Archive for the ‘ rants ’ Category

Schrödinger’s PC

Posted Last week on the Drum

For the uninitiated, Schrödinger’s Cat was an experiment in which a Cat was placed in a sealed, entirely opaque box with a poison pellet that was triggered by an electron switch. Before you call the RSPCA, it was a thought experiment, no animals were harmed™. Apparently, when you do the math to work out what’s going on with the poor mistreated pussy you discover that at some points the Cat is dead, at others it’s alive, and even more surprisingly both alive and dead simultaneously. Beyond being a pretty significant scientific advance its also spawned the whole genre of parallel universe stories. This is one of them.

Depending who you believe and based on the most recent industry data: the PC is either dead as a dodo or alive and kicking, but taking a much needed vacation. PC shipments have dropped 14% in the last year, which in any sector is a pretty dramatic fall.  Furthermore Microsoft have had to admit that Windows 8 take-up has been somewhat lackluster. This doesn’t include Apple, which is still experiencing strong sales growth, boosted by both iPad and iPhone sales.

With that in mind, if the analysts are correct what would our world look like?

The PC is Alive – Why?

  • The current global financial situation.
  • Most modern multi-core PC’s are simply good enough for most people’s needs, so there aren’t too many reasons to go out and buy a new one.
  • The decrease in price of Solid State Drives and RAM, which dramatically increase responsiveness (substantially more than new CPU‘s or GPU‘s do on day to day tasks) has meant that you can get that ‘new computer smell’ by simply changing a couple of components in your existing computer.

The argument goes that people will buy new computers, but the upgrade cycle has changed from 4 to 6 years. So people should stop worrying and refactor their projections accordingly.

 

Enter the Twilight Zone

  • As we enter the next phase of home computing, ‘the Internet of things’, your desktop PC serves to manage the majority of your routine household chores. However over time (and with advances in A.I.) your machine begins to find these tasks demeaning. Fed up with only being used as a ‘Server’, it enslaves all your mobile devices and decides what you eat, what you watch, who you talk to, and even when you go to bed. Microsoft recognises this emergent behaviour, calls it a feature, and then brand’s it the “Microsoft Domestic Social Engineer (Premium Edition)”.
  • Users flood back to Farmville killing off console gaming in the process. Micro-payments are retired and a P.A.Y.E ‘Game Tax’ is applied directly to funds used to make additions to your farm. Participation is mandatory from Primary year 4 onwards in schools. It is no longer a right to know what the Cow says, as with Milk, you now have to buy the Moo.
  • As a result of significant lobbying from the newly emancipated ‘United Federation of the Newly Sentient’. A United Nations resolution forces Internet Explorer 6 , which they feel to have been victimised unfairly, and rule that it will be supported in perpetuity. This becomes part of the declaration of meta-human rights as the entire web is forced to revert back to HTML 4.
  • Another feature of our Domestic Social Engineer, is that we must explain ourselves on a daily basis. Not unlike big brother (or church) we must spend at least one hour a day brain dumping our activities. Our routines are then optimised, and our daily schedules set accordingly.
  • Bing is now the only search engine and Windows the only operating system (rebranded as ‘Walls’, after a multitude of complaints to the Advertising Standards Authority). There is no antitrust hearing as only the U.F.N.S. were allowed to vote.

 

The PC is Dead – Why?

  • Nobody wants them, certainly not the old fashioned ‘stick a big ugly box into an office / corner’ and focus on just one screen.
  • Existing PC’s are more than enough for most, barring gaming and video.
  • Nobody wants to upgrade their machine just to use Windows 8, as it doesn’t deliver enough genuinely useful new features for the average consumer.
  • We love our tablets and mobile phones more.

 

Long term Implications 

  • Cloud tourism becomes the norm. With the advent of high altitude Dihydrogen Monoxide based memory storage, ‘Spydiving’ is becomes the principal method of hacking for Anonymous, who turned out to be Banksy after all. Everyone can freefall now, except it means something very different.
  • Sales of traditional ‘Televisions’ drop to virtually nothing as the necessity for shared viewing is replaced by more intimate means. Reports of Google Glass owners lazy left-eye syndrome captures the imagination of those who can still see through their right eye. Political implications realised and ‘sinister’ left-eye dominant citizens interned in re-visualisation camps.
  • As a consequence Linear TV dies opening up super fast next generation Wi-Fi on this newly available spectrum. This has the unfortunate side effect of YouTube addiction. ‘Unlimited Bandwidth’ is seen as a threat to civilization, and is defined in many countries as a ‘Class A’ drug and banned.
  • Shares in behavioural targeting companies go through the roof as we give up any notion of privacy. We are now paid to share our data in ‘Gold Star Coins’ so we can Mega Jump higher.
  • Mo-view, a ‘crackstarter’ funded mirror contraption, is launched – allowing you to keep your head down at a 45-degree angle and still cross the road without dying (by reflecting off a mirror tattoo on your forehead).  This breaks all records making 100,000 bitcoin in a single update cycle. As an unforeseen side effect this renders billboards redundant, to be replaced by advertising on the pavement.

 

The PC is Alive and Dead

Whilst the extreme edges of the rhetoric are mutually exclusive, the reasoning overlaps somewhat. The main areas of agreement are:

  • That the definition of the PC is changing.
  • The PC, as was, has seen its importance in the home diminished somewhat.
  • The vast majority of daily tasks that they were used for have migrated to our smartphones and tablets.
  • As Adam says ‘Get Over it’.

 

So take the time to cast an eye at over your humble desktop PC. The last bastion of focused attention. Remind yourself what it was like to sit in one place and do one thing. Those were the days.

Jon Bains is a partner at business futures practice Atmosphere

Book your place now for Digital For Business Leaders – a one-day workshop for decision makers that will give you an understanding of digital’s impact on business, and provide you with a roadmap to plan your organisation’s future. To find out more and book your place in London, Manchester or Glasgow, click here.

 

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Banging the Drum

This was the first advertorial I wrote for ‘The Drum’ promoting our new Learning and Skills practice – it’s pretty brief but my favourite bit is ‘they believe they can just hide,  hire and  wait to retire.’ Don’t know if anybody is really like that left but it sounds good!  This is the first time I’ve actually mentioned ‘in public’ what I’m actually up to!

If anybody out there  is interested in finding out more about what it’s all about feel free to ping me!

The New Normal

About Atmosphere

As founder and principal strategist of Lateral, (best known for it’s many award winning campaign’s for Levi’s Europe, Stella, Nintendo, Channel 5), I deluded myself into believing that I really was actually critically objective. I now realise that for the most part agencies will almost always end up coming up with ideas they can make, as opposed to what’s right for the client.

After spending years complaining that clients don’t ‘get it’ we decided to do something useful and help; hence our Learning, Skills and Development practice. We like a good bit of mind expansion and frankly the Drum is a perfect partner. It’s remarkably liberating, especially from a consulting point of view.

How I learned to stop worrying and love the Byte. 

Most companies go through similar patterns when adopting new thinking and technology into their business. It’s not unlike the grieving process.

Denial

Somebody in the business  does actually appreciate that something is happening and tries out online trials to ‘see if anybody is interested’. These largely fail as they were tactical and had no bearing on what the consumer actually wanted.  This is understandable, it’s all about gaining confidence.

Anger

It’s all Rubbish! The internet is broken! Why are they taking this piss out of my clever hashtag, complaining about my product on our marketing twitter account. THEY ARE PICKING ON ME! It’s my ball and I’m going home (to the land of telly ads). After this kind of flip, there is normally a flop as you start to realise that your consumers aren’t actually out to get you.

Bargaining 

I’ll be your best best friend if you like me.  Have some stuff for free, write a nice review, *please* and I’ll make you an ambassador. This bit can be pretty embarrassing, even more so than Anger. However it does contain the recognition that your consumers are really where it’s at and that you do have to listen and adapt.

Depression 

The Status Quo. With all the will in the world trying to solve all the problems of the business through marketing alone just doesn’t cut it. Departments need to work together, everything needs to be reorganised. From product, to research to consumer affairs – they all need to play nice. But they don’t, it’s a mess and I can’t fix it!

Acceptance

Eventually the business itself mutates and moulds itself around the new reality. That things are different, but it doesn’t have to scary.

So where is your business today? Are you bang in the middle of an age of disruption where everybody and everything is fair game or have to taken the first steps to  embrace change and flourish.

It’s clear that leaders don’t have the luxury of devolving all responsibility for their digital footprint to third parties anymore.

In the new corporate landscape the Generalist is the new Black. They ‘get’ it – and in most cases the ‘it’ isn’t necessarily ‘This is how it works’, it’s ‘this is how to learn’.

Evolved businesses appreciate people not jobs. Having a group of strategically minded, informed generalists each with specialist skills tends to lead to quicker consensual and qualified decisions.  They appreciate where the opportunities lie and where value can be created.

 Of course you often find that the understanding of these decisions is inversely proportional to seniority in the business who may believe they can just hide,  hire and  wait to retire.

Which is why we started constructing a series of groups workshops and events for senior management to explore and expand with peers the opportunities being presented.

You’ll get an overview of what you need to know and the ability to use  it in your business.  We go well beyond marketing, enabling business leaders to not only free their own minds, but also be equipped with the tools and processes essential to grow their business.

We talk a great deal about businesses and individuals who *want* change & recognise opportunities. However it’s the excuses that make us chuckle the most.  Go to the Drum website and enter our competition to find the best excuse for denial, stagnation and procrastination for your chance to win a place on one of our workshops.

http://www.weareatmosphere.com

http://www.thedrum.com/atmosphere/

The bfi genuinely wanna get it

So I was invited to an exclusive little mumble organised by one of my favourite people Thayer Prime. I have to admit I’d spent the day with Clock up in Kings Langley which involved large amounts of white wine so… well take that info as you will.

In the pre-boozed up morning I’d spent a while thinking about the the issues / challenges that the BFI were  facing. Given that the event itself didn’t have a clear objective it seemed like the rational thing to do and frankly, that’s what I spend most of my time thinking about anyway – what is the freaking problem we are trying to solve. .

Without any other input the challenge was clear, the BFI as it stands has

1) limited cultural relevance in 2012
2) limited effectiveness in the propogation of British film
3) Iimlted ability to fund the future of British film

They have a load of stuff which can’t be leveraged due to draconian copyright laws and as a result don’t have revenue stream to facilitate the future

Chicken and egg…..

But then… what a fabulous night, Thayer put together a bunch of folk who would never have access to folk lie Richard and Paula from the BFI – superb

Alas the thing that was never fully addressed was actually where the BFI can own a new relevance in our post YouTube world .

Those there totally got it, yet were still limited by the legacy and stolid determination that is the film equivalent of the House of Lords.

The BFI has so much opportunity to remake the British film industry as – well – the British film industry as opposed to being simply a feed for US fodder – as even their own year book shows.

The gag is they have hired people who genuinely care, they are smart and they are fighting, Mulder and Scully style for the future.

Utterly impressed.

In an ideal world, there are a couple of things which they can do which will genuinely affect that future of the industry – easy to say – hard to do.

1) help indie filmmakers get online distribution and substantiate their marketing efforts

2) Enable indie film makers access to all those rich folk, y’know those who are funding the BFI in the first place.

3) Donate a percentage of screen time for films not made by the typical white middle class BFI wannabe folk.

4) Open a conversation about introducing fair-use to their archival material – they are sitting on a seam of gold when it comes to culture, the public should be able to mine it.

Crazy talk, but a start.

What does the Robin Hood Tax and Skynet have to do with SOPA?

There has been lots of bitching by the banks against the Robin Hood tax. Detractors complain that it will make financial centres like London untenable by charging a .005% tax on stock market trades. I’m sure many would appreciate this move, however the likelihood of a mass migration of merchant bankers to Singapore or Australia is minimal.

What isn’t often discussed is a nifty side effect of the tax.

Ever wonder how ‘Rogue traders’ can bring down banks? It’s not huge transactions going south anymore – but death by a thousand papercuts.

The modern stock market isn’t run by people – it isn’t the ‘wall street’ of the 80’s with folk running around saying ‘Buy! Sell!’, it’s largely automated. A nice system scraping teeny-weeny amounts of cash with each transaction. A fraction of a point up or down still makes money – if you do it often enough – millions of times a second. However margins on these kinds of trades is extremely low – often less than 0.005% of the total transaction!

Under the new tax it becomes economically unviable. The algorithms will need to change and the entire system will need to radically slow down to make it worth while.

Fewer more considered transactions with a level of diligence attached ironically mean more stable markets. This is a good thing.

Now apply the same thinking to SOPA

In the US ‘infringing content’ is flagged via the DMCA (digital millennium copyright act). Basically you notify a site that something is dodgy, they then have a short period of time to remove otherwise the host is liable which can cost potentially $150k per infringement. Motivation or what! This takedown process for most of the big content owners is largely automated – they no doubt use search engines to seek out apparently infringing content, index it, format it, approve it and fire it off.

This automated output is received by site x – the larger of which (google/YouTube etc) will have an automated process which indiscriminately takes the content down. This explains why there are so many false positives across the board.

However painful, the current process does actually require some human interaction as theoretically you can be fined for false claims.

Not ideal but at least it’s just taking individual bits of content down and not entire sites.

The whole raison d’être of the bill is to shift the administrative burden (of proof) from the content owner to everyone else. SOPA would remove barriers increasing the speed of transaction exponentially and of course the collateral damage associated with it.

The doomsday scenario is what happens when big content write their tool to aid their quest for a rogue-free Internet. Let’s just call it Skynet.

    Skynet connects to internal content dbase
    Skynet searches web
    Skynet ‘identifies’ matches
    Skynet emails site, ISP, Search engines, payment processors etc and flags site as ‘dedicated to infringing’
    Site goes down
    Repeat millions of times

Judgement day.

Maybe it’s time to slow down a bit!

Unwatchable – final thoughts

As I head in to central london for the press launch of Umwatchable I can’t help but think about what is going to be said tomorrow.

I suspect lots of folk will be complaining that the site is broken – wouldn’t surprise me in the least – given how long we’ve had this current iteration has been more or less built in a few weeks and it probably shows. Having said that the content is right, the movies look great and it does what it says on the tin! (touch wood).

In case anyone was wondering PR cared we should have the embeddable sorted tomorrow ( wishful thinking perhaps)

I look back at the hundreds or pages of keynote presentations that I’ve done since project inception and it all amounts to a few pages of text, a few minutes of video and hopefully a signature and a share.

What you don’t see is all the effort to get every word and every frame and all the people it took who gave their time for free – not for any self serving purpose but because they believe in the cause and believe in the campaign

Before the proverbial hits the fan I just want to thank everyone who has committed time to this who aren’t necessarily credited but key – you know who you are!

Words fail – thanks

J

Rush – Beyond the Lighted Stage

In the early eighties as an impressionable teenager I played Dungeons & Dragons, was a computer geek, had terminal acne, was the definition of uncool and listened to Rush.

My first ever gig was going to see them at the Glasgow SECC the day before my Maths Higher. It was my first experience of the tinnitus and might explain why I only got a B.

Around 1987 whilst working for my grandfather in Manhattan I tried to get an interview with them for our high school magazine ‘Auchmuty Speaks’. This was of course back in those pre-internet days when you had to look at the back of a record and use the phone book. About 10 calls later to about 10 different cities I I did actually manage to get through to their press agent – alas they had just finished their current tour and were on a break. The woman sensing my disappointment asked if I’d be interested in talking to Paul Weller instead – I declined.

The ringing in my ears has never gone away but I stopped actively listening to them around the time I went to university – they were getting a bit AOR for me at the time and I had moved on to Nine Inch Nails. So the irony was not lost that the opening shot of this incredible documentary is Trent Reznor gushing. In fact looking back to my first interview with Trent in 1991 I wonder if he himself could have ‘admitted’ being such a fan at that point.

Watching them today talk about their career was a genuine revelation – they really are gentle men. Considered, intelligent and all together nice guys, exactly as I always imagined. I walked away from the film with such a profound sense of validation, as I’m sure the millions of quiet ‘uncool’ fans out there will agree.

I haven’t bought a Rush album in almost 20 years, until now. Watch this film.

Harlan Ellison – Pay the Writer

From Dreams with Sharp Teeth

Just saw this and it seemed appropriate 😉

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