There Is No Future In Stamps; The USPS Needs To Go Digital In Order To Survive.

6 years 3 months ago

We've encountered a spike in our hits, part of me thinks its mostly teenagers snatching text for term papers. But based on analytics, I think a lot of our readers from Reddit and Hacker News deserve thanks for your continued readership. Thanks!

In this post I have a slightly controversial recommendation, that the United States Postal Service: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/United_States_Postal_Service should go digital. When I posted this idea on hacker News, I got a bit of push back. The idea that letters would go fully digital met online resistance because those services are currently provided for free by corporations like Google (Gmail), Yahoo, and Microsoft (Hotmail). First, ask yourself, can corporations continue to provide these services infinitely for free? Secondly, ask yourself if you can trust them with your communications?

As humans, we send a lot of private information via email, when we signed up to these email services, mostly in the 90s, we used them as throw-away accounts, a simple means of communication with friends, something we could easily stand to lose. As e-commerce and social network accounts grow everyday to encompass our lives, these sites rely on email as a reliable backbone for identity verification and commerce management. Pay-Pal, one of the largest online payment routing outlets relies on email addresses to send and receive money for individuals, relies heavily on personal email accounts.

If you're Internet savvy, there's a good chance your utility bills, phone bill, mortgage info, and even bank statements have gone paperless, leaving you to rely heavily on the security and privacy of your email account. Citing this, why are we so heavily vested in free email accounts that are hosted by companies that do not have fixed rules on maintaining our privacy, security, or continuity of service?

Now, I hope no offense is taken by these large companies at what I've typed thus far, I am pretty sure that all of these companies would be much more profitable if they didn't have to maintain the massive servers they dedicate to hosting your free email accounts. I also hope they'd continue to provide services of this kind if indeed my proposal works out one of these days.

Spam is also an unfortunate side effect of an unaccountable (corporate owned) public email system, with no rules on identity to govern our current email system, official email accounts can be spoofed and routed through servers that are hosting valid accounts, the same ones we all use to send our high value emails, my suggestion accounts for that and will be detailed below.

Now, enough preamble, I believe the United States Postal Service should create an official e-mail system. Here are a few key points I’d like to make in order to prove that I’m not being crazy by stating this:

Fast Point-To-Point Communication – The USPS would establish centers for transmission of documents, they could modify existing postal service locations to do this by adding high-speed and encrypted network connections to receive data from each other. Immediate transfer of official documents, checks, and even multimedia could be possible from Postal Service Locations with ease, and for a fair price. Data transmission on the high-speed network cited above would allow point-to-point transfer of official documents by having each Postal Service Location serving as both a transfer and receipt location.

Official Email based On Your Home Address – The proposed change recommends a system of email addresses which would be assigned both to a user by their real name, and home or business address. For example, Joe Johnson lives at 1342 Sebring Street in Boston, an example email address for him would be jjohnson1342SSBMA@usps.gov, while his work address might be at Microsoft 1455 Redmond Ln. in Seattle jjohnsonMICROSOFT1455SWA@usps.gov. NOTE: The convention I used here is strictly an example, scientists who are far smarter than me could invent a much better and easier to use naming convention; perhaps they would pick the people who design license plates, (e-mail naming conventions are not the important issue here).

Official Communication And Security Backed by Federal Law – By having the Postal Service (A Federal Agency) manage this proposed digital system, the protection offered by law for fraud and mis-use would apply, allowing the citation of official federal offense for mis-use. This would deter most spammers from using federally assigned email addresses, or using offices to transfer fraudulent checks and hacking accounts. The same rules for wire fraud and mis-appropriation of the Federal Postal Service (currently used) would be applied to this proposed solution.

HUGE Cost Savings On Postal Delivery – There’s a reason for the use of the word “mail” in e-mail, after all its just another format for delivering text. So why can’t the USPS realize this? Yes you still have to send goods like toys ordered off of ToysRUs.Com or EBay, but I’ll counter that later. The current postal system has around 583,908 (2010 estimate) employees. They are poised to lay off many of those employees in one of the worst economies ever. This is all symptomatic of a lack of cost control in the system. Why are we delivering tons of paper physically for this service, Airplanes full of paper, trucks driven all thought the city burn diesel fuel every day to deliver text on paper almost every day of the week when email is nearly instant and it requires no additional physical delivery. Startup investment is a little high in this proposed system yes, but once it’s running, the costs would plummet far below what the current system entails (over-head wise).

A Clearer Path For Non Print/Physical Goods – The agency under this proposed improvement would have a much clearer path for physical goods, no longer requiring as many physical facilities for sorting and storing the huge volume of paper letters. Companies like UPS and FedEx have dominated in personal delivery due to overnight delivery being a key feature. The USPS could recover vital ground by having a more secure and Federally Backed delivery system for print materials, and would seal the deal on reliability by having a dedicated data channel for instantaneous data transmission and printing. “Overnight Delivery” (for documents) would become the new “snail mail”.

Creating Jobs – As cited before, the economy is bad. This is just the right kind of overhaul that leaves a great legacy for a President or Administration. The USPS (under this proposal) would shift from hiring and training individuals to sort mail and drive trucks, into being systems administrators, network techs, and technical trouble-shooters, all valid skills they could use elsewhere, while working towards building a more skilled work force. The agency would also greatly benefit by cost savings of no longer requiring as many trucks, and planes, (as a result) polluting less AND having less physical liability (truck/delivery accidents and lost mail). Employees would most likely require a government clearance in this scenario to warranty security to a degree, (but, by nature, they would be federal employees anyway so it’s not really a controversial proposal).

When a mail document is sent from one person to another or company, horse, etc.(citing this new proposal) it would be physically “scanned” for its original document format at a physical location off of an official hard copy. After that step, the document would be converted to a digitally (encrypted) document, transferred to its point of receipt (another USPS –official- location nearest to the intended recipient), and then decrypted and printed by official Postal Service personnel onto Official USPS paper. Checks could also be transferred in this manner, and printed to Official USPS stock as well. The originating document(s) for documents and checks could be verified by Post Office personnel (before transmission and after receipt) to verify validity of the transmission. Paper used to print transmissions of documents and checks could be official stock with authenticity controls similar to paper used for printing money. Liability to the agency would be limited by acceptance of the customer, by having them certify the authenticity of the document they intend to send or receive. This would also save lots of paper by not requiring stamps and envelopes. I'm not out to kill stamps, but their death is an unintended side effect of technological advancement.

The benefits of this proposal would not only be payable to the USPS, Benefits would be payable to US, as a people. US citizens would gain a much faster method of mail delivery, more security, and better value on their hard-earned tax contributions. We could also begin to use our email accounts for any kind of legal/secure communication, payments, and identity concerns, even to send documents to official agencies without visiting them like (Yikes!) the DMV. This account would allow you to know that you have a warrant out for your arrest BEFORE the cops pull you over, or could be used to let you know about speeding tickets before they double. Because the government would be running your official email address, you could choose to simply ignore it, or to use it only for secure communication while also using your Hotmail, Yahoo, or Gmail account (etc.) for any other (less secure) communication you may have (like verifying your FaceBook Account, or registering on World Of War Craft). If the US got to work on this solution, the same would likely influence developed foreign countries, who would likely follow along in making digital communications a standard for official domestic communication. This also depends highly on whether you trust your government, but lets be honest, if you think they can’t read your Gmail account already, you’re probably not even using email yet.

This proposal for process improvement would allow a new format for secure and accountable communication. This channel would be accountable because users would be tied to a verifiable physical address that could be easily changed based on their residence. It would serve to link agency information (such as DMV records with veteran status, or either with tax information). This proposal would also open the gateway to security advancing in technology, by creating an accountable management system for private identity services (not reliant on private corporations and their open-ended policies) that would be a stable e-commerce system with less fraud capabilities than the current model. And this system also ensures a clear path to legally requiring effective binding agreements and authenticity of communication because its backed by the Federal Government (and laws and statutes therein). As an individual, your concern over implementation of this proposal, your concerns should be minimal, as is is only an improvement on a system that has existed since the late 1700s, where your communications have been tracked and accounted for since well before you were born. You would use this account only for sending and receiving items that are legal, and in accordance with the law, if you don't it would be your responsibility, but tat the same time, regulations and rules would need to be established to prevent mis-appropriation, undue tracking or "wire taps", and fraud within the agency itself. In order for this to work, the right to have other email and mail delivery options (open-source and private services and tools) should be upheld.

I know what you’re saying at this point, “DuH!”, “This should have been done long ago!”. And Yes, you’re right; the best revolutions for change that occur, as shown by history, are based on long periods of suffering. Postal Service Workers have been suffering (job stability-wise), The US Government has been suffering (budget-wise), When trying to find stamps for sale or delivering an urgent letter at the last minute - we’ve all been suffering, Grandmas that deliver annual birthday cards with money in them to kids have been er… suffering. The time to move into the new age is long overdue, lets make something good happen.

CircuitBored

Walking in other people's shoes...

6 years 3 months ago

In the effort of creating positive social change there are many road bumps, most of them politicians, sometimes the public, and often ourselves.

Lots of people think of a Utopian world constantly, how things can get better, or how bad things currently are without creating action that inspires positive change. Why is this? Because doing stuff is hard. I don't blame you, we have jobs, we have families, plenty of responsibility, and shrinking schedules that don't even allow us to do things we once used to like flying kites, drive-in movies, bowling, riding a bicycle, and roller skating.

Today's society is impatient and fast-moving, we have computers to thank for that, but at the same time, video games, television, and air conditioning keep us rooted indoors. Even when we're supposed to get out and run, we stay indoors in gyms, on treadmills and bicycles that don't move.

Even when people aren't employed, they're still employed (without pay) building resumes, interviewing for jobs, trying to make limited finances work out, and that's assuming they don't have a family.

If you don't have money in the bank to tide you through these spells, and benefits at work like vacation and health care, you're out of luck in many of these cases. All of these things get taken from you during a spell of unemployment. The US economy is in shambles at this point, markets, job reports, and our Federal debt all point to ominous signs of not getting better any time soon, the second dip just after the hump in the letter W.

I recall the Reagan Era recession, the most notable thing besides the financial struggle my family faced, were that roads became full of potholes, that many people my family knew came asking for money, and that gas prices climbed extraordinarily. I was just around 10 years old, but I recall these key items that I saw as a kid, and I can point to all of them in my city now that I'm in my 30s.

There are other visible signs such as stores running out of supplies, robberies on the rise, looting, poor customer service, large warehouse retailers closing stores, and so much more that indicate where the state of the recession is. Investors have a method for watching sales of cardboard boxes to determine if companies are doing good or not, and in evaluating the market overall, more boxes sold means more movement and sales for companies, leading to good investment potential.

One thing's for sure, things always (eventually) improve. The people who jump off of buildings will never ever know. So how do we get to that better point? My primary impression is by walking in each other's shoes before making bets on the future.

As humans we have an extraordinary sense of thinking from our own perspective. We know what's right, we know what's wrong, and we know what others should do. We only doubt ourselves when someone we admire or trust gives us advice, if we're not too strong minded. In life, we often develop a thick skin in many cases because the people who don't know us are guaranteed to judge us, and if we don't create a little of the ability to "let their opinions bounce off of you", we face motivational and emotional devastation.

Any debate, as illustrated by the movie "Thank You For Smoking" can be won, lost, or fought based on the presentation of calculated facts to support your position. The facts you present can be carefully tailored to suit the needs of your argument and by withholding or avoiding discussion of negative characteristics that oppose your position. This practice is all to prevalent in politics today, just like editing a movie, video you see online of others can be edited to show completely different takes on things they recorded truthfully. Finding truth has become a much more analytical process than a fact-finding process in this world.

A truly dangerous political game can be played when one skews or carefully selects facts to support agendas in lobbying, in selling goods and services, and especially for elected or appointed individuals that determine policy for thousands and millions of people they are responsible to. In order to be the best we can be, a focus needs to rely on more than just facts and figures to guide our decision making process, we need to walk in the shoes of the people that our decisions impact.

In order to be good at running a company, making public policy, or even in general life existence, one should master the art of seeing things from the perspective of others. Its not an easy process, you have to throw away your own personal preferences and abandon what you believe in to view others clearly, but once you do, you can do a better job at representing the people you serve and work for. Understanding why a father will steal bread from a store if he has no money and children to feed (right or wrong) helps you to understand why social programs like welfare exist. Wrong as they may be, and abused as they are, these programs save lives, and there are tons of good people on them for any bad people that may be. Sure these social programs need reform, but ending them entirely will create a chaotic world.

Why were so many politicians against tax increases for the wealthy during the last budget vote congress held? Why were they so intent on cutting social programs instead? Because they don't see things from perspective different than their own.

Concerns of minority groups often take the primary seat at intellectual discussions every day. There are organizations dedicated to fighting for minority rights, whether they're based on race, industries, or wealth. In many cases they're justified, but in others they're powerful lobbies that influence politics heavily away form equal opportunity.

We rely on a system of majority rule, but that does not mean majority should win with every vote or decision made in today's society. Moderation should prevail in decisions by our leaders. Decisions are not simple on/off switches, and we are not robots, we are humans, able to delicately balance our decisions for maximum benefit to all parties, rather than just winning for our own team. We have to moderate better, and consider the weight of our decisions on more than just numbers and majorities and we are equipped to do so. The concept of Trickle Down Economics is a key example of a failed policy that caters to a few, preventing greater good, it essentially proposes that money trickles down from the wealthy to lower income individuals through a natural cycle. Today this model fails every day because the cash doesn't flow if the richer classes are not happy with public policy, if they feel scared of investments, or even if they simply don't wish to spend. This leaves the lower income classes devastated without income and opportunities, sounds familiar doesn't it?

Find the source of these types of ideas and I guarantee that you'll also find thick skinned people who have no idea of the lives others that they govern face on a daily basis.

With the lower income families of america struggling more than ever, and middle classes loosing their foothold daily, its increasingly important to remind key decision makers about how much their decisions impact our lives, and it should be expected of them to understand when we tell them our stories. These leaders shouldn't rely on just data to guide their decision making. They should be real people, more blue-collar, less wealthy, more educated, and of course less corrupt. If a person is going to be making decisions that impact the lives of others, they should be expected to be accountable problem solvers, seeking to unite others, making positive statements about positive change with specific road maps to success. If chosen leaders are not constantly in touch with all of us (as the people they are responsible to) and if they are too invested in partisan culture or movements that represent only a small section of the population, they're not walking in all of our shoes.

CircuitBored

I have exceeded my 5GB data cap on T-Mobile, my phone is now an expensive paper weight.

6 years 3 months ago

People don't call each other anymore. Well, my parents call their friend circle on cell phones all the time but people in my generation (30 somethings) don't have endless talk sessions on phones like we once used to. What are so called "youngsters" doing?! They're using the Internet. FaceBook, G+, Soundcloud, Spotify, Web Sites, Texting, Twitter, Email, You name it... So why, in this great age of Internet progress and innovation, are we placing limits on bandwidth? Why does your phone mysteriously slow down or why does your bill balloon every month when you're just tyring to use the new features on your iPhone? A shocking expose awaits you below!:

I ventured out into the wild last week, once my BlackBerry suddenly died, and went to pursue a new wireless device. The hunt made me prey, and I came out with scratches of a higher bill, a more expensive phone, and a new thing called a "data cap" on Internet service for my phone.

Now, not many people are aware of data caps, especially because of cell phone plans being sold and advertised as "unlimited". Its a funny thing, but pretty much every new cell phone service contract (Except for those on Sprint Mobile) here in the US includes a ceiling for how much Internet service you can use on you phone. Some service providers even go as far as to sell you a plan, and not let you know that you will hit an ugly patch of inactivity, or a high bill if you pass that Internet data ceiling.

I am all for capitalism, because it drives innovation, and I'm all for newer devices with convenient and great new features like Wi-Fi and app downloads. I like apps, I develop apps, and I love me some good Internet. I firmly believe that the future of Internet Service Providers will be cell phone service providers, but we've really started out on a bad foot here with this type of data cap rate limiting. Let me first give you a bit of the back story:

I originally had a BlackBerry Bold. Due to hearing about the slump that company is currently in, some terrible people had convinced me to get an Android phone. I held out for over 6 months, until my BlackBerry started exhibiting signs of cardiac arrest during tethering and a tiny screen that made it quite hard to read most content of relevance to me online. I naturally started browsing new phones, and began to like one of the new devices out, The Sensation from HTC, its design was simple, and the screen much bigger than an iPhone 4's, I have no complaints about the device other than its outrageously poor battery life.

OK, so while shopping many different claims and representations were made to me in T-Mobile stores, often conflicting, I was quite surprised to see that there was a huge difference in price quotes between each store I went to. Ultimately, I saved 150$ off of the price I was originally quoted for the phone. The phone price is only 50% of the bargain though, just as, if not more important is the plan that I get for the phone. At the time, I had T-Mobile's "unlimited" plan for BlackBerry Data, my total monthly bill was around 84$ (don't ask me how the taxes and fees got the price up to there, even they can't explain that to me).

I of course had to start a new 2 year commitment for this phone (HTC sensation), along with 10 dollars more for the new "Android data plan" because it uses different Internets than a BlackBerry I guess, and a few extra fees because the unlimited plan had been updated. Reps at T-Mobile were all too eager to tell me my 2 year old BlackBerry unlimited plan was "Grandfathered" making it the youngest grandfather to ever exist I guess.

What I gave up by switching plans, was my ability to have a phone without data caps. That is the essence of having a grandfathered plan, despite years of being a loyal T-Mobile customer, my bill went up by over 30$ and they offered 5$ off, but having a data cap was such a significant sacrifice now because just 1 week after leaving the store with a new phone, my rate limit had been exceeded. Every Internet-Based service on my phone became extremely slow, if not non-functional once my data cap was passed, and the applications I develop on Internet Based services are now inaccessible. I also have to wait until next month before being able to view any post on Reddit past those with plain text because the wait is excruciatingly long and dysfunctional. I cannot also use the brilliant wi-fi hotspot feature that my all-new phone has because that makes my usage disappear immediately once I watch a few YouTube clips. My phone is now a paperweight unless I plan on calling or texting someone, which we don't really do anymore.

Let me tell you about what happens when you exceed this "rate limit"! You basically drop on your stunning new 4G! phone to 2G! speed on T-Mobile. This makes your phone a paperweight, it seems functionally slower than a 56k modem, it reminds you about the dark ages, and the worst part is you're still paying a premium rate monthly to your wireless provider because T-Mobile charges 30$ for the next-level upgrade to 10GB, and there are no other options currently past that. I am paying about 98$ per month for less than a half a month of Internet Service, and there are no options to have full freedom on T-Mobile or AT&T. Some service providers charge you after the overage, Sprint is currently the only carrier to have an option for truly unlimited data plans at the moment, but they didn't have the phone I wanted.

Comcast has also implemented data caps on their local/home/business service in the North Eastern US, their limits work much in this same way. Your voice over IP calls will suddenly not work so great. You'll have to skip that night when you invite friends over to watch a new NetFlix movie because your data cap is exceeded (because your kids watched a really long Disney movie while you were at work). This has really significant implications that we won't realize until after its commonplace, and when we have no choice of reverting to a time of truly unlimited Internet.

As the Internet grows, so do bandwidth needs. How can we place limits on bandwidth in a society we want to grow? Why has Verizon tore up the street outside of my house to install Fiber Optic Cables if they're only going to allow me to download a few web sites and a short film each month? Where are consumer rights, competition, and fundamental fairness in this discussion? This year the US Supreme Court, in review of a case with Wal-Mart, set a precedent that makes it harder for consumers to file class-action lawsuits, you see the direction in which we're going here? Consumer satisfaction is the first thing to go in bad economies, actually its a leading key performance indicator of how well an economy is doing; based on the wireless industry, this is not a good sign for out economic outlook.

I don't know about you, but this is a pretty frickin' scary trend to me! I see a world in a few months where you pay a premium for Internet service yet you will have a harsh cut-off in service at a certain point each month (during your peak points in productivity) that will cripple you. Data Caps are hardly a desirable feature for customers of mobile service providers, but they continue to be enforced by service providers as proof that the benefit of competition in the industry is failing due to posturing and positioning of companies. This will only get worse as AT&T and Verizon buy out most of the smaller providers. There will suddenly only be 2 competitors that dictate the price and limits on service we (as consumers) will have to deal with.

The Internet was founded on the principle of being free, this changed in the late 90s with ISPs charging hourly, we caved. The Internet was born around the ideal of being open, but Google and FaceBook kind of killed that, we caved once again. The Internet was built on the principle of being without boundaries, throttling, and limits, lets not cave to mobile and Internet Service Providers putting data caps on our Internet usage. If we do, the only points of view you get will be provided by large corporations, encouraging you to pay a premium for limited access.

CircuitBored

Notes on progress...

6 years 4 months ago

Its been a long time since my last post, I realize this. I've been busy leading my web team into glory in a world where the value on Internet sites and services is both declining and increasing. How can the value of Internet sites decline and increase at the same time you ask? The answer is a complex one, but in a nutshell, it describes the volatility of the current state of Internet based sites and applications. Some companies are doing well, with new and interesting products yet still worried that their competition will invent a new feature that they will have to scramble to counter. Other companies are failing on ideas that already exist, without the ability to change their focus, or finding that they have to change their original vision, which can easily prove to be just as harrowing and risky as a facelift (in real life).

As a company in the Internet Industry, one of the largest costs encountered these days is your payroll. Paying a Java Developer 120k+ annually, or paying a web designer 75k+ annually is a huge cost, especially when you're working on a concept that will be funded by ad sales or investors expecting returns somehow. Creating a start up is just about as risky as playing power ball (unless you're a talented developer, business mind, and designer that can develop a concept all on your own).

In any given month, I have lots of kind people weekly asking me if I'd like to work pro-bono for them on their great ideas, in hopes of magical future stock options. Its best for me to (carefully) deny their offers, and I usually do, because there's all too often a deep lack of technical organization and skills which will mean that I'll be required for 80%+ of the workload in the process of making their ideas successful. These bold entrepreneurs often take offense at my resistance to working for free, but we're in the worst economy since the great depression and it takes a lot to ensure survival, food and shelter. A dreamer is always a bad investment in any economy if you ask me. I'd rather partner to be a technical "doer" if I ever choose such an undertaking.

A "doer" in this case is someone who knows their industry; Someone who lives and breathes IT and design, development, business, and working hard. A person who will take the time to learn what's important before assuming their ideas are solid. These are people who have the common sense, wits, and knowledge to stay afloat in bad economies by keeping their marketable skills in line with their desired industry; Clear communicators that don't speak in long, vague or abstract terms, people who understand the value of a solid presentation with heavy attention to detail. These are the types of people that are smart enough to promise realistic deadlines, and then meet them by doing the work themselves if necessary, while being mindful of budgets; These are the people that build spaceships, and good cars.

Now that we have the context of risk and "doers" straight, we can work to define what leads creative and smart minds to success.

If history has proven anything to us about success, its proven that success is completely illusive to any and everyone, and though you may have success today, you might not tomorrow. This is an important mantra. Your competitors and assets mean nothing once you grasp that. Your overall success, in my opinion is based on your survival, stability, and sustainability:

Survival - The overall time your idea survives. Timeless ideas survive, think Coca Cola. This company has been around for most of our lives without tons of reinvention. Sure, its due to the nature of the beverage industry, but it can be adapted to other industries as a concept for a timeless product, that was a good idea to begin with, because there was nothing else like it when it was conceived.

Stability - This has everything to do with your company's assets, to expenditures, and human capital. If you have the right amount cash flow and employees to tide you through emergencies or breakdowns in your development cycles, that increases your survivability in an industry that is very reliant on responsiveness and scalability. Problems happen all the time, if you don't anticipate and counter them quickly, failure will be your fault as a decision maker. You also have to run the operation carefully, neither too lean or too costly to prevent it from financial implosion. A very delicate balance indeed.

Sustainability - This relates to your operation's future. You will need to enhance your product and/or services (assuming its on a firm basis cited in the survival category). Not by staying on top of trends, because trends can be fly-by-night or misguided, but by developing a 6th sense of where your industry is going. You must educate yourself on past and current industry and social trends (e.g. client-server, when the telephone was invented, cable TV's current decline) and learn how to apply the outcomes to trends in your field to ensure your venture will be responsive and at the forefront of successful change management.

I don't believe people when they tell me that the Internet is a much more significant invention than the telephone because we wouldn't have the Internet without modems, which relied on phones in the early days. The same goes for computers and electricity, where one relies on the other. In thinking about business and development, I try to find parallels that drive my decisions.

In the process of developing a web or mobile application, "need" and "function" run highest in my priorities during the conceptual phase.

Need - The desire to have a function fulfilled by an application (in this case). In other words, the deep public consumer demand or consumer desire for fulfillment of a service to drive sales of an original application which I invent.

Function - The "How" for fulfilling the need; How will an application work, look, and feel? How will it work? How will users perceive and use the application? What is the functional theme and motivation for the application (driving design)?

After I sort out these goals, Its a great time to work on finding capabilities and limitations that I'll encounter during my design process. Research and development (prior to beginning development) is a essential component of knowing what I can successfully commit to with clients. Every project I work on has a different set of tools and goals, its important to define these items before being deep into a project, and its important to communicate clearly with clients to help them to understand limitations. As a brief glance into inception of a project and the ins and outs of cost and risk in Internet business, you can probably draw the connections to functional roles in getting technical web projects done.

Even if you are dealing with non-technical managers, there are a lot of components that require higher level understanding of technical processes to ensure that work actually gets "done" for any web-based business. A reason why so many start ups remain on the ground is the lack of balance in developers, resources, and technically savvy management. I hope you seek a balance in all of these categories, because if you don't develop your marketable and technical skills and understanding, you'll be hiring a technical team that could possibly play mutiny on your company's vision. Be a technical "DOER"!

CircuitBored

Big Business does not respect you. Case #1.

6 years 7 months ago

I'm in the market for a new computer. I'm also pretty sure about what I want because I've shopped online already and determined my budget. I've compared specifications for the desktop PC I want. It will be faster, smaller, and lighter than my old PC that has served its use well beyond what its manufacturers and I ever expected. My last computer lasted over 11 years, I used it for everything from designing web sites, to creating music. It inspired a great deal of brand loyalty for me because the workstation lasted well, and ran strong (power on all day) over 11 years in a time when you're lucky to get 4 years of productivity out of any consumer-market PC.

In considering a new PC now, I had a lot more work to do on this shopping excursion than the last time I went PC shopping. First, I had to go to Intel's site (the leading semiconductor and computer processor maker) to find out what the fastest consumer market processor was. I got lost in a sea of options without a clear indication of what was fastest. The number of processors Intel has out on the market right now is staggering. Intel has several processors out on the market, including different variants of the same processor; and in stores and on Internet descriptions, those alternate processor variants were not fully noted. The "process" was quite confusing. I went to numerous other processor benchmark and review sites, all had conflicting accounts that seemed to be more based around opinion than simplicity. how can a 2.4GHZ Intel processor in a mac run faster than a 3.4GHZ processor in a Windows machine? Maybe someone needs to rethink the number system to make that work for me... I gave up on that so I went to Dell's web site.

I always start with the most expensive model as a basis for my shopping experience. I hate shopping, possibly because I can never buy the most expensive model an Intel 6 core PC. I am fairly rich, but not super-rich, so I have to compromise a bit. Ok, so one step down from the most expensive model is the Intel i7 (Quad-Core) PC. Processor confusion solved. I take note of the model and head out to... (Lets just call the store) "Buff Buy" to check it out in person. I like to see things in-person before buying, so the trip was exciting at first. I got to the store, inspected the PC, connectors on the back of it, specs, and price... Wait a minute... This one costs nearly 130$ more than one I saw at another store!

The Sherlock Holmes instinct in me kicked in, I hatched a diabolical plan to take advantage of the "Price Matching" promise that Buff Buy advertises. Generally, Buff Buy says a price in any physical store will be matched, including an extra 10% off the difference in price. I had a flier that advertised a PC from the same maker, with the exact same specs as the one I saw at Buff Buy for 130$ less. It all looked so simple. One problem though, this computer had a different model number on it than the one at the other (competing) store, even though the PCs were exactly the same...

I proceeded to show a manager at the store (Buff Buy) that the specs were the same, and they stated that the model numbers were not the same, and therefore they would not apply price matching rules. So my question is: was it the computer manufacturer, or the distributor who is insisting on "mis-matching" model numbers for the exact same (otherwise) PC? Is there something I don't know that acocunts for the price difference? Do "competing" store execs meet up to fix prices on items before they are sold? Are sales and discounts all a lie? Is capitalism being twisted? Why am I driving 30 miles to buy a PC in VA when gas costs $4.35 a gallon? I'm probably blowing my savings ratio with driving there alone.

If you search online, you'll find Dell computer models at Buff Buy do not match any other models anywhere else... Copy a model number from Buff Buy's site, and then go to http://www.nextag.com (an online price comparison service) and search for that model. Only Buff Buy's price comes up. Why? Because only Buff Buy carries that model. If you go to Micro Center's site, http://www.microcenter.com they also sell Dell PCs, with the same specifications, usually a different price, but the model numbers don't match. Bingo, in a very bad way.

I would not find fault with this if it didn't symbolize the death of competitively based pricing (which keeps the cost of goods low in a capitalist system). Is the only way to get a discount catching something that "fell off a truck"? Model number manipulation symbolizes a lack of respect for consumers, and it greatly complicates your ability to find the best products during shopping experiences. Why shop at more than one store if there is no price competition? The key is being aware about it, and only shopping at stores that don't support these kind of practices.

CircuitBored

Lessons from Japan...

6 years 7 months ago

I'm deeply saddened by the events that devastated Japan just over a month ago, a deadly 7.1 magnitude earthquake, followed by a massive tsunami, and then a nuclear meltdown, and subsequent aftershocks. One can only imagine the peril in evacuating your home (in a moment's notice) with the possibility of never being able to return. The deepest shock comes in losing all of your personal possessions, including pictures of your past that aren't yet digitized and stored in an independent location.

One of the things that gets to me most is the handling of the nuclear crisis, and how propaganda has been spread about radiation from its failure. Radiation is an unseen killer, its in nearly every home in the form of electronics, your cell phone, your microwave oven, and it possibly provides electricity to your community. Long forgotten is the incidents that occurred on Three Mile Island in Pennsylvania right here in the US that occurred in 1979.

The big problem with nuclear incidents is that they don't manifest until long after the incident occurred for most people. How can we comprehend exactly how radiation hurts us if it comes on in such a subtle (and delayed) manner? I suggest that the news media carefully tracks the people who work on resolving these "meltdown" incidents (The people closest to the source). Are the people who worked on-site to fix the plants at Three Mile Island and Chernobyl even still alive? These details we rarely hear. We're lulled into submission simply by abandoning meltdown zones like Chernobyl, and lobbyists quickly change the discussion to how "safe nuclear power plants can be" until we forget to pursue the truth because our lights are running again.

How can we trust a government that assures us that they've got incidents like this under control, while still hearing conflicting reports on the news about how the plant (as of today) has reached Chernobyl meltdown status?

As engineers and scientists, we all have to delve into technology carefully. We are at the mercy of scientists and what we don't know. We can't allow ourselves to get arrogant because our knowledge about unforeseen future events in the course of innovation can prove to be deadly. How can arrogance contribute to deaths you ask? Let me remind you with a few words: The Hindenburg, Titanic, Hiroshima, Exxon Valdez, harmful effects of asbestos (used in a wide variety of building materials since the 50s), lead in paint and gas, The Ford Pinto, (More recently) the epic DeepWater Horizon oil spill, tainted milk from China, sticking accelerators on Toyota Priuses, construction of the World Trade Center, pretty much every airplane crash ever, and many other incidents that had significant environmental and life/casualty impacts.

Scientists and engineers often don't paint a picture in our minds of a guy driving in a hummer (with a tight Ed Hardy shirt on) listening to euro-house (the picture of over-confidence in a bad idea). But arrogance can come in the form of believing that (currently-existing) "proven" scientific concepts are "rigid" and "infallible". The same goes for religion, but that's another discussion entirely. For the purposes of this discussion, The Titanic was launched as an unsinkable ship, well, after watching the James Cameron drama fest under the same name, the ship clearly sank because it hit an ice berg. Man - 0, Science - 0, Ice Bergs - 1. That is one of the most significant cases of hubris over things that any normal person at the time could not foresee.

We have to be aware of the unforeseen conditions, unimaginable knowledge, and unpredictable circumstances, and that are always out of our control (I like to just call these things future circumstances). The key is creating firm back-up plans when lives are at stake. Technology should always be driven by not only a deep innovative pulse, but a pulse of versatility, safety and multiple-dimension thinking. Why is is so common for us, as humans to create backup systems that fail? On the DeepWater Horizon oil rig catastrophe, there were several scientists that could not seem to solve the crisis, including Bill Nye (Playing a Scientist on TV). The incident after the initial explosion was made even more dramatic by a failed blowout preventer another scientific/engineering backup plan that failed miserably. Let me now point you to this video, from 1979 where the EXACT SAME INCIDENT OCCURRED:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6Cg3qtT7_Ts

What have we learned since then? Well, as this video shows, not much... The crisis was solved using the exact same method we used in 1979. Had the news media reported on this as a first impulse, we would have saved months of failed efforts and dedicated efforts towards, this proven method of solving this oil spill crisis. In hindsight, a scientist would tell you they already knew that, probably.

We have to improve our methods of preventing crisis, by thinking of the best, but preparing for the worst, we have to work hard to keep our egos in check. A Darwin Award is not quite something you can prevent, but arrogance in science that impacts lives IS.

Ford Pinto you say? During the 70s, The Ford Pinto was cited as one of the most dangerous cars of all time:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qHGbrlufryw

This car (named after a horse) is noted for exploding into a fiery mass even on simple low-speed rear-end collisions. It was designed poorly by scientists and engineers just like you (not me of course).

What's driving this hubris? We'll based on the last video, I'd have to say its profit...

Companies get so enthralled into watching stock valuations, profits, and (these days) database-driven metrics. They get "tunnel vision". Companies look at the bottom line, and not how its reached. By keeping that narrow view, companies often lose a sense of what builds a firm basis of customer satisfaction, brand loyalty, and a firm safety record. This provides a ripe breeding ground for the arrogant/overconfident scientist or engineer to step in and conduct their "errant process" of creating failure prone solutions and products, without many checks and balances. Too many products are run to a finish line with flaws, some all too obvious... In modern times, companies don't worry about their reputations beyond a large public outcry. All too often its only the Internet that helps companies to not forget their failures, and that may fade with our recent moves towards a "closed web" where companies will end up owning the only channels of communication. If homogeneous companies own all of the sites that they're promoted and reviewed on, you'll only see good reviews, and not the bad ones, or vital independent information that could prevent you from getting killed in a rear-ender-fireball-blaze (after unfortunately paying way too much) for a used Pinto.

As a closing thought, I get vibes of great amazement whenever I encounter videos from a bygone era that predict the future. There are tons of wondrous videos from the 1920s, 30s, and 40s, that predict the year 2000. Now that we've passed 2000, pretty much all of the innovations in these videos have proven to be off-base and some are so wildly off the mark, you can't help but laugh at them.

We have to realize that those of us here now (predicting the future) are in the same boat as scientists and engineers from those long-gone eras, we have to equate for hubris, and really begin to make inspired products that incorporate new angles of safety, corporate responsibility, and innovation. We also have to proof-read our statements and scan them for unforeseen scientific "arrogance" based on assumptions of facts that will last into the future. We also have to invent new processes for handling incidents that we'd never imagine possible, (like an earthquake followed by a tsunami, and then nuclear crisis). We'll also have to account for incidents in the past and immediately refer to them when similar crises like them occur (I suggest more publicly available database driven info resources). We wasted so much time on the Deep horizon oil spill trying ideas that the impact was made even more significant, when all we had to do was to use past methods). Most of all, we need to create firm back-up plans for all of our engineering goals, and to always plan for failure, even in more than one stage.

Thinking from outside our own perspectives offers us a much more robust outlook on life. In the age of individualism, we need to remind ourselves of our responsibility to society, and that solutions to problems will never be good if they are viewed from one, or even only a few angles; solutions need to be viewed from ALL angles. Companies should worry less about earning for shareholders and more about building valuable and reliably safe products when lives are at stake. I guarantee this new outlook will save you tons of scandal and gallons of useless apologies, none of which will fix a nuclear power plant in meltdown nor the lives affected by it.

CircuitBored

State of the unix address...

6 years 7 months ago

Okay, so this post doesn't have much to do with Unix beyond gushing about the great positioning of Open Source development.

Installing WordPress the other day for a client amazed me, the content management system has come so far since the last time I had used it. Just as I was wowed by it, I read about WordPress servers being hacked, not the individually installed iterations, but the servers hosting blogs at WordPress.com which support a variety of popular sites like Twitter and Facebook. This has proven to be a big hit for the Open Source comunity, which is basically an assortment of developers that contribute large amounts of their free (unpaid) time into developing these Content Management Systems. While there is wild speculation as to who perpetrated the attack, it is noted that source code was stolen, leaving many sites, including individual implementations of WordPress, vulnerable to future attacks. If you have a WordPress site, securing it by keeping your system files up-to-date is key, and changing your password on a regular basis is key as well. Please take the time out to update your implementation, and to save the idea of secure Open Source solutions for content management from criticism by money-hungry closed-source CMS vendors.

CircuitBored

Sins of the Fathers [Myspace] revisit their Sons [Facebook]...

6 years 10 months ago

Key social media sites these days are heading towards a major backlash because of the prior sins of their fathers. This is part of why its so hard to get a great new social media idea to catch on, people are growing skeptical about social media's benefits in a sea of high priced commercial promotion, and in the uphill process of generating a healthy user following. This discussion came about from an article posted on CNN [ http://www.cnn.com/2011/OPINION/01/07/rushkoff.facebook.myspace/index.ht... ] about the impending demise of FaceBook. The article is well written, and quite believable from my angle because I've been logging on less and less as time passes, and getting more and more frustrated with Facebook when I do sign on, now so are my "friends".

People, make sites like facebook popular, commercial entities buy in and then subsequently corner the initial value that these sites created. Commercial companies then squeeze any sense of culture out of a social media site by adding ads to your content and encouraging users to repost ads. Before you know it, you're on what looks like an overcrowded mismatched-color Geocities page, when all you wanted to do was to share your music. All of the marketing potential individual users had in the initial stages vanishes once disguised commercial ads, click boosting, user tracking appear. And all hell breaks loose once a monetary value is placed on a social media site. Myspace still gets great hits, but mostly from spammers and bots, which makes it value worth less than the computers its hosted on. Its their own damn fault. Tom played the game right when he sold early I tell you!

Some big name social media sites aren't doing anything substantial in order to help productivity nor promotion for individual users. They have features that encourage users to spam each other, which make their added peers end up blocking each other because of incessant tagging and messages to user inboxes that require tedious manual deletion, etc [all tactics to generate empty clicks]...

These social media sites all make the same mistakes in not emphasizing their talented users, and helping to build followings, while promoting businesses and services that are reliable and relevant to their own users. I'm a firm believer in a future of micro-social sites that focus on specific user communities rather than trying to warehouse everyone into a huge template. Facebook, as it is really doesn't provide much in terms of letting "like minds come together". There should be no reason why I can't communicate [through a social media buffer of course] with Jay Z about rapping, or Kanye about being a douchebag, or ask the real Ivanka Trump out on a date, and they all should be able to block me if they get pissed off in the process, thats what happens on Twitter, and thats why this year Twitter will capture a large percentage of Facebook's user shares, because its much more fulfilling than fake user profiles [for the moment]

American Idol has made a lot more people "famous" than Facebook, yet there are many more musicians and artists on Facebook, how is this possible? I see that as a problem. YouTube has been the only consistently unobtrusive and highly functional/useful social media tool that has survived. They do have user profiles, they host content, allow comments, sharing and communication, and do it all pretty much in an amazing and unobtrusive way. YouTube also allows its users to cross-share content on sites completely unrelated to itself, a major hosting expense, but really solid in terms of usefulness to site users, no idiotic "like" button required. Based on this, the concept of YouTube, perhaps, should be used as a key "roadmap" to social media success in the future.

Instead of working on promoting normal users you don't know, most social media sites are geared towards the "celebrity machine", for celebrities that are already popular. Promoting the same stuff that's on TV, and the radio, because someone paid for the ad space. Following this "celebrity machine" is a losing battle because it has to put on a new expensive outfit every time its launched, and it fails once people uncover its motives, or once innovation can't disguise it.

Facebook makes it appear to users that the only method to generate 5,000 followers requires landing a major record or movie deal, so much for being a talented musician. Programming and monetizing is only a tiny part of creating a successful social media site, this is why most get it wrong. If you want 4 years of profit, who cares, make the next big social media warehouse, if you want a lifetime of success, think carefully of the benefits your site can provide to the average joe, and make sure you keep that in your mantra for as long as your site lives. The motives have to be clear cut, highly functional, and it must offer fair and equal promotion for all of its users while limiting spamming and upholding privacy, otherwise it will stay the game of rise and downfall. There's a reason why YouTube has been a great site all of these years, it sticks to its user base and keeps them content.

CircuitBored

Preparing for the GIANT "Unplug"

6 years 11 months ago

Spend years tweeting until you generate 10,000 followers!

Play Call Of Duty for months until you rack up a "respectable" score!

Reach the 5,000 friend mark on Facebook 4 years after you first logged in!

Spend 6 hours deleting 2,500 spam messages on Myspace, only 6,784 left!

You're still nowhere in life when the power goes out.

Myspace is dead, [no offense] and they've spent Millions of dollars trying to bring it back to life by improving the look and feel of it, but the major thing they forgot to overhaul is their unbearable encumbrance of not having good spam controls. People want to clear their in boxes of all of the spam that has accumulated over years of neglect, but alas, you can only delete messages by small handfuls at a time. You'll spend a lifetime of deleting, while new messages keep piling in from bots set up to send you tons of other messages you'll never read. The failure here, is that Myspace hasn't noticed that Spam is a huge part of what killed it, and they failed to bring that under control for real users that have accounts on the service. No matter what face you put on Myspace, its still a spam haven [no offense] and it may be too late to realize that and fix it. Your customers are key, even if they don't pay you directly, they're still the reason why you get press write-ups, sponsorship, and ad revenue.

Companies need to adopt and uphold a customer centric mantra in the process of product and service development, no matter how popular their products and services get.

All the work you invest in building a stake in, and generating progress within artificial environments generates only a small portion of real fulfillment in your life. One day soon, if not already, people are going to begin to turn against these social tools, influences, and trends. They'll start leaving their cell phone at home, spending time with their dogs and kids and neighbors instead of logging onto your networks or using your smart devices...

Forget computers rising up to conquer us, companies worldwide, in the impending future will need to scramble to prepare for the massive "unplug" movement that will sweep the nation once enlightened masses become keen to the fact that all of this time that they spend hooked on hopes in virtual space gets them very little in return, and that spending time on those hopes didn't earn them much if anything IRL [In Real Life]>>>

Leveled against the promises that the Internet and computers make to us about "endless and boundless entertainment and connecting to a world of people" is a huge health care burden. People poised at a desk all day, only to come home at night to watch hours of TV, and then go to sleep. This routine leaves even the most "gym bound" people we know to only be active for one hour a day, whereas in the Pre-Internet age, people were radically socialized, going out on dates, hosting dinner parties, playing sports, and doing "boring things" like camping. Now we stay inside, playing tennis on our Kinect Boxes and Nintendo Wii game consoles. Shielded from the public, and playing versus a program, or worse yet, with someone who you may never meet, much lest be socially prepared to talk to. I heard a great quote today on CNN.Com, it was related to teens and being challenged to "unplug" from technology, it was that people come together to hang with friends only in order to spend time thinking about someone else who is far away from them because of technology allowing them to communicate over long distances. Social skills are lost, people are constantly withdrawn and people feel more and more disconnected, leading them to the point where they'll have to make a drastic change in their use of tech devices, in order to reconnect with reality.

Now don't get me wrong, I love video games, I love playing games and texting on my cell phone, and I love the Internet; heck, I'm writing this on a blog, so you know I've got to be at least partially tech dependent at this point. Brett Favre may not enjoy texting this year as much as he used to last year, but that's a different matter.

What's really going to matter in the future are the REAL and TANGIBLE points of value that web sites, software, and computers can add to our lives.

The value of web sites is and always has been what they can do for you. Social Media sites have largely got it wrong over the past 2-3 years. They've invaded our privacy, they've required us to promote them, they've even spammed us and given us viruses. They're like cheating exes basically. Don't worry, nature always evens the score.

Instead of the current model [requiring Twitter users to generate their own buzz and thusly being promotional slaves for Twitter]. Twitter will [in the near future] have to adopt different means of promoting profiles for their account holders, and new ways to keep their users engaged through useful promotional and entertainment tools. In other words, Twitter will have to begin actively working to stay popular rather than relying on the crowd sourcing model of promotion they have gained so much from over the past years... Why you say? Because [for example, without intended offense] currently, a lot of new Twitter users log on and then never come back.

For example, A user joins Twitter, and then subsequently choose to follow Bill Gates, who at this point has 1,863,268 followers. They will notice that they can only generate 5 no matter what they type, and then look into what they have to do to generate more followers. They'll then work hard to generate more followers with high hopes, and then cop out and never log in again after 4 months of tweeting hard and only generating 15 followers max while Bill Gates scoffs at you "measly" following from his celebrity pedestal. You then log out, and then never log in again. [I am exaggerating here, Bill Gates is probably not that arrogant IRL]

The merit system for Twitter is also [in the case above] flawed because the person, who added Bill Gates, [now that they aren't active any more] is still following Bill Gates, and leading Bill to believe that he is indeed "one person" more famous than he actually is, now multiply that by a fair percentage of Twitter's users.

I'm not here to bad-mouth Twitter of course though, don't give me that much credit; I am detailing the mindset behind the average Joe, which can be applied to any software, game, or mobile device. The key to making these items valuable is the REAL and TANGIBLE value they add to our lives.

A video game is considered as "great" to us if it challenges us, but allows us to pause and resume it, or if there are quick bursts of achievement that we can use to fill our down time. If we spend months playing it in order to beat it, chances are that we'd have our house foreclosed upon us before we got to level 5... A web site and/or application is only valuable to us if it puts out information that respects our anonymity/privacy but still appeals to our sense of individuality. A message board is great, but only for the level of regard it pays to each and every one of us or the promotion it allows us as individuals at regular intervals thought the day.

These are the things that successful developers and artists know about creating key software, mobile devices, and computers.

Apple, as another example, [no offense intended again] strives to make "rabid and devout addicts" out of their supporters. Releasing newer, better, and faster models of Computers, iPhones, iPods, and iPads every few months, core Apple users buy constantly to be on top of "the latest and greatest".

The question is, when do you plan on jumping out of the continuous device buying cycle? With the wave of "must have features" that each new device introduces into the market, and the ever shrinking value/support for the current [older] mac model you have, you'll surely grow into a repeat buyer, especially when Apple products can only interface properly with other Apple products. Its in Steve Job's best financial interests to steer his company towards a "closed" system for Apple users, wherein Apple products only work with other Apple products. Can you trust Steve to not turn monopolistic and go that way when you're just a tiny consumerist plebeian on the path towards Apple global domination? Who knows...

At the end of the day, what do you gain from having an iPhone that you can't experience on a computer or on a regular phone? Or with a HD camera [all tied together with duct tape] while riding on the back of a horse? That's exactly what I'm talking about here; The REAL TANGIBLE VALUE you get out of consumer devices and software. Make sure there's more value in buying a device than just being the coolest nerd in match class, or the douche bag talking loud at a restaurant about your new magical smart phone.

Now we get to the ideal of "The Big Unplug". Its pretty much self explanatory, but its basically the point where a societal majority will begin to reject technological advancements in devices, and devices overall because of a rising perception of over-inflated value. This is already happening with 3D televisions, but again, another story...

When do people do this "unplug" sort of thing? Well, for starters, when their bank accounts are empty. If someone can't afford a game console or phone, they don't buy it. Simple eh?

The other deal breaker is when people notice that in the past 3 years that 3 different iPhone models have been released. That's one [roughly averaged] every year, so technically, that means a lot of toxic waste in land fills if everyone manages to update once a year. It also means that with each release, the amount of money your current iPhone is worth, even though it may be in pristine condition after you wipe off the ear wax, is dropping dramatically.

Your iPhone is purchased with an expiration date already assigned to it. The value in this case makes it clear that tangible value of purchasing an iPhone is dramatically low. Unless, perhaps, you shoot a brilliant HD film with it that makes at least 300$ when said movie is released in theaters!

"Unplugging" means "not buying" as much as "not using". If devices and software that people have purchased proves difficult to use or maintain, or expensive to operate and upgrade, or quickly obsolete [of course] people "unplug" them. And the same people don't come back to buy again. This we already know, but what we may not have seen yet is that in all of these cases TIME is MONEY. If we spend hours yearly trying to generate a Twitter following, or hours trying to sell products online and it doesn't work [good product or not] people who get let down, don't come back.

This [sort of] explains why many of these individual Twitter, Facebook, MySpace, FourSquare, YouTube, BeBo, Reddit, BlaBlaBla, [and many other social media] [no offense] accounts lie dormant forever, and contribute to inaccurate statistical reports about "burgeoning" success of top social media outlets... People are required to log in and create a profile in order to sample, and then they log off, but they are still counted as users in the long run. Its kind of like the first time you launch Google Analytics on your web site, and see a big drop in hits, and then if you're in denial, you go back to counting metrics on your fingers because you want to lie to yourself about your statistical success...

The most popular sites, [for example YouTube] add an intangible measure of value to user's lives, by opening their content up to their users. YouTube compensates a user for the time they spend watching it with quick entertainment, precise controls, an unobtrusive interface, and a wide selection. You don't have to log in to view most content, private user information is not displayed prominently, pages center around the content artists promote rather than their personal information [for example]. This is where TANGIBLE value is achieved.

On YouTube, I can find an unbelievably classic video with James Brown, Michael Jackson, and Prince sharing the same stage, and then I can embed it into my own web site, or into my Facebook page, and I can watch it all without paying or logging in! This model also grants hit promotion for the person who uploaded the video without them having to generate silly followers, the content sells the site; YouTube also allows viewers to share an item without having to grant everyone access to their personal information. Less time "tracking us", and more time serving us. [That's why sites are hosted on a "WEB SERVER" not a "WEB TRACKER"] Hur...

By really taking a close look at how to provide unique services that clients and users want and need, without betraying trust, or wasting their time, somewhere, is the way to prevent your products from being "unplugged" in the unruly future of the Post "DOT COM" web. Lets hope YouTube doesn't screw its good run up by adding mandatory commercials and pop-ups on every vid... er... wait a minute... Time to unplug.

CircuitBored

One of the key inspirations in my journey through the working world...

7 years ago

Integrity from Chris McGoff on Vimeo.

One of the key inspirations in my journey through the working world is this guy... Chris McGoff. Chris is an exceptional leader who pioneered the concept of leading and being successful by example. This is not a paid endorsement, [For transparency sake, I did create a web site for him years ago] but this post is not just because Chris has been a great family friend and mentor to me for many years, and I'm promoting him to show thanks for how he has inspired me to carve out a leadership niche in my own business world. His message also resonates with me every day I arrive at my office, where I am tasked with hectic deadlines, tough decisions, and of course the challenges of communicating with [and motivating] others.

A modern man's "Zig Ziglar", Chris has written a book, titled "The Primes", which details his principles of leadership, speaking, and top level decision making. Its usually unprecedented that a person would share ideas and core content in such a transparent manner, but its a unique testament to the strength of his character and the weight of his words. This sort of transparency ties into my belief that if your product is truly strong and good, no one will be able to steal it from you or emulate your message.

If you're creating a startup or established in business and looking to create or solidify your company's culture, read his blog [ http://www.theprimes.com ], watch the videos, learn about his company [ http://www.theclearing.com ], then read his book, and follow it up with having him speak to your organization or conduct a workshop. You will see your company's culture, motivation, and heart surge in a positive direction. Here at CircuitBored, we only endorse those we BELIEVE IN. Share your ideas!

CircuitBored

Social Media Will Eat Itself: The decline of New Social Media Sites in "helping people".

7 years 5 months ago

Is your boss concerned with the amount of time you spend on social media sites while you're on the job? Chances are that you should be concerned about your drop in personal productivity due to social media in your off-work hours too.

Take for example John Q... John runs a business in his spare time in which he sells web design services. John is quite active during the daytime on his day job, but he also tweets to his followers from his cell phone regularly. John has one big problem though, he only has 40 followers on twitter. Generating new followers on twitter is a job in itself if no one knows you yet. You are required to spend time putting links on all of your profiles all over the web; John has to keep up with making several posts on his twitter account to show how his business is active, linking people and carefully selecting people to follow to position himself for that critical point when he generates er... 200 followers. Meanwhile, people like Bill Gates, Steve Jobs, and Carrot Top rest among the elite with hundreds of thousands of followers that he'll probably never achieve unless John commits a serious crime that makes evening television news.

After months and years, John finds himself doing less work on his own company web site, and more and more work managing his 2 social media accounts. John, in the process of trying to build a solid online reputation for himself has been diverting hits and attention away from the web site he spent many months [and probably lots of money] working on for his business! All of the time that John spends daily on Social Media sites has little to no direct benefit for his business unless John manages to increase his followers on Social Media sites. As sites reduce their promotion of user profiles in a shift to gain ad revenue, John will become a needle in a haystack. This is why its important to put most of your work into your own (company.com) website rather than into Social Media sites, regardless of the the communal benefits they promise.

John is at the mercy of each social media site an their rules and policy on design, rules, and how to generate followers, and most of these sites do nothing to help John increase his following, that's all work John has to do. You are given a new set of tasks, which largely benefit the popularity of the social media site rather than your own business. This is why Facebook doesn't have to run TV commercials, because people automatically promote Facebook and Twitter in the process of trying to build an online profile for themselves. If you don't manage to successfully recruit "followers" (the people who would have normally just gone to your web site to read about your company) you are left out of the modern world of Social Media promotion, and you're a dinosaur. Its a new means of forced compliance that edges out smaller businesses (though its not quite deliberate).

Worse yet, if either Twitter or Facebook decide that next year they're going to become a pay-only service or if the sites/companies run out of money and need to be shut down, you'll have no means to keep the "tweets" you've created and because of their format restrictions, you probably can't really use the tweets you have made over the years anywhere else.

Meanwhile, creators of social media sites make money off of the promise of ad revenue, and consumer statistics generated by observing the habits of millions of people while they float around (most unaware) online. You know this is not an editorial about privacy or individual rights, I think that's been hashed enough at the moment...

In the process of generating followers, friends, listeners, whatever you call it, social media sites gain much more than you do, and they give you back so little. And the amount of benefit that Social Media Sites provide to people seeking to promote business and art is decreasing rapidly. Decreasing your online presence occurs on Social Media Sites through your efforts when you register. Yous start "behind the curve" of the friend(s) that invited, welcomed you to, or (informed you about) the social media service. Immediately you're met with a challenge to get "caught up" with your friends in terms of social appearance, by adding friends you all have in common. It doesn't end there, the friend(s) that invited, welcomed you to, or (informed you about) the social media service see your growth, assuming you don't get frustrated and give up early, and some feel an incentive to outpace you, so they invest time working on making new friends. You have now succeeded investing a lot of time in something that is not making you money, while your business sits dormant awaiting your log off, and the twitter bird is the real winner, because you all drove their hit stats up big time!

This is where Social Media fails us. No matter how hard you work to promote yourself and your business on a social network, the end result is often that you gain very little ground with new clients, leads, and hits for your own web site, and you end up promoting the Social Media site largely through your own efforts while your business is unattended to.

Many of us don't have tons of money to hire staff that raves about us on social media sites all day. Some PR firms are dedicated to adding positive comments and views via "shadow user accounts" on YouTube to boost the popularity of videos for example. Why would Bill Gates want to start a Twitter account and wait around for followers? "Heck no! hire twitter PR! They will give you 1 million followers off the bat along with several automated twits to make it look like you're a pro!". Twitter posted a link for Bill Gates on twitter with an "add" button on their front page... That's how I found him on there, he had the advantage of being promoted to every twitter user worldwide, even though he is already quite famous, so of course he outpaces me in the follower ranks. Me? I promote my twitter account, er Twitter's site on my own web page, garnering around 500 hits a month... I have big business hopes even though I've got third world status on twitter. You just wait and see! #SMH

Why do some people look so "followed" on twitter while most are barely followed? Because the cards are stacked that way. Are you wasting your time promoting your twitter account, i mean twitter.com? Probably. Should we pay for the appearance of being successful on Social Media Sites? That is another way the game has dramatically changed, its not quite the same as buying a suit, its the act of "manipulating public perception". Just make sure your business sees the benefit of doing so.

I believe my best time is spent in building a web presence for myself that is all my own, without targeted ads and links that distract viewers from our identity and message.This should be a driving force in how we all spend time promoting our business and art. In the future, lets work hard to build Social Media sites that are helpful to people as a core feature, rather than creating just another site set on monopolizing the Social Media landscape in hopes of "warehousing" and tracking users. Giving your subscribers freedom and identity is one of the things myspace was great at, their downfall, of course, became uncontrollable spam, but the first years were truly great. Facebook still doesn't understand why Myspace lost its dominance, and they, as well as other Social Media sites, will eat themselves unless they pay attention to the demands of people that use them. Let's learn from failed Social Networking sites that have fallen in the past and lets bring the idea of Social Media back to being truly helpful and less time consuming.

The questions I would like to pose are: How are these sites helping you? And are they worth the time you spend on them? How many people generate fame, valuable contacts, and solid readership on twitter from scratch?

Find out here:

Follow Us On Twitter: http://www.twitter.com/winternett

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And you thought the Exxon Valdez was bad...

7 years 6 months ago

I have been watching news about the Gulf of Mexico oil disaster closely with shock and dismay at the failed attempts to stop tons of oil from completely devastating the gulf coast. I love nice beaches, I love great seafood, and I love natural wildlife, all of which this area may never experience for decades because of the disaster that occurred from an oil rig failure, from nearly a month ago, that occurred on April 20th, 2010. This drilling site has been bleeding oil into the ocean at an alarming rate for nearly a month now and it constitutes the worst oil related catastrophe in US history, and quite possibly worldwide, much more significant than the Exxon Valdez.

What worries me the most is the solution ideas I've been hearing from the crew at BP. I have heard everything from using a giant box to cover the well site [which already failed] to shooting trash into the opening of the pressurized leak, to using chemicals to harden the escaping oil and jam the oil flow. I can't believe that BP hadn't thought of the potential of an oil spill of this nature prior to this, this is their bread and butter. A failure of this kind surely threatens their future, with all of the employees, lobbyists, technicians, and analysts that exist solely for the oil industry, why wasn't a potential catastrophe prepared for in advance? The simple answer lies in the story of "The Titanic".

Man has a way of forgetting the past, great hubris, and thinking of the future in a rosy outlook. This is great for motivation, but often falls flat when disaster occurs. I know that somewhere in this company [BP] are a bunch of people who said "I told them so!" when this disaster broke out, but their rank was not high enough on the "corporate food chain" to be heard. Sometimes we, as well as companies, think that money will get us out of trouble as well, which in this case, a better idea than paying billions to stop the leak would have been to stuff all that money down the oil well early on. That may have prevented this massive disaster earlier, saving lives, business for fishermen and tourism, and saving wild life residing in the gulf. This is a horrible, horrible affliction, but I guarantee that companies will not learn from it, because its the same thing that was said when the Exxon Valdez ship broke open and lost its oil. Its up to each and every one of us to realize the work we do is vital and crucial, and we all must make backup plans based on being responsible for our quality of work when it impacts the livelihood of others, including and especially on our already tormented ecosystem and the animals that inhabit it.

Where is the historical knowledge of oil spill remediation? Where are the scholars? They're certainly not working at BP if it takes nearly a month to cap an oil leak. And especially with the hair-brained solutions that have been proposed by BP so far in capping the leak.

A glimmer of hope is found in this video, where commonly found hay is used to aid in oil spill cleanup. You can't be more "green" in solving this issue, I am especially fond of the idea of using the hay to run power plants [as a disposal suggestion]. For now, that's the best we can do, and I bet you this invention wasn't funded by BP. Its amazing how well hay works in this case in cleanup of open water, and amazing how well it will work considering the sea life that coexist while it is being used. I love when people create real ideas that solve problems, and that's what this site is about.... Send us your ideas and lets make positive world change happen!

For Additional Reading On Some Major Historical Oil Spills:
http://www.associatedcontent.com/article/454782/the_worst_major_oil_spil...

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The most influential outlook on IT entrepeneurship I've seen in ages!

7 years 6 months ago

Naval Ravikant speaks about what Investors and Venture Capitalists look for in IT start ups. Ravikant [in this video] also details key traits and skills you should look for in a business partner, and how to determine whether or not your idea is based on solid product development principles. Knowing that many businesses fail just on the basis of personal conflicts alone, that makes this video a must-watch for anyone intent on successful entrepreneurship.

One of the key points in the video, for me at least, is when he talks about "being secretive" with ideas. I have long been an advocate of being vocal about my projects and ideas. Ravikant says that its perfectly fine to be vocal about your ideas because an idea that can easily be stolen or replicated probably isn't a good idea to begin with. Great candid insight from a proven, humble, and knowledgeable, investor, you can't beat it.

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"Smart Phones", over-hyped innovation, "tax" collection devices, and you...

7 years 6 months ago

I don't mean to sound like a snob, but your smart phone isn't all that impressive to me. Sure it can do a lot of things based on how much you're willing to pay, but seriously, those things mean nothing once your battery runs low, or if you lose your phone in the mall. Tech companies still have not managed to make a computer that is guaranteed to not crash, much less a phone that works without dropping calls or bad connections.

I don't think I'm being unreasonable in saying that what's being promoted to the public as "innovation" [in terms of mobile smart phones] is NOT truly innovation. The word "innovation", as its used by companies today in reference to mobile phones is more based on the new ways in which they can "milk your wallet". Smart phones are not smart if I can't communicate from them on my home PC [via the Internet] to create contact backups or to keep one central contact list. I should be able to backup my entire phone [from my phone] without having to use wires and shoddy software at this point in mobile evolution. I have been using touch screens on ATMs for over a decade now, I'm really not impressed that phones can be manipulated by touching a screen... Things that would impress me end up being more functional and useful features rather than flashy design commercials with kitschy music and a well laid out branding campaign. I care less about the company than I do about the phone and how it will help me deal and cope with my increasingly hectic life.

When it comes to technology, what impresses me is quite simple. First of all for the phone to work, to be durable, and to be reliable as a pre-requisite. I love the fact that I can watch YouTube on my BlackBerry, a few years ago I though that video on my phone, much less Internet would have never happened. I can view web sites, I can maintain a calendar of appointments and I can also spend extra money on top of my phone bill for thousands of applications that range from silly to moderately useful. I hope I will never have to pay extra for "apps" that provide those standard services. At this point, in order to justify a price of $300+, and to flaunt the title of being truly "revolutionary" a mobile phone should be solar powered, it should back itself up wirelessly, it should never [ever] lose my contacts or data files, The battery should last for days and be "swappable", I should be allowed to track my phone when its lost by a unique serial number through a secure portal based on my registered phone number, The phone should also be able to project a larger screen on any wall in order to watch free [local] digital TV channels, It should also be able to store my important documents [encrypted of course] and I should be able to trade music, video, and files with friends and from my computer wirelessly over a reliable peer-to-peer network among other things.

Yes I'm a tough customer, but for give me, I don't believe that Apple finally adding a "camera flash" to the iPhone 4G is buzzworthy. I think in fact that its a distraction from making phones truly better, and it also serves to lower expectations for innovation.

We have become so engaged into tunnel vision when it comes to technology, and we add profit making and greed on top of this vision. When CNN writes about the latest Apple product, millions of people flock to read about it, reinforcing the idea of spending your money as a sign of being on the "cutting edge". Loyalty to the cult of Apple involves spending money with strings attached because you buy a base phone, then you're at the mercy of what you can afford. I actually believe that its better instead for Apple to just raise the initial price of the phone even more, then to add access to all apps for free, because that adds more transparency to pricing for buyers, and prevents the iPhone from being a tax collection device.

A lot of people are fleeced by buying smart phones and then realizing that the best "app" it comes with is one for your credit card to send off more of your money for pricey extra "features" that you'll really need...

When you buy a car, you buy the base model, and then pay on top of the car's base price for additional options you desire. Often the car comes with options you didn't really want, but you can be encouraged to overlook either by a slick salesman or a price reduction via negotiation. This relates to tangible things most times like floor mats, a better stereo system, a sunroof, etc... How would you feel if you were required to pay a monthly fee for having your sunroof open? Or an upgrade fee for the software on your radio? Or if you had to pay for things that were once included before, like windshield wipers? This... Is exactly what's happening to the software development, and mobile phone industries. Is it wrong? Probably.

In the traditionally sound Capitalist market, the smart man takes one bag [containing 6 oranges] and rips it open, then selling each orange individually at a marked-up price. There is no problem in doing that provided his margin is reasonable and he isn't the only one selling oranges. If the same guy has a monopoly on oranges [or "Apples" for that matter] and he corners the market, charging any price he deems fit for oranges, and binding people into committed 2 year contracts to his oranges I am sure that many of his customers would be up in arms. This is the current state of the mobile phone market. These days, not only do you pay for your new phone, you pay for a pre-set service provider, and you are limited to applications controlled and influenced by the seller, that you'll have to buy individually for fixed prices, which [of course] you will have to re-purchase if your phone is lost or stolen. The iPhone is restricted to AT&T as its service carrier until 2012. These prices also never reflect the ideal that though the game Tetris is over 20 years old, it still merits being sold for $6 dollars a pop. This is not a good future outlook for you as the consumer. Prices are supposed to decline over time for software, not to exponentially increase.

As we move into a new era where your privacy disappears, and your free time is spent maintaining multiple social media sites and deleting incriminating pictures of yourself that people have uploaded of you, recall the age of innocence... when people actually talked in person... where people went outside and actually did stuff, like roller skating, bowling, and playing checkers [offline].

Take the time to step back and realize that you don't have to be trapped into a "closed circle" of technology dependence, and that not everything that a company sells to you is truly "innovative" just because they said it is. See past the hype and carefully choose what you support because companies should be dependent on YOUR choices rather than you as a consumer being dependent on THEIR commitment contracts and arbitrary pricing. Long live open source, and companies that focus on true innovation to make the world a better place, rather than those that seek to steer you into depending on them and not having a choice.

Don't buy products that aren't truly innovative and reliable, it only encourages companies to be lazy with their R&D. If you don't believe me, check out the words of one of the most influential people in the world on the state of "over-hyped" technology here: http://abcnews.go.com/Technology/pro-blackberry-obama-ipads-ipods-distraction/story?id=10604316

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Reinforcing Dependent Consumerism At a Store Near You...

7 years 7 months ago

People are furious these days, some at least, while others are in line to spend 600$ on a first generation iPad, the new device you won't be using in 2 years. Why won't you be using that first generation iPad in 2 years? Because 2 new iPads will have come out by then that you simply must have.

Companies have learned from drug dealers. They've got you hooked on their supply. The ideal of buying electronics that last is dead. The latest and greatest will only be "leased" to you whether you like it or not. Companies have actually begun to bank on yearly returns based on creating "versions" of their hardware rather than making completed and quality products. The concept of "versioning" developed originally for software development, now applies to the electronic hardware you buy from your cell phone down to your blender.

Thinking of buying a 3DTV? Great, throw that old HDTV that you never got to fully use out of the window and give us your credit card! We'll have you set up with a new one along with a myriad of hidden costs [for a tuner box, cables, and new DVD player] so your friends will say "wow!" when they come to your house [provided you have bought them each an expensive set of viewing glasses for the full 3DHDTV experience]. Got it installed? Great, oh wait, version 2.0 has come out, and DVDs have been out of date for over 4 years now, your units are no longer supported. Sorry Sucker!

The alarming rise in consumer costs and disposable electronics signals a new era. We are becoming more like Japan. In many ways new technology is great. Enabling us to become more immersed in communication, and helping us to learn things we'd have to scour 10 libraries to find. We have more choice as long as it makes providers more money. We should be thankful, but at the same time watchful.

How can Apple ever be a "green company" if their older devices will populate landfills at an alarming rate [every 2 years or less] corresponding with their strategic releases of new products? Remember all of the harmful and toxic chemicals that are inside the batteries in each iPhone that cannot be easily replaced, and the plastic and metal that comprise each phone that cannot be extracted easily. They're not recycling, that's just a sticker there... Just think of all the plasma and LCD screens being tossed into landfills as you read, oozing toxic sludge into the ground every time it rains. Its then that the great concept of "disposable technology" becomes a troubling issue, and a lie that changes the image a company tries to portray.

In addition to the wasted materials, most of which do not get recovered for recycling, there's a huge waste of consumer money. Reading an article on Mashable today, there was a news leak on the iPhone 4G. This new phone is revolutionary, no wait, MUCH more revolutionary than its predecessors by adding all of the features the prior iPhone has, 4G Internet speed for a slightly faster browsing experience and a FLASH FOR YOUR CAMERA! Underwhelming to me at least.

Sorry folks, it may just be me, but I'm absolutely not wooed to the iPhone 4G by promises of a camera flash. At this stage, the only thing that would compel me to buy a phone over 250$ is solar power for an endless power supply, being able to store 250GB of music and files that beam wirelessly and in Hi-Def to my car stereo through blue tooth, and the ability of said phone to project HDTV onto any wall for entertaining friends and family. A flash for my camera has been on every Blackberry I've had for the last 5 years, its nothing new, standard [as an expectation] to be honest.

Why do companies roll out technology with a lack of features that consumers would want? Its simple. Profit maximization. A company can create the ultimate phone, with all of the features that one would want in a cutting edge phone, then they remove each feature until they create a "base model". Then they plan a schedule of releases that add these features one after the other [with each "new" version release] so that each new phone has the features that their predecessor didn't to create the publicly perceived illusion of added value and innovation. Meanwhile, consumers that fall for it end up buying essentially and virtually the same phone over and over again with modest enhancements. What good does versioning do in this case?

When do we get to the point that adding a camera or a flash for it on an iPhone becomes a radical consumer inspiration [promoted on the front page of CNN.Com] for buying? When we're getting fleeced, that's when...

The same model was used in sales of the Sony Playstation and X-Box as well. Storage options were offered, the smaller hard drive version pretty much was instantly obsolete. It was also a common scenario when you buy a game that you've been waiting for for ages, and then you find out that the 60$ game also requires you to buy a new 40$ game controller to play it, rather than also being able to be run with standard devices. Make no mistake, these types of required hardware upgrades are "forced upgrades", that are reverse engineered by hardware producers. Releases like this constitute false advertising and they encourage hidden pricing for devices among competitors.

Now I know some of you would say "Just don't buy the game or phone then!". While saying that is not unreasonable, if we were all aware about this opportunistic system and we didn't buy anything using this model, companies would be forced to stop the practice of reverse/release engineering or to release innovative devices so that newer [and far better] innovations could arise. The problem is that though I may not support some of these retailers on an individual level, many still do, they won't get the message to move technology forward unless a mass movement is created.

These practices stunt innovative growth, they feed land fills, and they require you to spend much more than you should have to. Its hard to see how changing business models can't be seen as beneficial to everyone involved in this picture. Companies can charge more for products because they are more original and innovative and they have tangible value. Consumers will buy products because they have features that are truly needed and desired. And the world will be much better without land fulls of defunct iPhones.

Consumers lately have also been up in arms over a new proposal for carry-on baggage fees in the airline industry, this is yet another charge that once would have never "flown". Why don't these airline carriers simply raise the price of tickets instead? No, they wouldn't dare because then it would look like they were being "greedy". They'd much rather rely on deceptive advertising tactics which run rampant in the face of a lack of consumer protection to bail them out when they're in a pinch due to being inefficient. What drives this endless quest for profit maximization by companies? The markets do. In order to have glorious reports, customers must be "shorted" and "manipulated" as often as possible, and that's you.

Markets drive big business and decisions for big business more and more these days rather than customers. Now you may not see that as a big problem, but I do as a consumer. When you buy a can of Coca-Cola, you're paying for the can, the liquid inside and the commercials you have to sit through during your favorite movie or TV show. When you buy a can of Coke, you're also driving sales that shareholders make money off of. No wonder why the cost of a can of Coca-Cola is increasing...

Citing all of these things, this fleecing trend is poised to spread when you choose big business products. If you buy an iPhone, prepare to [in a few years] be required to buy your previously included calendar application for $5, your previously free phone book for $15, application, the phone's operating system previously free for $50/annually, and to eventually have unlimited phone calling disappear once again in favor of expensive minute-to-minute phone calls because the new iPhone will only be available on special "expensive" phone plans by exclusive carriers, and you thought your cable bill was bad! Good luck with managing a mortgage and retirement... Change the system by changing how you consume.

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TED Video: Alain de Botton: A kinder, gentler philosophy of success

7 years 7 months ago

I like a lot of the videos on TED.Com. Though they are condensed into concise speeches, they're a great way to listen to the ideals of writers, scientists, and professionals that raise key issues based on informative topics. If you agree with [or are interested in] the discussion points that these speech presenters raise on Ted.Com, it is then easy to look further into the links to their own sites, books, narratives, and writings.

Today's pick for a key speech could be no more relevant to our site theme:

Alain de Botton: A kinder, gentler philosophy of success

I'll refrain from posting opinion on this speech in order to leave the topic open to discussion.

-circuitbored

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Should the news media be a money making operation?

7 years 8 months ago

As I was listening to WTOP news [a DC news/talk radio station] in my car today, a funny thing happened.

In pretext, the TV "meltdown" award of this week goes to this emphatic Congressman, Partick Kennedy (D) from Rhode Island, for citing that the media/press is paying more attention to controversy than the highly important laws being passed through Congress and the billions of dollars being spent on wars. Here's a CNN video of his words:

http://cnn.com/video/?/video/politics/2010/03/10/sot.patrick.kennedy.cnn

Eric Massa, as you may already know, resigned from his post as a Congressman this week over a cloud of scandal, most notably so far cited for "Tickling a staffer". As you'd know if you do pay attention to the news, the story was front and center for most of the week on pretty much every news channel, including WTOP.

I heard a commentator [name withheld] on WTOP today stating that Congressman Patrick Kennedy was "unreasonable" in saying that the media should focus on Congress because [to paraphrase] "The media is a money driven industry" and that "The media only cares about stories that make them money". This was quite disturbing to me if the stance the media, that I frequently listen to, applies precedence to stories that generate ad revenue and money for them. If that's the case, how are they [the news media] ever to be trusted by common people like you and me?

Millions of events happen every day, some merit local attention, some merit national attention, I have been finding out more and more that the news I hear about has less and less to do with issues that affect the masses and more about issues that affect a small groups of people, and it leads me to wonder if the stories I hear on the news will begin to all move that way.

The value of the news is [of course] that we can use it to keep informed about events that happen which matter to us the most. We sit through commercial after commercial to get to weather reports, or to the hot item that affects where we work or live. Hearing about national matters of contention such as Health, Abortion, Immigration, etc all prove valid and vital to us at various times in our lives, so they'll often rank well for news reports, these issues affect us and the people we know.

But what if the same lobbyists and companies that advertise on these radio stations use their dollars as ballots for news policy? Might it now be possible that "all of the crime reports" I hear in the months coming up to an election are to create a false sense of a city overrun with crime so that I'll pick a candidate who gives off a good "law enforcer" vibe? Might the next earthquake story I hear about be carefully chosen and tailored in order to soften my wallet to help a commercial advertiser for the channel to profit from rebuilding infrastructure that will support economic development to subsidize their company in trying to expand in that region? I am just a pawn in a chess game it seems, and I can no longer trust the news... *sob*

Of course, I know, you'll say "We've known this for a long time now", I know that too, but when news channels grow to behemoth status, we have to watch them for harmful rhetoric, and we have to hold them accountable for their actions and mistakes, no matter how trustworthy they may seem. Many news channels portray an image , along with supporting commercials that state their trustworthiness, it can all look completely innocent, until carefully planned "opinion" segments come into view...

Its easy for a station to deny responsibility for the statements of their commentators, though these are often the same people on their payrolls! What better form of "endorsement" can you give to someone like Rush Limbaugh or Sean Hannity than a steady paycheck?! It happens all the time, but what should then be asked is whether or not the news station is balancing out those polarized commentaries with meaningful opposing views? The answer more and more these days is probably "No".

In America, we seem to have sacrificed our interest in solid and professional public debate. We've "dumbed" most things broadcast down to simple terms. Companies focus on appealing to the "basic drives behind the average/base human desires" rather than "educating people to make informed decisions". Group consensus leads so many vital decisions [instead of plain old good judgment] these days its scary. Consensus builds buildings in our societies rather and "faster than" trusted people that have a proven track record for historical decision making. The problem with an all consensus-led current state is that if a failure occurs, there is no one accountable for said failure because the group [that consensus is comprised of] "dissolves" and disbands quickly in crisis... You know how it is with twins, neither or all take the blame 9 times out of ten because its impossible to determine who is responsible most of the time when things go bad.

Allowing consensus to rule opens a "floodgate for failure" that has no one accountable for failure at the helm. The same could be said for the news media, by putting the weight and responsibility of what is said and quality of reports into "public specified demand" driven by profitability, we lead our society to a slippery slope of distraction from the issues and news that will concern us most, and there will be no sense of responsibility for news quality and priority because the same failures can't be tagged to a single editor, it will all be blamed on "public demand".

Global warming has been a huge issue lately, cited by some as "a massive hoax" due to reports of hidden documentation that laid proof to the ideal that numbers were faked in initial projections about potential and current damage to the environment. How are we to know if this is true or not now? I don't have the time or knowledge to investigate myself, and I bet most of you don't have the time either. This again is yet another example of how financially motivated news can hurt all of us. In this case, the reports could be used to influence us that the environment is truly "OK" and not facing a threat, blinding us to companies that dump tons of toxic chemicals into our air and water; and on the other hand, the news media could lead us to believe that the environment is severely damaged, and that we should pour money into Toyota and Al Gore's pocket so that he can make another movie and so that people can buy more Toyota Priuses [with working accelerator pedals mind you].

How can we tell if a news report on a business doing well is based on truth rather than being a rouse to drive stocks just before a major sellout? [See Kramer vs. Stewart]:

I know the value of troops sacrificing their lives to defend our country even though I have not served, I'd never take that sacrifice lightly. We are also spending billions of dollars on this war, while the news media also reports on relatively insignificant budget cuts here at home. If the news media doesn't feel accountability to us for presenting the truth and stories that really impact our lives, maybe we should make it clear to them that THEY SHOULD, by turning them off. As long as the Internet is free and open, there are many other sources for news, lets seek out those that, despite needing to raise money to operate, live to a higher standard by keeping their fund raising out of their news topic focus. "Keeping it real" is not something we only do on Sundays, its an EVERY DAY affair.

If the news media takes priorities based on financial backing, and that's preventing all of us from hearing about vital developments in the war currently going on in Afghanistan, I say the system needs an overhaul, because I'd rather hear about our troops and where government spending really goes than about a Congressman "tickling their staffers" any day.

CircuitBored

MOTIVATION

7 years 8 months ago

We all have moments of clarity in our lives where we make a decision that leads to positive success. It doesn't happen at just one point but many, and it isn't able to be applied just one time, but all the time. Too often we don't document these ideas in an organized and legible to inspire others. Its hard to document those sparks during a busy day or when you're knee deep in decision making, or working hard to find a way to make a living. Right now, worldwide economies have suffered like never before, with man made and natural disasters. In times like these, ideas and decisions become crucial to re-emerging from crisis. It is often said that "Millionaires are made out of the worst economies", but I would like to believe that in the absence of physical possessions, and in the worst economies, "The best people are made".

This site is about open source knowledge.

This site is about answering questions you've always had.

This site is about making the world a better place to live.

This site is about defining SUCCESS in YOUR BUSINESS and more importantly, IN YOUR LIFE.

What makes a "good" person? Its not for me to dictate or decide, but here are my opinions from what I've observed so far in life.

I personally believe that in order to sustain long-term success, one needs to maintain a high standard of motivation, ethics, discipline, and education. Now you may say that "Many corrupt people are rich!", but the story that history tells is quite different. One of the more recent cases of corrupt rich personalities failing at long-term success is Bernie Madoff. Though his victims may never be compensated for his losses, Mr. Madoff now resides in jail, putting an end to his opportunities to be with his family, also not permitting him to conduct business, and now providing him a barrier to living a normal life. His "success" was short lived if you look at his life in a contextual way [from start to finish]. In the same way, these pitfalls play themselves out numerous times for people who lose sight of ethics in their quest for success. Therefore, one could say that a big part of being successful includes sustainability of success which Mr. Madoff obviously did not succeed at creating.

In addition to corruption, not keeping true to your goals and dreams in life can affect your motivation. For example, think of the last wedding you attended. Did people cry? Were they all tears of joy? Or tears of sadness? Don't get me wrong, Weddings are great! I love to see people getting married, but I think at times some of the crying population is crying not be cause they're jealous, but because they think back on their own lives and think about their own experiences when they see others in a great moment. When you look into your past, I am sure there are some negative experiences, and some positive experiences. I hope the positives far outweigh the negatives for all of you. Motivation in this definition is based on drawing upon positive experiences [from your life and from those around you] to drive you forward to bigger accomplishments. In order to achieve success, you have to maintain and find motivation from many sources, but the largest motivator for me is success. And you can't find success unless you're ready to put the concept of failure in perspective.

For this site, we'll also analyze how people emerged from failure to succeed, The greatest feat at times can be recovering from negative experiences. This site will be dedicated to constructive and positive idea generation, and motivating examples of generating success in life. This site sets out to document and highlight individual cases of success in decision making, to pool valuable human knowledge about a wide range of important subjects, and it will serve as a repository for things that inspire all of us towards positive success. We hope you take part in the discussion.

-CircuitBored

CircuitBored

Music and Social Media that will survive...

7 years 8 months ago

Technology has revolutionized the world. Its no surprise that people who vowed to never use a cell phone now can't manage to live without one. I am amazed when I can create a musical composition and then within minutes of its creation, I can upload it to one site, http://www.soundcloud.com/winterman, to get immediate feedback on the composition from friends in my music community. With that same one post, my SoundCloud page updates the music player on my own web site, and is also linked to my Twitter Account and Facebook page, < a href="http://www.facebook.com/ruffandtuff">http://www.facebook.com/ruffandtuff, to provide status updates letting my community of friends and listeners know about the new tune.

I know that all sounds great, but on the other hand, I often find myself "spread thin" with Social Media sites. Upon posting a successful song that I have created [for example], I get response and review emails from a network of people on several different sites similar to getting 10,000 people calling you on the phone at the same time on 4 different phones. The result of 10,000 people calling you at the same time is that [if the technology works properly] 1 person actually gets through to you, and the other 9,999 callers get voice mail, or are put on hold. An unfortunate downside to 9,999 people getting your voice mail, is that some begin to develop the idea that you don't care enough to "make yourself available" to them any more. This consequence happens for each of us that uses technology. This concept involves people who were your closest friends and family, as well as people who have continually monitored your work faithfully for months, and possibly years. Without taking an enormous amount of your valuable time to create separate user/group accounts on social network sites for each group of friends you have, prioritizing becomes key. Managing your work/life equation has added a new dimension, and humans, as resilient as we are, will need to adjust accordingly to this new world.

Now me, I'm figuratively a "beach bum", I could do without a cell phone altogether in some other far away "alternate reality". If I lived in a different type of community where I wasn't a web designer, or where I didn't make digital music, or love watching new movies, or playing video games, and chatting with friends on those other continents, things in that alternate place would be just fine. Therein lies the contradiction, and at the core of it all lies tough decisions. The decision of how to create a more simple life for myself by simplifying my technological needs and creating personal time away from technology.

I've spent a good amount of time in the past 3-100 years on social networking sites, having a cell phone that enabled me to check those sites made it a bit easier, but created even more "attentive engagement" to, and dependence on, those social networking sites. By creating my own site[s] with complete control over the information I want to share; now no one knows what "color of boxers I just bought at Macy's!" or who I've just added as "a friend" [or wife], because I am the only one who controls my "post processes".

We have to constantly be reminded of the failures in "social community sites" because they are often owned by companies that both need to and seek to maximize their profits. Social network sites often put [stopping user-to-user] spam on the bottom of their priority list because users spamming each other keeps those same users online longer, while they have to delete each of those spam messages one by one. We all know about the current state of MySpace, and the glory from which it fell, and spam lead to its demise as the most common complaint from users. I haven't logged on in months and I fear what my in-box looks like. But better yet, looking back on the overall experience, I don't miss it. Why are we so hooked on Facebook when its becoming the exact same experience more and more each day? Because we don't have our own web sites.

Functions that seemed "so useful" to you when you first signed up or started a profile on modern social networking sites disappear once you are hooked, and social community sites eventually become "cattle farms" for spam, ads, and everyone being "ignored". These social networking sites start out with the intentions of wanting to be your "friend" and then change to wanting to grab the attention of your "friends" away from you towards their marketing. In the process of then scrambling to find a way to generate money on a failing idea, company owned social network sites make desperate attempts to woo back their users by integrating new user features, but by that point, its too late. Some social networking sites betray the trust or privacy of their users as well, leading to their demise, for example, if you post pictures of yourself, friends, or family members and your house on a social network now, in 20 years if you become someone notable these pictures can come back to haunt you, not only because your friends may have saved them, but because the social network sites you were on back then detailed in your user agreements that they also "had rights to anything you upload".

A great social networking site right now for musicians, is SoundCloud.Com. I enjoy SoundCloud immensely right now, I upload my music there and see waveforms directly on the screen for each song. I integrate the players into my own web site and on facebook so that I can still check my SoundCloud page without having to actually "go there". By making music the focal point of their site, and allowing their content to be share freely on other sites, SoundCloud.Com is growing rapidly towards being the number one social networking site for independent online music promotion. YouTube for a long time now has followed a similar model of open-sourced/shared hosting to great success, while many other video providers that did not use the model failed miserably. Youtube has more recently begun to add commercials and overlaid advertisements to some videos, and they now disabled embedding [placing videos on non-YouTube sites] to the disapproval of many.

The future for music online has always been in developing a marketing presence and brand that one can control, but "sharing" with others to add viral cross-promotion is always a winner on the web. Even an empty Coca-Cola bottle, laying on the street [though of course you shouldn't litter], is still promoting Coca-Cola! Lets learn from our mistakes by starting and supporting new social networking sites that work for people [without taking advantage of cheap tactics] and lets not forget that the supporters and audiences are the key to site longevity in every point as our sites grow!

CircuitBored
Checked
17 hours 57 minutes ago
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