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On Piketty, Twitter, And Superstar Economics

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On Piketty, Twitter, And Superstar Economics

A number of interactions I’ve had over the last few days have, when looked at through a Code Halos lens, beautifully illustrated...

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A number of interactions I’ve had over the last few days have, when looked at through a Code Halos lens, beautifully illustrated the power Code Halos have – a power that will either excite or terrify you; make you sing hallelujah or lament a simpler time.  

1 Amazon released analysis that showed that the majority of people reading Thomas Piketty’s magnum opus, Capital in the Twenty First Century (on Kindles), give up on p26. [Not me Sir; just finished the whole d-mn thing; took six weeks mind].

2 I requested a duplicate receipt from a recent stay at hotel (no names) over the phone. Initially they said they don’t keep folios beyond a few weeks but when pressed said they’d look into it and see if they could find it. When, after a few days, I didn’t receive it, I Tweeted the hotel with a comment along the lines of “in these Big Data days it’s a little surprising that the hotel doesn’t keep customer information etc”. Within five minutes the hotel had responded to the Tweet and sent it to me.  

3 I had a meeting with a content management software provider (again no names) who was pitching its wares; one element of its offering was that it sources freelance writers, commissions them (on a client’s behalf), provides guidance on keywords that will help with Search Engine Optimization, and then handles the commercials of adjusting writer payments based on social media traffic analysis. Simply put, writers get a low “basic” fee and some of the “back end” if they write something that gets “hits” and “tweets”.

As Jon Stewart would put it, “gooooo ooooon …”

Piketty’s book is the publishing sensation du jour. Reviews have been amazing. The great and the good have all lined up to sing its praises. My take (for what it’s worth) is that yes, it’s an impressive achievement, but its central argument is in part a Memo from the Department of the Bleedin’ Obvious – wealth and poverty compound - and in part a hallucination born of (overly) fine living in the City of Lights – we should tax all capital globally. Whatever, it’s an important book which serious folks of goodwill should read to be both up to speed and as a good summer mental workout. But what its Code Halo shows is that most people give up on it on p.26.  Gee; how can Monsieur Piketty get out of bed in the morning? Code Halos provide a level of real-time insight (in this case into what customers really think about something they’ve bought) that has simply not been available before. This is incredibly exciting, non? But if you’re M. Piketty, presumably incredibly depressing.

For the hotel, the level of insight that Code Halos provide is likewise a double edged sword. When I initially Tweeted my comment they looked bad.  When they responded within a few minutes, to which I replied with a positive Tweet, they looked good. A wild swing in sentiment, all within 10 minutes. Visibility – in a Code Halo world – is the new currency of the realm. [As an aside, this is something that any type of activism is now predicated on; take note 21st Century Unions!].

For freelance writers Code Halos are beginning to introduce “superstar economics”; if you’re Roger Federer you make big money. If you’re the world number 17 you make pretty good money. If you’re world number 47 (and remember that means you’re the 47th best tennis player in the whole world i.e. you are an incredible tennis player), you make pretty average money. In this new economy if your article gets Tweeted about and generates web traffic you’re going to make some money (not Fed money, but some money). If it doesn’t, you are going to find it hard to make a decent living out of writing. Given the assumption that the vast majority of stuff written and put on the web never gets looked at (obviously not this piece!) that is a truly terrifying prospect.

In some of the discussions we’ve had with people about Code Halos in recent months there has been a noticeable split between those who have seen our vision as “Utopian” and those who see it as “Dystopian”. These three vignettes demonstrate, I would suggest, that whilst it’s understandable to think that the future will be either Utopian or Dystopian the reality is that the future will be somewhat like today. Both Utopian and Dystopian. Visibility, born of Code Halos, will expose the good, the bad, and the ugly. [Not you Thomas]. For some this is fantastic; a Utopian world of milk and honey. For others, Code Halos are very worrying indeed; a Dystopia of underachievement observable by all. Gulp.

In short, Codes Halos will accentuate the positive and the negative. 


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