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The Cargo Cult of Business

Jumping through hoops

Published on 10 Aug 2007 at 3:15 pm by Ringo | Comments Off | Trackback
Filed under The Cargo Cults of Business, Manifest Masquerade.

It’s excessively warm for this part of the country even for August so I spent a big chunk of yesterday sitting by the pool catching up with an old friend instead of working. Conversation turned to a career related training process she’s working through, and I mentioned that I’d looked into it but been turned off by the unrealistic application requirements.

I’ve forgotten the particulars of that process, but it was one of several I ran into a few years ago which were very similar.  In one case I started to apply for a job with a major corporate employer but the application was *very* long and included absolutely required contact information for every manager I’d reported to since high school graduation.  Another required the exact address and dates of residence for every place I’ve ever lived. These paper forms strongly stated that N/A or "unavailable" were unacceptable answers and required me to sign a statement that the information was correct and complete. Web based forms are even worse, since they typically won’t let you complete the form at all without complete answers in the exact form they expect. I keep expecting to find "Have you stopped beating your wife?" as a required question on one of those forms.

I remarked on this and semi-rhetorically asked my friend why these organizations feel they need this information. She said, "Ahh, don’t take it personnally, they just make you jump through a bunch of hoops to show you belong in that group."  I, of course, have heard such answers before, but this time, it hit me that my negative reaction can be summed up this way:  All apart from the difficulty/impossibilty of the supplying the information they request, making me jump through hoops by requiring that I expend great effort (or lie) to supply something they don’t need, is a clear cut case of bargaining in bad faith.  I feel better now about all the applications and "opportunities" of that kind I’ve passed up over the years.


Seven Wonders of the Internet

Published on 7 Jul 2007 at 10:08 am by Oliver | 1 Comment | Trackback
Filed under The Cargo Cults of Business.

 The good folks at Network World have compiled a list of the seven wonders of the Internet. It’s worth a read, and a quibble. Do you agree with their choices? If you don’t, drop us a comment here with your preferences, and why.


 A collective tip of the ol’ CargoCult cap to Paul McNamara and the gang at NWW for pulling this together.

K&N - Masters of Deceptive Marketing

Published on 30 Jun 2007 at 2:21 pm by Oliver | 1 Comment | Trackback
Filed under The Cargo Cults of Business, One Corporation Under God, Limited Lie-ability, In Corporations We Trust, Business and Corporation Related, Health and Safety, Branding and Values, Humor.

K&N has been making "performance" air filters for many years. They’re of a different design than the one you have in your car. A K&N airfilter consists of multiple layers of gauze, soaked with oil. As air flows through it, the oily fibers catch the dust particles. When it’s dirty, you use a solvent to rinse away the dirty oil, they you re-coat it with fresh oil and put it back in.

The standard automotive airfilter is made from paper. It’s a simple design. Typically a very long strip is pleated and the sandwiched between two pieces of rubber. Dust and grit are trapped as the air flows through. When the filter is dirty, you put in a new one. The old one is thrown away.

Oooooh, horrible environmental nightmare!!! We’re throwing away… what? Well, paper, mostly. Nice biodegradable paper. The paper is full of dirt. Ordinary fine sand, grit, lint, etc. Very organic, this dirt. Endlessly recyclable.

But K&N has come to the rescue. They’re now promoting, on Car Talk and elsewhere, the idea that the K&N filter is re-usable, and therefore more environmentally friendly. Well, yes, the mechanics of the filter are reusable. But what about all that dirty oil? You’ve removed it from the filter with some sort of solvent. You now have a mess of hazardous waste. What are you gonna do? Pour it down the drain? Pay, in money, pollution, and CO2, to ship it to a recycling facility? 

Shame on you, K&N. You are preying on the good intentions of ordinary folk who want to be green. You say that K&N filters are made from cotton, a "renewable resource". Indeed, cotton is grown as a crop. Then again, so is paper-pulp, the source of the paper used in OEM filters.

Your airfilters may improve performance, as you claim. Heck, I’ve used them on my old Brit-bikes routinely. But are they better for the car? No OEM anywhere in the world uses a K&N style filter. ALL of them, even Mercedes, BMW, Ferrari, etc, use paper-element filters. Maybe because they work better? Consider this: companies who make heavyduty off-road equipment, such as Caterpillar, have tested many different types of filtering system, and they unequivocally recommend pleated-paper types for use in their equipment. 

The idea that the K&N filter is better for you engine, and better for the environment, is bogus, and you know it, K&N. Shame on you!


The above is, of course, merely Oliver’s opinion. 

Key IT Support Tool

Published on 29 Jun 2007 at 1:21 am by Oliver | Comments Off | Trackback
Filed under The Cargo Cults of Business, Design, Interface, and Usability, Networking Technology, Pure Geek, Information Technology, Humor.

 At last, an automatic IT excuse generate. Code this page into your online support stuff; generate automatic email responses. It’s the perfect tool!


Marketing is the Crack Cocaine of Industry

Published on 12 Jun 2007 at 9:19 pm by Oliver | No Comments | Trackback
Filed under The Cargo Cults of Business, Manifest Masquerade, Brain Trust, Business and Corporation Related, Branding and Values, Public Relations and Marketing.

And I do mean fix. Too often I have seen companies under-invest in engineering and design, over-invest in marketing and "branding", and wind up the poorer for it. To be sure, they get a couple of quarters of great results, but on the average people aren’t stupid; they figure out that the value is gone and they switch brands, usually forever. Today, we buy Mercedes or Lexii, not Cadillacs.

 The pet rock? Nice idea; wish I’d thought of it. But how big a company did it build? The pet rock is not a long-term model for a business. That kind of marketing is crack - it’s a great rush, but it doesn’t last; and it does more harm that good.

Get off the crack! Invest in good products. Invest in supporting them. And be patient, the money will come. And keep coming. 

It ain’t just logos

Published on 8 Jun 2007 at 11:31 am by Ringo | No Comments | Trackback
Filed under The Cargo Cults of Business, Virtu-Brand(tm).

I just saw this at Seth Godin’s blog. 

 In some ways he’s pointing out the obvious, but it’s amazing how many times I’ve seen it overlooked.  A brand is an epitome, an embodiment, of a collection of experiences.  Mr. Godin is, I think, warning us to avoid over investment in a symbol to the detriment of the underlying substance.  In the very worst cases this is taken even further; to the point that investment in the symbol is seen as a substitute for investment in the substance. 

 A brand gives us a "handle" on a set of experiences, a kind of short hand for them. Perhaps in the short run a logo or other branding materials can recall our positive experiences with other brands, but in the long run the brand itself is neutral, neither good nor bad. If well supported, it will evoke the underlying set of experiences and speak to people in the context of their feelings about those experiences. 

 A friend of mine used to say that "Intel Inside" wasn’t promotion, it was a warning label.  Actually, it was both, the branding invoked the underlying set of experiences, good for some, bad for others… 

 Which, in a flagrant flirting with Godwin’s law,  brings this to mind. 

 UPDATE:  Another interesting post on the topic here.  

Symantec Bites

Published on 4 Jun 2007 at 9:24 pm by Oliver | No Comments | Trackback
Filed under The Cargo Cults of Business, Virtu-Brand(tm), Thanks for Playing, Pathetic Success, Design, Interface, and Usability, Business and Corporation Related, Branding and Values, Public Relations and Marketing, Humor.

Symantec was once a fine company. Peter Norton’s Norton Utilities could claim to be the most trusted PC utility program ever written.

But over the years, the corporate idiots at Symantec have ruined oth, and more. They are at war with Microsoft, the programs are over-burdened with usefull bells and whistles, and they can drag the performance of a Windows PC to its knees. Systems that run fine with Symantec switched off spend 30 minutes or more scanning if Symantec is enabled.

Symantec seems to spend all its money promoting its product, and none in useful development.

A curse upon them, then. We’ve switched to Kaspersky - fast, safe, reasonably priced. 

A Cure For Global Warming

Published on 1 Jun 2007 at 9:32 am by Ringo | No Comments | Trackback
Filed under The Cargo Cults of Business, Technopolitical, Health and Safety, Government: Federal, State and Local, Humor.

Reading this article at Coyote Blog got me to thinking…

I’ve been skeptical of man-made global warming in large part because of the convenient way the suggested responses match up with the usual solutions offered for whatever the ill of the day may be.  (More regulation, less freedom, less affluence, less choice…) It looks like a solution in search of a problem.   

Well, I should be able to play that game too.

Since, from this tiny piece of anecdotal evidence (as posted at Coyote Blog), it’s clear that global warming is indeed man made, and furthermore is a direct result of urban heat island effects,  I propose we strike right at the source of the problem…

My solution:

Outlaw cities.

More specifically I suggest that we use whatever invasive global regulatory regimen is being constructed to limit carbon dioxide emissions, to instead limit population densities. No more high population densities, no more urban heat islands, no more global warming.

I think 2000 square feet per person should be a good number, that gives us 21 people per acre.  It might sound like a lot if you imagine sharing a 2000 square foot house with a couple of friends or family members, but remember this number has to include each person’s share of lawn, street, sidewalk, power line right of way, etc.  It should come out to about 14,000 people per square mile, or 5000 per square kilometer.  (Somebody correct me if my math is wrong…) It would be important to maintain granularity in the measurements, down to the square mile or kilometer, or even smaller, to prevent some sweltering slum somewhere from annexing a portion of Antarctica as an "offset".  The problem being one of concentration after all.

Well, that’s what I think anyway…  But I won’t be holding my (carbon dioxide containing) breath…

Here’s a link where, in the US at least, you can see how your neighborhood compares. 

Danny Hillis, Get a Job!

Published on 11 May 2007 at 11:03 am by Oliver | 1 Comment | Trackback
Filed under Uncategorized, The Cargo Cults of Business, Technopolitical, Design, Interface, and Usability, Business and Corporation Related, Pure Geek, Information Technology, Economics and the Economy, Public Relations and Marketing, Humor.

There’s no doubt that Danny Hillis is a bright guy. The fact that his Thinking Machines start-up was not the business success he hoped for is the way it goes, sometimes, and is certainly not a reflection on Danny. The failure of one’s startup can be a tragic emotional shock, like the loss of a loved one. Those of us who have gone through it know this. So, when TM went TU, it’s understandable that Danny would want some time off.

But it’s been eleven years, Danny. That clock you and the Long Now folks are building? Slowly? The schedule on that makes most software development projects seem speedy. There is what could be a nice museum about it, but it misses the mark. Danny, just up the street from your museum location is the Exploratorium. It’s hands-on science. Participation is encouraged. At the Long Now museum, it’s look, don’t touch.

The Long Now foundation has an impressive Board of Directors. I’d guess they’re an interesting bunch to hang out with. But we have a foundation, chaired by rich successful people, which is attempting to get us ordinary working folks to contribute money to support the hobby project of the rich successful people, a project with a completion date comfortably far into the future, to put it mildly.

 You can do more, Danny. Much more.

They’ve killed James Lileks

Published on 8 May 2007 at 11:10 am by Oliver | Comments Off | Trackback
Filed under The Cargo Cults of Business, Manifest Masquerade, Winners and Losers, One Corporation Under God, In Corporations We Trust, Technopolitical, Blogosphere, Business and Corporation Related, Economics and the Economy, Main Stream Media, Humor.

 The Minneapolis Star-Tribune, suffering like many papers from revenue loss, has re-assigned one of its best opinion columnists to write "straight" news and features. James Lileks’ column, a feature for many years, is gone. With it goes the only reason to read the rage, when you get right down to it.

Read more here:  http://www.lileks.com/bleats/archive/07/0507/050707.html

And if you don’t know who James Lileks is, start here: http://www.lileks.com.

Among other things, he _gets_ what the Internet is, and what needs to happen to local papers in the new world.

His management sure doesn’t, though. 



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