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.

ICYMI | 万一你错过了| 당신이 그것을 놓친 경우

Digital Chief Kevin King Quits Edelman After 14 Years – More recently, sources familiar with the situation also point to ongoing questions regarding the agency’s investment priorities. Famously, Edelman has hired more than 600 creatives and planners over the last three years, in a bid to better compete with agencies across the paid and earned media spectrum

CSL on Fifa 19: not quite fantasy football but you can see why the China league is joining the EA party | South China Morning Post – unsurprising given the Chinese government’s aspirations for soccer and the domestic league. EA can’t ignore the size of gaming in China either

Natural Cycles: ASA investigates marketing for contraception app | The Guardian – The Family Planning Association is also concerned about the app. A spokeswoman said: “The use of the word ‘certified’ suggests that there is independent evidence supporting these claims, whereas in fact the only evidence is from the company itself. It has amassed a vast database, which is very interesting, but that is not the same as verified independent evidence. – and there is the challenge of a blind faith in big data. If they get this wrong the individual consequences are huge

The Troubled Quest for the Superconducting Wind Turbine – IEEE Spectrum – the interesting bit about about this is that in sea turbines aren’t considered instead of wind. Wind’s economics problem is their consistency, turbines are actually only doing work less than half them time – that’s the problem that’s driving size. If you put the the turbines in the water to take advantage of currents instead energy transference, more consistent power and size becomes a civil engineering problem like a dam rather than space programme style construction. How are super conductors supposed to even work?

Britain’s Fake News Inquiry Says Facebook And Google’s Algorithms Should Be Audited By UK Regulators – if this goes through its the thin end of the wedge. The UK is much more beholden to commercial interests than even the US. The record industry the the English Premier League have managed to bring down the full force of government censorship with the Digital Economy Act. And both Facebook and Alphabet only have themselves to blame. China’s concept of cyber sovereignty starts to look prescient; and we all look as if we might be living in a darker world

#WWDC2018: all-thriller, no-filler version

I’ve reorganised this to try and provide a bit more coherence as Apple took things in a slightly different order to try and create ‘surprise and delight‘. Cross-platform they’ve evolved Continuity and Siri to try and make them more useful (if, not smarter). A slow progression to a more programmatic world.
I’ve made some notes in green that are designed to flag points of interest to marketers and advertising folk. 
 
App Store
  • 10 years old (and the app store search is still not where it should be)
  • World’s largest app marketplace
  • 500 million weekly visitors (might be due to moving away from iTunes for app updates)
  • $100,000,000 developer revenues to date
Swift
  • 350,000 apps coded in it (no measure of the variable quality though)
iOS 12
  • Focus on system optimisation
  • Faster app and function launches
  • They haven’t dropped any devices previously supported by iOS 11; a nod to longer device lives
AR Kit – v 2
  • Adobe Creative Cloud support
  • USDZ format support throughout the system including News app
  • Multi-player AR experiences (demoed with Lego). Attribute digital assets to a physical object – interesting execution
Measure – digital tape measure
  • Facilitated by MEMs, presumably the software technology comes out of AR work. Handy hack, I could have used this when I was eBaying stuff. I could see it being nice for things like home furnishings retailers and clothing e-commerce
Photos
Search suggestions – tries to predict what you want
  • Searches EXIF data for locations, events etc
  • For you function is a bit like Facebook memories
  • Photo sharing – recommended what to share and who to share them with. If its going to another iPhone user it prompts the recipient to share photos that they may have taken. Implications for social photo sharing apps
  • Full resolution over Messages
Siri
  • Shortcuts to any app. It reminds me a little bit of Apple Script. Allows you to build multi-app behaviours – drag-and-drop
  • Suggestions based on app usage, calendar, locations
  • Possible implications for app usage – content opportunities to suggest ‘Shortcut workflows’ to build. Poses a bit of a thread for IFTTT’s smarthome ambitions
Default iOS apps
 
Stocks
  • Better charts
  • Native iPad and Mac version
  • Integration of Apple news in Stocks
 
Voice Memos
  • iPad and Mac native version
  • iCloud support
 
iBooks renamed to Apple Books
  • Redesigned
Car Play
  • Supports third party navigation apps presumably to try and reduce iPhone to Android migration
 
Efforts to limit mobile distraction
  • Do Not Disturb – improved view without notifications during bed time
  • Can be triggered from calendar or location (meetings, going to the cinema)
Notifications – huge pain point addressed, particularly with people used to Android devices
  • Notifications ‘tuning’ – so that you can only see the notifications from apps you care about
  • Grouped notifications: app, topic and thread
Screentime
  • Tracks device usage for the user
 
Child app usage
  • Child locks on mobile device usage
 
FaceTime
  • Group FaceTime supporting up to 32 participants. Shows the speaker by making their tile bigger. Challenges to Skype, WhatsApp
  • Integration into Messages, so you can go from group message to Group FaceTime

watchOS 5

  • Walkie Talkie – push-to-talk app – watch-to-watch. Surely it would make sense on iOS and macOS as well?
  • Web content on watchOS via WebKit
 
tvOS
  • AppleTV 4K to support Dolby Atmos and Dolby Vision certified
  • AppleTV as cable set-top box for (Salt in Switzerland, Canal+ in France, Charter Spectrum). OTT on iPhone and iPad as well. If cable companies move to just being media content aggregators, how will this affect DOCSIS and FTTH roll out?
  • Zero-sign on for content when part of a cable TV offering
  • 3rd party remotes will work with AppleTV
 
macOS – Mojave
  • Dark Mode – dark skin of OS. Nice level of integration and easier to work with during the evening, but not exactly ground-breaking
  • Desktop stacks – arrange by date, kind or tag
  • Contextual quick actions in Finder – can include Automator actions
  • Screen capture for video should make presentations a lot easier
  • Dev tools to make it easier to move iOS apps to the Mac framework – used this time on Apple default apps, Apple will roll out to developers in 2019
  • Beefing up security including app permissions to cover your mail database, camera and microphone use
Safari
  • Shutting down tracking on likes, shares and comments. Strong focus on attacking ‘Fingerprinting’ – making it harder to track – Macs will be harder to distinguish from one and other (its also in iOS 12). Only providing basic web fonts as data, no data on legacy plug-ins and cutting back on app set-ups
  • Favicons in tabs (this annoyed the bejesus out of me, its a small thing but I am glad to see it)

App Store

  • Revamped App store allows more content to market your app and improve usage / engagements. Opportunities for in-appstore content marketing (demo videos, ongoing articles with tips etc)
  • Ratings and review API (which will likely be a bit annoying). This will provide an incremental benefit for app marketers
  • Microsoft Office and BBEdit will be in the Mac app store – huge boost for the credibility of the Mac App Store
Machine learning
  • CreateML – trying to make machine learning training easier for apps
  • CoreML 2 – Improved machine learning performance using batch predictions
 

ICYMI | 万一你错过了| 당신이 그것을 놓친 경우

5 Facts of China’s Post-00s Generation’s Consumption Habits | Jing Daily – big challenge for foreign brands and agencies flogging influencer programmes

Teens prefer YouTube, Snapchat, Instagram to Facebook, 2018 Pew survey finds. – not a real issue given Facebook owns Instagram

The White House official Trump says doesn’t exist | South China Morning Post – China’s Ministry of State Security seems to have royally riled a senior Trump advisor when he worked as a journalist

Chinese Æsop: – good reference of Chinese fables and myths

SinoTech: Whiplash in U.S.-China Tech Trade Relations, with More Conflict on Horizon – Lawfare

The Creepy Rise of Real Companies Spawning Fictional Design | WIRED

Whether it’s Brexit or Bremain, the UK is in long-term economic decline | South China Morning Post – Either way, the outlook is grim. With or without Brexit, Britain is still an ailing industrial nation. So any short-term relief about Bremain must be blunted by the reality that Britain is stuck in the grip of longer-term economic decline. The shock Brexit vote two years ago simply accelerated the process. The jolt to confidence has ripped a big hole in investment and spending, and started unravelling many of the lifelines propping up the economy. Britain may never fully recover – Hong Kong op-ed on Brexit says a lot about how foreigners are viewing it

China’s yuan gets support from Africa central banks to replace US dollar reserve — Quartz – given China’s acquisition of raw materials from Africa, Chinese government loans and large amount of Chinese goods imported having the yuan as a reserve currency makes sense

Canceling Roseanne wasn’t the only possible decision, but it was the right one. | Slate – I was trying to articulate what has always been so tricky about the reboot, which was the utility of its immorality. Trump voters could watch Roseanne and feel seen, heard, and flattered. It allowed them to imagine themselves, like Roseanne Conner, as smart, tough, funny, and not racist.* And as false and mendacious as this fantasy is, it was, also, perhaps efficacious for our schisming America, a pressure release valve for Trump voters, while also being a relatively nontoxic way for progressives to observe said Trump voters. It was a way for us to see each other without actually having to speak, a way to exist in the same space without having to fight. – I was going to blog about Roseanne but this Slate op-ed nailed it

Tech bubble is larger than in 2000, and the end is coming | CNBC – I’d argue that there has been diminishing innovation and longer term benefits in terms of returns

Яндекс.Станция — мультимедиа-платформа с Алисой внутри – Yandex Station – an Amazon Echo / Alexa analogue for Russia only.

China Flexes its Market Muscle by Demanding Samsung and SK Hynix cut Memory Chip Prices for Huawei & others or else – Patently Apple – Chinese PC makers have been struggling under component cost pressure as Samsung and SK control over 75 percent of global demand as of the first quarter of 2018. China says it wants to ensure “fair competition” in the market, so that no single supplier becomes too dominant and manipulates prices.

This wasn’t the internet we envisaged

The debate over privacy on Facebook got me thinking about the internet we envisaged. Reading media commentary on Tim Cook’s recent address at Duke University prodded me into action.

What do I mean by we? I mean the people who:

  • Wrote about the internet from the mid-1990s onwards
  • Developed services during web 1.0 and web 2.0 times

I’ve played my own small part in it.

At the time there was a confluence of innovation. Telecoms deregulation and the move to digital had reduced the cost of data and voice calls. Cable and satellite television was starting to change how we viewed the world. CNN led the way in bringing the news into homes. For many at the time interactive TV seemed like the future of media.

Max Headroom

Starship Troopers

The Running Man

Second generation cellular democratised mobile phone ownership. The internet was becoming a useful consumer service. My first email address was a number@site.corning.com format email address back in 1994. I used it for work, apart from an unintended spam email sent to colleagues to offload some vouchers I’d been given.

My college email later that year was on a similar format of address; on a different domain. I ended up using my pager more than my email to stay in touch with other students. Although all students had access to the internet at college, the take-up was still very low. At college I signed up for a Yahoo! web email. I had realised that an address post-University would be useful. Yahoo! was were I saw my first online ads. They reminded me of garish versions of classified ads in newspapers.

After I left college I used to go to Liverpool at least once a week to go to an internet cafe just off James Street and check my email account, with a piece of cake and a cup of coffee. I introduced my friend Andy to the internet (mostly email), since we used to meet up there and then go browsing records, clothes, hi-fi, studio equipment, event flyers and books at the likes of HMV, the Bluecoat Chambers, Quiggins, The Palace and Probe Records.

I found out that I had my first agency job down in London when I was called on my cell phone whilst driving.

The internet was as much as an idea as anything else and the future of us netizens came alive for me in the pages of Wired and Byte. Both were American magazines. Byte was a magazine that delved deeper into technology than Ars Technica or Anandtech. Wired probed the outer limits of technology, culture and design. At the time each issue was a work of art. They pushed typography and graphic design to the limits. Neon and metallic inks, discordant fonts and an early attempt at offline to online integration. It seemed to be the perfect accompanyment to the cyberpunk science fiction I had been reading. The future was bright: literally.

Hacking didn’t have consumers as victims but was the province of large (usually bad) mega corps.

I moved down to London just in time to be involved in the telecoms boom that mirrored the dot com boom. I helped telecoms companies market their data networks and VoIP services. I helped technology companies sell to the telecoms companies. The agency I worked for had a dedicated 1Mb line. This was much faster than anything I’d used before. It provided amazing access to information and content. Video was ropey. Silicon.com and Real Media featured glitchy postage stamp sized clips. My company hosted the first live broadcast of Victoria’s Secret fashion show online. It was crap in reality, but a great proof of concept for the future.

I managed to get access to recordings of DJ sets by my Chicago heroes. Most of whom I’d only read about over the years in the likes of Mixmag.

All of this pointed to a bright future, sure there were some dangers along the way. But I never worried too much about the privacy threat (at least from technology companies). If there was any ‘enemy’ it was ‘the man’.

In the cold war and its immediate aftermath governments had gone after:

  • Organised labour (the UK miners strike)
  • Cultural movements (Rave culture in the UK)
  • Socio-political groups (environmentalists and the nuclear disarmament movement)

I had grown up close to the infamous Capenhurst microwave phone tap tower. Whilst it was secret, there were private discussions about its purpose. Phil Zimmerman’s PGP cryptography offered privacy, if you had the technical skills. In 1998, the European Parliament posted a report on ECHELON. A global government owned telecoms surveillance network. ECHELON was a forerunner of the kind of surveillance Edwards Snowden disclosed a decade and a half later.

One may legitimately feel scandalised that this espionage, which has gone on over several years, has not given rise to official protests. For the European Union, essential interests are at stake. On the one hand, it seems to have been established that there have been violations of the fundamental rights of its citizens, on the other, economic espionage may have had disastrous consequences, on employment for example. – Nicole Fontaine, president of the european parliament (2000)

I advised clients on the ‘social’ web since before social media had a ‘name’. And I worked at the company formerly known as Yahoo!. This was during a brief period when it tried to innovate in social and data. At no time did I think that the companies powering the web would:

  • Rebuild the walled gardens of the early ‘net (AOL, CompuServe, Prodigy)
  • Build oligopolies, since the web at that time promised a near perfect market due to it increasing access to market information. Disintermediation would have enabled suppliers and consumers to have a direct relationship, instead Amazon has become the equivalent of the Sears Roebuck catalogue
  • Become a serious privacy issue. Though we did realise by 2001 thanks to X10 wireless cameras that ads could be very annoying. I was naive enough to think of technology and technologists as being a disruptive source of cultural change. The reason for this was the likes of Phil Zimmerman on crypto. Craig Newmark over at Craigslist, the community of The Well and the Electronic Frontier Foundation. The likes of Peter Thiel is a comparatively recent phenomenon in Silicon Valley

We had the first inkling about privacy when online ad companies (NebuAd and Phorm) partnered with internet service providers. They used ‘deep packet inspection’ data to analyse a users behaviour, and then serve ‘relevant ads.

Tim Cook fits into the ‘we’ quite neatly. He is a late ‘baby boomer’ who came into adulthood right at the beginning of the PC revolution. He had a front row seat as PCs, nascent data networks and globalisation changed the modern world. He worked at IBM and Compaq during this time.

Cook moved to Apple at an interesting time. Jobs had returned with the NeXT acquisition. The modern macOS was near ready and there was a clear roadmap for developers. The iMac was going into production and would be launched in August.

Many emphasise the move to USB connectors, or the design which brought the Mac Classic format up to date. The key feature was a built in modem and simple way to get online once you turned the machine on. Apple bundled ethernet and a modem in the machine. It also came with everything you needed preloaded to up an account with an ISP. No uploading software, no errant modem drivers, no DLL conflicts. It just worked. Apple took care selecting ISPs that it partnered with, which also helped.

By this time China was well on its way to taking its place in global supply chains. China would later join the World Trade Organisation in 2001.

The start of Tim Cook’s career at Apple coincided with with the internet the way we knew it. And the company benefited from the more counter culture aspects of the technology industry:

  • Open source software (KDE Conqueror, BSD, Mach)
  • Open standards (UNIX, SyncML)
  • Open internet standards (IMAP, WebCAL, WebDav)

By the time that Facebook was founded. Open source and globalisation where facts of life in the technology sector. They do open source because that’s the rules of business now. It is noticeable that Facebook’s businesses don’t help grow the commons like Flickr did.

Businesses like Flickr, delicious and others built in a simple process to export your data. Facebook and similar businesses have a lot less progressive attitudes to user control over data.

Cook is also old enough to value privacy, having grown up in a less connected and less progressive age.  It was only in 2014 that Cook became the first publicly gay CEO of a Fortune 100 company. It is understandable why Cook would be reticent about his sexuality.

He is only a generation younger than the participants in the riots at the Stonewall Inn.

By comparison, for Zuckerberg and his peers:

  • The 1960s and counterculture were a distant memory
  • The cold war has been won and just a memory of what it was like for Eastern Europeans to live under a surveillance state
  • Wall Street and Microsoft were their heroes. Being rich was more important than the intrinsic quality of the product
  • Ayn Rand was more of a guiding star than Ram Dass

They didn’t think about what kind of dark underbelly that platforms could have and older generations of technologists generally thought too well of others to envisage the effects. You have to had a pretty dim view of fellow human beings.

More information
Tim Cook brought his pro-privacy views to his Duke commencement speech today | Recode
Bugging ring around Ireland | Duncan Campbell (1999) PDF document
The ECHELON Affair The EP and the global interception system 1998 – 2002 (European Parliament History Series) by Franco Piodi and Iolanda Mombelli for the European Parliament Research Unit – PDF document
Memex In Action: Watch DARPA Artificial Intelligence Search For Crime On The ‘Dark Web’| Forbes
X10 ads are useless – Geek.com
Disintermediation – Wikipedia