Wednesday, August 8, 2018

Web Secret 531: Lemonade

Say you're a young Millenial. Maybe in your first job.

And you rent an apartment. And you are required to have renter's insurance.

It's 2018. What do you do?

You download the Lemonade app. Here is Lemonade explained:

What makes Lemonade special in the insurance world? It's cheap. Really cheap. A studio apartment in a doorman building could cost as little as $11.00 to insure.

As one article explains, Lemonade promises “world record claims handling” in only three seconds with “25% of claims paid in 3 seconds.” And you can “get insured” in only 90 seconds. And with its “Zero Everything” option, the customer is promised “zero deductible, zero rate hikes, zero worries.”

Nothing is too small to report stolen under a renter or homeowner’s policy, including flip-flops. The website actually says flip-flops are covered.

Here is how it works. Someone steals flip-flops out of your apartment. Use the Lemonade App to record a video of yourself explaining what happened, what the flip-flops look like and what you think they are worth, say, $10. Send it to Lemonade, and its “AI runs 18 anti-fraud algorithms,” which is basically the computer deciding whether you might be lying. If it believes you, the “AI will pay you in 3 seconds” and send $10 to your bank account. If the AI thinks you might be lying, you get diverted to a human to process the claim.

If life gives you lemons...

Wednesday, August 1, 2018

Web Secret 530: Jobo

My 24 year old twins are job hunting.

They aren't combing job boards like Monster or Indeed.

That would be labor intensive.

That would be inefficient.

That would be old fashioned.

Instead, they have a robot looking for jobs for them.

Not like the robot in "Lost in Space" or "The Jetsons."

They use Jobo - the Job Bot.

Jobo promises to "Find jobs worldwide, get updates about new job offers. Let the bot do his job."

Set up is a snap:

1. Add Jobo on messenger

2. Create a profile with the key words that describe the job you are looking for. Setup your own job alarm - ie how often you want to be messaged about your job opportunities.

3. Apply for jobs via messenger or directly.

Easy. Very 2018.

Wednesday, July 25, 2018

Web Secret 529: uBreakiFix

Ask any Gen Z person to show you their smartphone and I will bet you over 50% of the time, the screen is cracked.

Badly cracked.

And they don't seem to care.

This is a profound mystery to me.

I consider my iPhone to be a miraculous device, something to be tended too and protected at all times.

In over ten years of ownership, I have never cracked any screen of any device I have ever owned.

But if I did, it would get fixed within 48 hours.

Now here is the rub. If you are still under warranty, you have to make an appointment with the Genius Bar. And they might need to keep it for hours, maybe even days.

If you do not have Apple Care+ or are out of warranty, it will cost you $149 to fix the screen.

I'd rather take my smashed screen to uBreakiFix.

uBreak is a franchise with hundreds of outposts throughout the USA.

There the repair will cost less: $129.99. And the repair will take under 2 hours.

I feel better already.

Wednesday, July 18, 2018

Web Secret 528: 11 ways to encourage yourself and others to take a break from technology

I recently came across a Forbes article "11 Ways To Encourage Mental Breaks From Technology In The Workplace."

Interestingly, most of the suggestions could be applied to ourselves or our families. As usual, here is the edited version:

1. Create Smartphone Break Areas
Ask people to voluntarily put the smartphone in a box in a certain area of the workplace.

2. Truly Respect Time Off
If an employee is supposed to be off of work, do not send them an email during that time. Don't assume an email is less intrusive than an actual phone call. If you would not call them at that hour, then don't email either.

3. Create Boundaries For Out-Of-Office Communications
Unless a job is billed as 24/7 on-call, maintain boundaries for outside hours communications. Establish cut-off times that are clear and enforceable as nightly deadlines for work outreach.

4. Leave Phones Out Of Meetings
Have a "no smartphone" policy in meetings -- not just team meetings but one-on-one meetings in your office. Leave your phone out of sight, switched off, or put it on silent with no vibration.

5. Clarify The Level Of Priority
Give your team the flexibility of priority awareness. Use the subject line of an email to scale the urgency of an action. Notations like "action by COB today," "before lunch," or "prepare for next staff meeting" give a clear timeline. On the other hand, preceding status updates with FYSA (For Your Situational Awareness) clarifies that no immediate action is required.

6. Promote Self-Care
Implement a wellness program, add yoga and other de-stressing activities, and/or add a quiet zone. Create safe, phone-free zones for employees to unwind and decompress. Senior leaders must demonstrate that they value self-care and allow spaces for employees to do the same. This also means that out-of-office truly means that employees are unavailable during that time.

7. Encourage Employees To Disable Notifications
Getting a mental break at work can be less about getting away from the smartphone and more about diminishing unnecessary sights and sounds. Sound and sight distractions such as email, text and app notifications exponentially increase stress and decrease productivity. If you do nothing more than turn off email "pings" and pop-up windows, you will greatly enhance a sense of focus and calm at work.

8. Take Meetings Outside
If you work near any green space, start taking small groups or one-on-one meetings outside. Find space near a fountain to meet with employees or just walk and talk. Fresh air stimulates greater creative thinking. Walking improves circulation and overall health.

Wednesday, July 11, 2018

WebSecret 527: Happiness in an app

The New York Times recently published an article listing "happiness" apps.

Since we could all use a little happiness, here is what they recommended:

Happy Not Perfect

Designed to bio-hack the brain in five minutes, Step 1 of seven, Check-in, decreases the impact of an emotion just by acknowledging it. Step 2, Breathing, takes you out of fight or flight. Step 3, Journaling, allows you process, digest, and let it go by way of a digital fire ceremony. Step 4, Gratitude, shifts the focus to the positive. In Step 5, a mini Mind Game disrupts thought patterns. Step 6, a Compassion Challenge, boosts self-esteem. Step 7, Vibes, lets you pay it forward. Guided meditations are optional.

Perk: A subscription ($9.99 for one month; $39.99 for six months; $59.99 for a year) provides access to more than 250 meditations and to a gratitude diary and compassion challenge history.

Smiling Mind

Developed by psychologists and educators, Smiling Mind is a free app aiming to make mindfulness accessible to everyone, including children as young as 7. Meditations are offered according to age group and audience, for example Adults, Sport, Mindfulness in the Classroom, Mindfulness in the Workplace. Prompts like “How Do You Feel?” encourage checking in with oneself.

Perk: With Family Sharing, up to six family members can use this app.

Insight Timer

The most popular free meditation app on Android and iOS stores, Insight Timer is home to some 4.5 million meditators and offers guided meditations, talks and podcasts by mindfulness experts, neuroscientists, psychologists and meditation teachers, in 25 languages, on topics including depression and grief.

Perk: Practitioners of all levels seeking community can see how many meditated “with” them, send direct messages and join discussion groups.


Named the No. 1 New App by Apple in 2017, Aura offers mindfulness meditations, short stories, music, sounds of nature, a gratitude journal and life coaching sessions to soothe stress and anxiety and help users sleep better. The artificial-intelligence-powered program uses questionnaires to personalize and improve the user experience.

Perk: The app is free - however, a subscription ($11.99 for one month; $59.99 for one year; $399 for lifetime) allows unlimited access to meditations of 3 minutes, 7 minutes or 10 minutes.


Wednesday, July 4, 2018

Web Secret 526: individual cybersecurity when traveling

So you have tickets to the FIFA World Cup in Russia.

Lucky you.

Remember when, a few posts ago, I told you that Russia is enemy number one when it comes to cyberwarfare?

This is what Conde Nast Traveler thinks you need to do to safeguard your data if you choose to go (just about anywhere in the world):

If it looks too good to be true, it probably is Free tickets, FIFA lotteries, VIP seating upgrades—chances There is no such thing as a free lunch. Do not reply to, click on or otherwise interact with these offers. Delete, delete, delete.

Protect your devices. If you can, leave the devices you really love at home. Invest in a cheap unlocked phone you can use when you're traveling with a local SIM cards. If you absolutely need to bring a laptop with you when you travel, consider buying a sub-$500 Chromebook, eg: the Asus Flip C302. Bonus: with Chromebooks, everything is stored on Google's cloud, so if it the laptop gets jacked, you won't lose everything.

If you insist on bringing your laptop, make sure everything is backed up in the cloud and on an external hard drive before you leave, and ensure the device is secured with a password that isn't "password123."

Public Wi-Fi networks are basically "Steal my stuff" invitations Avoid public Wi-Fi networks when you can. Even if you think you're somewhere safe, like your hotel lobby, it's not worth the risk. You don't know who else is in that lobby, and you don't even know whether the network you're connecting to is legit, it's not hard for a hacker to create a hotspot with the name "Hotel Free Wi-Fi."

If you absolutely have to connect to one, don't do anything sensitive.

Use a VPN (virtual private network). Think of a virtual private network as a tunnel that encrypts all your data as it passes through and scrambles your location (by changing your IP address), even if you are connected to the internet through a public network.

Two that are recommended by Wired magazine are F-Secure FREEDOME VPN and

HTTPS is your friend—HTTP is not. If a website starts with "https" it means it's encrypted, making your browsing more secure. If it's missing that "s"—for secure—anyone can snoop on what you're doing. To be safe, install HTTPS Everywhere as an extension into your browser: it automatically switches sites from the door-wide-open http to the far more secure https.

Rent a portable hotspot. Far more secure than public Wi-Fi are portable hotspots, the pocket-sized devices you can rent. They give you a secured individual Wi-Fi connection around the world, so you can connect to the internet without using international data or open Wi-Fi networks. Skyroam (starting at $9 a day) and Roaming Man ($9.99 a day) are two good options; both give you password protected 4G Wi-Fi access in more than 120 countries around the world.

Be safe.

Wednesday, June 27, 2018

Web Secret 525: Virtual reality sexual harassment prevention training

I used to provide corporate training programs on sexual harassment prevention.

The typical audience for one of these training events was at best bored and at worst overtly hostile. The higher the ratio of men to women in the room, the more hostile the group. But I still think I did a good job.

I divided everyone in the room into teams of two. I provided the pairs with 10 vignettes which they had to discuss and decide whether the behavior constituted sexual harassment. This task rapidly defused the anger and made everyone think about harassment - maybe for the first time. After a set amount of time, I brought everybody back together and we discussed each vignette, calling on the teams to share their decision making process and their answers. It was consciousness raising for the participants.

But that type of training is labor intensive and expensive. And quite frankly, not typical of the average training. Most programs are didactic affairs where a lawyer stands in front of a group of co-workers and drones on about case law.

There had to be a better way, and to accomplish that, Morgan Mercer, founded Vantage Point.

As detailed in a recent Wired article, Morgan was at a dinner party in late 2016, when the conversation turned to harassment. Everybody agreed on one point: People can’t identify it and don’t know when to step in. A few mornings later, she woke up with the idea that virtual reality (VR) could help. She taught herself basic programming, and within nine months had secured funding and signed up multiple partners.

The rest of Vantage Point’s plan involved making the simulations as immersive as possible. Here is a typical scenario:

Prepping for a big presentation is stressful, and your boss isn’t making it any better. He’s leering at your coworker Rachel in the middle of a meeting (!), asking if she’s bringing a date to the company dinner (!!). I mean, what do you do? Say something? Take it to HR? Talk to Rachel? The discomfort is the point.

Well done, Morgan.

Wednesday, June 20, 2018

Web Secret 524: Robocalls

I absolutely loathe robocalls.

So imagine how not surprised I was when I came across a New York Times article that confirmed what I already knew: robocalls are proliferating because it is so damn cheap to send them out by the thousands.

Better yet, the Times had a companion article "Robocalls Flooding Your Cellphone? Here’s How to Stop Them."

Let me summarize it for you:

Rule No. 1: Do not answer numbers you don’t know. If you do answer, don’t respond to the invitation to press a number to opt out. That will merely verify that yours is a working number and make you a target for more calls. Turn to the government

Rule No. 2: Turn to technology.Download apps such as Truecaller which will block the calls. YouMail will stop your phone from ringing with calls from suspected robocallers and deliver a message that your number is out of service. Many of these apps are quite pricey. Hiya is free.

Rule No. 3: Turn the tables. The Jolly Roger Telephone Company turns the tables on telemarketers. This program allows a customer to put the phone on mute and patch telemarketing calls to a robot, which understands speech patterns and inflections and works to keep the caller engaged.

The robots string the callers along with vocal fillers like “Uh-huh” and “O.K., O.K.” After several minutes, some will ask the callers to repeat their sales pitch from the beginning, prompting the telemarketers to have angry meltdowns.

Rule No. 4: Watch what you say. One recent scheme involves getting consumers to say “yes” and later using a recording of the response to allow unauthorized charges on the person’s credit card account, the F.C.C. warned in March.

When the caller asks, “Can you hear me?” and the consumer answers “yes,” the caller can gain a voice signature that can later be used to authorize fraudulent charges by telephone.

Best to answer with “I can hear you.”

The future: The callers are evolving. Some have numbers that appear to be from your area code; others employ “imitation of life” software in which the robocall sounds like a live person, complete with coughing, laughing and background noise. This artificial intelligence can be programmed to interact in real time with a consumer.

I'm scared too.

Wednesday, June 13, 2018

Web Secret 523: Cybersecurity - part 5

This is the last in a series of 5 posts about cybersecurity.

Do you ever host or attend conferences or meetings? Rhetorical question.

There are cybersecurity best practices to consider, as I discovered after plowing through "The Cybersecurity Challenge", an article which I summarized for this post.

Registration puts financial information at risk. If you are storing any personally identifiable information and collecting credit card payments, you must comply with the PCI (Payment Card Industry) data security standard. There are companies that can help you with that.

Every assemblage of human beings includes a large mobile devices. It is not unusual for attendees to have a smartphone, a tablet and a laptop.

A large risk facing planners and attendees is the ill-advised use of free or “public” Wi-Fi networks in the destination. A large number of destinations have taken measures to prevent rogue Wi-Fi networks tricking attendees into connecting to them, however it’s still a common threat to take into consideration.

It is a relatively straightforward task for bad guys to generate a Wi-Fi signal that is going to look equal to or better than a real one. And they might even tailor it to your meeting and say, ‘Attention EAPA convention attendees — free Wi-Fi available to you.’ Such a hoax is called a “man in the middle” attack. It means the bad guys now have unfettered access to your computer.

Some experts advise clients to inform meeting attendees they should never use the free Wi-Fi networks in a Starbucks or any other public place.

We’ve gotten people to the point that when they are at a hotel or convention center, they expect free wireless internet. That is what has created the vulnerability that everybody now faces.

The typical meeting attendee, however, is not aware of the risk. And a big part of the problem, is that meeting attendees don’t read their program or background material. And the people running the meeting don’t make announcements telling attendees not to use unofficial free Wi-Fi networks.

Not even the safety of the Wi-Fi network at a hotel or convention center should be taken for granted. You must make sure that the provider is using secure equipment and that it has secure connection from its technology to the internet. You also need to make sure that the people involved in running it have been backgrounded and vetted.

The good news is that there is a simple recommendation to mitigate risk. Before attendees head out to your meeting, send them an email that is about just one thing, online security. It should say, "We are concerned about your cybersecurity, so we are informing you that the official Wi-Fi network for the meeting is named XYZ. That is the only network you should connect to. If you connect to anything else, we cannot promise that you are secure.”

Another option is to make a formal announcement at the meeting. For example, at the beginning of an opening general session.

A more elaborate step is to use a virtual private network, or VPN. A VPN is a computer program that creates encrypted connections. And because of that, it’s much harder for someone to intercept your signal. The technology is widely available and inexpensive today. It can be acquired for just a month to cover the meeting dates, then canceled.

Pay attention, people!

Wednesday, June 6, 2018

Web Secret 522: Cybersecurity - part 4

This is part 4 of a 5 part series on cybersecurity.

What can mental health providers and institutions do to protect themselves from a cyber attack?

Even a one person private practice or a smaller company can implement cyber safeguards.
  1. Become knowledgeable about technology. Mental health clinicians are notoriously tech adverse. However, unless you are living and working off the grid, ignorance is no longer acceptable.
  2. Educate yourself and your employees about the threat of cyber-attacks and ransomware. Education needs to be an ongoing process.
  3. Use two factor authentication and encrypted email for sensitive information. Hushmail is a secure email utility. 
  4. Make sure your website is HTTPS (HTTP Secure), e.g. In HTTPS, your website is encrypted by a layer of security and thus is less vulnerable. 
  5. At the Forum, we were told that 95% of malware can be addressed by anti-virus software. So deploy anti-virus and update as needed. 
  6. When Apple or one of the major tech companies you use (e.g. Microsoft) sends you an update patch, download it.
  7. Use complex passwords.
  8. Over and over the experts at Yale talked about the need for “good cyber hygiene.” Establish standards for cyber literacy, and other necessary protocols.
  9. Have a workplace social media policy.
If you aren’t sophisticated about things computer, hire an expert.

As we said good-bye, one attendee said, “and now I go back in my car and drive away while using Waze to find my route and Spotify for entertainment, giving up my privacy and leaving myself wide open to hacking.”

Wednesday, May 30, 2018

Web Secret 521: Cybersecurity - part 3

This is the 3rd in a 5 part series on cybersecurity.

The Media used this terminology in the aftermath of the Trump election:Russia hacked our electoral system during the 2016 election.” One presenter at the Yale Cyber Leader Forum I attended explained that in actuality, our electoral system was not hacked.

What actually happened is that Russia used Facebook and other social media to propagate fake news stories about Hillary Clinton. They perpetrated identity fraud to do this. Interestingly, these events were not seen to be a failure of the US government but rather a problem with social media. Separating the fake news from legitimate information is a massive challenge. And separate from cyber-attacks.

There are more and more cyber-security companies but the number of breaches isn’t going down. Only 20% of cyber security budgets go towards prevention.

Hackers are ever more sophisticated. Malware can be delivered in a video download. An innocent sounding e-mail will have a subject heading like “Look at these cute cat videos” and a link to download a corrupted video.

The US government has been reactive rather than proactive in its approach to cyber-attacks. One Yale Forum expert believes we should also “degrade the potential of adversaries to harm us.”

During another Forum break, the owner of a cyber security company explained he had to go through great lengths to get his employees to use encrypted email. The irony was not lost on him.

What about the future?

Yale experts made the following predictions:
  • There will be more and more digitization of our lives.
  • The Internet of Things (the network of physical devices, vehicles, home appliances and other items embedded with electronics, software, sensors, actuators, and connectivity enabling them to operate within our existing Internet infrastructure,) will continue to grow and permeate every facet of our existence. Devices are going to go from being outside of our bodies to inside our bodies. One expert wondered about the risk of soldiers going on a training run while wearing a fitness tracker.
  • More and more of our data will move to the cloud. (The cloud refers to software and services that run on the Internet, instead of locally on your computer. Think Spotify.)
  • Identity theft will become easier as we will develop products that can perfectly imitate our voices and other aspects of our individuality.
  • Compliance with cyber-security needs to be easier. Is there an equivalent to putting all the smart phones in a lead box before entering the meeting room?
  • We may never be ahead of the adversary.
  • The disaster of the future will be a cyber-attack.
Asked to imagine a news headline of the future, one attendee said: “Botnet of human body parts takes down the power grid.” (FYI: a botnet is a network of private computers infected with malicious software and controlled as a group without the owners' knowledge.) As we become increasingly bionic, we become increasingly vulnerable.

So what can we do? I answer that question in the 4th and final post in this series.

Wednesday, May 23, 2018

Web Secret 520: Cybersecurity - part 2

This is part 2 of a 5 part series on cybersecurity.

We are vulnerable to cyber-attacks for a variety of reasons:
  • As early as 1994 experts called for a national information infrastructure – that hasn’t happened
  • Much of the USA’s most sensitive information is not encrypted. How comforting.
  • A recently enacted 2017 Trump law allows your internet service provider (AKA FIOS et al) to sell your metadata without your permission.
  • When companies upgrade their websites, they upgrade their security but old webpages still exist and are vulnerable to hacking. One expert said, “We have 20 years of vulnerable websites.”
  • Two-Factor Authentication was devised in the 70s but has only recently begun to have traction. In other words, we have technology to foil attacks but decision makers are slow to deploy it. And people are even slower to adopt it. Two Factor Authentication is an extra layer of security known as "multi factor authentication." It requires not only a password and username but also something that only the user has on them, i.e. a piece of information only they should know. For example, the answer to questions like "What is the name of your first pet" or "what is your dream vacation spot?"
  • In an April article titled “Failed by Facebook, We’ll Return to the Scene of the Crime. We Always Do.”, the New York Times reported how even when a company is hacked, or fails to protect our privacy, we go right back to using it.

    “The reality is that when it comes to privacy, the trade-off has already been made: We decided long ago to give away our personal information in exchange for free content and the ability to interact seamlessly with others… After just about every big privacy hack over the past decade, people quickly returned to the scene of the crime, using the same store or online site that had been compromised.”

    During the Forum, one expert pointed out how even the most egregious lapse will result in only a brief downtick in a company’s stock market performance.
  • We are fighting a 21st century crime with outdated approaches. The attack vectors multiply and the preparedness of end users is very low.
  • In the 21st century, US armed forces do not manufacture the weapons they need, they subcontract with a private enterprise. Similarly, US apps, software, and hardware are in the hands of the Apple, Microsoft and Googles of this world. The US government turns to these companies to self-police themselves.
  • Cyber-security is not primarily a technical challenge but rather a social/political problem. An educational problem. A legal problem. A policy problem.
It is concerning that several Yale Forum experts stated that there needs to be “carnage” for the country and its citizens to pay attention to cyber security. Meaning one or more people need to die as a result of a hack for the public to demand that attention must be paid. One expert even wondered if we need a “grand carnage moment” to make it happen.

Along that line, some of us during a lunch break wondered when a person’s medical history will be hacked causing them serious injury, even death. Would we even know if it happened? So far hospital records have only been hacked by ransomware.

What happens next?

To be continued next week...

Wednesday, May 16, 2018

Web Secret 519: Cybersecurity - part 1

This past March, I was the recipient of a $3,000 scholarship to attend the 2018 Yale Cyber Leadership Forum.

Yes, my alma mater charges $3,000 to attend a day and a half conference.

The Yale Cyber Leadership Forum aims to bridge the divide among legal scholars and practitioners, technology experts, business leaders, and policymakers from across the globe on how best to understand and counter the most pressing cyber security challenges of our day.” This article aims to summarize what was discussed as it applies to mental health practitioners and organizations.

The Forum brings together a diverse set of thought leaders who are eager to share their experiences, learn more about the array of cyber threats, gather new strategies for overcoming cybersecurity challenges, and contribute to discussions of the best way to tackle the challenges ahead.

Note: Forum attendees were asked to follow the Chatham House Rule. We like to be as pretentious as possible in the Ivy League. For the rest of the world, at a meeting held under the Chatham House Rule, anyone who attends is free to use information from the discussion, but is not allowed to reveal who made any comment. It is designed to increase openness of discussion.

In a nutshell, this is what I learned:
  • The field of cyber security is in its infancy
  • Law and policy are lagging far behind technology
  • It’s not just a tech issue, it’s a people issue. More on that later.
To elaborate, our intelligence leaders believe the risk of a cyber-attack eclipses terrorism as the greatest threat to the USA. If even one of our major infrastructure components (power grid, Internet, financial system) is compromised by a cyber-attack, the other two collapses and we are headed towards catastrophe. Complicating this narrative is the fact that through the world wide web, everyone around the globe is inter-connected.

As one expert put it: “We are as secure as the rest of the Internet.” Great.

These are the countries which have the greatest expertise in cyber warfare:
  1. Russia
  2. China
  3. North Korea
  4. Iran.
Quelle surprise!

We are vulnerable to cyber-attacks for a variety of reasons, which I will explain in next week's post.

None of it is good news.

Wednesday, May 9, 2018

Web Secret 518: The Weed Tube

The US and marijuana regulation = mess.

While the federal government style views pot as illegal, most of the states are in full rebellion. No two states are alike - some have legalized both medical and recreational marijuana, some just medical, some (a minority) don't allow either.

I am fairly confident that eventually both medical and recreational will be legal.

In the meantime, there is, (since March 1,) The Weed Tube, a how to channel devoted to - you guessed it - marijuana focused videos.

If you want to take the pulse of the marijuana legalization movement, there's no better place to start.

The posts range from the fanciful to serious demos and reviews. Here are a few:

Sesh Cannabis First Impressions

How To Make A Strawberry Bowl

A week in my life – Hilton Head Island

Don't judge.

Wednesday, May 2, 2018

Web Secret 517: Protecting your privacy on Facebook

Unless you've been living under the proverbial rock, you know that Facebook is experiencing (putting it mildly) a privacy problem.

We have been advised to shut down our accounts. Realistically, not everyone wants to do that.

Wired magazine published guerilla warfare alternative: "A drag queen's guide to protecting your privacy on Facebook by breaking the rules."

To wit:

Change Your Name: Using a chosen name allows you a bit more control over how your data is collected, stored, and used. By adopting a chosen name, it’s possible to stay in touch with friends who can decode who you really are, while avoiding others who you’d rather not be able to find you. Plus, using a different name on different platforms makes it just a bit harder for trackers to connect the dots between your accounts, activity, and behaviors. But it’s not always practical to change your name; you may have better luck starting with a new account.

“Like” Like Everyone’s Watching: Another easy way to make it more difficult for companies to paint a clear picture of you is to give them false, misleading, or simply too much information. For example, if you don’t want to be targeted by manipulative political ads, perhaps try “liking” some pages or politicians who don’t fully match your values; the same goes for favorite brands, places, celebrities, or anything else you can support. Think of this as throwing the company off the scent.

Tag Photos Incorrectly: Similarly, try mis-tagging photos of friends—or use photos of celebrities, cartoons, or inanimate objects—to confuse Facebook’s facial recognition and computer vision algorithms.

Click All the Ads: You may also want to try clicking all the ads Facebook and other platforms deliver to you—especially the ones you’re not actually interested in. Again, this effectively hides your real interests within a sea of not-quite-real information.

Share Accounts: Finally, for those of us trying to curb our social media addictions, another option is to share an account with friends or family. That way, you can still make sure you don’t miss important updates or events, while making it harder to trace you personally.

Here's my suggestion: go through your list of your Facebook friends and ruthlessly delete the people who you are not close too.

At the end of the article, the author writes: "Are these foolproof? Certainly not... Are they ethical? I think so. Until companies come clean about their motives and give us real options to present ourselves authentically, to control the flow of our data, and to opt out of particular kinds of tracking, I’d say we’re justified in taking steps to protect ourselves..."

And that, my friends, is the truth.

Wednesday, April 25, 2018

Web Secret 516: secret features on your iPhone

Are you one of of the billion people in the world who owns an iPhone?

Then you really should read "Hidden In Plain iSight: Secret, Handy Features On Your iPhone."

But why read a long article, when I can summarize what you need to know in one handy dandy short blog post?

1. Get help in an emergency situation. This tip has gone viral and everyone should learn it and share it with their loved ones: Click the power button five times in a row to bring up a secret menu. In an emergency, you can drag on the SOS slider to automatically call emergency services. Your phone will send your location to first responders at the end of the call.

2. Keep your stuff on lock. That four-digit passcode of days past is no longer the standard. Apple pretty much insists on six digits to keep your private content, well, private. But if you've got some seriously sensitive stuff, you can always go alphanumeric. A combo of letters and numbers. To do it, head to Settings, then Touch ID and Passcode, then Change Passcode. When you're taken to the Change Passcode screen, tap options and select alphanumeric.

3. Delete the worst apps. Have you ever actually used the Stocks app? What about the app for the Apple Watch despite the fact that you can't afford the actual watch? Finally, in iOS 11 you can delete those suckers the same way you'd delete any other app.

4. Need more space? Head to Settings, then General, then iPhone Storage, and finally "Offload Unused Apps" to get rid of those games you haven't touched in years.

5. Free scanner In the new-and-improved Notes app, you can scan documents with the new "Scan Documents" feature.


Wednesday, April 18, 2018

Web Secret 515: upgrading

This past November, Apple released the iPhone X.

I purchased it for my husband who was celebrating a major birthday.

It cost as much as a laptop computer.

Normally, I would be the first person in my family to get one. I'm an early adopter who loves tech.

But not this time, maybe never again.

Don't get me wrong. The new phone is better than my 7 plus: it unlocks with facial recognition. It features dramatically improved picture quality. It has a longer battery life. You can charge it by placing it on a wireless charging base.

Cool/useful right?

But not essential.

For the time being, I will not upgrade. Which leaves me wondering when will people stop upgrading or even just pause upgrading.

What might make me upgrade to the X?

A drastic price reduction.

An interesting color - yes, I am that shallow. For the ninetieth time, why does everything come in just black or grey?

Otherwise, I'm hanging on.

But introduce a new iPad Mini and I'm yours.

Wednesday, April 11, 2018

Web Secret 514: the Learned League

I come from a line of Trivia lovers.

Before the Internet, my father could rattle off the names of all the supporting actors in Casablanca.

As a seven year old, I enjoyed reading the 16 volume Golden Book Encyclopedia from A to Z. I also absorbed a thick book that describes everything notable that happened in 1953. I know more about 1953 than any other year of my life.

My love of useless info as continued since then.

So I was beyond thrilled when Marc, my perennial Words With Friends opponent, nominated me for the Learned League, AKA "The coolest, weirdest Internet community you’ll never be able to join."

As one article explained:

"Visiting the desktop-only, confusing-to-navigate website on which it lives is a little like time-traveling to Y2K. Text is small and dense; there are no graphics beyond a generic-looking logo and the tiny flags that players are required to use as avatars. More important, there’s basically nothing at stake: There are no prizes of any kind, and when you join (by referral only...), you’re placed into a group of about 20 random competitors...although everyone, across every “rundle,” as the groups are called, answers the same six questions each day of each 25-day quarterly season..."

There is a twist: In addition to playing offense (by trying to guess the right answer), contestants also play defense by assigning points — 0 through 3 — which their opponent will win by answering that question correctly. A winning approach awards your opponent 0 for an easy question and 3 for the most obscure one.

Things I hate about Learned League:
  • The site is crammed with a mass quantity of statistics that only a Fantasy Football League aficionado could enjoy. Here is just a sample: W: Wins, L: Losses, T: Ties, PTS: Points (in Standings), MPD: Match Points Differential, TMP: Total Match Points, TCA: Total Correct Answers, TPA: Total Points Allowed, CAA: Correct Answers Allowed, PCAA: Points Per Correct Answer Allowed, UfPA: Unforced Points Allowed, DE: Defensive Efficiency, FW: Forfeit Wins, FL: Forfeit Losses, 3PT: 3-Pointers, MCW: Most Common Wrong Answers, STR: Streak.
  • It is not a pure trivia contest. You can win a match even if you knew the answer to fewer questions than your opponent, but were clever about your defensive game. This irks me.
  • It's not just about winning matches, it's about defeating the very best players in your rundle. Only then can you rise to the top.
  • You play every day (except week-ends) during the season and it could become a huge time suck.
Fortunately my friend Marc told me how to play and not lose your mind: "I can only answer on average 2 out of the 6 questions. I spend a max of 10 minutes a day on this. You either know the answer or you don't."

I've done well. I've been ranked as high as second in my rundle and as low as 6th. Currently I'm in 4th place.

But really, I do it for the beautifully crafted trivia questions:

"What cultural and artistic movement was founded in the 1920s by French writer André Breton and defined in his 1924 "Manifesto," in which he laid out the nonconformist and unconscious—and at times absurdist—method by which art is created in the movement, with absence of reason or aesthetic concern?"

Wednesday, April 4, 2018

Web Secret 513: HQ

Remember Pokemon Go?

That's so 2016.

In the here and now, it's 2018 and the fad du jour is HQ, an app that can be downloaded and used for free.

At first glance, HQ sounds like something very enjoyable - at least to this trivia addict. Twice a day, at 3pm and 9pm EST you log into the app and are fed a series of 12 trivia questions, in ascending order of difficulty, in multiple choice format. To prevent cheating, you have 3 seconds to answer each question. Answer all the questions correctly and you get the pot - which ranges from $2,500 to $25,000. It's over in 15 minutes, (or less when you are eliminated for answering incorrectly and throw your iPhone against the nearest wall.)

Over a million people play each game. Entire offices get together to play. Friends get together to play. It's monstrously popular.

Here is the reality:
  • The host is the reprehensible Scott Rogowsky, who is channeling the sleazy ringmaster from a 19th century carnival freak show.
  • There is a live chat scrolling across the screen for the duration of the game. The chat mostly features inanity, but sprinkled in are curses, and racist comments. As one critic wrote, "Who can even think while one’s fellow citizens cry out something like JEWS JEWS JEWS JEWS in the scrolling billow at screen’s bottom?"
  • The game glitches all the time - it freezes and/or it shuts itself down.
  • The prize money is usually split between scores of people, transforming a $25,000 prize into $14.95.
  • The questions range from the idiotic, to the idiosyncratically obscure. If you weren't paying attention to now defunct computer games from the Eighties, your shit out of luck.
  • You can get free lives by promoting HQ to your friends and on social media. AKA, cheating.
And yet I tune in - not every day but once or twice a week, because, what the heck, it's somewhat amusing and tolerable once I turn the sound off during Scott's ramblings.

Do you play?

Wednesday, March 28, 2018

Web Secret 512: Webside manner

Ever since video-counseling came into being I have urged therapists to add it to their book of business. I have also urged them to get training and become certified online counselors.

Now experts are acknowledging what we already (intuitively) new - online is different than in person. A December 2017 Wired article urged physicians to develop a webside manner - a modern take on the old fashioned bedside manner.

The article explains: "...getting there isn’t always easy... 'It's all the little things,' says experimental psychologist Elizabeth Krupinski, associate director of evaluation for the telemedicine program at the University of Arizona. 'I mean, there's the technology bit, obviously. Webcam resolution, internet connection, and so on. And you have to think about your backdrop, your lighting, what you're wearing as well. But what you've really got to monitor is your behavior.” U of A is one of the first schools in the country to incorporate telemedicine instruction into its medical school curricula.

"It sounds strange, but when you're on camera all your actions are magnified,' Krupinski says. Sitting six feet away from your doctor, in person, you might not mind or notice her slouching, fidgeting, or gesticulating. But a webcam's intimate vantage point augments these actions in ways that patients can find distracting or off-putting. 'You take a sip of coffee and your mug takes up the whole screen, and all they hear is the sound of you slurping,' she says. 'Or you turn away to make a note, and now all your patient sees is your shoulder. Maybe you disappear from the frame entirely.'

Telemedicine students are often instructed to disable their video chat's picture-in-picture feature. 'Turn it off and look at the patient,' Krupinski says. That's also kind of tricky: To appear as though they're making eye contact, clinicians are taught to look not at the patient on their screen, but directly into their device's webcam."

The article notes that in the United States physicians are no longer required to see a person in person before seeing them virtually.

Are you with me?

Wednesday, March 21, 2018

Web Secret 511: the Post-Text future

Last month, a special section of the New York Times landed on my breakfast table: Into the Eye of the Internet. The section contained several articles, the gist of each was: "The defining narrative of our online moment concerns the decline of text, and the exploding reach and power of audio and video."

Not all of the information included in the section is relevant to iWebU readers. But what is, offers a blueprint for a lucrative direction for both therapists and employee assistance professionals :
  • About 70 million Americans regularly listen to podcasts.
  • In 2017, YouTube reported that people watched a billion hours on that service every day. On average, young Americans spend two hours a day watching video online.
  • More than 800 million people use Instagram, for more than 30 minutes a day on average.
Implication? Maybe Instagram is not your thing but our work lends itself to podcasts and minute long videos. Just make them short and punchy.

In an article on "How Social Media Gives Women a Voice," reporter Claire Cain Miller writes: "Susan Fowler had tried going to human resources. She had tried going to her managers. She had tried transferring departments. But nothing changed. The sexual and sexist comments she received as an engineer at Uber kept coming.

So she went online and wrote a 3,000-word blog post exposing the behavior.
" EAP colleagues - sexual harassment prevention training should be a staple of your offerings. Get a seat at the table and help your client companies so that they have policies, procedures and training programs in place. Therapists - working with victims and/or alleged perpetrators can be a new area of practice.

In "Even the Tech Elite Are Worrying About Tech Addiction," Farhad Manjoo reports that, "Apple ...[was asked]... to study the health effects of its products and to make it easier for parents to limit their children’s use of iPhones and iPads...

The bigger problem is what to do about any of this. Few laws or regulations prevent apps from keeping us hooked, and the tech industry has no serious ethical prohibitions against tinkering with software to drive engagement; indeed, at many tech companies, keeping people glued to the screen is the whole ballgame."

We don't need a research study to know that using an iPad as a substitute babysitter is terrible for our children, and spending unending hours streaming - well just about anything - is unhealthy. So EA professionals, teaching employees how to disconnect is good for the bottom line, and therapists - helping the cyber addicted offers opportunity for practice.

Are you paying attention?

Wednesday, March 14, 2018

Web Secret 510: The promise of technology

I ended my recap if the Best of iWebU last week - it was time to move on.

Also, I had to share a moving, mind expanding Wired article with you: "Something to Watch Over Me" by Lauren Smiley.

Much has already been written about our growing aging population, which combined with insufficient numbers of home health aides, is headed towards catastrophe.

You don't have to be a medical social worker to know that home care is expensive and at times unreliable. Fortunately, technology now exists, to help with that cost and keep seniors home for a longer period of time. The article describes this tech and I herewith summarize its salient points:

Arlyn Anderson was involved in caring for her 91 year old father, Jim, who was increasingly forgetful, but wanted to remain in his Minnesota cabin. One day, she about a new digi­tal eldercare service called CareCoach. For about $200 a month, a human-powered avatar would be available to watch over a homebound person 24 hours a day; Arlyn paid that same amount for just nine hours of in-home help. She signed up immediately.

A Google Nexus tablet arrived in the mail a week later. When Arlyn plugged it in, an animated German shepherd appeared onscreen, standing at attention on a digitized lawn. Following the instructions, Arlyn uploaded dozens of pictures to the service’s online portal: images of family members, her father's boat, and some of his inventions.

Jim formed a relationship with the avatar almost immediately and named his dog Pony. Within a week Jim and Pony had settled into a routine, exchanging pleasantries several times a day. Every 15 minutes or so Pony would wake up and look for Jim, calling his name if he was out of view. Sometimes Jim would “pet” the sleeping dog onscreen with his finger to rustle her awake. His touch would send an instantaneous alert to the human caretaker behind the avatar, prompting the CareCoach worker to launch the tablet’s audio and video stream. “How are you, Jim?” Pony would chirp. The dog reminded him which of his daughters or in-person caretakers would be visiting that day to do the tasks that an onscreen dog couldn’t: prepare meals, change Jim’s sheets, drive him to a senior center.

In Monterrey, Mexico, Rodrigo Rochin opens his laptop in his home office and logs in to the CareCoach dashboard to make his rounds. He talks baseball with a New Jersey man watching the Yankees; chats with a woman in South Carolina who calls him Peanut (she places a cookie in front of her tablet for him to “eat”); and greets Jim, one of his regulars, who sips coffee while looking out over a lake.

Rodrigo is 35 years old. He grew up crossing the border to attend school in McAllen, Texas, honing the English that he now uses to chat with elderly people in the United States. Rodrigo found CareCoach on an online freelancing platform and was hired in December 2012 as one of the company’s earliest contractors, role-playing 36 hours a week as one of the service’s avatars. He is the person behind Jim's Pony.

The rest of the article describes the many sometimes unexpected ways Pony helps and monitors Jim's well being. And how CareCoach was invented. And how it represents a new source of employment opportunity for workers with good English skills around the world.

It honestly describes the promise and the pitfalls of the CareCoach technology.

Overwhelmingly, I was left with the promise.

Worth the read.

Wednesday, March 7, 2018

Web Secret 509: the best of iWebU - A video game to cope with grief

On August 15, 2018, I will be celebrating 10 years of iWebU - that's over 500 weekly posts .

Leading up to that momentous date, I am re-releasing the "best of iWebU", starting in 2008 and moving forward.

These are the posts that stand the test of time and remain as valuable today as they did then.

And so, I revisit Web Secret 469: A video game to cope with grief

Why? Because while technology is sometimes something to be feared, sometimes it is to be celebrated. And this post is about when tech delivers.

Web Secret 469: the best of iWebU - A video game to cope with grief - May 31, 2017

When was the last time you saw something remarkable?

I know, I couldn't remember either.

But today, I did.

When Amy Green's young son Joel was diagnosed with a rare brain tumor, she made up a bedtime story for his siblings to teach them about cancer. What resulted was a video game, mostly created by her husband Ryan, "That Dragon, Cancer," which takes players on a journey they can't win.

That's right, someone used the video game, a medium we think we know, to accomplish something seemingly impossible.

To understand how this happened, you could watch Amy's TED Talk.

Or read Wired Magazine's thought provoking exploration "A Father, a Dying Son, and the Quest to Make the Most Profound Videogame Ever," written by Jason Tanz.

Tanz explains: "That Dragon, Cancer is not a tricky game to master. Indeed, it’s barely a game at all, more a collection of scenarios that the player explores and clicks through. There is some degree of agency—you can decide how long to spend in any particular scene, for instance — but the overwhelming sensation is one of being a bug caught in a rushing river; you might veer a few degrees in either direction, but you can’t alter the overall flow."

"The questions That Dragon, Cancer is asking... are the kind of spiritual and existential quandaries that have haunted humanity since Job: Why are we here? Can we influence our fate? What kind of God would allow such suffering? How do we endure the knowledge that we, along with everyone we have ever met and loved, will die?

...That Dragon, Cancer doesn’t provide any solutions to its queries

Tanz quotes Reality Is Broken, by designer and academic Jane McGonigal, in which she argues that we should engineer our world to be more like a videogame, incorporating its system of rewards and escalating challenges to help us find meaning and accomplishment in our lives. "Green, though, is doing the opposite. He’s trying to create a game in which meaning is ambiguous and accomplishments are fleeting. He is making a game that is as broken—as confounding, unresolved, and tragically beautiful—as the world itself."

Or you could do none of the above, and play the game.

Wednesday, February 28, 2018

Web Secret 508: the best of iWebU - What is it like to be standing here?

On August 15, 2018, I will be celebrating 10 years of iWebU - that's over 500 weekly posts .

Leading up to that momentous date, I am re-releasing the "best of iWebU", starting in 2008 and moving forward.

These are the posts that stand the test of time and remain as valuable today as they did then.

And so, I revisit Web Secret #356: What is it like to be standing here? 

Why? Because human progress is moving quicker and quicker as time goes on — it is human history’s Law of Accelerating Returns. And we have to cope.

Web Secret #356: What is it like to be standing here?

For the past month, I have been struggling to come up with ideas for blog posts.

I used all my tried and true techniques to get inspired. I watched TED Talks, Stumbled around websites, read issues of Fast Company.

Nothing worked. Nada. I wondered if it was time to end this blog.

But just when I was thinking of throwing in the towel, I came across a fantastic blog, "Wait But Why".

More specifically, I came across a mind bending post on that site, "The AI Revolution: The Road to Superintelligence" by Tim Urban.

Tim begins the post with a quote "We are on the edge of change comparable to the rise of human life on Earth. — Vernor Vinge." He puts up a graph, showing a stick figure (that's you and me) standing next to a near vertical line symbolizing accelerating human progress. And he asks, "What is it like to be standing here?

He then answers that question, which I will attempt to paraphrase for the sake of brevity:

If we had a time machine, and took a person from the 1500's and brought him to 1750 he wouldn't be that shocked, because 1750 is not that different from 1500.

But take a person from 1750 and bring them to 2015, and it would be impossible for us to understand what it would be like for him to see shiny capsules racing by on a highway, look at someone’s face and chat with them even though they’re on the other side of the country, and worlds of other inconceivable sorcery.

This is all before you show him the Internet or explain things like the International Space Station, the Large Hadron Collider, nuclear weapons, or general relativity. For him, this experience wouldn’t be surprising or shocking or even mind-blowing — those words aren’t big enough. He might actually die.

This pattern—human progress moving quicker and quicker as time goes on — is what futurist Ray Kurzweil calls human history’s Law of Accelerating Returns. This happens because more advanced societies have the ability to progress at a faster rate than less advanced societies—because they’re more advanced.

The movie Back to the Future came out in 1985, and “the past” took place in 1955. In the movie, when Michael J. Fox went back to 1955, he was caught off-guard by the newness of TVs, the prices of soda, the lack of love for shrill electric guitar.

It was a different world, yes — but if the movie were made today and the past took place in 1985, the change would be much greater. The 1985 person would live in a time before personal computers, the Internet, or cell phones. A teenager born in the late 90s would be much more out of place in 1985 than the movie’s Marty McFly was in 1955.

Kurzweil believes that the 21st century will achieve 1,000 times the progress of the 20th century.

If he is correct, then we may be as blown away by 2030 as our 1750 guy was by 2015.
So what is it like to stand here?

We have no idea.

Wednesday, February 21, 2018

Web Secret 507: the best of iWebU - This is water

On August 15, 2018, I will be celebrating 10 years of iWebU - that's over 500 weekly posts .

Leading up to that momentous date, I am re-releasing the "best of iWebU", starting in 2008 and moving forward.

These are the posts that stand the test of time and remain as valuable today as they did then.

And so, I revisit Web Secret #317: This is water.

Why? Sometimes, when you least expect it, social media still has the ability to deliver a treasure. Something so beautiful and transcendent that you actually feel lucky to have lived long enough for technology to make this gift possible.

Web Secret #317: This is water

I have been writing this blog since 2008 and have featured only one guest post.

Today, I will do it again.

The Internet in general, and social media in particular, generate amazing amounts of crappy content. Sometimes it seems like there is a universe of cat videos, depressing clips of people doing dangerous and stupid stuff, and news that I would just as soon not know about. If you are looking for sad, evil, despicable evidence that humans are a sorry lot, then the web will reward you in spades.

However, when you least expect it, social media still has the ability to deliver a treasure. Something so beautiful and transcendent that you actually feel lucky to have lived long enough for technology to make this gift possible.

Such is "This is water," a commencement speech delivered in 2005 by author David Foster Wallace to the graduating class of Kenyon College. The speech didn't become widely known until 3 years later, after his tragic death by suicide. A video of an abridged version recently made it onto my Facebook page courtesy of Upworthy. I yield the floor to Mr. Wallace:

And when you're done watching the video, read the full transcript of the speech.

"I wish you way more than luck."

Wednesday, February 14, 2018

Web Secret 506: the best of iWebU - Tech Proof

On August 15, 2018, I will be celebrating 10 years of iWebU - that's over 500 weekly posts .

Leading up to that momentous date, I am re-releasing the "best of iWebU", starting in 2008 and moving forward.

These are the posts that stand the test of time and remain as valuable today as they did then.

And so, I revisit Web Secret #309: Tech Proof.

Why? A lot of things are changing very fast, but others - not so much. Identifying what stays the same is important.

Web Secret #309: Tech Proof - May 7, 2014

A few months ago I returned to Vegas.

I was last there 40 years ago.

A lot had changed:
  • from seedy to glitzy
  • from flashing light bulbs to state of the art projections
  • from a Magic Fingers Vibrating Bed, to a flat screen TV.
But a lot hadn't changed at all:
  • in the casinos, pretty girls with very little clothing delivered drinks to thirsty gamblers
  • the slot machines were still slot machines
  • you could still play poker, blackjack and shoot craps
  • the Cirque du Soleil show was a circus show
  • I went to a comedy show and it was just like any comedy show I had ever attended - a person stood on stage, talked and made me laugh
  • the magician escaped from a water flooded tank - just like Houdini did, over 100 years ago.
In it's very essence, the Vegas experience hadn't changed at all.

The Internet, computers and cell phones hadn't touched it. It was "tech proof."

We spend a lot of time focusing on what is rapidly changing in our world. The change has been remarkable.

But equally remarkable is what remains "tech proof."

What will be "tech proof" ten years from now? 50 years from now? 100 years from now?

Wednesday, February 7, 2018

Web Secret 505: the best of iWebU - The Singularity

On August 15, 2018, I will be celebrating 10 years of iWebU - that's over 500 weekly posts .

Leading up to that momentous date, I am re-releasing the "best of iWebU", starting in 2008 and moving forward.

These are the posts that stand the test of time and remain as valuable today as they did then.

And so, I revisit Web Secret #298: The Singularity .

Why? The singularity, is a theoretical moment in time when artificial intelligence will have progressed to the point of a greater-than-human intelligence, radically changing civilization, and perhaps human nature. Some years ago, experts said there was an 80% probability that it would occur between 2017 and 2112. It didn't happen last year, and it's pretty obvious that it's not going to happen this year. But it is going to happen way sooner than 2112. Everyone should understand the concept.

Note to my readers: one of the links no longer functions but does not detract.

Web Secret #298: The Singularity - February 19, 2014

Do you want to experience fear?

You don't need to ride a roller coaster, bungee jump, or parachute. Just read this post.

Remember Watson? Watson is the artificially intelligent computer system capable of answering questions posed in natural language, developed by IBM. The computer system was specifically developed to answer questions on the quiz show Jeopardy! In 2011, Watson competed and won Jeopardy! against former super champions Brad Rutter and Ken Jennings.

That's a little concerning. But that's just the beginning.

The technological singularity, or simply the singularity, is a theoretical moment in time when artificial intelligence will have progressed to the point of a greater-than-human intelligence, radically changing civilization, and perhaps human nature. Since the capabilities of such an intelligence may be difficult for a human to comprehend, the technological singularity is often seen as an occurrence (akin to a gravitational singularity) beyond which the future course of human history is unpredictable or even unfathomable.

The first use of the term "singularity" in this context was by mathematician John von Neumann in the mid-1950s.

I have to digress to let you know that von Neumann was not one of your average mathematicians. As a 6-year-old, he could divide two 8-digit numbers in his head. By the age of 8, he was familiar with differential and integral calculus. By the age of 26 he had published 32 papers, at a rate of nearly one major paper per month. Von Neumann's powers of speedy, massive memorization and recall allowed him to recite volumes of information, and even entire directories, with ease.

Ray Kurzweil, our greatest contemporary futurist, predicts the singularity will occur around 2045. At the 2012 Singularity Summit, Stuart Armstrong did a study of artificial generalized intelligence (AGI) predictions by experts and found a wide range of predicted dates, with a median value of 2040. His own prediction on reviewing the data is that there's an 80% probability that the singularity will occur between 2017 and 2112.

So it's not if, but when...

Wednesday, January 31, 2018

Web Secret 504: the best of iWebU - I Live Like a Billionaire

On August 15, 2018, I will be celebrating 10 years of iWebU - that's over 500 weekly posts .

Leading up to that momentous date, I am rereleasing the "best of iWebU", starting in 2008 and moving forward.

These are the posts that stand the test of time and remain as valuable today as they did then.

And so, I revisit Web Secret #225: I Live Like a Billionaire - February 29, 2012.

Why? If you live in a Western country, above the poverty line, you have a better life than a 19th century titan of industry. This explains why:

Web Secret #225: I Live Like a Billionaire - September 26, 2012

Two months ago, while I was sitting in my virtual front row seat watching the opening ceremony of the 2012 Olympic Games on my HDTV, it occurred to me that I have a better quality of life than John Jacob Astor IV.

In 1912, Astor was considered to be the richest man in the world, with a fortune of close to $3 billion in 2012 dollars. In case you don't remember from watching Titanic reruns, he drowned during the sinking of the ship, (interesting but irrelevant to the point I am trying to make.)

True, I don't have a summer "cottage" in Newport, Rhode Island. Nor am I likely to travel first class anywhere, anytime. But in every other respect, compared to him, I live like a billionaire.
  • I have air conditioning (not in widespread use until the 1940s.)
  • I have hot and cold water
  • , anytime, (not in widespread use until the 1920s.)
  • My car, a modest Honda CRV, is equipped with GPS (invented in 1990) and satellite radio (Sirius Satellite Radio, 1990.)
  • Through my cable TV set, I always have a seat to an endless list of concerts, shows, and sporting events, (HBO was created in November 1972.)
  • I am vaccinated against multiple horrific diseases, (polio vaccine 1952) and have access to antibiotics (penicillin, commercially available in 1945) if I get an infection, and insulin (discovered in 1922,) if I get diabetes.
  • I own or have access to a dozen other wonderful technical wonders that help make my life pleasant, safe, longer, and entertaining.
I am very rich indeed.

Wednesday, January 24, 2018

Web Secret 503: the best of iWebU - Nobody Knows You're a Dog

On August 15, 2018, I will be celebrating 10 years of iWebU - that's over 500 weekly posts .

Leading up to that momentous date, I am re-releasing the "best of iWebU", starting in 2008 and moving forward.

These are the posts that stand the test of time and remain as valuable today as they did then.

And so, I revisit Web Secret #195: Nobody Knows You're a Dog.

Why? To function in the 21st century, most of us need a profound understanding of the power the Internet. This means that what we throw up on the web is a representation of who we are. Put up a crappy website, Tweet a thoughtless remark, post something idiotic on Facebook and that becomes who you are in the minds of many.

Conversely, a well crafted web presence can provide us with amazing opportunities because nobody knows there is only one person behind the curtain.

Web Secret #195: Nobody Knows You're a Dog - February 29, 2012

Raise your hand if you've ever heard the saying "On the internet, nobody knows you're a dog."

This adage began life as the caption of a cartoon published by The New Yorker in 1993. It features two dogs: one sitting on a chair in front of a computer, speaking to a second dog sitting on the floor. As of 2000, the panel was the most reproduced cartoon from "The New Yorker."

Now raise your hand if you knew what the Internet was in 1993...

Initially, some argued that the cartoon marked a critical moment in Internet history, when it moved from being the exclusive domain of geeks and academics, to being a topic of general interest.

To others, the cartoon symbolizes an understanding of Internet privacy that stresses the ability of users to anonymously send and receive messages.

But what does this concept mean for you, a professional?

Simply put, on the Internet, nobody will know whether you are a two or a two hundred person operation, nor an expert with one or twenty years of experience - unless your online presentation is unprofessional.

If you have a professional looking website, use Twitter, Facebook and other social media appropriately, upload professional photos instead of candid snapshots, users will think that you are smart, current, honest and dependable.

If you are going to put yourself out there, whatever you do, it better be sharp, and classy.

Otherwise, users will assume you are a dog.

Wednesday, January 17, 2018

Web Secret 502: the best of iWebU - Krulwich Wonders

On August 15, 2018, I will be celebrating 10 years of iWebU - that's over 500 weekly posts .

Leading up to that momentous date, I am rereleasing the "best of iWebU", starting in 2008.

These are the posts that stand the test of time and remain as valuable today as they did then.

And so, I revisit Web Secret #146: Krulwich Wonders .

Why? Until 2014, there was an NPR science radio program "Krulwich Wonders" hosted by the brilliant Robert Krulwich. The episode I discuss in this post is about a profound and counter intuitive idea: "there is no species of technology that have ever gone globally extinct on this planet." Especially significant because of the rapidity with which tech evolves.

Web Secret #146: Krulwich Wonders - March 23, 2011

I have found the online equivalent of eating a chocolate truffle. Krulwich Wonders, an "NPR Science Blog" post written by Robert Krulwich.

Sounds kinda boring, right?

I had a hunch it would't be. Let me self-disclose. I was in the audience when Robert delivered the graduation speech at his high school. He must have been seventeen or eighteen at the time. I was ten. I have no recollection what he spoke about. But I remember clear as day that I was laughing and entertained during the entire speech.

Fast forward a couple (or more) decades, and most of Robert's posts literally make me squeal with delight. (Fortunately, I work from home, so I do not embarrass myself.)

One of my favorite posts was "Tools Never Die". I will quote:
"Kevin Kelly should know better, but boldly, brassily, (and totally incorrectly, I'm sure), he said this on NPR: "I say there is no species of technology that have ever gone globally extinct on this planet."... That means, he said, "I can't find any [invention, tool, technology] that has disappeared completely from Earth."

Nothing? I asked. Brass helmets? Detachable shirt collars? Chariot wheels?

Nothing, he said.

Can't be, I told him. Tools do hang around, but some must go extinct.

... I told him it would take me a half hour to find a tool, an invention that is no longer being made anywhere by anybody.

Go ahead, he said. Try.

I tried carbon paper (still being made), steam powered car engine parts (still being made), Paleolithic hammers (still being made), 6 pages of agricultural tools from an 1895 Montgomery Ward & Co. Catalogue (every one of them still being made), and to my utter astonishment, I couldn't find a provable example of an technology that has disappeared completely".

Robert's entire post is not much longer than the above passage, yet it is amusing, intensely thought provoking, and important. There is nothing trivial about the topic being discussed.

He posts about three times a week. Somehow, post after post, he delivers an intellectual bonbon.

Which reminds me, what are the implications if no technologies truly become extinct?

I am not clever enough to figure it out. But Robert's post makes me want to try.

Wednesday, January 10, 2018

Web Secret 501: the best of iWebU - Dunbar's Number

On August 15, 2018, I will be celebrating 10 years of iWebU - that's over 500 weekly posts .

Leading up to that momentous date, I am re-releasing the "best of iWebU", starting in 2008.

These are the posts that stand the test of time and remain as valuable today as they did then.

And so, I revisit Web Secret #141: Dunbar's Number.

Why? In 1992, British anthropologist Robin Dunbar hypothesized that there is a cognitive limit to the number of people with whom one can maintain stable social relationships. By stable, he meant relationships in which an individual knows who each person is, and how each person relates to every other person. Though Dunbar did not assign a precise value to the number, (it lies between 100 and 230), the commonly used value is 150. So 150 is referred to as Dunbar's Number.

In my presentations on social media for mental health and EAP providers, I always refer to Dunbar's number because the implication for professionals is that a handful of key colleagues are usually more instrumental in getting referrals, speaking gigs, or even a new job, than hundreds of random "friends.". True in 2011, true in 2018.

Note to my readers: Most of the links in this post - the important ones - continue to work.

Web Secret #141: Dunbar's Number - February 16, 2011 In all of my presentations about social media, I emphasize that the quality of one's friends, followers, readers, etc. is far more important than the number.

Well there is some hard core science behind my recommendation.

In 1992, long before the advent of social media, British anthropologist Robin Dunbar hypothesized that there is a cognitive limit to the number of people with whom one can maintain stable social relationships. By stable, he meant relationships in which an individual knows who each person is, and how each person relates to every other person. Though Dunbar did not assign a precise value to the number, (it lies between 100 and 230), the commonly used value is 150. So 150 is referred to as Dunbar's Number.

Well, the 1990s came and went and nobody, except social scientists, were paying much attention to Dunbar's work, until....the social media explosion of the 21st century.

One social media expert, Jacob Morgan, has even argued that Dunbar's number is irrelevant:
I have around 1k+ linkedin connections, 1k facebook friends, and over 4,300 twitter followers. A very tiny portion of these people are strong ties. What social networks have allowed us to do is to build massive networks of weak ties. I use these weak ties all the time to reach out to folks for guest articles, business requests, speaking engagements, or ideas and advice...

We shouldn't be trying to figure out how we can maximize the number of strong relationships we can build or how we can beat Dunbar's number... Build weak ties where you can because they are extremely valuable, more so than strong ties.
Well, I am not sure I entirely agree with Mr. Morgan. People are constantly asking me questions about social media. Should they have a Facebook? Be on LinkedIn? Do both? To these and other similar queries, I always answer with a question. "What are you going to use it for?" Once you can answer that question, making a useful recommendation is easy.

Say you want to use Twitter to be elected to public office, it would make sense to work very hard to get a million weak tie followers.

But for most professionals, Dunbar's 150 strong ties will do just fine.

A handful of key colleagues are usually more instrumental in getting referrals, speaking gigs, or even a new job, than hundreds of random "friends."