Jargon watch: zhuāng bì (装B)

Newspaper collage featuring Mao Zetong

China has developed a deep and constantly evolving language online. It is fascinating to study how Chinese netizens use emoticons in a distinctly different way to westerners and the language constantly morphs in a way that leaves Chinese expatriates baffled even after a short time outside the country.  zhuāng bì (pronounce the zh as a short j) is a case in point.  It means poser.

Christine Xu gives an in-depth explanation of how 装B came about, given that western characters aren’t generally used by Chinese.

ICYMI | 万一你错过了| 당신이 그것을 놓친 경우

Benedict Evans on ten-year future predictions (well as good as anyone can)

YouGov | Who is on top in the Nike vs. Adidas battle? – UK only data

The bitcoin drugs trade is highly centralised | FT Alphaville – looks that the cryptocurrency bubble could burst pronto

How an unknown Chinese phone maker became No 3 in India by solving the oily fingers problem | South China Morning Post – “Big companies which sell smartphones in more than 100 countries are too global to care for one single market,” Chowdhury said in an interview in Shenzhen. “The core strategy for us is to become the favourite mobile phone brand in emerging markets.”

HSBC’s Amy and other soon-to-be released AI chatbots are about to change the way we bank | South China Morning Post

Why Uber Can Find You but 911 Can’t – WSJ – one can understand the reluctance of technology companies to get involved

The Pet Shop Boys are the face (and sound) of Christian Dior’s men’s collection this summer.

Luxury group Kering to spin off Puma to shareholders | RTE – not terribly surprising it fits awkwardly with the other brands

Google Plans to Vet YouTube Premium Video Content – Bloomberg – guessing the News International media campaign and Logan Paul debacle is starting to have an impact

How China’s market economy has fuelled a prostitution boom | South China Morning PostMy grandma was always grateful to Mao, mainly because she was upgraded from a concubine to a wife under the Communists “one wife” rule. – There is also the shredding of culture and community during the cultural revolution probably ruined community / support mechanisms

Things I’d like to see in 2018

There are a number of people who have done great trends / predictions for 2018. I thought that I would focus on what I would like to see.

Smartphones are stuck in a period of innovation stuckness. It is becoming increasingly difficult to justify upgrades to your handset. This has had knock-on effects to mobile networks. In markets where subsidised handsets are the norm like the UK we’re seeing that SIM-only contracts are becoming the norm.

Apple is trying to innovate its way out of this problem with its work on augmented reality interaction. Consumer media consumption will take a good while to catch up.

Smartphone cameras are as good as consumers need (at the moment). Displays are now good enough that improvements look indistinguishable. They are also large enough for you to watch Amazon Prime or Netflix during a commute. Mobile wallets are merely a back-up in case one leaves your wallet at home.

Whilst the app names have changed, much of the smartphone usage now is for the same things I used a Nokia or Palm smartphone ten years ago:

  • Alarm clock
  • Web surfing
  • Entertainment
  • Media playback
  • Communications

I hope that we start to see smartphones going back to the future and looking at different form factors. My iPhone would be much more useful as a productive device if it was available in a similar form factor to the old Nokia communicator. Different form factors of devices for different users. Gamers would benefit from better controls a la the Nokia nGage.

Interfaces can make better use of haptic feedback, and be designed to take advantage of more hardware-optimised devices.

Innovation isn’t only the responsibility of app developers and phone makers. What about a modern 4G version of ‘Enhanced Full Rate’ on GSM (GSM-EFR) ‘hi-fi voice calls’. UK operator One2One launched GSM-EFR on 2G networks in the late 1990s as part of their Precept tariffs, but I haven’t seen any other carrier try to do a similar thing since. Why not? I suspect part of the problem is that ‘innovation’ in your average mobile network provider now is testing vendor products in a lab to ensure they work properly on their network.

The web has developed a digital equivalent of clogged arteries. Part of this is down to buffer bloat and a lack of lean web design approach. Unfortunately the mobile web has not brought a clean slate approach but hacked together adaptations. A bigger issue is the layers of advertising technology trackers, analytics and assorted chunks of Javascript. Ad tech hammers page load time and responsiveness.

Share of time spent viewing video content in selected countries using ad blockers

We’ve seen Apple and Mozilla try to redesign their browser technology to slow down or stimmy ad technology. Consumers are adopting ad blockers to try and improve their own web experience.

There needs to be a collective reset button. I am not sure if we see a resurgence of the paid web or a kinder lighter footprint in advertising technology. Otherwise we have an unending conflict between the media industry and the rest of us.

The debate around machine learning in 2017 highlighted a Black Mirroresque dystopia awaiting us. The good news is that we tend to overestimate technology’s impact in the short term. In the long term the impact tends to meet our expectations all be in a more banal way.

Part of the current problem around machine learning is that Silicon Valley seems to only consider technology rather than the consequences of potential use cases. This needs to change, unfortunately the people in charge of technology companies are the least capable people to achieve it. We need a kinder more holistic roadmap. Legislation and regulation will be far too late to the party. We won’t be able to stop technological progress, but we can influence the way its used.

Lying in bed ill over the Christmas period, I read that crypto currency mining currently required as much energy as Bahrain. By the end of 2018, it will require as much energy as Italy. That is insane.

Apart from speculation and buying products on the dark web what is the killer app for crypto currencies? Why is worth the energy overhead? Steve Jobs focused on computing power per watt as part of his vision for laptops and moving the Mac range to Intel. Part of the move to the cloud was about making computing more efficient for businesses and providing computing power over the network for consumers on ‘low power’ mobile devices. Yet almost a decade and a half later, the hottest thing in technology is a grossly energy inefficient process.

We are starting to see regulators in Korea and China step in to regulate the market and energy supply to miners, but western economies need to look at this. And I haven’t even got on to the ICO (intial coin offering) as Ponzi scheme…

If you substitute the words ‘fax machine’ or ‘call centre’ for app would Uber, Deliveroo etc be considered as technology companies? I suspect that the answer is no.  A company may use a lot of technology – it happens a lot these days. But that doesn’t make Capita, Mastercard or Goldman Sachs a technology company, lets  apply a bit of critical thinking. I wouldn’t mind, but this same mistake was made in the late 1990s during the dot com boom.

Many companies including Enron were ‘repackaged’ by management, venture capitalists, investment banks and consultancies (cough, cough McKinsey) as asset-light technology driven businesses aka ‘an internet company’. It didn’t work out well last time. It won’t this time either.

More information
Enhanced full rate (GSM) – Wikipedia
Bitcoin Energy Consumption Index | Digiconomist
Setback for Uber as European court advised to treat it as transport firm | Reuters
Other trends reports
Fjord: 2018 Fjord Trends
iProspect: Future Focus 2018: The New Machine Rules
Isobar: Augmented Humanity: Isobar Trends Report 2018
J. Walter Thompson Innovation Group: The Future 100
Ogilvy & Mather: Key Digital Trends for 2018 – Whatley and Manson are doing webinar presentations this week if you want to catch them
Campaign Asia did a nice precise of them all
Past prediction stuff that I’ve done
2016: crystal ball gazing, how did I do? | renaissance chambara
2016: just where is it all going? | renaissance chambara
2015: crystal ball gazing, how did I do? | renaissance chambara
2015: just where is it all going? | renaissance chambara
2014: crystal ball gazing, how did I do? | renaissance chambara
2014: just where is it all going? | renaissance chambara 
Crystal ball-gazing: 2013 how did I do? | renaissance chambara
2013: just where is it all going? | renaissance chambara
Crystal ball-gazing: 2012 how did I do? | renaissance chambara
2012: just where is digital going? | renaissance chambara
Things I’d like to see in 2012 | renaissance chambara
Crystal ball-gazing: 2011 how did I do?
2010: How did I do? | renaissance chambara
2010: just where is digital going? | renaissance chambara
Predictions for 2009 | renaissance chambara

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ICYMI | 万一你错过了| 당신이 그것을 놓친 경우

And we return to Munich’s migration back to Windo- it’s going to cost what now?! €100m! • The Register – interesting to see this war still being fought in the background by Microsoft

Who Is Making Amazon Echo? (1) – Nikkei Technology Online – interesting teardown data and insights into manufacturing

Boolean Query Writing: Everything You Need to Know | Brandwatch – I’ve been using Boolean for years, but many people haven’t come across it. Brandwatch have done a great guide

Massive Intel Vulnerabilities Just Landed — And Every PC User On The Planet May Need To Update – I can see the conspiracy theories starting about how this is a ‘feature’ requested by the deep state / military intelligence industrial complex – and they might be true

BBC StoryWorks unveils new tool which measures impact of branded content | Marketing Interactive – “In addition, the product showed that the creative execution succeeded in driving a clear uplift in subconscious association between Huawei and key brand attributes such as being innovative, inspiring, environmentally responsible, and high quality. Following exposure, audiences also had a high desire to engage with the Huawei brand; brand awareness rose by 216%, brand association went up by 23% and purchase intent increased by 19%”

Maps | Mapbox – for building navigation services including turn by turn directions

Trump urges Justice Department to ‘act’ on Comey, suggests Huma Abedin should face jail time – The Washington Post – interesting poor information security – saving classified passwords in her Yahoo! account

How the Chinese vs Western battle of internet giants will unfold | Analysis | Campaign Asia – over the next 12 months the Western big three will find themselves head to head with the Chinese internet giants, across ecommerce, brand partnerships and most notably AI. What’s not certain is who will come out on top and whether BAT can adapt to succeed in a different environment- at least in non-Chinese Asian markets

ASA bans Captain Morgan Snapchat lens as it questions efficacy of app’s age verification policy | The Drum – surprising for a company that should know the Portman rules inside out

ICYMI | 万一你错过了| 당신이 그것을 놓친 경우

I’ve been ill over the Christmas period with man flu and a stomach bug; but have been using my current recovery time to at least keep reading.

Researchers Made Google’s Image Recognition AI Mistake a Rifle For a Helicopter | WIRED – interesting implications for black SEO

Daring Fireball: Marzipan – makes more sense than the original Guzman article on a future merging of iOS and macOS

The strange story of “Extended Random” – A Few Thoughts on Cryptographic Engineering – you can deploy a cryptographic backdoor, but it’s awfully hard to control where it will end up

The politics of social status: economic and cultural roots of the populist right – Gidron – 2017 – The British Journal of Sociology – Wiley Online Library – the answers may lie on the ‘supply side’ of political competition, where recent movements in party platforms have made the populist right more attractive to many voters. A convergence over the past three decades in the economic platforms of the centre-left and centre-right toward the right have reduced the appeal of the centre-left to the working class. In this context, many voters now complain that no one speaks for them. At the same time, parties on the populist right have moved their economic platforms to the left, making them more plausible providers of jobs and social protection. Moreover, in order to mount distinctive appeals at a time when the differences between parties on economic issues has narrowed, many parties have put more emphasis on identity or values issues, which often draw middle-class voters to the left but working-class voters to the right

Huawei executive detained on suspicion of taking bribes | HKEJ Insights – it is worthwhile bearing in mind that Huawei is a big ass company, so the odds of at least some employees being bent is a sure thing, just on the scale of numbers. It isn’t necessarily proof that the company is rotten. Huawei has its cultural foibles but corruption isn’t necessarily one of them

Behind the Fall and Rise of China’s Xiaomi | WIRED – interesting analysis of how Xiaomi made mixed retail / e-tail strategy and smart home products pull their business

Apple Took the Lion Share of Smartphone Industry Profits in Q3 2017 at Close to 60% – Patently Apple – there are many ways to cut this data. Apple is still doing well, Samsung has made big strides to get back into the game over the last year and the largest Chinese manufacturers are still living on thin margins of $15 per handset. Huawei’s numbers are likely to be mixed. The Honor handsets will have a much lower margins and so pull down Huawei’s aggregate value.