Generation Like

PBS Frontline:

Thanks to social media, today’s teens are able to directly interact with their culture — artists, celebrities, movies, brands, and even one another — in ways never before possible. But is that real empowerment? Or do marketers still hold the upper hand? In “Generation Like,” author and FRONTLINE correspondent Douglas Rushkoff (“The Merchants of Cool,” “The Persuaders”) explores how the perennial teen quest for identity and connection has migrated to social media — and exposes the game of cat-and-mouse that corporations are playing with these young consumers. Do kids think they’re being used? Do they care? Or does the perceived chance to be the next big star make it all worth it? The film is a powerful examination of the evolving and complicated relationship between teens and the companies that are increasingly working to target them.

“Quantified Workplace”: Data pioneers watching us work

Hannah Kuchler:

In a back street in San Francisco’s start-up dominated SoMa district, a rapidly growing business is busy studying how millions of employees behave each day. Its computers know in real time why a worker was hired, how productive they are and can even follow them as they move to a new job.
 Evolv is a leader in the nascent Quantified Workplace movement, where big data analytics companies are springing up to measure how we work. “Every week we figure out more things to track,” says Max Simkoff, Evolv’s co-founder and chief executive, who claims it can help improve productivity by at least 5 per cent in two-thirds of jobs.
 More than half of human resources departments around the world report an increase in the use of data analytics compared with three years ago, according to a recent survey by the Economist Intelligence Unit. But many employees are still blissfully unaware of how information they may deem private is being analysed by their managers.

Goodbye City and Hello Country

The Economist:

GOODBYE city, hello country. In recent years some of America’s biggest urban areas like Los Angels, Chicago and the Northeast corridor have seen an outflow of people. At the same time, spectacularly beautiful places like the Southwest and Colorado have seen a massive influx.
 These big demographic trends are visible in a map produced by statisticians at America’s Census Bureau (below). It shows internal migration on a county-by-county basis: blue represents people leaving, red means coming in. One clearly sees the degree to which people have fled Detroit and southern Florida. At the same time, the data and other charts in the report show much less churn in the central states.

Hostile. Change is Hard. Canon, Nikon and the inevitable iOS SDK. A Lifeline.

While on travel recently, I encountered a couple of photographers taking portraits, bathed in pleasant natural and artificial light. They were well equipped with modern Canon 35mm DSLR bodies, the excellent 70-200mm 2.8L ii lenses and a nice wireless flash system – which worked most of the time.

One of the photographers sported an accessory, a “strap mounted” Gizmon covered iPhone.

Intrigued, I asked the photographer about her iPhone experiences while displaying my airborne tennis player image (above), captured during a iPhone 5s 10 frames per second burst. I further mentioned that the iPhone’s relentless imaging improvements have given Canon and Nikon a historic challenge. The low to mid range camera market is being eaten by iPhone.

The reaction to my inquiry was rather hostile, “beneath contempt” and included “I could name ten things wrong with that image”. Indeed. But, the iPhone continues to improve, eating away at Canon & Nikon’s traditional camera market (see Drew Gardner’s latest). In addition, the legacy manufacturers further annoy customers with absurd pricing for features that should be standard and in fact are on the iPhone such as trivial file transfer and GPS. Canon’s “WFT-e7” “wireless file transmitter” for the 5D mk iii DSLR costs a cool $849.99! GPS? well that’s another $390.00. I was reminded of these painful prices after reading about Jennifer Szalai’s portrait style in a recent 6th Floor article.

Szailai’s portrait images are produced by two separate cameras that fire simultaneously. Remote wireless control would be useful for any number of applications.

Subsequently, I conversed with a professional photographer who was seeking input on features for a future dedicated camera from one of the usual suspects. I offered a few user interface improvements along with a recommendation for built in wifi and an sdk for iOS developers. One photographer responded that “wifi junks up the camera”, which completely misses today’s photographic (and video) reality. Fast sharing and remote control via an iOS device are essential to any camera that wishes to be purchased.

I further mentioned that the iPad Air may be used to create excellent videos in short order via iMovie and that future software will surely crunch raw photos with great speed.

I closed with “consider this a lifeline“.

Sony’s QX 10/QX 100 provide a glimpse of the possibilities that new thinking offers. I tried one and found it reasonable. Software polish, improved battery life and more responsive hardware will make this product more compelling. I enjoyed the ability to place the camera/lens and wonder around photographing and capturing video remotely via my iPhone.

My mind returned to the somewhat hostile photographer when I saw Apple’s 1-24-14 film, shot entirely on the iPhone 5s. Beautiful work that illustrates what can be done with a bit of creative thinking, not to mention the “large format” version.

Change can be hard and the unknown frightening. Yet, the new thing brings opportunity to those who seize it. Market churn is essential to education, creativity, economic opportunity and societal improvement.

Stagnation is expensive.

As for me, I remain thankful for the many opportunities that new processes and technologies have brought to my life:

James 1:17 Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows.

I look forward to the arrival of the iPhone 6s, now, God willing, less than two years away.

The French way of cancer treatment

Anya Schiffrin:

But my dad got what he wanted, as usual. After just one cycle of chemo in New York, my parents flew to Paris, to stay in their apartment there. The first heathcare steps were reassuring: my parents found an English-speaking pancreatic cancer specialist and my dad resumed his weekly gemcitabine infusions.
 My parents were pleasantly surprised by his new routine. In New York, my father, my mother and I would go to Sloan Kettering every Tuesday around 9:30 a.m. and wind up spending the entire day. They’d take my dad’s blood and we’d wait for the results. The doctor always ran late. We never knew how long it would take before my dad’s name would be called, so we’d sit in the waiting room and, well, wait. Around 1 p.m. or 2 p.m. my dad would usually tell me and my mom to go get lunch. (He never seemed to be hungry.) But we were always afraid of having his name called while we were out. So we’d rush across the street, get takeout and come back to the waiting room.
 We’d bring books to read. I’d use the Wi-Fi and eat the graham crackers that MSK thoughtfully left out near the coffee maker. We’d talk to each other and to the other patients and families waiting there. Eventually, we’d see the doctor for a few minutes and my dad would get his chemo. Then, after fighting New York crowds for a cab at rush hour, as my dad stood on the corner of Lexington Avenue feeling woozy, we’d get home by about 5:30 p.m.

Facebook Deal on Privacy Is Under Attack

Vindu Goel:

If you are among Facebook’s 1.2 billion users, the company says, you are automatically consenting to such social ads. Opting out is impossible for some ads, and for others, the control to stop them is buried deep within the service’s privacy settings.
 But on Thursday, the nonprofit advocacy group Public Citizen will try to step up the pressure on Facebook to change its practices. In a legal brief to be filed with the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco, the group will contend that the settlement violates the laws of seven states, including California and New York, by failing to require Facebook to receive explicit permission from parents before using the personal information of teenage users in advertising.

Enslave the robots and free the poor

Martin Wolf:

In 1955, Walter Reuther, head of the US car workers’ union, told of a visit to a new automatically operated Ford plant. Pointing to all the robots, his host asked: “How are you going to collect union dues from those guys?” Mr Reuther replied: “And how are you going to get them to buy Fords?” Automation is not new. Neither is the debate about its effects. How far, then, does what Erik Brynjolfsson and Andrew McAfee call The Second Machine Age alter the questions or the answers?

I laid out the core argument last week. I noted that the rise of information technology coincides with increasing income inequality. Lawrence Mishel of the Washington-based Economic Policy Institute challenges the notion that the former has been the principal cause of the latter. Mr Mishel notes: “Rising executive pay and the expansion of, and better pay in, the financial sector can account for two-thirds of increased incomes at the top.” Changing social norms, the rise of stock-based remuneration and the extraordinary expansion of the financial sector also contributed. While it was a factor, technology has not determined economic outcomes.

Yet technology could become far more important. Professor Brynjolfsson and Mr McAfee also argue that it will make us more prosperous; and it will shift the distribution of opportunities among workers and between workers and owners of capital.

The economic impacts of new technologies are many and complex. They include: new services, such as Facebook; disintermediation of old systems of distribution via iTunes or Amazon; new products, such as smartphones; and new machines, such as robots. The latter awaken fears that intelligent machines will render a vast number of people redundant. A recent paper by Carl Frey and Michael Osborne of Oxford university concludes that 47 per cent of US jobs are at high risk from automation. In the 19th century, they argue, machines replaced artisans and benefited unskilled labour. In the 20th century, computers replaced middle-income jobs, creating a polarised labour market. Over the next decades, however, “most workers in transport and logistics occupations, together with the bulk of office and administrative support workers, and labour in production occupations, are likely to be substituted by computer capital”. Moreover, “computerisation will mainly substitute for low-skill and low-wage jobs in the near future. By contrast, high-skill and high-wage occupations are the least susceptible to computer capital.” This, then, would exacerbate inequality.

Market research can no longer predict what consumers will like

Itamar Simonson and Emanuel Rosen:

In 2007, 10,000 people around the globe were asked about portable digital devices. It was part of a study conducted by the global media company Universal McCann. One of the hottest topics at the time was the first iPhone, which was announced but hadn’t yet been released. Once researchers tallied the results, they reached an interesting conclusion: Products like the iPhone are desired by consumers in countries such as Mexico or India, but not in affluent countries. The study stated: “There is no real need for a convergent product in the US, Germany and Japan,” places where, one researcher later theorized, users would not be motivated to replace their existing digital cameras, cellphones, and MP3 players with one device that did everything.
 There’s a growing feeling that something is not working with market research, where billions are spent every year but results are mixed at best. Some of the problems relate to the basic challenge of using research to predict what consumers will want (especially with respect to products that are radically different). But marketers face one additional key problem: Study participants typically indicate preferences without first checking other information sources—yet this is very different from the way people shop for many products today.

On Holland’s legendary tulip bubble, which burst today in 1637

Dan Piepenbring:

When economists need to summon an age of unchecked speculation and financial fecklessness—usually as an analog to our own—the Dutch tulip mania is at the top of the list. If you’re not familiar with the story, it’s an early and especially hysterical example of the vagaries of the stock market: In the mid-1630s, the Dutch fell rapturously in love with tulips, whose vivid petals made them the envy of every Hendrik and Veerle in the neighborhood. The flower became a status symbol, and the Dutch were all but tripping over one another’s clogs in a race to conspicuously consume. To satisfy burgeoning demand, speculators began to trade in what were essentially tulip futures; these grew outlandishly complicated and expensive, and on the third of February, 1637, the tulip market collapsed.
 The Scottish journalist Charles Mackay gave currency to the incident. He offers a trenchant, if dubious, account of the whole debacle in his 1841 book, Extraordinary Popular Delusions and the Madness of Crowds, which takes, as its title suggests, a pretty dim view of group dynamics. In his chapter on “the tulipomania,” Mackay presents a cautionary tale rife with tulip jobbers, tulip marts, tulip notaries, and tulip parties:

Related: Keukenhof panorama, another