Category Archives: Communications

Facebook, just like nicotine, has no good patch

About eight years ago, I would begin a workshop with an opening line that went something like this: Facebook is the greatest, most irresistible social network ever the CIA. Not factual, or course, but it got attendees to ponder how surveillance had become so easy, with no need for wiretaps, or laws such as FISA or ECPA.

Well, it’s now normal for journalists to talk of Facebook as being the great harvesting ground of big data organizations that use it to surveil and/or target users. That includes our friends and family in our networks. Social media addiction feeds the algorithm. Here’s what Mashable’s Damon Beres just wrote that it’s time to protect yourself -and your friends –from Facebook:

“The photos you post are interpreted by Facebook’s programs to automatically recognize your face; the interests you communicate via text are collated and cross-examined by algorithms to serve you advertising. Our virtual social connections enrich this marketing web and make advertisers more powerful. And many of us open the app to scroll without really knowing why. Facebook literally presents us with a “feed.” We are users the way drug addicts are users, and we’re used like a focus group is used to vet shades of red in a new can of Coca-Cola.”

He uses the analogy of the Marlboro Man, and the rugged cowboy appeal that continued to lure ‘users’ into a deadly nicotine habit, despite the truth which tobacco companies hid, and were reluctantly forced to admit.

So what to do? Some of my friends have quit Facebook. I haven’t yet. But I do recommend limiting data that algorithms could vacuum up: birthdays, business information, opinions related to our social causes, political rants and things we purchase online. No public displays of affection for family birthdays, anniversaries and such. (Birthday cards and letters were invented for this; despite claims to the contrary they haven’t gone out of style.) And Selfies! –unless you don’t mind feeding facial recognition algorithms now being used in many, many locations.

Deleting some of this now is a bit too late, but like the nicotine patch, it’s better than the alternatives. Unless your family and friends don’t mind the creepy second-hand smoke…


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Still publishing Newsletters? We do!

I’ve often said I still read newsletters. From the quirky Trader Joes’ black-and-white ‘Fearless Flyer,‘ to those that come in the mail, often unsolicited. A good friend, a realtor, publishes and mails us an information-filled newsletter that is a delight to read each month. And there are many more – we just don’t give them enough credit in an everything’s-on-Facebook kind of era.

What’s your favorite newsletter? Does it still get printed or has it turned digital? I’m curious.

The case for newsletters has been debated ad nauseam. Most tend to get into the print vs email debate. But I don’t think it’s an either/or. It could be both. Sure, the reading habit is on life-support in some places. But we’re not going to pull the plug.

And so in school, some of us continue this tradition as a way to communicate with parents and the community as to what goes on in our classes in Music, Art, Library and Media Center, PE, and Computers & Tech. Here’s our latest Specials Newsletter – the March 2018 issue.


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Are we living among Bots?

It sounds like great opening paragraph for a sci-fi novel – a rhetorical question inserted into the throughts of someone fighting off some bad karma.

Are bots occupying spaces in our lives where we least expect? Our news feeds, our social media likes, even the ‘information’ we use to make decisions on investing, purchasing, and what to read etc. A recent article in Fortune states that malicious bots account for nearly 20% of all Internet traffic. Their list of insidious bots include those scripts steal content from commercial websites, influence ad metrics and ticket prices, and infiltrate forums. The main report from Digital Trends (they put the number at nearly 30 percent) notes that  48.2 percent of all traffic was sent by humans that year. The other 51.8 percent were bots. 23 percent were form good bots.

We now hear of ‘bot farms’ that trade in followers – one can supposedly buy thousands of Instagram followers for a few thousand bucks. Oh, my! No wonder some websites’ authentication makes you click on “I am not a bot”!

To think the premise for my 2013 book was about ‘being human 1.0 in a web 2.0 world.’ 

On a related note, IABC –the International Association of Business Communicators – has a forum discussion on Trust in wake of the 2018 Trust Barometer report. The bot discussion surfaced here too. Which shows that not ject tech folk worry about and plan ho to counter such an Internet cancer. Comms folk involved the reputations of companies and the information they share have to be cognizant of living among bots. Yes there are ‘good bots’ and bad ones, and there could be a battle royale being waged on the networks we use, hidden in plain sight.

More material for that sci-fi novel, huh?


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Facebook fills George Orwell’s plot line

When you hold up terms such as ‘fake news‘ and ‘alternative facts‘ to the Orwellian mirror, things become a lot more clear.

In George Orwell’s Nineteen Eighty-four the government’s Ministry of Truth, or ‘Minitrue,’ produces distorted information through an assembly line of sorts. Importantly, though it’s managed by humans, not machines. Today we call these folks trolls, and the assembly line is the Internet.

In that fictitious dystopia, truth gets thrown down a memory hole. And citizens like Winston Smith who work for Minitrue, are tasked with creating alternative versions of history for ‘tele-screens’ and other media. Sounds familiar, doesn’t it?

There’s a telling piece in Fortune  and Chicago Tribune, journalists appear to have interviewed a Russian troll. In fact he worked with other trolls in a ‘Facebook Department.’

Did the social network know about this? In 2016 Facebook was reportedly working on a global ‘counter speech’ effort. It’s a big deal to them, even in Europe. Social networks must surely be bracing themselves for the legal consequences of sleeping at the wheel, while being compromised.


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Filters needed now, says Isura Silva!

My friend Isura Silva, writes about topics similar to what you find here. One of his recent posts touches on the death of attention, as a result of our proximity to screens. You should read his post to get his slant on it.

The issues we face as parents and teachers is not just screen addiction, but device distraction. Attention spans are in a serious free-fall. I flippantly wrote about this in an article on ‘FOMO’ (for LMD magazine). But it’s a lot more serious than this.

Which brings me back to Isura. He was on a UNICEF panel on Tuesday, discussing child safety online. The panel discussed the study just released, on how adolescents in Sri Lanka use the Internet. To give you a snapshot of it, the press release states that:

“While digital access exposes children to a wealth of benefits and opportunities, it can also unlock a host of risks including the misuse of their private information, access to harmful content, and cyberbullying …whilst children and adolescents are increasingly going online, they are doing so without adult oversight or supervision.”

Next week is Digital Learning Day across the world. Here at my school, I’m bringing in two speakers to address this dire need for digital literacy. Different cultures, different demographics, all feeling the same need.


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“Negotiating with Jell-O” and other zingers

Sometimes a zinger in a speech captures the essence of all the other verbiage put together.

Consider these:

“I get it, I get it. We’ve got to address the elephant that’s not in the room.”

(Hasan Minhaj, host of the White House Correspondent’s dinner this year.

It got better, especially with the rest of the thought aimed at president Trump who did not attend:

“The leader of our country is not here. And that’s because he lives in Moscow. It is a very long flight.  


“I served with Jack Kennedy. I knew Jack Kennedy. Jack Kennedy was a friend of mine. Senator, you’re no Jack Kennedy.”                  

                                                                                                             Lloyd Bentsen

The context was the VP debates; Dan Qayle had  likened himself to JFK and was treated to a delicious zinger by  Bensten.

Negotiating with Trump ‘like negotiating with Jell-O’

Senate Democratic Leader Charles Schumer


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Posted by on January 23, 2018 in Communications, Media


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Do you trust Apple? Or buy it’s half-baked PR?

Many, many years ago I decided I would no longer support or use Apple products, however ‘convenient’ and cool they were. Most iPhones and Macs before that were overpriced; we as a family decided against them. (My first PC was an Mac. Today I could by three fast PCs for the price of that Mac I owned up to 1996.)

So now, as Apple products come under withering scrutiny, such as the ‘speed throttling’ or battery issue, I wonder why people still put up with a terribly unethical company. There have been plenty of scandals that signaled to customers something was awry  – from the iPad Chinese scandal, to the more recent one that smells of ‘Planned Obsolescence’ (an old marketing ruse).

Transparency is not its strong suit – secrecy is is built into its DNA after all. Including workplace secrecy. But Apple seems to understand human psychology, and knows that a shiny new object is enough to deflect bad business practice. If you read the company’s disingenuous apology, it sounds like it was hammered out by a group of ghost-writers in a tavern filled with corporate lawyers. So while there will be lawsuits and pressure from governments, it could ride this out.

So my question is, if you’re an Apple user do you ‘like‘ the company, and distrust the brand? Or is it the other way around?


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