Gateway to the World

Reading is one of my favorite pastimes. Even with so many new, exciting, magical, and addicting forms of entertainment available, I still enjoy reading with no frills. By “no frills” I mean reading a book or my ereader. My ereader is basic and monochrome. It doesn’t do anything fancy or have color. I can only read books on it.

In fact, I prefer reading without any distractions. Immersing myself in a story is relaxing. I love being transported to a new place, or envisioning another person’s life. Books open doorways. This seems especially important when so many of us remain isolated, or live with restrictions.

Books shine during a pandemic lockdown or quarantine. They’re the perfect form of entertainment. Plus, there’s a never ending supply of them. And they’re good for all ages. Even with restricted access to libraries and book stores, plenty of options exist to get books quickly and/or inexpensively.

My neighborhood has at least 4 community “libraries”. These are small boxes on the street where people leave or take books. I see people using them and titles change. They provide a free and relatively germ-free option for getting new titles during the pandemic. Plus they protect the books against the elements.

And finally, books are amazing for traveling to new places. All without the fear of inhaling re-circulated covid-infested air, like you might traveling by bus, train, or airplane. Additionally, books offer an infinite number of travel opportunities. With the right book, you can visit a different country, planet, or galaxy. Or be whisked away to a different time period. Or stay local and experience a different perspective.

Point being, the book can take you there.

Books vs. Ebooks – The Debate Continues

I can never seem to resolve my internal debate on books vs. ebooks, (read more about that here and here). Each format has its own benefits and downsides. During the pandemic, different aspects make each format attractive.

Books, paperback or hardcover, are perfect for unplugged, quiet time. Or reading aloud with others, making it a tactile and interactive experience. Ebooks can be browsed, borrowed, and read, all from the socially-distanced comfort and isolation of your home. No masks or sanitizing required.

Even so, I still miss being able to visit the library. The library is an important cultural hub. I hope they reopen soon.

The new Google Workspace: Productivity Booster or License to be Messy

Last month Google launched Google Workspace. In essence, Google rebranded existing products to make them more collaborative and added some new features.

I haven’t tried Google Workspace yet. On the surface, it promises to resolve a lot of common workplace challenges. This is especially true when many of us work and socialize remotely, from a distance. Based on my understanding, users can now integrate content from many different Google products. This will enable users to work seamlessly across chat, gmail, meet (aka video calling), drive, and documents. It’s innovative and modern.

The Records and Information Management Perspective

Products like Google Workspace show enormous potential to improve how we work in today’s world. Common trends are for people (aka users) to work remotely (or on the go) and collaboratively. People also use a variety of apps to communicate with one another. Examples include chat or text messaging, social media, email (including attachments), web-based apps like Drive, Dropbox, Slack, Office 365, etc.

Google Workspace aims to let users work seamlessly across (Google) products. From a records and information management (RIM) perspective, this usually amounts to a large mess. Initially, users love the convenience and ease with which they can get going. Project work is accomplished collaboratively, in real time. Users can edit one document simultaneously and see who is making which changes.

I personally love the online collaborative editing. It’s much cleaner than having each person edit their own copy which some poor soul has to aggregate into one version later.

However, all this working across multiple products and channels can get out of control very quickly. This is especially true when guidelines, rules, and best practices haven’t been established first. Users jump right in, adding documents, chatting, having meetings, sharing, collaborating, and working. It all seems to work great, in the beginning. Where it usually falls apart is when users need to find something from a previous project. Or locate a specific version of a document. Or piece together fragmented discussions over emails, chats, video calling, comments to determine how a decision was made.

The amount of storage available with Google Workspace plans irks me, both as a RIM professional and The Deletist. The basic plan offers 30GB of storage. Other plans offer storage in TB, per user! With so much storage, nobody would even consider deleting useless content.

The solution – hire an information professional to maximize the potential.

Digital Photo Sprawl

It’s amazing to me how fast digital photos seem to accumulate, everywhere. They end up in my phone and on my computer. This doesn’t even include many online places like Google Drive, Dropbox, emails, or social media.

Unfortunately, dealing with the sprawl takes time, commitment, and a lot of patience. This is partially because of the volume. And partially because of how difficult it can be to search for and sort images. Although many apps now exist to help sort, label, and categorize photos automatically. However, the date can also be problematic.

Many apps use the date as a way to group photos. Humans use this too, even though we often forget the exact date something happened. This is especially true when we all take photos so often. Also, some systems use the date of upload or transfer rather than the capture date.

WhatsApp Sent Photo Sprawl

Recently I discovered that my phone automatically saves photos I’ve sent through WhatsApp. At first I was puzzled why extra photos appeared when I connected my phone to my computer for uploading. For example, my phone indicated I had 500 pictures, but my computer would detect 600. After some investigating, I discovered why. My phone saved photos sent through WhatsApp. Even more annoying, my phone, or maybe WhatsApp, renamed all the photos. This means detecting duplicates is not easy.

To clarify, photos I receive through WhatsApp messages are saved, too. They are saved directly into a folder in my phone’s photo app. The photos I send, however, end up somewhere else. Unfortunately, I haven’t been able to figure out where. Or how to disable the automatic save in the settings. When I searched online for an answer, everything was about managing the received photos.

It’s pretty annoying for a few reasons. It requires a lot of time to go through the duplicates manually to remove them. Uploading, reviewing, and organizing photos takes longer because of the hidden extras. Plus it takes up precious storage space.

I’m still trying to figure out where, or how, my phone stores all the sent WhatsApp images. Until then, I chip away at the sprawl little by little. True to my deletist nature, I try to review photos immediately after taking them to weed out the bad ones.

Poison in the Information Age

Finally, the announcement of a new president elect arrived after a few tense days of watching and waiting. However, the election is far from over. Counting continues for mail-in ballots in some states. (For more insights on the mail-in process, read this and this.) And recounts for some places where the results were close.

POTUS has yet to concede. Instead, he spends his time tweeting fraudulent claims about the US election process and golfing. And for some of the 70+ million people who voted for him, they accept these unsubstantiated declarations as facts. Perhaps these are the “alternative” facts we’ve heard so much about the past four years.

What this all amounts to is one of the most dangerous consequences of having too much information disseminated too quickly through social media channels. Polluting information channels is easy for people who know how. Here’s the recipe:

  • Craft contradictory, sensational, and catchy titles.
  • Ensure title is short for repeating easily.
  • Disseminate it through multiple channels.
  • Watch it spread.

In a short time, the disinformation becomes part of the main narrative. Competing against real facts. Right now a potential audience of 70+ million people are looking for answers about how their candidate lost. Within a day of the election ending, with ballots still being counted, the alternative narrative gained momentum, continuing a story that had started months ago. Things got confusing and muddy quickly.

For example, a lot of confusion and misinformation spread about whether or not, and when, remaining ballots should be counted. In States where the President was trailing, votes should be counted. In States where the President was winning, votes should not continue to be counted. It’s dizzying! All ballots should be counted. The process is clunky and outdated, but trustworthy.

The funny thing is, once a person believes something, it’s very difficult to correct the bad information. Fact checkers do a wonderful service, even though the results of their efforts often go unappreciated.

How to Stop Information Pollution

If you’re spreading disinformation, that only adds to the problem. Here are some tips to stay informed and learn how to detect disinformation.

  1. Evaluate the source. Is the information coming from a credible source? Is there evidence?
  2. Read the content! Avoid spreading sensational titles without understanding the context. Or at least reading it first.

Technombie 6: The Results Are In

As usual, Senjina couldn’t wait to get home and check her stats. She was always too busy at work to review them. Today had been exceptionally chaotic. The mayoral election ended tonight.

This election, Senjina voted for the first time. She felt invested in the results. Once home, she spread her expandable ScreenSpace on the kitchen table. Immediately the screen filled with graphs and charts. Lines and colors spiking, dropping, and jumping all over the place. As suspected, the extra chaos had been stressful. She knew she had to get the stress levels down in the next couple days. Otherwise she could expect a bump, however slight, in her insurance premiums going forward.

Pushing aside the stats, Senjina eagerly searched for election results. Nothing definitive yet. Mayor Peebles faced a touch race. This, despite his self-admission to smoking crack and all kinds of other non-traditional mayor behaviors. Somehow people still seemed to love him, defend him even, against his most egregious actions.

However, results would not, could not, be confirmed before the nightly infoozian. Senjina sighed resignedly, sorely wishing she didn’t have to do the infoozians. Why were these things mandatory, anyway?

She knew if she didn’t submit to one, performance would start to fail on her feed and ScreenSpace. Even so, she couldn’t shake the nagging feeling she always got before a compulsory infoozian. And on the night of an election? Something was definitely up. If only Senjina could remember the same things before and after the infoozian. Sitting through one, she felt as though a fog descended on her brain. When it cleared, something had dissipated with it. But she could never be certain of what was gone.

She wistfully reviewed the results one last time. Mayor Peebles, strong in a few districts was trailing overall, with over 90% of the votes counted. Senjina felt confident he would be on his way out. This was a good thing. She worked in City Hall and looked forward to a new administration.

Senjina settled into her special infoozian chair, hearing and feeling the familiar hiss of air leaving the cushions adjusting to her body. Her head oozed into the headrest, already starting to loll to one side.

The familiar drone started. Always about Mayor Peebles. She drifted.

She awakened suddenly from the infoozian to a series of high-pitched alerts.

Mayor Peebles had won again!

Senjina frowned. How was this possible?

Read earlier segments from the story here:

Mommy Three Arm

Designer babies were all the rage. Everybody wanted them. Who wanted to risk a baby to chance? Besides, people who had “natural” babies had higher insurance premiums, if they could even get insurance. Most insurance companies were unwilling to cover conditions that could have been programmed out.

Depending on your willingness to pay, you could even engineer the baby’s eye color and fingernail shape. Most people, however, prioritized health. Some added one stellar trait.

Over time, someone finally had the brilliant idea to throw in a few bonuses for the moms. Why not design a few perks for the mother-to-be? This is how Jasmine found herself in the Baby Designer Studio reviewing a brochure before her consultation.

She scrolled through the expansive list of options. She had opted to go “natural”. It’s not that she was particularly old-fashioned. Or anti-gene manipulation and splicing. It’s just that her pragmatic nature won her over. Creating a designer baby felt overwhelming. It required a lot of steps, a lot of money, and a lot of effort.

Jasmine wasn’t into that. However, something extra for herself sounded enticing. She quickly ticked off the “no-brainer” options, including:

  • Abdominal Muscle Quick Repair
  • Stretch-mark Tightening
  • Increased Metabolism (for a limited time period)
  • Luscious Hair and Nails

Some of the less invasive options gave her pause, like, “Keep Baby Smell.” Well, Jasmine didn’t know about that one. She had heard rumors about post-partum “mommy stink” from some friends. But wasn’t her smell hers? Shouldn’t she want to keep that?

However, the body altering choices generated the most questions for Jasmine. Among them, if she chose, Jasmine could:

  • Grow a Third Arm (right or left)
  • Grow Elongated Prehensile Toes

It’s true, a third arm would be very useful with a new baby. One friend had opted for this. It took some time to adapt, but the friend loved all the things she could do so easily with an extra arm. Even though she had had to buy a new wardrobe, she claimed it was worth it.

Jasmine had to make a decision fast. Everything had to be in place before the end of the first trimester. Otherwise, her alterations wouldn’t sync up with the baby. It would be very awkward to give birth and only have half of her new arm grown in. If she went with that option.

What was a new mom to do?