Non-Spoiler @R eview | The Circle (film)

When it was first published, I weighed in on Dave Eggers’ book, The Circle, as I found a lot of the reaction to the book seemed defensive by those who mainline social media Kool-Aid. (You can read the review of the book for the TL;DR version of what I’m about to say about the film.)

I’m not a fan of those who judge a film by how closely it follows the book on which it is based. But I will note there are some backstories that would have been helpful to include, like how did a company emerge that would crush and replace Facebook, Apple, Amazon, and Google? (Non-spoiler answer: The founder of the company developed a non-hackable, secure way for everyone to have a digital identity (called TruYou). TruYou is mentioned a lot, but the disappearance of the current incumbent players is treated merely as a suspension of disbelief — that or the fictional device used when fictional companies, say Stark Industries, or cities, say Gotham City, are used to suggest a real version.

One of the criticisms of the book was Eggers’ boasting in interviews that he didn’t spend a lot of time researching the technology. The film feels the same way (unlike, say, something written by William Gibson). However, the film is more of a satire (not the funny SNL kind, but the literary device) than a techno-thriller, sci-fi drama. Eggers gets the technology “close enough” to make the points he’s trying to make.

Moreover, the past three years of the real-life march of technology has helped prove that Eggers didn’t need to know the workings of technology to predict the outcome that occurs when we start believing that any new announcement by Google or Facebook will lead to a greater good for mankind.

Downside: Unfortunately, the movie is boring at times.

But despite that, the movie is worth seeing for two reasons: Tom Hanks and Emma Thompson. They are allowed to develop as characters and they both have the acting skills to make us believe they are those characters and not the cardboard cutouts seen in most internet-tech films.

Only one other actor rises to his task in the film: the late Bill Paxton as the father of Emma Watson’s character.

Bottomline: The movie, like the book, does point out the unintended consequences of new technology. (Would we be better off today if Twitter was never created?) But it’s not a great movie — it’s not compelling and convincing beyond the two principals.

Recommendation: For people who think Google, Apple, Facebook, and Amazon have taken over the world in evil ways, go see it.

In-House Content vs. Out-House Content

Whenever you start reading analysis by an expert consultant who thinks a company like Pepsi is smart to create an in-house content (or other creative execution) agency for whatever reason, get ready for a trainwreck.

Pepsi’s in-house content people blew it. However, an agency could have, as easily, blown it. But here’s how it should work. In-house, there should be an expertise in the goals and missions of the company; the reasons a product exist.

The “out-source resource” should be the expert in how to develop a content strategy that will reach those goals and missions. They should be experts in the nunace of various types of media, like publishing or digital media.

From the first day of Hammock’s existence, we have told clients and potential ones: “You are the expert in your product, we are the experts in the message and media strategy that will help you sell more products and develop a deeper relationship with customers.”

The real problem is not whether content is better or cheaper if it comes from within an organization. The problem is that content that is developed to make the senior management of a company feel good about themselves (the Pepsi problem), will likely fail.

For more about why companies that focus on messages that please themselves are almost always wrong, read this post from 2014: RIP: Osmo Wiio

How to Know its Time to Update Your Slide Deck

You can take out some slides in 30 seconds if you need to.

Earlier this week, I heard a presentation by a well-known analyst and author who is an expert on topics related to customer service and the technology used in that field.

One of her examples of customer service related to an experience in which a friend of her’s was amazed by a service provider’s customer service phone support. He was blown away by the simple integration of two data points that enabled him to not have to repeat his issue multiple times. “Oh, I see you were just on our website,” the customer support person said.

I would be impressed by that technological breakthrough, myself.

Unfortunately for the presenter, the company was United Airlines and the audience reacted to the example with laughter.

They were not impressed.

You’ve got to admit it: using an example about customer service in the context of massive coverage about how a customer of their’s had been beaten up and dragged off a plane because they were oversold is being far too loyal to one’s presentation deck than necessary.

No Famous Person Ever Said What You Quoted Them Saying

It’s like Einstein said, “Check your sources.”

On Mondays, we almost always post a quotation on SmallBusiness.com using the hashtag #MondayMotivation. It’s difficult for me to come up with a quotation because I insist that the quotation have a primary source, not a second-party attribution. In other words, the quote must be in the writings or public statements of a person or be from someone who was recounting the quotation they heard directly from the source, not from a friend-of-a-friend of the source.

One of the places I look to verify quotes is the Quote Investigator, a website of someone whose pen name is Garson O’Toole.

NPR’s All Things Considered recently ran an interview with O’Toole, who has a new book out called, Hemingway Didn’t Say That: The Truth Behind Familiar Quotations.

Here’s a quote by O’Toole that can be verified by listening to the interview below:”It’s a lot of fun to uncover these hidden histories, and I’m also very glad when I get to give credit to the person who actually said it.”

 

Another place I look is Wikiquote, a project of the organization that runs Wikipedia. It is maintained by hundreds of people who are like O’Tolle. If you go there to look for a specific quote reference to a quote by Einstein or Hemingway, you’ll often be disappointed not to see it. Click on the “Discussion” tab at the top, left side of the box that contains the quote. There you will see a list of quotes that are often attributed to the person, under the heading, “Unsourced.” You’ll also see any debates over the source.

I’m sure I’ve been guilty of lame sourcing, but it’s still a pet-peeve.

Folio: Followup

I’ve now done something I never thought I’d have the chance to do: Follow up on a 20-year-old magazine cover story. And since I’ve only been on one magazine cover, this was my only shot.

A shout-out thanks to Tony Silber who conceived the original story “way back when” (about custom publishers going digital in 1996) and who thought it would be fun to compare the Q&A then, to what they might be today.

One thing I didn’t do 20 years ago was Tweet, but Hammock already managed a couple of web forums and a very active Compuserve group (I was the sysop). We were creating CD Rom projects and publishing branded magazines and books. It was those foundations that enabled me to “get” everything that has been built on such foundations.

There is so much that great content can do for marketers. Unfotunately, when marketers think that content is limited to SEO and lead generation, it’s hard to explain all the other benefits of great customer media and marketing with content.

Oh well, no doubt I’ll still be trying to explain that 20 years from now.

Blast from the past: Revisiting Rex Hammock’s 1996 Folio: cover story https://t.co/ybIFATw782 pic.twitter.com/xqJQVbbnEt

— FOLIO: (@foliomag) April 5, 2017