“It’s an alien life form… yeah… it’s Life On Mars and it’s just landed here”
Sitting there in 1999, looking and sounding as beguiling, electric and delicate as he always did, David Bowie was explaining his thoughts on how the waves of the internet were beginning to break upon society’s shore.
“I don’t think we’ve even seen the tip of the iceberg” he continued “I think the potential of what the internet is going to do to society, both good and bad, is unimaginable. I think we’re actually on the cusp of something exhilarating and terrifying”.
Exhilarated or Terrified? …
Cards on the virtual table — I’m not a huge fan (like many) of the way that ‘Big-Tech’ have gone about their business. I’ve spent a hell of a lot of time researching and trying to understand their methods — away from the headlines and knee-jerk commentary. Indeed, that’s how Firesmoke.co came about — and drives much of its work and (I’m glad to say) baby steps of growth.
So, the recent Anti-Trust (this is different to regulation at this stage) hearing in the US are a kind of guide to what may happen in the future. I spent six hours running through the session…(come on I love cricket so have the mindset…). Anyway once, I got past the senators rambling on for four minutes and thirty seconds of their allotted five minutes to ask questions, even in the miniscule time to answer — Bezos, Zuckerburg, Pichai and Cook — let slip some assumed, but never before confirmed facts.
Actually, they let slip quite a few — and many at first glance are not surprising — but dig a little deeper and join some dots (which is my job I suppose) and some significant points are revealed. Anyway, to save your sanity — a few specific ones stood out;
1) Amazon have consistently sold the Echo product range below cost.
2) Facebook have ignored Anti-Trust laws by purchasing Instagram and WhatsApp
3) Google forcibly embedding its search advertising platform across other areas of digital marketing. Using this to create (in their own words) an ‘unfair advantage’.
4) Apple actively restrict third party products on the app store. Because they own the trainset -everyone plays by their rules.
See what I mean — nothing ‘surprising’ right?
So — Amazon sell stuff below cost — so what? We all know that — I mean that’s how they cannibalise many sellers on their marketplace. But selling Echo below cost — putting the device in homes (over 50% of US households have one) — is a little more sinister — are they ‘learning’ from us or ‘training’ us? Bezos admitting this has in effect opened up the reshaping (or at least additional investigation) of their pricing methods — this includes their own products — FireStick, Echo etc.), the marketplace, Prime, AWS, logistics — the whole shooting match.
Facebook ignore Anti-Trust to ‘kill’ competition. Again, so what? But in the US this is a serious charge — stemming from the days of Standard Oil/Rockefeller and Zuckerberg admitting this — well, that is a bit of a game changer. Facebook are the most ‘at risk’ immediately — this could be the beginning of the end for them in their current form and have the biggest impact on social marketing strategies across the world. But Marky Mark is an arch ‘greaser of palms’ and of course, Facebook will influence the US election (they haven’t got the processes, rigour or desire internally to do anything about it) — and that buys him time and gives him power. Regulation could be their saviour — if Trump gets in — they’ll be left alone, (remember FB did help the Trump campaign in 2016) if Biden gets in — they may well offer themselves up to be regulated.
Google admitting that they have ensured that they are the ‘only choice in town’ for digital advertising by using the strength of their core search function and embedding it within YouTube, Chrome, Android and giving it free to Third Party vendors — is again nothing new. But this hidden reliance has provided it with complete control over a number of ‘verticals’ in the digital marketing space — verticals of both market and channel type. This is a problem for competition, privacy and data collection (although not directly linked to anti-trust a ‘dependant’ influence) and a potential limit on the growth of third party vendors. Additionally, Pichai was (in my opinion) incredibly scripted in his answers and seemed genuinely surprised at the fact that anyone would be concerned about Google. We could see a split of the Google portfolio — specifically in advertising tech.
Good old Apple — well, they are now the most trusted of the four by public consensus. iOs is the most ‘locked- down’ of the platforms — I mean it only records 200 data points rather than the 1200 Android does, but they do make it really hard for businesses to succeed in the App Store. From the 30% charges they take from every download (which as an example slows Spotify’s — a direct competitor — growth). Now, is this purposely stifling the competition and therefore a breach of anti-trust — yes potentially. But Apple, more than the others, are seen as a more ‘wholesome’ US business — they make stuff, ok in China and the Far East (which could become a serious issue), for very low pay (which will become an issue) — and they have been around for longer — they are not a teenager, like the others they are moving into middle age. Much of the potential restrictions out on Apple I think will be dependent on the success of their other services (content, cars, home goods etc.) — but we could see the app store charges being quietly reduced over the next 12 months.
Independent of any specific scenarios I do believe that significant changes are ahead for at least some of the big tech companies, changes that will affect all of us and all of our businesses. Maybe not for 12–24 months, but the game has begun. …
Here’s a Venn diagram. Every piece which looks at influences into a presented behaviour or trend has to have a Venn diagram..
So, what does this rather basic diagram show? Well, I hope that it shows there are three main business influences on the creation of addictive technology which, individually and collectively have created a potential spiral of learnt behaviour, economic reliance and created a limitation of imagination.
Attention Driven Design. This is a result of our (digital) history. More specifically, the historical way in which digital platforms, products and applications have been monetised — selling advertising and gathering data — both of which generate more income when you gain more of people’s attention. …
Look at yourself.
Really look at yourself. See who you are, feel who you are. The mix of emotions, strengths, weaknesses, lessons learned, achievements made, memories, loves, fears, anxieties and hopes.
Don’t meditate, don’t breathe more deeply — just go to a mirror, look and then feel.
But how often do we all actually do that? You know, hold up a mirror to ourselves? …
I’m writing this in July 2020 and, if I were writing a piece on privacy at the start of this year, it may well have been structured in a very different way. I’m sure the focus and tone would have been the same but maybe, the narrative would have taken a slightly different route.
Covid-19 has had a permanent effect on the world, society, Governments, individuals, economies, relationships, actually you can add anything to that list you want. …
If the recent report from the IPCC did not continue to raise awareness and concern about the precarious nature of our planet then I’m not sure what will. It paints a bleak picture of human inflicted damage on the planet. Our desire for energy, wealth, progress have come at a huge cost to the environment and our fellow species.
It’s a damming indictment of our impact on our own home. But, in the report there are signs of hope. Signs of a changing mood and an increased realisation that we can only become more sustainable by working together. …
A short while ago — I pondered about the use of the term experience and its relevance to what many people use the internet for — completing tasks. I finished with the line “An experience is memorable — completing a task should be forgotten”.
So, within the ‘digital industry’ we complete millions of pounds worth of research, design and development to deliver task completion. To make experiences that should be forgettable.
In many cases, this is a good thing — look at GDS — they’ve become so good at making online experience forgettable — they’ve won awards. …
It is fair to say that there is a growing societal awareness of the need for a more sustainable approach to the future. From the food we eat, the transport we use, to the technology we use — we know that how we live our lives must have more than one eye on the world we leave behind.
But to do that we need to become sustainable ourselves as humans, as individuals, as us.
The recent Global Mental Health day was one huge opportunity for us all to stop and reflect on our own personal challenges and our own wellbeing. An opportunity for us to consider how we ‘felt’ — in our personal and professional lives. …
It’s time for tech to show that it really is for good.
Technology has, over the last ten to fifteen years — for better and worse — changed the future of humanity and our life on this planet.
For example, the advent of social media has changed forever the way humans communicate. The sheer volume of choice and ease of buying over the internet, has resulted in consumerism moving online. Tracking technology means that some businesses know more about us than we do ourselves.
These changes (and others like them e.g. Artificial Intelligence) developed by large, multinational technology businesses, have led many to begin to question if we need to be a little more circumspect in our use of technology and insatiable drive towards a tech future. …
Let’s start off we a couple of questions.
Firstly, what is a digital to human connection? Is it picking up your phone and checking a train time? Is it asking Alexa to remind you of a meeting? Is it putting the washing machine onto a cold rinse?
Secondly, can a ‘connection’ ever be isolated? Aren’t we always on, aren’t we always connected?
Connecting digital and human — it’s a tricky relationship to understand.
Maybe let’s look at this by defining each component.
A human is defined as “a member of the genus Homo — specifically the species Sapiens” and “a person”. …