Sherlock lives. Who cares? Luther returns!

Idris Elba’s award-winning detective Luther, a near-genius murder detective whose brilliant mind can’t always save him from the dangerous violence of his passions is returning for two special episodes in 2015, the BBC has announced.

luther

Unlike all those people who do not watch television, I actually do. Big fan of Doctor Who, who like Sherlock, that other Steven Moffat show, combines fantastic episodes with terrible ones. My favourite show is Luther, a brilliant Detective Chief Investigator, completely obsessed with his work. Not a happy fellow by nature, the London he lives in is dark and drab and the crimes bringing out the darkest of human nature do not help either.

Alice, his companion, is a psychopath, sociopath and genius, She is the cold as ice, dark scary version of Rose, Charlie Harper’s stalker in the American sitcom Two And A Half Men. Luther knows Alice murdered her parents but has never been able to prove it. Despite that they grow closer, Alice’ feelings for John Luther make her a bit more human, until is it time to kill again turning her into Luther’s avenging guardian angel. The last episodes ends with the two of them walking into the distance together.

In typical BBC on and off format the show ran for three seasons (2010, 2011 and 2013) and rather unexpectedly today the BBC announced Luther will return in 2015 for two episodes. What makes Luther stand out besides the acting of Idris Elba and bizarre crimes his character has to solve, is the show’s dark and devious undertone contrasts sharply with Sherlock’s happy peppy kind of crime solving.

Over-innovation limits Facebook’s future

Facebook has an innovation problem for which it compensates by “over-innovation” of existing products. That strategy backfires, hurting the company’s reputation, making it hard to expand into business software with its recently announced Facebook@Work, a tool for messaging and collaboration,

The company is successful because of its first mover advantage, networking effects and the backing of Silicon Valley’s venture capital community. Somebody had to create a global digital community after the novelty of the internet wore of. It turned out to be Mark Zuckerberg, but what qualifies Facebook to make the same inroads in other areas? It is just one of many companies trying to influence and predict what the future will look like, but changes often come from a direction nobody expects. That is why established companies buy start-ups when they miss a trend. Unfortunately it is often done without a clear sense of direction or good fit with the overall strategy.

We have to do something. Anything!

Facebook’s problem is over-innovation. Just take Whatsapp. It is huge in Europe. Nobody texts any more. Facebook paid 19 billion for it. Other than a pre-emptive strike to keep Whatsapp out of the hands of its competitors at any price that is a lot of money Mr Zuckerberg spent without a clear idea of how to recoup it.

When management is cornered there is always that burning desire to do something, anything, it does not matter what (other than think harder). For Mark Zuckerberg being so succesful at a young age that pressure is many times of what other CEO’s experience. He has to prove he is not a one hit wonder. His legacy is already at stake.

Often doing something means tweaking an existing product. That feels good. At least you have done something. Unfortunately “doing something” often means a step back from the user’s perspective. Extra bells and whistles, just for the extra bells and whistles, may make management feel like they tried but what they really did is annoy users by complicating and cluttering a product with unwanted or even outright annoying features. The original Whatsapp is a point in case. It is a good product, not to complicated, people love it and it works well. A few days ago in true Facebook style, its engineers pushed the blue ticks, probably to see what happened. People did not like it so they partially reversed it. At least management did something but at a cost. Those annoying minor “upgrades” do not add value nor do they help Facebook make money of its investment. The real risk is people switching apps in a heartbeat. Especially young people are not exactly known to be a captive audience.
Perhaps their experience in pushing the boundaries of of privacy – try first ask later – let them to believe this strategy might work. Changing the small print does not change the user experience but bells and whistles do.

Daddy CEO

Now move on to that CEO in the market for some new communication system. While reading an ugly letter from some vulture capitalist complaining about his companies’ under performing share price, his daughter sends him a picture using Whatsapp. A cute kitten, can she adopt her? “Please daddy, please.” He reads the message and the ticks turn blue so his daughter knows he read it. Nine year olds are not known for their patience. Daddy read my message 10 minutes ago but he doesn’t answer, nor does he in 30 minutes. After an hour the bomb bursts. “You do not love me daddy, you do not answer me. Why can I not have that kitten, she is so sweet. I’ll name her after grandma.”
She uses all the tricks in the book and finally daddy types back “OK”, just to have some peace and quiet. The next day he reads how Whatsapp partially reverses those blue ticks and he gets cross. Not much of a cat lover, a bit allergic to those fury hairballs, he regrets his decision for a long time to come, all because of Facebook had a hit and miss.

Out of its league

IT software in a corporate environment is very different from a free app or Facebook account. Software implementation in large companies run often over budget, are high risk and they are  complicated projects, whole graveyards are filled with managers who fell on their sword promising to deliver the impossible. Switching costs are high so basically you buy yourself a ball and chain. Facebook’s reputation for “see what happens, we can always roll it back” will make it a hard sell to convince businesses to use their product. Facebook needs to start focussing on customer needs rather than its own. The company misses a proven track record to convince corporations to use its messaging tool.
In the post Edward Snowden era corporate security has become a major factor in decision making. For non-US companies buying IT systems from an American company bound by numerous known and unknown laws to hand over information is a risk. not only for Facebook, but all American companies. That will add to the challenge as well.

Perhaps taking a clue from the Google play book, Facebook should bring in an external CEO to guide Facebook through its next growth phase, redesigning its reputation while Mark Zuckerberg redesigns his wardrobe, starting with shedding his hoodie.

Uber is not a tech startup

Bloomberg columnist Katie Brenner wonders “what happens when you’re pushed out of the tech startup club”, but Uber, a smartphone app to order a taxi, is just another 21th century company.

Is Uber a tech startup or is it a company that acts as intermediary between passengers and drivers, using custom software to take their ideas from the drawing board to their users? Software these days is just another tool for business. Just because Uber (kind of) created a hype around its product does not make it special. Barriers to entry are pretty low, Uber’s vicious attacks on competitor Lyft illustrate just that. What if Uber wasn’t an app for taxi’s but restaurants? Would that generate the same kind of publicity and valuation or is it the underlying mall-functioning taxi market that causes it? Don’t believe the hype, it is a bubble.

The folly that is listicles

Stephanie Denning writes in Forbes why millennial love listicles, articles in the form of a list.  Like most modern journalism the headline at best partially covers what follows.

Listicles are snacks from a user’s perspective and fillers from an editor’s perspective. Cheap to make with lots of nice pictures, no need for people who can write, my guess they will be computer generated within a few years. The fact that they are easy to share does not mean people actually read them. In fact most things that people share they did not read before they shared the social media button.

Even listicles require minimum standards, they compete with Snapchat and Instagram for screen time. Some publications can get away with listicles, think of “5 ways to turn a bad hair day into a good one” but when it comes to actual information rather than entertainment most people prefer an article written by someone who knows what they’re talking about rather than some list. An article reads easier and a well written article has a summary at the beginning so the reader can asses if the article is of potential interest to him.

An editor who clearly is not a millennial (but neither am I) invites one to write about how a younger generation thinks about the important phenomena of listicles only to explain in the comments what the author really means: “Stephanie is, I think, suggesting…” Yes Dad.

There is this whole silly notion that sharing is the new content but what actually happens is that all those magazines and websites are bleeding red ink because they have been reduced to content provider to fill the framework that is social media. In a desperate attempt to escape the clutches from this James Bond 2.0 type of villain they suggest “now read this next” at the end of the article (if you are lucky) which does not work because the reader only has a casual interest in any particular publication.

Clicks do not make money, nor do shares. Good journalism costs money but do not worry if Forbes is to perish no doubt some one will create a listicle of all the things management could have done to prevent it.