Note: This is the second of a three-part guest series written by three AKHIA team members while Ben is on vacation. Today’s post is written by Lukas Treu, content architect.
1. Have an App-etite for Greatness? Know Your Stats
We live in an app-driven culture. If you have a question you want answered or merely wish to distract yourself for a while, it’s been years since turning to a desktop computer seemed an expedient solution. Mobile internet browsers are even seen as too slow in some cases… Why order a pizza via mobile site (let alone via the telephone) when you can just install an app that makes it that much simpler? Who cares if you only use it once or twice; it didn’t cost anything!
Love it or hate it, this is the reality of research and entertainment today brought upon by the smartphone revolution, and the premise that “there’s an app for that” is only becoming truer by the day. App development has led to a boom in start-up companies and visionaries trying to make it big by releasing an innovative app that will take the world by storm, and the trend is feeding a new American dream of the digital age. As has been the case since time immemorial, however, it’s tough to make it to the top.
An article posted on iDownloadBlog explains just how tough it is. In general, a study shows, it requires 4,000 daily downloads for an app to reach the top 10 paid apps in the iOS App Store, and it requires $47,000 in daily earnings for paid apps to reach rank 10 in the grossing charts. That’s the equivalent of $32 in purchases each minute, which sounds pretty awesome but isn’t exactly easy to achieve. It’s not impossible to make it big with an app, as clearly some have succeeded or these numbers wouldn’t exist. However, this is a great, timeless reminder that, as with any entrepreneurial endeavor, it’s important to only invest what you can afford when taking risks.
2. Capture the Flag, 150 Years Later
Now for a quick update on today’s Civil War news…really. 150 years after the Battle of Gettysburg, two states are still fighting over a captured Confederate flag. The Minnesota 1st Volunteer Infantry Regiment captured the flag on July 3, 1863 on the last day of battle after suffering massive losses, and now the governor of Virginia (Bob McDonnell, who declared April to be Confederate History month in 2010, but failed to mention slavery in his proclamation) would like to borrow the flag for use in anniversary proceedings. The governor of Minnesota, Mark Dayton, thinks it would be sacrilege to return the flag to Virginia given the number of lives lost capturing it in the first place.
What interests me about this story is that it reminds me it really wasn’t all that long ago our country was completely split in half. Not just politically (as it arguably is now), but pretty literally. It’s easy to look at a civil war like the one raging in Syria and have a hard time imagining it happening in our country, but here we have two states still bickering over a captured flag. Given that the Supreme Court ruled last week that nine, mostly Southern, states, no longer need federal approval to change their election laws as they have been required to do since the 1965 Voting Rights Act was passed, it makes me wonder: “Are we over the scars of the Civil War… or not?”
3. Particularly Big Data… and a Cloudy Future for CERN
You have probably heard of CERN, whether you realize it or not. And you probably owe them thanks. After all, they invented The World Wide Web as we know it, and they have followed-up with other lofty pursuits such as smashing particles together in the Large Hadron Collider to discover previously unknown particles. These guys do some major science, which requires, as one might imagine, major data storage and analysis capabilities. In fact, CERNs experiments product about 25 petabytes of data each year that must be analyzed: the equivalent of 25,000 terabytes. If you’re like me, you’re probably feeling your external hard drive size is much less impressive now.
As is the status quo with the people at CERN, they’ve taken what seems like an insurmountable problem and come up with a cool solution. CERN has partnered with Texas-based Rackspace to build a hybrid cloud computing system to deal with their data needs. The companies have worked together before, and this time they’ve developed a system that uses hardware on CERN’s premises and remote hardware on Rackspace’s premises that can work in concert to boost computing capacity as needed for big workloads. As they work to make the hybrid cloud system easier and cheaper to manage, it will be interesting to see how, once again, developments at CERN may eventually trickle-down and impact our lives.
4. Is Predictive Policing Prudent? Where’s Tom Cruise When You Need Him?
We’ve seen a lot of debate in the news lately about how far the government should extend itself into the private lives of citizens in the name of security. Just take a quick peek at the Guardian’s U.S. National Security section, and you’ll see a ton of articles on the NSA, Edward Snowden and cyber intelligence. It turns out that basing security decisions on analysis of large amounts of data is nothing new, however: The police in Memphis, Tennessee have been doing it for years. Starting in 2005, the city’s police began making so many arrests that they ran out of vehicles to transport detainees in one three-hour period. That was all because of something called Operation Blue Crush. Crush stands for “Criminal Reduction Utilizing Statistical History” and means the police use algorithms that analyze historical crime statistics and other datasets, such as daily temperature and social housing maps to identify crime hot spots. Armed with these results, the police send highly targeted patrols to these hot spots and do so with much success.
If you’ve ever seen Minority Report with Tom Cruise acting as a detective in the PreCrime division of the police to arrest people for crimes before they happen with the help of pre cognizant psychics, you might ask yourself, “Is predictive policing helpful, or creepy?” I’m not sure of the answer, but I do think it ties into the greater debate about a happy medium between surveillance and safety… If such a thing exists. The NSA’s surveillance of phone records was driven by algorithms, after all, as are the world’s financial markets. As Big Data becomes more and more searchable, as technology continues to improve and as people and things become ever-more interconnected, it will be interesting to see where these proliferating algorithms take us as a society… for better or worse.