Wednesday, 11 December 2013

Software programming should be taught like a second language

In the 21st century... a digital age, coding should be learnt by all.

Currently in the shadows, the web 3 phase is at its beginning (bell curve).  In this blog, web 3 follows web 1, the bubble phase and web 2, the current with the wave of new internet start-ups aka sharing economy, social media, etc ie. the rise of the mostly consumer service providers.

Web 3 moves tech from the back office (this is what IT is mostly used for up till now) to the front.  While web 2 is mostly about the service providers, web 3 is about companies and organisations, finally using the internet for business.  Instead of treating the homepage as the cover page of their annual reports, progressive firms are now turning them into real shop fronts; for marketing, to generate sales, for revenue generation, to re-invent themselves.  This is lead by the traditional retailers threatened by the online retailers who have stolen the momentum, and is slowly making its way to other commercial sectors.

That is to say with companies seriously moving online, ‘weberising’ will be part of its DNA and used throughout the organisation.  As this happens, we will find executives itching to use the internet for their part of business.  A retail brand executive could quickly write an app himself to take advantage of Paypal’s Beacon (location tracking devices placed in retail stores) to push his own products in a general store.  Waiting for the traditional IT department to do it will take so long, the first mover advantage will vanish.  It is about digitalisation of businesses, mostly outwards towards their clients and partners.

How many passionate executives wished they can do a quickie app to complement their upcoming marketing campaign?  Actually they can.  Programming is now much easier than when I started with assembler coding.  There are tools to help them, hiding and taking care of the complexities.  They only need logic and to know some basics.  It is certainly much easier than learning Japanese!  And I’ll say maybe 5% of the effort of a traditional program.  But I don’t expect many 40-year old executives doing this.  Most have the outdated impression that programming are for whizz kids.  So schools and parents should start them.  Young professionals should too.

“The fact that some SAP employees are actually taking the initiative to build their own applications also speaks to the trend of “shadow IT,” where end users or individual departments buy and deploy products without the involvement of technical staff.” - CIOs need to rethink their roles, MIT symposium panelists say, By Chris Kanaracus, IDG News Service, May 22, 2013 

Another trend is that globally entrepreneurism seems to be on the up and would be a significant part of any economy.  Many startups are looking at the internet pot of gold even for those in conventional businesses.  Many now see it as integral to their business.  But most are not computer science graduates and many who rely on partners who are find themselves at a loss when partnerships break up.  And statistically, most do.  It’s a handicap.  They ought to learn to develop websites themselves and most need some level of programming (but not deep).  There are many good online courses available, free to help them.

Working adults ought to view programming as another language to acquire.  This will be good for a career moving forward, now steep within an internet economy.  And like ABC, kids should start to learn programming early.  In this 21st century, programming should be taught at school to all students.

Saturday, 7 December 2013

Alan Greenspan says Bitcoin has no intrinsic value

This was stated on 5 dec 2013 (Bloomberg).

He is a great economist but does he understand the new economy?

In the information era, data has value whence once it had little or only when turned into information.  Today the data/information industry (Baidu, Facebook, Yahoo, WeChat) is growing fast, is adding new categories like the sharing economy (Lyft, AirbnB, Funding Circle) with more categories expected as we move deeper into the cycle of the information age when once it was a stagnant sector (mostly the media, publishing and information services).  Bitcoin is a currency based on data, created by computing a complex algorithm which is akin to being mined.  While the establishment criticise Bitcoin, could it be that they are seeing it through rose-tinted glasses of traditional convention? And all this as the underlying change caused by the cycle towards the information age marches on.  Admittedly, it’s early days so he may not grasps the new.

Here are a few examples showing that data has value, raw or processed:

·         Big data is an example of data now having a value on its own albeit that it needs to be mined
·      Social data, created by the social media companies now has a lot of value.  Google and Weibo are behemoths, based on information and data.  Once massive amount of data was close to valueless because there was no way to mine them cheaply but with today’s low cost of computing, it does.
·         Telcos as one example has transformed into a data business. The voice business model has collapsed with the internet (turned voice to simply data).  With increasing revenues, data obviously has a lot of intrinsic value.

Paper currencies are simply pieces of paper but backed by governments.  That’s where it derives its value now that the gold standard has been abandoned.  Not long ago, currencies were backed by gold.  Bitcoin is a ‘piece’ of data, backed by the crowd. It is modelled after gold and thus harks back to the days of the gold standard but in an information economy. In this era socio-economically speaking, the crowd has acquired an unusual place.  Crowdsourcing is now the engine of commerce (see ‘Crowdsourcing; why it works” dated 18 Aug. 2013 in this blog.  It also tells why data now has value).  The crowd’s role in the economy was once in consumption but now it also produces (see ‘peer-to-peer as a business model Part II’ posted 16 Nov. 2013). The world’s certainly more democratic now, implying the crowd nowadays has more power. The command-and-control culture also seems to be breaking down.  Etcetera.  And isn’t democracy backed by the crowd?

Like Napster (the peer-to-peer model did not go away despite the detractors) so it is likely that Bitcoin or its derivative could evolve similarly.

Update...Interestingly Federal Reserve’s outgoing Chairman Ben Bernanke ‘praised digital currencies’ in a letter to the US Senate as reported by Time 16 December 2013.

Friday, 29 November 2013

Bitcoin; the future of money?

Is Bitcoin a form of digital currency, digital gold, a virtual payment system?  Probably all three though not yet clear but it certainly is a disruptor.

Bitcoin shares many mechanisms of the internet model as do some of the classic disruptors like Areo, Wikipedia, Napster/BitTorrent, Amazon.  In fact it aligns the most, compared to other digital currencies and internet financial instruments like mobile wallets.  It is also the most innovative.  This places it far ahead as the potential disruptor to today’s [traditional] financial instruments and points towards the future of money, payments and of the financial industry.

But it is still raw.  It is highly speculative now probably because it is also in the early phase of its development (bell curve) but it will stabilise when today’s speculative elements are contained, through some regulations perhaps.

Judge it from the prospective of the information age (not industrial) where data is the new commodity - bitcoin is a data-rised currency though very much modelled after gold.  Evaluate it from the new rules of the internet economy.  It is an open and direct method, crowdsourced using the peer-to-peer model.  It shares characteristics of say Lyft’s democratic, egalitarian culture.  It relies on the openness, vastness, borderless, globalness of the internet and uses its connectivity in its business.  Interestingly, like the way the internet infrastructure was designed – indestructible communication system, it is unlikely Bitcoin can be put down.  Even if it does not become a global common currency, widespread use is expected and that alone will pressure the central banks and financial industry to bring down costs for us.  Does this model sound familiar?

Certainly contrarian but perhaps it shouldn't be written off so nonchalantly and like Areo, the establishment and entrenched interests will want to kill it off.  But like many iconic products of the internet, this will prove difficult.  Reducing costs is a greatmotivator.

It is slowly moving towards the mainstream phase.  And then the industry around it will take off.