Archive for January, 2018

And here I am predicting the Facebook Ad system

Tuesday, January 23rd, 2018

August 2007 in the Sunday Tribune:

Google are one of the most powerful technology companies ever and are the undisputed King of search with many pretenders to their throne. So why is a social networking site slightly better than mySpace or Bebo going to potentially be their most serious threat ever and not Microsoft, Yahoo! or Ask.com?

The hottest tech website this year so far has been Facebook. What once was a website dedicated to American college students proudly displaying their drunken pics and videos has now gained so much mindshare that even Rupert Murdoch, owner of Facebook rival mySpace has publicly stated he wishes mySpace were more like it. Individuals and businesses are flocking to join the latest online hotspot but the site isn’t so hot with search engines.

Unlike other social networking sites, Facebook does not allow search engines to come in and snoop around and catalog all the media being created and consumed inside this massive online community. For search engines like Google who are proud of their ability to monitor the web for newly uploaded content and display it in their search results as quickly as 15 minutes later, the inability to access a vibrant and energetic community creating millions of new pieces of data every day makes Google less powerful and less useful. Google’s motto of “organizing the world’s information” might need to add “except the data of 50 Million Facebook users”.

As with all social networks, their shine fades and people will move on to the next bright young thing. Being accutely aware of this, Facebook started giving developers access to the technology behind the site, allowing anyone to build applications which could plug directly into the Facebook. In one bold move Facebook turned itself into the web’s version of a lego set, where anyone could build any kind of creation on top of it. This new open “platform” is only around a short few months but already 1000s of new web applications have been built for Facebook which in turn has attracted millions more people to the website, causing them to create even more content Google can’t get to but the Facebook search engine can. Search companies see Facebook as a giant blackhole on the web because these Facebook applications suck in the world wide web but no data ever escapes back. Facebook now offers all their own content on top of everything you can get elsewhere online, so there is no need to leave.

If facebook offers everything to their users, then people will spend less time on the open web, which will naturally impact on Google and their ad revenues. With Google properties and partner sites getting used less, this is going to impact on Google ad revenue. Google as well as being a search company is the most successful online ad company ever and much of this is down to their relevance technology which matches the most suitable ad to whatever webpage is being viewed.

If Facebook emulated Google’s history and used an ad system like Google’s but tied into the detailed profiles of millions of Facebook people, they would easily out-Google Google. Ads on Facebook could be far more relevant than anything Google could offer, ecnouraging ad companies to flock to Facebook and pay a premium on ads, netting Facebook a fortune and hurting Google yet again.

With Google bloodied and battered from losing market share and ad revenue, Facebook could do one final thing to seal Google’s fate: Enable outside search. Facebook could build their own Google clone into Facebook offering internal and external search, tailored to the preferences of each individual with ads equally tailored. People currently speculate that Google might buy Facebook but maybe Facebook will end up buying Google?

Me on the iPhone in 2007

Tuesday, January 16th, 2018

Found some old articles I wrote for the Sunday Tribune and ENN.
This is one about the iPhone before it came out and whether it will decide telecoms standards and destroy the competition.
May 2007:

So far just Steve Jobs from Apple and material girl Madonna have Apple iPhones but that still hasn’t stopped people from deciding that the iPhone is better than their own phone. The iPod generation has a lot of faith in the Apple brand. Apple has yet to disclose what wireless broadband option will be in the European release of the iPhone in November. Could a brand alone decide whether WiMax, Wifi or 3G is going to be the most popular wireless technology in the next few years?

In a survey done recently by Strategy Analytics, 90% of mobile phone owners said that the Apple iPhone was superior to their current handset. While the iPhone does appear to have some superior aspects such as a large display, a built-in iPod and a touch-screen interface, the startling thing about the survey was that nobody surveyed had actually used the iPhone but just watched a video about it. Apple predicts they’ll see 10 million iPhones by the end of 2008. Nokia, Motorola and Sony Ericsson were already worried about the iPhone but this survey has probably helped give more of them sleepless nights. Phone manufacturers shouldn’t be the only ones to be worried. Billions of euros have been invested in Wifi, WiMax and 3G broadband which are all types of wireless broadband and if Apple becomes the most popular phone manufacturer it will mean they could call the shots on wireless broadband in Europe and delegate the other two technologies to the could-have-been section in the history books.

In America, Apple has signed an exclusive deal with AT&T to be the mobile provider for the iPhone. The wireless options for the iPhone are WiFi and EDGE wireless broadband. EDGE is also known as 2.75G network technology, an inferior version of the 3G broadband that is on offer in Europe. For the launch of the European iPhone, Apple is keeping their cards very close to their chest on what wireless technology they’ll use. Europe’s biggest mobile phone networks have been courting Apple to get an exclusive deal with them for the iPhone. Vodafone, 3, O2 owner Telefonica and many others are all jumping up and down shouting “pick me”. While 3G technology is the most popular form of wireless broadband in Europe, WiMax technology is also being used in some locations in Europe. WiMax also has considerable backing from Motorola, Intel and Clearwire.

3G has been available in Ireland now for a few years and consumers are set to benefit from a looming price war between o2, Vodafone and 3 after 3 dropped the monthly cost of their mobile broadband service to €19.99 a month. WiMax still hasn’t taken off here though Irish Broadband and eircom have been trialing it of late. eircom also have a 3G licence which they recently acquired so their options are open. Digiweb have also been talking about using yet another technology to offer mobile broadband. If the Deus ex Machina that is the iPhone impacts on the telecoms market the way the iPod forced massive changes in the music industry then fortunes could be won or lost on the whim of Apple.

A few decades ago, a format war occurred between betamax and VHS and betamax ended up losing despite it being a superior format. Once again we could have a war of technologies where it is not about which is the best technology but about the power of a brand, the twist this time is that the brand that decides the fate of these technologies is a total outsider. While Apple must be a waking nightmare to everyone in telecoms, have you heard that Google is building a phone…

Just a band … Route around your obstacles

Wednesday, January 10th, 2018

I’m going through old things I wrote that I have stored in Google Drive. I found an article from the Sunday Tribune I wrote ten years ago and then I found this that I wrote for Tommie Kelly that is live here. Going to reproduce it here now as I think it’s still apt.

Damage: Route around the old grey-haired white men

There are three main links you can right click and open in a new tab as you start reading this meandering post.

The first link is to what is now a seminal article by Kevin Kelly called 1000 true fans where he riffs on the idea that we don’t need to be superstars and have mass market attention to be a success. Work at working with a smaller number of fans but fans who have your back and you have theirs. Uncompromising happier days await.

The next link is to Marc Andreessen who created Netscape, Opsware, Ning and so much more. The guy is a billionaire and one of the smartest men on the planet. He too has a seminal essay called Software is Eating the World and it in he shows that people writing code are disrupting and destroying the old guard in dusty old industries. You do not need to be a coder to read this, This article needs to be read by everyone.

The last link is to a YouTube of Dan le Sac Vs Scroobius Pip called “Thou shalt always kill” and midway through the song the singer tells us

“The Beatles… Were just a band.
Led Zepplin… Just a band.
The Beach Boys… Just a band.
The Sex Pistols… Just a band.”

Software, as it eats the world is changing how we exist. We don’t need media owned and controlled by crazy white old men anymore, we don’t need to rely on banks run by corrupt greedy white old men anymore, we don’t need bloated publishers run by … there’s a pattern to this, right? We can now talk to people who appreciate our work and time and geography don’t matter. They can come to us and our work can go to them. If you were living in a one horse town and were amazing at a niche skill, you will get local attention and praise and that’s it. Oftentimes things are hobbies because we can’t feed our kids from what we earn from this hobby. In the always-on, instantly connected world, that’s all changed. I dream of the day I can live by the sea and still do my day job. Broadband is nearly there in deepest darkest West Cork and off I’ll go and I’ll work with a small number of people that appreciate my work and I appreciate their candid and constructive feedback. Now, to be clear, this is different to having a bunch of yes-men and women.

Let’s look at “media”. We had to look after journalists and researchers before. Work with them and harass them if needs be for them to tell the world about what we do. Telling the world by either getting them to write a story or buying an ad next to a story. Media in the traditional sense had limited space, had bosses with bias and had hectic cycles. Even if what you had was a good story, it might not get picked up. The Internet has ensured that this old way of getting large-scale attention is no longer needed. We can talk to fans directly. We can be the media and the PR agency and the ad company now. A blog, Twitter, Facebook, we can get to most people by these mechanisms alone. I ran Measurement.ie in February in Dublin and ticket sales were all a result of just promoting the event online and at that nearly exclusive promotion on Twitter. I didn’t need to send a press release, talk to newspapers or radio stations about it and the event sold out. My sponsors however and their clients would still read these media institutions so they did traditional media about their sponsorship. If your fans or potential fans are only reading newspapers, you have to be there. But they’re not. More people over 55 are receiving shitty updates from Farmville than are reading the Irish Times daily.

Let’s look at Banks. What an obsolete thing they are becoming. Paypal can do payments and card processing. A Twitter co-founder has released Square allowing you to take credit card payments with a tiny device that plugs into your iPhone and you swipe the card along it. For loans we have Kickstarter and we have Fund It specifically for The Arts in Ireland. Kickstarter and Fund It too are lovely little stomping grounds allowing you to do small projects and get experience of selling, budgeting and PRing your project. Taking what you learnt, you can go and build bigger projects. See this interview with Philly McMahon about his take on Fund It. I look forward to the days when some sort of currency can go from my wallet to someone else’s without the banks taking their sweaty fees from us.

Publishing. Talent hunters, agents, asking friends of friends to get your work on the desk of someone that delivers coffee to the PA of the woman that throws manuscripts in the bin… A blog, some fans and them talking about you and the publishers can come to you or you can just self-publish. This is not a platitude. The Internet makes it easier for talent to be spotted and evangelised. I say, easier, it does not mean if you have talent you are guaranteed fame but it makes it easier. Again, start small, get experience and build on that. Try something on a platform like Amazon and learn from it. Do not make the mistake though of trusting it and signing your life away to it. Amazon too in time will get eaten by other software and it is rapidly becoming the type of old-school industry we rally against.

The Internet is a router, built on routers. By that I mean if someone blocks you, be they media, publishers, banks, route around them. The Internet was built as a way of preserving communications if a nuclear attack wipes out an army base or city. Obstacles, whatever their form are damage, so route around them.

Minor Threat… Just a band.
The Cure… Just a band.
The Smiths… Just a band.
Nirvana… Just a band.

Threads – Part something something

Sunday, January 7th, 2018

We’ve been watching Jean-Claude Van Johnson, an amazing JCVD show where JC plays himself but he is also a spy using acting as his cover. Trailer. It’s hilarious and he is perfect at comedy. A recent show ends with M.C. Solaar’s Nouveau Western. I remember the sound and the video. Couldn’t remember the Director – Stephane Sednaoui. Look at his body of work. Some amazingly stylish music videos that defined the 90s. Give it away. Mysterious Ways. Queer.

And he did a few for Mirwais. Including Disco Science.

And from his album Production, flowed some amazing music. And Madonna had him work on Music. When you listen to both you realise they are cut from the same cloth or are Side A and B of a record where each of the duo take a half and follow their vision but they’re too in synch to be too different.

And now I’m listening to Uffie because Mirwais produced some of her work.

Move to the Valley

Wednesday, January 3rd, 2018

This was written in December 2007 for the Sunday Tribune. Some parts have aged well and some … I was either still in Silicon Valley or was just back. I was very critical of Enterprise Ireland and not much has changed in 10 years. All their work is based on fomulas created from 10 year old business books that were written by people who wrote books to deflect from being shit at business. Those who came along didn’t want to make much noise as they were tied to the EI noose to keep their business alive. I think one of the companies that came on the tour is still alive which after 10 years from embryonic stage, is good going. The Sunday Tribune of course is not. But I own the domain name and still get loads of press releases.

==
“Move”, the one word summary from billionaire Marc Andreessen on how to build a successful global technology company. This week I was embedded in Palo Alto, Silicon Valley with 26 Irish people from 14 Irish tech startups. Palo Alto is a city strewn with addicts wherever you go but instead of heroin or crack, the natives are hooked to networking and building better relationships with people. Andreessen, founder of Netscape, Opsware and now social network creation site Ning was one of many executives to take time out of their busy lives to meet up with Irish companies, just as unknown back home as they are in the Valley. Andreessen was quite happy to give a private hour-long Q&A with these visitors from Ireland. On elaboration Andreesen said that inter-networking with people is one of the most important things for any business and the greatest place in the world to do business is in Silicon Valley. Should we just pack our bags and look for networking chances in them thar hills, the same hills our ancestors mined for gold?

Andreessen wasn’t the exception to the rule either, earlier in the week a Facebook VP gave a personal tour of Facebook and brought in their top brass to meet these Irish companies who for now had nothing to offer them. After the tour our group were personally walked to our next meeting a few blocks away by one of their Vice-Presidents and he personally thanked us for choosing to visit Facebook, something echoed by Microsoft the next day too and other companies all through the week. Ever been thanked when walking out of a store in Ireland with empty hands and full wallets?

Silicon Valley Caltrain

Mark Zawacki leads the Milestone management consultancy group and took time out to do a free consulting session with the visiting Irish companies, he suggested that the philosophy of Silicon Valley is that relationships are the currency of business and pointed out that the vast majority of the billions invested in tech every year are local investments whereby investors are giving money to people they have good working relationships with already. Even Irish CEOs attending the Enterprise Ireland Leadership for Growth initiative that took place in Stanford broke their curfew and met with the other Irish to exchange thoughts and contact details. Everyone gets hooked.

Ger Hartnett from Limerick based Coclarity summarised the experience of many on the tour “We heard the same key message consistently; contacts and relationships are crucial and it was contacts and relationships that helped us meet Marc Andresson and Ross Mayfield who were extremely generous with their time. ”

Not everyone though can afford to up sticks and move to the centre of the tech industry universe even if it offers so much. You don’t have to move though to take advantage of the Valley. Ross Mayfield from Socialtext gave sage advicento the Irish startups on how he manages a multi-million dollar company using free tools for online conference calls and long-distance phone calls. While his main office is in the Silicon Valley and he meets more venture capitalists and industry bigwigs on his smoke break than Irish businesses would meet in a lifetime, most of his team only meet up together in one place a few times a year. Mayfield seems to have found an ideal balance between keeping the addiction to maintaining Valley connections alive and not pricing yourself out of a market which expects products to become cheaper every year.

With cheap and direct flights to San Francisco and already existing Irish Networks in place in the Valley perhaps we should move our monthly networking events to Palo Alto and skip Dublin altogether or encourage Valley events to move 11 hours away to Ireland. A finger in each pie is an advantage this time.

Ones to Watch – the 2018 biased edition

Monday, January 1st, 2018

Previously on Ones to Watch: 2017, 2016, 2015, 2014, 2013, 2012, 2011, 2010, 2009 2008, 2007.

This is the 12th iteration of Ones to Watch. I’ve been thinking for a while about these type of lists and how subjective they are and exclusive but exclusive with emphasis on exclusion. So many lists you see around the place are “mates rates” type lists. I find people for the Ones to Watch from people I know or notice in my day-to-day journeys online and off. 2017 was busier than ever, moreso after starting a sabbatical type thing so I’ve not interacted and watched people do interesting things compared to before. 2016’s list was the same too. I’m referencing the Pattern Recognition post I wrote as it glanced at the idea of confirmation bias too. My lists like most are in a bubble and are totally biased. That needs to change.

Here’s a fun thing to do with you and your “woke” friends:
Each of you write down the names of 5 Irish women who are inspiring for a podcast. Now compare notes. Louise Mcsharry will be on it because she deserves to be. Maeve Higgins maybe? One of those influencer people who have bought followers and the media are too thick to realise? Katie Taylor? Claire Byrne? Clare Daly? Alison Spittle? Louise O’Neill? 2.4M women you can choose from and the overlap is going to be staggering. A great start but quite predictable list is media personality or known of because of winning an award. Name someone from the Traveller community. Great you have John Connors too, now name another one that didn’t star in Glenroe. How about an Irish black male that isn’t a sports person? A person with a disability that isn’t doing Special Olympics. Someone that hasn’t done a TED(x) talk? It’s okay, we’re all in bubbles. We seem to reference the people just like us and then one or two people each from a minority community who it seems are there to talk about being a minority from their community. Like has been said so often, how often do you hear a working class Dublin accent on the radio outside of reporters interviewing locals about a shooting or the death of a homeless person? Arts programmes to a small degree.

And I’m just as guilty with events I do. Measurement 2016 was an all-female lineup. The rule we enacted was even the tech people that would be on stage had to be female. A male-free stage. It worked, in so far as we pulled off the event, though it made a loss but that’s because I’m great at ideas crap at business. It showed it can be done though and I was hoping like many of the other ideas we did, that it would be copied by others. The lineup of Measurement was all people from inside my bubble and I have done nothing to break it or expand it. Nice and safe people that I mostly knew, some I knew for years. Now you are generally risk-averse for these things when you are starting off so you go with people you know won’t go lala and alienate or get you sued. Which is why you always hear the same voices on radio. They’re trusted and SO very predictable so you can plan around that. Media production is all about cookie cutters. The new Jamie Oliver yeah?

It’s like that thing for nearly a decade where you ask the Irish tech heads to name a woman to speak at a conference and it was Martha Rotter or Clare Dillon both at Microsoft at the time or Jane ní Dhulchaointigh from Sugru. And then shuffling of feet. Well done lads. For them and me it was a case of look further afield.

Louise Mcsharry’s podcast Fresh had two guests that I never heard of at all. This is great, more please! 50% totally new on any media production is great. (at time of writing 4 were listed) Stevie G is doing remarkable work in Cork on a thriving hiphop scene and dance scene with so much young talent. Never heard of these folks either. Good. Following people totally not aligned to my interest on Twitter has seen me encounter all new ideas via their Likes and RTs. This is good.

So my Ones to Watch is going to be the “unknown unknowns” this time. I think I need to make 2018 the year that I change the lens on my vision and look for other sources and spaces. Time to stop going a little outside my circle and go way outside. A friend of a few friends I’ve heard mentioned is not enough. So what I’m doing is, I’m leaving people that are reading this to comment and recommend people they are finding interesting and are ones to watch. Maybe nobody comments! Anyone that recommends themselves gets deleted of course. Be humble. So off you go, who are the Ones to Watch in 2018? Tell us.