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Op/Ed

Is the cloud on the verge of death?

(EDITORIAL) There is a theory floating around that the cloud is on the verge of death. Turns out, there’s merit for this line of thought…

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The sky is falling.

At least according to technologist, Viktor Charypar, who proclaimed “the cloud,” as a large-scale approach to computing, is about to nosedive.

To say the least, that’s a surprise.

At this point, it’s safe to call cloud-based computing the dominant paradigm. Those who make their living through that paradigm can be forgiven for dropping their collective monocle, spitting out their collective tea, and having a good old scoff at such scandalous tomfoolery as “the end of the cloud is coming.” I know I did.

But I kept reading, because it is literally my job to do the reading. And you know something?

Charypar is right.

The reason “end of the cloud” has so many metaphorical monocles floating in cups of tea is that tech in general is running full tilt at cloud-based solutions. More and more companies are moving more and more functionality out of consumer hardware and into corporate owned resources, which those corporations then make available as a service.

It’s easy to see why. The previous generation of tech had what they figured was an insoluble problem: you can only stuff so much processing power in a plastic rectangle before it keels over or bursts into flames.

The fix was literally out of the box. Take it out, went the wisdom. Move your computing into remote services, big networks of big iron optimized to meet your needs. That moves processing power and economic power in the same direction: away from the user and toward the service provider. In a sense, it was a return to the very, very old days of personal computing, when “computer” meant the vast and heaving beast in the basement and users just got terminals, access points where they could play with data owned and operated by someone else. Trust me. I’m writing this on a Chromebook.

As Charypar points out, like any tech solution, the cloud paradigm comes with advantages and disadvantages. The advantages are obvious: thanks to the Chromebook, this article has gone through three formats on two machines, and I never even had to plug anything in.

Disadvantages? The cloud isn’t infinitely scalable. As tech standards rise – SD to HD, 1080 to 4K – we’re forcing bigger data through tighter tubes. That means everything gets slower, dumber, and uglier. Especially with net neutrality under threat, that’s a serious possibility in the immediate future.

It’s also insecure.

Old one-liner: freedom of the press is limited to those who own one. The Internet fixed that – then promptly no-backsied us with the streaming paradigm. Now, access to data is limited to those who can store and stream it. How much of your entertainment comes from, say, Netflix, or Spotify, or Steam? Because if those services stop working tomorrow, and they could, whatever you’ve invested in them goes too. If their security fails – not unprecedented – you’re the one exposed. They’ve got the data. You’re just paying to play with it.

So, you quite rightly ask, what’s the fix?

BitTorrent.

The soft, splashy clink you just heard was the few remaining metaphorical monocles splashing into caffeinated beverages all over this great country. Someone fetch smelling salts; the entirety of Silicon Valley just got the vapors.

We aren’t advocating that we all grab the digital equivalent of a cutlass and a parrot and return to the scandalous days of piracy. But, as Charypar points out, whatever else you might say about peer-to-peer data transfer, and there’s plenty to say, it worked. It’s proven tech. Back in the day, you could grab a whole season of Deadwood in an hour. I mean, so I heard. In Bible study.

More recently, blockchain has repeatedly demonstrated that peer-to-peer tech solutions are widely applicable and solve many of the problems associated with a cloud-based middleman.

Peer-to-peer solutions like BitTorrent and blockchain are as close to infinitely scalable as technology allows. The processing power grows organically with the network, because the computers on the network are doing the work. Peer-to-peer is secure, too. I’d tell you to ask a cryptocurrency miner, but that’s the point: there’s no way to find one.

Charypar’s argument is that cloud-based computing is approaching its end because it never was an end in itself. It was the first half of the real goal: distributed computing.

Apps built peer-to-peer, sharing data and processing power between users directly, backed with blockchain or other encryption solutions, could represent what the cloud keeps demonstrating it can’t: a safe, stable digital world.

Matt Salter is a writer and former fundraising and communications officer for nonprofit organizations, including Volunteers of America and PICO National Network. He’s excited to put his knowledge of fundraising, marketing, and all things digital to work for your reading enjoyment. When not writing about himself in the third person, Matt enjoys horror movies and tabletop gaming, and can usually be found somewhere in the DFW Metroplex with WiFi and a good all-day breakfast.

Op/Ed

Make better decisions in 2018 by quitting (wait, hear me out)

(EDITORIAL) 2018 doesn’t have to be the year that you start something. Embody the phrase “less is more” by quitting and letting go.

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Around this time every year, people everywhere gear up to attack New Year’s resolutions with short-lived vigor, while people like me get ready to ridicule some of the more over-the-top examples of the “New year, new me!” crowd. This year, perhaps we should consider the adage “less is more” by cutting old habits rather than implementing new ones.

Put simply, it isn’t feasible to jump into 20 different hobbies/routines/lifestyles every time a new year rolls around, yet we seem to convince ourselves otherwise every January 1st; if your heart isn’t in what you’re trying to do, you won’t stick with it, no matter how much you “want” to do it.

Take the gym crowd, for example: you may have an objective understanding that working out is good for you while actively hating the gym, making it difficult for you to stick to what ends up being a shaky resolution.

What IS feasible is taking stock of everything that you do that doesn’t fit into your paradigm of operation. Do you spend an unwanted extra hour or two on the computer each day? If so, perhaps it’s time to start drawing the line at 5:00 sharp rather than letting clients hold you over.

The same goes for personal preferences as well: you may feel as though you need to devote countless hours of your time to weeding or cleaning, but it may be better for you to focus on the things that actually matter to you.

Obviously, we all have responsibilities that demand our attention (we’re not suggesting that you start ditching your kids’ soccer practice in favor of Tequila Tuesdays) but it is possible to exaggerate those responsibilities’ importance.

What you do with the spare time from your lifestyle pruning is completely up to you; however, by focusing on your actual hobbies, interests, and passions, you’ll most likely find that your quality of life improves while your day-to-day stress level decreases exponentially.

2018 doesn’t have to be the year that you start something; instead, consider making it the year that you close some overdue chapters in your personal book to make a little more space for the things that you love.

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Op/Ed

Technologists still think they can supplant Realtors #eyeroll

(EDITORIAL) It’s an age-old tale, but a new Alexa app implies they’re going to put Realtors out of work. Sure thing, buddies.

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Gertrude Stein once wrote that, “everybody gets so much information all day long that they lose their common sense.”

No doubt about it – the more information one can get, especially in a critical business negotiation – the better. But, as with many things, the volume of information becomes so overwhelming that we lose focus of what bits of information are truly important, how to deploy what we’ve learned from them, and how to use them to our advantage.

In a bygone era, Realtors used to serve as the founts of knowledge about a home – its features, its relative worth in the market, and what the neighborhood, schools, and modes of living around the house were like. With the rise of the Internet era, as well as multiple companies that aggregate this information from other places, consumers now need no longer rely on their Realtors for all of that information, being able to find it, along with interior and exterior pictures of the home, online.

So, some reason, with the continued expansion and refinement of the capabilities of online shopping, there won’t be a raison d’etre for Realtors any longer, with the home buying experience being able to be distilled and handled virtually, perhaps as easily as ordering a new house through Alexa.

After all, car buying was a very different experience just a few years ago, and now, through the efforts of Carvana, among others, one can now research, buy, and have delivered a car without ever leaving one’s house.

We get pitches every day from companies that seek to disrupt real estate, the most recent an Alexa app that claims to sell you a home (subtly indicating it doesn’t take a Realtor). Eyeroll.

Technologists continue to fail to take into account the added value that Realtors bring to each transaction and interaction with both home buyer and home seller. While providing information on a home and neighborhood no longer may be at their core mission for every interaction (although they must be prepared to do so), the ability for the Realtor to navigate the process of sale and purchase, intercede in negotiations when necessary, and frankly, to keep everyone’s emotions, which are often frayed, in check to keep the sale moving forward is vital.

For most of us, purchasing a home is the largest and most significant financial investment that we will make. While the internet, and technology-based disruptors in the space are amazing at providing us with information to narrow our choices when selecting a potential property (or, in the author’s case, providing too many choices), it doesn’t give us access to an expert on the process, a coach in negotiating the finer points of the sale, nor a counselor when things get hectic or the process hits a snag.

Using the services of both allows the customer to get the best of both worlds—data and information combined with someone who knows how to distill it into action, and that’s what a Realtor does – gets consumers into the action, in the right place, at the right time, and fights for the best outcome possible.

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Op/Ed

How to get a meaningful head start on your resolutions without magic

(EDITORIAL) Most editorials about resolutions offer apps or tricks, but let’s take a more meaningful look at how to make this your year.

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If you’re like most people, you abandoned your 2017 New Year’s resolutions in February or March. With 2018 just around the corner, you may be wondering if it’s really worth setting goals for the new year. After all, you didn’t do too well this year. What’s the point?

I believe that we need goals, personally and professionally. We fail, not because we aren’t committed, but because we set lofty goals that aren’t measurable and realistic.

Get a head start on your New Year’s resolutions by doing things differently this year.

1. What is it that you really want to change?
Instead of thinking about what you should do differently, what would make you happy? Resolutions that matter to you personally are more likely to be seen through.

2. Focus on three things:

  • What is one thing you want to start doing?
  • What one thing would you want to stop doing?
  • What is it that you’re doing that you want to continue doing?

3. Set goals that are SMART, specific, measurable, achievable, realistic, and timely.

Instead of saying that you want to eat healthier, tell yourself that you are going to incorporate more color into your menu.

How? By choosing one unfamiliar piece of produce each week and learning to cook with it. Or by selecting a salad when you go out for fast food.

Think about small changes that you can make, instead of making broad, sweeping changes.

You don’t need to download productivity apps or buy a whole bunch of equipment to make lasting changes to your routine. But you do need to really think about your resolutions to have a good handle on what you really want to change. Go into 2018 with determination to be a better you.

Carefully consider your goals to really identify what you want and how you can make lasting changes.

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