Categories
Pop Culture Technology

Facebook’s GIPHY Acquisition is Evil Genius

I’ve seen a decent amount of bewilderment as to why Facebook would spend $400, 000 on an acquisition of GIPHY.

Honestly, I find it surprising that so many people would be confused by this because truthfully, it’s a brilliant strategic move.

To understand why, one only needs to look at all the ‘Like’ and ‘Share’ buttons that litter the web currently.

Even when you’re not using Facebook, every ‘Like’ and ‘Share’ button on the web uses browser cookies, IP addresses, and a host of other methods to track your behavior. These embedded pixels monitor almost your entire browsing experience and report it back to Facebook, who then uses it to profile you to better target ads at you.

But as Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg himself has pointed out:

“I believe the future is private,”

https://www.wired.com/story/f8-zuckerberg-future-is-private/

This is remarkably prescient and brilliant positioning. Because from a PR perspective, it makes it seem like Facebook is moving towards caring about privacy, when that is not really what he means at all.

In the last few years, we have seen the rise of tools like Slack and Discord to communicate and organize. These are perceived as “private” communities to users. And they represent a challenge for Facebook because our behavior in them is cut off from their data mining.

For Zuckerberg, “the future is private” is a challenge the company faces, not a business opportunity. Facebook’s continued growth requires a way to peer into our private communities.

So how do you find a way to track things that go on inside those walled gardens?

Same way you would the web: Tracking pixels.

And who has a large market share of image files embedded in closed chat conversations and “private” communities?

GIPHY.

Categories
Chicago General Technology

Congratulations to ActiveCampaign on 100K Customers

Today ActiveCampaign announced they had surpassed 100,000 customers and over $100 million in annual recurring revenue.

When I joined the company in 2013, we were a team of 10 in a tiny office downtown. At that point, we were still transitioning from a downloadable software to a software-as-a-service model and had not yet launched the company’s flagship automation builder that would go on to spike our insane growth path.

Something that has set ActiveCampaign apart from its competitors is its dedication to customer care. Although the company has changed dramatically, and not EVERY practice has scaled (at one point, I would designate a half-hour at the end of every day to handwrite a personal thank you card to every customer who purchased an enterprise account) the team’s commitment to being customer-centric has never wavered. I believe if they can keep that as their guiding light, they will continue to find success.

I’m incredibly proud of the product I built at AC, but I’m even more proud of the fantastic customers and colleagues I helped in the process.

The company released this video this morning, which inspired me to write something. The video not only features a photo with me in it but a few that I shot while working there. It made me smile, and I’m proud to share it. Congrats to the whole ActiveCampaign team. Here’s to 100,000 more!

Cheers!

Categories
Technology

On Leadership in the Face of a Pandemic

We are going through a collective trauma right now.

Unemployment is skyrocketing.

Companies are scaling back and laying off whole offices.

Thousands are dead, and we’re just scraping the surface.

The companies that are in the enviable position to not only feel stable, but to continue to hire in this economy should expect employees to have a dip in productivity right now, adjust their expectations, and communicate that as okay to their teams.

What’s not okay is putting an employee on a “Performance Improvement Plan” (aka “PIP”) in the middle of a global pandemic.

When people are under shelter-in-place orders, and having to weigh the safety of simply going out for groceries while also worrying about loved ones in other states. The last thing they need is “leaders” dangling their job security over their heads as well.

Moments of crisis tend to reveal who people really are. Do you want to be a leader, or do you just want power?

Take a moment and think before you react.

Categories
General Technology

Low Hanging Fruits: Apple in 2016 and Beyond

Between the Apple Watch, the iPhone 6S, the new Apple TV, and Apple Music, by all accounts, 2015 was a banner year for Apple Inc.

Apple is a company of patterns and progression. As a former retail employee, we often knew what was coming next, not due to any insider knowledge, but just due to an understanding of how Apple works.

Of course, we’ll also get new iPads (spring), iPhones (fall), and Macs (throughout) at some point, but I figured those are foregone conclusions.  Sometimes the company will throw a curveball, but based on the way things are going, here are some things I expect to see from Apple in 2016 and beyond.

Beats by Apple

The first product Beats launched after the Apple purchase was the Beats Solo 2 Wireless Headphones, but it was clearly well into development before the purchase took place. Shortly after that launch, Apple began releasing new colors of everything to match their iOS devices.

The Beats Pill+, however, is different; it seems it’s the first true hardware child of this merger. It still has the look of the Beats brand but taken to another level of polish that feels quite Apple-like. This polish should be unsurprising since Apple ended the company’s relationship with Ammunition, the design agency responsible for their headphones and the original Beats Pill. There should be little doubt that this product was, at least partially worked on in house by Apple’s teams. Right down to the Lighting port. Little surprise that it’s only available in black and white (for now.)

I expect this trend to continue with new headphone designs in 2016.

Lightning Everywhere

Lighting ports are not just for iOS devices anymore. Almost as an afterthought, Apple launched new peripherals before the end of the year. The Magic Mouse 2, Magic Trackpad 2, and Magic Keyboard. Each of these devices is equipped with an internal rechargeable battery and charges via USB via Lightning cables.  However, these were not the first new devices to pull this trick. The new Beats Pill+ speaker launched quietly a few weeks earlier with this feature already in place.

Expect this to continue throughout Apple’s product lines and pop up in some surprising places we haven’t thought of yet, like new Beats headphones.  Most of their products today include Micro-USB charging, no doubt Apple will do everything it can to phase that out over the next year.

Refined Apple Watch

To some, this may be a foregone conclusion, but there are those who have their doubts. While how much of a success the Apple Watch has been is up for debate, make no mistake, this is no iPod Hi-Fi.  Apple is committed to the Apple Watch and, by association, the fashion world.

Apple Watch users tend to tell people how much they love theirs (myself included); however many of us like it for different reasons. When people ask about why we love the Watch, it’s hard to point to one thing. It’s a platform without a killer app, which makes it hard to sell. Expect Apple to work on changing that both through marketing and continued iteration.

I anticipate that by the roll-out spring fashion lines, Apple will announce a revised Apple Watch. It won’t be radically different, but it will be noticeably more responsive for third-party apps and will likely contain new sensors to track health and fitness.

Smarter Maps

Apple took a beating when it launched new Maps in iOS 6 without transit directions. Now Apple has a lot of trust to regain in this field. If the company wishes to succeed in this area, it needs to iterate rapidly. The company’s health and fitness focus will likely help it here as well as its ‘proactive’ initiatives. Something we could see is “smart” time estimations on walks from place to place based on our own pacing.

Another area of focus could include bike directions in Apple Maps, which will be especially handy for Apple Watch users who will be able to accurately navigate to their destination via haptics alone without looking at their screen.

New Transit Innovations

Apple wants to be much more involved in how you get from place to place. Sure, we’ve all heard rumors about a car, but if that is coming, it’s not going to be in the short term.

The expansion of ApplePay, and with it, NFC chips, raises some interesting possibilities about how you get around town. Chicago, Tokyo, London, and other cities already use some form of radio frequencies for mass transit payment systems. All of which have moved towards NFC as their technological solution. With New York City also planning to switch to a similar system, this is good news for all involved.

I expect that Apple will start making deals that allow the company to make future iPhones and Apple Watches work as your monthly transit pass, furthering its strategic goal of replacing our wallets with digital solutions.

I do not expect all of these things to happen in 2016, but I do believe they’re all inevitable. I look forward to what the future has in store.

Categories
General Technology

Questions and Answers About ‘Tile’

The other day I came across this new crowdfunded gadget: Tile.

The idea behind it is one I’ve wished existed for many years. Long and short: It’s a tiny little Bluetooth powered location tracker that you place on your keys, luggage, bag, bike, etc. The benefits of this are great, and their video does an excellent job of selling it.

I’m intrigued that it will prevent me from ever misplacing my keys in my own home again. However, as with any advancement in technology: “With great power comes great responsibility.” This product raises some technical and privacy questions to me, and the company’s FAQ seemed to exist mainly to satisfy angry Android customers, so I fired off an email to their ‘contact’ address, and here are the results.

You have your introductory price, but what will the second year cost me? / Will you offer a recycling discount for sending you our old Tiles?

Tile replacements are likely to be discounted for customers, but since we are still in development phase the final cost is not yet determined. Replacement Tiles will come with a return envelope with postage paid. All Tiles are recycled or refurbished depending on condition.

Tile requires no battery charging or battery replacement hassles, ever. It’s all about ease of use and being cost effective as compared fo similar solutions. You could buy enough Tiles to last you three years before you would match the cost of buying other solutions that require constant charging and are quite bigger, and not waterproof.

If I buy a tile, when does the year start? At manufacturing, order, or do I “activate” it somehow? If I buy two tiles now, can I hold off “activating,” the second one until my first one dies? Will it hold a charge until this hypothetical activation?

A Tile’s year of use starts when you take possession of it. Withholding use of a Tile does not prevent a drain on the battery. Use them for a year and then replace. Easy. Also, Tiles are registered via the Tile app.

What kind of access to my tile data do you have? Could the NSA, in theory, demand access to your servers and see my Tile’s location history? Or, with your permission, use another Tile to locate my Tile like your video shows with the bike?

Tile is still in the development phase, so we have many areas to address in our product plan, including a privacy policy. That said, like many devices and product features available today, our objective is to offer an unique and helpful experience to improve the lives of our customers. We have no intention of acting improperly, or without transparency, with any information that results from the operation of our product.

There you have it. While I’m not thrilled by the number of companies going live without privacy policies set in place, I respect that they answered the question at all. For now, I’ve decided to purchase a Tile. We’ll see how I feel about it when year 2 rolls around.