Wednesday, April 8, 2020

Web Secret 619: How do you know you aren't in 1973?

I write a lot about the speed of technological change in this blog. So it was a refreshing and somewhat terrifying experience to consider a completely different point of view.

The brilliant Eric Weinstein launched his podcast "The Portal" via an almost three hour conversation with Peter Thiel.

Both men are, to put it mildly, brilliant. Weinstein has a PhD in mathematical physics from Harvard, Thiel, a billionaire, has a JD from Stanford and founded PayPal.

You can watch Episode #001: "An Era of Stagnation & Universal Institutional Failure" here:

Here is what I found interesting:

Eric suggested the following "Go into a room, subtract the screens, and how do you know you aren't in 1973?" Putting aside changes in design, what is different? Well nothing. My toaster looks no different than the one I used as a child. I have a microwave - which wasn't available until the late 1970's - but it too has a screen. So maybe he's right?

In the same conversation Thiel puts it this way: "We have the computer from Star Trek, but we don't have the Warp Drive or the Transporter."

Elsewhere in this blog, I have written about the lack of progress in commercial aviation. The planes we take to fly around the world haven't changed much since the 1970s. It still take 24 hours to get to Australia.

Thiel wonders if this might partly be caused by increased specialization. He points out that a well educated man in the 1900s could know everything there was to know about science and literature. 100+ years later, it is impossible to know everything in one's field, let alone in another. Maybe we need more big picture people who can synthesize the next advance for humanity.

You can poke some holes into their arguments. As an example, there has been tremendous progress in medicine.

But still.

Wednesday, April 1, 2020

Web Secret 618: Mercari is a website/app that makes it easy to sell or buy just about anything: shoes, bags, collectibles, jeans and more.

Need to offload that pair of Dr. Martens you never wore? Take a few photos and post them to the platform. Once you sell, Mercari provides you with a prepaid mailing label so you can easily ship them to the buyer. Mercari takes 10% of the sale price. Voila!


Wednesday, March 25, 2020

Web Secret 617: The Real Real

Periodically, I like to review a website that does a great job at whatever they claim they do.

The RealReal is an online luxury goods marketplace, where you can buy or sell Louis Vuitton, Cartier, Chanel (and more) for a fraction of the cost.

What separates Real from the pack is that their experts do an exhaustive job of vetting the authenticity of everything posted on their website. So you can buy with confidence and save a ton of money.

Have you always wanted an iconic Hermes scarf? Instead of paying $550+, for a new one, you can buy these for a fraction of the price.

On the selling side, you can drop off your items at one of their bricks and mortar locations, or, if you have many items, they will come to your house to pickup. They guarantee each of your items will get 100,000+ views. Items that don't sell are shipped back to you at their cost.

It's pretty great.

Wednesday, March 18, 2020

Web Secret 616: Crafted by Carbon

The future will be printed.

You might have a few prized possession, but anything disposable, that becomes obsolete or gets used up will be printed. In your home, by you.

It's beginning to happen at Crafted by Carbon.

Check out the video:

20 years from now.

Wednesday, March 11, 2020

Web Secret 615: The end of serendipity

I strive for precision in all of my Internet based undertakings. I don't want to waste my time.

This means I have unfriended or unfollowed any individuals, companies or causes that I am against, or fail to interest me. I exist in a social media bubble of my own making.

I zero in on facts or objects with laser precision. I know where I can find red leather combat boots in size 10 wide made in Portugal. I am not surfing the Net, I plan drone strikes.

Recently, I watched a CBS Sunday Morning news piece on the founder of the eponymous Bob's Red Mill, a $100 million health food company started in the 1960s by Bob Moore. Bob Moore was working in the automotive industry when he wandered into a library, and for reasons he cannot recall, picked up "John Goffe's Mill," a book about an archeologist who rebuilt a flour mill. The book inspired Bob to start his own mill business producing whole grain oats and other products making him a very wealthy man.

And it occurred to me that with technology comes a loss of serendipity. No more browsing through libraries, bookstores, clothing racks and more. Or at the very least less browsing.

Think about it.

Wednesday, March 4, 2020

Web Secret 614: Mobile Microlearning

Have you been paying attention to how often you upgrade your smartphone, your computer, your software, your printer, the list goes on and on.

What about the way you perform your job? Have you added video based services, electronic record keeping, online appointment platforms, Square to accept payments, etc., etc.

What about information? New tests and treatments, new cures, new techniques, etc. etc.

The rapidity with which our world is changing because of advances in technology is increasing.

This means all of us, along with our our institutions and companies face a mounting challenge to learn new skills.


Upskilling refers to teaching employees new skills so they can thrive in their current position; reskilling means teaching them new skills to do a different job. We will be doing this a lot, as many jobs are going to become obsolete due to AI.

But how can we do it efficiently?

As learning evolves, we need to reimagine content delivery for the modern learner.

Learning 1.0 Traditional learning: face to face training

Learning 2.0 Old school web-based training - I learned Microsoft Word by watching a VHS tape

Learning 3.0 Video based e-learning - that's your live webinars and other forms of knowledge delivered on YouTube and the like

Learning 4.0 Mobile microlearning which is experiential and participatory.

Never heard of mobile microlearning? It's coming soon to a neighborhood near you.

You will be learning on your smartphone, using an app that integrates andragogy (effective teaching of adult learners) with technology that heightens powerful learning experiences on-the-go. It will be fun, interactive, it won't even feel like learning.

You've been warned.

Wednesday, February 26, 2020

Web Secret 613: Alerts

I loathe alerts. I am constantly working on getting fewer of them on my smartphone.

It is not always an easy task.

I still get Temple University basketball scores flashing across my screen. I have no idea why.

Minimizing your alerts will lead to improved mental well-being and decreased stress.

Be discriminating. Unless you work for CNN, do you need to get breaking news alerts which invariably feature something terrible like coronavirus deaths or some political idiocy?

If you commute, you probably want to know the weather and traffic situation when you leave to go to work and when you leave work to go home. Not throughout the day. And those alerts negatively impact your battery life.

Also, I set my phone so that when I do get alerts, I hear a swooshing sound, not a ding. Much better for the nerves.

The first time I open a newly downloaded app, I will be asked if I want notifications. The answer is always no. Do you need to be alerted that there is a new level of Candy Crush? No.

The sounds of silence.

Wednesday, February 19, 2020

Web Secret 612: Excellence

I have passion for excellence. It thrills me when I encounter it.

And it can be discovered in all walks of life and in every action large or small.

There is excellence in flower arranging, in teaching, in the way some people keep their homes, or flip pancakes, or...well you get the idea.

Some events reliably showcase excellence - the Super Bowl does it for TV commercials, many of which embody the zeitgeist of their times.

Who can forget Apple's 1984? Many think it's the best ad ever made. It introduced the revolutionary Macintosh personal computer, and was directed by Ridley Scott before he became famous and won Academy Awards for movies like Thelma & Louise, Gladiator and Black Hawk Down - to name but a few.

Here it is with apologies for the poor quality - have not been able to find better:

What about the amazing Budweiser 9/11 commercial, featuring their iconic Clydesdale horses, shown at the 2011 Super Bowl? It was shown only once, but is perhaps one of the most moving tributes in the wake of that disaster. And seriously, how classy to show it only one time?

This year, the New York Life Insurance Company knocked my socks off with their ad celebrating love. Where most Super Bowl ads create their wow factor from their visuals, this one does it primarily with words:

“The ancient Greeks had four words for love,” the ad's narrator explains. “The first is ‘Philia’ Philia is affection that grows from friendship.

Next, there’s ‘Storge’ – the kind you have for a grandparent or a brother.

The third is ‘Eros,’ the uncontrollable urge to say ‘I love you.’

“The fourth kind of love is different. It’s the most admirable. It’s called ‘Agape’ – love as an action.” “It takes courage. Sacrifice. Strength.”

The commercial ends with one last message, “For 175 years, we’ve been helping people act on their love, so they can look back, or look ahead, and say – ‘we got it right.'”

I cannot watch this ad without being moved to tears. It is wonderful on so many levels.


Wednesday, February 12, 2020

Web Secret 611: After-hours email

As I was looking for a topic for this post, I came across a lot of articles about after hours work emails.

All negative.

So in case you need to be reminded or need to remind someone, this is why it's bad:

1. You're sending it after hours and most people respond to those email after hours, on vacation, weekends and their off time.

2. Because of this, you are exacerbating their anxiety and decreasing their workplace well-being. So seriously weigh the pros and cons of doing this after hours.

3. When you respond after hours, you are sending the message that you are available anytime, anywhere. It's called setting a precedent.

No one should be open for business 24/7.

Except hospitals.

Wednesday, February 5, 2020

Web Secret 610: Coronavirus and Internet misinformation

In 2020, news travels at warp speed. Recently, I was at a craft fair with friends when one of them got an alert on her phone that Kobe Bryant had died in a helicopter crash. In a matter of seconds, it seemed everyone knew. And news outlets continue to churn out "news" about the event.

Similarly, the Internet is propagating endless "information" about the Coronavirus epidemic. Everyone is concerned, but how does one manage that concern?

The Verge published "Everything you need to know about the coronavirus from China" on January 29 as a reality check. They have advised readers to be careful to vet their news sources, and have pointed to the CDC as reliable. They actually have a dedicated website

Another Verge posting asked "Misinformation about the Coronavirus is threatening to overwhelm tech platforms - Hoaxes are spreading quickly — are Facebook, YouTube, and Twitter up to the challenge?." (Quick answer: NO, they are not up to the task.)

In that article they wrote:
One result of a world in which everyone has more or less equal access to publishing tools has been what’s sometimes called an epistemic crisis: a scenario in which large groups of people muddle along with very different understandings of reality, undermining the ability of elected officials to govern. This might be particularly scary during a catastrophe, when citizens are relying upon their government for accurate and potentially life-saving information. If you can’t trust official government announcements — or you are misled into thinking that an official-sounding hoax is real — catastrophes might begin compounding upon one another.

The global outbreak of a coronavirus that originated in China has given us fresh reason to consider the downsides of an internet where social media posts are amplified by engagement-hungry algorithms, and vetted by fact-checkers only days later — if at all.
My advice: get your news from the most reliable news site and otherwise turn it off.

Not always easy to do.

Wednesday, January 29, 2020

Web Secret 609: Digital etiquette part 3

This is the last in a series of 3 articles on digital good manners. The New York Times believes that poor digital behavior is a big problem, as they are devoting yet another week to the topic. Here are the top suggestions:

Best practices include:


The main recipients of an email, who are expected to reply, go in the “to” field. People who are not expected to reply go in the “CC” field.

Make your email as easy to deal with as possible. Keep it short, to the point and make clear what you need (if anything) in response. Passive-aggressive tricks to avoid — things like CCing someone’s boss, putting “URGENT” in the subject line unnecessarily, and the dreaded “Thanks in advance” signoff.

If necessary, consider declaring email "bankruptcy” — delete old emails you know you’ll never get to. If the emails are weeks old, it’s likely the senders are no longer expecting a response anyway.


Texting is replacing a face-to-face or phone conversation, but you don’t have access to all the nonverbal cues — facial expressions, tone of voice, etc. — to get the same message across. So getting the tone right is really important, and often really difficult. Because we have so little to go on, we often end up reading too much into messages. Read your message back to yourself and check that your intentions won’t be misunderstood before you hit send.

I think I'm going to be writing these kinds of blog posts again and again.

Wednesday, January 22, 2020

Web Secret 608: Digital etiquette part 2

Last week, I summarized an article in the New York Times, providing you with general principles about digital etiquette.

This week, some specifics:

Email signatures: Should you use a digital signature? It depends on what you’re trying to accomplish. If you’re selling something, include a link to whatever you’re selling. Ditto if you’re very active on social media: Include a link. An email signature can even be inspiring. The signature of TV producer Shonda Rhimes states: “Please Note: I will not engage in work emails after 7 p.m. or on weekends. IF I AM YOUR BOSS, MAY I SUGGEST: PUT DOWN YOUR PHONE.”

Direct messages. A direct message — DM — is a one-on-one conversation with another user hosted on a social media platform. Most of the places you spend your time online — like Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Snapchat, LinkedIn and so on — offer some form of DM communication.You can DM just about anyone, whether you know them or not, without needing to know their contact information. The barrier to communicating with people outside your realm socially, professionally and geographically is shrinking. A DM is tantamount to sitting across the table from someone who has given you their time and their openness. You want to use that opportunity well.

1. Keep it short. Think a few sentences, not several paragraphs. “When DMing, give the recipient the information they need. If you’re interested in continuing the conversation, suggest moving it over to email within the first two or three messages.

2. Don’t make demands. If you’ve never sent somebody a message before, your first message to them should never be a request of them.

3. Avoid chasing someone across several platforms. Don't send DMs across multiple platforms hoping to catch the person's attention.

4. Be interesting. Use your introductory message to offer something relevant to the person you’re DMing (a video, an article), and say, “Here’s something I thought you’d find interesting.

5. Never assume this is a private exchange. Anything we write through direct messaging could become part of a public post. Act accordingly.

6. Explain why you’re reaching out. Be specific. Pose precise questions, such as, “I’m wondering about the following two things.”

7. Check your DMs regularly, especially your requests folder. This way you won’t miss out on any professional opportunities. Ninety-two percent of H.R. people use social media before making hiring decisions. DM might not be the place you sign the contract, but it could be the place you first shake hands.

8. Let people know how you’d like to be contacted. Consider sharing your email address in your social media profiles, along with a note that lets people know how you want them to connect with you and what you wish to connect over.

9. Be realistic. If you admire a person in your field or industry, chances are that other people do, too. It’s probably not personal if they don’t respond to you. You’re allowed one follow-up email if your DM is unanswered. Saying something like, “I’m sorry to bother you, but I just want to make sure that you saw that I asked you about X,”

Lastly, when using social media for work purposes, Don't use emojis. Consider using emoticons sparingly.


Wednesday, January 15, 2020

Web Secret 607: Digital etiquette part 1

A basic grasp of digital etiquette is an essential aspect of modern “soft skills.” However, there is no real consensus on what actually constitutes “good” digital manners, and even if there were, that consensus would be constantly shifting as technology advances and social mores evolve.

So sayeth, the New York Times in a lengthy article on the subject. As always, I have summarized the essential information from said article:

Digital communication is usually text-based. Both the content of your message and its tone will live or die based on what you type on your keyboard, so the gap between, say, landing a joke and causing mortal offense can be perilously fine.

In digital messaging, a period is no longer required to show that the message is over; a sent message is presumed to be complete. Used in a sincere context — as in, “That’s terrible.” — the period reinforces the seriousness of the message. When used after a short, positive phrase — “That’s great.” — the tone of voice implied by the period can add a sense of sarcasm.

As in the real world, a lot of digital etiquette is highly context-dependent; you wouldn’t behave the same way when sending an email to your manager as you would when texting your best friend. As well as choosing the right level of formality for the situation, you should be prepared to adapt according to the culture and background of the person you are speaking with and the medium through which you are communicating.

In an email chain, this could mean starting with a formal means of address, such as “Dear Mr. Wesson,” but then switching to “Hi Rupert” if the conversation becomes more familiar.

There are plenty of specific digital etiquette pointers to live by: don’t reply-all to an all-office email; always get consent before sending an intimate photo; never leave a voicemail (a text message shows much more respect for the other person’s time).

Etiquette in the digital world can shift particularly quickly as new technologies and platforms call for the development of new standards.

Even where the technology stays the same, social and cultural norms can rapidly shift. It used to be OK to upload whole albums full of photos to Facebook and tag everyone in them. Now, the rise of Instagram has correlated with a more curated approach to online photo-sharing, and people are generally more aware of privacy and security concerns.

Next week, some specifics.

Wednesday, January 8, 2020

Web Secret 606: Cyber security for solo practitioners

This week's post comes courtesy of Diana Wicker, Director of Compliance and Reporting at First Sun EAP and easily the coolest person I met in 2019. She is a social worker turned Chief Technology Officer of a major EAP.

How cool is that?Here is her post:

You can do this thing.

The one thing I would like everyone reading this to take away is – you can do this thing. You can learn about and implement cyber security even as a solo practice counselor.

Step 1: Read – You won’t know what you don’t know until you start reading. Right now, the US Federal government is diligently pushing to update regulations and create guidelines and frameworks that are easily accessible and understandable so that everyone that needs to comply can do so.

A great place to start:

Step 2: Watch – So, you’ve done the reading and some of it is still above your head. I get that. Look for videos so that you can see how these frameworks are intended to be used. Many of the government agencies are holding webinars and releasing video tutorials on how to do these things.

A great place to start is

Step 3: Attend – Cyber security is hands on, and not everyone has experience with updating settings on computers, smart phones, tablets, and other electronic equipment. Many local technical schools, colleges, and universities hold continuing education classes in computer skills.

Step 4. Do – Download and use SRA Tool 3.1. This is a freebie from the federal government that helps you track:

a. HIPAA Security Rule
c. NIST Cybersecurity Framework

Step 5: Vendors – When in doubt, hire out. IT consulting firms abound. Seek one familiar with HIPAA, HITECH, and the most up to date guidelines and frameworks so they can review your office setup and help you ensure that you have everything set up as you need it to be.

The easy things you can do with the equipment you already have:

1. Modem/Router – how the internet gets to you

• Update the name of the device to something unique.
• Change the default password that came with the device to something unique.
• Update the Firmware on your wireless router so the security patches have been completed.
• Turn off unnecessary ports and services (such as FTP servers), if they are not routinely used.
• Encryption on your router: WPA2-PSK (AES) or WPA3 (SAE)

2. Machine – how you do your work

• Encrypt your machines with a password (computer, laptop, tablet, smart phone)
• Set password or PIN for the operating system
• Turn on virus protection
• Turn on security updates
• Do not set programs, apps, or websites to auto-fill passwords to login. Use a password keeper app instead.

3. Software – where your data lives

• Set password or PIN on all software that might contain PHI (18 PHI Identifiers:
• Encrypt your data – at rest and in transmission (this means email too)
• Know what your software touches – be mindful of integrated apps and what they have access to.

4. The Cloud – 3rd party services and vendors

• Software that lives on the internet and you log into it – Get a BAA if it touches PHI.

5. Internet of Things – smart toys

• Does it listen? Does it record? Does it respond? Then it is NOT HIPAA compliant. Turn these OFF in your clinical areas!

Oh, and, heads up, just in case you missed the announcement - The FAX machine is dead.

The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid have decreed that in 2020 the FAX is no longer to be used for healthcare information. Whither the government goest, business/industry will follow. Look for a HIPAA compliant cloud fax/email service.

I know, that really looks like a lot. Take one item on the list at a time and work your way through.

And remember, you can do this thing!

Thank you Diana!

Wednesday, January 1, 2020

Web Secret 605: Tik Tok

Happy 2020.

TikTok is an app that I have no use for.

And most likely, neither do you.

But you do need to know about it.

TikTok is an app that enables you to make a very short (20 second) mobile video and add music to it. It is super easy to use and fun.

And mostly loved by teenage girls.

And owned by China.

Never heard of it? It's the mot popular app in the world (see "China").

What is China going to do with all the data it collects from Tik Tok users?

I have no idea.

But I am concerned.

And you should too.