Friday, October 20, 2006
Old-fashioned, personal service, you might think - just the kind of thing that is being destroyed by impersonal modern technology?
Well, Web 2.0 just caught up with Caroline - one of her clients gave her a rave review on a tripadvisor.com forum, some of her other clients joined in the fan club, and now her phone is melting down faster than a cocktail ice cube on an Indian Ocean beach. She didn't know where the new callers were coming from at first, but soon discovered not only what tripadvisor.com is, but also that their forum readers were more likely to conclude a deal than the regular callers. She also discovered that the competition were reading there too - or at least the competitions' headhunters.
Speaking as a techno-optimist, it's nice to see the dream materialising for once, and so close to home. I just thought I'd share the good news.
Sunday, September 17, 2006
I'd just like to report that the nice yellow flowers Beatrice bought are, to my astonishment, still blooming in their bowl by the window.
Monday, August 21, 2006
The Institute of Psychiatry at the University of London conducted clinical trials with volunteer office workers to measure how a constant flow of messages and information affects a person's ability to focus on problem-solving tasks.
Participants were asked first to work in a quiet environment, and then while being inundated with e-mail, instant messaging and phone calls. Although they were told not to respond to messages, researchers found their subjects' attention was significantly disturbed.
Instead of boosting productivity, the constant data stream seriously reduced the volunteers' ability to focus. The study reported that an average worker's functioning IQ falls 10 points when distracted by ringing telephones and incoming e-mails, more than twice the four-point drop seen following a 2002 Carleton University study on the impact of smoking marijuana.
Professor Hugh Heclo of George Mason University observes: "In the long run, excesses of technology means that the comparative advantage shifts from those with information glut to those with ordered knowledge, from those who can process vast amount of throughput to those who can explain what is worth knowing, and why."which I think does rather illuminate the problem.
The second link, from the Juice Analytics blog, talks about the other side of the same coin - what to do with all this information, and they link to the amazing We Feel Fine project. All I can say is, load it and see for yourself.
Thursday, July 27, 2006
His issue? He campaigned for people displaced by the Three Gorges dam. In effect he was hindering economic progress in the name of human rights - the property rights, presumably, of people to their homes and farms.
At the end of the 19th century The Economist famously forecast that the USA would overtake the UK as the world's leading economy in the next century. The equivalent forecast now is that China will overtake the USA in this century. It's hard to view this with quite the same degree of equanimity.
Whatever you might think of US conduct in Guantanomo (and I think it has undermined both the reputation of the US and respect for international law) and of the invasion of Iraq (and I went on two demonstrations to express my views on that) the fact is that having the USA as the world's greatest economy did, at least, show that being a society based on democracy, free speech and individual rights was compatible with economic growth and national success despite the temptation for incompetent and corrupt governments everywhere to argue otherwise.
Until or unless China is mature enough to have evolved a system of law which protects its citizens and their rights, I'm pinning my hopes that less-hyped dark horse in the economic growth stakes, India. What's more, I'll bet that if India does succeed in outgrowing China, it will be because of the greater social stability and freedom from expropriation provided by a free press and the rules of law, not despite it.
Tuesday, June 27, 2006
Thursday, June 22, 2006
Why am I writing this here? In case I should ever forget.
Thursday, June 01, 2006
Thursday, May 11, 2006
The other challenge of the play to an early 21st century English-speaking audience is that it Sandor Marai's story is, well, so un-English. It takes friendship, love and the betrayal of both seriously. Irony is used to intensify, rather than to diminish, involvement. And back we come to the fact that the second half is pretty well a monologue. Where the play succeeds so well is that it convinces us entirely that this intensity is not ridiculous but real, so much so in fact that someone behind me called on her creator at least a couple of times as the story unfolded.
Are we right to accept such high-flown drama? Isn't this the the slippery slope to melodrama and Victorian hypocracy? Not, I think, in case of Sandor Marai. Take a look at his US journal. I laughed at how the first line of the programme's entry on him started with the date he shot himself, and joked that was how all good Hungarian biographies started, but just read the journal. The intensity is all there - it is natural, it is moving and it is entirely real. I am not at all embarrassed to be moved by the play or the journal.
Wednesday, May 10, 2006
I was gently lobbying her to get a blog so it would be easier for lazy folk like me to keep up with her pieces - like this, which as a new father, I especially responded to.
Her response - in effect, that the further into the rootless internet she moves from her on-line regional newspaper column readers, the more communication with readers tends to be polluted by ignorance, misconception or prejudice - is hard to argue with.
But I like to think that anyone (anyone - is there anybody out there?) reading my blog would probably be an exception to that rule. So I hope she'll forgive me tugging her into the blogosphere with this entry - after all, she proves what we all hope, that personal reflection can be of universal interest.
Tuesday, March 28, 2006
I also hadn't expected it to be a story about a massive police hunt being led astray by group-think. The police team were so convinced that the hoaxer was in fact the murderer that they had a policy of ignoring suspects (including Peter Sutcliffe, the real murdere, on nine occasions) who didn't have a Geordie accent or matching hand-writing. This despite there being little convincing evidence for the hoaxer's veracity, despite one of the ripper's survivors - who'd talked to him for half an hour - stating firmly that he had a Yorkshire accent, and despite two of the voice experts putting their reservations in writing - the reaction to this last was to lean on them to shut up.
Anyone who has read Norman Dixon's excellent On The Psychology of Military Incompetence will recognise patterns here. Everything he descrives in the context of military history is applicable to non-military organisations too, and seems to have happened in spades in this case. And anyone who's read Tom DeMarco and Timothy Lister's Waltzing with Bears will be asking themselves why the police didn't do a simple check to see if the hoaxer's supposedly unpublicised information (a reference to another murder as a potential ripper victim) had been - as it was in fact - published in the papers. Given the risks of over-committing to the hoaxer being real, a certain tolerance of skeptical thinking and a small investment in research would have been a reasonable insurance cost which might well have saved lives.
Wednesday, March 15, 2006
I've got an IT job in a small company, my own software and study projects, and Eva and little Johnny at home. I simply can't afford to keep spending time being disorganised.
So far the book makes a lot of sense. Right now my energy and confidence levels are rising, and I'm getting more done. I hope that this isn't just some kind of intellectual sugar buzz - I'm going to finish the book and try to adopt the habits, and I'm hoping for the best.
Friday, February 10, 2006
And what is wrong with Extraordinary Rendition? Follow Chandra's link to the statement of Maher Arar...
a Canadian citizen, that a public enquiry in Canada has been found was tortured while in Syria, having been rendered by US agents in 2002.
(I'm not going to trivialise his words by doing some kind of executive summary. Read it for yourself.)
Everything is wrong with Extraordinary Rendition. The thought that we in the UK might be complicit in a process by which innocent people are effectively disappeared and (by any ordinary meaning of the word) tortured - which is what this Extraordinary Euphemism actually means - appals me. And the thought that our security services might be desparate enough to depend on the notoriously unreliable results of torture fills me with fear.
Tuesday, February 07, 2006
Excellent post on almost-Web Services. I've been there, seen (and suffered) that. Using MQ Series is not a problem, I've done more with that than with SOAP (which tells you a bit about our market). But what is it about XML that inspires host developers with an insane urge to write their own XML parsers?
I've had messages going back where half the content was going to a system with a home-brewed XML parser that rejected XML-escape sequences like "&". We had to skip the built-in .NET serialisation, write our own pseudo-XML formatter and leave ampersands unescaped. We then discovered that the other half was going to a system with a real XML parser that naturally rejects unescaped ampersands. In the end we simply translated all "&" characters in user data into "+" signs.
( ...Oops - DB2 uninstall finally came back, and wants me to close firefox amongst other apps. Back to the grindstone.)