Google+ is a Game

So, I’ve seen a lot of the Empire Avenue community spending more time (like myself) in Google+ since its launch. This hasn’t diminished the value of EAv for me, but it likely should force the evolution of the Avenue into multiple lanes. Why couldn’t people choose their own adventure there? Only the first lane would be “the game.”

  • Lane One: for those who wish to continue down the path of Empire Avenue as it is currently paved. The features here should likely be frozen to make way for further development on other lanes.
  • Lane Two: for people who only want to see their social media scores and collect stats on them (ala Klout).
  • Lane Three: like Lane Two, but for brands who wish to see how current registrants are interacting with them.

In other words, I’m guessing that all most Empire Avenue users would want to see is this – coupled with richer statistics and suggestions on how to increase those scores (is something that I can help with):

At this time, I’m earning ~300,000e every day with my portfolio, and my stock is well on its way to 300e per share – so it’s not like I am suggesting a radical transformation because I feel I’m personally slipping. I see bits of the community slipping away to another game: Google+.

The achievements? Connections. The levels? Attention. The score? Credibility.

I’m not suggesting that Google has developed Plus to be a game – just that for any community or social network to drive addiction, the system must continually reward us for our behaviors. We post something, people comment and share. We comment somewhere, people respond to us. Even if you’re someone who loves to lurk, Google+ should prove to be an amazing idea exchange.

I know that some people don’t like Google+ already (although I’m a bit baffled by the logic that Plus would be the first place where cliques exist or insider information is shared). But things are definitely happening here – even with a fraction of users compared to Twitter or Facebook today, the number of engaged users on Google Plus appears to be higher due to how content is surfaced in the system. I feel more connected to others on Google Plus.

Due to a severe lack of time in the day (and night), I am usually drawn to one “entertainment” outlet over another. What brought me to and kept me in Empire Avenue was knowing that it was satiating curiosities – and was fun. That fun factor hasn’t worn off, but it’s been outshined by the fun of Plus.

Empire Avenue was already ripe for a reinvention of itself, but that reinvention seemingly needs to happen sooner rather than later. The team can drive that change forward with new lanes, given EAv’s powerful data collection engine driving the Stock Exchange. Some passionate players are already begging them to integrate Google+ data – which is very telling.

I can’t be the only Empire Avenue addict who is looking for a change – and this evolution would also likely address the standing issues people have had with the platform (learning curve, time requirements, communication challenges, etc.).

The Importance of Technology in Education

Technology has become a defining force in our lives, and its relevance is spreading to virtually every field in one way or another. While some people may go their entire lives never needing to recall the knowledge they gained in various classes throughout their educational career, their experiences with technology will most certainly come in to play very early during their adulthood.

Colleges have taken steps towards online learning by giving students access to professors virtually that otherwise might have an overcrowded and counterproductive learning environment as a result. Assignments are given out and handed in more efficiently, and professors are able to use more of their time with students individually as their office schedules are easier to manage. Many students have to work their way through college to support themselves while receiving an education. This is much easier with a more flexible online schedule and for those that don’t have the ability to move to another state, the college they wish to attend is just a few mouse clicks away.

Is this where grade-school level education is headed? I can’t say for certain that is the case, though it would be beneficial for students to have access to some of the greatest minds in the country during various lectures and lessons versus receiving their entire curriculum from local teachers that may or may not have the knowledge to present their content with the most efficiency.

Bottom line, if you’re not connected to the Internet, you’re not learning as effectively as you could be. Face-to-face interaction is important for students. No one is denying that. What is being ignored by some districts is the importance of keeping technology within grasp as a way to prepare the student for the world that’s ahead of them. The workplace requires you, now more than ever, to know the ins and outs of whatever operating system they work with. If you wish to move up, you’ll need to prove again and again that you know how to navigate technology. Sometimes, having that little bit of extra knowledge can really make a difference in your salary and lifestyle down the road.

How to Increase Gas Mileage on Your Car

Brandon Wirtz, a member of the LockerGnome team, decided it was time to make a few upgrades to his Mini Cooper. One of these upgrades – which is primarily focused on increasing horse power and gas mileage – is to increase the amount of air flow to the engine by replacing the stock air intake with something better.

By replacing the stock paper air filter with a larger cloth model, the amount of air flow to the engine increases. This increases the combustion efficiency and results in a few extra horsepower. Improved gas mileage and slightly increased speed are a couple expected advantages to this upgrade.

Cloth air filters are slightly more expensive, though they are reusable and allow for the free flow of air between the environment and the engine. Cleaning can be done using a special kit that maintains the chemical balance required for the intake to function properly.

One thing to keep in mind when doing this upgrade is to make sure the mass air flow sensor is out of the way and safe while you’re replacing the intake. This is a $150 part that can impact the way your vehicle works and performs. Another item of note is that you will want to secure the new intake to avoid bumps and dips in the road causing unhealthy jostling. In this instance, Brandon went with zip ties (also known as cable ties) to keep the intake securely in place.

A new air intake won’t create a drastic change in your car’s overall performance alone. It is one of several upgrades that can improve the way your vehicle functions. A slow car won’t become an instant drag racer, but the benefits in the improved gas mileage may pay off financially over time.

UPDATE: After a wave of inquiries as to the possibility of “heat soaking” an engine by removing the plastic casing surrounding the old air filter, Brandon put out this video demonstrating his MPG and temperature readings after the upgrade.

Do you have any gas mileage improving tips or tricks? Please leave a comment below and let me know.

What Does Open Government Mean at NASA?

Since their founding in 1958, NASA has been dedicated to doing a lot more than exploring and understanding space. Over the past 52 years, they’ve been responsible for some of the most significant advances in technology. Almost everything we do have been influenced in some way by discoveries made through NASA’s research. NASA has provided an incredible amount of information to the public over the past five decades including stunning images and information that has helped us (mankind) understand how our Universe works. So, what does Open Government mean at Nasa?

Keeping with the spirit of a more open government, NASA has moved forward with several initiatives aimed at promoting collaboration between the scientists of NASA and the public including NASA TV. With NASA TV, the public has live access to NASA and their missions around the clock. This video is also made available to documentarians and media outlets in order to enable them to relay detailed and accurate information to their audiences.

Another initiative by NASA is NASA Open Source Software Development. This program gives the public access to the programs and source code used at NASA. By doing so, they are breaking down the barrier of entry for the private sector to reach space through use of NASA’s investments. This also gives the public a chance to make improvements on the software which may help NASA achieve their goals with less of a burdon on the taxpayer for development.

NASA has also entered the world of cloud computing with their Nebula Cloud Computing Platform. This open-source tool is intended to provide a more cost-effective alternative to building additional giant data centers in order to store and exchange information with the public. Nebula is classified as an Infrastructure-as-a-Service (IaaS) platform, though there are Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) and Database-as-a-Service (DBaaS) systems planned for 2011.

NASA has even established a Participatory Exploration Office with the goal in mind of not only informing the public about NASA’s discoveries and data, but give the public a change to contribute to the process. By providing as much information as possible to the public, they are also enabling private citizens to contribute their input and ideas towards the betterment of the program.

Are You a Social Media Expert?

I have to admit that seeing someone call themselves a “social media expert” is one of my biggest pet peeves. Finding the words rock star or guru in a profile gives me the shakes. Realizing that most of the people using these labels definitely don’t deserve them causes me to break out in hives. A child of fourteen is not a social media expert. A recent graduate who happened to take a course or three pertaining to social networking is not an expert. Someone who talks a lot on Twitter is not an expert. Simply knowing how to use the tools doesn’t mean a damn thing, y’all.

Becoming an expert at anything takes years of practice. You’ll make hundreds of mistakes and learn through trial and error. Simply mastering hashtags or knowing how to tag people on Facebook isn’t enough. I was greatly amused the other day to see the profile of a woman claiming to be one of these new-fangled social media gurus. She offers to give talks to help others learn her secrets. Said young lady has a grand total of forty-three followers. I’m not sure who – exactly – she’s even pitching her talks to. Every one of her followers is someone with less than 100 users keeping an eye on them, as well.

I noticed that a teenaged boy on Twitter recently changed his profile to claim he’s the premiere social media expert for teens. I couldn’t help but ask him what gave him the idea that he was “the one” other kids should go to. He replied that he has the most followers out of all of his friends – 61, to be exact. Thus, he has deemed himself an expert.

A true expert is one who would never dream of calling themselves that. They don’t care about titles – they care about the people whose lives they are changing. It doesn’t matter which platform is being used, nor what type of service, product or organization they are working with. The real movers and shakers are touching people’s lives day in and day out, sharing information and ideas, sparking imagination and passion and driving engagement beyond the boundaries we thought existed. They are connecting others and giving them the tools to go out and create change of their own.

Do yourself a favor: stop giving others a reason to dismiss you before they bother to read anything you’ve said. You may just have amazing ideas, but no one is going to listen when you come off sounding like a know-it-all. Calling yourself an expert without something to back it up is often nothing more than an ego trip and a pathetic attempt at getting people to think you’re important.

The problem is that it is backfiring in a very big way.