Internet of Things or Internet of Sh___?

Wearables as a category has not met the (perhaps unfair) expectations of the technology sector. Smart home products have had issues and consumers have rightly been concerned about the implications of ‘cloud with everything’. Here is what some of Silicon Valley think

Links of the day | 在网上找到

IDM model no longer viable for Japan semiconductor industry: Q&A with Socionext CEO Yasuo Nishiguchi – fascinating read

Sky Garden (Stoned Moon) | Robert Rauschenberg Foundation – my favourite work from Rauschenberg’s commission in 1969 by the NASA Art Programme Spark – Amazon creates a social network to showcase its products

Moscow spooks return to Hungary, raising NATO hackles – POLITICO  – “Back in 2014-2015 [the Russians] went from maybe 50-100 intelligence officers up to 300 plus” in Hungary, said the former embassy official.

“Generally we expect they are openly capturing telecoms, running HUMINT [human intelligence] sources all over Europe, planning and staging all kinds of cyber sabotage, linking up with organized crime and supporting folks in parties like [the far-right] Jobbik with fat sacks of cash and maybe even some intel-sourced dirt,”

Yandex open-sources CatBoost, a machine learning library that can be trained with minimal data– interesting rival to TensorFlow et al

How’s an investor in The Peninsula’s holding company linked to Xi Jinping’s right-hand man? | South China Morning Post (dead link) – this won’t play well in Beijing. It makes the princeling’s wealth look excessive, the article was taken down 24 hours later

China Merchants Bank has got out-of-home adverts in high footfall parts of central London aimed at Chinese consumers shopping in the UK point out a promotion on their Visa credit card.

Those are extremely aggressive promotional offers, 5% back on what they spend. 3,000 yuan (£340) worth of rewards for spending abroad and $5 cash back if they spend $50 via Visa PayWave (contactless payment). The mind only boggles at how much customer acquisition and retention costs are for Chinese high net worth credit card users.


Five for Friday | 五日(星期五)

Things that made my day this week:

A new Blade Runner 2049 trailer, the suspense is killing me

McDonald’s seems to be going hard on supporting national service in different countries. Here is the Singapore treatment for the ‘Nasi Lemak’ burger. There is also a coconut pie (a bit like the fried apple pie), Cendol McFlurry (presumably containing green rice flour jelly and coconut ice cream) and a Bandung McFizz (rose syrup flavouring). It would be hard to get more Singaporean.

In Korea, they are giving free meals to conscripts whose parents can’t visit them and providing a special menu in the Seoul Station branch so that parents travelling to see their sons in the early hours of the morning by train could have something more substantial than the breakfast menu.

In both cases, it’s a canny move to catch families at a crucial life stage.

Great radio adaption of Lem Deighton’s Ipcress Files – slightly different to the Michael Caine film version you may have seen which deviates from the book (I am guessing due to budget considerations)

Why do graffiti writers get sent to prison for so long? | Dazed – On the same day that known graffiti writer Vamp was sentenced to 3 years for vandalism, a BBC presenter, Stuart Hall, was given 15 months for the sexual assault of 13 young girls over 20 years, between the ages of 9 and 17 – hard questions indeed.

Chinese digger company LOVOL had mandarin pop act Chopstick Brothers, dance troop and a wheeled loader dance along to their hit ‘My little Apple’ at a trade show (i’m guessing in China).

Living with the Apple Watch

I got the first iteration of the Apple Watch and managed to put up with it for about 48 hours before giving up on it. I have managed to persevere with the the Apple Watch 2.

Apple managed to speed up the performance of glanceable content, but it still doesn’t have the use case nailed. Watch 2 tries to go hard into fitness, which is a mixed bag in terms of data and accuracy. I am not convinced that it is any better than Fitbit and similar devices.

They did improve the product in two design areas. The Nike straps make the watch less sweaty to wear on your wrist. It is now comparable to wearing a G-Shock. They also managed to life-proof the Watch. You can now wear it swimming (but I wouldn’t advise snorkelling or scuba diving) and in the shower.  The battery life is still meh.

I upgraded the OS to watchOS 4 public beta but haven’t managed to use the Siri powered contextual face yet. As a concept it promises to be a step in the right direction to provide the kind of transformation wearables needed.

watchOS 4 made me realise something that had been nagging me for a while.

The Apple Watch doesn’t have any personality, or at least traits of a personality that I’d care about. It’s a detail that disappoints me. Mostly it’s invisible as a device, with the occasional glances. It gives me the occasional messages that sound like a vaguely resistant teen or like bursts of micro-aggression.


It wouldn’t take that much effort to have a bit more manners or personality in the copywriting. How about some icons?

Susan Kare was the icon designer for original Apple Mac, back in 1984. She came up with icons that were useful and gave the machine a personality. You got a sense of the personality behind the developers who created the machine. This was the kind of detail that Apple was known to obsess over.


Some of the icons like the dogcow, the bomb and the sad mac became iconic shorthand amongst Mac users. The dogcow was used in printer utility to show page orientation.

Like the early Mac, the Apple Watch doesn’t have a clear killer app and defined use case. It would benefit from manners, humour or even a bit of Siri wit. What’s more using well designed icons would reduce the effort in terms of product localisation.

You could argue that limited device resources don’t allow it. But I don’t buy that theory, an Apple Watch has more memory and computing power than the original Mac. I think its about that legendary attention to detail that Steve Jobs had (and drove everyone else made with. Apple has tried to codify this in their process, but you can’t bake in quirky obsession.

I guess I am old school Apple. I use an iPhone because it works well with my Mac, rather than the other way around. I still come across things where I see ‘Ahh, Apple’s thought about…’ in my Mac. My iPhone is a portable extension of my data, and doubles as a mobile modem for the Mac as needed; it gets in as the Mac’s plus 1.

By comparison the Apple Watch has less of a connection to the Mac and leeches off the iPhone. For a product that has little use case, it needs to work harder at building loyalty through my relationship with it as a device.




Links of the day | 在网上找到

China Disrupts WhatsApp Service in Online Clampdown – The New York Times – I didn’t realise that WhatsApp worked in China unless you were roaming on a foreign SIM

AI and Wall Street | WSJ City – Robotic Hogwash! Artificial Intelligence Will Not Take Over Wall Street. I guess it depends which Wall Street jobs that you mean

Apollo – Baidu’s automotive OS for self driving cars

Oprah time: Thinking Fast and Slow by Daniel Kahneman

I took the opportunity in June to re-read Daniel Kahneman’s work Thinking Fast and Slow. Kahneman uses storytelling from key points in his career to take the audience on a journey through biases and better decision-making. From a book that is obviously aimed at a consumer audience it has an outsized impact on marketers.

Presentations now talk about behavioural economics. What this meant in practice was revisiting the interface of psychological cues and marketing communications to encourage a desired behavioural change – like a purchase. It brought a renewed focus on A/B testing of call to action copy and images based around known consumer biases.

Thinking Fast & Slow

This isn’t necessarily a marketing handbook however, it is designed to make the average person more aware of their decision making process. It reminded me of Dan Ariel’s Predictably Irrational.

The key difference is that Kahneman’s work provides more of a learning structure in the book. Ariel is closer to the ‘ain’t it cool’ style of Malcolm Gladwell (though more rigorously researched).

I’d recommend that marketers start on Thinking Fast and Slow at the back. There is  summary of the book and then some supporting white papers. Once you have them read then go to the front and work your way through. The reason why I suggest this approach is that marketers use case is different to that of the man in the street (who buys his books from the non-fiction section of the New York Times bestseller list).


Links of the day | 在网上找到

Perkbox raises $8.6 million for its employee engagement platform | – well deserved funding round that isn’t Tech City BS

brandchannel: Mercedes-Benz and SXSW Bring meConvention to Europe – is it just me or does this feel like marketing festivals have jumped the shark?

Hard Drives Started Out as Massive Machines That Were Rented by the Month | Vice – and the industry is moving back to this approach with cloud services

Publishers are switching affections from Snapchat to Instagram | Digiday – similar moves with creators

Confessions of a former agency innovation head: ‘It’s all smoke and mirrors to get more money’ – elements of the truth with a dose of skepticism

This Is Why China Hasn’t Jumped on the Smart Speaker Bandwagon – Bloomberg – interesting comments on conversational Chinese, AI also struggles with many variants of conversational English

China’s economy grows 6.9 per cent in second quarter, beating market expectations | South China Morning Post – mixed news here. Top line number is good, the problem is that it’s reliant on steel production (where China has a glut in capacity) and construction – further inflating the property bubble. Coal production also picked up – again contrary to the direction the government has outlined in terms of high value growth

Most popular iPhone models in the wild: CHART – Business Insider – a couple of things on this. The iPhone is obviously a durable item, many of these handsets will be secondhand or hand me downs. Many people’s upgrade will be a newer secondhand model

Facebook Plans to Unveil a $200 Wireless Oculus VR Headset for 2018 – Bloomberg – scaling down from the gaming PC powered rig to compete with Google Daydream and the myriad VR headsets out of Shenzhen

Amazon Prime does more for northern food security than federal subsidies, say Iqaluit residents – North – CBC News – positive PR for Amazon, the question is whether it is worth their while providing Prime as a universal service or not?

The music industry according to super-producer Jimmy Iovine | FT – no amazing business insights but interesting commentary on Bruce Springsteen’s Born To Run album – which Iovine engineered. Apparently getting the drum sound perfect had been an issue. Born To Run ended up being Springsteen’s breakthrough album

What was it like to be at Xerox PARC when Steve Jobs visited? – Quora – I hadn’t realised that Alto and the other Xerox PARC technologies had been so widely discussed in the mainstream media prior to the visits by Microsoft and Apple respectively

France wants hardest Brexit, says City envoy to EU | FT – makes sense. At least some countries would see the negotiations as something closer to a zero-sum game for a few reasons. Holding the EU together, and the opportunities for at least some new jobs in their country. As the UK economy slows down, the country becomes less attractive as a market for exports. So the calculus moves from partnership to strip mining. Finally, it will be traumatic for supply chains so there is an incentive to rebuild them in your favour (paywall)

Under the Hood of Shell’s $100 Million Loyalty Program | CMO Strategy Columns – AdAge – interesting read, especially on the decline in geographic penetration at the pump of (other) oil companies (reg wall)

QR code takes a baby step in world conquest as group adopts global cashless payment format | SCMP – interesting counterpoint to NFC solutions from Google and Apple

Apple’s ‘installed base’ of iPhones has stopped growing, says Deutsche Bank (AAPL) | Business Insider – basically the market is saturated and has reached its equilibrium

The Influence of the KPM Music Library | WhoSampled – great guide to the famous library music label

US and European leaders finally agree on something: suspicion of Chinese takeovers | Quartz

Weak pound helps bring record tally of tourists | Business | The Times – so basically tourism hasn’t improved the country is an arbitrage play for travellers

Silicon Valley on what they think are the largest trends

A panel from the VC firms based on Sandhill Road debates what they think is the biggest technology trends at the moment

It all kicks off at the 5:40 mark.

Links of the day | 在网上找到

How Baidu Maps Leads People to a Privately Owned Hospital | Whats on Weibo – Baidu can’t catch a break

Paris-Based “it” Store Colette to Close its Doors | The Fashion Law – this is sad. I love their carefully curated website and shop.

The iPhone Is an Ideal Machine for Exerting Intellectual Property Control – Motherboard – interesting piece to read, with valid points BUT diminishes itself by playing fast and loose with some of the facts

Five for Friday | 五日(星期五)

Things that made my day this week:

Want to know what all the fuss is about with regards WeChat? Vivienne Wei put together this great (if unstructured) video about how WeChat is the swiss army knife of apps in China. Check it out

Carl Jr is a casual eating restaurant chain in the US. It is owned by the same people who won Hardee’s. Carl Jr is known for producing frat boy / brogrammer-friendly adverts like these

Wiser heads seem to have prevailed in the marketing department, so they came up with this ad to press reset using humour rather than the indignation of political correctness

Vice and New Balance have put together a documentary on the Japanese adoption of the footwork sub-culture. Japan has a history of adopting a subculture (like dancehall) and elevating it. Chicago’s footwork skills look like they are getting the same treatment

The King of Monster Island Godzilla is back in an anime film. The plot looks like Avatar – humans coming to wipe out planet for commercial / political benefits. Of course all of that plan will go to shit when they find out the inhabitants aren’t lanky blue people but the original kaiju bad boy and friends.

I got to see Baby Driver. It is a curious mashup of

  • 1980s style films popularised by John Hughes
  • 1990s to the present day gritty heist films

The iPod makes a come back in the film in a spectacular way, expect a minor cultural backlash against ‘radio’ as music service currently popular. Personally curated, shareable music and physical artefacts come to the fore. (Though I still can’t see young men proudly carrying rhinestone encrusted pink iPods just yet).

Of time and networks

Communities have marked time in different ways. It used to be marked by the bells of a church or the clock on a local factory. At that time, it didn’t matter that the clock told the precise time, but that it was consistent. This meant that different ‘time zones’ existed in areas separated by little distance.

The amount of reference time pieces expanded as mechanical clocks were installed in churches, farm estates and early factories. In the case of factories the change of shift was often punctuated by the blast of a fog horn.

I can remember this being the case even during my early childhood at the nearby Unilever factory. The change of shift signal marked my walk to infant school.

Over the centuries canals sprang up throughout the country as the first mass transport link, facilitating the movement of heavy goods such as coal and iron ore in a more efficient manner. Canals were transformative, but the boats still only moved at the speed of the horse. Railways broke the ‘horse speed’ barrier. This was transformative because it suddenly shone a light on inconsistent time keeping across the country. Railway timetables couldn’t incorporate all the variations in time zones between stations, so it became the arbiter of accurate time.

Over time radio and television played their part, audiences could set their watch by the start of key news programmes, for instance the time pips in the run into BBC Radio 4’s today programme or the Angelus chimes on RTE Radio  1.

The telephone came into play when looking for an exact time (to reset a watch or alarm clock) outside the broadcast schedule.

The popularity of mobile phone networks didn’t have as much of an impact as one would have thought. NITZ (Network Identity and Time Zone) was an optional standard for GSM networks. It has an accuracy in the order of minutes. A competing standard on CDMA 2000 networks used GPS enabled time codes that were far more accurate.

Modern timekeeping for the smartphone toting average person goes back to NTP; one of the earliest protocols in for the early internet that was created some time before 1985.


Back in 2001 when I installed the earliest version of macOS (then known as OSX 10.0 ‘Cheetah’) the date and time settings made reference to Apple owned NTP servers that were used to calibrate time on the computer. This infrastructure has since provided time to Apple’s other computing devices such as the iPhone and the and the iPad.

We are are now living on the same time. Time synchronisation happens seamlessly. We tend to only realise it when there is a problem.


Links of the day | 在网上找到

Korean Analysts Tracking Samsung Smartphone Sales Report that the Galaxy S8 is Selling 20% below last year’s S7 – not terribly surprising, the market is mature and Samsung will be losing sales to the Chinese Android players like OnePlus, Huawei and ZTE

Malaysia Airlines ties up with LINE | Marketing Interactive

Twitter lets you avoid trolls by muting new users and strangers | TechCrunch – interesting implications for trying to grow account follower numbers organically

Bell Pottinger Dismisses Lead Partner & Apologises For Gupta Scandal | Holmes Report – At various points throughout the tenure of the Oakbay account, senior management have been misled about what has been done. For it to be done in South Africa, a country which has become an international beacon of hope for its progress towards racial reconciliation, is a matter of profound regret and in no way reflects the values of Bell Pottinger.

Facebook Slashes Oculus Price For Second Time As World Refuses To Adopt Virtual Reality | Zero Hedge – the problem is supporting hardware and content. Oculus requires way to high a spec machine and there isn’t compelling content

The real fight in the TV streaming wars is not over you. It’s over your kids. | Quartz – its the medium rather than the content in reality

Conference speakers are now presenting during attendees’ flights to the events | Quartz – why not just stay at home and watch it on YouTube in this case

A bank replaced a fax machine with blockchain. Was it worth it? | Quartz

Distributional National Accounts: Methods and Estimates For The United States by Piketty, Saez and Zucman – interesting data on economic distribution

Google’s research chief questions value of ‘Explainable AI’ – Computerworld – but that won’t deal with the legal and regulatory challenges

What NASA Could Teach Tesla about Autopilot’s Limits – Scientific American  – “What we heard from pilots is that they had trouble following along [with the automation],” Casner says. “If you’re sitting there watching the system and it’s doing great, it’s very tiring.” In fact, it’s extremely difficult for humans to accurately monitor a repetitive process for long periods of time. This so-called “vigilance decrement” was first identified and measured in 1948 by psychologist Robert Mackworth, who asked British radar operators to spend two hours watching for errors in the sweep of a rigged analog clock. Mackworth found that the radar operators’ accuracy plummeted after 30 minutes; more recent versions of the experiment have documented similar vigilance decrements after just 15 minutes. – human factors 1, technology nil

Why Some Men Don’t Work: Video Games Have Gotten Really Good – The New York Times – this is frightening

A new candidate for world’s worst media law – Columbia Journalism Review – reputatiion management must be a doddle in Myanmar

Making media fun again: why we must free our industry from outdated models | Campaign LiveThe threat to agencies is not the ANA or procurement or consultants, it is their own addiction to dated models and an inability to conquer the three rants and create something new.

The clients don’t want a world that dwells solely in the lower funnel. Any new business model embraces both upper and lower funnel, both brand and demand. It is both about the big idea and the 1,000s of iterations of that big idea – it’s just that the vast majority of clients aren’t doing that very well or systemically. They don’t want us building a data monster dwelling in the lower-funnel data lake. (paywall) – well worth a read

Brandon Beck of Riot Games on eSports

Beck is the co-founder of Riot Games (best known for League of Legends) on the rise of eSports and what its future looks like.

Interesting that Riot are trying to give players a better base to build their careers, but how long is their professional life, when do they burn out?

Links of the day | 在网上找到

Jaw-boned: Wearables biz Jawbone shuts down | The Register – pretty sad end for the wearables company that pioneered noise cancelling Bluetooth headsets. With the rise of AirPods, surely this should have been Jawbone’s time to own BlueTooth headsets?

Nokia Branded Phones to Get Zeiss Branded Cameras | – Nokia’s handset business getting the gang back together

Hong Kong women spend over HK$4,000 on beauty products | Marketing Interactive – I guess it depends on how you define beauty products

Nokia, Xiaomi sign patent sharing agreement | ZDNet – Nokia and Xiaomi will work together on optical communications solutions for data centers, IP Routing for the Nokia FP4 processor, and a data center fabric solution

Staring down internet trolls: My disturbing cat and mouse game – unremittingly grim

Alibaba Challenges Google, Amazon With New Echo-Like Device – Bloomberg – Interesting that they are using the Tmall brand rather than TaoBao

China Is About to Bury Elon Musk in Batteries – Bloomberg – what’s this going to do to the price of lithium?