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.


Climate Change – What? Me Worry?

So-called President Trump’s most recent budget proposal for NASA climate science missions would eliminate four climate science missions.  In one paragraph in their 53-page budget blueprint, the Trump administration proposed the elimination of instrumentation to study clouds, small airborne particles, the flow of carbon dioxide and other elements of the atmosphere and ocean.  I guess if we successfully fail to find these programs, we will never really know if our climate is really changing.  But maybe that’s really the point of not collecting this information?  “What you don’t know can’t hurt you.”

Unfortunately in this case, it really can hurt you.  We are talking about the quality of the air we breathe and the water we drink, as just two examples of our natural environment that help sustain all life on this earth.  “Climate change deniers” now have a friend in the White House.  Long before Trump was elected, climate researchers have warned that the nation’s climate monitoring capabilities – which include satellite as well as air and surface-based instruments- were less than adequate and faced data collection gaps and other uncertainties.  Elimination of any of these missions would severely limit our ability to monitor the effects on our fragile ecosystems.   Without such critical information, we are truly endangering the quality of life for all living organisms on this earth.  Al Gore was right.  This is an inconvenient truth, and one that current political leadership simply wants to deny.

We must see the world, our future and that of our children’s from a broader view.  We owe it to ourselves and to the generations that follow.  We do have to worry, as inconvenient as that may be.

Ray Myers

P.S.  I will be back next Wednesday after a short Easter break.  Thank you for following TechtoExpress.

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


Looking for a New House – Don’t Build It, Print It

The title of this post may be a bit of an exaggeration, but technological advances now make it possible to build your own house if you have a mobile construction 3D printer that is capable of printing whole buildings completely on-site.  Based on recent experiences in the actually construction of such homes, the estimated total cost could be $10,134, or $25 per square foot, when using the highest quality materials.  The cost includes the foundation, roof, interior and exterior walls, wall insulation, windows, floors and suspended ceiling.   The company Apis Cor continues to develop the techniques and improve upon the cost per square foot; its product could have enormous benefits for providing affordable housing and allowing for faster recovery after natural disasters.

The term “3D printing” gives way to “additive manufacturing” for industrial use.  It differs from standard manufacturing processes of starting with your raw materials and then removing from them in the form of cutting, drilling, machining, and so on – all of which leave you with material waste.  Additive manufacturing means that you start with nothing and  only add what you need.  This is true in the construction industry as well.  It seems like both a financially responsible and environmentally friendly goal to have a process that would help to eliminate additional resources and the potential for a pile of construction waste at the end of the project.  The technology also allows for different methods of printing walls to achieve the desired thermal insulation.

These hi-tech homes could be very convenient “spaces” to house unexpected overnight guests and relatives.  I would not recommend, however, that in-laws be included in this category.)

Ray Myers



Can Robots Really Help to Make America Great Again?

I am dedicating this blog to Donald J. Trump (so-called President) in the remote hope they he might take a passing glance at what some experts say is actually happening with the automobile industry in this country.  Let’s first take a look at Trump’s version of how he will help the automobile industry and its workers (his alternative reality?).  He would like to reduce the miles per gallon requirements of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) for American-made cars/trucks. Consequently, we will then burn more gas, and simultaneously increase toxic car emissions into our already polluted atmosphere.  Detroit can then build more cars/trucks that will be less expensive than those saddled with all those environmental protection safeguards.  Not to mention that automobile makers will be hiring more American workers and bring economic relief to depressed parts of the country.  NOT SO FAST!

Thought for today: Automakers are the biggest users of industrial robots, which have hurt jobs and wages in local economies.  Real-world data supports this more pessimistic future.  Researchers were surprised to see very little employment increases in other occupations to offset the job losses in manufacturing.  A recent study analyzed the effect of industrial robots in local labor markets in the United States.  Robots are to blame for up to 670,000 lost manufacturing jobs between 1990 and 2007, it concluded, and that number will rise because industrial robots are expected to quadruple. And it obviously appears that these hi-tech robots and their “offspring” will be keeping their jobs longer than their human counterparts.

So the challenges just seem to be piling up for the Donald.  I would suggest that he READ some fact-based reporting in a real newspaper (NY Times?).  And stop believing “fake news” and watching FOX TV.

Ray Myers

iPhones in China – Oh My!

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. )

Ray Myers

Better Gas Efficiency, Better Climate

There are a lot of things Americans can do to improve the earth’s climate.  I know that former Vice President Al Gore is a champion in this effort to reduce global green house gas emissions, but the current resident of 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue is obviously not.  Advances in increasing fuel-economy standards for all vehicles is made possible by improved automotive technologies.  A car that gets better gas mileage cuts greenhouse gas emissions.  This is not an “inconvenient truth.”  It is a matter of preserving the planet, and improving the lives of those who live here.  

“If every American household drove a vehicle getting 56 miles per gallon, it would reduce U.S. emissions by 10 percent.  The American new-vehicle fleet now averages less than half that.  It is expected to average 36 m.p.g. in 2025 if Obama administration standards remain in place, according to the Environmental Protection Agency.”  As you may already know, “so-called” President Trump is proposing to abandon these goals in the name of helping the American automobile imdustry build bigger gas-guzzlers that his constituency loves to drive.  And he also wants to improve their health care plans so that no matter how unhealthy the environment becomes, they will have health coverage that is “bigger and better” than Obamacare.   Fortunately, Obamacare is still here, and I only hope that Trump will not succeed in decreasing    the fuell economy standards set by his predecessor.

But I guess that when your hero is Vladimir Putin, you begin to think that you can be just like him.  Oh, they also have lots of gas in Russia, and I am sure we can have as much as we want if we ever run low.

Ray Myers

Make America Great Again – Get Chinese Investors!

Sad, but true.  Now I don’t know if Confucius ever said that, but it seems that many American inventors and entrepreneurs developing innovative technologies for the U.S. military are finding more support from Chinese investors than from the Pentagon.  For example, Neurala, a Boston start-up that makes robots and drones got little response from the American military when it needed money.  But it landed an investment from a state-run Chinese company.  

Beijing is encouraging Chinese companies with close government ties to invest in American start-ups specializing in critical technologies like artificial intelligence and robots to advance China’s military capacity as well as its economy.  The size and breadth of these Chinese-U.S. deals are not clear because start-ups and their backers are not obligated to disclose them.  Over all, China has been increasingly active in the American start-up world, investing $9.9 billion in 2015.  Chinese investors have money and are looking for returns, while the Chinese government has pushed investment in ways to clean up China’s skies, upgrade its industrial capacity and unclog its snarled highways.

I bet that Donald Trump could personally help Neurala and other American technology start-ups, and make America Great Again.   Save U.S. budget dollars by NOT flying his whole family around the world and NOT going to Mar-a-Lago every weekend.  Maybe he too could begin investing in America’s future, just like the Chinese!

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


Presidential Multi-tasking and Making Choices

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) 

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


Face Time, Refugees and Trump Travel Ban

Maybe technology can really help us all stay connected in the “time of Trump” wherever we are.  I guess we are all stil free to travel whenever and wherever we want, but I am not really that sure anymore?  Luckily we now have video “portals” that allow us to keep in touch with relatives, possibly refugees, who may be stranded in some country that our “so-called” president has now decided is inhabited by terrorists who are intent on infiltrating the heartland of America.  Can someone really give this current White House occupant a more reasoned and experienced view of who are real foreign enemies might be.  Russia somehow comes to mind.

Thanks to these video portals, American immigrants from majority Muslim countries (not sure of the exact number now since it seems to vary on Trump’s whims on a given day) now have an opportunity to share their thoughts and stories about their lives in these times.  If they don’t, that’s okay too.  I can remember a time when a newly-formed NGO, Global Nomads, just before the Iraqi War, conducted a similar type of video exchange between American and Iraqi teenagers.  It all seemed so hopeful at that time, and then the bombs fell.  Global Nomads is still pursuing such video portal exchanges around the world, http://www.gng.org

But even the mundane commonalities and awkward exchanges resonate: there is the sudden proximity to a person who might share your favorite soccer team, who likes to hang out at coffee shops and scroll through Facebook – even if they happen to live in a sprawling, dust-covered refugee camp where they share a single tent with several family members.

Ray Myers




Social Media as an Addiction

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!

Ray Myers

GPS on My Mind and in Your Car

Ever have the feeling that you were being followed?  That feeling may prove to be a reality if you purchased your car with an auto loan as someone with a poor credit rating.  This type of auto loaning has been booming lately, and many finance companies, credit unions, and auto dealers are using technologies to track the location of borrowers’ vehicles in case they need to repossess them.  Lenders are also installing devices that enable them to remotely disable a car’s ignition after a borrower misses a payment.  

The closer monitoring of these devices in cars purchased by low-income Americans comes as cracks are starting to appear in the red-hot auto loan market.  The percentage of auto loans that were at least 90 days delinquent increased to 3.8 percent in the fourth quarter from 3.6 percent in the third quarter, according to the Federal Reserve Bank of New York.  The auto finance industry says the benefits of the devices are clear.  Without them, many low-income Americans would not be able to buy cars they need to get to work.  So far, there is no widespread evidence that lenders are misusing information they track from a vehicle’s whereabouts.

I still think this sounds like a case of “borrower beware.”  You may get the loan but your lender will be able to “find” you or even disable your car if you fall behind on your payments.  Some say this is all part of living in the age of the “internet of things.”

Ray Myers

P.S.  I will be away for the next few days.  Back on Wednesday, March 8.  Thanks for following TechtoExpress.



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