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Wednesday, May 31, 2017

Rabbit Holes and Millenials

This is going to be a rather long blog from me. But it's kind of important that I get this out, cause it is one of those things rolling around in my head that wants out. Bear with me as I ramble.

I tend to classify things historically by generations. I'm a Boomer. Before me were the Industrialists. Before them were the Agriculturists. Before them were the Hunter/Gatherers. I know I just lost a lot of you on that one, but do try to follow. I'm referring in parallel to humanity's cultural development. Back to the Boomers. After us comes the Gen X'ers. Then the current wave, the Millennials. I'm aware of the sub-classifications, such as "Flappers", "Beatniks", "Hippies", "Yuppies", and "Gen Y and Z". I would fall under the "Yuppie" category, if push came to shove.

Let's talk about Millennials for a bit, which is where this blog entry originates with. Their birth years span roughly between 2000, and 2012. They are a breed, apart. Everything they've ever known has been connected some way through the internet. Be it entertainment, to communications, to education. Now here comes good ol' "Joey1058". Hey, I'm hip. I'm with it. (Old farts terminology. Dead giveaway to anyone Gen X or younger that I am to be humored.) I know what's going on with the internet. I can relate to these kids. Or so I fooled myself into believing.

I first heard about something called "eSports" roughly 6 months ago. Before that, I only knew of twitch.tv, and the more recent YouTube Gaming pages. And before that, it was a quaint little pastime called Machinima. So I dutifully started my research. At a leisurely pace. After all, I was hip and with it. I knew about kids and their gaming channels on twitch. I was rather interestingly surprised at what I discovered about eSports. There are professional teams that compete anywhere from auditoriums to traditional sports arenas to play video games. For some serious rewards and bragging rights. And there are big name sponsorship's associated with all these teams, eager to discover what could be the equivalent of a new NFL franchise. So I've been digging a little more.

For those of you that only use social networking on a casual basis, like I was, you consider them nice ways to keep informed, or just keep abreast of current events. Maybe follow a topic that holds your interest. I tend to go to Twitter when I want to follow a particular company's current events. Otherwise I'd be in LinkedIn. I had been following random people mostly due to my own interests that I've held for a good number of years. So recently I've been following a businessman by the name of Gary Vaynerchuk. An awesome personality, that has turned my thinking about how to run a business on it's ear. His mantra is get your butt into social media. And specifically, Instagram. Which I did. 

I'm attempting to keep my focus in mixed reality in terms of where technology is going. I have been so far off the mark, it's staggering. Instagram is a beehive of professional networking that I never truly understood until I joined.  But, it's not just "professionals". Nor is it kids looking to waste time online. And that's when it hit me that I've been thinking about social networking all wrong. I was never able to wrap my head around the use of "hashtags". (Old fart's moment. That's the "pound" symbol to us.) So I went back to Twitter, and entered #eSports. That's when the ground collapsed under me.

Oh, my gawd.

Remember my reference to beehives? There are quite possibly many thousands of young, dedicated people, mostly Millennials, that use Twitter for conducting serious business. But on their terms. And it's quite a bit about the numbers. Numbers of followers, numbers in your scores, numbers in your PayPal Acct. These people flow as seamlessly between social platforms as I do from the house to the car, to the store, and reverse the process. I never considered PayPal as anything close to a social platform. Most still don't. but its not about communications so much as enablement. Which is what social networks are to Millennials. And for that matter, so is gaming.

Gaming is their profession of choice. The default world has crapped on their parade as far as employment is concerned. They grew up with a phone in their hands and a gaming app on that phone. I have watched dozens of YouTube channels now that showcase semi-pro, professional, and ex pros gaming styles. And the jostle for sponsorships of any sort and opportunities to join eSports teams. Those that missed a sponsorship collect the bounty of points, coins, or gold, or whatever treasure they earned from that particular gameplay, and trade it. And not just for fiat currency. If they get a chance to convert it to cash, a lot of it stays in PayPal so they can pay for better gaming gear. They have inventories full of digital goods that they can convert as the need arises. FinCEN be damned.

I had to step back to understand the full scope of what was happening around me online, as even now I have people requesting to be added to my network. Immersive computing has been going on beneath our noses. Google, Facebook, and Microsoft are simply creating an awareness of immersion now for us Gen X'ers and Boomers. We have been smug, thinking "oh the next paradigm in computing is going to be Mixed Reality". Bah. VR and AR headsets are just going to be another set of tools for enablement to a generation that already lives completely digitized lives. 

I really need to echo Gary Vee in his imploring: Get involved in social networking. It's not the particular platform, but the empowerment. Or we're all gonna miss the boat.

Thursday, May 25, 2017

Riddle me this...

Why is it that millennials and younger have no patience? I can't count how many times I've been contacted either by phone, or emails or SMS, with people trying to sell me something, only to have them not answer, or not leave some kind of message. Why do you assume that I'm not interested in what you have for me? Just because I don't answer you as soon as you are in my face doesn't necessarily mean I'm not going to interact with you. If you don't leave a message, I'm not going to answer with a follow up because I don't think you're worth it.

I'm a Boomer. Boomers are a dying breed that still believe in taking our time in doing things. I'm going to stop and consider what it is that you are offering.  It might be a few minutes, or it could be a couple of weeks. That doesn't mean that I've lost interest. Kids today trying to market anything want instant gratification. If I didn't buy their product, they move on. Whatever happened to the art of landing the sale? I've averaged 16 hour work days my whole life. I'm not going to take what I earned in those 16 hours and willy-nilly throw it at you for something that doesn't have value to me. Nor am I going to waste time pursuing you with a response if you didn't leave a message to begin with. I don't care how valuable your product is.

Saturday, May 13, 2017

My Digital Manifesto

There is no small amount of hype concerning Virtual Reality, Augmented Reality, and Artificial Intelligence lately. The three seemingly separate disciplines have been coalescing into an overall technology that encompases some important hardware and software developments. Many of us have longed for the day when we can pop in a set of contact lenses to interact with our tech. While that development is still on the drawing board, we have been waiting patiently for some kind of affordable head mounted device. I believe before we reach that point, the hype will settle down around to what has already been accomplished. Here is my timeline for the next four years. Your predictions might vary slightly.

     1.   Camera based AR
Facebook has committed to creating an augmented experience through the everyday smartphone. There have been numerous companies in the recent past that have had the same general vision, such as Metaio, which was purchased by Apple a few years back, and Niantic, the creators of Pokemon Go. Everyone has a phone with a camera, and the best way to make people comfortable with the concept of Augmented Reality is to get it to the masses. There is no better company to do that than Facebook. Period.

    2.   WebVR
I’ve been playing in virtual worlds since the creation of VRML back in the 1980s. With the addition of a web browser plug-in, you could surf to any site that ran VRML code. It was mesmerizing, and much of what was learned has been applied to gaming over the years. As VRML waned, there was a brief comeback in the form of updated web standards called X3D, and X3Dom. But it always remained a niche technology. Recently there is a renewed interest in porting VR to the web. WebVR will only help to align the different disciplines under a common banner.

    3.   Blockchain and Cryptocurrencies
I can’t emphasise with enough strength how important blockchain tech will usher in true interoperability in the next few years. Most of the world is finally waking up to the concept of Bitcoin now. While Bitcoin is the dominant face of the cryptocurrency market, the real strength is blockchain. I will be so bold to say that most gaming currencies today will be slowly converted to an underlying blockchain system in order to stay relevant. If you are an investor, however, you really need to pay attention to blockchain development.

    4.   Assignment Servers
This is a concept created by an insane little man by the name of Philip Rosedale. His newest current venture, High Fidelity, uses it. To quote their FAQ: “The Assignment Server is a High Fidelity service that allows people to share their computers with each other to act as servers or as scripted interactive content. Devices register with the assignment server as being available for work, and the assignment server delegates them to domain servers that want to use them. Units of a cryptocurrency, will be exchanged by users of the assignment server, to compensate each other for their use of each other’s devices. The assignment server can analyze the bandwidth, latency, and Network Address Translation capabilities of the contributed devices to best assign them to jobs. So, for example, an iPhone connected over home WiFi might become a scripted animal wandering around the world, while a well-connected home PC on an adequately permissive router might be used as a voxel server.”

In a nutshell, this is a form of peer to peer networking. I won’t go into all the explanations of the other terms used in this paragraph. I encourage you to visit the High Fidelity site for yourself to learn more.

   5. Microsoft Mixed Reality
Can you say “One ring to rule them all”? The recent Microsoft Build conference has revealed that they get the idea that everyone wants a piece of the pie. And MS says “yeah, you can haz pie”. Hardware is forking all over the place right now, thanks to Asia’s aggressive tech developers. And one thing that Microsoft understands well is that hardware is secondary to the goal of the experience. You can’t have an app work on an android device, and not on iPhone without two different versions of it. I use them as an example, but envision the myriad of devices already collecting dust in your game room right now. Microsoft wants to change that. And they’re doing it in small steps so they don’t scare anyone into screaming “monopoly”. Keep your eyes on the changes coming to Windows in the near future. I think you’ll be pleasantly surprised.