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⛵ Uber's Titanic | 👁️ Apple's 1984 | 🕺 Facebook's Truman Show

⛵ Uber's Titanic | 👁️ Apple's 1984 | 🕺 Facebook's Truman Show
By Connected Paths (Riaz Kanani) • Issue #23 • View online

Uber accelerates change
Uber, the company that has changed the way we find a taxi has been “in trouble” for years. Fighting lawsuits around its business model, fighting its corner on how it treats its drivers, employees and even its customers. All whilst building a very global and valuable business.
As each year passed though, the negative stories about its internal culture, harassment and discrimination continued to grow. As recently as two weeks ago, following an internal investigation, 20 people were fired with more still under investigation. It seemed like a clean out of the company had begun and Uber, having resisted for years was cleaning house very publicly.
The public approach was needed to start shifting the public opinion of Uber and to start a change in culture inside Uber itself. The latter though is much harder to achieve, cultures are sticky and deeply embedded at companies as large and global as Uber. It needs big moves to alter the direction.
Well the biggest move of all happened this week. The founder and majority shareholder of Uber, Travis Kalanick resigned as CEO, days after stepping down temporarily. It is now clear that Uber’s investors pushed for this to happen - though it required Kalanick’s agreement as the voting structure of the company gives him control.
The resignations didn’t stop there either. Bill Gurley, partner at VC firm, Benchmark was widely seen as the driving force behind Kalanick leaving. He has been replaced by a fellow partner at Benchmark. He was one of Uber’s biggest fans from its earliest days and along with all the upheaval within the company, it may have started righting its cultural ills but so much change at the top of a company can make executing on a strategic plan difficult in such a rapidly changing environment. Each new person will add his or her own ideas and they will all be jostling for position in a company that now has a very big power vacuum.
Apple is not living 1984. Really.
For all the claims of openness within the tech world, being able to determine when a product or innovation is announced into the world is something all the major tech companies seek to control. 
Apple is the standard bearer in terms of controlling its secrets. For years its products rarely leaked and when they did they pressured the press into not publishing them. Gizmodo famously ignored this and was blacklisted by Apple as a result. (More here and here).
Since Tim Cook has become CEO of Apple, the leaks seem to have increased dramatically. Most came via leaks in its distribution chain (usually via its factories) and it looks like this has been the focus. A document has leaked (the irony) showing the lengths Apple have taken to lock down its distribution. 
In short, Apple has hired people from across the intelligence agencies to create a team that I suspect is feared across Apple. Apple of course denies this and suggests there isn’t a big brother watching, reading emails and following you on the bus. Though what happens when you are under suspicion is of course unsaid.
For now, it has worked, with the distribution chain leaking less than Apple’s own campus.
One other snippet also caught my eye though - the group are telling employees to watch what they say in hallways and the lobby. Didn’t Apple just spend $5bn on a new campus HQ designed to encourage collaboration? 
Facebook is good.
Alyssa Pointer / Chicago Tribune
Alyssa Pointer / Chicago Tribune
Finally, Facebook made a slew of announcements this past week at its first ever community summit in Chicago. The biggest was changing its mission. Its now old mission was “making the world more open and connected” and was felt to have flaws (which it did - especially when it came to privacy). The new one builds on a theme they announced last year: “bring the world closer together”. Suitably fluffy and cuddly sounding. #notcynical
Some are suggesting this might result in less ads on Facebook. I’m not convinced this impacts there. In fact, I am not sure this will change anything significantly that hasn’t already been announced as this is something they have been thinking strategically about for some time now. The change just confirms this shift. 
The business model will not change, advertising will remain the key driver of revenue. I think we can safely say the “privacy is dead” meme is itself dead (hoorah!) and will result in both a greater control of your own privacy (when it comes to sharing with the public not Facebook) and an increased ability to connect in smaller groups. Obviously they still need to deal with their fake news problem and I’d like them to make it easier to deal with the increased polarisation effects the network has by only showing you views you agree with. Both things I believe are being worked on.
You can see Mark Zuckerberg’s full speech here.
One of the big challenges Facebook and other communities online face is how women are treated. Often women self censor by saying they are male or not disclosing a gender. This obviously says something about our society both offline and online. India has very visibly had issues on this topic offline and Facebook India has come up with a way to protect women’s profile photos from being shared etc. (See more here). It is a nice idea but unless it also stops people taking photos of the profile images (it doesn’t) I am not sure this will do much to change behaviour. In any case, this is something that society itself in India need to fix.
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Connected Paths (Riaz Kanani)

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