Flight tracking with Flightstats

I neglected to mention this when Buzz first pointed to it, although I did start using it. I’ve tried many of the flight tracking sites and Flightstats does appear to be more useful. Check it out. And thank you to both Buzz and Scoble.

Flight tracking

We’re about to hop on yet another plane, this time from Seattle to San Jose. One problem is that the flight trackers that Google points to generally suck. Buzz was raving about a new flight tracker he found, Flightstats, which is much better. Our plane is running late, which is why I wanted to track the flight.

Learning how to make wikis work effectively

Atlassian has indeed put together a very useful resource with their Wikipatterns site. The social patterns that contribute to successfully wikis are by no means self-evident. This provides some really useful tools and ideas to help someone who grasps the technology make headway on the necessary changes in work practice.

Making the Wiki Work

“If you build it, they will come.” We’ve all heard those words way too many times, and yet I’ll bet if you look around at your online haunts you can find more than a few ghost towns: places that some web worker built where nobody bothered to come. Part of the problem is that we tend to be the virtual vanguard: we assume that everyone else on the team will “get” the latest bit of social software as fast as we do, and jump wholeheartedly on board.

In real life, things are different, as anyone who has ever tried to set up a corporate wiki has probably discovered. Faced with the possibility of building up a vibrant company-wide user-edited online resource, most people end up scratching their heads and retreating back to more familiar modes of communication. Now Atlassian (makers of commercial wiki software Confluence) have done something about this particular problem with their new site Wikipatterns. [Web Worker Daily]

Galbraith and the Economics of Innocent Fraud

 John Kenneth Galbraith
The Economics of Innocent Fraud: Truth for Our Time.
Houghton Mifflin (April 26, 2004)




Earlier this morning I was reading one of the threads over at Ask E.T., the ongoing discussion hosted by Edward Tufte. It was a discussion of Richard Feynman’s conclusion to his report on the Challenger accident:

For a successful technology, reality must take precedence over public relations, for Nature cannot be fooled

I thought it fitting relative to John Kenneth Galbraith’s extended essay The Economics of Innocent Fraud. In it, Galbraith reflects on our collective capacity for self-delusion in matters economic. Here’s one representative sample of his ruminations:

The myths of investor authority, of the serving stockholder, the ritual meetings of directors and the annual stockholder meeting persist, but no mentally viable observer of the modern corporation can escape the reality. Corporate power lies with management — a bureaucracy in control of its task and its compensation. Rewards that can verge on larceny. This is wholly evident. On frequent recent occasions, it has been referred to as the corporate scandal.

Something positive must also be said. The modern corporation has a highly serviceable role in contemporary economic life, more than that of the primitive, aggressively exploitative capitalist entities that preceded it.

These adverse tendencies must now be known, celebrated, and addressed. The easy emphasis is on the error. More important is well-designed and enforced remedy. [p.31. The Economics of Innocent Fraud.]

You can read the book in a quiet evening. You’ll be thinking about it for much longer.

Alan Kay on learning and technology

Alan Kay is talking once again about what went wrong with the personal computer and personal computing. Here’s a pointer to a recent interview he did with CIO Insight magazine that is well worth your attention.

A CIO Insight

Alan Kay was recently interviewed for CIO Insight magazine’s Expert Voices feature. In this piece entitled Alan Kay: The PC Must Be Revamped–Now, Alan discusses the mindsets that stand in the way of real innovation – and what his not-for-profit VPRI is doing to address the issue. In the article, Alan defines Croquet as one of those efforts and as “a new way of doing an operating system, or as a layer over TCP/IP that automatically coordinates dynamic objects over the entire Internet in real time. This coordination is done efficiently enough so that people with just their computers, and no other central server, can work in the same virtual shared space in real time.”
[Julian Lombardi’s Croquet Blog]

Alan is up to his old tricks of trying to invent the future instead of predicting it. His focus remains on viewing the personal computer as a learning tool more than a productivity tool, which means, among other things, that you should be prepared to invest time and effort in that learning. He is not fond of efforts that sacrifice the real potential of tools by focusing on making the first five minutes easy and entertaining at the expense of crippling the long-term capabilities of the tools.

Alan remains a disciple of Doug Engelbart:

 Engelbart, right from his very first proposal to ARPA [Advanced Research Projects Agency], said that when adults accomplish something that’s important, they almost always do it through some sort of group activity. If computing was going to amount to anything, it should be an amplifier of the collective intelligence of groups. But Engelbart pointed out that most organizations don’t really know what they know, and are poor at transmitting new ideas and new plans in a way that’s understandable. Organizations are mostly organized around their current goals. Some organizations have a part that tries to improve the process for attaining current goals. But very few organizations improve the process of figuring out what the goals should be. [Alan Kay: The PC Must be Revamped Now]

There is a potentially deep and rich connection between challenging knowledge work and technology. But realizing that potential will require different attitudes about how much time and effort we should be prepared to invest in learning. Organizations thinking about investing the technologies collectively identified as Enterprise 2.0 should also be thinking about what investments they should be making in the appropriate individual and organizational learning

Jack Vinson’s plans to blog with his knowledge management class

I had lunch yesterday with Jack Vinson. Jack is teaching about knowledge management again this Spring and is planning on having his students keep blogs as part of the class experience. Back in 2002, I tired a similar experiment at Kellogg and blogged about the results then. I figured I would share the pointers here, in case anyone else wants to take a peek

Blogs in the classroom

Blogging in the classroom, Part 2. Forced blogging = flogging?

Blogging in the classroom, Part 3. Developing an initial view on klogging

Blogging in the classroom, Part 4. Plugging into the conversations

Certainly, the technology environment has gotten richer and easier to work with. My recommendation to Jack was to keep everything browser based, especially given that many of his students work full time and have computers locked down by  their IT departments.

I am also inclined to start with reading blogs and following blog conversations via Bloglines or Google Reader pre-loaded with an initial set of feeds. Requests to comment on items and publish reactions will flow from that more naturally than from straight on assignments to post. I am looking forward to Jack’s efforts.  

Interview with Michael Wesch on his Web 2.0 video

Marc Orchant finds an excellent interview with Prof. Michael Wesch, creator of Web 2.0…The Machine is Us/ing Us.

Battelle interviews Michael Wesch – the web 2.0 video

Unless you’ve been hiding under a rock, you’ve seen the Web 2.0 video created by Michael Wesch, a professor of Cultural Anthropology at Kansas State University. It’s been screaming through the tubes and has been posted and commented on all over the sphere. John Battelle just posted a really fine interview with Dr. Wesch in which he explains his vision of how connectedness and web services are changing the dynamic of human contact and interaction.

One sample of Wesch’s interview:

So if there is a global village, it is not a very equitable one, and if there is a tragedy of our times, it may be that we are all interconnected but we fail to see it and take care of our relationships with others. For me, the ultimate promise of digital technology is that it might enable us to truly see one another once again and all the ways we are interconnected. It might help us create a truly global view that can spark the kind of empathy we need to create a better world for all of humankind. I’m not being overly utopian and naively saying that the Web will make this happen. In fact, if we don’t understand our digital technology and its effects, it can actually make humans and human needs even more invisible than ever before. But the technology also creates a remarkable opportunity for us to make a profound difference in the world. [A brief interview with Michael Wesch]

Wouldn’t you like to take an anthropology course from this guy?

Auditors and Enterprise 2.0 technologies

[cross posted at FastForward blog]

Over a lunch conversation on Thursday with Andrew McAfee, a group of us discussed barriers and enablers for adopting Enterprise 2.0 technologies within organizations. One objection that I have often seen raised came up in this conversation as well; that blogs, wikis, and other collaboration technologies represent new risks in an era of increased scrutiny and regulation. The reasoning goes that there is already too much risk associated with tools like email and IM of inappropriate behaviors being subject to discovery and that, if anything, for sensitive issues no electronic traces should ever be created.

The primary fear appears to be that legitimate internal debate and discussion of complex problems will be taken out of context and misrepresented. I think this fear actually represents a powerful argument in favor of Enterprise 2.0 technologies as a decided improvement over today’s ad hoc environment of email, instant messaging, and scattered memos and presentations. By design, Enterprise 2.0 technologies contextualize the development and refinement of ideas as a social activity. By making the thinking and the debate visible and organized, you blunt, if not disarm, those who would try to portray the debate as something other than what it was.

Starting to unpack the promises of Enterprise 2.0

[cross posted at FastForward blog]

I was sitting next to James Robertson yesterday as Ray Lane delivered his opening keynote address at FastForward07. At one point James leaned over to me and joked that I was beginning to twitch. What was bothering me was that Ray was perpetuating the lazy and glib thinking of Nick Carr’s infamous Harvard Business Review article “IT doesn’t matter.”

Carr setup a series of artificial distinctions and misleading definitions to make the binary point that IT was always and everywhere a corporate utility function that had no place at the executive table. While that certainly played well in many organizations that had poured millions of dollars into ill-conceived technology initiatives, I doubt that it gained much traction in the board rooms at Amazon or Google. The question is not whether IT does or does not matter. The questions are how does it matter, when does it matter, how does it integrate with our broader strategic agenda, and what do we as senior executives need to understand about technology’s capabilities and possibilities in order to make intelligent decisions for our particular organization.

In the context of this conference, Lane is making a similarly broad assertion that “search is core.” That may make for an excellent marketing tagline, but I am struggling with just what it means for an organization. I am wary of any claims that boil down to “here is your silver bullet.” My own bias is that all of these promising technologies are just that-promising. Now, the task is to unpack and understand what it will take to turn the promise into reality in a particular organization at a particular time and place.

Thinking about the larger context

 I found the following very helpful in my continuing efforts to understand global climate change.

The Human Hand in Climate Change

Kerry Emanuel (whose influential scientific work we’ve discussed here previously) has written a particularly lucid and poignant popular article on climate change for the literary forum “Boston Review”. The article is entitled Phaeton’s Reins: The human hand in climate change. We thought it worth passing along.

I’m finding how people talk and think about climate change to be a good marker for distinguishing between real strategic thinkers and those who confuse gaming the system with strategy.

I would put the American Enterprise Institute into the gaming the system category based on this report of their encouraging scientists to write critical reviews of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s recent summary report.