Weekly output: TikTok (x3), Apple TV+, social-media satisfaction, AMC, TV metrics, NBCUniversal (x2), 5G flavors, Disney, Fox, tech journalism, Facebook and Twitter vs. Trump, Roku, Instagram Reels, election security, influence operations online

This week was kind of nuts. I knew I’d be busy covering breaking news in the mornings for my trade-pub client FierceVideo while one of their reporters was on vacation, but I didn’t factor in how many entertainment and TV companies would be announcing their quarterly earnings. This put a dent in my ability to follow the now-virtual Black Hat and DEF CON security conferences that, were this a normal year, would have had me in Las Vegas this week. (Hacker summer camp friends, I miss you too and will try to catch up on your talks over the next few days.)

8/3/2020: Microsoft gets Trump green-light to buy TikTok, FierceVideo

I started this week by writing a bit about the biggest story in tech this week.

8/3/2020: Apple TV+ comes to American Airlines flights, FierceVideo

Writing about this addition to AA’s in-flight entertainment gave me an excuse to get a few quotes from one of my favorite avgeek bloggers, Seth Miller.

8/4/2020: Survey Shows Facebook Barely More Satisfying Than Comcast, Forbes

I got an advance look at the latest report from the American Customer Satisfaction Index, allowing me to have this post up right as the ACSI published these findings.

8/4/2020: AMC’s second-quarter earnings could have been worse, FierceVideo

This was the first of four earnings stories.

8/4/2020: Time spent on TV viewing soars, says Samba, FierceVideo

My editor at Fierce pointed me to this study and asked if I’d heard of Samba TV; I said I had, and that a friend had tried to connect me with their CEO at CES last year.

8/4/2020: Layoffs loom at NBCUniversal, FierceVideo

I wrote up a WSJ report about pending layoffs for my third post of Tuesday.

8/5/2020: Thinking of buying a 5G smartphone? Finding your carrier’s flavor of 5G requires a taste for investigation, USA Today

We had to correct this column because I said a study released in May came out last year, an error I could only laugh about once it was brought to my attention.

8/5/2020: After a disaster movie of a quarter, Disney bets on Mulan, FierceVideo

The big news in Disney’s earnings call: It will debut Mulan in September as a $29.99 extra for Disney+ subscribers instead of sticking to a theatrical release.

8/5/2020: Fox forges ahead despite ad-revenue shortfall in Q4, FierceVideo

The optimism Fox executives voiced on their earnings call about sports returning this fall seemed unfounded at the time.

8/5/2020: Tech journalism, Lobsterclass

My friend Rakesh Agrawal (aka rakeshlobster on Twitter) quizzed me about the state of tech journalism and how startup founders might improve their interactions with the media for the latest in a series of product-management classes he began in May. Our Zoom chat got interrupted a couple of times by incoming WhatsApp calls that I couldn’t answer with “sorry, can’t talk right now” messages because my phone was already in use as my Zoom camera.

8/5/2020: Facebook and Twitter suppress Trump coronavirus video, Al Jazeera

The reason behind those calls: AJ’s English-language channel wanted me to opine about the two social networks taking down Trump shares of a Fox News video in which the president said children are “almost immune” to COVID-19. So at 11 p.m., I put my phone back on the tripod for yet another video call.

8/6/2020: Roku Q2: 43 million active accounts, $43 million loss, FierceVideo

I wrapped up my earnings coverage for Fierce by covering Roku’s quarter.

8/6/2020: First take on Instagram’s Reels: Yes, it’s a TikTok clone, FierceVideo

In addition to gathering quotes from a couple of analysts, I cobbled together my own art for this story by taking screenshots of Instagram’s new TikTok-ish feature.

8/7/2020: What becoming a poll worker taught me about securing the 2020 election, Fast Company

Security researcher and Georgetown Law professor Matt Blaze’s Black Hat keynote gave me an opportunity to share my own experience as a poll worker with a larger audience than this blog ever gets. We had to correct one error after posting; the National Vote At Home Institute, a non-profit whose CEO I quoted in the piece, is based in Denver, not D.C. as listed in its Twitter bio.

8/7/2020: From Russia With Lure: Why We’re Still Beset By Bots And Trolls Pushing Disinformation, Forbes

Stanford Internet Observatory researcher Renée DiResta gave an excellent keynote on day two of Black Hat about influence operations online and how China and Russia’s efforts compare.

8/7/2020: Trump issues executive order to ban business with TikTok, FierceVideo

I scrambled to get an explanation of what, exactly, Trump’s order would ban U.S. companies and users from doing with TikTok, and Public Knowledge’s telecom-law guru Harold Feld came through.

8/7/2020: NBCUniversal reshuffles entertainment leadership, FierceVideo

My week filling in at Fierce wrapped up with this recap of a reorg at NBCU.

8/9/2020: TikTok’s suitors, Al Jazeera

I usually don’t shave on Sundays but had to for this appearance on AJ’s Arabic-language channel to talk about why Microsoft and, reportedly, Twitter, might want to buy TikTok.

Weekly output: online-video churn, Trump vs. social media, online-video UX, Tim Cook’s App Store history, Saudi Twitter spies, online-video ads, online-video lessons, Trump vs. TikTok

My biggest regret about this busy news week: I didn’t get to follow Access Now’s RightsCon digital conference. Having spoken at its real-world predecessor in Toronto two years ago–and knowing that friends were on this year’s panel schedule–I can only hope that I can catch up in my non-existent spare time this week.

7/27/2020: Sling’s ex-chief Warren Schlichting is content with churn, FierceVideo

My occasional trade-publication client signed me up to cover their OTT Blitz Week virtual event. I started that by writing up former Sling TV head Warren Schlichting’s observations about running an over-the-top video service.

7/28/2020: Here’s Trump’s Plan To Regulate Social Media, Forbes

Writing about the Trump administration’s proposal to have the Federal Communications Commission rewrite a law allowed me the unexpected pleasure of approvingly quoting experts at the left-leaning think tank Public Knowledge and the right-leading Charles Koch Institute, both of which said this plan seems nuts.

7/28/2020: There’s no UX without ‘you’, FierceVideo

My second post about OTT Blitz Week covered a panel that saw executives from Discovery, Sling, Pluto TV, Xumo and other online-video firms offering their insights on making their user experience feel comfortable for viewers.

7/29/2020: What Tim Cook Left Out Of His Version Of App Store History, Forbes

Apple’s CEO’s prepared statement for Wednesday’s tech-CEO hearings came close to erasing the history of online software distribution before the 2008 debut of Apple’s iOS App Store, and that bugged me. I wrote a correction of Tim Cook’s testimony, and I was flattered to see this post get a “Highly recommended” shout-out on Apple raconteur John Gruber’s Daring Fireball blog.

7/29/2020: New charges for Saudi moles at Twitter, Al Jazeera

Stories involving Saudi Arabia behaving badly online often result in appearances for me on this Qatar-based news network. In this case, the news peg was a set of new charges against Saudi spies allegedly burrowing into Twitter.

7/29/2020: We’re not Facebook, OTT ad execs emphasize, FierceVideo

The executives on this OTT Blitz Week panel on addressable (read: targeted) advertising on streaming TV emphasized how they don’t want or need behavioral data that gets too close to individual viewers’ tastes.

7/31/2020: There’s no one template for over-the-top video success, FierceVideo

I wrapped up my coverage of Fierce’s virtual event with a recap of this lessons-learned panel, featuring CEOs from the rhymable firms Fubo, Xumo and Philo.

8/1/2020: Trump’s threat to ban TikTok, Al Jazeera

I made a second appearance this week on the Arabic-language news network to discuss President Trump’s possibly-idle threat to ban TikTok. As I wrote last week at Forbes, the fact that the U.S. isn’t China leaves Trump out of options to banish that social app from American screens.

Weekly output: Toyota’s Woven City, baseball on streaming TV services, TikTok, broadband out of reach

A year ago this week, we celebrated the 50th anniversary of the first moon landing. These days, touting America’s ability to apply technology towards a national purpose is a harder sell.

7/20/2020: Woven City: Toyota’s Planned Proving Ground in Japan, Urban Land

This feature about the smart-city project Toyota touted at CES grew out of the piece I wrote for the Urban Land Institute’s magazine from that show. The piece is also supposed to run in Urban Land’s Japanese-language edition, but I don’t have a link to that yet.

7/23/2020: Finally: Every Baseball Team’s Sports Network Is Available On At Least One Streaming Service, Forbes

Two days before baseball’s belated Opening Day, I thought five teams would once again shut out cord cutters because their regional sports networks would not be available on any streaming-TV services. Then all five got on board–yes, even the mismanaged Mid-Atlantic Sports Network that carries Nationals and Orioles games.

7/24/2020: The Feds Want You To Freak Out Over TikTok. You Shouldn’t, And They Can’t Ban It Anyway., Forbes

The two business trips I made to China to attend the (now-scrapped) CES Asia show helped inform my perspective on TikTok–having poked around WeChat after having to use it during both trips, I can’t see the video-clip app being anywhere in the same league in terms of data thirstiness.

7/26/2020: Broadbanned: Still no affordable fix for a broadband internet connection just out of reach, USA Today

This story started when a reader saw the piece I did in 2015 about a reader who found himself out of reach of the nearest broadband connection. This piece set off a vigorous conversation on Twitter and has already led to four more reader e-mails about similar cases of ISPs asking for tens of thousands of dollars to extend broadband to their homes.

Speaking of topics that become self-replicating through a steady stream of reader requests, on Patreon I noted that writing once about password-reset problems with Google accounts has apparently ensured I will get pleas for help with that problem from readers for the rest of my life.

Weekly output: smart cities, Bowie Seniors Computer Club, Twitter hack (x2)

Baseball will allegedly return Thursday with the Nationals’ home opener against the Yankees. Six months ago, I was looking forward to being on the stands on Opening Day to see the Nats hoist a World Series championship banner–and now the prospect of baseball coming back seems divorced from reality.

7/13/2020: Keeping an Eye on Privacy as Cities Get Smarter, Urban Land

I wrote this recap of smart-cities technology seen at CES month ago, but the coronavirus pandemic upended the publication schedule at the Urban Land Institute’s magazine. Note that the site will ask you to provide an e-mail address for a newsletter subscription to read this piece, but you don’t have to confirm your signup before reading.

7/16/2020: July 16 Zoom meeting, Bowie Seniors Computer Club

I got a message through the contact form here–yes, I really do read those–from one of the people running the user group that had hosted me for a talk back in 2009. I said I’d be delighted to return, even if only in video form, and I wound up spending much more time than I’d expected talking about my post-Post freelance career, the state of tech journalism, and the role of travel to tech events in my work these days.

7/16/2020: Twitter hacking, Al Jazeera

The Arabic-language news network had me on live a couple of times to talk about the previous day’s takeovers of a grab-bag of big-name Twitter accounts for no apparent purpose but broadcasting a cheap Bitcoin scam from such high-profile accounts as Apple, Uber, Elon Musk, Jeff Bezos and Joe Biden.

Weekly output: Collision recap, YouTube TV rate hike, coronavirus antibody testing, data caps returning

I had an exceptionally low-key Fourth of July: My wife and I watched the flyover from our sidewalk, I cooked dinner on the grill, and after dining we watched the fireworks from a nearby street.

In addition to the stories below, Patreon readers got a post from me about that site’s confusing and vague presentation of possible sales taxes on membership fees.

6/30/2020: Collision from Home 2020 at a glance, IT World Canada

Lynn Grenier wrote a recap of panels at last week’s virtual conference that mentioned one of mine, making this the first and probably the last time I’m in the same story as Justin Trudeau.

6/30/2020: YouTube TV Now Costs Almost Twice What It Did Three Years Ago, Forbes

The headline wrote itself. I revised it a day later to note a smaller price hike at a competing service, FuboTV, and add a reminder to readers that they can watch PBS over the air for free.

7/1/2020: Here’s what it’s like to get a coronavirus antibody test, Fast Company

On this piece, the lede wrote itself.

7/1/2020: Data caps still alive as pledges from internet service providers expire, USA Today

Between the inability of the nation’s largest Internet provider to make up its mind, my own inattention, and USAT’s status as an online and print publication, this column has had a few iterations. First we updated it later Wednesday to add Comcast’s decision to reinstate and raise its data cap–a move made after that cable operator left its customers guessing after its previous pledge to suspend enforcement of that limit had expired. Then we revised the piece again to correct my own misspelling of somebody’s last name (yes, I managed to get “Smith” wrong because I typed in Cox spokesperson’s Todd Smith’s name and got a different Todd’s surname lodged between my brain and fingers at the time). Finally, the column as revised and extended ran in the July 2 print edition of USAT.

Weekly output: Apple silicon, undermining Facebook’s business model (x2), remote teamwork, cybersecurity and privacy (x2), banning strong encryption, Google paying news sites, Washington Apple Pi

I only had a four-day work week, but Tuesday was no day off for me: I worked my second primary election in Arlington. Turnout was exponentially lower than what I saw in March, between this primary being limited to Republican candidates for Senate and the novel-coronavirus pandemic pushing people to vote by mail, but I still appreciated the work and appreciated the voters who showed up.

Patreon subscribers got an (overdue) post from me in which I recap recent reader reports of bad behavior from Comcast, Google, Spectrum and Sprint.

6/23/2020: No Intel inside? What Apple’s change will mean for your Mac, USA Today

I contributed to USAT’s coverage of Apple’s upcoming switch from Intel to ARM-based processors by quizzing a few Mac software developers about how they thought the transition would play out.

6/23/2020: Giving Facebook less data is a good idea. Even better: Just use it less, Fast Company

I filed this story a week or so earlier, but the delay allowed events to catch up to my topic of undermining Facebook’s business model, in the form of the first big-name advertisers saying they’d pull their ads off Facebook properties in July.

6/23/2020: Is it possible to unite a remote team?, Collision

My first panel at this conference that would have had me in Toronto this week before the pandemic forced its move to a virtual format focused, appropriately enough, on the challenges of remote teamwork. We–meaning myself, Aptum CEO Susan Bowen, Vidyard CEO Michael Litt, and Real Ventures managing partner Janet Bannister–recorded the discussion in advance, so my spending all of Tuesday working the election was not a problem.

6/24/2020: Building a paradigm of trust, Collision

My second pre-recorded Collision panel, this time about new challenges in cybersecurity, featured Akamai chief information officer Mani Sundaram, Sumo Logic chief security officer George Gerchow, and Honeywell chief digital technology officer Sheila Jordan.

6/24/2020: These Senators Want To Force Tech Firms To Give The Cops Keys To Our Encrypted Data, Forbes

I really thought a story about a bill that would ban end-to-end encryption across an enormous range of devices and apps–and that got introduced by its Republican sponsors just as Attorney General Bill Barr’s role as President Trump’s political commissar in the Justice Department became even more obvious–would get more readers. My venture into getting paid per click isn’t off to the best start.

6/25/2020: What is the role of the media in covering online security and privacy matters?, Collision

I hosted a roundtable discussion about press coverage of these issues that wound up not drawing many attendees, but I enjoyed the discussion anyway. Getting to talk about the issues you cover with knowledgeable people you hadn’t met before is one of the things I liked about going to conferences, and this part of Collision reminded me of that.

6/26/2020: Google Says It Will Pay News Sites For Their Work—But Not Yet Here, Forbes

My other post for Forbes this week covered a new initiative by Google to pay news publishers to reproduce their stories on some of its properties. I reported it out by checking in with the news types I’d quizzed for a feature last month about Google’s relationship with news publishers.

6/27/2020: Rob Pegoraro Zooms into the Pi, Washington Apple Pi

I talked to this Apple user group via Zoom instead of appearing in person as I did last June. That meant I couldn’t do my usual giveaway of trade-show swag, but not having to drive anywhere also meant I could mow the lawn before this virtual session.

6/27/2020: Advertisers boycotting Facebook, Al Jazeera

I talked about the growing number of advertisers choosing to pull their ads off of Facebook properties, in some cases off of social media entirely.

Weekly output: Apple’s App Store vs. Hey, cable modems, voice tweets

Happy Father’s Day to all who observe! Fatherhood is probably the worst-paying job I’ve had, but it’s also the best job I’ve had.

6/17/2020: Apple To Basecamp’s Hey: Expect To Pay Us If You Want To Sell Privacy, Forbes

I jumped on the chance to write about Apple hard-balling the Hey e-mail app with a demand that Hey developer Basecamp add Apple’s in-app-payment mechanism–allowing the Cupertino, Calif., company to take 30% of all subscriptions opened that way. Then I discovered that writing for a site that lets me publish immediately does not curb my instinct to fuss over my prose before filing. Another realization with this post: Calling out Apple’s abusive behavior towards an app built along the privacy-optimizing principles it says rank among its core values did not yield page views by the truckload, notwithstanding the history of reader interest in that company.

6/18/2020: Don’t keep paying for that cable modem, Talking Tech

I talked to my USA Today colleague Jefferson Graham about my recent column reminding readers that they should buy their cable modems instead of renting them.

6/18/2020: Voice tweets, Al Jazeera

The Arabic-language news network had me on to explain Twitter’s introduction of audio tweets. I said the upside of this was letting followers pick up on differences in intonation that text alone doesn’t convey, while Twitter will need to be careful about abusive types exploiting this feature. I told my producer that my favorite example of a good use of voice tweets was Liz Phair improvising a song about this product development; since I don’t know if that made its way to TV, I’m sharing that with you all below.

Weekly output: ShowStoppers TV, AT&T zero-rating HBO Max

Pro tip: Weekends are good for home-improvement projects, but not if you wait until after 5 p.m. on a Sunday to start them. Bonus tip: Expecting uncluttered wiring in an old house is always foolish.

6/11/2020: Dads & Grads, ShowStoppers TV

My role in this gig with this PR agency (the one that’s helped arrange my prior trips to the IFA and CEATEC tech events) was that of an emcee, not an endorser. As in, I introduced each company presenting and then threw out a question or two of my own before inviting the remotely-connected journalists and analysts to ask their own queries. I enjoyed playing a sort of game-show host, and it was nice to hear the voices of a few people I’d last met at CES.

6/13/2020: AT&T’s Trashing Net Neutrality Probably Won’t Help HBO Max, Forbes

My first post for this site offered a skeptical take on AT&T’s attempt to growth-hack its HBO Max streaming-video service–not to be confused with HBO Go or HBO Now–by exempting it from its wireless service’s data caps and throttling thresholds.

Weekly output: Palestinians on Facebook, buying a cable modem

I biked into downtown D.C. this afternoon–my first time there since March–and was pleased to see how protesters have turned the wall now surrounding the White House compound into a canvas for protest signs.

6/1/2020: After banning Palestinian content, is Facebook biased to Israel?, Al Jazeera

The Arabic-language news channel had me on for almost an hour to discuss allegations that Facebook has gone out of its way to silence Palestinian advocates. That’s not a subject I’ve researched in detail, so I stuck to talking about the times I’ve seen Facebook enforce its rules unevenly in the U.S., where its mistakes should be a lot more obvious. A few days later, the Guardian reported a disturbing pattern of Facebook deleting the accounts of Tunisian democracy advocates.

6/7/2020:  How to save money on your cable modem costs, USA Today

My research for this column on buying a cable modem instead of paying an ever-escalating rent (in Comcast’s case, it’s gone from $8 a month in 2016 to $14 today) included firsthand experience, in the form of my buying my in-laws a modem last summer. I posted a complete writeup of my notes from that exercise for Patreon readers last Sunday.