The story behind the tweet

What came off as a completely natural off-cuff quip of the moment was actually the product of a well-scripted social media command center prepared to jump on the opportunity. Imagine a room with representation from marketing, creative, legal, and the “VP of Cookies” huddled around a table on Super Bowl Sunday, laptops open, ready to pounce on the latest conversation.

It’s all about catching the wave before it crests and surfing in on the momentum. One well-timed tweet netted 15,000 retweets and 8,000 new followers of @oreo on twitter and 20,000 likes on Facebook.

japanese knife

Japan as the great curator

The Smithsonian Magazine shares a trend that any American who has spent anytime poking around the back alleys of Tokyo knows in their bones. The Japanese have a loving appreciation of American culture that runs deeper that Americans.

From burbon to jazz, denim to hamburgers, the attention to detail of the Japanese is flawless. If you have a chance to peruse the magazine racks of Kinokuniya, a Japanese book seller found in several US cities, look for magazines dedicated to fashion where issues will go into great detail on how to dress as a fixie-riding hipster or a 1920′s dandy, the Japanese have taken loving imitation to a new level of reverence.

In keeping with the “same as is ever was” theme of this blog, when new trends from Japan make it to the shores of America, we see refined American culture filtered, improved, and made better for the discerning retroactivist.

  • Blue Bottle Coffee and the barista culture? Think of it as the Japanese tea ceremony applied to coffee.
  • Moleskin notebooks? The Japanese have a deep appreciation of calligraphy and Evernote’s success in Japan as an online version of the notebook is a reflection of that. Japan’s love of stationary is legendary.
  • High End Audio? Only in Japan will the local record shop let you sample the inner tones of Ella Fitzgerald on a set of McIntosh tube amps.

japanese knife

There’s a special way that the Japanese sensibility has focused on what is great, distinctive and worthy of protection in American culture, even when Americans have not realized the same thing. It isn’t a passing fad. It’s a long-standing part of Japanese culture, and, come to think of it, as more Americans are exposed to U.S. products revived or reinterpreted by Japanese designers, the aesthetic is becoming part of American culture, too. If you ever wonder which of the reigning American tastes, sounds, designs or styles will last into the future, there’s no better place to answer that question than in the stores and restaurants, the bars and studios of Japan. They often know us better than we know ourselves.

Local band struggles against Facebook algorithm

A local friend of mine plays in a band that has depended on Facebook to connect with thier fans. Gregg asked if he could share his thoughts on the latest news feed changes and how it’s impacted his ability to reach his fans and question his dependence upon Facebook to get the word out. Read Gregg’s guest post below.


Much has been written about the changes to Facebook’s algorithm, which has dropped “organic reach” for pages to around 1%. This change has been distressing to Facebook page admins for organizations large and small. The only way the people who like your page are going to see your posts is if you pay Facebook.

I understand the move. Facebook is a public company and has an obligation to maximize revenue for it’s shareholders. In addition, Facebook has thousands of employees to pay and operational costs. As an individual, I get to use Facebook for free, so charging brands and organizations is a logical way to monetize Facebook.

I play in a Bay Area based cover band, and do most of the marketing for the band.  Facebook has been a great way for our band to connect with friends and fans, and to keep them posted on upcoming shows and news.  I’ve noticed the gradual changes in reach, and last summer began experimenting with promoted paid posts. The paid posts have been very successful for the band: we budget a small amount of money (usually $20) and set a very targeted audience. The posts have increased attendance at our shows and appreciation from the venues we play. A win-win.

Once the news  of Facebook algorithm change became public, I decided to no longer post on Facebook unless it was going to be a promoted paid post. I figured it was not worth my time and effort to post something that was only going to be seen by 1% of our fans.
Since then, I receive this email every two days:

Subject:  People who like Spill the Wine have not heard from you in awhile.

Facebook email

Repeatedly receiving the exact same email got me thinking: Why are  they keep sending the same email  to me? Are there other organizations who are not posting as much because they aren’t reaching anyone either?

Some organizations are trying to fight back, as is expressed in this post by a great heavy metal band,  Blackwülf:

Blackwulf Facebook notice

When I think of why I originally joined Facebook, and why I continue to go back, it is for community. I am able to keep in touch with friends from all parts of my life, and follow news and updates from the organizations and people that I am interested in.

I wonder if Facebook has gone too far in it’s attempt to maximize revenue. It is one thing to charge brands with massive budgets and marketing departments to reach its fans, but it is a whole other thing to include small organizations and communities to the same standard. To me, these communities are the lifeblood of Facebook. I wonder if Facebook realizes it has gone too far and are prompting people like me, who post for a cover band, to come back. As we need Facebook, Facebook needs us.

Facebook should look for middle ground. I am happy to occasionally pay to advertise on Facebook, I don’t expect to get the full benefit of having a Facebook page for free. However, our band shouldn’t be treated the same way a brand like Starbucks is. I hope Facebook realizes this and changes it’s organic reach algorithm for small organizations and communities.

Walking Backwards

Do you ever feel like you’re moving through a fog, going backwards? The clip from Tokyo Reverse is a highlight reel from a 9 hour video of someone who did just that, walk through the streets of Tokyo, in reverse. Ludovic Zuili, the man in the video, was filmed walking backwards and then the footage was flipped around so that he was shown walking forwards and everyone else is shown walking in reverse. The effect is strange and, trippy.

Those of you who know Tokyo will recognize Shibuya, Harajuku, and Akihabara in the clip.

Read more on BBC and Le Monde

Slow-Market Arbitrage in Bandwidth and Finance

Michael Lewis published an fascinating look into the world of high frequency traders on Wall Street in the New York Times. He goes deep into the shadowy world of private exchange “dark pools” and unregulated private networks. As someone who follows technology news and the debates over network peering and net neutrality, Mr. Lewis’ tale of what happens when you let the established players extend their advantage with direct network connections in the world of finance is another argument for net neutrality.

First some background.

As the big financial firms moved their trading online, the speed of the transactions became a competitive advantage. Firms that connected directly to the exchanges gained an advantage as they were able to execute their trades milliseconds faster than the competition, staying ahead of large market moves, shaving pennies that added up to millions at their enormous volumes.

The pursuit of speed reached ludicrous with the launch of projects such as Arctic Fibre which was offering to connect European and Asian markets under the North Pole ice cap to reduce latency.

Arctic Fibre CDN

When I was working at a securities firm in Tokyo, rumor was that one US firm had used superior hardware (Sun Workstations at the time) that could calculate the Nikkei 225 average a few milli-seconds faster than the mainframes at the Tokyo Stock Exchange. Futures for the 225 were traded in Osaka on the OSE so by running the calculations in Tokyo and sending orders over a high-speed network to Osaka, this firm was able to make a bet on where there market was going with 100% certainty. That gravy train lasted for a few months until the OSE caught on and then someone put something on to that firm’s feed that slowed their signal down just enough to erase their advantage.

These kinds of shenanigans are par for the course in the world of finance which is always looking for the greater fool. Technology has always been used to gain visibility into the market whether it’s counting delivery trucks as an early indicator of business results or Paul Kedrosky’s ladder index, traders are keen to optimize on the latest silver bullet.

So it comes as no surprise that Wall Street brokerage firms used their high-speed trading platforms to trade in front of their customers and skim razor margins off the top to keep for themselves.

Katsuyama and his team did measure how much more cheaply they bought stock when they removed the ability of some other unknown trader to front-run them. For instance, they bought 10 million shares of Citigroup, then trading at roughly $4 per share, and saved $29,000 — or less than 0.1 percent of the total price. “That was the invisible tax,” Park says. It sounded small until you realized that the average daily volume in the U.S. stock market was $225 billion. The same tax rate applied to that sum came to nearly $160 million a day. “It was so insidious because you couldn’t see it,” Katsuyama says. “It happens on such a granular level that even if you tried to line it up and figure it out, you wouldn’t be able to do it. People are getting screwed because they can’t imagine a microsecond.”

When you move from analog to digital the line of a signal gets chopped into samples. The gap between the sample and the raw signal grows imperceptibly narrow the more frequent the sampling. The profit of the high-frequency trading firm is made within those gaps.

digital sampling

High-speed fiber optic networks and global exchange liquidity centers are the latest tools of the trade. Co-location of your execution servers in the cage next to a stock exchange drop point in a data center guarantees that you can jump in and out of financial instruments faster than the next guy allowing you to trade in and around that gap between the bid and the ask.

This is a parable for what will happen if Netflix and other big media companies do deals with ISPs to guarantee bandwidth for their content. It undermines net neutrality and the level playing field for all media companies. Smaller, disruptive media companies are shut out, unable to compete with entrenched incumbents. Fast, direct connections creates an unfair advantage for those with the resources, both in the online media world and in the world of finance. If you’re able to deliver a better price or cleaner video signal, it’s all due to bandwidth. In the digital age, bandwidth truly is the new coin of the realm.

Facebook and Virtual Reality

oculus-facebook

Facebook purchased VR headset maker Oculus VR this afternoon for $400 million in cash and $1.6 billion in Facebook stock. One can only speculate what Facebook will do with a virtual reality gaming accessory company that is still under development but some are saying it’s because they moved too slowly to acquire other social communication platforms. Both Instagram (photos) and SnapChat (IP messaging) grew quickly which drove up their prices and forced Facebook on the defense.

After games, we’re going to make Oculus a platform for many other experiences. Imagine enjoying a court side seat at a game, studying in a classroom of students and teachers all over the world or consulting with a doctor face-to-face — just by putting on goggles in your home.

This is really a new communication platform. By feeling truly present, you can share unbounded spaces and experiences with the people in your life. Imagine sharing not just moments with your friends online, but entire experiences and adventures.

Mark Zuckerberg

Perhaps the Oculus purchase was a pre-emptive purchase. A land grab at what he sees as the next great communications platform. Another theory is that by grabbing the gaming community’s latest shiny object, he can play pied piper and bring the games over to Facebook. That may be an uphill battle. Game developers want integrate social into their games, not the other way around.

Facebook is not a company of grass-roots tech enthusiasts. Facebook is not a game tech company. Facebook has a history of caring about building user numbers, and nothing but building user numbers. People have made games for Facebook platforms before, and while it worked great for a while, they were stuck in a very unfortunate position when Facebook eventually changed the platform to better fit the social experience they were trying to build.

Don’t get me wrong, VR is not bad for social. In fact, I think social could become one of the biggest applications of VR. Being able to sit in a virtual living room and see your friend’s avatar? Business meetings? Virtual cinemas where you feel like you’re actually watching the movie with your friend who is seven time zones away?

But I don’t want to work with social, I want to work with games.

notch, founder of Mojang, maker of Minecraft

Generic Brand Video

If you’re a stock video company, what’s the best way to get your footage in front of future customers? Create a viral video that will be passed around by marketers and advertisers that license stock videos for their advertising.

This Is a Generic Brand Video from Dissolve on Vimeo.

Dissolve has done just that with their Generic Brand Video which brilliantly skewers the current state of brand placement videos today. Taking it’s inspiration from a McSweeney’s post, Dissolve had a voice-over actor with a Marlboro-man drawl narrate over a series of beautifully non-descript clips, poking fun at every tech, pharma, energy, financial, or auto commercial you’ve seen in the past three years.

Fast Company pulls in a few in for comparison.

iSight by Andrew Kim

Minimally Minimal

iSight

A couple of years ago, while living in Finland, I became very interested in physical design. During these years I read Minimally Minimal on a regular basis. Back then Andrew Kim was a student at the Art Center College of Design in Pasadena. The way he wrote about product design was contagious. His observations celebrated good design’s attention to detail. When he got a new camera, his photos improved and he took great care to arrange the subject of his reviews in a way that showed an appreciation of form and function.

Andrew’s review of the 2011 Ford Fiesta (comparing its design motif to a Imperial Stormtrooper!) almost put me in one (until I found a used BMW 325i that was begging for a new owner).

Andrew Kim’s gorgeous photographs and one/two line captions are crisp & evocative. If you are interested in design, I highly recommend Minimally Minimal.

Ferrari Land?

ferrari-land

Cir.ca is following a story about Ferrari’s plans to work with a developer to construct a theme park in Barcelona in 2016. The park will feature the fastest and highest vertical accelerator in Europe, a five star, Ferrari-themed hotel and (no duh) a driving simulator.

Maybe they’ll have a bunch of Ford Fiestas on the bumper car ride?

UPDATE: @davdin and @toddbarnard let me know there’s already a Ferrari Land in Abu Dhabi.

a blog by Ian Kennedy