My wife and I got new iPhone 5s(es) this month, an upgrade from the iPhone 4S models we got two years ago. Our contract was up and we certainly could have bled another year out of them, but two things were working to make sure we upgraded. First, we needed more storage thanks to the explosion of baby photos we’ve been taking. Second, the more research I did on carrier practices the more I saw it’s a terrible deal to not upgrade.
This post is about what I found in my research and where the savings are. The tl;dr version is that carrier contracts almost guarantee you’ll upgrade every time you’re eligible if you have any sense, because otherwise you’re just giving these companies free money.
Most of us roughly know what our monthly costs are for cell service, and we’re also used to getting either a free phone at upgrade (if you get an older model) or one with a down payment if it’s a nicer phone. What’s hidden in a contract cell phone bill, though, is the monthly subsidy that’s built into our phone plan price. The subsidy is used to pay the carrier back for the full cost of the phone. What happens when your two-year contract is up and your phone is paid off? One of two things:
I’ve not said anything in this space about the FBR protests and the news that was made about the back-and-forth with the Brown & White. Mostly I haven’t been wanting to add heat to an already hot situation. Needless to say, all parties have had much to talk about.
I really don’t want to comment much on FBR’s message. That’s their job and, to the degree that I think I understand their mission, I support their cause.
I’m a media scholar, though, and I have more to say about the FBR vs. Brown & White argument.
A thought occurred today and I’ll say it simply: What these groups are arguing about tends to be more about a clash of duty than it is about who is right or wrong.
FBR’s duty, best as I can tell, is to try and change the culture by speaking out for itself. They use the term “speaking with our own voice” a lot, and that seems to lend itself to the conclusion that they believe a fair hearing of their grievances and goals requires they communicate directly – without filter, and in their own words. Their goals and process by definition require a certain form of communicating. Fair enough.
The Brown & White’s duty is to be the eyes and ears of the campus. It is a proxy for a large community, and its role is to ask the hard question, gather basic facts, and help the community understand things. Its goal is not to take a side, which means that it represents differing points of view. It is an advocate for fostering a discussion among a diverse community with differing perspectives, not to attach itself to any movement (even one whose cause is noble). Most notably, its job is to hold people accountable, and that requires independence.
It should be fairly obvious that these duties are in conflict. It doesn’t mean that either group should change for the other as a matter of principle. It’s possible one duty is more important or one belief is more right than the other. But it means that a clash is necessary until the groups at least understand the other group’s duty as well as it understands its own. In that moment, they might find ways to bend a bit toward one another.
And in the absence of bending, here is the strongest stance I’ll take on the subject: believing in your duty does not require delegitimizing another’s duty. Believing in something does not preclude respecting others’ views. To the people on both sides of the argument who’ve been living this principle out, you have my admiration.
In some ways, it’s tragic the student newspaper is part of this story. But once you look at duty, it’s hard to see this as anything but inevitable at the outset. Talking and understanding (on both sides) is the only way to solve it.
I heard Clay Shirky answer a question about the how of innovation after a South By Southwest presentation a few years ago. It’s still the most practical and useful way I’ve heard someone talk about the process of doing innovative things.
If you’re a company wanting to innovate, take the person who has one big idea and lock them out of the building. Tell them they can’t come back until they have 10 medium-sized ideas or 100 little ideas. Try a lot of everything, and double down on what works.
Take out “company” and substitute it with whatever soup you’re in. Profession, classroom, whatever.
This is in my head as we start classes this week.
I started college 20 years ago this month. That’s a long time, and a little bit distressing because it means I’m getting old.
By the time I enrolled at Biola in 1993, I felt prepared. I was raised to be independent and didn’t shed a tear as my parents drove away. I was ready, man. Ready to get my life started and do the college thing. At least that’s how it was in my mind. College was a social construct based on what I’d heard from older friends and a few too many viewings of Dead Poets Society.
As my college career unfolded, I discovered I was learning how to do college along the way. My grades weren’t great (more on that later) because of some of the early lessons I learned, but by the time I graduated I had this thing nailed. When I started graduate school eight years later, I knew how to be successful at being a student.
But there is a lot of wisdom out there today for those who will hear it. The #SaturdaySchool chat on Twitter was full of awesome advice for those who want to get the most out of their time in college. I’m going to add six bits of advice. These are things I find myself telling students all the time.
The phrase comes from Brad King (whose Tigger Talk is nearly required reading for students going to college). Grades don’t matter. I’ve never been asked for my GPA or my transcript when I’ve applied for a job. They want to know what I can do, and they want to know how committed I am. If you think an A demonstrates those things, you need to rewire your brain a bit. An A is a nice achievement, sure, but it doesn’t demonstrate mastery or aptitude beyond what you were taught. It doesn’t show me whether you can turn your knowledge into something new, or apply your skills to new products, ideas, or information.
So what are grades good for? Financial aid and graduate school admission. Maybe.
I had a 3.27 GPA in college. Read that again. I’m a college professor and I had a GPA on the A- / B+ range. I worked at a major metro newspaper within three years of graduation. I was a terrible student in that I didn’t do well on my assignments, but I was applying that material in all kinds of situations on my own. I loved the knowledge and was using that knowledge all the time, but I wasn’t great at classwork.
I’m not promoting an ethic of slacking off. I worked hard in college, just not on assignments. And I cried no tears when I didn’t graduate with honors. I was ready to tackle the world because I’d already been applying what I’d learned while others were settling for the Dean’s List. I taught myself HTML on the side in the 1990s because we had no classes on it, yet I sensed this was going to be a big part journalism. My grades suffered somewhat, but five years later I was the only guy in the newsroom who could grind stories into web pages for our newspaper’s web site. Take that, B- in Advanced Reporting.
You know that hazy vision you have of college, where it’s just about IDEAS, man? Well that doesn’t happen in classes. You will take some awesome classes that you’ll remember forever, but college happens in that oft-ignored time that’s on your syllabus: office hours.
Professors usually set times for students to come in and chat about the material, their struggles, or just shoot the breeze about their interests. We love this stuff. It’s why we wanted to be teachers. What I’ve found is those are the times when you find a mentor. You can’t find a mentor if you’re one person among 20 or 40 or (ugh) 100 students in a class. It’s like a relationship. It takes work and effort, and it sometimes means sacrificing some “me” time.
This is the difference between completing the classwork and getting intellectual nurturing. The latter is what college is about.
I’ve found students vastly underuse this path to mentorship and I haven’t figured out why. If a professor is interesting or you find the subject matter awesome, stop by during office hours. I was in my mentors’ offices throughout college and grad school and I built relationships for life. Those folks have had a bigger impact on me than anyone I’ve known in the industry or even friends I made in college.
I have done this before with seniors on the first day of classes. “What’s your passion?” is my first-day question. I get a lot of blank stares or struggling answers. I’m convinced this is a crisis in our college system today. We are graduating legions of kids who struggle to define the things that really get them going. This is raison d’etre level stuff.
The easy answer is to say you’re passionate about your field. This may be true, but I find that’s rarely the case. I’m not passionate about social media, for instance, even though it’s my specialty and what I’m known for. I’m passionate about how society constructs and maintains itself through information sharing, because I care about democracy. See what I did there? I didn’t settle for being passionate about my major, I went for the why.
I’ve talked with scientists who are passionate about finding things that make them in awe of life and the universe, others about using knowledge to help mitigate problems such as climate change. Sure, there are equations to balance and hypotheses to be tested, but those are just gateways to what they really care about.
So why do passions matter? Because it’s going to sustain you when the work gets difficult and you’re tempted to quit. If you don’t care deeply about something, you’ll find you’re going to bounce from thing to thing, and that’s a tough way to do meaningful work. I dare say that if you don’t find you’re passionate about any aspect of your major, you should consider switching. The people who are doing amazing work in this world are doing it for more than just the paycheck. Which reminds me ….
Obviously you need to pay bills. But if getting rich is your primary motivation in life, there’s a decent chance it’ll divert you from doing things that matter.
I’ve been broke a lot of my life. I didn’t grow up in poverty, but we lived paycheck to paycheck for a lot of my time growing up and we certainly didn’t have a lot of material things. I paid my own way through school for the most part. I worked as a journalist, and while the pay is good I wasn’t exactly living in Beverly Hills. My first job as a journalist out of college? I made $8 an hour and lived with my parents, and that was only in 1998.
But damned if I didn’t have fun. There’s nothing like working in the newsroom. I love the news business and got to work on things that matter, and my work had an impact on others. I’d trade being wealthy for that experience all over again, no question.
Certainly you could be wealthy and make a positive contribution. But I’ve found that wealth as an end usually precludes it. I know enough miserable rich people to feel OK about my path.
I’m not saying making money isn’t important. You should try to maximize your earning power and pursue a salary worthy of your skills. Even I moved out of my parents’ house! What I want to underline here is my point that pursuing wealth for its own sake to the exclusion of all else can be an unhappy road. I’ve watched people take jobs that were an awful fit because of the salary bump, promising themselves they’d find their happy place in the next gig. It doesn’t often work that way. The sweet spot is earning what you need (and what you’re worth) while doing what you love. But the truth is that doing-it-for-money and doing-it-for-love can be a continuum, and it’s important you find the right balance for yourself.
This should be a clarion call to Millennials. I get students all the time who are afraid of coming up short. Some of this is tied to grades, but some of this is about needing to be perfect. I blame our K-12 setup on this, in part. We’ve wired into you that if you don’t succeed on every little thing you’re going to be a failure forever, and that simply isn’t true.
Perfection is overrated. Doing everything correctly is actually pretty terrible.
Failure is awesome.
I’ve learned more from making mistakes than I’ve learned from doing everything right. I’m a smart guy, and if you give me step-by-step instructions I could reasonably expect myself to do a task well the first time. But in failing you learn about your own work and learning processes. You learn how to troubleshoot problems that arise (either of your own making or just stuff that happens).
Most important: when you fail, you learn how things work. You have to diagnose problems and critique yourself when you come up short, and in doing so you learn about the process of how things work and come together.
A month ago I stupidly didn’t update my WordPress software on this site. A week later I was hacked by a backdoor exploit and thought I had lost everything I’d written over the past few years. It was awful, and it was my fault.
In that month I learned how to save my posts by learning new things about WordPress’ CMS, about SQL … stuff I had no idea about before. I feel like I have a better handle on how WordPress works now than a month ago, and the reason is because I screwed up. That knowledge will help me going forward.
Imagine what I wouldn’t know had I not failed. Failure can be a roadmap on how to get better, and if you aren’t failing you aren’t getting better.
I can’t stress this enough. Make your work as tangible as possible. Build products, stories, sites, knowledge …. whatever it is, build it.
Your job is to be a sponge in college and soak in what you can. But the output is not a diploma. The output is that you can take that knowledge and do something with it. Being a maker is awesome. Don’t wait for someone to tell you what to build. Go build it yourself.
If you can do this while you’re in school, all the better.
What you’ll hopefully learn by the time you graduate is that your time in college is merely about acquiring what you need to succeed in your first job and adjust in life. A degree is a license to innovate and build on what we know.
Build things. Lots of things.
TITLE: “Redditors and Trolls and Memes, Oh My! Viral Information and Web Culture”
DESCRIPTION: “Media and society have a symbiotic relationship in democracies, but Web users are disrupting this relationship by creating and maintaining new type of publics online. We’ll study the how and why of information spread on the Web, its link to online culture, and critique the ways this culture interfaces with real-world living.”
I’ve alluded to my idea for a “Glassumentary” project in my Multimedia Storytelling course a few times in this blog. Today I got to take my first crack at putting together an edited version of what it looks like in my head.
Lehigh has an annual tradition for first-year students. They pull in with packed vehicles, and then volunteer students, faculty and staff unload the car and move everything up to the new student’s dorm room while the family gets to relax for a second. It’s a cool thing that I love about Lehigh; people from all over campus pitch in to help on Move-In Day in ways big and small.
Our provost, Pat Farrell, is one such volunteer. So along with Lehigh News, we worked to get him to wear Glass for a few minutes as he went about his routine. I captured some third-person candid and interview footage with my iPhone, and I went to work on Final Cut Pro putting together a rough sketch for a Glassumentary. This was finished and uploaded within four hours of me getting back to the office.
I’m going to go back and do some editing and stylizing, but I was trying to get a sense of what could be done on a medium-duty Glass project where there is some deadline pressure.
My idea for the Glassumentary is to take the third-person documentary format and turn the camera outward. My students do mini web documentaries in the class anyhow, but Glass is going to give us an opportunity to experiment with other forms of documentary-style stories. I’m very interested in the unique opportunity Glass affords us to transport the viewer into first-person mode both as a liberal arts educator and as a media producer.
Sure, we’ve had the ability to mount cameras on subjects before. But first-person style documentary storytelling has mostly been the domain of those who operate with high-production quality. Glass is easy and unobtrusive to use. I gave our provost about 5 minutes of training and off he went. The raw footage was pretty good too! I enjoyed watching just that as I went through to pull out moments.
I don’t expect my students to follow this format per se, but I do plan to show them this so they can start to think about what is possible. I didn’t storyboard this shoot, but I did do some planning about what kinds of footage I was expecting to see so I could mentally note parts I wanted to use later.
I’ve had Glass for about six weeks now and have spent some time getting to know the device. I’m still impressed by how useful it is yet still equally unsure about whether this thing has legs for wider public use. I am even more solid in believing it has great potential to be a quality niche device in many different areas of work and life. But that’s a far cry from being a mass device.
The tension is fine with me. Part of my work in exploring the device with my J230 Multimedia Storytelling class in the second half of 2013 will be about both work and life. On the work end, I care about the journalism aspect. A colleague tweeted the photo below to me today and it made me smile.
Yeah, that’s C-SPAN showing a reporter sporting Glass before a press conference on Capitol Hill.
Although journalism is on my mind, this longish and detailed post is about how professors can use Glass effectively in their classes based on some things I’ve learned in my own experimentation as I prepare for this fall’s launch.
Some of the limitations of the device mean you have to think a bit about how you set up the device and configure it should you choose to use it in the classroom. Simply put, the device is really structured around one person wearing it all the time, whereas in a class setting you’re going to be sharing the device and so the transition between people needs to be as seamless as possible.
A few observations I’ve made after about five days with Glass. Some of these I’ve blogged about in the past couple days, but some of this is new.
Before I get going, some have asked for a good overview of what you can do with Glass. Rather than duplicate good work, this piece by The Verge is the best I’ve read in terms of explaining the experience.
1. Sharing is pretty easy but not fully activated. Facebook only allows photos. Twitter allows photos and video, but I have yet to get a video to post correctly. Google+ is the most robust service and you can share at a pretty granular level to circles. I just activated a Tumblr to host a photo-a-day project and it’s pretty simple.
We’ve used two types of cameras in my multimedia classes here at Lehigh, and I wanted to get a chance to compare it to the camera in Glass. So I went out on a fairly overcast day here on campus to compare three cameras in terms of photo and video. The cameras:
Below is a look at the photos in slideshow form. This was shot from a central point at Lehigh University and has four different perspectives. For each perspective, there’s a succession of three shots, all in the same order: first the Zi8, then the iPhone 4S, then via Glass. In case you need a refresher, the caption contains information on the camera and the dimensions of the photo at full frame.
I picked up my Glass Explorers prototype device in New York City last Friday at Google’s offices at Chelsea Market. I’ve spent 72 hours with the device and wanted to jot down some initial impressions about the experience and the device itself.
Short version: I like it a lot, and it’s quite refined for a device still in beta.
At the point of purchase I set an appointment and then just showed up for my designated time; waiting for us was a Glass guide who spent an hour with us to go over all the basics in how to set up and use Glass.
I got to bring someone along to the appointment, so Lehigh journalism student Katie Hommes accompanied me since she is already in NYC this summer for an internship. Say hi to Katie (and our Glass guide at the left) via my first-ever Glass photo, which I took with a simple “OK Glass, take a photo” command.