Category Archives: Internet

The Parenting Power Struggle With Technology & Learning How To Manage It

Technology has given us way more than just a more connected world. 

People Are Losing Themselves Every Day To The Internet

On March 26, 2021, a young 28-year old woman left home without her car, keys, wallet, ID, or cell phone. She was found dead, presumably having jumped in front of an Amtrak train after battling with years of depression.

She had 82,000 followers on Instagram and traveled the world as an influencer, a career millions of teens dream of.

This kind of thing happens every day.

We just don’t hear about it because it doesn’t always happen to people who are in the spotlight.

This is a problem. 

Technology & Media Are All-Consuming

COVID-19 literally forced our kids to be dependent on their devices. From the moment they wake up in the morning and turn on the TV to enjoy some cartoons with their breakfast, to the minute they sign on to their Zoom meeting, and then when it’s time to take a break, they’re switching over to a game on their devices.  

It’s terrifying how dependent our children have become. 

We Don’t Know What To Do Without It

Without even realizing it, we as parents have become addicted to our devices. So much that when we lose or misplace them, we don’t know what to do with ourselves. 

I’ve heard it many times before. I don’t know what I’d do without my phone. And when we do, we feel out of touch—out of sorts. Like we’re missing everything that’s going on in the world.

It’s dangerous really, because we’re giving these inanimate objects complete control over how we function in our daily lives. And it’s only going to get worse. 

This is a learned behavior that we’re passing onto our children.  

The Power Struggle With Tech Needs To Stop

Don’t get me wrong, I love technology. But it’s starting to interfere with the way some people parent. And I’ll be the first person to admit it. 

I, too, used to hand my phone off to my daughter when she was throwing a temper tantrum because it was easier than actually addressing the reason behind the tantrum. Pure laziness, which is why the millennial generation is earning such a bad reputation. 

We need to start being more attentive.

We need to stop letting technology influence our children.

We need to address these issues head on. 

Our children are learning that instead of coping with their emotions, they can just tune in to something else and forget the problem altogether. But this is helpful for no one. 

Children desperately need to be able to feel, and we need to give them a chance to do so. We’re not helping anybody by letting these moments get swept under the rug.

It’s absolutely the reason we hear more and more parents complain about their kid’s behavior and increase in gaming addictions. But we can’t blame them because we’ve never taught our child how to use tech responsibly because we’re still learning how to do it on our own.

We Have To Find A Balance

It starts with us. The parents. I don’t ever want my daughter to think that anything on a device is more important than her, as I’m sure most parents would agree.

We need to teach our children when it’s OK to use technology and when it’s time to step back, and more importantly, recognizing when and why they need to do so.

Helpful Tips: 

  1. Have a conversation with your family about technology and the role that it plays in their lives. This is a great time to explain the pros and cons, and to let everyone voice their opinion. There is no right or wrong, the point is to get everything out in the open before laying down the ground rules. 
  1. Set specific times that children can be online. Before dinner is a great place to start because it gives you the quiet time you need to get everything on the table, and it usually doesn’t take more than an hour or so, which is plenty of time for kids to be watching TV or using the Internet. Use the time after dinner to do something together as a family that DOES NOT involve technology. Play a game, read a book, do a craft, take a walk… the possibilities are endless. 
  1. Be consistent. I need to start taking my own advice on this one, but it’s pretty much the icing on top of the cake. Once you’ve put your plan in place you must stick to it. Kids need to know that what you say is going to happen is actually going to happen, or else they start to take advantage of it. And that my friend, is a much larger problem with a much longer road to recovery that you DO NOT want to embark on.  

Kids will remember the effort whether they like it now or not. In the end, it will help them become a much more enjoyable human being to be around, and they’ll thank you someday. 

Gen Z You Can’t Cancel Eminem

Cancel culture is the “thing” right now I’m actually ok with that because to me it’s a form of natural consequences that are necessary in our changing and ever more inclusive society. I also think that language or even imagery that maybe inappropriate in most settings isn’t inappropriate in others like within the arts. Eminem isn’t only a rap artist he is a lyricist. He employs incredible skill in the way in which he utilizes language within his works.

“I won’t stop even when my hair turns grey (I’m tone-deaf) / ‘Cause they won’t stop until they cancel me” – Eminem “Tone Deaf”

“Tone Deaf” by Eminem

The utilization of irony within this new song Em just released is frankly so extremely obvious as Eminem is clearly not tone deaf. He has become an expert at utilizing the public discourse and highlighting what’s most controversial at the time. This is how Eminem has built his brand. Haters have always driven Em to greater creativity and expended his fan base.

So if you must continue your effort to cancel Em but it will result as wasted energy and an expanded net worth to Marshal Mathers empire.

Drawing in your audience: The do’s and don’ts of online videos

skip that ad

In this age of short attention spans and endless content for people to choose from, the first moments of an online video can be make or break for drawing in the viewer. I was just reading a post by Google titled The First Five Seconds: Creating TouTube Ads That Break Through in a Skippable World. While the article is based on a study done of online ads on YouTube, I think a lot of the lessons can be useful for anyone sharing video content online.

Careful with that brand

Google tested ads that showed a brand in the first five seconds versus ads which did not and found that the the ads with no branding early on were skipped less. However, the ads which did show the brand early on were recalled more often by viewers, making this a bit of a tricky situation. If you want the audience to watch your entire video, it is probably best to introduce your brand later in the video.

Make them laugh

According to the article, ads which struck a humorous tone were far less likely to be skipped. If you are having a really hard time making your topic funny, your next best bet is creating suspense or evoking emotion. Ads that featured smiling people early on generally fared better than ads that did not. Viewers also like to see a familiar face: if they see someone they recognize in the first five seconds, they are much more likely to watch the video.

Cut the music!

Ads featuring no music in the first five seconds were actually more effective in keeping the viewers’ attention. The article speculates this may be because people are caught off guard by the silence, making the video a kind of sneak attack. For ads that did use music early on, humorous music tended to be the best. Lightheartedness wins again.

I think these tips could definitely come in handy, and not just for those marketing a product or service. Whether you are promoting your business, or advocating for a cause, keeping the viewer interested is a must. Try these tips out on your next video and see if they work. If they don’t work, remember I got them from Google.

 

Optimize Your Hyperlinks

You’ve been writing with passion, right? Do you want to provide your audience with upfront and helpful information when you provide links? Do you want to attract an audience? Forethought and strategy in the creation of hyperlinks can provide your readers with useful tools and can attract traffic to your site. Quiz: On which link would you rather click?

  1. Weather and meteorological events are predicted and reported with an entertaining spin in Kenny Blumenfeld’s blog, Weather and BS!
  2. Weather and meteorological events are predicted and reported with an entertaining spin in Kenny Blumenfield’s blog, Weather and BS!: http://www.kennyblumenfeld.com

A second comparison: On which link would you rather click?

  1. Since our readings covered the value of including a media page on a company’s website, let’s check on the latest news about Kenny Blumenfeld on his media page.
  2. Since our readings covered the value of including a media page on a company’s website, let’s check on the latest news about Kenny Blumenfeld on his media page: http://www.kennyblumenfeld.com/p/media.html

The verdict I think most would agree that links embedded in the flow of a sentence are more attractive than looking at a string of

  • colons
  • slashes
  • dubbyas and 
  • .coms or .orgs or .edus

especially if the URLs are extremely long, filled with seemingly endless strings of

  • numbers
  • ampersands
  • equal signs and 
  • question marks

In addition to the benefit that keyword links are cleaner than URL links, the keyword links in each example demonstrate the bonus of a secondary notation or Graphical User Interface (GUI) called a tooltip. Rest or “hover” your mouse over the links in the keyword links of each comparison and additional information will be displayed. Get in the mind of your audience In the first comparison, Weather and BS! includes a tooltip with the URL. Some of the readers in your audience may want to know where their click will send them before clicking on it. Would you want to know? In the second comparison, the tooltip for latest news about Kenny Blumenfeld displays the name of the website and the title of its internal page. I set it up this way to inform the reader that the linked phrase has a source, but I also wanted the tooltip to be descriptive. Since, your browser window should have a status bar at the bottom (or the option to turn it on) your readers can look there for the URL if they need to. Customize your links in any combination of keywords, phrases, URLs, and site name. The aim is to provide easy-to-read content in a way that makes sense to your audience. … And to attract an audience, right? Search engine optimization (SEO) findmeOne of the most important benefits of assigning a link to keyword phrase is its search-ability factor. Search engine algorithms are designed to recognize keyword phrases. If you want search engines to find your website and rank it high enough so that people will find it, you will want to put some thought into your links. Make the effort. Court Tuttle designed an SEO case study that showed a URL link (one that included a key phrase) ranked lower than the hyperlinked word, “here.” Ok. So how is it done? We are using WordPress for these assignments, so I will limit the instructions to the method offered through the toolbar. The following instructions will work whether you are in “visual” or “text” mode.

  • highlight the word or phrase you would like to link to another page, or website
  • click on the “Insert/edit link” icon
  • within the pop-up window, copy/paste the URL address of your link into the URL fieldWP Insert Link
  • type your tooltip phrase in the “Title” box
  • (optional) if you want the linked page to open in a new tab or window, click the checkbox to activate that command
  • click “Add Link” at the bottom of the window (or “Update” if you are editing an already established link)

The few extra keystrokes are worth it

  • Create tooltips to help your readers navigate to the information you’ve worked so carefully to provide.
  • Use keywords for your hyperlinks. Doing so will make your content easier on the eye, which means your entries are more readable, and it may improve your SEO to put you in a position to attract visitors to your site.

Let me know how it works for you!

Fiber Optic Internet At Last

When I first heard that high-speed fiber optic internet was to be available for a good price to residents in south Minneapolis, I was excited and intrigued. When I found out that the company offering this service was neither Comcast nor CenturyLink, I was completely on board.

Last summer I learned that US Internet was installing optical fiber into the boulevards of streets very near near us, but there were no short-term plans for installation on our street. Over the winter months I checked the status of installation schedules for this summer, but found no information for Wentworth Avenue. Today’s news that US Internet is expanding fiber optic internet service in south Minneapolis made my day. I immediately checked the schedules on the US Internet site and discovered our street will have service sometime this summer.

What does this mean? Faster service for much lower cost. Though our household could stick with the same speed as we have now for less than half the price, we will upgrade to 100 Mbps upload and download speeds and pay $25 less per month than our slower service with Comcast. This chart from the US Internet website shows the savings.

Internet Fiber

In addition to the cost savings, I will be thrilled to break my association with a company that that has a penchant to reduce download speeds of content providers in order to extract extra fees as ransom.

A few months ago CenturyLink also announced a plan to install fiber optic internet in Minneapolis, but the 1 gigabit speed will be $109/month compared to US Internet’s $65/month.

What about customer service?

In Minneapolis, we’re familiar with the dismal customer service of our internet providers, including USI Wireless, which has a contract with the city of Minneapolis to provide residents with wireless internet for $19.95 a month.

USI Wireless is a subsidiary of US Internet. Having read the reviews for the wireless effort, my fingers are crossed for the fiber optics effort. Thus far, as I have been careful to note which service and which “company” is being reviewed, I have found only accolades.

Our household will be signed up for US Internet’s fiber optics internet service as soon as it’s available on our block. And, whatever your preference for ISP, maybe US Internet’s pricing structure will help bring internet costs down for everyone.

 

Sustaining Creativity and Self Promotion

I recently was reading about online self-promotion.  Of course, there are varied perspectives about this.  What should we share online? How much is too much?

5-3-2 Rule of Social Sharing

 

An article in The Next Web introduces several formulas for social sharing and I found these fairly interesting.  From what  I have observed, it does seem that sharing content from others is highly effective. The most appealing and sensible perspective was presented by author Austin Kleon. His book Show Your Work is “a book about self-promotion for people who hate self-promotion. And he emphasizes that self-promotion is a logical and natural means to building a network.

Show Your Work! Book Trailer from Austin Kleon on Vimeo.

I love the concepts at work here:

The so what test

 

Too Much Self-Promotion? 

Invisibles_150-198x300 (1)An interesting counter to Kleon’s might be David Zweig’s book Invisibles.  Zweig asserts that invisible people can be the most successful, and that we can learn a lot from look at the folks behind-the-scenes.  Or, that we can implode through too much focus on self-promotion.

While I agree that we live in an age of rampant self-promotion, can we afford not to self-promote?  I also think it is possible to maintain some humility and integrity while self promoting.

 

Neutral Goes With Everything…

You can find just about anything online largely because of Net Neutrality. For now, all data is essentially equal online. This reality affords users the broadest spectrum of choice. There is a lot of discussion about this right now given the recent push by the FCC to change the rules. A recent article from Reuters describes it this way:

 “Consumer advocates worry that “fast lanes” for content companies willing to pay up would leave startups and others behind. They call on the FCC to reclassify Internet providers as utilities, like telephone companies, rather than the less-regulated information services they are now.

More than 100 technology companies including Google Inc. and Facebook Inc. have warned that Wheeler’s [FCC Chair] proposal poses “a grave threat to the Internet.” Democratic lawmakers, venture capitalists and a group of musicians and artists expressed similar worries.”

 You want as many choices as possible in nearly every aspect of life, especially online. Imagine though, that corporations could purchase their way to the head of the line, or even remove their competitors from your equation. Corporations could fundamentally change the experience that you have online as Consumer, Commentator, Contributor, or Content Curator.

I think an interesting comparison might be the recent Supreme Court decision to lift the restrictions on campaign contributions. We cannot fully anticipate the impact of the Supreme Court Decision, and the issue of Net Neutrality poses some similar kinds of questions; once again will large well-funded entities make choices for those with less? Do you trust the regulation of the government, or the goodwill of corporations?

Save the Internet logo

This is an issue to pay close attention to.

Learn more about how a potential threat to Net Neutrality might affect the online communities that you value.

 

The Future is Open Source

The Future is Open 

In the early days of  the Web and mainstream personal computing, most folks didn’t look under the hood of their favorite software applications or websites. That sort of thing was left to the super geeks and pocket protector-wielding nerds. In the early 1990’s, Microsoft had a stranglehold on the software market for operating systems and office applications, while Adobe owned the market for creative software suites. As the dawn of the new millenium approached, more and more casual computer users and web surfers began to tinker with building programs and websites of their own. This led to the creation on online repositories for code, such as Github. Online code repositories (repos) allowed people to create or modify programs or websites and to share their work with other enthusiasts. This series of events gave birth to the modern-day open source movement.

What is Open Source?

According to The Open Source Initiative, “open source software is software that can be freely used, changed, and shared (in modified or unmodified form) by anyone. Open source software is made by many people, and distributed under licenses that comply with the Open Source Definition“.  In other words, the programming code that makes up the inner workings of a software application or a web application is referred to as source code. The underlying source code is normally proprietary and protected from would-be tinkerers. Open source software is software that has source code that can be modified by users in order to add features or refine the way that the application works.

Closed source open source
Code is available to a limited number of programmers Code is available to everyone to work on
Millions of dollars are spent to secure the code Ideas from outsiders can add value to software
Billable hours are wasted adding protections to software Programmers can focus more on building apps instead of securing code

Open Source Has Won the Battle – and the War

After years of proprietary application development, patent trolling, and long, drawn out court battles to force licensing fees from anyone who had a dime, Microsoft has finally joined the new millenium and made its server architecture open source. Bill Gates has even played a part in opening up Microsoft to the world of open source by fostering dialog and listening to proponents of open source. Companies are beginning to realize that they couldn’t possibly hire the broad spectrum of talent required to compete with open source projects that have the benefit of being contributed to by anyone who has expertise and wants to add value to a project. Closed source stifles creativity.

Open source is good for people, companies, and profits. It allows for collaborative problem solving, or “crowd sourcing” in order to bring in perspectives and talent that may have the right solutions to contribute to an initiative. Sometimes an amateur programmer can take an application and add a feature that makes the software better for everyone. It is even delivering mobile service to remote regions that traditional providers have not yet reached.

Show Me the Money

So, how do software companies make money from open source? They do so by offering a basic piece of software or a service for free, while offering upgrades, support, and additional services for a cost. This model is explained by Opensource.com’s article on open source. This allows the casual user access to software, while also allowing companies to sell services for those who need technical support or additional upgrade packages. For example, I can use a web service called Google Drive for free. I can store up to 15 gigabytes (GB) of documents, images, files, or other data types and create & edit documents online with the service. This may be enough functionality and storage for a casual user. If I want to add more storage, I can upgrade to 25 GB for $2.95/month or 100 GB for $4.95/month. This is a fair price for cloud storage and Google seems to be profitable from this and its other services.

Other open source projects get ad revenue from companies who pay for a plug during the install of software or an ad that appears before a video or audio stream plays. Some of these types of ads are annoying, but they are often worth it in order to access a free service or free content. Some open source products offer an ad-free experience as a premium feature for paid users. An open source project such as Android offers a mobile operating system for free to mobile manufacturers, but then recoups revenue via an app store that charges vendors to list apps or content in the marketplace.

Open source is the business model of the future for software and communications. It is often tough for old school business people to wrap their heads around, but it is the way that the largest global tech firms are going, as evidenced by giants such as Google and newly emerging powerhouses like the Ubuntu Linux server software and desktop & mobile operating systems. I have no doubt that a collaborative economic model is emerging and that open source has been the impetus of its emergence. I also will argue that the future is open source with anyone who wants to debate, at any time.

Will 2014 be the Year of the Webtop?

Cloud Computing Going Forward

By now, everyone has heard about the cloud. For those who haven’t, the cloud, broadly defined, is the sum of all online real-estate, websites, databases, and applications that inhabit the web. Web 2.0, the current iteration of the World Wide Web, is rich with dynamic websites, tools, and storage spaces for users. The web has matured to the extent that web software is now nearly as powerful as the native software applications that live on the hard drive of your computer. In fact, Google’s Chromebook runs Chrome OS, a lightweight operating system that essentially lives on the web. In fact, most of its software programs run in the Chrome browser, cutting out the desktop entirely.

Where do we go from here?

The web-centric nature of Google’s products, such as Google Drive has spurred other innovations in web apps. Dropbox, Microsoft Web Apps, and Evernote are all online storage and document creation tools that share some similarities with Google Drive. Thera are also online web development environments, photo editing tools, communication tools (video chatting, online phone/text messaging suites), and games that are nearly as powerful as traditional software applications. As web standards continue to extend the capabilities of browsers and web programming languages, we can expect a new crop of web applications that match or surpass those that are downloaded and installed on the hard drive of your computer. So, what does all of this mean for the average user?

First, it means that large hard drives are becoming less relevant as online storage begins to gain popularity. Online “cloud” storage will keep your files safe in the event of a catastrophic hard drive or computer failure, and without the need for backing up files on an external hard drive. It also means that all of your files are available in a device-agnostic way. Next, it means that people can communicate and game within their browser, and with seamless software updates since their applications live on servers and are maintained by the software vendor. FInally, it means that people are increasingly able to do the things that they want to do within their favorite web browser.

Webtop, really?!

A lot of folks are very comfortable with their desktops. I want to make it clear that I am not of the opinion that traditional desktops are going anywhere. Instead, I would argue that people who do a lot of their work and/or play on the web will eventually want a desktop that they can access from any of their devices. There are already solutions in the works.

Here are a few webtop environments that are already available:

Here is my Chrome browser’s apps page, which is almost a webtop:

webtop

More about webtops

Hashem Zahran dives in a little deeper into some of the distinctions between web desktops and web operating systems, and lists a few more webtop options on his website. There are only a few scattered resources available about web desktops/webtops, especially considering that it is a concept that is only slowly garnering the awareness of the general computer user. Cnet has a slightly dated article from 2009 that explores the trouble that virtual desktops were having in finding a niche, but this was before the Chromebook and Google’s release of a new breed of enhanced, rich web applications that make working on the web, within a browser increasingly viable.

Is the World Changing its Privacy Level?

Since the beginning of time there have been gaps in the opinions of older and younger generations. We all remember those arguments with our parents when they would tell us to put away the video games and go outside like they did when they were younger. Opinions related to music, leisure, and dating all vary from generation to generation.

According to the video Growing Up Online, there is yet another gap in the opinions of generations; this time having to do with privacy. It seems younger generations are much less concerned with privacy compared to older generations. Many link this change with the growth of the Internet.

The video highlights the negative effects this may have on Internet use, such as online predators having access to underage children’s information. They cover the bullying epidemic and teen suicide as well.

Surely the effects can not all be negative. What are some positive effects of growing up online? Think about class discussions and how the Internet creates new ways to make social change.