November 29, 2015

Fear on the rise in our literature

Could we be using fewer words associated with happiness and joy and more associated with fear in recent decades?

Researchers were able to chart historical periods of positive and negative moods through literature. Values above zero indicate generally "happy" periods, and values below the zero indicate generally "sad" periods.

Researchers were able to chart historical periods of positive and negative moods through literature. Values above zero indicate generally “happy” periods, and values below the zero indicate generally “sad” periods.

With Google digitization of hundreds of years of literature, British anthropologists are mapping the rise and fall of “emotion” words through history, says an NPR story.

This effort began simply with lists of “emotion” words: 146 different words that connote anger; 92 words for fear; 224 for joy; 115 for sadness; 30 for disgust; and 41 words for surprise. All were from standardized word lists used in linguistic research.

The original idea was to have the computer program track the use of these words over time. The researchers wanted to see if certain words, at certain moments, became more popular.

 Perhaps not surprisingly, the valleys and peaks matched large, societal and international events: the “roaring” ’20s were a high point for joy, while 1941 saw sadness dominate.

What is most surprising about the study, though, is that our use of “emotion” words is decreasing, with one interesting exception.

“Generally speaking, the usage of these commonly known emotion words has been in decline over the 20th century,” Alex Bentley says [who led the researchers]. We used words that expressed our emotions less in the year 2000 than we did 100 years earlier — words about sadness and joy and anger and disgust and surprise.

Ironic, considering the rise of “openness” and transparency in our society. Reality shows follow “housewives” (in the loosest sense of the word) practice keeping up with the Jones for national audiences, while singles pursue love in game show formats. Social media like Facebook and Twitter instantly transmit our highs and lows, snark and snide, to the internet, never to disappear. And blogs, like this one, turn anyone with access to the internet into a writer.

Yet, in spite of increased sharing, our language sounds like it may be losing its emotion, except for in one area: fear.

In fact, there is only one exception that Bentley and his colleagues found: fear. “The fear-related words start to increase just before the 1980s,” he says.

I don’t know why fear in our language has increased while joy, sadness, anger, disgust and surprise have decreased, but it gives me pause. “Fear is the mind killer,” wrote Frank Herbert, while Jesus of Nazareth counseled to “Fear not; only believe.”  At a time when we as a nation face great problems–like how we deal with the mass murder of innocents like in Aurora, Colorado or Newtown, Connecticut, how we address rising costs of healthcare, and where we will find solutions to a sluggish economy and falling wages–fear is the last emotion we should let guide us.

Publius Online is participating in the Blogging from A to Z Challenge, a month-long quest to post every day. Each day should match a letter of the alphabet. Today is the letter F.

I want your vote: KSL’s “Star Correspondent” Competition


Hi. I need your vote on Facebook. Would you take a minute and vote here?

If you’ve been following or reading this blog for any amount of time, you know I like to talk about politics. With the National Republican Convention in August, the local news station (and one of the largest, if not the largest, local news outlets in the country), is sending one person on an all expenses paid trip to the convention as a “Star Correspondent.”

I want to be that Star Correspondent.

Think about all the great stuff I could post here: interviews, pictures, behind the scenes stories, on the floor discussions, the drama around Ron Paul’s delegates, the VP selection, and, the best part, Mitt Romney for President!

Phew. Gets me excited just thinking about it.

Would you mind taking a moment to vote here?

Stage one of the contest requires a video submission (you can find mine below). The top five vote recipients on Facebook, after passing a “phone interview” are invited to the Doug Wright Show for Stage Two. That’s where it gets fun:

The top five finalists come into the KSL studios the week of June 25, 2012 and join Doug Wright on his Talk Show from 8:30 am to 10:00 am. Each finalist will get their chance to “sell” themselves before the listening audience by talking about the issues of the day (to be selected by Doug Wright and KSL NewsRadio) for 30 seconds. All five contestants will be required to be in attendance on Monday, June 25, 2012. At the end of Doug Wright’s show, KSL NewsRadio will post photos of each finalist, their bio’s, an audio clip of them during the show and allow the listening audience to vote for who they would like to represent them as the guest correspondent at the Republican National Convention.

And so on. The process eventually eliminates all but one (“THERE CAN BE ONLY ONE!”)…

But first, I need your votes on Facebook. Would you take a moment and vote for my submission here? I would very much appreciate your support.

And now the video (and yes, I know: I’ve got a face that’s made for blogging, not broadcast journalism…thank heavens it’s KSL Radio running the contest, not KSL TV).


Could Facebook become a target for acquisition by Google?

Could Google buy Facebook someday?

Why wouldn’t Google go after Facebook?  After a lackluster IPO, at least one analyst is already predicting the demise of Facebook. Why not wait until Facebook has bottomed out and then pick it up for a song?

After watching Facebook’s market cap over the last week (and Google’s in comparison since they went public), I can’t help but wonder if Facebook’s business model is ultimately unsustainable. Check this:

  • ANNUAL REVENUE: Google, $38 billion; Facebook, $3.7 billion.
  • ADVERTISING REVENUE: Google, $36.5 billion; Facebook, $3.2 billion.
  • ANNUAL NET INCOME: Google, $9.7 billion; Facebook, $668 million.

The real difference between the two is in social network users. Facebook has nearly a billion and Google’s are closer to 200 million (give or take twenty million). But where’s the money? That’s where Google does well: not only does Google provide a search engine so ubiquitous that it’s a verb, Google is also has an email tool, the pervasive advertising on the web, business products such as spreadsheet and wordprocessing, and a cloud type tool, now, too. And that’s just the more mundane of offerings from Google.

Meanwhile, Facebook has the narcissism of 900 million people, their “Likes,” “Friends,” and bad photos. Their advertising doesn’t bring in near the revenues that Google’s does, and their business model may not even be sustainable much longer.

It kind of makes me wonder if Facebook could be a logical target for a takeover by Google sometime in the future. Or by Microsoft or Apple, for that matter. Why not?

And then regulators could shift into high gear to decide whether that’s too much of the “interweb” controlled by one company. (At least if Google bought Facebook, our posts on Facebook would finally become search engine optimized).

In lieu of a daily post…

I’ve been asked to be on some kind of Deseret News live panel blogging about the election results tonight. Please join me there as we watch the primary results come in from Arizona and Michigan.  Click on the image below to find the panel. Coverage starts at 5:30 PM.

You can also follow me (should you be so inclined to stalk) on Twitter under the handle @publiusdb.

My New Year’s Resolution: Focus & Discipline

Yeah, I know it’s been almost two weeks. Clearly, I’ve been a little distracted…

Which leads to the resolution: formulate systems and goals that will lead to the discipline to, well, get more done–read more books, write more…stuff, spend more time with family, serve in my community a few more hours, and, hopefully, earn a little more money.

Because let’s be honest: do I really need to respond to one more Facebook post?


Facebook lied & stole your data…making billions of dollars.

Who wants to use a service that lies, cheats, and steals from them?

I mean, a service other than Facebook, right?

Because that’s what Facebook has been doing for years. Lure you in, get your data, pictures, friends, and then, they change the rules. It’s scary, it’s creepy, it’s dishonest, and it’s made Zuckerberg one of the richest twenty-somethings in America. I’ve said so before. More than once.

It turns out the FTC agrees, and Zuckerberg has settled in our favor. Now, instead of an “opt out” privacy system, Facebook will now be an “opt in.” If you want to open your settings up, you need to open them up yourself. No more “private until we make a few changes and make sure the whole world see your vacation photos” shenanagry, as Gizmodo puts it.

The biggest change is that Facebook must give, consumers “clear and prominent notice and obtaining consumers’ express consent before their information is shared beyond the privacy settings they have established.”

Sounds a bit more reasonable. Just like your medical records, you must give consent before Facebook shares your stuff. I’ve heard the previous system employed by Facebook described as giving control and ownership of your content–photos, posts, and updates–to Facebook, effectively making it theirs. This seems to pass some of that ownership back to you, the original owner and creator.

This sounds like a no-brainer, what Facebook would want to do since it’s what Facebook’s users want it to do. It’s certainly something that Google+ has integrated in its social network, to much acclaim. Now, with the FTC’ forcing it, Facebook is finally making the change.


If you’re just jumping into this, you might be wondering: what exactly has Facebook done that is wrong?

It all goes back to 2009 and some changes that Facebook made to users privace. According to the FTC:

  • In December 2009, Facebook changed its website so certain information that users may have designated as private – such as their Friends List – was made public. They didn’t warn users that this change was coming, or get their approval in advance.
  • Facebook represented that third-party apps that users’ installed would have access only to user information that they needed to operate. In fact, the apps could access nearly all of users’ personal data – data the apps didn’t need.
  • Facebook told users they could restrict sharing of data to limited audiences – for example with “Friends Only.” In fact, selecting “Friends Only” did not prevent their information from being shared with third-party applications their friends used.
  • Facebook had a “Verified Apps” program & claimed it certified the security of participating apps. It didn’t.
  • Facebook promised users that it would not share their personal information with advertisers. It did.
  • Facebook claimed that when users deactivated or deleted their accounts, their photos and videos would be inaccessible. But Facebook allowed access to the content, even after users had deactivated or deleted their accounts.
  • Facebook claimed that it complied with the U.S.- EU Safe Harbor Framework that governs data transfer between the U.S. and the European Union. It didn’t.

[Emphasis mine] Here’s the FTC’s full statement on the settlement.

Are you following all that? To sum up: Facebook has lied, cheated, and stolen your pictures, friend lists, data, biographical information, and so on, all in the interest of increasing their bottom line and all at your expense.

Maybe it’s time for an Occupy Facebook movement. Or just an Abandon Facebook movement.

In the meantime, as the protestors get their tents ready, I can’t help but wonder if perhaps this isn’t at least one place that government regulation might be useful. [gasp]

Sure, we could wait for the market to correct itself, but let’s be honest–Facebook has the upper hand against its users, and it is abusing users trust in a way that most don’t even know its happening. But for the Federal Trade Commission, I doubt there would have been any shift back toward privacy.

What does Mark Zuckerberg have to say for himself? In a statement, he admits (or, rather, claims) that he designed Facebook to give users control over their public presence on the web:

When I built the first version of Facebook, almost nobody I knew wanted a public page on the internet. That seemed scary. But as long as they could make their page private, they felt safe sharing with their friends online. Control was key. With Facebook, for the first time, people had the tools they needed to do this. That’s how Facebook became the world’s biggest community online.  We made it easy for people to feel comfortable sharing things about their real lives.

And then, once he had lulled everyone into a false sense of security, gained access to one of the most valuable treasure troves of personal information in the world, and made a fortune equivilent to a small African nation…

That said, I’m the first to admit that we’ve made a bunch of mistakes.

Yeah. But what he lists as a mistake doesn’t bear a lot of resemblence to what the FTC said the mistake was. “Oops,” says Zuckerberg. “We stole your information, made money using it, and lied about it? Oops. My bad.”

Česky: Logo Facebooku English: Facebook logo E...

Image via Wikipedia

If not for the FTC, I’m dubious that he would not have continued to spin the profit mill. Yes, he’ll be “working with the Commission [to] implement” the settlement foisted upon Facebook, but only because he has to.

Finally, I also want to reaffirm the commitment I made when I first launched Facebook. We will serve you as best we can and work every day to provide you with the best tools for you to share with each other and the world. We will continue to improve the service, build new ways for you to share and offer new ways to protect you and your information better than any other company in the world.

Next up for Zuckerberg? The IPO. What’s $17.5 billion dollars when your company is about expected to be worth $100 billion?

More importantly, what’s a slap on the wrist by the FTC (no fine, just a privacy audit for the next twenty years) when you’ve got that kind of money in the pipeline?


Update your status later