Posts tagged ‘humanity’


Zuckerberg wants to fix Facebook: too little, too late

14.01.2018


WTF: welcome to Facebook. (Creative Commons photograph.)

Mark Zuckerberg’s promise to fix Facebook in 2018 is, in my opinion, too little, too late.
   However, since I ceased updating my Facebook profile last month, I’ve come across many people who tell me the only reason they stay on it is to keep in touch with family and friends, so Zuckerberg’s intention to refocus his site on that is the right thing to do. He’s also right to admit that Facebook has made ‘errors enforcing our policies and preventing misuse of our tools.’
   Interestingly, Facebook’s stock has fallen since his announcement, wiping milliards off Zuckerberg’s own fortune. Investors are likely nervous that this refocusing will hurt brands who pay to advertise on the platform, who might now reconsider using it. It’s a decidedly short-term outlook based on short-term memory, but that’s Wall Street for you. Come to think of it, that’s humanity for you.
   But let’s look at this a bit more dispassionately. Despite my no longer updating Facebook, I’m continuing to get a lot of friend requests. And those requests are coming from bots. Facebook hasn’t fixed its bot problem—far from it. This reached epidemic levels in 2014, and it’s continued in 2018—four years and one US presidential election later. As discussed earlier on this blog, Facebook has been found to have lied about user numbers: it claims more people in certain demographics than there are people. If its stock was to fall, that should have done it. But nothing happened: investors are keen to maintain delusions if it helps their interests. But it needs to be fixed.
   If Zuckerberg is sincere, Facebook also needs to fix its endless databasing issues and to come clean on its bogus malware warnings, forcing people to download “scanners” that are hidden on their computers. This should have hit the tech media but no one seems to have the guts to report on it. That’s not a huge deal, I suppose, since it has meant tens of thousands have come to my blog instead, but again, that was a big red flag that, if reported, should have had investors worried. And that needs to be fixed.
   Others I’ve discussed this with inform me that Facebook needs to do a far better job of removing porn, including kiddie porn, and if it weren’t for a lot of pressure, it tends to leave bullying and sexist comments up as well.
   All these things should have been sending signals to the investor community a long time ago, and as we’ve discussed at Medinge Group for many years, companies would be more accurately valued if we examined their contribution to humanity, and measuring the ingredients of branding and relationships with people. Sooner or later, the truth will out, and finance will follow what brand already knew. Facebook’s record on this front, especially when you consider how we at Medinge value brands and a company’s promise-keeping, has been astonishingly poor. People do not trust Facebook, and in my book: no trust means poor brand equity.
   But the notion that businesses will suddenly desert Facebook is an interesting one to me, because, frankly, Facebook has been a lousy referrer of traffic, and has been for years. We have little financial incentive to remain on the site for some of our ventures.
   Those of us with functioning memories will remember when Facebook killed the sharing from our fan pages by 90 per cent overnight some years ago. The aim was to get us to pay for sharing, and for many businesses, that worked.
   But it meant users who wanted to hear from these brands no longer did, and I believe that’s where the one of the first declines began.
   People support brands for many reasons but I’m willing to bet that their respective advertising budgets isn’t one of them. They follow them for their values and what they represent. Or they follow them for their products and services. Those who couldn’t afford to advertise, or opted to spend outside social media, lost a link with those users. And I believe users lost one of their reasons for remaining on Facebook, because their favourite brands were no longer showing up in their news feeds.
   (Instagram, incidentally, has the opposite problem: thanks to Facebook’s suspect profiling, users are being bombarded with promotions from companies they are not fans of; Instagram’s claim that they rely on Facebook’s ad preferences, and Facebook’s claim that you can opt out of these, are also highly questionable. I get that people should be shown ads from companies they could become fans of; but why annoy them to this extent? Instagram also tracks the IP where you are surfing from, and ignores the geographical location you freely give either Instagram or Facebook for advertising purposes.)
   What then surfaced in news feeds? Since Facebook became Digg, namely a repository of links (something I also said many years ago, long before the term ‘fake news’ was coined), feeds became littered with news articles (real and bogus) and people began to be “bubbled”, seeing things that supported their own world-views, because Facebook’s profiling sent those things to them. As T. S. Eliot once wrote, ‘Nothing pleases people more than to go on thinking what they have always thought, and at the same time imagine that they are thinking something new and daring: it combines the advantage of security and the delight of adventure.’
   This, as Facebook has discovered, was dangerous to democracy and entire groups—people have died because of it—and thinking people questioned whether there was much value staying on the site.
   From memory, and speaking for myself, Facebook probably had the balance of personal, brand and news right in 2010.
   But I doubt that even if Facebook were to go back to something like the turn of the decade, it will entice me back. It’s a thing of the past, something that might have been fun once, like Myspace. It didn’t take long to wean me off that.
   Even Zuckerberg notes that technology should decentralize and democratize, and that big tech has failed people on this front. I can foresee an attempt to decentralize Facebook, but with a caveat: they’ll want to continue gathering data on us as part of the deal. It’ll be an interesting gamble to take, unless it’s willing to give up its biggest asset: its claim to understanding individual profiles, even if many of its accounts aren’t human.
   To me, the brand is tarnished. Every measure we have at Medinge Group suggests to me Facebook is a poor corporate citizen, and it’s going to take not just a turnaround in database stability or the enforcement of T&Cs, but a whole reconsideration of its raison d’être to serve the masses. Honesty and transparency can save it—two things that I haven’t seen Facebook exhibit much of in the 10-plus years I have used it.

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Posted in branding, business, internet, marketing, technology, USA | 12 Comments »


New Zealand slips to 17th in latest Good Country Index

11.12.2017


Above: Simon Anholt, giving a talk at TEDSalon Berlin.

Out today: my friend Simon Anholt’s Good Country Index, with the Netherlands taking the top spot from Sweden, which drops to sixth. New Zealand is in 17th, failing in prosperity and equality, and in cultural contribution (previously we had been 5th and 12th). On the plus side, we are doing reasonably well in health and well-being, and in science and technology. It’s a challenge for us as we aren’t keeping up with certain aspects of the game by international standards. Have a read—it’s all properly referenced and sourced.

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Posted in branding, culture, general, leadership, New Zealand, politics, Sweden | No Comments »


When mistrust brings us together

13.11.2015

I can be staunch on IP protection in a lot of cases—but in the case of Martin Shkreli of Turing Pharmaceuticals AG hiking the price of an Aids drug from $13·50 to $750 per pill, not so much (for obvious reasons). If you’re 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 society—or, if you want to be monetarist about it, so they can consume more products and services. Whichever side of politics you’re on, productive people are a good thing for everyone except the arms’ industry. Yet the pharmaceutical industry is the one that’s trying to patent natural ingredients and phenomena—and that’s a step too far. It was something we were taught at law school that could not happen—how can a corporation own nature?—so for the industry to challenge both that jurisprudence smacks of greed. If you didn’t originate it, you shouldn’t 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 haven’t upped their game sufficiently. I love the idea of global trade, the notion “we’re all in this together”, but not at the expense of the welfare of fellow human beings. Simply, I give a shit. Hiking the price of something that costs $13·50 to $750 is laziness at the very least—let’s profit without lifting a finger—and being a douchebag at the worst. And I don’t believe we should reward either of these things.
   I have a friend who is against vaccinations—not a position I agree with—but 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 doesn’t oppose other forms of IP protection.) Somewhere, there’s something that kicks off various positions, and corporate misbehaviour must fuel plenty.
   Meanwhile, here’s Martin Shkreli’s point of view, where he doesn’t see his actions as wrongful, as told on Tinder, and as told by Yahoo. His view is that Turing isn’t making a profit and he needs to find ways where it does. He has a duty to his shareholders. It seems incredibly short-term—one would hope that innovation is what turns around a pharmaceuticals’ business—and we come back to the notion that it all feels a bit lazy.

A version of this post originally appeared on my Tumblog.

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Posted in business, leadership, social responsibility, USA | 1 Comment »


In education, everyone deserves a chance

09.02.2014

I am a huge fan of Sir Ken Robinson, the educational expert. This video has been around for a few years, but it’s well worth another watch.

   Everyone has the potential within them—so we need ways of encouraging this for every life, rather than suppress them in favour of just the three Rs.
   I was blessed to have done well at primary and secondary school, and in my business degree at university, though for the first couple of years at law school, you might say I was a middling student, getting between B-pluses and C-pluses. It was only at 300 level that things began to click.
   I think back to the kids at the so-called bottom of the class at primary. I won’t name my fellow student but there was one who buried his head in his Mission: Impossible annual who I say had a better imagination than most of us. Unfortunately, he wasn’t as strong on the academic stuff. And you think: if only.
   Or, for that matter, Karl Urban, the actor, who really was that talented as a kid, but not in the top three to which our school awarded prizes.
   A small proportion of those who don’t get recognized academically might wind up as internationally fêted actors, with a lot of sheer hard work. But a whole lot get let down at the beginning, even at a really good school, and told they needed to shape up.
   I visit my primary and secondary schools regularly and keep up with their progress, and I am happy to say things are much, much better than in the 1970s and 1980s. There is more recognition of the different styles of learning, and the different strengths of each student. I see more group work and collaboration between students, as well as more extracurricular activities than we ever had. I hope that we don’t have the trend of medicating students as Sir Ken mentions in his talk, and it is very interesting to note that the prescriptions for ADD increase as one moves eastward across the United States (see 3′38″).

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Posted in culture, interests, New Zealand, USA | No Comments »


We all belong to the Christchurch region

23.02.2011
Good Living
Above Good Living, November 11, 2009, with Angela Stone and Megan Banks. Or, the day I met Donna Manning, who produced the show.

I drove in a total daze today. The last time I felt like this was September 12, 2001,* the day of the World Trade Center attacks.
   And then I learned a colleague I had met was among the dead in the CTV building.
   I felt ashamed. Ashamed that Donna Manning was not someone who was top of my list of people to text when the earthquake happened.
   After the first lot of friends all responded to say they were OK, I was playing the probability game: that if seven out of seven were fine, then it would likely stand that the percentage would hold if I contacted eight.
   Not so.
   But, I tried to tell myself, I only met Donna once, on November 11, 2009. It’s not like we were best friends.
   Yet in those few hours I thought she was a tremendously nice lady, professional, and respectful.
   I grabbed her card, which I still have, with the hope that we would continue to keep in touch.
   We didn’t.
   So it’s a bit hard to explain why I feel a friend has been taken from me—even though it was someone I only met briefly.
   Maybe someone can be a friend even on the briefest of meetings. I say to my friends living on the other side of the world that our friendships remain strong, even if we only see each other once every decade. We catch up as though no time has passed.
   And Donna Manning, in her accommodating, welcoming manner, realizing she had a guest and colleague from out of town, might be one of those people who you feel that level of connection with, quickly.
   It’s not a desire to “belong” to a tragedy. I ruled that out quickly. I counted myself as lucky that those I knew well were all OK. I lost a friend and colleague in the London attacks on July 7, 2005, and I didn’t feel a longing to be “part” of it. I didn’t blog about it much, and kept my feelings to myself and our mutual friends. I was sorry I lost a friend, and I felt the pain his widow had when she was searching for news of him. Maybe a terrorist bombing seemed so unreal, while earthquakes are something that are known to us Down Under.
   This case, I think, is part of the humanity in all of us: while we were lucky enough not to have experienced the Christchurch earthquake first-hand, we feel a sense of unity with those who did.
   This is not anything to do with nationality, as the international rescue crews have ably demonstrated by rushing to our aid. Whether they are our Australian brothers and sisters, or whether they have ventured here from Japan, the Republic of China, or Singapore, or even further afield, they see people to help and tasks to do.
   Just as we in New Zealand felt for those in Haïti, or in Australia as floods, bushfires or cyclones reached them in recent times.
   Now, we want Cantabrians to know that we might not know what they are going through but we understand loss and grief. We empathize with them for their loss.
   When I saw a photograph of Donna’s kids and ex-husband in an Associated Press photograph, my fears were confirmed. I wanted to reach out to tell them just how I felt for them.
   I wrote a few words about how I felt at the time, though that’s not much to someone who has lost a mother.
   We don’t have a desire to belong to the tragedy because we already belong to the tragedy. It has affected other members of the human race, and that’s qualifies us for immediate membership of this tragedy. They suffer, and we all suffer.
   On my Facebook and Twitter accounts, there’s no difference in the sincerity of the writer when they wish the people of Christchurch and the Canterbury region well whether they are locals or Swedish, German, Dutch, American, English, or any other nationality.
   On my Tumblr, that universality was felt in one quotation I cited—based on how many people it resonated with.
   There’s no difference in the helplessness we feel, whether we are a ferry crossing and a few hours’ drive away, or whether we are 10,000 miles away.
   If we could come and bring back your loved ones, we would.
   If we could bring back all our colleagues at CTV and The Press, we would.
   If we could bring back those Japanese students who perished in that language school, and to have them go home to their Mums and Dads happy for their Kiwi experience, we would.
   All because we know our feelings of grief that we felt in our own tragedies and we do not wish them on you.
   Yet tonight, the Manning and Gardiner families experience those very feelings of loss.
   I grieve for a colleague, and, I would like to say, a friend. Someone who touched me positively in my life.
   I am so sorry for you all.
   And I am so sorry to all those who are awaiting news, or are dealing with the horrible news that someone has been taken tragically before their time.
   I don’t want you to feel this down, but I know you do. And I wish, I truly wish, you didn’t have to go through this.

* In New Zealand, it was already September 12, 2001 when the attacks commenced.

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Posted in culture, internet, media, New Zealand, TV | 4 Comments »