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.

Voila!

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.

Consider:
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."


Wednesday, January 3, 2018

Web Secret 500: the best of iWebU - The World Is Changing Fast

This is my 500th post - how fitting that it is the first of 2018. On August 15, 2018, I will be celebrating 10 years of iWebU.

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 #121: The World Is Changing Fast.

Why? Because we are all struggling with how quickly events, scientific discoveries and changing social mores develop and impact us. My hip replacement in October was performed by a robot. I rest my case. In 2010, when I wrote this post, many of us were just beginning to realize that this was not your mother's world. And we were beginning to understand the importance of turning our devices off.

Web Secret #121: The World Is Changing Fast - September 29, 2010

Recently, I watched a brilliant TED India presentation on "6th Sense Technology." Basically, this genius guy created a wearable device that enables new interactions between the real world and a computer. He did this using the innards of two computer mice.

Honestly, I was kind of zoning out during his talk, (maybe because the air-conditioning in my house had broken and it was about 90 degrees in my office.) But, what caught my attention was the mice - because they looked, well, antiquated. I checked the date of the presentation - November 2009. Figure my guy did his work in early 2009, maybe late 2008 - from my 2010 perspective the mice looked old.

I started to think about how fast the world is changing. I came across a video that made that point vividly, Shift Happens 2.0:



The video pointed out:
  • The top 10 in demand jobs in 2010 did not exist in 2004.
  • Current students are preparing for jobs that don't yet exist, using technologies that haven't been invented, in order to solve problems we don't even know are problems.
  • The amount of new technological information is doubling every two years.
  • By 2013, a supercomputer will be built that exceeds the computational capability of the human brain.
What does it all mean?

Honestly, I don't believe anyone has a clue. This exponentially accelerated change is unprecedented in human history.

I do have one piece of advice.

TURN IT OFF. Your computer, iPad, smartphone, cable TV with 400 channels, satellite radio, Facebook, Twitter. One week per year, one day per week, one hour a day.

Whatever you can handle.