Revisiting The X-Files twenty years later

I discovered The X-Files at college. I had just purchased a Casio TV with a screen the size of a postage stamp from a pawn shop in Huddersfield. I bought a power block from Argos to save on batteries. The internet was only available for me during college time, so destination TV was a thing. I would tune in without-fail to watch the show.
I want to believe
The X-Files was of a time and a place. The Berlin Wall had some down and the military industrial complex still existed. It existed without a wider purpose. The Thatcher years seemed totalitarian at the time in the way that Teresa May does now. Area 51  was the home of stealth planes. Nuclear annihilation was as much a part of society as terrorism is now.

The six episode relaunch caused me to revisit the show. It was interesting to see who it felt current and still had changed. Mulder and Scully used mobile phones, email, the internet and databases. From a technical point-of-view it feels current. Japanese technological skill now feels like a hangover form the 1980s. The use of optical media feels equally dated. The authors understanding of technology and the online world is more muddied. Series 7 episode First Person Shooter muddles online computer gaming, virtual and reality.

The storytelling definitely hit a low in series 6. Series 7 saw some interesting series mash-ups and changes:

  • Lance Henriksen from Chris Carter show Millennium appears in one episode as a plot crossover
  • There is a special episode of COPS (X-Cops) where the show format changes to ‘reality TV’
  • The Smoking Man becomes a trickster character like Loki than the sinister hand of the military industrial complex

The Lone Gunmen seem quite niave and childish in their quest for the truth. A failed effort to crack a Las Vegas convention where banal details of black ops discussed over poker. It would be interesting to see what they look like in a post-Snowden world.

Series 8 seems to be a self conscious effort to re-inject tension into the franchise. Robert Patrick joins as a by-the-book FBI agent dealing with shape-shifting bounty  hunter aliens. This is an interesting juxtaposition as he was previously best known for his role as the liquid metal policeman T-1000 from Terminator 2: Judgement Day. It was Mulder’s turn to get abducted by aliens.

Series 9 loses something in the awkward working threesome of Scully, Reyes and Doggett. There is something fitting about the final episode which features black helicopters and the smoking man.

The Truth Is Out There was the oft-repeated mission statement in the show. Now it really is out in public and profoundly depressing. Despite this, I found re-watching the first five series of The X-Files very rewarding.

Links of the day | 在网上找到

Amazon bookstores: It’s the drones, stupid – I, Cringely – the big problem I see is the last 100 yards

Jan Koum – one billion users. couldn’t be more proud of our small… – interesting things about the Whatsapp numbers is the low average number of messages sent per day, per user less than 1.5 messages per day.

Grumpy Old Man Hates Massaging Sexy Models – YouTube – it’s recruitment ads mixed with old school Lynx adverts

Brad Garlinghouse’s Peanut Butter Manifesto and associated materials about Yahoo! circa 2006 – great materials (PDF)

Deal Shows Investors Are Willing to Make a Blind Bet on Uber – The New York Times – how can they do due diligence?

Why the death of the Firefox phone matters – CNET – less likely web-based functionality, also Android | iOS oligarchy

This Robot Changes How It Looks at You to Match Your Personality – IEEE Spectrum – fighting uncanny valley

Google confirms Hangouts will now use peer-to-peer connections to improve call quality and speed | VentureBeat – Skype had only been doing this since the early noughties…

A Day in the Life of a Media Consumer – Yahoo Advertising – really nice consumer insights here

Help Make “The Essential Guide to Electronics in Shenzhen” a Reality « bunnie’s blog – I love the way this is so gloriously analogue

The Apple Watch got me hooked on mechanical watches – – which goes to show that marketing them as a watch doesn’t make sense

The Nashville insurgency | Macleans – amazing story of how country music has been swallowed up by a Stock Aitken and Waterman hit factory-type formula

The Beginning Of The End For GoPros At Music Festivals – Magnetic Magazine – Periscope and music festivals don’t mix

This tiny Japanese bookstore only stocks one title at a time – Quartz – interesting anecdote to the ‘tyranny of choice’, I wonder if the customers actually read the book?

What does success look like? (For PR campaigns)

In public relations circles measurement is as much a discussion point as the weather. The industry has attempted to deal with it. In this approach they generally have a goal to reach a singular solution. Rather like ‘how to write a press release’.

But in reality all measurement revolves around one question. What does success look like? It could also framed as:

  • What is the job required?
  • What is the problem to solve?

Measurement then breaks down into four categories:

    • Outputs (how much activity has happened)
      • Amount of content
      • Paid, earned and shared distribution / reach including serendipitous engagement
      • Events / stunts
    • Outcomes
      • Views / opportunities to see / audience
      • Attendance
      • Followers
      • Propagation (shares, mentions, backlinks etc). One could also consider mentions or shares serendipitous engagement alongside comments or retweets
      • Competitor or category benchmarking (share of voice)
    • Trend-focused outcomes, where the rate of change is as important as absolute values
      • Sentiment – though measuring sentiment is time for an article in itself
      • Pre-and-post or regular stakeholder research (brand perception, talkability, recall, message penetration)
      • Referral traffic (normalised for seasonality and ongoing activity)
      • Awards, reviews or recommendations
      • Stakeholder behavourial changes
      • Platform behaviour change (basket size, conversion rates, downloads, sign-ups)
    • Organisational success measures
      • Sales increase
      • Reduction in time to sale
      • Behavioural change (particular for non-commercial organisations)
      • Reputation improvement (share price increase, stakeholder net promoter score improvement, increased influence)
      • Talent acqusition (increased applications per job, increased proactive applications, reduced staff churn)
      • Financial security (funding round, share placement, share price, bond placement)


The problem of measurement from a PR perspective breaks down into a number of parts:

  • The activity didn’t have a clear link to organisational success
  • The basket of measures wasn’t considered in-depth at the beginning
  • The goals change over time, or are post rationalised
  • The resources aren’t dedicated on measurement that need to be done
  • Some measures derived can’t be separated from other work done except through the use of econometrics
  • The measures used lend themselves to long term campaigns, yet are measured on a short term basis
  • The span of responsibility that the activity has to deliver isn’t matched by access to the internal data required to measure success

20th anniversary: A Declaration of the Independence of Cyberspace

Back on February 9, 1996, John Perry Barlow wrote his declaration of of the independence of cyberspace. The declaration pointed out the folly of trying to govern something thought to be virtually ungovernable at the time.
Cyberspace and is smart fusion really smart ?
Barlow first came to prominence writing lyrics for The Grateful Dead. His ethos came from the libertarian do your own thing ethic that underpinned much of the hippy movement. This probably come more naturally to Barlow than other people having grown up on a cattle ranch and being the son of the Republican politician.

By the time he wrote the declaration, he was already had published extensively about the internet. He was on the board of directors of The WELL – an online community that sprang out of Stewart Brand’s back to the land influence catalogue of useful things The Whole Earth Catalog (The WELL stands for The Whole Earth eLectronic Link). He contributed to Wired magazine (founded by aging hippies Kevin Kelly and Stewart Brand), Barlow’s essay Economy of Ideas published in the March 1994 issue provides a clear view of the thinking that prompted him to write the declaration. He had already founded The Electronic Frontier Foundation with by John Gilmore and Mitch Kapor in response to a series of actions by law enforcement agencies that led them to conclude that the authorities were gravely uninformed about emerging forms of online communication.

The declaration was a reactionary document, brought upon by the 1996 Telecommunications Act in the US. The act eventually resulted in consolidation of US media ownership.

I suspect the similarities in style between the declaration and the Doc Searl’s et al later Cluetrain Manifesto are an intentional nod to Barlow on cyberspace.

A Declaration of the Independence of Cyberspace

by John Perry Barlow <>

Governments of the Industrial World, you weary giants of flesh and steel, I come from Cyberspace, the new home of Mind. On behalf of the future, I ask you of the past to leave us alone. You are not welcome among us. You have no sovereignty where we gather.

We have no elected government, nor are we likely to have one, so I address you with no greater authority than that with which liberty itself always speaks. I declare the global social space we are building to be naturally independent of the tyrannies you seek to impose on us. You have no moral right to rule us nor do you possess any methods of enforcement we have true reason to fear.

Governments derive their just powers from the consent of the governed. You have neither solicited nor received ours. We did not invite you. You do not know us, nor do you know our world. Cyberspace does not lie within your borders. Do not think that you can build it, as though it were a public construction project. You cannot. It is an act of nature and it grows itself through our collective actions.

You have not engaged in our great and gathering conversation, nor did you create the wealth of our marketplaces. You do not know our culture, our ethics, or the unwritten codes that already provide our society more order than could be obtained by any of your impositions.

You claim there are problems among us that you need to solve. You use this claim as an excuse to invade our precincts. Many of these problems don’t exist. Where there are real conflicts, where there are wrongs, we will identify them and address them by our means. We are forming our own Social Contract . This governance will arise according to the conditions of our world, not yours. Our world is different.

Cyberspace consists of transactions, relationships, and thought itself, arrayed like a standing wave in the web of our communications. Ours is a world that is both everywhere and nowhere, but it is not where bodies live.

We are creating a world that all may enter without privilege or prejudice accorded by race, economic power, military force, or station of birth.

We are creating a world where anyone, anywhere may express his or her beliefs, no matter how singular, without fear of being coerced into silence or conformity.

Your legal concepts of property, expression, identity, movement, and context do not apply to us. They are all based on matter, and there is no matter here.

Our identities have no bodies, so, unlike you, we cannot obtain order by physical coercion. We believe that from ethics, enlightened self-interest, and the commonweal, our governance will emerge . Our identities may be distributed across many of your jurisdictions. The only law that all our constituent cultures would generally recognize is the Golden Rule. We hope we will be able to build our particular solutions on that basis. But we cannot accept the solutions you are attempting to impose.

In the United States, you have today created a law, the Telecommunications Reform Act, which repudiates your own Constitution and insults the dreams of Jefferson, Washington, Mill, Madison, DeToqueville, and Brandeis. These dreams must now be born anew in us.

You are terrified of your own children, since they are natives in a world where you will always be immigrants. Because you fear them, you entrust your bureaucracies with the parental responsibilities you are too cowardly to confront yourselves. In our world, all the sentiments and expressions of humanity, from the debasing to the angelic, are parts of a seamless whole, the global conversation of bits. We cannot separate the air that chokes from the air upon which wings beat.

In China, Germany, France, Russia, Singapore, Italy and the United States, you are trying to ward off the virus of liberty by erecting guard posts at the frontiers of Cyberspace. These may keep out the contagion for a small time, but they will not work in a world that will soon be blanketed in bit-bearing media.

Your increasingly obsolete information industries would perpetuate themselves by proposing laws, in America and elsewhere, that claim to own speech itself throughout the world. These laws would declare ideas to be another industrial product, no more noble than pig iron. In our world, whatever the human mind may create can be reproduced and distributed infinitely at no cost. The global conveyance of thought no longer requires your factories to accomplish.

These increasingly hostile and colonial measures place us in the same position as those previous lovers of freedom and self-determination who had to reject the authorities of distant, uninformed powers. We must declare our virtual selves immune to your sovereignty, even as we continue to consent to your rule over our bodies. We will spread ourselves across the Planet so that no one can arrest our thoughts.

We will create a civilization of the Mind in Cyberspace. May it be more humane and fair than the world your governments have made before.

Davos, Switzerland

February 8, 1996

So two decades later, how does Barlow’s declaration stand in comparison that what’s actually happened? At first blush not very well. The digital economy outside China is dominated by an oligarchy of four main players: Amazon, Apple, Facebook and Google.

Scott Galloway’s presentation at DLD conference this year, highlights the winner take all nature of the online world. This is partially down to the nature of the online platform. Amazon grew to critical mass in the US as for a critical amount of time buyers didn’t need to pay state sales tax until state legislation started to catch up.

Zuckerberg and his peers marked a changing of the guard in Silicon Valley as yuppies took over from the the hippies.

Inside China there is a similar state-directed oligarchy of Alibaba, Tencent, Netease and Sina.

The oligarchy impact has been most pronounced in Europe, where consumer demand and a lack of effective competition saw Google go to 90+ percent in market share across the EU, when the US market share was less than 70 percent at the time.

Futurist and science fiction author Bruce Sterling summed it up rather well:

“Globalization” is over for 2016. We have entered an era of Internet Counter-Revolution. The events of 1989 feel almost as distant as those of 1789. The globalizing, flat-world, small-pieces-loosely-joined Internet is behind us, it’s history. The elite geek Internet could not resist those repeated tsunamis of incoming users.

It turned out that normal people like the “social” in social media a lot better than they ever liked the raw potential of media technology. In Russia and China in 2016, digital media is an arm of the state. Internet has zero revolutionary potential within those societies, but all kinds of potential for exported cyberwar. The Chinese police spy and firewall model, much scoffed at in the 1990s, is now the dominant paradigm. The Chinese have prospered with their authoritarian approach, while those who bought into borderless friction-free data have been immiserated by the ultra-rich.

In the USA it’s an older American story: the apparent freedom of Henry Ford’s personal flivver has briskly yielded to the new Detroit Big Five of Google, Apple, Facebook, Amazon, and, in last place, Microsoft.

In 2016, everything that looks like digital innovation, “big data,” “the cloud,” the “Internet of Things,” are actually promotional slogans that play into the hands of the GAFAM “Big Five.” Anybody who lacks broadband and a mobile OS is in deadly peril, especially the digital old-school likes of IBM, Cisco, Hewlett-Packard, Oracle… and the hapless TV networks, whose median viewer age is now in the 60s.

The GAFAM Big Five, the “Stacks,” will turn their wrath on the victims closest to them, well before they complete their lunge for control of cars and thermostats. However, their destiny is obvious. The rebels of the 1990s are America’s new mega-conglomerates. Google is “Alphabet,” Apple pruned the “computer” from its name, Amazon is the Washington Post. In 2016, that’s how it is, and in 2017, 189, 19, much more so.

So the not-evil guys are the new evil guys, but don’t be scared by this. It’s quite like watching the 1960s Space Age crumble from giant-leaps-for-mankind to launching low-orbit gizmos for profit. It’s comprehensible, it can be dealt with. Sure, it’s tragic if your head was in the noosphere, but if you have any historical awareness of previous industrial revolutions, this is really easy to understand. It’s already in your pocket and purse, it’s written on every screen you look at It could scarcely be more obvious.

Yes, Internet Counterrevolution is coming, much of it is here already, and it’s properly considered a big deal, but it’s not permanent. This too shall pass.

And this post hasn’t even touched on how government has looked to plug itself into all facets of online life in the interest of discovering terrorist plots, organised crime or paedophile rings. Assaults on cyberspace sovereignty are numerous, from Pakistan’s special editable version of YouTube to several governments looking for cryptographic backdoors.

At DLD 2016, you have a German politician talking about the mechanism of how the government needed to rollback citizen rights to privacy to give German start-ups a chance. In this winner takes all world, the beneficiaries are likely to be Google, Facebook Amazon and Microsoft rather than a local champion.

I started on this post in mid-January and scheduled it to go out on February 8, 2016. danah boyd also published on the declaration of Cyberspace and I recommend you go and check out here.

More information
Economy of Ideas | Wired 
The Cluetrain Manifesto
A Declaration of the Independence of Cyberspace | EFF
Bruce Sterling & Jon Lebkowsky: State of the World 2016 | The WELL
Pakistan lifts ban on YouTube after launch of own version | The Daily Star
John Perry Barlow 2.0 | Reason

The billion-strong services

There was two announcements of services that had passed the billion user mark.  There was a comparison between Gmail’s slow and steady approach versus Whatsapp’s swift rise.
messaging services

Gmail was born as a desktop service first. It started just as web 2.0 was starting to take off. The service was invitation only for almost three years, before becoming generally available.  At the time its 1GB of storage for free was revolutionary. A year later they increased the storage to 2GB. By comparison I was paying £60 a year for an IMAP mail account that was separate to my ISP. Hotmail would give you just 4MB of storage in your email.

Gmail set the standard for our expectations of email. Now email accounts will accept 25MB attachments – a standard set by Gmail. My corporate email account has a 1GB capacity copying Gmail at launch.

Yahoo! had to compete and responded with ‘unlimited storage’ after Gmail became generally available. By this time Gmail storage had grown to 2.8GB and gave 2GB. In the space of under three years Gmail had grown to 51 million users.

This was still an era when smartphones weren’t ubiquitous in the same way that they are now. I was fortunate to have mobile email access on my Nokia and Palm smartphones around this time. BlackBerry devices were a business tool, as was Windows Mobile. Data was more expensive and slower than it is now. Although Yahoo! Messenger was available on my phone it was slow. Skype worked best as an indicator of presence on mobile devices.

Smartphone ubiquity through Android and iOS was an enabler for email adoption. But Gmail didn’t receive the same boost from it that Whatsapp did.

If you didn’t have a Gmail account you could still send and receive emails to Gmail account holders. Early adopters of smartphones are likely to have already had an email account. So they would increase user engagement through accessiblity. But they would not drive a similar growth in new accounts.

Whatsapp benefited from being a closed service – you can’t message a WeChat account. Also it rode smartphones as an accelerator, it didn’t have a legacy desktop user base.

Another factor is that its competitors managed to monetise their services earlier. This was at the expense of international adoption. An extreme example of this is Korea’s KakaoTalk.

KakaoTalk has built an absolute ubiquity in South Korea. It has continued to growth beyond 90 per cent of Korean mobile users. Profitability has increased, new services launched; whilst global user numbers declined.

WhatsApp has grown fastest in markets that are hard to monetise. It is big in Latin America, Africa and South Asia. It is only starting to build in features for brands.

Not all users are equal, many present little business opportunity. The billion user mark is an interesting measure, but requires further interrogation.

More information
Yahoo Mail Announces Unlimited Storage
A Comparison of Live Hotmail, Gmail and Yahoo Mail | Techcrunch
Email and webmail statistics | Email Marketing Reports
Gmail Now With 1 Billion Monthly Active Users, Reports Google Chief Sundar Pichai – Tech Times
WhatsApp has a billion users, and it got there way quicker than Gmail did
You May Not Use WhatsApp, But the Rest of the World Sure Does | Wired
Tencent Service Offerings (Q3, 2015) – PDF
duamkakao 1st Quarter 2015 results – PDF
duamkakao 2nd Quarter 2015 results – PDF
Yahoo to partner with Yelp on local searches – Digit
A Brief History of Email – Google Answers
Gmail Now Has 900M Active Users, 75% On Mobile | Techcrunch

Links of the day | 在网上找到

JWT makes a move into wearable tech | Marketing Interactive – ethical minefield – marketers with access to biometric data

Yahoo just admitted it badly overpaid for Tumblr – Quartz – Tumblr needed an incentive to sell to Yahoo!

Twitter API data show the number of tweets is in serious decline – Business Insider – as others have pointed out to me where the Twitter media relations team and why aren’t they responding

At Berkeley, a New Digital Privacy Protest – The New York Times – interesting given Berkeley’s historic place in rights activism (paywall)

Gmail now has more than 1 billion active users | VentureBeat – which puts WhatsApp in perspective

Former Top Executive of Chinese Online Video Giant Youku Tudou Detained on Corruption Charges – Hollywood Reporter

Microsoft Plumbs Ocean’s Depths to Test Underwater Data Center

Lists are the new search — Benedict Evans – the irony of all this for me is especially striking, it is essentially a justification of Yahoo!’s knowledge search approach from a decade ago

Five for Friday | 五日(星期五)

Things that made my day this week:

Simon Kemp‘s decks of digital statistics keep getting better and better each year.

Beautiful monochrome video for Thug Entrancer. The track is called Ronin

Amerigo Gazaway on Soul Mates Records blended up this sublime mash-up of hip-hop and Marvin Gaye. Do your ears a favour and download this

The rebrand of Dragonair to Cathay Dragon (zipped press pack) was fiercely debated by my Facebook connections. Not sure how I feel about it.

The first mention of house music on television in Chicago, the contrast between the way it was received at home and in the UK is apparent from this news report