The 5 W’s To Improve Your Writing

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The movie Trumbo is a compelling account profiling the McCarthy era blacklisting of Hollywood screenwriters. A paranoid nation clamping down on liberals and intellectuals in order to withhold the crackbrained idea of censorship. An important but fun view for anyone making a living from writing. One striking piece that stood out for me was how Trumbo – actor Bryan Cranston – did most of his writing from the bath tub. At first glance, it seemed weird and out-of-place. Oddly, as the scene continued it became expressly clear. Other than a few wet pages, the bathtub was the perfect place to write. You are relaxed and alone in your own home. What can be more conducive towards a creative process than that?

Leveraging Your Creative Juices

Professionals or amateurs, as writers we all have our sweet spot that provides just the right mix of familiarity, isolation and comfort when partaking in our craft. But location is not the only tenet that we instill when writing. Following the 5 W’s of journalism, who, what, where, when and why, let’s look at not just where we write, but why, when and who we write for. All equally beneficial ingredients for a productive writing session.


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1) Why We Should Write

In these days of analytics, there is a heap of data out there that extols the benefits of writing; everything from managing negative experiences to strengthening our immune systems.  The American Psychological Association cites evidence that supports both assertions. This “curative mechanism” of writing down our thoughts, directly links to our ability to effectively manage our stress levels. Clinical evidence shows therapeutic wins within rheumatoid arthritis, asthma and HIV/AIDS patients.

We write because it makes us healthier. Just like quinoa and greens. Sleep and exercise. We now have pen and paper.

In thoughtcatalogue.com’s “33 Inspiring Reasons Why You Should Write,” Anne Thériault offers a less clinical and more pedantic and introspective look at why we should write. Thériault discloses, whether building posterity or simply voicing clichés, we wouldn’t write unless we had a deep love for the craft. For passion or spite, therapy or recreation, in a thousand words or two, stop thinking about it and just do it!

…and so I continue.


clock on typewriter

2) When We Should Write

For many writers, putting pen to paper can be tremendously laborious and challenging. Do I need to be fresh as the morning air, or mollified by the day’s events before I write? Does my mental and physical state need to be aligned? According to blogger Kevin Lee at Buffer.com, science once again has offered its evidence. Body rhythms produce hormones which in turn make the mind upbeat for mental tasks. This, of course, happens in the morning. Ergo, morning is best. O.K… however, Mr Lee continues to warn, “Willpower is a finite resource.” Translation: laziness abounds even though our prefrontal cortex is teed up and ready to go.

No matter when we decide to write, the mantra must sing routine, routine, routine. The brain thrives on routine. Whether a lark or an owl, keep it consistent and regular. Not necessarily a laptop on the night table, but a pen and pad may be the ticket.


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3) What We Should Write About

“But while we writers all share a passion for creation with words, what exactly it is that we like to create—that is, what we like to write about—varies greatly from writer to writer,” says the author Ava Jae. She gets it. The elemental core of what we write is driven by our passions but how we tell our stories are articulated through the genre we select to tell it in.  Diversification at its best. Many would argue that writing genres are the reflection of our hidden pathos and ids. Fair enough. This makes sense. If we yearn for a good scare, we read Steven King’s fictional masterworks, as The Shining. As readers, we are cautiously hoping to find that particular horror we experienced as a child. If it’s historical meanderings we desire, we have the fact-based fiction of Winston Churchill. Heck, he made history! How’s that for authenticity? Even the outlandish science fiction of Arthur C. Clarke or Phillip K. Dick will contain references to each author’s vision of future dystopia or paradise. Living through the cold war and modern technological evolution would have provided immense fodder for paranoid storytelling.

Lastly, erotic novels will contain a typical example of sexual desire the author has either contemplated or fantasized. The reader has merely helped them perform the loving or sordid act.

The fact is, we write about what we love, yearn or desire. Plain and simple.


Mirror

4) Who We Should Write About

Other than diving into an autobiography or biography, writers tend to hard-wire the “who” directly into the “what.” In TV Tropes’ article “Most Writers Are Writers,” they support the fact that you write what you know. And what do we know best? You got it. Writers. Most of us are nothing more than “author avatars” headlining our “show within a show.” Be it grander or lesser, that’s us on the podium with eyes wide open receiving the award. Or, god forbid, that’s us lurching under the bridge in the pouring rain watching each drop descend from our noses to the ground below. By utilizing “framing devices” to position the story-within-a-story, first-person writing can become much more interesting and intriguing; as the reader will want to dig further into the plot. Just remember to kill off the right antagonist.


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5) Where We Should Write

Looking back at our champion writer Dalton Trumbo, a bath tub, although eccentric in nature, seemed the perfect fit for this man of morals. Bubbles to beds, we seek out the perfect spot to park our behinds and gingerly tap away. We are embraced by the world outside and unbothered by its inhabitants. Our minds are free to roam the streets of a faraway city or journey to the deepest realms of our souls.

Cafés come to mind for most. Not just the jolt of java, but the heady parade of human beings, rich smells and awe-inspiring art on the walls, feed our hungry minds. The same can be said for parking ourselves under a majestic oak in our favourite parks. Or by getting our Hemingway on by propping up our weary bodies to our local bars. No matter where we plug-in, they’re all useful; filling our minds with themes, plots, structures, characters, settings, styles and tones. Wonderfully wound into words that eventually shape our stories.

So remember, the next time we sit down either in the morning or at night furiously scribbling horror or romance, think about the 5 W’s of writing. Have we aligned each W towards maximizing our creative and practical processes? After all, when do we get to do something that’s all about us? In the first, second or third person that is.

Photographs courtesy of Pixabay

 

 

 

Ageism in the Workforce and What to Do with Harry.

Exit Sign

The Trouble with Harry.

Harry was as loyal as they come. He never took a sick day in over 12 years and was always on time ready to contribute. Harry lived and breathed the company. He understands that the competition for his job is a warring beast but is immensely grateful – every, single, day.  But Harry is now entering his mid-fifties and his company has just been sold to a foreign buyer. Now Harry is known for only one thing. His pricey salary and benefits. Equally, new management has embraced younger more affordable talent as opposed to retaining more senior staff like Harry.

Harry represents a growing statistic in today’s workplace. Companies are paring off seemingly expensive senior staff in lieu of hiring younger professionals with lower paychecks and leaner benefits. All in order to provide a heftier bottom line. Fair enough. Companies have to be competitive to survive; but is it simply the fact of thinner costs, or is today’s workplace trying to find its legs in a new and constantly changing hiring environment?

This is the question being asked by many aging professionals searching for employment today. Making matters worse is the emerging fact that ageism in 2016 means 35 years of age and up.

35 is the new 65.

red lightThe Rise of Ageism.

It has been 10 years since the Ontario Human Rights Commission amended the Human Rights Code to include language around mandatory retirement. Meaning that, “…employers cannot make decisions about hiring, promotion, training opportunities, or termination on the basis of an employee’s age.” The amendment was meant to pave a path of non-discriminatory practices for all Ontarians when working and seeking jobs with employers. No longer were you forced to take retirement. The law now said you can work for as long as you want.

The law now said you can work for as long as you want.

Then came 2009 and the Great Recession. Austerity was rife in most boardrooms and middle management became the reluctant sacrificial lamb. Nowhere could you find faster dollars than within this tier of full-time equivalencies. A trend that continues its momentum in today’s workplace. Business audits provide a sharper focus on trimming older and costlier employees for younger and cheaper talent. A falsehood still being practiced by many employers.

Car

Discrimination or “The Right Fit?”

Human Resources writer Liz Ryan of Forbes argues, “Age discrimination is everywhere. I hear more examples of age discrimination than I hear about sex discrimination, racial discrimination and every other kind put together.” Ryan also states, “…that the number of aging employees continues to grow.”

In the States, Laurie McCann, senior attorney at AARP Foundation Litigation says, “It could be that ageism versus other forms of discrimination is not taken as seriously or viewed as wrong as other types of discrimination, so we don’t attack it with the same intensity.”

Photo Courtesy of James Cullen C.C.

The Generation Gap.

With more and more 35 and over being forced out for younger talent, is this a good thing for businesses? After all, hard decisions are routinely needed to keep business fortunes competitive. But has this momentum delineated the competencies needed to become increasingly competitive? With years of service, comes years of knowledge.By forcing out the boomers and now Generation X’ers, will this permanently supersede practices and policies; thereby watering down experienced talent?

…millennials are changing the hiring landscape.

Born between 1980 and the year 2000, millennials now represent the largest employment sector in America. Unlike their cohort Gen X’ers, born between 1960 and 1980, they seem to have a different perspective on their job hunting aspirations. Aabaco at Yahoo! write that millennials are changing the hiring landscape by rejecting the job-for-life route. They are completely aware that social security will be bleak, at best, and practice a more laissez-faire approach to employment. Side jobs, temporary and contract work are more within their job hunting scopes.

Photo Courtesy of Howard Lake C.C.

Age vs Experience.

So where is the need for senior consult and advice going to come from once millennial workers occupy most workplaces? Decisions are based on mature cognitive thinking. Right?

The Association for Psychological Science put this question to the test. Does age affect complicated decision making? Using a Mars gaming scenario, Texas A&M psychological scientist, Darrell Worthy confirms, “…60-somethings showed a clear, age-related advantage in solving the Martian problem, which required higher order, holistic learning about the changing relationships between choices and rewards.”

There we have it. Older participants are better decision makers. A fact overlooked by many hiring managers.

contrails

Retaining Your Leaders.

Statistics state more workers of 45 years and older are staying at their jobs longer – if allowed. This raises the question of why companies are not retraining their aging staff? With the millennial cohort embracing a more casual employment approach, who will be on the job to help train older staff with new digital technologies?

…will they still be on the job to help train older staff members?

Back at Forbes, Karry Hannon says, “The day is coming when employers are going to embrace the value of older workers.” She goes on to add, “People want to keep working for two very core reasons – the mental engagement and for the income.”

Aging workers want to stay and contribute to the bottom line.

Just like Harry.

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The Value of Harry

Harry understands, as with everything else in this world, that experience represents knowledge. Harry convinced his new employers that younger staff look up to him for leadership and mentoring. They ask him questions that only he would know the answer to. They depend on Harry to be part of the team. His employers agreed and re-hired him. Harry knows that for a successful company to succeed, all generations need to work together. Each generation brings its value to the organization. Harry knows that this line of thinking is what will grow the bottom line. Not leaner salaries and meager benefits.

 

The lighter side of ageism.

 

Creative Commons Photo Credits:
Alan Bloom https://www.flickr.com/photos/alan_bloom/

Ryan Rutherford https://www.flickr.com/photos/bryanbrutherford/

James Cullen https://www.flickr.com/photos/27043160@N04/

Howard Lake https://www.flickr.com/photos/howardlake/

Pexels.com  https://www.google.ca/search?site=imghp&tbm=isch&q=Hugging&tbs=sur:f&gws_rd=cr&ei=My0FV-mvL-TyjgT0oqKAAw#gws_rd=cr&imgrc=MNw0VzBYboJbUM%3A

 

 

2016. The Year to Manage Negative News.

There is No Grey in Black

Photo Coutesy of Yannig Van de Wouver CC

Photo Coutesy of Yannig Van de Wouver CC

No bones about it, 2015 was a year chock full of headlines and sound bites soaked in cruelty and barbarism. Some so unspeakable and horrific, discussions are rare and often muted. If you followed the news in 2015, this world of ours is becoming evermore unkind and gloomy. Mainstream media continues its duty-bound charge by providing us with stories draped in catastrophe and human suffering.

But is the tone and narrative of news any different from past years?

Granted, 2015 increased its volume of terrorist atrocities but is news any more negative year over year? Is the media taking an active role in sanctioning mental health issues?

In the Associated Press (AP) – Times Square Alliance survey to Americans, it is of no surprise that so many surveyed are having a hard time finding the good in the world.

57% feel the year as a whole is worse than last year. Up from 38% from 2014.

When looking to their own lives on a personal level, 29 % believe 2015 was better for them than 2014, while 21 % feel it was worse, compared with 15 % in 2014.

Of those polled, 68% said mass shootings were most important. Then the Paris terror attacks at 64% and finally, ISIL, ISIS activities at 63%.

Can all this adverse news be taking a toll on our positive mind-set?

The decades-old media trope, “If it bleeds, it leads,” rings truer now than ever. Mass shootings and terrorism continue to wet the media’s insatiable appetite for measurable advertising points. And most certainly this proclivity for fear-driven fare is going nowhere. To be fair, this is their job and their moral obligation.

Finding the Light in the Dark

Light in tunnel

Photo Courtesy of David Anderson CC

As viewers, and more importantly humans, we must filter out this harmful habit of digesting bad news and look for the good in all stories. Yes even terror – somehow. Not an evangelical approach to watching news, but a more cathartic and healthier way towards viewing and processing all the bad out there.

Abraham Lincoln said it best, “We can complain that the rose bushes have thorns, or rejoice that thorn bushes have roses.”

It’s all about how you look at it.

Living our lives day-to-day we craft personal values to help guide us through adversity and hard times. These annual tenets are well fastened to both our work and personal lives. Drawing parallels from bad to good are how we navigate issues and problems on a daily basis. We process the heinous and abominable with the understanding that good (more than often) will triumph.

We are human beings and naturally seek the silver lining in all. We need to approach negative news content the same way.

Putting Our News Into Defined Perspective.

Photo Courtesy of Carbumba CC

Photo Courtesy of Carbumba CC

Many times our individual problems are magnified by what we see as an inconvenience or annoyance. More than often they are not significant problems as we are not processing them correctly. Within the right perspective. Personal bias clouds and distorts the issue and presents it as traumatic. If we take the time to offer further reflection, these same issues may not be as serious as originally thought.

With this analysis, here’s a thought…

We still enjoy getting our local news. What are the Jones’ doing? What is your councillor saying now? What about that new hospital wing? Where did the funds come from? Local news is easy and comforting to process. It’s safe – generally, and allows us to be informed at a speed and tone manufactured by us and acceptable to most. The good is easier to see as it is not immersed in multiple layers of politics, religion, or societal prejudice.

Let’s bring that micro-focus to world events. What if we relate each negative news item to how we receive our local news? Understand the themes and narratives and draw comparisons to our own lives. This ability to compare our everyday issues and crises to what is going on in the world would provide us with a practical more positive account for deeply depressing news.

Here is an example I experienced this past year:

Shocking images of drowned Syrian boy show tragic plight of refugees. (The Guardian September 3, 2015)

Quintessentially the most disturbing and haunting image and accompanying story of 2015. Even today it is hard to look at the photo that changed how the West acted on the Syrian refugee crisis. I know myself when I saw this during breakfast, I gasped and looked away quickly. Was this real? Had the Syrian refugee issue become this bad? We all know the answer to these questions but continue to look for reasons why it happened.

It’s time to start paying attention to the election. (East York Mirror September 3, 2015)

That evening, as I live in East York, Toronto, the weekly neighbourhood tabloid newspaper dropped onto my porch. Right there plain as day on the editorial page was an opinion piece on the upcoming election. I instantly remembered that immigration and the strife of the Syrians was a platform issue for one of the parties vying for my vote.* This offered me a direct and actionable correlation. I could process this mornings image knowing I can help make a difference so this doesn’t happen again by categorizing my vote.

I searched for a redeeming factor within the news item and plugged it into my own world. By associating the events in Europe with my local news, helped ‘softened the blow’ and allowed me to process this news positively and with hope that things will change.

Illuminate Your News

Photo Courtesy of John Ragal

Photo Courtesy of John Ragal

We zoom out of our closed worlds to watch, listen and read about heinous events in relative comfort knowing they are half-a-world-away. Consciously or subconsciously, this frustrates us into a feeling of mental exhaustion spurred by helplessness and inaction. We keep ourselves from looking for the good that can happen, by finding the light in the dark.

In 2016, as either a news junky or nonchalant viewer, we need to take the time to believe that you can find the good in the news. No matter how bad it is.

*Note: In October of 2015, Canada ushered in a new government whose platform was centred on accepting more refugees to Canada.

What Direction Now for Media’s Moral Compass?

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Photo Courtesy of Jonathan LaChance CC


Editor’s Note:
Has filling today’s media gullet with “all things Trump,” reduced the role media MUST take when protecting personal information? And if it has, is it complicit when promoting unfavourable national agendas as the recent immigration policy in the States?

Below are my thoughts when this issue popped its ugly head a few years back after the San Bernardino terror event.

— Repost from the summer of 2015

Is Ethical Journalism Dead?

Evidently so if recent events are any indication.

Last week, MSNBC, CNN and other various local affiliates decided to forego ethical behaviour to enrich their coverage of America’s worst mass murder in almost three years. While the world slowly untangled the news of more gun violence coming from the States, local, national and international media decided to follow another lead.

This lead brought them – literally – to the front doorstep of another smaller but important story – media ethics and privacy.

As a person who makes his living creating media strategies, I was shocked to witness what happened last week as mob mentality overruled the tenets of responsible journalism.

Many questions continue to arise from this yellow day in media. Has the pressure to make the ‘6’ cast aside the ability of journalists to practice ethics? Has the voracious appetite for news content every minute of the day erased the parameter of respectable news gathering?

Privacy and Snoops

Journos

Photo Courtesy of Gianfranco Marzetti CC

We understand the media has the tendency to be intrusive. Equally, some intrusion into privacy can be essential towards informing the public. Responsible reporting has the ability to grow the story by telling an accurate account of the event or happening. It is only when we cross this line that media is presented with an ethical dilemma.

How much information do we share so the viewer is informed?

In the case of terror suspects Syed Farook and Tashfeen Malik, personal assets including passport documents, social security cards, photographs and worst of all, a baby’s crib, were displayed in HD splendour. Why these items were still on site and not in FBI inventory is a puzzle, but was there really the need for viewers to know the colour of the baby’s onesie? Thereby offering a clue to his/her identity? What about the photographs containing images of other persons that have not released their image to the media? Are they elemental to the right of information versus the right of privacy?

Absolutely not. And yet reporters took the effort to lay these items out to solicit sensational viewership.

Interpretation of Policy

Bull Horn_Fotor

Photo Courtesy of The Library of Congress CC

Here in Canada, individual media by practice have their own ethical guidelines that stipulate particular behaviour in newsgathering. By example, the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation’s (CBC) Journalistic Standards and Practices states under “Fairness, ‘In our information gathering and reporting, we treat individuals and organizations with openness and respect. We are mindful of their rights. We treat them even-handedly.’”

It makes you wonder if the language was intentionally vague to support more leverage when intruding on personal privacy.

The Canadian Association of Journalist expands on CBC’s guideline by adding, “However, there are inevitable conflicts between the right to privacy and the rights of all citizens to be informed about matters of public interest. Each situation should be judged in light of common sense, humanity and relevance.”

Let’s look at the last part of this statement, “Each situation should be judged in light of common sense, humanity and relevance.” With the understanding, I am basing my criticism on Canadian ethos of journalism, did the BBC, MSNBC, et al in San Bernardino, have ‘common sense’ when videotaping photographs of persons not associated with the two suspects? It’s also important to note, the suspects were not deemed terrorists by the FBI until the 5th of December.

And let’s not forget the ‘relevance’ of videotaping the washroom. Remember only psychos and murderers have messy washrooms! Right?

Language is Everything

Wires 1

Photo Courtesy of Nathalie Capitan CC

A day following the San Bernardino media circus, The Society of Professional Journalists in the States released a statement saying, “Walking into a building and live broadcasting the pictures, addresses and other identifying information of children or other people who may have no involvement in the story does not represent best and ethical practices.”

A statement carefully crafted not to call down the recent exploits of its members, but merely a gentle slap on the wrist.

What message does this send out to the general public when dealing with media? How can the public continue to trust the media to withhold their privacy with no recourse to improper process?

The British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) one of the media members reporting the San Bernardino suspects home, and one of the most respected international news organizations, seem to be very clear regarding their broadcast privacy policy, “The BBC will respect privacy and will not infringe on it without good reason, wherever in the world we are operating. Private behaviour, information, correspondence and conversation will not be brought into the public domain unless there is a public interest that outweighs the expectation of privacy.”

The language almost completely supports the broadcaster having the last say whether, “there is a public interest that outweighs the expectation of privacy.”

Clearly, broadcasters and media have a job to do by informing the public of issues and incidents that may impact their safety and well-being. The problem lies in the interpretation of ‘responsibility’ when privacy is concerned. As shown in California, the ethical process was unfettered and improvident. Not a single ounce of ‘responsibility’ was practised by any broadcaster that day.

#MuslimApartment

#MyMuslimApartment_Fotor

The privacy of an individual continues to be centre regarding this issue, but what happens when the breach is reflective of an entire culture or religion? Especially relevant in these days of terror.

In the San Bernardino experience, we see ONE particular lifestyle on display – not all. But alas, the media in their frenzy to parlay any form of ethical behaviour in favour of ratings, paraded various artefacts including the Koran in front of the world. Sound bites emphasised these were ‘Muslim’ items and emblazoned this information across the TV screen.

A reckless exercise creating a stigma that all American ‘Muslim’ apartments contain the same contents and ideology.

Fortunately, many self-respecting Americans immediately lashed back through Twitter with the hashtag #MuslimApartment or #MyMuslimApartment. Their tweets offered the world a glimpse inside their homes sharing personal property as American football jerseys and Disney play figures. A resolute statement from American Muslims proud of their nationality and quick to remind the media not to forget, “…common sense, humanity and relevance,” when reporting their stories.

The media are integral to the business of sharing information for the public’s well-being. As citizens, we just need reassurance that the media follow the same set of common sense privacy guidelines we use every day. Especially in times of terrorism and mistrust.

We Need #BigData – Big-time!

Photo Courtesy of r2hox

Photo Courtesy of r2hox Creative Commons

Society is in the midst of a massive transformation that will directly affect everything from choosing breakfast cereal to forecasting economic outcomes.

If you haven’t heard, it’s called big data. And yes, its big.

Forbes in 2013 paraphrased big data as, “…a collection of data from traditional and digital sources inside and outside your company, that represents a source for ongoing discovery and analysis.”

Zip forward to 2014 and the function of collecting information has commanded not just the attention of most C-suites, but the average ‘Joe’ as well.

One thing is for sure, we are at the start of a universal movement to measure, validate and strategize everything.

And I’m o.k. with that.

What’s wrong with knowing that my age group likes the odd Starbucks, watches predominately news and partially embraces Twitter. Maybe the Twitter thing I don’t agree with; the point is, data is calculating and making decision for us everyday. As long as we are cognitive regarding the important decisions data is helping us with, why not?

Harvard University’s Gary King notes, “There is a movement of quantification rumbling across fields in academia and science, industry and government and nonprofits.” Professor King goes on to extol how data gathering will improve statistical and computational methods and its storage capacity.

“Computers will offer new ways to link datasets and thereby provide a visualization of such data.”

Photo Courtesy of Zero Divide Creative Commons

Photo Courtesy of Zero Divide Creative Commons

Truly exciting news as businesses large and small are now given the ability to visualize their forecasting and make the necessary adjustment towards increased bottom-lines and more jobs.

This data revolution is relatively new. In early 2013, 90% of all data generated was from 2011 – 2013. An old statistic by today’s standards but makes us wonder how fast the remaining 10% will come?

As with the Starbucks example, these algorithms first appeared in marketing to help develop consumer groupings based on trends and habits. Whatever you partake in, your action is observed, captured, sorted and quantified offering marketing clients an exclusive opportunity to not just shill their wares, but understand their habits to spend more.

Within the public sphere, data will assist crime, environment and social sciences in their campaign towards a better life for all. This is tremendous news for all of us knowing a better world awaits. It is only when you look into the eyes of a loved one suffering from a second bout of cancer, you realize the true gift of big data is medical science and discovery.

The ability for big data to improve humanity is the underscore.

iStock Photography

iStock Photography

HBR reports that many major company business models – including healthcare – have not yet embraced digital revolution and look at transition as more evolutionary. That being said, Forbes reports $3.8 Trillion is spent annually on healthcare. Apart from personal coverage, look for private health dollars being a major part of this spend – especially in big-pharma discovery.

This begs the question, how much of that 3.8 has been assigned to big data within public institutions and their agencies? Is it the governments’ responsibility to provide an equitable and fair amount of funding dollars towards big data?

This tax-payer says absolutely.

Big data, must have a permanent place in healthcare operating budgets if the human race is to reach significant milestones in health discoveries with fighting deadly diseases.

Fortunately I am not alone in this thinking. United Kingdom’s National Health Service (NHS) is in full data throttle by recently launching their care.data scheme. This big data project captures most GP records and personal information. Various data points will be shared with other health and research institutions to identify trends and patterns in various diseases and maladies.

Photo Courtesy of 4chion Marketing

Photo Courtesy of 4chion Marketing Photo Commons

Not stopping there, the care.data scheme will capture multiple genome profiles that will be stored in a genomic cloud – big data at its height.

In Toronto, Ontario, the Toronto Central Local Health Integration Network (TCLHIN) is heading up one of Canada’s largest data collection projects by not just gathering medical information, but by taking a deeper dive into patient ethnicity and sexuality. The data collected will help healthcare planners look at existing information as phone numbers and addresses, but at the same time identify barriers impeding information collection, as languages and cultural morals. Much the same as NHS’ care.data scheme, this in turn will help improve disease-prevention programs within this health region. Prevention and surveillance of ethnically-diverse patients continue to be a top priority of the provincial health funders as Toronto represents the country’s most diverse and densely populated areas of healthcare provision in Canada.

No longer will educators eulogize the three Rs. Now it’s three Vs!

Both the NHS and TCLHIN fall into the rank and file of frontrunners by understanding and acting upon how big data will advance discovery and general healthcare. Luis Maldonado, Director of Product Management, HP Vertica says, “Big data is defined by the three Vs: volume, variety, and velocity.” The Financial Post defines these properties as: volume representing patient data, variety representing the diversity and uniqueness of the data and velocity being the speed this data arrives back to the enterprise in emails etc.

Photo Courtesy of Alan Cleaver Photo Commons

Photo Courtesy of Alan Cleaver Photo Commons

Fair game, but as both the NHS and TCLHIN are publicly funded health institutions, where allocation of capital budgets and maintaining talent to operate a big data pull, represent two large barriers to overcome.

For anyone working in the public sector, especially healthcare, public coffers are empty. Changing patient records to digital is not only expensive it also brings on the massive issue of confidentiality and its security. Mr. Maldonado goes on to affirm, “… that it’s really secondary in healthcare towards looking after the patient, and is partly responsible for the lag in big data in healthcare…”

Marketing, financial and telcon continue to lead the big data expenditures leaving healthcare often to fend for itself.

So what about big data security with our records?

There is probably no higher concern regarding our personal information than our medical and financial records. Most of us are willing to allocate the sharing and storage of our data to trusted organizations and institutions, but are completely unaware of the enormous costs of not just transferring the data, but its security.

Photo Courtesy of Ann Wuyts Photo Commons

Photo Courtesy of Ann Wuyts Photo Commons

The Wall Street Journal predicts world spending on information security will top out at $83.2B by 2016. Enormous money yes, but let’s not forget the mirrored savings the switch to digital will offer down the road in staff hours.

Security aside, society understands the benefits of big data as 70% of enterprise sized businesses and 56% of small and medium sized businesses allocating $100,000 to $100M to its utilization and storage.

We cannot leave healthcare behind in our adoption of data analysis. More business intelligence will benefit all parts of society and is a heck of a lot more important than being told you prefer non-fat lattes.

 

Does Mean Politicking Work?

Photo Courtesy of Marc Aubin

Photo Courtesy of Marc Aubin

How Toronto’s Mayor Ford uses the strategy of personal ignominy for political gain.

The definition of ignominy is a situation or event that causes you great shame or embarrassment. Within a personal context, ignominy can represent deep personal humiliation and disgrace. For most of us, surviving an event of this nature can leave us shaken, distraught and socially adrift. We desperately try to understand what just happened, and how do we get back on track.

Public ignominy, or embarrassment as it is more commonly known, is certainly nothing new to politicians and let’s not forget they are human after all. Equally, as good and just people, we would not wish such personal condition on anyone – even our ‘good’ Mayor of Toronto, Rob Ford.

For any normal politician, being accused of illicit drug use, displays of alcoholic discourse, personal threats, sexist innuendo, etc.; public consternation can be immediate and absolute.

Queue the crisis management team and get those apologies crafted.

Then again, Mayor Ford is not a normal politician.

Toronto’s crowned prince of ‘questionable’ behaviour has reworked public humiliation into a deft and seemingly hostile political advantage. Incident after incident of sordid display were spun into political flax ready and willing to clothe his so-called enemies. Especially the media.

This went on for months and months until the day finally came – rehab.

Yes, Mayor Ford received the professional help all of us wanted for him, but has it changed anything? Has his callous political vestment been cast off for a modest toga?

Don’t be ripping up the gift receipt quite yet.

News clips show a return of a far more humble individual where contrition is delivered when needed, but ever so briefly. Being nice continues to be left only to his constituents and ‘friends.’ Mr. Ford’s selection of public intercourse continues to be biased as he shuns certain populist groups unaligned to his platform and ‘good old boy’ image. Although considerably muted than before, he allows his brother Doug, to fill his verbal vacuum with the usual spit and venom. And yet to everyone’s surprise his popularity continues to show moderate growth.

How can this happen? Where is the ethical standard in politicking? Why is mean politicking working?

Siri Agrell of Pilot PMR recently wrote in Huffington Post’s ‘Have You Tried the Rob Ford Guide to Crisis Communications Yet?’ ‘Most politicians respect the quaint notion that they shouldn’t slander each other, or members of the general public. But the Fords use slander to their political advantage.’

She coins this as ‘strategic slander.’ Makes sense; for all those dubious politicians fuelling their political gain with vitriol and hostility.

Heinz-Jürgen Voss at Conjuncture Magazine pens this in a more direct manner by saying, ‘For some years now, I have recognized that conservative and radical right-wing writers are completely loosing their inhibitions and attacking differently minded people verbally in an extraordinarily violent manner.’

Mr. Voss continues to write, ‘… some willing commentators who then debate physical attacks as a strategy, to actual physical violence is just a short step – it is just a question of time.’

Is mean politicking a conservative tactic? And can it lead to actual violence?

Many would argue conservatives generally espouse the use of a ‘verbal strategy’ to conjure gallop points. These strategies are most certainly implemented in a ruthless and cruel manner, but does it sway political allegiance?

A reader of the Tennessean writes, ‘…and it is particularly apparent in the tea party ads — that politics is not about compromise, but being mean and vindictive.’

So where do we stand with Rob Ford and his culture of ‘strategic slander’ and verbal bullying? Is it accepted now within the realm of debate and politics to use such ungenerous and contemptible public (strategies) behaviours?

More questions than answers as this brand of politicking gains prominence. The only absolute being a polarized perspective from academics and journalists alike.

Back at Conjuncture, Mr. Voss summarizes his thoughts by saying,

 ‘…we should work on concepts to develop open and positive conflict culture.’

As public affairs practitioners, this would be our job to develop a methodology and resulting plan for our advocates and affiliations to use. This way we make sure the ethics and acceptable guidelines are in place.

Or, we stand back and plug our ears as Ms. Agrell describes, ‘… it has unleashed a new style of communications that turns up the volume on the biggest, most braindead megaphone around.’

Global TV Segment: http://globalnews.ca/video/1532954/does-bad-publicity-hurt-rob-ford

John K. Bromley