We all had a good laugh last Friday about a television appearance from AOL’s “Digital Prophet,” David Shing, because of his completely absurd physical appearance.
But “Shingy,” as he likes to be called, is actually quite a clever animal. His ridiculous plumage serves a vital function – to distract people from the worthless gibberish that cascades out of his mouth-hole.
Here’s something you need to know about “tech companies.” The most valuable thing in all of their corporate cultures is the need to appear “on the cutting edge.” Forget profits, forget employee satisfaction (as evidenced by AOL’s recent gutting of their 401K matching program), all that matters is that they look like they’re “ahead of the curve.” Actually implementing technology to be ahead of the curve, however, is really hard. So what they do instead is hire some jive-talking idiot to write guest blogs and speak at conferences to weave the illusion.
AOL’s choice was David Shing. I’m sure he came into a meeting and just wowed whatever board dinosaurs needed to be impressed (and wouldn’t Google anything he said) and they wrote him a check. And now the chickens are coming home to roost.
Here are the ten dumbest things that Shing’s ever said (in public – we have no doubt that, say, in the heat of coitus with his “babe” he says equally dumb things, but we may never know them).
10. “You fundamentally have between 6 seconds and 13 hours to tell your brand story today.”
Let’s start with this hilarious line, which sums up everything absurd about the whole concept of a “digital prophet.” This is from a now-deleted Vimeo that Shing uploaded that, if it wasn’t so po-faced, could serve as a parody of everything noxious about Silicon Valley. Where did those numbers come from? I’ll tell you where: out of David Shing’s ass. Oh, and here’s a little tip for AOL: If the guy you hired to make you seem forward-thinking is deleting his prediction videos because they’re so embarrassing, maybe you shouldn’t be paying him to make prediction videos.
9. “We can see examples of that everywhere, even back in the day, with Andy Warhol’s studio in Soho, the careers and the movements that happened there.”
This is from a hilariously ass-kissing interview with Shing on some Greek blog. Anybody who knows anything about the modern art scene in New York can spot what’s wrong with this pretty easily, but if you don’t: Warhol never had a studio in SoHo. This dipshit is talking about the Factory, which was first located in Midtown then relocated to Union Square, quite a ways north of Houston St. Shing (who even lives in New York) is staggeringly ignorant of the actual facts, preferring instead to promulgate an incorrect myth and make himself (and his employer, AOL) look foolish.
8. “David Shing is AOL’s Digital Prophet. He spends most of his time watching the future take shape across the vast online landscape.”
This is from Shing’s bio page with AOL’s “leadership team.” We could be charitable and maybe say that he didn’t write it himself, but you know he did. How the fuck can you say you “spend most of your time watching the future take shape across the vast online landscape?” Shouldn’t you, oh, I dunno, spend most of your time trying to make the corporate entity that employs you competitive in the vast online landscape? A great way to identify these new digital hucksters is that they’re still wedded to old-school Bruce Sterling-esque descriptors of the Internet as a “landscape,” a physical place, and of themselves as Peerless Explorers in it.
In December of 2013, Shing made the rounds pitching “what your brand needs to be if it wants to remain relevant in the social space.” And that was.. “mocal.” A grotesque portmanteau of “mobile” and “social,” it basically comes down to… making your social strategy available on mobile devices? Like, uh, every successful social network already is? Oh, except for AOL, but I said “successful.”
6. “Apps are a rubbish concept.”
The best things about “prophets” is that they’re expected to make predictions, and those predictions are almost always wrong. Shing spoke at the London Web Summit in early 2012 and laid down all kinds of laughs like “Email is hot. Expect a 256% increase in ROI for email.” Again, look at the number there: two hundred and fifty-six percent! Where’d that number come from? But best of all was the apps line, in which Shing predicted that in-browser HTML5 sites would replace standalone apps in the phone / tablet market. Two years on and that’s not coming anywhere near happening, so good job there.
5. “People are going to cluster in small villages or tribes and understand that they can have deep, intimate communications there.”
Also from the deleted video, this is Shing’s latest hot idea – that large-scale social networks are on the way out, to be replaced by a Balkanization of user bases towards something more local and intimate. Sound familiar? It’s basically the same idea behind Patch, AOL’s attempt at creating local news sites that lost the company $147 million in 2011. The concept was such a disaster that a holding company that owns 5.3% of AOL’s stock basically said “fuck this shit, stop doing this now” and made them sell it off at a huge loss. So what is ol’ Shingy doing? Evangelizing the exact thing that failed spectacularly without a hint of irony. Good job, buddy. Smart attention to the product.
4. “I don’t want people to know that I still listen to Dolly Parton”
This is from one of millions of dumb fucking interviews but let’s be honest with here: the songs of Dolly Parton have more beauty and emotional resonance than anything David Shing has ever touched with his idiot fingers.
3. “What really does drive me is the awe in people. If I’m inspiring people, if people are inspired by what I say and I see it in their eyes afterwards, that’s why I do it.”
We’re back to that Greek interview again for this hilariously self-aggrandizing quote. Hands up out there, who feels “awe” when they listen to David Shing talk? Maybe if you contextualize it as “awe that a Fortune 1000 company is willing to throw money down the toilet,” sure, but who can honestly say that they’re inspired by this half-baked fluffernutter? Who listens to these presentations and TED talks and thinks “Oh, right, wearable computing, I’ve never heard of Google Glass because I live in a moron hole, maybe this guy’s on to something?”
2. “With almost eight billion people on the planet and 50% of those under the age of thirty who have never known life without the Internet…”
And this, really, is the core of David Shing. He automatically assumes that, if you’re under the age of thirty and on the planet Earth, you’re an internet user. Wow. four billion customers! Notwithstanding that fact that almost 75% of the Earth’s population does not have access to the Internet. But why should that stop David Shing? He’s got a big number to say! Facts are for the gearheads and the wonks who actually make things and create value for their employers. I’m David Shing! I just fountain out bullshit onstage at TEDxBumfuck and paint my fucking nails!
1. “I am excited for what 2014 could mean for brands and people!”
I just can’t. Who the fuck can say with a straight face that they’re “excited for what a year means for brands.” Guess what? Brands are shit. Loving brands is loving shit and being a “prophet” for brands is sitting at the bottom of a toilet bowl and praying for turds to come. Having David Shing on your payroll, AOL, does not add a single cent to your profit margins or improve the user experience of a single customer. But he sure does give you lots of opportunities for articles like this.
Bonus: “Please go away animated GIFs.”
If there was ever a single Tweet that could sum up why somebody shouldn’t have a job, this would be it.