Death by Google

Also: a Canadian COVID vaccine, and disposable returns

There is a class of internet users that are “builders” or “makers”. I’m one of them and the characteristic that distinguishes us from all you normies is that we don’t just use the internet, we inhabit it. We build things for you to use, and we build things for us to use. We deliberately make decisions about moving parts of our lives to the internet by using products that we’ve built, others have built, or, frequently, we glue those two types of things together to build new things.

Killed by Google

Over the last decade or so, Google has been a great ally for builders because it is always launching new things for us to play with. However, even more recently, things have changed and Google is becoming our enemy because it kills things off as quickly as it produces them. It takes a lot of work and effort to adopt new technology, and Google’s habit of ripping the rug out from under us, which means throwing all our work and data away to start again, is getting very old very fast. Tech people are shying away from new Google tools these days because our trust in their longevity is at an all-time low. This problem is so pervasive that one of us internet denizens (not me) maintains a list of all the services Google has introduced, then unceremoniously killed off, typically with little or no warning. There’s 223 as of today.

This growing lack of trust in new Google products affects its innovation. Google monitors the adoption rate of its products and services very closely. When people hesitate to adopt new Google services with a “wait and see how long it lasts” attitude, that inevitably causes Google to shut the service down even sooner due to lack of use, and ultimately will chill innovation across the board at Google. Engineers will stop spending time on new ideas for the same reason we’re slowing down our adoption of them: it’ll just get killed off so why bother with it?

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Why yes, Virginia, there is a Canadian-made COVID vaccine

I was surprised to learn that Canada did not have the capability to produce the COVID vaccine. We’re near the top of almost every list of countries, excelling in things like quality of life and industrialization. But I guess the stars have never aligned properly to include vaccine production capabilities in our prowess. For that reason, Canada is a little behind some other countries in vaccination. Understandably, vaccine-producing countries are going to vaccinate their own citizens first. Regardless, we’re not *that* far behind; vaccinations are already underway in Canada.

Today I learned of a company in Quebec named Medicago that is producing a COVID vaccine from plants. Using plants to grow the necessary vaccination thingys is faster than the traditional method of using eggs. And, as an added bonus, when the Canadian vaccine is ready, it will be much easier to work with because it can be stored at normal refrigerator temperatures of 2 to 8 degrees Celcius. The current two vaccines from Pfizer and Moderna need to be stored and transported at -70 Celcius and -20 Celcius respectively. A vaccine that can be stored at normal home fridge temperatures makes transporting the vaccine to remote sites much easier.

Here’s your money, keep the batteries

The law of unintended consequences is rearing its ugly head in the eCommerce online sales space these days. I have an Amazon Prime membership and while I really don’t think it is such a great deal money-wise, the convenience of free-returns keeps me resubscribing each year. Online sales have been a thing for a while, but many people were hesitant to order significant things online because of the hassle of returns if it was not the right size or something else was wrong with it. Amazon recognized this problem years ago and invested lots of money into making returns as painless as possible for us. And, for me, it worked. I order more from Amazon now than I did a few years ago because I know I can easily return it.

But, on the other side of things, this easy return system may not be all that great for retailers. Online returns are up a whopping 70% this year which is great money for the post office, but it’s less money in the pockets of online retailers. In an effort to stem the flow of cash spent on return shipments and restocking, larger online retailers are sometimes refunding the purchase price, but then telling consumers not to bother returning the item.

Is this a good thing? Retailers are painting a nice picture of it by suggesting people do things like donating the unused item to a charity. But, it still feels like this is the very extreme end of a disposable society. When the items we buy are so worthless that it’s cheaper for retailers to not only lose the item itself but also give us our money back on top of it, that says something about the stuff we’re buying. It says, basically, that it’s worthless.

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