On a clear day, you can SEA forever

As what’s expected to be the busiest travel summer since 2000 gets underway, I am reminded that I travel. A lot.

It’s part of my current position and, quite frankly, also came with the territory of being a consultant for a dozen years: The people you need to see are never where you are. Consider it a corollary of the rule that an expert is someone more than 50 miles from home. (As an aside, I rarely had clients in the Seattle area. As a result, I was mostly known here for being an analyst and media commentator.)

Last September, I hosted the WSA Investment Forum and gave some brief lessons learned by a very frequent traveler. Since then, I’ve outdone myself by simultaneously making Platinum Elite on Northwest Airlines, SPG Platinum at Starwood hotels, and maintaining a decade of MVP Gold status on Alaska Airlines.

So it seems time to update my earlier, nearly two-year-old advice to newbie frequent travelers: Continue reading On a clear day, you can SEA forever

Video out x4

Four years ago this week, I walked away from television. It was June 2002 when I left KCPQ-TV Fox Seattle as its part-time technology analyst and commentator, contributing live and taped segments to both the morning and night-time newscasts. I’d done it for four years, the people were great, the parting was amicable, but the station was moving in a direction that didn’t fit my skills or interests.

I’ve earlier recounted my thoughts on the state of TV tech coverage at the time on Lost Remote, and on the state of TV news a year later on Byte Me Online. Now, with four years of perspective behind me, the most telling effect — now that I no longer have to watch TV news — is how little of it I do watch. (And earlier, I was a full-time broadcast news reporter/anchor before a consultant and commentator.)

So, with my rear-view mirror getting a clearer picture, consider these Three Tips for Better News Consumption: Continue reading Video out x4

The noble experiment

For the last several years, I’ve blogged. I’m ending this experiment after much enthusiasm, debate and a hiatus. I didn’t start blogging because I thought it was the best thing to happen to media since Gutenberg, nor am I stopping it now because I think blogging is useless.

I’m stopping because being a good blogger is hard work. Personally, I have time for only one all-consuming hobby after my paying job and family responsibilities. I’m moving on to another form of my favorite avocation so I’m not lying on my deathbed some years hence, wondering, “If only I’d ….”

But I’m leaving blogging — first on the Lost Remote group blog, and then with Byte Me online — with these six Blogging Lessons Learned: Continue reading The noble experiment

Disappearing tech history

The news that Intel has awarded a British man $10,000 for his copy of a 1965 issue of Electronics Magazine — the one that contained Intel co-founder Gordon Moore’s musings that later became known as Moore’s Law — brings to the fore a great fallacy of the Internet age. It’s one that I frequently hear espoused by younger colleagues and, occasionally, those my age or older.

The Great Fallacy: That because of the digital Library at Alexandria that the Internet represents, there’s no longer a need to keep an extensive archive of one’s own.

However, as any observer of the Web can tell you, the shelves of the Internet are constantly morphing. Web sites with valuable reference material for a niche audience may, at some point, take down those archival pages in a re-design, or put them behind a password-protected wall. Security or confidentiality fears (such as those that occurred after the 9/11 attacks) have led to the removal of academic and scientific treatises.

And many documents have yet to make it to the Web. Continue reading Disappearing tech history

TV tech experts and credibility

Wonder why that tech “expert” on your local TV station never says anything bad about a product? Or why, if you see a satellite news report from a technology trade show, it’s always persistently praising a gaggle of gadgets in three minutes or less?

It may be because the expert was paid — either directly or indirectly — by the manufacturer. It’s a common practice which stations and paid talent rarely disclose to viewers. The Wall Street Journal did a nice job summing up the contradictions and frequently co-dependent relationship between local TV stations and talent this week (subsequently, so did NPR and the Washington Post).

It’s also a regular occurrence in the toy industry, as I noted in a piece last December. Continue reading TV tech experts and credibility

Media shifting not just for the young

Merrill Brown and Carnegie Corporation’s new report “Abandoning the News,” about how 18-34 year olds are moving away from traditional sources of news, is getting some attention in digital media circles. Looking at my own news and entertainment media preferences (and, admittedly, as someone about a dozen years removed from the high end of the report’s target demographic), I think the report could go even further.

I’ve replaced watching live, unfiltered broadcast and cable television with TiVo — two TiVos, actually. I have a hard time imaging not being able to pause live TV, rewind to catch something I want to see again, or see a menu of shows, based on my preferences, ready to be viewed whenever I want. If there is a significant news story, I can replay a live feed. It is almost painful to watch raw TV in hotel rooms when I travel.

I’ve replaced broadcast radio with XM Satellite Radio. Continue reading Media shifting not just for the young

When tech toys attack

This is the first holiday season in seven that I won’t be reviewing tech and other toys for TV, radio and/or print. It’s mostly a matter of time and focus on my part; I did, after all, go to Toy Fair in February and followed the introductions of many new toys through the fall.

While this means I won’t be able to share several cool toys I’ve seen (I’m particularly fond of Tyco R/C’s Terrain Twister, for example), I can share a handful of general tips on what to avoid in tech toys this holiday season — based on seven years of bad luck with a few hits and many misses.

Beware the hot toy. This season there doesn’t seem to be a single “must-have” toy, and that’s a good thing — scenes of people fighting at Toys ‘R Us, with the exception of those involving bankruptcy lawyers, are never fun. The problem with many hot toys is that they are high-concept toys, easily understood immediately, but don’t necessarily stand up to repeat play by kids. They’re like the clever hit song on the radio that you like at once but sicken of by the fourth or fifth replay (I was a DJ when Disco Duck was released; I know). Continue reading When tech toys attack

‘Tis the season

We are entering that time of year, that marvelous season, the season that frequent travelers dread. Not the holiday season. Amateur season.

The hallmark of amateur season is travelers who fly only once a year, and only during the summer or over the holidays (Santa Claus excepted, of course). You can spot the amateurs a concourse away: No idea where their driver’s license is when they get to the security checkpoint. No idea where their boarding pass is. Expressions of childlike wonderment when the TSA asks them simple questions, such as, “Did you realize hunting knives aren’t allowed in carry-on luggage?”

And yes, as a frequent business traveler, I’ve seen all of the above. Continue reading ‘Tis the season

When dinosaurs ruled the airwaves

The following originally appeared as a “State of the Art” essay in Analog Science Fiction & Fact’s July 1992 issue. Portions were later excerpted in the Seattle Times in September 1992.

Though 2004 is a dozen years later and some of the names of the players have changed, much of the game being played remains the same today. When it comes to news and the human capacity to make sense of it, filters are important since more broad-based information gathering and dissemination mechanisms — up to and including the latest darling, Web logs — don’t change the limits of the human attention span. And mass media continue to have increasingly less mass.

Back in 1992, this was considered farsighted heresy. Now, it’s happened. Continue reading When dinosaurs ruled the airwaves

Life at 35,000 feet

If you’re a frequent business traveler, you know we’re in the midst of the busy summer air travel season or, as I like to think of it as, amateur season. It’s a time when things which worked marginally smoothly during the first half of the year self-destruct like baggage on an airline conveyer belt.

I’ve just wrapped up six months of being on the road nearly every week for clients and conferences. Twenty-six roundtrips give one ample time to reflect on things one should have known before, say, having to choose between the ham and turkey sandwich. (Tip: They taste identical. I know, because when I asked the Northwest flight attendant, that’s what she told me.)

So while I haven’t written as many tech analyses and commentaries as I’d like since beginning my journeys, I can offer hard-earned advice for the infrequent business traveler: Continue reading Life at 35,000 feet

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