Archive for the ‘business’ Category

Training Data for Machines, Training Data for Us

Wednesday, January 23rd, 2019

Google is an amazing organisation for gathering and processing data and then giving it to their software to learn from, that then changes the software. The data changes the software, the software changes that data, that data changes … etc.

Machine learning, Artificial Intelligence (anyone want to buy ArtificialIntelligence.ie btw?) are (I think) about using training data to perfect/improve things. Make that software better. Can we make our brain’s software better?

Those CAPTCHA things asking you to figure out what are bridges, traffic lights, road signs (and even chimneys!) are all there to create training data for their autonomous software for cars/drones/whatever they’re going to do next. Google Streetview has taken photos of every major road and street in the Western World at least and that’s some amount of data. The basics can be figured out by buying in street plans and other mapping data. Traffic lights, stop signs and so forth? They need human intervention at least for now. To be more human, Google needs to get more humans. And that’s where we come in. We’re making their data better which helps change their software which changes the data…

Google Chimneys

There are trillions of photos on Facebook that each perfect their facial recognition software. The more photos in, the better the software gets, especially when the software gets us humans to tag the photos. Now the software is suggesting who these people are so we’re just confirming more than telling the software who these people are. The software now figures out clothing types, food types, locations in those photos. Microsoft and Google have been doing that for years “show me all recent photos taken around the Louvre in Paris”.

Amazon has a service called Mechanical Turk that allows you to write a basic command structure that gets sent to people to do. A very famous one was the guy that paid people $0.02 to draw a sheep facing to the left. He got 10,000 made. Yeah, 2 cents to do something. Say you drew 3 sheep a minute. That means you’d earn $3.60 an hour. So it’s interesting that software that goes through so much data needs humans to polish it up, for now. How smart of Google and Facebook and Amazon to get humans to do work for them for free or for next to nothing.

Google Home and Amazon Alexa are also devices that are taking in training data. They log what 100s of millions of people are saying, so many languages, so many local dialects and accents. Every time you use that the device you paid for, you are training their software to be better. Now this benefits you too and we’ll eventually have devices that finish our sentences. The next step is the camera on the speaker that takes commands from nods or winks or simple hand gestures. We’re evolving from screwing in valves, to punching holes on cards, to keys on a keyboard, to voice, to subtle eye + finger + head moves.

This training data idea is not new at all at all. I did a post recently enough called Pattern Recognition that talks about this. I mentioned Poor Charlie’s Almanack where Charlie Munger has all these rules for making decisions. Knowing everything about your potential purchase and what can impact on it is crucial. And how would you know that? Study the data, study the patterns. Know humans. A quote from him “Acquire worldly wisdom and adjust your behaviour accordingly”

I’m reminded of the book Never Trust a Skinny Italian Chef by Massimo Bottura. If a chef isn’t sampling the goods, trying things out and testing them then are they really progressing and moving forward? Now I know many skinny chefs that live off adrenaline and pot noodles but the book title is fair. Doesn’t look like they were using the training data.

As I was knitting this post together I saw this tweet pop up Writing advice from Haruki Murakami: “I think the first task for the aspiring novelist is to read tons of novels. Sorry to start with such a commonplace observation, but no training is more crucial.”

Charlie Munger – financier – advises people to read
Every author advises people to read

Buy some good books and read them, go to a library and read them.

Read some fucking books

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The Fever-Tree of Milk: if two thirds of your coffee is the milk, wouldn’t you want it to be the best?

Friday, January 18th, 2019

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I’m always fascinated by the idea of work and craft. How a restaurant gets a Michelin Star and gets a second or a third. Getting your suppliers to grow old strains of grains, to breed certain strains of birds etc. This piece on the hard work and obsession with ingredients is inspiring. And Cork has a story just like that now thanks to Mews restaurant in Baltimore. Everything is local, as organic as they can find and everything has a purpose.

“If you stick to your vision and don’t compromise then you reap the rewards and the first step is the Michelin star. We knew what we were doing. We wanted to be one of the best restaurants in the country.”

I’ve eaten in a few Michelin Stars and some would blow you away with the work involved in dishes, for others I genuinely question how they were special and how they got an awards for anything more than media mentions. Nothing remarkable food wise and service only so so. Earlier there was the wonderful story of a father and son team growing real Wasabi in Ireland, something that’s even hard to grow in native Japan. The work involved in getting this to grow in Irish soil and in Irish weather shows real dedication. Already the top restaurants are asking to use it. This is a perfect match.

It was in Chapter One that Ed Jolliffe told me the story of Fever-Tree Gin and recommended it to me when I was having some Dingle Gin. Local! I loved the story and their pitch “if three quarters of your G&T is the tonic, wouldn’t you want it to be the best? “ So they went around the world getting the best natural ingredients. Then the bit I really loved – they targeted the best restaurants and best hotel bars who they probably knew would love to get something of this quality to pass on to their customers.

Sourcing local well reared meats, well caught fish, well grown veg is a big thing for this restaurant and some of the best ones around. Every piece of a meal has an origin story. You see and are told the work that goes in to presenting this to you. I remember at some point a desert was described where hot juice from apples was dropped into an ice bath to form little pure beads that was one minor part of the dish. Impressive.

The idea of owning and controlling the whole stack, like how Apple controls everything, both the hardware and the software but not just buying in the parts but dictating how the glass is made in the phones, designing their own chips to their spec, where the materials come from and having them made sometimes using machines they designed. Every single detail. I like that, compared to a fucking pickle on a stone I got in another Irish restaurant. Let the food speak for itself not go-faster-stripe bullshit. Shit coffee but the mugs were amazing yeah?

I see good restaurants do more and more of this as they have the swagger and purchasing power to do this even to the degree that the salt and pepper, the butters are special compared to what you’d normally get. Everything is examined to see can improvements be made. Teas and coffees were some of the last elements to be changed but this is changing. Special teas, bespoke roasted coffee blends. So coffee then…

It makes me think what can be improved in coffee and all the new intense-about-what-they-do coffee shops. I see all these coffee shops and some are roasting their own beans but yet you look at the milk and it’s the same milk that everyone else uses. We’re so lucky in Ireland that our milk is great. But I was wondering why the main element in most coffees is not consistent or being controlled more? To reuse Fever-Tree’s question: “if two thirds of your coffee is the milk, wouldn’t you want it to be the best? “

I remember being told how in LA bagel and pizza places would install special filters to mimic New York water that makes NY bagels the best. All to make sure everything is perfect. It wasn’t fully the water it seems though.

So what about the milk, what milk gives the best cappuccino, gives the best flat white? There is some research about milk with higher protein count and fat count giving a better taste. Yes yes soya milk and oat milk is popular too but people still go for ordinary milk in big amounts. Here’s the story of a crowd in the UK looking at this and like so much coffee culture, Australia has been looking into this for a much longer time.

Ireland of all countries should be at the cutting-edge of this, we produce great milk, cheese and anything dairy. We’re big into our bespoke dairy farms too so why not bespoke milk for our coffees that we seem to be consuming in bigger and bigger amounts? Start your milkers!

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The many (16) Rs of presentations

Wednesday, January 16th, 2019

I started off trying to put these tips into a form of a Mnemonic or Acronym but R started appearing a lot so I decided to go for all Rs instead. These are a randomly ordered list of tips for doing presentations, the before, during and after. Tag friends or share this to your network if you think it would be of interest.

Rehearse
A lot. Rehearse, a lot. You need to read your presentation out loud. Reading internally you go faster so you’ll get your timings wrong. Know your quarter mark, half and three quarter marks so you can judge your timings. Could you do the presentation without your slide deck?

Run throughs
I use my slide deck as prompts more than anything so I would run through a presentation non-verbally 30-40 times and out loud 10-20 times. At least. Full run-throughs are needed. I don’t like the sound of my voice so I don’t record myself, I know of others that do though.

Research
You need to agree on the topic and how they see the talk/presentation going, research who asked you to give the talk and what their goal is (they do not want to be the person who hired that crazy guy who said their industry is dead), the audience and specifics to all of those e.g. relevant case studies.

Relevant Examples
The easiest way people can remember/understand what you are going is compare your examples to something they already understand. “We’re Uber for plumbing jobs” “We’re Facebook for mothers”. Make sure your case studies, example are relevant to the audience you are talking to.

Reach
If you’ve done your research then your content needs to get the attention of the audience and retain their attention. Do you want to talk to 50 people or engage 50 people?.

Recycle
A totally fresh deck and a new talk is very exciting but iterating on things you’ve done can be better as you know that stuff backwards and being familiar helps to ground you. Saying that, you don’t want to be like that guy that used the same case study for 3 years in his slidedeck for every talk that he gave. When your audience can give the talk you gave, why do they need you?

Real audience
You can also test this work on a real but different audience before the main presentation by testing with smaller more informal audiences. Offer to give a talk at another event such as a BarCamp or one of the million TEDx talks that are always happening. To reference Jerry Seinfeld again and the documentary Comedian, he live tested the hell out of just a few jokes nonstop until he got it right.

Remove excess
Cut cut cut, cut all bits that slow you down. Too much is bad, if you have too little you can flesh it out on the fly but you don’t want to end up only half way done when your time expires.

Room + Recce
It would be good to visit the location and the room beforehand to get a feel for the place, if not, you can get photos taken by someone and/or have them fill out a checklist. So many times they tell you they have VGA and HDMI and when you get there you find out that the port has been damaged or works badly. A checklist isn’t a contract but it forces more onus on the venue to ensure it all works.

Respect the audience
Treat them like peers, talk to them like you are talking to a cousin at a family reunion. Don’t talk down to them, don’t try to bamboozle or mislead them. Share your talk/presentation like it is something wonderful you want them to know about.

Readables
I don’t like printing out my whole presentations plus most slides are image heavy and text light but I do hand out a summary sheet where people can add in their own notes.

For the live presentation:
Run through with the audience what you are going to say
Realise these points during the talk
Reflect with the audience on what you said

Repeat
Presentation went well? Do it again and again and again with more live audiences.

Reactive and Randomness
Be ready for something going wrong like the AV going, the wifi going, the projector going. Someone sharing a terrible opinion or wanting you to explain something that has nothing to do with the topic.

Review + Revise
Post event, review how you thought about it, solicit constructive feedback from others. Remember though that everyone has an opinion on how you should present but the audience is the best critic. If they didn’t seem engaged, if they weren’t looking to ask questions urgently, if nobody came up to you afterwards, rejig your presentation!

For sales of Apple Glasses, they need us to trust them with privacy

Friday, January 4th, 2019

Recording the Big Tech Show podcast with Adrian yesterday, I suggested maybe Apple’s big push to be our guardian of privacy and taking shots at Facebook was part of their strategy for their AR glasses that are definitely on the way. This was after Roisin Kiberd expressed horror that Google Glass wasn’t dead and buried in a lead box under 50 tonnes of concrete. (This is how I saw her horror).

The Google Glass blowback was instant and has never been forgotten. The design didn’t help with this boxy looking thing that a surgeon might wear on their face but the main thing was that it was always recording and people did not like that. Maybe it didn’t help that those wearing Google Glass were the stereotype of the creepy white guy watching you from the bushes outside your bedroom.

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Apple doesn’t comment on most societal things but they are going strong on privacy. Taking shots at Facebook though is their proxy for Google too. Google were smart about Android. They saw that Apple had a growing and eventual billion device platform that could influence search and the web itself. They were already paying billions to be the default search engine on iPhone and saw the traffic it was generating. Imagine if Apple switched to their own search engine and appls? So Google bought a phone operating system called Android, then they gave that software to any phone manufacturers and started making their own devices too. All those phones have Google apps that send traffic to Google and make Google ad revenue. That was fine but Google also started logging all you did on those phones and used that data to profile you. So Apple on the high end is selling €1300 “clean” phones and Android can be installed on €30 phones.

Android phones scoop up everything about you but Apple is making a lot of noise about the fact that your data on an iPhone stays on your phone and doesn’t phone home to Google/FBI/China etc. And Android allowed others to do the same. Everyone now assumes that Facebook logs everything and sucks up everything about you to their servers and uses that data to help advertisers run ads to you. If you want to bring out AR glasses then you are going to need to prime people that Apple glasses are going to respect privacy unlike those Google Glasses and whatever hardware device Facebook will try to build but will fail at.

Maybe Apple care a lot about privacy but if people will react badly to Apple Glasses then it will impact on them financially so technically Facebook and Google are a threat, not for their hardware they may make but because of all their privacy violations. In an age where so many people believe Facebook is listening in on you via your phones mic, it’s going to be a lot of work to convince people Apple are not recording people on Apple Glasses. I’m sure there’ll be a whole industry of people selling anti-glasses tech that you can wear, that you can install in a bar, that you can use to detect if you are being recorded. Most will probably be scammy. Then we’ll have the media stories of people with glasses being robbed, assaults, bad driving, people being assaulted because they were believed to be recording someone etc. etc. Or will Apple seed positive stories about the goodness of Apple Glasses? Not that they’d ever do that.

Recording the podcast was great, thanks for the invite Adrian. It’s always good to take part in a discussion with really smart people. Nice to meet Dr. Patricia Scanlon and Roisín Kiberd.

Update, look at what Apple did at CES

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#landscape #apple #privacy #ces

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Light Speed Marketing

Tuesday, February 13th, 2018

Everything Internet

You may be one of a large percentage of business people sick of hearing about the Internet, apps, mobile, digital marketing, social media and Twitter this and Tweedledee that. Consider the Internet though and how it really has changed business and how it has changed itself.

We started off 30 years ago with what was a way of computers to trade information with each other without geographical limitations. Born on top of the Internet soon after was the World Wide Web that brought around the idea of websites. We had websites for a while and then social media came along that added a social and personal level to the Web. Social Media sites on the Web and that sits on the Internet. Universes, galaxies and solar systems, in a way.

The speed of change is also increasing. 5 years ago nobody in Ireland used Facebook and today 80% of the population does. 5 years ago people used mobile phones to ring each other, today that’s the 3rd most common use of a mobile.

Here are some truths though: Good business always wins through whether you’re a Facebook fanatic or shun all forms of communication. If you supply good customer service, deliver value through price or high quality, people will have the inbuilt need to let others know about their amazing find. Us humans want to connect to people and the best connections are the ones built on sharing value. We will drive out of the way to buy something from someone for sometimes the simple truth that we think they’re nice.

The good will out, good business will out, it just takes time. What modern technology does is it speeds that up. From the speed of conversation to the speed of light. This month we’ll take a broad overview of what are the main areas in digital to look at and maybe in future articles we’ll get more in depth. Just one thing: Get over being afraid of this speed, reacting by bunkering down until it goes away won’t work. Change is the new “3rd generation business”.

In some areas of towns you have the legal sector, you have the financial sector, the food market sector and the retail sector and even amongst them you can have more specific sub-sectors. Like streets that do shoes only or formalwear. Like you’d go to a marketplace with high footfalls of the right type of customer, you’d go to marketplaces online that do the same thing.

There are millions of searches every day in Ireland alone and 90% of them are via Google. As a business, if you want to be found online through searches, you need to have a website or a webpage listing your details. The important thing to note is that most people won’t Google your business name, they Google products or services you offer. With that in mind a website should describe what you can offer, not information on your name and company history, keep that for the company history. Optimising your website for this type of person is known as Search Engine Optimisation (SEO).

A tool Google offers for free is called the Google Keyword Tool and it tells you in broad numbers how many people search for a certain term. So you can type in your company name e.g. Mulley Communications and it tells you how many people search for it. 10 to maybe 100 times more people will Google what your company does than who you are. Use the Google Keyword Tool to inform yourself on what words you should use to describe your offerings and you’ll get more and better quality website traffic.

As well as searching online (think of these people as the ones that go to a store looking for something specific “I want a can of blue metal paint”) there are those that are the “I’m just browsing” types, just looking around, not looking for anything in particular. Think of those that use Facebook as those types. They’re not looking for anything but something may entice them in their browsing.

With Facebook you can set up a Business Page that in a way is like a mini-website and it’s free. On it, you can let people know what you can offer. Be careful though as people on Facebook are not looking so if you bombard them with constant pitches for business, they’ll move on. A Facebook page should be seen like a media channel itself. Inform them of things/information they like and then point out things you also have for sale.

A very popular or maybe hyped space too is Twitter, a way of having public chats with people. each update or Tweet from you is slightly less space than the size of a text message. I consider Twitter to be like a networking event. It’s a lot of work, you have to be present at a networking event to get the value and you need to work the room. Again though, if you just pitch at people instead of building relationships and engaging in a genuine way with people, people will just walk away. To me, Twitter is the most work but can be of the most value as you build longer-term relationships with consumers or potential partners.

These three online marketplaces are mostly about business to consumer, one online marketplace for business to business is LinkedIn. Something that’s a mix of an online CV mixed with an online address book. LinkedIn is really good for building contacts and you can get a huge amount of leads into companies with LinkedIn.

Of all of these options I’d go Website optimisation, Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn in that order if you want to be in the consumer marketplace online. An hour into working on your website will pay off for months, an hour on Facebook for weeks and Twitter a few hours. For B2B go website and then LinkedIn.

An hour taken seriously with digital marketing in any of these areas though will have a positive and valuable impact on your business. Enjoy the lightspeed effect.

Amateurs and cowboys

Tuesday, February 6th, 2018

I wrote this a few years ago for the Cork Independent.

Amateurs and cowboys

Again and again in this column on digital marketing we have looked at all the new tools and techniques that allow anyone in an organisation to do digital marketing. A business can now do their own website optimisation and rank quite well in Google search results. The same business can create Facebook Pages and Twitter accounts and tweet away about the company’s offerings. Ads can be taken out with just a credit card and you can be advertising all over the web or in Facebook within minutes. The amateur class is becoming the default and doing quite a good job of it.

To quote the from the scholarly works of the great “Spiderman” – “With great power comes great responsibility”. With your amateur voice everywhere, you can be very amateur in front of a lot of people. As I write this I am looking at a business on Twitter, using their business name and they are engaing in a conversation with another business and basically suggesting their customers are stupid.

At the same time on Twitter people are giving out about the new TV ads from a biscuit company. 90% of the tweets about them are negative, if you go on to their Facebook Page it’s the same. With the way people are connected on Twitter and Facebook, others are joining in too, spreading the idea that the ads are awful to more people. Conversations are now happening offline with people asking people have they heard about these awful TV ads. All very one-sided.

It’s fantastic that for many tasks you don’t have to hire professional marketing or PR companies and can do it yourself but it doesn’t mean we should. There are some naturals out there when it comes to PR and Marketing who just don’t need professionals, they are already brilliant. We’re in the early days of social media where everyone is having a go at this, professionals and amateurs. For a while we’ll all get along/away with doing this. As the online crowd grows and matures we’re probably going to see new types of communications companies form in this space and offer their services though. This is good for those that want to use their services but also it should help up standards in social media.

PR and Marketing companies formed well after the industries they lived off were created and in the wild west of social media, it’ll be a while before it becomes more professional too. In the meantime we’ll have the amateurs having car crashes, saying things to a wide sphere when they didn’t realise it, slagging off their employer on Facebook or spamming people thinking it’s an ok thing to do. Even the companies with staff that are always on social media are still in the amateur stage and be aware of that if you are going to hire them. Lots of mistakes will happen but with them lots of lessons will be learned. Right now too we’re all more forgiving when these hiccups happen. So stick on the stetson, wear those boots and enjoy the unrestricted social media world before it becomes to mainstream and stale.

Me on Google Drive, Dropbox and Cloud Computing in 2008

Tuesday, January 30th, 2018

Also, I have CloudComputing.ie if you want to acquire it from me.
==
Sunday Tribune Jan 2008

At the recent Steve Jobs lovefest known as Macworld, a new super thin laptop was unveiled by Apple – the MacBook Air. While the laptop is just a piece of hardware, it revealed the future of how we will use computers and where we keep our data.

While it was expected Apple was going for a lightweight and thin laptop, many were surprised that the laptop didn’t contain a port to plug it into a computer network and didn’t contain an optical drive. Apple billed it as the thinnest laptop ever. While the Apple fans reacted like pavlov’s dog to the announcement, many others were sceptical and the scepticism grew over time. “We need to plug our laptops into our network.” said the sceptics. “Pfft, it has a wireless connection, connect to the network that way” said the fanboysandgirls. “Laptops still need a drive so you can load software on” added the naysayers and the fanmob pointed out that Apple provided software that allowed you to access the dvd or cd drive of any PC or Mac over a wireless network, once the software was installed. The laptop too doesn’t allow you to eject the battery, something many of us are used to doing if nothing else makes our computer shut off. This laptop was more like the iPod than ever before, a device which really doesn’t want you having a peek at what does on inside.

Apple was one of the first computer companies to drop the use of floppy drives and the rest of the computer world followed eventually. It now seems they think the CD and DVD drive are also dead. With the amount of data we use and store each day increasing drastically every day, even the CD isn’t capable of holding even a fraction of a percentage of our digital data and now too it seems that DVDs are the same. You’d think then that Apple would offer Bluray drives which can store much more on one disk. Apple though is probably thinking a few steps ahead. They now are kings when it comes to distributing music digitally. They’ve made the experience easy and cheap and they have now started to do the same with TV shows, movies and movie rentals. If your hard drive dies, Apple will even allow you to redownload your purchases, though sometimes it might take a little arguing. If Apple help impact on movie piracy by creating a better alternative, the studios and their bottom lines will be happy if media drives which allow the sharing of pirated media are obsolete, that too is a win. But what about moving our data?

A big switch will probably happen down the road thanks to Apple’s links with Google. Google’s CEO sits on the board of Apple and they have worked together on small projects but nothing substantial yet. There’s long been talk that Google will release their internal online storage system to the public. They already allow the public to store 6 gigabytes of email with their Gmail system and the upper limit increases every day, meaning most people will never fill their space. Google too are doing the same for Word, Excel and Powerpoint documents with another Google documents. Apple have very good backup and file-syncing software, so how long before there’ll be an option to backup to your online storage space while all your media goes to your iTunes Google backed storage space?

The MacBook Air is another step closer to what is now being billed “cloud” computing where our data will reside on servers, somewhere on the planet and very probably in Ireland judging by the amount of data centres being built here by Google, Amazon, Microsoft et al. Goodbye cables, scratched disks and virus infections and hello to total data portability. Once we have quality broadband of course.

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.