From sea to shining sea

If there is anything I have learned in the past 15 years since coming to America in 2000, it is that America is beautiful. Today, I will be dipping my toes in the Atlantic Ocean as I spend Fourth of July with my parents in Jacksonville, FL this year. I can't help but think that exactly one year ago, my breath was being taken away, in much the same way, by the Pacific Ocean at

#CampEmeraldBay

, and for everything in between, I am endlessly grateful.

Looking out into the Atlantic Ocean (Atlantic Beach, Jacksonville, FL)

America is great because it is so vast. It's not only vast in landscapes, but also vast in ideas and in diversity of its People.

Each city that I have had the chance to visit in the past year has been so absolutely different, each so absolutely gorgeous, energizing and vibrant in their own ways. Yet, what is more noticeable is all the things that weave us together as Americans and the common story, aspirations, hope and Dream we all share, whether born here or not.

America is not perfect and we have made mistakes, many of them. In fact, the manner in which we became such a vast Nation is not one of our best moments. But, as Emily Mortimer (MacKenzie McHale) says in Aaron Sorkin's The Newsroom,"America is the only country on the planet, that since its birth, has said over and over and over that we can do better. It's part of our DNA."

People around the world look to America when they need a leader, a Nation that has a moral compass to stand up for the fundamental rights of all People and a Nation that recognizes the values it was created for. There's a lot to easily be cynical about, but it is the moments where America acts uniquely that we so often forget about how great our home is. From creating some of the brightest minds and promoting creativity to taking action on some of the world's hardest problems, America still remains both a force for good and a beacon of hope for much of the world. We are not in that position because we are perfect—we are in that position because we can so honestly, openly and vigorously have the tough conversations publicly, while still remaining one Nation.

A lot of people compare America with China nowadays. They talk about the Chinese government working so efficiently, a comparison that scares me. Efficiency is not what we want and was not what our Founding Fathers intended for. That's also not how democracy works, even if the world is moving faster now. For all the gridlock we have, we should also keep in mind that this Nation was built on the notion that there is no one right way and that all ideas should be put on the table, to be considered and discussed by the American People.

So, this Fourth of July, while you celebrate with friends, good food and amazing fireworks, also take a moment to reflect on all the freedoms that we enjoy as Americans and all the responsibilities so many of us, so often, shy away from. Reflect on how different we each are as Americans, but also everything that makes us One Nation. Reflect on all the mistakes we have made, how We the People can all work together to make this Nation better and all that we can be proud of and celebrate.

And so...

I pledge allegiance, to the Flag, of the United States of America,

And to the Republic, for which it stands.

One Nation, under God.

Indivisible. With Liberty and Justice for all.

Cross-posted on Google+: 

https://plus.google.com/+iantang/posts/e8qxXWySz7z

My thoughts on why Spotify is flawed

+PCMag states it best: "Good music that people enjoy has to be worth something."

That's the precise problem with Spotify—it is probably the only music product on the market today that offers an on-demand music library, free-of-charge.

Many have compared Spotify to other streaming services, such as +Pandora. The problem is, by definition, Pandora and Internet radio, designed specifically for discovery, and subscription services, like +Beats Music and +Google Play Music All Access, are based on completely different models. Internet radio provides limited ability to play the exact track on-demand and subscription services are obviously paid services. 

Spotify has created users who feel entitled to virtually owning and playing specific music at no charge. For example, I have seen comments, from Spotify users, asserting that Taylor Swift should have her music on Spotify because not everyone has the financial ability to purchase it or how costly it would be to pay for music. I'm not sure when we evolved into a society where content, and other peoples' works, that took valuable skills and insane amounts of time to create, were taken for granted. Or, as +The Telegraph puts it, "we now have an extremely entitled culture, where any kind of art is seen as a communal property." Certainly, not everyone can afford books, movies and even Android devices or iPhones, all various types of content and products that hard-working people create and turn into reality.

In an interview with Yahoo!, Taylor summed up how she felt when she tried releasing new music (Shake It Off) directly on Spotify: 
I felt like I was saying to my fans, "If you create music someday, if you create a painting someday, someone can just walk into a museum, take it off the wall, rip off a corner off it, and it's theirs now and they don't have to pay for it." I didn't like the perception that it was putting forth (Taylor Swift).  
Taylor Swift performing in Arizona during her RED World Tour.
I have always believed that the Internet should be free and open and that we should create better marketplaces and channels for content to be accessed and distributed at reasonable prices. This should be decided by the equilibrium of supply and demand. This is our best bet against piracy, not distributing content for free or keeping it in exclusive, far-to-reach corners of the web.

A lot of people, especially those that I have had a pleasure of discussing this issue with, believe Taylor is being greedy or selfish. I disagree. She is continually adding to the next generation of the music industry and trying to solve some of the biggest problems it has ever faced. She is standing up for superstars and indie-bands alike, because her position allows her to. It's why various smaller artists have tweeted her, praising her stance against Spotify, calling it "a streaming service that doesn't pay."

Payment in exchange for creative and valuable content is simply so that those same content creators creating all the things we enjoy can continue to innovate and bring us even more quality content. It's the same reason why big-name artists, including Adele, +Coldplay+Beyoncé and others, have followed the approach of releasing Spotify versions months after their music actually comes out. Unfortunately, smaller artists don't have the ability because they first need their music just out there however and wherever it can be—it's time they should start making money too.

In fact, according to PCMag, 
Swift wanted to keep her latest album on delayed-release, or at least only available to Spotify's premium subscribers, which Spotify didn't want; hence the impasse.
I am not saying that streaming services aren't the answer. But, I do not think Spotify and its flawed model, in particular, are the answers we are looking for, both as consumers and content creators—we will get lower quality of content and content creators cannot make a living. The music industry is ripe for innovation, but Spotify does not have the solution.

At the end of the day, Taylor Swift ignited an important conversation about how much we value content and everyone should be happy about that.


Additional Articles
"Taylor Swift vs. Spotify: Why Music Should Not Be Free"

"Taylor Swift Shuns 'Grand Experiment' of Streaming Music"

"Taylor Swift left Spotify because we stopped valuing art"

A new digital age.

Yesterday, my friend +Alex Leiphart shared this story: http://goo.gl/Id4mrJ ("AMC movie theater calls FBI to arrest a Google Glass user"). AMC called the FBI, who then snatched Glass off the innocent man's face and interrogated him, all because they believed, without evidence nor proof, that a man was recording an entire movie, simply because he had Google Glass. The FBI even challenged him: "they wanted to know what does +Google ask of me in exchange for Glass, how much is Google paying me, who is my boss and why am I recording the movie." And that's just part of it.

Let's stop the hysteria we constantly create around new technologies.

Let's start a genuine conversation now. Comment with your thoughts below.

I certainly think it is fine for people to think Glass is not that great or all that it says it is -- some of my friends hold, or held, different beliefs and are some of my most valued opinions. In fact, that's awesome that people think differently -- the world only advances because all our thoughts are not uniform. The resulting debate is important and helps society advance. It's equally as important though that those that want to argue against it use legitimate, unexaggerated talking points after having tested what they are arguing against instead of spreading assumptions.

It seems people think Glass is almighty, believing that it knows what its users are thinking and controllable with just their minds. And those people are the ones that only assume Glass only helps users do bad -- to sneakily record movies, to cheat and more -- while never trying it for themselves. Instead, what really happens is that users have to say "Ok Glass" aloud or touch to operate it. Even the light on the screen is visible when on. In many cases, it is more noticeable than a smartphone.

However, this year, +Google Glass is expected to launch widely as well as with compatible prescription lenses. When this happens, I have no doubt a more vigorous debate will start in society about Glass.

With prescription lenses, Glass will be a required item for those who need it, just like the man in the story. But what about in the bathroom? Or when driving (just like I do with the clip-on sunglasses with Glass right now)? Users would not be able to just tilt Glass up on their heads like they currently do, as then they wouldn't be able to see.

Would society trust Glass users enough? Would users be expected to carry a second pair of regular prescription lenses? Would a large enough portion of society educate themselves enough to know that it is very visible when Glass is on and recording?

What do you think? 

A prototype of Google Glass with prescription lenses, courtesy of a Googler (via Phandroid.com).

Right now, the "rest" position for phones is in the pocket, still attached to the body. That's equivalent to placing Glass on top of the head. Or even just off. In both positions, the devices are virtually unusable.

When taking tests where teachers don't require students to put phones in the backpack, do we expect Glass to be in its rest position on the head or will it be treated differently by requiring it to be placed in its case and away from the body? When watching movies, is that expectation the same? What about when driving -- can we use it as a GPS?

That's the job of Explorers -- to live life with Glass, to take the risk of encountering ignorant people but also more generally, to educate a (for the most part) fascinated public on this new and exciting technology that has a potential to change everything we do. But the bigger responsibility at hand, the job that we all carry, Explorers or not, is the one to prevent hysteria and to speak truth to stupid.

Yet, for every stubborn person, there's a hundred more open-minded learners that dare to try Glass before passing judgement. And the smiles and awe that I have personally seen is reward that out-compensates any negativity expressed by those that are so afraid of change.

And for each negative story we hear about Glass, we hear so many more of how it is fundamentally changing the very nature of our world, from providing firefighters with the tools they need more safely and quicker and doctors with the required materials without tying up their hands to the way it helps us to just get back to living life, by bringing us ordinary people all closer together while helping capture the moments that truly matter in our lives.


I'm proud to be a Google Glass Explorer.