MIST 7500: Global Trends in Internet Regulation – Executive Summary 5

The internet is the single biggest invention to come in the past 20 years. It has proven to be as powerful as to start revolutions, shutdown companies and topple governments in a blink of an eye. The recent Arab spring, powered by social media, is a prime example of this. It’s no wonder that governments around the world are very interested in global internet regulation.

Global internet regulation is now again in the spotlight because of the ongoing United Nations’ WCIT-12 summit in Dubai. Member governments are meeting behind close doors to essentially come up with standards that will regulate the internet. This has come amidst a lot of criticism especially with those working in the industry. People such as Vint Cerf, who is recognized as one of the “fathers of the internet”, have come out saying that governments solely cannot make decisions about the future of this technology. Google and Facebook have campaigned publicly to bring attention to this summit. Advocacy groups are saying that this summit poses a risk to freedom online.

A big push for the agenda in the summit comes from governments that do not support a free and open internet. They recognize that currently, the United States holds the key to the internet being the origin of the technology. They want a hand on how free speech, security and privacy is being regulated. They want to be able to track user activities and shut down operations they deem inappropriate with ease. The argument is that, without a standard we are at risk to hackers and cyber terrorists.

Internet regulation that is controlled by any government does not seem to be a good solution. We have seen things done today that are contrary to what the internet was built for which is the freedom to communicate. Censorship, denial of services, repression of free speech are just a few. Just a week ago we’ve seen how the Syrian government basically “turned-off” the internet for the whole country because of the ongoing conflict between the government and protesters. These are just examples of what MAY happen on a bigger scale if a restricting regulation is approved by the UN.

In our company, this is very much of utmost concern. The internet is powerful because of the inherent freedom and creativity that comes with. We realize that cyber security is important and the privacy of users should be a concern but a much broader approach to regulation should be adopted. We as workers of the internet will need to monitor developments on global internet regulation closely.

MIST 7500: Gamification of Applications – Executive Summary 4

Engaging people and holding their attention span is very important especially for businesses that rely on user interaction, feedback and advertising. As technology improves and services become more accessible to everybody, this has proven to be more challenging now than in the past.

With the advances in the Internet, media delivery, digital content, etc., users are able to move between each activity so fast that the attention span of humans are decreasing. If they see a website that is clunky or is not visually pleasing, they just move on to the next one. If they see a website that gives a much better experience than another, users already form an opinion about that particular site within just a minute or two and they stop going to the mediocre site.

One of the concepts developed that try to help engage people so they will keep coming back to use an application is called the ‘Gamification of Applications’. The idea is to design a service that provides a game-like experience for the user. This concept has gained the attention of a lot of people in the industry to help attract users.

Some of the techniques used in ‘gamification’ include the use of achievement levels, leader boards, badges, concept of progression in a mission, challenges and virtual currency.

A good example of a service with ‘gamification’ qualities is the website Code Academy (http://www.codecademy.com). Code Academy helps people who want to learn a certain programming language such as JavaScript or Ruby. Their challenge is to keep users committed in finishing the tutorials and exercises so they can start to learn how to code. Code Academy does this by giving the user a badge for every chapter they complete. Badges can be shared with friends, so they can see how much you have already learned. They also provide a progress tracker, so the user can see where he/she is in the lessons and in the entire program.

The gamification of applications seems like a good way to improve services but this practice has also received negative attention from professionals in the gaming industry, business executives and academics. Some of the criticism of the concept is that it simplifies user interaction to just following certain rules and mechanics of the ‘game’. Others think that gamification makes the concept of games look one dimensional.

Given all that, I think this concept can be considered internally to improve certain administrative tasks. We can take a look at some elements that we can ‘gamify’ with staff satisfaction in mind.

MIST 7500: The Internet of Things – Executive Summary 3

In today’s environment, the Internet has become a focal source of economy, culture, and innovation. We as social beings have found it very advantageous to be connected to each other and to our environment. Our connection to the physical world is powered by what we call the Internet of Things.

The term the Internet of Things (IOT) was first used by Kevin Ashton, co-founder of the Auto-ID system from MIT. He was describing a system where physical items were connected to the Internet through the use of sensors. The concept started because of his work on Radio-frequency identification (RFID) tags where he became interested in using this technology to help manage product supply chain.

Presently, aside from RFIDs, we have a lot more technologies that help connect our environment.

Advancements in mobile internet such as 3G, LTE, WiMax, etc., which are powering smartphones and tablets, are in the forefront.

Near Field Communications (NFC) is a set of standards to establish radio communication between devices by bringing them in close proximity. This builds upon RFIDs because communication can be two-way. We’ve seen this implemented in payment solutions such as Google Wallet and MasterCard Paypass where the user ‘waves’ an NFC device that stores credit card information near a payment terminal to complete a transaction. There’s also digital badges and calling cards which contain NFC prints that can send contact information directly to a person’s address book just by touching them together.

Internet connected household devices such as refrigerators that can give you the weather and display notes created remotely are already in the market. There’s also security devices that can be locked or unlocked anywhere, thermostats that ‘learn’ how you like the temperature during certain parts of the day and lights that can be controlled via the Internet.

Cisco has stated that by 2020 there will be about 50 billion devices connected to the Internet. The possibilities for applications are enormous once the Internet of Things really takes off. Our company needs to recognize this as a good opportunity for our products in the future. Mobile application development is relatively new and is a good area we can invest in. Ensuring that our software products are cross-platform, especially on mobile devices, is something we should continue doing and improving. Business process improvements through the actual use of internet-enabled devices internally is also something we should consider.

MIST 7500: User Experience Strategy – Executive Summary 2

For our company to thrive and remain in the cutting edge of technology we need to be futurists. The reality though is, the future is unpredictable. So how do we help ourselves with so much uncertainty going around? This is where formulating a strategy comes in.

You’re probably thinking, but we have already spent countless hours and resources on a business strategy, a marketing strategy, our product strategy, etc.

In today’s ever so connected world with the Internet, mobile devices, and social networks, where Twitter can start a revolution and websites can help topple governments, the user of services have never had so much influence as they have now. This is another aspect of our business on which we should build a strategy upon, our end-users.

What did Apple do that they can sell premium products when there are much cheaper alternatives with the same hardware specifications? The main argument you would hear from users is, “I just want something that works and this does”. I believe this is because of iOS, where they sand boxed app development and tried to make sure that all the apps they publish will go through a rigorous process to reduce bugs. iOS apps also needs to use the same elements that Apple has provided to provide a sort of uniformity in the interface. This is part of their strategy to improve user experience. A UX strategy.

In order for us to properly formulate our own UX strategy, we need to start with our current situation. What are our challenges? How good is our value proposition? What is our goal as far as our relationship with our users is concerned?

Next, we need to revisit the company’s mission and goals. We will need to tie together all our products and services to give our users an “experience” that is exceptional. Our goal is to have them come back and try out our other products and services, including those that we are planning to launch in the future.

Then we will need to plan what kind of development and enhancements we need for our products. We need a road map for success which is focused on the users. We need to prioritize certain elements that will increase customer satisfaction.

Lastly, we should have benchmarks and key performance indicators. Have we improved the ‘user experience’? We need a plan to validate what we did and how it impacted our company.

The key here is we want to secure our future, and our future needs to meet the needs of our customers. Our UX strategy will mold the company in the coming years and this is something that we will need to spend time discussing, developing and implementing to assure our success.

MIST 7500: Big Data – Executive Summary 1

We are in the midst of a data revolution. 90% of the total data in the world today was created in the last two years. The most successful IT companies of the past decade, Facebook, Google, Amazon, etc., are examples of organizations who have prioritized the collection and management of data to improve their products as well as their relationships with their customers.

The topic of this Executive Summary is the technology surrounding Big Data. Our company has been collecting transactional data since its inception but there are other kinds of information out there that we should be storing and are far bigger than what our current systems are capable of. We are talking about things such as, customer feedback, data from social networks such as Twitter and Facebook, server logs, transaction logs, etc.

How is this going to help us? Take for example social networking data, how helpful would it be for our marketing department to know the demographics behind certain products so we can develop materials targeted for a particular geographic location?

Would it be advantageous if we can mobilize our support group as soon as we get alerts about customers posting on Twitter that there is a bug in one of our products?

Will we improve employee satisfaction if we can schedule shifts and vacation time based on data from server logs? What if we can map out high transaction volume times within a year and rotate our staff accordingly to make sure that everyone is able to take advantage of their vacation time?

Our current relational databases are good for our transactional data, but data such as the above are better stored and analyzed using a different system. Here we have to take a look at big data technologies such as Apache Hadoop.

Hadoop is derived from the same technology – Map Reduce, which helped Google to be successful in analyzing their search data. Hadoop will allow distributed computations on very large data. The bigger the amount of data is, the more efficient this technology would be compared to relational systems. Some notable companies such as Yahoo, Amazon, HP and IBM are already using Hadoop to run large distributed computations.

In closing, our company will need to be in the forefront of Big Data technology if we want to be successful. Harnessing big data will open up a lot of opportunities for us in improving our product catalog, customer satisfaction and employee retention.

First Semester: Things Learned

As my first semester in the UGA MIT program comes to a close, I realize how my studies are helping me out tremendously in my career.

In my two classes, Internet Technology and Database Management, I have learned the following:

I have improved my understanding of OOP concepts. Being a procedural programmer for quite awhile, OOP has kinda been bit difficult for me to grasp. The concepts of classes, inheritance, polymorphism, etc. seemed like a mountain when I tried learning it a few years ago. During our review of Java, I started to slowly understand the concepts behind OOP. I’m very much looking forward to the advanced classes on Java.

I now have an idea of business modeling. Using the BM canvas and tools such as Archimate, those helped me a lot in figuring out how people think when they run or start a business.

I learned data modeling. I have been working with SQL for a few years now and the practice of data modeling really helped me further my knowledge. This is especially useful as well when I am starting a new web application as I can now design and build the database by myself.

Data visualization was quite interesting as well. Working for a department that deals with tons of data, I was able to put into practice a lot of techniques we learned in class.

All in all, I was quite pleased with what I learned so far. It is a lot of work added on to my usual responsibilities but I have been enjoying it too much to really notice.

Enterprise Architecture

During the last lecture, we discussed taking the next step after business modeling which was to model the actual enterprise architecture that would support a business model. So our class split into several groups and our group picked a Voice Over IP (VOIP) provider as our business.

The VOIP business will provide cheap domestic and international calls to its customers. In order to achieve this, our group decided that outsourcing some of the key services needed by the business such as:

  • Payment processing
  • Data backup services
  • Server software technical support

Below you can find a non-standard diagram that our group created for the enterprise model.

click to enlarge

 

Information Systems 101

Last week’s lecture focused on the rise of IT’s role in businesses today. With the advent of the Internet, mobile devices, social networks, etc. it became very apparent that for a business to succeed, it needs to keep  current with technology. The resulting business model had to make sure that IT investment is front and center to create new revenue streams, maintain scalability and remain competitive.

One of the building blocks of an IT infrastructure are the different Information Systems that comprises it. Information systems basically are the hardware and software systems that have specific functions to process different kinds of data. We discussed several major types:

  • Transaction Processing Systems (TPS)
  • Customer Relationship Management (CRM)
  • Supply Chain Management (SCM)
  • Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP)
  • Business Process Management (BPM)
  • Business Intelligence (BI)

Just to give a quick example from experience, in Georgia Tech we have a few of these systems running. Being in higher education, we have different requirements from corporations. For example, we run Sungard Banner which is a very industry specific system designed to manage student data and campus services.

For our HR and financial data, we run Oracle’s Peoplesoft and for business intelligence, we have several between Oracle’s Hyperion, SAP’s Business Objects and IBM’s Cognos.

So that’s basically what information systems are in a nutshell. Look for the IS model I will be making for my past business models.

The Future of the Internet

In the future, Internet cats might even be robotic…

After watching videos from Kevin Kelly, Tim Berners-Lee and Vint Cerf, all from a few years back, it’s outstanding to see how ‘prophetic’ their visions were on the future of the internet. Although we are not 100% there yet, by this time, you can already see the trajectory of where we are going.

The nagging theme in the videos, I thought, was the notion that the inter-connectivity of the Internet as a hardware entity is in fact a precursor on how the data within this network is going to be like. It’s almost saying, “Ok, we’ve  connected the computers, now it’s time to connect what’s in the computers”. TBL dicusses about “linked data” and provides examples such as the dbPedia project which takes Wikipedia data and links it together and makes the relationships accessible via a query. This is a very exciting prospect since all the talk of “big data” today is showing that we are really headed in that direction.

The rise of social media such as Twitter, Facebook, Yelp, TripAdvisor, etc. has really partly represented this new “tsunami” that is about to engulf us all. Almost all internet companies, hardware manufacturers, web services are recognizing this so we are seeing an emphasis on how they can help people remain connected with their data and with each other.

Another wave in this tsunami is the emergence of cloud computing like DropBox, Google Drive, and Amazon AWS. You need to be able to access your data anywhere with any device, further strengthening Kevin Kelly’s idea that the computers are mere “windows” in this big machine.

So what really is the big picture? Personally, I think, what we are seeing is just the tip of the iceberg. Forget about flying cars or teleportation at this point (not that these are not going to happen) as the promise of the future. The future looks to be more looking like “super-humans” roaming the Earth. People who know everything about anything.

If I were to pick one movie that would represent the future of the Internet, it would probably be Minority Report, the “pre-cogs” will be the Internet itself, and we will be able to predict events and human behavior with the power of this inter-connected network and its inter-connected data.

History of the Intertubes…err Internet

So last week was a brief introduction to the the history of the internet. Having worked in web development almost all of my professional life, you kinda tend to take for granted the different technologies that you work with. You put the files in the web server, and if you get your code right, it just works.

There is a lot more to this though and a there’s lot of engineering involved just to get that script working, so looking at the basics and how everything started was very refreshing.

Where to start, well basically, the Internet started with ideas, problems and solutions to problems. Leonard Kleinrock at MIT published a paper about “packet switching” which basically is repackaging data in smaller manageable blocks called “packets”. This would lead to the development of ARPANET, the first package-switched network which was a project of the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA).

ARPANET would then start the use of electronic mails or e-mails in their network and the term “Internet” starts getting used. A problem though again would arise with the emergence of different networks so a more standard way of communicating was needed and so TCP/IP was born.

In 1990, Sir Tim Berners-Lee, while working at CERN, would start coining the term “World Wide Web” for the hypertext context he invented that would work in the network environment. HTTP would be the foundation for the modern websites we have today.

In a span of a decade there will be a lot of technologies created in terms of browsers, scripting, and search engines. In this same timeframe we would see the rise and fall of the dot-com bubble in 2001.

2004 will see the rise of social networks such as Facebook, and Tim O’Reilly will introduce the concept of the Web 2.0 giving emphasis on the user experience and on collaboration.

Today, the Internet can make or break governments, launch revolutions, and propel people from rags to riches. I believe it is the single most important invention so far during my lifetime.