Technology companies, we have to talk about China

Uber has been cited as an example of how US technology companies can’t succeed in China, but the wrong lessons are being learned. Let’s look at a couple of examples.

Facebook

Facebook is viewed as having ‘failed’ in China. There are two parts to this. First of all lets talk about Facebook’s business model, simply put it monetises consumers attention by selling advertising and related services to businesses.  In order to get consumers in a relevant market, it has to comply with local laws. In the EU it has a relatively easy ride as it is policed by the Irish government for compliance with EU regulations.

China has taken much more of hands on regulatory approach to the internet, like all media. Much of this is down to keeping a ‘harmonious’ society. You might not like the way they do it, but the party views internal pressures in a similar way to Western views on terrorism. Whether that terrorism in the name of Islam or black bloc anarchists.

China has an extensive censorship mechanism, it is a part of doing business there. Whilst the content maybe different, it is similar to the censorship structure for the UK in many respects:

  • Government steered industry practice
  • Legislation

One of the big differences in the UK is site blocking to protect commercial rather than government interests such as sporting event rights. Facebook chose not to implement systems that would make it compliant in China – so it isn’t available to ordinary Chinese consumers. Facebook does sell advertising in China to companies who want to reach western consumers. It has been successful in its advertising sales, sometimes to the detriment of western consumers. State-owned enterprise (SOE) Air China features as a case study for Facebook’s advertising business. San Francisco-based Papaya Mobile has built a successful business providing an online portal that allows Chinese businesses to target Facebook users abroad. I’d argue that Facebook isn’t failing in China.

If Facebook wanted to get Chinese consumers on board it had three market entry routes:

  • Build a separate Chinese product. This is something that US companies generally don’t do, they may localise the product but they avoid forking the product
  • Build infrastructure that complies with Chinese regulations. Google had done this in the past, before they chose not to
  • Have a local partner do the relevant work. Skype successfully entered the Chinese market with Chinese partner TOM. The Chinese client of Skype is known to allow government listening and weaker encryption. But in a post-Snowden world that shouldn’t be too surprising, the Chinese lack the subtlety of other countries security apparatus in their implementation but the goals are similar

Facebook somewhere along the line decided that they didn’t want to enter the Chinese market for consumers as is; but may do in the future if market dynamics change.

It is notable that Facebook’s growth in both Korea and Japan was slower than comparable western countries. Local platforms addressed the market better (KakaoTalk) and social norms of ‘nick name’ identities allowed to Twitter to become a comparative success in Japan.

Google

Google had entered China in 2005. They hired a local executive to run the business who had previously worked at Microsoft. Four years later they were third in the market behind local firms Baidu and Soso (Tencent subsidiary). Google had an estimated 29% market share.

So Google was in third place before it had legal issues in China. Why was it in third place? Google is thought to have under-estimated the growth rate in terms of number of web pages of the Chinese internet. In the same way that Yahoo! and Bing under-indexed the western web and paid for it by losing market share to Google, Google lost out to Baidu. This was about localisation and agility rather than the system being gamed against it. Google hasn’t indexed non-Roman languages as well as English, French etc.

Google was particularly beloved of those Chinese who had a more international life; scientific researchers, journalists, bankers, marketers and the more cosmopolitan members of the middle class. But for the average Chinese consumer, other search engines did a better job.

Google services ran into trouble with a YouTube video showing security forces and protestors in Tibet. Google took action in the Chinese market when Chinese dissidents had their Gmail accounts hacked. Again in a post-Snowden world this isn’t the shocking scandal it would have once been. Complaints in the US together with this incident meant that Google was prepared to give up on Chinese consumers. The business still has an R&D team in China and works with manufacturers on Android.

So why do American companies succeed elsewhere?

The simple answer is one of scale. The US is a single country with largely the same regulatory framework, a single language, good infrastructure and access to large amounts of capital. It is a market for approximately 324 million people. This allows businesses to grow rapidly to a scale that is internationally competitive.

By comparison although the EU has an addressable population of just over 510 million people, you have different legal systems (though it is becoming more harmonised by the EU). You have 24 languages, a common currency but diverse banking systems.

This comparative lack of scale in EU technology start-ups has two effects:

  • They are harder to grow as there isn’t a comparable domestic market to incubate businesses. If they do grow, the better access of capital allows an EU start-up to be bought out. Look at last.fm, DeepMind or ARM as examples of this.  Some businesses have managed to break like Spotify as they tapped into US funding. It is also pertinent to point out that Spotify isn’t make money
  • With some noticeable exceptions like Spotify, getting capital to grow a business internationally is much harder. It isn’t realistic for a European start-up to pursue the Amazon / Uber model of betting against competition by assuming that they will always have access to cheap plentiful capital

This has meant that Facebook, Google and the like have risen largely unopposed in Europe. They have found it so easy that they’ve gained monopoly levels of market share. This is unlikely to change anytime soon. At best Europe acts like a ‘feeder team’ of talent and IP to US start-ups. Where Europe is successful is largely based on past dominance in legacy industry sectors like vehicle manufacture and pharmaceuticals. This also partly explains Europe’s stagnant growth.

China is different

China is the polar opposite of Europe. It has an addressable market for 1.4 billion people. Whilst there are many dialects in China the party railroaded Mandarin as the lingua franca and simplified Chinese as a common written language.  Live and incomes in the tier one cities would be comparable to parts of Europe. Economic growth has slowed to 6 per cent a year, but the economy is still flush with capital.

A huge population means a huge pool of qualified staff. You combine this with a large amount of capital and you have a business than can out-Uber Uber.

The culture of China is different. Chinese consumers like to go to Starbucks and KFC, use Apple products and wear luxury fashion brands; but only because these fit into Chinese cultural constructs. That means that products need to be optimised for the local market.

China has been through huge change since the rise of the party, which means that the owner executives of these companies have have a greater desire for risk to capitalise on ‘the now’.

This means that most of the advantages Silicon Valley has: agility of action, talent and capital are negated in their competition in China. In addition, since they committed to an approach that already works, adaptation to local market needs are limited. This is interpreted by the Chinese counterparts as hubris; the reality is more subtle.

China does have strategic interests which means that it regulates ‘state secrets’ very carefully. Mapping technology is carefully controlled. It has tried to use its size to benefit its businesses. In the same way that the EU through ETSI defined the GSM standard, the Chinese government tried to do the same with TD-CDMA. The reality is that favoured companies like Huawei have managed to allow their clients to get cheap funding for purchases via Chinese state-owned banks.

Like the US government, the Chinese government uses research funding and infrastructure spending to direct some aspects of technological development. Since the administration of Hu Jintao, the Internet of Things (IoT) has been a government focus.

The danger of the invincible China myth

Whilst China wants to have a world-beating successful technology sector. There are problems that comes with a perception of invisibility, China will find it hard to keep open markets. Trade negotiations will become intractable as the other party sees no upsides to working with China. An eco-system where foreigners have a modicum of success is a better outcome for the Chinese government.

Uber’s problems were entirely of their own making, their choice to go into China was likely their first error. Not because it is excessively gained against them, but because they didn’t have any comparative advantages over Didi.

More information
Uber has destroyed the Western myth that companies can grow huge in China without being Chinese
Content filtering by UK ISPs | Open Rights Group Wiki
Facebook “Will Do Everything We Can” To Address Shady Dress Retailers | Buzzfeed News
Facebook for Business | Air China
Papaya Shoptimize | Papaya Mobile
China listening in on Skype – Microsoft assumes you approve | GreatFire.org
Spotify financial results show struggle to make streaming music profitable – The Guardian

Oprah Time: The Three Body Problem by Cixin Liu

The Three Body Problem like all the best science fiction is multi-layered. It has a complex story which gradually weaves together a large set of characters across time as the story is told in a non-linear manner. It is also multi-layered in terms of genres:

  • It is a space opera as rich as Asimov’s Foundation books, except it is the aliens who will be doing the interstellar travel
  • It has a conspiracy at the heart of it that reminded me of James Bond novels and John Buchan’s The Thirty-Nine Steps
  • It is the tail of of hard-bitten detective work as if Raymond Chandler had been in Beijing; complete with film noir levels of smoking and drinking

But most interesting of all is the mirror it offers on the modern China from the cultural revolution onwards. Liu is unflinching in his depiction of Cultural Revolution excesses.

Like all good authors there are hints of Liu’s early life in a rural part of Henan province during the cultural revolution. He has managed to spin the complex web of a story. The Three Body Problem is the first book in a trilogy – I am looking forward to reading The Dark Forest – the second book.

Out and about: Independence Day: Resurgence

Independence Day was one of the benchmark blockbuster movies. It has cheesy Americana, Will Smith and an aerial dog fight that left my butt cheeks numb as my body had flinched to hold my body in the chair. The illusions on screen temporarily fooled my senses.

Twenty years later, Independence Day: Resurgence was bigger and darker. There was less of the knowing ironic humour. The film tried to take itself seriously. The CGI was impressive, but felt prosaic as we are more used to it now. Destroying London? Yawn.

For a film aiming to take advantage of 3D sales at the box office it offered precious little in terms of visual engagement.

The film did a better job at laying out its stall to take advantage of the Chinese market. A Chinese dairy brand was featured prominently as ‘Moon Milk’. The characters use video chat on QQ (a sister brand of Tencent’s WeChat) with its iconic penguin logo.  One of the film’s prominent stars is Angelababy a staple of Hong Kong and Chinese cinema who came to prominence as a model and promotional spokesperson.

I get why Chinese audiences will like the film, their ‘token’ characters fit in better than transplants sewn into Transformer films – and its apparently done well at the box office there.

The plot took some more twists and turns than the original, but it missed a crucial ingredient. I didn’t care if the characters lived for died, it all felt rather academic – for the future stars of tomorrow like Liam Hemsworth, that must terrify his representation. Hemsworth is a great actor in previous outings like Black Hat, but all of the cast feel flat due to poor character development.

Oprah time: Velvet by Brubaker & Breitweiser

In a world of Marvel-dominated culture, it is hard to imagine more realistic material. Ed Brubaker got the freedom to publish Velvet after several years at DC, Vertigo and Marvel.

Velvet is a welcome antidote to the superhero genre of graphic novels. Instead, you get a cold war era spy drama with modern storytelling. Velvet tells the story of a middle-aged Anne Bancroft-like secretary and one-time agent. The story gets going when she is set up for murder by persons unknown.

In this respect, it outlines the kind of spy plot that would be familiar to readers of Len Deighton or Alistair Maclean. Brubaker’s choice of the early 1970s goes back to a pre-cellphone and computer age. This provides him with a broader canvas to work with.

The story feels modern in its non-linear narrative that moves back and forth between 1956 and 1973. The story zips through Europe across both sides of the Iron Curtain as Velvet tries to find who set her up. The comic features highly kinetic action reminiscent of Matt Damon-era Jason Bourne.

The first two volumes of Velvet are available here and here. Volume three is due out in September.

The Gawker | Peter Thiel Post in a wider context

Silicon Valley veteran financier Peter Thiel was behind the financing of a court case that Terry Bollea “Hulk Hogan” filed over a sex tape. An extract of the video was published by Gawker Media.
Hulk Hogan
What Bollea did was stupid. As a veteran celebrity he must have realised that any kind of compromising position would be a tempting pay check for even his closest friends. The behaviour ran of the risk of endangering any commercial endorsements or media deals that he may have had in place. Usually commercial deals of this nature come with a good behaviour clause – I’ve had these clauses in every celebrity and influencer endorsement I’ve been involved with.

Bollea does have a family who would be caused considerable embarrassment by his actions. And it could be argued that secretly filmed sex between two consenting adults isn’t really newsworthy or pertinent for public consumption.

Gawker Media did what growing media empires have done in the past  and conduct ‘yellow journalism’.  Content of a puerile or sensational nature had been the stock in trade of William Randolph Heart, Joseph Pulitzer, Rupert Murdoch or William Aitken (Lord Beaverbrook). It isn’t morally defensible and it isn’t clever, it is an indictment of the audience.

Gawker did do the public a service, shining a torch on Silicon Valley in a way that hadn’t been done since the early days of InfoWorld’s Notes From The Field column and the book Accidental Empires: How the Boys of Silicon Valley Make Their Millions, Battle Foreign Competition, and Still Can’t Get a Date. The problem was that both of those were pre-smartphone and pre-Internet era portraits of the ‘Valley; back when it really did have foundries manufacturing microprocessors.

As an external observer and someone who has done PR for similar companies in the past. I would argue that the relationships between journalists and the Silicon Valley technology beat had become sufficiently docile that media didn’t provide the reader with insightful analysis of what was really going on.

It is the kind of relationship that the US military struggled to have in Iraq and Afghanistan through the embedding process. Instead of MREs and sharing the emotional highs and lows of action; San Francisco journalists got executive access and invites to the same social mixers and conferences.

Valleywag shook up media practices. Although editorial teams won’t admit it; the likes of Recode, TechCrunch and The Information took note.

Peter Thiel is the most interesting person in the cast of the Hulk Hogan court room drama. Thiel is known for his wealth and unique take on libertarianism. I won’t go into is Thiel right or wrong as none of the parties including Mr Thiel deserve our unreserved sympathies.  It all just makes me want to re-apply hand sanitiser before using the internet.

What I find most interesting about Thiel’s actions is the way it signifies a cultural shift in Silicon Valley that I have talked about for a good while.

It is hard to believe that within living memory San Francisco was a port city with fish canneries that attracted drug addled misfits drawn by everything from its freewheeling culture and access to drugs. The Santa Clara valley to the south was fertile farm land that grew apricots and prunes. Fruit brand Del Monte started right here. The area grew up as Stanford University and the scientific developments of the late 19th to mid-20th century science revolutionised the US military.

Silicon Valley had a reputation for doing things differently. The mix of academia, counterculture and defence expenditure created a unique culture that evolved over time. The collegiate work environment founded by Bill Hewlett and Dave Packard had much to do with their background in education at Stanford. The HP Way, a set of values guided the company for over 60 years until Carly Fiorina’s tenure as CEO.

Bob Noyce came to Silicon Valley to do pioneering work at Shockley’s lab, however poor man management meant that he became a last minute member of the traitorous eight and went on to found Fairchild Semiconductor and Intel. In both of these businesses he founded a relaxed culture that was decades ahead of its time and similar to a modern day worker. If you work in a cube farm rather than offices – you can likely blame that on Noyce.

Whilst the enterprise software businesses like Oracle and chip companies like AMD mirrored the hard driving sales teams of their East Coast counterparts at IBM, many Bay Area companies were made of something different. Counterculture had seeped into the industry. The hacker culture of sharing software and the transformative nature of technology brought forth the Home Brew Computer Club and a missive from a nascent Microsoft CEO complaining about early software piracy. Steve Jobs had talked about how his LSD experiences had helped him do the things he did at Apple. Wired magazine was founded by former hippies like Stewart Brand and Kevin Kelly. There was a very good reason why The Grateful Dead were one of the first bands with a website.

I interviewed with a H-P employee back in the late 1990s who told me how had bought his ‘dancing bears’ tie and Jerry Garcia mouse mat from dead.net

The hippies in Silicon Valley brought their ‘back to the land’ ethos and doing their own thing. It is a form of libertarianism, but not one that Thiel or Uber’s Travis Kalanick would likely recognise as their own.

This was the libertarianism of the pioneer who ventured westward or the outlaw biker gang that yearned for the same freedom. The key difference is that the hippy technologist build their frontier to carry onwards, not having to worry about the Pacific ocean and instead going to new realms in code and network infrastructure.

The counterculture ethos could be seen even in web 2.0 products like Flickr which freely allowed customers to move their data or build their own apps on the APIs that the development team used.

Facebook is a marker in time for when the cultural tone of Silicon Valley changed. The hippies were out and the yuppies had taken over. Brogrammers and zero hour working for ‘Uber for’ applications that provide labour as a service.

The Gawker court case marks a similar milestone event in Silicon Valley culture. Thiel’s actions brought a number of his peers out in public to support him. Silicon Valley stops sounding like yuppies and more like the titan’s of the gilded age that would brook no disrespect and governed riches in the face of massive inequality. The Bay Area version of the American dream is dead for the secretaries and engineers who will no longer become financially independent on share options.

Customer service, once seen as a a way into start-ups is now a purgatory. I used to have a client in the late 1990s who worked their way up through a chip company from being in admin when the business was a new start-up to running marketing communications and PR across EMEA in the space of 10 years or so. That progression just wouldn’t happen now, the gilded class have their compliant (if at times resentful workforce) and now want a more respectful media.

The seeds of destruction are already sown for the gilded class. Innovation has moved East to the other side of the Pacific. Baidu is likely to be a leader in deep learning, driverless vehicles and innovation. The leading drone brand is DJI based in Shenzhen – rather than being designed in California and just assembled in China. Networks infrastructure leader Huawei are showing the kind of smarts marketing Android smartphones that Silicon Valley hardware makers would have had a decade ago.

Tencent has shown how dangerous it could be with the right marketing smarts. It already has as good software design chops as the Bay Area. Facebook Messenger bots have been on WeChat for years. If you haven’t done so give WeChat a try, just to see what the application looks like.

A compliant sycophantic media won’t help the gilded class build the financially successful future Silicon Valley in the same way that an inquiring body of journalists could do.

More information
The changing culture of Silicon Valley
Barbarians in the Valley
From satori to Silicon Valley by Theodore Roszak
A Declaration of the Independence of Cyberspace
Tech Titans Raise Their Guard, Pushing Back Against News Media – New York Times
Those Entry-Level Startup Jobs? They’re Now Mostly Dead Ends in the Boondocks — Backchannel — Medium

Out and about: Granny’s Got Talent | 헬머니

The Korean Cultural Centre has a fortnightly screening of films. The latest one that I went to was Granny’s Got Talent or 헬머니 (pronounced Helmeoni – a literal translation would be Hell Granny).

The premise is built around an old woman who is released from jail. She lost contact with her eldest son and tries to build that connection whilst living with her youngest son. The eldest son is a salary man with an over-bearing set of rich in-laws. The youngest son an inveterate gambler. To bail the youngest son out of trouble she participates in a Korean reality TV show based around cursing and chaos ensues. Veteran Korean actress carries off the role of Hell Granny with aplomb. I laughed so hard at some points I ended up crying.

The raucous bawdy humour works despite subtitles and has some amazing comedic set-pieces. But this rudeness is only the top layer in the story, where the viewer gets a glimpse at the hard life a strong woman had to live in a fast-developing South Korea.

The film works on a number of levels touching a number of distinctly  Korean themes including the obsession with hierarchy, its turbulent political past, the corrupt aspects of chaebols and the love of family (no matter how dysfunctional).

More Information
Movie page on Daum in Korean

On Writing

This post was prompted by reading A Time To Write by Wadds, open it in a new tab on your browser and give it a read.
Cover on my old book
Given Wadds’ post I thought I would reflect briefly on my own process.

Why I write?

Wadds describes his writing as a kind of mindfulness.  For me writing serves a number of purposes:

  • It cements things in my memory, a bit like revision at school
  • It helps me work out ideas and my stance on them
  • Its a good platform for experiments. I started off my blogging to work out how it could help clients that I couldn’t get media coverage for. This was back before social media was a thing. At the moment I am using this blog  as part of an experiment on LinkedIn Pulse as a source of traffic. More on that when I have a decent set of data
  • Occasionally decent conversations spark of these posts, some of my good friends are online
  • There is a more talented fighter than I, also called Ged Carroll. I like to have a clear differentiator from him
  • My blog is also a marketing calling card, I have got jobs from it over the years.

Wadds talks about why people don’t write, he describes it as effort and bravery. I suspect its a bit more complex. Yes life does get in the way for many people, but many of my friends have their own creative outlets: painting, photography, the art of social conversation, mastering video games to name but three.  For me writing extends out of curiosity, it is a natural progression – otherwise ideas would vanish into the ether.

In terms of bravery, Wadds talks about the willingness to share private or personal subjects. I generally don’t, the reason is quite simple. Growing up in an Irish household, my time was predominantly spent in the UK during The Troubles, I grew up with the idea of the pervasive, invasive surveillance state. I grew up with a personal perception of what could be called ‘operational security’ (Op-Sec). The future has finally caught up.

Workflow

You can break my workflow down into four sections:

  • Ideation.  Ideas broadly come from reading something or the world around me. If it is something on the world around me, I will make some bullets in the notes application of my iPhone.  If it is a talk I will have likely recorded it using Olympus’ free dictation app for the iPhone. If it is from reading a book, I am likely to put post-it notes on the relevant pages with some notes and then flick back through this as I write a post. I have aversion to writing on the books themselves. I have found that I don’t get much out of reading on a Kindle, so only use that for leisure reading now. If  I am inspired by something I have seen, there will be a picture on Flickr, which also serves as the image hosting platform for this blog. I have about 46 GB of images in my Flickr account – it would take a major tectonic event to persuade me to move to another platform like 500px. I have a Twitter account with a set of lists that provide inspiration and use Newsblur as an RSS reader as well. Newsblur is invaluable. I am currently trying Breaking News, an app recommended by Richard Edelman and occasionally dip into Apple’s own News app. When I have online content that has spurred a writing idea I will notate it in my bookmark service pinboard.in
  • Writing. My writing method varies based on two criteria; the regularity of the post and the length of the post. If you’ve read my blog for a length of time you will see that there are repeating themes. Every two days is a collection of interesting links from around the web. These posts are based on content that I bookmark. There is a post on Friday for interesting creative or useful things, again this pretty much writes itself based on my bookmarks as I ingest the web. At the moment I am publishing slides of data that I have collected on a monthly basis, I usually write a bit of analysis on the some of the data that I have surfaced. This just flows out easily. For short irregular posts they are often a stream of consciousness with minimal editing directly into WordPress. Longer posts are often mind-mapped onto engineering squared paper and then written into Hemingway
  • Editing. Unlike Wadds, I don’t have an editor. I use Hemingway app as a machine-based editor. My fact-checking happens before words are committed to the posts in my reading around
  • Syndication. I syndicate my content using plumbing that I have put int place using IFTTT and WordPress’ own JetPack plug-in. When I syndicate to Medium and LinkedIn this is done manually.

Wadds’ talks about mindfulness in writing. I don’t necessarily think that its the same for me.  That feeling of being in the zone is something I get more from DJ’ing ironically, or focusing on a mundane task. Writing is more about making fleeting ideas permanent. It is also written with at least half an eye on my work.

More information
Olympus Dictation app
Flickr
Newsblur
Twitter lists
pinboard.in
Breaking News app
IFTTT
JetPack
Medium

Millennials are people too

Smart funny video by Adam Conover on the marketing obsession of millennials as a form of segmentation.

Show this to as many marketers as you can.

Evolution of search by Danny Sullivan

Danny Sullivan did a talk a few years ago on the evolution of search, it’s worthwhile taking 9 minutes out as he plots it:

library/librarian > electronic catalogue for library > LexisNexis database > Yahoo! > WebCrawler > InfoSeek > AltaVista > Ask Jeeves > Google

Something old school for you

Digging through my digital archive I came across an old mix CD I had done.

Two Technics SL-1200 decks, vinyl records, a no-brand mixer with bass and treble levels on each channel that I had picked up at Maplins (think Radio Shack in the US) and a HHB CD-R 800 recorder to take it down in one take.  (For hi-fi heads, the CD-R 800 was made for HHB by Pioneer based on the respected Pioneer PDR-99. The differences were in the rack mount capability on the HHB in place of the wooden side pieces, HHB branding and some additional balanced connections on the back for recording in a studio.)

It was sent out and given to friends as a CD in an A3 sleeve that folded down to CD size designed by Stephen Holmes at bloodybigspider.

Track listing (as best I can remember) – if you recognise any of the other tracks let me know so I can plug the gaps

  1. Unfinished Sympathy (Nellee Hooper club mix) – Massive Attack
  2. Reality (main vocal version) – DJ Spinna featuring Rich Medina
  3. Marscarter (BLHIII original) – Bernard Leon Howard III
  4. Inspirations From A Small Black Church On The Eastside Of Detroit – Moodymann
  5. Unlabelled white label
  6. City People (Migs Dubpusher Rub) – Miguel Migs
  7. Jazz 2 B U (Johnny Fiasco’s after midnight mix) – Chris Simmonds
  8. Saxomus Bill – Jay Tripwire (you can find this on Beatport as Saxamus Brown – presumably because the original namechecks Bill Clinton)
  9. Hypnose (Tony Hewitt remix) – Phil Weeks
  10. Unknown white label
  11. Unknown white label
  12. My Dusty 303 – Dano
  13. I go back (main mix) – Harry Romero featuring Robert Owens
  14. The Love Scene (Henry Street remix) – Joe

Jargon Watch: context collapse

Years ago I wrote a series of posts with the link-baiting titles of ‘Facebook is a dead man walking’; the first post written in 2008. I say this so you can form an opinion up  front about my interpretation  around the idea of context collapse.
Facebook page
According to The Information, Facebook is worried about a drop in users sharing their own content.

As of mid-2015, total sharing had declined by about 5.5% year over year while “original broadcast sharing” was down 21% year over year, the confidential data show.

This loss is especially acute with under 30 year old users. This loss in sharing according to Bloomberg company staff have branded context collapse.

What are the likely causes? Here my are my hypotheses.

Negative network effects. Just five years ago ZDNet published research were respondents admitted that they were drunk in 75 per cent of their photos on Facebook. In 2016, when ‘friends’ means colleagues, superiors, clients, teachers or parents there will be a lot more self-censorship going on.  A more subtle form of self censorship will be also brought about in terms of societal norming.

When Facebook initially arrived the volume of content that people shared was larger, now it isn’t only the nature of the content that people will consider but the volume of the content. Are they too noisy, do they overshare?

Facebook lost a lot of trust with consumers with things likes Beacon. Consumers didn’t necessarily understand the nuances, they were told that it wasn’t good and their privacy settings are a major hassle to tweak – when you’re on edge about privacy, you are more likely to put a filter on your content.

Just over five years ago, Netbase had released brand research that showed consumers had a stronger, negative feeling towards Facebook than brands like Microsoft, Google or Twitter. That left room for other services to creep in for self-expression, messaging and sharing to small groups. Facebook bought some of the major players Instagram and WhatsApp, but doesn’t own all the pieces.

More information
Facebook Struggles to Stop Decline in ‘Original’ Sharing | The Information (paywall)
British Facebook users are drunk in 76% of their photos | ZDNet
Facebook Wants You to Post More About Yourself – Bloomberg
Why Facebook is a dead man walking | renaissance chambara
Why Facebook is a dead man walking part II? | renaissance chambara
Why Facebook is a dead man walking part 2.5? | 技术品牌的情绪 | renaissance chambara
Facebook and advertising or why Facebook is a dead man walking part III? | renaissance chambara

The viewing habits of millennials according to Havas Media

Havas have put together a nice collection of statistics on the media habits of millennials (18-34 year olds). Television holds up really well on live content, recorded shows (think TiVo) and Blu-Ray or DVD content. But it falls down streamed content, which indicates that smart TVs aren’t in as good a place as one would expect. Especially when one thinks that the likes of Netflix would be leanback content similar to live TV or recorded content.

6 things I learned in a corporate environment

I spent four months working day-in, day-out onsite at a large corporate.

    • The working environment is very different to an agency. My desk had to become much more portable. Since the space was all hot-desking with only team PAs assigned permanent desks.  This meant no reference charts stuck up or post-its around the monitor. Instead I boiled my process down to the laptop, a notebook that acted as my organisation memory and a day book that focused on my tasks. That was it, no further paper work
    • Many of the traditional spaces for memos weren’t available. So the back of a toilet door with its regularly updated notices was a lifeline to what was happening where. The coffee machine, once a traditional networking point was less useful as hot desking meant that your serendipitous meetings are random lack depth
    • The importance of mobile was brought home to me. Each desk  space had a phone. You keyed in your number and a PIN and your direct dial number moved with you. But 20 per cent of these phones were out of action at any given time. This wasn’t a problem as people tended to use their mobile phones a lot. We used to talk a lot, over bridged conference call numbers. You would see people on calls pacing the floor listening an talking on their calls via headsets plugged into their mobile handsets
    • Sustainability and being environmentally friendly were more than having a prominent recycling bin. There is an application that reminded me any time I printed something just how bad I was for the environment. Being green was thoughtfully built into processes rather than bolted on as an afterthought
    • Admittedly, my time at Yahoo! was in a very different company and culture, but being a client is very much a team sport. You only have a limited amount of control, a lot of work has to be done by consensus and through process. Making this happen takes up an inordinate amount of time
    • It seemed to be timely when writing this post that I read this article Silicon Valley Has Not Saved Us From a Productivity Slowdown – The New York Times – new enterprise software like Workday is still as reassuring clunky as their forebears. Many of the same problems of collaboration and information sharing are still being resolved

Daniel Goldberg and Linus Larsson on State Of Play

Interesting keynote at Google by Swedish authors Goldberg and Larsson covered the Minecraft story and have since written about video game culture in State of Play.

One of the key things that they pull out is how social and political themes are starting to come into gaming from independent developers.