Robots Versus Mad Men, Google Learns Pidgin and the Dark Side of Angry Birds

Hello and Dumela

Dumela is hello in Tswana. I hope that the month has started well for you. These past few weeks have been exciting as usual with new opportunities for the Nendo team. There have also been a lot of interesting insights online which I cannot wait to get into with you. As a result, let’s get comfortable and get ready for the ride.

What to Sip < 30 sec

Are you a copywriter? If so, this article may pose some bad news. According to Elizabeth Rembert from Bloomberg, a company called Persado has created Artificial Intelligence that would give the best advertisers in the world a run for their money. The system works by tapping into a database of more than 1 million words and phrases to persuade consumers. The reason behind its success is because a machine is apparently unmarred by bias and other unpleasant human characteristics.

J.P. Morgan, a loyal client of Persado, was happy to report a whopping 450% increase in click-through rates.  Their chief marketing officer had this to say:

“Machine learning is the path to more humanity in marketing. Persado’s technology is incredibly promising. It rewrote copy and headlines that a marketer, using subjective judgment and their experience, likely wouldn’t have. And they worked.”

More ironic words have never been spoken.

While we’re still on humans versus AI, Anne McCarthy of the BBC, writes on the effects of predictive text on our brains. She highlights a study that found that secondary school children who used predictive text on their mobile phones made more spelling errors than non-users.

Aside from affecting our spelling, is predictive text sucking away our individuality and the joy of human interaction? After all, what makes each of us unique is our nuances including the slight misspellings, the preference for exclamation marks over full stops or the inclusion of an odd smiley. Tag our Twitter handle to let us know what you think.

Evan SIlinger of BBC holds the view that predictive text could transform us into 'personalised cliches' where we become half-man, half-algorithm. Evan clearly seems to have a solid opinion about AI judging from his think piece from a few years back.


What to Nibble < 5 min

If you’ve been in a taxi in Nigeria recently, you may have noticed something new. It turns out that Google has now introduced a Nigerian-English voice option on Google Maps. This was in response to having local street names previously mispronounced by the default American or British accent.

This ten-minute read by Yomi Kazeem delves into the details and brings up an interesting cultural debate on what exactly a Nigerian accent is.  The question is valid seeing as the country’s 180 million people speak over 200 different local languages and twice as many dialects. Read on to find out how Google navigates these tricky waters.

Photo by freestocks.org on Unsplash

Netflix was in a similar situation earlier this year when it launched its Swahili subtitles. Unlike Google's, however, Netfilx's execution was greeted with more scepticism than praise as Kenyans flocked online to laugh at the hilarious misinterpretations. While entertaining, these two examples show that localizing a product is an extremely sensitive undertaking and needs huge investment in terms of time, research and good talent.


What to Bite <10 min

You may need to hold on to your mug for this next one. Facebook’s newsroom published a concerning piece exposing an Israeli commercial entity called Archimedes Group. The group was found to have been creating accounts posing as locals from Nigeria, Senegal, Togo, Angola, Niger and Tunisia. These accounts were used to publish allegedly leaked information about politicians and to criticize some. The question is, why were they targeting African politics specifically?

What’s more concerning is that the accounts had collectively spent around $812,000 in ads, attracting over 2.8 million followers within their seven years of operation.

Photo by Diego on Unsplash

Elsewhere, Facebook’s drama continues as it faces a class-action lawsuit for targeting children in an online gaming scheme in an effort to expand revenue. The platform is accused of basically turning the kids into gamblers as they played Angry Birds, PetVille and Ninja Saga.

As you may know, Ninja Saga requires players to pay a fee in order to advance to a higher level. A child will ordinarily ask their parents to sort the fee out via a bank card. What parents think is a one-time charge of $20 ends up costing them hundreds, if not thousands of dollars. According to the article, one 15-year-old racked up $6,500 in charges in about two weeks.

This one-hour podcast by Reveal News summarizes Facebook’s woes well but is one of the most disturbing looks into the platform that I've ever heard. Get it in your preferred podcast app and buckle up.

Bottom of the Newsletter

In this 30-minute podcast, Bob Garfield takes us through what it means to moderate online platforms. There’s great intellectual conversation on restorative vs retributive justice and how we dialogue in spaces. We can contrast the Reddit story here with the way Kilimani Mums group admins have been in court in Kenya.

Nir Eyal, author of ‘Hooked: How to build habit-forming products’ turns around and writes a new book called 'Indistractable', which is the complete opposite of the first. In it, he talks about battling the same distraction that he and his methods have taught and promoted. This podcast offers a vigorous discussion where I feel that Nir sounds very defensive and culpable and I feel Ezra could have put him to a greater task. A riveting listen.

That’s all for this week. Please feel free to contact us with any varying opinion, query or simply to say hello. The team and I always look forward to it.

Until next time,

Mark and Team Nendo


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