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The Robots Are Winning!

Jonathan Davies

Ex Machina has a literary awareness, evident in its allusions to Genesis, Prometheus, and other mythic predecessors, that enriches the familiar narrative. Among other things, there is the matter of the title. The word missing from the famous phrase to which it alludes is, of course, deus, “god”: the glaring omission only highlights further the question at the heart of this story, which is the biblical one: What is the relation of the creature to her creator? In this retelling of that old story, as in Genesis itself, the answer is not a happy one.

Ex_Machina is a great film and Daniel Mendelsohn's exploration of AI throughout literary and film history provides some thought-provoking context.

A Salute to Those Who Race

Jonathan Davies

Another end to a brilliant Formula 1 season and I am reminded of an equally brilliant BBC F1 video back from 2011. The images may have changed but the words still get the the core of why I (perhaps controversially) think Formula 1 is the best sport we have.

Microsoft’s Ambitious Cloud Storage Strategy — Partnering with their Compeititor

Jonathan Davies

Microsoft has been developing a really powerful cloud offering over the last few years. In essence, on the consumer / enterprise front, it wants to be the glue that links your online personas between whatever device you use, be it a PC, Android phone, iPad. And OneDrive, through Office 365 is a really important part of this offering.

Microsoft knows it’s lost the OS platform war, but there’s a potential for them to gain a strong foothold (if they haven’t already) in the cloud platform war.

So, it may seem strange that yesterday Microsoft announced close integration between Dropbox and Office 365.

For Dropbox, this looks like a win-win. They know that firms use Dropbox and that integration with the software that runs most of the files they save is going to reduce the friction for users.

Surely, this is going to dilute Microsoft’s strategy? Having to integrate with a competitor like Drobox might slow down feature roll outs?

However, Microsoft has two gains from this:

  1. This move stops Dropbox from partnering with anyone else, like Google. Microsoft with this deal is not giving any Dropbox users a reason to switch productivity tools.
  2. Short term, Office 365 integration with Dropbox is going to focus a lot of eyeballs on the potential for OneDrive — with unlimited storage. I can see an accountant looking at the fact that a firm pays for both a Dropbox Business plan and an Office 365 plan which contains equivilent features and ditching the former.

For this to work, Microsoft has to have a better product, which is why it’s great that they have the confidence to make such a deal. This is really Microsoft’s core comptency and with the resources at their disposal I do wonder if medium term we’re going to see some customer leakage from Dropbox.

Native Advertising

Jonathan Davies

John Oliver calls out the madness of 'native advertising' where brands effectively commission or write articles that are formatted like editorial content. It shows how desperate organisations are becoming to create revenue online, but I wonder whether we'll soon see some consumer backlash that might end up damaging the brands that participate in these programs.

Jonathan Davies

Corporate identity, just like personal identity, is neither how one looks, nor what one wants to be, but rather what one is perceived to be.
— Oliver Reichenstein (Interview with Offscreen Magazine)

Marketers Beware - Don't Hijack Nascent Social Networks

Jonathan Davies

Traditional businesses were slow on the uptake when it came to leveraging Twitter and Facebook. The primary reason being that the resources simply hadn't been allocated to invest in social media. Today, however, that obviously isn't an option. A lot of businesses of varying sizes have dedicated community managers with a budget and a whole lot of time to take advantage of social interactions on the web.

This has resulted in an interesting trend - firms are not waiting for social networks to become popular; they're not going to take any chances when it comes to potentially missing the boat.

The problem with, however, is that what allowed Twitter and Facebook to become so popular is that they were so focused on relationships and connecting people - not maximising brand awareness!

Case and point - Jelly. A new question-answer based social network founded by Biz Stone (formally of Twitter).

It took only a few days before big brands such as GE, Ben & Jerry's, CNBC and others started asking questions. Don't get me wrong, they're the sort of questions - 'engaging', 'community-building', 'dialogue, not monologue' - that my lecturers at University impress on me as being vital.

But this lacks context, because if the ratio of brand related questions outweighs the genuine community then it's not going to take too long before any type of consumer - let alone the early adopter, geek, realises that they're just adding to a firm's brand metrics. This may have occurred with Jelly

Companies need to understand where they sit in the social media landscape and not jump onboard every opportunity that pops up or risk hurting the growth that they themselves are trying to capitalise on.

Dogfight

Jonathan Davies

I've just finished 'Dogfight' by Fred Vogelstein. It's an interesting book, and I primarily purchased it in order to get some insight into the creation of the original iPhone and the early development of Android. The first few chapters focus on this and then tails off into a description of events that is fairly irrelevant to anyone who follows the tech press.

Here's a quote from an Apple employee about the iPhone's development:

"He [Jobs] loved to setup a division. But it was a big fuck you to the people who couldn't get in. Everyone knows who the rockstars are in the company".

It really harkens back to the original Macintosh days. What's so interesting about this approach is that it goes against a lot of the public messaging that Apple puts out. Apple is meant to be a cohesive firm that works towards a common goal with a single bottom line. But instead Apple decided to seclude them from the rest of the organisation in the name of secrecy.

Likewise, the software and hardware development for the phone was split. Each group couldn't see the other's work. Would the iPhone have been a better product if the software and hardware teams had worked closer together? On the face of it, probably yes -- it's called synergy.

But of course, operations is only one part of the organisational triangle, marketing and finance has a lot to say. Keeping the product secret is massively important for Apple in order to generate the necessary buzz. This leads to one of the key issues with projects within organisations:

How do you balance the needs of the project with the organisational goals?

Apple's reasoning seems pretty clear. You want the best people in the company, so we'll take them, and then we don't want any information leaking out to spoil the surprise, so we'll separate the project in two. You could definitely argue at the time that this is putting the needs of the project before the organisation.

Today though, you could argue that the iPhone project helped define the organisational goals for the next decade. In other words; Apple took a gamble and it paid off. The Mac didn't loose out because of the talent  migration and the iPod only declined because they cannibalised it so successfully with iOS devices.