The State of Digital in 2018


May 1, 2017


Digital Strategy


Business Owners

Remember ‘Don’t Be Evil’? That was the basis of much of the internet when it was first coined by Google in 1998. It epitomised the libertarian “free the information” approach of many early digital people. That was when the internet was the Wild West and people were too scared to trust information online because their doctor told them not to.

The Power

In the twenty years since ‘Don’t Be Evil’ became a CSR policy for a while before being abandoned, we’ve come a long way to the point where a nerdy IT guy with the mindset of ‘the dumb fucks’ – which he called new members of his community for giving him their information – now owns a community bigger than Islam and Christianity. My guess is he’s terrified at the power he wields – but shuns responsibility for – and the ramifications of that power in cultures he may know little about.

I wonder what Mark Zuckerberg thought when his Chief Happiness Officer told him that Indians were being lynched thanks to the superb user experience work his team had done on WhatsApp – just a small part of his ‘community’. Or the fact that the recent Myanmar massacres of Rohingya’s were all efficiently organised thanks to his enabling platform? Power indeed. So we’ve gone from ‘Don’t be Evil’ and ‘Dumb Fucks’ to a world where the unaccountable PR-focussed decisions of faceless executives in Facebook and Google are reported breathlessly on RTE news in advance of an abortion referendum. But the “right” side won the recent referendum so who cares, right?

What was it that Pastor Niemoller said in Dachau? To paraphrase, “I didn’t speak up for anyone, so when my turn came, there was no one left to speak up for me”.

Its thanks to the Silicon Valley attitude of our “black box is complicated and we don’t control our automatic algorithms (we just code them)” that has led us to a place where GDPR and online privacy is focused on by, maybe well-meaning but crowd-pleasing politicians and legal eagles without thought of the practical ramifications for a huge number of companies of all sizes.

I suppose I really should be grateful that the Irish Data Protection Office has substantially moved from above the Centra in Portarlington (see Google images) to better offices in D2 with a few more quid in their budget. A guy gave me his business card last week at an event and said ‘stay in touch’. I’d like to but how do I prove he gave me his consent to receive commercial communications from my business as required under GDPR?

I’m waiting for the day soon that some bank or other large unloved organisation really screws up PR-wise and someone launches a “GDPR attack” on them. (i.e. Lots of European customers requesting detailed information as per Such an attack would cripple any organisation big or small but not responding properly could lead to massive fines. But I’m sure the politicians and civil servants who drafted GDPR thought that one through so we’re ok…

The Techy Element

Despite its flaws, at least GDPR is headed in the right general direction to save us all – or Europeans at least – from the ravages of the Googles, Facebooks, and programmatic platforms. I’m not sure we can say the same about exit pop-ups. It’s like 1999 called and wants its ‘Calls to Action’ back. Three years ago, ad blockers were all the rage and it looks like I missed it, but shouldn’t they be blocking pop-ups as well? The bliss of Javascript coding I suppose.

As a digital marketer, I’m probably supposed to love extra calls to action and I actually do. I got really turned on by finding a new but bad ’thanks’ page on one of our SAAS clients’ forms this week. 70% of the people who signed up for their free trial with the form didn’t continue because their “thanks” page was so bad.

And speaking of techies with supposedly all the answers, if you know of a website that’s being rebuilt and the developers are planning to use the fairly new and cool Google-supported framework called “Angular”, hasten very slow. Your online visibility will probably die without specialist TLC. This will typically occur to your developers, of course, only after the site is built. Pretty much like Flash was supposedly perfect for everything pre-mobile phones. Seen many Flash sites recently? Me neither.

Have you tried Google Signals? A new bell to add to your digital toolkit. Lots of useful web analytics data you haven’t seen before. I’d recommend it.

Of course if you’re into product ecommerce, make sure you’re doing Amazon PPC. It’s growing very fast but fairly under the mainstream radar. 55% of all product searches in the US start on Amazon and you know that what starts in the US ends up over here eventually. I wonder who ‘our Trump’ is going be in a few years? Maybe Gerry Adams if his new Cookery book plugged ad nauseam on Twitter sells like hot cakes. Hopefully not. I think it’s time I said ‘Ok Google’ to my phone followed by ‘Beam me up, Scotty’. Gotta love voice search.

Til next time.

Is mise le meas

John Ring, MD, TinderPoint