Weekly output: iOS 11 issues, Super Cruise, SESTA, Tech Night Owl

In recent years, late September has seen me jetting off to one city or another to attend the Online News Association’s annual conference, but this time around my ONA travel will consist of taking Metro–the conference starts Thursday at the Marriott in Woodley Park. And I’m also on the schedule for the first time: I’m speaking Saturday afternoon with veteran freelancer Katherine Lewis about survival skills for the self-employed.

Meanwhile, the Nationals host the Cubs sometime Friday and Saturday in the first two games of the division series, ensuring that I will be completely hoarse and sleep-deprived by Sunday. Go Nats!

9/26/2017: How to fix Apple iOS 11 battery and Outlook problems, USA Today

My editor opted to hold this post for a day to reduce the odds of it getting lost in USAT’s other iOS 11 coverage.

9/28/2017: What it’s like riding in Cadillac’s self-driving Super Cruise for 350 miles, Yahoo Finance

This account of having a 2018 Cadillac CT6 drive me along much of I-70 and the Pennsylvania and Ohio Turnpikes was the most interesting transportation-related piece I’ve written since this spring’s post about advances in Gogo’s satellite WiFi. The long drive from Washington to Cleveland also let me see parts of Pennsylvania and Ohio that I hadn’t glimpsed in years and take a detour to pay my respects at the Flight 93 National Memorial.

9/30/2017: Why the tech industry is worried about a bill targeting sex trafficking, Yahoo Finance

I should have had this post about the Stop Enabling Sex Traffickers Act written earlier, but the delays allowed me to add some useful quotes from a panel I attended on the Hill Thursday.

9/30/2017: September 30, 2017 — Rob Pegoraro and Kirk McElhearn, Tech Night Owl

I talked with host Gene Steinberg about my Cadillac test drive, my iOS experience, and the macOS High Sierra install that was going on in the background but had not wrapped up by the time my roughly hour-long segment ended.

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Weekly output: ECPA reform, Facebook video, iOS 10, Outlook’s “J”

My fourth Online News Association conference wrapped up last night. This event stands as an outlier in my travel schedule: I pay for my conference badge in addition to my travel costs. (That’s also true of XOXO, but I’ve only gone to that twice.) I think it’s a justifiable expense in light of the things I learn and the connections I make. Plus, ONA allows a rare chance for a work-from-home writer like me to hang out with a large group of non-tech journalists, much as I once did in the Post’s newsroom.

9/14/2016: Congress could blow an opportunity to fix a major email privacy issue, Yahoo Finance

This story about the prospects for reform of the Electronic Communications Privacy Act is one I could have written at any point in the last few years–my 2012 Disruptive Competition Project post linked to in the piece, sadly enough, still holds up.

yahoo-finance-facebook-at-ona-post9/15/2016: Facebook outlines its plan to insert ads into Live videos, Yahoo Finance

The onstage interview of a Facebook executive that opened ONA yielded some news about the social network’s intentions for live video–but did not offer much practical help for journalists trying to avoid invisibility on Facebook.

9/16/2016: Pros and cons of iOS 10, WTOP

I did this interview via Skype from my Airbnb lodging at 7:10 a.m. in Denver, which may explain why my voice sounded a little scratchy. Note that while I answered the host’s question about downgrading from iOS 10 to iOS 9 by saying that’s not worth it, you can do this for a limited time. But I still don’t recommend taking that step.

9/18/2016: If a sentence in an email ends in ‘J,’ it’s OK, USA Today

For years, I’ve been wondering why sentences in e-mails that looked like they were supposed be funny ended with a “J” instead of the obvious “:)” emoticon. The answer was a long-lived Microsoft Outlook bug that–maybe!–the company will fix now that it’s gotten a little more exposure.

Weekly output: ads and the consequences of blocking them, misplaced places on Facebook

I’m back from a few days in Los Angeles for the Online News Association’s conference. In addition to getting some wheels turning in my head about the state of my profession and doubling as a Post reunion, my first trip to L.A. for work since 2012 gave me my belated intro to the subway there. (The Red Line’s stops feature some magnificent architecture.)

9/22/2015: Will Ad Blockers Kill the Internet as We Know It?, Yahoo Tech

I’d had a version of this column in mind for a while; originally, it was going to stop at explaining why you see so many crummy ads, even on this very blog. Then Apple’s move to make it App Store-easy to block ads in iOS 9, followed by the quick withdrawal of the leading ad blocker from the store, provided a timely angle.

USAT Facebook places column9/27/2015: How Facebook places you where you’ve never been, USA Today

My weekly column took a food-centric turn this week when I got a question about Facebook magically placing a user at a restaurant she’d never visited and that wasn’t even open yet. The answer revealed some interesting wrinkles to Facebook’s rules for local businesses marketing themselves on the site.

Post-travel to-dos

Cards and card

I’m through the worst of what I’m not-so-fondly calling Conference Month, and all of this travel is reminding me of the tasks that await each time I come home and finish unpacking.

Let’s see:

  • Do laundry.
  • Catch up on other household chores: sweep the floors, do the dishes, bake bread, reaffirm my earlier decision that the late-summer lawn is a lost cause.
  • Go over my e-mail to see which messages I should have answered three to five days ago.
  • Tag and categorize business expenses in Mint, then verify that I didn’t forget to record any cash transactions in the Google Docs spreadsheet I use for that purpose.
  • Send LinkedIn invitations to people I met on the trip, assuming their profiles show signs of recent life. (Go ahead, call me a tool now.)
  • Throw the latest set of press-kit USB flash drives onto the pile.
  • Scan business cards into Evernote.
  • Download, edit, geotag and caption photos, then post them to Flickr (for public viewing) or Facebook (for friends).
  • Make sure I got the proper frequent-flyer credit for the last round of flights.
  • There’s probably some other chore that should be on this list but that I will only remember when I’m on my way to National or Dulles.

As I write this, there’s a stack of business cards on my desk and several dozen pictures in iPhoto that have not been edited, geotagged, captioned or shared. And I only have five days before my next work trip, the Online News Association’s conference in Los Angeles, so you can imagine how well this is going.

Conference organizers, maybe you could find other months to host your events?

 

Weekly output: vacation mode for phones, whither unlimited-data plans

The next few weeks will involve a lot of airplanes, starting tomorrow when I fly to Berlin for my fourth annual trip to the IFA electronics show there. I’m back on the 6th, then depart two days later for the CTIA wireless-industry gathering in Las Vegas. That will be a brief stay, as I move on to Portland on the 10th for the XOXO conference. A week and a half later, I’m off to L.A. for the Online News Association conference.

At least this travel schedule isn’t as insane as last September’s (when, for example, less than 24 hours separated the IFA and CTIA trips). But still: Conference organizers, maybe you could find other months to host your events?

Yahoo Tech vacation-mode post8/25/2015: The One Feature Every Smartphone Needs: Vacation Mode, Yahoo Tech

I wrote this essay, sadly enough, while on vacation. But I did leave time that day for a nap! Of course, half the comments were along the lines of “just turn off your phone.” Thanks, dude, that’s a really practical bit of advice.

8/30/2015: New math hurts case for old unlimited data plans, USA Today

Speaking of comments, something weird happened with them on this post tonight–the previous 16 comments, including some replies of my own, vanished, and now there’s just one. (It’s from a guy who says his phone is his only Internet device, and he therefore burns through 40 gigabytes of data. I am pained thinking of spending that much time online on any phone.) I’m not sure what happened. Never mind–I was reading a syndicated copy of the story on the site of the St. Louis TV station KSDK but completely ignored the different header atop the story. Duh.

Newspaper alumni need the occasional reunion too

CHICAGO–I’m here for the Online News Association’s annual conference, and it’s been pretty great so far. Not necessarily for all the panels and discussions (although they’ve been good too, especially Chartbeat CEO Tony Haile’s explaining how news sites and advertisers need to focus on time spent instead of page views, then Texas Tribune editor Amanda Krauss discussing how changing the “Like” button in their commenting system to a “Respect” button helped elevate the discussion), but for the people.

ONA 14 logo on tote bagThe right and honorable profession of journalism has many virtues, but occupational permanence or even long-term stability isn’t among them. Jobs change, news organizations grow or shrink, and your fellow cubicle farmers may not be there next year. The cubicle farm itself may vanish.

(That lesson is particularly obvious in this city: My walk to the ONA venue takes me past the Tribune Tower, where Sam Zell’s malicious mismanagement sent the newspaper into bankruptcy.)

You can still talk to the people you used to work with on Facebook, Twitter and mailing lists, but sometimes you want to see them in person. Tech events help–I don’t miss going to Apple product launches because of the chance to inspect a new iPhone under tightly-controlled conditions, but because they let me catch up with tech-journalism pals–but ONA is fantastic for reconnecting with old Post colleagues.

We run into each other, we ask what we’re up to now, we share our recollections of horrible CMSes, we trade tips about travel and technology, we talk about our families… and I love realizing that we’ve found happiness in our post-newspaper lives.

I’ve also run into some current Posties here, who seem much more content than many of us were when we left: The Jeff Bezos money has ended a long and seemingly unending cycle of staff cuts and started paying for hiring and travel on a scale unimaginable back then. That’s good to see too.

Where’s a conference-scheduling cabal when you need one?

The tech-and-media hive mind has not been doing the best job this year of keeping its own events straight.

Overlapping eventsTake last month. I realized only after I’d booked my travel and made arrangements with multiple editors to cover CEA’s CE Week conference in New York that it shared two days with the great Computers, Freedom & Privacy event in D.C.–and just in time for the first rounds of NSA-snooping revelations to get people chattering away at the latter event. Oops.

In September, the pan-European IFA electronics trade show in Berlin barely avoids overlapping TechCrunch Disrupt in San Francisco. I got a lot out of covering both last year, but this time I’d have to hop on a pre-dawn flight out of Dulles the day after returning from Berlin. No thanks.

(Disclosure: IFA covered much of the travel costs for me and a large group of U.S. journalists last year and plans to do the same this year. But if I had to self-finance either trip, I don’t know that my choice would differ: I’d have an easier time selling stories out of Berlin than in the Bay Area, surrounded by half the tech media in America. Plus, Disrupt isn’t the only big pitch conference that time of year.)

In October, the Demo conference in Santa Clara, Calif., runs through the first day of the Online News Association’s annual conference. And that has swapped last year’s San Francisco venue for one in Atlanta. I could take a red-eye after Demo wraps up and only miss a third and change of ONA–not counting time spent nodding off the afternoon of my arrival–but then I’d eat that much of the value of my registration fee. (Had my ONA panel proposal been accepted, I could go for free, but that’s neither here nor there.)

I realize these calendar constraints fall well within the realm of first-world problems, and that aside from grandstanding product launches, event organizers have to book times and places many months in advance. But if we can’t have an actual cabal to restore order to the conference universe, isn’t this the kind of market inefficiency that ambitious dot-coms should be itching to fix disrupt with some buzzword-compliant online mechanism?

All kidding aside, I do need to decide which places get a spot on my October schedule by July 15, when ONA’s early-bird pricing ends: Santa Clara, Atlanta or both. What would you do?

(7/13: Realized I had missed an opportunity to use the verb “disrupt” and take a swipe at those overblown product-launch events that tech companies, perhaps under the delusion that they are all Apple, have been staging increasingly often.)