Netflix, voting systems, eCommerce in Sri Lanka & food – Friday Note

Netflix

A week of interesting numbers:

The drive for original content is likely to weigh further on Netflix’s cash flow, the company wrote in the July document outlining its content accounting. The main reason for that is that it recognizes the production expenses of making a show, while it’s being produced. That could mean Netflix will incur costs years before it can make any money on the content.

  • and speaking of numbers, Netflix is notoriously secretive about audience figures. A Nielsen claim to be able to track viewers was met with a stiff response:

a Netflix spokesman said the streaming-video company was not participating in the effort. “The data that Nielsen is reporting is not accurate, not even close, and does not reflect the viewing of these shows on Netflix,” the company said in a statement.


Mixed-member proportional representation (MMP)

Quite a mouthful! Even from my Sri Lankan perspective, New Zealand’s recent election and its aftermath were drama filled; and from that perspective, the formation of a government by the Labour Party in NZ was very relevant.

Context

Sri Lanka elects a President as head of state and a legislature (Parliament). The current government is an uneasy coalition between the two historically dominant parties, with a Prime Minister from one party and a President from the other. Despite the considerable governance issues this has caused, my understanding is that many of those involved feel that the sheer scale of issues that have to be dealt with (including a foreign debt crisis and constitutional reforms) makes a cross-party consensus vital. An MMP system, which can lead to coalitions and minority governments, could be a means to build this into the electoral system.

This article by Sri Lanka’s Minister of Provincial Councils and Local Government is worth quoting:

However, the Proportional Representation system also came with shortfalls. It required greater campaign budgets, and violence escalated between political rivals. There is also a racial stigma attached to it. As we have seen in the recent past, racial tendencies tend to rise under this system. The election expenditure is also significantly greater than under the First Past the Post system.

Therefore, the Mixed Member Proportional system was born combining the best of both Worlds. Most people are in favour of this system, and it is truly in the interests of justice and democracy that I believe this is the way forward.


Sri Lanka e-commerce legislation

A quick note on this important development:

This is a crucial part of ongoing reform program to improve the global competitiveness of Sri Lanka. In the 2017 edition of the World Bank’s Ease of Doing Business rankings, Sri Lanka slipped one spot to 110. However, a crucial issue remains with the inability to receive payments through services such as PayPal.


Food

A quick run through a hot sector:

  • I started watching this with the sound off and immediately thought of porn…but that’s not what’s important.

As I’ve mentioned before, logistics and last mile delivery is a key battleground between Walmart and Amazon and this is the latest weapon to be deployed.

One reason food sector is so hot is that there are many points of entry and room for innovation.

figures cited by The Financial Times suggest that the two-year-old UberEats service — a standalone app separate from the main Uber taxi service — will record over $3 billion (£2 billion) in gross sales this year.

  • Facebook has launched a food order and delivery service in the US.

Facebook combines options from a number of food ordering services like EatStreet, Delivery.com, DoorDash, ChowNow and Olo, as well as restaurants like Jack in the Box, Five Guys, Papa John’s, and Panera, so you don’t have to search through multiple places to find what you’re looking fo

  • Amazon has been running a partnership with Olo since September.

Political candidates in Sri Lanka, #GE2017 aftermath

We can do better?

This is a typical example of the worthy but flawed thinking that so many people have about politics in Sri Lanka:

Do we at least now not need to think beyond blind allegiance to a colour of a political party but select good, honest men and women with integrity to exercise our sovereign legislative, executive and judicial powers to finally make policy-based decisions that will at least secure a better future for our children?

The question is not about a better quality of politician. The question is, who is willing to actually put themselves forward as political candidates and is there a pathway for them?

There are systematic problems (as there are all over the world) that hinder the development of “better” politicians. However, if we aren’t willing to get our hand dirty and get involved, then no amount of bedwetting and handwringing is going to make things better.

This is why movements like the Justice Democrats and Brand New Congress are so interesting and vital.

For all the talk about Macron, what he did has to be assessed in the context of the French political system. A more realistic option may be to transform parties from the inside out. The crucial question is how you can do this in systems like we have in Sri Lanka?

In Sri Lanka,the experience shows that no party follows any one procedure in the selection of candidates for elections at all levels. A study undertaken in respect of South Asia demonstrated that despite differences in procedures, parties in South Asia have some common features when it comes to candidate selection. Candidates are usually selected by consensus among the top leadership.

In most parties, the party chiefs have the final say, but they take decisions only after consultations with other party leaders at the relevant level. Today party alignments are unimportant and substantial de-alignment takes place during elections,and this could be attributed to the absence of strong constituency organisations with strong party loyalties and well demarcated party lines.

Therefore the organiser of the electorate – the candidate in waiting – or the MP of a given electoral division is the one who selects the candidates for the provincial or Pradeshiya Sabha elections. His nominees or recommendations are readily endorsed by the party leadershipand this,in effect, meant that all decisions are taken in consultation with the MP or the Organiser of the electorate.

The UK General Elections

From a campaigning perspective, this article was one of the better ones I read.

Crowd size at rallies does matter. One hesitates to endorse the Bill Mitchell model, but imprecise it is,  sheer numbers turning out for the candidate seems to be a reliable (if imprecise) indication of voter enthusiasm. This enthusiasm can be gleaned from elsewhere too.

Finally, youth, youth, youth – the left owns them and if they turn out to vote, then that makes all the difference. This YouGov data is striking.

The education statistics are also very interesting. It’s in line with the US (for example), but given how far left Labour’s policies are (nationalisation!), has significant implications as to what is possible in terms of policy. It is also a clear indication that factors like income equality, public services, the financial crisis and paying for education are the dominant themes for younger voters. 

 

FT.LK: Media ethics & advertorials in Sri Lanka

Cross-posted on socialmedia.lk

This article on the ft.lk is an example of dubious media ethics in Sri Lanka. I point it out not to nitpick, but because it is indicative of an industry that is crucial to the health of a nation. A robust and trustworthy news industry is a vital component of a healthy society.

The ft.lk newspaper seems to be using technology provided by a company called Emojet to run a poll online. While there is nothing inherently wrong with this, it is disturbing to see what seems to be an advertorial masquerading as a news article on the home page of the ft.lk website.

This article is shoddy journalism not just because it isn’t clearly marked as an advertorial. Many of the claims contained in it bear more relationship to a press release and do not seems to be substantiated in any way.

Most egregious is the claim:

Digital platforms such as the online paper (www.ft.lk), its FB page (https://www.facebook.com/dailyft/), twitter (@FT_SriLanka) and Whatsapp were all utilized to share the link. In 48 hours a wide array of responses from Sri Lanka and across the globe were received.

This appears to be hugely dubious. The tweet from the FT has only seven retweets and seven likes.

The Facebook post has no likes, shares or comments.

Articles like this undermine the credibility of the ft.lk as both a news source and an advertising platform and ultimately benefit no-one.

Jobs vs. Volkswagen

Originally written for socialmedia.lk

We wrote a post earlier about Sri Lankan Government communication during an intense news cycle last week. Having written on the use of framing in communication, I thought it worth pointing out recent and better executed government communication. Specifically, how economic developments were framed 1 in terms of jobs and economic opportunities.

This is particularly important as a number of media and social activists, in their eagerness for “gotcha journalism“, overstated the effect of finding out that Volkswagen was not involved in the Kuliyapitiya factory.

This is not to deny that posts like this generate socialmedia buzz:

and that the consensus on social media is that this is very embarrassing to the government.


Re-framing

Yet, how damaging was this in terms of the government’s communication objectives? Subsequent posts about both this factory opening and others mitigated some of the damage. The reason was that they were framed by the government as a fulfilment of their election commitment to bring jobs into Sri Lanka.

When assessing if this was a truly damaging incident for the government, the real questions that should be asked are:

  • To what audience is this news targeted?
  • What are their priorities?
  • How can negative commentary about this be discredited?

With the aid of correct framing, the answers are:

  • Youth seeking employment.
  • Jobs (and not specifically Volkswagen jobs!).
  • Negativity is not about government credibility, it is about being negative towards economic progress.
Summary
The government was able to reclaim the debate by framing the factory issue about employment rather than the specifics of the companies involved.

Hambantota port strike

Originally written for socialmedia.lk.

The comments here show the disconnect between the mainstream media in Sri Lanka and the public. To the MSM, the issue is about the alleged assault on a journalist; to the public, the issue is about a politically motivated strike to disrupt the attempt to make the port viable in the long-term.

This is not to excuse attacks on journalists or strikers. It is an insight as to how blinkered our journalists. They are in such a frenzy over writing about the implications of what happened, that they don’t factor public opinion into account at all. This gap between the elite MSM media and the public is dangerous, as we have witnessed in America.

What we are witnessing is how, though the media played an agenda-setting role in this event (e.g. this was a serious matter), the actual framing of events was done by the politicians.

For the MSM, the framing was about the freedom of the press but the public viewed it through the frame of an economic progress issue.

Voters & Prospect Theory: Trump Lessons Part 3

This concept from Behavioral Economics is important in understanding why Trump won. Simply put, prospect theory posits that individuals are risk averse when facing favourable prospects but are more accepting of risks when faced with losses.

In the case of the US elections, a significant number of voters had negative feelings about their current situation and their long-term prospects. They also felt Clinton would be unable to fix these problems, which they perceived as been systemic to the American political order. This made them less averse to taking risks such a voting for a wild card candidate like Trump.

A new national survey finds that Trump supporters overwhelmingly believe that life in America is worse than it was 50 years ago “for people like them.” Fully 81% of registered voters who support Trump say life has gotten worse, compared with just 11% who say it has gotten better (6% say it is about the same).

Most Clinton supporters take the opposite view: 59% say life for people like them has gotten better over the past half-century, while 19% think it has gotten worse and 18% see little change. [Source]

Most voters consider Donald J. Trump a risky choice for president, saying he lacks the right temperament and values, but he is seen as more transformative and better at handling the economy than Hillary Clinton, according to the latest New York Times/CBS News poll. [Source].

Prospect Theory in Political Communication

This becomes especially interesting from a political communication perspective as it offers guidelines for messaging. A voting block existed whose perception of their current economic and social prospects was negative. Trump correctly framed his messaging to them about losses. e.g. “Make America great again” implies a loss that can be correct.

This poses a challenge to incumbent governments. If a sizable voting block is in a loss mindset, a continuity message will not be effective for them, even if there is a consensus that the alternative is risky. Negative campaigning that carries anti-risk message will not be effective with these voters.

In a Sri Lankan context, there is a case to be made that this was seen in the elections of 2015, with the effectiveness of the “good governance” message of the then opposition. Poor governance under the Rajapaksa government (nepotism / attacks on judicial independence / ethnic biases etc.) were motivating factors despite the continued personal popularity of the incumbent President and what was seen as a positive economic trajectory. This meant that the electorate was willing to risk a coalition of disparate partners as an alternative.

Strict fathers, Trump and Appachchi

These articles quoting George Lakoff, one of the great thoughts leaders on political communication, about the influence moral frameworks and perceptions of parenting have on voters were very intriguing.

He describes the two models as “strict father” and “nurturant parent.” In the former, he says, “the father knows best, the father knows right from wrong, and the job of the father is not just to support and protect the family but also, with respect to children, to teach them right from wrong so they have the right moral views.”

Nurturant parents, by contrast, feel their job is to empathize with their child, to know what their child needs, and to have open two-way discussions with their child. – NPR


So far as I can discern, he always on topic, but you have to understand what his topic is. As I observed in my Understanding Trump paper, Trump is deeply, personally committed to his version of Strict Father Morality. He wants it to dominate the country and the world, and he wants to be the ultimate authority in this authoritarian model of the family that is applied in conservative politics in virtually every issue area.

Every particular issue, from building the wall, to using our nukes, to getting rid of inheritance taxes (on those making $10.9 million or more), to eliminating the minimum wage — every issue is an instance of his version of Strict Father Morality over all areas of life, with him as ultimately in charge.

As he shifts from particular issue to particular issue, each of them activates his version of Strict Father Morality and strengthens it in the brains of his audience. So far as I can tell, he is always on topic — where this is the topic. – truth-out

This was especially interesting from a Sri Lankan perspective, as it was a model that was explicitly (though inadvertently) followed by the former President Mahinda Rajapaksa in the elections of 2015. One of his campaign themes was the idea of him as “Appachchi” (අප්පච්චි ) which is a Sinhala language word that means Father. Interestingly, this Sinhala word is (with a disclaimer that I am not a linguist!) a very rural and traditional way of saying father.

The visuals cues in the video are fairly obvious, with Rajapaksa as a traditional and beloved father / leader who is responsible for national development and knows what is best for Sri Lanka.