Who has Two Thumbs and Loves Things Online?

I’m going to start this post in an unexpected way: Taylor Swift isn’t the person posting things on her Twitter account, in at least 95% of cases. I know this because for the better part of a year, I have been patrolling the better part of 5 different Twitter accounts, 4 Facebook pages, 3 Google+ pages and 4 YouTube channels. I know she isn’t the one doing this because if you actually want to promote your stuff online, you lose a significant amount of time that you would otherwise dedicate to actually MAKING the things you want to make.

Now, obviously Taylor Swift is many orders of magnitude more popular than anything I will ever do. She has millions of fans tweeting, Facebooking and Instagramming her photos of themselves with her album or the paraphernalia she included in the purchase of her physical CD. Anytime she (or her social media team) posts a photo of a fan (or 4 photos, since Twitter now lets you attach 4 photos to a tweet), it makes that fan’s month, and basically ensures they will be a life-long fan. The second effect of her “choosing” fans to highlight on her Twitter account is that it prompts people to continue to send her even more photos. This will likely go on for months after the album’s release, and I KNOW there’s no way one person could keep up with this unless that was their only job, and even then you wouldn’t be able to sleep, so there are probably multiple social media team members doing this in shifts.
When I release something into the online world (something I do a few times a week), I do it for a couple of reasons:
  1. I like making things and paying forward knowledge I’ve gained and insights I’ve had.
  2. I want to learn how to make things better and to better myself.
The hardest part of making things so far for me has been exposing my work to a larger audience than my immediate circles. I do hope that if you see something that you like, that you tell people about it. One of the biggest things I’m working on is the idea that I don’t want to force people to see what I’m doing if they don’t want to, but if they DO want to, I want to make it easy.
On that note, there are a couple of ways you can keep abreast of what I’m working on, both for more technically savvy people who are control freaks, as well as for people who want something easy to use.
  • I made a Facebook group where I will post my project updates (so that my personal timeline won’t be constantly spammed by what I have going on). Follow the link above to join the group, where you can receive passive or active notifications when I post something new (you don’t HAVE to get notifications if you don’t want them). We can also discuss my projects together there, which could be pretty cool.
  • You can subscribe to the RSS feed from my website, blog.robattrell.com, at this link: (RSS).
  • It’s also possible to just head to blog.robattrell.com in your web browser, I have been linking to all the projects I have going on there, so it’s a good way to see what I have going on.
So I hope you will feel excited to have a real way to follow everything I’m doing. You can also follow me on Twitter @RobAttrell and on Google+ obviously (+Rob Attrell) to see the stuff I’ve got going on.
If you have suggestions or questions for me, feel free to email me or fill out my #AskRob form right here.

Why Gay Matters

http://www.businessweek.com/articles/2014-10-30/tim-cook-im-proud-to-be-gay

It’s tiresome to hear again and again in the news about so and so coming out as gay or lesbian. There are three main ways to react to this news (spoiler alert: only one of these reactions is worth talking about):
  1. You don’t care if people are gay, straight, or anywhere in between. You’re happy to see Tim Cook is happy today, and you stand by him and respect his privacy (all of my Twitter feed is this, which makes me happy).
  2. You are very angry about gay people, for any number of antiquated reasons (you’re the worst, but luckily, you’ll probably change when somebody you know comes out to you, and you’ll eventually die. Hopefully you aren’t successful in spreading your vitriol before you go.)
  3. You are gay, but haven’t told anybody or are afraid to come out publicly yourself. You worry you might lose your job, or be kicked out of your apartment, or bullied, or ostracized, or attacked. If you are this, maybe, just maybe, you get a chance to be hopeful of the future. If you can’t already where you live, you might one day be able to get married, have pretty basic human rights, and be able to openly love the person/people you care about. This is the important one, and that’s why a CEO in the Fortune 500 coming out is a big deal in 2014.
If you don’t care about this news, good. You’re not the problem. You can move on with your day, a little happier one more person doesn’t have to hide a part of themselves anymore. We’re all human. 
This same logic applies to #gamergate, sexism, and many other kinds of discrimination. We need to keep talking about these issues. If sexist discrimination doesn’t happen to you, be happy for it and move on with your day, but be aware that it does happen. Speak up when you see it. Be part of the solution. It’s hard for men to see or be aware of sexism and harassment, because it doesn’t happen to us nearly as regularly as it does to women. And it doesn’t happen in Canada as much as it does in the States (please correct me if I am wrong on this, I know it happens here too). But it does happen everywhere there are misguided people. People who don’t realize what they’re doing or don’t care. 
It’s not ok. But let’s work together to make sure there is a future where it will be a thing of the past.

An Open Letter to Canadian Internet Service Providers

Dear Internet Service Providers (ISPs),
I’m going to attempt to remain as calm as possible throughout this letter, but honestly we’ve all had enough of your ridiculous policies and price gouging.
I’ve written and talked about this problem many times before, and 5+ years of crazy and punitive changes to your wireless and home internet packages has left me shaking my head in disappointment at your terrible treatment of your poor customers who don’t know any better.
A little about me, I’m not really what anybody would call a “heavy” data user, I just enjoy using technology to its maximum potential in my everyday life. I take pictures and video with my camera phone pretty much every day. I watch shows like the Daily Show and the Colbert Report 4 days a week on my morning and afternoon bus commute. I pay Apple for the privilege of streaming a reasonable amount of music in my iTunes library to my cell phone, tablet and laptop. I also listen to podcasts, 1-2 per day, that have to be downloaded. I download apps too, but certainly not a crazy amount. That being said, ALL of your data calculators are completely unable to accurately predict my wireless data usage, coming in anywhere from 5 GB to 12 GB a month (usually I max out the meter).
I’m also pretty technically savvy, and use social media. This means that I back up the photos and videos I take to Dropbox and Google Photos, I check Twitter, Facebook and Google+ a normal amount, and man a few social accounts for projects I’m working on or involved in.
I am certainly an advanced mobile user, but I don’t think my Internet usage should really fall too far outside the mainstream if not for your outrageous mobile service plans which gouge customers like me who simply want to connect to the internet at its full potential.
Here is a breakdown of my mobile phone usage for September 10 – October 9 (this is now a seemingly typical month):
Minutes used: 33:41 mm:ss
Messages sent: 39 msgs
Data consumed: 35.91 GB
I recently renewed my plan which I originally got in 2008 which I have been clinging to for dear life, which includes 150 anytime minutes (unlimited eve/wknd), unlimited SMS messages to North American numbers, and what was at the time called “Unlimited Mobile Browsing”. At the time, this was a $5 add-on with my new Sony Ericsson flip phone. I LOVED that phone. Since signing up for this plan, I have moved to a smartphone, and renewed the plan this summer while getting a Nexus 5 for about $60 after rebates.
Now, for people reading this who aren’t familiar with my story, you would probably expect that I’m probably paying a lot of money for my plan that can get me 36 GB of data. Using that much data on even the most generous Rogers data plan would cost you well over $300. But in 2008, my plan cost me only $40 (+ 13% HST) per month, and that’s how much I’m paying today. I do the math every 6 months or so and no matter how you slice it, it is worth keeping this plan and buying new phones outright than to switch to a punitive new plan and suffer through curbing what isn’t really extraneous mobile data usage.
Companies like you (Rogers, Bell and Telus) have bought up or created smaller brands to attempt to appeal to customers trying to save money, but all you really do to those customers is give them even less than your major brands will give them. Koodo, Solo, Chatr, Fido, Virgin, etc., are no better deals than your major brands when it comes to the tiny amounts of data they get. Even if you buy a plan from Rogers with 30 GB of data (designed allegedly to be shared between a large number of phones/people), that still isn’t enough data for one person with my non-excessive browsing habits.
Good old 2007!

I accept that I may be in a particularly unique situation with my high data use in 2014, but this is the way things are going with the internet. We need to be able to transfer data quickly and efficiently on mobile networks. And it’s not like I’m not suffering consequences of being on a grandfathered plan from when the iPhone was a new product running on the EDGE network. I don’t have visual voicemail, which is standard on the new plans. I don’t have access to LTE data, and my upload speed is throttled particularly harshly (I’m not sure if my download speed is throttled, but it’s about an order of magnitude faster than the upload). I can’t tether my tablet or laptop to my phone’s internet connection unless I jailbreak my phone, and I prefer to keep my software up to date than to jailbreak these days.

These policies and tiny data caps are not unique to cellular carriers and networks. DSL, Cable and Fiber internet customers also suffer through some extremely stingy plans. The plan I have been on for the last few months for Cable Internet is fairly expensive, but at least it comes with unlimited data transfer. Before that, for 6 months I suffered through a new cable and internet package that included 150 GB of data per month. That was torture, as I like to download beta software, music, and other media, and my fiance and I love Netflix and basically any other service that means we don’t have to sit down in front of our TV on the hour to watch whatever show happens to be on. I was tiptoeing around to keep under the 150 GB cap for 6 whole months, and it was painful.
Right now, you might be thinking “Boohoo, you get what you pay for”, and that I shouldn’t be complaining about something that’s cheap. I understand why you might say that, and I’ve always been very open about the fact that if I’m getting something worthwhile, I would be more than happy to pay a premium for that.
However, as is evident in the mobile space, and to a lesser extent in the home internet world, data rates (especially for overages) are completely outrageous and not what any normal person would consider reasonable. Even if we pretend that I’m going to pay for Rogers’ 30 GB plan on mobile (which is $250 a month), that’s not enough data for my typical needs. Beyond the data usage of any mobile data plan, additional data costs $10-15 dollars extra per GB. It has been calculated that the highest estimated cost to an internet provider for a GB of data transfer is about $0.08. In the home internet world, costs are even lower than that, but you can still expect to pay anywhere from $1-5 per GB for overages. This, plain and simple, is price gouging. 
Now, I hear your customers reading this shouting “Why don’t you just go to Wind, or Mobilicity?” I understand where those people are coming from. To put it simply, I have tried Wind, and though their service is fairly good, the internet is slower than what I would be getting on the Rogers network even on 3G, and if I end up outside their coverage zone, rates skyrocket to as high as $50 a GB, or basically what any customer who is using pay-as-you-go data on Rogers would be using. It also doesn’t save me money from my current plan, but if something ever happens to that plan, I would be going to Wind in a heartbeat.

I know that a lack of competition is what is stopping you from lowering your prices. I know this because there are examples all over Canada of people competing with you in small markets, and you have lowered your prices or changed pricing structures in those areas. In Saskatchewan and Manitoba, for instance, you offer very cheap plans with 5 or 10 GB to match the offerings of provincial carriers like MTS and Sasktel. In Ontario, when companies like Teksavvy started buying bandwidth from you in bulk and reselling it at lower cost, you made a plan that you don’t advertise publicly except to TekSavvy customers. The plan very closely resembles the standard TekSavvy plan, and you can make offers like 6 months free on a 2 year contract to sweeten the deal and keep little guys out of the market.

Never mind the fact that you 100% pay your Rogers technicians more for service calls to Rogers customers than for TekSavvy service calls, which mean that TekSavvy customers end up waiting days or weeks for technicians who are prioritizing Rogers accounts. That is a conflict of interest if I have ever seen one. If somebody gets fed up with this seemingly bad service from TekSavvy, they can call Rogers, get the same tech out the next day to set up their Rogers internet, and pay more for it. This process is absolutely criminal and I can’t believe the CRTC lets you get away with it year after year.
Please, please, PLEASE change your business practises. I am one of 35+ million Canadians who is fed up with the current state of internet service in Canada. I want to buy mobile and home internet from you Rogers, Bell and Telus. I just want to pay a fair price for the data I use, let you take home some profit, and call it a day. That’s all any of us want. But what you’re doing to your loyal customers simply won’t last, and I implore you to give the people who love the work you do pushing internet technologies forward what they want. Plans with more data. Doubling the prices of your plans and offering unlimited minutes across Canada and unlimited SMS is not what customers want, as research has shown over and over again in the last few years. Run a legitimate business, that’s all I’m asking.

Thank you,