Blake Snow

content advisor, recognized journalist, bodacious writer-for-hire

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Tagged technology

Notable tech: 5 gadgets that rocked this year

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I’m by no means an expert on technology. But I’ve covered the industry long enough (since the mid ‘80s to be exact) to know that very few innovations really matter. The vast majority of mainstream releases are merely novel diversions that fail to fundamentally change our lives, let alone improve them.

They are the opposite of personal computers, the web/email combo, GPS directions, social media, high definition, touchscreen phones that double as cameras, YouTube, and increasingly voice search. Over the last thirty years, those are the real innovative heavyweights.

Although nothing released this year approaches that status—uneven virtual reality very much included—they are several gizmos released this year that excited and even enhanced my life on a near daily basis.

They are as follows:  Continue reading…

Published works: Skydiving, Australia, computers killing writers, and battery tech

front

Here’s where my byline published last month:

The Network (aka Cisco magazine)

Paste Magazine

Getting smarter: The myth of STEM shortages and world education rankings

wikimedia commons

wikimedia commons

To improve the future of education, America must focus on science, technology, engineering, and math fields (aka STEM). We must also meet, if not exceed, international test scores.

Or should we?

Said focus has increasingly been criticized in recent years—ironically due to a lack of scientific evidence. After researching “hundreds” of reports from the past six decades, for instance, Robert Charette of The Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers said the so-called STEM shortage “is a myth.”

Continue reading…

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Published works: Predicting the office of the future, women in tech

2016 cisco logo

I started freelance writing for Cisco.com last month. Here are my first few stories:

Published works: Latest version—the problem with online user reviews

TA_550x370My latest, reporting for Paste Magazine:

“Obviously, user review repositories such as TripAdvisor, Yelp, and Google are a net gain for people in need of lodging, a delicious meal, or a new tool, gadget, or surprise to solve their current problem. But as we increasingly turn to big, crowd-funded data to help us stay informed and avoid buyer’s remorse, we need to be thinking of better ways to get the most up-to-date and accurate information available while also rewarding the efforts of those who aim to please us.”

Continue reading…

Pretty sure I have the best job in the world

Courtesy 20th Century Fox

Twentieth Century Fox

When I was nine years old, I saw Big starring Tom Hanks. It’s a movie about a boy doing young-at-heart things in a grown-up’s body. That and being employed to have an opinion on (i.e. review) toys.

At the time, I thought it was the coolest movie ever made. I still think it’s pretty darn cool.

In reality, my work as a writer over the last decade is not unlike protagonist Josh Baskin’s. I get paid to have an opinion and ask a bunch of questions. I tinker with ideas, learn from those who are smarter than me, and slay the dragon of misinformation with research as my shield and a keyboard as my sword.  Continue reading…

Everyone who works with computers should read this (i.e. everyone should read this)

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Credit: Business Week

I recently read Paul Ford’s special report on software—all 36,000 words and three hours of it. If you work in computers, you should read it. If you work in business, you should read it. If you’re an adult human, you will learn a lot about the way things are and where they’re headed by reading it.

Admittedly, the story could have benefitted from some additional editing. Ford, after all, veers a little off topic. But like Bill Bryson, Ford is a master at explaining why things matter—in this case, why coders matter, and how they will increasingly influence the future.

If that’s doesn’t convince you to read the article’s entirety, maybe my 10 favorite excerpts will:  Continue reading…

Either/or: How using the Internet affects our lives

Wired

Andrew White/WIRED

Ev Williams believes the internet is “a giant machine designed to give people what they want.” In a speech reported by Wired, the co-inventor of Blogger and Twitter added, “We often think the internet enables us to do new things, but people just want to do the same things.”

For instance, we want to socialize, entertain ourselves, learn, and make work easier. The internet does all four better than any other convenience of the last century.

It does this in two ways, Williams explains. “Big hits on the internet (think Google, Facebook, Apple, Amazon) are masters at making things fast and not making people think… But the internet is not a utopian world. It’s like a lot of other technological revolutions.”  Continue reading…

Published works: 10 ways to save on tech this year

(CNN) — From Airbnb to GasBuddy to shopkick, lots of apps and websites help consumers save money.

But how do we spend less on technology itself — that digital drug we can’t seem to get enough of? How can we save money on electronic gadgets and services … so that we can buy more gadgets?

Here are 10 ways to stretch your tech budget this year: Continue reading…

Published works: How to fix Microsoft, suspect dental technology

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I fell behind in updating my published works section this year (there’s always Google right?). In any case, here are a couple of recent stories I’m proud to have written:

Here’s why we’re more comfortable online than offline now

phone in public

Since it’s related to my book, I was fascinated by this excerpt from USA Today:

“Our brains are sensitive to stimuli moment to moment, and if you spend a lot of time with a particular mental experience or stimulus, the neural circuits that control that mental experience will strengthen,” he says. “At the same time, if we neglect certain experiences, the circuits that control those will weaken. If we’re not having conversations or looking people in the eye — human contact skills — they will weaken.”

In essence, we’re willingly training ourselves to favor online virtual stimuli more than offline real stimuli, which is madness.

How I use technology: 2012 edition

evolution

In order of most-used to least-used technology in my house, here’s how I rank ’em:

  1. Running water. Since I suck down water all day, I go to the bathroom a lot. I’m also regular in other ways too, so working plumbing keeps my house and body sanitary and fresh. Love it.
  2. Permanent shelter. You know, to keep my family warm, dry, and cozy.
  3. Piped in power and gas. Not only does this utility extend our days and heat and cools, it enables my families digital lifestyle. The meter man still gives me a scare in the rare times I spot him near our back door. But other than that, this is nothing but upside.
  4. Broadband internet. It’s my office cubicle, research tool, educator, informer, and pipes in much of the on-demand entertainment we bring into our home.
  5. Smartphone. Primarily used to communicate with friends and loved ones (voice, SMS, portable email) but also used as my new personal computer, one I largely carry with me. Continue reading…

Why Internet access (or any technology for that matter) is NOT a human right

According to Vin Cerf, any early pioneer of the internet:

Technology is an enabler of rights, not a right itself. There is a high bar for something to be considered a human right. Loosely put, it must be among the things we as humans need in order to lead healthy, meaningful lives, like freedom from torture or freedom of conscience. It is a mistake to place any particular technology in this exalted category, since over time we will end up valuing the wrong things. For example, at one time if you didn’t have a horse it was hard to make a living. But the important right in that case was the right to make a living, not the right to a horse. Today, if I were granted a right to have a horse, I’m not sure where I would put it. The best way to characterize human rights is to identify the outcomes that we are trying to ensure. These include critical freedoms like freedom of speech and freedom of access to information — and those are not necessarily bound to any particular technology at any particular time.

How staying informed makes us stupid

This is a great piece by Neal Gabler on how original thought has taken a back seat to being informed. Teaser quote to make you click:

It may seem counterintuitive that at a time when we know more than we have ever known, we think about it less… While (Facebook, Twitter, iPhones, etc) may change the way we live, they rarely transform the way we think. They are material, not ideational. It is thinkers who are in short supply, and the situation probably isn’t going to change anytime soon.

It will if we decide to reflect more on our surroundings, noting what we don’t like about them and how we might fix them. To do that, however, we have to regularly remove ourselves from the information trough.

It’s difficult for the brain to think if it’s always capturing data.

Interesting perspective on overpopulation

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I suppose the above is possible, but why might the Earth’s population decline after reaching 9 billion in 2050? Deficit fertility rates?

In any case, check out the follow-up shorts as well: Offsetting low fertility rates, Food: There’s lots of it, and Why poverty isn’t caused by overpopulation.

Pretty convincing thesis.

Shoot first, focus later

If accurate (and I stress accurate, given that the photos are supplied by the company hoping to sell the new camera), this still unreleased camera sounds super cool. Since it reportedly records more information than a normal camera, the user can refocus after the fact. Try it by clicking the image above.

I haven’t used instant messager in five years

aol-manOkay, that’s not true. But I haven’t IM’d more than 5-8 lines of text in the last five years.

Why? I loathe the technology. It’s so obtrusive. Consequently, I only turn on Skype when I need to make a call. And I haven’t logged in to Google Chat since 2006.

No, asynchronous email is a better respecter of your schedule when it comes to TCB (taking care of business). And meetings and phone calls are my go-to source for real-time communication.

What about you: do you still use instant messenger? If so, why?