DataDownload: Can Salesforce be the Netflix of content marketing? A weekly summary of all things Media, Data, Emerging Tech View this email in your browser
Some weeks, the newsletter is easy. Other times it’s hard. This week it’s complicated. Yes, the Salesforce Netflix-of-biz-content story is interesting, the creator economy strikes a cord, and AI Powered Codex is fascinating… but the non-tech news of the world is hard to ignore. Fires burning in California, the danger of climate change on our doorstep, and the rapid sweep of the Taliban in Afghanistan all overwhelm our newsfeeds. Meanwhile, the resurgence of Covid in its new Delta form is creating both a medical and political crisis.
Which isn’t to say the matters of the Media Lab are irrelevant, far from it. We always say we like big problems. And sitting here in the the hot summer of 2021, certainly we have problems to solve.
Reach out with any ideas about how we can do that together.
The NYC Media Lab Must-Read Salesforce Wants Salesforce+ to Be the Netflix of Biz Content
Hot on the heels of its $28B purchase of Slack, Salesforce is sinking its teeth into what TechCrunch calls the “largest content marketing scheme of all time.” Salesforce+ is a new streaming service that aims to “bring the magic of Dreamforce to viewers across the globe with luminary speakers, Trailblazer success stories, and groundbreaking innovation.” Salesforce has demonstrated that there’s substantial interest in its content in the real world — the last Dreamforce conference in 2019 involved over 100K people. But is there a big enough audience hungry for what TechCrunch describes as “your LinkedIn feed brought to life, but in video form”?
Salesforce is considered the most successful SaaS company ever and disclosed almost $6B in revenue in Q2 ’21 — up 23% YOY. But given that Salesforce+ is free, “will it prove to be a money pit, costing buckets of cash to produce with limited returns?” If Salesforce+’s expensive attempt to become the Netflix of business content doesn’t pay off, how long will shareholders support it?
TechCrunch / 4 min read
The creator (or passion) economy now comprises 50M+ independent content creators getting paid for their work in the US. It was supposed to alleviate many of the gig economy’s problems — such as lack of labor protections, income instability, and lack of autonomy. In a perfect world, individual creators would “build an online audience, cultivate direct user relationships, and monetize skills/knowledge, content, and other individualized services” with nothing more than an internet connection and their own talents and abilities.
Passion economy workers may have more autonomy than an Uber driver, but it’s becoming increasingly clear that they too are reliant on a handful of platforms that don’t have their best interests at heart. As platform-meditated work becomes more prevalent, passion economy workers need to fight for their rights. According to Li Jin: “Creator empowerment will be the product of concerted efforts by founders, investors, creators, and the broader tech community to craft structures and platforms that prioritize creator control and ownership.”
Li’s Newsletter / 20 min read Read More Tech+Media Facebook Shares Its Time Card Atomic Clock Tech to Speed Internet Services
Telling time is something we take for granted — just look at your phone. But all of our smartphones and devices — not to mention the servers that underpin modern technology — rely on 100% accurate timekeeping to function. For years, the answer to “what time is it” was provided by the Network Time Protocol. In a related TechCrunch article, Oleg Obleukhov, production engineer at Facebook said: “Almost every single electronic device today uses NTP which you have on your phone, on your watch, on your laptop, everywhere.”
NTP relies on specialized time-keeping boxes like a Stratum 1, built by a handful of companies. Getting new features for these fancy clocks proves difficult and, because of their proprietary nature, Facebook couldn’t fully control the boxes. Obleukhov and his colleague Ahmad Byagowi set out to build a better timepiece. Now Facebook has made the tech open source. For the price of a $300 PCIe card, you can now have your very own atomic clock. According to the developers: “Building a device that is very precise, inexpensive, and free from vendor lock was an achievement. [Now] anyone can build their own Time Card for a fraction of the cost of a regular time appliance.”
Last year, GPT-3 struck fear into the hearts of writers and editors everywhere with its uncanny imitations of natural language. Now coders are in the crosshairs. OpenAI’s new machine learning tool Codex powers Github Copilot and claims to be proficient in 12+ popular programming languages. In plain English, Codex and Copilot can take plain English and turn it into code. According to Greg Brockman, CTO and co-founder at OpenAI: “It takes people who are already programmers and removes the drudge work.”
The Verge says: “[Codex is] not a magic genie that can read your brain, turning every command into flawless code. [It] won’t turn non-coders into expert programmers overnight, but it’s certainly much more accessible than any other programming language out there.”
Clive Thompson was filling out yet another frustrating CAPTCHA when a thought struck: why are these puzzles such mood-killers? Deconstructing the feeling in his Medium piece, he lists several reasons why CAPTCHAs make us subtly uneasy: the crime-scene aesthetic, the lack of human life or nature, the dreary colors, the clinical little grids, but most of all, the fact that these photos weren’t taken by or meant for human enjoyment.
“What has it done to humanity, to be forced us to regard these images, for years on end? Cloudfare recently calculated that we humans collectively spend 500 years, every single day, looking at CAPTCHAs. I’ve often joked on Twitter about the strange philosophical ratholes that CAPTCHAs lead me into. (‘Wait, wait, is the pole that supports a stop sign part of the sign?’) And it’s now common to chuckle over the deep irony that we’re all forced by robots to prove that we’re human. But these pictures? These pictures erode the soul.”
OneZero / 6 min read
“The covid-19 pandemic has reinforced humanity’s dependence on modern tech, but the same tools that enable remote working are also being used to spread disinformation and perpetuate cybercrime. Ambivalence towards technology is nothing new.”
The Economist (YouTube) / 11 min watch
Watch Now What We’re Listening To Podcast: Episode 074: Megan O’Neill, Running For Creativity
“Megan O’Neill is an Irish Singer-Songwriter whose love of music has led her on numerous adventures from arriving in Nashville fresh out of university to performing at private Oscars parties in L.A. In this episode Megan tells host Matt Pycroft how pushing herself physically is integral to her songwriting — she is always exploring her limits whether it’s trial running or writing her next album. Listen for alternative adventure, running, and music.”
Apple Podcasts / 56 min listen
Listen Now Virtual Events Paid Event: Early Bird Tix for “Summit 2021: Future Imperfect”
Date: October 6–7
Our two-day online conference will once again bring together 1,000+ virtual attendees from NYC Media Lab’s core community — including executives, university faculty, students, investors, and entrepreneurs — to explore the future of media and tech in New York City and beyond. Register Here.
Free Event: Building & Creating Trust In Data
Date: August 18, 12PM-1PM EDT
This is the fourth of our 2021 IBM CDO/CTO Summit Series, where leading CDOs, CTOs, and CAOs explore the challenging issues of these extraordinary times. Register Here. A Deeper Look This Is All the Connections in a Bit of Mouse Brain the Size of a Grain of Sand
Mice have long been stand-ins for humans in medical and scientific experiments — often because their brain architecture is very similar to our own. Now, researchers from the Machine Intelligence from Cortical Networks (MICrONS) program have created the most detailed map of a mammalian brain ever. It’s no Jurassic Park (here’s how to use the online visualizer), but mapping 200K neurons and 500M neural connections from a cube of mouse brain that fits inside a grain of sand could “revolutionize machine learning by reverse-engineering the algorithms of the brain.”
Similar to The Human Genome Project, the map is open source. According to MiCrONS scientist, Clay Reid: “The data and these AI-powered reconstructions can be used by anyone with an internet connection and a computer, to ask an extraordinary range of questions about the brain.”
MIT Technology Review / 3 min read