Rob Elder (June 23, 1938 — December 27, 2020)

Robert Laurie Elder (June 23, 1938 — December 27, 2020), the longtime editorial page editor of The San Jose Mercury News and a well-known member of the Sea Ranch community, died peacefully Sunday after a long struggle with Alzheimer’s disease and other health issues. He was 82.

He was a writer of books, editor of newspapers, landscaper of beautiful gardens, chef of gourmet meals, and happy lounger in the sun with cats.


Public domain

In movies like “Transformers” and “Terminator 2,” good robots fight bad robots with the fate of humanity hanging in the balance. The drama can seem melodramatic and downright inhuman. If only it weren’t so true.

Experts say adversarial algorithms — the brawling brains of artificial intelligence – are already duking it out in the fight clubs of cybersecurity. Some of them even use weird spells to make their foes hallucinate.

Here’s how it works: Cybersecurity companies and other researchers train their AI algorithms by feeding them many examples of good and malicious files they capture with anti-viruses and other cybersecurity…


Kim Novak as a fraudulent apparition in Alfred Hitchcock’s “Vertigo.”

Deepfakes who resemble exes or one night stands may be the leading men and ladies in the next level of crimes of the heart

More than identity theft, more than ransomware, romance fraud and other con games steal from the vulnerable people of the world. The FBI says the cost in 2018 was $363 million — behind only business email fraud as the costliest cybercrime.

The culprits often pose as a suitor on dating sites, and slowly drain the bank accounts of victims whom they charm but usually never meet. The FBI says one Houston woman sent her online lover “Charlie” $2 million — even though he didn’t exist except in the messages from two fraudsters now serving three years in prison.

FBI Special…


A decade ago, many companies plunged into digital media without a strategy. Figuring they needed to get in the game, they entrusted their brands to junior employees, agencies, or interns. Those brand stewards have churned often since then, leaving a schizophrenic narrative many executives do not recognize as the stories of their companies.

Every few quarters they start over by hiring a new marketing director with a great resume and fresh ideas. But territoriality sandbags this new talent, who reins in ambitions — or leaves. Many brands’ owned media devolves into unconvincing cheerleading. …


You glance at your work calendar — oh no, you have to go be a hostage in a meeting for an hour. On your way to the meeting a new email thread pops up on your phone — another interruption to your work day.

Sound familiar? You’re not alone.

Forty-four percent of professionals say poorly organized meetings mean “I don’t have enough time to do the rest of my work.”

Bloomberg actually put a framed New Yorker cartoon by Kaamran Hafeez in every conference room in its New York headquarters that reads: “I know we didn’t accomplish anything, but that’s…


When I was in 8th grade, California was in a bone-dry drought. We took quick showers. Lawns died. Cars wore coats of dirt.

One day in English class, a strange soft drumbeat began. We strained our ears and memories, then gasped and turned to look outside.

“Let’s open all the windows, be quiet, and listen to the rain,” Mrs. Zimmerman said.

The drought had ended. My thirst to capture the moments of my life had begun.

#TeacherAppreciationWeek


It’s been a good decade since many companies jumped into blogging, Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and later Instagram. Yet fundamental and elemental rookie mistakes still trip up many good companies. Here are five major areas that are simple, if not always easy, to fix.

5. It’s not an offensive game. Digital media is straight-up defense, and not just customer service and brand protection. Your customers are talking to you. Social listening, search data, and performance metrics are market research you can do every day. Tune in. No one cares what you want to promote. You have to promote what they care…


By Ministerie van Buitenlandse Zaken [CC BY-SA 2.0], via Wikimedia Commons

I may have been sober for double-digit years. Or I may have quit this morning, desperately hoping yesterday was my last drunk.

Drinking may be against my religion. Or it may have led me to a higher power through AA.

Whether I work with you in a boardroom or emergency room or situation room or courtroom, someday you may walk into an Alcoholics Anonymous meeting room in a church or community center looking for help with your drinking, and find me there. I will help you.

I may have been one of the 102,000 U.S. adults who seek treatment for…


Nobody’s life is as pretty as their Instagram. Especially mine.
  1. When in doubt, Save to Draft.
  2. It’s under Settings.
  3. Bad metrics teach you the most.
  4. Never open an email attachment from someone you don’t know.
  5. Always mute yourself on a conference call.
  6. Never Reply All. Ever.
  7. Never compare anyone to Hitler on social media.
  8. RTs, in fact, do = endorsements.
  9. Great memes are born, not dreamed up.
  10. There’s no such thing as strategic authenticity online. You’re either real or careful, not both.
  11. Take a screenshot. Always take a screenshot.
  12. It’s not how much you know, it’s how much you know how to find out.
  13. Be a GIF snob. There’s nothing…

A blog post explains one idea.

If a post is overloaded and under-edited, the idea you are explaining may be “I don’t have one clear idea.”

(Or, “we don’t have one clear idea, because our entire team at work is trying to write with one voice.” Imagine if you were all trying to paint the same picture at the same time. That mess of a canvas is how your team blog post looks to a reader.)

You are much better off plainly discussing a focused topic. One author at a time.

A bulleted list is not a blog post. It…

Jeff Elder

Former WSJ reporter and syndicated columnist working in the blogosphere. Once sold books to Johnny Cash. My Medium post about that was praised by Paris Review.

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