Of all the skills you need to develop in your business career, few if any will be as important as your creative abilities in bringing new ideas to the table. Business is all about growth and expansion and to do that, a constant flow of creative ideas needs to be sought and the person that can do that will be sure to excel in their line of work. The problem is that it’s one of many skills that doesn’t fit into a traditional education. Too some extent it’s a skill which comes with experience, however there’s no doubt that some people are much better in this area than others.
These sort of soft, creative skills are valuable to any organisation but are traditionally more valued in some than others. The internet and technology is changing all this though and businesses which don’t embrace change and development are unlikely to survive in the long run, But how can a person develop an ability in themselves that is not taught in schools or generally perceived to even be a skill at all?
The way to so this is not really so different from the development of any other skill whether it be physical or mental in nature. For example, if you need to be a better athlete and compete for the top achievements, you need to train hard and regularly and push your body to its limits.
Similarly, if you want to achieve a tough intellectual goal or aim for a high educational qualification, you have to learn all you need to know and then study hard so all the information is crammed into your memory for you to recall at will. You can’t get this by sitting around watching TV, real learning comes from proper studies.
Well, you can go about nurturing your creative talents in a similar way by practicing coming up with new ideas and repeating that procedure regularly and often, which is a broad subject covered amply at axcp.org. What you are essentially doing is re-wiring your brain to use its creative faculties, which are things we all possess but few use to their fullest capabilities.
If you find at first you are simply stumped to come up with even one simple idea, the trick is not to give up at the first hurdle, but keep trying until you succeed. As long as you go at the task with the sure belief that you can manifest ideas, they will come while you remain calm and don’t let yourself get stressed over it. Nowadays there’s always a way to find inspiration and ideas for virtually any concept – it’s called the internet. Indeed many marketing firms use the web in creative ways to find new concepts and ideas. One of them involves scraping data and ideas by using proxies to hide their real location and browse from the perspective of someone located in another country.
The ability to relax and remain calm is a secondary trait that will stand you in good stead when you are trying to come up with ideas and insights that can overcome problems. When you are stressed and uptight, the creative part of your mind gets locked out and the flow of imagination dwindles to nothing. But as soon as you relax, that flow is restarted and you might just surprise yourself at what you can come up with.
The most creative employees are a company’s greatest asset as it is their insights and good ideas that can lift the company to new heights in whatever area of business it happens to occupy. Being one of those people can being greater rewards that you might imagine.
When you logon to your computer and start browsing the internet, there’s a feeling that you’ve some element of privacy. After all you’re probably on your own computer, tablet or phone using your own internet connection in the privacy of your own home. There’s a tendency to believe that whatever you do or say online is not really linked directly to you as an individual. It’s part of the reason why many people seem to have complete personality changes online, an expectation that you can say or do anything without consequences.
Although twenty years ago, this was probably true to some extent – it certainly isn’t now. The news in the UK are frequently filled with stories and reports of legal cases concerning blogs, tweets and comments made online. It seems that many people make these remarks often under the misapprehension that they are made under the cover of anonymity. However the idea that you can do anything online anonymously is fairly far from the truth. Only this week a blogger in Singapore was fined $100,000 for reposting an article on Facebook with allegations about the Prime Minister – Singapore blogger ordered to pay nearly US$100,000 damages to PM for Facebook post | Singapore | The Guardian.
Facebook is of course probably the last place you want to hang out if you’re looking for any level of anonymity. The platform is one of few that is based on people using their true identities when using it. There’s plenty who don’t of course but it’s normally a simple case to work out who’s said who especially if they have any level of interaction with other users and friends.
This of course becomes very obvious when the individuals find themselves in court or in the media, however many young people still seem to fail to learn this lesson. The reality is that just as in real life, anything you say online is ultimately traceable to an individual – sure it can take some effort and there can be some exceptions. But overall it is important to act online in a similar way as you would act in real life.
The reason is that everyone who connects to the internet is assigned an IP address which is linked to the device they are using. If you access to the internet at home, then tracing this IP address is a trivial matter – it is linked directly to your name and address via your ISP (Internet Service Provider). Tracking any web visit, email or message sent whilst using your home computer is very straight forward indeed.
Even messages sent from an unmanaged internet connection using a smart phone or tablet can usually be traced. This is normally not directly through the internet address you’re using at the time but through connections related to those accounts. So is it possible to have any anonymity at all online?
Well it is possible, although it does take some effort and it involves using something called a proxy or VPN to hide the origin of your internet connection. have a look at this video for example. It enables you to hide your location by routing through an intermediate server.
This is a similar method lots of people use to bypass the other tracking technology used online – geo-targeting. This technology filters and blocks based on your physical location, it’s commonly used by media sites to restrict access to their domestic markets. However millions of people use it to access TV sites when they’re outside the correct area. Most UK expats for instance have been using them for decades to access UK television online like the BBC, ITV and Channel 4. It should be noted though that these companies do try and stop these workaround, you can read about these measure in this article – How the BBC Tries to Block Your VPNs
As you can see it is possible to make it very difficult indeed to track people online, but without taking these steps you should presume that everything you do can in fact be traced back to an individual. Of course the debate on anonymity/privacy online is often quite a heated one with strong arguments on each side. Using proxies and VPNs like these though has become almost automatic for many of us who want to keep our online world private.
Some people think that everything should be attributable to an individual indeed social networking sites like Facebook insist on people using real names to interact. Others point to the potential for abuse of this sort of data, and with the Snowden revelations which showed how the various security services routinely track and harvest our data – it’s difficult to argue with this.
Whichever side of the debate you side with, one things for sure – young people should be aware of the fact that they have a digital identity and it can usually be linked with there real life. It is probably not appropriate to encourage the use of all these tools which hide and anonymize your connection without stressing their responsibilities.
Have you noticed the increasing number of websites that are becoming inaccessible? Once upon a time you could click on pretty much any YouTube video but nowadays so many are country restricted i.e. you can only watch from specific countries. I was trying to watch a movie clip the other day and I got this message. It was a YouTube video from Channel 4 the British TV channel. Which is odd really as this happened from the UK and I could access all of the actual Channel 4 site and the thousands of programmes on it (including where the clip was from).
I see it more and more, sometimes with more information but very rarely. The reason is normally due to licensing issues or restrictions, the technology used to block you is called Geotargeting. The restrictions are based on your IP address – many web sites now look up your location from this. Sometimes it’s for good things perhaps to customise your experience of their site. All the search engines for example will customize your results to your actual location. So if you just search for ‘plumber’ you’ll get results of local plumbers not from the other side of the world.
The problem is that there seem to be far, far more restrictions than there are benefits to this technology. I watch a lot of shows on Channel 4 and love this one in particular – Escape to the Chateau which is broadcast on Channel 4 live and through their website for free. However as soon as you step outside the United Kingdom our old friend geo-targeting will block access to not only Channel 4 but all the other UK TV sites too.
For example try and watch something on Hulu when not in the USA and you’ll get blocked, watch the BBC Iplayer outside the UK and the same thing happens. More and more sites are doing this – literally thousands of different websites will only allow you to watch certain things on their sites depending on your location. Sometimes the lookup gets things wrong, this is because the database which lists all the IP addresses and their locations doesn’t always get updated. I’ve often managed to watch UK shows from a French hotel because my IP address is incorrectly listed as British. However this is all a bit haphazard and you certainly can’t rely on this happening.
To ensure you can watch what you like you need to start using VPNs or proxies to obscure your location. These middle man servers present their own IP address to the web servers when you connect. Therefore if you select an elite proxy or VPN in the appropriate country you should be fine to access the sites.
The service I use has lots of servers in different countries in order to make this more accessible. For example the above site is watchable from Switzerland despite being blocked in the UK. Connect via a Swiss server and you can watch the above video with out a problem. If you want to watch the BBC or Channel 4 then you need a UK server, for Hulu or NBC then select a US one and so on.
There can be some restrictions and issues with using this technology primarily because the media sites try and block their use. Some sites are better than others at achieving this, the BBC was quite relaxed until recently when it started blocking a lot of VPNs. There are plenty that work though and you should always check before investing in a long term subscription to see if it works properly with the stations you need.
When you get the right VPN though, you’ll wonder how you lived without them. They open up literally thousands of great sites from all over the world. Most of the best VPNs come with subscriptions that cover lots of countries so don’t restrict your viewing. I recently used a VPN to watch the Test Match cricket on Indian TV then switched to watch Match of the Day on BBC later all from a US based computer.
Blocked and filtered, monitored and restricted – this is the reality of the internet today. Ever clicked on a particularly funny looking video to be greeted by the message – ’we’re sorry that video is not available in your area’. Perhaps you’ve tried to watch the latest episode of that TV programme while on holiday. Maybe you’ve simply tried to place a bet while travelling using your online betting account. There’s a very good chance that none of these will work simply because of your physical location.
When did the internet change like this? It was once open to all, it didn’t matter if you were in a cyber cafe in Karachi, an Airport in Harare or sitting in a Starbucks in London – we all saw the same online, we were all equal. But that’s not the case any more – commercial interests, government filters and restrictive licensing meant that whatever you see online is highly dependent on where you live. Much of it is promoted as improving the user experience, while that’s partly true the majority is simply to boost profits or to control what we see online.
Mostly it’s geo-targeting that’s to blame, a website will check which country your IP address is from before deciding on what you can see. If you don’t believe me check out any media site in a country apart from yours – Non US residents try and watch something on ABC or Hulu, or if you’re in the US go and try to watch something on the BBC iPlayer website. Put simply it won’t work simply because the internet is now layered in Tiers and not all open to all. Media sites like these are a great example, virtually every single one works perfectly when you’re in a specific location (usually the domestic market). However as soon as you travel, then they’ll stop working. These huge international barriers being placed on something where location really shouldn’t matter.
We’ve mentioned some benefits and they’re definitely are a few. Search engines for example will tailor your results to match your location. So if you search for electricians you’ll get results located in the same area as you. Search for film times and you’ll see them matched to cinemas in your local area too. All this is useful in most cases but the blocks and filters are much more pervasive than these.
It doesn’t seem right that your physical location should be so important on a global communications network like the internet. Some people are seriously disadvantaged by their location with access to many important internet sites like PayPal and eBay restricted based on their location.
As always though there are work arounds, mainly in the various technologies that can be used to bypass these blocks. The vast majority of these sites determine your location using the IP address of your computer. Now although you can’t change this, you can hide it to a certain extent. By connecting through an intermediary server you can hide your real location and use that of the server. These are called proxy servers which you can gain access to through many different locations. You can use a BBC Iplayer proxy or a VPN to access Hulu and Pandora and it doesn’t really matter where you are – read this. In fact for internet surfers in most developed countries, a subscription to one of these services is becoming a necessity.
Many services offer access to servers across the world meaning whenever you get blocked you can simply select the appropriate server and you’re back in business. But of course this has meant that slowly the internet is becoming accessible to some and inaccessible to others. If you can afford one of these subscriptions you’ll be fine but others will have to live with the handicaps. It’s not really how the internet used to be and I suspect it’s not how most of us wanted it to be!
The earlier you start saving for retirement, the better. There is no debating that fact and far to many people today never get around to it at all. This leaves them having to work well into their 70’s and really struggling to get by late in life. It’s even worth considering choosing your employer based on the pension provision. for example in the United Kingdom, Government employees rarely receive the highest salaries but most have pensions far and above most private ones. For those people, pensions are often just linked to their final salary so they don’t have the worries about performance of their investment like most pension funds.
I started buying stock when I was in college and it is something I have never regretted. Today that might be difficult for most students as tuition’s have skyrocketed and it is hard trying to stay out of debt. But working and putting away even a little bit of money on a regular basis is what every student should be trying to do.
The Internet has empowered people to be able to have access to all sorts of information and use it to better their lives. For someone young trying to learn how to buy stock in a particular company, they find that it is easier than many of the computer games they play. Buying stocks and building a portfolio can all be done right from your home laptop and even an iPad if that is all you have. Once you open a broker account, buying and selling stocks takes place any time of day over the Internet. It is easy, quick, and virtually anyone can do it. Most importantly though, everyone should learn how to invest in the stock market because that is the best way to build a retirement nest egg.
The key fact is that it’s much, much easier to save for retirement when you’re young than if you leave it until you’re older. Unfortunately it’s difficult to appreciate this when you’re young and have more fun things to spend you cash on. Recently on UK television and the BBC, there have been many adverts encouraging people to start saving for their later years including using a new state backed pension system for people who have no other fund.
Kids today learn to use the computer just about as quickly as they learn to talk. Investing now days is done online and it should be taught to all kids, the earlier the better. They need to learn that we all have to provide for our own retirement and not rely on the government. With the easy accessibility of the financial markets online, every one is on equal footing and anyone can learn how to participate in stocks which are the best way right now to grow your money. There’s no reason why you should be limited to just US sources of information as well. Although many media and TV sites are restricted based on location you can use a proxy like this to watch UK TV online in Europe or the US easily. When you’re connected to a proxy in a specific country, you can access the same resources as someone actually located there. This sounds fairly minor but it’s not! Changing your location like this can give you access to all sorts of information and offers not available (even remotely) to people based outside that particular country.
Not real money of course, but a version of the digital currencies that seem to be always in the news at the moment. A student who has not been named in Imperial College London, one of the UK’s top Universities has been sneakily setting up all the computers to mine dogecoins for his account. This is one of the very newest digital currencies, and ironically one which was initially setup as a joke. That seems to be changing now though, in December 2020 Elon Musk even tweeted in support of Dogecoin. He actually suggested that it might one day become the major currency of the planet. It was largely believed to be a joke but the value of the crypto currency soared anyway.
The cryptocurrency is one tipped to one day replace bitcoins and become the ipso facto standard for digital currency, although it should be added there are quite a few of those! Mining refers to the act of solving computer algorithms which earn the user dogecoin credits. It’s normally not worth mining many of these currencies as normally the costs of the cpus and electricity used are more than the value of the currency mined. However obviously if someone else is paying all the bills, then the economics of it change drastically. Basically the costs in mining most crypto currency are energy and resource based, so if you can use these for free you can’t really lose (unless you get caught of course).
As the value and potential of these currencies rise then incidents like these are likely to increase too. It’s the second report in a week we’ve seen of these sort of events although I’m sure there are many more. For example some years ago, in Harvard somebody tied up the college’s supercomputer – Odyssey to do exactly the same thing. Obviously there is a huge problem for college’s with the events as the computers are effectively not available to other students for more legitimate uses. As many have found college computer resources are often not entirely used for their specified purpose.
The simple fact that many overlook in committing these crimes, is the perception that the coins are anonymous. Although that’s only partly true – gaining and using computers themselves is rarely anonymous – access can normally be tracked very easily. Even if you don’t use physical access like entering the buildings and using the computers directly – you’re still not safe. Remote access is usually fairly easy to trace unless you use privacy tools like next gen proxies or VPNs with military grade encryption. This can hide your connection details if you do it right, most people involved in stuff like this rarely cover their track with any sort of proxy however.
The student in Imperial has now been banned from using the research computing facilities for the foreseeable future – the college issued a statement that such uses was strictly forbidden. Unfortunately for the student involved his 30,000 Dogecoins that he has produced using this method will hardly be sufficient reward – they are currently worth approximately £20! It should be mentioned that now, the value has risen considerably but probably not enough to justify the crime. The value now would be nearer £200 a slightly more respectable value, although if Bitcoins had been mined they would be worth considerably more.
There are similar ‘crimes’ taking place in other areas too, harnessing other peoples computers and networks can be very lucrative. From creation of huge Bot networks which are rented out online, to running things like ticket proxies for running multiple accounts to buy things like concert tickets and sneakers.