Many people write or speak to tell us what we should think. Some want to be believed because they are experts, or think they are. Some want to be believed because they claim to speak for us. Some have had revelations. Others want us to trust them because they communicate through prominent media outlets. Many tell us what we should think. I write to encourage my readers to think for themselves. I write to ask you to inquire. Question me. Have fun.

Comment of the Day
The Editorial Board should have no opinion

Jul 11, 2020

The WSJ Editorial Board expressed its opinion about the case of Michael Flynn. It does not matter what they said; in my book, the Editorial Board should have no opinion on any topic. Editorial boards’ job is not to lecture, but to facilitate views from individuals who can present valid arguments. The Editorial Board's job at the WSJ is to guarantee to me, a subscriber, that the different opinions presented are fact-checked. I pay a subscription for the WSJ because I do not have the time nor the means to fact-check whatever is written and posted on the internet. I do not pay for the subscription to be brainwashed by whatever the self-anointed authority of the Editorial Board believes is right. I can make my judgment based on the facts and their interpretation by other individuals.

More parenting is needed
Aug 01, 2019
Peter Gray in Psychology Today advises for less parenting. The problem is exactly the opposite: There is not enough parenting. In the past, when most of our ancestors lived in self-supporting households, often a farm, out of necessity, children were an integral part of whatever adults needed to do during their daily life, and they learned that way. Now, we do not need to do as much at home. Work is outside the home, food is brought in, heat is turned on and off, and mysteriously magical, colorful screens are the center of most activities. If we leave children free to explore what they find the most attractive, they will play video games. There might be some educational value in it, but one needs to learn much more. Hence, we need more effort in parenting, with parents doing more in the home than is otherwise required, and spending more time with children outside in order to introduce them to the real world. This realization hit home after I witnessed the surprise of a 7-year old seeing apples on my apple tree.
Less fight more work
Jul 30, 2017

The fight over Obamacare repeal is over, at least for now. The GOP can start to work on a new proposal that each of us can look at it, and then compare how my particular health care solution would play in it, as compared to Obamacare. In a television interview, HHS Secretary Tom Price said that Obamacare “may be working for Washington, it may be working for insurance companies, but it’s not working for patients.” Maybe it is time to consider patients’ involvement in the preparation of an Obamacare alternative? It could be that Obamacare repeal failed just because it has been prepared by Washington with consultation from insurance companies. Let us start with addressing 19 health care issues that politicians avoid talking about.

How to pay for the wall?
Apr 04, 2017

If you want to build the wall, pay for it with your own money. How much of your own money are you willing to donate? Trump received 62,979,879 votes. If each of Trump’s supporters voluntarily donates at least $1,000, which corresponds to about $42 per month for the next two years, and if we encourage those who are more affluent to double their donations, then Trump can have on hand about $100 billion, which may suffice for a substantial piece of the wall. Hence, all of you who are talking loudly about spending my money on building this wall, stay away from my wallet, but open your own wallet and send money to the “Build the Wall Fund.” Put your money where your mouth is.

What is wrong with Russia?
Dec 22, 2015

It appears that Russian leaders cannot free themselves from the medieval concept of regional influence, where weaker neighbors were subdued into becoming serf states. Is anyone capable of explaining to them that in these times of a global economy, any influence comes from economic strength? Russia, thanks to its size, natural resources and well-educated labor force, has everything that it takes to maintain a dominant position in the region, just by maintaining free trade with all its neighbors. It can do so without military interventions in Georgia and in Ukraine. Russia has everything that it takes to be a respected wealthier neighbor, to whom everyone in the region would turn for help when needed. Instead, it is a bully and a hooligan. It would take so little to change that. But it is so hard for Russia to do it. 

Closed mind for closed borders
Nov 19, 2015

Known to some as a libertarian, Llewellyn H. Rockwell Jr. speaks against open borders. His argument is that it is an infraction against private property. He misses the point that most people migrate just because Mr. Rockwell’s neighbors want them on their private property – for picking apples, washing the dishes or writing a computer code. Then, Mr. Rockwell wrongly laments that those foreigners invited by his neighbors violate his private property rights by loitering in the public spaces that he frequents. He wants the government to deny the rights of his neighbors to do on their private property whatever they wish, so he will not need to face immigrants in the public spaces. Mr. Rockwell left the train called “liberty” at the station called “xenophobia.”    

They do not know…
Sep 14, 2015

Mr. Trump says: “A lot of what I’m doing is by instinct.” I prefer that our President would make decisions based on systematic due diligence. The instinct that guides Mr. Trump in his professional life arrives from his vast experience, starting when he was growing up under the mentoring of his successful father, followed by a solid education and years of practice. Mr. Trump's confidence is misguiding, as it gives his supporters the illusion that someone who mastered real estate dealing can be equally skillful as President. It is similar to the illusion surrounding Dr. Carson, that he can be as good a President as he is a brain surgeon. If both gentlemen were humbler, they would realize that they qualify to be President equally as much as Mr. Trump qualifies to conduct brain surgeries and Dr. Carson to run Mr. Trump’s real estate empire. The problem is not that they do not know many things they should; the problem is that they do not realize that.

More Comments

Medium needs Robert Townsend as the CEO

The front cover of the 1988 reprint of the original book, with quotes of opinions about it. Photo by author.

One may point out that Medium just got a new CEO. Tony Stubblebine has been on the job already three months, but the community does not feel any blow of change for the better. He has been saying all the right things but has avoided details. We do not see any lucid plan for reinvigorating Medium. Uncertainty is bad for business. Speculations go up; hopes go down.

Polish people would say that Tony does not appear like someone who could invent gunpowder. Sadly, Medium needs someone of that caliber. It has reached a climax and cannot straddle for too long, with one foot on the pier and the other on the boat.

Medium, the Viagra version of social media

To understand Medium, one should watch a lengthy interview its founder, Ev Williams, gave Jason Henry in March this year. Rightfully, Ev sees Medium as the pinnacle of his life achievements. When explaining the purpose of Medium, he talked vaguely about his ideas for a balanced life, mentioning the creator’s economy. My engineer’s mind noticed the fleetingness of that talk. Notably, Ev was firm (it starts in the 45th minute of the video) that he was not pursuing business objectives in spreading his exalted ideas.

When I joined Medium five years ago, I noticed that its format perfectly fits the void in the mass media market. People distrust the major media outlets; mindless chatting about nothing runs the leading social media outfits. Most authors on Medium are filling the gap between the two. It was not Ev’s objective, but he hit a golden spot; Medium could satisfy the inner desires of people craving authentic, civil cooperation.

We can compare that to Pfizer inventing Sildenafil (UK92480) to cure hypertension and finding out that it was not working well but caused erections. They made a fortune by turning it into Viagra. Medium has the potential to transform social media, similarly to how Viagra has affected medicine. But Ev does not realize that; he tirelessly tries to keep it as a forum to proliferate his ideas. So far there are no signs that Tony would change that policy. Applying this approach, Pfizer should give up on making money on a pill that could help male promiscuity. Instead, it would keep working on making Sildenafil a better high-blood pressure drug.

In Ev’s shadow

After listening to the previously mentioned interview, I knew that Ev’s days as the CEO were numbered. Investors could not keep at the top someone who does not want to run Medium as a business. Sadly, they gave Ev the job to find his replacement. Tony’s biggest flaw is that he is too much like Ev and too little like Robert Townsend.

Who is Robert Townsend?

He was. He died almost a quarter century ago. If he still were around, he would be 102.

The front cover of the first edition from 1970.

In 1970, Robert Townsend became famous. His pocketbook, “Up the Organization: How to Stop the Corporation from Stifling People and Strangling Profits,” was a cultural shock. Formally, it was about how Mr. Townsend turned around car rental company Avis, which was not profitable and was dysfunctional at the time. In reality, it was a book about the purpose of life, why we do what we do, and how to enjoy it and still make money.

During my five years on Medium, in many moments, I saw that by applying Townsend’s life philosophy, we could strengthen the business side while benefiting both readers and writers. I sent several emails to Ev with ideas and suggestions, but he did not see them that way.

The purpose of the business

Townsend started at Avis by defining the purpose of the business. It was short, so it would not need to be written; everyone could remember it. Medium does not have such a statement. Even worse, it lacks clarity about who its customers are, writers or readers. Medium needs a leader like Robert Townsend to get that resolved.

With a lucid mission statement, readers and writers, by fulfilling their passions, would act toward the common goal. If that does not happen, the mission statement must be revised as often as needed until it propels the business.

Hookers do hooking

Medium is flooded with articles advising how to make more money by attracting more readers or tricking the algorithm. It feels strange — in my take, readers seek information they cannot get elsewhere. Hence, if Medium helps readers find articles worth reading, it is a win-win situation. The readers come back, and authors get rewarded.

In “How to Write Articles That Will Get Your Audience Hooked,” Jason Huynh spelled out that writing solely for money boils down to hassling readers as hookers do it. It reminded me that, in my youth, back in Poland, we called writers who wrote only to make money “prostitutes.”

There is nothing wrong with making money by writing. But, as many people on Medium would agree, there are more important things in life than money. Mr. Townsend bows again with a surprising explanation.

X theory against Y theory

The essence of his book is in describing how he succeeded by using the Y theory. The X and Y theories of motivation were developed first by Douglas McGregor. The X theory states that workers need strict supervision because they would not be there if they could choose to do otherwise. The Y theory says that workers have their basic needs, such as food and shelter, taken care of by having a job. They seek satisfaction from being respected at work. People want more independence, an opportunity to learn, and an appreciation for being innovative.

With Medium, the Y theory means authors who write purely for money cannot build a huge readership. Medium can thrive only through articles posted with a bigger purpose than making a buck.

Nations worldwide lack meaningful public conversations about the problems we all face. People eagerly want to engage in them, seeking a better understanding and hoping their tiny contribution can make our world slightly better. No one does it; Medium has everything needed to start the conversations today. Success will come from financially rewarding writers whom readers find informative and engaging.

Ev may respond that making the world better is what he has been trying on Medium since its inception. He would be correct, but wrong at the same time.

The front cover of the Polish translation by Stefan Bratkowski from 1974, as I read it then.

A difference between a leader and a preacher

Preachers proclaim their truth. Leaders engage their teams in finding the truth or going as close to it as possible. By the way, leadership is a big part of Townsend’s book. 

On many issues, I disagree with Ev Williams on what the truth is. Let us take racial inequality in the United States as an example. Medium obtrusively imposes on its readers a narrow, one-sided position. There are a few authors frequently listed in the Medium Daily Digest. I have posted several articles with a different perspective; some of which are direct polemics with those promoted writers.

Leaders would recognize the merit of the opposite viewpoint and encourage debate. Preachers would fear the strength of the contrary argument and ensure that it would not reach their flock, as Medium leaders did with my texts. None of my articles about racial issues received that “distributed” mark. Editors assign that mark following the CEO’s directions. It was Ev then.

Why would someone pay $5 a month to read regularly what they already know and believe?

It makes no sense to me, but this is the business concept for Medium as practiced during Ev’s tenure. So far, I have not noticed any change in this concept.

Call me a weirdo, but I skim the articles presenting opinions I agree with. Looking for something new, I pay much more attention to those presenting the opposing views. Similarly, I believe that readers who post comments praising my texts waste my time and theirs. I offended a few by responding: If you like my article, tell others; if you see something wrong, tell me.

In my not popular opinion, blunt candidness is the way to keep Medium vigorous and prosperous. It is certainly not by creating a community of mutual adoration where direct criticism is unwelcome and everyone suffocates in a fog of flattery.

I can do it

Last, the message to those who decide the future of Medium. If asked, I can deliver what I call for above. With my help, Medium can get a CEO as good as Robert Townsend would have been. It would not be me. I would facilitate the transition.

Leave a Reply

About me

I was born in 1951 in Gdansk, Poland.
Since my high school years, I have interest in politics and love for writing. During my college years, I started writing to student papers and soon became a freelance author to major Polish political magazines.

In 1980 I wrote a book “Czy w Polsce może być lepiej?” (“Could it be better in Poland?” – this book is available only in Polish) analyzing major problems in Poland at the time and outlining possible solutions.

I was among those Polish political writers who by their writings contributed to the peaceful system transformation that finally took place in 1989. Since 1985, I have lived in the Chicago area. I went through the hard times typical of many immigrants. Working in the service business, I have seen the best and the worst places, I met the poorest and the richest. I have seen and experienced America not known to most of the politicians, business people, and other political writers. For eleven years, I ran my own company. Presently, I am an independent consultant.

My political writing comes out of necessity. I write when I see that the prevailing voices on the political arena are misleading or erroneous. Abstract mathematics and control theory (of complex technological processes) strongly influenced my understanding of social phenomena. In the past, my opponents rebuked my mathematical mind as cold, soulless, and inhuman. On a few occasions, I was prized for my engineer’s precision and logic.

I have a master’s degree in electronic engineering with a specialization in mathematical machines from Politechnika Gdańska (Technical University of Gdansk).

... more