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‘The Effects Cannot Be Overstated’: When Tech Invaded Media

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How do New York Times journalists use technology in their jobs and in their personal lives? Jim Rutenberg, media columnist for The Times, discussed the tech he’s using.

Tech and media have long been converging. What are the biggest effects on the media industry, and how has it had to adapt?

The effects cannot be overstated — and in some ways, everything is changing, which is what makes it so exciting to cover.

First there’s streaming, which has blown apart the television model that I started covering 20 years ago. The traditional networks are under siege, and that, in turn, is breaking up the longstanding Hollywood power structure — and the old boys’ network behind it — in welcome ways. The amount of quality programming is off the charts, and opportunities for newcomers with new ideas and backgrounds are unparalleled in the history of the moving image.

The question is what the new power structure will look like. Will it be more reflective of America and continue to tell better stories about it? Or will it be meet the new boss, same as the old boss?

In journalism, it’s a mixed bag. The giant sucking sound you hear is Silicon Valley vacuuming the digital ad dollars out of the news business, badly hurting small and midsize newspapers across the country. This is now a given, but I’ll say it again anyway: As newspapers fall, leaving important local issues uncovered, the social media companies contributing to their deaths are helping to fill the content void with unverified, and at worst patently false, information. Solutions are not coming fast, though smart people are working on it.

At the same time, the digital transformation has introduced supercool ways of telling stories and given the industry a new dynamism from a new talent pool. At the end of the day, though, the basics still rise: penetrating, holy-smokes reporting in stories well told.

How do you consume media now? Which gadgets or tech services do you use most often?

I am so addicted to my iPhone that my fingers hurt. My distal interphalangeal joints — the ones toward the tips of my digits — take it particularly hard, though they are probably so strong by now they could lift a VW Bug. I’m a 6s-type person, and if I didn’t have the iPhone battery case I’d be dead in the water by noon every day (especially when dealing with sensitive sources via battery-eating encrypted apps).

Most of my iPhone time is spent on Twitter, far more than I want to admit. I use Twitter far more to consume than to tweet myself; I prefer to save my best thoughts for my column, though I am constantly reassessing that as I watch many of my colleagues make wonderful use of the platform to report without cutting into their more traditional dispatches.

That said, I’ve balanced my follows such that Twitter and, secondarily, Facebook still do a fairly good job of serving up content I wouldn’t have otherwise noticed (So I won’t delete my accounts — yet). With friends who are less social media oriented, I remain an evangelist for a well-curated feed, though I include a trigger warning: The dreck that inevitably works its way into the stream can ruin your day (or your democracy), as the world now knows. I find that Instagram is a good antidote, and I keep mine personal, and away from work.

I start the morning on my iPad, where I peruse Flipboard and the traditional newspaper apps: The Times’s, The Wall Street Journal’s, The Washington Post’s and those of various local news organizations (The Palm Beach Post, The Texas Tribune, Philly.com), especially when I’m traveling.

I’m using Apple TV more and more, and am constantly toggling between my content on Apple, Amazon Prime, Netflix and the cable box. I’ve yet to figure out the remotes; I just push buttons until stuff turns on.

Spotify is a constant in my life, and it’s what I usually use on my Sonos home speaker system as well.

What could be better about the tech tools you rely on most for your beat?

Among all their downsides, the news algorithms of Twitter and Facebook do a lousy job serving up items that aren’t directly in the trending hurricane du jour. It would be great if they could be more like Spotify, which has developed a very good formula for finding songs and bands you have never heard of but will probably like — with curveballs thrown in that run counter to your taste, in case you’re up for expanding your repertoire. It may be easier to do with music, which calms the savage beast, than with words and pictures, whose power to enrage has only grown.

Also, the platforms simply have to do a better job of identifying and eradicating bots whose sole mission appears to be to inflame and harass. Yes, they target all sorts of users, but in some cases (and in the parochial terms of my beat) they’re aimed at journalists — either to sway them or to just attack them, in another affront on democracy’s fourth estate.

Don’t get me started on misinformation. I have too many columns ahead to fill on the topic.

What tech product are you personally obsessed with?

I’m going to cheat and talk about two. And it won’t be pretty.

Let’s start with Nest. The device — at least ours, which we got two years ago — has a mind of its own. At times, it makes me feel as if I’m in the “Jetsons” reboot episode in which the robots all turn against George. My wife and I are often away from our house for long periods, so we keep the heat low. The Nest allows us to warm it from afar hours ahead of time so we don’t come home to an icebox.

But then, for no apparent reason, the Nest will set the heat back to low when we’re in the house so it is suddenly freezing again. This has happened in exceedingly cold weather when there are pipes to worry about. The device is running on an algorithm that we can turn off — I get that (theoretically, at least; my m.o. with tech is to figure out the minimum that will serve my needs and leave it at that). And I’m sure there are other ways to fix it. The other day I hit up against a new and unforeseen problem — it went totally dead on me just as a cold snap kicked in. I forgot to pay the internet bill. I know one thing: My old thermostat was immune to my own idiocy, didn’t play games with me or jeopardize my plumbing and I didn’t need to pore through a manual to figure it out. We are giving it one more chance before we ditch it.

Ditto Sonos. The stereo speakers are wireless and portable, so you can play music throughout your house from your iPhone, without having to hire a contractor to embed speakers in your walls or sell you some fancy and expensive system.

But often — usually when we’re throwing a dinner party — the speakers will stop playing as the app goes on the fritz for prolonged periods without obvious reason. (And customer support isn’t all that supportive.) That never happened with my old Sony hi-fi. One more ruined playlist during a party and I’m out.

What’s one app you can’t live without?

Surfline. It’s not the only app to give you surf conditions and predictions, and it’s not the only good one. But its easy-to-digest ratings — “good,’’ “fair,’’ “poor” — are great for committed surfers with the unfortunate affliction of a day job.

The app offers plenty of data and has a wealth of surf cams from breaks around the world, so you can see the swell before you go — or stare longingly at your home break when you’re in another meeting and your editor’s all, like, blah, blah, blah. Cowabunga.

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The 3 Best Canadian Tech Stocks I Would Buy With $3,000 for 2021

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The majority of the Canadian tech stocks went through the roof in 2020 and delivered outsized returns. However, tech stocks witnessed sharp selling in the past 10 days, reflecting valuation concerns and expected normalization in demand. 

As these high-growth tech stocks shed some of their gains, I believe it’s time to accumulate them at current price levels to outperform the broader markets by a significant margin in 2021. Let’s dive into three tech stocks that have witnessed a pullback and are looking attractive bets. 

Lightspeed POS

Lightspeed POS (TSX:LSPD)(NYSE:LSPD) stock witnessed strong selling and is down about 33% in the last 10 days. I believe the selloff in Lightspeed presents an excellent opportunity for investors to invest in a high-growth and fundamentally strong company. 

Lightspeed witnessed an acceleration in demand for its digital products and services amid the pandemic. However, with the easing of lockdown measures and economic reopening, the demand for its products and services could normalize. Further, it faces tough year-over-year comparisons. 

Despite the normalization in demand, I believe the ongoing shift toward the omnichannel payment platform could continue to drive Lightspeed’s revenues and customer base. Besides, its accretive acquisitions, growing scale, and geographic expansion are likely to accelerate its growth and support the uptrend in its stock. Lightspeed stock is also expected to benefit from its growing average revenue per user, innovation, and up-selling initiatives.     

Shopify 

Like Lightspeed, Shopify (TSX:SHOP)(NYSE:SHOP) stock has also witnessed increased selling and has corrected by about 22% in the past 10 days. Notably, during the most recent quarter, Shopify said that it expects the vaccination and reopening of the economy to drive some of the consumer spending back to offline retail and services. Further, Shopify expects the pace of shift toward the e-commerce platform to return to the normal levels in 2021, which accelerated in 2020.

Despite the normalization in the pace of growth, a strong secular shift towards online commerce could continue to bring ample growth opportunities for Shopify, and the recent correction in its stock can be seen as a good buying opportunity. 

Shopify’s initiatives to ramp up its fulfillment network, international expansion and growing adoption of its payment platform are likely to drive strong growth in revenues and GMVs. Moreover, its strong new sales and marketing channels bode well for future growth. I remain upbeat on Shopify’s growth prospects and expect the company to continue to multiply investors’ wealth with each passing year. 

Docebo 

Docebo (TSX:DCBO)(NASDAQ:DCBO) stock is down about 21% in the last 10 days despite sustained momentum in its base business. The enterprise learning platform provider’s key performance metrics remain strong, implying that investors should capitalize on its low stock price and start accumulating its stock at the current levels. 

Docebo’s annual recurring revenue or ARR (a measure of future revenues) continues to grow at a brisk pace. Its ARR is expected to mark 55-57% growth in Q4. Meanwhile, its top line could increase by 48-52% during the same period. The company’s average contract value is growing at a healthy rate and is likely to increase by 22-24% during Q4. 

With the continued expansion of its customer base, geographical expansion, innovation, and opportunistic acquisitions, Docebo could deliver strong returns in 2021 and beyond.

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Manitoba to invest $6.5 million in new systems

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WINNIPEG – The province of Manitoba is investing $6.5 million over three years to replace technical systems used in healthcare facilities, including replacing current voice dictation and transcription services with more modern systems and upgrading the Provincial Health Contact Centre (PHCC)’s triage, call-recording and telephone systems, Health and Seniors Care Minister Heather Stefanson (pictured) announced.

“Our government is investing in the proper maintenance of information and communications technology to ensure digital health information can be safely stored and shared as needed,” said Stefanson. “These systems will ensure healthcare facilities can continue to provide high-quality services and allow Manitobans to get faster access to healthcare resources and information.”

Dictation, transcription and voice-recognition services are used by healthcare providers to write reports. There are currently approximately 80 healthcare sites across Manitoba using some combination of dictation, transcription and voice-recognition services. Many of these systems are nearing the end of their usable lifespans.

“Across our health system, radiologists and nuclear medicine physicians use voice-dictation services to help create diagnostic reports when reading imaging studies like ultrasound, nuclear medicine studies, X-rays, angiography, MRI and CT scans,” said Dr. Marco Essig, provincial specialty lead, diagnostic imaging, Shared Health. “Enhanced dictation and voice-recognition services will enable us to work more efficiently and provide healthcare providers with quicker access to these reports that support the diagnoses and treatment of Manitobans every day.”

The project will replace telephone-based dictation and transcription with voice-recognition functions, upgrade voice-recognition services for diagnostic imaging and enhance voice-recognition tools for mobile devices.

“Investing in more modern voice-transcription services will help our health-care workers do the administrative part of their jobs more quickly and effectively so they can get back to the most important part of their work – providing top-level healthcare and protecting Manitobans,” said Stefanson. “The transition to the new system will be made seamlessly so that services disruptions, which can lead to patient care safety risks, will not occur.”

The new systems will be compatible with other existing systems, will decrease turnaround times to improve patient care and will be standardized across the province to reduce ongoing costs and allow regional facilities to share resources as needed, Stefanson added.

The PHCC is a one-stop shop for incoming and outgoing citizen contact and supports programs such as Health Links–Info Santé, TeleCARE TeleSOINS and After-Hours Physician Access, as well as after-hours support services to public health, medical officers of health, home care and Manitoba Families.

The current vendor that supplies communications support to the PHCC is no longer providing service, making it an opportune time to invest in an upgraded system that will provide better service to Manitobans, the minister said, adding the project will provide the required systems and network infrastructure to continue providing essential services now and for the near future.

“The PHCC makes more than 650,000 customer service calls to Manitobans per year to a broad spectrum of clients with varied health issues. This reduces the need for people to visit a physician, urgent care or emergency departments,” said Stefanson. “The upgrade will also allow Manitobans in many communities to continue accessing the support they need from their home or local health centre, reducing the need for unnecessary travel.”

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Telus and UHN deliver services to the marginalized

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Telus’s Health for Good program has launched the latest of its specially equipped vans to provide medical services to the homeless and underserved, this time to the population of Toronto’s west end. The project relies not only on the hardware and software – the vans and technology – but on the care delivered by trained and socially sensitive medical professionals.

For the Toronto project, those professionals are working at the University Health Network’s Social Medicine program and the Parkdale Queen West Community Health Centre. The city’s Parkdale community, in the west end, has a high concentration of homeless and marginalized people.

First launched in 2014, Telus’s Health for Good program has delivered mobile clinics to 13 Canadian cities, from Victoria to Halifax. Originally designed to deliver primary care, the program pivoted to meet the needs of patients in the COVID-19 pandemic, said Nimtaz Kanji, Calgary-based director of Telus Social Purpose Programs.

Angela Robertson of the Parkdale Queen West Community Health Centre (CHC) asserted that marginalized people are particularly susceptible to the spread of COVID-19, as they don’t have access to the basic precautions that prevent its spread.

The clinic is located near a Pizza Pizza franchise; homeless people shelter under its overhang on the weekends, she said. Some have encampments under nearby bridges.

“The public health guidelines and requirements call for things that individuals who are homeless don’t have,” Robertson said. “If the response calls for isolation, that suggests people have places to isolate in.”

And in the shelter system, pre-COVID, the environment was very congregate, with many people in the same physical space, said Robertson. Some homeless persons, in order to keep themselves safe, have created encampments, and the city has opened up some hotel rooms across the city to create spaces for physical distancing.

Even proper hand-washing and hygiene becomes a challenge for the homeless.

“COVID calls for individuals to practice constant hand-washing. Oftentimes, individuals who are homeless use public washroom facilities that may be in restaurants or coffee shops, and many of those spaces are now closed. So there are limitations to accessing those facilities. It’s not like they’re in a community where there are public hand-washing facilities for people who are homeless.”

The mobile health clinic allows the CHC to take “pop-up testing” into communities where there is high positivity and where additional COVID testing is needed. The CHC can take testing into congregate sites and congregate housing to provide more testing, Robertson said.

“The other piece that we will use the van to do is, when the vaccine supply gets back online, and when the health system gets to doing community vaccinations … we hope that we can be part of that effort.”

COVID has contributed to a spike in cases of Toronto’s other pandemic: opioid overdoses. Some community members are reluctant to seek care because of the stigma attached to substance abuse; and COVID has a one-two punch for users.

The first rule of substance abuse is, don’t use alone; always be with someone who can respond to a potential overdose, ideally someone who can administer Nalaxone to reverse the effects of the overdose, Robertson said. “It’s substance abuse 101,” and the need for social distancing makes this impossible.

Secondly, COVID has affected the supply chain of street drugs. As a result, they’re being mixed increasingly with “toxic” impurities like Fentanyl that can be deadly.

The van itself is a Mercedes Sprinter, modified by architectural firm éKM architecture et aménagement and builder Zone Technologie, both based in Montréal. According to Car and Driver magazine, the Sprinter line – with 21 cargo models and 10 passenger versions – is “considered by many to be the king of cargo and passenger vans.”

Kanji said the platform was chosen for its reputation for reliability and robustness.

While the configuration is customized for each mobile clinic, it generally consists of two sections: A practitioner’s workstation and a more spacious and private examination room, so patients can receive treatment with privacy and dignity, Kanji said. The Parkdale clinic is 92 square feet.

“While the layouts vary across regions, they typically include an examination table and health practitioners’ workstation, including equipment necessary to provide primary healthcare,” the Telus vice-president of provider solutions wrote in an e-mail interview. The Parkdale Queen West mobile clinic is designed for primary medical services, including wound care, mobile COVID-19 testing and vaccination efforts, harm reduction services, mental healthcare and counseling.

The clinic equipped with an electronic medical record (EMR) from TELUS Health and TELUS LTE Wi-Fi network technology.

Practitioners will be able to collect and store patient data, examine a patient’s results over time, and provide better continuity of care to those marginalized citizens who often would have had undocumented medical histories.

The EMR system is Telus Health’s PS Suite (formerly Practice Solutions). It is an easy-to-use, customizable solution for general and specialty practices that captures, organizes, and displays patient information in a user-friendly way. The solution allows for the electronic management of patient charts and scheduling, receipt of labs and hospital reports directly into the EMR, and personalization of workflows with customizable templates, toolbars, and encounter assistants.

But like others tested for COVID, it’s a 24-48 hour wait for results. Pop-up or not, how does the mobile team get results to patients who have no fixed address?

The CHC set up a centre for testing in a tent at the Waterfront Community Centre. Swabs are sent to the lab. “We are responsible for connecting back with community members and their results,” Robertson said.

“This is the value of having Parkdale Queen West being in front of the testing, because many of the community members who are homeless we know through our other services, and there is some trust in folks either coming to us to make arrangements to collect their results, or we know where they are.”

This is a key element of the program, said Kanji – leveraging community trust. In Vancouver downtown east side, for example, where there is a high concentration of marginalized members of the indigenous community, nurse practitioners are accompanied by native elders in a partnership with the Kilala Lelum Health Centre.

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