Weekly output: Apple silicon, undermining Facebook’s business model (x2), remote teamwork, cybersecurity and privacy (x2), banning strong encryption, Google paying news sites, Washington Apple Pi

I only had a four-day work week, but Tuesday was no day off for me: I worked my second primary election in Arlington. Turnout was exponentially lower than what I saw in March, between this primary being limited to Republican candidates for Senate and the novel-coronavirus pandemic pushing people to vote by mail, but I still appreciated the work and appreciated the voters who showed up.

Patreon subscribers got an (overdue) post from me in which I recap recent reader reports of bad behavior from Comcast, Google, Spectrum and Sprint.

6/23/2020: No Intel inside? What Apple’s change will mean for your Mac, USA Today

I contributed to USAT’s coverage of Apple’s upcoming switch from Intel to ARM-based processors by quizzing a few Mac software developers about how they thought the transition would play out.

6/23/2020: Giving Facebook less data is a good idea. Even better: Just use it less, Fast Company

I filed this story a week or so earlier, but the delay allowed events to catch up to my topic of undermining Facebook’s business model, in the form of the first big-name advertisers saying they’d pull their ads off Facebook properties in July.

6/23/2020: Is it possible to unite a remote team?, Collision

My first panel at this conference that would have had me in Toronto this week before the pandemic forced its move to a virtual format focused, appropriately enough, on the challenges of remote teamwork. We–meaning myself, Aptum CEO Susan Bowen, Vidyard CEO Michael Litt, and Real Ventures managing partner Janet Bannister–recorded the discussion in advance, so my spending all of Tuesday working the election was not a problem.

6/24/2020: Building a paradigm of trust, Collision

My second pre-recorded Collision panel, this time about new challenges in cybersecurity, featured Akamai chief information officer Mani Sundaram, Sumo Logic chief security officer George Gerchow, and Honeywell chief digital technology officer Sheila Jordan.

6/24/2020: These Senators Want To Force Tech Firms To Give The Cops Keys To Our Encrypted Data, Forbes

I really thought a story about a bill that would ban end-to-end encryption across an enormous range of devices and apps–and that got introduced by its Republican sponsors just as Attorney General Bill Barr’s role as President Trump’s political commissar in the Justice Department became even more obvious–would get more readers. My venture into getting paid per click isn’t off to the best start.

6/25/2020: What is the role of the media in covering online security and privacy matters?, Collision

I hosted a roundtable discussion about press coverage of these issues that wound up not drawing many attendees, but I enjoyed the discussion anyway. Getting to talk about the issues you cover with knowledgeable people you hadn’t met before is one of the things I liked about going to conferences, and this part of Collision reminded me of that.

6/26/2020: Google Says It Will Pay News Sites For Their Work—But Not Yet Here, Forbes

My other post for Forbes this week covered a new initiative by Google to pay news publishers to reproduce their stories on some of its properties. I reported it out by checking in with the news types I’d quizzed for a feature last month about Google’s relationship with news publishers.

6/27/2020: Rob Pegoraro Zooms into the Pi, Washington Apple Pi

I talked to this Apple user group via Zoom instead of appearing in person as I did last June. That meant I couldn’t do my usual giveaway of trade-show swag, but not having to drive anywhere also meant I could mow the lawn before this virtual session.

6/27/2020: Advertisers boycotting Facebook, Al Jazeera

I talked about the growing number of advertisers choosing to pull their ads off of Facebook properties, in some cases off of social media entirely.

Weekly output: small telecom firms dropping pay TV, remote-working security, Facebook bias allegations

This week brought bad news on the client front: Glimmer, the tech-culture publication where I’ve enjoyed writing long features about such wonky topics as Google’s complex relationship with news publishers, did not survive a round of layoffs at its corporate parent Glitch. As crummy as this was for me, it was worse for my editor there who now finds herself unemployed.

5/18/2020: Small TV providers need to hold customers’ hands to exit TV, FierceVideo

This story took much longer to report than I expected, mainly because I had a hard time getting enough of the small number of tiny Internet providers to have dropped pay TV outright to return my calls or e-mails.

5/19/2020: Session 3 Security Panel, Futureproof IT

In my first virtual-conference panel, I talked about security issues with remote-work software (via Zoom, naturally) with Secureframe CEO Shrav Mehta, Splunk senior technology advocate Amélie Erin Koran, and freelance tech journalist Yael Grauer.

5/22/2020: Facebook bias allegations, Al Jazeera

The Arabic-language news network had me to discuss complaints that Facebook is blocking pro-Palestinian speech. That’s not an allegation I’ve seen confirmed independently–it’s not hard to find pages advocating for Palestine and against Israel’s occupation–but I spent most of my time on air emphasizing the general difficulty of content moderation at scale. I hope my effort at nuance was as persuasive in the interpreter’s rendition.

Updated 6/30/2020 with the screengrab from the Futureproof IT site that I forgot to add the first time.

Lessons from moderating three virtual panels

I spoke at a conference Tuesday for the first time since February, and this time the dress code was a little different: no pants required.

That’s because my appearance at Futureproof IT came through my laptop’s webcam and the Zoom video-chat app, leaving nothing below my chest visible to the remote audience. That’s also how I moderated two more panels this week for the Collision conference that was originally set to run in Toronto in June but has since migrated to a digital format, with my appearances among those recorded in advance.

And that’s how I expect all of my conference speaking to happen for at least the next few months, thanks to the novel-coronavirus pandemic ruining everything.

I’ve learned a lot about successful panel moderation on a physical stage, but doing so in a virtual environment brings new challenges.

Start with picking and positioning a webcam. The camera in my aging iMac is at a good height relative to me when sitting, but it also delivers a subpar 720p resolution–and from that angle, I’d have natural light from the windows hitting only one side of my face. My HP laptop, meanwhile, has a 1080p webcam, and by parking it atop a stepladder and then a large tin topped by the thickest book I could find in my office (a hardcover of Dune), I could position it high enough while allowing myself to face my office’s windows.

(If I’d only bought the Wirecutter-endorsed Logitech C920S webcam in the Before Times, I could have stuck the thing on a tripod and be done with it. As the song goes, there’s a lot of things if I could I’d rearrange.)

The Collision panels added another complication: a request for a pale, blank backdrop. I managed that by hanging a white bedsheet from the ceiling with packing tape and binder clips–the tape stuck to the drywall, but I needed the clips to hold the tape to the sheet.

And then none of my other panelists showed up with pale, blank backgrounds. That’s one reassuring aspect of this: Not only can you expect somebody else to have audio or video hiccups, you can also expect somebody else to have a worse backdrop or camera angle.

Before kicking off a virtual panel, you must also silence every other device in the room, and my failure to think through “every other device” meant the Futureproof panel was not interruption-proof. As in, we were distracted by the one thing I didn’t think to put in do-not-disturb mode, an old Trimline land-line phone on my desk mainly for nostalgia purposes.

At least I didn’t have to change any settings on the laptop, thanks to Windows 10’s Focus Assist quashing interruptions from other apps once I switched Zoom to full-screen mode. But that also meant I had to look elsewhere for a timer: I couldn’t see the lock in the Windows taskbar, while Zoom’s option to show your connected time doesn’t account for minutes spent prepping on a call before a panel begins. I made do with the clock apps on my phone and iPad.

All three panels suffered from a certain latency as other speakers paused before answering my questions. You can’t point or nod to one as you would onstage to encourage them to jump in–and if one starts filibustering, it’s also harder to signal him to wrap things up. Simply reading the facial expressions of other panelists can be difficult if they use a lower-resolution webcam or neglect their lighting.

Reading the audience seems even harder in Zoom unless, I guess, you keep the chat pane open and have an audience that is exceptionally concise in their feedback. The way Facebook and Twitter let a live video audience respond with emoji and hearts ought to deliver easily-understood feedback at scale, and perhaps one of the many virtual-event apps now seeing escalating interest–see my friend Robin Raskin’s writeup of a handful at Techonomy–gets even closer to the real thing.

But I highly doubt any app will recreate how great it can feel to have a live audience tuned into the talk, laughing at your jokes and then applauding your work.