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Business Communication LAW Technology

This is a coup! How does Europe get the right to tell the internet what to do?

As the world watches him flip flop over major topics like migrant families and trade war threats, I have to grant Donald Trump a point.  Take all the nasty stuff he said about China on the campaign trail (before he started sucking up to Asian dictators) and apply it to the European Union.  Obviously GDPR has not yet played on Fox news and he hasn’t figured out what the European Commission just pulled off.  It unilaterally forced a ridiculous and extremely vague legal requirement on the entire planet!

“A Data protection officer (DPO)—a person with expert knowledge of data protection law and practices, must be appointed to assist the controller or processor to monitor internal compliance with this regulation.”  Wait a minute.  Just because a European citizen might click on my website, I have to hire some expert?  And worse still, I am not allowed to ban Europeans from visiting my website or to show them a different version?  Protectors of the internet should not be cheering GDPR, we should all be fighting it!  This is a coup, or #thisisacoup if you want to make it a trending hashtag.  You should want to if you care about the internet.

We have done our best to keep the internet free.  We fight for net neutrality.  And we are going to let some Euro-bureaucrats force vague and already technologically irrelevant regulation on the entire planet?  GDPR is not about tech, your IT people can’t make you compatible.  Neither is it a marketing issue.  GDPR isn’t even a legal issue.  How many lawyers do you know that understand databases or UI?  GDPR is 100% political.  Our national governments weren’t even asked, it is regulation instead of a directive.   European citizens didn’t even get the chance to see it ratified in national assemblies.  And – sorry to see this in writing – I am rather hoping Donald Trump notices some report on Fox news and helps us out this time around.

This is a coup.

Categories
Business LAW

GDPR is so stupid it is scary

I can picture the scene.  Some EU bureaucrat, on his low tech EU email client, had to go through the EU complicated way of reporting yet another viagra spam email.  “This has to stop!” he righteously  complained loudly to other EU bureaucrats twiddling their thumbs.  “I cannot receive that email I need from Nigeria because the damn system keeps thinking it is a fake prince sending it!”  The rest of us don’t know why they didn’t just use Gmail instead.    We hardly remember what spam is here in the rest of the world, because Google’s AI deals with it so effectively before it ever gets near us.

But the EU bureaucrat did what EU bureaucrats do.  He made a committee that started a process which made national committees which authorized funds to research a topic which needed researchers to hire more bureaucrats to end up with a massive nonsensical blurb which they eventually got other EU bureaucrats to vote for and announced to the world in what is easily the grandest proof of how far behind reality they all are.

GDPR is so broad in its scope it is legally practically trash.  The more you read “experts” analyze it, the worse it gets.  Since when can a legal requirement from one group of countries force the entire planet to do something?  If I, a euroloving citizen, travel to a remote tropical island with 50 inhabitants and one computer and the hotel there asks for my data without doing all the GDPR it needs in IT infrastructure and communicating, can I then sue them?  It seems I can.

For anyone with the slightest experience in IT and database infrastructure, the more you look at GDPR, the more you despair.    Because unlike the counter productive cookie banner which simply wastes a little time, GDPR was implemented using what looks like knowledge of current IT practices.  Some of those well paid committees and their well paid experts actually did some work this time and hashed together a semblance of what they think a modern IT infrastructure should look like.  Which is even more problematic.

This is a big planet and a “legal entity” is an extremely fluid notion.  You are reading a personal blog where I publicly air all sorts of complaints about things I see and don’t like.  Do I have to prove I don’t make money out of this blog?  What if you are subconsciously impressed enough to hire me as a consultant as a result of all this wisdom?  Sure there are enormous companies with legal departments and big IT clans.  Even those however have very different approaches to how they are organized both in terms of the role of marketing departments and in terms of IT philosophies.  And of course probably 99% of “legal entities” on Earth have no IT department and no marketing department.  Or if they do it is one person struggling to get the basics done.

I am really curious to see the first case of someone being charged under GDPR.  What sort of “experts” will be called upon and what sort of “standard” they will retrospectively demand.  “Sure, you used double opt in for the past ten years, but look, here on page 2536 of GDPR, clause 7d stipulates that….”  And then you will counter with by analyzing entries in your database from eight years ago.  And then some sort of IT wizard judge will be able to come to a conclusion?

If GDPR was designed to curtail Google and Facebook it is the most ridiculous and destructive indirect way to do it.  The EU can slap penalties on these companies anytime it wants to anyway.  It doesn’t need to cripple everyone else in the meantime.  If anything, Googlem Facebook and other big U.S. platforms will come out stronger from all this as millions of small companies will prefer to use their cloud infrastructure rather than try and figure out how to be GDPR compatible.    If GDPR was made in order to promote specific types of marketing and penalise others it is high time Euro bureaucrats crawled out of their holes and visited the real world.  Marketing has moved a long way since those Viagra emails only you keep receiving. because your email infrastructure was built by a committee.

The EU put up a nonsensical, needless roadblock to doing business in Europe.   Legitimate Nigerian princes with large inheritances will simply do their business somewhere else.

 

Categories
Communication POLITICS

My prime minister and your president are a similar type of idiot-genius marketers

When Donald Trump became president I did a blog post about his similarities with the Greek Prime Minister, Alexis Tsipras.  I was of course mainly impressed with their marketing capabilities.  The unorthodox way they gamed the political system to win.  Some time down the line, it gets even worse.  I am not sure if all populist leaders don’t have some secret forum where they exchange ideas.

For starters they don’t have a left or right, conservative or socialist direction.  They don’t care.  Whatever sounds good, whatever tweets best.  Tariffs where a “socialist” thing, now it’s a Trump thing in an almost nationalistic way.  In no case is it felt necessary to research something.  He will head to meet the leader of North Korea unprepared.  He might even fall asleep during the meeting like Tsipras seems to do in major international leader meetings.    They both have a unique way of projecting their reality, their complete and utter stupidity, their short term, childish “truth” as if it is the actual truth.  It is like watching a two year old lie about the broken vase he is holding.

Like a rather immature two year old they both change their minds erratically and avoid any specifics.  Forget a detailed memo explaining how a major change will happen, here are a couple of tweets I shot out last night.  Go figure.  They get swayed by whoever they last met or whatever they saw on television.  The gaping lack of basic understanding of how the world works poses absolutely no obstacle to them scheming on the grandest of levels.  Our prime minister even set up the Greek Space program recently.  Sure, it is probably just a way to line the pockets of his friends, but that is irrelevant to the fantasy world he is projecting.

Trump and Tsipras hold on to simple ideas.  Really simple ideas.   Imports are bad.  Let’s kill them.  If it gets the crowd cheering they will just default to the simple “truth” in a world where nothing is simple.  And no matter how ridiculously obvious it is that these people are bowing to whatever their friends ask for, those simple “truths” keep being repeated until they drown out everyone else.  Tsipras is co ruling with a party full of people that believe that we are being sprayed from the air to influence our decision making.  Trump takes advice from Navarro.  To say these are far out extreme conspiracy theorists is an understatement.  The simple, obvious, appealing “truth” is all they care about and they somehow manage to persuade a lot of people that is the whole story.

Their opponents are in disarray because by moving pseudo ideologically they have destroyed the structure of politics as everybody else knew it.  The ultimate market redefinition.  Like going into the hayday of a Pepsi-Coke war and getting everybody to stop drinking all together because liquids are unnatural and you can get all you need from cucumbers and watermelons.   Tsipras and Trump have a lot to teach us.   Get off your soap boxes and see how you can use their methodology in other markets.

.

Of course we need to get them out of politics as soon as possible.

 

Categories
Business Technology

Facebook killed 14 people in May

That is what the headlines ought to be.  Not “A Facebook bug changed suggested sharing settings to ‘public’ for up to 14 million users“.  Think about it.  Assuming Facebook is telling the truth (and we have absolutely no way to know if it was 14 million, 140 million or all of Facebook affected) out of the 14 million there is an enormous probability that they affected users with serious legal, social or psychological problems.  Maybe a crazy ex wife, a stalker, a student or some other privacy problem which led a percentage of those affected to suicide.  In fact, based on the evidence accumulating scientifically, it is not entirely unfair to say that Facebook not only did it’s best to grab users with mental problems but also that it actively does its best to make those problems worse.

It is pretty safe to assume that Facebook didn’t release this information because of their new drive to honesty.  Even if it was only 14 million users affected (which I highly doubt), that is a lot of time wasting Facebook psychopaths online with the potential to uncover it.  Many of those are constantly checking other people’s feeds, gossiping and trying to find out whether their boyfriend saw that post about that other girl or not.  (And other such human micro drama.)  Facebook had to reveal the bug because a lot of people would have noticed and proved it’s existence.  A lot of the users it managed to make addicted during one of the many hours they spend aimlessly scrolling up and down their timelines and checking other people’s timelines.

Here’s one problem:  nobody can really check up on Facebook.  Here’s a worse problem: their infrastructure is terrible.  Here’s the real issue: Facebook remains the toy of an unbalanced teenage hacker at heart.

In many ways it is a self repairable problem.  Unlike other online tools, Facebook is a complete waste of time.  The company has specialized in providing inconsequential services.  It’s not helping you get to work.  It’s not giving you free document processing tools.  And it’s running out of ways to entice users to spend time on it’s useless, buggy, platform.

Categories
Business

The Cryptocurrency backstory is all wrong

If you ask Google how many UK pounds you get for 100 US dollars you will get the result immediately.  Ask it to convert 10 0xBitcoin to FlorinCoin and you get nothing.  In fact you can ask Google pretty much anything about cryptocurrencies and it behaves like some dumb search engine would 15 years ago.  Which is peculiar.  Highly peculiar.

So CoinMarketCap took over as “the Google of cryptocurrencies”.  It has a similarly minimal design approach and a similar inclusivity with no questions asked.  Rather dodgy new currencies appear regularly, much like Google doesn’t interfere with results a lot.

But all this just makes things worse.  I clicked on Trending “Gainers and Losers” and saw a big list of cryptocurrencies gaining more than 100% even and on the “losers” pretty small losses for a few cryptocurrencies.  Of course the whole thing is doing well.  There are many (big) winners and few (small) losers.  Which is peculiar.  Highly peculiar.  When the site changed the way it calculated market capitalization it wiped billions off the crypto market.  This is a very bad version of a Google type monopoly in a market with no need to create such a monopoly.  Heck, in true crypto approach, attention should be blockchained away from any single such website!

It is all about the story.  I raved about the NBA making fantastic stories about everything.  I then (previous post) stopped watching the NBA all together because they betrayed me.  They lost the key element of all such stories: justice.  With blatant bad officiating all their other stories make no sense.  I don’t care anymore if LeBron is a fantastic athlete.  If he knows the matches are rigged and doesn’t speak up (or quit) he is part of the problem.

In a similar vain cryptocurrencies have always been plagued by a bad reputation.  Drugs, illegal activities, blackmailing schemes and bad movie plots.  And unless it changes its approach, CoinMarketCap is part of that problem.

Categories
Business

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.
Categories
Business Technology

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.

 

Categories
Business

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.

Categories
ENGLISH POLITICS Society

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.

Categories
Technology

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.