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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Cliches don’t work after this school shooting. Students will put spin doctors out of business!

I came across an observation made by Michael Shammas, who asked us to consider what we would say if Kim Jong-un disputed international arms control treaties by adapting the cliché, “Nukes don’t kill people; people kill people!”

We would dismiss it as deranged thinking, wouldn’t we?

The events following the massacre at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida have created a different kind of tipping point. One that shows students’ capacity to hold up these tired clichés and talking points for scrutiny. Such as these lines spoken by a senior at that school:

“They say a good guy with a gun stops a bad guy with a gun: We call BS!”

“They say guns are just tools like knives and are as dangerous as cars: We call BS!”

These students are thoughtful, logical, vocal –the kind of non-polarized citizens a country needs. Imagine what they could accomplish when they get to voting age!


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Coding and Digital Learning Day, today

It’s Digital learning day across the country, today. Salt River High School is hosting Code Night, a community event to showcase week-long Hour of Code activities.

Last week, at the elementary school we focused on Digital Learning, beginning with a kick-off event featuring speakers who talked to students about social media, and coding. It’s interesting how much has changed –and how much more scrutiny we give to digital learning –since last year. Parents and educators have to deal with much more than memes, and cyber-bullying. Social media viral stunts for instance.

Coding is somehow more than a passing fad. It’s more about problem-solving than learning a new ‘language.’ Much thanks to Synapse Studios, Mel Adamaitis, Danielle Benally, and Stephanie Schull.



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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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Teenagers need guns like fish need bicycles

It is with tremendous sadness that we process the latest horrific school shooting in Florida. Especially parents and teachers.

If you have a child in school today you would have received a message from the school district ‘assuring’ you of precautions that ensure safety in the school – from cameras that police departments can access, to active-shooter training, and other forms of vigilance.

The number keeps rising. As“>NPR summed it up yesterday, 18 shootings on school property, just 46 days into the 2018. To borrow that line by Australian writer and politician Irina Dunn, who coined the phrase adopted by feminists, a teenager needs a weapon like fish need bicycles.

So many dreams, lives, family histories wiped out because someone –certainly someone who could not qualify as part of a ‘well regulated militia‘ –abused a ‘right to bear arms.’

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Posted by on February 16, 2018 in Education


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Radio days! Podcasts back with a vengeance!

In case you’ve not noticed the podcast landscape had changed. I’m so glad this genre – audio story-telling –has survived in a digital age that at one time seemed to gravitate toward video, slapstick entertainment, and uninformed opinions.

These are highly-researched, well-produced shows – not just opinionated rants. 

Here are a few:

Code Switch – Fascinating takes on race and identity

Rough Translation – A great way to escape the echo-chamber!

The Hidden Brain – Shankar Vedantam’s insight into human behavior

The Tip-Off – Peeling back investigative journalism, by Maeve McClenaghan of London’s Bureau of Investigative Journalism


Some older podcasts still give the newbies a run for their money. Those such as:

  • This American Life – Ira Glass’ extremely topical take on all things social, political, personal
  • Invisiblia – Gripping tales and insights about the forces that shape us.



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Spotlight on Social Media Awareness, Coding for Digital Learning Days

Next week, we kick off a week of coding, and also a time to talk about the good, the bad and ugly about social media.

Coding is something that could be exciting for every age group – from simple problem-solving skills, to what-if scenarios. Students will log-into places such as, Khan Academy, Scratch, and Blockly.  I like how Scratch is positioned as a way to “Create stories, games, and animations.”

Two speakers will kick off the week:

Mel Adamaitis – Synapse Studios
“Why Coding Matters”

Dr. Stephanie Schull – Matter Mission
“The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly of Social Media.”


While we are at it, here are some good resources:


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Posted by on February 9, 2018 in Ed-Tech, Education, Events, Social Media


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