Saturday, June 28, 2014

"Corrosive Culture" at VA: 10 Lessons for the Rest Of Us

It is easy to point fingers when others screw up. In reality the problems at Veterans Affairs are fairly common, and the employees are highly dedicated and delivering a high quality of care. This presentation extracts 10 themes from the report prepared by President Obama's Deputy Chief of Staff about excessive wait times, in a way that enables consideration of similar themes by other agencies and organizations.

* As always all opinions are my own.

Thursday, June 26, 2014

Will Transparency Take Away Your Job?

Many years ago my daughter did not speak.

She was three years old and I took her to the town pediatrician - these were the days before the Internet - and he told me, the way a revered, patrician, paternalistic doctor has talked to me many times, as though I were ignorant - "Mrs. Blumenthal, she's fine. Lots of kids don't talk before they're three. My own kids didn't talk until late."

We moved to the Washington, D.C. area soon after and I took her to a local doctor who I'm pretty sure has made every issue of Washingtonian since the magazine first started coming out. He is an ear, nose and throat doctor with a hearing problem. There is a gigantic fish tank, with large beautiful fish, at the entrance. A large framed prayer hangs over it, something about "helping everyone who walks through these doors."

The doctor is not patrician, or pedantic, or paternalistic or patronizing. He is elderly and kind and he takes one look at my daughter and rushes her to the emergency room.

It's midnight and I'm sitting there, sitting over her bed. I'm working in the hospital just after her surgery, because I work all the time, because raising kids is a full-time job and we need a dual income, and G-d has blessed me with income that I can earn long-distance between D.C. and Madison Avenue. And so I work.

The pressure is on me to generate a large amount of work. My boss knows when I've produced it. There is nothing for me to hide - it's either done or it isn't, and I am paid handsomely by the piece.

As far as the doctor goes, I had no way of knowing whether he was right or the other one was. Equally their opinions held sway in my mind, because there was no Internet to check them against. Had I had the Internet I would have gone to Google and looked up "When is it normal for a kid to start speaking?" or some such thing and gotten some answers.

Had I had the Internet, I would have "fired" (stopped going to) the first doctor and given him a bad review on Yelp, or whatever review sites there are for doctors specifically - - and given a five-star review to the second. I'd rate them both on Angie's List.

So here's another story. When I started working for the government one of my big ideas was to have employees rate the articles in the employee newsletter. I tend to repeat my stories, so if you've heard this one already, forgive me, but I just love it. 

What happened was, they hired me for internal communications, and so of course I ended up with the employee newsletter, which of course nobody wanted to write for and we had to drag them kicking and screaming to do the most basic and boring articles. You know these kinds of articles, they're the ones you like to laugh at, like "A Tree Grows In Brooklyn" by another title, "We Went To A Meeting" and stuff like that.

So we used to lay it out one way, for print, and I said to my boss, something like "Gee wouldn't it be great to have the newsletter online." And "Oh sure." was the response, because who is going to say no to that?

Quietly I program it to show articles with anywhere from one-star to four-star ratings in Lotus Notes - I don't even remember what Lotus Notes is, only that I used it and liked it a lot. And I remember the look on my boss's face, my boss who was maybe two years from retirement. "Oh no you don't!" and she shut it down right quick.

If her face could talk it would have said, "Are you kidding? We're not going to rate the articles! Nobody would ever write for us again."

But there was another meeting at that agency, and they did let me make it visible to all employees. It was a town hall on the subject of reorganization, and the Chief of Staff at the time let me do it. Is it surprising that this person used to say things like, "People worry that if they share information the pie will get smaller. But actually the pie just gets bigger." 

He understood that transparency leads to more productivity, and more productivity benefits everyone. You cannot get screwed if you focus on contributing your best.

Last story. At that agency I was the intrepid reporter who covered a very special event. The subject was predatory lending, and the speaker was one Elizabeth Warren. I confess to being a mostly ignorant person when it comes to detailed subject matter, but my instincts and emotions are sharp and finely tuned. And when she walked into the room and started talking, it was electrifying. 

Warren urged us to stop the national banks from deceptive practices in marketing tricky, too-good-to-be-true credit products to consumers. And the audience, a room full of loan examiners (you may think this is a snooze but consider that loans are what pay for houses and cars) did not make a move or a sound.

Years later Warren's brainchild, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, came into being and - judging at least from the people who show up at various federal communications meetings - it is staffed by some of the smartest people in town. What Warren managed to achieve, that few get to do in their lifetimes, is quiet but revolutionary social change. For the first time in my lifetime that I can recall, a government agency was specifically established as an activist tool on behalf of the citizenry, to go behind the curtain and blow away the smoke and mirrors and show people the consequences of living on cheap promises and bad credit.

Transparency won't take away your job, if you want to do a good job. Good workers will always find something to do. It will take away your job if you're a liar, and you're trying to run from or hide the truth.

* All opinions my own.


Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Game Your Training to Get Results

At the recent GSummit in San Francisco there was a presentation on the simple principles behind gamification and why it works so well.

The speaker was Monica Cornetti, and the focus of her talk was something like "how corporate trainers can get funding for training." Nevertheless there were ideas that anyone could incorporate into any training session. She is very dynamic, funny and knowledgeable and I would highly recommend actually watching the talk, to learn about these ideas, because you can't really get it from a blog. But this is just a taste:

1) The purpose of training is to produce enhanced results, not to transmit information. (I believe that is a quote.)

2) Turn training into a story with characters, an adventure, a journey, a destination, a challenge. She used the example of Snow White and the Seven Dwarves in talking about HR training in a back-office environment. You want to train Snow White to deal with Dopey (the boss's kid :-), Grumpy, etc.

3) Show consequences of behavior. She had a great image of a crane falling down due to operator error. (This is real life, folks, not a joke.) Talk, talk, talk and then quiz is old fashioned and doesn't work.

4) Start small, show measurable results and then add the bells and whistles. This is perhaps the best tip of all. You have to see Cornetti standing there, rubbing her fingers together and going, "You like it? Well if you want more, you'll have to pay."

I loved how Cornetti talked about the way to approach an executive with data. She said to remember that the most important currency for a C-suite leader is time. Do not waste their time. Show them the metrics, show them the demonstrated results, and you'll make your case - whether it's for better training or an investment in other stuff.

As far as gaming your training, we sat down afterward and talked about these principles in our world. It turned out that our Ethics folks had already done Lord of the Rings installments for Hatch Act training and it was a big hit. So Cornetti was right on the money on that one.

We talked about how to add some sizzle to web training and I think we will be focusing most on #3, consequences of behavior, but not in a negative way. Rather, we will be putting the tools and the assignments in front of the user and asking them to complete the task, sort of like people who take a cooking class and they get the ingredients and an oven and get to bake a cake with a teacher around.

We'll see how it goes. Either way it was a great training and the lessons were well learned, even if she did show slides of pot and we had to close the door because we didn't want it to look like we endorsed drug dealing, which we don't. We don't!

* All opinions my own. 

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

10 Tips from Jack Bauer's Leadership Playbook

"Bauer" is of course the main character on "24":

1. Gains permission to make difficult decisions in a respectful but effective way: "Sir, just let me do what I know how to do."

2. Throws terrorists out the window without listening to their nonsense propaganda, because they are dangerous killers and not good or moral.

3. Respects marriage between the love of his life and another man, because he respects that marriage is sacred.

4. Always takes a phone call from people he cares about even when it distracts him from his work. He just keeps it brief.

5. Knows a rat when he smells one, even if the rat seems unconnected to the present infestation.

6. Nevertheless he doesn't act without evidence.

7. Maintains highly qualified and trustworthy friends who help him, and vice versa.

8. Delegates work to the experts - doesn't pretend to know or do it all. Nevertheless, keeps a good working knowledge of the subject matter.

9. Goes it alone when he has to.

10. Serves a higher mission than his own greed, lust or thirst for power. He would die for it.

* All opinions my own.

Sunday, June 22, 2014

Whose fault is it if public service leaves you feeling stifled?

Sharing a comment I posted on GovLoop today, because it feels important.


If an individual employee feels stifled in government, it is up to that employee to manage the situation effectively by finding ways to make a positive difference. Having official boss approval is only one of those ways. Other ways include...well lots of things that you have seen suggested many times no doubt.

What is the boss's job? Not to pretend that every idea, or even every good idea, is going to be considered. That is not "good management" rather it is a pat on the head and it is really condescending and insulting. Or worse, it is dangerous when management just goes "oh sure" and does not give any direction that would rein in some of the kookier concepts that people come up with and actually implement when one is looking the other way. I could name a few but it's better that I don't.

What is the boss's job, from a positive perspective? I would say that it's to teach the employee "how to fish," meaning how to get things done in the system as it actually exists, and then to build on that incrementally and make improvements.

Of course most bosses are not oriented to doing that and so good people either leave or they do something radical in order to make change happen, taking the risk on themselves. Both of those scenarios are bad for government. Move the ship slowly, steadily and together and we can get it done.

My two cents.

Friday, June 20, 2014

An Intern Speaks Out - What Makes A Good Boss (A "10 Things" List)

So we were in the grocery store and my daughter tells me that she likes working for her current boss. (She is an intern at the NIH.)

"What is it you like?" I say. 

I take out my iPhone, ready to take notes. 

"Oh, so now you want to pay attention to what I have to say," she says disapprovingly, shaking her head.

"I like work stuff, so sue me," I respond.

"Well I can't think of all of it now, since you're interviewing me," she says.

But she comes out with her list anyway. 

1. "He sets the stage for what I'm going to be doing - gives me the general idea."

2. "He tells me what the job is very clearly."

3. "If I'm done early, he lets me stop instead of just giving me busywork."

4. "He trust me to do the work. He doesn't stand over me."

5. "He doesn't make a big deal if I'm 15 minutes late once in a while."

The other 5 items on this list came up in conversation, but they seemed important to her as well:

6. "The office is a reflection of his personality, it's consistent and kind of mellow."

7. "He gave me a phone number to call if there's a problem."

8. "We got this email saying that there's a tuition break for employees."

9. "The food is much better there this year."

10. "I like what my office does. It's cool."

It's not a long list, but it's a really good list and I wondered if anyone else wanted to add to it. Maybe we say the same things over and over again, but then again maybe that's what it takes for the lessons of good management and leadership to sink in.

* All opinions my own.

Thursday, June 19, 2014

The One Rule For New Supervisors

I sat down and flipped open my computer as I normally lunch alone.

Then a colleague who I knew from minimal interaction struck up a conversation. After a moment or two she sat down.

"Tell me about your job," I said.

"I have a new supervisor. She is making us read 'Who Moved My Cheese.'" 

She said that as though it were a bad thing.

"She is changing everything around. Very strong personality. Doesn't think that any of us know how to do our jobs."

It went on from there.

"One lady can't eat because of her, others can't sleep. It's really bad."

It went on from there.

"She favors her friends, who are ignorant, over the staff people who do a really good job. It's so frustrating."

I nodded.

"And every time one of us says something to another one, she somehow finds out about it."

Yes the workplace can be a small world.

"We're afraid to talk, and now she wants to go on a team-building retreat to build so-called 'trust'."

She laughed sadly and bitterly. I could see she was hyper-competent and the injustice of having to serve a new and awkward supervisor was killing her.

And then, the final blow.

"I'm looking to get out."

Later I told my daughter about it.

"Oh, teambuilding. Everybody hates it when they have to do that."

Reflecting on the whole thing, I felt bad for my colleague, and frankly felt bad myself as well. Because I've been on both sides of the coin.

And I could see both sides: As supervisor, wanting to prove yourself, and please your boss, and deliver the results you are bound to deliver in a difficult environment.

As employee, wanting to practice your tradecraft with minimal interference, wanting to not have to train all the new and awkward management folks.

What can I say, it's hard. But I do think supervisors can help themselves a lot by learning to listen more, especially at the beginning, absorbing the culture, and reserving comment for when it's absolutely needed.

*All opinions my own.

Sunday, June 15, 2014

Deloitte’s Tech Trends 2014 - Key Takeaways

Deloitte came out with this white paper, and it is rich with good information. However, it's also a lot to take in. Here's my best understanding of the high points of their top 10 trends in IT for this year, Tech Trends 2014

(I have oversimplified for the sake of clarity, so please comment away if you see any errors.)

Type of Change
Old Way
New Way
1. CIO as venture capitalist
Reactive purchasing
Manage IT as a business asset
  • Talk business not jargon
  • Adapt fast
  • Hire the right people
2. Wearables
Sit at desk
Total mobility
  • Focus on business use cases
  • Don’t be distracted by flashy consumer scenarios
3. Digital Engagement
One channel at a time
Multiple channels managed simultaneously
  • Consistency
  • Keeping the viewer’s interest
  • Put the digital experience in context
  • Find a way to make money out of it
4. Industrialized Crowdsourcing
Hire one employee to do a range of tasks
Distribute many tasks among many, at the simplest repeatable unit of effort
  • Finding the right unit of work
  • Coordinating among the parts
5. Cognitive analytics (artificial intelligence)
Person makes decisions based on limited data, for rational and emotional reasons  
Machines take over much decision-making by by mining Big Data quickly and learning to adapt to business processes
  • Isolate work that can only be done with human intelligence
  • Distinguish between appropriate vs. inappropriate uses of machines to minimize risks of decision-making
6. Technical Debt Reversal
Build customized systems that incur “debt” of constant code upgrades
Reduce “debt” for both legacy and new systems (not one or the other)
  • Maximize code quality
  • Consider scalability, mobility, performance and reliability
7. Real Time DevOps
Stovepipe development from operations
Integrate development and operations, to meet business needs, with a focus on the development side (waterfall or agile software development)
  • Standardize & automate coding, building, testing (development) and deployment and operation (operations)
8. In-Memory Revolution
Limited access to data
Massive availability of data that can be analyzed for insight
  • Prioritize business areas most in need, for example sales forecasting (predictive analytics)

9. Cloud Orchestration
One-off, tactical cloud purchases
Coordinated cloud strategy
  • Manage across  complex cloud adoptions (and non-adoptions) seamlessly - it’s a hybrid world
10. Social Activation
Monitor and respond to social media and the social nature of business
Focus on “activating” - customers as brand ambassadors
  • Shift from messaging and controlling mindset to influencing customer perception

* All opinions my own. Table by me. No endorsement expressed or implied.

An Interaction @ Balducci's That Should Be A Textbook Lesson In Customer Service

Feeling a bit rushed I go into the store, which is gorgeous and everything is arranged so that I can pluck really good related items of food off the shelf and go home, which is what I want to do because it's late.

Over at the hot bar I don't see a sign saying how much the food costs, but I figure it can't be all that bad if I just take a few containers. I take some staples for the week that save me from cooking, plain spaghetti and olive oil, mac & cheese and rice pilaf. 

They look fantastic.

The cashier starts ringing it up and these five little containers quickly add up to $45.50. 

I think to myself,  Quick, have them put the food back! I could have made a box of spaghetti for a dollar!

And then I think, There is no way they are going to take this stuff back. Once you touch it, you've touched it.

I decide to be bold and tell the kid ringing up the stuff, "Wait a minute wait a minute."

"What is it?" he asks.

Pointing at the food I say, "That's $45 worth of plain spaghetti and mac and cheese and rice pilaf. I could have made it for a dollar."

He looks at me blankly. I am sure that I am in for it now.

"Put it back," I say. "That's ridiculous."

The kid does not blink an eye. He calls over his supervisor and tells him what I want.

Without even thinking, the supervisor says, "Throw it out. Ring it off and throw it out."

What? I am thinking. Oh my G-d. That is unbelievable. They took it back!

The kid says to another kid, who is helping him to bag stuff, "Throw it out."

"What?" she says.

He says to her, "She touched it. We have to throw it out."

She gives him an incredulous look. Like, she cannot believe we are throwing out five containers of food for absolutely no reason. 

"I didn't touch it," I say.

I have one finger crossed behind my back because in fact I did tuck in a stray strand of spaghetti as I packed the container.

Weakly I plead my case, thinking about how I must look to these kids. "Forty-five dollars," I say. "I mean, come on."

They ignore me and the first kid finishes ringing me out.

I take my brown paper bags, which by the way do not break like the ones at Trader Joe's, and resolve to come to Balducci's every.single.week.

Because they are just that good. They are.

* All opinions my own. Photo by me.

Saturday, June 14, 2014

Still #Branding After All These Years

In a time and place when you are scared and isolated, brands are happy and connection and memories and life.

My husband had hip surgery and it is difficult on both of us to be outside of our normal pace of things. The hospital has a Coca-Cola vending machine and I am entranced by the logo as always.

I used to buy Doritos at the cafeteria till my husband told me to stop. I like the nacho cheese flavor. It was forbidden to me as a kid, because it didn't have kosher certification. 

I drink Red Bull to keep going. I like Red Bull. My friend Melanie used to call me RB. At USAID when I left they gave me a box of RB, a box of Starbucks Doubleshot and their famous globe. Good memories.

Condiments are reassuring. Nothing can go wrong when there is ketchup around.

Ask someone why they prefer a certain brand over another. Ask them about a world without brands. 

It wouldn't be possible.

* All opinions my own. Photos by me.

Thursday, June 12, 2014

Don't Give Yourself The Credit, & Don't Ever Feel Alone

Photo credit: Chris Dorobek / Flickr

(Note: Updated from an earlier post)

We have to work really hard in this world. Too hard, it sometimes seems like.

When we experience some measure of success, it is easy to pat ourselves on the back and say, "I did it."

But we didn't, not at all. Not really.

A lot of the time we stumble, too. We suffer, we are attacked, we get sick.

Either way, someone is always with us, pushing us as we fly around on that playground swing.

There is always a reason, and we don't know the reason. But one thing is for sure, we are never really alone.

* All opinions my own.

It's OK To Speak Up For Women, and Men

(Note: This is an updated version of an earlier post.)

For the longest time I wanted to be a good girl. Meaning, not a feminist.

Then I heard about a lot of things "nice people" went through. I didn't want to hear about those.

Sexual assault, rape.

Domestic violence.


Mental illness.

Poor medical care.

I learned that the squeaky wheel gets the grease. That women who speak up are better off than those who are quiet.

It is better to be assertive and have people call you names, than mousy and be taken advantage of.

This is especially true if you're a woman working in tech. People aren't out to be sexist necessarily, but there's a lot of machismo (warning: disturbing) in the profession. 

What's happening now, that is wonderful, is that both women and men are speaking up about the ways in which they experience gender insensitivity and outright oppression.

It's not about freeing half the sky, about sharing the sky together.

* All opinions my own.

Yesterday I Threw An F-Bomb

Photo credit: USMC via Flickr

In a way I feel like the Anthony Bourdain of public service, going from agency to agency every few years and seeing how taken-for-granted the different cultures are. Trying to make things just a little better because otherwise I couldn't get through the day, it would all be meaningless.

What I want to say is this. When you're on the inside, and you're trying so hard, it can feel so lonely and difficult. It can seem like everybody else is just fine, and you're the only one sort of sitting there bewildered and disoriented, like Bourdain in the transgender bar in Thailand when the guy dancer came up and kissed him with Day-Glo lipstick.

What I want to say is that you, and your hard work and the fact that you truly give a damn, are not alone. Do not feel that way at all. Secretly, without saying a word, you have a ton, a ton of support.

Keep fighting the good fight. One day you and your colleagues will be sitting together at some beachfront bar in Fort Lauderdale, drinking and looking out at the waves. And you'll be smiling.

* All opinions my own.


More about the photo: Simon Bolivar Buckner, Jr., Lemuel C. Shepherd, and William T. Clement, Okinawa, 22 May 1945. The caption on this photograph reads "Watching Their Troops-As the Marines drive toward the capital city of Naha, leaders watch the action from an observation post on a rocky ledge. They are, (left to right): Lieutenant General Simon Bolivar Buckner, Jr., commanding the Tenth Army; Major General Lemuel C. Shepherd, commanding general of the Sixth Marine Division, and his assistant commander, Marine Brigadier General William T. Clement." From the Photograph Collection (COLL/3948), Marine Corps Archives & Special Collections. Official USMC photograph.

Sunday, June 8, 2014

Furniture Is About Fantasy Not Fact

At Arhaus in North Bethesda (near Rockville, MD) today I am pretty sure I had a near death experience.

took these photos desperately, like a lion being ripped away from her cubs.

It wasn't any one piece but the totality.

I wanted everything. Even the stuff I didn't like.

When you buy furniture you are buying a lifestyle. Not the reality of the material within.

Like the fantasy of being a CEO in a fancy leather chair.

* All opinions my own.

Saturday, June 7, 2014

Kane Zipperman & The Science of Virality

(Note: Some of the content may be offensive to certain audiences. Zipperman's tactics are not appropriate for everyone - professional judgment required.)

If you haven't heard about it by now, Kane Zipperman's girlfriend cheated on him. He tweeted the texts. Included memes. As of June 6, there were 75,000 retweets.

Deconstructing the Twitter account, there are at least 5 themes that make it stand out.

If you don't know how to create viral content, you will after reading this post.

1) Funny, Sarcastic, Authentic

This is an epic text conversation. You can't read it and not laugh.

Via Buzzfeed
2) Relatable

Everybody can relate to the fear or reality of being cheated on, to the suffering and rage of the cheatee.

3) Includes Everyone

4) Multimedia, Varied Media

5) Shamelessly Self-Promotional

* All opinions my own.

Thursday, June 5, 2014

Engage The Trolls

"That's interracial. I hope nobody sees a picture of that. I'll be through." 
- White man, hugging filmmaker Mo Asumang in The Aryans, 
her documentary about confronting racism (2014) 

Conventional wisdom says you shouldn't engage with "trolls," meaning people dedicated to "bashing and degrading others." See this chart from the Air Force.

Multiracial filmmaker Mo Asumang turned this idea on its head when she decided to engage directly with White supremacists in Europe and the U.S.

Asumang understands, rightly, that haters operate by dehumanizing the object of their hatred. Thus, as shown in the clip from BBC News, she thrusts herself right in the middle of the action. Not yelling or chastising, but rather seeking to understand.

They are at turns degrading, bewildered, and friendly. It's fascinating to watch, and it's hard to pick out the best clip even from the short four-minute extract. One of them is when she gets a hug from the White supremacist who had been "educating" her. Another is when she asks an Aryan leader what will happen to people like her, and he matter-of-factly tells her that she will be deported to a "melting pot."

It's hard to believe that people like this actually exist. But they do. Of course they do. I found myself nodding when she said that such people never actually see Black or Jewish people. So they hate them without knowing anything about them.

I reflected on the hidden and not-so-hidden racism in the Jewish community. In the African-American community, too. And by Caucasians. I've experienced it personally from all three. For example I am Jewish and other Jewish people have stereotyped me as either being too Jewish, not Jewish enough, or just plain "confusing."

Asumang is right: Racism is very definitely inversely proportional to the amount of time people actually spend with those from other backgrounds. 

This is what the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King meant when he said "I have decided to stick with love. Hate is too great a burden to bear."

Love doesn't literally mean love. It means embracing others' humanity. 

There is a great Israeli film, Walk On Water, that explores the complex legacy of the Holocaust. The fact the Germans today are not the Germans who did those terrible things to us. People are just people. And that we should look at people for the complex beings that they are. Not as objects.

There are so many films showing Jewish people and Palestinian people in Israel struggling to find a peaceful Third Way amid all the violence. It is so difficult to overcome the hate, the hate, the hate. 

Public trust in government is at an all-time low. No wonder: Government, unfailingly, ignores or marginalizes the critics. "They're crazy." That is, until there is some admission that the critics were right, or at least that their perceptions were understandable.

(Working in government, in public affairs for many years, it has irked the hell out of me that we don't tell our side of the story in any great detail, which could help defuse the more irrational theories.)

Sources: Pew Research Center, National Election Studies, Gallup, ABC/Washington Post, CBS/New York Times, and CNN Polls. From 1976-2010 the trend line represents a three-survey moving average. For party analysis, selected datasets obtained from searches of the iPOLL Databank provided by the Roper Center for Public Opinion Research, University of Connecticut.

Writing at The Feminist Librarian, Anna J. Cook talks about the politics of labeling dissenters as crazy or marginal. This is about establishing leadership through force, the force of exclusion and deciding who can speak

The context of her post involves a certain listserv, its dominance by a male despite the list serving a predominantly female field. 

(Don't tell me that listservs are old fashioned - I know they're old-fashioned - but for some people they do work. And the point is the dynamics of the online conversation.)

Look at how easy it is to shut a troll up. 
  1. The first person complains about the dominant person. (Male complaining about male.)
  2. The second person tells the first person to delete the posts if they don't like them. (It's a community problem, though, right? As she points out.)
  3. The third person passionately defends the first person.
  4. The defenders of the first person speak up.
  5. The dominant person breaks his silence - but only engages a woman, not the original man. Some sort of gender factor exists here as he speaks in "mansplainy tones." She notes he creepily sometimes responds to female criticism through unsolicited private email, a "power play" well-known to female bloggers.
  6. Others speak up to say the whole debate is stupid.
  7. Others say there are bigger fish to fry.
  8. Others cry censorship.
  9. Still others "shame all participants in the debate for behaving badly."
It's true - some people are mentally ill. Or just disgruntled: You will never win them over. 

But when we use the word "troll," that's dangerous. Because it's too easy to lump together opinions we don't like, thoughts that are inconveniently critical, with people we are safer ignoring. (As Iyanla Vanzant once famously said, "When you see crazy coming, cross the street.")

We have limited time. We can't engage with everybody. 

But sometimes we have to do it anyway, or we are weighed down anyway, by the burden of our collective silence.

* All opinions my own.