Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Bring on the Bandwidth

Once upon a time in the mid 2000s I worked with programmers to put up two Internet products. The first, TheInformedLife.com, was focused on busy mid-career professionals. The one after, ePartnerup.com, we designed to help companies in the medical equipment space find partners to collaborate with. Neither is active today. Hindsight lets me see there were at least three trends impacting our work. As we were in the centre of them, we didn't fully understand what was happening.

The first was the movement of computer apps from downloads to the Cloud as it became increasingly accepted as a place to do business, the second the growth of mobile smart phone devices, and the third the explosive growth of online transactions. We did spot and respond to the first and partly to the second. But transactions online haven't yet got much beyond e-sales. We needed businesspeople to be willing to move complex partnering projects online and they weren't and probably still aren't quite ready for that leap of faith.

An upside is that we did learn quite a lot about the Web and what works there. My programmer colleagues went on to develop a successful suite of BlackBerry apps aimed at busy professionals having kids. Myself I gained a better antenna for the potential of the Web.

Professor Tim Wu, an American whose recent book 'The Master Switch' chronicles the rise and fall of information empires, today waded into the current Canadian kerfuffle over ISPs charging more to Internet Bandwidth Hogs: "The knowledge that penalties await heavy Internet usage does something quite terrible: discourage desirable behaviour". I love this line: "A nation that spends its time worrying about bandwidth caps is not a nation that leads". As he says, are these hogs bringing misery, or are they pioneers? Pioneers in exploring the unprecedented capabilities of the extraordinary tool that the Web is becoming.

Whether we see our later years as still actionable or primarily as a time to pay more mind to the world, there is little doubt that we will need that bandwidth more and more. A good friend of my age, a very active volunteer in challenging lands (most recently Cambodia), though he blogs thoughtfully about his projects, nevertheless writes that he sees himself as "more action than contemplation oriented". It seems to me that my timing with ePartnerup was only out somewhat. If we can get to do 'bandwidth-hogging' things like adding video-blogging inexpensively, we all benefit from finding better ways to collaborate with pals old and new, near or far.


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