Let’s start with Facebook’s Surveillance Machine, by Zeynep Tufekci in last Monday’s New York Times. Among other things (all correct), Zeynep explains that “Facebook makes money, in other words, by profiling us and then selling our attention to advertisers, political actors and others. These are Facebook’s true customers, whom it works hard to please.”
Giant Irony Alert: the same is true for the Times, along with every other publication that lives off adtech: surveillance-based advertising. These pubs don’t just open the kimonos of their readers. They treat them as naked beings whose necks are bared to vampires ravenous for the blood of personal data, all ostensibly so those persons can be served with “interest-based” advertising.
With no control by readers (beyond tracking protection which relatively few know how to use), and damn little care or control by the publishers who bare those readers’ necks to the vampires,
With my new full-time gig as editor-in-chief of Linux Journal, I have close to no time for anything else, even though many other obligations do take time. Some of those also pay, and so require that I cut out as many distractions as I can.
The filter bubble thing works a bit too well. Two topics I’ve answered a lot—about IQ and radio—seem to bring an avalanche of others that beg to be answered, which I do too quickly, again and again. As a result I’ve said the same damn thing, or the same kinds of damn things, too many times.
I’m not sure writing there does much good. But then, the world is now so thick with “content” that I’m not sure writing anywhere does as much good as it used to.
I’ve had these a day so far, and I love them. But not just because they sound good. Lots of earphones do that. I love them because the mic in the thing is good. This is surprisingly rare.
Let’s start with the humble Apple EarPods that are overpriced at $29 and come with every Apple i-thing:
No, the sound isn’t great. But get this: they sound good to the ears at the other end. Better than the fancy new AirPods. And better than lots of other earphones I’ve used: ones from Beats, SkullCandy and lots of other brands. I’ve not heard any that sound better than plain old AirPods.
My short answer is “Yes, but not much, and not evenly.” This is my longer answer.
In your case and mine, it has taken the better part of a century to see how some revolutions take generations to play out. Not only won’t we live to see essential revolutions complete; our children and grandchildren may not either.
Take a topic not on your list: racial equality—or moving past race altogether as a Big Issue. To begin to achieve racial equality in the U.S., we fought the Civil War. The result was various degrees of liberation for the people who had been slaves or already freed in Union states; but apartheid of both the de jure and de facto kind persisted. Jim
Clearly nonviolence wasn’t a thing at all until 1918, which is when Mohandas Gandhi started bringing it up. It became a big thing again in the 1960s, thanks to Martin Luther King Jr. and the civil rights movement he led during the Vietnam war.
Then, at the close of the 60s, it trailed off. Not that it ever went away, but it clearly retreated.
Here’s the part of the story that seems clearest to me, and to the late Bill Hicks:
The scene above is what greeted me when I arrived at what I expected to be a small family dinner last night: dozens of relatives and old friends, all with of my face.
For one tiny moment, I thought I might be dead, and loved ones were gathered to greet me. But the gates weren’t pearly. They were the back doors of Rosys at the Beach in Morgan Hill last night. Rosy is one of my five sisters in law. She and most of her sibs, including their two additional brothers, their kids and grandkids were there, along with many friends, including ones I’ve known since North Carolina in the early ’70s.
More about it all later (since I’m busy with continuing festivities). In the meantime I want to thank everybody, starting with my wife, who did such a great job of making the whole evening wonderful. Also for operating in complete Continue reading "Everybody should have a surprise birthday party as surreal and wonderful as this one"
Because I’m busy today, I’ll re-post what I wrote about my birthday five years ago. Here goes…
I worked in retailing, wholesaling, journalism and radio when I was 18-24.
I co-founded an advertising agency when I was 25-34. Among the things I studied while working in that age bracket were Nielsen and Arbitron ratings for radio and TV. Everything those companies had to say was fractioned into age brackets.
The radio station I did most of that work for was WQDR in Raleigh, one of the world’s first album rock stations. Its target demographic was 18-34. It’s a country station now, aimed at 25-54.
Other “desirable” demographics for commercial media are 18-49 and 25-49.
The demographic I entered between the last sentence and this one, 65+, is the last in the usual demographic series and the least desirable to marketers, regardless of the size of the population in it, and Continue reading "A milepost in an increasingly exclusive demographic club"
If you shoot photos with an iOS device (iPhone or iPad), you’re kinda trapped in Apple’s photography silos: the Camera and Photos apps on your device, and the Photos app on your computer. (At least on a Mac… I dunno what the choices are for Windows, but I’m sure they’re no less silo’d. For Linux you’ll need an Android device, which is off-topic here.)
Now, if you’re serious about photography with an iThing, you’ll want to organize and improve your photos in a more sophisticated and less silo’d app than Photos.app—especially if you want to have the EXIF data that says, for example, exactly when and where a photo was shot:
This tells me I shot the photo at 4:54 in the afternoon in Unterschleißheim, München: at Kuppinger Cole’s EIC (European Identity and Cloud) Conference, not long after I gave a keynote there. (Here’s video proof of that.) Here
My loyalty to Peet’s Coffee is absolute. I have loved Peet’s since it was a single store in Berkeley. I told my wife in 2001 that I wouldn’t move anywhere outside the Bay Area unless there was a Peet’s nearby. That pre-qualified Santa Barbara, where we live now. When we travel to where Peets has retail stores, we buy bags of our favorite beans (which tend to be one of the above) to take to our New York apartment, because there are no Peets stores near there. When we’re in New York and not traveling, we look for stores that sell bags of one of the bean bags above.
Since our car died and we haven’t replaced it yet, we have also taken to ordering beans through Peet’s website. Alas, we’re done with that now. Here’s why:
I ordered those beans (Garuda and New Guinea) two Thursdays ago, June 16, at 7:45am. A couple Continue reading "Great Coffee vs. Meh Marketing"
Pop hated not fighting in The War. So he re-enlisted even though he had already served in the Coastal Artillery. Grandma wrote on the back of this picture… “Pvt Allen H. Searls, 42103538, Camp Croft, S.C., Spartanburg, March 1, 1944.” He was promoted to corporal thanks to having served once already, and assigned to the Signal Corps in part because he scored 159 on the Army’s IQ test. He never bragged on that, by the way. (Though I will.) It was also very hard to get it out of him. Not that we needed to. We all knew how smart Continue reading "Props to Pop on Memorial Day"
On a mailing list that obsesses about All Things Networking, another member cited what he called “the Doc Searls approach” to something. Since it was a little off (though kind and well-intended), I responded with this (lightly edited):
The Doc Searls approach is to put as much agency as possible in the hands of individuals first, and self-organized groups of individuals second. In other words, equip demand to engage and drive supply on customers’ own terms and in their own ways.
This is supported by the wide-open design of TCP/IP in the first place, which at least models (even if providers don’t fully give us) an Archimedean place to stand, and a wide-open market for levers that help us move the world—one in which the practical distance between everyone and everything rounds to zero.
My given name is David. Family members still call me that. Everybody else calls me Doc. Since people often ask me where that nickname came from, and since apparently I haven’t answered it anywhere I can now find online, here’s the story.
Thousands of years ago, in the mid-1970s, I worked at a little radio station owned by Duke University called WDBS. (A nice history of the station survives, in instant-loading 1st generation html, here. I also give big hat tip to Bob Chapman for talking Duke into buying the station in 1971, when he was still a student there.)
As signals went, WDBS was a shrub in grove of redwoods: strong in Duke’s corner of Durham, a bit weak in Chapel Hill, and barely audible in Raleigh—the three corners of North Carolina’s Research Triangle. (One of those redwoods, WRAL, was audible, their slogan bragged, “from Hatteras to Hickory,” which is about 320 Continue reading "Where the nickname came from"
I’ve hated rating people ever since I first encountered the practice. That was where everybody else does too: in school.
Because rating people is what schools do, with tests and teachers’ evaluations. They do it because they need to sort students into castes. What’s school without a bell curve?
As John Taylor Gatto put it in the Seven Lesson Schoolteacher, the job of the educator in our industrialized and compulsory education system is to teach these things, regardless of curricular aspirations or outcomes:
that you can’t hide
It’s no different in machine-run “social sharing” systems such as we get from Uber, Lyft and Airbnb. In all those systems we are asked to rate the people who share their cars and homes, and they are asked to rate us. The hidden agenda behind this practice is the same as the one Gatto describes above.
Continue reading "Being human vs. rating people"
I should start by admitting I shot this picture with my phone. Also that on my rectangle with the rest of these people through most of this very typical subway trip yesterday.
I don’t know what they were doing, though it’s not hard to guess. In my case it was spinning through emails, texting, tweeting, checking various other apps (weather, navigation, calendar) and listening to podcasts.
We shape our tools and then they shape us. That’s what Marshall McLuhan’s main point was. And then we shape society, policy and the rest of civilization.
People won’t stop staring at their phones, so a Dutch town put traffic lights on the ground, Quartz reports.
In less than two years, most of the phones used by people in this shot will be traded in, discarded or re-purposed as iPods or whatever. And most of us will be tethered to Apple, Google and
I’ve long thought that the most consequential thing I’ve ever done was write a newspaper editorial that helped stop development atop the highest wooded hilltop overlooking the New York metro. The hill is called High Mountain, and it is now home to the High Mountain Park Preserve in Wayne, New Jersey. That’s it above, highlighted by a rectangle on a shot I took from a passenger plane on approach to LaGuardia in 2008.
The year was 1970, and I was a 23-year-old reporter for a suburban daily called Wayne Today (which may still exist). One day, while at the police station picking up copies of the previous day’s reports, I found a detailed plan to develop the top of High Mountain, and decided to pay the place a visit. So I took a fun hike through thick woods and a din of screaming cicadas (Brood X,
Stop now and go to TimeWellSpent.io, where @TristanHarris, the guy on the left above, has produced and gathered much wisdom about a subject most of us think little about and all of us cannot value more: our time.
Both of us will be co-investing some time tomorrow afternoon at the @BerkmanCenter, talking about Tristan’s work and visiting the question he raises above with guidance from S.J. Klein.
(Shortlink for the event: http://j.mp/8thix. And a caution: it’s a small room.)
So, to help us get started, here’s a quick story, and a context in the dimension of time…
Many years ago a reporter told me a certain corporate marketing chief “abuses the principle of instrumentality.”
Totally knocked me out. I mean, nobody in marketing talked much about “influencers” then. Instead it was “contacts.” This reporter was one of those. And he was exposing something
Yesterday morning, while I was making curtados in the kitchen, I was also trying to listen to the radio. The station was WNYC, New York’s main public radio station. The program at the time was This American Life. Since the espresso machine is noisy when extracting coffee or steaming milk, I kept looking for the pause button on the radio—out of habit. That’s because pausing is a feature present on the radio and podcasting apps on my phone and other mobile devices scattered around the house, all of which I tend to use for radio listening more than I use an actual radio.
So I decided to open TuneIn on my phone. TuneIn has been around for almost as long as we’ve had iPhones and Androids. It which started as a way to play radio stations from all over the world, but has since broadened into “100,000+ live radio Continue reading "Thought: mobile apps are just hors d’oeuvres"
Once, in the early ’80s, on a trip from Durham to some beach in North Carolina, we stopped to use the toilets at a roadhouse in the middle of nowhere. In the stall where I sat was a long conversation, in writing, between two squatters debating some major issue of the time. Think of the best back-and-forth you’ve ever read in a comment thread and you’ll get a rough picture of what this was like.
So I sat there, becoming engrossed and amazed at the high quality of the dialog — and the unlikelihood of it happening where it was.
Until I got to the bottom. There, ending the conversation, were the penultimate and ultimate summaries, posed as a question and answer:
Q: Why do people feel compelled to settle their differences on bathroom walls?
A. Because you suck my dick.
That story became legendary in our family and social Continue reading "BYSMD"
I’d like to find a way to say “You may be owed money!” that doesn’t sound like spam. But I that’s the message, and it’s true, so here you go.
A few days ago a cousin-in-law told the extended family’s mail list about the North Carolina State Treasurer’s Claim Your Cash! program for recovering unclaimed property people don’t know about. That’s its graphic, above.
Since I lived for two decades in North Carolina, I filled out the very simple form on the site and found that I wasn’t owed any money, but that other relatives with the same surname were.
So then my wife found California’s Unclaimed Property Search page, run by the state Controller’s office:
Since I’ve been a California citizen since 1985, she thought we might strike some gold by filling out the form there. And we did: six unclaimed property results. Four of them were easily handled by filling out online Continue reading "Free Money!"