Category: IT Development (Page 1 of 2)

Do you know what is real, and what is AI Generated?

What if everything you read on the internet was produced using Large Language Models? That all content you thought you are reading was generated by an AI? Would you be able to tell the difference? Can you read something and say, ‘no human would right this?’  

I have some favorite blog authors as well as podcasters. I read and listen to them regularly and wondered how they can be so productive. How they can churn out content as often as they do. I also looked back at my own writing and wondered how original I am? And if you do not know me well enough those thoughts drove me into a black hole of trying to see if how to determine if content is real, or LLM generated. 

First, I found a paper that describes multiple ways to determine if content was LLM generated. Discovered another article that shares words that tip you off that something was written by and LLM. And finally started kicking around with ZeroGPT as a site that allows you to put content in, and it will give you what percentage was written by an LLM! Of course I took my recent posts, and then incredibly old posts and wondered what it would say about what I wrote.  

My most popular post ever was done recently, telling a story about a tree falling in my yard.

It thinks the first two sentences were written by AI GPT, but the rest were not. So, it believes my post was written by a human, which is good. I am not sure a LLM would think of a story like this, nor compare it to a relationship. I went through my team building posts, and then decided to go back to the really old posts.  

First, one of my favorites Disney being the new ’Historians’ as Biopics distort history. This one turned out to be 100% human written. Next my quick thought about sometimes you paint the car, sometimes you paint the fish, also 100% human written. Other ones I won’t link also turned out to be estimated at 100% human written. And one, which is a story I have told often and a quote I use often Even a Blind Squirrel eventually finds a Nut (according to Google this is the most clicked on link from their search), was estimated to be 90% human written, and 10% AGI. Strange as that was written in 2017!  

Of course, next I started putting some of the people I read, and their content to the ZeroGPT test. Most came out with excellence (5% or lower AGI) but there were a few outliers whose content was marked as GPT. I would not say it shocked me that at least a few people were leveraging LLMs to write their content. What I think was shocking is some posts were marked as almost 100% written by AI. 


I am not calling them out by putting any of their content here. And I should note, for the past year or so I have been using a text editor that has some AI built into it. It attempts to correct my grammar, my spelling etc. The AI suggests wording that might be more appropriate. Sometimes I agree, sometimes I do not agree. It is my choice while writing and editing.  

A primary concern when using LLM-generated content is the potential lack of authenticity. Bloggers may unintentionally present ideas or viewpoints that are not their own, compromising their credibility and the trust of their audience. Reader’s value genuine voices and personal experiences, which LLMs may struggle to replicate. 

Looking back at my posts, what amazed me was the influence of others on my writing. Whether it be Bruce Lee (who I quote a lot) authors like Adam Grant, Simon Sinek, other podcasts like TWIT, Hidden Brain, Huberman labs, or even just friends, my views, thoughts, and ideas are an accumulation of what I pick up. And to quote Bruce again ‘Learning is never cumulative; it is a movement of knowing with no beginning and no end.’ I have regurgitated information like an LLM, but I knowingly make choices on what I keep and what I throw out. The algorithm is not guided by any rules, other than the decisions I make. I will continue to ingest from talented authors and podcasters, and I will use them as a guide to discover more about myself. I just hope my output is not decidedly systematic and that my posts are marked as written by an LLM. 

If you made it through the whole post, one paragraph was written by an LLM, wonder if you spotted it. To answer the question, I asked in the beginning. If everything were written by an LLM, it would still be up to us readers to decide if we want to read it, if we stop, then maybe the production of it will be reduced. 

This opinion is mine, and mine only, my current or former employers have nothing to do with it. I do not write for any financial gain, I do not take advertising and any product company listed was not done for payment. But if you do like what I write you can donate to the charity I support (with my wife who passed away in 2017) Morgan Stanley’s Children’s Hospital or donate to your favorite charity. I pay to host my site out of my own pocket, my intention is to keep it free.  I do read all feedback, I mostly wont post any of them. 

This Blog is a labor of love, and was originally going to be a book.  With the advent of being able to publish yourself on the web I chose this path.  I will write many of these and not worry too much about grammar or spelling (I will try to come back later and fix it) but focus on content.  I apologize in advance for my ADD as often topics may flip.  I hope one day to turn this into a book and or a podcast, but for now it will remain a blog.   AI is not used in this writing other than using the web to find information, and the one paragraph if you can find it. Images are from ZeroGPT, I do not have a financial investment with them, I used the free version FYI.

Team Building Part 4…. Team Goals

At the beginning of the year Teams set goals. Sport analogies make the most sense so I will use them again. In hockey, it is to win the Stanley Cup and in American Football it is to win the Lombardi Trophy. For some teams who the previous year the goal may not be as high, it could be simply to make the playoffs. Working in Technology it is often to do ‘project x’ or complete ‘project y,’ in sales (which I did as part of Tech consulting) it was sell X amount or bring in Y number of clients.  

The above fit ‘SMART’ (as we spoke about in Part 3) and I should just stop here, and presto we have magically created goals for the new year, and our team will successfully get them done. Well not so fast. Digging deeper and understanding a lofty goal like winning a championship has massive downside. In sports, only one team brings home the trophy each year, and thus the other 30 or so teams ‘failed.’ So, if your team does not reach goals, complete projects on time, bring in revenue etc., is it a failure? 

The first thing companies do wrong is do reviews only with individuals. In many cases the ‘manager’ or a team gets the team goal, and on his review when they do not get there, he is asked the reason etc. Now I have been on the ‘why didn’t you reach your goal’ (or the why I did,) I will use analogy not from sports, but for people who invest, when they have good year and their portfolio rises, it’s always ‘I am a great stock picker’ and when their portfolio crashes, it was ‘There are some outside forces’ like the SP500 is down, we are in a recessions. To me, when reviews are done like this, we put our managers in that same situation. Let him gloat how great he is when he succeeds and find all the outside issues when they do not. 

Team goals are just that, we should savor victory as a team, and share the disappointment in the loss. No company I have worked for, not any other I have read about has this notion of end of year team reviews. Companies do reward teams with lucites, cash etc. when hitting some ‘completion’ mark, or hit sales goals etc. But the review is missing, and more important digging into the why is lost. 

The second thing is that reviews are done and really managed ‘Annually.’ As bonus cycles, raises, promotions etc. Management needs some way to judge and compare so the process is set up this way. And as stated the process is done mostly one on one with people, not teams. Can you really review once a year and summarize twelve months of work for anyone or any team? And does not this scale well, how many individuals can you review, understand their impact for their year and give honest assessments.  

Software development teams who follow agile practices often do retrospectives. These are regularly scheduled (every two weeks or so) meetings to chat not about status, but about the process of development. Many create lists of what we should be doing more of what to stop doing, and other ideas to improve how the project is built. These even fall short, as they are momentary, and trying to look at a brief period, and once a quarter a 10,000-foot view should be done. A review on the retrospectives, looking at things like ‘why doesn’t anyone address the big issues.’ or is the retrospective helping us hit the goal. This goes back to the fact, it is hard to admit that there is something wrong, it is outside our control. 

And lastly, we look at failure completely wrong. Failure is not something we know how to deal with. I have told the story about the difference between college and the real world, using the example that if you made a three-legged table in college, the professor what give you an ‘A’ for proving you cannot build a three-legged table. In the real world you would get fired for not producing a product that could sell. But failures have some root cause behind it, and for teams to get better they need not look at a failure as a problem, but one of an experience.  

Failures should be something we look at as we understand what we did does not work, and have built the necessary tools, training, reminders to improve the team. Everyone talks about ‘getting’ better, and no great person made zero mistakes. Why are we not celebrating the failures, and using them to make the team better? Why in management meetings do we demo/talk only about projects that succeeded, the successful architecture etc. Each of those projects had mini-failures, things they did wrong and corrected. And instead of teaching the rest of the organization and other teams how to get past those failures, we show the ‘success’ and the chance to repeat those failures persists. We need to present failures, and the lessons learned, and reinforcement so they are not made again.  

Though I make this sound easy, at the start of 2023 I am planning to redo how I run my team and try to fix some of the above. Funny, I knew these problems existed and I complained about them in the 90s. But writing this blog has made me rethink how to address them. I will let you know how they work out.  So on my to do list is to create a structure where I have recurring team meetings where we address goal changes (to be pushed down to individual goals) and create a culture where failures are brought forward as a learning experience.

This opinion is mine, and mine only, my current or former employers have nothing to do with it. I do not write for any financial gain, I do not take advertising and any product company listed was not done for payment. But if you do like what I write you can donate to the charity I support (with my wife who passed away in 2017) Morgan Stanley’s Children’s Hospital or donate to your favorite charity. I pay to host my site out of my own pocket, my intention is to keep it free.  I do read all feedback, I mostly wont post any of them

This Blog is a labor of love, and was originally going to be a book.  With the advent of being able to publish yourself on the web I chose this path.  I will write many of these and not worry too much about grammar or spelling (I will try to come back later and fix it) but focus on content.  I apologize in advance for my ADD as often topics may flip.  I hope one day to turn this into a book and or a podcast, but for now it will remain a blog.

Team Building Part 3 (Don’t be SMART)

Ok, I will admit it I went for a clickbait title. And no one fell for it. It
is that time of the year where organizations are starting Goal setting for the
year. There are different ways of doing this: Pushing Goals where the
management tell you what your goals, Pulling Goals where the employees come upwith them and managers then nod their heads politely and agree, and the
Combo-platter where both have input. There is absolutely nothing wrong with
either of these methods for creating goals.

To write the goals they tell you to use the SMART method. Created
in 1981 on the surface it sounds logical. The mnemonic is for Specific,
Measurable, Achievable, Relevant and Time-bound. All incredibly useful for
creating goals. But, after a one-on-one meeting and the goals are decided is
where it fails. Your new year’s resolutions can be created the same way and how
many of them have you every completed?

So, what is wrong with goals? Nothing is wrong with goals; you should have
them. What is wrong is that it that the process mostly ends there. [Actually,
based on feedback I get I can go into why goals should be at a team level not
at individual level as part 4] What makes teams succeed at hitting goals, what
makes individual good at hitting goals is not having them. Having a goal is
just that, a target to aim for.

What I would like the next step to be is finding a ‘system’ to achieve your
goal. In fact, most people have done this without thinking about it. Have you
ever created flash cards to quiz yourself about a topic in school? Have you
ever written something over and over to memorize it? Have you done math
problems 100s of times till you got it write. These are ‘practices’ that help
you achieve a goal. Now those systems are documented, a system you create for
your team/individual goal may need to be created.

If you set a goal to lose weight as a New Year’s resolution, the next step must
be what diet are you going to be on, what workout to do and steps. Some of the
most successful people who get fit schedule their workouts on their calendar,
plan their meals, do shopping and pre-make meals and stick to it. This system
is more effective than just having a goal.

What is the system will allow you for your team to hit their goals is
something as a leader you need to solve. In the Agile development world, it
starts with something called Sprint Zero, where the team comes up with
processes, ceremonies, interactions etc. for how the team works. Getting this
setup early is a must, everyone must be on the same page. This should be a team
activity with everyone involved in giving feedback.

As part of the process there needs to be a check to see if the system is
working. In Agile this is called a retrospective. This is where the team has to
take a look at the plan it setup and determine if it is helping reach the goal.
Make changes to the system, see if they work, if not undo. Do not be afraid to
make a mistake! It is ok to try something and fail but understand what went wrong.

A sports analogy gets thrown in. During a season, and often during a game
coaches make changes. Whether it is the players on the field, strategy, mindset
etc. Even when winning a coach can still see things that are not working perfectly,
they still may find something to tweak.

If the system is working well, apply it to other goals. The better you get
at your system the easier it is to achieve goals. And as stated before, just
because something is working does not mean it cannot be improved! Another link
to sports, often teams hire coaches that were successful, and part of the
reasoning is the coach will bring his or her ‘system.’ Companies do this with
successful managers up to C-level executives. No one is hired because they
‘create’ SMART goals, people are hired because they reach them.

So, it is ok to have SMART goals, but being SMART does not get you to reach
them. Having a system, constantly improving the system is what drives
successful teams.

This opinion is mine, and mine only, my current or former employers have nothing to do with it. I do not write for any financial gain, I do not take advertising and any product company listed was not done for payment. But if you do like what I write you can donate to the charity I support (with my wife who passed away in 2017) Morgan Stanley’s Children’s Hospital or donate to your favorite charity. I pay to host my site out of my own pocket, my intention is to keep it free.  I do read all feedback, I mostly wont post any of them

This Blog is a labor of love, and was originally going to be a book.  With the advent of being able to publish yourself on the web I chose this path.  I will write many of these and not worry too much about grammar or spelling (I will try to come back later and fix it) but focus on content.  I apologize in advance for my ADD as often topics may flip.  I hope one day to turn this into a book and or a podcast, but for now it will remain a blog.

Team Building…. Part Deux

Often the likeliness of someone having an enjoyable experience is the notion of what they expected from it. “We find that there is some truth to this: lower expectations make it more likely that an outcome will exceed those expectations and have a positive impact on happiness.” Dr. Robb Rutledge (2014.) My parents understood that, as they would say, you cannot be disappointed if you do not expect much. 

Maybe it is why many people do not like their birthdays, or at least there are more holidays (in the US) they prefer better. We expect so much, presents, accolades etc. but it never lives up to expectations. 

Sorry for the ADHD side bit. But what about teams? If we look at athletic teams, without a doubt if they fail to meet the fans expectations, they had a bad season. In most cases that is winning a title, but of course only one team can win a title. Many fans end the season disappointed, but as I have written in the past, you need to look down when climbing a mountain, as well as hearing from athletes whose teams finished second, and the notion they thought it was a failure vs. celebrating how far they got (Joe Burrow quoting Kurt Warner)

What about your teams in the ‘real world.’ After years of doing ‘SMART’ goals (Doran et al in 1981) but more mainstream in the late 90s, that goal setting is not really that successful (What percentage of New Years Resolutions stick?) What really drives successful outcomes is creating systems to achieve goals (blog post coming as part of this series.) 

Back to the topic, setting expectations and doing it the right way. Now if I told you the expectation for you was the following what would you think: 

  • Show up on Time 
  • Get you Work Done on Time 
  • Do not bring me problems, Bring me Solutions 
  • You are responsible for your own career 

Honestly, this was a lot of the places I worked. Punch in on time, and even the ‘need to stay late’ (it was implied but never written down) To the point managers walked the floor to see when people left. But that does not drive engagement, nor does it get the most out of a team. 

But what if the list was more like this: 

  • You should Enjoy Working here (Work should be fun) 
  • Let your teammates know your schedule 
  • Ask for help when needed, and help others when they ask 
  • If there is an issue, raise it up as soon as possible so the team can triage and resolve it. 

Now does that sound more like the correct expectations for your team? That is my list (shortened its a bit longer but you get the idea) in fact ‘delivering’ is at the bottom. In most cases if you do the top, the projects get done. If you think I work in an exciting place writing cool stuff like VR or AI. No, my team builds data gathering and managing systems to help the business file corporate taxes. Ask anyone though, everyone enjoys working on the team, it’s not about the work, it’s about the team. 

Look, just think back to kindergarten when your teacher asked you what you want to be when you grow up (ok, yeah we went over this it is a bad question.) But no one grows up saying ‘I want to write data extraction and transformation code so the business can load tax software.’ So, how do you attract people to the team, find quality developers and grow them? Simple, create an environment where the expectations are not about SMART goals, adding revenue, creating miracle solutions, lying etc. It is expectations of working on a team that thinks enjoying work is first, and trust and cooperative environment. 

Setting the expectations this way is achievable, unlike unrealistic business goals. Building the system so that we follow those pillars allows us to build any software. Think about the best places you have worked, and often you remember the people, the good times and occasionally the product (if it was unique that is different.) The stories you tell of the crazy times are what you recall. Set the expectations so the goal is to get the best out of the employees, and they will deliver the best products for you. Richard Branson is quoted as saying “Employees come first. If you take care of your employees, they will take care of the clients.” 

This opinion is mine, and mine only, my current or former employers have nothing to do with it. I do not write for any financial gain, I do not take advertising and any product company listed was not done for payment. But if you do like what I write you can donate to the charity I support (with my wife who passed away in 2017) Morgan Stanley’s Children’s Hospital or donate to your favorite charity. I pay to host my site out of my own pocket, my intention is to keep it free. I do read all feedback, I mostly wont post any of them

This Blog is a labor of love, and was originally going to be a book. With the advent of being able to publish yourself on the web I chose this path. I will write many of these and not worry too much about grammar or spelling (I will try to come back later and fix it) but focus on content. I apologize in advance for my ADD as often topics may flip. I hope one day to turn this into a book and or a podcast, but for now it will remain a blog.

Team Building .. Part 1.. Teams and one of my kids..

This is going to be the first in I am not sure how many parts about team building. Originally a discussion with a person who worked for me about 5–6 years ago (now not even at my company) and we talked about creating a podcast. But it is just something that will be a limited set and if I get the energy it will turn into a series of videos. But I go back to something I was told when I was younger, that I have the face for radio…. Now on with part 1. (Please note they will not be an any particular order, but based on what I was thinking at that time…) 

Recently I was asked what I do… and without much thought I stated, ‘I build teams and my teams create software.” Yes, I know that goes against the I make a living being myself, but I needed to respond with something that was a bit more substantial. But what makes a good team? Why do I have someone who worked with me 5+ years ago discussing how to build a team (and he is not the first.) 

I often relate teams to sports and raising children for the simple fact that we are dealing with human beings, and humans act in the same way whether it is work, home or at group type events (sports.) During my time as a parent, coach, and manager I always wanted to seem “approachable.” I remember when I first started at a financial firm, the senior manager said they had an ‘open door’ policy. One that anyone could walk in and talk to them. I took them up on it, and not only had some good conversations but created a friendship. Looking back, not many people took advantage of this, and I did. 

Why didn’t these people take advantage of this? Were they afraid of it? Could it be that many of the people who said “I have an open-door policy” actually mean it? Could it be they were never around for people to walk in? Or that anything brought up was shot down? That if they were challenged, they rejected that challenge? Does that manager push work down and over manage his/her employees that a challenge seems futile? I am sure you can think of another. 

Now to relate this to my personal life: My daughter is gay, and my wife and I guessed this long before she told us. And knowing others who have come out and told friends and family, I can see how difficult of a challenge it can be. I do know she did not openly tell us to a period of time after she figured it out, and why did she not do that. If a manager has an open-door policy, obviously parents should have one with their kids. Why wait so long, why wait so long to tell anyone. Well, the answer is simply fear. Children are afraid of the reaction and the possibility of being rejected. So, the person who manages children (the parents) has to make the child feel safe and confident that bringing this up to them without this fear. 

What does this have to do with team building? The first thing all teams need is to have this notion that all ideas, all thoughts can be brought up within the team without the fear of rejection. From the most Junior developer to the CTO there needs the ability to challenge, to question, to bring up ideas or just ask a question must exist. Not only must the door be open, but the team members must feel comfortable having these conversations. This is training both the people asking the questions as well as those who are listening, and more importantly how to respond. Responding often can be just “let us dig into it.” The use of “us” is key (yeah, the no I in team thing). Remember the key is not having to do what they ask, but to at least allow the discussion to happen and to reinforce to the person who brought it up, that is was great they did. 

This may go against some key ideas of management structure, that the boss demands things, and that passes down. There is that classic story of ‘hiring someone smarter than you’ — Well if you do that, you better listen to them, and ensure they are comfortable in challenging you. Or the theory, hire people in your blind spot, thus again they need to challenge you. 

Look at your team (which is company, family, activity) and ask the question do you have the culture of being open enough to listen? Have we removed the fear so that anyone who can improve us is willing to talk? Have we trained people to speak up? Do we reinforce even if ideas are rejected to continue to bring things up? 

These things are hard to do in a bubble, but it can be done. And although I try my best to do this, I sometimes make mistakes. I will always try to improve it. 

This opinion is mine, and mine only, my current or former employers have nothing to do with it. I do not write for any financial gain, I do not take advertising and any product company listed was not done for payment. But if you do like what I write you can donate to the charity I support (with my wife who passed away in 2017) Morgan Stanley’s Children’s Hospital or donate to your favorite charity. I pay to host my site out of my own pocket, my intention is to keep it free. I do read all feedback, I mostly wont post any of them

This Blog is a labor of love, and was originally going to be a book. With the advent of being able to publish yourself on the web I chose this path. I will write many of these and not worry too much about grammar or spelling (I will try to come back later and fix it) but focus on content. I apologize in advance for my ADD as often topics may flip. I hope one day to turn this into a book and or a podcast, but for now it will remain a blog.

What driving off a cliff and AI have in common.

I remember when GPS for cars became popular, and you heard stories of people driving over a cliff, or into a river following the GPS blindly. I laughed at some of the stories, and when you hear the responses that they were following what the GPS said. Immediately I wondered if these people had common sense, any my parents telling me “If the GPS said jump of a bridge would you?” I guess some people do?

But, what if it is not their fault? What is they were trained to believe the GPS is smarter than him, and thus should trust it more than their own brain. I may divert from the GPS example here, but I want it to be a bit more relevant to the technology we are facing today.

In the early days of the internet, it was a plethora of information out there, and really no good way to find anything. Along came search engines, they were ok, and users could find information. Skip a few years, and someone decided on catalog and organizing the information was a better way for people to search. Yahoo, amllowed you to traverse the internet (well a limited set of the internet human curated) with ease. Then came google. Google came up with an algorithm that just worked better, and did it without human intervention, thus making Yahoo not a scalable business model.

Google continued to evolve, as they realized they could help people ‘answer questions’ vs just search. This started in 2012 when they added calculator to their results and continued in 2014 when google added the answer box. Now, answers were instantly on the first page, and the users could get answers faster. I liken this to when you were a kid and you thought your parents knew everything, and in many cases they had the answer. I don’t really think anyone growing up once they asked their dad a question, they spent the time looking up if they were correct in the Encyclopedia Britannica. In some cases, we asked a teacher other person we held in authority.

So a quick recap, even before the internet people liked asking a question and getting an answer without having to do further work. Now there is the phenomenon that kids start being curious once they start school, but I am not talking about that. At all ages we look at authority and believe they are telling the truth, we trust ‘authority.’ So now we have a search engine that started in 1998 that quickly grew to being the ‘authoritative source’ of information on the internet, and now answers questions. From 2014 on we trust typing in a question to something faceless and believe the answer.

Along comes ChatGPT and other AI tools, which now don’t give alternatives or a list of sites to answer the question but a great sounding answer. Amazingly we type an answer and assume it is ‘correct.’ Like asking our parents when we were 4, ChatGPT answers in a way that sounds correct and is written well enough it appears to be written by another human. But, AI well has nothing to do with “intelligence” right now. They are just trained on lots of data, have a filter so they may or may not go awry (though people have figured out how to get it too) and the ability to respond in an impressive sounding answer.

So, our brain takes the shortcut and ass, then gets a response, and as we did when we were 4, when we were in school, following a GPS off a cliff, googling a question we take the shortcut and assume it is the truth. As humans, maybe we need to learn to challenge answers, use common sense and find trusted sources for the question we are asking. It unfortunately is a lot of work, it means not looking always at the first answer, not looking at only the sources you always go to, and digging and learning more than you might want to. Being a human is actually hard work, and why do our brains take the shortcut, and I do know I have the privilege of being able to think and challenge what I know (due to my upbringing etc. we have discussed this in the past.) I even asked ChatGPT why humans trust them…

Now there are other things that are happening (and will happen) that I won’t get into here but might soon. Sources can be biased by what data they leverage, the algorithm they put in, their desire to have an agenda etc. What is true today, may change tomorrow (answers are different) the words people use can affect your opinion (we discussed this one already.). So yes, being a human is tough, so I expect someone will watch while their AI self-driving car drives off a cliff and will say “The GPS and the AI of the car knows what it is doing…” Hopefully after reading this, you don’t always take the short cut.

Disclaimer 

This opinion is mine, and mine only, my current or former employers have nothing to do with it. I do not write for any financial gain, I do not take advertising and any product company listed was not done for payment. But if you do like what I write you can donate to the charity I support (with my wife who passed away in 2017) Morgan Stanley’s Children’s Hospital or donate to your favorite charity. I pay to host my site out of my own pocket, my intention is to keep it free.  I do read all feedback, I mostly wont post any of them

This Blog is a labor of love, and was originally going to be a book.  With the advent of being able to publish yourself on the web I chose this path.  I will write many of these and not worry too much about grammar or spelling (I will try to come back later and fix it) but focus on content.  I apologize in advance for my ADD as often topics may flip.  I hope one day to turn this into a book and or a podcast, but for now it will remain a blog. 

Above the normal disclaimer, this does not mean all search engine are bad, or all AI returns bad results, just think about it. And questions it.

Airplanes that Survived Battles… And Social Media Success

In World War II – The US Military examined planes that were coming back for battle and looking at where they were shot. The proposed that they should add additional armor where the plane were hit… But that is incredibly flawed logic. Abraham Wald contradicted the conclusion the US Military came to, stating “you are looking at planes that survived battle… ” The correct thing is to look at planes that were shot down, and figure out why they didn’t make it back. It is adding armor to weak spots should be the correct conclusion.

This is a well documented theory now called “Survivorship Bias”. And the examples of this are used often. I had posted in 2016 about an artist I knew did a lot of work, drafts, versions etc. before the perfect painting was completed. I didn’t really relate this to survivorship bias in the core sense, but it is. So any time you hear a song from a band that hits the charts, see a great painting from an artist what you are seeing is just that. The hundreds of other failures are missing.

This leads me something that I didn’t realize I was doing, and in some cases we see at much larger scale. I have posted for years pictures of my commute by ferry (sunrises and sunsets) – and I often get ‘wow’ that is amazing. Of course I only post the ones that truly are stunning. What most people don’t see, is the 1,000’s of pictures I have taken, sometimes 10-20 in a single commute to get the one picture I post. I have also been taking pictures for years, starting photography when I was a teen (had dark room in my basement) and continuing to explore the hobby all of my life.

Recently, I have seen the growth of people making money on social media (Youtube, FB, Instagram, TikTok) and this notion that there is a “creator economy…” And got me thinking about connecting the dots. Based on what TikTok pays, for a million views you get a whopping $20. I do think Youtube pays more, Twitter doesn’t pay anything yet. But how many people actually are “posting” to these platforms, and how many people are getting enough views to make a living?

What starts popping up now are classes on how to make money making videos on platform x. If you were making enough money doing it, why sell a class? But I also start putting this in perspective, how many high school athletes play college than pro? How many top students get full rides to Ivy schools then make millions? How many garage startups become the next Apple or Google? The odds may be against you, but obviously if you do not take the risk there is no possibility of reward.

There are also people posting about crypto, options trading, beat the stock market memes etc. And showing their ‘accounts’ as proof. They are also ‘selling their formula.’ Not many showing how many times they lose, or there is no one posting on social media a class how they failed at ‘investing’. Now of course there are people who complain, and freak out on their personal posts, but no one offering a class on how to fail. But the success stories (other than the fraud) is more of survivorship bias vs. failures.

When I was growing up, the general statement was “Go to college, get a degree, get a job for life with a pension.” But also note, the same economist that stated that also promoted “Globalization, and moving of low wage manufacturing jobs would raise the level of economic growth of all countries” (This was mostly the excuse for the US to move away from manufacturing to Third World countries and we all would grow, but I guess that should be another conversation) The notion of going to college was based on a chart that people with a ‘Degree’ were higher earners vs those with just a High School Diploma. Is that again a symptom of Survivorship bias?

And lastly, there are a lot of great books written about “how to be successful” by people who were successful. But, looking at many of them, maybe there was more luck than anything (genetics lottery, right place right time etc.) I go back to my simple thought, of being the best Larry Gold I can be, and try to succeed at that. And not chase other people’s success, or think wow just cause so-so is making money on social media that if I just followed those simple steps I will. That a podcast, Youtube, TikTok etc. will suddenly bring me in tons of passive income. I follow my passions in my job, my family, my friends and things I do, and find success in that (and that is my survivorship bias..) Oh and I will post my occasional commute pictures….

This opinion is mine, and mine only, my current or former employers have nothing to do with it. I do not write for any financial gain, I do not take advertising and any product company listed was not done for payment. But if you do like what I write you can donate to the charity I support (with my wife who passed away in 2017) Morgan Stanley’s Children’s Hospital or donate to your favorite charity. I pay to host my site out of my own pocket, my intention is to keep it free.  I do read all feedback, I mostly wont post any of them

This Blog is a labor of love, and was originally going to be a book.  With the advent of being able to publish yourself on the web I chose this path.  I will write many of these and not worry too much about grammar or spelling (I will try to come back later and fix it) but focus on content.  I apologize in advance for my ADD as often topics may flip.  I hope one day to turn this into a book and or a podcast, but for now it will remain a blog. 

The root of Culture is ‘Cult’

Your favorite baseball/football/hockey or whatever team has been losing for years. The local media says the team has a culture of losing and they need to change it. The locker room needs to bring in someone with winning pedigree to change it. This is something repeated time and time, like its a magic bullet that fixes the problem instantly. If it was that easy, wouldn’t ever team do it?

But what if you want to change the culture of a company. Just go recruit someone from a winning company and presto, your company is instantly successful. I hate to disappoint you, no, that does not work. If you have an example, well, most likely it is a result of survivor bias.

Culture exists on a team or a company for now the what they do, but how they do it. And the longer the “how” is tolerated or rewarded my more ingrained it is in the culture. A single outside voice, no matter how successful is not going turn the ship around.

So how do you change culture? Understand one key, culture exists is that there is “buy in” on the change. In fact it is like a cult, people buy in and then change to fit in. Of course if getting people to buy in, is that easy wouldn’t everyone do it?

If we are saying its a cult, why not look at how cults lure people in:

  1. Cults know Humans are ‘pack animals.’ They want to a sense of belonging, a sense of community. Easily picking on people who feel lonely.
  2. People also want a sense of purpose. Somehow from a young age we are told we have a destiny, we are here for a reason. Cults sell a purpose of a mission and make you a part of it.
  3. They promise you some personal goal, growth, achievement. That by being part of this community you will find self-improvement and enlightenment.
  4. They have charismatic leaders. People who can sell ice to eskimos (as they saying goes). People who are down, lonely see this charisma and are attracted to it.
  5. They manipulate their disciples. The leaders know human weaknesses, and prey on emotions, mental states of people who if they had a better mindset would not normally be gullable.
  6. There is a sense of urgency. This is a big sales tactic. Make someone feel they will miss out.
  7. Show off “success” (survivor bias) Everyone here is having a great time, our lives are ‘better’ than yours.

Looking at the list, many of the same tactics are used in Sales. Thing of Amazon showing an item that says “3 Left” — An email saying “our semi-annual sale” which somehow seems to last 6 months at time. Any add showing how your life will be so much better if you just drank their light beer. So these tactics, are not just used for cults, but used in general to convince people to do something, vote some way.

So how do you apply this to change the culture of your team or business.

  1. You do need someone who is charismatic. Actually you may need more than one. The larger the organization, the more people you will need to “sell the message”
  2. Imply there is a sense of urgency. Is there a competitor that will over take your company, are people’s jobs are the line. There needs to be some idea that the change needs to be now.
  3. Find the purpose. And it might be multiple. In larger organizations each different area needs different purposes. I have found this is a challenge, and often the purpose is to work with great people. The work, is secondary.
  4. Instead of talking about change, talk about growth. Even the word “better” is difficult, as often people will get defensive about what they do now. But growing personally, and professionally is an easier sell.
  5. Find a few people who already bought in, and parade them around as being part of this community. This needs to be people who are seen as leaders, viewed as successful. Build the desire to want to be part of that group. To not be the outsider.

I hold off on manipulation, deprivation etc. Anything done should be done in growth and positives. There are a few differences that I believe companies (and yes teams) needs to also drive.

  1. Leaders must lead by example. Any change in culture needs examples, and those who are doing the talking must walk the walk. People can easily spot out those who talk, but do something out. This instantly kills the change.
  2. Reward positive behavior. Companies reward the “what” gets done, and ignore the how. And often the how is this negative behavior. If reward is on the bad behavior, it will continue. Recognize people doing the right “how” — and reward them
  3. Be patient and persistent. It is not going change overnight. Change may have to start with one smaller group, and show the success and use that as an example.
  4. Provide training and development. Emails, or links to ‘videos’ are not going to do it. In person is preferred if possible.
  5. Reinforce often. It should be the highlight over and over (repetition till its true)
  6. Encourage participation and feedback.
  7. Continuously evolve the culture. It will need to change…

This is not a guarantee of success. Culture change is very difficult but it is possible. So maybe trading for someone who is charismatic, and can push a sense of belonging, purpose could change the fortunes of a team.

Disclaimer 

This opinion is mine, and mine only, my current or former employers have nothing to do with it. I do not write for any financial gain, I do not take advertising and any product company listed was not done for payment. But if you do like what I write you can donate to the charity I support (with my wife who passed away in 2017) Morgan Stanley’s Children’s Hospital or donate to your favorite charity. I pay to host my site out of my own pocket, my intention is to keep it free.  I do read all feedback, I mostly wont post any of them

This Blog is a labor of love, and was originally going to be a book.  With the advent of being able to publish yourself on the web I chose this path.  I will write many of these and not worry too much about grammar or spelling (I will try to come back later and fix it) but focus on content.  I apologize in advance for my ADD as often topics may flip.  I hope one day to turn this into a book and or a podcast, but for now it will remain a blog. 

If everyone wore their fandom on their sleeves

I am at a NJ Devils game, wearing my team colors as always and sitting with my daughter on one side, but surrounded by fans. Most wearing Jersey’s, t-shirts etc. for the Devils and cheering every good play. The Devils light the lamp (hockey terminology for scoring) everyone screams, and starts giving high fives to the people they came with, then they start doing the same to anyone standing and cheering. A bond is immediately created as we are all rooting for the same team, and with that one thing in common for the 2+ hours the game is going we have new friends.

Another simple example of this, while out shopping for my daughter I notice people were dressed in NJ Devils gear. I asked if they were going to the game tonight, they were. We chatted for a it and then it was “go devils” and we both continued our shopping mission. Again, a simple one thing in common linked by what we were wearing. For those moments we never asked about anything other than our fandom.

But looking back at both incidents I wondered if people knew more about you in an instant would that instant bond work. For example If i was wearing a NJ Devils Jersey and a St Louis Ram hat would either situation be different. Most of the people in the NY/NJ area are fans of say the Giants or the Jets, would the person who sees that suddenly not think we are on the same page due to different “likes.” Say if I wore a political t-shirt instead? What if I wore a Qanon Hat with my Devils shirt. What if I wore a PETA hat with my Devils shirt? Would the person next to me at the game give me a high five? Would the person talk to me while I was shopping.

This thought piggy backs on studies that have been seeing how compassionate people are, or helping someone out. Basically if you thinking about your “football team” and saw someone hurt with another jersey you didn’t help, if you were thinking about the sport football in general, you did help. Aka if your mindset is on something in common you were more compassionate then if not. So what if the signals are mixed. Are you going to high five someone a few days after the election if your candidate lost? And why is it so polarizing, why do we think that we lose ourselves by being friends with someone who has opposing political views.

I wish I could do a study, but I can honestly believe that if I did, I would start a lot of fights. Some how we now believe that people who think differently politically then we do are now ripping at out souls. Worse than any sport rivalry, and worse than Hatfield and McCoys. And I was part of it. There was a time I felt that pressure, to not only push my ideas on others, but if they didn’t agree they were not worth my time.

I am not sure what change, I often think about it and wonder. The first memory of this “world is over” was when Regan won the presidency. Led by MTV and younger opinions that our world would be led into a Nuclear war. Looking back that didn’t happen, it was actually the reverse. Next when Obama was elected there was this push we would all end up in socialism. Strange, did we? Nope. That is not to say either president was perfect and all their policies were wonderful. It was the fear mongering that was worse. The notion that we were not being led by exceptional ideas, but by fear if the other guy won. I once told my dad, that when the vote went to balance the power with the president being democrat and the congress republican I thought Americans got it right. We somehow find ways to mitigate the risk of the far left or the far right from control.

But, now how do we manage to get the fanaticism that we are all humans, have many of the same problems and want the same future (safe, happy, filled with optimism, security) to high five each other as those goals are reached vs. the animosity of the process to get there. I know there is very little agreement on the what we do, and now the how is also questioned, but maybe we need to find ways to try some solutions in smaller areas and learn from failures. The same study that showed fandom leads to helping others that are in your group, that instead of seeing someone with an opposing Jersey the enemy, not a fan of the same football team you are, you see them as a fan of football. We may have many subdivides, but at we all wear one Jersey.

This opinion is mine, and mine only, my current or former employers have nothing to do with it. I do not write for any financial gain, I do not take advertising and any product company listed was not done for payment. But if you do like what I write you can donate to the charity I support (with my wife who passed away in 2017) Morgan Stanley’s Children’s Hospital or donate to your favorite charity. I pay to host my site out of my own pocket, my intention is to keep it free.  I do read all feedback, I mostly wont post any of them

This Blog is a labor of love, and was originally going to be a book.  With the advent of being able to publish yourself on the web I chose this path.  I will write many of these and not worry too much about grammar or spelling (I will try to come back later and fix it) but focus on content.  I apologize in advance for my ADD as often topics may flip.  I hope one day to turn this into a book and or a podcast, but for now it will remain a blog. 

I’ll buy comfortable sneakers for under $50 each…

“Shoes as a source of first impressions,” (2012), Gillath et al. – Is something that I heard for most of my life. In fact when I was younger (in the 70s-80s) kids noticed if you had the latest sneakers. When my daughter was growing up (she is 20 now – do your own math) there was this race to have some of the latest Jordans (yes she was into it) In fact now down at the Jersey Shore outlets there is a store that sells hard to find Jordans ad ridiculous prices. A friend knowing I am a hacking geek recently asked me could I write something so once he gets an alert that it could go to the nike site, buy the shoes faster than humans can click.

As a kid I guess I got into it, but somehow this pushed into adulthood. During my younger years I was told to be a success you need to first get a great pair of shoes, it was the first thing people notice. And in dating, there are articles that tell women to look at a persons shoes, and in their apartment if they use milk crates as shelves. All of these make me wonder, is there real research behind that? Or is it just some filtering that is all about money? Do you actually need to look rich and successful to be rich and successful.

Ok so maybe its a subset of “dress for the job you want…” which all sounds good until you show up at work dressed like Gene Simmons from KISS. Or maybe the people at footlocker want to all be referees? Ok, back to reality, the challenge with hearing these comments, is it sounds like success if it is not about a meritocracy but more about looking the right part.

I was fortunate I chose to be in IT – and well according to movies we all were overweight, dressed like slobs, and don’t know how to brush our own hair. Even working at a fortune 500 company – where when I started we had to dress up dress down Fridays kicked in. Then it kinda grew from there. Covid seemed to make it now so that WFH changed all dress code rules recently. But back to reality, the dress at some offices have gone a bit more casual over the years.

To me I started to wonder, maybe that rule is actually the opposite. Are people dressing up cause they are successful or want to be? Are they dressing up cause there is some deficiency or not as good as others. Will dressing up get them promoted vs the person who adds value for the company. Telling an impressionable 20 something year old at their first job is supposed to make them conform? It is strange that this is a piece of advice we give new employees vs. learn how to add value

So what does this have to do with shoes/sneakers. To me, after years of wrecking my ankles, what I need more than anything is a sneaker that is comfortable and has support (the right arch.). I found a brand, and fortunately they not only have outlet stores but also discount often online. In fact not only do I have a brand, I have ordered 3 pairs of the same sneaker for about 3 years now (when they start to completely wear out) . Lucky they have not been discontinued completely. They actually updated them, but I think it was just a new name and same sneaker. Now 3 pairs have cost me about $100. I have been doing this for 30 years. And honestly I don’t care they are not the latest, greatest thing. The support me, feel comfortable and my feet do not hurt at the end of the day. And at the price, once they wear out, i replace them quickly.

The question is have I ever been not promoted, rejected by some girl, or other wise lost success due to my choices, well I have no idea. And honestly I do not seem to worry about it at all. In fact maybe its the opposite, sometimes I see someone with overpriced shoes I start wondering what are they trying to hide. What deficiency are they making up for. So enjoy the most comfortable shoes you can wear, wear them with pride and add value, if you want to succeed and the company you work for is selecting the better dressed person, you are at the wrong place.

This opinion is mine, and mine only, my current or former employers have nothing to do with it. I do not write for any financial gain, I do not take advertising and any product company listed was not done for payment. But if you do like what I write you can donate to the charity I support (with my wife who passed away in 2017) Morgan Stanley’s Children’s Hospital or donate to your favorite charity. I pay to host my site out of my own pocket, my intention is to keep it free.  I do read all feedback, I mostly wont post any of them

This Blog is a labor of love, and was originally going to be a book.  With the advent of being able to publish yourself on the web I chose this path.  I will write many of these and not worry too much about grammar or spelling (I will try to come back later and fix it) but focus on content.  I apologize in advance for my ADD as often topics may flip.  I hope one day to turn this into a book and or a podcast, but for now it will remain a blog. 

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