The Decline of Facts

I’m not looking forward to the presidential debates. The reason is that facts will not be part of the discussion. Imagine this fictitious argument:

  • Fact Person: “The world is spherical.”
  • Feelings Person: “I feel that it is flat.”
  • Fact Person: “There are pictures, science, facts. It’s provable!”
  • Feelings Person: “All of that is faked. Photoshopped. It’s all paid for by Big Round, the round earth lobby.
  • Fact Person: “How can I prove to you that this is a fact.”
  • Feelings Person: “You can’t. How can I prove to you the world is flat?”
  • Fact Person: “What?? You can’t. It’s spherical! Idiot!”
  • Feelings Person: “Oh, so not you use name calling. Good argument.”

Do you see how facts are impossible to prove to someone who doesn’t want to hear them? On the internet, every point of view has a page that supports their ideas. How can we move forward in this world if facts don’t matter?

Newt Gingrich got in an argument about violent crime. He said, “People feel that crime is worse now than ever.” The moderator said, “But the statistics say the opposite is true. Crime is way down!” Gingrich replied, “I’ll go with what people feel and you go with the facts. Let’s see who wins that election.”

That is terrifying. Facts don’t matter. Only feelings matter.

As a B2B product leader, I actually know that feelings actually do trump facts. (No pun intended). The way a product makes you feel is more important than how much money is makes your company. Feelings are more powerful than facts. So much crazy behavior stems from this.

I don’t try to fight that in product development. Rather, I lean in and make sure the application nurtures people’s feelings as much as their bottom line. However, as a progressive, I have trouble mapping that to the current political environment. How can Hillary win when she is just using facts? She needs to build up her foundation of positive feelings.

Come on Hillary, I know you can do it. 🙂

*Fact: Not photoshopped.

The Presidential Charisma Rule

Presidential Elections Rule #1:

The one with more charisma will win.

Since presidents have been using television to communicate with the people, the one with the most charisma has won. I’ll start conservatively with 1952, but it really was 1960 when television really took off.

1952 Dwight D. Eisenhower (R) – 442 Adlai Stevenson (D) – 89
1956 Dwight D. Eisenhower (R) – 457 Adlai Stevenson (D) – 73
1960 John F. Kennedy (D) – 303 Richard Nixon (R) – 219
Harry F. Byrd (D) – 15
1964 Lyndon B. Johnson (D) – 486 Barry Goldwater (R) – 52
1968 Richard Nixon (R) – 301 Hubert Humphrey (D) – 191
George Wallace (I) – 46
1972 Richard Nixon (R) – 520 George McGovern (D) – 17
1976 Jimmy Carter (D) – 297 Gerald Ford (R) – 240
1980 Ronald Reagan (R) – 489 Jimmy Carter (D) – 49
1984 Ronald Reagan (R) – 525 Walter Mondale (D) – 13
1988 George H. W. Bush (R) – 426 Michael Dukakis (D) – 111
1992 Bill Clinton (D) – 370 George H. W. Bush (R) – 168
1996 Bill Clinton (D) – 379 Bob Dole (R) – 159
2000 George W. Bush (R) – 271 Al Gore (D) – 266
2004 George W. Bush (R) – 286 John Kerry (D) – 251
2008 Barack Obama (D) – 365 John McCain (R) – 173
2012 Barack Obama (D) – 332 Mitt Romney (R) – 206

Compare the candidates. The one with more charisma won every time. 60 years and 16 elections worth of data.

The general masses of people don’t get excited about policy. We crave charismatic leadership. We want to have a beer with the candidate. This is why Trump is doing well. I hate him, but he has charisma. He may win over Hillary Clinton if nominated because of this rule.

This isn’t a happy rule, but I think it’s accurate.

Bernie Sanders is Larry David

I was watching some clips of the debate and Bernie Sander’s voice kept poking me in the brain. It sounded exactly like someone else. As if Bernie was doing an impression. Then it hit me. He was doing an impression of Larry David.  Check out these two clips.

The first is Larry David on 60 minutes. You only need to watch the first minute or so.

Then here is Bernie at the debate.

His cadence is awesome. It has a comedic timing and rhythm that makes you want to listen to him. I think this was a smart move on his part. He looked like he was “above the fray” and not political.

I’ve met Hillary Clinton, and loved her.  However, right now, Bernie has my vote. I’m a progressive and I love his policies. Hillary is a great choice, but Bernie is tapping directly into my progressive spirit.  Sorry Hillary.


UPDATE: Right after I posted this, Saturday Night Live had the exact same idea.

The UX of Donald Trump

I try incredibly hard to avoid saying someone is an asshole without further explanation. The reason is that the adjective lacks any specifics. It doesn’t help you understand WHY. When Donald Trump speaks, I constantly want to scream at the screen, “Shut up! You are such a dick!” This is when I catch myself and say, “But Glen” (speaking to myself, yes, I do that) “What specifically do you disagree with? Why is he a jerk?”

The problem is that Donald Trump moves from topic to topic with lightning speed. He is like a comedian who is roasting someone, going from joke to joke, ridicule to ridicule so quickly that you have no time to examine the veracity of any single statement. With comedians it’s OK because you are only trying to get a laugh. With Trump, he is trying to be the chief executive of the United States of America. Truth matters, at least a little.

Years ago, Howard Dean was the “over the top, wild/exuberant” candidate for the democrats. Dean got alot of attention before imploding. Eventually, John Kerry was nominated. (The safe candidate) I think the same will happen in the GOP. Jeb Bush seems the most obvious candidate. However, if the GOP actually does nominate Trump, I think most middle of the road Americans will not be fans.

There will be two problems. The first is that bombastic personalities typically get old. It would be impossible for him to maintain this level of attitude for 428 more days without becoming tired. The American attention span for that sort of thing doesn’t last that many months. The second problem is that he says so many things, eventually some of them will be labeled as “lies”. You know what, forget the second problem. The press, nor the american people (statistically) care about that. So it’s just the one problem.

Trump is a meme. A popular one. But like all memes, he will run his course and we will move on to the next meme.

Our collective consciousness has become extremely meme friendly. It’s impossible to be ignorant of the memes affecting us. The UX lesson here is about memes. Stay on your toes, keep changing the dynamic and don’t assume that today’s meme will last very long.

But seriously, he is an asshole.

Martin Luther King Day 2014


Racism is alive and well in the United States.  African Americans are at a disadvantage in many categories.  This includes how they are treated by the law, corporations and education.  Plenty of studies have proven that African Americans have serious disadvantages that come directly from government and legal policies.  (Example)  Racism isn’t as explicit as it used to be, but in many ways it is worse.

Take this horrific example from Sarah Palin’s Facebook page. (no link on purpose)


Sarah Palin clearly thinks that racism doesn’t exist (or wants to pretend it doesn’t).  I don’t see President Obama playing any “race card”.  I just see a racist woman using her celebrity to sow hate and discord.

This isn’t about UX so much, but MLK deserves a little something for his troubles.

As an American, I am willing to…

As an American, I am willing to live with…

  1. Reduction of the size of the military by 50%. The cost is enormous and we would be just fine with a reduction in forces to half of what we have today.  We would still be spending more on military than most other countries.
  2. Reduction of nuclear weapons to 20 ICBM missiles.  We currently have 2,468 Active missiles. (9,600 total)  I think 20 would absolutely do the trick of deterring enemies.  Even 50 would be acceptable, but seriously, 2,468 is just obscene.
  3. Increase in the retirement age to 70.  People are living so long these days.  They are working well into their 60s and even 70s.  Social Security is just not sustainable right now.  We need to deal with entitlements.  Increasing the retirement age to 70 will save Social Security.
  4. Increase the cost of gas to $10 a gallon. We need real renewable energy.  We need electric cars.  We need an upgrade to the nations energy grid.  All of this obviously needs to be paid for.  Tax gasoline to build this stuff.
  5. Wind Energy that kills some birds and is ugly.  I get that the turbines kill birds and that’s not good.  However, wind energy is awesome and we need to have WAY more of it.  Put them in my backyard, I don’t care.  I want cheap energy.
  6. Increased property taxes (especially in California). Fund the schools!  Tax properties to do it! The California tax system is insane and its the schools that suffer.
  7. Increased taxes to pay for the arts. The government should fund the arts.  This is the hallmark of a great civilization.  Cutting funding for the arts is short-minded.  The arts inspire greatness.

All of these things are politically risky.  They are “third-rail, touch them and you die” issues.  I am looking for a leader who can convince Americans to do ANY of these things.  I am willing to live with all of them.  They all have downside like higher taxes, dead birds and reduced entitlements.  In this world, sometimes you need to make choices that have downside.  You can’t always get everything you want.

What would you be willing to sacrifice for the good of the country?

The UX of Mission/Vision Resolutions

I was listening to Barney Frank today on NPR.  He said, regarding the healthcare debate, that republicans and democrats are basically on the same page on the big picture.  They both believed there is a real issue that needs serious attention.  However, he described that when you went into the details, that ideology created huge riffs between the different points of view.

They were on the same page in the big picture, but on different pages in the details.

My suggestion to them, from a UX standpoint is to focus on a resolution declaring the mission/vision of what they want to accomplish.  Avoid all details.  Just get everyone to vote the same way, just once, on a common description of the problem and the goals they want to achieve.  Things like “Ensure that 95% of all Americans have real health insurance.” (or whatever)

If Barney Frank is right, then they should be able to pass a resolution describing the goals.  If he is wrong, then they wouldn’t even be able to do that.  How can they pass a detailed bill if they can’t even pass a meaningless statement of intent?

However, if they COULD pass a meaningless statement of intent, then that document becomes a very helpful guiding set of principles to use during negotiations.  It helps provide boundaries and direction of intent.  It would help move things along.

I am no expert on parliamentary procedure or the wild world of lobbyists and politicians.  What I do know is that this issue is riddiculously complicated and I would like a statement from my representative saying what they are intending to do.  I can’t follow the tiny details, but I can follow a high level doc.  Not 5000 pages.  I want something that fits on 1-3 sheets of paper.

It’s a thorny issue.  I don’t envy the difficulties Barney Frank has to deal with.