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  • feedwordpress 02:52:58 on 2020/01/06 Permalink
    Tags: , , , , , netflix, , , , ,   

    Predictions 2020: Facebook Caves, Google Zags, Netflix Sells Out, and Data Policy Gets Sexy 


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    A new year brings another run at my annual predictions: For 17 years now, I’ve taken a few hours to imagine what might happen over the course of the coming twelve months. And my goodness did I swing for the fences last year — and I pretty much whiffed. Batting .300 is great in the majors, but it kind of sucks compared to my historical average. My mistake was predicting events that I wished would happen. In other words, emotions got in the way. So yes, Trump didn’t leave office, Zuck didn’t give up voting control of Facebook, and weed’s still illegal (on a federal level, anyway). 

    Chastened, this year I’m going to focus on less volatile topics, and on areas where I have a bit more on-the-ground knowledge — the intersection of big tech, marketing, media, and data policy. As long time readers know, I don’t prepare in advance of writing this post. Instead, I just clear a few hours and start thinking out loud. So…here we go.

    1. Facebook bans microtargeting on specific kinds of political advertising. Of course I start with Facebook, because, well, it’s one of the most inscrutable companies in the world right now. While Zuck & Co. seem deeply committed to their “principled” stand around a politician’s right to paid prevarication, the pressure to do something will be too great, and as it always does, the company will enact a half-measure, then declare victory. The new policy will probably roll out after Super Tuesday (sparking all manner of conspiracies about how the company didn’t want to impact its Q1 growth numbers in the US). The company’s spinners will frame this as proof they listen to their critics, and that they’re serious about the integrity of the 2020 elections. As with nearly everything it does, this move will fail to change anyone’s opinion of the company. Wall St. will keep cheering the company’s stock, and folks like me will keep wondering when, if ever, the next shoe will drop. 
    2. Netflix opens the door to marketing partnerships. Yes, I’m aware that the smart money has moved on from this idea. But in a nod to increasing competition and the reality of Wall St. expectations, Netflix will at least pilot a program — likely not in the US — where it works with brands in some limited fashion. Mass hysteria in the trade press will follow once this news breaks, but Netflix will call the move a pilot, a test, an experiment…no big deal. It may take the form of a co-produced series, or branded content, or some other “native” approach, but at the end of the day, it’ll be advertising dollars that fuel the programming. And while I won’t predict the program augurs a huge new revenue stream for the company, I can predict that what won’t happen, at least in 2020: A free, advertising-driven version of Netflix. Just not in the company’s culture. 
    3. CDA 230 will get seriously challenged, but in the end, nothing gets done, again. Last year I predicted there’d be no federal data privacy legislation, and I’m predicting the same for this year. However, there will be a lot of movement on legislation related to the tech oligarchy. The topic that will come the closest to passage will be a revision to CDA 230 —the landmark legislation that protects online platforms from liability for user generated content. Blasphemy? Sure, but here we are, stuck between free speech on the one hand, massive platform economics on the other, and a really, really bad set of externalities in the middle. CDA 230 was built to give early platforms the room to grow unhindered by traditional constraints on media companies. That growth has now metastasized, and we don’t have a policy response that anyone agrees upon. And CDA 230 is an easy target, given conservatives in Congress already believe Facebook, Google, and others have it out for their president. They’ll be a serious run at rewriting 230, but it will ultimately fail. Related…
    4. Adversarial interoperability will get a moment in the sun, but also fail to make it into law. In the past I (and many others) have written about “machine readable data portability.” But for the debate we’re about to have (and need to have), I like “adversarial interoperability” better. Both are mouthfuls, and neither are easy to explain. Data governance and policy are complicated topics which test our society’s ability to have difficult long form conversations. 2020 will be a year where the legions of academics, policy makers, politicians, and writers who debate economic theory around data and capitalism get a real audience, and I believe much of that debate will center on whether or not large platforms have a responsibility to be open or closed. As Cory Doctorow explains, adversarial interoperability is “when you create a new product or service that plugs into the existing ones without the permission of the companies that make them.” As in, I can plug my new e-commerce engine into Amazon, my new mobile operating system into iOS, my new social network into Facebook, or my new driving instruction app into Google Maps. I grew up in a world where this kind of innovation was presumed. It’s now effectively banned by a handful of data oligarchs, and our economy – and our future – suffers for it. 
    5. As long as we’re geeking out on catchphrases only a dork can love, 2020 will also be the year “data provenance” becomes a thing. As with many nerdy topics, the concept of data provenance started in academia, migrated to adtech, and is about to break into the broader world of marketing, which is struggling to get its arms around a data-driven future. The ability to trace the origin, ownership, permissions, and uses of data is a fundamental requirement of an advanced digital economy, and in 2020, we’ll realize we have a ton of work left to do to get this right. Yes, yes, blockchain and ledgers are part of the discussion here, but the point isn’t the technology, it’s the policy enabling the technology. 
    6. Google zags. Saddled with increasingly negative public opinion and driven in large part by concerns over retaining its workforce, Google will make a deeply surprising and game changing move in 2020. It could be a massive acquisition, a move into some utterly surprising new industry (like content), but my money’s on something related to data privacy. The company may well commit to both leading the debate on the topics described above, as well as implementing them in its core infrastructure. Now that would really be a zag…
    7. At least one major “on demand” player will capitulate. Gig economy business models may make sense long term, but that doesn’t mean we’re getting the execution right in the first group of on demand “unicorns.” In fact, I’d argue we’re mostly getting them wrong, even if as consumers, we love the supposed convenience gig brands bring us. Many of the true costs of these businesses have been externalized onto public infrastructure (and the poor), and civic patience is running out. Plus, venture and public finance markets are increasingly skeptical of business models that depend on strip mining the labor of increasingly querulous private contractors. A reckoning is due, and in 2020 we’ll see the collapse of one or more larger players in the field.
    8. Influencer marketing will fall out of favor. I’m not predicting an implosion here, but rather an industry wide pause as brands start to ask the questions consumers will also be pondering: who the fuck are these influencers and why are we paying them so much attention? A major piece of this — on the marketing side anyway — will be driven by a massive increase in influencer fraud. As with other fast growing digital marketing channels, where money pours in, fraud fast follows — nearly as fast as fawning New York Times articles, but I digress. 
    9. Information warfare becomes a national bogeyman. If we’ve learned anything since the 2016 election, it’s this: We’ve taken far too long to comprehend the extent to which bad actors have come to shape and divide our discourse. These past few years have slowly revealed the power of information warfare, and the combination of a national election with the compounding distrust of algorithm-driven platforms will mean that by mid year, “fake news” will yield to “information warfare” as the catchphrase describing what’s wrong with our national dialog. Deep fakes, sophisticated state-sponsored information operations, and good old fashioned political info ops will dominate the headlines in 2020. Unfortunately, the cynic in me thinks the electorate’s response will be to become more inured and distrustful, but there’s a chance a number of trusted media brands (both new and old) prosper as we all search for a common set of facts.
    10. Purpose takes center stage in business. 2019 was the year the leaders of industry declared a new purpose for the corporation — one that looks beyond profits for a true north that includes multiple stakeholders, not just shareholders. 2020 will be the year many companies will compete to prove that they are serious about that pledge. Reaction from Wall St. will be mixed, but I expect plenty of CEOs will feel emboldened to take the kind of socially minded actions that would have gotten them fired in previous eras. This is a good thing, and likely climate change will become the issue many companies will feel comfortable rallying behind. (I certainly hope so, but this isn’t supposed to be about what I wish for…)
    11. Apple and/or Amazon stumble. I have no proof as to why I think this might happen but…both these companies just feel ripe for some kind of major misstep or scandal. America loves a financial winner — and both Amazon and Apple have been runaway winners in the stock market for the past decade. Both have gotten away with some pretty bad shit along the way, especially when it comes to labor practices in their supply chain. And while neither of them are as vulnerable as Facebook or Google when it comes to the data privacy or free speech issues circling big tech, both Apple and Amazon have become emblematic of a certain kind of capitalism that feels fraught with downside risk in the near future. I can’t say what it is, but I feel like both these companies could catch one squarely on the jaw this coming year, and the post-mortems will all say they never saw it coming. 

    So there you have it — 11 predictions for the coming year. I was going to stop at 10, but that Apple/Amazon one just forced itself out — perhaps that’s me wishing again. We’ll see. Let me know your thoughts, and keep your cool out there. 2020 is going to be one hell of a year. 

     
  • feedwordpress 18:30:13 on 2014/02/24 Permalink
    Tags: , , , , fiber, , , , netflix, , whatsapp   

    else 2.24: “This is how revolutions begin” 


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    The post else 2.24: “This is how revolutions begin” appeared first on John Battelle's Search Blog.

    This week we thought about paid peering, fiber, and privacy in a lot of different contexts. As always if you want to keep up with what we’re reading/thinking about on a weekly basis, the best way is to subscribe to the “else” feed, either as an email newsletter or through RSS. And tweet us links!

     

    Inside The Netflix/Comcast Deal and What The Media Is Getting Very Wrong — Streaming Media
    Dan Rayburn clarifies some of the bad reporting on the Netflix Comcast deal: “it simply comes down to Netflix making a business decision that it makes sense for them to deliver their content directly to Comcast, instead of through a third party” and adding that Comcast guarantees certain quality by an SLA.

    Comcast is definitely throttling Netflix, and it’s infuriating
    Matt Vukas tries to parse what’s going on with Comcast’s alleged throttling of Netflix traffic, playing around with encrypted VPN that masks the video traffic, and pinging the traceroute to see where is packets are coming from. His follow up post describes how hard it is for consumers to understand what’s going on with their internet traffic, especially when CDN peering relationships are part of the problem.

    ajblum_house of cards

    Exploring new cities for Google Fiber — Google Blog
    Google expands its experiments in Kansas City and Austin to a few major cities including Portland and the Research Triangle area. This is certainly an interesting step forward, especially as the natural monopoly of cable internet providers expands. So how do we feel about Google controlling the pipes and the content?

    In Pricey Facebook Deal for WhatsApp, Two Strong-Willed CEOs — WSJ
    Real names or not, the value is in the usage metadata. But WhatsApp will continue to operate independently from Facebook.

    Can Someone Explain WhatsApp’s Valuation To Me? — LinkedIn
    danah boyd (whose new book on teens social media use just came out!) walks through the logic for WhatsApp’s value when most of what it’s solving for is “carrier stupidity.”

    Glass, Darkly — MIT Technology Review
    Another in depth review on Glass likes the possibilities, “But for many, I think, Glass faces an insurmountable problem. It’s impossible to miss.”

    Whose Life is it Anyway? — Bookforum
    Clive Thompson’s review of Julia Angwin (formerly of the Wall Street Journal’s What They Know Series) details the arduous process of becoming truly secure online.

    Data pioneers watching us work — FT
    Mining for efficiency and effectiveness gains, but it all sounds a little creepy, too. Steelcase is even putting sensors into furniture.

    The post else 2.24: “This is how revolutions begin” appeared first on John Battelle's Search Blog.

     
  • feedwordpress 20:52:35 on 2014/02/17 Permalink
    Tags: , , , , , , , , netflix, , wearable   

    else 2.17: “Drag the future here and see if we want it” 


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    The post else 2.17: “Drag the future here and see if we want it” appeared first on John Battelle's Search Blog.

    This week looked at convergence in wearables, how we live with technology today and in the near future, and the possibility that reality is just a mathematical model. As always if you want to keep up with what we’re reading/thinking about on a weekly basis, the best way is to subscribe to the “else” feed, either as an email newsletter or through RSS. And tweet us links!

     

    The Plus in Google Plus? It’s Mostly for Google — NYTimes
    Even if Plus isn’t where you spend your time, it’s the basis for a consolidated view of your activity across Google. That will  become even more important with time. “With a single Plus account, the company can build a database of your affinities.”

    The Dash Builds Wearable Fitness Sensors Into The Headphones You’re Using Anyway — Techcrunch
    We’re starting to see the convergence of wearable sensors with other standard purposes. These Kickstarter Bluetooth headphones also track your workout.

    Apple’s hiring spree of biosensor experts continues — Network World
    Lots of Apple speculation here, but it’s certainly interesting to see all the biosensor expertise in these recent hires.

    When Silicon Valley Met the NSA — The Information
    Key members of industry meet with the NSA under the Enduring Security Framework program.
    “It’s to build a relationship so that when we’re in a state of war, we’re already going to have operational agreement of how you support us and help us.” [Pay wall]

    When You Fall in Love, This Is What Facebook Sees — The Atlantic
    Facebook data scientists offer insights into patterns in the days leading up to making a relationship Facebook official. What they do with those insights is another story

    A review of Her by Ray Kurzweil — Kurzweil AI
    Father of AI and the singularity argues that Her falls short because it pits us against technology, instead of exploring a more integrated future. “It will not be us versus the machines (whether the machines are enemies or lovers), but rather, we will enhance our own capacity by merging with our intelligent creations.”

    Intel’s Sharp-Eyed Social Scientist — NYTimes
    Anthropologist and social scientists at Intel  are looking into the ways we live with technologies that we already have and thinking about how emerging technologies will integrate into our daily lives. Bell notes, “I am firmly in the present…But, sometimes, I want to drag the future here and see if we want it.”

    Ad Infinitum: ‘Our Mathematical Universe’ — NYTimes
    Toying with the possibility “that reality itself is a mathematical structure.” “Math is so effective in describing the world, he says, because physical reality is a mathematical structure. He calls it the Mathematical Universe Hypothesis (M.U.H.).” Does it follow that the world is already data?

    Netflix Is Building an Artificial Brain Using Amazon’s Cloud — Wired
    Recommendations algorithms aim to get even more advanced with deep learning applications.

     

    The post else 2.17: “Drag the future here and see if we want it” appeared first on John Battelle's Search Blog.

     
  • feedwordpress 16:29:09 on 2014/01/06 Permalink
    Tags: , , , , data broker, , , , netflix,   

    else 1.6: “Ghosts in the machine” 


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    The post else 1.6: “Ghosts in the machine” appeared first on John Battelle's Search Blog.

    Back from the holiday break, we look at data’s influence on culture; glass, both as a material for transmitting bits, and as a wearable interface; and the (im)permanence of data.

    As always, if you want to keep up with what we’re reading/thinking about on a weekly basis, the best way is to subscribe to the “else” feed, either as an email newsletter or through RSS. And tweet us links!

     

    How Netflix Reverse Engineered Hollywood — The Atlantic
    Alexis Madrigal and Ian Bogost do a little datamining to uncover the grammar of Netflix: 76,897 combinations of overly specific genres to tailor to every taste. It’s a great story of data journalism, and of the emerging influence of data on our culture. And they even built a generator from the data, which offered me “Hitman Coming of Age Stories.” Read through for the Perry Mason puzzle at the end: “The more complexity you add to a machine world, you’re adding serendipity that you couldn’t imagine. Perry Mason is going to happen. These ghosts in the machine are always going to be a by-product of the complexity. And sometimes we call it a bug and sometimes we call it a feature.”

    netflix the atlantic

    Data Broker Was Selling Lists Of Rape Victims, Alcoholics, and ‘Erectile Dysfunction Sufferers’ — Forbes
    If you’re in the camp that says “what’s the worst that could happen if brokers are selling your data for advertising,” this list of vulnerable categorizations could change your mind.

    The Postmodernity of Big Data — The New Inquiry
    Getting a little heavy on the theory, but this is a nice start tying together big data, postmodernism and skepticism.

    Kanye West Now Has His Own Cryptocurrency and It’s Called Coinye West — TIME
    Amid the Bitcoin hype, new currencies like Coinye West and Dogecoin are cropping up, testing out the fundamentals of the cryptocurrency model.

    The spread of glass — Benedict Evans
    A concise and interesting metric about the spread of glass as the transit for our bits: “It’s all just glass with a data connection.”

    I, Glasshole: My Year With Google Glass — Wired.com
    Some interesting observations from a guy who wore Glass for an entire year – namely that he grew to really hate having to look at his smartphone. As for me, I’m compiling a list of all the places I consider briefly but decide not to wear Glass out.

    One code to rule them all: How big data could help the 1 percent and hurt the little guy — Salon
    This offers a nice discussion of the tension between algorithmic regulation (that is, putting regulation into programmable machines, such as Youtube DMCA takedowns) and the problem of regulating the algorithms themselves.

    Do We Want an Erasable Internet? — WSJ.com
    Do we assume the permanence of data, or not? This discusses the differences between a “forever internet” versus “erasable internet.”

    Target confirms breach: 40 million accounts affected — ZDNet
    This story got a lot of coverage over the holidays, but the most interesting thing here is that Target apparently stored CVV codes, which shows that if the data can be stored it will be stored, even if it’s not supposed to be.

    Hyping Artificial Intelligence, Yet Again — The New Yorker
    John Markoff’s front page discussion of deep learning seemed a little vague and hype-y to us,  though we’ve been paying close attention to latest AI surge, too. The New Yorker offers a little historical context.

    We need to talk about TED — Benjamin Bratton
    Criticism of TED talks oversimplification of complex issues and memification of ideas isn’t new, but it has never taken the form of TED talk before… #meta.

    Edward Snowden, Whistle-Blower — The New York Times
    The New York Times editorial board came out in support of classifying Edward Snowden as a whistle-blower (as opposed to a traitor) and calls for clemency. We tend to agree.

    The post else 1.6: “Ghosts in the machine” appeared first on John Battelle's Search Blog.

     
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