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.
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.
Publicis Groupe announced two things in the past week that caught the attention of the industry:
You can’t look at either in isolation, they are both linked together.
Why the withdrawal from promotional activities?
There are various speculative takes on this:
Let’s move on to Marcel itself
It’s hard to deconstruct a corporate video to get a firm idea what the underlying form might be. The truth is that the underlying form may not even exist yet as a product brief. It takes time to coalesce an offering from high concepts to prototyping these concepts with a sampling of users. From then on you go to mapping out the functional requirements of the product and build it in a series of short sprints. Once you have a minimum viable product and tested it, you may want to tweak your project direction further.
However, when you dig into it, Marcel isn’t only about an app, but re-engineering most of the IT infrastructure as well in order to support the machine learning capability. Marcel will find it harder to learn if the data is fragmented in drives with different permissions, online services or even offline.
Carla Serrano describes Marcel as:
A professional assistant that uses AI machine learning technology across our 80,000 people in 130 countries to connect, co-create and share in new and different ways.
This won’t be like Alexa Home managing your calendar and your Spotify playlist.
AI is put in there for audience members who wouldn’t know what machine learning is. A nice succinct definition below via TechTarget:
Machine learning is a type of artificial intelligence (AI) that provides computers with the ability to learn without being explicitly programmed. … The process of machine learning is similar to that of data mining.
Let’s tease out the functions
I’ve ignored messaging as a function as most agencies use multiple channels for messaging including Slack, email, Skype/Lync or SMS. A messaging service might be built in, some of the interfaces could be ‘call-and-response’ chat bot style interactions.
Based on Google’s Return on Information: Improving your ROI with Google Enterprise Search white paper here are some rough numbers that I came up with.
The notional productivity gain is worth well over $400,000,000 in additional billable time, or like having almost 1,600 additional staff at little additional cost. The key word in all this is ‘notional’.
So what’s the downside to the factors outlined in the top-level view of Marcel?
Understanding the context for Marcel
The second half of the video is concept film of how Marcel would work in practice. It was likely put together to give voice to functionality rather than also thinking about tone. I would not be surprised if this was reused from an internal presentation to showcase the vision of Marcel to key stakeholders. The film has tonality in it is a bit concerning, I suspect it’s unintentional. If Marcel works as promised we would be in new territory for corporate culture however.
Having watched it reinforced to me:
How do you ensure a culture that continues to attract and retain the top talent as the organisation gets Marcel operational?
The partial removal of client services as a gate keeper between Jamie the client and Publicis talent was interesting. It would make client services job to get their arms around all the business opportunities in the client much harder. It would also be more attractive to certain clients who would feel more in control of their account.
Themes in the film:
Marcel is the business equivalent of playing high stakes poker. If it is pulled off successfully it would put Publicis in an excellent position versus it’s competitors. However there is a lot that can go wrong from a technological and organisation perspective.
I don’t know how much of this can be realistically achieved in the 12 months that Publicis seems to have given itself? It strikes me that this is likely to be a transformation that would require much more time in order to fully match the vision outlined. From a cultural perspective the challenge of ‘break, build, bond’ hides the level of complexity and change going on.
The biggest risk is what happens if Publicis doesn’t meet the wider industry expectations of success with Marcel? How will that affect client perceptions of them, or their ability to hire talent? How would it affect Sapient’s standing as a technology company?
I’ve been watching a lot of Curtis’ work recently. HyperNormalisation, The Mayfair Set, The Trap, The Century of the Self, Bitter Lake and Pandora’s Box.
Just Adam Curtis channel on YouTube – has curated many of his documentaries.
Yahoo! had a data breach in 2014, it declared the breach to consumers on September 22. This isn’t the first large data breach breach that Yahoo! has had over the past few years just the largest.
In 2012, there was a breach of 450,000+ identities back in 2012. Millions of identity records were apparently being sold by hackers in August 2016 that the media initially linked to the 2012 breach. It would be speculative to assume that the records for sale in August was part of the 2014 raid.
The facts so far:
Vermont senator asked the following questions in a letter to Yahoo!:
Added to this, shareholders and Verizon are likely to want to know:
An Important Message About Yahoo User Security | Yahoo – Yahoo!’s official announcement
UK Man Involved in 2012 Yahoo Hack Sentenced to Prison | Security Week
Congressional Leaders Demand Answers on Yahoo Breach | Threat Post
I was given Heaven’s Bankers to read as a friend. I can’t say I had thought that much about Islamic finance before. I knew that it had a couple of patches of ‘heat’ behind it in the banking sector. One was in the late 1990s. It then took a back seat post-911 and took off again as Dubai boomed.
It helps that Harris was not only an insider, but passionate about banking in its widest sense. He’s also sickening polymath who is a top flight racing driver.
Irfan delves into the intricacies of how modern Islamic finance grew and contracted. The industry he provides us an inside view of is now worth a trilliion dollars. The start of history like most things were pretty straight forward. As the industry grew more arcane and complex financial instruments became the norm. This reminded me of a lot of Mark Lewis’ Liar’s Poker. Lewis dealt with bonds and modern derivatives became so complex customers didn’t understand them. The Savings and Loans debacle of 1985-1996 foreshadowed subprime mortgages.
Where Irfan really excels for the non-banker as reader is in his ability to break down the basics. He takes the concepts many of us learned in business or economics classes back into pre-medieval history. He provides a historical perspective on modern capitalism as we know it. So the book becomes invaluable regardless of how you feel about the current economic system. The background gives you a more informed perspective.
Dave Chaum’s idea to to try and balance between state actors demand for internet sovereignty and the defacto end of citizen privacy, with the need to address emotive causes such as terrorism, paedophile rings and organised crime got a lot of attention from wired.
The principle behind PrivaTegrity is that there would be a backdoor, but the back door could only be opened with a nine-part key. The parts would be distributed internationally to try and reduce the ability of a single state actor to force access.
However it has a number of flaws to it:
When I was in college I interviewed for a few placements, one was with Hewlett-Packard in Germany. They wanted a marketing student to look after their printing brochures on demand initiative for their UNIX product line. This was going to save them a mint in terms of marketing spend using an Indigo Digital Press rather than brochure runs on litho printing, reducing waste, storage needs and allow for faster document updates. (HP went on to buy Indigo in 2001).
Commercial adoption of the web was around the corner, I was already using it in college, but its ubiquity still seemed quite far away. I decided I didn’t want to go for the job primarily because I wanted to get my degree over and done with and HP weren’t paying that much for the role.
We were interviewed by a succession of people, the only one who was memorable was a guy called Tim Nolte who wore a Grateful Dead tie and had a Jerry Garcia mouse mat in his cubicle.
At that time HP, had the dressing of the company man but had more than a few hippies on the payroll who permeated its culture. Reading Robert X Cringely’s Accidental Empires made me realise that technology was as much a culture war as technological upheaval.
If one looks at the icons of the technology sector up to and including the early noughties many of the people were influenced by the counterculture movement if not part of it. The Grateful Dead where one of the first bands to have their own website at dead.net. The Electronic Frontier Foundation was founded by John Perry Barlow, a lyricist with The Grateful Dead. Steve Jobs was influenced by Indian mystics and his experiences using LSD.
Stewart Brand who founded WIRED magazine and The WeLL was the editor of The Whole Earth Catalog, a guide to useful things for people who wanted to get back to the land. He was influential in the early environmentalist movement and had been involved in the counterculture of 1960s San Francisco.
Ideas from open APIs and creative commons came from their libertarian values. Open Source Software again comes from academic and countercultural attitudes to information and has had to defend itself from accusations of communism, yet it now runs most of the world’s web services and gadgets from smartphones to Google’s search engine.
Reading the Cluetrain Manifesto is like reading a screed that could have come from an alternative Haight Ashbury.
Aeon magazine wrote an article on how yuppies have hacked the hacker ethos, but the truth is they’ve got behind the steering wheel as web2.0 declined. The move from open web API’s and the walled garden approach of Facebook and their ilk marked a changing of the guard of sorts.
Flickr had and ability to move your photos as a matter of pride in their product. Just a few clicks kept them honest and kept them innovating. Joshua Schachter’s similar approach on del.icio.us allowed me to move to pinboard.in when Yahoo! announced that it would be sunset.
Government always is the last to catch up, which is the reason why open data only really gained mainstream political currency in the past five years.
Were now in a Silicon Valley whose values are closer to the Reagan years and I am not too sure what it will do for innovation. I suspect that the change won’t be positive.
Accidental Empires: How the Boys of Silicon Valley Make Their Millions, Battle Foreign Competition, and Still Can’t Get a Date by Robert X Cringely
Don’t listen to Bill Gates. The open-source movement isn’t communism. | Slate
How yuppies hacked the hacker ethos – Aeon
Whilst on the surface this is a puff piece for Apple, but Cook uses the Obama administration’s call to cooperate making life easier for the intelligence industrial complex get access to consumer data and lays out an opposing vision.
He basically kicked Washington DC in the teeth, other significant companies just decided to turn up with a significantly less senior representative to send the same message.
Over the weekend if you went on to quality (not Buzzfeed) news sites you would have probably seen something about a scientific paper that was published by researchers in the pay of Facebook on how emotion spreads through social networks.
There was a lot of copy written already about the experiment, so I recommend that you read The Atlantic‘s piece on it instead. There has been a lot written about whether it is moral, legal or ethical. As far as it being legal, Facebook’s highly paid legal counsel could provide a better steer on it than I could; and I suspect they would tell you it was completely legal.
As for the morals and ethics of it, I rather think that those are a mute point. Consumers emotional states have been tweaked for decades, the question of morality sailed with the rise of the mass market consumer product.
Whilst public relations as it is practiced now is more of a mechanistic craft; its father Edward Bernays viewed propaganda as a ‘modern instrument’ driven by scientific thinking including understanding of audience psychology to move people.
Advertisers utilised motivational research from the early 20th century on to create cognitive dissonance with a consumer and then provide the product as a solution. The Atlantic carried an article on the psychology of advertising back in 1904. You are a better Mum if you wash your kids clothes with Persil, Cadbury’s Dairy Milk will put a smile on your face.
Political pollsters use voter psychographic profiling to induce a constituency result. We already live in the world of a malleable proletariat envisioned by by George Orwell in his novel 1984.
The people who are outraged by this need to get over it, log-in to Facebook less and realise that they are already sheep with a gallery of multinational shepherds herding them through their consumer lifecycle. What you can do is become more informed and read your environment in a more critical way.
Everything We Know About Facebook’s Secret Mood Manipulation Experiment | The Atlantic
Experimental evidence of massive-scale emotional contagion through social networks by Adam D. I. Kramera, Jamie E. Guillory and Jeffrey T. Hancock
The Oxford Handbook of Propaganda Studies (Oxford Handbooks) the Auerbach and Castronovo edited anthology gives you pretty much everything you need to know from Bernays onwards about psychology and audience manipulation
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The Psychology of Advertising by Walter D Scott | The Atlantic (1904) – no that’s not a typo
Frontline: The Persuaders | PBS
Advertising’s Fifteen Basic Appeals | Jib Fowles
In the past, what is now included in the envelope of big data resided with just a few organisations. The story of big data started with the US government. The government used a young company called IBM and their punch card technology to help tabulate their census data. Punch card technology started in the textile industry, where industrial revolution-era jacquard looms manufactured complex fabric patterns. Punch cards also controlled fairground organs and related instruments. It was with early tabulating machines made by IBM and others that started to change the world as we know it.
When the mainframe came along governments used them to manage tax collection and to run the the draft for Vietnam. It came a key part of the US anti-war protesters to destroy machine readable draft cards. (The draft card destruction didn’t affect the draft process. But burning the draft card was still an offence and some people underwent punishment.)
Also around this time, the credit agency was coming into its own in the US. Over a period of 60 years, it had gradually accumulated records on millions of Americans and Canadians. The New York Times in 1970 described the kind of records that were held by Retail Credit (now known as Equifax):
…may include ‘facts, statistics, inaccuracies and rumors’ … about virtually every phase of a person’s life; his marital troubles, jobs, school history, childhood, sex life, and political activities.
These records helped to vet people for job applications, bank loans and department store consumer credit. It was like a private sector version of the J. Edgar Hoover files. Equifax moved to computerise its records. One reason was to improve the professionalisation of its business. This also had an implication on the wider availablity of credit information. Computerisation led to the Fair Credit Report Act in the US. This legislation was designed to give consumers a measure of transparency and control over their data.
Forty years later, mainframe computers are still used to process tens of thousands of credit card transactions every second. New businesses including social networks, search engines and online advertising companies have vast amounts of data; unlike anything a credit agency ever had.
The recent The Social, Cultural & Ethical Dimensions of “Big Data” event held at New York University by the Data & Society Research Institute was important. Events like these help society understand what changes to make in the face of rapid technological change.
The Algorithmic Accountability primer from the event highlights the seemingly innocuous examples of how technology like Google’s search engine can have far reaching consequences. What the Data & Society Research Institute called ‘filter bubbles’. Personalisation of search will change that consumers see from individual to individual. This discrimination could also be applied to items like pricing. Staples has produced an algorithm that based pricing on location of the web user; better off customers were provided with better prices. One of the problems of regulating this area is first of all defining what an algorithm actually is from a policy perspective.
Algorithmic systems are generally not static systems but are continually tweaked and refined, so represent a moving target. During my time at Yahoo! we rolled out a major change to the search algorithm every two weeks on a Wednesday evening US west coast time. I imagine that pace of change at the likes of Google and Facebook has only accelerated.
The problem with many rules based systems now is that we no longer write the rules or teach the systems; instead we give the system access to large data sets and it starts to teach itself – the results generally work but we don’t know why. This is has been a leap forward for what would be broadly based artificial intelligence, but makes these systems intrinsically hard to regulate.
Given all this it is hardly surprising that research carried out on behalf of President Obama by The Whitehouse showed a high level of concern amongst US citizens.
Jacquard Loom – National Museums Scotland
Separating Equifax from Fiction | Wired (Issue 3.05)
Data & Society | Algorithmic Accountability primer
This Landmark Study Could Reveal How The Web Discriminates Against You | Forbes
Websites Vary Prices, Deals Based on Users’ Information | WSJ
The 90-day review for Big Data | Whitehouse
Data & Society | Alogrithmic Accountability Workshop Notes
Digital Me: Will the next Cringely be from Gmail? | I, Cringely
The Boston Consulting Group pulled together data about data privacy around the world. This gives a really good view into consumer’s attitudes towards data privacy. Location comes across as particularly high compared to other information like credit card details for surfing history.
Time magazine had an interesting article about older people in the work force. One part of the article struck me; that older people were likely to face microaggression from colleagues. This was categorised as:
“brief and commonplace daily verbal, behavioral, and environmental indignities, whether intentional or unintentional, that communicate hostile, derogatory or negative racial slights and insults to the target person or group,”
Doesn’t sound that serious, until I read that it would
“affect older workers in the same way that they do members of racial minorities, eroding self-esteem,”
At the beginning of the week, I read about Sarah Leibowitz who is an account coordinator at Sparkpr* in New York. Sarah had sent an email to Valleywag on behalf of client Paltalk who had been mentioned in Edward Snowden’s PRISM slide deck. Sarah mentioned this in her email introduction and the Valleywag journalist dissected her pitch so that the whole of the PR industry and the technology sector could read it. I imagine it’s going to take a good while for Sarah’s personal SEO campaign to bury this article.
As an industry we trust the core part of our value proposition to the most junior people often without the necessary oversight and coaching to prevent these kind of mistakes. It is not intentional, client demands and new business pitches get in the way of the best intentions: most of the time we get away with it. Show me an experienced PR person that hasn’t made a potentially embarrassing mistake at any time in their career and I will show you a liar.
We sell influence: by influencing influential people, be they bloggers, journalists, editors, researchers or DJs. Reputation management is an outcome of this process, strategy is the management of the process: neither are the core value we provide. Ms. Leibowitz is likely to have been a casualty of an industry trying to run ever faster.
Moving forward to this morning I read about David Monagan writing for Forbes who made a grovelling apology for calling Irish president Michael D. Higgins an “acknowledged homosexual”. Mr Monagan in his apology talks about having never made a mistake like that in his 35 years as a journalist; the mistake came about due to a tight deadline. It then went through the Forbes editorial process without question and was published. Mr Monagan is an acknowledged casualty of faster media s we move towards real-time.
Watching the content-free real-time TV coverage of the royal birth and the numerous lame brand #royalbirth hashtag hijack attempts this week showed me as an audience member how an attempt to do real-time media can wear down the the consumer as well as the other parts of the media chain. It is time that we opened a dialogue about taking a step back from this self-defeating treadmill.
Archived from blog posts I wrote for PR Week
I have been viewing the outcomes of the Levenson Report from afar and decided to revisit my first post on all this:
In the grand scheme of things the impact wasn’t that big. Whilst the News Of The World (NoTW) closed down, the replacement paper by News International has only managed to sell roughly half the NoTW’s circulation. I suspect that this is less about outrage and more about the disappearance of a well-loved brand – I was mildly surprised by the value in the NoTW brand.
News Corporation’s resilience. What is probably most interesting about the whole debacle is the way Rupert Murdoch has used the opportunity to split the firm in two and structure News Corporation for future growth. The company has also changed its approach towards its news media properties. With the split, there is a less sentimental approach and something similar to a fast-failure model has been in play. But this has also spurred innovation:
It was interesting that News Corporation used it as such a catalyst for change, either way it’s rivals will be competing against a leaner more dynamic business. They would have been better off with the status quo.
The confluence of interests. Whilst the Levenson Report was quite measured compared to some of the sentiment expressed, there was no way that it was going to get through on all recommendations. This would have upset the eco-system too much and there would have been likely blow-back in the future for the body-politic. Who knows the exact motivations but David Cameron’s administration took things about as far as they could. If one looks at the overall stance on the media industry from the Digital Economy Bill onwards, any greater moves would have been very out of character. The established media industry still has friends in power.
The News Of The World: it’s probably not the revolution that you think it is
An enquiry into the culture, practices and ethics of the press by the Right Honorable Lord Justice Levenson – executive summary (PDF)