Facebook Inc., how could you…

Hello, it’s been a while since I wrote something here. Vacation, and not like my thoughts ever stopped spinning but I just could not get them out in written form. Now I’m back home where me and my laptop can get some private time.

So Instagram (Facebook Inc.) comes out with this new feature of photos/videos that disappear within 24 hours. As in Snapchat, that is. Paul’s immediate reaction: why would I ever want to post something that disappears? This is a natural reaction of a perfectionist. Every photo or video that he produces is a small piece of art which only ends up on social media if Paul thinks it’s beautiful or at least interesting enough. Why would he want it to be erased. I am not a perfectionist. I love quick and dirty, good enough and low-hanging fruits. And my purpose of posting something on social media is to share an immediate thought or sight. It is some kind of therapy of putting it down and sharing, like in this blog. And as I do it in quick and dirty manner my posts do not necessarily end up future-proof.

In other words, I do see value in disappearing media, as many others on Snapchat. And naturally Instagram needed to fill the gap and implemented it. The small feature is just a piece of software and cannot be protected by patents. Still, lots of debates took place. “How could they just copy something that Snapchat has been developing for so long!”, they said in Swedish media. No, I do not think they have been developing it for so long. I do not think they’ve been brainstorming for months to come up with the feature. Somebody just came up with it, built a community and got the feature copied into another community – it’s evolution. 

Pocket Money

Some time ago we agreed with Elin (8) and Alexander (7) that they would receive pocket money from us every week. Surely a good thing to teach the kids to keep track of the money, plan, count, save. The only problem is that we never have cash. The kids will soon get their bank accounts with automatic transfers but they won’t be able to log in to the bank themselves to manage their accounts and hence to see the transaction history and the balance. Instead, they will have to manually keep track of the transactions, either by writing them down on paper, or, more likely, by using a dedicated app for that purpose, such as “veckopengen”. It’s amazing to see how quickly apps fulfilling some new purpose are being created. Cash was king just recently, and now it’s not any more accepted in many places in Sweden, such and cafés and busses. Swish is used everywhere, from hotdog stands on a street to online stores. Some people say that the barrier of spending virtual money compared to physical is lower. For me it has always been the opposite – as soon as cash leaves my bank account and ends up in my pocket it’s gone.

Digitalization, Digitization and Resistance

The buzz-words have been around for a while, and now it’s a fashion to use them everywhere. People don’t even bother to check the right wording. In the example from Twitter below, Ana is using error correction when citing Ann’s slide.


Here are two definitions from Gartner’s IT Glossary:

  • Digitalization is the use of digital technologies to change a business model and provide new revenue and value-producing opportunities; it is the process of moving to a digital business.
  • Digitization is the process of changing from analog to digital form.
Obviously, it’s not so difficult to notice the change from analog to digital, so the slide above does not make sense. But enough of being word police. We all know that digitalization is a good thing. However there are industries that resist digitalisation even though it would have been easy to implement. One example is champagne industry. There is so much pride in having human riddlers coming thought the cellar every day and turning each bottle 1/8th of a turn. In my eyes it is a perfect task for automation. Another example is music industry. In 2015 Gibson released a new lineup of electric guitars that came with a bunch of really cool features. At least according to me and Paul. The coolest feature is their G-FORCE™ – an automatic tuning system that came on most of their 2015 models. This new lineup turned out an economic failure for Gibson. Musicians like trying new things but cherish classical features, and the new lineup received tones of negative reactions. The new automated tuning system was claimed to be inaccurate, the guitars dropped in price and the new features were removed in 2016 lineup. Paul was however happy about the 2015 guitars being on sale and got himself two… And in fact, according to his and other musicians’ measurements, the automated tuning system seems to work perfectly.


Jobs

Half of todays jobs won’t exist in 2025. Job market will be more dynamic thanks to IoT, digitalisation and increased automation. Exciting times, even though some people seem to find it scary:

I am a big fan of automation as it enables reassignment of human effort to more creative tasks. Machines however become increasingly intelligent and creative as well – now they can write music, books, poems and scientific articles. As my kids grow older and I help them navigate their educational efforts, I cannot stop wondering about the highest-impact educational path in the changing job landscape. High-quality original content such as music, books and artwork has always been highly valued. Delivery methods, however, change radically. As guys from Markscheider Kunst said, “everything in this world changes, apart from musicians’ desire to create new albums”. One has however to be very talented to devote his/her life to creation of original content. “At some point in life I realised that I didn’t have talent, but I had good taste, and good taste could also be sold”, – a phrase from one of my favourite comedies, Dirty Rotten Scoundrels, which I like a lot. Those who have good taste wrt original content and learn how to sell it, have good chances not to be disrupted by industrial transformation.

Then there are of course other human needs that will not go anywhere, such as food, health, housing and communication. The end-product will always maintain its value for the consumers, but creation and delivery methods are changing. Science and technology around life-cycle management, all the way from creation to decommissioning, will constantly evolve. Those who love technology should navigate wisely, look out for novel developments and combinations of those, and make sure to become experts  in more than one area – so-called T-shaped, or π-shaped engineers – to increase the chances of staying relevant. And with the increasing digitalisation of industries and propagation of IoT and machine intelligence into safety-critical applications such as health and transportation, the consequences of being hacked reach the new level, making safety and security a safe bet when choosing one of the legs of you T- or π-shape.


Handwriting and Creativity

My daughter Elin writes every minute of her free time – she loves to create and tell her stories. I never enjoyed writing stories – most of my school essays were written by my grandmother, and I hated to write introductions to my scientific papers. Elin produces tens of pages per day and sometimes needs a bandage for her fingers that hurt from so much writing. It’s not only the storytelling she enjoys but also the handwriting. Handwriting is not part of Swedish school plan but some schools still let those who want to play around with it. Elin is one of those who likes handwriting and she has also learnt Russian handwriting as it’s still mandatory according to Russian school system. And again, comparing myself to her I realise quite some difference – I never enjoyed handwriting and as soon as computers were around I became faster at typing (not because I am fast at typing though…). Some sources claim correlation of fine motor skills with cognitive abilities. However, I fail finding proofs that development of fine motor skills can lead to higher IQ. And if it did, there are many other activities that develop fine motor skills, such as painting, playing an instrument or playing computer games. In other words, I support the choice of Swedish school system. Still, we need techniques to capture thoughts. For an 8 year old child handwriting seems to be the most efficient. Elin is not good at typing yet, and honestly, typing does not seem to be a sustainable input method. To digitize the texts for her blog, Elin uses speech recognition software. It should be possible to eliminate the intermediary step of creating the analog version but she has not tried that yet. And again, handwriting itself seems to be an integral part of the creative process so maybe i should not strive to increased automation in this particular case.

It’s easier for us, geeks, to capture thoughts. “You ask me if I keep a notebook to record my great ideas. I’ve only ever had one.” Albert Einstein.

We’re being manipulated and we enjoy it

I did laugh at the below YouTube video last year when Apple released their new Macbook without ports – an “overpriced netbook”. And yesterday I ordered one of those. The idea of pushing business forward through eliminating old technology appeals to me. Indeed, who wants cables when we can use wireless transfer of data and video/audio signals. And I can’t say that my workplaces are so modern that I could control any of the screens wirelessly, but we’re getting there, and in the meanwhile one can use adaptors. “You may think that you want an adaptor, but actually you don’t”, said a good friend of ours, Tomas Sjöblom, and he was so right. 


It does not take long to change people’s behaviour. Couple of years ago it became illegal to smoke inside bars and restaurants in Sweden, and smoking outside is quite often uncomfortable due to the Swedish weather. As a result of this inconvenience I barely see any smokers any more. Similarly, making it slightly more difficult to use old technology, companies like Apple can easily steer us away from cables, file systems, locally stored files, and bought content, towards wireless, cloud and rented content.

Selling a Friend

Selling a Friend is a tough decision. I fell in love with this bike already in 2009 when I took my motorcycle driver’s licence. And in 2010 I picked a color and ordered one, shiny and new, directly from a BMW factory in Germany. And it didn’t matter that motorcycle season in Sweden is very short, that we spend almost all of it abroad, and that at that time I had two very small kids. I just wanted to own it. And ownership came with a couple of drawbacks, the worst one being that bad feeling of owning something that is being used way too little. I regularly screen my home for things being used too little and get rid of those. Decision of getting rid of a bike is different – it has that emotional component. 

I went through a similar emotional process when getting rid of the car some years ago. We chose to transform ourselves gradually together with the industry. First we outsourced changing of the car tires. Then we got rid of the storage space in our basement and outsourced it to a tire storage company. After that we outsourced all boring shopping to companies such as Mathem, got rid of the garage space and sold the car. Now, if we feel like going by car, we use Car2Go, DriveNow, Uber and taxis for short-range travels, car pooling for mid-range travels, and rental cars for long-range travels. But I should say that public transportation is gradually becoming more convenient, personalized and cool. The question is what kind of service you are after – the driving experience, transportation from A to B, or a specific mission being accomplished. In the latter case, transportation-related services may not need to be involved at all.

We’re becoming more servitized – in the era of Internet of Things one does not need to own things that lose value. There is a lot of value to grab and share between people and industries due to economies of scale, and there are big advantages from sustainability perspective. But I should say that we still keep a picture of one of our cars in a frame…