The Mother of all Networks – 7 Takeaways for April 25, 2021

Telegraph Office


Don’t know if I’d call it that, but I was published last week in the What It’s Like To online publication. My (short) story, What It’s Like To Donate Platelets, is up on There are several other stories there you might find interesting as well.

1. “Gargling with bleach?”

Did 4% of Americans Really Drink Bleach Last Year? – Rachel Ernstoff – (Harvard Business Review)

I found this fascinating — not because of the subject matter (covid, bleach, etc.) — but rather because of the way that (mis)information came to be, and then spread.

There are multiple issues with most surveys in general, and more if you craft the survey with the intent to skew towards a desired outcome. I’m not saying anything malicious happened here. However, there’s a section that really piqued my interest.

Prominent psychiatrist and blogger Scott Siskind coined it the “Lizardman’s Constant” back in 2013, in reference to a widely publicized Public Policy Polling report that 4% of respondents said they believed shape-shifting lizard people were controlling the world. This poll garnered a lot of attention in the media, including headlines like this one: “Conspiracy craze: why 12 million Americans believe alien lizards rule us.” But Siskind and others argue that that 4% is a lot more likely to reflect inattentive and mischievous respondents than a true belief in such an outlandish conspiracy.

Guess what percentage of respondents claimed to have used bleach to fight COVID? 4%. In other words, right on target with a known potential error bias.

Do this: the next time you see a survey quoted, or data of any kind, take the time to dig deeper and see how that number was generated. It’s rarely as absolute as the headlines will claim.

2. “your geographic music bubble”

This project is about your geographic music bubble. – The Pudding – (website)

I’ve always had incredibly eclectic tastes in music. I think I mentioned a few weeks ago that Bach’s Toccata and Fugue in D-minor is my most favorite piece of music ever, but you’re just as likely to hear me listening to rock, new age, jazz (old and new), and much, much more. About the only music, I have difficulty with is opera, country/western, gospel, and hardcore rap. Even within those genres, though, there are exceptions.

I stumbled into this site by accident. In a nutshell, it shows you the number one popular song (based on YouTube views) for a specific area, and challenges you to look outside your bubble. I didn’t have to go far to see things differently, though. They geolocated me as Kirkland, but a quick trip to Redmond showed an amazingly different brand of music. (Seriously, click on those two.) Knowing the demographics of the areas, it makes sense.

Their encouragement is to click elsewhere — in the country, or on the planet — and see what different kinds of music is most popular right now. Some are geo-blocked, as I encountered when I checked out The Netherlands, but many are not.

Do this: Check out what’s popular near you, and then go exploring. For a bonus listen, check out – a clickable world map of streaming radio stations. I’m listening to a station in The Netherlands as I type.

3. “The Mother of all Networks”

The Victorian Internet – Tom Standage – (ebook)

This entertaining book covers the network before the network — and probably even before the network you’re thinking of. The “Victorian Internet” is the telegraph. The old single wire, Morse code using, dots and dashes communication system that these days is the realm of hobbyists, historians, and Western TV shows and movies.

What I was absolutely fascinated to learn was what pre-dated the telegraph itself for faster-than-a-horse distance communications. That, and the impact the telegraph had on society at the time; it was much larger than I’d considered.

Do this: Pick up the book, or at least review a preview. It’s not a long read, and the history might surprise you. In fact, the history might feel hauntingly familiar.

4. “She wondered if her video feed had frozen”

Derek Chauvin is found guilty of murder – The Economist – (magazine)

I don’t normally wander into societal issues, but I do find myself wondering if I should more often. Before the trial ended I know that my wife and I were concerned about the public reaction had the verdict been otherwise. That it came down as it did didn’t give us a sense of justice as much as it did a sense of relief. While my sense is the verdict was justified, I’m also the poster child for privilege — old, white, rich, straight, male — and my opinion matters much less than that of the various communities and individuals involved. My hope, I guess, is that it might lead to more accountability among those who should be held accountable. My job, on the other hand, is to continue to listen, and support those needing support.

Do this: listen.

5. “…if your work isn’t online, it doesn’t exist.”

Show Your Work! – Austin Kleon – (ebook)

The book’s premise is simple:

In order to be found, you have to be findable. I think there’s an easy way of putting your work out there and making it discoverable while you’re focused on getting really good at what you do.

For so many trying to “make it” in any kind of creative endeavor, working isolated and alone is not going to get them anywhere. The real takeaway here is that we must share our work. That’s why I share random things here, on my blog, on other sites, and even when testing out new and interesting technologies. Of course, I want my work to be found. These days that means if it’s not online, that’s just not going to happen.

Do this: if you want your work to be found, make sure it’s findable. Online.

6. “Send Out a Daily Dispatch”

Show Your Work – Austin Kleon – (ebook)

This is one I struggle with for a couple of reasons, but it’s something I’ve seen others do well. Kleon’s suggestion:

Once a day, after you’ve done your day’s work, go back to your documentation and find one little piece of your process that you can share.

He’s built quite the audience doing this, and I quite enjoy his postings. They run the range from creative struggles to updates on the backyard owl, “Coconut”.  I also have other friends who send out a daily something, and I have to say — I miss them when they don’t show up. I worry about alienating my audience(s) with stuff they don’t care about — particularly since I have two “buckets”, work and personal.

Do this: Follow @leonot on Twitter, I guess. Smile If I do something I think I’ll start there. (Even though I already made one post on @askleo.)

7. “If they can make their solicitation as human as possible, it would work better.”

Raising Money for a Nonprofit? Try a Personalized Approach – Paul Sullivan – (New York Times)

You probably already know that I’m involved with a few non-profits, and support several more. And while this article is salient to their fundraising efforts, and targetted at more affluent donors, at its core it’s just good marketing across all spectrums. Marketing’s even the wrong word: it’s relationship building.

“People are really looking for something more than a transaction” said Michael Wagner, co-founder of Omnia Family Wealth, which manages $2 billion for 60 families. “It’s about building a partnership based on a relationship. People used to be OK with just giving the money and being done with it, but that isn’t the case anymore.”

“More than a transaction.” It applies to so many more things than just our philanthropy.

Do this: I’m sure you have a favorite cause: maybe share that New York Times article with them. And if you’re in the position of selling just about anything, look for ways to make it more than a transaction.

What I’m Reading

In progress (also on GoodReads):


You’ll find all the books I’ve read or am reading as part of this project on the site’s Reading List page.

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