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When you build digital stuff all day, you develop opinions. Lots of opinions.


Digital Trends

Technology is willfully obscure. As soon as a new technology or approach is invented, jargon and acronyms sprout around it in a dense thicket. This makes non-technical people feel that technology is a different world; one they can never hope to truly understand. Nonsense. Most technology is intended to be useful and practical. Very few technical concepts aren’t totally accessible to the layperson. Part of my purpose in writing these weekly blog posts is to reduce the complexity around technology and its effect on marketing. This week, I thought I would share some of the people and sources that I depend on to understand technology. Fred Wilson: Laconic Observer Of Folly Years ago, I had the opportunity to speak with Fred Wilson, long time venture capitalist at Union Square Ventures and famous blogger at AVC (link below.) Like an idiot, I was ill-prepared for a meeting where I was to present marketing concepts for one of Mr. Wilson’s many investments. Years of off-the-cuff creative presentations in the style of (I liked to imagine) Don Draper had made me complacent about the need to understand the product or the audience. I went through my (I liked to imagine) “incredibly charming” pitch. Fred Wilson sighed and wordlessly left the room. End of meeting. Having since become a faithful reader of his blog, I can only cringe. Fred Wilson has seen bubbles and bursts aplenty and it has made him impatient with the follies of the tech market. While he occasionally condemns folly that doesn’t exist or celebrates innovation that proves pointless, he is right more often than most. Application to Marketing: Fred Wilson is not focused on marketing. However, his insights about technology and the management of startup ventures have broad applications to marketing and agencies. Pro tip: skip the posts about sports. Patrick Ewing as coach of the Knicks? Please. Next Steps: This is more of a once-every-couple-weeks read. Dip in and read a couple posts, wait a few months and everyone else will be talking about those same things. Read More Andreessen Horowitz: The Smart Kids There is a reason I am now including a second venture capital firm on this short list. VC’s need to make money off technology. Venture capital firms that experience long term success excel at understanding current trends and future implications of those trends. On the incredibly short list of long term successful VC’s Andreessen Horowitz stands out both for their insight and for their generosity in sharing that insight. Partner Ben Horowitz wrote the brilliant startup management book “The Hard Thing About Hard Things” which you have either read or should now leave off what you’re doing to read immediately. Partner Chris Dixon is one of the most insightful writers on technology and the future that I have ever read. And Marc Andreessen is Marc Andreessen. He built the modern browser. Which has proven… useful. Application to Marketing: Andreessen Horowitz divides their blog posts and podcasts into broad subject areas like “cloud infrastructure”, “bitcoin and blockchains”, and “internet of things.” When and if you find yourself challenged by a new, unfamiliar technology, go here first. Although you may need to read several articles or listen to a couple podcasts before you understand their general perspective, I guarantee you will leave with a deeper insight about the underlying technology and its implications than most of your colleagues. Particularly your colleagues who try to hide their lack of fundamental knowledge behind jargon and acronyms. Next Steps: I tend to dip into this site when I need to understand something specific. Then I allow myself to get distracted by other, interesting topics. I encourage you to do the same. Read More Tech Talks: A Window into Google Many people have observed that Google is structured less like a corporation and more like a university. In keeping with the intellectual curiosity that drives the founders of the company, Google offers a lecture series at their campuses around the world. The lectures are recorded and then shared via Youtube as Google Tech Talks. Some of these lectures are deeply technical, focused on computer science and coding challenges. To be honest, I skip these. But many of the talks are concerned with general scientific knowledge or technological trends. They are not short, most last over an hour. And they owe more to the dry style of a lecture hall than some of the dynamic educational content available on Youtube. Ted Talks, they are not. Application to Marketing: Marketers have many names for Google, some flattering, others less so. I honestly don’t think Google is that interested in crushing the advertising industry. The goal is irrelevant to their core mission. I think advertising’s paranoia about Google (see: Sorrell, Martin) has less to do with the company’s agenda and more to do with the disruptive nature of technology. However, coexisting with Google is like sharing a bathtub with an elephant. You might be okay, but it’s best to anticipate what body part the elephant plans to wash next. Google Tech Talks, apart from being very informative about technology, are a window into the giant Google hive mind. Next Steps: Set aside an hour, get yourself a Venti and plow through one of these. Doesn’t really matter which one. Stay away from code-specific lectures, unless you’re feeling exceptionally John Nash today. Read More M.G. Siegler: Token Former Journalist The problem with technology journalism is that there is so much innovation and hype about innovation and hype about hype, that journalists really can’t discern forest or trees. The truly terrible ones become press release bots who cut and paste reams of PR blather into an “article.” The good ones back away from their stuffed inboxes now and again to reflect on the larger trends and implications in the market. M.G. Siegler was one of the latter. During his time at TechCrunch, Siegler’s articles routinely featured thoughtful analysis of the news and its implications. Naturally, this ability was quickly spotted and he was snapped up by Google. Application to Marketing: Now a general partner at Google Ventures, the company’s venture capital investing arm, Siegler continues to offer insight and analysis on his medium blog (link below.) It’s just the type of insight that a marketer who needed to understand technology should be consuming. The lesson, as always, Google is somehow reading my thoughts and stealing all my best ideas. Luckily, I have constructed this handy tinfoil hat… Next Steps: He may work for the evil empire, but his analysis is remarkably even-handed. Worth a bi-weekly read. Read More

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