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Preview: Silicon Valley Watcher - at the intersection of technology and media

Silicon Valley Watcher — at the collision of technology and media



Former Financial Times journalist Tom Foremski provides insight into the business and culture of Silicon Valley.



Updated: 2017-08-15T19:33:20Z

 



Elsevier Adds Fourth California Acquisition:

2017-08-15T19:33:20Z

Elsevier, the European publishing giant has acquired Bepress, a 73 person academic publishing service based in Berkeley, California for an undisclosed amount as it expands its publishing, analytics and metadata services for leading US universities. Elsevier acquires a business with more than 500 academic institutions as customers and about $20m in annual revenues based on an annual subscription model averaging about $37,000. This compares favorably with the cost of a full-time IT person to run the publishing services using open source software which is the alternative choice....

Elsevier, the European publishing giant has acquired Bepress, a 73 person academic publishing service based in Berkeley, California for an undisclosed amount as it expands its publishing, analytics and metadata services for leading US universities.

Elsevier acquires a business with more than 500 academic institutions as customers and about $20m in annual revenues based on an annual subscription model averaging about $37,000. This compares favorably with the cost of a full-time IT person to run the publishing services using open source software which is the alternative choice.

Three University of California professors founded Bepress in 1999 to make it easier for academics and their institutions to showcase their work in many different formats from academic papers, to books and more. And bepress also tracks downloads and engagement with the content.

I spoke with Jean-Gabriel Bankier, CEO of Bepress since 2009.

"We have millions of papers that are available for free because each university is in competition for students and faculty and funding -- they want to show the world what they have."

Bankier said that in addition to its cloud-based content management system Elsevier also gets a sophisticated analytics technology that provides data on who has accessed the information -- important for evaluating faculty and research.

There are significant benefits from the Elsevier acquisition says Bankier.

"Elsevier's databases have collected significant amounts of metadata around our articles and content which will add considerable value to our users -- we are very excited."

He added that this removes some doubts among potential customers that the company will survive.

Elsevier has been making several similar acquisitions over the past five years: Mendeley, Plum Analytics, and SSRN.

Additional information from the news release:

Bepress allows institutions to collect, organize, preserve and disseminate their intellectual output, including pre-prints, working papers, journals or specific articles, dissertations, theses, conference proceedings and a wide variety of other data.

 ...

By joining Elsevier, bepress can better address institutional promotional needs, such as compete for students, faculty and grants and preserve research data and outputs. Elsevier's suite of products such as Scopus, Pure, SSRN and SciVal suite will enhance the breadth and quality of the reach, promotion and impact services that bepress delivers to its customers.

... 

Bepress' "digital commons" platform supports institutional platforms by providing cross-repository aggregation and referencing by type of content or author into 'Commons' or 'Networks'. Bepress currently has content containing over 2 million articles and 100 million annual downloads.




The Future Will Be Voice Operated Only When Digital Assistants Learn To Use Apps

2017-08-02T04:02:22Z

Our voice is important for Democracy… and in getting more productivity from our technologies. The future sounds a little like Cold War Eastern Europe as the digital assistants try to listen-in and construct individual dossiers on each of us — to sell us goods and services rather than sell us out as secret policemen — but then again there’s all types of data buyers and digital assistants will only get better. I have been reading some of the reviews of the improved and updated digital assistants — a growing crowd — and there is a common theme of disappointment. Steve Kovach at Business Insider says it’s time to admit digital assistants are overrated: The hype around digital assistants is real.... Our voice is important for Democracy… and in getting more productivity from our technologies. The future sounds a little like Cold War Eastern Europe as the digital assistants try to listen-in and construct individual dossiers on each of us — to sell us goods and services rather than sell us out as secret policemen — but then again there’s all types of data buyers and digital assistants will only get better. I have been reading some of the reviews of the improved and updated digital assistants — a growing crowd — and there is a common theme of disappointment. Steve Kovach at Business Insider says it’s time to admit digital assistants are overrated: The hype around digital assistants is real. But for now, it's just that. Hype. And it’s arguably the more overrated than any other emerging technology…digital assistants have turned into a fragmented mess and they're all little more than a minor convenience, assuming they work at all. The biggest disappointment seems to be that they all handle applications poorly.  Yet we live in a 24/7 app world and each of us rely on dozens of daily apps to get work, life and the people and things we love organized.  Siri, Alexa, Google Assistant, Bixby, and there’s more coming — are great if you want some information to win a bet with your buddies, or set a timer — Siri is brilliant at setting a timer. But the way they handle apps is terrible yet this is where the largest and most significant business opportunity lies. The future will be voice operated. This means whoever does voice initiated tasks the best will win a strategic victory as the gateway to a user’s daily commercial and computing interactions, at work and at home. But there’s still a lot that needs to happen before we will be able to use voice as a powerful user interface. It has to be very good at handling my applications — as good as if I were to talk to a human assistant. Take a look at these possible voice commands:  - Deliver the items on my weekly shopping list Friday afternoon and check for lowest prices on the produce.  - I need Alphabet’s quarterly revenues for the past two years broken out by Adwords, and Adsense revenues in a graph plotted against traffic acquisition costs and mark the quarters that beat Wall Street estimates. - Find the photos from last Saturday’s picnic, adjust for white balance and send me only the shots with me and my brother for review then email them to my mother.  In these examples the voice gateway could choose alternate suppliers or band together with other buyers for lower prices plus there was no need to specify an app just the action and outcome. That’s a lot of power in the hands of the digital assistant. Apps are key… If digital assistant can control apps — and navigate their command structure to perform a complex set of connected tasks that might be called different things within different apps — then this is a huge step forward for computer literacy because people can voice the outcome they want without needing the skills to operate the software. People that haven’t learned how to use computers will get nearly the same benefits as longtime computer users. But it’s a troubling development for app developers. Sure, they want people to easily interface with their software using voi[...]



Hertz Foundation: 6 Decades of Finding And Funding Top Scientific Talent

2017-06-27T23:16:39Z

The SF/Bay Area based Hertz Foundation has found a way to surface the best young scientists and fund their work which accelerates the timeline for new breakthroughs. It’s attracted attention from the GatesFoundation with a $5m grant. John Hertz is known as the eponymous founder of one of the largest car rental companies in the world; less well known is his foundation which in its 60 year history has discovered and funded hundreds of talented young scientists across applied disciplines in science, maths, engineering and biology. Every year the Fannie and John Hertz Foundation chooses 12 to 15 Hertz Fellows from more than 750 merit-based graduate candidates.It is one of the most prestigious awards in academia and valued for its no-strings... The SF/Bay Area based Hertz Foundation has found a way to surface the best young scientists and fund their work which accelerates the timeline for new breakthroughs. It’s attracted attention from the GatesFoundation with a $5m grant. John Hertz is known as the eponymous founder of one of the largest car rental companies in the world; less well known is his foundation which in its 60 year history has discovered and funded hundreds of talented young scientists across applied disciplines in science, maths, engineering and biology. Every year the Fannie and John Hertz Foundation chooses 12 to 15 Hertz Fellows from more than 750 merit-based graduate candidates.It is one of the most prestigious awards in academia and valued for its no-strings attached funding. The selection process requires considerable time from the applicants with written submissions and interviews. And it requires considerable time from a large network of academics in top universities to select the best out of an already exceptional group of brilliant graduates. Each submission requires four letters of reference and candidates are evaluated om creativity, drive, and innovation. Two personal interviews are required. Applicants that show entrepreneurial traits and own patents are favored in the selection process. The Hertz Fellows receive five-year grants at any university they choose without any restrictions -- a rare feature with the majority grants tied to institutions or specific areas of research. They also have access to and support from the community of all the other Fellows for mentoring and problem solving. The goal is to encourage a cross-discipline approach to new ideas. Testimonials... Here are some of the testimonials from Hertz Fellows about the importance of the grants and the value of the continuing programs and events. Here are some of the testimonials from Hertz Fellows about the importance of the grants and the value of the continuing programs and events. "This incredible academic freedom is only surpassed by the extraordinary students, entrepreneurs, and professors I have had the privilege of meeting through Hertz Foundation events, such as the Fellows retreats and the Hertz Symposium." Gleb Akselrod Massachusetts Institute of Technology Hertz Fellow 2012 T.J. Rodgers, founder of Cypress Semiconductor and Astro Teller, head of Google's "moonshots" lab are among Silicon Valley's better known Hertz Fellows. A rising elite... The Hertz selection process is very rigorous and meticulous and it works very well. The foundation has become so good at it that it has attracted notice from other organizations also interested in discovering and funding the best emerging science graduates. The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation recently announced a $5 million grant to fund two new Fellows in Global Health and Development. The new Fellows will spend two summers working with scientists as interns on projects funded by the Gates Foundation. Robbee Baker Kosak, president of the Fannie and John Hertz Foundation, says that the partnership came about because of people working at the Gates Foundation who were familiar with the transformational impact of the organization's work. Inspired by Teller... Kosak says the Foundation represents the en[...]



More Bad News For Media Industry In KPCB Internet Report

2017-06-02T02:18:19Z

There's no good news for media companies in the latest Internet Trends report from VC firm Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers as Google and Facebook share an astounding 85% of all new Internet advertising. Last year it was 74% — an acceleration that demonstrates the competitive advantage of scale these companies have in the media sector or as Mary Meeker the report's author succinctly writes: "Big Get Bigger & Go After Other Bigs." Meeker is a partner at KPCB, one of the first VC firms in Silicon Valley's famed Sand Hill Rd. She was a popular Wall Street analyst during the dotcom boom. Here are some of the very bad Internet trends for those media companies that are not... There's no good news for media companies in the latest Internet Trends report from VC firm Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers as Google and Facebook share an astounding 85% of all new Internet advertising. Last year it was 74% — an acceleration that demonstrates the competitive advantage of scale these companies have in the media sector or as Mary Meeker the report's author succinctly writes: "Big Get Bigger & Go After Other Bigs." Meeker is a partner at KPCB, one of the first VC firms in Silicon Valley's famed Sand Hill Rd. She was a popular Wall Street analyst during the dotcom boom. Here are some of the very bad Internet trends for those media companies that are not Google or Facebook:  - Meeker points to an open $16 billion annual opportunity in mobile ads in the US market which should be good news for media companies. However, huge numbers of people with ad blockers are blocking this money. Google and Facebook are less affected by this issue and are making a fortune in mobile ads. - Meeker warns that tying ad metrics to return on investment is a huge challenge and that there is a "triple-edge" to having accurate data. You might not like what it reveals and some publishers will suffer. - Consumers say they want targeted ads but they don't want to be tracked which is a huge problem for publishers. Google and Facebook have a huge advantage over other media companies because they don’t need cookies to target users due to logins and popular services. - Media companies cannot compete with new services from Google and Facebook on real-time conversions; incorporating location based ads; and demonstrating offline effects by showing retailers how they drive foot traffic in addition to online traffic. [I called it "Vectors of Engagement" in a 2014 column.]  - In perspective: Last year Google and Facebook took $5.67 for each $1 of new business won by other media. It's an accelerating trend: A year ago the duo took $3.17 in new business for each $1 for everyone else. Meeker calls this pace of media disruption "torrid". Foremski's Take: "The trend is your friend" is sage Wall Street investment advice but there is nothing friendly about these Internet trends for any media company other than Google and Facebook. They used to compete aggressively against each other with Google launching its own social media network and Facebook aligning with Microsoft in search. But those ventures were sidelined by the end of 2014 in favor of exploiting business opportunities in their areas.  This accelerating dominance of Google and Facebook in online advertising is being examined by European Union regulators. However, any regulatory actions will do nothing to help reverse the fortunes of struggling media companies without the availability of a stable media business model accessible to all . Also, the Meeker report does nothing to address a massive issue for all media companies: online ads continue to lose value. For example, Google reports less money per ad but somehow each quarter it manages to show even more of them and sail past Walls Street analyst estimates. Greater numbers of less effective advertising is not a sustainable business model for any media company including Google. The media industry apocalypse continues unchecked. And as the media sector shri[...]



Analysis: Facebook's 3,000 New Editors - Is it still a tech platform?

2017-06-02T02:07:23Z

Timothy Lee at Vox reports: Facebook is hiring 3,000 people to stop users from broadcasting murder and rape Facebook has faced a string of incidents where users have filmed shocking events — like rape and murder — and uploaded them to the site. Critics argued the company wasn’t doing enough to address the problem. Today, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg took action to address those complaints, announcing that the company was going to hire 3,000 people — on top of the 4,500 staff it already had — to help it respond more quickly to reports of abusive behavior in the platform.   Facebook, Google, Youtube,  and Twitter define themselves as platform companies and not as media companies for a very important...

Timothy Lee at Vox reports:

Facebook is hiring 3,000 people to stop users from broadcasting murder and rape

Facebook has faced a string of incidents where users have filmed shocking events — like rape and murder — and uploaded them to the site. Critics argued the company wasn’t doing enough to address the problem.

Today, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg took action to address those complaints, announcing that the company was going to hire 3,000 people — on top of the 4,500 staff it already had — to help it respond more quickly to reports of abusive behavior in the platform.

 

Facebook, Google, Youtube,  and Twitter define themselves as platform companies and not as media companies for a very important reason: as a media technology platform they are not legally responsible for publishing content posted by users as long as there are mechanisms to flag and remove the content.

But newspapers and traditional media companies are legally responsible for what they publish and this raises their costs of business substantially because they need editors, sub-editors, moderators and lawyers to review content before publication. 

Both the tech platforms and the media companies look very similar: they all publish pages of content with advertising.

So why does one type of company have to comply with legal and cultural norms for content while the other doesn’t? It’s a distinction that is fast disappearing as the platform companies hire people to edit their content.

You’d think the problem would yield to a solution combining algorithms and artificial intelligence (AI) especially with all the hype around AI.  Facebook’s 3,000 editors is a massive 66% increase and flags the failure of technology and the wisdom of the crowd as a solution. 

Is Facebook no longer a platform company? This has huge implications for the sector.




Spiceworks Survey Of IT Workers: Women Are Better Educated But Paid Less

2017-05-04T01:06:34Z

Women in IT jobs are more likely to have a college degree than their male colleagues but are paid about 6 per cent less. The survey commissioned by Spiceworks, a professional network for IT workers, found that despite the salary and education gap between genders, most IT professionals are happy with their jobs and with their colleagues. The survey polled 607 IT staff in the US with jobs such as IT managers, network/ system administrators and help desk technicians.  Here are some of the findings: - Women earn a median salary that's about 6% below male colleagues. It's a much smaller pay gap than in the US average of 20% lower. - 82% of women have a college degree or...

Women in IT jobs are more likely to have a college degree than their male colleagues but are paid about 6 per cent less.

The survey commissioned by Spiceworks, a professional network for IT workers, found that despite the salary and education gap between genders, most IT professionals are happy with their jobs and with their colleagues.

The survey polled 607 IT staff in the US with jobs such as IT managers, network/ system administrators and help desk technicians. 

Here are some of the findings:

- Women earn a median salary that's about 6% below male colleagues. It's a much smaller pay gap than in the US average of 20% lower.

- 82% of women have a college degree or higher, compared with 69% of men. The salary data shows that a college degree only provides an average of 4% extra pay, likely due to the female underpayment.

"In the era of technology dependence and heightened security breaches, prioritizing all tech talent, regardless of gender, is more important than ever," said Peter Tsai, senior technology analyst at Spiceworks. "To attract and retain top tech workers, employers must compensate IT professionals based on their skillsets and experience without bias."

IT salaries are not as high as might be expected:

-- The majority make under $75,000 a year. About one in six earn under $35,000; 10% earn between $75,000 and $100,000; 3% earn more than $100,000.

- 41% said they are underpaid.

- IT managers reported a media slary of $65,000.

- Network/System Admins earned a media salary of $54,000.

- Help Desk Technicians earned about $40,000 a year.

The most common degrees were Computer and Information Science (71%), business (11%), Liberal Arts (5%) and Engineering (4%). One-third said they had not planned for an IT career.

It can be a stressful job:

- 83% said they were somewhat stressed, 29% reported high stress, but 62% said they were happy in their job.

Small and medium sized companies had slightly happier IT workers than large enterprises.

There are more results from the survey here.




Alphabet/Google Q1 Fails To Reverse Ad Value Slide

2017-04-28T21:12:32Z

Alphabet/Google announced first quarter financial results that beat Wall Street analyst estimates. But the jump in revenues hides a large problem. From Matthew Lynley at Techcrunch The Google core business is, as usual, quite boringly efficient. We tend to see the same story every quarter — the value of each ad (cost-per-click) goes down while the number of ad impressions goes up, and Google makes a ton of money in the process. The financial results contain Google’s little huge secret: Google is incredibly bad at creating ad value — it is forced to grow revenues by chasing quantity over quality. From Q1 2017: Alphabet/Google is making huge profits but all web users lose because to make money Google has to find...

Alphabet/Google announced first quarter financial results that beat Wall Street analyst estimates. But the jump in revenues hides a large problem.

From Matthew Lynley at Techcrunch

The Google core business is, as usual, quite boringly efficient. We tend to see the same story every quarter — the value of each ad (cost-per-click) goes down while the number of ad impressions goes up, and Google makes a ton of money in the process.

The financial results contain Google’s little huge secret:

Google is incredibly bad at creating ad value — it is forced to grow revenues by chasing quantity over quality.

From Q1 2017:

(image)

Alphabet/Google is making huge profits but all web users lose because to make money Google has to find new ways of grabbing attention for less effective ads.

The tens of thousands of the world’s top computer engineers employed at Google have quarter-after-quarter failed to reverse this loss in ad value. Instead Google distracts the curious by pointing to self-driving cars and “moon-shots” that have nothing to do with its core business. 

This loss of ad value hasn’t harmed Google’s profits but it greatly affects the media industry which faces high content production costs. 

Wasting people’s time on ever larger numbers of ineffective ads is not a sustainable business strategy — and it is unethical, imho. Yet this is the only way this company knows how to drive revenues. 

Look over there — that car is driving itself!

The web user experience stinks

With a ransom malware epidemic and suspiciously fake content everywhere — added to an expanding universe of trillions of crappy ads — the web experience feels ever more corrupt and icky than sticky. And watch what you touch — even hyperlinks from friends are suspicious. If you can’t trust the hyperlink there is no web (and no Google).

As the web experience becomes less appealing people will likely rediscover the delights of a simple walk along a street or in a park —  experiencing the high-definition multi-sense reality of reality. No ad blocker needed. But watch where you step. 




The Endangered CMO: Survival Tips From Microsoft's Grad Conn

2017-04-28T04:11:30Z

The average job tenure of the Chief Marketing Officer (CMO) continues to decline and is now less than half that of the CEO’s average of 7.2 years. It’s tough being a CMO in today’s fractured media landscape and its ephemeral social media trends — repeatable and predictable marketing processes are hard to find. I recently met Grad Conn, CMO of Microsoft USA and I was impressed by what he had to say and his approach. He was speaking at a media roundtable dinner organized by Sprinklr — an enterprise-ready social media tool set used by Conn and a team of more than 150 social media managers. The first thing Conn told me was that he has been in his... The average job tenure of the Chief Marketing Officer (CMO) continues to decline and is now less than half that of the CEO’s average of 7.2 years. It’s tough being a CMO in today’s fractured media landscape and its ephemeral social media trends — repeatable and predictable marketing processes are hard to find. I recently met Grad Conn, CMO of Microsoft USA and I was impressed by what he had to say and his approach. He was speaking at a media roundtable dinner organized by Sprinklr — an enterprise-ready social media tool set used by Conn and a team of more than 150 social media managers. The first thing Conn told me was that he has been in his job nearly twice long as the industry average. Here’s some of my notes from the conversation and some insights into Conn’s approach to social media. - Conn said that he had to accept some harsh facts that much of what he had learned about marketing in school and as a former P&G product marketing executive no longer worked or had lost much of its effectiveness.  - To understand the social media platforms such as Twitter it is important to be active in them. - It is important to be responsive to any complaints and to give the social manager managers the authority to quickly respond and to take conversations to a private channel. - Standardizing on a set of tools and metrics is important. The changing nature of digital media should be supported by the toolset and integrated into the management dashboards. - The media landscape is constantly changing that’s why the CMO has to be involved and needs to publish a lot. Conn is very active online and offline as a speaker.  Foremski’s Take: Grad Conn is a near perfect example of what a tech company CMO should be like. - He is not afraid of attention — look at the way he dresses. - He is active in social media, blogging, video and is a frequent speaker at conferences. - He has built a social media center and trained hundreds of social media managers to act independently and independently react to any crisis with full trust of the management. - He knows what tools to use and how to use them and why.  - He understands that what works today in marketing might not work for long and that new marketing processes will likely be needed. - He can make a quick decision and be confident that it is the right one for that particular time.  Marketing is most definitely an art otherwise you could just buy your marketing outcomes from a menu. And like all the arts it requires experience and practice. It cannot be achieved by managing a process — a machine can do that. Most CMOs have mostly none of the above qualities demonstrated by Conn. Most CMOs are extremely cautious and curiously are publicity shy. But they know how to keep their CVs updated. [ A version of this article first appeared on ZDNet: In My Humble Opinion.]  [...]



S&P Teams With Girls in Tech To Launch Free Tech School For Females

2017-04-06T03:21:29Z

S&P Global, a top financial services firm, has teamed with Girls in Tech to offer free online classes for 350 “girls and women around the world.” The eight-week course is focused on science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) skills. Students only need a web browser and an Internet connection. Adriana Gascoigne, Founder and CEO of Girls in Tech, said: "No matter where she may be located, what social constraints she may have, we want to make sure that all girls and women have access to technical skills that will define their future."... S&P Global, a top financial services firm, has teamed with Girls in Tech to offer free online classes for 350 “girls and women around the world.” The eight-week course is focused on science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) skills. Students only need a web browser and an Internet connection. Adriana Gascoigne, Founder and CEO of Girls in Tech, said: "No matter where she may be located, what social constraints she may have, we want to make sure that all girls and women have access to technical skills that will define their future." S&P will provide each student with "eMentors" recruited from its global workforce of around 20,000 in 31 countries. Mentors play a critical role in the success of female students moving into high-tech jobs especially if they come from communities without any female role models in technical professions -- which is nearly universal. There's a long pipeline of skilled female tech workers that needs to be filled from younger female students before US tech corporations will be able to significantly improve diversity in the workplace. Some companies such as S&P are willing to look ahead and prime the pump. "We realize the importance of a diverse workforce and are committed to supporting the next generation of women leaders in technology, math and analytics," said S&P Chief Information Officer Krishna Nathan. [The Global Classroom begins April 10, 2017 to May 26, 2017. Please visit: http://globalclassroom.girlsintech.org/.] - - - I'm a big fan of Girls in Tech and its founder Adriana Gascoigne. I've known her since she founded the organization in 2007 here in San Francisco and now it's the world's largest non-profit focused on educating females in high-tech skills. She’s recruited a great team that runs an organization with more than 50,000 members and 60 chapters in cities around the world. Adriana's leadership has been fearless and persistent and she has kept the organization stubbornly focused on its mission. And I greatly admire how she's never distracted by the small-minded critics that pop up from time to time because of her use of "Girls..." Here is a quote from my 2008 interview (above): "It is important to embrace femininity, to embrace girliness," says Ms Gascoigne. "Too many women think they need to be more like men to succeed. You don't." Ms Gascoigne says she was lucky growing up, her parents encouraged her to be very self-confident, but that's not true for many women. Being in a heavily male dominated workplace can be intimidating. It was this realization that led Ms Gascoigne to create the Girls in Tech organization. Girls In Tech Expands To New York, LA, And Beyond [...]



The Limits Of Persuasive Realities: Hacking The Brain Stem With VR Marketing Technologies

2017-03-09T01:49:49Z

Successful technologies start life by being good enough to be useful. Could some technologies become unbelievably good at what they do—and become too good to be used? Todays marketing technologies have improved greatly thanks to all that personal data we constantly give away. And they are about to rocket to a new level. With the addition of Virtual Reality environments bolstered by artificial intelligence and personalization — it will be possible to create the Dream Marketing Machine. Prime the Dream Machine with any Brand and it will reliably churn out passionate and emotionally committed customers. You’ll get Fanboys and Fangirls by the stadium-load and for pennies on the dollar that Apple pays in marketing costs. We could be very... Successful technologies start life by being good enough to be useful. Could some technologies become unbelievably good at what they do—and become too good to be used? Todays marketing technologies have improved greatly thanks to all that personal data we constantly give away. And they are about to rocket to a new level. With the addition of Virtual Reality environments bolstered by artificial intelligence and personalization — it will be possible to create the Dream Marketing Machine. Prime the Dream Machine with any Brand and it will reliably churn out passionate and emotionally committed customers. You’ll get Fanboys and Fangirls by the stadium-load and for pennies on the dollar that Apple pays in marketing costs. We could be very close to this Dream Marketing Machine.  At a recent event hosted by SpiritualVR  (photo above) panelist Anastasiya Sharkova said she was deeply moved by her first experience with virtual reality (VR) a title called theBlu:Encounter in which you go eye to eye with a blue whale. She said the experience was so overwhelming it bypassed all reason and logic. She knew it was all computer generated yet when she looked into eye of the giant she felt a deep emphatic connection with the artificial whale that lasted for days. And she used a lot less water for the next two weeks. This scares me. What if the Blue Whale represents a brand such as AT&T and I’m suddenly emotionally bonding with a commercial organization and I can’t control it? We know VR can affect behavior because it is already used in therapeutic applications treating post traumatic stress disorders. Persuasive Realities… Yuval Boger, CEO of open-source VR tech design company Sensics says there is already strong interest in marketing applications. "There are some excellent opportunities to create powerful branded VR experiences." - But would you willingly agree to a VR experience that you knew was designed to persuade you and manipulate your emotions for commercial gain? And then continue to influence your behavior long after the event? - Would you allow the Disney whale to try to emotionally bond with your child? - What if your new job required a swim with the company culture whale as part of HR's on-boarding? - What if your government insists you swim with its patriotic whale? Don't get hung up on these balaenopteran examples. The creature will be chosen and shaped just for you -- for maximum empathy. Hacking the brainstem… Mass media critic Marshall McLuhan in the 1960s was alarmed by the effects on people from images on the surface of spherical cathode ray screens watched from afar. VR immerses you inside a sphere of reality where its creator controls every aspect of your visual and auditory world. Marketing has never ever had so much control. Marketing can use VR to step over your talent for reason and logic and try to tap right into your emotions much as in Neal Stephenson’s 1992 novel Snow Crash — hacking the brain stem — the oldest part of the brain.  But who has the right to access our emotions? The gov[...]



Silicon Valley Innovators Warned About Hyperscale Tech Companies

2017-02-17T21:07:13Z

We are in an era of “Hyperscale companies” such as Amazon, Facebook, Google, Microsoft and Apple that limit opportunities for startups warns Sam Altman, head of Y Combinator,  Silicon Valley’s influential investment group, accelerator and educator.  The warning was part of a long 2017 YC Annual Letter: Altman wrote: “We’re now in the era of hyperscale technology companies…Companies like Amazon, Facebook, Google, Apple, and Microsoft have powerful advantages.” “I expect that they will continue to do a lot of things well, have significant data and computation advantages, be able to attract a large percentage of the most talented engineers, and aggressively buy companies that get off to promising starts." This situation “is unlikely to reverse without antitrust action.” ... We are in an era of “Hyperscale companies” such as Amazon, Facebook, Google, Microsoft and Apple that limit opportunities for startups warns Sam Altman, head of Y Combinator,  Silicon Valley’s influential investment group, accelerator and educator.  The warning was part of a long 2017 YC Annual Letter: Altman wrote: “We’re now in the era of hyperscale technology companies…Companies like Amazon, Facebook, Google, Apple, and Microsoft have powerful advantages.” “I expect that they will continue to do a lot of things well, have significant data and computation advantages, be able to attract a large percentage of the most talented engineers, and aggressively buy companies that get off to promising starts." This situation “is unlikely to reverse without antitrust action.”  His warning is carefully worded because Altman knows that advocating for government intervention is unpopular in Silicon Valley. He points to opportunities for startups where these hyperscale companies “are naturally weaker.” The majority of startup founders and investors he says,  do not fully understand hyperscale’s “powerful advantage.” Foremski’s Take: [I’m a big fan of Sam Altman, the 31-year old head of Y Combinator group after moderating his presentation at the excellent Startup Voodoo conference in St Louis.] It’s good to see someone as influential as Sam Altman raising this issue because it is a topic I’ve been writing about for nearly three years:  Scale versus innovation: The peril to Silicon Valley’s future | ZDNet. We see massive late stage VC deals where the race to scale fastest and become the largest is the primary goal over any consideration of other values.   It’s because in digital economies the first company to scale has the potential to push nearly everyone else into the margins very quickly. In traditional markets a company would expand by establishing offices or stores in new regions and countries — a slow multi-year process that gives competitors time to respond. But in digital markets a well-funded competitor can quickly scale to a dominant global position in weeks.  Hyperscale AI wins… Scale matters in the very hot world of AI and machine learning. Hyperscale companies have access to massive amounts of computation and massive data sets to educate their AI.  David Galbraith, a systems architect notes the disparity in a recent piece: AI tl;dr – Medium Given the hardware, employee and data costs, the forefront of AI is in large corporations rather than startups and universities. He expects opportunities for startups in the form of agile partnerships between large corporations but the timeframe is narrow. Galbraith notes that the large Internet platforms “have been earlier to open up software tools and labs, largely in order to acquire scarce talent and insights into use cases that could indicate where to build or acquire data assets." Innovation derailed or delayed? Fewer AI startups will me[...]



The Crunchies: An Aspirational Fantasy Of Startup Diversity; Plus Chelsea Peretti's App Ideas

2017-02-09T01:29:23Z

Chelsea Peretti (above) a comedic actress, introduced the 10th Annual Crunchies — awards celebrating startups and VCs in Silicon Valley — and managed some decent jokes poking fun at the techie audience and coming up with some great app ideas. (The final one is a killer app — people will need full-cycle tracking of nutrients to create total body datasets. See my video here.) Diversity was once again the bold theme of the event as seen in the careful selections of the nominees for the awards. Time and again the stage was filled with winners: startup teams of mixed color and gender.  People viewing from outside Silicon Valley would be tremendously impressed that our young startups are so progressive and... Chelsea Peretti (above) a comedic actress, introduced the 10th Annual Crunchies — awards celebrating startups and VCs in Silicon Valley — and managed some decent jokes poking fun at the techie audience and coming up with some great app ideas. (The final one is a killer app — people will need full-cycle tracking of nutrients to create total body datasets. See my video here.) Diversity was once again the bold theme of the event as seen in the careful selections of the nominees for the awards. Time and again the stage was filled with winners: startup teams of mixed color and gender.  People viewing from outside Silicon Valley would be tremendously impressed that our young startups are so progressive and clearly want to build the future the right way. But the staged diversity of the Crunchies is far removed from actual reality — the audience of young techies and VCs looks nothing like them. Startup teams continue to be predominately: male, white/Asian; from privileged backgrounds. The Crunchies are clearly trying to push things forward in the right direction and it takes time. The message needs to be repeated many times. Soon the startups will get a clue: if you want to be nominated to win a Crunchie you’d better show significant diversity in your teams. The TJ Miller effect... The Crunchies has changed a lot since 2015 following a stunning performance from TJ Miller, a standup comedian and one of the actors in HBO's Silicon Valley sitcom. During a long evening of superb improv with the audience he called someone a "bitch." It was scandalous. It was disruptive. It shocked an audience more comfortable with unspoken workplace misogyny. The organizers apologized and since then they bend over backwards, and they would bend even further if they could, to present an awards show that is all about diversity in capital letters and in bold typeface but without spelling it out because that would be tedious. The Crunchies show highly diverse startup teams being successful. Success at winning awards equates with likely future success in business. Monkey see monkey do. The Crunchies award consists of a black monkey holding a stick. The message will eventually get through. It was a dark and stormy night... I've been to nearly every Crunchies but these last two have attracted smaller numbers of key people. I would normally run into a lot of high level contacts, a lot of top Silicon Valley CEOs would show up -- but now they don't -- with the exception of Marissa Mayer, Yahoo CEO, who was presenting an award. Lots of no-shows: Michael Arrington, the co-founder of the Crunchies, always presents an award with sidekick GigaOM founder Om Malik, also absent. There were a hundred or so empty seats in the front rows reserved for extra important people who didn't turn up. It might have been the weather. Or it might be that the new format of the Crunchies is not compelling enough for Silicon Valley’s A-list; or maybe the Crunchies are running out of steam. Ten years ago the Crunchies held an electric energy and ce[...]



Do No Evil, Google And The Year Of The Monkey...

2017-02-01T03:36:47Z

According to the Chinese zodiac Google became a public company in the year of the Monkey, in August 2004. In Western culture we are familiar with the story of the three monkeys who very wisely: see no evil, hear no evil, and speak no evil. In some Asian cultures there is a fourth monkey: Do no evil....

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According to the Chinese zodiac Google became a public company in the year of the Monkey, in August 2004.

In Western culture we are familiar with the story of the three monkeys who very wisely: see no evil, hear no evil, and speak no evil. In some Asian cultures there is a fourth monkey: Do no evil.

“Do no evil" is often misquoted as Google's famous motto, which is actually: "Don't be evil" but it's essentially the same. 

In 2015, Google had tired of its responsibilities as the fourth monkey reorganized its business operations; renamed itself Alphabet, and abandoned the problematic old motto and replaced it with the more modern: "Do the right thing."

[I predicted this in 2009: “Google quietly drops “Don’t be evil”motto”]

It’s close enough to the old one that it's unlikely to confuse the ethics of loyal staff; plus, the new motto is sufficiently vague with a phrasing that provides endless relativistic wiggle room in answer to any challenge.

An evil temptation...

I was never comfortable with Google's "Don't be evil" motto because of the company's strategic importance to the Internet and to the economies of entire countries.

As Google grew in size I grew more worried about its "Don't be evil" philosophy.

We have seen many times how the universe loves irony; and how it values thorny opportunities to pop our oversized hubris and sink blowhard ambitions -- the bigger the better.

With a motto like "Don't be evil" there was a nightmare risk that Google would somehow end up being responsible for many imaginable and unimaginable evils.

The hands of fate love such opportunities. Let us not lead them into temptation!

A less evil motto...

I once proposed a replacement motto for Google, with the aim of lowering the risks of attracting disastrous ironic consequences:

"Brush your teeth and get eight hours sleep."


If Google messes up what's the worst that can happen? It's a bit grumpy, falls asleep in meetings, and has to chew some minty gum. No harm done and it is temporary — there's always a new day.

But with “Don’t be Evil" there's no end to the potential horrors from a universe highly motivated by ironic intervention. Google did the right thing to be rid of it.




The Summer Of Love - Photos And Stories - SF Leads In Culture Not Just Tech

2017-01-27T05:43:20Z

 The California Historical Society has opened a Summer of Love photo exhibit and is collecting people’s stories about this very important cultural event. To riff on the famous call to action voiced by Timothy Leary at the Human Be-In "turn on, tune in, drop out", we invite you to "log on, tune in, and join us" in this journey. If you have something to share—your first hand experience of the Summer of Love, an event you are planning, a book or article you are writing, or your memories of the era— or if you are interested in supporting this effort, please contact us. It’s not just in technology that this small little place in the world leads the world. ...  The California Historical Society has opened a Summer of Love photo exhibit and is collecting people’s stories about this very important cultural event. To riff on the famous call to action voiced by Timothy Leary at the Human Be-In "turn on, tune in, drop out", we invite you to "log on, tune in, and join us" in this journey. If you have something to share—your first hand experience of the Summer of Love, an event you are planning, a book or article you are writing, or your memories of the era— or if you are interested in supporting this effort, please contact us. It’s not just in technology that this small little place in the world leads the world.  Here’s more information from Anthea Hartig, Head of the California Historical Society:  "Today, the San Francisco Arts Commission opens the exhibition Jim Marshall's 1967, showing more than 80 stunning images created by the legendary rock 'n' roll photographer Jim Marshall in 1967. The exhibition is now on view, for free, in the ground floor galleries of San Francisco City Hall. It is a must-see for anyone interested in music, the counterculture, and how San Francisco became a magnet for young dreamers across the country and around the world.” "In honor of the opening of this exhibition, the California Historical Society (CHS) is launching a new major public history project focusing on the 50th Anniversary of the Summer of Love. We have created a new public history website featuring historical essays, first-person perspectives, and listings of numerous related events that will take place this year across California. CHS is proud to work in partnership with San Francisco Travel and more than 50 cultural and community organizations in San Francisco and across the state on this effort.” "The Summer of Love was a historical moment that has had a lasting impact on music,art, and popular culture, as well as healthcare, technology, food, and politics. We invite you to join with us this year as we explore the layered and complicated history and legacy of the Summer of Love. Bookmark www.summerof.love and follow us on social media (Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram) for all of the latest news and information about this Anniversary. Our own exhibition, On the Road…” “Yours in understanding that history truly matters,” [...]



The #FakeNews Effect On Commerce And Critical Thinking

2017-01-27T08:01:18Z

The issue of fake news is extremely serious and it requires immediate attention.  Its proliferation will undermine trust in everything. Everything will look fake. Including the truth. Without reliable and trusted information: - Consumers and commercial buyers will delay purchases. - Businesses won’t have good information for investment decisions. - Shareholders won’t have a clear view into investment risks. The rich get richer… The winners will be special self-interest interest groups — a variety of organizations with nefarious agendas. They will do very well in a fake news future and will learn to operate with impunity. Because even if outed — the truth will look fake. And anti-truth technologies will act as a red herring for a lot of... The issue of fake news is extremely serious and it requires immediate attention.  Its proliferation will undermine trust in everything. Everything will look fake. Including the truth. Without reliable and trusted information: - Consumers and commercial buyers will delay purchases. - Businesses won’t have good information for investment decisions. - Shareholders won’t have a clear view into investment risks. The rich get richer… The winners will be special self-interest interest groups — a variety of organizations with nefarious agendas. They will do very well in a fake news future and will learn to operate with impunity. Because even if outed — the truth will look fake. And anti-truth technologies will act as a red herring for a lot of censorship of valid content.  It’s very bad for the economy. Fake news is also bad for your head.  "The point of modern propaganda... is to exhaust your critical thinking" It's a haunting line from a recent Tweet by Garry Kasparov, the former world chess champion and Russian political activist.  "The point of modern propaganda isn't only to misinform or push an agenda. It is to exhaust your critical thinking, to annihilate truth." https://twitter.com/Kasparov63/status/808750564284702720 Exhausting media... The non-stop media channels everywhere you look -- now look back at you. And very soon every display near you will have a message specifically for you. The most advanced technologies of persuasion are coming to a screen near you.Personalized. 24-7. Will your thoughts and opinions truly be your own? Will they be based on truth or biased by others? What's the solution? How do we escape fake news and the exhausting never-ending intrusions of influence? There is a solution that grew out of the 1960s and 1970s when mass media was flexing its muscles and taking a massive cultural toll by trying to exhaust people's critical thinking around civil rights and the Vietnam war: People turned it off, turned away and turned on. The attention became Be. Here. Now. Original ideas and original thoughts require that you take the time to have original experiences — experiences that are unique and unmediated — un-media-ted through the experience of others. And that includes having an original experience of yourself. An uncomfortable zone for many. This is why meditation and mindfulness practices are so important to creating original ideas and thoughts. (And keeping notebooks nearby :) Critical thinking is a limited resource and we could use plenty more of it in every human endeavor. Machines can't do it for us. AI is a list of responses to a list of inputs — it is not a critical thinking machine. We have to do the critical thinking but the machines will be able to help us fight fake information with sourcing, verification and authentication — they are very good at those tasks. And they don't get exhausted. [...]