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Brilliant Human Achievement Impolitic

Process matters, it really does

<![CDATA[Process matters:

In fact, meticulously defined and managed processes continue to be a powerful source of competitive advantage for many companies. Look at Toyota, for instance. Its highly engineered manufacturing processes not only give it superior productivity but also provide a platform for constant learning and improvement. The formal structure, which is anything but democratic, spurs both efficiency and innovation – productive innovation – simultaneously. Structured, well-thought-out processes are also essential to most knowledge work, from product development to financial analysis to software engineering to sales and marketing. And the more complex the effort, the greater the need for clear processes. Far from making business less effective and agile, the increasing attention to process has increased effectiveness and agility.

If Mayfield had narrowed his argument, focusing on the way knowledge workers collaborate in certain situations, rather than on business processes in general, he would have been much more compelling. The simple group-forming and information-sharing software tools now being introduced and refined will often provide greater flexibility and effectiveness than more complex “knowledge management” systems. But even in these cases, processes aren’t going away; they’re just changing. There can’t be organization without process.

I’m with Nicholas Carr on this one, despite my close friendship with Ross Mayfield and being on the Socialtext board of advisors. I’d been thinking a lot about Ross’ posting on The End of Process, and Carr summarizes my concerns about the idea that business organizations are entering a “post-process” era.
Looking back at my comments about the value of process in newsgathering, where I made the point that we have to have processes that account for the weaknesses of participants (in the case of journalism, it’s the tendency to be subjective and biased that is checked by an effective editorial process) I find it hard to imagine what an “organization” without process could look like. After all, we enter into relationships based on a set of expectations—a process for fulfilling those expectations—not simply on trust. Carr’s assertion that if Ross had narrowed his argument he would have made a more effective point is correct. I can imagine organizations that define themselves through emergent processes, but not an organization without processes.
In talking about applications of technology to democratic goals, too, there has been a persistent subtext in technical discussions that suggests process is irrelevant (which could just be reflective of a techno-anarchism, but I am not an anarchist). However, it’s impossible to engineer process out of democratic deliberation, because there must be an agreed upon set of rules—in the United States, it’s the Constitution—for coming to a collective decision (whether simple or super majority) about policy. Tools need to be flexible in order to accommodate new processes if we’re going to achieve “emergent” systems for social action; tools engineered to defeat process undermine the participants’ agreements.
Wiki is an excellent foundation for exploring new relationships through the information we seek to share. Likewise, it is a great foundation for working out what processes a group might apply to achieving its goals. But there is always process, we simply don’t accept process for process’ sake anymore, which is a Very Good Thing.

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Impolitic

Check me on this: No AdSense, no spam

<![CDATA[I dropped the Google AdSense ads from my blog on Thursday. What can I say, the $3.50 or so I make each month just isn't worthwhile for all the real estate I gave Google to advertise itself on my pages.
Since that time, I haven’t received any spam comments. It dropped from hundreds a day to none, zero, nada.


Now, it may be a coincidence, but good golly, dropping AdSense has saved me a lot more time than the ad revenue ever would have paid for.
Does anyone have similar or contradictory experience to share? Am I just imagining this?
UPDATE: I’m prepared to conclude it was a coincidence, as I am under a new wave of spam comments. Seems the robots were on a break.

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Impolitic

Have my RSS talk to your RSS

<![CDATA[Microsoft’s new RSS twist:

RSS feeds are streams of data commonly used by people to receive news and information. But what about using them for two-way sharing of information? Microsoft offered up that concept today in what it calls Simple Sharing Extensions, or SSE. The FAQ explains:

For example, SSE could be used to share your work calendar with your spouse. If your calendar were published to an SSE feed, changes to your work calendar could be replicated to your spouse’s calendar, and vice versa. As a result, your spouse could see your work schedule and add new appointments, such as a parent-teacher meeting at the school, or a doctor’s appointment.

Very slick implementation of RSS. Apparently, based on Ray Ozzie’s comments, the SSE system facilitates collaborative interaction by taking some old Notes concepts (tie-breaking which version of data is most current, for example), XML-ifies them, and making subscriptions bi-directional to ensure that further updates are propagated to all participants in a group. Dave Winer likes the idea.

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Impolitic

TiVoToGo hits strong double to center

<![CDATA[WSJ.com – Article:

Shares of digital-video-recorder maker TiVo Inc. (TIVO) rose as much as 9% Monday after it unveiled a new service that would allow videos recorded using its product to work with Apple Computer Inc.’s (AAPL) iPod music player or Sony Corp.’s (SNE) PSP portable gaming device.

it’s not a home run, yet, but this is exactly the kind of deal that’s going to make Tivo relevant for a long time (if only as the noun to describe recording television for personal time- and place-shifted viewing). It’s also a big win for both the PSP and Video iPod, which become the leading competitors for “share of pocket” viewing. I have a PSP, which has an astonishing good screen, but having tried out downloading an episode of Lost last night, which looks great on the Mac, I am think the Video iPod is next. Still, the screen on the iPod strikes me as a little too small. Of course, it’s a one-hander, unlike the PSP, which really takes two hands to hold. The New York Times has this coverage, too.

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Impolitic Life

Paying for a piece of the pie that's already been served

<![CDATA[MediaPost Publications – WPP Courts Bollore, Frenchman Now Controls 12.7% Of World Media Market – 11/21/2005:

WITH WPP FACING A DEADLINE of Friday to make a formal bid to acquire Aegis Group, French financier Vincent Bollore had emerged as the new power broker in the media services world. At presstime, WPP Chairman-CEO Martin Sorrell and his partners at U.S. private equity firm Hellman & Friedman reportedly were in talks with Bollore to make a joint bid to acquire Aegis, the parent of Carat, Vizeum, Isobar and Posterscope, as well as some prized marketing research assets. Bollore already controls nearly 25 percent of Aegis shares, and has taken control of French rival Havas, and according to a new report now has interests representing 12.7 percent of the global media services marketplace.

Worldwide Media Network Market Shares 2005 Market Share Billings Vs. 2004

WPP (Group M) 22.3% +13.0%

Publicis (Publicis Groupe Media) 16.0% +11.0%

Omnicom (Omnicom Media Group) 11.7% +5.0%

Interpublic 10.9% -3.0%

Aegis 9.0% +5.0%

Havas 3.7% +2.4%

Bollore Group 12.7% +4.0%

Source: RECMA. Billings as of November 2005.

The interesting thing here is that there will be a premium price paid for a 12.7 percent share of the shrinking traditional media market. As more metrics become available, so that the nontraditional media can be counted and accounted for, this 12.7 percent is going to turn out to be one percent or so, maybe even less, of a radically expanded media environment.

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Impolitic

So this is Christmas and what have we done

<![CDATA[GM to cut 30,000 jobs – Yahoo! News:

General Motors Corp. (NYSE:GM – news) said on Monday it will cut about 30,000 manufacturing jobs, close or reduce operations at 12 plants in North America and slash the number of vehicles it produces as the automaker struggles for survival.

Another year over, and the Bush disaster has only just begun…. Now more than ever we need greater investments in education and the American people, as I wrote the other day, not more tax cuts for the wealthiest one percent.

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Impolitic

The New Coke of the digital era

<![CDATA[It’s Official: SBC Buys AT&T; Becomes “New” AT&T:

SBC Communications closed its deal to acquire AT&T Corp. today, waved a magic wand and became AT&T Inc. when California regulators delivered the last approval needed. Ed Whitacre, Jr. becomes chairman and CEO of the new company; trading under the “T” symbol begins Dec. 1.

The New AT&T tastes like Ma Bell’s old drawers, too.

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Impolitic

New rules for 21st century workers

<![CDATA[The most important three rules for today’s workforce bar none: Tom Foremski of Silicon Valley Watcher has the following rules for today’s worker:

–Carry and use your own cell phone/number for business

The workforce now is mobile and temporary even if you have a salaried job. You need to be in control of the center of communications: you.

–Carry and use your own email address even at work

Otherwise your contacts and the relationships you build can be severed when you leave a job, and that is an investment that you have a right to maintain–as does your employer.

–Carry and use your own health insurance

Because otherwise, you will be stuck in a job that makes you sick just to keep the health insurance.

I’ve lived by these three rules for more than a decade. When I started using my own strange email address with the handle “godsdog” rather than the corporate one I’d been assigned, it made a huge difference to both my career (the CEO of Ziff-Davis sent me a note saying he’d decided to pay attention to my career—which, of course, is a mixed blessing) and to my long-term findability (people ask if I am still “at godsdog” when updating their contacts, there’s no question the address will still be there in their minds)
To Tom’s rules, I’d add:
Incorporate and work on contract rather than as an employee.
This allows you to negotiate the same kind of stock compensation while allowing you to keep your business costs, even the ones you can’t get compensated for at work, on your own taxes while increasing the flexibility you have as a working person.
Carry and use your own hardware, building tech expenses into your compensation.
This prevents lock-in to a job through access to technology. Sure, you may have to work with a less impressive laptop, but you’re also forced to think more like the people who really buy computers, software, services and so forth.
UPDATE: Neville Hobson adds two more good rules (I slap my forehead and utter a “duh!” for having taken for granted and not listing what he suggests—it’s always a mistake to think everyone does what you do, when most people don’t, so good on Neville for thinking practically):
Create a blog and establish your personal presence in the new marketplace
In this new age of global inter-connectivity, linking and influence, a blog is a prerequisite if you want to build your own credibility, be found easily and connect with others. Forget the static website. Forget the fancy brochure. Do a blog. It works – I speak from personal experience.

Join a business network like LinkedIn or OpenBC
However you actively use these or not, they can help establish your individual credibility and provide avenues of contact with others for mutual benefit.
UPDATE2: The Geek Guy Rants » Blog Archive » The 21st Century marketplace, and the rules we follow:
About my second rule, carrying your own hardware costs, David Newberger says:

I do have one problem with the 2nd rule though. I am not to keen on the idea of building in the outside costs incurred. If you can keep your outside costs low then this is not an issue but if you can not then you may very well bid yourself out of the contract. With this said I do believe that some costs should be built in but not all. The goal with all projects is low cost for high returns. If I have to eat $2,000 on a first contract just to get the foot in the door I will. In each of the cases I have done something like this it has lead to more then I could have imagined in the long run. For example I took a hit on a first contract for a large company but after the hit I got 3 more projects that more then made up for that initial hit.

Yes, it is truly hard to go out on your own and requires you plan to absorb your costs in the short-term. It’s been a long time since I started being a free agent, but I still spend several thousand dollars a year on hardware and software. The benefit, however, is that I really feel that pain. Too many people at tech companies think everyone can get the latest technology when it comes out, which encourages misplaced expectations about what real customers can afford, too.
If you assume you need to spend $3,000 a year on hardware and software each year—that’s a new laptop or desktop, plus new phones and upgrades to essential software—and you have three to five clients a year, then the average cost you need to build into your engagements is easy to calculate. The reality is that you have to work to get the hardware paid for, it can’t be treated as an incremental cost to pass along to the client. But you end up not being forced from machine to machine as you switch jobs, like a nomad. The point is to create your technological home.

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Webtalk about Wordcast

<![CDATA[Rob and Dana Greenlee invited David Lawrence and I to talk about podcasting, Audible's offering and, as usual, Google.
There's a stream and an MP3.

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Impolitic Life

Cisco on your settop

<![CDATA[FT.com / By industry / Media & internet – Cisco buys set-top box maker for $6.9bn

Cisco Systems, the networking equipment and technology group, said on Friday it would buy Scientific Atlanta, a maker of video and other content distribution technology for about $6.9bn in a bid to access the fast-growing market for converged television, telephone and internet services over broadband networks.

About time. But the big question is whether Cisco will go toward open IP to the settop or embrace the carriers’ agenda, who will be their “customer” (that is, they sell to the carriers, even if the device has to please people at home).

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