Amazon’s unwisely lets the nerds apologize for its AWS outage

Much of the Internet was down for three hours last week. Because of an outage at Amazon Web Services (AWS), Amazon’s cloud-based service that powers Internet companies, hundreds of services like Medium, Slack, Quora, Reddit, and Kickstarter stopped working or worked poorly. Amazon’s Web geeks then bungled the response, focusing on jargon rather than clarity and empathy. … Continued

The true meaning of the generalities in the Trump speech to Congress

Donald Trump’s first speech to a joint session of Congress was typical of such addresses. It was unusual for Trump in that it was clear, well-structured, and got most of the facts right — but like the average State of the Union, it was a mixed bag of gritty legislative proposals and pabulum. Let’s take a look at … Continued

A passive-aggressive shareholder letter from GE CEO Jeffrey Immelt

Jeffrey Immelt, CEO of GE, just published his company’s annual report and shareholder letter. It starts off with a veiled protest about the state of the world and the challenges it has created for GE’s leadership. The lede demonstrates clearly how people who want to accuse without naming names (Trump! Trump!) use passive constructions to generate doubt. … Continued

And the Oscar for best apology goes to . . . PriceWaterhouseCoopers

Perhaps you noticed that there was a screwup at the Oscars last night. Faye Dunaway and Warren Beatty announced that “La La Land” had won the Academy Award for Best Picture . . . and then had to backtrack, because there was a mistake. “Moonlight” was the actual winner. After the mistake, many people behaved graciously. … Continued

NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell: many words, hardly any meaning

Roger Goodell gave his “State of the NFL” press conference yesterday in the run-up to Super Bowl LI. Reporters asked difficult questions, and he gave mealy answers. If you’re looking for a tutorial on how to not answer questions, this is your chance to learn a lot. I’ll translate for you. (Based on the NFL’s transcript, … Continued

Hey Rep. Bob Goodlatte: can you strengthen ethics by weakening it?

House Republicans voted to rejigger (or as the headlines put it, “gut“) their independent ethics office; then, after heavy criticism from Democrats, Trump, and voters, said, “Nah, forget it.” What were they thinking? To find out, I analyzed a statement from Virginia Representative Bob Goodlatte, point man for the change. He’s mastered the Orwellian skill of calling … Continued

CIA director-designate Mike Pompeo uses passive voice to justify a power grab

Passive voice in opinion pieces is pernicious: it hides who actually is supposed to do stuff. Donald Trump’s choice for CIA director, Mike Pompeo, repeatedly used this technique in a Wall Street Journal op-ed. When you’re advocating surveillance and data collection, we want to know who’s doing it — but Pompeo uses passive misdirection to focus on terrorists … Continued

Responding to objections to “Writing Without Bullshit”

A lot of people think my writing advice is wrong. When you apply the principles in my book at work, you’re going to encounter resistance, because the way I teach writing is not conventional. Here’s a set of objections and counterarguments for when people tell you you’re doing it wrong. Business writing has worked fine for many … Continued