Ken Kocienda: product and software design

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Interesting talk with Ken Kocienda, covering his experience on product management and software design at Apple. Kocienda was a software engineer at Apple during Steve Jobs second time as CEO. Kocienda has since written a book – Creative Selection about his experiences.

Interesting bits include:

  • Apple’s approach to open source in 2001
  • The role of demos in Apple’s development process
  • The concept of a “Directly Responsible Individual”
  • The role of whimsy and playfulness in designing software

ICYMI | 万一你错过了| 당신이 그것을 놓친 경우에 대비해서

Reading Time: 3 minutes

Faster Robots Demoralize Co-Workers | Careers | Communications of the ACMA Cornell-led team has found that when robots are beating humans in contests for cash prizes, people consider themselves less competent and expend slightly less effort—and they tend to dislike the robots – to be fair I’d expect to see something similar if the same person kept winning employee of the week

Flickr Cofounder Questions Tech’s Impact on Humans – WIRED – it’s easier to ask the big questions when you’ve made it and can reflect in the tech industry

Marbridge Consulting – China’s February 2019 Domestic Handset Shipments Down 20% YoY14.51 mln mobile handsets were shipped in China in February 2019, down 19.9% YoY and 57.4% MoM, according to new figures released by the China Academy of Information and Communications Technology (CAICT), a department of China’s Ministry of Industry and Information Technology (MIIT). The significant month-on-month drop can be explained in part by the week-long Chinese Lunar New Year holiday towards the beginning of February. Of total shipments in February, 13.98 mln were 4G handsets, down 20.2% YoY, 37,000 were 3G handsets, and 0.49 mln were 2G handsets

A Witch-Hunt on Instagram | Quilette – western PC culture seems to have more and more cases of it eating their own

Aging Millennials Soothe Themselves With Childlike Fashions – WWD – to try and hang on to youth

SXSW 2019: Virtual Cinema – JWT Intelligence – culture is still trying to adapt AR and VR. Whilst it has the energy of an early SIGGRAPH demo reel, I still think the storytelling aspect of things is struggling to find its legs

Patrick Pruniaux: “There Truly is an E-commerce Potential for Horology” | Luxury Society – Kering haven’t been particularly good at using Ulysse Nardin as a brand in China, but they are rectifying it now. Kering are looking to tap into ‘new’ watch consumers who can’t spend Rolex money on a watch, this position now looks more tenable since Apple has stopped going for the luxury sector with the Apple Watch

How to Create an Authentic Luxury Experience for Millennials | Jing Dailyif a luxury brand wants to entice today’s consumers, whether it’s in China or beyond, it needs to underscore its authenticity and relevancy. Powerful words, to be sure, but what does it mean to be authentic and relevant? For the moment, let’s start with the opposite. During many of my brand strategy sessions, I often hear the expression “they feel staged” when people describe brands that they would never buy. Needless to say, when brand feels staged, it is neither authentic nor relevant. The synonyms unnatural, deceived, cheated, and faked come to mind. In other words, a staged brand is bullshitt*ng their consumers.

Louis Vuitton Has a Michael Jackson Problem | Intelligence | BoFLouis Vuitton parent LVMH hired Abloh, and has poured millions of dollars into promoting his collections in order to build its biggest brand into a menswear powerhouse. But whether or not Abloh’s Jackson-inspired collection ends up being a dud (because products like the penny loafers T-shirt or the military-style jackets are more visibly Jackson-derived and are thus preemptively pulled from sale, or simply because they don’t resonate with shoppers) isn’t likely to be the primary financial concern for Louis Vuitton, as men’s ready-to-wear accounts for only a fraction of total revenue. What’s really at stake is the brand’s reputation — relatively untarnished for the time being, unlike luxury peers like Prada and Gucci which have fallen afoul of social media — at a time when consumers are quick to criticise perceived missteps

How What Goes Around Comes Around Is Attracting Millennials To Buy Vintage – US chain channels aesthetic of Japanese vintage shops

You May Have Forgotten Foursquare, but It Didn’t Forget You | WIRED – interesting how Foursquare went from being useful (I use it as spatial bookmarking, so that I can return to new places that I like) to where 2.0 middleware with a bit of ad tech creepiness thrown in for good measure (paywall)

Pinterest Files for an IPO: What Investors Need to Know | The Motley Fool – interesting for intent driven visual search if they can monetise it effectively on a global scale

Great video of a Black Hat conference presentation on biometric identifiers.

Five for Friday | 五日(星期五) | 금요일에 다섯 가지

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Chinese netizens on Zara model controversy. I love Asian Boss’ qualitative interviews

Anand Giridharadas on the modern gilded age and how we should be skeptical of plutocrat philanthropy.

New Balance China tends to march to the beat of its own drum. But even I was surprised by these sweatshirts with new romantic type detailing.

New Balance does New Romantic

Samsung’s facial recognition is surprisingly easy to defeat. This is particularly bad as Samsung’s finger print ID isn’t as good as Apple’s or legacy finger print scanners found on the back of Android handsets. Users have no reasonably secure option beyond PINs. I knew of siblings (not twins): a sister unlocking her younger brother’s phone at a glance. The moral of this story is that physical security of your phone is required to prevent unauthorised access.

Goldman Sachs have a great (if terrifying) video on the use of biometrics in public places like airports and stadiums.

ICYMI | 万一你错过了| 당신이 그것을 놓친 경우에 대비해서

Reading Time: 2 minutes

UK tariff plans to limit no-deal Brexit damage | Financial Timesthe system would mean that products brought into Northern Ireland across the land border would not have any tariffs imposed. But many products shipped across the Irish Sea from Ireland to Wales or England would have tariffs slapped on them. Officials acknowledged that this could be vulnerable to abuse by the unscrupulous. One official played down the idea that smugglers could bring European cars or other expensive goods across the land border — and then into England — to escape tariffs. “That’s the kind of thing we would be monitoring closely,” he said. (paywall)

Lazada is livestreaming its birthday concert – directly on its app | Techinasia – over a decade after Tokyo Girls Collection

President Trump’s Twitter feed: Can you really target an ad at him? | Slate – interesting. I used to do the same thing for UN and EU policy campaigns a decade ago

China’s economy is 12% smaller than official data say, study finds | Financial Times – (Paywall)

Hands over Siena: How Russian oil is buying the Tuscan city – La Stampa – interesting reading and a warning for UK property

Facebook sues Ukrainian app developers for scraping user data – SiliconANGLE – Facebook sues Ukranians for ideas that they wished they had thought of

Over 50s perceptions of post-Brexit changes | Yahoo! Finance – guess they will be in for a shock to be blamed on Europe

Chinese Tourism Boom That Propped Up Luxury Brands Is Faltering | News & Analysis | BoF – Luxury brands have gained a lot of traction and growth out of China, but the bloom is off the rose

AI Cameras That Can Spot Shoplifters Even Before They Steal – Bloomberg – pre-crime made real

Microsoft Band and Health Dashboard Kill-Off Suggests Platform IoT Focus | ProgrammableWeb
– it makes sense in the face of the Apple Watch

The Facebook pivots to WeChat post

Reading Time: 8 minutes

Wonks clearly saw parallels. Hence the short form ‘Facebook pivots to WeChat’. The first thing I’d advise you to do is read Mark Zuckerberg’s notes on how he is planning to move Facebook as a business. There’s a link at the bottom of this post to it, I’ll still be here when you come back.

Mark Zuckerberg f8 Keynote

The reactions were:

  • Facebook is trying to ‘kill’ Apple
  • Advertisers need to be concerned about Facebook’s moves
  • Facebook’s pivot is a diversion or play to get out from under future regulation
  • It’s fake, or variants of that
  • It’s about asserting market dominance
  • It’s a move against Snap
  • It’s a ‘China’ type move, trying to corner the free internet

These takes are mirrors of our own views and concerns as about Facebook. I am not a Facebook apologist, by any means. But I could see a clear parallel between Facebook and concerns about television, the communist threat or big oil. And to a large extent Facebook is highly deserving of our skepticism.

So let’s start breaking them off one by one:

Facebook is trying to ‘kill’ Apple

Apple has managed to differentiate from Google and other web giants by its privacy focus. This is because advertising isn’t that important to Apple’s business model. Where Apple have tried advertising, they haven’t been that successful at it.

Facebook’s messaging focus ‘doing a WeChat’ has caused others to draw clear parallels with China. In particular, Apple’s problems in China and WeChat. The simple answer is that its complicated:

  • Apple’s problems in China aren’t just about WeChat. WeChat creates a level playing field between Chinese Android-based and iOS user experience. Because consumers spend so much time inside the application, rather than the OS
  • Both Apple and Chinese manufacturers lose services revenue to WeChat. On a per device basis, this particularly penalises manufacturers like Xiaomi who break even on the handset at best
  • Apple has tested the price elasticity of the premium phone market in China (and elsewhere). Channel discounting has been shown to drive a massive uptake in sales

Facebook’s messaging strategy poses a challenge to mobile operators, Google’s Android messaging offering and Apple Messages equally.

Mobile phone operators saw messaging traffic drop precipitously over the past decade. China Mobile were one of the first operators of video and SMS over the internet with its Fetion texting service. This was shut down three years ago in the face competition from Youku, QQ Video and WeChat.

The GSM Association has tried to fight back against the decline in SMS and MMS messaging with Rich Communications Services (RCS). It is supported on Android Messages app and Google has looked as wider implementation.

RCS is currently supported by 11 smartphone manufacturers and 55 mobile network operators across Asia, the Americas, Africa and Europe. Facebook may support it, but is likely to compete against it. Apple hasn’t announced support for RCS (yet).

Here’s what Mark said, nothing particularly controversial but a nice analysis of current development options.

You can already send and receive SMS texts through Messenger on Android today, and we’d like to extend this further in the future, perhaps including the new telecom RCS standard. However, there are several issues we’ll need to work through before this will be possible. First, Apple doesn’t allow apps to interoperate with SMS on their devices, so we’d only be able to do this on Android. Second, we’d need to make sure interoperability doesn’t compromise the expectation of encryption that people already have using WhatsApp. Finally, it would create safety and spam vulnerabilities in an encrypted system to let people send messages from unknown apps where our safety and security systems couldn’t see the patterns of activity.

A privacy-focused vision for social networking – Mark Zuckerberg March 6, 2019

What its most likely to do is strip value added services away from carriers, Google and Apple; rather than Apple on it’s own. Encryption alone doesn’t mean security or privacy; but Apple needs to provide that level of nuance to premium consumers. Given the Google Android services there is still blue water between the eco-systems.

Advertisers need to be concerned about Facebook’s moves

Advertisers on Facebook always need to be concerned about Facebook’s moves. The people with most to worry are people who build their businesses on Facebook’s platform. But that isn’t a new issue, its been a mistake that marketers have made over-and-over again in the digital realm. And they’ll still keep making the mistake.

In many respects, Facebook advertising has had to change. The reason why Facebook has been putting out features like stories and carousels is because of ‘context collapse‘. Back in 2015, the Information wrote about how Facebook users were sharing less. Sharing less means less room for ad inventory in the news feed and less reasons for the audience to remain engaged with the newsfeed.

However, Facebook won’t fully give up on the town hall type environment that the news feed provides to advertisers, don’t take Mark’s word for it: follow the money.

Public social networks will continue to be very important in people’s lives — for connecting with everyone you know, discovering new people, ideas and content, and giving people a voice more broadly. People find these valuable every day, and there are still a lot of useful services to build on top of them. But now, with all the ways people also want to interact privately, there’s also an opportunity to build a simpler platform that’s focused on privacy first.

A privacy-focused vision for social networking – Mark Zuckerberg March 6, 2019

Zuckerberg needed to do something to combat context collapse, even if the regulatory environment hadn’t got a lot worse for him. It also means the declining amount of information available to advertisers will continue to go that way.

On the plus side if you look at WeChat, you can see the kind of directions Facebook is likely to take:

  • Advertising / promoted content
  • On-platform services and retail
  • E-commerce
  • Mini-applications
  • Payments
  • Ticketing
  • Electronic real ID

And the one thing that we can be sure about with Mark Zuckerberg is that he doesn’t like leaving money at the table. Expect change, (continue) to be concerned about advertising efficiency and effectiveness, but don’t worry about not having Facebook as a channel in the future.

Facebook’s pivot is a diversion or play to get out from under future regulation

There are a few angles to this which I am going to break down into two parts:

Facebook’s interest

  • The more entrenched across services, the harder Facebook will be to take action against. Facebook would be harder to break apart in any future anti-trust court decision
  • The move towards messaging could reduce the issues that Facebook faces in terms of moderating speech and preventing bad behaviour 
  • Pushes Facebook’s PR / repetitional issues under the rug

Consumer interest

  • From a consumer interest point of view Facebook is showing a willingness to go beyond encryption by carefully choosing where its data centres go for maximum regulatory protection. (Though one would still fall under the extra-territorial laws of the five Is countries in particular the US, UK and Australia at the moment)
  • Consumer convenience due to focus on interoperability, so one might not need to have both WhatsApp and Facebook Messenger on a device – in theory at least

It’s fake, or variants of that

We won’t know the true level of sincerity and commitment of Facebook to make a positive impact through this pivot. Facebook’s brand is so low, it is very easy to believe the very worst in them. I can’t say that I am surprised this came out in the commentary but I am prepared to hold fire on judgement just yet.

It’s about asserting market dominance

Some commentators saw a clear link between Facebook’s pivot and Microsoft’s push into web browsers. Both companies were threatened by disruption and utilised their existing market dominance in their markets in current products to extend their dominance into future eras. Businesses by their very nature try to maintain and grow themselves. It would be a natural outcome of Facebook’s pivot.

Microsoft’s move eventually led to the Judge Jackson ruling against Microsoft. Something that Facebook would be very keen to avoid.

Part of the reason why Facebook bought WhatsApp originally was partly put down to Mark Zuckerberg’s concern about only having one great idea. He wanted to bulk up the Facebook brain trust with WhatsApp’s management. We know that didn’t end well with the management team eventually departing. This pivot could be seen as an antidote to Zuckerberg’s creative bankruptcy.

It’s a move against Snap

The competition posed to one-to-one messaging was perceived by analyst Richard Greenfield of BTIG as a threat to Snap. Facebook is very competitive, but Facebook has bigger markets to focus on with this move. Effects on Snap would be a welcome bonus rather than a key focus. Snap has bigger issues at the moment:

  • User growth is moribund. Instagram has already ‘outsnapped’ Snap with its fast follower copying of Snap’s features
  • Snap needs to do better in generating advertising revenue

In essence it’s like sleeping with a hippo. It could roll over and crush you without even realising what it managed to do in its sleep. Its a move that is likely to adversely affect Snap, but its by no means all about Snap.

It’s a China type move trying to corner the free internet

This particular trope came from Fox Business. What’s interesting is that one would expect the outlet to be pro-free markets. The commentary by Kurt Knutsson talks about the inescapability of Facebook and conflates the similarities with WeChat to argue Facebook is sinister in a similar manner to ‘China’. The thing I took away from it is the cross-party skepticism on Facebook, privacy and market power.

If you would have told me a decade ago that a right wing business publication would have been concerned about free markets and market dominance I wouldn’t have believed you.

Facebook’s assumptions

Facebook’s pivot requires some major changes in the companies technical ability:

  • Currently Facebook Messenger and WhatsApp use encryption from the Open Whisper Systems project that gave us Signal Messenger. Signal is an open source product funded by donations to the Signal Foundation. It isn’t a core strength of Facebook
  • A lot of WeChat’s secret sauce is how they managed to build so much functionality into its mobile app without taking away from the user experience. This is in sharp contrast to the plethora of apps currently used for Facebook. It poses a major UX design challenge for Facebook
  • Facebook can expand to new areas successfully such as payments – again not an area where Facebook has previously known to be successful

There is an assumption that Facebook’s communications team can give it enough space to allow the pivot to be put in place. Facebook’s management team won’t drop the ball between now and the pivot.

More information

A privacy-focused vision for social networking by Mark Zuckerberg – shared on his facebook page.

Facebook’s pivot must be viewed with scepticism | Financial Times

Facebook’s former chief of security says its privacy pivot is ‘punting’ on its hardest issues | The Verge

Facebook’s Biggest Bull Sees Privacy Pivot as Move Against Snap | Bloomberg

Facebook’s Awkward Pivot to Privacy | Slate

Facebook’s pivot is bigger than privacy | Axios

Facebook’s Fake Pivot To Privacy | Forbes – As a social network, Facebook, has 15 million fewer users today than in 2017. During October – December of 2018, 23% of Facebook users in the U.S. showed signs of activity, e.g. updated their status or posted a comment, as compared to 32% at the same time in 2017. In 2016, Facebook accounted for more than half of time spent on social networks, but that figure is anticipated to be 44.6% in 2019, while, for the first time, from 2018 on, it was expected that Facebook usage among the 11-24 demographic – highly coveted by advertisers – would decline.

Facebook privacy pivot a China-type move, trying to corner the free world: Cyber Guy | Fox Business

Building your business in Mark’s house | renaissance chambara – on the perils of over-reliance on platforms.

Facebook and advertising or why Facebook is a dead man walking part III? | renaissance chambara

Why Facebook is a dead man walking part II? | renaissance chambara

Why Facebook is a dead man walking | renaissance chambara

Jargon Watch: context collapse | renaissance chambara