Reading Virtual Minds Volume II: Experience and Expectation Now Available on Amazon

First, we appreciate everyone’s patience while we got this volume out.
And now, from Holly Buchanan‘s Foreword to the book…

Reading Virtual Minds Volume II: Experience and ExpectationAfter inhaling Reading Virtual Minds Volume I I was like an antsy 3-year old waiting for Reading Virtual Minds Volume II. It did not disappoint.
I love the way Joseph Carrabis thinks. He has a unique ability to share broad rich theory with actionable specifics. Unlike many technical writers, he has a unique voice that is both approachable and humorous. It makes for an enjoyable read.
But what’s the main reason why you should read Reading Virtual Minds Volume II: Experiences and Expectations? Because where most companies and designers fail is on the expectation front.

Humans are designed as expectation engines.

This is, perhaps, the most important sentence in this book. One of the main points Joseph makes in this volume is this – Understand your audiences’ whys and you’ll design near perfect whats.
Design failures come from getting the whys wrong. That can lead to failures on the experience side, but also on the expectation side. And that can be the bigger problem.

Expectation is a top-down process. Higher-level information informs lower-level processing. Experience is a bottom-up process. Sensory information goes into higher-level processing for evaluation. Humans are designed as expectation engines. Topdown connections out number bottom-up connections by about 10:1.

Why is this so important?

In language, more than anywhere else, we see or hear what we expect to hear, not necessarily what is said or written. Across all cultures and languages, neurophysiologists and psychologists estimate that what we experience is as much as 85% what we expect to experience, not necessarily what is real or ‘environmentally available’.


When people expect A and get B they go through a few moments of fugue. External reality is not synching up with internal reality and the mind and brain will, if allowed, burn themselves out making the two mesh.

Get your consumer/visitor/user experience AND expectation right, get their why right, and you’ll be exponentially more successful.

Here are just a few of the goodies you’ll find in this book:

  • Privacy vs. value exchange and when to ask for what information. Joseph has some actionable specifics on this that will surprise you.
  • Why we design for false attractors rather than the real problem.
  • The importance of understanding convincer strategies. Convincer strategies are the internal processes people go through in order to convince themselves they should or should not do something.
  • Companies spend a lot of time trying to convince consumers to trust them. But what may be even more important is understanding how to let consumers you know you trust them. This book has ideas on how to show your customers/users/visitors, “I believe in you”.
  • How often our own experience influence our designs. Unless you’re able to throw all your experience out, and let the user’s experience in, get out of the usability and design business.
  • How to allow your visitors easy Anonymous-Expressive Identity and make them yours forever.
  • Regarding new material, design, interface, the importance of making sure your suggestions provide a clear path to the past (thus being risk averse while providing marketable innovation).

As always, Reading Virtual Minds provides specific actionable ideas. But it will also make you think and approach your work in a new way. And I think that’s the best reason to treat yourself to this book and the inner workings of NextStage and Joseph Carrabis.

(and we never argue with Holly Buchanan…)

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Reading Virtual Minds Volume I: Science and History, 4th edition

It’s with great pleasure and a little pride that we announce Reading Virtual Minds Volume I: Science and History, 4th EDITION.

Reading Virtual Minds V1: Science and History, 4th edThat “4th EDITION” part is important. We know lots of people are waiting for Reading Virtual Minds Volume II: Experience and Expectation and it’s next in the queue.

But until then…

Reading Virtual Minds Volume I: Science and History, 4th EDITION is about 100 pages longer than the previous editions and about 10$US cheaper. Why? Because Reading Virtual Minds Volume II: Experience and Expectation is next in the queue.

Some Notes About This Book

I’m actually writing Reading Virtual Minds Volume II: Experience and Expectation right now. In the process of doing that, we realized we needed to add an index to this book. We also wanted to make a full color ebook version available to NextStage Members (it’s a download on the Member welcome page. And if you’re not already a member, what are you waiting for?)

In the process of making a full color version, we realized we’d misplaced some of the original slides and, of course, the charting software had changed since we originally published this volume (same information, different charting system). Also Susan and Jennifer “The Editress” Day wanted the images standardized as much as possible.

We included an Appendix B – Proofs (starting on page 187) for the curious and updated Appendix C – Further Readings (starting on page 236). We migrated a blog used for reference purposes so there may be more or less reference sources and modified some sections with more recent information.

So this edition has a few more pages and a few different pages. It may have an extra quote or two floating around.

You also need to know that Reading Virtual Minds Volume I: Science and History is a “Let’s explore the possibilities” book, not a “How to do it” book. As such, it deals with how NextStage did it (not to mention things that happened along the way). It does not explain how you can do it. This book’s purpose is to open a new territory to you and give you some basic tools for exploration.

There are no magic bullets, quick fixes, simple demonstrations, et cetera, that will turn you into jedis, gurus, kings, queens, samurai, rock stars, mavens, heroes, thought leaders, so on and so forth.

How to Do It starts with Volume II: Experience and Expectation and continues through future volumes in this series. We’ve included a Volume II: Experience and Expectation preview with a How to Do It example on page 302 so you can take a peek if that’s your interest.

That noted, I’m quite sure that you won’t get the full benefit of future volumes without reading this one because unless you’ve read this one you won’t understand the territory you’re exploring in those future volumes.

Reading Virtual Minds V1: Science and History, 4th edThat’s Reading Virtual Minds Volume I: Science and History, 4th EDITION. It’s so good and so good for you! Buy a copy or two today!

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The Complete “Slew of emails about my political postings” Arc

[[Note this is another blog arc, five posts long, all here for your reading pleasure. Thank The Mice who save you from going click-happy.]]

Slew of emails about my political postings (#1)

Several regular readers emailed me with their thoughts on my political postings. I’m going to share some of them over the next few weeks, starting with this one and offered without comment.

It’s the cover of The Economist from November 6th-12th, 2004:

Cover of 'The Economist', November 6th-12th, 2004

Slew of emails about my political postings (#2)

Obama/Biden vs McCain/Palin, what if things were switched around?…..think about it. Would the country’s collective point of view be different? Could racism be the culprit?

Ponder the following:

What if the Obamas had paraded five children across the stage, including a three month old infant and an unwed, pregnant teenage daughter?

What if John McCain was a former president of the Harvard Law Review?

What if Barack Obama finished fifth from the bottom of his graduating class?

What if McCain had only married once, and Obama was a divorcee?

What if Obama was the candidate who left his first wife after a severe disfiguring car accident, when she no longer measured up to his standards?

What if Obama had met his second wife in a bar and had a long affair while he was still married?

What if Michelle Obama was the wife who not only became addicted to pain killers but also acquired them illegally through her charitable organization?

What if Cindy McCain graduated from Harvard?

What if Obama had been a member of the Keating Five? (The Keating Five were five United States Senators accused of corruption in 1989, igniting a major political scandal as part of the larger Savings and Loan crisis of the late 1980s and early 1990s.)

What if McCain was a charismatic, eloquent speaker?

What if Obama couldn’t read from a teleprompter?

What if Obama was the one who had military experience that included discipline problems and a record of crashing seven planes?

What if Obama was the one who was known to display publicly, on many occasions, a serious anger management problem?

What if Michelle Obama’s family had made their money from beer distribution?

What if the Obamas had adopted a white child?

You could easily add to this list. If these questions reflected reality, do you really believe the election numbers would be as close as they are?

This is what racism does. It covers up, rationalizes and minimizes positive qualities in one candidate and emphasizes negative qualities in another when there is a color difference.

Educational Background:

Barack Obama:

Columbia University – B.A. Political Science with a Specialization in

International Relations.

Harvard – Juris Doctor (J.D.) Magna Cum Laude

Joseph Biden:

University of Delaware – B.A. in History and B.A. in Political Science.

Syracuse University College of Law – Juris Doctor (J.D.)


John McCain:

United States Naval Academy – Class rank: 894 of 899

Sarah Palin:

Hawaii Pacific University – 1 semester

North Idaho College – 2 semesters – general study

University of Idaho – 2 semesters – journalism

Matanuska-Susitna College – 1 semester

University of Idaho – 3 semesters – B.A. in Journalism

Education isn’t everything, but this is about the two highest offices in the land as well as our standing in the world. You make the call.

Slew of emails about my political postings (#3)

The following was sent to me with the heading “Oldie, but particularly germane today, what with this whole ‘…spread the wealth around’ idiocy”. My response (letting you know ahead of time) was

Interesting read and completely erroneous. Many extra points to anyone who can pick out the flaws (I hope they’re obvious!) in this piece.

Also, please never send anything like this to someone in the field (


Something they don’t teach at Business School (or in Washington ).

Our Tax System Explained: Bar Stool Economics

Suppose that every day, ten men go out for beer and the bill for all ten comes to $100. If they paid their bill the way we pay our taxes, it would go something like this:

The first four men (the poorest) would pay nothing.
The fifth would pay $1.
The sixth would pay $3.
The seventh would pay $7.
The eighth would pay $12.
The ninth would pay $18.
The tenth man (the richest) would pay $59.

So, that’s what they decided to do.

The ten men drank in the bar every day and seemed quite happy with the arrangement, until one day, the owner threw them a curve. ‘Since you are all such good customers,’ he said, ‘I’m going to reduce the cost of your daily beer by $20.’ Drinks for the ten now cost just $80.

The group still wanted to pay their bill the way we pay our taxes so the first four men were unaffected. They would still drink for free.

But what about the other six men – the paying customers? How could they divide the $20 windfall so that everyone would get his ‘fair share?’

They realized that $20 divided by six is $3.33. But if they subtracted that from everybody’s share, then the fifth man and the sixth man would each end up being paid to drink his beer. So, the bar owner suggested that it would be fair to reduce each man’s bill by roughly the same amount, and he proceeded to work out the amounts each should pay.

And so:

The fifth man, like the first four, now paid nothing (100% savings).
The sixth now paid $2 instead of $3 (33%savings).
The seventh now pay $5 instead of $7 (28%savings).
The eighth now paid $9 instead of $12 (25% savings).
The ninth now paid $14 instead of $18 (22% savings).
The tenth now paid $49 instead of $59 (16% savings).

Each of the six was better off than before. And the first four continued to drink for free. But once outside the restaurant, the men began to compare their savings.

‘I only got a dollar out of the $20,’declared the sixth man. He pointed to the tenth man, ‘but he got $10!’

‘Yeah, that’s right,’ exclaimed the fifth man. ‘I only saved a dollar, too. It’s unfair that he got ten times more than I got’

‘That’s true!!’ shouted the seventh man. ‘Why should he get $10 back when I got only two? The wealthy get all the breaks!’

‘Wait a minute,’ yelled the first four men in unison. ‘We didn’t get anything at all. The system exploits the poor!’

The nine men surrounded the tenth and beat him up.

The next night the tenth man didn’t show up for drinks so the nine sat down and had beers without him. But when it came time to pay the bill, they discovered something important. They didn’t have enough money between all of them for even half of the bill!

And that, ladies and gentlemen, journalists and college professors, is how our tax system works. The people who pay the highest taxes get the most benefit from a tax reduction. Tax them too much, attack them for being wealthy, and they just may not show up anymore. In fact, they might start drinking overseas where the atmosphere is somewhat friendlier.

David R. Kamerschen, Ph.D.
Professor of Economics
University of Georgia

For those who understand, no explanation is needed. For those who do not understand, no explanation is possible.

Remember folks, extra bonus points for people pointing out the flaws in this one.

Slew of emails about my political postings (#4)

Let me say before I go further that I’m not suggesting people vote one way or another. I am fascinated by what people are sending me, though, as it’s an indication of how people are thinking. The more that is sent to me that does lean one way or another, the number of people sending material, etc., does reveal a great deal about what and how people are thinking.

That’s what I’m sharing here; other people’s thoughts, not my own.

Let’s start with some of the artwork I received…

This one was entitled “Next Season on Dancing with the Stars!”

Also, I was offered the following note and interesting read:

Heard this mentioned on R. Limbaugh. Don’t think Rush knew who he was. I did.
BTW, OSC says he’s a Democrat. Nice compact piece, I thought.

[[There were a bunch of images in the original post, alas, now lost to antiquity…unless you have them and can email them to us.]]

Slew of emails about my political postings (#5)

One reader sent me Balls and Urns, which I thought a worthy read on many levels.

T’was the day before elections (Slew of emails #6, Adam Zand’s Big Shoe, Population Dynamics, …)

Lots to cover today, starting with

Adam Zand’s Really Big Shoe (Join in)
Host: Adam Zand – ThisDudeAbides (dot) Zand (at)

Episode: EPISODE23 – Adam Zand’s Really Big Shoe

The world will fundamentally change on Election Day – The Big Shoe talks to Joseph Carrabis for a preview and a review of political social media efforts and effects. Carrabis is Chairman and Chief Research Officer of NextStage Evolution, LLC, NextStage Global LTD, and a founder of KnowledgeNH, NH Business Development Network and the Center for Semantic Excellence. He’s a Senior Research Fellow and Advisory Board Member to the Society for New Communications Research and frequent contributor to You’ve heard the pundits and the pollsters but what does Joseph’s online predictive crystal ball tell about how close the election is (; how messages are being received and re-interpreted and if O.J. Simpson is really a factor – We’ll catch up on Joseph’s consulting business ( and share best practices for marketers in the fields of predictive intelligence, persuasion engineering and interactive analytics. On the day before the election, Joseph Carrabis and The Really Big Shoe will reveal what’s behind the voting booth curtain.

Call ID: 18410


Does your chosen candidate motivate you to vote? Then Be Careful…

Next a note from NextStage’s and others’ research: It seems that people who are best able to motivate others are also most likely to mislead them. NextStage did some research regarding how to motivate people to act favorably (for lack of a better term, “convert”) online and made an unexpected discovery. We then went looking through the literature to learn if others had discovered anything similar. Sure enough, two Colgate University researchers had learned much the same thing (Dominance and Deception in Children and Adults: Are Leaders the Best Misleaders?).

An Email Response to my Comment Exchange with Tex

Frequent reader Tex and I exchanged comments on Slew of emails about my political postings (#4), the gist of which was that I hadn’t received any emails that I could decidedly say were “con-Obama, pro-McCain”.

Someone was reading (and thank you for doing so) and sent me the following:

Subject: obama stealing the election
To: friends (at) foxnews (dot) com
Date: Sunday, November 2, 2008, 7:35 AM
Hi guys’s
I watch you every day. This morning while watching I decided to try to donate to Obama using my real credit card with a fictious name and address and it sailed thru, try it it is true this is how he is raising all his money

I have no idea if one can actually provide false information so on and so forth.

Finally, voting by population percentages…

I wrote in Governor Palin’s (and everybody else’s) Popularity that the Democratic ticket was doing a better job at getting its message across in a way that the largest population could respond to easily and rapidly.

While I’ll stand behind my statement I do need to qualify/quantify it a bit.

[[Alas, another image lost to antiquity]]

A party’s ability to capture a given age demographic is important, yes, and the population of that demographic, the likelihood of individuals within that age demographic to vote, …, all play a role. The chart here takes into account the populations (not how many individuals within each population will vote, only the populations within those demographics) and indicates that Senator Obama will win the election by just over 2.5% of the population.


The guestimates above are based on 2007 population projections that are, in turn, based on the 2000 national census. I don’t know how the population is divided (no pun intended).

I had thought I’d have time to do a state by state breakdown today and no, I don’t. Sorry, folks.

Links for this post:

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The Complete “Priming, Sleeping Beauty, and the World’s Most Comfortable Couch” Arc

This post contains all of the four part “Priming, Sleeping Beauty, and the World’s Most Comfortable Couch” arc

Priming, Sleeping Beauty, and the World’s Most Comfortable Couch, Part 1

I was told it’s time to buy new furniture by She Who Must Be Obeyed (with respect to Rumpole of the Bailey [[not to mention H. Rider Haggard’s “She]]). I have a strict requirement for furniture, especially couches; they must be long enough for me to stretch out on so I can take a nap without disturbing our dog (he usually takes his position at my feet when I’m lying on the couch) and they must have a significant “cush” factor. I like couches that engulf me in a warm embrace.

Susan, my wife, knows this and I trust her to pick out furniture that I’ll be comfortable in. She makes the first pass, I get called in to determine cushiness, and then we go home and wait for the appropriate furniture to be delivered. Imagine my chagrin when she showed me her first choice, a post modern bauhaus piece…

The world's most comfortable couch

…What surprised me was how comfortable it was despite its look.

Did I get you there? Did your mind do that little thing where it attempts to take two incompatible information streams and make them coherent and compatible? The reason for your confusion has to do with what psychologists and linguists call priming. Basically I primed you for a furniture/couch/comfortable experience and presented you with a non-furniture/couch/comfortable image. The majority of people seeing the image after the priming will go into a small fugue state as their mind throws more and more cognitive resources into either convincing itself that yes, that’s a couch or yes, Joseph’s a nutcase.

Did it again? Gave you two “yes”s that slowed you down a second because you expected a “yes” and a “no”?

Priming, Sleeping Beauty, and the World’s Most Comfortable Couch, Part 2

The reason priming is important is because studies indicate the average adult’s experience of an event is about 85% based on what they expect their experience to be (something I discuss in detail in Reading Virtual Minds Volume 2: Experience versus Expectation. You can create a good or a not-so-good experience for online and offline visitors based on what you’ve primed them to experience.

These concepts often appear in language, especially when different disciplines are involved. My favorite anecdote comes from a time when Susan and I were working at Dartmouth. We were having lunch with a bunch of friends at Mrs. Ou’s (is she still there? She must be in her 90s if she is, and probably still whacking people with her wooden spoon if they reach over the counter behind her back). One of our friends was studying sociology. He almost choked when Susan, doing immunoassay development, checked her watch and said, “Oh, I have to go destroy some cultures.”

Priming, Sleeping Beauty, and the World’s Most Comfortable Couch, Part 3

I still remember my first business meeting and listening to people talk about ROI. “We need to maximize our ROI”, “How can we increase our ROI?” and so on. I explained the easiest ways to do this were to diversify how we were distributing things. Different distribution methods would naturally demonstrate different ROI. After a short period of time we could easily see which regions were showing up best and plan from there.

People were dumbfounded. My goodness this was brilliant. What else could I share with them?

I couldn’t understand why this wasn’t obvious to them.

Of course, I was talking about Regions of Interest a mathematical concept from statistics, not Return on Investment. Strange thing was, my language fit so well with their expectation that they incorporated my suggestion and the company grew.

These primings occur in all our sensory experience. Have you ever asked for a Coke® and been given an ice tea? Try it on someone sometime. The look on their face is a study in itself as they’re mind devotes more and more resources into making the ice tea taste like a Coke®.

Priming, Sleeping Beauty, and the World’s Most Comfortable Couch, finale

Let me give you one last example of priming; everybody knows the story of Sleeping Beauty, right? The new transposon vector that can deliver large DNA cargos to vertebrate cells, making it a useful tool for genetic applications?

Normally That one would have stopped you dead in your readings. Why not so now? Because you’ve been primed to expect the unexpected. In fact, if I gave a line or two about what most people recognize as the Sleeping Beauty story, that would have caused most people to fugue because they’d be waiting for the “punchline”.

Often bringing concepts into a discipline from outside a discipline can break the rules of priming completely and get things into deep memory (examples in the earlier posts in this arc) or priming then “reversing” the prime as explained above. Comics know this very well. Punchlines work because they are dramatic releases of the tension built by priming, the send up or lead into of the joke before the punchline.

Priming can be subtle or not so subtle. Anybody notice my numeration method in the top paragraphs in this arc? I use “a” and “2”. A subtle priming to expect the unexpected. Some RSS readers will show up this arc as “Can you fit this couch into your memory?”, a phrase constructed to be intentionally ambiguous, another prime to invite you to slow down for a second or two and encourage you to take a look.

I’ve written before about my lack of industry jargon adds to my credibility in An IMedia Reader concurs…. This arc is an example of what it’s taken me years to learn; Prime people for what you want them to remember then deliver it. Not at first, but at second (literally). People might not remember the joke or the punchline yet they’ll remember what came after it each and every time.

Prime your audience, release the priming tension, then give them the message you want them to remember. You’ll brand them every time.

Oh, before I forget, Prince Charming might not have kissed Sleeping Beauty awake if she were on the couch shown in the above, a Genetix Clone Select Imager.

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I’m the Intersection of Four Statements

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.”

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.

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.

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).


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


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


May I take your order?

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


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, …

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?

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)


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.”


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