Archives for the month of: April, 2014

And I’m not the first to say so either.

Of course, even a broken clock is correct twice a day. In his book ‘The World Is Flat‘ he discusses the the topic of globalization. Globalization is the process of the world’s ever increasing level of interconnectedness. He discusses how the internet and computing has fundamentally changed how economics and business work. This is true. Businesses like Walmart, McDonalds, Apple, and UPS would not be able to function without these advances in technology. The internet is flattening the world, evening the playing field for those competing in different countries. This is supposed to be positive. After all, a rising tide lifts all boats, right?

Of course, globalization is not all positive. Products that used to be manufactured in the US are now being manufactured abroad, where labor is cheaper. The Europe outsourced to the US, who outsourced to China, who then outsourced to Vietnam and Cambodia. These aren’t the only problems. Outsourcing will result in inferior quality products because they will be produced by people that don’t care about quality or improvement. The people outsourcing the labor can’t even monitor the quality of the products being produced. 63% of companies are using paper based systems to keep track of the products produced overseas. It is called ‘the fog of outsourcing’, where not even the companies that are outsourcing can keep track of the quality of their products. This fact directly contradicts Friedman’s point that technology is flattening the world, and not the endless drive for businesses to lower costs. I would argue that this trend of outsourcing would have happened regardless of the internet revolution. It’s happened before. It’s happened time and time again for centuries.

Thomas Friedman is still a blithering idiot.

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Here are all of my Code Academy badges dating back to the first assignment.

 

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Code Academy Final Badges

Note: Casper Diamond is my name on Facebook, and Code Academy decided to use that name for my account.

Heartbleed is probably the worst thing that has ever happened to internet security. Apparently, according to Bloomberg, the NSA has known about the exploit for years and has been using it to extract user’s passwords without the knowledge of the server administrator or the user. Sounds pretty screwed up, doesn’t it?

It’s massively screwed up. The NSA is lying to us. Again. They said that they would report these vulnerabilities to the developers so they would get fixed. Instead, they’re keeping quiet about them, all the while exploiting them for their own gain. It disgusts me that my tax dollars go to fuel this dragnet beast. What gets me the most is the arrogance of the NSA to think that they’re the only ones smarter enough to discover this bug. Russia has their own teams of hackers, and so does China (and their governments are a whole lot less scrupulous than ours). If we can find it, so can they, and their inability to pipe up about it endangers us all.

Unfortunately, the way that ours laws have been written, we basically have no right to known when our informations has been accessed. Should we know? Of course. Are they ever going to tell us? No. Is the federal government going to claim national security need for secrecy like everything else they do? Probably.

Since the whole Snowden fiasco started last year, my online shopping has ground to a halt. Since last June, I’ve even been afraid to use my bank card. Snowden’s documents show us that the NSA collects everything even credit card transactions. Online shopping is a lazy fool’s game. They’re basically forefeitting their privacy for convenience, and I think that that’s a horrible trade to make.

Filesharing is a very controversial topic. Both the Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA) and the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) claims that billions of dollars is lost every year to illegal filesharing. The RIAA estimates that only 37 percent of music acquired by U.S. consumers in 2009 was paid for, and that U.S. internet users consume between $7 billion and $20 billion of ‘digitally pirated recorded music’ each year. In the past decade, music sales in the U.S. have declined from $14.6 billion to $7.7 billion.

First of all, the claims proposed by these statistics are disingenuous, for several reasons. First of all, they count each song illegally downloaded as a missed sale. That assumes that everyone that pirated a song would have bought had it not been available illegally. This is wrong to assume. As a ‘pirate’ (to use the recording industry’s pejorative term), I have downloaded a vast amount of music that I wouldn’t have bought otherwise. I’ve discovered artists, songs, albums and genres that I wouldn’t have been able to if I were required to buy it all. For many of those artists I have gone to concerts, bought merchandise, and spread the word about them on social media. I wouldn’t have been able to do that otherwise. Second, another contributing factor to the decline of music sales is the ability to find the music for free online legally. Ever hear of Youtube? Spotify? Pandora? Rdio? Last.fm? Why buy the music when you can listen to it for free legally? Adopting these services and sacrificing that revenue was the recording industry’s choice, and they are blaming us for it. They’re trying to double dip. Third, I do not trust the recording industry’s statistics when they have been shown to be extortionists, liars, and thieves many times in the past. They’ve attempted to sue grandmothers into oblivion over alleged illegal downloads, many of which didn’t have the capability to illegally download the content in the first place.

My favorite artist is Pretty Lights. He is an extremely talented and popular musician/producer that has been releasing his music for free through his website since 2005. He sells out stadiums and festivals around the world, routinely playing to crowds of over 100,000 at Bonnaroo and Coachella every year. He wouldn’t have been able to do that if he had gone with the traditional retail model and sold his music like everyone else. By lowering the barrier to entry, he enabled anyone and everyone with an internet connection to download his music as they pleased. He makes his money through touring and selling merchandise. By giving his music away for free, he made himself more money. Despite giving away his music for free, people still choose to pay for his music (myself included). His last album, A Color Map of the Sun peaked at 24 on the Billboard 200 chart.

Illegal downloading is a problem for the record industry, that is true. It is a problem because they are too stubborn to change their antiquated business practices. The internet changed everything. Old business models do not work anymore. The recording industry needs to find a new, better business model. It is extremely luddite and hypocritical for them to complain about shrinking revenues when they have fought against the internet every step of the way. They need to adapt, or die.

No, it’s not a the pejorative term (that’s ‘mook’, I feel dirty just typing it). Far from it. MOOC stands for ‘massive open online course’. They are free courses offered online. Offered through websites like Khan Academy and Code Academy, anyone can enroll in these courses. These programs have received a lot of hype, namely because they claim to offer people opportunities to expand their knowledge about a wealth of subjects (biology, finance, language, history…). Question is: do they work?

It depends on the person. In fall 2012, Duke University offered a course called ‘Bioelectricity’. 12,725 students enrolled, but a small percentage of those people ever actively participated in the course. Only 7,761 of those enrolled ever watched a video, and 3,658 attempted a quiz. By the end of the semester, barely anyone that had enrolled in the course was still participating. 345 people attempted the final exam, of which 313 passed. That’s a course completion rate of 2.5%. That’s miserable. A researcher for Columbia University found that 32% of those enrolled in MOOC’s withdrew from the courses before their completion, compared with 19% for equivalent classroom classes.

There is a great deal of trust with MOOCs. You have to trust the students to be truthful and not cheat, which is easier than ever when you can just open a tab and Google the answers. You have to trust them to be motivated enough to complete the course. That isn’t a lot to ask, but many people are selfish, lazy, incompetent and unmotivated. The people that would benefit the most from these courses (financially insecure people) are the people least likely to complete the courses. They don’t have the time, motivation, or energy to go through with it. It’s unfortunate.

MOOCs work, but only for some people. It worked for the 2.5% of Duke students that managed to complete the course, but it didn’t work for the 97.5% of students that failed to do so. MOOCs have great potential, but people need to be sufficiently motivated in order for that potential to be realized.