- On Managers (Mike Migurski) — Managers might be difficult, hostile, or useless, but because they are parts of an explicit power structure they can be evaluated explicitly.
- Big Data: Humans Required (Sherri Hammons) — the heart of the problem with data: interpretation. Data by itself is of little value. It is only when it is interpreted and understood that it begins to become information. GovTech recently wrote an article outlining why search engines will not likely replace actual people in the near future. If it were merely a question of pointing technology at the problem, we could all go home and wait for the Answer to Everything. But, data doesn’t happen that way. Data is very much like a computer: it will do just as it’s told. No more, no less. A human is required to really understand what data makes sense and what doesn’t. (via Anne Zelenka)
- Morgan Stanley on the Economic Benefits of Driverless Cars — The total savings of over $5.6 trillion annually are not envisioned until a couple of decades as Morgan Stanley see four phases of adoption of self-driving vehicles. Phase 1 is already underway, Phase 2 will be semi-autonomous, Phase 3 will be within 5 to 10 years, by which time we will see fully self-driving vehicles on the roads – but not widespread usage. The authors say Phase 4, which will have the biggest impact, is when 100% of all vehicles on the roads will be fully autonomous, they say this may take a couple of decades.
- Worse (Marco Arment) — I’ve been sitting on this but can’t fault it. In the last few years, Google, Apple, Amazon, Facebook, and Twitter have all made huge attempts to move into major parts of each others’ businesses, usually at the detriment of their customers or users.
The Contract, Fixing Signin, Pi Gaming, and Glitchy Marketing Constructs
- The Unengageables (Dan Meyer) — They signed their “didactic contract” years and years ago. They signed it. Their math teachers signed it. The agreement says that the teacher comes into class, tells them what they’re going to learn, and shows them three examples of it. In return, the students take what their teacher showed them and reproduce it twenty times before leaving class. Then they go home with an assignment to reproduce it twenty more times. Then here you come, Ms. I-Just-Got-Back-From-A-Workshop, and you want to change the agreement? Yeah, you’ll hear from their attorney. Applies to management as much as to teaching.
- Fixing Signin — The general principle can be stated simply, in two parts: first, give users a trust-worthy way to identify themselves. Second, do so with as little information as possible, because users don’t want to (and simply can’t) remember things like passwords in a secure way. (via Tim Bray)
- Retro Gaming with Raspberry Pi (Adafruit) — finally, a clear incentive for kids to work through the frustration of setting up their own Linux box.
- Mieko Haire — Apple’s fictious demo lady. Or is she fictitious? This is a new aesthetic-esque glitch, but while most glitches are glitches because you see something that doesn’t exist, this is glitchy because the fictions are actual people. Ok, maybe I need to lay off the peyote.
Open Source Kickstarter, Long-Term Thinking, Inquiry Learning, and Progress Reports
- Selfstarter (Github) — open source roll-your-own crowdfunding platform. (Kickstarter has its own audience, of course, which why they could release their source-code and still be top of the heap)
- 100 Year Business Plan (Unlimited) — New Zealand Maori tribe has a 100-year business plan, reflecting their values of sustainability and continuity.
- Given Tablets, Kids Teach Themselves to Read (Mashable) — Story from two isolated rural villages with about 20 first-grade-aged children each, about 50 miles from Addis Ababa […] Within four minutes, one kid not only opened the box, found the on-off switch … powered it up. Within five days, they were using 47 apps per child, per day. Within two weeks, they were singing ABC songs in the village, and within five months, they had hacked Android,” Negroponte said.
- snippets (Github) — mail out updates on coworker progress, a-la Google’s internal system. (via Pamela Fox)
Future Manufacturing, Decisions, Politics, and Paying for Your Service
- The Third Industrial Revolution (The Economist) — A number of remarkable technologies are converging: clever software, novel materials, more dexterous robots, new processes (notably three-dimensional printing) and a whole range of web-based services. The factory of the past was based on cranking out zillions of identical products: Ford famously said that car-buyers could have any colour they liked, as long as it was black. But the cost of producing much smaller batches of a wider variety, with each product tailored precisely to each customer’s whims, is falling. The factory of the future will focus on mass customisation–and may look more like those weavers’ cottages than Ford’s assembly line.
- Hiring Executives (Ben Horowitz) — I am going to meditate for a while on Consensus decisions about executives almost always sway the process away from strength and towards lack of weakness.
- Valve’s Handbook for New Employees (PDF) — Since Valve is flat, people don’t join projects because they’re told to. Instead, you’ll decide what to work on after asking yourself the right questions (more on that later). Employees vote on projects with their feet (or desk wheels). Strong projects are ones in which people can see demonstrated value; they staff up easily. This means there are any number of internal recruiting efforts constantly under way. Reminds me of Google, and I wonder how Valve manages politics in an organic hierarchy organization. (via Andy Baio)
- Facebook Numbers — On average, Facebook earned $1.21 on each of its users this last quarter. I’d love to be able to pay them $10/yr and have them work for me instead of for [insert best-fit advertiser here].
- Cycles of Invention and Commoditisation (Simon Wardley) — Explosions of industrial creativity rarely follow the invention or discovery of a technology but instead its commoditisation i.e. it wasn’t the discovery of electricity but Edison’s introduction of utility services for electricity that produced the creative boom that led to recorded music, modern movies, consumer electronics and even Silicon Valley. However, utility provision of electricity did more than just create a new world, it disrupted existing industries (both directly and through reduced barriers of entry), it also allowed for new practices and methods of working to emerge and even resulted in new economic forms – such as Henry Ford’s Fordism. This isn’t a one off pattern. The cycle of invention/commoditisation repeats throughout our industrial history, following a surprisingly consistent pathway. Understanding this pattern is critical to anticipating the changes emerging in our industry today – whether that’s the web, cloud computing or the future changes that 3D printing will bring. Simon explains the Business of the Internet in one blog post. Simon is king.
- Why Are Software Development Task Estimations Regularly Off By A Factor of 2 or 3? — never a truer word spoken in parable.
- Using the Full-Screen API in Browsers (Mozilla) — useful! The older I get, the more I like full-screen mode. I found myself wishing my email client had it, then someone pointed out that was called “mutt in a shell window”. Fair ’nuff.
Clay Johnson on info overload vs. info overconsumption.
Clay Johnson, author of "The Information Diet," says information consumption, not the information itself, is what needs to be managed.
Getting Feedback, Colour Design, Discovering Musicians, Weather Prediction App
- Feedback Without Frustration (YouTube) — Scott Berkun at the HIVE conference talks about how feedback fails, and how to get it successfully. He is so good.
- Americhrome — history of the official palette of the United States of America.
- Discovering Talented Musicians with Musical Analysis (Google Research blgo) — very clever, they do acoustical analysis and then train up a machine learning engine by asking humans to rate some tracks. Then they set it loose on YouTube and it finds people who are good but not yet popular. My favourite: I’ll Follow You Into The Dark by a gentleman with a wonderful voice.
- Dark Sky (Kickstarter) — hyperlocal hyper-realtime weather prediction. Uses radar imagery to figure out what’s going on around you, then tells you what the weather will be like for the next 30-60 minutes. Clever use of data plus software.
Elegant Boxes, Dashboard in PHP, Management Theory Disparaged, and Obsolete Technology
- Lines (Mark Jason Dominus) — If you wanted to hear more about phylogeny, Java programming, or tree algorithms, you are about to be disappointed. The subject of my article today is those fat black lines. Anatomy of a clever piece of everyday programming. There is no part of this program of which I am proud. Rather, I am proud of the thing as a whole. It did the job I needed, and it did it by 5 PM. Larry Wall once said that “a Perl script is correct if it’s halfway readable and gets the job done before your boss fires you.” Thank you, Larry.
- PHP Clone of Panic Status Board (GitHub) — The Panic status board shows state of downloads, servers, countdown, etc. It’s a dashboard for the company. This PHP implementation lets you build your own. (via Hacker News)
- The Management Myth (The Atlantic) — a philosophy PhD gets an MBA, works as management consultant, then calls bullshit on the whole thing. Taylorism, like much of management theory to come, is at its core a collection of quasi-religious dicta on the virtue of being good at what you do, ensconced in a protective bubble of parables (otherwise known as case studies). (via BoingBoing)
- Obsolete Technology — or, as I like to think of it, post-Zombie-apocalypse technology. Bone up on your kilns if you want your earthen cookware once our undead overlords are running (or, at least, lurching) the country. (via Bruce Sterling)
IT must fill the void when insufficient attention is being paid to business process optimization.
Technology forces organizations to better understand and agree on processes — and that's often well before the subject of supporting technology is even relevant to the conversation.