The Passion of St. Dilblert

I stopped keeping up with Scott Adams when he went wall-to-wall Trump stuff, but Google still slips me a link to his blog from time to time. In a recent post he complains that Twitter “throttles back my free speech when it doesn’t fit their political views.” He insists this only happens with “Trump-related content.”

Sounds a little paranoid to me but who the fuck knows anymore. And then there’s this near the end of the post:

“I’m trying to get my channel on YouTube running smoothly for after Twitter’s collapse. I’m still having massive and unpredictable hardware/software issues. You’ll see my A/B testing over at this link. Keep it handy in case I suddenly disappear from Twitter.”

I find this interesting from a social media perspective. It sounds like he’ll switfh his social media efforts to YouTube if/when Twitter makes him “disappear.” I watched a few minutes of this “A/B testing” on YouTube although I’m mystified why one would post such a test. Does he expect people to watch long, crazy-head YouTube rants?

Watch a minute or two of this video and you’ll see this rich, semi-famous guy sitting in a dark room in his California mansion, switching back and forth between webcams.

A profile on every American adult

idiCORE combines public records with purchasing, demographic, and behavioral data and has built a profile on every American adult. (Bloomberg)

“Personal profiles include all known addresses, phone numbers, and e-mail addresses; every piece of property ever bought or sold, plus related mortgages; past and present vehicles owned; criminal citations, from speeding tickets on up; voter registration; hunting permits; and names and phone numbers of neighbors. The reports also include photos of cars taken by private companies using automated license plate readers—billions of snapshots tagged with GPS coordinates and timestamps.”

Dave Winer’s Comment Guidelines

I forgot how often Dave Winer says things I think but can’t find the words for. Below are a few excerpts from his comment guidelines on Scripting News.

They should always take into account what is said in the post. If you haven’t read the post in full, reasonably carefully, don’t comment. If it is obvious that you have not read the post, your comment will be deleted.

It’s not a free speech zone. It’s not a place for you to be heard.

It’s not a place for you to promote your products, services, blog, initiatives, political causes. Don’t post spam.

I’m not interested in debates here on my blog. If you want a debate, host it somewhere else, and if I’m interested in participating I will.

Absolutely no personal comments about me or anyone else.

During the early days of what we then called the “World Wide Web,” there was a mood of “digital entrepreneurism.” Anybody with a minimum of technical skills could create a website. Later, when blogs became a thing, it got even easier. You could start your own newspaper or magazine or — when the bandwidth got better and the tools easier — audio and video. Anyone could create their own “content” and do so for fun or profit. That was the dream and a few made it a reality.

One of those was my friend David Brazeal. David grew up in Republic, Missouri, a small town just outside of Springfield in the southwest corner of the state. He earned a degree in journalism from the University of Missouri and then reported news at a radio station in Jefferson City, MO.

That’s where I met him and then worked with him at Learfield Communications. David started in the newsroom but migrated to some of Learfield’s early, digital businesses. He was very good at what he did but eventually grew restless and longed to strike out on his own. His idea was to create a website that covered high school sports in his hometown.

With his wife’s blessing, he quit his very good job at a very good company and started in 2009. David has defied the odds and made his “micro-site” a critical and financial success. I think it’s safe to say he covers high schools sports in Republic better than any traditional media outlook could or would. The town does not have a radio or TV station but does have a weekly newspaper.

I don’t think I could begin to describe the breadth and depth of the content on his site. If you are even remotely interested in what he’s doing, spend 10 or 15 minutes on the website. If you’re still interested, you might enjoy listening to the interview below. Runs about 35 minutes.

Prototype usability testing

So I get this invite to take part in usability testing of a new prototype (is that redundant?). It’s for a big company. One of the biggest. I can’t tell you much more because I had to sign a non-disclosure agreement and they seemed pretty serious about it.

A young woman (early 20s?) ran the session (a video conference) and there were 4 or 5 others who I assume were observing but did not speak. The session lasted about half an hour.

She had me log in to a development site with (what I assume was) an early version of the new tool they’re working on. She asked me to play around with the tool and talk aloud as I did so. She would occasionally ask me a question. Near the end of the session she asked if I would use a tool like this, to which I immediately replied, “No” and explained why.

I don’t use Facebook so I’m only speculating here, but I had a strong sense they were trying to add FB-like features. “Like” buttons; the little “heart” icon; etc. I said, as gently as I could, it seemed they were trying to solve a problem that did not exist. This company is big enough they must have an army of developers working on stuff like this all the time. And that’s good, up to the point they adding features nobody wants or needs.

I don’t know when — if ever — I’ll be able to tell you more about this. Maybe if the thing ever goes public. For my effort they’re going to give me a $50 gift certificate, but the real value was forcing me to think about social media and how use it (or don’t use it).

Social. Media.

The ‘media’ part is pretty straight forward. We see news, photos, video, audio. The ‘social’ part seems to be about connecting with people (“engagement”). In my experience, that is happening at an increasingly superficial level. Thumbs up, thumbs down, heart, +1. I’ve started wondering, why bother? Yes, I’m retired and have lots of time to write a long-winded post or comment (TLDR!). But, really, what does a ‘thumbs up’ or +1 add?

It must be enough, though, because here I am. If I spot the new prototype in the wild, I’ll let you know.

DSL Repair

phoneguyBeen having problems with my DSL service (losing connection, slow speed) and the phone company sent a tech this morning. (Second time someone has been out in the last week or so) He could see there was a problem with the line, somewhere upstream, and — to save time — called the tech who came out previously since it was recent enough he might remember the call. He did and provide useful info.

I asked Mike (the tech who came out this morning) if he could access records from the previous call. From his reply I gathered only the barest minimum of information is recorded. Not surprising because who wants to write up a report once the problem is fixed.

But would it really be that difficult? Take out your smartphone, dictate brief summary of the call, save it as PDF and upload it to the company cloud where it can be accessed by the next service tech if needed. And by the customer.

My physician does this routinely. Within 24 hours of a visit. It’s readily available, along with my lab and test results.

You are where your attention is

Excerpts from an article in New York Magazine by Andrew Sullivan:

“Then the apps descended, like the rain, to inundate what was left of our free time. It was ubiquitous now, this virtual living, this never-stopping, this always-updating. […] The engagement never ends. Not long ago, surfing the web, however addictive, was a stationary activity. At your desk at work, or at home on your laptop, you disappeared down a rabbit hole of links and resurfaced minutes (or hours) later to reencounter the world. But the smartphone then went and made the rabbit hole portable, inviting us to get lost in it anywhere, at any time, whatever else we might be doing. Information soon penetrated every waking moment of our lives.”

“A small but detailed 2015 study of young adults found that participants were using their phones five hours a day, at 85 separate times.”

“You are where your attention is. If you’re watching a football game with your son while also texting a friend, you’re not fully with your child — and he knows it. Truly being with another person means being experientially with them, picking up countless tiny signals from the eyes and voice and body language and context, and reacting, often unconsciously, to every nuance. These are our deepest social skills, which have been honed through the aeons. They are what make us distinctively human.”

The early days of streaming audio

In 1996 (maybe 1997) I was involved in the first effort to stream audio of floor debate from the Missouri legislature. It was early days for streaming and the audio sounded pretty shitty. We had very limited bandwidth and the first RealAudio encoders were primitive. But it was the first time anyone could listen to live debate without being in the Capitol building (where they had audio lines to each rep’s office).

Screen Shot 2016-08-11 at 8.48.58 PMThat first year I think we only streamed live but the following year we started archiving the audio as well. That, however, was nearly useless if you were trying to find a particular piece of debate in audio files that could run five or ten hours.

Not sure I can explain this but what we did was insert links to specific points in the debate (not unlike how we now create YouTube links that jump you X minutes into the video). I spent hours doing this before I dumped it on an assistant. But it allowed someone that wanted to hear debate on House Bill 123 to click a link and get pretty close. Unbelievably tedious.

We provided this service at no charge for a year or two and then started charging $500 per session. Lots of takers, mostly lobbyists and lawyers. We bumped it to $750 the next session and lost a few subscribers. It wasn’t long after that that the House and Senate Information Offices took this service over and we were out of business. It wasn’t a good “business” business but it offered a hint of what would be coming down the road in terms of streaming.

If you’ve never listened to floor debate of a state legislature, it’s hard to describe how boring this shit was. As streaming tech got better, someone would suggest they stream video and they’d take a shot at that, usually on the final day of the session. On one such attempt they had to pull the plug quickly because the cameras were showing members dozing at their desks.

Once people saw that we could actually do this, we started hearing grumblings about the audio archives. It was explained to me this way: Since the dawn of time, the House and Senate journals were the official record of what happened in the respective chambers. But those records could be amended. So if one member called another member “a lying motherfucker,” that got stricken from the official journal. But but not from our audio archives. This made lots of folks very uncomfortable and — ultimately — led to the legislature taking over. I always assumed some poor schmuck got stuck with editing those monster audio files.

These days every legislator has a smart phone on her desk (or in her purse) and can record audio unobtrusively. Don’t know if the House and Senate rules prohibit this but I’ll bet it would be hard to police.

Smart phones and YouTube means everyone is being recorded all the time and for all time. Amending the written journal is so yesterday.

UPDATE: I failed to mention the important role Phil Atkinson and Charlie Peters (and the people that worked with them) played in this (and other) digital project. I’d ask, “Wouldn’t it be cool if we could…” and in a few days (or hours!) they found a way to do it.