Wednesday, April 30, 2014

The Twitter Summer We Did

My article from an old Media & Tech blog (September 10th 2011)

To hear Twitter speak for itself is to think that the quirky social media has woven itself into the very fabric of culture.

But I wondered how true this really was. That Twitter seemed to be at the tip of our tongue now, along with being literally at our fingertips. Well, the numbers are staggering. 5 billion tweets a month. 400 million unique visitors a month. 100 million active users, more than half of whom log in everyday. Including yours truly, I admit.

As Shane Richmond writes in Twitter announces 100 million global users:
These days, Twitter seems to crop up in almost every news story. In recent weeks Louise Mensch MP has complained of threats from hackers because she suggested closing down Twitter in times of unrest, and cricket commentator Jonathan Agnew has spoken of the abuse he received from Indian fans during this summer’s Test series.
We also hear it directly from the Tweety Birds themselves! I followed the trending topic ‘Things I did over the summer,’ and for some it comprised of only one activity.
The all-caps lettering and the loss of punctuation are a loud proclamation of how fluidly Twitter moves in our bloodstream, it seems.
“1/2 the things I planned to”
Ain’t that the truth! Whether it’s for work or for fun, is there ever enough time to do anything?
“… work on my beer drinking skills”
Speaking as a professional in learning and development, I fully appreciate this guy’s obvious keenness and commitment to building up his competencies. Seriously.
“applied for 300 jobs and got …………………………………………….. no replies!”
A sad, unfortunate reality for many of us. I wish this gentleman well. Hopefully someone offered him a job, after his tweet!
“Well I partnered with a Columbian ‘coffee’ cartel to make deliveries across the border. We all gotta eat.”
Some of us clearly have had to resort to bold efforts to do business in these difficult economic times. Coffee addicts around the world are thankful, I’m sure.
“live that good ol’ single life” and “broke hearts”
Do our intimate lives take on a different ‘face’ and a greater urgency in the summer? Do our love relationships begin and end with those dates on the calendar that mark the hottest time of the year?
“Successfully avoid people who I didn’t want to meet up with.”
On the other hand, no contact is a perfectly good thing for some.
“kicked a few people out of my life. If I can’t I stand you in the summertime, I definitely can’t deal in the winter.”
Yes, friendships should be something we want all the time, and should be something that can withstand the vicissitudes of the seasons.
“wait for winter”
Which brings me to my own contribution to this cultural phenomenon that is Twitter:

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

Ron Villejo, PhD

Monday, April 28, 2014

Twitter Stories We Tell, Things We'd Relive

My article from an old Media & Tech blog (September 1st 2011)

(image credit)
As part of recently launching the first two of my business projects, Smart Media Technologies [exited] and this Media&Tech blog [closed], I have finally gotten myself active on Twitter.

For the longest time, I thought Twitter was odd. The 140-character limit amounted to mere snippets of thought, information, and triviality. I tried to use it in some similar vein as I did Facebook, but that effort obviously didn’t go anywhere. The two sites are radically different phenomena. As smarty pants as I was, I just couldn’t figure out Twitter and why it was so darn popular.

Well, I’m happy to say that I’m slowly figuring it out. I’m approaching 500 followers, following over 1000, and my tweets nearly doubling at 200 since three weeks ago.

One thing I learned about recently is Trends and how to participate in it. I needed to put the Trend label, #10thingsidrelive, somewhere in my tweet. I spent some time reading what others had tweeted, and reflected on them. And I finally understood what it meant for others to say that Twitter was micro-blogging.

Blogging is a kind of personal diary. But my traditional notion of such was having no restraint on what I wrote and how short or long I wrote it. Twitter was a different animal altogether. What I realized was this. Taken together these tweets were a collective personal diary. More about crowd-blogging, really.

Here are what some people tweeted on 10 things they’d relive:
“watching and reading all the Harry Potter’s for the first time”
I can only imagine this young lady’s thrill at participating in this JK Rowling masterpiece, which captured the imagination of people the world over.
“my childhood”
Sometimes it seems we hear only stories of dread about childhood. Well, this young man apparently had quite an opposite experience.
“My teenage years. I’d probably do things a lil’ different”
Judging from her profile photo, this lady doesn’t look too far removed from her teenage years. But there’s concession, humor, and perhaps wisdom in her pithy message.
“the first years of my relationship” and “losing my virginity” and “the kiss”
Oh, bittersweet, no. I have no idea, of course, what their relationships were like beyond those points that they wanted to relive. But reminiscence for a time past can bring just the right touch of color to the canvas, when we paint our lives.
“a family vacation when my parents were still together”
I found myself hoping that perhaps her parents got back together, for her sake. I don’t know. Bittersweet.
“the MANY trips i’ve taken away from this galaxy”
Well, as a kid, that would’ve been a super-awesome family vacation!
“the future”
I love it! Physicists talk about ‘wormholes’ through which space can be compressed and time not just altered but also fluid. You can go forward and backward in time, apparently, so you can live, and therefore relive, the future. I want to know where that train station is!

Me, what did I tweet? Well, I wanted to be clever, but honestly I couldn’t think of any such thing after reading several tweets on this Trend. So I just wrote what was on my mind:

So this is our story.  The story of our lives.

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

Ron Villejo, PhD

Friday, April 18, 2014

First World Problems, by Scooter McGruder

My article from an old Media & Tech blog (February 14th 2012)

(1) You can't find the remote.  I can’t find my glasses, either.  I also can’t find my slippers, so my tootsies get cold in these Chicago winter days.

(2) Twitter is over capacity.  Don’t you just hate it, when Twitter doesn’t open or downloads slowly?

(8) You don't have an automatic toothbrush.  I had an electric toothbrush so long that its battery was virtually kaput.  I had to charge it constantly, and it occasionally died on me, while I was brushing my teeth.  Really annoying.  Well, I was a happy camper, when I finally bought a new one.

(18) You were forced to get Facebook Timeline.  Apparently the majority of us Facebookers don’t like the new Timeline, and soon there won’t be an opt-out, as M. Zuck is playing hard ball and making it mandatory.  Personally I like the look of it, but it doesn’t function properly.  You scroll down, and the navigation halts, skips, and sometimes jumps back to the top.  Moreover I vehemently dislike Facebook algorithms determining what ought to be kept of my posts.

(26) Bad cell phone reception.  In an industrialized, high-tech country like the US, this shouldn’t be a problem too much anymore and thankfully it isn’t for me.  But try Skyping with someone in Uzbekistan.  Try Yahoo! Messenging with someone in the Philippines.

(32) Lawnmowers wake you up.  Cute snuggly bear, dude.  Really cute.

(33) You can't hear the TV over the vacuum cleaner.  We can’t hear the TV over the dishwasher.  Life’s tough, you know.

(50) You want to text, but you keep getting greenlights.  I admit to texting while driving, but this was when I had my Samsung.  With my BlackBerry, I use two hands.  So I’d wait to be at a stoplight to text.  You know how you hate running into red lights, when you’re in a hurry.  Here it’s the opposite annoyance.  When you’re texting, the green lights come on too quickly.

(52) No parking.  Man, I think the planners and developers of the parking facilities in Abu Dhabi had brain freeze.  For a city that has grown so much and aspires to be world-class, you don’t expect to be driving around forever, just looking for a place to park.  In fact, drivers often double-park on the street median strips and in the driving lanes of parking lots.

(54) You paid $5 for coffee, and it tastes bad.  In the Middle East, a small cup of green tea is $3 – $5.  It tastes fine, but I take umbrage at the excessive charge for a low-cost item, especially when the cafe employees get a pittance of a salary.  That’s why I don’t frequent those cafes.

(70) Football season is over.  I love basketball and hockey, but sometimes these aren’t enough of a sports fix in the off season of football.

(84) Your TV can't rewind.  And don’t you hate it, when you can’t fast-forward past commercials on some news and sports videos?

(91) Low cell phone battery.  Ah, BlackBerry, iPhone, Samsung, it doesn’t matter.  We all learn to charge our cell phones on daily, even continuous basis.

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

Ron Villejo, PhD

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Adele Rocks!

My article from an old Media & Tech blog (February 13th 2012)

In his book The Long Tail, Chris Anderson spoke about the democratization of production and distribution. In plain English, he meant that ordinary people like you and me had simple, ready media-and-tech means to create something like music, video, or blog, and to post it freely for millions to hear, see, or read.

So have a look at this cover of Adele’s ‘Rolling in the Deep.’

This fab rendition is a discovery of mine, just moments ago, on YouTube. Adele is still a young woman, although her catchy, throaty voice resonates a maturity beyond her 23 years. Here, though, is an even younger talent: lovely 11-year old Angela Vázquez, who sings her blessed little heart out, while her brothers, Abelardo and Gustavo, not much other than she at ages 15 and 13, respectively, handle the instruments. The 42.5 million [now 129.2 million] views so far make this more than just a viral video, but a musical epidemic that Anderson probably wouldn’t have imagined when he wrote his book a few years ago.

How about this one, ‘Make you Feel my Love’?

I know this song is originally by Bob Dylan and it was Adele who did her own version of it.  But these two ordinary guys, who call themselves Bluewavec2004 [now Chris Morton] on YouTube, make such a heartfelt cover that I actually prefer it over Adele’s.

Next is the official video of ‘Chasing Pavements.’

Someone referred to the video ’9 Crimes’ by Damien Rice as ‘creepy good.’  This one easily falls into that category as well.  Macabre?  Maybe.  Poignant?  No doubt.  Imagine taking your relationship to the edges of life and death, its vicissitudes virtually dancing in the metaphoric way that this couple does.  Brilliant?  Of course.  That’s Adele’s music, plus the filmmakers who worked with her.

Is it any surprise, then, that she made a killing at the Grammys last night?  She doesn’t just create great music, she also inspires many ordinary people to cover her music and stake out their own greatness!

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

Ron Villejo, PhD

Monday, April 14, 2014

The Cool Spaghetti Fork, by Bob Balow

My article from an old Media & Tech blog (August 23rd 2011)

I love this fork.

Americans usually eat spaghetti by twirling it with a fork, while steadying the fork with a tablespoon with the other hand. It can be a mild but painstaking effort to enjoy a favorite meal. Now this guy has come up with something neat, and he can even twirl spaghetti with his original pasta fork with one hand.

Apparently Bob Balow's company has sold 400,000 of these cool forks. Personally I’m happy that it’s done so well.  Here’s why.

First, this is a low-tech product that relies more on the ingenuity of its inventor than on sophisticated, highly expensive technology. Now, please don’t get me wrong. I love the sort of sophisticated technology that Apple came up with for the iPad2, for example, that allows you to view an image in either portrait or landscape orientation, just by turning it. Still, despite the millions buying Apple innovations, vast swaths of people around the world simply cannot afford to buy them.

Second, I discovered this on YouTube. A lot of crappy videos and rude comments here, but at the same time there are so many gems to find that it’s a pleasure just to browse its recommended videos. Balow probably doesn’t have the sleek marketing prowess and tools of Steve Jobs, so his specialty fork may struggle to reach the sort of sales numbers that the iPad2 commands. Still, through the phenomena of social media and the internet more generally, selling this many forks is quite an achievement. As an entrepreneur, who has now launched the first of many business projects and who faces sales and marketing challenges, I find this inspirational.

Finally, this invention reminds me of what Anil Gupta relates in his TED Talk India's hidden hotbeds of inventions:
People may be economically poor, but they’re not poor in the mind.

Prof. Gupta speaks about people in impoverished Indian villages, using the simple technology on which the venerable, trusted bicycle relies and turning it into something that makes life at these villages just a bit more comfortable and comforting. I love the story, for example, of 70-year old Md. Saidullah and his amphibious bicycle. He was desperate to meet his loved one, but couldn’t wait for the boat to take him across the waterway.

So here he is peddling away on his simple but awesome invention:

Back to Balow’s invention, Kids Having Fun Learning How to Use Spaghetti-Pasta-Noodle Fork... are not only so cute, but also so clever in how they understand and use the original pasta fork.  They imagine it to be like a ballerina doing a pirouette. I don’t know if he’s done this, but I suggest that Balow create matching spoons and knives for his fork. I didn’t see such a set on his website.

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

Ron Villejo, PhD

Friday, April 11, 2014

Meg Whitman, Crucible

My article from an old Media & Tech blog (September 23rd 2011)

UNIVERSAL CITY, CA - FILE:  California Republican gubernatorial candidate and former eBay CEO Meg Whitman concedes the Governor's race to California Attorney General and Democratic candidate Jerry Brown during a campaign party on November 2, 2010 in Universal City, California. Former eBay CEO Meg Whitman was named CEO of Hewlett-Packard on September 22, 2011.  (Photo by Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images) Photo: Kevork Djansezian, Getty Images
Meg Whitman

Carly Fiorina. Robert Wayman. Mark Hurd. Cathie Lesjak. Léo Apotheker. Including those in an interim capacity, Meg Whitman is the 6th to occupy the coveted corner office at HP in the last 6 years.

Musical chairs? Revolving door? It looks that way, doesn’t it.

Aaron Ricadela writes in Meg Whitman replaces Léo Apotheker as CEO at HP:
Whitman is credited for her role in building eBay into the world’s largest Internet auctioneer with a market value of about $40 billion. She took the company public and pioneered e-commerce for small businesses. Yet in the final years of her tenure, she couldn’t arrest a slowdown in sales growth and overpaid for Skype Technologies after a bidding war with Google and Yahoo. EBay later wrote down Skype’s value.
Whitman’s challenge will be to boost revenue while assuaging investors whose dismay fueled a 47 percent plunge in HP stock under Apotheker. But some analysts are already saying that her experience at consumer-oriented companies such as eBay, Procter & Gamble and Hasbro may leave her ill equipped to run HP’s business-computing divisions.
So she comes with really good, albeit imperfect, track record at the helm.  And the pressure is on.

Back on 11th May 2005, I wrote the following in my business journal: The more I read about Meg Whitman, head of e-Bay, the more I want to learn about – and emulate – her leadership. A polite, very unassuming, even self-effacing lady, she has truly engineered a quirky internet site into a global powerhouse, doing so in the midst of the most dramatic boom-and-bust cycle in technology. In brief, not only does she understand her people in the broadest and again most unassuming sense of the word, but also she understands her business and what it truly takes to make it successful.

She’s been mostly out of the spotlight in recent years. Still, I admire this lady, and so do many others in the business.

The question is, Does she have what it takes to halt the musical-chairs, revolving-door farce at HP? More pointedly, Does she have what it takes vis-a-vis what HP needs her for? In HP Playing Musical CEOs Again? Chairman Ray Lane offers a clear message on what HP would like to become, that is, more of a software, IT and services company.

Ray Lane

This is an enormous task. It’s a literal transformation of the long-storied focus on hardware for HP. Of course only time will tell whether she will succeed, but Whitman has a lot going in her favor. However, her success is partly dependent on our expectations. Who do I mean by “our”? We observers, consumers, analysts, Board of Directors, her people et al., all of us must be reasonable and realistic about what she can do in a certain period of time.

President Barack Obama has taken quite a beating in the media and the public in the past several months, as the US economy continues to suffer. When he won the elections in late 2008, and took office in early 2009, the world cried with tears of joy at the hope and courage this one man signified. But I cautioned my close friends here in Dubai to be realistic about what he can do. He was inheriting quite a devastating mess from the previous administration. I cringed when people hailed him as if he were the President of the World. Look, he’s only a human being, I said. He’s not endowed with any miraculous powers. What’s more, he was entering the high office with relatively little political experience.

The verdict is still out of course on whether his presidency is a success or a failure, the diminishing confidence levels notwithstanding. But matched against the world’s impossibly high expectations, then he is undoubtedly a failure, as any president would be. In the complex melange of human sentiments, I’m sure these expectations of ours weigh in on President Obama’s struggles.

HP is nowhere near the breath, depth and complexity of the US, as an organization, but I think the caution I gave to my friends three years ago are relevant in Whitman’s case. We must be reasonable and realistic about what she can do, as one human being in a very difficult spot. By “we,” I mean most particularly the Board and the analysts on Wall Street.

As one friend asked on LinkedIn, Does HP have what it takes to survive? Even if Whitman were the best leader in the world, does the organization itself have what it takes to succeed, in terms of its structure, products, people etc.?

It remains to be seen.

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

Ron Villejo, PhD

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

We Love a Crowd!

My article from an old Media & Tech blog (August 30th 2011)

I confess, I am a cycling addict and a sports fanatic in general. From the thrilling Masters and US Open (golf), to the drama of the National Basketball Association (NBA) playoffs, to Wimbledon (tennis), all spring-boarding me to the Tour de France (cycling) in July. Then, August hits, and it’s like nothing, you know! Baseball is slow and boring, soccer is a bit foreign to me, American football is back after a (yawn) lockout but is in preseason (yawn) mode, and I don’t fancy small time events even in those sports above that I like.

Then, I discovered the US Pro Cycling Challenge, just finished this past Sunday. Apparently no small time event, this. The fact that the organizers managed to attract Australian Tour de France champion, Cadel Evans, and also elite cyclist from Luxembourg, Andy Schleck, prompted me to have a look. Velonews covers cycling quite well, so that’s where I go when I need a ‘fix’ for my addiction. Well, more than just prompt me to look, it grabs my attention so much that I’m reading articles on a daily basis and checking out photos.

Here’s what Brian Holcombe writes in USA Pro Cycling Challenge organizers look to build on success:
The inaugural USA Pro Cycling Challenge was a smashing success by almost all accounts – even the opinions of overall winner Levi Leipheimer (RadioShack) and race CEO Shawn Hunter — and will be back in 2012. The first-year event had many questions to answer after a sometimes rocky build-up to the prologue in Colorado Springs, and did so with gusto, attracting the largest number of fans for any cycling event in the U.S. and playing host to great racing from day one through seven.
I am an entrepreneur and a management consultant, and I love it when businesses succeed. Even more so, and more impressed, when it’s a first-time effort! I like to believe that we are all indeed connected in the world, such as economically. When an event does well, it impacts people and things within its circle for the good, and it also sends a positive ripple across the country.

What’s more, I’m intrigued by things that draw attendance and attract attention. Hunter estimates that this Cycling Challenge drew crowds over a million strong. It may have been prompted by media, new and traditional, but these crowds are a physical presence throughout the race course. It’s easy enough for us to click on a video online, and it goes viral with millions of views. But to travel, to camp out, to act crazy at the course itself … well, that’s precious!

Check out this video by USA Pro Cycling:

Unlike in many sports, cycling fans can actually get really close to the players. It’s wild and quite a raucous party, really. This in itself is a draw. Social media has made all of us hungry for engagement, involvement and connection. But again this didn’t happen in cyberspace, and instead in our old school, real world forum for participation and enjoyment.

Now that’s for the million plus who were actually there. Of course, there are scores of us who weren’t there. So how did Mr. Hunter and his staff attract the attention of someone like me, a cycling fanatic from Chicago, but now living in Dubai? Velonews has great articles and photos, but frankly lame when it comes to video coverage. I don’t have a TV subscription, as there’s too much crap on the tube.

But I do have YouTube.

Ah, YouTube was the thing that really grabbed me to this event. Usually it takes a day or more for videos on major cycling events to be uploaded on YT. Some are not official, so I have to watch as many as I can, before YouTube takes them down. But USA Pro Cycling had a quick and day-to-day upload from the race. These videos were not short news clips, but substantial five- to six-minute recaps by two of the best broadcasters in all of sports, Phil Liggett and Paul Sherwin. The fact that the race organizers managed to attract these two venerable stars in their profession is also an amazing thing.

What organizers, sponsors, and performers all wish for, for a first time event, is to have a second time opportunity. Shawn Hunter, kudos to you and all of your staff, you have a 2012 event lined up. Whether or not I’m there in person, I’ll be among the hordes enjoying your event next year!

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

Ron Villejo, PhD

Monday, April 7, 2014

Bruce Lee Lives On!

My article from an old Media & Tech blog (September 6th 2011)

Bruce Lee is universally recognized as the pioneer who elevated martial arts in film to an art form, and this documentary will reveal why Bruce Lee's flame burns brighter now than the day he died over three decades ago. The greatest martial artists, athletes, actors, directors, and producers in the entertainment business today will share their feelings about the one who started it all.

We will interview the people whose lives, careers, and belief systems were forever altered by the legendary "Father of Martial Arts Cinema". Rarely seen archival footage and classic photos will punctuate the personal testimonials.
Word was that Bruce Lee had offended the masters of martial arts and that in response they administered Dim Mak on him: the ‘death touch.’ That’s what my T’ai Chi instructor shared with us. He never prompted us with ‘believe this or not,’ but simply to reflect on it. Arguably the most skilled, most popular martial artist of our time, Lee died on 20th July 1973 and he was only 32. Reports were that he had suffered a severe headache and died from an allergic reaction to a prescription painkiller.

This article is not about weighing the truth of either the Dim Mak or painkiller story. Rather, it’s to share a personal discovery and to reflect on something essential about our lives.

I was a university student in 1978, and loved a lot of things from philosophy and literature, to sports and weight training. I heard about ‘chi control,’ which was a kind of ‘mind over matter’ technique. I was drawn to it, because it was supposed to help me lift heavier weights in the gym. Off to the bookstore I went, looking to read up on it. Without blinking an eye, the clerk led me to a book by TT Liang: T’ai Chi Ch’uan for Health and Self Defense.

This book had absolutely nothing to do with weight lifting. It was a philosophical treatise by Master Liang on the ancient Chinese martial art, that is commonly translated as ‘supreme ultimate fist (or boxing).’ Philosophy aside, most people know it as a slow-moving exercise, which my instructor characterized as like ‘yoga in motion’ and ‘swimming in air.’ Intrigued by this unexpected discovery, I bought the book. What’s more, within two weeks, I saw a poster on campus about T’ai Chi classes being held near the university.

You see, there’s something fated about all of this. I’ve led a charmed life, by many accounts, growing up comfortably in a middle class, Filipino-American family in suburban Chicago and attending one of the best universities in the US. Still, at the cusp of adolescence and adulthood, I was full of uncertainty about the next steps in my life. So more than philosophy, health and self-defense, T’ai Chi gave me much needed ‘rootedness,’ ‘centeredness,’ and direction, which were in fact at the heart of its postures and movements. I’ve been at this for over 33 years now, and still loving it! T’ai Chi didn’t just change my life, but actually defined it in ways I couldn’t have imagined.

In a close knit circle of my instructor and classmates, I came to hear about Bruce Lee. He was one of many subjects I studied over the years, especially his book Tao of Jeet Kune Do. Scores of his notes and sketches on this uniquely-created martial art were collated into this book, posthumously. Jeet Kune Do is quite a different martial art from T’ai Chi, but the two share a philosophical heritage in Taoism. In brief, it’s about discerning the ways of nature and not veering away from it.

So what does all of this have to do with media and technology?

Well, let’s fast forward to 2011. A documentary on Lee’s life and family was yet another fine discovery on YouTube. Type in whatever subject interests you in its search box, and you have a host of free videos for your enjoyment and learning. I had read quite a scattering of articles, clips, and hearsay on him over the years, so much so that I got this strange feeling when I watched that documentary.

To me, Bruce Lee had always been alive! It’s easy enough to say that his legacy lives on, and it’s true enough as well. But that legacy is not an abstraction or a concept. It’s a reality that I (and many others) live, as it relates to Lee’s martial arts spirit, teachings, and films. Yes, I knew way back then that he had died. But somehow his death was irrelevant. His family, friends and fans speak to the terrible loss they felt, even years after he had died. The strange feeling I got was, ‘Oh, that’s right, he had died.’

I offer the idea that it was media and technology that kept Bruce Lee very much alive. Not just for me, but surely for scores of others. Accepting this idea, though, means looking at the very theme of my blog in its very basic essentials.

My instructor was a kind of spokesman for Lee, and our T’ai Chi classroom was truly a medium for us talking about him. The various texts I read, the photos I looked at, and the martial arts circles I was part of were all media for hearing and learning about him. Before YouTube, videos weren’t so readily available to people. But the advent of this online TV was one key innovation that changed the media and technology landscape and altered our lives forever. Until a few days ago, I hadn’t seen a documentary on Lee. I watched his famous film `Enter the Dragon entirely on YT, and poured over Jeet Kune Do videos. Finally, for years, I’ve judiciously kept notes and downloaded photos onto my Word journal, and this is yet another a medium for me through which Bruce Lee lives!

In the end, then, media isn’t just a channel through which information passes and communications emerge. Technology isn’t just a mechanism, either, for enabling that channel to work. Instead, media and technology is truly a place where life begins and happens and where anyone of us, if we stop to think about it, actually lives on.

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

Ron Villejo, PhD

Friday, April 4, 2014

The Irony for Nokia

My article from an old Media & Tech blog (October 6th 2011)

Nokia Chief Executive Stephen Elop takes part in the 2011 Nokia Annual General Meeting in Helsinki, May 3, 2011. REUTERS/Jussi Nukari/Lehtikuva
Stephen Elop

This Reuters article has a kind of maudlin irony - Nokia still pledging Windows phone as Apple marches on. Though grieving from Steve Jobs’ death yesterday, Apple is still marching on but for the time being marching to a dirge.

Nokia CEO Stephen Elop has a super tough challenge ahead of him. This article, I’m afraid, doesn’t instill confidence in him. It’s only one article, of course, but to hear him acknowledge how Apple’s innovations have disrupted the industry and raised the bar for mobile makers, without offering anything innovative to really fight back with, leaves me feeling skeptical about its efforts to regain dominance in the market. What’s more, Elop is doing this while cutting headcount and costs.

Most indications are that Apple will indeed march on strongly for the foreseeable future, even if CEO Tim Cook’s first keynote two days ago failed to ‘wow’ fans and analysts. Jobs was known to strategize and plan for the long term, so his hand will still be very much in Apple’s launches for a while yet. However, what Nokia has going for itself is its partnership with Microsoft. Forbes reports Microsoft Hungry for Smartphone Share, Rolls Out Mango Update. Its Windows Phone is poised to rub big-shoulder to big-shoulder with Apple’s iOS and Google’s Android operating systems.

All of this said, the irony for Nokia may be this, too. As Apple fans are mourning, Nokia may just persuade those, who are less than keen now on new Apple stuff, to defect. But just as Cook must inspire, so does Elop. Reuters is a big brand in media, so chances are quite a lot of people read the article I read. To be underwhelmed by what was reported is not good. Better public relations, then. Better market positioning, both of which Apple excels at. We don’t know exactly how Jobs’ death will affect the industry and the market. But the game has changed dramatically for all players involved.

Still, what is Elop’s top-top priority? Deliver on his talk! Deliver new Windows mobiles, in time for the most critical holiday season for both makers and retailers.

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

Ron Villejo, PhD

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Big Data, Human Matters

My article from an old Media & Tech blog (February 14th 2012)

(image credit)

Explosive advancements in media and technology, over the past decade alone, have led us to The Age of Big Data. So much more information than ever before is at our disposal, that it all seems to be morphing into new organisms. They scurry like mercury from a broken thermometer, and spread like a viral video on YouTube.

It was my friend, Patrick, who sent me this article. Blake, who was among the recipients, responded by saying he thought about creating a fictitious profile on Facebook in order to game the system. The following is my e-mail response:

Many thanks, as always, to Patrick for sending us super interesting stuff!

For me, Big Data (in caps now; cf. Big Brother) is terribly exciting and daunting at the same time. I’m trying to get my head around it, frankly. But here’s a notion I hold to: Science, mathematics, technology etc. are, at their essence, a human endeavor. I believe in their rigor and logic, and in their ability to extend our grasp of things, well beyond our imagination. But these are all subject to the best and worst of our humanity. So gathering and analyzing Big Data knowledgeably, responsibly and cautiously serve our purpose well. 

However, the researcher and-or statistician in us know very well that the power of an analytic tool to find differences increases the bigger the data set. The problem is, some of these differences are ‘false positives’ (i.e., meaningless, even spurious). In other words, with a big enough data set, we can find almost anything we want to find. This was acknowledged in the NY Times article, and it’s obviously not a good thing.

Good point, Blake. But I think that system has been gamed already. For example, I wonder how many of the 800+ million on Facebook are actual people, brands, or organizations. If its algorithms are truly smart, then they’ll make a well-calculated estimate of fake profiles and adjust down the total number of users accordingly. I don’t know if they do this or not. But in the meantime, the 800+ million figure we often hear is most accurately described as profiles, not unique or actual users.

Now, in light of these points, we can take analytic reports of Facebook posts, Twitter feeds etc. with lots of grains of salt.

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

Ron Villejo, PhD