Weekly output: how states are working to expand broadband availability, lessons learned from Estonia’s digital society

This week saw two minor personal milestones: my first in-person attendance at a conference since last March (appropriately enough, it was the Satellite trade show then and now; sadly enough, Richard Branson didn’t say anything nearly as quotable as Elon Musk did last spring), followed by my first reception around town since then (an event at a Rosslyn rooftop with breathtaking views of the city).

Photo of first two pages of the story, held in front of a loop of fiber-optic cable hanging off a utility pole.9/9/2021: How States are Bridging the Digital Divide, Trust

This feature for the Pew Charitable Trusts’ quarterly magazine provided my first print appearance in a while. If you get the mag in paper form yourself, you may have seen it before Thursday–my own comp copies showed up two weeks ago–but the date above reflects the piece’s appearance on Pew’s site.

9/10/2021: This country moved its government online. Here’s why that wouldn’t fly in the U.S., Fast Company

More than three weeks after I set out on my transatlantic journey to Tallinn, this recap of what I learned on that Estonian-government-hosted trip week ran. I used the time after coming home to check in with a few U.S. experts in election security and digital government to get second opinions about Estonia’s digital-society project.

Weekly output: homework-gap help, Facebook and the media, Apple’s app-tracking prompt

I’m writing this under a moderate amount of duress, in that WordPress has demoted the “Classic Editor” to a block you can invoke in the middle of a post written with the Block Editor about which I continue to grumble. One reason why: The Block Editor, notwithstanding improvements in its image-handling functions, still doesn’t appear to offer an indent feature, forcing me to switch gears one paragraph at a time to use the Classic block in this post.

3/16/2021: Two new bills could put a dent in technology’s ‘homework gap’, Fast Company

One of the better reasons to use (and pay for) a note-taking app is the ability to dredge up a quote from two years ago that shows one of the people you’re writing about was tuned into a problem before a pandemic put it in a harsh spotlight.

3/19/2021: Facebook Wants To Put News Back On Its Friends List, Forbes

You can see from the page-view totals shown atop this post that not many people read it. On the other hand, reporting this out gave me a chance to check in with a couple of my favorite journalism-conference people. And my including a link to my Patreon page was followed by a new reader signing up there. 

3/20/2021: What an upcoming Apple privacy prompt will mean for you – and the apps you use, USA Today

Apple’s App Tracking Transparency prompt–your invitation to ask apps not to track your usage across other apps–drew full-page-newspaper-ad opposition from Facebook a few months ago, but since then other large tech giants have responded to it with a remarkable level of equanimity. This post also quotes a mobile-marketing consultant who warns that smaller developers have much more to lose.

Weekly output: digital divides, copyright meets AI, COVID-19 tracing

This was my first Easter spent in the D.C. area since… sometime in the mid 1990s? I would like to know a more exact date, but those years passed when I still used paper calendars that I lost in a prior millennium.

4/6/2020: Gaps in Internet access, Al Jazeera

The Arabic-language news channel had me on to talk about inconsistent Internet access–some the fault of dysfunctional economies, some the fault of governments deciding that cutting off the Internet will help them manage domestic dissent. The next day, an e-mail from the advocacy group AccessNow scolded Qatar and its neighboring Gulf states for blocking WhatsApp, FaceTime and other Internet-calling apps.

4/9/2020: Who Wrote That Hit Song? It Depends on How Human They Are., Glimmer

My second post for the Web-creativity shop Glitch’s equivalent of an inflight mag covered how copyright law should treat works created by artificial intelligence. I haven’t had a chance to get into the weeds about intellectual-property policy like this since I was last writing for the Disruptive Competition Project seven years ago; I’m glad there’s still a market for that sort of wonky work.

4/12/2020: Using apps to trace COVID-19, Al Jazeera

AJ had me on a second time this week to talk about the potential of smartphone apps to help trace patterns of novel-coronavirus transmission–without giving your location history up to Google or the government or even sharing your name with the people you might have occupied some personal space with after catching this virus.

Weekly output: FCC broadband map (still) considered harmful

This week was our kid’s spring break, so we had a lot of family time. I, in turn, had a little less laptop time than usual–which is another way of saying I’m starting this workweek slightly behind.

4/19/2019: Why it’s so hard for some Americans to get high-speed internet, Yahoo Finance

This piece started with a lengthy e-mail from a reader of a column I wrote for USA Today four years ago. As I do too often, I neglected that message from this resident of a broadband-deprived part of rural Michigan for a week before kicking off a slow-motion correspondence that revealed a fairly horrible failure of the Federal Communications Commission’s broadband map. The major fault here: The map relies on old and fuzzy data from providers that don’t always accurately report where they provide Internet access. Since this post ran, I’ve received another lengthy e-mail from a resident of rural northern California who’s been dealing with another broadband drought that doesn’t show up on the FCC map, and I can’t rule out writing a sequel.

Weekly output: Porsche Design laptop, net neutrality (x2), getting the world online, app privacy

You can tell I’m about to go to New Orleans because I put a bunch of songs from the Meters and the Neville Brothers on my phone. As was the case about this time last year, my excuse is the Collision conference; I’ll be moderating four panels at this offshoot of Web Summit.

4/24/2017: We took Porsche’s pricey new laptop for a spin, Yahoo Finance

I filed this first-look report from the IFA Global Press Conference, but it didn’t get posted until the day after I returned from Lisbon.

4/26/2017: Trump’s FCC bulldozes open internet rules without a plan B, Yahoo Finance

The copy I filed went into more detail about FCC chair Ajit Pai’s weird, red-baiting attack on the liberal tech-policy group Free Press, but my editor thought that was a little too much inside baseball. I should note that I’ve spoken at two of Free Press’s events, most recently in Denver in 2013; I may have missed any praise from the organizers for Marx and Lenin when I ditched the conference for an afternoon to see the Rockies home opener.

4/27/2017: Trump’s FCC chair issues attack on open internet rules, Yahoo Finance

A day after Pai spoke about his intention to demolish the current net-neutrality rules, I unpacked the FCC notice of proposed rulemaking that would accomplish that goal.

4/29/2017: How to get 4 billion unconnected people online, Yahoo Finance

I wrote this post about the issues that keep some four billion people off the Internet after attending a Tuesday IEEE event featuring TCP/IP co-author Vint Cerf, but this week’s surplus of net-neutrality news caused it to get set aside for a few days. Having a chance to talk shop with one of the inventors of the Internet remains a mind-bending experience.

4/30/2017: Your data is priceless; that’s why some apps sell it, USA Today

Writing this piece about the amount of access some apps have to your data led me to yank the TripIt app out of my Gmail–I can have that service advise me about changes to my travel plans almost as easily by forwarding booking e-mails to it. And that way, I won’t have TripIt thinking an incremental e-mail from an airline or Amtrak represents a new itinerary.