Thursday, March 31, 2011

Caterpillar, Illinois Corporate Taxes, and Threats

Here's a great example of the convergence of blogocombat, big business, and big government.

 Caterpillar CEO sends a letter to Governor Pat Quinn, telling him that they need to meet to discuss corporate tax hikes and Caterpillar's ability to profitably do business in the state. Caterpillar's Doug Oberhelman said "the direction that this state is headed in is not favorable to business and I'd like to work with you to change that."

Some have interpreted the Caterpillar letter as a "threat" to leave Illinois. Saying that other states are trying to woo Caterpillar into relocating is not a threat, it's a statement of reality, indicating that Illinois has competition for Caterpillar's presence. Illinois lawmakers must take these facts into consideration.

Some people claim they will be happy to see Caterpillar leave. For example, Peoria Pundit's "Caterpillar: Don't Let the Door Hit Your Ass on the Way Out".

BusinesssWeek has reported on this story in "Caterpillar CEO: No Plans to Leave Illinois".

WEEK Central Illinois News Center has the union reaction in "UAW Reacts to CAT Letter to Quinn".

The Peoria Journal Star also reported on Caterpillar CEO's response to those who think he was trying to bully the Illinois "tax and waste" legislature.

PJ Star "Leaders Say Caterpillar Letter Should Be a Wake Up Call for Illinois"

The original PJ Star article is "Cat Raises the Possibility of Leaving Illinois".


Caterpillar Inc. CEO Doug Oberhelman resumed his call for lower taxes on business in a speech Wednesday before the U.S. Chamber of Commerce in Washington, D.C.

"This past weekend, Caterpillar received quite a bit of attention regarding a letter I sent to Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn," he said.

"The headlines were sensational - they said things like, 'Cat leaving Illinois,' which isn't what the letter said. I actually said I'm looking forward to finding ways to invest more in Illinois.

"Illinois is our home, but the facts remain: Legislators in Illinois have created an environment that is unfriendly to business and investment, and at Caterpillar, we want to help change that."


I'm no authority on Caterpillar, and whether this large corporation has a net good or bad impact on Peoria and Illinois. But I'm quite sure that the political machine of Illinois is rapidly destroying us.

Illinois has a very unfavorable tax climate for business, thanks to exorbitant tax rates. The theory seems to be to strangle the goose that lays the golden egg. When all the golden egg laying geese flee, all that will be left to strangle for more money will be individual taxpayers.

Governments tend to spend more money than is coming in, because the politicians owe favors to the organizations that support them, and don't care how much money that requires, or even if they indeed have the money available.

I think big business is generally uncaring toward the poor and the communities in which they set up shop. When I hear that GE is paying zero federal taxes, probably due to their support for Obama, it makes my blood boil. But government has all the bombs and all the laws, so I think we need to scrutinize both corporate and governmental entities.

As I have no love for either Big Business or Big Government, I am not taking sides in this debate, except to note the rampant misuse of language by detractors (excuse the pun) of Caterpillar.

As far as Caterpillar issuing a "threat", I'm tired of people confusing threat and warning. There are actually four types of statements that are often described as "threats".

There are differences between (1) threat (2) warning (3) cautionary announcement (4) plea to meet and discuss an issue.

If I say, “If you keep setting fire to my house, I’ll have to stop you”, that’s a warning.

If I say, “Set fire to my house one more time and I’ll kick your ass” that’s a threat.

If I say, “Setting fire to my house is making me consider moving to another neighborhood”, that’s a cautionary announcement.

If I say, “Since you keep setting fire to my house, I’d like to sit down and discuss how we can live near each other without all these fires being set”, that’s a plea to meet and discuss an issue.

Monday, March 21, 2011

Harry Partch at Mills College VIDEO

Universal Newsreel story (undated) showing Harry Partch conducting a student performance of his music on his instruments at Mills College, Oakland, California, probably late 1950s.

“The creative person shows himself naked, and the more vigorous his creative act the more naked he appears – sometimes wholly vulnerable. yet always invulnerable in the sense of his own integrity. 

I am now 69 as this is being said, and I’ve been doing my own thing for more than five and a half decades. This thing began with truth, and truth does exist. 

For some hundreds of years, the truth of Just Intonation, which is defined in any good music dictionary, has been hidden. One could almost say maliciously. because truth always threatens the ruling hierarchy, or they think so. Nor does the spiritual, corporeal nature of man fare any better. We are reduced to specialties: a theatre of dialogue without music, and a concert of music without drama. Basic mutilations of ancient concept. My music is visual; it is corporeal, aural, and visual.

The creative man will rise above, he will transcend the mutilations. for every deeply sincere offering there is a corresponding deep and sincere hunger. Not the European chauvinism of New York, nor the mindless caterwauling of Hollywood recording studios, nor the “we-sell-music-by- the-yard,” mood-music people, can suppress either the sincere offering or the sincere hunger. 

True creativity is present. It is here, because man is here, in his true, deep, self. Unmutilated.” 

Thursday, March 17, 2011

How To Defeat an Internet Troll: a collection of barbs

An internet troll is a frightened little boy who posts abusive, offensive, and mostly silly tweets, messages, and comments, to get you to pay attention to him. He's jealous. He's lonely. He's angry -- but not angry enough! Oh no, not nearly angry enough, you see, and there's a level of anger that we, as competent social media pros, wish to accelerate him to, so he's nicely frenzied.

Your chief goal in blogocombat against an internet troll is to make them so angry, they engage in self-harming (destroy their stereo system, kick their car door, slam their fist through a Gameboy console, or smash their iPad).

Trolls are funny. They got no followers, no fans, no accomplishments, so they try to bother successful people. Ankle biters, these little Internet trolls -- their weak and amusing attempts to be abusive are most assuredly cries for help, which is not forthcoming. They can't have normal social relations online. The only way they can get any attention is to be obnoxious, and, like I said, they love to get angry.

"I begrudge, therefore I am" is the internet troll's slogan. "Will criticize for food" is another motto you'll see posted on their little Dreamweaver or Joomla websites, or maybe a code spaghetti WordPress blog. They will post negative remarks for a certain fee. It beats flipping hamburgers at McDonalds.

Trolling is a source of income for surly, bitter, mediocre people. They get about $1.00 for every troll rant, so they post a lot. If you enter a debate with the troll, they score more points with their employer, they have proof that they're doing their job. Thus, keep your interactions with them at a bare minimum. Just enough to cause them to hurt themselves or damage their own property.

Sometimes they get paid by word count, which is why they try to post long comments at your blog or the blogs of your clients. If you are stupid enough to try to post a comment on a moderated secure server blog of my client, you are really half troll and half clown. As a general rule, if you cue up a 2,000 word essay in one dense block of text with no paragraph divisions, I won't post your troll rant comment on any blog I moderate.

A word of advice for trolls: Long, prolix, overly wordy troll comments can be trimmed if you spend a lot more time on the dreaded Twitter learning to be concise! 

Trolls generally hate Twitter and blogs, and spend a lot of time on Twitter and blogs, talking about how "broken" Twitter and blogs are. Since they only have bitter things to say about others, nobody wants to fan or friend or follow them in social networks, which exasperates trolls to further extremes of self-pity and pious critique of their betters.

In blogocombat and other forms of online discussion and debate, you must turn off your human feelings and turn on your logical analysis. In reason machine mode, you forge ahead, doing battle one sentence at a time, one deleted moderated comment at a time, reducing the troll to soiling his bad boy pants in utter frustration. His goal is to make you angry, but you keep laughing at him, until thoroughly bored, at which point you ignore him and move on.

You remain stubborn, fully persuaded of your rightness and your clear superiority over the little troll. Having no sense of wounding or flinching from his funny little blathering, on and on he goes, trying to rake you over the burning coals of his infatuation with you, you are offended that he has no real online following, and feel cheated.

Remember: in online debate, it's never one human person against another human person. You must take the higher ground and see it as simply text vs. text. Your online text triggers a troll reaction via text and you respond with more text and he replies with more text. Rinse. Repeat.

When a troll accuses you of "idolizing" someone, simply because you said that person quoted you in their book, you tell the troll that actually you idolize them, they are so big and strong and smart. Ridicule them by feeding their fragile egos praise and adulation. Vaunt them to the sky, heaping up compliments, then lash him with the whip of insincerity. It's fun and nobody gets hurt, you know, since it's just text responding to text.

The more the internet troll attacks you, the funnier you get. You get even their allies to chuckle at your finely honed sense of humor. The troll is serious, but you're a comedian. When they lay into you, praise the trolls for being so smart as to know who their biggest enemy is. Feed them morsels of absurdity, which they'll quote and denounce hysterically, while everybody laughs at them.

To thwart and irritate a recent troll on Twitter, for example, I tweeted "Why do I spend so much time on Twitter reading tweets in foreign languages I don't understand?" because I knew they supported poor old Jakob Nielsen in his senseless attack on Twitter. (They mock Twitter, even as they "Use It" -- but have these trolls and pundits ever invented a tool that helps people overthrow totalitarian regimes?)

"See?! Twitter really is broken & not as good as a website!" the troll will then cry. "Mean old Vaspers confessed to reading tweets in languages he doesn't understand!"

The more hostile and cruel the troll tries to become, the more you knock the rug out from under his feet by wisecracking, joking, and comedy. 

Good luck. 

Now go out there and stomp on some nasty faint-hearted little internet trolls! 


12 Tips on Staying Safe in Video Chat Rooms

Young people are connecting in something that's far more intimate than Twitter, blogging, Facebook, Flickr, or texting. They're hooking up via webcam conferencing technology. But video chat rooms can be hangouts for predators. Follow these 12 rules to have fun while staying safe and unharmed.

Read entire article on tips for safe video chat room participation.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Debunking Jakob Nielsen on Twitter

When I made the transition in 1999 from direct marketing to internet marketing, web usability guru Jakob Nielsen was a huge influence on my thinking, along with Seth Godin, Robert Scoble, Doc Searls, and Cluetrain Manifesto. Having said that, I think Nielsen is totally misguided when it comes to Twitter.

Jakob Nielsen is a great source of good information on web usability. He is a very poor source of good information on social media, being dismissive of blogging from the get go, and continuing his bizarre tirade in a Special Report in Business Week in May of 2009.

What I find astonishing is Nielsen's utter lack of comprehension of SEO power in Twitter tweets, the urgency of CEOs to step down from their ivory towers and be transparent (Nielsen justifies CEO paranoia about public statements), and the whole purpose of social media.

Twitter is micro blogging. Nielsen, a website-oriented specialist, has disdain for blogging in general, and micro blogging even more so. Nielsen simply embodies an old fashioned corporate philosophy that is now counter-productive, to say the least.

I will use my old running commentary method in my debunking of Jakob Nielsen's remarks in Business Week  on CEO usage of Twitter: my comments are in red bold type.

Here is my quick critique of the "Jakob Nielsen Critiques Twitter" article in Business Week, an interview with the Great One conducted by Rebecca Reisner.


Are you surprised to see so many CEOs tweeting?
Well, there are always people who jump on the latest bandwagon, no matter what it is, but I do think it's surprising that CEOs would have the time to tweet, since they can't just toss off a sentence without repercussions the same way a normal user can. One of my former bosses once said that he had to be very careful what he said because tens of thousands of people in his organization would actually take it seriously and act on it. So if he said something that was easily misinterpreted, it could steer the company in the wrong direction.

Streight says: Nielsen right off the bat seems desperate to condemn Twitter, as evidenced by his combining the time factor with the paranoid angle: CEOs have no time to tweet and must be super cautious about what they say. 

This only perpetuates the myth that social media has to necessarily be time-consuming and that CEOs should be opaque, unapproachable, distant from the customer base. 

How ridiculous to say that an employee might pay attention to what the CEO says, and actually act on it! Like that's a bad thing. Why worry about misinterpretation of a CEO tweet? Can't the CEO be explicit and word things precisely, so there can be no rampant misinterpretation? 

One tweet is going to "steer the company in the wrong direction"??? LOL

Do you think it's a good idea for CEOs to tweet to their customers?
Mostly no. Posting on the Web is the modern PR, and the CEO's job is to articulate the company's vision and direction, which requires more than 140 characters. Being perceived as a wise guy or a shallow thinker is not going to do your stock price much good. We have just completed a usability study of investor relations info on corporate Web sites, and one of the big reasons individual investors turn to companies' Web sites is to find the CEO's vision and take on the company's and industry's direction.

Because users don't want to read very much online, this information should be addressed concisely, but not as concisely as in a tweet. Better to write something deeper (or post a video clip, since investors also want to assess the CEO's personality by watching him or her speak), and then announce that, with a link, from the company's general Twitter update, as opposed to in the CEO's personal tweet.

Streight says: Wake up and smell the coffee Jakob! Twitter is obviously not a tool for droning on and on with mission statements and corporate philosophy. Twitter is a tool for interacting with customers on a regular guy basis, joking around, giving advice, providing tips, proving your expertise by sharing relevant links and opinions.

Nielsen is correct in saying you should use Twitter to disseminate links to your videos and other online material -- but nobody wants to interact with an anonymous "Corporate Presence" in social networks. They want to interact with a real individual person, warts and all.

CEOs can provide a lot of good information in 140 character tweets, or a series of them, to meet customer needs for clarification and to respond to complaints, using Twitter as a resolution tool.

Is Twitter is a fad or here to stay?
Something like Twitter is certainly here to stay, even if that specific company could go the way of Excite and Geocities. Being early doesn't guarantee success if a better implementation of the same idea comes along. But fundamentally, this micro-announcement service does serve two needs: to post updates with low overhead and to follow a concise stream of updates.

Streight says: Nielsen seems to be complimenting Twitter in a begrudging, semi-reluctant manner, while still taking a cynical swipe at it by warning of better tools that might come along someday.

Do you think the growth of Twitter is a threat to individuals' ability to concentrate?

If you care about productivity, don't check your Twitter feed while you're trying to get work done. Disruptions are deadly for productivity because it takes several minutes to reorient the brain every time you go off track looking at something else. Stick to checking updates once per day—for example, during lunch. All the tweets will still be there.

Streight says: Check your Twitter feed as often as you want, frequently in fact, so you can respond quickly to customer questions, complaints, and praise. You can always postpone your reply if you deem it not urgent to respond, but it is a good idea to monitor, or have your staff monitor, Twitter and Facebook feeds.

I don't think companies should ban Twitter use during business hours because it does have its business uses, as previously discussed. But companies could cash in major productivity gains if they advised employees on how to minimize disruptions. The growth in social media can become a major drain on the economy unless people learn how to be in control of their time instead of allowing external updates to be in the driver's seat.

Streight says: Wrong. Companies should ban Twitter use during business hours, except for the staff who are in charge of the company's social media work. Tweeting for personal reasons is similar to using the telephone or email for personal reasons at work. Except in real emergencies, employees should stick to their jobs while at work and leave their online socializing for their private time, when they're not on the job. 

Are you a fan of any particular organizations' tweets?
One example of good business use of Twitter is the CDC's stream of updates on the H1N1 influenza. I have two recommendations for improved usability of this account: (a) Spell out the full name (Centers for Disease Control) in the bio, because not everybody knows the acronym CDC; and (b) link the "Web" field directly to a specific page about H1N1 instead of a generic page about all possible health emergencies, including many that are not of current interest.

Streight says: Of all things for Nielsen to praise: the Big Pharma Bail Out Flu hoax perpetuated by the corrupt Centers for Disease Control! Nice going...

Rebecca Reisner is an editor at


Having said all this, I still maintain that you don't know zilch about website design if you haven't read Jakob Nielsen's books on web usability. Just ignore what he says about blogging and social media, and you'll be fine.

Click image below to visit Amazon page for his Designing Web Usability masterpiece.

Here's another wonderful book: Homepage Usability. Click image below to visit Amazon page.

Monday, March 14, 2011

Str8 Sounds rebellious fermentation VIDEO

from "Sky Flute" CD

February 2011

What do want to say to me?
What do want to take for free?
What do you want?
To play with me?
Where do you want to betray me?
From a river of candy -- ocean of doubt.
Where you fell into a big cloud.
And it got all over your dress.
You were really settled into a mess.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

6 Reasons Why Online Slide Shows Suck

Seems like everybody's using slide shows to present information online. From WebMD to Huffington Post, online slide shows are ascending in popularity. Somebody must think a slide show is a fun, pleasant, creative way to communicate ideas and convey images.

They're nuts.

Online slide shows suck. Don't use them.

"But wait a minute!" you scream at me hysterically. "People like to interact with online content. A slide show lets them interact."

Wrong. Web users will interact with content, mainly in the form of posting comments or clicking "Like" buttons, only when they're extremely enthusiastic, or when they get some satisfaction from the interaction. They don't like interaction when it's slugging through something that's more complicated, or less usable, than it needs to be.

Amateur SEO hopefuls think slide shows are good "click bait," that all those slide show clicks will somehow increase their search engine rankings, and expose users to more banner ads, but slide shows merely annoy people and are very poor in distributing information.

Here's a Business Insider online slide show associated with the article "The Complete 2009 Bank Implosions".

The slide show is not mentioned, instead it is represented by the large type "Start". They are assuming you will click on "Start", without knowing what it is that is being started.

Their slide show contains 52 slides, each slide devoted to a bank that failed, with a big stupid image for each bank.

19 comments have been added to the post, and many are remarks about how ignorant the slide show is. Example: "Quit with the slideshows. I clicked on the article in interest but I will never click through 52 slides. That is awful."

Why Online Slide Shows Suck

(1) IMAGE OVER-EMPHASIS. You get a giant picture with a few sentences of text beneath them. You tend to gaze at the image and get no value from it. Your eyes eventually slide down to the wimpy caption, which is just a few sentences, generalized statements, not very meaty information-wise. Usually, the images are not that important, even distracting and counter-productive, and are only used ... why? ... because it's a slide show!

(2) BAD LINKING STRATEGY. Each slide does not have its own URL, so there's no way to link directly to a specific slide. You have to link to the page the online slide show is embedded on, and users have to click through each slide to find the one that's relevant, if only one slide is pertinent.

(3) POOR VISIBILITY. Online slide shows are generally prepared from lists, like "10 Foods to Help You Lose Weight". You cannot see the entire list when it's presented in a slide show. You have to trudge through the entire slide show, viewing slides that may not be of value or interest to you. In an article with images and captions, you can scroll down until you find what's relevant and you see the entire presentation at a glance.

(4) (FREQUENTLY) PURPOSELESS IMAGES. Often, there is no reason to even have an image, when a simple list is sufficient. Sometimes it seems the designer just plopped some photos into the slides to vaguely approximate some aspect of something. All this web real estate, and user time, wasted on images that sidetrack your message, not enhance it. Lists are easy and quick to read. Lists are quotable. Lists imply a logical order or natural sequence. I think more people will bookmark, link to, and Twitter an article with a list than an article with a slide show.

(5) WRONG VIEWING MODEL. Online slide shows assume that web users read online text the same way they read books: flipping from page 1 to the last page. Not true. Web users view web content like they watch TV: flipping channels, skimming, scanning, skipping what's not of interest, zeroing in on what they really want or what grabs their attention. Online slide shows expect users to violate web norms and patiently click each slide in a linear progression, from first to last.

(6) HALFWAY BETWEEN TEXT AND FILM. A slide show is straddling the fence of communication. It's partly text and partly moving (sliding) images, like a slowed down movie. These halfway measures are inadequate. If you want to convey information, use a text list or go all the way visually and do a video. If you need to show something working, moving, changing, or want to show different angles of something, do a video. If you cannot do a video, then just use photos or art with explanatory captions.

When could an online slide show be useful?

Only when you need to show a step by step progression, with explanatory remarks for each step. A tutorial or a presentation of how something changes or evolves or grows, where relevant images are needed.

Especially when your audience wants to focus on an image, really concentrate on it, soak it up, linger over details, inspect various aspects, fix the visual in their mind, mull over it, contemplate it, totally comprehend it. Then they can sit there and stare at it, as long as they want, before moving on to the next slide. This is the slide show's only advantage over a video.

When in doubt, toss it out. Don't use online slide shows to communicate or present information, unless there is a good reason and no other format will get the job done.

WebMD Dream Quiz Slideshow


Thursday, March 3, 2011

Str8 Sounds atomic outpourings: random prelude VIDEO

You must listen to this "Random Prelude" at least 5 times to appreciate how complex and blissful it is. Fortunately, clocking in at only 45 seconds in duration, this command is easy to comply with. So let's get started, shall we?

This brief sample is the result of an unintended malfunction in my video editing software, probably based on user error, so that only a tiny portion of the live recording was rendered in .mp4 format, leaving the bulk of the performance video behind, to surface later.

Randomly glitch-selected excerpt serving as an asynchronous prelude to "Atomic Outpourings #1" live synthesizer jam session. Recorded March 2, 2011 at UFObic Studios, Peoria, IL in association with the Str8 Sounds Media Lab.

Full performance session below.

Str8 Sounds "Atomic Outpourings #1: Full Session"

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Str8 Sounds motion of electrosound pt 1 VIDEO

Str8 Sounds "Motion of Electrosound pt 1"

Part One of studio performance Feb. 23, 2011. Track featured on "Musical Revolution" CD.

Casio CTK-431 synthesizer, Electra EP-501 1024 ms digital sampler delay, Digitech BP80 Modeling Bass Processor, Line 6 Spider III 15 watt keyboard practice amp.

No audio processing of live sound recorded by Panasonic mini DV pv-Gs90p-s palmcorder. Video editing in Windows Movie Maker, Magix Movie Edit Pro 15 Plus, and Sony Vegas Movie Studio HD Platinum 10.