News That Caught My Eye: Week of Sept 13, 2018

Google Leaked Video on Elections

This week a Google employee leaked an internal video in which Sergey Brin and Sundar Pichai comment on the outcome of the 2016 US elections calling the results offensive and inviting employees to express their sadness and concerns.

Via The Verge 

  • Considering this is California and it involves the tech industry, I would imagine similar conversations took place in other companies either in official meeting rooms or in the canteen or along the corridors.
  • There is no statement in the video, as Google pointed out in its response this week, that implies those personal views impacted and changed the business model of the company to go against the current government. There was no direct criticism of President Trump either.
  • All that said, this could not come at a worse time for Google, given the company faced criticism for not showing up for the Senate hearing just a couple of weeks ago.
  • President Trump also said on Twitter that Google rigged search results for Trump News by favoring negative press stories over positive ones.
  • This video adds fuel to the fire when it comes to Conservatives’ concerns that social media and internet companies are controlling and manipulating the current political discourse.
  • The fact that the video was leaked, though, shows that there is still turmoil inside Google. Discontent has crept up time and time again inside Google from the “diversity memo”, to AI in the military and re-entering China.
  • It will be interesting to see if Trump responds to the video but more importantly if he will order some investigation.

Jeff Bezos’ Day One Fund

Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos and his wife MacKenzie on Thursday announced a $2 billion philanthropic effort aimed at helping homeless families and starting preschools in low-income communities.

Via The Guardian 

  • What seems like a great news was actually met with mixed feelings
  • Some criticized Amazon’s chief for not putting more effort into increasing salaries for his dispatch workers while others called on him to pay more taxes
  • On paper Bezos’ philanthropic move sounds like a great idea: helping the homeless and making sure kids receive education and start life on the right foot
  • Unfortunately, however, previous attempts by millionaires in funding schools either came across like an elitist experiment like Elon Musk’s Ad Astra School or right out failed like Zuckerberg’s funding of schools in New Jersey.
  • Bezos was also criticized for saying the kids will be the customer. While I understand why people have a knee-jerk reaction to equating kids to customers, I have to admit I thought he was in line with the point I made a few weeks ago in my article about college. Here I talk about an idea suggested by Professor Sanjay Samuel who says that college is treated like a consumer product where teachers are service providers, students are consumers and subject matter are content. The profit is with the loan companies but the return on investment for students is questionable. Education is being upsold, he says, so that college is the new high school.
  • In this world, then students or kids are the customers and considering how obsessed Amazon is about its customers, I would think Bezos meant it in a positive way. The customer comes first, the customer is always right…
  • The negativity, however around his choice of words, might come from a higher sensitivity to be seen as a customer that a company is trying to sell to all the time or maybe a customer who is becoming the product. While this might be more related to Facebook or Google, I do wonder if we are just going through a general negative sentiment phase around anything tech.
  • It seems to me that lately, and of course with good reasons, the skepticism around tech companies and their leaders have been growing. Some of us might be willing to give them the benefit of the doubt but others might not.

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Carolina Milanesi

Carolina is a Principal Analyst at Creative Strategies, Inc, a market intelligence and strategy consulting firm based in Silicon Valley and recognized as one of the premier sources of quantitative and qualitative research and insights in tech. At Creative Strategies, Carolina focuses on consumer tech across the board. From hardware to services, she analyzes today to help predict and shape tomorrow. In her prior role as Chief of Research at Kantar Worldpanel ComTech, she drove thought leadership research by marrying her deep understanding of global market dynamics with the wealth of data coming from ComTech’s longitudinal studies on smartphones and tablets. Prior to her ComTech role, Carolina spent 14 years at Gartner, most recently as their Consumer Devices Research VP and Agenda Manager. In this role, she led the forecast and market share teams on smartphones, tablets, and PCs. She spent most of her time advising clients from VC firms, to technology providers, to traditional enterprise clients. Carolina is often quoted as an industry expert and commentator in publications such as The Financial Times, Bloomberg, The New York Times and The Wall Street Journal. She regularly appears on BBC, Bloomberg TV, Fox, NBC News and other networks. Her Twitter account was recently listed in the “101 accounts to follow to make Twitter more interesting” by Wired Italy.

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