Living With a Teenage Data Hog

Excerpt from this article:

I suggest the budgeting approach: Parents pay for a certain amount of data each month, the children track how much they’ve used, and then they pay for anything beyond that allotted amount.

It’s simple enough in theory. Carriers lets customers check to see how much data each person in a family plan has used so far during the month, and the privilege of having a phone should come with the responsibility of keeping track.

That approach does, however, require you to sit down with your teenager and identify the sources of data drain and perhaps set rules for when those apps ought to go off. The Times’s Wired Well columnist, Jennifer Jolly, lives with a data-draining teenager. She suggests turning off any features on a teen’s phone that drain data automatically in the background. Also, track the apps that use the most data and limit data hogs like Spotify or Snapchat to times when the teenager has Wi-Fi access. One additional hint: The more video an app records, transmits and receives, the higher the data bill is likely to be. Call your carrier or consult online forums if you need more help.

In an ideal world, this approach teaches patience, self-control and restraint. Your kids can always watch a video a little later over Wi-Fi, after all. And many messages – most, even – can wait a bit.

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We are Double-Plus Unfree

Margaret Atwood

Excerpt from this article by Margaret Atwood

Digital technology has made it easier than ever to treat people like domesticated animals farmed for profit. You can no longer rent a car or a hotel room or buy much of anything without a credit card, which leaves a digital trail wherever it goes. You’re told you need a social security card, a health card, a driver’s licence, a bank card, a bunch of passwords. You need an “identity”, and that identity is digital. All your numbers and passwords – all the data that identifies you – is supposed to be private, but as we know by now, the digital world leaks like a sieve, and security on the internet is only as good as the next mastermind hacker or inside-job data thief. The Kremlin has gone back to using typewriters for a good reason: it’s a lot easier to smuggle a memory stick out of a secure area than it is to make off with a big stack of papers.

It’s not all bad, however. All technology is a double-edged tool, and the very internet that has too many data-leaking holes in it also allows words to travel quickly. It’s easier to reveal abuses of power than it once was; it’s easier to sign petitions and to protest. Though even that freedom is double-edged: the petition you sign may be used by your own government in evidence against you.

Though our digital technologies have made life super-convenient for us – just tap and it’s yours, whatever it is – maybe it’s time for us to recapture some of the territory we’ve ceded. Time to pull the blinds, exclude the snoops, recapture the notion of privacy. Go offline.

Any volunteers? Right. I thought not. It won’t be easy.

How Period Trackers Have Changed Girl Culture

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Girls and women are openly talking, tweeting and texting about their periods, and not just to Donald Trump. New companies tired of the stigma are selling menstrual products using the “P” word, singers and artists weave menstruation themes into their work, athletes and others have mentioned it on talk shows and at press conferences. Two New York City high school girls developed a video game called “Tampon Run” — the heroine’s mission is “to rid the world of the menstrual taboo.”

Add to this mix period tracker apps, which have helped shift attitudes, demystifying and normalizing menstruation by assigning cute icons to once unmentionables like heavy flow, maxi pads and period pimples. Most important, the apps transform the input into crunchable data that can tell a young woman when her period is due, when it’s late and even why she might be feeling so blue.

“When you see a technology that someone has developed specifically for you as a woman, it really legitimizes talking about your periods and thinking about them,” said Shuangyi “E.E.” Hou, 24, a product designer in San Francisco for apps and websites who has used a period tracker app for over a year. “If we as a society say women should be checking in on their periods, and we give them permission to talk about it, I’m convinced it will be beneficial for women’s health.”

The curly fry conundrum: Why social media “likes” say more than you might think

Good TED Talk video where Jennifer Golbeck talks about what is revealed by Facebook likes (giving me the opportunity to use the tag “curly fries” for the first time on the blog):

…[A study] looked at just people’s Facebook likes, so just the things you like on Facebook, and used that to predict all these attributes, along with some other ones. And in their paper they listed the five likes that were most indicative of high intelligence. And among those was liking a page for curly fries. (Laughter) Curly fries are delicious, but liking them does not necessarily mean that you’re smarter than the average person. So how is it that one of the strongest indicators of your intelligence is liking this page when the content is totally irrelevant to the attribute that’s being predicted? And it turns out that we have to look at a whole bunch of underlying theories to see why we’re able to do this. One of them is a sociological theory called homophily, which basically says people are friends with people like them. So if you’re smart, you tend to be friends with smart people, and if you’re young, you tend to be friends with young people, and this is well established for hundreds of years. We also know a lot about how information spreads through networks. It turns out things like viral videos or Facebook likes or other information spreads in exactly the same way that diseases spread through social networks. So this is something we’ve studied for a long time. We have good models of it. And so you can put those things together and start seeing why things like this happen. So if I were to give you a hypothesis, it would be that a smart guy started this page, or maybe one of the first people who liked it would have scored high on that test. And they liked it, and their friends saw it, and by homophily, we know that he probably had smart friends, and so it spread to them, and some of them liked it, and they had smart friends, and so it spread to them, and so it propagated through the network to a host of smart people, so that by the end, the action of liking the curly fries page is indicative of high intelligence, not because of the content, but because the actual action of liking reflects back the common attributes of other people who have done it.

Thanks Benoit and Paul for forwarding the link!

Life After Cancer: How the iPhone Helped Me Achieve a Healthier Lifestyle

Excerpt from this article:

…This tiny computer, in its obviousness and unsurprising advancements, keeps me in check and tells me what I often forget about – that I should get up and go. From a technological perspective, Apple’s Health and the apps I use are solid and useful; from a conceptual standpoint, watching that step count go up and up is a reminder that I’m free.

…I can track and optimize my lifestyle with an iPhone. An entire ecosystem of apps, services, and devices capable of monitoring my nutrition, weight, fitness activity, and even sleep uses my iPhone as the central, private hub that I control. On the iPhone, everything is collected and visualized by a single Health app, which can be connected to more apps. As a cancer survivor who wants to improve his lifestyle because of a newfound appreciation of life, all this is incredible.

…Tracking my life with my iPhone makes my commitment real and the effects directly measurable. Being able to open an app and be coached through workout sessions or use my phone to track steps and runs is empowering. iPhone software has enriched my lifestyle and it has allowed me to be more conscious in my daily choices.

Twitter Can Predict Heart Disease, Says Study

Twitter Can Predict Heart Disease, Says Study

Except from this article:

A new study has found that Twitter can predict rates of coronary heart disease better than traditional methods.

…Negative emotional language and topics, such as words like “hate” or expletives, remained strongly correlated with heart disease mortality, even after variables like income and education were taken into account. Positive emotional language showed the opposite correlation, suggesting that optimism and positive experiences, words like “wonderful” or “friends,” may be protective against heart disease.

 …With billions of users writing daily about their daily experiences, thoughts and feelings, the world of social media represents a new frontier for psychological research. Such data could be an invaluable public health tool if able to be tied to real-world outcomes.

Map: What we’re thankful for, according to our Facebook posts

facebook

Excerpt from this article:

We don’t just tell our family what we’re thankful for at the Thanksgiving table anymore. We post our thanks on Facebook, too — and that gives the data analysts at Facebook a trove of data to analyze about what, exactly, we’re grateful for.

Facebook scraped user updates for status updates containing the words “grateful” and “thankful” this past summer, when a few challenges circulated asking users to post about the things they cherished in their lives. And they found, perhaps unsurprisingly, that Facebook users are most thankful for their friends and families.