Categories
ART Society

Public Letter to Mr Joan Cheese of the Montipaithonz

That is not a spelling mistake in the title. That is very likely how the Greek Prime Minister might refer to you. Much like when you were eight years old at Peter’s Preparatory School, Weston-super-Mare, at your first public appearance you will wonder how he might have known that your family surname had once been Cheese. But no, it is simply that he is a total and absolute idiot. And it isn’t even funny.

Your public appearance this year in Greece cannot be a coincidence. Please don’t die before September. We need you. When this government first appeared, it was Monty Python sketches that saved our sanity. As they demanded we leave the European Union we watched “what have the Romans ever done for us?” Again and again. Pretending it couldn’t be real, that they couldn’t be serious. You often say that slapping people with fish was so funny because it was silly. But that would involve a person of intellect actually knowing it is silly. Our government can’t tell the difference. We are living in a hotel run by Manuel and prime minister who doesn’t even ask “¿Qué?” as he is heavily sedated by drugs in order not to have public breakdowns.

It cannot be a coincidence that you announced you are leaving Britain forever just at the time that most sane Greeks with an IQ above 3 also gave up on their country. It has become a natural filter of sorts. Anyone that can leave, leaves. What remains is a nation of Archie Leaches seduced by Wanda our magic prime minister, caught with our knickers down and suspenders, hapless and hopeless. You stole a three inch submarine and we live in a country where only one crooked politician went briefly to jail for commissioning a crooked real submarine and pocketing a few million for his troubles.

Before your first TV appearance, at that studio at Shepherd’s Bush you write that you wanted to have a heart attack. Here in Greece we often wish for such a swift death “to have a nice quick heart attack and be done with it all”. But we didn’t. And you didn’t.

I am not even sure that it would help at all if you organized a Secret Policeman’s Ball or put all your wits in the service of helping Greeks understand the utter stupidity of our political situation. When you first attended group therapy with Robin Skynner and his wife Prue you said it that “it made most film and TV drama seem pale, artificial and unconvincing by comparison.” Well welcome to Greece John, you are about to push it up a notch!

Categories
Business Technology

Google and the Golden State Warriors: similar approach

As I watched the champions get annihilated by the Raptors this morning over breakfast I had yesterday’s Senate hearings in mind.  Steph Curry only got 3 out of 12 but didn’t look worried.  Much like Sundar Pichai yesterday.

Here’s what happened NBA-side in summary:  The Warriors gathered not one, not two but five All Stars.  These people are basically statistical outliers, freaks that make a difference when it matters.  There have been maybe a hundred such homo sapiens since basketball started and the Warriors have five.  So they dominate.  They dominated so badly last year that a lot of us were put off the game.  So what did the NBA do about it?  For starters they tweaked the schedule to help the Lakers just to keep up the LeBron narrative.  A bit like the stock market pumps up Apple every so often even though Apple has hardly no technological advantage.  Just so it looks like Google has a competitor.  Then they tweaked the rules to help teams that play in the paint.  Then they gave refs instructions on how to execute the rules so as to give the Warriors a harder time.  Not to get too technical, but the NBA did everything it could to make this years championship more fun.  They even asked the Warriors to tone it down.

It is pretty similar to the Google situation.  The company has created not just 5 but an almost infinite number of All Star technologies.  Worse still, they have tools that ensure they stay ahead of the pack.  They just need to choose when they will uncover what.  Not to look too good, that will increase calls for regulation and intervention.  The Golden State Warriors are following this example.  All year they bench key players with phony excuses to rest them, or simply play as if it is practice.  They don’t even use their best game plays all year unless they need them.  Maybe one or twice here and there, like…well, like a Google experiment.

Is this bad?  I have written about the Google monopoly since Google started and my position is the same.  It is the kindest dictator we could ask for.  I would much rather Google decides on major issues than Donald Trump or most other politicians.  Is it fair?  Business was never fair.  Should we change it?  I don’t see how and to be honest I don’t see why.  Much like the NBA, maybe tweak the rules a bit so that it is more fun to watch at least…

Categories
Business Communication Technology

Apple is not about tech so stop judging it as if it was

“So, seriously Alex, do you think Apple has a problem?”

Financial analysts call me up some times for “insights”.  It is usually when their job is on the line and/or they have to handle a really really big investor.  The guy was worried and wanted me to give him something new to say in the big meeting, something none of the others in the office had thought about.  And he came to the right place.  I hate Apple, I have hated Apple since 1981 when I realized how little the company cares about technology.  So the analyst got some dirt and we chatted away.

“OK, so I will tell them to buy Apple then” he concluded.  I didn’t disagree.  Because this is not about technology.  Apple had the smallest research and development budget for many years.  Apple has fallen way behind in artificial intelligence and the smart home.  Apple’s new computers are a joke that took years coming and isn’t even funny if you are a professional that relies on them.  No, this is not about technology.  It is about the stock market.  Apple is to stock what the dollar is to global currency markets.  And all it needs to do every so often is produce a fairy tale.

Take the recent iPad launch.  This is a a truly insignificant dying sector.  About 4% of devices sold globally are tablets.  Apple has a third of a market nobody wants.  Apple is losing ground in education, medical and pretty much any vertical you want to pick.  But what are the analysts saying?  Every so often someone flashes that graph about revenue being too dependent on the iPhone but then they forget it like the Apple fan boys and girls they rely on in the media for information.

So don’t call me about Apple anymore.  You don’t need my decades of experience in tech to guess what Apple will do next and how successful it will be. Tim Cook could present a half eaten moldy apple and sell it for a thousand dollars tomorrow.   Nobody would care if he only sold five of them at a loss.  Nobody cares about it working or actually helping somebody in the real world work.  Antennagates, Batterygates and even Bill Gates knew what he was doing when he saved Apple.  It was never about tech.

.

(That’s not an apple in the photo by the way.  But who cares?)

Categories
Business Communication

Advanced marketing:A tobacco company sponsoring a smoke free future

It appeared in my Facebook timeline and took me by surprise.  A Greek island is aiming to be smoke free.  Nice initiative.  Nice touchy feely video and all.  Oh, wait a minute.  It is sponsored by Philip Morris.  How does that work?

I mean seriously.  How do we allow that to work?

The first set of problems are the legal issues.  In Greece nobody enforces smoking laws.  People smoke everywhere.  I was in court recently sitting under a sign that read “smoking is prohibited by XYZ law.  Smokers will be arrested and prosecute immediately.”  Two people were smoking right under the sign and next to a policeman.  I asked him to do something.  He asked them politely.  They declined.  End of story.  So is Philip Morris going to pay for better policing?  Of course not.

Which brings us to the second set of problems.  When they say “smoke free” they don’t mean that they will help everyone quit.  They mean they will help you switch from regular cigarettes to their new smoke free products.  Which even Philip Morris admits have not been proven in any way to be better.  In their words: “Studies on our most advanced smoke-free product, IQOS, are progressing rapidly and the results are encouraging.”  So they are pushing people from one of their products which we know for sure is bad for you, to another one of their products which we don’t know yet.

The third, very glaring problem, is the selectivity of it all.  Funnily enough in Greece they recently passed a strange law against vaping products without nicotine.  It is almost as if someone bribed law makers to bend laws in their direction.  No, wait, that is the sort of thing that happens in films.  For example films depicting what the tobacco companies did in the past in fact.

And of course there is a fundamental, logical problem.  Philip Morris is in the business of selling products for smoking.  “We’re dedicated to doing something very dramatic – replacing cigarettes with the smoke-free products that we’re developing and selling.”  That  is the closest you get to a mission statement.  So they are not are not actually going to help the inhabitants of any Greek island reduce smoking.  They just want to get visitors and locals to switch to their products.  This would be acceptable maybe as a step in the right direction if:

a) we were sure it is better for your health and

b)if they did it all around the world. 

 

But of course in other countries where they can still sell traditional cigarettes, that is what they sell.  They are lying in your face and not even holding crossed fingers behind their back.

The history of American Tobacco, their lies and deceits and illegal monstrosities has been relatively well documented.  This new chapter in their history emulates Donald Trump’s sheer audacity in lying straight to your face but makes it worse but applying a veneer of do-goodery.  A tobacco company paying a municipality to pretend it is doing something about a public health problem when in fact it is just giving free reign to Philip Morris to sell and promote their products like crazy all over the island.

 

It would be great if there was someone that could do something about it.

Categories
Business Society

Apple is gay.  But not as gay as the world needs it to be.

When Tim Cook came out to the media as gay I was not surprised.  We all knew that Apple products were disproportionately favored by gays.  The statistics occasionally cropped up and then disappeared in a very…Apple sort of way.  A very “gay” sort of way in fact if you wanted to use a crude and unfair generalisation in terms of stereotyping 5-7% of the world population and the richest corporation in the history of homo sapiens.  Interestingly enough that is about the market share of Apple products globally. (If you add smartphone and computers it may be a bit less but both kind of statistics are really hard to nail with any precision.)  Apple is the perfect demonstration of how hypocritical a gay CEO can be when he is the one in a position of power.

 

We don’t know exactly how many people on the planet are homosexual.  And to be honest, we shouldn’t really care. I have walked Gay Pride marches enough to know that all my gay friends, and the friends of their friends are a fantastically varied collection of human beings.  In fact I don’t even think classifications help. There is no “gay meter”, human sexuality is a wonderfully complex thing, nobody is completely “straight” and what people fantasize about or do in terms of their sex life is nobody else’s business.  It shouldn’t even be mentioned in business.

 

Oh wait.  Actually it is.

 

One of the biggest, most consistent and absolutely fair demands of all of us who believe in equal opportunities, is the push for fair pay.  I want my daughter to get paid as much as a man when she works doing a similar job. Hey Siri, is this true in Apple regarding gay employees?  Hmmm…no response, eh? I want my kids to grow up in a world where we don’t need quotas in upper management. Hey Siri, are there disproportionately more gays in Apple?  Siri won’t tell you.  Apple won’t tell you. It is their right after all not to tell you.  But why is nobody asking? We ask about all sort of other groups of people.  We do our politically correct best to help minorities of every kind.  We read and write about how a corporation needs a coherent mission and values.  If Apple is more camp than others why is not openly projecting it?

 

It seems rather impressive that we can #meToo ourselves until we are blue in the face and turn a blind eye to this opportunity.  If Tim Cook was a Yankees fan, when he met the President of the USA, we would read “and they joked about the game”. If the CEO of the richest corporation in the history of humanity was married to a woman we would probably see her at his side there too.  Through a combination of good timing and the all powerful Apple PR machine, since he bravely came out openly as gay however we have heard almost nothing.  A few carefully planned and executed, possibly paid for, high profile, profiles about it then. And since? Is Tim Cook in some way obligated to bring up LGBT issues since he has the ear of the world?  Should he be doing more?

 

Of course it is a personal choice.  And he should have the right to a private life.  Other CEO keep their families away from the media.  But the case of Apple and Tim Cook is a remarkable demonstration of the limits of selective political correctness, the limits of #metoo type of approaches and our extremely hypocritical approach to demands for transparency and “the truth” about our world.

 

Categories
Business

Television is dead. And nobody goes to trade shows. So why is everyone at IBC again?

It was almost two decades ago.  After a dozen times at the International Broadcasting Convention I felt ready to summarize the trends and predict the future.  “TV and the internet are linked forever now” I pronounced as if I had discovered a new continent.  Checking out the trailer for my then TV show summary, other than cringing at the old fashioned editing and abuse of transition effects, it is impressive how little has changed.

Television is a “traditional” business.  We are right to make fun of so many things about it which don’t change.  It is true that young people have moved away, relying on YouTube, Twitch or Netflix more.  But take it from an analyst who has often used click-baity “X is dead” titles.  Television will never die.  Neither will Facebook which many people enjoy attacking for the drops in younger audiences lately.  In fact, unless we wipe Homo Sapiens off the planet, nothing will “die”.  It will simply adapt.

And that is why IBC is such a great show.  Constantly changing and looking for the new angle.  If you want to call it “media” instead of “television” shoot away.  “Digital cinema” instead of “the movies” yeah, whatever.  You will always need something we now call “content” and you will always need people and technologies to make it, convert it, cut it up, promote and distribute it.   Unless you want to lock down on a specific angle, as long as people live and communicate, there will be a thriving party at Amsterdam or wherever these people meet to discuss how to move ahead in their craft.

Let television and this trade show be a lesson to all of us.

.

The www.amydv.gr team will be at Amsterdam in force as usual this year.  Get an agenda, do the business.

Categories
Business

Don’t buy a house on the beach in Greece after the 20th of August

If you think Greece has made progress in the past three years, you really should tell me how you get informed.  I need that sort of optimism and selective perception.  I live in Greece and I breathe with Greek businesses of all sizes, shapes and forms.  Things are much much worse than they were when we started these bailouts.

Corruption is not only endemic but in our face.  That is something not measured in the international lists of corrupt countries but it matters.  The rule of law is a joke when you combine corruption with delays in decisions.  Greek courts can ruin any business endeavor.  They do.  Every day.  The so called “ease of doing business” indicator hasn’t moved much.  But companies have!  Bulgaria, Cyprus or even Brexiting UK are preferred by Greeks starting a new business.  Tax regulations change all the time.  They even applied additional taxes retrospectively which is possibly a world first.  Greece has signed up to surpluses so ridiculous that taxing anything that moves, anything that doesn’t move and anyone even looking at the scene, is the only way to conform to the demands.

The population of Greece has been babyfed government handouts for many decades.   They pay those ridiculous taxes because they still have money stashed in various guides.  The young people that don’t leave the country are the ones hoping for a job in the public sector.   So we are left with the worse kind of employee.  Unless you are a tech start up that can get by with a few bright minds, you are likely to come out of job interviews wondering what the hell these kids are thinking; demanding high salaries but not willing to put in the effort or show any kind of flexibility.  Don’t be harsh on them.  They grew up in houses with two parents living comfortably from the public sector, essentially not working.  Whatever you offer them can never be as good as that!

We have one of the worse governments on the planet.  Pretty sweeping statement but I can back it up.  They sign laws to appease our debtors but these laws are not enforced.  Worse still, and the reason I claim the world title so easily, is the amazing way they use a pseudo ideological way to dismantle anything good, decent or productive in Greece.  You can’t call them “common thieves” because thieves are not so ignorant, nor so bold.  They haven’t even managed to proceed with obvious and easy privatizations, partly because of these schizophrenic pseudo ideological concerns.  You know this is investment hell when they can’t even sell off prime beach real estate (Asteras Vouliagmenis) or develop an ideal part of the city.  (Ellinikon)

Our infrastructure is pathetic.  Yes I know the roads are better than they are in Nigeria and we have a fairly stable electricity supply.  But as has been proved time and time again by our current government, they cannot reach agreements on major issues like privatizing the grid.  They can’t control labor unions which strike because they demand the right to continue destroying the environment with lignite abuse.  So our infrastructure was OK but whether it will be able to ever get to any next phase of development is doubtful.

Probably the best place to witness all the above problems together is tourism. That great hope. Probably what you thought of when you read the title. “Invest in Greece: get a house on the beach”. Sure, after you deal with the corruption, the spoilt locals, the crazy government and the lack of infrastructure.  All sorts of people will be asking for bribes or giving bribes on your behalf to speed up proceedings. Then you will discover that the neighbor built something right in front of your house, or cut off your way to the beach and there is nothing you can do about it. Then the government will impose yet another tax on your property, a tax you have to pay every year on top of the tax you paid when you bought it. Then you will wait for a decent internet connection, sort of get it, then it will be down again.

 

I don’t think you would spend even a small amount on buying a house on the beach if you looked carefully enough.  So who the hell is stupid enough to make a real investment in Greece?

 

 

Categories
Communication

We need more opinion, not political correctness: tomatoes rule!

I write. I write a lot. I write without second thought and press “publish” before I even review my text most of the time. And so should you. Here’s why.

Opinion pieces are not like other journalism or business communication. In your mind, that is something dangerous or risky. Because you are focused on objectively informing. You are clearly not out to influence the reader. News, or a business report simply array the facts. Like this quarter’s sales break down. Sure, the way you present facts makes a difference but you pretend to avoid opinion. And what good is that? You are essentially saying “I don’t know what this all means, please someone else tell me.”

No, no, I want you to do two things much more important than just look at sales figures. First of all I want you to rethink something we all had as a fixed idea. Fresh eyes on something. Have you ever considered that tomatoes are incredibly clever? Within a few hundred years they went from a relatively unknown species, limited to a small part of the planet, to conquering the entire globe all year round. If my analogy is good and you stop reading and think for a minute, you might see the world in an entirely different light. You might think of something interesting and useful for your task in hand in fact.

Masterful communicators don’t stop there.  They add the second element which propels good writing or business communication.  Fire.  Emotion.  Passion.  For the love of tomatoes, let’s stop eating bland varieties!  See how that doesn’t work?  Lack of flavor in tomatoes surely is not that important.  I set it up well and then lost it.  Why?

Passion doesn’t appear magically from the sky.  Good presentation skills or fancy writing can’t conjure it up either.  Passion is about the flow of ideas between two states.  Like a liquid moving between two bowls of differing altitude.  There needs to be a problem for there to be passion, a difference.  So if you want to communicate your opinion effectively, you need to set up that difference.  What difference?

This is a very scientific way to explain it but we are living in the age of algorithms.  What we need to do is to set up our model of how the world works first.  In business this is often our current practices.   On a personal level it is “how I think the world works”.    Political correctness crashes and burns even at this, very basic, phase.  If you can’t clearly show your model, there is no chance you will evoke emotion.   If I talk about “the liberal world view” most of you will passionately position yourself in relation to whatever you think that is and whatever else I am discussing.  Same if you say “this is how we have been doing business until now” before you make your case for change within your organization.

If you think back to an opinion piece that touched you it often started with an individual.  Poor Ahmed on a boat from Syria, here is his story and how he ended up in a prison in Sweden.  Or an amazing old man that still works the old print machine for a small local newspaper in Iceland that is supporting a community.  They start from one person and connect all the model of the world view which is in friction with that one, indicative and symbolic human.

Don’t hide behind the mask of a politically correct, bland and “safe” way of communicating.  Find that person.  Tell us the story.  Be that person.

Categories
Book

A mediocre book which you absolutely have to read

I only just learnt that Hans Rosling died.  But he left an amazing legacy.  Forget GAPminder and his speeches all over the world, just this book, Factfulness, is more than enough.

There are two levels on which the book is a must-read.  First of all because for pretty important basic facts about the world you live in, you are wrong.  Extremely wrong.  The higher your level of education, the more wrong you are in fact.  And it is influencing your psychology, your politics and your decisions.  On the most primitive, essential level, the planet is not as you think it is.  You are pessimistic for the wrong reasons.  You are basing your business decisions on false assumptions.

For anyone in communication, whether marketing or management, this book is a battle cry in terms of “how the hell can you persuade someone when they aren’t willing to listen?”  Whether you want to change behavior to sell more or to save a species, if your corporate social responsibility doesn’t feel true, the answer might be in this wise man’s book.

The man was not an author.  He is not a craftsman on the written word.  It is like a long TED talk, like a long walk on a very long beach with a wonderful man that really wanted to make this world better for each and everyone of us.

Categories
Business LAW Technology

Here is your first class action suite for GDPR (and why it is stupid)

As an experiment, I decided to ask Google to remove all my contributions to the Google Maps Local Guides scheme.  For those of you not aware, Google Maps uses volunteers to improve maps.  And we do a lot.  They have gamified the process, which makes me a Level 9 guide (of 10 levels) thanks to thousands of reviews, ratings and photos seen by millions of users that I have uploaded.  So what happens if I want to leave?

Joke No1.  Google itself, clearly says that you can delete your profile but your contributions will remain!  End of story, judge makes verdict, 4% of your global revenue please.

Joke No2.  It is not easy to even find what to do if you are not OK with the above Joke No1.  Suppose you look hard, you will find somewhere under legal a procedure.  So you fill in a form.  Already we are way out of GDPR, this is not easy or intuitive.

Joke No3.  Google doesn’t even have a human to respond.  Their first email is generic:

Thanks for reaching out to us!

We have received your legal request. We receive many such complaints each
day; your message is in our queue, and we’ll get to it as quickly as our
workload permits.

Due to the large volume of requests that we experience, please note that we
will only be able to provide you with a response if we determine your
request may be a valid and actionable legal complaint, and we may respond
with questions or requests for clarification.  For more information on
Google‘s Terms of Service, please visit http://www.google.com/accounts/TOS

Regards,
The Google Team”

Whoops!  Under GDPR, referring to fine print just doesn’t cut it.  Even if the judge hadn’t slammed the hammer and demanded gazillions before, now he can.
Joke No4.   Luckily for them, I too think GDPR is crap, so I respond honestly and fully.  Oh no, bot response again:

“Thanks for reaching out to us.

To request the blocking of URLs from Google Search results under European law, please use this form: https://support.google.com/legal/contact/lr_eudpa?product=websearch

If you need to send additional information in relation to your request, please respond to the email confirmation you receive after you send in the form. If you have already filled out the above form, your request will be processed shortly.

To request blocking of your personal information from specific Google products other than Web Search, please use the following form: https://support.google.com/legal/contact/lr_pir

If you need to send additional information in relation to your request, please respond to the email confirmation you receive after you send in the form.

If you have already filled out the above form, your request will be processed shortly.

Regards,
The Google Team”

This is pretty bad.  The bot didn’t even get it right.  So I send “This request does NOT concern blocking information.  The form you are sending me to is irrelevant.  Please get a homo sapiens to respond.” And the bot insists: “After reviewing your submission, we weren’t able to fully understand your request. If you send us more details to clarify your concerns, we will investigate further.”

Joke No5.
Luckily for Google, I am on their side, so I explain with plenty links.

“I am a Google maps local guide. Level 9 in fact. This means I have made thousands of contributions. However if I want to remove these contributions, there is no automatic way of doing it.Under GDPR this should be possible more easily. Manually deleting tens of thousands of comments, reviews and photos is not practical or even feasible.

I refer you to the discussion going on here
https://www.localguidesconnect.com/t5/General-Discussion/How-to-Exit-Local-Guides-Program-and-Delete-ALL-my-Contributions/m-p/934274#M264101

And here
https://www.localguidesconnect.com/t5/General-Discussion/Local-Guides-and-GDPR/m-p/926431#M259635″

Bot screws up even worse up the same rabbit hole:

To request blocking of your personal information from specific Google products other than Web Search, please use the following form: https://support.google.com/legal/contact/lr_pir

If you need to send additional information in relation to your request, please respond to the email confirmation you receive after you send in the form.

If you have already filled out the above form, your request will be processed shortly.”

Now, if you follow that last link, it is as unGDPR as humanly possible.  And it is off topic, it won’t even work if I request it like that.

I really need no further proof than the above emails to sue Google under GDPR.  Will it work?  Hell yeah!  Class action?  Easily!  Google has been pushing users on to Local Guides for ages, millions of Android users are on it already.  Will I do it?  Of course not.  GDPR is ridiculous, useless and bureaucratic for no reason.  Google Maps is useful and Local Guides wonderful.

This is a complicated world but useful trumps EuroBureaucracy every time.  Even well meaning European initiatives are counter productive when they are implemented like this.  A horse designed by a Euro Committee isn’t even a camel, it is a monster that can’t walk.  GDPR is not enforceable in any practical sense, it is simply the threat of a vindictive consumer.