Archive for the ‘Business’ Category

It’s not just the quiet

Sunday, April 29th, 2012

Reading - passtime of a lot of introvertsJust finished reading Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking by Susan Cain. As an introvert reading a book about introverts, it’s a bit like the cats watching cats meme.

I found myself nodding at many parts. Others not so much – like the idea that introverts need a lot of time to make a decision, cuz no. Cain does a good job of blending research in neuroscience, psychology and field trips to find out more about how introverts have been perceived and welcomed (or not) in history, and makes sure to offer us up some “famous introverts” to soothe our need to be recognized (Bill Gates, Woz, Al Gore, Rosa Parks, Einstein, Eleanor Roosevelt…).

Parks’ story is one she comes back to several times, as a woman of “quiet courage” – turns out she had a run-in with the same bus driver she dealt with on the famous day, and she backed off that time. However, she had been a long-standing worker in civil rights in her own way–she wasn’t a leader, but she was strong in her beliefs. On the day when she said “no”, she was tired and believed she should keep her seat. All the stuff that came afterward was primarily the work of the extroverts–like King.

I liked also that Cain twigged to the fact that in this cult of personality we call modern Americas, where we all “think different”, conformity is higher than ever – everything is about groupthink, groupwork and being “outgoing”, against study after study that shows working and thinking on one’s own actually results in more creativity, and more productive results.

In the business world, Cain cites several studies that put the idea that “brainstorming” works, and that open plan offices are conducive to better ideas and more productivity on their ass. Want to help people to be more productive, at least give them a mix of hidey-holes and places to interact. Open-plan workers have higher stress levels, higher turnover and lower productivity. Of course, the people who think all this stuff is good for business have come through what is now generations of kids who have been forced into group work for most of their school career, and who were ostracized and called out by teachers for being too quiet, or anti-social.

This was, in fact, what my entire “enrichment” education was in the 70′s and 80′s – if we weren’t brainstorming, we were assigned to teams to do some project. Never mind that I’m pretty sure the better part of the kids in enrichment were introverts, and looked on our time to do independent study as a “relief” from all of that forced interaction.

There’s some evidence that shows that introverts are physically more sensitive to stimulation – which makes sense. That baby who cries when there’s a loud noise or a fast-moving object? More likely to be introverted and not the excitable extrovert you might expect. The extrovert needs more stimulation to have the right levels of chemicals going in their brains.

There is such a thing as what I would call “situational extrovertism”–where introverts can be social, or direct, or charming even. But when we are done, we need to decompress. I have no problem speaking in front of large crowds, for example, but I need to do mental rehearsing beforehand, and I need several days afterward with no social engagements to “top up” my reserves.

Another good strategy for me is working at home – where I can control the amount of stimulation, and work through different projects as I choose to without interaction. Since a third to a half of the population is introverted, it’s yet another way that telecommuting can actually result in more productivity–except that it’s much more likely that the extroverts are running the show.

Cain offers up some ideas for how introverts and extroverts can get along, and why it’s a great combination when they work together–which I totally agree with. For me, having extroverts on my team and as my immediate boss is a way for me to exert influence without having to do all of the small talk myself, and I really hate small talk.

A good read if you aren’t aware of why Sally or Joe don’t want to go out every night like you do, or if you are Sally or Joe and you want to read about your tribe.


Is it irony?

Friday, June 24th, 2011

When there is a filibuster that no one cares about for a Canada Post strike that no one seems to care about?

Granted, there is some discussion that small business is suffering since they still work on cheques, but there’s email transfers these days, or PayPal. And most everyone I know is vaguely missing their Lee Valley catalogues and that’s about it.

It’s an interesting issue for the NDP to flex their muscle on. They can’t win it, since the Tories have a majority, and I wonder if a whole bunch of people are going to take notice of the stronghand union support and not be so impressed.

Even worse for the CUPW, we’ll wake up and realize that their services aren’t as necessary as they once were…

If someone tried to take MY books, I would punch them in the throat

Sunday, October 25th, 2009

So, Cory. The talk I saw was “Copyright versus Universal Access to All Human Knowledge and Groups Without Cost: the state of play in the global copyfight“. This is another love story, not with a subject, but with books.

Doctorow started his lecture with a homily to books. How we feel about them, how we want keep them and pass them on to our children. I was physically repulsed as he described a job he had at a bookstore when he had to remove the covers and destroy the innards of books that were being returned to the publisher (which was totally his point).

We are at the frontier of figuring out how to move forward in a world of electronic delivery of the arts – ebooks, digital media, and so on – can be accessed, downloaded and shared. But when you bring back the analogies of the “traditional” world of books and mixed tapes, then the absurdity of copyright law is revealed.

Doctorow also talked about “self help” copyright rules and the 3 Strikes premise, which essentially means that any ISP receiving an infringement notice, no matter how spurious, can and will cut off Internet access to the offending household, and you know that there are not many of us (except perhaps that guy living in a cabin in South Dakota, and even he needs access to the Anarchist’s Cookbook), who can make a living or have a life without the Interwebs.

Doctorow asks us to learn about the copyright law in our own countries and at the UN level (and he’s not so happy with the UN), and to participate in discussions as the law is being created.

For, as his informal poll pointed out, none of us are innocent within the system as it is being developed.

During the questions, there was one interesting one referring back to the session I saw with Neal Stephenson and Jaron Lanier – where Jaron had been talking about what he thinks is a more equitable system of delivery. Essentially, we all pay a few cents per use of whatever commodity we want to use — including art, writing, music… Doctorow’s response is that he thinks this is not tenable. He says that experimentation has shown that the cost of us having to decide whether or not this content is worth “5 cents” is  greater than the 5 cents, and so we won’t participate.

Unfortunately, the other questioner was an older “volunteer” with the festival who hijacked the time with simplistic questions (and she asked TWO, which is a no-no). Apparently she did the same at the later session, and I’d strongly recommend that someone explain to her why this is annoying.

I think for this kind of topic, each of us has to think it through and I at least agree that we should participate where we can in the discussion. I do believe that the ability to block someone from the Internet is a very harsh sentence, and needs to be used with care, and I don’t have trust that it will be, since the primary players are lawyers and ISPs.

Now I’m off to fondle my books.

But what publishers of books and music are trying to do, argues Doctorow, is develop a world where, at any time, and with no forewarning, they can reach into your home and essentially “take back” the books that you already purchased. That all that small print in the copyright (sometimes bigger than the ebook they are trying to sell) is basically you signing off on their right to do so.

BlackBerry will eat itself

Wednesday, May 20th, 2009

I had the best BB issue evar this week. Checked my email Monday morning, and all my mail except for Monday’s was gone. Since Monday was a holiday, I didn’t worry too much about it until yesterday morning …when I discovered that now all of my Monday email were gone, but I had the current days’ email, as well as 2 random email from August, 2008. I also lost my entire phone call history and all of my address book.

Got started with our helpdesk yesterday afternoon and they said they wanted to “cease and desist” me on the BES and mail server and see what that did, but we didn’t go forward since I was in meetings all day.

Which brings me to today, when it started deleting my email history every hour – i.e. if I didn’t see your email in the hour that it was sitting in my Inbox, then I guess you would SOL and I’d be off the hook, or something like that.

Helpdesk thought this behaviour was indeed “quirky” and ceased and desisted me. Which, if you’ve never been, is basically like a remote kill switch on your hummer. She ceased and my BB immediately desisted.

Everything seems to be in order again, but I’m not sure I’m gonna tell anyone it’s fixed. I kind of like the “BB ate my homework” excuse.

Who says it’s a bad time to try something new?

Sunday, May 17th, 2009

This past week, Melle and I attended the Commuitech Tech Leadership Conference – it was a one-day event, with Seth Godin as the featured speaker, along with a keynote address by Jeremy Gutsche of trendhunter fame and Paul Kedrosky.

The crowd was a mix of startup types, executives, marketeers from some of the big local companies, as well as a bunch of headhunter/recruiting reps. The keynotes were entertaining and they offered a few aha moments. Everyone was “just so happy” to be in the K-W area, where we don’t know the word “recession”.


Cross your fingers, toes…

Friday, May 15th, 2009

Fox looks to be renewing Dollhouse.

Note in the article that they mention this might signal a shift of the networks to recognize online viewing as an appropriate “stream”–as per my discussion with Donal a few posts back.

The future of publishing

Monday, April 6th, 2009

Awesome presentation from Michael Tamblyn from BookNet Canada.

There’s much in here that sets my heart thrumming. The idea of usable XML, for one. While my primary interest in helping non-technical authors to be able to work efficiently in an XML environment. It’s really hard to stay DITA-compliant and not have information that clearly or intuitively marks content. Like wysiwyg editors, form-based XML often results in dirty code and lots of support costs in getting the input (the form) to reliably show what the output will be. In this profile, it’s just not that easy to separate what “I want it to look like” from “what the code needs to be”. And I don’t think we should force that divorce.

I was also intrigued by Michael’s comments on the “browsability” of the book store compared to the now decade-old online book shopping model that we are all familiar with (home page; many books; specific book; shopping car). I have to agree with him that book shopping serendipity almost always happens in the book store where I can look at a title, read the blurb, notice something different and keep a running commentary going with Melle. There are some visual interfaces out there like Zoomie, but as Michael notes, these remain technological tricks that don’t really increase the liklihood of sales. The person that figures this out has the potential to really crack the market. (Hint: it’s not Facebook or Twitter).

Link courtesy of Boing Boing

Living within your means

Friday, February 27th, 2009

I really like James Bow’s blog – his posts are always well researched and he takes a sensible approach to politics and municipal development that is worth reading. But his post today about Rick Santelli kinda tweaked a mini-rant for me.

I don’t know Rick Santelli from Adam, but he did go so far as to say that he doesn’t want to pay for ‘loser’s mortgages’. I surely agree with James tying that to that fact that the some of the richest people in the US have walked away from the handout table with oodles of cash in their pockets and no guilt about it, and that hypocricy is alive and well in the bailouts.

But. But… I understand the sentiment of not wanting to use tax dollars to bail out people who voluntarily put themselves in debt, who voluntarily bought a lifestyle beyond their means. Sure, the US government and US banks created a bad situation where it was possible to get a 0-down mortgage amortized over 40 years, but it’s up to each person to know whether or not that’s a good idea.

By taking only the government and the banks to task for this mess, it leaves the people who took those mortgages without complicity or culpability – which denies them the power that goes with responsibility and puts them outside of the locus of control in the situation. Every person has the choice to not take full “advantage” of more debt than they can handle–particularly if they are the ones who thought they absolutely needed the big house and the bigger screen tv, and hell, why not if the bank is gonna give them the money.

I am happy as heck for the single mother in Detroit who now owns her own home outright. That’s just a smart investment that SHE made.

But do I want to put my tax dollars toward saving Mr Big House’s ass? No. I do not.

Thought vs plot

Saturday, December 27th, 2008
Anathem by Neal Stephenson

Anathem by Neal Stephenson

The narrator of Anathem is a young man, Fraa Erasmus, who is about to enter his tenth year in one of the concents that form the segragated Avout society on the planet Arbre, separate from the “saeculer” society. The fraas and suurs hold and advance disciplines that we would call philosophy, religion, science and theoretics within boundaries that have been defined by the saecular government during three previous sacks – times when the concents were attacked and/or destroyed by suspicious marauding groups. Then one day, Erasmus’ mentor Orolo discovers something in the sky… and everything changes.

So far, it sounds like a typical Sci-Fi/Fantasy plotline, but this is Neal Stephenson we’re talking about. Anathem is as much a treatise or a didactic dialogue as it is an “end of the world” plot-twister. Some reviewers have had problems with the language, and Stephenson provides a glossary at the end of the book to help them along. For me, the language wasn’t a problem – in fact, some of his neologisms were quite clever “sideways glances” at our own English language – concents, fraas, suurs, theorics, arks, avouts, saunt, incanter, and the self-evident bullshytt. Each chapter opens with a definition from the dictionary of AR 3000, that, much like the OED, reveals the life of the word through Arbre history.

In fact, it’s the sideways glancing that is probably one of the most effective tropes of the book. It’s very easy to see Earth in Arbre but with enough distortion (typical of SF, of course) that we gain the distance and wry humour of observation.

Typical of Stephenson, there are long descriptions of clock workings, slapdash building, intricate architecture, technology and the like–some of which, like the singing trees in LOTR, are probably the parts most skipped over by the non-ubergeeks. But it’s the tangle of the philosophic dialogues where I’m sure most people drift off and/or close up the book and turn on Mythbusters instead.

The theorics of the avout are historied, and a big part of avout life involves theoric smackdowns among disciplines and generations. Though some of the thought plays a role in the main plotline–the threat to civilization as they know it–it’s also the part of the book where Stephenson’s penchant for mastubatory writing is most evident. It’s not that none would be better (though what’s left could still be a good story with more umph), but that less would be better, or perhaps more concise would be better. It’s very hard to care strongly about the characters when action is frequently slowed down while they meander painfully through basic Platonic and neo-Platonic thought, Semiotics, Saussurian linguistics, Nietzchian, quantum physics and multiverse cosmology. I guess my thinking is that if they’re that damn smart, they could do it in less than 900 pages.

It’s hard to have empathy for characters conceived in such an intellectual soup. And when Stephenson tries to get to more fleshly matters, he’s horrible at it, which doesn’t help. There’s not a lot of feeling in this book, certainly not enough to really bring the plotline to life. The final scene is like an Austen finish grafted on to Ph D thesis, borg-like.

I enjoyed the language, enjoyed the “fish out of water” experiences as the avouts move into the saecular, some of the theorics (especially when the avouts use parables), but attention to the theorics is definitely at the cost of a story that could have been really good.

Some other reviews:


Sunday, December 14th, 2008

This is a crisis of enormous proportions! According to some reports, Canada will have fewer brands of scotch available in 2009.

Apparently stock is being diverted to emerging big markets like China, Russia and India. And we’re not talking about some of those tasty but relatively obscure labels either. How about no Lagavulin? Oban? Talisker for the pity of Mordechai Richler! Oh, and Johnny Walker Green label, but that is really no great loss to the palate.

So if you haven’t got my holiday gift yet, I have room on my shelves! I need rations!