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This is a very, very serious post…

28 Jul

I don’t usually use this blog to go into what I know and understand from my years of expertise in the technology and computer science fields.

But I feel like there’s a bigger picture that needs to be understood so I will comment on it now.

I like many other people, received an email that Netflix had done a program called “The Great Hack” and it’s the story about Cambridge Analytica and how they skewed election results around the world.

I understand that people who are not deep experts in this field are just beginning to understand a problem. But that problem is much larger than elections and it’s much larger than Facebook.

The misuse of technology or the incompetence of developers affects not just elections. It affects things like aircraft safety and whether or not someone can get a job.

With the businesses that I own and the experience that I gained, I have worked across a multitude of industries. I’m going to cite some examples. In the job board arena, I spent over a year to write a search engine with another developer because job boards are so fundamentally flawed. I dissected, pulled apart, analyzed, tested and reconstructed many of the players in the industry only to discover that some job boards had no real logic. For example, in one case if a person had the word “hospital” on the resume they submitted, the jobs they would then be matched with and sent were for physicians or nurses. If that person was a marketing person, a security personnel, or an accountant, etc. these were not relevant matches and they gave up and moved on to something else.

I found job boards who were just in this industry to collect the resume, because there is a whole market of buying and selling resumes. The more scarce a professional is in their profession, the higher the dollar amount the resume is worth. They are traded like commodities. They have their own market. So the job board didn’t really need to work for the owners to make money.

I found job boards where the candidates applied to positions but in fact, those applications went no where.

I found a job board which sent resumes to employers that were not relevant because the algorithms were written so poorly. And on, and on and on the discoveries went. Now you have some job boards playing gatekeeper claiming to find employers ONLY the qualified candidates, etc. etc.

We’re talking about employment. One of the single biggest factors in an economy. And to be honest, our methods of finding jobs and finding qualified employees is often screwed up.

I took two of us over a year to write something called the “SMART System.” And it actually worked. It parsed a resume correctly and matched it appropriately with jobs and employers. It was a major feat. Unfortunately, the contract to do this was funded by someone who didn’t have a technology background and when I had to take two days off work for an out of state emergency, that contract was canceled because they thought that just anybody could do what we had done. When you have developers who make something special, you are a fool to think that just anybody can be hired to continue what was started. And the project was a disaster after the point where I left the project.

I spent some time working on a aviation project. Some of the readers of this blog know that I like to fly but I don’t formally seek a pilots license because I couldn’t pass the medical due to a 20 year plus neck injury. So the rules say that I can fly if I have another pilot on board. The small aircraft I’ve flown on are manual. The project required my background in computer science and was to work with building software for training purposes on jets with glass instrumentation. As soon as I started reading manuals to planes I could begin to understand why we have crashes because technology has been over implemented or misused or not properly developed. For someone with experience in all these areas, I could see where this is going to cost lives.

My point in all this is this – this isn’t just an election issue. This isn’t just a Facebook issue. There’s a bigger picture that affects many, many more industries.

There are times when I feel like my generation is the first generation to get screwed because it doesn’t matter how hard you work in getting your education or how hard you work in business. When the real estate market collapsed, we lost the theme park. It wouldn’t have mattered what we did nothing was going to change that because there were factors outside of our control and corruption that brought the real estate market and then the stock market down.

When I look at being a developer and putting in a large scale capital project, I think to myself, “You can do everything right, but if something corrupt has been going on in another area, unknown to me, it could ruin everything.” And that’s the truth of the matter.

As someone with 30 years in marketing, computer science and design – I have never and do not use Facebook. Because I understood from the very beginning that this had the potential for such misuse. There are only two people in this country with my name – myself and a lady 10 years older than me that lives on the West Coast. I think she uses Facebook.

I’ve had to use Facebook for my clients, because that’s the way the world is today. I routinely do social platforms for my clients.

I think I heard that Timothy Berners Lee was upset over what Facebook turned the Internet into. I can absolutely tell you that it’s not just a Facebook problem, however that might be the most visible example that people can latch onto.

Before the Internet, we had publications with journalists who were trained in journalism schools. They learned ethics and they learned accuracy. Some publications were regarded as more credible than others.  The Internet opened up their jobs for anyone who could write and click a button. There were no professional standards. And it all but killed the journalism industry for the most part. We are living with the repercussions of that now.

I am one of the people who wants a full scale investigation into a number of the large tech companies. Because what I see as a developer representing many industries is very troublesome. I think I have a very, very good idea over which companies are ethical and accurate and which ones are not when it comes to their technologies.

Usually in the industry people are not a server system admin, a developer, a designer, a marketer and an entrepreneur. It’s because of all those roles that I think I see a much more complete picture than most people.

Obviously, we’ve talked before on this blog about that this very, very old laurakerbyson.com site needs to be replaced. But what I struggle with is: how many areas do I let people see under the name of Laura Kerbyson. Let’s talk about the real work for a minute. I set up servers. I build e-commerce sites, I work with SSL, I build web sites. I design the graphics, I’m a photographer, I write copy and press, I design products, I do SEO, I do Google Ad Words and other social media marketing, I advise businesses on their plans and operations, I do real estate design work, and I’ve planned and designed some large scale capital projects because I can do all of that and make the necessary business connections. And before all that for nine years I was a design and computer science professor. But if you put that all under one name and one web site, is it going to create confusion? Most people might only know you in a role or two but not all. How do you explain to people that this is who and what you are and I’ve been like this my whole life. Some people inherit money. I inherited a nice IQ and some talent and I didn’t waste it. I put it to use.

Sometimes I get a kick of reading on the Internet that I’m “Laura Kerbyson – Fashion Photographer.” That’s true but I’m also a lot of other things. It’s a lot easier to post photos of my photography and not photos deploying a server, etc. (no one would want to look at that).  But in business sometimes I am more approachable if I present less. I remember when Google said, “She works at Carolina Web Development.” I don’t just work at Carolina Web Development and Florida Web Development (which are full service advertising agencies), I own it. I built them.

There are many times in life when it pays for me to “fly under the radar.”

I’m bringing all this up now because there are times in life when I need to give an opinion that’s important and for just a moment, I need for people to understand the whole background and why there may not be a lot of people who can say what I can say.

I try to keep things simple when I explain them. This is as simple as I can make this. We don’t just have a problem with Facebook and Cambridge Analytical and elections around the world. We have a problem with the ways that tech has been used in a multitude of industries. Our laws, legislation and regulations are not up to date with what’s going on in the world. In part it’s because people who would be in charge of doing these things don’t understand the technology and are probably not aware of all the issues.

But for someone like me, I can see when an e-commerce platform is rigged and the damage this is doing to American business. I can see when changes to search algorithms cost real businesses money. I can see when the misuse of technology is killing people.

And if I can see it then someone else needs to start seeing it too. The picture is much bigger than what you imagine.

And that’s my point in today’s post.

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