Wednesday, November 13, 2019

Web Secret 598: Bark

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

To understand what Bark does, watch the video:


Install.

Wednesday, November 6, 2019

Web Secret 597: Google self-destruct

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

You should do that.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

That was easy.

Wednesday, October 30, 2019

Web Secret 596: Apps that suck

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Don't suck.

Wednesday, October 23, 2019

Web Secret 595: They shall not grow old

Every now and then art and technology converge to create something sublime.

Such is the documentary "They shall not grow old."

To pay homage to his grand-father, Peter Jackson, of Lord of the Rings fame, created a documentary about the World War I experience from the British soldier's point of view. He used archival film footage from the Imperial War Museum and interviews of British servicemen who fought in the conflict.

And then he did three remarkable things:

1. He had expert lip readers look at the soundless footage and reconstruct what they were saying. Then had actors dub in the voices.
2. He used state of the art techniques to restore the old silent films so that they run smoothly instead of herky-jerky.
3. And he used state of the art colorization technology to transform the footage from black and white to color.



When you watch the film, it at first runs like a typical black and white silent movie. As soon as the servicemen go to war, the footage transforms into color, and there is sound.

The effect is astonishing, reminiscent of when Dorothy opens the door of her house to enter the colored Land of Oz.

But more importantly, it makes the men seem very real, very present, in a way we have never seen. World War I is no longer a long time ago, in a world far away. We see that these were actual people who fought and died. We could have been them.

Lastly, this has the effect of deromanticizing the experience of war. These men don't look like movie stars. They have bad teeth and bad skin. They are dirty. They die. Their horses die. When the armistice is announced, they do not cheer or celebrate. They just go home. Quietly.

Hard to watch. A masterpiece.

Wednesday, October 16, 2019

Web Secret 594: the Spice Girls Generation

I was attending my pregnant niece's baby shower the other day, surrounded by a demographic I rarely encounter - Millenials in their early thirties.

One of my non pregnant nieces tugged on my sleeve and told me: "We are part of a very special Millenial subgroup. The Spice Girls Generation. And when we die, we will be the last of our kind."

I nodded sagely as if fully comprehending this startling statement.

Of course, once back home I read "The Rise of the Spice Girls Generation" in order to understand what she was talking about.

The article explains that women born between Labor Day 1985 and New Year’s Eve 1991:
"...are the only people in history to have both grown up with the internet and to retain childhood memories that predate it. Born primarily in the mid-to-late 1980s, they are human bridges between two eras, whose anachronistic birth years, with their faraway century, will cause their heirs’ eyes to widen at their obituaries. Their ancestral parallels are the earliest drifters of the Lost Generation, born in the mid-to-late 1880s..."
The article does not elaborate on these thought provoking words, but instead dissects the appeal, history and legacy of the Spice Girls for that eponymously named generation.

I am not sure about the parallels between them and the extinct Lost Generation, born a century before, which came of age during World War I and wandered in confusion and aimlessness during the early post-war years. Personally, I too would have wandered the cafes of Paris if I had survived a global war that killed millions of my brethren for no reason whatsoever. It's the kind of experience that would make most people bay at the moon.

Unlike the celebrations that followed the announcement that World War II had ended, the surviving soldiers of World War I barely manifested when their conflict ended, and crawled home, utterly shattered.

No, I don't think the Spice Girls Generation in anyway resembles the Lost Generation.

But my niece is right, they are and will be special. And when they are a hundred years old, as many will be, people will still be asking them to describe what the world was like.

When they were young. Before the world changed.

Wednesday, October 9, 2019

Web Secret 593: iFixit

Everything is electronic these days.

Not just your laptop, tablet and smartphone.

Your car is electronic.

So is your camera.

And your watch. And so much other stuff like your thermostat. Your fridge. Your oven. So much stuff.

Sometimes this stuff malfunction - and you throw it out, or upgrade.

But sometimes, you want to fix it, and so you turn to iFixit.

It is there with repair guides and step by step instructions.

Bookmark for use when needed.

Wednesday, October 2, 2019

Web Secret 592: Live long and prosper

My current smartphone (an iPhone Xs Max) cost almost as much as my computer.

It has endless battery life. I can go out for an entire day and it never dies, no matter how much phoning, gaming, browsing I do.

It takes spectacular photos, and has a beautiful screen. It's fast as heck.

I love it.

My only complaint is that it is not available in orange, my favorite color.

So I was completely uninterested in Apple's latest unveiling of the iPhone 11 Pro which is even more expensive.

I told myself "I am hanging on to my Xs for the next five years."

And then I read an article that said that the average smartphone user upgrades every 3 years.

What the f**ck!!!

An executive at iFixit, (a site that provides guides to help people repair their own electronics), is quoted: "An iPhone retains up to 80 percent of its original capacity after 500 complete cycles...So if you charge your phone every night, and drain it during the day, that’s a complete cycle. So you’re basically looking at 80 percent of your new battery a year and a half to two years in.

The good news is replacing your phone’s battery is relatively inexpensive ($50 - $70) and will get you more mileage than any other repair. Another two years.

Still not the five years I was expecting.

Wednesday, September 25, 2019

Web Secret 591: The end of forgetting

As I write this, it is 9/11/19, and today, the New York Times published an article about the fact that in many TV shows and movies of old, the image of the Twin Towers has been deleted so as not to distress viewers.

This made me think about a New Yorker article I read about the indelibility of social media. The author, Nausicaa Renner, writes: "These days, it’s common to find an image emerging, unbeckoned, from the reservoir of the past. We spend hours wading through streams of photos, many of which document, in unprecedented ways, our daily lives. Facebook was invented in 2004.

By 2015, Kate Eichhorn writes in “The End of Forgetting: Growing Up with Social Media,” people were sharing thirty million images an hour on Snapchat, and British parents “posted, on average, nearly two hundred photographs of their child online each year.” For those who have grown up with social media—a group that includes pretty much everyone under twenty-five—childhood, an era that was fruitfully mysterious for the rest of us, is surprisingly accessible. According to Eichhorn, a media historian at the New School, this is certain to have some kind of profound effect on the development of identity. What that effect will be we’re not quite sure." (my emphasis)

So, like everything happening with tech these days, we have no clue about impact.

We muddle through - never proactively - everything that comes our way.

Forgetting may no longer be an option.

Wednesday, September 18, 2019

Web Secret 590: Before the Internet

When my 25 year old son travels abroad to a place he has never been to, he does so with minimum advanced preparation.

For example, he visited Portugal with little more than a plane ticket and the address of an Airbnb studio he had rented.

He is completely confident that he does not need cash (because cash is passé), a guidebook (I'll figure it out), or a map (I got this.)

He is certain that everyone accepts plastic, the locals will point him in the direction of the most interesting sights, and there will be Internet everywhere so Google Maps.

The last time I traveled with that level of insouciance was in 1972. I motored to Santa Fe from Washington DC with no knowledge whatsoever - except that it was located somewhere in New Mexico.

Of course gaining any knowledge of Santa Fe would have been arduous at the time. I would have had to look up AAA in a phone book, and called them to request a map of New Mexico, which they would have had to send in the mail.

To learn anything about Santa Fe as a tourist destination would have required going to a bookstore, and poring through the travel section to find a relevant guidebook.

If I wanted some in depth knowledge of the history of Santa Fe, I would have had to visit a library, sifted through a card catalogue, and navigated the Dewey Decimal System to find the book I wanted to look at.

All of this would have had to happen at least a month in advance of my trip.

I arrived in Santa Fe a blank slate, as ignorant as Dorothy when she landed in Oz.

I fell in love immediately and enduringly. For no reason that I can recall.

I took no photographs, did not write a diary entry. I vaguely remember horseback riding in the badlands and staying at La Fonda. Maybe I bought a piece of turquoise jewelry - I surely spent no more than $10.

And for a long time now, I have never again traveled with that level of innocence. I plan every vacation with the thoroughness of a military operation. Before I set foot in a new location, I know the weather, I've googled Earth the location of the hotel, I know what to see and what to buy. I have reserved a table at the best restaurants. I have purchased the clothing and gear I need for maximal enjoyment. As much as possible, I leave nothing to chance.

Come to think of it, there is nothing I do in life without first researching it on the Web.

I don't buy anything without reading a review.

I don't go to a provider of any kind without researching their background.

I need to know everything, all the time. Instantly.

Soon it will be almost impossible to remember the mechanics of every day existence before the Internet.

Soon, if not already, most of the people on planet Earth will have never experienced life without the Internet.

I don't know what that means for us.

Wednesday, September 11, 2019

Web Secret 589: Diagnosis

Way back in 2010, I wrote a post Web Secret #129: Crowd Accelerated Innovation describing the new concept that human beings across the world could access the same video resulting in rapid innovation.

This was right before Apple released FaceTime in the App store.

It is now almost 10 years later, and what we hoped would happen then is in full flower today.

No series best showcases the promise of the crowd than Netflix' Diagnosis.

The premise of the show is that Dr. Lisa Sanders finds medical cases that stump professionals. She then creates a video broadcast that describes the patient's medical problems and makes all performed tests, labs, etc. available to the world. Viewers have up to two months to respond.

And the world answers, solving the mystery, and providing the patients with a diagnosis, a treatment path, and support from the medical community and beyond.

It's exhilarating, inspirational.

And depressing.

Many of the patients featured in the series are bankrupt because of their medical bills. One of the arguments made for not offering universal coverage in the US is that we have to pay to provide the best medical care in the world.

That is not true - if it ever was.

One patient's problems are solved by a revolutionary lab in Italy. Cost to the patient: zero. Everyone in Italy gets free health care.

Here is another sad fact: a third of Gulf War Veterans suffer from Gulf War Syndrome - that's 100,000 people - caused by exposure to Sarin, a lethal chemical, and other poisonous substances. Decades after their service, veterans experience the horrific fallout of that conflict.

While I was watching the series, I came across a video on YouTube that consists of a graphic showing the countries who who had the greatest military expenditures from 1914 to 2018. In 1914 the country in first place is Germany and the US is in 6th place. By 1918, the US moves into first place, and for the rest of the 20th century we stay in the top three (except for a brief time, pre-World War II.) Starting in the 1990s we remain in first place, spending more money on our military than the rest of the top 15 countries put together.



Can you imagine if we put some of that money to provide universal health care and job skills for the millions of people we imprisoned for minor drug possession charges and other non-violent crimes?

Imagine.

Wednesday, September 4, 2019

Web Secret 588: Google Secrets

When I was a very young adult, I spent 6 months working as a researcher at a now defunct company aptly named Find. Find's clients were corporations whose minions could call and ask "What is the market for bubblegum?", or "How does the Palomar Observatory clean it's telescope?"

I answered many questions. Since this was eons before the Internet, this meant I ran around New York City's many public libraries with a bag of nickels to make photocopies. I looked at microfiches by the hundreds. I read directories and books. I found out who the experts were, looked their phone numbers up in the Yellow Pages and called them.

By the end of my stint at Find, I was a crack researcher. Once the Internet was invented, my skills easily translated into being able to science the shit out of pretty much anything.

But most people I encounter in day to day life, not so much.

So I came across a useful article on how to effectively use Google, which I have summarized for you:

1. Use quotation marks to find a specific phrase. When you put quotation marks around a collection of words, it tells Google to look for the words only in that order. As an example, I knew that "science the shit" is an expression that was used in "The Martian" novel and movie, and I used that technique to get the clip that I linked to in this post.

2. Use the minus sign. As an example, a search for for "wedding bands" brings up a ton of results, for both wedding rings and musicians that play at wedding receptions. Think of a word that would appear on all the irrelevant pages — in this case, “jewelry” or “jeweler” — and include it with a minus sign in your search: wedding bands -jewelry. Just like that, you’ve got yourself a bunch of sites that review wedding bands across the country.

3. Narrow your search to a specific time period. You can put a date restriction on search results by clicking the "Tools" button under Google’s search bar, and then clicking the “Any Time” drop-down. You can narrow your results to the previous week, month, year, or a custom time frame.

4. Find the source of a photo with reverse image search. Not all searches are made up of words. Sometimes, it can be handy to know where a certain photo came from, or to find a larger version of it. You probably know you can type a few words to find a photo with Google’s Image Search, but you might not have realized it works in the other direction too: Drag an image into Image Search and Google will find other versions of that photo for you.

Start searching

Wednesday, August 28, 2019

Web Secret 587: Seek

Recently, I was on a hike in Santa Fe, NM with one of my Millenial children, enjoying the clean air and admiring the various exotic plants and animals native to that area.

Suddenly I exclaimed, "Wow, look at that hummingbird!" noticing a creature batting its wings so rapidly that its movements were a blur. My son answered "I don't think that's a bird..."

And then he did something I had only previously seen in "Star Trek" episodes - he whipped out his tricorder, er, I mean iPhone, waved it in front of the animal for a few seconds, and then announced "This is a Hyles lineata, also known as the hummingbird moth, because of their bird-like size (2-3 inch wingspan) and flight patterns."

My son explained, "It's an app called Seek."

Call me amazed.

Seek was developed by the California Academy of Sciences and the National Geographic Society. It uses the power of image recognition technology to identify plants and animals around the world.

Who knew we had such mind blowing scientific capabilities!

I immediately downloaded the, (by the way FREE,) app and started roaming around scanning and identifying everything in sight.

Interested in having your children use their smartphones for something positive and educational? This one's for you.

This one's for everyone.

Wednesday, August 21, 2019

Web Secret 586: iPhone shortcuts

Sooner or later I know that I will have to use voice commands, I've just been procrastinating as long s possible

But this article "How to Tap Less on your Phone" made me think that now is the time for you and I to learn how to use Siri.

Here are some key tips from the article:

1. You can ask Siri to “Turn on the flashlight.” Well that's super useful!

2. You can say, “Do not disturb” as you enter a movie theater, a meeting or your bed.

3. Squeeze for silence. When your phone rings at a bad moment — at a movie, for example — don’t pull it out and fumble for the Ignore button. Instead, just reach into your pocket or purse and squeeze the phone. Pressing any button on the edge of the phone means “Silence the ringing,” — and when you grasp the phone this way, you’ll hit one of those buttons in a hurry.

That's enough new stuff for now.

Wednesday, August 14, 2019

Web Secret 585: In praise of old things

The other day, I did something retro.

I went to a performance of "Sleeping Beauty" given by the American Ballet Theater at the Metropolitan Opera house.

It could have been 1890 when the ballet was first performed:

Orchestra performing Tchaikovsky's gorgeous score.

Dancers performing the beautiful choreography of Marius Petipa.

I sat in delight for three hours - without technology.

I did note that the 21st century had brought about three welcome changes:

1. Diversity among the dancers: African American, Latino, Asian and from all over the world.
2. Diversity among the audience, also representing multiple ethnic groups from all over the world.
3. During the curtain calls, hundreds of people took photographs with their smart phones.

Every now and then, go retro.

I recommend it.

Wednesday, August 7, 2019

Web Secret 584: Raising Phone-Free Children

I frequently deliver a talk at EAP related conferences entitled: "Moving Towards EAP 2.0," or words to that effect. In this presentation, I discuss 21st century opportunities for EA professionals and mental health clinicians.

Everyone on the planet who is connected to the Internet is struggling to manage their screen time and/or the screen time of their children.
1. EAPs have the opportunity to develop lunch and learn presentations that teach employees how to limit their off duty screen time.
2. Individual counselors can also develop this expertise to help their clients of all ages.

Lo and behold I came across an article "Now Some Families Are Hiring Coaches to Help Them Raise Phone-Free Children."

Here are the key points from that article:

Parents around the country, alarmed by the steady patter of studies around screen time, are trying to turn back time to the era before smartphones. But it’s not easy to remember what exactly things were like before smartphones. So they’re hiring professionals.

A new screen-free parenting coach economy has sprung up to serve the demand. Screen consultants come into homes, schools, churches and synagogues to remind parents how people parented before.

Among affluent parents, fear of phones is rampant, and it’s easy to see why. No one knows what screens will make of society, good or bad. This worldwide experiment of giving everyone an exciting piece of hand-held technology is still new.

Gloria DeGaetano was a private coach working to wean families off screens when she noticed the demand was higher than she could handle on her own. She launched the Parent Coaching Institute, a network of 500 coaches and a training program. Her coaches in small cities and rural areas charge $80 an hour. In larger cities, rates range from $125 to $250. Parents typically sign up for eight to 12 sessions. (!!!)

A parent coach noticed most adults have gotten so used to entertaining themselves with phones, they forgot that they actually grew up without them. Clients were coming to her confused about what to do all afternoon with their kids to replace tablets. She has her clients do a remembering exercise.

“And it’s so hard, and they’re very uncomfortable, but they just need to remember.”

A movement is bubbling up across the country. A group of parents band together and make public promises to withhold smartphones from their children until eighth grade. Parents who make these pledges work to promote the idea of healthy adult phone use, and promise complete abstinence until eighth grade or even later. (I am not a fan of that one size fits all approach - phones also provide security and other beneficial services.)

One psychologist noted:“We want answers served up to us — ‘Just tell me what to do, and I’ll do it.’”

But what seems self-evident can be hard to remember, and hard to stick with. One parent noted, “When we were growing up, we didn’t have these [devices], so our parents couldn’t role model appropriate behaviors to us, and we have to learn what is appropriate so we can role model that for them.”

We are inventing the wheel for a new machine that is constantly being upgraded. No wonder these parents are so anxious.

But for EAPs and clinicians - helping people develop a measured approach to new technology - can be part of your book of business.

Wednesday, July 31, 2019

Web Secret 583: It's the teacher

For two middle school years, I attended Maret, a K-12 private school in Washington DC. The music teacher there was a man named Dexter Davidson. He seemed to be quite elderly to me at the time, but in retrospect was probably in his late 50s.

Each year, all the music classes learned the score for an ambitious musical offering in which everyone participated in some measure.

As an example, when I was in 9th grade, the plan was to put on the Mikado, a satiric 19th century operetta composed by Gilbert and Sullivan. For those of you who don't know their many compositions, treat yourself by watching them on YouTube. Here for example, is an Australian company's version of "I've got a little list." By tradition, the words to the song are updated to reflect contemporary aggravations:


Music classes were spent sitting at a desk with the score, singing the songs together. All the songs. The solos, the duets, the trios, the chorus numbers and the finale - we learned every note. Since Gilbert and Sullivan works have catchy melodies and hilarious lyrics, we loved every minute of it. Towards the end of the school year, everyone had memorized the entire Mikado.

Then came the time to put on a show. The principal roles were cast by audition and usually featured high schoolers - but anyone who wanted to, regardless of musical aptitude, was on stage. Mr. Davidson believed everyone, regardless of age or talent, could learn the choreography of each number.

At the time, it was all so much fun. But today, I realize how progressive and brave he was. Being allowed to play the opposite sex, being included in any show in which you wanted to perform, being able to learn an ambitious musical work regardless of age. He brought the entire school together, making everyone feel appreciated and included. Making us think that we could tackle any project, regardless of who we were.

Mr. Davidson, you were an exceptional teacher. Because I was taught by you, my entire life is better.

Thank you.

Wednesday, July 24, 2019

Web Secret 582: iOS 13

Apple announced an upgrade to their operating system coming Fall 2019.

If you have been reading this blog for a while, you know how I feel about upgrades: new features nobody needs. Surprise! you get to learn a lot of new stuff you had no interest in learning.

There are only 3 new features to care about:

1. Speed. iPhones from the 6S to the X will become faster. How did they achieve that. Yeah, I don't care either.

2. Dark mode. Many apps are designed with white backgrounds, and this can get tiring for the eyes. Dark mode replace white backgrounds with dark colors. Anytime I have seen dark backgrounds with white letters, I find them disconcerting. Hello Nespresso! For years I've been trying to get you to change your dreadful black website.

There is another advantage: It should reduce battery consumption because fewer pixels need to be lit up, and it will make screens easier on the eyes when reading in the dark. I'll reserve judgment until I try Apple's version of light on dark.

3. Privacy. Chief among Apple’s new privacy features is Sign In With Apple, a button for using an Apple ID to sign in to apps and websites.

When you sign up for a website or app with your Apple ID, iOS 13 will include an option to hide the email address linked to your Apple ID. In the process, Apple will create a burner email address to sign up, hiding it from the third party. Whenever the website or app you sign up for tries to contact you, it will email the burner address, and Apple will forward the memo to your real email address. So if a business starts sending spam to the burner email address, you can delete your account, and the business won’t have your real email address.

Sounds complicated and full of potential pitfalls.

Remains to be seen.

Wednesday, July 17, 2019

Web Secret 581: Why my iPad has Diamond Medallion status

During a recent trip from New York City's LaGuardia Airport to Ft. Myers, Florida, I left my iPad in the seat pocket of the plane.

I realized this happened approximately 6 hours after I left the airport, and my first step was to contact Delta Lost and Found. Well friends - here's a bit of bad news - most of the airlines have outsourced their lost and found departments to companies with catchy names like instaFILE. I paid instaFILE the required fee of $29.95 and waited for a miracle.

The following morning I suddenly remembered that I wrote a column about technology. I fired up "Find my iPad" and realized my iPad was still on the plane - it was on the runway back at LaGuardia - so glad Delta does a thorough job of cleaning their airplane.

My instaFILE agent sent me this message:

"Hello Marina,

My name is James and I am currently working on the search for your iPad mini. I look forward to handling your case and will be reporting back to you with an update on your claim."


I wrote back:

"Hi JAMES - I did 'Find my iPad' and yesterday it was located “near LaGuardia airport, NY” - today it shows the iPad is at the Minneapolis/St. Paul International Airport which makes me think it is still in seat pocket 27D of the Delta plane I flew in on yesterday."

A day passed and James wrote :

"Hello Marina,

Thanks for informing me of the location of your iPad. I will continue to search for how to get it. Thanks,- James"


Then, all of a sudden James informed me he had forwarded my case to Delta. They wrote:

"Dear Marina,

You've lost something important to you and we're dedicated to helping you find it. We'll search our inventory of items and e-mail you if we find an item that closely matches your description. Although we do not accept liability for lost items, we are committed to reuniting our passengers with their lost belongings.

Sincerely,

Delta Air Lines Lost Item Recovery Team"


I watched helplessly as my iPad continued to jet set around the USA. It flew to Jacksonville,Florida, it flew back to LaGuardia. I continued to keep Delta and James informed of its whereabouts via email - the only we I could communicate with them.

Delta wrote again:

"Dear Marina,

The search continues. Although we have not yet located your missing item, know that we are still diligently searching for it.

Sincerely,

Delta Air Lines Lost Item Recovery Team."


At this point I got exasperated and filed a complaint with Delta:

"You must not clean your planes very well because I left my iPad mini 5 on my flight on and it just keeps flying around the country in the seat pocket of the plane I was on. Reference my lost id claim number. I can track the location of the iPad on my computer. It is not lost - just get it off the plane and mail it to me."

More time passed and I got a call from Delta's LaGuardia Lost and Found that they had the iPad. Must have been the result of my complaint letter.

Probably not. I got the following message from Delta a few days later:

"Thanks for letting us know about your flight experience from LaGuardia to Fort Myers on May 23, 2019.

It’s so easy to leave behind something important while flying and I’m sorry this happened to you. I do appreciate the fact that you’ve reached out to our Lost and Found Unit and as soon as your Ipad is found, we will do our best to get it back to you.

We appreciate your concern regarding this matter. To be helpful, I’m sending your thoughts to our Baggage Service leadership team for review, although, I can’t offer a timeline; hopefully, we can find what you left behind."


Bang head against wall. Repeat.

Wednesday, July 10, 2019

Web Secret 580: Comeback of the Century

I read a surprising Op-Ed in the New York Times by frequent contributor Timothy Egan. It was titled: "The Comeback of the Century - Why the book endures, even in an era of disposable digital culture."

I thought you should read it too, abridged as usual:
In the digital age, the printed book has experienced more than its share of obituaries. Among the most dismissive was one from Steve Jobs, who said in 2008, “It doesn’t matter how good or bad the product is, the fact is that people don’t read anymore.”

True, nearly one in four adults in this country has not read a book in the last year. But the book...is back. Defying all death notices, sales of printed books continue to rise to new highs, as do the number of independent stores stocked with these voices between covers, even as sales of electronic versions are declining.

Nearly three times as many Americans read a book of history in 2017 as watched the first episode of the final season of “Game of Thrones.”

So, even with a president who is ahistoric, borderline literate and would fail a sixth-grade reading comprehension test, something wonderful and unexpected is happening in the language arts. When the dominant culture goes low, the saviors of our senses go high.

Storytelling, Steve Jobs may have forgotten, will never die. And the best format for grand and sweeping narratives remains one of the oldest and most durable.

But also, at a time when more than a third of the people in the United States and Britain say their cellphones are having a negative effect on their health and well-being, a clunky old printed book is a welcome antidote.

When people go on a digital cleanse, detoxing from the poison of too much screen time, one of the first things they do is bury themselves in a book — that is, one to have and to hold, to remind the senses of touching “Pat the Bunny” in infancy, a book to chew on.

“I think it’s somewhat analogous to what happened with food,” said Rick Simonson, longtime buyer at the Elliott Bay Book Company in Seattle. “We came of age when the commercial messages about food were all to make it instant. Now look at how food has changed ‘back’ — the freshness, the health aspect, the various factors like community.”

While our attention span has shrunk, while extremists’ shouting in ALL-CAPS can pass for an exchange of ideas, while our president uses his bully pulpit as a bullhorn for bigotry and ignorance, the story of our times is also something else. It’s there in the quieter reaches, in pages of passion and prose of an ancient technology.
I have nothing to add.

Wednesday, July 3, 2019

Web Secret 579: 1994

1994 was a blur for me as I struggled to manage very premature twins on heart monitors, a 4 year old, and a full time job without losing my mind.

Recently, New York Times journalist Caity Weaver described her valiant effort to live like it was 25 years ago - before Google, before texting and before iPhones.

Great! Now I could find out what I missed. Here is a summary of what she wrote (Bear in mind she was 4 years old in 1994):
Average Americans "spent 1994 eating Dunkaroos in the back seat...They were in phone booths... They were smoking cigarettes — not on domestic flights under six hours, thanks to a then-recently-passed draconian law prohibiting this, but just about everywhere else...

My assignment was to attempt, for one week, to live, 24/7, as if it were 1994...

...I would 1994-ify everything within my purview. For instance...I would avoid catching B trains to work since they did not stop at my neighborhood subway station in 1994. To the extent possible, I would use only products invented in or before 1994. I would dine exclusively at restaurants that opened that year or earlier. My irrational need to receive constant updates on all current events and internet gossip ... would have to be satisfied by the newspaper, the radio and network news.

Aside from figuring out how to get from anywhere to anywhere (which, I eventually discovered, was sadly nearly impossible in 1994), the most taxing element was preparation. At work, my primary tools would be paper — a kind of very, very thin, stiff, dry, fragile fabric for writing on — pens, and my landline desk phone. ...I would reduce my 2019 computer to word processor functionality — no email...

1994 would extend to my personal life too....I transformed my iPhone into a landline by disabling notifications for every application except calls, and leaving it plugged into a wall outlet in my kitchen. I printed out seven pages of phone contacts because I did not know any of my friends’ phone numbers, nor indeed the phone number of the man I have been dating for four years and am engaged to marry.

I bought a genuine 1994 Radio Shack television set with a built in VCR on eBay. It arrived broken. A Radio Shack cassette tape recorder also purchased on eBay also arrived broken. 1994 was not that long ago, but everything from 1994 was broken, or seemed so. I fretted that the 1994 Sony Walkman I received was also broken because no music emanated from it when I turned it on, but then I discovered that the Walkman merely demanded headphones before it would play...

...I ordered the cheapest cookbook from 1994 I could find, which was titled “Cooking Light Cookbook 1994.” I borrowed a 1994 Zagat from a co-worker.

To help me identify buildings it was safely 1994 to go into, I acquired “New York, a Guide to the Metropolis” ... For entertainment, I bought the books “The Celestine Prophecy” and “Prozac Nation.” And for exercise, I purchased guided aerobic VHS tapes on eBay.

...For a week, [my fiance] and I would be unable to enjoy one another’s company while watching streaming and OnDemand TV programming in stunning 4K resolution... All of our social plans would have to be decided in advance, since he would be unable to reach me unless I happened to be near the kitchen, at my desk at work or already with him... Most annoyingly for both of us, Taylor (along with everyone I encountered) would be banned from using his smartphone to inform me of the time, the forecast, directions, invitations, addresses, phone numbers, recipes, news he had learned from digital sources and the easily researched answers to any of my spontaneous questions...

The first thing I noticed at midnight when the clock struck 1994 was the sudden silence in the room. The second thing was the deafening volume of my inner monologue. I was getting ready for bed, performing the half-dozen mostly mindless tasks that, because they occupy my hands, normally provide a treasured window for listening to an audiobook or podcast. As I smeared surprisingly solid and burning Noxzema cream across my cheeks, however, all I could hear were my own thoughts...

In addition to providing brief news summaries, the radio was my primary source of weather forecast information. It was incorrect every single day, but never more so than the morning I embarked on a 35-block pilgrimage to visit Manhattan’s four remaining pay phones (all on the Upper West Side) and was forced to spend 20 minutes standing under scaffolding, filthy city rainwater soaking the pages of my handwritten observations.

The most time-consuming task of my week was identifying places to go, and figuring out how to go to them with paper maps. I spent hours methodically calling restaurants listed in the Zagat...to see if they still existed. They don’t. The majority of numbers just rang forever...

In the weekly allotment of time I normally spend half-browsing the internet while half-watching TV, I read three books. I reorganized my dresser and my closet. Taylor and I went for walks. One evening, I even cracked open “Cooking Light” and prepared my sweetheart a complete meal called “Dinner for Your Sweetheart,” which was disgusting.

I should have known it would be, because while light cooking is not a radical concept, many of the dishes depicted in this book were unrecognizable to me...

While I will stop at nothing to avoid making or receiving a phone call in 2019, phone conversations in my private 1994 provided valuable lifelines to the loved ones and entertainment news from which I had been cruelly severed...

By the fourth or fifth day of 1994, I’d stopped impulsively grabbing at empty spaces on my desk for my cellphone, but my reflex to quickly Google things never deteriorated. I began compiling my questions — a list of itches to be scratched at a later time — and spent the final day of my week at the Brooklyn Public Library, to see what percentage of answers I could find in books. About 17 percent, it turned out...

...alone in my living room, I discovered the only thing about 1994 I truly enjoyed: workout videos. I loved the inane prerecorded affirmations. I loved learning individual dance routine components and putting them all together at full speed...

I left the library to head to dinner with someone I had never met at a place I had never been. On the subway, I realized I had forgotten to bring the notebook where, earlier in the week, I had written the restaurant’s address. I’m used to jotting everything down (typing it in the Notes app on my phone) because I have a terrible memory. I sat up in my seat and considered the situation.

...my mind was dead quiet for the majority of 1994. I wasn’t bored. I was just thinking in a very straightforward way about whatever I happened to be doing at that moment...

Out of this silence, out of some long-since-condemned corner of my hippocampus, the address surfaced...

I pictured my frantic brain. In 2019, it spent its days firing off repeated ALL CAPS bulletins of basic information into a nonstop podcast din. ... Maybe the quiet hadn’t replaced my thoughts. Maybe my thoughts had just relaxed into their natural hushed state. 1994 was the time before the commotion. Or that seemed plausible, anyway. I couldn’t look it up."
Is 1994 Paradise Lost?

Wednesday, June 26, 2019

Web Secret 578: New uses of AI in mental health

Here are examples of new uses of AI in mental health (courtesy of "The Incredible Ways Artificial Intelligence Is Now Used In Mental Health by Bernard Marr):

Researchers from the World Well-Being Project (WWBP) analyzed social media with an AI algorithm to pick out linguistic cues that might predict depression. It turns out that those suffering from depression express themselves on social media in ways that those dealing with other chronic conditions do not, such as mentions of loneliness and using words such as "feelings," "I" and "me." The team's findings were published in the journal "Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences."

After analyzing half a million Facebook posts from people who consented to provide their Facebook status updates and medical records, they were able to identify depression-associated language markers. What the researchers found was that linguistic markers could predict depression up to three months before the person receives a formal diagnosis. Other researchers use technology to explore the way facial expressions, enunciation of words and tone and language could indicate suicide risk.

In addition to researchers, there are several companies using artificial intelligence to help tackle the mental health crisis. Quartet's platform flags possible mental conditions and can refer patients to a provider or a computerized cognitive behavioral therapy program. Ginger’s contribution is a chat application used by employers that provides direct counseling services to employees. Its algorithms analyze the words someone uses and then relies on its training from more than 2 billion behavioral data samples, 45 million chat messages and 2 million clinical assessments to provide a recommendation.

The CompanionMX system has an app that allows patients being treated with depression, bipolar disorders, and other conditions to create an audio log where they can talk about how they are feeling. The AI system analyzes the recording as well as looks for changes in behavior for proactive mental health monitoring. Bark, a parental control phone tracker app, monitors major messaging and social media platforms to look for signs of cyberbullying, depression, suicidal thoughts and sexting on a child’s phone.

I'm kind of terrified.

Wednesday, June 19, 2019

Web Secret 577: Preparing for a cyber attack

Open Minds is a top notch consulting firm in the health and human service space.

Last month, they published an excellent article in one of their newsletters "Preparing For A Cyberattack — In Four Steps".

Here is a summary of key points:

Cyberattacks — an attempt by hackers to damage, destroy, or hold hostage a computer network, system, or data—have come to health and human service organizations.

The field has become a prime target for hackers. Health care now has twice the number of cyberattacks per day compared to other industries.

You can’t necessarily prevent a cyberattack, but you can mitigate its effect with a few fundamental preventive measures. Here are those preventive measures:

Understand state-specific plans for protected health information (PHI)—Protected health information is the term given to health data created, received, stored, or transmitted by HIPAA-covered entities and their business associates. Protecting this information is especially important and complicated because the federal government has rules, and each state have its own set of rules (including privacy regulations) that control access and security for PHI. It’s mandatory to know what data in your possession and what rules are governing how you handle that data.

Conduct a data risk assessment This assessment helps you identify at-risk, sensitive, or classified data, and the level of risk that it may be attacked, hacked, or breached. If you can’t provide a succinct answer to the question, “How vulnerable are you to data breaches” then chances are you are extremely susceptible. Running a risk assessment means assessing all your technology (hardware and software), your organizational processes for managing data, and reviewing the staff protocols and training for those who will use and have access to the data.

Build a data security strategy A data security strategy is your plan (including procedures, policies and protocols) for how you will protect your data from being compromised, breached, hacked, or held for ransom in any way. Provider organizations need both a strategy and an action plan to leverage the security potential of data encryption, standardized processes for authentication of user identification, defined policies about appropriate data access, and regularly scheduled audits of the databases. Once you have the tools, getting the processes in place will also mean training staff to use and protect your secure system.

Develop a data breach response plan A response plan is the approach organizations take to address and manage the aftermath of a cyberattack. It’s best to have a plan, including how to stop the hacking and report the incident. Having a slow response to either of those things will only compound the problem (and possible the financial repercussions with the feds). Your data breach response plan needs a leader, a team with clearly defined goals during the hack, and an incident response plan to guide the team through response protocols.

As always, if you do not have cybersecurity expertise in house, it pays to hire a pro.

Wednesday, June 12, 2019

Web Secret 576: Deadwood

In a 2014 article, the chief television critic of the New York Times, (and one of my high school classmates!), argued that the 3 season HBO show "Deadwood" - which first aired in 2004 - was the prelude to the 2nd golden age of television.

With the Deadwood movie coming out as I write this, I was inclined to see what the fuss was about and watch the series for the first time.

Deadwood is demanding of its viewers. The program is set in an 1870s mining "camp" in the Dakotas, where life is filthy, violent and profane. The plot is extremely complex and the characters are multi-layered. Their motivations are often obscure, and take many episodes to fathom. The show's creator extensively researched the language of the period and the protagonists speak with a great deal of vile language and use a turn of phrase that is very different from the way we express ourselves today.

For the first 4 to 6 episodes, I almost gave up on watching the show. I couldn't understand who the principal actors where and at times I could barely understand what any of them were saying. I turned on closed captions - which helped immensely - and got used to the dialogue. I finally got a lay of the land. And then I was hooked.

Deadwood is one of the most beautifully written TV shows I have ever watched. Perhaps the most beautiful.

I constantly want to pause to write down lines I have just listened to. Viewers often quote from the speeches of Deadwood principal character Al Swearingen to illustrate this beauty. But I prefer this exchange between theater troop leader Jack Langrishe and his friend and perhaps lover, the aged and dying actor Chesterton. The two speak in the hotel room where Chesterton is bed ridden:
JL: I am your Jack, Chesterton, but your producer too.
C: A rigor we've always sustained.
JL: To carry a performer through illness where recovery is in prospect is an indulgence one can sometimes justify, but support of idleness destined for the grave that, Chesterton, the narrow economy of our art does not permit.
C: You would have me die destitute?
JL: You will purchase your keep with that voice - intrusive and incessantly opinionated - no vagary of our past has yet stilled.
If you love Shakespeare, this is the show he would have written, if he had lived in the 21st century.

Wednesday, June 5, 2019

Web Secret 575: I Won’t Upgrade My Phone Until It Can Turn Into a Magic Pony

I occasionally come across an article that is so on point, I publish it in its entirety - abridged.

"Why I Won’t Upgrade My Phone Until It Can Turn Into a Magic Pony," written by Jessica Powell for Medium, an online magazine, is one such gem.

Here it is:

Of all the absurd things I’ve hoarded over the years, by far the stupidest collection in my closet is a box of old mobile phones. I’ve told myself ... if there were an apocalypse, I might be able to barter one away in exchange for food or water.

But in truth, I think I’ve just held on to them because they mark the passage of time...Plus, how often do we get to document, on such a personal level, the rapid evolution of a particular piece of technology?

When mobile phones were first introduced, they were elusive status symbols.... Their huge, brick-like size announced their worth: Look at me, they screamed...My father, a doctor who was often on call at the hospital, had one of these enormous phones, and none of us was allowed to touch it...

But luxury is defined in part by scarcity. Bit by bit, phones got smaller and cheaper and into the hands of more people. Having a phone was no longer a privilege reserved for the few...

I got my first phone in 2001. While it was nothing fancy, it was a wondrous thing that fit in the palm of my hand and made phone calls. It could also — well, no, that was really all it could do: make phone calls...

...I never once thought of these early-aught phones as status symbols the way I had back when phones were scarce — they were simply pieces of plastic and wire that helped me make calls from one place to another. They seemed about as unique to me as paper towels or USB sticks.

And yet, once smartphones rolled onto the scene, everything seemed to change. Overnight, it seemed that phones had once again become major status symbols.

Beginning in 2007, it was no longer a question as to whether you had a phone, but rather what kind of phone you owned. One’s choice of device spoke volumes — it fit you into a tidy categorization of wealth and interests. Having an iPhone meant you had money. A BlackBerry? Lots of money. An Android? Not so much. A flip phone? That was just kind of embarrassing.

It wasn’t just about wealth — your phone post-2007 said something about your lifestyle. iPhone users were the creative types. Android users were into tech. BlackBerry users — while those still existed — were men in suits who fired off angry, monosyllabic emails and probably made inappropriate comments to the secretaries in the coffee room.

There were now phones for any need or purpose. Even thematic phones had a decent run in some parts of the world. On a work trip to Jakarta, I picked up a special-edition “ladies-only” phone — a pink device sparkling with white plastic crystals...

All of which is to say that 10 years ago there was a wealth of phone options and a whole lot of competition...

But today there are essentially two operating systems — Apple and Android — and our phones all basically look the same and can do the same things...

But there’s a bigger problem that has nothing to do with the relative inconspicuousness of phones: incremental innovation. ..what are we really getting in exchange beyond a slightly better camera and screen?

Sure enough, the latest numbers show that people are upgrading their phones at a much slower rate than before...

If the companies want our money, they’ll have to build far more magical devices or figure out how to add some glitz and glam on the side. Bring us a gigantic phone we can swim in. Or a phone that will whisper compliments to us as we walk down the street. A phone that populates everything around us with AR-driven dancing ponies, or one that will double as a Swiss army knife in the event of the apocalypse I keep worrying about.

In the absence of all that, I’m sticking with my current 2017 phone until it breaks. I’ll spend my money on things that really show people who I am — like drinking raw water, putting jade eggs in my hoohaw, and raising chickens in my backyard biosphere.

And when that phone finally breaks, I’ll do something really radical — go phoneless.

The ultimate status symbol, of course, being someone who is so superior to everyone that they don’t need to communicate with anyone.

Wednesday, May 29, 2019

Web Secret 574: People Walker

A couple of weeks ago, I had dinner with my friend Rochelle Sharpe. Rochelle is a Pulitzer Prize winner and a previous staff reporter at the Wall Street Journal. So when she talks, I listen.

She told me that she is working on an article about loneliness, which scientists tell us is a very serious and epidemic problem.

Why, in an era when technology makes it so easy to connect, we should feel increasingly alone is not clearly understood.

Rochelle asked me if had heard about "The People Walker" in Los Angeles.

I had not.

So as soon as I got home, I googled it. Turns out the people walking idea was already getting press in 2016. An article in The Guardian described how an aspiring actor came up with the idea.

I also learned that People Walker is now a full fledged app, allowing lonely people to connect "with safe and reliable walking partners on-demand."

Coming soon to an urban center near you...

Wednesday, May 22, 2019

Web Secret 573: Streaming down the hill

I don't remember when I started streaming TV shows, mini series and movies. I was most definitely NOT an early adopter. Didn't quite get it.

The chief television critic of the New York Times reported that most of her friends pitied her when he took that position in 2004. "TV," they scoffed, "how are you going to stand watching all that trash?" Ten years later, is colleagues envy her, and movies are the trash - endless reiterations of the same 3 plot lines or yet another superhero offering. (PS the critic in question, Alessandra Stanley, was a prep school classmate of mine.)

As I write this, I literally can't remember the last time I went to the movies. It was many months ago and I paid extra to sit in a comfortable reclining seat, drink a chilled glass of Sauvignon Blanc and eat farm to table fare.

Wait - I can do that at home - anytime I want. I have a large 4K TV, which may be small compared to an IMAX screen, but I don't have to deal with cinematic deplorables. By which I mean children jumping around, teenagers texting non-stop, and demented senior citizens loudly asking questions because they can't follow the plot. I have wine in my fridge, and any food in the world can be ordered on my "GrubHub" app.

One thing that I started noticing recently is how many streaming apps I have loaded on my smartphone and tablet:

Netflix - Love Death and Robots
Hulu - The First
PBS Video - Victoria
CBS All Access - The Twilight Zone
HBO GO - Game of Thrones
FXNOW - Fosse/Verdon
NBC - Good Girls
Bravo - Project Runway
YouTube - Origin

I am sure I'm forgetting a couple. I am feeding an addiction for science-fiction, fantasy, historical drama and documentaries. Many, many, documentaries.

I am never going to watch it all.

I have to schedule "Reading a book" lunches - because otherwise...

Wednesday, May 15, 2019

Web Secret 572: 44 pages

Do you remember reading "Highlights for Kids"?

Maybe in your dentist's or pediatrician's office?

Would you think it still existed in 2019?

Would you think it's still relevant in our digital world?

Would you think it is one of the most ethical companies in America?

Would you think it is run by 4 generations of the same family?

Well, I didn't know any of the above.

Until I watched a warm blanket of a documentary, "44 pages."

You should too.

Wednesday, May 8, 2019

Web Secret 571: The Kindness Diaries

Years ago, I found myself stranded in a remote Andean village for a number of days. There was no running water, no electricity and the villagers tilled the soil using Medieval tools.

One of the families in the village offered me food and lodging while I waited for the bus to come. By Western standards, these people were poor, yet I was amazed at their happiness and serenity.

I find myself thinking back to that experience as I watched "The Kindness Diaries", a wonderful documentary series on Netflix.

The series follows the journey of host Leon Logothetis as he travels the world with no money, choosing to rely entirely on the kindness of strangers for food, lodging and gasoline to fuel his motorcycle.

When Leon and his crew meet someone who touches their hearts, they reward them with a gift.

Every episode, I too am touched, and I cry.

Things I've learned from watching this program:
  1. The poorest people are usually the most generous. I don't know if this is because they have more empathy, or they have less to lose by gambling on helping a total stranger.
  2. True contentment is not linked to material wealth.
  3. I want to visit Bhutan. The government of Bhutan is guided by the philosophy of Gross National Happiness. I will say no more.
  4. Kindness can be found anywhere. You just have to ask.
True chicken soup for the soul.

Wednesday, May 1, 2019

Web Secret 570: NPR Music Tiny Desk Concert

The Internet taketh away.

But sometimes it giveth big time.

Take NPR's Tiny Desk Concerts, "Intimate video performances, recorded live at the desk of All Songs Considered host Bob Boilen." Since 2008, a Who's Who of musicians and bands have performed them, from Adele to Chance The Rapper, from T-Pain to Yo-Yo Ma.

In 2015, the Tiny Desk people decide to launch a contest to find undiscovered talent. Contestants must submit a video showing them performing a song they have written while seated at a desk. Winners perform a Tiny Desk Concert.

In 2016, there were 6,000 entries and six judges unanimously selected Gaelynn Lea as the winner.

Yesterday, I accidentally came across her Tiny Desk Concert - I had never heard of her:


Within 10 seconds of clicking the link, I feel like I noticed 6 things simultaneously:

1. she is a little person
2. her limbs are askew
3. she plays the violin like a cello
4. her playing is amazing
5. her voice is amazing
6. the song she wrote, (Someday we'll linger in the sun,) is amazing.
7. I had never heard anything like it.

Food for the soul.

Wednesday, April 24, 2019

Web Secret 569: Friendship has been digitized

In an op-ed piece in the New York Times, author Stephen T. Asma, a professor of philosophy, wonders whether the "pre-internet, face-to-face experience of friendship that I knew growing up will be lost to our post-internet children."

He goes on to note:

"Each year, more and more of our lives take place in the digital space. The average teenager spends up to nine hours a day online."

"The loss of intimacy, however, does not seem to be a concern among the young people actually growing up online; they report feeling socially supported by large networks of online “friends” whom they rarely or never see face-to-face."

"But do these young people even know what they are missing? And does it matter?"

"According to a new survey, 86 percent of American and British citizens believe that “increased use of technology” is contributing to social isolation."

"Deep friendship...is when you care for your friend for her sake, not for any benefit you can accrue from the relation. This is selfless friendship. You can have only a couple of these friends because they require a lot of time, work and effort, and a general blending or intertwining of two lives. You have to clock time with these people, and you must make sacrifices for each other."

"The kind of presence required for deep friendship does not seem cultivated in many online interactions. Presence in friendship requires “being with” and “doing for” (sacrifice). The forms of “being with” and “doing for” on social networking sites (or even in interactive gaming) seem trivial because the stakes are very low."

"When I asked my undergraduate students whether they had people in their lives who would bring them soup when they’re sick, they laughed ... and said they’d just order soup from GrubHub..."

Asma muses, "...digital life produces false friendships (because they are relatively disembodied). In other words, young people do not know that they lack real friends.."

He concludes, "Our worries about online life are inevitable, I suppose. We’ve never seen anything quite like it in the social world before."

It's going to be a bumpy ride.

Wednesday, April 17, 2019

Web Secret 568: Human contact is a luxury

In an important New York Times article "Human Contact Is Now a Luxury Good", author Nellie Bowles argues that while screens used to be for the elite, that is no longer the caase:
"The rich do not live like this. The rich have grown afraid of screens. They want their children to play with blocks, and tech-free private schools are booming. Humans are more expensive, and rich people are willing and able to pay for them. Conspicuous human interaction — living without a phone for a day, quitting social networks and not answering email — has become a status symbol.

All of this has led to a curious new reality: Human contact is becoming a luxury good.

As more screens appear in the lives of the poor, screens are disappearing from the lives of the rich. The richer you are, the more you spend to be offscreen."
Later, she notes:
"So as wealthy kids are growing up with less screen time, poor kids are growing up with more. How comfortable someone is with human engagement could become a new class marker."
Our elderly will be cared for by avatars and robots.

An article in Vox pointed out that already
"The rapid influx of advanced technology is changing the practice of medicine... Nowhere is this more apparent than a story where a physician told a fatally ill man in a Fremont, California, hospital that he was dying via video chat on a screen attached to a robot.

The patient...was sitting in his hospital room when a “telepresence robot” — or a mobile robot with a video screen that live-streams a physician in another location — rolled in and informed him that there was nothing that could be done to treat him. Quintana, who had chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, was with his granddaughter and a nurse when he was told his options for managing pain at the end of his life. The granddaughter, shocked at this bombshell dropped from a disembodied robot, filmed part of the encounter, which subsequently went viral online."
I don't know what else to say.

Wednesday, April 10, 2019

Web Secret 567: How to become web dead 2.0

Over 10 years ago, I wrote a blog post "How to Become Web Dead" - about erasing oneself from the Internet in case of overexposure.

in 2019, this has become many orders of magnitude more important and more difficult. I especially recommend clinicians think about locking down their social media against curious clients. Recently, the New York Time published an article "How a Bitcoin Evangelist Made Himself Vanish, in 15 (Not So Easy) Steps" with some up-to-date ideas on how to virtually disappear.

1. Create an LLC. People end up in databases when they fill out forms to buy property, register for credit cards or complete run-of-the-mill transactions. Create an LLC in a state that does not require the corporation to record the name of its owner.

2. Turn off all geolocation services on your smartphone

3. Create a V.P.N. for home internet use. In order to shield your internet address and your location, he turned his home internet router into a virtual private network, or V.P.N., that made all his internet traffic appear to come from different internet addresses in different places. I showed you how to do this in a previous post "Individual cybersecurity when traveling."

My additional suggestion:

4. Lock down all of your social media accounts. Better yet - consider deleting all your social media accounts and open new ones that you only share with your very closest family and friends.

5. Reread "How to Become Web Dead" - turns out most of that advice is still worthwhile.

Step lightly.

Wednesday, April 3, 2019

Web Secret 566: Unreasonable

I am known to jump up and down about the need for EAP companies and individuals to have sophisticated marketing and a one to two minute video.

I wish I could use an actual EAP as an example, but no one is doing what I am talking about - yet. What you get on most EAP services is a list of services - ditto in their videos.

What is an example, is a technology accelerator called the Unreasonable Group.

Let's look at their 2 minute video, entitled "We are Unreasonable"shall we?



Note that they don't actually explain how they do what they do - instead the video is aspirational - you, the client, and Unreasonable are working towards the same high level goal. They describe the big picture of what their company hopes to achieve for their clients. The video itself is composed of photo and very short video clips downloaded, most likely, from the Internet. Their text is superimposed over these images.

There are no actors, no special effects - it's about the message. Not expensive to produce.

This is how they describe themselves on their website (the emphasis is mine):

"At Unreasonable Group, we believe entrepreneurs building rapidly scalable businesses are our best bet for solving the most significant social and environmental challenges. Every day, our team strives to give entrepreneurs tackling these challenges an unfair advantage. We do this by connecting entrepreneurs with the networks of mentors, investors, businesses, policymakers and specialists they need to scale. Unreasonable’s economic model rests on identifying and securing new partnerships with multinational companies, foundations, and governments."

Note the provocative and unusual use of the word "unfair."

Makes you pay attention, right?

Wednesday, March 27, 2019

Web Secret 565: Leaving Neverland

When I was 18, a person whom I revered sexually molested me.

That was over 40 years ago.

It has taken me decades to fully process that experience, and understanding came incrementally.

My incident isn't remotely on the scale of what was endured by James Safechuck and Wade Robson as told in the HBO documentary Leaving Neverland. They were children and I was a very young adult. Their abuse lasted years. Mine maybe 10-15 minutes.

But to those critics who are dubious about how long it took for these victims to speak up, I would say this:
  • You cannot imagine, or maybe you've forgotten how sheltered we were before the Internet and social media. At 18, I was probably more naive than a ten year old is today. I had not been schooled in "bad touch" as today's children are in elementary school. And if I'd been asked, would have pictured perpetrators as obviously evil strangers. Most of the topics discussed openly today - cancer, incest, rape, suicide, etc. - were taboo in the seventies and even beyond.
  • Thus when we the naive were victimized by a charming, admired, trusted perpetrator, we were shocked and confused. We had a sense of disbelief. "Did this just happen?", we asked ourselves. Maybe we misinterpreted the situation?
  • It took me a longtime to understand that being heroic or amazing in one context doesn't mean you can't be profoundly flawed and sick in another. Coming to that realization is devastating.
  • It took the recent "Me Too" movement for me to label what happened to me "sexual assault." I had never thought about it before in that way.
  • It took this documentary for me to fully realize the psychology of "grooming" targets.
  • We are handicapped by the fact that incidents are seared in our memories from when we were very young. It takes time, therapy, having children and/or education to step out of your young mind and revisit what happened from the perspective of a sophisticated adult.
In order to heal, we all have to leave our Neverlands.

Wednesday, March 20, 2019

Web Secret 564: The Culture Map

Vignette #1: At work, my 25 year old son is in charge of an international group of interns, most of whom are barely younger than him. He told me he had to give a stern lecture about business etiquette to his Korean interns who persisted in sending work emails festooned with emojis, many with obscure, untranslatable meaning.

Vignette #2: I am very direct when giving feedback - whether at work or with my children. Some attribute this to a lack of tact and considerable arrogance. It took me years to even learn that sometimes I need to pull my punches.

Today, I came across the work of Erin Meyer and all is explained. Erin is a professor at INSEAD, one of the leading international business schools. Her work focuses on how the world’s most successful managers navigate the complexities of cultural differences in a global environment. Erin has figured out how to explain the differences between countries through eight workplace behavioral scales.

To get a feel for Erin's work, enjoy this 30 minute presentation on The Culture Map.

So going back to vignette #2. Let me begin by saying that my formative years were spent in the French school system and living in Europe. Then let me add that one of Erin's scale is "Evaluating." This scale measures a preference for frank versus diplomatic criticism. The French, for example, are much (much!) more direct when it comes to negative feedback.

For the French, this approach starts as early as first grade, when even the most minor assignments are graded on a scale of 1 to 20. (PS: the score of 20 is rarely given, the French don't believe anyone is perfect.) In addition, everyone in the class is ranked in every subject versus his/her peers. This evaluation is underscored every trimester, when, at the end of the marking period, two levels of honor role distinction are given.

So that was my exposure to negative criticism. I'm used to it. I find it useful. But in the US that is not acceptable business practice. Negative feedback is best received when tempered with some positive words.

Erin, where were you when I became a supervisor in 1986?

I have no explanation for the emojis.