Saturday, September 26, 2015

(The Big Disrupt) Volkswagen: Volkswagen cheating is just the tip of the iceberg

Volkswagen cheating the EPA’s emission test might have sent shockwaves but it didn’t surprise or shock me that a billion dollar corporation cheated on a test for six years straight that would have cost them billions if they failed it. It should be common knowledge that a company as large as Volkswagen sole aim is to make returns on their significant investments and are liable to do whatever it takes to avoid or eliminate anything that impedes their simple if not narrow objective.

However, I grant you that if this was strictly true, Volkswagen executives and engineers it might have calculated that it would have been cheaper for them fail the emission test than cheat and deal with the mother of all nuclear fallouts if they got caught. Since they admitted they cheated, the company has lost a third of its value, drawn the ire of their customers, lost their CEO, opened themselves to a wrath of potential legal cases and fines, and suffered reputational damage that’s looking irreparable.

The thing that surprises me about the whole debacle is that Volkswagen knew that they would fail the diesel emissions tests without cheating, knew what would happen they got caught, were aware it might have been cheaper and whole lot less stressful to fail the test but decided to cheat anyway.

However, what also concerns me is not that they were prepared to roll the dice and pay the price to avoid failing the diesel emissions test, it’s the fact that they knew that their cars are more harmful to the environment (not to mention people) than they let on and were prepared to sell 11m polluting diesel cars around the world just to make their numbers.

Volkswagen could face billions in fines and a criminal investigation in the US alone, a wrath of lawsuits from VW customers across Europe (Europe represents diesel’s biggest market) who fell hook, line, and sinker for the “clean diesel” phenomenon, and even repercussions in Germany as according to Alexander Dobrindt, Germany’s Transport Minister, “ the carmaker had manipulated test results for about 2.8 million vehicles in the country”[1]. The company said that it will set aside $7.3 billion for fines and but with scale of the scandal expanding at every turn, it look like they’re going to need more than that to say the least.

In sum, Volkswagen will have hell to pay as VW’s emissions test scandal is only getting started as it’s quite clear that they aren’t the only carmakers trying to deceive regulators and customers.

[1] A. Cremer, 2015, Volkswagen Picks company veteran to tackle emissions crisis,

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

(The Big Disrupt) Ad Blocking: So Who's Afraid Of The Ad Blocking Wolf?

Ad blocking is not or revolutionary and have been around for a decade but the effect they could have publishers and advertisers could change the shape of the internet as we know it.
The rise of ad blocking has sent a silent shivers down the spine of both publishing and advertising executives backs as a lingering threat in the wings has now taken centre stage. However, neither party can be shocked with explosive rise in the popularity of ad blocking as nobody likes ads on any platform but everybody hates ads on the internet.

People don’t like ads on TV or radio because they get in the way of favorite shows but no one likes ads on the internet because, intrusive, creepy and annoying. They slow down sites, are a little too on the nose about our preferences and are getting harder to get rid of as almost all of them are built using flash, possibly the worst software known to man.

Being someone who reads a bunch of articles across a number of sites, I more than most people experience annoying ads that slow down my mobile never mind the site I’m on because advertisers, for some strange reason, like paying publishers to run ads they’re aware annoys their target audience so much that are flocking to providers of software that threatens their entire industry.

Apple opening the market for ad blockers on the iOS9 OS is a clear shot across the bow of Google but whether Apple would have opened up the market for ad blocking or not, I suspect the clamor to block ads would still be prevalent. As mentioned earlier, people generally don’t like advertising (particularly advertising that’s hard to get rid of) on any platform you can name but unlike other platform, they’re more willing put up with the excesses of a 30 second TV spot than they would a load time lag inducing banner ad when they visit a site.

This quite a strange fact given that we’re all aware that ads are all over the place because no one wants to pay for content (especially in written form) and without those screen eating, emanating out of nowhere, and super creepy ads, all our favorite sites would have to charge us for access to their content or go out of business. Whether we like it or not, ads serves as a necessary evil that ensures that the internet stays a largely wallet free zone as far as content is concerned and doesn’t become one big paywall after another. However, no matter how much publishers and advertisers repeat this line, ad blocking will continue in popularity and thanks to Apple’s none too subtle two fingers ups (not the peace sign, the other one) in the direction of Google and Facebook, the publishing and advertising industries are going to be even tougher industries to crack than ever before.

Online ad’s already suffer from the much talked about viewability issue where the majority of ads online aren’t seen and if ad blocking proliferates, they’re likely to stay that way.  The easy answer is that publishers and advertisers should get creative and produce better ads or at least abandon using ads people hate (pre-roll, pop ups) but these answers are often provided by people who aren’t affected by ad blocking or in some cases, directly benefit from ad blocking.

In sum, I’ve always been of the opinion that the only question that really matters when writing about a technology is “who get screwed?” With ad blocking, the answer to that question can be larger than first thought.

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

(The Big Disrupt) Interview: This Week In Startups Talks To Tim O'Reilly Of WTF Economy

Check out this great interview as This Week In Startups founder and host Jason Calacanis talks to Tim O'Reilly, Founder of O'Reilly Media talks about WTF Economy and the effect of tech on the economy.

(Sports) Nick Diaz v NSAC: Diaz Ban Shows How Arbitrary Sport Regulatory Bodies Really Are

There’s nothing more terrifying than a public body out for blood and when the Nevada State Athletic Commission basically did a hit job on Nick Diaz’s career for the heinous crime of smoking pot and showing little to no remorse about it, MMA fighters and fans got a whiff of how arbitrary sports law really is.

Nick Diaz losing his career for smoking pot is bad enough but Diaz getting five years for weed when his last opponent (Anderson Silva no less) popped positive for steroids and only got one year when he should got three really shows how bad NSAC suck at sticking to their own rules. Diaz’s ban is so egregious that he will be banned longer than first and second time PED users, those who submit fake tests, wife batterers and animal abusers.

Diaz has paid a hefty price not for smoking weed but getting under the skin of NSAC as he tested positive for weed use three times and the commission, taking Diaz’s customary lack of remorse for breaking their rules to heart, sought to effectively end his career which could have been even worse if the other commissioners members followed commissioner Pat Lundvall’s suggestion to ban him for life.

However one can’t really be surprised as the NSAC v Diaz debacle is another example of why sports fans across the board hate the organizations that regulate and/or run their sport and the people who run them from the NFL’s Roger Goddell to FIFA’s Sepp Blatter as their power and the rules they impose on sports appear to be arbitrary and grossly unjust. Nick Diaz will likely see his 5 year ban whittled down to maybe 2 or 3 years after a lengthy and costly legal battle or even overturned completely due to NSAC’s decision drawing the wrath of the entire MMA community.

The NSAC were clearly out to get Diaz as they ignored two clean tests carried out to WADA (World Anti-Doping Agency) certified procedures and chose to bury Diaz based on a positive test not carried out under WADA’s standards. It’s bad enough that the NSAC was banned for years but the reason is why Diaz being tested for and punished for using cannabis is the real concern at heart as there’s no advantage to be gained over a clean opponent when smoking marijuana at least in comparison to anabolic steroids which promotes faster recovery times, greater muscle mass and endurance.

With this in mind, it’s hard to fathom why fighters could spend up to five years or even the rest of their lives banned from the sport they chose because state athletic commissions and/or fight promotions have seriously prudish attitude to recreational drugs which puts them on the wrong side of the growing trend in the US of a more relaxed attitude toward drugs, cannabis especially.

Nothing hurt fans and brought the sport in disrepute than when Anderson Silva, arguably the greatest MMA fighter ever, tested positive for steroids leaving the whole of MMA in a state of depression but no one battled an eyelid when Nick Diaz, a real fan favorite, tested positive for marijuana not because Anderson Silva has a greater standing in the sport (although it was part of it) but nobody cared except the UFC and NSAC.

In sum, Nick Diaz may have paid the price for the NSAC taking his defiance personally but the real question is why it was possible he could get banned in the first place.


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