Elephants Recognize One Another and When They Stomp Around, Grass Gets Trampled

December 1, 2022

I find the coverage of the Twitter, Apple, and Facebook hoe down a good example of self serving and possibly dysfunctional behavior.

What caught my attention in the midst of news about a Tim Apple and the Musker was this story “Zuckerberg Says Apple’s Policies Not Sustainable.” The write up reports as actual factual:

Meta CEO Mark Zuckerberg on Wednesday (November 30, 2022) added to the growing chorus of concerns about Apple, arguing that it’s “problematic that one company controls what happens on the device.” … Zuckerberg has been one of the loudest critics of Apple in Silicon Valley for the past two years. In the wake of Elon Musk’s attacks on Apple this week (third week of November 2022) , his concerns are being echoed more broadly by other industry leaders and Republican lawmakers….”I think the problem is that you get into it with the platform control, is that Apple obviously has their own interests…

Ah, Facebook with its interesting financial performance partially a result of Apple’s unilateral actions is probably not an objective observer. What about the Facebook Cambridge Analytic matter? Ancient history.

Much criticism is directed at the elected officials in the European Union for questioning the business methods of American companies. The interaction of Apple, Facebook, and Twitter will draw more attention to the management methods, the business procedures, and the motivation behind some words and deeds.

If I step back from the flood of tweets, Silicon Valley “real” news, and oracular (possibly self congratulatory write ups from conference organizers) what do I see:

  1. Activities illustrating what happens in a Wild West business environment
  2. Personalities looming larger than the ethical issues intertwined with their revenue generation methods
  3. Regulatory authorities’ inaction creating genuine concern among users, business partners, and employees.

Elephants can stomp around. Even when the beasts mean well, their sheer size puts smaller entities at risk. The shenanigans of big creatures are interesting. Are these creatures of magnitude sustainable or a positive for the datasphere? My view? Nope.

Stephen E Arnold, December 1, 2022

Harvard Expert Opines about Harvard Drop Out, the Zuckster

November 29, 2022

I read a weird news release or self promotional write up from an outfit called Benzinga. The write up is titled “Harvard Expert Says Zuckerberg Is Detailing Facebook: I Thing the Wealth Went to His Head.” Imitating the jazzy writing style of other zippy news entities, I noted what the publication calls “Zingers.” Here is the zinger that caught my attention:

Bill George said Zuckerberg is to blame for Facebook losing its market share to upstart rival TikTok.

I assume that Mr. George is an estimable Harvard-grade expert and former top dog of a medical technology outfit. The assessment of the Zuckster appears in Mr. George’s new book “True North: Leading Authentically in Today’s Workplace, Emerging Leader Edition.”

The write up adds:

Mark Zuckerberg’s leadership approach as the CEO of Meta Platforms Inc has not helped the company grow, and instead dragging it towards failure.

Let’s flip this analysis around. The Zuckster was at Harvard, possibly long enough to ingest its approach to life, business, social responsibility, ethics, and overall view of non-Harvard types.

If my assertion is correct, Facebook is a manifestation of Harvard. Think of Jeffrey Skilling (a Harvard whiz kid) and Enron. Is it possible that the pulse of Harvard keeps alive a certain zeitgeist?

If I am correct, the Zuckster is just doing what the Crimson do when given a chance; for example, assume control, reject inputs, and pay people to do his bidding.

Go Harvard!

Stephen E Arnold, November 29, 2022

The Zuck Play: Why Not Fire Thousands with Twitter As Cover?

November 24, 2022

Here’s the answer:

Mark Zuckerberg’s pet project, Reality Labs, may be his company’s downfall. TechSpot reports, “Meta Value Down $520 Billion Over Last Year, Threatening Its Position as a Top 20 Company.” Some of the company’s losses can be chalked up to broader economic factors, of course, especially tightened ad budgets across the board. However, reporter Rob Thubron writes:

“In addition to the falling revenue, Meta has been worrying investors with the amount of money being poured into its VR/MR ambitions, aka the metaverse. Reality Labs, the division responsible for this unit, was down another $3.7 billion in Q3. That follows the $3 billion it lost in Q2 and the $2.96 billion from the first quarter of 2022. The division hemorrhaged $10.2 billion throughout 2021, and Meta expects the unit’s operating losses to grow significantly year-over-year in 2023. Meta predicts total expenses for this year to reach between $85 billion and $87 billion.”

But Zuckerberg is nothing if not tenacious. The write-up continues:

“Despite losing billions and an analyst’s prediction that many business projects in this area will close by 2025, Zuckerberg is doubling down on the metaverse. ‘Look, I get that a lot of people might disagree with this investment, but from what I can tell, I think this is going to be a very important thing,’ he said. ‘People will look back a decade from now and talk about the importance of the work being done here.’ Meta’s decline is reflected in Zuckerberg’s falling place on Bloomberg’s Billionaires Index. The CEO has seen his fortune fall by $76.8 billion over the last 12 months, dropping to $48.9 billion and placing Zuck in the 23rd position on the list.”

We get that loss is over 60% of the Zuck’s personal fortune, but those are billions with a “b.” As Zuck allegedly says, “The metaverse has legs.” Maybe in an alternate universe?

Cynthia Murrell, November 24, 2022

With Mass Firings, Here Is a Sketchy Factoid to Give One Pause

November 17, 2022

In the midst of the Twitter turmoil and the mea culpae of the Zuck and the Zen master (Jack Dorsey), the idea about organizational vulnerability is not getting much attention. One facet of layoffs or RIFs (reductions in force) is captured in the article “Only a Quarter of Businesses Have Confidence Ex-Employees Can No Longer Access Infrastructure.” True to content marketing form, the details of the methodology are not disclosed.

Who among the thousands terminated via email or a Slack message are going to figure out that selling “insider information” is a good way to make money. Are those executive recruitment firms vetting their customers. Is that jewelry store in Athens on the up and up, or is it operated by a friend of everyone’s favorite leader, Vlad the Assailer. What mischief might a tech-savvy former employee undertake as a contractor on Fiverr or a disgruntled person in a coffee shop?

The write up states:

Only 24 percent of respondents to a new survey are fully confident that ex-employees no longer have access to their company’s infrastructure, while almost half of organizations are less than 50 percent confident that former employees no longer have access.

An outfit called Teleport did the study. A few other factoids which I found suggestive are:

  • … Organizations [are] using on average 5.7 different tools to manage access policy, making it complicated and time-consuming to completely shut off access.
  • “62 percent of respondents cite privacy concerns as a leading challenge when replacing passwords with biometric authentication.”
  • “55 percent point to a lack of devices capable of biometric authentication.”

Let’s assume that these data are off by 10 or 15 percent. There’s room for excitement in my opinion.

Stephen E Arnold, November 17, 2022

What Goes Up Must Come Down Even in Zuckland

November 15, 2022

Facebook used to be the indomitable ruler of social media, then its popularity plummeted in the face of older users and other platforms. Zuckerberg is facing a similar decline with his Meta company, but the plunge hits his deep pockets. Techspot explains what is going on with Zuckerberg and Meta in the article, “Meta Value Down $520 Billion Last Year, Threatening Its Position As a Top 20 Company.”

Meta has less net profits because of the economic downturn in the United States. Companies are spending less money are advertisements through Meta’s products. Meta’s investors are also worried, because the company is funneling billions into the VR/MR “metaverse” project. Meta’s VR/MR branch is called Reality Labs and it lost $10.2 billion in 2021. Reality Labs’s losses are expected to increase in 2023. In 2022, the losses are expected to be $85-87 billion.

Facebook hit the $1 trillion market cap in June 2021 more quickly than any company before. At the beginning of 2022, Facebook was the sixth biggest company in the US. Since Zuckerberg, however, renamed his company Meta its worth has fallen and it could secure the twentieth spot in the biggest company list.

Zuckerberg continues to push VR agenda:

“Despite losing billions and an analyst’s prediction that many business projects in this area will close by 2025, Zuckerberg is doubling down on the metaverse. ‘Look, I get that a lot of people might disagree with this investment, but from what I can tell, I think this is going to be a very important thing,’ he said. ‘People will look back a decade from now and talk about the importance of the work being done here.’”

Zuckerberg was a visionary with Facebook. Is he replicating his visions with the metaverse? He is losing billions of dollars, but it could pay off or it will be another blunder in technology history.

Whitney Grace, November 15, 2022

When a Space Station Burns Up: The Facebook Trajectory

November 10, 2022

Mark Zuckerburg was so sure his company’s path to continued relevance lay in the Metaverse that last year he changed its name from Facebook to Meta. But after investing over $10 billion and dragging many workers from social media into virtual reality, the firm is traveling a rocky road. Not only is the Metaverse push expected to lose a significant amount of money, but the Facebook division is now suffering from the lack of attention. The Financial Times reveals, “Zuckerberg’s Metaverse Rush Pauses for ‘Quality Lockdown’ (paywall).” Reporters Hannah Murphy, Patrick McGee, and Christina Criddle write:

“According to memos and conversations with 10 current and former employees, [Zuckerberg’s] 3bn user-strong social media empire is experiencing disruption and challenges as part of the pivot to Meta, and has already been forced to delay future launches and adjust expectations. In a September memo seen by the Financial Times, Vishal Shah, the vice-president of Meta’s metaverse arm, warned that users and creators had complained that Horizon Worlds — its social virtual reality experience and the closest thing it has to a metaverse so far — was low quality and full of bugs. He ordered a ‘quality lockdown’ for the rest of the year, telling staff that they need to improve fundamentals before any aggressive expansion. Staffers working on the product had to ‘reprioritize or slow some things we had planned’, said Shah, adding that he was lowering its user numbers target for the second half of the year. Some employees warned morale was suffering as teams got restructured to accommodate Zuckerberg’s new vision, which many have not yet bought into. ‘There are a lot of people internally who have never put on a [virtual reality] headset,’ said one metaverse employee.”

Shah insists that simply will not do, and demands workers start using the buggy Horizon World at least once a week. They must be so pleased. It cannot help morale that Zuckerberg announced an upcoming hiring freeze and cost cutting measures while demanding workers demonstrate “increased intensity” and a “sense of urgency.” If he is not careful, he may have no need for that hiring freeze after all. As the Insider notes in its related coverage, the company is also dealing with a slowdown in ad revenue, a steep decline in market valuation, and the loss of former COO Sheryl Sandberg’s considerable talents. Furthermore, investors suspect the company is on the wrong track and, as analyst Rich Greenfield notes, “Meta continues to get its clock cleaned by TikTok.” We are curious to see whether the company can correct its course from here.

Cynthia Murrell, November 10, 2022

Just A Misunderstanding: This Is Not a Zuck Up

November 4, 2022

I read “Since Becoming Meta, Facebook’s Parent Company Has Lost US$650 Billion.” The article presents some information about how the Meta zuck up has progressed. Let me highlight three items, and I urge you to check out the source document for more data points.

  1. “more than half a trillion dollars in value lost in 2022”
  2. “From the start of 2022 to now, the company has shed 70 per cent of its value” (Now means October 28, 2022 I think)
  3. “Apple’s changes cost Meta around $10 billion in ad revenue.”

I would mention that there are some on going legal probes into the exemplar of the individual who has his hands on the steering wheel of what looks to me like a LADA Kalinka. I mean what better vehicle for dating at Harvard a few years ago?

I think that the Top Thumbs Upper at Meta (aka Facebook) has a vision. Without meaningful regulation from assorted governmental agencies, the prospect of a broken down Kalinka is either what one deserves for selecting the vehicle or a menace to others on the information highway.

I understand there is a parking space next to the MySpace 2003 Skoda Fabia.

Stephen E Arnold, November 4, 2022

Expert Wants the Zuck to Resign: Yeah, Sure

October 20, 2022

I read what I think is an essay for a first year MBA class at an online university. The title? “It’s Time for Mark Zuckerberg to Step Down.” Like Mr. Putin, Mr. Zuckerberg seems to be part of the Facebook furniture. Fortunately the brilliant leader of the footless avatar company does not have nuclear weapons. He has the next best thing: Control of the company and a lot of money.

The write up ignores these facts, suggesting:

Mark Zuckerberg should quit. He should step down from his position as CEO of Meta and let someone else manage Facebook, WhatsApp, and Instagram. He should then use his vast wealth and venture-capital connections to launch a startup that can build out his vision of the metaverse.

I want to point out that the metaverse is to Mr. Zuckerberg what annexed regions of the Ukraine are to Mr. Putin. Under attack, these outstanding leaders retreat, talk with people who know an answer other than yes can have a downside, and make decisions from carpet land. These are top downers, not Millennial / GenX / GenY sensitives.

The article adds:

Americans generally find the company’s business model creepy. This has thrown Meta’s business into panic mode…

Panic mode. I don’t think so. The steps taken by Meta and other tech-centric firms are mostly engineering daring do. Logical steps often make sense to folks like Mr. Zuckerberg and I suppose Mr. Putin. Consequences? Sure. Ever hear of collateral damage?

Interesting stuff, particularly the last line of the analysis:

…he should quit.

Insightful. Maybe Mr. Putin and Mr. Zuckerberg will resign on the same day?

Stephen E Arnold, October 20, 2022

The Zuck with Legs: Just a Demo?

October 18, 2022

Slashdot ran an interesting item on October 14, 2022. The title of the post was “Facebook’s Legs Video Was a Lie.” According to the short item, this factoid was reported: As UploadVR’s Ian Hamilton has since reported, Meta has issued a follow-up statement, which says, “To enable this preview of what’s to come, the segment [Zuck’s demo] featured animations created from motion capture.”

Did you ever hear the joke about Bill Gates who had to choose between heaven and hell. He examined both destinations and chose the location with babes, great location, and close friends like a construct that looked like Gary Kildall and another emulating Jeffrey Epstein. Mr. Gates chose the one with babes and palls. When Mr. Gates passed to heaven, he ended up in a horrible place with hell fire and demons. He called Saint Peter (God was in a meeting) and asked, “What happened to the place with good weather, my pals and babes?” The response, “That was a demo.”

My hunch is that the Zuck’s final destination will be a 360 degree immersive TikTok stream. Legs may not be part of the equation.

Stephen E Arnold, October 18, 2022

Metazuck: An All Too Common Response in Silicon Valley Land

October 17, 2022

“How TikTok Ate the Internet” is a business school write up which contains some interesting data; for example:

The web’s most popular app [TikTok] has reshaped American culture, hypnotized the world and sparked a battle between two global superpowers…TikTok’s website was visited last year more often than Google. No app has grown faster past a billion users, and more than 100 million of them are in the United  States, roughly a third of the country. The average American viewer watches TikTok for 80 minutes a day — more than the time spent on Facebook and Instagram, combined.

I think this means is that TikTok is the next big thing… after almost a decade in the gloomy bedrooms of teens.

Fortune Magazine explains “Mark Zuckerberg admits he missed a social networking trend that led to the TikTok boom.” How is this possible? Easy. Facebook or the Zuckbook just missed the next big thing. Money and legal woes can distract I suppose.

Now the Zucker wants to catch up. One article has the interesting title “Meta Has Burned $15 billion Trying to Build the Metaverse — And Nobody’s Saying Exactly Where the Money Went.” The write up focuses on using money to leap frog the next big thing. Okay, that may work, but I don’t think tech gurus on the way down can buy their way back up.

What’s my view of the Zucker’s situation? Think about a person watching a hauspex chop out a goat’s liver. The spectacle and the solemnity of the event fuels the hope that the desired outcome will be foretold. Sure it is.

In terms of Silicon Valley, the idea is that money divines the future. How does one deal with TikTok and a decided lack of enthusiasm for spending time in a cartoon without legs or a way to send a text?


Let’s take a helicopter to 3,000 feet and check out the lay of the Silicon Valley method.

  1. Spending money to “apply” technology is the best way to fix a problem. Is the logic, “Hey, this worked for the iPhone, and it will work in the TikTok situation.”
  2. The mental frame for solving problems ignores soft factors like users who want and need to use the TikTok content experience. Social graphs and knock off service. Thank you, no.
  3. The cloud of misperception is “a certain blindness” which is touchingly centered in Silicon Valley it seems from my helicopter.

Is the problem China and super algorithms?

First, TikTok’s method is not that sophisticated based on our examination of the system. Sure, the surveillance stuff is good, but that’s old hat in the intelware game. Everyone attributes technological wizardry to TikTok. Some influence? Sure. But the drip of digital anesthesia is easier and more fun when administered in the somewhat negative post Covid world.

Second, the Chinese government is not exactly the world’s most progressive institution. Bureaucrats recognized an opportunity to inject content and took it.

Third, the Silicon Valley mindset arrived late and the high speed train had departed the station. Buying a train does not deliver a way to catch up. What about building a rocket ship?

Net net: Long shot.

Stephen E Arnold, October 17, 2022

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