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Sunday, January 26, 2020

Today Crunch News, News Updates, Tech News

Today Crunch News, News Updates, Tech News


Technology is anthropology

Posted: 26 Jan 2020 03:00 PM PST

The interesting thing about the technology business is that, most of the time, it’s not the technology that matters. What matters is how people react to it, and what new social norms they form. This is especially true in today’s era, well past the midpoint of the deployment age of smartphones and the Internet.

People — smart, thoughtful people, with relevant backgrounds and domain knowledge — thought that Airbnb and Uber were doomed to failure, because obviously no one would want to stay in a stranger’s home or ride in a stranger’s car. People thought the iPhone would flop because users would “detest the touch screen interface.” People thought enterprise software-as-a-service would never fly because executives would insist on keeping servers in-house at all costs.

Thees people were so, so, so wrong; but note that they weren’t wrong about the technology. (Nobody really argued about the technology.) Instead they were dead wrong about other people, and how their own society and culture would respond to this new stimulus. they were anthropologically incorrect.

This, of course, is why every major VC firm, and every large tech company, keeps a crack team of elite anthropologists on call at all times, with big budgets and carte blanche, reporting directly to the leadership team, right? (Looks around.) Oh. Instead they’re doing focus groups and user interviews, asking people in deeply artificial settings to project their usage of an alien technology in an unknown context, and calling that their anthropological, I’m sorry, their market research? Oh.

I kid, I kid. Sort of, at least, in that I’m not sure a crack team of elite anthropologists would be all that much more effective. It’s hard enough getting an accurate answer of how a person would use a new technology when that’s the only variable. When they live in a constantly shifting and evolving world of other new technologies, when the ones which take root and spread have a positive-feedback-loop effect on the culture and mindset towards new technologies, and when every one of your first twenty interactions with new tech changes your feelings about it … it’s basically impossible.

And so: painful trial and error, on all sides. Uber and Lyft didn’t think people would happily ride in strangers’ cars either; that’s why Uber started as what is now Uber Black, basically a phone-summoned limo service, and Lyft used to have that painfully cringeworthy “ride in the front seat, fist-bump your driver” policy. Those are the success stories. The graveyard of companies whose anthropological guesses were too wrong to pivot to rightness, or who couldn’t / wouldn’t do so fast enough, is full to bursting with tombstones.

That’s why VCs and Y Combinator have been much more secure businesses than startups; they get to run dozens or hundreds of anthropological experiments in parallel, while startups get to run one, maybe two, three if they’re really fast and flexible, and then they die.

This applies to enterprise businesses too, of course. Zoom was anthropological bet that corporate cultures could make video conferencing big and successful if it actually worked reliably. It’s easy to imagine the mood among CEOs instead being “we need in-person meetings to encourage those Moments of Serendipity,” which you’ll notice is the same argument that biased so many big companies against remote work and in favor of huge corporate campuses … an attitude which looks quaint, old-fashioned, and outmoded, now.

This doesn’t just apply to the deployment phase of technologies. The irruption phase has its own anthropology. But irruption affects smaller sectors of the economy, whose participants are mostly technologists themselves, so it’s more anthropologically reasonable for techies to extrapolate from their own views and project how that society will change.

The meta-anthropological theory held by many is that what the highly technical do today, the less technical will do tomorrow. That’s a belief held throughout the tiny, wildly non-representative cryptocurrency community, for instance. But even if it was true once, is it still? Or is a shift away from that pattern that another, larger social change? I don’t know, but I can tell you how we’re going to find out: painful trial and error.

Gauging email success, invite-only app launches and other growth tactics

Posted: 26 Jan 2020 02:00 PM PST

We've aggregated many of the world's best growth marketers into one community. Twice a month, we ask them to share their most effective growth tactics, and we compile them into this growth report.

This is how you stay up-to-date on growth marketing tactics — with advice that's hard to find elsewhere.

Our community consists of 1,000 startup founders and VPs of growth from later-stage companies. We have 400 YC founders, plus senior marketers from companies including Medium, Docker, Invision, Intuit, Pinterest, Discord, Webflow, Lambda School, Perfect Keto, Typeform, Modern Fertility, Segment, Udemy, Puma, Cameo and Ritual.

You can participate in our community by joining Demand Curve's marketing webinars, Slack group or marketing training program.

Without further ado, on to our community's advice.

Remember, use ads to find the best copy

Insights from Matt Sornson of Clearbit

Sure, you could use surveys to ask customers which marketing copy they respond best to. But what people say is often different from what they do.

Original Content podcast: Apple’s ‘Little America’ chooses uplift over anger

Posted: 26 Jan 2020 10:54 AM PST

“Little America,” a new anthology series on Apple TV+, has been widely described as the best show on the fledging streaming service.

Here on the Original Content podcast, we aren’t ready to go quite that far, particularly since a couple of us are big fans of “See.” But we were pretty impressed.

The series, which counts “The Big Sick” writers Emily V. Gordon and Kumail Nanjiani among its executive producers, tells eight separate stories (all based on real-life profiles in Epic Magazine) about immigrants to the United States. For example, the first episode focuses on a young boy whose parents end up returning to India in the face of deportation, leaving him as the de facto manager of their motel in Utah.

At a time when immigration remains a hot-button issue on the national stage, this might sound like the setup for a righteously angry and political show. Instead, “Little America” largely eschews overt politics, aside from its insistence in depicting as immigrants from all over the world as individuals with their own idiosyncrasies and ambitions — in short, as real human beings.

This makes for a funny, engaging show that never gets particularly dark or depressing. Perhaps that’s our only real criticism — that the stories seem so carefully chosen to emphasize uplift over anger that they can start to feel a bit formulaic.

In addition to our review (which includes some mild spoilers for early episodes), this episode takes us all over the place, covering everything from Netflix’s new method for reporting audience size to a lawsuit alleging that M. Night Shyamalan stole the idea for his TV+ series “Servant.

You can listen in the player below, subscribe using Apple Podcasts or find us in your podcast player of choice. If you like the show, please let us know by leaving a review on Apple. You can also send us feedback directly. (Or suggest shows and movies for us to review!)

And if you’d like to skip ahead, here’s how the episode breaks down:

0:00 Intro
0:27 Netflix audience metrics
15:52 “Little America” review (mild spoilers)
45:59 M. Night Shyamalan lawsuit discussion
56:31 “Encore” discussion
1:02:07 “Bachelor” discussion

Sundance: In Miss Americana, Taylor Swift demotes the Internet

Posted: 26 Jan 2020 09:06 AM PST

In nearly a decade of attending Sundance, I've never seen a scene like the premiere of the documentary Miss Americana, detailing the last year and a half or so of Taylor Swift's life. The crowd before letting into the theater was huge, blistering with rumors about whether or not there was so many guests and press that there wouldn't be room for ticketed attendees and whispers about which door Swift would use when arriving.

A large crowd of hopeful waitlister fans, largely young women (not extremely common for Sundance) sang Swift songs in the 30 degree chill. When Swift did arrive, the cheers were off the charts for a normally relatively reserved crowd used to seeing celebrities.

All of this buildup, of course, served to underscore the major themes of Lana Wilson's intimate and focused profile of Swift during a period of her life that typified a major shift in her attitude towards her public and private life.

If you're like most people, your feelings about what kind of person Swift might be are decided by crowd-sourced panel of the top few percent of the most vocal Internet users. Among those, of course, are the media.

We're far enough now into the Internet's third age where it's not represented as some sort of holistic and separate entity. Instead it's woven like a tapestry into the daily life of Swift and her camp. Tweets, Instagram posts and articles on sites like this one are presented as a third conversant in any conversation, both between Swift and Wilson and between Swift and her family.

Basically, Swift is like most of us in that regard, we have all begun to treat the collective output of the internet as an entity with a right to wedge itself into any two beings attempts to reason.

But Miss Americana is not just about Taylor vs. The Internet, it's also reflection on how that same panel lowers its gavel differently for women, especially young women, than it does men.

The closest parallel for me is probably Lady Gaga's 2018 documentary Five Feet Two. There are similar segments that show the teardown of the modern pop song-making process.

Swift says that those were her most nerve wracking to film because of the messy way songs sometimes come together. But they were fascinating to me, and are some of the most fun bits. Swift and her collaborators often write and sing words right off of their iPhones (I saw no Android devices at all) as they work through a track. Songs that come to have intense meaning for fans are often snapshots of Swift's life quickly jotted down in the notes app.

About that oddity, and pretty much every other way that the public perceives her, Swift proves to be firmly and calmly self-aware. She even acknowledges that this very awareness of how she is perceived often comes across as calculation or manipulation on her part.

While Swift gets all of this criticism powered by attention economy jet fuel, her self-awareness is not unique. I see it on TikTok and other young platforms, as teens and young people come to grips with and analyze how they are manipulated and judged by those very platforms. Swift may represent a sort of prime exemplar, but the attitude is generational, imo.

The Kids are just more capable of awareness of the systems at work on them than any previous generation.

The aforementioned Gaga doc, for me, worked very well when it showcased the real physical and psychological toll of a pop career. Miss Americana does this as well, even though Gaga has focused on her ability to challenge and provoke, while Swift has — as she herself admits in the doc — held onto the concept of being a 'good girl', liked by everyone as her guiding principle.

Swift's realization of the completely impossible task of pleasing the networked apparatus of fickle outrage machines that pass as the deciding body of public opinion now is the core pivot point for the doc.

That's typified by a scene where she is faced by a panel of people, all men, who are telling her all of the reasons taking a public political stance would be dangerous, costly to her brand and damaging to her financially. The impetus is Swift's opposition to Tennessee Senator Marsha Blackburn's re-election. Swift's experience with her sexual assault trial and Blackburn's opposition to the Violence Against Women Act are the tipping point that pushes her to take a public political stance for the first time. Provoking her team to have a conversation that takes the rough shape of an intervention.

There are sincere elements of concern for Swift — her father gets all of her death threats and arranges for security, she said after the screening. But the comments from her staff and team included by Wilson are telling — "what is the most effective way we could ensure that half as many people come to a Taylor Swift show?"

What you won't find in this doc is some sort of lurking personal demon. Instead the demon is the way that internet culture reduces anyone with a modicum of fame to slivers of projected personality. And, by extension, becomes the most potent engine of self doubt ever invented.

By demoting the Internet to a tool vs. a deciding force in her well being, Swift is showing fans and viewers a healthier path forward.

The two major themes explored include Swift's desire to please an ever-demanding audience, and the endemic separation between the way creative men are judged and the way creative women are judged in the public sphere.

Both are addressed cleverly, if not in a wholly (and perhaps impossibly) satisfying way.

Wilson has executed the prime directive of a documentary film with Miss Americana. If you were of a slightly negative opinion of Swift going in, based on casual impressions generated for you by vocal minorities amplified via algorithm you will find yourself coming away with more empathy, understanding and likely respect for the Swift presented here. A portrait of a powerful woman in control coming to grips with the current costs of that command.

People on the other side of the love/hate coin are unlikely to be converted. But given that one of the through lines of the doc is Swift’s increasing ability to separate opinion from directive, it’s not likely that it will bother her — as much.

Image: Sundance

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