Don’t Be Scared. It’s Only a Tool.

There’s been a lot of ink spilled lately — when will that phrase become obsolete? — about the effect of the Internet on our society, our children, even the neurons in our heads. Reactions range from apocalyptic to apathetic, with the World Wide Web being blamed for everything from the Arab Spring to ADHD.

But, at the end of the day, the Internet is just a tool, like a hammer or a wheel or a locomotive. It’s an inanimate object — though we’re getting to the point where “inanimate” is a gray area — that humans use to achieve a goal. And, like every other tool in the history of the world, it has pros and cons. It can be used for good or bad.

New tools are hardly ever as scary as they seem. The culture adapts and almost always becomes better through the interaction. With each passing generation, we’re building a more complex society because doing more things and doing them better requires increasing complexity.

But with complexity comes risk. More tools mean more opportunities, but also more things that can go wrong.

So it’s definitely a good idea to debate the best way to use the Internet. But doing so without studying the history of tools that came before it is like trying to build a television without first learning how electricity works.

Which is why we at Trading 8s rely on an expert like Ron Burkhardt, who knows the history and cites the research and never confuses the tool with the homo sapien using it. And that’s why we’re excited to announce Ron’s new blog Social Proof, which has must-read essays like “History of Modern Social Media” and “Social Impact of Media“.

Add it to your daily reading list.

Pending Patents: Protection or Prevention?

About two years ago, I participated in a design competition for RIM Blackberry. Luckily, my team won second place, but aside from that we learned a good deal about interface/product design and the influence of patents on the world of design in general. In the process of researching and developing our team’s ideas, we ended up looking through dozens of phone patents from many different companies.

Every week, corporations like Apple, Windows, RIM, and other major design players put out dozens of patents. Most of this is under the radar of the general public and the design world (other than those few in the know), thereby taking many design ideas out of general play.   Continue reading “Pending Patents: Protection or Prevention?”

Social Search should change everything, BUT…

We are on the cusp of another period of disruption, this time fueled by rapid mobile internet adoption.  It only makes sense to look to filter and rank the fire hose of information.  Being able to do so via the people, places, and things a searcher finds important has a tangible value on the personal, social, and network level, not to mention a monetary impact for advertisers.

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Up, Up, and Away

by Alex Nakahara

For many, balloons are an anachronism. In days where jets carry us across the country in hours and rockets carry people into orbit, balloons appear useless. I can sit at  my desk and look at the Philadelphia Zoo Balloon, a mere amusement park ride for visitors, going slowly up and down all day, never going anywhere. At least their lighter-than-air fellows, the blimps, get to float above sporting events every weekend. Balloons are stuck as tourist attractions or the playthings of devoted hobbyists. However, balloons are enjoying a minor renaissance in an unexpected area: space.

Continue reading “Up, Up, and Away”