Blog posts tagged "capitalism"

Business Transcendental

September 13th, 2012

Ads are an ugly business. You barter away functionality, aesthetics, privacy, and performance for a marginal money maker predicated on using manipulation to get people to spend money they don’t have on things they don’t want. If you’ve ever experienced an old favorite website slowly descending into monetization (my canonical example is Alta Vista), you’ve experienced this viscerally, an old favorite slow selling off bits of itself for a few more hits of cash.

Then Google came along, and they went deep, they created a narrative of transcendental advertising. Advertising so good you wanted to see it. Advertising that was net positive. Advertising that would cause you turn off your ad blocker. And if you’re in an advertising supported business you probably even believe the narrative at some level. Ignore the data about who clicks on ads and why, or the insane degradation of most revolutionary communication medium since the printed word into SEO/SEM spam farms. Transcendental advertising, advertising as liberator, advertising for advertising’s sake, advertising as a higher calling. This is what I call “business transcendental”. A philosophy that is tied to your paycheck.

Watching folks responses to the iPhone 5 “Lightning” connector got me thinking about this. Apple has beautiful, breath taking reasons for launching a new connector. It’s innovative, it opens up previously unexplored options that most of us can’t even imagine yet. It’s the product of R&D by some of the best and brightest in the business, like the touch sensing pixel screen or the new thinking aluminum case. But it’s also planned obsolescence. Planned obsolescence is an ugly business. Uglier then advertising. I think, unlike advertising, most of us still recoil in disgust at gratuitous examples of planned obsolescence. Which is why transcendental planned obsolescence is so gut wrenching. Planned obsolescence as innovation, planned obsolescence as the pursuit of perfection, planned obsolescence as identity politics. Google is in the business of biz-transcendental advertising, Apple is in the business of biz-transcendental planned obsolescence. But the underlying business is as optional, and ugly as it ever was, and the transcendence is an illusion.


September 30th, 2008

You remember those dark days after the first bust?

You know the ones when all the MBAs left, and the people who loved the Web went on building it — building meaningful, crazy, artistic cool stuff, and the ethos of the social web was born, back before when that meant more then widget crazy/Facebook-tulip-bloom-madness. Yeah, that sure sucked.

Just thinking about it in the light of this week’s market silliness is enough to make me want to go back to SxSW again this year (where the torch was kept alight, like Ireland in the Dark Ages). And I’d sworn off it after this last year, but maybe budgets will be contracting again by then. And those projects that got started out in the darkness, say Flickr, and Upcoming and among others, wasn’t it all much better when the market got back involved and they got serious?

At least thats what reading Fred and Jason on “startup depression” reminded me of.

Monster at Our Door, Disasters Sown in Their Footsteps

November 22nd, 2005

I’m currently reading Mike Davis’ “The Monster At Our Door: Global Threat of Avian Flu”, and finding it very interesting.

In particular I’ve been unexpectedly struck by how much like raving, leftist loonies dedicated moderates sound when they start writing comprehensively about current events. First Jared Diamond with Collapse, and now Mike Davis. (also, unfortunately, I think this book will firmly cement Davis, one of my favorite authors, into the “Prophet of Doom” ghetto)

Turns out that the key factors pushing the evolution and possible pandemic rise of an avain flu super killer (best case says 50 million dead, worst case as many as 1 in 6) are crony capitalism, and big multi-nationals (global agribusiness). Meanwhile preparedness has been dramatically damaged by the incompetence, and duplicity of the current administration, its phony war on terror, its headline grabbing disaster, the Dept. of Homeland Security, and its deeply incestuous relationship with “Big Pharma”. (in fairness, it was also damaged by the previous administration, and the previous one, clearly traceable, like many modern ills, to the days of the Great Gipper)

I haven’t decided if its alarming or comforting to find our old friends, these familiar horsemen of modern apocalypse lurking behind yet another potential global disaster.

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PSP in Boston (kind of)

March 28th, 2005

It wasn’t until I read this New York Times article which is really a thinly disguised Sony ad for the “Mobile PlayStation Portable” and its much hyped (apparently) launch this weekend, its scarcity, its desirability, etc, etc, that I realized that PSP aren’t readily available. All of which gets me wondering what those things that I’ve been seeing on the Orange line for the last few weeks emblazoned with “PSP” are? Some days you really have to admire the efficiency of alternative markets.

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Seattle, Flying and Security (plus Alaska Airline Sucks)

February 3rd, 2005

I can’t decide if I saw security procedure work this morning, or was once again brought face to face with TSA’s incompetence. I was yet again flagged for extra security screening, a rather familiar procedure by now, yet I was able to walk through 2 security checkpoints without being being so much as patted down, and was quietly sitting at the gate before anyone noticed. At some point someone seems to have called my gate, who paged me, and I was sent back to the original security check point, which this being SeaTac meant I had to traverse a half dozen escalators, and a train trip back to the main terminal.

Back at security I was able to observe what appeared to by a list of people who had checked in and were flagged for the extra screening, including what time they had checked in. I guess I had been in the terminal long enough that they were wondering why I hadn’t passed through the extra screening. I wonder if I had been running late if I could have made it on to the plane before anyone thought to check? Logically my approaching boarding time should have triggered a search event, however the log was just a piece of paper with a list of names on it, and something tells me I would have slipped through.

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One of the interesting things about flying out of Seattle is there are always Microsoft people on the plane; flying out to MIT to a recruiting fair, or to Chicago for a product demo, or down to their Silicon Valley campus. It’s the only time I actually meet anyone who still works over there. I traipsing back and forth and back again to the checkpoint while people around me chattered about their latest MS Office product meeting I couldn’t help but wondering if there is something about Seattle that makes people inherently bad at security.

Captive Audience

Unrelated to security (except perhaps when I almost breached the pressure seal on the cabin trying to walk out), I was shocked by Alaska Airlines abuse of its power this morning. 3 hours into flight, the captain came over intercom.

“If I could have everyones attention,” the authoritative voice boomed out. “How would you like if next time you flew, you could get a companion ticket for just $50? Well with the Alaska Airline’s VISA, voted number one in the industry 5 years runnning….”. And the sales pitch went on and on, familiar from late night TV I’m sure.

We squirmed unable to get away from this ads, sucked in by our training to assume that the captain coming over the intercom is to impart important information. I scrambled for my head phones. But the voice penetrated my music with the ominous final rejoinder, “We’ll be passing through the cabin handing out applications.” I won’t be flying Alaska again if I can help it, even though they have one of the few direct flights from Seattle to Boston, this was the last straw. (that and the word “digiplayer” is just so lame sounding, you feel sympathetic embarrassment every time they mention them)

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