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"

My thoughts on Glass, integrity and the free flow of information

Today, I received this e-mail from my Macroeconomics Professor at +The George Washington University: "That means that Google glass and similar devices are NOT allowed during assignments..." 



I am happy that my Professor is starting this type of conversation about +Google Glass  nd new technologies so swiftly and transparently.

Certainly, as an Explorer, these situations where Glass is singled out, are expected, just like +Cecilia Abadie fighting her traffic ticket today (http://goo.gl/UN60mo) or those told to leave restaurants (http://goo.gl/neb8zf). I agree Glass should not be used during exams. Yet, it is utterly irresponsible for those in authority to single new devices like Glass, which functions just as smartphones and tablets do, in this manner. Certainly, this period of testing is where society is educating itself and distinguishing what is real and what is exaggerated by the media, both its features and limitations. For example, having Glass rest on top your head like sunglasses indoors will not enable a student to cheat and is not a qualification of cheating, just like having a phone in your pocket. However, this type of conversation is good to start.

While I don't know if this e-mail is directed to me currently, I do feel the need to share this information clearly and openly. Your feedback, both in agreement or disagreement, is encouraged.

We should embrace technology, especially with the potentials it offers education. More importantly, we should not create hysteria and spread misinformation. Finally, integrity, including in academics, is one of my core values and I believe a society well-educated in not only knowledge but also morals and values will not have these problems.

As C.S. Lewis once said, “Education without values, as useful as it is, seems rather to make man a more clever devil.”

From this point forward, I am reaffirming my commitment to act with integrity in an ethical and moral manner that takes into account my strict moral discipline, just like I did in 8th grade when I created study guides from public class notes and let information flow freely (allowing others to collaborate, build on top and download those guides at their own discretion) even after one teacher, with a complete opposite view than all the other parents, students and teachers, labeled it as a form of cheating.

You can learn more about my mission statement, vision and values here: