🦄 vol. 15
claude and sash chat about the rise of voice search and tech companies drawing a line in the sand for their employees
battle of the voices 🗣
Voice search has been around for a long time, but it only reached the plateau of productivity relatively recently. Following the launch of Apple's virtual assistant, Siri, in 2011, Amazon came out with Alexa in 2013, Microsoft with Cortana in 2014, and Google with Google Assistant in 2016.
What is voice search? 🎤
This is the action of using speech to interact with compatible digital systems. It could be to ask a question or give a command.
You probably use this functionality in some form already. Whether it’s asking for directions while driving or telling your phone to set a timer while you’re cooking.
While the goal in voice-based and text-based search is ultimately the same, when it’s done right it is a lot more convenient. And if there is one thing we've learned about disruption, it's that users are drawn to the path of least resistance.
How does it work? 🔧
At a high level, voice search systems are made up of some core components:
Speech to text conversion: This comes from a field of signal processing called speech recognition, which is concerned with how a computer translates an acoustic speech signal to text.
Interpretation of intent: This step involves analysing the text to infer what a user's intent is. At a minimum, it involves searching for commands or queries.
Fulfilling intent: Once the user's intent is understood, a system needs to gather the relevant information. Essentially constructing a query for a search engine on behalf of the user.
Feedback: Once the relevant information is gathered, it has to be formatted and returned to the user in a useful way that aligns with the original intent. A user asked for a song? It should now play it back.
Complex, convenient.. and? 🧩
There's more to voice search than not having to type out a query. Voice search presents a whole new avenue for brands to engage with their customers and it has led to the emergence of a whole new product category in smart assistants and other smart devices.
Juniper Research predicts that by 2024, consumers will interact with voice assistants on over 8.4 billion devices (113% more devices than what we use today).
This demand is a clear indication that there is still a lot more to come.
You know what else is? 👀
Among the many dope announcements in Apple's "Unleashed" event, one that seemed to fly under the radar was the new "voice only" tier in the Apple Music stable - an exclusive experience designed only for Siri. The bizarre thing is that it is being offered at a lower price point of $4.99 per month compared to the individual and family plans of $9.99 and $14.99 respectively. 🤔
It's got people speculating that this is a move by Apple to gather valuable user data to help improve their Siri service which is widely considered to be dumber than its younger cousins.
The future? 🔮
For businesses, this is a massive opportunity to engage with their customer bases (if Adobe research is anything to go by). For Big Tech, the future probably holds more of the same, as they make significant amounts of their revenue through advertising. And to them, the growth of voice search creates an exciting space to innovate the ways that they offer advertising.
is big tech cancelling cancel culture? ⛔️
Free food, onsite gyms, in-house massage therapists, doctors and dentists, medical aid, flexible working hours… These are just some of the benefits of working in a “Big Tech” company – often the “gold standard” of employment. But over and above the benefits, these companies pride themselves in being “progressive” places to work, often emphasising a focus on mental health, extended periods of paternity leave, and of course, “minority” support groups…
A closer look 🧐
Over the past few years, tech companies have also been at the forefront of supporting social causes - or at least they’ve convinced us that they have. The #BLM Movement of 2020 is a prime example: While we were posting black squares on our Instagram feeds, Big Tech made some bold commitments (largely fuelled internally by employees).
This article scrutinises the actual impact that these #BLM commitments have had.
And this article gives us a perspective on Big Tech’s cherry-picking of “social causes” it throws its weight behind.
Food for thought.
Drawing a line in the sand? 👀
There have been 3x isolated instances (within the tech space) that are worth discussing:
🗣 Spotify stands behind Joe Rogan: No stranger to controversy, the podcast host – who has an exclusive $100 million deal with Spotify – has consistently been called out for spreading misleading (and often provocative) information on COVID-19, amongst other things. And while Spotify employees (and health professionals) have consistently challenged the company on their choice to promote such content, Spotify’s CEO has stood firmly behind Rogan.
🧐 Coinbase goes apolitical: In Sept 2020, Coinbase’s CEO typed a blogpost that sent shockwaves through Silicon Valley. In the wake of #BLM, the company took a bold stance by reinforcing that it was a “mission-focused” company, and that there was no space for social activism in the workplace. Further, Coinbase offered exit packages to employees who did not agree with the new direction of the company. After about a month, around 5% of employees decided to leave the company.
😶 Netflix supports Chappelle: Most recently, we’ve seen (provocative) comedian Dave Chappelle come under fire for his (alleged $24 million) Netflix stand-up comedy special “The Closer”. And while some Netflix employees have shown their anger in solidarity with the LGBTQI+ communities, Netflix has continued its defence of the decision to keep the comedy special on its platform.
Tech companies have often proclaimed their progressive tag, and have in recent years shown support for certain social causes. But are we starting to see a trend of these tech companies being unmoved by their employees’ demands to take a stance on social issues? How much is their support (or lack thereof) related to the interests of their bottom line?
Cue: MBA thesis topic. 😉
matt enjoyed this podcast that covered the growing threat of inflation and the use of bitcoin as a hedge
karl loved the first episode of crypto wars on how bitcoin was birthed
sash thought that this short podcast on “how to manage customer relationships” was dope