30 November 2008

Imagining Technology Futures - part 6

For me some defining characteristics of social computing (or web 2.0 as some call it) have been (a) democratization of the process of creation, enabling user generated content; and (b) mashing up of different applications and media to create something new.

These characteristics are likely to remain part of the next generation of the web. All of the new technology trends discussed in this series of posts together with a myriad of others will work together, intersecting and cross-enabling each other. They will work together to create ways of being and behaving that we can only dimly understand in much the same way that our predecessors could only dimly understand the revolution inherent in the creation of the internet.

One thing is certain, with so many smart and well motivated people who are working with technology to solve the problems facing our world we will see many innovations.

Imagining Technology Futures - part 1
Imagining Technology Futures - part 2
Imagining Technology Futures - part 3
Imagining Technology Futures - part 4
Imagining Technology Futures - part 5
Imagining Technology Futures - part 6

By Carruthers via Aide-mémoire

29 November 2008

It's Caturday again ...

The music is a little weird but grew on me after a while. But if you want a more serious view on lolcats then go here.

By Carruthers via Aide-mémoire

28 November 2008

Imagining Technology Futures - part 5

Another key feature of the future will be an increased importance in data management to enable the semantic web.

Databases are the key to the future of the web. Until now we have focused on the frontend of the web, developing RIAs (Rich Internet Applications) as part of the web 2.0 revolution. But the next generation of the web will be about semantic and context aware computing. To achieve this new generation of the web changes to database technology will be required.

Only the database appliances that are fully optimized for fast parallel processing will really enable the shift to semantic and context aware computing. However, a key limiting factor for the next stage in the evolution of the web – from web 2.0 to the semantic web – is the way our current relational databases work. These older style databases are optimized for transaction processing, which either ensures that a complete atomic transaction is completed or will reverse the entire transaction. The next generation web will require massively parallel database operations to support the semantic web.

David Wiseman from Sybase was introducing their new Analytic Appliance at the recent Gartner Symposium/ITxpo in Sydney. He described this database as a “highly optimized data warehouse analytics appliance.” This is a column based database that is optimized for high speed massively parallel access. It is this kind of approach that is going to enable the next generation semantic web. Kevin Kelly was talking about this new approach, using databases to power the next generation of web, recently at the Web 2.0 Summit in San Francisco, calling it the “operational Semantic Web, or World Wide Database, or Giant Global Graph, or Web 3.0”.

Imagining Technology Futures - part 1
Imagining Technology Futures - part 2
Imagining Technology Futures - part 3
Imagining Technology Futures - part 4
Imagining Technology Futures - part 5
Imagining Technology Futures - part 6

By Carruthers via Aide-mémoire

27 November 2008

"If I can't dance, I don't want to be part of your revolution."

Over lunch the other day with some girl geek buddies talk came around, as it does, to the revolutionary nature of community on the internet. It reminded me of this quote from the noted anarchist Emma Goldman.

So much of the discussion about what is happening on the internet is so earnest and serious that I think we've lost a bit of our joie de vivre. Before the internet became a business it was about trying out cool stuff with people, it was about pushing the boundaries of what we knew was possible. It was also about meeting new people and creating our own, somewhat idiosyncratic, communities of interest.

Now the internet is all business. Everyone's got advice on how to monetize it. But I miss the early days when it was just for fun and a way to stretch our notions of human endeavour. When it was idealistically driven and seen as a way to share information widely and to break down barriers.

I want an internet that is about connecting people and ideas in new ways that create a better world. I want an internet that helps us to overcome barriers and distance. I want an internet that makes people better than they were without it. I want to join with like minded individuals in collective action for positive purposes. And, like Emma says, "If I can't dance, I don't want to be part of your revolution."

[Photo: Ned the Dog, Gold Coast Australia]

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26 November 2008

Imagining Technology Futures - part 4

New Interfaces are another area in which we can expect to see change. Since the development of the mouse and touch screens we have not seen any significant improvements in how we interact with devices.

However, over the next few years we will see a move away from textual interfaces and towards newer kinds of interfaces, such as Microsoft Surface which is just an extension of the current HCI (Human Computer Interaction).

The ultimate future trend is about evolving the HCI into a BCI (Brain Computer Interface) using non-invasive methods.

Significant research advances are taking place in relation to our understanding of the BCI, and this effort is largely driven by medical needs. Neurological rehabilitation is a need that is driving the development of this technology. There are already a number of prototypes that enable disabled people to direct a thought command to drive prosthetic devices. Previous incarnations of this type of technology looked at implanting devices into people, but now the direction is non-invasive BCI devices, perhaps using wearable technology?

[Image: Nick Hodge asleep on one of two Microsoft Surfaces in Australia]

Imagining Technology Futures - part 1
Imagining Technology Futures - part 2
Imagining Technology Futures - part 3
Imagining Technology Futures - part 4
Imagining Technology Futures - part 5
Imagining Technology Futures - part 6

By Carruthers via Aide-mémoire

25 November 2008

We need geeks!

It has been prevalent among many cultures to laugh at geeks. But this is a shortsighted approach to this special breed.

Geeks have been with us for a long time. Back in our cave dwelling days, while most of the tribe were running around with pointed sticks trying to catch some dinner, there was a geek back at camp fiddling with an interesting bit of rock that could be sharpened into a better tool for catching dinner.

Great geeks of history have included doctors, scientists and engineers, and today this category also includes software developers, hardware designers, network engineers, etc.

Geeks are the people in our society who ask 'why', and this question is often followed by 'why not?' They are the people who pull things apart, and who try to put them back together better than before. Who see what another geek just did and think 'if that is possible then my idea might just work too'. They are the ones who work on their projects, often unpaid, through genuine passion for the work itself. And sometimes this effort leads to significant advances in technology or in thought.

Until recent times it was often lonely being the only geek in town. Other people were intolerant of the constant questions or the abstraction while thinking about a new idea. Geeks getting so focused on their new idea that they forget to eat, sleep or (sometimes) wash has caused relationship stress for many.

But the internet (which was built by geeks) has empowered geeks to reach out and meet others like them. Hyperconnective tools (things like Slashdot, Twitter and Friendfeed) mean that our geeks are no longer isolated from each other.

With the myriad of challenges facing our world we need to harness this natural predilection of geeks to question, to debate, to come up with new and different technologies, and new ways of thinking.

A sensible society would be looking at its geeks and trying to work out how best to nurture their ingenuity and passion, how to support their endeavours and to channel them into addressing the great problems of the day.

[Image source: my favourite online store for t-shirts ThinkGeek - we have no commercial relationship but if they want to send me a t-shirt it would be most welcome.]

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23 November 2008

Imagining Technology Futures - part 3

Another area that is enabled by wireless technology and miniaturization is wearable computing.

Already we are seeing wearable computing in daily life with integrated wearable technology beginning to be commercially available. Nike Plus and Adidas adiStar Fusion running shoes are already on the market which can deliver data on distance and pace via an iPod.

Another example of pre-commercial applications of wearable technology is currently being researched at Georgia Tech University. The researchers have developed a way to weave textile fibres covered with zinc oxide nano-wires into cloth so that a wearer’s body movement can generate electricity to power electronic devices. Professor Zhong Lin Wang says they are working on improving the nano-generator’s power output and finding ways to store the energy (PDF report available here). His current estimate on a commercially viable product is approximately five years from now.

But the real growth of wearable computing will come in response to our medical and family needs. Our rapidly ageing population will see a real focus on technology in relation to health care. One example is the possibility that the majority of the baby boomers will want to delay moving out of their own accommodation and into nursing homes with a large number of this population frail or in need of specialised care.

We will see the development of unobtrusive health monitoring solutions, enabling the aged to retain their independence, while providing peace of mind for their families in case anything untoward happens. The other area of application is providing robotic prosthetic devices to assist the disabled.

Spin-offs of this technology will also be focused on reducing cognitive load on our busy lives. With technology that is contextually aware using sensor technology and decision engines to make our lives easier by automation of routine processes.

[Image: http://www.apple.com/ipod/nike/]

Imagining Technology Futures - part 1
Imagining Technology Futures - part 2
Imagining Technology Futures - part 3
Imagining Technology Futures - part 4
Imagining Technology Futures - part 5
Imagining Technology Futures - part 6

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22 November 2008

Open source & Linux

I had the distinct pleasure of talking with Mark Jones, Paul Kangro (Novell), Greg Luck (Wotif), and Matthew Mengerink (PayPal) while recording the The Scoop podcast recently (the show will be posted soon). Our conversation got me thinking about where Open Source and Linux are in terms of enterprise today.

We are seeing major players globally running their core business systems on open source and Linux. PayPal is the poster child for this, delivering reliable and resilient global systems using Red Hat Linux and open source.

One comment Matthew made was about the way his team modify the Linux kernel and other open source code to make the overall system more secure. PayPal's Linux servers run Red Hat kernels with custom tweaks to provide additional security. Thus he sees a better security capability enabled via open source. However, this is predicated on having really good people - highly skilled people and effective software development process and controls.

I think that Linux and open source have fully proven themselves able to support global enterprises. However, the need for highly skilled resources to implement this effectively remains a limiting factor. In our use of open source at Westfield it was a common problem, we really did need 'rocket scientists' and any software developer off the street simply did not cut it.

Several recent conversations with CIOs and senior IT executives demonstrated their lack of trust in Linux and open source and a preference to go with known brands. In one conversation last year a corporate legal counsel asked plaintively "but who would we sue?" in relation to use of open source. Thus there appears to be a gulf between organisations. There are those who are willing to accept the risk of using Linux and open source - and thus achieve significant cost savings. Then there are organisations that will continue to use known brands and fail to achieve those significant cost savings.

But the game changer may be the global financial crisis (GFC). This will drive IT expenditure down and lead many organisations to consider open source, cloud computing and software as a service (SaaS), where previously they would have ignored them.

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Just because it's Caturday ...

Sometimes we just need to slow down and allow the cuteness to be!

By Carruthers via Aide-mémoire

20 November 2008

Buy nothing day 2008

According to AdBusters it is Buy Nothing Day on either 28th Nov (US) or 29th Nov (Int'l).

Perhaps after the GFC (Global Financial Crisis) outbreak it is time to think about how we spend and what we spend it on? Worth thinking about at least ...

UPDATE: Thanks to Anonymous who posted a link to some YouTube videos about Buy Nothing Day - there's some good ones there

By Carruthers via Aide-mémoire

Internet filtering in Australia

I found it mildly ironic to walk past a church in the central business district of Sydney yesterday to see a banner protesting against the great firewall of China when Australia is about to implement the same thing. A number of bloggers are writing and taking various forms of action against the great Australian firewall. There is also a website called No Clean Feed.

I've written a letter to Stephen Conroy, the minister responsible (and have not had the courtesy of a reply as yet though).

But one discussion that I've found to be measured and thoughtful was one by Nick Hodge, A Pragmatic Proposal: ISP Filters. This one is worth a look. And while you're at it also check out what Stilgherrian has to say on the matter. Silkcharm also has an excellent video response to the proposal. There's lots more out there too.

This is an issue all Australians should be concerned about - if they censor this what will they censor next?

I will add more links as people let me know:

Keith De La Rue
Stilgherrian & Ian Wolfe discuss the issues

By Carruthers via Aide-mémoire

19 November 2008

Sometimes Twitter frivolity memes are catching

Occasionally a completely frivolous meme goes viral on Twitter for no apparent reason and then dies away just as suddenly. And since, as is often said, all origins are obscure nobody really knows what sparked it (although some might have theories).

A good example of this phenomenon occurred this afternoon (mainly seemed to be east coast Aussies) with the rapid evolution of the #TUBWARS meme.

Now to put this in context there are groups called "TUBs" or Twitter Underground Brigades, where groups of tweeps meetup in real life and socialize. BTW, I've just updated the Twitter page on wikipedia to reflect the unwarranted exclusion of TUBs from that page.

For no known reason several new Twitter names were created:
and there are probably more by now ...

Then whole lot of silliness happened (I went a bit LOLspearian with:"@kcarruthers cry havoc & let slip teh dawgs of #TUBWARS") jokes were flying and everyone was being humourous. The whole thing went on for a few hours with enough traffic that the tag #TUBWARS trended on search & then the activity died away.

It is just like one of those times when the entire office picks up a joke or funny saying and runs around saying it all day. Again, Twitter reveals itself to be completely hostage to human nature.

UPDATE: Based on comment by Ben have found the spark to the entire thing was creation @fuSTUB a splinter movement against/out of (?) @STUB - and there is a summary of that traffic here

By Carruthers via Aide-mémoire

18 November 2008

One person deciding to make a difference

A buddy has really impressed me with his desire to create community and do something positive for the environment. He did a letterbox drop of 200 homes with the message below. This is a really great example of thinking globally and acting locally. I think I've almost persuaded him to start a blog so we can see what happens.

- You can choose to shape your future –

Dear Friend,

My name is Inderjeet and I am your neighbour at [address deleted] Kellyville NSW. I work full time and am married with two young children. I have often thought about contributing to a healthier and cleaner environment for the future of our children and the next generations. However, I never got a chance to focus on and actively contribute to this area.

To create a safer, healthier environment always seems like somebody else’s problem (e.g. governments, councils, business and environmental activists). We all live busy lives and it seems days, weeks and months fly past without us taking any action at home to reduce waste and our carbon footprint (*).

As a result I have initiated a community project and I would like to invite you to be part of this programme which aims:
1. To create greater awareness about carbon footprints created through our daily activities
2. To help us measure the impact of what we do on our environment
3. To help you to choose ways to reduce your own carbon footprints
4. To acknowledge your achievements and celebrate with your family and neighbours
5. To help make Kellyville, Beaumont hills and Castle Hill - “green” neighbourhoods through your individual practices and commitment.

I am reaching out with this message to 200 households in the area.

If you, like me, want to make a difference to the environment for our children and future generations, please SMS or email me by 15 November 2008. I am keen to talk to you. Together we can promote better practices in households throughout our neighbourhoods and reduce our carbon footprint.

The details of the next steps will be provided after you make initial contact and express your interest in your participation. It is planned to arrange our first planning/brainstrom meeting by the 4th week of November 2008.

Being a community project, it is important that people engage in this initiative on their own and contribute as much as or as little as they can. Every bit counts….Together we can make a huge difference. If you can’t participate in this programme directly, please also let me know and you can still benefit through shared learnings from other participants and thus promote the cause.

Thank you.

Yours faithfully

Email: Inderjeet.virdi@gmail.com

(*) What is our Carbon Footprint? Many of our daily actions generate carbon emissions, which contribute to accelerating global warming and climate change. This is called our carbon footprint-an indication of the effect we have on the climate in terms of the total amount of greenhouse gases we produce (measured in units of carbon dioxide).

By Carruthers via Aide-mémoire

Imagining Technology Futures - part 2

A technology that is pushing the boundary of what is possible is wireless sensors.

We are moving into a time of pervasive applications that will continuously monitor the surrounding environment and react to changes. This will be supported by wireless sensor technologies that are capable of tracking and transmitting real time data.

An interesting pre-commercial example of this is Carnegie Mellon University’s SenSay Context Aware mobile phone. The researchers note that it can manipulate “ringer volume, vibration, and phone alerts… provide remote callers with the ability to communicate the urgency of their calls, make call suggestions to users when they are idle, and provide the caller with feedback on the current status of the SenSay user.” (http://www.cs.cmu.edu/~aura/docdir/sensay_iswc.pdf)

The device has a number of sensors on various points on the phone user’s body to provide data about the user’s context. The phone then analyses the sensor data and “alleviates the cognitive load on users by various methods including detecting when the user is uninterruptible and automatically turning the ringer off.” This innovative design allows the phone to makes decisions for the user about whether or not the phone user should be disturbed by a call.

Imagining Technology Futures - part 1
Imagining Technology Futures - part 2
Imagining Technology Futures - part 3
Imagining Technology Futures - part 4
Imagining Technology Futures - part 5
Imagining Technology Futures - part 6

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17 November 2008

Uncertainty ...

"The true test of character is not how much we know how to do, but how we behave when we don't know what to do." - John Holt

How do we decide what to do during times or moments of uncertainty?  It is not often that we actually consider this.  Usually we await the circumstance arising and then act instinctively, reflexively, opportunistically.

There is some interesting research about how people behave in disasters (see The Unthinkable: Who Survives When Disaster Strikes - and Why by Amanda Ripley).  An important thing to understand is the role of rehearsal and familiarity in survival in disaster situations.

Very few of us are genuinely comfortable with uncertainty.  This means that uncertainty makes us feel uncomfortable or stressed.  Generally it also means we revert to comfortable and practised behaviours.  Thus negative behaviours like micromanagement or bullying can come out as we seek to control the situation.

The question is how can we be ready to deal with uncertainty in a positive way?  An important question in these days of financial uncertainty.  The first thing to have is a plan. Work out what information you need to make a decision and identify a decision making process you can use.

The second thing is work out if you are willing to ask for help. Where do you draw the boundary between self help and help from others?

The third thing is to know what resources are available to you - including both tangible and intangible resources.  Moral support from a friend is very helpful, as is knowing you can borrow money from the bank.  Both are probably better to have sorted out before a crisis occurs.

By Carruthers via Aide-mémoire

Imagining Technology Futures - part 1

Technology is moving so fast, we tend to forget that the internet has only been available to us for less than 20 years. And technologies such as Wikipedia and eBay, which are now such an integrated part of our lives, had not even been imagined.

Most of us have had the opportunity to witness in astonishment the way technology has changed the way we interact with others, build relationships, conduct business and connect us to places we could only read about in books.

The future generation of internet and social computing will see any number of new trends develop that will influence how we interact with others. Here are a few new technology trends that are likely to come our way.

Why work in IT? 17,500 jobs slashed at BT, Sun and Yahoo!

It was reported on ITWire 16-Nov-08 that 17,500 jobs are gone: "this has been a bad week for technology workers. As the economy continues to squeeze technology companies, staff are set to get crunched by swathing job cuts at BT, Sun and Yahoo!"

This just goes back to my earlier post on IT as a career choice about why kids are not choosing an ICT career.

Why would you choose it? ICT jobs are the canary in the coal mine of the economy - slow to appoint new workers & early to remove jobs in a downturn. Might as well become an accountant, at least that is a growth industry!

By Carruthers via Aide-mémoire

16 November 2008

Next generation of the web & Kevin Kelly's vision

I've been thinking a lot about the next generation of the web after reading Kevin Kelly's posts last year on the internet of things.

Recently Kevin spoke at the Web 2.0 Summit and discussed some of his ideas for the future of the web. The interesting thing from my perspective is the realization that until now we have really only focused on the front end of the web with web 2.0 and RIAs. But what will really enable to next big step forward for the web is all that stuff that is important for enterprise applications - like integration, SOA, and databases.

We've already seen what happens when a seemingly simple application like Twitter becomes a part of the fabric of daily life and then fails on availability and reliability. Thus we are going to see a big move to those boring enterprise IT concepts of reliability, resilience, and scalability for our web applications. I suspect that we will see more focus on the backend and mid-tier to enable this.

The Kevin Kelly video is well worth a look ...

By Carruthers via Aide-mémoire

14 November 2008

Fight AND listen...

"Fight as if you are right, listen as if you are wrong!" -- Karl Weick

The first part of this quotation is easy, it's always easy to fight as if you are right.  Most of the time most of us are convinced that we are right.

The second part, that one is harder to do.  Listening as if you are wrong requires a degree of humility.  That part will require self-control, and letting go of self-righteousness.  

However, listening as if you are wrong seems to be essential to ensure that we fight only when it is necessary or just.

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13 November 2008

Comparing the Steves (Ballmer & Jobs that is)

Went to the Microsoft Liberation Day in Sydney the other day where they announced the Microsoft operating system Azure

It also gave me cause to reflect on the differing presentation styles of Steve Ballmer and Steve Jobs.

Mr Ballmer has a very loud and energetic presentation style, but I came away with the distinct feeling (a) that he was not very close to the content he presented and (b) he was not being himself.  Now this is just an impression not a fact.  But it is how I felt upon watching his live performance in Sydney the other day.

Mr Jobs (whom I've never seen live only via internet) has a much less loud or energetic presentation style. But I come away from his presentations with the feeling that (a) he is extremely close to the content he presented and (b) that he presents much as he would if I met him in real life.   Again, this is just an impression not a fact.  I've never even seen this guy in person.  But it is how I felt watching the iPhone launch video online.

I was conscious of thinking about these things as I watched Steve Ballmer present and it niggled.  It took a while for me to identify just what was irritating me.  At the pub later the answer came - it was about authenticity.  To me Steve Ballmer did not sound authentic when talking.  To my ear he did not sound connected to the ideas he was talking about nor did his presentation style seem natural.  Again these are just my feelings and he might have been totally connected to what he was saying and the way he said it might be completely natural.

One other thing I wonder is how much of Steve Ballmer's presentation style is culturally appropriate to Americans and not to Australians? I suppose my values are coming out her, but I like to feel that the presenter's persona is somehow congruent with them in daily life. And should I meet them in another context they would be quite similar to how they had been during their presentation.

Note: I'm pretty much technology neutral - using and very happy with Windows Media Centre, HTC Windows Mobile device, Linux EEE, and Macbook. My approach to technology is very pragmatic.  So nothing said above should be taken as supportive or otherwise of the technologies these men represent.

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12 November 2008

Key Themes from Gartner ITxpo 2008

Have been visiting with the folks at Gartner and if they are right then the following topics will be popular next year with the corporate IT world:

  • cloud computing
  • web 2.0
  • democratization of applications
  • consumerization of IT
  • green computing
  • the hype cycle
  • did I mention cloud computing & web 2.0?
  • unified communications
  • social media in the enterprise
  • and did I mention cloud computing?
My predictions for 2009?
  • Those of us who are already pretty sick of the term web 2.0 are really going to be tired of it after talking about it for another year.
  • Cloud computing will remain an ill-defined term that we will talk about endlessly for the next 3-4 years. Debates will rage as on topics such as if putting your servers into a utility based data centre is really ´cloud´ computing or if it only counts if you move your applications onto Amazon or Google.
  • While many will talk about green computing nobody will actually do anything with it unless they can mount substantial cost saving arguments & demonstrate some genuine business value above & beyond feeling morally upright.
One very interesting thing is that Gartner people are out there experimenting with some social media (like Twitter, @Gartner_inc) and getting involved in conversations.

By Carruthers via Aide-mémoire

Habit and destiny ...

"Watch your thoughts; they become words. Watch your words; they become actions. Watch your actions; they become habits. Watch your habits; they become character. Watch your character; it becomes your destiny." - Frank Outlaw

These words really resonate with me as a result of a course that I'm completing at the moment.  This course looks at goal setting and our ability to achieve our goals.  But unlike a lot of other similar courses I've done over the years this one looks at the inputs to goals as very important.

Thus I've been reflecting on the habits of mind and behaviour that are stopping me from achieving goals.  

It is interesting to analyze my activities and see how much (or how little) they are actually helping me to achieve those goals.  Also reflection has helped me to see that some goals I thought were important are not actually that important right now.

As an active person who is always on the go this course has provided a valuable opportunity to consider many things like values, beliefs, goals, processes, habits and thought patterns.  

The most important idea that I am taking away from this experience is that destiny is not fixed. By changing thoughts, words, beliefs and actions I can redirect my life to a different path.  I have a choice.

By Carruthers via Aide-mémoire

11 November 2008

Mary Meeker Web 2.0 Presentation

Morgan Stanley's Mary Meeker presents a utilitarian slideshow on the technology and internet trends in the light of the current global financial crisis. Not exciting but worth a look if you're involved in a web business.

Mary Meeker Web 2.0 Presentation
View SlideShare presentation or Upload your own. (tags: trends web)

By Carruthers via Aide-mémoire

10 November 2008

Social networks & identity, or how do we know they're our friends?

Some things never change.  When human beings form into groups we want to ascertain who is friend and who is foe.  We want to know who we can trust and to what extent we can trust them.  

However, until recently, face-to-face meetings were part of this assessment process.  And close physical proximity tended to mediate relationships for most of us.

But now we face the challenge of determining who people are and if they are our friends. And today this process is often mediated only by online channels.

The primary problem is identity - are they who they say they are?  The secondary problem is authenticity - are they being real or assuming a different persona, and can I rely upon that persona?  The tertiary problem is how to know and possibly to reference the varying degrees of relationship.

These problems have been subject of much discussion between myself and friends or colleagues over the past few years - both in real life and online.  Our answers to the first two problems tend to come down to the fact that over time it is hard to maintain an alternate persona or identity and to keep it consistent.  Thus sock puppets are usually uncovered due to inconsistency or they lose interest and fade away.  Over time as you interact with someone they tend to reveal themselves in various ways and to demonstrate consistent patterns of thought, conversation and behaviour.  There are also a number of identity management initiatives under way, such as OpenID.

The the third question is one to which there seems to be no easy answer.  One possible solution is a representational approach as outlined in the XFN™ or XHTML Friends Network. This is described as "a simple way to represent human relationships using hyperlinks".  But I'm not certain that merely representing the relationships actually helps us to know people any better. Nor am I certain that representing these relationships in a hierarchical classification will actually improve those relationships.

I have no answer to this last question and am interested to hear other opinions.

Some other people who've considered this topic recently :

Is a Social Media Friend Really a Friend?
Be a Real Friend to Your Social Networking "Friends"

By Carruthers via Aide-mémoire

9 November 2008

Twitter is Real Life

There's been a number of stories in recent times that say: Twitter is over (Yammer or FriendFeed or [insert new product name here] will replace it); Ev & Biz et al have no clue how to monetize it (so it will die a nasty death); and so, many critics add, it's not even real life anyway (because how can anything meaningful happen in 140 characters?).

However, having actively participated in Twitter for a while now, one of the most interesting parts of my experience is how it has connected me to more people in real life.

My interests are somewhat eclectic - there are not many people who live in my town who are interested in the web, the world of ideas and philosophy or politics. Thus my opportunities to easily cast a wider net to meet people with similar interests were limited.

I'm not sure that the folks at Twitter actually intended to create a community, but that is one of the by-products of their simple platform with its simple question "What are you doing?"

Within my range of contacts (a.k.a. followers/followees) are a number of people who are now buddies with whom I interact in real life on a regular basis. There are also a number who, while physically distant, are in touch regularly via Twitter and other means such as blogs, Flickr, Viddler, Seesmic, 12seconds.tv, Qik, Ustream, etc.

All of these contacts are building up a level of social knowing and familiarity that was once only accessible via living physically in a neighbourhood. When I was young we lived in the one place and knew all the neighbours at least casually. We knew where they lived, what their Dad did for a job, if their Mum was at home during the day, where they shopped, where the kids went to school, what church they went to, etc. Interestingly, living in big cities I've tended not to know any of that stuff about my neighbours. But in Twitter I know a great deal of that kind of information about my contacts. In fact, for me Twitter is a bit like a virtual neighbourhood.

One of the characteristics of the neighbourhood where I grew up was that if someone was sick we would find out through our casual social contact and then agree who would stop in with food or pick up the kids from school. On Twitter I've seen analogous behaviour - when someone is ill or unhappy their friends organise and coordinate to help them out.

In Twitter, because it is a community, all of the phenomena of community life happen.  There are squabbles, jokes, the ebb and flow of closer relationships. Some other examples of how Twitter is really a community and part of the fabric of real life include:

  • "summarise 6 months since joining Twitter="making friends, widening business acquaintances network and ... 
    ...also got some consulting work explaining to PR ppl how to approach Twitter, social media etc without raising hackles of the community 
    ...making my skills & knowledge visible to the Aussie tech/geek/business community, b4 I was operating under the radar" 
  • "Key case: me and customer service from Dell. They picked up my problem by monitoring Twitter." 
  • "Re RL: one recent eg is I tweeted a link 2 a teaching exercise in my area, which was used by one of my f. the next day to great success. :) "
  • "I found @Stilgherrian thru Crikey, then found Twitter thru his blog, then found new friends and new work on Twitter. Loving it. "
  • "I got a job through Twitter. Got knocked back first time, then got the job 12 months later"
  • "got a job through Happener via Twitter" 
I think that the best summary of my whole argument comes from @stilgherrian who said: "My other point would be Twitter IS real life. Is your relationship with your mother less 'real' because you only phone her?"  It is real life because it has real people involved and we do what comes naturally to humans - we create social networks.  

Yes, it can be argued that it is impossible to have a deep relationship with 2,000 individual people. But the fact is that you can have a deep relationship with some of them, and perhaps even with all of them at different times if you have enough time. It's not compulsory to have a deep relationship with everyone you meet (that is actually a bit strange if you do).  However, it is entirely reasonable to have a wide range of acquaintances and some closer friends - again, just like real life.  

A really valuable thing that Twitter has done is to ensure that I am no longer a complete stranger in most places in the world. Wherever I go there is some acquaintance on Twitter who can connect me to people, places or things anywhere in the world and with an ease that is amazing. I am connected through Twitter to a remarkable and fascinating web of people that other channels like email, IRC, etc did not enable.  I attribute this difference between Twitter and other social network channels to the fact that Twitter really does create a network of loose ties that can become stronger in various contexts.

By Carruthers via Aide-mémoire

8 November 2008

Move over Obama, who's the First Dog?

Of course. now that the US election is over the most important question to answer is who will be first dog?

To assist with this Crikey is running a competition to name Obama's puppy.

Then FirstDogOnTheMoon will draw a little something for the name he likes best. One FirstDog to another.

[Source: FirstDogOnTheMoon]

By Carruthers via Aide-mémoire

7 November 2008

The History of LOLCats


By Carruthers via Aide-mémoire

5 November 2008

Anyone involved in agile development needs to see this

All developers, project managers, scrum masters, product owners, or anyone who is planning on using agile within an organisation that has previously used a waterfall SDLC needs to view this talk by Mitch Lacey

In his talk from the Agile 2008 conference he shares candidly about a real life project that was on the verge of being successful, but was deemed as unsuccessful by the customer. Considering that "the true measure of project progress is working software", Mitch and his team delivered the software, but the client was not satisfied.

Important issues of clarity, understanding, trust, openness, authenticity and honesty really come out in this talk. 

Significant early warning signals were not taken seriously by the development team, e.g. business requirements were not defined early enough, and the statement of work took ages to get signed.  Also the case study shows how even with good data on burn down, backlog, etc may not assist in clarity.  

Clearly the business did not understand the commitments that they were undertaking by agreeing to the use of agile methods.  Business product owners were not taking on the role required of them according to the Scrum development method - there was no clear executive level product owner with a wide overview of the end-to-end process.  There was a lack of clarity on formal approval processes for outputs.

The business did not understand the agile development process they signed up for - their clear expectation was for a waterfall type process.  As with most IT project failures the requirements definition process is the foundation for a project, and poor foundations tend to lead to poor outcomes.

I've seen the same thing several times now and am quite sceptical that agile is even possible (let alone desirable) for some businesses. Many businesses seem to think that agile really means ad hoc. With every ad hoc change cost is added to development and with enough ad hoc changes the project tends towards anarchy.

[HT: @mkrigsman for his excellent discussion of this talk on ZDNet that alerted me to Mitch's talk]

By Carruthers via Aide-mémoire

Plan B for Democrats - just in case Republicans win

C'mon, Move to Canada!
If John McCain and Sarah Palin win in November, it's likely to be more than many Democrats can stand. Slate V imagines how the Canadian government might try to capitalize on this liberal anxiety.

[Source: SlateV]

By Carruthers via Aide-mémoire

4 November 2008

US Election Campaign 2008 & Social Median Updates

Just testing the Social Median US election widget over on my personal site as it did not work in blogger for some reason.


By Carruthers via Aide-mémoire

3 November 2008

IT as a Career Choice

Every year I gather with the leaders of the Australian ICT industry at various meetings and functions and we lament the lack of young folks who choose to study IT and seek a career in such a dynamic and interesting area. But then I see the job statistics and realise that the kids are just making realistic choices informed by wise advice from family and friends.

As Stan Beer reported in IT&T jobs fall off a cliff, graduates hit hardest: "The jobs decline is accelerating at a frightening pace, with the last three months proving to be the worst quarter by far in the past year. The IT&T jobs sector fell 2.28% in October and is down 23% over 12 months. What's more the IT&T sector has been in decline for all of 2008."

Every time a business wants to make savings then the IT costs get cut, and as soon as there is even a mild downturn IT gets hit again. Then when there is a major downturn IT costs get slammed even harder. 

Very rarely does the human resource budget in IT get increased - often new technology is implemented with little or no increase in people to run it.  It is the age old problem in IT - often it is relatively easy to get capital expenditure approved for new systems, but often it is almost impossible to have ongoing operational expenditure approved for the people to support the new systems. 

This means that the industry suffers from a very shallow talent pool. It is not because IT only attracts dummies. It is because the cuts are usually made against lower level positions. And it does make sense to keep more experienced people who can undertake diverse tasks. But it does mean that there are fewer trainees and new graduates coming through the system.

All of this is a very strange way to act with regards to a major strategic asset. Most companies rely completely on their IT systems but often seem to make short term focused decisions in relation to IT costs.

Smart companies will start to realise that having the technology installed is no use without clever committed and empowered people to run it cost effectively. Smart companies will start to realise that growing your own pool of IT talent and treating them well is also a smart investment.

By Carruthers via Aide-mémoire

2 November 2008

Dear Mr Conroy I am writing this to you ...

No Clean Feed - Stop Internet Censorship in Australia

Senator Stephen Conroy
Minister for Broadband, Communications and the Digital Economy
Level 4, 4 Treasury Place
Melbourne Vic 3002

Dear Minister,

As an Australian and an internet user, I have serious concerns about your mandatory Internet filtering initiative.

Given the importance your Government has attached to modernising Australia's broadband network, pursuing a policy that can only slow down and increase the costs of home internet access seems misguided at best. Australian households are diverse, and most do not have young children, so mandating a one-size-fits-all clean feed approach will not serve the public well. I don't think it is the Government's role to decide what's appropriate for me or Australian children, and neither do most Australians.

Given the amount of Internet content available, the Government will never be able to classify it all and filters will always result in an unacceptable level of over-blocking. I feel that the time and money could be spent in better ways both to protect children and improve Australia's digital infrastructure. Australian parents need better education about the risks their children face online. Trying to rid the Internet of adult content is futile, and can only distract from that mission.


Kate Carruthers
Sydney, Australia

No Clean Feed - Stop Internet Censorship in Australia #nocleanfeed

By Carruthers via Aide-mémoire

1 November 2008

Support @Warlach for Movember

Well support any of the guys or gals who are participating really. But @Warlach is going that extra mile and will do a photo essay of his mo (alleged to be an Adolf you-know-who style one) with added LOLness.

Details of the photo essay will be shared soon ...

Donations can be made here

Movember - Sponsor Me
By Carruthers via Aide-mémoire

basement cat wishes you a happy halloween

funny pictures of cats with captions
more animals

By Carruthers via Aide-mémoire

3G Network Outages NOT NORMAL thanks very much Optus!

Below is an excerpt from a piece by Suzanne Tindal over at ZDNet where an Optus claims that their recent 3G outages are normal.  This claim by Optus is completely outrageous! 

For several months now, on a very regular basis, I have been unable to use either or both my mobile phone and wireless broadband in Sydney, Brisbane and Melbourne. Mobile phone calls drop out regularly mid sentence.  The wireless broadband disconnects every few minutes if you can get a signal at all.  

And it's not like I'm in a rural area - the areas where these problems are occurring include:  Sydney CBD, North Sydney, North Ryde, Parramatta, Melbourne CBD, Glen Iris, South Yarra, Brisbane CBD, Gold Goast, Melbourne Airport and Gold Coast Airport.

Only last week I was in the MLC Centre in Sydney and could not get signal for either mobile phone or broadband.  As a consequence I was forced to use the wireless access in the Westin Hotel to participate in an online conference, and using Skype for other phone calls for the rest of that day.

This is a ridiculous situation.  Optus has real problems with their network that I am experiencing daily.  These problems are impacting on my ability to do business and to remain in contact with people while on the move. It is so unreliable that if I was not in a contract I would be going back to Telstra quick smart. It is getting to the stage where just walking away may be the answer. 

One thing is for sure - this is a really bad customer experience and I am sharing my experience with all and sundry. 

Note: I am an Optus customer via their Virgin Mobile brand.  The customer service via Virgin is great and it's a pity they can't do anything to fix the network.

Network outages 'normal': Optus

Suzanne Tindal, ZDNet.com.au

31 October 2008 03:35 PM

Tags: optus3gnetworkbuaytelstramobileovumoutage

Optus this week claimed the 3G mobile outages it had been suffering were normal and every telecommunications carrier would be having similar issues.

Andrew Buay
(Credit: Optus)

"There have been a few incidents — which is actually quite normal for any operator and any vendor — that the new software loads under some conditions or locations don't behave the way you expect them to, despite having done very extensive testing before you bring them into the network," Andrew Buay, Optus managing director of products and delivery told ZDNet.com.au this week.

"It's quite normal," he added.

He said there had been a lot of negative media recently on whether Optus had a reliable wireless broadband network and the level of congestion on the network, but he believed that the media had fed on itself, making a big issue out of something every carrier experienced.

"I suppose mainly because we have been in the limelight, every little thing that does happen gets a lot more visibility, but you know it does happen with every operator and network in various sizes and frequencies," he said.

[Source: ZDNet]

By Carruthers via Aide-mémoire