🌎 Web \ 📡 Tech \ 🔮 Future - WTF#001

What's happening in technology, media and my world this week

Hi! It’s finally here, I’ve launched my new newsletter (on Substack). Hope you enjoy it hitting your inbox every Friday 😎

💸 🗳 How Elections Are Manipulated in Social Media

And what that tells us about our own exploitation of social advertising tools

BBC Radio 4 re-ran SLICE: Politics and Personality recently, a series of 5 x 14 minute episodes looking at how we’re targeted with social media ads during elections, and reflects back on the Cambridge Analytica scandal, questioning how valuable those tactics were anyway. A must-listen if you work in marketing.

🏆 💩 Peloton Drops The Worst Ever Christmas Ad

Congrats to all involved 👏

The spin-class-at-home startup that has somehow spun the exercise bike (as seen in the 80s) into a ‘hot tech product’ has successfully created the most tone-deaf commercial video in history.

In short a very healthy-looking woman which we would all kill to look like comes down the stairs on Christmas morning. OMG a Peloton!! Cue selfie vids of her really getting into using this thing, even getting up at 6am to ride. Now a bit sweaty “a year ago, I didn’t realise how much this would change me” (though we’ve no idea if/how she’s changed). She looks adoringly at her husband. “Thank you”.

So basically, change the ones you love, especially your wife, this Christmas.

It’s always hard to work out if this kind of thing is genuine tone-deafness. But more likely it’s the cynicism of marketing bros promising their actual target audience (not skinny, fit people) that they can overcome fitness and weight loss challenges. But being too stupid to realise that the heroine of the piece doesn’t go on any perceivable journey here (because of how they wrote and cast the ad), whilst simultaneously having been disempowered by her male keeper. Had it been executed well with a very slight tweak to the narrative there would be no backlash. But then the ad wouldn’t have garnered 3.5 million views either 🤷‍♀️

There has been a backlash to the backlash (of course). With some people on Twitter claiming it’s the usual unwarranted outrage that defines our time. I think they miss that no-one’s suggesting the ad be banned, it’s just a hilariously crap one worthy of all the derision it receives.

I think we all marvel at brands putting these out (see also Pepsi/Kylie Jenner 2017) without someone in that whole process spotting the fact they are birthing a real stinker. Given the fight you have to put up to get buy-in for your ideas and executions in advertising, and then get your work through multiple approvals unscathed, it’s a miracle this stuff sees the light of day.

📺 🤦‍♀️ A Twitter Thread to Brighten Everyone’s Week

The inane TV landscape laid bare in chucklesome tweets

It’s always interesting when a regular Twitter user suddenly goes viral. This week that happened to Diyora Shadijanova (@thediyora) when she compiled a thread documenting the most iconic (i.e. downright ridiculous) moments on British television throughout the decade we’re about to chaotically stagger out of. It’s hilarious and having not watched terrestrial TV for years they’re all new to me, but so random that they probably are to most people.

There is a current meme of things hilariously out of context right now. Many of the gems in this thread succeed because of the isolated ludicrousness of over-reaction or self-importance. The sheer shoddiness and barrel-scraping creative desperation of modern TV. But it’s also weirdly restored my faith in crappy mainstream TV. It’s as if it knows it’s bollocks so it just does a great job of being a silly load of bollocks, and you can’t really argue with that.

40k+ retweets and 120k likes later and Diyora is still adding to it because apparently there is no bottom to the well of utter tripe this great country has needed to fill airtime with over the last ten years. Enjoy when you don’t have anything important to do.

💸 🙊 TikTok is Coming for Your Money Amid Censorship and Independence Concerns

Time to start monetising the world’s most downloaded app - check the deck 👇

Not that any of its users care, but TikTok admitted suppressing the reach of content created by users assumed to be “vulnerable to cyberbullying” such as people with a facial disfigurement, autism, Down syndrome, and “Disabled people or people with some facial problems such as birthmark, slight squint and etc”. Well-intentioned measures to protect the vulnerable, or gross overstepping? It comes on the back of scrutiny of their wider censorship policy and relationship with the Chinese authorities. Again, not sure your average 15-year-old user in their bedroom really cares but as TikTok are now coming after your ad dollars it will undoubtedly affect how comfortable brands are with getting involved (P.S. I got their media pack and you can download it from my Dropbox here).

🧐 Fun fact: Bluetooth Logo Origin Story

Harald would be so proud of his interoperable legacy

Reddit user brightgreyday shared a great factoid this week. That “Bluetooth is named after a tenth-century Viking king. An employee at Intel thought of the name, thinking that Bluetooth technology would unite devices the way Harald Bluetooth united the tribes of Denmark. The logo is the combination of his initials when written using the runic alphabet.

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Who knew? We can only wonder what things will be named after in another 1,000 years. Whimsically Kardashian-monikered spaceships no doubt.

👽 🚀 Reddit Has Had an Incredible 2019

And my guess is that they’re stealing attention from the big social platforms

Reddit’s user base grew 30% this year, as outlined in its annual retrospective report. It’s now bigger than Twitter and far more engaged. Monthly views are up 54%. That’s huge. Much growth is being seen in niches like beauty, fashion, food & drink, parenting etc - which is a strong sign that the site has gone truly mainstream, as many users realise it’s a more reliable source of hilarious memes, authentic commentary, personal stories and in many cases is a more genuine ‘community’ (an almost-always misused term in social media).

🙊 🤖 Let Liam Do the Talking

Facebook has issued a chatbot to staff to help answer awkward questions

Work for Facebook? Now you have a chatbot to help you answer difficult questions about the social media giant over the festive season. I can imagine young media pros, up in their old bedroom hunched over their phone, trying to get some ammunition out of Liam after Uncle Jim has just tipsily ripped their whole career to bits over the dinner table. What happens in big companies can sometimes look crazy from the outside but this might be corporate minion management gone mad.

🧠 🌚 Panpsychism - is consciousness a fundamental feature of reality?

Time to rethink how consciousness might exist within matter

Yep, we’re fully off-topic here, but this idea crossed my consciousness last week for the first time and I find it fascinating. Philosopher Philip Goff argues in his new book Galileo's Error: Foundations for a New Science of Consciousness that the hard problem (i.e. we’re still nowhere near understanding) of consciousness becomes a lot easier to explain if we posit that all matter has consciousness in it as a basic feature of its being. We humans are the pinnacle of complex conscious beings, but at the same time a rock has an unimaginably basic level of experience. It’s a totally bonkers and yet strangely plausible theory, and highlights just how little we really know in this area. The author in conversation with Philip Pullman recently gives a nice overview.

🎬 🎼 Yes Baby Yoda’s Adorable, But The Music Makes It

The Mandalorian’s score is as much a gift as The Child

If you’ve been watching the Disney+ original show The Mandalorian, which is a beautifully shot, darkly gritty take on the otherwise tame Star Wars universe, you’ll no doubt have noticed the music. Created by Oscar-winning composer Ludwig Göransson I think it’s what underpins the show’s brooding atmosphere. Disney are releasing each episode’s music on Spotify weekly, and I’m finding it pretty rousing to work to.

🔗 Other Links of Interest

24 years after launch, Craiglist has launched its official app - link - who said they’re slow to innovate? I look forward to their next major product release in 2043 🙀

In the UK? Get a £40,000 grant from the mayor if you can develop an idea to improve the lives of the capital’s residents. You’ve got til next Thursday… go!

In response to the lukewarm reaction to last month’s launch of Google Stadia, there was a fantastic thread on Twitter from a former Sun Microsystems employee illustrating what happens when a company builds the products it wants to, rather than the products people out there actually need. It gave me lots to think about.

You may have seen a factoid circulating that by current estimates we are just 100 harvests away from global topsoil being eroded to the point of uselessness, meaning an impending food crisis on a catastrophic scale. But can this really be true? New Scientist already checked the facts.

💻 What’s on my Desk This Week

🎙 I’m hosting a podcast series for one of the world’s leading providers of marketing training and knowledge. Launching after Christmas - want to be a guest and talk about your specialism? Email me, I’d love to get you on!

📕 We’re doing an expanded edition of our book Cocktails of the Movies - have you seen mixed drinks in any recent films? Let me know! I’ll credit you in the book!

⛵️ I got my Day Skipper certificate this week, and now just need to do the week-long practical bit to get my licence to charter yachts. Anyone fancy doing that with me somewhere in UK/Europe in 2020?

💌 This newsletter! Setting it up has taken a bit of time but it’s on Substack, the simplicity of which got me over the line of finally launching the thing off my to-do list and into your inbox. It’s a work in progress and can only get better. Do send any feedback or interesting finds of your own, it’d be hugely appreciated :)

What to Drink This Weekend

In what will be a regular slot, I’ll recommend a cocktail to try this weekend. In writing about drinks I’ve had to road-test hundreds of cocktails and their limitless variations, and I’ll have some truly heartwarming tipples to share. And this week’s will warm even the coldest corazon. I think it’s an unfairly overlooked drink (warning: that’s a running theme in my mixology advice, I love an underdog, especially one you can drink). Anyway, it is the humble (and not to be searched for on Urban Dictionary)…

Rusty Nail

🥃 2 oz (50ml) Scotch whisky

🐝 1 oz (25ml) Drambuie

🍊 1 big swatch of orange zest

Fill a glass to above the rim with ice. Pour in liquids (cheapest first, that’s a general rule in case you mess up). Stir well. Peel off a wafer thin but broad strip of outer peel from a fresh, washed orange (no white pith, just the oily, orange skin), fold it to express the oils over the drink, roll it round a straw or just roll it up if you don’t have one, and place in the drink.

The result is something vaguely resembling an Old Fashioned (watch out for some festive variations on that in later editions). And in fact, both drinks exist in a family of cocktails based on whiskey, sugar, bitters, orange oil and ice. Those things often combine into something deeply satisfying, and despite this drink essentially being a poor man’s Old Fashioned I personally love it. It’s also very convenient.

As the ice melts and waters down the mix slightly this drink blossoms into something you can happily nurse whilst you flop down on the sofa after a hard week.

So whatever you’re drinking, have a great weekend.

Will

willfrancis.com | Twitter | Instagram | LinkedIn | will@willfrancis.com