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Abstract Submission Deadline: January 19th
What does it mean that digital technologies are increasingly a part of...
Hamish McKenzie noted that Medium had become significantly more of a curated experience in its recent facelift. But I think in his positioning of Medium and Flipboard as two competitors for our attention, he misses something important. He wrote,
Medium rearranged the furniture yesterday and in doing so changed the way we should look at the whole house.
It’s not just that founder and CEO Evan Williams has finally declared Medium to be a “platform not a publication” – an important distinction that was revealed in a correction note on a Fast Company article. And it’s not just the fancy new clothes that “Medium 1.0” comes dressed in, which include full-bleed cover photos and new layout options. It’s also that Medium now has more emphasis on user-curated “Collections,” such as one called “Human Parts.”
That shift puts Medium squarely in competition with Flipboard, a smartphone and tablet-focused reading app, which in March gave its users the ability to curate their own collections, which it calls “magazines.”
Medium’s further additions of a “Top 100” leaderboard and a “Reading List” feed of suggested stories hammer home the message that “This is a place you come to read, and, please, stay a while.”
But Flipboard is often used as simply as a reading tool for feeds: like the way I access my Twitter stream, or updates from Wired. In that way Flipboard is more like the successor to Google Reader.
No, the product to compare to Medium is Tumblr, where the curated topics pages collated the most interesting and compelling content, as judged by a battery of editors, and each with its own ‘top contributors’. (See me down there at the right?)
I find it interesting that Tumblr seems to be changing so slowly — hardly at all — since being acquired by Yahoo. And one of the obvious ways to draw more interest to Tumblr would be the simple avenue of making the curated topics a/ public and b/ better looking. Right now they look like the (relatively unappealing) Tumblr dashboard, and there is little or no room for advertisements.
But I have made several of the curated topic feeds — like Tech and Design — a part of my central daily practice. I have not done that with Medium, although I do use Flipboard every day, too.
Carl Cederström and Peter Fleming, Dead Man Working
I stumbled across this quote in Paul Myerscough’s Short Cuts from the London Review of Books (3 January 2013) which is a solid indictment of the new abnormal in retail chains. He writes of Pret-a-Manger working conditions:
Pret workers aren’t supposed to be unhappy. They are recruited precisely for their ‘personality’, in the sense that a talent show host might use the word. Job candidates must show that they have a natural flair for the ‘Pret Behaviours’ (these are listed on the website too). Among the 17 things they ‘Don’t Want to See’ is that someone is ‘moody or bad-tempered’, ‘annoys people’, ‘overcomplicates ideas’ or ‘is just here for the money’. The sorts of thing they ‘Do Want to See’ are that you can ‘work at pace’, ‘create a sense of fun’ and are ‘genuinely friendly’. The ‘Pret Perfect’ worker, a fully evolved species, ‘never gives up’, ‘goes out of their way to be helpful’ and ‘has presence’. After a day’s trial, your fellow workers vote on how well you fit the profile; if your performance lacks sparkle, you’re sent home with a few quid.
This winnowing process is designed to select for workers who will feed the ‘Pret Buzz’. ‘The first thing I look at is whether the staff are touching each other,’ Clive Schlee, chief executive of Pret since 2003, told theTelegraphin March last year. ‘Are they smiling, reacting to each other, happy, engaged? … I can almost predict sales on body language alone.’ What Pret has understood, and its competitors haven’t (or not yet), is how much money there is to be made from what radical left theorists have been referring to since the 1970s as ‘affective labour’. Work increasingly isn’t, or isn’t only, a matter of producing things, but of supplying your energies, physical and emotional, in the service of others. It isn’t what you make, but how your display of feeling makes others feel. This won’t be news to mothers, nurses and prostitutes, but the massive swelling of the service economy means that emotional availability can no longer be dismissed as women’s work; it must be seen as a dominant commodity form under late capitalism.
The tyranny of hiring to the ‘fit’ of the organizational culture carried to the extreme, where our emotional inclinations and body language is as much of a job requirement as numeracy and communication skills. This, then, is one of the reasons that Marissa Mayer wants all the troops in the building: so that they can be observed for the right sorts of emotionality, and so emotion orientation can be weighed as an asset, transformed to commodity, and paid for.
Salvador Rodriguez, Half of Twitter’s board members rarely tweet
Jack Dorsey, Evan Williams, and Dick Costello have tweeed 14,278, 7,178 and 7,122 times respectively.
Kara Swisher comments on Marjorie Scardino joining Twitter’s board, but notes that there’s still a huge underrepresentation of women in tech at all levels, and especially in leadership roles.
The tech industry — and, more specifically, Silicon Valley — continues to stumble forward in earnest about how few women are represented in its top ranks of management and on its boards. This, despite the enthusiastic embrace of tech products by many women.
This is not a new problem, of course, but one that rears its head periodically as it becomes clear that the ground gained by women in this perhaps most important sector of the economy — a sector more amenable than most to more tolerance and diversity, too — is being lost rather than gained.
Any gander at the variety of studies, and even a not-very-scientific look at the subject, will show that fewer women are starting companies, are being promoted at companies, are funded, are funders, are on boards, are being rewarded in the same way. At a high-profile party I attended last night, for example, the small handful of women in attendance all seemed to notice and comment on the massive sea of men, though the men appeared blissfully unaware of the imbalance.
“They have no idea at all,” one prominent woman said to me, recounting a story about her visit to an advisory meeting of a tech bank board, where she was the single woman in a room full of men. When she brought it up there — not an easy thing for her, since she was the only woman — she was met with a lot of genuine concern when the penny dropped, but few ideas for action.
• Moreover, given her [Sheryl Sandberg’s] positions first at Google and now at Facebook, it is hard not to notice that her narrative is what corporate America wants to hear. - Anne-Marie Slaughter •
The individualistic, libertarian-leaning Silicon Valley types have absorbed the credo that tech is a pure meritocracy, and if there is an imbalance in the number of women in the industry it is a flaw in society as a whole, education, or women’s ambitions. To some extent that is the message of Sheryl Sandberg’s Lean In, which characterizes the barriers to women’s advancement to senior roles as their unwillingness to ‘lean in’ — to be more ambitious, aggressive, and to take on more difficult work.
As Anne-Marie Slaughter put it in a review of Lean In,
Sandberg’s approach, as important as it is, is at best half a loaf. Moreover, given her positions first at Google and now at Facebook, it is hard not to notice that her narrative is what corporate America wants to hear. For both the women who have made it and the men who work with them, it is cheaper and more comfortable to believe that what they need to do is simply urge younger women to be more like them, to think differently and negotiate more effectively, rather than make major changes in the way their companies work.
So is the dearth of women in top jobs due to a lack of ambition or a lack of support? Both, as Sandberg herself grants, proposing that women should “wage battles on both fronts.” Yet she chooses to concentrate only on the “internal obstacles,” the ways in which women hold themselves back. This is unfortunate. As a feminist and a corporate leader, Sandberg seems ideally placed to ask the question that all too often gets lost amid the welter of talk about what women should do, what they should want and how they should behave. When it comes to ensuring that caregivers still have paths to the corner office, how can business lean in?
Do what’s right, and let the chips fall as they may.
I hope Gibbs can make Time lean, agile, and in sync with our postnormal world.
The future of tech is looking… human
Investment in headcount and infrastructure have steadily grown, as companies reach “intermediate” stages of social business. Several are turning their sights from “social media” as an extension of marketing and communications, and seek to push a “social business” agenda throughout the organization. Top findings include:
- Most organizations are “intermediate,” with only 17% self-described as “strategic” in the execution of their social strategies.
- 78% of companies have a dedicated social media team, at the division, corporate or both levels
- Companies are committing more headcount to social media across all sizes of organizations. The biggest jump is for companies with more than 100,000 employees, which now report an average of 49 full-time employees supporting social media, compared to 20 in 2010.
- 85% of companies have an organizational social media policy, yet only 18% of companies report that their employees’ knowledge of social media usage and the organizational policy is either good or very good.
(via Charlene Li, The State of Social Business in 2013 | LinkedIn)
Brian Halligan, CEO of Hubspot, in an interview by Adam Bryant
I also find the interstitial time between waking and sleeping to be the source of insights and creative ideas.