Wednesday, March 15, 2017

The second silly season of social media adoption - dumping EVERYTHING for...Snapchat?

This is an update to a post that I originally wrote in 2013, back when I could barely remember the name of "that service that sends a message and immediately erases it."

In 2013, reference to such a service was exclusively a reference to Snapchat. Of course today, disappearing messages are a kewl feature of every service, including Instagram, Facebook, Microsoft Outlook, and Oracle Database. (I'm kidding regarding the latter two. I think.)

My 2013 post concentrated on a January 2013 experiment by a frozen yogurt company with the amazingly original name 16 Handles. In the company's experiment, customers could get Snapchat coupons for use at 16 Handles - but the coupons would disappear within 10 seconds after being opened. While everyone wrote about the experiment, including Ad Age and Mashable, it appears that 16 Handles itself didn't do anything with Snapchat coupons after the experiment was over - or if they did, they deleted all mention of it (within ten seconds).

A lot has happened since 2013. Everyone uses disappearing messages, Snap is now a publicly traded company (not that the new stockholders have any say in how the company is run), and 16 Handles has continued its "innovation."

I just ran across this January 2016 article. It mentions 16 Handles' amazing 2013 experiment, and then talks about some things that happened since then.

16 Handles was one of the first brands to get onto Kik in late 2014 in a bid to reach teen customers where they were. The brand generated 27,000 interactions with a small amount of paid media behind it in the first few days, but then the app waned — and with it, the brand’s traction. “That was one of our possible failures,” admits [marketing manager Lara] Nicotra.

But they were ready to recover, designating Snapchat as "their 2016 thing." In that year,

...the brand [planned] to focus on Snapchat Stories — longer Snapchats that stick around for 24 hours — that will work hand-in-hand with the company’s refurbished content calendar. “In the past, it was just ‘let’s give people cool access to our brand’,” said Nicotra. “Now, it’s a commitment.”

An amazing commitment - keep your marketing material in front of your customers for an entire 24 hours. But such a commitment comes at a cost.

Nicotra declined to disclose how many followers the brand has on Snapchat, but as it focuses on the platform, she said, 16 Handles has decided to stop using other platforms, including Tumblr and Pinterest. Her interest in using Twitter as a paid platform has also waned.

Since I don't have Snapchat, I ended up going to the 16 Handles website. If you go to the bottom of the page, you can see icons for all of their social media outlets.

Notice anything missing?

Saturday, March 11, 2017

AT&T outage not affecting Ontario, California - now, not affecting anyone

After seeing reports from WTOP and elsewhere of a nationwide AT&T outage, I successfully placed a call from Ontario, California with my cell phone. I don't have AT&T Internet service, so I can't test that. Here's the current outage map (click here for updates):

And after that, WTOP tweeted this:

ALERT: AT&T says nationwide outage has been resolved. A hardware issue caused some calls not to connect Saturday.

Even Newer Mexico

This is another of those posts that was written well in advance of its publication date, because...well, because I couldn't publicly talk about the subject matter at the time that I originally wrote it. But now (March 11, 2017) I can talk about it, since the subject matter is now public (see the last paragraph).

Back when I wrote this post, a long long time ago, I was working on a series of letters from my company to the New Mexico State Police. (Yes, I was still in Proposals back then.)

One day, I was alerted that a request for a new letter to this customer was coming.

My boss wasn't in the office at the time, so I sent her an email to alert her of the upcoming request. The title of my email? "Even Newer Mexico."

While the title itself may (or may not) merit a smirk, there was one thing that I neglected to tell my boss.

You see, this was not the first time that I had used the phrase "Even Newer Mexico."

Several years before this, long before I had ever written a proposal letter to this particular customer, I was intermittently continuing my world-famous music career as Ontario Emperor, and composed a MIDI file (part of a particular collection) entitled "Even Newer Mexico."

Trust me, the MIDI file wouldn't have helped us get the business with this customer.

P.S. Obviously, I am not the first person in the entire universe to come up with the phrase "Even Newer Mexico." For example, Texas Twisted was using the phrase in 2003.

P.P.S. It's interesting that this post about an old MIDI file could be published this week. If you've read my recent posts on my Empoprise-MU music blog, I've been talking about my world-famous music career as Ontario Emperor a lot lately. But no, I don't plan to convert "Even Newer Mexico" to MP3 format.

Wednesday, March 8, 2017

#empocali1pay California and single-payer health insurance

While "states' rights" is sometimes perceived as a conservative thing, in reality it can be used by conservatives, liberals, or whoever. For example, the state of California maintains that the legalization of marijuana is a "states' rights" issue.

And sometimes the concept of states' rights transcends the political spectrum.

Take health insurance. In this country, there are two ways that health insurance can be offered - by having the federal government control everything about health insurance, or to have state governments exercise the control. Despite the fact that the Affordable Care Act and its possible Republican replacement were implemented at the federal level, they clearly fall on the "states' rights" side of things. For example, under the ACA, each state decided whether or not to set up its own state exchange. Under the newly-proposed bill, it appears that another task will be tossed onto the states:

President Trump and Republicans in Congress want to convert federal funding for Medicaid to block grants.

What does this mean?

While this probably would reduce funding for covering low-income people, it presents the unintended benefit of giving states more latitude in how the money is spent.

If Assemblyman Ricardo Lara has his way, California will exercise extreme latitude:

California State Sen. Ricardo Lara, D-Bell Gardens, introduced a bill Feb. 24 that would create a state-based, single-payer health care system. His plan envisions covering everyone in the state: Employees would no longer have employer-provided coverage, and those currently on Medicaid and Medicare would get their coverage from Sacramento.

Of course, single-payer proposals in the United States have been proposed before, and have died. Vermont's proposal faced a number of challenges, including this one:

The Shumlin administration, in its white-flag briefing last week, dropped a bombshell. In 2017, under pre-existing law, the state of Vermont expects to collect $1.7 billion in tax revenue. Green Mountain Care would have required an additional $2.6 billion in tax revenue: a 151 percent increase in state taxes. Fiscally, that’s a train wreck.

It's not necessarily a train wreck because single-payer would cost more than the current or pre-ACA system - I'm not sure if it would or not. The important thing is that it would cost something in TAXES. Employees and their employers could pay tons of money for private health insurance, but that is not PERCEIVED as a cost. An increase in taxes, though - even if it results in lower overall costs - is perceived as catastrophic. (Remember, that's how Bill Clinton became President, because of Bush 41's "read my lips" statement.)

In addition, as both the Los Angeles Times and KFI talk radio host Bill Handel have noted, there are different flavors of single-payer.

There are three basic approaches, as outlined by T.R. Reid in his excellent book “The Healing of America: A Global Quest for Better, Cheaper and Fairer Health Care.” Each has pluses and minuses:

Beveridge Model: Named for British social reformer William Beveridge, this is the system established in postwar England, Spain, New Zealand and most Scandinavian countries. Under this model, the government finances coverage through tax payments and also runs hospitals and clinics.

Pro: No doctor bills. You show up, get treated, leave. Con: Choices may be limited and certain costly treatments may be unavailable.

Bismarck model: Named for Prussian Chancellor Otto von Bismarck, who originated the idea in 1883, this approach relies on payroll deductions to fund nonprofit insurers and requires that they cover everyone. Coverage and medical pricing is strictly regulated by the state.

Aside from Germany, you’ll find variations of this system in France, the Netherlands, Switzerland and Japan.

Pro: Plenty of flexibility in choosing insurers and healthcare providers. Con: Doctors may seek higher fees through private clinics.

National Health Insurance model: Combining elements of both Beveridge and Bismarck, this is the system Canada started rolling out in 1947. All citizens pay into a government-run insurance program that deals directly with doctors and hospitals.

Pro: Costs are greatly reduced by administrative savings and efficiencies. Cons: Some treatments may be limited; long wait times for some patients.

So there's obviously some work to be done before Lara's bill can become law.

Most importantly, we have to see whether the federal government will actually provide that block grant that's being discussed.

Monday, March 6, 2017

Living wages and privately-owned prisons

This is a follow-up to my 2015 post, Living wages and family-owned tilapia suppliers." The previous post documented how Quixotic Farming used prison labor - paid between 74 cents an hour to 4 dollars an hour.

But actually, I got it wrong in that post. Re-reading the material that I quoted in the post, it turns out that the prisoners were paid between 74 cents a DAY to 4 dollars a DAY.

So much for Empoprises qualtiy control.

Fast-forward to 2017 to a new story that (a) involves prisoners, and (b) takes place in Colorado. But this time, the prison is privately run.

Here are the allegations, according to a Washington Post story:

At the heart of the dispute is the Denver Contract Detention Facility, a 1,500-bed center in Aurora, Colo., owned and operated by GEO Group under a contract with ICE. The Florida-based corporation runs facilities to house immigrants who are awaiting their turn in court.

The lawsuit, filed against GEO Group on behalf of nine immigrants, initially sought more than $5 million in damages. Attorneys expect the damages to grow substantially given the case’s new class-action status....

The original nine plaintiffs claim that detainees at the ICE facility are forced to work without pay — and that those who refuse to do so are threatened with solitary confinement.

Specifically, the lawsuit claims, six detainees are selected at random every day and are forced to clean the facility’s housing units.

The other side claims that there is no violation of the law here.

GEO Group has strongly denied the lawsuit’s allegations and argued in court records that pay of $1 a day does not violate any laws.

“We intend to continue to vigorously defend our company against these claims,” GEO Group spokesman Pablo Paez said in a statement. “The volunteer work program at immigration facilities as well as the wage rates and standards associated with the program are set by the Federal government....

Under ICE’s Voluntary Work Program, detainees sign up to work and are paid $1 a day. The nationwide program, ICE says, “provides detainees opportunities to work and earn money while confined, subject to the number of work opportunities available and within the constraints of the safety, security and good order of the facility.”

According to the Post story, proponents of the suit say that the work violates the Trafficking Victims Protection Act. But in this Google Plus thread, another legal precedent was cited - the Thirteenth Amendment.


Neither slavery nor involuntary servitude, except as a punishment for crime whereof the party shall have been duly convicted, shall exist within the United States, or any place subject to their jurisdiction.


Congress shall have power to enforce this article by appropriate legislation.

Note that the people in question are detainees who have NOT been convicted; therefore, the provision of the Thirteenth Amendment does not apply.

I'll grant that a lot of this rests on he said, he said. The suers claim that if the detainees don't clean, they're threatened with solitary confinement. The suees claim that this is all voluntary.

But what of the minimum wage brouhaha raised by the tilapia issue of 2015 and the ICE issue this year? Well Colorado Minimum Wage Order 30 (PDF) defines an "employer" as follows.

every person, firm, partnership, association, corporation, receiver, or other officer of court in Colorado, and any agent or officer thereof, of the above-mentioned classes, employing any person in Colorado, except that the provisions of this order shall not apply to state, federal and municipal governments or political sub-divisions thereof, including; cities, counties, municipal corporations, quasimunicipal corporations, school districts, and irrigation, reservoir, or drainage conservation companies or special districts organized and existing under the laws of Colorado.

So one could argue that the inmates who were building fish tanks for Quixotic Farming would be exempt from the Colorado minimum wage law, since the order specifically excluded state agencies. (And, as noted above, convicted people are also exempted from the protections of the Thirteenth Amendment.)

It should also be noted that the listed exceptions to the minimum wage order do not exclude prisoners (although taxi cab drivers don't have minimum wage protection in Colorado).

But are the ICE detention centers part of the federal government, or are they private companies who would be subject to Colorado minimum wage laws? Well, private prisons are subject to public records requests, just like a government agency.

Tuesday, February 28, 2017

Amazon #Clouds are stormy, and even diagnostic services can't help - H/T @gilliancowen

The following sentence from The Verge an understatement.

Amazon’s web hosting services are among the most widely used out there, which means that when Amazon’s servers goes down, a lot of things go down with them.

Numerous services rely on Amazon and are down, but Mary Baum retweeted a Gillian Owen tweet about one particular service.

I still have not checked - and I won't, because who knows what's there. Probably Warren Beatty's non-love letters to Faye Dunaway.

Monday, February 27, 2017

Tech abbreviations are as bad as tech acronyms

I've previously ranted about how acronyms can conceal rather than reveal.

Abbreviations can be just as bad.

I recently received an email that mentioned "intel experts."

Was the email talking about people who are knowledgeable about computer chips, or people who are knowledgeable about spying on foreign countries?

Thursday, February 23, 2017

Why account-based marketing #abm is terrifying - David Siegel's warning

Account-based marketing offers the promise of providing precisely targeted information to you and me - although, as I previously noted, it has to get a little better at targeting.

Sounds great. What could go wrong?

By Andreas Bohnenstengel, CC BY-SA 3.0 de, Link

Plenty, if you believe David Siegel of Two Sigma, who just authored something for Business Insider entitled Infinite personalization is making us dumber.

While Siegel started by referencing political ramifications, I'll concentrate on the business ones.

[P]ostings in a news feed are carefully selected by algorithms in a very proprietary way, mainly to get us to use the service more. This makes good business sense, but it subliminally impacts our thinking. Like streaming music recommendations, these algorithms are very good at filtering out postings that we’d dislike, potentially robbing us of alternative points of view.

What difference does this make in a BUSINESS sense?

The technology of infinite personalization is getting so good that it’s debatable whether we choose our information sources, or the other way around. Clearly, that's good business for the providers of these algorithms and the companies that use them to advertise and sell.

I'll use a personal example.

Last Saturday morning, my wife noticed a black screen of pining for the fjords on our old desktop computer in the office. After I proceeded to start Windows normally, I noticed that I had no wireless connection. After turning it off and turning it on again didn't solve the problem, I ran a troubleshooter and was informed that I had no drivers for a wireless connection. Funny, I had those drivers a few days ago (although I've had to manually connect to wireless a lot lately). Now I could have proceeded to fix the problem, but this is an old computer.

How old?

It's running Windows Vista.

So I thought to myself, perhaps this #IAmNotTrendy guy ought to think about an upgrade.

In theory, this meant that I would survey the vast amount of information available on the type of computer that I desired, and then make a rational, quantifiable decision on the best computer based upon neutral criteria.

I didn't do that.

Instead, I went to the Best Buy website and let it present some laptops that it thought would be good for me. After looking at a grand total of two laptops, I selected a brand with which I was familiar. (I will not reveal the brand that I chose, other than to note that it is not GO, and it is not IQ, but is somewhere in between.)

Every day, we make decisions based upon what is presented before us on our various screens.

So how do we break out?

Wednesday, February 22, 2017

Why @NestleUSA is relocating its headquarters from California to Virginia

(This was originally posted on the Empoprise-BI Facebook page.)

So, as Trevor Carpenter noted, The Federalist Papers shared a Conservative Tribune post that was sourced from an LA Newspaper Group article (in this case, from the San Gabriel Valley Tribune).

Yeah, I like to get to, primary sources. (More about sources in a minute.)

In a sense, this story about the relocation of Nestle's headquarters from California to Virginia is the story of two government approaches - that of the state of Virginia (along with Arlington County, the county where I grew up), and the city of Glendale, California (and, by extension, Los Angeles County and the state of California).

Virginia and Arlington:

The Washington Post reports the state of Virginia is offering $10 million in cash grants to Nestlé, including $6 million as a Commonwealth Opportunity Fund and $4 million from a Virginia Economic Development Incentive Grant. Arlington County is offering another $6 million in incentives as well as additional money for relocation assistance and training of new employees.


Darlene Sanchez, Glendale’s deputy director of community development, said the city didn’t hear of the pending move until early Wednesday.

“We found out on the news like everyone else, but it wasn’t a big surprise,” she said. “When they did their most recent lease extension we knew there was a likelihood that this could happen. But we have our Verdugo Jobs Center here to help get these people back on track.”...

The city is sorry to see Nestlé USA go, Sanchez said, but it views the company’s departure as an opportunity.

“We just completed a study two weeks ago, which shows that we have more than 1,000 businesses in Glendale that are tech-focused,” she said. “We’d like to see some more co-working space that would cater to this burgeoning technology industry that has organically grown here.”

So Virginia is throwing $16 million at Nestle, while California tells Nestle not to let the door hit them on the way out.

Of course, I myself am part of the problem, because I'm not business friendly. Speaking of organic, Nestle signed a sweetheart deal years ago with the U.S. Forest Service to take millions of dollars of water out of the San Bernardino National Forest at minimal charge. Now perhaps you haven't seen Nestle Water on your shelves, but you've seen Arrowhead water. Yup, that comes from my national forest.

Perhaps if I just agreed to let Nestle take all that water, and cut down all the trees (that's a joke - there are hardly any trees in the National Forest because of the elevation) in the National Forest to boot, they would have stayed here.

But then again, perhaps my friends in Arlington will have their own troubles when Nestle gets to their Rosslyn headquarters and starts draining water out of the Potomac.

And I recall one church in nearby Alexandria, Virginia that frowned on the use of Nestle products years ago - that whole baby formula thing, you know. If any of the people from that church are still around, perhaps they'll want to impose a $17 million penalty on Nestle to recoup the $16 million in losses.

San Gabriel Valley Tribune, "Why Nestlé USA is moving 1,200 jobs, and its HQ, out of Glendale"

Monday, February 20, 2017

On the new trans-Pacific partnership - #oiaa vs #ccmm is just a distraction


Not too long ago, I read an Inland Valley Daily Bulletin article that began as follows:

To drum up foreign investment in the county and more international carriers for Ontario International Airport, Curt Hagman returns to China on Thursday, six months after his last trip established business partnerships with regional officials.

The vice chairman of the San Bernardino County Board of Supervisors and a commissioner of the Ontario International Airport Authority, Hagman leads a delegation Thursday through Feb. 25 to the cities of Wuxi, China, and Taoyuan, Taiwan. With him will be OIAA CEO Kelly Fredericks, Hagman said.

Now my regular readers may be wondering why I'm not writing about this in my Empoprise-IE Inland Empire blog. The reason's simple; Hagman isn't the only person heading to China. I just read about another group going there; not from Ontario, but from Quebec:

The Chamber of Commerce of Metropolitan Montreal and its Acclr team of international trade experts kicked off a six-day trade mission to China [on February 16]. The trade mission gets started aboard Air Canada's inaugural direct flight between Montréal and Shanghai. This is a unique opportunity for participants to create ties with the business communities in Shanghai and Hong Kong, centres of economic growth for China.

China was always the odd country out in the Trans-Pacific Partnership talks, so these moves to increase trade with China would have been welcome even if the TPP process had continued. (And remember that if Trump hadn't pulled out of TPP, Clinton said that she would have done so.) And with TPP now pretty much dead, China is pursuing its own partnerships on a bilateral basis - or perhaps eventually on a multinational one, as I previously noted.

As [Sumantra] Maitra poses the argument, two new coalitions of nations are forming. One consists of the nationalists – the United Kingdom, the United States, Russia, and possibly other European nations in the coming months – nations who value nationalism and protectionism. According to Maitra, the other coalition consists of nations such as China who remain committed to globalism.

Maitra went on to note (in an article posted at

Smaller countries will automatically coalesce around the powers which are more open to trade....

So China is effectively creating its own "trans-Pacific partnership," and the smaller powers are trying to jump on the bandwagon. But the smaller powers don't have much power here; if they did, then Curt Hagman and CCMM wouldn't be flying to China; China would be flying to San Bernardino County and Montreal.

Perhaps it's relevant to republish this quote from Donald Trump's The Art of the Deal book:

Be extremely subtle, even to the point of formlessness. Be extremely mysterious, even to the point of soundlessness. Thereby you can be the director of the opponent's fate.

Actually, that quote doesn't come from Trump.

It comes from Sun Tzu.

Silicon Valley is Devoid of...Diverse Industries (I Love New York)

At times, I have posted using the title "Silicon Valley is Devoid of Reason." Here is a December 2014 post that used this title. If there is a common theme to most of the posts, it is that the Silicon Valley thinking is often at odds with thinking in other parts of the country, and the world. In other words, Silicon Valley thinking can come up with a cute app or a nice enterprise database, but it's not going to make the trains run on time.

This raises the question - will Silicon Valley's sometimes myopic focus result in a decrease in its ability to innovate?

A couple of years ago, I advanced (for self-serving purposes) the argument that Interstate 79 is a hotbed of innovation. For those who don't recognize this interstate, it runs through West Virginia, which is the location of some major Federal projects for the FBI, the DoD, and others. Without getting too self-serving, I will note that many of the current discussions regarding privacy are based upon activities that don't take place in Palo Alto, but are centered in West Virginia.

But Morgantown and Clarksburg are not the only potential usurpers to Silicon Valley's throne. There's also New York - if you believe a writer from Crain's New York Business.

Yeah, he's self serving too, but hear him out.

The business revolution of the next several decades will move beyond the early tech plays — faster, smaller chips or connecting people and information virtually. It will be about transforming large industries that no longer meet their customers' demands into something more efficient and personal.

That can happen only where those industries are. So although Silicon Valley dominated the first wave of technology disruption, the advantage has shifted to New York, with its vastly greater diversity of businesses.

The city is the undisputed global leader in industries, from finance and advertising to fashion and the arts.

Pretend for the moment that you are a fashionista in Manhattan. You recognize that your enterprise requires a transformative technical solution for something or another - perhaps an algorithm that can modify a model's smile into the stone face that models use when walking down the runway.

By Biser Todorov - Own work, CC BY 3.0, Link

You, the fashionista, decide to talk to two separate companies about your needs. One of the companies is based about ten streets away, and the principals attend fashion shows regularly. The other company is a couple of thousands of miles away, and is run by some guy wearing sneakers and a hoodie who thinks a runway is something that Sully lands on when a river's not available.

Who you gonna call?

Thursday, February 16, 2017

I can hear you...and that's a bad thing for Facebook video (plus, how to change your mobile settings to default sound off)

Yes, you're experiencing deja vu all over again...sort of.

When reading the title of this post, you may have been reminded of my recent post with the title "I can't hear you...and that's a good thing for Facebook Video." In that post, I talked about how wonderful it was that Facebook videos did not automatically play with sound.

...consider this bit of wisdom from AdAge:

"Facebook users are voting with their ears; more than 85% of videos are now played without turning the sound on."

Why? Because, as AdAge notes, people viewing video on mobile devices find sound to be intrusive.

I wrote that post on Monday, February 13. Today I learned (H/T Marlar House's "Daily Dose of Weird News") that Facebook made an announcement the very next day - Tuesday, February 14.

People are watching and sharing more video on Facebook than ever, and we’re focused on continuously improving the video experience. Today, we’re excited to share several updates that make watching video on Facebook richer, more engaging and more flexible.

Because whenever Facebook makes a change, they make it for our benefit - right?

Videos in News Feed have previously played silently — you tap on a video to hear sound. As people watch more video on phones, they’ve come to expect sound when the volume on their device is turned on. After testing sound on in News Feed and hearing positive feedback, we’re slowly bringing it to more people. With this update, sound fades in and out as you scroll through videos in News Feed, bringing those videos to life.

Oh joy.

So, using one of my examples from my Monday post, let's say that I'm sitting in an airport, scrolling through my Facebook. The poor person next to me could hear something like this as I scroll through my feed and sound fades in and out.

Now it's time for sports! The Onalaska boys' basketball team played in the semi-finals tonight...


...because your friends like K-Y, here's a video about our products!

At that point, the person sitting next to me in the airport might be disgusted. Or, if that person happens to be a western Wisconsin liberal, he or she may be overly attached to me.

If you don't want this to happen to you, Alex Fitzpatrick of TIME has provided step-by-step instructions to turn off sound auto-play on your mobile device.

First, click the three-line icon in the bottom-right hand corner of the Facebook app.

Then, tap "Settings." Next, hit "Account Settings." Then tap "Sounds."

There, you should see an option to turn off "Videos in News Feed Start With Sound." Note that the change is rolling out gradually, so you might not see the appropriate setting just yet.

Why account-based marketing #abm is important - or, that dog is smokin'

Until recently, marketers did not have the ability to tailor their marketing to specific persons. Marketing either was targeted to everyone (for example, your typical Super Bowl ad) or was targeted to a bunch of people (for example, the readers of Hoard's Dairyman).

Today, of course, online marketers can gather data and metadata and megametadata and target a specific message to me and me alone.

("Janet, I ONLY want this ad to display for people who like the ending of the Wings song 'So Glad To See You Here.'" "Done, boss!")

But Twitter biographies can be seen by everyone, which can cause a problem. I'm sure that the folks at PetTrax saw no problem when they composed this sentence in the @PetTrax Twitter biography:

PetTrax is focused on keeping your pets healthy and vibrant.

Sounds like a winning marketing message, right?

But the PetTrax people had no way of knowing how I personally feel about the word "vibrant." You see, when I think of that word, I think of former Kool marketer Ludo Cremers. Remember him?

"Kool understands the vibrant urban world of the trendsetting, multicultural smoker," said Ludo Cremers, divisional vice president, brand marketing. "Kool is the menthol authority. At the same time, Kool keeps it real and remains linked to the latest urban trends. We'll showcase these trends this year through Kool Mixx and other promotions and events."

So while the PetTrax people want me to think of a device that keeps our pets fed, I'm thinking of a dog with a menthol cigarette in his or her mouth.

Marketing can't solve every problem. Now PetTrax will probably get Paul McCartney to shout at me - and I deserve it.

P.S. Cremers, by the way, is still involved in films.

Monday, February 13, 2017

On those who refer to #SmartCommunity instead of #SmartCity when developing #IoT strategy

So anyways, over the weekend I was doing some reading on smart cities, because smart cities are like trendy and stuff. Actually, they're mainstream rather than trendy - even I attended a Smart Cities conference late in 2014. (Some day I'll tell the story of how I got there.)

One of the articles I saw was one that Gordon Feller tweeted about - an article on Meeting of the Minds entitled What, Exactly, is a Smart City?.

But before I talk about that article, let me mention who wrote it, Peter Williams, Ph.D.

IBM Distinguished Engineer

KNOWN FOR: Creating new businesses in established companies; identifying new uses of data and technologies (especially Internet of Things - IOT - and analytics) that enable new or improved business models; advising start-ups and established companies; innovation and lateral thinking; expertise as a change agent.

THEMES:- Resilience and sustainability; IOT; artificial intelligence; analytics; business implications of emerging technologies; all for both public (city/state) and private sectors.

SKILLS: - Innovation; Strategy; Planning; Business Model Design; Process and Organization Design; Business Metrics; Demand Generation; Sales Enablement; Partner Ecosystem Development and Channel Management; Communications; Change Agent.

SECTORS: - Government; Utilities; Cleantech; High Technology; Manufacturing; Defense; Consumer Goods.

In addition to his work for IBM, Dr. Williams is also a visiting lecturer at Stanford University.

Teaching a 3-unit class on Smarter Cities - how ICT enables smarter cities, and the advantages and pitfalls that arise. My first iteration of the class had 11 students. In 2015 and 2016 it maxed out at 50+.

As he notes in the article, Dr. Williams' 50+ students who are taking the class obviously want to know what a smart city is. If you break the phrase down into two words, you can attack each word one at a time. For Dr. Williams, "smart" is fairly straightforward.

Smart cities are a leading manifestation of the internet of things (IOT): they involve the use of sensors – either standalone or added to physical devices – to generate data that can be communicated, integrated and analyzed to enable some aspect of city life to function better in some way. Data flows may be used singly or in combination with other flows, or in combination with historical (ie accumulated) data from the past. At this level, IBM (my employer) has a snappy definition of “smart” – “Instrumented, Interconnected, Intelligent”. The Smart Cities Council is in much the same place, with its “collecting, communicating and ‘crunching’” [of information].

So we have a working definition of "smart." But isn't "city" straightforward also?

Not really.

To people in the United States, we usually define cities in terms of size (and sometimes incorporation). New York, New York is a city. Guasti, California is not.

But things are a little different in other parts of the world.

Yet in the UK, a city historically was defined by the presence of a cathedral: while some of these places are very large, the city of St Davids, in Wales, has a population of just 1,600 people, who are significantly outnumbered by the sheep in the area. Meanwhile Reading, England is “just” a town, but with a population of nearly 233,000....

St Davids, with its cathedral, is undoubtedly a religious center, but with its tiny population, not really an economic or social one. Yet the mere town of Reading has a university, several top-flight sports teams and a strong economy adding value to a significant stretch of SE England; it is clearly a center of several things, and of some significance.

To address these and other concerns, Dr. Williams proposes an alternative nomenclature:

This leads me to suggest that we should use a more neutral term such as “community” in preference to city. Communities can be large or small, and they may or may not be a center of some noteworthy aspect of human activity; they may be separated from other communities or they may be aggregated into a conurbation of some kind. But any community of any size or significance can be “smart”. Communities should also define the services of interest to them, within their territorial boundary or outside it, as required.

Perhaps the community is Reading, England. Perhaps the community is the entire state of Andra Pradesh in India. Or perhaps the community is the non-governmental Waze community, a worldwide subset of people who are using information from smartphones and other sources to calculate optimum driving routes.

This terminology debate piqued my interest, so I started to wonder if there were others that talked about "smart communities" rather than "smart cities." And I found a few examples. ESRI uses the term. Yokogawa uses the term. And, as Geoff Arnold points out, Verizon uses the term.

This is all really a semantic issue, but perhaps an important one when you are targeting your Internet of Things strategy. If you just focus on the cities, you're missing a lot of the market.

I can't hear you...and that's a good thing for Facebook Video

Our movement from the desktop to the laptop to the mobile device has required us to rethink a bunch of things.

Take video. I've been experimenting with Facebook Video a little bit myself, and others are definitely using it in a variety of ways. But before you take the video plunge, consider this bit of wisdom from AdAge:

Facebook users are voting with their ears; more than 85% of videos are now played without turning the sound on.

Why? Because, as AdAge notes, people viewing video on mobile devices find sound to be intrusive. If you thought sound was intrusive back in the 1990s when your desktop computer would surf to auto-play MIDI files, consider the situation today. You might be sitting in an airport, or in a coffee shop, or in your cubicle, and the last thing that you want to happen is to have sound blaring out of your phone.

But you can caption your videos; in fact, for some customers Facebook can do this automatically. I've tested this feature; here is the video with unedited captions.

And yes, I've already broken AdAge's tip 2, "work with a vertical screen."

Let's fix that. And let's actually add captions after the fact to a Facebook Live video.

Friday, February 10, 2017

Update to The Porch, it is a'changing

I done said a few things about the Porch a little while ago - November 14 if you're into dates and stuff.

I can go out and stand on our porch and take a look over yonder and see the stuff across the road - the metal shop, the chapel, and the little old bank by the corner. I can grab me a cup of tea or coffee from the Flavia machine and just gaze out on the world.

And then I done said,

Now this would be the ideal time to post a picture of The Porch - perhaps a selfie with me, a cup, and the metal shop et al in the background. Except that The Porch is kinda sorta boarded up at the moment....

And then I talked about MARKETING PEOPLE, but I'll spare you that for now. (Peek if you're made of stern stuff.)

Well, The Porch construction (and related construction) has proceeded along to the point where I can take a picture. The building kinda sorta visible through the windows is "the metal shop," a/k/a Micrometals.

Obviously the modernistic layout is delightful to those there marketing people, of which I am one.

Now I just need a rocking chair.

Thursday, February 9, 2017

#outpacing The secret to getting mentioned? Not avoiding the radar.

Entrepreneur Magazine recently ran an article about using competitive insights to outpace rivals. The article began with an example of a company that responded to competitive pressure.

When United Airlines announced that early this year it would start offering a "basic economy" class (Delta and American have made similar announcements), the option was an obvious attempt to tap into a different market: budget airline passengers.

The author, Jim Fowler, didn't discuss the wisdom of that particular move, but confined himself to looking at this as an example of innovating (rather than reacting - see my post from 20 minutes ago).

But he didn't stop there.

See if you notice a common theme in the headings Fowler (or perhaps his editor) used in the article.

1. Keep the skies friendly.

2. Follow other flight patterns.

3. Stay open to alternate routes.

I assume you see what he did there.

But actually, I'd like to make a point regarding this "not avoiding the radar" phrase that I mentioned in the post title. While noted business thinker Dusty Street was famous for saying fly low and avoid the radar, the truth is that businesses very much want to be on the radar. Certainly Street's former employer, the "Roq of the 80s," understood that principle well. Perhaps you want to briefly avoid the radar as you're planning, but once you launch your radio format, new fare structure, or Entrepreneur Magazine article, you want to be on everyone's radar.

(Of course, I still have to work on my #DontDoThatAgain series for tymshft.)

#outpacing The secret to getting mentioned? References.

Entrepreneur Magazine recently ran an article about using competitive insights to outpace rivals. At one point, the article talks about ways to monitor the competition.

Next, once you have the information and the data you need, trying to glean insights from it can be intimidating. Many companies take quarterly deep dives, but that’s three months of information to sift through. Wouldn’t a better solution be to keep your finger on the pulse with daily tidbits of competitive intelligence?

In the original article, the words "competitive intelligence" are a hyperlink - to Owler.

Guess how I learned about the Entrepreneur Magazine article? That's right - through one of my daily Owler reports. (It's probably in both of them, come to think of it.)

And I guess it's also kinda sorta relevant to note that the author of the piece, Jim Fowler, is the founder and CEO of Owler. I guess when he named his company, he didn't want to give it an F.

Of course, as I previously noted in a post on my Empoprise-BI Facebook page, this is not the first time that Owler has self-promoted.

Good for them.

More later.

#outpacing The secret to getting mentioned? A pithy quote.

Entrepreneur Magazine recently ran an article about using competitive insights to outpace rivals. When reading such articles, it helps to look for the words "in short."

In short, using the competition's moves to drive your own innovation is a lot different from reacting to what the opposition does.

More later.

Monday, February 6, 2017

(take two) Hard to #BoycottThe97 tech companies that united against the Presidential Executive Order


As USA Today reported early this morning, 97 companies filed a "MOTION FOR LEAVE TO FILE BRIEF OF TECHNOLOGY COMPANIES AND OTHER BUSINESSES AS AMICUS CURIAE IN SUPPORT OF APPELLEES." In essence, the companies objected to some of the immigration aspects of the executive order "PROTECTING THE NATION FROM FOREIGN TERRORIST ENTRY INTO THE UNITED STATES."

(DISCLOSURE: My employer has an interest in a separate portion of the executive order that is NOT cited in this particular court case, the "biometric exit" portion in section 7. I've briefly mentioned this section before.)

Those who support President Trump's position may choose to boycott these 97 companies, in the same way that companies such as Starbucks and 84 Lumber are being boycotted.

But 97 companies is a lot of companies.

If you're boycott-happy, here they are (Scribd link):


1. AdRoll, Inc.
2. Aeris Communications, Inc.
3. Airbnb, Inc.
4. AltSchool, PBC
5., LLC
6. Appboy, Inc.
7. Apple Inc.
8. AppNexus Inc.
9. Asana, Inc.
10. Atlassian Corp Plc
11. Autodesk, Inc.
12. Automattic Inc.
13. Box, Inc.
14. Brightcove Inc.
15. Brit + Co
16. CareZone Inc.
17. Castlight Health
18. Checkr, Inc.
19. Chobani, LLC
20. Citrix Systems, Inc.
21. Cloudera, Inc.
22. Cloudflare, Inc.
23. Copia Institute
24. DocuSign, Inc.
25. DoorDash, Inc.
26. Dropbox, Inc.
27. Dynatrace LLC
28. eBay Inc.
29. Engine Advocacy
30. Etsy Inc.
31. Facebook, Inc.
32. Fastly, Inc.
33. Flipboard, Inc.
34. Foursquare Labs, Inc.
35. Fuze, Inc.
36. General Assembly
37. GitHub
38. Glassdoor, Inc.
39. Google Inc.
40. GoPro, Inc.
41. Harmonic Inc.
42. Hipmunk, Inc.
43. Indiegogo, Inc.
44. Intel Corporation
45. JAND, Inc. d/b/a Warby Parker
46. Kargo Global, Inc.
47. Kickstarter, PBC
49. Knotel
50. Levi Strauss & Co.
51. LinkedIn Corporation
52. Lithium Technologies, Inc.
53. Lyft, Inc.
54. Mapbox, Inc.
55. Maplebear Inc. d/b/a Instacart
56. Marin Software Incorporated
57. Medallia, Inc.
58. A Medium Corporation
59. Meetup, Inc.
60. Microsoft Corporation
61. Motivate International Inc.
62. Mozilla Corporation
63. Netflix, Inc.
64. NETGEAR, Inc.
65. NewsCred, Inc.
66. Patreon, Inc.
67. PayPal Holdings, Inc.
68. Pinterest, Inc.
69. Quora, Inc.
70. Reddit, Inc.
71. Rocket Fuel Inc.
72. SaaStr Inc.
73., Inc.
74. Scopely, Inc.
75. Shutterstock, Inc.
76. Snap Inc.
77. Spokeo, Inc.
78. Spotify USA Inc.
79. Square, Inc.
80. Squarespace, Inc.
81. Strava, Inc.
82. Stripe, Inc.
83. SurveyMonkey Inc.
84. TaskRabbit, Inc
85. Tech:NYC
86. Thumbtack, Inc.
87. Turn Inc.
88. Twilio Inc.
89. Twitter Inc.
90. Turn Inc.
91. Uber Technologies, Inc.
92. Via
93. Wikimedia Foundation, Inc.
94. Workday
95. Y Combinator Management, LLC
96. Yelp Inc.
97. Zynga Inc.

How many of these companies have provided products or services that YOU used in the last few days? I can count Apple, Automattic, Facebook, Foursquare, GitHub, Glassdoor, Google, Levi Strauss, LinkedIn, Microsoft, Spotify, SurveyMonkey, Twitter, Wikimedia, and probably a dozen others that I missed.

So why Levi Strauss? Its Bay Area location? Its place in Silicon Valley corporate attire?

Actually, something different.

Inventions and discoveries by immigrants have profoundly changed our Nation. Some, like alternating current (Nikola Tesla), power our world. Others, like nuclear magnetic resonance (Isidore Rabi) and flame-retardant fiber (Giuliana Tesoro), save lives. And yet others, like basketball (James Naismith), blue jeans (Levi Strauss), and the hot dog (Charles Feltman), are integral to our national identity.

And the brief doesn't even mention Albert Einstein or Wernher von Braun.

This blog has been verified by Rise: R83321a0396f06faf125136041fec3176

Passion pages from @Jesse Stay - and yes, they're safe for work

While thinking about a Monday post idea, I went through the things that I recently shared on my Empoprise-BI Facebook page and ran across this item that features Jesse Stay. I've mentioned Stay in my blogs multiple times, most recently in July. And I'm sure that he's touched that he has been referenced in such a prestigious blog as this one.

But even I must admit that while a mention in Empoprise-BI is phenomenal, an article about you in ADWEEK is perhaps a bit more prestigious.

The article is actually from 2014 (which is why Stay is wearing Google Glass in the accompanying pictures), but the tips equally apply today.

When a business creates a social media presence on a platform such as Facebook, the business can proceed in one of two ways. One is to create a page devoted to the business. Another is to create a separate Facebook page for each of the business' products.

For one client, Stay recommended a variant of the second method, but instead of focusing on products, he focuses on benefits.

Or, in his words, passion.

So he created "passion pages" for his customer,

Instead of creating and promoting one main-brand Facebook page, we figured out who our audience is and what areas we want to target, what areas we want to move into, and we built Facebook pages around each of those, focused on the passions of those audiences for each page — passion pages.

We used “I love” in our page names, a lot. The goal was to build up a large audience and spend as little as we could to grow the audience. Then we could post links back to our web sites at zero cost and drive traffic. Within six months, we doubled our referral traffic from Facebook. I hear they have doubled that seven times since then.

So now it's a year and a half after the ADWEEK article was published, and I went to visit one of the pages - I Love My Family. The page continues to publish content, and is liked by over 9.8 million people (including at least one of my Facebook friends who doesn't know Jesse Stay from Jesse James).

So I've been thinking about Stay's benefits ideas, and how I could apply them in the incubator that is Empoprises (with its Facebook, Google, and Twitter presence). If I were to do this, I'd have to flip from my branding strategy to a benefits strategy. Facebook/Google content related to tymshft, for example, could be renamed to something else. However, my existing tymshft statements ("There is nothing new under the sun...turn, turn, turn" and "It's about time") are not truly motivating benefit statements. Maybe "don't do THAT again"....

Another issue is that at present, the only Empoprises "products" are the blogs themselves - this one (the Empoprise-BI business blog), the aforementioned tymshft, my Empoprise-IE Inland Empire blog, and my Empoprise-MU music blog. (I haven't updated my Empoprise-NTN NTN/Buzztime blog in over a year, and the last three updates were about Ziosk.)

Perhaps I should get back to my fiction(ish) book.

Monday, January 30, 2017

It's different on the other side of the barricades

This promised to be a momentous day at the City Hall at University City. This was the first day of work for two new city employees. And despite their surface differences, they were very similar.

Juanita Mandela X had been a lifelong resident of University City, and was well acquainted with the pulse of the town. Despite its reputation as a bastion of progressivism, Juanita had engaged in numerous battles with the city's power structure. While a student at the university itself, Juanita founded the Coalition for True Progress, which not only took on the university administration, but also the administration of the city itself. Juanita became well-known for her activism, and even acquired the nickname "Android Queen" for her use of her cellular phone to document and expose corruption in high places. Finally, at the urging of her coworkers at the Huey Newton Food Collective, Juanita ran for the City Council itself, handily defeating an incumbent with over 20 years of tenure on the council.

But Juanita was not the only outsider who gained access to the City Council's membership. Wayne "Bud" Wallace had not grown up in University City like Juanita had, but in his ten years in residence he had also established a name for himself. One would think that a Tea Party man in a "MAGA" hat would be completely shunned in University City, but many felt that Bud was a breath of fresh air in the town. Bud was also in food service, as owner of the city's only McDonald's franchise, and had successfully waged a war against the city to allow his franchise to be built. His message of freedom resonated throughout many sectors of the city, aided by his daily YouTube videos. The next logical step in his quest to "expose seedy government" was to penetrate government itself. Despite police harrassment, including attempts to compel Google to reveal personal information about his YouTube account, Bud prevailed against the city and wound up on the City Council itself.

Given their past tendencies, it was no surprise when both Juanita and Bud used Facebook Live to document their arrival at City Hall to formally assume their City Council duties. They even engaged in some good-natured banter as they approached the front door, with Juanita proclaiming "Make University City great again!" on Bud's Facebook Live stream, and Bud returning the favor by shouting "University City lives matter!" on Juanita's stream.

Holding their mobile phones aloft, they marched to the front door...

...where they were met by the City Attorney.

"Are you here on government business?" she asked.

"Yes," they both replied.

"Then you will need to conduct your business with government issued phones," the attorney replied. "Private phones do not conform to our city's security policy, nor do they conform to the city's public disclosure policy."

"Public disclosure? I'm publicly disclosing this entire conversation on Facebook Live!" Juanita responded.

"That's not the public disclosure that I'm talking about. Due to the Transparency Ordinance - an ordinance that both of you championed last year, by the way - all communications by government officials are part of the public record, and subject to public records requests. Therefore when conducting government business, you need to use a device with the appropriate software to facilitate the required disclosures."

"Required disclosures? I have a right to privacy!" exclaimed Bud.

"Not when you're conducting public business. I seem to recall that you were the one who insisted that all Planning Commission emails regarding your business application be publicly revealed. Well, now that you're a member of the Planning Commission, that applies to you too."

Juanita and Bud lowered their phones, shutting them off.

"Oh, and by the way," the lawyer continued, "Bud, I'm still waiting for you to file your ethics report documenting your restaurant's in-kind contributions to the University City Little League. There are obviously huge conflicts of interest here."

Saturday, January 28, 2017

Unintended consequences - will @SamaritansPurse be zipped up in Iraq?

Unintended consequences. When people do unto you as you have done unto them, business can suffer.

As I previously noted, U.S. companies such as McDonalds, Walmart, Coca-Cola, and Starbucks aren't that popular in Mexico right now.

Because of a new executive order (which I'll get to in a minute), Google and Netflix are having some issues around the world.

But I'm not going to talk about those companies, because they have been very, very mean to our President.

But what about someone who has been very supportive of our President - Franklin Graham - and his organization - Samaritan's Purse?

If you haven't heard of it, Samaritan's Purse is a well-known Christian relief organization that provides services throughout the world, including in Mosul, Iraq.

In addition to monetary donations, Samaritan's Purse needs people.

Christian medical personnel, especially lab technicians, are urgently needed to staff the hospital for deployments of three weeks or longer. Particular needs include trauma/general surgeons, anesthesiologists, emergency medicine physicians, operating room nurses, intensive care unit nurses, surgical technicians, and operating room sterilization staff.

So, for example, if you are a Christian doctor and a U.S. citizen who wants to help the people in Iraq, you can apply to serve. Presumably Samaritan's Purse will help with the necessary paperwork, including passport and visa issues.

Unfortunately for Samaritan's Purse, their job just got a little tougher:

...pursuant to section 212(f) of the INA, 8 U.S.C. 1182(f), I hereby proclaim that the immigrant and nonimmigrant entry into the United States of aliens from countries referred to in section 217(a)(12) of the INA, 8 U.S.C. 1187(a)(12), would be detrimental to the interests of the United States, and I hereby suspend entry into the United States, as immigrants and nonimmigrants, of such persons for 90 days from the date of this order (excluding those foreign nationals traveling on diplomatic visas, North Atlantic Treaty Organization visas, C-2 visas for travel to the United Nations, and G-1, G-2, G-3, and G-4 visas).

This is an excerpt from Friday's executive order, and while other portions of the executive order (most notably section 7, biometric exit) have more applicability to me personally, the section above matters to a lot of people.

Specifically, those associated with countries referenced in 8 U.S.C. 1187(a)(12). While the law refers to a separate list of countries maintained by the Government, two countries are specifically called out - Syria, and Iraq.

"But that doesn't matter," you may say, "since it refers to people from those countries who want to enter the United States. It doesn't have anything to do with people from the United States who want to go to those countries. Samaritan's Purse can still send people to Iraq - right?"

Sure - as long as Iraq allows it. But what if Iraq follows the lead of one of the other affected countries, Iran?

Iran says it will ban all US citizens from entering the country in response to President Donald Trump's executive order limiting immigration from seven Muslim-majority countries, according to an Iranian Foreign Ministry statement published on state media Saturday.

Iran is among seven countries whose nationals are barred from entering the United States for 90 days under Trump's order.

But Iran is Iran, and Iraq is Iraq, right? Iraq loves us, right?

Well, let's see how much Iraq loves us now:

Lawyers for two Iraqis with ties to the US military who had been granted visas to enter the United States have filed a lawsuit against President Donald Trump and the US government after they were detained when they arrived in New York Friday....

The two Iraqi men named as plaintiffs in the suit are Hameed Khalid Darweesh, who worked as an interpreter for the US during the Iraq War, and Haider Sameer Abdulkaleq Alshawi. The suit said Darweesh held a special immigrant visa, which he was granted the day of Trump’s inauguration on January 20, due to his work for the US government from 2003 to 2013.

The lawsuit said the US granted Alshawi a visa earlier this month to meet with his wife and son, whom the US already granted refugee status for their association with the US military.

So follow this. These two men actively worked with the United States during the war in Iraq - one of them for ten years. Needless to say, these men were not popular with some segments of Iraq's population - both the secularists who supported Saddam Hussein and the religious people who now support ISIS. Presumably the one place where they WOULD be accepted would be the United States - and upon their arrival in the U.S., they were detained.

How do you think the Iraq government, responding to domestic political pressure, will respond to this?

How will Samaritan's Purse respond to this? And is it possible that the past statements of the leader of Samaritan's Purse have ended up causing problems for his workers in Iraq?

P.S. Before you say that this action of President Donald Trump has never ever happened before, remember the plight of the Vietnamese boat people. Of course, back in those days, it was the Republicans who wanted to bring the South Vietnamese into the country, and the Democrats who wanted to keep them out.

By Christmas of 1975, an estimated 130,000 Vietnamese refugees had been sponsored by churches and families who provided them with new homes in the United States. According to an article in Vietnam magazine, an American publication, the only state that initially resisted the influx of boat people was California, where Jerry Brown was then in his first term as governor. Brown’s administration reportedly attempted to prevent planes loaded with refugees from landing at Travis Air Force Base.

Brown received a stinging rebuke from White House photographer David Hume Kennerly, who had photographed the evacuation. According to the article, Kennerly said Brown had “no compassion for your fellow human beings.”

Friday, January 27, 2017

Starbucks getting roasted in Mexico...and in the United States

Starbucks has been a topic in the Empoprise-BI business blog since its beginnings in 2009. And now it's back in the news due to the spat between Mexico and the United States regarding the wall. There have been generalized calls for boycotts of U.S. companies.

TIME notes that some specific companies have been targeted.

Others messages call for specific boycotts of U.S. companies in Mexico, including McDonalds, Walmart and Coca-Cola. One of the most heavily trending hashtags is #AdiosStarbucks, or “Goodbye Starbucks,” referring to the Seattle company which has opened hundreds of coffee houses here.

However, in any type of boycott, there are innocent bystanders who are affected by unintended consequences.

A shift manager at a Starbucks in the middle-class Roma neighborhood of Mexico City said Thursday he had already seen a slump of about 10 percent in customers at that particular outlet. “It’s bad because this is a franchise and it affects the jobs of Mexican workers,” said the manager, who asked his name not be used as he was not an authorized spokesman.

And if anyone things that Trump will come to the defense of this Washington state-based company, think again.

Starbucks has not voiced any political support for Trump, and was itself the subject of a protest by Trump supporters in December.

Tuesday, January 24, 2017

Speaking of Apple and Donald Donald Trump actually Steve Jobs 2.0?

What do Buddy Holly, Marilyn Monroe, John Kennedy, and Steve Jobs have in common?

They all died before their time, and have been somewhat immortalized as a result.

Despite the fact that we know negative things about each of these people, they are on the whole regarded in a positive manner.

Because of this, any comparison of a living person against one of these people can get complicated, because the living schmuck cannot in any way compare to the dead revered one.

Which is part of what was going on in this Kara Swisher article that asked what would have happened if Steve Jobs had been around to witness the political triumph of Donald Trump. In essence, while Jeff Bezos and others are strangely silent as President Trump attacks their beliefs, Swisher argues that Jobs wouldn't have stood for Trumpism. Her opening to advance this occurs when an insider at a Washington eatery notes that the era of pirates is over.

Pirates - as in the people who hoisted a pirate flag over a small building at Apple's headquarters.

Where has that once-celebrated sentiment gone? Pirates. Break things. Disrupt. Resist. Win by being smarter and better. Believe in and embrace the future. Gone, it seems, with the election of one loud-mouthed politician, which makes me worry about what will inspire the next generation of innovators.

I'll get back to Swisher's question in a minute. But first, let's see what she said next.

It also makes me wonder how Jobs would react now to this Trump situation and what he would say in the face of an administration hostile to much of what Silicon Valley has stood for for so long.

Then, an admission that Jobs wasn't perfect - but he was no Trump:

I was lucky enough to interview Jobs many times over the course of my career, and it was entirely true he was deft at throwing up an epic reality distortion field, which was still in no way like the “alternative facts” that the Trump administration’s most deft Pinocchio, Kellyanne Conway, spews with an enthusiasm last seen in public when Joe Isuzu ruled the airwaves in the 1980s.

Then she provides an example of Jobs himself stating an alternative fact:

Look, Jobs did some sometimes dissemble, as do many in tech. He committed an epic whopper, for example, when he told me and Walt Mossberg onstage in 2005 that he was not likely to make a phone, even though he was working hard on the breakthrough iPhone he introduced in 2007.

Reality distortion, dissembling, an "epic whopper" - but no, Steve Jobs never uttered an alternative fact. As a beloved comedian used to say in a routine about Noah, "RIIIIIGHT."

But at this point the offended fanbois' necks are getting visibly red around their turtlenecks. "How can you compare Saint Steve to Trump?" they ask. "Look at the evidence! Trump, for all his bravado, is a complete failure at business! Steve Jobs was an unqualified business success!"

Um, not so fast. He was doing well at the beginning, and was doing well at the end, but there were some lean years during which he ended up leaving (or being forced out of) his own company, and then had to find a buyer for his new company that failed. That buyer, of course, was Apple, which was also infused by Microsoft money - a little tidbit that the fanbois sometimes don't get around to mentioning.

Oh, and one more thing...

Remember the question that Swisher asked about the pirate sentiment? Break things, disrupt, resist and all that?

While Swisher is bemoaning the fact that the pirate mentality is gone in the tech industry, you don't have to go far to find a remarkable example of a pirate in action.

Someone who was certainly disruptive, who did all sorts of things that you weren't supposed to do, who resisted (and continues to this day to resist) any attempt to conform to conventions. Someone who, despite being a pirate, triumphed in an industry where he wasn't supposed to triumph, over a competitor who was seemingly much, much smarter than he was.

If you haven't figured it out already, I'm talking about the "loud-mouthed politician" that Swisher hates - and frankly, who I don't really like myself.

But when you look at results, Donald Trump's electoral triumph is a "pirate" achievement comparable to the Macintosh, and the iPhone that Steve Jobs lied - yes, lied - about. Heck, Sean Spicer or Kellyanne Conway would be perfect flacks for Jobs - except that Jobs' huge ego wouldn't allow him to share the stage with anyone.

And before we talk about Trump's lapses in morality, what was the name of the product that came out before the Macintosh? And how much contact did daddy have with daughter during her first years?

We try to make pirates into beloved cuddly creatures, but pirates can be cut-throat and not nice at all. There are a bunch of victims of Donald Trump, just as there are a bunch of victims of Steve Jobs. The talent, or curse, of pirates is that they have the vision and temperament to look at a society and its rules and decide to do something better while breaking a number of rules along the way. For each pirate, we have to decide if piracy is worth it.

Business must change: is Apple moving from AuthenTec to another biometric modality? Maybe, maybe not.

(DISCLOSURE: I am employed in the biometric industry.)

At the time, it seemed like a weird purchase to most people. It was 2012, and Apple paid $356 million for a company called AuthenTec. Most of you had never heard of this company, and were wondering what in the heck Apple was thinking. Yes, AuthenTec manufactured fingerprint readers, but who was going to want a fingerprint reader on a phone? Yes, my former employer Motorola had released a mobile device with a fingerprint reader (the MC-75), but that was targeted for a vertical market. Apple was a consumer company. What were the chances that consumers would actually use a fingerprint reader?

Well...higher than we thought.

[Apple tasked] AuthenTec engineers with rethinking fingerprint scanning on mobile. The results were nothing short of amazing: Apple has managed to take competition by surprise by seamlessly integrating the sophisticated Touch ID sensor into the iconic Home button, a far cry from the unreliable solutions that require you to swipe the sensor.

The benefits went all the way back to my industry, biometrics. As people accepted the idea of using fingerprints on their iPhones, and eventually on other mobile phones, they became more accepting of using all types of biometrics in all types of consumer situations.

But by 2016, there had been more and more stories about how the fingerprint security had been defeated. No system is 100% secure, and even when you start incorporating technologies such as "liveness detection" into fingerprint readers, talented computer scientists can find ways to defeat the security.

Or, in one case, a six year old:

A 6-year-old girl from Arkansas may have just shown how vulnerable the supposedly secure Touch ID system really is after she was able to use her unwitting mother's smartphone to make several purchases online.

Ashlynd Howell from Little Rock surprised her parents when she was able to place $250 worth of purchases on Amazon earlier this month without their knowledge. The shopping spree was only discovered after the Howells received 13 order confirmations for Pokémon items.

At first, Ashlynd's mother Bethany thought her Amazon account had been hacked, leading to the illegal purchases. However, the mother soon found out that her daughter had scanned her fingerprint while the mother was taking a nap to bypass the Touch ID system on her phone.

Liveness detection would do no good here. Mom was obviously alive, and the finger had not been cut away from her body. And I guess all of us in the industry will start subjecting our technology to six year old kid hackers.

But is it necessarily valid to jump to the conclusion that fingerprints are so insecure that they should be scrapped for something else? One TechCrunch writer may be on to that path.

Will the Touch ID security feature of the iPhone be replaced soon?

A well-known analyst and forecaster of Apple's business moves has raised the possibility of Cupertino revamping its existing biometric and security features in 2017 iPhones.

KGI Securities analyst Ming-Chi Kuo says Apple might explore various new technologies such as better sensors and even a facial recognition system that it can incorporate into the latest installations of the iPhone.

The article goes on to cite the Arkansas story as a possible reason for the switch.

Well, if that's the reason, then you'd better sit down - or lie down. Facial recognition won't pass the six year old hacking test unless sleeping mom covers her head so her face can't be seen.

Now perhaps there may be valid reasons for Apple to release a phone without the AuthenTec technology and with a camera-based technology - cost, user acceptance, use cases, and the like. Or alternatively, Apple could implement my personal preference - multimodal biometrics, in which the device is capable of using a variety of biometric authentication methods, either singly or in conjunction. Let's say you wanted to hack Donald Trump's Twitter account, and you had gone through the trouble of duplicating Trump's fingerprints. What if you ALSO had to duplicate his face, his iris features, and his voice to be able to hack into his account? Again, not completely impossible, but much much harder than just hacking based upon a single biometric.

Or a password.

Wednesday, January 18, 2017

Police body cameras and the swing of the pendulum

Not too long ago, there were people that were demanding all police body cameras, all the time. I have previously noted some flaws in that model, most recently here.

Now people have apparently discovered that body cameras expose more than police brutality - and the previous "cameras always on" mantra is being modified just a bit. Examples:

For example recent legislation in some states strictly regulates when police should turn the cameras off. In the District of Columbia, officers are not allowed to record at a school if they are engaged in “noncritical contact.”

Connecticut prohibits officers from recording in a hospital, mental health or other medical facility unless they are engaged in recording a crime suspect.

More here.

Tuesday, January 17, 2017

How Britain's Alternative Meat Distribution System Benefits The Pharmaceutical Industry

National economies are complex things, and a new entrepreneur needs to figure out a lot of things to be successful. What goods will she sell? How will she obtain the finished goods? What is her distribution channel?

But before figuring out all of that, a new entrepreneur needs to figure out her business mission and goals. So let's start there.

The mission of Jane's Distributing is to net £50 to £100 daily to support Jane's heroin and crack habit.

Once you figure out your corporate mission, you can then answer the other questions about the goods to sell, the distribution network, and the like. A Vice article details the specifics of people who finance their heroin and crack habits by stealing meat.

Why meat?

Shoplifting is on the rise, and considering a slab of pork belly in your coat pocket is a little less conspicuous than, say, a boxed and tagged digital camera, it's no surprise the most recent Global Retail Theft Barometer study identified meat as one of the most commonly stolen items from supermarkets....

"People can see the price and the sell by date. I get half the sale price for it, which is good—a lot of other things you have to sell on for less," says Scott.

Once an entrepreneur decides that she's going to steal meat, the mechanics of getting the meat out of the supermarket (without the necessity of a financial transaction) dictates the type of meat that will be stolen. Expensive is good, bulky is bad. Scott even provided the Vice reporter with a list of the five most desirable meats to steal.

Then, an entrepreneur has to find customers. Sometimes it's a bit difficult.

"I have a few regular pubs I sell meat in; most of the pubs where I sell meat are estate pubs. In some of them the landlord will ask for first refusal before he lets me offer it to his customers. Sometimes I have to sneak in and sell it without the manager knowing."

And sometimes it's all too easy.

"Once I was in Co-op and I'd stuffed a load of posh hams costing £6 [$9] down my coat, but they had fallen out the bottom onto the floor right in front of this old lady. I swear she was not a day younger than 70. She picked them up, gave them back to me and said, 'If you're selling them, I'll meet you outside,' and she bought the lot."

But WHY do heroin addicts have to steal? I always thought that in the UK, methadone was just a shot away, just a kiss away. Well, Vice covered that also:

I’ve chosen not to take methadone, a synthetic opioid prescribed to substitute the use of heroin. Because, aside from the taboos associated with queuing to pick up that mug of green liquid every day, long-term methadone use has been linked to a variety of health problems, some of which aren’t related to heroin abuse, such as bone damage and tooth decay.

There are many other alternative treatments, of course, but methadone remains the one most commonly prescribed by drug services. Personally, I prefer buprenorphine derivatives like Subutex or Suboxone....However, Subutex and Suboxone cost the government or treatment service considerably more than methadone – perhaps why they're not offered as regularly – and, with an average price of £3,000, implants and Naltrexone-aided detox will never be an option for most people.

From the perspective of an opiate consumer, there are other downsides to switching from an addiction to heroin to an addiction to methadone:

This second addiction allows services to keep track of and control those in treatment. Although presumably unintentional, this involves degrading many of those people on a daily basis, forcing them to publicly consume a less desirable but free supply of drugs.

So the invisible hand continues its work, legalities or no.