[NOTICE: Please feel free to debunk my assertions because this is not expert opinion, just amateur observation, which is the result of thinking too much about several topics including the future, personal fulfillment, journalism, the Internet, and, you know, other shit like that. This piece was also brought about by reading and re-reading works by Nassim Nicholas Taleb and other journalists, whom Taleb, by the way, despises because their jobs make it difficult for them to distinguish between noise and signal. Also: I may be wrong about my assertions because of the Dunning-Kruger effect.] [See: John Cleese on the Dunning-Kruger effect]
When he was 15 years old, Jonathan Lebed was investigated by the United States Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) for stock market manipulation.
According to The Future Just Happened by Michael Lewis, Lebed created several identities using free email services and used them to subscribe to several stock market email lists. [See: Next: The Future Just Happened]
Once subscribed, Lebed used each identity to “talk up” the prices of the stocks that he held, an example of how the Internet (in this case, email lists) has disrupted the established order (in this case, the buying and selling of stocks).*
This isn’t exactly breaking news.
After all, it happened in 1999, a year when a broadband net connection was a privilege, email attachments were something of a novelty, and twitter was just part of the lyrics in the song, Stolen Moments. [See: Stolen Moments by the New York Voices]
As early as fifteen years ago, disruptions were just like what William Gibson said about the future: it’s here—it’s just not evenly distributed.
At the turn of the millennium, the Philippines stumbled into what appeared as the future, causing a disruption, thanks to technology.
Using text-messaging and email lists such as Yahoo! Groups, Filipinos were able to bring down a corrupt president although he was well-liked enough to get out of prison and become the mayor of the country’s capital.
While Lewis’ book, published in 2001, was unable to cite President Joseph Estrada’s downfall as a result of disruption (or that he may have ignored it), another one did—Smart Mobs by Howard Rheingold, which I have not read yet.
Anyway, Lewis’ book—which by the way is rich in insight and a joy to read—also brought up Andy Kessler, a venture capitalist who previously worked at Wall Street. [See: Andy Kessler]
Based on his interviews with Kessler, “the big money-making opportunities come from cultural change, and that cultural change nearly always got its start as a subtle shift in relations between what he called “the center” and “the fringe.”
“Technology stocks are down,” Kessler said [in an interview presumably conducted during the US dotcom bust], “but technology itself has no clue whether we are in a bull or a bear market, boom or recession. It just marches ahead.”
Kessler, also an engineer who cracked the code on his satellite dish, even came up with an algorithm to describe “the relationship between upstarts on the fringe and the incumbents at the center,” Lewis said.
Kessler’s algorithm on upstarts and incumbents goes like this:
1. Rules are established to create order and maintain profits for incumbents. Examples of rules are: social mores, professional licenses, government regulation, locked-up distribution channels.
2. Cheaper technology suddenly allows for the bypassing of the rules.
3. Incumbents are fat and dumb and happy with current monopolistic profits and their general situation, so they bad-mouth any new stuff which threatens their incumbency or profits, or both.
4. Fringe players emerge to use this ever cheaper technology to simply ignore the rules.
5. Fringe companies attract venture capital since there are great profits to be made underselling the incumbents.
6. Incumbents are in denial until their profits are really threatened and/or market share begins to erode meaningfully.
7. Chaos ensues; fringe players are threatened with lawsuits, government regulation, public shaming, etc.
8. Growth at the fringe accelerates, as it is the right way to do business using new technology.
9. Incumbents co-opt the fringe or fringe players become the new incumbents and seek to establish new rules.
10. Go to 1.
Using Kessler’s algorithm, several entities in the Philippines can be arguably be defined as forces of disruption, the first one being, obviously enough
Almost everyone knows about how Uber became a force of disruption among taxicab companies.
But more than changing the way we get cabs, the ride-sharing service may also lead to a change in the relationship between drivers and cab companies and Uber drivers and Uber car owners.
Based on my informal talks with three Uber drivers, drivers have left cab companies to work as Uber drivers because of more difficult conditions at the former.
Besides paying operators a minimum amount for the use of their cabs—a fee known as a boundary anywhere from P1,200 to P1,800 daily—cab drivers are also required to have full tanks of gas once their shifts end.
However, Uber has no such requirements, according to two drivers I talked to.
Uber drivers are also paid a minimum of P50 per trip as long as they meet the ten-trip quota per day. Denise Matias, a friend of mine who uses Uber, told me that they are paid less.
In any case, one of the Uber drivers I talked to said he was willing to quit his gig and move to another Uber operator who offered a higher incentive—P50 extra for every trip after his twelfth fare.
As a result, these arrangements may further boost demand for drivers needed by both cab companies and Uber operators in the future, thanks to the disruption introduced by the ride-sharing service.
2) Spinbusters (a disruption, arguably)
It’s about time someone exposed abuses and ethical violations of media practitioners in the Philippines.
Spinbusters, run by a group of “working journalists,” says the website was put up to “police” fellow reporters and journalists, deadline-beaters and deadbeats.
Sadly, it has done very little of that, wasting its potential—and whatever credibility it might have—by just simply making fun of its fellow media workers without actually being funny.
In a recent blog entry, it has ridiculed young reporters for using “imitation Moleskines” and castigated graduates of the University of Sto. Tomas, saying “it’s a poor excuse of a J-school.”
Instead of indulging in small-minded, mean-spirited, self-important nitpicking, Spinbusters could have helped promote Buhay Media, a group of media workers who no longer have jobs because of an unjust labor arrangement. It could also get more details about the case of a guy in a media outfit who was accused of harassment. [See: Buhay Media]
Sayang ka, Spinbusters—you could have been a force for reform; a force for—however grand this may sound—the good.
However, that remark against that J-school along España cost you big time, my friend. You and your cabal are just a group of narrow-minded cowards. [See: How to be a real journalist by experts at Spinbusters]
Sure, Spinbusters may arguably be a disruption but it’s only temporary. They can’t handle the truth.
3) Raissa Robles.
Love her or loathe her, Raissa Robles is someone to reckon with in Philippine journalism. (And I’m not just saying that because—disclaimer—she and her husband Alan feeds me from time to time.)
No matter how you view her—journalist or blogger or a combination of both—Raissa has disrupted the way journalism has been—and is being—practiced in this country.
She has proven—and continues to prove—that if you have the tenacity to ferret out the truth, your pieces will be read and shared, mainly by the number of her visitors of her website, which regularly reaches five-digit levels.
Just how influential is Raissa?
In February 2012, she was accused of being the “little lady” that leaked bank records of then-Chief Justice Renato Corona, who was facing an impeachment trial. [See: How I became part of the Corona story]
Her accusers sought to discredit Raissa because her pieces about the Chief Justice—about how Corona failed to disclose that his wife sat on the board of Camp John Hay, for instance (this was before she was accused of being the little lady)—were damaging to the defense. Spinbusters, by the way, has also set their sights on her for reasons not related to professional adoration. [See: Corona’s non-disclosures on SALN, Special court for reversal of ruling]
Owing to her investigative pieces, not everyone in the local journalism circuit is her BFF. And let’s not get started on Alan, her husband, who said in a message that Spinbusters isn’t a disruption.
“SpinBoogers is a mild milquetoast pretend industry insider which just calls attention to the absence of REAL media critics such as exist in the US. Too many cowards in the business here afraid to talk about the real issues and hilarious gossip in the trade.” He added: “I think the spinboogers are clueless cowards—don’t or can’t talk about delicious real insider issues, they’re limited to making faces, screaming shrilly, throwing feces and spinning boogers.” [See: Journalism in the Philippines]
I’ve gotten interesting leads from this platform. I don’t know where it’s going but it sure is going to cause some form of disruption. And an anonymous app has its risks such as the Whisper shown below. Not sure if that’s true too. But I’m willing to wait and see.
*FROM THE ODDS AND ENDS DEPT. Whether Jonathan Lebed was guilty of manipulating the stock market by doing what he did is another story. But Michael Lewis, in the same book, makes a rhetorical argument. “It was okay that Mary Meeker of Morgan Stanley and Henry Blodget of Merrill Lynch had plugged a portfolio of Internet company shares that, inside of six months, lost more than three quarters of their value at the same time that they were paid millions of dollars, largely as a result of the fees their firms raked in from the very same Internet companies. But it was, for some reason, I do not fully grasp, not okay for Jonathan Lebed to say that FTEC would go from 8 to 20. When I asked why it was illegal, [US SEC’s director of enforcement Richard] Walker had a pat answer. “Because Jonathan Lebed was seeking to manipulate the market, he said. But that only begged the question. If Wall Street analysts and fund managers and corporate CEOs who appear on CNBC and CNNfn to plug stocks are not guilty of seeking to manipulate the market, what on earth does it mean to manipulate the market?””