Cyber Intelligence Sharing and Protection Act

Cyber Intelligence Sharing and Protection Act

Image stolen from

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. 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.

A $60 Light Bulb – Progress or Idiocy?

Longlife Phillips LED bulb

It looks quite cool actually

Okay so Sunday is Earthday and Philips uses the occasion to introduce a state-of-the-art LED light bulb with a $60 price tag.
Now I’m all for saving resources and giving mother Earth a break from our relentless rape effort to strip her, but come on, a light bulb that lasts a purported 20 years and costs $60, seems a bit extreme, or is it?

Quickly estimating the light points in my house at about 60, including bathrooms, garage and outdoors, I’m looking at an investment of roughly $3,600 to light up my house. Breaking it down over 20 years still adds up to $180 per year, so what could I expect to save on my light bill? Well that part is not entirely clear yet as the bulb is only advertised as the most energy-efficient yet, a claim being qualified by the fact that the 10Watt bulb produces 60Watts of light.

The 60 Watt was stipulated by Congress when it launched the L Prize contest in 2007 with the goal of creating a bulb to replace the standard, energy-wasting “incandescent” 60-watt bulb. The requirements were rigorous, and Philips was the only entrant. Its bulb was declared the winner last year, after a year and a half of testing. The contest stipulated that the winning bulb be sold for $22 in its first year on the market.

In that context, the $60 price tag has raised some eyebrows. Ed Crawford, the head of Philips’ U.S. lighting division, said it was always part of the plan to have utility rebates bring the price down to the $22 range.
Utilities already offer rebates on energy-saving products such as compact-fluorescent bulbs, or CFLs. In return for efforts to curb energy use, regulators allow utilities to raise their rates. The discounts are invisible to consumers – the utilities pay the stores directly.

It actually may be a good investment

For $25, or even $35, the bulb looks like a good investment compared to an incandescent bulb. It uses only 10 watts of power, meaning saves about $8 per year in electricity if it’s used four hours a day. It’s expected to last at least 30,000 hours, or 30 times longer than an incandescent. At four hours per day, that’s 20 years.
But the Philips bulb is not only up against $1 incandescent bulbs. CFL are nearly as energy efficient. They use about 15 watts for 60 watts worth of light. They’re much cheaper too, typically costing around $5. The Philips bulb might have to fight interior decoration perceptions as the light-emitting surfaces are yellow when the bulb isn’t lit, yet shine white when it is. And yes there are people who don’t like the color yellow to be part of their interior design – believe it or not!

The Philips bulb has some other advantages over a CFL: It lasts three times longer and gives off a more natural-looking light. It doesn’t contain the toxic mercury vapor inside CFLs, which creates a minor hazard when they break.

The race is now on to produce LED bulbs that produce 100 watts worth of light. The incandescent equivalents are no longer made or imported, victims of a federal ban that kicked in at the beginning of this year. They’re now starting to disappear from store shelves. Squeezing enough LEDs into a bulb-sized space to produce that much light is a big technical challenge – LEDs generate heat, which destroys them over time unless they’re well-cooled.

We don’t seem to have a choice but allocate future funds toward the purchase of LED bulbs since incandescent bulbs of 40 watts and above will be banned 20 months fro now. With a potential replacement price tag of $3,600 to $4,000 (I forgot the closets in my previous calculation) I wonder if light bulbs that last 20 years should now be treated as assets, require depreciation amounts on the balance sheet and if I should consider removing them when I move to another home. And what do I do with my Easy Bake Oven that requires the 100 Watt incandescent bulb?

Another consumer concern I have is the 20 year lifespan. Probably in another 5 years there will be a much more efficient light bulb, which in turn will then become a government mandated replacement and if I don’t comply, Google and Facebook would have capability to report me to the Authorities.

No doubt that somewhere in the catacombs of Washington’s underbelly, someone is working on answers to these questions in a modern version “fiddling while Rome is Burning”. Happy Earth Day!

Mercedes Now Updates Your Car Remotely

mbrace2 gives new meanng to remote control

mbrace2 gives new meanng to being remotely controlled

Remember the “good” old days of the automobile when a mechanical device called a carburetor was used to deliver fuel to the engine. Every modern car uses one or more onboard computers to precisely control the amount of fuel needed to run the engine. The advantage of these computer-controlled systems is that they offer greater fuel economy, cleaner emissions, and even increased power to drivers. In the same week that Google patented its driverless cars and golf carts to drive without a person on the wheel, Mercedes Benz used the New York Car show to introduce the capability to remotely upgrade on board computer systems.

Cars today are entirely reliant on software as the number of onboard computers increases. A brand-new vehicle may have one computer to control the engine, another to handle safety systems such as traction control and stability control, and another to handle navigation services and in-car entertainment. Obviously this progress comes with the crucial need to frequently update software.

Until now this was done with the use of USB flash drives, but now Mercedes Benz has pulled ahead of the competition with the ability to remotely update the car’s software.
Automakers loved USB drives for their portability and versatility as it allows them to install updates and patches on-location. For example Ford, which had a banner month in sales last month, announced late last year an update to its MyFord Touch, system which was not very well received by its users initially. The new version will be faster and includes many fixes and improvements to the user interface and Ford recently started sending out custom USB drives with the updated software to over 300,000 vehicle owners nationwide.

“Old hat”, says Mercedes. “Our cars run millions of lines of code that need constant and, often, critical updates.”

Now Mercedes is not talking about the driving mechanisms technology of its products. No, Mercedes is talking how it now updates its infotainment technology (is that already an  official word?) mbrace2.

Infotainment technology is moving so fast that without frequent upgrades, new car buyers will quickly be left with the equivalent of an eight-track player in their dashboard. The main previous solution to this problem has been cumbersome and costly as carmakers mailed software upgrades on USB sticks to customers and dealers.

Mercedes new system upgrades on the fly and is seamless to the customer. No more plugging in a flash drive and leaving your car running for 45 minutes. In a process called ‘reflashing’, the Mercedes system can turn on the car operating system (CU), download the new application, then cut itself off. It doesn’t require you to do anything at all. Scary??

Yes Google actually has a patent pending for driverless golf carts, as well as cars that can autonomously pick up kids from school and be switched into ‘sport mode,’ where ‘the vehicle may navigate through turns at the maximum speed that is safe.’ In addition to cars, trucks and golf carts, Google’s patent application calls dibs on autonomous buses, boats, airplanes, helicopters, lawnmowers, recreational vehicles, amusement park vehicles, trams, trains, and trolleys. Google also describes how its invention will enable autonomous police cars to conduct high speed chases and give law enforcement vehicles ‘a limited amount of control over nearby vehicles.

Of course the implications of Mercedes announcement and Google pending patents go obviously far beyond transparent upgrades of your streaming music system, but you know what?: Technology has become so much part of our lives, that the addition of yet another “natural progression” should simply be taken in stride. After all the human race strives primarily for comfort against the elements and that is what technology delivers. The thought however that someone, whether illegal hacker or legal authority, for any reason can remotely shut down or alter an operating system, whether airplane, car, train or ship could keep me awake at night, but dreaming that an evil force could remotely shut down the power grids, the kryptonite of our technological advancements, puts a new meaning to the word nightmare.

Why Google and Intuit Offer Free Websites

google and intuit forge alliance and state of florida endorses it.

Disclosure in the Eye of the Beholder

Was it only a matter of time before Google realized that there is money in building websites for the unsuspecting small business owner, or is there more to the recent mammoth campaign the Internet giant has rolled out to entice small business owners into having a website. Google first teamed up with Intuit in 2006 in the sales of Quick Books accounting systems, especially used in online commerce, and is now doing an all out campaign to sign up every small business in America with the promise of a free website.

With 63% of small business owners in the US still not having a website, while 97% of consumers look online for local products and services, a major technology and marketing disconnect looms on the horizon.
Google is saying small business owners you NEED a WEBSITE or else….the learning curve from zero to advanced becomes too tasking and will take your company out of the loop in less than half a decade.

Of course at Searchamelia we have been singing that song for the better part of a decade now, so I cannot say: don’t do it. As a business you need a website because that’s where your customers are!
However there are many different conditions for a website to be viable and viability does not come for free. No Sir. Especially not if you have been sitting on your hands for years where it involves online commerce.

Cheap Websites

A couple of day ago I got a postcard in the mail from Chuck claims he’s the best in the business in North Florida and his overhead is the lowest around by far. So for $495 Chuck builds you not just a website, but the best one in North Florida. I have tested Chuck’s websites to be exactly what you paid for: a Business card on the Internet or about exactly what we did for early online customers about 18 years ago when the worldwide web came out of the starting blocks.
Chuck sent his invitation to Amelia Oceanfront Bed and Breakfast with an old fashioned but time-tested postcard mailer. It could have saved him a postcard and a stamp if he had googled “amelia oceanfront bed and breakfast”, because it would have shown him a website that cost way more than his offer but actually books more than 90% of the Inn’s guests and saves tens of thousands a year on third party commissions.
I wonder what Chuck is going to do now that Google is going to throw its 800 pounds into the ring and offer websites for “free”.

Admittedly, free is always a debatable word since we all know that nothing in life is free, except maybe beautiful sunrises and sunsets. But to be fair, the Google deal is not all bad since the first year of hosting and the domain name purchase are free. How special is that? Not that much actually. First time website owners get special deals from many different hosting companies for the first year. Our hosting company gives specials that sell the same package for as low as $24.95 for the first year. GoDaddy, HostMonster, HostGator and other ones hover in the same price range for start ups.

So what makes the Google-Intuit Alliance different?

Nothing earth shattering here either. Many hosting companies offer web templates and tutorials that can teach anyone to build a website in a couple of hours. I can actually build a simple navigation website in about 40 minutes, but  that website’s configuration has about the same chance of being found on the worldwide web as a snowflake in the midday sun. What’s more, Intuit’s templates, just as and a whole range of other webdesign farms, offer free website builders with the promise of being simple to build, drag and drop, no programming skills needed and all are so called “searchengine friendly”.

But there are a bunch of catches they won’t tell you; catches that will make visitor visibility impossible.

Let’s take the example of which operates in Canada and the US with the proud homepage statement that 14,514,978 sites were created with Wix’s free website builder. Now that’s an impressive lot of websites.

I recently was approached by a Canadian couple that owns a prominent fashion establishment on Lake Huron, to build an online presence that can sell product globally. Their current website is and is a product of‘s ‘generosity’ to help small businesses build free seo friendly websites.
However, their website does not score any ranking or attract visitor numbers of any significance, since all the attention from the searchengine spiders and robots go to
To understand how this works, look at the bottom left of this Searchamelia page. Depending on the status it will either say “Transferring data from” or “reading”.

Now click on this link and see what it reads in the bottom left. That’s right, it reads “transferring date from“. No mention of the sistersonhuron domain
My Canadian friends’ website does not get any respect, with a nod to Rodney Dangerfield. All recognition goes to and in the Google/Intuit Alliance all the recognition will go to Intuit. The free part of the offer is a calculated loss leader to corral customers for their financial services.

The End of the Website as we know Era

Old friends of mine, Keith and Sharon Jardine, from my days in St.Martin are currently staying with us. Sharon was my chief creative designer in the early 90s. She and Keith were born in South Africa and on a circumnavigation on their ferro cement sailboat. After we parted ways in 1994 they sailed to Fiji, got married, sailed to Bora Bora and the rest of the South Pacific and from there to Australia and finally back to Durban SA from where they moved to London and later to the States. Keith became an IT guru/speaker/lecturer in the trenches of the world wide web and he has probably forgotten more about building websites, then I’ll ever learn.

He works with the big boys in IT; the Fortune 500 members. He told me last night that insiders into new technologies give websites as we know them another 4 years, before they become the victim of mobile App technology. Look around you and see the speed that i-Pads and Smartphones are making the internet mobile and you cannot deny the observation.

Google went into this latest alliance for two reasons:
1. to attract the massive amount of small business without online presence in a last ditch effort before the Internet moves on and looks back at a “lost generation”.
2. to sell them all the small business Google services available in QuickBooks (especially the financial transactions services) to promote themselves online.

What Google/Intuit offers is a “free, easy to build Intuit website; free customized domain name; free web hosting for one year; and free online tools and training.” After the first year, it is $4.99 a month and your domain name is $2 a month — which adds up to $84 a year. Now this is shared hosting, meaning your website shares the server with many other websites. It’s not like Searchamelia which uses dedicated hosting on a dedicated cloud server at a cost of $1,500 per year, because the reality is, the more visitors you attract, the more you get charged for bandwith usage and the more you need stability and customer support.

Also interesting is that the Google service was initially also promoting a website search engine boost for $4.99 a month, which promises to submit content for constant updating and improved search ranking. Interestingly, this offer vanished when I checked on the site before publishing this article, but it was prominently displayed last Sunday. The service is clearly set to boost SMB penetration, and will not only help SMBs get online, but also help Google and Intuit sell a lot of services once the SMBs are locked in.

The Adoption Bell Curve rings Google's Bell

Advice is don’t jump on the bandwagon too fast and realize that a free website does not mean you don’t have to work it daily with new content and lots of SEO. You are now a webmaster!!! It also means that if you don’t, no potential customer is going to see your site, unless by an accident surf or search. And last but not least, realize that it is only a temporary solution as the world wide web moves into the next phase of mobile in the next 3-4 years.
According to the Bell Curve of Adoption big money can be made when the curve crests and that is why Google and Intuit started offering  “free” websites.

A Global Village of Collaborative Consumption

Collaborative Consumption is rapidly on the rise

Collaborative Consumption is rapidly on the rise

A dozen years ago my brother Thom and I acquired the web domain name as we foresaw that technology over time would enable the trust that is needed between strangers to conduct transactions over the internet. The world was then and still is now, turning into a Global Village because of technology.

Our business plan was strong, yet monetization models of internet companies were  still in the very early stages, a realization that ultimately led to the bust in 2000. No-one in those days saw Google or Yahoo’s monetization model. Network TV and major Newspaper conglomerates were still collecting 99% of all advertising dollars spend across the globe. Therefore we learned quickly that traditional funding was not available. A dozen years ago Facebook would not be able to create any excitement with JP Morgan or Goldman Sachs when mentioning the possibility of going public. And the Nasdaq was 0nce again a stepchild on Wall Street. So in order to find funding to attract and relocate some whizz kids, we joined another then-new cyberworld initiative called FirstTuesday to connect with Angel Investors, much in the same way as Facebook, eBay, Amazon and many other powerhouses of today’s internet initially came about. The idea for FirstTuesday was great and global as well, but unfortunately for them and us about 5 to 10 years too early. Pretty much the same as with our

Thom and I sank a small fortune into the development before we had to admit that we were not only too far ahead of the adoption curve but also a couple of thousand miles removed from the epicenter of the powers that move viable ideas online and push successfully into the future on the pure mention of stakeholder equity. At the time we were living and working on a small island in the Caribbean, magnificent for creative pioneering but bad for successfully monetizing online concepts. was all about what today is making waves as the concept of Collaborative Consumption. It describes the rapid explosion in re-applying traditional sharing, bartering, lending, trading, renting, gifting, and swapping, as all those “ancient” practices are now being reinvented through network technologies on a scale and in ways never possible before.

How Collaborative Consumption works:

An organization purchases products and manages inventory and checkout Members pay a low monthly or per-use fee to have access to the product. Members check out or reserve the product when needed and return it so another member can have access to it. Many items are usually available so lack of availability is not a strong concern. The organization cleans and maintains returned items.

The benefits of collaborative consumption

Lower cost of ownership by having expenses shared among a group. Higher quality of good. When cost and use is spread throughout a group, the item must (and can) be of higher quality for durability and ease of use. Lower risk. Instead of maintaining an item yourself it is kept functional by the company leading the organization. Lower environmental impact. Instead of buying an item that is only used four or fives a year and thrown away each shared item is of higher quality, lasts longer, and constantly used.

From motherload exchange marketplaces such as eBay and Craigslist to emerging initiatives such as social lending (Zopa), peer-to-peer travel (Airbnb) and car sharing (Zipcar or peer-to-peer RelayRides), Collaborative Consumption is disrupting outdated-last-century modes of business and distribution and reinventing not only what we consume, but also how we consume and share.

The Governmental Danger Zone

The danger of exchange and barter is that this global development is taking financial control away from federal and state taxation opportunities, this last one probably being an important reason why so many governments have their minds set on controlling the Internet. Governments do not shy away from taxing a product every time it changes hands. A car has a substantial life cycle, and every time it is resold through a commercial entity the seller is required to charge and pay sales tax. To picture this process, imagine a $50,000 car is charged a 7% sales tax or $3,500; two years later the car is resold at $31,000 collecting $2,170 in sales tax (assuming the sales tax has not gone up). Another two years later the car is sold again for $18,000 and once again the government collects 7% or $1,260 bringing the total sales tax collected for this one vehicle up to almost $7,000 so far.

Now multiply this by the millions and you see why new exchange markets such as TaskRabbit, ParkatmyHouse, Zimride,, Zilok, Bartercard and thredUP are not only enabling “peer-to-peer” to become the default way people exchange, they are also forcing the hand of society to come up with new ways to co-habitate. Whether it’s unused space, goods, skills, money, or services — and exchange, sites like these are sprouting up everyday, all over the world.
Even in our little corner of the world exchange sites are sprouting up on general social sites. For example the navy wives in Kingsland have several complete Camden County sale and barter sites set up on Facebook, an effort being duplicated right here on Amelia Island.

Some of the early Players

For a list of some of the hottest start-ups in the Collaborative Consumption space, check out this Snapshot of Examples from the website

The infographic below summarizes the essence of
• the three major systems of Collaborative Consumption,
• the four key principles that make it work and
• the key socio-cultural drivers that have caused the movement and is moving it forward

collaborative consumption

This is how the system works in the time of technology

Business models of the future are anchored by and in our connections to each other, rather than how we traditionally exchanged goods and services and the lessons we learn from this new Exchange Market Model is that

1. a Framework of Trust needs to be in place (eBay Feedback, Tripadvisor, Angie’s List etc)
Since the ‘collaborative’ in collaborative consumption is powered by strangers, middlemen need to guarantee peace of mind between everyone else. Brands are worth much more if they offer some way to measure and review business transactions, and if they are able to leverage reputational ratings and social capital to keep users in line.
Airbnb for example, which helps homeowners rent their spaces to travelers around the world, is a prime example. Airbnb users can tailor their experience to fit their needs, from managing listings to researching reservations to pre-approving guests. Hosts are even protected from theft and vandalism with $50,000 worth of insurance coverage.

2. for a business to be successful it needs scaleability. Technology allows us to connect fragmented markets.
Collaborative consumption is all about networking around offers and needs. So you need a niche. Look at your market and examine the pieces that don’t fit together as well as they could. Ask yourself: “Could there be a meaningful connection between fragmented parties? Could I facilitate a transaction that would be complementary to their core product or service?” Years ago, when the internet made its first inroads I was surprised to learn that a car junk places were inter-connected on parts availability. If the junkyard in Lake City couldn’t help you with a particular part, the one in Live Oak or High Springs or MacClenny probably could. Quick, cheap and easy.

Innovators who identify the missing links can take advantage of service gaps with long-tail business strategies, the way Netflix and Amazon have done. If you find a way to serve everyone who wants to rent a Gibson Les Paul for a weekend or a Sony Handycam HDV or a car with the steering wheel on the opposite site of the norm, or a last minute Scalpel Ticket exchange etc., you’ve got a business that can scale.
Zipcar is an example of collaborative consumption in action. It recognized a need for on-demand vehicles that are billable by the hour, particularly in major cities and college campuses. Chase introduced an affordable alternative to traditional car ownership, providing people with shared wheels at a fraction of the cost of a long-term purchase or even rental.

3. Geography matters less and less
Technology reduces geographic boundaries to commerce, opening the door to ventures such as Freecycle, a global grassroots network with almost nine million members who swap unwanted items free of charge. Members not only get free stuff, whether they’re in Tucson, Arizona or New Delhi, India, but also help reduce waste and save resources. Collaborative consumption can be good for consumers, for business and for the community at large. The only entity that has not been able yet to move outside of the box of the past is a government that sees a part of their tax revenue dwindle.

Collaborative Consumption. Check it out. It’s going to be a household word soon.

Machiavelli’s Solution to the Internet Surveillance Problem


Machiavelli has found a clever way around the constitution

In a world of short term thinking and collective amnesia, many of us have already moved on from the SOPA(House) and PIPA(Senate) governmental monkey wrenches aimed at ultimately silencing the Internet. Yes millions protested and politicians got nervous so they tabled the legislation, pending the advice from more committees and “government experts”.

Google turned black, Wikipedia and Reddit went completely dark and even here on the Searchamelia website we carried the protest logo in the top right hand corner, usually reserved for – restaurant reviews or important local event links. Millions of online petitions were signed and there was so much outpouring of dissent that even Washington had to pretend that the voice of the people still carried weight.
The bills, which had seem assured of swift passage, rapidly turned into a suicide mission in this important election year. Supporters of it, forced to accept and concede that the public really was pissed off this time, fled back into anonymity….for now.

Everyone on “our” side of the fence exchanged congratulatory wishes and moved rapidly back to the speed of life in cyberspace.  But caution and vigilance is needed, because in today’s world, politicians are no statesmen with vision and a level of sophistication. They are for the most part vicious, backstabbing opportunists, who get paid by us to go back to their corner and figure out another approach or, and that is what is happening with an alarming frequency lately, they will incorporate the package into a bigger package of such economic or social importance, that nobody in the senate or congress can say no to, without risking political suicide.

For example next to SOPA and PIPA there is also PCIP. SOPA and PIPA are about shutting down Internet sites that the federal government deems offensive. PCIP is about gathering information. As practically always, especially with “well-intended” legislation, the Protecting Children from Internet Pornographers Act of 2011 (H.R. 1981, or PCIP) is allegedly aimed at shielding kids from pornographers. Something everyone hopefully agrees with. Especially since the problem of internet stalking is real and sexual predators should be prosecuted to the maximum of the law, even if it means a certain level of cyber-entrapment, allowing police to run online sting operations against those who are targeting kids. Harsher punishment and a wider net to catch interstate commerce transactions that promote child porn. No problem. Even the acceptance that there will be an occasional case of collateral damage against innocent people being caught in the net is acceptable to a degree. But as always the stinger hides in the details.
PCIP is also about pre-crimes as it entails gathering evidence before any crime is committed… even before said crime is contemplated. The objective given is, that in the event of an arrest, supporting online records can quickly and easily be subpoenaed.
But in order to accomplish that, everyone must be considered a potential criminal. That’s right…Everyone.

Here is how that works.
PCIP mandates or will mandate once it is ratified, that Internet providers keep detailed records about each one of us, beyond just name, address, bank account numbers, credit card numbers, all Internet activity for the previous 12 months (imagine the extension of this feature after the first successful busts!), and any IP addresses assigned to you – without a search warrant, court order, or even the slightest suspicion of criminal activity. Now tell me, are you still worried about your Facebook or Google profile? If you are it’s time to wake up to the real danger coming from your government as it is in a very sly way proposing to expand the ranks of de facto private-sector cops, the same way that banks are now forced to report any “suspicious financial activity.” The legislation would require ISPs to compile detailed dossiers on every online citizen, and to have them readily accessible for whatever “crime-fighting” or other purposes authorities want them. It’s actually breathtaking how it saves federal government officials the trouble and expense of doing it themselves. We’re paying for it. Macchiavelli himself would have to admire the elegance of their solution to the universal ‘Net surveillance problem’ that’s vexed them for some time.

The Electronic Frontier Foundation has scornfully tabbed this the “Data Retention Bill,” warning that the stored data “could become available to civil litigants in private lawsuits – whether it’s the RIAA trying to identify downloaders, a company trying to uncover and retaliate against an anonymous critic, or a divorce lawyer looking for dirty laundry.” And in a grotesque illustration of the law of unintended consequences, the EFF adds: “These databases would also be a new and valuable target for black hat hackers, be they criminals trying to steal identities or foreign governments trying to unmask anonymous dissidents.”

H.R. 1981 sailed through the House Judiciary Committee in late July of last year but is yet to be voted on (although it was slated for “expedited consideration” in mid-December). Will it provoke the kind of public outcry directed against SOPA? Don’t count on it. What politician in his or her right mind would dare oppose legislation that “protects kids from pornographers?”

Just so you know, how the muzzling of the Internet will happen! Neatly packaged in a way Count Machiavelli would have enjoyed.

A Senate Bill that will Reverberate Throughout History drug drones

A Drug Drone back in for refuelling

Last night at the come-back-safely party of a very close friend who had decided to go join the company that is contracted by Washington to bring back all  equipment and goodies from Afghanistan, as Obama is pulling the plug on that one as well, my eye caught a breaking news alert on one of the TV screens along the back walls of Chili’s near Target.

A silent screen stared at a restaurant full of people, as the sub-titles indicated that Google was getting a raft of crap about security and privacy issues. I look around the standing room only restaurant to catch a glimpse of someone seeing the same message on that TV and than I realized the irony of it all. These people were out to forget about their daily worries as is the large majority of the people in this country, and absolutely clueless of what is happening or if not, they have given up caring any longer.
Here is why I have to come to the conclusion that English philosopher, statesman, scientist, lawyer, jurist, author and pioneer of the scientific method Francis Bacon was absolutely correct in his observation that “Man prefers to believe what he prefers to be true.” It’s a amazing how little has changed in the human gene over the last 400 years.

Senate Passes Drone Bill

Here is what happened earlier this week when the US Senate overwhelmingly passed a bill opening the nation’s airspace to some 30,000 drones. Naturally, this has stirred concern – as well it should – among pockets of the population, who concern themselves with such “arcane concepts” as privacy, individual rights and the rule of law. Such small pockets of the populace actually, that I never saw a mention of it on News TV.

I have no doubt that at one point in the not-too-distant-future, the veiled introduction of this legislation will be recognized as the historical milestone when privacy became a luxury of the past.

I know I am blessed as I quite often sit outside in the evenings here at the beach and watch the millions of stars and galaxies. But, other than the occasional faraway satellite, I expect to see little more than clouds and some airplane navigation lights. (Red right – return flashes back from my sailing days).
Five or ten years down the road, however, you will find yourself wondering if that light is actually a plane or a drone. And nervous that it might be the latter putting its focus on you, you’ll wonder if you have observably broken a regulation, ordinance or law.
Even in the confines of your house or office, you’ll find yourself wondering if the drones picked up your angry comments about the latest outrages of the political state. Of course you may still be one of those saying: I have nothing to hide, my life is all above board and in line with the going cultural acceptance of majority rule, but deep inside you know the smallest aberration can land you in deep water.

Show me a world without skeletons in the closet and drones will be out of a job. But that’s not how it works. Just ask Francis Bacon and his 400 year old observation: “Man prefers to believe what he prefers to be true.”

In short, the world will be a different place, and given the experience with human history “not for the better”

Can we still turn the clock back?

Hardly. The drones are relatively cheap to make, can operate without jeopardizing lives and what’s even more important: THEY WORK and because they are so efficacious, you can be completely certain that they will be widely deployed. The problem is obviously not the drone. The problem comes from us. Drones are popular with everyone and their utilitarian functionality guarantees they’ll be cranked out like ice cream on a hot summer night. Three years ago there were 2 companies (US for sure) that produced drones. Today there are more than 30. Even though drone technology is still relatively new, it has already evolved to the point where its utilitarian advantages over competing technologies are undeniable. Never mind that at this point the most impressive advantages are obviously militarian, with so many countries and companies jumping on the bandwagon, drone technology will soon be applied to virtually every aspect of life anywhere in the world.

For anyone with a capacity to think creatively, it should not be hard to find a long list of uses for drone technology from peaking into your backyard when you’re sunbathing to “securing” borders, detecting illegal vegetation, speed monitoring, drug trafficking, gunning down fleeing criminals, all activities deemed deplorable by law-abiding citizens. The problem once again lies with the authorities that create laws that step on constitutional freedom as if it were an arcane luxury. What the Air Force has, the Army, Navy, Marines, Coast Guard, FBI, DEA and all other modules of what is generally lumped together as Homeland Security will also want.
I recently heard from a Navy Captain close to the program about an $800 million dollar remote controlled submarine disaster, the target precision was way off) which has now however resulted a remote-controlled miniature attack sub, while four-wheeled, weapon-firing street drones are able to chase a perp to ground with extreme prejudice.

It is sad, but having formed a strongly positive attitude about drones, history dictates that governments in all its various manifestations will, in time, overdo it. And the passing of the bill last week in the Senate will ultimately be declared the beginning of the Era of the Drone.

Spam, Bacon and How to Keep Your Email Inbox Cholesterol Free

Spam and Bacn Put email in Jeopardy

In an online world where Facebook claims 850 million subscribers, Skype features an incredible number of 700 million users and Social Media seem to have taken over global communication, we tend to forget quite easily that the biggest social medium is still EMAIL. Email was created for people to have almost instant, free information and communication exchange. Email was and is the first and largest threat to Newspaper printing and Post Offices around the world.

We love it and we hate it, but we certainly don’t wanna be without it anymore. It can save huge amounts of time or become like in recent years, a black hole from which none of your free time can ever escape. If you are like me and have several email accounts, organized to receive different types of mails, you may face the rude practice of SPAM to a very annoying point. On my main accounts I probably get 200 to 300 mails a day, but with an increasing percentage of SPAM or Bacn (pronounced bacon). I do not want my host server to decide for me what is Spam and what is potentially worthwhile information, nor am I willing to use external services for my private emails, so I don’t want those filters. Besides  between 40% to 70% of all email is currently getting blocked by spam filters! That means recipients never have a chance to read it, making the “cure” almost as bad as the disease. If you face the same problem and have to put your finger almost permanently on the DELETE button, here are some tips to help you manage your Yahoo emails for maximum productivity, as there are dozens of shortcuts and new tools.

Following are my favorites. I have used Yahoo in this example, but Google, MSN, AOL and all the other providers have similar options available.


You know what spam is — unsolicited email that adds around the middle fat to your inbox — well bacn can be equally annoying. The term “bacn” was coined by a group of podcasters a few years ago to refer to messages that are better than spam, but still not personal email. More specifically, bacn is junk email you’ve actually signed up for — whether you meant to or not. Maybe it’s a newsletter from your college, or a marketing push from the online catalog where you bought a present last Christmas. I buy a lot online, so I get a lot of BACN. To get them to stop sending the bacn, you need to unsubscribe.  But doing this manually — hitting the unsubscribe button on the bottom of every one of these emails is extremely time-consuming — so you need an unsubscriber.

In Yahoo Mail, the unsubscriber is easy to activate. Simply click on the Unsubscriber application on the lower left hand side of your Yahoo Mail (hint: if you don’t see it right away, look within the “Applications” folder in that lower-left area). Then click to “Create my Unsubscribe Folder,” and an unsubscribe folder will automatically appear in your folder list. Now, just drag unwanted emails into that folder, and an app called OtherInbox will work to unsubscribe you from those email lists. Even if you can’t be safely unsubscribed, emails from these senders will be moved automatically into the unsubscribe folder, so you never have to see those emails again.
If you use other mail clients, there are third party browser extensions like that basically do the same thing.


When you get junk that’s completely foreign to you, offensive, or an obvious scam, do not unsubscribe. Use the Spam or Junk button instead. When you click the Spam button, Yahoo and other email providers prevent subsequent emails sent by the same sender from getting into your inbox. They also use your actions as feedback to improve the various filters of their spam defenses.

Trying to unsubscribe from spam, especially the obviously smarmy emails, is possibly the worst thing you can do. You are basically emailing back to a spammer telling them that your address is a live one; they will then sell it to other spammers, so you’ll get even more junk!

Organizing The Email You Want

You may or may not know all about creating folders to organize your inbox. But you may not know that you can use a free web app to comb through your inbox and for example find all those receipts from online purchases that you’re supposed to keep track of?

Slice organizes everything you’ve bought online from large merchants, such as Amazon and Apple, as well as daily deal sites like Groupon and LivingSocial. They take care of tasks like tracking packages and giving you all the info you need to facilitate a return. Neat and just a glimpse into the future of exacting administration.

Managing Large Files

I don’t know about you but I often have people wanting to send or receive very large files from me. You know when you have a really big photo or video file you want to send, but either your email client or theirs has a size limit and won’t let it though?  Services like and whalemail will allow you to send them. And Yahoo Mail users have a program built right in that lets you send files up to 100 MB in size. You can find the Attach Large Files app in the Applications section underneath your folders. (If you don’t see it listed, you can add it to your list by clicking the plus sign.)

Yahoo! Mail Shortcuts
 (learn them…they make life online much easier)

If you’re one of the nearly 300 million or so Yahoo Mail users, here are a few new keyboard shortcuts just for you:
Want to switch between preview mode and the complete list view? Easiest way is to just use hit the “V” key, and it instantly toggles your view.
Want to write a new message? Hit the n key; to reply, hit the r key.
And a real neat one: Shift-K — it lets you take an email you have read and mark it as unread so you don’t forget to go back and actually answer the person. You can also hit the Mark as Unread button if you are reading on a mobile device and want to remember to go back later to answer when you are on a computer. Another way to do this is to flag a message for follow up. In that case, hit the “L” button to mark it. Shift-L unflags it.

Enhanced Yahoo Mail Security

Maybe your password has been hacked in the past or maybe you just like to keep your email super safe. For you, Yahoo introduced a new feature last December that enables you to add a second sign-in verification. Once this feature is activated, any suspicious account sign-in attempt will be challenged by an additional query beyond the initial password validation. Favorite pet, singer, first grade teacher etc. Learn more about it by clicking here.

Now remember. I only served up Yahoo’s options in this article. Use the same terminology but change the name to Google (f.e. Enhanced Google Mail Security) and you’ll get similar results if your email address reads Gmail.

Revolutionary Tiny Fold Up Car Designed for Cities hiriko-electric-car-launched-european

Looks pretty comfortable for a fold up car!

In the mid 1960s the idea of publicly owned bicycles was first introduced in the city of Amsterdam. Although the idea was attractive in fighting inner city air pollution, promoting inner city short term transportation options and congestion solutions, it took several decades before the idea to become feasible and effective in terms of numbers and operational efficiency. In many European cities and Nature Parks these days there are fleets of bicycles in a short term bicycle rental program in operation, usually secured by a Credit Card release system.

Segway, the funny two wheeler invention, teamed up several years ago with GM to create Puma, a one/or two person two-wheeled city vehicle capable of reaching speeds up to 35 miles per hour, and going 35 miles on a single charge at a cost of 35 cents per charge.

Now following the same philosophy, a group of companies in Spain has now produced a tiny revolutionary fold-up car designed in Spain’s Basque country, as the answer to urban stress and pollution. Different however this time is that the idea for this 5 foot long vehicle (think small dining room table) originated in the US. Usually European ideas are developed in America, but this time it was dreamt up by Boston’s MIT Media Lab and conceptualized and developed by a consortium of seven small Basque firms under the name Hiriko Driving Mobility. Introducing future car model Hiriko

It folds up like a stroller

The “Hiriko,” the Basque word for “urban,” is an electric two-seater with no doors whose motor is located in the wheels and which folds up like a child’s collapsible buggy, or stroller, practically guaranteeing easy parking everywhere. Also, the vehicle’s four wheels turn at right angles to facilitate sideways parking in tight spaces.
The Hiriko can run 120 kilometers (75 miles) without a recharge and its speed can be electronically set to respect a variety of city limits.

Besides the functionality of the car what’s however real “interesting” here, is that the makers see the operation of the Hiriko as city-owned vehicles, up for hire like the fleets of bicycles available in many European cities. In a PR effort, the backers of the project describe the “Hiriko” as a “European social innovation initiative offering a systematic solution to major societal challenges: urban transportation, pollution and job creation.”

And that my friends is of course a bit frightening, as it implies another step towards ever expanding government control. With a Euro 12,500 price tag per vehicle, considering the pitiful track record of governments efficiently running any type of program, a financial disaster at some point in the future is a given.
Despite track records of  mismanagement and budget overruns, quite an impressive number of cities have shows interest, including Berlin, Barcelona, San Francisco and Hong Kong. Talks are under way with Paris, London, Boston, Dubai and Brussels.
Malmo in Sweden has already signed up to a trial Hiriko program with Berlin, Barcelona, Vitoria-Gasteiz (the second largest Basque city), San Francisco, and Hong Kong expected to follow suit.

Wonder if our city leaders on Amelia Island would consider the Hiriko?

Website versus Social Media website or social media

When is too many friends simply too much?

As a website developer with a responsibility to maintain some two dozen sites of various intents and purposes, denominations and charitable causes I often wonder why there are still so many small and midsize businesses that feel they can limit themselves to branding and sales via social media, Facebook in particular, without even having a website.

Of course cost or technology could be an issue but not an excuse. Or maybe they think they have no time to properly promote, maintain and integrate a website into the marketing and sales strategy?  Doesn’t make sense in my opinion that a serious business executes a Social Media strategy on Facebook and Twitter (and maybe a bit on LinkedIn), without having a website however.

Yet, in all my meetings and conversations it turns out to be a grand misunderstanding. So in order to clarify the issue Website versus Social Media” today’s question is: If you were given a choice when first taking your “brick and mortar” business online to develop a website or set up a Page on Facebook, and you weren’t allowed to do the other which would you choose? Would you build a website and give up marketing through Facebook or would you set up a Facebook page and give up having your own website?

When I look around on our immediate community and talk with clients it becomes rapidly apparent that many local businesses still forgo developing a site for their brand; most notably restaurants, small retail shops, service organizations, car maintenance companies. Yet, having heard of social media, they are now setting up profiles and marketing their brands through social sites, but still don’t have their own website. Actually it is amazing how many think that a website is no longer necessary? The question is: are these businesses making a big mistake?

Here is why I know they do.

The Internet has been with us for almost 20 years now and over those two decades massive changes have taken place inside the development of the World Wide Wide. Changes that are still going on, even in accelerated speed. Reality is that we are at the cusp of a generational change over,mixed and matched with major technological advancements. Most of us have no clue about the technology behind it, but that is were the danger lurks.

The internet is built on formulas and the current frontrunners in developing these formulas (algorithms etc) are the world’s biggest websites: Google, Facebook, youTube, Yahoo, Bing.  Young adults don’t do anything these days or the Internet is in some way involved; while my generation is desperately trying to get their brains around Internet issues of privacy and loss of identity, historic values. Part of my generation, the truly dangerous part, mostly those without any understanding of the technology behind the Internet, is now trying to gain control over the Internet through pathetic efforts called Pippa and SOPA.

To give you a little taste of what I’m talking about,  social media today are based on an evolving formula which is called a A scale-free network whose degree distribution follows a power law, at least asymptotically.

That is, the fraction P(k) of nodes in the network having k connections to other nodes goes for large values of k as where c is a normalization constant and γ is a parameter whose value is typically in the range 2 < γ < 3, although occasionally it may lie outside these bounds. Tell me you have a clear understanding of this and I’ll take my hat off. But guess what? Just a couple of years ago this formula was preceded by one called: Social Circles Network Model. And several new ones are currently under evaluation for future use.

Why is this important?

For businesses that market their brand and product exclusively through Social Media, this means that there is a lot of techno volatility in the communication market. Even if accepting that Social Media have a substantial impact on marketing and sales strategies, the dependability factor is overwhelming. Imagine that you had spent the majority of your time and advertising dollars over the years on social media giant My Space. You ‘d not be a happy camper right now. The same would apply for Google Buzz, which Google just abandoned, as well as Yahoo!360°, Yahoo Kickstart, Yahoo Mash. Before there was Friendster, MySpace, LinkedIn, XING and Facebook, there was (1997-2001), based on the movie Six Degrees of Separation. No more.

LinkedIn killed VisualCV, Facebook mostly killed MySpace, which is now quietly re-assessing its role in the field of Social Media. And Twitter, well Twitter will over time kill all printed news as it will feed us with micro bursts of news (headlines) that will, at our discretion tinyURL lead us to websites, if we want to have the complete story, in the process eliminating printing presses and printed media. It’s the nature of the technology beast. And before everything is said and done, mega social media changes are part of the growing process and the pain.

Remember Friendster?

It was launched in 2002 and attracted tens of millions of users. On May 31, 2011 it “deleted” all profile data acquired over the years. It reportedly wiped out all photos, blogs, comments and groups uploaded or created by its users. If you had put your profile markers on Friendster, you’d be up the creek without a paddle

Can the same happen to Facebook?. You bet it can. And what are you going to do as a company when your only focus in the Internet world was on Facebook. Your efforts will probably end up in Wasteland.
Even in a much less devastating way, it can and will happen. Whether there are profile changes, less stringent securities, lost privacy issues or just one of Facebook’s (Zuckerberg’s) pet peeves, a social media campaign better be based on a solid website; “real estate on the internet that you, the small business owner, controls.

You website is the real estate you own. You command and control it and nobody can take that away from you. It’s your home base. Everything else in the social media world are outposts, intended to connect to your website and the truth is that Social Media Marketing is so much more than a Facebook page and a Twitter account, simple already because the barrier to entry is low to non existent. Building friends and followers on Facebook and Twitter only has one true function, getting your name in front of eyeballs with the hope that it will support reputation, goodwill and ultimately loyalty.

Social Media are merely your Network’s Outposts

Harvard Business Review said a couple of years ago: “During the subprime bubble, banks and brokers sold one another bad debt — debt that couldn’t be made good on. Today, “social” media is trading in low-quality connections — linkages that are unlikely to yield meaningful, lasting relationships.” Even though I do not entirely subscribe to this thought, I do highlight the fact that Social Media for a business should be Outposts in any business media strategy. But, and this is a huge BUT, the business connection (RSS) should be with your own website, the one you own and control; hosted by a reputable host and maintained, upgraded and updated by you. If you don’t have your own site then you’re driving all your marketing to another businesses brand.

Most of the arguments in favor of going the Facebook marketing route revolve around the ideas that you can’t do everything Facebook does on your own site and that since people were already at Facebook it was easier to connect with them. Well that’s nonsense. Facebook is a website like any other. What’s stopping you is time and resources, but the reality is if it was built on Facebook’s domain, it can be built on yours too; and as far as numbers go, think about this. Are you really interested in an anonymous Facebook friend in Timbuktu as a potential customer?

As far as the second is concerned it’s true. A site like Facebook is always going to have a larger community and social network than you do, but so what. You’re not trying to connect with everyone in that community unless you’re Coca Cola. You couldn’t, even if you tried. You want to connect with a much smaller subset of that community and you want to have meaningful conversations with them.

Those meaningful conversations are going to happen on your site, at your home base. Sure people are already hanging out at Facebook so it’s easy for them to say hi. The same way it’s easy for them to say hi when you cross paths at the supermarket.
The real conversation takes place when you set out to talk to each other. The person who takes the action to come to your site is much more important to your business than the person who dropped by your Facebook page while they were visiting 20 other Facebook pages and playing Farmville.

That second group of people might interact with you more often because they’re at Facebook more often, but the point is they didn’t go to Facebook specifically to talk to you. They did, however, go to your site specifically to talk to you, which leads to a much more meaningful conversation.

That’s not to say that sites like Facebook and Twitter aren’t important. It’s not to say they can’t help your business. It is to say that it’s far more valuable to get the people you meet at those sites back to your site and interact with them there.
Social sites are great for meeting new people and for quick interactions with the people you know. You can start a relationship on any of them, but to make that relationship deeper and stronger you need to interact outside the social network. Your site is the better place to grow the relationship. Your site will always be worth more to you than Facebook or Twitter or any other social site will be. Your site will always be the more valuable resource as far as your business is concerned.

Given those conditions you will be ready to face the marketing and sales future of your business, which makes your site worth more than Facebook, Twitter or any on the long list of current Social Media Sites.
You control your site. You don’t control your outposts.

You will always be limited on your outposts as far as what you can do and outpost are exposed to human interest forces and can be taken away at any time for any reason. Not so with your website. And what’s more…..there’s no functionality on your outpost that can’t be implemented on your home base site. Given enough time and resources you could rebuild any other site on your domain. You probably aren’t going to do this now, but in reality you could and it’s not nearly as hard as it might seem. Set up a site with WordPress,BuddyPress, and bbPress and you’ve mostly got Facebook. Add some kind of instant messaging and you’re close to having Twitter too. If I would have a popular bar like the Surf, Sliders, the Palace Saloon or any of the Resorts here on island for that matter, that’s exactly what I would do.

I recently got invited by a very old friend to join a selective social network called “Principality of Monaco”. Most of the almost 500 members of this exclusive network enjoy a close relationship to Monaco, its lifestyle and the royal family on the French Riviéra. They share thoughts, ideas, friendship and tips across the globe. In the past few weeks I have sent by request numerous pictures of recent Concours d”Elegance events with the result that at least a handful of Principality friends are planning to be here on island in March.

At SearchAmelia we are working on a similar social media network  for Amelia Island with a launch date of March 1, that will be tied to the Principality network and several other ones across the globe, because we believe that Facebook will ultimately become to heavy to maintain, unless membership becomes a paid subscription.

That’s why I am in favor of controlling your destiny on the internet with your own website.

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The Commodore 64 Turned 30 This Week Commodore 64's 30 years anniversary

It was revolutionary in 1982. It's headshaking quaint in 2012

Exactly 30 years ago, the first personal computer, the Commodore 64, was introduced to the world. Obviously there cannot be an discussion to dispute the importance of the advance of the personal computer, considering what happened to the world in the years since. Also obvious is that the Commodore 64 was the most successful single model personal computer ever sold. The dispute arises however at the number of C64 that were actually sold between 1982 and 1994 when production was stopped.

The Commodore 64 got its name because of its 64kB RAM. In comparison. My two year old 17″ MacBook Pro runs on a 4GB memory with a processor speed of 2.4 GigaHerz, hardly worth a comparison with the C64. But but at the time the 64 offered a great gaming platform and a productivity tool at a cheap $595 price.
I remember proudly installing one in my Atlanta warehouse for inventory control and catching the sales people and warehouse manager playing games all day, especially when I was out of town. The C64 was the greatest selling personal computer in history because it gave us a glimpse of what the future looked like.

It is therefore quite humorous to follow some of the disputes these days about how many C64 were actually sold during its lifetime, especially because it shows such enormous discrepancies in these claims, that my guess is that  the company apparently did not use a C64 to tally the numbers  accurately.

Commodore founder Jack Tramiel (We need to build computers for the masses, not the classes) estimated total sales between 22 and 30 million units in a 2007 statement, even though he had left the company two years after the introduction of the 64 to pursue Atari, which he purchased several later in 1984.
Commodore corporate however brought these numbers down to about 17 million in its 1993 Annual Report, while yet other insiders claim the numbers to be in the vicinity of 12.5 million.

Even giving some latitude to the fact that the Commodore 64 was built in at least 11 different plants across the globe (note that Outsourcing is nothing new!) it is clear that sales administration and inventory control by computer was much less important in those day, as the entertainment value of playing computer games as we used to call them.

Sometimes it’s just fascinating to research recent history and realize that randomness plays a much bigger role in human progress than design.

Local Company Travels Across the Nation with Portable Planetarium

Starlab Planetarium on Seattle NSTA show

Science First Planetarium on Seattle NSTA show

A team of Science First/STARLAB, the maker of portable planetariums right here in Nassau County Florida, just came back from a four-city tour, bringing the Universe to the show floor of the National Science Teachers Association (NSTA) conferences. They crossed North America in their journey, and traveled the vast gulf of space with the click of a mouse.

NSTA is the largest organization of its kind in the world and has currently more than 60,000 members.

The STARLAB team started in October at the regional event in Hartford, CT, followed by exhibits in New Orleans and in Dallas, TX. The last conference in this series took place in Seattle, WA from December 8th through 10th.

Equipped with a digital STARLAB, an all-in-one portable planetarium system with a 15 ft inflatable dome, STARLAB is capable of bringing the cosmos to the trade show floor and also to the classroom.

The immersive experience of showing the nightly sky above every possible position on the globe and almost at every given date and time creates one of the greatest “WOW” factors at all of NSTA conferences. The program is driven by “Starry Night” software that is also used in large fixed dome planetariums, drives STARLAB.  .

Coincidence was that while the STARLAB team was in Seattle last weekend, a total lunar eclipse could have been observed were it not for  the sky over Seattle being completely overcast. However the simulation of the eclipse in the STARLAB dome gave the attendees of the conference a very close reflection of the real experience and was one of the highlights for many dome visitors to the Exhibition.

The STARLAB team is happy to be back home in Yulee for the Christmas Holidays, but with plans already finalized to pick up the road again in March of 2012 to the NSTA National Conference in Indianapolis for another fascinating glimpse of the universe at their fingertips.

For more information about STARLAB go to; STARLAB is a product manufactured and marketed by Science First, a specialist in science education products. Find more information about this unique Company that relocated here to Yulee, Florida several years ago with the assistance of the Nassau County Economic Development Board.

Was Steve Jobs a Slave Driver?

The Degrees of Slave Labor are Stranded in Time

It is true that you can never unlearn something. Once you’ve seen, experienced, felt or tasted a fact, you cannot tell your mind to unlearn the result and walk away from it. And if the outcome is heart wrenching, depressing, violating and all around not happy and fuzzy, than the only soothing circumstance might be found delving into history and its time tested explanations of who, where, what and why.

When Apple, Inc. lost its much adored co-founder visionary Steve Jobs two weeks ago, a little known off broadway play titled “The Agony and the Ecstacy of Steve Jobs” got pushed up in the global publicity wave, ensuing Jobs’ passing.
The play, in essence a monologue by a gifted artist by the name of Mike Daisey, deals with his cultish adolation for anything Apple (I’m a worshipper in the cult of Apple, he says) versus his profound disillusionment after discovering that Apple products — as well as most other manufacturers’ smartphones, laptops and tablets — are put together by people struggling in what we now consider, inhuman working conditions.

Daisey apparently does not know how the world makes “progress”, else he would have understood that business produces where the price is right and the labor is available. He claims that his world changed when he saw four photos posted online taken by workers at a Chinese factory to test the iPhone. People, he suddenly realized, were putting the sleek devices together, not robots.  A little later Daisey traveled to the Chinese industrial zone of Shenzhen and interviewed hundreds of workers from Foxconn Technology Group, the world’s largest electronics contract manufacturer. While he was there, Foxconn executives ringed their buildings with nets to discourage a rash of employee suicides. Daisey met very young workers whose joints in their hands were damaged because they performed the same action thousands of times a shift. And that apparently made him see the other side of Success and almost pathetically exclaim: “Do you really think Apple doesn’t know?”

Mike Daisey is obviously struggling to make sense of capitalism, without realizing that it is a zero sum game, but that the game is played on various levels and time schemes. As he delivers his monologue, Daisey says: “Jobs was a passionate designer but also a ruthless businessman. Jobs was a unique man, but a “brutal tyrant,” ”the enemy of nostalgia” and “the master of the forced upgrade. He was my hero” he said on the night he learned of Job’s death. “He was the only hero I ever had.”

I admire and pity Mike Daisey, because in his humanitarian belief in justice and decency, he obviously has not been able to expand his horizons to understand humanity beyond the driving force of a man named Jobs. Daisey is not mourning Steve Jobs, or the fact that his dream of robots doing the nasty work, lost its innocence. Daisey is venting his anger because in his opinion, someone of Jobs’ caliber should have come up with a better answer than “slave” labor, which of course takes his whole play several degrees away from America’s reality that we’re trying to stop the practice of exporting jobs, while no one in America wants to do these jobs anymore.
When Apple’s shares on Wall Street go ape every time a new iPhone is introduced, there are a lot of investors making a ton of money. If they would invest these profits in job producing American companies, we could all be happy…but that’s not how it works.
Money goes were it produces most… Money. And that can be anywhere on earth these days.

So here is a point of reality… fair or not.

When coal became the major source of energy in the late 1800s in Europe, the first mines opened in a compact area that stretched from northeast France north to the Rhein-Ruhr area in Germany, west to the Limburg province in Holland and Belgium and south to the Wallone district of Belgium. The following 24 photographs depict what we would call slave labor today.

Many miners died young because of silicose in their lungs. Deadly accidents happened a lot. Life was tough, but starving was tougher. Over time the area flourished and became prosperous. When they were on their way to real prosperity in the mid 1960s, many mines closed, economic activity changed and coal production went to new areas in Czecho Slowakia, Poland, East Germany. It was their turn to move into prosperity.

Sometimes you have to touch the stove to find out if it’s really hot.

We can all point fingers at greed and slavery, yet it won’t change the fact that humanity has moved forward (progressed?) on those two principles, no matter which political or economic ideology was prevalent at any given time. The Chinese industrial zone of Shenzhen has developed rapidly in the 14 years since Hong Kong turned back to be a part of China. I traveled the area extensively 30 years ago and poverty was immense, even more glaring because the area was so strategically anchored between the prosperous colonies of Hong Kong and Macau. Shenzhen is now catching up like the coal miners in France did more than a hundred years ago. The price of progress is often huge, but in a world that is crossing the population line of 7 billion people by the end of this month, we should realize that we need resources AND we haven’t done too bad in recent decades, against many odds. But yes Mike Daisey, we should all agree that we can still do much better and given more time, which Steve Jobs did not have, he might have used his visionary power to create better work circumstances for “Slave Laborers”. That challenge is ours now.

Forbes Doesn’t Mention Terrorism as a Threat

Are you being Served?

It doesn’t look like air travel is going to be any smoother in the future. While manufacturers of airport security equipment were showing off their new inventions that will eliminate the need to take off shoes, remove nail clippers or laptops from carry-ons at the Aviation Security World Conference in Amsterdam last week, lawmakers in Washington were trying to figure out how to make it easier for foreign nationals to visit the US. And while the HLS/TSA, our national security watch dogs, are moving its headquarters into a renovated castle-like structure that opened in 1855 as the Government Hospital for the Insane, Americans are also becoming increasingly paranoid about their safety while traveling.

With Mexican drug killings, recent unrest in the Arab countries, natural disasters in other parts of the world, most travelers could be forgiven for worrying about their safety vis-a-vis acts of terrorism while away on vacation. But the truth is if you are worried about getting back home alive, forget terrorism as a factor. Terrorism is very much less likely a cause than a car or swimming accident. Actually the numbers are incomparable. The odds of a traveler abroad being killed by any act of terrorism are about 1 in 12 million versus 1 in 45,000 chances of dying in a car wreck. Another even more sobering statistic? You are three times more likely to commit suicide while abroad than be killed by an act of terrorism.

Yet terrorism influenced security budgets devour a lot more money than can be justified by the reality of facts. Looking at the new security tunnels as presented during the Security Conference in Amsterdam, profiling is not even an issue of ethics anymore, which honestly I always considered a waste of time, because we humans profile every single moment of the day, always have and always will, because that’s how our brain is wired. So with that out of the way, security experts came up with the idea to build three levels of technical and chemical interrogations, done by a machine. If you are a known traveler with a longstanding record, you quickly move through the blue tunnel with your shoes on, your coat on, your carry on with you and obviously just a light dose of radiation. You’re one of us. Have a nice flight.

The next person is not a frequent flyer, but once or twice a year gets a whiff of the world and jumps on a plane. Well no, first you have to fill in your flight plan so to speak with the various justifications and declarations, preferably way ahead of your flight. At the airport you will be guided into the NORMAL tunnel and supposedly be on your way.
And then there is the enhanced security risk passenger. Flies once in a blue moon, mostly because family lives at car trip distance and his work is a 30 minute commute. The only dream he or she has is a honeymoon to St.Maarten in the Caribbean. Well after having answered all the questions on the form that was required to be filled out long before the flight could be booked, the days of the trip arrives and he or she finds out that some of the answers were wrongly interpreted by the less than smart TSA employee who thought that St.Maarten was right next door to St.Simon’s off the Georgia Coast, instead of a small nation island in the Caribbean.( Don’t laugh or shake your head, I’ve heard it dozens of times!) Long story short, the once in a blue moon traveler is condemned to walk the ENHANCED TUNNEL, injected with radiation, chemical smoke, detection and send back to do it once again, because the TSA person was temporarily distracted and forgot to watch the screen. Granted I exaggerate, but I cannot tell you my dear reader, the stupidity I have encountered over more than a thousand flights I have been on over the last 40 years. Airlines may think that this tunnel system will be to their benefit, after all the more you fly, the more you become profiled as a known traveler, ergo preferred, but reality is that technology when it works, it’s great, but when it doesn’t work it creates headaches larger than life.

Five Things to Watch For While on Vacation

The answer to terrorism security is more a matter of balancing the threat against the reality. And the reality according to Forbes Magazine, our national provider of top listed anythings, is that terrorism is not even on the radar of the five biggest dangers for travelers.
The dangers facing most Americans traveling abroad are far more mundane and usually preventable, according to Forbes Magazine and gives the following five top tips to avoid trouble.

1.    Most crimes in violent cities tend to be concentrated in specific neighborhoods. Check friends and associates or social media for areas to avoid. If you really want to be secure, check the local police department.
2.    US hotels require smoke detectors, sprinklers or both. Many overseas hotels, and especially older ones in removed areas, have neither. Stay in a Western style hotel that adheres to international standards, he advises.
3.    Some of the most common mishaps involve petty crime or crimes of distraction such as pickpockets. Avoid ground floor rooms where thieves or even worse offenders have easy access. Also, avoid floors above six or seven because many fire department ladders can’t reach them.
4.    Slips and falls are among the most common problem for travelers. So simply watch out for slippery surfaces in hotel bathrooms.
5.    Watch your diet. How is this helpful? Water-borne illnesses (particularly stomach ailments) are common in developing countries. One rule: if you can peel it, you can eat it. Avoid street food to be safe, however.

Another website called, a self-described site on “The art and science on traveling light,” claims that overpacking tops the list of biggest travel mistakes. The site also features safety suggestions that I have learned over the years to be true and on the mark.
It says there are three variables when thinking of safety and security: individual circumstances, areas of travel, and personal perceptions:
Individual Circumstances: “Generally speaking, a woman is more at risk than a man, a weak person more at risk than a strong one, and a tourist more at risk than a local; these are things that we can do little about, other than recognize them as risk factors and adjust our expectations — and preparations — accordingly,” the site says. Paying attention to your surroundings always helps, the site says.
Areas of travel: Keep up with changing political winds in countries by checking consular offices, for example, about the latest in any political unrest or travel warnings.
Personal perceptions: The site advises taking the time and trouble to investigate the real and updated risks of any country you are looking to visit. “An example: the concerns that many have about terrorist aviation threats are, quite simply, irrational,” it says. However, “Few people these days take the trouble to educate themselves as to the true nature of any risks presented by the various scenarios that are being sold to them.”

With today’s social media access to any corner of the globe, the smart approach is to check with people who have recently (like a couple of days ago returned from the same spot you are visiting). It’s a bit like how pilots warn eachother while passing midway, about quickly changing weather conditions and wind shear. Go on Facebook or Twitter. Dig a little and be prepared.

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