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Digital Trends

Predictions for 2017 2017 will be the year that everyone will start hating on augmented reality and virtual reality. Sure, it seems a little premature to start dumping on a technology before its fully developed, but there are some legitimate issues with both AR and VR: 1) Virtual reality makes you nauseous. 2) Augmented reality is difficult because you need advanced machine learning to map virtual objects into a real environment. 3) Both technologies are an odd fit for marketing which has historically relied on short, linear narratives which require captive audiences and captive attention. 4) The “killer app” for both was supposed to be games, but serious gamers aren’t showing much love. 5) The headgear for both AR and VR is heavy, uncomfortable, and ugly. Why this might be true: All of those issues are legitimate. I still have hope (probably foolishly) that Magic Leap will come out with something revolutionary. But many high profile tech investors got seriously burned by their Weta Workshop fakery and that is going to put large scale investment in augmented reality on ice for 2017. This (along with self-driving cars) is starting to look like one of those technologies that turned out to be much harder than the initial buzz led us to believe. Why this might not be true: Augmented reality is still a technology with a ton of promise, but we’re going to need to learn to walk before we can run. Desktop AR or AR in a controlled environment will have to come first. It will be awhile before we’re running through the office battling virtual zombies. Virtual reality is slightly more problematic. Because puking. Read More Digital Personalization Next year, everyone will be talking about the death of the one-size-fits-all website. As marketing automation software and Google adwords/tag manager integration dribble into the middle-market, companies will belatedly realize that they have no good reason to force all of their consumers to wade through the same introductory messages on a home page. We’ve been pushing out websites on a broadcast model for too long. In 2017, we’re going to start to focus on serving different websites to different users depending on their profiles and past behavior. Why this might be true: Websites are compiled and displayed in the browser of an individual visitor. There’s no reason to ignore user data when it’s available. Sure, anonymous browser sessions and cookie-blocking create some challenges, but when we know the individuals we’re talking to, we should talk to them as individuals. Why this might not be true: Most websites are built by marketing departments. And very few marketing departments are actually prepared to have individualized interactions with their customers. The incentives to control the brand image and the disincentives to allow for ad hoc interactions are still too powerful. This might be an innovation that comes to B2B companies first. Since many B2B companies have a limited list of prospects and a better understanding of touchpoints in the sales process, they can personalize websites more easily. Read More Machine learning ubiquity All the cool companies will be talking about their machine learning initiatives in 2017. They’ll be scheduling meetings with IBM or Google or Clarifai and announcing “artificial intelligence” or “machine learning” or “deep learning” initiatives that will put them on the “cutting edge.” Savvy technology directors or marketing managers should have a list of projects prepared so they have an answer when the CEO asks “What are we doing with machine learning?" Why this might be true: Machine learning is undeniably cool. Companies with large, labeled data sets can finally extract some value from the big data initiatives of three years ago. Why this might not be true: Companies without large, labeled data sets cannot extract any value. And “large” is defined as data sets with millions of entries, not thousands. That still won’t stop these companies from wasting their money. Read More Dinosaurs Revenge Under the new administration, net neutrality may go the way of climate science and civil rights enforcement. And who wins then? All the clunky technology plumbing companies that we hate so dearly. I’m looking at Verizon, Time Warner/Comcast and AT&T. These grumpy dinosaurs know a thing or two about getting both content-creators and content-consumers to pay for their substandard throughput. And pay we shall. Verizon has wisely gotten the jump on their brethren by locking up some digital content that they can fast-lane at substantial cost to advertisers. Why this might be true: No one in technology (except Peter Thiel) actually thought this guy could win. So no one in technology has a relationship with the president-elect. This administration is going to be much more comfortable with deep-pocketed corporations that have had the same business plan since the 1980’s than they will be with technology companies staffed with millennials. Net neutrality is a regulation. It’s good for most of us, but bad for large corporations that give money to politicians. How do you think this one is going to end? Why this might not be true: The alt-right. They may be racists, anti-semites and misogynists. (Yup.) But they don’t have a lot of money. Breitbart started screaming bloody-murder when advertisers pulled their sponsorships in the wake of the election. They need advertising money because the margins on any content creation company are paper-thin. They can’t afford to pay fees to Verizon or Comcast to get on a fast lane to their loyal readers. The president-elect needs to keep these people on side. So this might be one of the few regulations he decides to keep. Read More Bonus Predictions 1. Elon Musk will make a major announcement concerning steam power. 2. Facebook will steadily lose active users, but not tell anyone. 3. Anti-trust actions in Europe will force Alphabet to hide more of their “other bets” in standalone companies (that they still kinda own). 4. Apple will continue to become the old Microsoft. (Because irony.) 5. The big VC’s will introduce ETF-like pure-play funds to capture pension fund investment. 6. There will be a lot of talk about quantum decoherence and how to prevent it at scale. 7. By October, a major tech publication will publish an article entitled: “Is Snapchat Over?” 8. Angel investing will dry up as the low hit rate, combined with higher interest rates combine to make other investments more attractive. 9. Elon Musk will make a major announcement concerning desalination.

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