New Government Database Will Let You Know Where Your Tax Dollars are Going

New Government Database Will Let You Know Where Your Tax Dollars are Going

computer data

It’s a bit surprising to me, but maybe it shouldn’t be, that there aren’t more rules around openness and transparency in the U.S. Government.  Again, I probably shouldn’t be surprised, but I am.  In Canada, and specifically, Ontario there are a ton of rules around accountability and transparency.  Meaning, the Government needs to be open with its citizens about its plans.  Which includes information such as budgets, policies around accountability and transparency for elected officials and high profile decisions.  So maybe it’s just that I live in a world where this is already a reality.  But it feels like second nature at this point.  Something that many of us expect from our governments.

That being said, Steve Ballmer (formerly of Microsoft) has built a database to showcase government spending.  What’s neat about this database, is that it “is an open, searchable database that tracks where almost all of your federal, state and local tax dollars are spent”, according to Engadget.  Which leaves the Canadian model in the dust, in my opinion.  Or at least in terms of its location.  One searchable database, in my opinion is key here.  Not necessarily having to go to different website locations just to find the information you’re looking for.

Ballmer’s idea isn’t necessarily moving towards the idea of “open government” like we see in Canada, but rather, bringing a business-like approach to the public sector.  Which is an extremely conservative way of thinking.  The idea being smaller government, and more public-private partnerships.  … Read the rest

Here’s What Facebook Unveiled During Yesterday’s F8 Conference

Here’s What Facebook Unveiled During Yesterday’s F8 Conference

 

facebook f8 keynote

There was a lot of information shared at the Facebook F8 Conference yesterday.  And I mean a lot.  It felt like Zuckerberg and his friends were just dropping bombs of information.  First though, let’s talk about the Augmented Reality feature that he has brought to Facebook.  According to Zuckerberg, sharing images and videos with our friends and family has become more central than texting.  So they’ve enhanced what you can do with your camera.

First up, adding basic effects.  Which sounds similar to other platforms we have seen, but what is interesting and unique about this is that you can add effects that are relevant to your current location.  On one hand this is really cool.  But on the other hand – how important are these effects to you?  And does it really matter what your location is?  Another feature will allow you to essentially add “stickers” to your image.  But unlike any other platform, the stickers appear in 3D and can be animated if you want.  Further to that, you can take a 2D image and add 3D depth to it.  The example that Zuckerberg uses is taking an image with a couple of chairs and filling the room with skittles.  It is actually kind of neat, but is a bit Photoshop-y in my opinion.

That being said, it is much easier to achieve than if you were to use Photoshop.  Taking far less time and effort to achieve the same result.  … Read the rest

Will the Hotel Industry Have Success in Their Plan to Take Down Airbnb?

Will the Hotel Industry Have Success in Their Plan to Take Down Airbnb?

Airbnb logo

The hotel industry has had enough of Airbnb.  They accuse Airbnb of undercutting their profits by offering stays at a lower rate.  And maybe that isn’t fair, but I would argue that hotels charge far more exorbitant rates than are necessary.  The American Hotel and Lodging Association has a plan to take down Airbnb, recognizing it as a threat.  the AHLA represents over $1.1 trillion from the hotel industry.  Essentially what they are doing is lobbying the powers that be to bring down Airbnb.  And not necessarily because they’re doing anything wrong.  Or at least that’s my view on it.  Airbnb, in my opinion, is an alternative option to staying in a hotel.  In some cases, it is not always the better option.  Sometimes it is worth the money to stay in a hotel, but I think that we need these options.  But the AHLA is claiming that Airbnb is changing the housing market and driving up the price of houses.  But is it?

I would argue that there are other factors that are driving up the cost of buying a house.  And what Airbnb does is allow someone to rent out their house for a short period of time in order to make some extra cash.  But I don’t think that the two are as closely correlated as the AHLA would have you believe.  Further, why are there not more options for short term accommodations?  If you’re going somewhere for a week, sometimes renting a house is a better option when it comes to cost.  … Read the rest

AeroMobile to launch it’s AeroMobil Flying Car Later This Month

AeroMobile to launch it’s AeroMobil Flying Car Later This Month

aeromobil

Move over Doc Brown, there is a new kid in town.  A company by the name of AeroMobil has announced that it will be unveiling the AeroMobile Flying car at the Top Marques Monaco car show, later this month.  The price and other specs are expected to be released later this week.  The car itself was developed a few years ago, but wasn’t ready for release until now.  The company has made “hundreds” of improvements to the original prototype.  And of course, with this kind of technology, I think you have to.  According to reports the vehicle is both a completely integrated aircraft, as well as a fully-functioning four wheel char.  And the theory is that by allowing for both usages, people will have the option of which to choose.  I often write about having choices and options and why that is a benefit to the market.  But I wonder if, in this case, having options is going a bit too far.

If I argue my own point for just a second, then I would say this: having a vehicle that gives you the ability to both fly and drive opens up a world of possibilities when it comes to transportation.  If you are stuck in a traffic jam, put out the wings and away you go.  If you’re running late, transform into plane mode and get to your destination on time.  But then the other side of me is wondering if this is all too much in terms of choice?  … Read the rest

Netflix Has 100 Million Subscribers, But Are You Surprised?

Netflix Has 100 Million Subscribers, But Are You Surprised?

Netflix Original Series

Netflix is approaching it’s 100 millionth subscriber.  Yes, that’s right.  100 million people are currently subscribed to Netflix.  Which speaks to my cord cutting theories that I have talked about at length in some of my posts.  So why is this such a milestone for Netflix?  Just two years ago, it was only at 59 million.  That’s a lot of ground to gain in a short amount of time.  What is Netflix doing differently that other services aren’t?  Well, I think they are giving people what they want.  That being, the ability to watch what they want, when they want and how they want.  Sure, you’ll have to wait for another season of House of Cards, but you can watch the entire thing on the day it is released.  Or you can wait to watch it with your partner over the weekend.  Have a binge watching session from your couch or bed.  And sometimes other services don’t provide us with those options.

Further, Netflix gives us access to a greater number of their original shows.  Which, in most cases, is fantastic.  If we look at those alone, it’s no wonder that Netflix is doing so well. Think – House of Cards, Orange is the New Black, Bloodline, Narcos, Stranger Things, the recent Gilmore Girls miniseries, Daredevil, Jessica Jones, Luke Cage, the Defenders, Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt, Grace and Frankie, Master of None, Love and a ton of their own “docu-series” which include a number of comedy specials.  … Read the rest

Coming Soon: Google is Introducing a New Online Jobs Portal called “Google Hire”

Coming Soon: Google is Introducing a New Online Jobs Portal called “Google Hire”

Google Hire

Google has announced that it will be launching a new online portal for job listings.  The new portal will be called Google Hire and will allow companies to post job listings, and allow people to search for jobs.  This is great news.  As someone who works in a Human Resources Department, I think that the more ways we can disseminate job advertisements, the better.  Some are saying, however that this will compete with LinkedIn.  But I wonder if it will have as big of an impact as we think it will?  LinkedIn does allow employers to post job ads, but it also has other options, like connecting (or linking, as it were) to colleagues or other people in your industry.  So if the Google tool doesn’t do that, then I don’t think it’s a fair comparison.  Yes, this will give sites like Monster more competition, but is that such a bad thing?  After all, employers are searching for the most qualified candidate for their job.  So why not expand our search options?

A bigger concern that has been raised is around the idea of privacy.  Because you have to sign in with your Google account, people are worried that Google will share their browsing history with their employer.  Or prospective employer in this case.  But where is this coming from?  I think I’m struggling with how people are making this leap.  Just because Google provides the ability to search the internet automatically means that your browsing history is going to be made available?  … Read the rest

CBS All Access Adds Movies to it’s Lineup, but Will that Make You Want to Subscribe?

CBS All Access Adds Movies to it’s Lineup, but Will that Make You Want to Subscribe?

CBS All Access Logo

CBS All Access was originally launched back in 2014, as an “over-the-top” subscription streaming service.  The cost then (as it is now) was $5.99 a month, with the option to eliminate all advertisements at a cost of $9.99 a month.  Well, now CBS All Access is adding movies to its line up.  What’s neat about this service is that it gives you access to it’s own original programming.  Much like Netflix.  So does this mean we are going to see more “original” series from this service?  Or will we simply see more of a variety of shows being offered?  And in this case, that means movies.  Access to these movies is available at no additional charge, but right now there are only 18 movie titles in the catalog.  Including several from the Star Trek franchise.  Making you wonder if this isn’t building momentum for the Star Trek: Discovery series.

How does this compare to other streaming services available?  Well, DirecTV Now has expanded its options to include access to local TV stations.  Which is huge.  Or at least, it is in my opinion.  One of the downsides to these streaming options is that you don’t get access to local television.  And maybe that’s ok?  Maybe you can get your news elsewhere, but if that’s the case, you’re not going to drive customers to your service.  Meaning, if you’re not offering much more than what they currently have access to, it’s unlikely that they will want to purchase the service.  … Read the rest