Given the news around AI’s impact on the tech industry, search, and jobs in general, I thought it made sense to re-up a piece I wrote back in 2018, triggered at the time by the launch of Amazon Go (which, not surprisingly, did not exactly go as Amazon might have wished). I re-read it recently and thought it held up pretty well (and I’ve been on the road for over a week, so fresh pieces will have to wait for a few more days!).
Mark Zuckerberg is in a crisis of leadership. Will he grasp its opportunity?
It seems like an eternity, but about one year ago this Fall, Uber had kicked its iconic founding CEO to the curb, and he responded by attempting a board room coup. Meanwhile, Facebook was at least a year into crisis mode, clumsily dealing with a spreading contagion that culminated in a Yom Kippur apology from CEO Mark Zuckerberg. “For those I hurt this year, I ask forgiveness and I will try to be better,” he posted. “For the ways my work was used to divide people rather than bring us together, I ask for forgiveness and I will work to do better.”
More than one year after that work reputedly began, what lesson from Facebook’s still rolling catastrophe? I think it’s pretty clear: Mark Zuckerberg needs to do a lot more than publish blog posts someone else has written for him.
Social conversations about difficult and complex topics have arcs – they tend to start scattered, with many threads and potential paths, then resolve over time toward consensus. This consensus differs based on groups within society – Fox News aficionados will cluster one way, NPR devotees another. Regardless of the group, such consensus then becomes presumption – and once a group of people presume, they fail to explore potentially difficult or presumably impossible alternative solutions.
The last 24 hours have not been kind to Facebook’s already bruised image. Above are four headlines, all of which clogged my inbox as I cleared email after a day full of meetings.
Let’s review: Any number of Facebook’s core customers – advertisers – are feeling duped and cheated (and have felt this way for years). A respected reporter who was told by Facebook executives that the company would not use data collected by its new Portal product, is now accusing the company of misrepresenting the truth (others would call that lying, but the word lost its meaning this year). The executive formerly in charge of Facebook’s security is…on an apology tour, convinced the place he worked for has damaged our society (and he’s got a lotofcompany).
The past week or so has seen a surge in commentary on the role of corporations in society, a theme familiar to readers of this site. While it might be convenient to peg the trend to Senator Elizabeth Warren’s newly minted Accountable Capitalism Act (more on that in a second), I think it’s more likely that – finally – our collective will is turning to our most logical and obvious instrument of social change, namely, the instrument of business.
We humans like to organize ourselves into social units. They range from the informal (pickup basketball games) to the elaborately structured (Senate hearings). Our ability to harness collective will is unsurpassed in the animal kingdom, it’s one of our key evolutionary adaptations, driving the success of our species across the globe.
As I’ve arguedelsewhere, one of our most sophisticated social structures is the corporation, which has co-evolved with our various systems of government over the past half millennium or so. The very first corporations were in fact formed (or chartered) by governments – the Dutch East India Company is the most common example of this. In the past century, however, corporations have largely sought to shake the yoke of government regulation – and nowhere have corporations won more freedoms than in the United States, where firms are now considered legal persons with an unrestrained right to “free speech” (IE, the ability to fund political positions).
So many predictions from so many smart people these days. When I started doing these posts fifteen years ago, prognostication wasn’t much in the air. But a host of way-smarter-than-me folks are doing it now, and I have to admit I read them all before I sat down to do my own. So in advance, thanks to Fred, to Azeem, to Scott, and Alexis, among many others.
So let’s get into it. Regular readers know that while I think about these predictions in the back of my mind for months, I usually just sit down and write them at one sitting. That’s what happened a year ago, when I predicted that 2017 would see the tech industry lose its charmed status. It certainly did, and nearly everyone is predicting more of the same for 2018. So I won’t focus on the entire industry this year, as much as on specific companies and trends. Here we go….
In meetings with several colleagues over the past few days, many did not know about the column I write each week – I’ve been remiss and not cross posting my writings from NewCo Shift here.
It’s been interesting to move my main focus of writing from a personal blog to a publication in-the-making. I’ll have more thoughts about that this weekend here. But in the meantime, if you’re wondering what I’m thinking and writing about, well, most of that work is here. Here are my latest columns:
I noticed an interesting comment on my previous post on the launch of Google's AdPlanner, from Gian Fulgoni, Founder and Chairman of Comscore, a company that has gotten hammered in the aftermath of Google's launch. I asked if he'd elaborate, and here's the interview: In your comment on the…
In your comment on the Searchblog post noting Google’s Ad Planner, you noted discrepancies between publisher’s server logs and Google’s numbers. Can you say more? Why is this?
I suspect the main reason is that traffic numbers from server log data are inflated because of cookie deletion whereas panel metrics don’t rely on cookies and so aren’t affected by cookie deletion. As an example, Google Ad Planner shows mlb.com as having 9 million UVs in a month. comScore shows mlb.com as having 11.9 million UVs and mlb.com themselves have claimed they get 19 million UVs based on their server logs.
Separately, I’ve noted comments on the blogosphere from several site operators saying that their Google Analytic UVs are twice as high as their Google Trends UV numbers.
Are you concerned about Google’s new product? What are you telling your apparently startled investors?
We think that Google’s products and ours are designed for very different purposes. Theirs appear to represent a point solution aimed primarily at driving ad dollars to Google sites or sites in the Google Ad Network. In contrast, comScore’s products are designed to be used for media planning and analysis on a Web wide basis. We believe that ad agencies, advertisers and publishers (especially any publisher that competes with Google) will continue to insist on the use of objective, third party sources of data such as comScore’s. Nobody wants to see the fox guarding the chicken coop.
I've enjoyed my professional relationship with Chris Sacca, who is leaving Google to pursue a career in investing. When I heard of his move, I pinged him in email, and the resulting dialog can be found below, verbatim, despite the fact that Google PR was cc'd on the thread….
I’ve enjoyed my professional relationship with Chris Sacca, who is leaving Google to pursue a career in investing. When I heard of his move, I pinged him in email, and the resulting dialog can be found below, verbatim, despite the fact that Google PR was cc’d on the thread. Thanks for your time, Chris, and good luck!
Why leave, and why why now?
A few reasons. First, I feel like the wireless team I built is in great shape and poised for some amazing achievements. I am proud of what the team accomplished this year and it makes me smile to see Verizon and AT&T fighting over which is more open than the other. Hard to say more about that without triggering the anti-collusion rules of the FCC around the 700MHz auction. That said, though I love Google and my colleagues here, I vested this Fall and it occurred to me how much I miss working in small, entrepreneurial environments.