Tag Archives: Amazon

AI In Our Time?

AI (Artificial Intelligence) development has reached a major milestone: a machine that’s truly capable of learning on its own.

Google (or rather ‘Alphabet’ as the parent company is now known as) uses a comprehensive model / layout different from what has been developed before in the rapidly developing field of AI, developing its own version of AI – a machine known as ‘Deep Mind’. What Alphabet has done is to take the storage of conventional computers, and link them with a neural network capable of ‘parsing’ out the data, determining what is relevant and what is not in tars of problem solving.

This has often been the challenge of ‘learning machines’: determining what is junk and what isn’t. Now, working with a neural network and accessing large amounts of data, the AI model can more quickly access and sort through what would be ‘good’ data versus ‘bad’ data.

Neural networks aren’t new; they’ve been around for some time (see this article about neural networks to learn more: https://www.scribd.com/document/112086324/The-Ready-Application-of-Neural-Networks). Like a typical human brain, neural networks uses ‘nodes’ to activate specific points needed to solve a problem. In the case of Alphabet, the AI is streamlining itself to find the quickest route to solve a problem. And, as with a human brain, in time the AI will use the data obtained to become more efficient at finding the right answer to problems, growing in greater efficiency and ‘learning’ how to learn.

Or another way of putting it: ‘Deep Mind’ derives solutions based on prior experience, recovering the correct answer(s) from its internal memory on its own, rather than from human conditioning and direct programming and then proceeds based on its own ‘experience’.

Sounds awfully familiar, doesn’t it?

‘Deep Mind’, the AI which Google / Alphabet has been developing, was recently able to beat a human at the game of ‘Go’; no easy feat to do as the number of possible choices for each individual ‘stone’ playing piece being placed on the board – and the subsequent patterns thereafter – numbers in the millions, far more than the number of choices and the impacts from each individual choice/move a traditional Chess game can offer.

So combining Google’s vast database of files and server warehouses located internationally, linked to a neural network and overseen by a rudimentary form of AI, Google / Alphabet now has a machine capable of learning on its own.

The next step would be to pair a quantum computer to a network layout similar to what is described here – but then again, Amazon is already working on that.

Still got quite a ways to go, but singularity is looming ever closer.

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The Age of Alexa

 

As a birthday gift for my daughters, Flora and Cora, their grandfather purchased for them an Amazon Echo (aka “Alexa”).

If you’re not familiar, the Amazon Echo / Alexa is a voice command controlled free-standing computer (with a nice speaker system to boot!) that links with your wireless network. Measuring some 9.3 inches with a circumference of 3.3 inches, Alexa can just about fit anywhere. In addition, it looks attractive (in a manner of speaking) and readily plugs into a regular wall outlet for power (it connects to your wireless network; no wired connections are required). With some adjustments and minimal amount of programming (took me all of 15 minutes to get it going) you’ll be able to give direct voice commands. Alexa can either answer your inquiries or (depending on your set up) control the lights in your house, control your thermostat, give you automatic news and sports updates as well as tell you the weather, your commuting time or even where the nearest restaurant (down to the type – Belgium ale house, Indian, Chinese, etc.) is to your house.

But doing a little research and experimentation, Alexa can do a lot more – and not just for your home (more on this in a moment).

As an old-timer, I’m amazed at this recent technological development if for no reason than I can appreciate what’s involved. First off, I’ve been working with voice command / recognition software since it first came out back in the 1990’s: things have come a long way. Used to be you had to spend about an hour just to ‘train’ the software/computer to recognize your voice (what with your inflections, accents, voice idioms, etc.) and then more time spent on getting it to do what you wanted it to do – open files, do basic computer commands, etc. And even then, it was rarely perfect: if you were hitting 95% accuracy, you were down great.

With Alexa, there was no hesitation: no training. Alexa was out of the box and running down the road in mere minutes.

Damn; that’s powerful.

No matter who you are, so long as you speak the language that it’s set for, it’ll respond. So literally out of the box, I and both my daughters were taking and using Alexa. Even now, my guests – upon visiting – now ask Alexa for the weather or for sport scores, along with local news as a matter of course, just as they would ask anyone else.

But aside from Alexa being able to give you a host of information – such as cooking recipes, bartending (excuse me, “Mixology”) recipes for drinks or for random facts (‘on this date,…’), with some adjustments and hardware / interface additions, Alexa can water your lawn, control /monitor your house alarms.

Sometimes, amusing situations can arise – such as when my younger daughter asked “Alexa: how old is the Earth?”

Alexa replied “The Earth is 5.35 Billion years old.”

“I knew it! Those people who keep saying that the Earth is only 7,000 years old don’t know what they’re talking about!”

So it’s all fun and games, right?

Not when you check out the IFTTT page for Alexa (IFTT – “If / then” user programming routines). Alexa comes with an ability for folks to program basic interface commands enabling users to link Alexa to various apps and also create routines. Want something done automatically? With a little bit of simple programming, anyone can make their Alexa do things automatically and with a mere voice command.

The potential for Alexa can go beyond just a cool item for the average household: the potential for business applications is also well worth considering. Aside from stock indexes, one could create business services and routines both for the average user and for the business / service end of things. Already, there are ‘recipes’ for users to link to their Evernote and Todoiast, along with dictating short emails (sending them out) or dictating voice message for your Skype. As one example, I can set up and schedule calendar events on my Google calendar just by using my voice – and it’ll appear on all of my calendars (phone, computer, etc. simultaneously).

I would not be surprised to see businesses – especially those who profess the notion of being ‘lean and mean’ – installing Echoes in their offices as means to better streamline operations (not to mention that Echoes could also be of good use for non-profit and governmental agencies as well).

In a manner of speaking, although this is not exactly new technology, the way it’s being recast is nothing short of remarkable. It shouldn’t surprise anyone that the Echo came from Amazon. After all, as I had previously written, Amazon and the United States Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) have been quietly working together for seveal years now, with Amazon’s in-house computer network now being the repository of the CIA’s records – and ground zero for a development project based in Vancouver, Canada for true AI (Artificial Intelligence) development (https://shockwaveriderblog.wordpress.com/2012/10/11/the-cia-and-jeff-bezos-working-together-for-our-the-future/) utilizing quantum computing. Feel free to read my past posting on this subject matter: it’s well worth the read and helps one to better appreciate what’s taking place now.

I cannot help but wonder if Alexa is but one minor result  / spin-off from that ongoing effort. And granted, Alexa may sound awesome and smart, but it’s certainly not about to pass the Turing Test.

If Alexa is any indication, we are indeed entering a new age  – the Age of Alexa.

The War on the SEO Front

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Silent and deadly, they work.  Relentlessly; non-stop and without rest.

They are international – or they could be local and/or regional.

The Robots. The Scammers. The Haters.

These are but a select few of many variations inhabiting the realm of social media; and they are rarely – if ever – your friends.

In time, as your social media presence grows so too does attention to you and who you are. Sometimes, it could be mass marketers looking to expand their client base – or they could view you as somebody to sell possible leads, franchise opportunities or market specific services such as business associations based upon your religious or social beliefs.

On the flip side there could be scammers, creating false personalities and attempting to learn more about you so as to steal from you. This is nothing new and often happens on such sites as LinkedIn or Facebook, whereby a picture of somebody is uploaded and a false identity complete with schools attended, places worked and personal interests – all of it created to lull you into joining and linking up with them. Once done, they now have better access to you and your social sites, finding out more about you and your associations and connection and in time, depending upon their interests, gaining more information to steal from you and/or use aginst you.

Other times, some will even go so far as to create a mirror site of yourself, sneaking in and getting the acceptance and connections from your friends and contacts without their knowing it’s really not you they’re talking to. This happens more often than many realize; next time, be on the lookout from folks who send out notifications about somebody doing this kind of identity theft.

And then there are the dedicated few – the angry ones or outright vicious mercenaries – the Haters. The Haters are out to destroy you and your reputation. Sometimes it’s all part of a greater scheme – say, corporate warfare. Dragging somebody or an entity into the mud with false statements and innuendo, even going so far as to create entire fake news sites and (sometimes) utilizing them to nefarious ends – and perhaps under the banner of ‘satire’ (one such classic site is that of “abcnews.com.co”. To many internet uses, it would appear to be the site of ABC News but in fact is not, and often it’s satire has resulted in some interesting results: witness the false news report about the NCAA pulling out of North Carolina). Other times it could be candidates and groups of angry people who are attacking public figures during election cycles, or professional associations not happy with their workplace bosses and place of employment.  Another classic example is the now infamous “whitehouse.com” (and not the “Whitehouse.gov”) – with people clicking on it thinking they’re going to the Washington, D.C. White House, only to find they’ve been re-directed to a porn site (as of this writing, this is no longer the case).

But other aproaches impact in other ways – witness, for example, “Tmobile”. Type “Tmobile” in a Google search sometime and see what happens: you’ll get, at the top of the list, a site known as “http://tmobile.pissedconsumer.com”, complete with a litany of complaints and attacks against Tmobile Corporation.Whoever manages and owns the domain and website cannot be readily found as the domain where this site resides is held by a ‘proxy’ – under a privacy cover.  And what’s more, they not only have the “.COM”, but also “.NET”, “.ORG” and “.INFO”. Which may, in part, explain why this specific site has a 94% SEO ranking: it’s popular and thus it will continue to have a high ‘hit rate’. But unfortunately, it cannot be good for business with Tmobile and to many, it’s not going to be easy to find out who’s sponsoring this site for all anyone may know, it may not be a group of unhappy consumers, but could be managed by one or more of Tmobile’s competitors.

One can only imagine how some folks at the Tmobile Corporation feel.

Now take this example at a more personal level.

Say you undergo a bad divorce, a dispute with a business partner or you’re involved in a nasty lawsuit. What better way to get back at somebody and hurt them but to attack their online reputation with negative information, malicious websites, or even go so far as to create other false sites with the intent to state negative or satiric news (sometimes the worst thing you can do to somebody is to mock them)? Think about it: what better way to help influence a future trial date but to get some negative information about your legal opponent?

Not to sound paranoid, but it happens more often than people realize – and it’s very, very easy to do.

What to do?

  1. Your best defense is a good offense. Get your name and positive reputation out there before others do, but also take control of your name – specifically, domain names. If you’re “Joseph Smith” then depending on who you are or what who you do, it may be worthwhile to spend the couple of dollars to get your name with a .COM, .NET, .ORG and a .INFO. Doesn’t mean you operate a website on those domain names (although it couldn’t hurt); what it does mean is that you’ve secured your name for yourself, and not for somebody else to obtain and go about dragging your name in the mud.
  2. Continue practicing good SEO by posting things about yourself on a regular, constant basis. Content is kind and the more you put out about yourself, the better control you are of your own reputation (for more on this, see prior postings on this subject).
  3. Don’t connect with just anyone; choose your connections wisely. See who your potential connections are connected with. Confirm they’re real; sometimes doing a reverse picture lookup is a good idea: confirm that there are indeed a real person, and not just someone else’s pictures.
  4. Get into the routine of checking up on your various sites and posting new items. Don’t get carried away: just 15 or 20 minutes a day is usually good for most people. (for larger entities, you may want to consider contracting this work out to SEO professionals. Rates can vary, but you’d be surprised how cheap this can be).

There are many other approaches, practices and routines; we’ve only just skimmed the surface.

An ounce of prevention is worth several  pounds of cure. Depending on your needs and concerns, spend some time setting up your plan and your approach – and get to work. The time, planning and effort you spend securing your internet reputation now will more than pay you back in dividends.

 

Understanding Social Media Ranking

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We discussed the power of your name and the importance of controlling your internet presence; now let’s look at the social media platforms by which you will do this.

There are a multitude of internet social sites, varying from a wide range of interests and focus. Your mission, however, is simple: finding the most prominent social media sites to establish your internet presence, enabling you to more readily ‘spread out’ and develop a greater internet impact. Remember: consistency across your social media platforms is vital. Your information about yourself should be consistent – as best as you can – with what you’re saying in all of your sites. Additionally, how you list your name should also be consistent as well (i.e., ‘Joe Smith’ is not necessarily the same as ‘Joseph Smith’).

Some of these sites are self-evident in their purpose and how they present you, the user – Facebook, for instance. But each site varies in their approach and their approaches of what they want you, the user, to employ. Thus, we’ll look more into the aspects of ‘traffic’ and presenting yourself in a way that’ll ensure greater internet presence.

It Not Just About the Number of Users,…

…it’s really about the amount of traffic and what drives that traffic. Sure, some sites can have a lot of users, but it’s more than just users which count. Understanding how ‘Alexa’ and traffic ranking works is very important.

Alexa Internet, Inc. is a California – based company providing commercial web traffic data and analytics. It is a wholly owned subsidiary of Amazon.com. Founded as an independent company in 1996, Alexa was acquired by Amazon in 1999. Alexa is an industry standard service utilized by many to determine internet traffic ranking, and thus knowing a sites Alexa ranking is important in terms of understanding any social media sites ranking.

Alexa’s traffic estimates and ranks are based on the browsing behavior of people in Alexa’s “global data panel” – which basically is an active sampling of all internet users. Alexa’s ranks are based on the traffic data provided by users in Alexa’s global data panel over a rolling 3 month period. Alexa ranks are updated daily, with a given site’s ranking based on a combined measure of Unique Visitors and Pageviews. Unique Visitors are determined by the number of unique Alexa users who visit a site on a given day. Pageviews are the total number of Alexa user URL requests for a site.

Bear in mind, however, multiple requests for the same URL on the same day by the same user are counted as a single Pageview (so clicking on your very own sites from your home computer all the time doesn’t count).

With Alexa, the site with the highest combination of unique visitors and pageviews is ranked #1 – but also importantly, it’s not just the number of users alone a social media site has that counts.

So clicking on the below link, we look at the top social media sites on the internet:

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Viewing the chart we see the usual top-level social media sites – Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, Tumblr, Instagram, Reddit, etc.

But note this: in terms of Alexa ranking, the top fifteen social media sites are not as strong as they appear to be, emphasizing an important point: if you really want to get at the top in terms of getting successful hits, you need to produce fresh content.

Content Is King

Ultimately the biggest factor determining one’s internet presence is content: new material will beat out repeated stories clicked over and over. In the long run, regurgitating the same old story over and over will lessen interest and lower your ranking (this is not to be confused with how you describe yourself on your various social media sits: your bio is constant and although its good idea to review and update). It’s primarily what you post on your accounts which drive interest. Get into the habit of posting something on your social media sites on a regular basis, no matter how small it may be – an occasional Tweet, comment, maybe even moving up to a blog – can make a big difference bulding and defining your internet presence.

Thus, to help your ranking you need to do the following:

  1. Codify your name and make it consistent.
  2. Develop a good bio; generally, the rule of thumb is that it should be no less than 300 words. Don’t have much to say? You’ll figure out. One trick is to also insert your name within the body of the bio (just make sure it matches your user name). Often, writing in the third person, although a little strange for some, is also a great way to have your bio presented.
  3. Connect the dots – i.e., if given the option to link with other social media sites (preferably those you already have a presence on) do so. This will create your ‘web of presence’ on the Internet. Interconnecting your social media sites make for a far stronger internet presence and will sure better control for you to determine the direction you want your Internet presence to go.
  4. Post, write, update. Some things on Facebook you’ll want to keep amongst your friends, but every so often it’s good to post something ‘Public’ as it’ll get picked up by search engines. Likewise, posting on LinkedIn, Twitter or writing an occasional blog are excellent ways of creating live content, and thus drawing more positive attention – and traffic – to you.

The Internet is not something to fear or avoid; rather, it’s an opportunity to control how you appear and what you offer to prospective buyers, employers, your professional peers both nationally and internationally or developing new contacts. For some, social media can be a nuisance and a bother; it’s your choice. But in today’s world it’s best to consider controlling what aspects of your person and who you are. Who you are on the Internet increasingly plays a bigger role than many realize; ignoring the Internet is often done at one’s peril. Who knows what comes up about her whenever somebody does an Internet search; better to define that for yourself before something or someone else does. Besides, what better way then to put your best foot forward?

 

Cutting the Cord (Part II)

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The numbers don’t lie: more and more folks are canceling their cable / FIOs / satellite services. As the above chart so notes (http://techgage.com/news/cord-cutting-not-slowing-down-decline-of-cable-tv-subscribers-continues/) the slide is gradually growing, particularly in light of faster internet being more readily available – a development which was also recently noted in the Wall Street Journal:

http://online.wsj.com/articles/getting-rid-of-cable-tv-the-smartest-ways-to-cut-the-cord-1405472757?mod=rss_Technology

Likewise, in response to the number of readers contacting the WSJ following publication of their article on this very subject matter, the WSJ followed up with a (rather) brief response in their blog answering just a few basic questions:

http://blogs.wsj.com/personal-technology/2014/07/18/cutting-the-cable-cord-answers-to-your-questions/

Clearly, this is a revolution in the making; a growing mainstream of folks are dropping out and tuning in through other means – and doing so doesn’t require you holding a Master’s in Computer Science or advanced technology. For additional discussion on approaches, here’s one helpful site worth reading if you’re in doubt as to which direction you should consider:

http://www.steve-oh-mg.com/streaming-television-revolution-confessions-of-a-cord-cutter/

And if you’re still in some doubt, here’s another helpful site for the novice cable cutter worth checking out:

http://www.tomsguide.com/us/cord-cutting-guide,news-17928.html

Mind you, it’s a growing market. Amazon, Roku and naturally Apple are all veying for this fast growing cable cutting market segment (for the record, I use Apple TV; just my choice) – so much so that now there’s even a growing developer’s middle market – as witnessed by this sample site:

http://skystreamx.com/cutting-cable-android-tv-box/

And lastly, concurrent with this trend is the growing realization users also have free access to digital TV stations – a fact that many are not fully aware of. In a nutshell, the FCC mandates duly licensed television stations to broadcast not only in their standard / regular VHF range, but also in a variety of upper frequency digital TV broadcast ranges. Many viewers are not aware of the fact that there’s a plethora of free TV routinely being  broadcast 24 x 7.  Below is a very helpful website worth checking out (it’s free) that’ll give you the lowdown on what digital (free) stations are readily broadcasting in your immediate area and what your options are – i.e., whether or not you could be served by an indoor or outdoor antennae, and what direction you’d need to point the antennae toward:

http://www.tvfool.com

Let’s face it: the traditional way of watching TV is changing; channel surfing is morphing into a more direct, focused effort of watching TV. Considering the numbers of channels the typical users gets through their subscriptions balanced against the cost of such services, people are fooled into thinking they’re getting their moneys worth by continuing utilizing the traditional cable / FIOs / satellite services; financial reality says otherwise. Consider: add into the equation the amount of time you spend watching each and every channel you’re paying for you’ll find that it’s a loss for the average consumer – a waste of money.  Think of it this way:

Number of channels / (divided by) Monthly cable bill x (times) Number of minutes spent on each channel

So, let’s say you have 500 channels that you’re paying $150.00 per month; this would come to a $3.30 per channel monthly cost.  Multiply this figure by the number of minutes you watch for any of the channels you watch (to do it right, do a spreadsheet and lay out all of your channel line ups, note how many minutes per month you watch each and every channel you’re paying for and total it up).

Chances are the vast majority of those channels are going to be listed as “0” minutes spent – and therein lies the inherent problem intrinsic with TV subscription services: you’re wasting your money paying for channels you’re simply not watching. Gee, it may be nice to offer you all these channels at seemingly low competitive rates, but are you going to really watch all that?

This is how the traditional cable / FIOs / satellite services work: you’re subsidizing the majority of channels by paying a premium for those select specific channels you tend to view more often; this is necessary as these select channels would likely not be able to exist without these subsidies. This is all well and good, but ask yourself: is your viewing practices offering a true balance between what you’re paying for and what you’re watching?

It all comes down to what and how you use your television.  So ask yourself: what are your viewing practices? Here’s what you do (and it’s rather easy and surprisingly revealing): do a viewing log. Mark down the following every time you turn on the tube:

the channel you’re watching;

the show you’re watching;

how long you’ve watch that show on that specific channel;

Repeat.

Do this for a month and see for yourself. Once you’ve done this ask yourself: are you getting your money’s worth from your TV subscription services?

Given how much it costs per month, you could be looking at anywhere from $1,800 to $2,400 per year you’re paying out for something you’re not really fully using.  Add up over several years and you’ll find yourself paying out serious money for something you’re not fully using.

The Party’s Over: It’s A New Generation Now

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And so the fallout from Edward Snowden continues. As the saga draws on (is he about to become a Russian citizen or not?) we overlook the bigger story: the Internet, as we know it, is dead.

As reported in The Guardian, the Internet is facing several inexorable trends: balkanization along nationalistic lines, the outreach of governments and outright commercial control.

When first instituted, the Internet was regarded as an open, totally free place of informational exchange: an ‘Interzone’ of sorts (to coin William Gibson) but now as time marches on, this is no longer accurate. Now, China and other nations routinely censor and control input and output of Internet access: Twitter is throttled, Google is curbed along with a host of other outlets. In some nations, the notion of a free and open Internet is practically banned outright, while in the so-called bastions of freedom (United States, Great Britain and Western Europe as a whole) internet surveillance is now the norm.

In the meantime, we’re starting to see pricing schemes reflective of the (overlooked) class system: if you want more Internet access (or more speed / faster access) you can expect to pay more for it. Libraries both domestically and internationally are facing cutbacks and thus limiting even more access for those who do not possess a computer, while premiums are being put in place on those who wish to participate on the so-called medium of ‘free exchange’.

In John Naughton’s excellent article, “Edward Snowden’s Not the Story. The Fate of the Internet Is” (http://www.theguardian.com/technology/2013/jul/28/edward-snowden-death-of-internet) these issues were illustrated with a striking clarity.

And if you think you’re safe reading this article, better start changing the way you think. Of course, there’s the old chestnut: if you’re doing nothing wrong, then there’s nothing to worry about.

Wrong.

People make mistakes, especially in government, law enforcement and the military. It’s not too uncommon for wrongful arrests to take place; false accusations to spread or outright misunderstandings to take place leaving in the wake of ruined lives, reputations and personal financial disasters.

And now, as recently reported by Glenn Greenwald, low-level NSA (National Security Agency) employees can readily access emails, phone records and other information. (Really? No kidding!) So if you’re a file clerk who happens to be working for the NSA, you can review your family, friends or neighbors phone records, internet trolling history or other information (such as keeping tabs on that girl who dumped you last month).

If you just happen to be involved in a domestic dispute or a lawsuit with a government or corporate entity, expect to see your records accessed and reviewed as a matter of course.

It’s obvious ‘file access’ of these and other types routinely take place in various levels of government within the United States beyond just the federal levels. Sometimes, data accessed is utilized for political purposes: somebody running for office seeking out information about their worthy adversary. Other times, it’s for personal reason: divorce, outright personal hostility and an agenda of revenge. Don’t think it can’t happen: it does – and it happens more often than folks care to admit, taking place beyond just the federal level as well. Local governments and their officials have increasingly been caught reviewing private citizen records, through such supposedly secure information bases as NCIC (National Crime Information Center), credit history lookups, billing histories along with a host of other sources.

But what is remarkable is the lack of public response. You’d think with Glenn Greenwald’s recent expose, they’d be a bigger outcry. In fact, just the opposite: we’re witnessing a generational change. What was once a sacred domain – privacy – is now becoming a thing of the past. Younger generations are surrendering their privacy in a multitude of ways – putting up pictures of their ‘lost’ weekend  on Facebook; running commentary and personal attacks on social boards; personal commentary depicting their sexual activity or other ‘personal ‘ issues on their Twitter accounts – the list goes on.

Although privacy is still a sore point with a number of folks, the younger generation coming up are akin to those old timers who lived during the atomic age: expecting a blow up to happen, the atomic age generation held a diffident viewpoint of life with an expectation of being blown up at some point. Now, in the age of Big Brother, the younger generation is becoming inured to the notion of being watched 24 x 7, going about their business and even posting some of their more intimate scenes in public settings because, well, that’s what a lot of people do.

This one of the fallout of living in the Age of Surveillance: one becomes used to being watched and, in fact, embraces it to the point where they simply let it all hang out. Expecting our records to be reviewed and exposed is something many now expect. Sure, folks aren’t thrilled by it, but what are you gonna do about it? – so goes the argument.

All of this is bad enough, but add into the mix the notion of AI (Artificial Intelligence) and bizarre (disturbing) alliances – such as the CIA (Central Intelligence Agency) and Amazon coming together (see my prior post on this development), along with Google’s all-out effort’s to develop AI (likewise posting earlier), things are taking on a darker trend: it will soon be more than just being able to read your information, but actually read who you are – and what you’re really about, even if you don’t know yourself.

Prediction: expect to see Internet profiling to become the new norm. Just as we’ve witnessed the distasteful practice of racial profiling undertaking by State law enforcement officials on the national highways, we can expect to see something similar taking place in the coming years via our records, our book and music purchases along with any other activity we undertake.

So next time, if you can, remember to bend over and give the camera a moon; we all could use a laugh.

Let’s all give the AI’s something to mull over.

The Office is Dead: Long Live The Virtual Office

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Marissa Meyer may differ, but we here at Shockwaveriderblog Control Center see the future (as we usually do) – and it’s going to be about low overhead, effective exploitation of technology and greater competitive response.

Whoa, that’s a mouthful; let’s take it through one step at a time.

Welcome to the Realm of the Virtual Office: lean, mean and fast.

This isn’t just about telecommuting (which is old hat anyhow) it’s about saving money, greater response to client needs and all within the context of a secure and ubiquitous records / file service.

The office, as we know it is dead. To be certain, there will always been some operations which will require the obligatory cubicle farms but increasingly, the more successful business folk are those who are able to be more responsive, keep their costs low while yet be able to work their clients, balancing the necessities of picking up their kids from school while maintaining a family household.

Let’s take one sector where the Virtual Office is starting to make serious inroads and have significant impact: law.

Whenever one thinks of law, one thinks of either a) dry, musty offices with tons of obscure legal books, clustered desks, overflowing fax machines and the vague tinge of week old coffee hanging in the air – or b) law office’s ala LA Law – modern flowing offices with smart / spiffy people talking with serious overtones hanging out in court, and then going back to their cluttered desks with bookshelves overflowing with obscure legal books and computers overwhelmed with unanswered emails (well, back in the days of LA Law, they didn’t have email, but you get the idea) and stale coffee.

Who says that it has to be this way any more?

This was a point brought up by Ms. Chelsey Lambert, founder of Virtual Law (http://www.totalattorneys.com) – and well worth considering: “let’s face it; many of the functions that attorneys do nowadays can be readily done remotely and within the context of a secure and responsive environment.”

It’s probably no coincidence that Virtual law or the online delivery of legal services has taken off just at a time when “The Cloud” is now a concept readily embraced by more and more users, both corporate and governmental (witness the Central Intelligence Agency’s move to adopt Amazon’s new cloud storage system as a means to store their own records – for more on this, see my prior blog on this development).

Hey, if it’s good enough for what is arguably the world’s biggest and among the most powerful intelligence services, then why not for your local neighborhood attorney?

Well, except for some states, as Ms. Lambert points out: ‘some places are slow to adopt this new approach – such as New Jersey – but overall, the response among states has been overwhelming and proves that this concept has legs.’ Indeed – and if legs were any indication, this concept of a Virtual Law Office would be akin to an Olympic sprinter after drinking a barrel of expresso. In the past several years, more and more offices are adopting this approach as it returns back to the notion of what an attorney / professional is: it is the person, not the office, which defines the skill set.

Sure, it’s helpful to have an office and a place to dump your junk (so to speak) every once in a while, but when you consider the advantages that a person well-armed with a good, solid laptop, ready Internet access along with good cup of coffee (or tea) that’s really all we’re talking about (that and a competent attorney!).

In the past five years, we’ve witnessed the explosion of iPhone / smartphones; laptops reaching over 1 Gg in storage capacity and tremendous processing speed along with the growing prevalence of wireless access (much of it increasingly free). We’re not just talking about low overhead and a greater response on behalf of the client, we’re talking about a quiet revolution taking place that’s going to impact mainstream businesses everywhere – and in the process may very well go far in stimulating the economy.

And best of all, with this approach, you can have your business and your family, as adopters of this approach are able to work within the context of their lives – which brings up another significant point: the majority of folks making this possible are women. As Ms. Lambert puts it so aptly:

I’d also like to point out that a very rare occurrence happened above. FEMALE attorneys are advancing the legal profession by leaps and bounds. A glimmer of hope within a notoriously male dominated industry is igniting the passion of female lawyers across the country. For the first time, they have the ability to go out on their own, with minimal overhead, work a schedule that accommodates their family, and earn a living from wherever they choose to work.

To give you a better idea what this means, in one example, an attorney residing in North Carolina are practicing law in Texas.

Think about the implication of what this could mean for other industries and for the labor force and the open market as a whole and you’ll start to see the implications.

Growing up in a single parent household, I recall the trials that my mother went through, working in the day and going to night school to learn and attain a skill set which enable her to both improve herself and our living standard: somehow, I’m not surprised that this development is taking place by women – or, as I would suggest, ‘necessity is often made by a mother of invention.’

To learn more about this remarkable and overlooked trend, check out these links below:

Rachel Rodgers, Esq.
Rachel Rodgers Law (Virtual Business Law Practice) http://www.rachelrodgerslaw.com/
Her Virtual Law Office (VLO Consulting Practice) http://hervirtuallawoffice.com/
Fast Company’s latest article –https://ad122.infusionsoft.com/app/linkClick/4003/10c1a41ed98c5ac5/13905/e44c955f2fc8cdc8

Rania Combs, Esq.
Texas Wills & Trusts Online – http://www.texaswillsandtrustslaw.com/
Forbes – http://www.forbes.com/sites/hanisarji/2011/05/05/an-estate-planners-virtual-law-office/

Stephanie Kimbro, Esq.
Original co-founder of VLO Tech, purchased by Total Attorneys in 2009.
virtuallawpractice.org

‘The Big Four’
These are the four leading Legal Cloud Computing / Virtual Law Practice Providers. Each provide a complete client portal, time tracking, billing and various other tools specifically designed to support a virtual client relationship & secure online delivery of legal services.

Clio

MyCase

Rocket Matter

Total Attorneys

Special thanks to Chelsey Lambert for helping out in this article! For more, check out Ms. Lambert’s profile which includes contact information: www.linkedin.com/in/chelseylambert/