Companies, like people, don’t change

Not a month goes by when we hear about another snafu or scandal about Facebook and Uber. And each time I wonder if they will change. It seems both these companies are genetically pre-programmed to obey what their DNA tells them — unfettered growth without consequences. And which makes me wonder, can companies change? Or the culture a company starts with becomes its defining characteristic. Here are my thoughts. Continue reading "Companies, like people, don’t change"

“Fake Followers” are “Social Spam”

Just about 12 years ago, at a costume party hosted by Ruby Red Labs in the SOMA district of San Francisco, I got a chance to talk to one of the now-forgotten founders of Twitter, Noah Glass. He showed me Twitter (or Twttr as it was known back then). I tried it and must have liked it because I went home (admittedly just a few blocks away) and in a slightly inebriated state wrote about the product and Twitter was launched. It is perhaps why I retain a lot of affection for the product, and its co-founders. I am not shy about expressing my displeasure, but in general, Twitter has been a great little addition to my life. And perhaps that is why I was pleased to learn on my twelfth anniversary of using Twitter (which reminded me of that, obviously) I lost 200,000 followers. I was part of the big fake account and bot purge that Twitter has recently embarked on. The New York Times says that there are about 48 million active users are what it calls “automated accounts designed to simulate real people.) As The New York Times noted — Oprah ( down 1.4 million), Ellen (down 2 million), Justin Bieber (down over 3 million) and Kim Kardashian (down 3 percent) — lost many more. I would be happy to lose half or even more of my followers if that means cleaning up the service, increasing the signal and dampening the noise. I think the challenge for social platforms like Twitter is that real engagement is being drowned by the noise in the system – fake accounts and bots.  Continue reading "“Fake Followers” are “Social Spam”"

BitCoin & Energy Usage

…the current global power consumption for the servers that run bitcoin’s software is a minimum of 2.55 gigawatts (GW), which amounts to energy consumption of 22 terawatt-hours (TWh) per year—almost the same as Ireland. Google, by comparison, used 5.7 TWh worldwide in 2015.

If the cryptocurrency were to stay at its recent price of $8,000, power usage of the bitcoin network would peak at 7.67 gigawatts (67 terrawatt hours of energy on an annual basis, or one-fifth of Britain’s energy use).

App Store At 10

Apple App Store 10th anniversary 07102018 big 1 gif large 2x Apple’s App Store turned 10. If you remember Walter Isaacson’s book on Steve Jobs, then you would remember Steve wasn’t a fan of the idea of an app store. An enthusiast community saw an opportunity, released a cracked iOS and an app store for independent apps. Very few developers were on board for the web apps, that Apple was pushing. Instead it was a bunch of renegades who thought App Store was needed. They called it iOS jailbreaking. By the way, our friend Ben Schachter of Macquarie Research points out that “99.9% of all apps in the App Store have earned less than $1 million,” and that ” In 2017 iPhone Apps were 84% of total sales,” with iPad getting the rest.   App store’s tenth anniversary is a timely reminder that enthusiasts — derisively labeled fanboys — help turn companies into cultural movements. Twitter, as it does a Continue reading "App Store At 10"

I don’t want my Financial TV

Fox Business News is beating the crap out of CNBC.
  • In 2Q 2018, Bartiromo’s Mornings led Squawk Box among total viewers, 109,000 to 104,000
  • FBN grew … beating CNBC by 23% (203,000 total viewers compared with CNBC’s 165,000).
  • Among viewers 25-54, the demographic most coveted by advertisers, CNBC finished ahead of Fox Business in the second quarter, with 31,000 viewers to FBN’s 25,000
  • Lou Dobbs Tonight, which won among total viewers (319,000) and among viewers 25-54 (36,000)
In reality, these numbers are so small and irrelevant that I wonder if anyone wants the so-called financial TV. It is mostly vanity television — only for business leaders to get on tv. From an advertiser perspective, YouTube, Instagram, Facebook and other places offer more finely tuned audiences for much lower prices. In the plus column, these puny sized numbers should be a big boost for (former Buzzfeed President) Jon Steinberg and his Cheddar, Continue reading "I don’t want my Financial TV"

Guest Posts Gone Wild

Buzzfeed is reporting that one single contributor who wrote 700 articles for Forbes and 300 for Entrepreneur magazine, has been charging brands to mention their names in his articles. It is yet another posts-payola scheme.
BuzzFeed News also obtained an email pitch from an AudienceBloom employee to a potential client in which he offered the ability for them to review an article with a brand mention before it was published. The pitch said a mention with a link back in a “premium tier” publication like Mashable would cost between $1,200 and $2,000.
In December 2017, Outline reported that “publications such as Mashable, Entrepreneur, Business Insider, Huffington Post and Forbes, wherein freelance writers were taking payments in exchange for favorable coverage.” It happens with such regularity — especially at Forbes and Entrepreneur — that I usually ignore everything these publications offer. And when someone sends me a link about themselves (or one of their articles), I make it a point to not take them seriously in the future. Continue reading "Guest Posts Gone Wild"

Does Silicon Valley have a conscience?

Silicon Valley’s recruiting pitch has long been: Work with us to change the world. Employees are encouraged to make their work life synonymous with their social identity, and many internalize those utopian ideals. “People who signed up to be tech heroes don’t want to be implicated in human rights abuses,” says a senior Google employee.

A close look at the emergence of employee dissent at big tech companies like Google, Amazon, and Microsoft over issues that matter to them. One notable omission: Facebook. Perhaps they think that their company is pristine, flawless.

Journalism Problem #1

Jill Abramson, former editor of The New York Times:
“From four years of teaching at Harvard, so many of my students are interested in journalism, but they mostly want to write first-person, highly personal narratives about themselves. That may reflect their age. But I think there’s too much of that in journalism. It’s not about us. It’s about the world, and covering the world.”

This has been my biggest gripe with the media establishment. Everything is about them, not about the news.

Past & Future

Politics, business, technology, innovation… past always tries to hold down the future. Every time I read an article about Brexit, dismissal of Tesla, or new ideas, it all boils down to our dogmas and collective memories coming in the way of the future. The past can be a great guide, but it can’t be our social destination. These days, the world seems dark at times, and as a result, I retreat into books, music, and art. Only art (including writing and blogging) allow you to remix the past and build the future. So much of our modern photography is influenced by those photos from a 100 years ago. And they were influenced by masters (painters) from before, and they got their inspiration from the giants of the Renaissance. HipHop is a remix. I don’t know whether future is good or bad, but keeping an open mind does make present pretty Continue reading "Past & Future"

What do YouTube, Instagram & GitHub have in common?

I have had a few days to think about Microsoft’s decision to buy GitHub for $7.5 billion and I am increasingly convinced that this is a good deal for Microsoft, as long as they don’t pull the same shenanigans they did with Skype. The acquisition makes a lot of sense, especially when you see it from the lens of two of the most successful “buys” of recent years. Continue reading "What do YouTube, Instagram & GitHub have in common?"

You know that thing called blogging

It has been almost ten days since I have been able to read properly. The bug I picked on my recent travels along with severe conjunctivitis turned out to be a forced vacation from screens. I am woefully behind on emails and also on my reading. And as usual, I caught up with some of my favorite bloggers, Dave Winer and John Gruber. And as I sped through their writing, it finally clicked. Continue reading "You know that thing called blogging"

Leica, ready to flip?

After five years of using Leica products, I can safely say that Leica does make fantastic products, and expensive as they might be, they are going to last what seems like a lifetime. I bought my Leica SL, about three years ago. It was so advanced and perfectly built that even today, I find it at par with recent competitive products. The lenses — especially the M class of lenses — cost a lot of money, but I am leaving those for my godchildren. In other words, the very qualities that make Leica products expensive, make it hard for the company to monetize their customer base. With overall camera market shrinking, thanks to the rise of computational photography, like all its rivals, Leica must see the writing on the wall. Continue reading "Leica, ready to flip?"

Junk

Our homes are filled with essentials (aka things we can’t live without), non-essentials (aka things that add comfort and enhance our daily life) and junk. In fact, most of our life is full of junk.
These are the artifacts we like—or, more accurately, think we like—but they don’t serve a purpose or bring us joy. The average American home contains more than 300,000 items, and most of it is junk. While this junk often masquerades as indispensable, it actually gets in the way of a more meaningful life.

It is jut not things. We have junk relationships, junk food, junk news and junk information. We also have too much junk. Over past three years, I have been slowly and slowly shedding stuff and finally as the clutter is starting to go away, I realize I have been crowding myself out of my own life.

Goodbye Anthony Bourdain

It has been six days since I got back from Iceland. And every single day has been spent in bed – dealing with conjunctivitis, cold, cough and fever. Despite all precautions, all sort of vitamins and even getting decent sleep. And yet, it has been a rough few days. Even though I have tried to keep up with work — thanks to Zoom video conference, I have fallen behind on my emails.  And if that was not enough, I have been devastated by the news of the suicide of Kate Spade, a designer who works were appreciated by millions of women around the world. But today, my world got a little darker. Anthony Bourdain, a chef and a food journalist I admired deeply committed suicide in France. His show Parts Unknown was the only show worth watching on CNN. I loved his previous travel shows as well. 
Continue reading "Goodbye Anthony Bourdain"

We are all trapped in the “Feed”

Every afternoon, during lunch, I open up YouTube, and I find myself marveling at the sheer dumbness of its recommendations. Despite having all this viewing data of mine, world’s second most popular search engine is dumb as a brick. It shows me propaganda channels from two ends of the political spectrum. It surfaces some inane celebrity videos. It dredges up the worst material for me — considering I usually like watch science videos, long conversations and interviews, and photography-focused educational videos. Continue reading "We are all trapped in the “Feed”"