Technology

Apple Intentions to Replace iPhones with AR

Kuo: Apple AR Headset Coming in Late 2022 With Mac-Level Computing Power – MacRumors:

Apple is intending it to support a “comprehensive range of applications” with an eye toward replacing the iPhone within ten years.

So much is going to change in our society in the next 10-15 years… electric vehicles as predominant mode of transportation, concepts like plant-based “meat” being brewed at local establishments like beer micro-brewing, the real introduction of augmented reality, and the paradigm of the slabs of glass we love being replaced by other mediums.

It’s going to be a fascinating decade ahead.

Google’s Take on Our Hybrid Workplace Future

I need a cellophane balloon wall robot in my life.

If a meeting requires privacy, a robot that looks like the innards of a computer on wheels and is equipped with sensors to detect its surroundings comes over to inflate a translucent, cellophane balloon wall to keep prying eyes away.

Source: The Googleplex of the Future Has Privacy Robots, Meeting Tents and Your Very Own Balloon Wall – The New York Times

Trying Out Neeva

“…advertising income often provides an incentive to provide poor quality search results.”

– Google founders Larry Page and Sergey Brin in a 1998 research paper while they were doctoral students at Stanford

I’ve been trying out the search engine service Neeva lately. You can read more about the founding of the company by ex-Googler Sridhar Ramaswamy here (it’s a fascinating story).

I come from the time when the web was still in its primordial stage. Thought technologies such as web browsers and search engines were still young and completely exhilarating. I paid for Netscape (and I was amazed when I got to college in 1996 and walked into the computer lab with 8 machines running Netscape, WordPerfect, Office, and the Corel suite). Browsers and search engines and minute-based access to the web were something you paid for (unless you stockpiled AOL disks like I did).

Neeva is definitely a different service. I’m still wrapping my head around it, but it feels like a good mix of “old school web” and what we’ll eventually get to once we exit this period of advertising-based “free” services that have been the predominate business model on the web for the last 15 years.

The search interface is clean and fast. There are no ad trackers. The company is looking to make money by offering subscriptions. That’s intriguing for me. I’ve never been a big fan of the saying “if you’re not paying for a service, you’re the product” and all, but it does ease my mind to exchange money for what I consider valuable services on the web (Pinboard for bookmarking comes to mind).

Google is such an intimate part of all of our lives, whether we care to admit it or not. Our memories, correspondence, social graphs, birthday reminders, calendars etc are all wrapped up in the service (at least… much more than that for “power users” like myself). But we need alternatives.

I’ll continue experimenting with Neeva to see if it’s one of the dandelions that pops up to spread seeds across the ecosystem of the web or if it’s just a one-season deal. But it “feels” like it has staying power. And for that, I’m excited. Will report back here about my usage as it accumulates in the coming weeks.

Apple Irony on Choices

Pretty funny because I read this via Apple News and there’s no way to share it out to a web browser on my iPad…

Craig Federighi, Apple’s senior vice president of software engineering, told The Wall Street Journal’s Joanna Stern that the company’s goal is to “give users a choice.” Those four words are at the core of the problem with the position Facebook has taken since Apple announced the changes last year at its developer conference.

apple.news/Abn8vqkkBTbSgzqaCzwjnAQ

You can now unlock your iPhone while wearing a mask if you have an Apple Watch

Go grab the iOS 14.5 update in Settings > General > Software Update if you have an Apple Watch… and welcome to our mask-wearing longterm future!

iOS 14.5 will let Apple Watch owners unlock their iPhone while wearing a mask: Another oft-requested feature, especially with the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. Apple doesn’t support Touch ID in it is newest iPhones, which can make unlocking with Face ID while wearing a mask a pain. But Apple is helping with that. Apple Watch owners will be able to confirm unlocking their iPhones while wearing a mask with iOS 14.5.

Source: Apple releases iOS 14.5, iPadOS 14.5, and watchOS 7.4 with Apple Watch iPhone unlock and more

Basecamp’s New Politics Policy

Basecamp (and Jason) has been a bellwether for how companies operate for almost 20 years now. Here’s an interesting memo for the company that I can only imagine more organizations will be implementing in the coming months / years…

With that, we wanted to put these directional changes on the public record. Historically we’ve tried to share as much as we can — for us, and for you — so this transmission continues the tradition.

1. No more societal and political discussions on our company Basecamp account. Today’s social and political waters are especially choppy. Sensitivities are at 11, and every discussion remotely related to politics, advocacy, or society at large quickly spins away from pleasant. You shouldn’t have to wonder if staying out of it means you’re complicit, or wading into it means you’re a target. These are difficult enough waters to navigate in life, but significantly more so at work. It’s become too much. It’s a major distraction. It saps our energy, and redirects our dialog towards dark places. It’s not healthy, it hasn’t served us well. And we’re done with it on our company Basecamp account where the work happens. People can take the conversations with willing co-workers to Signal, Whatsapp, or even a personal Basecamp account, but it can’t happen where the work happens anymore.

Source: Changes at Basecamp

Editing the WordPress Footer Text

Handy walkthru here… if you do anything on WordPress, this is one of those questions that you’ll need an answer for sooner or later:

For those wondering, the footer is the bottom part of your website that appears after the content area. This can be a copyright statement, the year, contact details, branding, social media icons, privacy policy links, disclaimers, and so many other things you want it to be.

Source: How to Edit the Footer in WordPress

In Honor of Beloved Netbooks

I absolutely adored my eee PC 701 and used it all the time. I’ll add a gallery here later.

There were two products that arrived in 2007 that fundamentally changed computing: one, of course, was the iPhone. The second, obviously more important product was the $399 Eee PC 701. It originally ran a custom Linux operating system that reviewers loved (Laptop Mag’s Mark Spoonauer said it was “ten times simpler to use than any Windows notebook”) and was generally heralded as a new kind of computer with tremendous mass appeal. Spoonauer: “Pound for pound, the best value-priced notebook on the planet.”

Source: Let’s remember netbooks – The Verge

Why not just write on your own blog and monetize there?

I get the allure of Substack and applaud the move to decentralized platforms, but why not write on your own blog if your goal is independence and direct interaction with your own audience?

It’s not that difficult.

So many more benefits to creating in your own space, on your own domain, with your own platform…

And despite a handful of departures over politics, that wave is growing for Substack. The writers moving there full time in recent days include not just Mr. Lavery, but also the former Yahoo News White House correspondent Hunter Walker, the legal writer David Lat and the columnist Heather Havrilesky, who told me she will be taking Ask Polly from New York Magazine to “regain some of the indie spirit and sense of freedom that drew me to want to write online in the first place.”

Source: Why We’re Freaking Out About Substack – The New York Times

Universe as a self-learning computer

The researchers explain the universe as a learning system by invoking machine learning systems. Just like we can teach machines to perform unfolding functions over time, that is, to learn, the laws of the universe are essentially algorithms that do work in the form of learning operations.

Source: Physicists working with Microsoft think the universe is a self-learning computer

Signal’s Crypto Problem

Similar thoughts on Signal’s cryptocurrency announcement yesterday to Diehl’s post here… (side note: I wish more people still used blogs as their social outlet for these types of thoughts):

Signal users are overwhelmingly tech savvy consumers and we’re not idiots. Do they think we don’t see through the thinly veiled pump and dump scheme that’s proposed? It’s an old scam with a new face.

Via Stephen Diehl – Et tu, Signal?

Time to update your Exchange Server

If your company or organization uses Microsoft Exchange for email, you’re going to want to run the latest update…

At least 30,000 organizations across the United States — including a significant number of small businesses, towns, cities and local governments — have over the past few days been hacked by an unusually aggressive Chinese cyber espionage unit that’s focused on stealing email from victim organizations, multiple sources tell KrebsOnSecurity. The espionage group is exploiting four newly-discovered flaws in Microsoft Exchange Server email software, and has seeded hundreds of thousands of victim organizations worldwide with tools that give the attackers total, remote control over affected systems.

Source: At Least 30,000 U.S. Organizations Newly Hacked Via Holes in Microsoft’s Email Software — Krebs on Security

American Churches and The Digital Divide 

The company also found that one-third of faith-based organizations reported an increase in donations during the 2020 pandemic—specifically, ones with more of a digital presence. Churches with YouTube channels, Instagram pages, and prominent websites saw 533 percent more donations than those without.

Technology like this can help churches of all kinds, but it has been a lifeline for some smaller and more rural churches, which have been more vulnerable in the pandemic.

Source: The Digital Divide Is Giving American Churches Hell | WIRED

Over the past year, I’ve worked with dozens of churches, non-profits, community groups, and various religious organizations and congregations on tech and marketing issues discussed here. Some are large, most are small. I’ve worked with predominately white congregations, predominately black congregations, and a mixture of both. Some of that work was setting up a website for the church or group, lots of that work was to implement an online giving option that was either new or much easier to use than a previous solution (especially on mobile devices), some of that work was marketing strategy and how to survive Covid and still keep services and ministries going amidst lockdowns and economic crisis.

What has struck me about all of this work is that the churches and groups that “leaned in” (I’m not a fan of that term, but it works here) to the situation with a realization that this was going to be a long term situation that would change the nature of congregating for a long time found their communities more engaged, their donation numbers rise, and new opportunity to provide ministries and services became clearer. Those who sought short-term budget options to “get through this” and “make our way back to normal” are the groups that struggled in 2020 and are only now coming back to me for help with the long term.

I hope more churches begin the hard, but fruitful, work of reconciling the current landscape with the realities being faced by congregants. Numbers are important, but a church is made of people. Churches that recognize and uplift that in their outreach, leadership, and message-telling are the ones that are “finding a Way through.”

Tech companies freezing political spending and why tech still matters

This is the death knell of PACs for tech companies with activist employees,” one source told Axios. “This is the final straw.”

via Axios

This is a really fascinating development. First Microsoft and now Facebook are suspending PAC (Political Action Committee) spending in Washington. They’re joining financiers Goldman Sachs, JP Morgan, and Citigroup, along with Marriott, Blue Cross Blue Shield (caveat — our insurance co), Boston Scientific, and Commerce Bank. Bank of America (caveat — one of the banks we do business with), Ford, and AT&T, CVS, Exxon Mobil, and Wells Fargo are considering pulling their political monies.

This hits politicians where it really hurts.

For years, many of us in the “tech world” have decried these PACs and looked at them as a unnecessary evil that needed to be banned or done away with for a number of reasons.

Here are my personal convictions:

  1. The PAC system reinforces the existing system of graft and corruption that so many Americans claim to abhor.
  2. PACs favor the privileged both socio-economically and relationally. It’s a blight on a Democratic Republic and shouldn’t be seen as a “necessary evil” to doing business in the United States. Whatever your sector.
  3. Tech boomed in the late 90’s and then again in the early ’00s because it was seen as a disruptor. From Google to Tesla to Uber (well, maybe they aren’t a great example but they did usher in a transportation paradigm shift) to even Twitter, the tech sector excited us with the promise of something different and more democratic to challenge the status quo. However, as the going got weird, the weird turned pro and put on suits. I want a return to the weird disruption tech that spurred creativity and a hope for a better representation to the powers that be. We’re not so far gone that it can’t happen in light of #metoo, BLM, LBGTQ+, trans rights, accessibility emphasis, and recognition of differently abled persons. Real revolutionary tech that can change the world… I still believe. PACS stand in the way of that.

So as we continue to process and deal with the terrorist insurrection on our Capitol last week, let’s take a second to recognize what these companies are doing by restricting or redirecting their PAC monies and how we can all do our part to not just “unify and move forward” but to cause real change.

Client Website Updates Late At Night

Every Friday and Saturday night, we run client website updates focused on speed, security, and just general maintenance. It’s become a ritual of sorts for me over the years to check-in on how things are progressing.

It’s completely nuts to say, but I look forward to these late-night updates as a time to watch the percentages tick upwards as each of our client sites get updated (we’re well over 100 at this point) and dip into a few of them to see how they are progressing.

The typical process takes a couple of hours and allows me time to look back on our business and our relationships with our clients. It spurs thoughts about follow ups I need to take or new pitches I need to do or new services I need to offer to our client partners.

In a weird way, “update time” as I mark it down on my calendar, is a sacred time that is about improvement and reflection. It’s literally that way in regards to the updates and maintenance we’re providing each week, but it’s also an update in terms of the individualized service we offer for our hosting.

There’s such a limited understanding of what website hosting means these days in this era of DIY website building. But for the people that have reached out and become our client partners, it’s something I truly treasure and enjoy.

Technology as a marketing vehicle for community

This is an inspirational and aspirational piece from Douglas Adams in 1999 that I return to from time-to-time. Partly out of appreciation for Adams’ prescience and partly out of my own selfish need to remind me that this internet we’re building (21 years later) is still a thing of beauty and promise.

What Adams points to here has seen realization on social media platforms that originate with younger populations and then spread out to the wider groups of us older people either for various reasons. I first wrote about this five years ago here.

The same thing is happening in communication technology. Most of us are stumbling along in a kind of pidgin version of it, squinting myopically at things the size of fridges on our desks, not quite understanding where email goes, and cursing at the beeps of mobile phones. Our children, however, are doing something completely different. Risto Linturi, research fellow of the Helsinki Telephone Corporation, quoted in Wired magazine, describes the extraordinary behaviour kids in the streets of Helsinki, all carrying cellphones with messaging capabilities. They are not exchanging important business information, they’re just chattering, staying in touch. “We are herd animals,” he says. “These kids are connected to their herd – they always know where it’s moving.” Pervasive wireless communication, he believes will “bring us back to behaviour patterns that were natural to us and destroy behaviour patterns that were brought about by the limitations of technology.”

We are natural villagers. For most of mankind’s history we have lived in very small communities in which we knew everybody and everybody knew us. But gradually there grew to be far too many of us, and our communities became too large and disparate for us to be able to feel a part of them, and our technologies were unequal to the task of drawing us together. But that is changing.

Interactivity. Many-to-many communications. Pervasive networking. These are cumbersome new terms for elements in our lives so fundamental that, before we lost them, we didn’t even know to have names for them.

Source: DNA/How to Stop Worrying and Learn to Love the Internet

Marketing Joy

Spectrum Not Marketing Joy

Hearing from Spectrum never brings joy. We have been Time Warner Cable (which became Sprctrum) customers of their high speed internet offerings since moving to our new home in 2013. We regularly receive mailers and calls from them asking us to consider their phone plans or cable tv packages. Remarketing is a powerful tactic, but has to be deployed wisely. There’s also been the occasional past due notification (comes in a pink envelope and all) when we’ve changed debit card numbers and forgot to update the auto-payment on their app (which is a whole other blog post).

We never hear anything good from Spectrum.

This morning I’ve been receiving text message notifications about their service outage here in our area. That’s definitely not good news on an otherwise busy Monday morning working from home during my “busy season” with a few Zoom calls planned, some website audits that need to be done, and lots of charts to be made for clients. Not to mention, my partner runs her business and ministry from home, and our children have become digital natives during the pandemic (although they are much more resilient than we are when the web goes down).

I remember about 12 or so years ago, a Comcast customer service rep began the @comcastcares account on Twitter. These were the fun days of the Twitter platform and we users were so anticipating how the service would transform everything from customer service to entertainment to politics. Cory Booker was the Mayor of Newark at the time, and his revolutionary use of Twitter as a way for his community to reach out for help with downed trees or kittens stuck in trees was fascinating to watch. It brought joy. Little did we know how future politicians would use the service in the coming years… but I digress.

The @comcastcares account went viral and sparked a number of other services to open their own accounts for people like me who were valued customers but preferred a Twitter DM to submitting a support ticket on a terrible website, or (God Forbid) picking up the phone. It was a marketing play, but it brought joy from an otherwise joyless interaction when people are at their most frustrated. It’s also why every company uses carefully researched “hold music” and why some are better than others like Verizon’s terrible repeating 4/3 beat monstrosity.

During the pandemic, I’ve become fascinated by restaurant marketing. I’ve only worked with a handful of restaurants and restaurant groups as clients and the sector is admittedly not in my marketing wheelhouse.

However, watching local and national restaurants and chains adapt to new types of marketing technology and techniques during the pandemic has become a learning experience for me. I’ve downloaded dozen of restaurant and chain apps and had a few chats with various marketing teams.

A couple of large scale standouts have been McDonalds innovative use of their app to bring joy to an otherwise mundane human experience with promotions like a free item each day during the Holidays. Wendy’s has also been using marketing technology in a daring manner to build experience and interaction. For instance, their edgy Twitter account isn’t for everyone, but even snark can bring joy during a pandemic. Wendy’s is also using platforms such as Twitch to stream their team playing live games of Animal Crossing while giving away promo codes in the flowing chat. Again, it’s not for everyone and that’s the point.

Just like Comcast reached out to users with marketing technology that wasn’t “mainstream” or seemed silly in 2008 to do both outreach and perform a service, it’s important to bring joy and not just interruption.

So while our family scrambles to hook up internet hotspots and figure out how to work in new ways (yet again) this morning while our Spectrum service sorts out, think of ways that your organization can bring joy with marketing technology.

Don’t just send emails offering new services, asking for more donations, or updates about a new award you’ve won to your intended audience. Don’t dismiss Instagram Reels or TikTok or Twitch or Clubhouse or Reddit or even Twitter because you don’t think your audience is there or you don’t have the time to experiment. Stagnation is death. Stagnation doesn’t bring joy.

Joy will be a prime marketing technique in 2021. Embrace that and think outside the interruption.

DeepMind AI Cracks Protein Folding

Incredible advancement in very important science…

“With its latest AI program, AlphaFold, the company and research laboratory showed it can predict how proteins fold into 3D shapes, a fiendishly complex process that is fundamental to understanding the biological machinery of life.

Independent scientists said the breakthrough would help researchers tease apart the mechanisms that drive some diseases and pave the way for designer medicines, more nutritious crops and “green enzymes” that can break down plastic pollution.”

apple.news/A2R762pmKQm-u_eRyAQnmZg

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