Monthly Archives: April 2017

The Age of Algorithms

By | Company Blog | No Comments

There is no doubt that living in the Age of the Algorithm has transformed the way we make decisions. Mechanisation has saved the world time, money, and (in the case of the emergency services) even lives. In addition, there are obvious business and marketing advantages to using intelligent technology that claims to “personalise” our online experience and helps us find what we’re looking for. But are we at risk of letting the use of algorithms and ‘big data’ shape our decision-making, and influence our individuality?

In the late 1990s, book editors for Amazon were writing hundreds of reviews for the increasing number of books being published annually. With demand on staff increasing, Greg Linden, an engineer at the online retailer, used correlation data for products that were often bought together by consumers to create automatic recommendations. Ironically, whilst the algorithms used had the effect of creating a “personal” recommendation, in reality they were not linked in any way with the individual’s purchasing history, and so were devoid of anything classically categorised as personal. In spite of this, the effect this has had on sales since is undeniable, with estimates showing that currently a third of Amazon’s sales arise from these mechanised recommendations.

More recently, Facebook, a company that’s growth is due in part to its complex use of big data, has continued its global domination and grossed almost $6 billion in the first three quarters of 2016. Even more incredible is its 1.79 billion monthly active users, which make Facebook (a company claiming it isn’t in fact a media company) the most powerful media organisation in history. Scarily, Facebook’s “walled garden” approach to news feeds, paired with its goal to “deliver the right content to the right people at the right time” using controversially secret algorithms, means that our exposure to information is being restricted, albeit by the mechanised mirroring of our own choices.

It seems fair to surmise that the use of algorithms online can be a double-edged sword. No consumer can deny the convenience of such appropriate and tailored suggestions, nor is the effect that they have had on streamlining online services and augmenting profitability in business in question. However, at a point where big data weaves itself almost inextricably through facets of society people are beginning to ask themselves whether they really know what they’re looking for, and wondering how accurate these online assumptions can be. It seems that, as a result, in the midst of this Age of Algorithms, human sensibilities are still in demand.

The Weekend that was SXSW 2017

By | Company Blog | No Comments

Liberty’s own Megan Keesee attended SXSW in Austin – an annual conference that covers the future of everything. It is perhaps the most generalized professional conference in existence today, organized from chaos to coherence by categorizing all events into one of four tracks: Interactive, Film, Music, and Comedy. There’s literally something for everyone. Megan attended the interactive track, focusing on the most exciting tech developments in the connected world.

There was tangible excitement in the air as the streets of Austin filled with hopeful millennials, entrepreneurs, and creatives from all walks of life, conference badges hanging proudly around their necks as they sauntered out of local bars and hip restaurants where events were being held by Silicon Valley’s best.

Megan’s weekend was spent supporting our clients who were speaking or attending; sitting in on panels and sessions providing insight into the top trends, and attending the most anticipated media parties and pop-ups. Here’s what she observed, learned and brought back with her.

Standout Sessions

Keynote speakers like Corey Booker and Joe Biden as well as event subtracks on European government and “Trump’s America” electrified the conference with political undertones and pushed a polito-innovation agenda. Perhaps the most memorable session included Joe Biden’s appearance as part of SXSW’s Connect to End Cancer series, and not just because Megan is in fact his #1 fan. His talk outlined the plans for the Biden Foundation’s Cancer Initiative, calling on attendees to join him in his efforts to cure cancer by 2020. Biden energized the crowd with his passion and optimism, and he even stuck around for a few selfies with fans afterward.

Another session close to the hearts of all our Libertinis was a panel titled“Brexit: How UK/European Tech Companies Are Coping,” which we secured and managed at SXSW. The panel explored the changes that tech companies in Europe have experienced and will continue to experience as the effects of Brexit take shape. The panelists included our friends and clients from Wire, WaveOptics, Blis and Jobbatical, who candidly shared anecdotes on how they are  managing the changes brought on by an evolving political landscape and how they plan to face the challenges that lie ahead. The session brought perspective from a diverse group of companies and leaders. Perhaps we’re a bit biased, but this session had to be one of our favorites because of the honesty amidst uncertainty that was shared by panelists.

Pop Ups and Panels

In addition to the main event, one thing that makes SXSW unique to the conference grind is the volume of pop ups and “house parties” hosted by brands on the side. During the week of the festival, most of the venues downtown Austin are completely booked for these side events, and there’s no lack of daytime or evening activities. Megan was able to chat with  Tim Ferriss, who turned  up at the SXSW bookstore to sign copies of his latest work Tools of Titans and also stumbled upon a pop-up promoting one of her all-time favorite books turned television show, American Gods.

In true PR fashion, Megan spent quality time talking to journalists at the TechCrunch Day Party, complete with musical appearances from Kishi Bashi and Madame Gandhi. She made sure not to miss out on good ole Texas bbq and Tex-Mex which she shared with our attending clients. She saved up enough conference momentum on her last night in town to make it to the annual and ever-notorious #MashBash party hosted by the editors at Mashable to celebrate the first weekend of SXSW. Who says you can’t work and play at the same time?

Looking Forward

In the heart of Austin, an oasis of modern thinking in the middle of traditional Texas, SXSW dedicates itself to helping creative people achieve their goals. The conference features a variety of tracks that allow attendees to explore the realm of unfolding possibilities in the worlds of entertainment, culture and technology.

In the last decade SXSW has built a reputation for highlighting the technology and trends that  shape industries, empower people and enable new possibilities. This year, that meant focusing on the geopolitical changes taking place internationally, as the technology of politics and politics of technology took center stage. The biggest takeaway from individual sessions was that the tech community has the power to influence public debate and shape our future.
The larger takeaway, though, in a conference that has become a behemoth of innovation and trade events, is how brands can cut through the noise to make that impact. Those that attended SXSW certainly had the opportunity to practice.

From Liberty US: A World’s Fair Nano Conference Recap

By | Company Blog | No Comments

Liberty’s own Megan Keesee and Leah Monteleone attended the World’s Fair Nano Conference in San Francisco – a festival featuring virtual reality, drones, motorized skateboards, wearable tech, robotics, IoT, 3D printing, and more. This event provided a sneak peak into the future of tech with an all-star speaker lineup of founders and CEOs to share their experiences and insight. Read on for a recap.

To set the scene, this conference looked like Coachella met SXSW in 2050. The day was spent listening to speakers discuss the future of journalism, feminism, AI, robotics, medicine, automation and human connection.

Standout Sessions

With a variety of great talks from neuroscientists to NGOs, the conference truly had everything. Some of the most memorable talks were The Future of IoT and The Future of the Brain. In the Future of IoT session, If This Then That (IFTTT) CEO, Linden Tibbets, pegged the big compatibility problem with the accelerated development of IoT and all our smart appliances. IFTTT’s vision for common, secure API standards looks very bright.

David Eagleman, PhD and Neuroscientist at Stanford University, blew us away with his research on the brain’s perception of senses. He has  developed a vibrating vest that can help the deaf hear, the blind see, and the rest of us develop brand new senses and perceive things like infrared light, radio waves, even the pulse of other human beings.

Another memorable talk was given by Dave Pell, writer and publisher of NextDraft – an email newsletter of the day’s top ten most fascinating news items. He spoke on the future of journalism and how PR will continue to evolve in a society where fake news and alternative facts have become commonplace. He also discussed the relevance of biased news sources and stressed the importance of educating ourselves on both sides of every news story. As PR professionals, we cannot just expose ourselves to news consistent with our thoughts and beliefs.

Tech on Display

In addition to the presentations, the conference had row upon row of cutting edge tech on display. We saw consumer and enterprise drones, virtual reality headsets, artificial reality demo booths, smart baby monitors, new and improved wearables and more.

Looking Forward

Our main takeaway? The tech world is continuously evolving. In order to remain relevant as tech PR professionals, we must make sure we remain nimble and change with the times. It is essential we continue to challenge ourselves as an agency and our clients in this ever-changing digital world to ensure we stay at the forefront of the tech industry.