Internet connnected things50,000,000 connected devices by 2020. No, wait… make that more like 70,000,000!

We talked about a lot about the mind-boggling growth of data and “connected things” during our lecture series. Exabytes, zettabytes and even yottabytes. Enough to make your head spin!

The Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineering (IEEE) has released a new projection for the number of internet-connected devices – 152,500,000,000 by the year 2025. That is more devices than all the mammals on earth! And we thought everybody having a cell phone was bad enough. Now your pet will want one too!

Stay connected!

During our lecture series I suggested Larry Downes‘ book The Laws of Disruption as an excellent resource for understanding the challenges of the digital age.  Larry is one of the most highly recognized and respected experts in the area of policy reform. He recently provided an interesting (yet depressing…) insight into the poor prospects of achieving meaningful tech policy reform in Congress. The This Week in Law broadcast also covers the recent incident we discussed of a driver being ticketed for driving while wearing her Google Glass. Interesting thoughts. Enjoy!

My introduction to the Fromm Institute came in the spring of 2012 when I had the opportunity to “sub” for Professor John Levy. With almost no time to prepare for the two classes, I took a chance on developing some content that I thought might be both appropriate and enjoyable. I”m not sure I hit the mark, but from the experience I learned one thing – I wanted to participate in the Fromm program. I was “hooked” so to speak.

Robert, Carla and Dawa - Priceless!

Robert, Carla and Dawa – They are priceless!

I both thank and salute Robert Fordham for taking a chance on me. In the fall of 2012 I sent an unsolicited email to Robert to express my interest in developing a lecture series on digital technology. I followed up in early 2013, receiving a note back from Robert asking me to submit a course abstract which would be reviewed in March. I jumped at the chance and to my pleasant surprise I received an email in April indicating that my proposal had been selected for the Fall program.

I must say, I underestimated the amount of effort required to develop the course. But, I must also add that I tend to be pretty particular about the material I present. I feel it’s a direct reflection on the presenter, and I spend an inordinate amount of time choosing fonts, aligning text, finding the right visual, etc. Hopefully the attendees in my course appreciated the effort.

The subject of digital technology is both broad and deep, and I often struggled with not only narrowing the number of topics, but also paring down the content. But the biggest challenge was trying to find the best way to present the topic to an audience with an equally broad and deep range of backgrounds, experiences, training and interests. As I sit here now I am amazed at the level of participation by the attendees. I warned them that they were in for a wild ride and sometimes we might “blow the doors off” as we sped through different topics. They were fearless.

Over the course of the lecture I noticed an interesting pattern developing. The participants were bringing articles to class on topics related to what we had previously discussed. Or they were sharing personal experiences that involved the technologies we reviewed. To me this showed that they were interested in what we were talking about! Another pleasant surprise was seeing quite a few of the attendees taking copious notes during the lectures. I felt like we hit the mark!

Graduation time!

Graduation time!

Around week 4 I had an idea. Why not reward the attendees for their interest and effort? But how? Then it hit me. Beanies! When I presented my course outline during the first session I used a beanie to highlight the technical sessions that I felt were required to set the groundwork for the rest of the lecture series. I told them that some of it might be dry or over their heads at time, but if they hung in there then they would be able to make the connection to the digital world.

So at the end of Session 8 I held a “graduation ceremony”, presenting each attendee with their own beanie, complete with propeller. In preparation I had asked Carla to get Robert and the team to visit our classroom just before we adjourned so they could be part of the graduation ceremony. My biggest worry was that I would have to cajole/coerce the attendees into donning their beanies before Robert and the team arrived. To my surprise, as I passed out the beanies the attendees put them on without hesitation! This was an expression of gratification and appreciation that demonstrated that we had not only “hit the mark”, but that we had become a “family” of the digital age.

To my students… You were (are) FANTASTIC! Thank you so much for being eager and engaged. I know we sometimes covered material that was a little obscure – but you dove right in and never blinked. Your questions and observations were great and added so much to the experience. And thanks also for the many great articles! But a special thanks for all the very kind compliments. You are too kind!

In closing, I can’t say enough about the Fromm team. Robert, Carla, Dawa, Herbert and Scott are the Fromm experience. They make it a home away from home. You can see it in the faces of all the members. You can hear it in their voices. For me personally, each time I walked through the doors on Thursday mornings my spirits were lifted after the drive up from Sunnyvale. I felt like I was part of the family!

Would I like to do this again? You bet! One thing I’v learned from the experience is that I enjoy sharing my thoughts and experiences. And I can’t think of a better place to do that than the Fromm Institute!


PS: Teaching is hard. As I said, I underestimated the amount of effort required to develop this lecture series. And I had no predefined restrictions, guidelines or standards I had to follow. As a result, I have unbounded admiration for teachers. Those of us who are not teachers have no real appreciation for what they do. For their dedication. For the stress they experience. Or for the satisfaction they ultimately derive from their profession. I now understand why the burn-out rate is so high. But I also now understand why you can see passion they exhibit when they talk about what they do. Tell every teacher you see “thank you.” Give them a hug. Show them how much you appreciate they contributions they make in enriching our lives.

In Session 4 – Search, Social Media and Social Networking, we talked about the concept of location-based services, and how they could be a part of a personalized social experience. In the example it was an impromptu visit to the Sanda Lee studio in San Francisco, resulting in the purchase of a Jeremy Morgan painting.

foursquare noticeI wanted to share a real life example of location awareness that happened today, so you can see firsthand what the future may look like. In this case, my foursquare app pinged me when I visited a restaurant in Mountain View. In this case it wasn’t offering me the great hypothetical deal I enjoyed in San Francisco. It just wanted to alert me that “it knows where I am” even if I don’t have the app active at the time.

So, what would you think if this popped up on your phone? (click on the picture to enlarge it) Spooky? Invasion of privacy? No big deal? We’ve talked a lot about the security and privacy aspects of the digital age. As you may remember from last week, I was pretty vocal about my belief that there is no privacy on the internet – and by extension the digital age. But that doesn’t mean there shouldn’t be. We all need to decide “what’s right for me.”

We’ll talk about this more in Session 7 – Personal, Social and Moral Issues. Let me know what you think!

syncAt their developer conference in July, Dropbox CEO Drew Houston announced that “Sync is the new save.” Makes sense. Every two weeks on early Saturday morning my computer does a backup of the system and data drives. That is, if I leave the computer turned on overnight, which I usually don’t anymore simply to save electricity and hopefully preserve just a wee bit of the planet’s resources. So when I fire up the computer on Saturday morning the overdue backup kicks off and for the next couple of hours the disk drives rattle incessantly and everything slows down. And I get irritated. Maybe I should skinny down what I back up. Or maybe I should move EVERYTHING to the cloud. I’m leaning toward the latter. Then all I have to worry about is letting everything sync in the background.

In Session 3 – Current Trends, we had a lively discussion about the pros and cons of using the cloud for data storage. Not everyone is comfortable with placing their data (or any portion of it) in the cloud. I fall on the other end of the spectrum – I’m a cloud guy all the way. But that’s a personal preference.

If you are going to use the cloud to store your data make sure there are a few things are in place:

  • Your data should be encrypted in the cloud (by the cloud provider) – both during transit and “at rest”. The latter means when it is written to the cloud service provider’s storage devices.
  • A copy of your data should be stored on both your personal computer and the cloud – this is for both convenience and security.
  • You must have the ability to restore deleted (oops…) files.
  • Your files must be invisible to all other users of the cloud service – unless you specifically grant them access to your files.
  • Be wary of applications asking permission to access your cloud service provider APIs (application programming interfaces). You should specifically grant these privileges.

Following these simple rules will ensure that your data is safe and secure – and readily accessible and easily shared if you so desire. No more emailing files, exchanging USB sticks, or (gasp…) diskettes.

Happy syncing!

In Session 4 – Search, Social Media and Social Networking, there were lots of questions about how the results of search engines are listed (ranked), and how those ads show up along the top and side of the search results. Using Google search as the example, we talked briefly about “sponsored ads” and “ads”. Both of these are powered by something called Adwords. In simplest terms, you enter into an auction to have your ad placed along the top or side of the search results. If it gets placed, where it gets placed, and in what rank order is determined by a bidding algorithm. Rather than me trying to explain it, I’ll let Hal Varian, Google’s Chief Economist give a brief explanation in the following video. On the surface it sounds fairly simple, but remember as in my previous post on search engine optimization, the quality and relevance of your site is very important (critical) in the bidding process – you simply can’t “buy” your way to the top.

A key point to think about is that this bidding process takes place every time a search request is made. That’s about 70,000 times a second in today’s digital world!

In Session 4 – Search, Social Media and Social Networking, we discussed the basics of how search engines work. A question was posed during the break that unfortunately we didn’t have time to cover – “what is search engine optimization?” In it’s very simplest form, search engine optimization, or “SEO”, is ensuring that the words, phrases and links that your website contains accurately describe what your site is about. In other words, relevancy. There are also other factors that contribute to your site’s “ranking”, which determines how far up in the list of search results your website will be placed. Things like popularity (number of “hits”) and number of links pointing to your site. The following Common Craft video sponsored by Search Engine Land does a pretty good job of explaining the basics. (Note: if the video is not displayed click on your browser “refresh” button)

If you have a website, but don’t understand the complexities of SEO, or just don’t want to fool with it, there a lots of web marketing companies that will be glad to help you with the process – for a fee of course! Here’s a link to SEO Company Reviewer if you’re interested in checking out a few. Happy searching!

In two weeks we will be jumping feet first into the issues of internet security and privacy. As we saw from this week’s discussion on cloud computing, these are two issues that are of great concern for most people in the digital age.

This week U.S. District Judge Lucy Koh granted Google’s request to throw out state claims against Google (which can be re-filed), but she denied Google’s request to dismiss the federal claims. Google’s argument is that their terms of service allows them to scan emails, but Judge Koh saw it differently. Maybe Microsoft’s campaign to expose Google actually had some impact. This will be an interesting case to follow, and hopefully it will begin unfolding in the next few weeks so we as a group can watch it.

The net takeaway that I would like to leave with you is that you need to understand what’s in those terms of services that you nonchalantly agree to by clicking the “I Accept” box when you sign up for a new service. There’s an old saying that if you don’t vote then don’t complain. The same holds true for internet services. If you don’t read the fine print, then don’t complain about your privacy…