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Stick Man and his family knitted characters Toys & Games Learning & School advancedrealty.com
- Stick Man and his family knitted characters
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Stick Man and his family knitted characters
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Stick Man and his family knitted characters
You will receive a Stick Man, his Lady Love and 2 children, Recreate the story of Stick Man by Julia Donaldson, with these lovely characters, Adults measure approximately 14cm high (5 1/2 inches) the childrens heights are varied, These are made to order, please allow time for production and,Easy Return,Best Quality,Believe that our to provide you with better service.
Research: Fitness Trackers and Apps Do Up Activity
Can a wearable fitness tracker or smartphone app really prod you to exercise more — and stick with it? In a new analysis of 28 studies involving 7,454 people, using these popular digital physical-activity aids was linked to users logging an extra 1,850 steps per day compared with non-users (nearly a mile more).
And the fitness app and tracker users were still moving significantly more 13 weeks later.
The wearable trackers and downloadable apps worked best when they provided feedback on progress, enabled users to set personal goals or reminded users to get active via text messages, according to the study, published December 2020 in the British Journal of Sports Medicine.
“Continuously monitoring your progress and receiving feedback from an app or tracker can lead to significant changes in overall physical activity,” says lead researcher Liliana Laranjo, MD, PhD, a research fellow on the faculty of medicine and health at the University of Sydney’s Westmead Applied Research Centre in Australia.
Analysis Focused on New Technology and Healthy Adults
Dr. Laranjo and the research team analyzed the results of studies conducted between 2014 and 2019 in women and men ages 18 to 65 who used a variety of smartphone apps (including Moves and Accupedo-Pro) or wearable trackers (including Fitbit, Fitbug, Withings Activité Steel, and Jawbone) — and included a control group who did not use devices.
The studies measured the effectiveness of the devices through participants’ self-reports and from data collected directly from the apps and trackers or from research-grade accelerometers that also tracked participants’ activity levels. Some of the measures included: daily step counts, minutes per week of moderate-to-vigorous physical activity, weekly days exercised, minutes per week of total physical activity, or a measure of oxygen uptake by the body during exercise.
This analysis is one of the first to look at the use of newer trackers and apps by healthy people. It focused on newer technology that tracks activity and gives feedback automatically, in contrast to older devices that had to be connected to a computer to upload exercise data, according to the study. Much of the existing work has also been done in people with chronic medical conditions.
Previous research suggests that the older types of devices led to small to moderate increases in activity levels; the aim of this review was to see if the newer technology made a difference, the study authors note.
The devices and apps were the main tools for motivating and measuring physical activity in the studies, but in most of the trials participants also got support, encouragement, and help with goal setting and problem-solving from other participants or from study leaders via meetings, phone calls, emails, or text messages.
After a mean follow-up period of 13 weeks (length of the trials ranged from 2 to 40 weeks), app and tracker users were more active than control groups, based on daily step counts.
Even Small Changes Can Have Meaningful Impact on Health
The extra 1,850 daily steps could have significant health benefits including lower risk for fatal heart disease, diabetes, and cancer, says study coauthor Bruno Heleno, MD, PhD, an assistant professor at NOVA Medical School at the Universidade Nova da Lisboa in Portugal. “Equally important, [we know from other data that] exercise seems to improve health-related quality of life, improve sleep, [and] reduce anxiety and depression,” Heleno says.
RELATED: Study Finds A Little Exercise Makes Up for a Full Day of Sitting
Laranjo and Dr. Heleno say their analysis didn’t single out any one device or app as the most effective at keeping users active. But the analysis did suggest that the trackers and apps were most effective at prompting people to exercise more when they had features that let users personalize their goals and exercise plans and that provided support and encouragement via text messages.
Personalization can help users set easy-to-reach goals and then increase activity with more ambitious goals in the future, Laranjo says. Many people get frustrated and give up if the benchmark is too high (like 10,000 steps per day), when in fact just a small increase from someone’s average can be very beneficial, she explains. “Starting low and progressing slowly, while continuously monitoring the progress and receiving feedback from the app or tracker, can lead to significant changes in overall physical activity throughout time.”
The studies included a wide variety of individuals — inactive young adults, overweight men ages 30 to 65, office workers with desk jobs, medical residents, and sedentary postmenopausal women. And while the researchers didn’t specifically analyze the data by further subgroups (for age, baseline activity level, or other), Heleno says they saw no particular differences that stood out. “We do not have any reason to think the results would be qualitatively different between men and women, young adults and middle aged, or sedentary and already active people,” Heleno says.
The takeaway for healthcare practitioners is that they should have more confidence in recommending fitness trackers and apps to their patients who want to become more physically active because this evidence suggests they work, Heleno says.
With Apps and Trackers, Some Type of Feedback and Accountability Tends to Boost Results
“These findings are important and show promise for using these technologies to improve physical activity,” says Mitesh S. Patel, MD, an associate professor of medicine and healthcare management at the Perelman School of Medicine and the Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia, and director of the Penn Medicine Nudge Unit, which studies and promotes healthy behavior change. Dr. Patel was not involved with this study.
“However, it is important to recognize that the increases in physical activity were not due to using the devices alone, but rather using them with a behavior change program,” he says (referring to the goal-setting features and support from study leaders and other participants). Patel adds that the analysis has limitations, because it looked at studies involving young and middle-aged adults (not older adults) and most tracked the effects of trackers and apps for two to three months, but not longer term.
Patel’s team within the Nudge Unit published a study in February 2020 in the journal JAMA Network Open that compared smartphone apps to wearable trackers in people newly discharged from the hospital. Patel and others found that app users were more likely than tracker users to still be tracking their activity six months later.
“For those interested in using these devices, smartphone apps that track activity are often free and easy to use,” he says. “I’d suggest using one of these first and then deciding if the extra features and tracking available on a wearable will provide additional useful information.”
And whatever app or tracker you choose, Patel says it may work best if you also have accountability and support from a structured program, such as a workplace wellness program or with a supportive friend or family member.
Fitness researcher Michelle Segar, PhD, MPH, director of the Sport, Health, and Activity Research and Policy Center at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor, and author of No Sweat: How the Simple Science of Motivation Can Bring You a Lifetime of Fitness, suggests consumers new to activity tracking use the findings of this study to inform their choices and look for apps and trackers that let you personalize your goals and get feedback on your progress toward those goals.
RELATED: The Best Apps for Weight Loss: Diet Plan Tools, Fitness Trackers, and More
To best cultivate lasting motivation — that goes beyond the initial excitement over starting something new and continues to motivate you when the novelty wears off — people need to become very clear about their “why” for wanting to make a change, such as feeling happier, having more energy, or feeling more mentally sharp after exercise, says Dr. Segar, who was not involved in the Australian study. Some fitness apps and trackers have features that can help users find and keep tapping into this meaningful motivation, she says.
And she adds, find what motivates you. Just because trackers and apps helped a lot of people in these studies doesn’t mean they worked for everyone, Segar says. “Just like other in-vogue exercise tools, they are not right for everyone.”
Alex Rodriguez’s beauty line says a lot about the rise of men’s makeup
Written by Megan C Hills, CNN
Former baseball pro Alex Rodriguez is not your typical makeup customer. Straight, Gen X and traditionally masculine, he’s perhaps one of the last celebrities you would expect to launch a beauty product.
And yet, last week, he did just that.
In a new campaign for men’s wellness brand Hims, ARod unveiled his new “Blur Stick” concealer, described in a press release as a “skincare solution developed specifically for men.” Available in eight different shades and packed into gray Chapstick-sized tubes, the product is also modeled by the star, who was an early investor in Hims.
In a series of muted promotional photos, a plainly dressed ARod looks into a mirror as he applies concealer to his cheeks in a nondescript room. In contrast to the usual fanfare of celebrity beauty launches, the campaign feels almost deliberately ordinary.
It gives the impression that applying makeup is a simple, unremarkable part of the star’s daily routine. And for a growing number of men like ARod, it is.
All eight shades Hims and ARod’s “Blur Stick.” Credit: Hims & Hers
Interest in men’s makeup appears to be growing in the West — especially among Gen Z consumers. A 2019 survey by research firm Morning Consult found that a third of American men under 30 would “consider” wearing it. Men’s lifestyle retailers like Mr Porter and Mankind now have dedicated makeup categories on their websites, affording a level of anonymity to buyers experimenting with products for the first time. Mr Porter introduced makeup to its site in 2017, with Tom Ford Beauty’s brow gel, and has reported increasing demand since. This success led the retailer to begin selling a dedicated men’s makeup line, War Paint for Men, last year. The site now stocks over 39 makeup products from seven brands. “It’s one of our biggest growing categories this year,” said buying director Sam Kershaw in an email interview.
Kershaw added that interest came from “across a broad age spectrum,” with Mr Porter’s male makeup sales growing a third over the past year. This is, he said, partly due to changing attitudes towards skincare and an increased awareness of anti-aging products.
A bottle of War Paint For Men’s tinted moisturizer. Credit: Mr Porter
“The most notable change in the grooming space over the past few years is the rise in men’s makeup as a hack to grooming,” Kershaw said. “The general acceptance of the category has grown, and it’s no-longer associated with a deliberate function in the entertainment industry, where you always have to be camera-ready.”
Mr Porter’s best-sellers include “concealers and tinted moisturizers” Kershaw said, adding: “Our customers are showing a strong demand for products that cover up blemishes and skin discoloration, perhaps largely due to Zoom fatigue during the pandemic. “
A little touch up
In the case of men like ARod — and “Judas and the Black Messiah” star Daniel Kaluuya, who made headlines in 2018 when he wore foundation by Rihanna’s Fenty Beauty on the Oscars red carpet — makeup may be less about colorful self-expression and more about subtle self-enhancement.
There is now an abundance of “natural” makeup tutorials for men on YouTube. Australian musician Troye Sivan’s “Epic No Makeup-Makeup Routine” video, produced by Vogue, has been viewed over 4.3 million times. Elsewhere, two “Makeup for Men” videos with Fenty Beauty makeup artist Hector Espinal have collectively drummed up over 1.5 million views.
Daniel Kaluuya wearing Fenty Beauty foundation at the 2018 Oscars. Credit: Christopher Polk/Getty Images
Kershaw suggested that Covid-19 lockdowns have presented men with an “opportunity to experiment more than usual with self-care” — all in the comfort of their own home. “Alongside makeup, we have seen LED face masks and tools such as face scrubs surge in popularity throughout this period,” he added.
In Asia, the male makeup sector has been growing for some time. Chinese e-retailer TMall reported in 2019 that sales of male beauty products had surged by more than 50% for two consecutive years, with a huge growth of interest in eyebrow pencils and lipsticks, according to state media. In South Korea, boy bands such as BTS have fronted makeup campaigns, while the beauty brand AmorePacific estimated that 70% of men in the military use cosmetics — leading it to launch a special military line, featuring natural camouflage makeup and post-training cooling and whitening masks.
In the West, appealing to males customers’ machismo appears to be a particularly popular brand strategy. War Paint For Men, for example, has tapped traditionally masculine brand ambassadors, including professional rugby and football teams in England, as well as James Bond makeup artist Donald Mowat.
Other male makeup brands have adopted stark minimal packaging, such as Chanel’s “Boy de Chanel,” while US brand Stryx markets its products as “tools. ” ARod’s neutral gray packaging takes a similar approach, with the word “makeup” completely absent from the Blur Stick press release.
Another campaign shot for Hims x ARod’s “Blur Stick” featuring a different model. Credit: Hims & Hers
This may all help brands differentiate their products from those found in the female-dominated makeup industry — or those used by the LGBTQ communities that have defined the male makeup space through drag culture and beauty YouTubers like Bretman Rock.
But the future of makeup could be increasingly unisex. Earlier this year, research firm NPD Group reportedly found that almost 40% of adults aged between 18 and 22 showed interest in gender-neutral beauty products. A number of genderless beauty brands, such as We Are Fluide and Milk Makeup, have emerged in recent years. Rihanna has also declared that Fenty Beauty is “for my fellas too,” having appointed A$AP Rocky and Lil Nas X as brand ambassadors.Rapper Lil Yachty, meanwhile, has announced the launch of a nail polish line (or “nail paint,” as he described it) for “all genders. ” The debut collection set comes with three nail polish pens, a nail clipping and filing tool, and nail art stickers. It is being marketed under the tagline, “For you, not them.””If you find painting your nails is a way to show your creative side or it’s an aesthetic that fits you, you shouldn’t be judged for it,” Lil Yachty is quoted as saying on the product website. “Outside opinion shouldn’t have an effect on your aesthetic and whatever you decide to do and this line is a reflection of that.”
35 hockey slang words, defined
If you think being fluent in the English language means you’ll understand everything being said on the rink and in the stands of a hockey game, think again.
Hockey has developed its own language, adding a whole new depth of fun. So before you watch the next game, here is our hockey dictionary to help you chirp when your team is down and celly when they pull off the win.
Here are 35 hockey slang words you might hear at a NCAA rink near you, defined:
Apple: an assist
Barnburner: a high-scoring game
Bender: a player whose ankles bend while they’re skating
Bottle rocket: when a goal breaks the goalie’s water bottle that sits on top of the net
Biscuit: the puck
Beauty/Beautician: a player who is loved not only for his skills, but for his personality. He is one of the coolest guys on the team and usually has great stories. He might also have the best flow on the team.
Celly: celebration following a goal
Cheese: the top shelf of the net
Chirp: to trash talk the opposing team
Clapper: a slapshot
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Dangle: when a player is a deke (or decoy) by making moves to fake out the goalie or opposing player; also used to describe the act of stick-handling
Dirty: term to describe an outstanding deke
Duster: someone who doesn’t get much playing time and collects dust on the bench
The Professor of Puck, @SnoopDogg, is back with another episode to explain the meaning of some classic hockey slang. 📖#StanleyCup https://t.co/SS6Tx3oNFs
— NHL (@NHL) April 18, 2018
Egg: when the game ends 0-0
Face wash: when a player rubs the palm of their glove in an opponent’s face simply to annoy them
Filthy: another term for a great deke or pass, like “dirty”
Flamingo: when a player lifts one leg, standing like a flamingo, to get out of the way of a shot
Flow: long hair — you can see it sticking out of their helmet
Gino: a goal that is scored
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Gongshow: a game that gets out of control, from big hits or high scores
Grocery stick: the player who sits between the defensive side of the bench and the offensive side
Hoser: a trash talk term for calling a player or team a loser. This one has been around for a while — before the Zamboni was created, the losing team had to hose down the ice following the game.
Kronwalled: a huge hit by a defenseman, named after Red Wings star Niklas Kronwall
Lettuce: hair, on the head and the face
Light the Lamp: scoring a goal — a red light goes off behind the net when a team scores a goal
Lip lettuce: a mustache
Muffin: a shot that should have been stopped after wavering back and forth in the air all the way to the net
Pillows: the goaltender’s leg pads
Plumber: maybe not the best player on the team, but a hard working player who does the dirty work in the corners
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Sieve: a goaltender who allows a lot of goals, usually referred to as being full of holes
Sin-bin: the penalty box
Sweater: hockey jersey
Top shelf: “where grandma keeps the good stuff” — the upper section of the goal’s net between the crossbar and the goaltender’s shoulders
Yard Sale: when a player gets hit so hard that he loses his equipment (stick, helmet, or gloves) and they’re left on the ice after the play
Sources: FloHockey, Bleacher Report, The Hockey Writers
MORE: These college hockey programs have produced the most members of the US Men’s Olympic Team
Kandle Offers Track-by-Track Of New EP, ‘Stick Around and Find Out’
After years battling through the infamously cold and stark music industry and finally escaping the shackles of recording contracts, Kandle suddenly found herself in full control of her music.
While her upcoming fourth album may have been recorded under extraordinary circumstances with a global pandemic, Kandle streamlined her focus and vision. She steps into her self worth with the confidence of a true veteran who is capable of taking any situation and finding an opportunity for a deeper emotional connection.
If her past has provided catharsis, her future is all about empowerment.
The album dropped today (get it!) and with it comes her explanation of what went into each song to readers of American Songwriter. Push play on the Spotify tracking below and see if what you hear matches with what she intended.
Stick Around and Find Out
The EP title, “Stick Around and Find Out” came on the heels of a year roaming around as I searched to solve all of my difficulties, figure out who I am and what I’m capable of independently and where I felt I should be. I never stayed in one place long enough to anchor myself, and I was thinking at the time that whatever “answers” I was searching for could be found somewhere other than within me. The EP is the product of my reclamation of artistic independence while adrift across the world. The songs are a chronicle of the journey I took, leading to where I’ve arrived now, Vancouver – my new home. Each song shares a commonality – each was recorded in a different city by a different producer, with the exception of one tune, and each was written in a day. I wasn’t allowed to release anything at the time and had no money to my name but I wanted to keep going and continue to create. The EP consists of seven songs written over the span of the last two years. Stick around and find out what’s next.
Spell was created in London with producer Youth Martin (The Verve, Paul McCartney, Kate Bush). I had toured with Youth in China when I was 18 and playing in the Blue Violets who were opening for his band, ‘Killing Joke’. I’d kept in touch with Youth, so when I found myself back in London, I asked if he wanted to hang out. He invited me to his house for tea and then suggested we go upstairs to the studio and write a song. I thought, “Oh shit. I have nothing.” We talked about influences and sounds. He said I had a very cool, dark Motown, psychedelic vibe and we should roll with that. I was giddy, nervous and ready for the challenge! Michael Rendall, the engineer, was sitting at the computer ready to go and Youth said, give me a Motown beat and Michael started playing something then Youth grabbed the bass and started his fuzz driven tasty riff. He was looking at me for feedback and I gave him an eager thumbs up! We started building that instrumental arrangement, and the whole time we were doing that I was panicking in my head wondering what I was going to sing. I started having little ideas and I’d run down to the bathroom and sing them into my phone, as I didn’t want to let him down by choking or seem unprofessional. A couple hours later he said, “It’s time to sing” and put a mic in front of me and I recorded pretty much all of the vocals on the spot. Youth played the song to a few people who said it needed a chorus. So I came back the next week, slightly panicked again, to come up with the words. I just wanted something timeless. Something reminiscent of Aretha Franklin and something simple, as the song tells the story and has a lot of lyrics – hence spelling out S P E L L! Essentially, it’s about falling too hard for someone and giving them too much power over you. Feeling as if you have to change to please them to the point that it feels as though you’re under a spell. No matter what you do it doesn’t feel like it’s enough. “So sick of you, so sick of me, dressing up like the star of your fantasy.” Spells ain’t love.
How Can You Hurt Me was written a few years ago in my bedroom at my parents’ house In Victoria, on an acoustic guitar. I was very inspired by Michael Kiwanuka’s soulful track, ‘Cold Little Heart’. I started with a minor chord and some ‘ooh’s to build a choir vibe. Then I brought it over to Louise Burns in Vancouver and, over sushi and wine, tightened up the arrangement and worked on some harmonies. I was really focused on trying to make it groove and feel good. I got Dave Genn (54.40, Matt Good) to produce the track in Vancouver with me. The song evolved from the chorus, “How can you hurt me when love’s just a word I no longer believe, you’ll never try, you’ll never use it on me”. I was dating a fellow songwriter in the aftermath of a split with someone that had hurt me deeply. I thought I could be in a relationship with boundaries that didn’t allow love to be part of things, seemingly to make it safe while we kept each other at a distance. The song essentially says I don’t believe in love and you can’t tell me that you love me anyway. We were stuck on the solo section, until I told Dave that I wanted it to sound like the Doors featuring a 60s organ solo. As soon as we had it, I couldn’t stop dancing!
Just To Bring You Back is an up-tempo, Motown inspired tune I co-wrote with another excellent British producer, Warne Livesey (Midnight Oil, Matthew Good Band, The The). I was in Toronto with nowhere to go and had been invited to stay with the Liveseys who are close friends. Warne and I were talking about him possibly producing a song and I had to tell him that with my current situation and legal troubles, I had no money and wouldn’t have any in the foreseeable future. So I told him what I’d just done with Youth, co-writing a song so we both had something to gain. We talked about the Motown inspiration, some Jack White- style guitar sounds, then we both grabbed guitars and started playing. Warne got a drum loop down which we replaced several months later with real drums when I was recording my album, added the bass and we just kept tweaking it until it sounded quite catchy and tasty. Once we had the instrumental done, I kicked him out of the room and I sat down with a mic and ProTools for 3 hours and wrote and recorded the lyrics right there. Warne did his first guitar solo ever (I’m very proud) and then mixed it too.
Little Bad Things started with a 6/8 beat as I definitely wanted it to sound like a Beatles arrangement. The song was written in London on an acoustic guitar in about an hour. I’ve never had a music lesson in my life and I don’t really ever know what chords I’m playing, so I had to take the time to figure out how to play the notes I was hearing in my head. I then brought it to Dave Genn. We looked at some Beatles production notes — what kind of guitar to use, what kind of tambourine, and we added a mellotron and thought each verse should add a different layer instrumentally to let it build and build. We added brushes on the snare to give it a bit of a vinyl hiss. The song is about not letting little bad things get in the way of your life. Prior to writing the song, I’d been in a very dark place while trying to regain my freedom and independence. I’d realized that I was waking up each morning to the very same day. I’d start off sad, unhappy and frustrated. Eventually I had an epiphany and realized that yes, bad things were happening but I was the one keeping me feeling so down and I had the power to change my perspective.
Better Man was written in L.A. It was the first song I’d done since a breakdown I had in the midst of fighting for my career. My sadness and hurt had turned to anger and power. I had been badly mistreated but I had to let go of feeling like a victim. The song began with just me and an acoustic guitar. I was playing SXSW with Louise Burns and we decided that since we were so close, we’d hop over to Nashville to meet up with our good friend Liam O’Neil ( Kings of Leon and formerly of The Stills.) We then put together a Nashville super-band with Ben Simonetti (Zack Brown Band), Julian Dorio (Band of Skulls), Joe Pisapia (k.d. lang, Ben Folds Five) and I played them the song once on an acoustic guitar. Liam sat down on the piano and went over the chords and arrangement. They made their Nashville chart (which Louise and I couldn’t read – haha) and again, recorded it in one day. It felt so good to speak my power in a song with really good, supportive men in the industry backing me up and helping me for nothing.
Cemetery was written with my Dad (Neil Osborne of 54.40) in our other band, ‘A Family Curse’. It’s such a great song that I started playing it live in my own act. I couldn’t help but record my own version for the EP. It’s such a classic great song that it lends itself well to other interpretations. Cemetery is about getting in your own way and realizing the power lies entirely with yourself; that holding back, hiding out and living without connection and consumed by fear is ultimately an unfulfilling endeavour. It was recorded in Montreal with my good friend Sam Woywitka (Half Moon Run, Luca Fogale, Patrick Watson) who just wanted to help me move forward by recording his favourite song of mine along with two incredible players from my Montreal based live band, Jason Kent (Sunfields Band) on guitar, piano and bass and, Carl St. Louis on the drums. We just tried to record it as we’d performed it live 100 times and we captured it perfectly.
Happy Pills was my eleventh hour song, written just before I started recording my full length album to be released early in 2021. I was sitting around in the Hipposonic studio in Vancouver trying to finalize arrangements for recording when I picked up a guitar and wrote it, almost by accident, in about 10 minutes. I had been focusing so much on rockin’, Motown, power house songs that I kind of missed being a little bit folky. At the time I was working on getting off of the medications that I’d been put on post breakdown and realized I wanted to reclaim and manage my life without them. “When did I start? And how do I stop? I caught my reflection, tied my stomach in knots”. I produced the song myself in Vancouver; then recruited my favourite Aussie musician, Wade Crighton, whom I met while doing an artist residency on the Gold Coast of Australia, to record a background vocal track to add to the song and play “doctor”.
Photo: Tess Ananda
Ghosts in the machine? Using the Kinect to hunt for spirits
The room is completely dark, save for the soft light of a computer monitor.
A solitary man stands in the middle of the old, musty foyer, surrounded by an audience of several ancient pieces of furniture. The silence is oppressive.
Through the computer monitor, another man — another paranormal investigator — watches a stick-figure representation of his colleague. At first it’s just the one body, a fluorescent green collection of sticks meant to represent human legs and arms. Then without warning, a second, smaller figure pops into view.
The man in the room is still alone, but this second tiny figure moves across the screen, seemingly reaching out to touch the man’s own, corporeal figure. Then it blinks out of existence.
If you’ve seen the Travel Channel’s Ghost Adventures, you’ve seen this experiment before: A Kinect, Microsoft’s camera peripheral that adds motion and voice control to the Xbox console family, is used to look beyond the veil, modified to capture images of what many believe to be spirits.
“Ever since the release of the Kinect motion sensor controllers in 2010, gamers have been posting videos of ‘Kinect Ghosts’ detected by their Xbox 360,” reads a blog post on the subject from the League of Occult Research and Education, an Olympia, Washington-based group dedicated to studying the paranormal. “The Kinect prompts you when a new person is in the room, a phenomena [sic] dismissed as a glitch by most users if they’re alone. However there are hundreds of videos on youtube of not only ‘someone not there’ being detected, but these ‘ghosts’ also using the motion controller to operate the system.”
Is the Kinect sensitive enough to capture a spirit?
A quick YouTube search of “Kinect ghosts” yields a surprising number of results. Xbox users believing their camera has latched onto something otherworldly is seemingly common. Users have reported ghost stories involving games like Dance Central and the Xbox One UI picking up a second person in the room when they were alone.
One such video features an Xbox One player unnerved by the system registering a human form in the empty space beside him. Another video shows an investigator calling out to the space next to her, only to have a small child-sized figure appear with joint points that constantly change position (shown below). It’s extremely eerie and more than a little unsettling, especially when your knowledge of how the hardware actually works can’t explain away the phenomenon.
People claim these “ghosts” have successfully manipulated the Xbox system into making their presence known, while others have dismissed the odd occurrence as glitches. But just how reliable is this piece of hardware in picking up spirits?
How is it supposed to work?
The Kinect — compatible with Xbox 360, Xbox One and Windows in its various forms — allows players to use motion controls to navigate the console’s menus and play games. The camera is used to track player movement for titles like Just Dance and Fantasia: Music Evolved, while voice recognition technology allows players to vocally execute commands instead of pushing a button.
Now in its second generation, the Kinect has had many upgrades. It’s now capable of near-instantaneous recognition of a person entering its field of view. It can even detect body heat, changes in facial expression and measure heart rates.
According to Microsoft, the latest iteration of Kinect for Windows can track up to six people at once, tracing each figure with up to 25 points. This improved skeletal tracking system, according to Microsoft, allows for readings that are “more anatomically correct and stable — and the range of tracking is broader.” The new Kinect can even capture movement in pitch-black darkness and includes infrared capabilities that make “computer-vision-based tasks much easier.”
But is the Kinect system actually sensitive enough to capture a spirit? You know, entities without solid, physical mass? In the movie Paranormal Activity 4, one character tweaks a Kinect to outwardly display the grid of tracking dots used to catch body movement. This allows the camera’s lasers to detect and vividly display sudden movements — in the case of the movie, a misty mass of CGI ghost whooshing through the room.
Polygon contacted Microsoft to find out how the company views its hardware being put to such a purpose. Microsoft declined to comment.
Paranormal groups like the Pennsylvania Paranormal Association — a team that has taken on dozens of documented cases — take a scientific approach to their investigations. These teams commonly use video and night-vision cameras to record any unexplained physical activity and digital voice recorders to capture “electronic voice phenomenon,” or EVPs (an EVP is the standard term for a recorded voice that is believed to have come from a ghost). Recently, more groups have adopted the use of thermal imaging cameras and Spirit Boxes, handheld radios that sweep through frequencies at a rapid pace that investigators believe allow spirits to easily form words and speak aloud.
In the hands of a ghost hunter, the Kinect essentially functions like an even more sensitive version of the famous Ouija board. Shows like Ghost Adventures frequently feature investigators using the Kinect to hunt for spirits.
Modifying the Kinect for paranormal investigation was first brought into the spotlight by Bill Chappell, an inventor and investigator known for his work on Ghost Adventures. His online shop Digital Dowsing sells a wide variety of hardware tweaked for ghost hunting, including a “structured light sensor” based on the Kinect software that allows for entity tracking in a similar manner.
The Ghost Adventures crew is particularly fond of tuning the software to readily map any human figures that appear (or disappear) within a room; the group has shared some interesting results on its television show. One episode featured a small unexplainable figure waving on command. Another showed a bizarre, large figure “climbing up” beside one investigator. Both investigations included participants reporting feeling cold, and the hair on their arms standing on end, minutes before the strange figure appears. We can’t say much about their physical reactions — it is, after all, a TV show — but searching for a logical explanation to these strange human-shaped figures requires a little more effort.
Polygon spoke with Tim Farley, a computer software engineer and security analyst who is also a noted skeptic. Farley specialized in electronic media as a fellow with the James Randi Educational Foundation (JREF) and hosts the Skeptical Software Tools blog.
“It doesn’t surprise me; this seems to be the trend for ghost hunting these days is to try and adapt technologies and use them to their advantages as much as possible,” Farley said. “Everyone seems to have a gadget in their hands on these ghost hunts.”
Farley noted that there are a lot of problems in using the Kinect the way paranormal investigators do, most notably the fact that there is no scientific way to test the setup. He noted that instruments like the Geiger counter, which is used to measure radiation, were created in a lab and then routinely tested to verify they work.
“There are a lot of assumptions.”
“Ghost hunters seem to jump right to using the gadgets in the field without any validation for whether the gadget actually does what they say it’s going to do,” he said. “These guys taking EMF [electromagnetic field] readers and assuming if they see the dial move something is going on — no one’s verified that. There’s no basis for whether or not ghosts produce electric fields. There are a lot of assumptions.”
Unless someone has been able to catch a ghost in a jar and test it within a laboratory environment, Farley said, there’s no way to prove the Kinect’s ghost-capturing efficiency.
What are the theories behind it?
The Kinect system itself is far from foolproof. The motion controls sometimes fail while playing games, and the sensitivity of the Kinect’s mic results in some interesting and unreliable behavior. Sometimes it fails to detect players in the room; other times it misidentifies them. The hardware isn’t perfect. This leaves the door open for skeptics to argue that the Kinect may not be the best ghost hunting tool after all. If it can’t boast 100 percent accuracy for its intended uses, how can we expect to trust it when the software has been modified to catch the intangible?
In the paranormal world, there are two popular theories about why the Kinect is capable of picking up paranormal activity. The first involves the device’s ability to detect ghosts. Some occultists believe the Kinect is able to capture on camera a spirit’s raw kinetic energy, or the energy the spirit has when it is in motion. It is believed that this energy is what gives spirits the ability to move in our physical world alongside us. Among investigators, the spirits of the dead — those that are capable of speaking, appearing and physically moving, that is — are widely believed to be made up of residual energy.
Teams like the Ghost Adventures crew also subscribe to the theory that spirits can hone in on and use free electrical energy, which allows them to manifest in and influence objects. The crew will use devices called MEL meters and REM pods on their investigations, which are tools that measure electrical charge and energy. Unexplained and fluctuating pockets of energy are often believed to indicate a spiritual presence. Of course, they could also be magnetic fields from the neighbor’s plasma TV, faulty building wiring or buried electrical cables in the yard. Such are the challenges of ghost hunting.
Farley said that the complex algorithms that make the Kinect work are not infallible — sophisticated, but not incapable of picking up a shadow as a human figure or failing to identify gestures. People reporting the Kinect finding ghosts was “inevitable,” Farley said, when people are unable to explain the software’s unusual behavior. But because the software does not include algorithms for motion-captured ghosts — again, no laboratory environment for this kind of thing – there’s no way to verify that strange objects captured by the Kinect are spirits.
“An algorithm is only as good as your training data,” Farley said. “If you see things that don’t quite work, it may seem like anomalies in the data. And if you talk to people who used the Xbox, especially early on when Kinect first came out, there was lots of complaining online that people couldn’t get it to work right.
“Nobody trains those algorithms to detect ghosts; they’re trained to detect people standing in front of it getting its attention,” he added. “There are lots of things in frame that are invisible to a person and lots of ways [the Kinect] can be fooled.”
“Nobody trains those algorithms to detect ghosts.”
Farley believes that many of the “Kinect ghosts” we see on YouTube and TV are doctored hoaxes, while user-created videos of the Kinect picking up shadows and registering people in empty spaces can be the result of light reflections or faulty software.
The other theory is that the manipulation of the Kinect software is being done by the people in the room using it through psychokinesis, a phenomenon in which a person is believed to be able to manipulate and move objects or influence electronics with their mind. It’s not ghosts at all, but instead a complex stew of psychic energy shared between the human observers gathered together in the same space. Some occultists even believe that the Kinect can be used to awaken and hone psychokinetic skill by attempting to manipulate the system with motion or voice controls.
The most powerful example of an experiment believed to have “awakened” psychic powers through suggestion is the famous Philip Experiment. In 1972, a group of paranormal researchers at the Toronto Society of Psychical Research conducted a psychokinesis experiment in which they sought to create a “ghost” — or an invisible force with physical power — “from scratch.”
After creating a personality and backstory for Philip, the name of their fictional entity, a group of eight researchers who believed they possessed no special psychic abilities began using meditation to try and “contact” him. When it became clear meditation would yield no results, they began hosting seances to contact their made-up ghost. This time the group reported that after asking Philip questions they would hear corresponding disembodied knocks. The experiment continued to escalate in intensity, until the “ghost” would move and shake the table at which the investigators sat.
“The group noticed that the table itself felt different to the touch whenever Philip was present, having a subtle electric or ‘alive’ quality,” wrote experiment leader Dr. Iris M. Owen in Conjuring Up Philip: An Adventure in Psychokinesis. “On a few occasions, a fine mist formed over the center of the table. Most astonishing, the group reported that the table would sometimes be so animated that it would rush over to meet latecomers to the session, or even trap members in the corner of the room.”
“You’d have to set up a blinded test in a laboratory condition in a controlled situation with a Kinect and test it over and over repeatedly.”
As for the psychokinesis theory, Farley said it — like capturing spirit images — could only be plausible if groups could repeatedly replicate the phenomenon in a laboratory condition. The JREF set up a template for anyone wishing to try said experiment: The organization is offering $1 million to anyone claiming to have psychic powers who can repeatedly prove such powers exist through laboratory experimentation. Farley said that in the 20-plus years the program has been running, no one has claimed the prize money.
“If they believe someone can do that, then you could probably set up a scientific test for that,” he said. “If you had a person who you believed had that ability, you’d have to set up a blinded test in a laboratory condition in a controlled situation with a Kinect and test it over and over repeatedly. You should be able to duplicate it if the person has the ability to do those things.”
“An anomaly is sometimes just an anomaly,” Farley said, “especially with computer technology.”
Technology is constantly evolving in an effort to make things better, make recreation more fun and make necessary tasks easier. For fans of science fiction, it’s not hard to imagine a world in which hardware like the Kinect is used to train children in telekinesis or allow the living to communicate with lingering spirits of the dead. Perhaps nascent technologies like Google Glass will eventually be home to ghost hunting apps as amateur investigators figure out how to tweak the device to suit their purposes.
However, we don’t live in a fiction novel, and for every person who believes in the power of technology’s ghost hunting uses, there are many more who don’t. Most paranormal groups turn to science for answers, tricking themselves out with expensive, fancy equipment that can read heat signatures and track movement rather than relying on mysterious voices caught on tape.
“An anomaly is sometimes just an anomaly.”
But then again, televisions and the internet would seem like demonic magic to our ancestors. Who’s to say that 50 or 100 years from now our descendants won’t be using video game peripherals to talk to us beyond the grave?
So, next time you fire up the Xbox One and the Kinect registers an entity in the empty space next to you, maybe you’ll think twice about dismissing it as a glitch.
Best Trekking Poles of 2021
Serious hikers have known the benefits of trekking poles for decades. Aside from providing stability while hauling a heavy load or moving over technical terrain, trekking poles have distinct advantages even on easy trails. They’re great for setting a rhythm and significantly reduce load and impact on hips, knees, and ankles when going downhill. As with most hiking and backpacking gear, balancing weight and durability is the most common consideration. Recent design breakthroughs, like the folding trekking pole, have pushed the total weight of some models to well under a pound, but these streamlined options are not for everybody. Below are our top trekking pole picks of 2021, which cover the gamut from ultralight models to sturdy designs for high-mountain adventures.
Table of Contents
Best Overall Trekking Pole
1. Black Diamond Trail Ergo Cork ($130)
Weight per pair: 1 lb. 2 oz.
Type: Telescoping (lever lock)
Shaft material: Aluminum
What we like: Solid construction, comfortable feel, and good price.
What we don’t: A little heavy and long collapsed length.
The carbon fiber and folding designs that get all the attention in the trekking pole market are impressive innovations, but for hikers that just want a pair of trustworthy sticks at a good price, we recommend the Black Diamond Trail Ergo Cork. At $130, they’re a solid value and come with very few compromises. In fact, the all-aluminum construction is only an ounce heavier than the premium Leki Micro Vario below but is still plenty sturdy for most dirt, rock, and snow travel. The Trail also has Black Diamond’s comfortable, ergonomically shaped cork grips and reliable FlickLock length adjusters.
What are the downsides of the Trail Ergo? For travelers, climbers, or those that prioritize collapsibility, the 27-inch minimum length may be an issue. It shouldn’t get in the way when strapped to the outside of a pack, but it is a couple inches longer than many other three-section designs (and it can’t come close to a true collapsible pole). As downsides go, that’s pretty insignificant for most folks, and the Trail Ergo Cork stands out as our favorite all-around trekking pole. For a cheaper but slightly less comfortable and premium option in this category, see REI’s Traverse poles below.
See the Black Diamond Trail Ergo Cork See the Women’s Black Diamond Trail Ergo Cork
Best Budget Trekking Pole
2. REI Co-op Trailbreak ($60)
Weight per pair: 1 lb. 1 oz.
Type: Telescoping (lever lock)
Shaft material: Aluminum
What we like: Cheap yet functional.
What we don’t: No-frills design isn’t ideal for serious hikers or tough terrain.
REI Co-op’s Trailbreak line targets the budget end of the market and includes everything from sleeping pads and bags to backpacks. The Trailbreak trekking pole is the brand’s cheapest offering and has nearly all the features that beginning and occasional hikers need. You get an aluminum build, a telescoping design with lever locks, and a rubber grip. Nothing is premium here—no carbon, no cork grip, no padded wrist strap, and the locks are about as minimal as they come. In addition, the Trailbreak is only made in one size, although it is adjustable from 41 to 55 inches. But at $60, it’s tough to beat the low price.
What do you sacrifice with the REI Trailbreak? Sturdiness is a big concession, and for heavy use and difficult terrain, these poles pale in comparison to the build of a more rugged model like the Black Diamond Trail Ergo. And as we touched on above, the Trailbreak is light on features, so you miss out on useful touches including choke-up extensions and longer-lasting materials like cork handles and burlier and more reliable lever locks (REI’s own $100 Traverse below includes those upgrades). If you stick to established trails and are looking for the basics in balance and support, the Trailbreak will certainly do the trick. But more serious hikers and backpackers may want to purchase a higher-end model.
See the REI Co-op Trailbreak
Best Ultralight Collapsible Pole
3. Black Diamond Distance Carbon Z ($170)
Weight per pair: 10 oz.
Shaft material: Carbon
What we like: Incredibly lightweight and folds down small.
What we don’t: Pricey and carbon is more brittle than aluminum.
At around 10 ounces per pair depending on the size, the Distance Carbon Z is Black Diamond’s lightest trekking pole and great for minimalists and thru-hikers (they are so light and packable that they’ve even become popular with long-distance trail runners). We love the Z-Pole technology: a sleeve on the top portion moves down from the grip, the sections slide together and connect, and a small button pops everything into place. From compacted to deployed is a two-second affair, and when collapsed, the poles are about 10 inches shorter than most telescoping designs. This can make a substantial difference for everyone from travelers and hikers wanting to store them in their bag to ultra-distance runners that carry their poles for extended stretches.
What are the downsides of these poles? Carbon is lighter than aluminum but also more expensive and brittle (it’ll snap under heavy pressure rather than bend like aluminum). In addition, the Carbon Z comes in four length options but is not adjustable. Changing up your trekking pole length on the uphill or downhill is a nice feature, and the fixed length makes them less versatile in terms of letting other people use them. If you do value adjustability, Black Diamond makes the Carbon FLZ that has one FlickLock at the top for $20 more and with a small weight penalty. And for a cheaper aluminum version, see the Distance FLZ below.
See the Black Diamond Distance Carbon Z
Best High-End Trekking Pole
4. Leki Micro Vario Carbon ($200)
Weight per pair: 1 lb. 0.9 oz.
Type: Folding (lever lock)
Shaft material: Carbon
What we like: Well-rounded lightweight and packable design.
What we don’t: Very pricey.
Leki’s Micro Vario Carbon poles are a no-compromise option for the lightweight crowd. Weighing just over 1 pound for the pair, they manage to squeeze a full set of high-quality features into their compact and foldable construction. Unlike many competitors, you get nearly 8 inches of adjustment with a Leki’s SpeedLock 2 system, and we’ve found the poles to be among the most user-friendly for both folding down and setting up (we can do both without having to take a break while hiking).
On the trail, the Micro Vario’s weight savings is noticeable, particularly over a long day. You do sacrifice a little in terms of durability, but the carbon shafts have been sturdy enough for crossing glaciers, leaning on during steep descents, and as the structure of a trekking pole-supported shelter. We do prefer cork grips to foam, but these are the nicest and most comfortable foam grips we’ve used, and the choke-up extensions are great for extended climbs. Leki also offers the Micro Vario Carbon in an even pricier $230 AS version, which includes a low-profile shock system for added trail comfort.
See the Leki Micro Vario Carbon See the Women’s Micro Vario Carbon
Best 4-Season Trekking Pole
5. Black Diamond Alpine Carbon Cork ($180)
Weight per pair: 1 lb. 1.1 oz.
Type: Telescoping (lever lock)
Shaft material: Carbon
What we like: Fantastic build quality, durable, and easy to trust in rough terrain.
What we don’t: Overkill for most 3-season uses and very pricey.
For those wanting a single pair of poles for all four seasons, ranging from summer backpacking trips to backcountry skiing and mountaineering, we turn again to Black Diamond and their proven Alpine collection. Compared to the picks above, the Alpine Carbon Cork feels noticeably more substantial in your hand, and its beefed-up construction isn’t prone to flexing under heavy strain. In addition, Black Diamond outfitted the model with all their top-end components, including the trustworthy metal FlickLock Pro lever locks (the vast majority of designs use plastic), premium cork handles with foam extensions, and a full three-piece carbon fiber build. You pay extra for the poles at $180, but it’s hard to knock the quality or reliability of the design.
Where does the Black Diamond Alpine Carbon come up short? In addition to cost, the poles are realistically overkill for many users. Even for wintertime adventures like snowshoeing, a cheaper option like Black Diamond’s own Trail Ergo above will do the trick (just pick up a pair of wider snow baskets to keep them from sinking too deeply in soft snow). Further, the BDs don’t pack down as small as MSR’s 4-season DynaLock below, which can be an issue for those needing to strap their poles to the outside of a pack. That said, we found the Alpine Carbon model to be sturdier and better suited for rough uses like ski touring and splitboarding, which is why it wins out as our top year-round choice.
See the Black Diamond Alpine Carbon See the Women’s BD Alpine Carbon
Best of the Rest
6. Gossamer Gear LT5 ($195)
Weight per pair: 10.6 oz.
Type: Telescoping (twist lock)
Shaft material: Carbon
What we like: Incredibly lightweight, well-made.
What we don’t: Not too durable; expensive.
Taking the telescoping lightweight crown is the thru-hike-ready Gossamer Gear LT5. These carbon fiber sticks are listed at an incredibly low 10.6 ounces for the pair (you can save even more weight by ditching the straps), which keeps arm fatigue to an absolute minimum. Combine the feathery weight with a simple, reliable build and comfy foam grips, and you get the ideal trekking poles for long adventures where every ounce matters. They’re also adjustable, although the twist lock system isn’t our favorite (we prefer the added security of a lever lock).
Naturally, there are a few compromises in making the LT5 so light. To start, relative to the rest of the market, these poles aren’t super durable—it’s best to stick to established trails and avoid too much snow. Further, they’re a pricey investment at $195 considering their relatively simple feature set (the similarly expensive Leki Micro Vario above, for example, can be folded into a much smaller length). But if you take good care of them and don’t need them for travel, they’re about as good as it gets for an ultralight build. It’s worth noting that Gossamer Gear offers replacement sections of their poles should you damage one, which is a rarity in the market.
See the Gossamer Gear LT5
7. REI Co-op Traverse ($100)
Weight per pair: 1 lb. 2.5 oz.
Type: Telescoping (lever lock)
Shaft material: Aluminum
What we like: Sturdy feel; cork and lever locks at a great price.
What we don’t: A little heavy and falls short of the Trail Ergo Cork in a few areas.
REI’s Trailbreak above is their budget offering, but the $40-pricier Traverse here provides a sizable boost in performance for more demanding hiking and backpacking trips. All in all, it’s a competitive mid-range choice: you get a tough, sturdy, and reliable feel from the aluminum build—it doesn’t flex or bend like cheaper or ultralight options – and comfort is good thanks to the cork handle. And REI made some notable upgrades to the latest version, including foam extensions for climbing steep hills and nicer, cam-style lever locks. Added up, it’s a solid all-around effort and yet another great value from the brand.
The Traverse is a strong budget alternative to our top-rated Black Diamond Trail Ergo Cork, with a similar weight, three-section telescoping design, and aluminum shaft. However, a few small nitpicks push it down our list. In particular, we found the Traverse to be a step down in all-around material quality (from the cork to the straps), and the BD offers a more comfortable feel. We also prefer the Trail’s ergonomic grips, which are angled slightly forward to mimic the natural resting position of your hands. But many hikers will find these differences hard to discern, and the REI get the clear edge in price.
See the REI Co-op Traverse
8. Black Diamond Trail Back ($80)
Weight per pair: 1 lb. 4 oz.
Type: Telescoping (lever lock)
Shaft material: Aluminum
What we like: Proven toughness, good all-around abilities.
What we don’t: Rubber grips aren’t the most comfortable.
As a market leader, Black Diamond has a fairly extensive trekking pole line-up. A consistent favorite is their budget-oriented Trail Back, which in many ways is a trimmed-down version of the Trail Ergo Cork above. You lose the ergonomic shape and cork grips, but the two trusty FlickLocks remain, as well as the sturdy aluminum construction. Further, among the options at under $100, the Trail Backs have a longer track record of durability than the REI Trailbreak above (but do cost $20 more).
What are you giving up with a mid-range pole like the Trail Back? To start, they are rather heavy at 1 pound 4 ounces for the pair and therefore not a top choice for long-distance backpackers or thru-hikers. Also, the rubber grips are a definite step down in comfort from foam or cork, which do a better job absorbing sweat and preventing chafing while on the trail. But the Trail Back’s strong, no-nonsense construction makes a lot of sense for those looking to keep cost in check while not sacrificing much in terms of quality.
See the Black Diamond Trail Back
9. REI Co-op Flash Carbon ($139)
Weight per pair: 13.6 oz.
Type: Telescoping (lever lock)
Shaft material: Carbon
What we like: Excellent value for the specs and quality.
What we don’t: Not as tough as our top picks.
For backpackers looking to keep weight to a minimum, the REI Co-op Flash Carbon poles are a great option, undercutting other high-end competitors by $20 or more. At well under a pound and with a carbon composite build, the poles feel light in the hands and feature soft foam grips that take the sting out of impacts and do a decent job at minimizing sweat buildup. We still give the overall edge in comfort to cork, but foam does absorb and dissipate moisture well when it’s hot and humid outside. And we like that REI utilizes a quality, metal lever lock system, which is a more secure and robust upgrade from the previous plastic version.
All that said, the Flash Carbon’s lightweight build does come with one major drawback: lack of versatility. For example, BD’s Trail Ergo Cork, Trail Back, and even their Alpine Carbon Cork above are noticeably sturdier and more confidence-inspiring for navigating rough and rocky terrain. And the Flash Carbon is decidedly less suitable for 4-season adventuring, which is confirmed by the lack of snow baskets (for reference, REI’s own Traverse above does come with them). But this likely won’t faze most fair-weather backpackers and hikers, and with REI’s excellent return policy to back them up, the Flash Carbon poles are a nice UL option.
See the REI Co-op Flash Carbon
10. MSR DynaLock Ascent Carbon ($150)
Weight per pair: 1 lb.
Type: Folding (lever lock)
Shaft material: Carbon
What we like: Tough and 4-season-ready yet lightweight.
What we don’t: Overkill for summer use and not the most comfortable grips.
Most of the poles on this list are intended for summer and light shoulder-season work, but if you’re anticipating significant snow travel, it’s worth getting a sturdier design. MSR’s DynaLock Ascent Carbon is just that: its Kevlar-reinforced carbon fiber build is very tough, and you get wider winter baskets to keep the poles afloat in powder. The rest of the Ascent resembles a standard trekking pole, including a collapsible construction that packs down small, 8 inches of adjustability, and a reasonable overall weight of 1 pound.
Priced at $150, the MSR offers a fair amount of bang for your buck, but it’s overkill for summer use. You can go significantly lighter with something like the BD Distance Carbon Z above, and the winter baskets are unnecessary for anything but deep snow (more compact trekking discs are included). In addition, we found the foam grips of the MSR aren’t as comfortable as a traditional hiking model, especially in the area at the top that has a lot of exposed plastic. Complaints aside, if you want a pole that can truly be used year-round for anything from snowshoeing to ambitious high routes, the DynaLock Ascent Carbon deserves a look.
See the MSR DynaLock Ascent Carbon
11. Leki Micro Vario Cor-Tec TA ($140)
Weight per pair: 1 lb. 4.3 oz.
Type: Folding (lever lock)
Shaft material: Aluminum
What we like: Collapsible to 15.5 inches.
What we don’t: Heavy for a folding model.
With a folding-style design, Leki’s well-loved and ergonomic cork grips, and a competitive price of $140, the Micro Vario Cor-Tec TA is one of our favorite poles in this category. This aluminum model folds down to a mere 15 inches, which is among the smallest on our list. And we love Leki’s SpeedLock 2 locking system—it can be tightened with a small dial, no extra tools needed. The ability to easily keep the locks tight adds to the already durable nature of these poles.
As expected, there are tradeoffs to this design. As with other folding trekking poles, the Micro Vario Cor-Tec TA is compact, but it’s quite heavy at over 1 pound 4 ounces for the pair (the sacrifice of the more affordable price tag and alloy build). Additionally, folding poles in general are less sturdy than their telescoping counterparts, making these some of the least weight-bearing aluminum poles on this list. That said, they’ll surely take a beating better than the carbon fiber Leki Micro Vario Carbon and the BD Distance Carbon Z above.
See the Leki Micro Vario Cor-Tec TA See the Women’s Leki Micro Vario Cor-Tec TA
12. Black Diamond Distance FLZ ($140)
Weight per pair: 1 lb.
Type: Folding (lever lock)
Shaft material: Aluminum
What we like: Light, packable, and more durable than carbon.
What we don’t: Not as sturdy as the top-rated Trail Ergo.
The fixed-length Black Diamond Carbon Z above are the lightest trekking poles on this list, but the adjustable aluminum version arguably has wider appeal. In fact, for most hikers and backpackers, we think it’s the better option. The poles are noticeably sturdier and more durable (we’ve broken one of the carbon models just from sitting on it), which makes them easier to trust and lean into on the trail. In addition, we prefer the alloy FLZ for use with an ultralight shelter as the adjustability (between 6 to 8 inches depending on size) simplifies the set-up process and the thicker material holds better in the wind.
Where the Distance FLZ runs into problems is when compared with BD’s own Trail Ergo above. Priced at $10 less, the Trail Ergo feels even more rock-solid, has more comfortable grips, and does a nicer job absorbing impacts. That said, if you value a small packed size, the Distance wins out easily (15 in. vs 27 in.), and it’s a bit lighter at 1 ounce less per pole. In the end, these downsides push the FLZ to a mid-pack finish on our list, but it’s well worth a look for those wanting a reliable and packable design.
See the Black Diamond Distance FLZ
13. Mountainsmith Dolomite OLS ($30)
Weight: 10 oz. (single pole)
Type: Telescoping (lever lock)
Shaft material: Aluminum
Grip: Cork and foam
What we like: Great value for those who only need a single pole.
What we don’t: Average build quality and pretty heavy at 10 ounces.
The vast majority of trekking poles are sold in pairs, but some hikers and backpackers prefer to hit the trail with a single pole (including some on our team). For these folks, opting for the Mountainsmith Dolomite is a nice way to save: for $30, you get a quality aluminum set-up with a cork handle, EVA foam choke-up grips, and a three-piece telescoping design that packs down reasonably small. The lever locks aren’t anything special and the build can’t match the sturdiness of our top picks above, but the Dolomite undeniably is an excellent value.
Clearly, there are some compromises in opting for a single pole like the Mountainsmith Dolomite. For one, you lose out on the option to bring a full set for times when stability is important, such as hikes over particularly rough or steep terrain. In addition, many trekking pole-supported tents and shelters require two poles to set up (including popular builds like the Zpacks Duplex and Gossamer Gear’s The One). And a concern we have specifically with the Mountainsmith is its 10-ounce weight, which makes it one of the heavier designs on our list. For an ultralight but far pricier option, Gossamer Gear sells their LT5 model in a single pole for about $98.
See the Mountainsmith Dolomite OLS
14. Leki Makalu Lite Cor-Tec ($120)
Weight per pair: 1 lb. 1.1 oz.
Type: Telescoping (lever lock)
Shaft material: Aluminum
Grip: Cork with rubber
What we like: Comfortable grip.
What we don’t: The BD Trail Ergo Cork above is more durable for only $10 more.
Leki has built a reputation around its super comfortable cork grips and their ergonomic shape. With a slight forward tilt, they have a very natural feel in the hands, and the build quality of the grips is second to none. Their Makalu Lite carries on this tradition while including modern features like lever locks and a minimalist strap design at a reasonable weight of around 1 pound 1 ounce per pair. You do miss out on Leki’s top-end SpeedLock 2 at this price point, but their simplified SpeedLock + remains a solid partner. Expect consistently strong holds, and as a bonus, you can adjust the locking mechanism without a screwdriver.
It’s worth noting that Leki also makes the Makalu Lite Cor-Tec AS pole, which includes a low-profile shock-absorption system at the bottom. In practice, we haven’t been overwhelmed with this type of functionality and don’t think it’s worth spending the extra $20 per pair, plus it’s another piece that can potentially break. And when evaluating either Leki model against the competition, Black Diamond’s Trail Ergo Cork above is more durable and weighs around the same, although it costs $10 more.
See the Leki Makalu Lite Cor-Tec
15. Cascade Mountain Tech Carbon Fiber Quick Lock ($45)
Weight per pair: 1 lb.
Type: Telescoping (lever lock)
Shaft material: Carbon
Grip: Foam or Cork
What we like: Cheap and very light.
What we don’t: Not built to last.
Carbon fiber typically is associated with high-end builds and premium prices, but Cascade Mountain Tech offers a pair of carbon poles for under $50. On paper, the poles stack up really well with a 1-pound weight, simple lever locks, and foam grip extensions. Impressively, Cascade Mountain Tech didn’t skimp on accessories either, with rubber tips and two sets of baskets for mud and snow. The Carbon Fiber poles are available with either a foam or cork grip, and while we typically prefer cork, we lean towards foam in this case as a cheap cork grip will break down over time.
The main downside in choosing the Cascade Mountain Tech poles is durability. The carbon shaft does a great job keeping weight low but is more likely to get a crack or snap under a load than another budget pole like the aluminum REI Trailbreak above. Moreover, the overall construction is rather cheap, and the cost-cutting in the plastic adjustment system doesn’t inspire confidence in its longevity. But if you take good care, going with Cascade Mountain Tech gets you a set of lightweight poles for about 1/3 of what you’d pay for carbon from a company like Black Diamond (even REI’s composite Flash Carbon poles above are nearly $100 pricier).
See the Cascade Mountain Tech Carbon Fiber Quick Lock
16. Leki Cross Trail 3 Carbon ($190)
Weight per pair: 14.5 oz.
Type: Telescoping (lever lock)
Shaft material: Carbon
What we like: Typical Leki quality in a lightweight and fully featured package.
What we don’t: We’re not sold on the unique grip/strap design.
The fourth and final Leki pole to make our list is also the lightest: their Cross Trail 3. The Cross Trail features Leki’s new strap design, which resembles their popular ski pole technology. In short, the quick-release concept allows you to “snap” the strap into a slot in the pole and is designed to provide a boost in energy as you plant. And unlike the models above, the strap itself covers nearly your entire hand, which translates to added security over particularly steep or technical sections. It’s tough to quantify the performance benefits on the trail, and the design is pretty polarizing, but it really comes down to a matter of personal preference.
The rest of the Cross Trail 3’s build is up to typical Leki standards. The carbon poles are light at just 14.5 ounces per pair, and you also get the brand’s proven and reliable SpeedLock 2 adjustment system (also found in their Micro Vario Carbon and Vario Core-Tec TA above). All in all, it’s a quality option with a full set of premium features (including extended grips to help with climbing and traversing), but we’re just not convinced that the new Hybrid Cross Shark strap system will be appealing to the majority of hikers. If you’re intrigued by the design, however, it’s also worth checking out Leki’s ultralight, fixed-length MCT Superlite (11.1 oz. per pair) and more affordable aluminum models.
See the Leki Cross Trail 3
17. Black Diamond Trail Pro Shock ($150)
Weight per pair: 1 lb. 4.3 oz.
Type: Telescoping (lever lock)
Shaft material: Aluminum
What we like: Proven shock-absorbing system.
What we don’t: Extra weight and price.
We typically don’t recommend trekking poles with serious shock-absorbing technology—they generally are heavier, more complex, and shock absorption isn’t necessary for many hikers. But if the extra give is a must-have feature for you, the Black Diamond Trail Pro Shock is worth a look. Impressive damping and rebound control built into the pole’s handle helps avoid a common pitfall of anti-shock poles: bottoming out and an unpredictable rebound. The system works quite seamlessly and reacts well to both light and hard impacts. The rest of the set-up is classic Black Diamond, with quality materials and components like their metal FlickLock Pro.
Cons are the expected sacrifices for the Trail Pro Shock’s additional tech. Weight goes up relative to non-shock-absorbing options at over 1 pound 4 ounces, and you pay a bit of a price premium as well. At $150, we’d prefer cork grips, but the foam handles with choke-up extensions still are fine performers. All told, the Trail Pro isn’t for everyone, but its 4-season-ready construction and functional shock absorption earn it a spot on our list.
See the Black Diamond Trail Pro Shock See the Women’s Black Diamond Trail Pro Shock
18. BAFX Products Anti-Shock Poles ($23)
Weight per pair: 1 lb. 8 oz.
Type: Telescoping (twist lock)
Shaft material: Aluminum
What we like: Cheap.
What we don’t: Too basic and flimsy for a lot of uses.
The BAFX Products Anti-Shock poles are a cheap but suitable option for light use on non-technical trails. These simple hiking sticks have a feature set that reflects their $23 price tag: you get finicky twist locks that are prone to slipping, basic grips, and a heavy, 1-pound-8-ounce weight. On the upside, the shaft is made of aluminum that should hold up decently well over time, and BAFX Products includes mud baskets and two sets of rubber tip covers. In addition, the built-in springs help to alleviate some of the vibration that you often get with cheap trekking poles.
If you have plans of logging significant miles or need to rely on your poles over serious terrain, we highly recommend opting for one of the models above. These poles are just not built well enough to trust on anything more than easy trails. They can be suitable for the right person and circumstances, but we think it’s worth spending up for the REI Trailbreak or Cascade Mountain Tech.
See the BAFX Products Anti-Shock Poles
Trekking Pole Comparison Table
*Editor’s Note: “Length” is the minimum or collapsed length for the trekking poles.
Trekking Pole Buying Advice
Trekking Pole Types: Telescoping, Folding, and Fixed
Telescoping poles made of two or three sections are the most common type on the market, and are known for their durability and ease of use. As such, they’re popular with everyone from day hikers to backpackers and even mountaineers. The different pole sections expand from each joint by a locking system that can be opened for adjustment and secured while on the trail. These points of connection also are their greatest weaknesses, so a quality locking mechanism is highly recommended (we discuss this in more detail below). In this category, we prefer light poles with simple feature sets: secure locking mechanisms, quality aluminum or carbon fiber construction, and comfortable grips.
Telescoping poles collapse down for strapping to the outside of a pack
Black Diamond pioneered the ultralight folding category with their Z-Pole line. Much like the poles that come with a tent, you can separate the pieces and pack them down into a compact size (oftentimes 10 inches shorter than a comparable telescoping pole). More recently, Leki has made a strong push with their Micro Vario series, which includes one of our top-rated folding poles: the Micro Vario Carbon. Most folding poles have very thin shafts, can bear less weight than their telescoping counterparts, and are either not adjustable or limited in their adjustments lengthwise. Favored by fast hikers, trail runners, climbers, and travelers, these poles will cause the least amount of arm fatigue over long miles.
A third category of trekking pole is the straight-shaft, fixed-length design. These are relatively uncommon because it can be difficult to store or transport such a long item (especially when fastened to your pack or in a suitcase), and they can’t be adjusted for up and downhill travel. As such, no fixed-length poles made our list. If you’re in the market, however, we recommend checking out the Ultimate Direction FK, which weighs just 4 ounces per pole.
Crossing a glacier with the Leki Micro Vario trekking poles
Generally, trekking poles are made either from carbon fiber, aluminum, or a combination of the two (a three-section pole may have two carbon upper pieces and an aluminum lower, for example). High-end trekking poles are often made from carbon, which is lighter and stiffer but also more expensive and brittle (and when carbon fiber breaks, it breaks; aluminum may just dent or bend and still be usable). Carbon’s tendency to snap under hard stress can be somewhat offset by a thicker diameter construction, at the penalty of weight.
Price and overall durability are the main reasons hikers opt for aluminum poles. There’s something to be said about a confidence-inspiring design like the Black Diamond Trail Ergo, which is super stable and has virtually no wobble even on steep descents. In the end, the casual hiker or someone that is rough on their gear will probably be happiest with an aluminum or hybrid aluminum/carbon pole. On the other hand, an all-carbon build remains the best option for the weight-focused hiker/backpacker.
Outside of an ultralight folding trekking pole, chances are you’ll be eying one with some sort of locking mechanism. The classic style used a twist lock: to tighten you twist each section closed to lock the segments into place. These poles are haunted by inconsistent performance, with hikers either over-tightening to the point of seizing, or twisting too loose, resulting in perpetual issues with collapsing. Needless to say, the twist lock has gone out of vogue. And while there are a few models out there that do a good job—such as what you get on Gossamer Gear’s LT5—we typically recommend avoiding the twist lock.
Our preferred lever lock (open) on the right with twist lock on the left
Enter the lever lock. Using an external clamp to either open to adjust or close to lock the pole sections, it’s an easy-to-use system. Better still, the tendency for segments to slip when in the locked position is significantly reduced, giving additional confidence to the user. There are still a few risks of incidentally opening the lock when moving through heavy brush or the need to occasionally tighten the lever with a screwdriver (Leki’s SpeedLock + on the Micro Vario Cor-Tec TA doesn’t require a tool to adjust), but these are minor nitpicks. The lever lock is the new standard.
Leki’s SpeedLock 2 (left) and Black Diamond’s FlickLock (right)
Trekking Pole Grip Construction
Materials: Cork, Foam, and Rubber
Trekking pole grips come in three main types: cork, foam, and rubber, with cork being our personal favorite. A quality cork handle has an exceptionally comfortable feel in the hand and wicks sweat very well. It also will conform nicely to your hand over time, making it great for long-distance treks and multi-season use. If cork isn’t your thing, the next best bet is foam. EVA foam is soft, provides a measure of shock absorption, and does a decent job at wicking moisture in the summer months (although it will typically retain more moisture than cork). Rubber is the third option and usually found on budget trekking poles. We’ve found these grips to be best for cold weather activities because they shed rain and snow, but they lack the sweat absorption and premium feel of foam and cork.
Quality foam and cork handles are great for long-distance backpacking
Ergonomic Handle vs. Standard Handle
Looking beyond the grip materials, another consideration is whether or not to get an ergonomic handle. These types of grips have a slight forward angle, typically around 15 degrees, which is supposed to mimic where your hands would naturally rest. Not surprisingly, what feels “natural” to one person may not to another, and this in the end is a very personal choice. That being said, we’ve enjoyed our fair share of ergonomic grips (Leki is a standout in this area, and we also like Black Diamond’s Ergo models).
Choosing a standard (left) or ergonomic (right) grip is mostly a matter of personal preference
Many poles will have a second, smaller grip below the main one. This is what we refer to as a choke-up extension, or extended grip. These predominantly foam grips are great for finding a secure hold lower on your poles while climbing steep hills or sidehilling, improving balance and leverage. For those who often travel on steep or technical terrain, extended grips are a must-have feature. For a DIY alternative, you can wrap duct tape around your poles under the large grips for a more secure hold.
Choke-up extensions are valuable on steep climbs
The final piece in the grip construction is the wrist strap. There is an impressive diversity of strap designs, ranging from heavily padded to simple nylon. And some hikers ditch the straps altogether because they’d rather not be connected to their poles should they take a fall or use the system improperly (correct technique is entering from the bottom opening of the strap). In choosing a strap, the biggest consideration is noticing any potential irritants. If a seam is rubbing against the back of your hand on a short walk, that can turn into serious chafing by mile 10. In general, the straps on most quality trekking poles are very comfortable. Even the simple webbing on the Leki Micro Vario Carbon is very smooth. At the other end of the spectrum, you get nearly full hand coverage with Leki’s new Cross Trail 3, but many hikers and backpackers will find the design overkill and a bit polarizing.
The weight of the trekking poles is our second biggest consideration (first is comfort), and we wouldn’t blame you for putting it atop your priority list. A light pole will fatigue your arms less quickly, which is a big benefit on long treks. On short trips, you may not notice a 2-ounce difference, but when you think of the number of times your arms swing forward over an extended trip, it’s easy to realize how a little weight savings can go a long way.
Weight can add up quickly on the trail, so it’s important to choose a pair of poles that matches your objectives
For moving light and fast, the lighter the better, with a caveat that durability diminishes once you get into the ultralight category (we see it happen right around 1 pound). On the extreme end are poles like the Gossamer Gear LT5 (10.6 ounces for a pair) or Black Diamond Distance Carbon Z (9.3 to 10.4 ounces, depending on length). These are great for ultralight backpackers and thru-hikers, but the shaft materials are too delicate for bushwhacking or 4-season use. Our preference is to go lightweight without having to be constantly worried about snapping the poles, which is why we rank the BD Trail Ergo atop our list.
Trekking in Peru with the ultralight Black Diamond Distance Carbon Z
Packed size or collapsed length isn’t a make-or-break specification for us, but it is a consideration for travelers that need to fit their poles into a suitcase and hikers that strap their poles to their pack. Folding poles take the prize for the smallest packed size, which is as little as 13 inches. Properly protected, they’re even small enough to store inside a daypack.
Folding trekking poles pack down impressively small
Not everyone puts such a high value on a compact size, which is partly why three-section poles remain the most popular style on the market. Their average minimum length is 24 to 27 inches, which is small enough to attach to the outside of a backpacking pack, and also can fit into most luggage. Two-section telescoping designs are where it may become an issue for squeezing into a duffel or suitcase, and you can forget about traveling with a fixed-length pole.
A telescoping design (left) compared to a more compact folding model (right)
For trekking poles, durability and weight almost always go hand in hand. The first places manufacturers look to cut weight are the thickness of the material and the diameter of the pole. A smaller diameter and thinner pole logically will be less durable and flex more under pressure than its wider and thicker counterpart. The other part of the equation is the material itself. As mentioned above, even though aluminum may not be as strong as carbon fiber, it is the better choice in terms of durability because it has a lesser chance of breaking. This is why some manufacturers make a hybrid carbon and aluminum pole with the aluminum section at the bottom. Banging up against trail debris or snagging the pole in between rocks may only dent or bend the aluminum rather than crack or shatter the carbon.
Aluminum poles, like the BD Trail Ergo Cork, are sturdier than their carbon fiber counterparts
As with any piece of outdoor gear, it’s best to think through your individual needs. Because we like to use our trekking poles year-round and on varied terrain, we’re willing to deal with the extra couple ounces to get a more reliable build like the proven Black Diamond Trail Ergo Cork. But if we were setting off on a thru-hike of the PCT, we’d be willing to compromise a lot more on durability.
Super light but strong enough to support our shelter: Leki’s Micro Vario Carbon
To keep your gear closet from overflowing (and your bank account plentiful), it’s always nice to find a single piece of gear that can be used year-round. A durable trekking pole can be just that: great for simple day hikes or backpacking trips in the summer, but burly enough for snowshoeing or even the occasional ski tour. So what makes a trekking pole suitable for winter? Typically it will come from the telescoping category. The stiffer design and telescoping function is important for uphill and downhill travel, particularly for skiing or mountaineering. That said, there are some robust folding poles like the Black Diamond Alpine FLZ.
Beyond having a strong shaft material, interchangeable baskets are a must for winter use. Many trekking poles come with, or offer as an accessory, powder snow baskets. The wide diameter baskets keep the poles from sinking in deep snow, just like a ski pole. Not all trekking poles have this option, however, so make sure to verify prior to purchasing.
Using sturdy, 4-season trekking poles in snow
Adding shock absorption to trekking poles seems like a no-brainer. They have the built-in give that takes additional stress off of knees as well as your wrists on a long descent. But, a quick scan of the picks above will show only a few poles with shock absorption made our list. What gives? First and most importantly is the extra weight. On longer treks, those additional ounces really count (although the Leki system only adds 1 ounce per pole). Most importantly, simplicity in the outdoors is your friend, and one fewer part to break is a win for us. There are undoubtedly good reasons to get a shock-absorbing pole, but we encourage you to think through the compromises to make sure they’re worth it.
Leki’s low-profile shock absorbers are built into the bottom of the pole
Women’s-Specific Trekking Poles
Trekking poles are billed as a unisex product, but there are a number of models that include a women’s version. What differentiates the women’s trekking pole is a narrower diameter grip, intended for smaller hands, and a shorter maximum length. For reference, the women’s version of the BD Trail Ergo Cork can be extended to 49 inches, while the men’s extend to 55 inches. Realistically, anyone that doesn’t need the extra length and would benefit from the smaller-diameter grips should choose a women’s trekking pole. Another benefit is women’s poles have a shorter minimum length (typically around 4-5 inches shorter in telescoping models), which makes them easier to stow away in a suitcase for traveling.
Women’s-specific poles typically have narrower grips and shorter maximum lengths
Cheap Trekking Poles
Uncomfortable foam, cork disintegrating into your palms, wrist straps chafing your hands, frail locking mechanisms collapsing. Need we go on? A poorly made, cheap trekking pole is just not worth it. Now we’re not saying you have to spend $150 to feel safe and secure; there are a number of poles under $100 that we still highly recommend. Moreover, if you are looking for a trekking pole for stability around town or want to try them without paying through the nose, you can forego some of the fancy lightweight features and get a classic aluminum pole at a reasonable price.
The REI Co-op Trailbreak telescoping poles (#2 on our list) are a great deal at $60 and will do the trick for easy local trails and day hikes. If you plan to use the poles for backpacking, we still recommend sticking with the pricier options on the list. As with most items you get for the backcountry, it’s well worth it to get a piece of gear you can rely on.
Cheap trekking poles are fine on easy trails, but don’t expect them to hold up to serious use
Hiking with One Trekking Pole
Although the vast majority of hikers use two trekking poles, it’s worth mentioning that a certain contingent prefers one. We’ve found that this is most often thru-hikers who want to carry the least possible weight and gear, and one pole does afford you added balance and support compared to not using any at all. For those using an ultralight shelter with trekking pole support, obviously the design will need to require only one pole. For example, most Hyperlite Mountain Gear shelter models aside from the Echo require one pole, while popular ultralight tents like the Zpacks Duplex require one pole on each end (two total). In the end, the choice comes down to personal preference, and one pole can be a fine option for those who want some of the benefits while keeping a hand free. And in terms of buying, almost all trekking poles are sold in sets, although the Mountainsmith Dolomite above is a notable exception. Further, some cottage brands like Gossamer Gear do allow you to order one by including a note to “ship only 1 pole and refund 50%”.
Hiking with one pole can cut down on weight while still offering added stability
Trekking Pole Tents and Shelters
For ultralight backpackers and thru-hikers, a trekking pole-supported shelter is a great way to trim weight. If you’re considering one of these designs, keep in mind you’ll need a compatible set of poles. One key factor is pole length, and many shelters are designed to function with set dimensions. For example, Zpacks’ popular Duplex works with poles approximately 48 inches long, while Gossamer Gear’s The One is best with two 49-inch poles. In addition, we’ve found adjustable pole designs simplify the set-up process (fixed-length poles are cumbersome and harder to get in place). Finally, the durability of your trekking poles is important: ultralight carbon models may be great while hiking, but if they snap, you’ll need to get creative to make your shelter functional. For us, a balanced design like the Black Diamond Distance FLZ makes a lot of sense. It’s reasonably light at 16 ounces, sturdy and tough with its aluminum build, and the adjustable length ensures the Distance FLZ will fit with most shelters on the market.
Back to Our Top Trekking Pole Picks Back to Our Trekking Pole Comparison Table
90,000 This is for grandmothers! 10 stereotypes about Nordic walking
In our article we will try to destroy the prevailing conventional wisdom about Scandinavian walking, consider 10 main stereotypes about it, show the real benefits of practicing this type of outdoor activity not only for the elderly, but also for the widest circle of fitness lovers and fans of a healthy lifestyle and even for professional athletes. After reading this article, you will also find out what is the minimum equipment you need to start Nordic walking, what you should pay special attention to when buying poles.We will tell you about the nuances of their individual settings and the correct walking technique, we will analyze the main stages of training, and touch on the topic of reducing excess weight.
So, let’s get started!
STEREOTYPE # 1. SAME FOR GRANDMAS!
I don’t know if this is fortunately or not, but in our country the concept of “Nordic walking” in the mass consciousness is tightly connected with the strange whim of elderly people who, for some reason, do not sit at home babysitting their grandchildren, but for some reason they have to walk on parks with those ridiculous “ski” poles in the summer.
However, if we understand the history of the appearance of Scandinavian walking, we will be surprised to find that it was created not for the leisure of pensioners, but as a full-fledged type of physical exercise for active athletes.
Back in the middle of the twentieth century, walking with sticks was actively used as an element of summer training for skiers. It imitated the movements of an athlete moving in a classic way much better than running.
At the end of the 70s, the scientific and methodological basis for such studies began to be worked out.The Finnish ski coach Mauri Repo made a great contribution here, who substantiated the effectiveness of such trainings from the standpoint of sports medicine, anatomy and physiology.
The history of the mass distribution of Scandinavian walking is connected with another Finn – Marko Kantaneva. Largely thanks to him, this type of activity has acquired a familiar form. In the 90s, special sticks for Nordic walking began to be produced, clubs were organized, work was organized to train instructors, and the movement itself, which received the name “nordic walking” in Europe, began to travel the world.Today, Nordic walking is most widespread, or, as it is commonly called in Russia, Scandinavian walking naturally received in its homeland – in Finland, as well as in Germany and Austria. In general, for example, one of the organizations of this type of activity – the International Scandinavian Walking Association (INWA) includes more than 20 countries, including such rather exotic ones as Iran, Iraq, Afghanistan, Israel and India.
So, as we can see, Scandinavian walking, despite the fact that in Russia it is still mainly presented as a safe and useful form of outdoor exercise for people, primarily the older generation, in the Scandinavian countries and Western Europe initially developed as a type of outdoor activity, not depending on the age of the participants.Moreover, Nordic walking is sometimes used in the preparation of athletes in the base period as recovery training, as well as for rehabilitation after injuries.
STEREOTYPE № 2. EVERYONE IS RUNNING, AND I WILL WALK WITH STICKS?
Yes, running is popular today. They write about him in social media posts. In the evening, runners of all ages and physical conditions can be found in any park. The number of cross-country starts has grown significantly over the past few years and continues to grow.After every major marathon or running trail, Instagram and Facebook are brimming with photos of the medals won and dramatic descriptions of the race.
Scandinavian walking is different. Here you will not receive a colorful finisher medal, you will not surprise your friends and acquaintances: how? did you run / ran a marathon? You will only be systematically and effectively improving your health.
Running is a great activity for people without major health problems.If you have diseases of the joints and spine, even in the initial stage, then running, especially on hard surfaces and in shoes with insufficient shock absorption, can be potentially traumatic. The same applies to diseases of the cardiovascular system. In Nordic walking, unlike running, there is no so-called “flight phase”, when a person at a certain moment is completely in the air without any support. In running, when landing on the leg, the entire musculoskeletal system experiences an increased load.The trained muscles and ligaments of athletes are able to compensate for this shock load. However, if your level of fitness is not high enough, or you have problems with joints and spine, or you are significantly overweight, then it is better to start your sports activity with Scandinavian walking. The same advice is relevant for people who are recovering from injuries.
In addition, Nordic Walking creates a good entry level for other sports such as cross-country skiing, biathlon, track and field athletics.It is perfect for the initial physical training of children.
For some people, jogging, even the slowest, is excessive in terms of load. They want to enjoy more of the surrounding landscape in the park or listen to an audiobook or a useful lecture during class, which is much more difficult to do when jogging. Many people combine Nordic walking and dog walking.
In general, running is good, but there are many limiting factors: the condition of the heart and blood vessels, the musculoskeletal system, excess weight.With Scandinavian walking, there are an order of magnitude less such restraints. And besides, in combining business with pleasure, for example, walking with sticks and walking a pet, nordic walking is at least as good as running.
STEREOTYPE № 3. YES WHY DO I WANT IT? BETTER CARD IN FITNESS CLUB WILL BUY
Nordic walking is primarily outdoor activities. Whatever the level of the gym where you exercise, the amount of oxygen there will always be less. Any kind of outdoor activity (and it is best to do Scandinavian walking in a park or an easily passable forest) has a positive effect on immunity, heart, and relieves nervous tension.
Scandinavian walking uses about 80 percent of a person’s muscles and uses on average one and a half times more calories than normal walking. By switching on the muscles of the arms and back, unnecessary stress on the joints of the lower extremities and the spine is removed. All this contributes to the improvement of posture. Prolonged Nordic walking exercises increase endurance.
In total, we get an excellent option for cardio training in the fresh air, stimulating the active expenditure of calories, using most of the muscles, absolutely harmless and suitable for people of all ages, weights and training levels.And all this for a price ten times less than an annual fitness club membership.
And active and regular Nordic walking in combination with a moderate diet helps to reduce excess weight.
STEREOTYPE № 4. YES HOW DO YOU LOSE HERE, IF YOU DO NOT EVEN HAVE AGE?
It is precisely because Nordic walking is a low to medium intensity workout that it provides the most productive fat burning. When practicing such types of sports activities as crossfit, any jogging, bodybuilding, football and the like at a faster pace than light jogging, the load on all systems of the human body is very high.Energy consumption increases accordingly. The main source of energy in this case is carbohydrates, not fats. The latter are actively involved in the process of energy production only at a very moderate level of physical activity. And here the duration of the training comes to the fore.
To start the process of oxidation of fats and the production of energy from them in your body, you need work of low and moderate medium intensity for at least 40 minutes a day. This work should be regular.For example, two workouts on weekdays lasting about an hour each and one long walk on weekends – at least two hours. You should come to such a scheme gradually. For a start, two short workouts of 30-40 minutes each week will be quite sufficient, and one long workout lasting about an hour.
During and after training, you can and should drink plenty of water. With active walking, a lot of moisture and salts are released from the human body with breathing and then. To compensate for the loss of the substances and minerals we need, you can drink not just water, but isotonic – a special sports drink with a set of precisely those trace elements that are quickly lost during intense training.As a rule, these are most often sodium, potassium and magnesium. Sometimes, to help our immunity, which is important, say, when training in cold or rainy weather, these drinks include vitamin C and iron. It should, however, be remembered that if your goal is to lose weight, then a sports drink should be chosen without carbohydrates. A good product is made, for example, by the English company SiS, whose name stands for Science in Sport.
For the convenience of drinking, it is good to use sports flasks.Kant stores offer a whole family of flasks and holders for them for a variety of types, sizes and colors.
For lovers of long walks, drinking systems are perfect. With their help, you can, without stopping, drink right on the go.
And for those who want to take a few more things with them to class, say, a light fleece jacket in case of a cold snap or a waterproof jacket in case of rain, light and compact backpacks and multifunctional vests will come in handy.
In general, if desired, Nordic walking can be a great way to lose extra pounds without exhausting high-intensity training and risk of injury, while using a minimum of equipment and with a proven healing effect.
STEREOTYPE No. 5. TECHNOLOGY? WHAT IS THE TECHNIQUE – JUST STEP AND MOVE THE STICKS!
Oh no! Despite its apparent simplicity, Scandinavian walking has its own well-thought-out technique that allows you to most effectively use almost all the large muscles of our body.
The principle of movement here is similar to the classic ski alternating two-step course, when the take-off with the left hand coincides with the step of the right foot and vice versa. Walking movements should be as rhythmic as possible. The body is kept straight, the head is straight – not thrown back and not lowered, the gaze is directed forward. Swing arms wide-ranging, from the shoulder, be sure to use the latissimus dorsi. In the final phase of repulsion, the elbow of the hand fully straightens, including the triceps, and the palm does not squeeze the handle of the stick, but, on the contrary, opens, loading the muscles of the forearm and hand.When you step, you should actively push off with your foot, rolling resiliently from heel to toe.
In short, Nordic walking is not nearly as easy as it seems. Correct technique is just as important here as it is in skiing, running or swimming. It is she who will allow you to get the most out of the classes and guarantee excellent results.
STEREOTYPE № 6. BY THE WAY, ABOUT STICKS – SKI WILL FIT?
No, they won’t. Ski poles, especially those used for skating, are much longer than Nordic walking poles.When choosing poles for skiing, they are guided by the length of the pole to the ear or slightly higher for the “skate” and shoulder length – for the classic move, while for Nordic walking, shorter poles are required. If you take them in your hands and put them on the ground, then the angle at your elbow joint should be 90 degrees. With this arrangement, the load on the back, arms and shoulder girdle will be optimally distributed.
For lovers of exact numbers, it will be useful to know the coefficient, multiplying your height in centimeters by which you can easily pick up sticks.Those who are just starting to practice Nordic walking and are not in good physical shape should be multiplied by 0.66. For those who already have experience of walking with sticks and those who can simply walk fast enough and for a long time, the coefficient will be 0.68. Well, those who are ready to test themselves in high-speed race walking can use a multiplier of 0.7 when choosing sticks. The general rule here is that the higher the sticks, the more effort is required to walk with them with the correct technique of movement. For example, for a person with a height of 170 cm, who is not torn for records and plans to walk at a calm pace for short and medium distances, the length of poles of 112 cm will be sufficient.With an average level of physical fitness, a walker of the same height will do 116 cm sticks, and for fast movement with a maximum load of the upper muscles, sticks already about 119 cm long will come in handy.However, it is worth remembering about the peculiarities of the anatomy of different people. People of the same height can have different lengths of arms, legs and body. Therefore, you should choose sticks, first of all, remembering the rule of 90 degrees at the elbow, and also focusing on your feelings of comfort. In this case, the multiplication factor should be used as an approximate guideline.
The ski poles have legs or rings at the bottom, thanks to which they fall through the snow less. In the case of Nordic walking poles, this is not necessary. Branches, grass can get caught in the rings and interfere with movement.
Nordic walking poles also have quick-detachable lanyards – specially designed loops. They prevent the sticks from falling, even when the palms are fully unclenched, and thanks to the Velcro they are precisely adjusted to the size of any palm. It is these lanyards that are needed for the correct walking technique.
According to the design, the sticks are of fixed length and telescopic – with retractable sections. The former are simpler, lighter and generally cheaper, but they require precise length selection. They are not so easy to transport. And if you buy sticks to use, say, two in turn, then you and your partner must be the same height. Telescopic poles have a number of advantages. They are easy to transport when folded. Thanks to their quickly variable length, they adapt to any user.Some sticks are equipped with an anti-shock spring system, which additionally cushions on a hard surface, which can be useful for people with hand joint problems.
For example, the anti-shock system is used in the Kivet, Kube and Ruten sticks of the Polish company Viking.
The mechanism for fixing the sections of telescopic sticks, as a rule, is of two types: collet, in the form of a springy split sleeve inside, when in order to fix it, you need to twist the stick clockwise and eccentric, with a metal or plastic outer cylindrical clip-clip.
Both the one and the other type of construction have sufficient strength, but if for some reason a breakdown occurs, then both the collets and the eccentrics can be easily replaced with new ones.
There are two- and three-section telescopic poles. The latter, due to their small length, are more convenient to store and carry.
Nordic walking poles also differ in the material of the tips. There are sticks with steel, there are – with the so-called “pobedit” ones – made of an alloy based on tungsten, cobalt and a small amount of carbon.Pobeda lugs are much more wear-resistant than conventional steel. Such tips are used for Nordic walking in nature, on unpaved, including snow-covered paths in parks. For walking on asphalt, rubber tips of a special shape are put on steel or tungsten. They perfectly remove the shock load from contact with a hard surface and allow you to move quickly and comfortably in the right technique. With normal wear and tear, both hard steel, and tungsten, and soft rubber tips, of course, are replaced with new ones.
Nordic walking stick bodies are made mainly of aluminum alloys or carbon fiber (with different carbon content). Aluminum is cheap, it does not break under excessive stress, but simply bends, and the stick can be easily straightened. CFRP with a high carbon content is lighter, stiffer. A good carbon stick, due to its little flexibility, responds well to the slightest effort of its owner. With such a stick, you can be sure that your strength will not be wasted, spent on extra vibration.It is easy to check the stiffness of the stick – grab the handle and, pressing your elbow on the shaft, begin to gently transfer your body weight onto the stick. Soft sticks immediately begin to bend strongly, and hard ones, as they say, “stand with a stake”. Such rigidity is irrelevant for people who are just starting to practice Nordic walking. They just do not need increased rigidity – it only creates additional stress on the arms and back. Responsive carbon poles are more suitable for experienced walkers who practice in a fast, sporty manner, for long routes where the weight of the pole plays a significant role.However, carbon poles have a significant drawback – their relative fragility. If you accidentally step on such a stick, there is a high probability that you will break it. So you should be especially careful with such sticks.
Curved Nordic walking poles stand apart. Due to its non-standard shape with a slight forward tilt of the handle, the hand is in a more comfortable, natural position, and the bend of the stick provides good shock absorption. The walker places the bent stick at a sharper angle, so the take-off is more effective.All of the above, of course, is more relevant for experienced trainees, as well as for those who want to experience something new in Nordic walking.
Pole grips are made of plastic, synthetic rigid foam, neoprene and cork. The first two materials are the most budgetary and simple ones. Neoprene and cork during active exercise absorb sweat well, while not slipping, pleasant to the touch. When walking in winter, even with thin gloves, they do not cool the palms.
Useful accessories for carrying and storing sticks will be a case or a simple shoulder strap, for example, such as those of the Italian company Cober.
So, we see that Nordic walking poles are different from ski poles, as well as ordinary tourist trekking poles. From the first – in length, the absence of legs and rings at the bottom, and telescopic poles also have the ability to adjust them in height and fold when carrying. From trekking – the design of the lanyards and the possibility of their quick removal, the presence of special rubber tips for walking on asphalt.
In Kant stores you can always find yourself a pair of Nordic walking poles: from the most budgetary to the top-level models that will satisfy the most demanding customers.
STEREOTYPE № 7. WHAT ELSE PULSOMETER? I’M NOT A MARATHON RUN
For Nordic walking training to be most effective, you need to accurately monitor the load on the body. The easiest way to do this is with heart rate monitoring. The first step is to define your target heart rate zones. In relation to walking with poles, this is a zone of light stress, during work in which the most active process of attracting fat reserves as a source of energy occurs, and a zone of moderate stress in which we train our endurance.These zones are defined simply. For the average person, the formula will be correct, in which you should subtract your current age from 220. The resulting number will be your maximum heart rate, that is, the highest number of heart beats per minute for you. Taking it as one hundred percent, we will determine our target heart rate zones: easy will be from 50 to 60, and moderate – from 60 to 70 percent of the maximum. For example, if you are 30 years old, then your maximum heart rate will be about 190 beats per minute.Accordingly, the zone of easy activity will lie in the range from 95 to 114 beats per minute, and you can develop your endurance while walking with a heart rate of 114 to 133.
Of course, you can just stop and use your finger on your wrist or carotid artery to measure your pulse in, say, ten seconds and then mentally multiply it by six. But it will be easier, more convenient and more effective to use a special device – a heart rate monitor. It will report with maximum accuracy data about your heart rate, speed, and models with GPS will also mark and track your route on the map, so you definitely will not get lost, traveling along new paths in your favorite park.
If buying a heart rate monitor is still a matter of the future for you, you can pay attention to simple pedometer models. With their help, it is convenient to keep track of the calories burned and the distance traveled during the workout.
In any case, whether you use a heart rate monitor or not, it is always important to monitor your heart rate so that, on the one hand, you do not put too much stress, and on the other hand, do not turn Nordic walking into an ineffective light walk.
STEREOTYPE No. 8. WARM-UP FOR ANYTHING
As with any physical activity, be it running, cycling, swimming or skiing, you should always do at least a little warm-up before Nordic walking. For those who are purposefully engaged in health improvement and weight loss with the help of walking with sticks, a full-fledged long warm-up, including exercises for strength and flexibility, can serve as an excellent additional means of achieving results as soon as possible.
In general, the warm-up should include at least one exercise for each muscle or muscle group involved in Nordic walking. These are exercises such as tilting and turning the head, lifting (shrugging) the shoulders, swinging the legs and arms (forward, sideways, backward), squats with sticks, lunges on each leg, body bends (forward, sideways), toe raises, jumping on one and two legs. A good warm-up should take about ten minutes.
After walking, do not forget to cool down, also for an average of ten minutes, including a variety of flexibility exercises.Passive long stretching with exercises from hatha yoga would be ideal. If you wish, you can do breathing exercises.
STEREOTYPE No. 9. NO CONTRAINDICATIONS
No matter how gentle and safe Nordic walking is, there are still contraindications. First of all, these are serious diseases of the joints, heart and spine, severe hypertension and diabetes. In any case, if you have any doubts about the safety of Nordic walking specifically for you, you should first of all consult a doctor.After all, we all remember the basic medical principle – “do no harm”.
STEREOTYPE No. 10. IN WINTER, SO DO NOT WALK
How you walk! Winter is not a reason to quit training at all. First, with a few months of inactivity, you can negate all the beneficial effects of previous workouts. And secondly, walking in a winter park or forest will give you a completely new sensation from Scandinavian walking. However, you should pay special attention to your shoes and clothing.
If, in principle, any sneaker with sufficient cushioning for your weight will suit you for walking in the warm season, to walk on trampled paths in the park or asphalt, then for winter you need special shoes.First of all, good grip is needed for safety and confident push-off when walking on snow-covered paths. Special sneakers for winter running are perfect for this. For example, a product from the American manufacturer Saucony Peregrine 8 Ice + with a Vibram Arctic Grip outsole with a special non-slip surface guarantees you increased grip on packed snow and icy asphalt.
Unlike highly specialized winter shoes, these sneakers provide excellent traction not with steel spikes in the sole, but with chevron inserts made of a special rough to the touch non-slip material (in the photo they are black).
To keep your feet warm when walking in freezing weather, we recommend that you wear warm trekking or ski socks. For example, the products of the Norwegian company Bjorn Daehlie or the Italian company Accapi.
To remove excess moisture from the body, it is good to use a set of thermal underwear. Depending on the individual thermoregulation, such underwear can be completely woolen (the best heat saving), synthetic (the best moisture removal) or half-woolen (medium version).All Kant stores have a large selection of thermal underwear from recognized world brands, such as Austrian Loeffler, Norwegian Bjorn Daehlie, Italian Accapi and many others.
As for outerwear, a variety of cross-country ski jackets and pants are suitable for active winter Nordic walking. Due to their special cut and materials, they will provide high-quality wind protection and insulation in the chest, abdomen, front surface of the legs and good vapor permeability in the area of the armpits, back, and back of the legs.Do not forget about a light hat with gloves.
As you can see, the world of Scandinavian walking is not at all as simple as it seems at first glance. There are both special equipment and special equipment. With all this, this type of activity captivates with its simplicity, injury safety, wide availability and proven healing effect. You can practice walking with sticks at almost any age, the list of contraindications for it is negligible, and the benefits are undeniable.During the recovery period after injuries, it is often used even by professional athletes. For lovers of a healthy lifestyle, outdoor activities and fitness, Scandinavian walking can give a slim figure, correct posture, perfectly functioning heart and blood vessels, endurance and good mood. As with any outdoor activity, walking with sticks helps to successfully cope with the stresses of city life and gives a boost of vivacity and positiveness.
Well, you can always get competent advice in our stores to pick up a pair of suitable sticks, sneakers or a heart rate monitor.
90,000 Covid-19 and mobile tracking Q&A
Governments and corporations are increasingly using digital technology to combat the spread of the new coronavirus, Covid-19. While technology solutions are seen by some as an important means of contact tracing, quarantine and a snapshot of the spread of the virus and targeting health care resources, others have serious human rights concerns about these practices.Initiatives to track the location of mobile phone users are of particular concern to Human Rights Watch because such data typically contains privacy-sensitive information about a person’s identity, movement, behavior, relationships and activities.
Scaling up mobile tracking programs to combat Covid-19 may be scientifically redundant and fraught with human rights violations if not accompanied by effective privacy protections.Years of experience with emergency measures such as counter-terrorism electronic surveillance show that they often go too far, fail to deliver the desired results, and, once introduced, often remain in effect even after the original reason for the introduction has disappeared.
The proposed Q&A examines the different ways governments use location data for mobile users in the context of the Covid-19 pandemic, related human rights concerns, and applicable standards.Provides typical examples, recommendations and suggestions for addressing the risks to human rights posed by the use of location data from mobile devices.
What is meant by location data of mobile users and how is it used in the context of the Covid-19 pandemic?
How is location data of mobile users used in the context of the Covid-19 pandemic?
By “location data of mobile users (mobile tracking)” we mean the geolocation and signal of base stations with which mobile phones and other devices communicate.Governments see such data as one of the key components of measures to contain the spread of Covid-19. Individual mobile tracking is being promoted as a reliable way to track the movements of coronavirus carriers and identify individuals with whom they came in contact during the contagious period. This technology can also be used to monitor compliance with social distancing and other quarantine measures. On the other hand, the analysis of aggregated location data can help in assessing the effectiveness of social distancing, in modeling the further spread of infection, and in identifying potential “risk points”.The following examples can be given of the use of such funds by the government in the context of Covid-19:
- Contact Tracking . This method is aimed at identifying persons who may have come into contact with the carrier of the virus, and blocking its spread by quickly establishing the circle of people who have closely communicated with the carrier (according to the standards of American centers for the prevention and control of diseases, close communication is considered to be within about two meters from patient lasting more than 10 minutes).The point is to motivate such people to isolate themselves and undergo testing and treatment. Since coronavirus is mainly transmitted by airborne droplets through personal contact, when an infected person coughs, sneezes or talks, mobile tracking is positioned as an effective way to identify a range of potential carriers.
- Enforcement of quarantine and social distancing . Governments impose quarantines and other restrictions on movement, including the complete or partial closure of businesses, public places and institutions, self-isolation of those infected and social distancing.To monitor compliance with all these restrictions, the location data of mobile users is used, which is collected, for example, using applications installed on a voluntary or forced basis.
- Big Data . Based on the analysis of large amounts of aggregated data, corporations and governments also build patterns of population movement and behavior and track their change. This analysis is carried out to predict the spread of the virus and assess the effectiveness of prevention measures such as social distancing, as well as to determine the priority territorial needs for testing and treatment.
Formation of geography of risk points . This technique is also based on the analysis of large amounts of data, which, in combination with data on the location and movement of infected people, makes it possible to identify potential risk areas where warnings, quarantines or disinfection measures can be issued.
How does mobile tracking work?
Mobile user location data can be obtained in a variety of ways, including base station identification, GPS signal, and Bluetooth beacons.
- Determination of position by base stations . Communication between users and connection to the Internet is carried out through base stations at the center of each “cell”. As the owner of the device moves, it communicates with different base stations, and this information is stored by the cellular operator (OCC). For three base stations, the “triangulation” method can be used to quite accurately determine the location of the mobile device. Governments may require OSS to provide such information on both current and past movements.
- GPS signal . The geolocation function built into a mobile phone using a GPS signal allows you to determine its location with an accuracy of 1.5 to 3 meters. This feature is used by many mobile applications (maps, social media, games, shopping, utilities), and the download log of geolocation data may be available to authorities and companies that commercialize the data. The latter include both large and obscure companies that collect data on potential customers and then sell them directly or based on them analytics in the free market.To date, there are many GPS applications for contact tracking and quarantine compliance. In addition, anonymized geolocation data can be used to model the flow of people both in the past and in real time.
Bluetooth beacons . Bluetooth is a low-power, short-range wireless communication technology (within about 10 meters) that is primarily used to connect devices directly to each other.For the purpose of contact tracing, it is proposed to use a special application that, using a Bluetooth signal, is able to establish with relatively high accuracy the fact that a mobile phone is near other devices. Because of this, this method can be most easily described as contact tracking.
Applicable human rights standards
International human rights norms provide that even when the state in a state of emergency restricts rights and freedoms in the interests of protecting public health, such restrictions must be legal, necessary and proportionate to .The state of emergency must be limited in time, and any restrictions on human rights must take into account the disproportionate impact on certain categories of the population or marginalized groups.
These principles also apply to the Covid-19 response using the location data of mobile users. In the course of collecting and analyzing such data, information about the identity, movement and contacts of users may be obtained, which is fraught with infringement of the right to privacy.Article 17 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, based on Article 12 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, states that “no one may be subjected to arbitrary or unlawful interference with his personal and family life, arbitrary or unlawful attacks on the inviolability of his home or the secrecy of his correspondence” … The Human Rights Committee, in its general comment on this article, indicates that interference with the right to privacy “cannot take place at all, except as provided by law as provided for by law (italics – HRW.) “. In this case, the restrictions should be proportionate to the desired goal and necessary, taking into account the severity of the situation.
Human Rights Watch and over 100 other non-governmental organizations recently urged governments to respect privacy and human rights when using digital technology to contain the pandemic. In our common opinion, at least the following conditions must be met:
- must be lawful, necessary, proportionate, transparent and justified in terms of a legitimate public health objective;
- should be limited in time and only act for the period necessary to combat the pandemic;
- should be limited in scope and adopted solely for the purpose of dealing with a pandemic;
- must provide an adequate level of protection for any personal data collected;
- should take into account the risks of discrimination and other human rights violations against marginalized groups;
- must ensure the transparency of any arrangements for the exchange of data with other public and private actors;
- should include safeguards to prevent undue surveillance and to ensure access to effective remedies;
- should include mechanisms for free, active and meaningful stakeholder participation.
How are governments using mobile tracking to combat Covid-19?
The growing use by governments of location data of mobile users to combat the spread of Covid-19 is due to understandable public health considerations, since any viral infection is primarily human contact. London-based Privacy International monitors relevant practices from governments, technology companies and international organizations.Below are some examples.
Contact Tracking Based on Cellular Operator (OSS) Data
Authorities can access OSS data. In Israel , the government on March 17 granted the Shin-Bet counterintelligence and internal security service the right to request from the OSS and process “technical data”, including the location of subscribers, without the consent of the latter in order to identify the circle of people who had contact with the carrier of the virus.As part of this program, the Ministry of Health sends self-isolation warnings to the appropriate numbers. The decision was taken by the cabinet, bypassing parliament, and the Supreme Court subsequently ruled that the government must pass a law “enforcing privacy principles,” or the program should be terminated. On March 23, the Ministry of Health released a special application that is installed voluntarily and warns the user if he has come into contact with an infected person.
In Armenia , the parliament on March 31 gave the authorities extremely broad powers to spy on citizens, obliging the OSS to provide information on all subscribers, including the phone number and location, the date and time of each call and SMS message. Authorities can use this information to identify infected individuals to isolate and self-isolate in close contact with them, as well as to monitor compliance with quarantine measures.
In Russia , the Prime Minister on March 20 instructed the Ministry of Telecom and Mass Communications to develop, based on the OSS data, a nationwide system for tracking persons who have come into contact with coronavirus patients.On April 1, the ministry reported on the implementation. It asked regional authorities for anonymized lists of mobile numbers of carriers of coronavirus and people who are in self-isolation after returning from abroad or contacts with confirmed carriers.
In Ecuador , on March 16, by his emergency decree, the president authorized the government to use satellite and mobile data to monitor people who have been diagnosed with coronavirus, who have had close contact with them, as well as those who have characteristic symptoms or who are on mandatory self-isolation after returning from abroad.
Contact Tracking via Bluetooth Applications
At Singapore , the government released TraceTogether, a Bluetooth contact tracking application on March 20. In case of infection, the citizen is obliged by law to assist the Ministry of Health, accurately recording his movements and contacts in order to minimize the risk of the spread of infection. The data logs are stored encrypted on the phone using a “cryptographically generated temporary certificate”.If the user of the application is a confirmed carrier of Covid-19 and agrees to the Ministry of Health to upload the data log, then the authorities can decode the temporary certificate and access the list of issues from the log.
The European Commission on April 8 adopted a recommendation on a common European approach to the use of mobile applications, including for contact tracing. The approach should be based on the principles of protecting privacy and personal data, including using the least possible amount of data and safeguards such as aggregation, encryption and decentralization.It is also intended to be voluntary and preferably to use Bluetooth tracking. In the future, regulations on data protection and privacy when using mobile applications should be adopted. April 17 European Parliament endorsed this recommendation, adding a requirement for full transparency so that citizens can rely on the security and privacy of the protocol used in such applications. A number of EU states, including France, Germany and the Netherlands, are currently in the process of selecting applications.
In Norway , the National Institute of Public Health released a voluntary automated application on April 16 that tracks the user’s movements and recommends quarantine in case of contact with a confirmed carrier of the virus. If a virus is found on the user’s own premises, the application, based on the data on his contacts, will send an SMS message about the need to self-isolate to all people who have been at a distance of closer than two meters from him for more than 15 minutes.
Mobile apps for quarantine and social distancing tracking
In cities and provinces in China , the authorities use the Health Code application from private developers to determine the people to be quarantined and the period of this quarantine. The app assigns one of three color codes to each of the approximately 700 million users: green allows unhindered movement, yellow requires a seven-day quarantine, and red requires a two-week quarantine.To enter the building, go to the store, use public transport and move within the microdistrict, you must present a QR code at the checkpoint for scanning. However, the rules for assigning a color code are classified, so a person does not know why this or that code was assigned to him or why it has changed. The app also collects user location data, which is open to the police. Users complain about the arbitrariness of qualifications and the difficulty of appealing them; some have to stay at home indefinitely, even after the quarantine period set by the application.
In Turkey , the Minister of Health on April 7 said that carriers of Covid-19 must download the application “Stay at home” as part of a project to track self-isolation during a pandemic. The application monitors the movement of people subject to self-isolation: if they leave the house, they receive an SMS warning and are ordered to stay at home from an automatic call center. Under the program, information about persons who ignore the order and continue to violate the quarantine is transferred to law enforcement agencies, and they can be subject to criminal sanctions up to arrest for a period of two months to a year under Article 195 of the Criminal Code.Human Rights Watch has not yet conducted research on how massively this application is used in practice and how tightly the authorities enforce these requirements.
In Moscow, Moscow authorities launched an application in April that tracks the movement of Covid-19 patients who are being treated at home. It must be installed by all who are prescribed the regime of home isolation. The application requires access to all calls, geolocation, camera, memory, network data, sensors and other data, which together should ensure self-isolation for the period of contagiousness.The app complements one of the world’s largest outdoor camera systems with face recognition, deployed in Moscow, to track offenders in self-isolation. On April 15, in Moscow and the Moscow region, digital passes were also introduced for one-time trips both on public and private transport.
Big Data Analysis
In EU the eight largest OSS have agreed to provide the European Commission with anonymized metadata for modeling and forecasting the spread of Covid-19.One of the European officials promised that the data will be used in an aggregated and impersonal format and that the EU Commission will delete it after the end of the pandemic, but the Commissioner for Personal Data Protection did not rule out that these measures could become permanent.
In US , mobile advertising companies that collect location data from mobile and internet users for targeted advertising are reportedly providing the results to disease prevention and control centers and some state and municipal governments.In the context of Covid-19, such data-sharing agreements are intended to help authorities compile a picture of the virus’s pathways and adjust health authorities’ response. At the same time, such agreements to a large extent remain non-public, including in terms of the procedure for collecting, providing, depersonalizing and analyzing data. It was also reported that the federal government is working to establish a nationwide coronavirus monitoring system to predict the number of infections and hospitalizations nationwide.It remains unclear to what extent this project is related to data exchange between the mobile advertising industry and disease prevention and control centers.
In South Korea , the authorities, in addition to tracking the carriers of the virus through mobile tracking, surveillance cameras and the use of information on the use of ATMs and bank cards, have developed a public map of cases of infection based on aggregated data, which allows citizens to check the likelihood of contacts.This map was officially launched on March 26th. Health authorities also send mobile phone users detailed notifications of confirmed cases, including age, gender, and movement within two days of quarantining. This is done so that people who accidentally come into contact with sick people (for example, visitors to the same restaurant at the same time) are prepared for the fact that they may also have a coronavirus.
In Ecuador , the president announced on April 6 the launch of the SOS-Covid service, which uses information from ambulance, telecommunications and health ministries and OSS, as well as data from the Salud EC application (see.below) to monitor compliance with quarantine, identify cases of infection, conduct mass testing and identify risk areas with close contacts between people.
Solutions based on proactive information by the user himself
Governments are also developing programs that allow citizens to report coronavirus cases and refer people to medical services based on location data. For example, in Ethiopia , the Information Network Security Agency launched a Covid-19 monitoring platform on March 23, which provides information on infection cases and reports on the nearest pharmacies, hospitals and police stations.People with symptomatic symptoms or who have been in contact with confirmed carriers can report it themselves through the platform to the ministry of health. The system also allows users to report illegal or unauthorized manifestations, such as mass public events, and people with suspected coronavirus, based on the subjective assessment of the informant. The latter is a matter of concern, especially with reports of harassment and discrimination against foreigners and health workers as Coivd-19 cases rise in Ethiopia.
In Ecuador on March 25, it was announced the development of the Salud EC application, which records the name, year of birth, ID number and geolocation of users. This application is installed voluntarily, and users can use it to report their symptoms of Covid-19, after which the application provides the user with access to online resources created by the authorities to combat the epidemic.
How can mobile tracking interfere with privacy?
Mobile tracking poses significant and convincingly proven privacy risks.Location data of mobile users can contain sensitive and non-disclosure information about a person’s identity, place of residence, behavior, relationships and activities. The use of these mobile networks provides the authorities with targeted and real-time opportunities that can be used to enforce quarantine, discrimination or persecution of citizens for other reasons. In the hands of an unscrupulous government that already practices intrusive surveillance methods, this can lead to increased repression.
The mobile tracking programs described above raise concerns that governments may collect, use and store data for more than legitimate and targeted disease monitoring efforts. The lack of transparency in many such initiatives, as in Ecuador and Ethiopia, prevents the public from assessing whether there are reasonable limits to the personal information that is supposed to be collected, used, aggregated and stored, and whether tracking and data collection will stop when the pandemic subsides.This is especially true for countries such as China, Ethiopia and Russia, where the practice of mass surveillance has already developed.
Other problematic aspects include: restriction of freedom of movement based on arbitrary and non-transparent application algorithms, as in China; no need to obtain consent for the use of data, as in Armenia, Israel and South Korea; linking mobile tracking with other technologies, including face recognition, as in Moscow. Nearly all location-based coronavirus initiatives involve vast amounts of data falling into the hands of governments, many of which persistently practice repression and discrimination against marginalized populations such as religious minorities and political dissidents.
Excessive interference with personal data on a person’s location opens the way for other unjustified restrictions on rights and freedoms. For example, in Israel, Shin Bet reportedly mistakenly restricted freedom of movement by quarantining people who tested negative for coronavirus, including a woman who was ordered to self-isolate after she waved to a quarantined patient from the street. Making information available to law enforcement agencies can also deter people from seeking medical attention.In the United States, municipal authorities collect addresses of people who test positive for coronavirus and pass this information on to police and emergency services. According to some health experts, this practice can discourage going to a doctor or getting tested, as the person may be afraid to get into the police base. Finally, revealing sensitive details of people’s movements and behavior can provoke fear, panic and discrimination. In South Korea, authorities are sending out “safety instructions” informing the population about the places where the infected have been.The owners of shops and restaurants on such lists told reporters The Guardian that this scares off customers and could result in business closures even if they disinfect the premises.
What is the danger of even anonymized data?
Anonymization, that is, the exclusion of identifying information from the location data of a mobile user, is considered to be one of the guarantees of privacy protection, but today it is already well known that the comparison of anonymized data with personal and public information allows a person to be identified.To eliminate this possibility, governments need to impose an explicit prohibition on the mapping of anonymized data with other personal data. This has become a serious problem in South Korea, where the level of detail in the history of movements of persons with confirmed coronavirus in sent SMS messages made it possible to “calculate” a specific person. It has been reported that some people suspected of carrying the virus based on such reports have become targets of hate speech or harassment.In other cases, the information in the messages gave rise to speculation about marital infidelity and social stigmatization. The National Human Rights Commission criticized the authorities for disclosing more information than is necessary for anti-epidemic purposes, and, accordingly, violating the privacy and rights of the infected person, including “secondary consequences when the patient becomes the object of criticism, insults and hate on the Internet.” The commission recommended to publish only the time of the appearance of the carrier of the virus in a particular public place, but not the entire history of his movements.
Do aggregated data carry privacy risks?
To predict the spread of infection and assess the effectiveness of anti-epidemic measures, governments and companies also resort to the analysis of large arrays of geolocation data. One example is the collaboration of the mobile advertising industry with US Centers for Disease Prevention and Control. Google launched reports on mobility in local communities: they are “divided by region and contain data on how often or less often people leave their homes and visit public places, such as shopping and entertainment centers, grocery stores, pharmacies, parks, train stations, etc.etc. “. Facebook, as part of the Disease Prevention Mapping Initiative, is providing partners including the Harvard School of Public Health and Taiwan’s National Qin Hua University with visualizations of data on the likelihood of people being in the same place, the effectiveness of social distancing, and adherence to other prevention measures. as well as the “social ties index”, which suggests the possibility of linking the spread of infection with trans-regional contacts.
Google and Facebook say they use anonymized and aggregated location data to model the movement and behavior of people with a high degree of confidence, but not detailed travel histories that open up opportunities for reverse identification. In theory, aggregated data does pose fewer privacy risks, but aggregating companies and governments should ensure that the protocols and procedures used are disclosed to the extent that independent and external researchers can verify that they do work.Projects to track Covid-19 based on aggregated data should also disclose how conclusions are drawn, how that data is used to drive health action, and the degree of accuracy and risk of such analyzes.
Is there privacy for contact tracing via Bluetooth applications?
Several companies and researchers have recently announced new developments to provide additional privacy protection for contact tracing using Bluetooth applications.Some of the more notable include Pan-European Privacy Preserving Proximity Tracing (PEPP-PT), Decentralized Privacy-Preserving Proximity Tracing (DP-3T), and Privacy-Preserving Contact Tracing from Apple and Google, which includes a programming interface (API) that authorities healthcare can integrate into their own contact tracing applications. The next step is a system-level contact tracing system that works on all iOS and Android devices on a subscription basis.Tracking Bluetooth contacts is based on the fact that devices in the range of this connection exchange alias codes, which are a random sequence of numbers that is not associated with the user’s identity, and that changes every 10-20 minutes for added reliability. If a user becomes a carrier of a virus, devices can notify all phones with which they were at a sufficiently close distance. At the same time, the carrier of the virus is not identified and does not know to whom the warnings were sent.
Bluetooth contact tracing applications are positioned as the most reliable and secure way because the ability of devices to communicate with each other ensures the highest possible reliability and there is the possibility of building a decentralized architecture in which data is stored locally on the device itself, rather than in a centralized database.
With all the promising prospects, Bluetooth systems are not yet sufficiently tested, and their development does not exclude options fraught with risks to the privacy and security of personal data.For example, such systems can use both centralized databases and decentralized ones – when data is stored on the phone. Some governments may prefer a centralized option, but this creates risks if the authority has the capacity to abuse metadata and is prone to corruption or vulnerable to legal enforcement, or does not take adequate safeguards to protect data from abuse by unscrupulous actors.
By all accounts, decentralized storage of data on individual devices looks preferable from the point of view of privacy protection, however, this does not exclude certain risks. A person who is hostile to the user and has sufficient technical capabilities in the immediate vicinity of the device is able to read the certificates of the virus carriers stored on it, or can install his own stationary device that reads the certificates of passing users.
Moreover, scientists at the Institute of Technology in the Public Interest warn that technical safeguards may not provide safeguards against the abuse of contact tracing technologies. For example, strong encryption and decentralization do not exclude the possibility that a government agency or a private company will be required to familiarize them with the content of the application to provide access to a building or to use transportation services (for example, to ensure that the user does not belong to a risk group).
In India , the official “coronavirus” application Aarogya Setu was initially positioned as voluntary when it was released in early April, but by order of the civil service personnel department of April 29, it became mandatory for all civil servants, and by order of the Ministry of Internal Affairs of May 1, for all public and private sector employees.
Even if an application is officially positioned as voluntary, in practice many companies already declare that its installation will be a prerequisite for admission to work.As Human Rights Watch found out, in China, local authorities require you to show the Health Code application on your phone in order to use a taxi or public transport, or go to a supermarket or residential area. Finally, as technology, legal and epidemiology experts point out, Bluetooth contact tracing applications are vulnerable to trolling and spoofing, which could undermine the credibility of such systems.
Are privacy risks justified?
The possibility of malfunctions in mobile tracking programs raises doubts as to whether the privacy restrictions associated with such programs are really necessary to protect public health.
The key issue is whether these technologies are able to reliably establish the fact of close contact with the carrier of the virus (within two meters for at least 10 minutes). According to technical experts, determining the location of a mobile user using base stations or GPS signals does not provide sufficient accuracy to confidently assess the risk of infection. Contact tracing technologies via Bluetooth applications can provide a higher level of accuracy, but distortion should be considered in the presence of other active devices and general interference, for example, in crowded buildings or busy city parks.Moreover, the very fact of contact does not say anything about his character: whether two people are in an enclosed space or on the street, whether they are wearing masks or whether one of them sneezes at this moment.
The variety of use cases for mobile phones can also affect the effectiveness of mobile tracking. For example, there is an assumption that each phone is used by a specific person and only him. However, in Sierra Leone, it turned out that metadata was not a very reliable source of information during the 2014-2016 Ebola outbreak.because many had more than one phone and because mobile devices were actively transferred or sold among relatives and friends. Finally, in areas with a weak signal, including conflict zones, where towers are often strategically important targets of warring parties, people often use multiple SIM cards or phones.
Can an unjustified hobby for mobile tracking during an epidemic lead to discrimination against minorities?
Inequalities in mobile phone availability, digital literacy and the ability to absorb new technologies can leave vulnerable or marginalized populations outside the reach of anti-epidemic measures that unreasonably rely on mobile tracking.This inequality is especially pronounced when it comes to contact tracing applications, which were originally designed to ensure that everyone has a smartphone of a certain technical level and stable access to mobile communications and the Internet.
According to the GSMA, a global industry association of mobile operators, at the end of 2019, 49% of the world’s population went online via a mobile phone. In some regions, such as sub-Saharan Africa, this figure is only 26%.Industry analysts believe that Bluetooth contact tracing will fail to reach up to 2 billion mobile users whose devices do not support the technology, or about a quarter of all mobile phones in use today.
Also widely known is the disparity in the availability and use of mobile devices by geographic (urban-rural) and gender characteristics, which generally reflects and conserves persistent patterns of inequality. Elderly people, who are at higher risk in the context of the Covid-19 pandemic, are less likely to use specialized applications, and may also have no smartphone or even Internet access at all.In the US, a 2019 Pew survey found that 68% of people in the 55-73 age group had smartphones, while the figure was 93% for the 23-38 age group. In Italy, which has one of the last places in Europe for Internet coverage, the government has acknowledged the limited effectiveness of its voluntary contact tracing application, as one-sixth of the population does not use the Internet and older people do not always download the application. In China, elderly people without a smartphone can no longer travel on public bus transport (this now requires the installed Health Code application) or go to a public hospital (an appointment must be made online).
In some countries, the gender gap among Internet users can be as high as 31%. Globally, there are about 327 million fewer women among smartphone owners than men. The proliferation of smartphones among women is constrained, among other things, by lower literacy rates: globally, out of an estimated 781 million illiterates aged 15 and over, almost two-thirds are women and girls. If governments and businesses make contact tracing apps a prerequisite for admission to public or private space, it will discriminate against vulnerable and marginalized populations who are less able to download such programs.
Human Rights Watch also warns that the use of incomplete and discriminatory databases is fraught with disorientation of public health efforts in ways that threaten the rights of the poorest and most vulnerable people. For example, strict adherence to social distancing in countries with low living standards can lead to unjustified consequences for those who are at the forefront of the fight against the epidemic and those who are homeless or unemployed are dependent on free meals and services. social support.Their movements may appear abnormal or disturbing social distance, while they have to be more mobile due to the specifics of their position.
All of the technologies described above pursue a good goal – to protect public health in an emergency, and this goal may justify a certain restriction of rights and freedoms. However, many years of experience in introducing emergency measures shows that they often go too far, do not achieve the desired goals and, if adopted, last longer than necessary.Regardless of the severity of the situation, states and private actors should strive to ensure that emergency measures do not go beyond the legal restrictions on individual rights.
This means that governments in their fight against Covid-19 can use or authorize mobile tracking technologies only if their necessity and proportionality from an anti-epidemic point of view is proved and if their use is accompanied by sufficient guarantees excluding violation of rights and freedoms …An answer must be given to the fundamental question of whether such technologies are really capable of curbing the spread of coronavirus or, in reality, they can distort the idea of the risk of infection of a particular person or mislead society as a whole. The state must assess if there are other means at its disposal that would be less intrusive to such human rights as privacy and freedom of movement. The limits of limitation of these rights are regulated by the international legal standard, which establishes the following requirements:
- Restrictions should be legal , that is, not arbitrary and non-discriminatory in nature and application, and imposed on the basis of a law that would ensure that people clearly understand the restrictions imposed on them and provide clear boundaries for the discretionary powers of the authorities.
- Restrictions should be necessary , which are effective, based on scientific facts and infringing rights and freedoms to the minimum possible extent.
- Restrictions must be commensurate with the public health risks and must not in any way affect the nature of the rights being restricted.
- Restrictions must pursue a legitimate aim : in this case, it is to protect public health (but not a xenophobic or discriminatory agenda).
- The effect of restrictive measures should be limited in time to during the emergency period.
- The technologies used and the authorized users must ensure that human dignity is respected .
- Applied technologies should be transparent and subject to verification and oversight; remedies should be provided for human rights violations.
Criteria for evaluating proposed mobile tracking programs
Human Rights Watch seriously doubts that the ways in which the location data of mobile devices described in this material are used meet the above standard.At the same time, governments around the world are rapidly and recklessly implementing such programs. It is important that when evaluating proposed or already implemented mobile tracking technologies, the public, the media, the scientific and technical community and politicians proceed from clear criteria that allow identifying excessive risks to human rights (see below).
Governments, corporations and other developers of programs based on the location data of mobile users must first assess how accurately the corresponding technical solution allows to determine the probability of finding a person near the carrier of the coronavirus.Is the way we identify people at risk consistent with what we know about the transmission of Covid-19 (for example, in terms of choosing between contact tracing and symptom tracking)? Is it technically possible to somehow take into account the peculiarities of contact with the carrier of the virus (for example, when being in a crowded building or in a busy park) or using a mobile phone (for example, in the case of sharing or frequent transfer of a device between users)? What errors are likely when the program is running? How might these errors affect a person’s access to testing and / or treatment and public health in general?
Governments and corporations must engage in meaningful and transparent dialogue with stakeholders (including civil society, vulnerable and marginalized populations, digital professionals, and epidemiologists) to ensure that the program is epidemiologically sound and to avoid bias and error.In particular, consideration should be given to the possible linkage of programs to institutional arrangements: for example, is there a possibility of testing and treatment for people identified as being at contact risk? It is also necessary to assess whether the program will divert resources away from non-technological interventions such as manual contact tracing and advocacy on the need for social distancing, and if so, what the consequences might be.
Stakeholders should also ascertain whether the program is fully voluntary and whether there is a potential for sanctions or negative consequences in connection with the refusal to participate in it. For example, it is important to understand whether program implementation carries risks of sanctions or undue restrictions on freedom of movement, access to health care and other rights, especially for vulnerable and marginalized groups.
Issues under development
If a program is already under development, in addition to the questions listed above, it is important to ensure that privacy principles are embedded in it.This includes minimizing the volume of data, that is, collecting only information that is adequate and relevant to the achievement of a scientifically proven public health goal, keeping it to a minimum. It is also important whether the program implies severe restrictions on how data will be collected, used, aggregated, stored and provided, including to other users, government agencies and society. Finally, the time frame for its action should be clarified, including the issues of terminating the program and the subsequent deletion of data.An important step is to involve state structures for the protection of personal data in the development of recommendations on ensuring privacy when using personal data for anti-epidemic purposes.
An important point should be providing users with control over the information coming from them and the ability to stop providing it. Does the program provide for the receipt of truly informed consent from the user on transparent terms, formulated very clearly and simply, based on the preference of the principle of subscribing to a service, rather than unsubscribing from it? Is the privacy protection functionality built into the program clear enough, including the settings for what data can be collected, who will have access to it, how long it will be stored, and how it can be deleted? For contact tracing applications, it is important that the collection, aggregation, storage and analysis of contact and health information is not centralized within a single government entity, such as a ministry.If the data collected by the program is used to analyze the risks of infection and alert the person concerned, then the reliability of the analysis and the possibility of using public health resources, such as government information services, should be explained to him.
Anonymization and secure storage of data are important aspects of development that require close monitoring. The collected data should be anonymized as much as possible, and the risks of reverse identification should be communicated to users in the most understandable and accessible form.Is the source code of the program disclosed so that the public can be convinced of its good faith? Do developers disclose meaningful information about anonymization protocols so that they can be tested for effectiveness? Developers should also disclose how the collected data is protected from attempts by third parties to access or modify it. For example, you might ask the question: Does the program use strong information security methods (such as end-to-end encryption) and are these methods subject to regular review?
Issues at the stage of implementation and operational activities
If the program is already in operation, then it must be checked and rechecked for compliance with the above standards.Developers should monitor the socio-political context and ensure that mechanisms and protocols are in place to protect against abuse. For example, can users challenge the collection, aggregation, storage and use of data concerning them, and do they have access to effective remedies? Can users exit the program and delete their data? Can communities and users independently test the operating algorithms to ensure they are reliable and meet the program’s stated purpose?
90,000 cones, stones, crutches and a selfie stick / JUG Ru Group blog / Habr
It seems that there are already thousands of materials about testing mobile applications, so it’s hard to surprise here.But while aspects like the UI are already erased to holes, they talk about testing geolocation much less often. And when at our conference Heisenbug
Nikolay lamamer Kozlov
Alexander z3us Hosts
) shared their experience, the audience of the conference was very interested in the report. How to get geolocation, and the user does not discharge the phone? Why use a selfie stick in this test? How close are London pubs and what follows?
We decided that Habr’s audience might also be interested in it, and we post it in two versions at once: for those who like to watch the video, and for those who like to read the text version under the cut.
Let’s get to know each other first. My name is Alexander Khozya, in the company everyone is called by the name “Khozya”, I’m used to it, you can also address me like that. I am in charge of all manual mobile testing at Badoo, I do not like all mobile operating systems in about the same way, and today I will talk about iOS.
My name is “Kozya” in the company, and I’m used to it too.I love gadgets, especially on the Android operating system and Unix-like in general. I hate iOS: I have an Apple Watch and an iPhone just to realize how much I hate their good service and quality of service.
A little about us. You probably already know that Badoo is a service for finding new acquaintances. We have over 360 million users (of which 60 million are active per month), and about 300,000 registrations per day. They generate 350 million messages per day.
With regard to our report directly.So that you understand the amount of data that our poor servers have to process: our users generate about two billion coordinates per day. These two billion generate about 10 million “intersections” – we will talk about what intersections are a little later.
At the same time, everything that we describe below is possible only with test users. We do not have access to the data of a real user, except in the case of checking some anomaly or bug, and even in this case, the user’s permission for this action is required.
So what we’ll talk about today:
- Why geolocation is useful
- About tools that allow you to save seven kilograms of nerve cells (as you can see for me, they are saved well)
- About energy consumption when using geolocation and its optimization
- On why it is necessary to work in and out of the field
- Well, since the conference is about testing, of course, let’s talk about bugs
Why geolocation is useful
Let’s first remember what geolocation is, what it is eaten with, and how it works in modern devices.
Historically, it appeared in iOS with the release of version 2.0 in 2008, and then your phone learned to “calculate by IP”. The problem was that Geo IP gives low accuracy: at best, it will be a street, and in the case of a mobile device, usually a country, because IP addresses in most cases are floating (the operator has its own range of addresses in each region, which often does not not geographically linked).
In the future, the engineers decided to use the so-called Cell ID. The principle of operation is quite simple: we know the location of the base points in space, and knowing the signal level from these points, we can roughly determine the distance to them.Then we draw a large number of rounds, and somewhere in the area of overlap of all the circles, the user appears. The accuracy has already increased: in small cities it is 1000 meters, and in cities like Moscow, where there are much more base stations, it is 60 meters. And when using Wi-Fi, Bluetooth and other beacons, the accuracy can be increased to 10 meters, which is very convenient: you do not need to use the next system, which is called GNSS, or the global navigation satellite system.
Why don’t I say “GPS”? Because there are several players in the navigation systems market.The main ones are GPS, GLONASS, Chinese BeiDou and European Galileo. In addition, there are two regional navigation systems – the Indian IRNSS and the Japanese QZSS (“Quasi Anti-Aircraft Navigation System”). Why are there so many systems? All dual-purpose systems, if necessary, in certain cases, you can turn them off. Also, some systems are needed to refine the location, because in India and Japan there is a known offset of the GPS satellites, which needs to be calculated all the time, this is an extra headache.The Japanese love accuracy, and after the introduction of QZSS, only two satellites are enough for the accuracy to be at worst 10 centimeters, and at best one centimeter.
The main problem of all navigation systems is a cold start. For a device that has just been released from the factory and has never received geolocation, at the very first start, a cold start without A-GPS will be 15 minutes: 12 and a half minutes it will download the atlas of the starry sky, and another two and a half minutes will go away to receive signals from satellites.This is a big problem, and therefore the A-GPS system was invented: using Geo IP and Cell ID, the phone quickly determines the approximate location and sends it to a special server that gives the atlas. And after 2-3 minutes (in most cases even less) the phone quickly finds satellites and shows you where you are, very conveniently.
Now let’s talk about what geolocation is for at all. First of all, for the personalization of content.
If your product is a navigation system and you do not use geolocation, most likely, users will not use it.If you are making some kind of advertising application, personalization is also possible: you pass by a store, the phone understands this, and a push notification is triggered that right now there is a 50% discount for you in this store. Geolocation is also very important in dating. Our users want to see those who are in their city, and preferably as close as possible. And they don’t want to see users from other countries. With the help of geolocation, we solve this and many other problems.
We developed all the geolocation-related improvements for the Intersection service, which Sasha will talk about a little later.I will only say to make it clear how this should work from the point of view of users, logic. But it was completely unclear how to get as many coordinates and geodata as possible with as little power consumption as possible. It was 2014, there was a lot of information on how to implement this all on the client side, but there was absolutely no information on how to test it. Unfortunately, I had to find everything myself, and create the documentation myself from scratch. Now let’s talk about where and how we use geolocation.
Our very first main screen is dating, where users vote for each other. As Kolya said earlier, it is much more interesting to find people and communicate when they are near you, therefore geolocation is one of the most important scales by which our server gives users to each other.
Our next screen has a self-explanatory name “People nearby”, where in the very first section you see people who are as close to you as possible.Unless, of course, you have given us access to our geolocation services. If not, then we will ask you to enter at least the city. You open user profiles and see that they are next to you: let’s say Alena was at a distance of 300 meters from us.
On the same screen, we are just showing the intersections, and it’s time to tell how it all works. In theory, it is not very difficult: you were moving and at a certain moment the trajectories of you and other users either crossed at a specific point, or you were as close as possible to each other (for example, 20 meters).If you crossed paths with one user, then we generate a personalized push. We check if you have communicated with this user, for example, you liked or corresponded with him, he added you to his favorites, etc. We send a personalized push, you can open his profile, see that they intersected at approximately such and such a location (approximately in order to get rid of any evil radishes that will want to meet you in the gateway). If you crossed paths with 3-4 people at once, we land you on the “people nearby” screen, and the users with whom you crossed paths are marked there with a special checkmark.
You can also share geolocation in the chat or request it, for example, for a user to come up to you: you are in some cafe, sent geolocation, it is very convenient.
And also in one of our by-products, geolocation is used for check-ins. In principle, plus or minus Swarm, but about dating. Let’s say you go to the same steakhouse and you are wondering who else goes there to chat about steaks. Or you came to the club, launched the application and you see that there are 24 people in the club at the moment.As our data show, finding a common place increases the chance of receiving a message by about 40%, which is a lot. We also use geolocation in antispam.
First of all, we make it difficult for our users to triangulate other users. Then, using geolocation, we can determine that users have abruptly changed their location, and there may be two cases. Either the antispam worked, the user decided to move to another country and bother other users, or the user was hijacked by hackers from another country.We take action in such cases.
In addition, we have developed the so-called “Taxi driver mode” for the intersection service. People who constantly move around the city with their navigator turned on generate a lot of accurate geodata. It is clear that they will have many intersections. To prevent these users from becoming familiar and bothering other users, their intersections are generated according to special algorithms with more severe filtering.
We talked about the good of geolocation, where we use it, let’s talk about another problem, namely, the problem of collecting geodata.
This is a timeline, and it may take time from the moment you start your application to the moment you receive geolocation with a given accuracy. To get geolocation faster, you will have to additionally use sensors that are uneconomical from the point of view of the battery – a barometer, a gyroscope, etc. But even when using all possible sensors that are on the device, there is no guarantee of obtaining the accuracy of the specified coordinates.
Let’s read the definition of accuracy directly in the Google documentation: “Accuracy is the radius around a point that the user is within 68%.”
Or, to put it simply, with a 68% probability we are somewhere here right now.
And we may not be. As you can see, two points have arrived, and the distance between them is much less than the accuracy they give. You also need to be able to work with such geodata.
Getting accurate geodata depends on time, they may not come at all, you need to be able to process it. Let’s talk about how to test the assembly and sending of locations without leaving the office, at the earliest stages: when you need to check that your system can at least somehow accept geolocation.
To do this, it is reasonable to use the simplest available tools, for example, an Android emulator. In the location emulation mode, it contains the simplest things, such as emulating the location itself, and loading a GPX route, which Sasha will talk about later.
Curiously, the default location of the Android emulator is the village of Dalvik in Iceland. Dalvik is a pre-5.0 Android virtual machine.
On the other hand, on iOS for some reason, I myself do not understand why, the simulator is much richer.
Yes, indeed. Usually Apple is very user-friendly, but engineers have a huge problem. However, in this case, Apple thought of us, and we have as many as 3 options for movement: jogging, cycling and riding on the highway.
This is convenient because the system returns us all the necessary data about the coordinate itself, speed, motion vector, horizontal and vertical speed, and in some cases even the floor.It is very convenient for testing geolocation without leaving the office.
But sometimes, if you minimize the application to the background, the system will not send you coordinates at all. This is a bug either in Xcode, or in the simulator, or in macOS itself. To defeat this, you will need to either kill Xcode or the simulator, and if none of this helped, then reboot. But if you started the simulator and everything worked for you, and then after some manipulations it stopped, most likely this is still a bug in your application.
The next thing we use is our favorite development environment, Xcode. We connect with a debugger either to a simulator or to a real device (this is important, few people know that geolocation can be simulated on a real iOS device), click on the blue arrow, or select Debug> Simulate locations in the menu, and we see a drop-down list with dots, which Apple added – Moscow, London, etc. But we are interested in the “Add GPX File to Workplace” button at the very bottom, which allows you to add a GPX route.
To generate it, I recommend using Maps to GPX converter. It accepts a track from Google Maps as input, both a full URL and an abbreviated one. At the output, it generates a GPX file for you: in fact, this is just a subset of XML with time and a point in space, then the system itself interpolates the whole thing. This GPX file is compatible with Android, iOS and Windows Phone, GPS trackers, etc.
In fact, this tool was created during the boom of Pokemon Go, thanks to them for that, it made testing very much easier for us.The only thing is that if we generate a GPX file with this tool, the system will not determine the speed of movement on iOS, so if you need to know exactly the speed, it is better to use a simulator.
Let’s now talk about the green bucket.
Since we noticed that the emulator is not as rich as the iOS simulator, we took advantage of the fact that we can deliver any application without restrictions.
The first application that I recommend using is Lockito, which is very handy, in fact it replaces the simulation of those tracks that Apple has.The point is what: you launch the application, specify points in space, the type of movement between these points (whether in a straight line or some kind of transport) and parameters for issuing coordinates, speed, etc. You run the simulation, and then just watch in your application how you seem to be moving in space.
Second Application – GPS Status & Toolbox. Why it is convenient: you can run it in multi-window mode, and see how your application looks on small devices, directly on your large device.Well, show what the geodata system of your device gives out, what your application receives, and compare it. If you find yourself in some anomalous zone when your location does not correspond to your real location (for example, you were suddenly transferred to Vnukovo), you can use the GPS Test to understand why this happened.
Note that when using Lockito, you need to be able to use Location Mock if your application uses libraries that solve for you the task of using any of the geodata sources that I talked about next.And if you have all geodata sources enabled by default in Android, then you will often be thrown back to the point where you are at the moment during the simulation. Why is this connected: any application that emulates a location emulates only the GPS subsystem, so in the settings you need to switch data sources such as GPS data, and everything will be fine.
Let’s summarize a little: we realized that Maps to GPX Converter is very good, you can load a GPX file simultaneously on different devices and see how different operating systems will process the same routes.Well, out of the box, iOS, unfortunately, is richer than Android, but Android is green, beautiful and generally better!
Now we understand that our system is receiving data. Now we need to understand that something is somehow working, that is, to start testing the business logic.
Testing Business Logic
To begin with, we were faced with the fact that our business logic was too large, and we could not keep everything in our head. What was the problem: we had a large number of files, features and classes responsible for one or another location processing system.To reduce the intervals for processing geodata or the distance between obtaining coordinates, it was necessary to search for it all, change it, build the application, and we could miss something, because you can’t keep everything in your head.
For this we have created a convenient configuration file. Here is an example of a configuration file on iOS, where you can simply change all the necessary data, build the application with your favorite Xcode and start using it.
The next problem we encountered was information noise, because without evidence of the existence of bugs (for example, screenshots and detailed logs), the developer often may not even understand which way to start digging.When testing geolocation, this is compounded by the fact that there are so many variables in the equation. It’s not that the bug is difficult to reproduce, but sometimes it’s impossible to get the same set of coordinates twice in a row with a given accuracy. Therefore, testing without logs can create more information noise than real benefit, you will simply distract your developers.
Also, let’s be realistic, developers often add logs for themselves. But even if they add logs for testing, they often do not fully understand what we need.Therefore, in our case, we saw only the coordinates that were sent to the server. We talked with the team and decided what we need from good logs, let’s talk about this with you too.
First you need to understand in which mode the coordinate was registered. It can be either background when the application is in the background or killed, or foreground when you see the application’s UI.
Next, we need to understand how it was received: directly from GPS, or from some other providers, which we will talk about a little later, or the system could itself push us the coordinates if we use one or another API (for example, geofencing , visits API, or significant location change API on iOS).
Next, you need to log everything that is possible about the coordinate: accuracy, altitude, speed, motion vector, acquisition time down to milliseconds. This is also very important, coordinates often measure their accuracy in leaps and bounds with a difference of a few milliseconds. And any other information that will make your life easier: for example, how the user was moving (jumping, running, cycling, sailing on a boat), Wi-Fi turned on or off, etc.
And, finally, we need to understand by what principle we will send all these coordinates.
If you have simple business logic, then it will just be on a timer, say, every 30 minutes. Otherwise, it may be some other condition: either the business logic you described, or the application was killed and then revived. It can be killed out of memory killer, you could have killed it yourself, or it could just be painted over. It can be revived by push notification or some kind of API. Since you have died and revived, please register and send the coordinate to the server.
Ok, we collected these coordinates and sent them to the server, but for some reason we didn’t get the expected result: either they didn’t intersect, or they didn’t check in somewhere.We go with our feet to our developers, we ask what is wrong. Client developers say we don’t know, let’s go to server developers. We go to them, they meditated on the PHP code, settled in the database, said what the problem was. In general, we went to them a couple of times and very quickly tired them with this, so they made a very convenient web page for us based on the collected logs, where we see all our movements superimposed on the google map:
It is convenient to look at it coordinates with an increased zoom level on a large monitor, instead of doing it on a device.This helped us find explanations for all the strange situations that occur in real life, when we thought “we are here”, the system determined that we are in a different place. Sometimes we do it ourselves by some mistake, and sometimes we found bugs on the server when it incorrectly filtered out certain coordinates. It is convenient in this tool that the marks on the map are color-coded, and they show why this or that location is invalid (it was registered / sent too often, its accuracy is low, or something is wrong with it).In general, logs are power, I recommend.
We realized that with good logs we can prove that this is a real bug, not a feature, or it is reproduced, and take the developer
for … red-handed 🙂 Let’s talk about how to save 7 kg of nerve cells. Sasha and I love to save nerve cells, that’s why we are so big and beautiful, which of us is big and who is beautiful – it’s up to you.
It was the debug menu that saved us an additional seven kilograms of nerve cells.On Android, the menu is simple. And if you suddenly need more detailed information, you can install the GNSSLogger tool from Google and get even more additional information on how a satellite navigation system works, up to the values of atmospheric interference at a given point in space. I don’t know why you might need it in most cases, we don’t need it, so we made the simplest menu. You can see everything about the current location, see the map of movements, how you moved.A very handy tool on Saturday morning to understand what you were doing on Friday night! There is also a logging system where logs are recorded, well, and some additional tools: for example, switching the geolocation system from fake to real, sending logs to a computer for further study, it is very convenient, very simple.
On iOS, the menu is more fun, but it’s iOS.
We have it a little more complicated, and we did it in one go, unlike Android, where we did it in iterations.Because we knew right away that everything was bad on iOS, and we needed all this information! The very first toggle that we are especially proud of is the local notifications about the location manager.
That is, you can minimize the application, kill, lock the device, but as soon as something changes, you receive a notification. Not that you don’t need to go into the debug menu and look at the logs, and even the application doesn’t need to be launched: the device automatically turns on the screen when you receive a notification, which is very convenient.Just below we have two sets of coordinates: this is the last known location, and the last one sent, also for our convenience.
And also there is a view with Apple-maps, on which we build our routes, for the same reason that Kolya explained: we connect two points and see if we were there. It has an interesting pin that shows the time period. To see it, you need to use the Visits API, which has been available since iOS 8, that is, for a long time. From the point of view of the system, this works quite cleverly, because the system determines for us whether we have entered a certain point or left.We went somewhere, and after about five minutes of being there, the system understands: “aha, we probably went somewhere”, sends our application a notification that at such and such time you entered a point with such coordinates. After we left, also after about five minutes, she sends exactly the same notification about the exit. Accordingly, we know that we spent there, say, 45 minutes. It’s just great for the Intersections functionality: you sit and drink coffee, a huge number of people pass by you, you intersect with them.Just a great API, it’s a pity that it hasn’t appeared since the very first version of our service. We made it under iOS 7.
All our coordinates that we write down are color-coded so that you can quickly go over and understand how it was registered: the coordinates in the foreground are white, the background is gray, and the visit is purple.
Mobile tester, therefore mobile, because we carry everything with us. In most cases, this debug menu was enough for us, but the main problem of mobile devices is the presence of a battery.
And the more energy efficient your application is, the further you can get away from the outlet. Let me remind you that it was 2014, there was little information about how to test power consumption, and how to properly test geolocation services.
Let’s talk about the general methods we found first. We started with Power Meter. This is the simplest device: on the one hand, it connects to a power source, on the other hand, a data cable is connected, your device is connected to it, and shows the current.But what kind of current it shows is a problem.
There are two cases. First, if your battery is not charged, it shows the charge current that your phone consumes to charge your battery. This is not entirely representative data.
And if your phone is still charged, then again you do not see the real current (except for Android, I will tell you later). Because the phones are configured in such a way that if there is an external source of energy, then they also perform synchronization, application updates, and in the latest version of Android they also compile the code for you.Also unrepresentative. On android, you can turn off the external power programmatically, then the Power Meter will probably show the correct data. This is not possible on iOS.
There is also a special “Yandex method”, about which there is also a report here on Heisenbug from the guys from Yandex. But, unfortunately, this method did not work for us, because we do not measure power consumption after each commit, but move in different modes. Guys, I’m sorry, it’s really inconvenient to walk outside with a device that has its back cover ripped open and an Arduino box connected to a laptop.At least they won’t understand me on the street!
Let’s talk about measurement methods directly on devices. First of all, let’s talk about Android, because it starts with the letter A.
The very first thing you can do on Android is to go into the power consumption settings and see what’s going on. If you are unlucky enough, you will see your application in the list at one of the first places. Although, of course, if you constantly use your application, then it will appear in the top anyway, simply because you use it so much.
Going into the extended energy consumption information on the latest versions of Android, you can see a lot of useful information: CPU usage in the foreground, in the background, the use of sensors (eg GPS), etc.
Why is there additionally Google Play Services here? The same application on different versions of Android will have different power consumption: prior to Android 8.0, your application, when using Google Play Services, caused the power consumption of these “services”, not your power consumption.By the eighth version, Google realized that users were complaining too much about the “drain on the battery of Google Play Services” and said: “Ok, now any power consumption that was caused by your application goes back to you.” And you see your real energy consumption, so put an eight and be horrified or delighted.
The next method we started using is Test Fairy, a sandbox library built into your application that writes a lot of data.We use it in the case of beta users, they get all sorts of goodies for this, like free credits, and we get a lot of data from them.
One of these data is energy consumption, but not everything is smooth here either. The user has a session for 1-2 minutes, then it closes, a new one starts, and the change in the battery during this period is not so interesting, it can generally be zero (the scale is not in mAh, but in percentage, and on modern devices with batteries 3000+ mAh one percent is quite large).Or the user might have a long session, like this user with a 22 minute session, but their phone was plugged into a power source so we didn’t see anything. The rest of the users who actually have a discharge are so few that the data simply does not lend itself to sensible analysis.
The next tool that I started using as soon as it came out is Battery Historian. Thanks to Google, a unique tool is actually a “fingerprint” for determining who and when ate the battery.Even if you don’t research your app, you can see which other apps are eating and why.
Here you can see that I have selected a moment in time by clicking on the graph, I see that our application was active for 3 minutes. I see what sensors I used, what services, and this especially helps in energy consumption studies: it allows me to understand whether the application is eating geolocation. It happens that a developer accidentally created an infinite loop and forgot to make an exit out of it. Anything can happen.
In order to provide additional cover from the rear, we use monitoring.We have a very strong monitoring team, and in addition to all the metrics, they, at our request, also monitor the energy consumption of our users, and after the release we can see the trend and quickly respond to it.
The system works very simply, we send events about the battery charge twice: once when the application starts, and the second time when the application is minimized or killed. We build trends based on this, it is very convenient, very useful, and we are well covered. And on iOS, it’s all pain.
As usual, everything on iOS is great for users (it’s not as easy to drain the battery as it was on earlier versions of Android), but for engineers it’s a big sadness.
We started with the very first tool, the same: “Settings” – “Battery”. The tool as a whole is very bad, it has only one plus: it shows how much your application is running in the background. This is important for us, because we collect and send geolocation, including in the background.
And then pain and suffering begin. The tool is very sluggish, it is updated about once an hour. Therefore, if your application works fine for 5 minutes, and 55 is eating up the battery, as if not into itself, you do not see this. And if you wanted to reset two devices, put two different builds on them and compare them in terms of power consumption, then not only will you see the first result in an hour, so if you do not run three or more applications, you will not see anything at all, and put it off again all for an hour.
The next tool is the Energy impact bar in Xcode. Connect the debugger to your application, click the third cell from the top and you see a scale that changes in real time: from the green zone, where you do not consume energy, to the red, where you eat as if not into yourself.
It is shown below why it is consumed: for example, the CPU is loaded at 100%, or you do not let the system fall asleep, or wake it up all the time, or you forgot to turn off the GPS after it is not needed. But it’s quite difficult to figure this out without a developer: for example, because at startup you will eat up the CPU because you need to launch the application and download the data, you will have GPS enabled to send the location to the server and get people next to you, and you will also throw off cache to disk.Normal or abnormal, God knows. Therefore, we have developed a set of cases and run them with the developers after each major refactoring.
The next tool is the power consumption settings in your iPhone: go to Settings – Developer – Instruments, turn on the recording of power consumption and network operation. Working with the network came in handy again, because we send these coordinates to the server.
But the tool, again, is not very good, because it writes data about the entire system, it is also difficult to compare something between applications – their car is on the list.Energy consumption data is shown in some incomprehensible at first glance fractions, and not milliampere-hours, as on Android. Fractions, oddly enough, show how much the device will live with the current power consumption. For example, 1/17 means that at a given time slice with the current power consumption, the device will be discharged to zero in 17 hours.
In order to write data specifically for your application, you need to connect instruments specifically to your application. If you walk down the street with a laptop, lanyard and device, you may not be understood.
This is the sadness of iOS, I hope that in the report of the guys from Yandex there will be something cool that will help with this. But the guys on Android are doing great – Battery Historian, charts, guys are covered from all sides.
Our optimizations and energy solutions
We talked about how we measured energy consumption, now let’s talk about how we made certain decisions for optimization. Fortunately, our developers are cool and read the documentation, but if something is missing somewhere, the testing team comes to the rescue.In most cases, we tested this or that theory, and it was confirmed or refuted. Opening the iOS Location Manager documentation, we see that the first thing Apple recommends is that you lower your positioning accuracy setting, and we’ve reduced it to 100 meters.
In any case, the system will try to give you the coordinates as accurately as possible. At least because you most likely have another application on your device that uses geolocation. That is, you can get it “at someone else’s expense”: if another application has received a location, you can use it.For example, five minutes ago, another application received geolocation, in principle, sometimes it is enough. Relaxing the settings allows Apple to save on energy consumption.
But, as usual, it is difficult to be smart and beautiful at once, not only on iOS, but also on Android. For example, you were in a parking lot for a long time or you were traveling on a train at high speed, you had low accuracy. You launch the application, and you have two ways to get coordinates: either quickly, but not exact coordinates (up to 1000-something meters), or long and accurate.But, as Kolya said earlier, “long and accurate” does not guarantee its receipt at all, if you are in the basement, you can wait 15 minutes and not receive it (for example, you are in the basement). Therefore, we chose the “fast, but not accurate” path, and developed a mechanism for learning coordinates.
This answers the question why we needed a selfie stick during testing. We take the device, laptop, lanyard, connect to the debugger, go down to the parking lot, lock the device, wait two minutes for the system to completely fall asleep.Then we go into the elevator, go up to the fourth floor, quickly run to the window, unlock the device along the way, put the device on a selfie stick outside the window and see how the system specifies the location in one or several steps. It’s fun and interesting, of course, luckily it was covered in unit tests and not a single phone was damaged.
In general, the refinement mechanism works simply: for 20 seconds (after launching the application or after we brought it out of the background) we listen to coordinates from the system with increasing accuracy.20 seconds is a timeout, chosen empirically after experiments on basements and parking lots 🙂 After 20 seconds, we send more accurate coordinates, if any, and if not, then we slowly die and that’s it.
Next, we decided to use the Significant location change API. Instead of waking up the application and turning on GPS (which is very uneconomical), you subscribe to the API, and the system itself pushes you notifications about significant changes in coordinates, you just need to save them to the database and send them.Very cool.
What exactly does “significant” mean? This is an unknown quantity, it depends on the speed of movement, the mode of movement, energy consumption, the mode of saving energy, there are a lot of unknowns. In general, when walking, it is 750 meters, when driving a car at a low speed, it is from 750 meters to several kilometers. In terms of energy consumption, it costs you almost nothing, you just need to write down the coordinates or send them right away. But, as usual, things are bad for Apple again.
We cannot create a service that works only with coordinates and transfers data to the application, as on Android. So, if we were nailed and then revived, then we need to revive the entire application. To consume the battery a little, and not very much, we have to initialize only parts of our application. That is, we initialize the system for working with the server and the system for working with the location: we do not load encounters (our first and main screen), we do not initialize some screens, and so on.Otherwise it would be a disaster.
We also use Visits API. I already talked about it before, but our first version worked with the iOS 7 API, so it was not originally there.
Also, while collecting and sending coordinates and performing any tasks, Apple recommends giving time relaxation, plus or minus a few seconds, so that the system forms a batch of tasks, wakes up, completes the entire batch of tasks and falls asleep back. Otherwise, she will wake up for every task and eat your battery.
And the last thing: we have suppressed a little timeout when working with the network.By default on iOS it is 120 seconds, as well as the running time of NSurlsession in the background, which we use when sending coordinates to the server. This is a lot, we strangled it, if my memory serves me, up to 30 seconds. That is, if we have a bad network, we slightly hammered the server and did not receive an answer, then we died and rescheduled sending, say, 5 minutes into the future. If this is done for 120 seconds, we, again, begin to eat out the battery. Especially if you don’t have Wi-Fi, but 3G: working with a cellular network is less energy efficient
Let’s now talk about Android.
On Android, we started using it right after the Fused Location Provider appeared. It is characterized by low power consumption, because the library itself decides for you which source of geodata to choose. GPS is not always the best and fastest way to find your location.
The second advantage is the ability to obtain geolocation at someone else’s expense. As Sasha said, they cannot create a service on iOS, but we can create a service on Android.What we did, and we just get the location at someone else’s expense, by subscribing: if some other application needs a location, for example, Yandex.Navigator, we will get this location for ourselves, just save it to the database and then send it, and all energy consumption will go to the navigator …
You can also set the desired precision so that your service does not receive a large number of coordinates. Because, as we checked yesterday in the Moscow metro, the accuracy can be up to five kilometers. You can set the desired acquisition accuracy, for example, “we need coordinates with an accuracy of 100 meters or more,” and the rest will be filtered by the system, very convenient.There are also different strategies: receiving by timer, receiving in case of launching a service, the user entered some place. There are many strategies, so read the documentation and find what works best for you.
Here I would finish talking about our optimizations, if it were not for the problem that the Fused Location Provider covers only 90% of our needs. And another 9% is closed by the Legacy Location Provider – this is an old provider that has been in Android for a long time. It can be used, but it is not as energy efficient and is needed for old devices that do not support new types of Google Play Services, or for devices without Google Play Services, for example, from an unknown Chinese company Xiaomi.
The rest of the data percentage is closed by a self-written system called Aggressive Location Provider. It is based on the Legacy Location Provider, and is needed for at least two cases:
First, it so happens that the Fused Location Provider did not return the coordinates that satisfy us at all (for example, your application is the only application in the system that processes geodata, and you decided to subscribe at someone else’s expense and did not receive anything). And our product managers wanted a lot of coordinates from us, and we were so reinsured.
Second case. Google Play Services is an application that is written by humans, so it too can die, it can restart incorrectly after an update, and many other things can happen, so extra safety net is always important.
At the same time, the Aggressive Location Provider has a very reverent attitude to the user’s battery charge. For example, if the charge drops below 20%, switches the phone to airplane mode or manually turns on the power saving mode, we stop using the Aggressive Location Provider and generally touch the phone in this regard.To respect the user and their settings.
In addition, there is an Activity Recognition API as part of Google Play Services – a convenient system of user activity patterns. There are 4 main patterns: walking, running, cycling, and being in public transport (whether public or private).
In addition, there are additional patterns, for example, a very convenient still. For example, you took your device, went to a bar, put the device on the table to communicate with other people, and your phone lies motionless.The still pattern worked, we received this information and remember the location close to the moment when we received the still, or we are just trying to clarify the location now. After that, we forget about the question of the location of the device until the moment when the user took the phone to leave the bar, because he had already chatted. And we will understand that from such and such to such and such a time the user was motionless at this point.
Everything is fine here, except for some cases: for example, you are traveling on the St. Petersburg-Moscow train, put your phone on the shelf, the train has a perfect suspension, the railway is straight, your phone is in still mode.You come to Moscow, you want to see if you crossed paths with that girl in Vyshny Volochok or not, but, unfortunately, you will not cross, because we received a still, and perhaps all the time thought that you were at the Moscow St. Petersburg. Therefore, you still need to play it safe and listen to the system: if the location does change, then invalidate the pattern, because the pattern is only a probability.
So, you ran everything that you have in your laboratory conditions, realized that it somehow works, but still it is a spherical horse in a vacuum, because in real conditions there may be certain situations, you need to start understand them.To do this, you will have to go out into the field.
Going into the field
And in order to go out into the field, you need to understand what to take with you. You need to take real devices, with different versions of the OS, Wi-Fi on / off, with different energy saving settings, with and without SIM cards. I want to note that two different SIM cards can have different power consumption: for example, some support 4G, while others do not. It so happens that even two SIM cards that support the same frequencies have different power consumption, because they have different firmware.Sasha and I encountered this using Vodafone SIM cards from different parties.
Next you need to understand your user. Because to find user bugs, you have to be like a user, you have to move like a user, do things that the user does. Well, to be a user of your application, after all, no one canceled dogfooding. And this is what we did.
The first thing we decided to do was get out of the office and take a walk around the neighborhood.Why is it so convenient? Yes, the fact that the accuracy of determining the location is very weak due to the different density of building, different density of Wi-Fi networks and cellular networks. London is very uneven.
Also, the “ragged” pace of walking allows you to check the sending intervals. You do not walk at the same speed: someone blunted in front of you, you overtook someone, stood at a pedestrian crossing, went down into an underpass, and so on. In our particular case, it even allowed us to find a bug. If coordinates were received during the formation of a batch of coordinates before sending, they were added both to the batch for sending and to the cache.Accordingly, in rare cases, we duplicated these coordinates. To be honest, they reproduced it by chance, but the case is interesting.
It is also very convenient to test “visits” on iOS. Let me remind you that the distance between two points of signification change is 750 meters, and “visits” are sent with a delay after plus or minus 5 minutes. Why it’s convenient: The distance between pubs in central London is significantly less than these 750 meters.
So you go into a pub, drink a booze, get out, reach the next pub in 5 minutes, and something may not happen.Specifically, in the case of iOS, we chewed either the exit from the previous institution, or the entrance to the next one, if they were very close in time. Rewriting this whole thing in Swift helped us, because the static analyzer works much better there and helped us determine that we used the wrong constant and the expression is always false.
In general, testing is easy and pleasant: you drink a bootie (usually I drank a bootie with the Goat), intersect, get a push, open it, look.If the place is correct, and / or we have already tested, we must go home.
Also, walking around all sorts of institutions allowed us to find a potential bug that could ruin our entire check-in training system. In London, in addition to pubs, there are a lot of all kinds of establishments per square meter. Let’s just say that on an area of 100-200 square meters there can be 4-5 cafes. And our accuracy is usually 10-30 meters. Therefore, it is very difficult to determine that you are in a particular cafe. And we act quite nontrivially: we go to the cafe, receive the entry event, pick up the connected Wi-Fi point and its MAC address (if, of course, there is one), and send it to the server.That is, if users constantly visit this point, they have the same Wi-Fi, then with a high degree of probability you are in this place.
But, as it turned out, there are still open Wi-Fi networks in London, and in three minutes I can walk to the next establishment and already be in it, and again seize the access point and send it to the server. Not only was the server stunned, from the fact that it has two different Wi-Fi networks for an entry and exit event, but also physically the distance between them can be 300-400 meters.Depending on how fast you walk, this must be taken into account, therefore, by a strong-willed decision, we turned off the recording of the access point name for the event of leaving the place.
Then we decided to take a ride on public transport. First of all – by buses, because the center of London is very crowded, and buses travel at a low average speed. It also allowed us to check and tune the definition of the nature of the movement: you are driving, walking, etc. Such a definition is a probability, that is, when riding a bus, conventionally, with a probability of 90% you will be determined by a ride on a bus, and with a probability of 10%, for example, on a bicycle.In some cases, you will need to adjust the corresponding weights.
Also, while riding the bus, we caught a funny server bug. When stopping at a pedestrian crossing or at a traffic light, we sometimes received a location. Since the server did not know through which we would get the next location and that we were slowing down before, he tried to check us in the nearest establishment to the bus stop. We solved this problem simply: we added a definition of speed (in meters per second), and if the speed is not zero, then you do not need to check us in this institution.
Next we decided to go down to the London Underground. It is very old, there is no cellular network, it does not catch GPS, so the least cheating way of determining the location is via Wi-Fi: enter the carriage, reach the next station, your Wi-Fi is automatically connected, the location is determined, it is also very cool and convenient …
Then we decided to take a ride by car and taxi. Why it is convenient: the operating system tries to tune power consumption if you are moving at high speed and your navigator is not turned on.Therefore, when driving at a speed of 20-30 km / h, it is 750 meters in the background, and when driving at 110 km / h, it is already 2-4 km, and if you are taking a high-speed train to the airport (we drive about 250 km in London / h), and you do not have many cell towers, this is already 4-11 km, depending on the density of the towers, because fast-moving GPS objects are difficult to detect, and there is a lot of metal in the train, which does not contribute to the accuracy of positioning.
Also, depending on the speed of movement, if you use the Geofencing API, you need to set the radius correctly.Geofencing works quite simply: you enter a point, put a radius around yourself, and upon exiting it, do some action (for example, you send a bunch of coordinates). Or, on the contrary, you go to a certain place. Let’s say you go to McDonalds, they identify you and send a push “today for you a burger is half the price”. If you are moving fast, then you need to set a larger radius. Otherwise, you will land the battery, you will often leave this radius, or, conversely, you will not leave it if the accuracy of the coordinates exceeds it.
Apart from that, another joke can happen in Android 7+. You have a phone, you get into the car, put it on the passenger seat, drive from point A to point B. We arrived, you want to see how many locations your phone has received, look, but there are none at all. What is the reason for this? Google decided to do good for users and bad for developers, and introduced the so-called doze, sleep mode. Not only does the phone sleep when the phone is not in use, but also since Android 7.1 Google added aggressive doze. Why it is bad: your phone begins to analyze the situation faster, to understand that it is not in demand, just in the case when you threw it on the passenger seat and go to point B, and as a result does not receive coordinates. After reading the documentation, we found that you can get coordinates at least four times an hour – from a black sheep even a tuft of wool.
We realized that our horse is no longer spherical, but real. Now let’s talk about the worst thing.
Reverse side of field outputs
The first scary thing is that devices can break and fall, so stock up on good covers before any field outing.
And the second is regression.
After we have checked the bug fixes, the main functionality, the first thing we ask ourselves is: have we slipped in the number of collected and sent coordinates? Cap hints that we need to take two devices, put different assemblies on them and walk with them, compare the coordinates. But no matter how it is. Kolya used to talk about SIM cards with different power consumption, but we were faced with another interesting way to prove that devices are very difficult to place in the same conditions.
I had one test device in my right pocket, and the other in my backpack, because it is dangerous to put it in my back pocket, they can pull it out. As it turned out, when walking, the device that was in your pocket moves more, wakes up more often and collects more coordinates. Arriving at work, I saw that the device that was in the backpack collected one and a half times less of them, and the various builds of the application had nothing to do with this. Therefore, try to place the devices in the most similar conditions.
We also recommend that you check the service for a long time in the background, because modern devices have a disgusting amount of RAM.For example, there are modifications of the OnePlus 5 for 6 and 8 gigabytes of RAM, in which case your application in the background will live for a very long time, and since it lives, let it work correctly. We usually leave the application connected to the debugger and in motion simulation mode overnight or over the weekend.
But Kolya helped us the best with testing when, during the release of this functionality, he had to ferry a car from Moscow to London. We gave him several boxes of test devices, in two days and 3000 kilometers he collected a huge number of coordinates for us, crossed paths with users whose feature was disabled (including himself), collected gigabytes of logs for us, helped to find several bugs, which were corrected before launch.
Let’s talk about bugs now, we have a testing conference after all.
After the release of the feature, we began to receive coordinates from the past and from the future. What is causing the problem: our users move and can cross time zones, go into the past and the future relative to the timestamp in which the original coordinates were obtained.
In addition to device and firmware bugs in determining the timestamp when crossing time zones, such errors are also caused by other bugs, but this can be easily solved.The device always has a time that is greater than zero – this is uptime, the time since launch. We add it when receiving coordinates, and only then, when this batch of coordinates needs to be sent to the server, we send it with uptime time. Basically, this will cover most of the problems.
The second problem is people who start to teleport. In addition to the things I mentioned earlier (the user abruptly changes coordinates to bother other users, or the account was hijacked), a very real user also begins to teleport in space.What is it connected with: first of all, with the fact that when specifying coordinates, the point can walk. Refinement of coordinates and displacement of the center can occur at a very high speed. And we simply limited the maximum possible speed of movement of our users to the speed of a passenger liner, more so far is unrealistic. This solved 99.9% of the problems, with some interesting exceptions.
Let me remind you: if your GPS does not catch or is turned off, the location is taken from the turned on Wi-Fi or base station.We encountered in nature at least two cases of errors. The first one – when we celebrated 10 years of Badoo in a beautiful country house with very thick walls and a ceiling, respectively, we did not get GPS. Our valiant admins rammed hotspots from the London office, and when launching the map applications and our application, it turned out that we were in the London office. Fortunately, modern hotspots are able to update their locations fairly quickly, from a few minutes to several days.We fixed the whole thing in a couple of hours.
And those who live in Moscow know a more popular story: if you approach the Kremlin, you can be “teleported” to Vnukovo, and this has happened to us too. Googling, we found that they were changing the GPS / GLONASS coordinates and setting the Cell ID coordinates in Vnukovo. The guys from Yandex.Taxi even had to do a hack in order to more or less normally give a lift or pick up people from there.
Also teleported some users to China and Brazil.As it turned out, they teleported to Brazil mainly from Blackberry devices: it turns out that when something happened to the GPS subsystem, they were teleported to the place of assembly of the device in Brazil. And China phones were transferred to China, and something went wrong.
Also transferred some iOS devices between two points. If memory serves, before iOS 9.2 they had a very nasty bug: when receiving a location in the background, the system with a difference of 10-15 milliseconds added a very old location, for example, received 6-8 hours ago.You go forward, then you jump backward, then you go forward. For this, we had to write filtering of outdated coordinates: both on the client and make crutches on the server, after all, it is not always possible to do this on the client. The server just smooths over this whole thing.
The last bug, which I personally drank a lot of blood: if you simulate geolocation on a real device, and at this moment Xcode “got sick”, or you pulled the cord during a debugging session, the device will freeze in the last known geolocation.The curiosity of the situation in my case was that before leaving home I simulated the exact coordinates of our office, took this device home, and then returned and was surprised to see that it had not received the coordinates even once, in the end it cost several man-hours – mine and the developer.
We all told what we wanted, let’s summarize.
The very first thing we realized: without good tools, be it IDEs, logs or additional applications, testing geolocation services will create more information noise than bring real benefit.
The need for field exits when testing geoservices is obvious, but the problem is that even if you go out into the field, you will not find all the bugs. We have described only some of the pitfalls, you may have a lot more, or not at all, depending on how you do it.
All bugs found by you should be classified and noted in some way. These can be bugs in your functionality, API bugs, the device itself, or geolocation, as in the case of a transfer to Vnukovo.These bugs need to be borne in mind so that if they are found, they can quickly say: this is a bug of the “geolocation” class, and we will not fix it, because it makes no sense.
Testers are the link between the user and the business. It is clear that the business wants us to have a lot of coordinates, and users do not really like it when their battery drastically sits down. It is because of this that you need to think about energy consumption measurements as early as possible. But at the same time, it is important not to over-optimize at the very early stages of development, because then it will be more difficult to both test and develop.
And the most important conclusion that we can make today at this conference: the density of pubs in the CIS is much less than the density of pubs in London, and if you suddenly need to accurately test your geolocation services, take a walk around the sights, come to us, we are with we will be happy to help you. Thank you!
A minute of advertising. If you liked this report from the conference Heisenbug – please note that a new Heisenbug is already coming up (May 17-18, St. Petersburg), its program also has a lot of interesting things, and you can already carefully study it.We hope to see many of you there!
Who is “Soviet Man” today? Interview with Levada Center Director Lev Gudkov
See the abridged translation of the interview into English here.
A controversy over the alleged “Stalinism” of the Russian majority has been smoldering in public communities in Russia for many years. Record rates of approval for Stalin and recognition of his positive role in Russian history, shown recently by the Levada Center, the most independent and respected public opinion research institute in the country, stirred the debate again.Some critics pointed to problems with asking questions, others reminded that the Levada Center has for many years been based on the concept of “Soviet man”, first formulated in the late 1980s. The Russia File is following the discussion. Earlier we published a critical article on the concept of “Soviet man” and its impact on the survey practice of the center, and now we are talking with the director of the Levada Center, Lev Gudkov.
How was the “Soviet man” born?
In general, the question of human types is a classic topic of sociological theorizing.Behind it is the search for conceptual correspondences between the institutional system of a particular society and the concept of a person corresponding to it. One can recall the attempts typical of sociology in the 1930s and 1940s to describe the “basic personality,” the “middle city,” or the “average person” (for example, the average American). In this regard, one can recall the theory of the “authoritarian personality” of Theodor Adorno and his colleagues, or the later concept of the “political man” by Seymour Martin Lipset. In our case, this topic is considered in the context of the problems of totalitarianism, the functioning of the institutions of total domination and the prospects for the reproduction of this regime.After the seizure of power, the Bolshevik regime was concerned with the formation of a new type of person (ideological, selfless, loyal to the party-state). This type of person was supposed to be both the material for the construction of the regime, and the condition for its stability, and the guarantee of the preservation of the communist system. The emergence of “Soviet man” can only be spoken about some time after the establishment of the institutions of the Soviet era – the one-party system, mass repressions, a dependent court, the nationalization of the national economy, the subordination of the economy to military and expansionist goals, the transformation of the press and culture into a powerful propaganda system, and the Soviet schools – into the machine of indoctrination and socialization of the younger generation.
The very idea of a new person, not similar to the person of the previous, traditional society, is a product of philosophical, ideological, romantic searches of the late XIX – early XX centuries, due to the intensive processes of modernization, the decomposition of a class, closed society and the emergence of a mass, industrial, urban , bureaucratic society. The spectrum of such dreams was very wide – from futurists to nationalists, from utopias of socialism to “scientific” theories of eugenics.In all cases, it was based on the belief in the possibility of a radical social transformation. But the idea of a “new man” acquired a practical character and realization only in totalitarian regimes – Italian fascism, German Nazism and, of course, in Soviet communism. The formation of a new type of person is both the ideological construction of the future person (project, slogan, poster), and the practice of mass education and discipline of the population.
How did the search go? First, there were polls and studies, and then a theoretical construction, or vice versa?
In the beginning was the theoretical work of Levada, who was involved in a lot of analysis of the basic concepts of man in various scientific disciplines – religious anthropology, the concept of man in classical political economic theories, the anthropology of Marx.He was interested in the cultural context of the “economic man”, the “playing man” by the philosopher Johan Huizinga, the interpretation of man in the structural functionalism of Tolkot Parsons, in French structuralism, or even in Shakespeare. Levada more than once, in Soviet times, presented his views on this matter at our informal seminar. The first hypothesis of Levada, put forward by him even before the beginning of empirical research, was that this type of person was the basis of the Soviet regime. When the generation of Soviet people proper (born about 1917-1928), due to demographic reasons, began to leave by the mid-1980s, the regime began to crack.Levada believed that this type of person – his ways of adapting to a repressive state, life strategies, forms of socialization – are not reproduced from generation to generation, young people enter life with different needs, in conditions of stagnation, ideological demobilization, and therefore a totalitarian system will inevitably decay. We tested this hypothesis on empirical material as soon as possible: in February 1989. In 1993, the book “A Simple Soviet Man: The Experience of a Social Portrait at the Turn of the 90s” was published, which showed the conceptual and empirical results of this work.
What was the “Soviet man” you discovered at that time?
This is a person formed by state institutions, a person very much dependent on the state, which legitimizes itself with promises of paternalistic concern for the people (“guarantees” of socialism, giving confidence in the future and general social optimism), awareness of its “historical” mission, but in essence – the ideology of imperial superiority, military power, the fight against a hostile environment, isolationism.This is a person who is under constant pressure from the state, but has learned to get along with it, which inevitably gives rise to doublethink, hypocrisy, cynicism, a variety of opportunism, playing up to the authorities. Most of all, he is concerned with his own survival in conditions of war, repression, the constant threat of purges, arbitrariness, chronic poverty and total scarcity. Seriously, he is busy only with his own problems – self-preservation and the well-being of the family. Demonstrating loyalty and support for the authorities, he is far from the obligatory admiration for the leaders, even, on the contrary, in everyday life he treats the authorities with disrespect, if not contempt.But at the same time, he recognizes her, almost like a natural factor, grovels before the authorities, because he does not see an alternative to her: she has all the resources. Conformist, opportunistic adaptation tactics define the essence of this person. This is a person who does not participate in politics and does not take responsibility for the actions of the authorities, but at the same time identifies himself with the authorities. This is a split person, frustrated, afraid of the new.
What happened next to the “Soviet man”?
We planned to take measurements every five years to see how this “person” leaves.At first, it seemed that Levada’s hypothesis was being confirmed – young, educated citizens are guided by the Western way of life, want more democracy, freedom, and openness. But by the middle, and even more so by the end of the 1990s, it turned out that the hypothesis was not entirely correct. Our “man” is being reproduced, since the changes that have taken place, including the collapse of the USSR, did not affect the basic structures of the organization of society and the state.
The period of relative liberalization was very short, it was determined by the collapse of the hierarchical structures of the Soviet system.With the coming of Putin, the process of restoration of almost all the main Soviet institutions began – “sovereign” or “controlled democracy”, that is, the central government uncontrolled by the population, the secret political police, the dominance of the state over the economy, over the courts, over the system of mass communications and the education system. Therefore, the usual type of adaptation to a repressive, authoritarian state began to recover pretty soon.
Who exactly do you mean by “Soviet man”? Russian majority?
It is very important that this is not an ethnic characteristic.In its pure form, as described by Levada, it certainly does not exist, just as there is no “ideal gas” or “mathematical pendulum”. This is an analytical construct, generalizing, connecting the characteristics of many people. The characteristics are real, but they can manifest themselves to varying degrees. It is important that this is the supporting structure of the entire system, but such a statement does not mean at all that the entire population of the country is reduced to this type. In a concentrated form, as studies have shown, about 35-40% of the population can be identified with it, in a blurred form, some of its features are inherent in more than 60%.And of course, this is not the only type of person in the post-totalitarian society. Each society is represented by a set of dominant types. At the moment of a social rift, a vivid type of adventurer, hedonist, political manipulator appears – please, such is Berezovsky, described by Pyotr Aven. It is possible, along with the “Soviet man”, to single out the type of our official, a soulless and corrupt functionary, judge, politician-demagogue, human rights activist, Orthodox neophyte, and so on. It is important in which composition there are certain types and which of them dominates.
What parallels do you know? Which of the sociologists, studying their societies, distinguished similar types? It is especially interesting about totalitarian societies.
Efforts to create a “Nazi man”, of course, were undertaken, but the period of totalitarian rule in Germany was only 12 years – there was no time for the full formation of a generation. The same goes for Italian fascism. In the socialist camp, of course, there was research. We can recall the works of the Polish sociologist Jerzy Machkov.He conducted research in Poland and the GDR and, like us, discovered a crafty, hypocritical, frustrated man, formed by totalitarian institutions. This, incidentally, is another proof that we are not dealing with ethnic characteristics. Soviet man is found in Ukraine, Poland, and other former socialist countries.
In the famous question from the questionnaire about Stalin, you ask people to compare sacrifices and achievements. Including the question prompts the person that the sacrifices can be justified by the achievements, and even obtained “in the shortest possible time.”
First, dozens of questions were asked about Stalin. This is just one of them. Secondly, the same question was asked in different forms – with “achievements” and without them. There is no statistical difference in the answers. Since the questions measure a collective attitude, these nuances do not affect the content of the answers. The rejection of our research data is not related to sociology. A new generation has come, which wants to consider themselves the same as people in “normal countries”. They already dress like in Europe, know languages, their way of life (more precisely, consumption) looks like the Western middle class.But they categorically do not want to take responsibility, including the awareness of their responsibility for the past. They demand respect for themselves (as in advertising – “you deserve it”), and we, putting a mirror in front of them, cause them an acute attack of irritation. Any psychoanalysis involving internal complexes and psychological trauma generates painful experiences and aggression. To remove such frustrations, they usually try to morally or in some other way discredit the very source of unpleasant assessments.Therefore, we are either credited with some kind of ideology, or the desire to falsify polls. This is a very common way to get away from understanding ourselves, from what is happening to them. We show how strong and significant the process of restoring Soviet practices, initiated from above, is. It’s not about us. You might think that we are in control of this process. People who reason like this do not understand the essence of sociological work.
What influence does a theoretical construct have on the formulation of questions and on how you then interpret the answers?
We ask a lot of questions.For more than thirty years, we have conducted about 4,500 – 5,000 polls, each of which has an average of 100 questions. That is, our databases contain answers to asked 40,000 or more questions. Huge methodological experience has been accumulated, how these or those formulations work, how they are understood, how people from different social groups respond to them, etc. From the obtained material, summarizing it, we draw the appropriate theoretical conclusions. Therefore, when people begin to teach us how to ask questions, people who have never dealt with sociology at all, it looks, I will not say funny, but rather arrogance.But this is a symptom of values and authorities inverted in a post-totalitarian society, a kind of analogue of populism or ochlocracy.
Figures from your poll – 70% who recognize the positive role of Stalin in history, 51% respect and admire him – is this not the real Stalin?
This is a myth created by the education system that ensures the unity of collective ideas. Ordinary people on their own cannot get away from this, since they are not able to independently develop ideas about the past.In this they depend on what the institutions that broadcast collective ideas produce – from the media, from the school, from the creators of mass culture, from politicians, the army, etc. This is not an easy problem. The Soviet past, with its system of state violence, including ideological coercion, has not been comprehended and worked out. History alternatives to the Soviet interpretation are excluded, which means that the reasons for the emergence of totalitarian thinking remain unconscious and unreflected.Let’s digress from Stalin. Is the Crimean euphoria, its causes, mechanisms seriously understood? But we saw her with our own eyes. Ten years ago, we recorded the same wave of patriotic euphoria, albeit on a smaller scale, in connection with the Georgian war. Today this is completely forgotten. But this is an imperial integration mechanism. Stalin here is part of the mechanisms that ensure collective solidarity and cohesion around the government.
But we’ll find exactly the same behavior anywhere.Is conformism more likely the norm for a person? After all, mass polling technologies hardly catch those who follow the path of greatest resistance?
This is not entirely true. External forms, indeed, seem to be similar, the mass man is everywhere rather authoritarian, conformist. But the reasons and mechanisms for the emergence of this conformism will be different in different types of societies. We will not explain anything if we say: “It is the same everywhere.” If only because in Western democracies, along with the authoritarian type of personality, completely different types of person arise, and it is precisely these types that turn out to be more influential, more effective, setting a different configuration of human types.This is very noticeable in Western countries. This is a willingness to take responsibility, this is solidarity, not imposed, but coming from below, which presupposes a much broader participation in politics. Look at the Scandinavian countries – there is a completely different type of person. Of course, there are conformists there. But a different composition of institutions gives a different composition of human types.
We have the maximum number of citizens who go to rallies – 25,000. We do not take two exits to Bolotnaya, when there were more than 100,000, this is still an exceptional situation.In Rome, in Paris, there are up to half a million, in London recently, more than a million people took part in the march against Brexit.
But under our laws, the fact that they come out in tens of thousands is a lot. In France, this is practically a way of spending time, but from us they even take away those who accidentally come across …
That’s what I’m talking about. If there are repressive laws, then people accept them and obey them. This is a certain type of consciousness. The explanation that they are afraid is clearly not enough.This is not about actual fear, not about such reasoning: “If I go out to a demonstration, I will get hit on the head with a stick.” This is different, this is normal behavior deeply rooted in consciousness – exclusion from participation in politics. This is a much more complex and powerful social reflex, which causes not fear, but a feeling of discomfort. Independence and a sense of responsibility in this regard is a taboo thing in the mind. We listen to recordings of interviews and see not fear, but completely different reactions. There is no immediate fear; other structures of thought are involved.
I understand you are saying that this is not just conformity. But when we call some social phenomena a term with the word homo , we essentially single out a certain human “species”, we create an opportunity to talk about “them” as “other”. The people are others. In fact, I have a feeling that the presidential administration uses a similar construction in its apology: our people are dark, “different”, and we are Europeans and bearers of a civilizing mission.
The phrase about the only European has been quoted for a long time and it is not very appropriate now, because our government is typical scoops.When I hear such arguments, I always ask you to answer one question: “Why didn’t democracy work out in Russia?” We are moving away from looking for answers to this question. Why, at the time of the crisis of the Soviet system, when all the power structures were paralyzed, why did not a democratic system emerge? We are looking for an explanation for this circumstance. It is also important to understand how important it is to understand why the Nazi regime arose.
But doesn’t it bother you that a Soviet man is a way of creating “another”, separating one part of society from another?
You say this is a way of “creating another.”I do not separate others from myself, I do not need it. I do not close myself off from the questions raised by the fact that, they say, these are “they,” a slave people occupied by some kind of external force imposed on them. I strive to understand, to see the Soviet person in myself, in my environment, I want to understand where the boundaries of this type are, what gives rise to different ideas about society and a different attitude towards oneself. Equally, I don’t think that, as you say, “the other part of society”, apparently assuming their liberal convictions, is fundamentally different from the “people”.We had an experiment: even if the Democrats were in power for a short time. And it was they who opened the way for Putin.
From my point of view, social change begins with the emergence of other institutions, other contexts and a different human type. This will also be a generalized image, a construct. The emergence of a previously unknown human type always means a phase of social change. So far, following Levada, I believe that there are no changes and we are dealing with a return to totalitarianism. Putin is quite deliberately using this resource – the restoration of Soviet ideas.During all this time, no new moral concepts or ideas have appeared. This is extremely important. Until now, the idea of automatic transit has dominated: once the market is launched, some economic transformations are introduced, and everything will happen by itself. The elite turned out to be much more plastic, cynical, adaptable than one might expect. The reformers have failed. Where are the other forces?
In the 1980s and 90s, the transit concept was absolutely dominant. It was believed that these regimes would collapse on their own as soon as market reforms took place.The consumer society was expected to erode and destroy the repressive system. But we see that it doesn’t work that way.
It is beneficial for Putin to emphasize the similarities with the Soviet system. He flaunts the fact that he loves everything Soviet, he arranges parades and fights with America. But in reality, the Russian economy is tiny, the Russian state does not control most of the society as the Soviet state could do, the Russian Federation’s forces are several times less than that of the USSR …
We are dealing with the decomposition of a totalitarian system.The process of decomposition itself is extremely long and contradictory; it can have a recurrent, reverse character. Social, especially cultural, human transformation cannot be reduced to five years after 1991. It will span several generations. One of the really big challenges for sociology is to keep track of this process. In political science, sociological theory, there are no ideas about how a way out of the totalitarian system is possible. The two main totalitarian regimes collapsed as a result of military defeat.And in Russia, from my point of view, we are dealing only with a partial change in the totalitarian institutional system. Putin is a person who was formed during the late Brezhnev regime. This is a person who has emerged from the most conservative institutional environment – the secret political police – and carries the mentality of this environment. No new ideas emerged in propaganda. All the arguments of the Kremlin ideologists and propagandists are old arguments from the Cold War and even earlier. The arguments justifying the annexation of Crimea, for example, echo those of the outbreak of the Soviet-Finnish war.
While doing research, you do not see at all the germs of changes from below or, in your language, the emergence of other types?
We tried to fix this many times. There were also studies of the elite, several cycles, we interviewed different groups – cultural, intellectual, not only administrative. The astonishing intellectual poverty that we recorded at the same time is the harshest sentence to the elite. It can also be described according to the model of the Soviet man – it is opportunistic, xenophobic, anti-Western.Until the question is raised of why democracy is failing in Russia and what mechanisms are blocking its development, we will not get out of the current situation. Until the past is rethought, until it is understood what the Soviet system has been holding on for so many years, we will walk in the same circle and there will be a reaction – “the wrong questions are being asked,” “the regime is legitimized.”
You are talking about a circle. The structure in which there are institutions and a Soviet person is circular. They support each other … And where is the exit?
Sociology is not philosophy.She explains everything that exists as a system of interaction. This is not to say what is the cause and what is the effect. It is a social interaction that is reproduced. It is another matter that the volume of consciousness of this type is decreasing, but this does not mean that new types appear that can change the system. Rather, we fix a certain variety of adaptive types, adaptations. We are told that you don’t see what new young people have appeared – they are better educated, they have gadgets, they speak English, they travel more (which, by the way, is not entirely true).Indeed, these are completely different people, but only if you do not take into account the sphere of politics. Meanwhile, in our conditions, the sphere of politics (the sphere of domination, morality) is the most important thing. This is participation, responsibility, this is the sphere of values.
That is, their consumption is Westernized, but in political manifestations they fully reproduce the “Soviet man”?
Well, not absolutely, but to a large extent. Nazism, if you remember, was formed on a relatively developed economic base and on a relatively high level of consumption.This did not stop him. It is important that the regime established an ideological dictate and a system of institutions that imposed on society a certain type of behavior and a certain perspective for the future.
But there is also a space outside of control. Now there is evidence that horizontal ties are developed as never before, communities are being created and developed …
This is undoubtedly so. We researched and described this with Boris Dubin, even when we were engaged in the sociology of literature and samizdat.In the 1950s, the capacity of samizdat networks was several thousand readers. In the Brezhnev era, there were millions of samizdat consumers on the networks. And samizdat as such has changed: alternative structures arose that eroded the totalitarian system. Today it is the Internet, but it is not a substitute for a free press and communication, it is an addition, and sometimes a surrogate.
But today these uncontrolled networks are huge!
Once upon a time, when the Internet was just spreading, there was a contrast between the “TV party” and the “refrigerator party”.Today they complement each other. There is no problem to find an alternative source of information in relation to the officialdom. But they don’t come! They take the official point of view – for example, on the war in Donbass. There is a well-known problem: you can lead a horse to a watering place, but you cannot make it drink. This means that there are selection mechanisms that block the possibility of perceiving unpleasant or alternative information.
Horizontal grids are still very developed, in them tens of millions.Nevertheless, this does not affect the question of assessing the regime?
Affects, but not in the way we thought. It exists, but it does not complicate the structure of society and social consciousness. This, as Boris Dubin said, is a bypass of the communicative system (by analogy with heart surgery). On the same networks, the same clichés and stereotypes are reproduced as on television.
And what about independent political projects? Protests?
It is extremely important to see the constantly arising impulses of the new.But they break out and are destroyed, unable to withstand pressure and repression. There is no environment of recognition and acceptance. Alexey Navalny is a talented organizer who has created a whole alternative system. But here’s a simple example from our recent research: 90% of those surveyed were against pension reform; 53% were ready to take part in demonstrations against the reform, if they took place where people live. When the protests began, they were immediately sterilized: the organizers were arrested, many were kidnapped, more than 1,500 were detained at Navalny’s headquarters.The decapitated protest remained diffuse and quickly subsided. Today, the willingness to protest has dropped to about 25%. Sprouts of alternative development appear all the time, but they are blocked, sterilized.
Circle again. What, in principle, can be the way out?
Generally speaking, there are more than half of the world’s repressive societies. Democratic societies are a unique thing that arises under an extremely rare coincidence, as was the case in Europe in modern times. They can be grafted into other environments with some support.But this is not at all a natural, deterministic process, as Huntington or Fukuyama once thought. This is a very dramatic, contradictory combination of different forces and circumstances. Ivan Krastev, for example, recently suggested that the democratic velvet revolutions in Europe were a variant of national development, nationalism, which went in a package of anti-Soviet and democratic transformations. Now this can be seen in the example of Hungary, Poland and partly the Czech Republic. The struggle against Sovietism took the form of a struggle for democracy, but inside it was the establishment of a nation-state.Of course, there was both, but one must see the contradictory nature of this process. I think change just takes a long time. If we wait for something over the next 5-8 years, we will not wait for anything. And in the longer term, the accumulation of change can give a radical impetus.
Safety rules in the forest and advice for relatives of the lost
In the spring-summer period, hundreds of people go to the forest, get lost, and then – as luck would have it: someone will find the way himself, someone will be found and rescued, but every fifth lost in the forests of our country are dying …
Why do adults and capable people get lost in the forest? The first and main reason for is carelessness.People go unprepared to terrain that is difficult to access and difficult to navigate, while neglecting elementary precautions: they do not know how to navigate, do not take their phone with them, do not tell their loved ones where they have gone, dress in dark and camouflage clothes, in which they quickly lose out of sight of each other.
The second important reason for is to overestimate your strengths. “I know this forest like the back of my hand,” “I have been coming here since childhood,” “how can an adult healthy person get lost in the forest?”, “I am perfectly oriented on any terrain”.People believe that they know the forest very well and can cope on their own, try to get out on their own, stray for a long time, go far from the entry point, waste time and energy, and only then, when they climb far into an impassable thicket, call for help.
The third reason is various diseases, accidents, states of altered consciousness associated with alcohol and other similar things.
1. Going into the forest, be sure to inform your relatives or friends about the details of where you went and when you plan to return .If you do not come on time, they will start looking for you, and time, as you know, is the most important factor in a successful search.
2. Dress appropriately and for the weather . No camouflage or dark colors – clothes should be bright, ideally with reflective elements, in which you will be more noticeable, including from the air. If you don’t have such clothes, buy a signal vest at the nearest gas station – it’s cheap, bright, and can be worn over any jacket. You should be dressed warmer than you think comfortable during the day and at home – it is colder in the forest than near the house.Don’t forget waterproof shoes.
3. Take with you everything you need : fully charged mobile phone, knife, matches or lighter, whistle, small flashlight, rain protection (raincoat or piece of film). To track the route, take, if available, a tracker, a tourist navigator or download the map to your phone. If an elderly person is walking into the forest, it would be very wise to install a special application that will allow loved ones to track his movements on their phones.This service can be connected with all major mobile operators to any phone, including a push-button phone. If you know how to use it, take a compass with you. Be sure to bring a supply of water, food and medicine if you are taking it regularly.
4. Before going into the forest, study the area where you are going to go on the map, to understand what landmarks there are, which side may be a river or a road. In the forest, it is important to imagine where you are all the time, to understand where which cardinal points are and what direction you have.Remember, if possible, your path, noticing objects along the way that can serve as landmarks (ravine, river, power line, and so on). Leave visible traces along the way to help you get back, such as visible stick marks on the ground. If you know how to use a compass, mark the emergency azimuth before going into the woods.
5. The most important advice: as soon as you realize that you are lost – STOP . You are already lost and do not understand where you are.The more you panic and move erratically, the further you move and exacerbate the situation.
6. Do not try to climb a tall tree to understand where you are – so high to see the forest from above, you still will not climb, but you can fall.
7. CALL 112 . If the message “no network”, “no connection” and so on appears on the phone, dial 112 anyway or press the option “emergency call”, “SOS”: calls to 112 service can be made even if your mobile operator has there is no coverage in this place.Operator 112 needs to tell your full name, where and what time you came out, age, state of health, if you remember – the phones of your relatives. But one of the main conditions is that you don’t go anywhere and stay where there is a connection. Stop calling everyone and talk ONLY with a specialist who can help you. Conserve your phone’s power.
8. If there are linear landmarks nearby – clearings, power lines, forest roads, from where you can easily be picked up – move there and wait for rescuers. If you go to linear objects, then do not leave them .
9. LISTEN . If you are already looking for, you can hear your name. Rescuers can also use a siren. Be wary of the sound that moves – the noise of cars, trains – it is not always easy to locate the sound source correctly. It is easier to do this with the “stationary sounds” of human habitation – barking dogs, buzzing saws, human voices, music. Do not go to any sound in the dark: this is a real likelihood of injury.
10. If you have gone far from the entry point or did not say exactly where you entered the forest, you need to understand that help can arrive in time only after a few days . Therefore, it is better to wait in an open, dry place. Build a shelter from the rain, make sure you can sit and lie off the ground. Collect water, dehydration is the first cause of loss of strength. Mark your location with bright objects – this is done so that in the event of a search from the air you will be seen. If the voice sat down and you can’t scream, and you didn’t take the whistle, you can knock on wood with a stick.You can take a couple of empty plastic bottles and tap them. Make a fire if possible: hypothermia is the most common cause of death in the forest.
What should relatives do if a loved one gets lost in the forest?
• File a missing police report as soon as possible. You must have documents confirming your identity with you, as well as (if possible) documents of the missing person. Be sure to take a photograph of the person with you, preferably the freshest one.
• If the lost person’s phone is working, there is no need to constantly call with the question “where are you?”
(in the woods) and try to figure out where he is, specifying “what do you see?” (trees).If he himself does not understand this, it is unlikely that a non-specialist will be able to remotely determine his location – leave this task and charging the phone to professionals.
• Take part in the search, because you and your loved ones are the most motivated search engines. Search coordinators will give you a task that doesn’t require any special search skills.