Lead story – Google’s diversity problem – learning from the fallout – articles by Den Howlett and Madeline Bennett
Google had a no good/very bad day (sidenote: best children’s book ever?)- or week, as an engineer put out a scathing, controversial letter on Google’s culture, and was subsequently fired:
- Google’s diversity problem is everyone’s problem – Den puts context to a volatile letter that included questionable statements about the reasons for tech’s gender imbalance.
- Google under the microscope as it fires author of controversial diversity memo – Den revisits the issue that same day – after the firing is announced.
- A response to that Google memo – Women in tech programmes are not a waste of money – Madeline Bennett critiques the memo, arguing that social conditioning is the cause of the tech gender imbalance, not biological differences.
Whether or not the firing was the correct decision, this situation will be defined by how Google handles the critiques raised. It’s a shame this letter fell into gender stereotypes that distracted from an underlying point about a “monoculture” that doesn’t tolerate dissent. What will Google do if someone else speaks out about Google’s workplace culture while avoiding “Code of Conduct” flags and prejudicial language? Limiting this to lambasting Google is foolish. As Den says:
So many of these stories become ‘mots du jour’ and then quickly fizzle until the next blow up. My sense is that organizations need view these as opportunities for improvement that can be credibly reported back into the public domain.
Diversity is a core principle at diginomica but the question has always been: how are hearts and minds actually changed? How do we create diverse teams while learning from uncomfortable, or dissenting views? If tarring and feathering scapegoats on social media qualifies as the answer, then as John Lennon once said – you can count me out.
Bennett’s argument is well-articulated, but what seals the deal for me is hearing so many women personally who felt excluded from tech careers, or the blatant sexism they encountered in those careers, or the pay inequities they continue to experience. Combine that with the superior performance of diverse teams. To me, the practical argument is the most compelling: when we fail those who are excluded, we fail ourselves.
- Wake up America – GDPR is not that far away – Denis sees a freight train heading our way on May 25, 2018, in the form of EU’s new data privacy rules: “Any company wanting to do business in the EU needs to be compliant.”
- Enterprise learnings from the move to XaaS – everything as a service – Phil continues his XaaS megaseries, this time with resl world stories of the move to SaaSy services.
- Adidas aims to boost digital revenues from €1bn to €4bn by 2020 – Stuart on a firm with big digital ambitions. “Pretty aggressive” target? Ya think?
- AXA focuses in on automation and data as it works towards 2020 strategy – Derek on an automation story where the customer experience is the focus. The “InsurTech” incubator to spark new business models intrigues. My insurance providers are
miking the mandatory coverage teatboring by comparison.
Vendor analysis, diginomica style. Here’s my three top choices from our vendor coverage:
- MuleSoft founder wants CIOs to say, ‘There’s an API for that’ – Phil’s catch up with MuleSoft’s founder digs into how IT assets can be “unlocked” via APIs, spiked with real life examples from the likes of Wells Fargo.
- Microsoft’s rural internet strategy – good citizenship or plain old power grab? – It’s a faceoff in the U.S., with Microsoft running into vested interests (broadcasting companies), who object to Microsoft’s prepared use of their “white noise” band for rural internet. I’m with Jerry – broadband for all, even if it’s delivered by a vendor with its own agenda.
- New Relic Q1 FY2018 beats on top and bottom line, holds guidance – Den assesses a vendor on the move – with international expansion in the works.
Jon’s grab bag – Chris tried to make an appointment with Doctor Robot, but found its bedside manner lacking – for now (Calling Doctor Robot – a ten point prescription for AI-enabled social care). Stuart asks: Is the FUD factor fading? Genpact CEO reckons decision-makers are more upbeat. Hmm… wondering how the Genpact CEO feels about the saber-rattling with U.S. and North Korea?
Best of the rest
myPOV: One thing lacking in the AI hype circus is how AI is faring in the gut check of vertical adoption. Three bloggers bit off a chunk of that:
- McKinsey’s State Of Machine Learning And AI, 2017 – Louis Columbus pulls together AI data that includes an industry breakdown. Turns out high tech, automotive and financial services are the leading adopters of AI tech, with laggards including travel, healthcare and construction.
- Cognitive Computing: Getting Clear on Definitions – Lora Cecere, a former Gartner analyst who has lived and breathed the hype cycle, breaks down AI’s supply chain potential as an analytical evolution, with plenty of “buyer beware” caveats. Leave it to Cecere to ask the question, “Can you clarify the business problems that you solve?” C’mon Lora, how are vendors supposed to sell AI tech when you ask questions like that?
- Rage against the machines: is AI-powered government worth it? – Another industry with AI dilemmas is the public sector. Maëlle Gavet writes on World Economic Forum’s blog about five dangers when algorithms make/change policy. This may not be the “threat to democracy itself” that Gavet believes, but it’s a sobering view worth an intellectual grapple (“algorithms don’t do nuance…”)
- Retails Last Resort? Extreme Personalization – Sameer Patel makes a convincing case for the impact of “extreme personalization” on retail sales. Where we might differ is how ready the tech really is. If this is doable now, then why have I rarely – if ever – experienced it? I’m sure Patel has a good answer for our next tête-à-tête.
- Beyond the boring blockchain bubble – B-B-Best blog title of the week? I’m not used to such informed commentary on TechCrunch, but I’ll run with it.
- Edge computing could push the cloud to the fringe – TechCrunch had a good week. Though the issue, with self-driving cars, is not necessarily cloud itself, but the latency of pulling any type of data from a cloud before making a split-second decision. Either way you could argue that self-driving cars will require “on-premise” systems – but that’s not very sexy now is it, so we go with “edge computing.”
- No, enterprise apps should not be left to ‘die in their lifecycle’ – Readers liked this piece on how enterprises should handle apps that aren’t cloud-ready yet.
- The enterprise technologies to watch in 2017 – Lots of tech cud to chew here. If a phrase like “fog computing” every takes off, then this column has officially failed.
- So about this Dell digital transformation story. Pivots – it’s not easy to write usefully about your clients, but it can be done. Good example.
- 10 hot data analytics trends — and 5 going cold – Not a big fan of the what’s hot/what’s not format but at least it’s not a freakin’ slide show format.
Losing my religion award – Tai Chi master who claimed to have supernatural powers got a very unsupernatural butt-whipping in a martial arts fight:
Bite the hand that feeds award – In one of the greatest celebrity endorsement meltdowns of all time, Helen Mirren admits L’Oreal moisturiser ‘probably does f— all’ – during a L’Oreal panel where she appeared as a paid endorser.
The celebrities-are-cool has gone too far award – Japanese chicken take-out chain offers human sweat flavored sauce.
The “we need pageviews too” linkbait title award (to the BBC) – Sperm count drop ‘may lead to human extinction’
Internet of Things is changing western civilization award – A Fridge Dumped in Levenshulme Has Its Own Twitter Account. Where are we in the IoT hype cycle again?
Chatbots need lawyers too award – Chinese chatbot vanishes after spurning Communist Party. Then, the follow up: Chinese chatbots apparently re-educated after political faux pas.
And, of course, the “Hey, don’t leave us out of the gender absurdity headlines” Uber award goes to, of course, Uber:
Uber’s search for a female CEO has been narrowed down to 3 men https://t.co/PiZjxcuwGn -> this is going well
— Jon Reed (@jonerp) August 5, 2017
Finally, last week’s hits and misses noted a weird story about Facebook researchers taking a bot offline after it developed its own language to communicate with other machines, which I referred to as creepy interesting.
Well, this week, Snopes did a fact check: Did Facebook Shut Down an AI Experiment Because Chatbots Developed Their Own Language? They do a pretty thorough debunking of the story, which of course qualifies as an
embarrassing hypocritical lapse self-whiff on my part. Snopes is a bit too casual about the one true part of the story. This machine did develop its own shorthand communication. I stand by the “creepy interesting” comment. The rest was completely and totally wrong. And on we go…
If you read an #ensw piece that qualifies for hits and misses, let me know in the comments as Clive always does.
Image credit - Cheerful Chubby Man © RA Studio, Happy Children © Anna Omelchenko, Waiter Suggesting Bottle © Minerva Studiom, Overworked Businessman © Bloomua, at the seaside © olly - all from Fotolia.com.
Disclosure - SAP, Oracle, Workday, New Relic and Salesforce are diginomica premier partners as of this writing.