Weekly output: net neutrality, teens on Facebook, Chrome and passwords

I had two stories this week show up online without the links I’d added. Since two different sites and CMSes were involved, I’m left with the conclusion that I’m personally snakebit. Or that I maxed out a monthly link quota that I didn’t know existed.

Yahoo Tech net-neutrality post1/14/2014: Why Is Tuesday’s Court Decision on Net Neutrality Such a Big Deal? And What Happens Next?, Yahoo Tech

This was not the column I’d originally written for this week, but when a federal court handed down a ruling Tuesday morning that gutted the Federal Communications Commission’s authority to enforce net-neutrality regulations, I had to drop everything and write an analysis of a result that I saw coming back in 2010. This post initially appeared without any of the links I’d added, for reasons nobody has been able to figure out; we fixed that earlier today.

1/16/2014: Rob Pegoraro, columnist for USA Today and Yahoo Tech, talks about teens dumping Facebook, WTOP

WTOP had me via Skype to talk about an iStrategyLabs report, based on usage data Facebook provides to advertisers, of declining teen Facebook use. About 10 minutes afterwards, I remembered that only two months ago, I’d heard about some enlightening research into teen social-media use that would have been useful to cite on the air.

1/19/2014: Why does Chrome ask for your Mac Keychain password?, USA Today

For the second time in three weeks, my USAT column dealt with a problem I’d experienced on my own computer–in this case, annoying Keychain prompts by the Mac version of Chrome. The column somehow got posted without any links; I’ll ask management about that.

On Sulia, I observed that Netflix’s data on average streaming rates across different ISPs showed how much viewing there involves lower resolutions, heaped scorn on the Weather Channel’s attempt to guilt DirecTV into paying a higher carriage fee, confessed to having a Digital Compact Cassette in my office, shared a fix for Evernote’s iPad app not digitizing scanned business cards, and complained about Netflix becoming unwatchably slow over my 15-Mbps Verizon Fios connection.

 

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Weekly output: NSA surveillance, PR and the press, digital journalism, Android-iPad photo sync, deleting photos, Republic Wireless

On my first week back from vacation, I attempted to catch up with the NSA-surveillance story and took part in a couple of great panel discussions. I’d hoped to get a little more writing done, since I’ll be in New York from Tuesday through Thursday for the Consumer Electronics Association’s CE Week conference.

6/18/2013: More Tech Firms Now Question Government Snooping. What About Congress?, Disruptive Competition Project

My timing on this piece–in which I expressed my appreciation and alarm that large tech companies, in which I have no vote, seem to be doing a better job of advocating for our civil liberties online than the elected representatives we hired to do that–was pretty good. Maybe two hours after it went up, Google filed suit to challenge the gag orders that prohibit it from discussing the decisions handed down to it by the secretive, compliant and largely unaccountable Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court.

6/19/2013: Behind the Story: Breakfast Series With the Media, Cision

I talked about the intersections of journalism, PR and social media with the Washington Business Journal’s Jennifer Nycz-Conner, USA Today’s Melanie Eversley and moderator Shonali Burke. There should be video posted soon, and I’ll add a link when that happens.

Vocus panel photo6/20/2013: The Evolving State of Digital Journalism, Demand Success

I talked about some of the same topics, plus such bigger-picture issues as how much the chase for Web traffic should influence story assignments, at the marketing firm Vocus’s conference with WJLA journalist Jummy Olabanji. Tech Cocktail co-founder Jen Consalvo and moderator Paul Sherman of Potomac Tech Wire. Again, I’ll link to video whenever it’s posted. (There’s more at my Flickr set from the event, which took place at the the Gaylord National hotel in National Harbor, Md.)

6/23/2013: Tip: Google+ transfers photos between Android and iPad, USA Today

This question came straight from my father-in-law, who had just picked up a new iPad and upgraded from one Android phone to a newer model. The tip part of the column advises making a habit of deleting lesser photos to develop your photographic skills; I remember writing something like that for the Post but I can’t find it anywhere now.

6/23/2013: A $19 Unlimited Smartphone Plan: Just Add Wi-Fi, Discovery News

I tried out Republic Wireless’s WiFi-centric smartphone service and liked it, aside from the embarrassingly obsolete Android phone this company hopes to replace with a newer model soon. (Update, 7/1: I didn’t realize this at the time, but Mashable reposted the story, as part of a content-sharing deal it has with Discovery. And now I have a bunch of comments to read…)

On Sulia, I noted the demise of ESPN’s 3D channel, reported on my experience with the “Auto Enhance” photo editing at Google+, discussed NYU journalism professor Jay Rosen’s thoughtful presentation at Demand Success, described my experience getting a cracked iPad screen repaired and suggested a few tools to help you spot the International Space Station overhead.

Weekly output: Web radio, Facebook privacy, Windows 7, Windows 8 backup

The good thing about driving home from Thanksgiving on a Monday is skipping the Sunday traffic. The bad thing about that strategy is giving yourself a four-day week when five days is the legal minimum to catch up on everything that got shoved aside in the previous week. And then I had to burn half a day on a solid-state-drive upgrade for a laptop that remains unfinished… but I’ll save the ugly details for later.

IRFA post11/26/2012: The Internet Radio Fairness Act, And Two Things I Hate About Copyfights, Disruptive Competition Project

It had been a few years since my last rant about the illogical and unfair royalties charged to Web radio outlets (as compared to satellite and, especially, FM and AM), so I was already due. Then a few weeks of seeing Pandora demonized in ads and Congressional testimony further set me off, resulting in this essay about the inanity of intellectual-property absolutism. Fortunately, I’m not the only one thinking such subversive thoughts.

11/28/2012: Facebook Privacy Changes Not as Bad as You Think, Discovery News

Over the Thanksgiving weekend, something else irked me: Yet another round of uninformed panic over a proposed change in Facebook’s terms of service, this time featuring Facebook users sharing copied-and-pasted gibberish asserting their rights under the nonexistent “Berner Convention.” I hope this post didn’t make me sound like an apologist for a company I don’t trust completely.

12/2/2012: Tip: You can still buy a Windows 7 PC, USA Today

A reader wrote in to ask about putting Windows XP on a Windows 8 computer, which my editor and I thought a bit out there. (Seriously, about XP: Let it die already.) But we did see sufficient interest in a piece about getting a new computer with Windows 7. The column wraps up with an item about Windows 8′s backup options, which are sufficiently complicated that I may have to revisit them at greater length later on.

Blacked out and plugged in

When did our first move after a power outage switch from reaching for a flashlight to grabbing a phone to announce on Twitter or Facebook that we’d lost electricity?

I don’t know, but I’ve had a lot of time to think about that this week. As I started writing this post, it had been almost 40 hours and counting since the neighborhood went dark Monday night.

During that stretch–finally ended by the merciful restoration of current late Thursday Wednesday morning–I never lacked for adequate wireless bandwidth. My current surplus of review hardware helped, but even if I’d had only one phone and one laptop I still could have stayed online most of that time. It just doesn’t drain a laptop’s battery much to keep a phone charged, as I’m reminded every time I go to some phone-destroying tech conference.

How did I use that access? I scanned Twitter even more often than usual, realizing that things were a whole lot worse in New York than here. I lingered over some longer stores on the Web on a tablet tethered to a phone (no candlelight needed for this blackout reading, although having one flickering away on the coffee table made for a pleasing steampunk vibe). I got updates about downed trees and power restoration on our neighborhood’s mailing list, while Facebook let me see how friends slightly further away were doing.

I could, in fewer words, realize that we weren’t alone. That’s something.

This didn’t happen by accident. I have to give the wireless carriers an enormous chunk of credit for building out networks sufficiently resilient, and sufficiently backed up by batteries and standby generators, to keep working through these widespread outages. I also need to thank all of the engineers and developers who have spent the last decade finding better ways to put the Internet into a device that fits in your pocket and runs for hours on a charge.

Think about how technology has advanced when, even as your house has gone dark and cold, you can use a miniature computer to view of a photo of the hurricane besieging your city… taken by an astronaut sitting warm and dry on a space station 250 miles above.

10/31, 4:40 p.m.: Cabin fever apparently led me to confuse today with Thursday.

Weekly output: Mobile patents, Facebook, Tech Night Owl, Twitter fakes, Facebook again

This list below shows me spending more time talking about my job than actually doing it, which isn’t really something to brag about. But I also filed one short piece for print that will hopefully pass muster with the editors involved. And if I hadn’t run into some technical issues trying out a new app, I would have had a post for Discovery here as well.

10/16/2012: Will $Billions in Patent Lawsuits Kill Smartphone and Tablet Innovation?, Advisory Committee to the Congressional Internet Caucus

I discussed the smartphone-patent situation with lawyer and activist Marvin Ammori, American University law professor Jorge Contreras and George Mason University law professor Adam Mossoff, with Internet Caucus legal policy fellow Eric Hinkes moderating. InfoWorld’s Grant Gross wrote up the event and was kind enough to let a quote from me serve as the last word.

10/18/2012: Is Facebook Losing Its Cool?, Mid-Atlantic Marketing Summit

That link only points to an agenda page, not a recording or report of this panel I moderated at a marketing conference in Baltimore. But I assure you that we–meaning me, Mitch Arnowitz of Tuvel Communications, SocialCode’s Cary Lawrence, Kari Mitchell of HZDG and marketing guru Geoff Livingston–had a great discussion about the changing engagement of Facebook’s audience and how that differs from the crowd you might draw at Twitter, Pinterest or some other social network.

10/20/2012: October 20, 2012 — Rob Pegoraro and Joe Wilcox, Tech Night Owl Live

Once again, I was a guest on Gene Steinberg’s tech-news podcast–this time, with BetaNews editor Joe Wilcox. I talked about satellite Internet access and broadband access in general, the almost-guaranteed arrival of an iPad mini this week and Windows 8′s potential fit with consumers.

10/21/2012: Don’t get fooled by fake Twitter accounts, USA Today

In this week’s column, I ticked off a few ways to spot a phony or parody Twitter account, from the lack of a blue “verified” checkmark to a sneaky use of the number “1″ in place of a lowercase “l” in a handle. Then I share a tip about inspecting how often and in what ways you’ve interacted with Facebook friends on that social network.

Weekly output: Safari reloading, screenshots and privacy, Windows 8, SXSW and smartphones (x2), syncing, Android keyboards

I wrote the first three stories on this list using an external keyboard hooked up to my ThinkPad. That move came courtesy of the busted keyboard that stopped responding to certain keystrokes–including Enter, Backspace, 8 and h–sometime between my going to bed the night before SXSW and my getting on the first flight to Austin. That did not add to the business-travel experience.

3/11/2012: Tip: Avoid hiccups in Safari browsing, USA Today

I’m glad this column’s format doesn’t require using a specific reader’s name, because this problem comes from my own experience with Apple’s browser. (The day after this posted, Apple issued a 5.1.4 update to Safari that, as far as I can tell, doesn’t do much to solve the problem.) In the rest of the column, I offer a reminder that I too often leave out of pieces on privacy: If something online is sufficiently interesting, people will take a screengrab of it and share that image, regardless of whatever privacy settings once protected that item.

3/12/2012: Windows 8: The Shock Of The New, And The Old, Discovery News

I wanted to like Microsoft’s upcoming replacement for Windows 7. I still do. But blowing up a smartphone interface, Metro, to laptop-screen dimensions seems like a fundamental mistake. So does making touchscreen gestures critical to so many routine actions. Yes, many of my peers in tech journalism–see, for instance, ZDNet’s Ed Bott–have been far more positive about Windows 8. But most of those reviews were done on touchscreen tablets loaned by Microsoft , while I installed the Consumer Preview release alongside Win 7 on a non-touchscreen laptop.

3/13/2012: Smartphone Battery Life Goes South By Southwest, CEA Digital Dialogue

Forgive me for writing yet another rant about lame smartphone battery life–but my experience at the conference set a new low. And I wasn’t alone in this dilemma. The night after I wrote this, I found myself at a bar next to a spare power outlet. I plugged in my travel power strip and soon had people coming up to me with dead or dying phones, offering to trade a drink ticket for one of the remaining outlets on the strip.

3/16/2012: Which Apps Might Outlive SXSW, Discovery News

In retrospect, I could not have picked a much worse time for this post to go up–on the morning that Apple’s new iPad arrived, and only hours before the news of Mike Daisey’s duplicity would break. What was I thinking? Anyway, I do like how this piece turned out, so please read it when you get bored of reading about tablet computing and journalist standards–if not sooner.

3/18/2012: Tip: A cautionary tale about syncing, USA Today

I wasn’t sure this reader’s question about unexpected BlackBerry contacts syncing would be relevant enough until Andy Baio wrote a great piece for Wired.com about the perils of giving too many third-party apps access to your Web services. That inspired me to pivot from one person’s glitch to the larger issue of being too generous with access to our data. The balance of the column, a reminder to check for alternate software keyboards on an Android device, came about because commenters on my Boing Boing review of the Samsung Galaxy Note asked why I didn’t tell readers to switch from Samsung’s obnoxious keyboard.

Since I’ve now posted this summary on a Sunday two weeks in a row, I’m going to continue with that schedule. I trust that you all are okay with that. Also: If you don’t want to wait until the end of the week to see where I’ve been writing and/or find my Twitter feed too noisy, I’ve set up a tumblr blog under my LLC’s name, Prose Hacking, where I link to each story I’ve written more or less in real time. This is probably a misuse of tumblr, but–hey, I needed to develop a minimal level of competence with that platform, and I needed to do something with the domain name I registered for my company.

Weekly output: Timeline, connected TVs, podcast, passworth myths

Today’s realization: It’s a mistake to wait to write this post until after getting back from a bike ride, when I’d rather take a nap than string together any sentences. Can somebody remind me about that next week?

1/29/2012: Timeline your chance for a Facebook do-over, USA Today

This was an update of the advice about Timeline grooming that I gave in a December post for Discovery News–written with the benefit of a month of seeing how friends have adopted Facebook’s new profile interface. The Q&A part of the piece offered some context on why Adobe Reader will sometimes ask you to restart after installing an update–and, it seems, confused readers unfamiliar with the column’s two-part structure.

1/31/2012: What belongs on your next TV’s app menu?, CEA Digital Dialogue

A critique of the  selection of Internet apps on “connected TVs” was one of the first topics I suggested to the people at CEA; it just took me a few months to get around to writing it. As you can see from the comments thread on Google+, the piece may need to be corrected if it turns out that Vizio–contrary to the info on its site–does include a YouTube app on its connected sets. (I’m waiting to hear back from the company’s PR rep.)

2/1/2012: Rob’s January Podcast: The Successful SOPA Fight and Post-CES Recap, CEA Digital Dialogue

I chatted for a good half an hour with veteran telecom analyst Gary Arlen about the past, present and future of CES and a few trends afoot in the electronics business. Gary’s been going to the show for some 30 years (conveniently enough, his birthday often overlaps it) and has quite a few stories to tell; until we talked, I had forgotten that Apple introduced the Newton at CES. Maybe that’s why the company wants nothing to do with it these days.

2/2/2012: You Didn’t Need To Change Your Password Yesterday, Discovery News

I hope you enjoy the gruesome collage of log-in interfaces I put together to illustrate this post, which critiques three common and incorrect suggestions about creating and maintaining passwords. As you might guess, I’m not a fan of password-expiration policies, especially when coupled with irritating “minimum complexity” rules. But I’m embarrassed to admit how many of my passwords feature the number and symbol substitutions for letters that password-cracking tools already factor in.

Forget about the Facebook IPO

As I write this, a large segment of the tech press is waiting for Facebook to file with the Securities and Exchange Commission for an estimated $5 billion initial public offering later this year.

The debut of such a widely-used site on the stock market is not inconsequential. But it’s a mistake to devote too many processor cycles to this story, and I’m glad that I don’t have to write any breathless blog posts about its alleged importance.

First: When you look at the resources the company can plow into its data centers, Facebook doesn’t seem short on cash–one of the more common reasons for startups to go public. It certainly doesn’t need the PR boost of an IPO.

Second: While employee profits from selling stock may add to California’s already-large population of millionaires, plenty of them have gotten rich off Facebook already. (One, former chief privacy officer Chris Kelly, is a friend of mine; I haven’t asked, but I’m pretty sure his kids won’t have to worry about taking out student loans.)

Third and most important: As a wonderfully-illustrated Gizmodo piece today should remind you, your odds of buying Facebook shares before the usual crazed run-up in value are exceedingly low. I’m not saying Facebook stock would be a bad investment, just that you shouldn’t expect to be able to flip it hours or days after the IPO.

There is worthwhile journalism to be done about Facebook’s finances and how the constraints imposed by public ownership will affect the company. (I’m looking forward to seeing my friend Rocky Agrawal break down the data revealed in Facebook’s S-1 filing.) But if you’re tempted to read a front-page tick-tock about the staging of Facebook’s IPO or a giddy forecast of its effect on Porsche dealerships in Palo Alto, I have a different suggestion: Dean Starkman’s Columbia Journalism Review explanation of how deal-chasing, investor-centric business journalism sold out the public.

A side project

I’ve been blogging for the Post since 2007 or so. Why bother doing another blog on the side now?

One reason: Writing in a system maintained by my employer for its own purposes shuts me out of many parts of the typical blogging experience, such as playing around with the basic design of the page whenever I like or seeing real-time readership statistics. Plus, the paper just switched to a blogging system that the ombudsman, in a fit of charity, described as “a bafflement to most of us trying to figure it out.”

Another reason: While I’ve enjoyed using my public Facebook page as a blog substitute for sharing my thoughts on journalism, technology and other issues that don’t fit in my work blog, that site isn’t set up for writing longer posts. It’s a pain to find older notes I wrote there. And, more important, it doesn’t seem such a good idea to use one site that I report on all the time as my primary outlet aside from work. I’d rather write those longer notes here, then link to them on Facebook.

Most of these reasons applied a year ago; I don’t know why I didn’t heed them then. In any case, please keep reading. I’ll try not to make this boring.