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Archive for the ‘Technology’ Category

Dear Georgia Power,

We all knew Zeta was coming. We all knew there would be rain and high winds. We all knew the power would go out (because it goes out here if someone coughs too violently).

As a result, this family has a propane stove, a generator, hurricane lamps and many portable phone charging blocks.

So it was not a surprise to wake up yesterday at 6:13 a.m. with no power.

What was a surprise was that there were no updates from you on your website ALL DAY LONG.

There is no ERT.

I looked at Twitter, expecting to find more information.

Nope.

Your first tweet was at 10:05 a.m. — nearly four hours after 600K+ Georgians lost power.

And this ridiculously late attempt directed people to the outage map that had NO INFORMATION.

Much later, you tweeted this gem:

No shit, Sherlock.

I couldn’t resist replying.

Here’s the thing: I do not doubt your crews in the field and in the office are working very hard to restore power.

But in a crisis, you have to communicate to your stakeholders. This is PR 101. And THIS is why I’m dogging you.

Whoever is handling your Twitter account tweeted only 13 times in the space of 24 hours.

People are freaking out and you traffic in sporadic platitudes?

Come ON!

You can do better. You should do better. Millions of Georgians rely on you.

Next time, I hope your response team includes a dedicated crisis communicator.

Sincerely,
Beth

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There are only two industries that call their customers ‘users’: illegal drugs and software.
Edward Tufte

Dear Jeff Orlowski,

Thanks for directing “The Social Dilemma” for Netflix. A number of friends told me to watch, so I did.

It’s a fascinating and thought-provoking look at how tech companies manipulate people for profit. Also, we are conditioned by society (i.e., watching others) to want to be part of these platforms (hey, Social Learning Theory!).

DUH.

We live in a capitalist society. We are all potential consumers. Social media algorithms are no different (to me) than companies choosing which radio, television and newspaper ads to place based on user data gleaned from Nielsen/Arbitron ratings and subscriber information.

One of the underpinning theories for my journalism and mass communications dissertation was Herman and Chomsky’s Propaganda Model (1988). Media manipulation is a peaceful way for those in power to maintain the status quo.

Their recommendation for scooting out from under control? Get your information from many sources.

DUH. AGAIN.

It’s personal responsibility. Critical thinking.

You don’t want to be addicted or manipulated? Then employ your critical-thinking skills. Put your phone away one in a while. And beware the filter bubble.

Maybe I’m just super cynical. Critical. Suspicious. Typical Gen X.

I’m also someone who has been trained to look at all sides of an issue, thanks to my reporter background.

In the documentary, Sandy Parakilas, senior product marketing manager at (formerly with Uber and Facebook), said:

“(There are) biases toward false information … the truth is boring.“

One more time: DUH.

In news, we have a phrase for that: “If it bleeds, it leads.”

That’s because — by its very nature — news is an anomaly. You don’t cover the planes that land.

And the more unbelievable, horrible and salacious something is, the more interesting it is. It’s human nature to swivel your head when you pass a car crash.

 

So, to me, there’s nothing new here.

Plus, your documentary is as manipulative as the social media it criticizes.

The irony is not lost on me that it was created for a streaming service that tracks user engagement and supplies content based on history.

The doom-and-gloom soundtrack helps instill that sense of dread.

And I love how the tech folks interviewed have all made their money and now suddenly have developed a conscience.

One of the main interviewees, Tristan Harris, might be worth up to $5 million.

Huh.

Interesting.

That doesn’t make your documentary any less compelling. It just means I had a chance to practice what I preach.

Keep up the good work!
Beth

 

 

 

 

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Dear Royal Caribbean,

The travel industry has been hit hard. I don’t have to tell you that, as cruise companies such as yourself have experienced catastrophic losses.

So I would think you would be upping your customer service game.

I’d be wrong. Clearly.

You still suck.

After the first time we traveled with you, I vowed it would be the last.

But sometimes you have to go along with the group, and my group decided to give you another go.

We were supposed to go in June, but PANDEMIC. So we got a credit toward a future cruise.

On Tuesday, the group bat signal went up that it was TIME TO BOOK said cruise.

It is fairly easy to book a cruise (i.e., spend money) on your site.

You know what is not easy to do? ANYTHING ELSE.

  • Link reservations with the others in the group? No. I have to call.
  • See my credit? Nope. Call.
  • Use my credit? Hell no. Call.

Sigh.

So I called, and got the very snippy Miguel. Here’s how part of the conversation went down:

Me: I’d like to use the credit from my cancelled cruise.
Miguel: I see that you spoke to a representative March 9 and were promised a credit.
Me: Yes.
Miguel: You want to use that credit toward the cruise you just booked.
Me: Yes.
Miguel: That credit has not been processed yet.
Me: Not processed? It’s been two months.
Miguel: Yes. I see that you called March 9. May I put you on a brief hold?
(Brief hold commences. Miguel returns.)
Miguel: You will receive an email next week with a confirmation code for the credit. You will then need to call back to ask to have the credit applied.
Me: So let me get this straight: I had to call to cancel to get a credit. Then call to get the credit processed. Then I have to CALL once I receive an EMAIL that my credit is ready so that I can have my credit applied.
Miguel: Yes.
Me: You know that’s insane, right?
Miguel (at his snippy summit): This is our process.

The next step is to link reservations so that we can all sit together at dinner. Miguel is aghast that I would want something else from him. He informs me that both Sophia and Petra have to put in their reservation notes that they want to link with me, and I have to do the same.

MY GOD.

I text both Sophia and Petra about this situation. We are the ones in our families who HANDLE THINGS. So we are handling things like the Tracy Flicks we are. All three of us are on the phone independently with you, Royal Caribbean. It is NO WONDER the wait time to speak to a representative is so long.

Sophia goes FULL KAREN and asks to speak to a manager. I’m so glad she did.

Sophia’s method was so effective that I actually got a confirmation from her, Sophia, via text. Not from you, RC.

Ignore my dark humor. It’s how I cope.

Unbelievable.

So. We will see you in December, COVID willing. But I know I’ll be on the phone with you sooner.

And you know how much I love talking on the phone (sarcasm alert).

Hoping you see my point,
Beth

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Dear Self-isolating Friends and Family,

What a time to be alive! It is unprecedented weirdness. I don’t know about you, but some aspects of life are totally normal (my boys fighting) and some are totally bizarre (no toilet paper or cleaning products in stores).

I received the email below. Ordinarily, that would send me into a tailspin. You know how I love my Biddy Boot Camp.

But you also know that I am an optimistic person. So here I am looking on the bright side:

1. Atlanta traffic has been reduced to early-1990s levels.

This is lunchtime on I-85 where it joins I-75. It’s usually a jam.

2. No line at The Varsity (no eating inside either, for better or worse).

3. No one is sneezing, coughing or sniffling in public. (I’m thrilled. I hate this. Pandemic and non-pandemic advice: If you are sick, STAY HOME.)

4. Family time (again, for better or worse). I’m not ready to kill the children. Yet.

5. Home cooking. Last night, I made Pommes Anna from a recipe by Chef Anne Burrell. (I watched “Worst Cooks in America” during my isolation this weekend.) It’s basically scalloped potatoes with a twist.

Yum!

6. The potential to watch shows on my (long) list of suggestions. Although I find myself rewatching “Schitt’s Creek” in preparation for Season 6.

7. No cancellation fees on the annual cruise we had to reschedule before Coronavirus came calling.

8. Faculty at my university are forced to try online learning. I’ve been singing this delivery method’s praises for years, but some of my colleagues have been reluctant. It’s not perfect, but it works. And it compels people to learn new things and be creative to improve the experience for themselves and for students.

9. The chance to do things that have been put off for way too long. We moved to a different place in the same neighborhood the weekend before everything started changing substantially. With the forced down time, we have unpacked everything, put up shelves, cleaned the place, etc. I also rewired our speaker system — something I needed to do since we moved back to Atlanta.

10. The constant reminder to WASH YOUR DAMN HANDS. I’m continually appalled by the number of people who do not wash their hands after going to the restroom. Gross!

Join me in optimism: Tell me about your silver lining.

Love and air kisses from at least six feet away,
Beth

 

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Dear Members of The Prodigy,

I’m so sorry I didn’t really know you until recently. If it weren’t for my friend Glen responding to my post requesting music suggestions, I never would have listened intentionally. Who knew I had so much in common, taste-wise, with Glen plus Merrill and Trevor? (Thanks also to Kristina, April, George, Tara and William for some good tunes.)

I usually listen to the most raucous music in my library when I’m getting ready in the morning.

A few days ago, I was putting on mascara when Eddie walked into the bathroom.

Him: What’s that?
Me, without batting a mascaraed eye: Smack My Bitch Up.

I make no apologies.

And because of that exchange, you earned a few cents. (I have an Apple Music account, so you don’t make much from me.)

 

I’m glad you are now part of my listening life, along with Godsmack, Prophets of Rage, Dirty Honey and The Struts.

My mornings are certainly a little louder.

Love,
Beth

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Dear Friends:

It’s the rare time of year in the South where I can put down the top on my convertible and be comfortable.

One of my favorite things to do is play music REALLY LOUD and (possibly) torture those around me.

I’ve been in a serious metal and rock phase lately: Think Halestorm, Drowning Pool, Rage Against the Machine, Disturbed, Metallica, etc.

But I do have eclectic taste. See this recent screenshot from my Ticketmaster app:

I’m looking for suggestions. What’s your favorite song? Though I will listen to almost anything, note that I’m not a huge fan of rap, trap, jazz and classical music.

And please don’t send me video game theme songs. The 14 year old has the lock on that. And he is persistent. (Read: annoying when he wants me to do something.)

(Yes, this is what I have to live with every day.)

Looking forward to your suggestions!

Sincerely,
Beth

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Dear Music Lovers,

I last wrote to you more than a year ago to share my favorite playlists.

I was reminded of that post today because I had lunch with an old friend who was influential in developing my musical tastes.

He created a fantastic mix tape for me back in the day.

I don’t save a ton of things — I’m not a hoarder! — but I saved all the mix tapes I received. As I knew Mike and I were meeting, I dug his out this morning to bring to lunch to show him. (I did this in the living room in my underwear, scarring Gideon for life. But that’s another story.)

I miss the days of mix tapes. They were an essential part of the courting ritual. You liked someone, then carefully crafted a tape that would do three things:

1. Indicate your feelings. You could be obscure or obvious.

2. Introduce the recipient to new music. And show off your own coolness. Or not.

3. Tell a complete story. Flow was key. It was a narrative.

I always went one step further (of course) and decorated the paper sleeve. I would find a great image from a magazine or newspaper (I’m old, y’all), cut it precisely, and glue it to the cardboard. I’d list all the songs on the other side.

It was a task to create these because you had to time everything out perfectly to fit the tape plus switch out albums.

Playlists are easier to create and share today, but I don’t get the impression they are as much a part of the getting-to-know-you phase. They certainly don’t provoke the same feeling as when someone you liked would hand you a tape. You couldn’t wait to get in your car (!) or get home to listen to it to see if they felt the same way you did.

For the record, Mike and I were and are great friends. No big romance. The purpose of this tape was to introduce me to new music. (But it’s true we were very flirty.)

I recreated it in iTunes:

Mike was tickled that I still had it.

“These songs definitely represent an era,” he said.

True that.

Here’s a picture of Mike taking a picture of the playlist. He was as amused as I was.

If you’re feeling industrious, send me a playlist. It can have a message. Or not. I’m always open to new music, as I think I’ve demonstrated.

Vinyly yours,
Beth

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Dear Hinge, Tinder, Grindr, Bumble, etc.

I know you have substantial market share in the dating app world. But y’all don’t have anything on Words With Friends. Apparently.

There’s plenty of middle-aged white dudes trolling WWF for ladies.

It’s a new frontier.

What is up with that?

It’s only been in the past few months that I have noticed this situation. (See here and here for recaps.)

But in the past week or so, it has gotten out of control. Here’s slideshow of my personal rogues gallery. (Names/faces hidden JUST IN CASE they are real people, which I doubt.)

 

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

WHAT THE HECK?!

In my last post on the topic, I mentioned my plan to mess with these fellas. Like this:

But to be honest, there are so many of them, and it takes too much time/energy.

It would make sense to decline games from people I don’t know.

But then I wouldn’t have material for my blog, right?

Harris gets it.

I also wouldn’t be able to suggest to you that you get into the gaming scene to build market share.

Clearly there is interest from at least one subset of the population.

Just here for the points,
Beth

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Dear Certain Middle-aged White Dudes:

There must not be a bar, laundromat or coffee shop in your town. That’s the only reason I can think of that you would try to get close to women on Words With Friends.

I first noticed this phenomenon with “Sam.”

I play WWF with random strangers all the time. But he was the first to chat. At first, I just thought he was being nice. But then …

I didn’t reply to his last comment, kicked his ass in the game, and never heard from him again.

Then came “Martin.”

Actually, I didn’t reply. He was undeterred.

Fellas, I don’t want to get to know you better on WWF. I’m good, thanks.

I asked my regular opponent Adam about this trend. He said women occasionally would flirt with him. Then he changed his profile photo to a pic of his cat. He had some special advice for me:

Instead, I think I’ll use this as my profile picture:

It has made me laugh all week. Maybe it will give you weirdos enough joy that you don’t have to slide into my chats.

Yours with a different kind of score (you know, the triple-word kind),
Beth

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Dear Climate Change Deniers,

I know that nothing I say can change your mind, but I can’t sleep unless I try. (I mean I can’t sleep anyway, so … )

Here are my boni fides: I have five college degrees: B.A., B.S., M.A., M.F.A., Ph.D. (not bragging; just offering facts). The second is the one you should care about as it is in Geosciences.

That’s right. I’m a meteorologist.

(Uh oh, trigger warning: a scientist — member of the intellectual elite, blah blah blah.)

I know evidence when I see it with my own eyes. Even without other scientists (and even NASA) saying over and over that global warming is real, I see proof in many ways.

Increasing intensity and number of tropical storms is just one. I mean, just look!

WTF?!

So it’s really hard to deny that climate change is real.

Still with me? Let’s move on.

The second argument is whether it is caused by fellow two-legged menaces. Like most rational humans, I believe it is. That doesn’t really matter, though.

Shouldn’t we still engage in practices that will improve the environment as opposed to destroying it?

Shouldn’t we still explore alternative fuel sources?

Shouldn’t we still recycle, pick up after ourselves, eschew straws in favor of sea turtles and the like?

We all have to live here on Earth, you know. Despite Elon Musk’s attempts, Mars is still not an option.

It’s not like it really costs each of us much more to be responsible land dwellers.

Plus, there are plenty of jobs in new technologies, so it makes fiscal sense.

Come on, folks: Work with me here. Let’s be rational and make some progress together.

You want to, right?

It’d be a lot cooler if you did,
Beth

*Brian Klaas, The Washington Post

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