Forgettaboutit!  No Rules for For-Profit Colleges

I am really wondering when we will begin to see so-called Presidential rule-making that will truly Make America Great Again?  I thought maybe it will be in the ways we can make college more affordable for eager young Americans and their families.  What was I thinking?  Instead, we seem to be back to the old “buyer beware” mentality.  What a concept!  If you want a higher education degree, just go online and send in your money and you too can join the ranks of those diploma-holders from America’s higher education institutions.  But what if you really get nothing in return except a diploma that does not actually mean much in our competitive economic environment.  

The Trump administration is delaying rules developed during the Obama years that would put an end to predatory lending practices at the higher education level that were identified and outlawed prior to the change in administrations. Some states have challenged this action by the Education Department to halt this regulatory process.  Maura Healey, the Massachusetts attorney general, called the delay a violation of federal law and a “betrayal of students and families across the country who are drowning in unaffordable debt.”  She said she would challenge it in court.  She’s right!

So what will actually happen?  Maybe nothing, and that would let predatory lending go scot-free.  That would truly be a tragedy for the American educational system.

Ray Myers

P.S.  I will be back online next Friday, 6/23.  A little late spring break!


Please Pack Me, I’m Busy

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.

Ray Myers


The Strong Silent Type – Even When Texting or Not?

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.

Ray Myers

Trump’s Twitter Shutdown

Sometimes it’s just good to say (or tweet) nothing, and I think yesterday was a good time for the so-called President to do just that.  But I have a feeling he will be back.  How can he not?  Let’s just call it an “obsession” to be polite.  Don’t we all want to know what he thinks about everything?  Or whom he wants to attack or harangue at any given time?  Oh, for those of you who may have been otherwise preoccupied yesterday, Jim Comey, the former FBI DIrector fired by Trump, testified to the Senate Intelligence Committee about alleged lies (obstruction of justice) that Trump has made publicly and in private.  They cover a wide variety of topics, but the majority seem focused on inquiries over contacts with Russian officials.

All day Thursday, Trump had nothing to say – on his preferred medium of Twitter or anywhere else.  He let others do his talking.  A president who earlier in the week had been spoiling for a fight with Comey – and who sees his Twitter feed as both megaphone and weapon – was convinced by others to lie low according to about a dozen White House officials and other Republicans close to him.  As Representative Peter King advised: ” . . . avoid any temptation to respond to what the Democrats are saying . . . there was no reason to say anything, to get bogged down in the swamp.  Be presidential, go out and do the job, and don’t take the bait.”  Good advice from a seasoned politician wouldn’t you say?

But who knows what Trump will do?  It might sound too much like hard work.  When would he have time to golf, fly down to Mar-a-Lago?

Ray Myers

Messages of Love and Hate – Can Twitter Save Us?

Just two days ago, I wrote about how Twitter was being used as a online messenger of love, particularly when you can Direct Message your beloved.  Unfortunately, it seems that it also can be used as a messenger of hate, as recently witnessed in Europe. Twitter has been cited as failing to meet European standards for removing hate speech online.  The battle betweeen European policy makers and tech companies over what should be permitted online has pitted freedom of speech campaigners against those who say hate speech – in whatever form – has no place on the Internet.

Twitter has said that it had invested in new reporting procedures to allow individuals to flag problems with hate speech, and it was striving to balance people’s right to freedom of expression with the need to police material on its network.  The European Union members are particularly concerned over the increases in terrorist attacks on their soil.  After the recent attacks in Manchester, England, Theresa May, the country’s Prime Minister, called on tech companies to strengthen their monitoring of extremist speech online.  And in Germany, lawmakers are planning new legislation that could lead to fines of up to $50 million of companies do not act quickly in policing harmful material on their digital services.

Maybe we shouldn’t worry so much about Europe anymore.  So-called President Donald Trump certainly doesn’t seem to care, particularly when they talk about climate change and NATO defenses.  We have friends in Russia.

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

Corralling the Social Media Market

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?).

Ray Myers


Make America Great Again – Hire an American?

I am not making this up.  Just ask the so-called President Donald Trump.  It’s all about H-1B visas which I truly know nothing about, but I think the real issue is Trump’s unfortunate tunnel vision abou how he will “make America Great Again.”  Shall we call this xenophobia?  Yes, let’s!  And Trumps’ followers love it.  This is not the American way!

So let’s get to the heart of this issue.  “Some critics of the H-1B visa program say that there are more than enough Americans to fill all the technical jobs in the United States.  But tech executives have long said that there are not enough Americans with th advanced math and science skills necessary to succeed in their companies.”  Unfortunately, some tech industry employees are now living under a worry of being unwelcome in the country where they “hadn’t really felt that way before.”

Are we really making America Great Again?

Ray Myers

P.S.  Sorry about the late posting today.  Back on Monday at earlier time.


Technology Alters Shopping Habits

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.”

Ray Myers


Digital Wanderlust

“Have laptop, will travel,” could be an alternative title for this blog, but I am getting a little tired of all this alternative wordsmithing.  Aren’t you?  What’s in a name after all.  But when you put “digital” with “wanderlust” I do get a little concerned and confused.  Carrying your laptop to a foreign destination does not quite have the same connotation or actual experience of “living” in a foreign land.  These digital nomads typically travel to and work in another culture for a 30-day co-working experience.  So it truly becomes a shared work experience for a small group of  like-minded technological-savy individuals coming from a wide variety of countries, averaging in age from the mid- to late 20s and 30s.  

The two main groups that seem attracted to this cross-cultural experience are millenials interested in taking time off from traditional work and aging baby-boomers who have financial resources and flexibility.  Could be a life-changing experience, but I am not sure that having all the latest technology will make it so.  In fact, it might get in the way.  As one of the past participants noted: “The opportunity to go live in a foreign city for a month and interact with the local people and experience their culture – that’s priceless to me.  But culturally, we need to understand each other for the world to work, and this is a way to achieve that.”

Understanding each others’ cultures may not always be a simple, painless process.  But in the end, I think these digital nomads will easily benefit more in terms of what they learn and experience in these cultures than in what they may have contributed technologically.

Ray Myers

Internet Privacy Rules Repealed – Getting to Know More About You!

So-called President Trump continues to play the role of Big Brother allowing big business interests to have their way in finding out more about the lives of everyday Americans.  As reported in the New York Times (NOT fake news or alternative facts) recent changes in rulings by the Federal Communications Commission (F.C.C.) will now allow broadband internet service providers, such as cable and telecommunications companies, to track and sell a customer’s online information with greater ease.  I think the operative word here is “sell.”  What a deal for our internet service providers.  You pay them for a service and they, in turn, can sell your personal data to whomever they want.  So this is what “Making America Great Again” is all about?  Sounds a little more like how they might do it, say, in Russia!

“Some technology policy experts said that jettisoning the rules would allow broadband providers to collect customers’ internet browsing histories and other personal data and sell them to advertisers with little government oversight or fear of enforcement.  Self-regulation and market competition, they said, may not sufficiently protect consumers.”  So as Joe Biden might say, this is a “big f#*%+^~ deal.”  It’ pretty difficult today to walk away, or live without, Internet service altogether.

But why should I worry? I am really not online that much of the time, but I still have this suspicious feeling that somebody just wants to know more about my online life so they can sell me something?  And I hope that’s all it is.

Ray Myers


Robots as Paralegals

Next time you visit a lawyer’s office you may find fewer staff and more computers in various forms doing research in preparing clients’ legal documents or gathering materials for attorneys’ future courtroom appearances.  One thing you can still be sure of, is that you will still be getting billed by the hour whether it is a machine or a real live paralegal or attorney doing this work.  Recent research also suggests that basic document review has already been outsourced or automated by large law firms, with only 4 percent of lawyers’ time now spent on this task.

“Technology will unbundle aspects of legal work over the next decade or two rather than the next year or two, legal experts say.  Highly paid lawyers will spend their time on work on the upper rungs of the legal task ladder.  Other legal services will be performed by nonlawyers – the legal equivalent of nurse practitioners – or by technology.”  So the law firm partner of the future will be the leader of a team, “and more than one of the players will be a machine.”  Technology has unlocked the routine task of sifting through documents, looking for relevant passages.  So major law firms are undertaking initiatives to understand the emerging technology and adapt and exploit it.

So what would Perry Mason do if he were around today?  Would he keep Della Street as his legal secretary (maybe more important than a paralegal?), or trade her in for a shiny new robot?  You decide?

Ray Myers


War on Drugs – Buy a Smartphone

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?

Ray Myers

P. S.

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.

Choose Your Own News and TV Program Endings

Now it seems that you may never have to live in the “real world.”  Or at least when you are watching TV or searching for the latest news online (some people, I guess, still buy daily newspapers, and end their searching there).  But technology has made it possible for us to go online and search for whatever news we may like.  Sorry, but I am getting very confused here.  Maybe Kellyanne Conway was right: there may truly be “alternative realities” out there, and you can pick whatever one you like.  

Some reporting on the recent South by Southwest Interactive Festival may be helpful in trying to understand it all.  “(Netflix) is developing new interactive technology allowing viewers to direct the plots of certain TV shows, Chose-Your-Own Adventure style.”  They are also focusing on children’s programming, more as a developmental learning tool than as some new twist on the modern media sphere’s rush to give you exactly what you want when you want it.   Well, as the old expression goes: “Good luck with that!”  It just might turn out that it will be more profitable for Netflix  and others to give their audiences what they want, and then what?  They are already giving viewers the opportunity to choose their own endings!

So much news, so little time.  Who do you trust?  Dan Rather?  Kellyanne Conway?

Ray Myers


Shared Science Goes Social!

I never thought science as something that would become part of the twenty-first century phenomenon of social networking.  But this has apparently become a new form of academic “outreach” in our connected world.  So long Ivory Tower!  This new scientific social network is called ResearchGate and was started in Berlin with three partners in 2008.  Now they have signed up 12 million scientists, or about 60 percent of all such potential users worldwide.

Researchers upload roughly 2.5 million papers to ResearchGate every month.  In comparison, scientists added the same amount of research over the first four years of the network’s operation.  ResearchGate has also taken advantage of the growing trend across the scientific world to open up to the wider public and take advantage of technology like machine learning to conduct projects across borders and faster.  The network is not alone in making science more transparent and open.  Cancer researchers, for instance, recently created a video game that allows people to participate in the crunching of complex data on their smartphones by guiding a “spacecraft” along paths based on genetic sequencing from breast cancer patients.

I can remember going to science labs in high school and working in assigned teams (hopefully with people you liked who were also smarter and shared their expertise).  At that time, sharing was not always seen as a way of learning how science works.  

Ray Myers