5641147686_26202bcd12_bThe New York Times is often called “The Paper of Record.”

In the summer of 2014, my alter-ego advice columnist, Dear Ms. Management arose from the pixels.

I wanted her to have a Twitter presence, and track record.

So, I created a bit of a bot.

Taking a bunch of my favorite management resources, and a few new ones, I used IFTTT to cause Dear Ms. Management to tweet whenever one of these resources published something online.

The Ms. Management experiment began as part of my participation in the Orbital bootcamp in 2014.  I thought about, posted about, and talked about how management is viewed.

There are two big definitional problems.

One is a human failure to understand what management actually means.   The other is the algorithmic result of this failure of understanding.

When you go to Meetup.com and look for a Management meetup, you’ll find Anger Management, Product Management, Asset Management, and then some.

When you Google Why isn’t management better? you’ll find over 260 million results.   Today, the first three results are on change management, diabetes management, and the Fed.  (The 5th is my Linked In post* of the same title.   And all of this will change over time, based on however Google’s algorithm arises and changes.)

One of my favorite resources is the “You’re the Boss” blog at the NY Times.  Plenty of great, practical stories on real people, in real management situations.

Dear Ms. Management tweets these posts.   The other day, she tweeted one of their weekly link lists.

One link:  an article that offered instruction on how avoid hiring a psychopath.

Spoiler alert.   Unless you’re a licensed, practicing mental health care professional, your interview prowess isn’t going to help.

Also, in decades of managing people, hiring people, and advising leaders, it’s not a problem I’ve run up against.   Hiring managers, you don’t need to solve this one.

The NY Times article linked out to another major city paper.   The article was one of those 6-page, 300 word articles.    (So, generating impressions for an unwitting advertiser to pay for.)

It was terrible.  You can probably find it, if you’d like to bother.

It cautioned against hiring someone with a record of frequent job changes.  Also problematic:  references that were either glowing or non-committal.

The “psychopathology” indicated by these red flags is not obvious.  But I’m not a licensed mental health care professional, either.

The problem with automation is that some of my authoritative resources, simply, aren’t.

Including, sadly, the Paper of Record.

I wanted Ms. Management’s tweets to be laser-focused on managing people and relationships at work.  Ultimately, I’ve had to cut back on the automation, started to review and “curate” the tweets.

So, I’ve deleted unreliable and uneven resources from the input source.  I’ve added my own tweets and retweets, and retroactively delete off-topic automated tweets.  So Ms. Management is now a bit more human on Twitter.

And I’ve proven to myself, again, that there’s a limit to what you can read about any topic, meaningfully, without experienced, intelligent, human intervention.

This includes #management.

Learning about #management, or any other complex topic?   That requires a whole different level of human intervention.

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A couple of updates on the Ms. Management project!  In late 2015 I shut down the IFTTT recipes that had created Ms. Management as a “bot”– I didn’t want her automated tweets to persist, insensitively, during news events of more consequence.  

And in early 2016, I locked her account, as preliminary step to closing down the project.  Even spending 5 minutes a day to maintain a twitter account adds up, and draws focus that I could be using elsewhere. 

Key lesson learned:  it’s difficult to get people to ask management questions on the open web.  And it’s difficult to answer them completely and usefully.

Also, at some point I took that Linked In post down.  An earlier version is here on my blog.

Photo:  “All The News That’s Fit to Print,” by Morten Oddvik, via Flickr, under Creative Commons license.