Wednesday, September 16, 2015

Kids And The Network; A Progression

It's been awhile since I've written about my kiddos (boy, 13. daughter, 10) and their relationship with, and use of, the Network.

Anecdotal Stuff

  • If I ever utter the word "ethernet cable" my son rolls his eyes. My daughter does nothing because she doesn't even know what it means. Much to my chagrin... the new world order is indeed wireless.
  • The number of IP-based chat applications (and apps that support in-app chat) explodes over and over again everyday. Staying on top of this is a fools' errand IMO, and we've taken to general education around how to behave online. Trying to control this chat app and that chat app is a full-time job.
  • My son is highly aware of framerates for video gaming, and latencies for quick packet transmission. He can feel network latency hiccups almost as good as I can. I'm proud of this and grateful for it. Call me old school.
  • We've done a good job engraining that there is never a scenario in which you should answer personal questions (where do you live... what's your phone number... etc) on the computer _unless_ you prompted the questioning (e.g. by filling out a form that _you_ initiated). They get this.

Notable Online Account Stuff
  • Both kids have their own email accounts on the email server. This was necessary because the general email providers, like gmail, don't like accounts being setup for people under 13-yrs old. We wound up setting up gmail accounts for them too, but you can get into lockout rabbit holes in some circumstances, and I wanted accounts that were in my complete control in case this happened.
  • Both kids have their own gmail accounts as well. Son knows his password (more on this later), but daughter does not.
  • Both gmail and accounts copy all inbound mail to me so I can see what's coming in.
  • They have their own Apple IDs for cloud backups of iOS devices and purchases/transactions; however they do not know the passwords to the Apple IDs. This allows us to "find iPhone" whenever we want/need to as parents. Apple's Family Sharing support _finally_ allows us to approve/deny every app/content purchase from our devices instead of having to get on their devices and enter their Apple ID password every time. Designating parent/guardian-level control Apple IDs is huge. Better late than never Apple.
  • The number of accounts my son has that I'm aware of vs those I don't is probably 1/7 (though what I don't know... I obviously don't know). My daughter... 6/7; just because she's younger... not a gender thing.
Adult Content
  • The home router hands out OpenDNS Family Shield backed DNS servers to all clients that connect, so that prevents domain-level exposure to nasty stuff on the home network. Of course, it does nothing for bad YouTube content or bad behavior on IP chat services.
  • My son's iPhone obviously connects to the data network on his carrier, and that's a huge backdoor if he wants to go somewhere OpenDNS doesn't want him to go. The mobile data carriers have completely useless "parental control" services, so, the decision is basically "full access to everything on the Network" or "nothing at all." Lame.
  • Both kids' devices also have various Parental Control Restrictions that Apple provides.
  • Passwords remain the bane of everything on the Network. They'll go away in the coming years, but we all have to live with them for the foreseeable future.
  • We used to hold the password to my son's gmail account, but we don't any longer. The belief was that if we held that, he would not be able to change passwords on any of the services he used, or wanted to sign up for, because it would trigger a notification that we'd see and subsequently ask him about. However, one day his buddy was over, and they were throwing around new email addresses to each other that I didn't even know he had, so he'd clearly gone beyond his gmail account and figured out how to sign up for root email addresses on his own. Thus, I was cut out of the loop, and knowing the password to "his" gmail address meant nothing anymore; so I gave that up. We're squarely in the "trust" zone now when it comes to what he's doing online. He can create his own accounts at will, and he can hang out on uncontrolled networks (mobile carrier... friends' houses).
  • I have the pin codes to the kids iOS devices; it's a "rule" that they have to share those if their parents ever try to get on the device but can't.

  • I setup full-blown bank accounts for each kid ("minor" accounts backed by me on paper, but completely mechanically isolated) at our local retail bank. They have their own debit cards (son somewhat actively uses his... daughter does not) and associated account numbers. I resisted this for a long time, but the need to buy things online grew frequent enough for my son that I wanted him to have his own ability to pay for things online, and that requires a traditional 16 digit debit card. You can't use paypal for underage people as they audit documents proving your age. While this was a major pain to setup, it has the added benefit of isolating the adult bank accounts from the inevitable loss/theft/hacking of the kids' accounts (kids aren't savvy about when/where they put that 16 digit number). They mess around with so many services online, it's a matter of time until their accounts are breached, and it's nice knowing that won't directly tie into my account. Until Final (disclosure... I'm an investor) is fully up and running, these kinds of heavy-handed protections are prudent.
Devices my son uses on a regular basis:
  • 27" communal iMac that sits in the house office. He uses this for playing networked Valve/Steam games (GPU intense), and for drawing/designing with his Wacom tablet. He does a lot of Skype text chatting and in-game voice chatting. I'm in earshot of the voice stuff, so am able to overhear how he conducts himself online in that manner.
  • 13" Chromebook. He uses this for watching Netflix and for homework related stuff (websites/tutorials and Google Apps (which the school system here uses)). He's allowed to use this in his room to some degree.
  • iPad mini. Mostly just Netflix for streaming and iTunes for offline video viewing during travel.
  • iPhone. Instagram and a few chat apps as well as Spotify for music.
  • 57" LED TV screen. Mostly Apple TV for movies, and Netflix for Parks and Recreation re-runs. Some Tivo of stuff he likes.
  • Logitech Harmony (radio based... not IR) for single remote driving of the entertainment system stuff.
  • Sonos for music throughout the house.
Devices my daughter uses on a regular basis:
  • 27" communal iMac that sits in the house office. Some homework stuff, but mostly just watching YouTube videos.
  • iTouch for iTunes music, and video capture to make little videos.
  • 57" LED TV screen. Mostly Apple TV for movies and her favorite "shows," and some Tivo of stuff she likes.
  • Logitech Harmony (radio based... not IR) for single remote driving of the entertainment system stuff.
  • Sonos for music throughout the house.

Monday, September 14, 2015

Ad Tech Bustage?

Number of times I've clicked on an ad over the past 20 years or so and bought somthing on the click-through somewhere? One or two, maybe three, times.

Number of times I've bought something (an airline ticket, a hotel room, a magazine, some clothing, a device, etc) and have had an ad for that very thing displayed to me everywhere I go (Facebook, Google, Fandango, etc) for a week after having already made the purchase? A couple of thousand times.

The ad tech infrastructure seems very good at targeting me *after* I've already purchased. This is _exactly_ when you do _not_ want to be spending ad dollars as a corporation.

Why does this happen?

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Main Stream Media And Me

It's been several weeks now since I dropped out of main stream media consumption. My consumption vectors have become...

  • daily curated news/content emails from curators I learn about and can subscribe/unsubscribe to/from if/when they prove their quality/lack-of-quality
  • my Twitter feed. real-time signal from who I follow. if Twitter builds a platform that allows for Journalists to more consistently represent themselves and their work, I could see this platform becoming the bulk of what I want. I blogged a little about some of these concepts here.
  • my feed. my own source curation.
  • FlipBoard magazines. awesome feature of the day here is you can now tune FlipBoard to filter out content from shitty sources (e.g. TechCrunch). this is really powerful as it gives the user source-level control in the platform over what hits their eyes.
  • I still sit down with the Sunday Times each week. this is the most "main stream" I come in contact with.
I use Instapaper for "read later" and it's proven to be great. especially the "speed read" functionality; big time saver.

What I've found so far...
  • I spend 100x fewer cycles thinking about bullshit and the latest depressing shooting-of-the-day.
  • I spend 100x fewer cycles reading regurgitated link-bait stories cobbled together by children, and 100x more cycles reading thoughtful original content.
  • I eat-my-spinach constantly now, reading long-form, well thought out, journalism.
  • I miss out on "main stream" stuff; as expected. I'll find myself the only person in the room that hasn't heard about the latest media firestorm. this makes me feel like the odd man out at times, but it's a trade I'm willing to make.
  • I feel better. main stream media/content is depressing.
  • I feel smarter.
  • I don't wind up down link-bait rabbit holes that the reptile part of my brain wants to wander down.

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Journalist Rank (jRank) & News Feeds

I just got back from a run and wanted to flesh this notion out a bit. I was listening to a This Week In Startups "news" roundtable in which Declan McCullagh was talking about his new "news" app called "Recent" (btw Declan, if you're not using Stream on the backend, you should consider it (disclosure, I'm an investor)). Someone started talking about ranking journalists, and someone else used the word "jRank" and jokingly compared it to Google's gRank. Declan passively suggested Recent was doing something like this in its algorithm to filter news. During this latest rush to build news apps, I'd like to see journalist rankings blend into the algorithms, and ultimately I'd love to be able to turn jRank dials in my profile to tune my feed accordingly.

You'd have to start with a ranking system first of course. From there, software could consider it when producing my feed, and from there a UI element could be presented to me to allow me to filter/dial journalists accordingly.

Proposed jRank factors for a given journalist

  • age
  • languages
  • primary country (city?) of residence
  • mediums (video, books, newspapers, web, a... blah blah blah)
  • first published article/video
  • most-recent published article/video
  • freelancing date-ranges
  • on-staff date-ranges
  • outlets (e.g. cnn, foxnews)/platforms (Twitter, Instagram...) published on (incl. links)
  • sponsors (explicit/implied) (this one would take some work, but the idea is to have transparency into where the journalist gets their dollars). think 
  • website (system can cull gRank-like data from it)
  • list of social profiles (to be crawled and individually ranked, then those ranks are subsumed into jRank)
  • etc.
The idea would be consider all the interesting factors that go into a producer of words. There are times I want to see content from random citizens who happen to catch a "news worthy" moment while walking the dog, and there are times I want to see stories on a known topic produced by someone who just spent a year of their life embedded in a specific environment studying a topic. And, everything in between. The combination of deeper knowledge around who produced the content, and the platform aggregated/presenting it, gives me, the user, a lot of control. Of course, "news platforms" relying on the crowd for the content can have all the dials turned up to 11 for the default stream.