Monday, April 21, 2008

The New* Big Blue

Hind sight is 20/20. So often it seems that events that occurred decades ago were inevitable, and the current state of things is accepted as obvious. Those who make the future are those that realize that there is no such thing as inevitability.

Not that long ago IBM, Big Blue, was the all-powerful behemoth that ruled the realm of technology. It was a scary world for new companies like Apple, Microsoft, and those countless unfortunates who are no longer in existence. For the last couple of decades or so, Microsoft has been the Undisputed World Technology Champion, and it has seemed like an inevitability.

Those of us in the industry have sensed a shift lately, and Microsoft is no longer "the place to be". If Microsoft was the "New Big Blue", then Google may be considered the "New New Big Blue". And, just as sure as Google is becoming the industry giant now, some company will replace Google, likely one that has not even been formed yet.

Dr. Charles Knutson of BYU stressed to me the importance of the individual. There will likely come a point in each of our lives where we'll have an opportunity to say something, to make some decision or point out some insight, that will change the shape of whatever industry we may be in and, potentially, the world. And children who are born after that change is effected will count it as an inevitability. The sad, scary, and unfortunate flip side to that coin is the fact that many of us will not realize the opportunity. We won't make the decision, realize the insight, say the right thing at the right time, and we won't change the world. The important thing to realize is that it is up to us - it hasn't happened yet, and it is most certainly not an inevitability.

Tuesday, April 8, 2008

Free Like Speech

Those who are familiar with the realm of Open Source have probably heard the phrase "Free like speech, not free like beer". The underlying concept here is that intellectual property should be easily and widely distributed, but still protected from abuse or profiteering by those who get their hands on it. I believe this concept relates to the music piracy issues of today, but it's hard for me to say - I'm not a huge music person. So I'll try to relate it to something I am passionate about - improvisational comedy.

In the spring of 2007 I started getting into improv. I came to absolutely love it, and I wanted to learn more about it. That fall a friend of mine lent me "Truth in Comedy", which can arguably be considered the Bible of improv. I thoroughly enjoyed it, and for Christmas my wife bought my the follow-up "Art by Committee". However, that was supposed to be used as a companion book and not strictly a sequel. So, I went online and bought "Truth in Comedy", along with another book or two about improv. I already have a small and growing list of improv books I intend to buy sometime this year.

The point I'm trying to make is the power of word-of-mouth. I was introduced to improv by word of mouth, and I was lent a book that I ended up buying. If I were to lend my copy to a friend who has no interest in improv then he might find it amusing or even enjoyable, but he won't buy it - unless, by my lending him the book, he becomes interested in improv and wants to become active in it. Either way, by my lending him the book I did not detract from the book sales, but I may have contributed to it. I believe this applies to most or all creative works, and the music industry needs to realize this before they end up shooting themselves in the foot.

Tuesday, April 1, 2008

Internet == Time Vacuum

I'm a huge Friends fan, and one of my favorite lines comes from an episode where Ross's girlfriend is looking at his old family pictures. When asked about the one with him and the albino kids, he replied, "Those weren't albino kids! That was Computer Camp!" I laughed harder than my wife because I know all too well about the albino geeks out there. To people like me, computers are fascinating machines that empower and gratify. Of course, the Internet just makes things worse! Knowledge and entertainment are readily available to fulfill our every whim. With such wonderful devices at our disposal, what motivation have we to ever leave them? I have the motivation of outside sports, improv comedy, religion, and, most importantly, my family to knock me off-line and into the real world. Every geek (and I use that term affectionately) needs to set limits that will get them out into the sun and interacting with real people. Do it for your physical health, your social life, and your pigmentation.