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Five Times the Internet Was Actually Fun in 2018

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Sure, most of what you see on the internet — the arguing and outrage and depressing news and all manner of other digital diseases — can feel like a boot to your trachea.

And yet, every now and then, the internet provides moments of positivity and humor, even the occasional morsel of togetherness. We are here today to remember and celebrate those gifts bestowed on us in 2018.

We considered many memes that provided short-term entertainment but appealed to too particular a niche audience. Our honorable mention list includes words that would appear entirely nonsensical to those who don’t spend a good amount of their time browsing Instagram and Twitter: Is This a Pigeon, They Did Surgery on a Grape, various “A Star Is Born” memes, Thank U, Next, Surprised Pikachu and the time more than 100 goats got loose in Idaho.

[Revisit the five best internet moments of 2017, a year that included BBC Dad, Knife Kid and a dancing hot dog.]

Here are this year’s shining internet moments.

We can all come together and agree: That duck is magnificent.

When a Mandarin duck mysteriously appeared in Central Park in October, New Yorkers were enraptured by its cornucopia of colors and its ZZ Top-ian duck-beard. The banks of the pond were lined with hundreds of fans elbowing each other for a photo.

Its origin story remains a mystery. The Mandarin duck is native to East Asia, no zoos have come forward to claim a missing duck, and no one has fessed up to keeping it as an illegal pet.

After extensive media coverage, the rest of the world fell in love, just as the New Yorkers had. It was a celebrity that couldn’t possibly betray us. It offered guiltless objectification. It couldn’t be inserted into the culture wars, making it as foreign to the news cycle as it was to Manhattan. It was not a battlefield. It was just a hot duck.

This, however, was a battlefield. And how.

In May, a high school student posted an audio clip on Instagram and Reddit, asking: Do you hear “Yanny” or “Laurel”? The question rapidly became an international obsession, as no one could believe it was even a question. How could anyone possibly hear the other one?

Forget the politics or sports allegiances of Gritty for a moment. Just look into his eyes. Look into his googly, unblinking eyes.

Is it terror you feel? Or is it the feeling of finally being seen?

Gritty was unveiled as the mascot of the National Hockey League’s Philadelphia Flyers in September, and at first he was greeted with confusion. The Flyers wanted him “to be somebody you wanted to high-five, but not hug,” said Brian Allen, a concept artist who sketched out its design.

Mission accomplished. He was described by the Philadelphia City Council as a “ghastly empty-eyed Muppet” and a “shaggy orange Wookiee-esque grotesquerie,” and yet, he was soon beloved.

Beyond Philadelphia, Gritty landed in a sweet spot of absurdity: He was perfect for the internet without feeling too focus-group-designed for it. He later became associated with left-wing politics — an association he neither asked for nor accepted — but Gritty stands on his own.

When arguing on the internet, people frequently simplify and distort the opposite side’s position, if they address it at all. The goal is usually to dunk on the people who are wrong, not engage with them. But in this shining meme, which was popular in March and April, we were forced to see the other side.

Based on a 2009 episode of “American Chopper,” a reality TV show that went off the air in 2010, the meme presents both sides of a legitimate argument. In these five panels, there is no comedy unless both people are making some decent points.

Somehow, a model for healthy debate on the internet included the image of a man throwing a chair in disgust.

In November, we met Knickers.

Knickers was a very big steer — not a cow, though most of the internet knows him as “the big cow” — in Australia who dodged certain slaughter when no one would buy him at auction because he was too big to fit in anyone’s farm equipment.

He beat the system. But mostly, he was just fun to look at. That was all we needed.

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Canadian tech diversity and inclusion in the spotlight

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Diversity and inclusion are hot-button issues, but for all the attention they get, there’s still work to be done in the tech sector, according to a recent Gartner blog.

Citing a range of challenges that include pay inequity, lack of diversity in corporate management, and difficulty recruiting diverse talent, the blog suggests three possible remedies for organizations trying to become more diverse and inclusive: having a long-term plan but focusing on one aspect that will make the most benefit, setting targets and making leadership accountable, and committing resources.

The call for such strategies finds support in a report from the Brookfield Institute revealing that Canada’s technology sector has a disappointing track record when it comes to inclusion and equity, with women “four times less likely to be employed in the sector than men, and earning on average $7,300 less than men in technology jobs.”

The findings are just as grim in a January 2020 report funded by Canada’s Future Skills Centre. According to this document, despite corporate commitments to diversity, “decades of initiatives designed to advance women in technology have scarcely had an effect: The proportion of women in engineering and computer science in Canada has changed little in 25 years.”

And women are not the only disadvantaged group, says the report. “The under-employment of skilled immigrants and under-representation of women and other groups in the ICT industry suggests that recruitment and retention policies and practices of the very firms complaining about this [skills] gap may be contributing to the problem.”

Until we do a better job of addressing inclusion and diversity, career opportunities will continue to be limited for women, internationally educated professionals, racialized minorities, First Nations, Inuit and Métis people. In addition to being a very human issue, this is also one that perpetuates the ICT skills gap by failing to tap into a supply of well-qualified labour.

On the bright side, there are technology companies and organizations across Canada that are truly determined to create opportunities for those who are under-represented in the digital talent pool. There is also an opportunity to recognize their efforts during Channel Innovation 2021: Adapting to the New Customer Experience, a 2.5-hour, virtual event on April 28, 2021.

A showcase for independent software vendors (ISVs) and Canadian channel innovators, the Channel Innovation 2021 celebration will take place on CIA-TV, a unique ITWC platform that allows the audience to take in the show, download related content and videos, and network in live breakout rooms. There are six award categories, including the C4 Award for Diversity and Inclusion. Nominating is simple. Whether a self- or third-party nomination, there are only two main questions to answer and an opportunity to include a supporting document or image.

Winning entries will be announced during the celebration and profiled in the Channel Daily News Magazine and in Direction Informatique, ITWC’s French-language publication devoted to the Quebec marketplace. They will also receive a digital badge for use on their websites and on social media to help gain industry-wide recognition and end-user exposure.

The media attention and recognition are reason enough to vie for this honour, and we always need things to celebrate during a global pandemic, but the real value in awards for diversity and inclusion is in setting an example for others to follow. The news is full of the ways we are falling down when it comes to equity in the IT sector. Let’s take some time to highlight the success stories and encourage other tech innovators to step up.

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Leading Canadian tech entrepreneur Saadia Muzaffar to give virtual keynote in Peterborough on March 9

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In celebration of International Women’s Day, one of Canada’s leading female tech entrepreneurs will be giving a virtual keynote for residents of Peterborough and the Kawarthas on Tuesday, March 9th at 7 p.m.

The Innovation Cluster is hosting Saadia Muzaffar as part of its ‘Electric City Talks’ series.

Muzaffar is a tech entrepreneur, author, and passionate advocate of responsible innovation, decent work for everyone, and prosperity of immigrant talent in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM). She is the founder of TechGirls Canada, a hub for Canadian women in STEM, and co-founder of Tech Reset Canada, a group of business people, technologists, and other residents advocating for innovation that is focused on the public good.

In 2017, Muzaffar was featured in Canada 150 Women, a book about 150 of the most influential and groundbreaking women in Canada. Her work has been featured in CNNMoney, BBC World, Fortune Magazine, The Globe and Mail, VICE, CBC, TVO, and Chatelaine.

Muzaffar’s March 9th talk, entitled ‘Redefining Term Sheets: Success, Solidarity, & The Future We Want’, will inspire women to achieve success in all areas of life, including in business by providing strategies for obtaining funding.

“It is impossible to explain how women only get 2.2 per cent of funding for their ventures while we constitute a majority of the population, without acknowledging long-standing structural and systemic bias,” Muzaffar says, describing her talk. “Women know these odds in our bones because we feel them in too many boardrooms, banks, media advertisements, and venture competitions — yet women are the fastest-growing demographic in new businesses.”

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ARK’s Cathie Wood joins board of Canadian tech firm mimik

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ARK Invest’s Cathie Wood is joining the board of Canadian technology company mimik.

Vancouver-based mimik is an edge computing company that effectively turns devices like phones into private cloud servers. It has already teamed up with Amazon Web Services and IBM on edge computing – two of the bigger players in the space.

The AWS partnership gives software developers access to mimik’s cloud platform. Together, edge devices including smart phones, tablets, and Internet of Things (IoT) products can act as extensions of the AWS cloud. With the IBM partnership, mimik’s technology will be included in automation and digital transformation across manufacturing, retail, IoT and healthcare.

All of mimik’s business lines fit in with Wood’s broad ‘next generation internet’ thesis, one of her big five investment themes. The company itself is private and Wood is not an investor. 

However, as Citywire noted in January, Wood has hinted in interviews that ARK is exploring the launch of a private markets strategy. 

Wood joins a relatively high profile board at mimik. Other members include  Allen Salmasi, a pioneer in mobile technology who was previously with Qualcomm, and Ori Sasson, managing director of Primera Capital, who was an investor in VMWare and other technology companies.

‘I’ve always believed in backing founders who are at the forefront of innovation,’ Wood said in a statement on her decision to join mimik. ‘At mimik, [they] have built a foundation for the next generation of cloud computing.’ 

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