Twenty-Five Years Later: Are We Better off with The World Wide Web?


In case you have been under a rock, this week was the twenty-fifth anniversary of the first ever World Wide Web (WWW) page on August 23, 1991.

Celebrating the silver anniversary of the first WWW page is a milestone which brings reflection now in 2016.

Many things have happened since that fateful day in 1991. Computers have become cheaper (and smaller) thanks to the invention of smartphones and tablets. The days of hearing that annoying dial-up sound, confirming you have connected to the Internet, have gone with Wi-Fi and 4G mobile networks. Adios Yahoo! Chat. Hello Facebook, and other social media networks for interacting with others.

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Monitor via Pixybay Under Public Domain by the Creative Commons 

 

Meanwhile, the Internet of Things is in line to become what some dub it as “social media for machines.” As author Jeremy Rifkin calls it the convergence of communications, energy, and a logistics Internet. The WWW helped guide this.

Now for the one billion dollar question: Is the world better off with the WWW/Internet or not in 2016?

It’s not an easy answer. Both the Yes and no sides have excellent arguments which would make you think.

Many benefits of having the WWW has been promoting another global brand into another area of the world. Consider in the early 1990’s, most people in North America would not have heard of world-class soccer competitions, including the UEFA Champions League, or Copa Libertadores. The WWW has allowed international organizations like both UEFA, and CONEBOL to promote their brands at a global reach. Places like Canada could see top-notch club soccer more often. Now in 2016, the UEFA Champions League is frequently seen on multiple channels of TSN, or beIN Sports. Perhaps even, more important is this has spilled over into North America’s top-tier soccer league, Major League Soccer (MLS). MLS now is considered a top choice sport among millennials.

Another significant advantage of the WWW has been able to cut transaction costs. A 2012 Mashable article noted without the Internet, paying for stamps to send a letter, instead of emails would cost $6.3 US trillion. That’s a lot of money saved by businesses, and individuals that could have gone to the US Postal Service (Or Canada Post in the Great White North).

Lowering transaction costs from the WWW has allowed for more opportunities for collaboration, globally. Don Tapscott and Anthony D. Williams highlighted this in their 2010 book Macrowikinomics. They argued:

In this new age of networked intelligence, businesses and communities are bypassing crumbling institutions. We are altering the way our financial institutions and governments operate; how we educate our children; and how the healthcare, newspaper, and energy industries serve their customers.

A good example of mass collaboration is CleanTechnica.com, which is a blog focusing reporting about the new post-industrial renewable energy we are heading. This site provides analysis and news which mainstream media fails to pick up on clean technology.

Yet, the WWW has provided major societal headaches.

Privacy and security the one issue to me, which can drop an atomic bomb on any good the WWW has done for society.

With social media tools, it’s possible for someone to stalk someone on a daily basis. In 2012, The Guardian reported social networks and the advancement of smartphones was making easier for stalkers to target people.

Meanwhile, in 2016, cyber hackers have a never-ending list of destructive tools at their destruction ranging from viruses, malware, and ransomware. Who can forget the Heartbleed bug, which knocked down CRA, and extended the tax deadline in 2014 by five days? (I know because that was my first year of running my tax business and drove me bonkers). Or consider the “Dragonfly Incident” of 2013, in which hackers targeted a French website of a renewable energy company, implanted a virus, which infected customer computers.

Are we better off now than in 1991? Yes, and no. Yes, we have more information, yes we can collaborate more with people from other parts of the world. No, we are more at both an increased personal security and privacy risk. It’s not as simple as playing your Playstation 4 on your 50-inch Samsung smart tv against someone from China, or Pokemon Go on your smart phone. There are real issues which everyone needs to grasp. It’s gut check time for government, policy makers, and Silicon Valley.

The WWW/Internet will bring more positives, and just as many challenges in the future.

Perhaps, here are two videos from two people who represent the pros and cons of the WWW/Internet. Don Tapscott, and Andrew Keen.

What do you think? Has the WWW/Internet been a good or bad influence? Connect with me on Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, Google+, or by email at adamjwpg@mymts.net.

 

 

Thank You Tragically Hip, Thank You


This Saturday will be a historic night for Canadians, as one of Canada’s greatest rock bands in our generation will play for the last time.

The Tragically Hip will take center stage at the Rogers K-Rock Centre in Windsor, Ontario, and in front of a national audience on CBC.

Last May, lead singer Gord Downie announced he had terminal brain cancer, which shocked Canadians. As a tribute, the Tragically Hip announced they would do a Canadian-only tour during this summer to support their newest album, Man Machine Poem.

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The Tragically Hip Performs at the Commodore Ballroom in Vancouver in 2006 by Radiobread via Flickr. Some Rights Reserved

 

For thirty-two years, The Hip have enthralled Canadian music fans for over a generation. I remember listening to some of their songs, back in high school at Miles Mac, to counteract for all the pop songs at the time. They offered something unique. I could not pinpoint it at the time (but later I would understand what it was they offered).  I had the opportunity to see them back at the 2000 War Child concert at the Forks here in Winnipeg (along with Chantal Kreviazuk). They performed some of their world-class hits including Ahead By a Century. They put on a sublime show that day. It was that day, I figured out how good they were, and perhaps one of Canada’s best-kept musical secrets. The Hip were rock enough to deliver a knockout punch, yet had lyrics to their songs that would make you think about life.

But perhaps the best thing outside of their music was the Hip represented Canada very well. Gord was a big fan of hockey. The Hip also rattled the chains of social justice, when needed. By writing about the injustice of David Milgaard in Wheat Kings, to advocating on environmental issues.

Take it all in this Saturday. Whether you are at home, watching on a big screen at a local event, or listening on your smartphone. You won’t see the Tragically Hip ever again. Then again in today’s age, you will never see a band like The Hip, period. With rap, pop, and even country dominating our music scene, good current rock in 2016 is virtually gone. Factor in globalization where anyone can tap into other genres of music from other parts of the world and it’s nearly impossible a band (Outside of Rush) like The Tragically Hip will ever grace Canadian music as they have.

A piece of music dies on August 20th. A part of Canada dies on August 20th. A piece of generational art dies August 20th.  Let’s celebrate what The Hip has done for Canada. Let’s not treat this as a funeral but as a celebration. A celebration of one of Canada’s best rock bands ever (besides Rush, and Matthew Good Band in the 1990’s). Soak it in. Laugh, cry. There will not be one dry eye from coast to coast Saturday, August 20th.

Thank you Tragically Hip, Thank You for the memories.

 

Zapped Out: The Cost of Video Games


Recently I went to EB Games to see what was out and upcoming in the video game world. Batman: Arkham Knight, Call of Duty: Black Ops 3 and Rainbow Six Siege will all have us gaming fanatics on the edge of our seat very soon.

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Image Credit: Adam Johnston

However, my mouth dropped. Not for the anticipation for these blockbusters. No, instead it was the prices which had me shaking my head. For example, it will take a small mortgage of $79.99 to buy Call of Duty Black Ops (which is due out in November, 2015) , $79.99 to get your kicks from FIFA 16 (will feature 12 national women’s teams and headed for a September, 2015 release), and $74.99 to get your hands on Rainbow Six Siege (coming out in October, 2015), all for Playstation 4, and Xbox One.

Many games still are $69.99 for these two systems. A few years ago new releases for when Playstation 3 and Xbox 360 were in its prime was around $59.99.

It comes down to three questions regarding video games pricing and costs related to consumers. What is pushing the costs of games up? Why is the price the way it is when you go to a video game store?  And are video games in general more expensive than in past years when factoring inflation and other factors?

First, let’s look at what’s pushing the costs up: Increased budgets. Video games today, are not like its 8-bit NES predecessors.  Technology today is far more effective and cheaper, helping push what gaming developers can do. Today’s video games resemble more like a big budget theatrical movie. It’s common for video games to have budgets of hundreds of millions of dollars today. This requires a lot more help to produce these games, including voice actors, and designers, The Economist noted:

As characters, items, levels and visual effects have become more intricate and detailed, developers have had little choice but to throw more and more artists at the problem. Another reason costs are rising is the increasing professionalism of the industry. These days, Hollywood actors are hired (and paid handsomely) to voice characters. The biggest developers market-test their products to destruction. Like political parties honing a slogan, they offer snippets of gameplay to focus groups. If anything is found to be too difficult, too obscure or simply not fun, it is sent back to be re-done. That kind of quality control costs serious money.

Expect budgets of your favorite video games to increase as the current next generations systems are starting to gain market traction said The Economist. 

Now question two, who sets the price of a video game?  It’s not the store where you buy it, but the distributor, according to a CBC article. For example, Activision will set the price of Call of Duty: Black Ops 3, or EA Sports for FIFA 16 at $79.99 when it first comes out. Stores like Best Buy, EB Games do not have much of a say on pricing for when games first come out.

This is also created a debate on how much value gamers get in hours of play vs. the cost, which CBC argued about the short play time for The Order 1886 vs. its $74.99 price tag.  Expect this trend to continue as budgets rise and distributors need to maximize profits in order to costs.

Which leads me to question three. Are video games, in general, more expensive to buy now than in previous times?

The answer is muddled.

If you add inflation to this mix, according to IGN then no. For example, An NES game twenty-five years would cost you $50, would be $89.00 now. An NES system, which cost $199.99 in 1985, is around $434.69 in today’s cost.

Meanwhile, a Playstation 2 (PS2) game in 2000 at $60.00 a pop would set you back about the same now. A PS2 system in 2000 which was $299.99 is $407.44 now. Very little increase with inflation factored in.

In fact, Forbes technology columnist Erik Kain argued video game prices should cost more, thanks to massive budgets, and more realistic gameplay. He argues today’s gamers are getting a bargain, in compared to other times in history when inflation is added.

However, his argument is kind of flawed considering when you factor Moore’s Law, where exponential technologies have improved all aspects of technology, driving cost down. Does anyone recall laptops in 2000 being $2,000? Now you can get a laptop for around $300-$400.00.  You can argue this for video games which have brought technology costs down for this industry, and cancelling Kain’s ideas of increasing gaming prices.

Add constant bombardment of downloadable content (around $20.00 to $35.00), Internet costs ($65.00 a month for high-speed Internet with a local provider), yearly online fees ($49.99 for Playstation Plus) and headphones ($150.00 for high quality ones) to get the most interactive movie-like experience, and it’s not as cheap as you think.

Lastly, stagnant wages, plus a low Canadian dollar, stifles consumer purchasing power. Consumer may likely not want to spend on games, as they feel the pinch with increased prices. Hence, why it’s unclear as to why it’s cheaper to buy video games than in the past. Ironically, this may not deter millennials (one of the video game industries top demographics), as they are willing to spend more on entertainment, despite not having the wealth of past generations.

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Image Credit: “PS4-Console-wDS4” by Evan-Amos – Media:PS4-Console- via Wikimedia

Let me know what your thoughts are. You can find me on Facebook, Twitter, or Google+

 

 

Millennial Minds: Understanding What Makes Us Tick


As a fringe millennial (Generation Y) who turns 35 soon, I have had the good fortune of memories from both the pre and post Internet era. Back in the good old day, we had the 13-channel universe, VHS tapes and played 8-bit Nintendo to our hearts content. Meanwhile, reading hard bound paper books on the Winnipeg Transit bus was the cool thing to do, smartphones was something out of Star Trek, and computers were modestly clunky monstrosities in themselves.

Now times have changed in 2015. Millennials are an important and powerful purchasing group. We crave instant, rapid-fire information bombarding our senses. We now can read books on computer tablets, watch videos on our mobile phones, and snap a photo to anywhere in the world within seconds.

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A Look Into the Millennial’s Mind [Infographic] via We Are Social Media

If you are looking at marketing products to this group, We Are Social Media in April this year published an infograph, from a study from PinPoint Research, showing millennials preferences for video consumption, social media use, and what technology we own. Consider, 81% of Generation Y own their own television; 76% have a laptop; 40% an iPhone/smartphone; and 48% still have a desktop computer (strangely enough).

Factor in Facebook (36%), Twitter (30%) and Instagram (30%) are the three social media outlets of choice for millennials, and marketing departments have of effective outreach tools in advertising products or services.

Marketing and advertising to our demographic is a constant evolution. Companies can not use the same five-year-old campaigns  (let alone 80’s style ads) for success in 2015.

This is critical, considering millennials are willing to spend more on entertainment (including premium television channels and ad-free videos), despite being more thrifty as PinPoint Research said in Adweek:

“In fact, their view on personal finances sounds more like the Boomer generation emerging from the Great Depression than the ‘entitlement’ label they keep hearing,” the study said. But “despite their frugality, millennials are expected to spend money on lifestyle and entertainment more than prior generations.”

With limited time, limited marketing budgets, companies who best understand millennial minds through customer engagement will be very successful for a long time.

Generation Y and the Changing Workforce


I have covered Generation Y (aka Generation Screwed) numerous times on this blog, often trying to show both sides of the coin on were my generation is headed.

On a boring Saturday night, on my computer, I pulled a fantastic infograph on some interesting Gen Y stats from Workshare.com (Below).

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Image Credit: Workforce.com

Workforce notes we are the most educated generation ever, along with being the most tech savy. Heck, 90% of generation Yers own an electronic device.

But here are some things that this infograph should make you think about, now, but in the future.

This generation, unlike others want meaning in their workplace. We want constant feedback from our bosses. We do not tolerate a lot of garbage. We want a high quality workplace. We want environmental sustainability. We are even wanting to accept lesser money for more challenges (which makes me wonder why the rise of interns. Read Intern Nation).

While it sucks now, and it may get worse, perhaps something to consider is by 2025, 75% of the world’s workforce (here is hoping) will consist of generation Yers.

If this is true, and as of 2012, only 45% of American information workforce in a corporate office, there could be a lot of potential to see a lot of game changing entrepreneurship, and a lot of startups. This may very well be the most entrepreneurial generation also.

Will this mean a new wealth boom in the future? I don’t know. It’s doubtful in the short-term. Macleans a few weeks ago noted millennials are the New Underclass citing the huge economic and financial challenges slapping them in the face:

Equally troubling, university-educated Canadians experienced a relative increase in unemployment between 1997 and 2005 and a corresponding dip in relative wages, according to a federal government study. By contrast, those with a college, or even a high school education, managed to improve (or at least maintain) their outlook, relative to other workers. In fact, the only group that experienced a similar relative increase in unemployment during the period were those Canadians without even a high school diploma.

………….. It wasn’t always so bleak for Canada’s youth. Wayne Lewchuk, a professor of labour studies at Hamilton’s McMaster University, grew up in Windsor, Ont., and recalls that many of his university buddies took assembly-plant jobs with Chrysler and Ford after graduating in the mid-1970s. The work wasn’t great, but it paid well and the benefits were good. “If you’re measuring life purely by your material standard of living, then they’ve had a much better life than I’ve had,” says Lewchuk, who instead went back to school to pursue two more degrees. “They started working 10 years before I even got my first paycheque.”

Of course, most of those automotive jobs are long gone. So are many other relatively high-paying factory jobs in Ontario and Quebec. They are casualties of globalization and Canada’s subsequent shift toward a “knowledge-based economy”—one that’s built on providing services instead of forging things out of plastic and steel. At the same time, the global commodity boom that began around 2003 refocused attention on Canada’s vast resources, particularly oil and gas. But despite the billions poured into Alberta’s oil sands, there’s mounting evidence to suggest that Canadian workers, collectively, are no better off. The CGA study, for example, suggested the proportion of workers employed in industries with above-average earnings declined between 1991 and 2011, despite strong overall growth in the economy.

Wages are only part of the picture. Unions, once the guarantor of a comfortable middle-class lifestyle, have shrivelled as employers cut back on pension and health care benefits in a bid to better compete in a globalized market. Indeed, the very concept of a gold-plated, defined-benefit corporate pension plan (which guarantees a certain level of retirement income) has all but disappeared. A recent study by the debt-rating agency, Dominion Bond Rating Service, found that as many as two-thirds of North American defined-benefit plans are underfunded. Many companies are pushing new employees over to less costly and less comprehensive defined-contribution plans.”

Will millennials/Generation Y have the same standard of living like Baby Boomers? Let me know what you think, hit me up by email at adamjwpg@mymts.net, Facebook, Google+, or Twitter.