Iâve always been surprised when I see Google or Facebook appear on any âtop brandsâ lists. Itâs branding 101 that a strong brand must have loyalty, awareness, positive associations, perceived quality, as well as proprietary assets, based on the model from David Aaker, and implicit in this, I always thought, was trust. You can neither be loyal to something you donât trust, nor can you have positive brand associations toward it, nor perceive an untrustworthy thing to possess quality. According to a survey from a consultancy, Prophet, which looked at over 400 brands across 27 industries, polling nearly 10,000 customers, we donât trust either Google or Facebook. Neither makes it into the top 50; those that make it into the top 10 are Apple, Samsung, Microsoft, Netflix, Nike, Chick-fil-A, Amazon, Spotify, Lego, and Sephora. Google slots in at 55th, and Facebook at 98th.
To me, the Prophet approach makes far more sense, as for yearsâlong before Edward Snowden revealed the extent of us surveillance under PRISMâI had been blogging about privacy gaffes and other serious issues behind both companies.
People may find Google and Facebook to have utility and enjoyment, yet we willingly volunteer plenty of private information to these sites. We do not trust what they do with this information. Adweek notes that in a separate survey, Facebook was the least trusted brand when it came to personal information, making it worse than the US federal government. There have been so many occasions where users have found certain privacy settings on Facebook altered without their own intervention; and Iâve constantly maintained that, with the bots and spammers I encounter daily on the social network, its claims of user numbers are difficult to accept. In fact, if you have Facebookâs advertising preferences set to reject tracking, the site will not stop doing so, compiling a massive and sometimes inaccurate picture of who you are. What it does with that, given that you have told the site that it should not use that information, is anyoneâs guess. It makes you wonder why that data collection continues. At least Google (now) stops tracking advertising prefÂerences when you ask it to.
These surveys indicate that consumers are wising up, and it opens both Google and FaceÂbook up to challenge.
Google dethroned the biggest website and search engine in the world when it was released, so no oneâs position is guaranteed. Duck Duck Go, a search engine far better at privacy, has chipped away at Googleâs share; and I find so much Facebook fatigue out there that it could follow Myspace into irrelevance. When I hear those speak of these two companiesâ positions as being unassailable, I take it with a grain of salt.
We already have seen peak Facebook (and Twitter, for that matter), for when it came to Super Bowl stats this year, there was a massive 25 per cent drop in activity. Interestingly, despite the trending #RIPTwitter hashtag last week, I don’t agree with those who think Twitter is heading into oblivion, for the simple fact that the site is less invasive and seemingly more honest than Google and Facebook. Those same experts, after all, said that Google Plus would be the Facebook-killer, while I consistently disagreed from day one.
The Medinge Group predicted correctly in the early 2000s when it was stated that consumers would desire greater integrity and transparency from all their brands, something reflected in our book, Beyond Branding. I donât believe that we are so different when it comes to dealing with online brands.
In the last 24 hours, author Holly Jahangiri found an illustration depicting child pornography on Facebook that had been reported by many of her friendsâonly for Facebook to deem it constantly acceptable, despite what it states in its own terms and conditions. It was only when she Tweeted about it that Facebook finally responded publicly; and only when she involved a US government agency did the page disappear. The pressure of accountability like that against dishonest companies tells me Twitter will be around for a while yet.
@facebook apparently, hardcore digital kiddie porn doesn't bother you at all. In spite of this section in your "Community Standards."
I can be staunch on IP protection in a lot of casesâbut in the case of Martin Shkreli of Turing Pharmaceuticals AG hiking the price of an Aids drug from $13Â·50 to $750 per pill, not so much (for obvious reasons). If youâre in pharmaceuticals, then there has to be some element of wanting to benefit enough of humankind so that they can be, well, alive to better societyâor, if you want to be monetarist about it, so they can consume more products and services. Whichever side of politics youâre on, productive people are a good thing for everyone except the armsâ industry. Yet the pharmaceutical industry is the one thatâs trying to patent natural ingredients and phenomenaâand thatâs a step too far. It was something we were taught at law school that could not happenâhow can a corporation own nature?âso for the industry to challenge both that jurisprudence smacks of greed. If you didnât originate it, you shouldnât be able to own it. Even if it could be protected, nature has been around long enough for that protection to have lapsed. Patenting genes? Please.
Sure, everyone has the right to make a buck from intellectual endeavours, but their track record needs to be a lot cleaner. Why was there so much opposition to TPPA et al? Because there had been far too many cases of corporations taking the piss when it came to basic rights and established laws, and governments havenât upped their game sufficiently. I love the idea of global trade, the notion âweâre all in this togetherâ, but not at the expense of the welfare of fellow human beings. Simply, I give a shit. Hiking the price of something that costs $13Â·50 to $750 is laziness at the very leastâletâs profit without lifting a fingerâand being a douchebag at the worst. And I donât believe we should reward either of these things.
I have a friend who is against vaccinationsânot a position I agree withâbut his rationale boils down to his mistrust of Big Pharma. And why should he trust them, with these among their worst cases? (As far as I know, he doesnât oppose other forms of IP protection.) Somewhere, thereâs something that kicks off various positions, and corporate misbehaviour must fuel plenty.
Meanwhile, hereâs Martin Shkreliâs point of view, where he doesnât see his actions as wrongful, as told on Tinder, and as told by Yahoo. His view is that Turing isnât making a profit and he needs to find ways where it does. He has a duty to his shareholders. It seems incredibly short-termâone would hope that innovation is what turns around a pharmaceuticalsâ businessâand we come back to the notion that it all feels a bit lazy.
As promised to the MMBA 505 class at Victoria University of Wellington last night, here are my slides. My thanks to Dr Kala Retna for inviting me along as the guest speaker. To the students: thank you for attending at such a late hour. MBAs are hard work.
I just realized I used to have a whole page of downloadable slides, which I believe we removed when we redid the site for the 2013 Wellington mayoral election. It might be time to reinstate the page with the presentations I’ve been doing here and abroad. Thoughts on Leadership is probably self-explanatory as a title, with my main five points being:
1. Be the first.
2. Prove something can be done when conventional wisdom says it canât be.
3. Change the world for the better.
4. Break glass ceilings wherever you can find them.
5. Find the people who understand your vision.
The first four tend to be the “rules” that have guided me, while the fifth is one I had to learn the hard way some years ago, and can retitled: ‘Find the people who understand your vision and don’t get suckered by those who spout buzzwords.’ As a firm we tend to be a bit more of a closed shop than we used to be, and like any other, we get our share of fakes trying to ride off our coat-tails. Lucire seems to attract quite a few, in particular, which is what the fifth point addresses in some part.
For a bit of levity after the academic stuff, there’s always this great podcast by Mike Riversdale and Raj Khushal, published today with me as their guest, as part of their ongoing Access Granted series. Only a little bit has been cut for commercial sensitivity, and the rest is a bit of light-hearted banterâthe sort you’d have between mates, and I have known Mike and Raj for many yearsâwith no hair-pulling.
The Cooler Master Storm Quick Fire TK, with white case.
On Tuesday, my Manhattan keyboard, for which I gave a glowing review on Amazon, gave up the ghost. Iâm not entirely sure why but through its lifetime, there were two things wrong with it: the first was that regular typing wore off the keys’ markings (not an issue since I touch-type, and they were in Arial, so it was a pleasure to see them gone); and the wiring was conking out, as it would disconnect itself from the USB for about five seconds a day.
I tend to buy these things based on their practical value, and Iâve gone through my history of finding the right keyboard elsewhere. However, on Tuesday, I found myself needing one pretty quick smart.
Now, I could have moved another keyboard from one of the less utilized machines, but, faced with the prospect of finishing a book chapter this weekend, I didnât savour the prospect of typing on a membrane keyboard. Sadly, those are all that are left here, other than the scissor-switch one on my Asus laptop.
As I headed out to town, there werenât many alternatives. I looked in the usual places, such as Dick Smith and NoĂ«l Leeming, knowing that they wouldnât have what I sought: a decent keyboard operated on scissor-switches, that was a maximum of 16 inches wide. (I can tolerate maybe an other half-inch on top of that at a pinch.) If anything, I only popped by these stores because they were en route from the Railway Station into town and I was using public transport that day. But, if there was a fluke and there was something that was the equivalent of the dead Manhattan, I probably would have got it.
To save you clicking through to the old post, I dislike reaching for a mouse (and I’m getting progressively fussier with those, too), and the 16-inch width is something I found I was comfortable with after years of typing. I also need a numeric keypad since I type in European languages, and Windows wants you to use the numeric keypad, unlike Mac.
I visited Matthew Sew Hoy at Atech Computers on Wakefield Street. He knew my plight because I had told him on previous visits: thatâs the beauty of going to a smaller store and getting personal service. He remembered the story instantly. And he had just the thing: a mechanical keyboard for about 10 times the price of the old Manhattan.
I have long been a fan of the Cooler Master Storm Quick Fire TK, which suits my requirements to a T. The trouble always was the price: I have seen them go for over NZ$200, and Iâve toyed with bringing one in on a business trip. However, Atech had two, starting from NZ$160.
Over the years I had eyed the TK with Cherry MX Blue switches: the clicky ones. My Pinterest is full of blue-switch compact keyboards. This was familiar territory to me, and probably most people who are my age and up. Keyboards should make a little click noise as the keys are depressed: thatâs the mechanical switch getting activated. This is the reason mechanical keyboards cost more: modern ones, the $20 variety you see at Dick Smith, donât have individual switches underneath each key. They only have a sheet with a printed circuit and contacts underneath, sending electronic signals to the computer. This makes it wonderful for keyboard manufacturers, who can churn these out at low cost, but the typing experience is less than satisfactory, especially if you type a lot.
Sadly, and this is a consequence of living in a small country, Matthew only had the TK with Cherry MX Brown switches, which need medium force without returning the satisfying click. However, to use, in terms of the strokes and strength needed, it would be roughly the same. I sampled it at the shop, decided it was worth splashing out, and bought it.
For such an expensive device, the first one he sold me had a fault. The left shift key and the virgule (slash) both thought they were question marks, and the keyboard had to be returned. Matthew swapped it for the other keyboard, which initially was more expensive, without charging me the difference. Iâm now the proud owner of a Cooler Master Quick Fire TK in white, with Cherry MX Brown switches, and itâs not quite the combination I had planned on when spending so much on a keyboard.
But how is it to use? Iâll admit I still look somewhat enviously on those who bought their TKs abroad and managed to get them with blue switches, but I am definitely faster typing on the new one. And that is a good thing when you need for your typing to keep up with your thoughts. Iâve finished off more emails this week than I had done in a while.
I am frustrated with the odd typo I make and I wonder if this is to do with the lack of familiarity. Because I touch-type, I am hitting the u and the i together on occasion, or the full stop and comma together, and making similar mistakes, and I donât recall doing that quite as often on the Manhattan. Iâm sure these keyboards differ in their positioning by a millimetre or two, leading to these errors.
The unit is also higher than the very slim Manhattan, which means my wrists are raised. I havenât found a position where they are as comfortable as they were with the previous keyboard, and the wrist rest itself is too low relative to the TK to make any difference. That is proving a problem.
The reason for the height, presumably, is for the feature I donât need: illuminated keys. Iâm not a gamer and Iâm not typing in the dark. However, for those who use their TKs for such purposes, I can see how they would be ideal. To fit in the lights beneath, I imagine the designers had to raise the entire keyboard by a few millimetres, making it less comfortable to type on.
The final negative to the keyboard, and one which I knew I would confront, is how the numeric keypad and the cursor keys are all together. You have to take Num Lock off in order to get the cursor keys to work, much like in the old days of the early IBM PC compatibles. This has slowed me down as I switch between modes.
In this respect, I have travelled back to when I began using IBM compatibles in the late 1980s and early 1990s. Back then, the keyboards were mechanical and the cursor and numeric keypads were all in one lot, and thereâs a certain retro charm to this arrangement. Without the clicking noises, it reminds me of the mechanical switches on my first microcomputer: the Commodore 64. I really have gone back to the future, appropriate in a year when Claudia Wells (the original Jennifer Parker before she morphed into Elisabeth Shue) has been Tweeting about Lucire.
I may be one of the few non-gamers to have invested in a TK, with typing efficiency and practicality as my main aims. When I posted pictures of it on my Instagram, I received plaudits from other serious gamers and geeks with expensive computers, calling me âDudeâ and making me feel very welcome as a fellow TK owner. Looking online, the white case is a rare one, so I wound up unwittingly with a keyboard that is slightly more cool than the everyday black one. I sense that Matthew prefers the white one as well, and that I didn’t know how lucky I was (although I am very grateful to him for knocking the price down and giving it to me as a direct replacement).
Where does this leave me? I have a decent enough keyboard which is efficient for the most part, and from which I can expect a far longer life than the Manhattan (Cooler Master reckons each key is good for 50 million hits, five times longer than on the Manhattan, and ten times longer than on any membrane keyboard). I no longer put up with five-second daily outages. The way the keys are designed, I wonât have to worry about the markings coming off (the glyphs are etched). I have multimedia controls from the function keys, which are a bonus, and one reason I liked the old Genius scissor-switch keyboard that got me on this path to finding the right unit. As I type, I ponder whether I should invest in a higher wrist rest, or whether my seating position needs to change to cope with the higher keyboard. I imagine that as my fingers adjust to the minute differences, I can only get faster with my touch-typing, and Iâm looking forward to the efficiency gains. But, there are those Cherry MX Blues on Amazon. The grass might look greener there, but apparently the white case puts me up there with the ĂŒber-gamers and the cool geeks.
PS.: As of 11.28 a.m. GMT, eight hours after the post below, Facebook has put its normal reporting options back.âJY
Facebook appears to be giving up on the bot fight. As of today, you can no longer mark an account as a fake one: the closest option is to say that it is using a false name (an entirely different reason, in my opinion).
Facebook also now doesn’t want to hear from you if that is the case. You are expected to advise the bot (!) of your concern, or block it (which isn’t very helpful if you are running groups).
And I thought the 40-per-day limit was bad.
On Twitter, it was pointed out to me that I shouldn’t care, because Facebook is smart enough to figure out which are bots.
That’s actually not true: Facebook isn’t smart enough. Of the accounts I reported in the last month, Facebook allowed a handful to remain. When I urged them to look again, they then told me they had reconsidered and accepted that I was right. The accounts were then deleted.
Basically, without human intervention, Facebook actually has no wayâunless, I imagine, it spots a bot net using the same IP addressâof knowing where to start.
When you add this to the fact that Facebook uses click farms, it’s not a very rosy picture for anyone who needs to use the platform for marketing. You’re going to get fake likes and spam because of these bots and bot nets.
Yet Facebook gets a lot of things right. They remain responsive on legal issues, in particular. I’d like to see them get this part right.
Last year, the bot activity peaked in the last quarter of 2014, when I encountered my personal record of 277 per day. It’s been a several a day for most of 2015 but they are on the rise again.
By reporting, hopefully the Facebook boffins can see the patterns of new bots (they do change their MOs from time to time) and guard against them for other users.
We could, of course, allow the bots to spam and impersonate people (the latter is also on the rise, just in the last week, when two of my friends became victims) and Facebook can deal to them ex post facto, which I accept is one way with not too many down sides.
Nevertheless, I think it’s irresponsible to ignore the bots, given that they affect all businesses. I also reckon we’re doing Facebook a favour by keeping its platform as clean as possible. If I were being selfish about it, I see real potential of them harming my own businesses with fake likes, undermining engagement. It’s part of modern life: if you work on Facebook, or any part of your business relies on Facebook, you should be concerned.
In 2009, I saw Vox go down, at a time when bots overran the system. I can’t make a causal link because I don’t have enough inside knowledge, but I do know that in my last year on that platform, I could not post (or, rather, I had to wait days for a compose window rather than milliseconds). Others were encountering some interesting bugs, too: one user had to switch browsers just to use it.
The symptoms are there: bots, fatigue over the platform, and now, a company that really can’t be arsed to hear from you when things are going south.
One computer expert has told me that the Facebook set-up is far more robust than Vox ever was, and I accept that, but at the same time I don’t believe the regular outages over the last 12 months are a coincidence.
Email is still surviving despite the fact that majority of messages are spam, so the “ignore them” camp has a point.
But you know me: if people ignored all the bad stuff going on, we wouldn’t have known Google was lying to people over Ads Preferences Manager and snooping on Iphones. And, on a wider scale on the internet, no one would have heard of Edward Snowden or Glenn Greenwald, or, locally, Nicky Hager, the man who a Labour politician called a conspiracy theorist, before a later National politician called a conspiracy theorist. I’d rather keep the pressure up, even if the matter is minor.
On that note, it’s time to work on a response to a proposed WCC traffic resolution. It might affect 14 households, but it’s still worth doing.
I’ve gone into the reasons I support ânet neutrality elsewhere, but it was nice to hear about this on the wireless:
even though we still don’t know the specifics, as the FCC has kept this to itself for now. (We do know that Google has written a letter to the FCC, and that ‘an entire core part of the document was removed with respect to broadband subscriber access service,’ according to dissenting commissioner Ajit Pai.)
While I knew Comcast had spent tens of crore lobbying against ânet neutrality, the rest may surprise you. According to SumofUs.org (emphasis added):
Just six months ago, we were facing staggering odds. Big corporations like US cable TV giant Comcast had spent more than $750 million lobbying for a corporate-controlled Internet. Google, the biggest lobby in the industry, was refusing to speak up. The FCC chair Tom Wheeler, a former Big Cable lobbyist, was hostile to Net Neutrality.
You’d think that Google would want to keep its squeaky-clean good-guy image up, but not speaking up seems to support Julian Assange’s allegations that the firm is a âprivatized NSAâ, becoming increasingly militarized. Gordon Kelly in Forbes goes so far as saying that Microsoft and Google have swapped places, with Google now the old-school establishment firm trying to defend the good old days.
This highlights even more the importance to keep the ânet neutral, away from some of these larger firms whose mandate is, at best, uncertain and, at worst, unethical. When you think about innovations, including some of the websites we use today regularly, many were started by the little guy, and I’d like to see more of what independent minds come up with. (Facebook was one; Duck Duck Go was another.) Keeping the internet neutral in the US for all playersâand that includes New Zealanders selling their wares thereâis a good thing.
And if you needed a reminder, here is perhaps the most widely seen argument for ânet neutrality of them all in 2014:
I contacted Auckland Airport through its Facebook on Tuesday over the matter in my previous post, and got an immediate reply from someone monitoring its social media. She tells me that she will ask them to furnish me with an urgent response. I am still waiting. It’s a bit of a worry when this is an airport’s definition of urgent. If your plane is three days late, don’t worry.
Maybe I am very behind the times when it comes to Auckland. After all, this is the biggest city in the nation and its conventions must drive the rest of the place. I began seeing a lot of red-light runners there some years back, and this novel custom has made it down to Wellington now, where we are ignoring red lights with increasing frequency. Dunedin, watch out: we’ll be exporting it your way soon, as it is the new way of doing things. My Auckland friends all kid me when I observe the no-intersection-block rule from the road code: ‘Ha ha, we can tell you’re from Wellington.’ Get with the programme, Jack: the road code is optional.
Today, I was asked by one Auckland-based organization about whether I attended an event or not in May, which had a cost of NZ$30, and this was, naturally, overdue.
I donât understand why this organization fails to keep records of who attends its events. But apparently this failure is my fault.
I responded, âI don’t recall if I attended but I can tell you that I never received an invoice.â
Their response, âAs per below, I note an invoice was sent to you on the 19 June 2014.â
I never received it. And I can prove I never received it.
It is not my fault that they use MYOB and, from an earlier experience, they have trouble sending overseas, where our server is located. It is not my fault that their (and presumably, others’) DNS servers in New Zealand are woefully behind the timesâsomething else we already know. Do they seriously think I would hold back $30?
My response: âI’ve attached a screen shot of the emails that arrived around that period with attachments. This is the first Iâve seen of your invoice.
âI see your invoice is generated by MYOB. From what I understand, their server does not resolve some email addresses outside New Zealand correctly, so that will explain why it has never arrived.â
Now, folks, remember the modern custom is never to take the other party at their word, and fire back something where they can visualize you are sitting on a much higher horse.
Always believe in the superiority of your technology over the word of a human being, because computers are perfect. We know this from Google, because Google is honest and perfect.
This will ensure greater stress, because remember, stress shared is stress doubled, and we can all get on the Auckland bandwagon.
Incidentally, I have offered to pay because I support the principles of this organization. I realize they could forward invoices willy-nilly to people, but I am going to give them the benefit of the doubt. We’re nice like that in Wellington. I’m such a sucker, keeping those intersections clear and stopping at red lights. How very quaint of me.
The above was the most sarcastic blog post I have ever written, so no, I don’t believe Auckland has a monopoly on this behaviour.
Recently, however, I’ve been wondering what’s the etiquette when you receive a bit of bad news.
I had received some from Hastings recently, and my response was along the lines of, ‘I quite understand. All the best to you,’ albeit with a bit more embellishment.
I did not know of the context to this person’s change of heart, and there was no point to force the issue when a decision had been made.
I found myself on the other end recently when a very good friend asked me to help a friend of hers (in Wellington). I initially was enthusiasticâtill it dawned on me that if I took on yet another company in a mentoring role, it would be very unfair on two that I was already helping, one of which was a recent client at Business Mentors New Zealand.
That time really should go to people who are earlier in the queue, and I had to draw the line.
I wrote back, explaining the above in as polite a fashion as I could.
I haven’t heard back. This could be due to an email issue, which is always possible, or the silence is intentional. Given that prior emails were working, then I’m going to lean toward the latter, but without shutting my mind to the former.
Would you reply? I’d like to think that one’s paths could cross again within our very small nation, and you may as well keep the blood warm. Or should we not waste our time, given that that one further email really is of no practical, immediate purpose, and it’s implied, within our very casual, laid-back country, that “it’s all good”?
In the meantime, I got in a submission for the Countering Terrorist Fighters Legislation Bill. As it was under urgency, and I only finished reading the bill after 11 p.m., after getting back and eating dinner late, it’s not the best submission I’ve done (and probably the briefest). However, I was somewhat buoyed to discover the following day that my concerns were the same as those of former GCSB head, Sir Bruce Ferguson. Rest assured my day is not spent pondering the etiquette of modern electronic correspondence.