The Dressler Blog

When you build digital stuff all day, you develop opinions. Lots of opinions.


Digital Trends

Verizon hearts the 90’s Hot on the heels of acquiring dial-up stalwart AOL, Verizon bought Yahoo last week. I am nonplussed. I admit I have not spent any time on since I first discovered Google. So I decided to dig in and understand what hidden value Yahoo may have retained seventeen years into its technological senescence. Industry observers seem to believe this was a savvy move. Yahoo isn’t just Yahoo, it’s also Flickr and Tumblr and a couple other sites that enjoy a truly shocking amount of traffic. Combine this with AOL’s superior adtech offering and you start to see how Verizon might avoid becoming just a utility ISP. And yet, I remain nonplussed. AOL’s adtech offering really is first rate. But Yahoo’s portfolio of sites is filled with also-rans. They’re the kind of websites your grandfather bookmarked fifteen years ago and has been visiting ever since. Application to Marketing: Your grandfather still buys things. So it makes sense to market to him as effectively as possible. But I see a cultural collision here. Verizon is a utility company that doesn’t want to be a utility company. They’ve been insanely profitable for a long time and so they’re unaware that they are a utility, not a technology company. If ConEd bought Friendster, I would be equally nonplussed. Next Steps: Check out AOL’s adtech offering. Look up “nonplussed” to make sure I’m using it correctly. Read More “As-a-service” sometimes isn’t When I was just a wee lad, trying to market networking software to bored IT Managers, I wrote a lot of ads about “scalability.” To my callow, young mind, scalable was just one more meaningless adjective to throw into the body copy along with “robust” and “secure.” If I gave it any thought to it at all (I did not), I would have defined scalable as “won’t break when you add more.” The cloud era of computing has allowed me to understand scalability better because it has almost eliminated the competitive benefits of scale. Scale is assumed. It is price-of-entry. With new servers, databases, functions and software available “as a service,” a company can introduce and scale a technology product with little understanding of the underlying services. Or so we are told. In an article on database administrators in Ars Technica (link below), Sean Gallagher effectively argues that despite the emergence of low-schema databases, the database administrator still offers a valuable skill set for a company. His argument is confined to DBA’s, but I think it can be applied more broadly. It’s dangerous to be ignorant of basic functionality upon which your business depends. These new cloud-based services make it a little too easy to forget the complexity of databases and other now-invisible software functions. Application to Marketing: Lately I’ve seen a lot of marketers jump on the AI bandwagon for tools and services that simply do not require deep learning or natural language processing. An underlying ignorance about technology is leading people to ignore the obvious solution (a database) in favor of the sexy, new solution (a neural network). I don’t blame IBM for selling Watson to people who should know that all they need is MySQL. Nor do I blame cloud services companies for selling basic technology at a steep monthly license rate. Marketers would do better to understand what they already have and what it would cost to build something for themselves. Licensing fees can easily become an annuity for SAAS providers. Next steps: Ask your IT folks to tell you what your current databases should be capable of doing, before you pay someone to replicate the functionality. Read More Google AI makes Google smarter Deepmind, the artificial intelligence startup bought by Google has found an interesting way of proving its value. Google operates massive server farms all over the world. Servers heat up pretty easily so it’s hard to keep the racks of servers cool. This tends to be a big drag on resources. But Deepmind analyzed the configuration of the data centers and found a way to cut cooling costs by 40%. Considering the size and scale of these data centers, we may be talking about saving hundreds of millions of dollars. (Or “chump change” as it is known at the Googleplex.) Application to Marketing: This is what you use AI for – intractable problems on a massive scale. Using AI to identify your best customers is a waste, a CSV file ordered by purchase volume will handle that task just fine. And yet, I’ve seen companies claim to use AI to identify and rank their customers. The reason Google and Microsoft and Facebook and Alibaba spend so much on developing AI is because AI is good at solving their massive and intractable problems. They are huge, complex companies. They need AI. Next steps: Chances are you also have massive and intractable problems in your business. Identify those issues and apply AI. Read More All the G’s New generations of wireless service aren’t really formalized things. Some tweaks are made and, partly for marketing reasons, we make the jump from 3G to 4G. The handset producers and cell service providers lurch towards the new nomenclature, not wanting to be left behind in this brave new world of microscopically improved cell service. At least, that’s what usually happens. However, on the cusp of 5G wireless service, we’re seeing something different. 5G wireless is based on the release of vast amounts of high frequency spectrum by the FCC. High frequencies can carry more data, although they are often blocked by walls and buildings. But the providers and manufacturers believe they’ve solved these issues. Which means that 5G can offer speeds roughly 100 times our current wireless service. That isn’t a micro-step, that’s an interplanetary leap. Application to Marketing: Video, obviously, will enjoy higher usage in a 5G world. But this is an important step towards shared AR and VR. Marketers have always been file size sluts; we just can’t help ourselves. For a year or so, wireless capacity will catch up with our indiscriminate abuse of the system. Yay. Next steps: High def video on your phone. High def cheese-pulls. High def bite-and-smiles. Read More

Give us your email to sign up for our weekly Dressler Digital Trends. Stop trying to keep up and start getting ahead.