40 years of mob psychology

One day, about 40 years ago, I found myself in a group of people doing something that scared the crap out of me. As I look around me now, I feel the same way I felt then. I went to college at Penn State, a burgeoning mass of 30,000 students sequestered in the heart of the mountains … Continued

As Uber president Jeff Jones quits, CEO Travis Kalanick ignores the toxic context

The bad news at Uber keeps on coming. This weekend, its President of Ridesharing and second-in-command, Jeff Jones, quit after only six months. This was an opportunity for Uber’s founder and CEO, Travis Kalanick, to take responsibility for problems that contributed to this departure. He failed. The context for the Jeff Jones departure First, some background. … Continued

Wishbone can’t wish away a data breach

The quick polling app Wishbone, popular with teenagers, lost 2 million of its users’ email addresses and 287,000 phone numbers. Then it posted no apology — just a “no big deal” email to its users. Most of the apologies I critique are too defensive or company-centric, but I’ve never before seen one that’s basically says, … Continued

The hidden mental models behind the fight over the Oxford comma

A nasty, permanent spat burns in the heart of analysts of the English language. It’s the fight over the need for the Oxford or serial comma — for example, do you really need the final comma in the phrase “passive voice, weasel words, and jargon”? Now that a court in Maine has decided a case based on the … Continued

How to fix your organization’s poor writing culture

You know poor writing is slowing down your organization. But changing a culture — any culture — is wicked hard. Where should you start? And how can you maintain the change? I suggest three steps: 1. Generate awareness. 2. Share knowledge. 3. Provide systems for help and support. Here’s how to do these. 1. Generate … Continued

The Panic Economy

It’s snowing here in New England. And, as always, the local and national news and weather cabals have energized the panic economy, creating not just millions of page views but endless supermarket lines to buy batteries, bread, and milk. (Why bread and milk? No one knows.) As I sit safe and cozy in my home … Continued

An Unthinkable podcast — clarity in audio storytelling

I’ve done lots of podcasts. Jay Acunzo’s “Unthinkable” stands out. It’s a good example of how structure and some extra work make stories better, whether that’s in words or in recorded sound. The typical podcast I do is an interview. I get on the phone or Skype with somebody, they ask questions, and I respond. They … Continued