Comm Failure

Arctic CommunicationsI’ve spent an inordinate amount of time thinking about communications, information, and how one can weave ideas into the fabric of other people’s minds.

Writing has always come easy, and for a long time was something I took for granted because it simply helped me or hindered me. If someone didn’t understand what I said or wrote, I took it upon myself to get better at communicating. Lately, though, I find myself feeling less responsible for what people don’t understand or misunderstand – no one likes a pedant, not even other pedants, and there are some people who are simply unreasonable and unreachable. I turned to writing long ago because shouting at walls makes no sense.

Yesterday, two people took issue with this article about the digitized paper processes of Trinidad and Tobago, and it was a little revealing. To understand this, you have to understand that getting a credit or debit card in Trinidad and Tobago is a daunting process that many people don’t qualify for. It’s a bureaucratic process that, instead of getting approved in one day, can take months (I know) – and even then, teeters on the brink of whether or not you’re presented well to whoever is behind the Mastercard or Visa system associated with it. Because the majority don’t enjoy this luxury, I didn’t write about it.

Two people took issue with that. They began commenting on Facebook about how one didn’t have to print bills because you could pay with the credit or debit card… which is true, if you can get one, and in the weighted world of finance specific to Trinidad and Tobago, is not the majority of people. Further, the point about those who lacked that financial luxury taken for granted elsewhere – in the U.S., banks give out debit cards like candy, as an example (more really, most banks don’t have candy anymore). So those who don’t have the financial tools in Trinidad and Tobago, the majority, have to print out the same bill.

It’s not as if one can depend on the local postal service to get you your bill on time, assuming that the relevant service provider has sent it on time – so people interested in uninterrupted service end up going to the website and using their ink and paper to print the very same bill – which is 2-3 pages, usually, when really, done right, you could just print one and go to a more convenient outlet to pay. Parking at the offices is always problematic, so they have ancillary places where one can pay.

Why do people have to print out all those pages? Largely because the bills are inefficient and have been for as long as I remember. After all, one might just hand someone the account number and the amount to pay – and they should be able to handle that, but because of receipts and bureaucratic fail-safes, and because… well, because they just digitized a paper process.

And that was the point of the article. I’ve written more than enough about the failure of banks to provide better online payment services for more people, but these two people were stuck on their ability to pay their bills online.

They were stuck in their perspective – nothing existed beyond their perspective. Even saying that they were correct in that they could pay their bills online while the majority could not was a bridge too far for them.

This ground away at me for all of 5 minutes, before they removed themselves from my audience (thank you!). Their minds didn’t stretch that far, stuck in the ice-tray of their own little worlds they were completely cut off from the rest of the world and liked that so much that they wanted to impose their world on everyone else.

We all do it. Oddly enough, though, it has something to do with a software project I’m working on and a bit of the philosophy behind it. When I write about it on KnowProSE.com, the link will appear below.

 

Our Modern Intimacy

Modern intimacy. #tech #people #intimacyI’m guilty of going somewhere and interrogating my phone – who isn’t in this day and age? – yet it seems you see people going out together only to stop and get coffee somewhere so that they can sit closely, a faux intimacy, checking up on things and not interacting at all.

Worse, they may be using the infrastructure to share information with each other – bouncing off of servers, perhaps even internationally, so that they can share information.

Have we forgotten how to make eye contact, to talk?

And these are typically the same people who do not respond to messages in a timely manner. It makes one think they are studying articles on how not to communicate.

Yet I myself am guilty at times, when things have run their course and the person with me no longer holds interest for me. This is why I’m usually alone – people generally bore me quickly – but when I’m present, I am completely present.

Fool’s Errand.

Buddha Quote 103

He deals the cards as a meditation
And those he plays never suspect

– Sting, ‘Shape of My Heart’, Ten Summoner’s Tales (1993).

The cliché, that no one understands, echoes humorously in minds that take great pains to explain themselves, dedicating great portions of their lives such that they are not misunderstood – only to realize that despite what they may have been told, they are not the issue. Few people know how to listen, something that cannot be taught, and fewer have a reading comprehension that stacks up above the scribblings of graffiti they call ‘news’ in this day and age. The spoken word is confused, the written word a vernacular of acronyms that cascades down the chasm of context known only to the author.

If even the author knows.

WTF IDK EIEIO.

And then when they don’t understand the motives, the reason, the driving force…

He doesn’t play for the money he wins
He don’t play for respect

– Sting, ‘Shape of My Heart’, Ten Summoner’s Tales (1993).

Suddenly, the fool and the wise share the same fate as the intelligent and those less so: Babel, even in the same language.

That realization of the fool’s errand, that Scylla to the Charybdis, can either break or build. It’s so very hard to tell the difference.

Alone

Sunrise AloneYou can ignore being alone through the hard times, pushing forward out of sheer force of will – because that’s sometimes what it takes: grit, determination and tenacity coupled with strategy, observation, constant adjustments… it soon becomes a place where people do not tread because there’s simply too much to explain.

How many times have I been deep in thought, with what some people mistake as an angry face when instead it’s a face of focus? And they think I won’t let them in when the reality is that if I let it out, I’ll spend so much time explaining things that everyone will get frustrated? I am certain I am not alone in that.

The point is you get used to that, living in the simulation of reality in your head with as much data as you can possibly absorb and derive. And in these castles in the mind, you don’t realize you’re alone.

Until you have a victory. And then you look around and realize no one is there.

So you go after the next problem.

Clarifying Syntax: Eats Shoots And Leaves

Shoots & Leaves.As luck would have it I ran into Eats, Shoots & Leaves: The Zero Tolerance Approach to Punctuation in a local bookstore here in Trinidad and Tobago. That’s the upside of the bookstores in Trinidad and Tobago. A hungry reader finds themselves reading off their own beaten path because the books on the shelves simply haven’t been purchased since they were published.

Bookstores in Trinidad and Tobago are a topic worthy of their own book, if anyone would read it.

Amazon.com never suggested it for me. Of course, my digital shadow is not known for reading books like this. Amazon.com doesn’t know I have a Reverse Dictionary within a foot of my left hand, or that next to it are rare paperback copies of Sir Isaac Newton’s works.

As I started reading it this morning, chuckling at a few things, I came to think of why I had always been interested in these sorts of things. Was it my mother the poet? No, not really, it simply made her happy that I was interested for a while in poetry as a child. Was it the devastating accuracy I needed in saying what I meant to my father when I was growing up, being understood? Partly.  The anniversary of his death was yesterday, and I might write something on that.

And so, as I started reading the book, all of this came flooding back. Writing was an outlet, a way to think through things, and most desperately a way to be understood. There is folly in that; even the best of writers is limited by the reading comprehension of the reader.

If you are interested in writing, take a look at this book. I’m only through the first chapter with my first cup of coffee. That alone was worth the price for me so far. The rest, as they say, is cream.

Eats, Shoots & Leaves: The Zero Tolerance Approach to Punctuation

Perspective

spaceWe used to look up.

I don’t know exactly who I mean by ‘we’. Maybe it was my generation, when we had seen man actually make it to the moon. Maybe it was people of my mindset.  I’d like to think it was my generation, with parents who had watched the original series of ‘Star Trek’ – and our generation who saw the original ‘Star Wars’. Or,  ‘Close Encounters of the Third Kind’, or even, ‘E.T.’.

We used to look up. We used to stare at the stars, some of us, while laying in the grass.

I’ve spent most of the day watching this live stream, in the background, as I read and did other things. It’s beautiful. It’s amazing. And we take it for granted, we sit there staring at phones, communicating about little of worth.

The things of worth we do talk about are about how we can’t keep things from flooding, or people from doing dumb things, or arguing over which idiot is better than which – we who could put a man on the moon, who could build an international space station, who could go peeking at other planets like a nosy neighbor.

We have the capacity to know where we are on our own planet with accuracy that would make ancient mariners ecstatic, and we have that on devices that Tesla told us we would eventually have. It wasn’t so long ago that these things didn’t exist. We dreamed big.

Then the Internet happened – a complex system of communication, too complex for our communication as we began to talk to people around the world. Kittens and pornography propagated it across the world.

Some were so intent on selling their products, services and thoughts that they got really good at marketing. In fact, they got so good at marketing that their marketing became better than their products, services and thoughts.

Somewhere along the way, I think we stopped looking up with a sense of awe. We stopped seeing what our combined efforts could do if we chose to work together.

We should look up.

The Audience: Know It.

Blue Foundation liveAnyone who truly wishes to communicate is usually taught, somewhere along the line, about knowing their audience.

Knowing your audience is important for business, sure, but it goes beyond that. It gets back to personal communication, and as I noted elsewhere and helps diminish the signal to noise ratio: In essence, you should know what you’re communicating, to whom, and to what end.

Since we’re all sharing content on the vast canvas of the Internet, we should all understand this, particularly since people who we didn’t expect to see our content may well do so… and also because it creates our digital shadow: Who people think we are.

If you’re going to be late for work, as an example, what you would call/text to your boss should be different than missing a meeting with friends. There are people who don’t understand that difference, and they will find no help in this post. 

There are some assumptions that will help with this:

  • What you communicate on the internet will last forever, even if you delete it.
  • We may not be what people perceive, but they don’t know that. Your digital shadow is who they think you are and you should consider what you want that digital shadow to be. If you want to be seen as an idiot, by all means… 
  • You can’t control how your content is viewed, but you can control how you are.
  • Spreading bad information makes you an untrusted source, spreading good information makes you a trusted source. Which do you want to be?
  • Social networks only show your content to the audience their algorithms think will want to see it. If you want to change someone’s mind about something, they need to see it and they probably won’t see it unless you change how the algorithm perceives it… which means you might want to write to your audience. Unless you’re just intellectually/emotionally masturbating with people who think like you.

    I don’t judge. If that’s your thing… (but expect me to disappear if I’m in your network).

  • If you don’t want to be perceived as an idiot, don’t communicate like one.
  • It’s safe to assume that someone will absolutely hate what you’re communicating. They’re part of your audience. Defuse them beforehand if you can.
  • If you share content of a certain type all the time, you’ll get typecast. Do you want that typecast?
  • Using profanity might seem fucking brilliant at times, but overdone it’s cliche. Oh. And your parents/children might read it 10 years from now, so get a grip.
  • Lawyers might use what you share in a court case. Yay. We love lawyers. It isn’t mutual when it comes to litigation. “It’s not personal…”
  • Ranting and shouting isn’t very effective.

I’m certain I’ll think of a few more after I post this, so don’t think this is an exhaustive list.

Summarized: Everything you communicate can and will be used against you at some point.

Your audience on the Internet is more global than your Facebook friends and Twitter followers. Communicate like it.