Category Archives: Technology

Where on the Internet is Jeremiah Stanghini – June 2016

One of the first few posts I wrote when I first started writing was a collection of the different places I could be found on the internet. That post was more than five (!) years ago. The other day, I happened to come across that post almost by accident and actually, even though I wrote two ‘updates’ to that post, it turns out that I wrote a second post almost a year and a half after that. In looking at those posts, I thought it might be fun to write an update to the series.

Even though I’ve already written an updated post to the first post, I thought I’d still look back on some of the places I used to frequent in that very first post five years ago.

Five years ago, it looks like I had planned on developing a presence on YouTube:

I have a channel on YouTube where I upload videos of presentations. You’ll also find videos that I “like” on YouTube along with videos that I have commented on.

As it happens, there really isn’t much more to my YouTube profile than links back to other places you can find me. I do have some things on YouTube, but that’s only if you’re a student in one of my classes (and have access to the lectures I’ve uploaded).

Similarly, I used to do a lot of writing for Squidoo. It’s been so long since I’d visited any of the things I’d written for that site that it’s not even called Squidoo (!) anymore — HubPages acquired them.

I also let my BodyTalk certification lapse, as my career went in a different direction.

It looks like I used to be a frequent commenter at other sites. In particular, I had profiles with IntenseDebate and Disqus (two popular commenting services). It looks like I haven’t had a comment with either of those two services in more than 2 years (almost 3.5 years with IntenseDebate).

Lastly, I highlighted two Toronto sports blogs that I used to be an active member of: Bluebird Banter and Pension Plan Puppets. If I check-in on my comment history for both those sites, it won’t even let me discern when I last made a post (as it’s been that long).

~

If I look at the second post I wrote (in late 2012), the only carryover from the first post (of places I’m no longer that active) is the two commenting services: IntenseDebate and Disqus.

Now, let’s look at some of the places that I still frequent (in one way or another).

In that first post, I talked about writing posts (I’m nearly up to 600 on here). I also highlighted my LinkedIn profile (it’s up to date!), and my Twitter account (I like to share articles that I think people will find useful).

In the second post, I added two other places: Facebook and Quora. At the time, I used to be a frequent contributor to Facebook. Like Twitter, I liked to share articles that I thought people would find useful. I also liked to share pictures I found on the Internet that were either beautiful or provided a different perspective. Somewhere along the way, Facebook changed its algorithms and the people who “liked/followed” your page were no longer receiving all your updates. As a result, I stopped actively contributing in that environment. However, whenever I publish a new post, a link to that post is automatically uploaded to Facebook.

As for the second place — Quora — at the time, I did spend some time trying to build a presence on Quora. I wrote more than 60 answers, but it looks like I haven’t written anything for Quora in almost 3 years. I didn’t realize this until writing this post, but it looks like there are a number of answers that I’ve written for Quora that have more views than some of the things that I’ve written for this website.

~

So, in the last 3+ years, how have my internet frequenting habits changed? Well, the best place to find me is still here on this site. Twitter and LinkedIn are also places that I continue to update. Two new places: Business2Community and Research Blogging. Business 2 Community is one of the top business blogs and Research Blogging is a community and collection of posts written about academic research.

What’s in an American City: Historically, Cars

Last fall, I came across a post on Vox about high-speed rail. If you’ve read some of the things I published when I first started writing, you’ll know that I’m a big proponent of it. This post on Vox was meant to talk about some of the things that Americans can learn from Europeans when it comes to high-speed rail. In particular, California from Germany. The the part I want to focus on, though, is a paragraph with an historical perspective:

Europeans’ cities were more built up before the car, and they didn’t then tear their cities apart to accommodate cars and facilitate sprawl, as we did. The US is so vast that we could pave everything within 200 miles of New York City and still have more than enough land for our corn and cows. But if Europeans wanted to preserve rural areas, they would have to use urban space more efficiently, and so they have. A much greater share of the typical European metro area’s population is concentrated in its inner city. So you get dense, transit-rich cities with countryside in between.

When I first started writing about high-speed rail and even in that post I linked to in the second sentence of this post, I didn’t take into account the historical perspective. I did talk about land area, but the composition of that land area might be more important than the land area itself. If there isn’t the space “in the city” to put the high-speed rail, it’s going to take a yeomen’s effort and a healthy serving of political capital to create that space. The unfortunate part is, as time moves forward, the necessity (and gains!) of high-speed rail increase. The population of some of the biggest cities in the US (that would be served by better public transportation) is increasing and while I’m not sure the best way to measure it, I suspect that the business between cities (i.e. the necessity to travel between cities where high-speed rail would be beneficial) is probably increasing.

So, where does that leave high-speed rail proponents, aside from considering an extended trip to Europe? That’s a great question. It seems that there’s still going to be those organizations that lobby Congress, but if I had to hazard a guess (or a forecast, if you will), I suspect that the most likely way for there to be an improvement in high-speed rail in the US is some sort of catalyzing event. You might even call it a tipping point. One such way could be an increase in the cost of oil (i.e. jet fuel), skyrocketing the price of flying and forcing people to consider other modes of transportation from Chicago to New York. It might also be that a presidential candidate takes up the issue of public transportation and rides it as their “thing” to the White House (and then implements the plan within the first 100 days of office). Both of those scenarios aren’t very likely, but this pie-in-the-sky thinking is where high-speed rail proponents find themselves.

Convert PDF to DOC with a Mac — for FREE!

I like to think of myself as relatively computer literate. When I was in elementary school, I taught myself how to use HTML and created/designed my own website. I don’t know if I’ve linked to it on here, but it’s still functioning. Of course, I don’t remember the login or password for it, so there’s no way for me to edit it, but it’s really odd to remember back to where (and when) I was during the creation of it.

Since my GeoCities days, the internet has changed quite a bit. I’ve created a few websites (mostly with WordPress, either through the free version or through the version you need to download), but I wouldn’t — by any stretch of the imagination — say that this is a strength of mine. My skills here are basic, (but when compared to the average person, one might say that they’re a bit beyond basic).

As a tangent, this reminds me of something during my time as an psychology undergraduate. During the “capstone” course for that major, I remember the professor telling us that the department had majors take a test at the beginning and end of the program. They found something interesting: when students took the test at the end of the program, students were reporting that they knew less about psychology than when they started the degree. That is, one of the questions on the ‘pre-test’ was rate your level of understanding of psychology on a Likert scale (one to ten) and that same test appeared on the ‘post-test.’ The department was finding that the average score on the post-test for that question was lower than the average score on the pre-test. Why, you might ask?

Well, as students began to learn more about the subject of psychology, they realized just how vast a subject that it is and as a result, realized just how much they didn’t know about the subject. Food for thought.

Anyways, yes, technology.

Does the phrase “ALT+TAB” or “Command+TAB” mean anything to you? What about “CTRL+F” or “Command+F”?

I’m definitely part of the 10% of people who know about things like this, but I’m sure there are a whole host of things that computers and the internet can do that are unknown to me. On that note, I recently learned of something that my Mac can do that I had no idea it could do — convert to PDF.

All this time, I had been using various websites to do this for me, but as it turns out, a simple process and my Mac will do it for me. Who knew! I wonder what else my Mac can do.

Quick Thoughts on “Obama’s Stealth Startup”

A couple of weeks ago, there was a great article in Fast Company about President Obama’s initiative to bring the the technology used in the US bureaucracy into the 21st century. After reading it, there were a few things that came to mind, so I thought I’d write a post with some “Quick Thoughts” as I have in past instances for other events/articles.

1. The first thing that struck me was this idea that Silicon Valley wants to change the world. In particular, the idea that they “think” they are changing the world, but that they actually aren’t. It reminded me of the penultimate episode of Season 1 of “Silicon Valley,” the HBO series. In it, the show parodies Silicon Valley startups who purport to “change the world.” You can see part of it in the beginning of this clip:

In remembering this episode, I wonder if it was like this in previous generations. Obviously, the technology in previous generations was different, especially because companies like Google, Facebook, and Microsoft weren’t even conceived. In addition, “Silicon Valley” looked very different in the ’40s and ’50s than it did in the ’70s and the ’80s. Nonetheless, I wonder if there were idealistic twentysomethings trying to create things that would revolutionize the way something worked.

 

2. The second thing that came to mind was this idea that lawyers spend a couple yrs in DC between jobs. When I lived in the DC area, I remember one of the jokes being that DC has more lawyers per capita than any other city in the US and part of that was because of the government. It also reminded me of scene from The West Wing in Season 7 when Josh Lyman (who has a law degree) flies to California to recruit Sam Seaborn (who is a lawyer) to come work with him at the White House.

I think it’s a fantastic idea to recruit folks who are wizards with technology into highly placed government positions to help accelerate the transition for many government agencies. Goodness knows that the VA could use a technology-upgrade. In thinking about this idea, though, it made me wonder if there are other professions that could also do with a “stopover” of sorts in the government, contributing their unique skillsets to advancing the mission of the US government. Lawyers already make the most sense as they’re position to write/interpret laws, but what other professions would be well-suited for short stints in the government?

Scientists probably also make sense. I’m reminded of Patrick Dempsey’s character from Grey’s Anatomy (Derek Shepherd) who was working on a brain initiative. I’d imagine that scientists in other fields could also do well to spend some time in a government agency, but that’s not really outside the norm. Meaning, that’s already a career path that’s identified for scientists. I wonder, are there other professions for which working in DC is not something that’s on the radar.

All Rivers Lead to the Ocean

All rivers lead to the ocean. All roads lead to Rome. One tree, many branches. There are a number of phrases and idioms with a message that “we’re all connected” in some way. Last summer, I posted a paper (in a series of posts) I wrote that included guidance from many of the world’s religions by way of quotes on a variety of topics. A couple of weeks ago, I came across a post at Lifehacker that I wish I had the time to have written.

The author takes seven lessons from world religions and then finds evidence for those lessons in a given religion’s teachings. I should say, it’s not clear to me whether the author worked forwards (come up with a lesson and then find evidence for that lesson in the text) or backwards (read the religious texts and then conclude there are similarities), but regardless, the quotes from the religious texts do seem to show similarities.

The seven lessons:

  1. The Golden Rule
  2. Work for the happiness of others, especially the poor/unfortunate
  3. Focus on the present
  4. Aim for achievements, not money
  5. Interact with the community
  6. Take responsibility for your actions
  7. Know yourself (make up your own mind)

The author’s parting quote is a succinct piece of advice when it comes to religion:

Stay curious and keep questioning—but also don’t discount the wisdom of the ages.

~

As we get further and further connected through technology, I wonder if we’re actually become further disconnected from ourselves and each other. There are absolutely advantages to being able to reach someone with the swipe of a thumb or the click of a finger, but as a couple of the above lessons seem to indicate, that can make it harder to focus on the present or to know one’s self. If we’re always reaching out and never taking the time to look within, it can certainly make it harder to have a developed sense of self.

Reading my words or someone else’s words likely won’t convince you to “go within.” It has to be a decision you make on your own. A switch inside of you that decides… it’s time. My wish for you: that time is sooner rather than later.

The Problem with Big Data: Lies, Damn Lies, and Statistics

I’ve used the subtitle in a previous post and I think the application to the content of this post also makes it worthwhile to use again. I was reading a post from Tim Ferriss the other day and it made me think of statistics. The post is about alternative medicine, but understanding that isn’t entirely necessary for the point I’m making. Here’s some context:

Imagine you catch a cold or get the flu. It’s going to get worse and worse, then better and better until you are back to normal. The severity of symptoms, as is true with many injuries, will probably look something like a bell curve.

The bottom flat line, representing normalcy, is the mean. When are you most likely to try the quackiest shit you can get your hands on? That miracle duck extract Aunt Susie swears by? The crystals your roommate uses to open his heart chakra? Naturally, when your symptoms are the worst and nothing seems to help. This is the very top of the bell curve, at the peak of the roller coaster before you head back down. Naturally heading back down is regression toward the mean.

If you are a fallible human, as we all are, you might misattribute getting better to the duck extract, but it was just coincidental timing.

The body had healed itself, as could be predicted from the bell curve–like timeline of symptoms. Mistaking correlation for causation is very common, even among smart people.

And the important part of the quote [Emphasis Added]:

In the world of “big data,” this mistake will become even more common, particularly if researchers seek to “let the data speak for themselves” rather than test hypotheses.

Spurious connections galore–that’s what the data will say, among other things.  Caveat emptor.

This analogy reminded me of the first time I learned about correlation and causation in my first psychology class as an undergraduate. It had to do with ice cream, hot summer days, and swimming pools. In fact, here’s a quick summary from wiki:

An example of a spurious relationship can be illuminated by examining a city’s ice cream sales. These sales are highest when the rate of drownings in city swimming pools is highest. To allege that ice cream sales cause drowning, or vice-versa, would be to imply a spurious relationship between the two. In reality, a heat wave may have caused both. The heat wave is an example of a hidden or unseen variable, also known as a confounding variable.

Getting back to what Ferriss was saying near the end of his quote: as “Big Data” grows in popularity (and use), there may be an increased likelihood of making errors in the form of spurious relationships. One way to mitigate this error is education. That is, if the people who are handling Big Data know and understand things like correlation vs. causation and spurious relationships, these errors may be less likely to occur.

I suppose it’s also possible that some, knowing about these kinds of errors and how little the average person might know when it comes to statistics, could maliciously report statistics based on numbers. I’d like to think that people aren’t doing this and it just has more to do with confirmation bias.

Regardless, one way to guard against this inaccurate reporting would be to use hypotheses. That is, before you look at the data, make a prediction about what you’ll find in the data. It’s certainly not going to solve all the issues, but it’ll go a long way towards doing so.

To Tech or Not To Tech: Hiking the Appalachian Trail

It’s hard to believe that it’s only been 1 month since my last post. It feels like the last time I wrote something was ages ago. In March, I said that I intended on writing something once a week, but I suppose having an infant, moving, and preparing to start a new job have made that a little harder than I imagined. Nonetheless, I stole away some time today to write about technology and the Appalachian Trail (AT).

A few summers ago (actually, now that I think about it, it was 6 years ago), I had the good fortune to spend some time hiking on the Appalachian Trail. It was my first time on an extended hike and I really enjoyed it. While on the hike, I learned that the trail spans 14 states including the beginning/end in Maine/Georgia. Many folks try to hike the whole thing in a summer. Lots succeed, but many more give up. When I hiked part of the AT in 2008, technology wasn’t as advanced as it is today (obviously), but I was wondering how I might want to approach this subject when I decide to hike the AT again.

This thought was sparked by a post in Scientific American bemoaning the use of technology on the trail. I can see where she’s coming from — for sure. Most people decide to go into nature to get away from technology. She also makes some good points as to how technology can help in an emergency (read: bear eats pack).

I think if I were to hike the AT tomorrow, I might bring along a MacBook Air — for the sole purpose of writing. That is, I’d intend to do like David Roberts did and take a hiatus from social media (which for me, mainly means Twitter). I say intend because I’ve learned that making hard-and-fast rules can sometimes make things more difficult to uphold. I suppose I could not get some sort of data plan and therefore it would be quite difficult to check things like Twitter.

When I do decide to hike the whole of the AT (sometime in the next 30 years), our relationship to technology may be very different. Maybe Google Glass (or an iteration thereof) might be more user-friendly. Maybe it’ll be ingrained in the way we live our days like smartphones have become. Maybe there’ll be something after Google Glass and something beyond the impending smartwatches. Regardless of how technology evolves, we’ll always be left with the choice: to tech or not to tech.