Sunday, July 28, 2013

At Issue: "Likes," Prayers and Tragedy

Scott Kleinberg, social media editor with the Chicago Tribune, posted on Google+:
Never do this. No matter how good your intentions, it never, ever looks genuine. The number of likes have nothing to do with support. Tell the story as is and move on. This goes for any story that involves a tragedy.
He was referring to the horrific derailment of a train in Spain recently and to ABC 7 Chicago in particular for posting this on their page:
"Like" to send thoughts and prayers to victims of the crash!
Chicagoist and Social News Daily reported on the tragedy, the faux pas, and the ensuing criticism.

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I commented,

It looks to be a terrible misstep by ABC 7 Chicago, and I'm glad the page administrator relented and pulled the post. 

But, to me, the larger issue is this: "Like" is a simple but clever concept that, as with a lot of things on Facebook, millions of us flocked to. It was then used to bolster advertising: e.g., If your friends liked some product, you were more likely to buy it (apparently). Actually Facebook was more clever than that, because it attempted to get you to like that product, too, then (I imagine) they'd use your Like to ramp up the ad campaign.

In time, Like became too casually-used and maybe even exploited. I think it's outlived its usefulness, but we don't really have alternatives to capture a wider range of moods, preferences or attitudes as simply and easily as Like does.

Whenever someone posts on a crime, tragedy or catastrophe, I don't click Like but may just comment on it. Still some of these posts garner quite a lot of Likes anyway. Maybe it's people's way of thanking that person for sharing it. Maybe it's an expression of outrage, disappointment or sadness. Or maybe it's something else altogether, we don't know about, that's been conveniently reduced to a simple Like.

Your points are very well-taken, Scott. Asking for Likes is a disingenuous thing, and who knows how much of it is really a show of support. But aside from the faux pas of ABC 7 Chicago in this case, I'd still like to give them the benefit of the doubt. Aside from that one word, their request was in fact for us "to send thoughts and prayers to the victims of the crash!"

May God bless everyone on that horrific crash, and may those who lost their lives rest in peace!

Kleinberg replied,
I agree with everything you said, +Ron Villejo, but there is a larger issue kind of hidden among all the other stuff. The word like aside, a news organization has no place asking people to send prayers. It's not a function of the media to do so. While I have no doubt they had good intentions, this should be a valuable lesson in realizing that most times the best thing you can do as a page administrator is post and move on.
Ah, I see. So it's protocol, then, for news organizations not to ask for prayers? I suppose that makes sense, given the diversity of faiths and beliefs among people. 
That is correct, +Ron Villejo, but it's not just prayers. It's any overstepping into a story. News orgs should report facts only.
Thank you for your note, Scott!

Thank you for reading, and let me know what you think!

Ron Villejo, PhD

Saturday, July 6, 2013

Congress and Google Faceoff on Glass

Google co-founder Sergey Brin, wearing Glass (image credit)
ABC News writer Joanna Stern reports on the faceoff between Congress and Google, in her article Google Glass Explainer Too Little for Privacy-Sensitive Congressman.  At issue is the much ballyhooed wearable technology Glass.

I can see both sides of the coin here. On the one hand, Glass is one of the coolest technology to augment reality. Think:  "Minority Report" (below).  On the other hand, Glass isn't just a disruptive innovation, but also a social, even military disruption. Think: "War Games:  The Dead Code" (below).  How will Google, government, and we ourselves reconcile these sides?

Here's the full letter from Google VP Susan Molinari, in response to US Representative Joe Barton's concerns about Glass. What do you think?

Microsoft and Samsung are also working to join the fray on wearable technology, but seem content to lay low for now, publicly speaking, and see how things go with the technical and privacy issues with Glass.  They will be formidable competitors for Google, especially with a price target of $200 - $500 for their offering versus the $1500 setback for Glass.

Thank you for reading, and let me know what you think!

Ron Villejo, PhD      

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Evolution of my News Consumption

The way I consume news has evolved steadily in the past 10 - 15 years.  Print, TV and radio were my media:   I subscribed to the Chicago Tribune, Wall Street Journal (WSJ), and Sports Illustrated.  We made sure our cable package had CNN, as I enjoyed the wider and deeper coverage of news than that of local stations.  When I traveled abroad, BBC became a favorite to watch on TV.  Tooling around in the car, I had WBBM switched on.  As Twitter is to micro-blogging, WBBM radio is to micro-news.    

My travels as a management consultant picked up steam, and my news consumption became more of an online activity.  It was very gradual.  I learned that my WSJ subscription gave me full access to its online fare, so that's where I read it.  The other subscriptions fell by the wayside one by one.  Also, with better internet bandwidth at hotels, it was easier to watch news videos online.  Traveling meant airplanes, taxis and minivans, so I was hardly in my car anymore and thus had little opportunity to listen to the radio.

Two years ago, I decided not to renew my very last (paid) subscription - WSJ - and went with Google News as my home page when I launched my browser.

(image credit)
Then, at the beginning of this year, I found myself more active on Google+, and really enjoyed not just new circles of friends, but also new streams of news, quotes and photos.  Soon thereafter, I switched my home page to Google+.  With LinkedIn and Twitter already serving as news feed for me, my news consumption is now driven mostly by social media.

The irony?  I still read the Tribune, WSJ and Sports Illustrated, plus scores of other publications of interest to me, because they have pages on Google+, Twitter, and-or Facebook.

In the aftermath of the Boston Marathon bombings and amidst Hurricane Sandy devastations, CNN coverage on TV was compelling and heartbreaking.  But it soon became monotonous for me.  It was repetitive, even obsessive.  Information comes in increments, so clarity about an event happens in a discontinuous manner, that is, when news breaks.  In the meantime, reporters and newscasters resort to half-baked babble.

What I didn't like
  • The lack of control over the programming and timing of what I was watching
  • The lack of choice over commercial ads, except of course to switch channels or switch the TV off entirely
  • The limited perspectives taken by the news editors, mainly overlooking those of international or contrary views
I imagine that these news stations have to accommodate what may be the 'Short Head' of their audience, that is, what the majority of their viewers are interested in.  The 'Long Tail' is where the rest of the audience is, and this is the purview of the internet.

Where someone like me has far wider control, further reach, and greater options.  

Thank you for reading, and let me know what you think!

Ron Villejo, PhD

The Next Small Thing(s)

Apple CEO Tim Cook (image credit)
NBC News writer and editor Rosa Golijan posted this article on her Google+ profile:  Tim Cook teases 'exciting new product category' and 'more surprises' from Apple in the fall.  It was definitely a lot of teasing, which, depending on your view of that proverbial glass, was either a half-tempting or a half-feeble effort. 
CEO Tim Cook teased... "Our teams are hard at work on some amazing new hardware, software, and services that we can't wait to introduce in the fall and into 2014. We continue to be very confident in our future product plans..." There will be "really great stuff coming in the fall and across all of 2014." 
When asked about the new product categories, Cook declined to provide a specific timeframe, suggesting a new category may not appear this year. "The reality is that the work we do to produce truly innovative products is very hard...  I assure you that we're working very closely with manufacturing partners to achieve a very exciting roadmap."
I added this to the conversation, in reference to the Market Watch article:  Apple earnings drop; dividend, buyback raised.

Hmm, let's see. Apple stock has been on a steady decline since its 52-week high in September 2012 (705.07) and is just off its 52-week low (385.10) at 406.13 right now. Sentiments suggest that they're playing at .500 ball (in the middle between bearish and bullish), which is positively mediocre. So Cook's teaser, six months before they introduce their new stuff, may be more for investor confidence than for customer excitement.

That was in April, and now we can see that that teasing worked reasonably well for Apple.  At least Cook steadied the decline in investor confidence, which began nearly a year ago, with the stock closing yesterday at 409.22.

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Cook strikes me as an intelligent and capable top executive, who must have a realistic bearing on what he can and cannot do, especially in the long shadow cast by Steve Jobs.  His new innovation strategy may not knock our socks off, but it sounds really good.  Jobs made the complicated innovation process seem easy, sleek and flawless, not to mention sweatless.  Cook and other CEOs know otherwise.

Proliferate the portfolio

Whether it's the iPhone or Facebook, The Next Big Thing is simply not an everyday occurrence that can be ordered, as if it were a menu item.  Instead, writer Hadyn Shaughnessy with Forbes described it brilliantly as proliferating the innovation portfolio.

Not one, not two, not three innovations, but more.    

Produce the next small things

I remember a gift that friends gave me.  It was a picture of a rock climber, looking like an insect against a massive wall of a mountain.  The saying was, Yard by yard, life is hard.  Inch by inch, life is a cinch.  I've since rephrased it as Think big, act small, step-by-step.

In a similar vein and in lieu of a category buster, the innovation Zeitgeist among the big boys in technology is to produce a set of The Next Small Things.

Embed innovation widely

While Jobs may have conceived of innovation as a sort of oligarchy in the organization, that is, the purview of a chosen few who assume responsibility and control of it, Cook has apparently embedded it more widely and deeply in the DNA of Apple.

I wonder, then, how well frontline staffers are encouraged to innovate and whether they have fewer barriers to cross, if they want to run an idea by management.

Innovate everyday

For me, these are impressive efforts at innovating on innovation.  Innovation is not the exclusive right of The Gifted or The Visionary.  But to the extent that we, including CEOs, view it essentially as a mindset, and not as a process, platform or product, then we truly rip that proverbial box apart and we stand in front of an open vista for innovating.

Shaughnessy closed with:
The name of the game right now, and we see it in Apple, Google, [and] Amazon[,] is to innovate in multiple ways all the time, to do “innovation every day”. That takes enormous resources and confidence. Apple has it in abundance, and conditions are looking ripe for it to move from the lab to the market. Just like Google six months ago, Apple looks ready to roll.
Thank you for reading, and let me know what you think!

Ron Villejo, PhD