The Syringe of Social Media

 Disclaimer: this post is not a statement against interests. I am a firm believer that moderation is a fine approach to most things in life. Donuts, bourbon, and social media are all OK - so long as not taken to excess.

Several articles over the past few weeks have unveiled research that tends to illuminate suspicions which have been brewing for a while. The most sobering piece was published by the Wall Street Journal about two weeks ago - "How Smartphones Hijack Our Minds." If you are wondering whether this is even a valid thesis, ask yourself whether you have enjoyed elevator conversations in the past several years, or whether you have noticed an almost reflexive reach for the phone when passengers cross the threshold into the cab.

Dopamine, courtesy Wikipedia

Shop On-Line, Lose Weight

  Anyone reading this blog over the past couple of weeks could be forgiven for thinking that this is a fitness-oriented publication. First, the FitBit (last post), and now this article about the potential impact of on-line grocery shopping on snack sales. In reality, however, both posts simply illustrate the way individuals (and, collectively, a society) respond to our deepning relationship with ever-pervasive technologies.

This week, I purchased grass seed and a 1TB external hard-drive on-line. They should both arrive at my door tomorrow. Can I source  grass seed locally? Of course, I can. Am I to lazy to drive 20 minutes to the garden center? Affirmative.

It's National Obesity Day, But I am Ditching My Fitbit

  An article published by the Catholic University Journal of Law and Technology proclaims, "Technology is Killing Our Opportunity to Lie." It's true.

The Washington Post yesterday published an extraordinary account of how a widower became a suspect in his wife's murder when her Fitbit, along with IP addresses from his email and data from his home security system, tore holes in his alibi. The article quotes District of Columbia law professor Andrew Furgueson as noting, "Americans are just waking up to the fact that their smart devices are going to snitch on them."

The Consumer Technology Association reports that wearables are expected to increase nine percent in 2017 to 48 million units, driving a $5.6B market. Smart home technology is expected to experience a mind-blowing 50 percent increase to 27M unites and a whopping 48 percent increase in earnings to $3.3B.

If Yahoo Served Hamburgers . . .

  Growing up in central Ohio, I often drove past a small McDonald's and wondered how that little store sold 65 billion hamburgers. And, every so often, the number would change, much the way the price signs at the gas stations changed - a lone guy with a long pole and a giant number at the end of the stick.

I thought about that today when Yahoo disclosed that it 2013, all 3 billion of its acocunts were hacked. Yep, that's right. Every. Single. Yahoo. Account. 


Which means that somewhere in Sunnyvale, California, there may well be a guy with a big "3" on a stick, patiently trying to wiggle it into a spot that previously held a "1" (which was the perceived extent of the breach until today's announcement).

Taking Care of Business...

 It’s not easy bringing broadband service to the most rural parts of this country: among the inherent challenges are low population densities, rugged terrain, and a smaller customer base over which to spread deployment costs. 

Yet despite these impediments, NTCA member companies continue to not only bring service to these remote areas, but to bring faster speeds to more and more of their customers, as illustrated by the newly-released NTCA 2016 Broadband/Internet Availability Survey Report.

The survey finds NTCA member companies utilizing a wide variety of technologies to bring broadband to their customers: 41% utilize fiber to the home (FTTH), 36% copper loops, 12% cable modem, 9% fiber to the node (FTTN), and 2% licensed or unlicensed wireless, and satellite. And the service they provide is robust: 67% of respondents’ broadband customers can receive service of greater than 25 megabits per second (Mbps), 20% service between 10 and 25 Mbps, and 7% service between 6 and 10 Mbps.

"And the Wichita Lineman, is Still on the Line..."

New Edge  Though hardly unexpected, this week’s news of Glen Campbell’s passing was no less sad.

Campbell had fought a public battle with Alzheimer’s disease. Rather than self-pityingly succumbing to his fate, Campbell took on the disease on his own terms: following his diagnosis, he embarked upon an extended Farewell Tour. And though his overall mental condition was deteriorating, he maintained his formidable guitar and vocal skills throughout the duration of the tour. It served as a way for Campbell to thank his fans for their decades of support, and allowed the fans to let Campbell know how just much his music had meant to them.

His was truly an amazing musical career. He was a member of the Wrecking Crew, the team of crack studio musicians that played on not only all of Phil Spector’s recordings, but also on timeless works by the likes of Frank Sinatra, Nat King Cole, Sonny and Cher, and the Mamas and the Papas.

Ready, Set, Code!

The American Library Association (ALA) is administering a new grant program funded by Google to promote computational thinking (CT) and computer science (CS) for pre-school through high-school students at public libraries. Grants of up to $25,000 will be awarded to libraries in small, rural, suburban and urban communities. The ALA advises that applicants do not need to hire a grant writer. Rather, applications will be reviewed on the basis of Request for Proposal that will guide libraries to explain their vision and programming.

Students at Lakeview Elementary in Norman, Oklahoma, explore coding (photo: Paul Allman).

If the Millennials Won't Come to the Mountain...

New  Edge  As recently noted here in The Exchange, as many as 25% of U.S. households have cut the video cord, going without pay TV service altogether. Many of these households tend to skew toward the younger side of the demographic scale.

In a novel attempt to attract these cord cutters, NBC News is courting them where they live: Snapchat. Last week, the network debuted a twice-daily news show entitled “Stay Tuned,” which will appear on Snapchat’s Discover platform.

The program will cover national and international news, politics, sports and pop culture. It will be hosted by NBC News’ Gadi Schwartz, and Savannah Sellers of MSNBC.

Travelogue: Washington, DC

  I travel through Washington, DC, each day on my way to work, but I rarely have much opportunity to walk the well-known parts of the city. With no offense to the FCC, its offices, just across the street from U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, are not high on the list of tourist sites. By contrast, Capitol Hill, close to historic Union Station, the Supreme Court, the Library of Congress, and various Congressional office buildings, is a far better attraction, even in 95+degree heat.

Maggie Basgall of NexTech (Lenora, Kan.) discusses rural 
telemedicine at a Congressional panel on July 18, 2017.

This week, I went to the Hill twice, both times to see NTCA members appear on panels. On Tuesday, Maggie Basgall of Nex-Tech (Lenora, Kan.) discussed the value of telemedicine and the need for rural network infrastructure to support it. Ms. Basgall referred to USF and other Federal programs as critical inputs to ensuring not only broadband but all of the benefits that it enables. Ms. Basgall appeared with representatives from the telehealth industry and Microsoft.

Scott McCloud (seated at left) of Bluegrass Cellular discusses 
5G deployment for rural Kentucky at a Congressional panel.

"It's Nice to Be Important..."

New Edge  “….but it’s more important to be nice.”

That was just one of the many pearls of motherly wisdom imparted to me in childhood. And to my mother’s great credit, I have found it to be almost universally true. As time went on, however, I learned that the primary exception to the rule was a space that didn’t exist in my childhood: the cybersphere.

A recent study conducted by the Pew Research Center has sought to quantify the overall lack of online manners. Pew found that 41% of survey respondents reported that they had at one time been the subject of online harassment. Some of the alleged offensives ranged from relatively minor: offensive name-calling (27%), or purposeful embarrassment (22%). Others were considerably more concerning: physical threats (10%), sustained harassment (7%), stalking (7%), and sexual harassment (6%).