Projection bias. Or: Them newfangled devices are ruinin’ our children!
Feb 23rd, 2013 by scaredpoet



So, over the past couple of years, I’ve frequently run across people who insist that those newfangled iPhones and Android phones are just ruining newer generations of people… mainly iPhones, for some reason. There’s plenty of articles out there talking about “iPhone addiction” and even a pseudoscientific study from Stanford where subjects are pretty much encouraged to self-identify as addicts, reporting that they feel the devices are “like extensions of their brain or body.”

The most interesting trend was how quickly the iPhone became an indispensable part of the students’ lifestyles, and how many of them openly acknowledged they would be lost without it.

Nearly 85 percent of the iPhone owners used the phone as their watch, and 89 percent used it as their alarm clock. In fact, 75 percent admitted to falling asleep with the iPhone in bed with them, and 69 percent said they were more likely to forget their wallet than their iPhone when leaving in the morning.

Many students readily acknowledge how much they rely on their iPhones. When asked to rank their dependence on the iPhone on a scale of one to five — five being addicted and one being not at all addicted – 10 percent of the students acknowledged full addiction to the device, 34 percent ranked themselves as a four on the scale, and only 6 percent said they weren’t addicted at all.

There’s just one problem with all of this: The behaviors described aren’t defining characteristics of addiction.

Let’s consider for a moment what addiction really is. The iPhone isn’t a substance, like heroin or alcohol, so comparing to substance addition isn’t quite appropriate. But addiction in general is the “continued use of a substance or behavior despite adverse dependency consequences.” And if we consider behavioral addiction – since using a smartphone is a behavior – we find that one must “repeatedly engage in an action until said action causes serious negative consequences to the person’s physical, mental, social, and/or financial well-being.”

Taking this into account, let’s rationally ask ourselves the question: what exactly is detrimental, negative, or harmful about:

  1. Using a smartphone as an alarm clock or watch?

  2. Accidentally falling asleep with a smartphone in your bed?

  3. Using a smartphone to tweet, or surf the web, or go on Facebook?

Granted, there can be too much of the above activities: plugging in your headphones all the time and ignoring a significant other, or refusing to interact with real people around you because you’re constantly playing Fruit Ninja. But the mere use of these devices, or using them to replace other, older generation devices (like standalone alarm clocks or old fashioned daytimers) does not qualify as smartphone addiction. Arguably, our society has an even greater dependence on things like electricity, or the internal combustion engine, or internet access, or refrigerators. Yet, while these were once new things in the lives of ordinary people that fundamentally changed how they behaved, few people seem so willing to wean society of its “addiction” to this things.

The problem is, people have been saying this about every new technology that’s come out there. The telephone prevents personal interactions because you don’t have to visit people to talk to them anymore, or take the time to write them letters if they’re far away. TV prevents personal interactions because of the possibility that someone can stare at a screen all day. E-mail prevents personal interactions because nobody uses the phone anymore. Text messaging prevents personal interaction because no one writes long e-mails anymore.The problem is, none of it is true. The technology doesn’t prevent personal interaction… it’s that some people use the technology to avoid personal interactions and socializing. Take away facebook, the iPhone and their computer, and these people would be watching TV all day. Take that away and they’d read a book or something.

The Hipster PDA. Because tech is SO mainstream.

All of the previous technologies made things happen in ways that they “never used to.” Every technological change permits people to do something they never used to do before, and then there would be people preaching woe about how that change is bad because you people no longer do things in more traditional ways. Ultimately, that tends up being their only argument… that they want things done “the way it used to be.”

Then there seems to be this fetishism about Apple, specifically. iPhones are addicting. You shouldn’t use your iDevices so much. When as any Android user will gleefully gloat, Apple allegedly is NOT what most kids these days are using.

So why aren’t people railing against Android? And remember when Crackberry was a thing?

Don’t get me wrong: I agree there’s a problem. I just happen to think the problem is actually twofold:

1. People who don’t truly understand the applications of new technology, and rather than trying to understand how to use or apply it, they instead prefer to complain about how it’s “destroying” society, and

2. People who have addictive personalities, get addicted to certain things like their gadgets, and then prefer to blame the gadget rather than make the effort to improve themselves… completely ignoring the fact that there are plenty of other individuals who can still use their gadgets in moderation and still function quite well in society.

Both are part of a well known phenomenon in psychology known as projection bias, and it is something that has been observed well before facebook or iPhones existed.

The dumbing-down of the iCloud
Jun 24th, 2011 by scaredpoet


It’s kind of interesting, going back along the years in this blog, and seeing how technology-wise, I evolved from a total Apple hater to a complete Apple fanboy.  Unfortunately, some things have begun to irk me lately about some decisions at Apple, that may eventually cause the pendulum of my preferences to swing back again.

First is this whole business with Apple’s latest version of Final Cut Pro.  For veterans of the software, this latest release is a huge step backward. What’s wrong with it? Well… let’s let Team CoCo explain it to us…


As for me, I can sorta shrug at Final Cut Pro X, because I never really was a big FCP user.  As a holdover from my Microsoft-Windows-using days, my experience in video editing comes from using Adobe Premiere Pro.  Granted, I’ve got some gripes against Adobe too, particularly with their acquisition of certain historically-bad technologies, but at least Adobe has yet to really screw up their historically-good apps.  Yet.

What’s really chapping my hide though, is Apple’s decision to dumb down a rather useful cloud-based service that they’ve had for a few years now, Mobile Me.  Granted, the launch of this service was pretty damned disastrous.  But for those of us who stuck with it, it’s become a very useful way to store all kinds of files, sync up calendars, share photos, and make everything “just work.”  And just work it has…. up until now.

You see, it seems that although Mobile Me works great the way it is, Steve Jobs never quite got over the sting of his pride and joy being buggy and getting a little bad press when it was initially rolled out.  So much so that a mere name change isn’t enough.  And so, the reaction has been to take all of the most stable, useful features, and get rid of them…

So, that cloud file storage that every sane human being and even other companies think is a really useful feature that makes the Cloud something worth using?  Gone.  Photo sharing with others?  Gone.  Got a web page on your Mobile Me account?  Sorry, it’s gotta move too.

In their place?  Well… you can sync up the last 30 days or 1,000 photos between your iDevices, whichever is less.  And by “Documents in the Cloud,” Apple defines “Documents” as only those documents made by iWork or iLife.  Any other file made by other app doesn’t apply.

I love my iPhone.  I love my iPad.  I love my Macs.  But this makes no sense.  And it’s making my love my Apple shwag just a little bit less.

What irks me most about this change is that it seems to punish the very users Apple should be rewarding: those power users who use Apple stuff not because it’s chic or stylistic, but because they have powerful, useful features while still being easy to use.  I didn’t get a mac because it looked pretty; I got it because it permitted me to use widely used applications will still having a powerful UNIX interface under the hood.  I bought an iPhone not because it would make my experience with twitter overbearingly seamless, but because it did very useful smartphone functions without a lot of annoying puffery and glitz, and did it well.

And I used Mobile Me because it was nice to be able to take a file from work, drag it to an iDisk icon on the desktop, and have that file waiting for you on your computer at home, or your mobile device, without you even having to think much about it.  It was nice to be able to throw up a nice looking photo gallery that you could share with anyone, and even let them download a neat zip archive with your whole album at a single click if they wanted to.

And really, there’s no reason to NOT continue having these features… particularly since the users who use them were willing to pay for it.  But now. with a dumbed-down, less-useful but free version waiting in the wings, a user like me will be using iCloud a lot less, even though I won’t be required to pay for it.  In fact, I’m probably going to end up paying someone else to provide the service I want.  That’s less money in Apple’s pocket, and more money to their competitors.  How does that make any sense?


Daily Disaffirmations: The Good, Bad and Ugly of Murdoch’s Vision for iPad “Journalism”
Apr 15th, 2011 by scaredpoet

The “Carousel,” a feature for browsing content on The Daily


I don’t think anyone disagrees anymore at the notion that newspapers are probably going extinct within the next few years.  Aside from older generations who grew up with the traditional media, a greater number of mobile individuals are finding that their existing smart devices are giving them their news fix just fine.  And so, to survive, the traditional newspapers are trying to adapt.

The New York Times, one of the better heralded newspapers of its era, is going the paywall route.  In a nutshell, they will deliver the same thing they’ve delivered online for years, but now you’ll have to pay for it if you happen to read the website a lot.

Other ventures, however, are going the subscription model, but are trying to make it worth your while.  The Daily is one such venture, and I recently had an opportunity to get my hands on an iPad and try it out.

First things first: The Daily is a very well-executed, visually-appealing app.  The design and delivery of the content takes full advantage of the iPad.  It’s visually appealing, the interactive features and graphics are very well executed, and from a design perspective, it’s exactly what modern media SHOULD be.  If newspaper companies could actually grasp the current technology like this app has and make some use of it, they probably wouldn’t be failing right now.

Unfortunately, for all the looks and polish, the actual content is utter rubbish.  Every news piece is heavy editorialized, and parrots Fox News (in fact, a lot of the articles pretty much attribute Fox News as their source).  Since this app is essentially Murdoch’s baby, it shouldn’t be a surprise there’s going to be some right-leaning opinions, but the propaganda is EVERYWHERE.  News isn’t news in the Daily: it’s all editorialism, unabashed and unapologetic.

I can’t even recommend this app if your political views are right-leaning.  You’d basically be paying for a copy-and-paste of whatever blather is coming out of Fox News that day… something you probably already get, and probably at less of a cost than the subscription for this app’s content.  None of the pieces really bother to go in-depth.  The editors for The Daily are all about quantity, not quality.

Perhaps you are extremely affluent and hard-right-leaning, and don’t have time to read more than a half-screen of an article at a time.  So, maybe parting with an extra $40 a year for a subscription to this content is chump change.  That’s fine, that’s your decision…  just bear in mind that President Obama recently unveiled a government spending plan that would raise taxes for the top 2% of wealthy individuals.  Only, The Daily isn’t really interested in reporting THAT to you, because it was MORE interested in posting a video about Biden falling asleep during the budget speech.



So, I’m telling you now – for free, no less – something that The Daily won’t: you should save your money.


AT&T plays the scrooge
Dec 26th, 2010 by scaredpoet

You know, with all the rumors going around that AT&T is losing its iPhone exclusivity, the LAST thing it should do is pick the holidays to stir up some more bad publicity.

But alas, it has.  Despite “grandfathered” iPhone owners being allowed to stay with their unlimited data plans  (in lieu of a newer 2GB monthly cap), it’s still watching those users like a hawk.  And if they somehow  manage to exceed the 2GB threshold that was supposed to be nonexistent for them, AT&T gives those users a little slap on the hand, to encourage them to limit their usage on their supposedly-unlimited data plans.

Hence the friendly letter that one iPhone user received recently when his Pandora-streaming habit ran afoul of AT&T’s good graces:

I got a letter from AT&T yesterday stating that they’ve noticed that I use more than 2gb of data per month which puts me outside of 98% of their customers typical data use. The letter gave me a friendly reminder that AT&T has many free wifi hotspots, and, if I wasn’t aware of this, that I should turn on wifi in my iphone settings and that the iphone would automatically connect to those free wifi hotspots. I guess that streaming internet radio and podcasts all day puts me into the 2% category. I feel special.

I’m glad that I’m grandfathered into the unlimited data plan. I wouldn’t be surprised to learn that they’ve reserved the ability to move me to a 2gb plan at their discretion.

I would LOVE to get one of those letters!  It would allow me to brush up on my old-fashioned letter writing skills…
“Dear AT&T,

Thank you so much for your letter received on December 21 about my data usage. I was disappointed that it wasn’t a Christmas card, however, as that’s what people tend to get sent this time of year. Maybe you guys don’t celebrate Christmas or something?

Anyway, I appreciate your concerns about whether I’m aware of my data usage, and am writing back to assure you that, indeed, I am totally aware. I use that nifty MyWireless App that you have on the App Store, which shows me my data usage. Using apps are fun. By the way, did you know that using the MyWireless App uses data? How crazy is that!

I was blown away that my data usage is in the upper 2% of your customer base, though. AWESOME! Thanks for congratulating me on this wonderful accomplishment! I’m such an over-achiever, and love being at the top.

I’m also thankful that my data plan – which binds me to a 2-year contract regardless of the price I pay for my iPhone, for some silly reason – covers 100% of my data usage, regardless of how much data I use each month. I have an unlimited data plan, and I’m using data… well, unlimited-ly.

As a company AT&T agreed that although new customers were stuck on a stingier plan with 2GB-per-month cap, those of us who have stuck with AT&T over the years, provided it with substantial profits since buying our older model iPhones, and haven’t left despite the numerous service issues that have left everyone with the impression that our iPhones get spotty coverage, drop calls all the time, and have left us to be the butt of jokes by numerous overly-smug Droid users, have been (reluctantly) permitted to keep our older unlimited data plans.

As such, I totally expect AT&T to live up to its end of the bargain. We all know that AT&T didn’t score too well in the latest Consumer Reports survey, and we’ve all heard those rumors about a certain other, better-scoring carrier possibly selling iPhones in the not-too-distant future. If AT&T renegs and puts people like me on a capped plan, that would cause some pretty bad publicity AND give your customers good reason to jump ship, now wouldn’t it?

Anyway, that’s just a little something to think about. Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to stream some more video from my slingbox.

Merry Christmas!


P.S.: Your WiFi hotspots really aren’t all that great. Half the time I’m at a Starbucks, the Wifi is either broken or extremely slow thanks to all the laptop jockeys who take up all the seats there for hours on end and suck up the bandwidth, leaving people like me with no place to sit and a speed slower than EDGE. And why would I ever set foot in a McDonald’s?  Besides, isn’t the whole point of mobile data to be, mobile?  Why should I be arsed to go sit in a crowded area with a slow, overburdened WiFi hotspot just to do you a favor?  What have you done for me, AT&T?”

The NAB: Old technology, lousy content, national security?
Aug 29th, 2010 by scaredpoet

The National Association of Broadcasters (NAB) is a lobbying group that caters to something that hasn’t been relevant in many people’s lives for years: terrestrial, FM radio. And there’s a really good reason why FM radio hasn’t been relevant to lots of people for a good long time: FM radio sucks.

The NAB is of course aware that people aren’t listening much to FM radio these days, and they want to do something about it.  Of course, a common sense thing would be to improve the content that FM radio stations provide: like, say, good music from artists people actually want to listen to.  But common sense doesn’t seem to be something that the NAB has a lot of.  So instead, they’d rather do something else: force phone manufacturers to embed FM receivers in all cell phones and mobile devices, in the hopes that people will be compelled to listen to their crappy content. To do this, they’ve gone to Congress:

...mid-way in the article was something which really caught my attention. Part of the “deal”—and like all things political, it is a deal—would require that all cell phone handsets must have an FM-radio function built in. Wait a second, I thought . . . whether implemented as a separate IC, or added to an existing RF/mixed-signal chipset, it will add cost, power consumption, antenna-design issues, and more to the handset design. And all for what purpose, exactly? To force people to listen the FM band? Yeah, right, that will do it, absolutely.

One of the arguments behind this mandate is the tried-and-true, instill-fear argument that every desperate party turns to: national security and public safety.  The argument goes that people will need to turn to FM radios in the event of a serious crisis or national emergency.  Makes sense, right?

But the public safety argument is merely a red herring.  This isn’t about public safety in the least. The NAB is trying to legislate the foisting of old technology on electronics vendors in the vain hope that it will compel people to listen to FM stations, without their constituency having to make any effort to draw listeners back to them.

But even if those folks at the NAB really were compassionate, well-meaning souls who just want to make sure everyone stays safe and informed, where should this type of nanny-state legislation stop? How about we pass laws that require every US resident to subscribe to a minimum level of cable TV service, since over-the-air or satellite TV might be subject to weather conditions or transmitter failures due to terrorists attacks, and new video technologies like FiOS and UVerse are simply too new? How about we also mandate that every household subscribe to copper POTS wireline phone service (again, Fiber is “too new” and untested) and connect rotary corded phones to that service?

What those fine, well-meaning (I’m sure) folks at the NAB don’t understand is, people like me aren’t listening to FM not because we don’t have FM radios, but because the stations we can receive on those radios provide us with no reason to listen. Perhaps if they innovated, and provided compelling programming, and didn’t play the same 6 songs over and over between 20+ minutes of a commercials per hour, their audience numbers would grow.

What’s worse, most of these FM radio stations no longer have news departments of their own, having sacrificed them as cost-saving measures, in the (quite ironic) belief that people won’t want to listen to the news all the time. As such, most FM stations are not equipped to provide news and information on their own in a serious crisis or emergency. In fact, during past crises, since September 11 on, many have tended to cut over to the audio of CNN or similar news feeds. So… what’s the point? A potential listener like me could just go to CNN to get the video that goes with the audio.

There are of course, pure news stations on terrestrial radio, but the majority of them are on the AM band, and so, such stations would still not be accessible to mobile phone users with their required-by-law FM receivers.  So much for that.

There are entities like satellite radio, online broadcasting stations and online music stores that don’t mandate by law that everyone be forced to own equipment capable of receiving their content, and yet they do just fine. The NAB could learn from their example.

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