Weekly output: sustainability, Project Kuiper, Frances Haugen, AI benefits, wellness UX, Amazon Sidewalk, less Facebook, Microsoft vs. climate change, Apple vs. sideloading, HBO Max, Nothing, Tim Berners-Lee, Facebook at Web Summit, U.S. vs. NSO Group

Looking at this list makes me feel tired… or maybe that’s just the jet lag talking.

Photo shows the Corporate Innovation Summit program in the library of the Academy of Sciences.11/1/2021: How technology is driving sustainability, Web Summit

My first of four Web Summit panels took place at the Corporate Innovation Summit, an offsite gathering at the Lisbon Academy of Sciences Monday. There, I quizzed Rebecca Parsons, chief technology officer at Thoughtworks; Vincent Clerc, chief executive officer for ocean and logistics at Maersk, and Tolga Kurtoglu, chief technology officer at HP, about how their firms were working to slow global warming.

11/1/2021: Amazon is gearing up to take on Elon Musk’s Starlink satellite internet, Fast Company

I got an advance on the news that Amazon’s Project Kuiper low-Earth-orbit satellite broadband plans to launch its first two prototype satellites towards the end of next year–which will still leave it years behind SpaceX’s Starlink satellite constellation.

11/1/2021: Facebook Whistleblower: ‘I Don’t Hate Facebook’ (But Zuckerberg Should Step Down), PCMag

Facebook whistleblower Frances Haugen helped open Web Summit with an onstage talk Monday night; writing that up led to me not having dinner until 10 p.m.

11/2/2021: Beyond the bottom line: The extra benefits of AI, Web Summit

Tuesday morning, I interviewed David Kiron, editorial director at MIT Sloan Management Review, and François Candelon, managing director and senior partner at Boston Consulting Group, about research they’d done in how artificial-intelligence software can make organizations smarter.

11/3/2021: How to win at wellness UX, Web Summit

Talking to executives at two health-tech startups–Nevada Sanchez, co-founder and vice president of core technology at Butterfly Network, and Alison Darcy, founder of Woebot Health–I had to ask “How do you convince people that you’re not the next Theranos?” I thought these two people fielded that query well.

11/3/2021: Amazon Sidewalk quietly walks on, Light Reading

This assessment of Amazon’s mesh-network project reflects a correction I requested Saturday after Amazon pointed out that the setup process on a new Echo device now gives people a chance to opt out of Sidewalk.

11/3/2021: Stop bothering me, Facebook: Not ready to quit? Try these 3 tips to quiet it down, USA Today

The last time I wrote a Facebook-diet column for USAT, the social network had yet to give its users a way to opt out of having it analyze their reading habits across the rest of the Web for advertising-tracking purposes.

11/3/2021: How Do You Hit Net Zero? Microsoft President Brad Smith Has an Idea, PCMag

Microsoft president Brad Smith used a Web Summit keynote to explain how the company plans to make itself not just a carbon-neutral operation, but to zero out all the carbon dioxide it’s put into the air since its founding.

11/3/2021: Apple Exec to the EU: Hands Off Our App Store, PCMag

Apple software executive Craig Federighi gave what I thought was a remarkably disingenuous speech at Web Summit urging the European Union to back off on a proposal to require that Apple allow “sideloading” of apps in iOS.

11/4/2021: HBO Max exec emphasizes curation and localization, FierceVideo

I wrote up an interview of HBO Max product-planning senior vice president Melissa Weiner, that took place at a virtual conference hosted by Fierce’s parent firm. I thought I’d have more free time in my calendar when I accepted the story assignment, but an early start to my Thursday allowed me to get this written without putting a dent in my Web Summit schedule.

11/4/2021: Can Europe compete in consumer hardware?, Web Summit

This interview of Akis Evangelidis, co-founder of the gadget startup Nothing, provided me with my introduction to Web Summit’s main stage.

11/4/2021: Tim Berners-Lee Wants to Put Online Privacy on a Solid Foundation, PCMag

Web Summit closed out with the Web’s inventor making a pitch for his privacy-optimizing startup Inrupt.

11/4/2021: Facebook finds few friends at Web Summit as techies turn out to hear from whistleblower, USA Today

I wrote a recap of how so many speakers at this conference teed off on Facebook–er, Meta–even as the social network now recasting itself as a “metaverse” company limited its presence at Web Summit to glitchy appearances via streaming video.

11/7/2021: U.S. blacklists NSO Group, Al Jazeera

The Arabic-language news network had me on Sunday to discuss the Department of Commerce putting the Israeli surveillance-software firm NSO (and three other offenders) on its Entity List of banned firms for its role in eroding human rights.

This weak excuse for a winter

All this month, Facebook has been reminding me of the epic blizzards that hit D.C. a decade ago–as if I needed more reasons to feel cranky about Facebook.

Where February of 2010 saw D.C. get whomped with almost 30 inches of snow in a week, this miserable excuse for a winter has yet to grace my city with an inch of snow total.

I have yet to ski anywhere this season. And with the eroding accumulations at the local ski areas, it looks like I’m either going to have to fly somewhere or hope for a March blizzard to avoid breaking a streak of skiing somewhere and somehow every winter–downhill or cross-country–that dates to 1997.

And what if next year’s winter is just as warm as this one’s? And for every year after? Global warming sucks… and being deprived of local snow sports is one of the least painful elements of this problem we continue to cook up.

Yes, having a Washington winter act more like what passes for that season in the Bay Area has offered some advantages. I’ve biked a lot more than I would expect, including a great ride through Rock Creek Park last Sunday (as seen in the photo above). Our yard is already waking up to spring, with the first lilies already popping out of the ground and arugula and parsley still growing since last fall.

But I’d trade all that for a freeze followed by low clouds dumping six inches of snow all around. Or even four: My cross-country skis are already trashed, so all I really want is an excuse to air them out instead of them collecting more dust in the basement.

Arcadia Power, or how I’m offsetting half our electricity’s carbon footprint for free

I can credit President Trump for our latest renewable-energy move. The day he announced that the U.S. would withdraw from the Paris climate-change agreement–in almost four years, and for fraudulent reasons–I felt a little more motivated to find more ways to cut down on our home’s carbon footprint.

We’ve long since done the easy stuff, like having insulation blown into the walls, ditching incandescent light bulbs for compact fluorescent bulbs and then LEDS, and replacing a grossly inefficient air-conditioning unit. (Okay, the A/C forced that upon us by dying in the first hot week of last summer.) Putting solar panels on our roof would make a major difference but at a high upfront cost–and waiting until next year or the year after should yield a further decline in that expense.

Arcadia Power energy-use graphicIn our case, that leaves carbon-offset programs, in which you pay to have your energy use offset by buying a share of renewable energy produced elsewhere. Purchasing “Renewable Energy Certificates” won’t immediately leave more coal in the ground, so it’s no substitute for your electric utility selling a renewable-only option. But when your utility is Dominion Energy–which generates only 5.6 percent of its electricity from renewables (versus 33.8 percent from nuclear, 33.6 percent from gas and 26.5 percent from coal) and spends lavishly to stop Richmond from mandating anything greener–that’s all you have.

Dominion has its own REC program, but environmental advocates have criticized it for high overhead costs and its failure to support solar and wind projects in Virginia. What I didn’t realize until the president’s petulance about Paris got me to do some more research: Better options exist.

The one I picked is a D.C.-based firm called Arcadia Power that, thanks to a round of venture-capital funding last year, will offset half of your electricity for free. I was a little skeptical at first, but the energy experts at Grist took a skeptical look at the company and did not find it wanting. Arcadia also offers a 100-percent offset plan–at a higher per-kWh rate than Dominion’s REC surcharge–and a community-solar subscription option, but they aren’t things I need to figure out immediately.

Setting up an account there involved a day or two of waiting to have it take over my Dominion account–yes, I had to cough up my username and password first–and then getting confirmation that Arcadia was now managing my account. Since then, it’s been a drama-free experience. My payment was processed as usual from my bank (Arcadia apparently has to pass along Dominion’s credit-card-payment surcharge), and I didn’t get dinged for the bill a second time by Dominion.

The one part that hasn’t worked out so far: While Arcadia has a referral program, neither of the environmentally-minded friends I’ve spammed about it have signed up. So while I’m not spending more to support renewable energy, I may not actually save money on the deal.