Archive for December, 2008

Genes of collective learning

December 16, 2008

Tom Malone has a great presentation on the common ‘gene’s — or replicable patterns — on groups of individuals doing things collectively that seem intelligent. He tries (and does pretty well) to answer the question “How can people and computers be connected so that collectively they act more intelligently than any person, group or computer has done before?”. He then maps out a set of design patterns for

  • the what, who, why and how to do this,
  • howing some well known and less known examples,
  • the limitations
  • typical clusterings
  • as well as for which problems these are useful to solve.

He prioritises genes with the ‘Why’ patterns first: “Failure to get motivational factors right is probably the single greatest cause of failure in collective intelligence experiments”.

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What I learnt from rebuilding my house

December 10, 2008

We are just finishing up rebuilding our house, a week later than our soft date (Dec 1) and well before our hard date (Dec 22). In the process we learnt a few things, or found a few things we wished we had learnt before we had started.
1. A stitch in time saves nine. I was lucky enough to be able to come into work half an hour late a few days a week (and sometimes quite a bit more). This meant I could check on the building work on a number of mornings and catch things before they got out of hand. I would walk in with a ‘shopping list’ of things that needed to get done, walk the builders through everything and try to answer their questions. The ‘grand plan’ of what happened week-to-week had already been done and we had a great prime contractor to track everything and keep all the plates spinning, but questions always arose at handover points (tiles to wooden floor, kitchen to electricity and water, boiler and thermostat, boiler and radiator, boiler and boiler, bloody boiler!). Working side by side to answer queries directly was crucial.
2. Find a great tier two contractor and be willing to pay the extra 20% to get the very best. We got screwed by the big telco/ISP/cable company (Wanadoo, no – Orange, no – Online) as well as by the little one-man companies (with some notable exceptions). You need someone you can work with, talk to face-to-face and, if need be, call up every day to bug. We found a builder who lived on our street and who had a few reference customers on our street. He was significantly more expensive than the other offers, but –
3. Goedkoop is duurkoop (you get what you pay for). In other words, a relatively high absolute cost can be reassuringly exensive if you know it comes with quick & responsive lead times and the ability to get the job done quickly. You’re looking for getting things done fast for a reasonable price, not finding the lowest ever price.
4. Expect problems and wherever possible have a back-up plan. In the last weeks, getting our kitchen tiled was critical path. On D-Day, the tiler called in sick. Quickly, our prime contractor was able to find not one but two new tilers who finished the work — just on time.
5. Have someone who lives and breathes the project. My wife was the mastermind behind the operation. She thought through every little detail and worked out how everything was going to fit together. She was thinking of the end goal whether she was asleep or awake.
6. Management by walking around. Make sure that you get to see how everything is going as often as possible. Be willing to spend time with those that do, not just those that talk. Ask lots of questions and do not be embarassed to show your ignorance. Use your enhanced knowledge to think ahead of what might go wrong and try to anticipate it.

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All your base belong to SaaS

December 8, 2008

I love dropbox and I actually think Google Docs is not ‘alf bad either. But both terms of service are pretty scary.

Dropbox scalls itself “Secure backup sync, and sharing”. However, buried deep in the T&Cs, it also says Business Transfers. Dropbox may sell, transfer or otherwise share some or all of its assets, including your Personal Information, in connection with a merger, acquisition, reorganization or sale of assets or in the event of bankruptcy”

Google Docs terms states “… you grant Google a worldwide, non-exclusive, royalty-free license to reproduce, adapt, modify, publish and distribute such Content on Google services for the purpose of displaying, distributing and promoting Google services…”

Pretty onerous!

Crowdsourced decision making for the chronically — err — indecisive

December 8, 2008

Stuck on a completely trivial decision? Not sure which path to take?
You need some automated decision-taking love in the form of I Can’t Decide . Fully crowd-powered — or maybe just slightly random to get the first decisions bootstrapped — it works as follows. Type in your A/B question and for the price of answering five other boolean bamboozlers the community will answer yours.

Pownce closes its doors

December 1, 2008

I just read that Pownce will be shutting down its service as of December 15th and the company is being acquired by Six Apart. It does seem that the space was getting pretty crowded, and you have to ask how long companies can keep paying for ping, power and pipe never mind development.

Full screen HD from your phone? A true iPhone killer

December 1, 2008

You can with the Pomegranate. Never mind Android, this thing is going to blow the iPhone away.

“The ultimate all-in-one device — where no phone has gone before”.

And the darn thing has a world premier in Canada of all places.

(via DaringFireball)

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