Sunday, January 24, 2010

Tory Johnson's "Fired to Hired"

Fired to Hired: Bouncing Back from Job Loss to Get to Work Right Now
Author: Tory Johnson
Title: "Fired to Hired: Bouncing Back from Job Loss to Get to Work Right Now"
Publication: Berkley, 2009, ISBN 978-0-425-23055-8, 300 pages, paper, 11 chapters.

Tory Johnson is the founder and owner of “Women for Hire” (link) and often appears on ABC “Good Morning America” to give career and job seeking advice. Much of it is like a practical handbook and pep talk, with familiar tips.

Several aspects of her presentation are interesting, however. First is her own personal story, of how she got fired summarily from NBC news in the 1990s after “journalism scandal” involving reporting on GM, with which she was at most tangentially involved. (I worked for NBC myself as a computer programmer in the financial area in the 1970s.) Could she have been tainted by association? She moved on, to Paramount’s Nickelodeon, staying in public relations. Nickelodeon is interesting to me in that in 2006 I heard its pitch for screenwriting interenships.

She encourages using the Web and social media tools to augment your search, but warns that employers are using them too to check out candidates. But she suggests getting a following on Twitter and Facebook, and with blogs. She suggests that content should be limited to professional areas. That can present a challenge, however. If you blog about your past job, a future employer might fear that you would be inclined to talk about a future job negatively or even disclose trade secrets after quitting some day, a concern that San Diego columnist Michael Hemmingson has led to a practice called “pre-doocing”. Before social media became popular around 2005, I had expressed concerns about the complciations that could occur if people in management or in a position to make decisions about others self-broadcast their views at all in public. But a lot of times it is relatively easy for younger professionals to write about their professional areas in ways that encourages further employer interest. I know a pianist whose blog in interesting and provides an excellent example of personal “professionalism” (look here); another friend has worked mostly in copyright and in the DMCA area since college and can easily present a “coherent” presence online.

Back in 2006, various sources started talking about “online reputation defense” (such as with Michael Fertik’s “Reputation Defender”) and Tory Johnson then wrote a column on ABC News, “cleaning up your digital dirt”.

She also talks about the tension in the workplace between those with families and “singletons” (she uses the word). She maintains that “no group should be rewarded at the expense of another” but provides discussion that this is a most sensitive problem in practice. This reminds me of Elinor Burkett’s 2000 book “The Baby Boon: How Family-Friendly America Cheats the Childless".

Friday, January 22, 2010

Nat Geo Mag demonstrates terraforming of Mars; also, article on FLDS polygamy

The February 2010 National Geographic is particularly interesting.

On p. 30 there is a brief presentation of “The Big Idea” showing in pictures how terraforming of Mars could take place over at least a millennium. Carbon dioxide from soil and the polar ice caps of dry ice could, if released, create “global warming” and raise temperatures while settlers like in habitation modules. Eventually photosynthetic plants could develop, maybe forests. Daytime temperatures on some of the planet would be 40-50 degrees F, about like the Northwest Territories in Canada in June. But the atmosphere would remain oxygen poor; people would have to wear “scuba gear” to go outside of their insulated homes.

Over thousands of years, people would change biologically under less gravity, maybe becoming a distinct species with the same intelligence, resulting in political issues.

Mars would eventually lose its terraformed atmosphere over many more millions of years because of evaporation, low gravity, and lack of a magnetic field. So the habitability of Mars will not outlast that of Earth when the Sun expands into a red giant in 4 billion years.

The issue also has an important article “The Polygamists: An Exclusive Look Inside the FLDS, by Scott Anderson. “If you have men marrying 20, 30, up to 80 or more women, it’s simple math that there will be a lot of men who aren’t going to get wives.” They become the castoffs, in a system that rejects western civilization’s rule of “one per customer” (as George Gilder put it in his 1986 book “Men and Marriage”) in monogamous marriage, so everyone has a chance.

The link for the issue is here.

I visited Colorado City, AZ in October 1987, and visited the Reformed LDS and Temple Mount in the Kansas City/Independence areas in 1982.

Friday, January 08, 2010

Ben Mezrich's "Accidental Billionaires": a short history of Facebook

Author: Ben Mezrich
Title: "The Accidental Billionaires: The Founding of Facebook: A Tale of Sex, Money, Genius, and Betrayal"
Publication: Doubleday, 2009, ISBN 978-0-385-52937-2, 260 pages, hardcover, 34 chapters and Epilogue.  Amazon link.

The author, himself a Harvard graduate, has ten other books to his credit, and it’s not immediately apparent how close he was to the “real story” of the founding of Facebook (aka Facemash, etc.) at Harvard.

The white cover of the book gives away its flavor: there is a champagne cordial and red accoutrements, and the back cover reads “they just wanted to meet some girls.”

The book does give a clear picture of how the site evolved from a campus “experiment” (of sorts) to a billionaire’s Silicone Valley company quickly, with personalities evolving quickly.

Before getting into the legal controversies at all, let me point out one critical fact. Mark Zuckerberg, as did others, envisioned the site as that would help people who already knew each other stay connected online. Originally, each campus was to have its own Facebook. At the same time, Myspace (by late 2004) was already seen as a vehicle for self-promotion, just as Blogger and Wordpress as well as shared hosting sites came to be viewed as vehicles for self-publication.
Even so, by mid 2006 Facebook had become a centerpoint in the discussion of “online reputation”, a development that Zuckerberg and others never intended. By way of comparison, Myspace still looks much more like a “self-broadcasting” platform to me, but all the career counselors say that Facebook has wound up in the center of how many job candidates look. Indeed, some people have not gotten jobs or internships because of “inappropriate” pictures specifically on Facebook.

Mezrick paints Zuckerberg as the geek who slid into fame in flipflops and cargo shorts, the brilliant but socially reclined kid to whom other turned in schemes to help them meet girls – it’s using your brain to get a biological reproductive advantage. First were the Winklevoss twins, rowing team athletes who had asked Mark to help them develop a “ConnectU”, then Eduardo Saverin, the business man and investor point person of sorts, Sean Parker (a partner of Shawn Fanning and Napster at one time), Peter Thiel, and Aaron Greenspan (whose book I reviewed here July 5, 2008) . The legal conflict with the Winklevoss brothers is interesting, whether it could fall within an academic honor code (at Harvard) or whether it involves real intellectual property infringement. Generally, you can’t copyright ideas, but you can protect trade secrets; this case seems to be in a gray never-never land. The book depicts the ultimate treatment of Saverun and then Parker as relentless and as a betrayal. But "It's not personal, it's just business," as Trump would have said on "The Apprentice."

Mezrick's narrative is lively enough to suggest that the story of Facebook would make an interesting indie film. If so, I'd be game to take part in making it.

Sunday, January 03, 2010

eBooks present digital piracy problems for established authors

Here’s an important story on CNN by Matt Frisch, “Digital Piracy hits the e-book industry,” link here.

Some publishers , such as Scribner for Stephen King’s “Under the Dome” (link to author’s video (link) wait for several weeks before releasing an e-book. (Does the book remind one of “The Truman Show?”) Scholastic, publisher of J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter series (franchise -- kids like them!) has avoided e-book release altogether so far.

But Dan Brown’s “The Lost Symbol” (Doubleday) was release in Kindle at the same time as in print, and wound up quickly in BitTorrent. There is a derivative work by Stephen Cox, “Decoding The Lost Symbol”.

The piracy problem is confounded by the fact that sometimes new authors may “give work away” on line in order to develop an audience, especially for novel nonfiction material.

Another problem is that old books, except for the top bestsellers (usually fiction) tend to drop off in popularity quickly as residuals become available from resellers. I got a call from iUniverse Dec. 23 about my own “Do Ask Do Tell” books regarding advertising campaigns, and indicated that I did not think they could be effective for old non-fiction (dating to 1997). I am working on a new book, a novel, now, but so far relatively secretly (a few preview comments on my blogs). It has to be “as good as it gets” to break the market. It was to be called “Brothers” but Lionsgate used that for an unrelated movie so I am also considering “Tribunal and Rapture”.