Filtering by Category: TheWorld

Computer-supported work at Accenture

WSJ last week had a good piece about computer-supported work over distance at Accenture.

"Anyone who says managing this way is easy is lying," says Adrian Lajtha, head of Accenture's financial-services group. (...) With many of them on the road much of the time, partners decided they should live where they wanted and meet regularly. (...) Technology helps keep a virtual company on track. Every day, Accenture employees log on to the company's internal Web site to record where they are working. (...) shares documents and financial data with other executives through Accenture's internal Web site. And when he wants to see, as well as hear, other executives, he conducts a videoconference. (...) To compensate for restricted face time, he talks daily by phone with many of his direct reports. Every other Friday, he confers by phone with the heads of Accenture's five operating groups to review projects and decide where consultants are most needed. (...) A "magic hour" for global phone conferences is 1 p.m. London time, says Mr. Lajtha, who lives in London but travels 85% of the time. That's midnight in Australia, 9 p.m. in Beijing, and 5 a.m. in California. "It isn't too grim" for anyone, he notes. (...) He sometimes alters his own schedule to be in better sync with his managers around the world. An "early bird" who likes to begin his workday by 7 a.m. (...) some problems require "being there in person," he says. When he learned that a project team in the U.S. felt bogged down, he made an unexpected visit to their work site and held a three-hour meeting. (...) "When times are tough, you have to go into communication overload so people have faith they can come through," he says. For virtual executives, that means more travel and more odd-hour conferences.

So what can we learn: - use of mix old (telephone) and not so old (web portal, cell phone) technologies - time is always an issue, fortunately, they have the "magic hour" - face 2 face meetings still matter, especially if there's a big problem

Besides, one of the curious reason they have this "virtual company" model is "Accenture's partners couldn't agree on a headquarters location for the new company". Why do I blog this? What is explained is very well known to the CSCW community but it's interesting to read what business people say about it, what are their concerns.

Distorted map

In this hotel I was staying at, there was this nice map in the lobby. Someone told me that the hotel was previously an oil company that has been refurbished into an hotel and this map would be showing some relevant things for the company concerns.

Why do I blog this? I just like this map

Kafka Index

Last week, during an offline week in greece, I ran across this very curious new concept: the Kafka Index, created in France. It is basically and index that measures the complexity of a project/law and its impact. Referring to Franz Kafka's great novel "The Trial" in which a man tries to struggle against an atrocious bureaucracy, this index will be public (yeah, let's see what institutions are kafka-esque) and would be in the form of 1-100 scale "measuring how many hurdles, from forms to letters or phone calls, are needed to win state permits or aid for a project" (via). For those who can read french, here is the account from the Assemblée Nationale:

un indice - provisoirement baptisé « indice Kafka » - va par ailleurs être créé pour mesurer la qualité des projets de loi. À la place des études d'impact, qui ne fonctionnent pas, chaque projet de loi sera accompagné de deux notes : la première traduira la complexité de la loi et la seconde appréciera son impact, notamment en termes de coûts. Les grilles d'analyse élaborées ont été appliquées à des lois passées et donnent des résultats très intéressants. Cet indice étant public, chaque ministre sera incité à travailler davantage pour améliorer les dispositions de ses projets de loi ;

And it's only a provisional name!

Why do I blog this? Although it sounds amusing, I am curious about how people put meaning behind this kind of measure. I would prefer having visualization of the process liek the temporal description with the people in charge... hmmm activity theory?

Eurovision, Computer Simulations and Patterns of Collusive Voting Alliances

The Journal of Artificial Societies and Social Simulation has always very intriguing article. In the last issue, there is a piece called "Comparison of Eurovision Song Contest Simulation with Actual Results Reveals Shifting Patterns of Collusive Voting Alliances".

The voting patterns in the Eurovision Song Contest have attracted attention from various researchers, spawning a small cross-disciplinary field of what might be called 'eurovisiopsephology' incorporating insights from politics, sociology and computer science. Although the outcome of the contest is decided using a simple electoral system, its single parameter - the number of countries casting a vote - varies from year to year. Analytical identification of statistically significant trends in voting patterns over a period of several years is therefore mathematically complex. Simulation provides a method for reconstructing the contest's history using Monte Carlo methods. Comparison of simulated histories with the actual history of the contest allows the identification of statistically significant changes in patterns of voting behaviour, without requiring a full mathematical solution. In particular, the period since the mid-90s has seen the emergence of large geographical voting blocs from previously small voting partnerships, which initially appeared in the early 90s. On at least two occasions, the outcome of the contest has been crucially affected by voting blocs. The structure of these blocs implies that a handful of centrally placed countries have a higher probability of being future winners. (...) What implications does this have, if any, for pan-European political institutions? The answer to this depends on whether or not one takes the view that the contest is some kind of grand metaphor for European politics, as for instance The Economist (Unattributed 2005) and some of the academic authors have tentatively suggested. If one believes this, then the outlook for an expanded European Union is one grim inter-regional struggle. However, if one simply sees the contest as an expression of post-modern kitsch contempt for the established pop music industry (see Tan 2005 for a discussion of an Asian parallel), then no such concern is warranted. This paper shows that regionalism in the contest is a memetic epidemic, and not likely to reflect very profound fault lines in the current state of Europe.

"eurovisiopsephology": this name rocks! Why do I blog this? it's interesting to see how such research gives insights about memetic epidemic.

Wireless Mobile Booths

At 3GSM, with Fabien and Kosmar we had this discussion about mobile hotspots like taxis wandering around in cities offering a free wifi access. Fabien already found this interesting example: FirstMile Solution which tries to bring WiFi in developing nations with adequate technology. This is used in a project I like a lot: the Internet Motoman in Cambodia. Because the roads are so bad during rainy periods, MAP-enabled Honda motorcycles are used to connect schools to the wireless:

In Africa, there also projects about village mobile phones (but I did not find that much about it, still have to dig).

And of course, some artists took the idea to the letter with the Mobile Phone Booth.

But the idea of a mobile wireless hotspot is not meant to look like a phone booth as attested by this magic bike project: "I am like the ice cream man, but with no music and I deliver free wireless access and not ice cream." says Yury Gitman.

magicbike is a mobile WiFi (wireless Internet) hotspot that gives free Internet connectivity wherever its ridden or parked. By turning a common bicycle into a wireless hotspot, Magicbike explores new delivery and use strategies for wireless networks and modern-day urbanites. Wireless bicycles disappear into the urban fabric and bring Internet to yet unserved spaces and communities. Mixing public art with techno-activism, Magicbikes are perfect for setting up adhoc Internet connectivity for art and culture events, emergency access, public demonstrations, and communities on the struggling end of the digital-divide.

What is still unlikely (socially speaking?) is to have taxis that can provides wireless connections (well in NYC it's already the case) but those WON'T TAKE ANY TRAVELLERS, they'll just provide Wifi access...

Why do I blog this? I am just elaborating on this concept we discussed with fab and kosmar... which I find funny.

Query species on the web

It's funny that I found two links to this iSpecies in the last fives minutes (one on and the other on a google watchlist). It is a species search engine led by Roderic Page. You can query species and the data displayed are generated "on the fly" by querying other data sources:

iSpecies uses web services to talk to source databases, extract data, and assemble a page for each species. The code makes extensive use of XML. Essentially, each web service returns XML in one form or another, and I use and XSL style sheets to transform the result into HTML. (...) iSpecies queries NCBI using the Entrez Programming Utilities. It uses ESearch to look up a taxon name then, if the name is found, uses ESummary to get basic statistics on what NCBI holds for that taxon. (...) iSpecies uses Yahoo's Image Search web service to find up to five images for the query term. (...) This uses a Perl script I created to search Google Scholar. The script screen scrapes Google Scholar, extracts references and identifiers (such as DOIs and PubMed identifiers), then returns the results in RDF.

They have a blog about it.

Why do I blog this? this is somehow a search engine for blogjects, or they should add a new feature: connecting this to a near real-time animal track...

Support the Basel Action Network

Basel Action Network

BAN is the world's only organization focused on confronting the excesses of unbridled free trade in the form of “Toxic Trade” (trade in toxic wastes, toxic products and toxic technologies) and its devastating impact on global environmental justice. Working at the nexus of human rights and environment, we confront the issues of environmental justice at a macro level, preventing disproportionate dumping of the world's toxic waste and pollution on our global village's poorest residents. Further, we promote sustainable and just solutions to our consumption and waste crises.

One argument - among others - in favor of their action:

A sea of television housings, cathode ray tubes, computers, monitors and other imported electronic waste not salable at the Alaba market in Lagos, Nigeria, is dumped here in a nearby swamp.© Basel Action Network 2005

Why do I blog this? it's good to understand the dark side of IT...

Be careful with Lego Mindstorms

A friend of mine has been arrested yesterday in a train in Germany. He was basically playing/programming LEGO Mindstorms during his way in the train. The cops said he was suspected to prepare a bomb and then had to answers some questions about the material he was carrying. After few hours, they released him but he had to pay a 50 euros fine and had to leave his mindstorms gear there. Fortunately he could take back his own laptop. Update: my friend got back his mindstorms kit

Agent Modeling in Marketing

A curious article in Forbes about using a SimCity-like simulation as an inspiration for the next Coca-Cola or Unilever marketing campaign:

William Bean, a research director at Pepsi-Cola North America, is fascinated by vending machine use in a mythical suburban office. There 35 sales, technology and administrative employees work, gossip and quaff lots of soda.

These thirsty workers are characters in a simulated test market on Bean's desktop computer in Purchase, N.Y., and they are supposed to give Bean, a former biologist, insight into soda consumption. The employees, or "agents," as they are called among computer-simulation experts, are programmed to act like office staffers and consumers. They are directed to move and interact in response to simple rules (drink when thirsty, for example) but with an element of chance injected. It's a toss-up whether an agent, confronted with a vending machine in an office lobby, will buy a soda.

SimCity for marketing managers. Thus does Pepsi aim to study how customers react and adapt when it changes the number and locations of vending machines in the office. It hopes to take some of the guesswork out of placing the machines.

Ok why not but what is suprising is this, isn't it too emphatic????

It is like a real test market, only faster and cheaper. (...) The analytical technique, which is like a videogame without controlling players, helps companies forecast consumers' individual and collective response to new product offerings, price changes, media buys or marketing pitches. It also tracks how the agents influence one another, a big selling point as marketers seek to understand and sway targeted groups of consumers by using specialized appeals, such as word-of-mouth campaigns.

News technosocial situations discussed in TIME

Last week, in the TIME, there was a very insightful paper, an interview of some of today smart thinker (whatever that means, people who have the ability to send snow balls that roll and roll to become huge at the end of the day). What I find interesting is the "technosocial situations" they discussed (i.e. the way technology shapes new social practices), some excerpts I found relevant:

  • Mark Dery: "You have people walking down the street listening to iPods, seemingly oblivious to the world, singing. More and more, we're alone in public."
  • O'Reilly: "There's also more communication even in apparent isolation. (...) they [kids] are also communicating in new ways, and I suspect most of us in this room maintain communication with a group that is far larger, far more geographically diverse than we ever would have known without technology"
  • David Brooks: "Is it possible that as the Internet creates more geographic diversity, it creates less demographic diversity? There once were millions of people in Elks Clubs, and Elks Clubs were incredibly diverse. These days, with, say, online dating, you can screen people who aren't demographically like yourself."
  • Clay Shirky: "We're used to thinking everything is going to get more and more virtual until we're these big floaty video heads, but actually there is a return of the real, as we figure out how to use this stuff to have real-world encounters."
  • Brooks: I know people who fly to see a football game, but I don't see why this is transformational.
  • Clay Shirky: We're seeing lots of places where value is being created outside of institutional frameworks, in ways that institutions can't touch.

News technosocial situations discussed in TIME

Last week, in the TIME, there was a very insightful paper, an interview of some of today smart thinker (whatever that means, people who have the ability to send snow balls that roll and roll to become huge at the end of the day). What I find interesting is the "technosocial situations" they discussed (i.e. the way technology shapes new social practices), some excerpts I found relevant:

  • Mark Dery: "You have people walking down the street listening to iPods, seemingly oblivious to the world, singing. More and more, we're alone in public."
  • O'Reilly: "There's also more communication even in apparent isolation. (...) they [kids] are also communicating in new ways, and I suspect most of us in this room maintain communication with a group that is far larger, far more geographically diverse than we ever would have known without technology"
  • David Brooks: "Is it possible that as the Internet creates more geographic diversity, it creates less demographic diversity? There once were millions of people in Elks Clubs, and Elks Clubs were incredibly diverse. These days, with, say, online dating, you can screen people who aren't demographically like yourself."
  • Clay Shirky: "We're used to thinking everything is going to get more and more virtual until we're these big floaty video heads, but actually there is a return of the real, as we figure out how to use this stuff to have real-world encounters."
  • Brooks: I know people who fly to see a football game, but I don't see why this is transformational.
  • Clay Shirky: We're seeing lots of places where value is being created outside of institutional frameworks, in ways that institutions can't touch.

Blooks = book based on a blog

Just got this email (I thought it was a spam) about an intriguing new concept, connected to the blooker prize event (a contest that to honor blooks, a new, hybrid literary form and the world's fastest-growing kind of book.):

(blook n. blook. A printed and bound book, based on a blog (cf. web log) or website; a new stage in the life-cycle of content, if not a new category of content and a new dawn for the book itself. cf. The Lulu Blooker Prize, ("The Blooker"), a literary prize, founded 2005, for blooks. [der. Eng. book, a bound collection of sheets of paper; blog (abbrev. web log, an internet journal, diary or personal website)])

"BLOOKS" ARE THE FASTEST GROWING NEW KIND OF BOOK– AND THE HOTTEST NEW PUBLISHING AND ONLINE TREND"

AFTER BLOOKS WILL COME "FLOOKS" – FILMS BASED ON BLOOKS

XXIst century institutions

Browsing improbable websites, I found this interesting quote (there):

« My ideal XXIst century institution would appear less like an “institution” as such, than as a constantly evolving and flexible organism, or a network connecting people on a “global” mode, people who have ideas and people who act. It should be able to respond to the most varied forms of thought and media, and more precisely, to face the challenge represented by the new complexity arising from the merging of new forms of social emergency and new technologies. And while it develops it should also take in account the emergence of this other fact : the collapse of the centre of the world. » Hou Hanru : curator indépendant in "Qu’attendez vous d’une institution artistique du XXI° siècle ?" (What do you expect from a XXIst century art institution ?). Ed palais de Tokyo

I agree with this and I think this is also an ideal structure, however it seems that this kind of definition is more applied recently to private companies in our supercapitalist days; it's interesting to see that the rhetoric shift in organisational sciences (oldschool organisation --- new structures more felxible) now refers to every structures be it arty/for profit/squat-related... Will private companies be organized like art groups? interactive labs? Or is it the other way around? I am lost. Well we don't know but the main word here are 'flexible and 'evolving'.

Green architecture

In Newsweek, there is a good article about green architecture in China (project summary here). US architect William McDonough plans (among other things) to:

The cities are zoned for mixed residential, commercial and industrial use to ensure that transportation connects residences to the workplaces. Shops will be on the ground floor, residences above, and the rooftops will have farm plots. Bridges over the streets will connect the plots. The farmers will live downstairs. (...) McDonough's ideas have worked well, albeit on a smaller scale, in the United States. He's designed green developments for communities and corporations, including the Gap and Ford. The headquarters for the clothing retailer the Gap in California has a roof with vegetation on it, a raised floor for better heating and cooling, and makes good use of daylight.

Why do I blog this? I like this idea of roof farms; besides my parents' house is made of a vegetal-roof (no tiles), maybe that's why this idea is not so weird for me.

Hands-On Activity: a bulldozer camp

Well, there seems to be really cool hands-on activities lately: Bulldozer Camp:

Chances are, ever since you were a child, you've been fascinated by everything from backhoes digging utility holes, giant cranes lifting steel girders to the tops of new skyscrapers, big yellow bulldozers taking out an old brick building or even those robotic looking Bobcat™ skid steers shoveling snow from a parking lot or moving mulch at the local nursery, and of course, those big rumbling dump trucks.

We watch, we listen and we wish. Wish that just for once we might get a chance to play with these machines, not just peeking thru a fence, but this time wearing our own hardhat, climbing up into the seat, our hands on the controls, to actually be in charge of these marvelous machines. Bulldozer Camp provides the ultimate "big toy" experience - an amazing fantasy vacation, a "once-in-a-lifetime" experience. It's the quintessential blue-collar experience for white-collar professionals.

There's an impressive fleet of heavy equipment ranging from massive bulldozers and front-end loaders to huge off-highway dump trucks and heavy steel-tracked excavators - Bulldozer Camp even provides a few of the newest compact mini-versions just for fun.

Big toy experience, what a new concept!

On-ship Offshoring job

Some folks seem to have taken the 'offshoring' concept to the letter: SeaCode: using an old ship in the international water, 3 miles off the US coast to put lots of software developers in it to have a 24/7 programming factory. Here is the crazy description of what they aim at:

SeaCode presents Hybrid-SourcingTM an innovative engineering service which creates high-end software engineering jobs in the U.S. while still providing lower overall costs for our clients. This approach combines the capabilities and convenience of our San Diego-based software engineering center with the proximity and reduced costs of our unique ship-based engineering facility. The result of this completely new business model is the creation of U.S. engineering jobs and lower blended costs for U.S. clients. (...) Hybrid-SourcingTM SeaCode brings already offshored jobs back to the U.S.

Well I'm kind of speechless

Madonna and nightclubs focus groups

I miss this august news: Madonna uses secret nightclub 'focus groups' to pick songs for new album:

now it seems that even Madonna has woken up to the power of focus groups. The most successful female artist in chart history has chosen songs for her next album after secretly trying them out on nightclubbers.

The tunes, with her distinctive vocals removed, were played in clubs from Liverpool to Ibiza throughout June. The reaction of the crowds were filmed and used by the 47-year-old mother of two to determine the final track listing for Confessions On A Dancefloor, her 10th studio album. (...) Claire Beale, the editor of Campaign magazine, said the research could be seen as a crisis of confidence for someone normally known for their business acume

OK what's next? Cognitive anthropology of J-Lo girly fans at birthday parties?

Instant Office Concept

(via), in an article by Mark Dixon called Office of the Future, there is the concept of 'instant office':

Regus operates what it calls "instant offices" -- business centers around the world that are fully furnished, fully equipped, and fully staffed. They are available by the hour, the day, the week, the month, or the year -- wherever and whenever a customer chooses. "You can be up and running in Beijing as soon as you step off the plane," says Bob Gaudreau, 38, who's responsible for the U.S. side of the operation. According to Regus, the logic of real estate should correspond to the new logic of business itself. So renting a Regus office is as fast and as easy as renting a car. In fact, the one-page rental agreement is modeled after the contract that car-rental companies use. "We've made property a fast-moving commodity, just like a can of Coke," says Gaudreau. "There's no capital expenditure, the office is completely furnished, and customers decide how long they'll stay."

A interesting concept: pedestrian face-off

After spending hours reading books and papers about coordination theory it's funny to run across this concept in the always relevant urban dictionnary:

pedestrian face-off: an awkward situation in which two pedestrians, who are on a collision course with each other, are repeatedly unsuccessful in averting one another. As one person moves to their right, the other person moves to their left and vice versa. Each time they attempt a new maneuver, the frustrated...

Why do I blog this? mmh I was thinking about Herbert Clark's theory of coordination. Clark explains that one of the most powerful way of coordinating is conventions: a community-accepted solution for reccurent coordination problems (like stopping at the traffic light when it's red...). But in some cases, there is no emergent usage for the situation described above...