Feedly – Because If You Are Still Starting Your Morning With a Zigzag…

“… through a standard set of Web sites (sic), you’re wasting time and energy. Feedly is what you Needly.” That corny quote is courtesy of a New York Times article from May 2013 and in terms of reading blogs, not much has changed since then.

And it’s not just blogs. Many people still visit a list of websites every day such as news, fitness, sports, celebrities, etc., quickly resulting in a deluge of information peppered with tons of intrusive ads. What they don’t know is that many websites offer one or more “RSS feeds” containing direct links to articles posted each day. For example, The Verge is an excellent source of technology news. They even break down their feeds into useful categories such as posts about “Microsoft, Apple, Google, Apps, Mobile, Science, Features, etc.”  Many companies large and small also have their own blogs with RSS feeds. National Instruments (NI) has a webpage with links to not only their own blog (with over 1,500 posts!), but the technology blogs of their partners as well.

The confusing part is that everybody from the New York Times to The Verge to NI use something called “RSS” to publish their feeds even though they are completely different sources of information published on completely different schedules. The Verge might publish more than 20 articles on a busy day while NI only publishes one article every couple weeks. So why visit multiple sites everyday, some of which might only publish occasionally? That’s where an “RSS reader” comes in. After setup and subscribing to various websites’ RSS feeds, it only displays a list of new articles. Articles in this list are marked as “read” either by being read (duh) or by skimming through headlines. Once marked as read, they do not show up again.

The easiest part is finding a good RSS reader. No need to do a Google search, just use Feedly.com. It’s free, simple to setup, and synchronizes content across its website, smartphone app, and tablet app. It is also fast, straightforward, and provides direct access to a wide variety of high quality news sites organized by topic such as Technology, Business, Design, Photography, Science, and Travel. Other websites and blogs can easily be added via the search box. Once the basic setup is complete, each time Feedly is accessed, it only displays a list of headlines from unread material.

So if you have some free time during these last few weeks of summer, setup Feedly and enjoy distraction free reading of your favorite websites and blogs. By the way, the Elephant Tech blog can be subscribed to by searching for “elephanttech.com” using the search box in the upper right corner…

Leaving LinkedIn After Over a Decade

It was a tough decision, but I finally closed and deleted my LinkedIn account. A professional lifeline for over a decade, it is hard to measure the value of the contacts I had there. However some online transgressions are impossible to overlook and violating privacy is at the top of my list. To be fair, it was probably in their terms and conditions, one of those “sacrifices” we make everyday as a trade for a valuable service offered at no charge, but flagrantly breaking the implicit trust involved in privacy required immediate action.

What did LinkedIn do? They accessed my profession and personal email contacts without my permission and used them to suggest new connections. Before you ask, I am 99.9% sure that I NEVER gave them permission to do this with the other 0.1% reserved for the remote possibility that they tricked me into it somehow. Throwaway email addresses that I only used once and have not used for 10 years were showing up in this list. Doing some research online, it was suggested that LinkedIn might have gotten these addresses when I had LinkedIn open and Gmail open in two browser tabs at the same time. I’m not sure if this is true, but it would be one way to explain it.

It must be tempting for a company like LinkedIn to think that they are helping the world by connecting people professionally and the more connections, the more they are helping. Gmail does something similar by looking into Gmail accounts and suggesting ads so why can’t LinkedIn do the same? But it’s not the same by a long shot. There is an expectation of separation when multiple tabs are open in a browser. Amazon doesn’t look to see what I purchased recently from Nordstrom online and even Facebook, for all their privacy issues over the years, doesn’t seem to make personal suggestions based on my email contacts stored in Gmail.

So goodby LinkedIn, we had a good run where I published over 180 articles on your publishing platform and connected with hundreds of other professionals. As your email said, maybe you’re sorry to see me go, but if you had wanted me to stay, you would have never have violated the trust we worked so hard to build.

Hablamos Español – Jeb Bush, Sonia Sotomayor, Tim Kaine, Rubio, Paltrow, Affleck…

We have been studying Spanish for the past few years and after trips to Costa Rica, Spain, Cuba, Uruguay, Mexico, and Chile, it has become clear how incredibly pervasive the Spanish speaking culture is in the United States as well. Despite the title, this is not a political post, but a nod to the diversity that is so thinly veiled behind the English dominated world. A favorite restaurant employee, a Supreme Court justice, construction workers, many politicians (whether you agree or disagree with their political positions), landscapers, “caucasian” celebrities, professional athletes, and many others all speak the second most popular language on the planet (behind Chinese!).

So here is a short list of my favorites, not in any order and certainly omitting many. I’ll start with Jeb Bush because he inspired me to write this post after seeing him on “El Punto,” the news show hosted by the popular Spanish television anchor Jorge Ramos. Please excuse the ads, Univision goes a bit overboard and I promise hearing Jeb Bush speaking fluent Spanish is worth it.

Next up is the Supreme Court Justice of the United States Sonia Sotomayor in an interview with Jorge Ramos from 2013.

If you don’t speak Spanish, jump to the last 30 seconds where you can see her dancing salsa with Mr. Ramos, muy divertida!

Also, the NY Times article “Habla Español? Tim Kaine Is Latest Candidate to Use Spanish” features several politicians including Tim Kaine, George W. Bush, Michael Bloomberg (or Miguel Bloombito as he is sometimes referred to for his poor Spanish skills), Marco Rubio, and Jeb Bush. Finally, the article, “Guess Who Else Speaks Spanish?” lists 10 more Spanish speaking celebrities with short videos of them speaking.

Yet despite the number of people who speak Spanish around the world, it is shockingly underrepresented in the high tech world. When I managed Mexico for a high technology company, every trip was a revelation. A small calibration lab in what looked like a rundown part of town housed state of the art equipment that was sometimes new, sometimes old, but always kept in impeccable condition. Thirty year old measurement microphones used regularly were still stored in their original mahogany boxes with the original manuals nearby. Engineers often times utilized older equipment to the fullest long after their North American counterparts had moved onto to the “latest and greatest” product offerings.

If your sales and marketing teams are not paying attention to Latin America, they should be. It is a massive market poised for growth. Unexpected highlights include Mexico’s emerging importance in high tech, Costa Rica’s focus on Corporate Services, and Columbia’s exploding IT sector (the third largest in Latin America). To be fair, these efforts will probably not create overnight record breaking growth in the bottom line, but a long-term strategic plan will certainly pay dividends over time especially since most companies are not focusing on Latin America at the moment. At the very least, you will find (like I did) a rich, open culture that greets the rest of the world with a hearty, “Tengo ganas de trabajar con usted pronto.”

Mansplaining Women in Tech

My manager at my first engineering job after college was a woman. In my second engineering job, my coworker was a female engineer. Years later I worked for a company where one of the two owners was a woman and she provided my first real training as a sales engineer. The other owner of the company, a man, handed me a stack of technical manuals and just said “read these.” However the woman trained me by example, setting a high bar for ethicality, professionalism, and technical expertise. Based on these experiences (and at the risk of “mansplaining”), here are a few of my thoughts on the situation.

It is 2017 and it is still pathetic how male-dominated the tech world is. My third job was working for a “progressive” engineering company. That environment demonstrated gender issues more typical of the high tech world where the few women employees were in “Marketing / Order Entry / Human Resources” roles while Product Development, Management, and Sales (everything else) were male. There were a few women though in technical roles, but they never had it easy as the only females in rooms full of dozens of men. Situations like these were a rude shock after working in environments for years where gender issues weren’t issues at all.

Most men would find it hard to imagine getting dressed in the morning and having to consider whether the clothes they were planning to wear were going to “send the right message” to the group of women they would be working with that day. “Is this suit too form fitting?” “Should I button one more button of my dress shirt?” The challenges would continue throughout the workday where they would have to monitor every comment to make sure they were coming across professionally and not “as a man.”

In my opinion, the solutions to deep seated gender prejudices start with both men and women not allowing thinly veiled sexism to gain acceptance in any way. Sexist jokes can be met with silent disapproval and “mansplainers” can gently be coaxed into more reciprocal verbal exchanges. The Taylor Swift trial is another example of how powerful women can use their influence to confront serious gender based abuse. However, despite her win, prominent news sources still published negative headlines such as Reuters’ “Despite losing trial to Taylor Swift, DJ insists he never groped her.”

It is also possible to not support companies that clearly violate gender equality standards. We now use Lyft instead of Uber. Uber is well known to have an openly hostile environment toward women. If you would like to take a deeper dive, the Accidental Tech Podcast discussed “women in tech” in a recent episode (at 45:34). Unfortunately, it was a couple of guys discussing it so if you would like to hear a discussion from female executives in high tech, then look no further than Kara Swisher, Executive Editor of ReCode, and Lauren Goode, Senior Technology Editor at The Verge, interviewing Niniane Wang and Joelle Emerson. It is over an hour of in-depth discussion on topics ranging from harassment in “hyper-masculine environments” to “Broflakes.” A Broflake is a man who has no trouble criticizing women, but then says he’s afraid to participate in an honest conversation about gender issues.

Ok, enough for now and we didn’t even get to the infamous “Google Manifesto.” However, so you don’t feel unsatisfied, here’s a link to the Vox article, “I’m a woman in computer science. Let me ladysplain the Google memo to you” written by a woman who “is a lecturer in computer science at Stanford,” “taught at least four different programming languages, including assembly,” and has “had a single-digit employee number in a startup.” Fascinating!

Gloria Steinem speaking with supporters at the Women Together Arizona Summit at Carpenters Local Union in Phoenix, Arizona.
Photo by Gage Skidmore.

Watch Out Google! – 303 Links to Acoustics and Vibration Companies

Of course you could always do a detailed Google search and get millions of results, use Google’s Custom Search feature to create you own list, or even use the Duck, Duck, Go search engine if you don’t want to end up with tons of ads for custom acoustic foam fabricators for the rest of your life, but isn’t this list just a bit handier? Besides, these are from a website I created with Chip Doyle almost 20 years ago called NVHmaterials.com. It was a big deal back in a time when Google was still “in beta” with only 60 million pages indexed and Lycos ruled the search engine world. Interestingly, over 70% of the companies from the original list are still around today!

The list is broken down into five categories:

Consultants – 80 links
Educational Websites – 31 links
Enclosures, Barriers, Panels, and Chambers – 23 links
Materials – 66 links
Test Services – 17 links
Test Systems, Equipment, and Sensors – 76 links
Other (Trade Magazines, etc.) – 10 links

If you have any additions or corrections, please let me know, but in the meantime there are several gems in here that won’t be found until page three of a Google search like Acoustical Systems Inc. and Environmental Noise Control. Enjoy!