Tag Archives: technology

A Mind is a Terrible Thing to Waste

Years ago, in a June issue of Inc Magazine includes an article, Innovation: The Outer Limits, which captured my attention. It detailed “the hottest, most mind-blowing high-tech products” looming on the horizon. It certainly grabbed my attention, causing me to shudder with glee—really.

First were quantum computers, promising to run circles around the current offerings, reducing hours of calculations to mere seconds.  Then there were devices that will detect and respond to brain waves—great for gamers and virtual reality projections.  Listed next was manufactured body parts: prostheses, replacement eyes, and synthetic organs. 

Another promising advance lies in the area of nanotechnology with the ability to alter substances at the molecular level and—my personal fav—nanomachines that could be injected into your body to repair, rebuilt, or scour.

Technology is exhilarating and its implications are exciting, but given the potential downside, perhaps I'm not quite ready to improve my memory after all. Click To Tweet

Last was the opportunity to chemically enhance the brain, thereby improving memory.  This really excited me.  Wouldn’t it be great to remember more and quickly recall details?  Sign me up!  But wait.  What about the things you want to forget?  That unhappy consideration dimmed my enthusiasm a bit. 

However, what really gave me pause was the recollection of a novel I read in high school (if I can recall something from four decades ago, maybe my memory’s not all that bad after all—but then, why do I sometimes blank on my address?)

The book was Flowers for Algernon (see the Spark Notes to refresh your memory—ironic humor intended).  Essentially, it’s about a mentally challenged man who undergoes an experimental process, which catapults him to the genius level.  Unfortunately, the mental improvement is short-lived as he soon regresses to his former self, with the implication that he could soon die.

Technology is exhilarating and its implications are exciting, but given the potential downside, perhaps I’m not quite ready to improve my memory after all.

Do you like this post? Want to read more? Check out Peter’s book, Woodpecker Wars: Discovering the Spirituality of Every Day Life, available wherever books are sold.

Green Publishing

green publishingA growing trend in magazine publishing is “going green.” Green publishing means different things to different people and includes many facets. The most common and visible result of green publishing is digital editions. Digital editions are issues that are not printed on paper but read on a computer screen or reading device, such as Amazon’s Kindle.

For my magazine, we offer two options for digital reading. One is a PDF file of the complete issue, exactly as it will be printed. The other is a list of links to each article on our websites. This is a basic, first step that I have taken, while awaiting for the more advance digital publishing technologies to shake out and for a reader preference to emerge.Green publishing means different things to different people and includes many facets. Click To Tweet

Our digital editions are available a week prior to the magazine being printed and mailed, so our on-line readers get a huge jump on everyone else. We’ve been doing this the longest with Connections Magazine and some of our readers receive digital issues.  New subscribers tend to opt for digital over print. This is certainly a trend that we will see more and more of, which is being accelerated by the current recession.

Here are some reasons, courtesy of Folio magazine, from PennWell Digital Reader Surveys, about why magazine subscribers go digital:

  • easy to save
  • environmentally friendly
  • the ability to search issues
  • easy to forward
  • more timely than print
  • prefer reading on a computer

As for me, there is something about holding the magazine in my hand and not being tied to my computer that I just can’t shake.

Wordsmith Peter DeHaan is a magazine publisher by day and a writer by night.

Are You Addicted to Email?

Imagine you’re in a nondescript room, sitting in a circle with a bunch of strangers, waiting for a meeting to begin.Finally, it is time start and one of the strangers hesitantly confesses: “My name is Fred, and I’m addicted to…email.”addicted to email

Does this strike you as humorous or do you see a bit of yourself in this fictitious scenario? Well, the truth may surprise you.  An AOL survey revealed that 46% of the people in the United States admit to being addicted to email.

According to the survey:

  • 62% of respondents check work email on weekends
  • 19% choose vacation spots that has email access
  • 59% check their email from the bathroom
  • 55% have upgraded their mobile phone just to receive email

Okay, I admit that there are times when I have an irrational urge to check email and occasionally experience a bit of panic when I’m disconnected for too long. Yes, I am part of the 62% who check business email on the weekends.

But the other three items are definitely not me. Vacation is a time to separate myself from email, same with the bathroom (which is were I read my magazines—doesn’t everybody?), and my cell phone is for talking and texting but no email.

So, yes, I use email frequently, I depend on it, and couldn’t run my business without it. But addicted to it? No, just a positive proclivity, with occasional urges to partake, but I’m certainly not addicted to email.

Other people may be addicted to email, but not me—I can control it! I use email frequently, I depend on it, and couldn't run my business without it. But addicted to it? No. Click To Tweet

Wordsmith Peter DeHaan is a magazine publisher by day and a writer by night.

A Disconnect Between Marketing and Technology

I was a loyal customer of a national office supply chain (they’ll remain nameless to protect their otherwise good image). I was a preferred customer, which entitles me to special discounts and occasional rewards (on those rare quarters when I buy “enough” product.) They also send me an email, seemingly weekly, of sales and special offers.

Ten years ago,  I scanned their latest missive and noticed deals on paper shredders. I’ve been using a light-duty model for years and it’s showing its age as it groans through the documents I feed it. I figured that when it shredded its last page, I would replace it with a heavy-duty model.

Incredibly, they were offering an “on-line only” price of $10 for a light-duty model, similar to, but better than my old faithful.  At $10, there was little to lose; the super-deluxe model could wait.

I went to their website to place my order. I entered my email address only to be informed that they had no record of it in their files.There was an obvious disconnect between what Marketing was doing and IT's ability to support them. I wonder how many sales were lost as a result. Click To Tweet

How curious. They had just emailed me that morning; obviously, someone had a record of my email. Unfortunately, the marketing department and the IT (information technology) department were not operating from a common resource.

I was going to abort my order (one explanation why e-commerce shopping charts are abandoned). However, out of a sense of adventure, I forged on. I placed my order without logging in; at it’s conclusion I was asked to sign-up to receive email alerts. I entered my address and they happily took it.

There was an obvious disconnect between what Marketing was doing and IT’s ability to support them.  I wonder how many sales were lost as a result.

Wordsmith Peter DeHaan is a magazine publisher by day and a writer by night.

Let’s Back Up

Many years ago, I worked as a tech writer. I knew the importance of making copies of my work, so I’d faithfully backup my files each Friday as I wrapped up the workweek.

Let's Back Up

One Friday was particularly hectic, and in a rush to begin my weekend, I postponed making my backup, planning to do it first thing Monday morning. That was my first mistake.

My second error is that I left my computer running. Over the weekend, a power spike corrupted the files. As a result, I lost forty hours of carefully crafted writing. I needed to revert to my backup from the prior week.

Although dismayed at my shortsightedness, I immediately began reconstructing my lost work. Fortunately, the second pass went much quicker, and I was able to recompose everything by midday Wednesday. As a bonus, the second version was better than the first.I knew the importance of making copies of my work, so I’d faithfully backup my files. Click To Tweet

Having experienced firsthand the importance of frequently backing up my work, I became fastidious in doing so. It’s a practice that continues to this day. Not only do I make backups on a network drive, but I also use an automatic off-site backup service. And for people who feel they can’t afford the $40 or so annual fee for such a service, they should at least sign up for a free Gmail account and email themselves a copy of important files each time they finish working.

But some people still don’t follow this advice. Periodically, I hear from aspiring writers who lost their entire book when their hard drive crashed. Ouch!

Please make sure I never hear your name mentioned in such a devastating story.

Do you like this post? Want to read more? Check out Peter’s book, Woodpecker Wars: Discovering the Spirituality of Every Day Life, available wherever books are sold.

Can You Disconnect?

Can You Disconnect?

There is a growing phenomenon of people who can’t seem to survive without their cell phones and/or Internet access. They have a compulsion to stay connected 24/7. When they go on vacation, they won’t leave without their technology. They actually develop anxiety when they’re electronically disconnected from the rest of the world. The thought of unplugging causes panic and a foreboding sense of loss and confusion.

In a way, I understand this. In my work technology is an essential element, which without I could not accomplish much. For those rare times when I lose my Internet connection, I feel helpless because so much of what I do requires access to Cyberspace—such as composing this blog entry.

Yet, when I end my workday, I can make it without being online. Yes, the World Wide Web is a nice tool and a convenient resource, but it is just a tool, nothing more; it is not essential to life and living. I can survive without it. Mobile devices are just tools, nothing more; they aren't essential to life and living. Click To Tweet

On my recent trip, I chose not to lug my laptop. As such, I went 90-plus hours without checking email. What a pleasant break! True, I did pay for it when I returned, with hundreds of messages clamoring for my attention and requiring a full day to wade through, but the respite from the information superhighway was wonderfully refreshing.

I did pack my cell phone, but that was primarily to call home. (By the way, my cell phone is just a phone—no Internet access, no text, nothing but voice). Even then, the cell phone was off much of the time—and didn’t work in the convention center anyway.

Frankly, despite my great affection for technology and constant use of it at work, I look forward to those times when I can totally set it aside and live life sans Internet and cell phone.

I can disconnect, can you?

Do you like this post? Want to read more? Check out Peter’s book, Woodpecker Wars: Discovering the Spirituality of Every Day Life, available wherever books are sold.

We Need an App For That: Five Ways Technology Skews My Thinking

Several years ago, a coworker and I would spend hours driving from one office to another. Though he wasn’t a soft-spoken guy, I often strained to hear him as we traveled down the road. This only happened in the car and nowhere else. On many occasions I had this crazy impulse to reach for the stereo to turn up his volume. A couple times, my hand actually moved in that direction. Alas, real life lacks a volume control.

Other times, when listening to people with heavy accents, I sometimes don’t catch all their words. What did he say? It sounded like “transliteration,” but that makes no sense. Maybe he said, “Get on the bus.” That would make sense, but it sure didn’t sound like that. If only I could turn on close captioning then I wouldn’t miss a thing.

At home, my wife and I often “discuss” what we’ve said to each other. I accuse her of not listening, and she claims I miscommunicated. “Let’s go back and play the audio recording,” she says in exasperation. Sometimes I wish we can because I’m sure I’ll be vindicated, and other times I’m glad we can’t because she’s probably right. Someone needs to design an app for that – or maybe not.

It’s not just audio, either. Once, after watching a handful of loose papers – ones once carefully organized – fly about the room in disarray, I longed for an undo button. Although I can hit “control Z” on my computer to correct a few errant keystrokes, there are no do-overs in life. The reality is I should have been more careful and not in such a rush. Thinking before acting is better than wishing for an undo.

Television also affects how I try to interact with reality. Often I see something happen in real life, but not paying attention, I wish to watch it again. I mentally reach for the TV remote to “go back” ten seconds or long for an instant replay to catch every element in slow-motion detail. But no matter how often I wish for this, it never happens.

While I may dream of an app to address these issues, the reality is I don’t need technology to solve my problems. What I need is to focus on life as it unfolds around me, to slow down, and to avoid distraction.

Life is a gift, and I don’t want to miss another moment of it.

Peter DeHaan is magazine publisher by day and a writer by night. Visit peterdehaan.com to receive his newsletter, read his blog, or connect via social media.

Top 10 Posts on From The Musings of Peter DeHaan for 2012

Here are the ten most popular posts on The Musings of Peter DeHaan for 2012. Some are quite recent while others are still being read now even though they were posted years ago. Thank you for reading my posts:

  1. Responding to Email
  2. Woodpecker Wars
  3. A Micro-Garden
  4. Healthcare Costs
  5. 3 Responses to the US Election
  6. Smile…You’re Being Scanned
  7. What If There Was No Mail?
  8. When Innovation Falls Short
  9. Google’s Chrome is Yet to Shine
  10. Do You Lie to Your Doctor?

Which one is your favorite?

When Innovation Falls Short

I recently bought a laptop and included a carrying case with my order. There would be two shipments, first the case and a week later, the laptop. I was given shipping dates for both.

The case arrived a day before it was promised, which impressed me. I like to say, “Under promise and over deliver.” They did that.

Two hours after the package arrived, I received an automated phone call from the shipper, telling me I would receive a delivery tomorrow and would need to be present to sign for it.

Their message came a day too late.

A week later the laptop was delivered. The day after it arrived, I received the same message from the shipper.

This time the phone call came two days late.

I applaud their intent, but laugh at their execution. I can appreciate there might be glitches in perfecting a new process, but those need to be resolved before rolling it out to customers.

This is one more reason why I don’t like receiving deliveries from this shipper.