Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Virtual Scavenger Hunting Once More

It is that time of year when the students of Living and Working are sent virtually scavenget hunting. It is a reasonably large class this year, so ten teams are competing for grades and prizes. Since I first started sending folks off on the hunt several years ago, the ability to find items has become far easier. The first hunt listed ten items that they were to find or create on the web. The list is up to three pages and nineteen items, some with several parts necessary to be complete.

Though I once had the teams send URL addresses or screen shots when they were found, the hunt has gotten large enought that it is far easier to have them gather up the items in two batches, and send them off bundled together.

Also, the seach items have gotten a bit harder. My favorite now is to find out the married name of my oldest sister. It is also a scary one. Keeping in mind that many people have their security questions for log in's as family member names (consider the often used "mothers maiden name"), you would expect that this is an impossible task without knowing me personally. Not so. Even though I have not posted this information anywhere, it is possible to discern the answer through a combination of publicly accessible sites.

Whether I am asking for directions to a home that costs below market value and fits a particular set of characteristics, or local news that is over twenty years old, it is designed to cover a multitued of search techniques, sites, search engines and indexing.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Kickstart your Arts Endeavor

I am a big fan of the web site Kickstarter. It is one of a new set of fundraising platforms that use the idea of crowdsour or in this case "crowdfunding" as a model to generate money for your art project. They aren't all art projects, but most are. One project that I have backed is the book and film, "The Cicada Princess" from which a picture appears above.

You have to apply to Kickstarter and are vetted by the folks who run it as to whether your project is likely to succeed, or meets their guidelines. Because this is a subjective process, you will find a LOT of detractors on the Web. Google "Kickstarter Scam" and see what I mean.

However, my experience as a "backer" on several projects has so far been a very positive one. I probably won't be backing more in the future until some of my current backed projects come to fruition. However, as an exercise in shadowing how projects get done (and face obstacles unforeseen) it is extremely valuable. For someone who is interested in getting a behind the curtain glimpse at the ups and downs of getting an artistic endeavor out the door, it is cheap. You are able to follow along with your project and if the timeline gets pushed for completion, there are generally plenty of other backers pushing for news. That may not be comfortable for the person creating the art, but they sign up for it when they use the site.
The project owners are required to fix a deadline and a target minimum of funds to raise. If they aren't able to reach that target amount by the deadline, no funds are collected. The money that is pledged by donors is collected using Amazon Payments.

So are, of the projects I have backed, all have hit their targets. Some at multiple times their minimum level. With the exception of the Stageright Productions folks and their unique performance of the "Pirates of Penzance", all have seen their projects pushed out. Some by a little, due to shipping timelines from China or from production errors. Others because they chose to take more time to finish.
Because I know some of the parties involved, I am not worried about the delivery. With others, it is obvious that they have a lot of friends and family backers, which makes the need to deliver all the more important.

I am looking forward to two family Christmas presents from my backed projects: The board game "The Road to Canterbury" and the Wo card game "Borogove".

If you are looking to fund an arts project, or even a product like "B-Squares", take a look at the site. Make no mistake, you will still need to do the heavy lifting as far as contacts are concerned, but the mechanism they provide, even at a 5% fee, may be a good value to you.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

A Platform Discussion

Over the last few days in class we have been discussing the idea of what a platform is. From the very basic definition of platform to the impact of companies or organizations that are successful in pulling off a platform play.

On Wikipedia, under platform, they list over twenty kinds, from a diving platform to a political parties platform. The one that has the greatest relevance to the Internet and the World Wide Web is provided this definition.

Platform technology is a term for technology that enables the creation of products and processes that support present or future development. It establishes the long-term capabilities of research & development institutes.

Whether a computer operating system provides a platform for applications, or TCP/IP stacks provide a platform for Internet technologies to develop, the impact and power behind a platform is tremendous.

Just ask Google engineer Steve Yegge, who in a post that was meant to be between peers ended up going public. He deleted it afterwards, but it was too late. Elvis had left the building.

PC Magazine has an article on the topic here and it is worth the read.

Here is just a taste of what he wrote in his post as reported by PC Magazine:

"Amazon does everything wrong, and Google does everything right," he wrote. Yegge criticized the company's hiring procedures, operations, charity giving, accommodations, compensation, and what he perceived to be lack of perks. Founder Jeff Bezos, he said, was "an infamous micro-manager" on the level of Steve Jobs, who made "ordinary control freaks look like stoned hippies." (Amazon did not respond to a request for comment.)

"But there's one thing they do really, really well that pretty much makes up for ALL of their political, philosophical and technical screw-ups," Yegge wrote. About a decade ago, Bezos realized that "that Amazon needs to be a platform."

"A product is useless without a platform, or more precisely and accurately, a platform-less product will always be replaced by an equivalent platform-ized product," Yegge wrote.

Where it hurts is that Yegge points the finger at Google+ as doing it all wrong, claiming that "is a prime example of our complete failure to understand platforms from the very highest levels of executive leadership."

The question is, is this a Jerry McGuire moment for Steve Yegge, where he is applauded internally but ultimately jettisoned? Or will the public/private posting error (if it really was in error) be forgiven in favor or harnessing the passion that he shows in his post toward creating a successful platform out of Google+

Monday, October 10, 2011

Steve Jobs and History

After Steve Jobs passing from pancreatic cancer, there has been a huge number of articles and remembrances about the man and his impact on technology. There will be many books written in the future as well.

I just wanted to add a few of my own thoughts while they are fresh to me now. I talk about Steve Jobs in my classes. How could you teach about entrepreneurship and technology and not. Or the evolution of the Internet and the Web as well. The latter may not be the first topic that comes to mind, but his impact has been felt there beyond the personal computers and digital players that have come from the company.

I was able to meet Steve Jobs in person once in my life. He was at the University of Washington Seattle and visited the tech fair. I don't even remember the year, though because he has just launched the NeXT Computer and gave a presentation at Meany Theater I believe it was around 1989-90. I was working at Microsoft at the Time.

He has had an interesting life, and his relationship with Steve Wozniak, the co-founder of Apple is in itself a character study. You can read "West of Eden, The End of Innocence at Apple Computer" for some background on the relationship of Steve to the company. You can even watch some of the recent biopics that have come out like "The Pirates of Silicon Valley from 2005". And that film came out before Steve brought Apple back to be the giant it once more is. Steve Jobs life may become its own course of study.

However there are two things that I like to point out when talking about his life. He has helmed two different billion dollar companies. Apple and Pixar. His company he founded after being ousted from Apple, NeXT Computers, made it easier for Pixar to create Toy Story and Finding Nemo. It was on a NeXT Computer that Tim Berners-Lee set up the very first World Wide Web server.

Hopefully you have seen the press release from the EDB about Infoblox renewing its lease in Tacoma for another six years. Growing from sixty...