Defining the role of Lead Parent

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Anne-Marie Slaughter’s husband wrote a great article about how he put his wife’s career first. He has a career, yet he takes the role of “lead parent”, a better term than the one I usually hear: “primary caregiver”.  I’ve read many similar articles, and the statistics and anecdotes in all of them are dismaying. This one was no different. But one thing I liked was how the author described his role and responsibilities, giving concrete examples.

Lead parenting is being on the front lines of everyday life. In my years as lead parent, I have gotten the kids out of the house in the morning; enforced bedtimes at night; monitored computer and TV use; attempted to ensure that homework got done right; encouraged involvement in sports and music; attended the baseball games, piano lessons, plays, and concerts that resulted; and kept tabs on social lives. To this day, I am listed first on emergency forms; I am the parent who drops everything in the event of a crisis.

Other things not included here would be: being responsible for buying, preparing and serving food and cleaning up after meals, while encouraging healthy eating and monitoring general health of the children. And beyond the parenting role, but intrinsic to the role nonetheless: being responsible for the house or apartment and its cleaning and maintenance. And likely also the car, as it is needed for shuttling kids to and from activities, grocery shopping and errands.

I was also moved by the implication in his last paragraph that so many men are missing something deep and meaningful in their lives:

At the end of life, we know that a top regret of most men is that they did not lead the caring and connected life they wanted, but rather the career-oriented life that was expected of them. I will not have that regret.

Photo via Flickr.

Champerty, Gawker and Peter Thiel

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It’s hard to pick a side in the Gawker-Thiel-Hogan lawsuit, reported today in Forbes. Billionaire Peter Thiel appears to be funding Hulk Hogan’s lawsuit against Gawker Media, but the lawsuit and its outcome are a mere sideshow to the main story which is that this case is a terrifying development for those of us who value a free, democratic media. What is most frightening about this lawsuit is that the press has always played a significant role in defending the small and powerless against the big and powerful. Gawker has played this role in its own tabloid style, but Thiel’s funding of this lawsuit shows how money can protect that power through third-party litigation funding. 

Lawsuits like these can have a chilling effect on the rest of the media industry, said First Amendment expert Peter Scheer, as they may encourage other wealthy individuals to back litigation against media companies that run unflattering stories about them.

“That’s often the purpose of these cases,” said Scheer, the director of the First Amendment Coalition. “Winning is the ultimate chilling effect, but if you can’t win the case, you at least want the editors to think twice before writing another critical story about you.”

Champerty, as third-party litigation funding used to be called (and should probably be called again!) was formerly a crime, but the commercial litigation finance industry has been growing in recent years . It’s most commonly used as a form of speculation, in which “investors” seek potentially lucrative lawsuits, from which they receive a percentage, or as a means of protecting and expanding a company’s business. But the Thiel funding, coming as it does from a billionaire, is not an investment, but the settling of a personal vendetta  against a media company by someone with the money to drive a company to ruin through litigation.

Generally, people avoid frivolous lawsuits because it often exposes them to as much scrutiny as those they sue, so what is significant about this case is that by funding Hogan behind the scenes, Thiel could get his revenge, escape exposure, and influence the outcome of the case. Hogan’s lawyers made decisions against Hogan’s best interests, withdrawing a claim that would have required Gawker’s insurance company to pay damages rather than the company itself–a move that made Nick Denton, Gawker Media’s founder and CEO, suspect that a Silicon Valley millionaire was behind the suit. Gawker Media may or may not survive the suit in which Hogan was handed down a judgement of $140 million, which the publisher has appealed.

My hope is that the high profile of this case will hasten legal reform. The ethical dodginess of this type of funding is well known–after all champerty was once illegal.


Further Reading:

Gawker-Thiel-Hogan lawsuit article on Forbes

Why Denton thought Thiel was behind the lawsuit article on re|code

Arms Race: Law Firms and the Litigation Funding Boom article in American Lawyer

“There has always been discomfort about the role of money in the profession,” says Geoffrey Miller, co-director of New York University School of Law’s Center for Civil Justice. By adding investors to the litigation ecosystem, “are we losing something?” he asks. “Do we degrade our professionalism? Do we create in the public’s mind the sense that law is all about the money?”  Well, yes.

Where the term “Conventional Wisdom” came from

It was John Kenneth Galbraith, the hyperliterate economic sage, who coined the phrase “conventional wisdom”. He did not consider it a compliment. “We associate truth with convenience,” he wrote, “with what most closely accords with self-interest and personal well-being or promises best to avoid awkward effort or unwelcome dislocation of life. We also find highly acceptable what contributes most to self-esteem.”

Smart people are happier with fewer friends

Interesting article in the Washington Post conjecturing why smart people appear to be happier with fewer friends. Or, as I interpret it, fewer social obligations. The sociologists interviewed guess it might be because smarter people have bigger goals, like writing a novel or curing cancer, which friendships can distract from. Others guess that smarter people are better equipped to adapt to dense, urban environments and many interactions with many people. But my guess is that it is the social obligations that come with being smart. I remember a smart friend of mine, a lawyer, complaining after a very frustrating day that her job was to be smart and competent, for people who were neither smart nor competent, and it was wearing on her.

Designing for a grandpa, not an abstract ideal

"I liked architecture going into college, and Berkeley’s hippie culture made me like it even more. A lot of the professors came up in the 1960s and emphasized the personal, human scale of architecture. One of them had a favorite story: 'At the top of every stair you should put a bench, so that the grandfather can read a book to his grandson.' When I came out to New York for grad school, everything was very theoretical and academic. You were hardly ever designing for a person. You were designing for some type of abstract ideal, not a grandpa."—@dongpingwong. Follow #CreativeNewYork for more from Dong-Ping Wong and Oana Stanescu of design office @family_newyork over the coming days, and read the full #PopRally Q&A at the link in our profile. [Family New York. Rendering of the Circle Bridge. 2010.]

A post shared by MoMA The Museum of Modern Art (@themuseumofmodernart) on

Comments Sections: A Clarification

Nick Bilton: One of the realizations I’ve had about startups is that they take on the DNA of their founding fathers or mothers. Caterina Fake told me when they started Flickr that they wanted it to be a pleasant experience and a happy platform. So with the first few thousand photographs that were up there, all the employees at Flickr wrote all these really nice notes. Even if it wasn’t the most beautiful photo, they’d say, This is the most beautiful photo I’ve ever seen. I love the framing. It created, from the beginning, this very happy place.

There are many true things in Nick’s statement in an article about Twitter in Fast Company. We very consciously created the comments section of Flickr, we did want Flickr to be a happy place, and for a long time it was. We wanted people to behave in a civilized way, and they did. We did not want to comments to devolve into glib pronouncements, snarky putdowns and ad hominem attacks as they so often do. We wanted real connection, appreciation and human flourishing. However, we never exhorted people to say something was beautiful that was not beautiful, and Flickr, and I, and the team were all deeply committed to the idea that you honor the wholeness of people, and that your comments be thoughtful. The team was encouraged to participate in all the conversations, because it is the founding team that determines how the software will behave, who set the tone, define the limits of what is tolerated on the service, which I wrote about in Wired.

The idea was the opposite of blanketing the comments sections with compliments, superlatives or “Likes”.  We tried to think about the photos we were looking at. Say something thoughtful. And that was what we were with great effort building into Flickr’s comments sections, which can easily become transactional, liking, and hearting,”Great!””Beautiful”,”Love it”! and on to more liking and hearting. Thinking about things takes time. It’s a slower internet. It’s a better internet.

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