ICYMI | 万一你错过了| 당신이 그것을 놓친 경우

FOMO in China is a $7 billion industry | Marketplace – the Chinese payment for knowledge Podcast business dwarves ad funding and Patreon-like services. Many of them are like bank analyst type reports as audio books

Luxury Daily Rimowa seeks to offer more than suitcases to its ‘purposeful travelers’ – marketing and design is going to rely on community and collaboration – sounds like Stüssy’s playbook for the past four decades

European Union has a plan for Asian infrastructure but will it collide with China’s belt and road? | South China Morning Post – this could get interesting

Google Announces That its Data Studio Tool is Now Available to All Users | Social Media Today – Interesting low end attack on Qlik and Tableau

Poundland To Open Stores At Up To 20 Former Poundworld Locations | Poundland Press Room – Jacks about to get hammered by Poundland with new stores. The stock inflating dream that Jacks is supposed to sell to Tesco shareholders may come unstuck very fast

Aldi and Lidl won’t be scared by Tesco’s new discount Jack’s | The Guardian – visually it might be an Aldi analogue, pricing strategy wise it seems closer to Poundstretcher with a bakery. It’s probably what all post-Brexit UK supermarkets will look like

Yom Kippur, a children’s bike festival on Israel’s deserted roads | Reuters – interesting evolution in consumer behaviour

Amazon Announces Echo Link, Echo Link Amp and Echo Sub • Gear Patrol – the (US only at the moment) Echo Link Amp looks lovely but you’d be better off with Schiit instead

Scott Galloway on the state of retailing at Recode Conference

This data viz maps Facebook connections across the country | Fast Company – well that’s another Facebook myth disproved

How to nail the Q&A portion of your presentation – good bits of advice

Apple-owned software company FileMaker does an ad that take aim at innovation hype

EU Starts Preliminary Probe into Amazon’s Treatment of Merchants | WSJ City  – the EU has economic reasons to do this as well

CTS – conserve the sound – a German project that preserves what would have been familiar sounds of now obsolete technology. Most are interesting, though the Krups coffee grinder sounds exactly the same as my more modern model

Ramblings on loose networks and social connections

I went to a family funeral and got to think about loose networks and social connections.

In Ireland the tradition for a funeral is:

  • As soon as possible after death, the body goes to the funeral home. A coroner will have had to sign off on it
  • The body is put on exhibition in the coffin at the funeral home and family greet visitors who come and pay tribute to the deceased. The coffin is then closed and taken to the church in a procession, which slows as it passes the deceased’s home
  • The following day a funeral mass is held, followed by a procession to the cemetery and then the burial

This all happens really fast; usually three days from time of death to grave. Those of the family that can make it home try to, but there isn’t much time. So those who are a long haul flight away generally are excused from coming back home.

In the rural west of Ireland word goes out through a number of channels

  • Local radio – Galway Bay FM lists deaths and funeral information at regular times throughout the day
  • Local newspapers – the deaths feature on their web sites and in their print editiions (depending on publications and the timings of the death)
  • RIP.ie – a web service that people can consult to see what funerals are going on in their vicinity
  • Word of mouth then does the rest. Whether its gossip between neighbours, across the counter at a local shop or announced from the pulpit at mass

Local media and traditions have carved out a distinctive niche that doesn’t involve Facebook or other social media platform

The people that come along include:

  • Family
  • Relatives (second and third cousins, families who are connected via marriage)
  • Close friends
  • People who you knew but may have lost touch with like school friends
  • People you’ve done business with. In my relatives case it was agricultural  contractors and the local hardware store – which has a much wider range of stock than your average ToolStation or Home Depot to deal with the requirements of farms
  • Business relatives and friends of the bereaved

For the bereaved, the process does as good a job as you can helping the family deal with grief. In the case of my relative who had a sudden heart attack and died it provided closure. The person was eulogised and then sent on the next part of their journey onward.

For a rural community, made up of small towns and farms it presents an opportunity to reinforce loose networks and business connections. In our family’s case the farm as a business is passed down from generation-to-generation.

It becomes important for for business people to attend these events to cement business relationships. In our family’s case some of the visitors were business connections of one of my Uncle’s (who is still living) rather than the deceased.

Attending these events requires commitment. You had attendees travelling over an hour to pay their respects.

I was a bit surprised by how robust these loose connections were with relatively little reinforcement. It seems the habit of the funeral process plays its part.

Ramblings on consumption

We think of consumption as part of the very stuff of modern life. I clear out items on eBay. My Mum and Dad have boxes of things unopened since they moved house in 1981. A lady who lived up the road who died last year had people working for five days to clear out the things she had hoarded. The house had been packed with items from ceiling to roof.

The role that consumption plays varies but taps into deep emotional ties. I felt both an emotional journey that I can only equate to grief and a certain release on getting rid of my record collection. I moved country for work and the bulk of it had to go. What was more distressing was not being able to make sure that it went to a good home at the time. It had defined me, brought me joy and latterly had been a weight that I only felt by its subsequent absence.

Consumption and identity are also intertwined.

In my pre-internet days you could get a sense of someone by visiting their sitting room or their bedroom.

  • What kind of books did they read?
  • What posters or pictures did they have?
  • Was there sports scarves, or signed shirts?
  • Family photographs
  • Taxidermied animals in either rural or ‘hunting, shooting or fishing’ households
  • What kind of videos did they have?
  • Where they a gamer?
  • What CDs, vinyl and cassettes did they have?
  • Did they have a system of hi-fi separates? What were the components like? Did they have headphones?

You were able to build up a picture in your head about the person, their tastes and some historic touch points.

Much of this now remains out of sight in the sitting room with the rise of cloud based services. But the picture is still here, though you will need a screen to see it.

For many people homes are a mix of the digital and the analogue. Some young people may adopt analogue items for ‘authenticity’ in their lives. For older people its the archeology of their lives. Photos not converted to digital scans. Music that had meaning or was at a certain stage in their life. Souvenirs from holidays.

If I look at my own parents:

  • They were more passionate about active collection of music in the 1960s before they settled down. They have finally got rid of a Philips mono turntable in plastic that hadn’t worked for years and a Sony reel to reel tape player. Both devices chosen for their luggabilty rather than quality. They had lived transcient young work lives, working away from home and living in digs
  • My Dad had spare time from shift work that he used to read a mix of reference books and fiction from the 1950s – the early 1980s. Since then he mostly reads caravan and crafting books
  • My Dad has a vast amount of tools in various states of repair that he accumulated. From when he started his apprenticeship to electronic meters bought this year
  • My Mum has a mix of cookery books from the 1950s to the 1990s and notebooks stuffed with clippings from magazines of recipes. In the notebooks are hand scribbled recipes that she exchanged with friends
  • They have carpets and stools that they crafted from kits in the 1960s before multi-channel TVs

With time, more hasn’t mean’t better ‘quality’ consumption. Technology has provided us with more reliable electronics. Unless you are a hi-fi buff you are unlikely to know about the fragility of valve electronics or the weight of discrete solid state circuits.

Globalisation has brought consumption of more ‘just good enough’ products. My parents still have some of the furniture that they bought when they got married. It isn’t Vitra or great Danish design, its mass producted items of its time. But the quality of the construction and materials contrasts with flat pack furniture bought later.

Less consumption seems to have had a number of sides to it:

  • More conscious choice on quality. You couldn’t just order another on Amazon
  • Greater focus on curation of items
  • Less clothes but of a better quality
  • A macro view on ‘need’, rather than the micro view defined by the now

You had the vintage well tailored tweed jacket or furniture that had been in the house for generations. In years to come what will all the delapidated Billy bookshelves and tchotchke fridge magnets say about us? Maybe this is a good part of the authenticity at the centre of Peter York’s ‘Hipster Handbook‘?

I started to think about these things following a death in the family. My uncle lived in the ancestral home; which is a small farm in the west of Ireland. I had spent a good deal of my childhood there with him and other relatives. Life had got in the way of going back in person and there had been bigger gaps in time to my visits than I thought.

Going back to the farm brought thoughts about consumption into sharp focus for me. My Uncle’s approach to consumption was very different to mine and likely yours as a reader.

  • He never owned a car or combustion engine-powered farm machinery. He hired in contractors and machinery when it was needed
  • As a child I had played amongst decaying wrought iron horse drawn equipment, that would have been used before the widespread use of tractors
  • I can remember when electricity was installed
  • Had a modern television but didn’t use it. He actively preferred the radio as his media of choice
  • He had a solid fuel cooker that provided central heating for the house. He also had an electric cooker and microwave oven, but refused to use the microwave
  • His music collection had been gifted to him by family over the years. They assumed that he liked local artists playing Irish traditional music. I don’t think that he went through the process I had done of exploring new music and tastes
  • He regularly read a local paper, but owned no books bar a booklet on the value of notes and coins
  • He had never travelled for leisure, but had been gifted souvenirs from my cousins. These came from Donegal to Dubai
  • Presents that he had been given decades ago remained in a drawer in case he would need them, from ties to aftershave
  • The family had tried to force him to have a cellphone and he only relented when he was in hospital during his later years and a neighbour gifted it to him
  • His idea of interactive gaming was a Benson & Hedges-branded deck of playing cards with four people around a table for a game of ‘Twenty Five

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His house remained unchanged from when my Grandmother had lived there. There wasn’t his ‘footprint’ in the house at all. From a personal point of view it meant that I could understand my Uncle in terms of ‘what’ he did; but not the ‘inner life’ that we are used to understanding through ‘reading the tea leaves’ of consumption: books, music etc. At the time I came away perplexed, a mystery that I would never understand.

He lived in many respects a pre-industrial agrian approach to life. Time moves at the pace of the farm work rather than the clock. Your mark on the world was in the continued existence of the homestead.

This brought into sharp focus for me the newness and ‘abnormality’ of modern consumerism. Perhaps ownership of the land provided the ‘weight’ that mass consumerism provides for many of the rest of us? And what would it mean if you had felt that ‘weight’ all of your life as my Uncle would have as the oldest son in the family?

In contrast, my Grandmother had been more modern in her attitude to consumerism. She loved the television. She got rid of old wooden chairs that would need the occasional coat of paint for black powder coated steel and vinyl cushion seats.

Into her late 80s she loved DVDs of traditional Irish music performances. A tape of electronica and early rap that I made at the age of 15 so she could understand what I was into at the time was a step too far for her.

ICYMI | 万一你错过了| 당신이 그것을 놓친 경우

Why social media and selfies are filling Hong Kong’s young women with self-doubt | South China Morning Post – 10 per cent of women in the 16 to 24 age group attributed their negative feelings to social media, while 31 per cent said it was due to friends and 28 per cent pointed to health. For older women, only 5 per cent cited social media, 18 per cent said friends and 40 per cent named health as an issue – survey of 1,010 respondents by think tank MWYO. Sample size is a little low

Ric Flair aka Nature Boy the veteran American wrestler from WWE appears in these ads. I love it for the nostalgia if nothing else

Will China Let Google Back in? – MacroPolo – not likely, because China doesn’t need Alphabet.

This is how Dutch police know you’re buying drugs online – interesting how transactions that don’t go through escrow can be compromised and how the police seem to be getting good intelligence on where the servers are located. This could be conventional police work, bad server set up or a compromise in the infrastruce of the dark web

What does QAnon have to do with leftist Italian authors Wu Ming — Quartz – fascinating read

The Internet of Stupid Things

A more charitable phrase for what many consumers call the Internet of Shit. Yes lots of products can be internet enabled, but should they be? There is a mix of challenges:

  • Products that are internet enabled but shouldn’t be – the Happy Fork or the Griffin Smart Toaster being classic examples. I found the Griffin Smart Toaster particularly disappointing as the company’s products such as the PowerMate are generally really good
  • Products that would be benefit from tech, but shouldn’t rely on the the cloud. I’d argue that Nest would fit in this category where cloud outages could have serious impacts on the consumer

It is interesting to see that Li & Fung (who are famous for global supply chain management provided to western brands and retailers) are involved in this. The qualitative design research they did on skiing wearables for a client – which begs the question of what value Li & Fung’s client brings to the table.