Weekly output: Web Summit, Tim Berners-Lee, 1Password, Slingbox, Rocket Lab

This coming week features my last long-haul flying for work of this year: I’m headed to Maui for Qualcomm’s Snapdragon Summit. Qualcomm is picking up airfare and lodging for reporters and analysts at this invitation-only immersion into wireless technology; like last year, I accepted the invitation on behalf of my telecom-news client Light Reading with the advance approval of my editor there, and I’ll disclose the comped travel in every story I write from the event.

11/8/2022: Tech for good, evil and companionship at Web Summit, USA Today

I wrote most of this column at my hotel on my last night in Lisbon, then wrapped it up on the flight home.

11/8/2022: Tim Berners-Lee is building the web’s ‘third layer.’ Don’t call it Web3, Fast Company

I originally had a separate interview booked with Tim Berners-Lee but opted to consolidate with one my Fast Company editor Harry McCracken had already set up Friday. He wound up doing most of the talking and therefore got to transcribe the interview and write the story. Unanticipated bonus: Seeing Harry introduce himself to Berners-Lee, express his thanks to him for inventing the Web, and have Sir Tim respond “You’re very welcome—use it any time you like.”

Screenshot of the story as seen in Safari on an iPad mini.11/8/2022: 1Password CEO: Our Competition Isn’t Just Apple and Google, It’s Bad Habits, PCMag

The other interview I did Friday at Web Summit was with 1Password CEO Jeff Shiner, which resulted in this longer piece for PCMag. This was another plane-written piece, which was not the most comfortable sort of writing in the context of the 31-in. seat pitch in the back of a TAP Air Portugal A321.

11/9/2022: Slingboxes Silenced as Servers Go Offline, PCMag

Writing this semi-obituary for the Slingbox, the pioneering place-shifting device for traveling TV viewers, provided me with an unexpected hit of nostalgia. Especially when I looked up the review I wrote for the Washington Post of the first Slingbox in July of 2005.

11/10/2022: Rocket Lab Picks Dec. 7 for First US Electron Rocket Launch, PCMag

I’ve been following the progress of Rocket Lab’s plans to start launching its Electron rocket from Wallops Island, Va., for a few years, and now there’s an official launch date announced. Yes, I plan on making the trip to Virginia’s Eastern Shore for that.

 

 

Weekly output: Pixel 5a repair, Spectrum One, defining AI, innovating through a crisis, Alexa ambitions, Comcast uploads, brain-computer interfaces, digital personalization, Microsoft supports Ukraine, Seaborg nuclear power, Facebook Oversight Board, Signal

My last international trip of the year wrapped up Saturday afternoon with my last landing at Dulles Airport without a Metro station there in revenue service. And I have somehow already posted my Flickr album from this week’s Web Summit trip.

10/31/2022: DIY Demo: Just How Easy Is It to Fix Your Phone’s Shattered Screen Yourself?, PCMag

My recap of successfully replacing my Pixel 5a’s shattered screen using an iFixit repair kit was, as far as I can tell, the first story I’ve written to include the word “spudger.” It was also the first story in quite some time, maybe ever, where I lost a little blood in the research phase.

10/31/2022: Spectrum Adds New Bundle of Broadband and Wireless (Not Broadband and Cable), PCMag

We had to update this post to note a $5 rate hike to Spectrum’s non-promotional rates for residential broadband that went into effect Nov. 1–something that Spectrum’s PR person didn’t think to mention when answering my fact-checking questions about that service’s new promotion for bundled broadband and wireless.

My Web Summit schedule, as seen in the browser on my phone as I held it up in the Forum. 11/2/2022: Time to define AI, Web Summit

I got asked to cover this panel two and a half hours in advance after the original moderator had some unspecified flight trouble. It all worked out, thanks in large part to Dataiku CEO Florian Douetteau’s stage presence. #professionalism

11/2/2022: Recession busters: How to innovate through a crisis, Web Summit

This panel had a wide-ranging cast of characters: Andy Baynes, who worked at Apple and Nest before co-founding the consultancy GT; Kit Krugman, board chair of WIN: Women in Innovation and managing director for organization and culture design at co:collective; and Jasjit Singh, executive director of the Commerce Department’s SelectUSA office.

11/2/2022: More Than a Voice: Amazon Wants Alexa to Be an ‘Advisor and Companion’, PCMag

Amazon’s Rohit Prasad, senior vice president and head scientist for Alexa, led off the Web Summit main-stage schedule Wednesday morning.

11/2/2022: Comcast is upping upload speeds. But for now, you’ll need a premium bundle., USA Today

After years of hiding its slow upload speeds on a network-management disclosures page, Comcast has a better story to tell there–which it’s stepping on by making those faster uploads a privilege of a premium-service bundle.

11/3/2022: Hardware that can read your mind, Web Summit

I usually don’t bring props to my panels, but after getting invited to do this onstage interview with Neuroelectrics co-founder and CEO Ana Maiques, I almost immediately thought that a talk about brain-computer interfaces needed a tinfoil hat. Maiques liked the idea when we met backstage and I showed the aluminum foil I’d brought from the U.S., and a great conversation ensued.

11/3/2022: Making products that speak, Web Summit

This panel about digital personalization (featuring CI&T president Bruno Guicardi, BBC chief product officer Storm Fagan, and Chubb chief digital and chief risk officer Sean Ringsted) featured a stage that was noisier and warmer than average, and ending the panel at the 0:00 mark felt like a minor victory.

11/3/2022: Microsoft Pledges Digital Support for Ukraine Through 2023, PCMag

After multiple years of seeing Microsoft president Brad Smith warn in Web Summit talks of the risks of cyberattacks on civilian infrastructure, that executive returned to this conference to say the company would extend its digital support for Ukraine through all of 2023.

11/4/2022: This Danish startup wants to make nuclear cheap again—by putting plants on barges, Fast Company

This story started with my startup-pitch panel at TechBBQ in Copehagen more than six weeks earlier, when I found Seaborg’s presentation interesting enough to want to learn more. Then the ensuing weeks of travel got in the way of my moving forward with the piece while I needed more time than I expected to chase down an analyst type to provide some perspective.

11/4/2022: Facebook Oversight Board to Elon Musk: Do No Harm, Don’t Piss Off the Advertisers, PCMag

This panel happened the same day that new Twitter owner Elon Musk ordered mass layoffs at the company, and whoever at Web Summit picked this day for this panel may have been well-advised to buy a lottery ticket.

11/4/2022: New Signal Boss: We’re No WhatsApp, PCMag

After the speakers’ lounge and press center closed, I finished writing this post on a park bench outside the venue, where the event WiFi somehow kept working and let me file this before dinner.

Moderating from the bullpen

LISBON

My Wednesday got a little more interesting halfway through breakfast when my phone buzzed with an e-mail from my Web Summit speaker coordinator: He’d had a panel moderator drop out after a problem with his flight interrupted his travel to Lisbon, and was there any chance I could cover the session?

Oh, and this “Time to define AI” session was starting in two and a half hours.

I like a challenge, my schedule had room for this panel, and I’ve written at non-trivial length about artificial-intelligence applications, so I said I could do the conference equivalent of pitching out of the bullpen.

Then I learned that the original moderator had not e-mailed an outline for the panel, leaving me with just a short briefing written by the organizers weeks ago.

Fortunately, my new speaking partner–Dataiku CEO Florian Douetteau–had written an essay for VentureBeat about his vision for AI a week ago and then shared it on his LinkedIn profile. As I read that, I thought of a fun question that would work for an opening or closing line (do you put “AI,” “machine learning,” “neural network” or some other buzzword on your pitch deck to investors to get the most money out of them?) and reaffirmed that I could still do this.

We had a quick conversation as we walked to the stage, four large convention-center halls away from the speakers’ lounge, that lodged a few more talking points in my head. I transferred them to a paper notepad as we sat backstage, we got fitted with our microphones–and then the talk went fine.

It helped greatly that Douetteau showed himself to be a practiced speaker, easing my job of panel clock management by holding forth on whatever topic I threw out. To put it in D.C.-radio terms, he spoke in NPR-affiliate WAMU paragraphs instead of commercial news-radio WTOP sentences.

We wrapped up the panel within seconds of the scheduled length, the audience applauded, Douetteau and I shook hands, and I had relearned an old lesson: When in doubt but always when it’s reasonably easy, be the person who solves your client’s problems.

Weekly output: chip shortage (x2), cybersecurity survey, satellite broadband, soccer-playing robot, Xfinity Mobile, Elon Musk bought Twitter, MRI mind reading

I’m off to Lisbon tonight for Web Summit–the eighth time I’ve covered this conference and the seventh time I’ve traveled to it as a speaker (with the organizers picking up lodging and airfare). This, however, is the first time in my experience that the conference doesn’t overlap with Election Day.

I gave Patreon readers got an advance look at my agenda in a post there Friday; the rest of y’all will get to find out as the week progresses.

Screenshot of the column as seen in USAT's iPad app, illustrated with a close-up picture of a chip on a green circuit board.10/24/2022: As chip shortage starts to ease, factory-level fixes will take longer, USA Today

Usually, I suggest story topics to my USAT editors, but this time one of them asked if I could tackle this topic.

10/24/2022: People Still Think Their Smart Speakers Are Eavesdropping on Conversations, PCMag

I got an advance look at a survey the Chubb insurance company had done, which both revealed some disturbing beliefs and practices among respondents and shared some dubious security advice.

10/26/2022: Do We Need to Rethink Existing Rules About Satellite Internet Interference?, PCMag

I went to a lunchtime panel Tuesday at the New America think tank about this wonky topic and came away with both a free lunch and notes for this post.

10/27/2022: And The Chip Shortage Lingers – What It Means For Your Next Car Purchase, KTRH

This Houston radio station wanted to quiz me about the USAT column. The link here points to a story they did based in part on a quick phone interview I did Wednesday morning with KTRH’s Jeff Biggs, but I assume H-town listeners also heard me on the air at some point.

10/25/2022: Soccer-playing robot, Al Jazeera

The Arabic-language news channel had me–in their D.C. studio for my first time since early 2020–to discuss an IEEE Spectrum story with the eye-catching headline “Goalkeeping Robot Dog Tends Its Net Like a Pro”

10/27/2022: Comcast Puts Up ‘Over 5 Million Served’ Sign for Xfinity Mobile, PCMag

I wrote about a Comcast service that people seem to really, really like.

10/29/2022: Elon Musk owns Twitter now, Al Jazeera

I returned to AJ’s studio for a spot about the possible ramifications and downsides of the world’s richest man owning Twitter.

10/30/2022: mind reading via MRI, Al Jazeera

Researchers at the University of Texas demonstrated an ability to reconstruct the mental language of subjects via MRI measurements–just not word for word. The anchors wanted to know if this technology could be abused by tyrannical governments; I said that since you need to have the subject inside an MRI machine, the government would need to detain the person first, and tyrannical governments already have ways to compel people to talk. The researchers also found that “subject cooperation is required both to train and to apply the decoder.”

A little Lisbon and Web Summit advice

When I arrived in Lisbon for Web Summit in 2016, I had about the least experience possible with the place for somebody who had visited it once before–because that previous visit happened when I was one year old. But over four more Web Summit trips in 2017, 2018, 2019 and 2021, I’ve gotten a much deeper sense of the city and the conference.

If you’re coming to both for the first time, I hope you will find this post helpful.

A Web Summit sign in the Praça Dom Pedro IV, as seen during 2021's conference.

Arrival

Expect a terrific view of Lisbon and the Tagus River on your way into Humberto Delgado Airport–and then steel yourself for a long passport line if you don’t have a passport from one of the European Union’s member state. (This is the airport that persuaded me to renew my long-dormant Irish passport.) You can and should pick up your Web Summit badge right after you clear customs.

Getting around

The Lisbon Metro should be your new friend. Although its network is not all that extensive, it connects to the airport and Web Summit’s venue (more on that in a moment) and ensures that most parts of the center city are only a short walk from a stop. Of the various fares, I’ve found that a Zapping prepaid credit–also good on buses and Lisbon’s hill-climbing trams–has worked best for me.

Update, 10/27/2022: A reader pointed out that Web Summit has arranged for discounted multiple-day transit passes, with the best involving buying ahead of time at the Lisbon Metro’s site (for instance, €25 for five days) and then redeem at a ticket-vending machine by punching in the voucher code e-mailed to you.

Like all good European cities, Lisbon is marvelously walkable and worth strolling around aimlessly during any idle time you may have (such as the day you arrive, when you’ll want to get some sun on your face to counteract the time-zone shift). But it’s a lot steeper than most, and its stone-mosaic sidewalks are slippery when wet.

Don’t forget to eat. Portugueuse food is delicious, and eating in Lisbon was a bargain long before the dollar hit parity with the euro.

Conference app and site

Web Summit not only provides but mandates Android and iOS mobile apps that store your ticket, let you manage your schedule, and network and chat with other attendees. Think of the app on your phone as Web Summit’s answer to WeChat–except this “everything app” doesn’t come with constant state surveillance.

Unfortunately, the Web Summit app and the Web Summit site don’t synchronize. And the app somehow does not support copy and paste (judging from its performance on my Pixel 5a and iPad mini 5), so if you want to save the description and participants of a panel for your notes, you’ll need to switch from the app to the site, search for the panel on the site, and then copy the info from there.

Venue

Web Summit takes places at the Altice Arena and, next door to that roughly 20,000-seat arena, the Feira Internacional de Lisboa convention center. These buildings are about a 10-minute walk from the Oriente station on the Red Line (Linha Vermelha) of the Lisbon Metro, but it can take easily twice as long to walk from the arena to the most distant hall of the convention center. It can also take a while to get in on the first couple of days, when the queue backs up into the plaza in front of the FIL and the arena.

You should be able to rely on the conference WiFi, but power outlets may be harder to find. If you’re a speaker, you should also be able to rely on the speaker lounge for all your meals; otherwise, there are numerous food trucks and stands to choose from in the plazas between the FIL’s four halls. You should not expect to get to every panel you had in mind, but there are enough interesting talks going on that–as at one of my other regular talkfests, SXSW–it can make sense to camp out in one spot and let yourself be surprised.

Departure

The security lines at LIS can be gruesome, like 30 minutes gruesome. But if you have Star Alliance Gold status (which for U.S. readers usually means Premier Gold or higher status on United) and are flying on a Star Alliance airline like United, TAP or Lufthansa, you can take this airport’s elite-shortcut “Gold Track” line–just remember that it’s labeled “Green Way” instead of “Gold Track” because reasons.

That status also lets you stop by TAP’s lounge if you’re on a Star Alliance carrier, but with the common premium travel credit card perk of a Priority Pass membership you can also enjoy the ANA lounge (no relation to the Japanese airline) regardless of your flight. Either one is good for a breakfast before a long day above the Atlantic. Remember, though, that a potentially tedious non-EU passport exit line awaits after the lounges unless you’re flying to another Schengen-area country.

If even after standing for too long in both the security and passport lines, you still find yourself looking forward to returning to Lisbon–don’t worry, that’s a normal reaction.

CES 2022 travel-tech report: a new phone and a renewed laptop

Uncharacteristically light attendance at CES this week allowed me to pack uncharacteristically light. With so many tech-news sites canceling plans to send journalists to the Consumer Technology Association’s annual gathering, I knew I wouldn’t need my traditional CES accessory of a travel power strip to free up outlets in any crowded press room.

I also opted not to pack any of the WiFi hotspots I had sitting on my desk from the last update of Wirecutter’s guide to same. Even in the likely event of the show’s WiFi being its usual inadequate self, I figured I had sufficient backup bandwidth in the form of the new Pixel 5a in my pocket, the expanded mobile-hotspot quota on my account, and the T-Mobile 5G network my previous phone couldn’t use.

Photo shows my HP Spectre x360 laptop sitting on the wood floor of my home office, on top of which sit my CES badge, the laptop's charger, a USB-C cable to charge the phone, a USB-to-Ethernet adapter, headphones and my Pixel 5a phone.

My other smart move before heading out to Vegas was replacing my late-2017 HP laptop’s battery with an aftermarket unit, a bit of laptop surgery I did in October. All of this helped make CES much less of a gadget-abuse scenario in my return to covering it in-person after last year’s distanced, digital-only conference.

The Google Pixel 5a, the only new device in my messenger bag, acquitted itself especially well. On a good day, its battery can run well into the next afternoon, and even at CES–where I did rely frequently on the phone’s mobile-hotspot feature to get my laptop online–I never saw this Android device’s battery get into the under-33% state that would get me nervous. My charging the phone at lunch happened out of habit, not necessity.

I also quickly grew to appreciate how the 5a’s wide-angle lens helped capture some of the bigger exhibits on and off the show floor. The sole quibble I can think of: The phone reported that it restarted overnight Friday morning, and I’d like to know what caused that crash.

My HP Spectre x360, meanwhile, was one of the oldest items in my bag but felt much newer with that replacement battery. It was nice to sit down to watch a panel and not need a spot next to a power outlet. And for whatever reason, this computer ran much more reliably than it had at CES two years ago, without any mysterious reboots sometimes interrupted by boot-device-not-found errors.

Lower CES attendance, estimated by CTA Friday at “well over 40,000,” did not banish CES bandwidth struggles. My laptop did not always connect to conference WiFi networks–have I mentioned that Windows 10’s “Can’t connect to this network” is not a helpful error message?–but all three press rooms had abundant Ethernet cables. The $10 and change I spent on a USB-to-Ethernet adapter in 2012 has turned out to be an exceptional deal.

As before, I took all of my notes in Evernote, but this time the app generated a few note conflicts when I switched from phone to laptop and back. If I could click or tap a “sync now” button before each device switch, I would–but Evernote removed that bit of UI out of a belief that its automatic sync is now reliable enough to make it obsolete.

The other app I leaned on heavily during my time at CES was the conference’s own mobile app. I hadn’t bothered with that in previous years, but learning that CTA had hired Web Summit to provide this event’s digital platform made me want to try it. Unsurprisingly, the CES app looks and works like the Web Summit and Collision apps, so I didn’t have much to figure out.

As at those other conferences, I leaned on this app to manage my schedule while ignoring in-app connection requests in favor of the kind of networking impossible at last year’s CES: masked-face-to-masked-face conversations that ended with an exchange of business cards.

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.

Speaking on an arena scale

LISBON–My fourth panel at Web Summit here was not like the other three. Or like any other panel I’ve done since what I’ve taken to calling “the performance art of journalism” became part of my repertoire. Because Thursday I spoke in front of the largest audience and in the largest room of my entire public-speaking life.

The interview I did on the stage of the Altice Arena here of Nothing co-founder Akis Evangelidis was the last addition to my speaking schedule, and the invitation I was fastest to accept. Every other panel I’ve done at this conference since 2016 has taken place on one of the side stages, where crowds can get into the hundreds; this venue, however, is a 20,000-seat facility, and I could not turn that down. As anxious as standing up there might turn out to be…

Photo of the path leading to the stage of the Altice Arena, with its colored backdrop visible at the end of this passage.

Thursday afternoon came, and with half an hour to go I wrote down my panel outline on the last vacant pair of pages in a paper notebook, nervous energy making my penmanship even sloppier than usual. Then a volunteer walked us over to the backstage, where Web Summit’s illuminated backdrop loomed a few stories above and a sound tech fitted us with wireless headphones. I had a last chug of water before we stood and waited in a small passage leading to the stage.

Then it was show time. The emcee called out our names, the entrance music I’ve heard before so many other center-stage Web Summit panels played, and we walked past a camera operator who was there to get video of our entrance–a little bit of rock-star treatment.

I waved hello to the crowd, sat down in my chair, and immediately realized that the stage lights were so bright that I couldn’t see more than a third of the way into the audience, although I could at least confirm that they were mostly on the floor and not in the stands. (The picture I took then came out so ill-exposed that even Google Photos couldn’t do much with it.) And without my glasses, I couldn’t hope to read people’s facial expressions. Hearing the audience was also tricky, with our own amplified voices clanging back at us off the arena’s concrete.

But I had my outline on paper before me and an engaging conversation partner to my right to answer my questions about the gadget startup he co-founded with other veterans of the Android-phone firm OnePlus. The 13 minutes on the countdown clock before us ticked down to 11 and 9 and 7 and 5 as our verbal tennis continued… at which point I realized that with one question left unasked on my notepad, I’d need to improvise. Panel clock management is always trickiest when you have only one other person up there.

That’s when it helped that we’d had sat down yesterday to go over the panel and then had another chat in the speakers’ lounge before heading backstage. We ended up finishing maybe 20 seconds over.

I might as well have had fireworks going off in my head as the audience applauded and Akis and I shook hands before exiting the stage. It was a moment the 2001-vintage me would have struggled to imagine, much less the grade-school version of me who dreaded giving a speech before a classroom. And it’s something I won’t be able to keep out of my mind the next time I’m doing a virtual panel and wishing I had a human audience’s feedback.

Weekly outpot: Web Summit podcast, cheaper hearing aids, Mark Vena podcast, Google vs. Roku, Amazon satellites, FTC broadband-privacy report, blockchain domains

This afternoon featured the longest bike ride I’ve done in, I think, five years. Observations: It’s good to know that I’m not too old and busted to clock 35 miles and change, Reston Town Center has grown up and out a bit since 2016, and the nap you have after a longer ride followed by dinner you cooked yourself is the nap of the righteous.

10/19/2021: EXCLUSIVE: Siemens & Maersk Chairman Jim Hagemann Snabe, The Next Stage Podcast

Web Summit’s podcast had me interview this executive about the sustainability efforts of his two companies, a conversation that I wound up having through my laptop and webcam in my hotel room in Philadelphia on the first morning of the ONA Insights conference earlier this month. We had a great chat and I learned a few things, which is always a good outcome of an interview.

10/20/2021: The Feds Are (Finally) About to Make Hearing Aids Cheaper, Easier to Buy, PCMag

I wrote up the overdue release of regulations to allow over-the-counter sales of hearing aids, using this piece to recount the long, strange trip this policy shift has taken through the Obama, Trump and Biden administrations.

10/20/2021: S01 E14 – SmartTechCheck Podcast, Mark Vena

This week’s episode of my industry-analyst pal’s podcast (also on video) had me and fellow tech-journalist guests John Quain and Stewart Wolpin discussing Apple’s product-launch event Monday. We agreed that the $4.99/month Voice Plan for Apple Music was a weird bit of product segmentation, and that people who don’t edit video for a living can ignore Apple’s high-end MacBook Pro models.

Screenshot of the story as seen in Safari for macOS10/21/2021: Google Says It Will Pull YouTube App From Roku on Dec. 9, PCMag

This became a longer-than-usual post for PCMag when Roku offered to show me their receipts of Google’s demands that it revise its search features to benefit YouTube–including a Sept. 2019 e-mail in which a Google executive called adding a special shelf of YouTube results to Roku’s standard search interface “a must.” I’m still waiting to see how Google will explain how that message squares with its past statements that it’s “never” asked for special search privileges on Roku’s media players.

10/21/2021: Satellites, Fast Company

This non-bylined item, part of the “Amazon Unpacked: A-Z” cover story of Fast Company’s November issue, popped up Thursday.

10/22/2021: FTC: Here’s How Much of a Snoop Your ISP or Wireless Carrier Can Be, PCMag

My third post for PCMag walked readers through a lengthy report the Federal Trade Commission released Thursday about the tracking habits at six major Internet providers–in which I also took care to remind readers of how fast Republicans in Congress worked to squelch pending broadband-privacy rules from the Federal Communications Commission in early 2017, even before the FCC could undo the net-neutrality regulatory foundation of those rules.

10/23/2021: The blockchain is making domain names more private—for good or bad, Fast Company

The Microsoft digital-defense report that I covered briefly for PCMag two weeks ago got me curious about domains stored on various blockchains instead of hosted at traditional registries–which the report called “the next big threat.” So I made some inquiries of my own and came to a somewhat different conclusion than Microsoft’s researchers.

Updated 3/21/2022 to add a link and description for the Web Summit podcast that escaped my attention when I wrote this post months ago.

Weekly output: One America News, how to exceed Comcast’s 1.2 TB data cap, tech and humanity, Big Tech, remote teamwork in a pandemic

We’ve finally reached the last month of this ordeal of a year.

11/30/2020: The Most Trump-Tastic Network Might Lose Its Biggest Carrier Next Year, Forbes

I’ve had this story on my to-do list since seeing a Bloomberg report this summer about the precarious prospects for One America News after its current carriage deal with DirecTV expires, reportedly in early 2021. It was gratifying to write this at last–and see it get a bigger audience than my other Forbes posts so far.

12/2/2020: Comcast’s 1.2 TB data cap seems like a ton of data—until you factor in remote work, Fast Company

After seeing some readers tweet their skepticism about anybody possibly topping 1.2 terabytes a month, I talked to three Comcast users who had done just that–and who, despite their technology backgrounds, could not identify an app or service that had pushed them over and which they could have foregone without excess pain. (One even sent screengrabs of data-usage stats from his Ubiquiti router, which Patreon readers got to see today.) The story seems to have resonated with readers, including a sarcastic retweet from Sen. Chris Murphy (D-Conn.) taking a whack at Comcast’s phone support.

12/2/2020: Technology: The key to making us more human, Web Summit

My first of two panels for this year’s online-only Web Summit had me talking to Ikea chief digital officer Barbara Martin Coppola and AI Now Institute co-founder Meredith Whittaker about various tech-ethics issues, from ways to shrink a global organization’s carbon footprint to tech-policy advice for the incoming Biden administration.

12/2/2020: Who’s afraid of Big Tech?, RI Digital: USA 2020

My second virtual panel of the week consisted of a discussion at Responsible Investor’s conference about tech policy in such areas as privacy and global warming. My fellow speakers: ClearBridge Investments analyst Hillary Frisch, Migrant Nation director Simon Zadek, and Responsible Investor co-founder Hugh Wheelan. My major line of argument: The most effective way to rein in the power of large technology companies would be to pass effective digital-privacy laws, but since that seems to be a task beyond the reach of Congress, we keep getting sidetracked into less-useful discussions about how we might make life less pleasant for one or two of the tech giants.

12/4/2020: Evolution from the inside out, Web Summit

My second Web Summit panel had me quizzing Weight Watchers CEO Mindy Grossman and Julien Codorniou, Facebook’s vice president for its Workplace collaboration platform, about how WW had to accelerate existing moves towards distributed work once the pandemic hit.