Cashless Parking; No Change? No Problems.

A few weeks ago I was given a job that involved some work at Monash University. I was reasonably aware that I may need to pay for parking. I never carry cash, so I was ready to combat the cashless parking systems with my credit card. But, as it turned out this was not an option this time.

A Parking Problem

The first stop over I had was at the Peninsula Campus in Frankston. I was ever diligent looking for a free space, but time was a premium so I pulled into a spot and headed over to the pay box. Unfortunately, I never carry change and the few dollars I’d kept in the console of the car had mysteriously vanished. But, armed with a credit card I thought I had the system beat. A swipe with the card on the machine and selecting an hour, as it was the minimum, but NOTHING happened! I tried again, and the result was the same.

I know how ruthless the private parking army can be, so I checked the machine again. It turns out that if you pay with a card the minimum amount payable was ten dollars! Well I wasn’t having that, so I figured I would risk it and went about my job. After a about twenty minutes I returned to my car and happy to see no fine, but they could have made the pay system much easier, in my opinion.

Parking Problems, Part 2

The next stop was at the Clayton campus. Clayton is much bigger and busier that the Peninsula campus, and here they have security guards on all the parking. There was no way I was risking leaving the car without a ticket. I tried to find a spot that was free from pay parking, but there was nothing. Although I’m fairly certain private parking fines can’t be enforced, it was not worth the risk. I decided that if it would cost ten dollars to avoid a fifty dollar fine than it was worth it. After I parked I spotted a sign, something about using a parking app?! Now I love using tech to solve small problems, so I downloaded to app and poked about its innards.

Cashless Parking Solution

Cashless Parking App - Screenshots
PayByPhone Screenshots – Rob Williams 2019

The PayByPhone app was the answer to my cashless parking problems. There was no need for a minimum spend, beyond the usual 1 hour. It did not take very long to set up and I could see myself using the app in the future – I’m very wary of apps that seem to have a singular purpose.

I didn’t think my job was going to take longer than an hour, but some miscommunication meant that it did. The app gave me a warning that the ticket was about to expire and I had the option to pay for more time. This is something that is not possible when using a traditional ticketing system. This by itself makes the app worthwhile, as I have received many tickets purely because a meeting went longer than expected. As you can see in the screenshots, the app saves your parking history, which is excellent when it comes to claiming that parking amount on your tax return, no need to keep hold of those disappearing ink paper receipts!

While I was skeptical at first, as I never like handing over credit card details, I really enjoyed this experience and would happily use it again. In using an app like this there have been many times that I would have avoided a fine. I feel that the app could use some extra information, perhaps a map of paybyphone accepted places. I’m not sure how new this parking system is but I hope it continues to roll out in many more places.

Oh, and when I did return to my car the parking inspectors were in full force.

Feature Image: by Ali Morshedlou on Unsplash

Time Clock

Making the Most of Free Time

One element of poor time management is thinking, ‘this task is too big, it will take too long and I don’t have that much time today’. In times like this you essentially park the task in a tiny 2 DO L8R file in a dark corner of your mind behind the I HOPE IT WILL ALL GO AWAY section. This was my thinking on almost everything; then I found a juicy nugget of FREE TIME.

Making Free Time

In reality there is no such thing as FREE TIME, but rather a structuring of time, reallocating importance and getting value from the time that we have.  Let’s do a thing. Don’t worry it will be painless. Make a sketch of your day, a brief time line of what you need to get done on a daily basis and when you do it; don’t create a fantasy, this is for you only – feel free to burn it when your done.

For the record mine looks like this:

  • 0700 Wake up, lie in bed on phone to 0730.
  • 0730 Get up, do morning stuff – sort kids out for school, and drop them off.
  • 0845 Get home from the school drop off.
  • 0945 Leave for work.
  • 1815 Get Home from work.
  • 1830 Start getting dinner ready.
  • 2030 Chilling on the couch; Kids are all done for the day.
  • 2300 Bed.

When I did this I found that there was a time where nothing was happening, well a few, but lets focus on this one. From 0845 – 0945, was just me time and what was I doing with it? NOTHING! Usually sitting on the couch, coffee in hand watching half of a movie I’d seen ten times before. I was literally killing time until work. So I decided to use it, I took 45 minutes and started doing things. Every morning for about 3 months I worked outside clearing my garden and building a retaining wall, which had been a job 2 years on hold because I didn’t have the time!

Knowing The Time

Understanding how long a tasks takes is imperative to proper task management. In the example of gardening it did not matter, I just did a bit every day and that was that. But because I used a given time, now I know how much work can be done in that 45 minutes. I know how many holes I can dig, how much land I can clear, how fast I can empty a loaded trailer, and many others. This same reasoning can be applied to any task.

Make the Time, Use the Time

Give yourself a time frame, claw back some wasted time our of your day and set a task. How many words can you write in a 15 minutes? What about editing? How long do the dishes really take to do? Once you know these simple questions to tasks, you are free to work on ways to improve and get faster. I have done this same exercise with cleaning, painting, and writing. What do you think you could use it for?

Final Tip

I work best to music, and I set an alarm on my phone for the time period, and I work fully focused until the timer goes off. Then I bask in the glory of a completed task.

Feature Image: Seth Macey on Unsplash

Automation in the Terminal

A few weeks ago I had to go to the airport. I had not been to the airport in a while and some drastic changes had been made! At least from my point of view.

Big Trouble at the Check-In

I was dropping my kids off and we were running late (airport late, not late late), which really didn’t help the cognitive thinking. So we got there with a few minutes to spare and to my surprise the baggage check-in is missing. There were lots of touch screens and conveyor belts and people seemed to know what they were doing. But the one thing missing was a person to ask. We had about 5 minutes until check-in was closed, I looked about and found a counter and a person to ask.

Waiting, waiting, waiting… and when she was ready, ‘Hi, umm what do I do here?’. And she just looked at me as if I’d just removed my own head. Based on her meager instruction, I took to tapping on the screen. It was so simple, press button and type in flight number. Oh yeah, well maybe if someone got their shit together to get here earlier…

The last time I was at the airport there was a person to do this for you. And now that job has gone? Sure it was probably reassigned or something, and maybe it wasn’t the most interesting thing to do all day, but it was a job! Now that has been allocated to a program and savvy engineers.

Automation of the Soul

I have written about AI replacing human jobs previously. And I am still looking forward to a time where AI replaces many jobs, but it does need to be handled properly, especially in a service industry. In the airport case, it was almost an assumption that you would understand the processes. The ticket said NOTHING about automated check-in, and there was no one to help. A simple ‘help me’ button somewhere would have done it.

Automation has been replacing jobs for a long time, but more thought needs to go into training people on how to operate under the new regime. I felt completely in the dark. We are all busy being swabbed for bombs, but someone can’t help me load a bag?

As I said I don’t go to the airport all that often and it does feel like the place is run on the understanding that you know where you are going and what you are doing. There wasn’t even a sign pointing to arrivals, only departures – one has to figure that out. However after one visit I’m confident that I know what to do now and the next time will not be as challenging. Unless in the next five years it is all drones and personal flight systems… OMG.

Perhaps it was the shock, more than the experience. It was not as I expected, and perhaps that is the trick to dealing with fast paced automation. Be prepared to learn something new, give it a go because it probably isn’t all that hard.

Feature Image: That Way by Kerry Lannert (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)

How Effective are Requests to Turn Off Your Ad-blocker?

Probably one of the biggest threats to the reality of the internet and its integrity and stability is the fact that people expect what they find there to be free. If you have not enjoyed the onslaught of annoying and obtrusive ads then, like myself, you probably have an ad-blocker installed into your browser, and if you don’t, well you’re a stronger person than I.

First let me clarify what I said about the internet having integrity and stability. I realise this statement may in itself be slightly laughable. However, producing content takes time and money, and if the information is being given away for nothing then there is little time for fact checking, or writing properly or anything.

Imagine for a second a paper with all that ads removed. In fact, go and get a paper, a pair of scissors and remove all of the ads, and then go find a wedding with the hand full of confetti you’re left with. Writers and editors may drive the information bus, but without the advertising wallet filling up the tank it wont get very far. While we may not like it, advertisers pay for the majority of the content we’re reading.

Most ad-blockers operate just to remind the visitor that the ads you may be seeing are there for a purpose. Sometimes you can choose to ignore them, and other times they block access until you ‘white list’ the site. This one, encountered at Inside Retail, blocked access.

Screenshot: Adblocker – www.insideretail.com (2019)

All of the requests I have seen have been professional and polite. Usually when confronted with a message, I take a mental exam of the site in question:

  • Am I here for a purpose?
  • Is this content I really want?
  • Is the content laid out in a functional way?
  • Do I trust the information from this site?

If the answer to these are yes, then the ad-blocker is turned off. However, once it is off, it depends on how the ads are displayed if it gets turned back on and the site closed; the main culprit for this are the scroll following ads.

I find the request to be highly effective and if your site needs the revenue from advertising streams to keep plugging out valuable content, then I suggest you keep using them. It is a simple and clever way to keep readers aware that online content is valuable and needs to be paid for by someone. I doubt there are too many people that would be shunned by a simple request to do something that costs them nothing.

Feature Image: Sign: No Entry by Matthew Paul Argall (CC BY 2.0)

Can I Share Links for Streaming Content?

A while ago I bought a product online, to be more precise it was a rented film. When I paid my money I was given a link and access to the film for two days after I started playing it. Now currently my family is away and I thought, could I share the link so they could enjoy it also? This brought up an ethical conundrum for me, is this legal? It prompted a bit of a google and the answers I found were surprising.

The answer simply seems to be, yes. And it looks like they don’t care. Obviously if you are sharing with lots of people they may look into it. But for the most part it’s all okay. But why is this? Essentially when you share a link you are advertising the company and this is a good thing. You are endorsing the site where you got the content from and this is more valuable than the thing itself. You’re being the influencer for them; an employee of little cost.

Imagine for a second if these companies cracked down on people sharing content. Many of my purchases are via one company, say if they get upset at me for sharing something and decide to send out cease and desist letters, what am I most likely to do? Well in a near saturated market place, I’ll most likely close my account and go somewhere else. I could even return to buying the DVD from the store!

They need our custom, and if looking the other way for a second allows them to succeed then they are willing to do it. So share away, advertise your steaming service of choice – it’s what they want you to do!

Feature Image: Watch (328) by Doug Waldron (CC BY-SA 2.0)

The Procrastinators Guidebook; How to Free Up Your Time

I am just brilliant at so many things, but what I am best at is PROCRASTINATING!! I love it so much (pause for effect) that I’m probably doing it right now…

// I actually went looking for a video to insert and dropped into the pitfall of YouTube //

Hold on while I pack away all this vicarious living that YouTube has brought me. Anyway, back to the point. Procrastination is basically, as I view it, the avoidance of work. It is the bane of those moments when we are relaxed and feel the need to fill the void with something other than staring at the walls. It’s a pause, a break or just a stop gap measure. But, it becomes a problem when it can’t be shaken off and you loose precious minutes (or hours) to the black hole of the procrastinated life.

The best and probably easiest way to slay the procrastination beast is to fill your day with things to do. And while that may be sound advice some days are just going to be empty, there will be times when you literally have nothing to do, so what then?

Well, your time has value and you need to ask a question, what value am I getting from this activity? You are giving up your precious time to some other thing, and you need to decide what exactly is it giving back? If it is giving you nothing, then it is not worth your time. Here, how about an example?

Often I find myself watching, or re-watching television to fill time. I get bored and flick channels until I find something that I’ve probably seen before, but it will do for the moment until I find something better. But what value am I getting from this seventh viewing? Nothing. I don’t even laugh at the jokes anymore. I’m not even getting a minutia of entertainment, the thing is just on so my brain can go bye byes for an hour or so. Now, when I find myself in this type of situation I peel myself off the couch and force a job into my head, something that needs to get done, something that is going to improve my life. Currently I’m growing a veggie garden (although it’s mostly fruit) so I can be a bit self sufficient. So my job of choice is watering or just going out to check on it. And then I have turned my wasteful procrastination into something productive. Then when the day is close to over, there is some sense of achievement. I don’t feel like I have wasted a large part of the day. Any time that I am able to step back and look at something I have done in that particular day, I feel good. I have used time effectively, and instead of feeling like I wasted time, I can reflect and take note.

Naturally we can’t make big sweeping changes to our lives. But just one small bite at a time and it will get better. Remember it is all about value! Get good value out of your procrastination and then it is not time wasted but rather earned and banked to use later.

And because I had to:

That video is 15 mins, but what did you learn? Coyote is wildly entertaining and informative. If your going to watch YouTube make it something that you can take back from, make IT pay for giving them your time. Then your time will come back to you. After all I got back into gardening by watching a few gardening videos, it inspired me to go out and achieve on my own, so in that way I don’t feel the time was wasted, instead it worked for me.

How do you free your time, and slay the beast? Comment below.

Feature Image: Posters Vintage by Camila Leite de Oliveira (CC BY 2.0)

Social Media and the Anonymous Society

There is little doubt that social media use has become ubiquitous in modern societies. So much so that it is almost impossible not to have some sort of online presence. With just a persons name you can find out an amazing amount of information, and with face recognition software, we will soon see the disappearance of the anonymous society. But is all this necessarily a bad thing?

Enter the Fixers

Currently there doesn’t seem to be a week that someone isn’t caught out doing something deplorable by social media; such as the Starbucks Arrest or the Racist Lawyer Rant. In the past both of these, and many more incidents, would have gone unnoticed, brushed under the carpet of our anonymous society. But now they are viewed, shared and judged by a social media consortium.

One additional aspect of incidents such as these, is that it helps others share their stories, and we are reminded that sometimes these are more the norm rather than the unusual. It can demonstrate a point of view from the outside of a persons social network.

Crime & Punishment

With social media being the judge and jury to these crimes one question remains, who is the executioner? For this I rely on the adage, live by the sword, die by the sword. Many of the punishments dealt out are self imposed, or reflected back onto the parties by social media. Starbucks held ‘anti-bias training‘ closing stores to do so, and The Lawyer has lost contracts and had his business rating lowered by angry consumers. The outcomes for both of these incidents will be different, one will do something and make changes while the other will most likely try to ride it out in hiding.

What about Freedom?

Some might say that freedom of speech is vital to a society regardless of size. I believe this is true, but not freedom from consequence.

The way that information is being created and shared on a daily basis. It is becoming harder and harder to keep things inside a circle of tolerance. The people in these examples have had their opinions and ideas festered and protected by those they surrounded themselves with. While it may not have been done on purpose, it has been the outcome. But now with social media, it is much easier to show people the effects of what they say and how they act; especially to people and communities of limited voice.

Social Media Gets Results

The fear of being outed on social media can keep people from doing things that they know is wrong. Everyday in the park, across the road from my house people are littering (car batteries was the latest). I wonder how fast it would stop using a camera and social media feed to expose the culprits?

Feature Image: Ryko naktys by Zoi Koraki (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)

Selfie Culture; What a Bunch of Posers!

One of my secret pleasures is looking at random selfies. I have found that many subjects, mainly those under 25, have a few poses to pull ready for the shot. When looking at these and I often wonder how did they decide on that  pose? How many photos did it take to achieve such photographic confidence?

Kids Today

When I compare the way my kids, especially my daughter (6), handle themselves in front of the camera it is clear that the ability to pose just comes with experience. Although she doesn’t ask to delete photos that she’s not happy with, I am sure that this is not that far away! When taking photos I can ask for a variety of expressions from her and she hits it almost every time. A part of this success is that she wants to see the photos straight away. Could this be an aid to memory? I believe so. With the immediate result it’s easier to see if the pose had the desired effect. If not then a new photo can be taken in seconds.

You Lookin’ at Me?

Generally, I don’t enjoy getting my photo taken (despite a recent post), or even looking in a mirror. It was something that I was never used to as photos were mostly taken to mark a special occasion. They were not especially expensive, but there was a cost and time involved. Film was sometimes developed weeks after the shot and there was no second chances to capture the moment. Occasionally a roll would come back and some photos were taken over six months ago! I didn’t give too much thought as to what I looked like in a photo at the time it was taken; it just happened. But with modern devices it’s possible to have reflective considerations on how you look in photos and this can prepare you for times when you’re not in total control of the camera.

I’m No Model but…

I don’t believe taking a selfie is vain, and knowing how to handle yourself in a photo is an ever increasing important skill. Imagine going for a job and the interviewer takes your photo (this has happened to me three times), do you want your one chance to stand out to be a good one? You can’t ask to see the photo – well you could but that’s not going to go well – and you need to be confidant that you look your absolute best to stand out of the slush pile.

Selfie Skillz

Like most things taking a good selfie requires skill and patience. Find out what works best for you. However there are a few tips that I’ve picked up in my travels.

  • Look up to the camera and not down.
  • Avoid the front on shot, a slight angle is more interesting.
  • Don’t look into the light, find some shade if possible.
  • Take many and pick the best one.
  • Delete as you go, don’t wait until the memory is full.

These work for me in most situations, but not necessarily for everyone. Figure out what works best for you; but also remember not every photo needs to be a selfie.

Feel free to comment below with your own selfie tips!

Feature Image: Posers by Mick C (CC BY 2.0)

Why I said ‘Goodbye’ to Facebook Groups

Groups on Facebook are a way that like minded people can come together and discuss topics of interest. Anyone with a Facebook account can start a Group, and dependent on the settings others can find it and join. Once accepted the new member can make posts and comment on other peoples posts. All of this is great in theory, but it relies on the premise that people are accepting of the ideas of their fellows. In the end I found groups to be more divisive than inclusive, again showing that ‘social media’ is a fallacy.

I’m right and you’re wrong!

Many Facebook Groups appear to follow the mantra, ‘I’m right and you’re wrong!’. However, this is flawed thinking. A Group by its definition is supposed to be a place of shared ideas. People of different backgrounds join or are invited because of a common theme. Listening and understanding the thoughts of others is how we learn. We don’t have to accept the ideas of others but it is not that hard to listen, and engage in sensible debate. I found that too many times a person started a Facebook Group with the intent of shouting their messages and ignoring or abusing all others. But that is more akin to a Page rather than a Group.

So what happened?

I was a member of several groups that were about a similar topic. However, I found that many people were just arguing all the time, mostly over rules and how it should be played. But the funny thing about this particular hobby is it has very few rules on how to play, as set out by the creators. Some of the arguing was so bad that a few members had split and formed new Facebook Groups. But even in these new Groups a lot of the talk revolved around which Group was right and why they don’t talk to that Group and so on…

It was all very depressing and it made me start to dislike something that I had loved doing. A few times I had  commented that maybe these things were not worth worrying about, only to find myself at the bottom of a dog pile. So instead of trying to weave my way through the clouds of hate that these groups produced, I pulled the plug and exited all of the groups. I’d had enough. I didn’t care which faction was right. Why should I let some toxic individuals ruin my fun? It was something I didn’t need in my life. It was all very sad (as in pathetic).

How I feel now…

After ditching all the groups, I felt a massive wave of relief. I got back into doing what I thought of as an enjoyable pastime. I began to see it for what it was, and was less concerned about what others thought of it or each other. I started to follow people that seemed to enjoy it as much as me. They were making videos and periscopes and running blogs. They talked about the hobby itself rather the who did what or where. It was a much more interesting time. I feel that Groups are really for the few individuals that start them, and not necessarily for other people to join.

Would I try them again?

All of this happened some time ago and just recently I have joined a couple of different Groups. I am much more diligent this time and I read a few posts and see how people respond. Also I found that a Group that has clear rules about what it accepted and what is not, has made for a better time and an active community (such as this Hiking & Camping Group).

What I learned…

Basically, if something is happening in a Group that you don’t like. Don’t hang around, get out! Odds are many others feel that same way. As I said before, anyone can start a Group, but to run a Group? Perhaps that takes something more than the average Facebook user is willing to commit. Before starting something, have a think. What will the Group be about? What should the discussion revolve around? How should the discussion take place? How should people that don’t follow guidelines be dealt with? Maybe then social media will become more social rather then a network of closed door rooms.

Feature Image: Goodbye. by Lucy (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)

The Family Gaming Debate: Should You Restrict Kids Access to Gaming?

Now I don’t have any problems with my children playing video games and I am a gamer myself. I believe they are a form of entertainment and I don’t believe they have many negative effects beyond that of any other entertainment. But as with everything, moderation is best and over use can lead to problems.

Excessive Gaming Issues

I have noticed that at times my son can become aggressive when gaming. To counter this we have recommended that he go and do something else for a while. It could be assumed that this behavior is tied to the games, however this is more the catalyst rather than the problem. Usually when he is ‘losing control’ it is due to sleep deprivation and caused by him not going to bed. Recently he, at times, has been staying up late playing, and this has resulted in his sleeping patterns being disrupted. As he is playing games online, and with players all over the world, there is no down time and he can find a game to play at anytime, and this is the main problem.

Restricting Access

In order to assist him in maintaining a healthy playing structure, we decided to limit the consoles access. At the start we set times for two breaks, one at midday and the other at six, both of these. We picked these times so he stopped at meal times. We also set it to clock off a ten, and return at seven the next morning. This worked well for a few weeks. After a while he asked for the daytime’s to be switched off as it was interrupting his play with friends. The fact that he asked, rather than moaned, and ha proper arguments we agreed and removed the block for the day, and we let the night one out to eleven, which was the time that his friends seemed to leave as well.

Is it the Real Solution?

Turning off the console can create new issues as, you are doing two very different things. The first is removing a form of entertainment and the second is you are restricting communication with friends. So when you are taking away the gaming console, you are also saying that they can’t play with their friends. The gaming console has become a personal safe place for them to hangout. It’s the mall of the current generation.

A Better Way?

Recently I have become more mindful that when he is ‘playing’ he is actually interacting with friends. When I want to talk with him, I ask him to turn off the mic, so I don’t embarrass him in front of his friends. I needed to realise that this is his place and I am an outsider. Our communication became better when I learned what he thought of as acceptable. For example, he is fine being called to dinner and other general family business, but talking about anything personal needs to be approached more carefully.

I guess it is about respect and privacy. Sometimes he is okay with me watching and talking about the game and other times he is not. I need to read each situation and act accordingly. If I get a bit of a stare-down I know that he wants to be left alone. Obviously I can choose to do so or not, but if I don’t need to tell him something then usually I leave him be and if not we have worked out signals so he can ‘opt out’ of the game for a second so his mates don’t hear what I am saying.

Learning to Deal with New Tech

Sometimes I feel that these are issues that my own parents did not have to deal with. But of course they had, it was just slightly different. Even though the console still turns off at eleven, and he usually goes to bed at a reasonable hour, I feel that he was right and the day times were a bit excessive.

If you’re having problems with excessive use perhaps try limiting the console’s access to the internet, but as with everything a discussion that involves all parties can result in a smoother transition.

What are your thoughts on restricting kids access to gaming? Feel free to comment below.

Feature Image: xbox controller. by Adam.James (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)

Forget to Logout? The Expectation of Online Privacy

At work last week I was looking up the companies Facebook page and noticed that my boss had, at some point, forgotten to log out of his account. While many nefarious thoughts about what mischief I could cause ran through my head, in the end I clicked on log out and left it at that. I didn’t tell him or snoop around on the page – I’m not sure if that is my personal set of ethics kicking in or just a lack of interest. My boss is a reasonably casual guy and I don’t think he would have cared if I had hit him with a sneaky status update. We have all seen it before, someone has their account ‘hacked’, which is code for leaving their phone unlocked around ‘friends’. But it got me thinking, do you have the right to privacy if you leave an account logged in?

Facebook by Samantha Steele
(CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)

If the worst thing to happen was a friend writes a funny update on your status, that can be deleted as soon as you find out, then it is not really a problem. Most people that do this sort of thing would be privy to most things on your Facebook page anyway. But what about a stranger? What if you left your phone on a table for a minute and when you returned to collect it someone was casually scrolling through your Facebook page? Would you feel different or the same?

I did once find a phone at work, it was left unlocked, and we did the right thing and called a couple of her contacts to let her know that we had her phone. I have also found four wallets in my lifetime, all which were returned because I went through its contents to find information about the owner. I still felt very awkward about searching through someones private contacts. Even though on these occasion there was a reason to be searching and probing into someone’s private details.

Where does this stand with a computer, particularly one that is known to be used by other computers. So at one point my boss was in my office, most likely ‘helping’ with some paperwork – I was sick for a few days last week – and I guess at one point he checked his Facebook status and left it logged in. So if you forget to logout, do you have any rights to privacy? or is it the same as leaving a $50 note in an ATM (this happened to me once)? As soon as you walk away the expectation is that it is gone, despite what the reality may be.

Facebook by Johan Larsson (CC BY 2.0)

Generally I don’t log out of Facebook at home or on my phone, it is always logged in. This is because I am lazy, I can’t be bothered to log out and back in every time I check it. However if I found someone – even a family member – casually scrolling though the page I would feel violated. I know several time sat work I leave Google signed in, which in my view is worse than Facebook as they have access to all of my emails, drive docs, and purchased entertainment – I don’t have credit card information saved, but I suspect that many people might.

The right to privacy comes down to the location. At work you should have an expectation of privacy as it is a professional place, at home absolutely, unless you are a child. However in a public place than absolutely not, if you leave a public computer logged in to Facebook, or worse, than anything that happens is your own fault. I’d like to live in a world where this doesn’t have to be the case, but the desire to see how the other is living is a core trait of humans – it is something that has been done for survival for generations. After all is this not what Facebook and other social media is all about? We are allowing others into our lives to see how we are living. A like is really nothing more than a stranger saying that you are doing things correctly.

It would be good if Facebook had a setting that caused it to logout after a predetermined time of inactivity to prevent someone from gaining access due to a forgotten logout. But that is not reality, and even in areas where general privacy is a given, in the end it is more hope and trust than a guarantee. The only way to be certain of privacy is to log out after every use, make it a habit. In Facebook click on setting, and it is the last menu item, click it to sign out and secure your online presence.

Feature Image: PRIVACY by Metro Centric (CC BY 2.0)

Thoughts on Entering the AI Age

The development of Artificial Intelligence (AI) is the next incarnation of our ever evolving digital landscape. But what does this mean and what impact will it have on society?

Some believe that it will have a massive impact on the employment rate, and others disagree. Personally I am on the side that it will affect the employment rate. We are already seeing jobs being affected by automation and while it may not be true AI, as they are not thinking, these changes have started and it would take a massive effort to reverse the trend. Think about self service machines that are appearing in many big box retailers, everyone one of these are doing the job that a few years ago was being completed by a person. Self-serve checkouts exist for one reason, to make the companies more money. Although it has resulted in an increase in theft, intentional or otherwise, these companies have determined that the resulting loss to profit is more cost effective than standard employment. Essentially it is a numbers game and one in which researchers are combating with interesting techniques.

Again while it is not AI, but rather a sophisticated multimedia device, the programming involved does seem to be teaching the program to ‘learn’, in that it may be able to predict what items are often bought together and perhaps suggest meal plans and so on to increase sales – this is something that a traditional server might not have been able to offer. However the ability for a program to ‘learn’ does not make it AI, a true AI machine would be capable of deciding if it wanted to be stuck somewhere selling people grapes. These machines are replacing a workforce, however it is nothing more than a progression of consistent workforce automation.

So here we have that machines are already replacing some jobs, but this is not something new. Machines have been replacing jobs since the beginning of the industrial revolution. Think about the job you currently are doing, does it have elements that are being completed by automation? Even the act of pouring your morning coffee has elements of automation, as at one point in time a person had to milk cows and this has long disappeared as an employable skill with the invention of the milking machine. How about a bank teller? When was the last time you walked into the bank for something as simple as making a withdrawal of funds? ATM’s (automated teller machine) have been doing this job since the 60’s. Ever bought a drink form a machine? These have existed since the 1860’s. So you can see it is a slow progression but it is certainly nothing new – jobs come and go, automation makes things easier in general.

AI and further development of automation will affect the workforce. But it is not something that any working person should be concerned about. Times change and probably one of the key indicators of intelligence is the ability to change and develop. I for one am looking forward to a time, where we have driver-less trucks on the road and completely automated shopping facilities. I believe with out the constraints of completing mundane tasks, the human population will become an artistic utopia where people will have more time available for self expression, and as long as it is not hurting anyone else, this will continue to be a great time to be alive.

How do you feel about AI and automation, does it make you fear the future or excited to see how far it will go?

Feature Image: robot by Jem Henderson (CC BY-ND 2.0)