Virginia Postrel has an interesting take on Sarbanes-Oxley and all the trouble it creates for the IT department. I know from pretty reliable sources that SarBox is high on any Fortune 500 CIO’s agenda, because the added need for tracking and documentation creates no end of headaches throughout most systems. I was especially struck by the observation that what would be considered small companies in the US ($68m) consider going private again, just to avoid the nitpicking.
John Le Carre:
Seems I have a problem with MT: People can post comments, I get them sent to me as email, but they never show up in the database. Anyone know a fix – or perhaps it is time to move to MT 3.x?
(And yes, comments posted here will increment the counter but not show….. I will update manually.)
Joi Ito reports that LinkedIn suddenly is popular at PeopleSoft as the effects of the Oracle takeover comes in.
I have been fiddling with LinkedIn myself – not that the Norwegian School of Management is getting rid of people, but as an excercise starting with Christmas cards (going through the list makes you remember people) and finishing with a lecture on social software for my MBA class on Friday.
I like LinkedIn because being on it is limited to work issues, and you don’t give out your life and email by signing up. Plus, it is quite surprising how wide a four-degree network can get.
However, some people seem to have missed the point: That you are only to link up with people you have some form of prior connection with. One LinkedIn member has more than 5000 connections and clearly sees that as an achievement in itself. Since connections more than one degree away requires endorsement from someone who knows you, this kind of defeat the purpose of the network itself. All coverage and no depth.
Via Boing Boing comes a link to the paper “Safecracking for the computer scientist” (PDF) by Matt Blaze. This has caused some consternation within the locksmithing industry, but I don’t really see why – anyone who has read Richard Feynman’s brilliant “Surely you are joking, Mr. Feynman!” know how to pick locks already. And believe me, it works even on a standard key lock, as I found out having locked myself out of the house one day, having to diddle the lock with a screwdriver and a bent paper clip. It is actually surprisingly easy, and most toolsmiths should be ashamed of themselves, mostly for making products of so low precision that you easily can detect the wheel imperfections.
Security by obscurity, indeed.
I am just back from a week’s travel in New England. While it was fantastic to be back at Harvard Square again (one of my favorite places in the world), the happiness was considerably marred by the discovery that my favorite bookstore, WordsWorth, had closed just a month before.
WordsWorth was fantastic – you could spend hours in its rather small, but extremely well-stocked (100.000 titles) store. I have never gone in there without coming out again with something – often more than my budget and luggage allowance really would allow. And the service – I once asked for three different books: One technical book, a novel, and an (at least to me) relatively obscure book on history of economic theory – and the guy behind the counter not only knew where they were, but also that one was on order (the economic history) and would be there in a week. Without consulting the computer. Wow.
Oh well, I suppose one reason for the demise was that the Harvard COOP bookstore finally provided some serious competition when Barnes and Noble took over its management. Still, a sad story.
Luckily, there is the Harvard Bookstore, with its knowledgable staff and well-stocked used book cellar. And in Amherst, I found the Jeffery Amherst Bookshop, which has much more than their Emily Dickinson collection.
So there is still hope in variety. Harvard COOP isn’t too bad (though the web site doesn’t do it justice). But I’ll miss WordsWorth.
It has long been the case that companies selling products, such as GE, make no money on the products themselves, but on financing or service (once the products are installed.) This can, of course, work in reverse: I learned last week that IBM, allegedly, sells outsourcing services without profit but make their money on product sales to their (in practice, captive) service customers.
This is a conundrum to me, for I learned in the late 90s that the falling transaction costs caused by vastly increases communications and coordination capability would lower factor prices and make cross-subsidization more difficult. Of course, our ability to construct and maintain complex pricing schemes would increase as well, but still – are these cross-subsidizing schemes clever bookkeeping, intentionally complicated pricing to confuse customers and competitors, or simply the result of historical developments, where companies structures haven’t yet caught up with economics realities?
I have already posted about the Tsunami in my Norwegian blog, but who can resist Anders Jacobsen‘s call for links to feed a donation with muliplier effects?
(In my posting, I suggested that Norwegians should donate the money normally spent on fireworks for New Years eve to the Tsunami victims. I think this was one of those ideas that many people came up with at the same time – I soon as I had posted it on my blog, I heard that there already had been little “Tsunamis” of SMS messages swarming around the country. Fireworks sales were down (and donations up) quite substantially.
Here are Anders’ links to international aid organizations:
UNICEF (United Nations Children’s Fund)
United Nations’ World Food Programme
Medecins Sans Frontieres / Doctors without Borders (donate!)
The International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies
Disasters Emergency Comittee (DEC) – comprises a raft of aid agencies, including the below and others
British Red Cross
Save the Children UK
American Red Cross
Canadian Red Cross
Save The Children
There is an interesting article by Larry Sanger at Kuro5hin called Why Wikipedia Must Jettison Its Anti-Elitism. Sanger argues that as long as Wikipedia does not provide for recognizing expertise in a formal way, few serious experts in specific fields will bother contributing articles, since any fool with an agenda can screw them up, necessitating much maintenance.
I agree that some of the policies of Wikipedia need to come up for revision. I used to be a relatively frequent contributor to Wikipedia myself, but lately I have spent less time editing there. The reason is simple – when Wikipedia was new and growing, there was need for a lot of “quick writing” on many topics. I am reasonably eclectic in my knowledge and can quickly write short stubs, sometimes backed up with some Web research – so I started many articles with what I knew. For example, I started articles on Martin Heidegger and Primo Levi, people I had a reasonably educated person’s knowledge about. For some articles, like Fridtjof Nansen, I knew more, because I am Norwegian and had recently read
Airlines have personalities. Singapore and Thai are delightful. Virgin Atlantic is genuinely hip. Lufthansa is desperately dull and tasteless. Air France can’t speak English or keep time, but serve delicious lunches. SAS is mercilessly Scandinavian (don’t for a second try to do anything out of the ordinary – and don’t expect a joke unless the flight attendant is Danish).
Icelandair, where I am sitting right now, is unapologetically provincial, and a throwback to an earlier time of flying. Not only do they fly old SAS planes with blue seat-covers and have stewardesses in blue uniforms with little pillbox hats. They also serve “Egils sodavatn” and a chocolate called Prince HPolo, and the inflight music is relentlessly optimistic (boy, is it fun and vaguely stylish to fly) in a way I haven’t seen outside a Dan Ackroyd parody commercial.
They used to have the smallest business lounge I have ever seen, where you got to know your fellow travellers surprisingly well in the five minutes you got at Keflavik between plane changes, but that has changed – it is now elegant in polished granite and dark wood, and, at least on January 1st, largely empty. Still, it remains fun to see cheesy Christmas decorations in the plane and vaguely threatening signs in Viking language (“Sitjid med sætisælar spenntar”). Now, I hope they have some interesting volcano show going as we pass Iceland…..
Update June 7, 2005: See also…