Tag Archives: Internet

Your Invention is about to Launch: Did You Consider ALL Ramifications?

Do you think it’d be wonderful to have government departments with such lofty titles like the Ministry of Peace, the Ministry of Truth, the Ministry of Plenty, and the Ministry of Love? OK, maybe that’s a bit too on the nose, as most people have probably read (and/or heard of) 1984. The point I’m trying to make:

The best-laid plans of mice and men often go awry.

Huh? Let me explain.

You’re a burgeoning, young social entrepreneur who can’t wait to set the world on fire with this idea you’ve been cultivating for years. This invention has all the hallmarks of a game-changer in its industry and will surely have a spillover effect into other industries. It will revolutionize the way business takes place for years to come. You know that as soon as your invention goes to market, the world will be a better place. Finally, the day is here and your invention goes live. There is an enormous uptake rate. People start using it instantly – across the world. You’re so happy and can’t believe how quickly people have adapted to making it part of their daily lives. You always hoped and thought they would, but to see it actually happening – wow!

Two months later, you start to notice something peculiar in how your invention is being used. You notice that people are starting to use the invention in a way that you hadn’t intended and that this is starting to have an adverse effect in some areas. Weeks pass and you see that the trend has continued. People are continuing to use your invention in the “wrong” way and as a result, some people are starting to get hurt. More weeks pass and you realize that your invention, while if used in the way you intended is wonderful, has become a main driver of pain and suffering in the world.

Recognizing this, you wish with all your might that you could go back to the day before you launched the invention to undo it. Take it all back. Unfortunately, the proverbial cat is out of the bag and there’s no going back. The internet is here to stay…

I share this anecdote on account of something I read in The New Yorker recently:

In an influential piece that appeared in Rolling Stone in 1972, Brand prophesied that, when computers became widely available, everyone would become a “computer bum” and “more empowered as individuals and co-operators.” This, he further predicted, could enhance “the richness and rigor of spontaneous creation and human interaction.” No longer would it be the editors at the Times and the Washington Post and the producers at CBS News who decided what the public did (or didn’t) learn. No longer would the suits at the entertainment companies determine what the public did (or didn’t) hear.

“The Internet was supposed to be a boon for artists,” Taplin observes. “It was supposed to eliminate the ‘gatekeepers’—the big studios and record companies that decide which movies and music get widespread distribution.” Silicon Valley, Foer writes, was supposed to be a liberating force—“the disruptive agent that shatters the grip of the sclerotic, self-perpetuating mediocrity that constitutes the American elite.”

Fifty years ago, people thought computers would bring us closer together in a way that we hadn’t imagined. Certainly, we can say that that’s the case, but we must also say that they’ve brought us closer together in a way that we hadn’t imagined!

When we aspire to bring things into the world through entrepreneurship (or) intrapreneurship, it’s extremely important that there be someone there to play the role of “devil’s advocate” to consider ways in which this “wonderful idea” might literally set the world on fire. Optimism is great, but without a healthy dose of pessimism in the planning process, we might be closer to a Ministry of Plenty than we’d like to believe.

NOTE: This was cross-posted.

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Convert PDF to DOC with a Mac — for FREE!

I like to think of myself as relatively computer literate. When I was in elementary school, I taught myself how to use HTML and created/designed my own website. I don’t know if I’ve linked to it on here, but it’s still functioning. Of course, I don’t remember the login or password for it, so there’s no way for me to edit it, but it’s really odd to remember back to where (and when) I was during the creation of it.

Since my GeoCities days, the internet has changed quite a bit. I’ve created a few websites (mostly with WordPress, either through the free version or through the version you need to download), but I wouldn’t — by any stretch of the imagination — say that this is a strength of mine. My skills here are basic, (but when compared to the average person, one might say that they’re a bit beyond basic).

As a tangent, this reminds me of something during my time as an psychology undergraduate. During the “capstone” course for that major, I remember the professor telling us that the department had majors take a test at the beginning and end of the program. They found something interesting: when students took the test at the end of the program, students were reporting that they knew less about psychology than when they started the degree. That is, one of the questions on the ‘pre-test’ was rate your level of understanding of psychology on a Likert scale (one to ten) and that same test appeared on the ‘post-test.’ The department was finding that the average score on the post-test for that question was lower than the average score on the pre-test. Why, you might ask?

Well, as students began to learn more about the subject of psychology, they realized just how vast a subject that it is and as a result, realized just how much they didn’t know about the subject. Food for thought.

Anyways, yes, technology.

Does the phrase “ALT+TAB” or “Command+TAB” mean anything to you? What about “CTRL+F” or “Command+F”?

I’m definitely part of the 10% of people who know about things like this, but I’m sure there are a whole host of things that computers and the internet can do that are unknown to me. On that note, I recently learned of something that my Mac can do that I had no idea it could do — convert to PDF.

All this time, I had been using various websites to do this for me, but as it turns out, a simple process and my Mac will do it for me. Who knew! I wonder what else my Mac can do.

It’s 2013: Why Isn’t TV Live Streamed Online?

About a month ago, I wrote a post about the future of TV. I came to the conclusion that it was surprising that there wasn’t “live TV” online. That is, I am surprised that you can’t watch a TV on your laptop at the same time as you could watch it on your TV. Of course, I understand why that might not be the case right now (advertising, contracts, etc.), it seems like this form of entertainment is moving in this direction. When you take into account mobile TV, one has to think that live streaming TV shows is on the way, right?

It turns out that I’m not the only one frustrated by the lack of online TV streaming. Xeni Jardin, an editor/partner at Boing Boing (a rather popular technology zine), also shares this frustration:

As you can see, Xeni seems to think that we should be able to watch TV shows online at the same time that we can watch them on TV. This doesn’t seem like an unreasonable request, right?

It turns out, many of you out there agree with Xeni and I:

Market researcher GfK says 51% of those 13-54 years of age watch a TV program or movie via streaming video platforms. This is up from 48% in 2012 and 37% higher than three years ago.

What’s even more convincing is that the data go on to show that many folks would drop their Netflix service if cable companies offered a similar service at a similar price.

It seems to me one of a few things are happening:

a) TV executives already know all of this, but have run the data a different way and don’t think that people would actually follow-through on what they say when they answer these polls. [Not necessarily a response bias, but something more to the effect of the people who intend to vote on election day, but don’t.]

b) TV executives know this and they’re trying to convince the right people (CEO?) that this is what they need to do.

c) TV executives don’t know about these data.

Option c) seems the least likely, but I suppose it’s possible. Option a) seems like it could be plausible, but my guess is that the majority fall into option b). As a result, there seems to be a window of opportunity for an enterprising network to take a leap of faith and capture a great deal of value. Who’s going to be first?

There is No Spoon: The Future of TV

I don’t watch much TV and part of this is precipitated by the fact that I don’t currently own a TV. The TV that I do watch, however, is, for the most part, online. [Except in cases where I’m visiting someone who has TV and we’re watching something together.] Shows that I started watching years ago (when I had a TV) like Grey’s Anatomy or The Big Bang Theory often post the full episode online the next day. This is very convenient as I’m not required to be in front of my TV on a Thursday night to watch these shows.

I always find it disappointing when a show that I might be interested in does not have an online version. This got me thinking about what the future of TV might be. I remember seeing a PPT from Business Insider at the turn of the new year (to 2013) that analyzed the way people use technology. That is, it took into account mobile devices, TV, computers, etc. The trend, as you might guess, is to mobile. More and more people are using their phones for things. As a result, there’s certainly money to be made in advertising in the mobile arena.

Then I thought, why haven’t TV shows made the leap to mobile? Or, why is this leap taking so long? If more and more people are using their phone to interact with the world, then wouldn’t it behoove TV networks to start making their content more accessible on a mobile device?

As I’m moving back to Canada in the next few weeks, I’ve been looking at cell phone plans. [Note: it is outrageously more expensive for mobile plans in Canada than in the US!] One thing I noticed was that Bell (one of the telecommunications companies in Canada) has an option just like I was thinking. You can watch live TV on your cell phone. After seeing this, I thought I’d look at some of the US companies to see if they had it and sure enough, they have this, too.

As it turns out, companies have already made the leap to mobile and it’s moved faster than I thought (I guess that’s what you get when you don’t have a cell phone for 4+ years).

My next thoughts move to the internet. There must be lots of people like me who like to watch the shows online the next, otherwise they wouldn’t be available like they are. So, I wonder if there’s rumblings of moving to live TV internet. That is, instead of posting the video the next day, why not broadcast the show online at the same time you do on network TV?

I’m sure there’s probably lots of red tape with this kind of an option as advertisers have paid to target certain demographics at certain time and so on and so forth. But wouldn’t this open up a whole new market for TV networks — people who’d prefer to watch online?

I came across a Kevin Spacey speech a few days ago that talks about this very fact.

[Note: The first half of the title is a famous line from the movie, The Matrix.]

Thoughts on National Free Wi-Fi Public Networks

There’s a good chance that at some point yesterday, you heard/read that the FCC is considering the possibility of developing free and public Wi-Fi across the entire United States. At first blush, this sounds like a really cool idea. Some people think that the right to internet access should be a universal right — as in part of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

On my way to campus this morning, I heard Diane Rehm and her panel speaking about this issue. After listening to the broadcast for just a few minutes, it’s easy to see how complicated this issue is. There’s the telecommunications companies that have invested all that money into infrastructure (apparently, over $1 trillion). There’s also the idea of who would pay for the maintenance of the infrastructure if it were no longer in the hands of the private sector (read: tax dollars). I suppose, before we even get that far, is the feasibility of having many people “on the network” at once. One of the panelists was talking about how in some areas, there would be situations where a number of people would have to share 5 mbps. That won’t work.

But therein lies the answer.

Innovation.

For national Wi-Fi to be a possibility, there’s going to need to be improvement in the technology. Yes, Wi-Fi capabilities have increased exponentially since its existence, but my sense is that we won’t be using Wi-Fi “forever.” That’s not a bold prediction by any stretch of the imagination, but my guess is that there will be something that comes along that usurps Wi-Fi as the “be-all and end-all” of our internet connectivity.

I’m sure this example has been overused, but the best way I can describe it is through TV. Remember when there was analog cable? The bunny ears and all that? Digital cable replaced analog cable as the staple of the way that TV is provided to customers. Right now, we’ve got Wi-Fi. It’s ubiquitous. Just like analog cable was ubiquitous.

So, if I had to hazard a guess, I’d say that maybe in the next decade (or two?) we’ll see something that comes along and usurps Wi-Fi as our main way of connecting to the internet.

Markets Are Cyclical: Why the Internet Monopolies Don’t Matter (that much)

Survival of the biggestThere was a nice feature on Technology in this past week’s Economist. In fact, there were a number of articles I found intriguing (medical tricorders was a good one!), but I want to draw your attention to one in particular: Battle of the internet giants – Survival of the biggest. The case is made that these internet behemoths are getting too big and that their scope needs to be curbed. Okay, I understand that, but I think that the fear is a bit unfounded. Here’s why.

Remember back to when railroads were the only way to get around? Remember when all commerce and long-distance travel was done by locomotive? Now, I don’t know if this is a perfect comparison, but bear with me for a second. There were at least a few big players in the railroad game back in the 19th century (Union Pacific, Central Pacific, and Southern Pacific). I’m sure that there were people back then who were irked that there were monopolies in the railroad business and probably wanted there to be more regulation (like is being argued in the article about the internet).

However, with the turn of the 20th century, a new form of transportation was starting to emerge: the automobile. It didn’t happen overnight, but the automobile eventually became a much more preferred method of transportation.

There’s another example: television. Remember in the early days of TV, there were just a few channels? If you had a TV (and you watched it), you probably saw the same program that everyone else who had a TV was seeing. Again, I don’t know, but I imagine that some folks were pretty peeved by this monopoly. Although, slowly but surely, there came to be more and more choice of TV channels. In fact, it’s gotten to the point where we’re unlikely to ever see the most watched television program eclipsed because there’s so much choice.  Though, some would argue that there still are monopolies in television.

And now what’s starting to breach the monopolies of TV? The internet and online media. There was a slide deck that was passed around courtesy of Business Insider earlier last week that shows the future of digital. There were lots of graphs and lots of data. One of the graphs showed that the percentage of live TV watching has dropped 25% in just the last 4 years. Conversely, recorded TV watching is up over 50%! And a new category has emerged: streaming TV. Whereas there was no streaming TV watching in 2008, it now makes up 7% of primetime viewing in the US.

So, even with all of this choice in television, there is still room for newness and growth.

Tying this back into my argument about the internet behemoths: maybe we can’t see it now, but based on history, I would bet that there’s going to be something that comes along (eventually) and unseats these internet behemoths. Of course, that’s not a reason not to regulate them, but it is something to keep in mind when you see articles like the one in last week’s Economist.