My Heart’s aTwitter with Your Tweets

More than any other social media, Twitter is rapidly becoming the preferred “love” media.  From finding a date to proposing marriage, this is like sailing on the digital “Love Boat,” if you are old enough to remember that TV series.  So many new technologies, to use, so little time.  Somehow Twitter has become the preferred love connection.  Don’t forget the Direct Message (DM) feature when things start to become more intimate.  Twitter doesn’t maintain statistics on how many of its users met through the site, but it does actively crowdsource and feature stories from people who have used the app to “kindle” a romance.”

Here is an unsolicited testimonial from one happy lady, now wife and mother.  “She admits to having met previous dates on MySpace and Craigslist but insists that Twitter is an ideal platform to connect with potential mates – as long as users switch from public replies to direct messaging fairly quickly.  Ultimately, asking someone out on Twitter, there is still that fear of rejection that exists.  But it’s super possible.  It all goes down in the DMs.”

Okay, all you lonely hearts out there.  Brush up on your DM skills to give Cupid a hand!

Ray Myers

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Ke vs. Lee or, China and South Korea Vie to Beat AlphaGo

So it’s only a game as they say, but the geopolitical implications seem obvious.  This board game is called Go and I have seen it played in parks around Hanoi, but please don’t ask me to explain it.  But I will quote from a article by a Hong Kong reporter that might help shed some light.  “Go, in which two players vie for control of a board using black and white pieces called stones, is considered complex because of the sheer number of possible moves.  Even supercomputers cannot simply calculate all the possible moves, presenting a big challenge for AlphaGo creators.”  But AlphaGo developers did accept the challenge and created the software that makes this game available online.

So far, AlphaGo seems to be the undisputed “artificial intelligence” champion, only being beaten once by South Korea”s Mr. Lee.  China’s Mr. Ke seems more resigned to only playing against human opponents.  He noted that he would focus more on playing with people saying that the gap between humans was becoming too great.  He would treat the software as more of a teacher, he said, to get inspiration and new ideas about moves.  Or maybe he should say that he has finally met his match, but when his “match” is basically artficial intelligence, it just may be too hard to admit defeat by a software program?  Somehow this all sounds vaguely familiar, like Dr. Frankenstein being outsmarted by his own “monstrous” creation.

AlphaGo is also demonstrating an ability to learn from its gaming experiences.  It is not just calculating moves, but learning from its own experiences.  That is something that we can all benefit from, so that we can remain smarter than our machines, I hope.

Ray Myers 

P.S.  Happy Memorial Day weekend.  Be back on the 31st.

When Alexa Met Ikea, the Lights Turned On!

What would we do without Alexa?  She is so handy to have around the house, and doesn’t demand too much.  Just a little electricity to keep her “turned on.”  Now she can do even more.  She may not be the only little device that can do all these tricks using voice commands to control light switches, thermostats and other smart home appliances, but she seems to be the most popular.  And no new app is required in the case of turning the lights on and off, if you already have Alexa in your home.

Alexa and Ikea are now a couple and to work together all they really need are some voice-enabled light bulbs (you buy them).  It’s almost like having a live-in pair who can answer questions for you, play music, and now, turn the lights on and off.  The “marriage” of  Alexa and Ikea is also a marketing boon for the smart home business.  Amazon has said there have been “tens of millions of Alexa devices” sold, including various devices in Amazon’s Echo family of products and those from independent device makers as well.  Smart home usage of various devices is growing rapidly.

Smart homes for smart people?  It still might be fun to do these things ourselves.  Maybe we will start having device-free days just to reminisce about the way life used to be.

Ray Myers

Don’t Google It, Strawman – Use Your Brain

Outsourcing knowledge to Google keeps you away from learning things the right way.  Don’t take my word for it.  Psychological researchers have been studying the effects on internet dependence on the human learning process.  Take your ability to remember, or learn things the right way so that you can recall them at will.  And on a personal note, this seems to get harder as you get older.  So if you want to stay younger mentally, using Google may be a handy tool, but still keep using your own mental faculties if you want to have people think you really know what you are talking about.  How old is Donald Trump?  Seventy?  He seems to like Twitter better than Google, but he still might like to use it if he wants to fact-check something.  I just don’t think he worries about those bothersome facts that much.  He does use the TV to watch FOX news, right?

“Using knowledge in the head is also self-sustaining, whereas using knowledge from the internet is not.  Every time you retrieve information from memory, it becomes a bit easier to find it the next time.  That’s why students studying for a test actually remember more if they quiz themselves than if they study as they typically do, by rereading their textbook or notes.  That parades the right ideas before the mind, but it doesn’t make them stick in the same way, you won’t learn your way around a city if you always use your GPS, but you will if you work to remember the route you took last time (NY Times, 5/21/17).

“But why do I worry about all this?  And why does Donald Trump come creeping back into my mind.  Maybe it is the fact that he is not the “fake President.”

Ray Myers






Faked Out by Fake News

Oh, those automated algorithms!  One day they are riding high as our anointed saviors from being duped by fake news and exposed to gory live streaming, and the next day we are not quite so sure (see my post on May 3).  So what is Mark Zuckerberg and others to do?  I guess they will have to hire more humans or, as they are called in the business, “screeners.”  So how many for how long?  And why are we so gullible, and so intrigued by gory spectacles we can watch on demand.  Sounds like the old days of the Roman Empire when they threw the Christians to the lions.  Only now you can watch it at any time and any place thanks to technology.  Not to mention reading the fake news to fill in your spare time.  Can Mark Zuckerberg or anybody really solve this problem

Despite Zuckerberg’s pledge to do a better job in screening content, many Facebook users did not seem to believe that much would change.  Hundreds of commenters on his post related personal experiences of reporting inappropriate content to Facebook that the company declined to remove.  So who are these reviewers and what standards do they apply?  Most of them are low-paid contractors overseas who spend an average of just a few seconds on each post.  A National Public Radio investigation last year found that they inconsistently apply Facebook’s standards, echoing previous  research by other outlets.  Hmmmm, I wonder if some of these same people work in those famous “call centers” that American companies have established abroad?

Sounds to me that we may be “faked out” for a long time to come.

Ray Myers

P.S.  I will not be posting on Friday.  Busy weekend ahead.  Enjoy yours.  Back on Monday.



Let Your Fingers Do the Walking – Shop/Search Online

Remember the Yellow Pages?  I know I am walking down memory lane a lot lately, but things are changing so quickly.  I often like to think about life before tech because it has certainly changed the way we do just about everything.  Not that there’s anything wrong with that!  What would we do now without Amazon or Google?  As long as you are near a computer screen in whatever form you prefer, you can probably survive living alone on an island provided there is connectivity and free home delivery.

Here is what one NY Times reporter noted recently: “When the kids were born, it (Amazon) become my household Costco – supplier of diapers and other baby gear.  Then it began a services designed to remove any decision-making from shopping:  My toilet paper, paper towels and other consumables now come to my house on schedule, no thinking required.  Then Amazon moves into media, and I was more hooked:  It had me for packaged goods, so why not movies and TV shows too?”  And now there is even more.  Amazon gave us Echo, the company’s talking computer which speaks through a persona known as Alexa, and which has now infected American families like a happy virus.

But if it’s not Amazon for you, it’ll be one of other tech giants:  Alphabet (Google), Apple, Facebook, or Microsoft.  It’s too late to escape.

Ray Myers


How About a Coffee Break – Skip the Wi-Fi, Skip Trump

Now why would you want to make your coffeee shop wi-fi free?  It may seem a bit nostalgic, but some cafe owners would like to bring back the art of the conversation in their shops.  What a concept!  You can actually sit at a table and converse with friends, colleagues, or perhaps even strangers, as you sip your coffee and discuss all the latest news and/or gossip.  Just think, you can actually create your own Trump-free spaces where you can choose NOT to hear or see all the breaking news about his latest tweets and antics.  I know that keeping up with him can be addictive, and unfortunately, he loves to keep you hooked.

Back to the coffee shop.  Without wi-fi, these shops may soon become our oasis in the desert of social networking and instant communication on any topic at any time.  Some shop owners do not see the wi-fi restriction as revolutionary but as a response to society’s deep immersion into all things digital that leads people to seldom communicate face to face.  To promote conviviality, some shops have adopted a no wi-fi policy and gone a step further: doing away with some comfy furniture and narrowing counters to make them less accommodating for laptops.

So maybe we could all use a little more face time (not FaceTime) to actually talk about what is happening in this age of Trump.  He may be addicted to always being in the news, but we should not be addicted to him.   He is Not Making America Great Again.

Ray Myers

“It Ain’t Over Till It’s Over” – Twitter President Fires FBI Director Comey

Thank you , Yogi Berra.  I find these words very comforting in the age of Trump.  It’s only been a little over a hundred days of his tenure in the White House, but who’s counting (I am!)?  So-called President Trump fired FBI Director James Comey yesterday, based on the recommendations of his so-called Attorney General and Deputy Attorney General.  It seems like he is still fuming about how he actually lost the popular vote in last year’s election, tweeting last week that “FBI Director Comey was the best thing that ever happened to Hillary Clinton in that he gave her a free pass for many bad deeds!”  

Trump sent Comey a very short, self-serving letter which could also be interpreted as a awkward attempt to pardon himself from any transgressions that he may have committed.  Here it is: “While I greatly appreciate you informing me, on three separate occasions, that I am not under investigation, I nevertheless concur with with the judgement of the Department of Justice that you are not able to effectively lead the Bureau.”  Oh yes, Trump did add that he wished him the best in his future endeavors. 

So, what’s next?  Maybe we will have a return to days of Watergate-like scandals and true investigative reporting by “real news” journalists.  

Ray Myers

Microsoft and Google Heighten Competition in the Classroom

Microsoft and Google appear to be preparing to do battle in theeducational marketplace.  I believe Microsoft has  always seen schools and teachers as their primary clientele, and Google has more recently developed more tools that are attracting new users to their services.  Microsoft spent the last year in efforts to refocus and renew their classroom efforts.  Microsoft spent the last year talking to thousands of teachers and designing high-tech experiments that require mostly low-cost parts.  It will give the designs to schools for free so teachers can use them in their lesson plans.

Google has gained ground in public schools by offering a tightly connected system of free classroom apps, lower cost laptops called Chromebooks and a web-based console that allows schools to remotely manage thousands of student devices.  Industry analysts said Microsoft’s initiative was the company’s first credible response to Google’s recent encroachment into education.  Microsoft executives are looking forward to seizing  the chance to make an updated impression on future consumers.

So the classroom has become a new battleground for these giant tech companies to clash for future customers.  Let’s just hope that America’s students and teachers come out the winners.

Ray Myers

P.S.  I will not be posting a blog on Monday, May 8, but will return on Wednesday, May 10.  Enjoy your weekend.


Tech Tackles Fake News

What’s all this about fake news? (remember Rosenne Rosanadana, TV’s Saturday Night Live).  I just read the other day that computer experts are using sophisticated algorithms and online data to spot misinformation.  So now it seems that we have “machine learning” tools that use artificial intelligence to combat fake news.  A growing number of technology experts worldwide are now harnessing their skills to tackle misinformation online.  Calls for combating fake news have focused on some of the biggest online players, including American giants like Facebook and Google.  Why did we have to wait for this call until after a U.S. Presidential election?  Does fake news really have more readers than real news?

I am not really a conspiracy theorist, and maybe the technology and needed algorithms were not fully developed in time for last year’s election, but perhaps it’s just another example of “timing being everything.”  Technology still seems to hold a revered place as our best hope for discerning fact from fiction.  But many Europeans are not so optimistic.  With fake news already swirling around their forthcoming elections, analysts also worry that technology on its on may not be enough to combat the threat.  

Remember the old adage, “All I know is what I read in the newspapers.”  I guess it’s time to rethink that old saw, or maybe we should literally start reading (and listening) again with a more critical perspective.  We must never think that technology can do all this for us.

Ray Myers

I Tweet, Therefore I Am

With acknowledgement to Rene Descartes, a seventeenth century French philosopher, I am borrowing this title phrasing from one of his original works entitled The Principles of Philosophy.  In Latin you may say, “cogito ergo sum,” but not many people speak Latin any more.  In English, it means “I think, therefore I am.”  But strangely enough, we now have a “so-called President” in the United States who likes to “Tweet” (not “think”) both day and night, sharing his pithy thoughts with anyone whom may be interested, or just plain curious?  So it appears that he is not really thinking too much about how accurate his tweets may be, but more about how frequently, and most recently, how angry they can be.  

“It must be partly a matter of bad timing.  Mr. Trump came along just as the mainstream media, especially newspapers, were trying to come to terms with the Internet.  Hoary concepts like “objectivity” and “balance” were giving way.  This was a good thing, believe it or not.  Reporters no longer had to pretend that after spending weeks or months on a story, they had emerged with no opinion about it.   The word ‘I’ could now be used to refer to oneself, rather than ‘a reporter.’   Mr. Trump, already dislikable, became the first test case of the new mindset (Kingsley, NY Times, 4/30).”

“With his use of Twitter as a sort of brain dump, exposing his thinking to the world at all hours of the day and night, he has made social media almost a part of our constitutional system (Kingsley).”

Ray Myers

P.S.  Thanks for all the birthday wishes over the weekend.