Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Web Secret #343: Gear

I recently got a new MacBook Pro. My old machine sat unadorned on my desk.

My new machine is accessorized.

I love Speck SeeThru Hard Shell Cases. They snap on, make the machine look pretty, and protect it from scratches. I bought a "wild salmon" colored case on Amazon and paid almost half off list price for it.

I treat my equipment with reverence and do not eat or drink anywhere near my laptop. However, I like having a keyboard protector. It maintains the machine in pristine condition, protects against inadvertent spills and I think it improves keyboard "feel."

You want something ultra-thin, so it doesn't interfere with closing the machine. I selected the UPPERCASE Premium Ultra Thin Keyboard Protector for Macbook Pro with Retina Display. It cost $12.95 and I'm thrilled.

Finally, I have an iPad Mini. This has proven to be a beyond useful piece of equipment. I can do 80% of my work on the device. It is small, but has a big enough screen - I don't miss my standard sized iPad at all. The Mini is so useful that I bring it with me to meetings to take notes.

But I am not a great typist with my thumbs and I find myself missing a keyboard. No problemo. I just needed the ZAGG Cover Case with Backlit Bluetooth Keyboard.

How great is this gadget? It snaps on to the iPad, it's wireless, it functions as a cover or a stand, and I bought it for under $40.

Now if I could only remember how I survived without it.

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Web Secret 342: Gazelle

Tomorrow is Christmas.

And if you are lucky, Santa will bring some of you new computers,  smartphones or tablets.

What is the easiest, most lucrative, and most green method of disposing of your old devices?

I recently decided to sell them my 2010 MacBook Pro.

But first, I wanted to send them a machine scrubbed clean of all my data, and restored to factory settings. (PS: You should never sell any of your electronics without doing this.)

I found an excellent tutorial on YouTube for this purpose:

Next I created an account on Gazelle and went through their super simple, step by step instructions to determine the model and specs of my old machine and its condition. Gazelle offered me $313 for my old laptop.

I then had a choice of payment method. I chose to get an Amazon gift card because a. I use Amazon all the time and b. they gave me a bonus incentive to use Amazon, bringing my total payment to $328.65.

Depending on the size of your device, Gazelle will either mail you a box and shipping label, or in my case I just printed out a free Fedex label and packed the laptop in my own box.


Once Gazelle receives your machine and verifies its condition, they send your money.

I like easy.

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Web Secret #341: Build Your Own Website

The other day, I went to visit my friend Laurie.

She told me she wanted to build a WordPress website.

"I don't know anything about how to do it, so I got this book. I'm a visual learner, I'm not sure this will do it," she explained, patting a thick paperback "WordPress for Dummies."

Laurie, you should buy Nate Cooper's "Build your own website - a comic guide to HTML, CSS and WordPress."

That's right, it's a comic book! Sort of the 21st century version of the Classic Illustrated comics Baby Boomers read when we didn't feel like actually plowing through Moby Dick.

All you need to do is join Kim and her little dog Tofu as she learns HTML, the language of web pages, and CSS, the language used to style web pages, from the Web Guru and Glinda, the Good Witch of CSS. Once she figures out the basics, Kim travels to WordPress City to build her first website, with Wendy, the WordPress Maven, at her side. They take control of WordPress themes, install useful plugins, and more.

As you follow along, you'll learn how to:

Use HTML tags
Make your site shine with CSS
Customize WordPress to fit your needs
Choose a company to host your site and get advice on picking a good domain name.

It's fun! It's easy! It's perfect for a novice!

And even if you eventually hire someone to build your site, it is really helpful to understand the basics of web building.

PS: From December 17 to December 24, go to - use exclusive discount code EAPROS and enjoy 30% off the list price of "Build Your Own Website."

In the interest of full disclosure, I was mailed a review copy of this book.


Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Web Secret #340: Generation Z

 Have you been to a restaurant lately?

You will notice that the majority of kids, (some as young as two,) are staring at a tablet or a smartphone. This allows their parents, and by extension me, to enjoy a quiet meal.

I, and many others,  flounder around anxiously, trying to figure out the impact of all this technology on the post Millenial cohort dubbed "Generation Z."

Allison Slater Tate has given this some thought, in her excellent Washington Post article, "Parenting as a Gen Xer: We’re the first generation of parents in the age of iEverything." She notes, rather poignantly, that hers is the last generation to enjoy a low-tech childhood, and the first to parent a truly high-tech generation.


Allison eloquently explains her dilemna:

"I am very much standing in the middle between my parents and my children when it comes to technology, one foot dipped in the waters of Instagram and Twitter and the other still stuck in the luddite mud... wins the prize for being the trickiest parenting challenge I have faced... in terms of the feelings of desperation and hopelessness it can inspire at times....

...resistance is futile: this is my children’s brave new world, and they need to know and understand all the internet highways and byways to live in it...The question of managing screen time and who is on what screen and how to protect those in front of the screens from things they might not un-see or un-hear is a constant, exhausting issue...

...we debate how old is old enough to have a smartphone. We make the children sit in public places when they are on devices or laptops, we look over shoulders, we check text message histories and set parental controls. We worry about their cyber footprints. We beg them not to send naked pictures of themselves to anyone...

...We wonder what a high-tech childhood will mean for our little people: will they know how to go on a first date without checking in on Facebook or posting a picture of their food on Instagram? Will it matter? generation of parents are pioneers here, like it or not. We’re the last of the Mohicans."

The last of the Mohicans. 

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Web Secret #339: Mama, tell your daughters to grow up to be coders

From a recent article in the NY Times:

"Men make up 83 percent of Google’s engineering employees and 79 percent of its managers. Of its 36 executives and top-ranking managers, just three are women."

And the rest of the major tech companies are no different:

Apple: 70% male
Facebook: 69%male
Twitter: 70% male

Oh, and black and Hispanic people are also underrepresented.

This is a very serious problem for all mankind because research has shown that the most effective and creative work groups are heterogeneous.

You don't have to be a rocket scientist to surmise that something important is not being developed, not being created, not being invented.

Google is undertaking a long-term effort to improve these numbers, "the centerpiece of which is a series of workshops aimed at making [their] culture more accepting of diversity."

It's working really well, not long ago the company opened a new building, and someone spotted the fact that all the conference rooms were named after male scientists...

Google, that's not going to work.

This is my modest proposal for what IS going to work:

1. Tiger and helicopter moms - take your daughters to coding classes instead of ballet. Everyone in the 21st century is going to need to understand coding. The odds are overwhelming that just like your son is not going to play in the NFL, your daughter is not going to be center stage at the American Ballet Theater.

2. In middle school, girls who are interested in the sciences tend to move away from them. A multiplicity of factors are responsible for this happening. Schools need to actively develop programs that encourage girls to participate.

3. Tech companies need to create, and promote paid summer internship programs for high school girls and college age women.

4. Tech companies need to create and promote management training programs for women at the beginning stages of their careers.

THAT is what is going to work.

Oh, and girls, if you want to run the world, make lots of money and pay for your ballet tickets, you know what you need to do.

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Web Secret #338: The opposite of loneliness

Do you know the story of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial? It is a solemn, beautiful work of architecture, that aims to honor the service of the soldiers who served, while refraining from glorifying war or taking a political stand.

A few months ago, I learned that it is also the vision of a single man.

Jan Scruggs was a teenager when he served in Vietnam. A number of years after he came home, he and his wife went to the movies to see "The Deer Hunter," the celebrated 1978 film about a trio of steelworkers and their service in the War.

When Jan came out of the theater, he told his wife that he was going to memorialize his fallen comrades by building a monument in their honor in Washington DC.

He had no money, no political or fund raising knowledge or connections. He started with only $2,800 of his own money. He personally went door to door until he convinced a handful of senators to support his cause. He eventually raised over $8 million for the project, mostly from private donations.

In 1981, at the age of 21, Maya Lin, a Chinese-American Yale senior, won the public design competition for the Vietnam Veterans Memorial. We think of it as perfect and inevitable, but at the time, there was outrage and opposition, because the award went to: a woman, a college student, an Asian-American, and because the design did not match what most people thought a war memorial should look like.

The monument consists of a low, black cut-stone masonry wall, with the names of 57,661 fallen soldiers carved into its face, listed chronologically, by the date they died.

And I thought about the power of a single person to make a profound difference when I came across the work of another Yale student, a masterful essay titled "The Opposite of Loneliness."

Marina Keegan wrote this piece for a a special edition of the Yale Daily News at the 2012 Commencement exercises. Five days after she graduated, she died in a car accident. The essay went viral, receiving 1.4 million hits in 98 countries and transforming her into an icon for her generation.

I was privileged to read it, two years after it was written.

Tomorrow is Thanksgiving.

I am grateful for people like Jan Scruggs.

I am grateful for the Internet which gave me the gift of Marina's words.

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Web Secret #337: Things I don't do anymore

A few months ago, I read an article written by a man who bragged about the fact that, thanks to smart phones, tablets, and other similar innovations, he no longer used pens - for anything. I believe he even said his home was "pen free."

I got irrationally upset. The mere idea that pens could disappear from the face of the Earth was distressing. Fortunately, I remembered a post I had written in 2011, which cited: "there is no species of technology that have ever gone globally extinct on this planet."

You see, I am a walking contradiction. I love technology, but I am obsessed with pens, and mechanical watches. I have eyed the soon-to-be-available Apple Watch with extreme concern and suspicion.

I still like to do the NY Times crossword puzzle in the paper - with a fountain pen.

No matter what, I rely on the fact, that each morning will find me sitting at a table, pen uncapped, attacking that day's puzzle. I don't ever want to lose that.

But I have to admit, there are many things I not only don't do anymore, but I will never, ever, do again. An infographic reminded me that:

I no longer advertise in newspapers - I use Craig's List

I no longer call a travel agent - I use Kayak

I no longer buy tickets for events over the phone - I visit StubHub

I no longer need a pay phone - I carry a device that allows me to communicate instantly

I no longer print photos - I store them in Dropbox

I no longer own a dictionary - I visit

I no longer watch TV shows at the time they are shown - I stream them at my convenience on Netflix or Hulu

I no longer remember phone numbers - I find someone's name on my smart phone's contact list and I press it to dial their number.

What do you no longer do?

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Web Secret #336: The long view

Sometime during the summer, my 20 year old son tried to tell me that "driverless cars are going to change the world."

I didn't pay close attention to what he was saying because:

a. I hadn't had my morning espresso and was somewhat comatose.
b. He is prone to making these kinds of sweeping statements.
c. Driverless cars, like colonizing Mars, seemed like something that was happening way down the pike, and therefore was completely irrelevant to my current, everyday life.

Well Eric, I owe you an apology.

You were right. Driverless cars are not happening in the distant future - they will enter our lives as early as 5-7 year from now. Even more conservative estimates predict driverless cars could go mainstream in about 10 to 15 years. But before that happens, something truly disruptive is already transforming our lives.

Let me explain.

For those of you not living in an urban area, Über is an app that allows you to get a taxi, private car or rideshare from your mobile phone.

Convenient, but nothing special, right?

In June of 2014, the Wall Street Journal announced that Über had been valued at $18.2 billion.


What did I miss?

In an article for The Information, (a publication for professionals who want the inside scoop on tech news/trends,) Sam Lessin wrote "The Über Effect on the Property Market," noting:

"Real estate is one of the few industries in the world that’s bigger than transportation. But in the coming decades, companies like Über...eventually super-charged by self-driving cars - are likely to change living patterns and upend property markets in ways that we’ve only begun to understand.

The most interesting thing to me is that the shift is already beginning to happen in some urban areas, and I expect that residential and commercial real estate values are going to start adjusting much faster than people expect.

Ironically, I am a poster child for the above. In mid-2012, I relocated to Long Island City (aka LIC,) a Queens neighborhood which used to be a warehouse and factory area. I cheerfully moved into a beautiful, loft apartment with epic views of the Manhattan skyline. My rent was laughable compared to a similar Manhattan space.

Well you do get what you pay for. There was, and still is, very little infrastructure in LIC. You have to drive to get to a nearby supermarket or drugstore. I started to think that we might have to move somewhere else when our lease was up. But then within a few months of our move, Über expanded into my area, making it possible for all of us to get a car in a matter of minutes. When my children need to come back from late night week-end parties, they know they can get an Über, instead of taking possibly unsafe public transportation.

Eventually, Über will be everywhere. So it doesn't take a prescient genius to realize:

1. People are going to be able to live in areas that were undesirable due to poor infrastructure/transportation. It's already happening.
2. Those undesirable areas, won't be so undesirable anymore, and the property values will go up. It's already happening. Case in point, the rent on my apartment has gone up almost 25% in the two years since I moved here.
3. The automobile industry will be seriously impacted, because you won't need a car - especially in urban areas. Owning a car will become very expensive, perhaps a perk of wealth, much as it was when cars were first invented. This is coming.
4. All of the businesses that are dependent on the automobile will suffer: car insurance, gas stations, car washes, etc. This is coming.
5. This is coming: When the cars drive themselves, people will sit in them with their mobile devices and work. Commuting will be highly productive.

That is why Über is worth over $18 billion.

Change is happening much faster than we think and we all need to take a long view.

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

WebSecret #335: ShrinkSync

I love psychotherapists. I was one.

But most of them are profoundly clueless about marketing their practices. And I say this lovingly.

This is not new. It was that way before the Internet and social media.

It seems that the type of person who is willing to spend hours listening to people share their most wrenching personal issues, is not the same type of person as, say advertising maven Don Draper in Mad Men.

And so, fellow clinicians, that is why my colleague Anita Avedian, along with a team of experts, developed ShrinkSync - the networking app for therapists. The short video below explains it best:

Let's recap: "ShrinkSync is a revolutionary social network created specifically to meet the needs of mental health professionals. Connect with therapists, build your network, grow your practice – ShrinkSync makes it all happen with little to no effort, so you can focus on what you do best: helping your clients."

Well done, ShrinkSync.

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Web Secret #334:

Quick, you've forgotten how to use Excel, you kind of stretched reality when you told your employer you know Photoshop, you want to start a blog on WordPress but don't have a clue where to start.

Where do you go? Lynda is there for you. Actually, Lynda has been there since 1995.

Lynda is NOT free. It costs $25 a month to access any of its 2,800+ courses.

Sure you could try and find a free course on any number of sites. But you get what you pay for - Lynda's courses are professionally taught, with high quality production values.

So when it counts, that's where I go to master a skill.

Thank you, Lynda.

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Web Secret #333: the Internet in 1993

I have twins born in 1993, and I thought about them when I viewed "A Tour of the Internet in 1993" on the Mental Floss website.

Eric and Nina are only 20 years old, but in terms of technological progress, it's like a hundred years have passed.

This is what the kids will notice while watching the tour:
  • Everything is SLOW. Logging in to the Internet via dial up modem (see minute 1:40) - slow. Ordering a CD (9:30) - so slow that they give up. It's all very slow.
  • What's on the screen - numbers and characters - looks a lot like the gibberish you see on the computers in The Matrix.
  • 3:02 Clinton's inaugural speech. Now we are not talking a video, or even an audio file. It's just an accessed text document.
  • Hardware - the only thing that looks like it does today is the keyboard.
  • 7:30 - NASA has developed video conferencing. But it's not available to the consumer.
  • (17:07) - "Internet talk radio." Exciting? Not.
  • Geeks rule - they are creating the Internet, they use the Internet.
  • Bad nineties outfits - see 19:02
  • Bad nineties hair - see 23:41
  • Canon's latest laptop - clunky at 4lbs - everything that today's sleek laptops are not. Bundled with a printer and costing between $1,600 and $2,000 - or $2,600 and $3,200 in 2014 dollars.
  • Alacrity, (who every heard of them?) introduces a printer that copies and faxes - all for $500, ($820 in 2014.)

So children, take out your 5S model iPhones, and your circa 2012 MacBook Pros. Now look at them.

A moment of appreciation, please.

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Web Secret #332: Ice Bucket Challenge

What do Bill Gates, Oprah and Matt Lauer have in common?

They all took part in the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge.

The Challenge was an epic viral event that raised millions of dollars for ALS, (amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, commonly known as Lou Gehrig’s disease,) and involved 1.2 million posts on Facebook.
It happened in a matter of weeks.

Like most successful viral videos, it cost the ALS Association zero dollars. The videos did, however, obey the rules I outlined in a previous iWebU post:

1. unexpectedness - this is the lightning in a bottle, something happens in a video that no one would expect.
2. a tastemaker - a person who is famous or influential talks, tweets or otherwise communicates about the video.
3. communities of participation - a large group of the tastemaker's followers tweets or posts the video to their friends and followers.

In case you have been living under a rock, this was the genesis of challenge: Pete Frates, a 29-year-old former college baseball player with ALS, came up with the idea, people make a video of themselves dumping a bucket of ice water on their heads, post it on Facebook, Instagram or other social media sites, and then challenge friends to do the same within 24 hours or donate $100 to ALS. (Many do both.)

Instead of having ice water poured on his head — “ice water and ALS are a bad mix,” he said on his Facebook page — he posted a video of himself bouncing his head to “Ice Ice Baby,” the 1989 hit by Vanilla Ice. He challenged some friends, and the stunt spread quickly through Boston circles, then across the web until a parade of boldfaced names joined in.

Genius, genius, genius.

Now it's your turn.

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Web Secret #331:

I have spent the past 4 months binge watching Mad Men, House of Cards, Orange Is the New Black, and more.

How did I find the time to do this?

I didn't quit my job. Or decrease the amount of time I spend sleeping.

I simply stopped reading. I stopped reading "The New York Times," (except to do the crossword puzzle,) novels or non-fiction of any kind.

I am becoming illiterate. I need help.

Millennials don't angst over this type of problem.

My 20 year old son suggested an antidote:

Medium is a website brought to you by those guys who created Twitter. I'll let them explain it: "Medium is a new place on the Internet where people share ideas and stories that are longer than 140 characters and not just for friends."

For the person with a short attention span, Medium tells you up front how long it will take you to read one of their published stories. For example, a very interesting essay like "How to Know Everyone - a roadmap for professional relationship management" is supposed to take you 11 minutes. Honestly, these days I am mostly reading 2 minute stories.

But I feel less guilty. I read something.

Now for the person attempting to write a story, Medium is, quite frankly, a nightmare.

It has what the experts at Web Sites that Suck call "Mystery Meat Navigation."

As I quickly discovered, Medium's minimalist interface is, well, so minimal that you could spend hours on the site trying to figuring out how to do just about anything.

I dare you to figure out:
  • what Medium is. There is no "About" section. Right this minute I can't even remember how I figured this out. I may never be able to duplicate it again.
  • how to login or create an account. Turns out you click on the "M" in the right hand corner. Intuitive - not.
  • where to write a story. When you go to write a story, there is a helpful title prompt. I typed in a title and then tried to figure out where the field was to write the story. I waited for a sign. I clicked frantically in various empty spaces around my title. I almost gave up. Then I pressed "enter." That's what I was supposed to do. Intuitive? No.
  • how to publish a story. Once I wrote a story, I couldn't immediately figure out how to publish it. It turns out you have to click on a symbol "<" located in the right hand corner of the site to get to a button that says "publish." That's just not OK. How can anyone be expected to think "<" means publish?
  • how to find your story once it's published. So after I clicked publish, I decided to find my story "Blurred Lines - it's not just a song." It had vanished. Turns out you click the "M" and you can type the title in a query box. Oh.
  • how to find the "right drawer menu." Medium claims "If you slide open your right drawer menu, you can change how your story will be presented in reading lists and search results." Problem is I never found the "right drawer menu." I've never even heard of a "drawer menu" as a concept. I have given up finding the "right drawer menu."
Don't think for a minute that I am alone in my perplexity. The FAQ section of Medium, is full of missives from angry, desperate and confused users of the site begging for direction.

I would direct you there but I can't remember how.

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Web Secret #330: Useful websites

Every now and then I run across someone's curated list of useful websites.

A couple of months ago I found the most excellent "70 of the most useful websites on the Internet."

Here are some of my picks from that list: - Find out which top online sites store data about you, and tell them to unlist your info. - how silly of me, when I call a company, I want to speak to a person. This website tells you how to do that. - is your PC running slow? Time to remove the unwanted programs that have been accumulating on your machine. But you haave to do it carefully... - how can you improve the visibility and Google ranking of your website? Woorank will tell you how. - as concerns about Internet privacy ramp up, you might want to switch to this search engine, which promises not to track you. promises simpler online meetings with screen sharing. They have a free trial. - sometimes I am on a web page and I want to print it. Then I found out that I can't. This website solves that problem.

Do you have a favorite website that's not on the list?

Send it to me and maybe I will blog about it.

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Web Secret #329: the Golden Age of Television

Growing up I was told over and over that there had been a Golden Age of Television. This always pissed me off because The Golden Age of Television began sometime in the late 1940s and extended to the late 1950s/early 60s, and I was just young enough that I missed it.

Thanks to YouTube, cable and Netflix, I can experience many of the programs from that golden age:

The Twilight Zone - the iconic sci fi series

Playhouse 90 - a weekly series of live hour-and-a-half dramas. Think "Requiem for a Heavyweight", "The Miracle Worker," and "Judgement at Nuremberg."

The Bell Telephone Hour - a long-run concert series which showcased the best in classical and Broadway music.

But to experience the essence of that era, all you need to do is watch "What's my line?." What’s My Line? was a guessing game in which four panelists attempted to determine the line (occupation), or in the case of a famous "mystery guest," the identity, of the contestant. It ran from 1950 to 1967.

They don't make'em like that anymore. The host, the panelist and the guests were beautifully attired. Men wore jackets and ties. The women were elegantly dressed, coiffed and bejeweled. The host John Daly was an American journalist, who had been the vice president of ABC during the 1950s. Panelists included various members of the intelligentsia, people like Louis Untermeyer, a poet and Poet Laureate, Bennett Cerf, one of the founders of the Random House publishing firm, and Fred Allen, a comedian who was famous for his absurdist, topically pointed radio show.

The guest list was not confined to movie stars like Groucho Marx, Elizabeth Taylor and Sammy Davis Jr, but other major cultural and artistic figures. See:
The shows expected a great deal from its viewers. It expected them to appreciate smartly crafted, witty and literate questions from the panel. It expected them to know or want to learn about the major artists of the times.

When the Golden Age came to a close, we endured decades of increasingly inane television with some occasional breaths of fresh air.

Finally, with the 21st century came a second streaming golden age of television.  Welcome:
  • House of Cards
  • Orange Is the New Black
  • Mad Men
  • Game of Thrones
These shows also expect a great deal from their viewers. They expect them to love a show in which the protagonists may be old, African-American, bisexual or transgendered. They expect them to see a bald, dying, female, Hispanic convict as a hero in the mold of Cool Hand Luke. They expect them to follow complicated plot threads. They expect them to tolerate stories with unhappy endings.

Both the first and the second golden age of television expect viewers to be intelligent.

Now that's subversive.

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Web Secret #328: Binge Watching

When I was a kid during the Sixties, my parents told me that TV was going to rot my brain.

Here's the thing, though: I watched way more TV this past summer than I ever did during the summers of my youth.

I binge watched:

Mad Men (6 seasons)

Dr. Who (7 seasons)

Orange is the New Black (2 seasons)

Torchwood (3 seasons)

Sherlock (3 seasons)

and House of Cards (2 seasons.)

The other thing is - I didn't watch any of these TV shows on my TV.

I streamed them on my ipad.

You can look at this two ways.

First, the good news: we are experiencing a Golden Age of television. NEVER has there been such intelligent, high quality, knock your socks off programs.


Now the maybe not so good news: I have virtually stopped going to the movie theater. Why should I pay $15 to sit in a crowded theater with a bunch of badly behaved teenagers, on broken theater seats, eating unhealthy calorie laden candy and soda, watching a mediocre movie, when I can lounge on my leather Chesterfield sofa, sipping my favorite Sauvignon Blanc and eating sushi, while enjoying amazing, personally curated, commercial free TV shows?

I have also virtually stopped watching TV. With the exception of key World Cup soccer matches and Wimbledon, I did not watch any TV on my TV.

And while I have been a voracious reader my entire life, I did not read a single book this entire summer.

And though I pride myself on being very cutting edge in all of my activities, I know that I am not alone.

It bodes ill for the future of the movie theater. It bodes ill for conventional network TV. It bodes ill for the overall literacy of mankind.

And it is yet another rapidly evolving phenomenon which is changing the world around us.

So fast.

That we don't understand the implications.


Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Web Secret #327:

How would you like to unsubscribe from all the junk emails that accumulate in your inbox in a matter of minutes?

For free.


This is what you do:

1. Go to the web site and click on "get started".
2. Enter the email address and password for your e-mail account.
3. Wait a maximum of 2 minutes.
4. Get a list of all of the newsletters and junk you signed up for (or forgot that you signed up for) - in my case there were well over 80 such subscriptions.
5. Unsubscribe - with a single click of your mouse - from each of the ones you don't want to get anymore. (I can't even tell you how great and powerful that made me feel...)
6. You have the option to receive your remaining subscriptions in a single e-mail, once a day.

That's it.

They will ask you to publicize that you used the service on Facebook or some other social media channel. I did not have a problem with this because a. this app is amazing and b. all my friends wanted to use it as well.

Simple to use and effective.

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Web Secret #326 - CrashCourse

Prepping to be a contestant on Jeopardy?

Trying to bolster your knowledge of US history so you can help your team win Trivial Pursuit?

Just looking to be entertained?

There is a CrashCourse for you.

CrashCourse is an educational YouTube channel launched on December 2, 2011. As of April 6, 2014, the CrashCourse YouTube channel had earned over 1.5 million subscribers and over 90 million video views.

The typical CrashCourse is a ten minute or so profiterole of knowledge, delivered in a visually cutting edge online video. A full course on US History, Psychology, or Literature may be made up of dozens of these intellectual concoctions.

Below, a tasting menu:

Before I Got My Eye Put Out - The Poetry of Emily Dickinson: Crash Course English Lit #8

The French Revolution: Crash Course World History #29

That's Why Carbon Is A Tramp: Crash Course Biology #1

Monkeys and Morality: Crash Course Psychology #19

Wait - did I mention that all of this is FREE?!

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Web Secret #325: Bespoke

I am going to share something very personal with you.

I have big hands. I wear size 9 gloves.

Since women's gloves are only available in, (at most,) a size 8 and a half, for years I was relegated to buying men's gloves. Men's gloves are clunky, boring and only come in black, brown and tan. I was unhappy.

Sometimes I forget that the Internet exists. And then I remember, "Wait a minute, I can do a search to find a company that makes bespoke leather gloves for women."

Hello signature leather!

They make custom gloves in my size, in any color combination I can dream up. Winter gloves, driving gloves, walking-the-dog gloves. For under $200. And if I am not delighted with the fit or the color - I just send them back - until they get it right. The customer service is top-notch.

Made to measure gloves! I feel like Queen Victoria. (Somewhat appropriate since the company is British.)

The Internet is an empire of bespoke opportunities at every price point, and in every retail category.

Case in point: I am a huge pen nerd - I went to a French Lycée where I learned how to write with a fountain pen on Séyès ruled notebooks.

I couldn't find them in the U.S., so that was that. Decades went by. Until a few months ago when I entered "seyes ruled notebook" in a Google search window and BAM! up came the Goulet Pen Company, a Mom and Pop online shop headquartered in a small town in Virginia.

They pretty much sell only three things: notebooks, fountain pens, and inks. And the Clairefontaine Séyès notebooks of my childhood!

In addition, for years, I had been looking for that elusive animal, an inexpensive pen that writes like a $300 Pelikan with a 14k gold nib. The Goulet folks sell the Jinhao x750, a Chinese fountain pen that has the heft of a serious writing instrument and costs under $10! They make their own steel nibs in a variety of types and sizes for $15 each. At my request, they installed one of their custom nibs on a Jinhao body and voila! my dream pen - it writes smooth as silk.

This little company pays supreme attention to detail. Even an $8.00 notebook is carefully wrapped so that it arrives in pristine condition. Every package includes a note, a book mark and a Tootsie Pop Miniature. Everytime they send me something, it's Christmas in July!


Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Web Secret #324: Better Technology = Better Communication?

My 20 year old daughter spent two months in France this summer. She left armed with an iPhone, a laptop and an app that would allow us to text and send voice mail and videos for free. "This is going to be fantastic," I thought.

I thought wrong. Communication occurred only, when out of desperation, we used our land line to call her at 1am her time - when we were guaranteed she would be home.

Geoffrey Tumlin, the author of the July 2014 Employee Assistance Report (EAR) article "Does better Technology = Better Communication?", would not be surprised. He argues that we have five unrealistic expectations for how our digital devices boost communication.

Here is my abridged version of what he wrote:

We are feeling unsatisfied and largely unfulfilled by our interactions — despite having the most powerful connection and transmission devices in human history in the palms of our hands.

Unrealistic expectation #1: Our new devices have made communication easier. Communication is fundamentally imperfect, and no matter how fancy our devices may become, they’ll never be able to eliminate the misunderstandings, the confusion, and the errors that occur when people talk.

Unrealistic expectation #2: We successfully communicate each time we hit the “Send” button. Our devices have greatly simplified the sending and receiving of messages, but there’s more to communication than that.

Unrealistic expectation #3: Better communication technologies mean better communication. Better communication technology doesn’t lead to better communication, especially when the new tools encourage speed and convenience over thoughtfulness and deliberation, and when they fragment our communication, scatter our attention, and constantly distract us from the issues at hand.

Unrealistic expectation #4: What I want to say is the most important part of communication. Meaningful and effective communication is possible only when we consistently place our conversational goals ahead of our conversational impulses.

Unrealistic expectation #5: Communicating to an audience doesn’t require any special consideration. One of the greatest deceptions of the digital age is that sending a message to dozens of people is just as easy as sending a message to one person. In fact, nothing could be further from the truth.

Geoffrey Tumlin is the author of "Stop Talking, Start Communicating: Counterintuitive Secrets to Success in Business and in Life." He is the founder and CEO of Mouthpeace Consulting LLC, a communication consulting company; president of On-Demand Leadership, a leadership development company; and founder and board chair of Critical Skills Nonprofit, a 501(c)(3) public charity dedicated to providing communication and leadership skills training to chronically underserved populations. You can learn more about Geoffrey Tumlin at, or reach him by email at

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Web Secret#323: Keeping Your Marbles in the Game

I recently came across a fresh and fantastic article about the impact of tech on counseling, and I got permission to share.

So here is my abridged version of "Keeping Your Marbles in the Game," by Michelle Stone. (I encourage everyone to read the entire article.) It was originally published in Counseling Today before it was reprinted in the Employee Assistance Report. This is the third reprint, a sign that attention must be paid:

Michelle writes: "Recently, I was part of a lively discussion regarding the use of technology in the field of counseling...I was saddened to hear the closing statement of one practicing counselor. Walking away from the discussion and shaking her head, she stated that if the field was moving toward the use of technology in the counseling relationship through means such as email, video and virtual worlds, then she would leave the profession and move on to find another career.

...I thought it tragic that a ...counselor ... would possibly remove herself from the field and effectively silence her voice in the technology debate...We need everyone to be informed and stay in the game...

Technology will not go away...We must strive to become digital explorers, willing to set out in new territory, while equipping ourselves with sound information along the way. We must share insight with each other and be willing to retrace our steps and move along a different path when professional discernment tells us it is prudent to do so. We must be willing to step into the weeds of the faintly trodden road to cultivate and nurture the possibilities of technology that appropriately fit the profession, its responsibilities and its clients...

The legal and ethical issues facing counselors integrating new methods of digital communications and therapies into their practice are vast, and they must be addressed. To effectively do so requires a tapestry of opinions and perspectives. Technology is not an all-or-nothing proposition. We must strike a balance in terms of what is appropriate, empirically proven to be beneficial and ethically sound...

Walking away from the table because we don’t agree with what we sense to be the trend only negates our ability to influence the future path of our field. Our profession needs the voice of each and every one of us. Don’t be the kid who picks up his marbles and races home because he doesn’t like where the game is going...

There is a chair at the table for everyone. Allow me to be the first to offer one to you."

Well thought out, well written, well done.

With over 15 years of experience in the helping professions, Michelle Stone has worked with a variety of populations and organizations, providing both direct services as well as consultation. She holds a degree in psychology and intends to research computer-mediated human interaction while pursuing a graduate degree. She may be reached at Editor’s note: This article originally appeared on CT Online, the website of “Counseling Today,” which is published by the American Counseling Association ( and is reprinted with permission.

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

Web Secret #322:


I used to have a dedicated fax machine. Then I moved to an all-in-one phtocopier/faxer/scanner/printer.

But I don't have a fax account anymore.

That being said, just a few times a year, someone asks me to fax them something.

I find this insanely annoying.

Thank God for

If you only need to send a max of 2 faxes per day, (maximum 3 pages per fax,) this is the website for you. Enter your sender and receiver info, upload your document (or enter it in RTF,) and BAM! you have sent a fax.

If you need to send longer or more frequent faxes, they have an inexpensive plan for that too.

I love it when a company says what it does and does what it says.

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Web Secret #321: Upgrade or Die

I spend many hours every week keeping up with the latest technology hardware, software and social media as it impacts mental health and the employee assistance fields - my chosen areas of expertise.

It's a bit like jumping on to a moving treadmill that is keeping pace with a 4 minute mile, while you only have the capacity to run a 10 minute mile.

I have a lot of help - my Millenial children. And my nieces and nephews who range in age from 20 to 30.

This morning, my son told me about the Human Connectome project. A few months ago, I learned from my 20 year old daughter that one of the hottest game apps on college campuses is "2048". (Warning: download this app and be prepared to experience the gaming equivalent of crack cocaine.)

It does not surprise me that in 2012, Cathryn Sloane wrote a very controversial blog post "Why Every Social Media Manager Should Be Under 25," provoking outrage in a vast number of GenXers and Baby Boomers and a good number of scathing rebuttals.

So does everyone have to "Upgrade or Die?," as a 2013 blog post suggested? The author of that article makes an excellent point: "...[there is a] stereotype that older people can’t or won’t learn new technology, and that younger people are inherently better at new technology."

The truth is that there will always be people who live off the grid and embrace an "old fashioned" way of doing things. And depending on your job description, it may simply be unnecessary to have the latest gadget or use the latest operating system.

Putting that aside, there is extensive research showing that the most effective work groups are heterogeneous. That speaks to the importance of including representatives from different generations in many different settings. My relationship with technology spans from the IBM punch card to the iPhone 6. I have a lot of perspective and I understand the context of many technological advances.

My younger children grew up with social media and cell phones. They have neither perspective nor much context but they easily adopt new technology. They have nothing to unlearn.

Now here's the thing. Go into any restaurant around 6pm. You will see young couples with toddlers. The toddlers are very well behaved because they are each holding an iPad, playing with the game apps that have been created for their generation. In 20 years, when my children are middle aged, they will be working with those those now young adult toddlers. They belong to an as yet unnamed generation.

What will that look like?

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Web Secret #320: Is it live or is it Memorex?

Established in 1961, Memorex entered the consumer media business in 1971, first with its "shattering glass" advertisements and then with a series of famous television commercials featuring Ella Fitzgerald.

In the commercials, she would sing a note that shattered a glass while her performance was recorded on a Memorex audio cassette.

The tape was played back and the recording also broke the glass, the narrator asking "Is it live, or is it Memorex?"

Here is a commercial from the early 1980s so you can get a feel for their famous ads:

Thirty years later, the distinction between live performance and a performance that is recorded on some digital medium is fading very, very fast.

I recently purchased a set of Bose headphones to replace my Apple Earbuds. I was able to test them at the Bose store on my personal iPhone. I listened for approximately 30 seconds and started laughing. They were simply so superior to my Earbuds that it wasn't even close.

These headphones consist of a thin plastic wire, connected to some small plastic "buds" that I place in my ear. You would never imagine that something that looks so insubstantial can deliver so substantial a sound.

Now when I listen to music during my workouts, it all sounds so much better. In fact, the sound is so good that it's scary.

You see, my father was an opera singer. Now, when I listen to his recordings using my new headphones, and I close my eyes, I feel like he is in the room with me. The sound is multi-dimensional and I am enveloped by his voice. It thrills me to hear is voice. He is so present. It also magnifies my sorrow, as I am reminded of my loss.

I truly believe that the 3D virtual reality concert experience is around the corner. In the very near future, you will enter a pod and you will be surrounded by a virtual audience, watching a virtual recreation of that performance.

My father will be there.

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Web Secret #319: The Internet of Things

Pay attention class.

There is an important concept that will impact all of us, (if it hasn't already,) than in the very near future. (Unless you are living off the grid and under a rock.)

It is called "The Internet of Things," abbreviated as IoT.

A British technology pioneer, Kevin Ashton, coined the term in 1999. As he explained:
"Today computers—and, therefore, the Internet—are almost wholly dependent on human beings for information. Nearly all of the ... data available on the Internet [was] first captured and created by human beings—by typing, pressing a record button, taking a digital picture, or scanning a bar code. ... The problem is, people ... are not very good at capturing data about things ... If we had computers that knew everything there was to know about things—using data they gathered without any help from us—we would be able to track and count everything, and greatly reduce waste, loss and cost. We would know when things needed replacing, repairing or recalling, and whether they were fresh or past their best. The Internet of Things has the potential to change the world, just as the Internet did. Maybe even more so."
Still not sure what the IoT really means? A thing can be:
  • a diabetic with a chip implanted in his body that sends an alarm when his blood sugar is low
  • a refrigerator that tells you when you are out of milk and sends a message to your smartphone reminding you to buy milk.
  • an automobile that has built-in sensors to alert the driver when tire pressure is low
  • any other natural or man-made object that can be assigned an IP address and provided with the ability to transfer data over a network.
While the IoT is currently in its infancy, it is estimated that there will be nearly 26 billion devices on the Internet of Things by 2020.

Infancy to adulthood in 6 years.

Are you ready?

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Web Secret #318: Learn to Fix Anything

In my apartment there is a Eurotech Washing Machine.

Never heard of this brand? You're lucky. The people who built my apartment building chose to install Eurotech machines in every unit. They are terrible. They break all the time.

Getting them repaired is a soul sucking nightmare.

So I no longer wait for the repairman. I Google one of the many do it yourself repair sites on the Internet and I fix it myself.

This might not sound especially impressive, but you should know that I am one of the least handy people in the world. This is partly due to my total lack of interest with DIY activities, and also due to a congenital absence of skill or coordination.

The great thing about repair sites on the Internet is that they not only post manuals, and written repair instructions, but they often post an explanatory video. Even a total loser like myself can follow a video.

(Well that's not entirely true. My teenage son and I watched multiple "How to Tie a Bow Tie" instructional videos before his high school prom night and failed miserably. But that's a story for another post.)

Anyway, thank you "Make Use Of" for writing about 4 fabulous sites that will enable you to fix almost anything:

Electronics: iFixit - With almost 2,000 Mac repair guides, 2,000 phone repair guides, and 1,000 PC repair guides, iFixit has you covered for just about any electronic repair you could want to undertake. There are camera, automotive, appliance, household, and computer guides, as well.

Around the House: The Family Handyman - Though The Family Handyman is a subscription magazine, their website offers a wealth of repair tips for various parts of your home. There are sections for heating and cooling, electrical, floors, automotive, painting, pest control, plumbing, and a wide range of other things.

Your Bike: Park Tool - If you’ve done any work on your bike in the past, you might have used tools made by Park. On the homepage of their repair section, there’s an image of a bike, and all you have to do is click on the part of the bike that you need to fix.

Your Car: DIY Auto School - Fixing your own car can be a bit scary, but DIY Auto makes the process a lot easier. From restoring a rusted-out car to fixing a dent, the guys from the school will give you tips to get you through the process, even if you’re a total newbie to car repair.

Warning: DIY Auto School is a YouTube channel and features some, at times, rather bizarre humor.

You may want to call AAA, pour yourself a glass of champagne and watch one of their videos for their entertainment value.

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Web Secret #317: This is water

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

Today, I will do it again.

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

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

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

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

"I wish you way more than luck."

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Web Secret #316: Myth #1: People read on the web

I know for a fact that people do not read when they visit a website. You can bold the text. Make it orange and ALL CAPS. Move it to the most prominent place on the site. And they still call to ask you where to find stuff.

It's VERY irritating.

I do a fair amount of content editing and creation. And one thing that I have learned is that very smart people like to use a lot of words. A lot of very BIG words.

This was amusingly demonstrated in "How I Hacked Online Dating," a TED Talk by Amy Webb. Amy found out that like her many highly educated and intelligent peers, her profile on an online dating site was 4,000 words long. No one was reading it. In fact, by analyzing the most effective profiles, she learned that the most read ones were at most 100 words long.

Zoltán Gócza and Zoltán Kollin are two web design experts who believe that people should build websites based on evidence instead of myths. On their fantastically useful website UX Myths, they list the 32 most frequent user experience misconceptions and explain why they don't hold true.

You should read all 32, but I will summarize the #1 Myth: "People read on the web."
  • People only read word-by-word on the web when they are really interested in the content. They usually skim the pages looking for highlighted keywords, meaningful headings, short paragraphs and scannable list. Since they’re in a hurry to find the very piece of information they’re looking for, they’ll skip what’s irrelevant for them.
  • In 2013, analytics vendor Chartbeat found that most visitors scroll through about only 50-60% of an article page.
  • A 2008 eye-tracking study showed that less than 20% of the text content in an average web page is actually read.
  • In another usability test, researchers found that concise, scannable and objective copywriting resulted in 124% better usability.
  • Ergo, well structured pages that are designed for cursory reading are more likely to be read.
So trust me when I slash and burn my way through your copy.

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Web Secret #315: my electronic journey

The other day I started to think about my long standing relationship with computers - astonishingly it goes back 40 years.

Though I was always intrigued, I did not fall in love right away.

Late 1960s - I go to a meeting of the 8th grade computer science club. Club activity seems to center primarily around creating punch cards which are in turn fed into a machine that produces a simple data output. Does not meet my expectation of the computing experience, primarily gleaned from watching Captain Kirk speaking to the Starship Entreprise's computer.

Mid 1970s - still looking for a computing high, I enter the Yale University Computer Science Lab. It's late at night and the room is filled with computers that emit a greenish glow against a black background. Everyone seems to be playing Star Trek, a text-based computer game that puts the player in command of the USS Enterprise on a mission to hunt down and destroy an invading fleet of Klingon warships. The game is played by laboriously inputing coordinates which in turn control the photon torpedoes necessary to annihilate a Klingon ship. A single move can take minutes. The screen shows dots and blips representing ships. (See top left photo of a typical Star Trek screen. Not quite as engaging as your nephew's "Call of Duty: Black Ops.") This is not for me.

Early 1980s - I go to the upper West Side apartment of one of my Columbia University social work graduate students. We are writing a manual together. She owns the very first home computer I have ever seen: an uninspiring word processor with a tiny screen. The screen fills with the words we are writing together. I know the machine is very expensive. In fact, she is the only person I know who has one. I am still uninspired.

1991 - I work in one of the satellite offices of a large national employee assistance program (EAP). The only person who has a computer is the secretary. You wouldn't know it, but she is the most powerful person in the entire office because she is the only one who knows how to operate this machine. The machine does only two things, word processing and Excel. One day we get a memo from company headquarters: "anyone interested in learning Word and Excel can do so on company time." Interested parties will receive VHS instructional tapes. I'm sick of depending on the secretary for my correspondence, so I sign up. I am the only one in the office to do this.

1996 - I am now the Director of Account Management at an EAP in Manhattan. I am given my first office computer, a Mac PowerBook which I do not know how to operate, having previously used a PC. My boss, upon noting that my resume stated proficiency in Word and Excel, promptly puts me in charge of making everyone in the office computer literate. My target population is 25 social workers and psychologists who have also just been given PowerBooks. Not only do they not know anything about computers, but they hate them. And they are highly resistant to being converted. Fortunately, I have an ally: our Apple tech support guy Nathan. Nathan is a disgruntled former attorney turned Mac support person. He knows about computers and is actually able to use the English language to explain them. He teaches me. Eventually, I teach everyone in the office how to word process and send e-mail.

1999 - I learn how to use Microsoft Publisher to create corporate newsletters.

2001 - with a partner I create a .com ePartTimeJobs - it fails

2005 - I learn HTML

2008 - I attend a social media boot camp. Five minutes into the camp, I learn about blogging and fall madly in love. I start this blog.

2009 - I get an iPhone3GS.

2010 - I get a MacBook Pro and a first generation iPad.

2012 - I get an iPhone 4s.

2013 - I get an iPad Mini.

2014 - I lose my 4s and get a 5c (just to tide me over until the 6 comes out.)

This is going to be a very long affair.

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Web Secret #314: High Touch

In 1982, preeminent futurist John Naisbitt coined the phrase "high tech, high touch." The phrase can be defined as "embracing technology that preserves our humanness and rejecting technology that intrudes upon it."

Please observe a moment of silence as you reflect upon the fact that Naisbitt came up with this amazing concept in 1982 before the Internet, the personal computer, the iPod, and the smartphone even existed.

How did he know what author Abha Dawesar discovered when she lost power in 2012 during Hurricane Sandy? She found out that along with a daily search for food and water, a major preoccupation was the search for an outlet where she could charge her electronic devices.

As she observed in a brilliant 2013 TED talk: "I think there's nothing like a crisis to tell you what's really important and what's not, and Sandy made me realize that our devices and their connectivity matter to us right up there with food and shelter."

To me, high tech, high touch has evolved to describe the pairing of high technology with human craft. We crave objects that embody the highest human touch. But we use high tech wired tools like the Internet and social media to find them and easily acquire them.

Take Made in Days. "Made in Days" is two guys who produce very, very small quantities of artfully designed wallets and use a beautiful, state of the art website to display their wares and their craft. I found the company on a blog post about cutting edge web design.

I use every week to discover web sites based on my specified interests, which include cyberculture, web development, futurism and gadgets. Several months ago, up came Kinekt Design, another two person operation that primarily sells just one thing, a patented, completely unique Gear Ring.

Kinekt prides itself on its extremely attentive and personalized service, as well as providing a lifetime guarantee for the ring.

I found Grovemade on Instagram. "Grovemade" is a small cadre of Oregon based Millenials who hand make gorgeous iPhone and iPad accessories out of sustainable bamboo. Check out this gorgeous iPhone dock.

As technology becomes increasingly ubiquitous and powerful, we will look for ways to preserve our humanity.

Wednesday, June 4, 2014

Web Secret #313: Full screen websites

When is the last time you visited a website and you were thrilled/blown away/amazed?

It happened to me today. Repeatedly.

And all because I came across an innocuous sounding blog post: "Full screen: new trend in web design."

Let me begin by explaining that full screen websites literally envelop the user in an immersive visual experience. It's sort of the visual equivalent of surround sound.

You will know it when you see it. Here are some of the most fantastic examples:

1. Nestea introduces a new beverage.

2. Pro story - a Canadian online magazine

3. SNCF - a French engineering competition

4. Dick's Sporting Goods promotes its baseball equipment

Think you need to be a big corporation, with a big budget to use full screen design? Think again.

1. Made in Days - a two person leather goods shop

2. Guillaume Marq - a 21 year old French designer searching for a 6 month internship

I feel like I just went to Disneyland.