Saturday, November 29, 2014

The obsolete world of photo sharing

I made another stab at sharing images to Facebook Groups. It didn’t go any better than my previous efforts.

First I tried using Facebook’s Album advanced image uploader in Chrome — the “Add Photos” icon was persistently “grayed” (faded) out. Then I tried Safari — with the same results. Depending what (obsolete) reference I checked the problem had something to do with Java (obsolete) or Flash (obsolete).

Sure, I can use (obsolete) Aperture to upload images to my personal Facebook album, but I couldn’t find an Aperture plugin to upload to a Facebook Group.

I found a $3 Mac App Store app called “Dropbook” that claimed to support Group photo upload - last updated in March 2014. There are no directions and no real UI, but after I gave it complete rights to do anything on Facebook it did let me drop a pile of images on it. There was no progress dialog or any indication of activity, but something was happening. A post was being created for each image. I killed Dropbook, deleted the app, used Facebook settings to delete access and changed my password.

Smugmug has Facebook integration to Personal “page” and to “Pages” — but not to Groups. Flickr has even less integration. Picasa? Nope.

Oh, by the way, Smugmug doesn’t allow album downloads in the paid account I use — I’d have to pay significantly more to get that feature.

Which reminds me … a few months ago rumor had it that Google Photos was going to drop its G+ requirement. Hasn’t happened yet - but we don’t hear much about Google Photos. Much less Google’s (obsolete) Picasa Web Albums.

Indeed, I rarely see anything about any photo sharing services at all, not even from (obsolete) publications like MacWorld.


Are you seeing a pattern here? It’s almost as though Facebook doesn’t really want to host large storage sucking collections of shared images for free. Indeed, it’s almost as though everyone has lost interest in photo sharing/storage/distribution.

Friday, November 28, 2014

Learning new habits and skills - Pinboard, Simplenote, Toodledo and the skr tag

Being new-old means learning to be deliberative about things that were once opportunistic.

I used to get my exercise whenever I could — now I do regular group classes. Similarly, I used to pick up new habits and skills whenever the need arose or training required — but as of today i’m doing something more … deliberative. Something that should work better than my ad hoc approach of the past 30 years, not just because old brains suck but also because my old approach didn’t really work all that well. Even with a (relatively) young brain.

My new approach builds on 3 of my favorite tools: Pinboard, Simplenote and Toodledo — and a tag [1] of ‘skr’. The tag stands for “skills review”; it’s short because I wanted something fast to type.

I created a “habit/skills review” task in Toodledo and scheduled it a couple of weeks out. The task reminds me to review things tagged ‘skr’ in Pinboard and Simplenote. Meanwhile, as I come across things that I want to learn and make a part of my cognitive toolkit, I tag them ‘skr’. In Pinboard I save a Pin with that tag, in Simplenote I create a note with that tag.

Ever two weeks I get to the task and do my review. It only takes a few minutes. If I learn something I can remove the tag, if I’m failing to learn it I can take other measures or decide it’s not worth the investment.

I think this will work…

[1] Rant diversion — why are so many tagging implementations so awful? Why do so many devs exclude tag strings from full text search? Why does Simplenote display tags by data created rather than alpha sort? Why can’t one “merge” tags? Why … why …

Wednesday, November 26, 2014


Over the past few decades developed world growth in wealth and income has been captured by a small segment of the population.

Globalization and information technology have reduced demand and opportunity for the majority of Americans. We don’t have jobs filing papers, we don’t have jobs filling gas tanks, we don’t deliver mail, we don’t hand out cash at the bank. We can barely service cars any more. Computers/smartphones can’t be serviced. I call this mass disability.

America was built on slavery; the civil war was only 150 years ago. We’ll be working on our slavery issues for at least another hundred years. Black America has been, and will be, our most vulnerable and stressed population. Euro-americans are in denial about the work remaining. (We’ve made progress, but it’s one hell of a long crawl back from that abyss.)

So, riots.

Saturday, November 22, 2014

Negotiation 2014: A compilation of state of the art techniques

Henry Alford wrote an entertaining essay on holiday dinner peacemaking tips. I enjoyed the essay, but I also appreciated the inventory of techniques.

Here’s the excerpted techniques, for the context check out the original: (emphases mine, comments in [])

Crisis Negotiators Give Thanksgiving Tips - Henry Alford -

… “People want to be heard. They want the attention.”

…  “Repeating what the other person says, we call that paraphrasing. ‘So what you’re telling me is that the F.B.I. screwed you over by doing this and that,’ and then you repeat back to him what he said. Also, emotional labeling: ‘You sound like you were hurt by that.’ ‘You sound like it must have been really annoying.’ Little verbal encouragements: ‘Unh-huh,’ ‘Mm-hmm.’ A nod of the head to let them know you’re there.”

…  instead … acknowledge his presenting emotion … address the underlying emotion with appreciation …

…  unsolicited apology

… “Say you’re sorry when you’re not sorry,” … [You have to make this seem a genuine effort, so that even the apology is not believable to motivation and effort are.]

… Try to find ways to acknowledge what they’re saying without agreeing or disagreeing with it.”..

Tone is king here: subtle vocal inflections can impart either “I disagree, let’s move on,” or “I disagree, let’s turn this into ‘The Jerry Springer Show.’ …

… “Instead of lying, we call it minimizing. You try to get people to think that a situation isn’t so bad, you break it down for them so they see that it isn’t the end of the world, that maybe they don’t need to make such a big deal of it. We try to reframe things rather than flat-out lie….

… “A negotiator almost always has a co-negotiator, someone who’s listening and taking notes,” she said. “Someone who says, ‘He mentioned Mom three times now, probably Mom is at the heart of the issue.’ Maybe enlist someone to be your co-negotiator.”

… “In the crisis-negotiation world, we call it a third-party intermediary,” …

Track II diplomacy, which means that outside the arena of a formal negotiation, another set of actors from society come together to talk and build confidence and trust…

All shades of manipulation on a spectrum of deception. All valuable.

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Exercise on the exit ramp - the 30 year plan.

One way to spot an aging control-freak geek: after 55 we count down to the target zone. [1]

One of the things we ponder is how much exercise we can take at which age. CrossFit is great at 55 [2], but it ain’t gonna fly at 80. On the other hand, gotta max out the amyloid clearance while we can. 

So when do we go from CrossFit to things like TRX, or even road biking, swimming, XC skiing, hiking and the like [3]? When do we transition to power-assisted trikes [4]?

These numbers on the 2011 Chicago Triathlon finishing times provide some insight:

: ""Screen Shot 2014 11 19 at 6 19 37 PM

Yeah, this is an elite group, and by the time we get to the 80+ group we’re talking super-duper-elite.

Still, it’s an interesting story about what happens to the “average” elite. It goes like this:

  • 20-44: not much difference at all
  • 45-64: bit worse every year, but more of a steady decline
  • 65-74: there’s a big drop in mid-60s, but then it stabilizes (of course a lot have dropped out by then)
  • 75+: the scythe is being sharpened - nobody escapes
So for me that looks like:
  • 55-65: Do CrossFit, Mountain biking, etc until wear and tear adds up. Can do pretty much anything if train for it and stay disciplined about scaling and stopping. [5]
  • 65-74: Downshift. Good age for long bike rides, nordic skiing, etc.
  • 75+: Functional exercise, balance, walks, swimming, shorter bike rides, nordic skiing, maybe the power trike, tourism.
It’s good to have a plan.
- fn -

[1] I figure by the time I’m 80 I’ll be able to hire a “life” coach to ensure I don’t overshoot (Ninja assassin experience a plus). Ok, a Death Coach.

[2] 36 handstand pushups yesterday. Ok, so that was over 9 sets. And, yes, I used more than one ab mat. No, I won’t say how many I used. Still. Yeah, and PR on the back squat — even though the two women in the class beat me by 20 lbs. 

[3] All favorites of mine. Today I can’t afford the time for a 4 hour bike ride, but when I’m 65 the time may be mine.

[4] Mine will have streamers.

[5] I have a PhD in CrossFit scaling.

Monday, November 17, 2014

Facebook's feed overflow fix will have collateral damage

Facebook, the everyman feed reader, has an “attention economy” problem that’s familiar to anyone who has used industrial feed readers like Feedbin or (emphases mine):

Facebook Will Curtail Unpaid Ads by Brands - Vindu Goel

…So many posts, videos and images are being published on Facebook that the average user has about 1,500 new items they could see when they log on. Some people have as many as 15,000, the company says.

Over the last two years, the social network has repeatedly tweaked the system to show the top 300 or so items that it predicts each person will want to read. Facebook argues that people prefer to see videos, photos, news articles and updates from their friends and family more than from brands. So over time, posts by businesses have shown up less frequently….

The problem is Facebook users liberally “Like” all kinds of post sources - Pages (businesses, orbs), Friends, and Groups. Their Feeds overflow.

My son is up to several hundred sources, and they each generate a few posts a day. I’m sure he’s far behind the stream — if his timeline showed “most recent” he’d never see anything from Friends or Family.

Of course users could turn off the pages they don’t want, but, really, they kind of like them. The problem is compounded by Facebook’s UI; unlike an industrial Feed Reader (Feedbin, Feedly, etc) it’s not designed for managing large volume post streams.

So users are drowning in posts, most of which they kind of like, but they’re not seeing the things they really like — like the grand-dogs new teeth or the niece’s haircut.

At the same time Facebook is watching ad revenue go missing. Users dislike Facebook’s ads, but they like news posts from their favorite bookstore — and the bookstore’s paying nothing (or used to, anyway).

That problem is getting fixed …

… the company told marketers that if they wanted to reach customers on Facebook, they needed to buy an ad.

…  fewer fans of a retailer will see its notice about a big sale and fewer fans of a video game company will see a post promoting its latest app.

Even posts from big advertisers that spend millions of dollars on Facebook ads will vanish from the news feeds of their fans unless they turn them into ads…

Seems reasonable. I know how to tweak my Facebook stream to see what I like — but I’m a geek. Civilians aren’t going to do that. So the “fix” doesn’t seem too bad — unless you know something Mr. Goel doesn’t know. Unless you know that not all Facebook Pages are businesses or “brands”.

For example, these are 6 Pages I administer:

Screen Shot 2014 11 17 at 9 30 35 PM

Looking at my own Pages Feed I see a novelist friend, the Major Taylor Bicycling Club of Minnesota, Saint Paul Bicycle Coalition, Keweenaw Trails, Cyclocarbon, Avalon Charter School, CrossFit St Paul, Minocqua Winter Park, Autistic License Play, Lebanon Hills Mountain Bike Trail, City of St Paul _ Government, Skate the Oval and a bunch more like that. A couple are businesses, but mostly it’s non-profits and local government.

All of these are at risk - and the trend is already underway. Here are some recent stats from our special hockey team page - a page with 81 “Likes” (Subscribers):

 Screen Shot 2014 11 17 at 9 06 25 PM

The most recent post was seen by 15 of those 81. That number is going to fall even further — unless I pay for the posts to be seen (I won’t).

Facebook has a real problem — but their Feed Overflow Fix is going to cause a lot of collateral damage. 

One approach for organizations and nonprofits would be to convert Pages to Groups - except we don’t know how Facebook is going to treat posts from Groups. Maybe they’ll want Groups to Pay to Play too.

For my part I’ll delete most of these Pages, and I’ll move back to email and to blogs. The transition is easier because so many of the people I want to reach have left Facebook (perhaps because of the Feed Overflow problem).

It’s not all bad news. Facebook’s policy might move non-profits and local government back to open-standards blogs - eventually.

A variant of English optimized for machine translation to Chinese

Jonathon Duerig comment on reminded me of an old idea that still hasn't come to pass.

It should be possible to define a style of English expression, including vocabulary and grammar, that lends itself to machine translation, particularly translation to Chinese. It would likely resemble the language we are learning to use with Siri. We can call it TransEnglish.

With the technology we now use to correct grammar and spelling, and predict text entry, we could do dynamic rewriting -- identifying or rewriting ambiguous phrases, substituting more specific words, revising complex tense structures.

A test harness would machine translate to Chinese then back again, then identify and close divergences. A nice exercise for neural network tools.

I expect after a few weeks of use an English writer would quickly learn how to write translatable text naturally.

Similarly, I'd love to follow some Chinese authored blogs that were written in a similar machine-translation friendly flavor of Chinese - TransChinese. (Indeed, the resulting English output might well be of the same form as TransEnglish.)

Sunday, November 16, 2014

AT&T secret mobile opt out system shows sense of humor

Nick Heer described AT&T’s customer activity tracking best …

AT&T Stops Using Undeletable Phone Tracking IDs — Pixel Envy

… Here we have a case of AT&T actually doing the right thing. They get criticized so frequently for so many reasons, so I think it’s important to point out when they do something good and ri—

*mimes touching earpiece*

What’s that? Oh…

… Dicks.

Briefly, both AT&T and Verizon track the sites we visit so they can serve appropriate STD treatment ads based on Dad’s net browsing. Verizon still does this, but AT&T claimed to have reformed. Except they really haven’t

Edmonds said AT&T may still launch a program to sell data collected by its tracking number, but that if and when it does, "customers will be able to opt out of the ad program and not have the numeric code inserted on their device."

Really, I kind of prefer Verizon’s honesty. Being a Verizon customer is like joining Sauron’s army — there are no hurt feelings when your commander rips your throat out. Because that’s just what Verizon does.

AT&T does have a great sense of humor though — here’s the opt out link you’re supposed to visit while on AT&T’s network:

AT&T Adworks -

Yeah, an IP address. I think it’s legit, fwiw the footer says “AT&T’s intellectual property” …

Screen Shot 2014 11 16 at 4 33 07 PM

Or maybe it’s just a malware infested Serbian honeypot.

Or a psychology experiment.

Or performance art.

AT&T, you kill me.

PS. I suspect AT&T resellers (MVNOs) get the same treatment.

Saturday, November 15, 2014

After the Apple Watch debacle - the Nano recovery

Seven years ago Clayton “Innovators Dilemma” Christensen wrote ..

Clayton "innovators dilemma" Christensen: Apple will fail

… the prediction of the theory would be that Apple won’t succeed with the iPhone. They've launched an innovation that the existing players in the industry are heavily motivated to beat: It's not [truly] disruptive. History speaks pretty loudly on that, that the probability of success is going to be limited…

By “existing players” he meant Nokia (now a forgotten part of Microsoft). That’s the problem with making testable predictions — they break theories.

Which brings me to the aWatch, of which I am not a fan …

Gordon's Notes: Apple Watch - a bridge too far

… I don’t think the 1st generation Apple Watch will be nearly as successful in the US market, though it may have some success in its true target market of China. Unlike the much loved Nano-clip it doesn't solve anyone's problems well. An water-susceptible exercise device tied to an iPhone is far less useful than an inexpensive FitBit. An authentication device tied to an iPhone is redundant in today's world. The iWatch Apple Watch is a very limited music and video platform. It’s too big, it’s too expensive, it's too fragile (water), the battery is too small and the initial demo highlighted bumping hearts...

… A waterproof $150 iOS 8 Nano-clip replacement in Sept 2015 will be interesting. Splitting the cellular phone into multiple components, for which iPad and Apple Watch are interaction elements will be interesting. Standalone Apple Watch 4 running on next-generation LTE will be interesting.

Apple Watch 1 is a mistake.

The aWatch will launch in the US and Chinese markets in a few months. It will fail early in the US market. There will be initial success in China, then it will fall to China’s chaotic nationalism and less expensive and more useful Chinese clone-variants. It may have some persistent sales in Japan.

So what happens after that?

Jonathon Ive either leaves Apple or tolerates a diminished role. He’s very wealthy and has accomplished much, so we shouldn’t feel too sad for him. Tim Cook moves his executive team around and puts his rhinoceros skin to good use. The share price dips and returns to trend line.

I think that will all be good.

The interesting bit is what happens to the aWatch tech and how soon will we see it in another form?

The timing depends on what Apple really thinks is going to happen to the aWatch. I assume that some execs expect it to fail and that there’s a plan B, and maybe a Plan C, in the works. So what should we expect in the fall of 2015?

Physically the Plan B device looks a lot like the much beloved 6th Generation Nano Clip. It will be designed to work with a wrist band or a clothing clip. It will be an excellent 32GB store music device but will also act as a detached extension companion to an iPhone. It will be good at caching data and then posting it back when in phone range. It will have some GPS functionality (limited) and some exercise tracking ability when attached to the wrist.

Plan B will be modestly successful worldwide.

Then there’s Plan C. I owe Plan C to @duerig, who carries an ultra-slim flip phone and an iPad. I’m convinced he’s got things right — that the world is going to go towards people who carry just a phablet and people who carry a phablet and a mini-phone. Apple’s got the phablet market covered with the 6+. Plan C is a slightly larger and heavier version of the 7th generation nano paired with an iPad Mini 4 [1]. This iPhoneMini is a device Apple considered launching in 2011 and the iPad Mini 4 replaces the already forgotten iPad Mini 3 (Apple’s feeblest product hop ever).

I might buy Plan B (iOS nanoClip), I would definitely buy Plan C (iPhoneMini + iPad mini 4). 

Both of these are good futures that will leverage aWatch investments. Look for Cook to announce them when Apple buries the 1st generation aWatch. Which means that stock dip will be short-lived.

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Keystone question: if US were to meet China accord goals, would Keystone be economically viable?

To widespread surprise, the US and China reached an agreement on carbon emissions:

U.S. and China Reach Climate Accord After Months of Talks -

… United States would emit 26 percent to 28 percent less carbon in 2025 than it did in 2005 …

Which brings up a question that seems obvious, but also goes unasked.

If the US were to meet this accord, we’d have reduced carbon emissions by some combination of Pigovian taxation, regulation and technological innovations. However we achieve that end, wouldn’t this reduction make Keystone and similar projects economically unviable?

If so, then the Keystone project is a bet that the US will fail to meet this goal. Further, it will be a powerful sunk cost incentive to ensure that we fail.

If Keystone’s business case makes sense in a world where we reduce carbon emissions by 28% relative to our 2005 baseline then build it.

Otherwise, don’t.

I don’t think this is very complicated.

Monday, November 10, 2014

Annals of return to RSS - Geeks who don't realize their site has a feed

RSS, left for dead years ago, has crawled back out of the wilderness. Today we welcome our latest Prodigal - Jon Udell.

There's still work to be done though. Consider Data Elixir, data sciences site based on the "Curated" email platform. True, big data isn't cutting edge any more, but this is still a relatively modern site. So modern it supports two ways to subscribe - Email and "Safari Push Notifications".


Except, of course, the site does have an RSS feed. Works fine. As best I can tell the authors have no idea it exists.

This will take a while...

Wednesday, November 05, 2014

Election 2014: post-mortem

Why did it turn out the way it did?
  • electoral map
  • midterm bias to GOP base (turnout)
  • voters unhappy with personal economic experience.
  • reversion to mean on social issues - especially male response to gay marriage, women's issues
Whose interests are served by outcome?
  • the 1%, especially the 0.1%
  • megacorps (corporate tax reduction)
What policies are likely to be advanced?
  • corporate tax reduction
What policies will now be delayed or reversed?
  • ObamaCare (McConnell means what he says)
  • Carbon control
  • Immigration changes
  • Economic equality agenda
  • Bank and finance controls
  • Disinflation response
What are implications for 2016?
  • Probably helps Dems
What do I think?
  • Disappointing, not surprising.