Innovation at the Tweeter Thing: Going in Circles?

September 29, 2022

It looks like Twitter may be infected with feature-it is, an unfortunate condition that afflicts most social-media platforms sooner or later. Gizmodo reports, “Twitter Circles Have Arrived, and Here’s How To Use Them.” Seemingly channeling the ghost of Google Plus, the tool allows users to restrict a tweet to a certain set of users. Writer David Nield tells us:

“Unlike the edit option, Circles isn’t exclusive to Twitter Blue subscribers, and everyone should be able to access the feature now (or in the very near future). The idea is that maybe you don’t want all of the friends, family, colleagues, strangers, bots and brand accounts that follow you on Twitter to see everything you post. Perhaps you want some tweets—your opinions on obscure folk music of the early 2000s, for example—to only reach a limited audience. That’s where Twitter Circles comes in, and the feature isn’t difficult to use. Unlike the Google Plus implementation, Twitter is only giving users one circle, at least for now. No doubt the hope is that it will get people to tweet more: Something private that you might have previously hesitated to share can now be posted to the timelines of a private and select group of people.”

Of course, boosting traffic is in Twitter’s best interests. We learn users cannot opt out of a Circle they’d like to avoid, unless they are willing to mute, block, or unfollow the sender. Again, no real surprise there. Nield describes how to use Twitter Circle on both mobile and desktop, complete with screenshots, so interested readers can see the write-up for those details.

Cynthia Murrell, September 30, 2022

Microsoft Viva: Live to Work, Work to Live

September 29, 2022

I read about a weird Microsoft innovation. No, it’s not about security. No, it’s not about getting a printer to work in Windows 11. No, it’s not about the bloat in Microsoft Edge. And — at least not yet — it’s not about the wild and extremely wonderful world of Microsoft Teams.

The title of the article in Computerworld is “Microsoft Viva Enhancements Address Employee Disconnect in Hybrid Work Environments.” After explaining why humans invented an office or factory to which employees went to complete tasks, the author provides to illustrate why the work from home approach is not a productivity home run. Employees like to get paid and fiddle around. Work is often hard. (I did spot one Italian government employee sitting in a one room office in Sienna doing absolutely nothing. I checked on the fellow three times over three days. Nothing. No visitors. No phone buzzing. Not even a computer in site. Now that’s a reliable worker… doing nothing with style.)

Let’s get to the Microsoft inventions, shall we?

The product/service is Microsoft Viva and it has the usual Redmond touch. There is Viva Pulse and there is Viva Amplify.

What’s up?

According to the write up:

Viva Pulse is designed to enable managers and team leaders to seek regular and confidential feedback on their team’s experience, using smart templates and research-backed questions to help managers pinpoint what’s working well, where to focus, and what actions could be undertaken to address team needs.

And next up:

Viva Amplify is meant to improve communication between leaders and employees. The app centralizes communications campaigns, offers writing guidance to improve message resonance, enables publishing across multiple channels and distribution groups in Microsoft 365, and provides metrics for improvement.

Other extensions may be Viva Answers, Viva Leadership Corner, Viva Engage, and my personal favorite People in Viva.

These products include Microsoft smart software which will perform such managerial magic as answer employee questions. Also the systems will put “collective knowledge to work for all employees.” (I love categorical affirmatives, don’t you. So universal.) There will be a Leadership Corner where employees “can interact directly with leadership, share ideas and perspectives, participate in organization initiatives, and more.”

Okay, I can’t summarize any more.

My take on this is that Microsoft got a group of 20 somethings together, possibly in a coffee shop, and asked them to conjure up a way for employees working on a project in their jammies to communicate. The result is Viva, and it will be pitched by certified partners to big customers as a productivity enhancement tool. If I were trying to sell this to a government agency, I would say, “This is an umbrella under which Teams can operate. Synergy. Shazam! Oh, the first year is free when you renew your existing Microsoft licenses.”

My concern is that the:

  • Viva construct will expand the attack service for bad actors
  • The numerous moving parts will not move in the way users expect
  • Managers will find learning the constantly updating Viva components time consuming and just go walk to phone calls and managing by walking around.

Great innovation? Hardly. To Microsoft, however, this is the equivalent to discovering a new thing to sell and distract people from some of Microsoft’s more interesting issues. Example: Security challenges.

Stephen E Arnold, September 29, 2022

Another Facebook Innovation: Imitating Twitch

August 11, 2022

I don’t know if the information in “Meta Is Testing a New Live Streaming Super Platform for Influencers Called Super.” I like the name of the alleged new Einsteinian-grade service. It’s super.k

The article reports:

The new platform allows influencers to host live streams, earn revenue and engage with viewers. The company has reportedly paid influencers between $200 and $3,000 to use the platform for 30 minutes.

How is the Zuckster’s Super new Super going to lure those who produce Twitchy stuff? The write up says:

Meta has recently reached out to multiple creators asking them to try out the new project. The platform, which looks to have similar functionality to Twitch, is currently being tested with fewer than 100 creators, including tech influencer Andru Edwards and TikTok star Vienna Skye.

My hunch is that Zuckbucks are going to be needed to “lure” some talent. Microsoft demonstrated its ability to create a streaming service not too long ago. Remember that? Yeah, neither does anyone on my research team. I wonder if MSFT’s CFO has any records of the money paid to a certain game streamer. Nah. Of course not.

The creativity of the Zucksters is amazing. Super in fact.

Stephen E Arnold, August 11, 2022

Time Travel in the Datasphere: Lock In Is Here Again

August 3, 2022

“Lock in” was a phrase I associated with my university’s data processing and computer center in 1962. I was a 17 year old freshman, and I got a tour of the school’s state of the art IBM mainframes located in one of the buildings in the heart of the campus. Remember I went to a middling private college because I fooled some scholarship outfit into ponying up money to pay for tuition and books. That still amazes me 60 years later.

I do remember looking at the IBM machines lined up inside a room within a room. A counter separated the “user” from the machines. Another room held three keypunch machines. There was a desk with a sign in sheet and a sign that said, “Help wanted.” Hey, even then it was clear that money was to be had doing the computer thing.

The tour was uneventful. Big machines blinked and hummed. The person giving the tour did not want to explain anything to a small group of students who qualified to enter the digital sanctuary. No problem. I got it. If a person wanted to use a computer, one had to work in the computer center. It was infinitely better to work behind the counter, wear a white lab coat, and stuff the front pocket with pencils. I was in. I even wore a slide rule strapped to my belt like Roy Rogers with a math fetish. Quick log, Stephen was my moniker.

I learned very quickly that using computers was done the IBM way. Don’t bend, fold, spindle, or mutilate. Don’t push buttons on the keyboard unless you knew what that key press did. Don’t think about learning anything about any of the other computing devices. IBM was the way. Why? The funding for the computer center and much of the engineering department came from an outfit engaged in manufacturing equipment to produce big holes in the ground or eliminate pesky trees from the path of the Trans Amazon Highway. The company was an IBM outfit.

Ergo, lock in. My mind was locked into IBM. Even today if someone mentions an MIT LINC, I am quick to snort. Hey, big iron.

Well, lock in is back, and there are many Millennials, GenXers, and whatever other category marketers use to describe young people who don’t know about lock in. Navigate to “A Third of Businesses Feel Locked In to Major Cloud Providers.” The write up explains that lock in is here again:

new research from Civo shows that 34 percent of users feel locked into the services these major providers deliver, with 65 percent of these saying that data transfer costs are too expensive for them to move off their current cloud.

This is the goal of lock in. Switching costs are too high. A lousy economy provides an endless parade of people who think that those low entry fees for the cloud will persist. Then the lucky customers discover the joy of per unit transactional pricing. Now the deal is more expensive than other ways to access computers and software. But to kick the cloud habit, one has to do more than spend a month in rehab. One must reengineer, invest, plan, and be smart enough to actively manage complex systems.

Yep, lock in.

That 33 percent figure may be bogus. But one thing is absolutely certain. More companies will embrace the cloud and find them with me, back in the university’s computer center, learning that there is one way to do computers. What’s amusing is that lock in is here again. Too bad IBM was not able to become the big dog. But the IBM notion of lock in lives on. And for some today, it is a fresh and new as a Rivian truck. There is one difference. That 1962 computer set up was actually pretty reliable. Today’s cloud systems are a work in progress. Choose cloud providers wisely. Digital divorces, like real world divorces, can be messy, expensive, and damaging.

Stephen E Arnold, August 3, 2022

Life Too Crazy? Game-ify It

July 14, 2022

A decade or more ago, one of my project managers explained that NASA was into games. The idea was interesting, but the majority of our work did not involve computer games. Several years ago I mentioned to a concert promoter that online games were generating “music.” That individual, who lived in Nevada, said he had a couple of employees tracking the influence of game music on the music events he organized. In a sense, I have been aware of the game-ification of digital thinking and innovation.

The write up “How the Technology Behind Fortnite Is Being Used to Design IRL Buildings” added another angle to my admittedly shallow understanding of the eGame revolution. The write up explains:

…the technology behind Fortnite and other video games is being adapted for use in the very real world of architecture, urban planning, and development.

Just as Apple imposes the mobile interface on its laptop and desktop computers, the eGame influence is moving beyond a simple way to pass time. (Time, I would point out, that might better be spent reading, volunteering, studying physics, working math problems, or walking in the woods.)

Several thoughts crossed my mind:

  1. Those who grow up immersed in eGames appear to be interested in pushing the “not really real” idea into areas once decidedly un-game like. Will the “real” world turn into more of a game than it already is? The answer, I surmise, is, “Yes.”
  2. Hooking up a game engine to an architect leads to what seems a logical link. Plug the game engine into AutoCAD, SolidWorks, something jazzier. Let smart software convert the game world into drawings, specs, and part supplier components or a model for a 3D printer. Seems like a useful project for a architect entrepreneur (assuming that the two words do not generate an oxymoron).
  3. Create artifacts which make it very clear that one is living in a simulation. Imagine a world in which a smart car will not run over a person standing next to a traffic cone.

What happens if one hooks the ByteDance super app into the eGame software? Answer to some CIA and British intel professionals: Happy Chinese propaganda professionals.

Stephen E Arnold, July 14, 2022

US High Tech Outfits Innovate by Copying

June 29, 2022

Several amusing anecdotes about US innovation. (Remember the comments about Japanese knockoff and Chinese Gucci purses?)

ITEM 1: “Google Public Sector Is a New Subsidiary Focused on US Government, Education” Google has been pushing itself as an alternative to Apple, Microsoft, and any other outfit standing in the way of education and government data involvement. Original? Answer: Nah. I love the Madison Avenue “new” word.

ITEM 2: “Facebook Groups Are Being Revamped to Look Like Discord.” The title pretty much sums of this bold move. The gamer fave which is also being used by assorted crypto kiddies and online fraudsters will be the fresh, youthful face of the Zuck stuff. Original? Answer: Sure, if you are Rip Van Winkle and like Slack.

ITEM 3: The “new” Gmail. The explanation of Gmail’s somewhat clumsy transition from sending email to a wonky super app continues. You can read one explanation in “Gmail’s Resigned Interface Including Chat and Meet Is Now the New Default.” Is this new? Answer: Way to go or is it Weibo? You may have to opt out to this “innovation,” not opt in. That’s not new either, however.

I want to highlight one semi-innovative idea. Amazon may allow your dead grandmother to remind you of her birthday. For details, see this story. An innovation? Answer: Of course not. Check out this Amazon video.

Brilliant stuff flowing from the high tech innovation labs!

Stephen E Arnold, June 29, 2022

TikTok Shell Shock: In App Gaming

May 24, 2022

I think that outfits like Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube are less interesting than TikTok. Facebook or Zuckbook has the layoffs, the cutbacks, and the Zuck. Twitter has — for better or worse — the Tesla person. YouTube has its outstanding human resource management system. But the TikTok has a small test which may not amount to much. On the other hand, the test in Vietnam way have some upside.

TikTok Tests In-App Gaming Feature in Vietnam” reports:

TikTok is testing a new feature to let users play games within the short-video app in Vietnam…

Facebook and Netflix are sniffing around this application of game mania as well.

The article continues:

In addition to gaming, TikTok has also been expanding its ecommerce efforts, recently rolling out its online shopping platform TikTok Shop in Malaysia. The efforts come as the company’s ecommerce arm entered Thailand and Vietnam in February, where it has been hiring local teams.

My take is:

  • TikTok and testing in a non-US piece of real estate is interesting
  • The TikTok monitoring technology may open the door to dynamic personalization of eGames
  • The TikTok app may become a portal to a TikTok metaverse.

Net net: TikTok may be poking around the the super app space. Me-too time for some US tech outfits? Yep.

Stephen E Arnold, May 24, 2022

Does Fear Trigger Me-Too Innovation?

May 20, 2022

Everyone values creativity and wants to be surrounded by innovative people. At least, that is what most of us say. The virtue is heavily promoted in business and features prominently on many a motivational poster. It seems that subconsciously, though, the uncertainty inherent in creative solutions makes people sick. This conclusion comes courtesy of the New York Times‘ article, “We Have a Creativity Problem.” The article tells us:

“Creativity is lauded as vital, and seen as the lifeblood of great entertainment, innovation, progress and forward-thinking ideas. Who doesn’t want to be creative or to hire inventive employees? But the emerging science of implicit bias has revealed that what people say about creativity isn’t necessarily how they feel about it. Research has found that we actually harbor an aversion to creators and creativity; subconsciously, we see creativity as noxious and disruptive, and as a recent study demonstrated, this bias can potentially discourage us from undertaking an innovative project or hiring a creative employee. ‘People actually have strong associations between the concept of creativity and other negative associations like vomit and poison,’ said Jack Goncalo, a business professor at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and the lead author on the new study. ‘Agony was another one.'”

Yikes. The piece looks at a pair of studies that measured subjects’ conscious and unconscious responses to creativity. The recent one referenced above examines attitudes toward creative workers. (Apparently it makes a difference whether one is working on sneakers or sex toys.) Another done in 2012, led by the University of San Diego’s Jennifer Mueller, explored participants’ conscious responses to questions about creativity and their implicit bias on the topic. Researchers introduced an element of real-world uncertainty to some of the subjects and found those respondents cringed even more at creative concepts. See the article for descriptions of each study’s methodology. The write-up notes:

“’Leaders will say, “We’re innovative,” and employees say, “Here’s an idea,” and the idea goes nowhere,’ Dr. Mueller said. ‘Then employees are angry.’ But, she said, the people invested in the status quo have plenty of incentive not to change. ‘Novel ideas have almost no upside for a middle manager — almost none,’ she said. ‘The goal of a middle manager is meeting metrics of an existing paradigm.’ That creates another conundrum, the researchers noted, because people in uncertain circumstances may really need a creative solution and yet have trouble accepting it.”

Yes, that is quite the paradox. Perhaps we should all consider whether an unconscious bias against innovative solutions is hindering us and our teams.

Cynthia Murrell, May 20, 2022

Smart Software: Repeat the Third Grade, Please

February 15, 2022

I read an interesting analysis of new products culled from Product Hunt. The work is presented in “Are Product Hunt’s Featured Products Still Online Today?” If you are not familiar with Product Hunt, you can get a good summary from the article. The data are interesting, but there is one chart which struck me as thought provoking.

Here’s the chart. The data are the worst products in terms of user goodness in the period under study.


I know the chart is tiny, but the write up offers a larger one at this link. The topics for failures includes the “winners” in the fail category. Notice that one failure in the penultimate position is the feel-good buzz phrase “user experience.” The new product category grabbing the golden crown is the super hyped “artificial intelligence.”

I interpreted the results this way. Creating products that deliver user experience and artificial intelligence could be perceived by “users” or “customers” as flops. Marketers infused with Silicon Valley joy juice, may not agree. UX and AI are the best-est.

Stephen E Arnold, February 15, 2022

Facebook Innovates: Beating Heart Emojis

December 29, 2021

I could not resist citing this write up: “WhatsApp Working on Animated Heart Emojis for Android, iOS: Report.” What’s the big news for 2022 from the most loved, oops sorry, worst company in the United States? Here’s the answer according to Gadgets360:

WhatsApp is reportedly planning to add animation to all the heart emojis of various colors for Android and iOS. This could be linked to the message reaction feature that the platform is said to be working on. The feature has been already added to WhatsApp Web/ Desktop via a stable update.

The beating hearts are chock full of meaning. The pulsing image files provide notification information. The compelling news story added:

WhatsApp is rumored to allow users to react to a specific message in a chat with specific emojis. There is also a reaction info tab to show who reacted to a message. Message reactions are reported to be rolled out to individual chat threads and group chat threads.

Definitely impressive. What use will bad actors using WhatsApp for interesting use cases find for pulsing hearts or other quivering emojis?

Stephen E Arnold, December 29, 2021

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