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a blog by Chris Barrow

Business, Digital and Tears – a Friday riff

Happy monkey

Business is good.

Well, only 162 more shopping days to Christmas and Friday morning sees me on a 05:30 train to Sunderland (to work with the team at Westmount Dental) after walking in the door at 22:00 last night.

I will NEVER complain about being busy – not since choosing to leave corporate UK in 1987 and fly my own kite – but sometimes the relentlessly long days do take their physical and mental toll.

Roll on Friday night and a weekend of marathon training, combined with R&R and some good food and drink.

It’s been another week of political disruption that makes the near future even more difficult to predict –  it remains to be seen how this affects consumer confidence because, frankly, that’s the only effect that matters to the small business owner.

Matters digital.

In the digital world, the stage was stolen by Pokemon (note – short for Pocket Monster) Go and the most successful game launch that we have seen in recent history, all without any traditional advertising or marketing. Just internet word of mouth (aka digital reputation).

It was no surprise to see my Millennial children discussing Pokemon Go on Messenger and to find some of them taking part – I also mentioned this morning on my Facebook Profile a 35-year old taxi driver who told me yesterday that he had taken an hour off work to download and play the game in the local park.

No doubt we will soon have our own home-grown stories of people stepping off kerbs and breaking ankles, walking into walls and the like. Then, perhaps, the enterprising scallywags who wait close to Pokemon prizes so that they can assault and rob from unwary players who wander into secluded corners. Or the more sinister theories that those who prey on the young will see this as an irresistible prospecting and grooming device.

Does the news that South Korean players have wandered over the border into North Korea herald a new age of borderless humanity – that tribalism and nationhood were eventually destroyed by an occultic childrens’ game?

Whilst we seem to have been waiting for years for virtual reality to get off the runway, the partially-immersive experience of Pokemon Go is an early-warning of a world in which VR wearers wander the streets like Walking Dead extras?

We become more detached from analogue reality (that, for you and I, means the real world) and step increasingly into a virtual reality of posts, tweets, follows, likes, shares, messages and now, games and experiences.

We used to chat – now we check.

The self-same cabbie who wandered around a Buckinghamshire park yesterday was also telling me that some London-based companies are using drones to deliver goods, replacing the ubiquitous white van driver who rings the doorbell and exchanges your e-signature for the next brown package from Amazon.

Driverless vehicles that arrive at your premises and ping a message to tell you they have arrived?

My cabbie and I both came to the conclusion that such drones will be quickly stolen and broken down for scrap by members of our Crime Watch population – surely much easier that nicking the tiles off roofs?

Less publicity was given this week to a more significant digital announcement, that Google has signed deals with mobile networks to bring fast wifi access to USA smartphone users in 137 countries – intending that Google will soon have the most comprehensive coverage on the planet.

Google are also licensing 2 million new developers in India and have announced plans for a smartwatch.

Bringing me nicely back to yesterday’s post and the mention of AGFA – the global domination of Amazon, Google, Facebook and Apple and how their future plans are likely to have more influence on our day to day lives than the self-obsessed machinations of politicians and parties.

Amazon – a global retailer and video streaming service

Google – a global network provider and search engine.

Facebook – a global news and advertising network and messaging platform.

Apple – a global device manufacturer and software developer

Missing from the list – Microsoft – because I ask whether they impact my life on a daily basis. Perhaps a “yes” because I still use Office for Mac but I don’t believe that the directional changes made by MS can affect me the way that AGFA can.

Some will disagree – go ahead and think of AGFAM.

I’ll bet that none of them give a damn about Boris as Foreign Minister or whether Corbyn survives.

They are busy thinking up new ways to make themselves attractive and indispensable to us in our personal and professional lives. As a consumer of their products and services, I can’t wait to find out.


Finally, as we approach the weekend, I pause to reflect on how lucky many of us are if nobody we know is one of:

  1. the 1,271 civilians killed in Syria last month

  2. the 1,157 civilians who suffered a violent death in Iraq last month

  3. the 5 police officers gunned down in Dallas this week

  4. the 84 civilians slaughtered in Nice last night

No group has a monopoly on grief, because suffering takes place one person at a time.

My heart goes out to the individuals of all of these nations and others who live under threat, wherever they are.

Violence of any sort, whether committed by nations, organised terrorists or lone madmen cannot be condoned and I pray that the global reach of AGFA as well as responsible Government, business and religion might help to foster a world in which fundamentalism in any guise can be overcome.

As individuals, couples, parents, families and friends, we count our blessings and hold our breath.

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