Archive for 2005

Blood in the streets

Thursday, December 8th, 2005

I really enjoyed Harold Pinter’s Nobel Lecture. Enjoying might not be good phrasing, as it includes so many disturbing facts about acts of horror against the human-kind.

The speech is brilliant and touching. A man fighting cancer with nothing to loose, writes his spiritual testament:

“The crimes of the United States have been systematic, constant, vicious, remorseless, but very few people have actually talked about them. You have to hand it to America. It has exercised a quite clinical manipulation of power worldwide while masquerading as a force for universal good. It’s a brilliant, even witty, highly successful act of hypnosis.”

He even goes on to volunteer as a speech writer for Bush:

God is good. God is great. God is good. My God is good. Bin Laden’s God is bad. His is a bad God. Saddam’s God was bad, except he didn’t have one. He was a barbarian. We are not barbarians. We don’t chop people’s heads off. We believe in freedom. So does God. I am not a barbarian. I am the democratically elected leader of a freedom-loving democracy. We are a compassionate society. We give compassionate electrocution and compassionate lethal injection. We are a great nation. I am not a dictator. He is. I am not a barbarian. He is. And he is. They all are. I possess moral authority. You see this fist? This is my moral authority. And don’t you forget it.

The link includes the lecture which was pre-recorded, and shown on video December 7, 2005, at the Swedish Academy in Stockholm.

Blogs & Wikis @ Turku, Finland

Wednesday, November 23rd, 2005

I’m attending a seminar by University of Turku. The participants are mainly people from the academic community, I’m the few corporate scumbags around here. Interesting content was discussions about blogs and wikis and less interesting was direct product sales pitches from a few companies.

Jere Majava from the University of Joensuu is perhaps the only blog researcher in Finland. He is working on his thesis on blogs in the academia. Here are some of his points:

  • Blogs are not diaries, but the structure is similar
  • Blogs are not content management systems, although the structure is similar
  • Blogs are not only about publishing but rather about interaction and conversations
  • Blogs are also about creating a net presence as blogs are replacing traditional static home pages
  • Distributed conversations emerge out of cross-site communication between blogs
  • Starting up with a group blog is the wrong way to go, because it doesn’t create an impression different from typical web publishing. Also creating dialogical relationships between blogs is hard if the blog has no personal identity
  • Often good group blogs are created by experienced bloggers
  • Using the same blog during a longer time-period is important for following personal learning: re-using the same blog
  • Blogs are suitable for self-directed learning more than for formal learning
  • Blogs could be useful for conversations across domains of expertise
  • Blogs are useful for learning academic practices like referencing etc.
  • Well-maintained blog improves the status of an academic blogger within the community

Riitta Suominen explained wikis. Nothing new there, but a few good points:

  • Publishing is in itself a positive factor for motivation
  • In education we tend to have auctoritaric expert-centric approach to knowledge. Wiki fills the gap with learner created content

Overall, good introduction of wikis and blogs to people who are not yet that familiar with these emerging concepts.

People didn’t like the presentation slides that much, I heard comments about underestimating the audience with bullet-point rigged presentations. Maybe they need to improve their Lessigian presentation skills icon smile Blogs & Wikis @ Turku, Finland Juha-Matti Arola wrote also recently, that “has anyone the courage to free us from the slavery of Powerpoint slides?”

Feeds everywhere

Wednesday, November 23rd, 2005

Feedburner has feed for thought. Probably the best article about current trends in RSS/Atom feeds I’ve ever read. Feeds are entering into other content syndication areas, not only blogs:

That’s right. I increasingly use RSS for something else other than blogs, like receiving daily comics, calendar entries and changes to wiki pages. Feeds also enable structuring content so that search engines are able to see relationships between documents. This is the first important step for machine-understandable semantics in the conversational structures of the web. As some Google developer once said, RSS is for information what HTML was for web.

I have noticed in various contexts that people are afraid to release their content through feeds, as it will reduce the number of visitors on their site. Websites are usually created around advertisements, which in turn rely on number of visitors. On the other hand, publishers value subscribers:

“Why should we distribute our content via RSS if we have no idea how we’re going to monetize it”. Another person from the same organization answered, “Would you rather have visitors or subscribers?”

Today’s quote: When Skype crashes in Windows, this is the resulting error message: Skype – Free Internet Telephony, which is not responding” icon smile Feeds everywhere

Other side of the coin: Web 2.0

Monday, October 24th, 2005

In all the excitement and rapture of Web 2.0 and the interesting qualities of Open Source and Pro-amateurs we need to take one step backwards and look at these issues with critical eyes.

I had just read some stuff about technological singularity, how the web might “awake” and perish us all. This is the least interesting stuff about singularity: the most interesting parts include the data about exponential growth of complexity in our society, which is useful to understand that we need to change the way we learn and connect information in our daily lives.

I among others tend to push Web 2.0, wikipedia and blogosphere everywhere I go as something that is more worth than what it really is. I’m interested in all of this and for a reason. I learn every day new things because there is so much innovation going on.

But look at Nicholas Carr’s “The amorality of Web 2.0″ and wake up for a moment. This might be a step backwards in terms of culture if things go horribly wrong. There is religious-like qualities in the way people worship technology in these exciting days. So…

…let’s can the millenialist rhetoric and see the thing for what it is, not what we wish it would be.

[: UPDATE :]

Excellent criticisms criticism by Evelyn Rodriguez. We should not forget that professionalism comes from somewhere. Amateurism is defined as having love and passion to what ever the amateur is doing. The result might be as professional as professional can be. Silicon Valley is full of amateurs. Today, we need no formal degree to be higher in the intellect, the world of higher self-education is in our finger tips.

Network orchestrators or influencers?

Friday, October 21st, 2005

When the world is moving towards a network economy we start to see new management practices emerging that take into account the fact that supply chains often include autonomous actors. Vertical companies in the past controlled the production of goods from start to end. Now globalization has resulted in increased competition and various verticals are starting to focus on their core competences and out-sourcing the rest. This transformation from vertical integration to horzontal integration requires new ways to think about how to improve the outcome of a supply chain. Often the approach is to emulate the past practices of leadership to cover the new structure, something that we may call network orchestration.

Often these new kind of supply chains are called networks. My definition of network limits a network to such an organization of nodes in which a node autonomously chooses whether or not to connect to another node or not. The driving force is win-win, in which both parties have mutual interest to cooperate or connect together.

I think this definition is somehow in lines with what Manuel Castells calls the network society. Today, many organizations see the ability to network as one of their core abilities to stay in business. This bottom-up behaviour is very different from the top-down organization where one node has total control over the other nodes and chooses who is part of the “network” and who is not. These are more like virtual organizations, intentionally managed by very powerful nodes.

If we think about the word “orchestrator”, the original meaning of orchestrator was to describe someone leading an orchestra:

Orchestration or arrangement is the study and practice of arranging music for an orchestra or musical ensemble. In practical terms it consists of deciding which instruments should play which notes in a piece of music.

– Wikipedia

Think about this for a moment. The orchestrator decides which instruments should play which notes in a piece of music. In business terms, if the music is the network, notes are business transactions and instruments are the various companies, we see that orchestrator is some single company in the middle who controls the whole masterpiece. There is no freedom for innovation, mutual partnerships or emergence. The structure is defined by one party and it stands. Sounds like a synonym for tyranny.

This is one of the reasons why I think that networks cannot be led like cattle. In true networks in which we have multiple autonomous actors, the most influential are hubs that have more connections than others. The reason why hubs exists is often the value that is generated through the hub, for example the connections the hub already possess and/or the value in the hub itself. In the book Linked, Barabasi explains the concept of so called scale-free networks in which the average connections per node follow a power-law distribution. Rich get richer, hubs that have a lot of connections have good chances to receive more connections than others. All successful ecosystems like life itself follow the properties of a scale-free network. In terms of the network, life is self-organizing itself.

In 1990, sociologist Elinor Ostrom argued that external authorities can damage communities that create common pool resources (CPR). Common pool resources are centrally important, because if the number of free-riders (overconsumers) in a network overpasses the number of actors that add more value in the network than they take, the network will fall apart. A self-regulating community which is collectively able to choose, modify and judge the rules, sanctions and conflict-resolution mechanisms that govern the community will be able to produce common pool resources and work towards a common goal. Once an external authority alone orchestrates all the rules, boundaries and sanctions, the members of the community will start to drive their own self-interest. This results in increase of the number of free-riders. Humans are very bad collaborators. Voluntary cooperation among other participants often emerges only if the community members are aware of being part of a community and have freedom to participate in creating the rules that define the community.

In today’s network economy it’s more important than ever to have qualities to become a hub. To become one, one needs to know how to be influential enough to create a lot of win-win opportunities for cooperation. This is leadership without leadership. Knowing how to be an influencer rather than an orchestrator.