The Trouble with Tribbles
Posted at 15:44h, 05 Oct 2015 in List Archive by Bonnie Halper No Comments 135 Likes Share

Good morning, All,

In case you missed the reference (doubt it), the subject line was the title of an episode from the original Star Trek series, about adorable, harmless little creatures called tribbles who procreated ad nauseam and gorged themselves to death – without giving away too much of the episode.

And we do see a parallel in tech, where the unicorns are starting to fall by the wayside, and there’s even more trouble brewing in River City.  Taking the view from a thousand feet, it seems to us that tech is at a strange crossroads and the rush to market we’ve all come to take as necessary for growth/staying front of mind – even at the expense of the customer – is taking its toll on the unicorn population (Evernote, the bug-ridden elephant).  Here’s The inside story of how $1 billion Evernote went from Silicon Valley darling to deep trouble, and again, it’s to do with the rush-to-market fevered pitch from which tech suffers, even if it means releasing buggy code or code that exposes customers to vulnerabilities (New Android vulnerabilities put over a billion devices at risk of remote hacking). Google aside, this is what happens when you chase valuations over profits or sustainable products. The center will not hold. In Google’s case, they chase newer/faster/’better’ over customer privacy/safety, and that’s no more than the story told differently.

Time to start paying attention to what’s happening at street level, such as a Landmark ECJ data protection ruling (that) could impact Facebook and Google, big time, and force those companies to finally honor national laws. We may live in a world where we’re all connected, and where companies are doing business globally, but they still tend to behave as in they’re fiefdoms, above the laws of man, nature and governments.  At a time when Facebook (is) accused of spying on Belgian citizens like the NSA, and Edward Snowden opened a Twitter account (in his own name), Apple has released its commitment to your privacy. “A few years ago, users of Internet services began to realize that when an online service is free, you’re not the customer. You’re the product. …We don’t build a profile based on your email content or web browsing habits to sell to advertisers. We don’t “monetize” the information you store on your iPhone or in iCloud. And we don’t read your email or your messages to get information to market to you. Our software and services are designed to make our devices better. Plain and simple.”

Of course, Google’s ‘Don’t Be Evil’ Becomes Alphabet’s ‘Do the Right Thing’ and we all know how that worked out.

While we’re ever the optimist and privacy is one of our hot buttons – and Siri, maps, and wearables aside – Apple is still, on balance, in a very different business than Google, Facebook and Amazon. Still, it is a shot across the bough, and an important one.

With the general lack of consideration for our online safety – as is evidence by the number of hacks out there -, the wonton invasion into our privacy, and the porous – read, bad – code in products that no doubt contributes to number of hacks, a change in tech’s focus is long overdue, as well may be both the Era of the Unicorn and the behemoths’ need for greater and greater profits, at the expense of the product, and by that we don’t mean the end user, although, in this case, there doesn’t seem to appear to be much of a difference.  It all contributes to what Caterina Fake called the coming Age of the Cockroach, which will follow this age of “inflated and unsustainable valuations.” Cockroaches have been around since the beginning of time, or close to it. It’s not simply that they can live off detritus. It’s that, all things considered, and as code itself should be and no matter how you feel about cockroaches, when it comes to Nature, they may be damned close to perfection. With tech moving into all aspects of our lives, what with the Internet of Things, AI, robotics, and self-driving vehicles, the view from a thousand feet might be great, but time for tech to realize that it’s a real industry now and if the tech giants want to play in the real world, good enough is not good enough. Where lives are at stake, products need to work flawlessly, to the point where they’re no tribble at all. Onward and forward.