Turbocharged trends amid Covid-19

Obviously, the world has changed with the arrival of Covid-19. The new-normal replaced routine activities, but how? I wanted to explore how areas are shifting: increasing, declining, and overall amplifying pre-pandemic trends. Activities once regular and often taken for granted are now considered significant and valuable today. My research begins with a question “What am I unaware of?” Every sector of life is experience volatility and attempting readjustments to adapt to these awkward conditions.

In all this, the element of chaos has risen to the peak and waves of peaks. We have a lot to consider and each moment shifts those considerations, so consider this a snapshot of today’s date. Many people are facing immense difficulties in aligning themselves with the changing situations. However, it is possible as human beings to adapt to Covid-19’s situations long-term.

This post dives in and describes the significant “turbocharged trends” and what that means for us, help us through this time, and adjust society going forward. So, without further ado, let us dive in.

Retail Businesses

Retail was already struggling. Business workflows and methodologies have faced an immense shift with Amazon eating their cake. Add the elements of COVID-19 to the mix and this trend gets turbocharged. The businesses that were once considered not too efficient are now serving as one of the main pillars of businesses failing.

Fall of office spaces and commercial buildings:

This one hits close to home for me, as I worked in commercial real estate. Brokers are greedy and full of shady deals such as valuations of real property values. Add COVID-19, when social distancing becomes a concern, and suddenly their pushes for librarying works and open spaces falls on its face. Even the norm of having business meetings and proceedings in offices has been avoided to a great extent. Almost all of the commercial white-collar businesses have either adopted the strategy of working from home or calling a few of the major employees to office spaces and allowing the rest to work from home; carrying out the activities on online platforms completely.

How do we adapt?


Ecommerce:

Ecommerce is the practical and most actionable methods of keeping the routine functionalities of life going yet maintaining distance from others. Gaining the access to people’s needs and wants of products coming straight at you to your doorsteps. Online shopping has formed the basis of ease for many individuals and saved them from possible infections struggling through large, crowded spaces. However, it holds issues for those who are not comfortable with the idea of online shopping, we want to call them “dinosaurs”. For them, the “dinosaurs”, the solution could be to reach out to the stores directly who are offering their services via a “telephone”. Should we be this harsh? No. honestly, we have third-world internet connectivity that costs a fortune. We can’t expect everyone to have this ability. We need to adapt to high-speed interest connectivity as a RIGHT, not a luxury.

Direct-to-consumer brands:

Direct-to-consumer (DTC) brands are much more common nowadays as it was a few years ago. It is one of the effective methods to cut out middlemen. It allows the customers to request goods straight from the source and gain help from brands directly without delays. DTC is a significant shift for both consumers and businesses alike. More room for flexibility and profits, while allowing businesses to set themselves apart from other brands with customer service. Will individual organizations be able to capture data from their customers directly to allow them to merge into new markets?

Better online customer experiences:

Before Covid-19, very few businesses were investing a portion of their investment in the improvement of the online experience for their customers. They stuck with their bread and butter for profits. However, due to the virus, businesses were required to innovate and adapt to stay alive and pivoted significant attention towards digitization, providing their customers with a smooth and surreal online experience. I morbidly joke, it wasn’t the CEO, wasn’t the CTO, it was the C-OVID, that pushed innovation.

Monitoring of shopping habits:

Despite the fact that majority of shopping experiences have moved to online platforms, it is still necessary for customers to monitor their shopping habits. Online shopping without monitoring prices and delivery times can lead wasted cash. In addition, uncontrollable addiction of buying items as you can easily click the ‘buy it now’ button, making the whole process guilt-free. I predict more third-party plugins such as Chrome’s ‘camel camel camel’/camelizer will become more popular.

Manufacturing

Since the beginning of Covid-19 the fight between China and United States manufacturing was turbocharged. China serves as the major portion of the world's manufacturing industries, taking the rest of the world’s intellectual property and applying it hands-on with cheap labor. Add the virus and both countries’ lockdowns caused immense consequences and it became clear two styles emerged. United States ideals, politics, and culture allowed partial functioning factories however the virus was able to claim many deaths. China came in forcefully and strong and locked down regions, this allowed them to climb out of lockdowns faster and run at full force. Nevertheless, The virus led to a drastic decline in this industry of the world, with China’s forcefulness able to capture market share.

According to Cision PR Newswire:

As per the estimation by United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD), the COVID-19 outbreak could cause global FDI to shrink by 5%-15%, due to the downfall in manufacturing sector coupled with factory shutdown. 

It highlights the effect of this pandemic on the manufacturing industry that forms a significant percentage of the world's economy. One last thing to note before we discuss how the industry should adapt, is shipping costs have skyrocketed. Sometimes 5x previous costs!!

How do we adapt?


Controlled Environments:

The best way to deal with the decline of the manufacturing industry is to set up controlled environment for operations. A complete shutdown of the facilities has proven to be of no benefit to anyone. However, the idea of executing manufacturing activities under proper protections and isolation is the key. Some of the industries have already heavily adapted and a few more are on the way to execute this method properly. Even post Covid, expect further separation and better technology to protect workers.

Collaboration and Digitization:

Another fruitful method for the manufacturing industries is to collaborate through execute of broad activities without building the pressure on a single area. Some of the industries avoided the methodology of collaboration instead of aiming for independence. Along with that, having a reliable and robust online platform for all the manufacturing industries of the world to consult and build up each other during these times is the key. Expect supply chains to turbocharge their partnerships.

Shipping:

Shipping costs may never come back down to previous levels, as demand skyrockets, there is only so much space to move cargo. Expect technology advances, AI-driven vehicles, lower cost ways to get product from overseas. Hopefully localization as well, instead of getting raw materials and partial supply chains overseas, perhaps right over the border makes more sense.

Privacy - What power do we have?

We live in a futuristic world where most, if not all, human knowledge is just a click or two away. Whether you want to chat with a friend or want to purchase an item, all you need is a host device and a pipe out to the internet. This technology has eased our lives to a great extent. It has become our daily habitual tasks that you’d struggle to avoid, even if you want. 

All this sounds great and optimistic until you understand these tasks leave data trails and comes with a cost. That cost is how the algorithms of all these searches and advertisements work. Your action data is their input, and the appealing ads and control of this information are the output of it. How? Because your information is not safe on online platforms. Exactly who might be able to access your data is not known to you. And even if you know who has access and are not comfortable with it, are you able to control the interruption associated with the specified platform’s data?  Has a bad actor compromised this data on the platform without your or their knowledge?

If any of this resonates with you, this article has got you covered regards some common aspects related to online privacy.

What is Privacy?

Privacy is a common word in our daily lives. We would like to keep certain matters within various boundaries, such as individual, home, or even the office. And honestly, Americans are quite protective of our privacy measures. Each individual has his/her guidelines about the private space and guardrails they want.

Same goes for online privacy. You selectively and unselectively share your personal and financial data on different platforms to access certain functionalities offered by them. The assurance that your data is protected and safe is your fundamental right. However, those rights could have different meanings for companies and individuals. The limitations you want to impose on the access and storage rights of that data is your online privacy.

The international law firm of Winston and Strawn define online privacy as:

The definition of online privacy is the level of privacy protection an individual has while connected to the internet. It covers the amount of online security available for personal and financial data, communications, and preferences.

Let’s dive into online privacy as a serious matter significant for every individual operating on algorithms of the internet and the expectations companies and governments should have.

Online Privacy and Security

Online privacy and security are both the fundamental rights of data accessibility of an individual. Many individuals consider both the terms in the same context, but they hold slightly different meanings in regards their description. Let’s look at two violation types to help understand the difference.

Online Privacy Violation

The act of sharing your data with the application(s) or individual(s) which unknowingly was passed onto third parties you did not allow the particular platform to share. The central aspect here is the potential violation of commitments and generally expected custody and responsibly of your data.

Security Violation 

A more intense form of the preceding scenario. If the data in motion or at rest that is captured or breached of such information by bad actor(s) which leads to harmful consequences for individual(s), then in this data violation, it is the violation of online security. Generally, the debate now becomes did the company do enough to try to protect your information?

So, when we talk about “freedom” in the digital world, both aspects of security and privacy hold immense significance. The question we should be asking is: What is the consumer AND the enterprise risk appetite for both of these categories? Did the organizations do enough to protect the individual rights?

Why is online privacy important?

More basics, when you are wondering why privacy is so significant on the online platforms, remember that your data defines your identity on them. Who you are, what you do, what you like, who you likely may be and you don’t even realize something the computers know. It is the source of corporation’s connection to who you are without physically meeting you. The violation of online privacy can lead to heavy consequences that might affect your day-to-day activities, even hurt your reputation, cause issues years from now… For not only you, but your family, or even people you have never met before.

Plus, imagine a stalker, following you wherever you go and they write notes down on whatever you do… Will feel pretty scary and uncomfortable, right? The same reason we close the bathroom doors, it crosses most people’s appetites. That is why you need online privacy. You do not want just anyone or anything to follow you around on whatever you do and keep a deep year over year record of it for their gain.

A look at statistics

Taking a look at basic statistics can change perspectives regarding the significance of online privacy. Take a look below at some selected research percentages and numbers. Note this is a small snapshot of the bigger picture.

  1. According to the Pew Research Center:

As many as 79% of Americans on the web have concerns about online privacy when it comes to companies.

While not a surprise, that an immense number of people that unconsciously hold concerns of online privacy, but where are the actions people are taking to protect their data?

Cybersecurity statistics conclude that an internet attack takes place every 39 seconds on average.

Every 39 seconds! Okay, I’ve seen this one say everything from 1 second to 60 minutes and other bullshit.. One can’t truly judge the capacity and intensity of cybercrimes, but whatever it is, we know it’s bad and out of control.

21% of email and social media users have experienced a cyberattack at least once.

It clearly shows the idea of cybercrime via email is common and the need for cybersecurity as an essential focus.. but 21%? Come on.. you know it’s >80% if we were lucky.

Just 3% of Americans say they understand how the current laws and regulations regarding online privacy in America today actually work.

It signifies the ideology that we know the risks of cybercrimes. But, we are still not aware of our rights and methodologies for online privacy. 

An annual number of exposed records in the United States in 2019 is 164.68M.

At this point, who hasn’t been exposed… multiple times. For every one announced to the public, there are likely 10 that companies are embarrassed by and are tucking it under the table.

Major online privacy issues

Cybercriminals use various methods to steal data.

“Spying”

By now you should understand whenever you are active on the internet, several trackers are spying on your every action and store your activity. The trackers store the record of your search details, data of each visit, who you interact with, etc. As this information is collected, the primary purpose of this record is to showcase you the advertisements based on your taste and needs. BUT, it is also easy for criminals, evil corporations, governments to reach into this data and use it in a way that can lead to potentially harmful consequences. How long will this data be available? One year, ten years, forever?

Mishandling of Information

How many times have you had to give your personal information to access services offered by specified websites and applications, during applications for jobs, and/or general normal usage? Heck, you may not even enter your own data, it’s extracted from paper documents. Your data, in such cases, is usually stored in databases. Cybercriminals can reach out to this information without any difficulty because databases, until recently, were generally unencrypted.

Third Party Data sharing

So, you dealt with one company, did they use third party providers for analysis and processing of your data? Did the third party also use third parties? How far did your data really travel and who has it? Can they property secure that data? Etc etc, Sooo… many questions here.

Your exact location

Your current location is one of the things you may want to keep private. But with the accessibility requirement of the current location by major applications, it is nearly impossible to block. Everyone has iPhone or Droid, which can track your exact position and activity of travelling. Data of social media applications and popular platforms like Google Maps are stored for a long time.

Data Scraping

This procedure is the collection of information and/or conversations of an individual from websites, databases, or social media applications. The purpose of collecting this data is usually for research, marketing, sales, and/or data analysis. The underlying aspect here is that no consent of the user is taken, along with that he/she is not aware of the purpose of this data usage. It can also lead to the leakage and mishandling of data at times, even if it was publicly assessable.

Social Media applications

We consider these applications a significant part of our lives. Several people cannot even imagine their lives without the involvement of social media. Almost all of the social media applications have faced the allegation of mishandling the data of their consumers. Some of them have been testified before congress about their selling of personal data of its uses. Maintaining privacy on social media applications is one of the most significant elements of online security of our time. More on this as later.

Current online privacy laws

For a long time, there had been no significant online privacy laws or even movement in this area for user protections, and that was because the online world was a “new thing”, laws and policies generally fall behind on new concepts. Fortunately, numerous laws have since defined some limitations and guidelines of online privacy and security. Some of them include:

US Privacy Act of 1974

This law holds significant consideration of the rights of data accessibility held by US government agencies. One of the main aspects of this law states it is lawful for US citizens to access and copy all the data retained by governmental agencies. The correction of information error also lies as the right of an individual. This law abides by the concept of minimization during the collection of data. The law states that sharing information between other agencies, whether federal or non-federal, is restricted and only allowed under certain conditions.

Financial Modernization Act of 1999

This law establishes the baseline of the security and protection of data concerning financial scenarios. It instructs the platform to explain the information they are collecting from the user clearly, along with the purpose of its collection. Plus, the assurance of protection of the collected data is a complete responsibility of the particular platform.

The Children's Online Privacy Protection Act

A good percentage of the users internet include children. So, it is essential to know the rights companies hold regards the data collection about the children. This act states that no one can collect the information of children without his/her parent's approval that signifies the setup of parental consent upon data collections. Along with that, parents should hold the option to opt-out of the data collection anytime they want. 

General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR)

This law is valid for every European citizen. The law was passed in 2016, and implementation occurred in 2018. The mean idea of this law states that every individual holds the right to know the data that a company record about him/ her. Along with that, the company must get consent of an individual before the collection of data. In addition to that, one can refuse to allow the company to access the cookies or the browsing history of him/her during the time they visit their respective webpage.

California Consumer Privacy Act (CCPA)

The California Consumer Privacy Act of 2018 (CCPA) gives consumers more control over the personal information that businesses collect about them. This landmark law secures new privacy rights for California consumers. These rights include knowing about the personal information a business collects about them and how it is used and shared. The right to delete most personal information collected from them. The right to opt-out of the sale and distribution of their personal information and the right to non-discrimination for exercising their CCPA rights.

Some BIG names

Who are the BIG players? There are some applications and platforms that we significantly use as a component of our daily lives. Many of us hold blind faith in these companies when it comes to data privacy or internet security. We are ready to willingly give our data to these applications without batting an eye.

Facebook

Facebook is likely the most used social media application in the US, if not the world, by millions of individuals around the globe at any moment. Numerous people find it a “trustworthy” and a secure place to establish connections with their friends and to share publicly the insights of their daily lives. Facebook has been recently involved in legalities related to data breaching and violation of online privacy.

The BBC News (2019) states that:                                                                                  

The FTC's Bureau of Consumer Protection began investigating Facebook in March 2018 after it was revealed that personal data was illegally harvested from an online personality quiz and sold to Cambridge Analytica, a data analytics firm. 

Because of this violation, Facebook was fined 5 billion dollars that stays to be the highest fine ever imposed on a company for the online privacy violation.

Not Surprisingly, it was not the only time Facebook was involved in the mishandling of data. There have been numerous times when Facebook was spotted performing online privacy violations. For example, in the algorithm of the Facebook Newsfeed, Beacon, and Mood-manipulation experiment, etc. If you’d like to rabbit hole into those topics.

Google and YouTube

Whenever we want answers to a question, the foremost thing we do is to GOOGLE it and search around until we get the desired solution. Easy, Isn't it? This also applies to the subsidiary of Google (or Alphabet) that is YouTube. Millions and billions of people use these applications around the globe. But, Google and YouTube have also been alleged for the collection of users' information without their consent and its mishandling.

The press release of FTC on September 04, 2019 states that:

Google LLC and its subsidiary YouTube, LLC will pay a record $170 million to settle allegations by the Federal Trade Commission and the New York Attorney General that the YouTube video sharing service illegally collected personal information from children without their parents’ consent.

The settlement requires Google and YouTube to pay $136 million to the FTC and $34 million to New York for allegedly violating the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA) Rule. The $136 million penalty is by far the largest amount the FTC has ever obtained in a COPPA case since Congress enacted the law in 1998.

It highlights the violation of online privacy and security by one of the most known and trusted platforms of Google and YouTube. How far does this really go?

Amazon

Amazon is the most known e-commerce platform in the US, by far. Numerous people use Amazon for the purchase of products. Amazon has moved into more than just e-commerce, they are into film, music, groceries, and countless other areas. Amazon seeks to entice users into signing up for their annual membership so you feel obligated to go through their ecosystems. Amazon collects countless personal data of its users to allow them to access and push further functionalities of it to their users. No surprise, Amazon has also been alleged of many things, such as violations of children's privacy by one of its products known as Echo dot speakers, the voice assistant for the kids. 

The NBC News on May 9, 2019 states that

Now those advocates say the kids' version of Amazon's Alexa won't forget what children tell it, even after parents try to delete the conversations. For that and other alleged privacy flaws they found while testing the service, they're now asking the Federal Trade Commission on Thursday to investigate whether it violates children's privacy laws.

It will not be wrong considering that Amazon is also involved in the online privacy and security violation of so many other areas, but how do you defeat such giants?

Instagram

Instagram is one of the social media applications that is a must-have in your cell phones nowadays. Bought by Facebook in 2012. On Instagram, numerous influencers have a vast circle of followers where they showcase their inspirations and goals on the platform. But, Instagram has also been involved in the violation of online privacy.  

The CPO Magazine on June 3, 2019 states that:

Facebook took yet another blow last week when subsidiary site Instagram was breached, exposing the sensitive data of at least 49 million users. And the leak was caused by yet another unprotected Amazon Web Services (AWS) server connected to the internet, a trend that has ensnared a disturbing number of high-profile companies in recent years – including Facebook in a previous incident just last month.

So, it may be crystal clear to you by now that none of the online platforms, even the reputed and popular ones are safe from the act of the violation of online privacy. If anything, they dance around their expected obligations and laws to their user base.

Twitter

Twitter is one of the most authentic and go-to applications for gaining awareness of the things that are going on in the world. Almost every individual ranging from the common citizens to the presidents of the countries use Twitter. Twitter has been alleged to be involved in the privacy violation as well. 

The FTC press release of June 24, 2019 states that:

Social networking service Twitter has agreed to settle Federal Trade Commission charges that it deceived consumers and put their privacy at risk by failing to safeguard their personal information, marking the agency’s first such case against a social networking service.

The FTC’s complaint against Twitter charges that serious lapses in the company’s data security allowed hackers to obtain unauthorized administrative control of Twitter, including access to non-public user information, tweets that consumers had designated private, and the ability to send out phony tweets from any account including those belonging to then-President-elect Barack Obama and Fox News, among others.

All in all, the purpose of bringing these matters in the spotlight is to be aware of the intensity of online privacy violation and how significant it is to take the right steps to keep your information safe. So how do you do it?

Tips to protect your online privacy

So we learned, online privacy is a serious concern. Assurance that your data is not collected without your consent or mishandled is not possible. However, few small to mediums tips, tricks, and techniques can help you to raise the bar of your online privacy. Some of them are as follows:

1.      Know what you post

Social media is a significant part of our daily lives, you control this. We all relish posting our routines, our yummy food pictures, and daily updates on social media for friends and family to follow us on our journey. It may sound overly simple, be conscious of the information you put out on these online platforms. They stay there forever. Ensure that you do not give out any such information that can lead to grave consequences for yourself and others tomorrow, next year, fifty years from now. Your identity is a significant part of your life but also your descendant’s lives as well. The misuse of your actual identity can lead to outcomes you cannot even imagine. Therefore, you could even consider trying to refrain from the usage of social media, or at least, giving out what you consider personal. Attempt to not fall in the trap that you are sharing it only with your “friends” because social media is an open platform where scrapers and cybercriminals have no difficulty in accessing your information and sharing it elsewhere.

2.      Your passwords

Look, this one is really tough. Nowadays, we have so many accounts and passwords to handle that we take them lightly and leniently. We create accounts all over the place. It is a very significant aspect that needs to be handled with care and complete consciousness. One needs to ensure that you have unique passwords that are not easily trackable by anyone. Refrain from the common password’s styles like the number series, important dates, names, common words, that are not only known to the people around you, but easily guessed by bots. Obviously, there are even more simpler ideas, such as being conscious of the people you share your passwords with. Online privacy to a great extent is one or two data points away from a major data loss within. This cannot be understated. Having trouble here? Use password vaults, use sentences, for example: Iloveturkeysandwiches! – see how it has a capital letter, long complexity, and punctuation. Keyboards on mobile are designed for sentences, so it’s fast and easy to type as well. DO NOT REUSE.

3.      Refrain from public storages

It’s easy right? Storing on the many free and paid online public storage platforms. Saving the files that seemingly do not hold any of your personal or sensitive data is alright, or is it?. Refrain from storing your personal information, personal documents, financial data, or even photos on the public storages. The data stored here is likely unencrypted at some phases of the data chain and can easily be accessed by cybercriminals or scrapers. So, do not fall in the pitfall of using public storage as your inventory of the sensitive data. Bots can even use facial recognition on your photos, find out everyone you hang out with by cross comparing these features to other publicly available photos.

4.      Update your privacy settings

All these websites are starting to have complex privacy settings. Normally they bury the good ones, because as you modify them, they lose money. Find them and update your settings on the social media platforms and other applications that you use. Use the internet to help you navigate their tricks. There is an approachable limit of privacy you can obtain by just updating those privacy settings. Which info is allowed for sharing and which is not is your choice! Hence, make sure that you are only enabling that information to be accessed by others that holds no potential harms for yourself.

5.      Your email is YOUR email

Presently, the majority of interestingly complex communication is executed using email addresses. Email address is not ‘just another address’ but is very significant as it can cause numerous issues when mishandled. Ensure that you do not provide your email address to just any website or application. To whom you want to share your email address is your choice and decision. It is always wise to have a spare email address for odd and questionable purposes so that none of your personal information can be targeted by anyone, made into associations of multiple things you are doing.

6.      Choose your search engine

Search engines like Google, Bing, and Yahoo are popular and go-to search platforms for everyone. The more comfortable they may feel, the more threatening they could be to your data. Choose your search engine so that the accessibility of your data to others is reduced. It is always better to opt for anonymous search engines or the privacy-focused ones. DuckDuckGo or Brave could be some alternative choices. Firefox also has some amazing plugs-ins that can make this easier. Some of them may provide less efficient performance in comparison to Google/Chrome and all, but your information can remain safer on these platforms.

7.      HTTPS-enabled or not?

Whenever you visit any website, do check that if the address contains HTTPS in it. You might be thinking that it is enabled on almost all of the website addresses and/or you are safe on these sites but, that is not the case. Secure transmission of data is not equal to safety of the site. Some of the website addresses are using HTTP you should avoid. HTTPS has an encryption layer that encrypts your data, reducing the chance of stealing and mishandling in transit, but not at rest and not what GETS transmitted. So, this small understanding that can also be useful for you, especially when you are sharing sensitive information. Which leads into our next one.

8.      Know what you download

Be aware of the content of the files you download from online sources, with or without HTTPS. Some of them may contain code that can allow them to track your location or get access to your data. Some could even be more malicious and keylog your system, sending them to bad actors. If you load their code, who knows what could happen. Be mindful of this and ensure that you are not downloading any sort of hidden content. The consequences may not only be the stealing of data but also the destruction of all the stored data of your device.

9.      Encrypted communications

Several platforms are providing communication features to individuals nowadays. Some advertise End-to-End encryption and other privacy/security features, but have been found to be false or difficult to properly implement. Ensure that you choose trustworthy applications or platforms that properly implement the end-to-end encryption so that your conversations stay between you and the other person furthermore are not accessible by the third person. These communications should also delete on each host’s end, otherwise the data is still there.

10.  Say no to public Wi-Fi

Attempt to avoid the use of public Wi-Fi networks. Use your cellular hotspot or at the very least, using a VPN at your endpoint while connecting to public wireless. Public Wi-Fi can lead to the easy access of your data in transit for criminals. Opt for the private Wi-Fi as it offers more security to your data.

11.  Do not link your accounts & unique passwords

Linking your accounts together is a common norm in today's world. The thought behind doing so is the comfortability and ease of access. But, it can lead to the greater risks of data stealing and mishandling. So, ensure to not link the accounts together instead use them independently, with independent one-time use passwords.

12.  Do not stay logged in

After the use of websites or applications, many of us do not log-out of them properly. However, it puts your data at more risk. Criminals can attempt to access your personal information in such scenarios. So, always remember to log out of the websites or applications after use.

13.  Keep it updated

Keep your operating systems, drivers, and browsers + plugins up to date. The purpose of keeping them updated is to ensure a better security level than it was previously. The code and internet impact is growing infinitely by each passing moment, so having an updated versions can help you fight against the cybercrimes and online privacy violations. 

14.  The terms and conditions

Actually reading the Terms and Conditions are one of the neglected and ignored aspects of the online world. We all mark the checkbox unchecked for terms and conditions. Rarely does anyone even read a single word. I get it, major time-saving on the outer surface, but it exposes you giving up rights and data to grave exposures, sharing, and maybe even vulnerabilities as you are giving consent for the things you are unaware of. So, skimming through terms and conditions could be a good tip for the protection of your online privacy. Look for those opt out abilities.

15.  Delete cookies regularly

Cookies are supposed to track your online activity for a better advertisement functionality of the platforms. It acts as a better method for the applications, but it proves to be harmful concerning your data privacy. So, deleting the cookies regularly from your browser can help you secure your data.

16.  Do Not Track feature

Numerous browsers provide users with a “do not track” feature. One can turn this setting on from his/her browser. The purpose is that it informs the applications and websites that are requesting your data that they do not have your consent for data collection. It is not a confirmed method for online privacy, but it can work up to some extent.

17.  Browser extension: disconnect

The browser extension “disconnect” can restrict other websites from tracking your data and online activity. The purpose of this extension is to detect any sort of connection that is made other than the web page you are currently visiting. This process executes automatically. So, having this browser extension can help you secure your online privacy more reliably.

18.  Distinctive passwords

A common practice of several individuals is to use the same password for multiple accounts and websites. If the attacker can access the password of one account, then the other ones can be accessed too. So, it’s always better to have unique passwords for different platforms.

One simple approach (there are other better approaches obviously) could be using sentences as passwords. Mobile devices and keyboard in general are designed for sentences. An example could be Iloveturkeysandwiches! – notice the length, the capital letter and punctuation.

Online Privacy Tools

In addition to these simple tips that can help you advance your online privacy; a few tools can allow you to make your online journey even more secure and protected. Some of them are as follows:

1.      Virtual Private Network

Virtual Private Network is also known as VPN. It is a sound method of protecting your data in transits and making your online data transfers more secure. It blocks the accessibility of third-party applications or middle men from seeing your data. This is getting easier for the end user. There are many VPNs that do not even require you to log-in that makes it even more secure as your traffic is not traceable. 

VPN is a familiar method for privacy nowadays, so whatever VPN client/server arrangement you opt for, make sure that it is authentic and efficient. Another purpose of VPN is to ensure that your exact location is not accessible to anyone as it shifts your location after regular intervals of time also it encrypts all the internet traffic making it secure and protected. VPNs come in a different range of cost. You need to select the one that fits your requirements and budget. 

Examples

Some of the more common VPNs include SecureVPN, NordVPN, ExpressVPN and WindScribe, etc.

Advertisements are a common part of the online voyage. But, concerning part about advertisements is that they also track your online activity and location to collect the data. The purpose of data collection is to take the essence of your choices so that the targeted ads can be showcased to you. Along with the data collection, certain ads may contain insecure information that can affect your stored data. There are different types of ad-blocking applications where all of them hold their distinctive functionalities. 

Examples

Some of the appreciated ad blockers include AdGuard, and uBlock origin, etc.

3.      Antivirus & Malware Protection Software

Antivirus software allows you to detect the number of viruses attacks on your desktop. The purpose of mentioning antivirus software in the online privacy is that if you have downloaded such content or your stored files have been attacked by the non-secure element, antivirus software can help you with the judgement of that so that you can take the right measures within time. 

Examples

Some of the appreciated antivirus software include Bitdefender, Avast, Panda Security and Windows Defender, etc.

4.      Private email services

As mentioned before in the article, the popular platforms have been alleged for the mishandling of data. So, using the known cloud applications like Gmail or Yahoo Mail may not be the right choice regarding online privacy. If you want to protect your data concerning the emails, the best alternative is to opt for private email services. 

Examples

Some of the good private email services include Protonmail, Mailbox.org, and Startmail, or even consider hosting your own server, etc.

5.      Password Manager Applications

Passwords are a significant element of your online security and privacy. But as mentioned earlier, having tons of passwords can not only be difficult to manage but remember. In such scenarios, it can lead to the unwanted mishandling of data and wider data accessibility. So, the solution to this concern is to have a password manager. The password manager performs the job of remembering all the passwords while all you have to do is to remember one master password to the application. The significance of using these apart from the management of your passwords is that it keeps you protected from the viruses which track your entered data that at times lead them to your passwords. 

Examples

Some of the examples of password managers include LastPass, Bitwarden, and NordPass etc.

6.      Protected Web browsers

Having a secure and protected web browser for your daily searches and use can help you in maintaining your online privacy and security. Many of the known browsers are alleged to track the user activity with the built-in advertisement and data collection algorithms. So, the better approach would be to shift to the browsers that come with built-in protection and security. 

Examples

Some of the secure web browsers include Brave, Tor, and Firefox Focus, etc.

7.      Email encryption services

In case, you do not want to opt for the private email and are concerned about the security of your emails, email encryption services are a wise choice. Generally, emails are unencrypted that makes them easy access for cybercriminals. But email encryption services can allow you to encrypt your email that can lead to better privacy and security. The apps ensure that only the targeted user can decrypt the email to understand the message. 

Examples 

Some of the sound email encryption applications include Mailvelope, and EnigMail etc.

8.      Intrusion detection applications

These applications keep your files and data safe from the hackers and cybercriminal attacks. The purpose of these apps is to monitor your device and analyse all the incoming traffic from the internet. It sends you the message regards any error. The significant component of these applications is that the traffic is monitored in real-time so that you can take the right steps and that too within time to keep your data and files safe. 

Examples

Some of the appreciated intrusion detection applications include Snort and OSSEC etc.

9.      Browser extensions

Several browser extensions can allow you to make your online activity protected and secure. These applications prevent your devices from attacks. You can set up the block scripts that can be changed only by you. 

Examples

The examples of browser extensions that can make your online activities safe and private include NoScript and ScriptSafe, etc.

10.  The Operating System

Windows and Mac OS are the most popular operating systems. But, the issue with both of them is that they collect user’s data in a huge amount based on their online activity and location services that can be concerning when it comes to privacy and security. So, a better choice can be to shift to the operating system of Linux to resolve this issue.

Examples

There are too many distros, or flavors of *Unix to recommend. Find one that matches your usage.

But, I get it, it is not easy

Yes, maintaining your online privacy is not an easy task. It requires a bit of discipline and consistency. But, when you make a comparison of the efforts you put in compared to the consequences you may face in case of their absence, you will realize that this discipline is likely worth it. Just like in daily routine, you take all the possible measures of keeping your reputation, identity, and privacy safe, same goes for the online platforms. It’s a balance, just make it a conscious decision.

Do not fall in the pit of this illusional freedom and ease of use that the cloud platforms claim to provide you. While some examples have been discussed previously in the article that explains this point, this is just touching the tip of the iceberg. As time progresses, laws will help you be in charge of your data. Make sure you know what is being done to your information. Fight evil corporations and their misdeeds. They have proven they are incapable of protecting your data.

Conclusion

Online privacy is a serious concern in the present era, you can’t rely on companies to protect the data you allow them to use. Find what powers you have to limit their usage and even to the point of removing your data from their systems. Thinking that you have no fundamental rights regarding online privacy is one of the biggest traps people fall in. Several laws, while still limited, define your rights and methods regarding the privacy and security on these online platforms. Along with that, following some small tips can help you augment your privacy. There are many technical tools available in the market, some of those are even free that help you to keep your information secure and protected. 

So, as promised, we have covered some of the possible aspects related to online privacy. Please share and help others who are less fortunate to be able to tackle their own privacy. The righteous individuals will prevail.

~Michael Goetzman

Microsoft HoloLens, AltspaceVR, & Hobbyists theories.

Microsoft often approaches innovation through technical hobbyists. Competition is thick and who better to extract creative and emerging ideas from than passionate people? Numerous companies could only dream of the success Microsoft has had. Microsoft knows this draws in the best of the best to want to associate with Microsoft’s success. Technical hobbyists often raise the bar of product development and push innovative ideas for free, during nights and weekends. Microsoft has been wise to pull in these enthusiastic innovators through programs like the Microsoft MVP program and on-site “hackaton” competitions. This draws intellectuals to their various polished and fancy locations discussing their products and services. Accordingly,  Microsoft listens and watches these intelligent individuals in order to stay abreast of the dynamic and shifting business environments from the perspectives of emerging talent.

This post gives a brief overview of the Microsoft Corporation and their relationship with hobbyists,  “technology experts who passionately share their knowledge with the community.“ The exact tagline for the Microsoft MVP program. We dive into the future of AR, VR, & MR and the theories of why Microsoft purchased AltspaceVR. Furthermore, this article theorizes that Microsoft bought AltspaceVR for the purpose of a test environment where hobbyists “play” and build innovative concepts for Microsoft to brainstorm into enterprise tools and usage with a future HoloLens 2 business application that they intend to sell for boatloads of money. Are Hobbyists in AltspaceVR aware of what is happening?

Overview of Microsoft:

Microsoft Corporation, created by Bill Gates and Paul Allen in 1975, is well known around the world. The organization began as a small organization whose activities introduced the concept of software packages and pursued purchases of these applications that, while originally confronted with some difficulties, became popular.

In 1976, Bill Gates wrote the famous open letter to early personal computer hobbyists.

The organization was highly successful and grew quickly. The rise of personal computer manufacturers on the market accelerated the growth of the company. The company was able to expand its activities, both locally and abroad into new markets. A mere three years after forming Microsoft, they opened their first international office in Japan. By 1984, InfoWorld stated in that Microsoft  “is widely recognized as the most influential company in the microcomputer-software industry. Claiming more than a million installed MS-DOS machines, founder and chairman Bill Gates has decided to certify Microsoft's jump on the rest of the industry by dominating applications, operating systems, peripherals and, most recently, book publishing. Some insiders say Microsoft is attempting to be the IBM of the software industry.”

From that time forward Microsoft targeted the needs of tech-industry consumers. MSDOS, which laid the groundwork for other advanced Operating Systems such as Windows, was a significant development. In parallel to this, in an attempt to increase its competitive edge over fiercely competitive rivalries, the organization relied heavily on hobbyists.

In more modern times, bouncing ideas off these hobbyists became a firm requirement. Microsoft has to be extremely alert to catch and introduce new paradigms in order to meet the ever-evolving economic growth.

As other companies desire to be as competitive as Microsoft, the industry is also became defined by new entrants. They missed out on Mobile and Music with failed products, a shift in the market Microsoft doesn’t want to miss out on again. Microsoft learned their lesson.  Research and Development initiatives now focus on hobbyist innovations. The ability for Microsoft to pull in some of this top talent have made it possible for many new endeavors such as Virtual Reality.

Microsoft purchases AltspaceVR.

In October 2017, AltspaceVR was acquired by Microsoft shortly after AltspaceVR announced they would be shutting down the freemium software.  AltspaceVR is now a Microsoft-owned platform for virtual reality activities. When communicating with avatars, it offers a voice-to-voice, real-time experience with eye-tracking and other abilities. In AltspaceVR, your head and hand gestures shift your avatar. You can also engage in a limited 2D mode.

Many forms of virtual environments are offered by AltspaceVR namely stages for presentations, boardrooms for virtual meetings, and dance floors and virtual worlds for exploring. The user community can create models, interactive objects, scripts, music, virtual activities, and ultimately whole new worlds. These worlds can be both public or private. You can advertise your event as a "featured" event or not have your event mentioned at all. My experience with AltspaceVR has been with potentially running a virtual conference. Could this world offer participants an unique experience connecting with others while speakers are able to project presentations?

Thinking Deeper, Why…did Microsoft purchase AltspaceVR?

In the last decade or so, the main motive of all the big software companies like Google, Facebook, Amazon, and Microsoft was to defeat each other in the domain of emerging tech. They have so much money, they throw it nearly every direction to find something that sticks, hoping their recipe can dominate the space. We have seen both successes and failures across the companies in the battles of mobile, cloud ai, and virtual reality.

Microsoft has been working on early prototype products like HoloLens for some time now, becoming more public recently to compete against the experimental Google Glasses. Opportunity arose when AltspaceVR, on the brink of closure due to a lack of funds, showed up for sale and Microsoft purchased it. AltspaceVR raised around fifteen million in a triple round, per Crunchbase. AR and VR technology is anticipated to drive billions of dollars in some spending predictions. This attracts direct competition of Amazon, Google, Facebook, and Apple.

Microsoft (MSFT) with the help of its HoloLens intends to take advantage of the anticipated growth in AR and VR space in the year, 2016. HoloLens, a full computing platform designed for the newest operating system, Windows 10, is robust connectivity, amusement, and efficiency platform.

The HoloLens is the recognition of an increased reality by Microsoft, which they term "mixed reality." The holograms can be used to display details, blend with real worlds, or even simulate a virtual world with multiple sensors, advanced optical and holographic processing that seamlessly blends with their surroundings.

The HoloLens has a host of optical sensors, with the main downward-facing depth camera for taking hand gestures, and specialized speakers on each side for peripheral environmental understanding, which simulate sound from anywhere in the room. The HoloLens also has multiple microphones, an HD camera, light sensor, and a customized "Holographic Unit" from Microsoft, which appears to be more powerful than normal unit. All of this unites to feel the space of the device in existing rooms, monitor walls and objects in the room, and combine holograms into nearly any environment. There were definitely some limitations such as only one hand worked for input and the awkwardness wearing the device.

Microsoft HoloLens 2

HoloLens2 is the recent updated, new and improved, version of the groundbreaking mixed reality platform with Microsoft head-mounted mounting coming in at $3500. The headset is an autonomous system with an integrated Wi-Fi and an on-board computer that functions as a client for data from the device itself, from the Azure Cloud, or the web in general. This is an almost entirely new device compared to the previous one with more processing capacity, longer battery life, improved sensors, and a few additional characteristics to highlight. There is a wider FOV (visual field) that helps users to see more information and makes the computer more useful for applications that provide loads of information. There are entirely new and much more natural hand movements that encourage the manipulation of material.

At Mobile World Congress in Barcelona, Microsoft released the HoloLens 2 with amazing demos and a big bet that developers would use the updated device. While Microsoft HoloLens 2 made amazing hardware updates with more comfort, the real benefits emerge from the Azure services and development kits that go with the headset for augmented reality.

Microsoft struggled with getting the HoloLens 2 into the hands of interested parties, taking nearly a year after announcement, likely due to supply chain or quality issues. It has been explained by Microsoft that the HoloLens 2 is a front-line employee business system, and noted improvements including a doubled field of view, incorporated artificial intelligence (AI) software, and direct holographic manipulation, as you might with physical objects. Moreover, everything from the HoloLens 2 adjustment system and the thermal chamber is new on the comfort front. For those having glasses, a flip-up visor makes it stand-out.

Microsoft’s HoloLens 2 Plans – My Hypothesis

The Microsoft plan utilizes the HoloLens 2 as a front-end office worker unit for applications including Dynamics Remote Support, Dynamics 365 Layout, and Dynamics Guides. Microsoft said it'll also have an open approach with developers from third parties and also have hooks on Azure services.

Microsoft also has packages that start at $125 per user per month with HoloLens 2 and Dynamics 365 Remote Assistance. The headset of Microsoft HoloLens gathers a lot of actual scientific resources from the user and then uses artificial intelligence to interpret them. Movement of the eyes is regulated and the view area is extended. Hand gestures are understood as pointing and pinching and waving. Will that be able to understand the thoughts, emotions, and personality of the user one day? Perhaps even facial recognition hooks into Microsoft’s Linkedin purchase?!

HoloLens was once seen as just a possible method for gaming with the Xbox. However, it is not a game for Microsoft anymore. Microsoft said Windows 10 would be the last operating system for desktops and laptops. What will every business need next?  The help of augmented reality with virtual reality meetings for international business of course! Companies will buy Microsoft HoloLens 2 to enable connectivity between the real world, the virtual world, and the cloud.

Wrapping it up with AltspaceVR & HoloLens 2

Microsoft Company is one of the most successful software companies in this world and it has performed really well over the past years. By purchasing AltspaceVR, Microsoft gets hobbyists building out concepts for the next generation of tools Microsoft is seeking to build into enterprise tools for the Hololens 2. The major software contributors to its success is technology specifically AR, VR, and MR is with AltspaceVR. In short, the above discussion hypothesis that Microsoft bought AltspaceVR for the purpose of a test environment where hobbyists can play and build concepts for Microsoft to brainstorm into business/enterprise use with a future HoloLens 2 business applications that they are selling for boatloads of money.

~Michael Goetzman, Microsoft MVP

Oh Hai Again!

Hey there, it’s been quite a while. How are you?! So...a huge advantage and disadvantage of having a website is that the ability to suddenly write something. The form is always open, just waiting for you to write content. It's easy to put off... I often wonder if it's worth posting content, who reads it and why?

I can get into a pattern and fun streak posting content about what I’m thinking or researching or working. Other times, I just want to avoid the world, be heads down for long periods of time, and just grind away quietly.

When I do post, sometimes I don't hear from anyone regarding that topic for months. Suddenly someone interested in the niche topic reaches out saying “HEY, I’m working on some similar stuff, check this out... “and it makes posting content worth posting. I love chatting with like-minded folks on the random thoughts and ideas.

The recent delayed gratification of interactions is whispering to me to ramp up content again. I'm thankful for those who reach out. I’ll share what I’ve working on the last few months as we wrap up 2020 and dive straight into 2021. Who knows, maybe you'll message me in 2023 about one of the topics!

~Michael Goetzman

Impact to Wisconsin Brewers with Legalization of Marijuana

February 1, 2019

After hearing Milwaukee’s MillerCoolers communication early 2019 to all employees that there will be no bonus or raises for all of 2019, I began to wonder if profits were down due to the impending legalization of Marijuana. Here is what I found researching:

In conjunction with cannabis legalization is the creation of countless jobs that are associated with the marijuana industry. How will that impact Wisconsin employment? Not only are jobs directly created with the intent of producing, manufacturing or selling marijuana as a plant, but there are now impending career opportunities within local companies making edibles, topicals or concentrated waxes and oils. There will be increased local legal firms working with marijuana-specific legislation and marketing agencies that help cannabis companies targeting consumers and hope to be more easily recognized amongst their target audience. Don’t forget the courier services transporting all of these products and the staffing agencies pairing employees with employers in addition to all those Amazon orders.

This rush of a green-friendly Wisconsin market will make for an economic boost like it has in other areas impacting countless industries. However, in states where cannabis legislation has already been enacted, there is an opposite reaction, an industry dealing with the turbulent times that might be a surprise for some – this being the beer, wine and spirit industry. Alcohol has long been considered a staple for many Wisconsin households, if for nothing more than to wind down after a long work week. But with cannabis as a new alternative for relaxation, consumers will soon be faced with the decision as to where to allocate their hard earned weekend money.

As Wisconsin voters took to the recent polls and voted favorably attempt to legalize recreational marijuana at the end of 2018, we’re now on the clock as we wait for the new Wisconsin Governor Evers to legalize medical marijuana and dispensaries to start popping up on every corner like you can already see in Denver or Seattle. When people go to clock out and head home after a long week of work, will they be more likely to stop at the nearest dispensary over their favorite dirty liquor store?

In states that have already enacted cannabis legislation, we’ve seen as much as a 15% drop off in alcohol sales. MillerCoors, one of the top alcohol distributors in the country, reported a 4.4% decline in sales of Coors Light over a two-year span and those numbers are likely to get worse. Microbreweries and other small distilleries are noticing even larger hits. As some pundits associate alcohol and cannabis to be substitutes for one another, we can see why there is this initial decrease in alcohol sales – even for some of the largest distributors in the world.

Colorado is a unique case, as they not only paved the way for cannabis legalization – but the state is also home to some of the biggest breweries on the planet. Japanese brewery Sapporo has a hub in Wisconsin, but the state is more known for its number of microbreweries that have popped up over the last decade. While bigger alcohol companies may be able to sustain the tumultuous time that comes with cannabis legislature, many wonder how small breweries will sustain during the infancy stages of legalization.

Despite an initial downtime for alcohol sales already impacting local Milwaukee employee’s bonuses and raises, the bigger picture may just be coming into focus. Will brewery employees start seeing coworkers cut?

The true key here to evaluating how cannabis will affect alcohol sales might be to look at things from a larger comprehensive view. While many states initially reported a decrease in alcohol sales, further observation has shown a rebound effect in many areas. Despite its initial drop off, Colorado reported an increase of 7.6% for spirit sales in 2017. This same study showed an increase in sales of 5.4% in Washington and 3.6% in Oregon.

This rebound effect brings to light more questions as to how the average consumer looks at alcohol and cannabis consumption. A 2015 study by the RAND Corporation concluded that results varied when assessing whether cannabis and alcohol are substitutes or complementary purchases of one another.  With this in mind, we can then look at the aforementioned information stated in the previous paragraph. While cannabis legislation may have resulted in an immediate decline in alcohol sales, consumers have demonstrated that purchases for spirits will sustain as economic forces settle out. This can be the case as consumers determine how to best allocate their income towards discretionary purchases.

Aside from an individual’s personal economic standing, and how this correlates with the public in entirety, there are other contributions as to why alcohol sales have been raucous in these first years of legislation. Not only are purchasing habits still settling out, but so are the rules and regulations for cannabis legalization in general. As legislature continues to iron out, so will the true evaluation of economic impact that cannabis has on alcohol and spirit sales. This will especially be the case if cannabis prices continue to lower – a direct factor in legalized growing and the ability to increase supply without having a massive increase in cost.

Looking to the future, the best observation for how cannabis will impact the Wisconsin alcohol industry might likely been seen in the 18-25 age demographic. Without the budget that other consumers might have, this age group has the ability to greatly affect the future of cannabis and alcohol sales. A new study has suggested that the average American adult spends roughly $645 on alcohol each year, compared to $640 on cannabis amongst active users. Those on a limited income, or even potentially on a college budget, will be the individuals that start creating purchasing habits that we will be able to observe in the future. After all, if consumers begin using cannabis and minimizing alcohol consumption, these same purchasing patterns are likely to continue as the circumstance evolves.

While there have been many in favor of cannabis legalization since states first started enacting policies back in 2012, some industries are hesitant due to the impact it may have on their specific niche. This can be directly observed in the alcohol industry – as many consider this a competing indulgence amongst the average consumer. As those in the alcohol industry in Wisconsin prepare for how it will affect them, the best way to prepare for any financial instability may be to evaluate what’s going on in states like Colorado or Washington. We can assume that there may be an initial decline in sales as people rush to their nearest dispensary to load up on new strains of flower or types of edibles that are going to be on shelves. However, once this initial wave has its impact, we can see how alcohol sales may regain traction like they have in other states.

Legalized cannabis in Wisconsin will surely have its effect on countless industries, and it’s safe to assume that this impact will be seen in the alcohol industry as well. How much an impact will it have? That is to be seen as Wisconsin starts legalizing and opening dispensaries now that the voters have spoken and the new Governor is sure to act on their wishes.

~Michael Goetzman

Update: 11/1/2019: News stating MillerCoors is killing off the brand.

2nd Update: 11/15/2019: Looks like they'll be phasing out MillerCoors brand but bringing jobs from out of state to Milwaukee to begin new products.

Religion: upbringing, statistics, & identity

People have been evolving from their parental upbringing religion since the beginning of time, through force or by choice. The largest shift of belief between generations has been in the 19th century; the only difference between the 19th century conversion and today’s conversions is that today more people are converting. The conversion has mainly been from Judaism to Christianity, Christianity to Islam, and Christianity to Jewish. Usually, people convert their religion after the age of eighteen when they are mature and can be held accountable for their actions. There is also much better access to religious texts and supplementary research.  There are many reasons why people convert to other religions other than what they grew up in. The primary reason is the marriage when people of different religions decide to get married, one of them converts to the other’s religion; however, interfaith marriages have also been proven to work. Another common reason is changing religion because one does not believe in their religious doctrines.  People choose to convert to seek more significant spiritual experiences more prominent than their original religion. Evangelism is another key factor in converting people from one religion to another. This is where a group of people actively seek out and talk to people and convince them to change their religions, they believe they are doing so for the greater good and that you will connect more spiritually.

In the 19th century, over 2000 European Jews converted to Christianity (Roman Catholicism, Protestantism, and orthodox Christianity) each year and the number continued growing to 3000 per year by the 1890s. In the 19th century, more than 250,000 Jews converted to Christianity. According to data from the pew research center about 1.6 million adult American Jews had converted to Christianity by 2015. Most of these Christian Jews converted into Protestantism. These Jews now considering themselves as Christians are either of Jews ancestry or were raised as religious Jews. Data according to Johnson, Todd M.; Grim, Brian J. (2013) showed that 17% of all the Jews in Russia had converted to Christianity by the year 2012. In the United States of America Judaism, the religion practiced by the Jewish people is the next largest religious affiliation in the US, though this identification is not necessarily indicative of religious beliefs or practices. The Jewish population has grown in the recent years from the 1.7 % of the U.S population and had reached 1.9% of the total population in 2014. Among this percent 44% of them have since converted to Christianity, 22 % have remained conservative to Judaism.

It’s hard to find statistics of Muslims that convert to Christianity. This could be because most Muslim-majority countries have legal repercussions for the Muslim that converts to Christianity. These legal repercussions may include imprisonment, punishment, loss of children, seizure of property, annulment of marriage and many others. However, countries like Indonesia which is populous with the Muslim majority and also one of the most liberal still have a significant number of people that are slowly converting to Christianity. Christian based surveys give some almost 2 million in a year which I think is way off. People in these Muslim majority countries with stringent liberal laws like Indonesia hide their conversions because they fear social repercussions and discrimination (Speiser, Matthew 2015). It is also evident that these liberal laws are strict at the national levels and authorities at the local levels use their power actively and push back the growth of Christianity. Statistics may not be available, but it is evident that there is a vast number of Muslims who may be dissatisfied or disheartened by the Muslim ways and choose to leave their religion.

Beyond United States, Islam is the fastest growing religion in the world.  In 2015 Christianity was the largest religion in the world. It is made up to 31% of the total population. The earth population by then stood at 7.3 billion and so Christianity occupied a third of the population. Muslims followed with a 24% at 1.8 billion of the world’s population. The religious projections according to the already seen trend of earth’s population is expected to rise to 9.6 billion people making a 32% increase by 2060. In the same period, the population of the Islam religion is likely to grow by 70% while that of the Christians is expected to grow by 34%. By 2060 research by pew research center show that the Muslim population will stand at 31% with a head count of over 3 billion while that of the Christians will be at 32% with a head count of over 32%. This shows that the Muslim fraternity is growing at a very high rate and by the 2070s the Muslim population or rather Islam will have the highest majority in the world.

This population growth is not only attributed to Christian to Muslim converts but also because of the fertility levels and the presence of a substantial young generation in the Muslim fraternity. The fact that there are no legal repercussions in Christian dominated countries when Christians convert to Muslims gives the Muslim the go-ahead to convert many of the Christian members to their religion. Also the fact that Christians allow their children to be married into the Muslim fraternity and they end up converting is also a significant contribution as to why the Muslim population is growing at a fast rate. The kind of education where especially in developing and third world countries the Islam religion is offering to develop and build schools in return for building mosques in the schools. This allows the Christian children that attend these schools to freely convert to Islam.

In the United States, it is estimated that over 20,000 Americans are converting every year from Christianity to Islam. This is seen mostly in the African country-origin fraternities in the United States, and this growth is attributed to the fact that the fraternities are discriminated in various churches in the United States (Piatt, Christian. 2016). They then seek an alternative means of worship where human life is held sacred despite the differences in skin color. In the United Kingdom, there has been a rise in the number of converts per year to about 5200. This has been attributed to the many immigrants who enter the United Kingdom, and because of this the other members of the society are attracted by their ways and convert to their religion. In France, according to the Muslim converts association, there are about 4000-7000 Muslim converts every year. The attack on Charlie Hebdo seems to have aggravated the situation significantly increasing the conversion rates. There are between 150,000 -200,000 people that have converted to Muslim in France so far with 70,000 of these French citizens having converted in the recent past.

Germany has about 100,000 Islam converts with over 4000 Germans converting each year. In Spain, there are about 50,000 Muslim converts with 2000-4000 converting every year. In Ireland, Islam is their fastest growing religion with over 500 Irish people converting to Islam every year. In 2011 and according to Johnson, Todd M.; Grim, Brian J. (2013) the Islam population was at 4810 and is expected to grow to 100,000 people by the year 2020.

Having looked at the above statistics, we can then clearly conclude that Islam is the fastest growing religion in the world and shortly the Muslims will become the majority religion in the world. How will that change our life and our religious identities here in the states?

~Michael Goetzman

References

Pew Research Centre (2013) A Portrait of Jewish Americans: Chapter 1: Population Estimates

Johnson, Todd M.; Grim, Brian J. (2013). The World’s Religions in Figures: An Introduction to International Religious Demography

Johnson, Todd M.; Brian J. Grim (26 March 2013). “Global Religious Populations, 1910–2010″. The World’s Religions in Figures: An Introduction to International Religious Demography

Piatt, Christian. (2016)”The Real Reason Christianity is Still in Decline”

Speiser, Matthew (2015). “Christians are leaving the faith in droves, and the trend isn’t slowing down.”

Sega Pinball Machines

Sega pinball machines were a product of the Sega games company limited. Sega being the short form of the words: service games. Sega was a Japanese publisher and a video game developer whose headquarters are in Tokyo, Japan. Sega had multinational offices all over the world and  in the recent past had been developing and manufacturing home video games, that’s from 1983 up until 2001. They, however, started incurring financial losses from their DreamCast console and they decided to restructure and focused on the provision of soft wares as a third party developer. To date, Sega remains the world’s most renowned and prolific producer of the arcades. They pride themselves with over 70 franchises which host over 500 games and over 20 different arcade system boards since the year 1981. They are also known to have published and sold some franchises that were multimillion games franchises notably total war, yakuza and sonic the head hog. Sega is subordinate to Sega holdings which are a part of the greater Sega Sammy holdings the Sega of America has its headquarters in California while Sega European has its headquarters in London.

Now why am I interested in Sega? I own two pinball machines: Starship Troopers and Goldeneye, created by Sega. I wanted to research the history of the pinball machine and the Sega Company.

Let’s start at the very beginning! The first pinball machine was made by Martin Bromley, James Shumpert and Irving Bromberg in Honolulu Hawaii. The three men had formed a company called standard games which was coin-operated machine. These machines were made specifically for military bases where the military would play for amusement during their leisure time. As the military personnel increased so did the demand for more pinball machines.  This was during the First World War. After the wars, the founders sold the company and opened up a distributor called the service games whose main focus was on the military. Later in 1951, the United States government banned these slot machines in the U.S territories. Bromley sent to Tokyo, Japan two of his trusted employee’s ray Lemaire and Richard Stewart to establish a new distributor which was named service games of Japan, this was in 1953.

An officer of the united states David Rosen who was based in Japan launched a photo booth company that later became Rosen enterprise and started importing the pinball slot machines to Japan and service games shut its Japan doors in 1960.Rosen merged with Nihon Goraku and opened up Sega enterprises. Sega transitioned into a manufacturer from an importer band released its first pinball machine submarine simulator game called the periscope. It became a successful venture in Japan and was even exported to the United States and Europe and cost around 25 cents per play. Sega was sold off in 1969 to gulf and western industries which were an American conglomerate but Rosen continued to be the CEO. The company continued growing and in 1974 Sega enterprise ltd was created by the gulf and western allowing their stock to be taken public.

The years 1978-1983 were also referred to as the golden age of the pinball games. By now Sega had really prospered from the 1970s, pinball gaming boom. In 1979 the revenues were at $100million US dollars and by 1982 the revenue had surpassed $214 million dollars. That year marked the launch of the first isometric graphed game zaxxon, subroc 3D the first stereoscopic 3D game and Astron belt which was the first laserdisc video game. Other notable games that Sega came up with between 1979-1982 were the carnival, Monaco GP, heads on, space fury, turbo and pengo

Between1982-1989 Sega had published the attari 2600 versions of the arcade games and tapper from midway, space fury, cannibal, turbo, and zaxxon. Sega licensed these games and others under different companies. Due to the overabundance, video crash games crashed, this led to the fall in segas revenue up to $136 million. Looking for alternatives Sega decided to make and release the first home video game console. it was then that gulf and western sold Sega enterprise assets to bally manufacturing in 1984. Bally manufacturing made pinballs. The home video game console the SG-1000 was launched successfully but the Nintendo’s NES quickly obscured it. This happened because the Nintendo’s NES had greater support from the third parties and they also had the more advanced hardware. Robert Deith, Rosen and Hayao Nakayama purchased the Sega assets at $38millionj dollars and later sold it to a Japanese conglomerate CSK. It’s based its headquarters in Japan and later placed their stock at the Tokyo stock exchange and Isao Okawa who was a friend to David Rosen who was CSKs chairman became Sega’s chairman.

Sega now released the Sega master system featuring Alex Kidd. Alex was unofficially Sega’s mascot until when he was replaced in 1991 by the hedgehog, the master system was now of a superior quality than the NES, it, however, did not capture Japan and the north Americas market due to aggressive strategies that his competitor Nintendo had applied and the fact that Tonka who was the console marketer in the united states on behalf of Sega was ineffective in his marketing mandate. The master system ruled Australia, Europe, Brazil and New Zealand and their games were sold up to 1990. Their main competitors by this time were the Nintendo NES and SNES. The period of the 1980s afterburner and hang on arcade games were released and made use of the force feedback control and the hydraulic cabinet functionality. Sega released the R-360 which was the 360-degree rotating machine. Sega also released the super scaler and the system series tor the arcade system boards. In the 1980s UFO catcher, medal games and the craw crane games were also introduced.

Sega Genesis was introduced in North America in the year 1989 and at this time the Sega of America initiated the campaign that was anti-Nintendo. This campaign was meant to bring out the momentum for the new generational games and they had the slogan “Genesis does what Nintendont”. The president Michal Katz of the Sega of America initiated and implemented the campaign. Nintendo launched in North America their super Nintendo entertainment system and at this same time Sega adopted a new slogan that said “welcome to the next level”

In that same year’s leadership of the Sega of America changed and was passed down to tom Kalinski from Katz. The new leader escalated further the console war that had already kicked off and was developing. In the prevention of the launch of the SNES Sega rebranded by creating a new game with a new mascot sonic the hedgehog. This shift widened the genesis success and Sega now commanded at least 65% of the market in North America. Sega released the Sega CD in 1991 in Tokyo Japan and 1992 in North America to add on to the genesis. This greatly reduced the limitations on space on their games. In 1992 Sonic ul game that was produced.  Hedgehog 2 was released for Genesis and became the most success. This game sold over six million copies by now Sega in 1990 had established Sega technical institute, in 1992 Sega Midwest studio came up, Sega multimedia studio was also created in 1993 and in 1992 Sega acquired the interactive design

In 1990 game gear was launched as the newest Sega game which was meant to compete with the game boy from the Nintendo’s but since the game had a short battery life, Sega did not come up with original games and also did not really support the game gear, it did not surpass game boy. in 1995 the game gear was followed by the Sega Nomad and in 1997 it was discontinued.

Model series of the arcade hardware was introduced by Sega in 1092 it allowed for the release of Virtua Racing and Virtua fighter and this law the ground and the foundation of the fighting games in 3D. In 1994 Sega 32X was release, this was meant to upgrade the genesis to a more advanced standards of systems of that time. At the beginning, it did really well but it lacked the good software and there was so much hype about the upcoming Sony play station and Sega Saturn. It died off after a year of real struggle in the market.

Sega Saturn was finally released in Japan in 1994 and was utilizing the two 32 bit processors. In the west, it sold poorly and thus the console was abandoned in 1998. The established genesis franchise lacked strong games and the ones available were highly priced compared to the Sony play station and this led to the console’s downfall. The games that were notable in Japan included the panzer dragoon, sakura wars, Virtua fighter 2, house of the dead and the Sega rally championship. Sega soft was established in the PC markets in 1995. The Sega soft was meant to create PC games and create an original Saturn.

Sega in the mid-1990s began expanding from just the kids-oriented and whole family entertainment company to producing and publishing games that consisted of strong sexual themes and extreme violence. They introduced the deep water label that was the mark they gave to mature content to distinguish it from the rest. They also began a gaming channel which was delivered by time warmer cable a local cable company. It gathered around 250,000 subscribers when it was at its peak. In 1997 it started experiencing serious technical challenges which led to its closure in 1998.

Sega in 1996 operated several theme parks with joypolis in Japan and Sega world overseas and branded the pinball arcades in Australia and the UK. In 1998 Sega was able to obtain the puyopuyo series and its characters. Sega continued compiling, developing and publishing the puyopuyo games even on its competitor’s platforms and Sega was included in their copyright

Dreamcast was launched in 1998 in Japan by Sega. They competitively priced dream cast because it used the self-shelf components and used technology that could host games that were technically impressive than Nintendo and the play station. Action puzzle games such as Phantasy star online, chuchu rocket, alien front online and quake 3 arena. Dreamcast was an absolute failure may be due to the fact it was launched within a small library of software’s and play station 2 was upcoming.

The list of other pinball’s that existed between 1994 -1999 include the batman forever, Godzilla, golden cue, independence day, Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein, south park, star wars trilogy the lost world: Jurassic Park, Twister, Apollo 13, Baywatch, goldeneye, Harley Davidson, lost in space, maverick, space jam, starship troopers, the x files and viper night driving.

Pinball games on pinball machines were great amusement in the past, the games were depicted mostly from movies that children or mature generation liked and were as interesting as the movie if not more. Basically the reasons I own Starship Troopers and Goldeneye! The machines came in different colors and shades; they were decorated with characters in the game. They consisted of the pinball and the pinball saver that was used in the game. The demise of these pinball boxes was mostly due to ban in several states and countries. They were banned because the leadership felt that these games were not really using skills but were using luck to win. The authorities, therefore, considered them as gambling dens. The children in schools used their lunch money to play these games thus the education sector was being affected. The governments banned the pinball machines and this led to the closure of many businesses.

They pinball machines have also been overtaken by both time and technology; today people play games on their phones other than the pinball machines. Some of these games have also been modernized and installed in computers. Computer games are preferred more than the pinball machines because they are portable thus can move from place to place and are played according to one’s convenience. The pinball machines, on the other hand, are big and not easily portable.

The pinball machines still exist but in very low numbers and in licensed parks. They are not accessible to many people thus people look for alternative means to buy or play the games. And this is where smartphones and computers come into place. Despite all that pinball still remains the world’s most friendly game around the globe thus there is a group of ever-expanding gamers that still buy, sell, repair and ultimately discovers and rediscovers the allure of the wild silver ball.

Game on!

~Michael Goetzman

References

Sega Enterprises Ltd at the Internet Pinball Machine Database

Sega Pinball Inc at the Internet Pinball Machine Database

Rossignol, Marco. The Complete Pinball Book: Collecting the Game and Its History. Schiffer Publishing, Limited

Microsoft Campus in Redmond, WA: History and Tour

The Microsoft Redmond campus is simply known as the Microsoft Campus, This campus is the headquarters of Microsoft (One Microsoft Way) in Washington’s Redmond. Microsoft established themselves in Redmond back in 1986, a few days before the company went public, after which it expanded to a 500-acre occupation by 2015 (Yu & Bass, 2015).The expansion of Microsoft has been in the adoption of more labor as well as more grounds for their companies. I had the honor of visiting the Redmond campus for the 25th anniversary of the Microsoft MVP summit! I was able to explore the vast buildings around Redmond and wondering about the history and growth of the area. Here is what I discovered:

The Redmond campus was part of Microsoft’s plan drawn by Wright Runstad consisting of six original buildings in 1986 (Romano, 2007). The land was initially designed to be a shopping Center, but the firm helped Microsoft establish their offices, employing less than 800 employees (Romano, 2007). Several years later, the campus developed into the biggest campus for the company covering over ten million feet square feet in 2016. The campus has been instrumental in the development of technology and Microsoft products.

Microsoft headquarters beam with the elegance of futuristic energy and optimism. The headquarters has many buildings scattered on the campus, which one must take a shuttle to navigate, as the parts meeting different needs are too vast to be covered on foot (Yarow, 2013). A peek into these buildings reveal the office 34, the office of the CEO, and office 33, which is where Microsoft plays its future of the home and the workplace, displaying the concepts that Microsoft is developing, how they envision the integration of their technology into the daily home and work ideas of the future (Yarow, 2013). This is part of the contribution of Microsoft into the designing of future space structures and planning.

Besides this, the campus headquarters provide the employees with restaurants and snacks, as well as open spaces where meetings can be organized and places where employees or visitors can share a snack (Yarow, 2013). The company ensures the provision of the sports fields for games like soccer and volleyball. The Commons room is home to magnificent sculptures, music band performances and ping pong games (Yarow, 2013). These provisions not only provide for the aesthetic condition of the campus but integrate with the work-life balance for the employees.

The offices at the campus are in varied shapes. A recent renovation seeks to increase the open space available for the offices so that more employees can work together (Levy, 2017).  Even then, the offices on the campus are varied from open offices to close offices, depending on the nature of work Yarow, 2013). The interiors of the company offices are laced with friendly colors, office plants and subtle pieces of art which make the offices an interesting place to work, with the company logos on the walls, the technology ideas exhibited in the hallways, all stimulate the workers to focus on the development projects that define Microsoft (Yarow, 2013).  The campus cares for the now for the employees, in that it provides them with conducive working environments. It cares for the future too, by being a think tank of innovation, exhibition point for new technology ideas, as well as the predictions of a technology revolution through their products.

The company, with the acceleration of production and sales, sought to begin a redevelopment program in 2005. The 1 billion dollars project was to add 1.1 million square feet, to the already existent 2 million square feet of the Safeco building (Dudley, 2006). The redevelopment was meant to create more space for employees who would join the company over the next three years, and the project was to run over a period of about ten years (Dudley, 2006). It also covered a plan to attract more millennial workers as employees for the company (Yu & Bass, 2015). This step was just one of the many phases that the campus has undergone, and is still undergoing to fit the needs of the employees and that of the technology world.

In 2006, the company announced that it would be redefining the buildings of the campus, with the addition of 3.1 million square feet for more than 12, 000 employees, plans which were delayed by the 2008 recession, leaving only the construction of one building running (Yu & Bass, 2015). Even then, this plan formed the basis of the major reconstruction of the campus declared in 2017.  The plan included the construction of one building on the main campus on the east of Highway 520, six buildings in the west, five buildings on the Safeco Redmond campus, the purchasing of a building from Eddie Bauer, and another building from state farm (Dudley, 2006).  These constructions formed the greatest transformations before the announcement of the 2017 renovation.

The place of the Microsoft Redmond campus in the growth of the Redmond city and the development of its international relations cannot be ignored. The campus has created a place in which the community can secure their future through the provision of employment opportunities. The company has been recognized for the environmental contributions that it makes towards the Redmond community, as well as the diversity it ensures Washington (Dudley, 2006). The campus has been instrumental in the establishment of the regional transportation lines that make it easy for the community to access materials and products, as well as participating in the education of the society by setting up schools that teach tech (Dudley, 2006). These ideas that support the development of the community have created the basis for peaceful a fruitful co-existence of the company in Washington.

The establishment of Redmond Microsoft campus in the 80s followed the basic construction plan that was trending back then. However, the trend of architecture towards the construction of tech offices has evolved over time, setting new designs into motion. For example, the company had a design that formed a ring of balconies whose working spaces were uniformly built over the spaces (Day, 2015).  With time, the mixture of office space designs became the dominant style, allowing for employees to work in spaces that suit their particular activities ( (Levy, 2017). Also, the new plan allows for the employees to participate in the designing of their workplace, forming a better environment for the comfort of the employees, and contributing to better rates of output (Day, 2015). In the end, the recognition of these needs has triggered the transformations of the Redmond campus, with the biggest reconstruction project announced in 2017.

In 2017, the company released news about a reconstruction of the site. The project seeks to increase the working space for 8, 000 more employers to be taken in into the company.This project has been defined as a mega redevelopment, seeing that the company plans to pull down the original buildings that have been established at the Redmond Campus, and make way for 18 new buildings  (Levy, 2017). While the Redmond campus has been through different series of redevelopment, this one is the most crucial of them all so far.

The project will see the rise of eighteen new buildings, 6.7 million square feet of workspace to be redone, and 150 million dollars in the renewing of infrastructure, green spaces, public and sports spaces as well as renovation of transportation infrastructure (Schroeder, 2017). This renovation is set to accommodate 47, 000 more people in employment, with the stretch as big as 8,000 people. On the outside, the campus will take the shape of open plazas over a 2 acre stretch of land, one that can accommodate as many as 12,000 people, among treehouses that allow the employees to connect with nature (Schroeder, 2017).  The company has hired one of the most respected architecture firm, Skidmore, Owings, and Merrill who designed the world’s tallest building in Dubai (Yu & Bass, 2015). This makeover will see the integration of the latest structural ideas both for the inside and the outside environment of the campus.

A change in structural strategy characterizes the planned redevelopment project of 2017. The earlier campus reconstructions have been horizontal constructions, a scheme that was adopted in 2015 after winning a zoning change from the city of Redmond which allows it to build buildings up to 10 stories, on the area lying to the east side of the Redmond Washington campus (Day, 2015). The plan is meant to have fewer employees working across the buildings scattered all over the Redmond campus, and to bring them into the story offices, where more people can work under the same roof.  This comes after the expansions that mostly had the company put up buildings on more acres of land.

The move has been seen to be in sync with the changes in preferences of the company employees, which have evolved over time. The putting up of more vertical than horizontal spaces allows the company to have the feel of an urban area, with open floor plans, spaces that allow meetings and places for people to eat together (Day, 2015). The plan would increase the feeling of community within the campus, as more employees work in the same building, emphasizing on the commonness of purpose and futuristic goals for the separate projects done by the company. (Day, 2015).  This project integrates the need for social amenities and the evolving design of workplace architecture to meet the demand of the employees as well as the consumers of Microsoft products.

The multi-billion project includes the demolition of the older buildings erected in 1980, to raise a more modern campus with an open plan, sports fields, with a sky bridge over state Route 520 (Levy, 2017).  This redesigning, which is to be done in phases will take advantage of the infrastructural developments in Seattle, signing a commitment to work in Washington for longer. Architectural designing will be needed to cater for the pedestrians, to ensure that the new structuring doesn’t get into the way of open spaces and walking areas, besides the soccer and cricket fields, the outdoor plazas for meetings and even musical performances (Levy, 2017). With the integration of the light rail, Microsoft will make it easier for the employees to commute from work and to work as well as ship equipment for the company (Levy, 2017). Microsoft is set to appreciate the different cultures alive in the company community, by catering for the moods of the employees, through setting up entertainment hubs in the campus as well as working for a conducive environment for them to be productive (Romano, 2007). This is the transformation of both the structural outlook as well as the community relationship of the Microsoft Redmond Campus community.

Since 1986, the campus has been a hub of development. The expansions have created more space for employees, therefore increasing the number of people that the company can hold. Also, the development of innovative ideas that challenge the existing ideas of technology has allowed for the world to tap into better lives through the use of technology.  The campus has existed as a positive contribution to its surrounding areas, through the development of infrastructural projects and a contribution to the economy. Its expansion is an increase of the research hours that will be put into technology, planning and even execution of new ideas that seek to redefine the future.

The multi-billion mega reconstruction seeks to account more of the future needs of the workplace, catching up with the trends of the workplace designs that over time have been discovered to favor the tech industry. With this reconstruction also, the campus allows for more employment opportunities, and more broad ways to interact with the community. The span that the construction takes will be another moment of growth not just for the campus, but for the corporation at large. Microsoft has a bright future on this campus and growing internationally, I’m looking forward to seeing where this all goes!

~Michael Goetzman

References

Day, M. (2015, December 28). Microsoft’s next Redmond expansion expected to go vertical. Retrieved from https://www.seattletimes.com/business/microsoft/microsofts-next-redmond-expansion-expected-to-go-vertical/

Dudley, B. (2006, February 9). Business & Technology | Microsoft speeding up plans for huge campus redevelopment | Seattle Times Newspaper. Retrieved from http://community.seattletimes.nwsource.com/archive/?date=20060209&slug=webmmsftbuild09

Levy, N. (2017, November 28). Microsoft plans to knock down and rebuild original Redmond campus, creating room for 8K more workers in the historic redevelopment project. Retrieved from https://www.geekwire.com/2017/microsoft-plans-knock-rebuild-original-redmond-campus-creating-room-8k-workers-historic-redevelopment-project/

Romano, B. (2007, November 11). Microsoft campus expands, transforms, inside and out. Retrieved from https://www.seattletimes.com/business/microsoft/microsoft-campus-expands-transforms-inside-and-out/

Schroeder, S. (2017, November 29). Microsoft plans a major overhaul of its Redmond campus. Retrieved from https://mashable.com/2017/11/29/microsoft-hq-overhaul/#F3nMDuIaziqS

Yarow, J. (2013, August 1). A Tour Of Microsoft’s Truly Gigantic, Sprawling Headquarters. Retrieved from http://www.businessinsider.com/a-tour-of-microsofts-truly-gigantic-sprawling-headquarters-2013-7?IR=T

Yarow, J. (2013, July 18). Take A Sneak Peek At Microsoft’s Vision Of The House Of The Future. Retrieved from http://www.businessinsider.com/inside-microsofts-house-of-the-future-2013-7?IR=T

Yu, H., & Bass, D. (2015, September 4). Microsoft considers a multibillion-dollar overhaul to Redmond campus. Retrieved from https://www.seattletimes.com/business/microsoft/microsoft-is-said-to-weigh-multibillion-campus-revamp/

Wisconsins's involvement in the establishment of Israel

Wisconsin has been directly involved in the formation of modern Israel in various ways, in trade, bilateral grants, bilateral institutions, cooperative agreements, different government missions to Israel, partnering for change in various business industry/sectors: science and technology, agriculture and farming, and other cooperative programs between Wisconsin and Israel. This co-operation and partnerships have tightened ties between the two states and have shared resources and knowledge between the two countries. This has led primarily to the development and the growth of the Israel state. Milwaukee was also a home to Golda Meir, the 4th Prime Minister of Israel.

In 2016 the total exports to Israel from Wisconsin ranged from $82,839,665, the change in percent between  2015-2016 being  -41%. The total exports since 1996 till date has been over $1,264,469,258. Israel’s trade partner rank in 2016 was number 36, Wisconsin in 2012 made military contracts with Israel that were worth $12,089,933.65. Wisconsin shares some bilateral foundation grants that include agriculture research and development that started in 1979 to date and it’s worth 2, 715, 810, science and technology that began in 1996 to date and it’s worth 2,738.016, industrial research development from 1977 to date and it’s worth $810,300. The total number of Bi-national grants totals up to $6,264,126.

There are bilateral institutions that have been created in support of trade and ventures between the two states. These include department of commerce global ventures, Wisconsin and Israel. Plans had to be put up to build and also reinforce the mutual ties between these two states was announced in 2010. The DOC made this announcement through their global ventures office and later solicited for the formal request for proposals to implore researchers and companies interested in joint Wisconsin-Israel R&D partnership development.

Committee for economic growth Israel: this committee was founded by a Jewish philanthropist and entrepreneur Elmer Winter in 1976 at Israel’s Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin s request. CECI was founded and established to assist in the growth and the expansion of Israel and the Wisconsin state. It dealt with promoting business as much as the other chambers of commerce. Then there are the memoranda of understanding which was a cooperative agreement: Benjamin Ben-Eliezer the Israeli industry, labor, and trade minister and Governor Jim Doyle of Wisconsin state in November 2009 signed a bilateral cooperative trade agreement and a memorandum of understanding with the hope to promote cooperation and a great working relationship involving Israel and Wisconsin development and research.  The department of commerce in Wisconsin in fostering this development has partnered closely Israeli economic mission in coordinating targeted investments that are attractive and other match made events in innovation and technology. There have been other government missions from Wisconsin to Israel from the latest in November 2017 Scott Walker, the governor Wisconsin took a trade mission trip to Israel and met with the Israeli prime minister Netanyahu where after talking and discussing issues relating to trade he also invited the Israelis prime minister Netanyahu to Wisconsin to visit. In August 2011, the then congresswoman Gwen Moore was in a convoy with a delegation  of 81 members sent by congress to Israel to discuss trade and also teach them on the United States of America’s relationships with Israel and regional politics.

On November 2009 the department of commerce secretary Aaron Olver and Governor Jim Doyle took a delegation from Wisconsin on a trade mission to Israel. The group had pre-arranged several meetings on specific investment with firms in Israeli. These firms upon agreement could expand their markets and resources into Wisconsin. The governor Jim Doyle also signed a cooperative conformity with the department of the trade from Israeli which was made possible by the DOCs global venture office. In 2005 the Congressman Paul Ryan visited Israeli; he was a member of the larger Republican congressional delegation on a trip that had been made possible by the American Israel Education Foundation. This is a charitable organization which was allied with the American Israel Public Affairs Committee. He met with the then Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon. They took a trip to some tourism sites in Jerusalem and Israelis northern boundaries of Lebanon and Syria.

These trips were important because of each of them in one way or another promoted Binational trade and continued to strengthen the relationship between Wisconsin and Israel. Also in their trips, the Americans would also promote tourism by visiting various sites like Jerusalem that were historically rich.  These trips also encouraged other Americans to visit Israel. Thus there was increase and growth in tourism.

The connection between the United States and Israel is based mutual interests and shared values. Given these pillars, beliefs, and commonality of interests, it’s therefore evident that the support the Unites States offers Israel is the most consistent and pronounced values in a foreign policy for the Americans. Although these programs exist, it’s very difficult to come up with programs that make the most of on Israel, and the United States shared values other than their interests in security. In fact, they have come up with shared value initiatives that cover a very wide range of common interests which include science, technology, the environment, health, and education.

Israel has a population of over eight million people; it’s very advanced and has a dynamic and robust economy that permitted it to join the (OECD) Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development. In the years 2005-2013 Israel had exported more goods to the United States than Saudi Arabia. All the eight million of the Israel citizenry only make 3% of the total population on that region it also accounts for 25 percent of all exports to the Middle East. Israel has also been in the top twenty foreign direct investor’s sinec2009 in the United States. The United States also gives Israel $3 billion in United States aid and out of this amount $2.25 comes back to the United States via Israelis purchase of the military equipment from the U.S. that represents 5% of their total bilateral trade every year. Wisconsin is just one of the 33 states that have cooperative agreements with Israel.

In the year 2012, Wisconsin had exported manufacturing goods worth over $69 million. Since 1996 the total number of exports by Israel from Wisconsin has reached over $1.1 billion, and now Israel ranks 26 on Wisconsin’s trading partners list. In that same period from 2012 Wisconsin had delivered to Israel $12.1 million in (FMF) Foreign military financing as military aid from the united states to Israel. The companies that have so far received foreign military financing in Israel are twin disc Inc in Racin, Kearfott guidance and navigation in Milwaukee and Therma-Stor LLC Bounatic in Madison.

Israel is also good at innovating and developing ideas and programs that are used in addressing certain issues addressing citizens. They have for example developed education programs like no other like the peer tutoring program where students are taught to read together to increase fluency. This method is commonly used for grade two students and has become very useful to not only the students but also the teachers and tutors.  They have also come up with different methods and ways in which they can curb some social problems like the drug abuse, unemployment, and environmental protection. This program has worked well with the Israel citizens, and it’s expected to work for Wisconsin’s children when adopted and implemented.

Many firms in Wisconsin have found nit profitable to work and expand their businesses in Israel is the one country which has an agreement of free trade with both the European community and the United States. Israel is then in a position to fill the trade gap on the international trade between Europe and the United States. Israel is also a big pool of talent and especially on high technology. Israel then becomes an excellent opportunity for national companies such as Microsoft, IBM, Motorola, McDonald, and Intel to invest and earn profits from.  Other 180 companies from Wisconsin have also taken the chance to benefit by undertaking business in Israel they include GE medical systems, Nicolet, sunlight plastics Inc and workforce inc.

Manpower Inc is a recruitment business with its base in Wisconsin. So far the company has over 35 offices in the state of Israel. James Fromstein, workforce Inc senior vice president, says that their experience in Israel has been very positive and that the Israelis high level has attributed this to education and the way they structure their economy aggressively. A.O Smith Corporation based in Milwaukee got into business with chromagen, which deals with the manufacturing of solar water heating solution that’s found in Israel. They agreed to develop the water heating applications. In their agreement, A.O Smith becomes chromagens exclusive distributor and marketer in Canada and the USA for both commercial and residential collectors. Chromagens sales in 2009 were estimated at $50million and had two operations in manufacturing in Israel and distributed in over 35 countries. This partnership between A.Osmith and chromagen becomes a great powerhouse which could only mean more significant opportunities for both the United States and Israel.

In the medical field, Israel benefits both in importing and exporting. GE medical systems in Wisconsin exports diagnostic medical equipment like the x-rays, CTs, ultrasounds, and MRIs since 1950 to Israel. Israel on the other side has been exporting medical nuclear scanners to Wisconsin, and both countries believe that through this venture is quite expensive, it makes their hospitals the best there is in their regions.  Nicolet Instrument Corporation is a company that has been doing business in Israel for the last fifteen years. This company from Wisconsin sells spectrometers that are used in the material composition and chemical analysis. Jamison, the area manager in the middle and south-east, confesses that Israel is a reasonable market compared to other markets in the region and that it’s also an easy market.

The Wisconsin people realized that the best way of breaking into the Israelis market is by joint venturing with a company with Israel. These projects receive finding from (BIRD) Bi-National Industrial Research and Development Foundation. The bird was established in 1977 by Israel and the United States to jointly fund U.S-Israeli teams’ commercialization and subsequent development of non-defense, innovative technological products from which they can both get profits proportion with the risks and the investment. Most of these grants are received by small businesses that are involved in instrumental, software, communication, semiconductors and medical devices.

BIRD, since it was incepted, has given funding to more than 800 high tech joint ventures totaling up to $210 million through conditional grants. The products that these companies produce has since generate d $8 billion and more in both indirect and direct revenues for the two countries. These ventures have created excellent opportunities for the Israeli people by creation of jobs for their youth, and it is also a pillar for the Israeli-U.S industrial cooperation. The venture’s success has allowed Israel adopt similar R&D models with other countries. Four companies based in Wisconsin the Nicolet instruments corp., workforce current energy systems and Germania dairy automation inc. have all benefitted and taken advantage of the program BIRD and shared these grants with Israeli to a total of $700,000.

In 2010 BIRD gave out more than $4.2 million in grants to fund companies that had joint ventures both Israeli and the United States in wind energy, biofuels, and energy efficiency. These the five projects that were awarded these grants will help address the goals shared by both countries on bilateral energy this will also influence the private sectors to total projects to cost share value of $12,8millionone of the project award is a local company in Wisconsin, current energy systems which are based in Madison and HCL clean tech limited from Israel Tel Aviv will developing and testing jointly the procedure meant to make from cellulosic non-food sources biogasoline.

In 2011 Johnsons Controls, a technology company Milwaukee based, was offered BIRD financial support to partner with EnVerid systems and come up with a novel air handling technology that’s used in reducing HVAC the heating, ventilation, air conditioning and automotive comfort energy consumption. This project was among the nine others who were awarded a total of $8.1 million in grants in December throughout Israel and the United States.

Nicolet instrument corporation which leads the world in manufacturing, design, and the marketing of instrumentation for assessing muscle, nerve, sleep vestibular/hearing, brain blood flow disorder and epilepsy joined up with a company from Israel that builds up mid-infrared fiber-optic materials referred to as Isorad ltd. This grant was meant so that the two companies can develop sensors made using fiber-optic chemicals that identifies harmful chemical materials for safe performance and in the environment. These chemicals are also used in the analysis of safe quality control on toxic chemical products; after they completed developing fiber cell, both companies applied for a more significant grant to build up the complete fiber-optic sampling system integrated with spectrometers that are commercially infrared.

Nicolet created a partnership with Medoc ltd which is Israeli based. It manufactures, builds up and also markets small fiber devices for the peripheral nervous system. They created the thermal sensory analyzer which became the best of its kind. Through this mini project, the thermal sensory analyzer device became a necessary accessory for their diagnostic system and was named the Nicolet sensation. These two companies have since then strengthened their working conditions and invested in other diverse markets.

Wisconsin researchers are developing technologies that are cutting edge and have made scientific breakthroughs in joint ventures with the brilliant and creative Israelis. They do this with the assistance from Binational Science Foundation. The BSF began in 1972 and was meant to promote cooperation and scientific relations between the scientists from both Israel and the United States. That fund is intended to support the research projects that are in collaboration between the two countries, and they must also be from the basic and applied scientific field for non-profit and peaceful purposes. From the time it started BSF has so far awarded more than 4000 grants worth $ 48-0 million.

The BSF has since sponsored studies which all have been successful in attaining their two primary goals of promoting research that’s world-class to benefit the two countries and the world at large and also to strengthen the Partnership between the U.S-Israel through science. This grant helps in the resource extension so that the research may reach milestones they haven’t reached before. , introduce approaches that lead the Israel scientists and researchers into new broader directions, intensify, confirm and clarify the projects in research and also provide access that’s unmatched to the Israeli facilities, equipment and the research results that will enable them to go a mile more in the research. BSF has so far taken part in over 75 discoveries through research grants, and the 19 of these discoveries have been recognized and received the Lasker medical awards and 37 Nobel peace prize.

The University of Wisconsin and their counterparts in Israel medical school have benefited from a grant worth over $2.5 million since 1996. A professor john valley from the department of physics and geology at Wisconsin university was granted a grant to work with a professor Mathew at Hebrew university so that it facilitates their study of Greece rocks. They found out that  the alpine belt rocks were initially at the sea level and were later buried owing to the  tectonic movements and forces and today the same tocks are at the mountain surface. Such discoveries have helped the geologists and the historian better understand their history the two professors are still working together in a geochemistry lab at Hebrew University.

In 1996 Arthur Ellis a professor from the University of Wisconsin was granted a grant by BSF.  That grant was to research chemical sensoring in Weizmann Institute of science. Chemical sensors consist of placing a molecule of the semiconductor surface to come up with a sensor that determines other compounds presence and their concentration in liquid and gas phase. Professor Robert C. West from the University of Wisconsin was also given the grant and had been working together with Israel since then. He has been researching the different types of silicon bonds and worked with Israelis scientist.

Binational agricultural research and development fund (BARD) was established in 1978 by the two countries Israel and the United States to help scientific fund programs between them. These programs had to be jointly beneficial, strategic; applied research  and mission-oriented to the tribulations in agriculture. Since the start, BARD has managed to fund over 1000 projects, worth over $250million.  Most of these projects that are funded by the BARD were focused on plant and animal health, agricultural productivity good safety and quality, these researchers have then come up with new technologies like the use of pesticides, drip irrigation, livestock, poultry fish farming, farm equipment and disease controls. The products generated from these researches have so far generated more than $500 million in sales, $100million in tax revenue and has created jobs for over 500 people both in Israel and in Wisconsin.  The project is worth over $2million and has been in operation ever since 1979.

Gary splitter a professor of the Wisconsin university after receiving his grant and under joint research with Israeli Is very close to find a t-cell leukemia  cure and stops endemic Brucella melitensis. The grant he received has been to learn the virus bovine leukemia that’s relates to T-cell leukemia in peoples. This problem is a common menace to the two countries and splinter works in conjunction with the Israeli veterinarian institute which is a federal laboratory that’s concerned with disease monitoring in Israel.

Other collaborations include that of Mark Richardson, professor jess reed in collaboration with the Israeli scientists in investigating the red wines effects. This is because the wine has polyphenols found in vegetables, and fruits and is believed that it can counteract the ALES absorption and many other projects s in the agricultural research

Conclusion

Wisconsin has been integral in the creation and the development of the modern day Israel. This is because Wisconsin has played crucial roles in partnering with scientists who can come up with materials that could not only benefit Israel and the united stated nut also influence the world in general. In the future I see cyber security and defense being a major area of contribution between Wisconsin and Israel.

~Michael Goetzman

Source:

Jewish Virtual library: State-to-State Cooperation: Wisconsin and Israel –  retrieved from:

http://www.jewishvirtuallibrary.org/wisconsin-israel-cooperation

Muskie (Muskellunge aka Musky)

The muskellunge is a lean fish and mean fighting machine and arguably one of the most sought-after and ultimate fishing trophies of Wisconsin. It is the largest in the pike family, long torpedo shaped with the anal fin and the dorsal fin close to the tail. They have an enormous mouth with long pointed teeth.  The marking and coloration vary from fish to the other. This species is recognized by sporty and vertical bars. The head, back, and upper sides are green gold to light brown and pearly white berries. The fins are rust colored and pointed, and the cheek and the lower grill have no scales. The great lake muskellunge is a known fighter who when hooked drags the line beneath the boat and wraps it on a submerged stump. It strips reel, cracks rods, bends hooks and also mutilates baits. Hooking and capturing a muskellunge is one thrill no angler can forget.

Historically, the Winnebago system had been home to a small population of the muskellunge. The Winnebago system was once inhabited by the Great Lakes strain of the muskellunge (Paul A. Smith,2017).  That strain was however extirpated in the 90s due to habitat degradation and overfishing. Stocking of the limited muskellunge was done in the 1970s, but the largest stocking in the effort to boost the muskellunge population took place between 2002-2007 when six adults, 589,643 fries,  22,397 large fingerlings, 40 yearlings and 1,162 small fingerlings totaling 613,248 Great Lakes spotted strain muskellunge was stocked all through the system. The main aim of the restocking strategy in the Winnebago system was to reintroduce the great lake strain muskellunge and potentially set up a natural reproducing system for the muskellunge.

The restocking program of the Great Lakes strain muskellunge, however, ceased in 2007 in the bay of Green Bay and the Winnebago system after the viral hemorrhagic septicemia fish virus (VHS) was detected. Up to now a protocol to disinfect cool water fish eggs from the viral hemorrhagic septicemia favorable waters have not been in place. The eggs taken from the green bay fish can therefore not be reared at the state hatcheries. This resulted in the availability of a small number of muskellunge fish for restocking since 2007. Three brood Lakes were established in the recent years for the Great Lakes strain muskellunge to serve as a probable source for future stocking. This will, however, take longer because the fish in those Lakes still need to reach reproductive age. (Joel K. Nohner & James S. Diana, 2015)

The DNR fisheries staff members have since the restocking worked hard to track the population of the muskellunge using the traditional sampling gears. This has been quite challenging considering the diversity of habitat and the broadness of the area of the Lakes system. As a result, the fisheries staff has come up with a new approach referred to as the outside the box approach that involves rough commercial fishers to sample the population of the muskellunge. This process involves commercial fishers bidding for a contract to seine for the coarse fish mainly the buffalo and the common carp that are commonly taken to the market. During the seining effort, game fish is also captured, and this provides an opportunity for the DNR staff to collect and save biological data from an assortment of game fish at a reasonably low sampling cost. This effort is limited to only one seine haul per year and is mostly takes place during the fall when the temperatures in the water are cooler. This minimizes the stress amounts to the game fish. However, if more data samples are required more hauls may be conducted. (Terry L. Margenau & Jordan B. Petchenik, 2014)

The seine span length is an impressive 8700 feet consisting of 5-5inches mesh panels. This large mesh size is used so that it can allow the small-sized non-target fish to go through, at the same time retaining the larger fish in the seine. The gear retains Muskellunge, northern pike and other fish larger than 30 inches. This allows the DNR staffs collect the biological data they needed. Other large game fish collected through the survey including the walleye, lake sturgeon, and flathead. The fishermen start by stringing the seine. They begin from Leonard’s point and stretch it north across the Lake Butte des Morts then loops it back to the east and back to Leonard’s point, the gear samples around 500 acres per haul.  The fishermen then pull the seine back to shore congregating the fish into a holding pen. DNR fisheries staffs monitor the operation and process the captured game fish in the seine. These surveys have been carried out on Lake Butte des Morts in 2008, 2009, 2013 and 2014. The caught fish are weighed, measured, and their maxillary clip or fins are checked from the stocking events. (Paul A. Smith, 2017)

The right maxillary clip, the right ventral fin clip, and the left ventral fin clip are marks used in marking the stocked muskellunge. Different cohorts of stocked fish are characterized uniquely utilizing a combination of different marks. These marks make it possible for the fish to be tracked back to when they were stocked. The fish captured without clips indicate that the fish was either naturally produced or is from fry stockings. In addition to the fin checkup, the untagged fish get tagged, and they are checked for (PIT) passive integrated transponder. Every individual fish has a specific 10-15 digit alphanumerical code tag which allows for the evaluation of the fish movement patterns and growth.

The surveys done in 2008 and 2009 showed that 40 Great Lakes strain muskellunge were captured. 37 of the 40 fish were found to have been marked with ventral fin clips or the maxillary. This was an indication that they were either from the large or the small restocking carried out in 2002-2007. The other three fish were from the fry stocks. This showed that the fingerling stocking method was more efficient than the fry stocking method.  The survey also revealed that the stocked fish were growing very fast. A sample of four fish ranged from 41.2-44.6 inches and could be traced back to the 2002 restocking. This showed that in seven summers these fish would grow to 45 inches. It was also an indication that given more time the fish would top 50 inches size range in the Winnebago system. The seine survey of 2013-2014 of the Great Lakes strain muskellunge yielded 29 muskellunge, four of the fish sampled happened to be the four that had been measured in 2008 and 2009. These four now ranges from 48.3-51.2inches. This showed that in 12 years the fish were able to hit the 50 inches mark. Compared to the statewide average of 42.6 inches of growth for a 12-year-old muskellunge this was an excellent finding and an impressive growth for a fish that size. (Terry L. Margenau & Jordan B. Petchenik 2014).

Although the size of the muskellunge surveyed in the year 2013-2014 was impressive, there is a worry that the population stocked in 2002-2007 was aging. The seine could not capture the fish below 38inches and it is not yet known if the fish have been able to produce naturally. The DNR fisheries staff also conducted a young of year (YOY) electrofishing survey of the muskellunge in the fall of 2025. Unfortunately, they did not capture any YOY. Now only time will tell if natural reproduction is taking place. As for now the population of the Great Lakes strains muskellunge solely depend on stocking.

A study by Ted Peck (2017) in 2015 showed that a total of 628 yearlings of the great lake spotted muskellunge were stocked to the Upriver Lakes. Lake Poygan got 255, Upper Fox River 219 and Lake Butte des Mort 154. Those stocked in Lake Poygan and Upper Fox River received PIT tag and clipped on the right ventral fin. Those stocked in Butte des Mort received a clip on the right ventral fin. The stocking will help boost population numbers for an opportunity to angle in the future. The DNR fisheries staff plans to keep performing commercial seine, fyke net and YOY electrofishing surveys to obtain the status of the muskellunge population that will guide the management of the Winnebago system.

The muskellunge has impacted the community in a significant way. Tourism has boomed. Millions of dollars are being spent on resorts, lodgings, service stations, sporting goods store and even restaurants. Wisconsin according to Ted Peck (2017) offers the best muskellunge fishing on that side of the planet. This fish is very elusive, and so it takes an average of 50 hours for one to have caught this fish. Many locals have also had the chance to work with the contractors who bid to the highest thus providing employment. The introduction or the restocking of many muskellunge is an opportunity for the anglers to catch a giant muskellunge.

Many more locals have also had the chance to work in those hotels, restaurants service stations, etc. The Great Lakes giant muskellunge has become a big blessing to the people of Wisconsin, and that is why the DNR fisheries staff always persuades the anglers to take a quick picture and report when they fish them out before releasing them back in. This reports on the length the capture location and the strain mainly for the fish less than 38 inches long. The DNR fisheries staff has found it extremely difficult to sample the smaller immature fish using traditional gears and methods. It is, therefore, crucial for them that the anglers report when they see smaller muskellunge. The anglers also have a rough time trying to hook this fish because they keep up the fight and also could be 50 plus inches. Catch and release has become a sport in Wisconsin where the anglers are required to catch and take a photo then release so that the other anglers can also catch this trophy fish. Regulations and more regulations have been put to keep the sport going as well as maintain or even increase the muskellunge population. (Ted Peck, 2017)

~Michael Goetzman

References

Joel K. Nohner & James S. Diana (2015) Muskellunge Spawning Site Selection in Northern Wisconsin Lakes and a GIS-Based Predictive Habitat Model retrieved from http://csis.msu.edu/sites/csis.msu.edu/files/musky_spawn.pdf

Paul A. Smith, (2017) Smith: Wisconsin man reels in a fishing pole… and a 47-inch musky

Ted Peck (2017) Catching Wisconsin’s ‘Easy’ Muskies retrieved from http://www.gameandfishmag.com/fishing/catching-wisconsins-easy-muskies/#ixzz56qr3tA1q

Terry L. Margenau & Jordan B. Petchenik (2014) Social Aspects of Muskellunge Management in Wisconsin