Tag Archives: Internet

So You Think It Doesn’t Matter if Your Browser History is Made Readily Available? Better Seriously Think Again.

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By now the word is getting around how House and Senate Republicans voted and approved the removal of privacy regulations regarding consumer / citizen browsing history. Now that your privacy has been removed, folks are asking ‘what does this mean?’ or simply remixing indifferent, saying ‘so what?’ while others say; ‘they already can get this information.’

No, they couldn’t.

Prior to this regulation being removed you possessed a far greater degree of privacy. Police could, by way of a court order or proper legal process, access your browser history but now that private corporations can access your history directly without your approval, its open season (and btw: police likely will no longer need to have a court order to access your private browsing history now that regulations have been removed – just saying).

Here are just SOME of the likely immediate impacts:

  • Accessing your history means for better marketing and targeting on the part of private companies. Folks seeing that you’re researching for specific items or services will create targeted online ads far better (Facebook, or social media sites aside) then before. Think it’s unsettling now that those Facebook ads keep popping up regarding those websites you’ve just visited? You ain’t seen nothing yet!
  • Insurance companies and your employers can view your history without your knowledge, seeing how you’re looking at sites regarding certain diseases and act on the assumption that you have such a disease – and either deny you insurance courage or simply fire you from your job without telling you why.
  • Looking for a new job? Your employer can now access your browsing history and likewise fire you from your job – and again, without really telling you why you were fired.
  • Looking at ‘naughty’ sites? If you’re closeted sexually, this could be the ‘kiss of death’ for your career.
  • Doing some reading or study about banned countries? Government officials could place you on a watch list, monitoring your movements without your realization, perhaps even denying you your passport application if you wished to travel abroad.
  • Involved in a court / legal action? Better watch where you go and what your browser has: it could come up against you in your court action, with opposing counsel using this information against you in your legal action.
  • Are you an attorney? There’s nothing preventing your opponents from seeking what kind defense or offense you’re formulating in the course of trying a case.
  • It wouldn’t be too much of a reach to state that with growing governmental sentiment, folks involved with certain public groups, reading publications and websites deemed as anti-governmental could also be targeted. Think this is paranoid thinking? Know your history; this wouldn’t be the first time this kind of thing happened – and now with the removal of your browser search privacy, it’s made all the more easier.
  • And if this isn’t bad enough, this also includes where you are. Geocoding – mapping the location of where you post / conduct your Internet accessing – is also a growing issue as pricing for items and/or services can vary based upon where you are accessing the Internet. Some folks in certain zip codes pay more for products and services then others; now that your privacy protections have been removed, some can expect to pay more depending on where they are.

In the long run, privacy within an open society is not a contradiction: it is a necessity. Without certain safeguards and practices, we won’t have the confidence we feel to express our opinions without having to be defensive and fearful. The removal of privacy only encourages fear and intimidation within a Democracy, while enabling private entities to pocket ever more profit at your cost.

And by the way: this includes your iPhones / Androids / Tablets as well.

It’s now all totally open.

You are now naked on the Internet.

There are, however, viable cost-effective steps you can take to better protect yourself while continuing to live your life and remain confident in being who you are without having some nosy nitwit looking over your shoulder; we’ll discuss those shortly in the next round here at Shockwaverider.

 

How An AI Defines Customers

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Recently, in the Business Insider, a story spoke about how a Japanese Advertising agency hired an AI (see above picture) to do an ad campaign (http://www.businessinsider.com/mccann-japans-ai-creative-director-creates-better-ads-than-a-human-2017-3).

Surprising, it was rather successful.

The inventor, Shun Matsuzaka, “wanted to create the world’s first AI creative director, capable of directing a TV commercial”.

He did it. But before you can say “holy crap!” consider that the AI, like any electronically developed and programmed instrument, must be designed and have focus in order to do its job. You gotta tell it what to do and how to do it. So Matsuzaka’s team, “McCann Millennials” outlined two basic approaches necessary to capture an effective ad campaign:

The creative brief: The type of brand, the campaign goal, the target audience, and the claim the ad should make.

The elements of the TV ad: Including things such as tone, manner, celebrity, music, context, and the key takeout.

Confectionary corporation Mondelez took on the contract and hired the team’s AI, and so the contest was on. Selecting an industry expert to take on the challenge of creating a wining ad campaign against that of the McCann machine, the application approach was that the client was asked to fill out a form with all the elements they wanted to appear in the ad. The AI robot then scrambled the database for ideas (humans were required to actually produce the final creative).

The two spots would then be thrown to a nationwide poll, where consumers could vote for which ad they preferred.

The key phrase in which the ad was to revolve around was the following:

“Instant-effect fresh breath that lasts for 10 minutes.”

The winner?

Depends; 54% of the public participating in the vote voted for the human.

But for the ad executives, the AI won hands down. As the article stated: “when the 200-or-so advertising executives at the ISBA Conference were asked which they preferred, they voted for the crazy dog spot, directed by the robot. Clearly those advertising executives were not the target market for this particular campaign, but the experiment appeared to demonstrate just how creative — and funny — AI can be.”

Humor in AI?  Viewers familiar with science fiction will hear the common refrain that ‘robots can’t make people laugh.’ Guess that’s not the case anymore. Meantime, the McCann Millennials are at it again – this time, working on a “commercial database for the music industry to see if it can create the next pop smash hit.”

Somehow, I think  this latest project will be proved to be far easily for them to achieve.

(To see the ads, go to the link above and judge for yourself).

New Future Careers (A Slightly Cynical Overview)

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For quite some time, I’ve been reading a number of reports, white pages, books, blogs and whatnot about the future state of work. I’ve come to the conclusion it’s pretty much a crap shoot however you look at it. And so, like many others, I’d figure I’d give my insight into the future career development trends.

It used to be that there would always be jobs that could be considered ‘safe’ and ‘stable’. No more. With the constant and exponential advance of technology now becoming so prevalent, what were once considered safe careers are going to require – at the very last, some major revamping on some folks part, while other careers are going to – within the next 10 or 20 years – simply disappear. So how can you tell where things are going to go? What’s a good job to have now that’ll be there later on? Kind of a silly question when you think about it, especially when you consider that on average, a person can expect to hold anywhere from 3 to 5 CAREERS, let alone more than a dozen jobs – at a minimum – given today’s economy.

So,…

Want to know what jobs are really going to be hot? Where you should look to catch the next wave? Look no further and read here!

Let’s look into the crystal ball to see the future (we’re talking about 10 to 20 years; any more and it gets tricky).

And please, try not to laugh too hard, get shocked or disgusted: this is merely a ‘suggested listing. Take it or leave it as you please.
Professional Assassin

It’s a rough and tumble world: hiring somebody who can make ‘incidents’ look like accidents will truly be irreplaceable. This kind of work can be applicable to both the private and public world. Fort example, as elections become more demanding and costly, removing pesky political candidates seeking ‘meaningful’ change can be irritating if not upsetting to your electoral base; make it look like a heart attack or a car accident.

Similarly, working for that promotion can be so much easier when your competition suddenly chokes on their morning muffin or has that sudden heart attack at their local coffee place. When you think about it, if you could ‘eliminate’ your competition at the cost of a year’s salary knowing that you’ll be able to get it all back – and more – within two years (and depending on your career track, maybe even move up higher in the food chain) maybe the ROI (Return On Investment) is something to consider. Just remember to ask yourself if you can live with yourself afterwards and deal with the morality later on.

Unlikely to happen? Well, think again. Statistically speaking the U.S. national homicide solution rate is around 50%. In others words, on average, 1 out of 2 homicides goes unsolved. The figure varies from start to state, so before you think that folks are going to get caught – well, yes, there’s always a good chance as not everyone can go out and commit a ‘successful’ murder: but surprisingly, the odds do favor folks more than many realize: http://anepigone.blogspot.com/2013/01/rates-of-unsolved-murder-by-state.html

And please spare me your shock: assassins over the course of the centuries have often been employed and extensively used. In some time periods, it was often de’rigor (witness the Italian Renaissance of the 1400’s) as assassins were not so much used just for killing, but also for defense against possible options of entry, methods of poisons or other dangers. Sometimes the best defense is hiring those who know the inside tricks: who better to know a professional than another professional?

Law Enforcement / Criminal Intelligence

With the sudden expansion of assassinations, who else better to solve murders than a detective?

But criminal intelligence will be much, much more than just detectives solving crimes. With the rising influence of the Internet and crimes being committed long distance and across boundaries, having an innate sense of patterns coupled with a strong knowledge of the law and technology / database processes will be fundamental in this growing job field. Having good shoes can always help, but more and more it will more a matter of professionals able to research, review and seek out information online and from a wide variety of sources (in addition to good old fashion direct contact) – and often all done at the convenience of a computer terminal.

The good news what with folks turning more and more to computer usage and the growth of the Internet, law enforcement agencies are better able to share information and with some good old fashion sleuthing and persistence, you could be one of the good guys who gets the bad guys.

Research Analyst

Along the same lines, Research Analysts will become very useful for journalists, attorneys, people seeking electoral office or other gig level professionals. Knowing the dirt on your opponents, seeking market opportunities and potential patents and licenses to exploit will be invaluable in the coming 21st century. Likewise, publications seeking to do a story will need background and having somebody on hand to do just that – whether it’s the office intern trying to make a name for themselves.

Social Media Expert

You are only as good as your reputation and word – and given the prevalence of the Internet, how you appear on Google, Yahoo, Bing, etc. ultimately impacts your business and your professional standing. Having the expert(s) on hand to help guide you through the jungle of SEO (Search Engine Optimization) will become important as there are a number of routines, services / website worth focusing on (and others that are on the way out) as well as ‘tricks’ you need to know to have a positive impact. The good news is that SEO’s are becoming more common, and with that, more career opportunities are starting to open up.
Writers – Creative

Nothing can readily replace good, creative writing (but then again, there’s also television, so it evens out). Fact is, the most despised, abused and neglected part of many marketing, film or other work involving a mediocrum of creative work is that of writing. Still, if you can live at shit wages and live the life of a professional dealing with routine neglect and abuse, there’s a future in here – somewhere, I’m sure but don’t ask me; I still haven’t found it.

Artists – varied

Ditto for graphic artists, although now it helps to have a good computer / graphic design background if you’re going to have any sort of ‘serious’ career (although I’m not sure a lot of artists are going to be happy over this. I sometimes wonder what would Picasso do with an Apple,…?).

Alternate Energy Professionals

Whether you’re a salesman selling solar panels or a journalists writing about new energy trends, having a good knowledge of alternative energy systems will be a crucial skill in the coming decades. Knowing the cost effectiveness of various energy processes, how they actually work and where each energy system would be most effective and applicable will be a vital role throughout the world, regardless if you’re looking into credential or commercial applications. many lesser developed nations are turning to alternative energy solutions owing to the greater return on investment that alternative energies offer and the ease in which they could be installed. In some instances, military forces worldwide are looking into this function as operations become more far-flung and with rising logistical challenges, having a self-sufficient force in the field can offer a serious tactical advantages.

Nurse

As the population grows and ages, the need for professional care takers will be needed, whether at the home (for the few select ones) or for larger medical institutions. This will become even more acute as universal health are grows and service demands rise. In addition, rising violence in some locations may offer greater need for emergency staff capable of assistance that could save lives, especially with those assassins and crazed morticians running about.

Morticians
Speaking of morticians,…

Somebody has to bury the bodies; as the population grows so too does the demand for burials. Granted, it ain’t your grandfather’s mortuary service anymore and morticians are now being franchised ala McDonald’s, but still the skills will come into ever greater demand in the coming decades. Thing is, however, it’ll likely evolve into a ‘cut throat’ business so I’d be careful about hanging out with morticians after work.

Non-Profit Professionals

As governments become more and more stretched to the limits of spending, social gaps are growing and with that, having the skill set of non-profit management will become more prevalent and necessary.

Non-profits increasingly carry the load of many governmental agencies, as governmental agencies increasingly sub-contract out what normally would be covered by governments. Thus, having the ability to fund raise, effectively manage and maintain cost-effective non-profit service and keeping those costs down will be vital skills to have in the continuing century as public service weakens even as public needs continue to rise.

Mercenary

In today’s world, security is becoming paramount and possessing the skills to kill (aside form being that of an assassin) will become ever more needed. Whether you’ll wind up with a Blackwater (now known “Academi”) subsidiary or working as a security guard for some corporate entity, having muscle on hand is always good for some folks as there are a lot of weird and dangerous people out there (perhaps including assassins or hungry morticians).
Jobs that are on the way out:
Programmer

While it is good – if not important – to understand programming, owing to the number of programmers found throughout the world the cost/value ratio of programming is dropping. To be certain, it will always be vital to have on hand good / expert programmers, but increasingly, as with any over-flooded market, having too much of a skill set is bound to thin things out and thus, unless you’re really good with solid experience, changes are you’re going to find it hard to get by on just being a programmer alone.

Add to this how many HR departments really don’t have a clue what it is they’re looking for (Java script? Are you f**king serious?) along with now many programming jobs being simply ‘off shored’ for pennies to the dollars (witness the story of the gentleman who offshored his work to programmers while still collecting his salary and making a profit in the process – that is, until his HR found out and gave him a test for his programming skills, which he failed and was promptly fired).

Financial Analyst

For those of you who despise Wall Street and their minions of money, you can cheer; soon, many of these so-called financial whizzes will find themselves on the receiving end of pink slips. What’s replacing them, however, may be even more scary: computers.

Wall Street is fast becoming a land of algorithms and high-speed / power processing. Much of what financial analysts do today on Wall Street can – and in many instances already are – being replaced. If you’re a financial analyst reading this, better sharpen up your resume or learn about computers while you still can. So now we can look forward to getting endless emails about potential investment opportunities as you face your home foreclosure.

Attorneys

Increasingly, attorney’s are a dime a dozen. Granted, nothing can replace a ‘good attorney;’ but as computers and advanced legal services go online with computer algorithms, you’re really not going to need as many attorneys to conduct legal review and/or research. Utilization of the law requires much more than just key words or phrases; legal analysis is a tricky realm to navigate but increasingly, it’s being mapped out and navigated (some have even suggested that in the coming 10 to 20 years, it may be a big as nearly 9 out of 10 lawyers today will no longer find work!). Word to the wise: IBM’s Watkins (http://www.ibm.com/cognitive/outthink/).

In time, the cost of having access to an advanced legal service is going to be more cost-effective than maintaining legal experts on staff. Soon, even many in-house secretaries and paralegals may soon themselves facing new and uncertain futures owing to templates and online services replacing much of what is being done in-house, along with Siri-like secretarial assistants and document imaging / file management systems. Still, somebody has to make the coffee and clean the office dishes (wait a minute; that’s why we have unpaid interns!).
Knowing the direction of trends and where things are going is something that the graduating class of 2025 (if not sooner) had better keep in mind as clearly things aren’t what they used to be. Change doesn’t have to be bad; just to be willing to see change and to adjust for it is, as Charles Darwin pointed out in his “Origins of Species”, necessary for survival.

That and a twisted sense of humor.

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.

 

Traditional Cable is Dead: Long Live The New Order

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The numbers are increasing: more and more are cutting the cord and getting away from cable / Fios.  As for me, it’s been several months that I’ve functioned without traditional cable television – and I wouldn’t want to go back.

When I first undertook this approach – dumping cable services – I did so with the intent to save money while ensuring a decent means of cheap entertainment we’ve come to expect from our TV set. Would my kids be able to enjoy the show(s) they like to watch? Would they miss out on new shows? Would I do likewise – enjoy the old, experience the new – and importantly, what potential could come of cutting the cord?

I’m happy to report that all of the above – and more – has been achieved.

First of all, my costs have dramatically dropped. I now pay half of what I was paying for earlier, and yet not only enjoy the shows that I usually indulge in, but now have even greater access to more shows that I didn’t before.

My kids also enjoy their regular shows, but now have access to new shows they weren’t aware of.

We can enjoy anything we like at any time regardless of scheduling as there is no schedule: it’s all on demand.

We now gain greater access to more educational shows, shows of interest and more importantly, tap into previously unexplored realms – such as YouTube – that previously were not readily noted.

So let’s talk about the details.

1. Costs

Traditional plans – whether you’re using cable or FIOS – cost anywhere from $90 to $170 per month, depending on what you’re using. What many folk do is get a ‘cheaper’ package in an effort to save money – limit the number of channels they can watch so as to lower monthly costs. But the providers are ready for that: I noted that whenever I shopped for traditional cable/Fios, the fees would shift about. Generally speaking and as an example, what the providers will do is charge you more fees – such as ‘set box’ monthly rental’ – whenever you try lowering your monthly costs. In my case, when I tried to negotiate for a lower monthly fee, I saved some $40 for monthly channel access, but wound up paying more – from $3 per month to $12 per month – for the set box rental! In fact, I was looking at paying $144 per year ($12 per month) for set box rental. Right,…

Also, ask for the lowest speed possible. You’d be surprised what you can do with 10/10 + upload/download speeds: don’t fall for the hype of faster being better (unless you’re a serious gamer addict and your life revolves are playing the latest and greatest online games).

And beware: sometimes what happens is the providers will play with you, offering you speeds but in the end, you can find that (by testing and logging your results over a period of time) that you’re either just reaching those speeds or are just hovering below them. In such instances, you consider keeping a log, doing regular speed tests and print out screen shots of your test results so as to bring these results to the attention of your provider and, if need be, filing a formal complaint with the FCC and the BBB (Better Business Bureau).

2. Platform

Congratulations, you’ve dumped traditional cable. So now what?

For some folk, it’s the Apple TV while for others, it’s Roku.

With Apple TV, you get access to a number of steaming services, but not nearly as varied or richly populated as Roku. Apple TV is great if you’re an Apple user (and if you are, I’d recommend it: the ability to readily link your iTunes and your MacBook / Desktop to your TV is rather cool) but Roku simply offers a whole lot more of freebies.

In that vein, it’s worthwhile to get Hulu and/or Netflix (which is available for both Apple TV and Roku). For $8 per month, Hulu is a bargain: there are literally hundreds of shows with their respective seasons that’ll entertain you and your family. Lots of choices and most of all, for the price, you simply can’t beat it. Consider comparing the cost of getting Hulu for $8 per month versus getting the same shows via traditional cable at $45 per month (just the cable / Fios service portion of your monthly bill) and do the math.

Also, you’ll find that this approach cuts back on ‘channel surfing’. No more hopping around looking for your show(s) on the multitude of channels. Log in, go to your show (you can set up Hulu to create your own programming of shows you like) and enjoy.

3. New Realms

YouTube is getting interesting. Try searching for movies or shows and chances are, they’re on YouTube. In addition, creators are getting wise to YouTube and increasingly, you can watch shows you’ll only find on YouTube (my personal favorite is “The Great War” where viewers can watch weekly updates about World War I as they happened on the week you’ve watching a hundred years ago. And this from a group of ‘amateurs’!).

It’s all changing,…

Let’s understand something: traditional channel viewing is geared to carry the shows you enjoy. Take the shows into a different medium – say, via ‘streaming’ services – and you’ll find there is little reason to remain with traditional cable / FIOS channel lineups. The providers know this. When asked as to why I was dropping my regular cable service, the cable rep asked me, “are you intending to stream?”

“Yes, I already do.”

Sigh. “Yeah, a lot of people are saying that.”

The results are getting interesting. Large entities (such as NFL and Disney to name two of the bigger ones) are already playing hard ball with such folk as Comcast. And rightfully so: for years, the providers held the upper hand, offering the only primary means of delivering quality entertainment to people’s homes and business, changing more to the studios / commercial entities and passing the costs on to you in the form of increased monthly bills while they pocketed the difference. Now that’s changing.

The fight over Internet ‘freedom’ that’s been taking place at the FCC is not so much about freedom per se, but it’s really about the providers’ bread and butter. Providers seek (among other things) to control access and charge people more money for Internet access and speed in an effort to recoup losses incurred from folk abandoning traditional channel delivery. But it’s too late: as much as they are pushing for this, the more the entertainment ‘houses – NFL and Disney to name a few – are pushing back, gradually cornering Comcast, Time/Warner, Verizon, etc. – into difficult negotiating positions. Simply put: aside from Internet access, what’s there for the providers to offer? And if they insist upon pressing home the need to limit and/or charge more for Internet access, the more they’re going to undermine themselves. After all, all it takes is one provider to buck the pack and offer more competitive fees for their customers leaving the others to scramble.

The writing’s on the wall; it’s a brave new world. The company valuation of provider’s companies are in flux and with that, unless they move fast and adjust to the changing market realities, cable / Fios TV providers going to find things challenging.

Change is good, especially if you’re the consumer. All it takes is a little research, planning and a willingness to save money to get better quality home entertainment.

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.

Libraries: The New Frontier

libraryThe times are a changing and among those changes are the notion of what makes a library a library – and how they are able to impact us more than ever before.

Libraries ain’t just about a place to do your school homework – and this is demonstrated in what’s taking place in Arizona:

Arizona State is planning in the next few months to roll out a network of co-working business incubators inside public libraries, starting with a pilot in the downtown Civic Center Library in Scottsdale. The university is calling the plan, ambitiously, the Alexandria Network.

Libraries as incubators?

Consider: it makes perfect sense. Where else can you go and draw upon resources  to develop business plans, seek out possible funding sources, lay out building plans  and/or system schematics, develop new potential business contacts / networks or enroll in job / skills training?

As the folks in Arizona explained:

One of the world’s first and most famous libraries, in Alexandria, Egypt, was frequently home some 2,000 years ago to the self-starters and self-employed of that era. “When you look back in history, they had philosophers and mathematicians and all sorts of folks who would get together and solve the problems of their time,” says Tracy Lea, the venture manager with Arizona State University’s economic development and community engagement arm. “We kind of look at it as the first template for the university. They had lecture halls, gathering spaces. They had co-working spaces.”

Makes perfect sense – in fact, why didn’t anyone see this before? Now, rather than just a place where one can go and read or check out some books, libraries are playing an ever more growing important role in today’s world. Libraries are now resource centers; places to go where folks can get the tools, resources and skill they need to start a business, learn a trade or develop a new product.

Libraries are invaluable engines of social and economic growth:

Libraries also provide a perfect venue to expand the concept of start-up accelerators beyond the renovated warehouses and stylish offices of “innovation districts.” They offer a more familiar entry-point for potential entrepreneurs less likely to walk into a traditional start-up incubator (or an ASU – Arizona State University – office, for that matter). Public libraries long ago democratized access to knowledge; now they could do the same in a start-up economy.

On a more practical level, what this also implies is that libraries now need to turn to other funding sources to meet their needs. As reported in the past, libraries nationwide are facing major cuts – with some local governments even shutting down their libraries outright (as was done in Camden, New Jersey nearly two years ago). With the new definition and roles of libraries, now would be a good time for librarians to come together and reach out to local / area businesses and obtain funding not through the usual means, but rather through grant funding from the federal Commerce Department, local Chambers of Commerce, various foundations and the like.

And given the well-established role of libraries, libraries offer a true cost-effective return on any investment – something for any funding entity to seriously consider.

Libraries are not just about books: they’re about information and the conveying and distributing of information in ways that are effective.

Libraries are now, more than ever before, invaluable community resources that could very well help establish and maintain economic and social development for the 21st century.

For more about what’s going on in Arizona, check out this link: http://www.theatlanticcities.com/jobs-and-economy/2013/02/why-libraries-should-be-next-great-startup-incubators/4733/