Monthly Archives: November 2004

Scholarly Googling

Google Scholar is an excellent new service from Google, which combines Googles search engine and page-ranking algorithms with academic citation protocols. I especially like the refreshingly simple and straightforward FAQ that accompanies it.
Now, will we see academically oriented page rank inflation consultancies springing up? Academic Googlewhacking?

A webcast not to be missed

IT Conversations has a “fair use” version of Clayton Christensen‘s presentation “Capturing the Upside”, which essentially is a run through his book The Innovator’s Solution. Brilliant style and deep content. Any entrepreneur – open source or not – should download this presentation, get the slides, find a quiet corner and spend the hour and three quarters it takes to listen through it and understand the implications. Then get the book – and the chances that your company will succeed just increased considerably.
I am definitely making this presentation part of my courses – will have the students listen through this while in class, with breaks to make sure they understand the various technologies and terms he uses (which are familiar to technically orented native English speakers, but perhaps less so for Norwegian students.) Come to think of it, it might not be that easy to understand – he uses references to technology and business terms that are relevant and incredibly precise, but hard to understand for folks that are intellectually lazy. Clay’s material is so rich and contains so much useful theory – practical, real theory – that it demands time to study and understand. Time and effort well spent, I assure you.

Paper on corporate wikis

I have recently written a short paper on using wikis in a corporate context (PDF, 500K) – and would like to solicit comments and ideas for how to make it better. It is very unfinished at this point – but any pointers will be appreciated and dutifully acknowledged!
Update, 10nov2004: Second edition added, much cleaned up, including suggestions from HŚkon Styri. Added three more pages, took away footnotes, made structure more logical and discussion on technology architecture more coherent. The old version is still here.

A System after the mess

Neal Stephenson: The System of the World (Volume Three of The Baroque Cycle)

The last of the three volumes in the Baroque Cycle, The System of the World, is both a detective story set in London in 1714 and a phantasy on the very early beginnings of the industrial age, where the natural philosophers leave their roots in alchemy and become real scientists. Isaac Newton and Gottfried von Leibnitz figure prominently here, with much rivalry but also some interesting philosophickal discussions, as do the personages from the earlier volumes, The Confusion and Quicksilver: Jack and Bob Shaftoe and various of their relatives, Eliza, Dappa, Van Hoek, Daniel Waterhouse, and the enigmatic Enoch Root.

The System seemed to me the most worked through of the three volumes – there are fewer digressions and meandering descriptions, the intrigue is tighter though perhaps more predictable. The language is less modern, the backdrop of old London interesting, and the research into the outline of the Tower of London or the details of justice metered and rendered is deep and more relevant than in the other volumes. I enjoyed The System the most of the three and found it the easiest to read.

Overall, there has been progression through the three volumes – somewhat unusual, though I wonder whether not sales have suffered because the Quicksilver was comparatively hard to get through, with more historic personages and less progression in the story. I like long books, philosophy of science, and enough magical realism (we never get an explanation for the denseness of the Solomonic Gold, for instance, as well as Enoch Root’s longevity – he shows up in Cryptonomicon, too) that you get a sense of the playfulness of the author.

Recommended – though some perseverance is necessary with the first volume. Have fun.

Finally – a reason to get a tablet PC

GE’s Imagination Cubed is just what you need to justify getting that cool tablet computer – after all, you are at an advantage when you need to outdraw your colleagues, wherever they may be.
Nifty tool, though, would be excellent to have running while having a phone conversation. Let me draw this for you…..
(via Kimberly Hatch, The Concours Group)

The Battle of Britain, from up high

Patrick Bishop’s Fighter Boys is a thorough history of the young fighter pilots who saved Britain during the Summer of 1940, at enormous personal cost. The book covers strategy, tactics, organization, individual dogfights as well as the aftermath of Fighter Command.
As a child, I read my father’s collection of Biggles books, and learned the difference between Hurricanes, Spitfires and Mosquitos, as children tend to do. This book gives the real story – and one of the things it taught me is that in the Biggles stories about the Battle of Britain, Captain W. E. Johns was authentic. The battle was fought by young men who saw it as a game, responding to the danger and the horrible injuries (primarily from burns, creating members of the Guinea Pig Club) with understated humour, but suffering badly in silence.