. But everybody wants to chime in. This makes sense. It really does. We are being moved so much emotionally that it is affecting us physically. It is affecting our actions. We HAVE TO act. We have to DO something. It feels irresponsible to sit here idly doing nothing while witnessing such inhumanity taking place. And yet there isn’t a lot people are doing except blaming each other or spreading hateful viewpoints and anger. Not helpful.
 This morning I awoke to an onslaught of notifications that my Facebook feed was going nuts still, leftover from yesterday. Zeke asked me to step in and delete all the threads, which would be nearly impossible for it’s almost all we’ve done for four weeks, discuss this issue… But his point was well taken: no one is doing anything except making other people angry. It’s sad and completely unhelpful. It was the last thing I wanted to wake up to today. But he was right. A few bad apples spoiling the whole cart.
 Hey man. Just woke up. I soooooo did not want to do this today… (Imagine how THEY feel — that’s a luxury they can’t afford over there…on either side…) Still groggy. Having espresso. Saw your name in a post on my phone and immediately logged on here. My apologies dog.
 Lord knows I have TRIED to encourage people to NOT be rude or insult others or resort to name calling or hate speech or state obviously erroneous factoids, or even refrain from patronizing remarks like “sorry chief” or “you need to go back to school”. NONE of that is part of diplomacy. It gets us nowhere. I’ve begged for it over and over. Last week I repeatedly deleted someone from posting over and over again all day (he was a persistent fucker) because his words were so vile. And over the last week i have had to unfriend several normally very cool people for going apeshit crazy on my threads over this issue. I really just don’t get why people cannot be rational and civil.
 I want so badly for us to be able to discuss things, debate things even, just as we are able to do on Forum or Quora, and just as — even as a small microcosmic representation of, our counterparts are having to do right this very minute in Cairo and Tel Aviv and DC and The West Bank. How are they supposed to broker peace and reconcilliation if we — just regular people with no real bones to pick with each other on social media — can’t even act civilly towards each other? Why does “blame” always enter the picture? Or “hate”? Or racist remarks? Or rudeness?
 Arlan was right in that NO one can solve this issue except the two parties involved, ultimately those two people are the ones who are going to have to make peace and forgive and reconcile. But I also believe that it’s going to take many different groups and factions to help; offering support and guidance, and different viewpoints. Just as it took in all our previous battles wars and skirmishes. This is a world problem, as I’ve posted before. This is for better or worse our generation’s South Africa — (Remember: Mandela was imprisoned for “terrorist acts” — he DID resort to terrorism in his 20s due to the ignorance of his youth and desperation. He actually tried to blow a place up. So even the best of us get messed up…) — so I see this as the world’s cause for BOTH sides. Because BOTH sides have genuine concerns and valid points.
 We ALL need to step up and step in to end this sad state of affairs. But only if we’re being constructive and blatantly helpful. I am referring both to US here now in the smaller microcosm AND to us THERE in the bigger picture.
 For example, I’m going to say it again as I did yesterday: HAMAS IS NOT HELPING. They are hurting. Their cause may have been noble but they chose the wrong method. Period. Violence BEGETS violence. Sure we’ve won in the past before using violence (the American revolution, the Russian and Iranian ones etc…) But Hamas isn’t going to win. And if they did then all our Israeli brothers and sisters would be toast. So THEY need to go. In other words, THEY should NOT even be allowed at the bargaining table. It’s a sham that we are forced to be bargaining with overt terrorists. It’s a joke.
 Here’s another one: Iran needs to stop with the anti-Israel platform and speech. Yes we get it. The viewpoint that Judaism is accepted and respected as it is in Iran (VERY respected) BUT that Israel was illegal and not done properly. But that’s the PAST. We’re never going to reverse it. So as long as they take that stance THEY too are NOT being helpful. And so they just don’t belong in the conversation. Anyone who takes a “we refuse to reconcile” or “we refuse to accept reality” stance is not helping. Along with anyone who overtly seems to disrespect life. Or insults. Or is rude. Or misquotes facts. Not helping.
 But facts…they help. Opinions and ideas and viewpoints that are new AND compassionate CAN help. IF we’re all willing to give a little, and grow a little, and accept that we can be wrong sometimes, and compromise, then we can fix this. I have learned through the years as a diplomat that one has to be fluid, like a liquid, able and willing to encompass both and all sides to a disagreement; AND willing to honor truth and human life above all things. Everything else gets in the way.
 What this means friends on both sides is: those who come on here and ONLY defend Israel and never even bother to acknowledge the incredibly sad and shameful loss of innocent life, ala Joan Rivers yesterday, is NOT helping. You’re scary. And the same goes for those who just keep hammering Israel without acknowledging that Gazans VOTED for a terrorist group to run their little swath of land — they KNEW this might happen. Hell, it was almost a given. And martyrdom — DYING while fighting — is encouraged by some in the Muslim community, i.e. THEY are bringing it on themselves some of them AND it doesn’t help to have a platform that says you want to do away with the other side. Duh!?! How is Israel supposed to feel safe under those conditions? I wouldn’t. BOTH sides have valid points. Both sides are being stubborn aholes and dragging us all through a lot of unnecessary pain. Our job is shine a light on what peaceful reconciliation looks like. Which basically means stop trying to prove the other guy wrong.
 My sincerest apologies to those of you who have been decent as we’ve discussed this issue. Blessed ARE the peacemakers. Let’s end this now and move on.


 – Posted by The Ambassador using BlogPress on an iPhone 8s Custom

Using Social Media as a Launching Pad as a Creative

I’ve noticed over the last few years that I have been more and more prone to use posts on social media as a jumping off platform for Transcendence Diaries entries. As I was typing the above I remembered that long before the advent of Facebook Tumblr and Twitter, I was already using these Diaries as a means to communicate regularly with people — though it started out as a social experiment in the very beginning, it very soon became a place to vent, keep track of thoughts feelings and ideas, or just keep friends and fans informed of the latest. Very similar to what we use social media for now.

Remember that it wasn’t too long ago that I posted an entry warning people not to lose track of themselves and their potential great works of art or brilliance in social media — that for all its benefits, social media could very well zap your greatest works by sucking them into the limited confines of a newsfeed that quickly disappears forever; for not only does the newsfeed itself disappear quickly — and therefore your potential audience, but people’s attention is also greatly limited when on social media. Notice how difficult it is to elicit a response from others when posting something sincerely important, let alone just interesting; in other words, wanna tell the world what you had for dinner? Fine, do it on Facebook. But if you’re really attempting to say something, best save it for your next book or at least a blog.

That was a few years ago, and for me that was a big wake up call. Noticing that the decreasing quantity of entries here was almost commensurate with the increasing quantity of posts made to social media. It’s an easy trap to get into, with the lure of all that instant gratification one imagines they may receive from all the potential attention they might get out of hanging out and being seen or saying something noteworthy publicly. But it’s a trap, a lifesuck to be sure. I wouldn’t waste a brain cell on it. And yet we do have a genuine desire to connect with both friends and our audience, to not be a total hermit. (And while we’re on it, there’s nothing worse than someone who outsources their social media excursions to some third party hack or organization that promises they’ll “continuously engage with your fans in a meaningful way so that you can keep doing what you do best”. Yeah, we tried it. It doesn’t work. Your fans don’t want to read randomly generated crap from a 22 year old grad student who believes she’s a “new media” mogul nor from an automated meme generator. They want to connect with YOU. And they can tell when it is you and when it isn’t.

For me the solution came slowly but organically and that’s what made it work out so well and taste so good. I noticed that the immediacy of instantly expressing one’s self via Facebook or Quora or Twitter had it’s advantages in terms of the creative spark it elicits in us; there’s a certain excitement in the wow of being able to personally express ourselves so readily and publicly that we really don’t get from anything else in our day to day lives — it does something to our creative juices, inspires us in a way, that we don’t necessarily feel from any other form of personal expression. Not even blog posts. And certainly not working on a book or a screenplay where it may be months or years before what you’re working on sees the light of day let alone someone else’s eyes.

(As hard as this might be for some to believe — due to this recent wave of anti-smart-phone obsession that’s hit the fringes lately, proclaiming that people are spending too much time inside their phones as opposed to being present in the here-now of what’s happening all around them in the real world — some people don’t realize that other people just don’t have a lot going on outside of their smart phones (as sad as that might seem to some… it’s not really sad; it just is…) so being inside their phones is actually more social, more exciting and more satisfying than putting it down or attempting to take one of those new age “technology breaks” that have become all the rage with the Oprah/yoga/vegan/raw foods crowd. They fail to realize that even personal one on one interactions with many or most people in our lives still may not be as exhilarating as interacting with the people we connect with regularly using social media — at least for SOME people. Frankly I don’t as of yet at least see anything wrong with this fact. Sure it’s weird. But so was the car compared to the horse and buggy and so too were talking pictures compared to the silent ones. The point is that social media posting sparks us in a way that almost nothing else does. And that power can be harnessed. Just don’t waste it all there.)

When I feel inspired to post something or comment on something, i do it. I let it rip. No matter what it’s about and even if it soon turns into a five page rambling essay much too long for a social media post. If at the end of it I feel that it’s still relevant or worthy I hit Enter. Why not? It’s better than more pictures of cats and babies. Most of the time it’s fine. Occasionally it’s length or quirkiness (people aren’t used to intelligent social media posts; they’re considered quirky at best, annoying by most) clogs the airwaves and creates controversy and pandemonium. But that’s rare. Usually it just is. As any other post or comment is.

But it doesn’t end there. 99% of the time that post or comment isn’t too far away from what I’d post to the Transcendence Diaries under normal circumstances; or if social media didn’t exist at all. So I simply copy it over. Usually it’s brief, punctuated by hard stops, road blocks and detours that wouldn’t normally exist in a Diaries entry, so I’ll take the time to elaborate on certain points or amend aspects of it to add fluidity, work it a bit until I feel that it’s complete, worthy of being a Transcendence Diaries entry. Usually there isn’t much left to do with it though, other than edit and clean it up grammatically for essay form — and yet BAM there it is, a something where there might have been nothing.

This post in fact was a reflection on marriage. It started off as that at least. But then it occurred to me how often lately I’ve been using social media posts as a launching pad for Diaries entries. Thought I’d mention it. Remind myself and others how important it is to remember not to waste too much out there in the world of social media. Remember that as creators our job is to create. To complete a “something”. A something that can be saved for posterity, saved to enjoy later, saved to review and revisit, saved to inspire or provoke. Think song, album, sculpture, painting. Don’t mistake interacting on social media as creating something. Hell, don’t even mistake it for “doing” something. Unless it’s going to directly lead to something else. That’s the rule.

Social media is the exact opposite of the above named “somethings”. It’s for that photo of you and the crew enjoying lunch or a video of that kid down the block who can sing like Robert Plant, or a quick hello to friends and family when you’ve been too busy to pick up the phone, or an inspiring quote, or to remind people about your latest work of art, or a goofy meme about the Kardashians. It can also be a truly fulfilling means to connect with others in a meaningful way. Remember, people don’t go to social media to read or think or feel. They may WANT to read what you’ve posted (whether it’s your’s or something you’ve found interesting of someone else’s), and they may believe they want to think and feel; but the structure of social media takes over their mentality and squeezes those desires right out of them before they’re even aware of it. There’s just too much vying for their attention particles to warrant them stopping long enough to take IT in. YOU on the other hand have so much more to offer than the ten seconds that most people are willing to relegate to what you’re offering. So don’t waste it there on Facebook or Twitter. Start a blog. Write a book. Record an album. Make a movie. Who knows… You may just change the world.

The World’s Problems Ain’t Mine and Other Lies We Tell Ourselves

More and more posts on Facebook, Tumblr and other social media here in the States are exclaiming how they don’t want to see the horrific sites of what’s happening the world. I just saw another one today. It read:
“Wtf! Everyone on Facebook, around the world knows that there are horrible things going on in this world… we all fucking know this.. we are all aware, but some asshole feels it’s necessary to post horrific photos here, and frankly my friendship with this person just ended. I don’t need to open Facebook and see a severed child’s body on a morgue table. I don’t give warnings or second chances, my work with you is over, because you are contributing to a problem that I am full aware of you shameless piece of shit.”

I commented: “Ended up feeling so passionate about this post that i used this comment box as a platform to write a post for The Transcendence Diaries?. Please disregard and feel free to NOT read if you choose to. No harm in that and no offense will be taken.”

I’m very torn by this post frankly. As any intelligent mind would be, knowing that only the very bluntest of minds feel 100% one way or another about anything… Life is far too nuanced for that. Part of me totally gets it, agrees with it. We don’t want to be bombarded by grotesque sites everywhere we look. Especially not in our cherished world of social media. we’d rather look at pictures of cats and babies and wedding pictures. I get it. I’m with ya. Why SHOULD we have to see things we don’t want to? And yet we don’t really… do we? And we aren’t being forced to, not in reality. Let’s face it. 99% of the time everything in our cheery privileged world here in the US is the exact opposite of horrific pictures or “grotesque sites” — instead we are surrounded by smiling photos of Andi and Josh or the Keebler Elf or Captain Crunch or the cast of the Today Show; at worst we may come across some pseudo-shocking revelations about Justin and Jen or Kanye and Kim. But for the most part our lives here are pretty much Disney Family Movies?.

Meanwhile, just across the pond there are three entire countries, Gaza (Palestine), Syria and Iraq (at least… 5 or 6 really, if we include Afghanistan, Pakistan and Yemen, and let’s not forget Ukraine…) completely demolished and destroyed AND the reasons and causes for the devastation pretty much all come down to us, here, in the US, in one way or another. But still, why should we care if we don’t HAVE to?

Gaza is a literal trash heap now. Completely demolished. almost 2,000 normal everyday innocent civilian folks killed, for no reason. That’s more than 1% of their population. It is akin to 340,000 Americans being killed in three weeks here. That’s three hundred and forty THOUSAND dead Americans. It’s astounding to consider. We wouldn’t have any clue how to deal with that kind of loss here in the US. We’d literally lose our minds if someone did that to us.

The means? 110% American tax payer money that paid for that. And American weapons that did the killing. NOTHING else paid for it EXCEPT American tax payer money. We pay the taxes and every year Israel receives 3 to 6 billion dollars of free American tax payer money. Why? How? How does that happen and we don’t even have a say in it or how it is used? But we don’t want to see images of what our money is doing on Facebook… It’s too sad. It’s too shocking. It’s hard to fathom, hard to swallow, hard to contend with. Impossible to feel the responsibility. We tell ourselves it’s not our fault. WE didn’t pull those triggers. We didn’t blast off those bombs. We’re not over there shooting people or blowing up homes. It’s not OUR business.

And yet… It is our business. Because it’s our money that pays for it and our support that permits it to happen. Just imagine Russia killing 2000 people ANYWHERE in the world and watch what the US does. Hah! Permit it we certainly would not. We would be OUTraged. But with Israel… we not only permit it, we condone it and supply the weapons and money to do it.

Same with Iraq. Sure we tried hard to “free them”. But we destroyed the foundation of an entire country’s governmental system in the process and now they’re weeks away from a bloody civil war the likes of which only Hollywood could replicate, but only in CGI –and the American people…? They now say they want no part in it. So no, sorry Iraq we’re not going to help you. You’re going to have to fight this one on your own. It’s already a disaster. But its about to be armageddon for these poor people. All because of the US and their pesky invasion and desire for “freedom”. At least that’s what they say. Frankly the Iraqis believe it had more to do with their oil… But who knows. Who cares? We’re again way over here, far from all that chaos and madness and destruction. Why should we care?

Then there’s Syria… God only knows how much the US has or had to do with it. Libya too. There’s another country we destroyed and is now crumbling before the world’s eyes.We stirred up a hornet’s nest there in Libya and now it’s getting so bad that we’re yanking our people out of there faster than Kim and Kanye marry and divorce. But the Libyans? They’re not going anywhere. For them, the Americans leaving means things are about to turn even uglier. God forbid the Americans have to see it.

Syria, God only knows how much or little we had to do with that…. sure we’re funding a host of different so-called freedom fighters and terrorists there in Syria — because we aren’t sure WHO to fund, so we’re throwing money at all of them — why? — because we just know we want that particular leader, Assad, ousted and thrown out of his country but we don’t have the courage or the fortitude to be honest about it and go do it ourselves. We know the world would never allow it. So we secretly and covertly (but openly) fund THEIR idea of “terrorists”. THIS is legal. Accepted at least. Hell, ANYthing that the United States does is legal and accepted. No matter what. It’s a twisted thing. Almost a million of their people have now been killed. In a year. How can we even fathom that? Clearly it’s not our fault. At least not 100%. This is THEIR civil war. We’re just playing a few sides to see if we can come out on top in some way when they’re done killing themselves. As we always do. (Chile, Nicaragua, Cambodia, Vietnam, Colombia, Iran, et al.) That’s our game if we can’t be directly involved.

But regardless of who’s to blame, it’s difficult to think that while we’re sitting pretty over here in Disney World that all of these people in Syria are dying or being injured. One gets the feeling that we should be doing something about it, that we should be doing something besides logging into Facebook to screw around and type funny messages to each other or play Farmville or Words With Freinds. There’s that nagging moral urge to help. At least in some of us. Frankly I feel that it exists in all of us, and furthermore I believe that’s what prompts the kind of posts that I quoted above. This girl is obviously feeling the pain created by this urge to help but not knowing how to… so she’d rather ignore what’s going on. It hurts too much to see it. Trust me, I know. I’ve never been in more pain than i have been sine Israel starting bombing Gaza three weeks ago. Talk about helpless.

Which is why at times I disagree with the above post. I get it. I really do. Why should WE be reminded of Syria and their desire to kill each other? Just like in Darfur a few years ago…. What was it our business? (Well that actually WAS partly our doing and thus our business…. bad example. But you get the point.) Why should we be worried about seeing gross images on our fun funny kooky cool social media sites just because the rest of the world is in utter chaos? We have no inherent responsibility to help our fellow man. We SAY we do. We pretend we do. We teach our children that we do. But in reality we don’t really feel that way. We don’t REALLY want to be bothered with all that. There’s too much good to watch tonight on TV here in the US. And there are too many good dates to go on and too many good restaurants to go to and too many good songs to listen to. Hell, there are just too many good apps to download! We do NOT have the time to worry about other people on earth who are dying or injured. And yes, by that standard, then it’s perfectly understandable that we should not have to see that shit on FB.

But what if we DO help? What if we give money to causes that try to help? And frankly we just can’t bare to see that much grossness all the time if we are expected to go to our jobs and raise our kids well enough to be able to afford to donate to these causes, right? We do our part. It’s a free country. We should have the choice. I get it. And if we say NO to grotesque images of reality, then so be it. The answer is NO. Because that’s what freedom means.

Now…. if we could just find a way to integrate THAT totally justifiable feeling with the fact that we are actually funding 90% of the devastation that is going on all over the world THEN i would feel totally comfortable with taking this stance. The problem of course is that we ARE creating and funding either directly (Israel) or indirectly (Syria, Ukraine) the majority of the root causes of the “grotesque images” we so desperately don’t want to see. And because of that, then by all means shouldn’t WE be forced to witness these horrific images as often as these people who are experiencing them are? At least until we figure out a way to stop our government from doing these things? How else are we going to be motivated to DO anything about what is happening in our name and with our money?

As a last thought… if WE had thousands of people dying all around US in a bloody civil war ala Israel or Ukraine or Syria, we WOULD do something about it, one way or another. We’d SEE it. Smell it. Hear it. We’d fall asleep at night listening to it. And we’d damn sure do something to stop it. Well I bet that the Palestinians feel that way right this very minute. And so too do some Israelis. And the rest of the world’s peoples struggling and suffering. Hell knows that Ukrainians are now wondering WHY they let the US come in and oust their president and government now that there’s a war going on in their country between the US and Russia over oil and natural gas. Maybe we just need to be reminded — as these people are on a daily basis — what it is that we are doing, so we can actually stop it. Hell even if we aren’t even involved anymore, Libya, don’t we have a moral obligation to help? Or did that go away with the advent of Facebook? This is what I contemplate all the time… Is there really such a thing as a moral imperative? Or is it just something we tell ourselves to make us feel better about ourselves in between bites of hot freshly baked just delivered pizza?

It’s Time to Find Another Social Network — Facebook is Dying

Facebook is Painting It’s Users Into a Very Small Box…of greatly limited people and information. Out of a potential 1500 posts that the average user may see in any given hour, that same user may only see 300 posts. Why? Because unlike four to six years ago when everyone first started using Facebook, the Newsfeed is no longer just an ordered list of every status update that every friend of yours has posted today or in the last hour or two.
 Instead it’s a tightly controlled and manipulated feed of only a very small sample of what only a small fraction of a user’s friends have posted, because those brainy but inexperienced and naive engineers at Facebook with too much time on their hands and not enough day to day experience in the real world have created numerous algorithms that control what used to be a very simple thing: the so-called newsfeed, rendering it nearly useless as a tool to see what everyone you know is thinking or saying at any given time during the day or night — the PRECISE REASON why people use a social network like Facebook in the first place.
 First came the idea: instead of the usual newsfeed that simply shows the user a feed of everything that everyone they are friends with is posting, let’s try to create an algorithm that sorts this data for then based on what they Like and what they Comment on and other criteria so they don’t get bombarded by too many status updates. Why? Because they assumed that people might become overwhelmed if they saw EVERYTHING that people were posting. So in 2011 they launched EdgeRank, a newsfeed algorithm to secretly sort through users’ Friends’ status updates, and didn’t tell anybody.
 You probably noticed that you suddenly stopped seeing updates from a ton of friends. Or not. Many people never even noticed. Which is part of the problem. Aunt Sally just had hip replacement surgery but you didn’t hear about it for a week?!?! How is this possible?!?! Because Facebook decided FOR YOU that you didn’t need to know about it. So they deleted it from your newsfeed.
 Since then, year after year, they have continued to hone this algorithm, creating ever increasingly invasive technologies into it to control more and more of what users see and read — in effect creating an environment where the user sees and reads less and less.
 This week it was discovered that Facebook was secretly conducting an experiment on over 700,000 users across the globe — deliberately manipulating their newsfeed without their knowledge in an attempt to CONTROL THE USER’S EMOTIONS. Yes you read that right. Google that and look for the article in The Guardian magazine that came out June 14th. This is why the average user may only see 10 to 30 percent of the status updates that their friends are actually posting.
 I posted a rant about this yesterday on FB, Tumblr and Twitter. Many had no idea this was happening. Some did and were outraged. All agree they just want to see everything that their Friends are posting — without interruption and without any filtering.
 There IS a way around this. But it’s tricky. You can go to MORE. Then look for a link called Most Recent. Click on that and allegedly you will be taken to the old fashioned newsfeed. But in reality you are still seeing a greatly limited and manipulated feed that is still being controlled by this algorithm. But it’s better than what they are currently calling the Newsfeed, which is anything BUT a real newsfeed.
 One friend commented that we can change this by selecting to receive Notifications from the Friends we choose — which means that every time they post something we are then forced to receive a notification on our phone about it. Obviously this will not work for those of us who have a lot of Friends or Pages we like. But at least it does assure we will be notified if Uncle Charlie passes away IF we subscribe to Notifications from Uncle Charlie.
 This subscribe to notifications is great for getting notifications from a few folks, but we have to be careful with it for sure or we’ll be bombarded w too many of them. I’m referring specifically to the general newsfeed, which should, by definition, just be a collection of status updates in a feed by every single “friend” we have in the order they were posted to FB.
 Unfortunately as with many companies that grow large and continue on longer than they originally anticipated FB found itself having a lot of time on its hands and decided to start screwing around with this simple obvious elegant & useful system; so much so that they’ve now created a variety of algorithms that control each person’s newsfeed based on a variety of seemingly random criteria that it’s challenging for the average user to just see the old fashioned simple ordered newsfeed that we were first reared on and assume is still operating.
 Problem is, it’s not.
 I knew this… but didn’t pay much attention to it. Till yesterday when I became curious about not seeing enough posts from DIFFERENT people about the World Cup and other things. I kept seeing posts by the Same 10 to 20 people. Even though Princess Little Tree will be sitting right next to me and say “oh look what so and so just said on Facebook…” . But I would NOT see it. But hold on… Aren’t we looking at the same newsfeed of the same people?!?!
 Frankly I was pissed and shocked when I deliberately went to More/Recent Posts and the whole newsfeed changed. BAM!!! There are all the hundreds and thousands of status updates of everyone I’m friends with, in order of their posting! Imagine that! Names I hadn’t seen in weeks and even months. I was like “wow! Yeah what ever happened to so and so?!?” Actually YOU for example. Whoever you are, reading this… I Haven’t seen a post from YOU in ages! Maybe a year! Not kidding.
 Basically FB for some unknown (seemingly random until this new information leaked that they were conducting MIND CONTROL EXPERIMENTS on users) reason has all of us crammed into these tiny little boxes of very limited people and data — compared to what our real FB experience SHOULD be like. What it used to be like. What twitter for example is like — we see EVERY post by EVERYone we follow. Simple elegant useful. It may be a pain to scroll through all those thousands of Tweets… BUT it’s OUR pain and WE can control it. FB thinks it’s “helping its users have a better experience” by limiting what how and when we see. But what they’re really doing is taking control of our social network and thus our lives.
 In today’s age most people do nearly everything online. If my prediction from 2007 continues to manifest — that in the near future Facebook will become ever increasingly embedded into our day to day life, eventually making it’s way into our desktop and controlling our mobile devices and our social calendar etc. — then we cannot allow Facebook to believe that THEY can control anything about our profile or our newsfeed. All aspects of these need to be in the control of the user and the user only. No algorithm. No mind control experiments. No sorting based on what THEY consider “relevant data”.
 It’s bad enough that they have this completely bulls*^t policy to NOT allow 90% of Page updates to appear in newsfeeds unless the page PAYS them. That can be justified because many Pages are for profit businesses and updates “can be” viewed as advertising… Got it. So the average user can NOT and does not have a way to see status updates from FB pages. Unless they GO to every single page they Like every day etc. An experienced relatively intelligent well rounded person may Like a couple hundred Pages after a year or so on FB, so that makes that impossible. Meaning? Facebook Pages are essentially useless to both the Page owner AND the Facebook user. They’re like old fashioned entries in the old fashioned Yellow Pages now. Placeholders for a brand. But not day to day relevant in the here now. Because nobody sees what they post. Totally ass backwards and worthless.
 And now they want to do that with people too. Then what’s the real USE of Facebook?!?! Think about it… If we cannot even guarantee that we will see what one of our best friends just posted on Facebook two minutes ago because Facebook has decided that it’s “not important” for us to see, then what good IS Facebook?
 THIS is what happens when companies become too large and have too much time on their hands. They take something simple and useful and kill it by fiddling with it too much. It happens time and time again throughout human history. It’s a shame. But a harsh reality. And certainly no fault of the users or consumers. The only thing that the well informed and self determined user can do is FIND ANOTHER PRODUCT that suits our needs and desires better. Which is exactly what happened to MySpace and before that Friendster — for let us never forget: Facebook wasn’t a cool unique new or innovative idea. It was just a copy of a copy of a copy that happened to take off with the general public. Just as Tumblr was a copy of Facebook. Why on earth someone thought it was a valuable endeavor to take the time and energy to create a copy of Facebook (and then someone else thought it was valuable to then BUY Tumblr…) god only knows. But that’s another story.
 The point is that Facebook has now emerged as the official enemy of the very users that it originally set out to try to entertain and serve. It’s one thing to be so bored that you start fiddling with your widget to the point that you render it useless or too confusing to the average user, i.e. these ridiculous newsfeed algorithms. It’s another thing entirely to knowingly conduct mind control experiments on your customers and be so bold and confident to then admit it, assuming that propel so love your product that there won’t be a backlash.
 Surely there will be a backlash. What needs to happen is that every single person who uses Facebook on earth needs to choose a FACEBOOK BLACKOUT DAY to demand that Facebook commit in writing to never conduct mind control experiments on it’s users again. And while they’re at it they should abandon the Edgerank and any other algorithms they use to control users’ newsfeeds. These should be OPTIONAL. Not default.
 – Posted by The Ambassador using BlogPress on an iPhone 8s Custom

Something Special is Happening

[An old draft recently discovered, transcribed and edited.]

Had to share this post from someone i saw on Facebook early this morning. Woke up at 3:45 am and couldn’t get back to sleep. So i surfed for a while. I usually avoid religious posts. I don’t Like them or UnLike them. I just don’t pay attention to them. Any kind of public religious zealotry tends to turn me off, whether it’s pro-religious or anti-religious. Atheists are some of the most religiously zealot people you’d ever not want to meet, though they don’t realize it. But many of them are prone to the same kind of proselytizing that radical evangelicals or Muslims are. Personally I find it peculiar, the apparently dire need some people seem to have to profess preach or proselytize their faith to others. Especially in a mixed setting like Facebook or other social media websites where we’re sure to encounter people from a wide variety of backgrounds and cultures, faiths and religious traditions. Chances are, we’re most likely in the minority; if not due to our religion per se — Christianity is after all a surprisingly popular religion globally — but in our desire or willingness to talk about it publicly. When religious views are so personal; when we are fully aware that our own personal religious views are not being solicited by others… and are most likely not even welcomed.

It’s akin to running around town buck-naked, this trend to go social with your religious views. We all get naked when we have to. That’s a given. It’s a fact of life we all quietly and humbly accept. But we don’t find many people asking anyone else to show it to them publicly. At least not if they’re sane or rational folk. Public displays of religion have always struck me in a similar fashion. Not only is your own nudity generally unwelcome in public places, it can also more often than not just be downright insulting to some; this assumption that everyone wants to see your wanker flopping around in the wind. So if you live in a world where everyone does their best to be respectful, you simply keep your clothes on in public. The same rule should apply to waving our religious flag all over the place every time you open your mouth or type something publicly. I’m not against religion. Certainly not against being religious. Obviously. I just believe that it’s a very personal thing. It’s hard to pull off publicly pronouncing one’s faith when it wasn’t requested in the first place.

When it comes to religion, especially as it relates to Christianity in the United States, there is an unspoken — unfortunately sometimes spoken — idea that some people have that “their way” is the “one true” or “best way” there is, insinuating that all other religions are somehow inferior to theirs — simply because they aren’t christian. When someone posts something super religious unsolicited in a social media arena for all the world to see, knowing damn well that the majority of the people who will see it don’t share their views, it comes across snobbish, holier than thou, cocky, sometimes downright insulting. But if you go deeper, and attempt to view them in a respectful way, it may not be as cocky or snobbish as it is just ignorant; just not being as aware as most people. I try to view it that way sometimes. To give them the benefit of the doubt.

So yes, I do tend to respectfully ignore those ultra-religious posts by others, regardless of which faith tradition they happen to entertain themselves with. For all the reasons listed above. Every now and then though something will catch me. This morning was one such occurrence. Perhaps it’s because it’s the middle of the night and I’m still half asleep. Or perhaps it’s because it just really resonated with me. We won’t know for years really… till this post becomes a forgotten re-read. But what grabbed me was a prayer. A simple prayer. A public prayer. Hung out to dry in the wind for all the neighbors to see. Just so happened that what this person posted resonated strongly with me; probably because I’ve been praying the same damn prayer nearly word for word for weeks now myself.

I’ve felt a strong compulsion to pray a lot more and connect with the Divine a lot more lately. Not sure why. Something special is happening. Has happened. Something bigger than usual, larger than just me or “us”. And I cannot help but feel that it doesn’t have to be inherently religious for those that choose not to go “there”. But science has now discovered a cosmology that is big enough, expansive enough, (magical enough if you will) to allow for this kind of thought and still permit “rational thinking” for those who normally would never venture into those waters.

It isn’t like the old days — ten yeas ago? Five years ago? Even one year ago? Where one had to choose between being religious or being intelligent, sane, rational or logically minded. We can clearly see that in times past this was a choice that one had to make. All of the great faith traditions or religions that humankind has come up with (excepting Buddhism, which is NOT a religion in the strict sense) have been rather kooky, to put it kindly. They’re filled with contradictions and hypocrisy, legends and myths so glaringly unrealistic and manmade that you’d feel a fool to take them seriously. Once you study them that is. [And let us remember that a lot of religious people never make it to that point — which is why I recommend being as respectful as possible when interacting with someone overtly religious. They’re raised in a religious household and they never reach a point where they study it from a historical or academic perspective. They just take it at face value. Based on what they were taught as children. It’s important to remind ourselves of this; for perspective and respect.]

But for those who have taken the time to study the world’s religions, or even their own, it becomes apparent rather quickly just how insanely irrational and made up they all are. Usually this leads to a slingshot kind of reaction. One minute you’re religious and the next minute you’re super anti-religious. A logical pragmatist. A realist. Some even go so far as calling themselves atheists, though that’s a religion too. The anti-religion religion. The smartest minds will tend toward an open minded agnosticism. Which is where most of the civilized world seems to comfortably rest now in consciousness and in our cultural tendencies. But this Divine Force still pulses out there. In here. It’s still alive. Living. Existing. Creating. Sustaining. How involved It is in OUR day to day lives, one cannot be sure. How available It is to us even, we can’t be sure. But there’s nothing wrong with trying. No harm in it. In fact I’ve always found it to be a beneficial endeavor.

Which is where we started here roughly an hour ago. The sun is rising now. I will drift back to sleep soon. But not without first praying. I almost always fall asleep praying. Whether it’s night time or day. A full sleep or a half hour nap. Just what or who we are praying to… that’s a difficult thing to qualify. For everyone the image is probably different. I once heard a friend casually explain to a small group of us that he almost always prays to Jesus “because he was human” and he finds it easier to pray to “something he can understand”. I found this idea remarkably peculiar. Only because I personally feel the exact opposite of this. I tend to shy away from “praying” to Jesus on a regular basis — precisely because he is/was a human. I see him more as a conduit to the Divine, rather than a divine force himself…  Not that I “don’t believe” that “Jesus was God”. I would never claim to know either way. Frankly I don’t know how anyone can make a decision about that one way or the other. I wouldn’t dare. So I remain optimistically open-minded about it. But when I pray I tend to pray to “something very large, expansive, all-knowing, all-loving, compassionate and omnipresent”, something that is big enough to hold the entire universe in its mind and/or beingness and yet small enough to fit inside the smallest sub-atomic particle. But see, that’s MY version of the Divine. Surely very different than the next person’s.

The question is, can God (the Goddess? Not gender based at all? Completely removed, evolved beyond gender-based organisms…?) be flexible, pliable, malleable enough to encompass all that we attribute to it and yet still BE what IT IS in reality? If anything? I’d venture to guess yes, He/She/It can. And does. And it is precisely at this time in OUR evolution that we are beginning to see and understand this. Surely God / the Divine already gets all this. Waiting for us to get it. Slowly but surely it seems as though more and more of us are coming around. As I’ve already recounted numerous times here in the past, I didn’t find God or religion as much as IT found me. The gift of that is not lost on me. I still remain exceedingly grateful for those experiences. For I know very well what it’s like to use one’s head to try to “figure God out”. It’s a maddening process. Your heart may long for one thing but your head always gets in the way. Logic and reason. Without some kind of a super-natural or paranormal experience one is usually left with just human logic and reason. God doesn’t tend to fit too easily into a rational logical view of the world. Especially when approached through the small minded lens of one or any of the world’s major religions. But once God finds you, once you come face to face with It, heart to heart, mind to mind, soul to soul, once you FEEL this divine presence, or hear it… it’s hard to deny it, no matter what logic or reason or rational thinking tell you.

And now we’ve caught up, scientifically speaking, to just how grand this God-construct can be or possibly is. Our science is expanding way beyond what it used to be, how small it used to be. Physicists are finally starting to create cosmological constructs that are expansive enough to make room for this Divine force. And thus prayer can be not only possible, but encouraged. At the very least for experimental purposes. (And that’s out of respect for the still-purely logical pragmatists who find the existence of an external Divine force in the universe unlikely). But for many, ones who have extended beyond that kind of thinking, or who, like me, have experienced something other-worldly that has permanently shifted their views, prayer just may be the fastest way for us to get to the bottom of what this special thing is that we’ve been calling God for so many thousands of years. I am most fascinated imagining what our beliefs will be like in another ten years, or another fifty, or one-hundred, pertaining to this Divine force. Who will strike theistic gold first? The scientists? Or the spiritual? Or will it be a more subtle vectoring of both worlds simultaneously? A sudden realization of the merging of both worlds without a deliberate attempt to do so…? Seems very likely. But we’ll just have to wait and see. In the meantime it’s certainly an intriguing proposition.

– Posted by The Ambassador using BlogPress on an iPhone

Check Your Morals at the Door of the Trading Floor

Deep uncover still, exploring the world of investing and trading. Six months now. Don’t get me wrong, It isn’t just research; it’s also a way to make money. But it isn’t as easy as it once was. Those days are long gone. Yes, with the right amount of capital it isn’t difficult to make anywhere between $500 to $2000 a day actively trading. But it’s intense and stressful. And always a risk. You’re on the edge of your seat the whole time. Every minute seems like an hour when you’re in the middle of a trade. When you win, it’s exhilarating. When you lose, it can happen in an instant and there’s nothing that feels worse.

This is our third exploration into the world of active trading. The first was the period between ’97 to 2004, when I was still a kid, wet behind the ears and green as a newborn. Then 2005 to 2007. By that time I’d already made my fortune and investing was just a way to have fun with money. And now, once again we’ve jumped into the pool with the sharks. But this time it’s different. There are motives here much bigger than just to have fun or make a little extra money. And things have changed in this world. A lot. For everyday readers of the Transcendence Diaries, this isn’t going to be as transcendent as usual, but give it a chance. There is learning here. Just a very different world than what you’re more accustomed to here.

Yes, indeed, things have changed tremendously in the world of trading and investing. And yet things are seeming more and more like the old days. More on that in a few. For one thing HFT (High Frequency Trading) has been invented and is solidly embedded into the system; hell it is the system now. It makes trading operate at a rapid fire speeds. Mili-seconds matter. Pico-seconds in fact. [Many of the things I make note of will need to be Googled if not understood. For the purpose here is to post observations and lessons, not define terminology.] When I first started actively investing it was in the mid-nineties as already established here in The Diaries numerous times. We were in the process of a giant economic recovery in America which many mistakenly believe to be the effect of the Clinton White House or Alan Greenspan, when in reality it had a lot more to do with Silicon Valley and the advent of the internet age and modern technology becoming a regular part of the everyday man’s everyday life. Not only that, something amazing was invented, something truly revolutionary. eTrade. The ability of the average citizen to invest their own money their own way, in real time, without the need of a middle man or a broker.

eTrade was the first such system. Trust me when I say it was truly revolutionary. Up until that point you really did have to call a broker to buy or sell any kind of investment vehicle such as a stock or a bond or an ETF. Hell, ETFs barely existed back then. I was one of the first eTrade clients, coming on board in the beta stage as an early adaptor the same way I did with PayPal and eBay. Elon was still with PayPal back then. eBay was still a home based business. You became friends with the people you bought from and sold to. It was a small community. eTrade too. I still use the same eTrade, ebay and PayPal accounts from 1997 and 98. People are amazed when they see the date attached to my accounts. As if these are relatively new inventions. But to many people they are. That’s something that we always have to remember. The reason why companies like eBay and Netflix are still so valuable is because they’re nowhere near mainstream market saturation. Most people still don’t have a PayPal account; just as most people still don’t have Netflix accounts in their home. So there’s plenty of room for them to grow.

But back to the real meat of the story. Now eTrade is considered the old guard. The old dog that can’t learn new tricks. Try as they might they are having difficulty keeping everyone on board, though they’re still the most used platform out there overall. There’s something about being the first and the oldest that can backfire on you, whether product or service. The same way that Facebook ate MySpace who ate Friendster. Only time will tell if Tumblr will eat Facebook. I’m going to say no. But hey, they made their billion so at this point, who really cares. (Herein lay one of the main points of this post, along with a few dozen more, i.e. how similar today is to the dotcom crash of 2001. But that’s for later.) There are a hundred of these types of electronic home trading platforms out there. Scott Trade, Cool Trade, Ameritrade. Think Or Swim or TOS for short seems to be the popular kid in school these days, the current flavor of the month. Especially with the career traders, the ones who wake up every morning in their bathrobe and actively invest for a living all day. I’ve been there. I know what it’s like. I’m doing it now, though more for research and learning than for a living obviously.

Something has definitely changed though. Now everyone and their brother has access to a computerized home trading platform.  And everyone who does fashions themselves an expert. I’ve joined about two dozen investing services over the last few months in order to get a real feel for what’s going on behind the scenes with these retail investors, the average Joes, versus the big dogs. Whereas the big fund managers that we smoke cigars with every day at Barkley Rex or De La Concha are trading huge amounts of cash in the hundreds of millions and billions, the owners and members of many of these trading services are small players. One thing I’ve noticed is this: the big guys, the ones worth seven figures or more who have taught me much of what I know about wealth and finance are quiet, humble, and careful with their words. They volunteer at their church on the weekends. They do their best to keep a low profile. The smaller guys are the exact opposite. They talk a BIG game. They really believe they’re “the shit”. Or at least they talk like they believe it. Totally the opposite of the guys that manage at the big houses that I’m friends with. These smaller guys prey on small fish through seedy posts on social media like Twitter and Facebook and StockTwits. They claim to be able to make you “a fortune overnight”. Obviously this kind of attitude and activity is not new. It’s been around forever. Back in the day our friends at Agora Financial were the masters of it. They’ve turned it into a gigantic business now. Almost to the point where one could call them, dare I say, viable or nearly reputable. El Infinito is working there now. Learning a lot. Some decent minds are now contributing to their content. Very different than the small team that once was back in ’04 and ’05 when it was just Bill and Addison.

But I’ll tell you, this new breed, see they don’t manage money for any big firms. They’re traders. Pirates. But many of them are also professional hucksters. They need the money brought in through monthly subscription fees from small mom and pop investors to make their living. Whereas the guys we hang with over the weekend wouldn’t sell a subscription to their investment advice if you paid them to. And I’ve offered. They’ll talk to you free. But they would never sell you any advice. Why? Because it’s a very closed and private environment number one. And number two, they know how risky it is and how lucky they are to be in the position they’re in, so they’re humbled by that. And three, they don’t need or want that kind of money. They’re in the game for entirely different reasons. It’s more a professional sport to them. They’re in it for the Superbowl Ring. Not for a monthly subscription fee. Obviously we can’t name names here and I never have; we wouldn’t have any friends left if we did. But I have always been amazed at how cool and humble most of these guys are at the Big Ten. I’ve spent ten years smoking and drinking with them and they’re some of the nicest guys you’d ever want to meet. They’re not what you think, the way it’s portrayed in Hollywood movies. I’ve been to their homes, been to their vacation houses in the Hamptons, been on work trips with them, building houses with Habitat for Humanity or with church, and you wouldn’t believe the kind of effort they put in. You can tell they’re fighting some inner demons of guilt for making the kind of money they make when most everyone else is struggling just to get by. So they work their butts off on these work trips. You have to admire this.

Then there’s this whole new breed of guys out there now. Hundreds of them. Maybe thousands. They sell subscriptions to their “expert advice” to anyone and everyone who is willing to cough up 20 to 99 bucks a month for it. Some of them are as high as $5,000 a year. It’s an amazing market. For who doesn’t want to make it rich over night? These guys, they fight with each other over Twitter about who’s the better investor, who made the right call on the right stock. Verbally pounding their chest like apes, bragging about their latest great call. Things like that. Constant bragging. It’s silly kid stuff. One thing I’ve noticed is that they are more concerned with being right than they are with being smart. This is definitely a lose-lose way of operating in the world. And this is where it gets really concerning. You’ll notice that their real teeth in the game is in feeling “right”, as opposed to making money. I’ve heard some say “I’d do that trade a hundred times and even if I was wrong about it 100 times I’d do it again.” That’s actually a favorite tag line of this lot. It’s the “asserting identity” gone wild. The ego seems to take over for the being and runs on auto pilot, while the being itself is only God knows where. Very different than the large fund managers who will spend an hour with you explaining how often they are wrong and how careful we all have to be because “no one can time the markets”. This is experience and maturity speaking. They don’t have to brag because their title does the bragging for them.

[It actually reminds me a lot of the music business. When we’re kids, we swear we’re the greatest thing since the Beatles or Dylan. Then we get a few years under our belt and a few Billboard hits and before you know it, we’re taking three years to finish an album because we’re so damn aware of how average it most likely sounds. Our maturity informs our humility. We take on a humility that is more rooted in the reality of being in the business rather than wanting to be in the business. I assume most industries are probably like this.]

Another trend I’ve noticed now is that social media has really taken a prominent stake in the world of small time investing. People go into various social media outlets and tag the name of companies with a dollar sign. Such as this: $AAPL, when referring to Apple Computer. You see no end to the kind of treachery that one will partake in to make a buck. They pump up a stock the first half the day to trick average investors into believing it’s a great investment and right when it reaches the top of the day, they turn around and dump it — it’s called the Pump and Dump — leaving the average investor holding the bag with a giant loss for the day. Very sad.

Today one such slimy character Tweeted out “$GOGO stock rallying up after FAA approves cell phone usage on flights”. Of course no such announcement had been made. He just wanted to see if he could get a few more suckers to buy some Gogo stock so his shares would go up and he could sell it. Very heinous. The worst kind of pariah. Unfortunately it’s all too common. Lying is about as regular stuff as it gets with this crowd. This is NOT the world of the Avatar or Wayne Dyer or Abraham Hicks. It’s not about being a good person or taking responsibility or helping make the world a better place. It’s about making money. And that’s about all it’s about. Plain and simple. In a post earlier this week, I talked about how the world of investing is destroying the world we live in in the name of making money. Whether it’s the destruction of the environment for fossil fuels or promoting slave labor to improve shareholder dividends, it’s just a very seedy heartless business.

I’ve had a tough time fitting in. But at the same time, it’s the only way we will truly learn all there is to learn about the world of investing in order to better harness the power of Compassionate Capitalism in our quest to create an Enlightened Planet, which is the goal here. Compassionate Capitalism is a growing trend around the world of the wealthy, though very few are as of yet participating. For it takes a lot of self restraint and well, compassion. It also takes a lot of compromise when it comes to foregoing profits in favor of helping. But we’re getting there. More and more are jumping on board. And that’s where we’re headed as a society. It’s just going to take showing everyone else that it’s possible to make a fortune AND be cautious with our investment dollars to avoid contributing to the problems; AND even being pro-active, with a focus on making the world a better place. This might mean investing more in solar and alternative energy rather than oil, fracking and coal. This of course has the potential to lose you a lot of big money. Very true. And I have already experienced the conflict that sets in when trying to stop yourself from jumping into a company that you just know is ravaging the earth while making its fortune. It’s difficult.

A case in point that hits closer to home is that of Pandora. Yes the online radio company. What most people don’t realize is that Pandora has gone public. You can buy and sell shares of the company. And potentially make money doing so. The problem is that Pandora has slowly eroded the very lifeblood of the music industry. The initial deal they structured with the record labels and publishers was for 7 cents a play for each song — try splitting that up ten ways — it was already ridiculously low for as artists. A huge sacrifice. But we were told it was temporary, just until they got their foot in the door, that they were “new and experimental” so we all said yes just to see what would happen; on a temporary basis. Flash forward three years and they are logging tens of millions of listens a day; so they’re no longer “new and experimental”. What was planned was that they would up the ante for us artists once they established themselves and started gaining a bigger listenership. Instead what they’ve done is file a law suit against all the record labels and publishers in the world to ask the courts to allow them to cut that royalty rate in HALF. Yes they now want to only pay about 3 cents per song per spin. That way they can keep the cost down for the listener — it’s already primarily free — AND increase the amount of bonuses they pay to the directors of the company and the dividends they pay to the shareholders.

What’s really heinous is that their primary method of generating revenue — this is classic — is advertising. And who is their main advertising client? Yep. Music business companies. Turning around and selling advertising to US: record companies and publishers in order to promote new albums and singles by the artists. But if WE aren’t making any money from sales anymore, nor from online spins, then what incentive do we have to advertise on their platform? The music business is headed for complete implosion at this point. Not just “gone are the good old days”, but total annihilation. As in no one makes any money at all and everyone just does it for fun IF they can find someone to support them financially. Pandora is one of the reasons why. And what will this lead to ultimately for the average music fan? No good music. Just a lot of random shit gets released — as in whoever can afford to release music of some kind will. No gate keepers. No purveyors. We’ll see. This might be a good thing. But so far all it’s done is muddy the playing field so much that even the most open minded listeners are beginning to recognize that “there just seems to be a lot of really bad music being released these days.” Well now you know why.

[PS — for the record iTunes is not part of the problem. Unfortunately many people are operating under the misconception that iTunes ruined the music business through the distribution of online music and MP3s. But that isn’t the case. iTunes pays one of the best royalty rates out there for artists. And it doesn’t matter who you are or how big or small you are. If people are buying your music, you’re being paid handsomely from iTunes. Kudos to them for this.]

But Pandora, that’s just one example of the kind of conflict I’m talking about. So, let’s say we have a feeling that Pandora is going to rally on Monday, maybe it’ll go up a buck or two. We have a good chance of making some easy money if we invest a large sum. Jump in Friday. Ride it up till Wednesday or so and sell. Easy. But are we contributing to the problem by investing in the company in order to make a profit? I suppose if we turn around and use that same money to fund the counter-suit against them and spread awareness through PSAs about what a wretched organization they are, which is what just about every musical artist in America is doing at the moment — jumping on board this anti-Pandora train, then I guess it’s alright. Especially if we don’t invest for the long haul but only for a few days, to make some money. Why not? But that’s just one example. What about fracking? We know it’s the fastest way towards creating the great zombie apocalypse and destroying the world as we know it, but there’s BIG money to be made in natural gas. I made thousands trading it this week alone. And I KNOW what it is. I KNOW how it is made. And yet… I couldn’t resist the temptation. Again, if it’s just jumping in and out then is it really contributing to the problem?

Unfortunately I would say yes it is. For if NO ONE invested in these companies then they wouldn’t have any access to capital. They wouldn’t be able to keep going. They’d be forced to shut down. There’d be no more fracking. And there’s the problem. The only people fighting the good fight, against the frackers and the GMO monsters and Big Pharma and Big Oil, are the poor and middle class. They’re the ones out in the streets protesting and demonstrating and occupying. Everyone else is trying to figure out which of the big drug companies is going to be the next one that doubles in price next month and investing in it. Along with all the others. It’s a crazy scene. Trust me. For people like us, it’s just an absolutely insane scene. You check your morals and ethics at the door when you step onto the trading floor. You have to if you want to make big money. At least that’s the vibration that emanates from the room as you enter. Very few people speak of changing the world or taking responsibility or faith or peace or love or anything like that.

It’s a strange world full of animal consciousness. A cut-throat world. Ruthless. You hear phrases such as “chop those bears into little pieces” or “major bull trap”  or “we’re going to eat these grizzly bears for breakfast once this stock hits $50”. On and on. Most of it I wouldn’t repeat here. Like I said, it’s cut throat. But remember, we’re here to learn. I do my best to keep the peace and stay true to myself, try to offer some civility into the game while I’m learning.

Another thing I’ve learned is this: no one can time the market. Everyone is guessing, analyzing in hindsight. No matter what kind of analyzing they’re doing, whether it’s technical or fundamental or chart reading, it’s all just made up formulae. Everyone and their brother has a special system that they’ve developed or have adopted from someone else, and they all think it’s “the best system out there”. They speak about proprietary systems and all these rules of the market. But no such rules exist. Every time one of the so-called rules is broken, they’ll come up with a different rule to explain why that other rule was broken. It’s hilarious. But it’s also sad because you can see what a vicious cycle it is of ignorance. A company can be worth a veritable fortune and be ridiculously profitable and still have a stock that is poorly valued. Another company can not even be profitable — they actually LOSE money every quarter — and their stock price can be selling at a price that is in the hundreds. It’s a completely illogical game. Twitter, the little company, is about one-tenth the size of Facebook for instance and yet today it traded for about ten dollars more per share than Facebook. No logic. No reason. Just hype and excitement. This is what makes the world of investing so dangerous. No one is using intelligence or rational thinking anymore.

It’s exactly like 1999 to 2001, right before what we call the dotcom crash. We all know what that was like. Most people weren’t actually investing back then. But they’re familiar with the story. I was smack dab in the middle of it. Though I didn’t do it for a living. It was just fun. But I swear we’d make a few thousand dollars in a day just from jumping into a new company’s IPO at the start of the day and jumping out by the end of the day. Things like that. No one even bothered to check out the fundamental financial health of the company. The fact that it was going public through IPO was enough. It had gotten crazy. Which led to a giant melt down. As I’ve already written here, twelve years ago when it happened, I was one of the lucky ones. I was advised by some friends who managed at Goldmans to get out. So I took everything we had out of the market and put it all into Berkshire Hathaway B shares. At the time these were selling for $3,200 per share. I couldn’t believe that one stock could be so expensive. But after the crash, when everyone around me lost a fortune and my shares stayed relatively the same price, I had a lot more appreciation for quality and value when it comes to investing.

We’re in a similar place now. You can feel the rabid nature of the whole thing crashing in around everyone. And yet all they want is for the markets to keep going up. It’s a fascinating study of human behavior. All the sell signals are there right in front of us that we are headed towards a major correction — for a variety of reasons, not just one — and yet everyday in all these public forums and chat rooms and even on TV, you’ll hear the majority of the people still speak very bullish about the markets. Only the very few, the currently unpopular, speak logically and reasonably about the possibility of a coming crash. And yet the smart money simply wants to make money. And with the system as advanced as it is now, the way it’s been designed, making money in a down market is just as easy as making money in an up market. So being bullish about the markets being bullish is just, well, being bull-headed. Smart money feeds on making money. Not on being right. There’s nothing more rewarding than leaving “being right” at the door in order to make some money. But you’d be surprised how many people are ignoring the signs right in front of us all.

Another thing I’ve noticed about the game in general, the industry, the business, is that there is this very prominent “us versus them” attitude that is very prevalent. You’ll hear people constantly referring to “they” as if there is this mysterious malevolent force out there lurking in the shadows whose sole mission in life is to defeat them. They believe it to be an us versus them game, with them being the heroic underdogs of the story and “they” being the wicked apparition or monster out to get them. In reality, it’s nothing of the kind. There is no “they”. There are just millions of people putting money in and taking money out of various different investment vehicles. No real rhyme or reason. But the conspiracy theories are legend and there are many.

I’ve read hundreds of books about investing over the last 18 years and studied hundreds of different systems; attended all the big courses and bought into all the secret societies. Each and every one thinks that it alone holds the secret key to how the market works and how to “always win and never lose”. But I’ve never seen one person do it. The closer you get, the more losses you see. People tend to only advertise their wins. So you have to actually buy in in order to get behind the scenes enough to see what’s really going on. And once you do, you see just as many losses in the most expensive proprietary formulas as you do from the average investor. One thing that does seem to help though are the guys who strictly do Options trading. They do tend to understand the market better than anyone else. And they also know how to minimize losses better than most. This has been the primary focus of my research over the last few months. Learning about Options trading. It’s complex stuff. It’s calculated risk because it’s limited risk. Though the timing has to be even better; and because no one can time the market, the losses seem to be more frequent compared to the wins. But at least they are limiting them. Last week I made a small fortune with my first two options trades, both with Apple. This week unfortunately I lost an entire premium — luckily only about $1500 — with another options trade. I’m telling you, it’s potluck. Damn close to gambling it seems sometimes.

But not if you’re smart. And that’s one of the things that I’ve learned from the guys at the big houses. They don’t gamble. Everything they do is very calculated. They keep risk to a minimum. And they pay a lot of attention to fundamentals. If a company isn’t worth a shit, they don’t go there. The average investor speculates. They’ll invest in anything if someone tells them that they might make some money from it. They truly believe that “fundamental analysis is old fashioned; that it’s for the old mom and pops who don’t understand the new game”. But they consistently lose trading these highly speculative companies that are pure “trader’s plays”. Those are stocks for companies that aren’t yet profitable or haven’t yet proven themselves. Smaller companies. It’s become a huge trend. Just as it had in 2000. And just as it had in 2007 with Credit Default Swaps and the rest of it. Personally, I smell a major correction coming. So I almost always sell out of everything at the end of each day. This week every index lost money. It was a bloodbath. And December is supposed to be “most profitable month of the year in the stock market”. Go figure. Like I said, there are no rules. And anyone who believes there are is kidding themselves. There are only rules AFTER. Not before. That’s one of the most important lessons I’ve learned on this most recent venture into this world.

What I’d like to accomplish from this little adventure is two-fold: besides just mastery over all the knowledge of the investing world and global economics  — which is what really juices me about all this, I’d also like to be able to understand it all well enough to where I can really help contribute to the advent of Compassionate Capitalism going mainstream. Making money while making the world a better place. We’re a long way from that right now. But we are ON the way. Many have already started. Many more will come on board as older generations die off and the younger ones enter the game. Right now when someone comes on a financial news show who is proposing a business model that helps AND makes money you should see the way that people look at them; it’s as if they’re from a different planet. They are met immediately with suspicion that their business model is no good or is faulty in some way. Just because it has an ulterior motive of doing the world some good. That’s something that needs to change. Together we can do that. We need to continue to spread the meme though mass consciousness that making money and making the world a better place are not mutually exclusive missions. They can easily work together, in harmony and synergistically. It’s the only way we are going to create a world that lasts for a long time to come and is fair and just and friendly to all its citizens. This is the goal. More later.


Hype Is Dead

Scroll down below this post just to have a look at the email that was forwarded to me so you have a rough idea of what I am referring to in this post. What you’ll see is a very typical “2000s”-type ad that promises the moon and stars to prospective entrepreneurs looking for leads. What they’re selling is not important. In this case it is “new customers and leads”, primarily information and hype, in the form of a plugin for WordPress. It was forwarded to me by Infinito, who tends to keep up with these things. I rely on him and G2 and The Ex Norwegian along with a few other friends to keep me up to date with the latest and greatest in tech.

This is NOT the Diary entry I intended to post today. But it does act as an excellent illustration of yet another Signature of the Personal Expression Age, i.e. “You have to be ready (and willing) to change course on a dime, at a moment’s notice, in the Age of Personal Expression. So in that light, let us do just that. I can always post today’s originally intended Diary entry later this evening.

Infinito wanted to simply show me an example of what the new face of information marketing ads looks like. He wasn’t endorsing this style of adverts per se. I took a look at the ad below and did my best to attempt to get through it. About two-thirds of the way through I had had enough. A strange creeping yucky feeling came upon me as I tried to read it. And thus I replied to Infinito.

Wow. Yes I see these all the time. Used to anyway. I’m actually surprised that people are still trying to use them. I guess there is always that very last group of “Laggards” who we can always count on to bring in that last barrel full of revenue, despite how small it may be. [The term Laggards is based on that infamous “Roger’s Bell Curve” that shows a visual representation of a population divided by how quickly they tend to adopt new ideas and technologies or purchase and begin to use new things. At the front of the curve are the Innovators. It’s a very small percentage of the overall population. Next in line are the Early Adopters. Slightly bigger than the Innovators but still relatively small. Behind them are the average folk who jump on board once things have been proven and the prices go down. These percentage of people are called the Early Majority and is a much larger group. There is one more group after them who would represent the Mainstream or the Masses, The Late Majority. They only jump in once everyone around them believes it or owns it and they can pick it up for half price at Walmart. And then there are the Laggards. These are the people who wait, and wait, and then wait some more, for whatever reason, to accept new ideas to be true, or to make a purchase or begin using anything that is considered “new”. You can Google it. It’s a fascinating study if you’re into sociology science.]

Frankly I don’t like this type of advertising Infinito. It reeks of internet marketing circa-2001. I didn’t like it then and I still don’t. It may manage to eek out a few bucks from the pajama set, those home-bound individuals in boxer shorts sitting behind their computers trying to figure out how to get rich quick from not actually doing anything. But for our purposes I don’t see this type of ad as being effective in the least bit. In fact I would say it’s a downright turnoff. .

For one thing, these types of adverts are too hypey, damn near anxiety-inducing. I’m sure there are probably some people who like this kind of thing… Or else why would they still be creating and pitching them? Except only to each other perhaps? They litter the internet, like empty potato chip bags tossed out of a car on the highway. Wordy, bulky, clunky, chock full of meaningless tech jargon, giant blue hyperlinks and exclamation points everywhere, with big promises impossible to qualify. My Personal Expression Age (PEA) prediction is that we will be seeing less and less of these kinds of ads and that they’re going to continue to sink FAST in the coming year. I foresee a new way of gaining new customers, leads and additional sales is being heralded. Not quite a return to old-school, but close to it.

So far nearly every prediction we’ve made about the Personal Expression Age has come true over the last nine years. (It’s a source of both infinite pride and great sadness for me actually. We’ve yet to publish the actual book in full due to how busy we remain, hence the sadness; but pride in that so far we’ve been dead-on in predicting the path society as a whole would venture down in almost every industry). It’s downright uncanny how accurate we’ve been so far. Right down to the iReporters and hacktivists –as a means of Personal Expression — or the overthrow of nations right before our eyes — through and due to the increased need and acceptance for more Personal Expression.

In 2007 when we first started actively working on the book eight to ten hours a day, my partners and assistants in the project thought I was CRAZY when I said that we would start seeing peoples’ revolutions of entire countries in the next few years. After Tunisia, Libya and Egypt, now they think I’m some kind of prophet. When I said it would extend even to the United States and more stable European nations they looked at me as if I were some kind of mad anarchist speaking treason; warned me against writing it. Weather Girl flat out REFUSED to type what I was dictating to her, half out of fear and half out of patriotism I believe. The whole idea seems rather quaint now. But of course that’s because it’s a common rallying cry for both the far left and right. Though it still seems highly unlikely to most, I stick to my guns on this one. We’ve already seen it happen in Iceland. Nearly in Greece. In the coming few years it will only continue to grow to include larger more seemingly strong and stable countries like the U.S., the UK, France, Germany, and eventually yes, even China, Iran and Russia.

But that’s not what we are discussing here. Back to the point. Hear me now, believe me later: These kinds of ads as we see below are dead. Hype is dead. People just don’t have the time nor the temperament anymore to endure them. Hype is becoming nauseating. We can call this a new Signature of the Age. But I believe it is more of a sub-Signature of several of them. It’s an Outcome if anything, comprised of several different converging Signatures. There is The Backlash Against Hype Signature at play here. A longing and return to more authenticity. The It’s ALL Bullshit Signature. There is also the No Time to Read Signature playing a role as well.

The real point at the very bottom of the well is that hype in general is quickly dying. Society’s willingness to endure it. Across the board. I know what you’re thinking. “What? How can you say that? What about George Zimmerman and the so called royal baby? Or America’s Got Talent for God’s sake? You can’t get much more hype than all that.” Well this is true. But these are actually three very different subjects. One of them quite substantive. But closer to the point, how many people do we actually know who give a rat’s ass about America’s Got Talent or the so called royal baby? Sure it’s plastered all over the mainstream news, but WHO actually cares about it in our reality? Remember, mainstream news is PAID FOR. It’s not based on what’s important, nor newsworthy. Why is mainstream news dying? Well it’s not JUST because internet news is free as some people suggest. Nor is it simply because people can access ONLY the news they want to read about online, though that IS one of the major contributors to the slow crawling death of mainstream news.

More than anything though, it’s because people no longer trust that what they see and hear in the mainstream news is newsworthy. There have been too many revelations in the last five years, hell, in the last fifty years, that mainstream news is way too beholden to the governments and corporations of the world in what they report on and NOT to the people, nor the newsworthy. People long for REAL news. Not what the respective government in office at the time claims is news, nor what the corporation that owns the news outlet nor its subsidiaries WANT people to hear, but actual real news. Hype be damned. Regardless of how much fuss the mainstream news outlets make about this so called royal baby, how many people do WE know who actually care about it?

Hell, most people I know stopped falling for the whole claim of royalty over a century ago. And for good reason. There is NO such thing as royalty in the first place. They made it up. Called themselves “royal” one day and (yeah it’s sad fact that) a large majority of the common people around town fell for the scheme in the first place, but that was thousands of years ago. Not many thinking people in today’s age even believe in the myth of royalty or take it seriously. At least none that I know of. (just lucky?) So as far as this random British chick having a baby… Sure it’s hype, but it’s a non-issue to most. A novelty. And it’s quickly become ingratiating to many.

Don’t get me wrong. Hype may still be good for an entertainment click by the Masses, (Huff Post anyone?) that middle group in Rogers’ bell curve, but a click is all you’ll get. There’s not enough time for much more than that, unless something has true substance and/or is truly moving. Even those ideals are being greatly challenged in the Personal Expression Age; for a variety of reasons — which are expounded upon in much more detail in the book. That’s an unfortunate Signature of the age. But we’re working on it. Many around us are producing content that is just as if not more substantive and moving than ever before.


There is also the Return to Authenticity factor. All of us, but especially the younger generations, are accustomed to wearing strong bullshit and hype repelling armor now. No one believes YOU. No one believes ME. We no longer believe each other. We want to. We long to. But there is just way too much hype surrounding us. We’re drowning in it. Irony and cynicism are normal day to day outerwear. They have to be. In an age of America’s Got no Talent, we’ve trained ourselves to be this way. Everyone and their brother claims to be the next Michael Jackson or Madonna, or to have a son, sister, or cousin that is. Same with TV, film, books, music, literature, technology, apps… It’s a sea of endless hype. How we tread in it and sift through it all to find content of substance and import, products with true quality and functionality… that’s the Holy Grail.

So no. Ads like the below will not work. What we will see rise up in the place of these kinds of ads is more personalized one on one and localized service — even if you’re three-thousand miles away from your prospective customer — IF you want to gain new customers for a product or generate additional revenue from existing customers. What it will look like exactly… I’m not sure yet…  I am just beginning to download and formulate the theory. But I can tell you one thing, ads like the below are history. Only the Laggards will click. And only the desperate among them will continue past that first click and pull out their virtual wallet.

As always more later.

On Mon, Jul 22, 2013 at 8:17 AM, Infinito <> wrote:

Hi Ambassador, See the below ad as an example of the latest in information marketing advertising…


Begin forwarded message:

From: “awdevine” <>

Subject: [Online/Offline: Just Launched] Here’s The ONE Thing EVERY Marketer Wants AND NEEDS… Must-See NOW (fast-action bonus)

Date: July 22, 2013 11:05:16 AM EDT

To: “Fellow Marketer” <>



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Pimping On Social Media

Can’t sleep. Princess Little Tree has been gone for three days now. I find it surprising that though it’s only been 8 months that we have been living together full time (I do not presently travel back and forth to NYC on a regular basis as was usual), there are so many things that seem different and difficult without her constant presence. Including sleep. The days are longer. Much longer. The evenings even more so. The nights even worse. I’ve always been a night owl since I can remember, but due to the three hour time difference here on the west coast and the need to be on east coast time for better business and communication AND the fact that it just feels better to be aligned with the rhythm of the home and the people in it, I began keeping more regular hours since living here full time. In the last six to eight months I’ve been getting to bed between 12 and 1 am most nights and waking up around 7 or 8. (It may not sound like much, but for anyone in the arts it’s damn near supernatural.) For the first time in my life. That could be a whole entry unto itself, this fascinating contrast between the pros and cons of night owls versus early birds. But I must say I haven’t minded it as much as one thinks they would, and in fact I have been pleasantly surprised by the advantages that can be had from awaking so early in the day. Definite benefits to it.
With that said, being here alone, better put, not having Princee Little Tree here with me as a time keeper, more precisely, as the stable reference point that I’ve quickly become aware that she is, the mechanism of getting to sleep at a decent time seems to have eluded me once more. Staying asleep once down just as challenging. It’s nearly 3 am now and I’ve been up for a little less than an hour, which means that I was only able to stay asleep for slightly more than an hour. And here I am wide awake, sitting up and writing. As if I never went to bed.
If that were the only challenge posed from her absence this setting could be bearable. Unfortunately it’s one of the least bothersome out of a seemingly endless sea of many. How on earth a man is supposed to eat properly without his beloved escapes me entirely, save the occasional waffle, bagel, bowl of cereal or slice of pizza. Don’t get me wrong, I’ve seen worse. Vancouver, who has yet to hook up with any permanent better half, eats as if he were a homeless person (no offense towards homeless people. But I’ve honestly never seen anything like it…) Of course I jest. Understanding how sexist an idea like this must seem to the more progressive among us. But unfortunately as with most things truly funny there is more truth to this than fiction or poetic license.
Most of all what I find the most disturbing is the unquenchable longing for her presence, her beingness. To see her smile. That smile of hers that only she can pull off. As if it were born to illuminate and radiate and lighten. She’s a miracle in her smile alone. To feel her essence in my space. That is something that nothing else can replace. It is a heavy aching longing of a feeling, one that I am grateful to be feeling After all, what is worse? To long for someone or anyone to miss? Or to miss someone that we are longing for? Having experienced both now, I choose the latter. It is for all intents and purposes what I had always guessed true love feels like. Severe pleasure when you’re together. Severe pain when you’re apart.

[Editorial note: typing on an iPhone — any smartphone for that matter one supposes — seems to compel us to subconsciously refrain from choosing large words or attempt to compose sentences even one-tenth as erudite as we would under normal circumstances. Especially given the iPhone’s inept auto-correct feature’s maddening penchant for distorting our intended words so blasphemously. (Even more so if you’re doing it with only one eye open and the other closed due to being so sleepy that you can’t see straight with both eyes open, as I’m apt to do late at night like this.) People are always shocked when they hear that many of the Transcendence Diaries entries are composed in the pitch black of the dead of night on an iPhone. I find it a gratifying sign that, although I’ve certainly grown up a tad and taken on at least an air of having more responsibility since getting married, that the general manly laziness that I’ve carried with me most of my adult life hasn’t entirely been left or been remade.
[In any case, this drag on our willingness to write as well on our handheld devices is subtle and tricky; it’s a slippery one to catch. But it’s there and must be subverted. You’ve got to remain vigilant and committed to writing as eloquently and completely as you would under any other circumstances. I assert that although an entirely new nomenclature is fast being created in society — more shortcuts, contractions, acronyms and slang, less allegiance to proper spelling and grammar, etc. — due to the advent of so much of what we do now being on smart phones, that it is still just as important to keep the torch lit for the art of good writing. One of the last vestiges of etiquette and civility left for us in this fast paced data-overloaded culture of diversity and recklessness. This trend is one of the Signatures of the Personal Expression Age we identified and predicted early on. Frankly i believe we are only seeing the beginning of it now and that the primary language of modern casual communication is going to become much more truncated and nuanced as younger generations grow up within the age not ever even being aware of what proper writing once looked and sounded like. Even punctuation is quickly disappearing from our day to day communication like frost on a windshield when you first start your car; it was there and now it’s not… the proper use of requisite capitalization has already left the building. Descriptive words will soon wither away and fade as well, seeming unnecessary, (or they will replace, stand in place of, the intended object). All as more and more people try to say more in less time and with less effort. But alas there are a few who are still attempting to uphold the old time-honored tradition of writing as an art form.]

So where were we…. Yes. The actual purpose for this late night intrusion into my solid eight was to make mention of how utterly unbeneficial (sic) and possibly even counter-productive it is to be constantly pimping one’s wares on the great social networks of the world. Facebook Twitter Tumblr StumbleUpon… they’re all becoming giant public billboards rather than meeting and greeting places. Sales conventions. That word “social” is what gives it away. Most of this is already in the aforementioned book and I dare say that if I don’t get to the releasing of it soon then I am bound to give most of it away in these pages so much so as to render it unnecessary.
But let us at least observe that when browsing a social network it is becoming increasingly more prevalent to see these so called “sponsored posts” or “recommended pages”, and if we didn’t call them up ourselves, i.e. desire to pull them towards us, into our awareness, all the pushing them down our throat in the world is not going to lure anyone into clicking or consuming any more than if you came pounding on our door in the middle of dinner like a Jehovah’s Witness. In fact that’s what it’s starting to feel like. One big “buy my religion” sales convention. Luckily, or not, depending on what your goals are, the advent of that blessed invention called the HIDE button on Facebook, is making it increasingly easier for us as consumers to escape the onslaught of social network sales people, and hence increasingly difficult for any of us as entrepreneurs to show our wares. A conundrum indeed. Of course if you aren’t pitching anything, if your profession is outside the realm of necessity of social, then this is entirely worthless information. This does beg the question though, “What professions in the modern world don’t at all need to rely at least a little on having a presence in the social networking world?”
I assume there is a plethora of data and opinion already in existence out there that reflect on these ideas. I read recently that “every idea ever invented since the dawn of man is now being re-invented and disseminated online every 48 hours.” It’s enough to lead one to believe that to say anything at all is a worthless endeavor. But I’d still suggest that the subtle style of suggestion goes a lot further in terms of long term growth and sustainability, and certainly in regards to respect and admiration, than hardcore pimping and selling in the modern age. There are people who use social media for nothing but sales, to the point that they will even take natural disasters or the worst human tragedies and turn them into a self centered sales vehicle. It is as if they aren’t aware that society has caught up with and is more than tired of them. Then there’s the user who will post the same music video ten times in a day; that’s where the Hide button really comes in handy.
True engagement from the heart, sincere conversation and dialogue goes a lot further than mere selling in today’s world, even if the goal is to ultimately sell. (That isn’t the goal for many of us. But for some it is. And it’s important to learn this lesson. The days of old fashioned selling are over. Especially if it makes one appear as if there is nothing more to them than meeting some quota or stroking their insecure ego. Social media may go a long way to serve in that at first, for most of us are generally kind and generous with our attention as long as it doesn’t hurt; the problem is that it quickly starts to hurt if it feels like it’s a one way street. “Watch my new video!!!!” or “Hey guys check out my new song!!!” seems a very 20th century way to promote oneself today.

I have been reluctant to mention this, for it’s been brewing for some time, but interestingly there is another phenomenon that opposes the above viewpoint and that is this: if you display and talk long enough about something, the product, if you just absolutely refuse to go away, people begin to soften to it, which has the effect of increasing that product’s sell-through potential. What may be completely uninteresting, not-preferred, undesirable, even objectionable or offensive one day has a good chance, if given enough of a push for a long enough period of time, of still being eventually consumed, even paid for. This applies to products, services, people as products, and equally to ideas.
Think of so-called hit songs. Hit songs are products that have been promoted to a small panel of radio stations, the distributors, across a particular country to play repeatedly in exchange for large sums of money and other forms of compensation; the key to it is the “play repeatedly” aspect, oftentimes more than any measurable quality of the product itself. We all know of thousands of songs that we now consider hit songs that when we first heard them we thought they were utter crap, only to slowly and inevitably change our mind about the same song a few weeks, months or years later. These songs achieve hit song status if enough listeners appear to “like” the song based on various data and feedback provided by said listeners. But what’s fascinating about this particular example is that the consumers in this case, the listeners, have a very slim chance of being the ones who decide whether or not they really “like” the product or not. Why? Because they hear the song so many times that they just start softening up to it, regardless of how they felt about it to begin with.
This isn’t the case for all hit songs. Obviously some appear on the scene and from the moment most people hear them they just fall madly in love with it, the true measure of a hit song, and a winning product. But in a large majority of cases, listeners have almost no say in what they consider a hit song; it’s played so many times in such a short period of time, giving the appearance of being a hit, that even those who despise it eventually begin to find something they believe they like about it. There are a variety of reasons why this happens — the human need to belong, not feel like an outsider, feel part of something bigger, and perhaps more than anything just the phenomenon of infinite repetition seems to break down resistance.
People as products, celebrities in some cases, work much the same way. Resist the Whoopi Goldbergs and Rosie O’Donnels and Mel Brooks and Kathy Grffins of the world all you want — but if they just find a way to keep themselves in front of people long enough they eventually become part of the accepted consciousness stream. We might spend the first twenty years of their first appearance on the scene wondering what the hell this person even does or offers — especially if their claim to fame is “being funny” but they don’t happen to be funny for example — but inevitably their desire to be an accepted and consumed product often overrides anyone’s doubts about their qualifications to be such.
Ideas offer an even more substantiated example of this phenomenon. Most are aware that the idea that the earth was round and revolved around the sun had been proposed more than a thousand years before it eventually became accepted, which means that the idea that “the earth is flat and is at the center of the solar system” was an accepted idea for a thousand years even though there was no proof of it and in fact more proof of the exact opposite theory. The idea was just pounded into mass consciousness and for lack of _________ (fill in the blank… resolve? strength? courage? knowledge? resources? access?) people just accepted the idea to be fact; walked around their whole lives assuming and teaching their children and children’s children that the earth was flat and that the sun revolved around it. I am sure we could think of hundreds of ideas that could serve as equally substantive examples of this same phenomenon. (What’s most intriguing is to pose the question “What current ideas in human society do we assume and take for granted NOW that will one day fit into this same group and seem outlandish and ludicrous?”)
Same sex marriage is an excellent example of this. An idea as a product, at first unaccepted and undesirable, offensive and objectionable to many, but slowly gaining traction in society as a whole right before our eyes, in our own lifetimes; we are witnessing the blowback in real time from the various groups around the world who still refuse to accept the idea, or, still refuse to consume the product. Many say it is an inevitability. It appears that way. And yet there are plenty of people who still resist it. Just as I’m sure there were who resisted the idea that the earth was in fact round and revolved around the sun.
What changed? Well for one thing the idea, the product, didn’t go away. Like a Whoopi Goldberg or a Kathy Griffin or a fill in the blank_______________. And that seems to be the key. Keeping the product, no matter what it is — tangible object, service, idea, person — in range, in line of sight, in earshot, for as long as it takes for people to soften up to it no matter how much they might resist it at first. Softening up leads to acceptance, reluctant or not, which seems to eventually lead to increased potential for consumption. (How many times have we bought an album years later, just “because”, by a musical artist that we once swore we “didn’t like” at first…?)
So how does this relate to not pimping your wares ad nauseum on social media? The ideas seem to be antithetical. Don’t pimp your wares to people who aren’t interested in buying if you want to earn respect and admiration. But if you could care less about respect or admiration, and instead your mission is mass consumption, think Donald Trump and his various enterprises — Celebrity Apprentice for example — then you strap in for the long haul and just go hog-wild pimping your product regardless of how it is initially received.
The funny thing about all this is that one notices that eventually the resistance dissipates, the resistors and naysayers seem to drift away, room is made, and eventually even respect and admiration can be had by even the least admirable and respectable products or persons a society has to offer. It seems to be only a matter of time, AND a product’s, or its promoter’s, degree of willingness to endure rejection, ridicule and criticism. Snake Oil anyone?

– Posted by The Ambassador using BlogPress on an iPhone

Why Promote Your Status Update? Exploring the Personal Expression Age

Promoting Status Update

I now notice that Facebook is offering a Promote button on personal profiles, where for a few quid more you can advert your status updates to receive more attention/exposure. (I’ve promised a new blog entry to The Transcendence Diaries daily from now on, as in days of old, so if any status update goes beyond 4 lines I turn it into a blog btw. Standby and we’ll see what happens here…) Point being that this new trend compels one to realize that the world is quickly jumping to a “whoever has the most money gets the most attention” model, (in point of fact it is actually swerving damn fast towards “whoever has the most money gets ALL the attention” — but this jumps the gun a bit) even on traditionally free platforms such as social media. Of course there is the “whoever makes the biggest arse of themselves that day” model as there’s always been, but that’s usually just good for the requisite “fifteen minutes (now fifteen seconds) of fame” type of exposure; in one ear and out the other faster than that pregnant mom of eight sea-monkeys in Kenosha, Wisconsin can find a crack publicist who’ll take her on for a three month stint.

In general the prediction made in the book We Are the Revolution — Welcome to the Personal Expression Age about the coming trend of “the commoditization of the individual, of every individual” as a Signature of the age, is slowly inching toward becoming a very solidified reality in Western culture and thus globally. (Even the most ardent despisers of all things American still recognize that, one, in order to make a big splash financially one normally has to make it in the USA, and two, that in terms of cultural perception of mainstream success on a global scale, “making it in the US” is still the benchmark of how successful one is perceived to be). But that’s subtext.

The bigger picture point is that if regular everyday folk using social media to communicate mundane daily activities with friends, classmates, family and neighbors are now being encouraged to “Promote” their status updates for no obvious or immediate economic benefit, what’s next? [Okay so now this is where we switch to a cut and paste from this Facebook status update to a blog entry usually, which despite my aversion to the extra work involved and a deep seated though irrational longing to just stay right here and keep typing, I will now do. Here we go. That’s better.]

In order to answer this ‘what’s next’ question perhaps it would be helpful to remind ourselves of the primary driver, and trigger, of this new Age of Personal Expression, i.e. we’ve now entered an era where growing up moderately healthy and successful — doing well in school, graduating from college, getting married, buying a house of your own, having 2.5 kids, retiring by age 65 with a decent pension — is no longer enough to fulfill the average human being’s need for personal gratification, satisfaction or validation.

The need to be publicly acknowledged and/or recognized through Personal Expression (PE) of nearly any and all means necessary (or available) has replaced the more traditional forms of personal satisfaction. Becoming public, becoming a public sensation, even if for a brief moment, has become the new “got married, had a kid, just earned my Masters or bought my first house, etc.”; UNLESS any of those events happens to make it easier for someone to “draw a crowd” or gain more access to the plethora of perceived public attention that appears available now to anyone, i.e. if getting married can be perceived as being a unique form of Personal Expression that may garner one more attention than the average bear, then that event is still perceived by the person to be a major life moment worth investing in.

If not, then it feels plain, ordinary, pedestrian and therefore might not be as exciting as endeavoring to attempt something else that feels more authentically PE; at least and especially while one is young and still believes themselves to have plenty of good years left, (or old and feels like they’ve already “been there done that” with the more traditional vehicles of personal satisfaction mentioned above). [This is a deliberately short synopsis of a much larger paradigm explored fully in the book, but it should suffice in order to follow the main point(s) of this blog entry.]

From where we sit now — nine years into the research of this age and the book that explores it — the above summarizes both the primary continuous driver of the age AND the primary trigger that got us here in the first place. So, with the “commoditization of the individual” Signature now starting to trend in real time, e.g. “Promote your status update or Tweet to your friends to “let people know it’s important”” [a direct quote from Facebook June 18th, 2013], which costs money, it is clear that our global society as a whole is definitely heading toward a “whoever has the most money gets the most attention” or better put, “whoever has the most money gets all the attention” model of day to day life. And yet ordinary folks with no financial or career-goal gain to be had from going more public will still feel compelled to participate in such activities such as promoting their status updates or tweets or anything they can think of in order to garner more public attention, even if it just means among their local community or friends group.

The truth is that most people will never gain much of anything from such an action. One promoted status update or tweet in this overcrowded marketplace of pseudo-celebrities (another Signature of the Personal Expression Age) does not a celebrity make. And yet because of the two primary factors triggering, allowing and continuing this trend — the relatively new longing of the average individual to feel famous, and the corporate greed that creates the technological platforms to make the fulfillment of that desire or at least the perception of it available — people will still jump at the chance. Facebook will bring in tens of millions of dollars in extra revenue this year from regular everyday Joes being willing to pay for the perception that “more people saw their promoted status update”. No one is claiming that Facebook will not in some way “promote these paid status updates” to a larger target audience than if one didn’t pay to promote it. That isn’t the implication. Nor the point.

The intriguing takeaway is that people will do it in the first place; and the fact that someone who works at Facebook actually had the idea in the first place — and furthermore that someone else higher up actually thought it was a valid enough experiment to at least try. It is a clear indication that we have now passed the threshold in mass consciousness of understanding the undercurrent drivers of the Personal Expression Age — they are beginning to be taken for granted — AND have reached the first stage of a global trend toward the Commoditization of the Individual en masse.
More later. Much more. Just thoughts in the moment.

Learning Farsi

Farsi study time. Everyday now since about two weeks ago for at least an hour I’ve been diligently pursuing mastery over this damn language. With an alphabet that looks as beautiful as the world’s finest art, it is hard to fathom, ironically, just how utterly displeasing the sound of the Farsi language is. Worse yet, it is as displeasing to the mouth and tongue to speak as it is to listen to. It’s truly unlike any other language I have endeavored to learn. Not only is it extremely difficult to speak physically, in terms of forming the words properly — plenty of glottel stops and gutteral formations in the mouth and back of the throat, but it’s also completely grammatically confusing. More on that later. 

We’re at the deep in point now and I have to note: attempting to learn a foreign language withOUT learning to read and write it’s alphabet may just be impossible. (UnLESS u just immerse yourself in that country for six months and r forced to that is.) Other than that this is getting harder by the day but I trudge onwards.
I make occasional updates to social media regarding this new endeavor. Freinds have offered a variety of potential solutions to this quandary. Everything from alternate language programs to memory improvement courses. Rosetta Stone is the best program for learning a foreign language out there second only to formal classes IMO. It’s just the first time I’ve attempted to master one with a totally different alphabet. And because I’m NOT in a class (as I’ve been in the prior four I’ve learned) and perhaps due to some slight laziness and fear on my part I am focusing on just speaking rather than reading. A side advantage of doing it this way is that you r forced to hone your listening and memory skills razor sharp. Because you can’t read the letters right in front of you — as one would with french or spanish for example. That’s a plus for the old brain for sure. But at this point where I’ve “milestoned” into Unit 2 and the sentences I’m learning are becoming longer and longer it is obviously becoming increasingly difficult to do it all by ear without being able to read even one letter that’s staring me in the face. Of course it would be the same if I were learning Japanese like James or Russian or any others… (I think u already know I took the easy road to start and learned all the “regular alphabet” languages first way back when (except Romanian — the secret-closet stepchild of the 5 romance languages, because I just feel no desire to learn it). But I’ve run out of those now. So… all that’s left are “different alphabet” languages for me.

As I’m writing all this to you (pardon it’s length) I’m just realizing that I’m really cutting myself short by having chosen this method. I can feel the limiting belief operating :: learning that alphabet is going to be too flipping hard! I’m going to seriously consider discreating this idea and perhaps go back to square one and take on learning to read and write. Sheesh these r just beliefs. Why struggle if you don’t have to right?

And I’ll tell you — on another note — two other things that have occurred to me, 1, connecting with others through social media like Facebook about what’s really going on as opposed to just jokes and links and pix an bs can be very helpful to us in a variety of different areas of our lives. You guys here have taught me plenty and inspired me. And 2, staying in touch w fellow Avatars has a similar effect on us but just amplified by a google. We create a no bs allowed zone so to speak. Because you and Dan and Annie r in this loop it’s forced me to really look at what’s going on. Not just w this but you know, all around I think it’s very helpful and beneficial to us all to be connected potentially on a daily basis.

So Now What? Secretary Romney? Or Can the States of America Become United Once Again?

Two major events happened in American history yesterday. Tuesday November 6th, 2012 saw the official release to the public of the new Ed Hale and the Transcendence album The Great Mistake, one of the tastiest catchiest collections of garage-pop and celebration-rock of all time… and one other thing which for some reason escapes me at the moment…. Gosh what was it…? Hhhhmmm… Oh yeah, that’s right… the United States held another General Election, which among other things voted to keep President Barack Obama in the White House for another four years. Some would call that a great mistake. Though in the circles that our little awesome team runs in, both here at home and abroad, this outcome was not only expected but met with joyous enthusiasm.

It is hard to imagine what last night’s victory speech would have looked, sounded and felt like had it been Mitt Romney standing up there speaking rather than His Holiness, the Great Professor, the Stoic One, the Staunch Leader with the Backbone of Steel, President Barack Obama. Though there were little rural counties all over the electoral map of this great country that bled bright red after voting Republican, nearly all major metropolitan areas and big cities stayed true blue and voted to keep the Rational Voice of Reason in his coveted Oval Office chair for another term. As usual his victory speech was a spectacle to behold, not only in terms of the sheer number of people who crowded together all over the world to listen to his words with rapt attention in more community environments rather than at home alone, but also because of the way he speaks, his graceful, near effortless and powerful oratory skills, but most of all to hear the content of his combination of words and to listen to what he had to say.

Not since F.D.R., Kennedy or Reagan has a U.S. President held a people as captivated or spellbound as Obama. The honor is well deserved. One is struck inside by a sincere feeling that he genuinely means every word he says. In the twelve months of campaigning leading up to his re-election, President Obama didn’t shift his stated policies or platforms as many are opt to do in presidential elections in order to grab more independent voters or swing states. He didn’t flip flop. He didn’t swing Right or sway more Left. Love him or hate him, he stayed himself. And that kind of sincerity and genuine backbone is a rare commodity in modern American politics. Especially among presidential candidates.

One could argue that it was one of the many things that guaranteed Obama the re-election. Especially when considering the actions of his opponent. A man by the time this is read will probably be largely forgotten as most losing presidential candidates are — they don’t die, they just fade away into a hazy oblivion, but also a man who shocked the American people and indeed many people all over the world as being so flimsy and shady in his beliefs and viewpoints that even right up to the night of the election most people still did not feel that they really knew or understood who he was or what he stood for. His name was Mitt Romney. And last night’s election was as much a referendum to rid our soil of his type as it was to re-elect the current president.

Social Media was abuzz for the last twelve hours from people of all ages, races, nationalities, social classes and creeds excited that once again the majority of America elected a rational voice of reason rather than one of fear and bigotry. Last night I Tweeted that the results of the election were more of a mandate against racism, religious isolationism and radical extremism than pro-Barack Obama. Never before in our lifetime have we seen a political party, as evidenced by the Republican Primaries earlier this year, so antiquated, so backward, so old fashioned, and so extreme in their beliefs. At one point in the Republican Primary debates when the subject of capital punishment came up, the audience in attendance erupted into applause. During another occasion, this strange robotic Tinman-like figure called Romney declared that in order to solve America’s illegal immigrant problem he would hope and encourage illegal immigrants of all ages to “self deport” themselves. Though no one was quite sure what the hell he meant by it, on the night of the election, Republican Strategist Ana Navarro stated “Mitt Romney self deported himself right out of this election!”

And so it was with Latinos, who voted against Mitt Romney by a sweeping 76 to 23%; so too it was with women, gay people, Jewish people, Muslim people, non-religious people, college educated persons, young people, African Americans, and anyone the least bit worldly, cosmopolitan, free thinking or progressively minded. The Republican party of today is singularly minded: they are white and Christian. No longer concerned for personal freedom and liberty, as in the golden days of true Jeffersonian Republicanism, they want to ban and regulate women’s rights to reproductive health and everyone’s right to marriage and family, i.e. as long as you are one man and one woman you can get married and have a family; if not, then you’re shit out of luck because they want to stop you through governmental regulation and constitutional amendments. That isn’t Republicanism. It’s a strange breed of antiquated Puritanical Christian values from the 1500s and wealthy white men who couldn’t care less what country they’re fucking with as long as they’re passing laws that make them wealthier.

It’s ironic when looking at the electoral college map in regards to who votes blue and who votes red that the same people who were against a constitutional amendment abolishing slavery one-hundred and fifty years ago feels perfectly content to pass one to ban equal rights for same sex couples. True democratic progress in America seems to always come from the Northeast, the Midwest and the West Coast, from the big cities rather than the rural suburbs.

I was besieged with Tweets, DMs and Facebook Messages last night from friends who felt great relief that we wouldn’t be forced to endure four years of yet another numb-skulled Republican White House administration as we did during the Bush years, some of the most disturbing in all of American history. One friend from Florida wrote, “Tonight was a great win for all us women who came out of those binders to stick up for our equal pay and equal rights under the law. The Republican party today is a joke IMO and cannot be taken seriously.” Her sentiment seemed to echo most of my generation and the generations below it and above it, entertainers, artists, athletes, public figures, celebrities as well as regular folk; literally anyone with a brain it would seem. Or a heart.

I wrote back simply, “I couldn’t agree more K. So many people keep saying it. But even this morning Laura Ingram on Fox declared that “the Republicans do not need to become more moderate in order to win.” I’d cynically agree with her. They don’t need to become more moderate to “win”. They need to become more moderate to even be relevant. If this election was anything (and it was; a BIG thing on many counts) it was a referendum on how out of touch the Republican party is with the majority of average everyday Americans on social issues. The day after the election a Romney Adviser told CNN that “we really thought that we were going to win this race,” a statement which if really true goes to show just how out of touch the Republican party is today with the American people. There wasn’t an intelligent observer alive in America who had called the election to go to Mitt Romney. From objective journalists to third-party pollsters to Las Vegas bookies, all odds were for another landslide victory for President Obama. Which is exactly what happened.

“The Repub party of our youth used to be all about personal freedom and liberty and fiscal conservatism, not trying to control every aspect of our lives like this new breed is recommending. It’s flat out frightening. (the re-election of Michelle Bachman (yes it’s true) is a perfect example of how scared rational thinking people should be.) Their mandate should be “fix the economy and stay out of our homes and personal lives.” As it used to be.”

In an environment when States are now voting to approve the legalization of marijuana and four states approved laws legalizing same sex marriage in one night, you simply can’t be more out of touch than the current crop of Republicans. Their platform is so damn confusing that it is impossible to understand the mindset of the people who claim to be registered Republicans. One guesses that a good majority of them were born and raised that way and are simply spewing the same limited government (except when it benefits themselves) and bigoted rhetoric that they grew up hearing from their parents. Whereas the democratic party seems to be precisely the opposite: a cornucopia of a wide range of people who have flocked to the Democratic party from a wide variety of different viewpoints and parties because to be Democrat now means moderation, logic, compassion and tolerance.

But what’s good for the goose should be good for the gander. Both parties need to get something: this is not about your party winning or losing. It’s about serving the American people and their stated interests and desires. Political elections may appear from the outside to be run like competitive sport; but no one should be so short sighted as to believe that at their core that’s what politics is. It isn’t sport. It’s service. Over the last eighteen months the American people were bombarded from every side by this theme of competition, as if the election were more about “whose side is the best or most popular”, rather than what it really was about: which party — out of at least six — are most prepared to meet the needs of the people. (This is a topic that is so important that it should be saved for another day and its own entry. But at the core of the subject is the suffocating stranglehold the two-party system has on American politics and how they have slowly fooled the American populace into believing that they are participating in some kind of public championship in professional sports, choosing sides, picking winners and losers, going to rallies and fundraisers… All may be significant aspects of democratic politics during campaigns, but that’s where the competitive mentality should end. Once elected, politicians should remember that what they really are are public servants, not winning horses at the Kentucky Derby. The rallying cries, campaign slogans, chest pounding and victory marches should stop; and the business of getting on to the business of serving the American people should begin.

There is a feeling of dire urgency in the air in America right now. Even among all the happy feet and happier faces, most are well aware that there are grave dilemmas facing the president, the senate and congress in their next term. Gridlock is a term that is brought up repeatedly in the media, both before and since the election. One way that all parties concerned can avoid this treacherous outcome would be to truly reach across the aisle in old fashioned Senator McCain style and start compromising to create solutions to the many problems that are facing us as a nation.

We have no guarantee that President Obama has any intention of doing this, even though he announced he did during his victory speech. One way he could surely show good faith in this direction would be to invite former Governor Mitt Romney to accept a cabinet position in his new administration. Not that Romney would accept such an invitation. But if he were serious about his assertions that he would work hard to reach across the aisle in the campaign promises of the last thirty days of his election bid, then he would at least consider it. Not only would it inspire many of his fellow Republicans who allegedly backed his bid for president, one guesses that the whole country –especially the economically anemic Obama administration– would most likely benefit from it. Be it Secretary of Commerce or Trade or even an entirely new position especially created for him, anything having to do with business and finance could probably benefit from Romney’s successful career as a private sector businessman. It would also make one hell of a statement to a very divided American people, that compromise is not a dirty word and that working together is just about the most American thing we can all do right now. Whether or not this will or even could ever happen is yet to be seen. But it should at least be considered. The fear of Romney’s political party’s draconian stance on social issues would be squashed, and the Obama-Biden White House may just learn a thing or two about how to grow an economy.


Dumbing Down Through Polarization

This evening CNN, in a wanton attempt to feel a part of the Personal Expression Age’s current social media craze, was posting madly on it’s Facebook Page during the 2012 Presidential Debate. One such post — besides the most inane of them all, “Who do you think won tonight’s debate?” as if it were a local rugby match — read, “What struck you the most about tonight’s debate? Explain in the comments below and tune in now for CNN’s post-debate show featuring Wolf Blitzer, Anderson Cooper and John King. We will use some of your responses during our broadcast.”

The problem of course is that this evening’s post-debate coverage didn’t just include the aforementioned Wolf, Anderson and King. As is customary in today’s cable news as soap opera styled journalism, they had a full figured round table stuffed to the brim with former White House staffers, campaign consultants, Press Secretaries and speech writers. Each and every one either leaning hard left or right, and not a one able to see past the nose on their face, let alone the source of the dollars in their bank accounts. Whether it’s Ari Fliescher (Republican), David Gergen (Republican), Alex Castellano (Reublican), or a Paul Begala (Democrat), their stated job is to commentate on what the average American just witnessed not two minutes prior. As if the viewers themselves are somehow unable to make up their own minds on what they just watched. This wouldn’t be so bad if the commentating was being conducted by objective journalists whose duties were limited to deconstruction and reduction to make subtle points more palatable and accessible.

But that’s not how it works anymore. Even CNN, at one time a rather tame and objective third party cable news network, has given in to the trend of featuring an equal number of cheer leaders of one or the other political parties in American politics….

“What strikes many of us the most about tonight’s debate is the after-debate coverage on CNN (and other networks) that features and in fact is dominated by paid political consultants of either the Democratic or Republican party; these people offer nothing objective, newsworthy or interesting to the conversation. Instead they step up to the mic to repeat the same rhetoric they are paid to say and find a way to spin every answer into an advertisement for their candidate and the political party they represent. It’s just not journalism. I believe that a lot of people would sincerely appreciate if you stopped this trend and went back to solid objective journalism.”


Facebook’s Success

Facebook’s success can be traced to its ingenious evolution into a public instant gratification machine that appeals to humanity’s most basic and primal pleasure triggers, accessible to all, for free, from nearly any and all platforms. Need a little attention? Post a status update. It doesn’t matter what it says. After someone posts a status update, just underneath it immediately appear the words “Be the first of your friends to Like this.” It can’t get any easier than that. Like a 25 cent bubble gum machine, it’s all about making people feel good, no matter how great or small their actions. Frankly I see nothing wrong with it, haters be damned.
It may have started out as a deceitful theft by an unpopular nerd with no scruples, few friends and a chip on his shoulder. But like anything that serves the public good more than it harms it, the machine has become bigger, and more valuable, than it’s dubious origin. By now those who were ripped off in the beginning have been duly compensated and if the company plays its cards right it can have a long future. For many years I have predicted that Facebook will soon replace the “desktops” on our personal computers, Macs, laptops and yes even our smart phones. It is only a matter of time. Some argue that Google might beat Facebook to this distinction, but I doubt it. Facebook has attached itself to the human psyche. So far nothing on earth has attracted the customer base that Facebook has in the history of human commerce. There’s a good chance that nothing ever will again.