Net Neutrality at risk: the Internet as we know it will change

What’s about to happen will affect us all in ways we can’t yet imagine.

The current nondiscrimination principle of “network neutrality” forbids phone and cable companies from blocking or even discriminating between or entering in special business deals to the benefit of some sites over others.

For example, as Suzanne succinctly puts it on plumbersurplus.com “Net neutrality is the idea that all information is created equal, therefore, it should be available to all users of the internet without the interference of big companies stating what can or can’t be viewed. For example, if there was not net neutrality then Google could choose to not allow any Gmail users to receive emails from Yahoo accounts and vice-versa. Also, wireless carriers could sell tiered services that would allow some people to get information faster than others.”

I found this image uncredited on another blog. If you know the author, contact me via the main Blue Mouse Monkey site.

However, net neutrality is “dead man walking”, because the DC Circuit Court is about to rule probably in favor of Verizon.

As Marvin Ammori writes in Wired, “Despite eight years of public and political activism by multitudes fighting for freedom on the internet, a court decision may soon take it away.”

“The implications of such a decision would be profound. Web and mobile companies will live or die not on the merits of their technology and design, but on the deals they can strike with AT&T, Verizon, Comcast, and others. This means large phone and cable companies will be able to “shakedown” startups and established companies in every sector…”

Read the whole article on Wired »

Oregon First website launch

Oregon First real Estate Website home pageBlue Mouse Monkey is proud to announce the launch of a new website for Oregon First. Oregon First is the largest independent, locally-owned real estate brokerage in Oregon. Their new website combines a RMLS data feed with unique customized design (rare for real estate sites!) as well as two blogs (one for agents, the other for the general buying-and-selling public) as well as individual pages for each of the 300+ member agents. Built in WordPress, the site is now easy for Oregon First staff to keep updated.

Your Economy website re-launched

Blue Mouse Monkey is thrilled to announce the launch of the new YourEconomy.org website. Your Economy is an interactive resource center where you can explore and analyze economic activity in your own region and nationwide. YE houses more economic data than the U.S. census bureau, and it depicts the dynamic journey of jobs, sales, and establishments evolving through time.

We were particularly happy to work with Your Economy to improve the website, as we had been engaged in the first redesign in early 2012. Since then the needs of the project changed, and to take advantage of evolving web technologies, we decided to redo the whole site from the ground up. The result is a highly interactive, javascript-rich solution that enables you to dive deep into complex economic data in a matter of seconds. The YE website is designed to be user-friendly to a wide range of audiences, including the White House, state governors, economists, industry analysts, economic development experts, and the media.

Short term greed is killing us all

An excellent article by Henry Blodget  (CEO and Editor, Business Insider) examines the implications of a tweet by a Twitter user who lashed out against his suggestion that McDonald’s should increase the wages of its restaurant workers and pay for this by making a bit less money. (Blodget was arguing that McDonald’s employees should not be treated as “costs,” but instead as valuable members of a successful team who shouldn’t have to work that hard and still live in poverty.)

The tweeter responded:

offensive tweet(The tweet is quite articulate for Animal from the Muppets.) But as Blodget points out, this is not a unique opinion, and many senior managers think this way.

And it never ceases to shock me. I’m a business owner, but I’m also a human being, in fact a human being first. Strip away my business ownership and I’d still be a human being. And the people who work with me, for me, and for whom I do work are all human beings. Each one of them carrying a birthright that means they deserve to be treated with fairness, respect, honesty, and as people with hopes and dreams of their own.

I have never understood hope some people lose site of this. It’s just so obvious. It’s a given. In fact, it feels strange even to write it out, like I’m writing something obvious and unarguable like, “The sky is blue except on cloudy days when it is gray”.

To my mind, a person would have to be psycho to think of other human beings are merely “costs”. That’s not far from thinking of other human beings as less-than-human. As expendable. And we know where that kind of thinking can lead.

And guess what? ALL employees of a company are “costs”, including the higher management. Including the CEO. If you wanted to look at the structure of workplaces this way, you could argue that ALL employees are trading their labor for money. Even the CEO is laboring as a CEO. And her salary is a cost on the company’s books. She’s laboring with her head rather than her hands, but she’s still spending dedicated time in service of the company.

My company, Blue Mouse Monkey, Inc., is a corporation. My project manager’s wages are a cost to the company. My salary is a cost to the company. My subcontractor’s fees are costs to the company. If I hire a temp, that’s a cost to the company. We’re all costs. And we’re all much, much more. We all depend on each other. Without my employee and my subs, I wouldn’t be able to serve my clients. Without me (as the founder of the company), my employee and subs wouldn’t have the money my company provides in exchange for their labor.

We’re all valuable members of a successful team, and like any workers, we shouldn’t have to work as hard as we do and still live in poverty. (Which we don’t).

Now I’m not arguing that the work of a McDonald’s employee is equal on the marketplace to the work of a website developer. I understand that the level of skill and education and life experience necessary to be a good McDonald’s employee compared with that needed to be a a good developer (or copywriter or UX designer, etc. etc) is very different.

But no one should have to work that hard, give over than many hours of their life, and still live in poverty. They should make a living wage. Everyone should make a living wage. The alternative is a dying wage.

As Blodget points out,

“The real problem is that American corporations, which are richer and more profitable than they have ever been in history (see chart below), have become so obsessed with “maximizing short-term profits” that they are no longer investing in their future, their people, and the country.

and

“American corporations can afford to pay their employees better, hire more employees, and invest more in their future and the country’s future.

But American corporations aren’t doing that.

Instead, American corporations are choosing to divert as much of their value as possible to their owners and senior managers.

Doing this is not a law of capitalism.

It’s a choice.

And it is a choice, unfortunately, that is destroying America’s middle class, robbing American consumers (a.k.a., “employees”) of spending power, and, ironically, hurting the growth of the same corporations that are making this choice.”

 

Considering it doesn’t have to be this way, it’s a real shame that’s the way it’s turning out for so many many people. The best I can do, personally, is be a fair and honest employer.

.    .    .    .    .    .    .    .    .    .    .    .

A side note: the tweeter’s use of “full stop” instead of “period” strongly suggests he is not from the United States. An interesting detail, considering Blodget was talking about American corporations and American workers. But many American corporations are also multinationals, and economic neoconservative attitudes are international in scope and spread, so it’s perhaps not all that surprising to see the non-Americaninsm in such a virulently capitalist response. (But it casts doubt on the veracity of the tweeter’s photo — I always thought Animal was American.)

Boxy but good

Remember Dudley Moore, the ad man who goes crazy in the 1990 movie, Crazy People? He switches to using honesty, and comes up with campaigns like, “Volvos. They’re boxy but good.”

Parisian design collective Maentis is doing something similar in their reimagining of famous logos with a dose of added honesty. Check out their Universal Unbranding portfolio. A couple of examples are copied below to whet your appetite.

BP oil soaked bird

 

 

 

Ikea kitset logo

Kaggle: what you can do with big data!

Kaggle website screenshotAs the grim news of the NSA’s data mining sinks in, I’d like to shift gears on that topic and highlight the up side of big data.

Kaggle is a website that hosts competitions for data prediction. Data wizards compete to come up with solutions — solutions that elude experts in all kinds of industries — and so far are beating the experts hands down.

When given the chance to play with data (and write algorithms to analyze it), data scientists are able to see solutions without being distracted by industry assumptions or specialist knowledge. As Kaggle’s Jeremy Howard says, “Specialist knowledge is actually unhelpful.”

Competitions include developing an algorithm to grade student papers, developing a gesture-learning system for Microsoft Kinect, and predicting the biological properties of small molecules being screened as potential drugs. Kaggle has approximately 95,000 data scientists worldwide, from fields such as computer science, statistics, economics and mathematics. The data scientists rely on techniques of data mining and machine learning to predict future trends from current data. Companies, governments, and researchers present data sets and problems and offer prize money for the best solutions.

As Howard says, “Winners of Kaggle competitions tend to be curious and creative people. They come up with a dozen totally new ways to think about the problem.” (New Scientist vol. 216, No. 2893)

Way cool!

 

Guerrilla art is changing perceptions of agency for the disabled

guerrilla art handicap stickerIt started out as a piece of guerrilla art, and now it’s changing official handicapped accessible signs.

Brian Glenney and Sara Hendren started to “modify” existing symbols of accessibility to change public perception about disability several years ago. After the project gained the attention of New York officials the revised symbol is becoming officially recognized within the city.

“Initially, Glenney and Hendren’s aim was to generate conversation. Though the ISA symbol had generally been a huge boon to disabled individuals over the years, it’s easy to see how the symbol itself was less than ideal. Compared to the bathroom sign stick figures we’re used to, the one on the ISA looks frail and immobile–more an outgrowth of the chair it’s sitting in than its own distinct entity. … the goal [of the new symbol] was to show a more humanized depiction of the disabled. That meant reorienting the visual focus of the symbol from the chair to the person, and replacing the rigid, static representation with something more dynamic and active.”

old and new accessible iconsRead the full story at fastcodesign.com »

And more about the Accessible Icon Project »

Acumentra Health website launched

Acumentra health home pageHere at Blue Mouse Monkey we’re excited to announce the launch of a new website for Acumentra Health. Acumentra is a non-profit Quality Improvement Organization that helps medical providers and institutions in Oregon and Washington deliver better medical care.

We were very happy to transition Acumentra from their old static site into a completely redesigned new site built in WordPress. The ability to set up multiple user accounts with different levels of access means many more staff at Acumentra can take ownership of different parts of the site, freeing the former site administrator from update bottlenecks. Because Medicare beneficiaries are one of the audiences defined for this site, care was taken to make the site thoroughly Section 508 compliant.

Spirit Mountain Community Fund website makeover

Spirit Mountain Community Fund home pageBlue Mouse Monkey worked with the Spirit Mountain Community Fund (one of Oregon’s largest funders of non-profits) to launch their new website in 2010. Two and a half years later the folks at the Community Fund were ready for a makeover that responded to the needs of their audiences, as discerned through analytics. During this makeover we shuffled content into new places to make it easier for their main audience, grant writers, to find. In addition to rearranging content, we also changed the look-and-feel subtly enough to ensure the new site kept a relationship with the old site, but strongly enough that users were alerted to the fact that the site had changed.

As always, we’re happy to work with the good people at the Community Fund, and gratified to be helping them help Oregon non-profits!

Sound Roots School of Music website launched

Sound Roots School of MusicHere at Blue Mouse Monkey we’re happy to announce the launch of a new website for Portland’s Sound Roots School of Music!

Chris and Fara Heath started Sound Roots in 2008 to fill the void of music education left by tightening school budgets and lack of resources. They set out to teach students how to love learning. Today, Sound Roots has helped thousands of kids and adults achieve their musical goals.