About two weeks ago, one of my bosses sent an email asking me to rank order my preferred video conferencing platforms.
There were four options: Zoom, Cisco’s WebEx, Microsoft’s Teams, and the video platform for our learning management platform. There are many other options, but these are the only platforms with which our university has licensing agreements. And quite frankly, the choices weren’t an issue. These platforms have (mostly) served us well during the pandemic.
My issue was with the simplicity of his single question. I appreciated the short survey, and it should have taken me a few seconds to rank them. Instead, it required 15-minutes of deep thought before I picked my favorites and clicked “submit.”
Fast forward a few days, and I was already rethinking my ranking. In fact, today I’d rank these platforms differently knowing what we now know about recent upgrades to these well-known platforms.
See, there’s fierce competition in the video conferencing realm, thanks in part to the pandemic and our move to online meetings and instruction. I say “in part” because the video conferencing platform competition started long before COVID-19 reached our shores. The war to win the hearts and minds of telecommuters started long ago, but users are now reaping the rewards of those long-standing rivalries.
Read more at https://www.vindy.com/life/lifestyles/2020/07/its-not-so-easy-to-rank-video-call-platforms/ (may encounter paywall).
Although my kids have full reign over our backyard kingdom, they still lament feeling imprisoned by COVID-19. They want to go places and do things with other people, preferably with friends, not their parents or siblings.
I can’t blame them. I’m always on the lookout for an escape, even if my getaway is the occasional trip to Walmart. Zoom meetings at least give me a chance to interact with other humans face-to-face.
Most “adults” have the luxury of accessing technology that allows for a little socialization with a lot of social distancing.
My older kids have “some” of this. Ella, 14, and Katie, 12, are at smartphone age. They’re responsible with their smartphones, they rarely lose them, and, with the exception of a few screen protector replacements, their phones never break beyond simple repairs.
My two youngest kids are not at smartphone-age even if they insist they’re smartphone-ready. In her defense, I feel pretty confident that Sadie, 10, could handle a smartphone, or “phon-ership” as we call it. Like her older sisters, she seems slightly more mature and responsible than most kids her age.
Read more at https://www.vindy.com/life/lifestyles/2020/07/online-video-games-help-kids-socialize/ (may encounter paywall).
Smokey the Bear’s PSAs occasionally aired during Saturday morning cartoons when I was a kid.
“Remember, only you can prevent forest fires,” Smokey would say, reminding us to be sure our camp fires were properly extinguished. The problem was that my family didn’t do much camping, so the message was kind of lost on me.
A few years later, my friends and I were traipsing through the neighborhood woods on a particularly dry Fall day. One friend brought a lighter. Back then it felt like every friend group had at least one kid who carried a lighter, cigarettes, firecrackers, a knife—a collection of items that made them feel tough or cool, or maybe even resourceful.
Our friend liked to burn stuff. During our short hike, he lit a few leaves with his lighter and, poof, we were surrounded in flames and smoke. We kicked and stomped the ground for ten minutes until all the embers were gone.
After the fire was out, my friends left. I stayed.
“Only you can prevent forest fires.” I didn’t say it out loud, but that slogan repeated in my head. I sat near the scorched earth for hours watching leaves fall around me like rain, hoping that some newly fallen foliage wouldn’t reignite the blaze.
It was dark before I got home. I stayed awake that night wondering if I should return the next day. But I awoke to no news of a forest fire, no fire trucks, no helicopters whirling overhead dropping buckets of water on my house.
As unsettling as it was for me, I can’t imagine the anxiety people in drier areas of the world feel each year, wondering if a wild fire will erupt near their homes. Like I was some 40 years ago, they’re at the mercy of Mother Nature and the occasional spark set by a human. This is because while hurricanes and monsoons have their seasons, wildfires have their season, too.
We’re in wildfire season right now.
To help prevent the spread of these fires, one company—Mayday.ai—is turning to Twitter.
“When major events happen, people turn to Twitter to share what they’ve witnessed, document what’s happening in real-time, and to get key information,” said Jim Moffitt, a partner engineer at Twitter.
“When it comes to wildfires, early detection can buy authorities time to warn impacted communities and get the right resources in the right place quickly.”
Mayday.ai uses tweets in combination with information from satellites, traffic cameras, and other data points to build their detection system. This system helps first responders deal with wildfires quickly and more efficiently.
Mayday.ai’s platform and app give first responders and civilians who live near these danger zones access to real-time information about wildfires. In fact, as Moffitt found, Mayday.ai is so successful in detecting fires, it’s being used as a template for other types of disasters.
To borrow Smokey’s phrase, “remember, only you and your tweets can prevent wild fires.” Okay, so that phrase isn’t entirely accurate; but neither was Smokey’s advice. Mayday.ai is a good example of prevention requiring more than us and our tweets.
Still it’s another wonderful example of how social media is being used for good, to help us better understand our world, and possibly prevent disasters.
Learn more about Mayday.ai at www.mayday.ai.
In a win for original news reporting from reputable media organizations, Facebook launched a change in the kinds of stories you should see in your News Feed.
Activating this much-needed update to their news algorithm comes amidst criticism of how Facebook is managing (or rather, mismanaging) other kinds of content, most notably, hate speech. In fact, some of the platforms largest advertisers are now reassessing and adjusting their business relationships with Facebook.
Starbucks, Coca-Cola, Unilever, Hershey, Honda, Eddie Bauer, North Face, Levi Strauss, Ben & Jerry’s, Verizon and others are either reviewing their ad buys or they’ve already paused, pulled or significantly curtailed advertising on Facebook.
Although not a direct response to the hate speech problem, Facebook’s change to the way to pull in original news content couldn’t come at a better time. Some of what actually classified as “news” over the last several years was classified as hate speech. Cloaked as “real” news, these stories originated from non-reputable sources and crept into our News Feeds.
Facebook needs more good news — more good news in their News Feed as well as more good news about Facebook.
Read more at https://www.vindy.com/life/lifestyles/2020/07/facebook-now-prioritizes-original-news-reporting/ (may encounter paywall).
Dr. Adam C. Earnheardt is professor of communication studies the department of communication at Youngstown State University in Youngstown, OH, USA where he also directs the graduate program in professional communication. He researches and writes about communication and relationships, parenting and sports. He writes a weekly column for The Vindicator and Tribune-Chronicle newspapers on social media and society.