Weekly output: AT&T “unlimited” plans, Helium’s peer-to-peer IoT network

I spent Friday attending a tech-policy event at the Newseum’s conference space. That’s something I’ve done a great many times, but Friday’s visit looks like it might be my last ever, or at best my last for the next four years. The Newseum is closing at the end of the year before Johns Hopkins University starts a lengthy renovation of the building it bought in January, and I have no further events there on my calendar.

11/15/2019: AT&T’s latest smartphone plans offer new ways to limit ‘unlimited’ data, USA Today

My latest in an ongoing series of “here’s what’s up with your wireless carrier’s new sort-of-unlimited plans” columns unpacked recent changes at AT&T. My advice this time: When assessing unlimited-esque plans, the most important limit to assess is the threshold at which your data speeds can be “deprioritized,” followed by the cap on your use of the phone’s mobile-hotspot function.

11/15/2019: This startup wants to pay you—in cryptocurrency—to help build its network, Fast Company

It took a while for me to wrap my head around the cryptocurrency framework meant to underwrite Helium’s peer-to-peer Internet-of-Things wireless network. And then soon after the story went up, I got an e-mail from a Lime publicist asking that we remove the mention of them, because they hadn’t worked with Helium–even though Helium has repeatedly cited Lime as a partner, including a prominent mention on their site’s business page that vanished after I’d filed the post. Helium later responded that Lime had tested their tech before deciding not to pursue it… which still doesn’t square with Lime’s denial of any relationship. One thing I know for sure: I’m glad I thought to e-mail Lime while reporting the story to check up on Helium’s positioning of them. And if Lime’s reply to that message had arrived Thursday instead of Friday, this story would not have read the same.

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Weekly output: megatrends, OneWeb, Andela, Saudi spying at Twitter, Kratsios on Huawei

My last business trip of the year wrapped up Friday when I came home from Lisbon after my fifth Web Summit conference–my fourth as a speaker. The next time I board a plane for work should be January 5, when I’ll head out for my 23rd CES in a row.

11/6/2019: Predicting tomorrow’s megatrends for a better today, Web Summit

I interviewed HP Labs chief technology officer Shane Wall about how he tries to forecast sweeping trends years in advance and what can lead that exercise astray. Along the way, we got to discuss his custom-made shoes. You’ll be able to see how that topic arose whenever the organizers post video of our session.

11/7/2019: OneWeb wants to blanket the planet in high-speed satellite broadband, Fast Company

I had to write this recap of a Web Summit talk by the CEO of this satellite-broadband firm twice after my first attempt didn’t get saved by Fast Company’s Web-based CMS. I should have known not to write directly into a client’s CMS when at a conference.

11/7/2019: How to win over a developer, Web Summit

In my second panel in Lisbon, I talked to Christina Sass, co-founder of the developer-training firm Andela. Unlike my earlier panel, this one featured audience questions–but routed through a Web app called Slido, which let us pick the ones we wanted and paraphrase them as needed. I prefer that to handing a microphone over to somebody in the audience and hoping they don’t ask a question that’s more of a comment.

11/7/2019: Saudi spying at Twitter, Al Jazeera

The Arabic-language news network had me on to discuss the arrests of two former Twitter employees for allegedly using their insider access to spy on Saudi Arabian dissidents. I made two points via Skype in a vacant conference room at Web Summit: Lots of tech companies give internal employees too much access (remember Uber’s “god view”?), and you’d be crazy not to think that other governments are trying to recruit their own moles inside U.S. tech companies.

11/9/2019: U.S. CTO: Don’t trust Huawei. Edward Snowden: Don’t trust anybody, Fast Company

The last Web Summit talk I watched wound up neatly dovetailing with the first, in that both U.S. chief technology officer Michael Kratsios and NSA leaker Edward Snowden each voiced grave concerns over untrustworthy communications links. They just didn’t agree on the solution to them.

Weekly output: e-scooter privacy, whither Vudu, World Series viewership, Vint Cerf on 5G, Firefox Web-privacy reporting

LISBON–Getting here the day before the start of Web Summit meant having to miss the Nationals’ victory parade downtown and then catch up with video highlights afterwards. Yes, there I go talking about this weird interest of mine. But just watch the clip of Ryan Zimmerman speaking at the parade, his voice cracking, about what it was like to win it all with the only MLB team he’s ever known–“There’s not a team that I would have wanted to do that with more than these guys”–and see if it doesn’t get dusty in the room.

Fast Company Uber-vs.-L.A. post10/31/2019: L.A. wants to know where you ride your scooter, and Uber isn’t happy, Fast Company

This post started with a talk at The Atlantic’s CityLab DC conference in which the general manager of the Los Angeles Department of Transportation expressed her optimism that all the e-scooter firms operating in the city would comply with its requests for location data. That same day, Uber said they’d see the city in court.

11/1/2019: Walmart seeks to unload Vudu: report, FierceVideo

I spent Friday morning pinch-hitting for my occasional client FierceVideo, covering recent news items. This one folded in some analyst quotes about the possibility that Walmart might sell its Vudu video-on-demand service and who might want to buy it.

11/1/2019: World Series game 7 draws almost 23 million viewers, FierceVideo

I told my editors upfront that one my reasons for covering this was the chance to use the phrase “world champion Washington Nationals” in a story.

11/2/2019: This ‘father of the internet’ still isn’t completely sold on 5G, Fast Company

I got a pitch to cover a conference at which TCP/IP co-author Vint Cerf would talk about ways to get America better broadband, and then that turned into a chance to sit down with Cerf and quiz him for a few minutes. Our 12-minute talk yielded almost 2,000 words of transcript (via the Otter service), so I had to edit it aggressively to get the piece down to a three-digit word count.

11/3/2019: Here’s how to see who’s tracking you across the Web right now, USA Today

I decided to test the upgraded tracking-protection features in Mozilla Firefox by seeing what they’d report about my client USA Today’s own site.

Updated 11/4/2019 to add an image that didn’t publish the first time, plus a link to the USAT column.

Weekly output: 5G reality check, Business Access Media, 5G coverage maps

My last business trip of the year–at least, the last one I have on my schedule as of now–starts Saturday when I fly to Lisbon for the Web Summit conference. That’ll be my fifth trip to that event, my fourth as a panel moderator. In the meantime, I need the Washington Nationals to win two baseball games. Not one, not three, exactly two.

10/23/2019: What will 5G mean for you? A reality check on the hype, Fast Company

My first post in a series of twice-a-week “Connected World” posts that’s set to run through the rest of this year covered how the opening keynote at the MWC Los Angeles trade show wound up undermining some of the hype about 5G wireless I’ve seen at previous MWC conventions. No, I was not in L.A. for this; I thought about going but didn’t see how I’d sell enough stories to recoup my travel costs, so I watched the conference livestream instead.

10/24/2019: Business Access Media, Wynne Events

With this panel of journalists–including my fellow ex-Postie Neil Irwin–I spoke to a roomful of business-school PR types about where I look for stories, what kind of information from them might help me do my job and how to reach me. After a brief round of audience Q&A, the organizers of this event hosted at Georgetown University’s business school left the balance of this hour to one-on-one pitching from these publicists. I may have picked up a story idea or two from that.

10/25/2019: Where does your carrier offer 5G? That’s an excellent question!, Fast Company

My second Connected World post for FC covered how three of the four nationwide wireless carriers have yet to put their 5G service into their regular coverage maps. That’s kind of crazy, considering all the time these companies spend talking about how great their 5G is. That’s also yet another reason not to buy a 5G phone just yet.

Weekly output: robot arms, strange tech at CEATEC

I have to remind myself that I’m not imagining things through a haze of jet lag: The Washington Nationals really did win the National League Championship Series with a 4-0 sweep of the St. Louis Cardinals (revenge for 2012!), and a D.C. baseball team will play in the World Series for the first time since 1933. Eighty-six years!

I watched game four of the NLCS from 6,700-plus miles away on my laptop–first in my hotel room, then the CEATEC press room. I can only imagine what the other journalists there thought of my demeanor, which went from “staring a hole into my laptop’s screen” as the Cards loaded the bases in the top of the 8th to absolute elation as the last pitch of the game landed in Victor Robles’s glove and the Nats rushed onto the field to celebrate.

Now we just need to win four more games. Go Nats!

10/19/2019: Here’s what it feels like to sprout an extra pair of robot arms, Fast Company

I knew that one of the keynotes on CEATEC’s opening day would spotlight ANA’s ventures into telepresence avatars. I didn’t expect one of these experiments to take the form of a set of remote-controlled arms that a person could wear while another operated those appendages–or that I’d get a chance to strap on that Fusion rig myself. This was a fun piece to write.

10/20/2019: Too-smart toilets and work-tracking shirts: Could this tech in Tokyo come to the U.S.?, USA Today

What CEATEC lacked in shipping or soon-to-ship products, it made up in a sort of science-fair weirdness. I tried to capture that in this show recap/photo gallery I filed Thursday night in Tokyo. The piece could have been considerably longer… but I get paid a fixed rate per USAT column, so writing long only drives down my per-word rate.

 

Weekly output: 5G hype vs. reality, customer-experience optimization, East Coast startups, customer support, digital marketing

TOKYO–It’s been an interesting 36 hours of travel. Saturday morning, I was supposed to fly to Tokyo for the CEATEC tech trade show*, but Typhoon Hagibis led United to cancel every Tokyo-bound flight from the U.S.–the last one being a San Francisco departure that went off the board after I’d flown halfway across the U.S. An exceptionally resourceful United Club agent at SFO grabbed the last Economy Plus seat on the next flight to Shanghai, and further rebooking turned a Tuesday-morning redeye from there to Tokyo into connecting flights Monday afternoon that got me here in time for dinner, more or less.

* CEATEC’s organizers are covering travel costs for me and a handful of other U.S. tech journalists, a first-time effort to get more international attention for that event. I will note that in anything I write about this trip.

10/7/2019: 5G is mostly hype so far, Yahoo Finance

I wrote up my mostly-unimpressive experiences with a Sprint 5G hotspot and phone (something Patreon subscribers got an early look at last month), then observed that the 5G rollouts at AT&T, T-Mobile and Verizon are far more vaporous so far.

10/8/2019: Building an Optimization Strategy with Personalization and Experimentation, Ascent

In the first of four panels I did at this New York startup conference, I interviewed Optimizely chief marketing officer Carl Tsukahara about how companies try and sometimes fail to tweak their customer experiences to keep customers around for the long term.

10/8/2019: How to Leverage the East Coast Startup Ecosystem, Ascent

I led a panel with Google Cloud startup lead Tejpaul Bhatia and Hubspot corporate-development manager Brandon Greer about what makes the Right Coast different from the Bay Area. One thing that came up often: We’re more likely to run into each other on sidewalks and subways.

10/8/2019: Walking the Tightrope of Rising Customer Expectations, Ascent

I expected an interview at a startup conference with a guy who works for a customer-support company–Zendesk CMO Jeff Titterton–would lead to a lot of support questions from Zendesk customers in the audience. Instead, we only got one.

10/8/2019: Customer Experience in Digital Marketing, Ascent

My last panel featured iFolio president and CEO Jean Marie Richardson, Chargify marketing v.p. Gary Amaral, and Babbel U.S. CEO Julie Hansen. We got a little loopy, which seems only fair for the penultimate panel before the reception that closes the conference.

Weekly output: Google’s password help, Twitter suspensions in Egypt

NEW YORK–This evening finds me here for the Ascent conference, at which I have four panels to moderate Tuesday and things to learn all Monday. Yes, that means I will miss both NLDS games at Nationals Park. Since the team hasn’t done all that well when I’ve been in the stands for a potential division-series clinch, maybe that’s good?

10/2/2019: This new Google tool protects you against dangerous passwords, Fast Company

Along with a fair amount of other tech journalists, I got an advance on Google’s announcement Monday of changes to warn Chrome users about exposed, reused or easily-guessed passwords. Having seen how a similar feature in the 1Password password manager has helped make me less stupid about site logins, I think this is a good move by Google. But I also expect that many users will freak out when they see Chrome telling them that their password has been compromised in a data breach.

10/3/2019: Twitter suspensions in Egypt, Al Jazeera

I appeared on the Arabic-language news channel to talk about reports of Egyptian dissidents’ Twitter accounts being suspended. My take: Twitter has a serious problem with being fooled by coordinated, bad-faith campaigns to get accounts suspended for alleged-but-not-real violations of Twitter’s rules. The anchor then asked why Twitter hadn’t answered AJ’s questions, and I said that most social-media companies are chronically bad at explaining their own decisions. Many have hangups with just speaking on the record.