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.

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Weekly output: 5G in rural areas, Twitter dissent in Egypt, Twitter account suspensions

My second-shortest business trip of this year let me add yet another airport to the list of 90-plus that I’ve used. At some point, I should post that avgeek list here, because some of those airports are a tad unusual.

9/17/2019: Don’t You 4G About Me: 5G’s Prospects in Rural Areas, CCA Annual Convention

This breakfast panel, sponsored by FierceWireless, featured T-Mobile senior director for engineering and technology policy John Hunter, C Spire chief innovation officer Craig Sparks, Ericsson vice president and chief technology officer for regional carriers GS Sickand, and Strategy Analytics director of service provider strategies Susan Welsh de Grimaldo. Fierce picked up my travel costs, which was especially appreciated after a week after I’d paid to attend and travel to the Online News Association’s rewarding but notoriously monetization-resistant conference.

Speaking of, Patreon backers got an extra post from me there that covered some of my ONA takeaways on issues of disinformation and rebuilding trust in journalism.

9/17/2019: Twitter dissent in Egypt, Al Jazeera

This was not my finest 10 minutes, because I got a question I wasn’t expecting about the alleged erasure of a trending hashtag attacking Egyptian president Abdel Fattah el-Sisi. Coverage I’ve seen of Egyptian Twitter users denouncing their dictatorial leader, including AJ’s English-language reporting, has not mentioned any such erasure, so I had to limit myself to saying that did not make an enormous amount of sense given my understanding of how Twitter works and how Twitter has dealt with authoritarian regimes.

9/20/2019: Twitter suspends thousands of accounts, Alhurra

Another day, another appearance on an Arabic-language news channel. But this time, instead of Qatar’s government supporting the channel it was my own: Alhurra, Arabic for “the free one,” is backed by the U.S. Agency for Global Media, the same government agency behind Voice of America, Radio Free Europe and other news services set up to bring quality reporting to people in unfree countries. They had me on to discuss Twitter booting a new batch of disinformation-minded accounts across the Middle East but also elsewhere. I couldn’t find video of my appearance on their site, but I did find their writeup of this situation.

Weekly output: IFA, Pay TV 3.0, everything as a service, where to buy an iPhone 11, iOS needs a kids’ mode

If you’re going to have a bunch of long-in-the-works stories finally post, you could pick a worse time than the week you’re at a journalism conference. This coming week has me at a different event: the Competitive Carriers Association’s conference in Providence, where I’m moderating a panel discussion on 5G wireless in rural areas. (Yes, readers, the title of that panel is 100 percent my fault.)

9/9/2019: 3 ways tech has gone astray at Berlin electronics show, USA Today

USAT took a day or two to post this, for which I was grateful–that lag gave me time to remember to throw in a quote that I’d forgotten to include when I first filed this last Sunday morning before flying home from Berlin.

9/10/2019: What ‘Pay TV 3.0’ will mean for viewers and channels, FierceVideo

This story started with the panel I moderated at a conference this this trade pub hosted outside of Denver in May, hence the above long-in-the-works comment.

9/10/2019: “Everything as a service” is coming—but we’re not there quite yet, Ars Technica

Some of you saw this feature on cloud services briefly appear last week before it vanished without explanation. As Lee Hutchinson, senior tech editor at Ars, later explained in a comment, the story got posted early by mistake. Yes, that is apparently a thing that is possible.

Since the first instance of this story didn’t feature any ads from its sponsor HPE–Ars correctly did not tell me the sponsor’s identity until after I’d filed copy that didn’t mention that firm anyway–it looks like the problem was some mixup on the advertising end.

Anyway, about this lengthy post: Researching the finer points of cloud storage and management services had me leaning well over my skis, but the experience left me with some helpful new sources to consult the next time I’m writing about cloud security and privacy.

9/12/2019: Ordering iPhone 11? The one thing wireless carriers might not want you to know, USA Today

You sort of have read this story before, and you will probably keep reading this as long as most of the major carriers continue to lock phones sold on installment-payment plans.

9/12/2019: The one feature Apple should have added to iOS 13 and iPadOS, Yahoo Finance

My daughter gets credit as the assignment editor on this: Handing over an iPad for her limited allotment of screen time kept reminding me of how unhelpful iOS is in this scenario. I could have written this any time in the last few years, but the impending release of Apple’s iOS 13 and iPadOS–neither with a real kids’ mode–provided a news peg for this story.

Weekly output: Sudan Internet shutdown, 5G and smart cities, net neutrality, Facebook marketing itself

If you’ll have next Saturday morning free and a commute to George Mason University’s Fairfax campus wouldn’t be too bothersome, you can see me talk about privacy, security and other tech topics (while handing out random tech-event swag) at Washington Apple Pi’s general meeting. If this Apple user group’s schedule sticks to pattern, my spot will come up around 11 a.m.

6/12/2019: Sudan Internet shutdown, Al Jazeera

I made a Skype appearance on the Arabic-language news channel to talk about a frequent hobby of totalitarian governments: cutting off their citizens’ Internet access.

6/12/2019: Smart Cities Council—5G Networks: The Keys to Smart City Growth, CE Week

As the one person on this panel not working in the 5G or smart-cities spaces (as opposed to the Smart Cities Council’s Jason Nelson, Aero Wireless Group CEO Jim Lockwood, and Verizon 5G Labs manager Joshua Ness), I tried to ask the questions average customers and citizens might have about the advent of low-latency sensor networks in urban areas.

6/12/2019: The FCC said repealing net-neutrality rules would help consumers: It hasn’t, Yahoo Finance

I’ve had this piece on my to-do list since not long after the Federal Communications Commission’s 2015 net-neutrality rules expired last June. I didn’t get a reply out of every small Internet provider that FCC chair Ajit Pai had cited as a victim of net neutrality, but the responses I did receive did not confirm the upsides Pai forecast when leading the drive to kill the old rules.

6/15/2019: Facebook’s new promotional push, Al Jazeera

Asked to comment on a Wall Street Journal report that Facebook would step up its please-trust-us marketing efforts, I reminded viewers of its previous efforts to do just that. Did they convince you that the company had turned a corner? I didn’t think so.

Weekly output: watching baseball online, ATSC 3.0, 5G media, CDA 230, alternative DNS, Lyft vs. Uber

My college newspaper celebrated its 50th anniversary this weekend, which both let me catch up with not enough of my long-ago colleagues and contemplate anew how important the Georgetown Voice was to this business I’ve chosen. Without all those insane (and unpaid) hours, I might have still made my way into journalism–but I wouldn’t have had four years of learning to report, write creatively but quickly, deal with frequently-brutal edits by peers, and get back to it for the next issue.

4/1/2019: Why these 6 baseball teams still won’t let you watch their games online, Yahoo Finance

For the third year in a row, I ranted about regional sports networks–yes, I very much have the Nats’ Mid-Atlantic Sports Network in mind–that still limit their distribution to traditional cable and satellite bundles instead of following cord-cutting viewers to streaming TV services.

4/2/2019: ATSC 3.0 hits the road at NAB 2019, FierceVideo

I wrote a short post for this trade publication about likely storylines at the National Association of Broadcasters’ trade show involving this next-generation broadcast-TV standard.

4/2/2019: 5G brings optimism and concern to NAB Show 2019, FierceVideo

My second NAB-show preview outlined what this conference, happening this week in Las Vegas, might have to say about media ventures built on 5G wireless.

4/3/2019: Why killing a law that shields tech companies would actually cement the dominance of Facebook, Google, and Twitter, Yahoo Finance

When I wrote this post unpacking a recent bout of criticism of Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act–the statute that says online forums aren’t publishers and can’t be held liable for everything their users post–it came in at well over a thousand words. It took multiple rounds of editing to get my precious prose down to a manageable size (sound familiar, my former Voice editors?).

4/4/2019: Primer: When (and how) to dump your Internet provider’s DNS service, The Parallax

I wrote a how-to post about using such alternative domain name services as Google and Cloudflare to work around reliability and privacy issues you can run into if you stick to your Internet provider’s DNS.

4/4/2019: Lyft exec says ‘we’re a company of values’ when asked about Uber, Yahoo Finance

I wasn’t sure the lunchtime talk by Lyft public-policy chief Anthony Foxx at the Washington Auto Show Thursday would yield a story until he answered an audience question about how his employer differentiates itself from Uber with that company-of-values line. I’m not sure how many of my readers bought that self-assessment; at UberPeople.net, a forum for ride-hailing-service drivers, the reaction was distinctly cynical.

Weekly output: wireless plans, cities meet 5G, GM + Honda, Twitter business models, Hack the Capitol, smartphone biometric locks, Tech Night Owl

This week saw a couple of long-running projects finally go online. It also saw a tweet I sent during a combative onstage appearance by Sen. Lindsey Graham (R.-S.C.) at the Atlantic Festival go slightly viral, as in 1,651 retweets and 2,843 likes. That one tweet doesn’t fairly capture Graham’s discussion–that’s why I posted it as part of a thread that wound up spanning 11 updates–but I fear most of the 185,556 impressions for the tweet in question did not result in my new readers sticking around to read the rest of that thread. Once again, Twitter is where context goes to die; in other news, water is wet.

10/1/2018: The Best Cell Phone Plans, Wirecutter

We posted yet another update to the guide to reflect the addition of tiered “unlimited”-data plans at all four carriers and tried to streamline the text a bit. And by the end of this work, we realized we would need to update the guide yet again in a few months, should changes we’re seeing in usage levels continue showing up in third-party studies.

10/2/2018: Why 5G Internet Is a Policy Minefield for Cities, CityLab

When I started interviewing people for this story, 5G wireless deployment was months away, but now it’s a commercial reality in four U.S. cities. Appropriately enough, I wrapped up work on this piece for this subsidiary of The Atlantic’s parent firm while attending that magazine’s conference in Washington.

10/3/2018: GM’s self-driving-car project will have Honda riding shotgun, Yahoo Finance

This writeup of GM’s Cruise Automation’s deal with Honda to co-develop its second self-driving electric car benefited from a quick interview with Cruise CEO Kyle Vogt I did right after their press call Wednesday morning.

10/3/2018: Twitter business models, Al Jazeera

The Arabic news channel had me to discuss this subject, inspired by the “We can’t believe this website is free” joke tweeted by Twitter’s own Twitter account. Right before I went on the air, I though to ask the interpreter if there was an Arabic term for “freemium”; he told me there was not, so we agreed that I would take a minute to describe that concept so he could translate it correctly.

10/4/2018: Hack the Capitol event reminds lawmakers that IoT security needs help, The Parallax

I wrote about this brief conference in D.C. about the security of industrial control systems from the week before in the light of… wait for it… Congress not acting on a vital tech-policy issue.

10/5/2018: Unlock your phone with your face or fingerprint? Here’s how to shut that off – quickly, USA Today

This how-to walks readers through quickly disabling the facial- or fingerprint-recognition unlock features in iOS and Android. A reader wrote to me afterwards to ask why I didn’t mention just restarting the phone, which will also disable those biometric unlocks; that would not be as quick to do, but I should have included that anyway.

10/6/2018: October 6, 2018 — Rob Pegoraro and Bryan Chaffin, Tech Night Owl

I talked with host Gene Steinberg about the puzzling mismatch between Bloomberg BusinessWeek’s story alleging a long-running Chinese campaign to hide spy chips on server circuit boards with increasingly direct denials by Apple, Amazon and others. There’s also some banter about transit in our roughly hour-long discussion.

Weekly output: Inside the Media Minds, EU copyright control-freakery, WeChat, 5G and IoT, Facebook political-ad rules

In addition to the exposure below, I may or may not have been on New York’s Fox affiliate WNYW Monday–I did a Skype interview about the music industry’s move away from downloads, but I have no idea if they used it or not. If you happened to watch them Monday night, please let me know either way in a comment.

6/19/2018: EP 7 – Rob Pegoraro/Yahoo Finance/USA Today, Inside the Media Minds

I sat down for this interview with W2 Communications‘ host Christine Blake a month ago–but since I spent most of the time talking about longer-term stuff like my coverage priorities and my worries about technology, it aged reasonably well.

6/20/2018: How Europe’s proposed copyright laws could ruin your search engines, Yahoo Finance

It’s now been over five and a half years since I first wrote about the inane idea of letting newspapers charge search engines for the privilege of indexing their content, and I’ve been covering Hollywood’s demands that the tech industry nerd harder and create some magic solution to copyright infringement since at least 2002. That the European Union is seriously considering copyright-law revisions that would add a link tax and upload filtering suggests that no tech-policy idea is too dumb not to be exhumed and put forth as a sober-minded solution.

6/21/2018: Meet WeChat, the app that’s ‘everything’ in China, The Parallax

I wrote a lengthy explainer about WeChat, the do-it-all social-media platform that largely defines the mobile Internet for Chinese users–Facebook Messenger could only dream of folding in so many functions. Then again, Facebook Messenger offers end-to-end encryption while WeChat offers no such thing.

6/21/2018: 5G and the Internet of Things: How much? How fast? How soon?, CE Week

I led a panel discussion at the CE Week conference with Owl CEO Andrew Hodge, I Luv Wireless managing member Michael Dean, and SureCall sales vice president Frankie Smith. The takeaway: forget latency and bandwidth, better battery life will be the real reward of 5G in connected devices.

6/22/2018: Facebook’s push to kill bad political ads is also hiding regular posts, Yahoo Finance

Facebook now requires ads that address political issues to meet a higher standard of transparency—but in practice, its system has been classifying ads promoting news stories and even everyday commercial offerings as political.