No more tiresome packing chores. All you need is a friendly app on your favorite device, and off you go. Let’s just call it an online concierge service and, oh yes, you will need to pay. This payment will cover the costs of having your traveling wardrobe stored somewhere where you can just send a short text to let your packers know that you are ready to travel. Costs will vary across different service providers, but one example are the rates charged by one company, DUFL. It costs $99 per round trip, plus $9.95 a month for storage.
Instead of packing your own suitcase, travelers can rely on companies such as DUFL which started in 2015 and now has warehouses in three cities and 30 employees who clean, press and pack their customers’ clothes and toiletries for them. When a trip is approaching, customers use DUFL’s website or app to select items from their personal closet in DUFL’s cavernous warehouse. (Photographs of every piece of clothing are uploaded.). DUFL then launders or dry cleans the clothes and packs them in a way that reminds customers of a shopping spree. And not to worry, FedEx will deliver the bags to your home.
What a convenience and time saver for the busy business traveler! All it takes is the right wardrobe and a little expendable income.
Okay men, maybe it’s time to break some of those old male stereotypes in the digital age of the twenty first century. Some women, you know who you are, may say it is a hopeless cause. All men really want is someone to listen to them and go easy on the advice. It seems like the most preferred female response is a simple, “Mm hmmm.” But now that we are in the digital age, men may finally find that they can open up more freely through texting and other social media, expressing their most innermost thoughts. Well, as they say, “good luck with that.” Even in the case of the youngest social media users, sex may be be the key determinant in how they choose to express themselves (or not) online.
I am not sure that this online behavior has been scientifically documented, but there seems to be plenty of anecdotal data to suggest some behavioral differences in this regard. Here is one writer’s experience: “A few months ago . . . my nephew, now seven years old, got his first cellphone. There was his number on our family group text, a long message chain that my sisters and I use as a place to deposit our complaints about the day and his puns. So far, his contributions have been a string of plane and car emojis. Excited though, to have this new way to talk to him, I sent him a message. I saw the flickering bubbles that showed he was typing back. Then nothing. For the next twelve hours, his side of the conversation was blank. Finally, a day later, a single response: ‘Hey.'”
In defense of our seven year old “brother,” it may just be overwhelming to keep up with older aunts whether they are conversing online or in person. Be strong, young man! Maybe not so silent.
Do you ever think of social media as a business that has to be regulated in order to ensure fair competition in this marketing space. In the period of ten years we have gone from a time when the American marketplace was dominated by companies such as Exxon Mobil, General Electric, Microsoft, Citigroup and Bank of America to a new era of technology companies replacing them in the size of their market caps. Microsoft remains in the middle of this group at #3, but is now joined by its largest tech competitors: Apple (1), Alphabet (2, Google parent company), Amazon (4), and Facebook (5). We may eventually have to regulate these tech giants if they are determined to truly be monopolies that limit competition by smaller tech businesses in this space.
“We are going to have to decide fairly soon whether Google, Facebook and Amazon are the kinds of natural monopolies that need to be regulated, or whether we allow the status quo to continue, pretending that unfettered monoliths don’t inflict damage on our privacy and democracy. It is impossible to deny that Facebook, Google and Amazon have stymied innovation on a broad scale. To begin with, the platforms of Google and Facebook are the point of access to all media for the majority of Americans. While profits at Google, Facebook and Amazon have soared, revenues in media businesses like newspaper publishing or the music business have, since 2001, fallen by 70 percent.” So most Americans can now “proudly” say that they only know what they see on their computer screens (of varying sizes). Maybe this is really how all those fake news stories began?
Fewer newspaper readers, but more “screen” readers. Let’s face it, our social media markets are like the Wild West of the Digital Age. Maybe we do need a few Marshall Dillons to protect all of us law-abiding citizens (anyone remember Gunsmoke?).
Tell me about it! Unfortunately, my wife is a small business owner who has suffered through this business reality. Consumers now have the edge in dominating the traditional retail market in their ability to make the best purchasing decisions. They easily can compare product quality and prices with the devices they hold in the palms of their hands. Technology has made it so. At the same time, general merchandise stores are “shedding” retail jobs since today’s consumers obviously need less customer service in making their purchasing decisions. You can find all of the needed information online. Just consider that general merchandise stores shed 34,700 jobs in March alone.
“E-commerce and technology have absolutely changed the rules of the game and given massive amounts of power to the consumer. There is a self-help mentality now. People walk around with their phones in their hand to tell them the best model and the best price. You don’t need as many people walking around trying to convince you to by a sweater.” Or almost anything else you might need.” So in a sense, consumers are now skipping the “middle man or woman.” It’s just you and your technology that can help in making your purchasing decisions. Something’s lost, but something’s gained? You have become your own best “personal shopper,” with a little help from your own technological devices and prowess.
Or maybe it’s all about consuming different things differently. One E-commerce expert recently noted that “there has been a shift in consumer spending from things to experiences, that’s why restaurants are doing so well.”
Maybe mobile phones will finally bring the dawning on the new Age of Aquarius. We used to think that transcendental meditation would do that for all of us, but the answer may be literally in the palm of our hands. Who would have ever thought that Communist China would now be opening its economic doors and welcoming America’s iPhones to compete in their domestic marketplace. I guess we can all thank the Beijing Intellectual Property Court for revoking a ban that prohibited such sales. LET THE SUNSHINE IN!
The Beijing Intellectual Property Court ruled that the regulator, the Beijing Intellectual Property Office, had not properly followed procedures in ordering the ban while there was no sufficient proof to claim that the designs constituted a violation of intellectual property rights. Those required procedures will get you every time. I guess we all have to wait until a legal battle between some high-powered attorneys from both sides settles this issue in court. But I am not sure how this all happens in China when, in this case, the government’ s Intellectual Property Court has ruled that its own government’s Intellectual Property Office had “not properly followed procedures”?
Soon there will be Apple Stores all over China, and there may even be some stores selling iPhone copies. Just a guess on my part. )
I guess job interviews are not what they used to be. In the age of Trump, it seems that potential employers are more preoccupied with checking news, “important messages,” tweeting, etc., than really focusing on job candidates who are interested in making a favorable impression. Or maybe it really works both ways? Do you really want to work for someone who is too preoccupied with their own online messaging than finding out more about candidates who might be selected as Cabinet appointees in his administration. Let’s just say I think that we now have a “so-called President” who is more interested in letting us know all about his opinions on everything than really focusing on the politics of governing.
My humble political advice is that not everyone really cares what “Trump thinks” about everything. Welcome to Washington! Everyone wants to make a name for themselves, or even a bigger name of they are a President. But our current White House occupant obviously feels that what he has to say (or tweet) is the most important of all. And he feels it can all be said in 140 characters or less. What an absurd and simplistic notion – “I tweet, therefore I am.” Can someone please call a halt to this obsessive behavior before we fall into some catastrophic conflict with another world “tweeter.”
Please don’t get me wrong. I am really a fan of social media, but it must be used responsibly, as we all have probably been told many times over our lifetimes about many things. Even if you live in the White House (when you are not in Mar-a-Lago)
It has now been reported that American teenagers are growing less likely to try or regularly use drugs, including alcohol. So what is the cause of this dramatic change in teenagers’ behavioral (experimental) habits? Are teenagers replacing drugs with smartphones? Experts see an interesting correlation. Researchers are starting to ponder an intriguing question: Are teenagers using drugs less in part because they are constantly stimulated and entertained by their computers and phones?
Researchers are saying that “With minor fits and starts, the trend has been building for a decade, with no clear understanding as to why. Some experts theorize that cigarette-smoking rates are cutting into a key gateway to drugs, or that anti drug education campaigns, long a largely failed enterprise, have finally taken hold.” Scientists also say that interactive media appears to play to similar impulses as drug experimentation, including sensation-seeking and the desire for independence. Or it might be that gadgets simply absorb a lot of time that could be used for other pursuits, including partying?
So many gadgets, so little time to do everything else, whatever that might be? Perhaps the most intriguing phenomenon is that we have so many addictions to choose from, if we really have nothing else we want or need to do?
I will not be posting a blog on Friday, Saint Patrick’s Day. I know you will all be too busy commemorating this “holy day.” Thanks for following TechtoExpress. Back on Monday, March 20.
I am not really talking about “so-called” President Trump here, but his use of Twitter seems to come close to this type of diagnosis. Many prominent social psychologists are studying this digital phenomenon. I’ll let them decide what advice is best for the current resident of the White House. Adam Alter, author of “The Rise of Addictive Technology and the Business of Keeping Us Hooked” warns that many of us – youngsters, teenagers, adults – are addicted to modern digital products.
“The technology is designed to hook us that way. Email is bottomless. Social media platforms are endless. Twitter? The feed never really ends. You could sit there 24 hours a day and you’ll never get to the end. And so you come back for more and more . . . There should be times of the day where it looks like the 1950s or where you are sitting in a room and you can’t tell what era you are in. You shouldn’t always be looking at screens.” And now so many devices are portable that you literally have to put them out of reach if you want some “down time.”
It’s even getting harder now to walk down the street without having to avoid someone with a digital device in hand. It’s even more dangerous on the highways where your fellow drivers’ eyes are focused on their digital screens and not the road!
I used to like going to meetings in our government office (well, most of the time), but I am not sure I would feel the same way today. To be honest, the best part may have been the donuts and/or other pastries that would appear in the center of the table. I also gained a few pounds over those years, but those culinary incentives usually assured that most staff would attend, usually with a freshly brewed cup of coffee in hand (those were also the pre-Starbucks days). They really were old-fashioned meetings with all their open and hidden agendas on display. You really got to know and/or distrust certain colleagues pretty quickly.
The abundance of all our technological tools has changed all that. “Meetings? Ha! Who has the time? An article in the British Psychology Society’s Research Digest said a third of all meetings are unproductive, costing companies $37 billion a year (Washington Post, 2/13/17).” And even when you go to these meetings most attendees are usually distracted with their heads down, looking at their smartphones. That’s if you even bother to attend. If you are not at the meeting’s location, just “dial in” from wherever you are: watch on your computer or just listen on your phone. There seem to an increasing number of partially occupied conference rooms in government buildings where scheduled meetings are held. I think coffee may still be a mainstay at these meetings, but I am not sure if you can multitask while eating a donut, and keep up with all that’s going on.
John Kelly, who authored the article in the Washington Post quoted above, wonders if our ability to multitask during meetings has just spawned more meetings. “Someone should probably schedule a meeting to discuss that.”
Remember the old “Yellow Pages” ad when you were encouraged to let your fingers do the walking. Now it seems that you may be letting your fingers do the driving. Autonomous driving, electric cars and ride-hailing apps from Silicon Valley, like Uber, are reshaping transportation. Young people no longer feel as compelled as previous generations to own cars. Experts in the transportation sector are changing rapidly. The whole “mobility market” – transportation as a service – is just at the beginning.
In Germany, under an initiative called Industry 4.0, they are striving to help the country thrive in a smartphone world. The future of Germany as an industrial nation depends on how companies succeed in bringing the manufacturing and digital worlds together. Industry executives there often cite how Apple’s iPhone quickly erased Nokia’s once-dominant position in the mobile handset market, and they are determined not to let something similar to happen to them. Google is also entering the driverless car market. Their market value is more than double that of BMW, Daimler and Volkswagen combined. So instead of owning and driving your own car, you may soon find that your smartphone could be the best means of “ride-hailing” you have. It will enable you to chose the most convenient means of vehicular travel available to you at any given place and time.
But I wouldn’t get rid of your new BMW, Mercedes, or Volkswagen quite yet. Maybe you can become a ride service provider yourself. You can let your passengers work/play on their iPhones while you enjoy the ride. That may even be more fun.
So you thought that social media was strictly for the young. According to a recent Nielson report that’s not the case. Americans from 18 to 34 are less obsessed with social media than some of their older peers are. The finding underscores how ubiquitous the smartphone has become. In the United States, 97 percent of people 18 to 34, and 94 percent of people 35 to 49, had access to smartphones. Seventy-seven percent of those 50 and older used smartphones, the report found. I will let you decide which group you are in, and if having one has really made you any smarter?
Some more data from Nielson that might help you compare your use of social media across different age groups. Adults 35 to 41 were found to spend an average of 6 hours 58 minutes a week on social media networks, compared with 6 hours 19 minutes for the younger group, 18 to 34. More predictably, adults 50 and over spent significantly less time on the networks: an average of 4 hours 9 minutes a week. I guess some of the older folks (you know who you are) still like to learn new tricks, and perhaps some of the others simply prefer their old social networks that are not technology-dependent.
One conclusion offered by Nielson is that social media is not exclusively “owned by the younger generation.” It is being accessed by a wide variety of Americans, but is this truly making us all more social?
My last post before the holidays in December talked about breaking the “glass ceiling” at the Vatican. One very talented woman, Barbara Jatta, was able to do that as the first woman to lead the Office of Vatican Museums in Rome. So even as male dominance gives way to gender equality in the administration of the Roman Catholic Church’s activities, California’s Silicon Valley is now recognizing that they also have to close the diversity gap in their governing Boards. Let’s face it, women, at least in the U.S., are probably the most active users of technology in their daily lives (may not be scientifically proven, but try to take away the digital tools that women use everyday). Just think of the effects of online shopping that have made many shopping malls “ghost towns” since the arrival of anytime, anywhere shopping on your computer or in the palm of you hand.
Why not invite more women into these tech company boardrooms? While Twitter and other tech companies have taken steps to add more women to their boards, the tech industry still lacks others in gender diversity. Among Silicon Valley’s 150 largest companies, only 15 percent of board seats were filled by women in 2016, compared with 21 percent for the companies in the Standard and Poor’s 500 Index, according to the research firm Equilat. Boardrooms are a particular focus because they are power centers that can help spur broader changes. And more positive change, I believe, can probably be more enhanced with more women having a seats at the tech board room tables.
Likewise, more women on the governing bodies of the Roman Catholic Church will more likely bring more positive changes in the Church’s policies around the world. I guess you can also pray that progress will continue in these tech boardroom practices, but putting talented women in more powerful tech company positions sounds like a good business practice to me. I think they are ready!
“I cannot give you any idea of what these Talking Books mean to those of us who cannot read ordinary print.” This unsolicited testimonial was sent to the American Federation for the Blind after one of its members began to first listen to recordings of printed book editions. It was then a new technologocal innovation in the 1930s, but technological advances over the last century, and into the twenty-first, have now made almost any printed document accessible to individuals with print disabilities. These technological advances have also made these printed materials available in a multitude of languages that give it a global outreach.
The United States Department of Education (ED) and the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) have been in the forefront of these efforts. Bookshare.org is funded by the Office of Special Education in ED, and has been a leader in this area for many years, and is now increasing its outreach around the world. AllChildrenReading.org is funded by USAID and is now supporting projects that include enhanced programs for children with print disabilities. Both of these programs utilize technologies that are most readily available in the areas where the children live. Mobile technologies play an increasingly important part in these efforts, particularly in the more remote corners of the globe.
Please visit the websites for these programs identified above. I had the opportunity to be involved in a small way in the development and growth of these projects during my years of federal service.
Maybe I just didn’t try hard enough, but when I did try to meditate during my Peace Corps training days (headed to India, of course) I feel asleep. Is that a form of meditation? It was near dawn, lying in an open field in the hills of Vermont, when I began to relax (meditate?) so much that my body succumbed to a deep inner peace of sleep. But now I know that you really don’t need those bucolic surroundings when all you need is the ability to download one of those handy apps on your mobile phone. No more need to sync with the workings of the universe as the sun rises and sets around the world.
You can find inner peace in the palm of your hand. Okay, if you are really interested, here is one company’s (Headspace) sales pitch: “By instructing people to focus their breathing and letting go of thoughts and emotions, users will be coaxed back to fuller engagement with the present moment. In modern parlance, it is mindfulness – a quick, seculuarized adaptation of Buddhist teachings that have been distilled for a modern, Western audience. A 10-day course on the app is free. Annual subscriptions cost about $100.”
Please know that I am not promoting or advertising this app for “mindfulness.” But let’s be honest. You can find most almost anything you want on the web today. Even inner peace?
Sometimes our desire to find the technological solution(s) to our problems exceeds the reality of what technology really can do. Let’s go back to Africa where I spent some time earlier this month. Park rangers in Kenya, as well as other African countries, play a critical role in preventing poaching (killing for sport or profit) of endangered species living on these governmental preserves. Sometimes, however, investments in high-tech solutions get in the way of needed financial support for the manpower needed to patrol and protect the endangered animals living on these lands.
Despite the critical role that rangers play in the poaching crisis, conservation organizations tend to overlook the need for everyday resources. Donors outside of Africa want to see sexy, high-tech solutions like drones and ground sensors and not hear about the need for warm clothing, boots and better food for rangers. Large nongovernmental groups spend huge amounts, yet there are rangers needing socks. “Our rangers were herders, but now they’re effectively soldiers,” said David Powrie, a preserve game warden. And the enemy are the poachers who have been known to attack and kill the rangers.
When rangers are well taken care of and receive appropriate training, poaching rates tend to drop. Technology can certainly help, but it is still only a tool that has to be used wisely in the hands of well-trained and financially supported rangers.
Or as Deborah Hersman put it: “It’s the cognitive workload on your brain that’s the problem.” Hersman, president of the nonprofit National Safety Council and a former chairwoman of the federal National Transportation Safety Board, said it was not clear how much those various technologies (hands-free) reduced distraction — or, instead, encouraged people to use even more functions on their phones while driving. And freeing the drivers’ hands does not necessarily clear their heads.”
After steady declines over the last four decades, highway fatalities last year recorded the largest annual percentage increase in 50 years. And the numbers so far this year are even worse. In the first six months of 2016, highway deaths jumped 10.4 percent, to 17,775, from the comparable period of 2015, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. This cognitive workload “overload” is not a safe way to drive. I have trouble listening to the radio and not being distracted when I’m behind the wheel. And, of course, with my wife in the car, I also have a reliable “co-pilot.”
Please drive safely over this holiday weekend. It may even be a good time to turn off your “cruise-control?”
Ain’t democracy great? You too can become President of the United States. Just get yourself a Twitter account and start hurling insults at whomever you like, and if you are running for President, just direct most of them at your opponents and see what happens. If you saw my Twitter/blog post of October 26th, you may remember my commentary on the two pages of the “A” section of The NY Times that was devoted to cataloging some of Mr. Trump’s insults/lies directed at political opponents. Of course, Hillary was his primary target, almost exclusively during the last two months of the campaign. Why spend all that money on political campaigning? Twitter can help you “reach out” to all of your eager followers. Tech has made it so.
Is this what technology is all about? The ability to say anything you want in 140 characters, and not worry about the accuracy or veracity of what you say. Someone else can do that if they want, but maybe that is the most dangerous part of all. Why take the time? Tell your followers what they want to hear, and make it quick. And the more you tweet, the more I want to hear. I also think it has a very addictive appeal. They can take a glance at their mobile devices, and get a quick fix of pithy put-downs of any opposing view or person. In this case, go on the attack against your political rival who is trying to explain her future plans and priorities as President of the United States in a more comprehensive (traditional) way.
May we never see a campaign like this again. But maybe it’s all about free speech, but I don’t think so. We all have a reponsibilty to be truthful in whatever communication mode we choose. And that includes messages of 140 characters on you Twitters account.
Maybe it was just a matter of time, but it looks like email may be falling under its own weight. Take a look at your inbox. Do you pride yourself in having all those important messages just waiting for your witty and pithy responses, or are you just impressed with the scope and depth of your importance in the age of the Internet? Or maybe you are just fooling yourself and others? Something will be getting done in the long run, but I think you may be losing something else in the process. You may actually be able to get more done, more efficiently by returning to the days of meeting face-to-face, or talking on a phone of any kind. Not to mention honing your interpersonal skills in the process, if that is important to you?
“Email sometimes tricks us into feeling efficient, but it rarely is. Because it’s asynchronous, and because there are no limits to space and time, it often leads to endless, pointless ruminations.” If decision-makers had ditched email and just held a 15 minute meeting, members of the campaign (presidential) could have hashed out some decisions more quickly in private. “In other words, limits often help. Get on the phone, make a decision, ditch your inbox. The world will be better off for it.”
In the words of one security expert, in light of the hacked world we live in: “If you have something sensitive to say, you’re going to use the phone or walk down the hallway.”
USAID created the mEducation Alliance over six years ago in order to capitalize on the increased availability of mobile devices in the developing world. The use of these new portable communication tools can become powerful forces in establishing twenty-first century educational systems no longer bound to legacy systems from the past. The mEducation Alliance is committed to reducing barriers to access appropriate, scalable, and low-cost mobile technologies to help improve learning outcomes in formal and non-formal education across all levels, especially in low-resource and developing country contexts.
The Alliance is working to empower evidence-based decision making through an explicit focus on the evaluation of education technology interventions. Our community is full of enthusiasm and innovative ideas, the Alliance serves to refocus our collective efforts towards impact.
Representatives from around the developing world (Asia, Africa, Central and South America) will be gathering in Washington, D.C. next week, October 18th-20th. To find out more about the full agenda for the week, please visit http://www.meducationalliance.org/
“All the News That’s Fit to Print.” Well, not exactly anymore, at least in its News App NYT Now. As you may already know, the motto of the New York Times has run into some roadblocks in the digital age. It’s all about the decline in the number of subscribers over the past year. In May 2015, NYT Now had 334,000 total unique subscribers? Over the last three months, the app averaged only 257,000 unique users.
So what is the Times to do? Facebook and Twitter, baby! No “Old Gray Lady” anymore. The Times now has an audience development team that will be looking to third party platforms. I guess it was just a matter of times(s?). NYT Now is not the first app that the Times has retired. In 2014, it shut down NYT Opinion because it failed to gain much traction.
Maybe some people still just like to read the printed newspaper? In this case, it seems that the Times is chasing the digital audience, and there is nothing wrong with that. But instead of printing all the news that’s fit to print, they may be only reporting the news that the digital reader wants to “fit?”
Two weeks ago a new book was published on Amazon as well as other online book publishing formats. I authored one of the essays in this book: “Changed During the Sixties.” The book’s title is “Turning Points: Discovering Meaning and Passion in Turbulent Times.” I hope you will enjoy reading these essays about personal and professional transitions made during this time.
During the remainder of August, I will only be posting commentary on Mondays. I will be “resting” on Labor Day, but will resume my posts on a regular M-W-F basis on September 12.