mm424: I, for one, feel smarter every day…

June 29, 2008

MUDGE’s Musings

Spotted a couple of references (most recently and indirectly at Arts & Letters Daily) to a most thought-provoking article in the Atlantic Monthly by Nicholas Carr, regarding the perhaps crippling effect of Internet use on the intellect.

atlantic

Is Google Making Us Stupid?

What the Internet is doing to our brains

by Nicholas Carr |  July/August 2008 Atlantic Monthly

“Dave, stop. Stop, will you? Stop, Dave. Will you stop, Dave?” So the supercomputer HAL pleads with the implacable astronaut Dave Bowman in a famous and weirdly poignant scene toward the end of Stanley Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey. Bowman, having nearly been sent to a deep-space death by the malfunctioning machine, is calmly, coldly disconnecting the memory circuits that control its artificial brain. “Dave, my mind is going,” HAL says, forlornly. “I can feel it. I can feel it.”

I can feel it, too. Over the past few years I’ve had an uncomfortable sense that someone, or something, has been tinkering with my brain, remapping the neural circuitry, reprogramming the memory. My mind isn’t going—so far as I can tell—but it’s changing. I’m not thinking the way I used to think. I can feel it most strongly when I’m reading. Immersing myself in a book or a lengthy article used to be easy. My mind would get caught up in the narrative or the turns of the argument, and I’d spend hours strolling through long stretches of prose. That’s rarely the case anymore. Now my concentration often starts to drift after two or three pages. I get fidgety, lose the thread, begin looking for something else to do. I feel as if I’m always dragging my wayward brain back to the text. The deep reading that used to come naturally has become a struggle.

So I’ve noticed through the years that my ability, or even interest, to focus for extended lengths of time on a book had diminished. I have attributed this mostly to the natural effects of my alacritously advancing age. But maybe there’s more going on.

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mm413: Computers: Not helpful for poor kids?

June 17, 2008

MUDGE’s Musings

This nanocorner of the ‘Sphere© has been an enthusiastic observer of Nicholas Negroponte’s idealistic One Laptop Per Child initiative since it started getting close to launch late last year.

By one count, in fact, this would be the 18th such post, a sizable fraction.

But, it seems such a good idea: provide millions of dramatically attractive PCs to governments at a rock bottom price (original target, $100) to be distributed to school children. The hope: in the same way that cell phones have bootstrapped the developing world into the maw of 21st century communications without requiring the arduous and costly laying of trillions of miles of copper wire to every last remote corner of the planet, connect kids in deprived lands to the 21st century via the Internet.

Well, the launch price last November was closer to $200 than $100, but the dollar (not to speak of the price of oil — not just fuel for transportation, but even more valuable, if underappreciated, as the feedstock for the manufacture of plastic, a key component of absolutely every computer of any cost) is not what it was in 2005 when the program was formulated. To bring faithful reader up to speed on this topic, we’ve provided a handy list of those 17 previous entries.

One Laptop Per Child @ L-HC

mm088: Meet the XO
mm089: Amateur mapmaking…
mm099: A $99 Desktop…
mm149: India’s take…
mm153: By a Laptop, Get one…
mm162: Laptop with a Mission
mm170: Technology and Ed …
mm179: OLPC for India after all?
mm189: OLPC cranks up!
mm203: OLPC: News; discouraging word
mm212: Cheap computing…
mm219: OLPC — Harvard speaks
mm232: Li’l green laptops a hit in Peru
mm247: OLPC — reviews are coming in
mm249: OLPC – News, and a review
mm267: XO – A Missionary Position
mm382: One Laptop Per Child…Windows

Some intriguing, if disturbing, research hit the news this past week.

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mm411: Comcast rant no. 3,219,586,773,089,246,129,6…

June 15, 2008

MUDGE’s Musings

In the 3-1/2 weeks since our previous Comcast disappointment, our monopoly ISP has been behaving itself. Of course, we were away during most of the past week (if you somehow missed our Boston coverage, here’s the most recent), but it only took less than 36 hours since returning for a really pernicious issue to appear, for the first time in this grizzled veteran’s experience.

It’s an intermittent phenomenon: suddenly the modem loses connection, then slowly reconnects. Stays connected for about 90 seconds; then the cycle repeats.

For hours.

It’s really impossible to conduct any activity at all on the Internet when one’s connection interrupts for a minute, every 90 seconds.

Contacted support. Found the same bipolar experience as previously experienced. The first person I talked to, after about a 15-minute wait (always a good indicator of system wide issues!) had absolutely nothing to offer except scheduling a technician visit. No diagnostics. No word of any system issues. Nothing. Concluded the call in disgust, without scheduling a visit.

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mm408: Boston, Day 3, concluded; and Day 4, last day!

June 12, 2008

MUDGE’s Musings

Day 3, concluded

We ran out of words, and steam, last evening, having only covered the morning sessions of the Enterprise 2.0 conference from Boston Day 3. We’ll try to catch up here.

20. Mash-Ups: Are they the killer app for Enterprise 2.0? David Berlind, moderator

Panelists were Charlotte Goldsbery, Denodo Technologies, Lauren Cooney, Microsoft, Nicole Carrier, IBM, and Michaline Todd, Serena Software.

Berlind introduced the concept of mash-ups, a means of knocking together disparate elements and applets into a web page. Advantage: build it in hours. Risk: brittle, as they depend on outside service providers who may have reliability issues.

A useful distinction was made later. Portals and dashboards also build from disparate elements, but their elements only report and do not interact with each other. That interactivity is what distinguishes a mash-up.

All of the speakers have stakes in this field, IBM’s Mash-up Center, Denodo, Serena Business Mash-ups and Microsoft, who has had a consumer version, Popfly available and who apparently plans a commercial tool soon.

Challenge to enterprise IT: what kind of data can we deliver to the business in a safe way: rules, privileges, policies.

Panel believes that it will be 6-months to a year before business users will be able to build their own. A sample of what’s available on the web right now is Yahoo Pipes.

Examples of business related mash-ups:

  • event registration: showing hotel, map, photo from Flickr, weather
  • emergency response organizations: counter-terrorism situational awareness
  • retailer: an inbound shipment monitoring dashboard (weather, piracy)
  • avian flue data pushed onto remote devices
  • a customer visit: weather, golf-courses, Eventful.com, restaurants
  • HR: applicant search on Facebook, MySpace, etc.

Application enrichment, but it’s brittle.

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mm407: Boston, Day 3

June 11, 2008

MUDGE’s Musings

So this is the third episode of what has turned out to be a quadruple-duty blog post.

1. I endeavor, as always, to edify faithful reader of this nanocorner of the ‘Sphere© on a daily basis. I take very seriously the blogger’s Prime Directive: Thou Shalt Blog Daily!

2. The event at which I am attending, the Enterprise 2.0 conference in Boston, Massachusetts, eats its own dog food in the sense that it provides space for participants to blog, contribute to a wiki, etc. So, I am posting these efforts in the blog space, although I am certain that for most participants, after a day filled with conference activities, and an evening filled with beyond the venue dining and/or entertainment (conjecturing about them, not describing your diligent and well behaved correspondent), the idea of writing, much less reading other people’s blogs in whatever time remains is probably far-fetched.

3. I am also posting these efforts on one of our fledgling blogs at the Heart of Corporate America, where, as I’ve mentioned, I am working with the technical review board considering which of the tools in this evolving market we should be adopting. I naturally gravitated to that space during the time I have worked with the team, and probably have been as active blogging in their test spaces as anyone (read: not very). The overall effort is crying out for a user champion who does more than attend meetings; so far we haven’t much evidence of one.

4. As a business traveler, I have what apparently is an old-fashioned self-impetus to file a trip report for management. I say old fashioned, because when I sent my department head last year’s report (I don’t get out very much) apologizing for it taking about a week after I returned, she replied that so far, of the more than half-dozen people from the department that had attended the event, mine was the only such report thus far received. Under those circumstances, I hereby declare that these several days’ efforts will serve for that report.

Once again, I recorded six hand-printed (as a left-handed person — the title of the blog, after all! — I gave up cursive writing as soon as I could get away with it) for the day’s lengthy sessions. As I begin to write this, at 5:00pmEDT, there is still one final session to go before the day is over, although as it is scheduled for one of the break-out rooms, and is likely to be oversubscribed, a pretty common occurrence this week, I may break to attend, and promptly return after being shut out. Not a total disappointment for a person who’s been sitting in sessions since 8:00am….

Okay, now it’s well after 8:30pm, and I’ve added more than another full page of notes from the final session. Whew! Hope my stamina is up to the challenge!

13. Enterprise 2.0 Tools: A Critical Evaluation: Tony Byrne, CMS Watch

CMS Watch is a software rating consultancy, and Tony Berne, its founder spoke quite eloquently despite the 8:00am starting time. Some of my fellow attendees, coming off a conference evening that might not have been as boring as mine (although, rest assured faithful reader, that I am always inspired and energized blogging for you!), questioned the necessity, not to say appropriateness of an 8am start time. This was just one element of a logistics topic that there will perhaps be an appropriate time to consider.

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mm406: Boston, Day 2

June 10, 2008

MUDGE’s Musings

Quite a bit earlier in the day, as I summarize today’s sessions at the Enterprise 2.0 conference in Boston.

Another interesting and useful day, with lots of new and or interesting information, and one really dazzling presentation. Overnight, my lap didn’t get any bigger, and still doesn’t accommodate my laptop computer. Sigh.

Once again, I have six pages of handwritten notes, and I went through two pens! We pick up where we left off yesterday.

4. Keynote: Rob Carter, FedEx

Mr. Carter, the CIO, was a very polished and graceful speaker. FedEx is one of the great innovative companies of the past 35 years, and we didn’t need Rob Carter to remind us. They invented the concept of overnight delivery of small packages, realized with a small fleet of Learjets flying out of their Memphis hub. And now look at them. Although Carter couldn’t help but show us an FAA model of recent overnight traffic at Memphis airport, together with the all too true admonition regarding staying at the airport hotel.

FedEx innovations have been just as paradigm shifting in the information area, as they were one of the first organizations to realize that their true product, not just their tools, was information. In that light, Carter showed us the first true Internet application, the 1994 page that let consumers and business track a shipment without telephoning. Lately, such marketing tools as the playful “Launch a Package,” a Facebook application, keeps the FedEx name and message in front of the next generation of shippers. His message: enterprise walls are coming down, to make way for customer connections.

5. From the Bottom-Up: Building the 21st Century Intelligence Community, Don Burke and Sean Dennehy, Central Intelligence Agency.

Yup, the CIA has gone all social media on us. The Intellipedia, built on Wikipedia but with some security enhancements, is the product for which both are the technical evangelists. They set the tone for the process-altering nature of their tool by displaying their presentation via Intellipedia pages, rather than the more usual PowerPoint.

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mm389: A further word about process…

May 23, 2008

MUDGE’s Musings

As an addendum placed at the end of the previous post, yr (justifiably) humble svt mentioned that Comcast had prevented timely daily posting because service, at least at MUDGEville, had been interrupted for 32 continuous hours this week.

Shortly after that post had been published, our connection, which had reappeared at 7:00am as randomly as it had disappeared two nights before, again disappeared.

The Comcast customer service protocols between the three calls that have been placed in the past few days were strangely different, but I really don’t have the patience to rehash — we all have our call center horror stories. At least all of these were domestic facilities.

The third call, though, was so refreshingly different, with so little harassing “protocol” compared to the first two, that I wondered whether I had reached the same company. Upon reflection, perhaps I reached a different outsourced call center. What a positive difference! While I hope never have to make another call to Comcast (except to cancel!), my reality ballcap tells me that of course I will! When I do, I can fervently hope that it goes to “Thomas.”

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