Drones are definitely the new black. In addition to them presenting a considerable increase in the tension levels at Al Qaeda pep rallies Amazon is threatening to use them to deliver stuff we can’t wait an extra day to receive our stuff and now Google is buying into the game. Today they announced that they are buying Titan Aerospace. You have to wonder why give the enormous tasks still to be completed at home why the Big G is laying out big bucks on drones. The answer is simple….poor people. Pretty much everyone in the “civilized” world has a phone (increasingly a smartphone) and the number of searches served on mobile devices has already outstripped desktops in the US chasing the same searchers in the eternal quest to squeeze the last cent out of an already saturated market is problematic.
It’s increasingly looking like the desktop PC may go the way of the copper landline. We in the west carefully navigated the entire history of the telephone, it took us a century or more to suffer through the technology until we could just dispense with it altogether and go permanently mobile, I haven’t had a landline in five years. The emerging world has largely skipped copper altogether and gone wireless from day one. In the same way we are rapidly and permanently abandoning the desktop. Tablets and smartphones do the majority of what we used to do on beige boxes, large parts of the world may get to be fully mobile, online and most importantly shopping without ever seeing a wired phone or a traditional PC.
Delivering the infrastructure to make this a reality explains the recent forays by the likes of Google and Facebook into wireless infrastructure. Whether it’s a balloon or an enormous drone covered in solar panels circling high above the earth the big players in our markets have big plans for the third world. As economies become strong enough to support ecommerce Google will be there providing the network to facilitate it. Yes, Google is of course positioning this a humanitarian initiative to bring a better life to millions.
It’s encouraging to think that one day all of humanity will be able to search on Google, exchange cat pics on Facebook and shop on Amazon. However one could be forgiven for posing the question Bill Gates did recently…if you are so focused on doing the greatest good for the greatest number…why aren’t you helping cure malaria?
About a million years ago (actually June 2004) I was invited by a dude I knew at Google to join an upstart email system called Gmail. It was in its infancy and 56 thousand emails later I’m still using that account. Of course now everybody has a Gmail account and Google reads our mail to target us with advertising.
Back then Google was a fraction of the behemoth it has become and it was kinda neat having an email address which was exactly what I wanted…no need to add a year of birth or similar to make the name unique. Over the next couple of years they opened up the program to everyone and the rest is history.
Google Glass turns two this week and it has been a quite different story. Even tho Google launched it two years ago it’s still in its “Ambassador” stage. That’s not entirely surprising as Google famously keeps products in “Beta” mode for much longer than most. It does get tons of press (most of it controversial if not actively bad) sightings are rare and noteworthy and the prevailing opinion seems to be that Glass wearers are pretty much pariahs….I had a better word which rhymes with “brick head” Google themselves coined the term “Glasshole” for users without the social smarts to use the product appropriately.There are several things counting against Google Glass which are keeping it in Beta and may even doom it entirely.
Privacy: Aside from the idiots who actually wore it in the locker room it is creepy to think that the guy over there with the Brooklyn hipster beard may be filming or photographing you without even the needing to pretend not to be.
Price: At $1,500 and holding it’s completely out of reach of all but the wealthiest of nerds and at least initially was only available to those invited to become “ambassadors” by Google. The result is that the only folks you ever see wearing them are early 30 somethings in silicon valley….as sub group who are rapidly becoming as popular are timeshare sales people at the airport in Mexico. We get it…you are rich and well connected.
Features: Put simply Glass is essentially an extension of your smart phone. The battery life is pretty miserable and although there are cool thing it can do it’s tough to trade instant pariah status for those limited features. Wearables at a much lower price point are rapidly becoming the new norm. At about $100 and available from Amazon you don’t need to be a founding member of SnapChat to join the game.
Although Google is amazingly wealthy and powerful the products it makes its money from are essentially both egalitarian and empowering…most folk don’t hate Google. Glass is a clear departure from that norm. Google’s other recent adventure into hardware the ChromeCast TV plugin priced at a very approachable $35 has been a huge hit and has sold millions. The message is clear, cool and affordable beats cool and elitist every time.
It’s tough to run an airline and the continuing merger between US Airways and American to form the worlds largest (and worst?) airline clearly isn’t helping. Here’s a few “teachable moments” from our recent trip from San Diego to New York’s Newark airport.
- When standing a passenger by always give them physical proof in the form of a standby boarding pass for each flight. Hopefully that will force the system to complete the change.
- In situations where a bag has misrouted and you can clearly see the problem and the resolution own it by taking the effort to get it corrected ASAP. Don’t make it your passengers problem to be resolved at their final destination.
- When you know a bag will take 24 hours to forward 10 miles to a local hotel, be honest; it will help us plan…it would have been cheaper to get a taxi there and collect it than re-buy the essentials we ended up buying.
- When your oversights or mistakes have caused a frequent flier the travel day from hell….apologize….even if it’s not that person’s actual fault attempt to appear that you care.
I appreciate that the protocol is that nobody reviews a Broadway show until it officially opens…but permit to break with tradition and give you my 2c on the reboot of Hedwig and the Angry Inch starring Neal Patrick Harris which is currently in Previews “Broadway Adjacent” at the Belasco theater New York. Given that the original run has already sold out and the extended run through the end of June is also pretty much also fully sold I could officially declare the show a heap of garbage and not impact the ticket sale one iota….but I won’t. The show is brilliant…nothing more or less…just brilliant. We saw what had to be the fourth or fifth night of previews. The show was was technically pretty much perfect, nothing needing apparent work anywhere. Hedwig is one of my most favorite shows. I saw the original production maybe three or four times back in the late 90s as it was on the way to cult status. The show is essentially a one man act backed by a four part rock band. I loved it then, I love the new version more. Musically this performance is faster, louder and more punk than the original. Although the original was also pretty punky, it leaned more towards Bowie than the Sex Pistols. This version is straight out punk rock. At a couple of points Hedwig even spits at the audience which in of itself is a very punk throwback idea. The show has updated perhaps ten minutes of content amounting to a dozen or so jokes and most of them work really well. They have added half a song which is related to the new “venue” which doesn’t really work…and imagine may not make it into the post preview version.
The audience cheered every song and seemed to get most the jokes….they missed the “I love a good Scrim Job” line probably because almost nobody outside of the theater would know what a “scrim” is. Clearly a lot of the audience were there for NPH rather than Hedwig, some of the older audience members may well have thought that they were actually in the wrong show…but everyone seemed to enjoy the production none the less. NPH takes the role on full tilt and absolutely destroys. He doesn’t chew the scenery, he’s appropriately over the top without being self-indulgent or mawkish. If I could be so bold as to criticize anything I wasn’t completely sold on the performance of his sidekick. She just isn’t that convincing as a guy and the transformation/reveal at the end feels a bit forced. That may not be her fault though, I always thought that part of the original plot was a little patchy. It’s hard to pull off a funny, camp, dramatic musical and sustain for a full 100 minutes….Rocky Horror falls apart after 20 minutes. These are micro nits which I probably shouldn’t pick at all…and might well be fixed by the time the show opens for real. All in all this is a fabulous powerhouse performance illustrating once again what an amazing talent NPH is. I hear that the creator of the original show is now working on Hedwig II the sequel…I’m not convinced that’s a great idea…but we shall see.
I don’t recall the exact number but as I recall Google is perhaps surprisingly one of the biggest lobbyist in DC. I know for a fact that Google fights every legal attack from every angle to the bitter end…and in the occasional cases where it loses a claim or dispute because it was clearly mistaken or in the wrong their revenge is mighty and awful. You will never do business with them again…which is tough if your business is based around search. It’s also interesting to note that with the exception of the EU regulators who clearly hate, hate, hates Google and will stop at nothing to pin them down on something all attempts to assault any perceived monopolistic practices by the mighty G are routinely and predictably unsuccessful.
So it was perhaps not much of a surprise to read that yesterday Google successfully fought off potentially millions of Gmail users who were attempting to claim that by programmatically analyzing email within and between Gmail and other email systems for the purposes of ad targeting. They were claiming that Google was essentially guilty of something between illegal wiretapping and racketeering. The plaintiffs were looking for $100 per day for the period Google has been doing that. In my case I’d be looking to collect upwards of $350,000. The judge refused to allow the various complainers to combine to a massive class action in part because the published T&Cs allow for that practice and in part because the various complaints were apparently too disparate to be lumped together. The Judge left the window open for them to bring individual complaints but the reality is having lost this push it’s going to be hard to rope attorneys in to what looks like a lost cause from day one.
The sad fact is that the majority of Gmail users could neither know nor care if Googles computers are scanning mail for targetable keywords. The nuances of whether Google opens and scans deleted mail or mail which hasn’t even been opened yet are even further down the path to don’t understand/don’t care.
The last year or so has seen revelation after revelation that those knights in shining armor at the NSA have been reading our mail and texts for years. I suspect that most folk have come to terms with living in what amounts to a goldfish bowl. A week or so back 60 Minutes covered this whole area of privacy and marketing. It was fascinating to see Morley Safer (a sweet old man who appears to be suffering from terminally long earlobe syndrome) was shocked, shocked to discover that pretty much anything we post on line is being mined for commercial purposes by the online giants. Is anybody honestly surprised by this stuff anymore? We are surrounded by amazingly useful and powerful online tools and services the vast majority of which are delivered to us users for absolutely free…at the point of use. It made me want to yell at the screen…”Why on earth do you think they are giving us all this terrific stuff?”
The bottom line is that Google, Amazon and the other online giants who create and enable or online world are not charities…we trade privacy for facility routinely. Trying to squeeze that genie back into the bottle is a lost cause. Big brother is watching us….and we don’t really care.
Beards are back…they are even doing beard transplants on Bronx hipsters putting chest hair in formerly wispy faces. I’ve had a beard more or less all my adult life…all I can grow is exactly what Lenin had…but I can grow that in a week. What’s weird is the whole beard color thing. I regularly see guys with apparently authentic dark head hair but their beard runs from black to pure white often through some version of brown or red. So what’s a guy to do? If you don’t want to have a premature Santa Clause look you have to head on over to the beard aisle at CVS and get busy with the bead dye. There is typically exactly one choice of bead dye to be had. Just as a side question how many products which might be used by potentially half of the adult population are served by exactly one product? That alone strikes me as weird…is there some kind of beard dye OPEC maintaining a retail monopoly? Anyway if bead dye is in your future …that’s where this gets weird.
My beard started going really grey in my early 40s. In spite of the fact that my mother insists that I dye my head hair (I swear I don’t) I started to dye my beard. I have many years wasted in amateur dramatics and I’ve done a fair amount of stage makeup so I perfected a technique which beat the grey back without looking too fake…I hope. The problem I always had was that I’d go through a vicious cycle of grow the beard, color the beard break out in annoying little sores which I couldn’t get rid of whilst keeping the beard, shave the bead, cure the sore spots….and repeat. I’d itch and worry at the sore spots like an insane person much to the annoyance of my lovely wife who was convinced that I was some flavor of OCD or just plain nuts.
The other day my lovely wife was yelling at me for once again shaving off my bead to fix the OCD induced sores. This time she also jumped online and did some poking around and it turns out that what I had been experiencing is actually far from rare. I’m not nuts I’m allergic. Tons of guys reported similar cycles of irritation and accusations of OCD bead scratching. A little more poking around revealed an alternate solution. I’ll plug the brand because I think these guys are heroes. It’s called WolfsHead bead dye. It’s essentially a henna based dye which you apply in vanishingly small amounts every day after the shower to subtly and undetectably take out as much of the grey as you want to in a few seconds. No breakouts no, itching no, OCD madness. I started using it and have never looked back. You can’t get it in your local pharmacy (no idea why) but it’s readily available on line.
So guys (and I know I have a bunch of guys in my age range who follow my insane ramblings) if this is an issue for you there is a cure…now back to search.
I have an American Bulldog who will eat absolutely anything…there is nothing funnier than watch her chew a toffee….it’s a lot like watching politicians trying to do technology.
I was reminded of this when looking at the efforts of one of our local politicians Mayor of LA Eric Garcetti. In tech terms he’s far ahead of the crowd in many ways, he has a tech background, he’s generally tech friendly and God bless he’s really trying to get the nuts and bolts of local government in his part of California. Having lived and worked in both the North East and now California I’d say he has an uphill task. I saw a recent terrific example where the LA Cops are now going to crack down on “road safety” which is code for more and more BS tickets for us poor SoCal residents. You can bet that the Cops will be using absolute state of the art technology to ding the poor tax payers on LA. It’s ironic that in LA the actual roads are literally falling apart under our cars but the parking meters are fully automated and you can pay by debit card….and if your meter expires it could cost you $300 for going 25 cents over time. California is a nightmare…it’s very sunny and has great views….but a nightmare none the less. Technology seems to be applied aggressively against the citizens for the purposes of taxation or enforcement but where it could make our lives easier or make those same politicians more accountable tech adoption seems less enthusiastic.
Mr. Garcetti will be speaking this week at the Democratic Municipal Officials conference in DC. DMO’s goal is to create visibility and elective success for local Democratic officials of all stripes #NationalDMO. They are pretty adept at using new media to drive their campaign machine, much as did the national DNC and RNC in 2012. Clearly politicians have embraced many aspects of new media to target and get out the vote. The broader question I believe is will they be as aggressive in the adoption of technology which makes their constituents lives less stressful and more fulfilling…we will see.
Our business is based on driving proven ROI in the form of tracked calls. The mess created by local businesses headed into the Google casino is likely to make businesses even more suspicious of everything online…which might be great for us long term it puts many of the tables out of reach for the professional gamblers amongst us.
Those of us old enough to remember the first desktop computers have watched the Internet emerge as perhaps the defining technology of this generation, the one thing that mankind has invented to date which far exceeds the ability of any one person to understand or encompass. It has put large parts of the recorded wisdom of the ages at the disposal of us all, it allows us to keep up with our high school classmates and watch adorable kittens problem solve on demand. To date it has reordered communication, research, education and entertainment to name but a few.
However it’s not done yet. There are two emerging trends which overlap and complement each other which will further disrupt and perhaps enrich our lives. As an example let me take you through an hour or so of last Saturday evening: I arrived back from a business trip on a United flight from New Orleans to San Diego. On the last leg connecting through Denver the gate was changed on me three times, prompting much confusion and several weary exoduses by other hopeful travelers through the vast airport. On the flight I had a snack and a glass of wine. The stewardess didn’t know what snacks she had on the cart, it took two attempts to run my new debit card. After fumbling through a menu and the cart I eventually paid for the culinary delight and continued to watch the movie which I had previously downloaded to my iPad. I hadn’t checked luggage but if I had I would have been searching the displays and baggage belt for my bag…which looks exactly like every other bag on the plane. When I arrived at the airport I fished the parking card out of my wallet and paid with my Amex at the barrier. All the way home my radar detector beeped and burped at every potential cop (an essential addition to life in SoCal) as my Wayze ap gave feedback from fellow travelers on 15 north.
What’s impressive to a relatively old coot like myself is how well much of that stuff worked. I was able to pay for everything electronically, I could download the movie (albeit at home as the WiFi in the terminal or on the plane is lamentably slow). I did check in on line, I did download the movie, I didn’t get a speeding ticket. What is also striking is how much better most of that could have been. The next big online waves are visible on the horizon and headed our way.
As the internet of things crystallizes most of our personal and domestic technology will get connected to the Internet. That will likely mean that I’d be alerted to those gate changes as they happened, see what’s available on the cart and pay for it perhaps by just putting my finger on the payment pad, my car will know I’m down and might be warming the engine up while I wait for the bag which I can clearly see is only moments away. I would then drive out (no need for parking tickets) my radar detector would contribute seamlessly to the network of fellow citizens seeking to stay one step ahead of the fuzz, indeed with the right smart car perhaps it could drive me home while I nap at the wheel, on the way home my refrigerator might remind me we were out of half and half (we were). On long trips I tend to use a car service as it’s cheaper than parking and sometimes it’s good not to have to stress the journey after the flight. Saturday evening I could have used my Uber app on my phone to magically summons a town car the moment I hit curb side I could also have used my phone to turn up my Nest smart thermostat at home. What’s interesting about the last two items is that both of those companies are regarded as ground breaking in the next wave…and both of them have recently received stratospherically high valuations and investments. So there is clearly something going on and someone values that very highly.
What’s happening is that more and more of our devices are getting online and the time it takes to get something done or delivered is also dropping dramatically. We are only a few short years away from being able to routinely talk to our devices and have them give us useful data back. That data might be linked to suppliers so that the stuff I need is already on its way from my Amazon (perhaps by drone).
As our devices come on line and out world becomes increasingly more convenient and real time so some aspects of our lives are likely to get more and more real time too. Have you ever broken down roadside and spent what feels like hours negotiating rescue from AAA or Bob’s Tow ‘n’ Go. Have you ever looked at the mess after that great dinner party and thought “I need a maid and I need her now!” Have you ever had a spare slot in your schedule and thought “Hair…I have to get my hair cut before that interview tomorrow…who can see me now”…or stared at the lake of backed up sewage in your guests bathroom and prayed for a big red “plumber” button on your phone. It’s going to happen…and sooner than you think. Along with the rise of the internet came the fall of traditional media…especially local media. Local businesses have largely lost faith with the traditional which used to bring them new clients but have entirely failed to come to grips with the complex and potentially disastrously expensive mess of new media. In the same way you wish you had a big red “Plumber” button there are thousands of plumbers out there with gaps in their schedules wishing they had a big red “customer” button…and they will…soon.
The sea change has already happened, we just haven quite understood the magnitude of it yet. Pretty much everyone with an income has a smart phone with internet access. We are well used to talking to service providers to book jobs…what’s stopping us from smoothing out the last points of contact between customer and provider to produce the Internet of “Now” for all kinds of service providers. The answer is money, technology, vision and delivery…which is where Search Initiatives comes in…we have all four. What we do today is connect tens of thousands of service providers (Doctors, lawyers, plumbers, landscapers, electricians and beauty spas with millions of thousands of potential customers. We do that by exposing carefully crafted and targeted ads through the crazy matrix of search, social media, real time display re-targeting to customers with a real need. We do that in real time and at enormous scale. The person to person contact is delivered through the good old fashioned phone call…the one medium understood and trusted by all those involved. What we are doing right now is very fast…is it real-time-on-demand and now to the point where we are able to immediately match need to provider so that all the clients who need plumbers are perfectly match immediately with the nearest plumber with immediate availability…not quite. But it’s coming and when it does you may rest assured that Search Initiatives will be the folk behind the big “NOW” button on your phone…and on your plumbers phone.
So as you get used to the idea of your refrigerator reminding you to pick up milk, or your watch telling you that you are 1,000 paces short of your exercise goal, get used to the idea that waiting to get help with all of the other things your life throws at you is going to be a thing of the past. Welcome to the Internet of Now.