Weekly output: a 5G reality check, sports network fees without sports

Yesterday afforded us the rare privilege of several hours spent in a different part of the greater Washington area–Harpers Ferry. That historic town at the confluence of the Potomac and the Shenandoah is as picturesque they say, and it’s close enough that I have zero excuse not to have visited it before. On the other hand, it’s good that after 30-plus years around here I’m still discovering new places.

9/4/2020: Two promising 5G trends: $200 5G phones and unlimited home broadband, Fast Company

My coverage of the scaled-back IFA tech show got an unexpected boost when Qualcomm offered Fast Company a chance to quiz their president Cristiano Amon about their announcements at that event. I enjoyed my conversation with the executive I’d met IRL at an IFA reception last year, and I also appreciated getting some realistic talk about which parts of the 5G formula actually look to be mass-market material on a global scale.

9/6/2020: NBA, NHL, MLB fans sidelined: Will TV subscribers ever get money back after coronavirus shortened seasons?, USA Today

I wrote an update to the column I did in April that didn’t break an enormous amount of news–AT&T’s reply almost matched the one they provided then word-for-word. But I did get some more specific assurances from Comcast about when subscribers might get compensation for months of paying sports-network fees that have not brought anywhere near the usual quota of live sports.

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: OurStreets, ATSC 3.0, innovation in 2020, 5G meets retail, connected-TV privacy, Last Gadget Standing, Korean smart-city tech, best of CES

Yet another CES is in the books. It was a tiring week, but once again I got an enormous amount out of the show. And it is nice to think that less than two weeks into the year, I’ve already finished the year’s toughest business trip.

Earlier this evening, I put together a Flickr album of my pictures from the gadget show; at some point in the next few days, I will write up the more interesting bits from my notes for Patreon subscribers.

1/6/2020: This app helps pedestrians and cyclists wage war on terrible drivers, Fast Company

The second-to-last piece I filed in 2019 ran a week later–a look at an upcoming app that will help pedestrians and cyclists report bad behavior by drivers.

1/8/2020: ATSC 3.0 draws selective, if not scant, support at CES 2020, FierceVideo

Industry support for a long-awaited upgrade to broadcast-TV technology is a somewhat wonky topic compared to, say, robots bearing toilet paper, but that’s why it’s handy to have a trade-pub client that deals in wonky stuff all the time.

1/8/2020: What’s Next for Innovation in 2020?, VentureFuel

I debated fellow tech journalists Eric Savitz and Rick Limpert in a panel discussion hosted by this New York-based consultancy before a small audience of investor and founder types.

1/8/2020: 5G Meets Retail, CES

My contribution to the show’s high-tech retailing track was this talk with Nokia 5G market-development director Jason Elliott and Verizon connected-solutions managing director Arvin Singh about what 5G could do for the retail experience–in a shop and along its supply chain.

Yes, this was my second manel of CES. I should have said something about that when I was asked to join each panel but did not, and feeling strung out by December’s cognitive overload is a weak excuse.

 

1/9/2020: CES: Your smart TV is watching you. Will Samsung, LG, Vizio do more to protect privacy?, USA Today

Think of this column as a sequel to the one I wrote for USAT from Google I/O in May. Where Google showed it could speak in detail–if not as much as I’d like–about adopting such data-minimization techniques as federated learning, TV manufacturers at CES appeared to be grossly unready for that sort of privacy discussion.

1/9/2020: Last Gadget Standing, Living in Digital Times

Once again, I helped judge this competition and then introduced two contenders on stage Thursday: the Octobo connected toy and the Flic 2 programmable smart button.

1/9/2020: A Look At Korea’s Smart-City Ambitions At CES, Ubergizmo

Friends at this gadget blog asked if I could help with their coverage by writing up one set of exhibits in the Eureka Park startup space. They offered a suitable rate, so I said that would be fine.

1/9/2020: CES 2020: Our best of show, USA Today

I contributed a paragraph about Hyundai’s air-taxi venture with Uber that ended with a contrary comment from an aviation-safety professional who’s understandably skeptical about the odds of this and other attempts at urban air mobility. If you’re not in the mood to read that much, you can also hear my spoken-word rendition of this piece (recorded on a Vegas sidewalk Wednesday night) on Jefferson Graham’s Talking Tech podcast.

Updated 1/16/2020 to correct the spelling of Elliott’s last name; updated 1/29/2020 to add a YouTube embed of the panel.

Weekly output: D.C. United’s online-TV experiment, 5G’s home-broadband potential, how the four carriers offer 5G, a 5G forecast for 2020

One of this week’s stories isn’t like the others–because it doesn’t mention 5G wireless at all.

12/9/2019: What D.C. United’s streaming experiment can teach about soccer’s TV future, FierceVideo

D.C.’s soccer team tried to cut its own cord and go with online-only video coverage of matches. That didn’t work, but that doesn’t mean D.C. United was wrong to dump traditional pay TV–or that Major League Soccer has much use for broadcast partners that require an old-school cable or satellite TV package.

12/11/2019: Can 5G replace everybody’s home broadband?, Ars Technica

The second feature in this series for Ars covered 5G’s potential as a source of uncapped home broadband. I struggled mightily to find somebody, anybody, who could testify to their experience of the 5G Home service Verizon sells in small areas of a handful of cities and finally found a few users on Reddit willing to share their experiences.

12/11/2019: Want crazy-fast internet? Here’s what AT&T, Verizon, T-Mobile, and Sprint offer right now, Fast Company

The four nationwide U.S. carriers are selling four degrees of 5G, and I couldn’t explain them all adequately without going over my usual word count. Note that we updated this post after publication to add a quibble from Verizon over my use of the 5G hotspot that firm sells to judge its 5G connectivity: That $650 M1000 hotspot apparently can’t share more than 400 Mbps or so of 5G speed over WiFi. (My friend Sascha Segan called that out in his review at PCMag, but I had missed that.)

12/12/2019: 5G’s rollout is confusing, uneven, and rife with problems, Fast Company

I wrote up an Opensignal forecast of 5G’s prospects in North America next year. Like me, the people at that London network-analysis firm have serious concerns over the confusion the carriers are introducing by hyping millimeter-wave 5G that many people won’t be able to use.

Weekly output: Huawei and ZTE network-gear security, Ericsson’s 5G forecast, 5G explained

I hope you all haven’t gotten bored of me writing about 5G wireless, because there’s a lot more of that coming over the next two weeks.

12/3/2019: Don’t obsess over the security of Chinese wireless gear. Do this instead, Fast Company

I wrote about the Federal Communications Commission’s recent move to ban wireless carriers that receive Universal Service Fund subsidies from using any of those government dollars to buy network gear from the Chinese firms Huawei and ZTE.

12/4/2019: Get ready for 5G to make your phone even more addictive, Fast Company

Remember the Ericsson study about the future of mobile broadband worldwide that I briefly wrote about for FierceVideo last week? Fast Company also thought that worthy of a post, allowing me to cover it in more detail. As my old editor Craig Stoltz used to say: “Sell everything twice.”

12/4/2019: 5G on the horizon: Here’s what it is and what’s coming, Ars Technica

This 2,000-word post–the first of three I’m doing for Ars about the possibilities of 5G wireless–allowed me to synthesize a lot of the research and reporting I’ve been doing over the last few months. One thought I had after writing this: The carriers are setting their customers up for an enormous amount of disappointment by hyping up the potential of the one form of 5G least likely to reach most Americans, millimeter-wave 5G. Another thought: Even with all the skepticism I tried to bring to the topic at the time, my first coverage of 5G still exhibited too much trust in the sales pitches of carriers and hardware vendors.

 

 

 

 

Weekly output: 5G in buildings, online security, Qualcomm’s 5G vision, AncestryDNA, 23andMe, smartphone location privacy, 5G meets the Washington Post

Don’t expect any tweetstorms from me this week about the joys of spending time on a plane, a train, a bus or a car: For the first time since 1988, I’m not traveling for Thanksgiving. Instead, my mom and my brother and his family are coming to us. Since I have somehow never cooked a turkey before, Thursday promises to be its own little culinary adventure.

11/18/2019: Expect 5G to Slow Its Roll as It Enters Buildings, Urban Land

You may have read my first piece in the Urban Land Institute’s magazine since 2014 earlier if you got a print copy of the mag, but I don’t know when they started showing up.

11/18/2019: You’re not crazy to feel some insecurity about your security online, Riderwood Computer Club

I gave a talk about computer security–with slides and everything!–to the user group at this Maryland retirement community. My hosts asked some great questions and gave me at least one story idea I need to sell somewhere.

11/20/2019: Qualcomm is talking a big game about 5G—in 2020 and beyond, Fast Company

I wrote up Qualcomm president Cristiano Amon’s presentation at that firm’s analyst day, calling out some inconsistencies in his sales pitch for 5G wireless.

11/21/2019: AncestryDNA Review: DNA Test Kit, Tom’s Guide

I reviewed this DNA-test service and did come away quite as impressed with it as some other reviewers.

11/21/2019: 23andMe Review, Tom’s Guide

The prospect of having this DNA-test service warn me that I had a genetic predisposition for some incurable disease left me a little nervous. But 23andMe found no such red flags, allowing me to complete this review without lingering feelings of existential dread.

11/23/2019: Apple and Google remind you about location privacy, but don’t forget your wireless carrier, USA Today

My editor asked if I could do a recap of the location-privacy features in Android 10 and iOS 13, and I realized that this topic would let me revisit my earlier reporting for TechCrunch about the location data-retention policies of the big four wireless carriers.

11/24/2019: 5G is going to save journalism! Maybe! (Don’t hold your breath), Fast Company

I wrote about a deal between AT&T and the Washington Post to put 5G to work in journalism–which, given the extreme coverage limits of the millimeter-wave 5G that figures so prominently in their announcement, seems a reach. I couldn’t resist reminding readers of a past collaboration between my old shop and AT&T: the doomed Digital Ink online service running on AT&T’s Interchange platform.

Weekly output: 5G reality check, Business Access Media, 5G coverage maps

My last business trip of the year–at least, the last one I have on my schedule as of now–starts Saturday when I fly to Lisbon for the Web Summit conference. That’ll be my fifth trip to that event, my fourth as a panel moderator. In the meantime, I need the Washington Nationals to win two baseball games. Not one, not three, exactly two.

10/23/2019: What will 5G mean for you? A reality check on the hype, Fast Company

My first post in a series of twice-a-week “Connected World” posts that’s set to run through the rest of this year covered how the opening keynote at the MWC Los Angeles trade show wound up undermining some of the hype about 5G wireless I’ve seen at previous MWC conventions. No, I was not in L.A. for this; I thought about going but didn’t see how I’d sell enough stories to recoup my travel costs, so I watched the conference livestream instead.

10/24/2019: Business Access Media, Wynne Events

With this panel of journalists–including my fellow ex-Postie Neil Irwin–I spoke to a roomful of business-school PR types about where I look for stories, what kind of information from them might help me do my job and how to reach me. After a brief round of audience Q&A, the organizers of this event hosted at Georgetown University’s business school left the balance of this hour to one-on-one pitching from these publicists. I may have picked up a story idea or two from that.

10/25/2019: Where does your carrier offer 5G? That’s an excellent question!, Fast Company

My second Connected World post for FC covered how three of the four nationwide wireless carriers have yet to put their 5G service into their regular coverage maps. That’s kind of crazy, considering all the time these companies spend talking about how great their 5G is. That’s also yet another reason not to buy a 5G phone just yet.

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: 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.