Categories
Geekdom

Why Innovation is Dying in San Antonio

Last night, I had the privilege of attending Startup Grind San Antonio for the first time at Geekdom. Events like Startup Grind are the main reason I joined Geekdom. While the event was open to the public, I recognize how special the Geekdom community really is and I want to continue the conversations started at the event with members in the future.
Guest speaker Debra Innocenti-Placette of Innocenti-Jones PLLC said a lot of incredible things last night, but the words that resonated the most with me came during the Q&A session at the end.
A great conversation usually has to warm up or be sparked spontaneously. So co-speaker Drew Placette was bent on asking Debra a tough question. He asked why our tech ecosystem in San Antonio seems to be dying.
[wpvideo sfjPr0eA]

Our tech ecosystem, especially scalable startup ecosystem seems to be dying. We don’t see a lot of things coming out of here, like we used to. I know we have a lot of good things, but there is also a lot of smoke and mirrors in San Antonio around stuff. Why don’t we see actual viable startups coming out of San Antonio? Besides capital. What do you think we can do to actually change that?

This is the pink elephant in the room. I think most San Antonians can acknowledge that true innovation is more likely to be found in other places (insert your own city here, like Silicon Valley), not San Antonio.
Personally, I don’t think of San Antonio when I think of innovation. When I think of San Antonio, I think of flintlock rifles and cannons going off at the Alamo or Fiesta. Not bad things to be known for, but I would like to see San Antonio also known for other things too! Creativity, innovation, and the city of the future… I don’t believe I’m alone in this characterization of San Antonio or my desire to see it grow in new ways.
Debra’s answer struck a chord in my heart. Things I had been saying all along but thought I was the only one thinking these things. I thought that these ideas were at best revolutionary or at worst the Twilight Zone (a delusion).
Her answer was so good, I’ve loosely transcribed it for you. Quote it, tweet it, share it with your friends. Let’s do something about this!

In full homage to Startup Grind, which is bare knuckles honesty… I think there’s a number of things that we are failing on and we need to work on. I think we can do it! One of the things is, we need to go back to the beginning values. Geekdom has a touchstone value that is critical. It’s the initial mantra of ‘where startups are born’, the embracing of the creatives, the messy people, the disorganized people, the people who are disruptive and don’t follow rules well, the engineers who have cabling and circuit boards falling behind them as they walk… we have to make sure that we continue to embrace and nurture creatives.
And creatives are not comfortable with rules and structure. That’s not to say you can’t have rules and structure, because there’s always a balance. I love rules and structure! But, I also love creatives and I think that balance is critical. I think that pendulum has swung too much, citywide, [to the other side].
We really need to have a conversation about what innovation is… innovation literacy. When we use the word innovation, this is what we mean. If a company is striving to be innovative and disruptive, we need to understand what that means.
Innovation means a number things: it means that you must have a commitment to hiring people who ask questions. Why are we doing it this way? Is this the best way to do it? Can we do it another way? Why is this person in charge? People who challenge things, loosen up structure and allow for disruption.
Creatives and innovators don’t like rigidity. In terms of, if you have dress codes where everyone has to wear suits and ties—that’s not going to promote innovation. If you’re hiring people who are followers and not challengers and leaders that’s not being innovative.
If you are requiring people to have degrees… a bachelor’s degree, if that’s like a requirement in your job description… you’re going to be shutting the door to a lot of creatives.
When you go into portals for jobs and one of their requisites is 5 years of experience in X or the system kicks you out… we have a broken hiring system! That needs to be fixed.
The work is heavy in terms of shifting that whole culture. But, we also have a culture in San Antonio where people want to stay in the same job for the rest of their life and be comfortable. And they don’t want to hire people under them that are smarter than them or that will challenge them. Because they don’t want things to change. In other more viable, more vibrant ecosystems we have people eying a position above them and they want to hire someone under them that can take their place. They want to cultivate that. They want a dynamic system that’s going to change, that’s not static. We’re not there yet in San Antonio. That’s not the culture here. There’s work to do there.
There’s a lack of diversity in most of the leadership organizations here, including in the tech community. How can we say that we are an ecosystem or an industry of innovation and disruption, if we cannot even be innovative in representation in leadership? That’s not innovative.
That’s saying innovation because it’s a nice shiny word and it sounds good, it’s got good PR ring, but we’re not serious about it. We’ve got to re-dip into the well of our core values. We’ve set them right, we just need to understand the words that we are saying. We’ve got to be serious about them and not drift away from those values.
You can drift away from your core values unless you revisit them and think about them. That’s why organizations have mission statements. It’s not because some lawyer said you need to have a mission statement that’s one sentence in this part of the document. It’s because you must have an understanding of mission.
Until we learn what innovation means and really commit to it… until we invite creatives in, encourage them and make them want to stay… until we embrace diversity… we’re not doing what we’re saying we want to do.

Her 7 minute response summarized every conclusion I came to over the past year of unemployment and even before that. I thought about companies I had worked for and startups I had been a part of; each experience taught me a slow lesson about what’s needed to be innovative.
I had asked myself why San Antonio wasn’t at the pinnacle of human progress—now I know. I was slowly placing a finger on key reasons, but her answer neatly summarizes a significant time of reflection.
Granted this is a perception. There are lots of great things happening in the city that I don’t know about. And I’m likely not alone in this. So it makes sense after several interviews and rejection emails. Even at my own university. The place I credit for teaching me a large portion of what I know. That I can 100% relate to what Debra sees wrong with San Antonio. But the good news is we can do our part to fix it and we are not alone in this common vision.
Conversations like this one are special. They spark curiosity. They lead to more questions and eventually more conclusions. Like why stay in San Antonio when there are other places that have figured this out? Is there any reason to attend college anymore? These were also touched on in the full talk.
We are not alone in these thoughts. There are more people, even where you live, who think like us. People who question things. Who are curious. In San Antonio, Geekdom is one place where people like us gather. I’m glad I found this place. Maybe I’ll see you there sometime?

Categories
Geekdom

Joined Geekdom

I just joined Geekdom this month. Geekdom is a collaborative space for entrepreneurs and tech-enthusiasts to network in hopes of joining or starting a business.
After attending the New Member Orientation I learned that members are encouraged to give back 2 hours to the community each month. I am excited about this opportunity to share my skills with my fellow members.
uiw-mac-lab-communication-art-aaron-garcia-geekdomWhen I was in college, my work-study position was a computer lab assistant. My job was to answer computer related questions if I knew the answer. I did this for four years. I enjoyed every moment. I built relationships with both students and faculty simply by sharing what I knew about the computer. Surprisingly I had never been stumped by a question during my time there. I still answer questions like these at work, at family gatherings, and online.
Aside from my part-time Mac Lab job in college, I have never offered my services officially. Geekdom will provide a platform to help others and fulfill a commitment to giving back.
So what will I offer? ‘Everything’ is too vague and 2 hours isn’t a lot of time.
I could host a workshop, but I seriously need to plan it out first. I’ve never taught a class before. I imagine there’s a lot of preparation that goes into that. I’ll revisit this idea at some point.
I could set up a camera and take photos and record videos of Geekdom members for 2 hours. Photography seems easier. Recording a video requires the subject to be prepared with what to say. That could take awhile. But, would be worth it for whoever scheduled a time.

Then there’s web development. I’m thinking more along the lines of a WordPress or Squarespace website. We’d begin the process by purchasing a domain. Then we would pick a web host, install WordPress, and pick a theme. Lastly, we’d create a few pages, populate them with content, and design a simple logo. Easy!
That sounds like a workshop. There are a few details involved with that. The most glaring one: the participants will need to be willing to purchase a domain and web hosting. Where photography costs near nothing for the participant and video only requires some preparation (unless spontaneity is your thing).
I’ll brainstorm on this some more, but feel free to give me your thoughts. If I could help you build a website, take your next profile photo or record a simple interview-style video for you in 2 hours… which would you choose?

Categories
Videos

RCHQ San Antonio

Took my camera out to RCHQ San Antonio to record my friend’s Traxxas Revo 3.3  run some laps around a dirt track. Unfortunately, Paul’s Revo was experiencing some issues. So, I filmed other RC cars race around the track.
I really enjoyed filming RC cars race round and round, so much so that I filmed almost an hour of footage. I included 20 minutes of it in the final video. Enjoy!

Categories
Camera Roll Vlog Videos

Camera Roll Vlog: Episode 17

Categories
Writing

Plagiarism is Not an Option

It was the fall of 2002, I was in 6th grade, briskly walking to the library to inquire about a tri-fold presentation I had turned in a few days earlier. I was sure I would win 1st place. When I asked the librarian about my project, she summoned the dean.

This was the first time I had ever met a dean. Up until that point, I didn’t even know the school had one. She was very friendly. She told me that my presentation had been disqualified.

“Disqualified,” I repeated in disbelief. She then asked me if I knew why. I honestly couldn’t think of any reason for my presentation to be disqualified, so I told her no. “Plagiarism,” she said. “Do you know what plagiarism is?” she asked; slowly realizing I had never been introduced to the concept. I again responded with a simple no.

After a lengthy explanation that somehow wandered from paraphrasing whole paragraphs of a digital encyclopedia into the copyright restrictions on typography, I had been thoroughly converted to pledging the rest of my life to being original. I would never again plagiarize or so much use anything remotely close to something I didn’t make 100% myself.

Through the rest of my academic career, I worked extra hard. I was never tempted to plagiarize because it simply wasn’t an option. Every paper I wrote and every presentation I gave had to be original. As original as possible. I began to scrutinize how original, a person like me, could realistically be.

Has this phrase been used before? Is a PowerPoint template bad? How about this example résumé? Before I knew it I was questioning everything, down to the fonts used on my business cards. If someone else made it, I wasn’t using it, because it wasn’t mine. I’d have to change it quite a bit before putting my name to it. And to my credit, there are instances where I brought up a valid point. “No, you can’t use that photo randomly pulled off Google!”

But still, it’s hard. Someone once said, “No man is an island.” A quick Google search will reveal who said that and at least 100 others plagiarizing it. There is no way you could be completely self-made. There’s no such thing as a self-made billionaire. Everyone had a mother. English is not my invention. And prose was around long before I could write.

Even so, plagiarism is not an option. Credit must be given where credit is due. And with that, no work is completely original. By the way, this website was developed by Squarespace, I just dropped in photos taken on God’s earth and decided how to arrange the English language on this page. My business cards were also printed by Moo.

Categories
Web

Making a Website Just Got Easier

On the morning of March 29, 2008, I purchased paleolithicfilms.com and launched my first website with Apple’s iWeb. I followed the instructions to connect my MobileMe hosted website, with Yahoo, my registrar; entering the appropriate information into the A Record field.

With no guidance, at age 16, I had a website. I remember frantically pacing around the kitchen waiting for the DNS records to refresh while trying to convey this monumental achievement to my parents. I was ecstatic! Months of guessing, Googling and waiting for the dots to connect lead to what I believed, at the time, to be a breakthrough.

I’ve come a long way since then. So has the Internet. I can now complete the same process in under 2 minutes. It’s so easy for me now that until I wrote this post, I forgot what it was like to not know where to start.

There was no one who could help me, or rather I didn’t know who to ask, or even what to search for. All I knew was I wanted a website. I wanted to be like the big shots, you know Google, Yahoo, and Apple. I wanted my very own .com.

Maybe there are others like me? Maybe you want one too, but don’t know where to start? If so, you don’t have to spend months in search of where to begin, like I did. I’ll point you to shortcuts that will make this process seem really easy.

It took Christopher Columbus seven years to convince royals to grant the five-week journey to the new world—today it takes a few seconds to book a six-hour flight on Expedia. The distance hasn’t changed, but how we get to our destination has.

While it was challenging to learn how to build my first website unguided, today I can hand this skill over to you on a platter. I love helping people. I will admit it’s hard to see what took me years to learn, taught in just a few minutes—but that’s progress. It’s about leaving the world a better place than we found it. And if it wasn’t for all those who came before me, who developed the Hypertext Transfer Protocol, we wouldn’t have the wonderful experience we call the Internet today.

I encourage you that when you’re tempted to withhold information because you feel that a person hasn’t earned or worked for it, remember that most of our knowledge is unearned. Many of the mathematical concepts we use today were developed by those literally jeopardizing their health and even losing their lives trying to discover them.

That being said, click here to discover the easiest way to build your website. If you have any questions or want to accomplish something specific, click here to get in touch with me. I accept payment via PayPal which will enable me to perform these services full time.

Categories
Web

Are the New TLDs Worth Getting?

There’s no dispute .com is king. For many people .com is the internet. But tech savvy people know that there’s a lot more Top-Level Domains (TLDs) out there.

Besides .com there’s .net, .org, .edu, .gov, .biz, .us and so on. There are even country TLDs like .ru for Russia and .it for Italy. There are over 200 countries in the world, so you can imagine that list would be fairly long.

Then ICANN opened up topic and industry specific TLDs like .blog, .church, .school, .tech and so on. Which brings us to the question of this post: Are these new TLDs worth getting?

Yes and no. This is an opinion. Google has stated that all TLDs will be treated fairly. So in theory, there’s no problem in getting one. People do not look at the domains that closely in a Google search anyway.

The Cons of the New TLDs

But, when sharing a link such as aaronjosephgarcia.blog you may run into a short term problem with auto-hyperlinking. Your messaging app may not recognize aaronjosephgarcia.blog as a URL and therefore it won’t be clickable like aaronjosephgarcia.com would be. And that can be a real bummer, if you’re trying to share a link.

Also, most people won’t remember .blog and will most likely substitute for .com. And that won’t be good either. About the only thing the new TLDs are good for is looking clean on a business card.

The Pros of the New TLDs

All that being said, eventually all messaging apps will recognize .blog and .com equally. And at which point things might change. Google might start to recognize these new TLDs based on the category they’re in. And if you’re one of the early adopters to select a short TLD, it might be worthwhile in the future. Example last.fm.

Categories
Web

The Firefox Experiment

Recently, I tried to switch my primary browser from Chrome to Firefox. I noticed that Chrome was slowing down and thought now was the perfect time to switch.

Several years ago, I switched from Safari to Chrome for the same reason. I was a loyal Safari user, but when Safari slowed to a crawl—I knew it was time to move on.

The switch from Safari to Chrome went smoothly. I thought I would never be able to give up Safari reader or the neat share buttons, but I did. In exchange, Chrome offered user accounts that could be used to separate my browsing identities. This proved useful not only for separating home and work accounts, but also for all the organizational accounts I administer.

The problem with switching from Chrome to Firefox is that I have become dependent on these separate profiles. Firefox offers close integration with Pocket, a sophisticated reading list and “Firefox Hello,” an easy to use video chat feature, but these features are not enough to forgive the inability to separate browsing identities. Within three days of switching, I switched back to Chrome.

I hope to switch to Firefox on all devices in the future, but for now it looks like I’m stuck with using Chrome and Safari simultaneously. I use Chrome exclusively on my computers (Mac, Linux and Windows) and Safari for my iOS devices. This experience is fragmented, but I can’t escape from the need to use multiple browser profiles and Apple doesn’t let me truly switch my default browser on iOS. Furthermore, Safari is the only adblocking, mainstream browser available (excluding Dolphin and variants of ad blocker browsers) on iOS.

The lesson learned from this experience is that there are some features that keep us locked in an ecosystem. For me it’s Chrome’s browsing profiles and Safari’s Adblock plugins on iOS. If I didn’t have so many online identities—switching to Firefox for Pocket or Firefox Hello might have been more tempting.

Categories
Web

How to Set up an SSL

One way to get a free SSL is to migrate DNS control of your domains to CloudFlare. By default, CloudFlare offers a free “Universal SSL”. Under the “crypto” menu select “Full” for the SSL box.

cloudflare_crypto_ssl_full

The process takes 24 hours before your certificate works consistently. After 24 hours have passed you can force your website to only be accessed through https. This option is found under page rules. You’ll want to create two rules for your non-ssl URL: http://yourdomain.com and http://www.yourdomain.com and turn on “Always use https”.

agarciatv green lock

If you don’t wait to turn on forced https your website will work intermittently for 24 hours in 30-minute intervals. But don’t worry, it will start working tomorrow!

Categories
Web

Now Using SSL and DNSSEC

Today, I enabled Secure Socket Layer (SSL, also known as, HTTPS) and Domain Name System Security Extensions (DNSSEC) on this website; my first time working with these technologies. This is a major milestone for me. Self-taught since 2008, my journey has led me to this day.

For those who know what these technologies are and already use them, try not to laugh. This was a real journey for me. For everyone else, I’ll do my best to explain.

Transport Layer Security (TLS) and its predecessor, Secure Sockets Layer (SSL), both of which are frequently referred to as ‘SSL’, are cryptographic protocols designed to provide communications security over a computer network.

Wikipedia

Basically, I added a green lock to my website (agarciatv.com). By doing so, I have joined the ranks of Facebook, your bank and every payment network that you’ve ever interacted with (assuming they were all legit). Granted there are different levels to these certificates; you’ll notice that Twitter has a really fancy green box next to their lock that says, “Twitter, LLC [US]” while Facebook doesn’t. And I certainly don’t. But, the green lock is good enough for me and obviously good enough for Facebook.

agarciatv green lock
Twitter green lock
facebook green lock

In addition to getting my very own green lock, I enabled DNSSEC. I had been curious about it ever since I had seen it in my registrar’s control panel. It’s my personality to want to fill every box and flip every switch. Some have told me that DNSSEC was unnecessary, but it sounds like a security measure I didn’t want to pass up. Wikipedia explains DNSSEC as:

The Domain Name System Security Extensions (DNSSEC) is a suite of Internet Engineering Task Force (IETF) specifications for securing certain kinds of information provided by the Domain Name System (DNS) as used on Internet Protocol (IP) networks. It is a set of extensions to DNS which provide to DNS clients (resolvers) origin authentication of DNS data, authenticated denial of existence, and data integrity, but not availability or confidentiality.

Wikipedia

I thought Google explained DNSSEC more clearly:

Domain Name System Security Extensions (DNSSEC) protect your domain from attacks such as DNS cache poison attacks and DNS spoofing. Your DNS provider can provide you with the values you need to activate DNSSEC.

Google Domains

To further simplify, now you will not have to worry about visiting a fake version of my website or hackers snooping on you. At least that’s the idea. I’ve stepped up my game and I hope to continue, as I learn more about security. If you have a website and would like to add an SSL too, ask specific questions in the comment section below and I’ll be happy to answer them!