14 Quick Thoughts on the 14 Year Old Girl Rape Case

Firstly, this is about Daisy Coleman. You can read Daisy Coleman’s story here at XOJane.

Please keep in mind that the case hasn’t been tried in court. So these are allegations.

That being said let me list out some biases, lest you walk into this post assuming it’ll be unbiased.

Bias #1: I have 6 kid sisters. I’m the only elder Brother. In any case of a 14 year old girl accusing a 17 year old boy of getting her drunk and raping her, my sympathies would be with the girl UNLESS and UNTIL the boy’s innocence was proven via HARD FACTS. The fact that he literally dumped her outside her house in the snow doesn’t help his case.

Bias #2: Rape is often a crime of hate and/or desperation. Why hate? Some rapists hate women. Rape is a tool to belittle women. Why desperation? Some rapists think they could never get a woman otherwise. This doesn’t mean rape is justified. It means that there are a LOT more rapists out there than you might realize. Quite a few men have hatred for women. Quite a few men are desperate. Women tend to gloss over this stuff. Don’t. Ignoring reality is a bad idea. There are men who hate women and treat women terribly.

Bias #3: Rape punishment should be a LOT more severe. Why? Because rape leaves victims with long-term mental and psychological damage and it takes a long time to function normally. For some people things are never normal. It’s crazy that rapists get sentences like 18 months or 2 years. That isn’t enough deterrence.

I wouldn’t go as far as the death penalty. However, castration and/or sterilization and 10 years in prison for convicted rapists sounds quite good. Perhaps an additional 10 years if the girl is 16 or below 16.

Biologically, the threat of castration would remove the biological incentive to rape completely. We might be very shocked at just how much the incidence of rape goes down if the punishment is castration.

Quick Note: Yes, you could argue that this would increase the number of rape related deaths. However, it would massively decrease the number of rapes. Would you take a 80% reduction in rapes for a 80% increase in rape related deaths? What if the first means 10 million less rapes a year? What if the second means 20,000 more deaths a year. It’s a tough question.

Bias #4: It’s completely messed up that there’s a culture of ‘She put herself in a situation for that to happen’ so ‘she’s to blame’. Being stupid DOES NOT MEAN it’s open hunting season. If you saw a drunk man on the street, is it suddenly ok to steal his money and shoot him in the head? Why then is there a line of thought that ‘if there’s a girl drunk and stumbling around’ then if something bad happens to her, she’s ‘asking for it’. I’ll address this more later.

Now, with the biases all stated, here are my 14 Quick Thoughts.

#1 Hats off to the Brave Girl for Revealing her Identity

I have a ton of respect for Daisy Coleman. She’s just 16 or 17. She was just 14 when the ‘alleged’ rape happened.

For her to come out took a ton of courage and I hope justice is served (whatever the right justice should be, I don’t know).

We’ve all had bad things happen to us. Sometimes really bad things. It’s difficult to talk about them. Much less to the whole world. Even more so when you know that the criminals (or ‘alleged’ criminals) might never get punished.

This is a really big step for her and for all rape victims. The more girls (and pretty much anyone who’s the victim of a crime) realizes that THEY ARE NOT TO BLAME. They are Heroines and Courageous for stepping forward and bringing their rapists to justice, the more women will come out. The more of the bad guys (and girls) will be brought to justice.

Keep in mind that rapists who are not punished have no incentive to stop raping. We’ve basically rewarded their grotesque behavior instead of punishing it.

#2 Different People have Different Moral Compasses and Different Currencies

This is the single biggest stumbling block. If every 12 to 14 year old kid could be explained this, the world would be much better off.

You might not frame your friend in a drug bust, but they might frame you.

You might not rape someone who’s drunk, but the second guy down the street might.

Different people have different moral and ethical compasses.

If we let people with messed up moral compasses get away with crimes, they get worse and worse. For the Daisy Coleman case, there might be as many as 9 other girls who were ‘allegedly’ raped by the same guy. He’s now in college. I can assure you that the alleged rapist would have an endless supply of stupid drunk girls he could prey on. Girls who put themselves into compromised positions.

Honest Question – Do you think that getting away with one ‘alleged’ rape (and perhaps as many as 10 ‘alleged’ rapes), would make him less likely to rape in college or more likely?

You let a culprit get away once and you end up messing up the lives of 10 or 20 or 600 people down the line.

You let one person make rape seem like a ‘she was asking for it’ crime or a ‘it never gets punished’ crime and it incentivizes tens of thousands of rapists around the country to rape.

If you don’t stop crimes and punish crimes you create monsters.

#3 Putting yourself in Danger is a very, very stupid thing to do

Let’s separate this into two things -

  1. It’s a very very stupid thing to put yourself into a compromising position. A position where you are at the mercy of someone else who might have a very, very different moral compass.
  2. You are not in any way responsible if a crime happens to you AFTER you put yourself into a compromising position. It’s still a crime. It’s still 100% the fault of the committer. It’s still ZERO % your fault.

The Moral Compass idea is a very important one.

A LOT of girls grow up in an environment where they have no idea that other people have very different moral compasses. Why? Because their family and close friends are very likely to be similar and share similar values and morals.

So, someone has to explain to kids, especially teenagers, that things like drugs and alcohol are dangerous because of two main reasons -

  1. They impair your judgement and health, especially if taken in excess.
  2. They put you at the mercy of other people. Alcohol + the wrong person in control = you get raped. Drugs + the wrong person in control = you end up in jail or a prostitute.

Hard as it might be to imagine, drugs are ten times worse than alcohol. Get addicted to drugs and you run the risk of losing everything and of dying a thousand little deaths.

#4 Putting yourself in Danger does NOT make you liable for any crime against you

This is very simple – It doesn’t matter how bad of a situation you put yourself in. A crime is still a crime.

If you make a major mistake and then have to pay for it, the last thing you should do is blame yourself. Learn the lesson and absolutely NEVER put yourself into that position again. However, don’t beat yourself up for your mistake. Everyone makes mistakes. Make sure not to repeat your mistakes.

Your making a mistake DOES NOT JUSTIFY a crime against you. You are Innocent.

#5 You don’t have to drink and do drugs to be cool

This one is hard. There’s a lot of programming from society. The only way to keep people as serfs in a free world is to create societal programming and to create evolutionary traps. You can hardly expect someone to free you, with a few sentences, from what has been fed into your head for decades. You just have to think freely for yourself and free yourself.

Drinking and drugs are not cool or important. Neither is popularity or the approval of your peers. In 5 years neither high school popularity, nor college popularity will matter. In a few years there’ll be so much alcohol available you’ll be sick of it.

#6 If you get raped, or have a crime committed against you, it’s NOT your fault

Detach the ‘How can I avoid this in future’ from ‘what did I do wrong’.

Learn the lessons and avoid putting yourself in a dangerous situation in the future. However, don’t blame yourself. Don’t even think in that direction.

This is very, very important.

Parts of society are messed up. Society preys on the weak. If it sees weakness it tries to eat the weak. This is why we have wafer thin models in magazines and steroids and pornography.

Be strong. You want justice. Don’t let even a sliver of doubt into your system.

Know that there are millions around the world who share your experience and who have fought back. That there are millions who will take inspiration from you.

You can be the example that saves millions of girls. You can be the example that gives millions of girls the courage to strive for justice.

There are a lot of good people in the world. Just because the bad people make more noise, don’t give up the fight. The good people will help you – you just have to make your voice heard.

#7 Parents vastly under-estimate the age at which kids ‘grow up’ and start ‘experimenting’

They’ll be exposed to the ‘growing up’ thing very, very soon.

Criminals start grooming girls and boys at a very young age. In UK gangs start with 10 year old boys and girls.

The Daisey Coleman case is a good example. This was a 13 year old girl and a 14 year old girl. They were invited to a party and offered alcohol by a bunch of 17 year olds.

Lots of girls get exposed to drugs and alcohol and cigarettes between ages 11 and 15.

You can’t assume it doesn’t happen. You have to talk to your kids at a VERY young age. Get over whatever inhibitions and reluctance you have and TALK TO YOUR KIDS ABOUT THE DANGERS THEY FACE.

Talk to them about pedophiles and inappropriate touching  right when they are 3/4/5 and talk to them about drugs and alcohol when they are 10/11. If you don’t talk to them, they are left vulnerable, which is very, very bad. If you don’t talk to them, they are naïve and run the risk of being taken advantage of.

For the record, it’s absolutely a MAJOR parenting fault that a 14 year old girl -

  1. Was drinking at home with her 13 year old friend.
  2. Sneaked off in the middle of the night for a party with a bunch of 17 year olds.

And, for the record, for the ‘she was asking for it’ people, that in no way justifies giving those young girls more alcohol or ‘allegedly’ raping them.

#8 The ‘smoothest’ people are usually the most dangerous

The most dangerous rapist and predator, we’re talking about a repeat offender here, is usually someone who is -

  1. Careful to gradually build trust.
  2. Very smooth and safe on the surface.
  3. Socially ‘validated’. Usually a friend of a friend or even a relative.

Here, again, the typical teenage response would be – I’m so smart. That person is so safe, That person would never do anything to me. I would never let anything happen.

Don’t trust uncles and aunts or friends of friends or babysitters or nannies. It’s your kids and you get just one chance to keep them safe.

That naiveté and ignorance is what makes young kids such a good target for criminals and predators. Whether it’s drugs or rape or gang recruitment, the young are ideal targets because they’re passing through this strange mix of feeling invincible and being confused and thinking their parents are paranoid and overprotective.

I’m not sure what the answer is. However, and this is why I greatly admire Daisey Coleman for sharing her story, the more kids and young girls and young boys read about what can happen, the higher the chance they will avoid compromising situations and stupid behavior. Not because putting themselves into a position to get raped, justifies rape. No, we want to avoid such situations for our daughters and sons and young ones because you never know what the moral and ethical compass of the person who gets power over them in this situation.

It’s safest to let them make mistakes that don’t carry HUGE consequences like getting raped.

#9 Only a portion of the people being nice to you are genuinely nice

This is the toughest thing to explain to my kid sisters.

When people are being very nice to you, it can mean one out of two things -

  1. They are good people.
  2. They want something from you.

If they want something from you, then it might be something you don’t mind, like introductions to your friends. It might also be something you absolutely want no part of (like ferrying drugs across the border).

For girls, in particular, it’s the absolute biggest mistake you can make if you assume every guy you meet is trustable and wants nothing from you. Perhaps one guy out of five would not take advantage of you. Two out of five might not, but only out of fear of punishment. Two definitely would. 90% of women will argue that the ratio is more like 1 guy out of 100 would take advantage, and the other 99 would not even sneak a peek. All of those women would be 100% wrong.

A lot of girls walk around under the assumption that 99% of guys would do nothing untoward if the guy found the girl walking around dead drunk on the street. That’s just absolute naivete. A lot of guys would take advantage of you. The absolute toughest thing is that it’s often the charming and safe-looking ones who are the most likely to rape you.

A long time ago my friend and I babysat a girl who was dead drunk and stumbling along a sidewalk. It took over an hour for her ex-bf to arrive. In that time there were a handful of really shady acting guys who were eyeing the girl. It was stupid of her to put herself into that situation. She was dressed to the nines. She was drunk. She literally couldn’t stand straight, let alone walk.

However, no matter how stupid that girl was, it IN NO WAY justifies anyone committing a crime against her.

It’s not your fault if someone rapes you. To be on the safe side, avoid situations where you are vulnerable. Don’t leave a friend alone. NEVER leave a drunk friend alone or with some people you just met. Don’t let a drunk friend leave with someone she just met or someone she vaguely knows. This is simple friendship rules.

#10 Date Rape Drugs are everywhere. So are rapists.

On a night out, one of my friends gave me her drink to drink. A drink some ‘friend of a friend’ had given her. It knocked me out for nearly 12 hours.

The crazy thing – we knew EVERY person in that bar. Someone in our own extended social circle was trying to drug and rape this girl.

You have to go out with someone you can trust. You have to have a female friend who never leaves you. You have to refuse drinks from people you don’t know.

You have to be careful even after all of that.

#11 The BIGGEST Change has to be Support for Rape Victims

It’s just absolutely terrible to see so many people attack rape victims and/or patronize them.

It doesn’t matter how stupid a person was. It doesn’t matter how compromising the position the person put themselves in.

It’s NOT OK for someone to commit a crime.

You shouldn’t blame the victim of a crime. They have already paid enough for putting themselves into a stupid situation. They have already suffered for their stupidity.

Don’t make it worse by entertaining the absolutely crazy idea that ‘she was asking for it’.

How detached from reality do you have to be to tell a 14 year old girl she was ‘asking for it’?

#12 I don’t know what the solution is for women who abuse the whole ‘Rape Crime’ thing

I’m talking about women who wrongly accuse a man of rape.

I really don’t know. These women make life terrible for the men they accuse and they make things terrible for actual rape victims.

For the record, I think this creates a very terrible burden where actual rape victims have to go through torturous grilling and character study. It also scares away a lot of women because no one wants to live a painful episode over and over.

#13 Women need to realize they are completely devoid of blame if they are raped. It’s not a woman’s fault if someone rapes her.

I keep coming back to this point because -

  1. Firstly, this culture of blaming the victim scares a lot of women away from reporting the crime.
  2. Secondly, the standard attack on rape victims of trying to shame them and trying to muck up their past life and mentally harassing them, is very effective in scaring away women from reporting the crime.
  3. Thirdly, and this is perhaps worst, some women make the mistake of buying into the misconception that they were in some way to blame or partially responsible.

No, it doesn’t matter if she dressed trashy. Or if she walked naked down the street.

No, it doesn’t matter if she’s sexually promiscuous or not.

No, it doesn’t matter if she’s a tease.

No, it doesn’t matter if she’s drunk or high.

She is NOT asking for it.

The rape victim is not to blame.

Here’s a complete list on Things that aren’t an Invitation to Rape a Woman.

Let’s consider a simple thought exercise -

If a drunk person was walking along the street and someone took their purse and smartphone from them, it’d be stealing. Would it not be stealing? Or would you argue – It’s your fault for being drunk and leaving yourself open.

There’s no crime on the part of the victim. The crime is 100% on the part of the crime committer. No matter how stupidly the victim acted.

Let’s consider another thought exercise -

A family leaves their back door open. A criminal gang comes in, steals their money and valuables, shoots them, and leaves.

Were the family ‘asking for it’? Should the criminal gang be encouraged to kill any other family stupid enough to leave their back door open and ‘ask for it’?

#14 People greatly downplay the damage a rape does

A rape causes lasting harm. It’s a crime of hate. It’s a crime to ‘put women in their place’. It’s a crime with potentially very serious consequences, like pregnancy and STDs.

It’s a crime that takes a lot away from a person.

A combination of -

  1. The ‘she must have been asking for it’ reaction from some people, who usually have vested interests.
  2. The inadequate punishments.
  3. The tremendous mental strain and torture of a court case where the victim’s entire character and life are dissected and attacked.
  4. The idea that the victim herself is to blame creeping into the victim’s head.
  5. The process of the victim constantly wondering what the rape victim did wrong and whether her stupidity caused her to get raped.

means the person has to dig up a lot of inner strength and courage to fight.

Instead of solving the problem we are brushing it under the carpet. By doing this we are making things worse.

Rapists who get away don’t turn into Hermits.

Potential Rapists who see current Rapists get away don’t reform. They, in some ways, are given incentives to become rapists.

Rape Victims suffer a second crime – the drawn out torture of people wrongly implying ‘she was asking for it’ and/or ‘it’s partly her fault’.

Future Rape Victims are given incentive to just ‘shut up and get on with life’.

We start feeding the horrendous idea that rape victims were somehow responsible. They are already beating themselves up over being stupid and getting into a compromising position. The last thing they need is the poisonous idea that they were asking for it.

It’s time to end the vicious cycle.

Closing Thought – Just a lot of respect for Daisy Coleman for sharing her story

It takes a lot of courage.

Let’s hope justice is served.

Let’s hope future rapists see there are serious consequences and are deterred.

Let’s hope more and more girls and boys can avoid getting themselves into compromising situations.

Let’s hope future victims have the courage to come forward and more and more rapists are brought to justice.

Let’s hope the punishment for rape is made much stronger.

Finally, if you have young daughters or sons, or younger brothers and sisters, make sure they read about Daisy Coleman’s story. Make sure you explain to them the dangers that lie outside, and how best to avoid them. The world isn’t all butterflies and cupcakes.

Quick add-on: Perhaps not politically correct to say this, however, the prettier/better looking your daughter/son, the more likely that they’ll be targeted by predators. So if your kid won the genetic lottery you need to talk to them earlier, more often, and you have to be even more vigilant.

One Country

Fish Eaters and Wheat Eaters

The Country was divided. All along the coasts were the fish eaters. In the mountains and in the interior were the wheat eaters. The country was so divided people couldn’t remember a time when fish eaters and wheat eaters were not at war.

There were sporadic incidents that would enflame passions on both sides.

The Wheat Eaters had recently burnt down three fish warehouses in the coastal cities. The Fish Eaters responded by polluting a few pure wheat fields with genetically engineered wheat that tasted vaguely like fish. The incidents were slowing escalating. Things were getting worse and worse

The Village

The Village of Dim was dominated by the Wheat Eaters. Fish Eaters seldom dared to raise their voices – They silently bore the brunt of excessive taxation on fish products and fish suppliers.

Norad was one of the regional leaders of the Wheat Eaters. He had even met the Grand Vizier – the chief Wheat Eater. The Grand Vizier had become more and more adamant that a civil war was needed – to end the Fish Eater nuisance once and for all. Norad had gradually begun to believe that was the only solution. He didn’t like it – However, the Fish Eaters had to go.

Norad would often stay awake at night and wonder if there were a peaceful way to throw the Fish Eaters out of his country. Perhaps tempt them to move to the Southern Islands with promises of unlimited fish and great weather. The natives there were backward and could be displaced rather easily.

The Brother

Norad’s brother Jacob returned after four years of college in one of the coastal cities. Norad had hoped that Jacob would learn the weaknesses and technologies of the Fish Eaters and help Norad in his efforts and with his political career.

A lot can change in four years.

On the third night after Jacob’s return, Norad found Jacob sneaking in a small box into the house. He thought nothing of it. The next morning Jacob had a guilty look on his face and avoided Norad throughout the day.

That night Norad didn’t think of the Civil War that faced his country. He thought of his younger brother. Perhaps he was into drugs. What else could it be?

When Jacob went out the next morning, Norad sneaked into his room. There were 3 small boxes hidden under the mattress. The third wasn’t empty – it was full of little strips of smoked fish.

The Inflection

Norad’s anger had built up all day. When Jacob walked through the door in the evening, he was ill-prepared for what happened.

As Jacob lay bleeding on the floor, their mother started crying.

Norad looked at his brother and then at his mother. At that moment something clicked. He felt his spirit float out of his body and look at the scene with a solemn sadness. Not as a wheat eater who had struck a fish eater. No, he saw himself for what he had become. A failure as a brother. A failure as a son. Someone so enflamed and engulfed by beliefs and convictions that real things had lost meaning.

He was a son first. A brother next. A man. A citizen of his country. He had let himself be defined by other things.

Norad gently helped up his brother and kissed him on the forehead. Then he held his mother’s hand and sat quietly while she cried – this time, tears of joy.

The Room Part 1

There’s a tear in the fabric.

The Chief turned with surprise. It had been seven years since a tear in the fabric. He looked at his junior questioningly.

A small village in the interior. Someone has broken through the belief mist.

The Chief felt a cold chill run up his leg. The belief mists couldn’t be broken. It was impossible. Everyone knew that. Dozens of years of advanced mind control and belief control work had gone into them. The belief mists ran across all of the country. They dictated everything. If they began to tear …

The Assassin

Anthony got the call 17 minutes after The Chief found out about the tear in the Belief Mists. He was 2 days away from Dim. He started off. The last time they had categorized an assassination as Code Red it had been for the President. It was a long time ago. That was one incredibly honest man. Hard to believe he managed to become President. He had stopped the Mind Control agencies from doing their ‘work’. He was suitably rewarded – a bullet through his neck and another through his head.

Anthony hadn’t done that one. He wasn’t even born then. Every government assassin knew about it though. Every little detail, including things that weren’t common knowledge.

Anthony was happy it was just a normal villager. He was tired of having to spend weeks planning out assassinations. A single man with no bodyguards would be a welcome change. Why on Earth was a normal villager classified as a Code Red threat?

The Village Hall

Norad had just finished speaking.

His words, unpolished as they were, had torn out more and more fragments of the Belief Mists.

Nearly half the villagers had begun to realize what he meant. A young man walked over to his father, who he hadn’t talked to for eight years, and hugged him. The smell of fish drowned by the love that coursed through him. He saw his father for what he really was – His Father. A Good Man.

The Room Part 2

The Grand Vizier stood silently. Next to him was a women dressed all in red. She had a brooch with a fish symbol on it. They called her the Governess. She led the Fish People. The President did her bidding.

In public the Grand Vizier and the Governess were at each other’s throats. In private, in the Mind Control HQ, they were … something quite different.

She turned to the Vizier and spoke. Her voice had the chill of dead corpses in it.

It’s spreading. How can one man create so many tears in the fabric. We might lose the entire village.

The Village

Outside the Village Hall, people were talking. Their minds free of the Fish and Wheat that had kept them captive for so long.

They saw each other for what they really were – one people, one country. Norad’s words still rang in their heads.

We are not Fish Eaters or Wheat Eaters. We are one people. We are one country.

The Death

Anthony, the finest assassin to ever walk amongst the Wheat Eaters, moved like a shadow into Norad’s room.

He was taken aback to see Norad sitting on his bed looking at him.

I could sense you enter the house.

Anthony fought down his sense of panic and took out his gun. He had wanted to use the knife, but the gun would have to do. As he raised it up and pointed it at Norad a spade cracked into his skull and sent him clattering to the floor. He was making a lot of noise for an assassin.

Jacob looked at Anthony. Brothers. They were brothers. They might be dead soon, but it would be as brothers.

The Room Part 3

You know we don’t have any other option.

The Grand Vizier bristled at her voice. All these years and he still couldn’t shake the feeling of dread that came over him whenever she spoke.

The plane was on its way.

11,875 people were going to die. The 3,455 who lived in the 7 villages affected by the belief disease (that’s what they called it – admitting there were tears in the belief mists was too dangerous). Villages around them that might have been affected.

All would be dead within minutes.

It was good they had control over the Internet and the Phone Networks. Word of mouth was the only danger left.

The Pilot

The Pilot was a good pilot. He wasn’t a Wheat Eater. He wasn’t a Fish Eater. He was a vegetarian who had grown up in a coastal city.

They had his mind firmly in their grip. They had promised him – he would be a hero. Immortal.

A dangerous belief disease was spreading among the populace in an isolated interior community. A threat to the very existence of this country.

He was to end the threat.

When he was a few miles away from the target spot, he felt a strange clarity wash through him. All he could think of was how beautiful everything was. The little villages below were quaint and perfect in their own way. A belief disease. It was going to spoil everything. He wished there were some other way. He really did. He felt tears stream down his face as he got closer.

He pressed the button. Nothing happened. He pressed it again. Nothing. A mechanical failure.

He heard the instructions and they didn’t quite make sense.

Fly the plane into the ground and explode the bomb that way? General, did I hear you correctly?

The shouting on the other end got louder. Yes, it seems he had heard the General correctly.

He thought of his son and daughter. He had to do it for them. He turned the plane around in a circle and then he started the dive

The End

Norad stood and watched the plane circle and then dive towards his village.

He had expected that. They would end it. Free thinking people were too dangerous.

He smiled as he thought of all the phone calls and emails and messages that were going out. All it takes, is for one person to believe. Then it spreads and can’t be stopped. He didn’t know everything was controlled. Every single thing was controlled. No one would ever get to know.

Norad stood and kept smiling as the heat of the crash tore through him and incinerated every last part of him.

The Room Part 4

It’s done. We’re safe now.

The Governess had a big smile on her beautifully cruel face.

The Grand Vizier was still at a loss for words. Every day he realized more and more that he wasn’t cut out for this. The Chief, he had been the Chief so long no one even knew his name, was silent too.

The President was missing. He would give a speech later, once the Governess had taught him what to say and how to say it.

A young soldier rushed in. The Chief turned to him and that sense, the one that warns you something is very, very wrong, kicked in. The Chief stiffened.

There was a break. The Internet barriers failed for a few minutes. There are tears in the Belief Mists spreading all along the coasts now.

Users are the Judges of Good Design

Target’s Design Lab has a great quote on the Wall: If the user can’t use it, it doesn’t work.

Thanks to John Dooey for this tagline: THE JUDGE OF GOOD DESIGN IS NOT DESIGNERS, IT IS USERS.

It’s part of a larger comment from an article on why iOS 7’s design isn’t good. The entire comment (it’s responding to another comment that says – ” It seems today everybody is an expert on interface design”) -

No, everybody is not an expert in interface design. We rely on Apple for that. We pay Apple for that. What we are, is experts in iPhone and iPad use. 500 million of us, 5–10 hours per day, for up to 6 years now has made us experts on iPhone and iPad use. So the users are not qualified to make iOS 7, but we are eminently qualified to judge whether or not it is more usable than iOS 1–6.

The user is the top of the hierarchy with Apple, not designers, not engineers. With iOS 7, Apple has at least temporarily forgotten that. They put Jony Ive in place of Steve Jobs, but Ive is a designer first and Jobs was a user first.

So your dismissal of users and lionization of the product manufacturer is inappropriate in this case. If you want to eat whatever is served to you, that is available from all of Apple’s competitors already. Try a heaping helping of Windows 8. Apple customers have always demanded functionality. We were given Windows systems at work but lobbied for Macs because of functionality, not because they are prettier on the outside. We paid $600 for iPhones because of what we can do with them, not how they looked. Apple has had to earn every sale 1 at a time by enabling the user to do more than they could with competing products.

THE JUDGE OF GOOD DESIGN IS NOT DESIGNERS, IT IS USERS.

Here’s the thing – John Dooey couldn’t be more right.

Good Design is what allows Users to easily, intuitively use a product and derive pleasure and benefit from the product quickly and conveniently

If users don’t like it. If it doesn’t ‘just work’. If it complicates things.

Then it isn’t good design.

It’s not about how pretty it looks to a designer. It’s not about how intuitive it seems to a developer. It’s not about how ‘sellable’ it looks to a saleswoman. It’s not about how ‘impressive’ it seems to the CEO.

It’s ALL ABOUT THE USER.

If the user likes it, it is Good Design.

If the user loves it, it is GREAT Design.

It’s that simple.

We’ve talked about this before – The Importance of Making Designs that Users Love. Designs that ‘Just Work’ for Users.

You need someone who fights for the user.

People who are True Experts understand that Users are the Judges of Good Design

Here’s the distinction -

  1. An ‘Expert’ is one who doesn’t fully grasp that the product is FOR THE USER. That it’s only ‘the use of the product’ by the user that gives the product any meaning. Without the user, the product is meaningless.
  2. A ‘True Expert’ is someone who has UNDERSTOOD and FULLY INTERNALIZED this tautology. That a product exists BECAUSE the user uses it.

An expert will think – I must demonstrate my expertise and make this design something that will impress my fellow experts.

A True Expert is immune to the validation that other experts could offer. Because it doesn’t matter. It’s damaging to the product when external validation from contemporaries is pursued. A True Expert only values what is valuable to the user.

Let’s consider an example -

  1. An Expert says – It’s so tacky that this smart phone calendar looks just like a real wall calendar. That’s just not cool and hip. All my fellow designers will laugh at me. I won’t be able to show my face at the Organic Cappuccino store any more.
  2. A True Expert says – There are 5.7 million people (or perhaps 57 million people) who have never used a computer before, who will buy this device. There are an existing 8.7 million users (or perhaps 87 million users) who are more comfortable with a wall calendar than an online calendar (which they have no context of – because it doesn’t exist in their worlds). These users comprise 89% of the total user base. Let’s make something that’s EASY and INTUITIVE for them.

You can go with the cool new cutting-edge techy calendar that drives 89% of your user base nuts. That’ll get you design awards that mean nothing.

OR

You can do the right thing and make the calendar as familiar and intuitive as possible for your users. The intelligentsia will make fun of you – However, you’ll be so busy selling your devices, and collecting bonuses and stock awards, you won’t have time to care.

Users Pay the Money, and they’ll Vote with their Wallets

Technology companies have an AMAZING ability to completely disregard the importance of what users think and what users value and what makes life easy for users.

  1. They make the buttons hard to use. Then they blame lack of marketing.
  2. They don’t polish the software and have lots of bugs which spoil the ‘flow’ for the user. Then they blame lack of a large app store.
  3. They make the Email App impossibly hard to use. Then they claim they needed 6 processor cores instead of 4.

It’s a strange sort of blindness.

If your device isn’t selling, then, surely, the first area to investigate is whether or not users are having a great experience with it. Why do companies investigate it last?

Even better, think about it BEFORE shipping the device.

This is basically what we’re losing. There’s no more craftsmanship when it comes to hardware, and even less when it comes to software.

We now have two mindsets -

  1. Make it very cheap or free. Gather lots of customers. Then advertise to them and/or try to turn those ‘free/cheap seeking’ users into profit-generating customers. It’s like going fishing for mackerel and expecting to eat bison burgers for dinner.
  2. Do lots of marketing and create a need/desire/want in users’ hearts. Then sell products to users that will supposedly fill that longing in their hearts. That strategy fails in the long-term. Users eventually realize that the desire/need/want wasn’t their own.

Neither is providing what customers value most – a GREAT experience with the device.

That’s what it’s all about – Users want a device that ‘just works’ and makes them feel great and doesn’t make them feel ‘stupid’ or ‘helpless’ and that makes their life easier.

Whichever company steps in and fills that REAL need, will become the next super profitable company.

Kindle Worlds – the Search for Cheap, Exclusive Content

A key philosophy of technology companies seems to be -

Let other people do free work for you. Let them generate content that you take ownership of. Then leverage that content to make money and beat your competitors.

Amazon is demonstrating a modification of exactly this philosophy with Kindle Worlds.

Kindle Worlds = An Amazon initiative where any author can write books and stories based on existing book worlds, TV shows, movies, and other properties/worlds.

Please Note: What Amazon is doing isn’t bad, like what social networks do. Social Networks let users create content (user-generated content), claim ownership of it, and make money from it. At the same time, they prostitute out users’ personal details to make more money. So they commit two sins – take ownership of content and photos that users have created, sell users’ personal data to companies and advertisers without telling users.

Amazon isn’t doing anything of the sort – to the best of my knowledge. Amazon is simply using the philosophy of ‘let others work for you, for free’. Which, actually, is quite smart. Kindle Worlds is an illustration of this.

Kindle Strategy is heavily based on Exclusive Content

One of the tenets of Amazon’s Kindle philosophy has been to get ‘exclusive’ content -

  1. It offers ‘5 days free’ every 3 months to indie authors – In return for exclusivity.
  2. It offers money to authors for new and back list books – In return for exclusivity.
  3. It is striking up deals with authors via its publishing imprints – then offering those titles exclusively through Amazon.

It’s a fundamental pillar on which Amazon’s Kindle strategy is built.

There are however, three problems -

  1. It’s very expensive to get exclusive content. Whether it’s striking up exclusive deals, or it’s publishing books, it costs a lot of money and time and effort. Amazon, even after all its efforts, has perhaps a few hundred exclusive titles from big authors, a few hundred Amazon published exclusive titles, and a few hundred thousand indie authors titles. Apart from the indie author exclusives, nothing is large enough to be significant.
  2. Current methods of getting exclusive content are very slow. Negotiate an exclusive deal. Sign an author. Publish a book and promote it. What’s the shared weakness? All these methods are incredibly slow.
  3. Current methods of getting exclusive content aren’t scalable. To go from a few hundred exclusive deals with top authors to a few hundred thousand would take tens of thousands of people and decades. The fast rise in indie author exclusives, on the other hand, shows the power of automating things. There is power in letting authors generate exclusives themselves. There is power in automating processes and letting people use a self-serve model.

How can Amazon get enough exclusives given these three constraints?

The answer, rather interestingly, involves initiatives like Kindle Worlds.

Kindle Worlds is just a way to gets lots of Cheap, Exclusive Content

What is a Kindle Worlds title?

  1. A work based on an existing successful book or TV series. That means the ‘product market fit’ is proven and there is a captive audience.
  2. A work that is exclusive to Amazon. That means it adds to Amazon’s list of exclusives.
  3. A work for which authors can find a market with a higher chance of success. A proven market means a higher chance of making money. It’s a win-win for authors and Amazon.

From Amazon’s perspective, the most important thing isn’t money. It’s exclusivity of content related to proven markets.

What Amazon is hoping for, is -

  1. Lots of authors/people write very good works based in Existing, Proven Markets/Worlds. Enough content to attract users and become a factor.
  2. All of this stays exclusive to Amazon.

The second part is the real thing Amazon is after. How much does Amazon care about exclusivity and using Kindle Worlds content as a weapon?

Amazon cares an inordinate amount about Exclusivity and Control of ‘Kindle Worlds’ Content

Just read the rules (underlined part and bolding is added by us) -

Exclusivity Provision: Stories will be available in digital format exclusively on Amazon.com, Kindle devices, iOS, Android, and PC/Mac via our Kindle Free Reading apps. We hope to offer additional formats in the future.

Controlled by Amazon Provisions:

1) Amazon Publishing will acquire all rights to your new stories, including global publication rights, for the term of copyright.

2) Amazon Publishing will set the price for Kindle Worlds stories. Most will be priced from $0.99 through $3.99.

 

Those are some pretty strong restrictions. Makes you think twice about participating in Kindle Worlds.

However, it illustrates our point. Amazon cares an awful lot about getting -

  1. Lots of content based in Proven Markets/Proven Worlds.
  2. Exclusive rights to that content.

Basically, Amazon wants to build the YouTube+ of Books. It wants to leverage all this Kindle Worlds content to create a very strong competitive advantage (since it’s exclusive to Amazon).

Why YouTube+? Because it’s YouTube except users are uploading content based around PROVEN markets and PROVEN worlds.

Will Kindle Worlds result in lots of Exclusive High Quality Content for Amazon

Perhaps.

I suspect Amazon is making the same mistake it tends to make very often – Sacrifice the Highest Chance of Success in return for Furthering Its Own Personal Motives.

We see examples of this with Kindle Fire HD (where the Camera App is ignored/hidden) and Kindle (where the keyboard was removed and where the folders feature is rudimentary).

Rather than -

  • Create the absolute best product. Sell the absolute best devices. Make the best possible Kindle Worlds universe.

Amazon always tends to choose -

  • Create a good product that serves Amazon’s needs. Sell good devices that also lead to customer acquisition. Make a Kindle Worlds universe that is focused around creating exclusive content for Amazon’s Kindle Store.

It’s a strategy that is fundamentally flawed.

Why?

Because Apple made it work only AFTER making an absolutely excellent device with very easy to use, well-polished software.

It’s a strategy that might still work.

Why?

Because Amazon has a LOT of customers and a lot of advantages.

Kindle Worlds shows that Amazon is worried

At some deep level, Amazon understands that by destroying the current Publishing Hierarchy, and by removing the existing Publishing Guarded Gates, it’s creating an almost-free market. A market that anyone can take over.

It’s now begun to think seriously about creating exclusive content and other competitive advantages that will allow it to prosper in this new, almost-free, highly competitive market.

The problem is that it’s incredibly difficult to build real barriers. Now it’s just authors and readers and everyone else is unnecessary. Kindle Worlds is a smart attempt to strengthen Amazon’s Mini-Gate of Exclusivity. Will it work? Perhaps. Perhaps not. It does, however, reveal a part of Amazon’s long-term intentions with Kindle books and a part of Amazon’s long-term Kindle strategy.

Amazon vs Microsoft? Microsoft explored Amazon rival ‘Brazil’

While Microsoft has invested in B&N’s Nook division (it owns 17.8% of Nook Media), and there are rumors that it might even buy Nook Media from B&N, it seems it was looking for a far more direct Amazon vs Microsoft contest.

Wall Street Journal reports on Project Brazil – Microsoft’s eCommerce venture to take on Amazon. It has supposedly been scrapped, but it’s hard to believe that the project is actually dead.

The key facts -

  1. Project Brazil would aim at Amazon and eBay.
  2. Microsoft held discussions with retailers and technology companies.
  3. Microsoft planned on subsidizing prices using Bing revenues. Not sure how that works given Bing isn’t very profitable.
  4. Not sure what this means, but it’s what Amazon thought of Project Brazil -

    Project Brazil was an incubation to enable a more direct commerce model between customers and brands and merchants

  5. Microsoft wanted to create a more direct and task-oriented approach to online retail and advertising. Not sure why/how both online retail and advertising factor in.
  6. Project Brazil would start off on Windows OS and then expand to Xbox, Windows Phones, and Windows Tablets. This is why Amazon needs Kindle Phone and Kindle Fire HD and Kindle TV. If it doesn’t build its own channels, then companies like Apple and Microsoft and Google, which have very large ecosystems and lots of channels, could just gradually take over online retail.
  7. WSJ says Microsoft scrapped Project Brazil for unspecified reasons (perhaps they realized it would never take off with a name like that).

I think a lot of companies like Apple and Microsoft and Google should be thinking of getting into retail and will. If you have a huge customer base, with hundreds of millions of customers already trained to buy things from you, then might as well sell things to them. Imagine a world where Microsoft sells pretty much everything to Businesses, Apple sells lots of fashion and luxury items (not just ‘electronics’), and Google sells all sorts of ‘free stuff’ in return for showing you advertising.

It’s one way for companies to add a strong new revenue stream.

Amazon vs Microsoft Wars are already in full-force

Here are some areas in which Amazon and Microsoft already compete -

  1. Cloud Computing. This is going to be one of the biggest wars between Amazon and Microsoft. Amazon is the runaway leader in Cloud Computing. Microsoft is a very strong challenger. Both are especially interested in the lucrative big business cloud services market. Amazon recently struck a deal with the CIA to provide the CIA a secure cloud. Good luck to the CIA if they think a ‘cloud’ can ever be secure.
  2. Books. Microsoft, via its 17.8% ownership of Nook Media, is an indirect competitor to Amazon. This will perhaps become a more direct contest if Microsoft buys Nook.
  3. Phones. Amazon is rumored to have a Kindle Phone in the works. Microsoft is rumored to be in talks to acquire Nokia. Microsoft also has Windows Phone.
  4. Tablets. Microsoft has Surface and also sells Windows 8 software for Tablets. Amazon has Kindle Fire HD.
  5. Search. Amazon has its A9 search engine, which never really took off, while Microsoft has Bing.
  6. Advertising. Amazon has its secret advertising business, which it is quietly building up. Microsoft, obviously, handles advertising for Bing and Yahoo Search.
  7. Music. Microsoft has Zune, another product that never really took off, and its music service. Amazon has its MP3 store which is a distant second to iTunes.
  8. Videos & Movies & TV. Both Microsoft and Amazon have a digital videos service. Microsoft, with Xbox, has a huge advantage here.

These are some important markets in which Microsoft and Amazon are already competing. We are going to see more and more of this – Apple, Microsoft, Google, and Amazon competing with each other across the board.

As these companies become bigger and bigger, they will look for new revenue streams. Soon, they won’t just be stepping on each other’s toes, they’ll be standing on each other’s feet.

The Amazon vs Microsoft Wars are very interesting for a few key reasons -

  1. Both companies are based in Seattle. That makes the rivalry a lot more direct. Imagine all the recruiting battles and spying and subterfuge.
  2. Microsoft has the highest profit margins out of all the big technology companies. Amazon perhaps has the lowest profit margins.
  3. Microsoft is almost completely based in software, with a few hardware products. Amazon is almost completely based in selling real, physical items, with a recent shift to selling digital products and devices.
  4. You would think that two companies located so close to each other, and facing many of the same enemies (the Silicon Valley Tech Giants), would band together. It’s strange they are fighting each other.
  5. Cloud Computing is going to be a very, very big cash cow. If Microsoft wins, or becomes a strong #2, then it greatly strengthens itself. Same for Amazon. The stakes are perhaps higher for Amazon as Cloud Computing could become its first actual cash cow.
  6. If Microsoft goes into online retail, it would strike at the very heart of Amazon. Microsoft is one of the few companies that can fight a long, brutal war with Amazon over online retail (the only other companies are perhaps WalMart, Apple, and Google). These 4 companies are very dangerous for Amazon because they could use their cash cows to fund a never-ending war, something Amazon would not survive since it doesn’t really have any cash cows.
  7. Microsoft is a very, very brutal competitor. People forget what happened to Microsoft’s early enemies like Netscape.

Amazon is probably hoping that Microsoft really has killed Project Brazil. It might have a 18-20 year head-start. However, Microsoft has multiple cash cows and a very large user base. It would prove a tough competitor. Amazon already has to deal with WalMart. It will almost certainly have to deal with Google. If Microsoft and/or Apple also jump in, it might be Death by a Thousand Cuts for Amazon.

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