Preemptive Supreme Court ruling post

I have already heard some preemptive wailing and gnashing of teeth over the possibility that the Supreme Court will strike down parts of the ACA as it is being implemented today. As always, when a ruling goes against a group’s beliefs, political motives are blamed. Of course if the ruling goes in favor of your beliefs, the court is held up as being wise and truly understanding the law. This really doesn’t seem like an overly political issue though. Everything I’ve read makes me think this case is about implementing the law as it was written. Sure, political motivations are what brought to the case to court but that’s beside the point.

If the court does rule against the status quo, I hope there are some lessons learned. One, you actually have to implement the law that is passed, not what a lot of people think it means. Two, super complicated bills make it difficult to understand what you’re actually passing into law. And finally three, if you have to make the bill super complicated in order to get it passed at all you aren’t doing yourself any favors and the bill probably shouldn’t be passed.

I’m fully anticipating the court ruling against the Democratic (with a capital D, the party) way of thinking. I’m also anticipating a public backlash blaming conservative judges for striking down a law they don’t like. The irony of course is that they won’t be striking down a law, they will be ordering it to be implemented correctly. That is not a political decision, it is a legal one.

The Internet, social media, and me.

I have had three distinct relationships with the Internet. I started using it back in the early 90s. The World Wide Web had not come into existence yet, everything was text based. I mostly trawled music and photography listservers for information. When I got my own computer in the late 90s, there were actual webpages! Most of my internet use was centered around music (I loved Napster!) and reading about photography. It was still mostly a passive thing though. I’d order stuff and read newsgroups but that was about it.

Things changed dramatically in 2004. My friend Jenny inspired me to get a LiveJournal account and I started blogging. That quickly led to me getting my own website so that I could post pictures, papers, and other things along with my blog. I distinctly remember the thrill of creating content for the web. Suddenly I was part of the Internet, not just someone that read it. I put my thoughts, my pictures, my life on the web under my name with my own address. I was a creator, I had carved out my own space and made it mine. I was pretty good about keeping that up through about 2009 or so. While I still posted blog posts and pictures after that, my frequency slowed considerably. Why? Facebook.

I joined Facebook in 2003 I think. At the time I did it just to keep track of my cousin while she was at school. I didn’t really start using it till the middle of 2007 when my fellow students in Yemen encouraged me to. It was an easy way to keep track of people I knew from all over the world and it helped me reconnect with friends from high school. By 2009 I was very busy on Facebook. Keeping up with friends is addictive, especially when you had so much catching up to do.

When 2012 rolled around, I had started to get a little weary of Facebook’s shenanigans when it came to privacy, the ads, and general ickiness. That’s when app.net was launched. The goals of the service resonated with me. No ads, users were the customers, not advertisers, and developers were given free rein to use the service in any way they saw fit. The main use was microblogging (similar to Twitter) but there were a lot of other services being built around it like blogging and podcasting. This coincided with my first stint on disability so I had a lot of time to invest in the service, and invest I did. App.net became my primary social outlet despite the fact that I didn’t know anyone on it when I signed up. It was such a compelling experience that I spent a ton of time on it. I was really excited about the possibilities that the platform offered beyond microblogging and couldn’t wait to see what else developers were going to make of the service.

Unfortunately, app.net has devolved into what I had so strenuously denied it being for so long, a paid Twitter clone. Microblogging is really the only thing it is used for now. Sadly, the people that are invested in the service continuing are only interested in microblogging. I still use it but only because I’ve met some really cool people there and I like talking to them.

My use of Facebook really slacked off while I was using app.net heavily. Now that I’m trimming back on app.net, I don’t have a big desire to invest as much time in Facebook. When I look back at all of the energy and information I put into my social media presence, I’m struck by how little I have to show for it. Yes, I have a bunch of stuff in my timelines on both app.net and Facebook but what good is it? Can I find the interesting link I shared or mini exposition on whatever it was I thought was interesting at the time? Not a chance. Can someone else come across what I’ve written and start up a conversation? Will anyone ever Google an explanation I’ve given and be helped by it? How could they?

When I look at my posts on my blog from 11 years ago I feel as though I’ve lost something vital to my writing because of social media services. My posts on my site resonate with me much more than my posts on Facebook do. And that’s assuming that I can even find my posts on Facebook. What I realize is that I no longer feel like a creator, I’m back to feeling like a passive user. It’s not that I don’t make things and put them on the Internet, but I don’t feel as though I own them. They don’t feel as though they are mine. I am making content that either is transitory by design in the case of microblogging, or enriching a company’s product. The feeling of ownership is a subtle and tricky idea, especially when it comes to things on the Internet, but I miss it.

So what to do? I miss the old feeling of accomplishment of making something on the web. I want to feel like a creator again so I’m coming back home. I hope to make this site my primary outlet on the web. It is a place that anyone could come across. I am able to search it for previous writing and I have total control over how it looks and how I present it. I’ll still use social media to be social. Both app.net and Facebook are great for conversations but anything I make will be here.

Here’s to my fourth relationship with the Internet, hope you’ll come along for the ride.

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Microsoft has Awoken

Microsoft has been a mess for years. Windows 7 was a solid, but decidedly dull operating system. People that needed to use Windows liked its stability and security but I think it would be a stretch to say that anyone was excited about it. The next version of Windows took a lot of chances and really tried to change some things up but Windows 8 ended up being a bit of a disaster for them. It was too big a change and unfocused. I’ve heard very few positive reviews from users. Even the people that do like it took a while to get there. Microsoft also really missed the boat on mobile. While their phone OS has gotten really good reviews, no one seems to use it and the app ecosystem just cannot seem to get any traction. They now represent low single digit percentages of users in the smart phone world.

Compared to Apple and Google, Microsoft has had a real image problem with consumers. Aside from the Xbox, there was no sizzle from Microsoft, no sexiness. Yes, they still had a lock on the business world but it was difficult to find anyone as passionate about Microsoft as people are about Apple and Google. On January 21st, Microsoft had a special event around Windows 10 and some other technologies. History may show that event as being when consumer sentiment started to shift in Microsoft’s favor.

It’s been a while since a new version of Windows was exciting and yet that’s what Windows 10 seems to be. It shares a lot of similarities with Windows 8 as far as how it looks but Microsoft has learned some lessons. They have fixed a lot of the things that people didn’t like about Windows 8. No more charms, the start menu is back, and there seems to be a better way of switching between desktop and touch interfaces. The phone and tablet interfaces look really good. I’ve always thought that Windows phone had an interesting approach and I think that Windows 10 has taken more steps along the path to being really good. I’m not as convinced about the desktop, nor am I sold on the switching between tablet and computer mode but maybe that’s my Apple bias showing…

The big news is that Windows 10 will be on computers, tablets, phones, and even the Xbox. I’ve always wondered why Microsoft hasn’t made more hay with their Xbox branding. That is one aspect of their product mix that people were actually passionate about. Better late than never I suppose. Of course the big excitement of having the same OS on all of the devices is that the same programs should be able to be on all of them. That could be a huge deal for the phones. If Windows developers could easily port their computer apps to the phones, Windows phones might start to close the app gap it has with other platforms.

Combine Windows 10 with all of the cross platform services Microsoft has and it looks like they have a focused, unified company for the first time in a decade. Windows 10 plus Skype, OneDrive, and Office on everything is a compelling product. Microsoft as a unified product, I never thought I’d see the day. As a certified nerd, I was impressed with the way Microsoft was able to seemingly get its act together all at once.

The best was yet to come though. People that follow Microsoft already knew all about Windows 10. What nobody saw coming was the announcement of HoloLens. It’s an augmented reality headset that projects “holograms” into your field of view. It’s not a virtual reality headset that completely replaces your environment, it adds objects to your environment. The video at the top of this post gives you some idea of the possibilities. You could throw screens into your field of view either to watch TV or to carry on a video chat. You can project images onto real life objects. That could be used for fun (like the minecraft example) or for real life modeling. It really reminds me of scenes from Ghost in the Shell. Microsoft is claiming that the things you build as a hologram can be sent directly to a 3D printer and become actual objects. Yes, there are all sorts of nick knacks you could build but think about the possibilities in the construction, medical, and maintenance fields.

Members of the press were allowed to use the prototype HoloLens. Going by what they said, the video doesn’t really do it justice. They say it is absolutely, jaw droppingly amazing. They were given a real time tutorial of how to replace a light switch, complete with 3D annotations to the switch that was right in front of them. Apparently the Minecraft demo was amazing. They did something similar to what they did in the video, blow a hole in the wall of the room and see into another world. They were also able to walk on mars, just like on the video. Do watch the video to get an idea of the possibilities. Incredible stuff. Even more incredible? It’s going to ship this year.

This could very well be the next step of computing. It certainly has the possibility of completely redefining how we interact with technology. How excited am I about this? If Microsoft were the only company that offered this and you needed to use a Windows computer to use it, I’d buy one. Yes, I am that excited about this. The good news is there is talk of at least one other company making similar technology. It’s also hard to believe that other big tech companies like Google and Apple aren’t working on something like this as well. I anticipate having some choice in providers as this technology becomes mainstream.

I never thought I would be interested, let alone excited, about what Microsoft does. It’s awesome to see a massive tech company flex its muscles and give us a view of the future. It’s even more amazing to have them bring it to us. Well done Microsoft.

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