Open Letter to NBA commisioner

You just lost a die hard NBA fan. I have written about it, I have blogged about it, heck I even did a podcast about it. “Why the NBA is what everyone should emulate” was the title and that is what I believed until tonight. To me the NBA was a model of how all sports, heck, all organisations should work. And today you ended that for me.

In all my years of following the league, I have never spoken out against officiating. I really believed that the NBA had checks and balances. It obviously doesn’t. Game 1 of the Finals was not a series of bad calls. It was the NBA bowing to Las Vegas. It was blatant, it was ugly, it was obvious and it was uncalled for.

There is an advertisement that plays often during time outs from a big U.S. company that “lost trust” and now is trying to get it back. Well, you had better start preparing a similar ad, because tonight you lost one of the NBA’s greatest fans.

P.S. I don’t support any particular team. I loved the NBA because my whole family loves (and plays) basketball.

UPDATE: To their credit, I received this response within less than 24 hours.

…and my response to that:

I am really impressed by the speed of your response and thank you very much for this.  However:

1. You simply sent my the referrees saying that they haven’t changed their mind!  That was not an answer.
2. My problem was not with that particular call but a SERIES of bad calls.  Things we ALL saw in slow motion from various angles.  LeBron NOT fouling and getting called for it when he stripped the ball cleanly and then being fouled (we all saw it) and no foul being given for example.
3. Full disclosure would be the full game report, not just OT of the last two minutes.  Full disclosure would be the discussion and video, what goes into the post game reports so that we all better understand the rules.
4. At this level, even one referee mistake can change a match.  The NBA should have the guts to reverse match results if (like Game 1) it was many many more than one referee mistakes.
You can do better.

Facebook made one little mistake in it’s GDPR response

I wrote about the fuss on GDPR but Facebook’s response made it even worse.  Their UI department essentially made fun of both the EU and the entire planet by forcing us to waste time in a most amusing (to them) way.  They had two questions to ask us.  It could have been done with two clicks.  But no.  Let’s see what they actually chose to do instead:  (In Greek on purpose.  I want you to focus on the whole image, not the text.)

It didn’t need a splash screen.  Under the pretense of explaining to us what it is all about however they want you to click on the bottom right because then you might…

..just click on the bottom right again without thinking in the next screen and accept without looking at it.  I would love to know what the percentage of people who fell for this were.  I am guessing around 60-70%.  Just click on it to get to your timeline and whatever you wanted to do.  But some might have clicked on it and then thought “oh no, maybe I should read this stuff”.  So the Facebook UI team pulls a second trick out of their hat.

Another splash screen.  Supposedly explaining stuff, which nobody will read and they know it.  No, the real reason this is here is to get you clicking on the bottom right again as you anxiously worry that you’re late to like your wife’s latest post.

And here again another sneaky bit of UI magic.  Put the choice under the visible part of the screen.  Who will bother scrolling down, eh?

But hey, don’t worry.  You get nice extra screen telling you that your selection was saved.  Yippee, we were all worried that maybe it wasn’t saved.  So click, click, click that bottom right….click and all this will go away…

…or maybe not so quickly.  Another pseudofriendly splash screen with another big blue bright button down there to click on.  By now you are biting at the chomp, raring to get to your feed.

The UI masters however are not done.  They are running experiments on you even as the planet castigates them for running experiments on you.  Why is this option not a slider like the other one?  Because they want you to click on what seems more “obvious”.

 

Sure, I want Facebook to recognize my face, whatever, get to that blue button and back to my feed!

Well done, your selection is saved.  You are a hero.  But we are not done with you.  Click the button, click the button…

Accept these terms if you want to continue using Facebook.  Oh, OK, right, that is like my girlfriend demanding I marry her before we ever have sex again.  And she tells me after we get naked and started.  That big blue button doesn’t say “next”, it now says “agree” but you are well taught by now to always click down there.  And now, only now, you can see the final mistake of the Facebook UI team.

They should have put a middle finger instead of a thumbs up.

 

GDPR – Things you want to learn from this latest EuroFAIL

  1. American companies just laughed in the face of GDPR legislation.  Their legal departments probably had a whole load of other stuff ready to roll out anyway.  “By continuing to use this website…”  and whatever too long scroll down you never bothered looking at just got longer.  Amazon already has a segment referring to the zombie apocalypse.  In essence, they treated it like the completely counter productive cookie acceptance button.
  2. Smaller companies struggled to understand it and comply.  In essence all such regulation plays into the hands of bigger companies.  They have IT departments, marketing strategies, legal eagles and everything you need to understand and deal with it.  Small businesses are now weighed down by one more hurdle.  The European Union shot them in the foot of any plans they had to get more digital.
  3. A whole ecosystem of advisors had a field day.  Some of us are old enough to remember that the same thing happened with Y2K and every other end of the world scenario.  Marketing “specialists”, legal “experts” and IT “consultants” love this sort of thing.  You are paying for them to prove you need them.  To make you feel safe.  To cover your ass when the boss asks if everything is OK.

Let me be clear.  I am in no way a Euro skeptic.  I love the way they managed to ban roaming charges.  When they facilitate trade or movement of people in Europe.  But not this. This is too little, too late.  So late that it isn’t even relevant.  If they want to beat Silicon Valley, this approach will not work.  If they want to levy enormous fines on Google or Facebook they don’t need to invent pitiful excuses like this.

Innovation.  These days, even in the legal department tricks you have to do much much better than GDPR.

The mythology of the Greek crisis

If you have any Greek friends you have probably heard the yarns.  The terrible harsh measures imposed on Greece “for the banks”.  Global capitalism eating up it’s children like Saturn and not a Zeus in sight to fight back.  Even Alexis Tsipras, the communist trained youngster, couldn’t do a Hermes on them.  He talked the talk and then somersaulted into submission signing one after another Memorandum of Understanding.  The “sold off Greece”, “mortgaged our future” and many other horrible things.   According to most Greeks it was either “the Germans making money off us” or “the EU making an example of us”.  According to conspiracy theorists it is “the beginning of a global economic meltdown.”

Let me help you with some facts.

  1. Greek business is, in general, crap.  “Crap” being a term I use in the strictest sense to denote lazy and unorganized.  Greece doesn’t really produce anything.  As a consultant I see a lot of companies “insides”.  Even those that appear to be healthy or export orientated are usually dependent on lazy government contracts one way or another.  There is no “private sector” really because even companies that don’t belong to the government, end up making most of their money directly or indirectly from the government.  Worse still, there is no major improvement.  If someone gave us a gazillion billions to pay off all our debt we would simply slide into debt immediately again.
  2. The myth about Greek civil servants still holds true.  Don’t look at official figures.  When the latest government of pseudo left incompetents took over, my father declared “well, they have no money to give away, so at least they can’t hire loads of new civil servants.”  Many people, usually like my father no longer well connected to developments, believe this.  The truth is that this government has continued with gusto in the age old Greek tradition of giving jobs for votes.  They just find new ways.  We have consultancy positions, committees and dozens of other ways to give money to have people dependent enough to vote for them again.  It is the PASOK know-how.  (A lot of PASOK went into the current government.)
  3. Greeks are still living the good life, they just complain more.  We have all taken a hit and it is true that some luxury items like expensive cars or international travel have been scaled back.  It is also true that people on the edge of poverty are worse off.  But the picture is not so clear.  Hospitals are worse off, lacking essentials very often, but most people find a way to get either private health care or some in between solution.  Doctors working in public hospitals abuse expensive machinery on the side for example.  Bus travel is virtually free as there are never ticket inspectors.  You hardly ever see anyone with a ticket anymore.  Most Greeks still own the house they live in and their summer house and possibly a flat or two in the city which they rent out or AirBnb on the side.  How many Germans have that?

I have written before about the many signs that Greeks are still wealthier and lazier in economizing than most Europeans.  Things like the lack of used goods stores or the price of coffee. Greeks still top charts on rates of spending on personal care or plastic surgery.   Supermarkets recently started charging for plastic bags and there was an uproar.  Old habits die hard.  You still don’t see too many people with carrier bags.  We just take plastic bags from the vegetables section and use them!  The “average American” we all like to make fun of, has infinitely more financial literacy than a Greek.  We don’t spread risk, or count investments or move money, here is a conversation with your average Greek about debt.

No, that sort of thing is for “stupid foreigners.” We just wait for the next Euro idiot to give us more money to share.

The real problem with Facebook is its lack of a business model

“If Facebook disappeared tonight, it would take the planet maybe 2 days to get over it.”  It’s not the first time I have heard this being said. And even though it sounds like a terrible sweeping generalisation from someone trying to impress over dinner, I tend to agree.  Some say it is useless. It definately doesn’t offer real services like Maps, or YouTube or Google Docs.  It isn’t a globally accepted personal ID yet. They haven’t even merged the sign in process for all their different acquisitions yet.    Messenger is a terrible messaging platform, simply not designed for finding things or organising messages or getting anything done. Much like Facebook it is a sometimes pleasant time wasting area of our lives.  Instagram is an absolutely atrocious place to store your photographs or even to promote them. It is not as if you can easily export them all to take anywhere else or even other basic things any photographer would ask for.

Facebook seems to impose stupid restrictions on WhatsApp and any other app it makes.  It takes ages to transfer even winning ideas from one of its properties to another. Because Facebook’s business model is non existent.   They are basically low level con artists, out to milk everybody a little at a time. In fact I think its mission statement should read:

To waste everyone’s time by dilly dallying with mediocre solutions to minor problems while taking advertising money from people with extremely imprecise targets in life or business.”  It is almost as if they do it on purpose.  First they tell everyone to make business pages, then they make sure that nobody sees those pages.  Unless you pay for ads. They tell everyone to focus on video, then downplay video. The introduce ridiculously infantile advertising tools at a pace so slow it makes you wonder what sort of idiot would put up with them.

Turns out all of us so far.  Because every time they give out for free something awesome in terms of human manipulation.  For me it is the easy experiments. I have 1500 “friends”on Facebook and I try out things on them.  No protocol, no rigour, just throw it out and get a whiff of how they work it. Easiest playground ever for marketing people.  I will regularly visit and revisit topics to gauge at an instant how “public” opinion is shifting. I know its not perfect but it is fast and dirty and often all I need to help my thought process along or get ideas.  And this is exactly what Zuckerberg and his friends are doing to all of us.

When Facebook ads started, it was so open you could make an ad to be seen only by one person.  I did it many times. Want to impress someone in a board meeting? Just find out his hobbies and basics  and you could have him or her on your microsite in less than a day. It is not just because they lack experience.  It is because they really don’t care. In a deep and meaningful way, they don’t give half a hoot. They have no ethics and it is apparent in their products which are essentially all designed as if to avoid any practical application whatsoever on purpose.

You can’t blame an artist for whatever art is created.  He never sold that painting as an accurate map or that sculpture as a hammer.  Facebook’s mission statement can only be something vague like connecting people because they are too lazy and too unethical to ever dare hold up a measure with any more specificity.  They are not “connecting people” any more than a blood sucking leech is connecting you to it’s other victims.

So what happens next?

Facebook can only follow Google’s lead really.  Make, buy or think of something that people want in order to get them using your platform.  Knowing Facebook it will be silly stuff.  No matter, guess we need silly stuff too.  Games, time wasters, Flappy Birds and social games that become fashionable.  From “click here to find out what medieval king you were” to “we tell you what you will look like in sixty years”, that is Facebook.  That is all it is.  That’s as good as it gets.  Facebook has no business model because what it sells is about as useful as recreational drugs.  So let’s not ask if they did something illegal.  Let’s ask if their entire operation should have been legal in the first place.

Two pharmacists teach marketing every morning

The jeep was moving in a very unusual manner.  Slowly and in the middle of the road.  I instinctively pulled over in order to figure out the mystery.  Which didn’t take too long.  A bushy tailed big dog trotting along.  A woman in the driver’s seat of the jeep looked very worried as I passed carefully by her dog.  This was her idea of a morning dog walk, a lazy person’s excuse for doing something half heartedly.   Five minutes earlier I had passed by another woman, quite a different story.  Despite the cold she was in shorts, running quite fast, her fuzzy hair in a bandana.  An almost permanent smile lit her face as she purposefully sped past.  I see her every morning.  She crisscrosses the entire neighborhood doing 10km.  I have even met her up on our mountain with a gaggle of other women cackling and laughing as they ran.

Both of them are pharmacists.  Guess who’s store is always full?

Energophobia: a very modern disease

It is pretty rare these days to find something that a Google search cannot.  I mean zilch. Nothing.  It immediately guessed I was looking for agoraphobia.  But I am not looking for a fear of  places that might make you feel trapped, helpless or embarrassed.   I am looking for a much more common fear which affects most of us.  You know when you sit down and your first thought is to charge your phone?  When you drive and plug in “just in case”?  Energophobia (ενεργοφοβία) is the fear of running out of power on one of the many devices you carry around.  Usually your smartphone.

This condition remains a mystery to me.  Because it seems so easy to solve.  Most phones’ batteries have a 3000 (don’t care what the units are) battery.  Even ridiculously expensive new iPhones can hardly last a day.  They keep talking about improvements here and there for battery life.  Why not just give it a bigger battery?  I can buy a phone with three times the battery (10000) or twice the battery for less than 150 dollars and go for days.  Hell, they support USB on the go, so I can even charge your iPhone for you!  And OK, Apple is weird about doing multiple phone models, why don’t Android phone makers, give the damn things bigger batteries?

The only obvious answer is that people don’t want to pay for it.  Which makes even less sense.  You want a slim phone so much that you prefer to live with a constant anxiety about running out of battery?  You prefer to carry so many accessories, which probably weigh more than a second phone in total,  instead of a very slightly heavier phone?  I would love for a major manufacturer to just try out my hypothesis.  Make a flagship model with a bigger battery.  Not double, just enough more power so that you can easily get through a working day without even thinking about having to charge.  Without worrying about being an energy beggar anywhere you take a break.

In any case, please think about it.  Talk to your shrink and let me know.

Notifications chaos? Across platforms, devices and the Universe. Solved!

I was looking at the new and improved YouTube when it came to me.  Check out all the new bells and whistles, the polls and the posts you can make in a tool that is more and more like a social network, and it will notify you…  I  just kept thinking “wow, how will users handle all the extra new notifications from this app?”  And then I logged in to Google Local Guides connect and thought “I wish this sent me notifications more often without me needing to log in”.  I keep forgetting about it.

 

There is no easy solution.  No magic bullet.  Oh, wait a minute.  Yes there is!

 

It is currently chaos.  Every app tries to dominate on my phone and my computer and everywhere it can.  AirBnB sends me text messages just to make sure I have read my emails about a place I am staying in two months.  When I get a new phone or reset my old one, Google does an excellent job of bringing back all sorts of settings.  But not notifications.  Because that is a job bigger even than Google.  Here is how we could  it:

 

  1. Start a service which picks up from your phone and computer as many as possible of whatever apps and services you are connected to automatically.  No easier way around this, you need to authorize it to know your Twitter, Linked in, Gmail or whatever else you want it to handle the notifications for.
  2. You then get a master notifications center.  I am talking about all your apps and all your devices.  Here is where the magic starts.  Because you tell it that you want your cell phone, any cell phone you connect to the service, to always notify you if something happens on Twitter.  Or to never notify you about anything on Facebook other than someone tagging you.   Or to always tell you somehow about stuff happening on Google Local Guides Connect.
  3. Obviously some apps and services won’t comply.  My notifications platform isn’t just another app.  We are now the gold standard, the international bar to reach for everyone.  We are consumer rights!  Heck I can do it as a panEuropean initiative or something, go all political and make any company that doesn’t comply look bad.  We will advertise with slogans like “works with all apps apart from those nasty people at Instagram that won’t let us access their API”.
  4. There is nothing stopping us from creating a service for non compliant devices or software.  You will tell it what you want your connected microwave to do and we will bust the balls of the manufacturer to get on our platform until it complies.  This isn’t some sort of “if this then that”, this is only notifications and specifically notifications.  This is your life!  Who gets the right to interrupt you? (You see how I go all philosophical and touchy-feely, eh?)
  5. Eventually my platform becomes the go to place for all apps and devices to get their notifications settings from.  Cross platform, cross countries, across the Universe.  A Russian cosmonaut with an iPhone will return to earth after 18 months, throw away the damn thing because it drove him nuts and get his Android phone set up the same for notifications within minutes.  Elon Musk will return from Mars after 3 years and fly his new Tesla home without interruptions from any app he hasn’t chosen.

Notifications are a problem which is not going to go away.  Google is the only company anywhere close to a chance of making the world better in this respect but only for those of us that use and love their products.  But even if you only use Android, Chromebooks and full use of all Google apps, devices and services, there will be other companies creeping in to annoy us with their notifications.  We need something bigger than Google in a much smaller way.  A vertical.  A fine layer of control on the last mile, the last inch of space between the world and anything that comes to interrupt me with a notification.

 

The business beauty of the proposal is that you don’t need to include everyone and everything from day one.  Even if this platform handled just notifications from 3-4 apps and services it would be useful.  Think about it.  Never having to set up your phone regarding what can ping and ding from Facebook or Gmail or whatever.  Not even Google offers this right now.  Eventually our protocol becomes the global standard for notification control of course, we pay ourselves mega bucks and become more important than the United Nations.

 

Any developers up for making this?

 

Facebook just fired your marketing department and made me invaluable

What a shock.  About 60-70% of your marketing plan has just been made obsolete by Facebook’s changes.  It’s not their fault.  You are idiots to have ever believed them.  The signs were always there.  First they said “everyone make pages!”  So you did.  Some companies even forsake a website and make the Facebook page a main hub of activity.  Now it sits there almost useless, collecting a few likes from your employees if you are lucky.  Then they said “do video!”   So you obeyed and pumped money, changed teams, bought equipment for that too.  Guess what?  Now they are saying video is no longer what they want.  Less than a year later!   You paid for special advisers, you paid for adverts, you went to training, listened to podcasts, followed the “developments”.  What “developments”?  Let’s face it.  Nobody has a clue, they are just running after Facebook and paying for it.  Those clever clogs that said “we will handle your social presence” just got royally screwed.  They are now officially useless.   And clueless.

I hate to say “I told you so” but, no actually, I love to remind you about it.  From day 1 of it’s existence, I have written that Facebook is a scam.  Mark Zuckerberg has the mentality of a hacker.  Not the cute ones you see in films helping the hero by remotely opening doors and getting information about the enemy.  No, Facebook is the largest organization ever built to perpetuate a completely selfish attitude to business which can be summarized as:

Grab what you can, when you can.  Who cares about everyone else?

This sounds like a line from a film about Wall street and many would even justify it possibly.  But not in the way Facebook implements it.  Facebook systematically changes its rules and ecosystem to screw everyone else.  It starts with the user.  It’s only purpose is to keep you on the platform.  It doesn’t offer anything useful, just a semblance of a real tool.  Remember those?  Real tools, like the ones in your CRM or your ERP.  Things you actually do work with.    While some idiots were getting excited and promoting Facebook groups as “better than old fashioned online forums”, people at Facebook were laughing, knowing it was just a scam.  They had put it together in a couple of weeks and were already on their next thing.  You were promoting a duck long dead.

The entire industry of Facebook watchers is now proposing workarounds.  It is their way of not admitting the problem.   “Stick to live video!” they say.  Fantastic.  Heck I work for a company that sells equipment for this, anything from a 5,000 euro small set up for a school or company to a 5 million studio for a TV channel, we can make a killing.  Only it would be completely stupid to let you do it for Facebook.   Of course you need a better plan, one that keeps the assets in your ecosystem and only uses Facebook as, when and if it is worth it.  Until they change their minds again next week.  “Turn to Messenger!” they say.  “Use bots!”   Sure guys, anything you say.  Let’s all use an infantile messaging system with no decent API, no decent search and lacking all the great tools we know and love in serious tools for business.  Business hasn’t changed.  You still need a database with your data somewhere you can control.  Something like a CMS, or a web front end or anything that won’t change next time Zuckerberg wakes up on the wrong side of his bed with a new best idea.

The only thing I will agree on with Facebook is the need for long comments and deep discussion.  I am an excellent online troublemaker.  Kicking up a fuss with long comments and causing a commotion is what I enjoy best in my free time online.  So far I thought of it as a disadvantage, something to keep away from business accounts.  But my time has come!  Despite Facebook’s idiotic commenting technology which makes following an argument rather difficult, it seems the universe if finally in need of my natural calling.

If nobody is seeing that business page and nobody is commenting on your posts feel free to contact me for help.  Oh by the way I just tripled my prices but you shouldn’t worry about that, after all Facebook is much worse.   At least I am honestly telling you about it up front…

True gamification: What Google Maps has to learn from Supercell

I am in San Francisco battling jet lag, trying to sleep at the local time. But not so far away from me a group of kids is blaring out music.  It is an international bunch of kids in their twenties and they are playing from their phones what they think the others will like.  You could call it “party classics” in a way.  But Spotify will never know these songs.  These are the ones someone chose because he thought a bunch of strangers will like them.  The good ones you know because they all sing out of tune and slightly drunk.  Either the boys are heard more or the girls, depending on the appeal.  Sometimes both together, boy, they must be too shy to get on to sex so they keep listening I suppose.  The failed songs are changed after the first chorus when they see lack of traction with the audience.

It is vitally important to really listen to what is going on in the world and your target market.  “We are gamifying the platform” they say in software with conviction.  They mean you now have a goal, some medals or some levels to complete.  Whether it is Google Maps, a school or some old fashioned application with a face lift, the story is the same.  Way too little, way too late.

It is called “gamification” for a reason.  It is meant to be like games.  Modern games though.  Stop looking ten years behind and look at the games that do well today.  How do they motivate users? I have my kids to thank for Clash Royale.  So I know the difference.  It is hard to explain when you don’t play and when you don’t see kids reacting to the opportunities and changes in the game.  But I will try.

 

First of all with the onboarding.  It doesn’t just run an intro to get you going.  Clash Royale maintains a learning culture in players but constantly introducing new challenges and incentives to learn tools.  They know that if complexity increases and players don’t follow, they will be disappointed and leave.  For example these days they made a new “touchdown” way of playing.  So there is a simple version for you to get into it gradually in a consequence free environment.  Nothing to lose.  In fact you can’t go to the “proper” game until you have taken off the training wheels here.  Now think how many GUIs “upgrade”, “update” or generally get more difficult and lose customers.

The most common mistake of so called “gamification” plans is in fact the opposite of this.  They make the changes complicated but the rewards too simple.  Clash Royale allows you to feel you are the best on many different levels.  Maybe you have the most donations to clan members this week.  Or you are the only one with the new cool weapon, the highest level troop or some other unique category you can brag about.  You might be really good at a particular challenge.  Everything you do gains you something, but it is never simple.  Gold is useful, diamonds even better, experience points help you gain levels and it is all connected.  (Won’t go into how exactly, too nerdy, you have to play it.)  The rules of these rewards can be as complex as you want, in fact the more complicated the better.  Just stay on top of it.  We are online after all, you can adjust them dynamically depending on how people are reacting or not reacting to them.

Supercell, the creator of Clash Royale, is fast to fix things like that.  They take each new character as it’s own franchise.  With pre promotion, videos on youtube, it’s own introductory events to get everyone to know and use it and then new challenges to help it get back into vogue if we are not using it much.  Maybe it costs less elixir this week or it does double damage the next.  This is an economy which is centrally controlled after all.  Just make sure it is fun.

It can all be done with any platform.  It could be done with Google Maps.  After all the single biggest problem is how to get people involved and contributing.  You can’t map the world on your own.  I am a level 8 Local Guide.  At 15.000 points, all I get is the information that my next milestone is 50.000.  It is like looking at a very tall mountain from the bottom and not wanting to walk.  It would be like going through fifth and sixth grade together without any school report along the way, just a “well done!  You made it!” at the end of two years.   If you want me to tell you about wheelchair access, tell me that I am the hottest contributor this week or in my area this week.  Or that I did the fastest first ten contribution this week.  Anything.  In Clash Royale everything is always moving you ahead …somewhere.

The other important aspect of effort is community of course.  But here again, Supercell show the way ahead.  Because you can’t force community down anybody’s throat, much like you can’t force modern people to be sociable in the same way.  Some like to play with friends, to collaborate.  Others prefer to play with strangers or against strangers.  Sometimes we like to spar against friends.  At times we want the buzz of risking but then we like to just slog away in mindless torpor to relax.  It can’t all be at the same level all the time.  Clash Royale offers all these different ways of playing almost all the time.  Because as central dictator of their universe, they make sure that things are never permanent or too stable and boring.  Clan challenges appeared for a while, then disappeared while they decided on the initial data, then reappeared with gusto.  Now they come mainly on the weekends when all my sons’ friends (and me!) can play together and try and win clan chests which we all share.  Some of us like playing like that.

So by all means gamify your platform.  Gamify work, gamify learning.  But do it like Supercell or call it something else.