How to enable Verizon free call filtering

Verizon is now offering free call filtering, but enabling it can be incredibly frustrating! Many reviews complain that, after downloading the Verizon Call Filter app, no option for the free version appears. Instead, you are only offered a free 10-day trial or the option to purchase a monthly subscription.

Here’s how to activate the free version of Verizon Call Filter

I found these instructions buried in a comment on the wonderful TidBITS website, posted by Paul7. I have cleaned up Paul’s explanation and added a couple of screen shots, but Paul deserves full credit for this solution.

The crucial step omitted from Verizon’s incredibly brief explanation of how to activate free call filtering is that if simply enrolling via the Call Filter App doesn’t work, you need to log in to My Verizon. Here’s what to do.

  1. Sign in to your Verizon account.
  2. Go to My Plans & Services and select Manage Products & Apps.
    Or your menu might look like the image below, in which case go to Plan and select Add-ons and apps.
  3. Click on the Get Products tab and the Premium Products option.How to enable Verizon free call filtering
  4. Scroll down till you find the Call Filter app and select the Call Filter Free option.How to enable Verizon free call filtering
  5. You’ll see a Checkout box where you can add Call Filter Free to the lines in your plan. Select the checkboxes next to the lines you want, and click Confirm Purchase.How to enable Verizon free call filtering
  6. On your phone, close the Verizon Call Filter app if it’s currently open. Now, when you reopen it you’ll see that free call filtering has been turned on!
  7. Paul notes that if you have more than two lines, you may have to go through this process multiple times since it only shows two lines at a time. Alternately, your My Verizon may offer this process for each device/line separately. If that’s the case, select each device in turn and repeat the above process.
  8. Finally, follow the steps in Josh Center‘s helpful TidBITS article to enable Verizon Call Filter’s spam filtering.

That’s it! Did this work for you? Do you have comments/additions/corrections? Please share them in the comments below.

AlphaZero, machine learning, and the future of work

AlphaZero, machine learning, and the future of work

Not long ago I wrote about the end of decent paid jobs and the need for basic income. A startling recent advance in machine learning has only heightened my concerns. Last month, Google’s subsidiary, DeepMind, published a paper on AlphaZero, an artificial intelligence (AI) the company designed to play games. The AI started with only game rules. Here’s what happened next:

“At first it made random moves. Then it started learning through self-play. Over the course of nine hours, the chess version of the program played forty-four million games against itself on a massive cluster of specialized Google hardware. After two hours, it began performing better than human players; after four, it was beating the best chess engine in the world.”
—James Somers, New Yorker, How the Artificial-Intelligence Program AlphaZero Mastered Its Games

From “knowing” nothing about the game, in four hours the program became the strongest chess player in the world. AlphaZero also taught itself in a few hours to become the world’s best Go and shogi player.

As a schoolboy I played competitive chess for a few years. Although I haven’t played chess seriously since then, I still have a feeling for the game.

I was shocked watching AlphaZero’s tenth game with Stockfish, the strongest open-source chess engine in the world.

I’d describe AlphaZero’s play as completely solid, interspersed with incredible flashes of brilliance. Great human chess players have an uncanny ability to view a position and quickly select a few plausible moves for deeper study out of the many possible legal moves. The best grandmasters occasionally discover a brilliant and unexpected move in a game. AlphaZero found several during this game.

Having seen this game, I’d describe AlphaZero as the most creative, brilliant, and strongest chess player the world has ever seen.

From a novice to best in the world in four hours, is a level of performance that no human can match.

Now think about what would happen if this kind of performance could be achieved in human work environments such as:

  • medical scan diagnosis;
  • legal document creation;
  • engineering design; and
  • stock market trading.

These are only harder problems than playing a game because:

  • the problem space is larger; and
  • the data needed for learning can’t be self-generated by the AI itself and must be supplied by humans.

But these are not insuperable obstacles. If overcome, many high paid jobs for medical practitioners, lawyers, accountants, and financial analysts would disappear.

Are we moving towards a world where the only available work is in low paid “human service” areas where people are still cheaper than machines? Perhaps.

Until the arrival of robots capable of doing just about everything humans do. What work for humans remains then?

Image attribution: Wired

What’s better than people augmented by technology at meetings?

What's better than people augmented by technology at meetings?
There’s a better way to improve meetings than augmenting them with technology. As Finnish management consultant and polymath Esko Kilpi says:

“Human beings augmented by other human beings is more important than human beings augmented by technology” —Esko Kilpi, quoted by Harold Jarche

At face-to-face meetings, we can facilitate relevant connections and learning around participants’ shared just-in-time wants and needs. This is more effective than augmenting an individual’s learning via technology. We maximize learning when:

  • Participants first become aware, collectively and individually, of the room’s wants, needs, and available expertise and experience (i.e. “the smartest person in the room is the room” — David Weinberger, Too Big To Know);
  • We use meeting process that successfully matches participants’ needs and wants with the expertise and experience available; and
  • Time and space is available for the desired learning to take place.

And of course, this approach significantly improves the quantity and quality of relevant connections made by participants during an event.

So the smart choice is to invest in maximizing peer connection and learning. Do this via simple human process rather than elaborate event technology.

I’ve wasted time at many events trying to use apps to connect attendees in some useful way. Even when high-tech approaches use a simple web-browser interface, getting 100% participation is difficult due to technical barriers: all attendees must have a digital device readily available with no low batteries or spotty/slow internet access.

Well-facilitated human process has none of these problems. The value of having a facilitator who knows how to do this work far exceeds the cost (which may be zero once you have invested in training staff to fulfill this function).

When push comes to shove, modern events thrive in supportive, participatory environments. Attendees appreciate the ease of making connections they want and getting the learning they need from the expertise and experience of their peers. Once they’ve experienced what’s possible they rarely enjoy going back to the passive meetings that are still so common.

Yes, we can use technology to augment learning. But the majority of the high-tech event solutions marketed today are inferior and invariably more costly to implement than increasing learning and connection through radically improving what happens between people at our meetings.

How the Apple Watch Series 3 improves my life

How the Apple Watch improves my lifeWhile exploring the New York City High Line for the first time in November 2017, I High Linestopped for lunch in the Chelsea Market, passed the Apple West 14th Street Store and on impulse went in to take a look at the Apple Watch Series 3 which had just been released. Though impressed while watching the original Apple Watch launch two years earlier, I was still wearing an inexpensive watch I’d purchased years ago in Zurich. This time I liked what I saw. Within 30 minutes I was the owner of a space gray 42mm aluminum Series 3. I added a space black Milanese Loop but passed on the cellular option.

As I write this, two months later, my Apple Watch has hardly left my wrist (you’ll see why later). Frankly I’m surprised at its positive impact on my life. Let’s list the ways…

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Four tools for communities of practice

HT Harold Jarche

Today, communities of practice — groups of people who share a common interest, profession, or passion and actively engage around what they have in common — have become essential sources for productive learning, because they provide crucial bridges for social learning between our work community and our external social networks.

Here are four tools for creating, supporting, and enriching communities of practice.

Peer Conferences
In my post Conferences as Communities of Practice I explain how peer conferences can support communities of practice. (In 1992, the first peer conference I ever designed created a community of practice that has endured to this day.)

Listservs
Listservs are an old but still surprisingly useful technology that manages a list of subscribers and allows any member to send one email to the list, which then transparently sends it to the other list subscribers. Listserv software is available on multiple platforms and is free for up to ten lists of up to five hundred subscribers which should be sufficient for most communities of practice. While numerous commercial alternatives like Yahoo! Groups and Google Groups exist, there’s something to be said for self-hosted technology that doesn’t rely on third party providers who may close down or change services with little notice or recourse.

Slack
Slack can be used free for basic support of communities of practice (up to 10,000 messages), though many useful functions are only available in paid versions ($80+ per person annually). All Slack content is searchable. The product, initially targeted at organizations, has been evolving into a community platform, which, because of the cost is probably most useful for communities whose members already have corporate access.

Zoom
The ability to converse with community members via audio/video/chat on a scheduled or ad hoc basis is an important tool for maintaining and growing community connections online. For many years the free Google Hangouts was my go to tool for this purpose, but the service has become almost impossible to use on an ad hoc basis and Zoom seems to be the most popular replacement. For short meetings (up to a maximum of 100 participants for 40 minutes) the free Zoom Basic will suffice, but most communities will be well served by Zoom Pro (unlimited duration and participants; $180/year). Since any community member who has a paid Zoom plan can host a video/web conference, this tool can be a cost-effective way for communities of practice to keep in touch.

Do you use other tools to create, support, and enrich your communities of practice? If so, share them in the comments below!

How to solve the infuriating HTTP error when uploading images or videos to WordPress

Here’s a foolproof method to fix the dreaded HTTP error seen when attempting to upload images, videos, or other accepted file types to the WordPress Media Library.

One of the most frustrating aspects of using the popular WordPress platform is running into this error when attempting to upload media. If you’ve never experienced this, you’re lucky! I run into this problem on ~1% of my image uploads and have wasted a lot of time and energy trying to resolve it.

solve HTTP error uploading WordPress
I’m not alone. The two million plus hits returned by a quick Google search for the cause of this problem make it abundantly clear that this problem is common, and that there is neither a simple explanation why it occurs nor a single solution that prevents it from happening. Here is a summary of some of the “solutions” that have been proposed:

  • Reduce image size
  • Increase PHP memory
  • Disable mod_security
  • Disable plugins
  • Change php.ini and /or .htaccess settings
  • Install a newer version of php
  • Disable image optimization
  • Change upload folder permissions

I’m not denying that these approaches work under some circumstances, and if you are consistently unable to successfully upload images to the WordPress media library you should probably investigate them. But be prepared for a lot of messing about with no guarantee of success. (At least, that was my experience.)

So, here’s a solution that works (note: except for websites hosted at wordpress.com, because plugins cannot be added to such sites).

How to avoid an HTTP error when uploading media to WordPress
Begin with these three one-time-only steps:

  1. Obtain and set up an FTP program so you can transfer files to your WordPress host. If you didn’t understand that sentence, don’t worry: here’s a beginner’s guide to obtaining an FTP program and using FTP to transfer files to and from your WordPress site.
  2. Install the Add From Server plugin and activate it. If you don’t know how to install a WordPress plugin, consult this clear beginner’s guide.
  3. From your WordPress Dashboard, check Settings > Add From Server. The default settings [User Access Control All users with the ability to upload files] & [Root Directory Do not lock browsing to a specific directory] should be fine for general use.

Once you’ve completed the above steps, you can upload media to your WordPress library as follows:

  1. Run your FTP program and navigate to the appropriate folder to upload your media. There are a couple of possibilities here. For a default WordPress installation, the appropriate folder will be your Uploads folder, i.e. (..[NameOfYourSite]/wp-content/Uploads/).
  2. If, however, you have the WordPress Dashboard Settings > Media option Organize my uploads into month- and year-based folders checked, you will probably want to upload your media into a subfolder of Uploads that has the form [CurrentFourDigitYear/CurrentTwoDigitMonth/], for example ..[NameOfYourSite]/wp-content/Uploads/2017/07/. Note that if this is your first upload for the current month, the folder won’t exist and you’ll need to create it using the FTP program.
  3. From your WordPress Dashboard, go to Media > Add From Server.
    solve HTTP error uploading WordPress
  4. Use the navigation links at the top of the Add From Server screen to navigate to the same folder you chose in step 1 or 2.solve HTTP error uploading WordPress
  5. Click the checkmark box (or boxes) next to the media you wish to add. Then scroll to the bottom of the page. There’s an option to set the imported date to the current date and time [default] or the file’s creation date and time. I think the default is most appropriate, but feel free to choose the alternative. Click the Import button and voila! Your selection(s) will be added to your WordPress Media Library!

That’s it! Although this description of the process is long, once you’ve set up your FTP program the five steps above take very little time to complete. I hope this has been helpful, and welcome your comments below!

The end of decent paid jobs and the need for basic income

The end of decent paid jobs and the need for basic incomeIn the summer of 1970 I had a cool teenager vacation job: writing computer programs for a trucking company in downtown Los Angeles. After I finished coding a new report, my boss asked me to share it with a small department’s employees. I told the fifteen people there what I had done. And I saw their horror as we realized that my report replaced what they had been doing for a paycheck.

I felt terrible about the consequences of my work. I felt angry with my boss who knew exactly what would happen. He had made me the unwitting messenger of bad news. I never found out the consequences, but we’ve all heard countless stories like this.

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22 great iPhone/iPad apps for event professionals

App_Store

Two years have passed since the last update of my favorite iPad/iPhone apps for event professionals. Apps continue to be born, evolve, and, sometimes, die—so it’s time for my latest list of event professionals’ great apps!

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