Switchback: Talking Tech (Dec. 12)

Dec 12, 2014

The team from The Switch discussed everything from the latest political tech news to the gadgets you’re eyeing.

Hello folks! Happy Friday. Are you feeling merry?

Feels like Christmas

Let's get this show on the road.

So, uh, who all is planning on seeing "The Interview" now? 

I mean, I guess I am. I honestly had forgotten all about that movie before this week, but now I definitely want to know if it was really worth the fuss.

The funny thing for me is that there have been two significant bumps in Google trends related to "The Interview" and both involve North Korea: First when they spoke out against it this summer, and now with the speculation around the Sony Pictures hack. 

Do you think that Google with reinvest the engineering firm in a neighboring country? What do you predict their next steps would be?

So, Google hasn't said anything about its plans -- including, really, even confirming that they're pulling out of Russia -- so it's hard to forecast exactly where that will go.

I do think that it's an interesting move though, in the context of what will happen if the Internet becomes less global.

As Nancy pointed out last week, laws around the world are encroaching on Internet  freedom, and this could easily be a sign of how businesses will react. 

Without getting into the specifics of the Russia case -- I'll be honest, I haven't had a chance to dig into it yet -- but Google is finding itself running into some global trouble that it is going to have to contend with. You may have heard that it is shuttering Google News in Spain over that country's new copyright law. The fascinating thing there is that it's finding itself having to relitigate what I just decided this morning to call "the right to snippet." One might have thought that 13 years into Google News' existence, that issue would be settled, but it isn't.

More simply put, Google is facing some pretty clear existential threats. That's fascinating to watch, though probably far less fascinating to experience from where they're sitting. 

I can't remember if I brought this up before, but is anyone here watching Marvel's Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.? I just started and can't tear myself away.


I don't really watch either, but I tend to binge watch. What makes them so good?

I appreciate the mixture of monster of the week and ongoing plot points that are carrying Gotham so far -- and it's nice to watch them delve into the back stories of familiar villains. (Ed Nigma is one of my favorites.)

Plus, young Bruce Wayne is super weird and Alfred has a bizarre amount of combat training for a butler. 

I'll have to give it another shot. I didn't get much further than the pilot.

Re: Alfred, I seem to remember Michael Caine saying that, when he was prepping for his role as Alfred, that he gave him a backstory where he'd been in the British Special Air Service to explain his general awesomeness and combat ability. 

Yeah, the pilot is a lot of plot set up so it dragged a little bit. It gets better. 

Re "Agents," I like that they've moved away from the monster of the week thing to focus more on the long game. Makes it a lot more like the shows you see on HBO, Showtime, etc.

Do you remember that German publisher that played chicken with Google? They wanted Google to pay them for their headlines and so Google just stopped including them in Google News. This publisher later ended up on their knees with their tail between their legs after their web sites' traffic (and thus, ad click-through rates) plummeted and they had to beg Google to have them back. Spain should take heed of that...

Another really interesting wrinkle: there will be data! Spanish newspaper editors will have the Web traffic numbers pretty quickly to know if they're suffering from the absence of Google News. Not that they'd share that with the rest of us, necessarily, but Google is pretty much forcing them to contend with the cold, hard numbers that will result from their choices. 

A thought that occurs to me now: I wonder how Spanish reporters are feeling about all this?

I don't watch either either. I'm like Hayley, I binge watch stuff. My work/activity schedule makes it hard to have appointment viewing. The only thing I currently watch on TV consistently is Star Wars Rebels...but it's in reruns with its holiday hiatus. And football. I can't look away from the mess that is Washington football, and I'm not even a fan!

I think the most interesting thing about Agents of Shield is it's relationship with the larger Marvel Cinematic Universe. Some of its best episodes were reactions to events from the movies, particularly Captain America 2. This season they are introducing things that seem like they will have a significant impact on the movies, and it pushes the show, and movies in fun and interesting directions.

I read somewhere that this is all part of Marvel's effort to blur the line between TV and cinema — they've already got a ton of movies lined up for the next few years that hook into this universe and are endlessly self-referential. Kind of fitting with the state of our culture, no?

Hm. Now that I could get into, and it's smart cross-channel media strategy. Of course, that would also mean I'd have to go to the movies more often. 

Hi All, with the bill the house passed, what can we predict will happen with the planned handoff of ICANN oversight in 2015?

As I understand it, the handoff would be delayed past that timeframe. Doesn't mean it won't happen; it'll just take longer because of — you guessed it — politics.

I've got some feelers out on this because it isn't clear that the language Republicans have written would actually stop the transition. Stay, as they say, tuned. 

1. don't name your files "master passwords." 2. email is not private. 3. internal security is as important as external security? And do you think there will be more interest in data-at-rest encryption both in the private and public sector?

These are all good lessons. I'm cautiously optimistic at this point the sheer embarrassment of the Sony Pictures thing might cause some companies to freak out and take a look at their internal encryption practices. My experience has been that a lot of places practice a sort of crunchy on the outside, gooey on the inside type of security which really just doesn't work in this day and age. Most experts assume clients will be hacked at some point, and then its about being able detect it, isolate affected systems and do damage control. That becomes a lot scarier if a single entry point can give an adversary access to all of your business. 

Are you biggest threat. A snub, bad review or getting the wrong office can send an employee into the hands of your enemies or a foreign govt. Employers really need to think about this. Also employees with big time financial problems can and will cause serious damage. A DOD Personnel Security Professional "Fear the Insider Threat"

So the Switch is having a few weddings next year and wanted to mention two digital tools that have been helping me out. One of the freakiest things for me has been the near total lack of price transparency -- a lot of vendors don't put their prices on their sites, and even then since almost everyone wants something different you have to gather a bunch of individual quotes. And I'm finding that there are a lot of review sites, but many use weird number of dollar signs ratings or something. I've started using a site called Thumbtack to get bids on things I need, like wedding photography. It's been pleasantly surprising to just be able to say "my budget is X" and get back only responses that are actually within that budget. 

My other thing is shared Google docs. It has been an absolute lifesaver for keeping everything in one place and gathering addresses, etc. 

Anyone else out there have other tips, tricks, or services they've really liked? 

I"ll give another endorsement to Google Docs, though really any shared editing service would do. 

 Otherwise, I admit my wedding planning has been pretty low-tech. Clearly I should be getting tips from Andrea.

I have like six in budget wedding photographer options now, whereas before I was basically freaking out because it seemed like everyone charged thousands upon thousands of dollars. So, that's going well. This wedding might happen after all. 

One thing I liked was keeping some sort of digital photo collection of what you want (and don't want) for the wedding. Wedding's are pretty visual events and so I found it grounding to have something that reminded me what, in my saner moments, I wanted the thing to look like. 

I've been pretty solid about staying away from Pinterest so far -- although not all of my wedding party has. 

I was just about to bring up Pinterest, which I find a bit overwhelming. There's just so much....stuff.

I do have a binder (I told you, low-tech) but I haven't really been scouring too many bridal magazines for ideas. 

Yeah, I actually just used iPhoto. 

Agreed. Although they may not be doing bad things; they're doing dumb things. Please don't click that random link in an email. Please.

See you next week!

In This Chat
Brian Fung
Andrea Peterson
Hayley Tsukayama
Nancy Scola
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