Data-driven Insights for Dating

When apps and love come up in a conversation, we ready ourselves for some lame stories of another Tindr swipe gone-wrong or questions of whether we tried the latest contender for OkCupid.  Taking love (and lust) online is fast becoming a need versus a last-ditch option.

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What a meet-cute looks like when J-Lo wears heels. (The Wedding Planner-2001)

There is a limit to how long a man or a woman can honestly expect to bump into the perfect someone in a meet-cute situation (a la rom-com). Thanks, but no thanks, Hollywood. Millennials are taking these matters into their hands – and onto their smartphones.

There is something truly unique in the App Store now, going far beyond the newest Tindr or any of the miscellany of dating or hookup apps. It’s called Evolve. Evolve’s tagline on the website reads “Introducing the world’s first DRM- Dating & Relationship Manager”. Like a Hubspot, a customer relationship management tool, but for courtship, the Evolve App analyzes the data you are tracking, pre-and post every date.

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Evolve allows you to rate your dates, gauge relationship potential, reflect on your dates, see patterns, discover date spots- everything except the actual matching itself. That you figure out on your own. The idea is that once you understand your patterns, Evolve helps you change your behavior and make smarter decisions.

You won’t find any matches here – you’ve got plenty of apps for that. Evolve helps you date with intention. Weigh your options, reflect on your dates, and make the most of your time. Get personalized insights, tips, and discover where the best dates are happening in your city – all backed by data.

Dating behaviour ranges from little understood to completely misunderstood. Once you add in the complexities of online socialization, all bets are off! Data analytics to suss out preferences and concerns – but can this approach work for human relationships as well?

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The question of the day is: Do we need software to analyze our dating lives? 

We use apps to track everything – from fitness activity level, via a pedometer or FitBit app/device to what we eat, or how far we travel in a day. Not only that, we also expect actionable data to result from all the data we are collecting and feeding into these apps.  We expect to live our ‘best life’ and want technology to aid us in the pursuit.

The more one thinks about it, the more natural it becomes to believe that the use of data can ensure a satisfactory courting experience.

That, however, might be because us digital natives have been conditioned to believe that data is queen. Data can do no wrong. Can behavioural science truly help us interpret the quirks of romance in the wild? Outside controlled social experiments? Is Evolve App the missing piece of the system attempting to measure complex social behaviours of contemporary times? Will we ignore the butterflies in our collective stomachs and depend solely on data-driven insights to foster relationships? Evolve App and others like it may be a sign of things to come. 

Catalyst Woman’s research also found that…

  • In the U.S. the online dating industry generated over $2 billion in revenue on an annual basis while in China it has generated $1.6 billion.
  • After young adults, 18-24 year olds, the other largest age group participating in online dating is 55-64 year olds.

Virtual Reality: Untapped Opportunity

The Science

Immersion + Interactivity = Tele-Presence. That is how the VR techies define Virtual Reality.  For us regular folks, here is a simpler definition: Virtual reality is  computer generated environment that allows the user to experience an alternate reality. This reality may or may not resemble ‘real life’.  The headset uses two small lenses to feed the user’s eyes with three-dimensional images while headphones supply the accompanying soundtrack or noises.

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The VR Engine

Virtual Reality headsets are powered by regular personal computers, since contemporary PCs are sophisticated enough to run software for Virtual Environments.  Headsets consist of two monitors, one for each eye, and they combine images to create a stereoscopic effect. This creates the illusion of depth while exploring a virtual world.

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The user is literally is immersed into a new world that is ‘near reality’ or virtual – so this is called immersion. Once in the user can interact with this new world. The combination of the immersion and the interactivity is what is called Telepresence.

Remember this formula?  Immersion + Interactivity = Tele-Presence

VE designers determine the success of their design when the user becomes completely unaware of their real surroundings and solely focuses on their existence within the virtual environment.

So far most VE involve visual and audio simulation but engineers are working to incorporate the user’s sense of touch – user force feedback and touch interaction is called haptic systems.

The Lingo

  • VE= Virtual Environments
  • VRX= Virtual Reality Experiences
  • Haptic Systems = User Force Feedback and Touch Interaction

How is it already changing our lives?

For perhaps the most obvious place of entry, virtual reality is edging into the Entertainment industry.  Films are being filmed exclusively for VR headsets while live-streamed concerts are giving users a front-row experience from the comfort of their own home.

If you recall the computer monitor at the Home Depot that helps you select the right colour for the living room, it makes sense that the design industry has eagerly adopted VR tech.  Pop on a headset, feed in a picture or two of the room that needs a renovation, you can build a new space with 3-D tools.  

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Collaborative experiences beyond traditional gaming are gaining momentum, you can tap in friends to help you build a 3-d painting -Google’s Tiltbrush.  You can use apps and wand-like controllers to add further customisation to the 3-D experience.

Gaming has gotten infinitely cooler with VR as now game designers flip the switch on traditional designing, creating easter eggs and predicting where their player will actually turn or reach out and touch in the gaming dimension – the possibilities are only limited by their creativity

Did you listen to my latest podcast ‘Virtual Reality: Are We There Yet?’? 

There is the logical extension of VR tech with Tourism and Exploration of places near and impossibly far – Google Cardboard and others promise a tour of the Planet Mars.

However, I think the potential of disrupting Meditation is infinitely more exciting!  Psychologists in the United States have already starting using it with army vets to treat Post-traumatic Disorder.  Researchers are using VR worlds to explore human behaviour in a safe space, suspended from reality.

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Studies have shown VR sessions to work better than traditional painkillers – meaning it can be used in place of medicines to heal with distraction and engagement of the mind.

Video conferencing has become common-place, but VR technology means logging onto a Tele-presence robot that wheels around automatically in the workplace while you work from a remote location.  It’s not all work, you can also log onto a chat room, not much different from The Sims, and chat or play in the guise of your game avatar.

Shopping in virtual reality is gonna be like never before,as you can try on a new pair of shoes or  squeeze into a shirt before buying it online.

What Skills Are Required to Break into VR Tech Industry? 

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The virtual reality space has taken off and the demand for job candidates with VR knowledge has gone up by 37% since 2015! Since the tech is new, VR Startups and research companies are facing difficulty filling that demand.  There are a large number of jobs available for those open to building virtual-reality apps, games, and experiences. If there is anything that screams CAREER OPPORTUNITY – this would be it.

There are two different types of VR content being created for VRX:

  1.  360 VR Video, and
  2. True-VR .

A career in 360 VR Video asks for experience in  Film Production and VFX skill-set.  The 360 video medium is a highly complex mixture of on-location production skills, sophisticated technical cameras and detailed post-production techniques. Once the experience is hot, technicians need to stitch scenes back into 360 spheres with tools like Kolor, or Nuke compositor. The final edits are made in Premiere, while any motion graphics tweaking is accomplished with After Effects or Fusion.

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360 VR Video content can be used on Youtube 360, Facebook 360 as well as all apps and devices that play VR.

A contender for a job in the 360 VR would require portfolio that exhibits:

  • Examples of grading and editing,
  • VFX breakdowns of complex fixes ,
  • Motion Tracking and embedded motion graphics,and
  • A showreel with their best 360 video work, including samples of before and after post-production stitching.

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Entering into a career in True-VR requires a strong pre-knowledge of game engine technology as well as a demonstrable game design skills-set.  The workflow for True-VR is similar to traditional game development, from modelling and animating to the eventual rendering.  Virtual Experiences created by True-VR technicians are geared for headsets such as Oculus Rift, Playstation VR, HTC Vive, and even the humble Samsung Gear VR.

Familiarity with the following programs will be beneficial for any True-VR hopeful:

  • Animation and Modelling: Maya or 3ds Max
  • Sculpting and Texturing: Mudbox, ZBrush, or Mari
  • Final Rendering and Publication:  Unity or UnReal Engine

Within True-VR there are two career paths:

VR Developer

Those looking to become VR Developers should have a showreel of VR experiences they have created for game engines, a downloadable link to the game or experience, sample code in C#, C+ or equivalent and further detail of the content they have created.

3D Artist

Those wanting to become 3D Artists should have a showreel that best exhibits their artistry in live games and experiences, wireframes and samples of their work in a game engine like Unity, UE4 or Marmoset.

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Interested in the software end of things and itching to break into Virtual Reality Development? You will need experience in the following to break into B2B VR startups:
  • Strong Knowledge of Realtime Game Engine Tech + Arts Skills: Designing and Developing with 3D Modelling Software such as 3ds Max or Maya, texture or sculpting in Zbrush or Mari and Unity or UnReal Engine to pull the whole project together.
  • SDKs (Software Development Kits) being used by VR developers, such as SDK 0.8 for Oculus,
  • Head tracking, 3D calibration and side-by-side rendering, and
  • Programming Experience with C or C ++ languages.

Leaning towards hardware? Skills from PC and Mobile Phone technology easily transfer over to immersive filming. You will need experience in Optics since visualisation is key for developing engaging Virtual Environments (VE).

Past Gaming – Where Else Can VR Be Found?

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VR jobs are expected to show up in education, military and medical fields as tech can be used for trainings, simulations, safety modulations  – as well as construction, engineering and architecture that can exploit 3D design to optimise models/estimates.

Venture into Computer Vision to understand the fundamentals of VR Tracking and camera-based user interaction.  Cognitive computer engineers are needed to help businesses create, test, and evaluate cognitive software designed for their computer network.

On The Horizon

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Scientists are also exploring the possibility of developing biosensors for VR use. A biosensor can detect and interpret nerve and muscle activity. With a properly calibrated biosensor, a computer can interpret how a user is moving in physical space and translate that into the corresponding motions in virtual space. Biosensors may be attached directly to the skin of a user, or may be incorporated into gloves or bodysuits. One limitation to biosensor suits is that they must be custom made for each user or the sensors will not line up properly on the user’s body

Thinking Out Loud

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Is this it, fellow humans? Is the pinnacle of human ingenuity and creativity  limited to regurgitating real-life scenarios onto digital screens for rapid consumption?  Are we fulfilling the prophecy predicted by the animated movie ‘Wall-E’?

Are we destined to become increasingly sedentary, floating about on hoverchairs, consuming packaged foods, viewing the world through strapped-on headsets and booking our flights to the nearest planet?

Listen to latest Catalyst Woman podcast ‘Virtual Reality: Are We There Yet?’? 

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Virtual Reality: Are We There Yet? (Podcast Episode #7)

Hey hey! The latest episode of the Catalyst Woman podcast is out – so give it a listen on iTunes , Soundcloud or right here.

The write-up will be coming out later today. Get in touch – drop me an email at talk to catalyst woman at gmail dot com or tweet at me  @ the rate of catalyst woman. 

pixel-by-pixel- the psychology behind the Prisma phenomenon

Simple question coming up – Why Prisma?  Here are some captions from the official Prisma Google App Playstore Page:

Turn every photo into art!‘ ‘Every photo becomes art’  This line is the most disturbing: ‘Prisma transforms your photos into artworks using the styles of famous artists: Munk, Picasso as well as world famous ornaments and patterns. A unique combination of neural networks and artificial intelligence helps you turn memorable moments into timeless art.’

OH!  So all that has been standing between me and recognition of my artistic genius is a photo-editing app?  There is not a *teensy* bit of reason to expect that creativity, training in the various trades/genres and sheer talent may be the barrier from me becoming the next Rembrandt.  All that is required is an Application. If you have yet to recognize my stance on the latest whirlwind tech phenomenon, I don’t Prisma.

However, it is worth digging deeper into what makes Prisma so attractive to tons of people across the globe. 

What could possibly be attractive about a machine imaging process that converts a real instance into a thermal image or a blurred out robot-like attempt at monochromatic watercolor painting?

Is it because we are innately and infinitely curious about how computers  (inanimate machines of our making) view us?  Are we so alone that any shred of apparent creativity or artistic output is enough to render further endearment to the technological beasts-of-burden? 

Is this the very end of the line (I doubt it) of our narcissistical tendencies – the need to view ourselves from multiple vantages and viewpoints? When will this need quench?

Prisma photos look like (I can only imagine) when a cyborg needs to be thwapped from the side of it’s ‘head’ to adjust it’s vision. Colors bleed unnaturally.

One social media commentator was quick to call a freshly Prisma’d friend ‘gorgeous’. Gorgeous now means a modified, spray-brushed Microsoft Paint version of your likeness. 

Eventually, the novelty for Prisma will, too, die off.  Terminal overthinkers and worrywarts like myself will find a fresher topic to observe.  What will remain is the discovery that modern day humans seek easy,swift detachment from their immediate surroundings. Preferably at the click of a button.

It can be that we are escaping further into wilful delusion, aided by games and pointless tasks like flinging round birds at klepto-pigs  or collecting imaginary monsters.  At least the Pokemon do not instigate full-scale coups on a Sunday morning.  Apps like Prisma and Snapchat alter your facial features but you still have a passport that is recognized and country to call home.

 

the world on the web this week

Sound that You Can Wear

“…“You’re going to change the word listen to feel,” says Timbaland. “It’s about whole body, completing the experience.” …

SubPac is creating its own physical-sound category through two unique products: the SubPac M2, a wearable vest, and the SubPac S2, a seatback device. Similar to sub woofers in the back of seats, when you wear this wearable, which is similar to a backpack, you literally feel the low-end frequencies throughout your entire body — and you can take it wherever you go. The startup has attracted major investors and industry leaders who have joined forces to engineer this sound movement.”

Our 30s are the decade when friends disappear.

Distracted Users are the New Normal , Design for Them 

‘Debating the relative merits of a more distracted versus a more focused society is about as worthwhile as kicking rocks.  … What does that mean in practice? Expecting that any opportunity your UX presents for distraction will result in divided attention, for one. Here’s a list of what that means:

  • If your product allows a user to feel at all that they can do something else simultaneously, expect them to do that.
  • Assume that partial participation by a user is roughly equivalent to no participation at all.
  • If a task requires significant user attention, make it challenging – this might mean actually downplaying so-called “smart” features.”

The Brilliant Mechanics of Pokemon Go

 

‘Amid the entire play session, the game has to stay open. That keeps you from getting distracted and flipping out to other apps. I find myself walking with my phone in my pocket, but with the game open often enough while wearing headphones. Whenever there’s a chime, I take the phone out of my pocket and start playing — whether that’s collecting Pokéballs or trying to capture something new (or some crappy junk Pokémon for the sake of experience). The game world is vibrant and beautiful, making it something easy and fun to see. It’s filled with flair and flashes that are visually stimulating and signal new elements of the game. All this makes the player want to keep their eyes — or ears — glued to their phone, ready to engage with it the moment something new happens.’

‘I needed VR to get away from the augmented reality of Pokémon Go.’ 

 

 

Virtual Reality Headsets: Beyond Entertainment

woman-wearing-virtual-reality-headsetThe purpose behind writing this is to explore the utility of Virtual Reality Headsets and  the accompanying software, beyond the narrow scope of Entertainment.  

Google Glassware – Where are you? 

I often ponder and while pondering, I often think about failed technology. Google Glass and it’s accompanying apps (Glassware) qualifies for such a thought exercise. Why didn’t the Google Glass catch on? 

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Back in 2012 Google’s version Smart Glass was defined as follows:

Project Glass is a pair of glasses that would allow technology to interact with wearer’s seen reality and integrate capabilities like voice recognition, Google maps, GPS location, and more to help interpret and react to what is being seen. *

Soon after the release, it seemed like the Google Glass on sitting comfy on many celebrity noses – from the singer FKA Twigs (pictured above)  to actress  Jennifer Lawrence (pictured below).

Screen Shot 2016-05-01 at 2.25.27 pmThere is even a tumblr for this – > Celebs wearing Google Glass.

Google was clear from the start that these glasses were conceptual at best and that they were looking for feedback to help refine the product. Still, halting sales in under three years of the launch hints at lack of confidence in the hardware/software while the rest of the world is ramping up for AR wearables.

According to ARC Applause, the Glass’s failure was due to a mix between public perception, social contract and the very visible wearable technology. The Glasswearers, with the ability to record and transmit footage from their glasses, offended members of the general public who were not keen to be a part of the trial.  Rowinski goes on to reference tech guru, Robert Scoble, who expanded on the notion of the social contract and the smart glasses:

“A lot of people misunderstood Google Glass and blamed for the camera for its failure and that was absolutely wrong.

It messes with our social contract. We evolve as humans to look into each other’s eyes. To pay attention to each other. Are we interested in each other? Are we trustworthy? All kinds of stuff.

When we put a screen in-between our eyes, it messes with that contract and we don’t know how to explain it. ‘Will you take those things off? Are you recording me?’ Those types of things.”

Could it be that simple?

There was name-calling (Glasshole) and even an instance of violence, all due to an experimental device.  I am not convinced. There has to be more to the story behind the Glass’s spectacular crash-and-burn.

Scoble claims that the camera wasn’t strong enough, the battery life was a mere 45 minutes, and what the $1,500  Google Glass lacked was the ability to ID a complete stranger the second we looked in their direction.

Not much unlike the data feed that comes up in the Terminator:

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Reasons for Google Glass’s Failure:

  • Establishments banning the device due to fears of and instances of surreptitious recording of private conversations – Privacy Rights.
  • Buggy Beta-mode – Little effort to bring it out of the trial phase.
  • Safety Concerns – Should be anyone be driving with it on?
  • Health Concerns -How about having a wi-fi signal (carcinogenic radiation) inches from your brain for hours on end?
  • Lastly, I like how Bob Doyle sums it up “The idea was great, but the execution and development weren’t.”
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“You’ll start to see future versions of Glass when they’re ready (for now, no peeking).” 

A voice from the other camp, Tim Brown of IDEO/industrial design expert, sees that while the Glass may have lost popularity, this is true of all new technology when it’s introduced to the public – it is a trial-by-fire:

“When a new technology first emerges there’s a friction caused by the clunkiness of the technology not quite being sophisticated enough and society not being used to the idea. Over time, those two things get closer and closer together. Eventually that friction goes away and the technology is accepted.”

Meanwhile the elves at Google have been busy –  they patented a contact lens camera back in 2014, and after shutting down the Google Glass experiment in 2015, have now filed a patent for an electronic device that will implanted directly into the eye and is meant to improve poor vision.

With Google Glass and other similar Smart Glasses in our rear-view mirrors, we have moved past the era of early adopters of wearable tech.

What is the Everyday Utility?

Researchers** at Disney have created an app that scans coloring book pages and brings them to life for children – a process which is termed live texturing. While the technology is still under development, this demo shows how keen big business is to bridge the divide between traditional products and Augmented Reality.

Possibilities of Virtual Reality in the Classroom

Whenever a new technology becomes accessible, we all wonder “How will it work in the classroom?”.  Google has been making waves with it’s Expeditions Pioneer Program, where it’s team visits classrooms around the world to experience ‘journeys’ via the Cardboard headset.

The team assembles headsets in the class and guides the teacher to set up an Expedition experience via a tablet. Up to 50 students can take a virtual field trip and experience the depths of the ocean or the peaks of the Himalayas, without moving an inch!  A program like Expeditions covers the Geography, History and Social Studies components of a traditional elementary syllabus.

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What about Mathematics? the Sciences?

I see it being helpful in understanding abstract concepts common in Geometry where having students experience the transformation of a 2-d shape in to a 3-d object can increase learning.

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The potential of active storytelling seems boundless.  Students can relive story lines from books assigned in Literature class, or write their own  during Writing and Comprehension class – provided the VR app is readily available to them.

As young scientists, they can conduct investigations like forensic experts shown on popular t.v. shows or imagine a climate-change scenario with various hypotheticals.

The more I pair VR with Primary Education, the more questions there are. Seeing how we recognize that the traditional school system does not equally engage all learners, Is VR the tool to be used for those students who learn more by doing than listening?

  • With VR becoming commonplace, How can instructors determine the balance between regular classroom curriculum and VR-aided curriculum?  
  • How much of the write-ups about VR in the Classroom is funded by the companies hawking these gadgets? 

Research shows 76% increase in learning outcomes if students are taught via a gamified lab simulation – if coupled with traditional teaching, the retention of knowledge jumps close to 100%.  No wonder the VR market is projected to be worth $400 billion and it’s users to be more than 25 million in 2018!

(Interested in trying out the Google Cardboard experience for yourself? While the introductory Cardboard Viewer is a mere $15, Google provides instructions to create your very own viewer with household items (velcro, cardboard, lenses,magnets).  Follow the link.)

Spiritual Tool: Bots and Virtual Reality as the New Rosary
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We have Buddhist monks using a mini monk bot in the temple to spread ancient wisdom across the land.

“Xian’er chants Buddhist mantras, responds to voice command, and chats about his way of life.Via his screen, the robot can answer 20 basic questions about Buddhism and daily life, and can perform seven different movements on his wheels”

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The Shrink is Out, The HeadSet is In

VR is being touted as a post-traumatic stress therapy tool at The Institute for Creative Technologies; patients are exposed to virtual scenarios, directional 3D audio , vibration and even smells during a session.

Aside from mental health, VR is increasingly being used by surgeons and medical school students to visualize hypothetical procedures.

“Last December, a Google Cardboard providing a 3D image of a heart helped a surgeon in Miami visualize what he needed to do in order to operate on a baby.”

There is so much more to discover and discuss when it comes to the use or even misuse of virtual reality, beyond it being a tool for passive entertainment.  What excites you about VR headsets becoming easily accessible?  Have you tried one on yet?  Drop me a tweet @marsonearth.

Sources

*What are Google Glasses? What is Project Glass?

**Disney Research: Live Texturing of Augmented Reality Characters from Colored Drawings 

Mini-Goal#1? Learn Basic Coding

I am finally getting around to starting on my mini-goal for 2016 (Hello April!), which is to learn basic coding.

I began with CodeAcademy’s free javascript introductory course.

What did I learn to do? I animated my name.

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Now, I’d like something much more challenging so I am looking at exploring one of the back-end languages like Ruby, Python or Java.

Here’s the Quora Answer that I am referencing  as well as the long-list of coding resources that are completely free.

Will post an update as soon as I select a new language to learn during the mini-goal adventure.

 

 

 

bits, bytes, blockchain

CW bits,bytes,blockchainBlockchain is today what Big Data/ Cloud Data was back in 2012- part new-kid-on-the-block and part mysterious technological chanteuse. Everybody’s talking about it, everybody wants a piece of it and almost everybody is intrigued by it.

The open ledger-mining method for tracking, trading and creating digital -slash- cryptocurrency called Bitcoin for monetary transactions across the internet – that’s how most of us have been introduced to Blockchain technology.

Not familiar with what  Blockchain is?

“The blockchain is a digital ledger of sorts, where all transactions that have been made, or events that may have occurred, can be seen online, by anyone, without compromising the privacy of the parties involved. These ledgers are shared and distributed amongst different computing nodes, and can only be changed once there is a shared consensus among all nodes. Once information is entered, it cannot be erased, and the distributed nature of these records — along with a built-in layer of cryptographic protections — make them difficult to hack or alter by any one individual.”

A blockchain is a massive, fraud-resistant distributed ledger that could be the new infrastructure of the future. The open ledger uses consensus algorithms to transparently record and verify any transactions without a third party. It replaces the middleman with mathematics. Because the blockchain infrastructure is decentralized, there’s a lot less friction and time wasted than traditional, centralized processes.

CW blockchain everythingNow, more and more, we hear of Blockchain being paired up with varying partners – Education, the Banking sector, Governance  to the Music industry- any discipline where records are kept.

Zeroing in on my particular favourite, what can we expect if Blockchain technology is applied to Education? In particular, what, if any, revolutionizing will take place if the open ledger database system is applied to everyone’s academic records?

Looping back to last year’s hottest story, the Axact – Fake Degree scandal, there are enough people out there with inauthentic academic qualifications, intentional or not, to make a case for verification of academic credentials and to identify products of diploma mills. Then the question is raised whether a public ledger system for educational records will be considered reliable.

Audrey Watters covers this particular conundrum wonderfully in a recent post of hers. Here’s an excerpt:

…When it comes to issues of “trust” and, say, academic certification, who is not trusted here? Is it the problem that folks believe students/employees lie about their credentials? Or is the problem that credential-issuing entities aren’t trustworthy? I mean, why/how would we “trust” the entity issuing blockchained credentials? (What is actually the source of “trust” in our current credentialing system? Spoiler alert: it’s not necessarily accreditation.) How would the trustworthiness of blockchained credential-issuing institutions be measured or verified? If it’s by the number of transactions (eg. badges issued), doesn’t that encourage diploma milling?”

Audrey Watters of  Aud.Life 

According to The New Stack blog, the Holberton School in San Francisco is using blockchain technology in a bid to authenticate degrees it offers. Effectively providing a service to both the graduate as well as the potential employer by being the very first educational institution to offer secured and publicly accessible academic certificates in the world.  Sounds like music to my ears, what with recent experiences in hiring department, though it seems to put the pressure on other institutions to either follow suit or share why they will stick with the status quo.

Sony Global Education announced it’s launch of  block-chain-based technology to share academic records; Sony’s product will be in the market sometime in 2017.

I had been meaning to write about this for a few days now, however, with the global uproar over the Panama Leaks, it seems to be kismet!

The Panama Papers are an unprecedented leak of 11.5m files from the database of the world’s fourth biggest offshore law firm, Mossack Fonseca….The documents show the myriad ways in which the rich can exploit secretive offshore tax regimes. Twelve national leaders are among 143 politicians, their families and close associates from around the world known to have been using offshore tax havens.

The scandal lines up nicely with the topic at-hand; with such wide-scale corruption, a decentralized, distributed model of public record-keeping applied to the purchase and transfer of assets seems to be a scheme worth trying.

data_transferIs the growing enthusiasm for uber-transparency in all services up for consumption a symptom of the decaying global economies?

Are we abandoning the bogeymans enforced on us in the era of Capitalism and trumped up banking charges to embrace the glaring authenticity of a public record-keeping system for all transactions  – all to avoid a dystopian future where no markets exist except for under totalitarian rule? (Think of any post-apocolyptical society represented in popular Hollywood cinema)

Is this the continuation of the global equality movement underpinned by technology – such as open source softwares or free online college courses?

Or is this forced declaration of one’s records (financial, academic, professional, etc) exploiting technology and millennial zeal for transparency to satisfy the need of habitual whistle-blowers and conspiracy theorists?

Tell me what you think. Leave a comment below. Tweet at @marsonearth or @catalystwoman

 

ICYMI : Uber in Pakistan + Women Right’s Bill

**ICYMI – The most tweet-worthy stories in #Gender in #Pakistan this week:

Source: Propakistani.pk Website & Dawn Website

Uber in Pakistan features in both the #gender and the #tech category this week, as Dawn/Reuters covers Uber Pakistan’s efforts to allay fears about conduct of it’s workforce with upfront sexual harassment training.  This follows the company being banned in Delhi after a driver was convicted of raping a passenger back in 2014.

What I found infinitely more interesting than the news story itself were the comments below.  The screen shots below captures exactly how divided us Pakistanis are when it comes to the rights of women in the public space.  One commentator sincerely recommends women be accompanied by ‘kids or other relatives’ while using the app-based taxi service.

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Another takes it upon themselves to reduce it down for all us simple folk. Stop getting into cars alone, Wimmin! Where’s your common sense?! 

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Focusing in on the faulty editing, notice the title of the article :  Uber teaches Pakistani Drivers how not to sexually harass women?  So, are there preferred practices for such vile behaviour?  A less loaded title could have been ‘ Uber launches mandatory sexual harassment prevention training  for Drivers’.  I was glad to see that another reader had already caught the lazy editing and proceeded to comment on it (captured below).

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Perhaps one of the MOST exciting tickers I have read – Punjab passes the Punjab Protection of Women against Violence Bill – amidst massive uproar and opposition across the country. This news has reignited the debate on what constitutes mistreatment of women  and whether these actions should be punishable by law.

“…Punjab Protection of Women Against Violence Bill redefines “violence” to include “any offence committed against a woman including abetment of an offence, domestic violence, emotional, psychological and verbal abuse, economic abuse, stalking or a cyber crime”.

(excerpt from Dawn’s Pakistan’s historic women’s rights bill praised by activists)

Debates on t.v. reached a fever pitch as some male guests on news shows tried to defend the minority view that this bill is ‘un-Islamic’ or  flawed in some grand way that harms society as it stands. Thankfully, those opinions were quickly shot down by most anchors and co-guests!  Even though the lame ‘what if something happened to your daughter/sister/mother/wife’ line was invoked once or twice during the discussions, overall the sentiment was that this bill is just a stepping block towards securing swift justice for women in abusive situations.

Some rightly note that there are many invisible, cultural hurdles before women in Punjab can actively break free from cyclical abuse. However, this law’s passing is being celebrated for it’s timeliness in addressing the increase in cyber-harassment and cybercrime targeted at women on the web.

“…The law not only caters to addressing psychological and emotional harm to women, but also includes stalking and cybercrime as punishable offences. The reason why this is important is because there is a tremendous momentum to silence women online — not just their sexuality but their very presence on social media as well as in terms of their freedom to have an email. For women, the Internet is not just about access, it is about escape. It is the gateway through which they learn skills and rights — all of which lead to empowerment and a shift away from all pervasive abuse.” 

(excerpt from  This law may be late, but it’s great by  Aisha Sarwari on Express Tribune Blog)

** In Case You Missed It

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Needed:Co-working Spaces in Lahore

My headphones are plugged in to what I imagine a shoreside picnic coupled with thunderclaps and slight rain shower sounds like. If you have ever wondered who is lame enough to actually use a rain sound app, that would be me. It can also be you, too, if you were camped out in a busy cafe in Lahore’s commercial district. 

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I’m attempting to stay focused on the upcoming meeting, while the couple at the table on the left has once again asked me for the wi-fi password.  Such interruptions, while normal if one is in the mood for people-watching or idle posturing in a swanky eatery, are frustrating if one is waiting to meet a client to finalize terms on a contract.

photo-1429681601148-75510b2cef43Office-less, officially, when it comes to our consulting work, my partners and I feel the need for a formal meeting room or conference room at least twice to three times a month. While that seems quite frequent, when we calculated the math, it still doesn’t make sense for us to invest in a permanent office in the near future.  Reasons being that some of us are still working traditional 9-5 jobs while others prefer the convenience of flex-time and telecommuting afforded by the consulting work-life.

What Lahore desperately needs is an affordable Co-working space which is open to all types of professional, techies and non-techies, entrepreneurs, freelancers, cottage-industry workers, bakers and yes, even musicians. 

What should the co-working space consist of? The usual, a conference room, a small kitchenette, desks or cubicles for hire by the hour or the day, reliable wi-fi/internet connection, a tv lounge/reception and a printer/fax machine corner to round off all the mundane necessities of grownup, office-life.

Let’s step beyond the vomit-inducing, Silicon Valley-esque marketing gibberish that immediately gets plastered upon the advent of a functional service idea.  This is not a recommendation for all of you sitting on your butts to open up 5 co-working spaces right across from each other in Bahria Town  and begin hosting ‘entrepreneurship workshops slash mentorship sessions slash fireside chats’  on the regular.  I am not claiming to be your guru for new-fangled business ideas.

What I am recommending is a more holistic, survey-based approach to solving challenges  your peers and neighbors are dealing with in your immediate vicinity. If you solve that challenge successfully, and lucratively, good on you!  If you fail to solve that challenge the first time around, no problem; you’ll have earned goodwill in the community. Rest your bruised ego, keep your eyes and ears open, and rise up tomorrow with the intent to put your education and initiative to good use.

Note: I have heard inklings of a co-w0rking space popping up in my hometown, but I’m curious if there are any others on the horizon. If you know of any, leave a comment or drop a tweet at @catalystwoman