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Julie Plavnik

Julie Plavnik

1 year ago

Why the Creator Economy needs a Web3 upgrade

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Andy Walker

Andy Walker

1 year ago

Why personal ambition and poor leadership caused Google layoffs

Google announced 6% layoffs recently (or 12,000 people). This aligns it with most tech companies. A publicly contrite CEO explained that they had overhired during the COVID-19 pandemic boom and had to address it, but they were sorry and took full responsibility. I thought this was "bullshit" too. Meta, Amazon, Microsoft, and others must feel similarly. I spent 10 years at Google, and these things don't reflect well on the company's leaders.

All publicly listed companies have a fiduciary duty to act in the best interests of their shareholders. Dodge vs. Ford Motor Company established this (1919). Henry Ford wanted to reduce shareholder payments to offer cheaper cars and better wages. Ford stated.

My ambition is to employ still more men, to spread the benefits of this industrial system to the greatest possible number, to help them build up their lives and their homes. To do this we are putting the greatest share of our profits back in the business.

The Dodge brothers, who owned 10% of Ford, opposed this and sued Ford for the payments to start their own company. They won, preventing Ford from raising prices or salaries. If you have a vocal group of shareholders with the resources to sue you, you must prove you are acting in their best interests. Companies prioritize shareholders. Giving activist investors a stick to threaten you almost enshrines short-term profit over long-term thinking.

This underpins Google's current issues. Institutional investors who can sue Google see it as a wasteful company they can exploit. That doesn't mean you have to maximize profits (thanks to those who pointed out my ignorance of US corporate law in the comments and on HN), but it allows pressure. I feel for those navigating this. This is about unrestrained capitalism.

When Google went public, Larry Page and Sergey Brin knew the risks and worked hard to keep control. In their Founders' Letter to investors, they tried to set expectations for the company's operations.

Our long-term focus as a private company has paid off. Public companies do the same. We believe outside pressures lead companies to sacrifice long-term opportunities to meet quarterly market expectations.

The company has transformed since that letter. The company has nearly 200,000 full-time employees and a trillion-dollar market cap. Large investors have bought company stock because it has been a good long-term bet. Why are they restless now?

Other big tech companies emerged and fought for top talent. This has caused rising compensation packages. Google has also grown rapidly (roughly 22,000 people hired to the end of 2022). At $300,000 median compensation, those 22,000 people added $6.6 billion in salary overheads in 2022. Exorbitant. If the company still makes $16 billion every quarter, maybe not. Investors wonder if this value has returned.

Investors are right. Google uses people wastefully. However, by bluntly reducing headcount, they're not addressing the root causes and hurting themselves. No studies show that downsizing this way boosts productivity. There is plenty of evidence that they'll lose out because people will be risk-averse and distrust their leadership.

The company's approach also stinks. Finding out that you no longer have a job because you can’t log in anymore (sometimes in cases where someone is on call for protecting your production systems) is no way to fire anyone. Being with a narcissistic sociopath is like being abused. First, you receive praise and fancy perks for making the cut. You're fired by text and ghosted. You're told to appreciate the generous severance package. This firing will devastate managers and teams. This type of firing will take years to recover self-esteem. Senior management contributed to this. They chose the expedient answer, possibly by convincing themselves they were managing risk and taking the Macbeth approach of “If it were done when ’tis done, then ’twere well It were done quickly”.

Recap. Google's leadership did a stupid thing—mass firing—in a stupid way. How do we get rid of enough people to make investors happier? and "have 6% less people." Empathetic leaders should not emulate Elon Musk. There is no humane way to fire 12,000 people, but there are better ways. Why is Google so wasteful?

Ambition answers this. There aren't enough VP positions for a group of highly motivated, ambitious, and (increasingly) ruthless people. I’ve loitered around the edges of this world and a large part of my value was to insulate my teams from ever having to experience it. It’s like Game of Thrones played out through email and calendar and over video call.

Your company must look a certain way to be promoted to director or higher. You need the right people at the right levels under you. Long-term, growing your people will naturally happen if you're working on important things. This takes time, and you're never more than 6–18 months from a reorg that could start you over. Ambitious people also tend to be impatient. So, what do you do?

Hiring and vanity projects. To shape your company, you hire at the right levels. You value vanity metrics like active users over product utility. Your promo candidates get through by subverting the promotion process. In your quest for growth, you avoid performance managing people out. You avoid confronting toxic peers because you need their support for promotion. Your cargo cult gets you there.

Its ease makes Google wasteful. Since they don't face market forces, the employees don't see it as a business. Why would you do when the ads business is so profitable? Complacency causes senior leaders to prioritize their own interests. Empires collapse. Personal ambition often trumped doing the right thing for users, the business, or employees. Leadership's ambition over business is the root cause. Vanity metrics, mass hiring, and vague promises have promoted people to VP. Google goes above and beyond to protect senior leaders.

The decision-makers and beneficiaries are not the layoffees. Stock price increase beneficiaries. The people who will post on LinkedIn how it is about misjudging the market and how they’re so sorry and take full responsibility. While accumulating wealth, the dark room dwellers decide who stays and who goes. The billionaire investors. Google should start by addressing its bloated senior management, but — as they say — turkeys don't vote for Christmas. It should examine its wastefulness and make tough choices to fix it. A 6% cut is a blunt tool that admits you're not running your business properly. why aren’t the people running the business the ones shortly to be entering the job market?

This won't fix Google's wastefulness. The executives may never regain trust after their approach. Suppressed creativity. Business won't improve. Google will have lost its founding vision and us all. Large investors know they can force Google's CEO to yield. The rich will get richer and rationalize leaving 12,000 people behind. Cycles repeat.

It doesn’t have to be this way. In 2013, Nintendo's CEO said he wouldn't fire anyone for shareholders. Switch debuted in 2017. Nintendo's stock has increased by nearly five times, or 19% a year (including the drop most of the stock market experienced last year). Google wasted 12,000 talented people. To please rich people.

Tim Smedley

Tim Smedley

1 year ago

When Investment in New Energy Surpassed That in Fossil Fuels (Forever)

A worldwide energy crisis might have hampered renewable energy and clean tech investment. Nope.

BNEF's 2023 Energy Transition Investment Trends study surprised and encouraged. Global energy transition investment reached $1 trillion for the first time ($1.11t), up 31% from 2021. From 2013, the clean energy transition has come and cannot be reversed.

BNEF Head of Global Analysis Albert Cheung said our findings ended the energy crisis's influence on renewable energy deployment. Energy transition investment has reached a record as countries and corporations implement transition strategies. Clean energy investments will soon surpass fossil fuel investments.

The table below indicates the tripping point, which means the energy shift is occuring today.

BNEF calls money invested on clean technology including electric vehicles, heat pumps, hydrogen, and carbon capture energy transition investment. In 2022, electrified heat received $64b and energy storage $15.7b.

Nonetheless, $495b in renewables (up 17%) and $466b in electrified transport (up 54%) account for most of the investment. Hydrogen and carbon capture are tiny despite the fanfare. Hydrogen received the least funding in 2022 at $1.1 billion (0.1%).

China dominates investment. China spends $546 billion on energy transition, half the global amount. Second, the US total of $141 billion in 2022 was up 11% from 2021. With $180 billion, the EU is unofficially second. China invested 91% in battery technologies.

The 2022 transition tipping point is encouraging, but the BNEF research shows how far we must go to get Net Zero. Energy transition investment must average $4.55 trillion between 2023 and 2030—three times the amount spent in 2022—to reach global Net Zero. Investment must be seven times today's record to reach Net Zero by 2050.

BNEF 2023 Energy Transition Investment Trends.

As shown in the graph above, BNEF experts have been using their crystal balls to determine where that investment should go. CCS and hydrogen are still modest components of the picture. Interestingly, they see nuclear almost fading. Active transport advocates like me may have something to say about the massive $4b in electrified transport. If we focus on walkable 15-minute cities, we may need fewer electric automobiles. Though we need more electric trains and buses.

Albert Cheung of BNEF emphasizes the challenge. This week's figures promise short-term job creation and medium-term energy security, but more investment is needed to reach net zero in the long run.

I expect the BNEF Energy Transition Investment Trends report to show clean tech investment outpacing fossil fuels investment every year. Finally saying that is amazing. It's insufficient. The planet must maintain its electric (not gas) pedal. In response to the research, Christina Karapataki, VC at Breakthrough Energy Ventures, a clean tech investment firm, tweeted: Clean energy investment needs to average more than 3x this level, for the remainder of this decade, to get on track for BNEFs Net Zero Scenario. Go!

Frederick M. Hess

Frederick M. Hess

1 year ago

The Lessons of the Last Two Decades for Education Reform

My colleague Ilana Ovental and I examined pandemic media coverage of education at the end of last year. That analysis examined coverage changes. We tracked K-12 topic attention over the previous two decades using Lexis Nexis. See the results here.

I was struck by how cleanly the past two decades can be divided up into three (or three and a half) eras of school reform—a framing that can help us comprehend where we are and how we got here. In a time when epidemic, political unrest, frenetic news cycles, and culture war can make six months seem like a lifetime, it's worth pausing for context.

If you look at the peaks in the above graph, the 21st century looks to be divided into periods. The decade-long rise and fall of No Child Left Behind began during the Bush administration. In a few years, NCLB became the dominant K-12 framework. Advocates and financiers discussed achievement gaps and measured success with AYP.

NCLB collapsed under the weight of rigorous testing, high-stakes accountability, and a race to the bottom by the Obama years. Obama's Race to the Top garnered attention, but its most controversial component, the Common Core State Standards, rose quickly.

Academic standards replaced assessment and accountability. New math, fiction, and standards were hotly debated. Reformers and funders chanted worldwide benchmarking and systems interoperability.

We went from federally driven testing and accountability to government encouraged/subsidized/mandated (pick your verb) reading and math standardization. Last year, Checker Finn and I wrote The End of School Reform? The 2010s populist wave thwarted these objectives. The Tea Party, Occupy Wall Street, Black Lives Matter, and Trump/MAGA all attacked established institutions.

Consequently, once the Common Core fell, no alternative program emerged. Instead, school choice—the policy most aligned with populist suspicion of institutional power—reached a half-peak. This was less a case of choice erupting to prominence than of continuous growth in a vacuum. Even with Betsy DeVos' determined, controversial efforts, school choice received only half the media attention that NCLB and Common Core did at their heights.

Recently, culture clash-fueled attention to race-based curriculum and pedagogy has exploded (all playing out under the banner of critical race theory). This third, culture war-driven wave may not last as long as the other waves.

Even though I don't understand it, the move from slow-building policy debate to fast cultural confrontation over two decades is notable. I don't know if it's cyclical or permanent, or if it's about schooling, media, public discourse, or all three.

One final thought: After doing this work for decades, I've noticed how smoothly advocacy groups, associations, and other activists adapt to the zeitgeist. In 2007, mission statements focused on accomplishment disparities. Five years later, they promoted standardization. Language has changed again.

Part of this is unavoidable and healthy. Chasing currents can also make companies look unprincipled, promote scepticism, and keep them spinning the wheel. Bearing in mind that these tides ebb and flow may give educators, leaders, and activists more confidence to hold onto their values and pause when they feel compelled to follow the crowd.

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James White

James White

1 year ago

Three Books That Can Change Your Life in a Day

I've summarized each.

IStockPhoto

Anne Lamott said books are important. Books help us understand ourselves and our behavior. They teach us about community, friendship, and death.

I read. One of my few life-changing habits. 100+ books a year improve my life. I'll list life-changing books you can read in a day. I hope you like them too.

Let's get started!

1) Seneca's Letters from a Stoic

One of my favorite philosophy books. Ryan Holiday, Naval Ravikant, and other prolific readers recommend it.

Seneca wrote 124 letters at the end of his life after working for Nero. Death, friendship, and virtue are discussed.

It's worth rereading. When I'm in trouble, I consult Seneca.

It's brief. The book could be read in one day. However, use it for guidance during difficult times.

Goodreads

My favorite book quotes:

  • Many men find that becoming wealthy only alters their problems rather than solving them.

  • You will never be poor if you live in harmony with nature; you will never be wealthy if you live according to what other people think.

  • We suffer more frequently in our imagination than in reality; there are more things that are likely to frighten us than to crush us.

2) Steven Pressfield's book The War of Art

I’ve read this book twice. I'll likely reread it before 2022 is over.

The War Of Art is the best productivity book. Steven offers procrastination-fighting tips.

Writers, musicians, and creative types will love The War of Art. Workplace procrastinators should also read this book.

Goodreads

My favorite book quotes:

  • The act of creation is what matters most in art. Other than sitting down and making an effort every day, nothing else matters.

  • Working creatively is not a selfish endeavor or an attempt by the actor to gain attention. It serves as a gift for all living things in the world. Don't steal your contribution from us. Give us everything you have.

  • Fear is healthy. Fear is a signal, just like self-doubt. Fear instructs us on what to do. The more terrified we are of a task or calling, the more certain we can be that we must complete it.

3) Darren Hardy's The Compound Effect

The Compound Effect offers practical tips to boost productivity by 10x.

The author believes each choice shapes your future. Pizza may seem harmless. However, daily use increases heart disease risk.

Positive outcomes too. Daily gym visits improve fitness. Reading an hour each night can help you learn. Writing 1,000 words per day would allow you to write a novel in under a year.

Your daily choices affect compound interest and your future. Thus, better habits can improve your life.

Goodreads

My favorite book quotes:

  • Until you alter a daily habit, you cannot change your life. The key to your success can be found in the actions you take each day.

  • The hundreds, thousands, or millions of little things are what distinguish the ordinary from the extraordinary; it is not the big things that add up in the end.

  • Don't worry about willpower. Time to use why-power. Only when you relate your decisions to your aspirations and dreams will they have any real meaning. The decisions that are in line with what you define as your purpose, your core self, and your highest values are the wisest and most inspiring ones. To avoid giving up too easily, you must want something and understand why you want it.

Dung Claire Tran

Dung Claire Tran

1 year ago

Is the future of brand marketing with virtual influencers?

Digital influences that mimic humans are rising.

Lil Miquela has 3M Instagram followers, 3.6M TikTok followers, and 30K Twitter followers. She's been on the covers of Prada, Dior, and Calvin Klein magazines. Miquela released Not Mine in 2017 and launched Hard Feelings at Lollapazoolas this year. This isn't surprising, given the rise of influencer marketing.

This may be unexpected. Miquela's fake. Brud, a Los Angeles startup, produced her in 2016.

Lil Miquela is one of many rising virtual influencers in the new era of social media marketing. She acts like a real person and performs the same tasks as sports stars and models.

The emergence of online influencers

Before 2018, computer-generated characters were rare. Since the virtual human industry boomed, they've appeared in marketing efforts worldwide.

In 2020, the WHO partnered up with Atlanta-based virtual influencer Knox Frost (@knoxfrost) to gather contributions for the COVID-19 Solidarity Response Fund.

Lu do Magalu (@magazineluiza) has been the virtual spokeswoman for Magalu since 2009, using social media to promote reviews, product recommendations, unboxing videos, and brand updates. Magalu's 10-year profit was $552M.

In 2020, PUMA partnered with Southeast Asia's first virtual model, Maya (@mayaaa.gram). She joined Singaporean actor Tosh Zhang in the PUMA campaign. Local virtual influencer Ava Lee-Graham (@avagram.ai) partnered with retail firm BHG to promote their in-house labels.

Maya and Tosh Zhang in PUMA Rider campaign. Credits to Vulcan Post

In Japan, Imma (@imma.gram) is the face of Nike, PUMA, Dior, Salvatore Ferragamo SpA, and Valentino. Imma's bubblegum pink bob and ultra-fine fashion landed her on the cover of Grazia magazine.

Imma on Grazia cover. Credits to aww.tokyo

Lotte Home Shopping created Lucy (@here.me.lucy) in September 2020. She made her TV debut as a Christmas show host in 2021. Since then, she has 100K Instagram followers and 13K TikTok followers.

Liu Yiexi gained 3 million fans in five days on Douyin, China's TikTok, in 2021. Her two-minute video went viral overnight. She's posted 6 videos and has 830 million Douyin followers.

Liu Yiexi’s video on Douyin. Credits to Ji Yuqiao on Global Times

China's virtual human industry was worth $487 million in 2020, up 70% year over year, and is expected to reach $875.9 million in 2021.

Investors worldwide are interested. Immas creator Aww Inc. raised $1 million from Coral Capital in September 2020, according to Bloomberg. Superplastic Inc., the Vermont-based startup behind influencers Janky and Guggimon, raised $16 million by 2020. Craft Ventures, SV Angels, and Scooter Braun invested. Crunchbase shows the company has raised $47 million.

The industries they represent, including Augmented and Virtual reality, were worth $14.84 billion in 2020 and are projected to reach $454.73 billion by 2030, a CAGR of 40.7%, according to PR Newswire.

Advantages for brands

Forbes suggests brands embrace computer-generated influencers. Examples:

  1. Unlimited creative opportunities: Because brands can personalize everything—from a person's look and activities to the style of their content—virtual influencers may be suited to a brand's needs and personalities.

  2. 100% brand control: Brand managers now have more influence over virtual influencers, so they no longer have to give up and rely on content creators to include brands into their storytelling and style. Virtual influencers can constantly produce social media content to promote a brand's identity and ideals because they are completely scandal-free.

  3. Long-term cost savings: Because virtual influencers are made of pixels, they may be reused endlessly and never lose their beauty. Additionally, they can move anywhere around the world and even into space to fit a brand notion. They are also always available. Additionally, the expense of creating their content will not rise in step with their expanding fan base.

  4. Introduction to the metaverse: Statista reports that 75% of American consumers between the ages of 18 and 25 follow at least one virtual influencer. As a result, marketers that support virtual celebrities may now interact with younger audiences that are more tech-savvy and accustomed to the digital world. Virtual influencers can be included into any digital space, including the metaverse, as they are entirely computer-generated 3D personas. Virtual influencers can provide brands with a smooth transition into this new digital universe to increase brand trust and develop emotional ties, in addition to the young generations' rapid adoption of the metaverse.

  5. Better engagement than in-person influencers: A Hype Auditor study found that online influencers have roughly three times the engagement of their conventional counterparts. Virtual influencers should be used to boost brand engagement even though the data might not accurately reflect the entire sector.

Concerns about influencers created by computers

Virtual influencers could encourage excessive beauty standards in South Korea, which has a $10.7 billion plastic surgery industry.

A classic Korean beauty has a small face, huge eyes, and pale, immaculate skin. Virtual influencers like Lucy have these traits. According to Lee Eun-hee, a professor at Inha University's Department of Consumer Science, this could make national beauty standards more unrealistic, increasing demand for plastic surgery or cosmetic items.

Lucy by Lotte Home Shopping. Credits to Lotte Home Shopping on CNN

Other parts of the world raise issues regarding selling items to consumers who don't recognize the models aren't human and the potential of cultural appropriation when generating influencers of other ethnicities, called digital blackface by some.

Meta, Facebook and Instagram's parent corporation, acknowledges this risk.

“Like any disruptive technology, synthetic media has the potential for both good and harm. Issues of representation, cultural appropriation and expressive liberty are already a growing concern,” the company stated in a blog post. “To help brands navigate the ethical quandaries of this emerging medium and avoid potential hazards, (Meta) is working with partners to develop an ethical framework to guide the use of (virtual influencers).”

Despite theoretical controversies, the industry will likely survive. Companies think virtual influencers are the next frontier in the digital world, which includes the metaverse, virtual reality, and digital currency.

In conclusion

Virtual influencers may garner millions of followers online and help marketers reach youthful audiences. According to a YouGov survey, the real impact of computer-generated influencers is yet unknown because people prefer genuine connections. Virtual characters can supplement brand marketing methods. When brands are metaverse-ready, the author predicts virtual influencer endorsement will continue to expand.

Jenn Leach

Jenn Leach

1 year ago

What TikTok Paid Me in 2021 with 100,000 Followers

Photo by Catherina Schürmann on Unsplash

I thought it would be interesting to share how much TikTok paid me in 2021.

Onward!

Oh, you get paid by TikTok?

Yes.

They compensate thousands of creators. My Tik Tok account

Tik Tok

I launched my account in March 2020 and generally post about money, finance, and side hustles.

TikTok creators are paid in several ways.

  • Fund for TikTok creators

  • Sponsorships (aka brand deals)

  • Affiliate promotion

  • My own creations

Only one, the TikTok Creator Fund, pays me.

The TikTok Creator Fund: What Is It?

TikTok's initiative pays creators.

YouTube's Shorts Fund, Snapchat Spotlight, and other platforms have similar programs.

Creator Fund doesn't pay everyone. Some prerequisites are:

  • age requirement of at least 18 years

  • In the past 30 days, there must have been 100,000 views.

  • a minimum of 10,000 followers

If you qualify, you can apply using your TikTok account, and once accepted, your videos can earn money.

My earnings from the TikTok Creator Fund

Since 2020, I've made $273.65. My 2021 payment is $77.36.

Yikes!

I made between $4.91 to around $13 payout each time I got paid.

TikTok reportedly pays 3 to 5 cents per thousand views.

To live off the Creator Fund, you'd need billions of monthly views.

Top personal finance creator Sara Finance has millions (if not billions) of views and over 700,000 followers yet only received $3,000 from the TikTok Creator Fund.

Goals for 2022

TikTok pays me in different ways, as listed above.

My largest TikTok account isn't my only one.

In 2022, I'll revamp my channel.

It's been a tumultuous year on TikTok for my account, from getting shadow-banned to being banned from the Creator Fund to being accepted back (not at my wish).

What I've experienced isn't rare. I've read about other creators' experiences.

So, some quick goals for this account…

  • 200,000 fans by the year 2023

  • Consistent monthly income of $5,000

  • two brand deals each month

For now, that's all.