Thursday 1 April, 2021

Formerly April Fool's Day until Boris Johnson made it entirely redundant. In the UK now every day is April Fool's Day

A former resident of Bath, famous for its Roman er, baths.


Quote of the Day

“In the brutal and blunt league table of fatalities, the EU as a whole has done less badly than Britain or America, with 138 recorded deaths per 100,000, compared with 187 and 166 respectively—though Hungary, the Czech Republic and Belgium have all fared worse than either. However, it is in the grip of a vicious surge fuelled by a deadly variant. That underlines the peril of Europe’s low rate of vaccination. According to our tracker, 58% of British adults have had a jab, compared with 38% of Americans and just 14% of eu citizens. European countries are also behind on the other criterion of a covid-19 scorecard, the economy. In the last quarter of 2020 America was growing at an annualised rate of 4.1%. In China, which suppressed the virus with totalitarian rigour, growth was 6.5%. In the euro area the economy was still shrinking. A year ago Pedro Sánchez, Spain’s prime minister, called covid-19 the worst crisis to afflict the eu since the second world war. “


Musical alternative to the morning’s radio news

Paddy Callaghan and friends | ‘Be Thou My Vision’ and three reels (The Mill House, Sporting Paddy, and Homage to Rooney) | Live at the Fleadh Cheoil, Derry | 2013

Link

I was initially puzzled by this. Why were these Irish musicians playing an Anglican Hymn at an Irish music festival? Turns out that the hymn is of Irish origin — possibly dating back to the sixth century. You learn something every day in this business.


Long Read of the Day

Sexism and Racism in Silicon Valley

A case study of what went on behind the scenes at Pinterest, if you please. Turns out that it’s not at all the cuddly service people imagine it to be.

Great report on the Time.com site.


Trust in tech seems to be decreasing

Or so the annual Edelman Trust Barometer has found.

Some highlights from the Axios report:

  • Trust in artificial-intelligence companies, and also internet-of-things businesses, fell in 25 of 27 countries.

  • Trust in “cleantech” firms fell in 23 of 27 countries.

  • Trust in the virtual-reality industry fell in 22 of 27 countries.

  • Trust in the 5G sector fell in 21 of 27 countries.

Could it be that people are wising up?


What on Earth Is Amazon Doing?

Interesting post by Ian Bogost. Sample:

The company is behaving like a common troll on social media, which is not the usual stance for a giant corporation. As someone who has spent an ungodly amount of time studying brand behavior on the internet, I have a theory—but, first, let me back up.

Over the past week, Amazon has mounted an aggressive public-opinion campaign in what appears to be an effort to discredit its warehouse workers in Alabama, who are trying to unionize. The company started by targeting legislators. First, Dave Clark, Amazon’s head of worldwide consumer business, went after Bernie Sanders on Twitter, after the senator encouraged the Alabama workers to vote for a union. Then, Amazon moved the fight to its official Twitter news account, which has some 170,000 followers. That account responded to Representative Mark Pocan of Wisconsin, who had invoked recent news that Amazon workers urinated in bottles out of fear of missing production quotas.

That’s when things got interesting. Amazon News started maximizing provocation, or, in internet speak, shitposting. “You don’t really believe the peeing in bottles thing, do you?” it replied to Pocan. Then it went after Senator Elizabeth Warren, who has long sought to tax, regulate, and break up big tech companies such as Amazon. “This is extraordinary and revealing,” Amazon News posted, quoting a Warren tweet. “One of the most powerful politicians in the United States just said she’s going to break up an American company so that they can’t criticize her anymore.”

It’s a good piece but, in a way, Bogost fails to address the underlying reality — which is that while corporations may generally feel the need to act restrained in public, in fact they are just sociopathic, super-intelligent machines. The useful thing about the Amazon outbursts is that they reveal what the corporate beast is actually like. Jeff Bezos (like every major tech boss) loathes and fears trade unions, and his corporate creature will do what it takes to resist their progress in its ranks.


Missing link in yesterday’s edition

The link to Shira Ovide’s piece, “How Big is Amazon, Really?” is here.

Apologies for omitting it.


Meanwhile, on more serious matters…

The Captivity-to-Workplace Reintroduction Program by Zoe Pearl. Link.

While vaccinations are underway and offices are preparing to reopen their doors, management nationwide faces a great challenge: how to safely reintroduce office workers, softened by their months working from home captivity, back into their native corporate environments. Whether it’s the tundra of fluorescent-lit cubicles or the vast savannas of an open floor plan, the captive office worker will be reluctant and possibly hostile at the prospect of having to leave her apartment and wear tight-waisted jeans that never really fit, even pre-pandemic, again. To ease the transition and prepare the captive office work for her reintegration into the workplace, try incentivizing her return with a reward. (No, don’t worry, not a monetary one — the promise of free donuts on the first day back should suffice).