Vol. 1 | #2 | 06.08.18

1Facebook, Your Data, and China
It’s been a little over a month since Facebook rolled out an apology ad campaign in what is being called “the largest brand marketing campaign in company history.” The apology, of course, is for the way the company allowed itself and its user data to be used and abused by others in ways commercial and nefarious. So, I’m sure we can all be confident that the user data Facebook has been sharing with Chinese phone maker Huawei — itself the target of warnings from US intelligence agencies — was handled in the most circumspect of manners.

These are deep waters for Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg, who might as well be on a different planet compared to what he thought Facebook could become 13 years ago during his first ever tv interview.

2GDPR for Thee but not for Me
On May 25, 2018, the EU’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) went into effect with much anticipation and fanfare. As the deadline for  compliance loomed, companies flooded users with new terms of service to accept, while others simply took their sites offline temporarily. Embarrassingly, the EU itself failed to get its own digital data house in order: not only did the EU fail to comply with its own GDPR requirements, but its failure resulted in a leak of personal data. Naturally, the EU’s response was that it was not subject to its own regulations, which is undoubtedly true as a legal technicality, but hardly the right answer.

GDPR at American Chopper

3Github Sells to Microsoft for $7.5B
Yes, that’s billion with a capital B. Of course, when a tech startup hits a billion-dollar payout like this, whether from being acquired by a larger company or going public via an IPO, the media coverage inevitably focuses on the founders’ story and its now well-worn arc from college dropout with an idea to mega-wealthy Silicon Valley star. As with most things the media obsesses over, such stories are true (more or less), but they are a statistical anomaly whose importance gets severely over-inflated and inspires all the wrong motivations to create something (see Holmes, Elizabeth). Far more important is the actual work done. In this case, that’s the transformative platform for coders that Github actually is. Here’s a good explanation of what Github does for us non-coders who are unaware, and here is a good explanation of why this collection of open-source (read: free) software coding work is worth $7.5 billion to Microsoft (hint: it’s strategic).

4Pure Accountability
In preparing for a workshop engagement this week with the engineers and research scientists with the Air Force Research Laboratory, I came across “The Kranz Dictum.” If you’ve seen the movie Apollo 13, you’re familiar with Gene Kranz, the no-nonsense Flight Director in the white vest portrayed by Ed Harris.

Gene Kranz | Ed Harris as Gene Kranz

Kranz was also serving as Flight Director on Friday, January 27, 1967, for the launch pad “plugs out” test of Apollo 1, which tragically killed the crew in a fireinside the space capsule. On the following Monday, Kranz delivered a message to his team about accountability that came to define the ethos of the Flight Control team throughout the Apollo program and beyond. As good as it reads, it’s even better hearing it delivered in Kranz’s own words, by memory decades later.


5Kate Spade RIP
The worlds of business, fashion, and pop culture were all stunned by the news of the death of Kate Spade, the founder and designer behind the fashion brand of the same name. The shock turned darker when it became known that the premature passing of the 55-year-old icon was the result of suicide. It now appears that Spade’s death was the result of the combined effect of an ongoing battle with depression and the recent request by her husband for a divorce (a claim he has publicly disputed while admitted they were living separately and parenting jointly).

If anyone reading this is suffering the battle of fighting depression, please know that fighting it alone in the dark is playing into depression’s lying hands. I say this as someone who knows from experience. I take an anti-depressant every day, and have for the past five years now. Depression isn’t a disease of the disappointed or the destitute. It can strike into the mind of anyone in any station in life, as Spade’s tragic ending shows. For me, my depression became acute at the very time in my professional career when I was the highest and “didn’t have any reason to feel depressed.” The effects of depression are real, clinical, and treatable, but never from the position of isolation depression pushes its victims into. Reach out for help before making an unreversible choice. If it’s a loved one of yours who is the one suffering, the New York Times has some tips from experts on how you can best help.

Vol. 1 | #1 | 06.01.18

1Tech, Lies, and Nanotainers
In his new book — Bad Blood: Secrets and Lies in a Silicon Valley Startup —  Wall Street Journal reporter John Carreyrou details the rise and fall of Silicon Valley blood testing startup Theranos and its now disgraced founder, Elizabeth Holmes. While rightfully touted as the biggest corporate scam since Enron, this book is equally a powerful example of the wages of a toxic leadership and a dysfunctional culture.

Bad Blood: Secrets and Lies in a Silicon Valley Startup by John Carreyrou

2Corporate Apology Ads
In an interview with WCCO (CBS affiliate) in Minneapolis, Media Minefield CEO Kristi Piehl explains the value of advertising dollars spent apologizing for corporate screw-ups, from Facebook to Uber to Wells Fargo. Of course, as she points out, it’s much cheaper and more effective to be accountable sooner rather than later.

3Mary Meeker’s Internet Trends Report 2018
Attendees to this year’s Code Conference were once again treated to “the most highly anticipated slide deck in Silicon Valley.” Kleiner Perkins partner Mary Meeker delivered her rapid-fire presentation of a mind-boggling amount of data on the macro-level trends of the internet and tech worlds. In Meeker’s words, the information in this powerpoint file is meant to be read, not presented, so Kleiner Perkins makes the entire 294-page slide deck available to all on Slideshare.

4Ask Better Questions
In this “HBR Ideacast” episode, Harvard Business School professors Leslie K. John and Alison Wood Brooks talk about the powerful but underutilized leadership skill of asking great questions. From their Harvard Business Review article on the topic: “unlike professionals such as litigators, journalists, and doctors, who are taught how to ask questions as an essential part of their training, few executives think of questioning as a skill that can be honed…”

Kramer: "That's True"

5Stress and Genetic Legacy
There’s an Old Testament concept of the consequences of the “sins of the father” being felt far into the future by the third and fourth generations. I couldn’t help but think of this when I came across this fascinating article in The Economist describing how stressful life experiences like childhood abuse and neglect can alter a child’s DNA in ways that then get passed on to the next generation. The method of passing these changes on? — two specific microRNA molecules within the male sperm.