• About Conversations in Care

    Conversations in Care

    Conversations in Care is an Internet radio program focusing on caregiving. It holds discussions regarding services, care-providing and support for those suffering from a number of conditions such as as Diabetes and Alzheimer's.

    The show also brings together community members to discuss issues and methodologies. Tami Neumann hosts the weekly broadcast and is also a Certified Dementia Practitioner and caregiver to her diabetic son.

    Learn more: http://www.conversations-in-care.com/

  • Duneland Innovators Rebrands!

    DunelandInnovators.com 2015 rebrand

    Welcome to the freshly rebranded DunelandInnovators.com brought to you by Mystic Waters Media and graphic designer Adam Farster.

    Duneland Innovators 2015 Logo RebrandThe new Duneland Innovators scheme incorporates the existing style of the site with the branding colors of parent company Mystic Waters Media in coordination with the relaunch of entertainment culture site SpeakerCone. "Logo design, to me, is about simplicity.  You need to be able to tell a brands story with colors, an icon, fonts - all of the above," remarked Farster.

    The site will content to feature the same style of high-quality content focused on Northwest Indiana. "Duneland Innovators is about working with big ideas and working together and supporting the area that we all call home. The icon represents working with ideas and the colors are of the sand and water of the Duneland area," said Farster before adding, "Mystic Waters Media have been fantastic to work with.  Their commitment to bring the best to their clients and their PR work have  proven to be invaluable to my current comic book project, Humalien."

    The new look extends to our social media presence as well. Both our Facebook and Twitter profiles were in desperate needs of a refresh! Hope you like the new feel.

  • Growing, thanks to you!

    Duneland Innovators 2014 Stattistics

    As you can see above, traffic to the site increased pretty dramatically over the calendar year of 2014. This is in no small part due to the migration is a mobile-friendly site design. However, the number one reason why we have been seeing higher readership is due to increasing the amount of editorial content we publish here on the site.

    You can now read original content on DunelandInnovators.com mutiple times a week thanks to the blogging efforts of Bill Koester and Jake Szemanski, respectively writing on policy and technology.There has also been a steady release of Features on the site as well, which you can always find in the slideshow at the top of the site.

    We have begun to dabble into events too, both production and coverage. Expect more this year as we go further into reporting and live-posting from interesting happenings thoughout northwest Indiana.

    Of course, we have to mention that social media has been valuable too. We have been active daily on Twitter to engage both the #nwIndiana community as well as topics we find interesting like business, technology, policy and academics. Follow us thereto join in.

    If you like what we do, please share our articles and tell your friends about the work we do here. That is in fact how readership to the site has tripled over the last 12 months.

    As always, we are always looking for good stories to tell. So, get in contact

  • In defense of the modern library

    This summer, Gary seemed to have a plan to refurbish and reopen their long-shuttered main library branch. Such a plan, however, would have come at the cost of the closure of two of the Gary Public Library’s other branches.

    Now, of all the issues at large and in Northwest Indiana specifically, libraries might not even be on most peoples’ radar. But while it might be far from peoples’ minds, this recent turn of events is a fitting time to discuss the much-overlooked importance of libraries. The fact is, in this day and age, they’re more than simply a place to borrow books, or DVDs now that most video rental places are gone.

    Think of all the things you do on the Internet nowadays: bills, taxes, shopping, communication, work and research. The entire argument for net neutrality in the last year or two was centered on the fact that the web is an essential tool of life. So it might shock you that a U.S. Census report from 2013 revealed that more than a quarter of U.S. households lack any Internet connection. For that segment of the population, the library is vital as one of only a few ways to stay connected to the online world of today.

    The programs put on by libraries also fill many needs, in addition to the staples of story time and other children’s activities and features on arts and culture for adults. Programs aimed at adults like job-searching or resume writing can be valuable for patrons without Internet access or the funds to find such help elsewhere. Same goes for educational sessions for students of all ages. The library also makes a good meeting spot for outside organizations.

    Gary’s plan to refurbish the main library was tabled, and the two branches will remain open for now. I’d say it’s the slightly better of the two outcomes, because two locations stay open instead of being sacrificed for one. But it’s unfortunate Gary is in the position where it must choose which library branches it must close or keep open. A strong library is an asset for any community, but especially for resource-starved ones like Gary.

  • Internet Service: Is it a utility?

    The Internet. It is something that we all use on a daily basis. Does that kind of frequent use make it a necessity? This is a question that the FCC and Internet Service Providers (ISPs) hope to answer in the coming years.

    Why is the FCC trying to classify the Internet as a utility? The simple answer is ‘Net Neutrality’. Net Neutrality is the idea that all sites on the Internet should be given equal priority when loading, which simply means that all sites will load at the same rate of speed. Classifying Internet service would ensure that net neutrality is enforced.

    The reclassification as a utility would be a huge blow to ISPs. The reasons that net neutrality is coming to a head now is because of the increase in video content on the Web. Video content takes up much more bandwidth compared to text and picture based content. The added load of video content has started to put a strain on the relationship between certain video streaming sites and ISP’s. Most notably Netflix and Comcast. Comcast had threatened to throttle the streaming speeds of Netflix’s site unless Netflix paid a ‘streaming fee’.

    I personally think that classifying Internet service as a utility is an appropriate action. For the average citizen, Internet service is definitely a necessity. Getting a job, acquiring information, and basic communication is now dependent on access to the Internet. Allowing Internet service providers to restrict speeds to certain sites is a slippery slope to allowing them to restrict access altogether to certain sites that don’t pay a fee. Creating these kind of paywalls would also have an adverse affect on smaller sites and start-ups who can’t afford to make deals with every ISP in order to guarantee that their content is able to be accessed. Small businesses have enough barriers to overcome, let’s not add another.

  • Local Marketing in the Social Age

     

    In my first post I wrote about how technology has improved local businesses ability to enter the market affordably and create a better experience for their clients. In keeping with that theme, business owners and managers need to ask: how do we get clients when just starting out?

     

    Not even a decade ago when I had a show or event to promote, I would have to head out to Southlake Mall and stand outside of stores whose customers may or may not have interests aligning with mine to hand out flyers. I’d spend hours photoshopping, printing flyers and promotional materials to gain a few extra faces at a local concert or event in addition to the usual group of regulars. In the end, most of those flyers ended up in a garbage can or on the concrete of the parking lot. Today, in the age of social media, I just have to send out a quip in under 140 character with some cleverly attached hashtags and immediately reach out to several thousand more people than I would have spending an entire month handing out physical flyers.

     

    How did this come about? Well, in today's world of shopping online, going to the mall has become quaint. You can access everything on the Web. There's no need to battle the fray of retail. Additionally, everybody has Facebook or Twitter with access to those and other networks at their finger tips right on their iPhone or Android device.

     

    Yeah, I still spend time in Photoshop putting together a good looking flyer but can now send it to the masses with a few clicks. Local businesses who are able to use social media well are able to bring more traffic into their stores. They can hold contests and promotions strictly through social media. They can post a promotion and their customers will see it, retweet or share it. With any luck, their friends will help extend the reach of that post to their connections as well helping the company to extend the visibility.

     

    What are some of the best social media mechanisms or marketing practices for your business right now?

  • Meet Kurtis Iseminger

    Hey folks. My name is Kurtis Iseminger and you will be hearing a lot more from me as I am the newest intern for Mystic Waters Media. I am a resident of LaPorte County, Indiana, which is roughly an hour and a half east of Chicago. I am a student at Purdue North Central studying communications and will graduate in December of this year. My interests include movies, video games, and sports like basketball and baseball. I hope to blog about the use of technology in areas such as sports, academia, and the film industry as well as innovators of these technologies in the Duneland area.

    I am really looking forward to exploring the Duneland area and seeing what is going on all around us. I was a student athlete growing up and athletics have always been a passion of mine. I have also always been a huge fan of the film industry, even making my own videos and posting them on YouTube. I hope to take these interests and find others in the community that are pursuing them and inform you who, what and how they are doing it. I am still looking for other areas to explore and blog about as well, so look for me here to find out more. 

  • Mobile Browsing

    The emergence of smartphones has created change in almost everything in the mobile world.  From GPS and shopping, to our attitudes about timeliness (everything must be instant or it is too slow). Smartphones have sculpted an interesting landscape for mobile devices, consuming anything that can’t adapt quickly enough.  

     

    The internet is one thing that has evolved to meet the needs of its user base, so as not to be overtaken by a rival smartphone service.  The reason for that is because it is the internet, nothing can rival that for the foreseeable future.  The state of internet sites as a whole have changed drastically though.  

     

    Now gone are the mazes we called sites in the past, they have been replaced by simple homepages that can take you to your destination in less than two clicks.  However, another ugly monster would soon rear its head: mobile browsers.  They provide a stripped down version of a site, which is meant to combat the bandwidth issues that mobile browsers had.

     

    However, we are entering a new era of super powerful phones and high-speed mobile networks.  This has allowed web designers to be more ambitious in the design of their sites while still allowing them to be accessed on phones responsively.  The new generation of websites are easy to navigate on the mobile browser, while still remaining comfortable to browse on the traditional computer stations.  The best of both worlds!

     

  • MyTenantNow.com | Service, From the Beginning

     

    MyTenantNow.com is a website based around the service of matching landlords with vacant properties to potential tenants that are seeking a new place to call home. Tawnya Thayer, a registered nurse from Argos, Indiana, owns and manages a number of properties. When the economy tanked at the end of the last decade she was faced with three simultaneous vacancies, the carrying costs can wreak havoc on the bottom line for property managers. Duneland Innovators recently met with Tawnya to discuss MyTenantNow.com.

    "I did what you normally do, place an expensive ad in the newspaper," Tawya said before noting that even after the location is rented a few stranglers always call asking, "Do you still have this apartment?" The value was obvious leading Tawnya to think "I'm not going to throw these leads away...what am I going to do with this information?"

    Using the newspaper she began matching these people to other ads and landlords felt it was worth paying for this service. "I started with three tenant names and one call to the paper and made money!", Tawya exclaimed. Over time she built up to 40 landlords and 500 tenants, people started asking, "Do you have a website?"

    By starting local Indiana level and growing out MyTenantNow.com is able to "do what the newspaper can't" as their slogan goes. The company is actively searching and matching users and if you call their number you'll reach a person direct, no automated service. They feel that many people today would rather use a free website than buy a newspaper.

    Do you manage properties or want to move into a new place? MyTenantNow.com

  • Net Neutrality Pt. 2 - A Challenge to the Status Quo

    How long can the monopoly game continue?

    Cable and internet service providers have a stranglehold on the industry. This becomes painfully obvious every time that we try and find a new or cheaper provider. There isn’t one. You essentially have a choice between Comcast, AT&T, or maybe a 3rd provider if you are lucky enough. Some areas don’t even have that many choices. This lack of competition has allowed companies to be able to charge whatever they want for a subpar service with no government intrusion. However, there has been a disturbance in the business model for these giants. That disturbance is Google Fiber. Google Fiber is a new internet service that is touting speeds up to 100 times faster than the average broadband connection in the United States. Google also offers free internet to customers for a one-time $300 construction fee.

    Now before you pick up your phone to switch providers, keep in mind that Google Fiber is still in its infancy and only available to a few select areas, and Indiana is not in any current expansion plans. While Google Fiber has seemed to rattle the larger internet service providers in the areas they provide services, it is just not in enough markets to make a difference, yet. As it stands now, getting the service in your area is a bit like winning a lottery that you didn't enter.

    It will be a long time before Google Fiber is relevant to a majority of customers because of the one factor keeping Comcast and AT&T on top: The high cost to enter the industry. It takes a lot of time and money to create the infrastructure needed to provide high speed internet and cable. This barrier to entry is one reason there is no new actual competition to cable and internet providers.

    So what can you do? Write your local representative and tell them how you feel about this. It is easy, I swear!

     

    Miss the introduction to this post? Read it here.

  • NITCO | Service & Customers

    The Northwest Indiana Telephone Company (NITCO) has been serving the Region for eight decades, adapting to the changing modes of communication during that time. Recently, the company has taken a step to iterate itself as not only a business presence in the area, but also a communal one.

    NITCO’s redesigned website launched last week. The new site aims to be visually appealing to all visitors, while at the same time easy to navigate. In addition, a new account feature allows customers to conveniently and quickly pay all bills on the site.

    The new site enhances the experience shopping for the services offered, among them voice service, broadband Internet and cable TV with several extensive channel packages. All are available individually or in affordable bundles specialized for home or the workplace, and, thanks to the device integration, all can be connected to any chosen device via a network.

    But NITCO is not only about selling the best services to Northwest Indiana. They are also committed to improving them through better, stronger and more reliable technology.

    Through their Fiber Solutions services, the company replaces traditional copper wires with fiber optics. The advantages are many. Fiber optics can carry much more bandwidth than copper wiring. It also allows the user to utilize newer and more advanced technology that copper cannot handle. IT is much more durable, too, able to survive power surges and not susceptible to corrosion.

    NITCO’s Fiber Solutions are available in bundles in every price range. The company has already a substantial amount of copper wiring, much of it in Valparaiso, as well as several more rural areas.

    NITCO is not only committed to bring better web access to the community. What it also brings is charity and outreach, sponsoring several programs, such as sports teams and cultural events.

    This Tuesday (August 12), the company will be treating its customers to an afternoon of fun in their annual Customer Appreciation Day. Beginning at 11:00 a.m., the event will feature food, games and other activities, and will also have a Kindle Fire giveaway.

    This is no effort for NITCO, as they look at their their customers as their neighbors, as well.

    To learn more visit them at www.NITCO.com

  • Project Loon taking flight

    Project Loon is finally about to take off. After successful tests in New Zealand and Brazil, Google has come to an agreement with the government of Sri Lanka to fly their internet providing balloons over the country. Also announced recently was a similar project by Facebook called “Aquila”. Aquila is a solar powered drone that flies over an area and provides internet. This project is also aimed at providing internet services to developing countries. But why are these U.S. based companies focusing on bringing internet to other countries when there are still parts of the United States that don’t get reliable internet?

    The most obvious answer for both Google and Facebook is that expanding to developing countries is the most surefire way to increase their user base. For those not familiar with Sri Lanka, it is a country on an island off of the tip of India. The island is 10,000 square miles smaller than Indiana but has a population of 20 million. That is a huge potential user base in a relatively small area. Undertakings like Project Loon have the potential for huge payoffs in terms of new users.

    Giving reliable internet access to an entire country all but guarantees a huge increase for Facebook or Google’s user base. Both companies will tout that the internet brings great educational services to people in need (which it does), but that is not what this is all about because neither Google or Facebook are a charity. The obvious reason that Google and Facebook want to increase their user base is to get more unique eyes on ads. And for advertising platforms, the more unique users the better. For the most part, all users are created equal. All users generate views, which generates revenue. It doesn’t matter if it is a view from a user in Indiana or a view from Sri Lanka. A view is a view.

    But where does this leave rural America. We are constantly sending foreign aid out to countries in need, but we sometimes ignore part of our own country when it is in need. And now U.S. companies are helping emerging markets get reliable internet. When are parts of rural America going to get reliable internet so that they can emerge? It might take some government intervention.

  • Project Loon: Not so looney

    So last week I touched on Google’s plans to muscle in on the telecommunications industry by using other companies’ existing infrastructure. Well, Google is also trying to disrupt internet service providers by building infrastructure of their own. This is part of a project that is much farther along than their wireless carrier plans. Google Fiber, Google’s answer to your home internet needs, has already been introduced in a number of cities in the United States. Google has given AT&T and Comcast headaches by offering super fast internet speeds at affordable rates.

    This is all part of Google’s mission to get everyone on the internet in as many places as possible. Another interesting project that could potentially could add to their cellular wireless plan is Project Loon.

    What is Project Loon you ask?

    Project Loon is Google’s plan to provide internet to the masses by way of high-altitude balloons. These balloons would help fill 4G gaps in the United States and provide internet to those who don’t have it yet. These balloons would send and receive signals while floating near the edge of space. It would essentially do the same job as a satellite but at a much cheaper cost. This is a welcomed development for rural America Just ask anyone who lives outside of a metropolitan area, service isn’t always great. Some will tell you that they only get reception in a certain area of their house. I can’t even get reception on I-90 when I get into certain parts of eastern Indiana. Closing these service gaps would save rural America a lot of frustration.

    This is even bigger news for developing countries. Many don’t have internet yet because of the high cost of building the infrastructure. Eliminating that cost can help bring them into the 21st century and in turn help level the global playing field. Providing internet for cheap or for free would bring us to what the internet should be. A public service that gives the people the ability to share ideas and knowledge.

  • The Google Algorithm: Are small businesses left out of the equation?

    The Google Algorithm is one of the most important equations that businesses have to take into account when promoting their business through the companies ubiquitous search engine. It is an equation that is not precisely known by anyone except for our Google overlords. However, accounting for the Google Algorithm and adapting to its changes has helped solidify the importance of search engine optimization (SEO) professionals in the business world.

    This week Google announced that the search algorithm would be changing again in a very big way. The Google search results will start to heavily favor mobile-friendly sites over ones that are not mobile-friendly. It seems like a very common sense change since mobile browsing has been accounting for increased numbers of internet site traffic over the last few years.

    However, any change to the algorithm, especially one that could require a complete site overhaul, adversely affects small businesses. Most larger corporations have teams that work everyday at increasing a site’s position in the Google search results. It is a completely different story for small businesses, especially those here in northwest Indiana. I challenge you to name at least five local businesses with a full-time SEO professional on staff. It just isn’t something small businesses can dedicate staff toward around here.

    Most small businesses have very limited resources which makes it difficult for them to be very agile on the digital side of their business. Some small businesses may only have the ability to update their site once or twice a year with major overhauls coming very sparingly, if at all. And that is fine, they may drop a few spots in the Google search results, but nothing major. However, the newest update to the Google Algorithm could move websites that are not mobile friendly up to 60% farther down the search listings. That is a substantial drop. Small businesses could fall off of the first page of relevant searches completely if they don’t update to mobile. And depending on how the site is built, it could be a costly and long process.

    Google constantly changing their search algorithm is a mixed bag for small businesses. While the constant change keeps large corporations from taking advantage of loopholes, big changes to the algorithm like this most recent one can really leave small businesses at a disadvantage.

  • The ups and downs of online political outreach

    Indiana Senate Democrats, half of whom are from right here in the Region, have developed a site where Indiana residents can voice their concerns on the issues and vote on which ones are most important to them. The top results will be the party’s legislative priority in the next session.

    I think this is a GREAT idea. Regardless of the issues or even the party, this sort of channel can give a better, clearer voice to elected officials’ constituents.

    But is this a good thing, considering the kind of stuff people do on the web?

    Here are some ways it could be positive:

    • This could be an interesting way to get young people, a voting bloc for whom voter turnout is generally low, more involved in the process. Who knows? Maybe if this is a success, it could lead to a push to make voting via computer or even smartphone a reality, which might ensure greater participation by removing the effort of physically going to your polling place.
    • Traditional polling methods are becoming less accurate, as the model is mostly built on conducting polls via landline phones. Remember landlines? Those phones from back in the day that had no text function or Internet access, that were attached to walls, and where you had to physically press individual buttons to make a call? Well, one certainly would think online polling is the way to reach the under-30 crowd.
    • Aside from voting on issues that are already in the news, users can submit laws that they would like to see, which can then be voted upon by site visitors. If corporate lobbyists can literally write bills for Congress, then why not regular people?

    And now, some corresponding drawbacks to each of those things

    • Do we want to make something as important as selecting our leaders available with the same level of thought and effort as a taking a Buzzfeed quiz, or liking a Facebook post, or favoriting a Tweet? Heck, the voting button on the site looks exactly like the “upvote/downvote” functionality on Reddit.
    • Ballot stuffing, or other poll manipulation. Even if a poll is set to where each person can only vote once, web users can create throwaway usernames or even simply use another browser window to manipulate results.
    • Have you even been on the Internet? Well, it has this tendency to bring out the id in people, in all its anger, venom, ignorance, and xenophobia. The notion that a hateful and horrifying idea might be put forth on a platform like this is secondarily disheartening to the fact that I could see people supporting it, possibly a lot of them. And let’s not forget the trolls who’d abuse it.

    In spite of all that, I still think this is a great idea. In fact, I’d say the political process could use more direct interaction with the people via the web. I just recommend that people running the site be able to tell the different between the trolls and the people who are serious about it.

  • What is Net Neutrality you ask?

    Neutral?

    The landscape of the web has drastically been changing over the past decade and will continue to change over the next. Not only that, but the way we are provided with those services could be receiving a major overhaul in the next year or so. As of right now, the entire web is neutral, meaning that every web page will load at an equal rate. Major internet service providers are pushing are to eliminate net neutrality.

    What this means for the us, as users, is that services like Netflix, YouTube and other streaming services might have to pay to have their websites and content load faster and have priority over other sites that don’t pay for faster speed. Companies that don't pay for faster loading will load at a baseline speed that is slower.

    Destroying net neutrality could have an instant negative impact on smaller sites that don't have the budget to pay for faster loading times. The baseline speeds these sites would have would seem unbearable in comparison to the speeds of sites paying for higher speeds.

    More for less?

    There are a few problems with major sites paying more to get faster load times. The first problem is that the cost of this will be passed on to the American consumer for something they should already have: faster internet. Any idea where the United States ranks in download speed? If you guessed that the United States is in the top twenty, you are wrong. Top thirty? Still wrong. The United States is ranked right behind Slovakia for 31st in worldwide download speed.

    The next question one would have is: How much are we paying for our 31st ranked internet speed? On average, we are paying $55.16, which is good enough for the 19th most expensive in the world. This simply shows that we are already paying more for less. Now why would they want to charge us more for slightly less?

    Read the follow up.