Philip Sheldrake

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Introducing Google Assistant, the Surveillance Interface (SI)

google assistant by techcrunch

A new kind of interface has surfaced over the past five years – artificial intelligence (AI) based ‘personal assistants’.

Apple Siri started the ball rolling, swiftly followed by Google Now, Microsoft Cortana, Amazon Alexa, and half a dozen others. But it now has a new apogee, a new sector defining moment, a revolution dressed up as evolution. The only thing more alarming than its instrusive, opaque, and society-altering capabilities is the way in which tech pundits have ladled out the accolades, pundits whose worldview appears as limited as a magpie’s regard for shiny things.

Google Now is now Google Assistant, and it comes integrated into Google’s first full-on (i.e. not just a reference design) mobile phone – the Pixel. Read more

Google on collaboration – a new study

Google collaboration report June 2015
First published to Gigaom Research.


Our customers often tell us that encouraging and enabling collaboration has dramatically improved their business. We decided to dig a little deeper by conducting some original cross-industry research that measures the power of workplace collaboration in concrete terms.

This is how Google introduces the findings of its recent survey of senior staff and C-suite executives at 258 North American companies across a wide range of business sectors and sizes. (PDF of full report.) The primary conclusion is presented up front:

… collaboration has a significant impact on business innovation, performance, culture and even the bottom line.

This is quite right and quite wrong. Collaboration is at once driven and the driver; it is both a cause and an effect. As is culture come to that. Effectively, Google must grapple with two distinct appreciations of business among its customers and prospects.

Simply complex

If there’s one thing that differentiates organization this century from the last it’s that we may now acknowledge complexity and do something about it. We increasingly have the technologies to help navigate complexity. Choosing to do so offers competitive advantage for the time being; there will soon come a time when failing to do so renders an organization unresponsive, fragile and, consequently, bust. (Note that complexity and complication are different things.) Read more

Different kinds of privacy, empowerment and autonomy – centralized versus decentralized

qs-watch[Originally posted to the hi:project blog.]

In an article in the Guardian last week, Professor Alex 'Sandy' Pentland mooted the potential for Google to cleave in two, with one part dedicated to providing a regulated bank-like service for data. Pentland directs the MIT Human Dynamics Lab and co-leads both the Big Data and the Personal Data and Privacy initiatives of the World Economic Forum, and I'm surprised how often his name crops up in my hi:project related research, yet I find it difficult to reconcile his observation here with his fluency in the power of decentralized networks:

Social physics strongly suggest that the [Adam Smith’s] invisible hand is more due to trust, cooperation and robustness properties of the person-to-person network of exchanges than it is due to any magic in the workings of the market. If we want to have a fair, stable society, we need to look to the network of exchanges between people, and not to market competition.

Pentland continues under the heading: How can we move from a market-centric to a human-centric society? Read more

Access to this search result is denied, unless you have the money of course

access to this search result is denied
Today, Google has published a webpage with a form allowing anyone in Europe to ask that personal data be removed from search results. This follows the recent ruling by the Court of Justice of the European Union, deciding that:

  1. Indexing information by a search engine is ‘processing of personal data’
  2. Google is a ‘controller’ of personal data
  3. Spanish data protection law is applicable, even if indexing happens in the US
  4. Google should remove links to webpages containing personal data, even if the webpages themselves are lawful
  5. A fair balance should be sought between the legitimate interests of search engine users and the privacy rights of individuals
  6. The right to be forgotten is recognised by the Court of Justice.

I've owned the domains forgetweb.com and forgetweb.org since 2010, so this is something I've contemplated for some time and the domain names betray my leaning, yet I can confidently say the Court has got it wrong. Julian David, techUK CEO, explains why in The Telegraph: "Forget about it: the ECJ ruling on the 'right to be forgotten' is unworkable." I support his balanced sentiment 100% and would add one more vitally important perspective. Read more

Fancy a coffee? Social business and your non-solicitation terms

Department of Coffee

The recent antitrust lawsuit against Apple, Google, Adobe and Intel for collusion in hiring practices demonstrates a lack of respect for the respective organisations' employees. Fundamentally, how dare one's employer collude with another in ways that may limit one's career progression!

Having been an employer carrying the not insubstantial costs of hiring I know how difficult it is to watch someone in whom you have invested considerable time, money and energy walk out the door, but I think my memory serves me well when I say we encouraged the team to celebrate such departures. If anything, our alumni network grew +1 each time.

When you define social business as I do, what might the clause for "non-solicitation" look like in your terms of business? How about this:

We believe our employees should be free to do whatever they consider best suits them. We do not therefore seek to apply any restrictions on their future employ. Their success is our success.

If such a declaration is representative of your wider values, you might find loyalty actually improves. By investing in our culture and award winning training and development, we felt comfortable wishing leavers the very best for the future. It felt right and served us all well.

[Image credit: Department of Coffee and Social Affairs – a fine selection of London coffee shops in which to have such conversations.]

Who are you?

[Originally written for the CIPR Friday Roundup.]

Identity is not a black and white thing. Sure, at one end of the spectrum anonymity reigns. This is the world of 4chan, the popular image-based bulletin board from which famous memes such as lolcats and Rickrolling emerged. At the other end of the spectrum we have passport border control.

And in between we have many shades of identity.

Nightclub handstamps for example are needed only to ascertain who has already paid. Many a website cookie serves just to determine if you've dropped by before. A supermarket loyalty card serves just to build up an understanding of your shopping habits, and may be associated with a bank card proffered for payment.

OK, so what has this got to do with marketing and public relations?

Read more

Finally, Google adds social analytics to GA

Back in 2009, at that year's Monitoring Social Media conference, I forecast Google's entry into social analytics in Q1 2010. Whoops. Only fools do short-term forecasting. Wiser men look further out, by which time people have forgotten the prediction!

So here we are in Q2 2012 and the news from Google has dropped into my inbox. Verbatim:

Read more

UK businesses will have to pay a UK media license – Copyright Tribunal implications

Yes, you read the title to this post right. Are you in business? In the UK? Online or use email? Then you apparently owe the Newspaper Licensing Agency some money.

I first expressed my interest in an increasingly aggressive Newspaper Licensing Agency in a 2007 blog post suggesting a more appropriate title for the body – Newspaper Licensing Anachronism. Please note that I have nothing against the monetization of copyright content (hey I'm an author!), I just think the way the NLA conducts its business is all rather 20th Century. And this week, we’ve had a Copyright Tribunal Interim Decision. [The square brackets below reference this decision.]

The NLA’s relevance in the 21st Century has been tested, as far as the law is open to interpretation, by the innovative media monitoring company, Meltwater. Actually, the description the Copyright Tribunal uses to describe Meltwater, or rather Meltwater’s witness, is “unnecessarily combative” [35]. Well, talking of combat, the latest battle in this war concluded yesterday.

JP GlittenbergThe result is a mixed affair, with neither the NLA or Meltwater coming out on top. I’ve just recorded an interesting conversation with Meltwater’s JP Glittenberg about this week’s decision... do take a listen, particularly if you work in media, PR or copyright.

[audio:https://www.philipsheldrake.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/02/Meltwater-interview-15Feb2012.mp3|titles=Meltwater interview 15th Feb 2012]

Now the Tribunal is quite restricted: by law; by precedent; by previous adjudgements in this ongoing case; by its own terms of reference. Generally, on reading the entire 60-page decision, I find the Tribunal to be most diligent, but given my background, I get a bit uptight every time I read something that indicates a lack of technical understanding of the Internet and the World Wide Web (yes, they are different things!)

Despite some stumbles however, they get somewhere interesting in the end. In fact, they end up showing up UK copyright law for the shambles it is. Read more

Don’t forward. That could be illegal.

Here's how The Independent reports on this week's Appeal Court decision to uphold the High Court's decision that customers of media monitoring services – which provide digests of news from websites run by newspapers – need licences from the publications involved, in order to avoid breaching their copyright.

And as much as this might surprise anyone who thought they knew that the Web is made up of web pages with unique addresses that anyone can forward, share, bookmark, embed and access – I'm afraid you're wrong. In fact, I may have broken UK law by including the link to The Independent article without having bought a license from the Newspaper Licensing Agency (NLA).

[Note to non-UK resident readers: This situation is acutely embarrassing for us Brits and I'd appreciate it if you kept this quiet. After all, our current coalition government really wants the rest of the world to think we 'get' digital.]

You see the trouble is the Court's are dealing with horse and cart in the age of the automobile. The government commissioned May 2011 review of the state of UK intellectual property law, the Hargreave's report, concludes that laws designed more than three centuries ago with the express purpose of creating economic incentives for innovation by protecting creators’ rights are today obstructing innovation and economic growth. An unequivocal conclusion if ever there was one. Read more

One Web. Many social networks. Facebook’s Achille’s heel.

Facebook will die.

When it comes to asserting my regard for Facebook's prospects I feel a bit like the guys over at housepricecrash.co.uk. This website was set up by friends with a mutual interest in the UK property market in 2003 and, as the name of the site subtly betrays, they predicted a bit of a tumble in house prices. And of course they were proved right. Eventually!

But social networks aren't subject to the same dynamics as the 'irrational exuberance' that fueled the house price climb to an all-time high. In the arena of social networks it comes down to a mix of 'softer' issues, such as the simple push and pull of fashion, and 'harder' issues, such as the underlying technological construct of a social network.

Economics can take a role, most obviously at play with the so-called 'network effect' eBay concreted in many markets, and in their ceding some markets to Yahoo! for example where Yahoo! secured that market's network effect first. But that's more ecommerce than social networking. Read more