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 20180119 CST


¡Hola! All this Facebook hoopla is bullshit

Everyone is freaking out about "tech companies," by which they mean consumer tech companies, many of which are not even actually companies that sell tech. Rather, these use tech to run their business, often dramatically changing how business is done in their industries.

They're just companies
From what I can tell, much of this discussion this week is actually about Facebook. They're thought of as a tech company, buy are they? I'm pretty sure you can't buy software for them. Or can you? If you're an advertiser, you buy the service of targeting digital ads. This isn't really like buying DVDs and installing them - ERP and Microsoft Office days of yore! - but you are paying for a SaaS model to put up ads.

Facebook isn't the only one people freak out about, there's also Twitter, Google, and Amazon. If you throw in the successful-but-shit-show companies like Uber, it's easy to get a weird view of what a "tech company" is. I'd rather we just label all of these as "companies," businesses. In this discussion of "what's wrong with tech," it's not like we talk about SAP, Oracle, Micro Focus, even Microsoft. We don't discuss Seagate, Samsung, and on and on.

Media, advertising, retail, and other boring industries
Looking at these so called "tech companies," then, most of them operate in clear markets: media, retail, car services, and many of them straight up advertising. If there's some argument to be had about the business merits of the company, it should discuss the actual customers involved. For Facebook, it's the the advertisers and, in the case of Amazon, the buyers like you and me.

Much of the discussion, really, is about Facebook and Twitter (with maybe Google as a goofy, aloof aunt in the background that people have mostly forgotten to loath after all these years). We're worried about addiction, how public opinion is shaped, and overall the effect of these two companies on our culture. 

Powerless users
Come on! Take more personal responsibility!” -Ben Thompson, Exponent #137.

The main thing I find annoying is the idea that the users of these platforms are being manipulated beyond their control. It’s like we’re trying to make Facebook out to be the next tobacco company. Even if Facebook is trying to manipulate users into spending more time on the site…is that bad? Should we be upset that book authors and movie makers try to make their content more engaging and entertaining so that you both enjoy and go back to those types of content? Is Patrick Rothfuss an evil actor because I eagerly want him to publish his third book in The Kingkiller Chronicle?

People can choose to login to Facebook to log their lives, they can choose to stick their heads into the shit-storm that's Twitter. I guess it's a creaky old dude argument, but having lived through all of the modern Internet I've observed all the attempts to grab people's attention. We debated the "walled garden" to death back in the mid-2000s. We were supposed to have an open web, with open data and interoperability. 

It didn't work. Normals didn't care. The Economist alludes to this in it's write-up of all this hoopla this week:
Google already voluntarily offers a “takeout service” which lets users export a copy of their data. Europe’s General Data Protection Regulation, which comes into effect this May, will extend the principle of data portability to other platforms. Observers compare it to how mobile-phone users can switch networks without losing their phone number. This should not worry you too much. Most customers won’t care; very few people are up for the hassle of actually using Google’s takeout service. And your dominance means there is very little funding for new search engines and social networks, and thus few alternative services to which consumers can port their data.
You could download all that data, but what would you do with it? You can also download all your flickr pictures (as I always want to do!) but it's impossible to download just under 20 years of photos...and then upload it again.

Owning data
The modern anxiety about distraction betrays a good deal about us. Insofar as we associate attention with power and control, it reflects our fears of losing both in an increasingly unpredictable cultural and natural climate. We also find ourselves living in an economy where we pay for cultural goods with our attention, so it makes sense that we worry about running out of a precious currency.Tolerating distraction

What does it mean to own your data in this context? 

First, the actual customers: I’m sure advertisers would love to get their data out of there and make it more portable. But do we care about the data ownership rights of advertisers? "Exxon is being screwed over by Facebook because it can't download it's complete data set and upload it to a rival advertising platform," said no concerned Internet worry-wart ever.

Second, the users, you and me. There’s something to be said for copyright: I’d like to own all the things I publish rather than (unknowingly) giving up or even sharing copyright with Facebook. But, when it comes to all my behaviors, “gestures,” and the log of what I’ve done in Facebook - and Facebook’s analysis of what that means about me and how to advertise to me better - I mean, I’m curious to see that, but I’m not sure I “own” it. If someone sits in Times Square and takes detailed notes about what everyone there is doing, does each pedestrian own that data? Sure, it’s creepy as hell, but that’s a different discussion: being creepy.

There is something to be said against duping people into giving up more information than they'd like to...if they knew what they were giving up. When told, people do tend to get creeped out by how deeply companies know and understand them. All that bra-stalking that goes on is a sardonic example, and the old story of a dad finding out about his daughter's pregnancy through a Target mailer is good too.

If anything, it'd make sense to regulate how clear companies like Facebook explain how the data is used. We've learned that credit card and mortgage companies need to be forced to spell out exactly the risks you'll be taking on and how much you'll be paying.

Rough competition
There's a competitive angle to look at too. Understanding the regulatory boarders of Amazon is pretty straight forward: they're a retailer, regulate them like that. But when it comes to ideas that, for example, Facebook is running Snap out of business...who cares? Is Snap such a public good that we need to care if it exists or not? If so, should Verizon start regulation-rattling on-behalf of flickr?

We should define what we want
The discussion in all of this that I value is talking through what we actually want. Do we want their to be one, central place that people go on the web (Facebook)? All the normals I know live in Facebook, it is the Internet for them (along with email). They seem to really like it, and it works a lot better than those days when I tried to explain the 10 different web sites they should use to live on the Internet.

Personally, I find Facebook's model of interacting with the Internet shitty. I don't really use it, I still read RSS feeds and dip into Twitter here and there. But, again, the normals never took that view of how the Internet should be used.

We fear change
There's no answer there, but it all points to why debate about Facebook is both frustrating (because it focuses on irrelevant things) and boring. I'm all for debating Facebook as an adverting company and making sure they're not jerks in that industry, figuring out if Amazon is a net-good (if you recall the Walmart debates of the late 90s, I think you can easily predict the outcome of that figuring: people value cheap shit over anything else), and if Apple should give parents more control over their children's iOS usage (yes! Apple's controls are shit compared to what others do). 

But, discussing things like people being ill-informed and other cultural effects of Facebook are the same old arguments, over again, that we've had since Socrates said writing was going to kill civilization.

To be sure, much of the content shoved down these tubes is terrible and needs to be improved, but that's a different discussion. The technology doesn't matter: you can have crap content talking face-to-face, on clay tablets, in illuminated manuscripts, printed pages, magazines, in live plays, sent on a telegraph or through semaphores flags, broadcast on the radio, put into moving pictures, shot into living rooms on TVs, and put into your palm through the Internet. We should be discussing how to improve the writers and the readers, not if these technologies have some giant responsibility to de-dumb-shit the content.

Jesus. I sound like a regular, nut-job, libertarian. Anyhow, check out the links below!

(If you crave more - plus Brandon's take on all this - there's a longer discussion of this in this week's Software Defined Talk Members Only White Paper Exegesis Podcast. As the name implies, normally it's for paying members only, but this week it's free!)

Your pal, Coté

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Coté's Register column for January.

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Sure, there’s something wrong with all those chips, but what exactly is it? More importantly, how would you exploit it and protect yourself from it. This week, we talk about All The Great Chip Problems. And we also discuss some recent IT spending and forecasts, including survey results going over public versus private cloud deployments. There’s also some home automation (IoT!) talk, namely, Coté needs to find the problem this great solution solves.

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Fear of FANGSoftware Defined Talk Members Only White Paper Exegesis Podcast #16
Everyone’s freaking out about tech companies. What they mean by “tech companies,” of course is the combination of Facebook, Google, Twitter, Amazon, and maybe Netflix. They (mostly) mean companies who are using tech to disrupt their industries (media, retail, entertainment) and using the business models of tech companies. The line is, to be sure, fuzzy, but these are not companies that make their money from selling hardware, software, or even IT services (like Microsoft, Oracle, Red Hat, SAP, Pivotal, etc.). This week, we look at one write-up of this freaking out from The Economist.
Don't Try - Michael Coté, Pivotal
In addition to being lazy and avoiding extra work, consider learning to do things on auto-pilot, as habits.


Most all the stuff I thought was better than average.

Tolerating distraction
In conjunction with the rant above - God stuff aside - this is a more interesting pondering of the "tech company" problems: “The modern anxiety about distraction betrays a good deal about us. Insofar as we associate attention with power and control, it reflects our fears of losing both in an increasingly unpredictable cultural and natural climate. We also find ourselves living in an economy where we pay for cultural goods with our attention, so it makes sense that we worry about running out of a precious currency.”

The surprising thing Google learned about its employees — and what it means for today’s students 
While I don’t disagree with this kind of ASTOUNDING FINDING, what it usually means that in addition to engineering, it turns out you need these other skills. I sure STEM is necessary, but not sufficient to be a good nerd in corporate America: “among the eight most important qualities of Google’s top employees, STEM expertise comes in dead last. The seven top characteristics of success at Google are all soft skills: being a good coach; communicating and listening well; possessing insights into others (including others different values and points of view); having empathy toward and being supportive of one’s colleagues; being a good critical thinker and problem solver; and being able to make connections across complex ideas.”

Taking Stock of Cloud Application Platforms
Basically, he expects it to all go kubernetes.

Comparing Kubernetes to Pivotal Cloud Foundry — A Developer’s Perspective
Exactly what it says. The install and ops experiences are not covered, of course.

App development teams brace for big change in 2018
"The rush is on for enterprises to build and deploy better software faster, and that's going to drive a doubling of PaaS adoption -- both on premises and in the cloud -- in the next 18 months," Bartoletti said. "In some industries, like financial services and retail, leaders are already differentiating by how well they release high-quality experiences, and many of them are using a Cloud Foundry- or Kubernetes-based container development platform to speed up even further."

The Spectre And Meltdown Server Tax Bill
A swag at estimating the costs to fix all that chip stuff.

The latest media pivot: voice
“30% of web browsing will be done via voice by 2020, according to the technology research firm Gartner. Presumably, a large chunk of those search commands could be monetized.”

To detractors, he's a buffoon; to dealmakers, he's a boon
“By a more than two-to-one margin, respondents to the 451 Research Tech Corporate Development Outlook Survey said the Trump White House will help spur M&A in 2018. Specifically, 59% said the current administration will 'stimulate' dealmaking this year, compared with just 23% saying it will 'inhibit' dealmaking.”

With Loggly, SolarWinds scoops up another log service
“With the acquisition of Loggly, SolarWinds obtains an asset that was slow in getting started but has hit a patch of growth recently. As of September, we believe the company was on track to finish 2017 with roughly $10m in billings, up from mid-single digits in 2016. Founded in 2009 with a mission of offering a SaaS-based, easy-to-use logging product with helpful visualizations built using advanced analytics, Loggly had raised $47m in venture capital, including a $11.5m series D round in June 2016.” They estimate ~3,000 paying customers.

Complexity bolsters valuations for infrastructure software
In a recent 451 Research survey: “between 2017 and 2019 the amount of IT workloads running on the cloud is expected to increase to 60% from 45%.”

Green light for IT spending in 2018
“fully 50% of the 872 respondents said their company is giving a ‘green light’ for IT spending. That was the highest reading since 2007, and 13 basis points higher than the average survey response for the month of November for the previous five years”

Driven by AI, blockchain and IoT, IT spending could hit $3.7 trillion in 2018
Gartner says: “businesses will spend nearly $3.7 trillion on information technology hardware, software and services in 2018, up 4.5 percent [y/y]”

Worldwide Public Cloud Services Spending Forecast to Reach $160 Billion This Year, According to IDC
Includes an interesting chart that lists the types of services/features (like data management and appdev platforms) that compose vendor revenue. Plus geographic and vertical rankings. But, just a press release.


Thought lord check-in

These are things people thing they should be working on in IT:

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