The Stephane Hamel, Susan Bratton, Eric Peterson Convergence and more “Thoughts on Blogging”

Okay, I’m chuckling. I keep on thinking of that scene in Godfather III where Al Pacino’s character says “No sooner do I think I’m out then they pull me back in”.

Stephane Hamel read yesterday’s Thoughts on Blogging and offered [[an unfortunately lost]] sage comment, that historically blogs were meant to be personal journals and thus are more apt to be opinion and emotion rather than researched information.

Stephane’s comment caught me off guard. I always considered my BizMediaScience blog as personal, my blog as “business”.

I’ve also had enough training to know that anything anybody writes is going to be a demonstration of their personality unless they’ve had lots and lots of training (no, don’t worry, I know most of the people with that level of training and you’re not one of them).

Way back when I was studying (when haven’t I been studying? I mean “Way back when my study was more formal”) we did an exercise where everybody in the class had to write a story from an opposite gender perspective; men had to write from a women’s perspective, women from a man’s perspective. We turned the stories in anonymously (this was back when you either typed things up or printed them out. Nobody used emails for class work back then).

The purpose of the exercise was to determine if we could determine a) the true gender of the author and b) who the author actually was.

Interestingly enough, much of what I did in that exercise is currently being echoed in some responses I’m posting on Susan Bratton’s blog. I’m offering some suggestions for getting members to interact more on social sites and how the genders will interact differently.

Getting back to that class exercise, the true gender of the author was obvious to me, as was the author’s identity. Nobody caught me or mine.

I cheated, though. I used a trick. I knew (at the time) that I couldn’t rewire my brain from male to female orientation (now it’s much easier. Still no piece of cake, simply much easier (something I demonstrated recently during a training in NYC)). One of my teachers often described ways of using “levels of awareness” and “levels of abstraction”, something more colloquially stated as “Fake it until you Make it”.

So I didn’t write a story from a woman’s perspective. I wrote a story from what’s called “3rd person omniscient” perspective and added a twist — one of the characters had never encountered a woman therefore everything the female characters did was absolutely correct, right and true.

Women in the class were convinced that one of their own had cheated, had written from a woman’s perspective already being a woman. This wasn’t fair on a number of levels. Whoever she was, she had violated a basic tenet of the sisterhood by not letting her peers in on the scam. But they knew each other — it was imperative that we knew a great deal about each other in order to be in the program — and they knew (They knew!) that none of them would do such a thing.

I can’t tell you the amount of respect I got from both genders when the truth came out. I won’t tell you the number of dates I was invited on.

All of this plays into this thread (yep, I sew things up in the end).

I’ve always stated that I never hide my emotions, that I don’t play things close to the vest and that if anybody wanted to know what I was thinking all they had to do was ask. Eric Peterson read one of my posts and jokingly offered that I wear my heart on my sleeve.

Too true!

But in answering the questions on Susan Bratton’s blog and doing some research about the lack of readership on this blog I’ve come to realize several things about my brand of personalism.

One of the things I was going to write today for Susan is something she did today (I think it was today). She asked people to help her increase her readership in Rally for Suz: Help Me DOUBLE My DishyMix Audience. In my last post to her (not sure if she’s published it yet) I left off with “This form of reafference brings us back to “direct address” again.

Direct address is something NextStage and others’ research has indicated is a powerful motivational tool in social networks — simply asking people to take part. Works 99.99999% of the time and is an element of what NextStage talks about in our Full Day Training “Using the 10 First Contact Marketing Messages”.

Funny thing is, when I first started writing this blog, I was explicitly told not to comment on readership numbers or such or make requests such as those.

And I tend to do what people ask of me. If nothing else, it makes for good research.

By the way, that story I wrote was nominated for a Nebula Award. I think it was a Nebula. Some science-fiction, speculative-fiction award. I’ll run it here as a series of you’re interested. [[you can now read an anthology of my writings including the Nebula Award nominated Cymodoce in Tales Told ‘Round Celestial Campfires or as the single Kindle story, Cymodoce.]]

Just let me know.

And keep it personal.

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Thoughts on Blogging

Ah, the freedom.

I’ve been doing some thinking about blogging since my liberation therefrom. That, of course, means research. My curiosity knows no bounds, I’ve been told.

I’ve wondered at my lack of number generation. I stopped writing for a online magazine because they wanted me to write “rants”. I remember when the editor-in-chief told me they were looking for rants I had to ask what she meant. Pretty much what she meant was “A rant or harangue is a monologue that does not present a well-researched and calm argument; rather, it is typically an attack on an idea, a person or an institution, and very often lacks proven claims.

“Some rants are used not to attack something, but to defend an individual, idea or organization. Rants of this type generally occur after the subject has been attacked by another individual or group.

“Rants are used often in situations requiring monologue. Comedians, such as Lewis Black or Rick Mercer, use rants as a way to get their message or punch-line across to the listening audience.”

I like Lewis Black’s comedy. Not sure if I’ve ever seen Rick Mercer. I also recognize (in Lewis Black’s case) that much of his rants are well researched. To me, it’s that research that makes it worth waiting for his punchline.

But the problem for me in ranting was the “…does not present a well-researched and calm argument; rather, it is typically an attack on an idea, a person or an institution, and very often lacks proven claims.”

Well, heck…why would I waste my time on a not well researched attack on someone or something, especially when they or it are not there to defend themselves?

So I began to wonder…

I don’t get a lot of comments on my blogs. I do get lots of emails about them. I compared what happens on my blogs to what happens on other people’s blogs. I have about 300 blogs in my reader, about 30 are from research institutions and are really updates on what they’re doing, who’s presenting, who’s coming and going. There’s not a lot of comments. I’d call them “news” feeds more than anything else.

There’s probably another 30 or so that are industry specific. Again, they’re more newsfeeds than blogs as I understand blogs. Another 30 or so are written by multiple authors or contributors.

I don’t follow any of these blogs daily. Heck, I don’t follow these blogs monthly. Or quarterly. I open up my reader every once in a while when there’s a break in my work and see what’s out there. “…a break in my work…” translates to maybe once or twice a year. I most often get my information from journals (Nature, Science, Journal of Consciousness Studies, Cybernetics and Human Knowing, Perception and Physical Reality, …).

When I do read through them, it goes pretty quick and mainly because most bloggers don’t offer a lot of information and do offer a lot of opinion.

Opinion again. I’ve studied how opinions form. I stay away from them the best I can.

So right now I’m answering some questions people sent in to Susan Bratton’s blog. It’s a fascinating exercise. I’ve been watching myself compose the answers.

Each response is basically a seminar in print. That’s not what I want, it’s simply that I don’t like offering an opinion unless I can back it up with lots of research.

Which means it’s not really my opinion. A few times people challenged my columns and I welcomed their input. Once or twice their challenges were what I recognize as rants. I thanked them for their thoughts. In all cases, I also posted the bibliographies for what I’d written. Never heard from any of them again.

Guess it’s a little harder to rant against someone who recognizes opinions for what they are and returns research in its place.

Sorry about that.

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The Complete “TS Eliot, Ezekiel, Beehives and Mighty Mouse – Why ‘Whispering to Be Heard’?” Arc

Note: More historical posts in prep for Reading Virtual Minds Volume I: Science and History, 4th edition. Here is the complete “TS Eliot, Ezekiel, Beehives and Mighty Mouse – Why ‘Whispering to Be Heard’?” arc for your enjoyment

TS Eliot, Ezekiel, Beehives and Mighty Mouse – Why “Whispering to Be Heard”?

I wrote in SNCR NewComm Forum Day 2 – TS Eliot, Ezekiel, Beehives and Mighty Mouse that I would share how that presentation went and explain how TS Eliot, Ezekiel, Beehives and Mighty Mouse are linked, and I don’t mean through LinkedIn.

Can you say “blog arc”?

The title of the presentation was “Whispering to Be Heard: The Art and Science of Buzz Marketing”. I had some wonderful comments about this presentation, lots of good thoughts and feedback, so I’m sharing it here in several posts.

We’re going to discuss

  • TS Eliot,
  • Ezekiel discovering that the limit of his knowledge isn’t the limit of what is knowable,
  • How to have fun with beehives and the people inside them
  • and Mighty Mouse

And of course, all of this will have that distinctive, irrepressible NextStage flair…

But first, “Why ‘Whispering to Be Heard’?”

If you really want to be heard then you need to whisper because if you talk softly then some very specific things happen:

  • the only ones paying attention will be those truly interested
  • and they will show their interest
  • and tell others of their interest.
  • Also, you also immediately create a sense of intimacy, urgency and community (very important in buzz marketing and social media in general).

You just need to be sure you reward their interest with good quality and experience.

Next, TS Eliot does Information Mechanics!

TS Eliot, Ezekiel, Beehives and Mighty Mouse – TS Eliot does Information Mechanics

TS Eliot wrote

Where is the Wisdom we have lost in Knowledge? Where is the Knowledge we have lost in Information?

In 1997 I wrote a paper, “Semantic Information Mechanics”.

How many of you ever heard of it? I’m guessing the reason few of you heard of it, let alone read it, was because it was filled with stuff like this.

(You could imagine the tweets that go around about that slide)

Lose that Wisdom-Knowledge-Information thing, did ya?

I wrote something a little more accessible, Yes, You Can Predict Viral Marketing, in 2006. It listed the basic elements you need to know before you start a viral or WOM campaign in order to insure success:

  • How many individuals does the campaign need to start with (seed)?
  • How fast will the campaign spread (propagation factor)?
  • How will the campaign spread (vectors)?
  • How large a group is required to sustain the propagation (viral burden)?
  • What is the campaign’s goal (maintenance factor)?
  • How large a group is required to sustain the campaign once the goal is achieved (threshold point)?
  • At what point is the campaign too successful (saturation point)?

We followed that up a year later with some other research that we published in 3 Rules for Creating Buzz:

  • Do you want a mobile or static audience to get a message out quickly? (You’ll need to read the article to understand why this is a trick question)
  • Start with a general message
  • Change the message every X hours or Y miles

I should probably let you know that we’re always doing research, we’re always updating our research. And because our technology is based on very long and in depth studies of how humans think and respond to what’s going on around them, and because it’s both an adaptive and learning intelligence, it will often see trends well in advance of what we can see.

People follow less and less online conversations as they grow older until about age 55

What it discovered this time was that people, especially people over the age of 28, are self-regulating the amount of information they interact with in a day. Two direct comments we recorded during this research included “I don’t have time to follow 20 blogs” and “I don’t have time to be on half a dozen social networks”.

What we learned was that blogs and related information sources people thought relevant, important to their lives declines with age. This is true with blogs, newsletters, places to shop.

What did increase?

We discovered that people 28yo+ will often put an information governor on their intake, often trusting as little as 2 information sources. They may give time to others but they’re only able to redact to 2-5.

Thus TS Eliot, in stating that we’ve lost wisdom via knowledge via information, was ahead of his time. I’m pretty sure semantic information mechanics — which this is — wasn’t known of, at least not a formal discipline, in his time.

Next up, Ezekiel hits his wall.

TS Eliot, Ezekiel, Beehives and Mighty Mouse – Ezekiel Hits His Wall

So we learn from TS Eliot that the limit of our Knowledge isn’t the limit of our Information. Yet people continue to seek out new information sources while simultaneously throttling down the number of information sources they’ll give their time and attention to.

Like the pilgrim who discovers there’s more information beyond what he knew existed, we begin to wonder (at least you begin to wonder these things if you work at NextStage) “What are we searching for?”

It turns out there’s a limit, a ceiling if you will, to the amount of information people are able to respond to at any given point in time. This is based on the brain’s design more than anything else.

You don’t throw out 10 million years of evolutionary adaptation because your species has been sitting in front of computers for the past ten years.

The answer to this has to do with an understanding of how language influences belief. Some call this the “Information” Age. Is that because there’s more information in our environment than there ever was before or because the method of information interaction has changed from sought to delivered?

We use to seek information because it meant our survival. We needed to know if there were predators out there, be they dangerous animals or thieves and the brain-mind still has that wiring. It isn’t about to give it up, it simply puts it to different use.

And like our ancestors who learned to pay attention to only certain movements in the grass and certain shadows in the darkness we’re learning to pay attention to only certain sources of information.

So what are the three primary things we are searching for in our information sources?

What Are We Searching For?

  • Truth – I don’t have to agree, I have to believe
  • Meaning – Explain it so I can understand it
  • Wisdom – I won’t have to work as hard to survive

We’re looking for the ceiling, the arrow, the direction, the truth. We know we may not like it, and we want to know it anyway.

There’s so much information out there we want to know that someone can be trusted, to be our friend and guide even when we don’t like what they share.

In short, we’re looking for our shamans, our priest-kings, our heroes and guides. Those of you who are familiar with my background, training and education may appreciate how amusing this was when we discovered it.

Then what?

The Moody Blues' On the Threshold of a Dream

Once someone has gotten me to the edge of information I need to have it explained to me. Like The Moody Blues‘ “In the Beginning”, “I’m more than that, I know that I am”, and as Frankl and Maslow wrote and as every cognitive scientist and psycholinguist is discovering, humans will search for meaning until they find it. They will apply meaning from their own experience if no other meaning is supplied to them.

And what do we realize about lifting the veil from our own eyes?

That all our information and all our knowledge may not be meet for the challenges ahead. We seek the wisdom to apply the information, the wisdom to understand the meaning.

And this brings us right back to TS Eliot’s

Where is the Wisdom we have lost in Knowledge? Where is the Knowledge we have lost in Information?

Next up, Beehive the icebox, there’s a sheet of glass.

TS Eliot, Ezekiel, Beehives and Mighty Mouse – Beehive the Icebox, There’s a Sheet of Glass

How is social media “social” when the majority of people aren’t participating? Is it “ego media” if people only watch? Is it performance art?

Most people spend their lives seeking identity and they surround themselves with things that reinforce what they believe their identity to be. They do it via clubs, personal branding, any number of things. Their own sense of identity, of who and what they are, is influenced by and influences everything they do. This is the “If I am a thief then you must steal” syndrome so popular in 12-step communities.

Put differently, Sally Field’s character in Soapdish will always go to the Mall with Whoopi Goldberg’s character so that Whoopi can get the crowd to “notice” Sally Field.

People who were at my Boston SNCR Awards Gala presentation know this as Holmeses and Watsons.

We all want to know we’re part of the group, we just want to be sure everybody in the group knows who we are. No matter who we are and what our individual histories are, there is this amazing dualism in our neural coding that — much like flight or fight — keeps us moving between anonymity and recognition. The prey creature in us wants to be unseen and unknown while the predator in us wants to be recognized and identified. So while we’ll be a part of this:

What we really seek and strive for is to be part of something like this because being either predator or prey is hard work. Doesn’t matter if you’re in a large crowd and are anonymous or in a small society and well known. The only safety and solace is to be part of a community, a semi-small circle of friends (about 60-75 is tops) where the balance between anonymity and recognition can be easily managed and maintained.

Prediction #1

I think vendors in the blog awareness world might call this “You’re known by the comments you keep”.

What we’ve learned and what I’ll share is that buzz marketing, word of mouth marketing, viral marketing, whatever you want to call it, will evolve to a very sophisticated “smart mob” environment, a “Hive” mind mentality.

How many people have actually tracked their buzz efforts? How many have actually observed and monitored how rapidly and how far their buzz travels, through whom, how fast, who’re the best carriers, …?

These little charts that look like petri dish cultures gone mad? These are actual charts of the spread of a viral message, each little drop signifies a cluster of 100 people “infected” with a message and spreading it on. There’s a reason it’s called “viral”, you know.

One thing these little charts are showing that is obvious only when you know what to look at is the fact that the message literally spread in one direction only; the direction of “infection” parallels the travel paths of those infected.

The clustering of the “infection” is also dependent on where the most highly infected (ie, the ones most likely to pass your message on) spend the majority of their day. NextStage has someone very knowledgeable in virology on its team and all of this information was anticipated then proven in various trials. Why other groups doing viral marketing aren’t employing these types of people I don’t know.

Spreading Your Message

You want the message to spread and there are two basic ways to do it with hive mentalities. First, you can have everyone come to your site. The benefit is that you control the message. The detriment is that there will be limits on how many people participate, how long your message stays in public awareness and how far your message can travel.

This is where the pilgrim’s wall meets the beehive.

Trust, Meaning and Wisdom are lost if you fail to provide guidance beyond the wall, yet every member of a functioning beehive — or any functioning society for that matter — knows their role in that society. Trust, Meaning and Wisdom exist and the hive functions as a whole. It simply doesn’t let any bees out of the hive and eventually dies for any number of reasons.

Or you can simply put your message out there. This is the bee coming back to the hive and dancing their little tookas off because its discovered your message about an incredibly rich field of flowers. All the bees go, lots of pollenation, lots of honey, new hives form, some go on to greatness and some just go on to other great things.

Totally different dynamics, completely different parameters same amount of risk for completely different reasons. However, you’ll never lose trust, meaning or wisdom because you’re not in control of it to begin with and you can’t lose what you’ve never had. The bees are taking the risk with the flowers.

But the big payoff is that you’ll also learn from your audience. Your offering matures as does your audience to the point where you need each other. Very good. Symbiosis, you have to love it.

This symbiotic relationship is SmartMob behavior at its best. Our current thinking is that SmartMob methods will become the most effective marketing because it is an immediate, highly specific, highly targeted and quickly rewarded call to action.

This is extremely important because people are searching for help understanding all the information in their environment. And few things will get their attention better than a reward right now for something they did right now, something directed at them, something specific they can get done and something they can do without a lot of planning.

Next up, Mighty Mouse.

TS Eliot, Ezekiel, Beehives and Mighty Mouse – Mighty Mouse

The new goal of advertising and marketing will be helping consumers brand themselves.

Anybody want to hear about the big computer company that turned bloggers around one more time? (everybody was citing Dell in their presentations)

Herding cats is possible. There’s lots of case studies and the methodology is well documented and easily understandable.

Anybody guess how to do it?

What’s the best way to herd cats? Get a very well trained mouse.


  • People seek meaning in their lives and one of the ways they get that meaning is by self-branding, creating an identity for themselves based on what they have around them.
  • Lee Iacocca said “People want economy and they’ll pay any price to get it.” I offer “People want simplicity and they’ll pay any price to get it.”
  • You can start a conversation and you must be prepared for the consequences.
  • But always always always it’s easier to control a conversation you start than one you enter.

And finally,

Invest in Mice.

Links for this post:

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Liberation and Heuristics

I learned earlier this month that my blog isn’t making the numbers it should. This doesn’t surprise me for lots of reasons. My writing will only appeal to a small audience to begin with and very few things I write are quick reads. NextStage’s own research indicates that these are not winning elements in the greater blogosphere.


I know I have a readership…the emails I receive and comments posted to the blog are good indications that I’m reaching a reliable audience, simply not an audience large enough to warrant the overhead.

Strangely enough, I find the fact that my blog isn’t economically viable liberating. I don’t have to worry about posting something every day. When I do post something it’ll be important and/or fascinating to me, not something I feel compelled to post on.

Take heuristics, for example.

Lots of people are talking with me about heuristics lately. I don’t think they know that’s what they’re talking about. Often I listen to them and say, “I think you’re talking about heuristic solutions.”

What are heuristic solutions?

In a nutshell, I use the term to describe logical calculus solutions that determine best fits for all involved in a given ecological system. These are not optimal solutions for any one stakeholder although you could define them as optimal solutions for all stakeholders provided you recognize that optimal for all might not be optimal for any specific one.

Think of “All for one and one for all” where the former is traditional statistics and the latter is heuristics.

Heuristics draws its power from being able to provide ecological solutions with a recognizably small data set. “Recognizably small” is a mathematical way of saying “it fits in a breadbox” or “you don’t need an infinite data set to have confidence in your solutions.”

The great thing about heuristic solutions is that their use is how we’re wired to begin with. The great scientific axiom of Occam’s Razor is actually what’s called the “fluency heuristic”. Occam wanted us to go with the simpler solution, fluency wants us to go with what we know. By definition, what we already know is simpler to us than what we don’t know.

The kick here is that the more experience and education one has the more often what they know isn’t necessarily the simplest solution.

Go figure.

Or “Go heuris”.

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An IMedia Reader Concurs…

A reader of my IMedia columns sent me an email entitled “Any Carrabis work I’ve read through”:

While I scratch and claw to keep sight on graphic design’s place amidst evolving technology, I enjoy reading your provocative and approachable articles. I especially appreciate your common sense unfettered by the next buzz-phrases of spin. Thank you. I keep pointing my students in the direction of your articles. If my urging falls on deaf ears, know your writing is appreciated if “going to the bank” isn’t proving that already.

I appreciate hearing from my readers, both of this blog and my IMedia work and responded:

Thanks so much for your kind words. I do my best to be both entertaining and informative in my articles and columns and, as an educator {the author is a college professor}, you know how difficult that can be.
I got a much needed chuckle from your comment about my lack of buzz-phrases. I’ve been told more than once that my ignorance of jargon gives me more credibility. Today I was reading some articles by large behavioral targeting firms and began to wonder who their readership included — definitely not me!
Let me know if there’s something specific you’d like me to cover in either my blog or in future columns.
And thanks again!

My thanks to this and other readers who appreciate that my lack of education hasn’t hurt me none, as stated in Reader Comments.

Hey, I’m the first to admit I don’t know much.

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