I’m the Intersection of Four Statements

<ADVANCE NOTICE>
My guess is that this post is going to get a bit thick for some readers once they get below the fold. We’re going to get into Modality Engineering, something that NextStage’s Language Engines do when they do…well…anything. Our “sentiment analysis” tool uses equations derived from Modality Engineering to make its determinations. We have a whitepaper, A Primer on Modality Engineering, that we’re currently updating and is most likely why this blog post occurred to me. I’ll let you know when the update is available.

Anyway, my hope is that you read this post and enjoy the ride. There’ll be some pretty pictures if nothing else. And no quizzes at the end.

And for those of you who have no appreciation for nice country rides there’s a “What am I suppose to do with this, Joseph?” link after the fold and before we go for the ride.

Which is a pity, you know. We usually stop for ice cream (the good kind made with lots of real cream and natural flavors. The place on the Commons in Barre, MA, is great) along the way.
</ADVANCE NOTICE>

A long time ago (mid to late 1980s) I studied mathematical linguistics (I still do, as much as one can).

Unfortunately, mathematical linguistics no longer exists as a discipline (as far as I know). The late 1980s was when recognizable computing power moved from computer rooms to desktops and cycle time became cheap. Mathematical linguistics quickly became computational linguistics because it was easier (I’m guessing here) for people to use software than to actually understand the underlying principles of what they were doing.

And the above paragraph is an excellent example of why I’m the intersection of four statements.

<ASIDE>
I knew a woman who had a PhD in planetary atmospherics. Her specialty was Saturn, I think. I was impressed until I talked with her. I explained how a few things in ET make use of toroidal equations and can be likened to Bernoulli forces. Her face went blank. I excused myself, perhaps I wasn’t using the correct terms.

Oh no, I was the correct terms. She just never bothered with that. She always made sure she worked with someone who knew how to use the computer so she wouldn’t have to learn that stuff.

“You have a PhD in planetary atmospherics and never learned meteorologic equations, atmospheric dynamics, things like that?”

Her excuse was “Well, I never intended to use my degree.”

I also knew a woman at Dartmouth who was granted her PhD in biochemistry because she was nine months pregnant and her husband got a job two states away. Her research wasn’t that great and couldn’t be completed but again, she never intended on using her degree (she told us that) so it was granted to her to make room for someone else. Someone else equally intentioned, no doubt.

There’s a reason for my emPHAsis in the above. They are more examples of why I’m the intersection of four statements.
</ASIDE>

This week four different individuals made four different statements about me based on their personal experience of me. My mathematical linguistics nerves tingled because I recognized the four statements as mathematically orthogonal and that “I” was the intersection of their four statements.

This means one could mathematically determine how well the five of us would get along together should the situation ever arise. Mathematically, are there certain conditions such that all four statements must be simultaneously true?

Whoa!, don’t you think?

For those who don’t like ice cream, What am I suppose to do with this, Joseph?.

The four statements are:

  1. You are somebody that transmits confidence. And I have to admit that sometimes I’m concerned when I want to convince you of something as I know you’ll know more facts than I will and it won’t matter what we’re talking about.
  2. You have a knack for bringing out people’s lack of self-confidence. People don’t like to be corrected, even in private (I’ve never seen you publicly correct anybody) and when you correct someone (even in private) it’s like being hit by a firehose. “How does he know all this stuff?” People have faith in your being correct and in their being wrong.
  3. Your commitment to the truth outweighs your commitment to people’s feelings — particularly when dealing with idiots or ?ssholes — but it’s a close race.
  4. Everybody I know thinks you’re a great guy. Everybody likes you. But everybody’s intimidated by you, too, because they go around saying they’re experts in something, you say you’re not an expert in anything and you always know more about their field than they do so they end up feeling like imposters.

I was particularly taken by the use of the term “imposter”. I’ve met lots of people whom I recognize as dealing with what’s called “The Imposter Syndrome” — a core belief that they are not able to do what they claim to be able to do, basically not who they say they are or that what they do doesn’t do what it claims to do (I cover this topic in Reading Virtual Minds). I’ll point them out to you the next time we’re at a conference together.

<ASIDE>
That will get me invited to lots of conferences, don’t you think?

And if you really knew me you’d know I would never do this, that it’s a point I would not cross, something two of the people I quote above understand even if they never thought of it as such.

It’s amusing — I consider myself one of the least confident people I know. I check my data and sources several times before publishing anything, pass things out to first readers (would you like to be one? Let me know) and cherish their comments, most often acting on them, and even then I sit on things until the little genie inside says it’s okay to set some research free. That’s not a sign of confidence to me. Analness, probably, regarding the repeated source checking and data analysis. Thoroughness, I’d like to think. Anybody who’s seen whitepapers I’ve written knows I like to document my sources. One of my editors told me that his staff had a weekly pool; How many links would Joseph have in his next column?

I was also shocked that a fairly high executive of a very large search company didn’t comment negatively during a presentation because, before he raised his hand, I commented that I thought the presentation was great. He told me afterwards that he didn’t want to appear like a fool. “If you thought it was good then it had to be.”
</ASIDE>

Most people don’t recognize that language and mathematics are both symbolic representations of internal reality. Mathematics (truly) is nothing more than a language itself, merely a specialized language. For that matter, English is a specialized language. Only people who “know” English can understand it or even recognize it when spoken. The same is true for French, Mandarin, Lakotah, … Want to have fun sometime? Listen to a native speaker of some language you’ve never heard before. Most people can’t even figure out where words start and stop, it’s all gibberish (someday let’s talk about glossolalia).

So language — any language — is just as symbolic a representation of reality as mathematics is. The symbols may be different (“±” rather than “plus or minus”) and that’s just a matter of translation.

So it occurred to me long, long ago that language — any language — could be symbolically represented by mathematical forms (and this gets into our first patent, a fun read in itself). All you needed was to know what mutually understandable information language — any language — was communicating.

Read that last sentence as “Determine the variables involved” and the mathematical forms pretty much reveal themselves to you.

<NOTE>
I’ve done lots of simplifying on the following graphs. Our current Modality Engineering system does calculations in a 92 dimension Hilbert space and collapses that space as necessary. These statements could be collapsed to about a 30 dimension Hilbert space. Colors, directions, placement, angle, shape, …, everything has meaning in the following charts.
</NOTE>

You are somebody that transmits confidence. And I have to admit that sometimes I'm concerned when talking with you as I know you'll know more facts than I will and it won't matter what we're talking about.

That first statement above, “You are somebody that transmits confidence. And I have to admit that sometimes I’m concerned when I want to convince you of something as I know you’ll know more facts than I will and it won’t matter what we’re talking about.” becomes an equation that generates this graph.

You have a knack for bringing out people's lack of self-confidence. People don't like to be corrected, even in private (I've never seen you publicly correct anybody) and when you correct someone (even in private) it's like being hit by a firehose. 'How does he know all this stuff?' People have faith in your being correct and in their being wrong.

The second statement, “You have a knack for bringing out people’s lack of self-confidence. People don’t like to be corrected, even in private (I’ve never seen you publicly correct anybody) and when you correct someone (even in private) it’s like being hit by a firehose. “How does he know all this stuff?” People have faith in your being correct and in their being wrong.” produces this graph.

Your commitment to the truth outweighs your commitment to people's feelings -- particularly when dealing with idiots or ?ssholes -- but it's a close race.

Statement three, “Your commitment to the truth outweighs your commitment to people’s feelings — particularly when dealing with idiots or ?ssholes — but it’s a close race.” generates this graph. It might look like statement 1’s graph and it’s not. But let’s finish with the basic charts first.

Everybody I know thinks you're a great guy. Everybody likes you. But everybody's intimidated by you, too, because they go around saying they're experts in something, you say you're not an expert in anything and you always know more about their field than they do so they end up feeling like imposters.

And finally, statement four, “Everybody I know thinks you’re a great guy. Everybody likes you. But everybody’s intimidated by you, too, because they go around saying they’re experts in something, you say you’re not an expert in anything and you always know more about their field than they do so they end up feeling like imposters.” looks like this (and it’s not the same as that generated by statement 2).

barretowncommons.jpg

Ah, look. The Barre Town Commons. Beautiful, aren’t they?

barreicecreamshop.jpg

And here’s the ice cream shop I told you about.

barreicecreamshoplady.jpg

May I take your order?

I told you we'd stop for ice cream along the way

Yum!

Everybody gets an ice cream when we go for our country rides. Aren’t you glad you decided to come along?

Okay, now everybody back in the car.

These four charts are mathematical representations of people’s experiences. In this case, of me. Let’s start putting these people in the same room. Let’s match people to the statements. Statement 1 is made by “A”, statement 2 by “B”, statement 3 by “C” and statement 4 by “D”.

A, C and I get together

What happens when A, C and I get together? A and C have similar and not identical “concepts” of me (this is demonstrated by colors, distance and relative positions from the axes, planar presentations, …). But — and this is the important But — if you were to change the scale of that image those two representations would intersect.

In other words, there would be certain topics, certain areas of discussion, certain activities that the three of us could participate in and have a great time.

But only certain topics, discussions or activities. And this is for A, C and me. Not A and me, not C and me, not A and C. It’s only for A, C and me. Vary from those certain topics, etc., and things get uncomfortable. The further things stray the more uncomfortable.

Let me give you a real life example; you get together with a friend and a friend of that friend (anybody picking up the social implications of this?). You’re all talking and chatting, maybe playing pool or darts, maybe in a theater line or at a game. Everything’s going great. Then your friend or your friend’s friend references something that was just between them and they laugh but you can’t because you’re not in on the joke.

They either have to bring you in on the joke to reestablish the social connectivity or they can continue down their road and you’ll feel more and more astray. Needing to stay “on topic” so that the social connectivity remains in tact is a real life example of the meaning of the A and C charts intersecting.

B, D and I get together

What happens when B, D and I get together? The first thing to notice is that B and D are projections from an origin point (not necessarily the same origin, though). This means both of their concepts of me recognize that there are things I won’t do, literally a point I won’t cross. It’s not so much a question of limits and boundaries as it is “I couldn’t imagine Joseph doing something like that”. A and C could easily imagine me doing anything on their planes of my existence but I couldn’t do anything off those planes of existence. B and D can imagine me doing lots more things than A and C can but B and D “know” there’s a point I won’t cross.

The next thing to notice is that B and D by themselves have similar colors in their charts of me (the dark areas at the top of both charts). This means they both and independently of each other have similar concepts of me. The fact that their charts merge and blend, some colors extending their range, some colors merging, is an indication that there’s a great deal we could discuss in common, do in common, that there’s not much the three of us could do or say that would cause any one of us to feel uncomfortable.

An example of this would be you, a friend and that friend’s friend getting together and truly hitting it off. Private or in-jokes don’t matter because there’s enough shared concepts that everybody laughs and laughs harder when details are explained. The comfort level always remains high.

A, B, C, D and I get together

What happens when the five of us go out for drinks or some such? Well, we shouldn’t. It’s as simple as that. A, B, D and I or B, C, D and I, yes, but the five of us — A, B, C , D and I — together?

Don’t even attempt it. Oh, we’ll be civil with each other, of course, but sooner rather than later A or C would find a reason to leave. Sadly, once A or C left the four remaining would suddenly get together fine. A or C, whoever was left, would put the blame on whomever left (non-consciously, of course), thinking the reason things picked up after the other left was because they were a poop of some kind.

The only other possibility is that A and C will focus on each other, B and D will focus on each other and I will have to “move” conversationally between them as both groups will want to pull me (again non-consciously) more in their direction.

Hmm…reminds me of my wedding…

Why is this so? Because the representations of A, B, D and I or B, C, D and I intersect but A, B, C, D and I don’t. The intersection of A, C and I isn’t even on the same scale as B, D and I, therefore such an encounter (in this limited scenario) would be doomed to fail.

What am I suppose to do with this, Joseph?

Let’s say we’re not a bunch of people going out for drinks or dinner or to the theater or even negotiating a contract (although using these principles for that makes things very fast and simple). Let’s say you’re putting up some marketing material (webpage, tv spot, YouTube video, social campaign, radio spot, print, …) and you know lots about your target audience…

…except How they’ll respond to it.

Oh, you have an idea, an opinion maybe, and as John Erskine said, “Opinion is that exercise of the human will that allows us to make a decision without information.”

But now you do know. With as much precision as you care to have (mathematically the 2nd and higher order elements can be forced to 0). All you need is some material from that target audience. Letters to the editor if you’re going for a newspaper ad on or offline, blog entries (comments and posts) they’ve written if you’re going purely online, snippets from a podcast or two if you’re going for radio time or snatches from a call-in show. Same for video and tv. You get the idea.

Want to sell a car to A and C? You now can know the single selling point — the intersection of the two plains — that will motivate them both. Or to B and D? You now know the constellation of factors — the merged colors in their projections — that will sway them.

Or to sell bleach. Or tv sets. Or cell phone plans. Or jams and jellies. Or new products they’ve never seen before.

So now you can know with mathematical precision and certainty how well your marketing efforts will be received (something NextStage calls Acceptance (and please, folks. Let’s not bastardize this concept as was done with engagement, okay?)), how long it will be remembered (branding), how often it will be talked about and passed on (something NextStage calls Viral Capacity), … and probably more importantly what, if anything, needs to be changed, by how much, in which direction, …

<ASIDE>
I was sent something today about a company measuring “intent“. I read through the material and couldn’t stop laughing my head off (hence my emPHAsis way above).

Hey, I make up words all the time. But at least when I make up a word, everybody knows I’m making it up. And I never take an existing word with an existing and reasonable definition and twist it to my own purposes.

For the record, I first wrote about NextStage’s Intender Status metric, a measure of when and how a visitor to a website would act upon the information presented, in an iMedia column, Usability Studies 101: The First Sale (is the Next Page) back in May ’05. We noted that research on this metric was nearing completion in July ’07 and demonstrated an application of the metric in Priming the Conversion Pump with Color in Aug ’07.

So, please, let’s leave Acceptance alone. NextStage’s Acceptance metric determines two things; 1) the mental attitude that something is believable and should be accepted as true and 2) that something is capable of being acceptable and accepted. The former is when we’re monitoring visitors to a site, the latter is one of the things many of NextStage’s tools do. Same piece of Modality Engineering, just depends what it’s looking at when it does it.

Of course, some time soon there will be a company saying they also measure “Acceptance” but what they mean by it is that the left flythrough of the subcutaneous click rate indicates hairs were accumulating on the last visit divided by 2.

Ice cream is so much better. Don’t you think?

<SUSANISM>
Susan wants to sponsor a contest for the best redefinition of existing terms. As an example, redefine clickthrough to be something totally different yet completely Acceptable. Post your definitions as comments here.

(I told you she was the wicked one)

(but there’s homemade pizza and good, Canadian ale for the winner)

</SUSANISM>
</ASIDE>

Probably the truly best part about all of this is that you never have to study these things, understand Modality Engineering beyond nodding appreciatively when I use the term, or even look at the types of charts I included above.

I mean, you know Susan‘s going to protect you from all that, right?

So why go through all this?

Much like Morgan Freeman’s Lucius Fox said to Christian Bale’s Bruce Wayne in Batman Begins when Wayne was recovering from the effects of the hallucinogen weaponized in aerosol form thanks to Fox’s antidote, “I just wanted you to know how hard it was.”

Enjoy.


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