Friday, January 27, 2006

Enforcing democracy?

When the Hamas wins democratic elections while at the same time promoting violence as a means to solve geopolitical issues, it is a sign that the time has come to examine whether democracy can be enforced with bombs and wars that violate the very values they are supposed to promote. What is the example we, the Western world, really give? Can we expect the peoples to follow us and adhere to the high principles of democracy when all they see of us is how we coerce them into "being free"? Strange how the world can work like a mirror sometimes...

Fighting poverty and promoting development with programs like the Marshall Plan is more productive than fighting terror and promoting fear.

To quote Sir Winston Churchill "many forms of Government have been tried, and will be tried in this world of sin and woe. No one pretends that democracy is perfect or all-wise. Indeed, it has been said that democracy is the worst form of government except all those other forms that have been tried from time to time."

Education, freedom of the press, government uninfluenced by special interests and an open society are necessary for democracy to be the "least worse" of forms of Government. Otherwise casting ballots once every 4 or 5 years becomes a perfunctory exercise devoid of meaning.

And of course, modern "mediacracies" (i.e. perverted democracies where special interest groups manipulate the government by exerting power over the media) are not better than democracy. Now Churchill said something else that I find quite interesting to consider in the Information Age:

The empires of the future are the empires of the mind. - Sir Winston Churchill

Thursday, January 26, 2006

My phone is my pal?

Apparently a market survey carried out in Britain shows that 90% of the population checks their mobile phones for messages once per hour, 80% feel anxiety if they do not have their phone with them for a prolonged period of time, 84% always have their phone in sight and 60% would feel worse if they lost their cellular phone than if they lost the keys to their home. According to an expert in addictions people increasingly consider their phone as a friend... (source: Le Monde,,1-0@2-651865,36-734576@51-632223,0.html)

- Conclusion #1: I am not addicted to my phone. Not really a surprise.

- Conclusion #2: Ray Bradburry may have been very right in Farenheit 451. Scary.

- Conclusion #3: We are headed towards a future in which an overwhelming proportion of the population will use one single device to perform a number of transactions previously executed with different devices and industries like payments cards had better watch this space. This is going to be fun for me.

- Conclusion #4: a cool company I was telling you about a few weeks ago (Mocom - has a great opportunity in the UK. Go for it!

- Conclusion #5: because of natural limitations of bandwidth in mobile networks, BitTorrent or similar approaches are likely to become no-brainers to deliver content to users on the move, pretty much like jamendo ( does. Open music on the go?

- Conclusion #6: marketing tactics of the GSM industry are worth considering as sources of inspiration for other offerings on the market. If they have managed to be granted such an important place in people's minds, they must be doing quite a few things right. Let us analyze this!

Extremely interesting...

Wednesday, January 25, 2006

VAT and jobs

There is currently a seemingly endless and definitely time consuming debate in Europe about the reduction of the VAT taxation of a number of goods and services. The objective, proponents say, is to create jobs. I may have forgotten many important things from my economics classes, but I really don't see how the reduction of a tax on added value will induce the creation of jobs... There is one word at the back of my mind: demagogy.

Monday, January 23, 2006

Transcend and include!

I am deeply convinced that open business and the economics of the
information age are very much influenced by the psychology of
participating individuals as individuals gain access to functions previously regarded as not within their sphere of influence. The debate about the European Constitution in France has been a manifestation of the impact of individuals on larger groups (tremendous participation of simple citizens to the process in my view regardless of the result for which I felt sorry), pretty much like social bookmarking or the current debate about peer-to-peer aand copyright. Another example would be the contribution of the EFF (which I support) to the hearings of the US Congress after the decision of the Supreme Court in the MGM vs Grokster case. Are we moving towards more participation of citizens instead of less participation as some analysts claim when looking at the figures of polls on the image of traditional politicians? Interesting question. Perhaps the dynamics of politics are changing and the whole system becomes more chaotic in nature...

Perhaps the importance of psychology in economic evolution is massively underestimated as we all tend to focus so much on technology. Open business is first and foremost about people and talent. In fact, traditional ways of doing business are also increasingly dependent on people (which is perhaps why there is such a massive endeavour of big corporations to built information systems that can fully take over from people). Human psychology is a key, yet often neglected,  parameter to consider in business and economics: for
example, I do not believe that financial markets are purely rational
like famous professors fo finance claim. Perfection of financial markets is, to a certain extent, a fiction that is
very dear to the western civilisation (the myth that rationality
should and indeed does govern every aspect of our lives). The is more than rationality in the way participants behave...

Carl Gustav Jung has some extremely interesting insights on the
eternal conflict between rationality and intuition, between
functionality and aesthetics, between thinking and feeling. I
recently read his
of the The
Secret of the Golden Flower
; I have tried to show his analysis graphically (please click on the picture to sse it in full size). In his comment Jung shares his understanding
of this old Chinese book of life. He shows how the
western civilization has developed a cult of rationality based on the
principle of causality, i.e. that a phenomenon can (always) results
from one or more other phenomena, whereas eastern civilization's
development has its roots in a more intuitive understanding of the
world based on the principle of synchronicity, i.e. that a set of
phenomena occurring in parallel without any apparent ties of
causality are nevertheless connected and happen simultaneously. In
his analysis, Jung shows how these two patterns of thinking although
apparently contradictory  necessarily coexist in our psyche as
individuals and in humanity as a whole, which is of course linked to
his concept of collective unconscious. Jung also asserts (and I subscribe to this view) that we westerners, sometimes disgusted with the extremism of the most rationalists in our midst, can be tempted to embrace the eastern philosophies and to reject our western tradition; in fact, such a behaviour would be quite improductive and even destructive because our patterns of thinking are indeed those of the West and repressing such an important dimension of the Self would lead to crippling inner conflict. true to his inclusive philosophy Jung shows the benefits of building an understanding of the East without shedding the strengths inherited from Ancient Greece, the Persian world and the Arab civilization. So much for the infamous "clash of civilizations"...

Transcend and include is the message and I think it makes a hell of a lot of sense as we see the effects of rejection, repression and violent submission of foreign lands to the rule of today's great and mighty. Now of course, if we are to follow Jung (which I am quite happy to do), then the way people like Dr Edward De Bono position their findings limits the value of these new tools: for example the "Six Thinking Hats" method (which I have been trained to use and find great in many respects) does not need to be positioned as an outright rejection of the achievements of Ancient Greek thinkers Aristotle, Socrates and Plato...

From the standpoint of economics "transcend and include" means that microeconomics
becomes more relevant than ever
. Indeed, thanks to new information technologies the dynamics of economic phenomena are increasingly emergent in nature: it is more and more bottom-up rather than top-down (a typical mecanism of the industrial era). Hence microeconomics, chaos theory, complex adaptive systems seem to be excellent tools to understand what is going on as it becomes more and more
difficult to capture behaviour and added value as aggregate
dimensions usually present in macroeconomic analyses. In short we are
indeed and at long last moving towards an economy in which
individuals can make a heck of a difference and away from the logic
of masses that prevailed during the industrial age (although to a certain extent industrial age standardization and logic of mass still applies and should therefore not be rejected out of hand). As a consequence,
there are currently important tensions and even wars between the
methods of the industrial age and the approaches of the information
age. From the way individuals contribute to projects and businesses,
to the advent of eco-entrepreneurship (socially and ecologically
responsible business initiatives), to the emergence of new consumer
behaviours, to the challenges the traditional media and entertainment
channels face, to new ways of engaging into political action, to
innovative ways of handling intellectual property like Creative
Commons (which I support)... Examples are countless in almost every
field of human activity. Again, after careful consideration and having myself fallen several times into the trap of blaming, repression and rejection, it seems to me that transcendence and inclusion is a good way to go, even though it requires some reform of the individual items that are to be transcended and included into a higher level of evolution as Ken Wilber argues.

These are exciting times and what is going on is absolutely

Sunday, January 22, 2006

Timing is everything

A few days
ago an acquaintance told me about their holiday plans and said "I have
to go to the travel agency to sort it out" and at that point it
occurred to me that I have not booked a single business trip nor any
holidays with a travel agency since 1999 or so. Funny how consumer
behaviours can change even if it takes time. And I remember the CEO of
MasterCard's European arm warning us that the consumer market takes
time to evolve, when in 1999-2000 I was amongst a tiny group of
enthusiasts who believed new technologies were a perfect opportunity to
bring about change in the industry of electronic payments. He was right
and we were just too impatient. Somebody said being right too early is
like being wrong; timing is everything. We were not 100% right, but
there are many things we said then that have been unfolding since 2003.
So I hope to be better at being more or less "right" at the right time
in this exciting Web 2.0 era that is now starting.

Saturday, January 21, 2006

Good night and good luck

GoodnightgoodluckI went to see "Good night and good luck" today. Great picture, with a lot of insights for those of us who do not accept the idea that dissent means disloyalty, nor that there are only two ways of being for a citizen of the world's first defender of freedom and democracy ("either you are with us or against us" as the current President has said repeatedly). The movie is an inspiration for citizens who believe that active participation and respectful disagreement are part of a democratic process. It is also a call for us to make a proactive choice in the channels of information that we are using to stay in touch with what is going on in the world. So, no fellow human beings who also happen to be US citizens, you do not have to watch Fox News, but you may feel free to choose something else. Definitely go to see "Good night and good luck"; at the very least it is a good reminder of history. Because as US philosopher George Santayana said "Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it"... 

PDD - reloaded

Here is an interesting list of entrepreneurs that serve a higher purpose while at the same time doing business. I really like what these guys are doing. Pragmatic durable development.

A psychological viewpoint on debates about Web 2.0

VitruvianWhile researching the dynamics of what is now conventionally called Web 2.0, thinking about the impacts of these new ways of using infotech to deliver valuable services to the users of the web, I examined some of the interactions between the various stakeholders from a psychological perspective. In particular I focused on the debate going on in France these days about copyright, music sharing schemes and peer-to-peer.

What I see is a conflict between very different sets of people that can be see in different ways: established players vs challengers, conservatives vs progressives, pro-regulation vs anti-regulation, capitalists vs alter-capitalists and anti-capitalists, worshipers of rules and rationality vs adepts of artistic intuition... Of course I am biased in the way I analyze the situation, but at the end of the day that is not so relevant. The question is rather to see whether  we are capable to move beyond conflict; not to deny the confrontation of ideas, values and ideals, but rather to extract from it something larger that "transcends and includes" as C.G. Jung or K. Wilber would suggest. Do we have to be in an "EITHER-OR" frame of mind? How can we move towards an inclusive way? For example, what means could allow long-tail players like jamendo to harmoniously coexist on the market with more traditional players (even though some of the traditional practices will have to evolve to allow transcendence and inclusion to occur)? And figuring out whether the "quiet revolution of the tail" can be durably repressed by the establishment is another interesting question. Again, using history and psychology of the unconscious mind, I would bet that what is repressed eventually comes to center stage, if need be violently (which is perhaps why some philosophers like Jiddu Krishnamurti claim that extreme differentiation is the root of violence, but that is another topic).

For those interested in the debate currently taking place in France regarding copyright, peer-to-peer and music downloads, here is a link to an interesting proposal I got from the CEO of jamendo. The approach is very much in the spirit of "transcend and include". France is in fact facing something much more important than the mere choice between allowing legal downloads and banning every piece of technology the legislative body does not understand: France faces a choice of civilization, the choice between a rigid decaying society and an open innovative society in which established positions will be challenged. Historically the country mostly chose progress and they cannot afford to sleep on their laurels because there might not be a second Général De Gaulle to save the country from decadence...

Friday, January 20, 2006

Excellent Silence on jamendo

I have been using jamendo for a couple of weeks and I am just amazed by the quality of music published through jamendo. For example, I discovered a Belgian group called Silence whose creations are simply superb. Now, I live in Belgium... Was there any chance whatsoever of me being exposed to their music through traditional media? My answer is no. So jamendo can also bring you Silence, or indeed perhaps the next "Sound of Silence", that media majors have missed simply because they cannot handle the amount of music being created ina world where the cost of creation is going down (I mean the cost of technical production and replication of creations, not the pain of the creator) and the cost of error is near zero.

In fact there is a big, a HUGE difference between jamendo and traditional ways of accessing music: with jamendo and thanks to their tagging system I ACTIVELY select my style. In fact, jamendo is very much one of those "life-style enablers", i.e. a tool helping me choose what suits me in a world of ABUNDANCE of CREATIONS and therefore SCARCITY OF ATTENTION. Another example would be Pandora ( The way it is being done is considerably more powerful than older approaches to the web (profiling, permission marketing based on my selecting pre-formated categories, portals...) because it is based on the principles of an interactive, social, peer-to-peer web. In fact what we are seing is the emergence of a new way of organising the value system of the media & entertainment industry. And I think the debate around licenses and IP rights is in fact an economic war between competing channels of production and distribution, one established and costly and the other one disruptive, relatively inexpensive and fairer to creators. I personally believe these two ways of doing can be complementary and that the traditional value system will have to adapt practices and shed a few bad habits of the past.

Anyway, Silence is great if you like quiet electro music and I recommend it to you. Check it out on

Innovation goes personal

Here is an interesting interview about the fact that people (we) are increasingly autonomous and able to innovate without being part of a superstructure.

IMO this is precisely what the extraordinary innovation wave of the late nineties in the Valley was all about: R&D on an unprecedented scale. I am just impatient for the time when people will be able to "print" their integrated circuits or microstructures without using the services of fabs at least for prototypes. We are about to live exciting times (again) and I feel privileged to be working with a couple of innovative start-ups in Europe helping them develop their business.

Don't shoot the messenger!

I am absolutely appalled at the fact that, in Europe too, peer-to-peer technology (and perhaps technology in general) is often equated to piracy and disrespect for authors' rights. Don't shoot the messenger, please! P2P is really just the means and it can serve several ends, just like an axe can be a useful tool or a deadly weapon. I personally believe P2P is a fantastic enabler for many businesses, including the entertainment industry, only the value system is likely to change a lot and its beneficiaries may not be the traditional middlemen.

What I have been reading these days about the media & entertainment industry only confirms jamendo has a great contribution to make to free music in an open world.

Anyway, here's an interesting article about the issues facing the media and entertainment industry today. It provides figures and trends that are instructive although it also shoots the messenger...

Les dossiers chauds du Midem
LE MONDE | 19.01.06
© Le

On a more philosophical level I wonder: is the confusion between means and ends accidental or intentional in modern media coverage? Incidentally, the same class of confusion applies to many other fields of modern life: climbing the corporate ladder is seen as an end by some, being in power is seldom a means to serve the general interest...

Thursday, January 19, 2006

Superb photos and the "perfect green apple syndrome"

A couple of months ago I told you about Roberto Ostinelli, someone I consider exceptionally talented and I admire a lot. Follow this link to access some of Roberto's excellent photographs... I have stopped counting the number of fields in which he does very well: music, software engineering, business, singing, photography...

Which makes me think that quality may be more a matter of the way one approaches a field rather than the amount of tips and trick he or she knows about the field. Which, of course, is a challenge to the way talent is assessed and recruited in more established environments. I call this "the syndrome of the perfect green apple", or "why the average consumer will mostly buy unsavory apples that look perfect". I recently read a post on a friend's blog that deals with the issue of recruitment of IT professionals; it's worth taking a look at what David says and I know he is the type of guy who looks at substance rather than mere appearance. In many ways David and Roberto share values and ways of doing that are great to have in this world IMHO.

Web 2.0

For the past couple of weeks I have been researching on the business implications of what is called Web 2.0. I cannot say my vision and understanding is clear at this point. It seems to me though that this new stage of the web's development is about to bring very significant enhancements for the non-technical user (like me). And unlike what happened back in the late nineties, the way Web 2.0 tools are presented addresses user benefits as well as technology aspects. That is very encouraging. The first tools that are being presented bring tangible benefits to "end-users" in domains that are fun to explore: blogging, social bookmarking, music and multimedia. Striking contrast compared to the way the first phase of the web was "marketed". I believe the web is here to stay and we have only seen the tip of the iceberg in terms of its influence on business and everyday life.

Follow this link for an excellent analysis of Web 2.0:

Wednesday, January 18, 2006

Ephemeral natural sculpture

20060105_vosges_cheval_1Like in many situations, including in business, what you see is what you want to see... I was just amazed by this view and by the shape given to the snow by the violent winds that blew during the snow storm of early January.

This picture was taken on the Route des Crêtes in Vosges, France on a cold but sunny day of January.

Tuesday, January 17, 2006

Testing, the V-model and NLP

In one of my assignments of 2005 I worked on a company's test plan and on that occasion I realized how tightly coupled the formulation of requirements and the testing of the software can be. Of course, this is nothing new, except this is not so common in practice, like many other things "that everybody knows"... but nobody really applies.

What I find striking is the parallel between some of the methods developed by the neurolinguistic programming (NLP) community and the principles behind software development methodologies of recent years. More specifically I refer to the V-model and to agile methods. The first creates an explicit link between the various stages of a development project and the creation of the test plan; in NLP "testability" (i.e. how does one know from visual, auditory or kinesthetic input that something is "real") one of the criteria of proper formulation of objectives. The latter are based on a set of assumptions amongst which is the fact that iterations help better capture requirements. When working with someone using NLP "techniques", I always run through several iterations of the way that person "creates" the problem especially by reformulating what my counterpart is saying or expressing in a non-verbal manner.

I find this parallelism quite interesting because I often come across a generally accepted idea that people are easier to understand and manage than machines (coming especially from people who have had consistently bad experience with IT projects and software tools) and also because NLP was heavily influenced by computer science when the approach was created. At the end of the day the success of a software project is very much influenced by the quality of human communication and by the commitment of the various teams involved in the process. So I guess that the combination of modern methodologies and human communication skills is an important asset to keep out of harm's way and to consistently move towards project success.

Friday, January 13, 2006

Do you jamendo?

Logoenmauriz02 A fascinating bunch of talented creators based in Luxembourg and Eastern France are behind this amazing initiative of perfectly legal peer-to-peer music sharing and distribution platform. I am very excited to have them as my customers and I believe they make an essential contribution in letting artists be heard and in offering a credible alternative to mass marketed music. Jamendo is an example of doing business in an open world that is also a world of abundance and scarcity of attention.

So this is an invitation: try it and let's jamendo!

Wednesday, January 11, 2006

Pragmatic durable development

80hommesJust got back from a few days off in the Vosges, France. Lovely place, great break, clean air (by the way do you think smoking is a lot worse than what we breathe in our cities?).. Lots of thoughts. And great inspiration from a refreshing book written by two Frenchmen who spent 15 months tavelling and studying over 100 economically viable and socially & ecologically durable operations selected out of an initial sample of over 500 initiatives.

This book shows in a great way how focusing on people and carrying out local pragmatic actions can yield fantastic results that are also economically viable. It will tell you about an Indian eye clinic in which 2/3 of patients do not pay to get world-calls surgery and the clinic is profitable. It will give you an account of micro-credit and its inventor Muhammad Ynus. And also how there are other ways to wash your clothes that do not require you to pollute the environment with all the waste contained in P&G's or Henkel's (or another big brand's) washing products...

Overall it is a really refreshing set of stories that will show you that the often crazy rule of venture capital and Wall Street are not the only avenues to grow businesses. It also asserts that businesses can be far more than financial black-boxes worth the net present value of their hypothetical and "perpetual" future cash-flows. There are other ways to create and to grow.