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Digital Trends

Moore’s Law meets Peter Principle Back in 1965 intel co-founder Gordon Moore postulated that computer chips would double in speed every year because twice as many transistors could fit on a chip as transistors got smaller and smaller. (Later, he revised this to doubling every two years.) For decades, Moore’s law has held. This has powered the information and computing revolution of the last fifty years. Until now. There’s just a point beyond which transistors cannot be shrunk and we’re there. Unfortunately our economy and society are dependent on ever-escalating computer power. In order to continue advancing, we will have to find a way to make computers more efficient. The good news is that there’s lots of room for improvement. Moore’s Law subtly encouraged programmers to produce bloated applications since a year or two hence, they would not seem quite so bloated. Application to Marketing: Most web standard technologies are actually pretty lightweight because of the efficiencies that were necessary to power the mobile web. That’s not the problem. The problem is loading time. Once we got rid of Flash, we thought the war against the pinwheel of death was won. But then we started slowly gumming up our sites and apps with third party software and weighty content management systems. Up until now, throughput speeds and advancing processors have saved us from ourselves. But it might be time to start thinking about efficiency and “thinner” websites. Next Steps: Check your site’s loading speed. Anything over 2 seconds is a problem. (BTW: I know the headline for this section doesn’t quite work, but I kept it because it made me laugh.) Read More See you in hell, Flash! Google decided to kick Flash’s pungent and rotting corpse this week by announcing that their Chrome browser would no longer run Flash by default. Users would need to select to play Flash. Given Chrome’s now-dominant position in the browser market, this is the beginning of the end for the reviled technology. Actually, it’s more like the middle of the end. Chrome will continue to support Flash on extremely popular websites (coincidentally, including Youtube.) However, it seems clear that Chrome is putting even these sites on notice that Flash will not be supported at all in the near future. Application to Marketing: Flash is truly terrible technology. Not only is it a memory hog and a security liability, but the opportunity cost of using Flash held back digital marketing for almost ten years. During the time when advertising agencies should have been mastering web standard technology, time and resources were committed to developing slow-loading “rich” experiences. Mobile (with an assist from Steve Jobs) has mostly killed off Flash. But the residual ill-effects continue. Most agencies continue to employ so-called technologists whose only (dubious) coding experience is with Flash. Luckily there’s a new generation of developers who have never used Flash (#neverFlash). Next Steps: I know you have gotten rid of Flash already. Right? Right?!? Read More Even Smart Cities are a little Dumb Technology makes a fetish of the efficient and the new. Startups look to dis-intermediate rather than ameliorate the status quo. But, as Intersection executive Colin O’Donnell points out in Techcrunch (link below), cities resist the impulse to rip and replace with new technology. He divides cities into layers that are more or less amenable to rapid change. There’s the ephemeral layer of data, apps and consumer tech. But below that, there are buildings, bureaucracy and core infrastructure. As he points out, a garbage truck put on the road today will still be in use in 2046. He urges cities to plan for this unforeseeable future by focusing on providing services for residents in a fast-developing economy, rather than clinging to old regulations and roles. Application to Marketing: Your organization is also like a city. No doubt you are encouraged to introduce technology in an ephemeral way, as long as it doesn’t cost too much. But the underlying structures of your organization resist change. O’Donnell urges technologists and city officials to concentrate on ameliorating the current structures through technology to avoid the head-on collision between the old and the new. Try to spot ways in which technology can improve your organization as it exists, rather than your image of how it should be. Next Steps: Assess what people in your organization spend most of their time doing and see if technology can improve, rather than replace, that process. Read More Getting Trending Topics Right(wing) Gizmodo recently broke the story that Facebook had routinely been suppressing stories that their trending topics algorithm were elevating to the main news feed. Apparently, stories that came from right wing news sources would be replaced by similar stories in more mainstream publications. Meanwhile, topics like Black Lives Matter would be injected into the trending topics feed. Facebook reacted to the story with denials, quickly followed by promised meetings with prominent conservatives to explain their side. On the one hand, this is quite embarrassing for Facebook who design a service that is intended to be appealing regardless of political opinion. On the other hand, Facebook has long aspired to supplant many parts of the internet including traditional news sites. If a conspiracy story is elevated by their trending topics algorithm, they damage their own credibility and force their users to go elsewhere to get their news. Application to Marketing: All too often, we want to believe that algorithms are magical replacements for human judgement. Facebook did the right thing by having human oversight while they fine-tuned their algorithm. If you’ve ever opened up a site to comments or tried to crowd-source something, you know that the internet is frequently dominated by the loudest and most committed trolls. The problem is that Facebook was not transparent about their process. This left them open to accusations of bias when someone with knowledge of the process decided that their political views were being disrespected. The lesson is always to be open and honest about having a finger on the scales. Next Steps: “We reserve the right…” This is a magical phrase that notifies users and customers that human beings are the ultimate decision makers. Read More

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