Friday, January 21, 2011

Evaluating WikiLeaks

Headnote: By focusing on Wikileaks we are ignoring the government's actions. Here is a Youtube by a thoughtful man with proposed solutions, the founder of Independent Diplomats. 

Is WikiLeaks evaluating WikiLeaks?

Are they considering costs over benefits? I wonder. Although I’m a tad more inclined to hang out with oblivious young in-the-basement computer geeks than with responsible old workers who have a political party membership card, I am really wondering. Both common sense and Management 101 tell us that after a completing a project,—and leaking a federal government is a pretty big project,—it is important to do a project evaluation. It’s like how, after a step-by-step complicated decision or task, you would conscientiously do the last step, “evaluation,” in order to steadily improve your decision-making.

My focus now is on the leaks of the diplomatic cables of the US government.

America’s focus was clouded, before Christmas, with knee-jerk emotions like, “It’s just not fair!” and “Man, we should go assassinate the dude.” (The dude being Julian Assange) At the same time, from reading computer geeks on the web, I saw less emotional people who seemed more like bystanders saying things like, “Transparency is good” and “In the long run I want more government transparency.”

I say “bystanders” because I sensed they felt

Friday, January 7, 2011

Surfing at Work

You know what disturbs me? People “wimping out” at work by “surfing.”

If you surf on your employer’s dime, then aren’t you tempted to rush? And if you rush, aren’t you tempted to switch gears to be solely left-brain? Then aren’t you left with a black and white nonfiction view of the world? I’ve yet to see a tweet to say, “I’ve just found a cool short story on the web!”

You know who doesn’t rush? Real surfers riding the pacific rollers, balanced, their left and right brains integrated… deeply committed to the experience of being here now. They live in gorgeous Technicolor. Not like those who pretend to be “surfing,” unable to commit, skimming through their one precious life.

Ironically, some of those who don’t want to be transparent about their surfing at work will agree with making government mail transparent. I thought of such people this winter when the newspaper reported some people favouring wiki-leaks. Meanwhile, I suppose few of us with journalistic ethics will look favorably on the “ethically challenged” practice of secretly surfing the web.

Roger Ebert has been a newspaperman in Chicago since the 1960’s, back when the sexual revolution was gathering momentum. Down the years he’s seen his fellow Chicagoan Hugh Hefner do lots of good work as a citizen: This was above and beyond Hefner’s work as a Playboy business tycoon. Earlier this winter, to express his respect for Hefner, Ebert posted an essay on his web site. Being a non-racist, as is Hefner, Ebert’s essay included a tasteful photo of a nude black playmate from June of 1975, the fifth black playmate, and the first one to have African features.

Of course, given the human rights nature of the essay, it would have been jarring, even hypocritical to write, in the first or second paragraph, that he was including a nude. For Ebert the human body would not be dirty, a warning would not be appropriate.

Did Ebert think about surfers? What I think is that when it comes to art and literature, people engaging their left-brain gear won’t savor a short story, and won’t linger in appreciation of any pictures: not a Picasso, not a Raphael and not a photo by Hefner. I suppose, too, that people who are rushing through essays at work won’t read deeply, won’t gaze off with reverence and increasing excitement at something by Plato or Thomas Paine. Instead they will sprint along the words without hearing the music. In their mad dash they won’t even notice any (hypothetical) second paragraph sentence about being “not safe for work.” Perhaps it’s poetic karma, then, when they conjure up the beautiful Miss June in their cubicles.

I have always believed there are men and women who “only buy Playboy for the articles.” I am less confident of claims of “I only surf at lunch time.” Poor Ebert, being an honorable man, forgot about those who are less honorable.

After Ebert posted, a lot of people scolded him. Here is my favorite comment by far:

** By Andy H. on November 1, 2010 12:18 am

The real moral of this story is “don’t surf the internet at work, idiots,” What I really take umbrage at is the attitude of the right to do it and the want for your implicit participation in the act. You’re using company computers on company time. They could fire you for going on rotten tomatoes or metacritic.

This is just personal bitterness I’m bringing to the table, but I’m a college graduate who doesn’t have one of those fancy pants jabs where you sit on your butt all day checking facebook. I work minimum wage in the pits of Hell, risking life and limb in the backs of semi trailers. I come home covered in grime with scratched arms and bruised shins, picking dirt out of my nostrils and I’m still treated like I don’t do enough. Yet you gamble away your salaried position so you can read a blog about Hugh Hefner. You can’t wait three hours where you can do it at home on a better computer with a faster connection?

A lot has been written about my generation’s general lack of common sense and inability to act professional in the workplace. I now see that these accusations are probably coming from people who surf the internet at work. I mean, damn. I may have never held a “real job,” but I have witnessed firsthand what can get a person fired. Sheesh. **

I liked Ebert’s reply:

** Ebert: A gust of cold reality. Thank you. **

I suppose the saddest thing about folks who rush through the surf at work is this: Even if, on a fine Sunday, they go to a wireless café and sit back relaxing with their laptop and a sweet cup of steaming tea… they’ll still be hopelessly stuck in their left-brain gear. Still mad, still rushing.

There’s one small mercy… I guess they won’t ever grasp that by surfing at work they have destroyed their character.

Sean Crawford
With my MacBook Air,
Showing a full screen background of Edward Hopper’s Nighthawks,
 Good Earth café,
January 2011