Revisiting The X-Files twenty years later

I discovered The X-Files at college. I had just purchased a Casio TV with a screen the size of a postage stamp from a pawn shop in Huddersfield. I bought a power block from Argos to save on batteries. The internet was only available for me during college time, so destination TV was a thing. I would tune in without-fail to watch the show.
I want to believe
The X-Files was of a time and a place. The Berlin Wall had some down and the military industrial complex still existed. It existed without a wider purpose. The Thatcher years seemed totalitarian at the time in the way that Teresa May does now. Area 51  was the home of stealth planes. Nuclear annihilation was as much a part of society as terrorism is now.

The six episode relaunch caused me to revisit the show. It was interesting to see who it felt current and still had changed. Mulder and Scully used mobile phones, email, the internet and databases. From a technical point-of-view it feels current. Japanese technological skill now feels like a hangover form the 1980s. The use of optical media feels equally dated. The authors understanding of technology and the online world is more muddied. Series 7 episode First Person Shooter muddles online computer gaming, virtual and reality.

The storytelling definitely hit a low in series 6. Series 7 saw some interesting series mash-ups and changes:

  • Lance Henriksen from Chris Carter show Millennium appears in one episode as a plot crossover
  • There is a special episode of COPS (X-Cops) where the show format changes to ‘reality TV’
  • The Smoking Man becomes a trickster character like Loki than the sinister hand of the military industrial complex

The Lone Gunmen seem quite niave and childish in their quest for the truth. A failed effort to crack a Las Vegas convention where banal details of black ops discussed over poker. It would be interesting to see what they look like in a post-Snowden world.

Series 8 seems to be a self conscious effort to re-inject tension into the franchise. Robert Patrick joins as a by-the-book FBI agent dealing with shape-shifting bounty  hunter aliens. This is an interesting juxtaposition as he was previously best known for his role as the liquid metal policeman T-1000 from Terminator 2: Judgement Day. It was Mulder’s turn to get abducted by aliens.

Series 9 loses something in the awkward working threesome of Scully, Reyes and Doggett. There is something fitting about the final episode which features black helicopters and the smoking man.

The Truth Is Out There was the oft-repeated mission statement in the show. Now it really is out in public and profoundly depressing. Despite this, I found re-watching the first five series of The X-Files very rewarding.

Jargon watch: McRefugees

McDonalds Restaurants in Hong Kong is famous to Economist readers for consistently providing the best value in the publication’s ‘tongue-in-cheek’ ‘Big Mac Index’ McDonalds Chinese sign

The restaurants are ubiquitous, offering cheap consistent food. And many of them remain open 24 hours a day, which contributes to Hong Kong’s ‘up all night’ lifestyle alongside the ubiquitous convenience stores. They are a neighbourhood haven to office workers, students and those on shifts. Their relative low costs mean that they prove attractive to homeless people. McSleepers and McRefugees were the interchangeable labels given to the homeless people sleeping in McDonalds to escape the oppressive heat of summer or the cold around lunar new year. It became a thing in the media last year when a woman lay dead in a restaurant for 24 hours before being discovered. The tragedy masks the unintentional social role McDonalds is playing for the poorest in Hong Kong society.

More information

Hong Kong ‘McRefugees’ up sharply, study shows – Hong Kong Economic Journal Insights

Save our McRefugees: Woman’s lonely unnoticed death in Hong Kong McDonald’s highlights need to help homeless | SCMP

Hong’s Kong’s lack of affordable housing fuels ‘McSleeper’ trend, where the homeless sleep at McDonald’s | SCMP Homeless woman found dead at Hong Kong McDonald’s 24 hours after she sat down as unaware customers ate | SCMP

‘McRefugee’ reunites with son in Singapore through media report on Hong Kong’s McDonald’s sleepers | SCMP

The lonely life of the McSleepers, the poor who call McDonald’s home | SCMP

The #piggate post

In case you’ve lived under a rock for the past few days, Piggate is something you will want to be over by now.

A couple of thoughts on Piggate

  • David Cameron lived out his childhood and young adult life in a world without social media. There will be countless people of his generation thinking ‘there but for the grace of God go I‘ due to the youthful high jinks in military barracks, schools and sports clubs around the world. It’s not pleasant to think about, but it doesn’t surprise me
  • Lord Ashcroft has deliberately burnt bridges with this book and it would be more interesting to find out what persuaded him to take such drastic action. It’s the kind of story worthy of House Of Cards

Finally, how did CassetteBoy manage to put together Getting Piggy With It so fast?

The not-so-secret internet diary of a gen X man – the directors cut

Stephen Waddington’s daughter Ellie posted about her media consumption with a guest post on his blog, go and have a read of it. This snowballed into what is likely to be a series of media diary posts by different people. My contribution was published on his blog this morning. I penned the original as a stream of consciousness whilst laid up. I have cleaned up a few typos and expanded on a few bits for clarity, hence the director’s cut comment.

I wouldn’t say my media diary is that of a typical consumer, I have lived inside the technology-media industrial complex since the late 1990s and worked in the scientific side of the UK’s now largely defunct industry prior to that. I am steeped in counter-culture since the mid-1980s and spent a fair bit of time in Hong Kong – which changed my outlook somewhat. I am also unencumbered by family life at the moment.

The reaction so far to the posting has been interesting:

  • I was amused at being called a mature hipster, which I guess goes to prove that geeks are the new cool. I always thought of myself closer to the comic store owner in The Simpsons
  • The last part of the article was called out by a few people who got in touch, my comments on privacy seemed to touch a nerve in a way that my concerns about innovation didn’t. The UK economy is not going to get saved from going a bit Greece with just a few blockchain start-ups

Messenger for keeping in touch and on track

Over a decade ago I used to use Adium X, a multi-service instant messaging client for the Mac to keep in touch with a wide range of friends, colleagues, suppliers and clients. Each client was like hitting a different layer of clay in an archeological dig, indicating when I knew them.

People on ICQ where the longest held contacts, then Yahoo! Messenger (I even ended up working at Yahoo!), Windows Live messenger was purely about my time at Waggener Edstrom and GoogleTalk became de-rigeur when the bots on Yahoo! Messenger came too much.

Now I use WeChat, LINE, Signal, Skype and Telegram. Like IM platforms before it each messenger platform fits a segment of friends, colleagues and clients.

Flickr is an archive

I have friends that are talented photographers and you can’t convince me that some nice filters and a square picture adds up to the pretentions of photographic art that many people seem to feel it has. I have been on Flickr for 11 years and 18,345 photographs later, it would have to be a really compelling service that would get me to move. Flickr is my stock image library,it is my visual diary, image hosting for my blog and my mood board for when I am looking for inspiration at work.

I think it has a better community than Instagram because it isn’t ubiquitous, it still has that early web 2.0 smell to it, though my heart is in my mouth every time Yahoo!’s finances take a wobble.

Facebook is utilitarian

I use Facebook in a similar way to developer friends using Stack Overflow or other forums for professional social discourse on a couple of private groups. I don’t even bother with cognitive dissonance type of posts of it always being sunny on Facebook. I know it’s crap; in your heart-of-hearts you probably know it too. Facebook events are often used, alongside and Eventbrite. For loose network contacts, Facebook acts like a poorly designed phone book.

Twitter: I have a bot for that

Twitter is used as a messaging service for some of my friends, but mostly I use it to passively consume content like breaking news in lists and syndicate content that I find interesting. I do this syndication through various ‘recipes’ set up in IFTTT.

Media content

Steve Jobs talked about the only way to fight music piracy was to have a better idea. So for a number of years I have bought my music on iTunes, Bleep and Beatport alongside my love of vinyl records. I don’t have a lot of sympathy for the record labels as they have consistently focused on short term blockbuster hits at the expense of slow and steady selling artists – which is especially retarded when you think about the long tail model of media consumption. They need to evolve their business model to become cheaper and more efficient in their A&R processes in order to do this. I have recently started ripping CDs into my music library again as an arbitrage play (these are often cheaper than digital downloads) or offer back catalogue content that digital services don’t.

I use a late model iPod Classic because of its 160GB storage. For streaming music I listen to mixes, mash ups, edits and remixes on Soundcloud and My current favourite remixer is Luxxury. I use the online radio channels (not Beats 1) in iTunes to have as relaxing background music prior to turning in at home.

I watch live news on television as the broadcast network is better for supporting big audience numbers in comparison to the infrastructure of the internet. We have more bandwidth at the edges, but still the same bottlenecks I experienced some ten years previously during the July 7 bombings in London.

I have an Apple TV box that I use for Netflix, internet radio and iTunes store content. Out of the terrestrial channels I tend to only use iPlayer as it is so much better designed than 4oD, ITV Player or Channel 5’s offering. I stream RTE News, Bloomberg TV and the BBC World Service. My favourite news content comes from Vice – it feels like the channel that CNN should have been and is less shaped to meet the norms of the establishment, though this will undoubtedly change in the near future.

News is apps and RSS.

My RSS reader of choice is I was a minority amongst my peers in that I never trusted my bookmarks and OPML data to Google’s Reader, instead using Bloglines and then Both of which where driven out of business by Google prior to them closing Reader.

Instead bookmarking is done with I also get news from the RTE News app, a breaking news list I built in Twitter,, and the South China Morning Post mobile app. If you’d asked me this ten years ago then The Economist would have been on here, but its been replaced by and Monocle magazine.

When I get to read a newspaper; it is the FT and the Wall Street Journal on the way home from work as a way to decompress, or the weekend FT for a mellow Saturday morning. I still read the US edition of Wired magazine in a print copy as the accompanying digital subscription has somehow become borked on my iPad. My media indulgence would be occasionally rifling through the pages of Japanese style magazine Free & Easy.

I subscribe to a number of email newsletters for specialist analysis.

Brands that cut through

The brands that cut through for me are ones that cut their own path. I don’t wake up in the morning and think:

hell yeah I want to engage with a brand on a social channel

With people like Carhartt, Gregory Mountain Products, Canon, Nikon, Mystery Ranch, Barebones Software, Apple, S-Double Studios, Porter Tokyo and IWC Schaffhausen the product is the marketing – the online marketing efforts of these brands are coincidental. I do know that many of these brands do spend a good deal of effort to influence the kind of publications that I read. Monocle magazine does a really good job of integrating marketing and content.

I buy much more online now, the high street has become quite bland, especially after having lived in Asia. I use trans shipment company to buy items in Japan and has replaced many of the none-impulse purchases that I would have made at Argos.

Challenge for brands, media and life itself

The internet has come to mirror the wonders, banalities and horror of everyday life. As I write this Ellen Pao had resigned as CEO at Reddit. Reddit is a poster child for all of these categories from organising gifts for the poor to water cooler chatter, racism and death threats against Ms Pao.

Culture has now been made massively parallel by the internet. As an 18 year old, I remember having to get a train down to London to go trawling through specialist shops from Camden to Soho  looking for Stussy clothing and records on the Japanese Major Force label. Now everything is up on YouTube or Soundcloud for you to enjoy.

Making a difference is a work in progress

Like Ellie, I am not that optimistic about aspects of the world. In many respects the concerns of gen-y&z mirrored concerns of a young gen-x. I held McJobs and had a constant fear of unemployment over my head, was concerned about nuclear holocaust, economic meltdown and an environmental dystopian future – concerns that I still have today. There is an anti-science bias and a lack of hard innovation coming through that will fuel the next forty years of innovation. The current outlook reminds me a bit of the film Interstellar where the lack of willingness to focus on anything but on our own small plot was killing humans as a species. The current political climate with regards to privacy and digital services indicates a luddite and megalomaniac political tinge, where freedom is being sacrificed for the illusion of safety from extremism. The only thing that actually offers that freedom is a better idea, not an Orwellesque vision of privacy.

About Ged Carroll

Ged currently works heading up digital services at Racepoint Global in London. He lives in the East End and spends a lot of time in Hong Kong. You’ll find him online at renaissance chambara.

More information

Luxxury on Soundcloud
RTE News Now
South China Morning Post


2015: just where is it all going?

It’s become a bit of an annual tradition on this blog for me to put together some guesswork on what is likely to be coming down the pipe over the next 12 months.

Sony Corp. cleans house with the management teams of its US businesses. One of Sony’s start-up bets (the e-ink watch, smart locks etc) comes good. Sony will still be supported by its Japanese financial services business.

For years IBM has charged Huawei a fortune for consulting, telling Huawei the IBM way. In 2015, I could see the student becoming the master as Huawei sells into IBM enterprise markets in the developing world and possibly Europe.

Shareholder activists don’t take a run at Google. Google is moving from a growth stock to value as search advertising revenue growth is declining. However the structure of Google makes life very difficult for the activists to gain leverage. Any activist that does take a run at Google would need to go to court to help dismantle the two-tier structure that handicaps the shareholder voting structure. That doesn’t mean that there won’t be shareholder grandstanding and public letters to the board. Google’s privacy and antitrust regulatory woes will continue to fester outside the U.S.

As Fred Wilson over at A VC put it, the sharing economy is actually the rental economy, the digital economy equivalent of bulk breakage: breaking a larger container down to sell smaller, more manageable pieces to consumers for a profit. It’s disruption usually stems from breaking regulations: labour laws, public transportation regulations, laws governing guest house and hotels rather than innovation. It is likely to prey on the have-nots and is likely to see increased resistance. For me it is indicative of a move in founder culture, from the counterculture influenced start-ups of Apple’s era to a yuppie Patrick Bateman-like culture today. Expect more societal push-back as geeks become the new investment bankers in terms of being societal punch bags.

IoT / wearables
There won’t be an over-arching XML type bridge for the IoT. Battery life will limit the fantastic visions that pundit have for wearables and the internet of things.

I would be surprised if we didn’t see some devices trying to power themselves by scrounging energy from wider electromagnetic spectrum (wi-fi networks, cellular devices, radio, TV etc).

Consumer electronics
We are going to continue to see baby steps towards more immersive experiences, as VR glasses slowly make progress in the marketplace. OLEDs would be an ideal application for VR glasses, particularly if they want to hold off smartphones in a frame. Content is likely to role out in a similar way to IMAX – visually stunning documentaries about space and nature alongside computer games. It will be interesting to see what James Cameron does with VR. There will also be some baby steps towards haptic feedback (think a better Nintendo PowerGlove).

Despite The Interview, Hollywood still won’t do cinema / digital simultaneous releases, or global simultaneous releases for any content that wouldn’t have been direct to TV/video in an earlier age.

The YotaPhone2 won’t get the customer base it deserves as it struggles against the superior marketing muscle of Samsung in the premium Android segment of the market.

The Cyanogen distribution of Android won’t go anywhere fast due to its geographic exclusivity agreements with the likes of OnePlus and MicroMax cramping the style of handset manufacturers with global ambitions. This offers an opportunity for Jolla’s SailfishOS.

Google revamps the resources and process to get more Chinese smartphone manufacturers going through its official channels for compatibility (CTS) and have a Google Mobile Services (GMS) license. At the moment there are a number of Android handsets going into developing markets without these, which means Google is losing out on incremental licensing revenue.

There is a change of emphasis in business, social is no longer well, social. Businesses start to pull ‘social’ media back into business functions. An increased emphasis on paid media over earned engagement / community management and marketing automation makes social look more like electronic direct marketing.

Asian platforms WeChat, LINE and KakaoTalk have led the way in both consumer and brand adoption. They will continue with a relatively slow international rollout. Facebook Messenger doesn’t seem to fill the same user context as these applications, is this an opportunity that a SnapChat or new player can fill?

Things could get very interesting if WeChat or LINE professionalise their international marketing and start rolling out some of their more advanced features internationally such as integrating payments and m-commerce. They can’t do it by going alone, they would need to be good partners and deals like that take time to negotiate.

I suspect that international e-commerce will have breakout years., Rakuten and Aliexpress have been percolating for years. Combine this with the valuation put on Asian e-commerce outfits, it would be quite easy to see how cost-conscious consumers in economically challenged Europe and the developing world may appreciate a new Amazon. Secondly, Chinese purchases of foreign goods are likely to expand further due to a rapidly developing logistics network within China, increasing international acceptance of UnionPay and a rein-in on more ostentatious tastes due to Mr Xi’s anti-corruption drive. Consumers will be looking for quality less overt luxury and premium products. Foreign travel for shopping will start to be scrutinised by the government and foreign shopping through intermediaries will become professionalised by the Rakutens of this world.

We’re likely to see European states take a similar stance to India and China and more widely blocking sites for security considerations and media IP enforcement. Expect the UK and Australia to lead the way in terms of site censorship.

More information
Who is behind the e-paper FES watch? | WSJ
Sony Qrio smart lock crowd funding page
What Just Happened? AVC