Your App is not a Unique and Special Snowflake

Technology people will never learn that you can’t win on features alone. Any feature can be copied. And any technology can be surpassed.

Instagram stories steal snapchat, image via Techcrunch

See: Instagram Stories.

Snapchat @snapchat: That moment when Facebook comes into your house, eats your lunch, and flips your wife the bird. ¯_(ツ)_/¯

I’m only PARTIALLY writing this in response to a Brandcenter student who thinks it’s my fault she didn’t invest in Snap before shares went up last month. Of course, that’s before yesterday, when Kylie Jenner forced grandpa to keep working until he’s 80.

But mostly I’m writing this because Marco Arment, the guy that invented read-it-later services, co-founded Tumblr, and makes my favorite podcasting app, wrote some advice about [Defending your app from copies and clones){]:

The instant someone else has the same feature or design as you, the public and press see it as a collective checkbox feature, or a “standard” or “obvious” design, that apps in this category just have. It’s no longer yours.

The House That Spied on Me

Kashmir Hill and Surya Mattu, at the Verge, conducted an experiment in smart home living. Kashmir tricked out her house in smart home devices, from coffee makers to beds, and Surya monitored the data being sent from the house through the internet to see what could be tracked.

Their article does a good job of bringing her experience to life; through observations and data: The House That Spied on Me.

I like to imagine that I’m going to keep my house simple and dumb for as long as possible. I don’t like creating that much data about what we do. But there will come a point where connection is a necessity for basic living. Insurance companies will expect to know about your habits. The government needs to know about your power consumption. Communicating with anyone requires a device that knows where you are.

I don’t mean to paint myself as paranoid or a luddite, but we are moving so quickly and so clumsily into this frustrating new world that it feels like no one is considering the implications of it all.

Friends and family are subjected to surveillance:

Getting a smart home means that everyone who lives or comes inside it is part of your personal panopticon.

Your behaviour changes as you’re constantly aware of being observed:

All of the anxiety you currently feel about being tracked online is going to move into your living room.

And for all of the tasks that are automated, there comes a new layer of tasks involved with maintaining the automators:

I thought the house would take care of me but instead, everything in it now had the power to ask me to do things.

At some point, the business world, or the government, or someone needs to start thinking about whether or not this is good for people. Or at least, whether or not it’s possible for people who use this stuff to even comprehend what they are trading in return for a coffee maker that can connect to Alexa.

Netflix Marketing “Actually Works.”

And now, the latest installment of one of my favorite tropes: Tech Company Discovers Marketing…

Netflix bets $2bn on marketing, tests prove it actually works:

The content giant, which grew streaming revenue 36% to over US$11 billion, added 24 million new memberships and achieved a full-year positive international contribution profit for the first time, and more than doubled global operating income, has admitted that its marketing plan has really paid off.

Yes, this reads like the Onion. No, it is not from the Onion.

Yes, they’ve found that advertising “actually works.”

And, yes, they’ve “admitted” it.

Alibaba and Making Cities Revolve Around People

This article almost reads like a press release, but I like that Alibaba is always thinking big and thinking in terms of how to use technology to help connect people, stores, and in this case, cities, into smarter networks.

…the city of tomorrow should be able to adapt to its surroundings and inhabitants, almost like a living organism, so that municipal services like public transport, health care and education can be delivered in the right measure and time to minimise waste and optimise usage.

If you’ve ever been stopped at a red light, with no other cars in the same zipcode, it’s easy to see how this could make small incremental changes for the better. Alibaba already claims to have improved traffic speed by “up to 11%” in one city district by simply sending out instant traffic alerts and route suggestions to drivers.

But zooming out to a city-wide view, seeing the city not as chaos, but as an adaptable, interconnected system is something else entirely. Connecting people, automated vehicles, buildings, and other services together could bring about much larger changes that we might not yet even imagine.

Though it’s really easy to imagine the problems this might cause given bias built into systems by accident or by fiat.

Alibaba’s next moon shot is to make cities adapt to their human inhabitants, technology seer says

Fake news is spam, except that we like it.

Fred Wilson on fake news: 

So when I hear of some new bad thing like fake news, I immediately think of spam. And I think of the things that have been done to manage and mitigate spam. There is a roadmap for mitigating and managing this sort of thing. It seems like we need to replicate it around fake news. And we should.

Impressive how fast the problem of fake news descended on us. Maybe it’s been simmering, slowly increasing in temperature, but we didn’t notice because we were the frogs in the pot.

Well now it’s boiling.

Interesting to think of this as a tech problem in the same way email spam was attacked as a tech problem.

Another take is that the problem isn’t the distribution of fake news. It’s that we like it too much. We are lazy monkeys, with lazy monkey brains, and we are drawn to exciting, bias-confirming, ideas.

We get the same dopamine hit whether the news is accurate or 100% tapdancing-horseshit.

Email spam was a problem because we didn’t like it. News spam is a problem because we like it too much.