Category Archives: Management

Facebook’s algorithms promote posts featuring “outrage” and “sensationalism”, leading to more outrage and divisiveness

Facebook curates your “news feed”. FB promotes posts that have likes, comments or shares, or which are from people you have previously interacted with. The posts from friends with whom you have not interacted much gradually vanish.

Thus, FB’s curated news feed hides much from you while promoting items that, as a side effect of their algorithm, are likely to be sensational or causing outrage resulting in more interaction.

Company researchers discovered that publishers and political parties were reorienting their posts toward outrage and sensationalism. That tactic produced high levels of comments and reactions that translated into success on Facebook.

They concluded that the new algorithm’s heavy weighting of reshared material in its News Feed made the angry voices louder. “Misinformation, toxicity, and violent content are inordinately prevalent among reshares,” researchers noted in internal memos.

Source: Facebook Tried to Make Its Platform a Healthier Place. It Got Angrier Instead. – WSJ

Many groups – such as political groups and those operating as propaganda arms to persuade others to adopt their position – figured this out and intentionally posted more provocative content in order to get their posts seen more widely.

The effect of Facebook and other social media “curation” is to promote a culture of outrage that feeds upon itself, creating still more outrage and divisiveness. This in turns leads to more and more angry people, and eventually spills over into real life confrontations and protests. Facebook has publicly denied this is their fault, while their internal documents show they’ve known about it for a long time.

Continue reading Facebook’s algorithms promote posts featuring “outrage” and “sensationalism”, leading to more outrage and divisiveness

Google VP to work remotely from New Zealand while regular staff denied remote work options

The rancor intensified last week, when Urs Hölzle, one of the company’s longest-tenured and most senior executives, announced plans to work remotely from New Zealand, according to an email he sent to employees that was viewed by CNET.

Hölzle’s plans angered rank-and-file workers, who consider it special treatment for company leadership, while lower-level employees have had to wade through a drawn-out and uncertain application process.

Source: Google’s ‘hypocritical’ remote work policies anger employees – CNET

Like most public health related policies, the elite are exempt from even corporate public health policies.

And the irony – Hölzle had been adamantly opposed to allowing remote workers.

Even science has lost credibility

The pandemic has been devastating to the credibility and trust placed in public health and epidemiology.

That loss of trust extends to science itself.

In the UK, their SAGE Committee employed a subteam of psychologists skilled in behavior manipulation (notably based on fear) and propaganda as part of their Covid-19 response. A UK politician has said they should employ the same methods for climate change policy.

Here in the U.S., there has long been a major focus on fear – even news reports that “experts” felt we must exaggerate the fears.

Continue reading Even science has lost credibility

Bill Gates’ reputation hit hard by revelations

In a divorce filing, Melinda said their relationship was “irretrievably broken”. The question now is whether Bill’s reputation is, too.

Source: Bill Gates’s carefully curated dad-geek image unravels – TechCentral

Disclosure – I worked for Microsoft in product development in the 1990s. I have generally admired Gates – and could share stories from inside that showed he was often more in touch with real people than would be expected. However, recent disclosures and accusations about his personal behavior have been unsettling. Also, his hypocrisy on climate changes issues is obvious.

Are unemployment benefits too good at the moment?

Insider’s Ben Winck reported on Friday that along with the disappointing job gains, the unemployment rate rose in April to 6.1% from 6%, while economists had expected it to drop to 5.8%. Possible reasons for the report falling short of expectations could include temporary layoffs and too-generous unemployment insurance.

Source: Biden’s Labor Secretary insists April’s weak jobs gain of 266,000 ‘is a good number’

Unemployment benefits were extended up to 79 weeks duration – all the way out to September of 2021. Plus, the Federal government offered an additional $300/week unemployment benefit; last year, this was $600/week.

“One topsy-turvy outcome is that many people are earning more staying home than they did in the jobs they lost. And some businesses are finding that employees do not want to come back to jobs that pay less than what they can earn in unemployment.”


University of Chicago researchers found that for two-thirds of people who lose jobs, their unemployment benefits exceeded what they had been earning.”

Our local news talked to local employers and they reported, anecdotally, that they had found many potential workers have chosen to not accept job offers because for now. Some workers say the extra unemployment benefit enables them to be choosier about job opportunities – and say they are taking much longer to accept a position because they can.

Another factor, said some restaurant owners, is that some people who previously worked in the restaurant sector have left it for good. On the other hand, this could be a good summer for teen and first time workers as local employers are having a difficult time hiring more staff.

Why practicality is essential to public health

Public mitigations require voluntary compliance; heavy handed police enforcement will never work. This means “sell, don’t tell” strategies.

Many mitigations are ineffective because they are not practical. Sure, rich white-collar workers can work from home and order delivery of their needs – but that is outsourcing their risk to a generally lower paid, less privileged individual. When 71% of the workforce is declared essential, we can’t really lock down anyway.

This example illustrates what happens when we lost practicality:

The thread explains this with more examples – and notes that public health has been disconnected from a real world understanding.

Public health also needs to address their steadfast refusal to acknowledge significant inconsistencies in their messaging. That they have no explanation for this ruins their message. TX and MS ended mask mandates and were predicted to be disaster zones – instead, they’ve continued downwards (even in spite of the Texas Rangers game and filled stadium two weeks ago) while MI, NJ and NY maintain tight restrictions – and got worse.

Meanwhile, the Twitterati remain stuck in nonsensical hysteria. Such a dignified professional response, eh? His response cannot be justified based on any data or historical understanding of how vaccines work, but what ever, he’s a highly paid opinionator.

How 21st Century News Ought to be

For the most part, how the news is reported to the consumer has changed little in decades, perhaps a century.

When the Internet became available, television stations began to offer print (and video) stories via web sites. Newspapers began to offer web sites – and occasionally offered video.

But few took advantage of the underlying technologies to develop interactive news and analysis tools.

There have been some gradual tip toe steps towards providing these kinds of tools. During elections, results are often presented in interactive, clickable maps or charts.

A very few news sites have offer a bit of Covid-19 data in interactive form. When the news is based on data – or time – there is so much that could be done to deliver a richer, more informative interactive news experience.

An interactive time line would enable the news consumer to scroll through past timeline events – or just linked news stories – by time. This would help us see how the issue has changed, over time, or how the reporting has changed, over time.

Several web sites provide interactive tools to explore Covid-19 related data. Occasionally, an online news web site here and there will offer similar functionality.

It is now 2021 and the news media is still stuck in the past and not thinking “outside of the box” to deliver enhanced value made possible by technology.

They remain stuck with click bait, fear inducing headlines. This is not the path forward for journalism success. It is long past time to embrace available technologies. They have demonstrated they can do it – but mostly for special features. It’s time to make these tools a standard part of reporting.

(Oh, and could you cite references? The story that says “a new study says” but never gives the title of the study, the publication, or a link, is DOA for me.)

Good news: Biden targets fall for return to near normal life

The lack of an exit strategy has been an ongoing and colossal failure of public health epidemic management.

When lock down 1.0 began, there was no indication of metrics for re-opening. Nothing. Consequently, people lost hope – unless they still clung to public health’s fabulous “15 days to flatten the curve” lie.

Ironically, last year’s WHO sponsored “World Health Day” and the 2020 focus was “hope” as a critically important component to public health. A “hope” that public health itself failed to deliver due to incompetent public health leadership.

It was not necessary to give a date for there to be “hope” – but it was however necessary to specify a plan and explain the process, and to explain that all pandemics eventually end. Public health failed and deserves a grade of F for this mismanagement.

This announcement, below, is good news – the White House has set stretch goals of 150 M vaccine doses in 100 days (up from 100 M doses), has negotiated contracts for 200M more doses this summer (all are two-doses per person) and is targeting sufficient vaccines for 300M available by sometime in the summer.

The logistics of administering this many vaccinations still pushes this out to Fall of 2021.

However, this is what public health leadership (an oxymoron) should have been pushing on months and months and months ago.

President Joe Biden’s pledge that there will be sufficient vaccines for 300 million Americans by the end of summer represents a bold and politically risky response to criticism his pandemic plan lacks ambition.

Source: President Biden sets bold timeline for a return to normal life

Automation is coming but new laws may accelerate its adoption

This blog has long pointed out that costs of automating work functions have plummeted just as the costs of labor and benefits have escalated. Naturally, many businesses will invest in tech to lower costs.

Investments in automation were going to be happening anyway – but various labor laws are encouraging the adoption of automation more rapidly than it might otherwise occur. The result will be the loss of “starter” jobs which tend to be low skilled retail services where many of us developed our first work experiences and skills.

Continue reading Automation is coming but new laws may accelerate its adoption

Business: We don’t know who won but we know who lost

The results of the Nov 3 national election remain unclear. We do not yet know who won all races.

But we do know that pollsters and the media lost as the election results are quite different than recent forecasts.

In Portland (I live in eastern Oregon), only a few weeks ago, one poll projected the Mayor’s race would be won by the challenger to the incumbent – and by a double digit margin. Instead, the incumbent won by +6%.

Polls are inherently uncertain due to the difficulties of obtaining a representative sample and routine sampling error. Just as with uncertain models, we give too much credence to polls. We have an innate desire to predict the future, but the real world frequently takes its own path.

A poll – and the underlying model used to adjust for sampling problems – produces an hypothesis that is tested by real world data (the votes).

A model is a guess about how we think the world works.

The output of a model is also a guess – and not reality.

And that is a point we must keep in mind when considering model output. A model enable us to play “what-if” games to evaluate possible future scenarios. Models of complex chaotic behaviors can only generate possible scenarios – but cannot tell us which scenario is going to occur.

A model does not confirm anything at all.