The Contextual-Clues Edition Monday, July 29, 2019

The Terrible Anxiety Of Location Sharing Apps, by Boone Ashworth, Wired

If you set aside the many legitimate concerns about nigh-Orwellian privacy violations and the potential for domestic abuse, the central promise of location sharing is peace of mind. Just tap an icon and the app pops up to issue welcome assurance that someone you love isn’t dead at the bottom of a river. And if that person is in trouble, spotting something amiss about where they are could potentially help save their life.

But even using the technology as intended can go awry. “When you invite this technology to mediate your care relations of whatever kind, you’re also inviting it to do so through its own limited bandwidth, it’s own limited algorithms,” says Natasha Schüll, a professor of media culture and communication at NYU and author of the book Addiction by Design. “That doesn’t always have the contextual clues. It can only monitor certain things.”

The Pirates Strike Back, by M.G. Siegler, 500ish Words

Even if you are eventually paying for all of these services, the experience of using them as their own, stand-alone apps is sub-par. Which is a nice way of saying “crap”. It’s like an egg hunt in a coal mine. Friends was on Netflix, now it’s on HBO Max. The Office was on Netflix, now it’s on NBC Whatever. So and So Movie was on Amazon Prime Video, but now it has been pulled to stream exclusively for the next three month window on Showtime. You will not be able to keep up with it all. Nor should you.

In a way, the success state here ends up looking like… cable. A simple, unified UI to serve up the different content you want. Even better if you can buy different content sources as… bundles. Funny that.

Walk the Walk

Do We Need To Walk 10,000 Steps A Day?, by Claudia Hammond, BBC

What can we conclude from all of this? Count if you find it motivates you, but remember there’s nothing special about 10,000 steps. Set the goal that is right for you. It might be more, it might be less – or it might be throwing out your tracker entirely.

Fitness Trackers Are Good For Your Health, But That 10,000-step Goal Is Overblown, by Bruce Horovitz, Washington Post

Truth be told, even the woman behind the study — who concedes that she, too, is enamored of her step tracker — can’t say how many steps are the right number for each walker.

“No one size fits all,” said I-Min Lee, an associate epidemiologist at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston and a professor at Harvard Medical School.

But no matter how many steps you take, merely wearing and using a fitness tracker — particularly for older women, older men and other people who tend to be somewhat inactive — “can be beneficial not only to your health but to your quality of life,” Lee said.

How Accurate Are Fitness Trackers? We Asked An Expert, by Simon Hill, Digital Trends

“The hip is really the best place for measuring steps and also most types of physical activity,” says Cadmus-Betram. “A smartphone worn in a pants pocket should be able to calculate steps very accurately.”

“At any moment your tracker could be 20 beats too high or low.”

Wrist worn devices are inevitably going to record a lot of extraneous movement that has little to do with physical activity. Even if you wear your fitness tracker on your non-dominant wrist – which is the recommendation – it’s going to register all of your hand movements.


How To Succeed At Work, According To Angela Ahrendts, Who Was One Of Apple’s Highest-paid Executives, by Lisa Eadicicco, Business Insider

When former Apple retail chief Angela Ahrendts started working for the technology giant in 2014, she learned an important lesson — particularly within her first 100 days. "If it teaches you anything, it teaches you that they wanted you for a reason," she said when speaking with LinkedIn's Jessi Hempel on the company's "Hello Monday" podcast in May. "So get in your lane, bring your gifts to the table."

That lesson of understanding where your strengths lie and applying that to your job, even if it's a position in a new field you haven't worked in before, is one that Ahrendts said she passes on her to children.


Government Encryption Backdoors Still Impossible And Pointless, Experts Say, by Paul Wagenseil, Tom's Guide

"Cryptography can't only work for the good guys and only allow access to authorities, no more than guns that only allow you to shoot in self-defense," Chester Wisniewski, a senior security researcher with digital-protection firm Sophos, told Tom's Guide. "Were [Barr and Wray] to talk to experts in cryptography, of which the FBI has a few, they would understand that they are asking for a rainbow-colored unicorn."

"It's the same fallacy as being a little bit pregnant," said Robert Graham, CEO of Atlanta consulting firm Errata Security, in a long Twitter thread. "Encryption is either breakable by everybody or breakable by nobody, without much difference in between."

Bottom of the Page

I have lowered my daily goal from 10,000 steps to 7,000. I am feeling good, thank you very much.

(During the past seven days, I've exceeded 9,000 steps in six of the seven days, while I've only exceeded 10,000 steps in two of the seven days.)


The older I get, the more I feel the imposter syndrome lurking inside me. The older I get, the more I believe in the part luck plays in all our lives. The older I get, the more I feel meritocracy, as a guiding principle, is totally inappropriate in a humane world.


Thanks for reading.