Sunday, July 16, 2017

Startup.com...



I recently had the opportunity to watch the film Startup.com in our Living and Working in a Virtual World class.  Startup.com provided a front row seat for the Internet bubble, boom, and finally BUST. In order for this documentary to work the crew needed access to a legitimate company that experienced all phases of the Internet insanity from 1999-2001.  This documentary begins with two friends, Kaleiel Isaza Tuzman and Tom Herman, who decide to quit their jobs and start an Internet company. Tuzman leaves his prestigious position at Goldman Sachs to be the CEO of the new Internet Startup.  Herman takes on the technological lead role. They both settle on the name govWorks.com, and their vision to provide a place that the public can take care of their municipality related needs like paying parking tickets etc. Tuzman begins by vetting venture capitalist in pursuit of the necessary capital. Meanwhile, Herman recruits the necessary staff to write the code and design the user interface. GovWorks.com grows to over 200 employees in a very short amount of time but the finished product is still lacking according to Guzman.  Guzman and Hermans well publicized and marketed through countless interviews for magazines and television.

GovWorks.com experiences many setbacks, including possible corporate espionage from an unknown intruder. Their office was broken into and several sensitive items were stolen. Guzman and Herman’s personal lives both suffer as a result of the insane amount of time required for a business startup. The biggest disappointment, however, is the lackluster software backbone of the actual services govWorks.com offers. Ultimately Herman leaves the company due to a difference of commitment and vision for the future of govWorks.com.  GovWorks.com eventually closes down due to competitors and the Internet bust or .com crash.

I thought this was an excellent documentary that truly did provide a guided tour through those crazy years. I couldn’t help think of the recession of 2008 and the Housing Bubble. There were fewer people predicting the .com bust, but the hyperinflate values of the .com businesses and houses of the years leading up to the real estate bubble were eerie.

Wednesday, July 12, 2017

Autonomous Automobiles...



The ethics of A.I. is one of the few things that scare me to the point of keeping me up at night. The purpose of technology is to make normal tasks more efficient and potentially more economical.  The cost of technology begins with the education required to produce the research and develop required to create new technology and ends with the unforeseen effects that are realized after new technologies are implemented and utilized.  The ethics of the coding that goes into the backbone of autonomous cars is a great example of A.I. that is worrisome. One could explore the convergence of the execution of judgment based on lawful compliance when operating a motor vehicle with the realities presented in day-to-day driving. I have bad objects fly towards the direction of my car many times in the years I have been driving.  Did I always have time to make the most lawful choice when avoiding these flying/floating, falling objects?  Where does morality come into play when considering A.I in autonomous vehicles?  It is morally ethical to drive beyond the posted speed limit when there is a complete absence of other vehicles on the roadway being used?  It isn’t lawful, but is it morally ethical?  

An autonomous vehicle is driving through an intersection, an elderly couple steps in front of the autonomous vehicle, there is also a mother pushing her baby in a stroller on the sidewalk to the right of the autonomous car, and there are vehicles blocking the only other escape route in the lane to the left of the autonomous vehicle. How is the coding written for the A.I. in this situation? What values are placed on each of the parties in this situation?  Is there a hierarchical scoring system used within the coding that helps the autonomous car decide who it is going to hit?  Is it as simple as a numbers game, the least potential collateral damage is the loser?  This situation is likely to rarely occur if every, and obviously results in a no-win situation. The issues remain, programmers have the time to ensure the safest operation of autonomous vehicles and therefore are responsible for every single conceivable scenario possible.

We are still in the very infancy of the development and implementation of autonomous vehicles. There are the issues of automobile systems being ready and capable of seamlessly integrating with A.I. There is the issue of insurance?  Once A.I. is perfected and automobiles are capable of driving without the possibility of accidents, will insurance companies be willing to insure error prone humans?  One thing is guaranteed, technology will continue to evolve and the autonomous vehicle will become an accepted reality over time.

What Does It Take to Make a Community...



The community is a vital social need to the underpinning of the macro and micro levels of the human experience. Humans are drawn to each other based on commonalities shared by the things they love and cherish. Larger communities such as neighborhoods, towns, and cities are also developed based on a shared mutual interest or love. These shared interests could range from the love of sports team to the love of rural/suburban areas or urban areas in which they decide to reside.  The common love for variables within a community bind these groups of people together.

Virtual communities have developed in a very similar fashion. Groups of people that are online come together often in chats rooms, forums, Facebook, Twitter, or any other social media forum under their shared like or love for a specific interest. This common interest creates a bond that binds them all together. Physical interaction is not required for virtual communities to develop.  The major difference between virtual and physical communities is the lack of effective communication of affect within virtual communities. Virtual communities also suffer from an innately poor system of hold people accountable for their actions. Virtual communities do excel in their ability to create a more neutral environment that allows individual to present themselves without being immediately judged by their physical appearance. The physical or temporal space between virtual community members does not impede the ability for people to communicate and bond.  The ability to explore new identities are realized due to a “safer” perceived anonymity.  The big question and debate that continues to be ongoing is, will virtual communities completely replace physical communities. I think about observations I make on a daily basis of individual who prefer their electronic devices to the company of a human being.  Is this due to the ability to be connected to hundreds of thousands of people simultaneously? Is this because human social norms have already evolved to a new norm? Are social skillsets being lost or just evolving to something we don’t fully understand?

Dot Com to Dot BOMB...



The World Wide Web brought many new opportunities to the public and private sector. Once access and awareness reached the point of critical mass, everything exploded.  Convergence of the ubiquity of computers, appropriate throughput/bandwidth, the implementation of HTML, HTTP, TFT and TCIP/IP, appropriate processing power, storage, and memory all had to reach the point to provide the necessary elements for the dot-com boom to transpire. Leading up to that point were key individuals and businesses that were early adopters who developed self-publishing platforms that would become the genesis of global e-commerce and social networking. This early stage of the dot-come bubble started out very innocently.  Nobody, spare very few, could foresee the inevitable positive and negative externalities that would be the result of the boom to bust cycle of the dot-com frenzy.

Early companies such as Free Range Media, Spry, Inc., FreeZone, Prodigy, CompuServe, Genie, AOL (America Online), and Delphi represented the first business pillars of the internet. Microsoft would, of course, show up a year or two later and slowly begin establishing their legacy. As the 1990s passed, other companies would emerge such as Netscape, Yahoo, and Amazon would make their appearance on the World Wide Web and being establishing their position as Titans.  The evolution of the internet from a new publishing platform to a searchable globally connected network created the perfect forum for what would become the dominant space for buying and selling goods. Once the potential for economic gains became apparent, an insane amount of capital was being invested by companies across the world to further develop the quality of the network connections within the World Wide Web. By the mid, the to late 1990s the values of these dot-com companies became hyper-inflated to the point of being ridiculous.  Companies that were unproven were subverting the normal timeline for reaching the point of being able to go public on the stock market. This caused a whole new boom of dot-come companies that would start up to support this process.  Most of these companies engage in lavish spending to upscale their physical office spaces, salaries were reaching astronomical levels, buyouts and mergers commenced further inflating superficial values of companies, and venture capitalist began their reign.

A large portion of companies suffered significant financial damage due to debts incurred to fund their rapid expansion. Venture capitalism ceased as the stock market continues to plunge. The financial industry’s mishandling of IPO regulation on these hyper inflated “green” unproven companies share a large portion of the fault in the dot-com bust. Investment bankers also played their role in feeding these companies and taking from the hyper-inflation. Many companies and individuals lost their life savings and retirements.

Monday, July 10, 2017

Mr. Erik Hanberg visits...



Today our class had the opportunity of having Erik Hanberg speak to our class regarding his experiences in living and working in a virtual world. Mr. Hanberg is an accomplished Author and Media Entrepreneur. He has always been an early adopter of new technologies, specifically in regards to new internet service based applications. Mr. Hanberg’s passions have always been centered around the arts.  He has turned his passions into profitable endeavors by not being afraid to take calculated risks. He began his career at a nonprofit called the Grand Cinema in 2004, where he helped create new opportunities for aspiring filmmakers. He also wrote several award-winning short films, as well as filmed several short videos for local artist in the South Puget Sound in Washington State. Later Eric founded The Horatio Theatre Project where he directed several plays, musicals, and cabarets that were featured in several local festivals.

Mr. Hanberg is the proud author of the Lattice Trilogy, several nonprofit guides for fundraising, Beautyman and Beautyman Mysteries and Veronica Mars (as E. E. Bailes).  All of his books can be found in several media formats including. Mr. Hanberg is currently serving as one of five Metro Parks Board Commissioners. He is has gained significant experience as a public administrator and processor. Technology has always played a vital role in all of Mr. Handberg's aspirations and endeavors. He has managed to balance the way in which he presents himself as a businessman, family man, and public official so that he ensures that his passions remain. He encouraged our class to find something that we are passionate about and take the time to investigate the possibility of turning our passions into a source of profit.

Online purchases that are not happening...



E-commerce has become easier than ever due to the plethora of electronic devices we have to choose from when shopping on the internet. There are several items that I would not consider purchasing on the internet, of those, two stands out the most.  I would not purchase cars nor furniture via electronic retailers. I have a passion for automobiles, trucks, and motorcycles. I regularly read about upcoming changes to current models, new technologies associated with automobiles, and local pricing.  Although it is possible to localize the necessary due diligence when making a large purchase like an automobile, I prefer to inject the local economy with my money in an attempt to strengthen the multiplier effect of local businesses. I love the process of researching automobiles online, but much prefer visiting local dealerships to become more familiar with their inventory in person. I also enjoy the experience of negotiating the price and packaging of automobiles I am interested in purchasing. Attempting this process, or simply not being able to take part in this process online is enough for me to just say no.

Furniture is another item I would not consider purchasing online. There is way too much ambiguity in terms of fabric color and feel, comfort, and the ability to return or repair any potential failures or unsatisfactory experiences. One of the biggest issues with making any purchase online is the loss of physical human interaction that is normally present when purchasing anything in person. This can work as a positive contributor to a purchase or a definite negative that could cause the purchase to cease. Although I do shop a good deal online, I cannot help but think about the negative externalities that are currently being realized and those that have not yet fully unfolded.  

Tuesday, July 4, 2017

Scavenger Hunt Humble Pie...



Our class was assigned an internet scavenger hunt that involved several different types of searches in order to locate the required items. We were paired off in groups of two or three and given the freedom to formulate our plan of attack. My partner and I decided to divide the three-page scavenger hunt between the two of us so we each had one sheet to do by ourselves, and the last sheet to tackle together. Prior to taking part in this scavenger hunt exercise, I considered myself competent at doing internet searches. By now, most people realize that in order to perform a search that will yield the desired results, you have to be creative and concise in your search methodology. For example, in order to search for a specific image, one may utilize a google image search. You can upload an image or use an image URL to perform a reverse image search, or simply type in the description of the image you are looking for. If you were concerned about privacy, you could use Startpage or lxquick to avoid being tracked.

My partner and I utilized keyword searches, image searches, specific phrase searches, search by location, and basic search operators like OR, AND, ASTERISK, MINUS, and AROUND to help make a more powerful query. We also utilized searches that indicated specific sites and/or files. In the end, we were not able to complete all of our search objectives but did learn a great deal about our limitation in regards to are internet search skillset.