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Startup fights smartphone addiction by locking devices down #LiveInTheMoment

(TECH NEWS) We’re all addicted to our smartphone, but sensitive areas like courtrooms, and entertainment venues like concerts, are putting phones on lockdown.

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The advice to “dance like nobody’s watching,” which you’ve undoubtedly seen everywhere from your Facebook newsfeed to hand-painted signs at craft fairs, has becomes such a popular catchphrase that most people don’t even remember where it came from (probably from Kathy Mattea’s 1989 country single, “Come From the Heart,” just for the record).

But these days, following that advice, at least in a public space, is harder than ever. In 2018, it would be more accurate to encourage people to dance like nobody’s watching, filming, posting, and commenting. (Good luck with that.)

At a music festival in 2012, Graham Dugoni was pleased to see a fellow festival-goer wildly dancing, lost in the music and the moment. He was less-than-pleased to see several bystanders filming the dancer, then instantly posting the video to YouTube.

It made Dugoni think hard about the impact of cell phones in public space.

Just about everyone feels crummy when their date seems more interested in swiping their screen than in engaging, or when conversation falls dead at the dinner table because everyone’s eyes are glued to their phones.

Yet who among us is willing to leave our phone at home for even one evening?

And there are other situations where the omnipresence of phones is particularly problematic. At concerts and entertainment events, audiences view the show through their phone screens. At school, students get distracted from learning by their phones, and in some cases even use their phones to cheat on exams. Taking a picture or video of a special occasion, like a wedding, will help you relive the memory later – that is, if you actually had time to make any memories between snapping and posting selfies.

Says Dugoni, “I don’t think people realize how radically different it is to be a human being with a phone in your pocket. If it becomes something that’s going to hollow out the meaning in your life, that’s something we’re going to have to address.”

And address it, he has. In 2014, Dugoni founded Yondr, a company that makes lockable pouches so that people can carry their phone into events, but can’t use them. Upon arriving, users lock their phones in the gray pouches, and can only open them again by swiping them over an “unlocking base” as they head towards the exit.

yondr

The pouches have been rented by entertainers, event planners, and by 600 U.S. schools. They have been especially helpful in places where discretion is important, such as courtrooms and hospitals. Schools using Yondr have seen grades and test scores rise, and disciplinary problems reduce. Court administrators have been pleased to find a way to deprive jurors of their phones without taking responsibility for them.

Yondr has also been used by comedians like Dave Chappelle and Chris Rock at their live shows. Says Chappelle, “People actually watch the show, they’re in the moment and they’re vastly more fun to speak to.”

Cell phones have added a lot of convenience and efficiency to our lives – but at what cost? Younger generations have never even experienced a day in their lives without phones. We’re losing our capacity to, collectively, be present, intimate, and engaged with one another. If for no other reason, Yondr is a worthwhile experiment because, as Chris Rock explains, “You want a break from your phone. It feels good.”

At a concert where the audience has their phones “Yondred,” perhaps we could all dance together as though no one were watching.

Ellen Vessels, a Staff Writer at The American Genius, is respected for their wide range of work, with a focus on generational marketing and business trends. Ellen is also a performance artist when not writing, and has a passion for sustainability, social justice, and the arts.

Tech News

Brave: A whole new browser with user privacy in mind

(TECH NEWS) Brave is boldly going where most web browsers are not: actually private internet browsing, with slick features in tow.

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You’re probably paranoid about your internet privacy. And if you aren’t: you should be. Hackers can hack your camera, your doorbell and even your lightbulbs without much effort.

And even the most paranoid end users are still painting a picture themselves as a consumer to advertisers. Though it’s through legitimate means (although that fact is iffy according to the EU), it’s still invasive enough to make you want to live off the grid. But these days, that’s almost impossible, considering so much of our modern work and personal lives exist online.

That’s why the newest browser to enter the field is going where no other web browsers have gone before. Brave is the first web browser to offer complete and automatic tracker ad and tracker blocking.

No more will you have to find an Adblocker – one that doesn’t happen to be malware – and install that separately from your browser. Or futz around in settings hoping to configure it correctly to block the cookie tracking in the way you want. Brave starts that way, out of the box. Another bonus? Brave offers private browsing with teeth. For computer based browsing, you can open a private window with Tor to keep your connection completely encrypted and secure.

And if you’ve ever used Chrome, you’ll have a great head start on understanding how to use this browser. Brave runs on Chromium, which is why it’s end-user experience is reminiscent of Chrome. And because it runs on Chromium, it also means it supports most Chrome extensions right out of the gate. (Although, those browser extensions can put your data at risk and counteract some of what Brave is trying to do for you.)

Of course, all talk around privacy and ad blocking in the internet browser community is a hot button item. One perpetual ethical question: is it okay to block ads, especially from publications trying to raise revenue? Brave thinks so. That’s because of one of its features designed to support quality content: the Brave Wallet. Its Patreon meets Ko-Fi. Creators can sign up with the program and users can decide to give tips via cryptocurrency to their creator page, all done through the toolbar. You can also earn cryptocurrency through consuming Brave’s ads and choosing to send that to a trusted creator.

Another question: will people hop on the Brave train now that everyone is getting serious about privacy? Firefox, Safari and Edge are all implementing better privacy features in their current and future updates. What’s going to be the thing that causes people to stick with it?

For this end-user of Brave, one thing that keeps me going so far is being told how effective it is. I’ve only used the browser for two days across all my devices and I’ve blocked over 3,000 different trackers. And there’s a certain amount of trust I’m willing to place with a browser that claims to be hypervigilant about my privacy.

Brave truly is the browser answer in our Brave New World.

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Why building apps without knowing how to code is increasingly common

(TECH NEWS) No-code app building tools are becoming more available to the everyday user, which could lead to more inventive, and original apps.

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“Learn to code” is a common, frustrating refrain often hurled at job-seekers, entrepreneurs, creative professionals, and others. Depending on who’s saying it, the intent could range from well-meaning to willfully hurtful.

It does, in a way, make sense. Computer programming is the foundational language that modern life is built on. And while many people use technology that they don’t understand every day—from microwaves to cars—there’s something a little different about programming. It’s omnipresent for just about anyone, just about everywhere, whether they use it for work or not. And more people use it for work than ever. It’s the single most sought-after skill in the job market.

But “learn to code” isn’t practical for everyone. Not everyone with an app idea has the time to learn how to build an app from scratch, or the money to hire people to do it for them. That’s where the low-code/no-code movement comes in. It’s all about giving the people the tools they need to execute on an idea without having to learn an entire new skill set. When you bake a cake, you probably don’t grind wheat into flour, and when you build an app, you don’t have to start with Python.

No-code isn’t really a new idea.

The fact that computers have menus and icons is the result of early programmers realizing that non-programmers would have to use a computer sometimes. You could look to tools like RPG Maker that let people build their own video games back in 1992. RPG Maker was like a Lego kit for making a video game. And not only is it still going strong, it proved itself prophetic. It turns out that giving people tools and a sand box is a great way to enable creativity.

This has been the long arc of the Internet, too. There was a time when participating in the World Wide Web in a meaningful way meant learning to program. Places like Geocities gave you real estate to set up a website. But you had to build that site yourself. We’ve moved away from that as the Internet commodified. Sites like Facebook and Twitter remove customization in the name of uniformity.

But creative tools persist. Consider “WYSIWYG,” or “What You See Is What You Get” web editors. These are tools like WordPress that reclaimed some of that Internet customization. They give you assets to build a website, and you plug them in where you want.

It’s a middle ground between building from scratch, and having everything handed to you. It’s the sweet spot of accessible creativity. (If you’ve never heard anyone say “WYSIWYG,” that’s probably because these web development tools are so common that they don’t really need a special name anymore.)

Right now, one of the biggest areas of no-code design is in app development. These app dev tools are similar to building a WordPress site. They give you the raw materials, and you customize and assemble them however you want to. Adalo, a no-code platform for building apps, lets your bring assets and ideas to the table, and gives you a framework to organize those ideas into an app.

They aren’t alone. AppOnboard, a no-code software development suite, recently purchased Buildbox, a leading no-code game development platform. Their combined resources represent a stunning library of assets, full of potential.

What does this mean for coders? Probably not much. Specialized skills are still in high demand. But for the rest of us, a slow democratization of development is taking place, and it’s exciting to watch it take shape.

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Pope Francis’ plea to tech giants: Children must be kept safe online

(TECHNOLOGY) Children should be safe online, Pope Francis pleas with tech giants like Google, Apple and Facebook to help curb child exploitation

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Whether you’re looking for pornography or not, it seems to be a law of the universe that stumbling across porn on the internet is inevitable. This ease of accessibility is controversial, especially when children are involved.

Recently, Pope Francis weighed in on the debate over regulations, calling tech companies like Apple, Google and Facebook to be held accountable for their protection (or lack thereof) of children from pornography.

Pope Francis argued that companies should prioritize keeping children safe, rather than increasing profits. He referenced studies that show children’s first exposure to porn happens when they are 11, as well as studies that reveal potential risks to children’s emotional and sexual growth when exposed to pornography.

It’s not just children viewing pornography that’s worrying, however. With the explosion of digital messaging, the FBI reports an influx of sexual predators online. Minors are getting groomed and exploited by predators and the availability of child porn on the internet is increasing. Not to mention, with the push for privacy on the internet – such as Facebook’s encrypted messages – it can be difficult to track down sexual predators.

While tech companies might not intend to be involved in child porn, their technology is being used for these purposes anyway. As such, Pope Francis insists these companies should be held accountable. Some suggestions presented at the “Promoting Digital Child Dignity” conference included strengthening artificial intelligence (AI) capabilities to safeguard against child pornography and implementing age verification for certain platforms.

Some believe this push for child protection might stem from the Catholic Church’s own troubled history with sexual abuse: over the decades, there have been thousands of cases of child molestation. Pope Francis promised “decisive action,” when he took power in 2013. According to the BBC, this has included releasing a letter condemning clerical sexual abuse and creating a panel to deal with offenses within the church.

Pope Francis’ recent remarks were not the first time he’s suggested technology creators have some hand in protecting children. Rather than simply accuse companies of taking advantage of children, however, Pope Francis extended a plea: “I make an urgent appeal to them to assume their responsibility towards minors, their integrity and their future.”

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