Well, that was fun

I’d never experienced non-biological ‘viral’ until last week, when unwittingly I tweeted:

…which is probably the first Tweet I’ve ever had get RTd or Favorited more than 3 or 4 times. As of this writing, this is close to 1,000 RTs and 800 Favorites.

I pretty much just watched the fun happen without trying to intervene or analyze. All I know is very early on someone I know well favorited it:

J Herskowitz 2nd follow Apr26 Tweet

But only now, as I reflect a smidge on the data, do I see that he was actually technically the “second” favoriter. I don’t think he saw the original though (and, have no idea how she saw it either!):

All Viral Apr26 Tweet

I suspect precise chronological order is not directly tied with ‘virality’ (which is not likely linear, but is rather something like superlinear). So here’s a thanks to sonal for at least teeing up the fun.

1st Follow Apr26 Tweet

Conclusions? Well, people either really love IFTTT; really hate email; both, or…given all the social media analytics power and strategy I put into this, this is likely the best (though I wouldn’t mind it happening again ;):

Complexity in a real-time world

The series of events at Mozilla over the past 2 weeks has been charged with emotion, principle, opinion and most certainly, consequences. While the dust is far from settled, I am at last feeling able to formulate a few salient, if not preliminary, conclusions.

Mozilla is a unique animal. We’re a company. We’re a non-profit. We’re a mission-driven org. We’re makers of products and just as significantly, a global community and yes, social movement that focuses on protecting the web which we view as a public good. Trying to extrapolate certain lessons from what has happened typically falls short because we straddle so many worlds and categories. Some people who have said this best:

  • Pascal Finette. Pascal hired me at Mozilla and worked in a variety of capacities over his 4.5 years there, the last of which was working directly with our Chair).
  • Mark Surman. Mark heads up our Foundation side of things (if you don’t know quite what I am referring to, see my primary point I’m making e.g. we are a hybrid of ‘things’ and typical categories fall short).

Leadership has special requirements. As Mozilla board member Reid Hoffman explained, it entails a ‘head of state’ component – meaning one who can influence, mobilize and exercise diplomacy in complex situations. When the leader is of an organization as diverse and global as Mozilla, additional constraints apply. Some people who got this right include:

  • Lauren Bacon. Lauren’s part of a discussion list I am on and knows a number of Mozillians and our work.
  • Slate.

And yet…. unfortunately these very important distinctions have escaped much of the public dialogue. It’s disheartening to see how many posts pretty much equate Mozilla to any organization and the CEO to any employee in order to make linkbait-friendly conclusions such as “Mozilla’s Gay Marriage Litmus Test Violates Liberal Values” (my love for this publication has been waning over the past few years; this doesn’t help) or “Brendan Eich’s Defenestration” Let’s just forget that he resigned against the wishes of the board. In fact, let’s just forget any of the facts since facts actually typically backfire.

Mercifully a few thoughtful writers are starting to resist the urge to cave in to the temptation to draw rapid, polarizing and simplistic conclusions (which have the additional benefit of attracting traffic) and instead do some balanced, researched thinking and reporting on the issues at hand. A sample:

So, what now? While this emergence of more holistic writing gives me hope that with a little more time and thoughtfulness, a more balanced, reasonable and better telling of the story will ultimately emerge, the episode gives me pause. In a world where we crave not only real-time information, but real-time conclusions, where is the room for complexity? For exceptions to the axioms and memes that attract so much web traffic? How can we pause and absorb complexity?

In a recent thread my friend referenced an interesting analysis (quote from George Friedman):

Cultures lives in three states. The first state is barbarism. Barbarians believe that the customs of their village are the laws of nature and that anyone who doesn’t live the way the live is beneath contempt and requiring redemption and destruction. The third state is decadence. Decadents cynically believe that nothing is better than anything else. If they hold anyone in contempt, it is those that believe in anything. Nothing is worth fighting for.

Civilization is the second and most rare state. Civilized people are able to balance two contradictory thoughts in their minds. They believe that there are truths and that their cultures approximate those truths. At the same time, they hold open their mind the possibility that they are in error.

The piece does not draw a clear conclusion on what state we are currently in, and I’m not sure myself. Except that this doesn’t feel like civilization. Perhaps I’m still processing. Which makes sense….because this is complex.

p.s. I left comments open. If you are so inclined, please read this.

My Byline Here

When I worked in Communications at Charles Schwab, our CIO was a big believer in openness. He regularly met with employees at all levels and highly discouraged anonymity. This was a big deal because morale was low and many people wanted to “vent” in a way that they believed had little repercussions.

In retrospect, I could not agree with him more. With the exception of some extreme cases, the benefits of open far outweigh the benefits of anonymity.

Unfortunately, this is counter to what many libertarian-leaning people would have you think. For them, anonymity increases meritocracy, removing ‘barriers’ that may stifle expression such as title, education, race, gender.

If I lived in this vacuum of theory, I’d have to agree.

Ironically, however, most of these anonymity-proponents have never experienced these barriers themselves, and when we move from theory to reality, the picture changes. While it’s true that in very specific scenarios there are reasons to preserve anonymity, the vast majority of public exchange benefits from linkages to real-world identity. While the alleged barriers to meritocracy have yet to emerge as a significant force, the dark side of anonymity is all-too-prominent. When consequences are removed, conversation quickly devolves into corrosive exchange that scarcely resembles any form of constructive discourse.

And this goes “both ways”: when an entrepreneur sought to reverse the power equation by creating an app allowing women to anonymously rate men, the results were good for pretty much nobody. Again, no checks or balances to the ratings easily leads to all sorts of negative and potentially libelous behaviors.

The extreme of this happened late last year with Silk Road, the anonymous marketplace which served as a breeding ground for illegal activity and ultimately the channel for conspiracy to commit murder.

I applaud publications who are changing their commenting policies to preserve a semblance of true discourse and exchange. And I will observe the new wave of anonymous social apps with great curiosity and caution.