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.

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?

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…

Google will never buy Kevin Durant

When the Golden State Warriors got Kevin Durant we were impressed.  What was already a super star team just got even …super starier.  The Warriors couldn’t even hide the fact as he single handedly won matches and LeBron tried to defend 2 or even 3 players on his own at times.  As the finals ended today, (4-1 exactly as I had publicly predicted by the way) I find it hard not to draw parallels with Google.  

 

Between Google and Facebook, online advertising has demolished the old names in media.  Hundreds of million of dollars are flowing every day in a new direction.  But only Google has the intelligence to handle it well.  It isn’t wasting time in messaging apps because messaging apps do not contain much useful information from which to figure out what ads to show you.  Facebook has the 4 most resource hungry apps for Android.  Messenger, Instagram, WhatsApp and of course the Facebook app itself.  For no good reason.  As they integrate Instagram with Facebook more and more, you can’t help but wonder why we even need four separate apps from Facebook.  While they experiment with screwing up your timelines, Google is getting the job done.

 

Google keeps improving Android at such an amazing pace, even now, that Apple only has to copy a few features every time to manage to entertain its audience.  Which is sort of the point.  Nobody was anywhere near Google in Artificial Intelligence.  Yet Google didn’t launch anything magic until it needed to.    It could blow everyone out of social tomorrow.  Some of us remember that day when our Google searches showed us what our friends were doing and what they thought of our Google searches.  It was a freak day, maybe I was on some A/B test.  I saw what Google could do if they used more of what they know about me and my friends.

 

Google will not though.  It is not about having 4 All NBA players on your team.  It is about hiding their talent unless it becomes necessary.  If Golden State blew out the Cavs today by 160-80 everyone would be furious.  Call it sportsmanship if you like, I call it clever business sense.  Basic human understanding.  Nobody likes a freak.  Society does not tolerate outliers.  Business and government tend to target whoever does too well.  Google will never make a fuss about buying a Kevin Durant.  They got Ray Kurzweil and didn’t make a fuss.  He got natural language recognition working way better than everyone else.  Siri is a joke but Google is making sure you don’t feel bad about it.  In fact it is quite likely that Apple and Facebook end up borrowing technology from Google in order not to fail; they are now officially too big to fail.

 

It takes a little bit more to make a Champion.  And more after that if you don’t want everyone to hate the Champion.

Good cop – bad cop: why only Facebook is evil

In a lot of our discussion about the future we tend to bunch Facebook and Google together.  After all they are two Goliaths that rely on advertising.  Unlike Microsoft that has spread its income sources, or Amazon who is in a different arena all together.  Grouping them together however is unfair, misleading and dangerous.

“….the great organ of social life, the prime element of civilization, the channel through which native talent, native genius, and native power may bubble up daily…”  The quote is not from a recent Zuckerberg motivational speech but from James Gordon Bennett, who published the Morning Herald in 1835, one of the first newspapers which tried to sell an audience to advertisers.

Facebook has a simple and similar target.  To get us to spend more time on their platform.  Wasting time?  Sure.  With fake news?  Of course.  It is the newspaper of our time and it is a tabloid newspaper for sure.  Facebook will do anything to get you to stay.  It will interrupt you and make sure you get no work done.   It will buy out other platforms like Instagram only to gradually turn them into…Facebook.  It will copy features from Snapchat with no shame if Snapchat or any future smaller company isn’t willing to be bought by Facebook.  Facebook has no purpose by definition.  Mark Zuckerberg has excelled since his college days in dreaming up new ways for people to waste time.  There is no purpose.   He simply thrives on studying your time wasting habits per se, whether it is flicking up and down a timeline, looking at photos of friends or creating controversy.  (Which his systems always reward in one way or another.)

The opportunistic approach is best illustrated in the erratic way it deals with its customers.  Advertising on Facebook is not a science.  It can’t be.  Because they are always changing it in order to make whatever worked yesterday not work tomorrow unless you pay more.  The scandals about false video impression numbers and all the other scams Facebook has got caught for so far are just the tip of the iceberg.  The elephant in the room is that Facebook ads simply do not work as well as they want you to think they work.  Why?  Because people shop much less when they are simply wasting time.   Nobody will tell you because digital marketers are too busy taking the money you are no longer spending on “old media” and giving you fancy stats that impress you.

Contrast that with Google.  You know, that place you go when you actually want to get things done.  When you research a product purchase.  Where you find out useful stuff about your world.  Google has a much tougher job.  They have to give you services like Google Maps which are simply so useful and so much better than any other option and then find ways to monetize them without losing the title.   Advertisers that understand the difference are much more effective for their customers.  Lazy advertisers simply give in to the marketing director who only understands Facebook ads because that is what they use every day.  A Facebook ad “impression” is in no way similar to a Google Ads “impression”.  Facebook reminds me of Nazi Germany radio wardens, people that walked the streets to corral citizens all together and force them to listen to Adolf Hitler speak on the radio.  We need shared experiences and Zuckerberg is going to give you the ones he can sell.  While Google figures out machine learning, automatic translation and organizing the world’s knowledge for everyone Facebook adds smiley faces, dislike buttons and the amazing new way to say something with a colored background.

The way Facebook treats fake news is a wonderful illustration of its hypocrisy.  Much like the first tabloid newspapers almost two hundred years ago, it seeks out and promotes anything lurid and boisterous.  In the old days newspapers based on advertising for revenue had people in courts looking for scandal or even reported on the slave trade for effect.  Facebook today pretends to be politically correct but makes sure similar content reaches you.  And plenty of it.  It is a bit like newspapers pretending not to control the classifieds section or not carrying blame for readers’ letter in “opinion” pieces.

In the mid 19th century, the first “trolls” were in fact journalists working for cheap newspapers in a constant effort to increase circulation so that they could sell advertising.  Some things never change…

Your social media “strategy” is a pile of steaming… social media

Do you remember SEO?  Some people went around “optimising” websites.  Others sold courses on  search engine optimisation.  No, please, try to remember exactly what went on then.  You were a bit vague how “those Google things” worked.   So you outsourced.  Something worked more or less, you didn’t get fired over low rankings.  Probably because your boss didn’t understand SEO fully either.

There is a good reason why this happened.  It is that nobody fully understands how Google works.  It is secret, personalised, it changes often and Google spends a great amount of time and effort making sure it is difficult to reverse engineer what they do.  Through it all, some of us had an attitude that is more pragmatic.  I always said “if you can tweak it that easily, Google will take it into account automatically.”  All those silly tags, the time wasted adding fields, alt texts and gobbledegook for what?  Google does a better job at figuring out which content should be shown to who than you could even imagine.  From phone usage, to browser habits, email content and million of other signals, Google’s algorithms are simply astounding.  And useful.  Yet still some people pay good money learning about SEO.  Which brings me to the current fashion:  social media training.

A whole industry has been built around teaching you “how to succeed on Instagram” or “how to promote your business on a Facebook page”.  Friendly, trendy, graphic heavy sites, emailings, courses and videos with gurus full of a burning desire to help you “get ahead”.  Training in technology was always a challenge methodologically.  In times of rapid change such as these it is damn near impossible to stay current.  Taking a “course in social media” is essentially admission of a handicap.  You have no real projects to learn from, you lack the drive and bravery to put yourself out.   Sure, you can’t improvise with the facebook account of a Fortune 500 company, but you sure as hell can experiment with any number of other ones.  From the school committee Instagram feed to a blog about your kids’ basketball team.  The cost is zero and the experimental opportunities infinite.  Don’t read about it.  Do it!

I started writing this article after seeing a scary directive in a pretty large corporation defining – among other things – the “correct time for Facebook posts” on their official page.  This is an excellent illustration of just how stupid “social media gurus” have made people.  Google it and you will find loads of scientific looking “papers” by “data scientists” claiming to have crunched millions of data points to “prove” when you get maximum traction.  At first it seems clear or even “obvious”.  You want to post when most people are online, more likely to see what you posted.  But wait a minute.  Those two statements aren’t even connected!

You want to post when most people that are interested in your message are likely to see it.  Not even that.  When some people which might actually react in a way that will have a beneficial impact to your brand will somehow see your social media post.  The more you think about it, the more disclaimers you would need in order to even make sense of what exactly you are trying to achieve.  What is your brand?  Which parts of the audience do you think you will reach?  What mood will they be in at one time versus another?  How will Facebook’s algorithms react to your message at that time in relation to everything else going on when potential message recipients log in?  There is only one way to learn and – you guessed  it – that is not by going to a seminar or reading my articles.  Even if you hire me to experiment and measure for your company, as I propose you do yourself, my fine conclusions will have a very limited shelf life.  If anyone discovers a “silver bullet” for getting great traction in social media, by their very design, social media will have killed the opportunity in days or weeks at best.

Thinking, reading, talking to people and going to seminars are all useful idea generators.  I often discover new tools from the fantastic people around me in the real and virtual world.  We all need training and we all need mechanisms to make us rethink what we do.  People like me should be paid vast amounts of money to help others in this noble cause.  We can all improve in ways to test our hypotheses. But there is only one way to take responsibility and that is directly.  Don’t hide behind management gurus for things you can quite easily test out and know yourselves.   Until Facebook, Google and everyone else change the parameters that is.  Which they have probably done 5-6 times in the time it took you to read this article.

My point precisely!

 

 

A horse designed by a European Committee

I take offence to the expression ‘a camel is a horse designed by a committee’.  Camels are incredible animals, possibly ideally suited to the desert.   They have been instrumental in thriving civilizations and commercial breakthroughs which changed mankind forever.  A camel is in fact an animal no European committee could ever imagine.  Someone would argue it doesn’t look right, another would object to it’s saliva based on some european health guideline or other, for sure we would bicker for years about whether or not we can eat its meat; and with more than 100% certainty, the number of humps would become the bone of contention between heads of State for decades.   In total, we would probably spend millions of euro in meetings, public hearings, research and other pleasantries and end up with …a horse.

An excellent recent example is that completely stupid button you have to “accept” when visiting websites.  It is of course completely useless.  A bit like making a sign reading “attention! If you get on this camel, a lot of people will see you because you will be higher up than before“.  A paper sign.  Which camel owners will have to put on the camel everytime a “new” rider comes along.

Perhaps the best illustration of the futility of approaching technology is carrier neutrality.  To put it simply, this is the notion that Facebook has to “deal” with hate talk or sexism on its platform.  Or that it is Twitter’s “fault” that some people spread false rumours via tweets or bots.  In practical terms, this is like asking the telephone company to interfere if two or three of us start talking about building a bomb one day on our phones.  Completely and utterly ludicrous.  In fact, we could make telephone companies completely ban profanity on the telephone.  All calls could go through voice recognition systems and when a swear word was recognised it could cut off the line or send you a fine.

There are two reasons we don’t do this and both are interesting.  The first is that despite spending billions on automatic translation research, Europe still lags far behind in terms of real time machine translation.  Things you can do for free on any Android phone, simply can’t be handled by any European infrastructure in technical terms to handle the task.  Much like no French company could serve videos as well as YouTube.  The second reason is of course that we could never all agree on what constitutes “profanity”.  A French man’s “merd” is not exactly the same as a British “oh, poo!” or even a German “scheisse!”

In the same time Europeans would take to “initiate a working group to deliberate the need for a committee to address the issue”, Google staff would have solved it.  In fact they did.  Not for ethical reasons, but for commercial reasons, YouTube made video channels with profanity inelligible to take adverts.  Problem more or less solved.    Air BnB had a similar problem with users of their platform who refused tenants based on race or ethnicity.  This is no easy problem to solve.  It is virtually impossible to find a solution talking about it around a table.  Air BnB didn’t “initiate research”.  They tried, tested, improved and made it work.

Essentially the problem is one of friction.  Technological networks operate on the premise that less friction is better.  You want your phone to serve instantly.  Search results at a the blink of an eye.  What Silicon Valley does when presented with a challenge is usually to actuall add friction.  That ludicrous european website button informing us about cookies is in essence an added step.  It is meant to ensure we all understand cookies.  Except it doesn’t.  Compare it to Facebook trying to teach us about privacy.  They constantly change the way messages pop up, the content of the messages, the way they try to make sure we are all on the same page concerning who sees what when we post on their platform.  Other platforms have online mini lessons about hate speech.  You start to post something and it pops up saying “hey!  Do you know that this word you are using is considered negative in some parts of the world?  Would you rather use one of the following suggestions:……”  They even give mini history lessons relating to words or uses of words to help make sure you say what you want in a way which will actually get the message across.

Europe will never, ever catch up with Silicon Valley like this.  Artificial intelligence is not about installing a “kill” button.  I read through the blurb and it is a bit like bad French or Italian academic literature.  Too much theory and mostly outdated.  Impressive for headlines, useless in practice.  In this particular phase of technological development we need to be building infrastructure and platforms.   We need millions of experiments and we need to learn much faster.

Sir Alec Issigonis, designer of the legendary Mini, is often credited with coining the expression about horses, camels and committees.  The question is whether today he would be enticed by a cushy university job, doing European research and enjoying European committees and funding, rather than building the iconic Mini car.  I think he would prefer to work for Google and just get things done.

In praise of fake profiles

If you are in sales or marketing and above 25 years of age, you are probably wrong.  The assumptions you base your decisions on are severely limited.  We often thank our kids for ideas, for keeping us “in touch”, but it is much much more complicated a matter.  And extremely important.   I have hundreds of fake profiles.   Not sure if “fake” is the correct term.  I pretend to be someone I am not as a form of market research.  In fact it is often the first thing I do when presented with a new project.

It starts with a fake Google account.  This is vital.  Search results are personalized.  You will never get it all perfect, but if you at least persuade it that you live wherever you are researching and then make sure you do Google searches logged in from this fake Google profile, the world you are seeing will be a little more like your target.  Sign up for whatever products and services you are looking for from this signed in Chrome browser.    You have to try and live the part.

With Facebook things are even more dangerous.  That person in marketing you think is “up to speed with all this new stuff”, well, just isn’t.   If I have a really successful Instagram account, or a very active personal Facebook profile I only see what that particular profile’s take on the world is.   Some days I might whiz through multiple profiles to check up on them, just housekeeping.  Hard to describe just how different it feels to be in each newsfeed.  Some are simply based in different locations, with friends from a particular island or city.  Age differences are even more stunning.  The same political event which fills your friends’ timelines when you are 50, doesn’t even appear when you are 16.

It isn’t fashionable anymore, but I always make sure my fake people have a website, blog or other public trove of information on whatever topic I am researching.   This gives me unique insights into what people are looking for.   It is the “honeypot” approach.  In content marketing it is easier to just start testing ideas like this.  And when the first organic google searches land my way, it is like Christmas day!  Somebody wrote what they wanted to know in Google and came to me, fake me, this particular person.  Why?  How?  What cyberspace hole did I fill with what I just did?

If anything, building a fake profile is a humbling experience.  Because you realize just how complex a web social beings like humans create.  We earn trust.  Slowly.   A “follow” by a 13 year old is a very, very, very different action to a “follow” by a 60 year old.  He then posts what he just had for breakfast without thinking about it, while the senior citizen is carefully crafting a comment as if he is writing to the Economist.

Marketing people are often fooled by their own brand.  In the case of social media they are also sidetracked by their personal profiles and habits.  These are extremely dynamic, immature new mediums, still jostling for position, changing architecture and interfaces.   There is no agreed way to assess them, no specific assigned meaning to what we all do with them.  So get off your high horse and mingle with the natives.