Wednesday, December 11, 2019

Web Secret 602: Euphoria

I had no intention of watching the HBO series "Euphoria."

From the trailer, it looked like an updated "Beverly Hills 90210"about angsty, unrealistically attractive, upper middle class teenagers - with more graphic sex and drug use. - because "hey, it's 2019."

But my 25 year old son, (who is either a very young Millennial, or a very old Gen Z,) assures me this is not the case.

It appears Euphoria can serve as a field trip to understand what Gen Z is all about.

Gen Z. They are the children born in the ashes of 9/11. Cursed from the start. One of the major characters in the series deadpans "The world’s coming to an end and I haven’t even graduated high school.”

One day after work, my son asked an 18 year old intern, (from Idaho no less,) if that is what she believes.

She said yes, without any hesitation. Her generation will suffer the consequences of climate change, the imminence of mass extinction events. A decline in living standards. Insurmountable college debt.

Now I'm going to watch it.

Wednesday, December 4, 2019

Web Secret 601: the Intellectual Dark Web

I have been watching the #MeToo movement from my perspective as a woman molested in her teens by a family friend, and a prior career as a certified sexual harassment prevention trainer.

While I cheer the downfall of the Epsteins and Weinsteins of this world, and a climate in which women feel empowered to come forth, I am concerned about the way corporations and not for profit institutions are handling many of the accused: immediate termination and accompanying career annihilation.

From my vantage point, the concept of "innocent until proven guilty" is out the window. And firing the perpetrator seems to be the only option.

Before #MeToo, this is how accusations were handled in the organizations I worked with:
  1. The person was accused
  2. Individuals accused of breaking the law eg accusations of rape - were turned over to the police - not to be fired but to be investigated and potentially sent to prison.
  3. Employees accused of making insensitive comments, and lesser offenses were investigated.
  4. If the accusations were verified and not egregious, they were educated and given a final warning that a repetition of the offense would result in being fired.
These days, whether on the left or the right, there aren't very many people open to nuance, or living in the grey.

This got me interested in the emergence of a controversial group of individuals, the Intellectual Dark Web.

The core principles of the group are:
  • A willingness to engage in conversations with people who have different beliefs and political viewpoints
  • Rejection of identity politics (and a recognition that it has become the dominant ideology in mainstream media discourse)
  • Ideas worth listening to
  • Honoring of freedom of speech
  • People who don’t want them to speak their truth and try to silence them
Critics argue the group is a collective of public personalities who oppose what they see as the dominance of progressive identity politics and political correctness in the media and academia.

It's more complicated than that.

That's the problem, it's all more complicated.

Wednesday, November 27, 2019

Web Secret 600: The Portal Story

Right in time for Thanksgiving, my 600th post.

What should I write about?

I have come to believe that my best posts express a sense of awe about humanity and/or technology, and pose important questions, without necessarily answering them.

Today I will feature this video, an illustration of Eric Weinstein's "Portal Story" concept.

It's a gift.

Wednesday, November 20, 2019

Web Secret 599: Can AI write a novel?

I recently read an article in the Atlantic "When an AI Goes Full Jack Kerouac."

It describes how graduate student Ross Goodwin set up a cobbled together AI apparatus, in a car, to produce the next American road-trip novel.

He narrates the beginning of the trip:
"The machine received its first jolt of inspiration just as soon as Goodwin and his traveling companions fired it up in Brooklyn. It wrote: 'It was nine seventeen in the morning, and the house was heavy.' For an opening sentence in a book about the road, it’s apropos, even poignant."
It was a beginning effort, producing beautiful, if not necessarily coherent prose: “A body of water came down from the side of the street. The painter laughed and then said, I like that and I don’t want to see it.”

By the way, the AI came up with the "painter" character which pops up periodically in the narrative.

It was a beginning effort...

Wednesday, November 13, 2019

Web Secret 598: Bark

Helping parents cope with the cell phones an;d social media habits of their children is a major challenge - and an opportunity for psychotherapists an EAPs. Both groups may consider referring clients to an app called Bark.

To understand what Bark does, watch the video:


Wednesday, November 6, 2019

Web Secret 597: Google self-destruct

Google and YouTube have now given us an option to set search and location data to automatically disappear after a certain time.

You should do that.

For years, Google has kept a record of our internet searches by default. Scary.

Most of Google’s new privacy controls are in a web tool called My Activity.

Once you get into the tool and click on Activity Controls, you will see an option called Web & App Activity.

Click Manage Activity and then the button under the calendar icon. Here, you can set your activity history on several Google products to automatically erase itself after three months or after 18 months. This data includes searches made on, voice requests made with Google Assistant, destinations that you looked up on Maps and searches in Google’s Play app store.

Which duration should you go for? I recommend 3 months.

New to Google’s privacy controls this week is the ability to auto-delete your YouTube history, which includes searches and the videos you’ve watched.

In the My Activity tool, click on Activity controls and look for the button for YouTube history.

Click on Manage history and you will see a similar calendar icon, which lets you set YouTube history to delete after three months.

That was easy.

Wednesday, October 30, 2019

Web Secret 596: Apps that suck

Way back in 2008 I wrote a blog post about an epic website: Web pages that suck.

Many of the websites I wrote about over 10 years ago or either obsolete or have ceased to exist. Not so "Web pages that suck" which though it ceased updating after Worst Websites of 2014, is still accessible, and as useful today as it was then.

In fact, I recently realized that their wonderful check list is as applicable to apps as it is to websites:

If you check YES to any of these questions, your app sucks:

1. It takes longer than four seconds for the man from Mars to understand what our site is about.

2. Our site doesn't provide clear instructions on how to perform tasks - gaming apps are the worst. Sample offender: Churchill Solitaire . Supposedly created by the great man himself, this is a complex game that is very difficult to win and takes a long time to play. How do you find out how to play it? You don't. I still don't know what campaign mode is or the difference between easy, medium and hard trial deals. I actually don't even know what a trial deal is. I have learned the game through trial and error and am pretty convinced there are aspects of it that I don't know.

3. Navigation isn't initially obvious. Sample offender: My Altitude, A relic of having partly grown up in Switzerland, is I like to know my altitude at all times - well often. The landing page on this app is chock full of useless info and the navigation symbols are obscure.

4. Our apps's content is not written for the app, but for print media (or other media) and we just transferred it to the app. If your app does exactly what your website does, you don't need an app. Sample offender: pretty much any retail store. I much prefer to order from Amazon's website - even when I'm on a mobile device. I know Amazon's website and can easily find what I'm looking for. Why would I struggle with an app?

5.Our app requires you to login before we even show you what it's about. OK, I made that list item and the next one up, but I can't even show you a sample offender, because if you ask me to do that, I delete your ass in a nano second.

6. We update our app all the time without explaining the difference from one version to the next. You know who you are. I get upgrade fatigue real quick these days and unless you are extremely valuable to me, I will delete you.

So before creating an app, look at the check list - substitue "app" for "web page" or "website" and the principles are mostly the same.

Don't suck.