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Big Revolution - Why platforms need a 'value compass'

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Welcome to today's Big Revolution, brought to you from my sofa somewhere in south Manchester. – Marti
 
June 7 · Issue #102 · View online
Big Revolution
Welcome to today’s Big Revolution, brought to you from my sofa somewhere in south Manchester.
Martin

Big things you need to know today
- Microsoft has sunk an experimental data centre off the coast of Scotland, to find out if the sea is the best way to cool servers.
- ‘VPNFilter,’ the malware that infects internet routers, is more widespread than previously thought. Find out if your router is on the list of hardware vulnerable to the supposedly Russia-originated attack.
- This will be a movie someday: mysterious illnesses suffered by US officials in Cuba have spread to colleagues in China. The source of the Cuba incidents was never discovered, although a ‘sonic weapon’ was one theory, and Cuban government was quick to deny responsibility.
- If you want to try casual stock market trading in Europe, Revolut is launching a service similar to American app Robinhood, although I have no idea why they’ve announced it without a launch date.
- Facebook is launching a series of live news shows in the US this summer. But it’s not a media company, honest.
- Those hour-long Instagram videos aren’t for users, TechCrunch reports. It was claimed yesterday that Instagram would soon let people upload 60-minute videos, but apparently this will only be for brands to use, as the app looks to ape Snapchat’s Discover section.
The big thought
Credit: Aaron Burden on Unsplash
Why platforms need a ‘value compass’
It seems online platforms are having more trouble than ever in figuring out what it is they believe in.
Late last week, Spotify walked back its controversial policy of banning (some) controversial artists from its own playlists and promotional activities. Twitter regularly changes its mind about what it will let people do on its platform – so often that it amuses pundits as much as it frustrates them.
And yesterday, Valve announced a new content policy for Steam. Or rather, it’s a 'non-policy’ that says 'anything goes’ in terms of games sold through its platform as long as they’re legal and are not 'trolling.’
You don’t have to be a soothsayer to foresee how this could go wrong. While Valve appears to have absolved all responsibility for the content of the games it sells, the word 'trolling’ is doing a lot of work. Valve are the arbiters of what or what isn’t 'trolling’ here, which sounds a whole lot like editorial control over what appears on Steam.
Tech companies tend to want as little editorial control as possible over what’s posted to their platforms. Too much tweaking to a broad set of rules and they risk being regulated like media companies. Take too much of a stance on what they deem acceptable, and in today’s hyper-polarised world they risk excluding a big chunk of their potential market.
It’s understandable that they want to be neutral, but if you deal in third-party content, that’s not really possible. You’re going to have to make some kind of stand at some point about some kind of content. And if you don’t know what you believe in as a company, you’re going to come unstuck, with a hamfisted attempt at doing the right thing that comes back to bite you.
Just as important is having an editor’s conviction. Apple makes seemingly arbitrary decisions about what is and isn’t allowed on its App Store, but they’re broadly consistent with an 'Apple view of the world.’ Even if not everyone likes every decision the company makes, they generally accept them.
If you’re starting a new platform business, you should have as strong an internal set of values as possible, and stick to them rigorously. You don’t need to be like Lush and loudly protest against police malpractice, but having a strong 'value compass’ will help navigate stormy waters in the future. 
Start off neutral, and you risk others projecting their own values onto you, and turning nasty when you don’t match up to their expectations.
One big read
When Crypto Meets Conceptual Art, Things Get Weird When Crypto Meets Conceptual Art, Things Get Weird
Kevin Abosch is taking the ideas behind cryptocurrencies in some unusual directions with his latest artworks. The New York Times takes a look.
One big tweet
The now clichéd tech event format was cool when Steve Jobs did it, but it even looks tired when Apple does it now…
Heather Kelly 🦁
Can someone disrupt tech press events? Like, rethink the entire CEO Man Pacing on Stage Dramatically Claiming Gadget Changes Lives. (Hi, I’m at a Sonos event)
5:04 PM - 6 Jun 2018
That’s all for today...
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