Wednesday, September 2, 2015

Web Secret #378: the persistence of old technology

I am always preaching the need for preparedness in the face of rapidly changing technology.

But then I came across a very interesting article that states "Technology changes far slower than we usually think it does."

This is what it says:

A pretty-good technology that achieves widespread acceptance has a way of sticking around for years, even decades. Just look at how many people still listen to AM radio, buy CDs at concerts, or drive cars with internal combustion engines and four wheels.

Or look at the way telephone technology has evolved over the past century and a half. Yes, we’ve added new features, like cellular data and VoIP calling. But the underlying infrastructure is, in some ways, much the same. Your fancy iPhone still has a touch-pad dialer for connecting you to the telephone network, and that dialer is basically a digital representation of something that has existed since the 1960s.

The persistence of old-but-acceptable technology has some big implications for the future of the Web. After all, the Web is hardly cutting-edge tech. The basic protocol on which the Internet is based is over 40 years old.

So if you’re waiting for a transformative change in how we consume information online, you could be waiting a long time.

Think about what air travel looked like in 1965. Humans had only been flying airplanes for about sixty years, and the U.S. and Soviet Union were rapidly expanding their space travel capabilities. If you plotted a line of human transportation speed from 1750 to 1950, it would form an exponential curve. In the near future — a 1960s futurist might think — we would soon be flying on huge, comfortable supersonic jets. And shortly after that, we’d be riding on incredibly fast rockets, then nuclear rockets, and perhaps enjoying near-light speed interstellar travel by the early 2000s.

But it didn’t turn out that way. Supersonic jets turned out to be way too expensive and way too damaging to the ozone layer. Ordinary, high-capacity jets like the Boeing 747 turned out to be good enough, and economical enough, that they became the de facto standard. The models Boeing created in the 1970s form the backbone of the company’s lines today, with very slight differences and enhancements that are mostly invisible to non-experts. In fact, some of today’s planes are actually slower than their 1970s predecessors: The Boeing 787 is slower than the 707.

We might be at a similar point with Internet technologies today. In the past twenty years, we’ve seen enormous changes in the way people access and create information. The wide dispersion of Internet access has brought the world’s knowledge to every corner of the Earth; the shift to mobile devices has put that knowledge literally into the hands of everyone who can afford a cellphone and a monthly contract. Social networks make it easier than ever to connect with like-minded people around the world, and digital maps are shining a clear light into every corner of the Earth, simplifying navigation and enabling armchair travel to the most interesting, remote locations.

So you might think that the Web is advancing at the same, exponential rate that it has for the past 20 years. You’d be wrong: The Web is advancing only slowly, and in some ways, it’s getting worse.

The mobile Web sucks, the mobile browsers we use today are, in fact, slower and less capable than desktop browsers of five years ago. Our mobile browsers are more like 787s than Concordes.

What we need is to stop thinking of the Web as a platform for transformative, exponential innovation. That kind of innovation is still happening in other spheres — like transportation and health care — but not in the Web. Stop expecting media companies, or encyclopedias, to behave like startups.

Get a few billion more people onto the Web, and see what they come up with.

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Web Secret #377: Venmo

What do you do when you owe someone money?

Do you write them a check?

Go to the ATM to give them cash?

Buy a money order?

Purchase a gift card?

Millenials don't do any of the above - they use Venmo.

Venmo is a free app that enables you to send money from person to person through the web. Like PayPal (which owns Venmo), the Internet and mobile device-linked service connects to your major U.S.-based bank account or debit card, so it can pull funds from and make deposits into your checking or savings accounts.

Typically used for paying friends back for a bar tab, splitting up the rent check, or settling with the babysitter at the end of the night, it’s designed to take the place of any instance where you would normally use cash or a check to give someone money.

Setting up Venmo is simple, but not intuitive, so I recommend viewing this video to help you with that process.

Once you are set up, using Venmo is quick and easy.

And useful.

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Web Secret 376: The Void

As I have written before, most tech and social media innovations are first used for gaming and consumer purposes.

Virtual reality helmets just recently became mainstream tools for cutting edge clinicians. A typical use will allow the wearer to experience the sights and sounds of a bar so they can learn to handle abstinence in a challenging setting.

So it is unsurprising that a monumental advance in virtual reality is being marketed for its gaming potential.

Let me introduce THE VOID:

It's the holodeck of the starship Enterprise come to life in 2015.

The therapeutic possibilities are mind blowing.

Wednesday, August 12, 2015

Web Secret #375: the most outrageous blog in America

This is a blog post about an X rated blog.

You have been warned.

The blog is about

a woman

of a certain age

enjoying herself

with men

under 50 - some way under 50.

It is also witty, literate, and subversive.

It will explode all of your conventional ideas about


of a certain age

enjoying themselves

with men

under 50 - some way under 50.

Honestly, I consider myself to be a worldly, edgy human being and I was shaken.

I realized that we (I) don't bat (much of) an eyelash when hearing/reading about older men enjoying themselves or even marrying younger, sometimes much younger women. But we (I) have a long, long way to go in applying that standard to women.

I know, because I was afraid to write this blog post, even though I think  it is a very important blog.

You see in addition to raw and Rabelaisian tales of her carnal adventures, the author writes about ageism, self love, and physical transformation.

Sure, others have written about ageism and dating apps, the importance of self care and the rationale for plastic surgery, and the challenges of dating when you are no longer chronologically young.

But no one, NO ONE, has come close to the honesty of this blog.

Reading it will force you to confront your own ageism and sexism.

One day our double standard for women will be long forgotten.

Until then, there is

PS. The photo is a shot of Sophie Tucker (1887-1966,) a celebrated singer, comedian, actress, and radio personality whose hay day was in the first half of the 20th century. When I saw this picture, I racked my brain to remember when I had last seen a woman over 40, and over a size 6, strike such a confident, powerful and sexy, pose. Mae West. 1932.

Wednesday, August 5, 2015

Web Secret #374: 4 things you can do on the Internet for free

Thank you Rohit Bhattacharya for your inspirational post "15 Cool Things You Can Do On The Internet For Free."

1. Send files up to 1GB (that's HUGE) for free from Pando

2. Get free tech support at Techguy

3. Find free wifi spots worldwide at WifiFreeSpot

4. Watch from hundreds of documentaries at DocumentaryHeaven


Thursday, July 30, 2015

Web Secret #373: ebates

Do you shop online?

Of course you do.

Would you like to get cash back for doing that?

It's not a myth - it's ebates.

The concept is simple - when you go to the store where you want to shop through its ebates link, you get cash back - a percentage of the money you spend. Earnings are paid out quarterly.

Ebates features over 1,800 online stores, from Macy's to Victoria's Secret, from Expedia to eBay and the list goes on and on.

Cash back can range from 2.5% to 6% - even more. Some stores specify the items that are eligible for cash back - eg Amazon was giving 3% for purchasing women's clothing. Other sites offer cash back on everything

Signing up takes seconds - then it's just a matter of remembering to check ebates whenever you want to buy online.

Smart shopper.

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Web Secret #372: Episode recap

After the last episode of Mad Men was aired, I decided to compare notes with my Millenial children.

Turns out that they had a vastly different experience of that finale, entitled "Person To Person."

My daughter didn't realize that the Coke ad which ended the series was an actual, real ad. She thought it was created for the series.

None of my children knew what a person to person collect call was.

They could have used episode recap.

At some point during the past three years, as I have streamed more and more Golden Age of Television shows - from Mad Men, to Peaky Blinders to Black Mirror and more, I became concurrently aware that for each aired episode there were multiple posted episode recaps. These recaps are not mere summaries, and usually include sophisticated dissections of characters, plot, and context.

The fact is, many of my favorite shows are so complex, I need episode recap.

The characters in Peaky Blinders speak such thickly accented English, I miss entire paragraphs of dialogue. And how about "Game of Thrones"? Who can keep track of that plot?

In the Black Mirror series, there is an episode, "The Entire History of You," set in in the near future where most people have a 'grain' implanted behind their ear that records everything they do, see or hear. This allows memories to be played back either in front of the person's eyes or on a screen, a process known as a 're-do'.

It's episode recap for life.

Maybe not so far fetched...