Iron Man 3 is a Morozovian CGI-infused extravaganza. It extends every negative stereotype of testosterone-crazy technology Armageddon. (There’s really no point to buy Evgeny Morozov’s book – you can experience the dark side “technology solutioning” at the movie theatre.)
High Tech Cult of Personality
Iron Man 3 is a not-too-subtle story of two technology entrepreneurs with large egos. It’s the Silicon Valley ethic of full-speed-ahead destroy your competitor. Of one-upmanship.
And, of the military industrial complex. As Stephen Saideman suggests”the most relevant things for those who study international conflict are the movie’s depictions of drones and of terrorism…having forty or so Iron Man suits flying about controlled by some intelligent software is exactly what folks fear about the future.”
Lesson Learned: Competition can spurn innovation. But ego-based competition is not an effective driver for technology that can change the world for the better.
Lean should be used for Prototypes, not Products
Eric Ries in the Lean Startup recommends that companies should create “Minimum Viable Products” that tests the market. Otherwise, companies use good practices to create quality products that have no applicability in the market. Iron Man 3 would have been a much shorter movie if either protagonist had product with no bugs.
What “suspense” there was came through unintended consequences of technology glitches. And, from using the most recent “beat” model rather than something with fewer features that seems to work.
Lesson Learned: Technology companies should not force customers to upgrade to products that aren’t ready. .
Oracle sponsorship message?
Oracle Corporation has been an active sponsor of the Iron Man franchise. We see the use of “Oracle Cloud” in a hologram. (It’s not clear whether it’s public, private or hybrid cloud.) Later, there’s an Oracle/Sun Exadata rack in a TV van. It’s not clear what it’s doing there given that laptops can handle non-linear editing. That’s over a million dollars in a TV van.
I’m not sure what thought processes are operating at Oracle marketing. To believe that association with such a dark technology picture is a good idea. To introduce product placement where it makes no sense. (At least the Verizon and ABB product placement made some sense.) To use a consumer medium to advertise an enterprise product.
Lesson Learned: Technology companies need to be more circumspect in associations in the era of social media .
FreeBalance recruiting for information technology and accounting specialists
We have a commitment to building local IT and Public Financial Management (PFM) capacity in our customer countries. These are excellent entry-level opportunities for ambitious graduates. And, it helps the Government of Suriname to improve governance. I’ve seen many of our interns and customer support hires progress quickly within the company. Talent is recognized with advancement opportunities in a growing global micro-multinational social enterprise. If you speak Dutch and English, please consider these s global job opportunites for you to consider.
There’s an amusing Adobe advertisement about the ROI of social media. The irony that the advertisement is injected into on-line entertainment through interruption seems lost to the marketers at Adobe. Social media is an always-on and non-linear experience. It’s profoundly digital. Advertising is industrial, electronic, linear and interruptive.
Social is a network
It is true that digital tools enables tracking on-line behaviour. People do not spend all of their time on-line.
Yes, you can inject an advertisement into social media. You can track clicks and buys. But, you can’t “traceroute” the always-on network across time and platforms to find how social media may have positively or negatively influenced a complex buying decision such as Government Resource Planning (GRP).
And, buyers are no longer investigating solutions and making decisions based on linear processes – expect simple consumer decisions. Social has significant influence on consumers and companies have limited ability to control brands.
Social is what social does
Social is not yet another broadcast medium. Social is a business model. Companies who understand social recognize that authenticity is necessary in off-line and on-line. We sponsored a Public Financial Management (PFM) event a few years ago. A major ERP vendor was our neighbour in the trade show area. It is unusual for major ERP vendors to attend these events. When they do, it is even more unusual to see the vendor staff at conference sessions. I asked one of reps who pointed out that they only attend conferences with a “clear ROI.”
The irony, today, is that this very same vendor promotes a software application that purports to help companies become more “social”. Yet, there is no interest in engaging the PFM community in discussion. They’d rather create roadshows and sponsor yacht races.
Social is operating within the network
ROI assumes cause and effect. It’s a crude instrument in the digital era. Digital has brought the shift of power from companies to buyers. From governments to citizens. Social organizations operate within the network. We engage the network across the entire spectrum of what we do. It’s not about “sales” or “customer service”. It’s about everything. Business development, product innovation, methodology, sales, influence.
Organizations that broadcast into social media operate out of the network. Organizations that operate within the network develop credibility and authenticity. I follow our ERP competitors on Twitter. The vast majority of tweets are about the ERP vendor. It’s PR at 140 characters. The vast majority of tweets that we do are about the domain: technology, public finances, aid, governance.
While the social media charlatans try to measure the sales and customer service ROI, we find significant value in learning market trends. In improving products to better serve customers. To predict future needs. To interact with leading lights.
Make no mistake, PR is an industrial process. Press releases go through editing processes to ensure brand consistency based on the organizational myth. Tag lines and “about us” have been approved by committees. It lacks authenticity. People can tell the difference.
Content marketing is the new “horseless carriage”
The notion of “content marketing” where companies provide some content of value is a new market trend. Customer-centric companies have been developing useful white papers and case studies for years. These companies understand that they must provide compelling value and demonstrate that value.
Current ROI processes are the equivalent of evaluating automobiles in terms of carriages. Television in terms of radio. Blogs in terms of print newspapers.
Towards a better ROI
ROI needs to mature from linear to network analysis. And, ROI should not be leveraged as the mechanism organizations use to not adopt digital technology. We need to move the conversation away from metaphors like the “digital assembly line” to network concepts. This includes analyzing long-term results from in-network and out-of-network vendors across sales, profitability and customer satisfaction dimensions.
Many of us are grappling with the effects of social media on governance and society. Some would like to think that technology does not make any fundamental change in human society. We are in a transitional phase where social media and mobility is empowering people to engage from LOL cats to the Arab Spring while also acting as an “echo chamber” for traditional media. We know that we are in a new phase because the new media is described as a modification of the current. Like “horseless carriages” or “moving pictures.” We see this in “data journalism.” And, we try to define concepts in wake of digital disruption. For example: is blogging journalism?
While we wonder whether blogging is journalism, we are rapidly finding that journalism is ceasing to be journalism. It’s the effect of the new medium.
It’s at these unfortunate times when we can observe this clash of the media titans. And, it’s no longer one cable news channel vs. another. Or, television vs newspapers. It’s social media contrasted with traditional media. I observed this disruption in the aftermath of the bombing at the Boston Marathon.
There are some lessons emerging that extend beyond media companies to enterprises and government:
Consumers are no longer passive consumers, they have become active content providers
Power is shifting from institutions and enterprises (whether governments, media outlets or large companies) to customers and citizens
Information and insight has become non-linear
Pattern recognition is replacing narrative where visualization, engagement, big data analytics are becoming critical
Many will continue to reject the latest medium as unworthy, vulgar or amateur – but this won’t change anything
The role of traditional media, governments, organizations and companies is changing
April 1 is for pranks. The best ‘April Fools’ pranks are those that satirize. The tech industry takes itself too seriously. Here’s a compilation of some of the best enterprise software April Fools tweets and blog entries from 2013.
E-books as the vulgar fast-food of literature: wasted calories and low brain power
E-books as poor substitutes for the real thing: the visceral beauty and tactile feel
E-books, as part of a culture of turning humans into cyborgs
Not to mention the backlash against bloggers, the lament for “real journalism” and the dangers of technology determinism.
What is missing in this debate about the value of e-books? The defenders of the traditional “printed book” fail to realize that the printed book is technology. Mechanical and industrial age technology. The printing press also generated a technology backlash. And, a printing press bubble because most literate persons preferred the higher quality hand-produced book.
The introduction of ‘book technology’ may not have had the humorous impact described below.
Not to mention that the phonetic alphabet is technology as well.
Marshall McLuhan explained the impact of the printing press decades ago. He described why the role of the book has changed. In the following embedded video, look to
0:59: notions of “right and wrong” belonging to the literary man
2:48: books do not allow us to be “with it”
5:01: books are a “teaching machine”
5:45: books as linear, part of the assembly line
McLuhan also found this notion of technology turning us into robots as a “simple minded idea” as presented in another video at 3:01 that isn’t embeddable. McLuhan at 5:13 also points out that the book has ceased to be a package.
Is the gradual replacement of printed books with e-books a bad thing?
Have e-books killed the printed book star?
All vested interests object to technology change that upsets the status quo. Socrates was against the written word. I’m not suggesting that those against the e-book are rent-seekers trying to preserve the past. (Some in the traditional publishing business are rent-seeking). My sense is that many of those who decry these technology changes believe that technology such as e-book readers have less value. I believe that this is an elitist view
McLuhan addressed this notion of “value” of a new medium in a famous discussion with Norman Mailer in the video embedded below.
4:43: that books heralded in the fragmentation and specialization of the industrial age
6:45: most people live in a nostalgic rear-view mirror view of society
16:40: despite Mailer’s objection, McLuhan points out that we cannot pass a value judgement on this move to the electronic age
The printed book medium has not been a universally positive influence. Nationalism has seen the rise of conflict. Some, like John Ralston Saul , have shown that rationalism and the “dictatorship of reason” may not have been a good thing either.We have to recognize that we need to compare the benefits of technology, not assume that the incumbent technology has little or no negative consequences.
From mechanical to digital
Printed books waste resources and contribute to climate change. Trees are harvested to create paper. (As many Canadian know: we might have a lot of trees but pulp mills are not pleasant things). Books are transported. Fill warehouses, stores, libraries and homes (that require heating and cooling). Books that do not sell well get sold at lower prices – or get disposed into land fill.
Traditional printed books are not sustainable as teaching machines. These books cannot be easily transported to developing countries to build human capacity. We often talk about the “digital divide” as an inhibitor of development. Smartphones, tablets and e-book readers provide more knowledge than a truckload of books because they can contain truckloads of books. And, there has been innovation to increase storage, improve interactivity, extend battery power and provide solar energy.
And costs are dropping to make the technology more accessible.
Printed books operate in a linear fashion. Digital is non-linear. Narrative is being replaced by pattern recognition. This is enabled through digital technologies such as ebooks, social media, video on demand and apps. This doesn’t necessarily mean that digital eliminates critical thought. (Many critics who believe that Google is killing our capacity to think or our memory are using criteria from the industrial age. Trends like big data, visualization, data science and data journalism are providing the non-linear pattern recognition that we need in the post-industrial world.
We also need to recognize that our personal content delivery preferences are personal preferences
It is fascinating to me that so many younger people hold on to obsolete technology: books, records, fax machines. I remember those days well. The transition from records to CDs to MP3s. The transition from telex to fax to e-mail to social media. And, the value that these technologies provided. But, I was much older then and I’m much younger now.
Yes, McLuhan was right: those people who decry technology advancements that democratize knowledge are simply not with it
Google has announced the death of the RSS reading Google Reader product. Apparently, this is part of “spring cleaning” to eliminate products whose usage has declined. Yet, Google persists in supporting Google+, a social network that has far less traffic than Google Reader.
Yet another social media fail?
The Google business model is predicated on collecting personal browsing information to sell advertising. Google Reader provides this opportunity because it’s attached to your e-mail account. However, this pales in comparison to the depth of personal information and predictive capabilities in social networks like Facebook. Hence: Google+. Google seems to be hoping that sufficient numbers of users will move from Reader to ‘+’.
Good luck on that.
Social is what social does
There is a serious challenge facing companies that have adapted a monetization method from the previous medium such as advertising. Advertising is a broadcast method. Advertisers operate outside of the network and inject offers.
Social networking is a different environment. There are short-term gains to advertising on social networking because everyone is familiar with older models. But, brand transformation comes from engaging people throughout product and service lifecycles.
Google makes corporate decisions regardless of the impact to users. They kill products. They adapt products in ways that defy user requests. And, they provide most products in a ‘beta’ mode. An ecosystem develops whether these products generate revenue for Google or not.
If Google was a “social” business, they would engage users on the question of Reader usage. They would discover the underlying problems that customers are solving. They would learn what the most appropriate next step might be. Users would feel engaged and pre-disposed to moving to Google+ and other Google products.
But of course, in the Google method of product management, users are simply not qualified to engage.
Leaving, somewhere in the neighbourhood of 10 to 25 million Google Reader users pre-disposed to using anything but Google products.
Here’s storify via the Globe and Mail on the controversy.
The problem isn’t that some videos get more play than seems worthy. Taste is in the eye of the beholder. There’s no question that Gangnam Style is well produced, funny and has a serious underlying message.
In homage to “Number 6”, here are six themes of modern technology resulting in 3 effects described in the programs:
Internet cookies and (1) Identity and (2) Role
All residents of “the village”, whether prisoners or not, wear a “penny farthing page” with their number. Their activities are tracked much like a cookie on a web site. Residents, like users for popular web sites, are assigned a number. Residents become their number. “Number 2” is the titular head of the village (while Number 6 tries to discover who Number 1 is). The person assigned to Number 2 changes from episode to episode akin to multiple people using the same log-in and computer, and hence, the same cookie.
The identity is all about “role”. Something McLuhan predicted: the transition from jobs to roles for electronic man. Our roles change faster than in the 1960s – and without the benefit of badges to tell us what role we should be playing.
Identity is always accompanied by violence, according to McLuhan. The number assigned to residents in The Prisoner defined the conflict in the narrative – from Number 2 (every Number 2) laughing evilly to Number 6’s wanting to be free. Identify violence has metastasized to social media flaming. This makes for good drama.
(3) The Privacy vs. (4) Security Calculus
Video surveillance is rampant in “the village.” Number 6 often asks for privacy. Other residents appear to revel in the security provided by this surveillance. Many viewers may wonder why prisoners rebelled in what seemed to be a wonderful seaside retirement home (in Pormeirion Wales).
(5) Humans vs. (6) Machine Conflict and predictive analytics
The advent of mainframe computers generated the popular cultural stereotype: the all-seeing, all knowing machine. The 1957 comedy Desk Set best presented this notion of man vs. the machine. (In this case, Katherine Hepburn vs. Spencer Tracy’s machine). This conflict is presented as predictive analytics are used to determine residents’ behaviour. After all, they have resident badges and track movement. They’ve collected more elements of behaviour than the last Obama campaign.
Of course, they couldn’t process all those data points in 1967 – but we can now on the Amazon cloud. (The computer, in pre-Deep Blue days, predicted the outcome of chess matches.)
Much like today, the village computer was not able to 100% predict resident behaviour. Number 6 understood that he was being analyzed, so he became unpredictable. The village computer seemed to have more trouble with the impact of social relationships in the same way that collaborative filtering can generate some very odd recommendations because the algorithm doesn’t understand the context.
The other machine problem is that the authorities were operating out of network – in the broadcast mode. They watched and they made announcements. They sent spies. But, they did not interact as peers with the residents. This is another problem experienced by governments and large business in the Internet age: you can’t always control the flow of information.