Wednesday, 15 May 2013

500 Startups, and not a good idea between them

Ever wanted to see a load of startup kids disappear up their own arse? Ever wondered why people are starting to get tired of 'entrepreneurs' that spend more time making viral videos than focusing on solving problems or launching something tangible?

Behold - the moment the tech scene in the states disappeared up it's own hoop (again).

Pass me the sickbag.

Tuesday, 7 May 2013

Stickers won't save you now

One of the funniest things about looking into the tech and social sphere from the outside (well, as a somebody that uses and manages on, rather than builds their services) is seeing the sort of mundane, everyday things they present as somehow revolutionary.

This week? It's Facebook and clip-art. You know, the images you send to your mates in an email conversation to try and sound less like you are machine-gunning words at them? Well, now with Facebook Messenger, you can attach a clip-art sticker to your message - meaning that you can now wink at people using a cat, rather than a smiley face, or lines.

This is a development right up there with Peter Frampton's talking guitar in terms of it's novelty-value. But no doubt, this is a way of introducing another 'revenue stream' into the Facebook experience, by inviting users to 'buy' more smiley packs.

From a finance perspective, it makes perfect sense. It'll keep shareholders happy.

But let's not get carried away with the hyperbole, as Engadget has, talking about the 'crippling visual limitations of emoticons in textual communications'.

Crippling? Crippling?! Come on. We've managed thus as a species thus far to get by not having an image of a winking (I said WINKING) pirate rabbit to send to our mate. Take off your Google Glass and apply a reality filter to what you're saying!

The worst thing about this re-heated idea? It's a re-heated idea stolen from another app - Path. You know, the one that steals contact information from it's users?

I've long suspected that the tech scene over in America (and by extension over here) have been engulfed and slightly deranged in it's own hubris, and believes that everything that it does, or every problem it 'solves', is life-changing.

Checking in at a location is fun - it's not life-changing.

Sharing photos with your friends is nice - it's not life-changing.

Creating cartoon characters for kids that you can buy upgrades for? It's a bit craven (like most advertising aimed at kids) - it's not life-changing. It solves nothing!

Updating your status or sending a tweet is brilliant - but we're not solving world hunger or complex social injustices. We're just easing the daily grind for people fortunate enough to be born into the western world. Making things a bit easier. And that is valuable. Enabling frictionless communication is a wonderful thing, and it's what the internet I love is all about.

But let's not all drink from the same fountain and start thinking that adding stickers to an app is important or news-worthy in any way. They're only stickers!

Friday, 3 May 2013

Hyundai: Not the Korean for 'has a heart'

If the definition of something going viral is that it rapidly causes nausea and a general feeling of queasiness, the Hyundai are to be congratulated with their latest piece of viral marketing - it really hit the spot.

Featuring (get this, it's a real laugh riot!) a middle aged man unsuccessfully trying to commit suicide in their eco-friendly car, the advert has quite rightly raised hackles across the internet.

It’s a dreadful advert. It reminds me of the dystopian advertisements in a Paul Verhoeven film- the sort of thing that you can imagine a young, naive creative may think is funny when he or she is chortling down the pub with mates, but is much less funny when you realise that your intended audience (your ‘hilarious’ mates, who will happily stick up for you anonymously in comment sections of websites) can’t afford the car in question, and the rest of the people who see it feel that the world has just got a little bit crueler for having the ad projected into it through our own personal Black Mirrors.

And the fact that Hyundai tried to weasel out of any controversy was just as sad - especially seeing as the creative agency that made the video is owned by the Chairman of Hyundai. It’s conceivable that he didn’t see it, but then that’s not really an excuse.

As a disclaimer, I should really point out that I’m an supporter/helper-outer of the charity CALM (a suicide-prevention charity based in the UK), but to be perfectly honest, I’d object to the cruelty of this video even if I wasn’t. It’s mean-spirited, cruel, and leaves you feeling a bit dirty.

Hey, Hyundai - make sure that this doesn’t happen again. Next time, try and make something that appeals to the best elements of humanity, rather than this dreck. And read this.

On your website, it states that ‘At Hyundai, we ask ourselves the important questions every day. And, every day, we seek the best answers. It’s what makes us grow as a car company.’

Clearly, the question of ‘will this upset anybody?’ wasn’t asked once. So you're clearly not asking enough.