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Good afternoon again, lovely email friends. As last week's email made its way to you, I was making my way to a conference. Not the kind where you pay to sit in a darkened theatre while a stream of white men dispense slide after slide of the cleverest-sounding thoughts they've had. This was the kind where you stroll around a big hall of little stands where interesting folks are showcasing their ideas. Some are as straightforward as a clever way to make something more efficient. Others are as complex as autonomous electric transport.

I arrived at the conference with a pocketful of business cards. But the convention of a short conversation followed by a card exchange has been disrupted: about half the people I met preferred to exchange their contact information digitally. LinkedIn's app, for example, has this functionality built-in; you can either scan a QR code on someone else's screen, or show your code so someone can do the same to you. Either way, the code leads the app to the person's LinkedIn profile, thereby making the card exchange redundant.
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QR CODES: Seven-or-so years ago, my workplace asked me for a thousand words about the merits of QR codes in marketing, which would run as a column in some trade magazine. Marketers had become terrifically excited about QR codes as a means of getting consumers to do stuff in response to an advert: they avoided the consumer having to type anything, and were cheap and easy to include. But, I wrote, there are many snags.

Displaying a usable QR code in public is challenging, particularly if all you've bought is billboards. Once displayed, consumers then have to recognise it to know what it does. Next, they need to be reasonably close and facing it head-on for a good few seconds; again not ideal if your ad space is on the backs of buses. Finally, they have to have the right hardware running the right app, with network connectivity. And all that's assuming the person wanted to use the thing in the first place, which most won't.

I prattled on about this for the required word-count, recommending to the kinds of marketers who read this drivel that they focus effort at each of ten stages of the QR experience (presentation; recognition; desire; know-how; proximity; duration; hardware; software; connectivity; compatibility). I then stumbled onto contactless, which was just emerging, and finished with a punt about the rise of machine vision more generally. Present-day Google's image-recognition is strong enough for you to point it at any real-world thing, person or written word, and it'll have a convincing crack at working out what it is. So now our devices can see, marketers needn't mess about trying to make adverts machine-readable. But I stopped short of pondering whether they needed to make adverts at all.

Neither surprisingly nor disappointingly, the fad for slapping QR codes everywhere dwindled, replaced instead by out-of-context Facebook, Twitter and Instagram logos. But QR codes didn't go away completely. Save for a few stunts, like being minted onto the back of Dutch coins, they settled into the niches where cheap machine-readability is most warranted. The professional meet-and-greet, such as a conference environment, is one such use-case that persists.

Nowhere uses QR codes as extensively as China. The extent of adoption, from payment mechanisms to dating and ordering food. The Chinese mobile ecosystem has developed interfaces all of its own, and it's from there that the trends, such as the use of QR codes for payment, are starting to spread out. This is why QR code usage is growing, particularly in Asia, particularly amongst the young. 🤳
🎤New rules: the destruction of the female pop role model: Somewhere between Britney and Billie Eilish, liberated by social media and their direct relationship with fans, millennial and Gen Z women claimed the right to be complicated pop auteurs.

🚇 Can the Paris Metro Make Room for More Riders? ridership is booming , but severe overcrowding now has the city searching for short-term solutions. Clearly time for a cable car, mes amis.

💡 Why some breakthrough ideas don’t break through: there are forerunners to the digital services with which we're all familiar, but they just didn't catch on. See also: In defense of Kodak and its ‘failure’ to innovate.

👼 When people use the expression 'Jesus H Christ', what does the H stand for? Disappointingly, it's not H from Steps.

📲 6 expert predictions on where European tech is headed in 2020: America's large domestic market has always given it an edge when it comes to launching and growing technologies. But it also has complications and drawbacks that offer opportunities to European startups.

✈️ Today’s In-Flight Experience Is Brought to You By Machine Learning: turns out passengers don’t really care to watch the latest blockbuster when they’re in the air; they’d rather re-watch a classic. Flight duration, route, and seasonality also have an affect, and now the inflight entertainment is learning how to cater to our preferences.

🎧 Is Big Entertainment funding great work in podcasting or gentrifying the ecosystem? Now that podcasting is a big deal, the entertainment conglomerates have come to play. Here's a detailed assessment of the impact.
Digital greenwashing: Those who lean forward with their smartphone rather than a business card often do so with an overtone of "doing my bit for the environment", apparently in blissful ignorance of the environmental cost of making and running a smartphone relative to a small slip of card. This kind of doing-my-bit-ism reminds me of the little signs in hotel bathrooms asking you to help them wash fewer towels, while the building's heating and aircon rages on.

It's interesting how these acts of doing-my-bit apply only when there's money to be saved. If it cuts the cost of having a few cards printed up, or laundering a few towels, then we're willing to do it. I'm yet to find a hotel that applies the greenwash more broadly. 💸
Finally: Dogs Can’t Help Falling in Love. A researcher suggests the interesting thing about dogs is not their intelligence but their sociability: they're uniquely adept and forming strong emotional bonds with other species. All the same, science is yet to capture all the skills known to dog trainers. 🐶

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