Thursday, September 19, 2013

The Race We Run

This is a 400m race track.

I took it from the Internet.  It has a few key attributes.  

Namely - two straight bits on either side, and round bits at the end.  

They use the straight bits for the 100m.  

But, that’s not what I’m talking about today.  What I’m talking about today is the 400m.  

The 400m is a reasonably straightforward race.  Each runner is given a lane.  They must stay in that lane while they run.  And whoever crosses the finish line first wins.  

Simple.  

In fact, the only complicated thing about the 400m race is that not all the lanes are of equal length.  

You see, the 400m refers only to the inside track - the inner most lane - whilst the other lanes are slightly longer, and longer, as they go on out.  All the way to the 8th lane, right on the edge.  

This leads to something of an oddity.  In the 100m everyone lines up shoulder to shoulder - they all start from the same point, and run in exactly the same 100m lanes.  This is not the case in the 400m.  

This is what the starting line looks like in the 400m:


They stagger the start.  The person on the inside lane ostensibly starts at the back of the pack, with the person in the 8th lane starting the farthest forward.  

This is done to ensure everyone runs exactly 400m.  If the runners were to line up shoulder to shoulder only the inside lane would run 400m.  Assuming a 1.25m wide lanes the distances would break down like this (1):

Lane 1 - 400m
Lane 2 - 408m
Lane 3 - 416m
Lane 4 - 424m
Lane 5 - 431m
Lane 6 - 439m
Lane 7 - 447m
Lane 8 - 454m

The outside three lanes would end up running 10-15% further than the inside lane.  This would make a mockery of the event.  The inside lane runner would win basically every time.  Sure, occasionally you’d get someone from another lane winning, but they would have to be truly exceptional.  

It might happen at a smaller sporting event where you have people of much lower calibre.  At an event like the Olympics, however, where everyone is at peak condition, and tenths-of-a-second make all the different, the inside lane would be the only place to be.  In a tournament of people of essentially equal skill, in a race that’s meant to be fair, the inside lane would win every time.  

So they stagger the start.  Lane 2 gets to start 8m ahead.  Lane 3 gets to move 16m ahead.  Lane 8 gets to move a staggering 54m further forward.  Leaving Lane 1 all on their lonesome.  

But Lane 1 people don’t get upset when they look up from the starting block and see seven other people ostensibly in front.  

They know that, ultimately, the race is fair.  They know they’re all running the same 400m.  

They know that it will come down to talent, perseverance, and merit to see who wins.  

This approach to the 400m is affirmative action.  

It is a process of giving advantage to people who have been disadvantaged by the system, to bring them to equal pegging with the inside lane.  

People who oppose affirmative action want the 400m to be run like the 100m - with everybody starting shoulder to shoulder.  They want Lane 1 to run 400m, and Lane 8 running 454m.  They get worried when they look up from the starting block and see a Lane 8 all that way ahead - they don’t understand that that’s the only way a fair race can be run.  

It is the only way we can ensure that people truly succeed on merit.

People opposed to affirmative action want everybody starting from the same place.

People in favour of affirmative action want everybody running the same race.

A fair race.



1 - http://www.brianmac.co.uk/tracklane.htm

2 - I forgot where I got the images.  if they're yours, and you are angry at me, I will replace them.  


Saturday, August 10, 2013

Tony Abbott is paying people to like him.

Not too long ago Tony Abbott's staff uploaded this image to their Facebook page - 


100,000 likes is very impressive!  It's a pity that they are clearly being made by bots.  

Some enterprising souls noticed that Mr Abbott's likes had been growing very quickly of late.  Growing out of line with any expectation.  

This is what Mr Abbott's increase in likes looks like - https://www.facebook.com/TonyAbbottMP/likes

For comparison this is Kevin Rudd's - https://www.facebook.com/KevinRuddMP/likes

And the Liberal Party of Australia's - https://www.facebook.com/LiberalPartyAustralia/likes
Edit - Added the Liberal Party page for another comparison.

That alone looks suspicious.  Notice the sharp increase in the grey line - new likes - and the almost direct correlation between new likes and "people talking about this".  

Something is off.  

Luckily, as I said, some enterprising souls noticed this yesterday, and have been tracking the growth in likes ever since - http://pastebin.com/AhTATCb4


22 hours of data collected, once per minute. Sampling likes and "mentions" (mentions are cached and only update once every 24 hours).
Raw data is here: http://puu.sh/3YjTi.csv
This is what Abbott's graph looks like: 
http://puu.sh/3YkGP.png

This is Rudd's:

http://puu.sh/3YkIQ.png

There are four distinct periods: 
"Normal": 8am-11pm EST
"Rampdown": 11pm-12:15pm EST
"Low": 12:15pm-6:45am EST
"Rampup": 6:45am-8am EST

During these periods, the differences were pretty stark:

First Normal
Rudd: Mean 1, Stdev 1.18
Abbott: Mean 18.22, Stdev 4.31

Rampdown
Rudd: Mean 1.19, Stdev 1.07
Abbott: Mean 12.32, Stdev 4.43

Low
Rudd: Mean 0.22, Stdev 0.53
Abbott: Mean 2.89, Stdev 2.38

Rampup
Rudd: Mean 0.39, Stdev 0.69
Abbott: Mean 10.15, Stdev 3.06

Second Normal
Rudd: Mean 0.6, Stdev 0.82
Abbott: Mean 18.47, Stdev 4.96

Some notes:
Not only are the total numbers of likes way too high to account merely for likebait saturation, Abbott's variation is far too low for to be entirely human-based. There are also no major spikes that we'd tend to see during periods of policy releases (for instance, his release of indigenous policy this morning). The means of each time period tend to line up too perfectly and again, lack in variation. Overnight, the deviation returns to what we'd tend to expect from this kind of data - indicating that the bot/net are probably turned off overnight after they ramp down/up (so as to not see an immediate jump from a mean of ~16-20 straight to 2-3). In short, this is exactly how I'd code a bot to be difficult to detect (if I were actually ridiculous enough to do so).
There's some other notes: the number of mentions cached line up almost exactly with the number of likes added in the same time period - 6727 likes from collection start to cache refresh, 8010 new mentions since previous cache refresh. There are several hours unaccounted after the previous cache refresh, which would likely make up the missing number there. Note that in a similar time period, Rudd gained approximately 350 likes and 0 new mentions. As people tend not to reference people they don't know on facebook except through page likes (not mentions), you can pretty safely assume that each bogus account is also mentioning the page 0-1 times.
Since collection, Rudd has gained 582 likes and 0 mentions, and Abbott has gained 15867 likes and 8010 mentions. It's worth noting that Abbott averages to almost exactly 1000 likes per hour yesterday, and 1200 today. Rudd's is all over the place, by comparison - 20-60 yesterday to 35-50 today.
tl;dr it's a bot, but written exactly how I would do so if I were to write a bot to spam likes. I'd make a couple of modifications - randomised ramping start/end times (within a tolerance of 2 hours), and much greater variation in the number of likes per minute.
Another kind soul decided to compare the increase in likes to people outside of the Australian political spectrum, and found that Tony Abbott is gaining popularity at a greater rate than One Direction, Justin Bieber, and even Facebook itself.  He's around 50% more popular than Game of Thrones, even.


 It's just too perfect an increase in likeability, particularly when combined with the people talking about it, and the curve over time.

What it adds up to is somebody paying a bot to mass-like Mr Abbott's page.  Alas for the image at the top of this post, and for Mr Abbott's ego, the likes are illusory.

And against Facebook's terms of service.

Update August 11 (Morning):
Tony A-bot-t update: 
Rampdown / Rampup occurred at exactly the same time today, and at extremely similar rates. Normal operation has returned to very similar means as yesterday.  
For comparison:
First rampdown: Mean 12.32, Stdev 4.43Last night's: Mean 13.21, Stdev 3.6
 
First rampup: Mean 10.15, Stdev 3.06This morning's: Mean 10.26, Stdev 3.41 
And now we're back to normal operation of ~16-20 likes per minute.
From the last two days worth of data (sans most normal operation)(from normal -> rampdown -> low -> rampup -> normal)1094, 833, 510, 250, 128, 88, 85, 142, 356, 681, 1092 1123, 847, 595, 260, 168, 90, 112, 131, 401, 724, 1011

Update August 11 (Evening):
The graph for the two days of activity that were monitored.  Almost perfectly mirroring.  



Edit - 10th of August: Clarity.
Edit - 11th of August: Added the Liberal Party of Australia Likes graph. Updated with last night's data.  

Saturday, July 20, 2013

An open letter


To Mark Dreyfus - federal member for Isaacs, and my local member.

Today I write with a distinct sense of unease and disappointment.  The decision to shift the processing of asylum seekers to Papua New Guinea, and in doing so circumvent both our obligations under the Refugee Convention as well as our obligations as decent human beings, has left me saddened and angry.

I am the son of immigrants who were able to find their way to this country and, in doing so, leave the Apartheid regime of South Africa behind.  They have made a good life here.  

I note that you, too, are the son of immigrants – refugees, even.  Refugees who were fleeing far worse circumstances than those even Apartheid evokes.  It seems that your family, too, has made a good life here.

Our families were lucky, I feel.

I also note that you are not a man averse to hyperbole; what with your likening of Tony Abbott’s climate change rhetoric to that of the Nazi party.  I will, however, out of expediency as much as taste, forego a prolonged comparison around resettling those deemed to be politically undesirable in to what amount to glorified concentration camps.

I will cast no aspersions on the nature of your character within this.  Having met with your volunteers a few weeks ago they described you as a good person – one even invited me to come to the office to meet you, on the basis that we would likely hit it off.  My quarrel is fundamentally with your party.

A party that has its gaze so fixed to the prize of power that it has become blind to the damage it is causing to the strength of our political system.  Blind to the damage it is causing to the health of our democracy.  Blind to the erosion of the compassion that once typified what it ostensibly meant to be Australian.  What it means to be a worthwhile person; what it means to be a society of caring and humane people.

I do not suspect that this is a blindness born of ignorance; although, in some ways, I wish it were.  If it were ignorance then there would be some hope that we might find our way out of this morass.  Instead we are left with cold-hearted realpolitik.

Trading the wellbeing of few thousand people for the promise of someone who isn’t Tony Abbott.

As such I will not be voting for you in the next election.  I understand that, in a practical sense, you hold a distinct buffer in this seat, and as such my efforts are not going to be particularly impactful.  In addition to this it is quite likely that my preferences will eventually flow to you – most likely from far more deserving candidates – like a sickening facsimile of the horrifying race to the bottom that your party has engaged in.

My parents were fortunate enough to find a new home in Australia.  They have paid back the faith the Australian government had in them not only in financial terms, but also through consistently engaging with their community – from things as simple as helping run a scout troop, to founding a charity that gave peace of mind to hundreds of chronic illness sufferers.

I do not write this letter purely out of a desire to see asylum seekers given the opportunity to come to Australia directly, although that is the thrust of it.  I also ask that Australians once again have the opportunity to engage meaningfully with those who would choose to come to our shores.  To welcome them, to learn from them, to have the fabric of our society strengthened by ever more diverse threads.

Regards,
Llew Stevens

Monday, August 6, 2012

Sinnerman


A variety of maladies has left me somewhat unable to complete my planned entry on goals and incentives, which is coming.  It is likely to be somewhat longer than my previous entries so is taking longer than is ideal.  

Anyway.  To tide you over, and because I always envisioned this blog this way, I present to you my long form poem "inspired by" Sinnerman that I wrote a few years ago.  Linked is the version of the song I had on loop as I wrote this.  




Sinnerman

There were four of them that winter
Who did embroil themselves in lust,
And pride, which cometh before all
Failings.  There are no exceptions.

First we see The Piano Man,
Who was always an ‘also ran’,
Encouraged, not loved, by His Wife,
A woman consumed by herself.
Then, The Jealous Mariachi,
Who is not as yet important.
And lastly, alone in her room,
Is The Twist who loves many
For money, and is in turn loved
By those who seek her compassion,
Pouring tar over feathered chests
Beaten raw by grand displays.

Their intersection comes through ambivalence,
Compounded by the convenience
Of vows that can be broken,
But remain unrehearsed.
For as it is spoken,
That though
Mohammed may not go to the mountain,
A suitable mountain shall some day find him.

Thusly The Piano Man falls
From grace and from the limelight
Into The Twist’s timely arms.
Which suits The Jealous Mariachi
For he had long dreamt of the stage
That would set him apart
From The Piano Man,
Whom he had always despised.
Him and his little wife.

The plaudits rain like thunder
Upon The Jealous Mariachi
Endeavouring to ponder what comes next.
After reaching the high road
Does one go too far upon it,
Loading the pressures of successes even higher
Only to retire from public life
And their lurid gaze upon your skin:
Always wanting to get in and see what makes you tick.
And tock.  That is no lot for him.
No.
There is only concession.
A one-night stand upon that stage
Before making way for the better craftsman,
Then slinking back in to darkness
With the ministrations of The Twist waiting
As they had when The Piano Man fell.

So now
The Piano Man does not give up so readily on his dreams
Of fame and fortune.
Tempo and blues.
So, then, his dream is not neglected, and thrives:
Reflected in his new rise to prominence and sensation.
Which pleases His Wife who had always wanted a richer husband,
Monetarily,
And would have gladly forgone the soul and been stolen away
Had one come calling, but no.  Her dreams ran cold.

Of this The Piano Man knew nothing.
Atop his stool, facing away from those he enchanted,
All deeds were behind his back.

This was poignant, as The Jealous Mariachi
Had not reformed his hatred
Of The Piano Man,
Only muted it.
So he found His Wife and made her forlorn.
For The Jealous Mariachi knew many things,
He had met The Twist
And felt that sting of love for her,
As The Piano Man had earlier.
Now, then, His Wife began to mourn
For a marriage that had died
Or rather been stillborn, and miscarried.

Within the walls of The Piano Man’s own house,
Himself soon to be torn asunder from its roof,
He finds that apologies cannot mend
Any more than every word within them
Can be inspired by a greater and beautiful truth.

Where to then for this man cast into perdition?
His Wife having barred the doors to his abode,
Along with her affections.
The arms he knows are those of The Twist.  So
He goes,
For many a man has run when no longer fit to crawl,
To find where The Twist lies
Only to find her doors closed, and solid.
He wonders whom she is who denies his entry,
This whore,
Who is on for young and old, he kicks
At the door.  Before realising what he does
He kicks.  Shuddering the foundations
He kicks.  Interrupting her vocation
He kicks.  Until the door splinters like his life,
He kicks.
Opening to find The Jealous Mariachi
With his wife, The Twist.

There is no salvation here,
Only fists.

Outside their fateful window winter descends,
While inside treaties are broken
Vases on the wearing carpet,
And circumstances conspire against The Jealous Mariachi
When a window breaks
For his fall, this time.
So then,
When The Twist follows
Out of both love and fear
The snow falls more softly than she does,
And shrouds the sound of solace, of solstice
(Half a day of night).

This is where The Twist falls.

Leaving only
The Piano Man,
Alone.

Sunday, July 22, 2012

The Problem with Polysemy: Communicating when words don't matter.


Misunderstandings are a natural part of communication.  They are to be expected, planned for, accepted, and dealt with as proactive an approach as possible.  What I am going to be writing about today is a particular kind of misunderstanding; a misunderstanding that derives from the very nature of the communication process, and the weaknesses intrinsic within it.  This type of misunderstanding is, as the title of this entry suggests, polysemy.
Polysemy is quite literally “multiple meanings”.  In more specific terms it relates to the capacity of a sign – a physical embodiment that is used to represent a concept, such as a word, a sound, a symbol, or so forth – to have multiple referents – these are essentially the actual meaning or concept, for example an actual cat as opposed to the word “cat” (which is a sign). 
In terms of the overall communication process, shown below, polysemy takes place in the decoding of a sign.  A sender encodes a referent in to a sign, which is then decoded back in to a referent by the receiver.  The process of encoding is mostly unimportant to what we are discussing today – although we will return to it later.  What we are focused on is the process of decoding.



There are a few more concepts that I want to touch on briefly in order to round out the foundation before we go much further.  These are:
1)    Signs are arbitrary.  With the possible exception of onomatopoeia or visual representations – where the sign and the referent are closely linked by the very fact that the sign embodies some aspect the referent – there is no particular reason why a cat is called a cat, or why a red octagon means stop, or why the word nice means something pleasant. 
2)    Perception is reality.  It is through the process of decoding that the world is given meaning.  More importantly it is through the process of decoding that communication is given meaning.  In much the same way that stoners in Hollywood movies discuss whether the blue you see is the same as the blue I see, or the way in which you see a cloud in a Rorschach painting when I see a kitten, what we must understand is that there is no objective reality; merely a subjective reality.  This can be widely agreed upon – such as red octagons meaning STOP – but, again, it is up to the receiver to actually give that red octagon an actual meaning.  This is because…
3)    Signs have no inherent meaning.  Try as you might as a sender of a message you cannot imbue it with an inherent meaning.  If, dear reader, you are suspicious of my point, allow me to expand with a couple of examples.  If a sign could have an inherent meaning then wordplay could not exist, as the receiver would always interpret the sign in the way that the sender intended (puns are made possible through polysemy, after all).  In a more extreme example, if a sign could have an inherent meaning we would not have to learn language, as language is merely an agreed upon series of signs and their associated referents; if the sign carried inherent meaning it would be capable of being decoded regardless of whether or not there was an agreed upon sign-referent association. 
These work in combination to reinforce what I have touched upon before: what I say and what you hear are fundamentally different things.  More importantly in terms of polysemy what I hear, what you hear, and what a third person would hear, are again all fundamentally different things.  The diagram below demonstrates this.

Adapted from Puntoni, S., Schroeder, J. E., & Ritson, M. (2010). Meaning matters: Polysemy in advertising. Journal of Advertising, 39(2), 51-64. 

This is why I consider it so important that when communicating you focus on what you want heard rather than what you want to say.  This is why I consider it so important to attempt to communicate empathetically: to put yourself in the shoes of your intended audience to understand the manner in which they decode information so that you can create encoded messages that minimise the opportunity for misunderstanding.  It is not up to the receiver to decode the message “correctly” so much as it is up to the sender to ensure that it is encoded so that it will be decoded as it is intended.  Or if not decoded as it is intended, as close to as intended as possible. 
Now, the discussion that typically prompts my desire to descend in to an explanation of polysemy revolves around offensive language, but I don’t particularly want to litter my burgeoning blog with a whole lot of awful words.  However I will say that a word cannot be inherently offensive, or bad, but rather that a person’s interpretation of that sign might associate it with a particularly hurtful referent.  This is why it is so important to communicate conscientiously; to be aware of how your words can and will be decoded by others, and to have the empathy required to avoid the usage of language that may be harmless to you but that may have a harmful referent for others.  You can encode ‘lame’ in any number of ways that do not involve harming others, similarly ‘foolish’, and so on.  Say what you mean.  That being said, language is not a static object, and the shared understanding does change over time; what one day means ignorant or lascivious may, through changing the context of usage, come to mean pleasant, as is the case with the word ‘nice’. 
So with that out of the way I have another example to discuss the manner in which being unaware of the dangers of polysemy can be potentially hazardous to wanting to get your message across.  The example I have chosen is a recent one, and one where I ended up having some rather long and drawn out discussions in an attempt to explain this issue: Occupy Wall Street.  More specifically I am going to explore the trend at the beginning of this movement to consciously avoid explaining their message in depth.  Again, I won’t go in to political allegiances and so forth, but say that this is intended mostly as an example that should be salient for most people. 
Simply put: at the beginning of OWS, when asked why they were protesting, a typical response was that they were protesting in response to “economic injustice” or “unfair taxes” or something similar.  This is problematic. 


This is perhaps something of an oversimplification of the positions – again, political discourse is not the goal here – but the fact that the three positions are each quite different is quite important.  More important is the fact that each of these groups is in full agreement with the assertion that there is economic injustice, yet would arguably disagree with one-another on the actual meaning of the message and how to take action against it.  To focus on “economic injustice” as a central issue, yet to resist defining what that actually means to you, is to engage in extraordinarily poor communication; particularly if it means being in agreement with those you actually oppose.  Harmful to dialogue, and harmful to the attempt to actually get the message out.
This is why we must be so cautious of agreeing with those who refuse to define terms.  If they do not explain what their meaning is – the referent that underpins their sign – we may end up agreeing based purely on our subjective meaning rather than what is actually being discussed.  We are in essence agreeing with ourselves.  Communication is fundamentally about shared understanding and therefore cannot be achieved without both sides making their positions known with as little ambiguity as possible. 
In short, in order to communicate in a world where polysemy is rampant:
1)    Focus on what you want to be heard.  Communicate empathetically.
2)    Avoid signs that are likely to be decoded incorrectly.
3)    Say what you mean.  Minimise ambiguity through clear definition.
Unless you want to deceive people, in which case just do the opposite of what I suggest and you should be golden.  But that would be kind of a jerk move.  

Friday, July 6, 2012

Wherein our hero forgoes trees for the forest and ends up talking in circles.


I'm going to start this one out with something of a crazy guy manifesto on what marketing means to me. I am not a full on stereotypical sleazy 80s business guy (although I do appreciate the safety dance) and as this is the field I have apparently chosen for myself I feel like it would be a positive to get my thoughts on the discipline down somewhere. This will also have the added bonus of laying some groundwork or future entries on other subjects.

Let me begin by exploring how I came to the place I am today. Despite a rather promising predilection for maths during high school, during my final years I moved away from that area of study and towards he humanities. This culminated in studying English, Literature, and Advanced Placement Literature in my senior year. Along side these subjects I also studied Studio Arts: Film.

It is fair to say that I like words.

It is fairer to say that I like communication.

In university I did the dreaded Bachelor of Arts with the even more dreaded English major. I was a double major, however, with my second major being in Comparative Literature Studies; essentially critical theory by another name that serves only to be more complicated to say.

Within this degree I tended to skate by on charisma and talent. Typical stuff. The areas that I excelled at were in poetry. To the extent that I was accepted in to poetry honours after completing my BA.

Again: words and communication. Just now with bonus structures of analysis and thought.

I did not end up doing my poetry honours (although alternate history Llew is probably having fun with his Poetry PhD about now) and instead entered the workforce at the university as a researcher. My task was to research the visual language of the user interfaces of games to see if there was anything we could glean for a product we were developing.

More communication. This time with the joy of exploring exactly why and how PowerPoint was terrible.
When this time of gainful employment came to an end I decided to undertake a Master of Business, with a specialisation in Marketing.  Eighteen months later here I am having completed said degree. 

I tell you this history because it is important to my overall conception of marketing as well as the approach I took to the study of marketing during my Masters.  Similarly it affected my approach to my study of management, similarly it affected my approach to my study of ethics, and critical thinking, and so forth, and so on.  Whilst it was my weaker area of study during my undergrad my history of critical theory has been helpful, as it has allowed me to utilise multiple lenses for the analysis of information.  It is in this way that my approach to marketing is best understood. 

Marketing is not advertising; advertising is a function of marketing.  Marketing, similarly, is not event sponsorship, nor direct mail, nor the salesperson you buy your ice cream from (although these composite elements do make up Integrated Marketing Communications, but that is a different discussion). 

Similarly marketing is not focus groups, it is not surveys, or databases, or data mining, nor networking. 

It is not the product, it is not the price, it is not the place, it is not the promotion (4 P’s 4 eva). 

To distil marketing down to any of these aspects is to focus on the tree instead of the forest.  At best it is a needlessly metonymic approach to reducing complexity, whilst at worst it is a damaging disservice to the complexity of what is fundamentally a holistic approach.  This is because marketing is a lens through which we can attempt to make sense of the world. Marketing is much like any other system of thought, or structure of concepts, or value system; it is a tool that can be utilised to decipher and to form the basis for decision-making. 

Now, this decision-making tends to take place on the corporate level; if not the corporate level then the consumer-seller dyad.  Similarly the concepts and behaviours marketing is helpful for making sense of typically reside in these areas. My area of particular interest – consumer behaviour – is one of the subsets of marketing that is somewhat helpful in this regard.  I am not so foolhardy as to suggest that we can use marketing to solve all of life’s problems or anything to that effect.  I’m not THAT GUY.  
Everyone hates that guy anyway.  I certainly wouldn’t suggest its usage to examine ethics, for example (Rawls is much more fun for that).  But it is a philosophy of sorts that can be enacted at each level of an organisation or each stage of a product’s development. 

It is this philosophy that I’ve spent almost a thousand words building towards.  I am nothing if not verbose, as it turns out.  Asking me vague questions is like asking Kasparov to pass the salt when the tablecloth has a chequered pattern, or asking a Sagan-ite to bake you a pie.  Context is required.  Scaffolding.  Foundations.  Other buzzwords.  However this context is required to allow me to explain what I consider to be the fundamental function of marketing.  The question that reduces all complexity in much the same way that I raged against barely two paragraphs ago. 

What Is Value Here?

Value is the central concept of marketing.  What is valued here, and by whom?  How do we create value? How do we communicate value?  How do we deliver value?  All decisions must be made with value in mind.  This brings us to the next step. 

What People Value is What is Valuable.

Why yes I do like sounding like a fortune cookie, thank you for asking.  Try the beef and black bean.  Essentially what we must accept is that for things to be valuable people must value them.  This seems obvious on the surface but one sees it ignored regularly by any number of individuals, companies, charities, governments, and so forth.  People have to care.  Moreover, we – for better or worse – live in a capitalist society, so not only do people have to care, they have to be willing to meet the costs of our value proposition. 

Think VHS vs Betamax.  Think Minidiscs.  Think GUIs vs terminals.  Think the mouse vs the keyboard, and touch screens vs the mouse.  Think Political Party A vs Political Party B. 

There may be other value propositions that are objectively superior but if you cannot communicate that value effectively then they have essentially no value. 

And here you were thinking that all that stuff about words, languages, and communication earlier was just a waste of time.  Chekov’d. 

This is an extremely roundabout way of exploring the fact that I view marketing as customer focused communication.  And effective communication is based more on listening than speaking.  Based on building a shared understanding with the recipient of the communication.  Again, this all seems obvious, yet so many fail to embrace this to its fullest extent.  Whether it be because of time, money, misunderstanding, or just not wanting to put in the effort. 

Marketing is not about what you want to say. 

Communication is not about what you want to say.

It is about what you want the recipient to hear. 

These are not the same things.  Always remember that.