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Though I saw it all around
Never thought I could be affected
Thought that we'd be the last to go
It is so strange the way things turn

Saturday, February 1, 2014

Everything you know is wrong

Okay, somethings I've wanted to talk about having been building up, and I think we've reached terminal velocity.

First up, Amazon (or beer/pizza) drones. Look, this was a marketing gimmick. Absolutely for the near future this isn't going to happen. And it won't happen for a very simple reason; energy density. Let's say we're able to get pasts FAA and zoning restrictions, the energy density problem will end this concept. To do this right you need a drone that can hover, so it can deliver the package safely. Next, you need a fairly small drone (you don't want to be parking Cessna sized drones on people's front door steps), and this is where the helicopter system the Marines are using to deliver supplies won't be applicable, besides having actual dedicated space for the drone to land. So that leads us to a version of those small quad-rotor things. As every good science fiction fan knows, you need to be able to not only carry yourself, your payload, but your fuel with you as you launch. For these copters to work you need a very small, stable, energy dense source. That means high-effiency batteries or liquid fuel. Batteries are better (energy to weight, and stable weight), but there aren't good enough for more than a few minutes. Your range is very limited. Liquid fuel cells have a similar problem (along with noise, heavier engines, and the problem of the dynamic weight), but don't extend your range very much. So that leads to needing to have a different delivery source to get the package into neighborhood range. Unlike high-speed internet, the "last-mile" barriers aren't that great here. While Tobias Buckell said to me that we could use delivery blimps to get the product (and the drones) close enough, blimps have their own problems (they aren't stable at low-altitudes in all weather). All of these problems are not insurmountable. But they aren't surmountable at anywhere near the costs that UPS/FedEx/USPS charge. So until there is a breakthrough in energy storage (a big one) and a breakthrough in weather stabilization of the small drones (and lighter than air craft), ain't going to happen. The USA is damn big, this is why the USPS is a governmental organization (and UPS and FedEx don't offer the same service everywhere).

Now, pizza drones may make more sense (although the payment systems will need to be worked out). Pizza shops are close to their customers, so travel distances are short (still longer than most batteries or small tanks could provide). You can standardize the weight loads. But you still have the stability problems.

Next, the Super Bowl is to football the way the World Cup is to rugby. The Super Bowl is corporate America's week to tell itself they're just regular Joes (and Josies). The game itself is just a distraction. This is why everything about the Super Bowl is over the top and looks like a rough parody of what real football is about (note the "ZOMG it's going to snow and be cold, we should never hold it in the North ever again" whining of the past few weeks - yea, I barely am able to listen to TV and I've heard it). Most of the event revolves around parties. The seats are so expensive most football fans will never be able to afford them. This is also why the commercials are as big a part of the game as they are. Corporate America needs to subsidize its habits. That's where the fans come in. The real fan event was the Football Hall of Fame (although that's also been corporatized in the past 15 years or so). Want to see it yourself? Start asking the questions of "how is this unlike a corporate high-level event?" Other than the media coverage, I really can't think of a way it's not. This year may be slightly different, because of the "ZOMG it'll be cold" (or what those of us you live near the HoF call it, real football weather).

I think it's interesting that between the Tea Party and the Occupy Movement, the message with the longest shelf life is the Occupy Movement's message. And even those people who continue to beat the drum for the Tea Party make their statements in the context of the issues Occupy brought to light (ie. "the best way to solve the income inequality problems is to…" insert Tea Party talking point here). The major difference so far is the Tea Party quickly became a political movement and elected true believers, and Occupy is still a social movement.

Advertising really sucks lately. No, really, I don't think these kids know what the hell they're doing. This isn't a whine on, "I'm no longer the target demographic, I don't understand", it's based on knowledge of good visual communication principles and a knowledge of how advertising works. And the social media aspect of it is just laughable. Some companies get it. I know this because I see it and have a memory of thinking, "They get it." But a lot of what I see out there now looks like amateur hour. For some of it I can actually envision the sale meeting and feel the personal desire of the advertisers to make a personal statement (usually, "I've always wanted to make a commercial with a gorilla in it, and I think your widgets would be perfect"). Back to the social media aspect of it, seriously, corporations, you need to get your shit together on this. Do not put the interns on this side of it. I've seen so many promoted tweets and face books postings that are so risible that I'm no longer standing on the sidelines and responding with appropriate snark. And this is the part that gets me, not only is it like shooting fish taped to the end of your gun barrel, these social media idiots either automatically repost my snark, or attempt to respond. Also, there's so much of it, I have to limit myself as to what I'll skewer and what I'll leave alone (note to corporations, even if I immediately think of snark to respond with, if your message actually works, I don't bother with it).

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