What happened to the W in the R/W web?

Remember when it was called the R/W web. This was the time that got me excited about social media. R/W implied a read/write or participatory web and seemed to offer an alternative to the consumption-oriented approach of television, radio and newspapers or magazines. There was an optimism implying that ordinary citizens could express themselves and have a more direct influence on politics and other areas to which the integration of opinions is supposed to matter. This was a time when you could go to the setup page for your Mac and turn your own machine into a server (or at least I could).

The W of R/W began to fade. There were fewer and fewer of us with personal web sites and a shift to services such as MySpace, FaceBook and Twitter. Even these services make it easier for individuals to express themselves, most folks found it far easier to forward rather than write. I think this also led to the extremism we now see online – radical Facebook extremism. To gain attention without forwarding everything you might encounter, the tendency is to “share” things that are more likely to gain attention – the cutest, funniest, or more radical content. I admit I do a little of this on Twitter. I don’t really take Twitter too seriously. It takes so little thought to dash of something in 140 characters or less. [Insert your impression of Trump’s tweets here.]

I am starting to have hopes that the 60s is making a comeback online. The potential is there. However, you have to actually sit down and write something yourself. I do have a suggestion. Fire up YouTube or whatever music service you use and see if you can locate Express yourself (Charles Wright and the Watts). Should give you a little energy – Do it to it!

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So called leaders

More inappropriate behavior from an elected official too impulsive to be a leader. I suppose there are some encouraged by the “bare knuckles’ style, but bullying behavior is easy to spot and reflects a thin skin not conducive to thoughtful leadership. Far too easy to provoke. This immature style may rally a 35% base of support, but will constantly motivate an opposition. Hope we do not encounter a crisis requiring the country rally behind such a dividing figure. Trump would be far better off keeping his ignorant thoughts to himself. A good start would be to forget Twitter.

Donald Trump’s most bone-chilling tweet – CNN


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A preference for chickens

I take my photography fairly seriously. I own a couple of nice cameras with some nice lenses and I know the basics of their use and of composition.

I tend to get one complaint from relatives. They like the photos but criticize me for my lack of people pictures. This has happened several times. Just to self-check, I went to the photos I have uploaded to Flickr from this trip. I can see some truth in what they claim. There are a couple of pictures of Cindy (taking pictures). This is a tradition. Other than that, no pictures of people. It turns out I have far more pictures of chickens and avocados. I could speculate on my photographic preferences, but that would likely get me in trouble.



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Super, secret strategies

I know a big Trump thing is to not reveal your strategies. Evidently, this is because you give the opposition time to prepare. Strategies are to be revealed through the actions taken.
Evidently, one super secret negotiation strategy when it comes to goods flowing between countries is to threaten a trade war. You pay for the wall or we will charge you to bring goods into our country.
I have a fairly basic understanding of international trade. It seems to me you bring in foreign goods when you cannot produce the goods yourself or the foreign goods are less expensive. So, if you introduce a surcharge doesn’t that mean consumers end up paying more for goods you cannot produce and more for the goods produced internally. It seems to me it might be less complicated to just raise our own tax on what we purchase. Wouldn’t this amount to the same thing and not irritate neighbors who would find ways to charge our producers and those who want to spend money in other countries.
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Science doesn’t work this way

The Verge reports that Mr Trump has placed a gag order on scientists from the EPA and Department of Agriculture. Evidently, scientists cannot speak with the public or journalists but can continue to publish their research in peer-reviewed journals because the public would need to pay to read the results. This is really pretty strange.

Mr Trump appears not to understand science. There is no party line in science. You ask a question. You design a methodology to collect data to answer your question. Then, you communicate your results. You do try to publish, but informing the public is the final goal. Those of us who teach in science-based fields read this research to teach students.

Government scientists work for the public. They are not doing research to provide businesses an advantage. STEM teachers – this is not how it is supposed to work. To control access is unethical.


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Early lessons learned

Different observations may have come to different conclusions regarding the most meaningful lessons from the Trump presidency, but here is mine. I have learned that some of those who will play the most prominent roles in the administration (Trump, Conway, Spicer) are both thin-skinned and prone to alternative facts (i.e., lies). More troubling, these are willing to spend away their credibility on trivial challenges. My reference here is to the dispute regarding how many fans showed up to the Trump parade. Why, why, why make an issue of this situation. The aerial photography and public transit data make obvious the error of your claims. The administration’s willingness to claim that no one cares about the release of Trump’s tax returns and then assume the public cares about how many watched your parade is not even plausible.

Why care? I agree with others who have observed that if we cannot rely on the truthfulness of facts that we can check how can we trust an administration to tell us the truth regarding events the details of which must be kept secret. Credibility is easy to lose.

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President Trump as problem solver

I think Trump is using an approach something similar to what he did during his campaign. He would try out different things with a live crowd to see what worked and that would become a mantra (e.g., lock her up) or approach. As President, he has now tried ignoring the facts (removal of content from government web sites) and according to Conway using alternate facts. Time for another strategy.

I admire problem-solving, but I prefer experimentation be applied in a more ethical way.

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Blaming jobs on outsourcing is too easy

The march of technology is relentless and likely has more to do with changes in the job market than China or Mexico. Politicians failing to describe the scope of such changes are scapegoating other countries and failing to deal with what is happening. If you order goods from Amazon, you should already know where many of these jobs are going. You should already understand the reduction in book stores and the announcements of job cuts at Macys, Sears and other department stores. Your local store may have already closed. You and I are the problem. We pay for a Prime account and then have the UPS man deliver the goods we used to purchase at the mall.

We prefer inexpensive goods (often produced elsewhere) and we prefer convenience (online purchases). Companies, if they survive, have found they need fewer employees because of greater use of technology. You can blame technology or free enterprise, but we are not going back. The present isolationism promoted by the new administration is the last gasp of an outdated system. There are many new opportunities here, but there are also new challenges. This is why education is becoming more and more important and will not be something that is ever finished for those willing to adapt.

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Not how higher ed works

People of North Dakota. When it comes to a college education or most anything else, trying to improve yourself by isolating yourself is typically a very bad idea. A big part of the benefit of college is meeting people who are different and have different ideas. North Dakota is far too white and far too rural and tends to have attitudes that are out of synch with the rest of the country and the world. A college experience that includes exposure to different cultures and different attitudes is valuable and prepares your kids for the jobs and the people that don’t live within the confines of your state.

You are also not going to make your universities better by making them smaller. There is a certain matter of efficiency that comes into play and ND institutions are already too small to encourage the diversity that allows for many specialties and to attract the quality faculty members needed to teach and research in these areas.

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Mentoring Trump: Volunteers needed

Mr Trump’s tweeting is a little hard to understand. Here is what I think. There can be significant differences between someone with experience as a boss and someone with experience as an elected leader. It doesn’t have to be this way, but the experiences can be very different. A boss may be used to getting his or her way through firing, buying, bullying, or suing. It cannot work in any of these ways for very long when you are elected.

Most folks can develop skills especially if they have a good mentor; someone to explain how things really work and provide examples. If your primary means of communicating is Twitter how difficult can improving your performance be. I will take my mentoring turn first.

Here is an example. Mr. Trump attacks Congressman John Lewis for responding to a question about whether Trump’s selection as President was legitimate. Trump’s response is included below:

Congressman John Lewis should spend more time on fixing and helping his district, which is in horrible shape and falling apart (not to….

See what I mean. A leader would not respond is this way. Ignoring the issue of an argument by switching to a personal attack completing unrelated to your concern with the position of your peer is not particularly impressive. This seems to be Mr. Trump’s go to move, but the strategy is still the mark of an amateur.

Some alternatives:

Don’t respond at all if what you have to say makes you look thin-skinned and probably having some of the same concerns.

Attack the argument and not the person. If you can challenge the position that the late announcement by Comey followed by the even later “never mind” or the Russian release of the stolen emails had no impact on voters, explain how this would work.

I withdraw my second recommendation. I can think of no way to actually sell this position. I think stay off Twitter makes the most sense.

Your turn. Take a tweet and offer suggestions.

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