Category Archives: My Life

The Disappointing 2010s… Because Ads

I’ve spent the past few days considering what changed from 2010 and now. Of course, there are the obvious things like better cameras in mobile phones leading to an explosion of user content.  In my life specifically this has led to more YouTube content and the ability for me to even create and post my own YouTube content. And now I primarily watch YouTube content. This of course is aided by cord cutting, which we did in 2012. We cut event TV, evening news, and cable news out of our life and we’ve been better for it. Apart from that, nothing much has changed. We’re still driving the same cars, using the same printer, we only upgraded our computers once, and we still don’t have any kind of personal assistant or Internet of Things device in our house.

The Internet of Things is the most disappointing thing of all. I was excited all the way back in 2005 when we went to CES and learned about Zigbee standards. We dreamed of having a fully networked house that would adapt to our needs. Our lights would come on when they needed to, my fridge would generate a basic grocery list, my fridge would give me meal suggestions based upon what’s in my fridge, music devices would know what I wanted to hear and suggest new music to me based on my habits, and I’d basically have a second brain to offload mundane tasks  to. My data was supposed to be for me and stored within the confines of my personal network. But instead, what should be mine was sold and shared with all manner of unknown entities to sell to advertisers and to be used by state actors to influence my political leanings. Instead of a recommendation engine that deepened my gardening knowledge, YouTube led me to end-of-the-world gun-nut preppers. Instead of advertisements for cheese and ice cream, Twitter puts random content on my feed that is not relevant to me like the duration on iPhone batteries and eggs (which I’m allergic to). I’m afraid to get a connected TV and appliances because they will all be spying on me, and I don’t dare go near a Facebook associated website or service because Facebook is in essence malware.

Unfortunately, a lot of this is our fault because as consumers we want everything free, so companies leapt at selling ads space on devices to provide revenues. But then something happened, and the consumers and content creators shifted from being the customers to being the products. And since then, energy has been spent creating algorithms to mine consumer data and to sell advertising space rather than making a better customer experience. And now multi-billion dollar, too-big-to-fail companies are completely dependent on serving ads and selling our data to anyone who will pay for it.

What is the right balance of privacy and community? I’m not opposed to providing anonymized data for recommendation engines or to help companies improve products and experiences.  I am also not opposed to providing personal information to get personalized recommendations. My problem is why does my personal identifying information need to leave the confines of my house and why do I receive advertisements I haven’t “pulled”. For instance, when I’m doing research to decide which mobile phone to buy is the proper time to show me an iPhone battery advertisement. Apple doesn’t have to know this specific information about me or my search, but I feel comfortable letting Apple know that someone, not me specifically, clicked to find out more information.

I’ve thought about a disruption to Facebook that offered similar features with privacy and then it occurred to me that I have that now with my family and friends via media rich text messaging and groups. As for a kitchen assistant, we use our iPad to display recipes, monitor cooking via Bluetooth thermometers and timers, and to stream music and videos to our stereo and TV. I keep a running shopping list on my mobile phone. As for the connected home, we have certain lights timers and movement sensors. We’ve programmed our heater/AC as well as our outdoor sprinkle system. Are these workarounds? Or is this how it should be done? Of course, I would like to have weather responsive outdoor sprinklers, but am I doing fine without them? I’d say yes. Did I expect to be doing things the same way I did in 2010 or before? No.

In the 2020’s I hope to see a radical shift towards companies providing truly personal experiences for customers. I’d like to have a personal assistant that isn’t sharing my data with the manufacturer’s partners or governments.  I don’t want to fear that my devices are spying on me or are being used as part of a botnet. Most importantly, I don’t want to be bombarded with advertisements. When I look back to the year 2020, I want to be doing some things differently. I want my house and garden to be semi-automated with statistics for me that I can either choose to share or keep to myself. I want to be able to track my life in the same manner. I want my private personal life assistant as was promised to me from sci-fi like Star Trek and those many aspirational corporate videos I sat through at meetings and conferences.

Random Rambling about the Recent Past

It’s be a long time since I’ve blogged on this site, but I think maybe I should do it more often as a way to vent my frustrations and talk in long form about things that interest me. So let’s get started.

The US Presidential Race — I am having a hard time accepting the 2016 US Presidential race as reality. Hilary Clinton shouldn’t be running because of that leaky server of hers and Donald Trump is only running for President because he craves attention. Meanwhile bug-eyed Republicans are scared of their own shadows and reflections in mirrors as they realize they’re the party of evil. I keep waiting for someone to call a news conference to announce “Just kidding! Here are your real candidates!” But that’s not happening. I can’t help but think that the terrorists won.

El Nino — I’m worried that anti-science people will use the incorrect weather prediction for Southern California as ammunition to undermine climate science. I’m really upset at the scientists who should know better than to make reckless predictions. I’m even more upset at the clueless news outlets who took that reckless prediction and amplified it. Better to stick with the fact of El Nino as an equatorial ocean water warming phenomenon and that the various ocean temperature oscillations and their interactions with each other and the atmosphere are under investigation and not well understood yet. I don’t think it was made clear that El Nino forecasts are long-term and based on 50/50 chance of wetter or dryer each month, that the ocean water temperature visuals were relative to average and not absolute, and that the El Nino oscillation has a secondary influence on the US and a primary influence on the equatorial region. I’m waiting for the multiple finger-pointing “How they got El Nino so Wrong” news stories. Of course the news won’t examine their own role in the hype. Just like in 1997-8, the news was bungled resulting in unmet expectations, and people started taking El Nino lightly. I wonder if people will be so ready to prepare the next time the news cries “El Nino”.

VR— It feels like 3-D all over again, again. Yes, current VR is better than past incarnations, but it’s still a gimmick that I’m not interested in yet. This is mostly because my eyesight is unequal in both eyes, so when I’m forced to view a perspective, I get headaches and disoriented very easily. Reality is a multi-sensory experience, so without the other senses, the experience will be incomplete and ultimately something that people can’t endure for extended time periods. I think as an aspiration, VR is wonderful and I applaud those people who will be early adopters. But for me, I’m gonna bank more on augmented reality for now and jump into VR after it’s truly immersive — as in you plug it into your brain somehow.  I have a feeling that will happen long after I’m dead.  I do look forward to the multiple gimmicks that will come out of VR like 360 videos and theme park applications. VR will end up like 3-D is now — in movie theaters, theme park, and arcades (or whatever they are called now.)

That’s all for now!

The Pursuit of Money is Ruining the Pursuit of Money

It’s been a while since I’ve blogged here. I’ve been immersing myself deeply in shoujo and josei manga (Japanese comics for young and older women), so I haven’t been taking time to maintain this blog. Outside of that, there hasn’t been much for me to ramble on about. Maybe you’ve noticed like I have that not much has changed in the past 5 years. Just in my own life I’ve noticed my husband and I are driving the same cars and don’t feel the need to get new ones, we are still driving our entertainment off the same two laptops, I’m still using an iPad 2, and both of our “newer” laptops are equivalent to the Blackbirds we had 5-years ago.  I feel this enormous sense of stagnancy, and quite frankly most everything bores the hell out of me. Okay, okay, there are three things that excite me: Manga, 3-D printing, and drones — specifically the prospect of food delivery using drones (I want the taco-copter yesterday).

It would be too easy to blame the economy and the government gridlock for this stagnation. The economy is a symptom of stagnancy rather than a cause from my point of view. Companies and very rich people are sitting on huge piles of cash rather than using that money to create things and employ people.  Money is power, yet as long as companies and rich people sit on that money, it’s reduced to worthless paper, and thus diminished in power. Somewhere along the line monied people have forgotten about this and instead believe hoarding cash has some kind of meaning. We are seeing the value of money challenged by the Bitcoin “Revolt” (and yes, this is a revolutionary movement, because let’s face it, paper is just as worthless as bits), the rise of bartering, and the Maker movement. People simply have no money to trade, so some of us have gone back to actually trading useful stuff; you know that thing called “doing BUSINESS”. Anyhow… keep sitting on that paper, companies and rich people. The world will move on with or without your money. The question is do you want use your power to shape the future or are you playing “he who has the most paper when they die wins”?  Nobody cares about that beyond where your money, and hence your power, goes after you die.  So you may as well spend it all now and make the world in your model.  This thought brings me great sadness because so many idiots have lots of money.

I think it’s safe to say the stock markets are no longer engines of innovation. People put money in the stock market for short term gain and not because they believe in the long term vision of a company. Company chase the stock price quarter to quarter and concentrate on the paper rather than on the products that they sale. Hence the endless pursuit as cutting back to profit, a line of thinking that makes absolutely no sense. In this paradigm, R&D is another expense to minimize rather than the engine of growth. Instead strategies like currency exchange become the engines of growth to get more currency — worthless paper chasing after worthless paper. Meanwhile companies find themselves 3 to 5 years later with no new products in the pipeline, a bunch of worthless MBA spouting nonsense about hockey-sticks, and no actual engineers to design new products because they were all laid off in the relentless pursuit of the bottom line.  Raise your hand if this describes the current state of your workplace? Is your company going broke? Is your company’s stock price in the toilet? When will CEOs realize this is not “business”. The company’s stock is not the company’s product and the stock market brokers and analysts are not your customers.  Seriously, what does it matter whether Wall Street likes your latest product? They aren’t the ones buying your product. Your CUSTOMERS are the ones buying your product. Ignore the whims of the stock market and get back to selling actual stuff and services to paying customers.  When business is doing well, meaning your company is selling lots of stuff and services for a profit, stock market adulation will come.  I imagine as long as executives and boards are paid with stock and when they bonuses are dependent on hitting stock market targets, their focus will be on the stock market rather than on products and the customer.  And because these folks make money whether the company is doing well or not, executives could care less. They’ll move on to the next company to drain on the way to the bottom, without it being acknowledged that these executives may actually be a very poor manager.  It’s a vicious cycle. I wonder when a group of execs will get together and decide that this compensation scheme is doing to great harm to society on the whole and change compensation to focus on customer satisfaction and true market growth — as in actual paying customers — and not the stock “market”?

Another harmful consequence of chasing the bottom line is severe risk aversion. Executives don’t want to try something new and revolutionary because they fear if it’s not a hit, they’ll be clobbered by the stock market. I wish I could say it had nothing to do with getting executive bonuses, but it is human nature to put oneself before all others and everything.  This seems silly considering how much money big companies are sitting on. I suppose not every company is like this. To Microsoft’s credit, they tried with The Surface and they are trying with the XBox One, but they totally misread the market and are getting clobbered by customers. Honestly that sounds like a bunch of their tech leadership is completely out of touch of with everyday people, and  is usually a problem caused by lack of diversity, siloed organizations, and corporate inbreeding (driven by ranking). But I digress… Anyhow… I look around and ask myself, with the exception of Google, why don’t I see a 3-D printer from major tech giants who have giant printing divisions (Uh HP, cough, cough, Canon, ahem….cough, cough…the remnants of Kodak… hack… ugh… Whoo! I don’t know what frog got caught in my throat). Of course, it’ll be over once Amazon builds an army of 3-D printers and delivery drones that let people get whatever they want overnight… >_>…. Sigh… Bezos wasn’t kidding about that alarm clock. Wake the hell up and quit chasing the iPad. The iPad is a commodity. Quit piling on that.  Instead, why don’t you rehire the Engineers you laid off, pay them fairly, and let them loose on creating new markets. And, no creating new markets is not what an MBA does.  Masters of Business Administration are Administrators. They administrate.

Ugh… okay, enough rambling for now and back to enjoy my manga.

So Much to Blog About…

It’s been so long since I blogged outside of manga and anime that I feel a little overwhelmed by all the potential stuff that is going on that I could ramble on about.  I feel like the world is changing at an accelerated pace.  Also too much has happened in the past few weeks.  Here’s a list of stuff that’s clogging my brain:

  • Tokyo Pop bankruptcy — what series are going to be left hanging and do I have any time to finish up the translation of some of the series myself?  I probably don’t since I want to leave bandwidth for any new series from Bisco Hatori or Akane Ogura.
  • What’s the heck is Akadot doing?  — They are taking a great risk in changing what they sale.  I can no longer visit their website without being greatly offended.  But, I guess in the end, porn sells.  So I guess, more power to them, but they’ve lost me as a customer and an advocate. Additionally, they just found out that they can’t sell porn though the Kindle, which their parent company admits is an important source of revenue.  Oops…
  • The Epsilon Break-in — Now I can’t trust any e-mail I get from any company. :/
  • Osama Bin Laden is dead — nuff said.  I’m not worried about retaliation like other people.  I’m just relieved more than anything.
  • Royal Wedding Curiosity — I saw the pertinent clips
  • My iPad 2 –Flip Board has changed my life.  I take my iPad 2 to bed with me.  It’s my second husband.
  • Ad supported websites are a lie.  You can’t make much money from Google ads because less than .001% of visits result in the visitor clicking an ad link.  It would be far better for me to sell advertising space myself.

Honestly, I think a lot of my blogging has become Tweets on Twitter.  On Twitter I can write a few quick thoughts and let them float through the ether.  It’s more efficient than “rambling”.  The immediacy of Twitter is nice and I get more community feedback from Twitter than I do from this blog now that I’m on the outside world.

It’s Been a While Since I’ve Rambled

It’s been a while since I’ve written an entry in this blog.  I think this says a lot about the state of things.  In general, there’s not much to say, and, in general, there’s not much nice for me to say.

About a month ago while driving home from a night out at the movies, my husband asked me if I wanted to go to Best Buy or Fry’s and wander the aisles.  My response was, “For what?”  That’s when we came to the sad realization that, beyond the iPad, there is nothing for gadget freaks and computer nerds to be excited about right now.  3D TV repulses me and there’s no reason to buy a new TV just because it has yellow pixels.  There are no new speed leaps in PC hardware and I already have a multitude of iPods and PC’s in various form factors.  Ironically, the next day, while listening to Marketplace on my local Public Radio station, one of the news stories was about how sales at Best Buy had fallen.  I guess my husband and my sentiments are widespread.  There’s nothing new and wonderful to aspire to purchase (except for an iPad) and we are only buying on necessity for the purpose of replacing  broken items.  Sadly enough, our non-functioning XBOX360 doesn’t rise to the level of necessity.  We are now watching Netflix VOD on the laptop that’s connected to our TV.

This realization brought about further thoughts about the current state of things.  There’s a push/pull conundrum with the jobs situation.  People are holding back on spending because they feel insecure about their jobs and finances and companies aren’t hiring because there’s not enough demand for produces and services.  I think though, that job and financial insecurity are only a  part of the demand problem.  I think a big part of the demand problem is that there’s nothing exciting and new for consumers to consume.  Why do I say this?  Well, because of Apple, of course.  Despite the downturn, they continue to churn out great products and they don’t seem to be having any problem selling them to cash strapped consumers.  And believe me, my unemployed-behind is saving my husband’s money for a Christmas iPad.

I’m tired of hearing companies whine that they won’t hire because there’s no demand for their offerings.  My response to that line of complaints is “what are you offering?”  If it’s not something new and exciting, regardless of state of the economy, demand will slump.  In good times and bad companies have create demand by innovating and coming up with great new products to drive consumption.  So, in other words, big companies are going to have to spend some of the money they are sitting on, hire some people, and offer some great new products and services in order to kick start demand and spark the economy.  At the same time, there has to be investment in innovative small companies to get new ideas out.

My Dad likes to say that the economy won’t  revive until some sort of phenomenal shift happens — something on scale of the Internet or the steam engine.  I’m not sure if I agree.  It seems to me that there are a lot of “little” things that can get done, too.  Interestingly enough to me, it seems like clean energy isn’t fueling people’s imaginations.   I thought the clean energy revolution would be a phenomenal shift, but it isn’t.  Why?  I think it’s because oil is very much ingrain in our worldwide psyche.  I’m not sure I understand this emotional attachment to oil, but despite the damage being done to the Gulf, I hear the tears in people’s voice as they talk about the spilled oil ruining the environment, while at the same time, ruining job prospects and a way of life in which oil and fishing are intertwined.  The same is true for families in the coal mining industry — it’s like coal mining is part of the family.  It’s weird to me — why love something that kills you and hurts everyone on the planet?    Also, I think oil and coal are tangible whereas solar, wind, nuclear, and the biological and chemical methods of energy generation seem abstract to most people.   I imagine “blue collar” workers don’t see how they fit into a world that they associate with hard science and engineering — though, it seems entirely ridiculous to me, but understandable since BP saw it fit to fire the very engineers and scientists that could have prevented or more reasonably responded to the Gulf oil spill.  (By the way “technicians,”  “engineers,” and “scientists”  are not interchangeable!)  Anyhow…it seems to me that our reliance on fossil fuels is emotional and until that emotional tie is cut, other forms of energy generation cannot rise in its place.  The “everyday worker” has to see how they fit into a new energy future before they will buy into it.    Making alternative energy seem more accessible is a good problem for marketers to solve…

On the other fronts…well,  inventing new ways to print money never got us anywhere.  Yet, “Wall Street innovation” will continue, driven by finding new ways to scam people without technically breaking the law…personally, I don’t need it…but I imagine the new legislation that just passed will fuel a whole new round of “Wall Street Innovation…”

On a personal front, I’m watching and participating in the electronic manga revolution.  I want to be more active in it.  I think, though,  this is one of those things in which the large companies have to reach out to the smaller companies and hobbyist groups to get things moving in the right direction for consumers.  I just hope lawyers and greed don’t blind folks such that we end up losing the current opportunity.