The apps you need for your divorce

I am a happily divorced father of three children of which I have sole custody.  By Greek standards that is crazy unlikely verging on impossible.  Several years later I am glad I never got too worked up about the whole thing.  I also realize that technology played a major part.  Yeah, I know I am plugging all Google products and yes of course if you want to get technical there are other options, but this is the real world.  I have an army of 7-8 phones (including spares and seconds) to maintain.  Stock Android and similar look and feel all over for us. And preinstalled apps wherever I can get them.

Here are some pointers for those that are in a less relaxed place than me right now:

  1. Google Maps.  This post is continuing on from a presentation I did recently about the Timeline feature in Google Maps which seemed to resonate.  Given permission, Google tracks where you log in from.  You can all share location with each other if you like.  If you connect to a wifi for example it knows where you are.  Or if you have your data connection switched on.  So when you get a law suit claiming that on the 23d of some month and year you can’t remember your daughter fell and hurt her chin, you can easily get reminders.  What is really cool about timeline is that not only does it show you on a map, but it also combines with…
  2. …Google Photos.  Aha, there is that chin on that very same day and it was a minor scratch.  Proof! We also track school reports (just snap), doctor visits (only takes a second.  Snap!) or screen grabs of SMS.  (No need to snap, just make sure it is backing up the ‘screenshots’ folder – you will have to select it.)  Who needs more paper and files around the house?  Snap and throw.  Google Photos offers a mind boggling infinite amount of space for free and has amazing AI tools for searching them instantly.
  3. Google Calendar.  Kids in divorces have everybody shoving agendas down their throats.  Personally I am a soft touch kind of parent.  So it is a widgets on their front screen, with our shared calendar in purple for our shared activities.    I might spend five minutes getting all his basketball games in there for us all to find easily but it is worth it.  If and when he wants to know, it is there waiting for him, right next to the appointment with the orthodontist.
  4. Google Hangouts.  Yes, they use Instagram for their friends, or Messenger or Snapchat or whatever is fashionable.  Which leaves Hangouts, the conveniently preinstalled on every Android phone app, for family.  Unless they look around Settings, it will ping on top of the game they are playing on the phone without destroying their attempt at a record.  If your ex is funny about letting them speak on the phone, use this backdoor.
  5. Google Docs.  It isn’t just about homework.  You also have a million multi page legal documents to work on.  Sometimes you want to share them with your lawyer, sometimes your kids demand to read them.  Again, depending on your parenting style and their maturity you might want the kids to be involved in these documents, to comment, to collaborate, to be able to view if they feel like it sometime at any time in the future, much like….
  6. …Google Drive which is your shared master memory.  Forget saving to physical drives and USB sticks which will get you into trouble sooner or later.  Send those important documents to Drive for future reference.  If you’re lucky, you will archive them and forget them.  If not you might want to dig up those Call Recorder app files which backed up to Drive, or the SMS and call lists in there.
  7. Google Contacts.  I easily export other parents phones from my account to theirs.  No excuses!  YOU call your friend’s mum to arrange that play date!  This also works in reverse as they start saving their friend’s numbers and I can – in emergencies – track down someone in their posse with the damn thing actually switched on.

I can go on and on with such real world examples of how Google is the backbone of our family.  My kids got Gmail accounts the day they were born.  If it was absolutely necessary I guess I could easily dial in to their Chrome browser history.  Haven’t needed to yet and they will be locking me out of their Gmail accounts soon I hope as they approach puberty and don’t need me helping them with it anymore.  When a phone is confiscated by your ex, lost or broken (as happens with kids, OK, actually I destroy more phones than they do!) we just log in with their Gmail and all apps, games and contacts reappear magically.  For a long time I had all our accounts signed in on my phone for them to play their favorite game when they had to collect chests, feed chickens, collect apples or whatever the current crisis was at the time.  Google assistant is a great way to learn English and a fantastic tool for kids in general.  We share pictures in Photos which is even more important in divorces for making shared happy memories and coming to terms with the past.

You couldn’t really do all this with any other app ecosystem.  Apple’s is restrictive, lacks many key features, makes you pay for others and has way too many hoops for you to jump through.   Microsoft is no longer in phones and generally tries to sell these sort of solutions to business customers.  So give your kids Gmail accounts, pick up a 150 dollar Chinese Android phone and your family is in business.  All you need to do is remember the passwords.   Well, actually, you don’t even need to that.  Because…

8. …Google Chrome remembers all passwords.  ; )

Mobile revolution in perspective

Some people on the planet feel the need to bring some balance to this debate.   Not that there is much debate.   Everyone seems sure that mobile devices will conquer the planet.   Apps are growing like mushrooms.   Many with less meaningful content than an edible fungus.  This doesn’t stop marketing departments investing in mobile platforms for everything.   Everything.

Don’t get me wrong.   I am happy that this is leading to some interoperability.   (Not so happy we are wasting a lot of global energy pandering to a very small minority of …well whatever Apple dreams up of, often on its own little island.  We should be talking about “tablet compatible” things, not “iPad” compatible.)   It is great that websites are getting better to navigate from different resolution screens.   I have been a road warrior and smart phone user since the days when this involved carrying a brick in my back pocket and being laughed at in meetings for using it.

I have done work on a mobile phone.   Back in the days when you could find a phone with a decent keyboard I would even write thoughts like this on one.   But real individual information processing work gets done on a PC.   Unless you are in the business of only reading stuff or killing pigs by throwing birds at them from a slingshot.

There are some rock solid obstructions to a mobile device being truly capable:  1. Screen resolution.   I struggle with netbooks because the 600 pixel limitation to the height makes getting anything done on the internet difficult.  Even 768 on many laptops is annoying.   2. Screen size.   Some of us are lucky enough to not mind ridiculously small fonts.   Not everyone.   The Galaxy Note is a step in the right direction. 3. Keyboard.  Again netbooks are a good example.  Read reviews and all the complaints people make about smaller keyboards.   For anyone that writes to make their living this is serious.   Virtual keyboards on touch screen never, ever, ever come even close and voice recognition remains a problem in the real world.  4. Multi tasking.   Even if Alt-tab isn’t your second nature, when you are working you are very often multitasking.   I’m not talking about an iPhone finally being able to run essential tasks simultaneously.   I am talking about 5 spreadsheets, 8 browser windows, a business app and a few other things running at the same time because I need to them to put something together.   Even a simple presentation will often demand 6 or 7 software applications running concurrently.  5. Speed.   When we are talking about serious work, the speed of the device is essentially stalling your thought process.   I am annoyed at upgrading to an 18 megapixel DSLR because it takes that much longer for my Core i7, SSD laptop to process the images.  Time is money and mobile devices are wasteful in this respect.  Unless they are a laptop.   Mobile enough!

The list continues with other major or minor niggles.   “Niggles” being things that bother you.   Like the room being too cold.   Like your chair not being comfortable.   Like all those things you don’t want bothering you when you actually try to get some work done.   For anyone wanting to focus on a task involving the use of technology, a PC will continue to be the best place to get it done.

Niggle free.

How to really beat Facebook or Twitter either as a competitor or as a legislator

The whole privacy debate around Facebook is a joke. I mean literally, Zuckenberg must be laughing privately about it. While it avoids the real issue, he rests assured that legislators have no idea what Facebook is really about: lulling you into a false sense of security so that you will unwittingly give away private information in the wrong context. If that sounds too devious to you then you probably don’t use Facebook a lot. Or you use it and don’t think. Which is exactly what it wants you to be like.

Www.Personaldna.com was a great idea and it offers an intelligent, possibly automated solution to this privacy problem. I used it at work to build teams’ awareness of the different characters, strengths and weaknesses and team dynamics. It is a shame it hasn’t developed at all but this is probably because the people that made it have been hired by Google. Which is the only company that understands what this article is about. Personal DNA built a psychographic profile of you based on multiple questions. It is accurate and, better still, you can invite someone to take the test and see what he or she think you are like. This is also very accurate and offers valuable insights. And it is a million times more useful than trying to clump your friends into categories like Facebook pretends to suggest we should do.

When you post a status update, you can select that “Everyone” sees it. Or “Friends” or some category of friends. Only the first two make any sense. If you select “everyone” or you have forgotten status update in “everyone mode” Google and various tools we social engineers use be able to easily see what you are up to in real time privately. If you select “friends only” Facebook has fooled you. Because what sort of homogenous bunch of friends is the correct forum for this message you are about to deliver? That picture of you in a swimsuit on the beach. You want your uncle to see it? Might your ex boyfriend take it the wrong way? And what about that ex co worker who now works at a company you are hoping to get a job but is a bit conservative? Think before you post it.

“No, don’t think.” Facebook’s interface is like the little cartoon devil that sits on your shoulder to make you forget all these complicating factors. Privacy is either on or off. “Don’t think” it echoes like a ghostly voice. “We want the world to be more open” says Mark as if privacy is like piracy. “Information wants to be free” and other mindless, out of context slogans are catchy.

Privacy, the ability to choose which contact see which information is in fact the basis of all human interaction, probably the reason our brains are as big as they are in our social state of being homo sapiens. And this is how I, a bunch of psychologists, sociologists, programmers and enough funding, can beat Facebook within two years.

All it takes is a few Facebook apps that we will sneak past them. One will monitor everything you post and make a double check for you by throwing random people in front of you as a pop up window. “Before you post that status are you sure Mary Johnson is someone you want to see this?” followed by a few possible reasons. Based on this information it will build the intelligence of PersonalDna over time. PersonalDna actually exists on Facebook as an app but it is way to much like hard work to spend half an hour filling it in.

We would have to invent smarter interface tweaks to keep you interested while getting useful psychographic information off you. I won’t give them all away here. But every time you do something on Facebook, every “like”, every comment, every YouTube video you post, we will be intentionally collecting data about you. Facebook can’t stop me doing this because if worse comes to worse, I can do this as a virtual friend. You will befriend my personal psychologist and I will send you my advice.

The whole thing will hinge on the presentation of the information to you and I will borrow know how from the astrology industry. We will tell you how likely you are to score with that boy or girl you are poking, before you actually poke. We will tell you who in your network to try and impress to get a job. Other applications will tell you which groups to join or leave to improve how your profile looks to specific friends. We will make it all fun, free and cheerful. And accurate.

If it is too accurate it will be scary. That is the whole point of Facebook’s deception in it’s current design. So we will make it accurate enough and fun enough at the initial level of contact. If you want to go to the next level you will have to read a lot and think a lot, so you probably won’t go there unless you are serious.

Of course this platform I will build is much, much better than either Facebook or Google at serving advertising content. Because I will not just know what your are interested in. I will know how you like content served. And which of your friends are likely to buy the product or service too. With much much greater degrees of accuracy.

The accuracy of a self respecting homo sapiens in 2010 and true human development.