When the architect of the world wide web speaks out about how his creation could end us all, I usually stop to listen.

On the 28th anniversary of the world wide web’s birth, Sir Tim Berners-Lee published this letter detailing what he views as the three main challenges for the web: loss of control over personal data, the spread of misinformation across the web and the need for transparency with online political advertising.

1)   We’ve lost control of our personal data

The current business model for many websites offers free content in exchange for personal data. Many of us agree to this – albeit often by accepting long and confusing terms and conditions documents – but fundamentally we do not mind some information being collected in exchange for free services. But, we’re missing a trick. As our data is then held in proprietary silos, out of sight to us, we lose out on the benefits we could realise if we had direct control over this data, and chose when and with whom to share it. What’s more, we often do not have any way of feeding back to companies what data we’d rather not share – especially with third parties – the T&Cs are all or nothing.

This widespread data collection by companies also has other impacts. Through collaboration with – or coercion of – companies, governments are also increasingly watching our every move online, and passing extreme laws that trample on our rights to privacy. In repressive regimes, it’s easy to see the harm that can be caused – bloggers can be arrested or killed, and political opponents can be monitored. But even in countries where we believe governments have citizens’ best interests at heart, watching everyone, all the time is simply going too far. It creates a chilling effect on free speech and stops the web from being used as a space to explore important topics, like sensitive health issues, sexuality or religion.

2)   It’s too easy for misinformation to spread on the web

Today, most people find news and information on the web through just a handful of social media sites and search engines. These sites make more money when we click on the links they show us. And, they choose what to show us based on algorithms which learn from our personal data that they are constantly harvesting. The net result is that these sites show us content they think we’ll click on – meaning that misinformation, or ‘fake news’, which is surprising, shocking, or designed to appeal to our biases can spread like wildfire. And through the use of data science and armies of bots, those with bad intentions can game the system to spread misinformation for financial or political gain.

3)   Political advertising online needs transparency and understanding

Political advertising online has rapidly become a sophisticated industry. The fact that most people get their information from just a few platforms and the increasing sophistication of algorithms drawing upon rich pools of personal data, means that political campaigns are now building individual adverts targeted directly at users. One source suggests that in the 2016 US election, as many as 50,000 variations of adverts were being served every single day on Facebook, a near-impossible situation to monitor. And there are suggestions that some political adverts – in the US and around the world – are being used in unethical ways – to point voters to fake news sites, for instance, or to keep others away from the polls. Targeted advertising allows a campaign to say completely different, possibly conflicting things to different groups. Is that democratic?

Later in the letter, Berners-Lee says “I may have invented the web, but all of you have helped to create what it is today.” I think that’s extremely poignant.

Much like The Manhattan Project, we don’t always understand the full implication of our pioneering technology as they occur. Artificial intelligence (A.I.) is emerging as that next leap forward we truly don’t understand today. Rather than resist technology’s rise into our personal lives, I advocate we embrace its persistence and help guide it to the best possible outcome.

Dave Egger’s The Circle is coming out as a movie in two weeks. When I read the book in 2013 I called it the Atlas Shrugged of our digital generation. Eggers had his pulse on a very real and emergent trend related to connectivity, interaction and the subjective slippery slope of using connectivity tools for good and evil.

It will be fascinating to study how the general public reacts to the film, and in turn, how their behavior impacts awareness and outcry around the use of the topics above: 1) abuse of our personal data, 2) fake news, and 3) transparency.

Berners-Lee is a pragmatist, and a realist. But the general public is rarely either. It often takes fictionalized fantasy to help us escape our own fictionalized fantasy.

It’s been especially enjoyable to witness young people reading The Circle start to question aspects of their digital lifestyle in news ways. Like this op-ed from a student at the University of Washington:

Right now, most people have strongly opinionated answers to these questions, but after reading “The Circle,” readers are sure to have a more nuanced response. While it’s unlikely to completely change your mind, the book does an excellent job of complicating these familiar questions with new technology and perspectives.

As the influence of the internet in our lives grows, and companies and the government automatically have more access to our thoughts and lives, we have to ask ourselves where to draw the line. We need to be aware of how far people and companies are allowed to go and if we, as humans, are truly using these technologies for good; what is progress and what is too much?

I’m excited for the film, but I’m also a pragmatist and realist about how deep its impact could be.

As for me, when the architect of the world wide web speaks out about how his creation could end us all, I usually stop to listen.

 

 

Sources:
Sir Tim Berners-Lee lays out nightmare scenario where AI runs world economy | Social Media | Techworld

Three challenges for the web, according to its inventor – World Wide Web Foundation

Beyond the Page: ‘The Circle,’ by Dave Eggers — Privacy in the modern age | The Daily

Good advice here. Talk is cheap. What have you done?

“People who are craftspersons and who have craftsmanship in their work, they will always happen, whether in the early stage or late stage.

When I see a particularly well-designed product, or somebody understands their metrics, I know that person cares.

You have to be able to build something and put it in the world.

People are in this wacky belief system that their idea matters, when it does not. All that matters is what you build.”

Source: Uber investor Jason Calacanis doesn’t want to hear about your idea: ‘Show me the thing you’ve made’ – Recode

Brands had 6 years to understand how to tell chronological stories in social, thanks to Snapchat. “Stories” are now a mainstream social content vehicle, just like photos, videos and prose.

Facebook hasn’t yet said when this will launch for brands, but we should anticipate it will.

So ignore the Snapchat clone discussion. It’s time to apply that learning on Facebook!

The Instagram community has shown us that it can be fun to share things that disappear after a day, so in the main Facebook app we’re also introducing Facebook Stories, which lets you share multiple photos and videos as part of a visual collection atop News Feed. Your friends can view photos or videos your story for 24 hours, and stories won’t appear on your Timeline or in News Feed unless you post them there, too.

To add to your story, tap on the “Your Story” icon in the Stories bar at the top of News Feed.

 

Source: More Ways to Share with the Facebook Camera | Facebook Newsroom

Good reminder from Dave Knox

While the largest companies were trying to figure out how to use digital as a new advertising tool, a new generation of companies and brands was being started by entrepreneurs that viewed digital as a business model that would give them an advantage versus the scale and budgets of their much larger competitors.

In the old world, brands competed with each other head-on, whether that was trying to win at the First Moment of Truth with the largest share of shelf or creating the television ad with the most buzz during the Super Bowl. In this new high-stakes game of business, startups have decided to throw out the old rules. They are not attacking their competitors head-on.  Instead, they are disregarding the conventional wisdom of industries and in many cases, redefining markets along the way.

In the same way that the majority of today’s Fortune 500 were born in the era of mass media and mass retail, these new rivals have started with digital at the core of their business model.

It is no longer a battle of Goliath vs. Goliath where everyone is playing with the same cards and the same set of rules. Instead, brand leaders need to evolve to thrive in a game of business where the competition is fluid and new players can emerge seemingly overnight.

Source: The New Ways Established Brands Do Battle With Startups – Adweek

I’ve been hearing rumors about this for nearly a year, including multiple off-the-record discussions with people in the know.

Apple will be launching an augmented-reality phone this fall, and AR-glasses (if not this fall, in 2018).

Imagine Google Glass + Microsoft Hololens + Snap Spectacles, at an affordable price point and with functionality within the iOS ecosystem.

At SXSW earlier this month, my friend Robert Scoble told me, “It’s insane we’re at the biggest interactive conference in the world, and nobody is talking about Apple. A year from today, this is all anyone will be talking about.

Brands who aren’t experimenting with AR today will be behind when Apple goes all-in with AR later this year. The time to start is today!

Apple is working on several AR products, including digital spectacles that could connect wirelessly to an iPhone and beam content—movies, maps and more—to the wearer. While the glasses are a ways off, AR features could show up in the iPhone sooner.

Over time, Munster says, AR devices will replace the iPhone. “It’s something they need to do to continue to grow,” he says, “and defend against the shift in how people use hardware.”

Augmented reality is the less known cousin of virtual reality. VR gets more attention because it completely immerses users in an artificial world and has an obvious attraction for gamers. So far, however, headsets like the Oculus and HoloLens are niche rather than mainstream products. Apple believes AR will be an easier sell because it’s less intrusive. Referring to VR headsets, Cook last year said he thought few people will want to be “enclosed in something.”

Source: Apple’s Next Big Thing: Augmented Reality – Bloomberg


For more than 20 years the South by Southwest (SXSW) Interactive Festival has catalyzed creativity, technology and innovation for thousands of global attendees each March in Austin, Texas.

SXSW was the birthplace of emerging user behaviors like the digital backchannel (Twitter), geolocation wayfinding (Foursquare, now Swarm), group chat (Beluga, now Messenger) and social streaming (Meerkat, now Facebook Live). I’ve attended 11 years, presented four times, and now serve on the SXSW Advisory Board, helping develop programming that ensures our thousands of attendees get an experience that leads up to the conference’s legacy.

Last year, space150 hosted a panel on Deep Web and Dark Social (CBS News coverage of our panel), focusing on the changing habits of users sharing more 1:1 and using chat apps instead of public social networks. A year later, that POV proved to be extremely fortuitious, and “dark social was mentioned in any panel that covered social media in 2017.

This year space150 was again excited to produce a panel focusing on emerging consumer behaviors and technology. This one covered the evolution of consumer engagement through emerging consumer tech products, namely Snap Spectacles.

We highlighted our case study in using two of the first pairs to: 1) introduce Spectacles to pro sports for the first time with the Minnesota Wild, and 2) partner with Nike to bring POV trick shot footage through Spectacles to the NBA All-Star game, and more.

Our Chief Innovation Officer, Marc Jensen, and I also attended keynotes and sessions, explored brand activations, and participated in VIP preview events throughout the week.

We have prepared a full presentation on takeaways from the event — specifically covering the future of VR/AR/360, artificial intelligence, innovation labs, and the future of mobile behavior.

If you’re interested in seeing our presentation, hit me up!

spectacles minnesota wild

I’m excited to share our panel at South by Southwest 2017 — Game Changer: Spectacles Come to Sports, telling the story of how we got one of the first pairs of Snapchat Spectacles and partnered with the Minnesota Wild and Sports Illustrated to explore POV storytelling.

On Thanksgiving Eve, the Minnesota Wild became the first pro sports team to incorporate Snapchat Spectacles into their social engagement strategy, ushering in a new era of tech-fueled fan engagement worldwide. But we’ve seen POV video experimentation in social and wearable media before (Google Glass, GoPro), and it can be difficult for marketing leads to weigh the next big thing with approved content strategies and strict league policies. What is a game changer and what’s just a fad? Join digital leads from the Wild, SportTechie and space150 for a conversation about what’s next in sports tech media, stadium experiences, and fan engagement.

We present on Monday, March 13 at 2 p.m. 

IS THIS YOUR FIRST TIME ATTENDING SXSW?

In 2014 I curated this extensive First-timer SXSW advice from the Pros post that’s worth checking out if you’re a newbie this year. Lots of good insights there from a host of friends who attend each year. Otherwise, my must-do’s are below…

Greg’s advice for first-time SXSW attendees:

  • Seek out the smartest, weirdest, most disruptive topics and experiences you could not get back home.
  • Do not go to any of your own company or client’s sessions unless you absolutely must. It’s a wasted hour.
  • Do not go to any sessions that are essentially case studies you could read about online.
  • Do not go to any sessions where you yourself could be on the panel.
  • Do not to go any sessions with a movie, television or social media celebrity.
  • If a session sucks, get up and walk out immediately. You picked the crappy session, but you don’t have to sit there for an hour being pissed.
  • Go to everything early, and expect to wait in line.
  • Bring battery backups for your devices.
  • Eat a big breakfast.
  • Wear comfortable walking shoes.
  • Bring a jacket that can tolerate rain.
  • Network like crazy. Don’t hang out with your crew from back home. Meet and befriend creatives, innovators and disrupters.
  • Eat a good dinner each night. Make dinner reservations in advance and invite strangers you meet during the day to hang out and process after the sessions wrap.
  • Spend a day when you get home processing, writing and sharing your takeaways (and formally connecting with the amazing people you met).
  • Lastly, if you aren’t willing to put in the effort for an amazing experience, stay home next year and complain about it on Twitter with everyone else. And maybe rethink your career track.

Want to hang out? Best way to hook up is text — 612-845-1020.

See you in Austin!

I am a futurist, and I am actually pretty good at it, as I am old enough now to know that the things that make me happiest are always surprises. I’ve had a bunch of people work on robots for my entire adult lifetime. I have a robot in my basement, and he is my best pal. I know what he smells like. I am not surprised by him. And I don’t jump up and down for joy because I have a commercial robot in the basement of my lab. It is just reality. What really interests me and surprises me is stuff that’s completely off the wall.

Advanced technology is not always going to seem good the first time, it’s like clouds and silver lining: every silver lining has a cloud. I am a guy in a computerised generation. I know it is not going to be perfect. A tree is not going to grow to the sky. But something else is going to happen.

Source: Automated Amenities | DisegnoDaily

See how, interestingly, if you combine information & function & visual form without story, you get “boring”. Something that looks good but isn’t that interesting.

Similarly, if you combine visuals, information & story without considering functionality and your goal, you get something useless.

Source: What Makes A Good Data Visualization? — Information is Beautiful

We waste so many days waiting for weekend. So many nights wanting morning. Our lust for future comfort is the biggest thief of life.

Joshua Glenn on contentedness and lust for future comfort