Monthly Archives: July 2017

Combining blogging and social media: It’s hard

One school of thought for blogging in the social media era says you should use your blog to create unique content, and publicize it on social media.

I don’t blog that way.

I blog like it’s 1999. I share a lot of links and images, often with comments but often without. Most people do that on Facebook, Twitter, Reddit and other platforms nowadays. I use those platforms too, but I also like to have a blog that I own and control.

For that kind of thing, it does not seem to make sense to blog and use social media for publicity. If I did that, I’d end up posting a link on my blog, then posting a link on Facebook to the link on my blog. That doesn’t make sense. It’s asking people to click twice. It’s hard enough to get people to click once. (Not that I haven’t thought about doing it.)

But I like to have a place that I own and control, that’s not owned and controlled by Facebook, Google, Twitter, etc. That means blogging on WordPress. And also on those other platforms. Cut-and-pasting cuts down on the amount of time that takes, but it still takes time. Automated tools can help, but they’re not really designed to do what I want them to do.

Another way my blogging is different than most people’s: I like to use a queue to space out posts over time. Maybe in the afternoon I’ll take a short break to scan Tumblr and Reddit for midcentury photos. I like to do that and like to share them. I can find and share a dozen photos in that time. Rather than share them all at once, I like to space them out at intervals. Tools like Buffer, Friends+Me, and (on WordPress) Auto Post Scheduler combined with Social Networks Auto Poster (SNAP) are great for that. They each have their advantages. But they also each have drawbacks that make them not quite right for me.

For years I’ve been hopping from one social media publishing tool to another — Buffer to Friends+Me, to Auto Post Scheduler/SNAP, and back again. I blog at WordPress for a while, stop, and then start again. I’d like to devote that energy more toward learning WordPress and making it do what I want. I’ll use Friends+Me for most of my queued sharing to social media, occasionally using SNAP when I want to publicize something here. As I am doing now.

I sort of know what I want – something like Buffer that works on the WordPress platform and synchronizes with WordPress. But that would take some mad programming skills. Even the simplest possible version of what I’m looking for will require a lot of programming to do. And I don’t know anything about programming. I can’t even write a simple AppleScript.

GOP playing Russian roulette with healthcare industry

Obamacare repeal vote still too close to call.

Jennifer Haberkorn, Seung Min Kim, and Burgess Everett, writing at Politico:

It is still unclear what policy the Senate is going to vote on. To get their members on board, Republican leaders are being as vague as possible about what the final bill to replace Obamacare would include, after two recent drafts met fatal opposition.

Republicans are strongly considering a strategy that would tee up two separate votes — one on the repeal only and another on the plan the Senate has been working on to repeal and replace Obamacare.

Paraphrasing a friend: Even if you don’t consider healthcare a right, how can you support legislators voting to upend one of the most important industries in the American economy without their even knowing what they’re voting on.

Fleksy keyboard returning to life

Natasha Lomas, writing at TechCrunch:

Third party keyboards might seem like an app fad blast from the recent past. But the smartphone keyboard space could be set for a shake up as long time player Fleksy gets a new team working full time on the app. Barcelona-based keyboard startup, ThingThing, announced today that it’s reached a deal with Fleksy’s founders to take over development of the app.

The hope, says ThingThing co-founder Olivier Plante, is that a custom keyboard “phoenix” can rise from the ashes — to offer an independent alternative to the likes of Google’s Gboard or the now Microsoft-owned SwiftKey.

I’m encouraged to see development continue on a third-party keyboard, a software area that seems to have stalled recently. Then again, app development in general is stalling recently.

I hope to give NinType another try soon. It’s hard to learn but insanely powerful. I never got past the “hard to learn” part.

Part of the problem with third-party keyboard development, at least on iOS, is that the stock iOS keyboard is just plain insanely good. Hard to beat. After 10 years, it knows me extremely well indeed.

Fleksy keyboard to get major reboot under ThingThing’s dev team

The AutoSleep app on my iPhone and Apple Watch says I slept 4 hours 42 minutes. Good thing it wasn’t 4 hours 39 minutes or I’d have trouble functioning today.

A Wisconsin technology company is giving employees microchip implants

Maggie Astor, writing at The New York Times:

At first blush, it sounds like the talk of a conspiracy theorist: a company implanting microchips under employees’ skin. But it’s not a conspiracy, and employees are lining up for the opportunity.

On Aug. 1, employees at Three Square Market, a technology company in Wisconsin, can choose to have a chip the size of a grain of rice injected between their thumb and index finger. Once that is done, any task involving RFID technology — swiping into the office building, paying for food in the cafeteria — can be accomplished with a wave of the hand.

The program is not mandatory, but as of Monday, more than 50 out of 80 employees at Three Square’s headquarters in River Falls, Wis., had volunteered.

You can also get a ring with the chip embedded in it, if you’re not into implants.

Before you scoff at those silly sheeple employees: You’re probably carrying a tracking device, willingly, at all times.

Microchip Implants for Employees? One Company Says Yes

Maybe high wages drive improved productivity, and low wages keep productivity down

Productivity is in a slump because businesses aren’t investing in technology that improves productivity, say researchers. If wages go up and good workers are harder to find, businesses will have more incentive to make big-ticket investments that generate growth.

Neil Irwin reports for the New York Times:

Some historians believe that the industrial revolution began in Britain instead of elsewhere because comparatively high wages for British workers prompted companies to invest in labor-saving devices.

In this way of thinking about productivity, inventors and business innovators are always cooking up better ways to do things, but it takes a labor shortage and high wages to coax firms to deploy the investment it takes to actually put those innovations into widespread use….

In other words, instead of worrying so much about robots taking away jobs, maybe we should worry more about wages being too low for the robots to even get a chance.

Maybe We’ve Been Thinking About the Productivity Slump All Wrong.

John Robb: Facebook and Google are evolving into “fully functional global censorship and surveillance systems”

“I know that people have been concerned about this for a while, but it’s not speculation anymore folks. It’s here,” John says.

And surprisingly, the US and virtually every government, with the exception of China and Russia, are pushing the companies into these new roles, John says.

Not so surprising. As Cory Doctorow points out elsewhere, private companies scoop up data and governments use it. It’s a partnership.

Welcome to Our Global Censorship and Surveillance Platform – Global Guerrillas.

Trump might break up Amazon to satisfy his political vendetta 

Joshua M. Brown, a financial advisor at Ritholtz Wealth Management:

Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos, who acquired WaPo four years ago, is on a ridiculous hot streak right now. His ecommerce giant is taking on as many verticals as you can think of – and winning. His newspaper is breaking stories about the President and the Russian miasma that surrounds his whole entourage nearly every day.

For how much longer will the President, who effectively directs the FTC, allow Bezos to hassle him with his newspaper while steamrolling over competitors in the corporate world from the other Washington? And what if some ambitious politician or state AG decides to beat him to it?

Why Amazon Could Be Broken Up.

Charles Stross is paging Agent 007

Charlie’s Diary:

History: is it about kings, dates, and battles, or the movement of masses and the invisible hand of macroeconomics?

There’s something to be said for both theories, but I have a new, countervailing theory about the 21st century (so far); instead othe traditional man on a white horse who leads the revolutionary masses to victory, we’ve wandered into a continuum dominated by Bond villains.

While innovation gets all the glory, maintenance needs more love

Our nation’s infrastructure is crumbling because we overvalue innovation and don’t appreciate maintainers enough, write Andrew Russell and Lee Vinsel at The New York Times.

Americans have an impoverished and immature conception of technology, one that fetishizes innovation as a kind of art and demeans upkeep as mere drudgery.

When Americans talk about technology, they often use “innovation” as a shorthand. But “innovation” refers only to the very early phases of technological development and use. It also tends to narrow the scope of technology to digital gadgets of recent vintage: iPhones, social media apps and so on. A more expansive conception of technology would take into account the diverse array of tools, including subways and trains, that we humans use to help us reach our goals.

Stepin Fetchit was a pioneering African-American movie star

Lincoln Theodore Monroe Andrew Perry, aka “Stepin Fetchit,” aka “the Laziest Man in the World,” was the African-American star of many wildly successful comedy movies in the 1920s and 1930s.

He had a hell of a life. He was the first black actor to earn more than a million dollars, and first to get featured credit on a film.

He was born in Key West, Florida, to West Indian immigrants.

Wikipedia:

His mother wanted him to be a dentist, so Perry was adopted by a quack dentist, for whom he blacked boots before running away at age twelve to join a carnival. He earned his living for a few years as a singer and tap dancer.

He performed in vaudeville as a teen, and managed a traveling carnival show when he was 20.

His character in film was billed as the Laziest Man in the World. He appeared in 44 films between 1927 and 1939, sometimes alongside his good friend Will Rogers. Perry also maintained a writing career during that time.

Perry’s film career slowed after 1939, and after 1953, nearly stopped altogether. Around that time, the actor and the character began to be seen by [Americans] as an embarrassing and harmful anachronism, echoing and perpetuating negative stereotypes. The Stepin Fetchit character has undergone a re-evaluation by some scholars, who view him as an embodiment of the trickster archetype.

He went bankrupt, had a troubled family life, and spent the latter years of his life fighting the perception that his earlier movies were racist. He sued NBC over a documentary about black entertainers, written by Andy Rooney and narrated by Bill Cosby.

I think we saw that documentary in high school. It made the point that while Stepin Fetchit’s movies might be racist, the man himself had a reputation for showing up on time, sober, knowing his lines and ready to work. And the movies made tons of money. So Perry paved the way for other black performers to do more respectable roles.

Restaurant lends diners “Instagram kits” for better meal photos


Taylor Lorenz, writing at Mic.com:

A London-based restaurant chain is offering diners “Instagram kits” to help their #FoodPorn shine.

The kits include a portable LED light, multi-device charger, clip-on wide-angle lens, tripod and a selfie stick, and are lent any patron who requests one.

According to a press release, Dirty Bones’ fourth location, where the kits will be offered, was designed specifically with Instagram in mind. The space features floor-to-ceiling bookcases that guests can pose in front of and neon signs listing Instagram-friendly platitudes like “Good vibes only,” “Keeping it real” and “It was all a dream.”

“There are so many snails there you can’t even see the food! Now take those away and bring us those melted cheese sandwich appetizers you talked me out of!”

“Right to repair” isn’t  just good for consumers. It’s good for business too.

Technology companies do better when consumers can get more from their products by choosing how and where to fix devices when they break.

Why are companies trying to make it illegal to repair our electronic devices? [Sara Behdad/Quartz]:

Traditionally, when a car breaks down, the solution has been to fix it. Repair manuals, knowledgeable mechanics, and auto parts stores make car repairs common, quick, and relatively inexpensive. Even with modern computer-equipped vehicles, regular people have plenty they can do: change oil, change tires, and many more advanced upgrades.

But when a computer or smartphone breaks, it’s hard to get it fixed, and much more common to throw the broken device away. Even small electronic devices can add up to massive amounts of electronic waste—between 20 million and 50 million tonnes (22-55 million tons) of electronic devices every year, worldwide. Some of this waste is recycled, but most—including components involving lead and mercury—goes into landfills.

Bigger equipment can be just as difficult to repair. Today’s farmers often can’t fix the computers running their tractors, because manufacturers claim that farmers don’t actually own them. Companies argue that specialized software running tractors and other machines is protected by copyright and patent laws, and allowing farmers access to it would harm the companies’ intellectual property rights.

Users’ right to repair—or to pay others to fix—objects they own is in jeopardy. However, in our surveys and examinations of product life cycles, my colleagues and I are finding that supporting people who want to repair and reuse their broken devices can yield benefits—including profits—for electronics manufacturers.

Good article, poor headline. The article never answers why tech vendors oppose this measure.

Star Trek: Discovery will feature SPACE FUNGUS!

Dirk Libbey writing at Cinemablend:

One of the hallmarks of any entry in the Star Trek franchise is the new technology they create. But how does a series set prior to the other entries create anything we haven’t seen before? Star Trek: Discovery will be setting out in just a couple of months to tell a story set just prior to the events of the original Star Trek series, which would seem to indicate that most of the technology that we will see in the new series will be more or less on par with that part of the timeline. However, in a press conference for the series which I attended during San Diego Comic-Con, co-star Anthony Rapp revealed that the show will be introducing some new tech, via his character’s particular area of interest, fungus.

The more I see and hear about this show, the more I like it in advance.

But it should be on broadcast or basic cable, for maximum possible reach.

How Star Trek: Discovery Will Introduce New Technology Despite Being A Prequel.