Welcome to the Machine Era has arrived

The many faces of the machine

Welcome my son, welcome to the machine.
Where have you been? It’s alright we know where you’ve been.

Welcome my son, welcome to the machine.
What did you dream? It’s alright we told you what to dream.

A Wikipedia entry claims that Pink Floyd’s songwriter/bassist Roger Waters wanted to express his disappointment with the music industry when he wrote Welcome to the Machine for the 1975 release of the album “Wish You Were Here”. That is utter crap as a man like Roger Waters has and had much bigger fish to fry than a music industry that lacked a visionary business concept and social consciousness. I know that Waters addressed the empire and the corporation and the system of the world we were making for ourselves…the machine. We’re born, we’re “informed” (some call it education) and then we serve and reproduce and go into massive debt (this guarantees our further servitude) and then we tell our kids “welcome my son…welcome to the machine” and they in turn will do it all over again.

The signs have been there all along and definitely long before Julian Assange’s Wikileak or Edward Snowden came along and made some of us realize the threat was real. Without defining what the threat is, their revelations were only part of the story, and frankly not really the most important part.

The electronic surveillance machine is so much larger than their leaked indiscretions portrayed, including not just government abuses, but also massive commercial abuses. And guess what, the structure of this vile machine is in advanced stages of completion. It is in the stage where it can not only record and register, but it can manipulate and incentivize, it can punish and reward and it can create a world of insinuation that defies legal rights and protections. And that really is always the threat when such power comes into the possession of the wrong people. Discussions about the Constitution or Amendments thereof are declared unimportant in the name of public safety and protection.

Unfortunately it becomes a one-sided discussion if the machine is in the hands of the self imposed overlords. In return for their protection, you will eat the food they describe, drink the beverage they dictate, visit the doctors they favor, swallow the pills they prescribe, drive the cars they manufacture and accept the Hollywood dream as real.
Case in point maybe last weekend’s record breaking release of the movie American Sniper.
But before going into some more detail, here is a small memory lift that encapsulates the essence of the new surveillance machine to play in the background while reading on. (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FbifrXX2Ltw):

I’m a huge Pink Floyd fan, and I think they nailed this one in 1975 – 40 years ago on the album “Wish You Were Here”. There are two primary functions of this machine: full-life surveillance (“We know where you’ve been”) and persistent, deep manipulation (“We told you what to dream”). I could help but think about this last one, when I learned that the movie “American Sniper” broke all kind of records at the box office, while an internet related warning like “Blackhat” bombed sorely.

I increasingly think that it’s pathetic of me, trying to warn you that this machine of horror has already been built and that we are sitting right in the middle of it. I often think of hanging it up, as the general population’s interpretation of horror is apparently quite different from mine. And yes I’ve tried to put my head in the sand and abstain from writing, but then I think of the observation that contrary to popular belief, ostriches do not bury their heads in sand to avoid danger; only humans do that.

Yes, I know this is something many people don’t want to hear. Far too many are like the ones who complained to the prophet Isaiah, telling him, “Speak unto us smooth things.” But some things are not smooth… yet they’re true anyway.

And so here is the story once again Why Google, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and more MUST Sell You and not always to the highest bidder.

Facebook—and all the other big, ‘free’ services—are selling your minds, thoughts, emotions, opinions and lives just like a butcher sells meat. And please understand: In our materialistic system, they have no choice. Not if they want to keep their quarterly numbers positive. Now also understand that I have no ideological problem with materialism. Capitalism which breeds materialism, has moved our civilization more forward in recent history, than in thousands of years previously. It is greed that creates the problem.

Think about this: Facebook, Twitter, Google, Instagram and the likes don’t charge a penny to you for their platform use. So if you’re a Facebook user, you are not its customer. Someone pays Facebook; those revenues come from somewhere, but they don’t come from you.
So if you’re neither the company nor the customer, then what are you?
Yep, that’s right—you’re the product. Facebook, Google, and their ilk are selling you to their customers.
And please understand that the free model gives these companies no choice at all. Their users won’t pay, and they have to make money somehow.

“That’s okay; a few ads won’t kill me.”

Facebook’s gross revenue is estimated at more than $1 billion per month. Google’s is approaching $4 billion per month. You don’t really think they get all that income by selling lame ads for tooth paste and concert tickets? These companies are selling you in far more sophisticated ways than that.
Back in 2009 Google’s boss bragged that “We know where you’ll be Tuesday morning,” and you can be very, very sure that they’ve been selling such information for the past five years and rest assured, they’re a lot better at it now.
Three years ago Facebook ran an experiment on 689,000 of its users, to see if it could alter their moods by altering the headlines they saw? The experiment was a resounding success?
They found out that it could alter people’s moods, making them happier or sadder as it wished. And Facebook found something else: those users would transfer those moods to their friends in a cascading effect. Do you really think Facebook hasn’t done anything with that information in the meanwhile? Do you really think Google hasn’t?

Turning up the heat a bit, both of these outfits are in bed with all branches of the feds, headhunters, recruiting companies and yes Facebook’s infamous experiment was partly financed by the US Army. Google is deeply intermingled with the US State Department (as well as other agencies). If you’re curious about this, read Julian Assange’s new book on the subject.

You Want Proof?

Step into Google’s shoes for a minute. Auctioning off little ads would never bring in billions per month; you’d have to find better ways of supercharging your ad revenue. This is what they do?
First, they tell their advertisers they can get ads and other actionable information to people the moment they expressed the first interest in their product. Seems like a perfectly sound move, but that moment came, was monetized, and went more than 10 years ago. So new ideas are needed to juice the quarterly reports.

Now what would you do in their shoes?

Guess what?! You learn how to implant desires in your users. And if you want to do it well, you do it in ways that are specific to each individual. After all, what works to manipulate me may be completely ineffective for you.
And that’s where we are now at this stage of the game. And when I say that these companies fulfill Pink Floyd’s lyric of “We told you what to dream,” I don’t mean that they tried to make everyone dream the same thing; I mean that they got your friend to dream things that will squeeze money out of her life… and that they’ll make you dream different things, things designed to squeeze money out of your life. They can distinguish, read profile, an adventurer from a homebody and create pertinent campaigns. Your profile says you’re a conservative, you’re targeted with ads about guns and conservative value products and opinions. Democrats get an entirely different scope of products and services.

Here’s how to prove this: Take your laptop to a friend’s house, or take your spouse’s computer i your own house. Both of you log in to YouTube, or Facebook, or Google. Notice how you’ll both see different screens. And that means that you’re getting customized environments and that’s already going on for more than 5 years.
So if you were Facebook or Google, why would you give people customized environments? Shall we really pretend that Google, Facebook, and the others are doing this as a public service?
Of course not; the purpose of everything they do is to generate more revenue. In other words, they’re manipulating you for their profit. That’s the only way they can make money from you. That’s why you’re not charged for an account. YOU ARE THE PRODUCT THEY SELL.

Facebook experienced an outage the other night that shut down Facebook and its Instagram photo-sharing service for about an hour. The company said that a change it made in its configuration systems caused the problem, while all the self proclaimed media experts went on record to state that Facebook’s real issue is to make more money. The release of2014 and 4th Quarter earnings of the social media giant saw a drop in earnings
However with almost a quarter of the world population subscribing to its service, I’ll leave you to understand where this is likely to go, and if you’re going along. Competitive pressures from other niche market provider may force FB to redirect or split its audience into multiple sub services, but don’t count on it to go away. Knowing the habits, preferences and whereabouts of more than 1.5 billion people and being able to manipulate their decision making processes, is way too much power to go away easily.

Facebook: All Sunshine and no Rain

If there is a Like Button, Why Not a Dislike Button?

Facebook saw its first light in college dorms and apparently the early mood was focused on being nice and friendly. As a result the entire software developed since its inception is about being artificially nice. You can only have “friends” and you can only “like”. As a matter of fact Zuckerberg and his team have explicitly banned “dislike” as a possible button on the social site that now has reportedly some 850 million users.

For quite a while now I have been uneasy with the artificiality of Facebook as a social media site with a future. It’s too much bubble gum without constructive grunge in my opinion. Obviously the “Like” button pleases product manufacturers and service providers, who would not like to see their brandname smeared with a button that allows to “dislike” and understandably Facebook does not want to cater to the negative this early in the internet advertising game.

Apparently in the same fertile environment of college dorm rooms, this irritating shortcoming is now being addressed with an app called “Enemygraph”.

Director of the emerging-media program at the University of Texas at Dallas and Bradley Griffith, a graduate student, created the app because they felt that a major flaw of the social media giant is that it’s all sunshine and no rain. Facebook encourages users to press the “like” button, but offers no way to signal which ideas, products, or people they disagree with. And “friend” is about the only kind of connection you can declare.

Real-world relationships are more complicated than that, so social networks should be too, they argue. And they are not alone—more than three million people have voted for a “dislike” feature on an online petition on Facebook.

The new App allows you to declare “enemies”.
The developers would have preferred to use “dislike” but the word is literally banned by the Facebook to prevent developers from creating a dislike button. Obviously the social network’s leaders want to keep the service friendly to advertisers who might object to users publicly scorning their products. And even though for now the App is condoned by Facebook’s head honchos, the developers expect it to be pulled the moment it will get wings of exposure.

Of course the issue of positive vs negative in social media has several faces and for now Facebook delivers a commoditized expression of you, whether as a person, a company or an institution. Just as it is dangerous to accept Hollywood movies as true life reflections, is it dangerous for a society to move into an exchange platform that has the worst qualities removed from it.  An Utopia of peace, love, decency and understanding is just that: Utopia. Nothing wrong with using the positive direction of Facebook as a Dr. Feelgood moment, as long as we realize that it’s a virtual reality and understand what’s happening when we use it.

I for one would love to see this new App gain traction as it points to a new form of social protest, one that could only happen in a virtual realm. In the physical world, scholars calling for social change might write up their suggestions, or stage symbolic protests, and hope their arguments prompt leaders to make changes. In online communities, it is possible to promote change by creating a new technical feature or service, or function as a watch dog as it did in the case of Twitter’s deleted Tweets with the App Undetweetable,  which put a spotlight on how persistent anything posted online can be—and how easy it is for outsiders to secretly pluck those messages to analyze them in various ways.

On the issue of Dislike buttons, I have always felt in the process of building a friendship, that it is more important to know what I disagree over with someone, then the opposite.

Dissonance creates conversation and ultimately hopefully progress, even though it sometimes appears to be mostly when other human means have been exhausted. Of course that is for most people too much of a very long distance view, whereby ignoring that long after the shorter term armed conflicts to settle issues have died without results, exhaustion of human and financial resources will ultimately create the “friendships” that our planet needs to move forward.

John Mayer Quits Twitter for Tumblr

Superstar John Mayer quits Twitter

If a musician decides to quit a Twitter account with 3.7 million followers, than there can be only a couple of reasons. Fear, anger (frustration) or nostalgia!
Whether fear is installed through real events such as threats or encounters, or it was a slow build, nobody closes down a 3.7 million fan venue without a major reason.
Mayer’s Twitter account was of immense marketing value if one just considers that he only had to put up a 140 character announcement for an upcoming gig or tour and the event would be sold out in minutes.

If he, or his management, would want to announce new merchandise, credit or discredit rumors or even expose certain interests, a quick message would take the entire story viral and within 24 hours, anyone in the world with an interest in John Mayer would know about it. As a matter of fact, the story of him quitting Twitter is solid proof of the power of such a venue.

I know very little about the guitar man/singer John Mayer, although in the two or three clips I’ve seen of him he seemed like quite accomplished. I also seem to remember reading somewhere that he had something with Jennifer Anniston (hope I’m correct here as I’m playing the card of ignorance by not browsing for the facts) and that may have just pushed him over the Twitter edge, because Twitter is a double edged sword; if done correctly I can bring you financial and artistic satisfaction; if done wrong, you become your own worst paparazzi by revealing more about yourself then is healthy.

Mayer may have maneuvered himself into the corner where it becomes a major nuisance to always have to defend or explain your actions. Anger comes quick in a situation like that, especially when rumors are quickly validated as facts (Sounds familiar Tiger?).

Last but not least, the reason could be nostalgia, as more people are starting to realize that Facebook and Twitter expose an enormous amount of personal information on its subscribers, information a talented profiler can easily turn into most probable course of action if ever so required.
Whatever John Mayer’s reason for closing a 3.7 million follower database was, marketing and public relations wise it was dumb and senseless, because many of these fans will now turn away from him as they feel their loyalty was betrayed.

It would have been smarter to hand his account to an experienced blogger in his organization, someone who knew the pitfalls of exposing too much and would use it for responsible marketing efforts and charities. And here is why:

In the time I grew up, branding for mass marketing and advertising was the easy access route to the consumer, unless you were Business to Business, in which case there were a limited number of subscriber based trade publications available. Direct marketing as in buying demographic lists and sending out tons of direct mails was the only form of raw niche marketing available.
Today we know that nothing can build a business faster than developing a deeper insight into who your ideal clients are.
Going from selling to ‘everyone’ to selling to a 35 year-old female, divorced with two young children (under eight, girl, boy) in school, a family income over $75,000, a long haired dog, a second home in Florida, and reads Vanity Fair and People while keeping in touch on Facebook and Twitter and maintaining a professional profile on LinkedIn.
Knowing that information is invaluable while drafting your ideal client profile.
If each and every one of us had a list of personality traits like that, can you imagine what would happen to revenues, profits and the economy!

Did John Mayer act irresponsible to his management and his fans by quitting Twitter from one moment to the next or was he just fed up by the limitations of the site? He still has a facebook account with almost 2.4 million followers and interestingly his facebook exposed his tumblr account which gave as the last entry on Sept. 12:

Thank you all so much for making the Battle Studies tour such a huge success and a pleasure. I’m going to miss seeing your faces every night. Thanks for singing along. And for accepting me. You don’t know how good that feels. And thanks for the signs, the clever, funny, awesome signs. And for letting me play both my pop radio hits and a 15 minute long jam while giving it the same level of appreciation. Thanks for buying a ticket when money is tight, for waiting in traffic to both enter and leave the venue, and thank you for telling your dubious friends to come with you and see what this “Mayer” guy is all about. Thank you for being fans and thank you for giving me the awesome life I have.
Time to (try to) disappear for a while. Love you guys. A lot.

John

Who knows John Mayer, who gallantly defended teen star Miley Cyrus’s decision last October to quit Micro Blogging while swearing he was not, may have just been tired to try and put his feelings into 140 character headlines and realized that Twitter’s power and usefulness is only a link in the chain of social media marketing to the masses. Super stars however open up a can of worms by deliberately exposing themselves to fans as well as “haters”.

But don’t worry, John Mayer isn’t over the Internet. He merely changed venues when he opened a Tumblr account in April with a statement claiming, “Twitter Isn’t ‘Over’, I’m Over It.” Mayer says of Tumblr, “It’s the future of social networking if your image of the future features intelligent discourse. I love reading other Tumblr users replies, because they’re thoughtful by virtue of the fact that if they’re not, they’ll bring the intellectual property value of their own blog down, and that’s a commodity on Tumblr.” Welcome to a New Kid in Town.

4th of July Parties and Social Media

Are you one of more than 100 million Twitter users?

Last night after the parties and watching the fireworks from a blanket on the beach, we watched  comedian Lewis Black in an HBO special. I have always like Lewis from the day he burst onto the national comedy scene with his nervous, passionately enraged style of social engagement.  In this show he was contemplating having turned sixty and apologizing to the generations after him for basically leaving nothing behind. Even though he had his hilarious moments, it was clearly a show filled with guilt and lost on today’s realities.
At one point he wove the use of Twitter into a sketch and clearly build himself into a frenzy about the uselessness of the micro medium that has become the darling of newsmedia and public relations professionals all over the world. Black’s tirade against closely resembled an advanced stroke induction  and what surprised me was that much of the audience agreed. Actually it was one of the more appreciated parts of the show.

That Lewis Black uses Twitter as sketch for a comedy show is understandable and even acceptable, because presented in a different daylight, Twitter customs and behavior seems moronic. Why would anyone be interested in the daily ramblings of someone, narrowed down into 140 characters?

Well for starters one of the parties last night was announced on Facebook and another one was twittered back and forth. I have to admit that by nature I am not the life of a party, I’m an observer, I watch and listen and only occasionally engage in a conversation. It’s not an excuse, it’s just who I am. What I observe however is that people are starting to converse and interact as if a topic has only 140 characters available. Information exchange and our reaction to news is becoming increasingly cryptic for an outsider.

As we are all familiar with the chicken and egg theory, I wonder if Twitter came as a result of this trend or did it create this trend. I think Twitter was a follower of fashion. People are interested in short pointed messages from other people, as if they were mind exchanges of a particular moment.

When you try to start a conversation, have you heard an increase of the reaction: “Oh I know” ? Even though it’s still irritating, these days it reflects that people have actually picked up a piece of news in a micro burst, worked over the information in their mind and put a conclusion to it that comes out as: “Oh I know”. Even though this reaction should correctly state: “Yes I heard”, it is in all likeliness information that reached them via Twitter, Facebook or Mobile.

Is I have said before, Twitter is a cocktail party, nothing more nothing less. It’s a vehicle that microbursts pieces of news and information, often totally irrelevant to parts of its audience because of geographical irrelevance or social make up. To those in “the know” however it is the place where a viral distribution starts.

What still escapes many people is that Twitter is a mirror reflection of their own behavior, and as such it only works for people in the same experience group or social built up.
The World Cup Soccer has been putting Twitter on overload as soccer fans in South African stadiums use their iPhones and Droids to Tweet particulars to their “subscribers”, many of whom retweet these messages to their “subscribers” as they are happening.

South Africa as a tourism destination is making a killer inroad as a beneficiary of Social Media and Twitter specifically. (How is a story I owe you for later this week)

The daily repetition of ‘tweeting‘ 140 character soundbites and Social media in general are rapidly affecting the way that we interact, and consume overall media and there really is no debating that. I hear many complaints sneers that there is no measurable ‘ROI’ on spending time building and managing Social media spaces – but I would say the way in which communications have changed, that we have no choice but to embrace the medium. Many world news events (Quakes in Haiti and Chile, G-20 summit,Toronto earth quake, Iceland Eruption), real time news dispatch and the formation of power groups in recent times have proven that an early adoption of the medium is recommended for press, public relations, marketeers, politicians and corporations.

Lewis Black and his audience may not realize the power of Social Media yet, but reality is that Twitter and Facebook are just the beginning. And one of the biggest reasons people continue to misunderstand online sharing is written in a book called “Here comes everybody”.
It reads the following paragraph:
“Most user-generated content is created as communication in small groups, but since we’re so unused to communications media and broadcast media being mixed together, we think that everyone is now broadcasting. This is a mistake. If we listened in on other people’s phone calls, we’d know to expect small talk, inside jokes, and the like, but people’s phone calls aren’t out in the open. One of the driving forces behind much user-generated content is that conversation is no longer limited to social cul-de-sacs like the phone.”

Eaves dropping on party conversations last night confirmed this one hundred percent.