Saturday, September 29, 2007

How to manage employees in remote locations

An interesting piece on the issues to be considered when managing remote teams. I believe the seemingly least significant aspects have the greatest impact on the performance of remote teams. I know a coouple of my customers who will find this inspiring.

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Things you will need:

  • Travel budget: Plan to see employees at
    least a few times a year. Technology budget: Don’t fall for every
    fad, but plan to add new tools as they gain traction.

  • Set aside time for regular travel, update calls, and to be
    available for people in different time zones. 

    Technology: Research the technologies that best connect
    people for the types of work they do. See Ten Tools for Remote Teams for ideas.

    Routine: Consistency in your work process
    — quarterly gatherings, weekly phone meetings — provides structure
    and prevents gaps in communication.

    Drive: Members of dispersed
    teams need to work well on their own. Their managers
    need to sustain the group’s energy, be available at odd hours, travel
    a lot, and initiate communication.

    Chatter: It gets a bad rap, but chit-chat builds a team. Let remote employees
    in on tidbits like promotions, births and weddings, and inside jokes.

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Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Free music picking-up steam

At long last music is going to be freed from the straight-jacket of clumsy protection systems that end up bothering legitimate users without preventing fraud. Jamendo's CEO used to say that "DRM is the only technology that has a failure rate of 100%", meaning that it is always circumvented by fraudsters almost before it is adopted. Laurent was visionary in his assessment done as early as 2005, that DRM would end-up failing to provide the benefits expected by the old-school music industry and by extension by content industrialists represented by the RIAA and the MPAA. These organizations have yet to recognize that the mass availability of content leads to a paradigm shift in which the competition for human attention is just much more intense. Hopefully their positions will evolve and the new business models of their industries will go mainstream. In that perspective I expect Jamendo and its team will have fascinating business quests of their own in this space.

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Your Rights Online: Amazon DRM-Free Music Store Goes Beta

Posted by
on Tuesday September 25, @03:57PM

from the 2-million-songs-from-20-thousand-labels dept.

LowSNR writes "Amazon this morning moved their DRM-free music store into open beta.  According to the release, 'Since all our digital music downloads are DRM-free, you can play them on anything that plays mp3s including PCs, Macs(tm), iPods(tm), Zunes(tm), Zens(tm), iPhones(tm), RAZRs(tm), and BlackBerrys. Plus, our Amazon MP3 Downloader application makes it easy to add your downloads to iTunes(tm) and Windows Media Player(tm), so you can sync up your devices or burn your music to CD hassle-free.' Not to mention Linux." Of course, without DRM few of the major labels play with them.

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Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Remember Coke & Mentos? Watch this one!

Coke and Mentos experiments by Eepy Bird had been a great buzz with one movie having been watched over 5 million times just on Revver in the 5-6 weeks following May, 31st 2006, while Grobe and Voltz, the creators,  appeared on TV shows like "The Late Show with David Letterman" and NBC's "Today". Interestingly a couple of guys are trying to piggy-back on the success of the Coke and Mentos stint to generate some buzz for Carlsberg.

Microsoft's woes?

The hits seem to keep coming for Microsoft who has hard time imposing Vista on the market, faces issues with Excel, a flagship product, and lost an important legal battle with the EU Commission over its competitive behavior. While Microsoft's tactics justifiably cause customers to be concerned, I believe the weapon of market dominance ends up being a boomerang for a company because it:
  1. erodes its relational capital with customers and local communities,

  2. drives intense reactions from competitors and regulators and,

  3. probably leads to some form of complacency and arrogance of its personnel, who may end up believing that whatever they release will end up being bought by a market taken hostage by their employer.

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PC Makers Offering a Bridge Back To XP

The Telegraph is reporting on efforts by PC manufacturers to give customers buying systems pre-installed with Windows Vista a much-sought way to downgrade to Windows XP. ( A few months back we discussed Microsoft's similar concession for corporate customers.) "It took took five years and $6 billion to develop, but Microsoft's Vista operating system, which was launched early this year, has been shunned by consumers — with computer manufacturers taking the bizarre step of offering downgrades to the old XP version of Windows."

IT: Excel 2007 Multiplication Bug

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LinkedIn as custodian of professional identity?

In a recent comment on this blog, the idea that LinkedIn could (should?) become a sort of central repository of professional identity, especially if job sites were to embrace LinkedIn as their solution in lieu of their résumé builders. Interesting idea isn't it? David hits it on the nail... again. He also provides a  link to a good post in O'Reilly Radar.

Monday, September 24, 2007

Luxembourg-based company registering 3-letter domain names

Why does a Luxembourg-based company called Quinv invest so much money registering systematically all 3-letter domain names? Apparently there seems to be a business case behind that, which is rumored to be a form of asset backed bond. The revenues that can be generated through these domains will be used to issue one or more asset backed securities, thus allowing the company to make money by generating more profit than required to service the obligations stemming from the existence of the asset backed securities. Perhaps there is more... Don't forget that Skype was initiated in Luxembourg

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    21 de Junio de 2007   

Ayer se daba la noticia en el foro Demene. Los dominios .es de 3 letras se acaban…

Una empresa llamada QUINV SA ubicada en Luxemburgo y relacionada de alguna manera con el blog DomainNews  ha registrado casi todos los dominios de 3 letras .es que quedaban libres.

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Los dominios .es de 3 letras han volado

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European Start-Up Academy winners

Out of the six companies selected among 240 candidates as winners of the European Start-Up Academy, I like particularly Buildersite (which will undoubtedly remind something to a friend who was working on a project in painting services for private and professional markets). The most mysterious project seems to be Project Playfair, which apparently has "hypernumbers" (analogous to hypertext but for numbers) as central concept. Zemanta sounds pretty cool, although I am curious to see how it works because choosing relevant pictures and illustrations based on the input of a text sounds challenging (try having a machine extract meaning from a text of science fiction). Kublax is probably where I have some doubts: how many people would like the ida of handling their personal finances on an online platform over which they have no control?

Anyway, there is quite a lot of interesting stuff going on in Europe although it is nowhere near the entrepreneurial frenzy of North America.
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Saturday, September 22, 2007

Mechanical Turk or how swarms of humans are better than mighty machines

This is a great example of how an objective can be pursued by a group of humans in conjunction with machines. Perhaps that's the way things will be done in the future as opposed to the perhaps inaccessible dream of evolved AI that would be more or less autonomous.

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The search for Steve Fossett

Turk and rescue

Sep 20th 2007

From The Economist print edition

These pictures of the search area are being provided by two firms that supply information to Google Earth: GeoEye and DigitalGlobe. The search itself is being co-ordinated by a corner of the Amazon empire called Mechanical Turk. This is an online job market which farms out tasks that humans are good at, but for which software is poorly equipped, like labelling images and transcribing speech. For the Fossett hunt, volunteers comb through the images and flag any that include what might be a plane or its wreckage.

The high-tech hunt for a missing adventurer

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Friday, September 21, 2007

From social networking to nonsense: Facebooking business

The success of Facebook as a networking tool is a fact that is amply demonstrated by the incredible rate of adoption of the tool around the globe. As part of my ongoing work to remain as current as possible with the wonderful stuff happening in this world in our technological era, I opened an account to try Facebook. The features that allow a member to locate other members with whom she may have something in common from high-school attended to looking for a relationship are just great and seem to be working very well indeed. For example, I was able to identify people who were at my high-school in Athens back in the eighties, although the fact that their profiles had disappeared by the second time I logged into Facebook leads me to the (perhaps erroneous) conclusion that there must be quite some churn on this platform. That's pretty much where my positive experience with Facebook ends and that has nothing to do with the platform itself but perhaps more with the fact that I am no longer a student or a young overworked professional and not particularly looking for a relationship, friendship or "random play" (whatever that is) through Facebook...
However, what struck me in this experiment is the abnormally high number of people I know from professional contexts who invited me to join their company's or their professional network's "Group". Sometimes the Groups were not that active and at other times I got a very strong feeling of utter weirdness when checking out the profiles of the people who invited me only to discover that they were stating an interest in "women" and looking for "anything they can get" (which can be quite a risky statement since I suspect there are quite a few things one can but would not get); all that left me wondering about the relevance of that part of their profile in a professional context. And then I noticed that some of those people were actually investing energy in building "communities" and "groups" in other platforms as well and I wonder about the return and business relevance of such activities, especially when carried out on platforms with such heteregeneous groups of users. I will just add that these developments occur on platforms which are often without any business model to sustain
them in the longer run and that actually means that there is a risk for
the continued availability of users' data and thus for the return they can expect from their efforts to build their groups or communities.

All of this brings me to the conclusion that the frontier between interesting social networking experiments and complete business nonsense is sometimes easily crossed. Today it does seem that many social networking platforms are just too broad trying to be all things to all sorts of people and I believe there is going to be some pretty dramatic consolidation and specialization in this field too. The following simple facts also seem to be getting lost from sight in all the frantic agitation around social networking:

  • networking is not a technical matter, in the sense that when people simply apply "recipes" and techniques extracted from some "Networking for dummies" without engaging emotionally in the web of human relationships they seek to develop, then it just does not work. I still remember how a guy I met early in my career started all of a sudden calling me and sending me wishes on my birthday years after we had lost contact: can you feel the awkwardness of the situation?

  • networking is not a technological matter: it's not about building mighty databases and finding correlations or common fields of interest provided in formatted profiles. Technology can support the process, but it cannot replace human contact and relationships, which is one of the reasons why I like the way LinkedIn has been able to combine technology and a process involving introductions by common acquaintances and perhaps why I find Facebook is doing too much in the way of identifying members with common characteristics;

Perhaps a Facebook for business should emerge and combine a carefully chosen subset of its features with a platform like LinkedIn... Just an idea to finish this rant and move to something else.

Thursday, September 20, 2007

OECD's "Education at a Glance"

Well, it takes more than a mere glance to exploit the data in the OECD report, but if you are in the business of education or e-learning like one of my customers in Luxembourg then it's well worth poring over this document.
Download 2007_OECD_EducationAtAGlance.pdf

Something I found quite interesting is the break-down between capital expenditure and current expenditure in primary and secondary education in a bunch of countries studied by the OECD (click on chart for details). Interestingly the US, Norway, Greece, South Korea, Luxembourg and Turkey are allocating significantly over 9% (about the OECD average) of their spending in capital expenditure. I wonder whether that means that these countries are investing more seriously in computing and networking equipment for educational purposes, which I would find great. Now of course the question remains whether these countries have a strategy for national education and R&D and I think Singapore is a great role model for that. If you want to get a feel for the clarity and thrust of their plans regarding education, this page of Singapore's Ministry of Finance is quite interesting to read. Probably an example to follow for several European governments.

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

New life for old stuff

There's been quite a lot of content produced to show how the adoption of affordable multimedia devices and the advent of a multimedia online environment such as today's Internet are key enablers for creating and distributing new content. Sometimes though these means can be used to give new life to existing and sometimes forgotten material, which can be quite excellent. This Schweppes ad with John Cleese is a good example, which also shows that contrary to what was happening in the old world of media, today
content has a staying power (and that has enormous implications for specific forms of online marketing and for the business case behind certain types of campaigns such as those delivered by BuzzParadise) because:

  • once made available on a major platform it remains available,

  • it becomes searchable and reusable,

  • thus enabling further creative production.

In fact it is almost as though we were building a huge virtual mind on a global scale that is capable of keeping track of almost everything that ever went through it and to use that material to generate new stuff. And of course, the antiquated copyright system is an obstacle to such productivity, which is one of the reasons why I think Creative Commons is also a great enabler of creativity.

Thursday, September 6, 2007

Trends in future Foreign Direct Investment

The trends in FDI over 2007-2011 are quite intriguing as among the top 10  recipient areas 8 are developed OECD countries, while China, Russia and Brazil together are expected to capture 12.9% of world total FDI, i.e. less than the US alone.

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At a glance

Foreign direct investment


Sep 5th 2007

FOREIGN direct investment will increase markedly from 2007 to 2011, according to a report released on September 5th by the Economist Intelligence Unit. In 2007, global inflows are set to reach $1.5 trillion, above the record total of $1.4 trillion in 2000. Asia looks rosy to investors, despite political risks. China is the most attractive market, with forecast yearly inflows of $86.8 billion over the five-year period, the third-biggest global recipient. Inflows into India will grow, but to just $20.4 billion, thanks in part to inflexible labour laws and poor infrastructure. And Asia's biggest economy, Japan, punches far below its economic weight, with inflows of $13.3 billion a year. Cultural factors are a big hurdle. Many companies resist foreign takeovers for fear of harsh restructuring, and foreign investors say they struggle to find managerial talent.

Jupiter Images

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