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Things that caught my eye this week

Reading Time: 2 minutes

Ian Murray of House 51 takes on some marketing sacred cows such as brand purpose in The Empathy Delusion. His presentation sets out to show how different marketing and agency folk are from the general public. Positive traits, like the gumption to move to London put a difference between them and the general public. This is just one aspect that Murray touches on when talking about The Empathy Delusion.

I was recommended Economy Candy in New York. Their collection of vintage trading cards is a site to behold. The film tie-ins from Back To The Future and ET to Howard The Duck are tremendous.

Local Hong Kong group StreetSignHK are featured on this video of the process that goes into saving Hong Kong’s neon signage. The biggest threat seems to be building regulation bureaucracy rather than technology.

I loved the style of this 1980s vintage Mercedes sales training video, presumably for American dealerships.

I was reminiscing about The Site. This used to run on CNBC Europe when I was in college and provided a window into the early net. Soledad O’Brien has gone on to produce documentaries. Leo Laporte who played the Dev Null* character is now better known for his technology podcasts. (Technically it should be /dev/null* for maximum geek humour.) The programme sat at a sweet spot. The web was small, but inaccessible to many of the viewers. AOL and CompuServe were just taking off. I had net access in college and used that to take a look at their online recommendations at the time.

The Site pioneered virtual characters and offline integration of programming with its own site. Dev Null now has a kind of PlayStation 1 vibe to him. But this was all new stuff. Terminator 2 had been in the cinemas five years earlier and blow people away with its animation.

The year after we had the virtual world of The Lawnmower man. Lawnmower Man brought to life the kind of virtual world on screen that had previously only existed in the works of authors like William Gibson and Vernor Vinge.

Then in 1995, there was Hackers that tapped into gen-x youth culture (X-Games, Oakley T-wire glasses, the psychedelic side of rave culture) to create a connected world closer to our own now.

This all explains the look and feel of The Site and its role in helping the general public to experience online. What I didn’t realise is that the show was run on one dial-up modem. This around about the time when I worked in my first agency with a 1MB T1 line – and that was hard enough. I am not sure how the programme researchers, broadcast production team and web producers managed on 1 dial-up line.

More on online culture here.

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ICYMI | 万一你错过了| 당신이 그것을 놓친 경우에 대비해서

Reading Time: 3 minutes

Morgan Stanley blocks remote network access for China interns | Financial TimesAnother large US bank said its systems in China were exposed to frequent cyber attacks that were of “infinitely greater” magnitude than many other countries. – not terribly surprised that remote network access is a threat vector in China. More China-related posts here.

The Key to Winning Boomers Is To Be Turn-key | MediaVillage – basically like many cohorts, with a trusted brand convenience wins out

Energy Department announces plan to build a quantum Internet – The Washington Post – Quantum only works point to point. This seems to be building Qubit computer capacity by copying supercomputing from the what I can see? From Long-distance Entanglement to Building a Nationwide Quantum Internet: Report of the DOE Quantum Internet Blueprint Workshop (Technical Report) | OSTI.GOV

Bingewatch Britain? Viewers more likely to finish a TV series if it’s released all at once | YouGov – reading this reminded me of Marshall Cavendish part-work books and their completion rates

Do Chinese millennials want diversity in fashion ads? | Advertising | Campaign AsiaFashion’s culture wars are dividing Chinese millennials. In June, a series of fashion and beauty moves, including a Calvin Klein pride campaign featuring the black trans model Jari Jones and the decision by some top beauty groups to take their skin-whitening products off the market in China, polarized opinions across the country’s social media landscape. While the mainstream overwhelmingly saw these radical changes as a byproduct of the West’s excessive political correctness, the fashion-forward crowd recognized these debates as the start of a much-needed change in their country.

Duterte’s troll armies drown out Covid-19 dissent in the Philippines | Coda Story – interesting analysis of social media in the Philippines

Home Shoppers are Trending Toward Buying Sight-Unseen, Selling Virtually – Zillow Research – digital acceleration

The Ultimate White Fragility | The New Republic – so much to unpack in this

The FBI Is Secretly Using A $2 Billion Travel Company As A Global Surveillance Tool | Forbes – I would have been surprised if they weren’t doing this with SABRE

Korean Air Seeks to Convert Passenger Jets to Cargo Planes | Chosun.com – surprised that British Airways didn’t do this with their Boeing 747s, rather than retiring them

On the Twitter Hack – Schneier on SecurityWhether the hackers had access to Twitter direct messages is not known. These DMs are not end-to-end encrypted, meaning that they are unencrypted inside Twitter’s network and could have been available to the hackers. Those messages — between world leaders, industry CEOs, reporters and their sources, heath organizations — are much more valuable than bitcoin. (If I were a national-intelligence agency, I might even use a bitcoin scam to mask my real intelligence-gathering purpose.) Back in 2018, Twitter said it was exploring encrypting those messages, but it hasn’t yet.

Ad Aged: More on the dismal science and the dismal state of Holding Company advertising. – interesting allegations of collusion

Enter the parents | Film | The Guardianno one suspected that he would turn out to have two brothers still alive and living impoverished, anonymous lives in mainland China. Nor did they have any inkling that Jackie’s mother had once been a legendary gambler in the Shanghai underworld or that his father had been a Nationalist spy and gangland boss. These are among the more startling revelations that Cheung uncovers. “The fact that his mother was an opium smuggler, a gambler and a big sister in the underworld was a big shock to Jackie and also to us,” she admits. “Everybody in Hong Kong knew that his mother was like a common housewife, very kind, very gentle.”

China has big ideas for the internet. Too bad no one else likes them – CNETNew IP would shift control of the internet, both its development and its operation, to countries and the centralized telecommunications powers that governments often run. It would make it easier to crack down on dissidents. Technology in New IP to protect against abuse also would impair privacy and free speech. And New IP would make it harder to try new network ideas and to add new network infrastructure without securing government permission

Japan’s karaoke bars offer ‘mask effect’ feature to amplify singing while wearing face mask – the intersection of changing consumer behaviour and product design with extra amplification to pick up on voices covered by face masks

Creator of Douyin / TikTok: How We Created A Product with A Billion Views A Day in 18 Months: Part I – Pandaily – China style growth hacking profiled

Singapore
Fabio Achilli – Singapore

Disneyland with the Death Penalty | WIRED – William Gibson nails Singapore. And its still true almost 30 years later

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ICYMI | 万一你错过了| 당신이 그것을 놓친 경우에 대비해서

Reading Time: 5 minutes

Venture Capital and Cleantech: The Wrong Model for Clean Energy Innovation by Gaddy, Sivaram and O’Sullivan – venture capital investment is very inefficient according to this MIT paper. More venture capital related posts here.

Why business in Hong Kong should be worried | The Economist – Hong Kong is trapped like the grips of vice. Its economy is dominated by finance and rent-seeking businesses – Simon Cartledge for Gavekal Dragonomics, a consultancy, because these firms are over-represented in government, “Hong Kong’s single biggest disincentive to risk-taking and entrepreneurship—its high costs, especially for property—cannot be tackled.” That is why the back-to-business message is unlikely to resonate with ordinary Hong Kongers. This is probably why Hong Kong start-ups like DJI moved to Shenzhen to found their businesses. (Frank Wang did a lot of the key work on DJI drones whilst studying at HKUST. And even benefited from a small HKUST grant. But he moved across to Shenzhen to found the business itself in 2006.) Fintech has been a bit of a busted flush. It was the latest in a long line of business ideas like wine trading, the arts and medical tourism as failed niches for Hong Kong. Singapore seems to have been much more successful in business creation and seems to be seeing more venture capital interest. Current sectors in Hong Kong likely to be affected include the legal practices specialising in commercial arbitration. Without trustworthy commercial arbitration in Hong Kong doing business in China looks much less attractive. Singapore is trying to bridge the gap, but I suspect that there might be long term corrosion of Chinese business dealings. Digital companies and foreign banks face big worries. Between the Hong Kong Autonomy Act and the Hong Kong National Security Law – Helping America to enforce sanctions would violate the security law. Not doing so would incur American penalties

The untold story of Stripe, the secretive $20bn startup driving Apple, Amazon and Facebook | WIRED UK – what’s more interesting about Stripe is the brothers reading list

Remarks to the Economic Club of New York – United States Department of State – interesting speech by Mike Pompeo

What It’s Like to Escape the Mindset of a Conspiracy Theorist – Vice – fascinating psychology

Barr warns against corporate America’s China ‘appeasement’ | Financial Times“You should be alert to how you might be used, and how your efforts on behalf of a foreign company or government could implicate the Foreign Agents Registration Act,” he said, referencing a 1938 law that requires foreign agents to publicly identify themselves – those comments hit US banks, Apple and other US multinationals. Attorney General William P. Barr Delivers Remarks on China Policy at the Gerald R. Ford Presidential Museum | OPA | Department of Justice – the US C-suite executives must be getting very worried about this

Quisling

The State of Strategy. A view from the Frontline | Noteworthy – The Journal Blog – great read and nails the issues affecting strategy and planning at the moment

Mark Ritson: In a virtual marketplace, only the strongest brands will survive – Companies see better profit margins and an almost unlimited customer base but miss the drastic reduction in barriers to entry. – so brand hyper-competition will ensue and the winner takes all model will extend beyond tech. Expect venture capital money to pour all kinds of weird industry niches as they try to pick category winners

WeChat users in the US say a potential ban of the app would cut them off from friends and family in China | South China Morning Post – Banning it might be a mistake. It would be more worthwhile using WeChat data to investigate Chinese in the US with ‘anti American’ sentiment as it’s easy to surveill in comparison to other platforms. WeChat sends messages in the clear with no encryption at all. You then start using the Espionage Act or the Patriot Act prosecutions

Chinese liquor group Kweichow Moutai tumbles after graft news report | Financial Times – Moutai sales are linked to gifting and lavish consumption and some have linked the share price increase with a corresponding uplift in sales and by implication graft. The damaging bit in the article is that Moutai’s former chairman Yuan Renguo quoted saying in private that sales linked to corruption are “a normal part of business” and that China’s corruption clampdown would not reach far enough to affect the company’s business

Banning junk food from TV an ‘irrelevant symbolic gesture’ that won’t reduce obesity | The Drum – the argument whilst true won’t be believed by regulators. Their rationale would be why would junk food companies advertise if it didn’t work? The distinction of this is junk food brand fighting out with similar brands in its category won’t wash. Secondly, advertising bans worked in the past on tobacco products over time

The party’s grip – Under a new national-security law, Hong Kong is already a changed city | The Economist – you have to wonder about the share run and will the pop of the bubble be blamed on ‘foreign interference’?

Outrage Over China’s Treatment of Hong Kong Galvanizes the West – WSJComplaints about China have piled up in Western capitals in recent years, but it took Beijing’s new curbs on Hong Kong’s autonomy to galvanize them around something approaching a common cause. – In many respects its like boiling a frog in reverse, it is likely that China didn’t expect the frog to jump out of the pot, given that the heat had been on so long

Opinion | A Coronavirus Care Package From China – The New York TimesAfter the Communist takeover in 1949, traditional Chinese medicine was institutionalized. Folk remedies helped fulfill both a tangible need — credentialed doctors were scarce — and an ideological end: That system of knowledge is quintessentially and uniquely Chinese.  Today, the Chinese government sees a political opportunity in the continuing emotional appeal of traditional medicine. If Chinese people can embrace an Eastern alternative to Western medicine, they might also be more likely to accept the Communist Party’s governance model and reject liberal democracy

Speaking in Tongues – Chinese Storytellers – such a great essay on the current challenge facing Chinese (and in particular Hong Kongers) writing for foreign audiences: a Chinese storyteller telling stories for an English-speaking audience in a divided world. As a writer who has called Hong Kong, Beijing and New Haven home, I find myself often in the position of what Zadie Smith once called “speaking in tongues”: equivocating between the lens of the insider and the outsider, examining the places I call home with both the “objective,” parachuted gaze of the foreign correspondent, and the emotionally implicated and invested eye of the local storyteller. Increasingly, that has felt impossible

Google considers alternatives to Hong Kong for undersea cable | Financial Times – Hong Kong has – become less critical for not only US cloud providers but also their Chinese rivals, according to Tao Wu, a senior research analyst for Gartner, a tech research firm. “Singapore has become much more important than Hong Kong from a location and population perspective,” Ms Wu said. “Other top cloud providers such as Alibaba Cloud are much more focused on south-east Asia to go global than expanding in Hong Kong.” – this will have a big impact for those property developers who’ve invested in data centres (internet hotels). Hong Kong’s financial position for international trading desks will also be diminished if international telecoms infrastructure starts to divert away from Hong Kong. From a pure connectivity point of view Korea, Singapore and even the Philippines start to look really good