Feel like someone’s watching you?

How would you like for your employer to monitor you while you working from home? Imagine sitting at your desk and your home office and your boss is tracking what you are doing. To a limited degree, your status on Microsoft Skype and Teams serve as monitoring; however surveillance applications can be quite a bit more invasive.

Photo by RF._.studio on Pexels.com

Why Monitor at all? Well, not everyone can be trusted to stay on task and do the work that he/she is being paid to do while in the office, much less in their private homes. Unless there is some hourly or daily deliverable, there’s really no way to tell that WFH is really happening.

Employers monitor “efficiency, attendance and productive time as well as detect slackers and late-comers.”

Janet Patterson, Medium.com

How exactly do employers monitor? Well, when I teach online university courses, my students must install a monitoring browser that uses their webcams and AI when they take exams. The applications check for head and eye movements that are attributed with cheating, and prevent the students from switching to other applications during the exams. Similarly, employer surveillance applications monitor keyboard and web activities and do the following:

Is there any lasting employer benefit of monitoring? Eventually, everyone will be back in the workplace. It’s already starting to happen. Rather than continue to play big brother, this is a chance for the company to start incorporating specific skills and traits into job requirements that will preclude the necessity of employee monitoring.

Yes, I still play with puppets

It has been a while since I have been smitten, enamorada, fascinée with a computer application. After my training and first few projects with Adobe Character Animator puppets (or characters), I am truly excited about the possibilities of this tool, from conducting online unbiased interviews, live virtual meetings, and recorded or live presentations.

So far I have learned the basics of setting up the Character Animator puppets, and editing them to change their features, skin color, hair texture and clothing. Although you do not have to be an artist to navigate this application, it’s definitely not one that you can jump right into (believe me I tried)—even if you are familiar with Adobe products. You have to get some training.

Tutorials

The best tutorials that I have seen so far come from Okay Samurai. Check out his videos, which cover the basics, intermediate and all the way to the projects I could only hope to someday create.

It’s certainly a fun product and you just need a computer with a microphone, camera and of course Adobe Creative applications. Enjoy!

Adobe Character Animator is challenging but worth the effort.

“You are a real boy…as real as I’ve ever made one.”

If you are a Sci-Fi fan, then you might recognize that a line from Steven Spielberg’s A.I. (Artificial Intelligence), a futuristic movie about robot with very human characteristics. Since seeing that movie, I have been excited about the prospect of that technology becoming reality. Well, it has already happened and the technology is moving ever close to the ‘real boy.’

Whether you are a fan of Cortana, Siri, Alexa or some other virtual assistant, you have likely stopped typing in any search terms that you perform on your phone or tablet, and now allow the AI to do the work of:

  • converting your speech to text
  • finding the results based on the search terms, your location, past web behavior
  • converting the best search result text to speech and reading the text to you

Also, if you have visited any company’s website lately, you were undoubtedly greeted by a chatbot designed to quickly address your reason for visiting, and direct you to the information you needed.

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Support for Online Learning

In April of this year, I was very hopeful that the human race would conquer Covid-19 and we would not suffer the loss of lives that we have experienced globally. I hoped that with the social distancing, quarantines, mask wearing and other precautions that we would be able to keep each other safe and prevent the suffering that so many have endured. I also hoped, most of all, that the pandemic would pass within a season and that we would put our lives back together.

Since that has not happened and many of us are still making efforts to shelter in place, schools are offering virtual and online options, if not onsite. As such, students of all ages and their parents are trying to get their educational plans in order.

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Be the Difference You Want to See

In addition to being a lifelong learning book nerd, I am also a serial volunteer. Most of my volunteering has involved the Spanish language (teaching the language or working in Latinx community) and IT (teaching or providing support).

In May, of this year, I decided to take steps to do more than volunteer. I decided to make service part of my business plan.

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Online Support of Black-Owned Businesses

This week I learned about a photographer who posted a list of Black-owned businesses to her company site. It has received a high level of attention from business owners and consumers.

Why this seemingly sudden national interest in supporting Black businesses? Because, as Americans, our first inclination to help someone suffering or in trouble is to assist financially.

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Protesting on the Digital Front

Black Lives Matter. It is more than a hashtag and it should go without saying/writing. However, in the United States, it is grossly apparent that many people do not value Black lives, including police who are taking Black lives, and all those who can (but do not) use their power and courage to stop police brutality against Black people.

Tackling institutional racism is another matter. Racism persists in all institutions, even the nation’s churches. As individuals we have a choice to support racism, ignore racism, or combat racism.

The use of media and language in America can be harmful to Black people. Calling Black men “thugs” and referring to protesters as “terrorists” in the news distorts the view an audience, especially those who only receive news from a single source.

Media both reflects and shapes our culture and often the images and stories being told are detrimental to people of color. The fact that networks are canceling police speaks to their acknowledgment that entertainment is also contributing to racists beliefs and the problems they have caused in this country.

In the IT world, “black” is used to replace the synonyms malevolent, criminal, deleterious in its uses:

  • Blacklist (vs. Whitelist) User
  • Black Hat (vs. Whitehat) Hacker

In my places of work, I have challenged the practice by using words such as “greenlist” and “redlist.” Black professionals hear what others are not hearing. There are so few Black people in the world of IT. I wondered, in a “protest” letter to a global IT company, whether the exclusion that exists due to societal racism is also reinforced by the language and that white IT managers are blackballing (there’s that word again) Black professionals. But I really needn’t wonder.

An excerpt from my message which has been sent to two IT companies so far.

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Books Bring Me Joy … and Legal Know-How

Growing up, I spent many of my days at the local library finding the latest books by a favorite author (for many years it was Stephen King), discovering new authors, and listening rapt to the featured storyteller.

In more recent years, when I made the choice to start a part-time business, I used a local university law school library to navigate legal information and ensure that I had everything in place to succeed.

Although I was familiar from my earlier MBA studies, it was daunting to see the rows and rows of beautifully bound books with gold inlays and not know where to begin my search. So from the start, I inquired with the law librarian and assistant on duty.

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Technology for Getting the (real) News

I am not a media junkie, but since the Covid-19 pandemic started, I have kept my phone and tablet on the news sites. I want to know what is happening across the globe, in this U.S. and in my state. Now that there seems to me a renewed level of criminal activity by police and by vigilantes murdering Black citizens, I am checking more often for current events and especially for any judicial actions taken against the perpetrators.

There are a few media outlets that can be relied upon for staying aware of current events —real news and not opinion. And let’s be real: all the information that I post to my blog is opinion. What we Twitterers (?) tweet, and retweet, may contain some facts but usually we write an opinion on an existing, trending topic, or create a message starting a new one. Opinion is not news as is evidenced by Twitter’s measures to label tweets.

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One cannot live on Camtasia alone (well…maybe)

Most of us have a favorite application for a particular task. Whether for the ease of use, price, vendor customer service or some other reason, the preferred product will be in place until it becomes obsolete (in my head I hear the actor from The Twilight Zone, original series, B&W).

TechSmith Camtasia, Screencast and Snagit have been my go-to eLearning applications since…well, it has been a while. I am not prepared to change by any means but given the highly competitive market, I am adding new applications to my knowledge base, and reacquainting myself with those that are familiar, like the Articulate products.

My first experience with Articulate was with the Presenter product. With Articulate 360, the vendor, like many software companies, has gone the route of offering monthly or annual subscriptions for a hybrid of desktop and cloud products. For instructional design professionals Storyline is an alternative to Camtasia for developing and enhancing the eLearning experience.

My initial impression of this version, known as Articulate 360, is that the product offering is complete: it includes all the tools necessary to create an effective project. My second impression is that Storyline is the new Presenter (which always mimicked the PowerPoint GUI) so I felt right at home when I opened it.

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