Chamber of Commerce launches Save Local Now

Chamber of Commerce launches Save Local NowAmelia Island, FL – Effective March 25, the Amelia Island-Fernandina Beach-Yulee Chamber of Commerce is introducing a new marketing advantage for local businesses – Save Local NowT – a one-stop digital marketing platform.

The Save Local NowT platform provides local businesses with nine insanely easy-to-use products they need to reach more customers and creates incentives for consumers to shop locally.

Save Local Now is unlike any daily deal service on the market. For the consumer, there are no minimum purchase requirements and no minimum group participation requirements. Save Local Now utilizes GPS functionality in order to draw residents and visitors alike to Amelia Island-Fernandina Beach-Yulee Chamber of Commerce members.

For merchants, there are no delays in uploading or changing deals and, most importantly, there are no fees to businesses and organizations in the Amelia Island-Fernandina Beach-Yulee Chamber of Commerce.

AIFBY Chamber member Jeff Weisfeld of The Pecan Roll Bakery in Fernandina Beach said Save Local Now is a good addition to the benefits he already receives as a Chamber member.

“It is very user-friendly. Very easy to set-up. I’m happy with it,” he said.

All member businesses have been automatically uploaded onto the Save Local Now platform. Those who choose to offer a deal, event or special promotion can upload it themselves and change it as frequently as they wish to match up with peak and non-peak business times.

Unlike other digital marketing platforms, Save Local Now provides total control to the merchants. They can access their business profile and change their deals, events or promotions without needing to wait for a third-party administrator. The offers are immediately available through the Save Local Now iPhone and Android Apps, mobile website and savelocalnow.com.

According to Regina Duncan, president of the Amelia Island-Fernandina Beach-Yulee Chamber of Commerce, the Chamber contracted with Save Local Now after spending the past year researching shop local and daily deals programs.

“We felt it was important to find a program that would change consumer behavior by rewarding them for shopping at our local member businesses. Save Local Now provides that incentive and gives total control to our member businesses. Each business decides what deal or incentive to offer and for how long. They are not required to offer discounts of 50% to 75% as is the case with some well-known daily deal programs. Save Local Now is a win-win for our members and their customers,” Duncan said.

“Community organizations are looking for creative ways to market themselves and be an asset to the businesses they serve,” said Keith Latore, Save Local Now’s co-founder and CEO. “That’s why we created Save Local Now exclusively for chambers of commerce and community organizations.

“Save Local Now benefits everyone. The Amelia Island-Fernandina Beach-Yulee Chamber of Commerce now has a tool to help promote local businesses and organizations while encouraging people to shop local. Business members have access to a digital marketing platform they might not otherwise be able to afford. Consumers have a convenient source for finding local businesses, deals, events and promotions.”

Download the free Save Local Now App today by visiting savelocalnow.com, iTunes or Google Play. If you would like to learn more about Save Local Now for your business, please contact the Amelia Island-Fernandina Beach-Yulee Chamber of Commerce at (904) 261-3248.

Photo Caption: Amelia Island-Fernandina Beach-Yulee Chamber of Commerce members like Jeff Weisfeld of The Pecan Roll Bakery in Fernandina Beach now have a free digital marketing platform, Save Local Now, as part of their Chamber membership. Save Local Now provides residents and visitors a convenient source for finding local businesses as well as deals, events and promotions.

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Supermarket Shelves Reflect Paycheck-to-Paycheck Society

The Beauty of the Midnight Sun

Dear Readers. Today in this weekend bulletin I was going to talk a bit about ‘the dos and donts‘ with crypto currencies such as Bitcoin, why gold is still being kicked in the balls by an stupendously exuberant Wall Street and why you should consider having your website hosted in an overseas territory, considering all the limitations and restrictions to be expected out of Washington. But after reading that Norway’s Army is battling Global Warming by going vegetarian, while the GOP is planning to cut alternative energy subsidies in half, I figured that it is all hog wash anyway. And if you don’t think so you should read Hugh Gusterson’s insightful article about “Which Drone Future Will Americans  Choose?” and still believe that we actually do have a choice.

So instead I decided to talk about reflections from my 3 times weekly grocery trips as well as some Festive information about the Holiday Season and some Sunday Morning Humor.

A Paycheck to Paycheck Society

As we are going into the last four week dash of grocery shopping and gift hunting, I would like to share a little secret with those of you, who always shy away from buying the larger bottle of ketchup in favor of the smaller one because of cash flow considerations. American grocery stores offer interesting reflections of financial irony, enticing (allowing) the poor to buy higher priced smaller packaged items, while the more prosperous among us take the advantage of buying those same products in larger volumes, but at substantially lower prices. Is this news to you?

There’s some real irony in this as often the stereotype of someone making bulk purchases is a person down to his last penny and watching every cent. But in reality, larger purchases at discounted pricing are for the better off; while buying the tiny packages at higher pricing is for the poor.

Of course I’m familiar with the economic law that states “the more you purchase of a product, the better the price you purchase at.” What rational person would prefer to pay more for a product when the same product in a larger packaging is staring them in the face for 30% less? But that’s only one side of the equation. The other side presents a real economic conundrum.

Imagine finding yourself in the condiments row of a supermarket where you notice that two bottles of ketchup – one larger and one smaller, same brand-name with the per-ounce price of each clearly labeled for the shopper. After doing some quick math in your head, the bigger bottle turns out to be about 30% cheaper than the small one per ounce of product. You quickly verify that you’re “comparing apples with apples” and this isn’t some special sale, but just the normal price, the only difference being packaged in a different size. According to any financial markets theory, this opportunity shouldn’t exist.

Designed Around Paycheck to Paycheck

Yet, whether it’s ketchup or just about anything else at the grocery store, one can save money by simply purchasing a larger package these days. And no I’m not even talking about bulk discount retailers like Costco, Sam’s Club or Restaurant Depot, but just your regular neighborhood grocery store. For people like me this advantage is in reality an earning, rather than a saving, but for the average American in the grocery store, the sad truth is that the pricing system of our entire society is based on people living paycheck to paycheck. It is designed around shoppers with near zero dollars in their checking accounts and that is why there are so many people buying the smaller packaged quantities? For many Americans the difference between a weekly $100 grocery bill and a $200 bill is enormous, which directs not only the purchase behavior from brand-name to store brand, but also the packaged sizing of products purchased.

I had a friend down in St.Maarten who bought a pack of cigarettes every day. Cost $2. A carton of 10 packs was only $12 or $1.20 per pack. $0.80 savings per day is $5.60 of earnings per week, had he bought a carton. Per year he would have had earned $292 in risk free income. His reason for purchasing one pack a day was: “Maybe I quit tomorrow.” He never did.

Next time I’m going to the grocery store and earn 5% to 10% riskless return on my groceries I know it’s great for me, but it’s disheartening to know that these savings are essentially the result of a paycheck-to-paycheck society. Either people can’t afford to make their ends meet with their paychecks, or they have completely lost control of their spending. But then again, there is something virtuous about these prices as well. In the free market, the price system actually rewards one for earning a greater income by offering cheaper prices for larger purchases. The same is true of other pricing as well. With a bigger down payment and more income, one pays lower interest rates on the mortgage – again, a reward for doing better. When it comes to government however, it’s the complete opposite. We are actually punished for earning greater incomes by paying higher taxes. Funny, isn’t it?

And while talking about government, here is a WARNING

After a recent wave of identify thefts, the FBI estimates there are over 500 fake ACA (Obamacare) websites set up for the sole purpose of stealing your personal information. So protect yourself and remember: the real one is the one that doesn’t work!

Restaurants Open on Thanksgiving Day

Courtesy of the Amelia Island Tourist Development Council

Following Restaurants are open and take reservations for Thanksgiving:

• Amelia Island Coffee – 207 Centre Street – (904) -321 2111

• Barbara Jean’s – 960030 Gateway Blv – (904)-277 3700

• Café 4750 (Ritz Carlton-Amelia Island) – 4750 Amelia Island Pkwy – (904) 277 1100

• David’s Restaurant – 802 Ash Street -(904) 310 6049

• Horizons – 4828 First Coast Highway – (904) 321 2430

• Huddle House – 1855 South 8th Street – (904) 261 2933

• Jack and Diane’s – 708 Centre Street – (904) 321 1444

• Marché Burette – 6800 First Coast Highway – (904) 491 4834

• Merge – 510 South 8th Street – (904) 277 8797

• Pablo’s Mexican Grill – 12 North 2nd Street – (904) 261 0049

• Slider’s Seaside Grill – 1998 South Fletcher Ave – (904) 277 6652

• Salt – (Ritz Carlton – Amelia Island) 4750 Amelia Island Pkwy – (904) 277 1100

• The Surf – 3199 South Fletcher Ave. – (904) 261 5711

• The Verandah – 6800 First Coats Highway – (904) 321 5050

Some Sunday Funday Impressions

Hunting Season has started here in North Florida so I thought you might like this one:

Click on Photograph for 360° tour

Daily I receive loads of great stories and beautiful pictures, but I was very happy to receive one last week with a 360° photograph one of our guests at the Amelia Oceanfront B&B took last June. Amazing technology. If you’re interested in finding out more about this contact Suburban Video directly.

In Closing for Today I’ll leave you with some of my favorites for this week. Click on them to enlarge.

This is a tattoo I would wear

HAVE A GREAT WEEK AND THANKS GIVING DAY

Evolution of the Cell Phone, A 30 Year Journey

Evolution of the Cell Phone, A 30 Year JourneyFor more than three decades, cell phones have undergone a rapid evolutionary process that is worthy of amazement. Today’s sleek models operate at record speeds (using predominately 3G and 4G LTE systems); but their predecessors can all be traced back to an early analog Motorola model, the DynaTAC 8000x.

First sold in 1983, the DynaTAC 8000x weighted a whopping two and a half pounds and measured 3 x 1.75 x 3.5 inches. It had a wide-array of specs, which included a 30-minute battery life, single-line, text-only LED screen, and an eight-hour battery charge. None of today’s pretty bells and whistles or sensitive touch screens were included in this brick of a phone. At nearly $4,000, this primitive model was the only commercial mobile device of its time. On the big screen, it made quite a debut on both the 1980s hit sitcom, Saved by the Bell, and the Michael Douglas Blockbuster hit, Wall Street.

Between 1984 to the present, wireless subscribers grew from 300,000 to over 1 billion globally. And since the early DynaTAC 8000x days, countless cell phone models have gone on the market. They have shrunk in size; and at other intervals, they have grown once more, always adapting to accommodate the needs of the modern day consumer.

A new report, by Juniper Research found that by 2017, 2 billion mobile and tablet users will watch TV and videos on their devices. Equipped with wifi, usb ports, gaming, mobile apps, etc., cell phones are a fundamental part of our mobile society.

Some smart phones are a lot like mini-tablets, or “phablets,” which utilize larger screens and are capable of performing at the standards of computers and tablets. Leading devices, like the Samsung Galaxy S4, the HTC One and the iPhone 5 are prime examples of today’s latest, fastest, and most developed mobile capabilities.

App stores for iPhone models and Android devices alike, provide access to thousands of apps for download. Music can be uploaded; movies and hi definition tv can be watched anywhere; thousands of books can be purchased; video calls can be placed via Skype, etc.

As the internet becomes more accessible, cell phones, with all their numerous makes and models, reflect the single-biggest technological change in our now digital, mobile society. In just a 30-year span, brick phones have morphed into sleek, convenient tools to facilitate communication, share information and access tools for entertainment purposes. With this trend, it’s hard to fathom what the next 30 years will hold for mobile technology.

Guest contributor Andrea Fisher is an online marketer and content specialist from North Carolina. She is a published journalist & blogger with an English degree and political science minor from the University of North Carolina at Greensboro.

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How easily we sometimes forget the times we’re living in

Beware of what's in your car's glove box

Beware of what's in your car's glove box

We had guests from Palm Beach at the Inn over the weekend. This was already their 3rd stay in a year and we are fast becoming good friends. Friday and Saturday night were spent in their company with an unspecified number of bottles of exquisite Champagne, Wine and a bottle of 12 year old Trinidadian rum that went ad fundum in no time flat. No harm done…we were on the beach 20 feet in front of the Inn and only had to cross the street to get safely home.

As the magnificent moon came up in the East (yes I know technically this incorrect), and dozen of pictures were taken and uploaded onto respective Facebook pages, James all at once said loud more to himself than anyone else: “Why do I let everyone know that I’m not home right now?”

And that was yet another moment of clarity on how we have embraced online transparency to the point where we actually invite mishap and mayhem with consequences beyond our consideration. Think for example insurance. How long do you think it will be before insurance company decline theft claims that happened when you posted on your Facebook profile or Twitter account, that you are not at home?

Here are some other pointers on where to be careful with what you do and don’t do that invites mishap and mayhem.

What’s in Your Glove Box

A friend of a friend left their car in the long-term parking at San Jose while away, and someone broke into the car. Using the information on the car’s registration in the glove compartment, they drove the car to the people’s home in Pebble Beach and robbed it. So I guess if we are going to leave the car in long-term parking, we should not leave the registration/insurance cards in it, nor your remote garage door opener. This gives us something to think about with all our new electronic technology.

Global Positioning System

A while ago a friend told me that someone she knew had their car broken into while they were at a football game. Their car was parked on the green which was adjacent to the football stadium and specially allotted to football fans. Things stolen from the car included a garage door remote control, some money and a GPS which had been prominently mounted on the dashboard. When the victims got home, they found that their house had been ransacked and just about everything worth anything had been stolen. The thieves had used the GPS to guide them to the house. They then used the garage remote control to open the garage door and gain entry to the house.

The thieves knew the owners were at the football game, they knew what time the game was scheduled to finish and so they knew how much time they had to clean out the house. It would appear that they had brought a truck to empty the house of its contents.

Something to consider if you have a GPS – don’t put your home address in it… Put a nearby address (like a store or gas station) so you can still find your way home if you need to, but no one else would know where you live if your GPS were stolen.

Cell Phones

I never thought of this…….This lady has now changed her habit of how she lists her names on her cell phone after her handbag was stolen. Her handbag, which contained her cell phone, credit card, wallet, etc., was stolen. 20 minutes later when she called her hubby, from a pay phone telling him what had happened, hubby says’I received your text asking about our pin number and I’ve replied a little while ago.’ When they rushed down to the bank, the bank staff told them all the money was already withdrawn. The thief had actually used the stolen cell phone to text ‘hubby’ in the contact list and got hold of the pin number. Within 20 minutes he had withdrawn all the money from their bank account.

MORAL OF THE LESSON:

a. Do not disclose the relationship between you and the people in your contact list. Avoid using names like Home, Honey, Hubby, Sweetheart, Dad, Mom, etc….

b. And very importantly, when sensitive info is being asked through texts, CONFIRM by calling back.

c. Also, when you’re being texted by friends or family to meet them somewhere, be sure to call back to confirm that the message came from them. If you don’t reach them, be very careful about going places to meet ‘family and friends’ who text you.

And while you’re at it, check occasionally which private pictures and videos you want to keep on your phone and if you buy something on your cell phone make sure there is no private financial information left on it.

Making arrangements for mail pick up and newspaper delivery halt when going on vacation is 20th century. We’re dealing with a completely new set of electronic and digital dangers these days.

Technology Thieves Can Be Dangerously Clever

too smart for our own good?

Too smart for our own good?

Of course we all “know” that technology and cyberspace has introduced a lot of different aspects to our lives. What seems convenient at first sight may turn against us over time. Especially when we stop being vigilant. Privacy is now mostly a thing of the past with everyone embracing social media as if it promises us that ultimate transparency will save us from Big Brother’s indifference for individual sanctity.

Today I witnessed a little “rebellion” against Facebook’s new openess policy, but in the end, most of us will give in to FB and keep exposing our lives and our loved ones to the rest of the universe. Well here are some real stories  that show how modern technology has us in a stranglehold, especially when it comes to our possessions and privacy.

1.  What’s in your Glove Box?

A friend of a friend left the car in the long-term airport parking while away, when someone broke into the car. Using the information on the car’s registration in the glove compartment, they drove the car to his home in and robbed it. Here is the take-away, if we are going to leave the car in long-term parking, we should not leave the registration/insurance cards in it, nor your remote garage door opener or anything else that can give information on you. Something to think about with all our new electronic technology, doesn’t it?

2. GPS technology

A couple of weeks ago a friend told me that someone she knew had their car broken into while they were at a football game. Their car was parked on the green which was adjacent to the football stadium and specially allotted to football fans. Things stolen from the car included a garage door remote control, some money and a GPS which had been prominently mounted on the dashboard. When the victims got home, they found that their house had been ransacked and just about everything worth anything had been stolen. The thieves had used the GPS to back-track them to the house. They then used the garage remote control to open the garage door and gain entry to the house.
The thieves knew the owners were at the football game, they knew what time the game was scheduled to finish and so they knew how much time they had to clean out the house. It would appear that they had brought a truck to empty the house of its contents.
Something to consider if you have a GPS – don’t put your home address in it… Put a nearby address (like a store or gas station) so you can still find your way home if you need to, but no one else would know where you live if your GPS were stolen.

Publisher’s note: I don’t know about you, but give me 15 uninterrupted minutes in your house and I know your friends, your family, where they live, what they own and if you store banking information in your computer, you may as well kiss your money goodbye. The vast majority of people so not have a personal password protection on the computer, let alone their email server.

3. Cell Phones

A lady, who we will not name here, has now changed her habit of how she lists her names on her cellphone after her handbag was stolen. Her handbag, which contained her cell phone, credit card, wallet, etc., was stolen. 20 minutes later when she called her hubby from a pay phone to tell him what had happened, hubby says ‘I received your text asking about our pin number and I’ve replied a little while ago.’ When they rushed down to the bank, the bank staff told them all the money was already withdrawn. The thief had actually used the stolen cellphone to text ‘hubby’ in the contact list and got hold of the pin number.
Within 20 minutes he had withdrawn all the money from their bank account.

Is there a moral to this story?

Personally I think we’re just at the starting point of a technological privacy invasion. For that reason I refused for example to have a cellphone even though my business is Internet technology. I finally got one after several years of begging and people calling me “peculiar”.

I have probably 15 names and numbers in my phone and get all of 3 phone calls a week (if that). I do not encourage it obviously. It’s not hooked up to the Internet, so no emails etc. and I think I texted 2 words once.

It’s listed in someone else’s name and occasionally I take pictures with it, which I quickly download into my computer and immediately erase from the phone. Some people (you know who you are) have their entire life archived in pictures in their cell phone!!

I’m not saying it’s going to save me from increased prying into my private life, but it is a start. If you want to have all the “benefits” from carrying a communication tool that is so intertwined with your life that it is truly a National Identification Card, I can only suggest the following tips:

a. Do not disclose the relationship between you and the people in your contact list. Avoid using names like Home, Honey, Hubby, Sweetheart, Dad, Mom, etc….

b. When sensitive info is being asked through texts, if you absolutely have to, CONFIRM by calling back.

c. Also, when you’re being texted by friends or family to meet them somewhere, be sure to call back to confirm that the message came from them. If you can’t reach them, be very careful about going places to meet ‘family and friends’ who text you.

d. Be careful about which pictures to store in your phone!!!

Yes, texting while driving is not the only dangerous downside to a cellphone.

Our most Powerful Enemy is Ignorance

Turning the Desert into Grassland

In a world overrun with mindless talk, mostly conducted by people who excel in looks and fail miserably in knowledge and understanding, I’m finding more and more that our biggest enemy is ignorance and therefore our main and maybe only weapon is education. Since the elections now 2 months ago I have been hearing that the US is now the leading example of capitalism’s failure and Obama socialism is some kind of relief. The whole fiscal cliff charade plays on ignorance and very few (at least in my circles) understand that it was just a smoke screen for the “next big political fight” called raising the debt ceiling.

At a minimum lift of $1 trillion a year we’re looking at a deficit of beyond $25 trillion in less than 10 years, not counting the galloping inflation that has to explode into our lives one day soon. But this essay is about growing ignorance among the people, only partially as a result of a growing disconnect from reality.

In that light some holiday conversations have stuck with me, mainly because I thought they were stuffed with ignorance overload and for me became a reason to share with you a story I remember from the mid seventies when two Irish brothers had the “crazy” idea to set up a farming operation in the Saudi Arabian desert. What lead up to that story? Well we were invited for dinner at Baxter’s and over the consumption of a delightful prime rib steak the question directed at me was: “What  do you think? Is the US really the best country in the world to live in, as so many people here claim”?
My answer to that was deliberately evasive, not only because America was once my promised land, which is why I moved here 32 years ago, but also having visited more than 180 nations in the world and having lived at least 3 months or more in about a dozen of them, my nuances have changed as they now include the wisdom of the years and retrospect and the knowledge that “Most people do not listen with the intent to understand; they listen with the intent to reply.” The question could be sincere as in actionable or just conversation.
Based on that assessment I decided on my personal truth.

In my corporate years New York, London, Paris, Hong Kong, Tokyo and Singapore had my total devotion; in my active travel years I found Argentina and Chile to be interesting and attractive, as I did Australia and South Africa. Europe’s countries were great when I was young and could grab a beer at 16 (but couldn’t get a drivers license until 18), go to concerts, hang out in brown cafés and was generally allowed to be and regarded a young adult. To build companies I preferred Atlanta, Dallas and Tampa (it was the early 80s) but in my mid thirties, when I needed to step back from the killing floors of corporate burnout, the Caribbean Islands offered a myriad of sailing and ‘limin’ opportunities and frankly the feeling of personal freedom I have been looking for all my life, is still mostly alive down there.

So in other words, best places to live largely depend on your stage in life, your desire for certain creature comforts, your insistence on brand-name merchandise and choices. Girlfriend or wife with kids?, your options are obviously different than if you’re single and nothing to hold you back. Also when you’re in your twenties, accessibility to a doctor or pharmacy is normally the furthest thing from your mind. When you’re in your fifties and sixties you learn to think in terms of Walgreen, “on the corner of health and comfort.”

And then there are lots of people out there who will use the quality of available education as a measuring stick for their choices, yet these days home schooling is growing by leaps and bounds and within the next 10 years you can obtain a college education from anywhere in the world with an internet connection. Like one befriended teacher recently confided: “we would all prefer to teach in our shorts from a specially equipped room in our homes to anyone who wants to learn anywhere in the world.”

So all things considered I believe that all important choices should be based on well balanced research from trusted sources, not widespread ignorance spewed by commercial media. For some or many of you, this maybe the best country in the world to live because it fits your preferred lifestyle and mindset. As long as the decision is based on educated choices and future expectations, it’s all good. But unfortunately this is often not the case.

And this finally leads me to another chapter of “comfort zone ignorance” that has descended upon the human species.

On another social occasion I was pulled into a rant of a bunch of rednecks, talking about camel jockies in the Middle East. They claimed “on the ground experience” because they had either been part of Desert Storm or George W’s folly almost 10 years ago.  Listening to their agitated one-liners I wondered why is it that so many Americans (Guys mostly) consider themselves superior over so many species and nationalities? Why is it that so many assume that the rest of the world is incapable of looking after themselves. It sometimes reminds me of the old “White Man’s Burden” fallacy that became the big excuse behind slavery.

So here is the claim that not only caught my attention, I was actually drawn into it for the purpose of a reaction: “They don’t know anything about farming over there besides goat herding and poppy seeds in Afghanistan. If we wouldn’t feed them they would starve.”

And that’s what gave me a flash back to 1978 when I was working on a book publication for Aramco in Saudi Arabia and traveled the peninsula’s country side. On one of those travels I was introduced to an agricultural dream partnership between Irish brothers  Alastair and Paddy McGuckian and a visionary prince in the Saudi Royal Family who had set out to create an integrated dairy food company that today is considered one of the largest companies of its type in the world. Almarai, which is Arabic for “pasture”, operates smack in the middle of the desert. Integrated in this case meant, the company controls its raw material supply lines (food for dairy producing cattle). In order to do that they pulled 56,000 lush acres (88 square miles) of grassland out of the desert. The grass land is mowed 10 times per year and yielded 20,000 truckloads of Rhodes grass in 2009, all to feed a herd of some 105,000 cows for dairy production. Each cow produces almost 3,400 gallons of milk per year – three times more than in Europe or the US. Other crops grown on the land are 400,000 tons of alfalfa and 300,000 tons of corn every year.

I could go on about this amazing effort to reclaim desert land in the hope that at some point ignorami here would understand how degrading it is to blindly refer to muslims as desert people and camel jockeys. Do me a favor and learn from the following Powerpoint Download Farming in the Desert and realize that this tremendous feat was accomplished IN THE DESERT!!!!..and then quietly admit that insulting monikers like desert rats and camel jockeys, only expose your own ignorance about today’s world. You know who you are!

New Police Cars Unveiled

New Police Cars UnveiledAs the Fernandina Beach Police Department celebrates its 125th anniversary, some police officers will be taking to the streets in new patrol vehicles, complete with the new anniversary badge design and modern striping package.

When the Ford Motor Company announced that it was discontinuing the iconic Crown Victoria Police Interceptor, considered the standard for police cars for more than fifteen years, police departments across the nation were forced to find a reasonable replacement vehicle.

The City of Fernandina Beach was no exception. With five aging vehicles that were scheduled for replacement, Police Chief Jim Hurley met with City Fleet Manager Jeremiah Glisson to review appropriate options. Together they agreed that the new Ford Police Interceptor, a heavy duty version of the Ford Taurus, would best serve the department and the community. The new front wheel drive vehicle has a six-cylinder engine as opposed to the eight-cylinder standard in the old Crown Victoria. The new vehicle was compared with other options on the market and fared well in pricing against the Chevrolet or Dodge options.

The new vehicles are smaller by design and should provide better gas mileage on a regular basis. Because modern police vehicles typically support numerous electrical gadgets and computerized systems, a solar panel was installed on the roof-mounted light bar to provide additional charging capability and to off-set electrical draining when the vehicle is not in operation. The solar boost is expected to prolong the life of the vehicle battery and reduce ancillary performance issues related to the electrical system.

The five new police vehicles and all the required equipment were purchased using confiscated funds from local narcotics investigations, reducing the burden on the general fund and local taxpayer’s. The new vehicles are all equipped with front, rear and side warning lights, in-car video cameras, plastic molded rear seats, prisoner barriers and the new design package. The new markings were designed by a committee comprised of various members of the police department, along with citizen and industry input.

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Social Media 3 Ways We Could Be Connecting in the Future

Social Media 3 Ways We Could Be Connecting in the FutureContributed by: David Ingram

As social media changes and technology moves forward at supersonic speeds, the way in which we connect, converse and engage is going to change. Social media sites that now look utterly dominant will fall, just as other technology companies have in the past. If there’s one constant in the world of technology; it’s that the consumer moves faster than the companies making it.

Where do we go from here?
Currently social media is a place – note this important term. It’s your Facebook wall, your Twitter feed or your LinkedIn profile. Much as the value of computers was only universally understood with the advent of the internet, so too the world of social media is awaiting a quantum leap in importance.

Of course, if I knew where the next big thing was coming from, I’d be unlikely to tell anyone, but here are a few theories from some of the more reputable sources.

3 years from now
E-commerce through social media is what both business and social media companies have been working towards for the last half decade. It’s coming, to be sure.

With Amazon.com now taking 33% of all internet product searches (up from 18% in 2009), versus Google’s 13%, as well as hard entry into the tablet market and extensive plans in place for proprietary content, e-commerce sites could dominate in 3 years. Expect Xbox-style points currencies from Apple, Amazon and Facebook, as well as ways to socialise the whole online shopping experience.

5 years from now
Project Glass, Google’s Heads Up Display (HUD) technology will be ripe for the consumer market in around five years. Due for consumer release at the end of 2013, in five years they’ll be as ubiquitous as smartphones are now. This means voice, sign and eye commands as well as instant uploads to your social media site of choice.

Video will become increasingly important as mobile streaming becomes the de facto method of updating your feeds. Mobile traffic counted for over half of all video data transfer in 2011, so it’s clear that there is a desire, but not yet the ease to live stream video at will.

10 years from now
Tablet technology in ten years will have developed to the point of thin, flexible devices, such as contact lenses or roll-away laptops, allowing for complete integration with your environment. Ideas that were once considered science fiction, should as SIGHT, may just become a reality.

Indeed, Google is already working on a contact lens version of Project Glass, and there are a number of roll-away OLED screens in development by almost every major screen manufacturer.

Augmented reality advertising and social media as a genuine space – as opposed to place – will mean that we don’t go somewhere to update feeds or anything as clumsy as that, our social media experience will be all around us.

While the technology for all of these things is in place, and nothing mentioned above is beyond the possible, the direction of social media is something that is defined by the consumer, albeit with a heavy guiding hand from the prevailing leaders in the industry.

David IngramEven the most reputable social media trend analysts have a hard time predicting months ahead, so a decade is far too long a time to predict. However, you can be sure that the rampant integration of social media into all aspects of life will continue at pace.

David Ingram is a Blogger with a passion for social media, travel and technology. By day he works as a Copywriter for Hunters Leeds (www.huntersnet.co.uk/offices/leeds), and by night he writes for numerous websites across the globe.

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Flash Sale Shopping A New Online Trend

Flash Sale Shopping A New Online TrendIf you sell products online you should consider offering a Flash Sale. This is one of the newer gimmicks to entice online shoppers, and it offers the customer real value.

Here is how it works. The merchant offers a deep discount on certain items for just a few hours… and online only.

When I first started seeing these online Flash Sales, there were a few problems and glitches, but now these sales are offering some fantastic savings.

I received a special from Kohl’s a few days ago that prompted me to write this article. They were offering a “5-Hour Lunch Special. 20% Off EVERYTHING online. Don’t miss this sweet deal!” I’m sure you get the idea, the sale was good for only one day, and only for the hours from 10:00 AM until 3:00 PM.

One of my favorite sales was one I found on Zumba.com. They offer only a handful of shoe styles on their website and for four hours they were offering all but one style at 50% off. That was a deal!

A couple of hours before the sale began I received an email about the sale including the times and what was being offered and then I saw they were heavily promoting the sale on their Facebook page, too. I’m sure they also used other social media tools, such as twitter, to further encourage shoppers to visit their website for this four hour shoe extravaganza.

How well did it work? Well, when I logged in they had already sold out of my shoe size. Though disappointed, as a consumer I honestly am looking forward to their next “Flash Sale”!

Having a strong retail background, if you are a merchant looking for an quick line of cash flow, this could be a great way to move some merchandise in a short amount of time.

So, I’ll give it a try; we are running our own Lunch Special Flash Sale! If you call our Sales Manager, Lawrence, here at SearchAmelia.com at (904) 583-1010, on Friday, August 17, 2012, between the hours of 10:00 AM and 2:00 PM, you will recieve 20% off the cost of a rotating banner ad on our website, which normally sells for $60.00 per month (with a six month committment), for only $48.00 per month. THAT is a value!!!

You must call on August 17th, between 10 AM and 2 PM

(If we don’t answer, simply leave a message with the time you called and we’ll return your call as soon as possible… and we will believe you when you tell us what time you called.)

Friday Only, Four Hours Only!

Current customers may renew at this rate, during this four hour Lunch Special! BUT – YOU must call on FRIDAY!

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The Versatile Smartphone

The Versatile SmartphoneSmartphones combine the versatility of cell phones, gaming consoles, PDAs, and personal computers into one handheld device. I am constantly amazed at all the features of my smartphone that I somehow got along without for years. I used to believe that all I needed was a phone to make and receive calls and text messages, but that was before I synced my office email account to my smartphone.

That move has come with the good, the bad, and the ugly consequences. Now I can keep up with work email, but I can never completely “get away” from work. Add that to Angry Birds and Facebook and I never find myself with nothing to do. I find that my smartphone gives me a unique ability to balance my work and home lives.

The popularity of mobile devices such as smartphones changes how we communicate, seek out information, and do business. Internet experts are predicting that it won’t be long before we use our mobile devices more often than regular computers to access the internet.

Smartphones not only allow you to store and play your entire collection of music, they allow you to download and watch movies and television shows. You can also download and listen to podcasts. You can also keep up with your reading using either an eBook reader, or the smartphone’s ability to play audio books. Whether you’re stuck at the airport, trapped in a traffic jam or bored in a business meeting, your favorite media is at your fingertips.

Many web developers have created mobile versions of websites because of the growing trend in smartphone use to access the internet. Perhaps the greatest advantage to owning a smartphone is the availability of thousands of small applications, called apps. A wide variety of apps can be downloaded from online stores, allowing you customize and personalize your phone.

Some of these apps can be extremely helpful. For example, according the U.S. Department of Homeland Security website, local Nassau County residents that received storm damage from Tropical Storm Debby can use the FEMA app can apply for federal disaster assistance. There is also a First Coast News weather app available to keep you informed of developing weather situations.

The small size of most apps, combined with the large storage capacity available on smartphones means you can have dozens or even hundreds of apps stored on your smartphone, an app for whatever you are in the mood for or whatever you need to get done. Basically, a smartphone is a useful tool to help you with your work and home life.

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Dutch High Tech Company Opens US office on Amelia Island

The Little Box that does us Good!

During last Tuesday’s European American Business Club meeting at the Amelia River Golf Course, I was introduced to Dr. Pete Peterson, who heads up the office of a Dutch electrochemical technology company that recently opened its American subsidiary right here on Amelia Island.

IVIUM Technologies is headquartered in the Dutch technology city of Eindhoven, which is also the seat of Philips Worldwide, features “Solutions for Electrochemical Research” as its slogan.
During Pete’s introduction to the club members, a multi diversified gathering of entrepreneurs, artists, writers, marketeers, realtors and online business consultants from around the globe, it became rapidly clear that we were dealing with a company that is on the edge of technology, a mystery to most of us.

ACR’s Phil Griffin introduced Pete and IVIUM as “a company with a product line of little boxes that produce solutions that are good for us?!”

Many if not all of us in the audience were politely nodding in a state of confusion that sits somewhere between yawns of boredom and hunger pangs. If at all we would have an idea about the meaning of ElectroChemical Solutions, understanding little boxes as being good for us, is something we do not associate with other than in airplane crashes.
I was tasked for no other reason then that I was the only Dutchman in this group on this particular evening, to unravel the mysteries of “the little boxes that do good things”.

First stop was the IVIUM’s website where I learned that the company works on problems covering all facets of electrochemical science and technology: Corrosion Science and Engineering, Electrochemical Materials Science, Functional Materials and Nanoscale Electrochemistry, Electrochemical Power Sources, Electrochemical Pollution Control, Electrochemicals, Electrodics and Electrocatalysis, Electrometallurgy, Industrial Metal Finishing and Computer Networking and Instrumentation.

With my brain mostly Alpha wired, I was quickly on impulse overload while scanning the website, which is probably a candy store for electrochemists. But diving deeper into Google and the web, I started to learn that this is not an obscure little industry, tucked away in out-of-the-way places, kept at a safe distance from regular people. This is a global force of scientists interested in finding answers and solutions to how product components chemically inter-react. This is operating on the forefront of tomorrow’s technology.

Wisegeek.com teaches me that Electrochemistry is a branch within the field of chemistry which involves the intersection between chemical reactions and electrical currents. Some chemical reactions can be catalyzed by the presence of an electrical current, and conversely, it is possible to generate electricity through the process of a chemical reaction. Chances are very high that you are benefiting from electrochemistry at this very moment, or that you will be at some point today, because it is the underlying process behind a wide range of things, from chemical signaling in your own body to the operation of a car battery for example.

Electrochemistry is about energy whether that concerns oxidation, corrosion, metal pitting, electro plating,fuel cells, nano materials and so much more. Electrochemistry is used in scientific laboratories, for processing and analyzing a range of materials. It is also used in processes such as electroplating, in which the property of electro deposition is harnessed, and in the operation of batteries, which utilize a chemical reaction to generate electrical energy. Another example of a natural electrochemical reaction is corrosion, especially iron oxidation, which is better known as “rust” among us lay people.

And that is what IVIUM offers to a rapidly expanding science; complicated hi tech boxes that read, analyze, run tests, and provide answers that a re potentially good for us.

From long ago I kind of remember that many biological processes, from blood clotting to the transfer of nerve impulses, are electrochemical in nature. The biological conversion of the chemical energy of food to mechanical energy takes place at an efficiency so high that it is difficult to explain without electrochemical mechanisms as well. But honestly, during the “tender” teenage years, the only chemistry I was interested in had very little to do with school.

And frankly, understanding the reasons behind the decision for IVIUM to open its US-Canada subsidiary here on island may have a lot to do with the chemistry of attraction as well.

We Did Not Have the Green Thing Back Then

What I love about running an Inn is the great diversity of guests that come to stay with us. Yesterday I had a seventy something couple from South Florida check in and during a quick conversation this morning I learned that he was retired from the Miami Dade Police Department, where he had quite an illustrious career as the liaison for movie and TV projects filmed in the Miami Dade area. Yes for five years between 1984 and 1989 he was Miami Dade’s PD liaison for the hit series Miami Vice and paid by the Miami Vice production company. He shared some interesting anecdotes with me about having all cast members learn how to shoot with real ammo to learn how it feels. He also arranged many of the film locations from the mansions on Cay Biscayne to shacks in the Everglades. And soon our conversation drifted from mingling with movie stars to how much easier life was in those day. “Before hurricane Andrew hit South Miami,” he said, “there were very few rules regulations with regard to filming in the city. But after Andrew, even though there was no apparent relation between the hurricane and Vice filming, everything needed special permits and became a hassle.”

And as so often when two elder gentlemen discuss the past versus now, it becomes sparkling clear that somewhere over the past 30 years or so, we took a wrong turn on the road to liberty and the pursuit of happiness, and the politicians and bureaucrats quickly took advantage of that.

So the following story is not so much a funny retrospection as it reflects elements of sadness over lost innocense, but I thought it worth sharing because it might give those of you who have so far resisted the “green panic” that various educational, NGO and governmental institutions have worked so hard (and with no small success) to inculcate in the world’s youth.

Let’s first clarify that I AM GREEN, always have been, always will be. But not green in the way it has been politically ostricized by media and other pundits. My green has always been of the kind that if you can re-use something, anything, then why replace it by buying something new.

So checking out at Winn Dixie the other night, the young cashier asked me if plastic was ok. I shrugged as if to say: fine with me. What I really meant to say is that having grown up in Holland where until recently – and in most places still – you have to bring your own grocery bag to carry them out of the store with you, I have giving up a long time ago telling people they should bring their own grocery bags because plastic bags weren’t good for the environment.
“We didn’t have this green thing back in my earlier days.”

Back then, we returned milk bottles, soft drink bottles and beer bottles to the shop. It was actually encouraged with a dime or nickel in your pocket. The shop sent them back to the plant to be washed, sterilised and refilled, so it could use the same bottles over and over. So they really were recycled, not crushed and burnt into a new bottle. But we didn’t have the green thing back in our day.
On the little island of St. Kitts in the Caribbean they have an organization that collects all the green Heineken bottles from around the islands, washes and disinfects them and fill them with “Ting” for a second go-around.

We walked up stairs because we didn’t have a lift or escalator in every store and office building. We walked to the grocers and didn’t climb into a 350-horsepower race machine every time we had to go two blocks.  “We didn’t have the green thing in our day.”

Back then, we washed the baby’s nappies because we didn’t have the throw-away kind. We dried clothes on a line, not in an energy-gobbling machine burning up 2,000 watts – actually wind and solar power really did dry our clothes back then. I was the third son in a line up of five and got hand-me-down clothes from my brothers, not always brand-new clothing. I didn’t get my own first NEW bicycle until I was 13. “We didn’t have the green thing back in our day”.

Back then, we had one TV or radio in the house – not a TV in every room. And the TV had a small screen the size of a serving tray, not a screen the size of Delaware. In the kitchen, we blended and stirred by hand because we didn’t have electric machines to do everything for us. When we packaged a fragile item to send in the post, we used wadded up old newspapers and magazine to cushion it, not Styrofoam or plastic bubble wrap.

Back then, people took the bus and kids rode their bikes to school or walked instead of turning their mums into a 24-hour taxi service. We had one electrical socket in a room, not an entire bank of sockets to power a dozen appliances. Most houses did have 25 or 50Amp service, instead of the 300Amps we have now. And we didn’t need a computerized gadget to receive a signal beamed from satellites 2,000 miles out in space in order to find the nearest McDonald’s.

Back then, we didn’t fire up an engine and burn gasoline just to cut the lawn. We used a push mower that ran on human power. We exercised by working, so we didn’t need to go to a health club to run on treadmills that operate on electricity. But truth be known…No, We didn’t have the green thing back then.

When we were thirsty, we drank from a tap instead of drinking from a plastic bottle of water shipped across oceans. We refilled writing pens with ink sticks instead of buying a new pen, and we replaced the blades in a razor instead of throwing away the whole razor when the blade got dull. But we didn’t have the green thing back then.
But it’s sad that I hear so many voices in the current generation lamenting how wasteful we old folks were, just because we didn’t have the green thing back then?

I’m all for driverless cars…or am I?

Nevada has approved public road testing for the driverless car

Nevada has approved public road testing for the driverless car

Last Monday the Nevada Department of Motor Vehicles approved Google’s license application to test autonomous vehicles on the state’s roads. I wish Google had approached Florida or even more specific Amelia Island to test these driverless vehicles. Obviously I’m partial as I’m back to riding my bicycle now that the winds have died down a bit and spring has definitely arrived. I rode my bicycle yesterday and got almost run over 4 times. Terrible drivers here!

So yes I dream about the futuristic idea of having computers, cameras and sensors control the steering wheel of an automobile, rather than a cell phone distracted soccer mom on a rampage.

As Nevada licensed Google to test its prototype driver-less car on public roads, futurists are postulating what a world of driver-less cars would look like. First, accidents would go down since your automated car isn’t sitting around getting distracted, making a phone call, eating a donut, looking at something it shouldn’t be looking at or simply not keeping track of things. It does one thing and one thing only with complete focus. Google’s car adheres strictly to the speed limit and follows the rules of the road. It doesn’t speed, it doesn’t cut you off, it doesn’t tailgate, and guess what…it uses its blinkers!!! Come to think of it, cars would not need blinkers anymore, unless bicyclists are sharing the same roadways.

Driver-less cars would mean a more productive commute. If you truly trust the intelligence of the vehicle, then you get in the vehicle and you do your work or read a book on your Kindle while traveling. Driverless cars will mean fewer traffic jams and congestion as a result of “rubbernecking” would be something you could tell your grandchildren about, once upon a time.’
Driver-less cars could extend car ownership to some groups of people previously unable to own a car, including elderly drivers who feel uncomfortable getting behind the wheel at night, whose eyesight has weakened or whose reaction time has slowed. Yes autonomous cars could eventually spell the end of auto liability insurance or even the need for driver’s licenses, which will probably find another application as some form of Car Computer Operator’s License.

But all kidding aside, this is what I really think about driverless cars in our lifetime:
As long as there are manual overrides — and there will *always* be manual overrides — there will be people who use it to game the system. In fact, I wouldn’t be surprised if human drivers actually drive more recklessly because they know that the automated vehicles around them will always yield, always be aware of the vehicles around them, and always avoid collisions. This would provide a huge disincentive for people to use automated vehicles, especially in rush hour traffic where they’re needed most, because the automated vehicle wouldn’t be aggressive enough, and the manual driver wouldn’t be hindered by the same set of programmed restrictions as the automated vehicle. If people see a measurable advantage to driving manually, they will continue to do it.

In light of that, I can only think of one way this will work long-term and large-scale, and that’s by making manual driving illegal on public roads except in emergency situations. (The penalties for noncompliance could be much more stringent than they are for reckless driving today, because intent would be a given.) I’m afraid anything less will only encourage people to drive like even bigger assholes than they already do.
And on the notion that car transportation would be longer available to visually handicapped older people, the other side of the coin is that even though driver-less cars would allow some people who currently cannot drive to have their own car, it will also raise the price of cars so that some people who now can afford to own a car would not be able to afford one. It would also mean that someone other than you would ultimately determine where you could go. For example, only the cars of those authorized to go to certain places would even have the roads to those places in the maps in their cars. Since driver less cars will need to receive roadmap updates, you might discover that a place you went to yesterday was no longer accessible.

Theoretically, at least for now, there are yet a myriad of other option. For example, suppose my workday starts at 7am and my wife’s at 9. I can take the car, go to work and send it back to her, making our second car obsolete. The true question however is: Will we ever have a world where trust is high enough to send the kids to school in a driverless car?

I doubt it, but it’s only a very small jump from there to the car that can go to a destination sans passengers entirely.
And to take that thought one step further means we no longer need to own a car as we will pay $50 or a $100 or $200 (there is inflation on the horizon after all) to a carpool company of our choice (sedan, sports, trucks, limousines, semis etc.). Why have a car sit in a parking lot or garage waiting for us to return in the afternoon? At a steep parking cost at that.
I just wonder what will happen to automated Harley Davidsons and Daytona Bike Week?

For now the obstacles to driverless cars are institutional, not technical. The biggest institutional problem is as usual the chicken-and-egg problem: In order to have driverless cars, both the owners of the cars and the owners of the highways have to make a steep investment. Neither are likely to do so until the other one acts first. Especially here in America. But that we ultimately look at a ‘Jetsons Transportation Future’ is beyond any doubt.

Cyber Intelligence Sharing and Protection Act

Cyber Intelligence Sharing and Protection Act

Image stolen from www.digitaltrends.com/web/white-house-warns-of-cispa-flaws/

The following story was stolen, with permission, from The Tireless Agorist. He wants YOU to know the CISPA House debate begins April 26, 2012.

A note from The Tireless Agorist: If you haven’t been keeping up with CISPA, here are two earlier Tireless Agorist posts about CISPA: CISPA Keynotes Cybersecurity Week and Who’s Buying CISPA and Selling Us Out?

The ACLU is asking that you to contact your representative because the House of Representatives will open a debate on the Cyber Intelligence Sharing and Protection Act, including more than 40 potential amendments. The first link above includes a lookup for your representative’s phone number and even a sample script for the phone call.

Have you made that phone call yet? Don’t disappoint the ACLU, Tim Berners-Lee, Ron Paul, this Tireless Aorist, and a large group of other people. Go make your call, then come back and read what those people, and others, have to say about CISPA.

Here’s the latest analysis of CISPA from Zachary Katznelson at the ACLU.

Tomorrow, the House of Representatives is scheduled to being debating the Cyber Intelligence Sharing and Protection Act, authored by Reps. Mike Rogers (R-Mich.) and Dutch Ruppersberger (D-Md.). In the name of cybersecurity, the legislation threatens to blow a hole through every privacy law on the books and allow companies to share customers’ private information with the US military. It’s not pretty.

Think for a minute about all the things in your life that are kept on computers, but you would like to keep private. How about your medical records? Your banking and financial records? What about your education or library records? How about the things you bought on Amazon last year? Or those love letters you emailed? Or the political opinions you share with close friends? Do you think the bureaucrats and spies at the National Security Agency have any right to gather that information on you, when you’ve done absolutely nothing wrong?

What if we tell you that once the NSA has the information, it can keep it forever, share it with whomever it deems necessary, and that no court will be able to look over the NSA’s shoulder and keep it in check? Yet that is exactly the scheme envisioned by the champions of CISPA. Does Congress really think our Founding Fathers would support this?

Reason Magazine has made note of the fact that industry protests concerning CISPA are almost non-existant, as I pointed out in Who’s Buying CISPA and Selling Us Out?

The companies that’d be sending the information to the government, predictably, aren’t opposing CISPA with the same vigor as they did SOPA. Nevertheless, the ACLU and others hope to be able to replicate the online activism that led to SOPA’s demise.

Unfortunately, their hopes don’t seem to be panning out. The outcry against CISPA is a fraction of that heard against SOPA and PIPA. Have you made your phonecall yet?

Fortunately, at least some people and organizations such as the ACLU are speaking out. OpenSecrets.Org offers a brief summary as well as a list of companies that lobbied on the bill and contributed to the Mike Rogers, the author of the act, or his PAC. Notable contributors include SAIC, Lockheed Martin, AT&T, Northrop Grumman, General Dynamics, Time Warner Cable, US Telecom Association, and Exxon Mobil, among others.

Truth-Out.org points out that CISPA is being billed as an expansion of the Defense Industrial Base Pilot program.

The legislation is being billed as an expansion of a collaboration between the National Security Agency (NSA) and major ISPs dubbed the Defense Industrial Base Pilot. Under the DIB Pilot, the NSA shares classified cyberattack signatures and information about cybersecurity threats with large ISPs that provide Internet service to major defense contractors.

Texas Congressman and Presidential candidate Ron Paul is one of the few Congress people who have spoken out strongly against the legislation. He draws strong parallels between CISPA and the earlier SOPA/PIPA controversy.

Earlier this year, strong public opposition led by several prominent websites forced Congressional leaders to cancel votes on two bills known in Washington as “SOPA” and “PIPA.” Both of these bills threatened search engines and websites with possible shutdowns if the Justice Department deemed them insufficiently cooperative with our phony “war on terror,” or if they were merely accused of copyright infringement. Fortunately the American public flooded Capitol Hill with phone calls and Congressional leaders dropped both bills.

But we should never underestimate the federal government’s insatiable desire to control the internet. Statists of all parties, persuasions, and nationalities hate the free, unbridled flow of information, ideas, and goods via the internet. They resent the notion that ordinary people can communicate and trade across the world without government filters or approvals. So they continually seek to impose controls, always under the guise of fighting terrorism or protecting “intellectual property” rights.

The latest assault on internet freedom is called the “Cyber Intelligence Sharing and Protection Act,” or “CISPA,” which may be considered by Congress this week. CISPA is essentially an internet monitoring bill that permits both the federal government and private companies to view your private online communications with no judicial oversight–provided, of course, that they do so in the name of “cybersecurity.” The bill is very broadly written, and allows the Department of Homeland Security to obtain large swaths of personal information contained in your emails or other online communication. It also allows emails and private information found online to be used for purposes far beyond any reasonable definition of fighting cyberterrorism.

…Simply put, CISPA encourages some of our most successful internet companies to act as government spies, sowing distrust of social media and chilling communication in one segment of the world economy where America still leads.

…CISPA is Big Brother writ large, putting the resources of private industry to work for the nefarious purpose of spying on the American people. We can only hope the public responds to CISPA as it did to SOPA back in January.

Tim Berners-Lee, the British computer engineer who devised the system that allows the creation of websites and links, said that of all the recent developments on the internet, it was moves by governments to control or spy on the internet that “keep me up most at night”. He says the extension of the state’s surveillance powers would be a “destruction of human rights” and would make a huge amount of highly intimate information vulnerable to theft or release by corrupt officials. Although he was speaking of similar legislation being considered in the UK, his warnings are equally valid when it comes to CISPA. Russia Today has additional coverage of Tim Berners-Lee’s remarks.

Others voicing major concerns with CISPA include Kevin Gosztola of the Electronic Frontier Foundation, C/Net, and Demand Progress (including a simple letter/petition form). Additional coverage is also available from The Raw Story, CISPA Primer and David Seaman of Business Insider, who calls it The Worst and a Major Threat, Period.

Have you made that phone call yet?

…and that’s all I have to say about that.

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Why Facebook Paid $1 billion for Instagram

the new tech billionaires

13 developers, 18 months, $1 billion! The American Dream?

Didn’t have time earlier this week to express my initial surprise on the news that Facebook was paying $1 billion dollars for a 18 months old start up with 13 people on the payroll called Instagram. When I heard the news I thought: What makes this company worth $1 billion to Facebook, and my initial reaction was : NOTHING. At least not in terms of traditional valuation models. But then we already have accepted that traditional ways of valuing a company by its cash flow, or the sum of its parts, is entirely ineffective in a technology world where companies make only one product and give it away for free, as is the case with Instagram.

And when the Wall Street Journal reported that Facebook’s Board of Directors was all but out of the picture when Mark Zuckerberg struck the $1 billion deal to purchase Instagram, things became a bit murkier, to be discarded as the actions of egocentric maniac.

The WSJ article said: ‘It was a remarkably speedy three-day path to a deal for Facebook—a young company taking pains to portray itself as blue-chip ahead of its initial public offering of stock in a few weeks that could value it at up to $100 billion. Companies generally prefer to bring in ranks of lawyers and bankers to scrutinize a deal before proceeding, a process that can eat up days or weeks. Mr. Zuckerberg ditched all that. By the time Facebook’s board was brought in, the deal was all but done. The board, according to one person familiar with the matter, ‘Was told, not consulted.”
Mr. Zuckerberg’s handling of the Instagram acquisition could be seen as a reminder that Facebook is still in some respects a one-man show in spite of the fact that the company is on the verge of going public.
But even though foregoing on the surface seems to explains a lot, it does not explain everything.

The Numbers

First there is the product; an application for smartphones that can take square, Polaroid-style throwback images, run them through a few cool filters to make them look snazzy and share them with other users on social media sites. Truth is that the app is not rocket science or a cutting edge fighter jet simulator and could have been developed by any solid mobile App developer.

Could it be the user base that Zuckerberg was interested in? Hardly in my opinion since FB already was touting 850 million users versus a “paltry” 35 million on Instagram. Sure the growth curve was spectacular from a start in October 2010, but this was not a matter of adding market share for Facebook.

Nor did the two-year-old Instagram bring much in the way of revenue to the table. In fact, the company has no revenue stream at all; it was living off of $7 million in venture capital funds it managed to raise on the back of its early success, having garnered 1.75 million downloads just four months after its launch. (The product, by the way, was built on just $500,000 in seed funding pre-launch.)

So here is the traditional valuation picture: No revenue, little money in the bank… you might think a company like that would come cheap. That instead, Facebook believed it justified a $1-billion price tag tells us that Facebook values the company for something more than Instagram’s application, audience, or earnings.

The War for Talent

I wrote about it a little while back when I said that traditional websites will not be in existence anymore 3-4 years from now as the mobile world takes communication by storm. The mobile-application economy is so strong right now that the war for talent in this space is as hot as the surface of the sun. And the small set of developers with the mettle and skills to develop for these still somewhat-difficult-to-build-for platforms (at least when compared to Web development) can virtually write their own ticket with several options, provided they are located in the greater San Francisco area. (More on that later).

Talent can decide to emerge in their own start up or settle for a well paid position in an established company. In the first case they may hit gold and have the shares to prove it, while in the second instance they just toil for a good paycheck with profit sharing, as all the valuable founder’s shares have already been issued.

And Facebook is struggling on mobile devices and as we are going mobile at warp speed and Facebook is lagging behind while also struggling with high talent turnover.

So, to pick up a startup with a proven, talented development and distribution team for mobile is nearly priceless… especially if you can do so with an “earn out” that virtually guarantees employee loyalty for a few years after the initial deal is struck. Of course $80 million per developer in the Instagram team, may seem a bit wacko, even for Facebook. Yet as a society we don’t seem to mind that Sports Superstars make a million dollars per game or a movie star catches $20 for a movie!

It’s all about content

With somewhere around 35 million users, Instagram represents a major source of content for Facebook. When you snap a photo with the application, it is posted to your Facebook profile and displayed to your friends. Comments follow, and users are engaged.

The secret to Facebook’s runaway success lies in its flat out simple business model. In essence Facebook is an entertainment company that doesn’t have to produce or license any content. Users, developers and brands do it for them. No need for licensing from film studios or major record labels required, as users provide the content. On SearchAmelia’s Facebook page we provide links to the articles we think you might find interesting, incuding YouTube videos, or new songs – after all, who knows better what will make you laugh, or tap your feet, or scream out loud than your friends?
On top of that, it lets you socialize while you are at it, all the while consuming and providing highly customized content that’s much surer to fit your desires than the average cable-TV lineup.

And in that line up, arguably most valuable of all are the posted photos. The most engaging content on Facebook, in terms of what items in the newsfeed and timeline draw the most clicks, comments, likes, etc. is photographs. You only have to attend a party of any kind and witness the absurd amount of pictures that get uploaded to Facebook in real time.

Increasingly, those photos come from the ubiquitous, camera-equipped cellphone. And with tens of millions of users and its strong mobile focus, Instagram is now responsible for providing millions of new pieces of content to the social network each month, with Facebook by far the preferred target for users of its app.
That exclusive access to content is partly what Facebook bought. But it bought something else, too: protection.

Instagram could have struck out on its own. As it turns out, the company had actually raised $50 million just days before the buyout was announced. With that kind of money in the bank, Instagram could have set its sights on erecting its own social network on top of that installed base of users. Even if it failed, it would have choked off an important source of content for Facebook. If successful, there’s no telling what kind of impact it might have had on Facebook’s all-important traffic.

Or… imagine what would have happened had another social network seized Facebook’s spot as the top dog in Instagram’s application.

Fending Off the Competition

According to news reports that surfaced in the weeks since the acquisition’s announcement, Facebook was not the first to the deal-making table with Instagram. Rival Twitter had been in discussion with it as well. Just how far along the two companies got in talks may never be known outside the room, but given the price tag now attached to Instagram, one can only imagine it was enough to put a scare into Facebook.

Had Twitter bought the popular photo-sharing company, Facebook would have been at risk of seeing all of Instagram’s users migrate to a competitive social network, bringing many of their friends and the associated pageviews with them.

With an IPO in the works, this risk is especially acute. A drop now in engaged users, in average visits per month, or any other major metric for the social powerhouse could shake market confidence in the company’s already rich, twelve-figure valuation.

Even if the dip never materialized – Instagram is but a drop in the bucket of Facebook’s overall volume of user-generated content, even with its tens of millions of users – you can be sure the press would have a field day with a major app going to one of its competitors. And that press itself could potentially feed back into reduced traffic for Facebook as it advertised a Twitter/Instagram combo far and wide.

Facebook’s ever present risk to become uncool

The threat for Facebook is simple: How do you keep the majority of the world’s Internet users on your site? Once any company becomes as large as Facebook, it needs to worry, as the saying goes, about having “jumped the shark,” i.e., passed its time of relevance. In other words, Facebook is continually at risk of becoming uncool – a kiss of death that could cause it to bleed users, just like predecessors Friendster and MySpace. The latter of those two companies went from a $640-million price tag when purchased by Fox to being sold off for a mere $35 million when its user base and revenue shrank by more than 75%. The former just went flat-out bust in a matter of months from its peak.

Facebook has to be concerned that the shift of computing to the mobile phone – for much of the world the only computer a person has, and for the developed countries the one we use the most when not working – could consign it to the same fate as its early competitors. Buying Instagram put one of Facebook’s most abundant resources – money – to use protecting market share, not adding to it, while guarding its position at the top of the social heap.

When You’ve Got It, Flaunt It

For all of its shortcomings and looming threats, the one thing Facebook has going for it – other than a massive large-screen user base – is cash… and lots of it. The company’s pre-IPO financials peg its annual revenue at more than $3.7 billion. On top of that, despite its rapid growth, it is already quite profitable, raking in more than $900 million in net earnings in 2011. According to inside sources, Facebook ended the year with more than $3.5 billion in the bank.

And the IPO will only add to that. Even though most of the equity in the company post-IPO will still be held by insiders, if they get their asking price on the market, the company will raise more than $10 billion in additional cash. With all of that money flooding in, why not put some of it to good use?

Thus this megadeal, surely overvalued by any traditional measure, will help maintain Facebook’s valuation and keep IPO investor interest high. That’s a small price to pay, even at a billion dollars. The extra billions current investors stand to make as a result will more than make up for one frothy acquisition, and likely made the board vote on the acquisition that much easier.

We’ll probably never know how the exact timeline of acquisition went, but to know that financial powerhouse tech investor Marc Andreesen, seed investor in Instagram and boardmember of Facebook, was waiting in one room in Zuckerberg’s house in Palo Alto, while the deal he was unaware of, was being brokered in another room, puts founder Zuckerberg in a different perspective. He just may be much more of a visionary than previously given credit for.

Facebook has typically made “aquihires” in the past, meaning that it buys other companies for the talent, not the product. In Instagram’s case, it was a strategic, bold move that Zuckerberg wants to secure Facebook’s position as the dominant photo sharing player in mobile and web. We can only hope that Facebook doesn’t turn Instagram into something that drives its user base away.

Two twenty something CEOs spending a weekend together hammering out the biggest mobile app acquisition in history (so far). That’s the new world we live in and it’s capital is firmly established in Silicon Valley and Palo Alto California. If you want to be recognized as top talent in technology development, be prepared to move there.

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