Posts Tagged 'future'

Goals

There is a lot of talk these days (well, for a while now) about SMART goals. Goals should be S.M.A.R.T., or that is what people say. I get that it’s a good acronym (though I suspect it’s more of a backronym than an actual acronym). But I have issues with the whole thing.

First of all, the only consistent bits are the “specific” and “measurable” parts, but I feel like those are nearly redundant. Of course with an explanation you can see the difference, but how hard would it have been to combine those ideas into something that embodies both ideas? But then it wouldn’t fit into the neat little acronym, right?

And even if you don’t feel like those ideas can be joined together, do we really need to make sure every goal meets five criteria? And don’t forget that some authors add additional letters to the end (SMARTER, for example). I want to write goals, not go through checklists to make sure my goals meet five or seven or more criteria.

For various reasons I have been asked to write a lot of goals lately. And I’ve also been trying to help others come up with and meet goals that will help them improve. And that’s the thing: I feel like most goals should lead to some kind of improvement. Isn’t that the focus, anyway?

So I feel like the first criteria should be that goals focus on improvement and responsibility. Of course, we don’t need to include “improvement” in some kind of “how to write goals” piece, because that’s the purpose of a goal, not part of the design. But it is worth mentioning, in case someone is setting goals that might lead to some kind of degradation. Plus, when we take responsibility for our own shortcomings we set goals. We aren’t blaming circumstances, or our parents, or our spouse, or our coworkers, or our boss, we are saying, “I have something I need to improve because I am responsible for this.” And with that in mind, goals that you set for someone else will rarely be reached, unless they are heavily invested in all aspects of the goal. They must feel that the goal is necessary and be invested in generating the goal to the maximum allowable extent.

#1 Goals should be focused. You should be pretty specific about what category you want to set a goal in, how you plan to execute it, what you plan to do, and why you are doing it. Focus on something, find ways to remind yourself about the goal and the focus. This is something you’ll need to carry with you in the forefront of your mind through to reaching the goal. Focus is key.

#2 The next thing that I think a goal should be is reasonable. I don’t just mean this in the normal sense of the word (that the goal not be absurd or unreasonable). You should be able to reason about your goal, you should have reasons for your goal, and you should reason your way to the goal. Goals should be accompanied by reason from inception through to completion. Of course goals should also be reasonable in the sense of “not unreasonable or absurd.”

#3 The final thing I feel is an important part of goals is that they be restrictive. I know that one is a little odd (especially since it’s such a negative word most of the time), but hear me out. We grow though self-imposed restrictions and through work. We increase in self control by exercising restraint, which leads to work. We deny ourselves instant gratification in order to gain discipline. Nearly all good things in life come through some form of personal restriction and hard work. By restricting our options we gain freedom. There are a lot of potential actions I could take right now, but by removing most of them I am free to chose the best options. For example, I could commit any number of crimes right now, but by restricting myself to the list of possible actions in the “completely legal” list I am avoiding issues with the law (which could lead to even worse imposed restrictions) and I have a much shorter list of potential activities to choose from, which avoids overload. The brain is actually pretty good (most of the time) at removing options in order to more easily and quickly make decisions. And similarly, by occasionally imposing restrictions on ourselves with purpose we can grow more readily and easily. A favorite exercise among writers and one I enjoyed in college was to pick a common word and write a paper or story without using it. You might try writing a short story without including the word “the” or “and” or “then.” By doing so you grow, because you are forcing your brain to work harder than usual to complete a mundane task. Restrictions lead to growth, so long as they are reasonable (see #2). Reasonable here means your restrictions shouldn’t be too loose or too tight. Seek moderation.

Again, like with the mention of “improvement” above, I don’t feel that my mnemonic device need include the final bit of advice. Moderation, balance, simplicity, and elegance. These are fantastic criteria for anything, whether it be a goal or an interaction with your neighbor. I seek moderation, balance, simplicity, and elegance in all things, and I encourage others to do the same.

So while FRR isn’t a great acronym (Focused, Reasonable, Restrictive), I do feel that it is a better set of criteria for goals. Before finalizing any goal, ask yourself these questions:

  1. What is the focus?
  2. What are the reasons for needing goals here? Why am I focusing on this? Why do I need the goal? What do I hope to accomplish? How can I reason my way to that accomplishment? (Don’t stop here, there should be lots of questions in the “reasonable” stage, all the way through to reaching the goal.)
  3. In what ways will I restrict myself in order to reach this goal?

The final bit of advice I have for goals is to keep records. Record your progress. Record your thoughts. Record your failures. Reason your way through the records from time to time and take assessment. Do you need to adjust course? Is the goal wrong? Is your methodology flawed? Are there any potential improvements you’re missing?

So while the three steps (FRR) are the most important bit when forming goals, the entire process looks like this:

  • Take responsibility and use goals for improvement.
  • Create goals that are Focused, Reasonable, and Restrictive.
  • Seek moderation, balance, simplicity, and elegance.
  • Keep records throughout the process.

If you do all of those things you will have success, which is the primary objective of any goal. If you do not taste the sweetness of success you will struggle with goals for the rest of your life. Start small (and simple), taste the success, and take small steps from there, setting goals along the way.

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Science Fiction and Dreaming Big

Your average politician when asked about manned missions to the stars.

A while back I watched a video that spoke to my inner child and reminded him of why he is so depressed. In the video, Neil deGrasse Tyson explains that we, as a human race, have stopped dreaming. Watch the video here:

I look around me, and it’s true. Those who dream are shot down by politics, finances, or safety concerns.

Did the men who broke the sound barrier worry about safety? Yes. As much and as ridiculously as we do? No. What about the Gemini astronauts, or the Apollo astronauts? Some of those men died. A few of them came close to dying. They were heroes, and they knew the risks when they signed up.

These guys almost DIED for science.

Now though, we’re not even allowed to risk the life of an animal for scientific advancement. Remember Laika? It wasn’t that big of a deal back then. Why now? Why are people so afraid to dream and take risks to make those dreams a reality?

Then I read an article in my Popular Mechanics magazine titled, “Why We Need Big, Bold Science Fiction.” That got me excited. Even if people won’t accept the risks, or are too afraid of being politically incorrect to sacrifice a dog to test human safety systems, we can still create inspiring science fiction. Our generation may be paralyzed by political poison, but perhaps our children’s world will be different. They may be willing to take the risks.

And that is why I love to dream. I love to write. I love to create those systems that cannot yet be created.

You can tell me why my deep space exploration system won’t work, but it doesn’t matter. That’s why it’s called science fiction.

Some of my favorite television science fiction is Star Trek: The Next Generation. Remember tricorders? Yeah, so does this guy who is building them. He was inspired to do something amazing, just by watching a television show.

Someday...

What will my science fiction inspire some day? Probably nothing. But it’s worth it to dream. It’s worth it to take the risk of being ignored, so long as the possibility remains that I could one day inspire a mission to another solar system and beyond.

Don’t stop dreaming.

My Future

My attempt at making an X-Wing was cut short...

I made this in High School.

NOTE: Unlike some of my other posts, I’m not linking to Wikipedia on all of these links. I highly encourage you to click on every link here – some of the pages will make you laugh, some of the videos will make you cry, and most of the photos are from my personal albums. Enjoy!

I’ve been meaning to write this post for quite some time, so here goes.

First though, I would just like to say that prior to commencing the crafting of this post I was listening to some really excellent music by a very talented friend of mine. If you enjoy music by such awesome composers as John Williams, Hans Zimmer, James Horner and more, you would do well to click here. In fact, the first track sounds like something Edward Shearmur and John Williams might have written together.

OK, so let’s get something straight here. Not to brag, but I am a smart guy. I don’t always do the smartest things, and I don’t have a whole lot of formal education, but I have an extremely capable mind and I excel at various tasks involving mental labor. I love problem solving, have always enjoyed technically creative hobbies, and have a deep obsession with aircraft and spacecraft that has followed me my entire life. Being good at practical mathematics, I decided at an early age that I would enjoy engineering.

Then I began researching what is required for an engineering degree. Nearly immediately the math scared me away.

I love practical math (geometry, trigonometry and some algebra). As I see things, practical math has some sort of immediately accessible application or I can draw a picture to further understand it. When I started learning some pre-calculus, things went south as I discovered that not all math is practical.

I clearly remember my first pre-calculus class – the teacher wrote a very large, complex equation on the board. Then she started hacking away at it, removing entire segments and portions saying they were “insignificant.” I was overwhelmed and appalled. I consider every part of an equation, formula, system or composition to be intricately and inseparably part of the whole. I quickly wrote off calculus as psychotic and moved on with my life, seeking for a future among careers with as little advanced math as possible.

Turns out that’s difficult for someone with my interests. I thought 3D animation might be good, but after attending a year at the Savannah College of Art and Design I decided that my creativity levels just aren’t on par with the animators and modelers that I admire. In fact, I am too technical to allow the imperfections of real life into my artistic endeavors.

Then I considered becoming an author, but again I feel that my writing style is better suited to technical documents than creative fiction. Sure, I can throw a little humanity in there every once in a while, but most of my writing could have been produced by software. The same went for music composition – I was too robotic about it, even when I put all of my feeling into it.

I considered jobs in robotics, software engineering, piloting, information technology, and many other fields, but alas – they all required too much math. And not just any math, scary math. Psychotic math. At one point I even considered working to pay off all of my debt before just going off the grid entirely, becoming completely self-sufficient with my family in the woods, living off the land. I don’t think my wife liked that idea very much.

Being a thinker, I briefly pondered becoming a philosopher, but that didn’t feel like a very good career for supporting a family.

Then, while reading a book on philosophy, I thought, “getting an education is going to be tough no matter what. I suppose I might just need to study some advanced math.”

For English Class

My Sophomore Year in High School

So, I pondered back along my life’s many interests and hobbies and took another look at engineering. Then my realist side kicked in. Engineering might not be all that I hope it is. It could be especially boring and overly technical (even for me).

However, from my earliest years my first love has been engineering. Whether it be designing new aircraft, making a better space-plane, creating a robot, or dreaming about what the future could be, I was always headed toward some sort of engineering.

When I was in grade school I came up with a design for an aircraft that blended the best of two wing configurations. The F-14 Tomcat already proved that swinging wings could be used to reconfigure an aircraft for multiple flight characteristics even while still in the air, but I wanted to incorporate the maneuvering benefits of forward swept wings (such as those of the X-29) and a swept back delta wing configuration for high speed. So at least a few years prior to this patent being filed, I designed a plane that looked almost exactly like the Northrop Switchblade.

Yes, I designed this one before 1999.

My Switchblade (predates 1999 patent)

Even back then I was reading Popular Mechanics and Popular Science. Boy was I surprised one day to see my plane design in their pages when one of them published an article about the new patent for a switchblade design. I guess that’s when I knew that I needed to get into Aerospace Engineering.

However, the psychotic math and possibility of engineering being boring still kept me hesitant until recently.

I have been aware for a couple of years that the space shuttle program is coming to an end this year. But when I recently learned that the second to last shuttle flight (and final flight for Endeavour) was taking place this month, I became inexplicably depressed. I began to obsessively research everything I could about the Space Shuttle. I fantasized about attending the final shuttle launch in July when Atlantis will become the last of the Space Shuttles to launch. I started watching inhumane amounts of NASA TV, even going as far as to adjust my schedule to ensure I got to see certain events. I daydreamed about building a 1:1 replica of the exterior and interior of a shuttle in lieu of a tree-house for my children later in life. I added a bunch of shuttle paraphernalia to my wishlists on Amazon. Some of the products are too expensive.

From Family 2011

If I tell you everything about my shuttle obsession, we’ll end up with a long, sad autobiography about a guy who stalks space planes.

What I recently realized was that I desperately want to be involved with the future of Aerospace technologies. I want to inspire, design, and launch systems for human transportation both inside and outside of Earth’s gravitational pull. I want the vehicles I design to inspire the world and make space exciting again. I want to inspire people the way many of my favorite planes have inspired me. Planes such as the X-29, the SR-71 Blackbird, the F-14 Tomcat, the P-61 Black Widdow, the F-4 Phantom, or the OV-101 Enterprise.

For underwater exploration.

An underwater exploration vehicle.

When I was a kid I designed various types of craft. From watercraft to spacecraft I had ideas for anything that moves people fast. When I started experimenting with 3D design I tried recreating some of my designs, but ultimately failed. If I had put a little more effort in I may have succeeded, but all of my best 3D work has been the result of just messing around in the programs. Clearly there is a disconnect (have I ever told you how much I hate using that word as anything but a verb?).

This was my favorite sub design.

Submarines are similar to spacecraft, no?

I will close out this post with a few more of my designs. I had to dig them out of a box. I’m glad I kept them, as I find them inspiring at this time. I am about to begin the rest of my life. I am sitting on the edge of a past that offers little in the way of a future for my family. Before me are endless possibilities, and proceeding without direction is terrifying. These seeds from my childhood are offering and awesome insight into my inner dreams and desires.

Clearly there is still a lot of uncertainty. Even Aerospace Engineering isn’t quite specific enough. There are many fields of specialization within aerospace engineering. Of course, it is nice to know that I am still young and I still have time to deal with this uncertainty.

Wow... I drew this?

An underwater scene from WWIII.

For now I will continue with my current job and take advantage of any education benefits I can to work toward my degree.

Oh, and rather than babble on about nothing while sharing these images, I will tell you about a recent experience that helped me make the decision to get into engineering.

We know a family in the area in which the husband and wife are both engineers. When they saw our bumper sticker, and after getting to know me a little, they both decided that I needed to be an engineer. Or, at least that I would make a good engineer.

Based on something I read about.

I envisioned going to school on this.

So we finally got around to visiting them in their home recently and I grilled them for information about their education, their job, and other nerdy things.

I had a good time getting to know more about the work they do. The wife is currently a stay-at-home mother, but her husband is working as a materials engineer. I think he was surprised to learn that I am familiar with many of the concepts he researches at work. My desire to be on the forefront of technological advances and new ideas takes me all over the Internet in search of the new and magical things people are doing in labs.

So while that wasn’t the deciding factor, it was nice to have a talk with an engineer and learn more about real engineering. Plus he was completely dorky and proud of it. I like that quality.

Alright. Time to stop the blabber. Enjoy the last few photos here. Thank you for reading. This is a big deal for me because I have wondered what I would do with my life for the last twenty years or more. To finally have a solid plan in place (again) feels good.

The End.

Call to Arms

I propose that the whole idea of an operating system that needs to restart in order to update or fix errors is fundamentally flawed and has its roots in the days when processor time and memory use were drastically more limited and more carefully budgeted in programming than they need to be now. If we continue to hold on to programming habits and traditions formed in those early days, future progress may slow or even halt when our technology begins demanding more efficient, dynamic infrastructures on which to think and perform calculations. When such a day comes, we might be left scratching our heads wondering what the big holdup is – unless we are ready.

For what reason do we have files in our systems that the operating system needs to protect from change while running? I believe that this may have originated in the days when the first two digits of the year were dropped to save space in the memory. The programmers didn’t consider that eventually the year wouldn’t start with a nineteen, or that such savings in memory would be trivial in just a few short years. I think that in order to keep the processor free to run programs in the operating system, programmers avoided having to reference certain system files more than once while the operating system is running. By reading them once at startup, then deeming them “untouchable” during operation, they avoided having to read the same information several times while running. Whether I have this particular detail correct or not, I think the basics of the idea are based in processor usage or memory management somehow. Either way, programmers did not realize that one day computer processors would be capable of performing calculations several times faster than most users would require of them and memory would be measured in terabytes rather than kilobytes.

In order to clearly see a need for change, we can travel into the future. Imagine a robotic surgeon performing an emergency surgery in a remote area of the world. This robot may be completely autonomous, or it may be remotely guided in some capacity by a human surgeon. The operation begins, the first slice cleanly revealing the innards of our poor, doomed example subject. A few cuts later and a major organ will be in jeopardy. There will be a thirty second window to take needed precautions to prevent this patient from being seriously injured or even killed. Our multi-limbed machine is fully capable of performing this task in under ten seconds, but suddenly, as the thirty second window opens, a fatal error occurs in the operating system code. A blue screen of death shines in the background while our patient is beginning to die in the foreground. A redundant system realizes the problem and restarts the main computer. Backup processes would have been able to carry out the instructions necessary to save this man’s life, but the data has been corrupted and needs to be restored. Luckily, this is the future, and our system restarts in just under ten seconds. The local data is restored by logging into the robot’s online data cloud and reconstructing the damaged areas. Finally, nearly fifteen seconds in to this critical countdown the surgeon begins saving the dying organ. Unfortunately, the process takes twenty seconds, and fatal damage has already been done. The patient dies.

Admittedly, even more redundant systems would probably exist on such an important machine, several of which redundancies would be fully capable of accessing uncorrupted, collectively managed data and completing the surgery without incident. My point wouldn’t be made quite so clearly though if redundant systems had saved the patient. The question is, why should our systems need to restart when an error is encountered? Shouldn’t proper, modular programming techniques be able to circumvent the need to completely reboot the whole operating system? It is both expensive and impractical to simply give every important computer system several redundant iterations of itself.

With processor speed so high and memory so freely available, I don’t see why we can’t have a certain amount of built-in redundancy for every individual computer without having to install physical clones of the computer. Systems exist that will add redundancy to data storage (like the Drobo), but even these techniques cannot prevent your system from needing to restart after certain errors. In a modular operating system, a fatal error should only require the affected module to restart, not the entire system. If the module that encounters the error is a critical system module that would cripple the entire operating system while disabled, then a redundant module should exist to prevent the user from being affected by the error.

For another silly example from the future, let’s visit the computer system that handles traffic movements. This system monitors traffic needs and controls traffic flow in an entire city. It networks with traffic computers in other cities to gather data about movements between the two cities. It connects with individuals’ calendars to help them get to appointments on time. This computer is a very busy system. Once a week, though, at three am (on Wednesday), it logs in to its manufacturer’s website to check for updates. If it finds any updates, it stops traffic for ten seconds while it reboots.

Ridiculous? Yes. If a computer is controlling traffic, the vehicles may be moving at amazing speeds. Ten seconds holding still, rather than moving at five hundred miles per hour, could mean big financial loss for businesses that rely on the quick movements of goods or people. Ten seconds not moving might seem like an eternity to a mother in labor on the way to the hospital, or a young man who has swallowed his iPhone and can’t breathe.

The traffic computer should be able to make changes to its system files without needing to shut down and restart. A modular system that isn’t afraid to reference itself dynamically should be able to make changes on the fly without exhibiting the archaic behavior of our current computers.

Why should we wait for such changes in operating system philosophy to become necessary? We are ready now, we have the processing power now, let’s do this – now. I call on operating system programmers everywhere (and anyone else who wants to help) to organize and begin redesigning the operating system from the ground up to be modular, redundant, resilient to errors and dynamically capable of updating without ever needing to restart, reboot or shut down.

A Good Idea?

I was recently reading some tech headlines and came across some news that brought me back to some old ideas I once had. There was this article about Google’s and Yahoo’s failed attempts at getting in on the social networking scene and their future plans to make up for lost time, as well as a few others.

Well, these articles got my little gears going and I started thinking about what the next big thing in social networking might be. I thought about how there are three basic kinds of people that use the Internet, and everyone either falls into one of these categories, or they are somewhere close to one or two of them.

The first kind of Internet user is the near-addict (or even just straight-up addict). These are the guys who edit Wikipedia, have accounts at all the major social networks, blog, probably use Twitter, and find themselves spending more time on line than off. I’m close to this category, but I really try to spend more time off line with my family than on line, though some days I’m on line quite a bit. This group is mostly satisfied with current social networks, but they will always welcome new ideas and developments. They follow news on line, and know when something new is happening so they can get in on the action.

The second group of people is, I think, the largest. My wife definitely falls into this category. This is the group that uses the Internet casually; for news, to keep in touch with friends and family, and for limited entertainment purposes. If they have a social networking profile, it’s because someone talked them into it or asked them to, but they don’t really see the point in doing so much on line social activity when they can spend time with people in real life in real, physical ways. These people are largely uninterested in new on line trends unless some kind of curiosity is sparked or the new trend appeals to one of their special interests.

The final group of people is slowly dying off from natural causes. No offense to anyone, but these people are mostly of the older generation that just doesn’t see the point in all of this Internet business, or they simply don’t like computers and technology (some of these people may not be that old, but they are old fashioned nonetheless). These people probably wouldn’t even sign up for a social networking profile even if begged and bribed. If they finally set up a profile, it would never get updated again after they first set it up.

Current social networks appeal mostly to group one, and a little to group two, but they are full of people who fall somewhere in between the two categories. Interestingly, there is the Opentext enterprise network that is designed for people of the third type that don’t want to design, maintain and use a social network. I know someone somewhere is going to read that and say, “no it’s not, you’re wrong.” Look, I know what Opentext is, but its ideas hint at a future social network built on similar principles, that would not require constant attention by its users – you create an account that automatically updates itself based on your activity in the real world via your planner. I know that’s not exactly what Opentext is, but we could see something similar soon for everybody.

So this got me thinking. What if a social network didn’t require attention from the user, but if the user wanted to updated it they could? Basically, it came down to a question of how to appeal to all three groups rather than just one or two of them. The perfect social network would allow users to participate to a degree of their own liking rather than only appealing to those willing to edit and update all the time.

That’s when the idea of wikis came into the mix. Wikis are popular among users of highly diversified levels of involvement in the process. Many users simply read the information and never add to it or modify it. People who want a deeper level of interaction with the site/information can have it, and nobody is left out (except group three, but we’ll get to that).

What if we somehow married the features of a wiki with the features of a social network? I worked out a lot of the details last night while I was trying to sleep, and this morning I did some looking around to see if anyone else has had the idea. It seems it has been and is being tried by some, but they aren’t doing it the way I would. If what I am about to describe already exists, please send me the link so I can sign up.

For me, the biggest benefit of this new idea is the ability to include group three. Keep in mind, group three doesn’t really want to interact with the Internet. When it comes to social networks, that means there are holes in people’s networks where their group three friends and family members would be. How many times have you looked at your friend list and thought, “Man, I wish I could add [so and so], I feel like this list of friends would be complete if I could add them.” I know I’ve got friends who avoid the Internet (or are just bad at keeping up to date with their communications) and I’ve got lots of family who will never sign up for a social network.

Who doesn’t use e-mail though? How many people are there out there who truly don’t use e-mail? Not nearly as many as those who don’t use social networks. Even people who try to avoid the Internet are likely to have an e-mail account of some kind. Even if they only know someone who has an e-mail account, somehow, almost everyone can be contacted through e-mail. Especially if they have a respectable job, there aren’t many large corporations that don’t set their employees up with e-mail.

So lets say you’re a group one Internet junkie who already has a bunch of social networking profiles and you hear about my new service (which isn’t really a reality yet, as far as I know) called WikiSocialNet (wikisocial.com is owned by some strange corporate social networking solution, and WikiSocial is a mostly traditional social network by Wikipedia – obviously I would need to think of a cooler name than WikiSocialNet). My service, which we will continue to refer to as WikiSocialNet, would be based on the OpenSocial infrastructure which is supported by MySpace, Google and Yahoo, but it would have the added features of a wiki.

In the article I mentioned before about an attempt at mixing social networks with wikis, the author mentions that the site has the user profiles locked down from editing. WikiSocialNet would not require such action, but instead be based on the principle of community editing withing a social circle. It’s all about privileges.

Here’s how my idea works. First of all, I’d be willing to bet that just about everyone on Earth, whether they be a group one, two or three Internet personality, has friends from all three groups. So, someone who is from group three and hates the Internet, probably has friends who fall into (or closer to) groups two and one, even if most of their friends are also from group three; and people in groups one and two have friends from group three who are not in their friend lists. This is an important aspect of WikiSocialNet. The goal, then, is to use this idea to build social circles that are 100% complete rather than filled with the holes created by our group three friends.

To illustrate how the site would work, I’ll use myself as an example. We’ll look at it from my perspective, my wife’s perspective (she’s from group two) and one of my childhood friends’ perspective (he’s a group three). I won’t share my friend’s real name, but we’ll call him Bill.

In this incredibly simplified social circle, I’ve got only two friends. One is my wife, the other is my best friend from grade school, and we’ll say I work with him now so he’s a coworker (which he is not in real life). Since I follow Internet news pretty regularly, I heard of this new site called WikiSocialNet (anyone have any better ideas for a name?) and I sign up. Signing up is free and requires an e-mail address that works, my full name (though I can choose a different name for the public profile or just go by my first name), and my full date of birth (again, I don’t have to display the whole thing on my public profile, and it would not be encouraged). There will be an additional set of optional information that I can fill in at the time I sign up, later or even never.

I can upload a photo (or more than one) and chose one for my profile photo, or I can skip that. Since the site is a wiki, anything I don’t do now I can do later, or one of my authorized friends can do it for me.

The site can access my e-mail address book to look for additional friends on the network, but before I can add them to my friend list they have to approve it. From my address book, we’ll say there were two e-mails that had already registered with the site. One was my brother, and the other a good friend from college. So, next to their e-mail addresses, I choose the relationship based on groups they have already set up (family, friends, classmates, coworkers, etc.) or I can create a new group and apply to be in that one (best friends, for example). I can chose more than one group for each person, then submit the application.

They then receive an e-mail and a message in the site that I am applying for the relationship(s) and they can approve or deny individual aspects of the application. In addition, they can decide how much editing power I will have for their profile by allowing me the basic rights they’ve already assigned to the group I will be in, or adding me as an administrator of their profile so I can edit, and approve other aspects such as their friend requests and who else should be allowed to edit their profile.

Both my brother and this friend from college are close to me, and they have their close friends and family approved for editing their profiles. So, I notice that my brother doesn’t have a photo of himself on the site, and my college friend didn’t put any additional information about herself when she signed up. I can do that for them. I am from group one, and I spend more time on line than they do, so this type of behavior is normal and fun for me, even if they find it annoying to be on line doing that sort of thing. So, over the course of the next couple of hours, I decide to update my friend’s profile and add some photos of my brother to his profile. Then I remember some photos I have of my friend from college, and upload those as well. My brother’s changes show up immediately, but my friend requires that she approve all changes to her profile information, so those won’t show up until she approves them.

If any of my college friend’s other friends end up making similar changes to the ones I made before she approves them, the changes will be displayed to her side by side, and she can choose the one she likes best or integrate them to her liking. The point is, most of the work has already been done for her. She likes that, because she just wants to use the social network to keep in touch with people, not to sit around typing about herself and uploading photos.

Once I’m satisfied with what I’ve done to those two profiles, I check my watch and see that it’s only ten at night. Still early. So, I decide to invite my good friend from grade school and my wife to the site. To do this, I need, as a minimum, their full name and an e-mail address they actually use. I search for them using the name and e-mail address. If they don’t already have profiles on the site, then an invitation will be sent to their e-mail address. I have e-mail for both my wife and Will, and I know their full names. I also know my friend, Will doesn’t check his e-mail very often. The good thing is that when I invite him to the site, a privately viewable profile page (only for me) will be created in Will’s name, which I can edit to my liking until he approves it for public viewing, or just for viewing by friends or friends of friends, and makes his own changes if he desires.

I can also create a profile for my wife when I invite her. If I choose not to spend too much time doing this, the profile will only contain the information required for inviting them (full name and e-mail address). So, from my wife’s perspective, here’s how it will work from here.

The next day she will check her e-mail and see the invitation. The mailed invitation will not simply contain a link back to the site, but will display some simple options for how to react to the invitation. Too many options and most group two and three people will shy away. The e-mail might read something like this:

Dear [Wife] (real name goes here),

Your [husband] (relationship of the person who submitted the invitation), [Brian] (name of submitter) has created a profile (link takes them to their newly created profile) for you on the WikiSocialNet social networking site. This is a site where everyone can be part of their friend’s, peer’s and family member’s circles without having to do all the work involved in other popular networking sites.

You can do as much customization as you want, or do none at all – you choose. If you want to fill in information about yourself, you can. If you don’t feel like it, you can let your friends and family do it for you. If you’re interested, you can even edit the profiles of those friends and family members who want your help maintaining their profiles as well. Our goal is to bring everyone together without forcing anyone to do the work of maintaining a profile.

You are in control of who sees and edits what. Please select one of the basic options below in response to this e-mail, or log in to the site if you want even more control over your account.

Sincerely,
The WikiSocialNet Team

Below the text a few links with some basic options will be displayed:

  • Approve my account and take me there so I can get started!
  • Approve the creation of my profile, and allow [Brian] (name of inviter) administrative privileges to handle my profile for me.
  • Approve the creation of my account but keep it private for only the friends and family I approve.
  • Deny the creation of my account – I don’t want to be part of anyone’s social network on the web.

I believe the above four links would provide enough control over what happens with respect to the profile for each of the three groups to be satisfied, and discourage the flat-out refusal of a profile’s creation. My wife, then would probably click on the first or second link (depending on how fun the graphics are in the e-mail and how interesting it looks) and her profile would be approved based on those settings (in the link she clicks). Either way, she’ll probably add me as an administrator to her account and I will have control over who is approved or denied as her friends, relatives, etc. in addition to being able to edit her profile, set security settings for which groups can edit and what kinds of changes need approval, as well as deny or approve those edits to her profile.

As for my friend, he probably won’t get back to me for a month or two. In the mean time, I will be the sole owner and administrator of his account, and other people who search for him will be notified that he does have an account that has not been approved yet. They can ask to be his friend, but the notification will be sent to his e-mail address. When he logs in to check his e-mail he will see the e-mail alerting him of his profile’s creation, as well as a bunch of additional e-mails from other friend requests showing him how popular he is. Hopefully, this will encourage him to get involved or at least approve his account.

By the end of that first evening, I will probably have found at least one other classmate to add to my friends, as well as a couple random people who wanted to be my friends. I will have created, then the following groups with the following people in them (most of which will be pending approval):

Administrators (can approve/deny friend requests and edits for me and edit the profile) –
[my Wife, my best friend Will]
Family (can edit my profile) –
[my Wife, my brother]
Best Friends (can edit my profile) –
[my Wife, Will, friend from college]
Other Friends (cannot edit my profile, can see full profile) –
[other classmate]
Coworkers (can edit the parts of my profile that I allow them to see/edit) –
[Will]
Random People (cannot edit my profile, can only see what I want them to see) –
[the two people I don’t really know but wanted to be my friends]

You’ll notice that some people are in more than one group, and that each group has different privileges. The person will have the privileges of the most privileged group they are in. For example, my wife is in three groups, but she will have the privileges of the Administrators group because the other two groups have slightly fewer privileges. Will is in two groups, but will have the privileges of the Best Friends group which has the higher privileges. This aspect of the social network has a lot in common with a previous post of mine about the future of social networking and how it will integrate with cell phones and the rest of society. Then, however, I couldn’t figure out a good way to include everyone from all three groups. I believe I’ve got the answer here though. What do you think?

Well, looking back I see that this post has gotten quite long. I hope it was justified (I feel it was). This is something I tend to do when explaining technical details – I include ALL of the details. If I have forgotten any aspects of this idea, I will update this post and include a new post with the details of the update.

If you actually read all of this (and understood it) I want to know what you think. If you are a web developer and are interested in bringing this idea to life, go for it. I really should try to make money on my ideas, but I’m more interested in seeing my ideas become reality than dealing with copyrights and programmers. However, if you decide to do this and you become rich, I ask that you remember me!

The Future of the Internet

I found this and wanted to share it. It’s a nice summary of what we can probably expect to see the Internet do for the next few years.

Keyword Search

There is a presentation there that I hope you will brows through, even if only quickly. The presentation outlines a possible progression from our current, socially oriented Internet to an intelligent Internet, passing through various stages. The next step, according to the author, is for information to get smarter. According to him (and I completely agree) it would be too much work to continue trying to program our applications that handle data to be smarter. That requires a lot of code, a lot of complicated algorithms and a lot of headaches.

We’ve had this idea since the beginning of computing that data is just data and programs need to handle the data. What if the data helped the program by doing more of the work of categorizing, tagging, tracking and associating its information? Intelligent data is the first step toward an information net that is better and more advanced than the one we have.

Of course, more speed never hurts. There is, in existence, another “Internet” of sorts that will continue to grow unti one day it could replace our slow, archaic network. Granted, many advances and changes have and are taking place to help our current information superhighway keep up with the times. However, this one was built from the ground up to be faster, smarter and better in every way.

Other emerging technologies like virtualization, cloud computing, quantum computing, advanced data storage and new human/computer interfacing techniques will eventually turn computing and the Internet into a wild, exciting new place where so much more will be possible than today. All of this will eventually become part of an idea I love called augmented reality.

Augmented reality (AR) is a wonderful thing, in my opinion, because it means computers, the Internet and the vast stores of information and computing power they offer are used to enhance every day life. In my vision of AR the setup is biologically integrated into the individual. Perhaps breakthroughs in nanotechnology and quantum physics could one day lead to quantum computers built, maintained and run by bacteria or bacteria-sized nanobots. Such a system could easily dwell inside the body and get its power from food we eat, heat we generate and any number of additional, available power sources inside the human body.

With a faster, smarter Internet at their disposal, these super-fast quantum nanocomputers would be able to deliver important information directly to our brain. Driving directions could be delivered straight to our very own central processing unit and we would just know how to get where we were going. Visual information could be integrated directly into what we are already seeing. A concept model car or proposed construction plan could be delivered to our visual cortex and be inserted directly into the scene we are looking at. Repair instructions for your vehicle could be delivered to your brain, and virtual arrows would point to the part that needs attention next. This is AR in the distant future.

Before we get there, if we ever get there, there will be many other ways AR will play a significant role in the future of computing. With virtualization, for example, having the computers locally (the bacteria) would be unnecessary. The computing power would simply be delivered over the net. More and more we will see things like this be delivered as a subscription service rather than something you own. Computing power, data storage, applications, etc. will all be subscribed to, delivered and handled over the Internet.

I know I wrote about much of this before, but I wanted to focus more specifically this time on the computing aspect, especially after seeing that presentation and the associated article. Please leave comments and feedback – I want to know what you think.

Looking for ideas…

Well, either you are or I am. 😉 I’m in this strange little cloud right now where all I can safely think about is my future. Never fear, I’m still focusing on maintaining a healthy presence in… the present, but my mind wanders often, and its favorite spot to visit lately has been the future. I think about the technology of the future, mostly, but occasionally my mind ponders ways I might be able to capitalize on my talents and earn a living doing something other than working for someone who owns my soul (on paper).

Ultimately, I am aware of many of my talents, but unable to figure out how to make money with most of them. Obviously, if I could become a writer of any kind (fiction, nonfiction, magazine articles, whatever) I could get paid for it. However, of my other talents, how can I make money? I often know what technologies will be important in the near and distant future, beyond just recognizing what is popular. Microsoft’s Mesh was no surprise to me, nor is virtualization, or the movement for online/offline access for web applications (Google Gears, Adobe AIR, etc.). The moves large companies make concerning social networking and other social/technological decisions are simply expected developments toward the future I already know is coming. How in the world does one capitalize on this type of foreknowledge?

If anyone has any suggestions, please share. Otherwise, expect me to figure something out just a little too late and miss the boat. I shall consult with a few other close friends and family members to see what they have to say. If I could put my talents and knowledge to work making money for me, I wouldn’t need to slave under the oppression of bureaucracy any longer…

That’ll be great. Until then, I’d better get to sleep so I can get up in time to avoid arriving late to work.


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