Ofelé fa el to mesté

Which is dialect from Milan that tells us that bakers*, just like every other profession, should stick to their trade. Government agencies should not develop apps.

And if for some reason they do, they should not try to bullshit us with bad English.

Take MyWay. I read straight from Google Play that:

MYWAY is a 7th Framework ICT Project (whatever that means) that runs from 2013 through 2016 (and then they turn it off?) implemented by 14 partner organisations from across Europe that range from public authorities, research centers (British English, anybody?) to SME’s (isn’t the plural of SME -> SMEs?). Placing the traveller at the heart of mobility (in Politics and the English Language, Orwell warned against the use of trite metaphors, and he was right!), MYWAY will develop an integrated platform, the European Smart Mobility Resource Manager (hey, if it’s an integrated platform, it must be great!), which will facilitate an holistic (oh-oh) view of sustainable mobility, combining all sorts of transport services and automatically handling transactions related to their usage into a seamless point-to-point mobility service (bullshit detector ON). MYWAY will also be able to provide travel suggestions that are better optimized (optimised, in British English) to the users (that would be: users’) egocentric perspective, and that of society as a whole. MYWAY will be tested in three ‘living labs’ in Barcelona, Berlin and Trikala (Trikala is a town of 81,000 people in Greece). MYWAY is expected to boost the travellers’ usage of greener mobility services by enabling the condiseration (consideration) of all available resources and their appropriate allocation to journey plans, thus enhancing the attractiveness, comfort and efficiency of the transport networks and minimising the GHG emissions by stimulating users to switch to more sustainable mobility choices and behaviour.

They forgot to say that:

1) The app is mediocre;

2) It was last updated 8 months ago;

3) It was downloaded only between 1,000 and 5,000 times, according to Google Play, so I’m not sure how they expect to achieve their lofty goals.

4) Governments should do their job. Developing apps may be cool, but pushing Public Transport agencies to provide real-time APIs would be more useful.

* The offelle are traditional cookies from Parona, about 40 km South-West of Milan, but the word ofelè is sometimes used not just for pastry chefs, but also for bakers.

If you go to Parona, pay a stop in Vigevano for the beautiful Piazza Ducale.

The most political decision

The most political decision you make is where you direct people’s eyes. In other words, what you show people, day in and day out, is political… And the most politically indoctrinating thing you can do to a human being is to show him, every day, that there can be no change.

– Wim Wenders

Politics and the English Language

Now, it is clear that the decline of a language must ultimately have political and economic causes: it is not due simply to the bad influences of this or that individual writer. But an effect can become a cause, reinforcing the original cause and producing the same effect in an intensified form, and so on indefinitely. A man may take to drink because he feels himself to be a failure, and then fail all the more completely because he drinks. It is rather the same thing that is happening to the English language. It becomes ugly and inaccurate because our thoughts are foolish, but the slovenliness of our language makes it easier for us to have foolish thoughts.

— George Orwell, Politics and the English Language, 1946

The problem with content

Yes, everything’s better than goddamn awful banner ads.
But let’s not get too excited about “content”.

The first problem with content is that it’s everything and nothing.
It’s high art and crap that you find online just because the “upload” button is easy.

(A Shakespeare sonnet and a picture of my cat’s ass, as Bob Hoffmann said)

The second problem is that most of it is pictures of my cat’s ass.

Why is that?

Because marketing folks are wrong when they think that consumers love their companies (they don’t), and they are wrong when they think that consumers are dumb.

Nothing new here. But the best people in advertising, Bill Bernbach and George Lois, David Ogilvy and Howard Luck Gossage, never treated the public as if they were idiots.

The problem with content

Why do marketers today create “channels” on Facebook and Twitter and of course on YouTube and only then proceed to think about what crap to stuff in there?

Because they have it all backwards.

They know they are not loved, and so they crave likes. At the same time, they can’t let go of their condescending attitude: people are dumb and will “like” anything.

And if they don’t, they’ll push it harder. And hand it over to people with the technical skills to push an unwanted message until it looks like it is being accepted.

Until they can “prove” that they were right: they love us and they’re stupid.

They also seem to think that the conduits, like the web or social media, are what we really care about and not just, well, pipes. We want water (or beer), not pipes.

The medium is not the message.

The only message your company is delivering every time they think they’re being posh because they’re using social media is that they’re fucking clueless.

Instead of doing great stuff – big ideas: art, events, long videos, manuals, posts with insider info and original points of view, or even good ads, and then use the pipes for what they are, i.e. just pipes – just ways to give great stuff a little push, they prefer to annoy us.

But in a ‘social’ way.

They produce crap “content” to fill the channels and then happily count how many (not many) users they get. They treat it (and treat us) as if it were “media”. Free media.

They use technology not to make their operations more efficient, deliver services and get out of the way of their customers or to do smart things which would have been impossible to do on other people’s media properties, but to (forcibly) “be in touch with us”.

On all the possible screens and on all our devices.

No matter how lonely we may be, we ain’t that lonely.

Buy my book: What Happened To Advertising? What Would Gossage Do?

No such thing as social media

There’s no such thing as social media.

There’s Facebook, which is eating up what we used to call the Open Web.

Those who speak of “social media” remind me of those who used to tell you that you could submit your site to 100 search engines. Last time I checked, 95% of the traffic I got came from that one search engine whose name replaced the verb to search.

Those who speak of “social media” seem to forget that the largest of these social media sites, currently worth a cool 340 billion USD, actually bought what is now the second or third largest of these “social media” sites for a mere 1 billion USD.

Is Instagram really much more important than what Google Images is compared to Google Search? Maybe – and just maybe, only for those in fashion or sports apparel. Is Twitter of any importance beyond tech companies? What about Pinterest?

And what should my company, a proud maker of dishwater detergent, do on Snapchat?

How bullshit spreads

At the launch of any new corporate smart-city initiative, content promoting it and aligning it with the enterprise’s overarching brand proposition is generated by the marketing department, and released into the wild on the global website where it will be indexed by Google in less than a minute. This initiative almost immediately comes to the attention of the planet’s several thousand technology bloggers, writing for outlets of various provenance, who generally have automated keyword searches set up to notify them whenever an item of interest is published. Because these bloggers are simultaneously under intense contractual pressure to post several times a day, are by definition enthusiastic about technology and are, by and large, unschooled in the arts of skeptical reportage, they tend to take the claims they are offered at face value. (This is true of bloggers writing for The Guardian or The New York Times every bit as much as it is of their less well-positioned peers).

In a matter of minutes, talking points from the original press release are paraphrased in the blogger’s idiom of choice into a new post, and this may happen across dozens of competing sites in a very brief span of time. […] Very little of this commentary evaluates what is being claimed in any depth, or even compares the item at hand to previous assertions made by the same institution, but the volume of buzz is impressive.

– From: Against the smart city (page 91), by Adam Greenfield