WhatsApp Business, which has 5 million customers so far, has launched an iPhone app.
Per Techcrunch, the “WhatsApp Business platform is key to WhatsApp’s growth in emerging markets where first-time internet users have skipped over using computers to reach the web, and instead mainly get online through their mobile devices.”
They also launched a number of Mario Party-style mobile games, including Snake Squad, Alphabear Hustle and Zombie Rescue Squad. Users will be able to watch 6-second, nonskippable ads in exchange for in-game credits.
Would you watch an in-game advertisement to beat your friend in a game?
Hearables (aka smart headphones) are becoming mainstream. Apple’s Airpods have Siri integration. Google’s Pixel Buds have Google Assistant. And now reporting shows Amazon is readying earbuds with built-in Alexa access for launch as early as the second half of this year. My prediction is this is the last generation of smart headphones before “always on listening” starts being enabled – challenging privacy norms and opening up even more opportunities for our IRL + A.I. lifestyle.
Gartner L2 has a smart piece on China’s emerging cancel culture, similar to U.S. trends where celebrities and brands get called out on social media and boycotted for a wide range of issues (sexism, racism, homophobia, etc.) The phenomenon is growing in China, where there are some specific nuances and complications, including that China’s web users don’t always agree on what’s controversial. Fascinating.
Oracle has a new distracted consumer infographic (PDF) demonstrating the challenge marketers have in capturing and holding a customer’s attention, including a 1 minute breakdown of the # of emails and texts sent, social media updates posted – partnered with our changing media habits. Could be good fodder for you to use in a future presentation.
South by Southwest (SXSW) is emerging as a modern-day world’s fair — complete with global attendees, activations and tracks that serve as “pavilions” dedicated to countries and emerging technologies, and a community of people who are excited to see and share what’s next for humanity.
This year there were exponentially more international attendees around Austin, TX, including full delegations from countries like Indonesia, Brazil and Japan sent to represent, learn and report back. Mayors from around the U.S. flew in to compete in the Civic I/O Mayor’s Matchup: Tech Innovation Pitch Competition, and politicians seeking influence and/or the presidency came to campaign — including AOC, Warren, Klobuchar, Beto and Schultz.
And yes, the brands were back again, including huge activation footprints that increasingly include their own stages and programming.
Modern brands don’t just invest in SXSW to hand out tchotchkes in a booth, but create a spectacle that will stand out and spark social sharing.
The rise of E-Scooters were the most obvious and obnoxious trend in the city this year. E-bikes and scooters were littering every street corner and wreaking havoc for pedestrians as the lack of accepted “scootiquette” meant people were zipping by on sidewalks and walkways across Austin. This photo pretty much sums it up.
For a conference that once celebrated the birth of Twitter, rise of Foursquare and disruption of mainstream journalism, this year‘s theme focused more on responsible technology, privacy implications and reclaiming the humanity that we have given up to A.I.
This theme was less about vilifying digital and innovation and more about balancing privacy and profit, building empathy into products, people-based leadership, and holding both corporations and ourselves accountable to the short- and long-term impact algorithms will have on what it means to be human.
Can you trademark your DNA so nobody else can use it?
She says to understand the future of your field you need to watch trends in adjacent industries. Webb also says it’s not about predicting the future but rather understanding the future so you can adjust your business strategy.
For example: By 2021 half of the interactions you have with machines will be using your voice. Can you trademark your DNA so nobody else can use it? If you don’t technically own your DNA then who owns your body and all of the stuff in it? What great questions!
Douglas Rushkoff presented on his Team Human concept, and the responsibility technologists have for reclaiming the humanity of digital tools.
The idea is not to vilify these new digital and social tools, but to reclaim the humanity we deserve in these innovations.
His new book is highly recommended for any marketer looking to reconcile the amazing advanced algorithms and targeting tools we have at our disposal with the ethical implications of what we’re helping to build.
Key quote: “I’m not against digital technology or progress. But we should retrieve and bring back some of the values of our past. We see this in practice elsewhere: Burning Man, craft beers, Etsy, and more… Let’s respect the elders.”
Stream the session audio here. See my Twitter thread here.
Technology can be used to augment human creativity, not replace
We can’t just give kids a phone and be surprised their social media behavior is unhealthy
At the “The Digital Loneliness Epidemic: Reshaping Social Media” panel, Born this Way Foundation’s Cynthia Germanotta (aka Lady Gaga’s mom) talked about both the upsides to social — like helping diverse communities find each other and reduce loneliness and isolation – but also the rate of harassment and bullying and self-harm rates that are rising because of it.
And Aza Raskin, who helped design the concept of infinite scroll, said that unfortunately the infinite scroll design experience wastes 200,000 human lifetimes a day and is leading to a noted decrease in attention rates and depression.
According to Aza, 55% of plastic surgeons now report having at least one patient who says they want to look like a Snapchat filter. Yikes! Stream the session audio here. See my Twitter thread here.
Change happens when the pain of changing is less than the pain of not changing
Joseph Jaffe’s concept of Built to Suck talked about how brands have been built for “short-termism” and not to succeed in the modern era.
Jaffe’s research shows that 439 of the original Fortune 500 from 1955 are gone; over the last two years more than half of the Fortune 500 have had declining revenues; and he predicts 50% of the S&P 500 will be replaced in the next 10 years.
Jaffe says corporations need to invest in modern talent, be prepared to self-disrupt, and look to their founding origins of the brand to reclaim your authenticity.
Key quote: “Change happens when the pain of changing is less than the pain of not changing.”
Therefore, McNamee says when he met a young Mark Zuckerberg he thought this young kid had cracked how to do this social network thing in a positive way and without the trolls. Yes he said that.
But today… McNamee wishes we had created all of this new technology without all of the harm. He shared that our lives are more regulated by the code and algorithms of Google, Facebook, Microsoft and Amazon than the rule of law. McNamee says that if you look at the last 10 years, Facebook is more a net negative than a net positive. That says a lot from the man who was the most bullish about Facebook in its earliest days.
Using this wisdom, McNamee says the top 3 things we use AI for today are: 1) eliminating white collar work, 2) filter bubbles, 3) recommendations. But he says jobs, what we believe, and what we like are important human elements we shouldn’t delegate to machines moving forward.
Creating conditions for new behaviors in large organizations
Ford’s Sandy Fershee shared an extremely compelling presentation about building successful innovative and creative teams inside large legacy organizations, particularly when those organizations have conflicting professional experiences and mind-sets.
Fershee says leaders in these large organizations must be prepared to change your org structure again and again; don’t think you can do change once and be done; know when to say things are good enough; and to adapt and reflect at key moment when the time is right.
She says constraints are our friend, and we should invest in stages when it comes to change. And to celebrate success. Always.
Stream the session audio here. See my Twitter thread here.
“The future has arrived – it’s just not evenly distributed yet.” – William Gibson
Design and technologist John Maeda shared his 2019 Design in Tech Report, covering the latest trends in the technology sphere with respect to computational design and its continuing evolution.
Rohit Bhargava presented on “Non-Obvious Trends” and how to look at the world in new ways using trend data.
Among Rohit’s trends were Retro Trust, a throwback trend that’s emerging because Americans are so skeptical about trust today that they are looking to brands we used to trust and rooting for them to succeed. This explains the rise of nostalgia, analog media and deliberate downgrading (flip phones!).
And the trend of Enterprise Empathy, where companies are finding ways to drive revenue through elevating the business value of caring.
Examples of this includes slow checkout lanes for seniors and the disabled people, quiet retail store hours for those with ASD, inclusive product design, and Papa, which is a service that offers grandkids on demand.
Had you considered that Elon Musk, Larry Page, and Jeff Bezos think how they think and steer their companies to new visions based on the science fiction they read and watched growing up?
Multiple panels touched on what influenced these powerful technology leaders and how we can have a better sense where they’re pointing their respective companies by studying what influences them.
For example, the Amazon Kindle was inspired by a character named Fiona and Alexa was inspired by Star Trek. However, it’s not all positive.
A.I. Now’s Rashinda Richardson said her audit of popular sci-fi movies shows almost of the casting features able-bodied white males, and those depictions inhibit our ability to understand new tech and improve the future.
IBM’s Chris Noessel said 50% of sci-fi stories map to things science cares about, but what scientists don’t care about is if A.I. is evil or the citizenship of A.I., although these are prominent plot lines.
Neal Stephenson’s books Snowcrash and The Diamond Age are some of the most influential — although sometimes those imagined futures are misinterpreted as utopia versus the dystopian warnings they were intended to be.
I’m a SXSW old-timer at this point. This will be my 11th year attending. I’ve spoken four times and am now on the SXSW Advisory Board. I directly credit this event, the people I’ve met there, and the things I’ve learned with impacting my career in significant ways.
But you have to put a lot in to get a lot out.
So in 2014 I curated this extensive First-timer SXSW advice from the Pros post. There are lots of good insights there from a host of friends who attend each year. Otherwise, my must-do’s for 2018 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. The curation of breakthrough content and thinkers at SXSW is amazing — take advantage.
Do not go to any sessions that are essentially case studies you could read about online. Instead, make a note for yourself to go read those when you get home.
Do not go to any sessions where you yourself could be on the panel. You’re already a subject matter expert. Go learn something new!
Do not to go any sessions with a movie, television or social media celebrity. In my experience the lines are huge, the content isn’t great, and there’s probably a niche session down the hall that you’ll get more value from.
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. Literally look at the rooms next to your session, and I bet there’s something of value nearby.
Go to everything early, and expect to wait in line. Lines are real. If there’s one session you care a lot about, schedule your day around getting into it.
Bring battery backups for your devices. This seems obvious until you’re sitting nowhere near a power adapter and realize you’re on low battery mode.
Eat a big breakfast. Lunch breaks can be hit or miss, depending on the sessions you pick. A protein bar in your bag will help.
Wear comfortable walking shoes. By the second day you’ll be glad you did.
Bring a jacket that can tolerate rain. Austin isn’t really built for downpours and many event venues are designed around patios or open air courtyards. Stay dry!
Network like crazy. Don’t hang out with your crew from back home. Meet and befriend creatives, innovators and disruptors. This is just as valuable as the content.
Eat a good dinner each night. Make dinner reservations in advance and invite strangers you meet during the day to hang out and share what they heard during the day. You can’t hit every session, but this gives you an exponential window into what you missed.
Spend a day when you get home processing, writing and sharing your takeaways (and formally connecting with the amazing people you met). That stack of business cards in the corner was all for naught if you don’t get those into LinkedIn!
Lastly, if you aren’t willing to put in the effort for an amazing experience, stay home next year and complain about it on social with everyone else. SXSW didn’t jump the shark. Lots of people just missed the point of putting in the work to get a lot out of it.
Want to hang out? Best way to hook up is text — 612-845-1020.