Weekly output: standalone 5G, Facebook’s outage (x2), cruise-industry information security, Instagram and teens, Mark Vena podcast, startup sustainability, Microsoft report on digital attacks, NSO whitelists U.K. phone numbers

I’ll be spending two days in Philadelphia at the end of this week to attend the Online News Association’s Insights conference there. It’s been more than two years since I’ve met most of my ONA pals, but it’s also somehow been more than 10 years since I last set foot in Philly–and that previous visit only consisted of a connection in PHL on my way home from my final business trip for the Post.

Screenshot of the article as seen in Chrome on an Pixel 3a phone10/4/2021: In a slow race to launch standalone 5G, T-Mobile stands alone for now, Light Reading

My editor suggested I take a closer look at the big three carriers’ plans to deploy standalone 5G–meaning connectivity that doesn’t lean on a carrier’s 4G signal to set up the connection–and that proved to be an excellent suggestion.

10/4/2021: Facebook’s giant outage, Al Jazeera

This happened on sufficiently short notice that I not only didn’t have time to set up my tripod, I also didn’t have time to shoo my cat out of his spot in my office lounge chair. I hope Abel appreciates the exposure.

10/5/2021: Facebook’s Outage Was No Laughing Matter Outside the US, PCMag

In much of the rest of the world, Monday’s Facebook outage would be more accurately described as “Monday’s WhatsApp outage.” I used this post to recap how aggressively Facebook has worked to cement WhatsApp as an e-commerce foundation in markets like India–sort of like WeChat, but not operating subject to the Chinese Communist Party.

10/5/2021: Tabletop exercises with cruise execs needed to tackle data breaches, Seatrade Cruise News

Seatrade’s Holly Payne wrote up the second panel I moderated last week at their conference in Miami Beach.

10/6/2021: Instagram and teens, Al Jazeera

AJ apparently was not tired of my insights about Facebook, so they had me on a second time to discuss the Wall Street Journal’s recent reporting about Facebook studies that found Instagram left a dent in the self-image of about a third of teenage girls.

10/7/2021: S01 E12 – SmartTechCheck Podcast, Mark Vena

I rejoined my industry-analyst friend’s podcast to discuss, among other things, Facebook whistleblower Frances Haugen’s testimony on 60 Minutes and before the Senate’s Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee.

10/7/2021: How Not to Fail at Scale, Ascent

I returned to the conference at which I spoke IRL in 2019 and virtually in 2020 to interview Chargebee CEO and co-founder Krish Subramanian about how to run a startup for the long term.

10/8/2021: Microsoft: Digital Attacks Are Getting Worse, Russia Bears Much of the Blame, PCMag

More pass-the-vodka bad news about information security.

10/9/2021: NSO spyware no longer targeting U.K. phone numbers, Al Jazeera

AJ called upon me yet again to discuss the Guardian’s report that the Israeli spyware firm NSO blocked its Pegasus software from targeting the U.K.’s 44 country code, an apparent response to Dubai’s ruling sheikh using NSO’s tools to go after his ex-wife and her lawyer in Great Britain. My responses were heavily informed by a Washington Post investigation published in July that showed NSO had no hangups over selling its services to such repellent customers as Hungary’s authoritarian regime.

Updated 10/27/2021 with a link to and embed of the Ascent talk.

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.

Updated 1/17/2020 with a link to video of one of my Ascent panels

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.