iPad Pro is the new Mac

“I can’t speak for you, but I’m writing this editorial on my everyday productivity tool — the iPad Pro. It’s what I like to think of as the “computer for the rest of us”. It’s already incredibly functional and I can’t wait to see iOS 10 up and running on it.”

Source: iPad Pro is the new Mac

I have to agree with Michael Gartenberg here… the iPad Pro is quickly becoming my “everyday computer.”

Yes, there are certainly times when I need to “drive the truck” that is my maxed-out-RAM large desktop computer, but those times are coming fewer and farther between.

Now if only it becomes easy to do podcasting on an iPad, I’d be a total convert.

Facebook isn’t a neutral platform

There seems to be a real disconnect between what Facebook actually is and what it purports to be. Mark Zuckerberg has said publicly that Facebook is a neutral platform which “stands for giving everyone a voice.” But it’s clear that Facebook is willing to vote with its wallet to make some of those voices louder than others.

The open Web is the only answer. But in an era of easy-to-use apps and algorithmic story discovery, it’s an answer fewer people seem to be choosing.

Source: Facebook’s Payola Shows It’s No Neutral Platform | Sascha Segan | PCMag.com

The Death of the Denominations

Amid protest, song and fears of a denominational breakup, United Methodists at their quadrennial General Conference decided yet again not to decide anything regarding LGBT rights.

But in a groundbreaking move, the delegates from the U.S. and abroad voted 428-405 on Wednesday (May 18) to allow the church’s Council of Bishops to appoint a commission to discuss whether to accept same-sex marriage or ordain LGBT clergy.

Source: Methodists postpone debate of gay issues that could split denomination | Religion News Service

We’re at the beginning stages of a few societal transitions (revolutions?) that will take decades to shake out fully here in the United States.

One has to do with economics and the emergence of efficiency as a market motivator.

Another, perhaps related shift, involves the erosion of our collective agreement that large groups can or should represent us and be central to the formation of our individual identities. Whether that’s the Republican or Democratic parties during this election cycle of historic high “unlikable” ratings, our relative shift to anti-Union attitudes, or the continuing and rapid decline of mainstream Protestant denominations, we’re certainly seeing new dynamics in play as we emerge from the shadow of the 20th century and head towards the middle of the 21st.

With two world wars and a decades long Cold War, the U.S. was defined by the concept of representative nationalism in the last century. Christian denominations saw their largest number of members in the 1950’s, political parties became increasingly powerful, the Evangelical movement soared, broadcast media gave us our news and views, and our sports team became religions… all while we fought off the Japanese and Nazi’s and then the Commies and added “Under God” to our Pledge of Allegiance and “One Nation Under God” to our currency.

Sixteen years into this new century, we’re still under the last century’s shadow. That’s not necessarily a bad thing, as centuries, decades, and years themselves are artificial lines that we try to carve into our young species’ conception of whatever time is… but these lines do provide interesting parallels when we look back and ahead in our own individual minds.

Sixteen years into the last century, we were in the midst of World War I and coming to terms with the notion of a “League of Nations” or some sort of a worldwide governing body that would help us resolve disputes before they became the type of quagmires that resulted in that terrible war. The U.S. was entering the age of the automobile, more access to information and news than ever before with the mediums of radio and newspapers, our market economy was taking shape as a world player, and our economy was being transformed from largely agrarian to industrial due to the development of new technologies and means of production.

Sixteen years into this century and we can see many parallels. We are still wrestling with the idea of worldwide governing agreements (economic and political) and weighing the difference between isolationism and globalization. We’re in the middle of a series of regional wars and conflicts that are shaping our military and foreign policies into something that will look different in the coming decades than they had been before. We’re entering the age of the automated car, we have more information available than we could ever ingest through the medium of the web and the coming revolutions in virtual and augmented realities. Our market economy is still taking shape and evolving with the global market as well as our own needs and realizations here about inequality, poverty, capitalism, and morality. Our economy is transitioning from a largely industrial one to a service-based economy due to the development of new technologies and means of productions. Robots are building robots.

One thing that is markedly different, in my mind at least, is our conception of identities. We are coming to terms with realizations that not all Democrats, or heterosexuals, or Methodist, or transgender, or white people, or video game players look the same or can be put into neat and tidy demographic boxes. Whether that’s due to the nature of the influence that the web (and increasingly social media on the web) have had on our society or some other mix of variables, it’s hard to define. However, those of us who were born in the 20th century have to realize that we still have one leg in a century defined by large groups governing identities whereas the 21st century seems to be presenting an emerging realization that large groups are perhaps not the best hook to hang our identities on.

I feel that as we navigate the years and decades ahead, we’ll see more and more that groups such as the United Methodist Church or the Republican Party or the local Chamber of Commerce will fade in importance, perhaps to the point of dissolution into smaller units. The democratization that the web has brought to our culture in the U.S. is a double edged flame from Prometheus… it gives us light and freedom but it demands new responsibilities and awareness. If you were born in the 20th century, I hope you realize that our world has changed as has the culture(s) of our country. Grow and learn or get out of the way.

Our government’s representative democracy serves us well because it is intentionally messy and “slow” in dealing with issues that our collective national cultures want addressed quickly. However, our religious denominations and political parties perhaps should take a different path rather than using time as a tool of obfuscation and avoidance.

Just as our notions of forms of government or economics evolve over time, so will conceptions such as denominations and political parties. They will both probably exist at the end of the 21st century, but they’ll certainly look different.

The Conservative’s Tituba

It was like affirmative action for conservatives. When did conservatives start demanding quotas AND diversity training AND less people from Ivy League Colleges.

I sat there, looking around the room at ‘our side’ wondering, ‘Who are we?’ Who am I? I want to be very clear — I am not referring to every person in the room. There were probably 25–30 people and a number of them, I believe, felt like I did. But the overall tenor, to me, felt like the Salem Witch Trial: ‘Facebook, you must admit that you are screwing us, because if not, it proves you are screwing us.’

Source: What disturbed me about the Facebook meeting. — Medium

That random feeling when I read a Glenn Beck post and nod in agreement.

Interesting account from a meeting between top conservatives and Mark Zuckerberg over whether or not Facebook has been “censoring” their content… go read.

Venmo Jerks?

Just as Venmo has inspired stinginess in some, it’s prompted generosity in others. Nielsen says that the women in a large, secret Facebook group she manages have used it in the past to buy dinner for a group member who has had a bad day, while others have used Venmo to quickly–and discreetly–send rent money or emergency funds to friends in need.

Source: Venmo is turning our friends into petty jerks

Personally, I’m a huge fan of Venmo (but I still like buying my friends a round of drinks).

Learning to Summize?

 

Take a picture of a textbook page and instantly get summaries, analyses, videos, flashcards and annotations.

Source: Summize

I’ve been playing with this new app this morning. It’s … interesting and has caused me to stop and think.

And to think… I had months (if not years) of instruction time at elementary, middle, high school, and college levels training me to summarize, analyze, annotate and make flashcards.

Remember SQ3R? I certainly do.

  • Survey
  • Question
  • Read (R1)
  • Recite (R2)
  • Review (R3)

We had entire classes and tests on “study skills.” Barf. If anything, SQ3R etc made me detest reading textbooks at an early age even more than I already did (which is why I rarely if ever used them as a middle school teacher). Granted, reading and processing a college textbook is much different than reading for pleasure (which is probably one of the reasons why I became a Religion major and find escape from textbooks).

Here’s an example of Summize’s “Bias Analysis” from a page I randomly took from The Practice of Adaptive Leadership:

2016-05-18 09.50.18

It doesn’t get all the words right, but come on… that’s pretty interesting when you consider anyone can do that from their iPhone. This is from the “Concept Analysis” feature, which basically gives you the rundown of a page’s main concepts for review:

2016-05-18 09.56.20

There’s also an automatic flashcard builder or you can snap your own essays and do quick grammar checks. You see where I’m going.

We thought desktops would revolutionize the classroom when I was a kid in the 80’s. Then it was CD-ROMs and laptops in the 90’s. Then it was personal digital assistants in the 00’s. Now we realize that the mobile revolution is the real instigator for substantive technological impact in education.

Mobile is just the beginning as we venture into an augmented / virtual reality world where information will, literally, be on our retinas in the blink of an eye (no fingertips needed this time).

It pains me to consider that concepts and skills such as spelling, punctuation, state capitols, multiplication tables, cursive writing (well, not really that one), lines of Shakespeare etc may not be required to be stored in our brains in the near future … if now. Or perhaps even the larger concepts of knowing how to look at a page of a textbook, get out your various colored highlighters, and go to work summarizing and finding the “main ideas” aren’t requirements for “successful” reading and processing.

Sure, they’re good things to know… but so were knowing star charts, how to hunt skin squirrels, and morse code at one time (not that all three aren’t still very valuable in certain circumstances).

Does this make post-millennials (or whatever we are going to call them) any more “lazy” than the Baby Boomers? I don’t think so. I know plenty of Baby Boomers who decry having to carry a mobile phone yet learn to love FaceTiming their family after a few weeks of doing so.

The older I get, the more I realize that conceptions of required understandings, skills, concepts etc are all in constant flux. Perhaps we benefited someway in the 20th century U.S. by having a rather sturdy monoculture that gave us a clear “common core” roadmap of things that every person of good standing should know and know how to do.

But I’ll take this evolving 21st century realization that normative culture isn’t the best path for the education of our children. Perhaps technological tools can help us rise above the barriers that very real socio-economic barriers of schools and home circumstances that previously segmented our society from the outset and didn’t give many kids the opportunity to “be all that they can be.”

By the way, the Founder of Summize is 18.

In praise of webmasters

We’ve seen lots of cool shit built on the web, but we’ve also seen lots of bullshit too: barriers to entry, walled gardens, gatekeepers. Some things have been made unnecessarily complex. We need to remember that at its core a web page is simple. That’s the beauty of it. And when you publish your own HTML to a server that you control; that’s fucking powerful. Autonomy and independence are central to the web. We can’t forget that.

Source: I’m a fucking webmaster

New Definitions of Masculinity

If change is scary, it’s going to be an increasingly scary world out there for us white male cisgender heteronormatives (we did a pretty good job of mucking things up)…

We’ll probably need a new definition of masculinity, too. There are many groups in society who have lost an empire but not yet found a role. Men are the largest of those groups. The traditional masculine ideal isn’t working anymore. It leads to high dropout rates, high incarceration rates, low labor force participation rates. This is an economy that rewards emotional connection and verbal expressiveness. Everywhere you see men imprisoned by the old reticent, stoical ideal.

Source: If Not Trump, What?

Learning From the Current Media Revolution

From Jim VandeHei, who was one of the co-founders of Politico…

In coming years, the revolution will likely demolish much of what we read and watch now. State and local newspapers and TV? Gone. Their models are fatally flawed. General interest magazines such as Time and Newsweek? Gone or unrecognizable shells of their former selves. Traditional TV and cable? Shrinking and scrambling. Clickbait machines such as Gawker, or Ozy, or Mashable? Gone or gobbled up by bigger players.

At the same time, the need for content, especially (but not only) video content, will explode. It will be a mad rush that makes the 1980s’ race to create new cable channels seems like a leisurely stroll.

The pipes for distribution of content are mostly set. Facebook, Amazon, Google and Snapchat will be joined by the savviest traditional media companies such as Comcast and new media players, most notably Netflix, Apple, Vimeo and others.

Source: Escaping the Digital Media ‘Crap Trap’ — The Information

At the end of the article, he posits that we are entering a golden age of content creation and that consumers will happily pay for eclectic and efficiently delivered media as mobile destroys desktop paradigms, and streaming destroys cable.

I’d include podcasting in this conversation as well. It’s not hard to fathom that podcasting, or some iteration of it, really does catch on “in the mainstream” as our mobile devices and autos get smarter and more in tune with our own listening preferences as compared to broadcast NPR or radio.

Just this week, I finally convinced my parents to sign up for Netflix and Hulu. They love it. “Why would we pay for cable now?” Dad asked. I’ve been asking the same since I cut the cord back in 2006 in favor of other ways to find and watch the media that most appealed to me and our family.

It’s easier, cheaper, and (I think) more fun than ever. Apple TV, Roku, Plex etc have made the content game enjoyable again.

Businesses, churches, and nonprofits can learn a great many lessons by observing the current revolution / rebirth that journalism and content industries are currently experiencing. Find faith in the ability to embrace the eclectic. Find your voice and your audience. Stop trying to be all things to all people and broadcast messages (especially on Facebook and social media). You’ll be rewarded by your fans.

 

Sonic’s New #SquareShake is First Milkshake Designed for Instagram

Fast-food restaurant Sonic will debut their new line of milkshakes with a campaign especially designed for Coachella. On April 16, festival-goers will be able to order a #SquareShake exclusively through Instagram and pay by posting a picture to their accounts.

Source: ‘Instagram-Exclusive’ Milkshake Hints At The Future Of Social Commerce

It’s for the Coachella music festival, but it’s not difficult to imagine Sonic or some other major (or regional) brand rolling out a similar promotion.

 

What Facebook’s bot developer platform for Messenger means for your church or business

Church Marketing Facebook Messenger Bot

The bot era has officially begun. In a widely expected move, Facebook today announced tools for developers to build bots inside Facebook Messenger, bringing a range of new functions to the popular communication app. Facebook believes Messenger can become a primary channel for businesses to interact with their customers, replacing 1-800 numbers with a mix of artificial intelligence and human intervention. If they are embraced by the general public — which is still far from certain — bots could represent a major new channel for commerce, customer support, and possibly even media.

Source: Facebook launches a bot platform for Messenger | The Verge

Expect to see much more about this in the coming months and get ready to change how you interact with many services and businesses.

If you are a business or church or nonprofit or provide a service, it’s time to start thinking about messaging and bots.

Stephen Hawking is backing a project to send tiny spacecraft to another star system within a generation

The concept is to reduce the size of the spacecraft to about the size of a chip used in electronic devices. The idea is to launch a thousand of these mini-spacecraft into the Earth’s orbit. Each would have a solar sail. This is like a sail on a boat – but it is pushed along by light rather than the wind. A giant laser on Earth would give each one a powerful push, sending them on their way to reaching 20% of the speed of light.

Source: Hawking backs interstellar travel project – BBC News

Fascinating.

 

In honor of #nationalpetday here’s a fun piece on pets from ancient Greece and Rome

roman_dogs

The ancient Greeks and Romans were more lavish than the modern world in their expressed affection for beasts. Theirs was a splendid opportunity to know animal life at first hand, not because there were more animals, but on account of the very close relationship effected by polytheistic principles and religious customs.1 Both literature and art attest that there were but few animals not dedicated to gods or goddesses; since religion penetrated ancient life so deeply, it is understandable that animals were freely admitted into the house, and gradually attempts were made to transform even the fiercer beasts into pets and companions.

Source: Greek and Roman Household Pets — CJ 44:245‑252 and 299‑307 (1949)

Be careful with Emoji on different platforms 😁

emoji

Just seeing the difference in emoji presentations is revelatory in itself. But then it gets even more interesting. GroupLens researchers asked subjects to rate 22 anthropomorphic emoji from five platforms by sentiment, using a scale that ranged from strongly negative (-5) to strongly positive (5). And here’s where you start to see where “grinning face with smiling eyes” goes so very wrong. Apple’s average sentiment ranking was almost -1, while Microsoft, Samsung, LG, and Google all were 3 or above.

Source: That Emoji Does Not Mean What You Think It Means

My wife (and almost all of my close friends that I’d use emoji with) is an iOS user and I’m an Android user… that’s led to a few miscommunications before we realized that the emoji we were sending “cross-platform” didn’t carry the same intended meaning.

Perhaps that’s one of the beautiful aspects of emoji and symbolic language additions… the meanings are left to the receiver to first decrypt and then to import meaning into based on their own background, experiences, culture (and operating system).

Soon, most of what you do on a computer will be done via bots

taxi_chatbot

“Is everything going to become a bot? I don’t think so. There’ll probably still be static apps for professional and authoring tools; Photoshop and CAD and Excel and Evernote aren’t going away; and video games will still be video games. Most of the squishy stuff in the middle, though, will go conversational. Anything that involves collaboration, communications, consumption, organization, etc. will probably become a bot. I think bots will replace 80% of what we use at work and half of what we use at home.”

Source: A Charge of Bots — The Tech World As We Know It Is About To Be Rewritten — Medium

As I’ve said before, it’s time for social organizations (churches, nonprofits, some businesses) to think through what the coming years of tech will bring… and one of the major revisions we’re going to see is the way we interact with tech. Messaging bots will be the driving force behind that.

When I use “messaging” and “bots,” I’m not referring to what we consider tools such as Facebook Messenger or Slack now. I’m also referring to interactions such as the voice driven Amazon Echo (or Siri, Google Now, Microsoft’s Cortana etc). Bots will interact seamlessly with our lives from our music selections to our banking to the status of our HVAC home systems. Here’s a good rundown on bots from Re/Code.

There was a time when we thought software keyboards (such as on the now ubiquitous iPhone) would “never catch on.” The same with laptops. And a computer mouse. And color screens. And computers in your home. And punch cards.

Voice, gesture, and messaging bots will be the norm. Just as if you walk into our home now, the primary way to start playing music involves the salutation “Alexa,” followed by what you’d like to hear, rather than our previous practice just a few short months ago of having to go over to a computer keyboard and type in a search. It happened seamlessly and Amazon’s Echo, along with Siri, is just a sign of what’s to come.

Will everything we do with / on computers be taken over by bots and messaging? Of course not. To paraphrase Steve Jobs, some people need trucks but most everyone can get by with a car. You probably don’t launch Photoshop or complicated accounting software that often. If you do, don’t worry.

The point is, the way we interact with all of this tech we surround ourselves with is about to dramatically change. Think ahead for what that means for your business, church, group, and workflow.