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The only purpose of disinformation is to deceive us.

That statement alone should be enough to motivate us to ask “how can we not be deceived and how do we know more about how it happens”.  There are many ways, of course, but we can counter disinformation if we are willing to educate our citizens on what disinformation is all about.  This is why I was very pleased to meet with Milan Tanceski of Blink 42-21 during my recent visit to speak at the first annual Media Innovation Forum in Skopje, Macedonia.

Macedonia has had its share of issues battling disinformation, as have virtually all countries in the world at this point.  The big difference is that Milan and his team are working on educational solutions to help the citizens of Macedonia learn what to look for and to be more aware of the perils of this type of propaganda.

I agreed to join the series and did a brief video interview (see below) on how bot networks take advantage of Twitter to drive us towards illicit goods, services or extreme views.  In the video, I describe how it often works.

An Internet Bot often seems very mysterious, but it is really quite straight forward.

A bot is just a software application running automated tasks over the Internet.  They are excellent at performing repetitive tasks, like retweeting certain accounts or dumping in keywords via tweets over and over.

In today’s world, it is very easy for bad actors to set up a bot network in days that looks real, shares tweets, fools search engines and drives us to the wrong place.  It drives people to counterfeit goods, services that are shams and groups that hold extreme views.

We can all improve in how we educate our countries and the world to increase our self-awareness.  The team in Macedonia is making an important step forward, which I applaud.  This series, which is just starting, can serve as an example for countries worldwide.  I hope you take a moment to watch this video and subsequent videos.  Please share ideas on what you believe the series should cover in the future, as well.

Let’s always remember that our world is filled with people who prefer a peaceful existence.  Very few of us are bad actors.  Let’s outlearn and outsmart them.

Best, Bob

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This summer I didn’t follow a theme.  Just read for fun.  Hope you find a few ideas in here.

First In: An Insider’s Account of How the CIA Spearheaded the War on Terror in Afghanistan by Gary Schroen – the author, who is an ex-CIA agent, outlines in first person narrative how the United States prepared, entered and engaged in the early days of the Afghanistan war. Very insightful book.

The Vegetarian by Han Kang – Whenever a book wins the Man Booker International Prize, I read it.  The Vegetarian, winner in 2016, takes place in Seoul, Korea.  A woman named Yeong-hye decides to stop eating meat.  The book outlines her journey into madness, often due to the cruelty of others.  It is a well-written and powerful piece of literature.

The Martian by Andy Weir – first time author Weir has a great future ahead of him.  Part geek, part great writer.  Can’t wait to read whatever he cooks up next.  I love books where you learn a bit while you enjoy the drama.  This is one, of course, where everyone has seen the movie.  In my view, the book is better.

Scandinavia: A History by Ewan Butler – we toured Norway and Denmark this summer, so it made sense to read up on the history of the Scandinavian region.  Although the book is dry and more like an academic book, I do feel like I understand how the centuries of war, leadership changes, Vikings, the plague and general interference from places like Russia shaped the thinking of this region for the long-term.  Norway and Denmark, by the way, are awesome to visit.  Beautiful places.

The Remains of the Day by Kazuo Ishiguro – this book, published in 1989, won the Man Booker Prize and Nobel Prize for literature.  The topic seems so so…the life of an English butler in post-world war II England.  I have to admit I was hesitant, but this was the sleeper of the summer.  When you encounter great writing, it is game changing.  I’ll be reading more writing of Kazuo Ishiguro.

Jimmy Page by Chris Salewicz – when I was 12 years old and started to save money from raking leaves or shoveling snow to buy albums, I first encountered Led Zeppelin.  Their sound made a huge impact on my love of music, along with The Stones, The Who and a few others.  Besides being a professional baseball player for The New York Yankees, my other wish was to be Jimmy Page and just crank on the electric guitar.  This book gives a great historical view of how Jimmy Page created Led Zeppelin, how their sound formed and how the band ultimately splintered in 1980.  Related to this book, we are seeing Robert Plant and the Sensational Space Shifters in two weeks.  Can’t wait.

Well, the summer is over.  Next up will be a series of books on science (genomics), technology (blockchain) and more.  As always, looking forward to your ideas on books to read.  I usually buy them and add them to the cue.

Best, Bob

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Intelligence can mean many things.  It can be just raw intellect or it can be the methodical gathering of insights or it can be an accumulation of knowledge by an individual that results in a perspective that is unique to our world.

The books I read this quarter focused on clandestine intelligence, our universe and the laws of physics and the individual minds of Dr. Henry Kissinger and our past Supreme Court Justice, Antonin Scalia.

Here is my summary.

The Art of Intelligence: Lessons from a life in the CIA’s clandestine service by Henry A. Crumpton – this is a great book that discusses the work of our CIA and how intelligence is gathered.  Many of us have read The Art of War by Sun Tzu.  This is worth adding to your reading list.

Red Sparrow by Jason Matthews – Jason is a 33-year veteran of the CIA.  His book, now a movie, is a highly interesting page-turner.  I put it in the Tom Clancy category for his combination of fiction and technical accuracy.  Will be reading his other books.

Agents of Innocence by David Ignatius – I was told that David Ignatius of The Washington Post is one of the best writers of fiction related to the Middle East.  The book is exceptional.  Will be reading all of his other books.

Seven Brief Lessons on Physics by Carlo Rovelli – this is a brief book that explores quantum mechanics, black holes, gravity and more.  It is not a “simple” book to read, but it does help you think about our universe.  As an example, I had not really thought of black holes as a sort of Rosetta stone to uncover what has occurred before us.  Thought provoking.

World Order by Henry Kissinger – this is Dr. Kissinger’s book that, essentially, takes us for a tour of the world and his brain as it relates to how he sees our world evolving, how world order could be achieved (or not) and why it is just not that easy to achieve harmony anywhere in the world for a sustained period of time.  We humans sure are complicated.  No one better to give this guided tour.

Scalia Speaks by Christopher J. Scalia – Antonin’s son collected the speeches of his father and organized them into a flow that illustrates the thinking of this important US Supreme Court Justice over time.  I found it illuminating to understand his deep respect for the constitution.  Anytime we can understand the mindset of an important figure, it becomes so much easier to see how they think, why they view certain topics as sacrosanct and how we can better view those who are pro or con in the future.  The foreword from his dear friend, Justice Ruth Bader Ginsberg, is a great touch.

This summer I am continuing on the “Intelligence” path.  Current read is the Leonardo da Vinci biography by Walter Isaacson followed by First In about how we entered Afghanistan after 9/11.

Thanks, as always, for sharing your ideas on what to read. Enjoy the summer!

Best, Bob

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Hate and extremism touch us far too many times.

I grew up hearing stories about our great uncle Alexander Didur, who died as a prisoner of war in Korea.  In our hometown, some of our best friends grew up without a brother killed in the Vietnam war.  Years later, terrorism has ended the lives of several friends from our hometown.  These are the moments that can only be endured, but not fixed.

In our day to day world, that is not true.  We have a major opportunity to unite together and utilize our “soft power” to counter the bias, hate and extremism that exists in our world.  We greatly outnumber the bad actors and we can decide to use our collective soft power in many ways.

We can volunteer to help youth in our communities.  Even one day makes a difference.

We can support our military veterans, who have put their lives on the line to protect our freedom, when they return home.  As an example, at VETTED, we help our returning military leaders pursue an educational and networking path that will help the transition from the battle field to the board room.

We can donate to NGOs and non-profits who are completely centered on building a safer world. Donate can mean your time, not just money.  Your knowledge and network is more of an asset than you may realize.

And we can be a check on each other by toning down the bias and the shouting and the grand standing that all too often leads to more anger, bias and hate.  If we understand how our brain works, we realize how futile counter protesting really is.

Back to TEDx Austin……..I was invited to speak by Cassaundra Melgar-C’De Baca, CEO of VETTED, of which I am a board member.  The goal of this TEDx talk was to reflect on what we (Haroon K. Ullah) and myself learned in co-writing Countering Hate and what it could mean for all of us.

I’m looking forward to your insights as you watch the talk below.  Please share so we can all learn from each other.

Best, Bob


Interested in learning more about Countering Hate, click here.

Learn more about the incredible work of VETTED.

Learn more about W2O, check out our About page.

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What is next is often sitting right in front of us.  However, we often miss the initial wave of innovation, since we are so focused on how we do business “today” and we can’t see clearly how an incremental advance is actually a tectonic shift.  Narration is just such an example.

Three distinct facts set me off to explore this area in more detail.

When Facebook Live started in January 2016, most of us thought it was nice, but not much more.  Now, with nearly four billion live broadcasts completed, we can see that Facebook Live sessions are watched three times more often than regular videos…..worldwide.

Earlier this year, I was listening to Snapchat talk about their business and heard them say that more than one trillion snaps were taken in 2017.  So, 159 million members of Snapchat took more photos than the other several billion people with cameras in the world.  Wow.

And then I was talking with my nephew, Anthony Gaetano, who describes how to play video games for Roblox, Minecraft and now Fortnite.  On Roblox, Anthony has over 1.1 million subscribers who listen in daily to what he has to say.  This is an example of one of his daily videos which has 380,00 views where he is teaching his Dad, Anthony, on how to use Roblox.  How many brands get this level of interest for each video?   Fortnite is also growing towards this level of audience for Anthony.

So, what do they all have in common and what is the average marketer or communicator missing?  Well, it’s pretty simple when we strip it apart.

Authenticity – we want to hear real conversations from real people helping us navigate the world.  We do not want polished videos, polished speeches and talking points.

My life – if we can map out our lives visually, it helps us realize what we did each day and it helps us build a new type of digital relationship with our peers, which is exactly what Snapchat accomplishes.  How many brands make it easy for you, the customer, to maintain a history of what you like about that brand and what it does for you?

Advice – video game narrators are showing us what big brands should do.  We’re not waiting with baited breath for the next margarine ad or even the next post.  We want experts to tell us what we need to know in a way that is real…..in a regular cadence.

What this means for content creators is powerful.  We often think in terms of “campaigns” or “new brands” or “voice of the customer” when in reality, what our customers want is for us calm down and share our thinking.  Here are a few examples.

Running – what if you could follow running experts from shoe company X who share their learnings with you every day via YouTube and occasionally listen to them on Facebook Live at events?  They occasionally mention their equipment, but their goal is to share their love of running with you.

Health – patients, nurses and physicians speak candidly about what it is like to battle cancer.  What are we thinking when we go to the chemotherapy center?  What is it like to deal with insurance?  What do you tell your loved ones?  We also mention treatments and related ideas, but, again, within a much larger context and we get this on a daily basis.  Why?  Well, if you are battling cancer, you have all of the time in the world to listen to others who may give you ideas and hope.

Deeper Websites – you no longer get someone to go to text on a website and declare victory.  Instead, you can click and learn more about the topic from an expert(s) who continually update their thoughts.  You enter a learning center, not a site, and form a relationship with real people from the company.

The list can go on.  The key is when we say that content needs to be more agile or more transparent or some other word choice, we should ask ourselves a deeper question.

Are we narrating life for our customers or are we just trying to sell them something?  The former is powerful and will build long-lasting relationships.  The latter is transactional. 

And that brings me back to a final point.  The antibodies of our world will say “yeah, but you don’t get how media really works”.   My point back is one trillion+ snaps, four billion broadcasts and 22-year old’s with more than one million subscribers……..what am I missing about what really works?

It will be a fun era as we reinvent how we “Storytize” rather than advertise.

Best, Bob

The average age for getting your first phone worldwide is 10. We spend more than 5,000 days between the ages of 10 and 25 with the phone as the center of our universe, which is prime-time for when our brains form habits for life. For all of us, at any age, the phone is rapidly becoming our new TV.

This made me think of Dynamic Signal, a leading platform for unlocking how employees communicate externally and internally, so I asked Joelle Kaufman, CMO of Dynamic Signal to riff with me on the topic of workplace innovation and how we can improve our communications.

BP: What is wrong with how we share corporate information today?

JK:  We’re simply not giving employees reliable information in the way they’re most likely to consume it. We’re also not giving them a scalable and safe way to share information.

BP:  What’s your answer?

JK: Well, you know we built our platform to make it easy to curate and target the right information to the right people at scale. The fact that it comes to them in a personalized, mobile and natural way is a breakthrough.

BP: Why?

JK: It’s about being able to reach employees with a mobile alert, with a notification, or via an SMS. But if people prefer Slack, Workplace or Spark, it’s about reaching them there, too. The days of being able to mandate how someone gets information from you, by restricting it to one place where they must go, is long gone. Pandora’s box has opened. Now, you have to give them the right information where they want to be getting it. It’s a completely different mindset. But it’s actually a very human, employee-centric mindset. Wherever my employee wants my content is where I should be.

BP: You mean we are not just “one more poster campaign” away from success?

JK: That is for sure.

BP: In all seriousness, what you describe is powerful. What else are you seeing inside companies that makes it so important to deliver and share content in a more personal, mobile manner?

JK: We’re seeing an erosion of trust in institutions, whether it’s the media or companies. It’s even been called a ‘trust apocalypse.’ But people trust people they know. So, companies have to accept that stories they share are less trusted than if they come from employees. But your employees are not marketing devices. They’re going to make choices about if this is authentic information and if their communities will value it. We’ve seen that when you provide a stream of authentic internal content that isn’t designed to be shared, employees then are more likely to share what is shareable because they have greater trust in the organization. It’s very powerful. It’s transformational when you realize that you have to trust your employees and give them safe ways to share information. But if you only trust them with information you want them to share, they will know you don’t really trust them.

BP: You work with a lot of companies worldwide.  What is their “aha” moment?

JK: The biggest ‘aha’ for our clients is the positive reaction their employees have to being offered this benefit that is so personalized to them. How we communicate is fundamental to how we relate as human beings. When you do this, you’re saying: you’re important enough that we’re investing so you have what you need and what you want at your fingertips. Employees have reacted by saying: ‘Wow, my executives, my managers, my company really value me.’ It drives much lower turnover and much higher performance. So, their ‘aha’ is that when done well, this really makes people happy. And happy people work better.

BP: What’s next in internal communications? Will we get more sophisticated in how we reach employees via text? New messaging service ahead? Tell us more.

JK: We’re in a period of transformation. I think in the near term there will be a much deeper level of understanding about what works and what doesn’t so we can optimize our internal communications. We’re going to be much more cognizant of the impact our communication is having on recipients. Now if you want a future cast, think about the ability of saying to your phone: ‘Please tell me what I need to know about my work today.’ And then it simply tells me while I’m in my car on the way into the office. Or I get to my desk and I put on my AR headset and what I need is immediately available to me. That’s pretty cool. The trend is toward information coming to me, when I want it, where I want it. I’m not going to go anywhere to get it.

Cool, very exciting what is becoming possible to improve the way we work and learn inside our organizations.  Thanks, Joelle.

This week we released a podcast of a conversation that Aaron Strout moderated with Michael Sarraille, retired Navy SEAL and Founder of VETTEDHaroon K. Ullah, Chief Strategy Officer of Broadcasting Board of Directors, and myself.

Rather than summarize the talk, I’ll let the podcast do the work. More here via Aaron’s post.

If you are interested in our larger podcast series, you can see it here or just go on Spotify and subscribe to What2Know.

If you are interested in Vetted.org, you can click here to find out how you can help our Veterans and, as part of this effort, buy our book, Countering Hate (all proceeds go to Vetted).

Enjoy the podcast!

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Understanding how bias, hate, and extremism form and working to stop it is an incredibly important task. It can seem daunting and impossible, but after an incredibly enlightening conversation it is clear that’s not the case.

I had the distinct pleasure of chatting with Michael Sarraille, retired Navy SEAL and Founder of VETTED, Haroon K. Ullah, Chief Strategy Officer of Broadcasting Board of Directors, and my colleague, Bob Pearson, Chief Innovation Officer of W2O. All of these guys are brilliant and passionate, and talking to them truly was an education. Bob and Haroon recently published a book titled “Countering Hate“, a concept that was born from a conversation had on our podcast last year. During our chat they share how the book helps us understand the intricacies and nuances of extremism while providing tangible action steps of how we all can do our part to counter hate. As if that wasn’t enough of an incentive all proceeds from the book go to the organization Michael founded, VETTED.

VETTED focuses on transitioning Veteran leaders into industry disruptors and entrepreneurs of tomorrow. During our discussion Michael shares how the foundation focuses on transitioning our Vets from the battlefield to boardroom to careers they deserve and how you can get involved. Our Veterans deserve the opportunity to participate in the free enterprise that they defended with their lives and VETTED is dedicated to making this happen.

You don’t want to miss out on this conversation, take a listen below.

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In today’s Fox News article “Mark Zuckerberg says AI cannot stop online abuse yet, but experts beg to differ,” Bob Pearson points out that if W2O’s analytics team can build algorithms and utilize machine learning techniques to  identify speech patterns for our clients, Facebook could surely do the same with both machine learning and AI to learn from experience and gain insights previously out of reach.  AI will only make it easier, since it powers machine learning to have a wider reach, in many cases.

An excerpt:

Bob Pearson, the co-author of the book Countering Hate and the chief innovation officer of W2O Group, tells Fox News that AI is able to identify hate speech today. It’s a matter of training the AI algorithms to understand bias in language and what humans consider to be harmful.

“All human beings follow patterns online,” Pearson said. “You can see what language, content, channel and people matter to them. You can see which words trigger information seeking, which language is most associated with hate topics or sites, which people are the most important influencers and you can see a range of behavioral characteristics.”

 The problem he says, is that Facebook and other companies have not taken up the charge to make the battle against hate speech a major priority. They are distracted by other topics.

“A media platform can identify bias, hate and extremist speech just as easily as it can identify your needs for advertisers. It is just a matter of focus,” he said…

Read the full article on FoxNews.com.

Learn About W2O or get a better feel for our Healthcare work.

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