Microsoft Teams: More, More, More

January 12, 2021

Last week I was on a Zoom video call. Zoom is pretty easy to use. What’s interesting is that the cyber security organizer of the meeting could not figure out how to allow a participant to share a screen. Now how easy is it to use Microsoft Teams compared to Zoom? In my opinion, Microsoft Teams is a baffler. The last thing Teams needs is another dose of featuritis. Teams and Zoom both need to deal with the craziness of the existing features and functions.

I have given up on Zoom improving its interface. The tiny gear icon, one of the most used components, is tough for some people to spot. Teams has a couple of donkeys laden with wackiness; for example, how about those access controls? Working great for new users, right? But Microsoft who is busy reinventing itself from Word and SharePoint wants to be the super Slack of our Rona-ized world. Sounds good? Yep, ads within Office 10 are truly an uplifting experience for individuals who use Windows 10 to sort of attempt work. Plus, Teams adds Channel calendars. Great! More calendars! Many Outlooks, many search systems, and now calendars! In Teams!

I noted this BBC write up: “Pupils in Scotland Struggle to Get Online Amid Microsoft Issue.” I thought teachers, parents were there to help. The Beeb states:

A number of schools, pupils and parents have reported the technology running slowly or not at all.

What’s Microsoft say? According to the Beeb:

A Microsoft spokesperson said: “Our engineers are working to resolve difficulties accessing Microsoft Teams that some customers are experiencing.” When pressed on whether demand as a result of home schooling was causing the issue, Microsoft declined to comment.

Just like the SolarWinds’ misstep? Nope, just working to make Teams more interesting. Navigate to “Microsoft Teams Is Getting a More Engaging Experience for Meetings Soon.” If the write up is accurate, that’s exactly what Microsoft has planned for its Zoom killer. The write up reports an item from the future:

Microsoft is working on making Teams meetings more engaging using AI and a “Dynamic View” to give more control over meeting presentations.

And what, pray tell, is a more engaging enhancement or two? I learned that in the future (not yet determined):

The Dynamic view is said to let you see what’s being shared and other people on the call at the same time. With the call being automatically optimized in a way that lets participants both see the important information that’s being shared and the people presenting it in a satisfying way.

News flash. The features appear to add controls (hooray, more controls) and the presentation seems just fine for those high-resolution displays measured in feet, not inches.

Bulletin. Just in. More people are using mobile devices than desktop computers. How is Teams on a mobile device with a screen measured in inches, not feet?

Oh, right. Featuritis and tiny displays. Winners. Maybe not for someone over the age of 45, but that’s an irrelevant demographic, right?

Stephen E Arnold, January 12, 2021

Facial Recognition: Not As Effective As Social Recognition

January 8, 2021

Facial recognition is a sub-function of image analysis. For some time, I have bristled at calls for terminating research into this important application of algorithms intended to identify, classify, and make sense of patterns. Many facial recognition systems return false positives for reasons ranging from lousy illumination to people wearing glasses with flashing LED lights.

I noted “The FBI Asks for Help Identifying Trump’s Terrorists. Internet (and Local News) Doesn’t Disappoint.” The article makes it clear that facial recognition by smart software may not be as effective as social recognition. The write up says:

There is also Elijah Schaffer, a right-wing blogger on Glenn Beck’s BlazeTV, who posted incriminating evidence of himself in Nancy Pelosi’s office and then took it down when he realized that he posted himself breaking and entering into Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi’s office. But screenshots are a thing.

What’s clear is that technology cannot do what individuals’ posting to their social media accounts can do or what individuals who can say “Yeah, I know that person” delivers.

Technology for image analysis is advancing, but I will be the first to admit that 75 to 90 percent accuracy falls short of a human-centric system which can provide:

  • Name
  • Address
  • Background details
  • Telephone and other information.

Two observations: First, social recognition is at this time better, faster, and cheaper than Fancy Dan image recognition systems. Second, image recognition is more than a way to identify a person robbing a convenience store. Medical, military, and safety applications are in need of advanced image processing systems. Let the research and testing continue without delay.

Stephen E Arnold, January 8, 2021

Venture Outfit Explains Obsolescence to Main Stream Media, Amazon Twitch, and Google YouTube

December 8, 2020

I am delighted to admit that I am not involved with TikTok or other whizzy video confections. Ever try Neverthink? The name explains the service. I did, however, read “Live, Social, and Shoppable: The Future of Video.” This is a breezy, MBA, venture firm style report. More remarkable, the document appears to be available without registration hoops, crazy pop ups, or blandishments to call us for investment advice.

What the write up does do is make the poobahs stunned with the announcement that Wonder Woman is headed to streaming get another gut shot. You can work through the report, the jazzy graphics, and the little icon forests yourself.

I want to focus on a single section called “The Video First Future,” specifically, the education statements. The main idea is, in my opinion,

… video can enhance the excitement of mastering a subject and the motivation to learn.

What’s this mean? First, hasta la vista to the traditional textbook publishers, a group already tethered to revenue with a thin cotton cord. Second, YouTube variants like Udacity and its compatriots must confront change. Third, the TikTok thing is a harbinger of the future of learning.

Yep, TikTok. The write up points out:

These types of platforms take academic curriculum and mix it with fun. The resulting edutainment is a hit for both kids and parents. How can a customer churn when their kid likes their class as much as Saturday morning cartoons and video games? In these kid-friendly entertaining education platforms, kids get that immediate feedback and virtual rewards whenever they get an answer right.

The anigif example requires a knowledge of Chinese and a certain youthful spirit to appreciate.

Several observations:

  • Cultural differences in managing hungry young minds play no part in the write up
  • The issue of controlling the information generated from these platforms is not considered
  • The future suggests that game-ification, psychological strokes and slaps, and fragmented attention are the new big thing.

Perfect for generating interest in new investment funds and for sending shock waves of fear through organizations not into the TikTok-ization of information. Perhaps there is an existential question which YouTube must answer, “Can we avoid the fate of the media our service has disrupted?”

Focus may be a challenge for thumbtypers, regardless of their age and Fortnite skills.

Stephen E Arnold, December 8, 2020

LinkedIn Analyzed: Verrry Interesting

December 4, 2020

I read “LinkedIn’s Alternate Universe.” I was poking around in an effort to find out how many social profiles are held by Microsoft. The write up provides a number 722 million. However, for my purposes I used a less robust estimate of 660 million. I ran out of space for decimal places. Check the story on Monday, and you will understand my space challenge. The story is Disinterest in Search and Retrieval Quantified.

I recommend this Divinations’ write up because it is amusing, and it helped me understand why the service has become some what peculiar in a social network world in which Ripley’s Believe It or Not! content has become normative.

Here are three examples:

  • Posts by living people announcing that the author is dead. Ho, ho. Alive, not dead for the denizens of a personnel department site.
  • Begging for dollars and attention. The two seem to be joined at the medulla for some LinkedIn members.
  • The antics of recruiters become Twitter jokes.

What is fascinating is that we have a WordPress plug in that posts headlines to LinkedIn automatically. This creates some interesting reactions. First, the software bot has about 800 LinkedIn friends. Okay. I think that’s good. Second, the stories about the MSFT social network service have been filtered as I recall.

The article is worth a gander.

Stephen E Arnold, December 4, 2020

Want to Manipulate Humans? Try These Hot Buttons

December 3, 2020

Okay, thumb typing marketers, insights from academia. Navigate to “We Are All Behavioral, More or Less: A Taxonomy of Consumer Decision Making.” The write up is available from Dartmouth, home of behavioral economists and psychologists and okay pizza.

The write up is 70 pages in length and chock full of jargon and academic thinking. Nevertheless, the author, one Victor Stango, reveals some suggestive information.

Here are a couple of examples:

Table 3. Correlations among behavioral biases, and between biases and other decision inputs offers insight into pairings of bias factors

Table 5. Rotated 8-factor models and loadings of decision inputs on common factors provides a “look up table” with values to help guide a sales pitch

The list of hot button factors includes:

  • Present bias
  • Choice type
  • Risk biases
  • Confidence
  • Math bias
  • Attention
  • Patience vs. risk aversion
  • Cognitive skills
  • Personality

Net net: Manipulate biases by combining factors. Launch those online marketing campaigns via social media with confidence, p-value lovers.

Stephen E Arnold, December 2, 2020

Younger Person Explains the Information Age

November 30, 2020

Do you pay attention to young people? Some have great ideas; others edge up to an idea and back away; and others just explain the world the way it really is. To test your receptivity to that I call the jejune ethos, navigate to “The Paradox of the Great Information Flood.” Note that the younger person does not go with the “tsunami” metaphor. This is no wave; this is a flood which means, according to

A great flowing or overflowing of water, especially over land not usually submerged. Any great outpouring or stream.

One minor point: Floods recede, but let’s look at other revelations.

  1. Central authority is not a hot ticket.
  2. More information produces more uncertainty.
  3. Existential wobbling and nihilism-on-the-rise are us.

How do these observations stack up against the reality of online information. I would point out a few modest differences; for example:

  1. Online information fosters surveillance ecosystems
  2. Online information erodes traditional structures; that is, the authority thing, the certainty thing, and the wobbling thing
  3. Online information evolves into monopolies; for example, Google in search and other FAANG centroids
  4. Online information requires deleting “old”, “historical,” and fungible data and information
  5. Online information is manipulable; that is, the deep fake capability is the norm
  6. Online information facilitates blurring the real with the construct; that is, gameification of data and experience.

Net net: The essay addresses observable facets of the information flood. Floods and tsunamis don’t capture what has been in operation since the mid 1970s. Floods go away; waves pass.

Digital information refines permanence. Hello, world. You are neither brave nor new. Thumb typers are justifiably uncertain, wobbly, and suspicious of “authority.”

Stephen E Arnold, November 30, 2020

Information Overload: Get Used to It

September 30, 2020

Modern humans have access to more information than any other generation before them. Better and more access to information is directly proportional to humanity’s technological progress. Scientific American’s article, “Unlimited Information Is Transforming Society” explores the correlation between technology and information.

Scientific and technological progress did not advance in the past as it does today. Any revelation was developed through craft traditions that contributed to humanity’s survival or daily tasks easier. Technology as we know it came about:

“In the late 1800s matters changed: craft traditions were reconstructed as “technology” that bore an important relation to science, and scientists began to take a deeper interest in applying theories to practical problems.”

Technology and science still did not work in tandem for years despite the parallels. For example, aviation was pioneered before scientists understand aeronautical science. The common belief was that machines weighing more than air could not fly.

What advanced science and technology the most in the past 175 years was the manipulation of energy and matter. The movement of energy and matter thus moved information and ideas. The best example of this is electricity, which led to then event of telecommunications devices, familiarly known as televisions, telegraphs, radios, and televisions. Electricity also changed manufacturing (moving factories away from water powered systems) and people’s daily lives from traveling to entertainment.

Computing would be the next big information mover and spreader. Nuclear energy and space travel were predicted to be the next big shake-ups, but the Cold War, a few nuclear meltdowns, and lack of funding for more space-related projects/earthly concerns were a few reasons they did not.

Everything is related (not in a conspiracy related way), but in how one sector of life affects another, such as electricity leading to television’s invention:

“That said, one change that is already underway in the movement of information is the blurring of boundaries between consumers and producers. In the past the flow of information was almost entirely one-way, from the newspaper, radio or television to the reader, listener or viewer. Today that flow is increasingly two-way—which was one of Tim Berners-Lee’s primary goals when he created the World Wide Web in 1990. We “consumers” can reach one another via Skype, Zoom and FaceTime; post information through Instagram, Facebook and Snapchat; and use software to publish our own books, music and videos—without leaving our couches.”

There is more information and access to it and this has also led to a more convenient way of life brought on by technological advances. Technology that also used to be available to a limited number of people, such as computers (remember big old monstrosities that took up entire building floors and processed 30 MB), are in the hands of children. Lines are blurring between the experts and the amateurs, public and private, male and female, etc. What does that mean for the future? One thing we do know is that we cannot predict that.

Whitney Grace, September 30, 2020

Modern Behavior

July 17, 2020

I read “The Modern Day Mind Killer.” The write up contained an interesting factoid. In a Rona world, the good old buffet line may become problematic. Nevertheless, here’s the item:

I recently came across a study of the behavior of people in a buffet line. The results blew me away. At the average breakfast buffet, the first item was taken by 75% of the diners (even when the order of the items was reversed). Two-thirds of all the food taken came from the first three items, regardless of how long the buffet was.

The author points out:

We are less in control of our actions and decisions than we think we are.

This seems like a useful observation.

Stephen E Arnold, July 17, 2020

Google and Social: Peanut Butter and Jelly?

July 10, 2020

We read with interest “Google+ Rebranded as Google Currents: Check New App Features.” Google’s Orkut was a fascinating service. Certain interesting users in Brazil made it a semi-hit, particularly among law enforcement officers. Then there were other social services, most notably Google + or Plus. Searching for symbols was clever. Close enough but I wrote out the plus. A word. Easy to search.

Google Plus bit the dust, but the write up points out that Google Plus is now Currents. Either electric chair type or flowing water. Maybe berries?

We noted this statement in the article:

Google+, although never exactly a successful platform, was marred by two major data leaks, potentially exposing data of tens of millions of users to outside developers. One leak that was kept secret for months, and the other one, which leaked the data of 52.5 million people, prompted Google to prepone [sic] the shutdown by four months.

“Prepone” caught our eye, but the write up does remind one about Google’s security capabilities.

The killer factoid in the write up warranted a blue circle with a pen and one exclamation point:

Google has, on multiple occasions, acknowledged that Google+ has not been able to meet the expectations. In a blog post in October, Google’s Ben Smith wrote that 90 percent of Google+ user sessions are less than five seconds long.

Five seconds. Interesting. Definitely not sticky.

Stephen E Arnold, July 10, 2020

Will Insurance Companies Tie Rates to Rage?

July 7, 2020

The community-driven navigation app Waze, owned by Google, has refreshed its design. The company changed up the color scheme, logos, icons, and typeface—the sort of tweaks one would expect to keep users engaged. One particular change, however, is more intriguing. Engadget reveals, “Waze Lets Drivers Display their Moods in the App.” That could prove to be very useful information for some advertisers, individuals, and government entities. Writer Christine Fisher reports:

“Waze is also adding something called Moods, a feature that will ‘capture users’ emotions.’ ‘Celebrating the passion and authenticity of its users, Waze hopes that the update will harness the “humanness” that can often be lost within inhumane traffic conditions,’ the company wrote in a press release. It’s unclear if Moods will be shared with nearby Waze users. Letting other drivers know how you feel doesn’t necessarily sound like a great idea, but for the most part the Mood icons look too cute to induce serious road rage. ‘Hopefully our new look reminds users of the magic of our community and the way we work together for better,’ said Jake Shaw, head of creative at Waze.”

The icons are indeed very cute, we’ll give them that, and touting the “magic of community” sounds delightful. But giving away even more personal data seems like a bad idea to those of us who understand how various entities can use seemingly benign personal details. Founded in 2007, Waze is based in the San Francisco Bay area. Google bought the company for $966 million in 2013.

Cynthia Murrell, July 7, 2020

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