The Bullshit Web
“An honest web is one in which the overwhelming majority of the code and assets downloaded to a user’s computer are used in a page’s visual presentation, with nearly all the remainder used to define the semantic structure and associated metadata on the page. Bullshit — in the form of CPU-sucking surveillance, unnecessarily-interruptive elements, and behaviours that nobody responsible for a website would themselves find appealing as a visitor — is unwelcome and intolerable.”
I have soft spot for lightweight, text-centric web pages because they’re pure. The distance between the audience and the intention of the content is as short as it can be. At the same time, I appreciate the need for analytics and digital marketing. That’s why we should seek a middle ground between a text-only web and a web with effective-but-minimal marketing tools.
'Mission: Impossible' — Tom Cruise Pushed for a Dark Plotline That Was Cut
“What Tom and I have done is we’ve developed a pretty solid set of muscles in terms of how to shoot a scene so that scene can be manipulated, so that it can be quickly reshot. For example, all of the information dumps in a Mission: Impossible movie — whenever possible — are in a car, a phone booth or a confined set of some kind so we can go back and reshoot that stuff. We can change it if we really need to. And, all of the character stuff where we’re finding those characters, whenever we’re shooting it, we cover the scene in such a way that I can lift whole chunks of the scene out if they don’t apply to the movie anymore. So, it allows us to explore.”
I assumed movies that started filming without a completed script were workflow failures, even if the movie itself turned out fine. But this interview with director Christopher McQuarrie changed my mind. Accounting for reshoots within the production is a smart way to handle the agility and serendipity some stories need.
Hidden trends in corporate America’s travel and expenses
“In the less than 10 years since it launched, Uber and its competitor Lyft have gobbled up a whopping 93 percent of business ride-hailing receipts (Uber, 74 percent; Lyft, 19 percent), according to expense report software company Certify, while taxis make up 7 percent.”
You see swift and profound growth like this when a technology or service is demonstrably better than alternatives. Ride-hailing from Uber and Lyft is simply better than taxis. The iPhone / smartphones were simply better than clunky feature phones.
Next-Gen Nuclear Is Coming
“Technologies often fail for a long time before succeeding: 45 years of tinkering passed between the first electric light and Thomas Edison’s patent for an incandescent bulb. It can take decades for the engineering to catch up to the idea.”
The convergence of old ideas and new technology is fascinating.
The False Tale of Amazon's Industry-Conquering Juggernaut
“Ultimately, Amazon is not a disruptive force so much as it’s just a big, rich company which spends a lot of resources trying a lot of things. That’s smart, for Amazon, but it certainly doesn’t mean that industry after industry is going to get disrupted the minute the Seattle giant lays eyes on it.”
This is an interesting counterpoint to the “soon Amazon will own everything” response.
Payments company Stripe is getting into book publishing
“‘Stripe’s mission is to grow the GDP of the internet,’ it tells Axios, adding that it does this by providing tech tools as well as ‘by sharing previously hard-to-acquire knowledge and expertise about starting and running companies’.”
There are two types of content marketing. There’s the nuts-and-bolts version that’s built around direct conversion and there’s the leadership version that focuses on building a reputation with a target audience (that’s what Stripe is doing). Most of the attention goes to version 1, but version 2 has a lot of potential in the right situations. For example, if a company’s product is not a discreet thing — i.e. the company helps the customer learn something, build something, prove something, or achieve something — the mechanics of conversion-focused content marketing might not work as well as they do when a customer needs to purchase a product to address their need. Of course, the nice thing about content marketing is you don’t need to limit yourself to one version or another. You can experiment to discover the mix that works best for your organization.
How a cabal of romance writers cashed in on Amazon Kindle Unlimited
“… book stuffing plagues the romance genre on Kindle Unlimited, with titles that come in at 2000 or even 3000 pages (the maximum page length for a Kindle Unlimited book). That’s approximately the length of Atlas Shrugged or War and Peace.
“Book stuffing is particularly controversial because Amazon pays authors from a single communal pot. In other words, Kindle Unlimited is a zero-sum game. The more one author gets from Kindle Unlimited, the less the other authors get.
“Every time a reader reads to the end of a 3,000-page book, the author earns almost 14 dollars. For titles that break into the top of the Kindle Unlimited charts, this trick can generate a fortune.
“Of course, you might be wondering if any readers actually read through all 3000 pages. But authors deploy a host of tricks in service of gathering page reads — from big fonts and wide spacing to a ‘link back.’ Some authors would place a link at the very front of the book, to sign up to a mailing list. The link would take them to the back of the book, thus counting all pages read. It’s not clear whether any of this actually works.
“Readers aren’t unsophisticated, but Amazon’s reward system is set up so that any regret or dissatisfaction they feel after reading an inflated book that reached them through a variety of SEO tricks won’t make a dent in the pockets of one of these more market-savvy authors. All that matters is that the pages are marked as read.”
This type of gamesmanship is both fascinating and consistent. Anytime a company creates an automated ranking mechanism you know it’s only a matter of time before people hack it from within. One thing that’s always impressed me about Google is that it rewards relevance in its search results, which means the company’s goal (get people to use its search engine) and the searcher’s goal (find the most useful stuff) are in alignment. Content creators who rely on Google for traffic are motivated — for the most part — to craft material that’s valuable to the target audience. Doing well on Google means doing well for the audience. But a case like the one described in this article is more common, at least for a time. The good news is that some companies eventually figure it out. Google appears to have a handle on search now. Ebay applies buyer and seller feedback effectively. Slashdot uses impressive curation and moderation. It can be done.
Netflix Stock Plummets on Weak Subscriber Growth
“CEO Reed Hastings, in a letter to shareholders, called the quarter ‘strong but not stellar.’ He gave little reason for why Netflix’s subscriber additions came in under previous forecasts.”
This probably has nothing to do with Netflix’ subscriber growth, but I think it’s worth mentioning. The original movies put out by Netflix are often not good. I find it odd that the company does well with series (“The Crown,” “Stranger Things,” etc.) but then it releases ridiculous movies like “How it Ends” and “Bright.” I’m waiting for one of these services to put out an original film that’s excellent. I know Amazon has had some success in film, but I”m talking about a movie that’s only available through the service, not in theaters.
The Race to a Trillion
“Over time, new forces will rise that will challenge existing processes and require giants to come up with new ways of thinking. The degree to which management teams can respond and adjust to these new forces will determine the amount of success in staying at the top. There is nothing inherently found with today’s giants that prevents new companies from leveraging technologies to deliver customer value in new ways. Instead of there being some kind of innovation black hole where advancements can only come from the five giants, tomorrow’s giants will likely use today’s leaders as stepping stones to reach new heights. An example of this development would be the way companies have used smartphones to rethink transportation via ride sharing.”
"101 Ways to Save Apple" was published in a 1997 edition of Wired. Hindsight is sometimes hilarious. Item No. 1 “Admit it. You’re out of the hardware game.” Though, to be fair, there are a number of prescient recommendations on the list: No. 14 “Do something creative with the design of the box and separate yourselves from the pack,” and No. 34 “Port the OS to the Intel platform.” Here’s the thing: Few could have connected the dots between Apple’s low point in ’97 and now. That also means few can connect the dots between the present and whatever is to come. And that’s what makes things interesting.
"Still Can't Believe It Worked": The Story of the Thailand Cave Rescue
“Tham Luang Cave is a rare place where a person can become completely isolated. There is no GPS, no Wi-Fi, no cellphone service. The last known survey was conducted in the 1980s by a French caving society, but many of its deepest recesses remain unmapped. Spelunkers consider the cave one of the most challenging in the world.”
Everything about this rescue mission is remarkable. And this article is an impressive display of reporting, storytelling, editing, and production.