Weekly output: Best Mobile Networks, Tesla Model 3 notes, Hertz and EVs, digital healthcare innovation, baseball sports networks, Levi’s digital transformation, Boom Supersonic, WAP/PATACS

For the first time in a couple of months, the next month and change of my calendar doesn’t feature any work travel. That’s a good feeling, especially after the last business trip concluded in snakebit form.

6/21/2022: Best Mobile Networks 2022, PCMag

The drive testing that I did across the Pacific Northwest back in May yielded the network data for half of Boise and all of Portland and Seattle. For the second year in a row, PCMag gave its top honors to T-Mobile.

6/21/2022: 4 Things I Hated About Putting 1,700 Miles on a Tesla, PCMag

That road trip also yielded this assessment of the Tesla Model 3 I drove. I loved this battery-electric vehicle’s handling, comfort, range and Supercharger network. But I also hated its touchscreen interface, the inadequate options for music playback, the purist approach to design that evoked the excesses of Apple’s former design chief Jony Ive, and the proprietary Supercharger plug.

6/21/2022: Hertz Is Trying to Leave Gas Behind, But What’s Standing in the Way?, PCMag

This story by Sascha Segan about Hertz’s efforts to electrify its fleet is illustrated by three photos I took of that rented Tesla. If I’d known my car photography would be featured this prominently, I might have taken this vehicle to a car wash to get the splattered bugs cleaned off the front.

A red Collision sign, seen outside that conference's venue.6/21/2022: Tech for good: Unlocking the power of technology to advance human health, Collision

The first panel I did at Collision in Toronto had me interviewing Johnson & Johnson CIO Jim Swanson about upcoming advances in healthtech–and what might need to happen to bring them to reality.

6/21/2022: 5 MLB Sports Networks to Add $19.99 Direct-to-Consumer Streaming, PCMag

I wrote a quick post about five regional sports networks owned by Sinclar Broadcast Group letting fans in those markets–Detroit, Kansas City, Miami, Milwaukee, and Tampa–pay directly for streaming coverage of games instead of having to buy a larger pay-TV bundle.

6/21/2022: Diversity is the key to digital transformation, Collision

For my second Collision panel, I interviewed Katia Walsh, chief global strategy and artificial intelligence officer at Levi’s. Knowing that job title, I had lead off by asking what AI had to do with the cut of a pair of jeans–and I learned a thing or two from her answers.

6/23/2022: Boom Says Commercial Supersonic Air Travel Will Be Viable Again in 2029, PCMag

As a card-carrying avgeek, I had to watch the Collision presentation of Boom Supersonic CEO Blake Scholl, then quiz him at the subsequent press conference.

6/25/2022: Rob Pegoraro returns to Washington Apple Pi, Washington Apple Pi/PATACS

I made my first in-person appearance at a local user group meeting since November of 2019, in this case a joint gathering of Washington Apple Pi and the Potomac Area Technology and Computer Society (PATACS). My ulterior motive was unloading the tech-event swag I’ve had taking up space in my home-office closet, but in addition to serving as a decluttering exercise this event served up some interesting questions about smartphone service and blockchain technology.

Updated 8/4/2022 to add a link to the PCMag story featuring my photography.

Travel delays can be a team sport

After weeks of walking between the raindrops of flight delays and cancellations, I got soaked coming home from Toronto after the Collision conference there. And while Air Canada started things by cancelling my Thursday-evening flight, I managed to compound it with some avoidable clumsiness of my own that ensured I would not arrive at my house until around 12:30 Friday.

Things started going sideways for my YYZ-DCA flight by midday Thursday, when the Flightradar24 app reported that the regional jet assigned to operate it had fallen hours behind schedule as it hopped from Montreal to Atlanta before coming to Toronto. Air Canada’s site kept listing this flight on time, but at 5:52 p.m. the airline texted and e-mailed that it had canceled AC 8786 due to “the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic on aviation which includes government entry requirements, travel advisories, crew constraints, and local movement restrictions.”

That e-mail said the airline was “looking for an alternative flight,” after which I soon found one in United’s app: Air Canada’s last YYZ-IAD flight that night. Alas, Air Canada’s phone line dumped me after playing a goodbye-and-good-luck message: “Due to extremely high call volume, we apologize that we are not able to place you on hold.” And while its site had a rebooking tool, it didn’t list the Dulles flight.

An Air Canada CR900 regional jet at Toronto Pearson International Airport, photographed from a boarding ramp.

But Air Canada’s Twitter profile welcomed direct messages, so I tried that before accepting the site’s least-bad alternative, an nonstop to BWI at 8 a.m. Friday. I sent a DM asking for the YYZ-IAD flight and listing my booking code and then didn’t get an acknowledgment–until 14 minutes later, when a rep replied to confirm my requested rebooking.

“You will need to check-in for this flight,” the rep advised.

If only she’d added “in the next 20 minutes.”

I hustled over to Toronto’s Union Station for the next Union Pearson Express train and didn’t start to check in until reaching the UP Express waiting area. That’s when I hit an obstacle I had not experienced checking in via my phone the night before: AC’s mobile site didn’t show any way to upload my phone’s picture of my vaccination card or the SMART QR code generated from those records, instead directing me to take a picture of either.

Unfortunately, I lost my paper vax card a few months ago (which had until then seemed a sentimental-value problem), and I didn’t think to open my laptop and use my phone to take a photo of the picture of the card or the screenshot of the QR code saved in Google Photos. Instead, I selected an option to verify my check-in at the airport, thought I’d try to check in again using a different browser–and then got a message that check-in wasn’t available.

This whole time, I had been assuming I had 60 minutes pre-departure to check in. That’s the rule I’d seen listed before for international flights without checked baggage but had not researched further–leaving me unaware that YYZ’s cut-off time is 90 minutes.

Inwardly cursing my own stupidity as my train pulled out of Union, I switched back to my DM thread with AC, asked if I’d screwed up everything, and had a different rep assure me: “Not to worry, you will be able to complete the check-in at the airport!”

The rep was incorrect and the rule was correct. By the time I got to Pearson and jogged to the check-in area for U.S.-bound flights (while seeing in Flightradar24 that the IAD flight itself would depart hours late, because that incoming aircraft left Chicago three hours behind schedule), nobody was left at Air Canada’s stations except for two reps at a special-assistance desk who had passengers in line ahead of me with their own complex problems.

When my spot came up 20 or so minutes later, a fatigued but still polite agent said the system would not allow her to check me in–and besides, security and customs preclearance for U.S.-bound flights had already closed for the evening.

This agent said she would put me on the 8 a.m. Baltimore flight; having heard her colleague tell another delayed traveler that Air Canada would cover his hotel costs, I asked her if the airline could make the same accommodation in my case. To my pleasant surprise, she said the airline would reimburse me for up to $300.

As she then worked on my flight rebooking, I sat down on the nearest bench, opened my laptop to reserve a hotel, and got into a conversation with an even more frazzled traveler–a Toronto grandmother who had seen a flight cancellation thwart her attempt to visit her son in Alexandria. I described how I’d foolishly thrown away my shot at getting home that night, said it was a rough summer for airlines all over the U.S., and wished her luck getting to my city in the morning.

After a few hours of inadequate sleep in a Marriott Fairfield outside of YYZ and breakfast split between two Air Canada lounges, I finally boarded the Baltimore flight and slept through most of it. I rushed out of the terminal to the stop for the shuttle bus to the BWI rail station–and a minute later, the Toronto woman showed up, tired and unsure about how to get to D.C. I remembered my mother-in-law telling me about having the same experience years ago.

I said I was happy to walk her through what is, objectively speaking, one of the worst airport-to-rail connections in the U.S., and then we could take the train together if that would help. We had a pleasant conversation at the station waiting for the next MARC to D.C. that continued on the ride into Union Station, and then we headed to our separate family reunions.

Lesson learned: A trip interruption, even if partly self-inflicted, that only delays your return by 14 hours and allows you to be of some small service to a fellow passenger is not the worst thing in the traveling world.

Weekly output: Comcast advertising report, FuboTV, Apple TV+ promo, autopay discounts, Apple MLS streaming, investor-founder relationships, Maxio and Skillnet Ireland, fighting disinformation, health and location-data privacy

A month of speaking at conferences–with a one-week break when I came down with a gentle and brief case of Covid–wraps up this week with my short trip to Toronto to lead two panels at Collision.

6/13/2022: Comcast advertising report: Live TV lives on, FierceVideo

I did some fill-in writing at my trade-pub client, starting with this Comcast report on streaming-video advertising.

6/13/2022: FuboTV adds FAST channels from Trusted Media Brands, FierceVideo

My second post at Fierce allowed to mention cat videos in the lede.

6/13/2022: Apple TV+ makes first season of ‘For All Mankind’ free for all, FierceVideo

This day’s work ended with a quick post about one of my favorite Apple TV+ shows.

6/15/2022: Setting up autopay for your broadband or wireless can require careful aim, USA Today

Broadband providers’ inability to document the finer points of their pricing once again served up a story idea for me.

6/15/2022: Apple to Exclusively Stream All Major League Soccer Matches in 2023, PCMag

The story I did for FierceVideo in December of 2019 about D.C. United’s first attempt to go streaming-only looks a little more prescient now that MLS has agreed to have Apple offer live coverage of every match.

6/15/2022: FIRESIDE: Being on speed dial: how founders can best partner with their investors for maximum impact, Dublin Tech Summit

I interviewed Jonathan Heiliger, general partner with Vertex Ventures, about his lessons learned as a founder of tech startups and an investor in tech startups.

Photo of a list of panels on a wall at Dublin Tech Summit, with my second panel of June 15 listed about halfway down.6/15/2022: PANEL: Tales of Digital Transformation, Dublin Tech Summit

My second DTS panel had me quizzing Sally-Ann O’Callaghan, a regional director with the billing-services firm Maxio, and Mark Jordan, chief strategy officer with the tech-training organization Skillnet Ireland.

6/16/2022: Disinformation Experts Warn About US ‘Playbook’ Being Exploited Globally, PCMag

Day two of DTS featured this enlightening discussion between moderator Eric Schurenberg, Shorenstein Center on Media, Politics and Public Policy research director Joan Donovan, Kinzen co-founder Áine Kerr, and Logically CEO Lyric Jain
about the challenges of combating disinformation campaigns.

6/17/2022: Senate Bill Would Bar Data Brokers From Profiting Off Location, Health Data, PCMag

I wrote this post around 3 in the morning after realizing that jet lag wouldn’t have me falling back asleep any time soon–a decision that paid off several hours later when a slow security line and the inefficiency of U.S. customs preclearance at Dublin Airport left me with less free time than I’d expected before my flight back to the States.

Updated 6/26/2022 to add the FierceVideo posts I’d forgotten before, an omission I’m going to blame on jet lag. 

Weekly output: local ISPs, augmented reality, Toronto and Lisbon’s mayors, TVision, Senate Commerce vs. tech CEOs

I’m looking at a four-day workweek at my day job–plus a 16-hour day Tuesday as a poll worker for Arlington. Wish me luck! More important, wish all of us luck.

10/26/2020: Local Internet Service Providers, U.S. News & World Report

I wrote guides to the major choices for Internet access (using data from BroadbandNow) in 10 markets: Fairbanks, Alaska; Chandler, Ariz.; Colorado Springs and Denver, Colo.; Chicago, Ill.; Cary and Charlotte, N.C.; Cincinnati, Ohio; and Dallas and El Paso, Tex. (The first of these got posted back on Oct. 16, but the last two didn’t land until Tuesday, and it’s simpler to cover them in one entry.) Putting this together enlightened me beyond expectations about the state of broadband across the U.S.; for instance, I hadn’t realized how strict data caps could get until seeing what Alaska’s dominant cable provider inflicts on its customers.

10/26/2020: AR is finally infiltrating everyday tasks such as Google search, Fast Company

Writing this post on the state of augmented-reality interfaces allowed me to revisit a topic I’d covered for the Washington Post almost 11 years ago. It’s too bad Yelp scrapped the Monocle AR interface I wrote about then.

10/27/2020: Panel: Leading the city of the future, City Summit

This Web Summit side event had me interview Lisbon mayor Fernando Medina and Toronto mayor John Tory about how their cities–hosts of the Web Summit and Collision conferences, also places I sorely miss visiting this year–have responded to the novel-coronavirus pandemic.

10/27/2020: T-Mobile Launches TVision To Help You Fire Cable (Or Satellite) TV, Forbes

I walked readers through T-Mobile’s entry into streaming TV, which offers some surprisingly aggressive pricing but also requires some compromises in its channel selections that may prove non-trivial obstacles.

10/29/2020: The Best And Worst Moments In The Senate’s Grilling Of Social-Media CEOs, Forbes

The Senate Commerce Committee’s interrogation of Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg, Google CEO Sundar Pichai and Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey featured many cringe-inducing if not disgraceful sound bites, but it also afforded some non-garbage-fire moments. I particularly enjoyed writing the last sentence, even if it cost me some time poking around Federal Election Commission filings.

Three more erased events: SXSW, Google I/O, Collision

Yet another set of travel plans got sucked into a coronavirus-fueled jet engine this week. On Tuesday, Google announced that it would cancel its annual I/O developer conference, Friday morning saw Web Summit pull the plug on the Collision conference in Toronto, after which Friday afternoon brought the cancellation of SXSW

And now my business-travel schedule for the first quarter of the year looks as empty as it did back in Q1 of 2007.

I expected the I/O news. As an event that draws a global audience and is hosted by a large tech company with preexisting image problems, I/O seemed doomed the second Facebook said it would scrub the F8 developer conference that was set to happen a week before I/O. (Those of you still hoping to go to Apple’s WWDC developer conference would be well advised to book fully-refundable airfare and lodging.) 

I was also prepared for the axe to fall on SXSW, just because of the overriding attention to it as one large conference this month that had yet gotten coronavirus-canceled–and all of the tech companies that had already bailed. But it still took an order from Austin’s government banned events of more than 2,500 people to kill this year’s festival and deprive me of my annual overdose of tacos and BBQ.

Collision, however, surprised me. That conference was scheduled for June 22 through 25, which in a strictly medical sense would have left plenty of time to gauge the situation. But I suspect that the organizers were already considering how many speakers had or would pull out after their employers banned employee travel, and so made the decision early to run the conference online instead.

I told them I’m willing to moderate whatever panels they need, but count me as a skeptic of this approach. A “digital conference”–more accurately read as “webinar”–is no substitute for the unexpected in-person connections you make at a good conference.

I would like to see this event-losing streak end. One of the things I treasure as a self-employed professional is the freedom to go to interesting places for work. I also count on conferences to offset all the Me Time that working from home full-time affords me.

But as the past few weeks have made clear, that’s not up to me. The only travel I have booked that isn’t subject to getting scratched by risk-averse tech corporations is a trip in early April to see my in-laws over our kid’s spring break. Taking off from Dulles that morning will feel like a victory.

Weekly output: cybersecurity, pay-TV satisfaction, U.S. vs. Huawei, personal air transport, open-source SaaS, Collision conference

I don’t have to fly anywhere Monday, which seems a cause for joy after the last six weeks of travel.

5/21/2019: Cybersecurity: In search of the Holy Grail?, Collision

This somewhat broad description yielded a talk on what we’re doing wrong in infosec with defy.vc managing director Trae Vassallo, Veracode co-founder Chris Wysopal, 4iQ CEO Monica Pal, and Emerson Collective managing director (and former Democratic National Committee CTO Raffi Krikorian. I will add a link to video of this (and the other panels I moderated in Toronto) whenever the organizers post it; in the meantime, enjoy the picture by my friend John Ulaszek.

5/21/2019: Comcast, DirecTV and others suffer another round of low customer satisfaction scores, FierceVideo

I wrote up the latest findings of the American Customer Satisfaction Index survey for my occasional trade-publication client FierceVideo.

5/21/2019: U.S. vs. Huawei, Al Jazeera

I talked to AJ’s Arabic-language news channel about the growing isolation of the Chinese telecom firm via Skype from the Collision speaker-prep lounge; if you watched this hit live, that setting should explain the dull backdrop.

5/22/2019: The race to rule the skies, Collision

My second Collision panel featured Gwen Lighter, founder and CEO of the GoFly competition, and Ben Marcus, co-founder of the drone-cartography firm AirMap, talking about efforts to enable personal air transportation.

5/23/2019: Open source in the SaaS era, Collision

Panel number three of this week called for me to interview MongoDB CTO Eliot Horowitz, and that proved harder than I’d expected: The stage acoustics made it difficult for mo to hear complete sentences from him.

5/24/2019: At Collision conference, Facebook and the rest of tech gets taken to task once again, USA Today

I wrote a recap of the conference for USAT that noted the general distaste for Facebook’s reach and conduct as well as the lack of certainty over what, exactly, we should do about that company.

Updated 6/29/2019 to add links to videos of my Collision panels.

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.

Weekly output: the future of pay TV (x2), wireless choices

I returned from Denver Thursday afternoon, and Monday morning I fly to Toronto to start my sixth week in a row of travel–after which I’ll have a whole eight days at home. This streak should end on a high note: the Collision conference there has me moderating three panels, I’m happy to return to Toronto after my years-overdue introduction to the city last year, and I always get a ton out of Web Summit’s events.

5/14/2019: Fireside Chat- State of the Market with Wolfe Research and S&P Westminster Ballroom, The Pay TV Show

I quizzed analysts Ian Olgeirson, research director with the Kagan group of S&P Global Market Intelligence, and Marci Ryvicker, managing director and senior equity analyst at Wolfe Research, about the present and future of streaming TV.

This was a weird panel for me: Right after moderating it, I got hung up over the words that I’d stumbled over and some subpar clock management that led me to drop a couple of topics and then have a minute to fill at the end of the panel. But every attendee who shared an opinion with me said the panel was great, and their opinion overrides mine. Well, at least the opinion of the FierceVideo managers who are covering my travel costs for this show.

For more on our discussion: FierceVideo and Streamable both covered my panel, and each one ran a photo that shows me talking with my hands.

5/17/2019: You might soon have to choose between local channels and cheaper TV prices, Yahoo Finance

I wrote up my major takeaways from the show for Yahoo, and I have to imagine that sports fans and people lacking good over-the-air TV reception won’t be happy with them.

5/18/2019: The Big Four Of Cellular Plans and Their Inner Workings | #204, Popular Technology Radio

I talked to host Mike Etchart how the big four wireless carries have evolved (yes, I name-checked Sprint Spectrum) and how to choose among them.

Updated 5/28/2019 to add my radio appearance.

Weekly output: smartphone-only Internet access, data discussion, Credit Karma, GDPR notices, ad agencies, Sprint and T-Mobile’s networks, live music, encryption politics, future of the FTC

I spent most of this week in New Orleans for the Collision conference–that event’s finale there, as it’s moving to Toronto next year. (The clip the organizers put together to announce the change of host cities includes a snippet at the 0:21 mark of a panel on VR and AR that I did at Collision last year, something that completely escaped my attention when they played that clip Tuesday.) I’m sad that I won’t have an obvious reason to put NOLA on my Schedule C next year, but I don’t want to complain too much after three years in a row of being able to do just that.

Meanwhile, Conference Month continues with my departure Monday for Google I/O in Mountain View. I return Thursday, and then Tuesday of the week after has me off to Toronto for RightsCon.

4/30/2018: Study: 1 in 5 American homes get broadband through smartphones, Yahoo Finance

After filing this write-up of a new Pew Research Center study from a “real” computer, my editor sent back some questions as I was boarding my flight to New Orleans. I had free Internet access on my phone thanks to T-Mobile’s deal with Gogo, so I wound up finishing this post on smartphone-only Internet access on my mobile device. My comment to my editor: “I’ve basically become one with the story.”

5/1/2018: Data do nicely: Metrics that matter, Collision

My first of four panels at Collision had me quizzing Node co-founder Falon Fatemi and Branch Metrics co-founder Mada Seghete about how their firms collect and crunch large amounts of data for various clients. About five minutes in, I realized that I only had 15 minutes’ worth of questions for this 20-minute panel–a clock-management fail I should know to avoid–and started improvising. As I watched the timer tick down and silently implored each of my fellow panelists to keep talking, I thought the situation vaguely reminded me of watching the Caps grinding out a penalty kill.

 

5/1/2018: From 0-$4bn: Building Credit Karma, Collision

Tuesday’s second panel was an onstage interview of Credit Karma co-founder Nichole Mustard. After the morning’s timing troubles, I took care to write down more questions than I thought I’d need, then didn’t have to worry about timing since my panel partner could hold forth on everything I asked about.

 

5/1/2018: Pay attention to those privacy notices flooding your email, USA Today

This column explaining why so many sites, apps and services are rolling out new privacy policies effective May 25 was one of two posts that benefited from an interview I did with the Federal Trade Commission’s Terrell McSweeny–as in, one of my Web Summit co-panelists last year–on her second-to-last day in office.

5/2/2018: The agency of tomorrow today, Collision

I had a great chat with DDB Worldwide’s CEO Wendy Clark about the state of the ad business. This panel also featured some audience questions–routed through the Slido app, so I could pick which ones to answer instead of pointing to somebody in the audience and hoping they wouldn’t begin “this question is more of a comment.”

 

5/3/2018: Why Sprint customers should hope the T-Mobile deal succeeds, USA Today

This column walked readers through four independent assessments of Sprint and T-Mobile’s networks–three of which found Sprint’s to be well behind, even after notable improvements.

5/3/2018: Tech changed consumption: What’s the next disruption?, Collision

My last Collision panel had me quizzing Ticketmaster’s Ismail Elshareef (with whom I’d worked in 2012 when I did a talk at his then-employer Edmunds) and the UCLA Center for Music Innovation’s Gigi Johnson about the state of live music. You’ll hear a couple of shout-outs from me to such current and former D.C.-area venues as the 9:30 Club and Iota.

 

5/3/2018: The Trump administration is pushing hard for smartphone backdoors, Yahoo Finance

I’m not sure what led this recap of recent developments in encryption politics to get 1,280 comments, but I’m not going to turn down that kind of attention.

5/3/2018: The agency that protects your privacy is in for big changes, Yahoo Finance

Most of my notes from the McSweeny interview went into this post, along with a few conversations with outside observers of the Federal Trade Commission.