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Hello, this is the Co-op Digital newsletter - it looks at what's happening in the internet/digital world and how it's relevant to the Co-op, to retail businesses, and most importantly to people, communities and society. Thank you for reading - send ideas and feedback to @rod on Twitter. Please tell a friend about it!


Try everything, as long as its scalable

“[Amazon is] ever more efficient at finding what you already know you want and shipping it to you, but bad at suggesting things you don’t already know about, and terrible whenever a product needs something specific—just try finding children’s shoes by size.

This is probably inherent in the model. For Amazon to scale indefinitely to unlimited kinds of products, it needs to have more or less the same commodity logistics model for all of them. That’s the line it’s never been willing to cross. Amazon doesn’t do "unscalable." And yet, while we now know there is nothing that people won’t happily buy online, not everything will fit that commodity model. So maybe that’s the real test of Amazon’s pride: can it work out how to let us shop, rather than just buy?” 

This neutrality is why it makes sense for Amazon to look at additional supermarket formats (ie WholeFoods, Go and 4-star isn’t the only plan). Or to be in talks to buy 26% of India's largest retail chain, Reliance Retail (rumour). Amazon’s interest is in “owning a piece of every retail transaction”, not in “selling things from a website”.

But sometimes it tries things that don’t appear quite as scalable. The handmade gifts market sounds pretty small scale a couple of years in - you’d wonder if the one-size-fits-all website doesn’t actually fit for things like that. And Amzn just announced that Prime Now will style your wardrobe for $5/month. A styling service doesn’t sound particularly scalable but what if it were a machine learning thing that generates looks from your shopping habits? “You bought the new Santan Dave album and a Harry Potter book - here’s a Streatham wizard look for you!”

Related: Etsy’s turnaround.

Food: packaging, post-meat, mergers

Zero-waste stores aren't always better for the environment. Getting rid of single-use packaging plastic is appealing because it is very visible. There are environmental benefits if you replace it with the right things. But cutting out meat, dairy and food waste generally may have a larger effect.

Meat-free burger co Impossible Foods plans to launch in Burger King and in US grocery stores in September after getting FDA approval (competitor beyond Meat is already in stores). is in discussion to buy JustEat

Data is the new CO2

Data isn't the new oil, it's the new CO2 - the impacts are societal, not just individual. CO2 is a timely metaphor for data, but “data is the new…” is always a tricky metaphor because data has weird characteristics that make comparisons to gold, or oil, or a mountain, or a lake, floods, bodies or other things not quite work. Unlike a natural resource, data is infinitely copyable and reconfigurable and it doesn’t run out. Your personal data doesn’t have much monetary value to you (if you try sell it), but it does to Facebook and Google, when placed together with the data of billions of other people.

Previously: data isn’t like oil, 2017

Delete your website’s facebook buttons!

The EU Court of Justice has ruled that the presence of Facebook buttons on your website makes you jointly a data controller with Facebook because you’re sending your site visitors’ personal data off to FB. The judgement is here, and this is from the press release:  

“the operator of a website that features a Facebook ‘Like’ button can be a controller jointly with Facebook in respect of the collection and transmission to Facebook of the personal data of visitors to its website. By contrast, that operator is not, in principle, a controller in respect of the subsequent processing of those data carried out by Facebook alone.”

Because of this (and GDPR etc), website operators should therefore explicitly ask permission to use Facebook’s buttons, pixels and other tracking things. But maybe this should also be the same for any *other* tracking things they’re running, like Google Analytics! 

So you can imagine two responses to this. 

  1. Everyone starts adding tracking opt-in forms to their existing cookie banners, and eventually every page on the entire web will have an full-screen layer of approval clicking before you get to the content.
  2. Everyone removes Facebook pixels and buttons from their website. This is a pretty good solution (reduced data controller risk, less personal data being collected, faster website for users) but one problem may be that the people responsible for a website won’t actually know what third-party tracking they have running on it.

If you’re technically minded, you can dig through a web page’s headers and work out what tracking is running. But for everyone else it is difficult. (If beloved readers know of a user-friendly tool that you can give a url to and get back “this is a list of third party tracking things running on this site”, do please let the newsletter know. If it doesn’t exist, there’s a product idea for someone.)

See also: UK tech policy after Brexit, a website outlining many large and scary Brexitty risks for the tech industry.

Youtubers and unions

IG Metall, Europe's biggest union, is supporting the Youtubers Union to make YT a fairer platform. Their joint venture is called FairTube


Google has a mobile phone with a tiny radar, which will allow it to recognise all sorts of gestures. (And here’s a sketch of its potential from 5 years ago.)


Uber is to fire 400 in marketing as growth plateaus - it’s harder to find the economies of scale when you have to build each territory from scratch.


A lot of gamers played Fortnite’s world cup last week, and a few of them won a lot of money. It was watched live by approximately everyone. None of the 100 finalists was a woman - not because they’re not good enough at doing games, but because the environment (the industry, the players) is pretty sexist, toxic and unwelcoming.

Co-op Digital news

Most opened newsletter in the last month: Tales from the crypto. Most clicked story: Communicating effectively through storytelling at Co-op Digital.


Public events:

Internal events:

  • Food ecommerce show & tell - Mon 5 Aug 10.15am at Fed House 5th floor.
  • Delivery community of practice - Mon 5 Aug 1.30pm at Fed House.
  • User experience future vision - Mon 5 Aug and every day this week 4pm at Fed House 5th floor.
  • What has the web team been up to? Playback - Tue 6 Aug 1pm at Fed House 6th floor.
  • Health team show & tell - Tue 6 Aug 2.30pm at Fed house 5th floor.
  • CRM and data ecosystem show & tell - Wed 7 Aug 3pm at Angel Square 13th floor breakout area.
  • Membership show & tell - Fri 9 Aug 3pm at Fed House 6th floor kitchen.

More events at Federation House - and you can contact the events team at And TechNW has a useful calendar of events happening in the North West. 

Thank you for reading

Thank you, clever and considerate readers and contributors. Please continue to send ideas, questions, corrections, improvements, etc to the newsletterbot’s typing squirrel @rod on Twitter. If you have enjoyed reading, please tell a friend!

If you want to find out more about Co-op Digital, follow us @CoopDigital on Twitter and read the Co-op Digital Blog. Previous newsletters.

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