Six weeks in a row of travel

When I unlocked the front door on our darkened porch Thursday night–and, as if by magic, the power came back on–six consecutive weeks of travel went into the books.

View of Toronto from a departing airplaneIt all seemed like a reasonable idea upfront, not least when it appeared I’d have a couple of weeks at home over that period.

In an alternate universe, a spring break trip to see Bay Area and Boston relatives and then the IFA Global Press Conference in Spain would have been followed by week at home, then more than a week of additional downtime would have separated Google I/O in Mountain View and Collision in Toronto.

But then I got invited to moderate a panel at the Pay TV Show in Denver, with the conference organizers covering my travel expenses, and my Uncle Jim died. The results: 4/13-4/21 spring break, 4/24-4/28 IFA GPC, 4/29-4/30 in Ohio for my uncle’s funeral (I had about nine hours at home between returning from Spain and departing for Cleveland), 5/6-5/9 Google I/O, 5/13-5/16 Pay TV Show, 5/20-5/23 Collision.

I’d thought having the last three trips only run four days, with three days at home between each, would make things easier. That didn’t really happen, although I did appreciate having time to do all the laundry, bake bread and cook a bunch of food during each stay home, then be able to check the status of my flight home the morning after arriving at each destination.

In particular, my ability to focus on longer-term work and try to develop new business took a hit during all this time in airports, airplanes and conference venues. And because Yahoo Finance elected to have staff writers cover I/O and Collision remotely, so did my income.

Meanwhile, I can’t pretend that I’ve been following the healthiest lifestyle, thanks to all of the eating and drinking at various receptions. Consecutive days of walking around with my laptop in a messenger bag left a softball-sized knot in my left shoulder to complement my sore feet. And I’ve woken up in the middle of the night too many times wondering where I was–including once or twice in my own bed at home.

So while the past six weeks have taken me to some neat places and connected me to some interesting people, I don’t need to repeat the experience.

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Weekly output: 8K TV, privacy at Google I/O, Waymo

A week after taking off for the Bay Area to cover Google’s I/O conference, I’m departing for Denver early Monday afternoon. This week’s excuse for propping up the airline industry: moderating a state-of-the-industry panel at the Pay TV Show, in return for which the conference organizers are covering my travel costs.

5/6/2019: Dark clouds invade forecast for 8K TV shipments, FierceVideo

My big takeaway from the IFA Global Press Conference two weeks ago was a dramatically more pessimistic forecast for 8K TV shipments from the research firm IHS Markit. It was refreshing to see analysts decline to get in line behind industry hype over a new product category.

5/8/2019: Google attempts a pivot toward privacy at I/O developer conference, USA Today

For the first time in my experience, USAT didn’t send any of its own reporters to Google’s developer conference, leaving this piece my client’s sole dateline from that event.

5/10/2019: Waymo Doesn’t Mind Being Boring, CityLab

I took a break from I/O Wednesday morning to attend a press event hosted by Waymo, the self-driving-car subsidiary of Google’s parent firm Alphabet. Said event did not feature any time as a passenger in one of Waymo’s autonomous Chrysler Pacifica minivans, because the company apparently still doesn’t have the California permit needed to offer rides to non-employees.

On top of those stories, I also launched a page on the Patreon crowdfunding site. Despite getting no more publicity than a post here Saturday evening and one appreciative tweet afterwards, this experiment already has a non-zero number of supporters pledging to chip in a couple of dollars a month. So I’ve got that going for me, which is nice.

Weekly output: cable-ISP data caps (x2), how long wireless carriers keep your cell-site location history, Facebook banning extremists, IFA GPC

Tomorrow kicks off three weeks in a row of travel: first Google I/O in Mountain View, Calif., which I’ll be covering for as many of my clients as feasible; then the Pay TV Show outside of Denver, at which I’m moderating a panel discussion between two industry analysts; then the Collision conference, newly relocated to Toronto and once again involving me speaking on a few panels. Fortunately, I have four nights at home between each of these trips.

5/1/2019: Why your cable company might be happy to see you stop subscribing to its TV service, USA Today

After seeing a research note from MoffettNathanson highlighting how some smaller cable operators have made their peace with video subscribers cancelling cable TV and switching to streaming TV services, I noticed that both firms spotlighted in that note–Cable One and Mediacom–had some stringent data caps in place that should allow them to profit handsomely from their Internet subscribers pivoting to online video.

5/2/2019: This Morning with Gordon Deal May 02, 2019, This Morning with Gordon Deal

I talked about my latest USAT column with this business-news radio show; my spot starts at the 14-minute mark.

5/3/2019: Why carriers keep your data longer, TechCrunch

I’ve been reading TC for years and going to their events for almost as long, but this is my first byline there. This post is also my first paywalled work in a while, requiring an Extra Crunch subscription ($150 a year, two-week free trial available). Here’s my one-sentence summary of this roughly 1,500-word piece: The four nationwide wireless carriers keep your cell-site location history for as long as five years and as little as one year, but none of them act as if these retention periods are information you’d want to know.

5/3/2019: Facebook banning extremists, Al Jazeera

I had my first appearance in a few weeks at the Arabic-language news channel to talk about Facebook’s recent move to ban such extremists as InfoWars conspiracy-theory liars Alex Jones and Paul Joseph Watson, Islamophobic loon Laura Loomer, and Nation of Islam anti-Semite Louis Farrakhan.

5/4/2019: Moor Insights & Strategy Podcast (5-4-19), What’s Hot in Tech?

If you thought the people giving you advice about what gadgets to buy could get said gadgets to work every time: My Saturday-afternoon conversation with analyst Mark Vena and my fellow tech freelancer John Quain recapping the IFA Global Press Conference was the third take of this podcast. The first attempt at the IFA GPC went awry when Mark’s iPhone overheated in the heat of a Spanish afternoon, then a second try a few days later fell prey to a corrupted audio recording.

Weekly output: Apple’s AirDrop privacy error

I’m home for the shortest interval ever between trips, but it’s not my work’s fault. After four days getting an update on consumer-electronics trends at the IFA Global Press Conference (this year, that event took place on the Spanish coast; as in prior years, the organizers covered most of my travel costs and those of the other invited journalists and analysts), I’m flying to Cleveland early tomorrow morning for my Uncle Jim’s funeral.

If this post gets you to call or e-mail an aunt or uncle you haven’t talked to in a while, then it’s been more useful than most of these roundups.

4/27/2019: The feature Apple needs to change in AirDrop, Yahoo Finance

I’ve written about how the design of the AirDrop file-sharing feature in iOS enables harassment from creeps trying to send dick pics and other unwanted images to strangers. But hearing my wife talk about how a visit by our daughter’s Brownie troop to the neighborhood Apple Store end with a store employee offering to AirDrop pictures of the kids to the parents there—an invitation they could only accept by setting AirDrop to accept files from “Everyone,” which would in turn leave them open to “cyber-flashing”–led me to decide to take another whack at Apple for leaving this flaw unfixed.

To all the men who have commented that they’ve never had this problem and, come on, it’s not that hard to change the setting back: Thanks for making my case that we need more diversity on development teams, and please don’t join any yourself.

Weekly output: Facebook Messenger scanning, 8K TV, Gmail’s missing features

Monday begins three weeks of travel: the Collision conference in New Orleans this week, Google I/O in Mountain View next week, and RightsCon in Toronto the week after. They are all good events, but I will be happy to land at National Airport three Fridays from now.

4/25/2018: What Facebook is doing when it looks at your Facebook Messenger photos, USA Today

After weeks of harsh coverage of Facebook, I got to say something halfway nice about the social network in this column. By “nice,” I mean “Facebook is no more evil than other big tech companies in this area.”

4/25/2018: 8K TVs are coming, but don’t buy the hype, Yahoo Finance

My recap of Sharp’s 8K pitch at the IFA Global Press Conference in Rome seems to have landed on a nerve, if the 400-plus comments are any sign. Engadget (like Yahoo Finance, owned by Verizon) picked up the post and re-ran it.

4/25/2018: Gmail still lacks these important features. Yahoo Finance

I wrote this story in record time–because I’ve been grumbling for years about Gmail’s failure to deliver some otherwise industry-standard features.

Weekly output: Facebook ads, tech policy in Washington, Facebook tracking

My tweets the past few days have been coming at weird times because I was in Rome from Thursday through this morning for the IFA Global Press Conference. That’s a small spring event hosted by the organizers of the IFA tech trade show that runs in Berlin each summer. They invite a few hundred journalists and analysts–covering their travel costs–and put on a program of product introductions and a panel discussion or two. I’m not quite sure about how this works for the hosts as a business model, but for me it affords an advance look at some interesting gadgets (look for my writeup of Sharp’s pitch for 8K television soon) and quality networking. And, sure, the chance to spend a few days in a pleasant location.

4/16/2018: How advertisers target you on Facebook, Yahoo Finance

I’ve been meaning to write a longer explanation of how exactly Facebook lets an advertiser target its users (you’ve read short versions of that here), and the confusion many members of Congress expressed in their questions to Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg gave this topic a handy news peg. I also used this story to get some firsthand acquaintance with Facebook’s “Custom Audiences” feature, which lets you upload a customer list and have Facebook show ads to users it matches up with the data in your list.

4/18/2018: Tech News in Washington, D.C. with Rob Pegoraro, Tech Policy Institute

I was a guest on this think tank’s Two Think Minimum podcast, discussing the history of tech policy and tech lobbying in D.C. with TPI communications director Chris McGurn and TPI fellows Scott Wallsten and Sarah Oh.

4/18/2018: Facebook tracking at other sites, Al Jazeera

The Arabic news channel had me do a Skype interview from home about how Facebook tracks people–and in particular, those who don’t have Facebook accounts–at other sites. My takeaway: While Facebook tracking people who aren’t on Facebook can sound creepy, that’s what every ad network does.

Updated 4/23/2018 to add TPI’s podcast. I’m blaming jet lag on making me forget to include that yesterday.

Weekly output: Porsche Design laptop, net neutrality (x2), getting the world online, app privacy

You can tell I’m about to go to New Orleans because I put a bunch of songs from the Meters and the Neville Brothers on my phone. As was the case about this time last year, my excuse is the Collision conference; I’ll be moderating four panels at this offshoot of Web Summit.

4/24/2017: We took Porsche’s pricey new laptop for a spin, Yahoo Finance

I filed this first-look report from the IFA Global Press Conference, but it didn’t get posted until the day after I returned from Lisbon.

4/26/2017: Trump’s FCC bulldozes open internet rules without a plan B, Yahoo Finance

The copy I filed went into more detail about FCC chair Ajit Pai’s weird, red-baiting attack on the liberal tech-policy group Free Press, but my editor thought that was a little too much inside baseball. I should note that I’ve spoken at two of Free Press’s events, most recently in Denver in 2013; I may have missed any praise from the organizers for Marx and Lenin when I ditched the conference for an afternoon to see the Rockies home opener.

4/27/2017: Trump’s FCC chair issues attack on open internet rules, Yahoo Finance

A day after Pai spoke about his intention to demolish the current net-neutrality rules, I unpacked the FCC notice of proposed rulemaking that would accomplish that goal.

4/29/2017: How to get 4 billion unconnected people online, Yahoo Finance

I wrote this post about the issues that keep some four billion people off the Internet after attending a Tuesday IEEE event featuring TCP/IP co-author Vint Cerf, but this week’s surplus of net-neutrality news caused it to get set aside for a few days. Having a chance to talk shop with one of the inventors of the Internet remains a mind-bending experience.

4/30/2017: Your data is priceless; that’s why some apps sell it, USA Today

Writing this piece about the amount of access some apps have to your data led me to yank the TripIt app out of my Gmail–I can have that service advise me about changes to my travel plans almost as easily by forwarding booking e-mails to it. And that way, I won’t have TripIt thinking an incremental e-mail from an airline or Amtrak represents a new itinerary.