Here are the stories we have enjoyed reading this week, from emojis to serial killers, Cambridge Analytica to business bullshit.

Can algorithms catch serial killers?

If you were a fan of Mindhunter on Netflix or the podcast Serial, you’ll love this macabre piece in The New Yorker.

Thomas Hargrove is a homicide archivist who writes algorithms for the Murder Accountability Project. These algorithms are designed to find patterns in data that may point to serial killers.

The article includes details of some of the project’s success stories and just how reluctant a police force may be to have such a likelihood pointed out to them.

Key paragraph:

“Our primary purpose is to gather as many records as possible…It’s seductive how powerful these records are, though. Just through looking, you can spot serial killers. In various places over various years, you can see that something god-awful has happened.”

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Inboxing to thought showers: How business bullshit took over

The Econsultancy blog has a history of railing against jargon (here, here, here and here). So we loved this long read from André Spicer.

Spicer charts the history of bullshit, beginning with Charles Krone, whose ‘Kroning’ corporate training cost the naive Packard Bell $40m in 1984. As Spicer describes it ‘over the course of 10 two-day sessions, staff were instructed in new concepts, such as “the law of three” (a “thinking framework that helps us identify the quality of mental energy we have”), and discovered the importance of “alignment”, “intentionality” and “end-state visions”.’

The article takes in other landmarks of bullshit, including the journey of Don Draper from suit to hippy.

Key paragraph:

“Business bullshit can and should be challenged. This is a task each of us can take up by refusing to use empty management-speak. We can stop ourselves from being one more conduit in its circulation. Instead of just rolling our eyes and checking our emails, we should demand something more meaningful.”

L’Oreal’s new CMO is keeping it real

Stéphane Bérubé is now CMO for L’Oreal in Western Europe. Marketing Week reports on his O+O (online plus offline) strategy. Bérubé says agencies shouldn’t be talking about doing digital in 2017, they should just talk about marketing.

Still receiving ads for nappies, despite his youngest being eight years old, Bérubé also has wise words about data: “We are in the era where consumers don’t know the benefits of data and have a negative view of it. Our priority is to bring personalisation to consumers and be super relevant. From an industry standpoint, we have not done a very good job [of explaining] why data can bring relevancy and more meaningful content.”

Key paragraph:

“I don’t believe we have an online and offline consumer. Marketing needs to move from having [separate] digital priorities. We need to stop talking about what is the digital strategy. I am making a big point of this [to change] in the culture at L’Oréal.”

Parry is back!

Perhaps Econsultancy’s most popular guest contributor ever, Phrasee’s co-founder Parry Malm has an inimitable way of spicing up articles about email subject lines (which, let’s be fair, are pretty interesting any way if you’re a student of language in marketing).

This week, Parry wrote his first Econsultancy blog article for two years – a statistical study of the impact of emojis on subject lines.

Key paragraph:

“Emojis are like Sex Panther cologne: 60% of the time, they work every time.”

emoji or eNOji 

Tencent surpasses Facebook in market value

A nice article from Reuters now. Tencent is rolling out its WeChat ecosystem into Malaysia. The country will be the first to grant an e-payment license for local transactions by WeChat Pay (basically meaning it can operate independently in the country).

The move is seen as a key way to grow WeChat usage in the country, which already has 20m users.

Tencent is slowing trying to export its ecosystem and Chinese culture to the rest of the world, and in the same week saw its market value surpass Facebook. Could such a platform with mini-programs become more popular around the world?

Key paragraph:

Tencent this week became the first Asian firm to enter the club of companies worth more than $500 billion, and on Tuesday surpassed Facebook in market value.

AI may change jobs, but the gendered nature of the workforce is a bigger problem

Danah Boyd is a principal researcher at Microsoft Research and the founder/president of Data & Society. She gave a talk recently at The People’s Disruption: Platform Co-Ops for Global Challenges.

Here’s a transcript on Medium. It’s quite a philosophical piece about the creators of social media and their unpreparedness for the impact of their platforms. Boyd also ruminates on bigger problems for the workforce than AI.

Key paragraph:

When you listen to people in tech talk about the future of labor, they will tell you that AI is taking over all of the jobs. What they gloss over is the gendered dynamics of the labor force. Many of the shortages in the workforce stem from labor that is culturally gendered “feminine” and seen as low-status. There’s no conception of how workforce dynamics in tech are also gendered.

Furthermore, anxieties about automation don’t tend to focus on work that is seen as the work of immigrants, even at a time when immigration is a hotly contested conversation. As a result, when we talk about automation as the major issue in the future of work, we lose track of the broader anxiety about identities that’s shaping both technology and work.

ASOS market cap overtakes Marks & Spencer

This feels like a big deal to anyone familiar with the much-loved UK retailer M&S.

Key paragraph:

“The shift in retail power is being compared with the automotive industry, where the electric carmaker Tesla sped ahead of the 114-year-old Ford Motor Company in April to become the US’s most valuable car manufacturer. Similarly, the online retailer Amazon is now worth nearly twice as much as Walmart, after overtaking the American grocery chain in 2015.”

Carole Cadwalladr 

Cadwalladr wrote a piece for the Guardian back in May 2017 about Cambridge Analytica, Brexit and Trump which is now the subject of a legal complaint. Fast forward to November and she is now the subject of bizarre and offensive video clips which have been posted by Leave.EU on Twitter.

This attempt to discredit Cadwalladr and to lower the bar for public discourse has understandably left her angry. She discusses the latest events here.

Key paragraph:

“Leave.EU is now the subject of two Electoral Commission investigations into potentially illegal sources of funding, the first of which followed an article I wrote in March. They’ve been calling me crazy for months and I thought this would be more of the same. But it wasn’t. The video was a clip from the film Airplane!, in which a “hysterical” woman is told to calm down and then hit, repeatedly, around the head. The woman – my face photoshopped in – was me. And, as the Russian national anthem played, a line of people queued up to take their turn. The last person in the line had a gun.”

10 signs programmatic advertising is reaching maturity 

I caught up with The Trade Desk’s Joel Livesey to find out why he thinks 2018 is going to be such a big year for programmatic.

Key paragraph:

“…for all the noise about brand safety, viewability, fraud and kickbacks – programmatic is maturing fast. A range of new technologies and initiatives have got many in the industry hopeful that 2018 could be a big year for programmatic. After all, emarketer predicts that 81.5% of digital display spend will be programmatic next year.”

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