Community Management as Product Management

The idea is that customer relationship management begins BEFORE the product is developed.

1. Identifying the "problem".

Founders get an idea, for a "product / solution" that solves a "problem".

2. Ops: Finding people who experience the "problem".

Instead of immediately building a "product", the founders/ops look for people who have this "problem" - they collect their contact details. This is the "community".

This stage alone can involve planning an entire communications campaign (in ad agency-speak).

3. Ops: Building the community.

All the contacts from (2.) above are led to meet each other, this is can be done offline, the old-fashioned way, but it is very often done online, thanks to social media. The job of the community manager here is to create a conversation that never ends, about the "problem" and the latest available "solutions".

Because this conversation happens in real time, it uses "the power of the crowd," to keep the market's key concerns about the "problem" at the forefront of the founders'/op's radar. It also provides the founders/ops with direct access to a highly engaged community of people who care about solutions in this space.

4. Ops: Building the MVP

Based on preliminary feedback from the "community", the founders/ops finally develop a minimum viable "product", for minimum cost, and throw it back to the "community" for feedback.

5. Ops: Iterating the product

This just means, "repeat step 4., on a disciplined schedule", forever!

6. Ops: advertising the product

(Look to the Mad Men, they're very good at this... or perhaps, that's a different essay.)

Further reading.


Sensitivities Hmph

It still annoys me when folks abuse sensitive children. Well, what doesn't kill you, only makes you stranger, right?

You could be 32 and still hear conversations from across 30 feet of quiet office, notice the coppery smell of a colleague having her period, keep yourself primed for risks by occasionally imagining folks who walk up to you and start hacking away at you with cleavers, feel the ebbs and flows of tightness in muscles from head to toe according to protein:carb:water:salt intake, notice the fear in timbres of a usually cheery colleague, track the politics of three dozen parties, observe the future and past states of an organisation in a single view, all while bending over to wrap up a little bag of trash.

I think that's why caffeine helps - tunnel vision, tunnel thought, it reduces distractions.


Workplace Happiness

Happiness is for amateurs. A good businessman is only as good as his contracts.


Someone suggested that I should quit my day job on grounds of unhappiness.

But when I get up in the morning and put on my work clothes, I mostly turn off the part of me that knows or doesn't know about happiness. We're not paid to be happy. Bothering about happiness is a cognitive overhead that isn't valuable (at work) unless it's part of your job to be a happy person. People who take their hearts to work run the risk of turning into sad people, and that's not the sort of risk one should afford if one is committed to good work.

I pay a lot of attention to other people's happiness at work though. I look for sad people and I talk to them, eat with them, drink with them, and try to help them be less sad. That's specifically the sort of work that would be jeopardised if I allowed myself to worry about my own happiness or unhappiness in a warzone.

No way. Do the job. Fix the people. Stay the mandates. Or go home. Hehe.


... Companions Worth Keeping

If you're going on a journey, through an unknown land, bring enough food to feed on, and leave the tremblers behind. Weed them out. Electrocute their sanity. Evaporate their senses. Collapse their security. And after their minds have been lost and found, you will find...


Economics of Android Companions

Prior to college, I wondered as an intellectual curiosity, how hard it would be to quantify a human mind, and to make it digitally reproduceable. It was fairly clear from concepts such as transcendental idealism (which I learnt via the Kantian interpretation, though the concept exists in other intellectual traditions), that there could be limits to the variety of experiences available to the mind, though we may not easily discern what they are. Possible limits, not necessary ones. In college, I spent a lot of time deconstructing my use of language, and sense of cognition, and gradually mapped most of it to quantifiable structures in space and time.

Since graduation from college, I haven't seen people primarily, "as people." I have looked at people, and seen information systems. Perhaps the easiest way to explain it, is that I view people in much the same way that most engineers might look at their iPads and phones, thinking, "I don't know how this works, but it wouldn't be too complicated to replicate if I studied its replication all day, with a resourceful team, and lots of financial resources." The notion of personhood hasn't been a critical component of my daily operations for a rather long time - though this could change, of course, if I changed my modus operandi, by choice, through illness, or through other (un?)intentional modifications of self.

Now, ten years later, I've worked in commerce for the bulk of that time, and I try to communicate some of these ideas to commercial audiences that are only interested in market value. Of late I've been thinking about it again, and so here is an attempt to articulate (again possible, but unnecessary) economic value that may result from progress in robotics.

Demand: Software

Human being exhibit a mental architecture that depends on social activity, aural conversation, in non-trivial ways. At this point in history, demand for social activity is fulfilled by the supply of social activity by other human beings. Nevertheless, supply is clearly limited, as the variety of demands is broad, and complex. This implies that for the same quality of interaction (when android interaction is indifferentiable from human interaction), android social interactions will hit the market as soon as their price drops below the price of comparable human interactions. This market is worth trillions - though it's not entirely clear how quickly the transition will happen.

Demand: Hardware

The same organic architecture creates a demand for haptic conversation, in significant quantities also. This is typically displayed in the markets for pets and sex. The market for this seems less urgent. But with the potential for each human being on the planet to obtain a customised android partner, indistinguishable from a human, for a price, it seems that this market too will encounter non-trivial growth once the quality of android surrogates rises to approximate or exceed the standards currently set by human bodies.

Supply: Software

There are a few ways to reduce the cost of research in robotics. The commodification of augmented reality devices and software development kits provides one avenue for any researcher in human-robotic interaction to test robot physiology and psychology, without the need to touch hardware research. In the future it may be that the virtual companion will always be available at a lower price than the mechanically present android.

The android as a conversational companion can only gain utility when it begins to be indistinguishable from organic alternatives. Robotics has, to-date, advanced from producing personalities of reptilian personality, to producing mammalian personality. We have yet to see in the open market, personalities which are indistinguishable from those of a human infant or toddler - but it seems that this not more than a year or two away, and probably already extant in private research. The development of artificial personalities that graduate through such a life-cycle of "degrees of humanness," can only proceed thereafter to be benchmarked by what counts as an artificial personality that is indistinguishable from humans of a particular age. Progress will be measured by increases in the perceived human-age of the android. Once adults approximately 18 years of age are reproduceable, the vector for progress then shifts, from the dimension of age to the dimension of education and culture. This is the hard part, as personality remains a domain of human study that is perceived as unquantifiable by a larger quantity of people. (My own hoary intuition about this is that, given how bored I am with people of many cultures, it won't be that much of a problem once machines of a particular scale lay their analytical methods upon it.)

In terms of technical skill, android personalities which exceed our ability to differentiate themselves from human artisans in any field will progress from amateur benchmarks, to beyond the limits of human professionals. This is the easy part.

Supply: Hardware

A few types of technology will be key to the production of indistinguishable android surrogates.

We must achieve, materials for android bodies that are of sufficiently quality to be indifferentiable from human tissues: (i) these could be in-organic, though it seems that an alternative would be, (ii) to grow organic human bodies and to discover how to interact between silicon brains and organic bodies. Going the way of bio-tech seems a bit harder, since we know so little about molecular biology at the cellular level, at this point in history.

We must achieve, mechanics for these materials that are of sufficient quality to be indifferentiable from human movement. Numerous engine types and seem to have potential here, though the leading candidates appear to be those which consume electricity. The positioning of actuators and mechanisms for force transfer, must achieve mimicry of human musculoskeletal structures.

We must achieve, power sources that are of sufficient quality to be indifferentiable from human endurance. At this point I start wondering about a robot companies that need to be plugged in during physical activity... power cords might find novel positionings, and might even be detachable such that androids would know how to reposition their cords based on changes in body orientation. Cords might be attachable at multiple alternative locations on the android body.

We must achieve, heat dispersion mechanisms that are of sufficient quality to ensure human-like body temperatures. Android sweat, or a liquid cooling system that runs close to power-cords might be the tangible alternatives in the event that fans don't get the job done.


I just wanted to paint this out there, so that I'd have it as a reference, when explaining this sort of future, to other people.

Today's Meditation

The recurring fallacy of human thought, which grates against my daily mind, is when people believe they are more than the sum of their organic machinery.

12 Assholes Who Want Rohingyas to Die (updated)

Originally: "10 Assholes Who Want Rohingyas to Die." Drop your suggestions in the comments below, and I might update this article from time to time.
There are two parts to this article: first, the goods you were promised; second, circumstantial views that provide context for the leaky abstractions. I was going to separate those sections, but laziness got the better of me. This isn't intended to be well researched - it's a smattering of links from a Sunday afternoon, executed for recreation. In case you come to this post with no context, read this first.

Trigger Warning: Here Be Cynics.

As we all know, there's very little utility to arguing about ethics in public, as most Internet arguments exist as generators for entertainment, not action.

In any argument that debates the merit of casually deleting human lives, while it may seems fair to call anyone who votes on the side of deletion, "an asshole," it is probably not their individual fault as all conversations by individuals ultimately reflect on their cultural environment and upbringing.


Ultimately, we don't know if it's possible to refer to any of these people as assholes. The rhetoric for the application of "asshole," terminology is probably represented by the following two views. Both views are eminently debateably - I mean, we still can't clearly say if either of these views is true.

(View i.) Turning away boats, amounts to murder.

As reported by Bloomberg:
Countries towing boats back to sea would probably be in breach of international law, said Eric Paulsen, executive director for human rights group Lawyers for Liberty.

“These boats carrying overcrowded refugees and migrants are typically rickety wooden trawlers and hardly seaworthy,” he said. “Turning or towing these boats away is as good as signing their death warrant as the occupants are normally starving, dehydrated, sickly and in dire need of immediate assistance.”

(View ii.) Sending Rohingyas back to Myanmar, amounts to murder.

As reported by The Guardian:
“The Rohingya are faced with two options: stay and face annihilation, or flee,” said Professor Penny Green, part of a group that recently completed several months’ research in the Rohingya’s home state of Rakhine. “If we understand genocide to be a process, that is what this is. Those who remain suffer destitution, malnutrition and starvation; severe physical and mental illness; restrictions on movement, education, marriage, childbirth, livelihood, land ownership; and the ever-present threat of violence and corruption.”
Let's be clear that many individuals below have made good and wholesome contributions to society in various ways, and that's not the point of this article. That being said, in the interest of calling a shit-stirrer, "a shit-stirrer," let's pump out a short list of folks who have been quoted on the Internet on this topic, with the appearance of being interested in controversy, at the casual expense of Rohingyan lives.


  1. C'est moi

    *I wave my hand*: guilty, as charged. I don't really want Rohingyans to die, but I do think it's an important gesture to apply the "asshole," label to myself, before applying it (liberally, and without much further ado) to the following:
  2. Helan Ang

    Helen provides a short argument, that the folks stuck on boats are economic migrants, not refugees.
  3. Wan Junaidi Jaafar

    (via CNN, via Helan Ang ibid.) Wan is the Malaysian Deputy Home Minister, and while his views here probably reflect those of his office, and not his individual person, he turns out to be a public figure, so we'll just treat him like one for the purpose of our entertainment. He's quoted here, saying:
    Malaysia is processing more than 1,000 recently arrived migrants, with the aim of sending them home.
    Well, that's not so bad, is it ? After all,
    "They come with the culture and come with diseases and lots of social problems. Do you realize Malaysia has been free of TB and many kinds of diseases, and these people are bringing many of this together?"
    Reposte: see Fa Abdul's reason #2.
  4. Tan Kok Kwee

    (via AP, via Yahoo) Tan is a first admiral of Malaysia's maritime enforcement agency, and probably systematically answerable to Wan (above) - so once again, his views may be construed to be reflective of Malaysia, and not of himself. AP attributes the following sentiment on the boat-folks to Tan:
    Unless they're not seaworthy and sinking, he added, the navy will provide "provisions and send them away."
    Tan, of the Malaysia's maritime enforcement agency, said the waters around Langkawi would be patrolled 24 hours a day by eight ships.
    AP also reported that:
    For now, survivors on the island were being held in two separate holding centers — women and children in the sports hall and the men in another facility. But they would soon be transferred to a detention center on the Malaysian mainland.
    Phew, I guess he's not an asshole after all.
  5. Meanwhile, in Thailand...

    Prayuth Chan-ocha

    (via Bloomberg, via NPR) Chan-ocha is Prime Minister of Thailand. Another public figure. Bloomberg reports on Chan-ocha:
    He said Thailand would not open permanent refugee camps for them, and if Thailand were to open camps they would only be to temporarily detain them to be prosecuted for illegal entry.
    “If they break the law and land in Thailand, how can we take care of them?” Prayuth told reporters Thursday. “Where will the budget come from? That money will need to come from Thai people’s taxes, right?”
    Grain of salt, my friends, grain of salt - the public official reflects the public's opinion, unless the public disagrees and calls him to act on the disagreement.
  6. Chayut Navespootikorn

    (via The Guardian) Navespootikorn is a "senior official," in the Thai navy. He's quoted here, saying:
    “To bring them into our country is not our policy,” he said. “If they need fuel or food to go on [to a third country] we would help them with it.”
    Once again, Navespootikorn's view probably reflects the stance held by Chan-ocha (above).
  7. ... and in Myanmanr:

    Zaw Htay

    (via Al Jazeera) Zaw is director of the office of Myanmar's president. He is quoted here saying:
    "We will not accept the allegations by some that Myanmar is the source of the problem,"
    "The gravest violations of human rights are committed by those corrupt officials who are involved in human trafficking activities and colluded with the trafficking syndicates,"
    "From a humanitarian point of view, it's sad that these people are being pushed out to sea by some countries,"
    Well, no kidding. Based solely on this article, at least his messaging is consistent. Again, he's a public official, who works for...
  8. Thein Sein

    (via Al Jazeera ibid.) Thein is Myanmar's President. Evidently doing everything in his power to address the not-Rohingya situation, in Rakhine (a.k.a. Arakan). Fortify Rights reports:
    “Not only are the authorities making life so intolerable for Rohingya that they’re forced to flee, but they’re also profiting from the exodus,” said Matthew Smith, executive director of Fortify Rights. “This is a regional crisis that’s worsening while Myanmar authorities are treating it like a perverse payday.”

    Local Rohingya brokers mostly deliver payments to members of the Lon Thein riot police, Myanmar Police Department, Navy, and Army in amounts ranging from 500,000 kyat (500 USD) to 600,000 kyat (600 USD) per shipload of Rohingya asylum seekers in exchange for passage out to sea. In one case documented by Fortify Rights, the Myanmar Navy demanded 7-million kyat (7,000 USD) from a criminal gang operating a ship filled with Rohingya fleeing to Malaysia. In other cases, members of the Myanmar Police Department took up to 15,000 kyat (15 USD) per person directly from individual Rohingya passengers.
    Well, from way out here, I'd venture that it's hard to know what's really going on in Myanmar, but you'd only have to look to find out. Go ahead, if you want to know more. Hey, even FoxNews notes that as of 2013, over a hundred-thousand Rohingya lounged in IDP camps.
  9. Aung San Suu Kyi

    (via The Huffington Post) Well at least you know, this is a blatant trolling. HuffPo reports the Nobel laureate's stance on the current politics of her language:
    This word, “Rohingya,” clearly has power. So why won’t Daw Suu use it?

    A political analyst with access to the Nobel Peace Prize laureate relayed one of their recent conversations to me:

    “I am not silent because of political calculation,” she reportedly told him. “I am silent because, whoever’s side I stand on, there will be more blood. If I speak up for human rights, they (the Rohingya) will only suffer. There will be more blood.”
  10. ASEAN

    Well, ASEAN probably doesn't count as a legal entity, which is precisely the way its components want it. Without legal personhood, there's no real sense of responsibility to be held by this loosely managed regional coalition.

    Malaysia's Prime Minister, Najib Tun Razak, was quoted here saying that ASEAN needs to take the lead.

    And his deputy, Muhyiddin Yassin, was quoted here saying that it's Myanmar's problem, not ASEAN's.

    Don't you love the wayang? It's popcorn time.
  11. Updated 2015-05-20:
  12. Wong Chun Wai

    (via The Star Online) Wong appears to be:
    Executive Director/Group Chief Editor at Star Publications (M) Bhd
    He says:
    We cannot afford to give the impression that we will take them in, even temporarily, because news will soon travel back home that they were welcomed in Malaysia.
  13. The Rakyat

    (via The Rakyat Post)
    Taking these refugees in may be morally and emotionally satisfying, but at what cost and at what risk?

Any More?

Drop hints in the comments below, and I might update this article from time to time.