Wednesday, April 30, 2008

How IBM Uses Online Games for Serious Business

I have no comment, I will not comment, and there is no need for comment...


Sent to you by ckstevenson via Google Reader:


via on 4/30/08

Online gaming has a meaningful role to play in business. At IBM, for example, we are exploring the use of 3-D Internet technology to enable better understanding of complex business processes and systems architecture. Why turn to computer games for such insight, you might wonder. I use the analogy of automobile engines.

These days, engines are more complex than ever, but that complexity is often masked by a plastic cowl over the crankcase and key electronic parts. Most drivers will never remove the cowl, but they will depend on the vehicle to get them around town. Similarly, many business people depend on their HR, procurement, and sales systems to run their company, but do not understand how they actually work. For leaders in large multinational firms making strategic investment decisions for growth, mergers and divestitures, the complexity can be overwhelming.

The computer simulations we are exploring at IBM allow people to visualize our processes as a "participant" in the process itself. Inspired by the classic Harvard Business Review article, "Staple Yourself to an Order," and mashing this idea up with the concepts from movies like "Fantastic Voyage" and "Honey, I Shrunk the Kids!" we have created an environment for strong collaboration that has yielded some tangible and valuable business insight to the participants. Seeing a chart that says there are multiple methods to process a customer order is one thing. Positioning yourself as a potential order and then deciding which route to take as that order yields a far richer understanding.

Here's how it would work. Via the simulation, you might board a virtual "tour bus" that allows you (and your colleagues) to experience the order management process firsthand. Imagine boarding the order bus and heading down the customer path. Your guide explains that for this trip, the order is from an Italian premier customer for the just announced Widget2008 product. As the order progresses from quote to firm order, you reach a roundabout where multiple fulfillment paths might be selected. Since this order is from a premier customer, the order continues down the "expedited fulfillment" path. At this point, one of your fellow passengers on the bus asks what might be different if the order was placed by a Taiwanese customer for Widget2007 instead. The bus instantly returns to the starting point, and the differences between Italy and Taiwan are experienced directly, with every twist in the road noted, and a discussion between the passengers on the bus ensues about how the differences in processes could be simplified and globally integrated.


A further benefit of the 3-D Internet space is that on the bus, everyone has the view of the driver out the front window – not the back of the person's head in front of them – since the 3-D Internet is not limited by the physics and physical structure of the "real world." When real people get together virtually and experience the process of an order, they develop a common understanding of the company's systems landscape and the challenges it presents.

Might you see how the benefits of such 3-D Internet worlds could help you be a more effective change agent for your organization? For instance, would helping your business and technical team members quickly understand the nature of the complexity built into the systems supporting them help your leaders make faster and better decisions?

"Becoming the order" can yield enormous insight into where the opportunities for improvement might lie, and the collaborative and experiential environment may be just the secret sauce you're looking for. In tight economic times, or in periods of extreme growth, identifying and eliminating friction in the system helps business flow and employees become more productive. 3-D Internet technology could well help you find real and solid solutions in the virtual world.

Michael Martine is IBM's Director of Enterprise Integration Architecture, podcaster and avid gamer.

To learn more about how companies are using virtual environments to drive business results, see Leadership's Online Labs from the May 2008 Harvard Business Review.

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"Where do they find the time?"

Lecture at Web 2.0 conference by author/thinker Clay Shirky on some observations he presents in his book "Here comes everybody".

You don't have to click through and listen, though you can:

The part I don't get, which is the catalyst moment for his lecture, is his reaction to the question "Where do they find the time?" He has interesting analysis of how much time is spent on tv (though to his credit, he does later take a minor jab at video games, but not much of one), and how many Wikipedia articles could be created instead (answer: a LOT).

But I think he might totally miss the question that draws the ire. The woman, who works in tv, isn't amazed that people aren't spending their lives watching tv, but that they can possibly argue for literally thousands of hours about Pluto being a planet or not, and how to reflect this on Wikipedia.

And I'm with her.

I'm glad this is a hobby for people (I've submitted 4 book summaries to myself), and it is productive. But um, Mr. Shirky, couldn't these people be out, you know, like, talking to humans? Or exercising? Or just breathing fresh air?

But putting aside his crazy reaction, I do hope his general observation is correct, we'll all spend less time watching tv and doing something.

PS: I have to note, that watching tv can in fact be collaborative. Witness the crazy sites on "Lost", and how they are creating Wikis for the show. Or sports. That's a hugely interactive and social activity.

Saturday, April 26, 2008

Tasty beer

Tasty beer by John G.

Dead Address Book Entries

I disagreed with this.

Had Mr. Feld used a paperbased contact list, he still would have come across the entry for his deceased neighbor.

A sad realization, but true nevertheless.


Sent to you by ckstevenson via Google Reader:


via Feld Thoughts by on 4/25/08

I just did a search in my address book for someone and came up with the address book entry for someone I know that died last year.

I was sad.  I sat - paralyzed - for thirty seconds struggling to decide whether or not to delete the address book entry. 

I realized this is a great example of an unintended consequence of technology.  I was not particularly close to this person (they were a neighbor of mine) but I flashed back to a walk along our creek that we had one day while scoping out the location for a new gate that Amy and put up in our canyon.  He was a nice but somewhat troubled guy that didn't live long enough.

Those were memories I probably would have never had again if I hadn't seen his name in the address book entry. 

I decided not to delete the address book entry.


Things you can do from here:


Charitable outsourcing?

Is there such a thing as "charitable outsourcing"? And if so, what is it?

In the oft blogged book, "The 4-hour Workweek"

the author talks a lot about having others perform low value (and hence low cost) activities for you. The basic premise is to have others perform duties for you that would "cost" you more to perform than you can "earn" doing other activities. If I am a consultant, and can do work for a client at $100/hour, but instead do bookkeeping at $20/hour, that is a net loss of $80/hour. I should instead pay someone $20/hour (or at worst less than $100/hour) to do this for me.

Applying this to your personal life, if you value your personal time at $10/hour, and can find someone to mow your grass for $8/hour (GOOD LUCK!) then you should do that. One key (!!!!!!) hindrance to this method is determining a valid and usable cost/hour for your personal time. Easy to do if you can charge someone else for it, as they determine the value, but less easy if it is pruning the hedges.

Isn't this just another way of recommending "outsourcing". It is. Debate settled.

So then, applying this to charity:
  • Assume you value charitable activities at the rate of $20/hour
  • Assume you value personal time at $22/hour
  • Assume you earn income at $50/hour
The obvious solution is to donate money commensurate to the amount of time you would have spent, and then use the freed up time to either do personal activities or work. If you spend personal time, and it helps increase your professional capacity and hence income rate, you are economically providing MORE value than by donating your personal time.

I have a hard time with this concept though. And many people knock this by saying you should do the charitable activity yourself, and not "pay off your personal grief" of helping others.


Friday, April 25, 2008

Reading Trends

My "Trends" report in Google Reader:

I "read" everything, meaning I take a 2 second glance and then hit "J" (or next) in my feed items

I "star" something when it is real good, or worth saving for later. I "share" it if it is at least decent. So I think ~2% of what I read is good.

And the stats bear it out, I'm the only person who subscribes to my blog.

And take your horse with you!

I'm outta "there" baby!

No more "I" for me (author's note: "I" is the super secret nickname for the company I just stopped working for. "M" is the super secret nickname for the company I just now started with.)

Observations to come in a follow-on post.

Thursday, April 24, 2008

T minus...

17 hours.

I, you are fading. M, here I come.
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Tuesday, April 22, 2008

"The Big Sort" - residential self-selection

The basic premice sounds logical and would be an interesting read.

On first glance, I'd have to assume that the supposition is correct. People talk about "melting pot" of America, which I don't think has ever really truly existed. My theory is that what has been viewed as "melting" was merely the self-sorting this book talks about. In no small part due to suburbia's rise, and only people in certain economic brackets being able to live there, self-selection at work.


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via Richard Florida and The Creative Class Exchange by Richard : Social Theory on 4/22/08

Big_sort Governing Magazine's Allan Ehrenhalt reviews Bill Bishop's new book in today's Wall Street Journal.

The more diverse America becomes, the more homogeneous it becomes. No, that's not a misprint; it is the thesis of "The Big Sort," Bill Bishop's rich and challenging book about the ways in which the citizens of this country have, in the past generation, rearranged themselves into discrete enclaves that have little to say to one another and little incentive to bother trying. "As Americans have moved over the past three decades," Mr. Bishop proclaims, "they have clustered in communities of sameness, among people with similar ways of life, beliefs and in the end, politics."

I read the book in galleys and have collaborated with Bill and Bob Cushing, his statistician counterpart over the years. This is a remarkable book detailing the multidimensional sorting of the American population and the increasing importance of geography and location for every facet of our lives.  Go out and grab yourself a copy of this book, read it from cover to cover - if you want to understand the forces that have shaped and will continue to shape American politics and the culture of everyday life.


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Wednesday, April 16, 2008

New comment on Why Inflation Can Lead or Lag Economic Cycles.

Holy crud!

That guy is famous and he commented on my sucky stinky little blog!

Mr. Ritholtz is absolutely correct, one should not reproduce an entire post from another blog.
Here's what happened:
  • I'm a regular schmoe with a no-nothun' blog, so I work all day, I don't get paid to blog (and my commitment to you, the non-existent reader, is to never take a dime for blogging!)
  • I read all other blogs via Google Reader
  • When I see something of interest or that I can muster a somewhat salient point on, I tend to "email" the article to my blog with a comment as the text of the email
  • In the past, all other forwarded blog posts have only included a snippet of a post
But I will correct the ill post for sure.

Thanks sir, love your blog!

---------- Forwarded message ----------
From: Barry Ritholtz <>
Date: Wed, Apr 16, 2008 at 5:05 PM
Subject: [;s blog] New comment on Why Inflation Can Lead or Lag Economic Cycles.

Barry Ritholtz has left a new comment on your post "Why Inflation Can Lead or Lag Economic Cycles":

Rather than reproducing an entire post, its preferable to merely "take" 2 or 3 paragraphs,

You can always point back to the original post for the balance

Posted by Barry Ritholtz to's blog at April 16, 2008 5:05 PM

Why Inflation Can Lead or Lag Economic Cycles

If Temps (see the below) are a leading indicator that business is picking up its pace, what would be the equivalent leading indicator for government agencies? This question is born out of those who work and contract to the government. How do they best look at indicators that business is about to pick up? I know of some who literally read every line of each FY's budget to see what has changed and focus business development on areas that have picked up.

Would it be voter complaints? Just watching for pork barrel spending via bills?

Sent to you by ckstevenson via Google Reader:

via The Big Picture by ritholtz on 4/16/08
... Beyond the usual inflation denialists, however, this morning I want to discuss why inflation isn't properly described as a lagging indicator, and shouldn't be dismissed as just so much history. Those who do so do at the risk of their own financial peril.


For example, Unemployment tends to tick up for months after a recovery has began. Hence, it is said to lag the cycle. Temp help, on the other hand, leads the cycle, but is not one of the 10 Conference Board LEIs (but average manufacturing-worker workweek is). The Stock market tends to lead the cycle turns, falling before a recession starts, and rising before the recovery is apparent (there are many exceptions to this). Thats why its part of the LEIs.

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

TechOff! First up, Evernote

The ever famous economist, Brad DeLong, is somewhat adressing this topic in his recent post. There are all these tools, which does one use?

First up we'll present a high level overview of Evernote, an increasingly popular internet tool that lets you do . . . something. What's that something?

Evernote on phone, desktop, and browser On the web. On your desktop. On your phone.

Everything you put into Evernote is always synchronized across all of your devices. That way. all your memories are available to you wherever you are.

Hmm, ok, sounds like Evernote wants me to get all my digital stuff into their system. So they are somewhat competing with MSFT and GOOG. Microsoft does a lot of your file storage, file type creation and management, and can do pictures etc. GOOG does all that too, and does it better over the internet.
A bonus is that I should be able to do this from my cell phone, or my PC (and I can do it via the internet or a desktop client). That's nice, let's me do . . . something . . . almost anywhere.

How to get stuff into Evernote

Memorable stuff is always happening, so we’ve created lots of way for you to get that stuff into Evernote:

  • Create

    Create new notes using desktop, web, and mobile versions of Evernote
  • Snap

    Take a snapshot using your camera phone or webcam
  • Clip

    Clip entire webpages, screenshots, and just about anything else you can copy
  • Drag-n-drop

    Drag and drop content into the desktop clients for Mac and Windows
  • Email

    Email notes directly into your account using your personalized email address
  • Record

    Record audio wherever you are and listen to it whenever you want
The above seems somewhat useful if you don't want any paper notes etc, and if you are in an "always digitally on" environment.

Thursday, April 10, 2008

PC World's descripton of Google Notebook:

It reads:

7. Capture Web Clips With Google Notebook

Google Notebook--click for full-size image.

You've got two dozen browser tabs open again, and this time, bookmarking them all just won't cut it. It's time to try Google Notebook.

One of Google's lesser-known products, Notebook is an indispensable tool for Web researchers. Save sections of Web pages to your Google Notebook and annotate them with your own notes and comments. Organize your clippings into multiple notebooks that you can break down into sections, rearrange your notes by dragging and dropping them into the right page, and search your notebooks using Google's signature special search sauce that you already know and love. Notebook also turns clipping pages into a one-click operation with the Google Notebook browser extension, available for both Firefox and Internet Explorer.

Sounds an awful lot like Evernote....

Wednesday, April 9, 2008

The Looming Tax Hike

If the theorized tax increase below is correct, then the smart thing to do is greatly reduce your 401(k) contributions (if you even have any, which it seems like might have been an oxymoronic stroke of genius), max out your ROTH IRA, and then shelter your future income as much as is legal (or ethical, your mileage may vary).

By the same token, if taxes will drastically increase going forward (which is highly dubious given the projected path is nearly linear and assumes the existing tax code will not change) then you are better off leveraging expected future gross wages to maximize short-term spending.

Woh, that was almost cogent and smart...

(click through if you don't see the chart)


Sent to you by ckstevenson via Google Reader:



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Tech off! Google Notebook or Evernote?

At first glance, I can't really discern a difference between these two capabilities.

Both are for capturing snippets on the web, notes, or even images/pictures you may have.

Both are searchable.

And that's about all I know.

I'm going to be slowly testing out both capabilities to figure them out, and see which is better.

Tuesday, April 8, 2008

No Google Reader or Remember The Milk in Firefox 3 Beta

so far.

Makes Firefox 3 way less useful to me, as those are two of my most heavily used sites (though this would make the li'l lady happy).

If I were smart, I'd FTP these dang files

But instead I'm using a 1GB thumb drive to migrate files from my soon to be gone work laptop, to my PC.

Nothing like waiting 5 minutes for 500mb of files to copy over to the thumb drive, another 5 to paste to the PC. Rinse, and repeat as desired.

Thursday, April 3, 2008

Dear, create user defined categories

I've perused your forum, looked at your pleasant and productive exchanges with customers.

Here's one on budgeting:

Why not do some real analysis of what your users are telling you ("add a category for liquor", "add a category for rental income", "add a category for my pet lizard Bertha") and let us make our own categories. Let us put them under your existing high level categories, or even create new high level one's.

It makes too much sense...

No Google Docs within Google Groups?

This makes no sense. I shouldn't have to create a Google Document, save it to a computer, then upload it to the Group in order to get it there.

It should be an embedded feature withing the group...

Most hilarious question from a co-worker ever

And I quote: "Do you by chance play WoW?"


No, ma'am, I do not.

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