Do You Want to Screw Over Your ISP?

“Internet providers are real bastards…”
So begins a recently published TechCrunch article charmingly titled 13 Ways to Screw Over Your Internet Provider

As you can imagine, since Cruzio is an internet provider, that raised an eyebrow over here and we figured we’d take a look. Wow. Amazing what some folks have to go through — it’s like they’re at war with the company who supposedly serves them!

A lot of the measures suggested by the deeply disgruntled author aren’t necessary when you have an independent, Net-Neutral ISP like Cruzio. So we thought we’d set the record straight by responding to their “advice.”

Our comments might surprise you. Or, if you’re a Cruzio customer, maybe not. Read on…

1. “Buy a modem and router instead of renting”
Sure. Unless the equipment is specifically required by the technology (for instance, with fiber connections) any Cruzio customer can feel free to buy their own and we’re totally up front about that. We don’t rent hardware to gouge our peeps. But, we’re also up front about being experts when it comes to modems. Our hardware is top-of-the-line and gives us much more ability to support the connection, and we’ll swap it out for free if it ever breaks or anytime there’s a better model available. It’s just like leasing a car over buying — but obviously much cheaper.

2. “Avoid service calls, or if you can’t, insist they’re free”
Believe us, a service call is a last resort. It’s expensive and time consuming for everyone. But, if we need to come out to fix the service, the call is always free unless the issue turns out to be with your home wiring.

3. “Get deals from the installer”
No need to try to wheedle deals from our field techs. We don’t have hidden pricing or special offers. We just have one upfront price with no hidden fees. You don’t need these tricks with us like you do with the big guys.

4. “Complain, complain, complain”
Again, not necessary. We get this a lot from new customers coming over from other ISPs. They’ve learned over time, poor things, that they need to yell and complain to get what they need. Not with Cruzio. Our whole deal is getting your service as good as we can get it. That’s our job. That’s why we’re here.

5. “Choose your service level wisely”
Cruzio has one price and for that price you get the best connection we can provide in your neighborhood. Then, as we expand and improve the network, we don’t use that as a reason to bump your price. We just upgrade everyone to the better speeds automatically and for free. We’re doing that all the time. You might get an email from us saying it’s your turn any day.

6. “Stream everything because broadcast TV is a joke”
Well this one we don’t have much to say about other than: yes, yes, 100% yes. Everything is streaming these days and we can help you set that up. #CutTheCord.

7. “Watch your bill like a hawk”
If you want to, please feel free, but there’s no need. If we ever raise our price, we’ll email you and let you know. We don’t do contracts so you can quit anytime. We don’t do hidden fees so there’s nothing for us to sneak in there.

8. “Go to your account and opt out of everything”
Nothing really to opt out of. We don’t do a bunch of add-on fees. We just try to do one thing great — internet. And we don’t want you paying for anything you don’t want.

9. “Share your passwords”
We don’t do TV so, no comment. We would never advise you to share your streaming passwords. Shocking.

10. “Encrypt everything and block trackers”
We’re all for security and we’re massive on privacy, so we don’t disagree. But we’re one of the only ISPs that do not track and sell your data. Maybe it’s a Santa Cruz thing, but we’ve never seen our customers’ data as a potential profit center. We will never give away or sell your private data. Ever.

11. “Use a different DNS”
No need. As we said, we’re not tracking you. And our DNS will be faster than any of the other options. See how there’s just less to worry about with an honest ISP?

12. “Run a home server”
There are better ways to do this. It’s a lot of trouble to set up a server and keep it going 24/7. People must hate the big ISPs! But if you want to run a server just give us a call. Let’s chat.

13. “Talk to your local government”
Yes! Please do. Local, independent ISPs like Cruzio are up against some big, deep-pocketed competitors who (see above) are not always out for your best interests. Without partnerships with local municipalities, it’ll be hard for independent ISPs to expand availability and service long term. And without us, you’re stuck with, well, them.

That was fun! I guess when you’re not out there trying to screw over your customers, you’re less likely to get screwed yourself. Huh. We knew that of course. It’s what we built Cruzio on. But it’s always good to be reminded.

Cruzio Met the Aggressive Squirrel

Emily the squirrel in a box

Emily, just prior to her notorious escape

Cruzio has a small office which happens to be next door to the grapefruit tree where a local squirrel became famous.

Emily’s Story, in a Nutshell

The squirrel was abandoned as a kitten, then raised by hand by a kindly human who named her Emily. But this July, Emily’s onset of maternity (which honestly can be overwhelming) combined with her lack of fear of humans and possibly some innate character flaw caused her to go psycho on passersby.

After several unnervingly hostile staredowns and biting incidents, people alerted the fire department to the squirrel.

The fire fighters and a brave animal rescuer removed Emily and her three small babies from the grapefruit tree. In a sad echo of her own early orphanhood, Emily then abandoned her kittens as she chewed through a plastic box and fled. It’s reported that she may have been seen, post-escape, in Live Oak. (But how can people tell it’s her, really?)

This is all documented in local and national news stories. Here’s a great video of the incident.

Cruzio’s Experience with Emily

Cruzio, being nearby, has additional exclusive information and footage of this squirrel prior to her arrest and escape.

We had noticed an odd squirrel in the maple tree outside our office, just about 30 feet from the site of her eventual capture.

In early spring, we saw the squirrel chewing on something strange. Not a nut. Not a scrap of food. On closer examination, it turned out to be a cigarette lighter.

Emily, the video

Emily, spotted near her grapefruit tree a few months before the famous incident

Okay, that’s weird. Another day, we went outside and noticed our 3-foot-high avocado plant had been ripped out of its planter. The foliage had been torn off and thrown several feet away and the pit from which it rooted was chittered into hundreds of pieces strewn around our porch — as if a tiny wood chipper had gone at it.

At first we thought it was a human vandal but who would chip an avocado pit into literally hundreds of small pieces? Not a human and not even a normal squirrel.

A squirrel who’d gone bananas, that’s who.

Later, when the squirrel hostilely stared down passersby and even bit several people, the word was that she was just protecting her babies. That may be so. But in our experience, she was already pretty nutty.

Takeaways:

  • Squirrels are wild animals. Changing their ways can be hazardous.
  • Also, don’t feed squirrels. One of the attacks happened when a young man tried to feed Emily a potato chip.
  • Don’t leave your young avocado plants outside…

Squirrels Were Once Beloved Pets

Colonial girl with squirrel

To be fair to squirrels, humans often have a hand in their weird behavior. Let’s go over some of their history in the USA.

Colonial Squirrels: Beloved Pets

Colonial Americans lived among many wild animals and tamed both deer and squirrels for pets. Even Ben Franklin, living in England just prior to the Revolutionary War, felt he could best show his gratitude to his host family by having his wife ship some American grey squirrels to them as pets. The squirrels were a hit. One of them was particularly beloved, and when it was killed by a dog in 1772 Franklin wrote a sad ode in its honor.

“…Daily wert thou fed with the choicest Viands
By the fair Hand
Of an indulgent Mistress.
But, discontented, thou wouldst have more freedom.
Too soon, alas! didst thou obtain it…”

Tame squirrel enthusiasm waned, however, as sharp claws and teeth, plus a tendency to steal food and bury it all over the house, revealed squirrels as less than desirable pets.

And don’t get any ideas. Today, it’s illegal to have a squirrel as a pet in the State of California.

Squirrels and Technology: a Bad Combination

Cruzio has another objection to squirrels: they like to chew on fiberoptic cables. Their teeth grow rapidly and they must chew to keep the teeth short and sharp. As bad as landslides and storms are for telecommunications infrastructure, squirrels give those trials a run for their money. Squirrels have gnawed outage-causing cuts into fiber cables in Santa Cruz several times in the last decade. It’s one reason that Cruzio has to have doubly- and triply-redundant connections.

(Other animals, like rabbits and rats, also chew. Why do communications companies focus on squirrels? Because they climb utility poles, so cables hung on poles are susceptible. That’s one reason Cruzio likes to build underground when we can!)

Remember Noisy Modems? Imagine a House Full of ‘Em

Chris and baby Jake

Chris and Jake in 1993, when modems filled the family garage.

More Memories from our 30-year History

In the late 1980s and 1990s, when Cruzio’s founders started offering dial-up connections, people connected to us over phone lines.

It seems primitive today, and jury-rigged. It was! We were using the tools available to us — and luckily the breakup of Ma Bell had freed people to use the infrastructure as we pleased. Fax machines, voice mail, and the internet resulted.

(Telecom monopolies have been reassembling in the 2000s, like some sort of Death Star, but that’s another topic…)

Sharing a phone line with the internet was kind of a drag, because when you connected to the internet you couldn’t make a phone call on the same line. And people used to use their landline telephones a lot more, since many didn’t have the internet and nobody had smart phones.

Lots of problems ensued, mostly intergenerational: older people got furious because the phone was busy for hours and hours while a kid in the house was playing a multiuser game on the computer. Even then, the internet was a huge time suck.

What if You Were the ISP?

In the Cruzio family household, founders Chris and Peggy had it worse than most because their house was the site of several modem servers which made loud modem noises all day and night. Every time a customer connected to Cruzio, the servers would screech and crackle. The equipment was in the attached garage but could be heard throughout most of their small house.

Boing, boing, boing. Crrrrrrr. Eeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee.

Add to this the alarms Chris set to go off whenever equipment faltered. Loud shrieks rang through the little house, waking everyone in the family as Chris valiantly rushed to repair whatever had gone wrong.

Cruzio’s founders knew from the start that the internet is a 24/7 responsibility 365 days a year. People rely on it. And when you host it in your house, you’re going to notice it. All night long.

Things got even worse after the Cruzio babies were born. Any problem with the internet service was immediately followed by a cascade of sound effects: the alarm shrieking, Mom and Dad yelling expletives, babies wailing.

That’s how you ran a startup ISP in 1992.

It’s Different Now

Luckily, Cruzio — maybe because of the valiant efforts — attracted enough customers to become a real business. When Cruzio moved to a downtown office building in 1994, great joy, and much more sleep, ensued.

And our world in 2019 — with its wifi and blue tooth, phones that play movies and fit in our pockets — looks very different now. The babies are grown up. But Cruzio still answers alarms any time there’s a problem with our internet service, any time of day or night.

Cruzio Jingle Contest

$1,500+ in prizes! Live performance! Internet Fame!

Can you believe Cruzio has been around for 30 years and made it this far without a catchy jingle!? Neither can we!

That’s why, for our 30-year anniversary party, we are holding a jingle competition and we’re seeking submissions. If you’re musically inclined (or just musically aspirational) we want to hear what you can create for us!

Presentation:
Finalists will perform their jingle at our annual Open House Extravaganza (OHE) in November. It’s due to be an enormous party as it’s our big 3-0. We encourage costumes, dancing, and dramatic performances to accompany the jingle presentation. If contestants aren’t available to perform at the OHE, we will play video or audio recordings.

Prizes:
The winner of the competition will be awarded $1,500 and a free year of 9-5, M-F coworking membership (or one year of free internet on our Wireless Pro service). The winner will also receive 2 free passes to the 2020 Santa Cruz Music Festival, as well as the opportunity to have an interview with Santa Cruz Work’s Matthew Swinnerton on the Think Local First Radio Show. More announcements on prizes to be announced! Everyone who makes it to the finals and performs at OHE will win something!

Along with prizes, we will make a big deal out of your songs, whether you win or not. Cruzio will look for opportunities to promote contestants and play their submissions. Everyone who enters the competition and attends OHE, even if they didn’t make it to the finals, will get a prize at the door!

Qualifications:
•Write an original jingle for Cruzio

•Must be at least 15 seconds long

•Must use “Cruzio” or “Cruzio Internet” in the lyrics, if there are lyrics. Instrumentals are also acceptable but we may add lyrics later

•We’ll give extra consideration to entries that include the words: internet, fiber, fiber-optics, home or business, friendly, fast, local, net neutral, privacy, or other positive attributes of Cruzio

•Extra consideration also is given to contestants who perform on November 1, 2019, at Cruzio headquarters in downtown Santa Cruz. In-person performance is preferred, but video or audio files are also acceptable

•There must be a family-friendly version available

•There are no age requirements, we’ll listen to your jingle if you’re 5 years old or 95 years old

How to make your submission:
Upload your jingle to Google Drive and share it with JingleContest@cruzio.com. The deadline for submissions is October 1, 2019. We’ll review your submission internally and announce our finalists on October 15th, 2019.

If you need help uploading and sharing your file, here is a link to Google’s support page.

Format:
We will accept video or audio files: mp3, mp4, wav

Good luck and happy jingle crafting! We can’t wait to see what you create!

-The Folks at Cruzio

By submitting your jingle to the competition, you have agreed to the following terms and conditions:

•Sponsor’s Rights to Entries: You do not transfer ownership of your entry by entering the Contest. However, by entering, you grant to The Internet Store, Inc dba Cruzio (“Sponsor”), its agents, licensees, and assigns an irrevocable, perpetual (non-exclusive) right and permission to reproduce, encode, store, copy, transmit, publish, post, broadcast, display, publicly perform, adapt, modify, create derivative works of, exhibit, and otherwise use your entry as-is or as-edited (with or without using your name) in any media throughout the world for any purpose, without limitation, and without additional review, compensation, or approval from you.

•Winners will be notified by email and must sign and return an affidavit of eligibility/recording rights/publicity release within 14 days of notification date. The affidavit will state that the winner’s song is original work and he/she holds all rights to song. Failure to sign and return such affidavit within 14 days or provision of false/inaccurate information therein will result in immediate disqualification and an alternate winner will be selected. Affidavits for winners under 18 years of age at time of award must be countersigned by a parent or legal guardian. Affidavits subject to verification by The Internet Store Inc. and its agents. Entry constitutes permission to use winner’s names, likenesses, and voices for future advertising and publicity purposes without additional compensation.

•All songs, music and lyrics must be original compositions and be credited solely as the work of the creator listed in the entry form. Entries in violation of any copyright laws, trademarks, intellectual property rights or basic ethical standards of amateur or professional songwriting will be disqualified immediately and without notice. In all cases, The Internet Store, Inc. shall in no way be held liable for any such legal action that results from the submission of unlawful or stolen submissions.

•A selection of finalists will be chosen to perform in the live performance finals of the Cruzio Jingle Competition at the 30th Anniversary Open House Extravaganza, November 1st at Cruzio’s downtown headquarters. Finalists will be required to confirm their performance at the Open House party no later than 10/20/19

•The finalists will be selected from their video or audio submissions by a panel of judges.

Berdels & Santa Cruz Fiber

Berdels is a relatively new, but well recognized and widely known local surf and skate apparel shop in downtown Santa Cruz. They work with artists local to California and especially local to the Santa Cruz area to supply the store with unique finds and stay true the beach culture we all know Santa Cruz so well for.

Back in winter, we connected Berdels to our lightning-fast, fiber-optic network and they noticed the change in speeds! We talked to Berdels founder, Bubb Rader, who became the star of our latest video. Here’s Bubb himself on how fiber and Cruzio Internet have been helpful for his day to day transactions and interactions with customers, and the value of local businesses working with fellow local businesses:

“Your daily life is just so tied up here…. The community and the support that we get from everyone and the support that we try to give back by taking risks on locals …. To have it be so good is so rewarding.”

Santa Cruz Fiber is helping local business owners in downtown do what they do best – seamlessly run their business! Without any hiccups, lagging, or arbitrary data caps, our fiber network is helping sales run smoothly and add a whole new, relaxed meaning to “business as usual”.

Learn more about Santa Cruz Fiber, all of its benefits, and how our services and awesome local customer support can help your business here.

Mid-County Fiber Opposed by Big Telecom

map of EASC project
Many of our local government administrators and elected officials have expressed support from Cruzio’s big goal: to make sure all of Santa Cruz County has world class internet at a reasonable price.
Cruzio is trying to push that goal forward. Here’s an open letter to our representatives with the latest news. Please read it and share!
Dear Representative,
Thank you again for supporting Equal Access Santa Cruz, Cruzio’s latest effort to get low cost, fast internet to the under-served parts of your constituency.
As you know, we’re dealing with a scattershot situation where good internet is concerned. Some parts of your district have high speed broadband, others don’t.
The difference is usually that the poorly served areas are rural or low income or both.
Both issues — sparse population and economics — are serious problems and Cruzio is addressing them in a couple of ways:
  1. We’ve created a high-speed fixed wireless network that can extend to remote areas, and we’ve worked with communities and government entities to create economically viable ways to deliver service. However, companies cannot survive on a small, widely dispersed customer base. Cruzio’s competitiveness in more urban areas allows us to survive.
  2. As Cruzio expands our fiber network, we‘ve developed an expertise in serving low income communities, including workforce housing and mobile home parks. Equal Access Santa Cruz is just such a project. We’ve identified underserved urban areas and proposed a remedy.
It comes back to our belief that everyone deserves good internet. Everyone got access to electricity and telephone service when those utilities were established, but the telecommunications industry has been mostly deregulated. Now large national companies are merely picking off the more profitable neighborhoods while harder to reach, lower-income areas suffer.
We need to change that situation. As you know, Cruzio applied for a grant to serve several mobile home parks — and hundreds of low income residents — to address it. We appreciate that you have expressed support for our efforts.
Recently, we were informed that AT&T, Comcast, and Charter are fighting our grant bid based on a technical difference between areas shown on California’s Broadband Map as unserved and what they say the grant guidelines require. This technicality may well deprive hundreds of people from their ability to live like modern people in a modern economy.
If your constituents are deprived reasonably priced, competitive access to good internet, their lives and the economic health of our region will suffer.
This illustrates the damage that highly litigious, lobbyist-heavy telecommunications companies do when they control both the writing and the enforcement of California programs.
Cruzio and our customers, like everyone else in California, pays communications taxes to support rural service. This money goes almost exclusively to AT&T. AT&T, in turn, is taking the money while abandoning the services that reach rural residents. In other words, while being paid to serve rural residents, AT&T is removing the only reasonable service they have.
Let’s disrupt this situation. Let’s not get knocked out by the first technicality. Cruzio will build infrastructure to areas that aren’t currently well served, and we’ll maintain a competitive environment that makes sure local residents get high speeds, low cost, and modern upgrades as they are necessary.
Thanks for your support!

Oliver’s Internship at Cruzio

By Oliver Bielak

As a senior in college, I receive a fair number of questions from family and friends that never fail to stress me out at least a little bit regarding my post-grad plans. “What do you want to do with your major?” and “Any idea what kind of work you want to do after graduating?” are particularly common and anxiety-inducing inquiries that I still worry about from time to time. At the start of this school year, I was feeling pretty lost about what the answers to those questions were since I was still trying to work it out for myself. But now with just a couple weeks until I complete my undergraduate degree at UC Santa Cruz, I am feeling more excitement than anything else and am finally able to answer those once-daunting questions about my post-graduation plans.

I can confidently say that everything changed when I started my internship with Cruzio Internet in September of last year. As an economics major, a challenge I faced until recently involved considering the focus of economics in which I was most interested both in terms of studies and career path. After considering my options, academic interests, and frankly, Google searches of what one can do with an economics degree, I decided that I wanted to explore marketing, and following a brief search, I secured a marketing internship at Cruzio Internet.

Aside from my coursework from UC Santa Cruz, my experience and knowledge of the world of marketing was limited. Furthermore, I had never worked for a company in the technology sector, nor had I ever worked for a company of Cruzio’s size. Needless to say, this was going to be a very new experience to me, which was both exhilarating and slightly nerve-racking. Fortunately, due largely to a passionate yet welcoming staff and an energizing work environment I was able to adapt to my new position smoothly. In the end, I’ve found that working with Cruzio has not only been a pleasurable time but also a tremendously valuable learning experience.

Like many other people, I’ve always been a naturally curious person and working with Cruzio provided me with the opportunity to explore many of my curiosities. Even before I started studying economics, I had always been interested in the ways in which businesses choose to present themselves and their products to the public. I wondered how, say, Apple chose to offer a mini version of the iPad, how they chose to price that product, and what they did to sell as many units as possible. With Cruzio, I had the good fortune of being a part of the team that actually thinks these questions over and makes those kinds of judgment calls, which in and of itself has been immensely enriching. One of my first projects as the marketing intern was to research the internet service providers with which we compete to find out what services they offer, the details and terms of the services, and how much each service costs. This information is vital to us so that we can be aware of what we are going up against, while also helping us decide whether or not we should change our own price points or alter our products in order to remain as competitive as possible. When your main competition is massive corporations like Comcast and AT&T, this process is not an option but a necessity. As you can imagine, it was quite enjoyable to perform such an important task that also allowed me to get a better understanding as to how businesses present and price their products, which is something I had always been curious about. Learning about these concepts in my classes on campus was great, but getting that first-hand experience was much more gratifying.

A second major project I worked on was planning and coordinating our weekly Cruzio Coffee Hour. Since Cruzio is a coworking facility as well as an internet service provider, we try to make our office space as fun and appealing as possible to make sure all our coworking members are content and cheerful. As such, I took the responsibility of organizing Cruzio Coffee Hour, in which I would find a guest speaker from a local organization or business to talk about their experience in their field and engage in discussions with our coworking members, all while we enjoy coffee and snacks together. Over the past few months, we’ve hosted representatives from Bike Santa Cruz County, Idea Fab Labs, the Bird School Project among other organizations. While I’ve definitely had a great time hearing these amazing people talk about the things that they are passionate about, the biggest takeaway from this project has been engaging in a task designed to make people happy. Our Coffee Hours exists to give coworking members the chance to get away from their work for a little bit and stimulate their minds in ways that may not happen in their daily work lives. From an academic or marketing standpoint, this project is great for customer retention and satisfaction, but the aspect I’ve enjoyed most about it has been providing the people here with a chance to further enlighten themselves and to continue to educate themselves even when the academic, studious part of their lives may be well behind them.

Another great set of experiences from the internship is our weekly marketing meetings. During these meetings, we talk about advertising, brand graphics, social media metric, and more; everyone on the marketing team (including CEO and co-founder Peggy Dolgenos) has the chance to bounce ideas off one another, talk about current and future projects, and think of creative ways to make Cruzio as appealing as possible. In these times, I am able to become more aware of the various channels of marketing in which Cruzio is engaged while also having the opportunity to make my voice heard and present my own ideas to the rest of the team. Overall, these meetings provide me with precious insight as to how team members collectively brainstorm, refine ideas, and ultimately, take action. It has been awesome to get a better understanding of the inner workings of a business, particularly one with so many different departments and operations.

One more highlight of my time with Cruzio was helping to organize and execute our annual Open House Extravaganza, or OHE. This event is a First Friday party in which we open the doors of our facility to the public for a night of fun; we have food and drinks, trivia with prizes, local art, games, free gifts, and inform guests about Santa Cruz Fiber, Cruzio’s state-of-the-art fiber broadband network. While this party is a great time for all of our guests, it was genuinely fulfilling to plan something for so long and to see so many people have such a great night. I also loved seeing how excited guests were when I was able to talk with them about Santa Cruz Fiber or other amazing Cruzio projects. OHE is very much a way for Cruzio to give back to the community and getting to be a part of the planning and execution of the party was a truly rewarding experience.

With any internship, the least one can expect is that the work is educational in some way and provides them with real workplace experience. With Cruzio, I had the fortune of not only obtaining valuable experience in the field but also getting to do work for a company that is exciting and relevant. Cruzio is doing so many awe-inspiring things throughout Santa Cruz County, like installing fiber-optic cables to eventually serve the entire county with reliable, lightning-fast internet. It feels good to be a part of the team that is in the vanguard of pushing Santa Cruz’s technological capacity forward and know that I have gotten a lot out of this experience. At the end of the day, work is still work and there are definitely times when I’d rather stay home, get comfy, and watch some Netflix. But when I am here at Cruzio and am focused on a task, chatting with my co-workers, or just walking around the office, it actually feels beneficial to my life. I enjoy myself when I’m working and know that I am getting a lot out of my time here and that what I am doing is valuable. As my internship comes to an end, the only thing I regret is not being able to do more in the time that I have. On the bright side though, I know that I’ll be able to take the skills and experiences I have gained here and use them to my advantage as I graduate from college this June and enter the real world. While I’m still nervous about what is to come next, I am feeling more prepared than ever and welcome the challenge openly.

Women with Large Bra Sizes Spend More Money, and Other Strange Correlations

illustration of a thinking woman

 

What the Internet Is Doing with Your Data, Part II

As we mentioned last month. information about all of us is being collected and resold constantly by some of the largest corporations in the world. Our preferences, likes, and interests are being logged and examined for statistical correlations.

This isn’t entirely new. In the past, some patterns were predictable, too. If you lived in Chicago, you probably shopped mostly at stores in Chicago. If you bought hamburger meat, you might go to the ketchup aisle next. But now we have much more sophisticated tracking.

(By the way, not all internet companies gather and sell your data. Cruzio does not.)

New Tools are More Powerful Than Ever

Powerful data-crunching computers and artificial intelligence (AI) make it possible to store and analyze a lot more data and to make a lot more connections over a broad swath of the population. Social media and phone apps supply these powerhouses with the data they need. (What data do they collect? See last month’s newsletter.)

Market research companies use something called Predictive Analytics. One firm explains:

“Predictive analytics is the use of data, statistical algorithms and machine learning techniques to identify the likelihood of future outcomes based on historical data. The goal is to go beyond knowing what has happened to providing a best assessment of what will happen in the future.” 

They go on:

“An analyst performs a regression analysis to spot strength of correlations between specific customer variables with the purchase of a particular product; they can then use the “regression coefficients” (i.e. the degree to which each variable affects the purchase behavior) and create a score for likelihood of future purchases.”

In other words, if we know what you did before, we can make a good guess at what you’ll do next.

Can Predictive Analysis be a Good Thing?

We’ve mentioned before that there’s a positive aspect to having your data analyzed and your behavior predicted. Companies can basically lay a smooth path before you, so that you are as comfortable in the vast online world as you are among friends.

But there are obvious drawbacks, too: giving people more and more of what they seem to like exaggerates the differences among us, putting us into silos of our own personalities. If you are elderly, you won’t see ads for baby food. Young people won’t get ads for arthritis. Politically, siloing has the effect of polarizing us as each person sees only what they already believe.

Some examples of predictive analytics are pretty impressive. For example, a Target customer was shown ads for products of interest to pregnant women before she knew she was pregnant. That’s amazing. The store was trying to be helpful, but that level of help might be unwanted, or even dangerous.

Some Funny Correlations

Other “insights” are bizarre. Scientific American captured a number of them. A few:

Predictive analysis is often wrong. Even at Cruzio, we’ve experienced examples: One of our programmers has been mis-identified as a dentist and can’t escape the flood of ads for dental seminars. Another, who’s white, has been categorized as African-American. These make us chuckle; we seem to be hidden in plain sight, somehow winning the game.

But as data collection and analysis matures, it’s likely mistakes will diminish and more and more will be known about all of us. The small bargains that we accept every day — I’m alright letting my weather app know my location, I’m alright letting Facebook look at my email contact list — add up as data-mining companies purchase information from the vast number of apps, merge the data, package it and sell it. So our “identities” will follow us everywhere.

Back in the Day, the Browser was Netscape

Cruzio was one of the first companies in the country to offer internet to private citizens. We used that early internet for a variety of things which would look ridiculously old-fashioned now, but back then were cutting edge. In 1993 Cruzio had only a few hundred subscribers — it was a pretty obscure hobby for a small group of (rather nerdy) people.

But that would soon change.

The internet wasn’t people-friendly until web browsers provided easier access. Mosaic, an early graphical browser invented at the University of Illinois, began to catch on in 1992. It was so popular that one of its student authors, Marc Andreesen, founded Netscape after he graduated. Netscape built on the Mosaic model, but was sold commercially, had private investment, and quickly outsped its predecessor. And many people local to Santa Cruz helped build it and use it.

Look how boring Mosaic’s content was in 1993. That was about to change:

Early Mosaic Page

Mosaic, pre-Netscape boom

Why did we all take to Netscape?

Removing the scientific notations and jargon from tools helped make the internet popular.

In fact it’s gotten easier and easier over the decades since. Remember having to type http://www in front of everything? WWW stood for world wide web. We typed it every time. But where else were you going with your web browser?

Cruzio loved the streamlining. It was the whole reason, really, for Cruzio’s existence. Founders Chris Neklason and Peggy Dolgenos were computer engineers at SCO, a local Unix software company. Cruzio was their side gig. Their vision was to make this powerful thing, the internet, accessible to regular people. And better tools like Netscape made the internet easier to provide.

As the better web browser got popular, more people were able to find web pages, so more web pages were created. That meant there was more for the browser to find, so the browser became more useful. It was an upward spiral.

When Netscape was released, Cruzio’s customer base started growing exponentially — doubling every few months. What had been a smallish community of local tech employees from HP or Borland, who wanted home email as well, grew to include many more people.

Of course, lots of kids pushed their parents to Cruzio’s doors. Some of the kids were under ten years old! And many went on to work in the tech industry. Probably their children, in turn, show them how to use phone apps today.

Netscape in 1996

Netscape in 1996 — getting more interesting

Santa Cruz was on it

Cruzio got the internet to people’s homes and offices. But a lot of people in Santa Cruz were working on the technology that was feeding our growth.

More local connections: SCO, where Cruzio’s founders worked, was the first company to include a graphical web browser in its operating system. Lloyd Tabb, a talented engineer/entrepreneur who’s started several businesses in Santa Cruz, was an early employees at Netscape. And Netscape tapped UCSC for talent: Michael Lopp was an early manager after graduating from UCSC. James Clark was a former UCSC teacher.

What happened to Netscape?

As Michael Lopp writes on his LinkedIn page, “Microsoft ate us.”

We built it. We can fix it.

Sometimes, when the state of the internet looks grim (spam, privacy issues, fake news) we look back at that giddy era, and remember how much Santa Cruz contributed to the rise of the internet. And we think, well, there’s still Santa Cruz. Maybe we’ll help solve the problems.