Are We Becoming Cyborgs?

By James Wallace Harris, Thursday, October 9, 2014

Because of a pinched nerve I’m having difficulty typing.  Because I want to write, I’m seeking alternatives to a keyboard and computer screen.  This failure to type is revealing something about my current state of being.  My mind and body have adapted to the computer.  When I can’t use the computer, or the Internet is down, I’m anxious, and feel physical withdrawal.  I hate this feeling.  Even though my arm hurts more as I type, I keep typing.  Sort of crazy, isn’t it?

handwriting

I’ve tried dictating, and I’ve tried hand writing, and I’ve discovered I’m lousy at both.  When I was young I could write longhand for hours.  Now I can barely scratch out a few minutes of a childish looking print.  Fifty years of typewriters and word processors have ruined me for that ancient tool – the pen. 

The net is full of stories about the death of penmanship.  I used to think, “So what, we’ve got computers.”  Now I regret those thoughtless words.  My left arm burns, throbs and stings as I type, and I feel like banging on it like  Dr. Strangelove.  

I’ve become a cyborg.  The transformation has snuck up me.  If you think you’re still 100% human, try going without your smartphone for a week.

I realize now I shouldn’t have let myself become so adapted to one way of writing.  My body has integrated with cyberspace, and now I feel handicapped when when I can jack in.  Yet, I know fully well that writers were immensely productive before the 20th century with just pen and paper.  Helen Keller wrote inspiringly without seeing or hearing.

Even if I can get my doctors to fix my neck and arm, I think I need to relearn handwriting and pick up the skill of dictation.  I’ve read about a number of authors who write by talking and they claim its immensely productive.  My ability to speak is better than my handwriting, but not by much. Both are so linear.  My thinking depends on word processing features, spelling checkers, and referencing Wikipedia and Google. I now need the Internet to complete my sentences.

Because I’ve thoroughly aggravated my arm, I need to go rest it a couple hours.

JWH

The Hive Mind of the Internet–Is Complete Freedom of Information Possible?

Internet-1200

By James Wallace Harris – September 23, 2014

In America we take freedom for granted, and because of this we expect the Internet to be free and open.  Internet visionaries like to think that everyone who joins the Internet shares their ideals.  The potential of the Internet is to unite humanity and reduce the distance between 7.3 billion people to zero.  We are all just a few keystrokes away from each other, and we can organize into groups not related by geographical boundaries.  Over time this will erode the concept of nations and it’s a threat to all theologies and philosophies.  Open access to all information is the universal solvent to narrative fallacy.  Censorship on the Internet is a complex issue.

Sunday The New York Times published an extensive essay “China Clamps Down on Web, Pinching Companies Like Google.”  Because China wants to control the flow of information its citizens sees, it has practically turned off Google, and is working to censor many other global Internet companies and services.  Other countries do this too.  Even in America, parents and schools censor the Internet.  Each of these groups want to protect people from what they consider dangerous ideas.  But what ideas are dangerous?

Ideas are dangerous when they threaten an individual or group.  Their specific dangers are relative.  I want the Internet to be as free and open as possible, but I am willing to accept limitations imposed on us by reality.  The Internet is a commons open to all, but it might need some imposed rules and some suggested forms of etiquette and courtesies.  It will probably take decades to hash these out.

Complete open information is a threat to all ideologies.  Most people on Earth live by beliefs they feel are true, but most are not.  To protect their narrative fallacy groups have to limit information consumption by their believers.  The Internet is leading us toward a future where all ideologies will have their validity challenged by open access to all knowledge and facts.  In other words, the Internet is having a homogenizing effect and various groups want to fight that.  That’s one level of censorship.

We all believe in censoring the internet to a small degree.  No one wants scammers, phishers, viruses and malware.  No one wants criminals and terrorists using the Internet for evil.  Nor do we want to see beheadings or child porn.  And many of us are getting annoyed by the level of ads.  Everyone wants their personal computer and the cloud computers they use to be safe from criminal activity, and to be protected from seeing the worst horrors of the world.  That’s another kind of censorship.

In Europe, Google is being forced to erase references about people when they request it.  That’s getting into a gray area.  Some people want privacy and protection from libel, but other people would prefer Google not whitewash history either.  There are editorial wars on Wikipedia by polarized groups who battle back and forth on particular entries hoping to present their version of the truth.  At Amazon, authors and their friends will write glowing self-promoting reviews, while people with grudges against those writers will write one star reviews.  This kind of control of information is not censorship, but something like what we see in George Orwell’s Nineteen Eighty-Four – whoever writes the narrative gets to make the truth.

A huge problem on the Internet, especially in anonymous comment sections, is declarations of hate.  It has gotten so bad that many sites are now turning off their comment features.  Is this censorship or policing hate crimes?  We like to think we have absolute freedom of speech, and total freedom of the press, but we don’t.  Political correctness is evolving to protect most citizens of the Earth, but not the enemies of civilization.  There are actions, ideas, beliefs and people who embrace hate and chaos that we have to protect ourselves from.  This begs the question:  Should we allow anonymity on the net?

I think we can agree there are lines to be drawn, the trouble is almost every nation, citizen and group wants to draw the lines differently.  The wonder of the Internet is it’s openness.  It’s fantastic that every person on Earth can interact with any other person on Earth.  China has a different vision of how to create a perfect society.  So does The United States.  The problems mentioned in The New York Times article that trouble me are those cases involving scientists and businessmen working around the world on collaborative projects.  I would like to think all scientific journals are open to all.  That’s how science succeeds.  We really don’t want the scientific world of China, and the scientific world of North America, and the scientific world of the European Union.

Then we have various religious groups trying to control what is science and what is not, or what belongs in the classroom, and what doesn’t.  We have to be protected from their ideological censorship.  There is freedom of religion, but there is also freedom from religion.  Should we censor individuals and groups that publish lies and deception?  Who decides?  How?

We have to assume we’re all living in the same reality.  Any Balkanization of the Internet will create islands of delusions about reality.  We need to make sure the Internet is as open as possible, but this might mean we need to negotiate agreements on some censorship and filters for the sake of that openness.  Nations will have to hammer our firewall treaties that respect each other, but we should all promote the maximum openness possible.  There is talk in different places around the world, of seceding from the Internet to creation national nets.  Isn’t this like creating Amish communities?

Ultimately I think any political philosophy or religion must coexist with how reality actually works.  Groups need to work out methods of coexisting with other groups.  Nations, corporations and organized belief systems need to have their rights protected, but all users must be protected from ideological imperialism, or even rampant commercialism.

But I also think individuals need to hammer out Internet codes of conduct too.  Society off the Internet is evolving concepts of political correctness for proper public behavior in the real world.  I think such personal political correctness should exist in the cyber world as well.  I’m horrified by what some men say to women they disagree with on the Internet.  I’m horrified by what many people believe.  But within the bounds of free speech and human rights, I need to accept that people have a wide spectrum of beliefs I don’t agree with.  On the other hand, I think we all have the right to expect a certain level of civility.

We’ve reached an age where the human race is partially living in the hive mind of cyberspace, and it’s going to take some time to develop new laws, rules, etiquettes, proper behaviors, concepts of politeness, etc.

JWH

Roku 3–”Loading, Please Wait” Message is Driving Me Crazy-But Is It Roku’s Fault?

I have a Roku 3 and have been using Rokus for three generations now.  However, in the last year I’ve been getting more and more “Loading, Please Wait” messages.  I’m even using Ethernet instead of Wi-Fi, to have the best connection.  At first I thought it was my internet provider, or network traffic, or even an example of net neutrality breaking down.   I stream Netfix, HBOGo, Warner Archive, Amazon and HuluPlus.  I was mostly getting the loading message from HBOGo and Warner Archive, but then it started with Amazon too.  Amazon even automatically refunded my rental fee when a western I was watching timed out too often.

Then I made an interesting discovery!

roku

I got the idea of streaming from my computer that’s also attached to my TV—I use it as a DVR for over-the-air TV.  Bingo.  Everything streamed perfectly, at the highest resolution, plus the picture looked richer in colors.  Evidently, a computer with a Athlon X2 processor and 4 GB of memory, with a PCIe video card does a better job decoding streaming television than the Roku.  So maybe it’s not the internet or my provider?  Speedtest.net does tell me I get 19.43 Mbps download and 1.92 Mbps upload on my U-Verse connection, which is pretty good.  But that’s to a test site and not to a streaming server.

On the other hand, my Roku 3 seems to have no trouble streaming with Netflix.  Is it the hardware or the servers the Roku is streaming from?

The Roku does have a dual processor, but only 512 MB of memory.  This might explain why the Amazon Fire TV has 2 GB of memory and a quad processor.  I would buy the Amazon Fire TV to give it a try but it doesn’t support several Roku channels I depend on.  Using the computer is great for viewing films and shows without the dreaded “Loading, Please Wait” message, but instead of channels I have to go to individual web pages, each with their own different kinds of controls.  I have to use a wireless keyboard that doesn’t work as conveniently as the Roku remote, and that’s a pain-in-the-ass.

The Roku is an excellent system for viewing internet TV—I’d hate to see it crap out.  My biggest headache using the Roku is watching Warner Instant and HBOGo.  And some people do have trouble with streaming Netflix, even with fiber optic connections, like this story.  The solution this user found was to use a private VPN that circumvented congested internet routing.  This makes me wonder if my Roku 3 is somehow using different routes than Chrome on the PC, or if internet providers can detect Roku traffic and treat it different.

Like I said, I’ve been a faithful Roku user for years, and love it.  Maybe there’s something wrong with my Roku 3, but checking Google I see other people have this problem too.  And it does seem to be somewhat internet traffic related.  I usually don’t see the “Loading, Please Wait” during the day time, mostly during primetime, especially on Friday, Saturday and Sunday nights.  So it appears the Roku 3 works well if things are just right.  My guess, as more and more people use these streaming services because of the popularity of Roku, Apple TV and Amazon Fire, traffic and server demand will get tight.  Adding a bit more horsepower, memory, and maybe a better video GPU, might process the bulging traffic in a more efficient manner.  I expect the Roku 4 will have specs similar to the Amazon Fire TV, or top them, to fix this problem.  That is, unless internet providers aren’t throttling traffic from devices like the Roku.

This is a technical mystery beyond my ability to decipher.  I recommend people having “Loading, Please Wait” issues with their Roku, or other small streaming device, try plugging their laptops with HDMI connectors to their television and see if they get better streaming via a computer.

My guess is demand for internet services is always growing and we’re always going to see breakdowns at the weakest link in our technological chain.  Right now, for me, it’s my Roku when it’s connecting to the most used servers on the internet.  We might be pushing the limits of what a $99 device can do.  I wonder if the Amazon Fire TV costs more to make than what it sells for?  Or is the solution for Warner Instant and HBO to add more server capacity and pay for better peering?

JWH – 7/22/14

Would I Be A Better, Happier, More Productive Person If I Didn’t Use The Internet?

The Internet has consumed our culture.  We are quickly becoming a hive society.  Is that good or bad?  I think it’s good, but like all good things, I think it comes with some bad aspects.  Yesterday I watched the movie Chef, a moving story about  a father getting to know his son, but also a lesson in how Twitter works, for both good and bad.  I also read “How YouTube and Internet Journalism Destroyed Tom Cruise, Our Last Real Movie Star” in the LA Times, about how Internet gossip can create false impressions in the hive mind.

Internet

The Internet is capable of spreading liberal and conservative concepts with equal speed.  It is just as effective at teaching the truth as it is as spreading lies.  The Internet is equally suited to preach Christianity, Islam, Buddhism and Atheism.  Net Neutrality is an ideal in more ways than one.  The Internet can be as addictive as a drug, or as productive as any tool.

The internet is tremendous fun, and I could never give it up, but what if I used it much less?  Most companies consider the Internet a  productivity waster and limit employee access.  Now that I’m retired its very easy to just get seduced into following one link after another, just clicking my way through the day.  I have fiction writing and programming projects I dream of doing, but instead I’m enticed by endless tidbits of fascinating facts.  No wonder George R. R. Martin writes on an ancient DOS machine using WordStar 4.0.

In some ways the Internet, including all the television, movies, music, ebooks, games, comics, news, magazines and audiobooks it delivers, is the ultimate song of the sirens.  Instead of owning a dog, I enjoy photos and videos of dogs on the Internet.  If I was younger and hornier, I’d probably be spending my time with virtual women.  Instead of watching cable TV, I get my shows via the Internet.  Instead of listening to music on CDs I have Spotify.  Instead of reading magazines I read Zite and News360.  When I want to cook something new I watch a how-to on YouTube. 

Everyone sees daily tales about Internet abuse, but who actually walks away?  Would I work on my novel full time if I canceled U-verse and unplugged my TV?  Is the Internet keeping me from being creative, or am I enjoying the Internet while not facing up to the fact that I’m not creative.

Obviously humanity is not going to reject the Internet any more than it’s going to reject fire, farming, writing and science.  The Zen of right living is to use any tool wisely.  The Internet is like a telescope, it allows us to see further, but do we always need to observe reality at an eyepiece?  Most people believe moderation is the key to everything, but I wonder if we don’t get the most from our tools by learning to use them as little as possible.

What inspired this essay was the realization that I was compulsively reading news stories from the Internet because I felt like I was learning so much.  The truth is we forget most everything we read.  Real learning comes from distillation of facts, not the abundance of facts.  It’s better to read one memorable essay than to read a hundred fascinating essays.  Strangely the one essay that stuck with me from yesterday is the one about Tom Cruise, and how the Internet tarnished his reputation.  And I have to admit that I went from liking Tom Cruise as an actor to avoiding his films because of Internet gossip.

I would be a better, happier, more productive person if I used the Internet less, and maybe elements of this essay have some 12-step properties.

JWH – 5/25/14

My War On Ads!!!

Is it me, or am I seeing an explosion of ads on the internet?  First it was on page ads, then pop-up ads, then double pop-up ads, and now we’re seeing new kinds of animated ads attacking us from the  bottom up, or expanding out from the sides of our web pages.  We’re forced to see video ads that demand 30 seconds of our precious time – when will it be 60 seconds?  This sucks.  If I had to watch ten 30-second ads a day, that would be 300 a month, or 1.5 hours a month devoted to waiting to see content.  I’m getting old, and time counts, because it’s running out.

Everywhere I look there is bait to trap me into viewing ads.  Are we intelligent beings seeking information, or just gerbils being trained to click on ads.

ad-traps

Again, is it me, or is the web content changing, so as to trick us into seeing more ads by offering more prurient content?  Many sites are sexing up their article come-ons, either with sexy photos, or with outrageous titles, or tempting us with juicy tidbits of gossip, to get us to click to read, only to force us to wait through one or more ads before rewarding us with their lame-ass stories.  Often a promised video news story is shorter than the ads I have to watch to pay to see it, and often that news is seldom worth seeing.

I completely understand that nothing in life is free and I have to pay for my lunch, but some techniques used by contemporary publishers are just so damn annoying that it makes me want to avoid their wares completely and the products they advertise. 

This morning The Mail promised me story about adult elephants rescuing a drowning baby elephant, but when I clicked to see the video they asked me which ad I wanted to watch.  Neither were appealing, so I just closed the window.  If they had had an ad for something I’m interested in I might have watched, but most ads are for things I completely don’t care about.  The time it takes to watch them are a complete waste of my life.

That’s what I do more and more, close the window or tab, rather than see the ads.  I’ve even thought about going back to paper magazines to learn about the world, because web page ads are ruining the internet for me.

Demanding Our Attention

I understand that reading on the web requires seeing ads.  Ad supported sites are the norm.  However, the visual bombardment of ads on landing on a web page seems to be escalating to the point that I wished I could tell Chrome and Google to ban some sites for the rest of my life.  The other day I went to a site that resized the screen to blow up ads on the right and left, and along the bottom of my screen.  And pop-up windows with ads is becoming the norm.  And audio ads that automatically turn on are growing in popularity too, even though they are extremely annoying.

Advertisers are finding ways to capture our attention and not let it go until we’ve seen what they want us to see.  I hate that.  I wish there was some way to send you the finger online.

I’ve learned from growing up reading newspapers and magazines how to tune out passive ads.  And I’ve tried Chrome extensions like AdBlockPlus, but it doesn’t work perfect, and I’m not really sure it’s kosher.  I’m willing to pay for my supper, if it’s reasonable.  That’s the trouble with internet ads, they aren’t reasonable.  Neither, are television ads.  Or phone soliciting.  Because I don’t subscribe to cable, I get over-the-air TV, which is chock full of ads. 

A big portion of my retirement life is avoiding ads.  It’s becoming a war.

Ads want our attention, and that’s understandable.  If only I only had to watch or read ads for things I was interested in.  The advertising world is based on grabbing our attention, but I can’t believe all the expense they go to in gaining our attention is practical.  How many people actually buy something because of an ad?

What we need is a new ad paradigm. 

Information in Slide Shows

A common trick now is to have a sensational topic that involves 12, or 15 or 25 pages of slides.  Each segment of the list involves reloading the page, and thus regenerating ads.  Isn’t this just web page trickery to add counts to their ad counters?  Part of the problem is not the advertisers, but the publishers.  All too often content on the web is geared to making us click.  Just how much worthy news do we need each day.  Certainly not enough to fill millions of web sites.

We’re just rats in the maze being taught to click.  That’s not good for us, or for people selling stuff.  I want people who have something worthy to sell to succeed, but find success with people who need and want their products.  I hate that the internet has become a click factory generating economic activity.

Man, we really need a new ad paradigm.

How Could Things Be Different?

Aren’t web cookies, the NSA, credit card transactions and cash register scanners already supposed to know what I buy?  Why can’t I log into a web site daily and see ads meant just for me and earn some kind of ad income credits to be automatically spent as I go to web pages during the day?  They could see I’ve already prepaid and let me look at their content without annoying me.

I’m willing to pay not to see ads.  I subscribe to Rdio, Netflix, Amazon Prime, Spotify, Warner Instant Classics so I don’t have to see ads.  I also subscribe to Hulu Plus, and they force me to see ads, which seems incredibly unfair.  I’m seriously thinking of canceling them because of this.  If I pay for a subscription I should NOT have to see ads.  I also subscribe to The New York Times, and their site does have ads, but so far they aren’t too annoying.  Yet, every time they interrupt my reading with a pop-up, I think about cancelling my subscription.

There’s got to be a better way.  However, I don’t think Advertising Age disciples are thinking in that direction.  Generation Like, as one PBS documentary called our young people of today, not only accept ads, but embrace them, becoming marching morons for advertisers and these kids don’t even understand the phrase “selling out.”  Our modern world has become so Orwellian in ways that George Orwell failed to foresee.  He thought only communism would use Newspeak to conquer the masses, not understanding that capitalism would use it too.

In my war against ads and telemarketers, I feel like I’m Winston from Nineteen Eighty-Four always seeking ways to avoid the view screens of Big Brother.  John Varley wrote the classic paranoid science fiction story about machine intelligence called “Press Enter _” back in 1984.  In it, his character moves off the grid and won’t use anything electrical to escape from an evil intelligence living on the net.  Is that the only way to escape the advertising world?

Take Up the Cause!

Watch what you click.  Don’t encourage the enemy.  Close those windows.  Don’t go to sites that take advertising too far.  And please some of your brilliant tech gurus, invent some way for people to market their wares to people who want them without making billions of us not have to see trillions of ads we don’t want to see.

JWH – 5/14/14

The End of Zite–The Beginning of News360

Here’s the problem.  Every day on the internet millions of articles are published and some of them are ones I really want to read.  Finding those articles that are perfect for my peculiar interests is like finding Malaysia Flight 370’s black boxes in the middle of the Indian ocean.  Over the years various genius programmers have come up with systems for customized news reading.  The big breakthrough was RSS feeds, and then Google Reader.  But even then, you’d get hundreds or thousands of articles to sift through each day.  What’s really needed is some kind of AI smarts to find less than 50 daily news stories that can be quickly perused.  You want your news feed to only have stories that matter most to you.  After the iPad came out I discovered Zite, and thought I had found news nirvana.  Well, Zite is going, and I’m trying News360.

news360

What the Internet gives, the internet also taketh away.  Time and again I fall in love with technology only to have it taken away.  Remember Lala?  Now I’ll be losing Zite.  To me, Zite is the one app that made tablets great.  Zite was the best Internet newsreader I ever used.  I liked it far better than Google Reader, another technology that was prematurely wrenched from my hands. 

Zite has been bought out by Flipboard.  Now I have nothing against Flipboard, except that I don’t enjoy using it.  Flipboard uses a different metaphor for presenting the news, built around do-it-yourself magazines.  Zite was more like a customized newswire feed.  Zite learned what I was interested in reading, and queued up a bunch of great stories for me to check out.  The more I used it, the smarter Zite got, finding just the right stuff to read.  This is very efficient for reading from the fire hose of news stories available every day on the net.

robotreadingmagazine

Curated News

Like the curated music site Pandora, what voracious news readers want is a reader robot to pre-read the news and decide what we’d like to read.  Zite was my reading robot, but now it’s being killed off.  One of the most popular reading robots is Flipboard, and it has bought Zite in hopes of using its technology to be a better reading robot.

I’ve used Flipboard from time to time but have never been comfortable with it.  If they integrate Zite’s intelligence into Flipboard I might start to like it, but even then I don’t like the visual layout of Flipboard.  For now I’m experimenting with News360 – which Paul N. Shapiro turned me on to – so I don’t need to worry about the Flipboard Zite merger.  Check your app store and try it out – News360.

News360 does one thing that Zite didn’t and I always wanted, it has a website front end so I can use from my desktop.  The controls are nicer on the iOS and Android versions, but the website version is quicker to use, and links me directly to the news story as it appears on the web.  The tablet versions of News360 take a bit more clicking to get to the actual reading.  Zite was the tops for reformatting web pages for easy reading.  News360 is fancier in some ways, with more options, but it takes more clicks to get to the full reading copy.  I haven’t decided if I like News360’s rolling cubes or not.  On the iOS version, it appears the full text can be scrolled on a cube site.

Thumbs Up or Down

There are millions of blogs, magazines, newspaper, journals, websites that publish something new every day.  Even if you find all your favorite publishers and check their site daily, you’d spend way too much time going through stuff you don’t want to read.  And even with a good news reader that zeroes in on your interests, it will find stories you’ll want to look at but still waste your time.  For example, News360 sent me “Einstein’s ‘spooky’ theory may lead to ultra-secure internet.”  The topic interests me, but the piece was short, fluffy and lacking in any real content.  So far, no news collector system I’ve found is perfect, or even close to perfect. 

Reading Robots take training.  And for that, you need ones you can thumbs up and thumbs down on what they give you to read.  However, I can’t thumbs down the article above because it was skimpy, otherwise News360 might stop sending me other articles on quantum mechanics.  You have to apply your intelligence to training your robot.

I’ve just started using News360 and I’m trying to train it not to send me stories I see on the nightly news.  I already waste 30 minutes a day watching the TV news so I don’t want to see those stories again.  I also subscribe to The New York Times – so I don’t want that kind of general news in my news feed.  However, I still want special interest news from The New York Times because I don’t catch everything.  By unchecking Top Stories I got rid of most of the general news.

News360 also found me this morning “The future is coming. 6 ways it will change everything.”  This is still speculation, but it’s the kind I like.  I’d like more substance, but News360 has quickly zeroed in on my interests.

Training a system to be perfect is hard.  I told News360 I’m interested in steampunk, so it found “This $80K Steampunk Inspired Baron Safe-Box…” – that’s interesting, and has visually appealing photos, but ultimately fluff I don’t want to waste my time on.  I’m going to thumbs down the article and hope News360 finds me something more substantial about steampunk – but ultimately I might have to kill that topic.  I’ve already killed the topic Leonardo Da Vinci because News360 kept giving me stuff about a TV show.  Like I said, no system is perfect.

Sometimes New360 makes a mistake that turns out to be wonderful.  I told News360 I wasn’t interested in science fiction movies, but was interested in science fiction books.  This morning it found me  “The Glorious Incoherence of Divergent” at The Atlantic.  Now most everything at The Atlantic is über-readable, but what made this piece a treasure trove is it tied in Philip K. Dick’s books to current movies and YA books.  I’m very into Philip K. Dick, so I forgive News360 giving me a movie review.  It was smart enough to know the article wasn’t just about the movie.

News360 does allow me to block sources when I use the tablet app after I’ve thumbs down something.  This can be dangerous.  Often a news story will come from many sites – it’s been syndicated – so be sure and don’t nix something you like.  But if it’s a single site that you’re sure you don’t want to read from, this is a great feature.  Last night I blocked MTV.com.  I’m just not that young anymore.

I wished News360 had some way of asking about the quality of the content.  A way to mark something that’s too fluffy, or even too verbose.  I also wish it allowed me to diss certain kinds of formatting.  I hate slideshow news – like seeing a headline for the twelve types of dogs that don’t like cats, and then having to click through twelve pages just to see the names of twelve breeds of cat hating dogs.  I think these slideshow stories are a ways to generate ad clicks, which I find fucking annoying as hell.  Just use a goddamn list, please.

Discovering Cool Publishers

One of the most brilliant side-effects of using a reader robot is discovering new publishers.  If you go to a big bookstore and browse the magazine section you might see a couple thousand magazines.  But on the web there are millions.  Discovering new publishers is pretty much serendipity.  If you pay attention to the sources of the articles you like, you’ll discover new sites to read in general.

Theoretically if your reading habits were very specific, you could just bookmark several sites that pertain to your topic and view them daily.  But I’ve yet to find any site that every article they publish is always of interest to me.  So even having my Reader Robot read my favorite magazines is a big help.  I wished sites like News360 had a configuration page that allowed me to list my favorite publications.   Some Reader Robots allow for adding RSS feeds, but News360 doesn’t seem to do that.

News360.com

The best thing about News360 is it’s web site.  Most other magazine styled news aggregators are designed as apps for tablets and smart phones only.  I’m an old fashion sit in the desk chair kind of guy, so I appreciate being able to look at the news on a 27” monitor.  Even though my Nexus 7 has more pixels than my 1080p monitor, I can scan content faster on the big screen.

I’m not used to News360 on my tablets yet, not like I am to Zite, but I’m adapting quickly.  And now that I have a magazine style newsreader for my Chrome browser, I’ll probably be even more addicted to reading the news.

JWH – 3/25/14

Is Addiction to the Internet Permanent?

Has Internet usage become a permanent part of our lives, or is there still a chance it could be a fad? 

Isn’t there always a possibility we could reject using the Internet, or that something bigger and better might come along?  Or is networking everyone and everything, to everyone and everything else, just too good of an idea to give up?  Can anything bigger and better come along, other than an ESP hive mind?

the-internet

Over the recent centuries, there have been many back to nature movements.  None ever caught on with the public at large, but these movements have been big enough for thousands of people to retreat to living in the country hoping to find a more fulfilling life.  Both the 19th and the 20th century had fairly large communal living movements, and Henry David Thoreau is still very appealing to people today.

I guess the question to ask is:  Does the Internet make people happier?  Billions certainly have flocked to it.  And it certainly gives the illusion that the world is much smaller, and it’s possible to know far more people.  I assume people are happier, because most net users spend hours each day on the web, and billions of smart phones have been sold.

I guess the next question to ask is:  How would you live without the Internet?  (Just, in case it went away.)

My immediate answer is I’d read books and magazines, watch TV, and listen to CDs.  That’s what I did before the Internet came along.  And I think that answers the title question.  Everything we liked before the Internet was internet like.  We cherished technology that brought us news from around the world, that let us keep up with other groups of people, to share ideas, to feel part of a bigger world.  Retreating to living on a commune in the woods sounds very isolating and lonely, but I could probably do it if I at least had a nice selection of books.

I really can’t imagine people rejecting the Internet, other than maybe religious extremists.  Sooner or later, fundamentalists may reject the Internet because it’s like the teaching of evolution, something that will undermine their beliefs.  I can picture some fundamentalists giving up the Internet like the Amish gave up modern technology.

I guess it might be possible for some people, Internet addiction could be so bad that they will reject it completely, because it will be an all or nothing affair for them.

And finally, there might be some people, like those who have given up television, because they are so focused on their work, art, sport, hobby, etc. that the Internet will seem like wasting time.

For most people, I think our addiction to the net will only grow.  I get a lot of my television from the net now, and nearly all my music, and I subscribe to a service for magazines over the net.  I download audiobooks and ebooks, and read them on Internet connected mobile devices.  I participate mildly in social media, mainly the old fashion kind like Yahoogroups for book clubs, and blogging.  I keep my photos online, and my documents, and all my ripped CDs.  When I want to learn something new I turn to the Internet.  For example, when I wanted to peel a mango I studied it on YouTube.  When I check out a library book, I look it up online and put it on hold.  When I shop for clothes or new gadgets, I shop online.  Now that I’m retired I spend a fair amount of my social time online, rather in person.

Damn, I’m addicted.  Maybe I should give it up.  Why should I?  I don’ think there’s a real reason.  But could I?  Know what’s funny, the hardest thing I’d have trouble giving up is Audible.com.  I’d painfully miss Rdio.com, but I could go back to CDs.  And my pocketbook would miss Amazon.com, but the only way to get audiobooks cheap is via Audible.com.

If I could walk more I might do more “real” things.  One reason I don’t feel my spinal stenosis as a burden is I love living on the net.  I can’t walk for exercise, but I could bike.  I could go see more people.  I could get some dogs and cats.  I could garden.  I could take up guitar playing, or chess, or wood working.  There’s endless amount of things to do off the net.  I’m just as addicted as all those kids who live and breath social media lives.

For me, if I had to live without the Internet, I’d spend my days writing like I do now, but I’d write essays or stories to submit to magazines.  I think periodicals were the Victorian age’s Internet.

I’ve got to assume the Internet is here to stay, and its where I’ll live until I die.  I asked my wife just now if she could give up the Internet, and she snapped back, “Are you crazy?”  She freaks out if she gets out of reach of her iPhone.  She watches television with her laptop on her lap.

I do wonder if the Internet could become any more addictive?  What features are left to add that will fill up the rest of our real lives?  No, the Internet is not a fad, it’s become a way of life.

JWH – 2/19/14