Business Communication Technology

VISA, Google and racism

“We would like you to confirm a transaction made yesterday in San Fransisco.”   A few years back I used to get a lot of calls from my bank.   Customers that travelled as much as me and shopped a lot online were obviously an extreme rarity in Greece.   So I had hardly hit an airport shop or finished buying something on the web and my cell phone rang…

Their logic was algorythmic:  an individual buying a lot of stuff with a credit card in widely different parts of the world is likely to be a fraudster.  But imagine getting a call like this:   “Mr Chalkidis, we know you are an illiterate schmuck so are you sure you bought all those high brow books from Amazon today?”    It would be similar to the British banks that denied me a credit card when I landed to study in England because of my Greek decent.  (Too many Greeks before me had ran enormous bills and then skipped the country!)  

I fought (and won) the banks then, like the European Union lawyers can fight Google now.   Racism!   Forget complex tech talk about algorythms, focus on human rights.   Google cleverly has tried to make their search contextual.   Based on past searches and other customer data.   ie hazy enough to confuse provability.   So get several brand new computers in different locations and build carricatured profiles on them.   Log what they surf and what they fill in as a profile.   Then do a web search.   Any differences in search results and you can yell “racism!” “sexism!” “nationalism!” or any other “ism” you like.

It is easy mainly because this language of rights makes no sense really.   It is however extremely succesful in the court.   Especially if you manage to find a difference, no matter how trivial, between different races or ethnic groups; anything that affects an underpriviliged group.   If one personae has declared he or she is crippled in any way and they don’t get as many sports results for example.  

It may sound ridiculous but imagine actually been cripple and getting a telephone call like this:  “we notice three charges for fancy running shoes on your credit card this week.   Can you please confirm them?”

Communication Technology

Skype phone dating, Android intelligence and the media player that deletes stuff

It was some years ago that I saw a media player that finally did what I always wanted:  it let you delete songs as you listened to them!  It was of course for anyone listening to pirated music which is why Apple wasn’t busy copying the feature.   All those songs a friend left for you on a USB stick, or that huge compilation you downloaded; you just listened to it, deleted anything you didn’t like and what was left, like a gold digger of the past, was your nuggets of stuff that you like.

Now it is 4.40 AM as I write, which happens to be one of the times of day (barely day!) when I get a lot of bright ideas.   It is also the time of day or night when I hope to catch my friend James on Skype.    He currently works in New Zealand, so the logistics of us actually talking are complex.   Especially since he work entails travelling around saving animals and filming in remote locations and neither of us are religiously connected to our cell phones.   What I really want Skype to do for us is to set up an appointment.   A Skype meeting which figures out time differences and pings of an alarm for both of us.  Adding Facebook isn’t a social layer.  Figuring out when I want to be interrupted and by whom is!  

And the same applies to my mobile phone.   I left it in my brother’s car last weekend.  What bliss to be without it for two days; heck, I didn’t even go out of my way to pick it up!   For anyone thinking up clever things as a business, lack of interruptions dramatically improves the quality of your work. 

And there it is, the solution.   A social intelligence layer on my contacts application.   No, I don’t want to wade through all my contacts putting them in groups; I want the software to figure it out!   All it needs is some input from me but – here is the sneaky bit – as the call ends.

“Was that phone call worth the two minutes you spent on it?” it can ask just after I hang up and look at the device before putting it back in my pocket.   A number of options:

1. Yes, this person is always worth talking to.  (ie VIP in my category system)

2. Yes, but I would rather we talked during work hours (work related, shouldn’t be calling at this time of day).

3. Sort of worth talking to.  Could probably do the information transaction better via email.   (Enter fancy ways of not answering this number next time but automatically sending an SMS or email that I am busy.)

And the list could continue with a number of variations.   The phone would very quickly figure out which contacts go into which category, and I would waste less time and get far less interruptions.   In fact over time the menu when the phone rings could have other options other than “Answer” and “Reject”.

James got the time difference wrong and called in the middle of the night last week.   I have probably done the same.  Right now my cell phone is switched off.   Guess I will just email him as usual.   Somebody please implement all of these ideas quickly!

Business Communication

Corporate psychoanalysis through the company blog

My friend is a damn good designer.  He has worked for the biggest furniture manufacturer’s and other luminary positions that an industrial designer can achieve including his own lab.   Anything from unique desk systems, to an incredible invention that helps the Athens Hilton fold their tables more efficiently or a sea kayak.  But what exactly is he?

You could call it a mid life crisis.   Too vague and emotionally laden for me.   In corporate terms he is in danger of becoming a jack of all trades.  In his own mind. He needs to focus on less to achieve more.   I have seen companies do this at fancy retreats, with or without gurus like me to assist them.   They run around an assault course, dive backwards into the teams arms, raft down the river, party like maniacs and somehow reinvigorate their common idea of what the enterprise is all about.

Blogging is like all that only better.   OK, I am a blogging junky.   It is not so much that I have a compulsive need to blog all the time so much.   It is more that I see blogging as the solution to more and more corporate ails. I threw at my friend with some sample content.   Like most companies, he wasn’t sure what to do with it.   Then, some time later, the phone calls started:   “How can I change that?”, “do you think we should add this?” and “how would Twitter fit into all of it?”

I haven’t yet seen his first post.   That, to me, is the “bingo” moment of triumph.   Because it means that he has found his public voice.   He has imagined an audience and spoken to it.   For anyone that is an expert in their own field, the content is easy once you achieve this first step.   An excellent example is which I am proud to say I didn’t write a single word of.   OK, they are branding specialists, it is their job to know what to project.   But I simply enabled the technology for them to transfer this know-how to a new medium.   I was just watching  and applauding, reassuring  as much as possible when necessary.   Through this process they are rediscovering their relevance to an international market.

Google, customers and everything else will fall into place.