Why #notinmyname may not be the right answer

It is intolerable that bigot Christians suggest that Muslims must “identify” themselves.

It is intolerable that Muslims have to excuse themselves for acts of horror committed by criminals.

It is intolerable that we call “Islamic” something that has no relation to Islam, and we call a “State” something that is definitely not a State.


In my opinion, the real target (and the worst enemy) of terrorists are the many peaceful, integrated, hard-working people that happen to be a Muslim religion. They are the living demonstration that people CAN and WILL live peacefully together, improving unjust western societies and making them a better, more tolerant place with every generation.

But they are also the living chain of transmission that will eventually import what is good from western societies to the betterment of their home countries.

It is high time that this majority, their leadership and their clergy empty the fish tank by denouncing terrorists for what they are, i.e. enemies of Islam and of the Muslim people, addressing them with the only word that is appropriate:

[Edit: after consultation with my Arabic-speaking friends, I have amended the word I had originally selected to one that is of more common use]



Riemann Hypothesis proved?

couple of my friends that know my passion (!= expertise) for maths asked my opinion about the claim that the Riemann Hypothesis has been proven by professor Enoch Openyemi.

The RH is a very important conjecture that, if proven, would offer a model for the distribution of prime numbers (numbers that are naturally divisible only by themselves and the unity) which in turn has vast consequences on many branches of mathematics.

[EDIT: my friend George Chiesa reminds me that EVERYTHING in cryptography is connected to prime numbers. Good point, indeed!]

Riemann Zeta function

Well, I certainly do not have the capability to understand prof. Openyemi’s proof: we’ll have to wait until this is done by the handful of mathematical minds that can do this check. And a sure sign whether the proof is genuine will come when the Clay Mathematics Institute, who created the Millennium Prize that pays 1 million dollars for the solution of each of seven old mathematics conjectures will declare the problem solved.

At the moment, it is still listed as open.

These things are very good for science in general, as they turn what is an obscure and daunting branch of knowledge into full-fledged drama we all can take an interest in. Certainly, the ingredients are all here in this case: a 150-years old mystery, a Nigerian professor, academic rivalries and back-stabbing, hoaxes, their debunking and the debunking of their debunking, the staple of our Internet age.

Therefore we can only follow the drama as it unfolds.

However, I also remember what happened when in 1993 Andrew Wiles claimed he had proven the equally old Fermat’s Last Theorem: his proof, when first announced with much fanfare, turned out to be flawed, causing him much angst and depression. However, he went back to work and was able to repair it announcing a couple of years later what is now commonly accepted as the real proof of Fermat’s Last Theorem.

At the time of his first announcement (as told in the excellent book by Simon Singh which is great reading even for those who have problems checking the bill at the restaurant) it was estimated that no more than five or six mathematicians in the whole world were advanced enough to follow the convolute 150-pages proof, so good luck to prof. Openyemi.

“I think I’ll stop here…”

Emptying the Fish Tank

Some of my friends have heard this story from me already, but repetitions are a staple of old age, so bear with me.

In the 70’s I was a teenager. The Italian economy was ravaged by rampant inflation, slow growth, corruption – the usual set of deadweights that unfortunately bogged down this country since the end of Second World War. Actually, when you read essays on Ancient Rome, you realize that Marcus Porcius Cato was complaining exactly about these same evils in 200BC so…

As usual, the poorer segment of the population was bearing the brunt of this situation and social strife was everywhere: hardly a day went by without a protest march or a strike and the mildly conservative governments that rapidly came and went were unable to cope with diverging extremes both on the left and on the right.1969 piazza Fontana

In 1969 a bomb exploded in a bank in Piazza Fontana in central Milano, killing 17: it was the start of an escalation of violence that lasted about ten years, collectively known as “Years of Lead”. Terrorist groups formed in both extremes, the best known perhaps being right wing Ordine Nuovo (“New Order”) and the leftist Brigate Rosse (“Red Brigades”).

While the neo-fascists always operated under guidance or inspiration from Secret Services (both Italian and American), the Red Brigades prospered in the fish tank of a dispossessed working class, and quickly escalated their military actions from symbolic non-lethal woundings of key figures of the establishment (journalists, industrialists, politicians) to deadly attacks which culminated in 1978 in the murder of Aldo Moro, then President of the Christian Democratic Party, together with the five men of his security detail.

Despite the violence, the rhetoric of what was then the largest Communist Party outside of the Soviet Union, and especially that of the hardline Union of Metalworkers CGIL, was to characterize the Red Brigades as “comrades who went too far”.

1979 Guido Rossa
Guido Rossa assassinated

In 1978, however, Guido Rossa, a CGIL Union Representative working at the largest Italian steel mill, Italsider, reported to the Police one of his co-workers for distributing Red Brigades leaflets at his workplace. It was an act of isolated bravery: two other Union Reps, despite having witnessed the same event, refused to testify for fear of reprisals.

These fears proved not without foundation, as a few months later Guido Rossa was assassinated by the Red Brigades, the first homicide against a member of the working class.

The Red Brigades attempted to portray Rossa as a spy, but both the Communist party and CGIL subtly altered their stance, starting to call the Red Brigades “Enemies of the People”.

The phenomenon had peaked and despite several other bloody episodes culminating in the bomb at the Bologna Railway Station in 1980 who killed 85, carried out by neo-fascist terrorists (as, as it much later turned out, had been Piazza Fontana), without popular support the Red Brigades quickly frayed in a myriad of bickering small units, militants started to defect and soon all terrorists were apprehended and sentenced long prison terms.

The fish tank had been emptied killing the fearsome piranhas.

dead piranha

The reason I am telling this story over and over is because I think it holds a lesson that’s very relevant and useful today, forty years later: also Islamic clergy (and I know how difficult it is to get a distributed religion like Islam to act in a united way) should empty the fish tank of popular support by starting to call Daesh for what they are:


WCF Davos 2016

Screen Shot 2015-11-13 at 09.59.55

This is the event you don’t want to miss, where the Global Communications Elite gets together to discuss what is going on in our profession.

An exciting program, great speakers and an unrivalled opportunity to network with an audience that is perhaps the only true example of globally diverse in an industry that sometimes folds over itself.

As a Committee Member I have a limited number of early bird discount tickets (EUR 1,150) available until Christmas, email me for details.

Research for “The Extinction of Trust”

As I usually do when setting out on a new book project, I will devote the first six months of next year to reading good previous works on the broad subject of Trust.

Right now I am reading “A Culture of Credit” by Rowena Olegario, next up will be “Reinventing the Bazaar” by John McMillan, suggested by Niall Kearn Mills.

If you have other reading suggestions, I’d love to hear them. I am specifically interested in the history of the concept of Trust, how it evolved, how it got codified in rules and best practices.

Best is to post your suggestions in the comments below, so others can see if a book is already in the list. And it will make it easier for me to remember WHERE is the list :-D

New book project: The Extinction of Trust

Just heard back from my publishers: my proposal for a new book is being well received – waiting to hear the final word but I am optimistic. In the meanwhile, to decide whether you want to line up at the store (er, no) here is the synopsis for you to peruse.

The Extinction of Trust

Can we afford it?

Can you imagine living in a Society where you cannot trust anybody? Where nothing can be taken for granted and everything must be checked?

To answer these questions, I analyse the more general form of Transactions between Entities:

2015 10 28 eq1 L

which reads: “Entity 1 enters in a transaction with Entity 2”.

Personal relationships or commercial deals, individuals or organisations, this simple equation is general enough to encompass them all.  The focus of this book is on underlying factor that accelerates the speed of transactions, which we commonly call Trust: it is much easier and faster to enter a transaction with “someone you trust”.

So we shall call T1,2 the level of trust that Entity 1 (individual or organisation) feels towards Entity 2 and it is obvious that T1,2 may not be reciprocated, i.e.

2015 10 28 eq2 L

The book attempts to analyse what are the components of the Trust and how some of these are critically challenged by the transformation of the Society we live in.

The Fundamental Equation of Trust:

2015 10 28 eq3 L

says that “your Trust of an Entity is directly proportional to your Knowledge of such Entity (direct and indirect) and inversely proportional to the Value at stake”, i.e. how important is this transaction.

Kd derives from your DIRECT experience with the Entity while Ki captures what others think about them (something also called Reputation); V may represent a monetary but also sentimental importance.

Kd and Ki are complementary factors: when you know someone very well (very high Kd) you do not care too much for his/her Reputation; of course, when the Value (or importance) of the occasion needing trust is very high, you will be prompted to exercise more caution.

Finally, we add a constant T0 because when your contact with the Entity happens within a Common Frame, such frame may carry a “default” level of trust: take for example trading platforms like eBay or Amazon, who feature built-in rating systems to attribute an artificial trust to entities trading on their platform. Or think of the Stock Exchange, which require a certain amount of disclosure to allow a stock to trade.

What is changing?

There is ample literature on how to professionally establish and maintain Kd and Ki : Customer Relationship Management and Reputation Management have created whole service industries.But how are such established techniques changing vis-à-vis the profound transformation of the landscape where information is exchanged and shared?

I will look at how Kd is influenced by others, analysing the concept of Customer Journey, whereby someone moves from the consideration set (a range of possible Entities with whom to enter the transaction) to a short list (a much smaller group which you directly compare with each other) to finally enter the transaction.

But while the relationship never stopped there, modern times give the next phase as much (and often even more) visibility than the previous ones: existing clients can heavily influence the decisions of other by sharing their own transaction experience, therefore heavily influencing Ki.

I will also look at how “modern times” Ki and Kd depend more and more on direct contact between Entities: in this frame, the job of professional communications intermediaries, or journalists (to assess the veridicity of what Entities proclaimed to offer readers their own, filtered view of the facts) depended on a business model that has been largely disrupted.

The consequence of this disruption is twofold:

  1. communications intermediaries are not able to sustainably continue to perform their duties therefore Ki becomes solely the result of “what people say” (largely experiential and un-managed)
  2. T0  plunges towards zero: people develop a radical distrust for all they hear anywhere

Can we live without Trust?

The world has been made much simpler: each Entity is assigned the task of preserving the factors contributing to its Trust factor. No one else will. No external contribution can be negotiated, managed, cajoled or extorted.

People judge us on how we behave, not on what we say.

People check out everything, because they will assume that we will lie through our noses.

Imagine the cumbersomeness of a commercial transaction where your counterpart does not trust credit rating and asks for a full audit before extending credit.

Imagine intensive background checks for job candidates; imagine every diploma or certificate must be checked.

Imagine having to prove beyond doubt anything you say or claim.

Imagine financial transactions, contracts, marriage promises…

My conclusion is that we need Trust to preserve the functioning of Society as we know it, so we need to think quickly about how to preserve Trust from Extinction and what actions we can and should collectively take to uphold this universal value.

the Digital Self’s many twists…

I don’t mean to be picky, but…

The “People you may know” section on LinkedIn today gives me reason to worry:

2015 10 23 someone you may know

My wife (the lady in the central picture) is NOT on LinkedIn (nor on Facebook). The only Social platform she uses are WhatsApp and Pinterest and this is the profile picture that appears there and in her email (hosted on Google).

She has NEVER published this picture on LinkedIn, and neither have I, the brilliant photographer. Somehow the picture must have traveled from these other properties to be used (without knowledge, request or authorisation) in a section of a Social Network she doesn’t even know it exists, framed in a format that subtly implies she actually is on LinkedIn, when she is not.

Does it sound like I think this is wrong?

The thing I hate about agencies


This is almost eighteen months old. Appalling to see we’re still where we were in march, 2014!

Originally posted on Son of GeekTalk:

I know. I spent twenty-odd years at an Agency.

Yet, in these twenty years there is something I grew progressively weary about, to the point of disgust, and that is the tendency of agencies to make things look more complicated than they are. So complicated, in fact, you will need their help to figure them out.

This selling-by-obfuscation is obviously encouraged by its very victims, silly clients who do not try to understand, do not demand clarification, but want a quick fix: unlike the proverbial starving man, they do not want to be taught to fish, but rather be given a trout.

This truly bad article is a fantastic example of this: under the disguise of explaining something, it explains nothing except that the matter is so complex you ought to ask the help of whoever wrote the article.

Well, it’s not.

Any fool can run a successful digital marketing…

View original 292 more words

Doing something about my Digital Self

After so many posts bemoaning how Corporations mishandle bits and pieces of my Digital Self, I have decided to actually do something to take control of it.

Of course, this entirely depends on what each individual big web company is graciously allowing you to do, but I always thought that Google stands out in this respect. So here it is, photos.

Over the years (my first good quality digital camera was purchased in 1999) I accumulated thousands of pictures which I uploaded to Picasa, now Google Photos. Part of the reason for my choice is the fact that Google was the first company to publicly commit to an Open Data policy whereby each user had the right (and the technical means) to download ALL the data s/he uploaded to Google.

Their support to this policy has not changed, nor I have any reason to believe they are even considering a change, but being this a unilateral decision on their part, I decided to build an extra layer of security and download all the pictures archive for storage (also) on Dropbox and locally, on my redundant NAS. It will take Google a while to prepare my archive (around 3 hours), but in modern terms the space required is nothing exceptional, probably around 10GB altogether.

Screen Shot 2015-10-12 at 18.44.11

Then it will take me a while to download it, but again we are now used to 600GB OS updates, so this is nothing.

Ulster Bank, where art thou?

Today I filed my complaint with the U.K. Financial Ombudsman Service, accusing Ulster Bank of poor vigilance and also of ignoring my complaint filed a week ago with them.

It is my opinion that the scammers who got me probably got several (maybe many) others. Their scheme relies on flash accounts that are only alive for a few weeks.

What happens to the money is of course beyond me, but if I was them, I’d collect it cash before vanishing.

You don’t do this only once (too smooth, too detailed) so there’s a repeating pattern that despite the overblown hype on analytics nobody is catching. Or maybe they simply are not reading the reports, like they do not read complaints. (Will they read the reports from social media?)

Or, again, maybe they’re just damn slow which is perhaps the very reason scammers selected them: big, dumb & slow, the perfect screen.