Marketing from Home

July 30, 2021

Many fields have seen a shift to remote work that is likely to stick around long after the pandemic is just a bitter memory. The Technology Headlines focuses on one sector in, “How Has the Crisis Affected Marketers?” The write-up states its figures come from executives, marketers, account managers, and brand directors from around the world. We learn:

“This rapid and profound change in the working model has far-reaching implications, as many social and economic challenges of 2020. But even with the adversity, you can already see the benefits that could positively impact the growth of the marketing industry for years to come. The main findings are as follows:

  1. By working remotely, account managers and brand managers are nearly twice as likely to be more productive as their top management.
  2. Remote creative collaboration is much more difficult for young marketers than for their more experienced counterparts.
  3. One in five marketers believes  that career opportunities have indeed improved during the pandemic.
  4. 42% of managers believe that communication with the team is better when working remotely.
  5. Working from home has become the norm, and most marketers say telecommuting will impact their hiring plans in the future.
  6. Marketing employees are far more eager to return to the office than their home-based counterparts.
  7. Direct mail and outdoor advertising are promotion channels that marketers assume will be a thing of the past after the pandemic, and there is already a rise in paid social activity, digital advertising and podcast sponsorship.”

Whether working remotely has been beneficial or not varies widely. While nearly a third of marketers reported improved productivity working remotely, almost a quarter stated the opposite. For 31% of workers, the situation gave them a chance to prove themselves to their managers. Perhaps that is only natural since time spent interacting in meetings drastically increased. Over half of the respondents expect the number of remote workers, whether full-time employees or freelancers, to actually increase going forward. For better or worse, it looks like the bulk of marketing work is not moving back into the office any time soon.

Cynthia Murrell, July 30, 2021

Inhale Scholarly Journal Content Marketing

July 29, 2021

Dominant e-cigarette maker Juul demonstrates content marketing can be used to address even the thorniest of problems—just buy a lot of story opportunities. The American Prospect reports, “Juul: Taking Academic Corruption to a New Level.” After vaping was shown to cause illness in 2019, Juul’s previously lofty fortunes plummeted. Its blatant marketing to teens did not help its standing. Now the FDA is considering whether to ban the sale of e-cigarettes in the US altogether. Naturally, Juul is investing millions to help it decide. There are the traditional lobbying efforts of course. Then there is the wholesale buying out of an “academic” journal. Reporter David Dayen cites a recent New York Times article as he writes:

“Juul, the Times reports, ‘paid $51,000 to have the entire May/June issue of the American Journal of Health Behavior devoted to publishing 11 studies funded by the company offering evidence that Juul products help smokers quit.’ The corruption of academic research is not a new subject. Corporations fund third-party studies and benefit from ‘independent’ validation of their perspectives all the time. But this is a new wrinkle. Juul didn’t just front money for a couple of academic papers; it bought an entire edition of the American Journal of Health Behavior (AJHB), which it can then point to as “proof” that its product has a public-health benefit, the key question currently before the FDA. And the more you look at this story, the stranger it gets. The $51,000 fee included $6,500 to unlock the entire journal for public access—so you can read the entire special 219-page Juul issue here. It’s fascinating. There are 26 named co-authors on the 11 studies. According to the ‘Conflict of Interest’ statements associated with them, 18 of the co-authors are either current full-time employees of Juul, or were full-time employees at the time they conducted the research. Five others are consultants with Pinney Associates, working ‘on an exclusive basis to Juul Labs.’ And the final three, who co-authored one of the 11 studies, are employees of the Centre for Substance Use Research, an ‘independent’ consultancy that designed that study under a contract with … Juul Labs.”

One of those Pinney Associates consultants also acted as the special issue’s internal editor and papers coordinator. “Independent” they say—I do not think that word means what they think it means. Readers will not be surprised the articles overwhelmingly support the notion e-cigarettes are a good thing because they shift smokers away from “combustible tobacco products,” providing an “aid to public health.” I suppose we are to accept all those vaping illnesses because they do not affect bystanders? The articles fail to mention their primary money maker: luring in a wealth of new nicotine addicts.

Daven also calls out the American Journal of Health Behavior for its part in the scheme. Though the journal touts its ethical guidelines, its practice of charging authors to publish would seem to encourage companies to buy up its pages to spread (mis)information. In the eyes of the law, all of this is just fine as long as the journal “adequately” discloses articles’ sponsorship. To Daven, though, pay-to-publish delivers a series of swindles. He writes:

“Academics are desperate to publish in journals to prove to their universities that they are working diligently. Corporations recognize the opportunity to underwrite research and produce independent validation of their goals. And they turn around and use that research to persuade policymakers, who presume themselves sophisticated about spotting fake research, but probably are not.”

And that is the why companies pursue these projects in the first place—too many decision makers are willing to take the word of what looks like an authority, no matter what disclosures are attached. The Juul issue appears to have been a bridge too far for at least some of the journal’s editorial board members, for the Times reports three of them resigned after the propaganda was produced. Let us hope they do not give these articles much weight as they make their decision.

Cynthia Murrell, July 29, 2021

NSO Group: A PR Consequence and Expected If Not Anticipated

July 28, 2021

The intelware outfit NSO Group has moved from a narrow, somewhat wonky specialized services niche to a different arena. The development was discussed my the DarkCyber research team when the news of the NSO Group ice cream spill floated to the top of the info river. (Why are we using the code phrase ice cream meltdown? Maybe a Ben and Jerry’s reference to certain interests not aligned with those of Israel’s specialized services industry? Metaphors are the stuff of poetry, so you will have to reach your own conclusions.)


So the ice cream meltdown is getting messy. DarkCyber was not surprised to read “Snowden Skewers Big Tech, Amoral Capital Firms for Enabling Insecurity Industry & Calls for Urgent Action.” The write up appears in an interesting publication which runs advertising to supplement its other sources of income. Snowden, as you may recall, is a former security sector worker bee who dumped documents, many of which are marked as secret or classified. Then Mr. Snowden found himself within the fashionable confines of Sheremetyevo International Airport. He then repaired to a more permanent location in Moscow and crafted a bit of work thinking, writing blog posts, doing lectures, and giving interviews. The topics are mostly about security, which is a shorthand way of rippling the fabric of some countries’ intelligence gathering nets.

The write up states:

In a searing post on his blog, ‘Continuing Ed’, the NSA whistleblower pointed to the Pegasus scandal as a “turning point” that exposed the “fatal consequences” of private-sector companies like the NSO Group that are part of this “out-of-control” industry – whose “sole purpose is the production of vulnerability.” “The phone in your hand exists in a state of perpetual insecurity, open to infection by anyone willing to put money in the hand of this new Insecurity Industry,” Snowden noted, adding that its clients range from countries to “sex-criminal Hollywood producers who can dig a few million out of their couch cushions.”

The write up, not content to link to Mr. Snowden’s intriguing blog, includes one of his tweets which is in italics below:

If you want to see Microsoft have a heart attack, talk about defining legal liability for bad code in a commercial product. To give Facebook nightmares, talk about making it legally liable for leaks of their unnecessarily collected personal records.

Several observations I want to capture before I forget them are:

  1. The NSO Group ice cream melting has become a sticky mess. The PR problem spilled into the political arena in Israel, and now it has captured other entities and their methods as well. I think it is crisis management time, not SEO content management time.
  2. Mr. Snowden’s comments indicate that he is not a fan of some of the business practices associated with the US and its allies. This raises the question, “To what is Mr. Snowden allied?”
  3. The language of the Russia Today write up makes it clear that NSO Group has jumped from specialized software to the foil for state-sponsored cyber activities. The NSO Group’s actions, one might conclude, make the actions of a few young hackers look like very small potatoes like those grown near the border of Estonia.

The NSO Group ice cream melt may spread farther, attract flies, and damage some very expensive kitchen furnishings, maybe a careless person’s jumper, and require replacement of some placemats.

Yep, melting ice cream. A mess with consequences for the specialized services sector.

Stephen E Arnold, July 28, 2021

NSO Group: PR Push?

July 26, 2021

I checked my Overflight system to see what’s shakin’ with the NSO Group pickle. (I ran these queries on July 25, 2021.)  I noted a series of write ups. Here’s a sampling:

Economic Times of India, “Millions Sleep Well at Night, Walk Safely on Streets Due to Technologies like Pegasus: NSO”

New Indian Express, “Millions Sleep Well at Night, Walk Safely on Streets Due to Technologies Like Pegasus: NSO”

ABP Live, “Millions Sleep Well At Night, Walk Safely On Streets Thanks To Technologies Like Pegasus: NSO”

Technology for You, “Millions Sleep Well, Walk Safely Due To Technologies Like Pegasus, Says NSO”

Devdiscourse, “Millions Sleep Well at Night, Walk Safely on Streets Due to Technologies like Pegasus: NSO”

And there are more, quite a few more.

Here’s a screenshot from the low profile Web search engine called 50 Thousand Feet. Notice that this is the fourth page of results:

a nso small results

After making brilliant statements over the last week, NSO Group is now demonstrating content marketing carpet bombing. The idea is to flood certain channels with the message about getting a good night’s sleep. In a market niche characterized by people and organizations keeping a low profile, NSO Group is a veritable Vasco de Gama. The company has launched its stout marketing in order to open a new path to understanding.

Several questions:

  1. Will the good news content marketing about NSO Group’s positive contributions to a good night sleep deflect the investigative journalists collecting information about the company?
  2. Was the PR effort a result of a suggestion from an Israeli government task force?
  3. What content marketing firm pushed out the stories?
  4. How will the deduplication functions of the stunning search, the chart-topping Google search, and the bear-like Yandex handle the same story in numerous outlets?
  5. How much did this NSO content marketing campaign cost?
  6. Is the “sleeping well” story the first wave of content bombs or is it a one and done assault?
  7. Does the content marketing carpet bombing capture the attention of TikTok and YouTube consumers?

I find this an interesting PR campaign. Good news is welcome by many. For some, the flood of “sleeping well” assurances raises the question: “What’s NSO Group trying to accomplish?” The news organizations loosing their investigative reporters on this story may find the smoke, sound, and shock waves from the content marketing carpet bombing like a lavish picnic lunch on a blanket adjacent a fire ant mound:


Those Solenopsidini critters can be industrious, very industrious when content marketing pops the lids on picnic goodies as the campfire grills the mixture of lamb and ground beef. Where’s there is smoke, there is fire. Where there is fire in the summer, it’s either a picnic or disaster.

Stephen E Arnold, July 26, 2021

The NSO Group Story: Inspiring, Incriminating, or Obfuscating?

July 23, 2021

The Washington Post or Wapo to some in the DC orbit is an influential newspaper. The outfit has a connection to the world’s richest man. That billionaire’s idea for an online bookstore spawned a massive online service. One of the customers using that service was allegedly given some good news. The idea was that this particular customer could go elsewhere for online services. This factoid does not appear in “Somebody Has to Do the Dirty Work: NSO Founders Defend the Spyware They Built.” I mention this omission because the ties within the intelware and policeware industry are many and often quite important.

The write up explains:

This week, The Washington Post and a consortium of 16 other media partners reported that the company’s military-grade spyware was used in attempted and successful hacks of 37 smartphones belonging to journalists, business executives, and two women close to the murdered Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi.

This week refers to the period from July 19 to July 22, 2021, when information about the use of once-classified technology became readily available. What’s happened is that a single intelware and policeware company, the commercial-government connections in Israel, and the threads which tie many of the Herliya-based intelware and policeware companies to American firms is a subject of interest to lots of investigative journalists. I want to point out that the best investigative journalists fit the profile of intelligence operatives and first-class detectives working in government institutions. A few journalists have this type of work experience as well.

This means that a poster child for intelware and policeware is going to be a focal point for a news cycle or two. That’s the good news. The bad—actually really bad, bad news—is that the collateral information could be untangled. Then what will the investigative journalists find?


The Wapo article cited above adds some interesting detail; for example, “it was not appropriate to have any direct knowledge of the internal national security matters of foreign countries. They also thought they weren’t equipped to make political decisions about whom to sell to.”

And this factoid: One of the founders “was on a volunteer search-and-rescue mission in Haiti, pulling bodies out of the rubble of a collapsed university.”

Plus, one founder runs on “little sleep, Diet Coke and takeout sushi.”

There is a suggestion about managing the cyber security industry. How about this idea:

The situation would be better …if the cybersecurity industry were regulated by a global body. More importantly, he said, the Israeli government has a role to play: Countries that violate their agreements should be banned from being recipients of any of Israel’s cyber technology.

One can hypothesize about the questions my DarkCyber research team might raise about this statement, but I won’t speculate.

This article strikes me as a “make nice” write up. That’s good for NSO Group. However, I am not sure the 80 journalists and 17 news organizations are going to leave the NSO Group with stories about hard working entrepreneurs who created a successful company. Some questions I think this group of intrepid “real news” professionals could explore include:

  • What’s the story behind NSO Group selling itself to Francisco Group and then buying itself back?
  • Who have become the primary stakeholders in the NSO Group since Eddy Shalev made an investment in the company?
  • What government contracts has the NSO Group landed in the last two years?
  • What vendors resell or provide hosting services to the NSO Group?
  • What partnerships exist between NSO Group and other companies?
  • What conferences does NSO Group attend? What are the presentations NSO Group professionals deliver?
  • What interactions exist among NSO Group and other intelware and policeware companies in Herzliya?
  • What companies are now employing former NSO Group professionals?
  • Who are the principal technical contractors NSO Group compensates to assist with technology development?
  • What university professionals are associated with NSO Group?
  • Who has nominated NSO Group for intelware and policeware awards?

There are other questions the 80 journalists and 17 news organizations can address. Digging might yield more useful information than “how quickly the pace of tech and the
advent of smartphones had enabled criminals to outrun law enforcement” or the the founders “didn’t have the background of the typical Israeli entrepreneur.”

Isn’t there more to this story? Weren’t the founders in the Israeli Army? Is that important? Perhaps the 80 journalists and 17 news organizations can answer this question,  a question I think it is quite important to pull the knots from this puzzle.

Stephen E Arnold, July 23, 2021

Gartner: Does Analysis Register?

July 23, 2021

I read “Where on Gartner’s Hype Cycle is Gartner’s Hype Cycle?” This is a very insightful write up which raises some interesting issues about misinformation, disinformation, and fact reformation. The principal interrogatory pivots on the phrase “hype cycle.” If you are not familiar with “hype cycle”, it is a curve that looks like this:

hype smaller

The curve with labels on the x and y axis looks like this from the Matplotlib here just without numbers. Do mid tier consulting firms generating billions each year need numbers? Obviously not.

hype mathlab image

What is the “information payload” of a Garter hype cycle I found from the Yandex Web index:

hype cycle 2020 600 pixels

Notice the x axis is time and the y axis is the subjective “expectations.” Is this consulting “science”? I do like the tag “SmarterWithGartner.” More examples of the Gartner content can be found at  this link to the Yandex image search service.

What does the Register’s opinion column address? Please, read the original. I have identified three points which I found interesting; your mileage may vary, particularly if you are one of the Gartner confederation of whiz bang experts.

Gartner’s business positioning

I quote from the characterization of an information company and consulting services firm:

Gartner is an odd fish.

Validity of the information in the hype cycle

I quote from a passage referencing hype cycles for a five year period:

if search engines or ARM chips or OLEDs are in there anywhere, I missed them. Whatever happened to that Google thing, anyway?


I quote from what is a discussion of self-referential marketing and feedback sales:

Gartner absorbs the reportage and opinion about how well corporate portals are doing this year, slaps them in or not, and the result gets reported in the press with more or less reaction. Which is duly noted, and fed back into the next time, all the while carrying the name of Gartner through the media with a strong whiff of broad, deep tech mastery.


I quote from the value of the information arrayed in a hype cycle graph without “numbers” or apparent verifiable data:

Gartner would do well to appoint a proper historian, and perhaps a proper ethicist, in recognition of some of the truths about itself that never appear in a PowerPoint deck. The world is ready for a bit less flannel.

My take is that numbers are helpful. Also, I hope the Register take a look at the number free Gartner Magic Quadrant; for instance, the apparently subject examples at this link on Yandex.

I think that the word “flannel” means:

Collins’ Dictionary of Slang says that the noun “flannel” has been used to mean “rubbish, albeit plausible rubbish” since the 1920s, and the verb “to flannel” has meant “to talk nonsense in a soothing, plausible manner, esp for the purposes of charming a woman one wishes to seduce” since the 1940s.

Has Gartner been called out? PT Barnum allegedly said, “I don’t care what people say about me as long as they say something.”

A perfect complement to self-referential information marketing? Smarter with Gartner is a compelling coda.

Stephen E Arnold, July 23, 2021

Three Here and Now Amazon Management Milestones

July 21, 2021

July 21, 2021, is a day of Amazon management milestones. In my newsfeeds this morning, I noted three items. Obviously none or some or all of these “real news” stories could be falsification from the fecund multi-verse. Who knows? Perhaps the error corrected Google quantum computer’s “supremacy” or IBM Watson can answer the “know” question. What do you think?

ITEM 1: More Competitive Zing

Build a SQL-Based ETL pipeline with Apache Spark on Amazon EKS” states:

The Arc processing framework strives to enable data personas to build reusable and performant ETL pipelines, without having to delve into the complexities of writing verbose Spark code. Writing your ETL pipeline in native Spark may not scale very well for organizations not familiar with maintaining code, especially when business requirements change frequently. The SQL-first approach provides a declarative harness towards building idempotent data pipelines that can be easily scaled and embedded within your continuous integration and continuous delivery (CI/CD) process. Arc simplifies ETL implementation in Spark and enables a wider audience of users ranging from business analysts to developers, who already have existing skills in SQL. It further accelerates users’ ability to develop efficient ETL pipelines to deliver higher business value.

Remember Elastic, the open source search champion? What about Lucidworks? Oracle, anyone? Amazon wants to get the ingest, normalize, and analyze market in the AWS environment. Will these just named outfits be invited to the celebration of open source life? I don’t need a super smart DeepMind Alpha gizmo or the outstanding IBM Watson to answer this question.

ITEM 2: Big Rocket, Big Boat, Big or Small Body Dysmorphic Disorder

I missed the launch of the brilliantly named Blue Origin. I know. The story was everywhere. I live in rural Kentucky and the power was out. I did read “Jeff Bezos Says His Launch to Space Gave Him Greater Appreciation of Earth’s Fragility.” If true, maybe Green Origin would have been a more poetic name. Have those Bezos delivery trucks, servers, and automated warehouses gone green? Once again, no smart software like Sagemaker is needed. The answer is, “Maybe in one’s imagination” like an expensive amusement part ride powered by solar energy.

ITEM 3: Sensitive Human Resource Management

I spotted “Amazon Denied a Worker Pregnancy Accommodations. Then She Miscarried.” I did some quick checks, and this “real news” item is not too popular in the technology feeds I monitor. The write up states:

Patty Hernandez, a 23-year-old Amazon warehouse worker in Tracy, California, miscarried after pleading with her manager and human resources for lighter duty… Amazon’s human resources denied Hernandez’s doctor’s note, according to Hernandez who said the denial was communicated verbally by a human resources rep. “[HR] just told me there was no specific area for light work that wouldn’t require over 15 pounds of lifting, or for me to be off my feet,” she said.

To sum up: Brilliant competitor tactics management, outstanding management messaging about the environment, and the human resources management approach. Should I mention that some of NSO Group’s processes were allegedly running on AWS servers? Nah, probably just a rumor like Amazon being in the policeware and intelware business itself.

Stephen E Arnold, July 21, 2021

The Gray Lady Grinds on Big Blue

July 20, 2021

The New York Times may not be successful in selling ad space to IBM in the next few months. The estimable “real” news outfit published an entertaining discussion of Watson. Navigate to “What Ever Happened to IBM’s Watson.” Pay up. Read the 2,000 word business school, essay, opinion piece. Then check your portfolio to verify that IBM stock is down again, has new executives in new roles, and the tenacity to keep on with the “little engine that could” approach to dealing with the likes of Amazon, Google, and Microsoft as well as start ups offering everything from i2 Analyst Notebook clones to federating data systems to consulting services at a discount.

Yikes. Big Blue. The New York Times.

The write up has a number of zingers; for example:

  • “Beware what you promise” about the “future of knowing.”  Winking smile
  • “Watson has not remade any industries. And it hasn’t lifted IBM’s fortunes.”
  • [Watson] “was not realistic.”
  • [Watson was] “a learning journey.”
  • “… The grand visions of the past are gone.”
  • “Watson is no longer the next big thing, but it may become a solid business for IBM.”

Yep, that is a conditional and instead of an Amazon AWS Sagemaker gusher of cash, a “solid business.” The wonderfulness of the NYT article omits a couple of minor points:

  • The “cognitive computing” pitch. Baloney in my opinion.
  • The manual effort required to train the mash up of home brew code, open source, and stuff acquired from outfits like Vivisimo takes time and subject matter experts. The result? Expensive stuff for sure. And once the system is trained, one has to keep on training whilst optimizing.
  • The complexity of taking a bunch of parts and implementing them as “smart software” is very difficult. Amazon seems to be going for the “off the shelf” approach and “ready to roll” models.

Net net: Let’s ask Watson how about those AI start ups as acquisition targets. Marketing, not innovation, seems to be the go to strength of IBM. What do you say, Watson? Watson, are you there? Wow, that latency is a killer isn’t it?

Stephen E Arnold, July 20, 2021

Microsoft Code Recommendations: Objectivity and Relevance, Anyone?

June 30, 2021

The “real news” outfit CNBC published an interesting news item: “Microsoft and OpenAI Have a New A.I. Tool That Will Give Coding Suggestions to Software Developers.” The write up states:

Microsoft on Tuesday announced an artificial intelligence system that can recommend code for software developers to use as they write code…The system, called GitHub Copilot, draws on source code uploaded to code-sharing service GitHub, which Microsoft acquired in 2018, as well as other websites. Microsoft and GitHub developed it with help from OpenAI, an AI research start-up that Microsoft backed in 2019.

The push to make programming “easier” is moving into Recommendation Land. Recommendation technology from Bing is truly remarkable. Here’s a quick example. Navigate to Bing and enter the query “Louisville KY bookkeeper.” Here are the results:


The page is mostly ads and links to intermediaries who sell connections to bookkeepers accepting new clients, wonky “best” lists, and links to two bookkeeping companies. FYI: There are dozens of bookkeeping services in Louisville, and the optimal way to get recommendations is to pose a query to the Web site.

Now a question: How “objective” will these code suggestions be? Will there be links to open source supported by or contributed to by such exemplary organizations as Amazon, Google, and IBM, among others?

My hunch is that Bing points the way to the future. I will be interested to see what code is recommended to a developer working on a smart cyber security system, which may challenge the most excellentness of Microsoft’s own offerings.

Stephen E Arnold, June 30, 2021

Intel and Its Horse Code

June 29, 2021

Do your remember the absolutely marvelous technical breakthrough of the quantum junction transformer magic technology called Horse Ridge? No, I am trying to forget too. The idea was that Intel’s cryogenic quantum chip would enable commercially viable quantum computing. The key words in these marketing announcements are “cryogenic” and “commercial.” Get out your wallet. Cryogenics can be more expensive than a $25 Arctic Freezer 7.

The new “horsey” metaphor is Horse Creek. I can’t use the phrase horse feathers again; otherwise, I risk the wrath of my seventh grade English teacher. Maybe hair, doody, drool, or blanket? I will have to give this some thought.

Intel to Create RISC-V Development Platform with SiFive P550 Cores on 7nm in 2022” is a very objective type of write up. I would like to point out that Intel has not been the leader in the tiny nanometer chip derby. In fact, I learned that a Chinese outfit named Biren Technology is getting in the 7nm graphics chip business. I remember when Chinese chip foundries were creating chips about as wide as a city sidewalk. Intel? How is that small trace stuff working out? Will there be enough water in Arizona to make the AMD Ryzen wannabes a reality?

The write up states:

Despite Intel recently committed to bringing its 7nm to market in 2023 with the compute tile for its Meteor Lake processor as its first 7nm product, we’re being told that Horse Creek silicon will be ready in 2022, which would make Horse Creek its first 7nm product. For what it is worth, it’s unlikely that the Intel RISC-V solution is tile-based, but it might be easy enough to bring a small RISC-V chip development platform to market around then. The chip is likely to be small, so that might work in favor of its costs as well. A question does remain as to whether Intel’s involvement here is purely in the hardware, or whether there will be an Intel-based software stack to go along with it.

Is this doubt? Nope. Marketing. How about horse cutlets from your local hippophagie. Better yet. Step away from an undifferentiated “horse” and hire Megan Thee Stallion and license her music and name to brand the Intel horses.l

Stephen E Arnold, June 29, 2021

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