The Wall St. Journal has published a piece that (GASP) marketers are using info to sell to us. (DOUBLE GASP). Give me a break. Yes, it is easily attainable and yes, because in the Internet age, the info can be sucked off of our computers, it is something according to the WSJ we need to be aware of, but let's get real here. This kind of marketing data has been available to banks, supermarkets, and just about any other retailer out there for some time now. We surrender it just as willingly, if not more so, in order to get those discount coupons. The WSJ article makes it feel like an as yet undiscovered race of prehistoric people has been discovered. Look, until the impossible happens, and businesses are forced to pay their customers for the data they use, this will always be the case. And what do you think the WSJ does with its cookies?
Some interesting commentary on this from Jeff Jarvis, and even more so from Doc Searls. Both definitely worth reading.
Every so often we hear a politician or a PR flack for a company spout off in such a way that would make a screenwriter cringe if they ever thought of including the line in a movie. When that happens, I bestow the Claude Rains Award for the hijinx. If you don't know who Claude Rains is, he was the actor who played Captain Renault in Casablanca, and uttered the now famous sequence about being shocked to find gambling in Rick's Casino, right before he was given his take of the night's winnings. Well, Apple's PR letter about the iPhone's DeathGrip woes for the new iPhone is certainly in the running for the award this year. Here's the Renault-like passage:
Upon investigation, we were stunned to find that the formula we use to calculate how many bars of signal strength to display is totally wrong. Our formula, in many instances, mistakenly displays 2 more bars than it should for a given signal strength. For example, we sometimes display 4 bars when we should be displaying as few as 2 bars. Users observing a drop of several bars when they grip their iPhone in a certain way are most likely in an area with very weak signal strength, but they don’t know it because we are erroneously displaying 4 or 5 bars. Their big drop in bars is because their high bars were never real in the first place.
To fix this, we are adopting AT&T’s recently recommended formula for calculating how many bars to display for a given signal strength. The real signal strength remains the same, but the iPhone’s bars will report it far more accurately, providing users a much better indication of the reception they will get in a given area. We are also making bars 1, 2 and 3 a bit taller so they will be easier to see.
We will issue a free software update within a few weeks that incorporates the corrected formula. Since this mistake has been present since the original iPhone, this software update will also be available for the iPhone 3GS and iPhone 3G.
I love the "stunned" part.
Of course this comes after Apple (and Steve Jobs) have told us we are holding the phones wrong (after about a gazillion pictures of the aforementioned Mr. Jobs, other Apple employees, and actors in ads holding it the "wrong way."
The science on this is certainly up for debate as we've seen, but the PR is not. It's nothing but a big FAIL on Apple's part from the get-go, as John Gruber's post lays out clearly enough. But Apple is still racking up sales, even with scrutiny from all corners. There is more than enough evidence that the new antenna is improved, even with this flaw. But I just don't think that Captain Renault or even P.T. Barnum would try to push this much further. I mean using the word "stunned" just struck me as a wink-wink acknowledgment that we're all saps on this bus. I almost expected them to insert the sound effect of a hand smacking on a forehead.
Apple's continued gamesmanship here, whether it be to protect shareholder and/or company value or just arrogance can only go so much further. As entertaining as I find this entire episode, it does raise more questions than it answers, especially since Apple seems to be now laying the blame on AT&T to a certain degree.
The only reason I won't just go ahead and give the Claude Rains award to Apple yet, is that it is early in the year and I don't think this episode is even close to being over. And the way Apple has been handling this, I'm afraid if I do, I'll have to retract it because they may yet prove that they are themselves capable of outdoing themselves.
The wrongly named left-handed reception issue on the new Apple iPhone is still creating quite a row. Steve Jobs' responses (as well as Apple's) are threatening to derail Apple's vaunted PR/Marketing machine. The "don't hold it that way" response was a real disaster given all the visuals that showed everyone from jobs to actors "holding it that way." Jobs' keeps insisting that there is no issue, and each time he does so, more evidence mounts against those claims. But his latest missive tells us to "stay tuned." That's interesting advice given that most who experience the problem only want to stay tuned into the network. I happen to agree with the NY Times Bits blog that this probably got overlooked due to Apple's penchant for secrecy. But then again, I'm no engineer. I can duplicate the issue at will when the Bumper is removed from my iPhone in areas where the signal is not that strong. But where I see a strong signal, the issues is not able to be duplicated. Maybe what we'll find out after this is all said and done is that bars on a screen mean diddly squat.
The McChrystal/Rolling Stone affair was one for the books. Both in terms of the actions and reactions, and that it actually exposed just how shaky and incestuous the relationship between the media and those they cover really are. Frank Rich talks about this nicely. Damn shame that we waste so much effort trying to find a way to fix something that isn't fixable and ways to make it seem palatable to those who pay attention. I'm talking about Afghanistan here, but it could be the country's economic woes, the oil spill, or any number of things.
Elena Kagan, like all these days nominated for office, is in for a grilling and we're in for more politics and obfuscation. I haven't read a lot, but what I have read, she's capable of eviscerating anysacred cow on either side of the political or social spectrum. Quite honestly, I think that's a good thing.
Apparently there's an uproar because the US is still using private contractors for spying. Some say it is illegal. Just asking here, but isn't the inherent concept behind the art of spying, illegal by definition? Again, just asking.
Just like we'll probably never know what the real deal was and who the real culprit is behind the oil mess in the Gulf, we probably will never know how bad (or not) the situation really is beneath the surface. This article says there's much we can't see going on.
Privacy and Facebook still continue to dominate the tech news. Mark Zuckerberg's early life is getting splayed open for all to see (read privacy). Dana Boyd talks (excellently) about radical transparency. Robert Scoble says we need to reboot privacy and realize that everything we put on the net could be public. Hit the brakes there. It always has been that way. The reboot isn't about "getting over privacy" or getting over a fact of life. The reboot is about forcing companies to say exactly what they are doing and if you believe that will happen, I'll promise you that you can actually have some privacy in today's world.
Face it Zuckerberg and Facebook are BP. Zuckerberg and Facebook are Big Finance. Zuckerberg and Facebook are Apple (for those who like to hate Apple there's a bone). Zuckerberg and Facebook are the the health insurance industry. Zuckerberg and Facebook are the political class. Zuckerberg and Facebook are any religion that feels like it has to ban things and ideas in order to protect itself. Zuckerberg and Facebook will do what is in their best interest, period end of statement. That is until they perceive that interest is threatened.
When that happens they will weasel and they will manipulate and they will find a way to spin it and still do what they want. That's what lawyers and PR peeps are for.
It might sound like I'm down on the whole game here. I am and I'm not. I am because of the delusional aspects. There's self delusion here by those running the game in that they continue to believe that they can pull the wool over our eyes. And in many cases they are correct. I'm not because, face it folks, we must like the game, or else we wouldn't play it.