Chicago as the New Silicon Valley

In Amy Scott’s article “Creating the Next Silicon Valley in Chicago” for Marketplace, she discusses the possibility of an upcoming technological boom in Chicago. Specifically, she references the presence of the University of Illinois at Urbana Champaign as a potential source of talent for such a boom; the school itself is widely respected, but “its students are often drawn to other shores”.  Talent retention has been a concern for Chicago in the past, as “[founders] of Youtube, Paypal, and Yelp also studied there before heading west”. To help solve this issue, Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel “[wants] to draw the talent [to Chicago]”, and believes that “the companies will follow”.

To achieve this goal, Chicago is emphasizing the creation and maintenance spaces in which companies and new technologies can grow. The Merchandise Mart, “a massive building of showrooms and shops”, is becoming such a hub. Motorola Mobility now occupies space within the building, as do 100 startups sharing office space.

An issue that Chicago is facing, however, is the overall culture within the city; according to Margaret O’Mara of the University of Washington, Silicon Valley is unique in its “extraordinary tolerance or risk and failure”, and that such a culture doesn’t yet exist in Chicago. If that cultural impediment can be overcome, however, Chicago holds great potential for new companies. Lightbank, “a venture capital firm run by the co-founders of Groupon” has already begun changing the economic culture of tech startups in the city, having invested in 53 companies after only 18 months. If such trends continue, the potential technological success of Chicago would likely have far-reaching economic implications for the Midwest as a whole.

Voting Online and Computer Security

In his piece entitled “Why We Still Can’t Vote Online, and Why That May be a Good Thing”, Marketplace’s David Brancaccio responds to an article (“Why Can’t We Vote Online?” from the Verge) concerning the questions regarding and possibility of election voting being conducted online. The Verge’s article presents a thorough overview of the issue, taking into consideration the desires of American voters, political leaders, and the logistical hurdles that would have to be overcome for online voting to be a possibility.

Each article addresses some of the major hurdles in the concept of online voting. First, there seems to be an apparent “lack of enthusiasm when it comes to getting a working online voting system up and running” (Brancaccio). Though Dave Mason, “a former commissioner of the Federal Election Commission, said that ‘it’s just a matter of time until people demand that we vote on the internet’” (Sottek), that time is apparently not today; according to The Verge, there is very little in the way of citizen demand for online voting systems. Secondly, “any system for online voting would need governmental approval from jurisdictions across the country” (Brancaccio), which in itself presents a significant logistical issue.

However, the largest issue facing the implementation of online voting is that of security. Building a hack-proof system that would remain secure even on potentially compromised personal computers is a gargantuan task. Because of the importance of voting and the “stakes of [an]…election”, voting will most likely remain a pen-and-paper affair for now (Brancaccio).

The App Market and Location-Based Services

In Computer Weekly’s article “Apple iPad App Pushes the Location-Based Cloud”, author Adrian Bridgwater discusses how location-based service technology is currently being used in apps for Apple devices. In particular, he discusses how these technologies relate to the increasing prevalence of cloud computing-based resources and devices. Additionally, he discusses to main types of location-based services: “push” LBS, “pull” (also known as “query”) LBS, and a multi-user LBS service, which is the article’s primary focus.

Specifically, Bridgwater explores the benefits and potential pitfalls of an app called Find My Friends. Find My Friends allows users to view each other’s current locations using their iCloud Apple accounts. Additionally, the app can be used in more specific situations; rather than broadcasting one’s location to one’s friends at all times, Find My Friends allows users to “share [their] location with a group of friends for a limited time”. It can be used to monitor when others leave or arrive at a certain location, and can also distribute that information to one’s own contacts.

While Find My Friends certainly has great potential benefit for users, it also presents a new opportunity for developers to create “a new breed of apps that allows us to interact with each other based on where we are [and] what we’re doing”. However, such possibilities do come with potential privacy concerns. As location-based sharing requires the permission of each user to be fully utilized, individuals’ particular privacy settings could affect the efficacy of LBS-reliant applications. Nevertheless, the increased prevalence of cloud and LBS applications identifies an area of great potential within the apps market.

Crowdsourcing and Online Job Creation

Crowdsourcing is quickly becoming a powerful productivity tool in the modern market. In many fields, crowdsourcing solutions are ultimately cheaper and more efficient than traditional methods. This trend of increased efficiency and decreased cost is particularly noticeable in the realm of the voice-over; in an article from Marketplace, “Could Crowdsourcing Talent Online Create Jobs?”, author David Brancaccio explores the effect that crowdsourcing has had on the voice-over industry, and what these effects imply regarding the future of the market.

In particular, Brancaccio focuses on a company called VoiceBunny. VoiceBunny is an online service that allows clients and voice actors to more easily connect with one another; “client offers a script online and people who know how to read aloud offer their services”. Additionally, the software itself helps clients find the most suitable talent for their specific script.

Ultimately, this service is significantly cheaper for companies because of the lack of overhead costs. Rather than hiring voice over actors, perhaps renting studio space, and distributing the final recording themselves, companies are able to get a good-quality voiceover for “$11…plus a $2.20 service fee”. Because they work as independent contractors, the voice-over artists themselves are responsible for providing and maintaining their own equipment. Additionally, VoiceBunny offers podcasting services; through these services, clients can purchase spoken versions of their articles. These spoken versions can then be distributed by VoiceBunny or by the authors themselves.

Because of its cheapness and its ease of use, however, VoiceBunny does have interesting implications regarding the future of the voice-over market. Though many voice-over artists still receive the majority of their income “from bigger gigs outside of [the VoiceBunny] service”, many of the jobs available on VoiceBunny are ones that, in the past, would have gone to more local voice-recording artists. What was once a local market has become a globalized one and, consequently, more people are able to offer and be paid for their services. Indeed, services like VoiceBunny have the potential to change how the market as a whole operates; it is not inconceivable to imagine that hosting duties of local radio shows may one day be crowdsourced as well.